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Fight for Peace

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A reader of my blog, James, emailed a link to the 1997 article, Constant Conflict. He wanted me to check out this “glimpse into the mindset of the power elite.” One glimpse and I was scared shitless.

The author of the article, Major Ralph Peters, shares his chilling outlook on the future of the world and America’s role in it:

    There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes, there will be multiple conflicts in mutating forms around the globe. Violent conflict will dominate the headlines, but cultural and economic struggles will be steadier and ultimately more decisive. The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing. . . .
    Those of us who can sort, digest, synthesize, and apply relevant knowledge soar–professionally, financially, politically, militarily, and socially. We, the winners, are a minority. . . .
    For the world masses, devastated by information they cannot manage or effectively interpret, life is “nasty, brutish . . . and short-circuited.” The general pace of change is overwhelming, and information is both the motor and signifier of change. Those humans, in every country and region, who cannot understand the new world, or who cannot profit from its uncertainties, or who cannot reconcile themselves to its dynamics, will become the violent enemies of their inadequate governments, of their more fortunate neighbors, and ultimately of the United States. We are entering a new American century, in which we will become still wealthier, culturally more lethal, and increasingly powerful. We will excite hatreds without precedent. . . .
    For the majority of our citizens, our vulgar, near-chaotic, marvelous culture is the greatest engine of positive change in history.
    Freedom works. . . .
    We will outcreate, outproduce and, when need be, outfight the rest of the world. We can out-think them, too. . . .
    Culture is fate. Countries, clans, military services, and individual soldiers are products of their respective cultures, and they are either empowered or imprisoned. The majority of the world’s inhabitants are prisoners of their cultures, and they will rage against inadequacies they cannot admit, cannot bear, and cannot escape. . . .
    The next century will indeed be American, but it will also be troubled. We will find ourselves in constant conflict, much of it violent. The United States Army is going to add a lot of battle streamers to its flag. We will wage information warfare, but we will fight with infantry. And we will always surprise those critics, domestic and foreign, who predict our decline.

Oh shit. I wonder what this guy sounds like when he is talking to his kids.

Juxtapose Major Ralph Peters’ following quotes: “The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault,” and “Freedom works.” Fight to keep the world safe? Fight to keep the world free?

It reminds me of a General Dynamics ad that I cut out of a National Geographic when I was in high school in 1987 or 1988. Why a defense contractor would have to advertise I don’t know. Apparently General Dynamics has been advertising in National Geographic at least since the 1950s.

The top two-thirds of the one-page ad is a photograph of sixty or so political pins from America’s history that present slogans and or photographs of political candidates: a red, white and blue “I Like Ike” pin; a blue pin sporting the slogan, “No 4th Term;” a green and white Carter/Mondale pin; a pocket knife bearing the slogan, “Happy Days Are Here Again;” a yellow and blue pin saying, “Senior Americans for McGovern-Shriver;” a “Reagan-Bush ’84” pin; and so on. One pin saying, “True Democracy,” caught my eye, although it is somewhat mixed in with the other pins. It’s a neat looking ad. Even now, as I look at it, it makes me think sentimentally of tradition, democracy, and politics (clearly, I don’t tend to get sentimental about such things, so you know it’s a powerful collage). The first time I saw it, I bet my Spidey sense was tingling. Even in the sentimental lull, I was not fooled by the rest of the ad.

The bottom third of the ad contains the following text on a white background:

    They were all fighters.
    The conservatives fought with the liberals. The Democrats fought with the Republicans. The Bull Moosers fought with everybody.
    They fought for different policies. But for the same principles. For freedom. And the freedom to live in peace.
    Americans are still fighting for those principles today. And working for them too.
    That’s why every day more than 100,000 Americans work at General Dynamics to supply America’s fighting men and women with the best weapon systems in the world.
    They are working for peace. And for peace of mind.
    A Strong Company For A Strong Country

Confuse a cat?

“They fought for different policies. But for the same principles. For freedom. And the freedom to live in peace?” What the hell? You can fight for peace? War is peace? Damn that Orwell. He thought of everything. I’m starting to think that if he hadn’t written that bloody book, then maybe people wouldn’t think to make such reason-defying statements (it’s the opposite of Newspeak–he gave us the language to think in such ways). I want to meet the person who wrote the text for this ad. The writer is probably a Winston Smith drone who sits in a dingy cubicle and who actually thinks that General Dynamics manufactures peace tools. Peace tools! I can feel the two halves of my brain pulling away from each other.

Things haven’t changed much since the late 1980s. Now we have a “War President” (in neoconspeak, this means “Peace President”) fighting for freedom and democracy in Iraq. . . fighting for peace. Well, not exactly fighting, but he is doing a damn good job of getting others to fight for him. . . fight for peace.

Is there a way to argue logically with people who have such beliefs? Maybe we could turn it around and convince them that you can commit acts of peace for war. Yes, we will practice peace in order to preserve the principles of war.

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About Dirtgrain

  • Eric Olsen

    There is nothing Orwellian or even contradictory about “fighting for peace” unless “peace” is some kind of inert, passive state. Until there is a revolution of human nature, those who think they can exploit those they perceive as weaker than they will try to do so. “Peace” as far as I’m concerned is the state where people no longer have to fear power, which means the potential exploiters are dissuaded one way or another from attempting to do so – that’s “fighting for peace.”

  • browngirl

    Well said, Eric!

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks BG!

  • Are you from the Ministry of Truth?

    “Fighting for peace” could be a metaphor for struggling to prevent war from happening, for working hard to make sure that people get along, for building bridges, etc. The phrase sucks as a metaphor, though. Surely we can do better than that.

    Taken literally, “fight for peace” is an oxymoron–a complete contradiction for obvious reasons: you cannot be in a state of peace and a state of war at the same time.

    “Dissuaded” is a euphemism for killing people.

    If you insist on getting relativistic, saying that a little war here can prevent a lot of war there, then you fall victim to the endless, retaliatory cycle. For some reason, we see the senselessness of retaliation when we read about street gangs, about the Lilliputians, or about the story of the Hatfields and the McCoys. But we don’t acknowledge this senselessness in our own actions as a country. The only sure-fire way one can attain peace is to stop fighting people and to stop oppressing them (yah, I know how you feel about Chomsky’s use of this last term).

    Promotion of the concept that we can fight for peace is evil and misleading. You promote peace to achieve peace. Promoting war only brings on more war. This is of course how General Dynamics, Halliburton, and defense contractors make money. It is in their interest to promote war, and they do so. They are sick.

  • Eric Olsen

    Okay, this is all very noble but is as contrary to human nature as communism. “Retaliation” is not the only reason to fight, and as you said, albeit facetiously, small wars absolutely can and do prevent big wars. How would you have dealt with Hitler and Tojo? If you are a flat-out pacifist for moral reasons like Natalie Davis, that’s fine and noble, but until human nature changes we are going to have to defend ourselves against those who would use force to subjugate others. And I’m not talking about the indirect Chomskyan sense, I’m talking about in the cross-your-borders, blow-your-ass up sense of Hitler to Poland, Japan to Pearl Harbor, Saddam to Kuwait, and al Qaeda to New York and Washington. We are just supposed to envelop bin Laden with love? He is in no way “oppressed,” he is a hate-consumed religious-fanatic mass-murderer. We could shut down every corporation on earth and the fucker would still want us dead.

    This utopian pacifism would be terrific if the aggressors, terrorists, homicidal maniacs, warlords, demagogues, and other force-oriented troglodytes would go along with the program. But until they do, I would rather kill the assholes before they get me or mine.

  • Hey, I’m just upset with the bastards who are promoting this ridiculous contradiction, imprinting it on the minds of the people so that, quite the opposite of pacifism, we come to believe that war is a good thing (George “the war President” Bush; spicy terms like “shock and awe;” the euphemistic term, “transfer tube,” instead of body bag, . . .). I didn’t say anything about not defending yourself when attacked. If we are attacked, then we should defend ourselves. Yes, defend yourself and yours. However, these absurd ideas of pre-emption and retaliation (which we have debated here before) that we apply to Iraq and Afghanistan are nothing like the act of defending oneself. The attitude of the military, as indicated in Major Ralph Peters’ article, is never going to lead to peace.

    I’m not sure about alternative actions in WWII. I do know that the war did not end in 1945. Just go to what was once Yugoslavia to see this. In fact, you could link much of the violence of the last sixty years to WWII. Perhaps it could have been handled differently–I don’t know.

    If you look at in terms of degrees, we can do many things that we are not currently doing to avoid the realization of the vision of Major Peters (cool name, chicks probably dig him). We can act to have less war in the world. At this point, I don’t think we are even trying, and maybe, just the opposite, our country is acting to make more war.

  • Eric Olsen

    I don’t want to argue about this anymore right now either, but I would only counter that while Iraq can be reasonably disputed as a war of self-defense (not that I would dispute that, but …), but I don’t see how anyone can dispute that Afghanistan, as home to al Qaeda and the Taliban that institutionally supported it and housed it, was not an action of self-defense. Should we have allowed the terrorists to blithely dance about the countryside with impunity? This would have been very unwise, at best.

  • Dan

    “Fighting for peace” makes more sense to me than characterizing tax cuts as “spending”, or seeing the words “affirmative action, equal opportunity employer” together.

    Aside from the double speak stuff, I think there is a lot of truth in what Major Peters says. “Culture is fate” The Romans, the conquistadors, WWII (that was a close one)- History has always had dominant cultures imposing their values, morals etc. on less technologically advanced civilizations. I don’t see it so much as evil or oppressive as much as simply inevitable. If not the U.S. then who? Some other power would gladly pick up the torch and impose what they think of as superior values on us, and everyone else.

    I like the values of individual rights, freedom, capitalism, and private property. (such as they are, which isn’t ideal) So I’m subjectively happy that the U.S. is on top and doing what Countries that are on top inevitably do. I also subjectively think that we’re the most humane imposer of values in world history to this date.

    Just my opinion on a good thought provoking post btw.

  • I hereby site the Prime Directive of the United Federation of Planets:

      As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes the introduction of superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Star Fleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation.

    I should have known to look to Star Trek to find an answer to Major Peters’ prediction.

    Seriously, we have the United Nations that operates to prevent one country from imposing its will on any other. The problem is that one country became so powerful that the UN couldn’t do anything (maybe in the interests of peace) when that country defied this governing council. It did not have to be so.

    Dan, you speak of empire. I’m glad to hear from one who supports what the US is doing and admits that it is building an empire–much like Major Peters. Too often, the people in control of this country, from Bush to Clinton to Bush to Reagan to Carter and so on, claim just the opposite. I might be more able to tolerate this empire building if our leaders would come out and admit to it. Instead we get propaganda and lies.

    Still, I don’t like the concept of empire. They always crumble. Between their rise and fall, they commit great acts of evil. It does not have to be so.

    War is always about money–always! We fight for money, not peace–nor any of those other “principles” that we supposedly stand for (democracy? Then why are we fighting against democracy in Haiti and Venezuela?).

    Eric, when I look at the removal of the Taliban from power, decontextualized, I can say it is a good thing. But there is so much context to consider. Thousands of civilians were killed by our military actions in Afghanistan. Much of the country was destroyed. The future may well look worse for Afghanis now than it did before the removal of the Taliban. See Return to Afghanistan for a recent take on the situation in Afghanistan. It’s not any better for the women: Rule of the Rapists. And the threat to us may have been increased rather than decreased: see Anti-U.S. Sentiment Builds in Afghanistan and also The Other “Good” War: Afghanistan One Year Later. In context, what we did to remove the Taliban (if we even effectively removed them) may have made the situation worse, not better.

  • Dan

    Dirtgrain, maybe instead of empire building, you should think of it as empire maintenance.

    If we look again to Star Trek and the Prime Directive of the United Federation of Planets, it says: “the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the healthy development of alien life and culture.” Why wouldn’t the UFP consider the USA’s spreading democracy and protecting the interests of it’s democratically controlled empire as a “normal” and “healthy” evolution of culture.

    Some use the word “empire” deliberately out of context to conjure the image of annihilation, conquer and subjugation, plunder, etc. This is an outdated paradigm. World Wars 1 and 2 could be thought of as a transition from the old paradigm. In the first war, Germany was vanquished but not subjugated. Instead they were saddled with enormous debt and left to stew. This turned out bad and led to the 2nd war. WW2 completed the transition. Having learned from the previous fiasco, we built them back, (with little residual gratitude today) ,and inflicted democracy on them. The splitting of Germany was also a wonderful laboratory experiment in the comparitive worthiness of competing principles of government. I ramble, but my main point is that U.S. phasers have been set to “stun”, and if you believe that the U.S. founders principles (such as they are–not ideal) are the most enlightened thus far in cultural evolution, then the path becomes clear. Survival and imposition of democracy. If Haiti ever becomes a threat to our Survival then we should go in there and impose democracy, until then there are bigger fish to fry. Just an opinion.

  • Eric Olsen

    excellent points Dan.

    DG, Who says war is always about money? Karl Marx? War is pretty obviously not always about money, and surely the war on terror – phase 1 Afghanistan, phase 2 Iraq – is not about money.

    Do you really think corporations sit around and dream up schemes for generating war that they might benefit financially? While I will not say that something like this has never happened, I do not believe it is the norm. Wars are politics by other means: we didn’t start this one, and unless you think corporations are behind al Qaeda’s decision to attack the WTC and the Pentagon, then I would say this war is unambiguously about protecting ourselves from future attack and retribution for the previous attacks, the message of which is that we will not tolerate anything like this again.

    And as far as the status of Afghanistan, if you’re going to quote Alternet and Common Dreams, what you get is going to be, um somewhat skewed. Of course Afghanistan is better off than it was, and it will continue to get better with our support, especially when bin Laden is finally caught. Of equal or greater importance, WE are better off having removed the terrorists from power, both physically and symbolically.

    I am also curious as to where you are getting your “thousands” of dead civilians numbers – I hope not the long since discredited “civilian death count” site.

  • Dwaine AKA Scooter AKA D.J.

    I believe we CAN fight for peace and a better tomorrow. God bless America.

  • Dan, I don’t have a problem with our principles. They sound very good theoretically, although I argue that we don’t adhere to them very well–not at all in some cases. If you mean that we should spread what we practice as opposed to what we preach, then I disagree completely. I don’t see what is so great about corporations taking over our country. I don’t see what is so great about the disappearance of jobs in this country. I don’t see what is so great about special interests buying control of this country. That said, I like living here, I love the people, and I love the freedom (which is dwindling away). Democracy is great, but before we spread it to other countries, we might want to make sure that we are installing the correct version here.

    As for the spreading, I think that you and I disagree on the means. I don’t see where it is written that spreading culture and spreading democracy requires killing people. I would rather that we allowed the ideas to continue to spread so that people can take control of their own countries (as in what happened with the Soviet Union).

    Fuck Karl Marx. I say that war is always about money. Bush doesn’t give one shit about Afghanistan, and it’s starting to show. I believe that the same will be true of Iraq. The money reason is linked to oil and control of resources, power in certain areas of the country (if the USSR were still around, would they not have seen our incursion into Afghanistan the same way we saw their dealings in Cuba?), money to be earned in reconstruction (Halliburton, Bechtel, et. al.) and war profiteering. The military-industrial complex has a mind of its own. It influences foreign policy. Its quest for profits may well be the main motive in all of our recent military incursions. And so I am pissed at General Dynamics and other companies of its ilk. From where are so many of the countries getting their weapons, anyway? Is North Korea really such an industrial giant that it can provide them all? Afghanis and Iraqis were using a lot of US-provided arms. Weapons culture–that is what we are spreading. If we don’t watch out, one day the machines will rise up and we will be totally screwed. Jeez, and Dan thought he was meandering.

    Long since discredited? Not at all. Thanks for sending me on a fact check (don’t you know I have to grade papers, man?). A January, 2002, BBC article estimates the civilian death toll in Afghanistan to be at 3,767 (this is from the study by Professor Marc Herold that has been contested. Just because someone says it’s not true, that doesn’t mean it is discredited). Do you not trust the BBC? Did they print a retraction? Cursor.org has a summary of the whole counting fiasco written by Herold, himself: Dead Afghan Civilians: Disrobing the Non-Counters.

    Alternet and Common Dreams are not always the sources–they sometimes publish articles from other sources online. “Rule of the Rapists” is from the Guardian. “Anti-U.S. Sentiment Builds in Afghanistan” is from the San Francisco Chronicle. “The Other ‘Good’ War: Afghanistan One Year Later” is by Rahul Mahajan and was originally published at Common Dreams. It is an opinionated piece, and I in no way intended it to stand as fact (I said, “the threat to us may have been increased. . .”). “Return to Afghanistan” is by freelance writer, Reese Erlich, and was first published by Alternet. In the article, Erlich recounts the experiences of Derrill Bodley on his visit to Afghanistan. It is an anecdotal, qualitative approach to the issue of the situation in the country. Because it was published on Alternet, you would claim that Mahajan made it up? It doesn’t seem so conspicuous to me.