Great Objectives and Grand Strategy

The Putrid Nature of the Imperialist Armed Forces

By Bob Avakian

Revolutionary Worker #1134, January 13, 2002, posted at

The RW is currently running this series of excerpts from an unpublished work by RCP Chairman Bob Avakian, "Great Objectives and Grand Strategy." Although written over a year ago, this work--and these excerpts in particular--contain much that is very relevant to the current crisis and war. This is the 8th in this series.

Along with our all-around political work in this period, there is also, even during this period, specific political work more directly concerned with the military sphere, including political work aimed at exposing the real nature and role of the imperialist armed forces. Included in this is political work, even now, to attack and undermine the "military culture" of the U.S. armed forces and their whole notion of themselves as "the good guys" taking on the "bad guys" all over the world -- and more specifically their notion that they represent and uphold virtues and values that the rest of "nasty" society has allowed to decay. In this context, I think there is a particular role for revolutionary-minded veterans of the imperialist armed forces and their wars: there is a particular contribution they can continue to make in helping to attack and undermine this "culture" and "ethos" and this notion that the imperialist armed forces of America are the "good guys on the white horses wearing the white hats."

In regard to the imperialist "military culture" of the U.S. armed forces, the books Making the Corps, as well as Black Hawk Down and Immaculate Invasion -- books written about the U.S. military and its wars and occupations in recent times -- contain numerous examples of the reactionary essence of this culture and its often grotesque expressions, even though in the main these books are actually attempting to put this culture in a positive light! What comes through is a worldview that fosters in the soldiers the notion that they, and the military institution of which they are a part, are superior to the rest of U.S. society -- which is "nasty" and is going to hell, falling into moral decay -- a view very much in line with that of the Right, and in particular the Christian Right, in American bourgeois politics. As Thomas Ricks puts it:

"The military increasingly appears to lean toward partisan conservatism....

"Changes in society have helped widen the gap between it and the military. These are more a matter of culture than of politics. Although there are disagreements over the implications of the changes, there is widespread agreement that over the last several decades, American society has become more fragmented, more individualistic, and arguably less disciplined, with institutions such as church, family, and school wielding less influence. These changes put it at odds with the classic military values of unity, self-discipline, sacrifice, and placing the interests of the group over those of the individual." (Making the Corps, pp. 280, 287. In this connection, the special RW supplement "The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy...And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer," which appeared during the Clinton impeachment crisis, contains some analysis on this point and includes another passage from Making The Corps which provides some insight.)

Ricks, the author of Making The Corps, also makes the revealing comparison between the "culture" of the Marines (and more generally the U.S. military) and that of Japan, which retains a significant element of feudal and feudo-militaristic concepts of "honor" and similar values:

"The culture that the Marines most resemble, oddly enough, is that of Japan. The Marines are almost a Japanese version of America--frugal, relatively harmonious, extremely hierarchal, and almost always placing the group over the individual....

"But there is value in the Marine perspective in America. The Marine view is most accurate in assessing what the United States offers the kind of people who make up today's recruits. These are kids from the bottom half of society. The military offers them a chance to escape from their limited futures, a chance to move into a kind of world like Japan, which...has the best bottom half in the world, where the lower socioeconomic portion of the population is successfully held to high standards." (ibid, pp. 199, 201.)

(Note that this subordination of the individual to the group in the imperialist military is within an "extremely hierarchal" and authoritarian framework--all in the interests of a ruling class which controls this military and uses it as its instrument of repression and imperialist domination, and which, ironically, draws "cannon fodder" from the classes it exploits and oppresses to fight for the ruling class's greater bourgeois-imperialist "group" [read: class] benefit. It is also worthwhile considering that the kind of feudal influence and tradition which the U.S. military "culture" shares in significant ways with Japanese culture may tie in with the fact that, down to today, a major element within the U.S. armed forces, and more particularly their military academies and officer corps, are white southerners, including many with a family "military tradition" going back to the Confederacy at the time of the Civil War -- and, in some cases, to the American War of Independence.)

This worldview is also described in Black Hawk Down (by Mark Bowden), about the experience of the U.S. army in Somalia in 1993. And what also comes through in that book, as in all these descriptions of the outlook and actions of U.S. soldiers, is the colonialist chauvinism of the U.S. imperialists, particularly as that takes form within their armed forces--a kind of "Caesarist" view of a "liberating" imperialism, combining contempt and condescension toward the peoples who are the object of American military domination, or, "liberation":

"You could send in your bleeding-heart do-gooders, you could hold hands and pray and sing hootenanny songs and invoke the great gods CNN and BBC, but the only way to finally open the roads to the big-eyed babies was to show up with more guns. And in this real world, nobody had more or better guns than America. If the good-hearted ideals of humankind were to prevail, then they needed men who could make it happen."

Here one is reminded of nothing so much as that phrase that so aptly described the NAZI worldview: "sentimental brutality." Reading further from Black Hawk Down:

"They [the army rangers in Somalia] were the cream, the most highly motivated young soldiers of their generation, selected to fit the army's ideal -- they were all male and, revealingly, nearly all-white (there were only two blacks among the 140-man company)....

"In this ancient male hierarchy, the Rangers were a few steps up the ladder, but the D-boys [Delta soldiers] owned the uppermost rung.

"Rangers knew the surest path to that height was combat experience....

"The Hoo-ahs [which is the cry of the Rangers] couldn't wait to go to war. They were an all-star football team that endured bruising, exhausting, dangerous practice sessions twelve hours a day, seven days a week--for years--without ever getting to play a game....

"It didn't matter that none of the men in these helicopters knew enough to write a high school paper about Somalia. They took the army's line without hesitation. Warlords had so ravaged the nation battling among themselves that their people were starving to death. When the world sent food, the evil warlords hoarded it and killed those who tried to stop them. So the civilized world had decided to lower the hammer, invite the baddest boys on the planet over to clean things up. 'Nuff said. Little the Rangers had seen since arriving at the end of August had altered that perception. Mogadishu was like the postapocalyptic world of Mel Gibson's Mad Max movies, a world ruled by roving gangs of armed thugs. They were here to rout the worst of the warlords and restore sanity and civilization." (BHD, pp. 33, 8, 9, 10)

Through all this, what is very striking is the "male-bonding" view of war as both a bully's chance to beat up on a lesser opponent (to "kick ass") and as closely akin to gang rape. The following from Immaculate Invasion (by Bob Shacochis), about the U.S. military's "soft invasion" and occupation of Haiti (the one ordered by Clinton, not the one earlier this century where the occupation lasted for quite a while) captures much of this:

"Let's go, we've got a job to do. Then, at the last possible moment before penetration, with the first-wave assault troops like the Eighty-second Airborne already launched off the Green Ramp back at Fort Bragg, the word buzzed through the ranks, leaving in its wake a rejection almost sexual in the way it completely collapsed the mindless, molecular rev of anticipation, the sense of incipient climax. Even the jargon of invasion encouraged the parallel imagery of fornication.

"Stand down.

"No fucking way.

"Gone was the forced entry, the hard entry. In its place, the `permissive' entry, the `soft' entry. Warfare's version of date rape. Men could die from friendly fire; governments could be undone by `friendly' occupation.

"Stand down.

"Don't cocktease, sir." (pp. 75-76, emphasis in original)

And, along with that, how familiar is the following which brings out how (in addition to viewing Korean women as objects of sexual plunder and turning vast parts of Korea into a whorehouse for U.S. soldiers, as is their continuing practice all over the world, wherever they are an occupying force) U.S. soldiers fighting in the Korean war went to Japan (then itself under U.S. occupation) to "raise their morale":

"The transition of a war-weary soldier or marine from a foxhole in Korea to the dazzling lights of Tokyo or other Japanese cities was staggering. But the hope for R&R buoyed many a man whose morale otherwise would have sunk. GIs quickly dubbed the R&R leaves I&I (Intercourse and Intoxication), or, more vulgarly, A&A (Ass and Alcohol)....

"While American women were expected to understand the trauma of Korea, Japanese women were not; or they were given credit, whether deserved or not, for deeper insights which their poor English prevented them from expressing.

"Whatever the other reasons, the principal reason why American women were not pursued more persistently was that the Japanese women answered every possible need of young men who wanted to get away from the reality of Korea and had little time in five days to explore lasting or deep relationships. The ready availability of modest, demure and extremely feminine young Japanese women seemed to them a heaven-sent gift. Strangely, however, the very muteness that the barrier of language placed between Westerner and Japanese often forced them into expressions of real feeling which a mutually intelligible language might have masked or prevented. However short they were, many of the encounters between GI or officer and Japanese girl-san left deep and lasting emotions on both sides." Sure!! (Alexander, Korea, The First War We Lost, pp. 396-98) Note, here too, the combination of predatory sentimentality and outright misogyny that is combined in this view of Japanese women and their "service" to--or "servicing" of--American soldiers.)

All this reveals not only the utterly putrid, rapacious nature of the U.S. imperialist armed forces and the corresponding outlook which is fostered among their troops, but also their strategic vulnerabilities, in particular the internal contradictions within these armed forces, including those revolving around the role of women in this kind of military!

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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