Watching conservatives oppose military intervention in Syria has been entertaining to say the least. We all know that if the occupants of the White Hosue were a Republican, they’d be cheerleading for the most ruinous attack possible, telling us that Assad is the moral equal of Pol Pot, Hitler, Mussolini and Jeffrey Dahmer all rolled into one. Not so long ago, however, most of Washington DC would have joined in supporting an attack. A few years ago, an attack on Syria would have been a foregone conclusion, there would have been sporadic opposition but it would have happened, and at least inside the “establishment” would have been regarded as necessary and possibly even good. A great many Democrats supported action against Iraq in 2002 and 2003 (despite their doubts of its success) because the necessity of military action was accepted, common wisdom even if their instincts told them it was a disaster waiting to happen.
The disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan were/are simply to big to be ignored, even by hawkish political insiders. When someone as reliably dim and possessed of the conventional wisdom as George Will doesn’t favor a military strike, you know something has shifted.
The signs have been around for a while. Kos (although talking about the fall of neocons) observed today:
We first saw it with the sequester—where the $800 billion in defense cuts was supposed to prod the GOP to negotiate in good faith for a grand bargain. Instead, the bulk of the GOP nodded in approval and left the military-industrial complex slack-jawed, abandoned despite the mounds of campaign cash they shipped into GOP coffers.
There’s money to be made in bombing Syria and potential profits focus the attention of military contracters.
More deeply than simple profits, the decades long codependent relationship between America’s politicians, our military and the vast network of military contractors who make absurd profits and who in turn make sure political campaigns are well funded has created a mindset that says the US must be the world’s policeman, that we must enforce the laws of the world and we must act and that action must be military to enforce pax-Americana. It tells us the US creates peace by making war. You can see it in the rise of the Imperial Presidency (American Caesars), in gradual but persistent militarization of American culture. The national security state, the near constant state of wartime mentality that dominated the Cold War era, that was replaced with the War On Terror (trademark) that at least in theory provided us with an equally grave clash of civilizations and worldviews.
The real issue — Americans should hope that the forthcoming congressional debate makes this explicit — concerns the advisability of continuing to rely on military might as the preferred means of advancing U.S. interests in this part of the world.
It seems unlikely the current Congress is even capable of that debate:
Will members of the Senate and the House grasp the opportunity to undertake an urgently needed reassessment of America’s War for the Greater Middle East? Or wriggling and squirming, will they inelegantly sidestep the issue, opting for short-term expediency in place of serious governance? In an age where the numbing blather of McCain, McConnell, and Reid have replaced the oratory of Clay, Calhoun, and Webster, merely to pose the question is to answer it.
What’s happened, in its simplest form, is that the age of disruption has hit the military industrial complex and they never saw it coming.
The mere idea that politicians voting on matters of war and peace — life and death — could be influenced by contributions is the most perverted money in politics nightmare. You can be sure that senators voting ‘yes’ on Syria emphatically deny a quid pro quo with military industrial donors, saying that defense lobbyists give them money because they happen to agree on military matters, and because everyone on the Foreign Relations Committee gets more money from those industries. That’s just how the status quo is.
But the status quo is the problem. Politicians should not be allowed to receive money from interests they regulate. Period. As soon as Foreign Relations Committee members take money from the very companies that stand to make millions from military action, we the people can no longer be unequivocally sure that they are making decisions purely on the merits of what’s best for our nation.
In the age of disruption, feedback goes awry – we are living with the results of delayed or broken feedback in which people who make decisions are insulated from even seeing the impact of their choices. Wall Street’s misfeasance leading up the economic crach of 2008 should have resulted in massive structural refoms; instead, there were minor reforms and within next to no time, Wall Street returned to its previous behaviors with all its incentives intact. The financial used every ounce of its influence and connections to protect itself from consequences. It succeded because leadership is disrupted as well. To quote Otto Scharmer, we live in an age in which there is “A disconnect between institutional leadership and people . . . a leadership void that shows up in the widely shared sense that we are collectively creating results that nobody wants.”
The metaphor of substance addiction springs to mind, operating at a massive societal level rather than a personal level. Disruptive outcomes unravel around us. It sounds paradoxical, but by simply asking Congress to decide, the President disrupted but also embodied a disrupted system. The military industrial complex has long relied on imperial presidents to do their bidding. This Congress, utterly incapable of acting even to further the aims of its benefactors, revealed a massive institutional disruption – the connection between the well-healed and well connected who want a war in Syria and the politicians who serve them couldn’t coordinate a simple bombing campaign.
The military industrial complex just experienced its first real setback in a very long time. I have no doubt at some point in the not so distant they’ll get their pricey bombing campaign. I also have no doubt that it will deepen the sense of disconnect between the governed and the people. We will be getting an outcome (almost) no one really wants.
Otto Scharmer argues that “The eight disconnects that we listed above represent a decoupling of two worlds: a decoupling of the structure of societal reality from the structure of economic thought . . .”
To put it differently, policy and governance right now represent a decoupling of the structure of societal reality from the practice of governance and the structure of political thought. Republicans are prepared to destroy the economy over the debt ceiling, the President believes he can make bargains with them, Democrats in Congress are divided and at least some regularly side with Republicans. They’ve allied themselves in a desparate gamble to save the well connected few while ignoring the hardships of the many. The age of disruption delivered another wake up call, this time to the most politically connected of the politically connected. Let’s see if anyone in the establishment paid attention.