In 2002/3 John Jopling and I wrote
Redefining Globalisation and People-Power
This site introduces its key ideas and some associated topics
USA ÜBER ALLES
Leading the Gaian Revolution: Commonsense for Desperate Times
Gaian Democracies: Redefining Globalisation & People-Power by Roy Madron & John Jopling
To see a detailed picture of the US's military presence in your country go to these on-line interactive maps as recommended in the second article from TomDispatch.
From: Tom Dispatch 2008-05-06 20:07:28 at www.tomdispatch.com
The Air Force Above All: Dominating the Air, Space, and Cyberspace
By. William J. Astore
When I first joined the Air Force, its mission statement was straightforward: to fly and fight. The recruiting slogan was upbeat: the Air Force was "a great way of life," and the ROTC program I enrolled in was the "gateway to a great way of life." Mission statements and slogans are easy to poke fun at and shouldn't, perhaps, be taken too seriously. That said, the people who develop them do take them seriously, which is why they can't be ignored.
Consider the Air Force's new slogan: "Air Force -- Above All."
Okay, I admit it's catchy, even cute, if, that is, you can get past the "high ground" conceit and ignore the Germanic über alles overtones. Its literal meaning is obvious enough and it does fit with the Air Force's most basic precept, that mastery of the air means mastery of the ground. Yet today's Air Force seeks more than that. It wants to extend its "mastery" to space ("the new high ground") and even to cyberspace. This is yet another disturbing manifestation of our military's quest for "full spectrum dominance," achieved at debilitating cost to the American taxpayer -- and a potentially destabilizing one to the planet.
Striving to be "above all" everywhere is ambitious to the point of folly. By comparison, the slogans of the Air Force's sister services seem modest. The poor, embattled Army is simply "Army Strong." The Navy now promises to "Accelerate Your Life." Yawn. The Marines, always faithful, refuse to tinker with their slogan, which remains: "The Few. The Proud. The Marines." Meanwhile, the Air Force soars above such slavish adherence to tradition -- as well as any reasonable sense of boundaries or restraint.
The new slogan may also serve as a reminder to airmen to keep their service branch "above all" in their hearts and minds -- despite the fact that the Air Force is currently shedding 40,000 airmen as it tries to pay for a new generation of high-tech fighter jets. It most certainly is a measure of the service's determination to deny the use of space to powerful rivals, whether China, Russia -- or the U.S. Navy.
Perhaps the slogan even expresses a certain moral superiority -- as in an Air Force pilot's comment I once overheard that, when aloft, he felt "morally superior" to the little people scampering around on the ground below him. High ground, indeed.
Flying and Fighting, Everywhere!
So much for slogans. The Air Force's new mission statement begins -- and do bear with me for a moment --
The Mission of the United States Air Force is to deliver sovereign options for the defense of the United States of America and its global interests to fly and fight in air, space and cyberspace.
Flying and fighting in cyberspace sounds exciting -- think Neo in The Matrix. And flying and fighting in space -- which might yet come to pass -- is so Star Wars, especially if the "good" side of the Force is with you, which it must be if you're defending America.
But wait. The Air Force mission statement makes an instant, and anything but defensive u-turn, and promptly lays out a "vision" of "Global Vigilance, Reach and Power," which, it claims, "orbits around three core competencies: Developing Airmen, Technology-to-Warfighting and Integrating Operations." How a vision can orbit three cores I don't know -- and I once completed the "Space Operations Short Course" at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Nonetheless, this trinity of core competencies somehow enables six "capabilities," which are unapologetically offensive.
The first of the six is "air and space superiority" with which we "can dominate enemy operations in all dimensions: land, sea, air and space." Capability #2 turns out to be "global attack," enabling us to "attack anywhere, anytime and do so quickly and with greater precision than ever before." (In Bush-speak, we'll kill them there, so they don't kill us here.)
And when we attack, capability #4, "precision engagement," theoretically ensures that we put bombs on target, as we used to say in simpler times. Today's "precision" vision is more prolix: "the essence [of precision engagement] lies in the ability to apply selective force against specific targets because the nature and variety of future contingencies demand both precise and reliable use of military power with minimal risk and collateral damage."
I pity the recruits who have to recite that mouthful of gobbledygook. As bloodless and evasive as such prose may be, however, the mission statement doesn't pull punches about just what "above all" really means. It wields words like "attack," "force," "power," and, most revealingly, "dominate." They reflect what matters most in the new Air Force vision -- and by extension, of course, that of our country. And if you don't believe me, go to the Air Force website and click on the icons for "air dominance," "space dominance," and "cyber dominance."
Death at a Distance
Our capability to deliver damage and death across the globe -- at virtually no immediate risk to ourselves -- gives extra meaning to the words "above all." But with great power comes great responsibility, a tagline I learned as a teen from Spider-Man comic strips, but which is no less true for that. The problem is that our "global reach" often exceeds the grasp of our collective wisdom to employ "global power" responsibly.
Listen to the Air Force's own pitch for its "global reach" and "global power," and you know that today's service is indeed an imperial instrument focused on "power projection" and "dominance" (with nary a thought of how others may respond to being dominated). Worse yet, our "capabilities" have so detached us from delivering death that it's become remarkably close to a video-game-like exercise.
Twenty-five years ago, I watched a recruiting film that predicted the coming age of remote-control warfare. And where would the Air Force find its new "pilots," the narrator asked rhetorically? The film promptly cut to a 1980s video arcade, where young teens were blasting away with abandon in games like "Missile Command."
I remember the audience laughing, and it tickled my funny bone as well, but I'm not so amused anymore. For what was prophesied a generation ago has come true. Using unmanned drones, armed with missiles and "piloted" by joystick-wielding warriors, often thousands of miles away from the targets being attacked, the Air Force need not risk any aircrew in "battle." Our military speaks blithely, even with excitement, of "killing ‘Bubba' from the skies"; but, in actuality, what that means is: from air bases tucked safely far behind the lines, whether in Qatar on the Arabian peninsula or outside of Las Vegas. (In this case, what happens in Vegas definitely does not stay in Vegas.)
I'm not suggesting that our Global Hawk, Predator, and Reaper (What a name!) pilots are anything less than dedicated to their assigned missions, including minimizing "collateral damage." Rather, the technology of unmanned aerial vehicles itself serves to detach them from their targets. Tracking the enemy, often with infrared sensors that show people as featureless blobs of heat-light, how can they not become human versions of the ruthless alien hunter that blasted its way through Arnold Schwarzenegger's unit in a movie coincidentally named Predator?
As our weapons technology weakens ground-level empathy and understanding, it simultaneously emboldens the Air Force to seek (deceptively) "clean" kills. It's well known, for example, that, in the opening days of the invasion of Iraq, in March 2003, the Bush administration tried to "decapitate" Saddam Hussein and his inner circle with precision weapons. (In fact, only Iraqi civilians were killed in these coordinated attacks aimed at the Iraqi leadership as the war began.)
Terrorist networks like Al Qaeda provide even fewer and more elusive "high-value" targets than do organized governments. Yet, when the U.S. Succeeds with "decapitation" strikes against such networks, new heads often emerge, hydra-like, especially when "collateral damage" includes dead civilians -- and live avengers.
Control Fantasies in Space
The Air Force's vision of total domination used to stop at the stratosphere. Yet, according to its grandiose website, it now extends "to the shining stars and beyond." I hesitate to ask what lies beyond. God? Certainly, there's something unbounded, almost god-like, in the Air Force's space fantasy.
When it turns to space, the Air Force readily admits its desire to dominate all potential foes. As Peter B. Teets, a former Air Force undersecretary and director of the National Reconnaissance Office, declared back in 2002: "If we do not exploit space to the fullest advantage across every conceivable mode of war fighting, then someone else will -- and we allow this at our own peril."
There's nothing surprising about this "king of the hill" mentality. A decade ago, as a uniformed officer, I attended a space conference in Colorado Springs. Major topics of discussion included space weaponry already on the drawing board and being funded. Included were space-based directed energy weapons ("ten to twenty years away" was the prediction back then) and "Brilliant Pebbles," a constellation of thousands of miniature killer-satellites, proposed in the 1980s, that would be used to intercept ballistic missiles and which, fortunately, went unfielded, though not for want of lobbying to revive the project.
Much of the argument then -- undoubtedly abstruse to outsiders -- was about whether space represented a "revolution in military affairs" or a "strategic center of gravity." It turned out that it didn't matter. Either way, we clearly had to seize it and dominate it first, since space, as "the ultimate high ground," was going to be critical in future wars.
Several enthusiasts called for a new, separate, and independent space force, a fifth service, with its own unique doctrine -- an idea the Air Force has, so far, fought off valiantly. Among my notes from the occasion was a statement by General Howell M. Estes III, then Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Space Command, that the Air Force simply couldn't afford to lose the space mission -- not just to "the enemy," but to the dreaded U.S. Navy and U.S. Army, both of which were, he claimed, already exploiting space assets more skillfully than the Air Force.
Dominating space (and again the other services) certainly sounds seductive. Having worked in the Space Surveillance Center in Cheyenne Mountain, however, I can tell you that near-earth orbital space is already overcrowded with satellites and space junk -- and the delicate sensors on these satellites are highly vulnerable to space shrapnel traveling at 17,000 miles per hour. Explosive battles in space would degrade, rather than enhance, any existing advantage in space-based intelligence and communication the U.S. Does have. Demilitarizing space is the only sensible strategy, yet it's the one that promises few lucrative contracts for aerospace firms and no new command billets for an Air Force seeking global (and supra-global) dominance.
Closing the Empathy Gap
As the Air Force flexes its earth, space, and cyber muscles, we rarely stop to think of the asymmetrical advantages enjoyed by the military -- the overwhelming advantage in firepower, mobility, and technology. This has created what can only be called an empathy gap.
Fortunately, Americans have never been on the receiving end of a sustained bombing campaign in this country. Two shocking days excepted -- December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor (where my uncle dodged aerial strafing at Schofield barracks), and September 11, 2001 in New York City and Washington -- the skies have always been friendly to us, even the repository of our hopes and dreams. When fighter jets scream overhead, our first thought isn't "death," it's display. We look up in curiosity or wonder; we don't panic and run for our lives. We expect the opening of a sporting event or aerial acrobatics, not the arrival of "precision guided munitions."
As a result, we have trouble realizing that our ability to soar "above all" and rain death from the skies generates resistance and revenge, rather than awe and retreat, or submission and rapprochement. We marvel that our enemies just don't get the message -- but our signals are mixed, and our receivers flawed.
Flying and fighting so far above it all has proven deceptive indeed. It leaves us with little idea of the new realities we are creating down below, and blind to the disturbing inequities and resentments generated by our global/galactic/cyber power.
It turns out that the higher you soar -- the more "above all" you perceive yourself to be -- the less likely it is that you'll understand the little people beneath you, and the more likely it is that those same "little people" will resent being dominated. And the solution to that problem lies not in dominating the stars or some other higher physical realm, but in looking within to a higher moral realm. "Above All" in moral courage -- now there's a slogan toward which I'd willingly soar.
William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School. He currently teaches at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He is the author of Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism (Potomac Press, 2005).
Copyright 2008 William Astore
Going on an Imperial Bender: How the US Garrisons the Planet and Doesn't Even Notice
Thursday 04 September 2008 by Tom Engelhardt,
At the height of the Roman Empire, the Romans had an estimated 37 major military bases scattered around their dominions. At the height of the British Empire, the British had 36 of them planetwide. Depending on just who you listen to and how you count, we have hundreds of bases. According to Pentagon records, in fact, there are 761 active military "sites" abroad.
The fact is: We garrison the planet north to south, east to west, and even on the seven seas, thanks to our various fleets and our massive aircraft carriers which, with 5,000-6,000 personnel aboard -- that is, the population of an American town -- are functionally floating bases.
And here's the other half of that simple truth: We don't care to know about it. We, the American people, aided and abetted by our politicians, the Pentagon, and the mainstream media, are knee-deep in base denial. Now, that's the gist of it. If, like most Americans, that's more than you care to know, stop here.
Where the Sun Never Sets
Let's face it, we're on an imperial bender and it's been a long, long night. Even now, in the wee hours, the Pentagon continues its massive expansion of recent years; we spend militarily as if there were no tomorrow; we're still building bases as if the world were our oyster; and we're still in denial. Someone should phone the imperial equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous.
But let's start in a sunnier time, less than two decades ago, when it seemed that there would be many tomorrows, all painted red, white, and blue. Remember the 1990s when the U.S. Was hailed -- or perhaps more accurately, Washington hailed itself -- not just as the planet's "sole superpower" or even its unique "hyperpower," but as its "global policeman," the only cop on the block? As it happened, our leaders took that label seriously and our central police headquarters, that famed five-sided building in Washington D.C, promptly began dropping police stations -- aka military bases -- in or near the oil heartlands of the planet (Kosovo, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait) after successful wars in the former Yugoslavia and the Persian Gulf.
As those bases multiplied, it seemed that we were embarking on a new, post-Soviet version of "containment."
With the USSR gone, however, what we were containing grew a lot vaguer and, before 9/11, no one spoke its name. Nonetheless, it was, in essence, Muslims who happened to live on so many of the key oil lands of the planet.
Yes, for a while we also kept intact our old bases from our triumphant mega-war against Japan and Germany,and then the stalemated "police action" in South Korea (1950-1953) -- vast structures which added up to something like an all-military American version of the old British Raj. According to the Pentagon, we still have a total of 124 bases in Japan, up to 38 on the small island of Okinawa, and 87 in South Korea. (Of course, there were setbacks. The giant bases we built in South Vietnam were lost in 1975, and we were peaceably ejected from our major bases in the Philippines in 1992.)
But imagine the hubris involved in the idea of being "global policeman" or "sheriff" and marching into a Dodge City that was nothing less than Planet Earth itself. Naturally, with a whole passel of bad guys out there, a global "swamp" to be "drained," as key Bush administration officials loved to describe it post-9/11, we armed ourselves to kill, not stun. And the police stations? Well, they were often something to behold -- and they still are.
Let's start with the basics: Almost 70 years after World War II, the sun is still incapable of setting on theAmerican "empire of bases" -- in Chalmers Johnson's phrase -- which at this moment stretches from Australia to Italy, Japan to Qatar, Iraq to Colombia, Greenland to the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, Rumania to Okinawa. And new bases of various kinds are going up all the time (always with rumors of more to come). For instance, an American missile system is slated to go into Poland and a radar system into Israel. That will mean Americans stationed in both countries and, undoubtedly, modest bases of one sort or another to go with them.
(The Israeli one -- "the first American base on Israeli territory" -- reports Aluf Benn of Haaretz, will be in the Negev desert.)
There are 194 countries on the planet (more or less), and officially 39 of them have American "facilities," large and/or small. But those are only the bases the Pentagon officially acknowledges. Others simply aren't counted, either because, as in the case of Jordan, a country finds it politically preferable not to acknowledge such bases; because, as in the case of Pakistan, the American military shares bases that are officially Pakistani; or because bases in war zones, no matter how elaborate, somehow don't count. In other words, that 39 figure doesn't even include Iraq or Afghanistan. By 2005, according to the Washington Post, there were 106 American bases in Iraq, ranging from tiny outposts to mega-bases like Balad Air Base and the ill-named Camp Victory that house tens of thousands of troops, private contractors, Defense Department civilians, have bus routes, traffic lights, Pxes, big name fast-food restaurants, and so on.
Some of these bases are, in effect, "American towns" on foreign soil. In Afghanistan, Bagram Air Base,previously used by the Soviets in their occupation of the country, is the largest and best known. There are,however, many more, large and small, including Kandahar Air Base, located in what was once the unofficial capital of the Taliban, which even has a full-scale hockey rink (evidently for its Canadian contingent of troops).
You would think that all of this would be genuine news, that the establishment of new bases would regularly generate significant news stories, that books by the score would pour out on America's version of imperialcontrol. But here's the strange thing: We garrison the globe in ways that really are -- not to put too fine a point on it -- unprecedented, and yet, if you happen to live in the United States, you basically wouldn't know it; or,thought about another way, you wouldn't have to know it.
In Washington, our garrisoning of the world is so taken for granted that no one seems to blink when billions go into a new base in some exotic, embattled, war-torn land. There's no discussion, no debate at all. News about bases abroad, and Pentagon basing strategy, is, at best, inside-the-fold stuff, meant for policy wonks and news jockeys. There may be no subject more taken for granted in Washington, less seriously attended to, or more deserving of coverage.
Americans have, of course, always prided themselves on exporting "democracy," not empire. So empire-talk hasn't generally been an American staple and, perhaps for that reason, all those bases prove an awkward subject to bring up or focus too closely on. When it came to empire-talk in general, there was a brief period after 9/11 when the neoconservatives, in full-throated triumph, began to compare us to Rome and Britain at their imperial height (though we were believed to be incomparably, uniquely more powerful). It was, in the phrase of the time, a "unipolar moment." Even liberal war hawks started talking about taking up "the burden" of empire or, in the phrase of Michael Ignatieff, now a Canadian politician but, in that period, still at Harvard and considered a significant American intellectual, "empire lite."
TomDispatch.com has covered this subject regularly ever since, in part because these massive "facts on the ground," these modern Ziggurats, were clearly evidence of the Bush administration's long-term plans and intentions in that country. Not surprisingly, this year, U.S. Negotiators finally offered the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki its terms for a so-called status of forces agreement, evidently initially demandingthe right to occupy into the distant future 58 of the bases it has built.
It has always been obvious -- to me, at least -- that any discussion of Iraq policy in this country, of timelines or "time horizons," drawdowns or withdrawals, made little sense if those giant facts on the ground weren't taken into account. And yet you have to search the U.S. Press carefully to find any reporting on the subject, nor have bases played any real role in debates in Washington or the nation over Iraq policy.
The Foreshortened American Century
In a nutshell, occupying the planet, base by base, normally simply isn't news. Americans may pay no attention and yet, of course, they do pay. It turns out to be a staggeringly expensive process for U.S. Taxpayers. Writing of a major 2004 Pentagon global base overhaul (largely aimed at relocating many of them closer to the oil heartlands of the planet), Mike Mechanic of Mother Jones magazine online points out the following: "An expert panel convened by Congress to assess the overseas basing realignment put the cost at $20 billion, counting indirect expenses overlooked by the Pentagon, which had initially budgeted one-fifth that amount."
And that's only the most obvious way Americans pay. It's hard for us even to begin to grasp just how military (and punitive) is the face that the U.S. Has presented to the world, especially during George W. Bush's two termsin office. (Increasingly, that same face is also presented to Americans. For instance, as Paul Krugman indicated recently, the civilian Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] has been so thoroughly wrecked these last years that significant planning for the response to Hurricane Gustav fell on the shoulders of the military'sBush-created U.S. Northern Command.)
In purely practical terms, though, Americans are unlikely to be able to shoulder forever the massive global role the Pentagon and successive administrations have laid out for us. Sooner or later, cutbacks will come andthe sun will slowly begin to set on our base-world abroad.
In the Cold War era, there were, of course, two "superpowers," the lesser of which disappeared in 1991 after a lifespan of 74 years. Looking at what seemed to be a power vacuum across the Bering Straits, the leaders of the other power prematurely declared themselves triumphant in what had been an epic struggle for global hegemony.It now seems that, rather than victory, the second superpower was just heading for the exit far more slowly.
[Note on Sources: Mother Jones online has just launched a major project to map out and analyze U.S. Bases worldwide. The magazine has produced an impressive online interactive map of U.S. Bases worldwide. But when you zoom in on an individual country, do note that the first base figures you'll see are the Pentagon's and so possibly not complete. You need to read the MJ texts below each map to get a fuller picture. As will be obvious, if you click on the links in this post, I made good use of MJ's efforts, for which I offer many thanks.]
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the American Age of Denial. The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), a collection of some of the best pieces from his site, has just been published. Focusing on what the mainstream media hasn't covered, it is an alternative history of the mad Bush years.
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USA ÜBER ALLES