When the World Is the Enemy

When every conflict or area of instability is perceived as a threat, the world becomes the enemy, writes Brad Wolf.

U.S. soldier on night patrol in 2012 near Combat Outpost Terezayi in Afghanistan. (U.S. Army, James Estrada)

By Brad Wolf
Common Dreams

I recently spoke with the foreign policy aide of a United States senator in a scheduled lobbying call for our antiwar organization.

Rather than use the standard lobbying points about wasteful Pentagon spending, I asked for a frank discussion regarding ways our organization might find a successful strategy to cut the Pentagon budget. I wanted the perspective of somebody working on the Hill for a conservative senator.

The senator’s aide obliged me. The chances of any bill passing both chambers of Congress that would trim the Pentagon budget by 10 percent, according to the aide, were zero.

When I asked if this was because the public perception was that we needed this amount to defend the country, the aide responded that it was not only the public perception but the reality. The senator was convinced, as were most in Congress, that the Pentagon’s threat assessments were accurate and reliable (this despite the Pentagon’s history of failed forecasting).

As described to me, the military assesses threats across the globe including such countries as China and Russia, then designs a military strategy to counter those threats, works with weapons manufacturers to design weapons to integrate into that strategy, then produces a budget based on that strategy. Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, overwhelmingly approve the budget. After all, it’s the military. They clearly know the business of war.

When a military begins with the notion that it must confront all problems arising from all locales across the globe, what it develops is a global military strategy. This is not a defensive strategy, but a global policing strategy for every conceivable offense. When every conflict or area of instability is perceived as a threat, the world becomes the enemy. 

“This is not a defensive strategy, but a global policing strategy for every conceivable offense.”

What if such conflicts or instabilities were seen as opportunities rather than threats? What if we deployed doctors, nurses, teachers, and engineers as quickly as we deployed drones, bullets, and bombs?

Doctors in mobile hospitals are far less expensive than the current F-35 fighter jet which is closing in on a $1.6 trillion price tag. And doctors don’t mistakenly kill noncombatants in wedding parties or funerals thereby fueling anti-Americanism. In fact, they don’t see combatants or noncombatants, they see people. They treat patients.

On Being ‘Naïve’

The chorus decrying such an idea as “naïve” is immediately heard, war drums providing the charging beat. And so, an assessment is in order.

According to Merriam-Webster, naïve can mean “marked by unaffected simplicity,” or “deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgment,” or “not previously subjected to experimentation or a particular experimental situation.”

The above proposal of doctors over drones does indeed sound simple and unaffected. Feeding people who are hungry, caring for them when they are sick, housing them when they have no shelter, is a relatively straightforward approach. Often the unaffected, simple way is the best. Guilty as charged here.

As to “deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgment,” we have witnessed America perpetually at war, seen the wise, worldly, and informed proven disastrously wrong again and again at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. They brought no peace, no security. We are gladly guilty of being deficient in their particular brand of worldly wisdom and informed judgment. We, the naïve ones, have gathered our own wisdom and judgment from enduring their catastrophic mistakes, their hubris, their lies.

“We, the naïve ones, have gathered our own wisdom and judgment from enduring their catastrophic mistakes, their hubris, their lies.”

As to the last definition of naïve, “not previously subjected to experimentation,” it is quite clear that a policy of healing rather than war has never been seriously considered, articulated, or deployed in any manner by this country. Naïve again, as charged.  

If we had built 2,977 hospitals in Afghanistan in honor of every American who died on 9/11, we would have saved far more lives, created far less anti-Americanism and terrorism, and spent far less than the $6 trillion price tag of the unsuccessful War on Terror. Additionally, our act of magnanimity and compassion would have stirred the conscience of the world. But we wanted to shed blood, not break bread. We craved war, not peace. And war we got. Twenty years of it.

War is always a conflict over resources. Somebody wants what somebody else has. For a country that has no problem spending $6 trillion on a failed War on Terror, we can certainly provide the needed resources of food, shelter, and medicine to keep people from tearing each other apart, and in the process, save ourselves from opening yet another bleeding wound. We must do what is so often preached in our churches but rarely enacted. We must perform the works of mercy.

It comes down to this: Are we prouder of vanquishing a country with bombs, or saving it with bread? Which of these allows us to hold our heads higher as Americans? Which of these engenders hope and friendship with our “enemies?” I know the answer for myself and many of my friends, but what of the rest of us? How do we get the war out of America? I know of no other way than by being naïve and embracing the simple, unaffected works of mercy.

Brad Wolf, a former lawyer, professor, and community college dean, is co-founder of Peace Action Network of Lancaster and writes for World BEYOND War.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

23 comments for “When the World Is the Enemy

  1. July 18, 2022 at 11:47

    An excellent article. I wish we would come to our senses and stop feeding the merchants of death at the expense of our own citizens and the citizens of the world. But I struggle to see how we ordinary citizens can stop the war machine.

  2. Em
    July 17, 2022 at 14:08

    How is it that naivety still reigns so unfalteringly, when there is so much erudition about, except where it is needed most???
    When are ‘we’ going to cease thinking of America synonymously, as all of ‘us’, as if ‘we’ all have the same human value, as fellow human beings, and not merely as commodities coerced by immediate need to serve the perpetual war machine (the MICC), in one way or the other, as fodder – that’s the only cumulative ‘us’ this commenter is aware of!!!
    If inhumanity dropped its symbolic mask of humanity and if its accompanying hypocrisy, thereby disappeared from the face of the Earth, so too would the Nobel Peace Prize.
    Self-serving BBC (Asia) article headline: The hard choices Sri Lankans must make now.
    According to the extant structures of power – the parliamentarians, apparently the symbols of state power, see themselves as unimpeachable, solely because of parliaments’ historical global symbolism as the very essence of actual democratic reality.
    The symbols of democratic governance do NOT necessarily represent the essence of proclaimed democratic government, in actual fact, as Americans seemingly, only of late, are intellectually beginning to come to grips with; that there must be a separation between raw reactive emotion and critical thinking, intellectual examination.
    And, having long ago become a blind faith religious fundamentalist society, as yet the population has been incapable of separating fact from fiction.
    For the Sri Lankan people, the facts are stark; that is why they are in the streets, demonstrating once more the actual democratic power of the mass of people, for all the world to see, and so far without apparent US interference, because the US hegemon is momentarily distracted elsewhere.
    The most recent shocking example, now overtly revealed of political malfeasance, being the coercive interference in a supposedly sovereign country – the Ukraine, comes to mind.
    In today’s world, definitely, the Peace symbol, is just that, a symbol. It is NOT peace! The Nobel Peace Prize is not all that noble either, given some of the individual names of the awardees. One of the more recent, foremost despicable names that comes to mind is OBAMA “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” by callously bombing them – men, women and children of the world, into submission; by setting his personal leadership stamp of malfeasance on yet another global example of US historical hypocrisy.
    And what’s more, the dynamite in the prize was that it was awarded antemortem – in anticipation, so to speak, prior to the death and destruction he was to inflict on the lives of innocent human beings in the name of humanity, and democracy during his eight-year term in office.
    Melatonin sparse, White, or otherwise skin-hued, in Asia, Africa, Europe; self-serving individuals, the world over serves the powers behind them, unquestioningly.
    The founder of the Nobel Peace Prize himself, Alfred Nobel, was a despicable person, in that his fortune was built on the backs of the dead bodies of those his major invention – dynamite, slaughtered, in all war’s past, and continues to do, unabatingly.
    In the absurd insanity of all the ongoing, unnecessary, death and destruction being inflicted on ‘his’ people, the next peace prize awardee, with the backing of ‘we’ know who, is likely to be Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

  3. Bushrod Lake
    July 17, 2022 at 09:10

    Yea, Brad!

  4. July 16, 2022 at 23:24

    Remarkable article . It reflects how far we have been led down the WAR rabbit hole. Unfortunately, most people

    do not give themselves to critical thought, and just follow the deceitful narrative offered by the war machinery and

    and compliant media.

  5. Shaun Onimus
    July 16, 2022 at 22:24

    “created far less anti-Americanism and terrorism … the unsuccessful War on Terror”
    Unless anti-Americanism and unsuccessful war on terror weren’t the true goals by those who own our politicians. This way, ‘Defense’ companies create more and more enemies, keeping the cycle going for their personal gain.
    And why would they ever want that gravy train to stop rolling their way? I can only assume they have fed their families for generations through warring, they know of no other way to ‘succeed’ in the World.
    With greater profits come greater means of control of our ‘elected’ leaders who can only obey their donors and not those which ‘voted’ them in.
    Something something, people shouldnt be afraid of their governments, governments (especially those designing Foreign Policy) should be afraid of their people. How to remind them is tricky..

  6. Mark Thomason
    July 16, 2022 at 16:55

    When France fell, and both Russia and Britain teetered, the big fear in the US was that the US would be left isolated in a world of enemies. Militaristic enemies.

    Now the US seems to have been pulling that down on its own head, like Samson pulling down the temple onto himself. Wow, very strong, but also fatal.

  7. July 16, 2022 at 15:46

    This plea is at the heart of the master issue we should be focusing on, which is to get a change of mindset. “Are we prouder of vanquishing a country with bombs, or saving it with bread?” Indeed. It’s the pivot we need to uniting the world instead of dominating it. The only sane question is how to do that. How about some sort of UBI for everyone in the civilized world — food, shelter, health care, and education? Get us out of the implosion we’re in when there’s so much concern with survival that people aren’t able to think of anything else. That would be the world we all want to live in, where we are one humanity with all heads and hearts devoted to making our civilization better. We can do this. And perhaps we must, because in our interconnected world our extinction is an alternative. For a graphic example of how endangered we are, some eleven times the nuclear button came close to being accidentally pushed and it’s only a matter of time to where there won’t be a last-minute rescue, let alone an intentional bombing by someone like a cornered Putin. We could use some well-respected entity to get such a conversation going!

  8. delia ruhe
    July 16, 2022 at 14:54

    The US will not be in a position to stop making war on the world until it finishes this journey down the decline-and-fall slope. Until then, Washington will continue to rule by the politics of fear, and the world will just have to put up with its wars as the only thing that makes the ruling class alive.

  9. Major Kong
    July 16, 2022 at 14:12

    Even in the insane, there is a certain amount of rationality to their actions, at least according to the insane brain.

    First, realize that this is different from Iraq. In Iraq, the world’s sole and unchallenged superpower was stealing the oil for itself.

    Now, what we are seeing is the conflict between a rising empire and a falling empire. A situation which historically has frequently led to war. To understand why, one only has to listen to Biden and most other American leaders. The empire that had been on top has two options. One is to use its current power to secure itself a good place in the world where it is not the top empire. The other is to use its power to try to destroy its rivals.

    Nothing, not a word, in America says there is any notion of looking towards a peaceful future, and instead America is firmly embarked on a, in nascar terms, “win it or wreck it” war for global American Supremacy, with the goal of China and Russia so beaten down that in the dreams of Wall Street that they will never rise again. In other words, the old American myth of winning by ‘bombing them into the Stone Age’, which has long been a sure vote-getter.

    There is a rationality to this, even if it is the rationality of a James Bond Supervillain who wants to take over the world. I didn’t say there was a sane rationality to this, but there is an insane, greed-is-good, its-all-mine, sort of rationality to it.

    There appears to be no political voice for any other course, as the Left is fully on board and invested for future profits, while the Right only wants different forms of anger and aggression upon the world. In the last primaries, the one anti-war candidate out of the many struggled to get above 1% support. Pro-war 99 (all Republicans, almost all Democrats, including Progressives), Anti-War 1 (former Rep. Gabbard). Americans appear to be quite united in their ‘win it or wreck it’ try to control the world.

  10. Major Kong
    July 16, 2022 at 13:53

    A person can claim ‘mistake’ only once.

  11. Major Kong
    July 16, 2022 at 13:52

    These days, I find it interesting to try to spot the times when America calls for peace. For peace talks. For negotiations.

    To spot them, it takes great patience, as they only occur infrequently these days. And only when the Americans are forced into it. The Americans are usually ashamed of asking for peace, which they firmly agree is a sign of weakness, so in the rare occasions where they are forced to talk about peace, it is usually masked by a lot of arrogant bluster and threats.

    And that tells you that ‘the world’ has been ‘the enemy’ for a long time. It wasn’t true under Carter. It began to change under Reagan, and every President since has made more and more of the world an enemy until these days even our ‘friends’ have to watch us closely because they see other former friends who’ve become enemies, while meanwhile we talk more and more often about ‘usable’ nuclear weapons and death strikes from space upon anywhere on the globe.

    America does not speak the language of peace.
    The world does not have a partner for peace.

  12. Vera Gottlieb
    July 16, 2022 at 13:14

    Not the whole world…only those who refuse to dance to the Yankee tune…

  13. Piotr Berman
    July 16, 2022 at 12:58

    I guess, “anti-war” is a tag that is deciphered by established people in USA as “wacky, at best” — you could be pro-Putin 5th columnist too. Not a good conversation starter with a GOP staffer. That said, these people are not idiots, they have some connections with reality, so there may exists good hooks. At least, to some of them.

    Hook number one: cost effectiveness. After all, one of GOP slogans is “we cannot just throw money on problems”, say, infant mortality or mediocre results of K-12 education. Money is wasted if means are not cost effective and goals are not realistic. Can we make every kid, however disadvantaged background, a successful rocket scientist, or a ballerina… But realistic goals that can be achieved do exists etc.

    Then one can go to nuclear strategy. MAD is achieved long time ago, and it was a realistic and useful goal: preventing nuclear confrontation, the largest threat of all. Then St. Ronald made a goal to remove the threat altogether, at least to USA. Well meaning or not, it is not realistic because it is simpler to develop countermeasures, and now Russia and China is busy developing them, and we are busy to go around those countermeasures, the most expensive wild goose chase that makes us LESS safe.

    Then we can go to examples of “threats” that were “removed” with results from disastrous to mediocre: Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq. In the first and third case, simple diplomacy would achieve more than trillions spend on those misadventures. The second case was less expensive, but pretty much a disaster, e.g. rebels in Sahara region radicalizing and outgunning the governments, refugees from unstable countries flooding Europe and lack of functional government till today.

    Then we can go to specifics: what was diagnosed as a threat, was it really a threat, was there any “opportunity cost” lost if we did not invade those three countries. The disparity between threats “identified”, glorious future that was promised and outcomes is shocking enough to re-examine our assumption about conventional, among the established folks, approaches to foreign and military matters.

  14. Carolyn L Zaremba
    July 16, 2022 at 12:50

    Is this not confirmation of the Founders’ idea to make the President the Commander in Chief? Because they knew only too well that military men would always want to go to war and that a civilian commander would supposedly keep the military men in check?

  15. July 16, 2022 at 12:43

    Good and utterly non-naive argument. The paranoid mistakenness, immense debt, and practical failure that are the historic legacy US militarism could not be more pragmatically obvious from Vietnam to Iraq to Ukraine.

  16. Caliman
    July 16, 2022 at 12:03

    But American war is not a classic “conflict over resources”, as in acquiring resources from a foreign country. At best, this is a secondary “benefit” of our wars. Nor are our wars about safety for US citizens; we’d be far FAR safer if we minded our own business around the world.

    The primary point, the motivating factor that has been there from 1945 on has been keeping the MI machinery creating wealth and power for the connected elite going. Everything else, from democracy promotion to rules based order to security for the homeland and all such tripe are excuses to justify the transfer of trillions of taxpayer money to the “right” places.

  17. Joseph Tillotson
    July 16, 2022 at 10:32

    The irrationality of provoking Russia and China which is currently happening is a policy from the perverted and dangerous minds of the Neocon community which aims to disrupt through war and from the chaos produced, a new world that can be built which is compatible with their vision of a New World Order. We have seen the result of this policy via the Iraq war when, faced with overwhelming world opinion-the Policy fashioned by the likes of Wolfowitz, Perle, Cheney et Al. prevailed. It is being now demonstrated by our Ukrainian provocation and now war. The U.S. engineered this blatant coup after breaking the pledge made to Russia after the fall of the Berlin Wall not to expand NATO. Now, NATO countries ring the Russian border bristling with missiles of some type. If our Nation truly understood this, there would a concerted effort(cf. the Viet Nam war) to stop the madness.

  18. Jeff Harrison
    July 15, 2022 at 21:32

    I wouldn’t call you naive Mr. Wolf. I would probably say clueless. And I don’t mean that as an insult. All of what you suggest would be absolutely wonderful and I would expect that any nation that was trying to use their resources, providing for their citizens, improving their country and the world as a whole would aspire to some or all of what you suggest. Sadly, the US is not that nation. We are so exceptional that our s–t don’t stink and to make matters worse, the majority of the American electorate believes that. And that, my friend, is the clue you are missing.

  19. July 15, 2022 at 19:09

    The US is an ailing empire in decline, and unfortunately, people around the world will continue to suffer as a result. Unless a sufficient number of US citizens break free of the corporate media psy ops, we most likely won’t get any major changes in US foreign policy, or should I say US foreign aggression.

    • WillD
      July 17, 2022 at 02:12

      History shows us that declining empires always lash out more and more as their power declines – as they desperately try to prevent their demise. In this case, the sooner the final US collapse occurs the better, if for no other reason than to reduce the possibility of nuclear war.

    • Frank Lambert
      July 17, 2022 at 10:34

      From the first three posted comments, I certainly agree with you all. Mr. Moffett, you nailed it right on the head, about “Unless a sufficient number of US citizens break free of the corporate media pys ops, we most likely won’t get any major changes in US foreign policy, or should I say US foreign aggression.”

      Sad to say, US foreign policy is all about war and conquest. China has done so much for the people on the African continent in helping to build their infrastructure, so what does the Bush Jr. regime do to counter China? Initiate a new military agency called “Africom” or African Command, giving puppet governments weapons to kill and maim their fellow beings, army fatigues, berets and a plethora of military equipment.

      The US is imploding and it appears only a small percentage of the American people are informed or even aware of what lays ahead, regarding the next world war which will be initiated by the US for world domination. Psychological operations work, and the corporate media machine have honed their skills well.

      And a SPECIAL THANKS to Brad Wolf for his work on these issues.

  20. Dienne
    July 15, 2022 at 15:11

    “And doctors don’t mistakenly kill noncombatants in wedding parties or funerals thereby fueling anti-Americanism.”

    Um, you’re assuming that the drones *mistakenly* kill noncombatants in wedding parties or funerals? Careful.

    • Jan
      July 16, 2022 at 12:25

      Agreed. These are atrocities, not mistakes.

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