Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Corporatization of War

A popular, long-standing meme among the more radical progressive is that war is almost always driven by profit and greed of those who stand to gain from its engagement.

Aside from being wrong, the cynical, self-aggrandizing view that all this warmongering from the right comes down to profit is unhelpful. It detracts from the real motivations, which are more nuanced, less clear-cut, and demand a more thoughtful engagement with the facts.

I suppose the argument might go like this: the evil corporate overlords who ostensibly profit from war put out propaganda via their media tentacles and party apparatchiks. The average American conservative, unsophisticated as he is, mindlessly gobbles it up, ignorantly seeing it as sound political policy.

While nifty for the plot of the next Cameron flick (penned by Moore?), it's little more than paranoid left-wing hubris. The reality is that there is a considerable tradition of principled philosophy and political logic behind the "war on terror" and the rest of its neoconservative manifestations.

The tradition is mostly utter bullshit - expensive, ineffective and ultimately makes things worse. The entire profile is explained more succinctly by Freud than anything even the brightest CEOs could cook up. With the cigars, the oil-rig SUVs, the football & FOX 24 metaphors, the faux-classical pretensions, the manifest destiny theocratic sanctimony, mommy's boy indulgence - its all such rich material for warfare that the fact that a few lucky companies might see a profit is mere icing on the cake.

There are certainly structural arguments for how the military-industrial complex makes war more of a viable, sexy option. But to reduce humanity's longstanding tradition of the glorification and rationalization of war into a simple symptom of capitalism is an insult to the project of eradicating for good our reliance on it as a retributive substitution for effective and ethical policy.

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