Obama: more troops, more imperialism, more of the same
The election of Barack Obama as president was promised as bringing a different direction to U.S. foreign policy. But as recent news shows, Obama will continue U.S. imperialist policies, for one by increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In the beginning of his term this year he kept on Bush family crony Robert M. Gates as Secretary of “Defense.” Gates announced recently the Amerikan military will increase the number of overall troops in service for these new imperialist wars. Contributing to this increase are the Amerikan people, looking for jobs in the faltering economy, taking on military positions.
On Monday July 20 “Defense” Secretary Gates announced a “temporary” increase of the size of the army up to 22,000 troops. This increase is to meet the “persistent pace” of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Gates (1).
The increase is to occur over three years. In the end, the size of the army will increase to 569,000 active duty soldiers. Previously, in 2007, Gates had given a goal of an expansion to 547,000 soldiers. This previous target was reached in May.
There are currently 130,000 Amerikan troops in Iraq, not including mercenaries and contractors. Also, by the end of 2009, there will be 68,000 troops in Afghanistan. Obama’s promised removal of troops from Iraq has been carried out at a snail’s pace, at best. This removal is really a shift, or “phased redeployment,” of more troops from Iraq into Afghanistan. Obama is not pulling back Amerikan Empire, so much as shifting its focus. In fact, only combat forces will be withdrawn from Iraq by August 2010, and other troops will be scheduled to remain at least until December 2011 (2). Most withdrawals are not even scheduled until March 2010. In fact there have been no troop withdrawals since Obama came into office. In addition, Gates expressed concern that future U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan would not have enough boots on the ground. Military advisors and senators are advocating more troops be sent to Afghanistan than originally planned (3).
Some have pointed to some of Obama’s policies, like the defunding of the F-22 fighter program, as a sign of Obama’s dovish credentials. However, the defunding of this single program happened in the larger context of increasing the size of the military, including increasing funding for other fighter jets (4).
Obama, Another Side of the Coin
Despite what Amerikan pseudo-leftists say, to the world’s majority it does not matter who would have become U.S. president. The United Snakes continues its tradition of militaristic policies. All Obama changed was perception. Amerikan public opinion tired of the war in Iraq not for any principled anti-imperialist reasons but because the war was becoming too costly; in Amerikan money, Amerikan lives, and to Amerika’s global image. This last one was a key, for under Bush world opinion of the U.S. was lower than at any point in history. The jingoistic superpatriotism represented by McCain-Palin carried less appeal as the U.S. was being wound down in the resistance in Iraq. Obama came along to shift world opinion of Amerika to a more positive view. Amerikans also felt better in their relationship to the world under Obama, even though there has been no change to the foreign policies that enrich all Amerikans. With a more positive world opinion, Amerikans are more willing now to embrace Amerikan imperialism, even joining its military to defend it.
Reasons For the Increase of Volunteer Troops
The New York Times also notes that the Pentagon, without the aid of conscription, will increase the size of its army by traditional means of recruiting and retention. Since the advent of the all-volunteer armed forces over 30 years ago the military has relied on recruiting to fill its ranks. Most have to be actively recruited.
The Iraq War made military service during a sustained military conflict unpopular. The military could no longer count on those enlisting for easy college money or signing bonuses, obtained without leaving their bases and incurring risk (5). Even the National Guard, with less commitment, suffered unmet recruiting goals (6). Recruiters talked about having “rolled doughnuts,” slang for going an entire month without recruiting anyone.
Also, antiwar activists, dealing with an all-volunteer army, took on the strategy of counter-recruitment to symbolically hurt the war effort. It met with mixed success in deterring some young people from the military (7), with many students removing their names from military recruiting lists that schools are required to give (8). Military recruiters became more aggressive in their efforts. But the recent recession has helped enlistment and re-enlistment.
In mentioning Gates’ proposed increase of troops this year, the New York Times also mentions that recruitment has been aided by those looking for a job in the recession, and troops reenlisting beyond their scheduled terms due to the job market. Another source says military recruitment was up 9 percent from 2008, and potential soldiers are including not only those out of high school but those with bachelors and master degrees, looking for a steady paycheck without fears of layoffs (9).
Overall, the opposition to the Iraq War in the U.S. increased not because of any principled opposition to its military committing atrocities for profit, but because it was seen as too costly and unwinnable for Amerikans. Even with the global recession Amerikans are still better off than the great majority of the world. They still willingly join its military to further imperialist aggression in order to objectively keep their privileged position in the world.
The U.S. is the principal global empire. It must assert itself militarily around the globe. To do this, it needs warm bodies for its never ending military adventures. Since 1900 the U.S. has continuously engaged in military confrontations of some kind or other nearly every year since. This will continue to be the case for the next hundred years, or until U.S. imperialism is defeated.
Domestic opposition will not stop aggression against the Third World. The liberal anti-war movement came to a halt with the end of the Bush administration. Most in the anti-war movement swallowed Obama’s lies. Progressives in the U.S. are deluding themselves if they still think the Obama administration will initiate major changes in U.S. foreign policy.
The masses of the Third World are also deluded, if they buy into Obama’s reinvention of Amerika. After all, recent polls show that Obama has improved the image of the U.S. in the Third World. The reality is that Obama and Bush are just two sides of the same imperialist coin. Given the promise of a paycheck Amerikans in their self-interest will help in the effort to expand the war machine. Amerikans have a material interest in maintaining imperialism. They are the ones who benefit, after all. The masses of the world should not rely on opposition inside Amerika to stop imperialist wars. If imperialism is to be smashed, then it will be the Third World masses who wield the hammer. If First-Worlders support humanity they will side with the Third World masses in this endeavor.
(1). Bumiller, Elizabeth. “Gates Says U.S. Army’s Size Will Grow by 22,000.” New York Times. July 20, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/21/world/21military.html
(2). “With Pledges to Troops and Iraqis, Obama Details Pullout.” New York Times. February 27, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/washington/28troops.html
(3) Bumiller, Elizabeth. “With Boots in Iraq, Minds Drift to Afghanistan.” New York Times. July 31, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/01/world/middleeast/01memo.html
(4). Drew, Christopher. “Obama Wins Crucial Senate Vote on F-22.” New York Times. July 21, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/business/22defense.html
(5). Davey, Monica. “Recruiters Try New Tactics to Sell Wartime Army.” New York Times. June 14. 2004. p. 1, 8.
(6). Moniz, Dave. “For Guard Recruiter, a Tough Sell.” USA Today. www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-03-07-recruits-cover_x.htm. Accessed 3/8/2005.
(7). Some examples of earlier counter-recruitment strategies are here: Weill-Greenberg, Elizabeth. “Calling All Soldiers: Military Recruiters Face Resistance From Young Anti-War Activists.” New York Amsterdam News. February 24, 2005. Accessed from www.commondreams.org 3/8/2005; and Hampson, Rick. “‘Counter-recruiters’ Shadowing the Military.” USA Today. www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-03-07-counter-recruiters_x.htm. Accessed 3/8/2005.
(8). “Students Want Off Recruiting Lists.” Toward Freedom. November 16, 2005. http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/667/78/ Accessed 11/21/2005.
(9). “Slumping Economy Helping With Military Recruitment.” http://www.wjactv.com/news/20277281/detail.html