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America Has Turned a World Without Serious Enemies into the Most Threatening Place in the Universe

The U.S. is in less danger from external enemies than at any moment in the last century. So our security state demands we invent some.

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What’s remarkable is how little the disjuncture between the scope and scale of the global war that was almost instantly launched and the actual enemy at hand was ever noted here.  You could certainly make a reasonable argument that, in these years, Washington has largely fought no one -- and lost.  Everywhere it went, it created enemies who had, previously, hardly existed and the process is  ongoing.  Had you been able to time-travel back to the Cold War era to inform Americans that, in the future, our major enemies would be in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Libya, and so on, they would surely have thought you mad (or lucky indeed).

Creating an Enemy-Industrial Complex

Without an enemy of commensurate size and threat, so much that was done in Washington in these years might have been unattainable.  The vast national security  building and spending spree -- stretching from the Virginia suburbs of Washington, where the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency erected its new  $1.8 billion headquarters, to Bluffdale, Utah, where the National Security Agency is still constructing a  $2 billion, one-million-square-foot data center for storing the world’s intercepted communications -- would have been unlikely.

Without the fear of an enemy capable of doing anything, money at ever escalating levels would never have poured into homeland security, or the Pentagon, or a growing complex of crony corporations associated with our weaponized safety.  The exponential growth of the national security complex, as well as of  the powers of the executive branch when it comes to national security matters, would have far been less likely.

Without 9/11 and the perpetual “wartime” that followed, along with the heavily promoted threat of terrorists ready to strike and potentially capable of wielding biological, chemical, or even nuclear weapons, we would have no  Department of Homeland Security nor the lucrative  mini-homeland-security complex that surrounds it; the 17-outfit  U.S. Intelligence Community with its massive  $75 billion official budget would have been far less impressive; our endless drone wars and the “ drone lobby” that goes with them might never have developed; and the U.S. military would not have an ever growing  secret military, the Joint Special Operations Command, gestating inside it -- effectively the president’s private army, air force, and navy -- and already  conducting largely secret operations across much of the planet.

For all of this to happen, there had to be an enemy-industrial complex as well, a network of crucial figures and institutions ready to pump up the threat we faced and convince Americans that we were in a world so dangerous that rights, liberty, and privacy were small things to sacrifice for American safety.  In short, any number of interests from Bush administration figures eager to “ sweep it all up” and do whatever they wanted in the world to weapons makers, lobbyists, surveillance outfits, think tanks,  military intellectuals, assorted pundits... well, the whole national and homeland security racket and its various hangers-on had an interest in beefing up the enemy.  For them, it was important in the post-9/11 era that threats would never again lack a capital “T” or a hefty dollar sign.

And don’t forget a media that was ready to pound the drums of war and emphasize what dangerous enemies lurked in our world with remarkably few second thoughts.  Post-9/11, major media outlets were generally prepared to take the enemy-industrial complex’s word for it and play every new terrorist incident as if it were potentially the end of the world.  Increasingly as the years went on, jobs, livelihoods, an expanding world of “security” depended on the continuance of all this, depended, in short, on the injection of regular doses of fear into the body politic.

 
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