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The National Security State Wins (Again)

Posted on May 15, 2012
gregwest98 (CC BY 2.0)

By William J. Astore, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

Consider as well Romney’s five telegenic sons.  It’s hard to square Mitt’s professions of love for our military with his sons’ lack of interest in military service.  Indeed, when asked about their lack of enthusiasm for joining the armed forces during the surge in Iraq in 2007, Mitt off-handedly replied that his sons were already performing an invaluable national service by helping him get elected.

An old American upper class sense of noblesse oblige, of sons of privilege like George H.W. Bush or John F. Kennedy volunteering for national service in wartime, has been dead for decades in our otherwise military-happy country.  When it comes to sending American sons (and increasingly daughters) into harm’s way, for President Romney it’ll be another case of chickenhawk guts and working-class blood.

For election 2012, however, the main point is that the Romney family’s collective lack of service makes him vulnerable on national defense, a weakness that has already led Mitt and his campaign to overcompensate with ever more pro-military policy pronouncements supplemented with the usual bellicose rhetoric of all Republicans (Ron Paul excepted).  As a result, President-elect Romney will ultimately find himself confined, cowed, and controlled by the national security complex—and he’ll have only himself (and Barack Obama) to blame.

Obama, by way of contrast, has already shown a passion for military force that in saner times would make him invulnerable to charges of being “weak” on defense.  Fond of dressing up in military flight jackets and praising the troops to the rafters, Obama has substance to go with his style.  He’s made some tough calls like sending SEAL Team 6 into Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden; using NATO airpower to take down Qaddafi in Libya; expanding special ops and drone warfare in Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, including the assassination of U.S. citizens without judicial process.  America’s Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2009 has become a devotee of special forces, kill teams, and high-tech drones that challenge the very reality of national sovereignty.  Surely such a man can’t be accused of being weak on defense.


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The political reality, of course, is different.  Despite his record, the Republican Party is forever at pains to portray Obama as suspect (that middle name Hussein!), divided in his loyalties (that Kenyan connection!), and not slavish enough in his devotion to “underdog” Israel.  (Could he be a crypto-Muslim?)

The president and his campaign staff are no fools.  Since any sign of “weakness” vis-à-vis Iran and similar enemies du jour or any expression of less than boundless admiration for our military will be exploited ruthlessly by Romney et al., Obama will continue to tack rightwards on military issues and national defense.  As a result, once elected he, too, will be a prisoner of the Complex.  In this process, the only surefire winner and all-time champ: once again, the national security state.

So what can we expect on the campaign trail this summer and fall?  Certainly not prospective civilian commanders-in-chief confident in the vitally important role of restraining or even reversing the worst excesses of an imperial state.  Rather, we’ll witness two men vying to be cheerleader-in-chief for continued U.S. imperial dominance achieved at nearly any price.

Election 2012 will be all about preserving the imperial status quo, only more so.  Come January 2013, regardless of which man takes the oath of office, we’ll remain a country with a manic enthusiasm for the military.  Rather than a president who urges us to abhor endless war, we’ll be led by a man intent on keeping us oblivious to the way we’re squandering our nation’s future in fruitless conflicts that ultimately compromise our core constitutional principles.

For all the suspense the media will gin up in the coming months, the ballots are already in and the real winner of election 2012 will be the national security state.  Unless you’re a denizen of that special interest state, we know the loser, too. It’s you.

William J. Astore, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, is a TomDispatch regular.  He welcomes reader comments at To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Astore discusses how the two presidential candidates are sure to out-militarize each other in the coming election campaign, click here or download it to your iPod here.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 William J. Astore

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By Dave Schwab, May 18, 2012 at 3:47 am Link to this comment

“Whether President Obama or assumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney wins the presidency, there’s a third candidate no one’s paying much attention to, and that candidate is guaranteed to be the one clear winner of election 2012: the U.S. military and our ever-surging national security state.”

So why not pay some attention to the real third candidate in this race - the Green Party’s Jill Stein, the only candidate who is running with a party that takes no corporate money whatsoever? Jill Stein is calling for a massive redirection of military spending to pay for a Green New Deal, which would tackle our economic and ecological crises together. If you exclude anti-imperialism voices from the debate, you are reinforcing the very problem that you are complaining about.

For more about Jill Stein, check out

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By MouseyTongue, May 17, 2012 at 10:15 am Link to this comment

Sue the hoodie company? Why stop there? How about we
actually shoot some guy who makes his own iron on t-
shirt or hoodie with cross hairs on it?
That way, we can not only excuse extreme over reaction
to the freedom of expression, the right of people to
peaceably demonstrate their greivances, unlawful
interference in private business and conduct but we can
rationalize killing someone by ‘they were asking for
it’ or ‘their opinions are disgusting so who’s gonna
miss them anyhow?’
SOBER UP - then reread what you posted.

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By gerard, May 16, 2012 at 8:47 pm Link to this comment

Another thing in the offing that we might be prepared to welcome would be some more truth about what went on in the last ten years of wars without end, some military whistle-blowing, defections, criticisms, some stories of military families trying (in vain) to get help or information withheld. And some increasing awareness and complaint about the loss of Constitutional rights under such stringent surveillance, and attempts to strengthen local democracy.  Broader public interest in politics.

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By gerard, May 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm Link to this comment

Now that the Security State has lost one in the NDAA decision, maybe there are other possibilities under the law, properly administered, that would be worth challenging.  How about police over-the-top handling of crowd-control at public demonstrations. Before this NDAA decision I had about given up on the legal system, but there’s hope! 
  Here’s another way to begin—Sue that outfit that is so low as to make money from selling those
“hoodies” with the cross-hairs. That’s a new low for America as a whole—a personal insult to every single member of the population who has either a heart or a grain of common sense.

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By gerard, May 16, 2012 at 10:21 am Link to this comment

Actually, from what I can see in my limited view, the populations of the world have a chance to get all their acts more together in time to save the human race from the ravages of what really amounts to a relative few maniacs who have only the frailest hold on the very limited “power” they have, compared to the power of life itself. Furthermore, their power is limited to only control, sidetrack or delay—not to create, invent, give birth. What is a drone compared to a genome? How can an a-bomb compare to the seed of a sequoia?  Don’t be deceived.  There is something at work in the universe much greater than the ticking and clicking of Wall Street, U.S.A.

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By JohnG., May 15, 2012 at 4:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So, the question becomes: when will investing in the
defense/military/surveillance state loose its political appeal with the american
people? When do societies dispense with their commonly held myths? When do
illusions disappear?

Let me give you an answer as a Greek, by looking at the mirror: they disappear
when all the resources that support such myths deplete. The economic and
financial collapse is the ultimate remedy for all such myths and illusions. No
matter how hard we try to instill common sense and rational thinking, it will be
the public debt that will ultimately “rationalize” the allocation of resources. 

As it stands, USA has created an enormous bureaucracy as a shadow over all
levels of society, that feeds on the resources and liberties of the productive
american people. It is not just the national security complex. Look at the
number of young americans that end up in prison and compare it with the rest
of the world. Look at the number of children in US that are separated from their
families and compare it with the rest of the world.

Look at the number of state and federal laws and regulations in USA and
compare it with the rest of the world. America has become a quasi-communist
state, in that it has transferred an enormous amount of power towards the
central government. No matter how well intended the laws are, their
implementation by any given bureaucracy always depends on the self-
preservation needs of the bureaucracy itself. 

The communist regimes collapsed under the cost of such bureaucracies. The
american version cannot escape the same fate, since it has a similar size and
therefore puts a similar burden on the scarce productive resources of the

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, May 15, 2012 at 2:31 pm Link to this comment

The employees of the defense industry, in well paid, recession proof jobs along with the over 2 million ‘volunteers’ in uniform make up a sizeable voting block which finds itself in every state in the union.

Forget that it produces nothing beneficial to the United States nor the world in general.

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By gerard, May 15, 2012 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment

What men and women between 20 and 60 will see the possibilities in planning practical ways to work for a Peaceable War Against War?  Who will work together and plan new ways to escape from the trap of habit, and move toward freedom, justice and real democracy?  Who will promote new ideas to unlock the old habits of fear, murder and stealthk, and point ways to bring the promises of life on earth to fruition. Who will inspire children to grow up wise and straight and honest? Who will love the old, the poor, the sick and tired? Who will plant the gardens of tomorrow? Who will farm the winds and the sun?
  Maybe Occupy and all of us who see the possible future will hold together until we succeed.  Who among us here would not hurry to contribute and join in?  Who does not feel the flow of new energies? Who would not benefit from the renewal of a meaningful democracy? Who can turn away from a future waiting to be born?

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By it's only Scott, May 15, 2012 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment

Someone ought to, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

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By gerard, May 15, 2012 at 11:53 am Link to this comment

Who will make a broad, practical, organized plan to embrace the final Battle Against War?  Who will volunteer to help?
Who will get together to devise cooperative segments of Americans 20 to 60 willing to join together and commit themselves to create and promote possible ways to benefit the American people as a whole? Who will discover places to work in reorganizing locally, forming more cooperative, life-nurturing ways to survive and prosper without killing other people and other places? Who will serve to inform the vast American heart and mind of what it can do?
  A massive concept of natioinal genius is required to inspire, encourage America to come back to life and get free from destructive practices and habits.
Nothing less is required than “a new birth of freedom” where everyone, male, female, child, adult, can find self-respect and value as part of a living organism of community. Who would not be willing to make a place for him/herself in a re-committed, reconstituted Democratic Union?  Who will begin it?
Who will carry it on?  Who will consecrate both spirit and will to it?  Something truly great is waiting to be born.

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By John Poole, May 15, 2012 at 11:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I know- I’m repeating myself. The beribboned gangsters running the Pentagon call
the shots with weakling males as presidents stay enthralled with being saluted
while disembarking from Air Force One. It’s all pretty sad. Real men don’t run for
president I guess is an appropriate bumper sticker.

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By Marian Griffith, May 15, 2012 at 11:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is a long winded way to say:
American voters are by and large idiots who are taken to the cleaners because they will cheer for anybody who waves a flag in front of their faces.

The really sad thing is that I can not find I disagree with this analysis…

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