Monday, November 1, 2010

The Avatarization of occupation: conversation with Mike Schwartz, part 2

About institutional lock-in, part 1 here, Mike Schwartz wrote to me:

“A lot to digest here also. I think the key to what you are arguing here is the independent power of the military establishment. I have been lately trying to digest the Eisenhower-C Wright Mills analysis of the military industrial complex in light of current structure. What was the core
idea they had about the independent power exercised by a fraction of the capitalist class teamed up with a set of government institutions. And how does that structure and process differ from what we have now. The process you propose suggests that organizations become the vehicle for the lock-in effect--once they absorb the new policy they also defend and even extend it, with ‘policy makers’ subject to ferocious constraints, even with recently developed policies.’

On the torture question, it suggests that the intelligence community has become dependent on torture--unable to generate intelligence without it, and therefore creates a compression box into which any incumbent will be fitted, with the sides tightening as s/he finds that the intelligence apparatus will simply not be generating intelligence until and unless they are allowed to continue torturing (and, ironically, this will guarantee lousy intelligence).

Does this make any sense?


“Dear Mike,

It all makes sense, all are good things to probe.

On torture, I think the element of crime and the fact that Americans can't go into the shooting zone not speaking the language and being endangered, and get reliable information a) because they are scared and b) because they can pay others to mislead them and cough up innocents to torture is the truth about it. So officials in the Bush administration and then far down in the core of CIA directors will all face inquiry and prison if they can't have their black sites any more. But they are all also phonies - this is no way to get good information. Cheney and Rice in her national security strategy of 2003 wanted to be very scary: we will bomb you into the stone age, torture you over and over if we think you are looking cross-eyed at us...

In response, there is also push back against this sadistic joke of intelligence and professionalism that Cheney and this apparatus, as it operates is, is. Even in the CIA, sensible people finally take in too much – that this is unjust and counterproductive - and must speak out. Ray McGovern, Presidential daily briefer from Kennedy to the first Bush (27 years), Colleen Rowley (FBI – would have headed off 9/11 with her warnings in 2001 of those who were learning to fly in Minnesota without being interested in landing and could get no one to listen) and their organization, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity are one example. Ali Soufan of the FBI who has increasingly testified or spoken out against CIA crimes and the racist attack on the Cordoba center in New York – the Republican – that is, authoritarian - party aided by feckless Democrats like Harry Reid - is another. See What the Torturer Knew here.

Andrew Bacevich has rightly focused on Eisenhower’s speech. See here. It is wonderful that you are looking over C. Wright Mills, and I have been thinking about Mills (and my teacher, Ralph Miliband, who was very fond of him), again, too. Mills dramatically underestimates the prospects of protest – and as an anti-Vietnam war activist and participant/speaker in the movement of thousands in Colorado and all over the world against Iraq, I need to make clear the sharp limits of Mills and all his followers in this respect. As colleagues in SDS at Harvard once upon a time, I suspect that for you too, this is a decisive weakness in that literature.

Nonetheless, Mills marks the novel stage of the development of militarism that had been reached quite precisely. Consider the then comparatively embryonic role of Pentagon dominance and the crazed and bloody immorality of "mainstream" political culture (think of, for example, the aggressions in Vietnam and Cuba, and the dozen or so overthrows of non-white democracies, all the while espousing “human rights”; it is only the new era of American torture and secret sites which has finally made its references to human rights – even by Obama and Hillary – a bitter laughing-stock even in Europe…

Mills makes a mistake in referring to a “power elite,” and reducing the novelty of what he and Eisenhower were saying to old-fashioned (and basically reactionary) elite theory. What he rightly specificied is the displacement even in an oligarchy with parliamentary forms by a war complex or militarism, the triumph increasingly in Congress and the media of toadies to the Pentagon. What I now call the war complex is developed via Hans Morganthau in my Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy? (Princeton, 1999) ch. 2. In the speeches collected in Truth and Power, Morganthau spoke of an academic-political complex to go along with the military-industrial complex, and I added media and intelligence (covert operations particularly). This is roughly the ruling class (a good part of it)**, but with a very specific articulation and with the military, in certain respects today, i.e. on escalating in Afghanistan, predominant though not always. The generals did not prevent torture when they opposed Cheney, but also did not succeed in their plot – General Lyman Lemnitzer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Brigadier General Edward Lansdale's "Operation Northwoods" (see part 1 here) - to have Americans disguised as Cubans murder American civilians during or after the Cuban missile crisis. There, it was stopped by President Kennedy. But the war complex and what I will refer to as "Avatarization of conquest" (what the privatization of the military means) it is now transmogrifying, before our eyes, in ways that are hard to keep up with.

The military is now expanding, associated with private contractors and mercenaries, into all sorts of governmental activities which it has no business in and makes an even more complete chaos or butchery (Wikileaks) of. The contractors are increasingly the arms and legs of the military, emblemizied by the military thug dependent on his machinery in the last scene of “Avatar”. For example, a) the military now works very hard to take over civilian activities in Iraq and Afghanistan (seeming imperial “nation-building”), to place contractors in embassies in place of professional and experienced State Department people. Here paradoxically, privatized pseudo-nation building, nation-building for Xe/Blackwater's or Halliburton/Kellogg, Brown and Root's profit – has replaced old-fashioned imperial nation-building. It was hard enough to apologize for the former; poor political "science" can just not keep up.

What the war complex does in the name of the United States is artificial or alienated - tearing down for profit just as it "builds up" the shell of “nation-building.” Maim by night, heal by day - the title of my friend Adrian Mitchell's poem about Vietnam - is replaced by Maim by night, profit by and only if there's more money in it and thus, maybe...heal by day. Why build roads when you can just take billions for supposedly doing it?

The military sometimes paradoxically has some success in undermining its own public functioning. For instance, A) this institution except for the bobbleheads at the top - the generals - is increasingly eaten out from within. Thus, two Blackwater operatives were killed along with 6 CIA people knowledgeable about the Taliban at an outpost in Afghanistan earlier this year. The analogies are of symbiosis in nature, but are of course entirely social. Still, I am told by Chris Hill (my dean, recent ambassador in Iraq) that the CIA, unilike the military and perhaps the State Department, is currently making a special effort to prevent this infiltration. Petraeus is a leader in the effort to destroy the public functioning of government. B) “kp” – kitchen patrol - is no longer a punishment (as in a professional army) but the preserve of Kellogg Brown and Root. High paid mercenaries do this. Ordinary soldiers ought to eat filet mignon for the price Congress is paying (see below on the bloated Pentagon budget), C) Few senators or Congressmen will vote against military spending notably for privatization (avatarization) even in a depression. For it is always possible, in the reactionary two step of American politics, to be baited from the (crazed, authoritarian) Right. See Greenwald on the wretched mind of the American authoritarian here. That the Republicans are, as is commonly said in the corporate press, "conservatives" – in contrast, critics like Andrew Sullivan or Scott Horton or much of what I have written on habeas corpus and torture is conservative – is laughable.

So the lordly praetorian Petraeus and other military leaders can spend any amount of money they want. Hence, Obama requested formally $708 billion to be spent on the military, nearly 3 times the Cold War war budget this year (a lot more is hidden in other aspects of the federal budget). See here. During the Cold War, the US had a nuclear rivalry with the Soviet Union. Currently, it battles shadowy terrorists like Bin Laden who is on dialysis in a cave somewhere in Pakistan by insanely occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. Talk about the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Worse yet, it is undercutting daily any hope for the occupation in Afghanistan. See the brilliant and frightening reporting of Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley on DemocracyNow Friday here. A sane or decent society would not spend infinite amounts of money on the military. But Petraeus commands and even Obama, though he thinks about it for four weeks and encourages Biden to talk about Al Qaida being in Pakistan, collapses…See here and here. (h/t Chris Hill for a useful discussion of these matters)

One of the most important and unnoticed things that Cheney did was to undermine the civilian leadership of the war complex. When Condi Rice wrote the 2003 National Security Strategy of the United States, the cultivation of hubris, relying on big guns, was at its height. The United States would never allow any “little power” to threaten it militarily as the Soviet Union once had. This was the civilian government toadying to the military. Seemingly the dark master himself, Cheney enshrined the military. Dick has faded; now there is General David Petaeus. Thus, "commander in chief power” fails in the long run to be the power of the President – pace clever Straussians like Herbert Storing or the dull nest of political Straussians in the midst of the neocons, ever more strident for more war, see here, Instead, it turns out to be the rise of the military, the increasing assertion of a military leader who has no idea of military victory but only endless pretence, over civilian authority. Petraeus is a fake Caesar - without the victories.

Thus, crying out against history about the supposed necessity of torture for "our" safety, stepping out at last from behind his curtain Cheney is just a malevolent but slightly ridiculous Wizard of Oz. He tries with his once stony command – David Addington rears up, as Sarah Palin might say - to stop the sea. Cheney will live in history with Torquemada.

But Petraeus and the military are far more dangerous. The Republicans have Palin in the wings, and perhaps will produce some even now barely imaginable final state of American decadence and destructiveness – “the rapture.” But short of that, Petraeus waits. What makes the illusion is the great power of weaponry – the “unipower” - in the American military. This National Security Strategy has helped puff the military with hubris. They can do anything, or at least, keep any occupation going murderously and indefinitely, although giving the insurgency ever renewing fuel by crimes against the innocent and uncommitted… Of course there are some limits – even military leaders like Fallon and Mullen think bombing Iran would be “bad, bad…bad.” Even Petraeus shooting endless drones into Pakistan faces resistance: the Pakistani government closing of one of the two roads to resupply American troops, backing up the trucks to Karachi, and letting the Pakistan Taliban blow them up for a week...

But what we are seeing in Afghanistan is military prolongation of a bloody, losing enterprise (it would in fact, among Americans, be very popular in a depression to get out) and b) the extension in the surge of privatization. Obama has sent 7 XE and other mercenaries for every 3 soldiers (soldiers are also mercenaries - there is no draft – but paid 10 times less). He has made this privatization worse in the Afghanistan surge than Bush; the Bush ratio was 1 contractor/mercenary for 1 soldier in Iraq. See here. Foreign policy, as my friend Alan Cafruny has reminded me, is often a completely bipartisan, secret, and in this case, increasingly decadent and self-destructive matter.

One might speak, as in a fairy tale, of four illusions of American militarism. A) The military has the fantasy that it can shape events everywhere through force. Planet Bush-Cheney-Rice turns out really to be Planet Pentagon. This is true even though, inanely, they have no idea of what military victory would consist in. This illusion is accompanied by a second illusion, B) that the military can take over civilian public functions and replace the State Department and others with contractors/”military” people. We are heading, if these militarists get their way, for an undifferentiated "military" dictatorship, enacted for profit, by private corporations. This is Avatarization of occupation and drawn out, much perfumed by the corporate media, defeat. It includes the recycling of counterinsurgency; in this respect, one might speak aptly of COIN on steroids (see Bacevich, “Counterfeit Coin” in Washington Rules, and my comments here).

This is accompanied by the illusion C) that the military can survive being dependent on private companies. It has no secrets; they are all "privatized" and available for marketing. The military can thus be eaten alive or phased out except at the top through endless reliance on expensive private mercenaries (getting around law when murdering 17 civilians in Nissour Square, for example). The lordly Petraeus commands. Yet he is but a mask, a stonehead, as in an early DeChirico painting, in space above a desert and some machines, hanging from nothing. The real body, the ultimate authority, is with Blackwater (the mercenaries must be paid, or the “army” grinds to a halt). Since C) tends to contradict B) – i.e. the military does not take over the State Department’s functions; rather the private company eats the military and the State Department for profit), there is sometimes an effort to restrain Ze/Blackwater. And the head of Blackwater and a Christian Crusader against Islam, Erik Prince has now fled the country permanently for the United Arab Emirates - it has no extradition treaty - perhaps because a murder trial (for killing one of his aides) was potentially in the works. See here and here.

Finally, D) the illusion of Vietnam - maim by night, heal by day – is also recycled in COIN. Wherever Petraeus goes, as Wikileaks reveals, air strikes increase. As Jeremy Scahill reports, a Taliban leader, Mullah Sahib Jan, makes an alliance with the Americans, goes home, and is murdered by night by the Americans. NATO then denies that such operations occur. See here. Such activities bizarrely murder even those who have surrendered, even former Taliban leaders who are willing to cooperate with Karzai. What “protection” of civilians will compensate…? The heavily weaponized army, even when it doesn’t fire drones half a world away, is hardly, even when not privatized, an instrument of “nation-building.” To become so, it would have to beat “drones into plowshares” – a process of public civilization of the military, rather than at present, the privatization or parasitization of long distance and close-up (Mullah Sahib Jan ) murder. Avatarization...

The military and the contractors, funded by Bush and Cheney – in an epochal change now perhaps locked in from the Bush era - have destroyed even the facsimile of a rule of law or government for American forces. When an occupying army committed crimes – a common event in Vietnam as the testimony of participants in Operation Winter Soldier revealed - there were clear if often unenforced codes to deal with it. Now mercenaries, contracted by the government, have been placed beyond the law, outside the reach of military justice. Lynndie England got sent to prison for the crimes of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Rice et al at Abu Ghraib. But even little Steve Stefanowicz, the CACI operative there, never had an investigation or a hearing…

There are still laws against murder in the United States (and even for those associated with its forces abroad), but the mercenaries act with highhanded impunity – as is often remarked by the soldiers in the field - because they have, for all intents and purposes, such impunity. There are still professional State Department people who oversee mercenaries in Iraq, will try even more fiercely to curb some activities with Obama’s change in mission. But how much, in fact, mercenary crimes can be curbed remains to be seen even in the new phase of the occupation.

As in the case of the rule of law and torture, the subversion of law enhances losing American occupations and conquests and invites the absence of law and the rise of the military – Petraeus to become President, absorb completely “commander in chief power” – within the United States. In Must Global Poltiics Constrain Democracy?, I call this anti-democratic feedback.

Compared to the military-industrial complex of Eisenhower’s time (and the earlier absence of a big American war apparatus), one new feature of this "government" is that it is increasingly a shadow (increasingly privatized, eaten from within). Civil servants often have a sense of integrity (see part 1 here). This is heightened by separation of powers and whistle-blowing (cf. Ellsberg, Manning). The attempted fierce crackdown on whistleblowers, as in the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, is a particularly harmful and anti-democratic feature of the Obama period, where “state secrets” are used to protect torturers, military hubris and losing occupations rather than for any defensible public purposes. This is the new bipartisan "legal" regime of state secrets [h/t Jack Balkin]. The most basic public functions are now subverted by private enterprise – we vote on machines that leave no paper trail which were, arguably (to say nothing stronger), connected to the strange deviations of exit polling and recorded votes in the 2004 Presidential election. Similarly, the military has arrogant and chauvinist leaders at the top – thinking they can conquer anything – and is being replaced piece by more expensive piece by Xe/Blackwater below. Expanding and endless cost of an increasingly counterfeit, privatized “military” for losing, belligerent enterprises in the midst of mass unemployment…

But despite depression-level joblessness, the military cannot meet its recruiting goals. The infamy of what the military is doing makes even joining gangs or rural unemployment in the US look attractive. The military eats the body on which it rests until that body collapses, or hopefully, as in this case, resists…

One may add to this picture the widespread use of drones, taking out civilians, often women and children (the wedding party in Yemen) in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. These are murderous and mostly wildly counterproductive acts of aggression by the US government. I will pass over the fantasies of Howard Koh and the “Justice” Department (see here). If the US gets one “terrorist” in 6 “kills” (a good ratio for the US, the neocon fantasy), it would still breed endless, new enemies. Kathy Kelly and others are protesting at Creech air force base in Nevada (the orders come from Langley but they are carried out, from increasingly barricaded bases, around the county). There is something increasingly cowardly about American high tech warfare launched from afar, like video game movies starring Dick Cheney, not some attractive teenager. In violation of the laws of war (and these are not even declared wars), this policy is frivolously murderous about innocent lives (on jus in bello - cf. Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars). That Obama and Democrat foreign policy “experts” got elected to resort to this is pathetic as well as criminal (Obama does some good things in foreign policy, for instance, he tried to push Israel on the settlements - but the war complex is very very hard to reverse, much of it locked in). Petraeus and the officers, praetorian, are above it all (if as I say, a kind of stone head, without a body, floating in space...). But there are plenty of Americans, civilians and soldieries, who are likely to get killed in response, or to be grotesquely used in death as an excuse - as Pat Tillman was - for the increasingly authoritarian and self-destructive role of the military and militarism. Security for Americans, one might say with Andrew Bacevich, surely you jest.

If one wants a sharp comparative politics contrast between American decadence and the European Union, the comparative absence of privatization, a weak military, and adherence to law in the latter are striking. In Europe, for instance, there are many indictments of Americans for kidnapping and renditions, for instance in Italy, Spain and Poland. The core difference is: Europe lacks a war complex and the increasingly blatant role of the military (no speculation about military candidates for President like Petraeus in Europe). In the 1930s, Spain had its tin Franco, butcher of thousands; in the 2010s, America has David Petraeus...

Many wonder why this regime, for all its illusions of grandeur and the dominance of a unipolar militarism, as well as for all the genuine hope involved in the election of Obama, still seems to be stumbling, more and more plainly, toward collapse. In the budget cuts in Britain, the US fiercely urged the Cameron government only to cut the military 8% rather than 20%. The enormous international hold of American militarism even on the Tories and British military is visible in this "success." Still the cuts will limit Britain’s potential invasionary force – at most 6,500 and at shorter range – and hence, ability to serve America as in Iraq (Blair was, as the British anti-war movement named him, “Bush’s poodle”). The predominance of the military, the contradictory illusions of its leadership and its increasing privatization, are all components of this change and likely fate.

Despite this dark note, this fate is by no means inevitable. Young people made the Obama campaign a mass movement for democracy. Opposition to the wars is widespread. But transforming this into effective political action against an increasingly dysfunctional elite will require resourcefulness, mass protest, and civil disobedience.

All the best,

*AIG, Goldman Sachs, etc. - complete with derivatives and "cdos", enabled by unemployed physicists and mathematicians, and new ways to make money without producing or encouraging the production of anything, a new stage of finance capital as Hilferding and Lenin once named it - is another decisive, intertwined part of the ruling class, quite capable, as we have recently seen, of crashing the international economy, sucking away the potential monetary resources from even privatized wars and impoverishing the former middle class. This is truly Reagan's dream - "the third worldization of America," a "morning" become darkness and desolation, unfolding before us.

**Here is some of Mills’ writing from the Power Elite (1956):

"In the span of one generation, America has become the leading industrial society of the world, and at the same time one of the leading military states. The younger military are of course growing up in the atmosphere of the economic-military alliance, but more than that they are being intensively and explicitly educated to carry it on. 'The Industrial College of the Armed Forces,' concerned with the interdependence of economy and warfare, is at the top level of the military educational system.

To the optimistic liberal of the nineteenth century all this would appear a most paradoxical fact. Most representatives of liberalism at that time assumed that the growth of industrialism would quickly relegate militarism to a very minor role in modern affairs. Under the amiable canons of the industrial society, the heroic violence of the military state would simply disappear [this is of course in the 1920s the horror of fascists and later Nazis like Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss and Martin Heidegger – see here, here, here, here. and here]. Did not the rise of industrialism and the long era of nineteenth-century peace reveal as much? But the classic liberal expectation of men like Herbert Spencer has proved quite mistaken. What the main drift of the twentieth century has revealed is that as the economy has become concentrated and incorporated into great hierarchies, the military has become enlarged and decisive to the shape of the entire economic structure; and, moreover, the economic and the military have become structurally and deeply interrelated, as the economy has become a seemingly permanent war economy and military men and policies have increasingly penetrated the corporate economy.

'What officials fear more than dateless war in Korea,' Arthur Krock reported in April of 1953, 'is peace ... The vision of peace which could lure the free world into letting down its guard, and demolishing the slow and costly process of building collective security in western Europe while the Soviets maintained and increased their military power, is enough to make men in office indecisive. And the stock market selling that followed the sudden conciliatory overtures from the Kremlin supports the thesis that immediate prosperity in this country is linked to a war economy and suggests desperate economic problems that may arise on the home front.'

Scientific and technological development has increasingly become part of the military order, which is now the largest single supporter and director of scientific research in fact, as large, dollar-wise, as all other American research put together. Since World War II, the general direction of pure scientific research has been set by military considerations, its major finances are from military funds, and very few of those engaged in basic scientific research are not working under military direction.

The United States has never been a leader in basic research, which it has imported from Europe. Just before World War II, some $40 million-the bulk of it from industry-was spent for basic scientific research; but $227 million was spent on applied research and 'product development and engineering.' With the Second World War pure scientists were busy, but not in basic research. The atom program, by the time it became governmental, was for the most part an engineering problem. But such technological developments made it clear that the nations of the world were entering a scientific, as well as an armaments, race. In the lack of any political policies for science, the military, first the navy, then the army, began to move into the field of scientific direction and support, both pure and applied. Their encroachment was invited or allowed by corporate officials who preferred military rather than civilian control of governmental endeavors in science, out of fear of 'ideological' views of civilians concerning such things as patents.

By 1954, the government was spending about $2 billion on research (twenty times the prewar rate); and 85 per cent of it war for 'national security.' In private industry and in the larger universities, the support of pure science is now dominantly a military support. Some universities, in fact, are financial branches of the military establishment, receiving three or four times as much money from military as from all other sources combined.


... Since World War II, the warlords have caused a large-scale and intensive public-relations program to be carried out. They have spent millions of dollars and they have employed thousands of skilled publicists, in and out of uniform, in order to sell their ideas and themselves to the public and to the Congress.

The content of this great effort reveals its fundamental purpose: to define the reality of international relations in a military way, to portray the armed forces in a manner attractive to civilians, and thus to emphasize the need for the expansion of military facilities. The aim is to build the prestige of the military establishment and to create respect for its personnel, and thus to prepare the public for military-approved policies, and to make Congress ready and willing to pay for them. There is also, of course, the intention of readying the public for the advent of war.
It is a delicate problem which the military publicists confront, but there is one great fact that works entirely for their success: in all of pluralist America, there is no interest - there is no possible - combination of interests-that has anywhere near the time, the money, the manpower, to present a point of view on the issues involved that can effectively compete with the views presented day in and day out by the warlords and by those whom they employ.

This means, for one thing, that there is no free and wide debate of military policy or of policies of military relevance. But that, of course, is in line with the professional soldier's training for command and obedience, and with his ethos, which is certainly not that of a debating society in which decisions are put to a vote. It is also in line with the tendency in a mass society for manipulation to replace explicitly debated authority, as well as with the fact of total war in which the distinction between soldier and civilian is obliterated. The military manipulation of civilian opinion and the military invasion of the civilian mind are now important ways in which the power of the warlords is steadily exerted.

The extent of the military publicity, and the absence of opposition to it [consider today the jet formations that fly over NFL games, not a substitute for, as William James hoped, but an adjunct to war], also means that it is not merely this proposal or that point of view that is being pushed. In the absence of contrasting views, the very highest form of propaganda warfare can be fought: the propaganda for a definition of reality within which only certain limited viewpoints are possible. What is being promulgated and reinforced is the military metaphysics-the cast of mind that defines international reality as basically military. The publicists of the military ascendancy need not really work to indoctrinate with this metaphysics those who count: they have already accepted it.

In contrast with the existence of military men, conceived simply as experts in organizing and using violence, 'militarism' has been defined as 'a case of the dominance of means over ends' for the purpose of heightening the prestige and increasing the power of the military. This is, of course, a conception from the standpoint of the civilian who would consider the military as strictly a means for civilian political ends. As a definition, it points to the tendency of military men not to remain means, but to pursue ends of their own, and to turn other institutional areas into means for accomplishing them.

Without an industrial economy, the modern army, as in America, could not exist; it is an army of machines. Professional economists usually consider military institutions as parasitic upon the means of production. Now, however, such institutions have come to shape much of the economic life of the United States. Religion, virtually without fail, provides the army at war with its blessings, and recruits from among its officials the chaplain, who in military costume counsels and consoles and stiffens the morale of men at war. By constitutional definition, the military is subordinated to political authority, and is generally considered, and has generally been, a servant as well as an adviser of civiian politcians; but the warlord is moving into these circles, and by his definitions of reality, influencing their decisions. The family provides the army and navy with the best men and boys that it possesses. And, as we have seen, education and science too are becoming means to the ends sought by the military.

The military pursuit of status, in itself, is no threat of military dominance. In fact, well enclosed in the standing army, such status is a sort of pay-off for the military relinquishment of adventures in political power. So long as this pursuit of status is confined to the military hierarchy itself, it is an important feature of military discipline, and no doubt a major source of much military gratification. It becomes a threat, and it is an indication of the growing power of the military elite today, when it is claimed outside the military hierarchy and when it tends to become a basis of military policy.
The key to an understanding of status is power. The military cannot successfully claim status among civilians if they do not have, or are not thought to have power. Now power, as well as images of it, are always relative: one man's powers are another man's weaknesses. And the powers that have weakened the status of the military in America have been the powers of money and of money-makers, and the powers of the civilian politicians over the military establishment.

American 'militarism,' accordingly, involves the attempt of military men to increase their powers, and hence their status, in comparison with businessmen and politicians. To gain such powers they must not be considered a mere means to be used by politicians and money-makers. They must not be considered parasites on the economy and under the supervision of those who are often called in military circles 'the dirty politicians.' On the contrary their ends must be identified with the ends as well as the honor of the nation; the economy must be their servant; politics an instrument by which, in the name of the state, the family, and God, they manage the nation in modern war.' What does it mean to go to war?' Woodrow Wilson was asked in 1917. 'It means,' he replied, 'an attempt to reconstruct a peacetime civilization with war standards, and at the end of the war there will be no bystanders with sufficient peace standards left to work with. There will be only war standards ... ' American militarism, in fully developed form, would mean the triumph in all areas of life of the military metaphysic, and hence the subordination to it of all other ways of life.

There can be little doubt but that, over the last decade, the warlords of Washington, with their friends in the political directorate and the corporate elite, have definitely revealed militaristic tendencies. Is there, then, in the higher circles of America 'a military clique'? Those who argue about such a notion-as Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and General of the Army Omar Bradley have recently done - are usually arguing only about the increased influence of the professional military. That is why their arguments, in so far as they bear upon the structure of the elite, are not very definitive and are usually at cross-purposes. For when it is fully understood, the idea of a military clique involves more than the military ascendancy. It involves a coincidence of interests and a co-ordination of aims among economic and political as well as military actors.
Our answer to the question, 'Is there now a military clique?' is: Yes, there is a military clique, but it is more accurately termed the power elite, for it is composed of economic, political, as well as military, men whose interests have increasingly coincided."

These citations are all from ch. 9 "The Military Ascendency." From the final chapter, "The Higher Immorality." Mills adds:

"The higher immorality can neither be narrowed to the political sphere nor understood as primarily a matter of corrupt men in fundamentally sound institutions. Political corruption is one aspect of a more general immorality; the level of moral sensibility that now prevails is not merely a matter of corrupt men. The higher immorality is a systematic feature of the American elite; its general acceptance is an essential feature of the mass society."

"Of course, there may be corrupt men in sound institutions, but when institutions are corrupting, many of the men who live and work in them are necessarily corrupted. In the corporate era, economic relations become impersonal-and the executive feels less personal responsibility. Within the corporate worlds of business, war-making and politics, the private conscience is attenuated-and the higher immorality is institutionalized. It is not merely a question of a corrupt administration in corporation, army, or state; it is a feature of the corporate rich, as a capitalist stratum, deeply intertwined with the politics of the military state."

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