Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Dog Ate My Bazooka

And now, a belated July 4th bummer...

Historically, American military victories have been largely "conventional" as opposed to "special." Inchon and Desert Storm are the biggest, relying on logistics and armor and infantry craft - and a steady pounding from the air in the second case -  rather than daring commando operations.

In sharp contrast, the Vietnam conflict drew heavily on CIA black ops and the then new Special Forces and was a colossal failure. That failure has been repeated in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars prosecuted by the super secret and special Joint Special Operations Command. The fact that American troops still occupy Afghanistan five years after Osama Bin Laden was assassinated in a different country is proof enough of strategic failure and whatever successes insane Beltway insiders may have claimed from Iraq are looking pretty flimsy this week.

While there are plenty of political - if not simply careerist - reasons for the politicians and pundits to ignore this nasty lesson of history, a particular facet of American culture also encourages everyone to look away: the national cult of individualism.

Understand individualism in itself is not a problem. The Dutch certainly make it work. But the way it manifests in American culture is much different, much more fetishized, and much more toxic in its denial of harsh reality. Sixteen years of being the Keystone Kops of military powers, and you can still find fictionalized paeans to the "warrior elite" all over the US of A. Like Kill Bin Laden or movies celebrating the actual killing of bin Laden. That the real life inspirations for many of these films - like Lone Survivor and Black hawk Down - where horrible failures, "goat fucks" in the parlance of the men involved, is simply not spoken of in polite society.

In the fantastic Full Spectrum Disorder, Stan Goff lists off special operations from Iran to Somalia - most of which he was involved with, either in Delta or the Rangers - and he soundly declares them failures. And nobody wants to hear him, preferring instead the myths of individual heroism American culture encourages. The Benghazi debacle is already available on DVD, yet another frenetic action film soaking in its own bathos, where the murky politics of the mission is ignored so the narrative can focus on the steely-eyed white boys and their valiant fight for... well, for each other seems to be the only motivation in any of these movies.

It does serve to get impressionable kids into recruiting offices but it's not some conspiracy. Not intentionally. Rather, it's just the natural outcome of a culture that shuns collective action and sacrifice in favor of some romantic Rambo fantasy. And it will keep the imperial misadventures going, same as President Hillary's determination that she can warmonger just as much as the boys.

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