Euphoria and optimism were contagious and there was a great deal of heartfelt and very real talk — much of it coming from our politicians — asserting that the world had entered a new era, that the pursuit of peace and global harmony was more plausible than any previous time in history. Maybe we could finally put the scourge of major war behind us forever. It could be the end of history.
For America itself, freed from the burden of military competition with the Soviet Union, it was suggested that the country and its citizens would be the beneficiaries of a “peace dividend”. All that money that had been going to making war machinery and keeping the military on high alert against the threat of annihilation, could now be directed to a renewal of the American Dream and making America truly the greatest nation in history.
Unfortunately, there were other powerful individuals who had a different idea.
For them, the opportunity was not for world peace, but for world domination. The Russkies had been beaten. Now without any other major power challenging its authority and might, the U.S. could become the fiercest, most colossal, awe-inspiring empire in history.
Indeed, while keeping its nuclear weapons under lock and key, and maintaining a basic prudent amount of its military intact, the former Soviet Union — now Russia — began to wind down. It took its bomber and reconnaissance fleets out of circulation for fifteen years. It exited its troops from the nations of the Eastern bloc. As a result of diplomatic agreements between Reagan and Gorbachev, it had already vacated East Germany, allowing for the reunification of that country. Good will, at least for a time, replaced rancor and intimidation.
For a few years, this new harmonious relationship with Russia set the tone. Russia was preoccupied with reorganizing its economy. America actually reduced its military budget modestly.
But the empire builders — what we now refer to as the neoconservatives or ‘neocons’ — weren’t going to take a back seat. They had a plan. It wasn’t even a secret plan. It was published on the internet and in political journals as the Project for the New American Century, and in books such as The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski. America was declared the “exceptional” nation, chosen by destiny to lead the world into the new era of Pax Americana.
Renowned neocon Paul Wolfowitz put it unequivocally: “Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”
In other words, we will control the world. And that would require the build-up of a military that could not be challenged by any other country at any place at any time.
The problem was, with the Soviet Union gone, how do you sell this to the American public? People were expecting peace, and for the enormous affluence of the country coming their way to improve the quality of their lives.
The strategy of the warmongers was simple. If you don’t have an enemy, create enemies. If you don’t have a war, start one or two or as many as you can handle at any given time. There are always some bad people out there. But the list of enemies even included former friends. We used to give Osama bin Laden millions in military aid. We funded Saddam Hussein, even provided him with chemical weapons so he could gas his own people. We had a black site deal with Syria and used to hire their security guys to torture people. We hated Gaddafi, then we were okay with Gaddafi, then we hated him again and had him killed. We loved Russia during the 90s when our capitalists were looting the country. Now we hate them. So we overthrew the legitimate government of Ukraine to drive a wedge between Russia and Europe. Putin is a new Hitler! The neocons do whatever it takes to panic the American public and fire up the war machine.
To get an insight into how ruthless and brazen the neocons became during the George W. years, just watch this video of General Wesley Clarke talking about the war plans circulating in the Pentagon, orders handed down from the White House.
Seven countries, Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran — this list should sound very familiar — all targeted for overthrow. We’re America. We destroy who we want to destroy.
To be fair, it wasn’t just the monomaniacal pursuit of empire which drove the expansion of the defense budget. It got a lot of nudging from the corporate sector. War requires lots of equipment and all sorts of technology. This makes war a very profitable business. The military-industrial complex driven by greed kept the new ideas coming and the assembly lines rolling. The Pentagon with practically a blank check from the rising military budgets rarely saw anything it didn’t like. It was a swell arrangement. The generals got bigger and badder toys, the defense contractors got bigger and badder bonuses.
It was exactly what Dwight Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address as president:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”
What’s the point of all of this?
Well, we could have had a peace dividend.
We could be living in a completely different world.
We could have good jobs, great schools, a strong economy.
But our military-industrial complex and the warmongering neocons which infect our government apparatus like a deadly disease decided differently.
To get us to go along with their self-serving and sociopathic agendas, they lied to us, took hundreds of billions — trillions — of our tax dollars under completely false pretenses, then wasted our money buying military junk we don’t need to fight wars that never had to have happened.
The peace dividend was buried under mountains of debt and dead bodies.
And you know what?
The American people deserve better.
First, they deserve the truth about what’s been going on.
Then, they deserve their money back.
They deserve to finally get their long-overdue peace dividend.