How and why the United States assures an endless supply of “terrorists” to fight and “enemies” to destroy.
Civil War historian Shelby Foote tells an insightful story about a young Confederate soldier captured by Union troops in the deep South. The man is hungry, weary and threadbare, and it’s obvious from his poverty that he’s not a ‘gentleman’ or a slave owner. ‘So what’re you fighting for?’ the Union soldiers taunt him.
‘Ah’m fightin’,’ the young Rebel explains simply, ‘cause yore down here.’
David Kilcullen expresses this same reality in The Accidental Guerilla. ‘The presence of intervening outsiders causes local groups to coalesce in a fusion response, closing ranks against the external threat. . . Such an intervention also creates grievances, alienation, and a desire for revenge when local people are killed or dishonored by the intervening outsiders’ presence.’
Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win: the Logic of Suicide Terrorism, offers a similar insight. ‘The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign – over 95 percent of all the incidents – has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw. . . Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies over there, if you would, is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us.’
What part of this do American policy makers not get? It is absolutely clear that if the US really wanted to end terrorism, it would first stop terrorizing others – militarily, economically and culturally.
But the sad fact is, an honest observer would have to conclude that US policymakers do get this. That they continue and, in fact, expand these actions, because the generated outcomes are precisely what they intend.
If we apply the ‘Martian Test’ (What would a visitor from outer space conclude if he were unable to understand any of the written and spoken explanations and justifications offered, but only to observe the behaviors?), it seems clear that the goal of the United States since the end of World War II has been to destroy the democratic hopes of people around the world. Through invasions, embargoes, coups, bribes, threats, assassinations and rigged elections, the US has thwarted national aspirations and democratic movements on every continent except Antarctica.
(And if the penguins ever start to squeak of ‘justice’ or think about nationalizing the fishing industry, expect a new US ‘Polar Command’ to gear up to take them out.)
One way to better understand the behavior of Complex Adaptive Systems (which include all human beings and all human institutions, whether companies, countries, baseball teams or marching bands) is through Stafford Beer’s POSIWID Hypothesis – the Purpose Of a System Is What It Does.
Never mind the mission statements, press releases, flag waving or hand wringing. Watch its behavior over time. And when you see a consistency in that behavior – when patterns emerge – you’ll know what the system is designed to do.
Observing the behavior of the US over the last 60 years, an objective observer might well conclude that its goal is to impose a US dictatorship over the entire planet, and to capture its resources for American multinational corporations. It has, after all, repeatedly demonstrated that it is willing to kill, disable or discredit anyone who has the courage to stand opposed, and to trample liberty, crush democracy and extinguish freedom, while proclaiming its undying support for those very things.
In the course of pursuing this end, the US has squandered tens of trillions of dollars – stolen from education, health care, infrastructure, innovation, secure retirements and social development. These tax dollars have been applied to killing people and destroying nations, and to subverting the very ideals upon which America was founded. When tea partiers rail against the deficit and debt, this is where those dollars have gone – under democratic and republican ‘leadership’ – and are going still.
What should keep Americans awake at night is not that communists terrorists are lurking under their bed, but that such monumentally illegal and immoral acts are so regularly committed in America’s name, with Americans’ tax dollars, and with the willful ignorance, tacit complicity or enthusiastic support of America’s citizens.
The corollary of the POSIWID Hypothesis is this: if you want to change a system’s behavior, change its goal.
Imagine what the world might look like if the goal of US foreign policy actually were to support the emergence of peace, justice, equity and liberty.