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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/28/16

Fredric Jameson's War Machine

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And that's it. Because the military would have more troops, it would be "incapable" of fighting wars. Can you imagine presenting that idea to the Pentagon? I would expect a response of "Yeeeeeeaaaah, sure, that's exactly what it would take to shut us down. Just give us a couple hundred million more troops and all will be well. We'll just do a bit of global tidying up, first, but there'll be peace in no time. Guaranteed."

And the "pacifists" and people with consciences would be assigned to work on weaponry? And they'd accept that? Millions of them? And the weaponry would be needed for the wars that wouldn't be happening any more?

Jameson, like many a well-meaning peace activist, would like the military to do the sort of stuff you see in National Guard ads: disaster relief, humanitarian aid. But the military does that only when and only as far as it's useful to its campaign to violently dominate the Earth. And doing disaster relief does not require total abject subservience. Participants in that kind of work don't have to be conditioned to kill and face death. They can be treated with the sort of respect that helps make them participants in a democratic-socialist utopia, rather than the sort of contempt that helps lead them to committing suicide outside a VA hospital admissions office.

Jameson praises the idea of "an essentially defensive war" which he attributes to Jaur├Ęs, and the importance of "discipline" which he attributes to Trotsky. Jameson likes the military, and he stresses that in his utopia the "universal military" would be the end-state, not a transition period. In that end-state, the military would take over everything else from education to healthcare.

Jameson comes close to acknowledging that there might be some people who would object to this on the grounds that the military industrial complex generates mass murder. He says that he is up against two fears: fear of the military and fear of any utopia. He then addresses the latter, dragging in Freud, Trotsky, Kant, and others to help him. He doesn't spare one word for the former. He later claims that the real reason people are resistant to the idea of using the military is because within the military people are compelled to associate with those from other social classes. (Oh the horror!)

But, fifty-six pages in, Jameson "reminds" the reader of something he hadn't previously touched on: "It is worth reminding the reader that the universal army here proposed is no longer the professional army responsible for any number of bloody and reactionary coups d'etat in recent times, whose ruthlessness and authoritarian or dictatorial mentality cannot but inspire horror and whose still vivid memory will certainly astonish anyone at the prospect of entrusting a state or an entire society to its control." But why is the new military nothing like the old one? What makes it different? How, for that matter, is it controlled at all, as it takes over power from the civilian government? Is it imagined as a direct democracy?

Then why don't we just imagine a direct democracy without the military, and work to achieve it, which seems far more likely to be done in a civilian context?

In Jameson's militarized future, he mentions -- again, as if we should have already known it -- that "everyone is trained in the use of weapons and nobody is allowed to possess them except in limited and carefully specified situations." Such as in wars? Check out this passage from Zizek's "critique" of Jameson:

"Jameson's army is, of course, a 'barred army,' an army with no wars . . . (And how would this army operate in an actual war, which is becoming more and more likely in today's multicentric world?)"

Did you catch that? Zizek claims this army will fight no wars. Then he wonders exactly how it will fight its wars. And while the U.S. military has troops and bombing campaigns underway in seven countries, and "special" forces fighting in dozens more, Zizek is worried that there might be a war someday.

And would that war be driven by weapons sales? By military provocation? By militarized culture? By hostile "diplomacy" grounded in imperialistic militarism? No, it couldn't possibly be. For one thing, none of the words involved are as fancy as "multicentric." Surely the problem -- albeit a minor and tangential one -- is that the multicentric nature of the world may start a war soon. Zizek goes on to state that, at a public event, Jameson has envisioned the means of creating his universal army in strictly Shock Doctrine terms, as an opportunistic response to a disaster or upheaval.

I agree with Jameson only on the premise with which he begins his hunt for a utopia, namely that the usual strategies are sterile or dead. But that's no reason to invent a guaranteed catastrophe and seek to impose it by the most antidemocratic means, especially when numerous other nations are already pointing the way toward a better world. The way to a progressive economic future in which the rich are taxed and the poor can prosper can only come through redirecting the unfathomable funds that are being dumped into war preparations. That Republicans and Democrats universally ignore that is no reason for Jameson to join them.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more...)
 
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