The “War on Terror”: The Globalization of Perpetual War

W.J. Astore

At, Tom Engelhardt has a revealing article on the truly global nature of America’s war on terror, accompanied by a unique map put together by the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.  The map reveals that America’s war on terror has spread to 76 countries, as shown below:


This metastasizing of “counterterror” efforts is truly paradoxical: the more the U.S. military works to stop terror, the more terror spreads.  “Progress” is measured only by the growth of efforts to stem terror networks in more and more countries.  But the notion of “progress” is absurd: That 76 countries are involved in some way in this war on terror is a sign of regress, not progress.  After 16 years and a few trillion dollars, you’d think terror networks and efforts to eradicate them would be decreasing, not increasing.  But the war on terror has become its own cancer, or, in social-media-speak, it’s gone viral, infecting more and more regions.

A metaphor I like to use is from Charles Darwin.  Consider the face of nature — or of terrorism — as a series of tightly interlinked wedges.  Now, consider the U.S. military and its kinetic strikes (as well as weapons sales and military assistance) as hammer blows.  Those hammer blows disturb and contort the face of nature, fracturing it in unpredictable ways, propagating faults and creating conditions for further disturbances.

By hammering away at the complex ecologies of regions, the U.S. is feeding and complicating terrorism with its own violence.  Yet new fracture lines are cited as evidence of the further growth of terrorism, thus necessitating more hammer blows (and yet more military spending).  And the cycle of violence repeats as well as grows.

A sensible approach: Stop hammering away with missiles and bombs and drones.  Stop feeding the terrorist wolf with more blood and violence.

But the U.S. government is caught up in a seemingly endless cycle of violence and war, as Engelhardt notes here:

Let me repeat this mantra: once, almost seventeen years ago, there was one [country, Afghanistan, the U.S. targeted]; now, the count is 76 and rising.  Meanwhile, great cities have been turned into rubble; tens of millions of human beings have been displaced from their homes; refugees by the millions continue to cross borders, unsettling ever more lands; terror groups have become brand names across significant parts of the planet; and our American world continues to be militarized

This should be thought of as an entirely new kind of perpetual global war.  So take one more look at that map.  Click on it and then enlarge it to consider the map in full-screen mode.  It’s important to try to imagine what’s been happening visually, since we’re facing a new kind of disaster, a planetary militarization of a sort we’ve never truly seen before.  No matter the “successes” in Washington’s war, ranging from that invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to the taking of Baghdad in 2003 to the recent destruction of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq (or most of it anyway, since at this moment American planes are still dropping bombs and firing missiles in parts of Syria), the conflicts only seem to morph and tumble on.

A new kind of perpetual global war: Engelhardt nails it.  To end it, we need to stop feeding it.  But as the map above indicates, it seems likely that U.S. hammer blows will continue and even accelerate, with results as violently unpredictable as they are counterproductive.

2 thoughts on “The “War on Terror”: The Globalization of Perpetual War

  1. Colonialism at the point of a gun.
    Very Ancient Rome.

    The military industrial complex has parasited off enough money to cripple maintaining democracy.
    Arrogantly ignorant Generals rushed into Afghanistan, ignoring the still prostate USSR and the howling Crusaders in their ranks.
    Now, the Abrahamic holy wars have destabilized the oil producing nations.
    By the time the monotheists slake their bloodlust, oil will no longer be a critical factor, except in powering war machines.

    The US war machine, already deprofessionalized, will shrink as once allies eject us from overseas bases.
    They may find a minor role suppressing rogue law enforcement re-establishing warlord fiefdoms, but the massive war machines have no good enemy.
    Sending B-52s to carpet bomb farmer’s fields doesn’t help.
    Other nations will not tolerate the threat a bellicose US poses.
    The draconian cuts to healthcare and income will encourage protests against the corporate pillaging.


  2. So now we have The War on Terrible. I can remember not all that long ago — two U.S. presidential administrations, actually — when we knew it as:

    A War on Very Bad
    From The Triumph of Strife: an homage to Dante Alighieri and Percy Shelley (lines 1821-1890)

    A “war” on “Very Bad” he once declared
    This man who had in no war ever fought
    So, not surprisingly, he badly fared

    As nothing went the way he first had thought
    The cowboy movies that he had imbibed
    And Batman comic vengeance that he sought

    Conspired to leave him curbed and circumscribed
    As bats who hang in real caves upside down
    See better blind than all the ones he bribed

    To tell him “yes” and never make him frown
    With facts and truth he wished to have no truck
    His GAWD he said, had placed on him a crown

    Which he believed left room to pass the buck
    Forever “upward” to The Dumbest Cluck

    For what Celestial Fowl would crow out loud
    About anointing such an oblong egg
    Its progeny and chicken spokesman proud

    To chirp cheap lies and every question beg
    He pecks at straw men with red-herrings fished
    From slander sewers dredged to their last dreg

    For falsehoods “proving” any thing he wished
    Ad hominem non-sequiturs refined
    From dirt dug up and none of it undished

    The soiling smear in which he soaked his mind
    Left his defining deity defiled
    As “wars” on “Very Bad” turn out unkind

    With George’s bloody rhetoric, GAWD piled
    His work in morgues upon which Satan smiled

    Yes, George has told us that he got the word
    To do the things he’s done from “up above”
    Too bad the message somehow slipped and slurred

    So that he thinks his hatefulness means love
    And bombings of “bad weddings” prove he cares
    That GAWD gave him the right to curse and shove

    “Democracy” at anyone who dares
    To stay and fight if that’s the only way
    To live his life and rule his own affairs

    George says that GAWD gave him the right to slay
    And throw in prison those that he dislikes
    He’s learned this from some people in his pay

    Who sanctify the targets that he strikes
    And seethe at wedding vows for gays and dykes

    The “war” on “Very Bad” can have no end
    For by design its vague and nameless foe
    Can never die or cease to rip and rend

    Our peace of mind, no matter where we go
    So we must fear what none of us can see
    Much less defeat in years that we can know

    And since we cannot possibly agree
    The fools who foment controversy think
    They’ve found a way to keep us never free

    But always deep in debt to their red ink
    And shouting matches meant to mask with noise
    The “war” on “Very Bad” that leaves a stink

    Which George the Worst has found that he enjoys
    Because it lets him spend time with the boys

    But vague and nebulous as all this seems
    To those removed from war upon the ground
    In real life where the dying ends the dreams

    The victims of King George have heard the sound
    Of calls to arms now motivated by
    A loathing for him, depthless and profound,

    And all that he purports to signify:
    A worldwide epidemic of unease,
    Revulsion and disgust at those who ply

    The tacky trade of tyrants borne to ease
    Who’ve given terror now at last a face,
    Surrounded by a court that aims to please.

    A once-great nation falters in its pace
    And in its “war” on “bad” has won disgrace.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006-2010


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