August 17, 2021

Defeat is not victory: the anti-war brand requires picture of all-powerful state to maintain its raison d'etre

Let's continue on the theme of our imperial authority collapsing, despite the fevered delusions of libertarians (99% of the left and right) who still think there is an authoritarian, totalitarian, invincible war-machine-state as their enemy. This time, looking at international rather than domestic impotence (e.g., the failure of the authorities to impose their COVID dystopia medium-to-long-term outside of pushing-an-open-door super-libtard cities).

The attempt to incorporate Afghanistan into the American empire's sphere of influence has always been destined to fail, since no empire has done so that did not originate in Persia or Central / South Asia. The closest case is the ancient Greeks who split off from Alexander the Great's Empire (Seleucid, Bactrian, etc.), but they only reliably controlled the northern part of today's Afghanistan — not the Pashtun core in the east and south, where Kabul, Ghazni, and Kandahar are located. If you don't control those cities, or the Hindu Kush mountains, you do not control Afghanistan.

In fairness, to show I'm not putting forth an unfalsifiable claim, how could America have hypothetically controlled Afghanistan? Nothing to do with technology, funding, or any of that other technocratic bullshit — cohesion wins, and disunity loses. We had soaring asabiya (potential for large-scale collective action) right up through WWII. So if we had invaded Afghanistan, rather than Mexico, in the 1840s, we would have stood a good shot at incorporating it into our empire. Maybe if we had done so during their civil war circa 1930.

But anytime after WWII? No chance. America has repeatedly and catastrophically failed to incorporate any new territory into its sphere of influence by force after WWII. We failed to get North Korea in the late '40s and '50s, failed to get Vietnam and Southeast Asia in the '60s and '70s, failed to keep leftist parties from controlling Central America during the '80s and '90s, failed to absorb Serbia and nearby Bosnian Serbs into NATO after the bombing campaigns of the '90s, failed to eject the Chavez / Maduro governments in Venezuela in the 2000s and 2010s, failed to control literally everywhere we've bombed or occupied in the MENA region (most disastrously in Iraq), and last but not least, failed to get Afghanistan.

Moreover, we began losing former gains by the late 1940s, when the Philippines declared independence and we did nothing to keep them under control as a US territory. Cuba revolted in the late '50s, and despite decades of pressure ever since then, we have failed to reconquer it. Those were both prizes from our victory over the moribund Spanish Empire in 1898; we only have Puerto Rico left from that war. Our coup against Iran in 1954 put in a puppet regime that lasted one generation, provoking the Islamic Revolution in the late '70s that has removed that nation as a possibility of American control forever.

Peaceful alliances with states who have shared interests are just diplomacy, not imperialism. Getting the former Warsaw Pact nations on our side post-USSR is not conquest, as they were always chafing under Russian hegemony and willing to throw in their lot with Russia's main antagonist. Ditto for the non-Serbian Balkan nations joining NATO after the Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia broke up. Ditto for Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, including later Israel. We have a military footprint in these places because they are our partners with shared geopolitical interests, not because we beat them in battle (contrast with Germany, Italy, and Japan — and the whole of the American core, where we defeated the Native Americans and Mexicans).

It's sad to have to recap this history of neverending defeats after WWII, and to reiterate that diplomacy among partners is not conquest by enemies. But that's thanks to the consensus on both the pro-war and anti-war sides that America only keeps on winning, aside from the occasional setback or embarrassment, that the empire is only getting stronger and more consolidated, and that American global hegemony is on auto-pilot. Both sides agree on this picture of the world, and only disagree on whether it is good, wise, affordable, and so on.

There's nothing surprising about the pro-war side always portraying the American military as the strongest in the world, issuing threats to behave or we'll bomb the shit out of you, etc. They want their threats to other nations to be credible, and that would be defanged by openly admitting to their losing streak of 70 years and running. Domestically, they want their bottomless pit of free money to stay bottomless and free — and how can that sale be pitched to the domestic elites who control the purse strings, if they admit that they can't win anymore?

It's the anti-war side that is disturbing in its blind stubborn insistence that America just keeps on winning, keeps on consolidating more nations into its sphere through conquest. But then, their whole raison d'etre is being anti-war — for moral points in a status contest, for building an audience, for the small amount of anti-war funding that exists, or for whatever other reason. If they are not up against a big bad enemy — a putatively invincible war machine — then why worry?

Sure, it may take a little while, and waste lives and money in the meantime, but there's no way a weak and fragmenting empire is going to conquer and administer any foreign nations, whether you think that would be desirable or not. At this point, citizens can only let the military get their asses handed to them, and come home in defeat. No amount of anti-war activism, knowledge dissemination, consciousness-raising, etc., has done anything to speed up or slow down the process of imperial disintegration. The military only responds to crushing, humiliating defeat at the hands of the foreigners they're trying to conquer — they don't give a damn what any of us think back home.

Still, the anti-war side always tries to shore up the reputation of the war machine by re-branding its defeat as a victory, ackshually, if you change the meaning of words and look at it from an irrelevant perspective. For example, America ackshually won in Southeast Asia because of all the death and destruction we left in our wake. That was easy — just change the meaning of "winning the war" to be causing destruction, rather than the true meaning of bringing the other nation under your control and administration.

Or, look at how the military-industrial complex profited handsomely from our presence in Vietnam, Iraq, or wherever. They got exactly what they wanted — a shitload of free money. This lies about who is fighting a war, and who can claim victory or defeat. In reality, it's not the weapons manufacturers, but the military itself that is a party to the war. Bomb-makers don't win or lose, since they aren't on the battlefield.

This is like saying that no matter how humiliatingly, and how reliably, our football team loses to the other football teams on the football field — ackshually it's a victory for the manufacturers of the clothing, shoes, and equipment that the team uses during the game and in training. I'll bet the owners of the stadium raked in a lot of money in tickets to the game, too, not to mention the media companies who broadcast the game. And yet, Nike, Wilson, and ESPN never set foot onto the field, so they can neither win nor lose. It's the football team that wins or loses. And there's no way to spin constant crushing defeats as signs of that team's greatness.

Ordinary people who are not deeply invested in the outcomes of our wars do not fall for these attempts at spin. If you get driven out of the territory, you lost, plain and simple. Just because the enemy had to take their lumps while driving you out, doesn't mean they lost. Or wow, what a victory that some contractor made money from our defeat — nobody identifies with the contractors or weapons manufacturers, any more than sports fans identify with the corporate profits of Nike, Wilson, and ESPN. They identify with the football team itself.

If the MIC "win" by getting paid big-time, we do not vicariously enjoy their success. Whereas we do identify with the military — the actual party to the actual war. If the military loses, we vicariously feel stinging humiliation (or exuberant triumph, if we had won). Our national pride and shame do not respond at all to the fortunes of the military-related supply chains.

This is not a call for Anti-War (TM) people to admit defeat, as it were, since they are bound to keep spinning history and current events as evidence for continued and perhaps even rising American imperial hegemony (only differing from the hawks by lamenting rather than celebrating the picture). Their cause requires them to do this.

But for those who do not make anti-war a core concept of their brand (and anyone in the media, including social media, is a brand these days), try to keep things in perspective. American imperial power peaked in WWII, has been waning ever since, and will only grow weaker and more embarrassing in the future. Do not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by portraying defeat as victory.


  1. Forgot another typical weasel tactic -- claim that the losing side had a different goal, which they achieved, so ackshually they won.

    Usually takes the form of: the American military didn't want to control and administer that nation as part of their empire -- they just wanted to go fuck some shit up or blow some taxpayer money. They did in fact fuck some shit up and get paid, so they won.

    But there is only ever one goal for imperial expansion -- to control and administer the enemy land as part of your own empire. "Fucking their shit up" is just sore loser talk, treating large-scale imperial polities as though they were a single vindictive or psycho individual, spoiling for a fight to get it out of his system or settle a simple score.

    Sorry, losers, you don't get to re-interpret the goal of the game you knowingly took part in, just because you lost.

    It's like if your football team loses, and you spin it as they didn't really want to win --despite them putting on their jerseys and equipment, throwing passes, attempting to catch them, running toward the end zone when they had possession, trying to block the other team from advancing, etc.

    No, they ackshually just wanted to go fuck up some of the other team members, tear up the sod, get paid, and call it a day. So, despite the other team scoring more points, your team ackshually won what it set out to accomplish.

    Nice try! You either score more points than the enemy, or you lose, plain and simple. Injuries inflicted don't count, damage done to the stadium doesn't count, getting paid doesn't count. You know, and everyone else knows, why you were there on that field -- to score more points. And you lost, end of story.

  2. Australian civilization doesn't have to worry about its battery running out because it's got five-foot firecrackers like Aimee, whose ADHD energy can power an entire continent.

  3. Aimee, hang in there, bb. Busy as we speak on another tribute, in honor of your resistance against the vaxx & lockdowns. You will like!

    Please appreciate how much you inspire others around the world, whether it's giving them courage to resist, or ignite their creative drive and give it a focus and purpose. :)


  4. And to the autists, don't worry, I'll be Afghan-posting the rest of the week, including tomorrow.

    But I gotta take care of my imaginary gf first.


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