A Peculiar Form of American Madness

W.J. Astore

Heroification of the military is a strange mindset for any self-avowed democracy

America is touched by a peculiar form of collective madness that sees military action as creative rather than destructive, desirable rather than deplorable, and constitutive to democracy rather than corrosive to it.

This madness, this hubris, this elevation or heroification of the military and war has to end, or it will most certainly end America, if not the world.

Related to this, America advances and sustains a historical narrative based on triumphalism, exceptionalism, and goodness. We Americans see total military dominance as something to crow about, even as we insist that it’s our birthright as “exceptional” Americans. This mindset, or Zeitgeist if you will, enables and empowers a national security state that easily consumes more than half of federal discretionary spending each year. As long as this mindset persists, the MICC or MICIMATT will persist and continue to grow in reach and power.

So that’s my first big step in taming the military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media-academia-think-tank complex. America’s mindset, its culture, must change. Change the mindset and you begin to change the deference if not adulation granted to the MICIMATT.

Change the mindset, weaken the blob. That was what Dwight D. Eisenhower had in mind in his “Cross of Iron” speech in 1953.1 Our peculiar form of militarized madness is simply no way of life at all for democracy or for the planet.

It won’t be easy because we’re taught to salute the military and support “our” beloved troops. We’re taught that corporations like Boeing and Raytheon are job-creators, even citizens. We look to Congress to represent us, even as its members thrive on corporate campaign contributions (bribes) while genuflecting to the generals and admirals. We look to the media for news and information even as those outlets are fueled by advertising dollars from companies like Boeing, if not owned by them. We look to “liberal” academia for new ideas even as colleges and universities compete for Pentagon research and development dollars. We look to think tanks for fresh approaches even as they’re funded by weapons contractors.

Under these conditions, it’s not surprising that the U.S. no longer sees peace as possible or even as desirable. Peace is rarely mentioned by U.S. political candidates or by the mainstream media. War is simply taken for granted; even worse, it’s seen as the health of the state.

That war is now seen as the health of the state is indeed a peculiar form of American madness. As the Christmas season approaches, is it too much to ask for sanity as in peace on earth and good will toward all?

1

Ike’s “Cross of Iron” speech in 1953 was brilliant in its clarity and power. Can you imagine any U.S. politician saying these words today?

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.  It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

20 thoughts on “A Peculiar Form of American Madness

  1. I read Mr Astore very evening to reset my mindgrasp on the world after the intellectual contamination which has collected during the day – and it has become a beacon of comfort for my personal stability. If ever you are thinking you are hitting a brick war, know that others appreciate your pain. Keep on. Sir. I am along way away in Scotland, but close to your mindgrasp !

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  2. The entire U.S. culture and school system begins brainwashing from a young age and all the way through the system to college and beyond. The entire sports program is nothing more than military brainwashing.
    Go team! As if “my team” has anything whatsoever to do with me. Just constant “us against them” mindless brainwashing.
    Image a group of grown men singing “fight fight fight for Oregon State and victory!” while grown women dance around yelling “hit ’em again, hit ’em again!”
    Completely detached from reality.

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  3. Good to read such sane and sober thoughts. Every time I hear that “knee-jerk” phrase “thank you for your service” whenever someone becomes aware of an individual’s prior military employment, I cringe. Just think what happens in 4 or 5 years when true state of the world’s vanishing oil supplies becomes common knowledge. To maintain our entitlement to a “way of life (sic)” this behemoth will behemoth will be unleashed…..

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    1. On seeing a picture of retired Marine Corps General (and former Trump administration Secretary of Defense) James Mattis modeling a “combat inspired” leather jacket in an attempt to market a rather ludicrous notion of “masculinity.”

      Military Idolatry
      (in the style of John Allan Wyeth’s “This Man’s Army: A War in Fifty-Odd Sonnets”)

      The old man wears a leather jacket — black —
      to celebrate Fallujah, the assaults
      he led in order to avenge insult:
      The deaths of four Blackwater dogs of war.
      These mercenaries helped make up the pack
      of thieves despoiling Baghdad. Their mad waltz
      provoked the inescapable result:
      Their corpses hanging from a bridge. Therefore,
      Bush sends in the Marines to teach Iraq
      That protesting their emptied storage vaults
      — or “some kid with a vase,” Rumsfeld would say —
      brings on the bloody Mad Dog Mattis cult,
      a “manly” mob of murderers galore
      to trash a city. Such a price to pay.

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2020

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  4. I read the entire speech these quotes were from (thank you for the link) and I thank you for keeping us reminded of Eisenhower’s immortal words. I was surprised to learn that they came from a speech to Newspaper editors given at the very beginning of his term as President (12 weeks). I always thought it came at the end of his 8 years. He has a lot to say about Russia here, which I understand – Stalin was a difficult man and his rule was filled with “mistakes” as Putin tactfully calls them. However I’m wondering if Ike’s understanding of Russia’s aims were colored by the hatred of the Dulles brothers – Allen and John who both despised Russia and any idea of communism or socialism. Allen, in particular who ran the OSS during the war and then created the CIA under Truman, hated communism so much that he built that hatred of Russia and communism into the CIA he created, along with the aid of his brother John who was Secretary of State in Truman’s time. Thus, virtually every daily report brought to Ike by the CIA may well have been colored by this hate, and there is some evidence that this is so. I suggest a book called “The Devil’s Chessboard” that spells out what the Dulles bros got up to. It’s a tad scary and might have affected our attitude in international politics. One should consider that Russia, after losing over 27 million people along with a destroyed infrastructure, was not in any shape, nor had any interest in attacking other nations. It was trying to get up off its knees after defeating Nazi Germany.
    In any event, I do thank you for your continued attempt to get this country away from our constant push for war. I found it interesting that at the beginning of the speech Ike lists his own version of ideals for the nation which are remarkably similar to Zhou’s. I presume you noticed that too.

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  5. I always liked that picture of General Eisenhower. A five star general with one row of three ribbons. Yet no question about his leadership and accomplishments.

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