>McCain’s Militarism: Supporting the -Ism at the expense of the Military

>What do Senator Harry Reid’s (D-NV) book and Steve Benen’s column have in common? Follow along please as we take a junket through the recent manifestations of Republican militarism. Just as there is a profound difference between those who are religionists and those who are religious, there is a chasm between those who are militaristic and those who support the military. As the Republicans mount their arguments for the election of Senator John McCain the differences become more pronounced.

The American Heritage Dictionary suggests three elements relating to “militarism:” “A strong military spirit or policy; the principle or policy of maintaining a large military establishment; and, the tendency to regard military efficiency as the supreme ideal of the state and to subordinate all other interests to those of the military.” [Dict.com] The notion that there is an enemy is implied, but should one not be readily at hand there is always a plethora of candidates. The current manifestation of the Republican Party is rapidly showing itself to be composed of militarists who may or may not actually support members of the military services; and, few issues place a spotlight on this militarism more glaringly than the current discussions about who enables the recruiting of Al Qaeda members.

There are several solid reasons to believe that the U.S. occupation of Iraq has enabled the continued recruitment of fighters into Al Qaeda cells, [CSM] and the illogical Republican response doesn’t address the question of cause and effect as much as it sidesteps it and seeks to change the subject. Gareth Porter nails down the argument: “The issue at stake is not whether al Qaeda terrorists are responsible for their own atrocities, and certainly not whether they are justified. It is whether there is a predictable cause and effect relationship between U.S. policies in the Middle East and the motivation of the Islamic jihadists who might threaten the United States.” [HuffPo] (emphasis added)

The Republicans have already started beating their campaign war drums about “Who would (fill in the enemy of choice) most like to see in the U.S.Presidency?” Senator McCain jumped into the fray with both feet: “All I can tell you Jennifer (Rubin )is that I think it’s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. So apparently has Danny Ortega and several others. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas’s worst nightmare….If senator Obama is favored by Hamas I think people can make judgments accordingly.” [WklyStand]

It’s a short step from the establishment of an associative link with one radical Islamist group to a conflation with all radical Islamist groups. Of particular interest in this clip is that it doesn’t matter which Democratic candidate is the object, it could be Clinton just as easily as Obama, or anyone else for that matter, because the focus is McCain’s self anointment as “their worst nightmare.” McCain is saying in essence that he will be the best militarist; the best suited to “regard military efficiency as the supreme ideal of the state.”

When one is a militarist it isn’t necessary to be concerned with the causes and effects engendered by one’s policies; it is only required that the militarist believe him or herself to be the most prepared to adopt a strong military response, and to minimize the importance of others such as economic development or diplomacy. A militarist has no difficulty disparaging “tea drinking,” “foreign language speaking” “effete” diplomats engaged in trying to defuse a volatile situation. McCain and others of his ilk, don’t particularly care about the motivation of Al Qaeda recruits, only the military response to the organization, and this has been made perfectly obvious this week by arguments set forth by conservative supporters of McCain’s candidacy.

Steve Benen highlights commentary from the neo-conservative Weekly Standard that supports the thesis that the Republicans frankly don’t care about Al Qaeda recruiting, except as it provides a continual target for their militaristic incantations for more war.

As to whether Bush is a recruiting tool for terrorists–who cares? Al Qaeda was recruiting before Bush was in office and they will continue to do so after he’s gone. The important thing is that we keep killing those recruits. Eventually, one side will give up. And if Obama wins in November, we know which side that will be.” – Michael Goldfarb, [Wkly Stnd] (emphasis added) Benen replies: “Whereas undermining al Qaeda and making it smaller used to be a high national priority, the Weekly Standard — one of the most prominent outlets for conservative thought in the country — is publishing items arguing that Americans need not care if our policies create more terrorists and become a boon to al Qaeda. “Who cares?” [TCR] This is about as blatant as it gets.

Goldfarb is perfectly correct in stating that Al Qaeda recruited members before, during, and will continue to do so after the Bush regime. However, note that his militarism is front and center – “we will keep killing them.” This perspective mirrors that expressed by President Bush as reported by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) in a news interview: “REID: Well, I was complaining about what was going on and he basically said, “Bring ‘em on. We’re killing them. We’re killing them.” OLBERMANN: Who? REID: The terrorists.” [TP]

The militarism inherent in both these examples outweighs any and all other considerations. Once again, to the militarists like McCain and Bush, whether our policies make recruiting easier or more difficult doesn’t matter – it is only the military response to the resulting actions that does. Both could obviously not care less about mitigating the causes of the conflict – only in casting themselves as the best qualified to conduct a military response to it. In short, that Al Qaeda benefits from unpopular American policies in the Middle East is inconsequential compared to the importance of the American military operations in response to the next attack. Received wisdom, like “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” doesn’t factor into their equations.

Defining McCain as the militarist he is makes some of his other pronouncements more comprehensible. Is the CIA insufficiently moved to recommend military operations in response the results of their intelligence gathering? Then, propose to replace it with an old style OSS agency. Is the United Nations not given to enacting resolutions authorizing the use of automatic military responses to international conflicts? Then, propose to dodge it by creating a League of Democracies to “roll back rogue states.” [DB] [DB] Who but a militarist could sing ” bomb, bomb, Iran?”

Evidently lost on the militarists is the notion that one can be supportive of the military without adopting militarism. In fact, a “muscular” militarism that posits the application of military force to each and every conflict is counter-productive to long term military interests. The ‘whack-a-mole’ Bush Administration/McCain policies have the U.S. Armed Forces stretched to the limit, with used and abused equipment, and over-deployed troops, who are facing serious obstacles to receiving comprehensive care and benefits after their service. A cogent, less militaristic, policy would recommend the continual evaluation of our deployment ramifications, sentient assessments of our capacities, and a rational review of our own recruiting and remuneration standards. A less militaristic policy would allow us to employ the diplomatic tools in our arsenal to spare the unnecessary exploitation of our military. When we ‘wise up’ we’ll realize which Party’s candidates can deliver these policies.

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