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This last week, U.S. intelligence officials and their allies in the corporate media spread the evidence-free claim that Russia has put bounties on American troops in Afghanistan. This propaganda campaign was both an attempt to reinforce anti-Russian sentiment, and a subtle way to manufacture consent for the ongoing Afghanistan war. Which prompts one to ask: why is the empire so committed to perpetuating war? Why haven't any of the wars it's started since 9/11 been ended, and why does it evidently have every intention of making sure they don't end?
The short answer is that this is a reaction to the decline of U.S. global hegemony. The imperialists could afford to pull out of Vietnam, but can't afford to pull out of Afghanistan, because now they see endless military occupations and war operations as crucial for retaining control over certain areas. What historians call "micro-militarism", where an empire in decline tries to regain what it loses through military aggression, has been on display from the U.S. for the last two decades.
So from this perspective, America's perpetual wars are a sign that the system is weakening, a revelation of the empire's reactiveness in the face of recent geopolitical shifts in favor of its rivals. But this doesn't mean that the wars themselves are going to stop as U.S. global dominance continues to disappear. Rather the American ruling class will do everything in their power to make the era of war go on, because perpetual war has become the factor that holds the U.S. capitalist power structure intact.
Some limitations will naturally appear on where and how the U.S. can wage war as the empire's decline progresses. A U.S. invasion of Iran or Venezuela is no longer practical, given how costly either of these would be and how much military aid these countries would likely receive from Russia and China. And the U.S. is being forced to get its troops out of Iraq amid the Iraqi backlash to Trump's illegal January assassination of General Soleimani. Still, the Washington political establishment will try to make war go on in other forms.
The wars in the Middle East and Africa will go on, increasingly in the forms of drone warfare and privatized mercenary operations. The military has been transitioning to drones throughout the last decade or so because they're a more efficient option than ground shooting, and the drastic increase of drone strikes during the Trump era shows this trend will continue as Washington looks for less costly ways to project military might. And private mercenary companies have already been moving to take the role of military forces as America supposedly winds down its wars.
America's foreign occupations and military bases will also be retained to the greatest extent possible, because like the drone wars and the nuclear-arms race, these things maintain the weapons manufacturing industry and enrich the high-tech sector. But the demands of the military-industrial complex are just the surface-level reason why Washington won't ever end its wars.
America's ruling class also wants to keep war going because in this situation where U.S. influence is declining, and where global capitalism is imploding in on itself amid economic and environmental catastrophe, perpetual warfare has become the corporatocracy's means for keeping up profits.
When the U.S. empire was still expanding during the mid-to-late 20th century, war didn't have to be perpetual, because the corporatocracy could expand its profits simply by setting up enterprises within poor nations. The World Bank and the IMF could assimilate these countries into the corporatocracy through debt traps, and the CIA could use relatively peaceful means--like coups and assassinations--to force uncooperative countries to join in on the empire's business operations. Tremendously violent political repression was involved in these operations, and wars like the ones in Korea and Vietnam were sometimes carried out. There were also proxy wars with the Soviet Union. War didn't become perpetual, though, like it's become in the 21st century. The difference is that the corporatocracy's options are now more limited.
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