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Joe Biden at Lockheed Martin plant

President Joe Biden delivers a speech during his visit at Lockheed Martin facility which manufactures weapon systems such as Javelin anti-tank missiles, which the Biden-Harris Administration is providing Ukraine in Troy, AL, United States on May 3, 2022. (Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ukraine: The New American Crusade

Moral rhetoric is bringing us closer to World War III, and while Americans suffer economic devastation the military industrial complex wins big.

Stuart J. Hooper

The United States is synonymous with war yet does everything it possibly can to avoid such a connection. Its conflicts are always couched in the language of democracy, liberal values, freedom, and the like, despite swathes of evidence that show these wars produce precisely the opposite outcomes. The unfortunate reality is that bombs dropped in the name of freedom produce the same amount of death and destruction as those dropped by tyrants, and American policymakers actively work to hide this from voters. 

Policy elites, along with the military industrial complex, claim to wage smart, ethical, responsible wars, because they have access to supposedly superior technological capabilities, which just so happen to cost trillions of dollars in the aggregate. The revelations of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, particularly the Collateral Murder video, demonstrated that so-called wars of liberation waged with advanced technologies do little to change the reality of war itself. Even World War II, clearly fought against obvious aggressors, was not fought along ethical lines, with the extensive use of firebombing campaigns against civilian targets in both Germany and Japan by allied forces. Then, of course, came the deployments of Fat Man and Little Boy. Still, none of this has changed the elites’ ideological framing of war in the western world.

There is cause for the legitimate use of defensive force against aggressors. However, when conflict is ruthlessly exploited by elites to further their own interests at the expense of literally everyone else on the planet, and when nuclear war is a very real threat, its continuation requires a critical examination.

Nancy Pelosi sought to apply the ideology of justifiable crusade onto the conflict in Ukraine by suggesting American taxpayers, who have just footed another bill to the order of $40 billion in weaponry, to think of a parallel with the Gospel of Matthew: "When I was hungry, you fed me." But are Ukrainians really hungry for more war? The question is worth asking because funneling weapons into a warzone is certainly far more amenable to a position that is seeking to continue, rather than peacefully end, this war. Democrats, and Republicans, have consistently exploited such moralistic rhetoric to support decades of endless war, and the American people are always paying the price in both money and blood.

Russia should not have invaded Ukraine, and immediately lost any moral high ground it may have had upon doing so, and the Ukrainians had a right to defend themselves and seek help. But this situation is qualitatively different with its potential to ignite World War III. With Russian forces clearly on the ropes after weeks in a stalemate, why was there not a significant effort to push for a peaceful withdrawal and resolution to the conflict? Where was the western attempt to seek compromise? Putin was willing to talk with French President Emmanuel Macron, why not use that line of communication to broker a way out? This is what an ethical hegemon, concerned with peace and stability, would do.

There are three central answers. First, the U.S. foreign policy establishment is firmly in the grasp of the military industrial complex. From defense contractors to think tanks like the Atlantic Council, there is a powerful lobby directly interested in the continuation of war for political, economic, military, and ideological reasons. Therefore, it is flatly wrong to consider American foreign policy decisions as sought in the pursuit of moral goals, despite the extensive exploitation of ecclesiastical and eschatological rhetoric by the public face of The Blob. The additional $40 billion is not feeding Ukrainians, but an already bloated and gluttonous arms industry.

Then, there is the open admission that the U.S. is seeking to weaken Russia. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin claimed America wanted "Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine." If the U.S. is successful in achieving this aim, how might Putin respond? If he has lost his mind or is seeking to go out with a bang, as many western tabloids and policy analysts have claimed, why not go nuclear? Truman believed dropping the nuclear bombs on Japan would show Joseph Stalin just how tough America would be in the postwar world. Why would Putin not follow a similar line of logic? The U.S. should, instead, actively avoid pushing him into flexing Russian military might with a nuclear deployment. Playing a game of nuclear chicken is far from the wisest possible option in this situation, especially when both the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and state television are openly discussing the possibility of nuclear war with NATO.

Finally, and perhaps most worryingly, Ukrainian leaders are now apparently set on not only ejecting the Russians from Ukraine, but also bringing the fight into Russia itself. The billions of dollars in weapons funneled into Ukraine appear to have created a sense of confidence, or overconfidence, that might lead to disaster. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, "The end story for Ukraine is, of course, the liberation of occupied territories. And payments by Russia for everything … for all the damage that [has been] inflicted on us." The complexity of governance in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, the occupied territories Kuleba refers to, is far beyond the scope of this piece, but suffice it to say that it is unlikely more bloodshed is going to resolve these issues. Just consider the bodies of dead Russian soldiers arranged in a letter "Z," the chosen friend/foe tag of Putin's forces, in recaptured Ukrainian towns as a prime example of militarism failing to achieve political objectives and far removed from Pelosi’s biblical moralizing. And a series of blasts reported within Russia, in provinces bordering Ukraine, may spark a dangerous spiral of escalation.

Unless the world, and particularly Americans, wake up to the exploitation of moral rhetoric, in tandem with unchecked spending on supposedly ethical military technologies, then conflict will continue to spread destruction across our planet. There is cause for the legitimate use of defensive force against aggressors. However, when conflict is ruthlessly exploited by elites to further their own interests at the expense of literally everyone else on the planet, and when nuclear war is a very real threat, its continuation requires a critical examination.

When Americans are struggling to feed their babies, fill up their gas tanks, and travelling on crumbling infrastructure, there is only one question that they need ask: how can Congress find billions of dollars to buy weapons to fight a war in a matter of hours but do nothing to satisfy their very real domestic plight? Food, gas, and infrastructure are issues for everyone, regardless of political affiliation, and their neglect in favor of waging a new American crusade is evidence of a nation far removed from its founding ideals and, instead, wedded to the continuance of an empire in service of transnational elites via the eternal propagation of the military industrial complex.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Stuart J. Hooper

Stuart J. Hooper

Stuart J. Hooper is an Instructor of Political Science at Cameron University and PhD Candidate at City University of London researching the military industrial complex, elites, war, and globalism. 

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