Another century of war? by Gabriel Kolko.

Publisher's synopsis

Gabriel Kolko's new book, Another Century of War?, is a candid and critical look at America's "new wars" by a brilliant and provocative analyst of its old ones. Gabriel Kolko's masterly studies of conflict have redefined our views of modern warfare and its effects; in this urgent and timely treatise, he turns his attention to our current crisis and the dark future it portends.

Another Century of War? insists that the roots of terrorism lie in America's own cynical policies in the Middle East and Afghanistan, a half-century of realpolitik justified by crusades for oil and against communism. The latter threat has disappeared, but America has become even more ambitious in its imperialist adventures and, as the recent crisis proves, even less secure.

America, Kolko contends, reacts to the complexity of world affairs with its advanced technology and superior firepower, not with realistic political response and negotiation. He offers a critical and well-informed assessment of whether such a policy offers any hope of attaining greater security for America. Raising the same hard-hitting questions that made his Century of War a "crucial" (Globe and Mail) assessment of our age of conflict, Kolko asks whether the wars of the future will end differently from those in our past.

From Another century of war?

Gabriel Kolko

"A foreign policy that is both immoral and unsuccessful is not simply stupid, it is increasingly dangerous to those who practice or favor it. That is the predicament that the United States now confronts.

Communism no longer exists, American military power has never been greater, but the US has never been so insecure and its people more vulnerable. After fifty years of interventions in the affairs of dozens of nations on every continent, interventions that varied from training police and armies to supplying them with lethal equipment and advisers to teach them how to use it, after two major wars involving its own manpower for years, America's sustained, intense, and costly efforts have only culminated in greater risks to itself. There is more instability and violence in the world than ever, and now it has finally reached its own shores - and its political leaders have declared it will continue. By any criterion, above all the security of its own citizens, the United States' international policies, whether military or political, have produced consummate failures. It is neither realistic nor ethical. It is a shambles of confusions and contradictions, pious, superficial morality combined with cynical adventurism, all of which has undermined, not strengthened, the safety of the American people and left a world more dangerous than ever.

It is not accurate, nor is it consolation, to argue as many do that without an activist foreign policy and military policy the present world situation could have been worse or that communism would have triumphed in many more places. Many of the CIA's analysts always perceived the Soviet Union's actions as essentially defensive, and that it was ready to grasp opportunities that posed no obvious dangers to it but unwilling to take great risks. As Marxists they believed that history was predestined to favor them, and that adventurism was unnecessary - "infantile," to use Lenin's description. But communism was a reflection rather than the cause of the severe disorder in international affairs that produced two incredibly destructive world wars, a result of deeper and older problems, and those who led the USSR gradually ceased to have the conviction essential to perpetuate the original Leninist beliefs and systemic legacies. As a ruling system, it has disappeared in Europe and virtually disintegrated in Asia, peacefully and by its own leaders' volition - and not by force of American arms.

The fear of communism which justified vast military expenses and mobilized NATO and America's allies is now gone, but the qualitative importance of this fundamental transformation has not led to any equivalent or appropriate changes in Washington's perceptions, much less spending. It can no longer define its enemies clearly, where they live or how they will behave, and it is unwilling to confront the analytic problems that the immense changes in world affairs since 1989 have created. The U.S.' most symbolic sites - Wall Street and the Pentagon - have been devastatingly attacked, and it is now plain, as the government itself has predicted for several years, that the country itself is highly vulnerable. Bin Laden's network replaced "rogue states" for a time, but essentially American strategy continues to flounder: it prepared for nuclear and mechanized war in Europe but fought only in Asia, where it was stalemated and lost two major conflicts. It encouraged and funded wars by Iraq against Iran and against the Soviets in Afghanistan only to have to fight the very people it once believed were merely its proxies. It has confronted innumerable surprises in Latin America and Africa - to mention but a few of its policy failures - and it has precious little control in both those continents. The US' ambitions in the century that is just beginning far exceed its military, political, and moral resources for attaining them, and if it does not acknowledge the limits of its power - which it should have done much earlier - it will continue to embark on quixotic adventures in every corner of the world and experience more terrorism on its own shores.

The US has more military equipment than ever, and since 1950 Pentagon spending has become one of the traditional and indispensable foundations of American prosperity. There is no indication whatsoever that it will decline. But there are no technological quick-fixes to political problems. Solutions are political, which requires another mentality and a great deal more wisdom, including a readiness to make compromises and, above all, stay out of the affairs of nations, or they will not succeed. Worse yet, its reliance on weapons and force has exacerbated or created far more problems for the US than it has solved. After September 11 there can be no doubt that arms have not brought security to America. It is not only to the world's interest that the America adapt to the realities of the twenty-first century. What is new is that it is now, more than ever, to the interest of the American people themselves. It is imperative that the U.S. also acknowledge the very limits of its power - limits that are inherent in its own military illusions and in the very nature of a world that is far too big and complex for any country to even dream of managing.

Mankind cannot endure another century of war, because future wars will be far more destructive, to civilians as well as soldiers."

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Gabriel Kolko is Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at York University in Toronto. He is the author of Anatomy of War and Century of War, both available from The New Press. Another Century of War? is also published by The New Press (W W Norton), New York, 2002.


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