The War on Terror and the normal behavior of government agencies

As a follow-up to a previous post on the subject, I have a few more words about terrorism. Before, I discussed a few of the features that make terrorism the perfect motivation for war from the viewpoint of the state. I alluded to one but did not say enough about it. That feature is how it’s self-sustaining.

It was pointed out several years ago by many people on many sides that every innocent Afghan or Iraq killed by American might would only spur ten more into anti-American action. The same applies to drone strikes in Yemen or Pakistan today. The stupidity of the Department of Defense and the CIA exasperated all the anti-war people*—to think that they would do something so obviously bound to create more enemies!

Anyone familiar with public choice should not be surprised. Politicians and bureaucracies always try to perpetuate and extend their influence and power. Why would the CIA care that it is creating more enemies? Terrorism is the perfect justification for the boundless expansion of the intelligence-military-industrial complex’s budgets and mandates, so why should they try to put themselves out of a job?

Remember that the US government financed the training of the mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan and provided their weapons. Only the most hopelessly naive could doubt that the CIA must have been on the ground as well. Years later, out of that movement would arise Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda and the most wanted man in the world. The new movement of which he was a large part would be the next great enemy.

In retrospect, it might seem short-sighted for the US IMI complex to have supported the mujahideen—and it is, from a regular person’s point of view. But from their point of view, it’s like a gift that keeps on giving.

I stop short of saying they intend for this to happen. All government agencies have a tendency to focus on the very near term, and the rise of a new world-class enemy is many years in the making. But surely there are honest people inside the IMI complex who saw what the rest of the world saw, that they were only making more enemies? We have every reason to believe this idea was raised and considered. We know that if so, the leadership decided it wasn’t a good enough objection to stop any of the various US government war measures. Would that have been because they didn’t think it would have a big impact, or because that big impact will lead to many delightful tasks for the IMI complex in the future?

I want to emphasize than even though I disagree with most of what they do, all of those agencies contain honest people who truly believe in keeping Americans and possibly even foreigners safe. The problem with government agencies like these is that it doesn’t really matter what the motivations of the individual workers are; all of their efforts are directed, whether they like it or not, towards the ends that the leadership chooses. And we already know the worst rise to the top in government.

At the end of the day I can’t say firmly that blowback is a feature, not a bug. But there are reasons worth considering that it might be so.

* Back before most of them revealed themselves to oppose only Republican-led wars.


One thought on “The War on Terror and the normal behavior of government agencies

  1. Jesse Fallis

    The military industrial complex is just “too big to fail”, and as long as young men will volunteer to die for old men who weave complex lies with corporate news backed propaganda, in a nation pacified by consumerism and entertainment, no one will look at the bloody reality that is war, until it is thrusted in their face.

    People inside the CIA who warn about blowback are shushed. The political goals of presidents, senators, congressmen and the like, are a finite thing that can not be truly affected by the dynamic reality of what the situation on the ground is, that is, they won’t let the situation affect their intended outcome. Everything can be measured by blow back if we’re talking about post-US interventionism. It’s everywhere. If you want the best example of a worse-case-scenario involving blowback, Operation AJAX is it. You know shit’s fucked up when someone like Madeleine Albright says it’s a setback for democracy.

    The country now, more than ever, needs reasons to go to war. There is more money in war than anything else, but the United States can also continue to dump billions into R&D, demonstrating the economic importance that war and rebuilding has. Invade a country, no-bid contracts to rebuild it. I read about the CIA arming the mujahideen. On the outset, it’s pretty interesting. But once you start digging into it, it’s pretty fucking crazy. The CIA single handily armed the entire border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan near Karachi. AK-47s were so abundant, they were traded for chickens.

    Would the United States purposely arm them just because they knew that radicalism is harmless, unless they’re armed to the teeth? To have an indefinite enemy, knowing that the interdependencies of a globalized economy would be the end of nations at war, once the Soviet Union collapsed? I don’t know, but I do know that our elected officials are deeply embedded in the corporate existence and lobby of arms researchers and manufacturers, and that American exceptionalism basically prevents that person from acknowledging blowback, simply because America can do no wrong.

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