9/11. Brave New War

John Robb, author of Brave New War, in a Spot Report inteview

Remember, a major reason for 9/11 was to get the US into a guerrilla war in Asia and repeat the experience of Russia’s Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan war was a major factor in the collapse of the USSR, as the military and financial cost was overwhelming, and crippled them. In one of those bizarre twists of blowback, the CIA heavily funded mujahadeem (including bin Laden) to fight against the USSR in Afghanistan, only to have those battle-hardened veterans of combat morph into al Qaeda and other such groups years later.

Robb’s crucial point, and I believe al Qaeda has said it too, is that 9/11 was a deliberate attempt to sucker the US into a conflict that will drag down and bankrupt it. And Bush, arrogant twit that he is, walked right into the trap.

  • DJ

    You give Bush far too much credit. He is the American political response to extremist enemies. This is another aspect of the cycle of violence little seen unless one takes a step back to see the big picture, which is not easy to do.

    One might call this the cycle of political violence. It happens all over the world. In response to a perceived slight, an extremist group arises and attacks the state. The state responds not by fixing the problem or amending its behavior, but with violence– and by becoming more politically extreme itself– usually, and often quite rapidly, beyond all sense of logic and reason.

    The goal of the state’s new extremist leaders, which may be accidental at first, is to use the crisis to gain political advantage for themselves and their primary constituency– a downside of the concept of factions that our system is founded on, since the leaders’ primary allegiance is to the faction and not the long-term beneficial interest of the nation.

    In the process, the national dialog changes to an either/or discussion between two untenable polarized positions, with no middle ground and no consideration of alternatives. Those who oppose the extremist leaders are considered unpatriotic or even treasonous.

    If this sounds remotely familiar, it should scare you to death– because I was describing the cycle of political violence not in the U.S., but as as I have seen it in Sri Lanka.

  • With the Iraq War, though, it’s not either/or. There’s a multiplicity of amorphous players opposing the US for their various reasons (as well as opposing each other too at times.) But they are agreed on wanting the US out.

    Bush no longer has the support of the people. And Congress is currently rating worse than Bush with the public (for good reason too.) The current situation will not hold, something is going to give. Reminds me a bit of the 60’s just before things got really turbulent. An organizing opportunity.

  • We need to see beyond the windshield – Wheels coming off implies momentum, momentum implies a degree of anticipation of where the wheels go. Recognizing that we are on the verge of collapse does nothing to prepare for the aftermath of the collapse.

  • DJ

    Bob, I think you missed my point: the cycle of political violence has taken hold here in the U.S., just as it did in Sri Lanka a couple of decades ago. I’m not talking about the militants (LTTE/Al-Queda), but about the State.

    We now have an extremist leader whose goals appear to be targeted only for his own small constituency. Rather than a logical opposition to this, we have a polarized dialog between that untenable position and the Dems’ equally untenable position. There is no middle ground, no alternative viewpoint. And no one will end the war because it’s not in any American leader’s best interest to do so. In the process, we create more and stronger enemies, perpetuating the need for extremist leaders here at home.

    Who does that benefit? The very people making the situation worse today. That’s not walking into a trap– that’s taking advantage of something that works for al Queda and using it to political advantage at home. WE’RE the ones who got suckered.

  • The Dems have a position in opposition to Bush on the war? You could have fooled me. :->

    I understand your point, but I’m not sure there’s much the US can do to end the mess except leave Iraq.

    The alternative viewpoint is held by the vast majority of teh public, they oppose the war.

    Yes, stste-sponsored violence here is increasing; torture, brutal detentions, killing civilians.

    I guess where we differ is you think the state can be convinced to change, while I say they will change when forced to.

  • DJ

    “I guess where we differ is you think the state can be convinced to change, while I say they will change when forced to.”

    And here I thought it was the other way around. The Dems won the last election by championing an end to the war, which was as believable to me as Bush’s claims that HE would end the war (by winning). They have stepped into the classic “opposition” role of opposing (but never ending) the war the incumbent supports.

    And the public just sees two polar positions. End it or not end it? Of course we want to end it– and of course we wnat to win it. But they believe the opposition, and are suckered right into the game. If we get a Dem president, he’ll most likely continue on as Bush did. It’s early enough in the cycyle that a strong visionary candidate coyuld still choose a different course, but OTOH the extremists elsewhere will be pushing for that to happen because they need us as an enemy. Then the Repubs will probably roll out a (ludicrous) plan to end the war, and the two parties will have switched roles.

    The process can be stopped, but to do so a significant and active group of people has to step out of the polarized political environment, and address the issues here in the U.S. that make this game work for both sides (meaning the Dems and Repubs). And both sides will hate them for it. We’re not talking here about protest (though that can play a role) but about dialog-changing political activism.

    Unfortunately, unless I’ve missed something, we are still at best several years away from that kind of action, partly because we haven’t seen a full revolution of the cycle yet.

  • One of the most important things Marx did was introduce the concept of class antagonism, and that’s a major part of what’s happening here. The ruling class (Repubs and Dems alike) continue to support the war because it furthers their class interests. They make a lot of money from it and it perpetuates their power.

    The people (the working class in Marxist terms) do not support the war. The class divide here is very sharp and quite distinct. We have an economy that basically is a war economy. That’s what needs to change. Iraq is just another in the endless wars and invasions by the US, the real difference this time is they are losing badly and publicly.

  • DJ

    While I agree with you to an extent, I’m not sure it can be simplified to class. And unfortunately, the great divide in America is no longer class, but essentially rural/urban, with class a second and less visible divide. This is unfortunate because class was so much simpler.

    In my opinion this has more to do with factional politics (a la James Madison) than class. There are elites that this situation doesn’t work for, and lower-middle-class people who are getting exactly what they want. But you’re right that both factions of the ruling party get their interests furthered, if in different ways.

    I also reiterate that if you think they’re losing, you misunderstand their goal. Bush IS winning his war, it’s just that in his war, Iraq is just a sideshow. He could lose 100,000 American troops in Iraq, have seven general’s butts handed to him in plastic bags, and get a pile of burning dog doo on his porch from al Queda– but he’d still be getting what he wants out of this. The goal has almost mothing to do with Iraq, and everything to do with a new struggle here at home– not between elites and proletariat, but between an inter-class extremist minority and the rest of us.

    That struggle has been going on for decades in places like Iran, Sri Lanka, India, and elsewhere. I’m surprised it is taking us so long to realize it’s now begun here, too.

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