Once More With Feeling?

It is incredibly depressing to realise that I have been asking the rulers of the state I live in to refrain from bombing Iraq for my entire fucking life.

There’s an extent to which the ‘it won’t work’ critique is entirely valid as an objection to waging yet more war upon the Middle East.  Because the surface aim of the politicians is almost certainly to impose ‘stability’ on ‘the region’.  They like stability.  No threats to embarass them, no revolts to topple their friendly dictators, no threat to Israel, no danger to neoliberal exploitation of local resources and markets, etc.  And, as has been shown, it doesn’t work.  They try and try to bomb the Middle East into passive compliance, and all they succeed in doing is generating more troubles for their empire.

This is, of course, what empires have always done.  Create the problems of tomorrow by viciously conquering the problems of today.

But there’s another sense in which the ‘it won’t work’ argument is fatally flawed, because there’s a sense in which it does work.  It may never achieve ‘stability’ but it does keep the machinery of empire chugging, and the fuel of empire flowing.  Because the fuel of empire is as much war itself as the resources extracted via war.  The neverending war keeps the military-industrial complex in work, the contracts coming, the factories producing, etc.  It keeps the corporate media busy and happy, reporting yet more incomprehensible strife from ‘over there’ and ‘our’ attempts to make things better.  It keeps the endless circular debate about intervention circling (the system can tolerate a tortuous and muddled debate, what it doesn’t want is clarity).  It keeps the public money flowing into the vast state run apparatus of military spending, and into all the R&D that is done under the aegis of this and then handed over (free) to private enterprise.  It keeps the empire’s power and prestige in the ascendant, with the machinery of death inspiring the fear – and projecting the apparent invincibility – that every empire needs.

No, the war never ‘works’ in the sense of achieving a stable imperium, but it does ‘work’ – at least in the short term – in achieving a powerful empire.  One of the paradoxes of empire is that its power relies upon it never being stable.  So even when the bombing doesn’t work, it actually does.

Meanwhile, of course, people die.  And die and die and die.…

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