A Foreboding of the Death of Militarism
Blase Bonpane, Ph.D.
Take a look at the La Brea Tar Pits numerous millennia ago. The saber tooth tiger attempts to attack a wild horse. The tiger gets stuck in the tar. The most ferocious animals are generally on the endangered species list, the lions the tigers, the bald eagle. Animals of prey are endangered. Many of their frequent victims are not. The rabbit may appear defenseless but has a much greater future than the saber tooth tiger or any tiger for that matter.
In human history we see some analogy. The last stage of every major civilization is to be ferocious. The 20th century has been a century of war. As we examine world history the "rabbits" may seem defeated but the rabbit species is undoubtedly the victor. The irony of defeat must be examined.
Did the Christian Crusaders defeat the infidels? On the contrary, the Moslems considered the Christians infidels and the Crusaders were neutralized by the Sunni Moslem Saladin on July 4, 1187. The concept of Holy War or Jihad did not begin with the Moslems, on the contrary, it was a Moslem imitation of the "Holy War" of the Christian Crusaders. Was Japan defeated in World War II? Ask one of the world's major economic powers. Were the Mexicans defeated in the war with the United States in 1846? Look at the very areas of their so-called defeat. The very region "conquered" by the United States will soon have a Latino majority. The history of militarism is a history of apparent victories, of Pyrrhic victories. Did the Conquistadores conquer Latin America or were they simply absorbed into it? Indigenous people were devastated but they are now resurrected and remain as environmental messengers to a dangerously "developed" world.
Without getting into absolutes we wish to say that most of the world's wars were unnecessary and counterproductive. The goals of the strong against the weak have rarely been achieved. The defense of the weak (David vs Goliath) against the strong has a rationale of legitimacy. Let's look at some examples. The Cold War began at Hiroshima and was confirmed at Nagasaki. The two atomic bombs were meant to announce a new world order. They were a message to the Soviet Union that the United States would have international military hegemony.
The Soviet Union was in ashes after World War II but it took up the challenge from its former ally. Every child in the USSR knew, "The United States uses atomic bombs against civilians". The Soviet Union began a frenetic effort to imitate the bomb used against the Japanese. The USSR never led in the arms race. But it successfully bankrupted itself mimicking the runaway military spending of the United States.
Some scholars speak of value free social science. If there are no values, what could be a more perfect investment than the arms business? It appears to be heaven sent! The source of capital is a bottomless pit of gold: the treasury of the United States. Created from the tax money of the hard working people of the United States, this source is limitless and is counted in billion dollar increments. What are the characteristics of this military industrial system?
1. First and foremost is greed. Militarism is collective theft. Its only "ethic" is that might makes right.
But the greatest crisis for U.S. corporate, military, prison, police and gun government actually did come from the Soviet Union. Rather than a first strike nuclear war which we were prepared to conduct, it came in the form of Mikhail Gorbachev. He realized there would never be any winners in the Cold War and he took the initiative to end it. The CIA was unknowledgeable and unprepared for this "revolution".
What a tragedy for the arms business! Gone were the endless preparations for nuclear war. The financial heaven they had discovered in the arms business was so great that they began to believe in the inevitablity of nuclear war. They did not negotiate. They did not speak values. But they did have values. Making money was the most important thing in the world. And nothing made money like arms. In the spirit of Dr. Strangelove they were prepared to go to hell and to bring everyone else with them rather than to lose their "principles".
For over four decades our country used nuclear weapons in the same way a gunman robs a bank, brandishing the weapon, demanding the money and thankfully not killing the teller. This nuclear threat mentality took the place of diplomacy. Cold warriors were prepared to eliminate hundreds of millions of non-combatants in a nuclear holocaust. Possible massacre of entire uninvolved nations was seen as simply "collateral damage". Historians will surely identify this conduct as a form of homicidal mania.
To understand all of this we must look to the military socialization of the world's people. "Fight like a man"...a formula designed by kings to create armies out of peasants. "Do what you are told"...whether it be the monastic vow of obedience or the military, "mine is not to reason why, mine is but to do or die!" there is little difference.
There is no better example of the religiosity of militarism than the Christian Crusades (1095-1291).
Pope Gregory VII viewed his calling to be the unity of Christendom under the papacy. The Christian Knights would attack the infidels (Moslems) who occupied the Holy Land. Emperor Michael VII of Constantinople had asked the Roman Pontiff for help and protection from the Turks and the Moslems. Here was a chance to: bring back the schismatic Eastern Church to Rome; turn the Christian Kings and Princes into Papal servants and repossess the Holy Land.
It was the second successor of Gregory VII, however, Pope Urban II, who actually sounded the alarm and called all Christian Knights to attack the infidel and reconquer the Holy Land.
The beginning of the twelfth century the Crusaders reached Jerusalem. Their chronicler reports:
"One of our knights, Letold, clambered up the wall (of Jerusalem). As soon as he was there, the defenders fled along the walls and down into the city, and we followed them, slaying them and cutting them down as far as the Temple of Solomon, where there was such slaughter that our men waded in blood up to their ankles...The Crusaders ran about the city, seizing gold, silver, horses mules, and pillaging the houses filled with riches. Then happy and weeping with joy, our men went to adore at the sepulcher of Our Lord, and rendering up the offering they owed. The following morning we climbed to the roof of the Temple and fell upon the Saracens who were there, men and women, beheading them with the sword."
Even in the first Crusade we see something akin to the 1992 massacre of Bosnia. Almost a millenium later, Orthodox (Serb) and Roman (Croatian) Christians walked ankle deep in the blood of their Moslem enemies in the name of ethnic cleansing.
Pope Eugenius III and King Louis VII of France asked St. Bernard of Clairvaux to foster a Second Crusade 1147-1149 to stop the great Muslim growth which was alleged to be swallowing up both Roman and Greek Orthodox Christianity. By hindsight we can see the fallacy of his vision. St. Bernard was instrumental in founding the order of Templars which he described in 1125:
"They are not lacking in proper bearing at home or in the field, and obedience is not lacking in esteem. They go and come according to the order of the Master; they put on the clothes he gives to them and demand from no one else either clothing or food. They avoid opulence in both; only essentials are cared for. They live with one another happily and with modesty without wenches or children in order that they do not lack evangelical perfection, without property in one house, of one spirit, endeavoring to maintain the bond of peace and tranquility so that in all of them one heart and one soul appears to live. At no time are they idle or wander about with curiosity. When they rest from their struggles against the infidels, in order not to eat their bread for nothing, they improve and mend their clothes and arms. Chess and board-games they despise, they do not cherish the chase nor the bird-hunt. They hate the vagabonds, the minstrels, all excessive singing and acting as vanity and stupidity of the world.
St. Bernard has thus given us a perfect romantic fantasy of militarism. Indeed. God is on our side! Recruiters for military service continue in the spirit of St. Bernard.
Saladin was sixteen years of age at the time of St. Bernard. As a devout Moslem he was determined to expel the Crusaders from Palestine. God was on his side as well and he defeated the Second Crusade on July 4, 1187. (Both Saddam Hussein and George Bush insisted that God was on their side during the U.S. bombing of Iraq on January 13, 1991).
The Third Crusade was marked by opportunism of the Crusaders and was also a failure for Christendom.
The greed motive became ever more clear in the Fourth Crusade which became a battle of Christian vs Christian as Roman Catholics attacked the schismatics of Constantinople where there were far more riches to be sacked than in the Holy Land. It went on for two centuries. Long before the conquistadores from Spain and Portugal or the Puritans from Europe the essential religiosity of warfare had been firmly established. The "humanitarian bombing" conducted by the United States in Serbia is part of the same drill. The bonding of the "crusaders" is essential, whether they be the LAPD or the Marine Corps. After months of training and suffering together, if one of their own is killed or wounded, they only fight more viciously against the "enemy".
"I could have killed every Somali I saw", said an African American Marine after his buddy was shot by a sniper in Somalia (1993).
Can militarism be cured? Of course, but the antidote demands a consciousness of our social and political programming.
The dinosaur of militarism must become extinct. This will happen when we acknowledge militarism as the most vile form of slavery. Yes, friends, we are called to abolish the war system.
Emanzipation Humanum, version 9. 2000, criticism, suggestions as to form and content, dialogue, translation into other languages are all desired