Pillorying Dedicated Soldiers Does Not Add Up to Sustainable Business


Three times, Justmeans readers have encountered direct depictions of the ravages of Depleted Uranium(DU), or mediated accounts of those travesties, or epidemiological and epistemological explorations of DU's impacts. Today, this epitome of the precise opposite of sustainable business takes a new, dark bow, in the form of the first of a three-piece narrative of the heroes who are fighting for human rights over plutocratic profits in this ongoing nightmare.

Colonel Doug Rokke, United States Army Retired, represents the edge that U.S. forces have prototypically had on the battlefields of the world. Unfortunately, as the reader shall see in some detail, instead of valuing and validating the tremendous burden that this soldier shouldered, and then responding to his well-formulated leadership, the United States Government ejected him, continuing to hope that, by impudence and silence, it can so dispirit him that he gives up and slinks away.

Before perambulating down the trail toward justice that Colonel Rokke sought to blaze, however, a few points about interconnection, ever of interest and import to this humble correspondent, seem apt to emphasize. This appropriateness stems from the military and imperial nature of the material under review, on the one hand, and from the impulsions of capital to extend the horizons of commoditization, on the other hand.

Readers who have followed along in the lee of THC's meandering exposition will have noted repeated instances of the imperial thread that ties together contemporary reality, both in terms of local affairs and the broadest possible conception of global development. In the annals of humanity thus far available, never before has an empire maintained control through primarily peaceful or amicable means.

On the contrary, in fact, as the potency of such hegemony has grown under capitalism, in many ways its application to the hinterlands has become more and more toxic and lethal. William Appleman Williams is only an iconic instance of such critique that has shown up in these pages.

One aspect of accomplishing some simulacrum of liberation from the multiple phenomena that propound the continuation of tyrannical and centralized norms of power must be the problem of comprehending them and then widely communicating that comprehension. Often, of course, merely to make the attempt takes a common citizen outside her comfort zone as she starts to read titles like this, which turn out to be highly enlightening about this sort of question: "Lenin's 'Imperialism' Reads Like It Was Written Yesterday."

One cannot simultaneously duck confrontation with the powers-that-be and seek a way to deconstruct their potency. A second element of freeing citizens everywhere from overarching dictatorial and colonial methodologies, obviously, is the age old issue of song and fable of 'where we go from here.' An educator in Central Canada sees three ways to conceptualize an 'education for global citizenship:' "a neoliberal approach, a radical approach, and a transformational approach."

Another assessment emphasizes the trickle-up potential of popular responses to global corporate agendas. "In response(to predominance), social movements are working together, organizing the constituencies emerging from corporate globalization. In the process they are reconstituting political community. What are the key features of these new communities? How far do they create new forms out of old, and in particular, what is the fate of nationalism? As state legitimacy falters and is not re-constructed at the international level, social movements have constituted what some have called a global civil society," a concept that at least contains a modicum of hope.

In a way that further amplifies this tension, from the humblest portrayals of intrepid entrepreneursto the broadest summaries of capital's potent purview, this humble correspondent has presented evidence of the way that political economy applies in the production, policy, and cultural arenas. No matter the place on the planet--save for a few 'backwaters' or 'transitional objects', the purchase of commodities and the concomitant force of 'purchasing power' has risen to encompass more and more of human existence.

Any idea of retracting commodity forms altogether will likely equate to mass collective homicide of one sort or another. Some Marxist thinkingis examining interesting methods for socialization of production that centralize communities in the productive process. But even the most radical approaches recognize the inevitable continuity of commodity production in some form for quite some time.

A key issue in this regard, arguably, is the way that more and more of commodity production leaves behind any direct connection with tangible, not to mention useful, use-values. One manifestation of this, of course, is the common promulgation of degraded ecosystems. Many critics of such a process "thus demonstrate the centrality of capitalist political economy to the construction of the substantive problem (environmental harm) and to the limitations of existing regulatory regimes in relation to this problem." On the other hand, many other commentators speak of such a process of alienating use from value more generally.

At the very least, inserting local evaluation and general democracy into the commodity nexus would have to yield a better chance of utility, with the added benefit of opening up dialogs about what, if anything, might transform capital's ugliness in the matter of the 'story of stuff.' Many entities related to ideas and processes already present in these pages, especially emanating from the United Nations, express such ideation as a form of sustainable business. Other thinkers give extremely radical and thoroughgoing alternatives to these tamer analyses.

Additionally, an ongoing theme in many of THC's postings has concerned the epistemological and productive nature of the drive to magnify the technocratic arcana of scientific endeavor, and thereby to insulate science from democratic dialog and popular participation. Although many of the interlocutors in these pageshave stood up to and attempted to deconstruct such arrogation of the fundamental nature of homo sapiens, the 'mainstream trend' has for several generations remained quite the opposite.

The work of Harry Braverman provides a redoubtable counterpoint to such thinking. "The idea of sacrificing six to seven hours of my day," he said in an interview some thirty five years ago, "in order to enjoy the rest of my day (is), if you'll forgive the expression, bullsh**. Because it will be this vacuum in peoples' lives that more than ever shapes their existence. The more that working peoples' lives are emptied of content(on the job) the more the same thing will happen outside of work."

Nonetheless, of course, part of the developmental dialectic of modern science has continued to emphasize this disempowerment of common citizens and grassroots communities. Most analysis, of all stripes, supports this thesis. "Technocracy is problematic because it disempowers citizens."

That democratic dialog might benefit attempts to manage the devolutionary spirals of humankind just now is only the surface rationale for disfranchising scientific arrogance. Suffice for this juncture that we agree that thousands of scientists, policy makers, and citizens recognize this conjunction of democracy and participation as useful, if not essential.

Finally, an ongoing trope in THC's dialogic efforts has remained the intertwining of militaristic muscle, industrial enterprise, and financial creativity. One way of expressing this is the "combination of military, governmental, and industrial power" that President Eisenhower warned us to avoid as he left office to play more golf and hope his grandchildren's grandchildren did not expire in some sort of self-induced holocaust.

Of course, WANDkeeps formulating the hideous insanity of military spending, the way that it guts any hope, not only for peace and general equanimity, but also for anything even vaguely similar to prosperity and community-centered productive development. James Madison, bless his bourgeois soul, summed up a 'radical-liberal' conceptualization of such ideas. "Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

Such magnificent empirical work as the Lysistrata Project makes unavoidable the conclusion that, whatever else sustainable business necessitates, a deconstruction of militarism must be one item that people find a way to ditch. No other conclusion is even vaguely defensible.

A properly in-depth analysis of the deeply strategic underpinnings of these 'pork-barrel,' 'log-rolling' political machinations must form the foundation for finding a way toward a different political economic future. Whether this ends up formulating sustainable business, or, as THC is inclined to believe, necessitates social democracy, remains to be seen. Obviously, many socialists would find themselves inclined to agree with THC.

In any event, from China to Chile, from Canada to India, from England to Australia, the world's money and power buttons are in the hands of the generals and those puppet-masters behind the generals who arrange for the cash and construction. While a publication such as Monthly Review clearly is speaking ideologically as well as analytically in affirming such a point-of-view, nothing in this invalidates its analytical acuity. Those who long for 'business better' might profitably tune in, especially on a day when military ordnance decisions are a key underlying component of the story.

A key thinker and military-strategist of America's inner-economic circle, sitting opposite Vannevar Bush's science chair in a policy post "was solely concerned with making sure that the “military-industrial complex” (not his word) that had been built up during the Second World War did not come unravelled after the war. Ironically, the Army Ordnance Association had been set up for this very purpose in the aftermath of the First World War. To some extent, Wilson’s speech was a warning not to let this happen again. He was arguing not for military Keynesiansim but for gearing up for the war with the Soviet Union that most feared was coming. The first author to use the term “Permanent War Economy,” and to mean by that a form of military Keynesianism that was contemporary capitalism’s only way out, a means of transferring wealth from the working classes to capital by means of government taxation, was Edward Sard." And Sard's vision still prevails.

Even a vaguely thorough in-depth background, about such an issue as the DU morass on the stage today, would include significantly more volume and at least a few additional conceptual elements compared to these prefatory remarks. Perhaps what THC has proffered here, though, will suffice to launch readers to the next step in the process, a review of the history of Depleted Uranium itself, up to the point that actual munitions flew to their targets, and then Captain Rokke faced the task of doing his best to do his duty in an impossible clean up situation.