Archive

Archive for July 23rd, 2010

American Interventionism: Potential vs. Reality

July 23rd, 2010 No comments

The argument for American troops remaining in Afghanistan is essentially that Afghanistan needs our help. Without a strong U.S. military presence there, the Taliban will retake control, impose brutal Sharia law on all the citizens, and life for the Afghan people will be much worse than if we stay.

If that was all there was to it, I’d be saying we should stay. If we had the capability to really make Afghanistan a better country through our military presence, then I’d be the first to advocate intervening in their affairs. Not only that, but I’d also call for us to intervene in Somalia, Darfur, and everywhere else where people are suffering at the hands of brutal, corrupt, or nonexistent governments.

I’m not opposed to the idea of American Interventionism—I simply recognize that there is no “America” anymore, at least not in the sense that most people believe.

In the prophetic 1976 film Network, Paddy Chayefsky spells it out brilliantly in the pivotal scene in which network chairman Arthur Jensen explains to Howard Beale, his news-anchor-turned-crusader-for-America, how the world really works:

For those who still believe that America can and should spread its ideals throughout the world and bring peace and democracy to all, I would emphasize these words:

You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no Third Worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems. One vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-varied, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds and shekels.

We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime.

There is “America” and there is America. “America” is the land of the free, home of the brave, champion of human rights and individual liberty, and crusader for the rights of man worldwide. America, on the other hand, is a governmental structure which has made itself extremely well-suited to Big Business interests. Multi-national corporations can do extremely well by putting America to good use. Tax-loopholes, virtually no regulation, and the strongest military the world has ever seen.

The only flaw in Arthur Jensen’s speech is this:

And our children will live, Mr Beale, to see that perfect world in which there is no war nor famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company for whom all men will work to serve a common profit. In which all men will hold a share of stock.

In all fairness to Chayefsky, this is what the corporate titans who really control the world probably tell themselves to justify their actions—that when all the world is a business there will be no need for war. But they ignore one important thing: war is great business.

Military and defense contractors, oil companies, drug-lords, corrupt government officials, and a slew of multi-national corporations all stand to make loads of money through continued American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. It is their bidding that our troops are doing there. American interventionism is actually corporate interventionism conducted through America.

But what if “America” actually existed? What if, as a nation, we collectively decided to intervene in countries that needed our help? What if instead of deploying armies of soldiers equipped with guns and bombs, we deployed armies of doctors equipped with medical supplies?

If you have the time, I’d strongly recommending watching this clip from the Young Turks’ “Rethink Reviews” segment in which documentary-film critic Jonathan Kim discusses the film “Living in Emergency” (about Doctors Without Borders) with Cenk Uygur (discussion begins at 4:49):

Doctors Without Borders is a non-governmental organization that does exactly the kind of intervention I wish America would do—sending doctors into impoverished nations and war-zones to offer humanitarian assistance to the people who need it most.

For those of you without the time or patience to sit through the whole clip, here is what Doctors With Borders did in 2006 alone:

• Held more than 9 million out-patient consultations
• Hospitalized half a million patients
• Delivered 99,000 babies
• Treated 1.8 million people for malaria
• Treated 150,000 malnourished children
• Provided 100,000 people with HIV and AIDS retro-virus therapy
• Vaccinated 1.8 million people against meningitis
• Conducted 64,000 surgeries

They did this with a team of 20,000-26,000 doctors and nurses who work for free, either out of the goodness of their hearts or to pad their resumes. Either way, they do an amazing amount of good with an amazingly small amount of resources.

Here are the statistics that will blow your mind:

• In 2006, the United States spend about $2 billion per week in Iraq.
• Doctors Without Borders runs with a budget of about $400 million per year.
• For the price of a week in Iraq, we could have either funded Doctors Without Borders for five years, or quintupled the size of Doctors Without Borders and ran it for one year.

• It’s estimated that there are at most 100 Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan, and we have about 100,000 soldiers there at a cost of about $1 million per soldier per year.
• This means we have about 1,000 troops per Al Qaeda member, which means we are spending $1 billion per Al Qaeda member.
• This amount of money would fund Doctors Without Borders for 2.5 years.
• National priorities: We can either chase one Al Qaeda member in Afghanistan for a year or fund Doctors Without Borders for two and a half years.

• This fiscal year, we’re spending $167 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan. This amount of money would fund Doctors Without Borders for 417.5 years.

Do I even need to spell it out? If the idea behind American Interventionism is to improve the lot of humanity on a global scale, there are far better ways of doing it than dropping bombs on civilians. If the main argument for staying in Afghanistan is that we’re helping the Afghan people, it is undeniable that the money could be spent in much wiser ways to help much more people. Not necessarily by funding Doctors Without Borders, but by modeling our overseas interventions as humanitarian rather than military campaigns.

Obviously, security is important and we need to have soldiers to protect the doctors we deploy as well as to support the national governments of countries threatened by violent insurgency. But right now the focus is far more on the cost of weapons than the cost of medical supplies.

The entire justification for the Global War on Terror is to fight the enemy overseas to keep America safe at home. But by making this an almost purely military endeavor, we’re only boosting the perception that America is an Empire and we’re occupying these foreign countries out of our own selfish interests. As such, more terrorists are recruited and we lose the support of allies who were otherwise willing to help us in the fight against violent extremism.

But if we spent the same amount of money on medicine and infrastructure as we do on weapons, the perception would be completely different. Our international image would be unassailable, and we’d once again be looked up to by the rest of the world with respect and admiration. What Muslim kid is going to strap on a bomb and blow himself up to fight the country that built his school or cured his father of a terminal illness? Terrorist organizations would find themselves obsolete within a matter of years.

Unfortunately, this is never going to happen, precisely because “America” as it was once understood no longer exists. We may be the most powerful nation-state on earth, but we’re not the most powerful entity. The multi-national corporations have all the power, and it’s in their best interests to keep the engines of war churning, to keep third-world nations impoverished, and to keep the peoples of the world divided, distrustful, and hateful of each other.

It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic, and sub-atomic and galactic structure of things today.

You can’t meddle with the primal forces of nature.

Tax cuts for the rich: Not the solution to everything?

July 23rd, 2010 No comments

If you happen to live in the United States and own a television that you happen to have access to on weekdays at 4:00 p.m. you might want to check out the Dylan Ratigan show, if only for the regular appearances made by Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks, which I will continue to plug on this blog until every last American is watching it.

Nobody shatters conventional wisdom better than Cenk:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

That’s right—cutting taxes for the rich doesn’t always help the economy. Historically, the economy has always done the best when taxes on the wealthy are at their highest.

Of course to be fair, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. It might just be a coincidence that the Great Depression came at a time of low taxes for the rich, that the golden years of the 50s and 60s came at a time of high taxes for the rich, and the current “Great Recession” came after a period of historically low taxes for the rich thanks to George W. Bush’s deficit-inflating tax cuts which the republicans now want to make permanent.

But the reasoning makes sense. Republicans want us to think that if you let the rich keep more of their money, they’ll put it back into the economy and everyone will benefit. But it seems that what actually happens when you let them keep their money is that they just keep their money. If, on the other hand, they don’t have so much money to keep, they have to rely more on their businesses for income, and they reinvest more of their money into those businesses which opens up opportunities for everyone.

Is this debatable? Yes. But it’s a debate we should be having instead of just accepting what we’ve always been told.

They’re [Still] Coming for Your Social Security

July 23rd, 2010 No comments

A few weeks ago I wrote about how the power-elites are targeting social security, creating the false impression that it’s in crisis and cuts need to be made when in reality the program is just fine and they’re only trying to funnel more money from the middle-class to the upper-crust. Yesterday I came across this YouTube video that makes this point much more effectively than I can:

Seriously, don’t buy into the bullshit. If you don’t believe me or this video, just do the research yourself.

But the point is that we can’t keep letting them take our money. Every time you get a paycheck, the government takes a huge chunk of that and puts it into the social security pool which you are then entitled to take from once you retire. They want to privatize that pool of money so they can gamble with it, just like they’ve been gambling with mortgages. To let them do that would be disastrous—upon retiring we’ll end up as financial burdens to our children, and if we don’t have children we’ll just be screwed.

So please take a moment to check out this website and sign the petition. The democrats are poised to concede to the republicans on this issue just to prove how moderate they are, so we have to let them know we’re paying attention and we won’t stand for it.