Increasingly, the military is calling the shots of US foreign policy.
That’s why Obama hasn’t got much of a choice. If he doesn’t escalate in Afghanistan he’s admitting defeat and while that can be swept under the rug as it was with Vietnam, it isn’t going to sit well with many today, particularly the military.
That’s the central thesis in William Pfaff’s fascinating column, America owned by its military.
It is a shocking read. Pfaff blames the new military for the increasingly militant US foreign policy, the all volunteer army which is never cleansed by officers returning home to their day jobs. Now, the military hierarchy becomes increasingly more committed to the ‘military-industrial complex’ that former US President Eisenhower warned so presciently about.
Professional armies have often been considered a threat to their own societies. It was one of Frederick the Great’s own officers who described Prussia “as an army with a state, in which it was temporarily quartered, so to speak”. The French revolutionary statesman Mirabeau said that “war is Prussia’s national industry”. Considering the portion of the US national budget that is now consumed by the Pentagon, much the same could be said of the United States.
The new army also has political ambitions. It now dominates US foreign relations with a thousand bases worldwide and regional commanders like imperial proconsuls. Both General McChrystal and his superior, General David H Petraeus, have been mentioned as future presidential candidates.