It's the War, Stupid

by Jeff Huber

No nation has ever profited from a long war.

--Sun Tzu

$85 billion to bail out American International Group, huh? That's on top of $30 billion to keep Bear Sterns out of the soup line, and $200 billion or more to prevent Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from staining their collective mattress. For that kind of money we could have financed maybe three more years of our woebegone war in Iraq. Not to worry, though; we can stay in Iraq for as long as it takes to achieve the kind of victory John McCain promises if it takes fifty years, a hundred years, a thousand years or a million years to achieve.

The Chinese are a patient people, and they take American Express.

Strategic Reach Around

A number of folks in my neck of Virginia who voted for Bush twice and plan to vote for McCain assure me that our current economic woes are a direct result of our banks making mortgage loans to colored people. This is the same crowd that believes without hesitation that if we were to withdraw from Iraq, a haji horde numbering in the hundreds of millions would transit the oceans aboard a fleet of magic carpets, and invade and occupy America, and force all of us to do unspeakable things in unimaginable ways while we form pyramids wearing our unmentionables, or something like that.

What we're actually observing now is an ironic reversal of the strategic equation that led America to the status of global hegemon. Beginning with World War I (and arguably before that), military intervention overseas both enhanced America's place in the balance of global military power and fueled its economic engine. American has essentially maintained a wartime economy since World War II, the conflict that made the United States the military and economic leader of the free world. Throughout most of that period we have maintained a full time professional force and augmented it with reservists, militiamen, conscripts, and mercenaries. We have also maintained permanent deterrence and first response forces in Europe and Asia as a cornerstone of our Soviet containment strategy.

As a force in being, our post World War II military did a remarkable job of preventing a direct armed confrontation between the free world and the Soviet Bloc. But when we actually committed forces to combat, most notably in Korea and Vietnam, the results were, to put it kindly, disappointing. I don't say this to disparage the spirit and effectiveness of American troops in combat. Tactically, the U.S. military has been superb, but the manner in which America's political and military leaders (who at this point are virtually indistinguishable) have used it has seldom yielded favorable strategic outcomes.

General Douglas MacArthur squandered the brilliance of his amphibious landing at Inchon when he pressed too far north and goaded China into the Korean conflict. And it's more or less true that American forces were never defeated on the field in Vietnam, but so what?

Today, though they'll take all the kudos they can get over the "success" of the surge strategy in Iraq, neither General David Petraeus nor General Ray Odierno are eager to openly boast about the "victory" their elected bosses keep promising us is just around the corner. Upon taking charge of Central Command from Petraeus, Odierno cautioned that "we must realize that these gains are fragile and reversible." Odierno's starting to sound like a man watching his life pass before his eyes. As Petraeus's sidekick, he looked on as his boss created a faux peace by handing out guns and bribes like Hershey bars. Now that he's top kick, Odierno quakes at the knowledge that the bribe spigot may dry up but the guns won't go away. Odierno is also sweating bullets (heh, heh) over what he'll do when his neocon masters tell him he has to stay in Iraq and their erstwhile puppet Nuri al Maliki tells him he has to go.

Our puppets in the Bananastans aren't playing by Marquis of Queensbury guidelines either. The worst army in the world (Pakistan's, which has lost every war it ever fought) apparently kicked the best army in the world (ours) out of its country on Monday September 15. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the closest thing Pakistan has to a genuine head of state, said on Wednesday September 10 that “No external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan.”

Makes you wonder why we spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined if that's all the more good it does us.

Ancient Chinese Open Secret

The Chinese are keen students of the entirely scrutable history of western civilization and know full well that the Middle East is the traditional graveyard of occidental superpowers. They have been delighted by our folly in Iraq; they're no doubt approaching orgiastic ecstasy over the prospect of America digging itself an even deeper hole in the Bananastans, a future that seems set in stone regardless of which political minstrel ingratiates his way into the Oval Office come November.

China watched with amusement for decades as the Soviet Union, with its inferior economic model, tried to compete with us in an arms race. Now, China spectates from the skybox as we pursue an arms race with ourselves and continue to depend on a form of national power that has become antithetical to our national interest.

You'll listen to the nattering class babble on the infosphere about how our present economic woes came about as a result of deregulation, and to some extent they'll be correct.

But what you'll actually be hearing is what it sounds like when your country is losing the kind of war that takes place in the brave new world order it created.

Related articles:

Wars and Empires (September 2005)

In an Arms Race with Ourselves (October 2005)

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Russ Wellen's interview with Jeff at The Huffington Post and Scholars and Rogues.

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Sun Tzu quote is not what it says directly, but what lies beneath. Take the quote:

    No nation has ever profited from a long war.

And now ask yourself this question: who does?

That's where a significant bit of thought -- on both potential meanings -- should be spent. As well as the inverse questions regarding "costs" -- who, and what, bear the brunt of the costs, and what are those costs (how are they presented, how or when can they be paid, etc.).

I would suggest the uber rich, the arms dealers, war profiteers (heh heh)... who do not see themselves as citizens of a particular country or nation, but as separate from all that... free to roam the globe in search of safe havens or greater opportunities.

Wanted for war crimes in Germany, quick... dash to Argentina. Careful, Martha, they are loading the gold onto AirForce 1 and heading to Paraquay.

the benefits the Chinese and other nations get while they watch us go further into debt to them as our "empire" expands and over-exerts itself, we've got at least two prongs identified.

Prolonged war doesn't help the nation financially and exposes it to a variety of concerns, financial as well as militarily as socially.

It's a doctrine by, for and about madness, greed and arrogance as well as a masterstroke of over-simplication and myopic misfocus.

An earlier draft of this posited that nary a single member of the neoconservative/military industrial oligarchy lost a single article of clothing in our latest economic tumble.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword, ePluribus and

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword, ePluribus and