Feeds:
Entradas
Comentarios

Archive for 29 mayo 2013

Seleccione aquí para una versión en castellano de este artículo.

TomDispatch

Naming Our Nameless War 

How Many Years Will It Be?
By Andrew J. Bacevich

For well over a decade now the United States has been “a nation at war.” Does that war have a name?

It did at the outset.  After 9/11, George W. Bush’s administration wasted no time in announcing that the U.S. was engaged in a Global War on Terrorism, or GWOT.  With few dissenters, the media quickly embraced the term. The GWOT promised to be a gargantuan, transformative enterprise. The conflict begun on 9/11 would define the age. In neoconservative circles, it was known as World War IV.

Upon succeeding to the presidency in 2009, however, Barack Obama without fanfare junked Bush’s formulation (as he did again in a speech at the National Defense University last week).  Yet if the appellation went away, the conflict itself, shorn of identifying marks, continued.

Does it matter that ours has become and remains a nameless war? Very much so.

Names bestow meaning.  When it comes to war, a name attached to a date can shape our understanding of what the conflict was all about.  To specify when a war began and when it ended is to privilege certain explanations of its significance while discrediting others. Let me provide a few illustrations.

With rare exceptions, Americans today characterize the horrendous fraternal bloodletting of 1861-1865 as the Civil War.  Yet not many decades ago, diehard supporters of the Lost Cause insisted on referring to that conflict as the War Between the States or the War for Southern Independence (or even the War of Northern Aggression).  The South may have gone down in defeat, but the purposes for which Southerners had fought — preserving a distinctive way of life and the principle of states’ rights — had been worthy, even noble.  So at least they professed to believe, with their preferred names for the war reflecting that belief.

Schoolbooks tell us that the Spanish-American War began in April 1898 and ended in August of that same year.  The name and dates fit nicely with a widespread inclination from President William McKinley’s day to our own to frame U.S. intervention in Cuba as an altruistic effort to liberate that island from Spanish oppression.

Yet the Cubans were not exactly bystanders in that drama.  By 1898, they had been fighting for years to oust their colonial overlords.  And although hostilities in Cuba itself ended on August 12th, they dragged on in the Philippines, another Spanish colony that the United States had seized for reasons only remotely related to liberating Cubans.  Notably, U.S. troops occupying the Philippines waged a brutal war not against Spaniards but against Filipino nationalists no more inclined to accept colonial rule by Washington than by Madrid.  So widen the aperture to include this Cuban prelude and the Filipino postlude and you end up with something like this:  The Spanish-American-Cuban-Philippines War of 1895-1902.  Too clunky?  How about the War for the American Empire?  This much is for sure: rather than illuminating, the commonplace textbook descriptor serves chiefly to conceal.

Strange as it may seem, Europeans once referred to the calamitous events of 1914-1918 as the Great War.  When Woodrow Wilson decided in 1917 to send an army of doughboys to fight alongside the Allies, he went beyond Great.  According to the president, the Great War was going to be the War To End All Wars.  Alas, things did not pan out as he expected.  Perhaps anticipating the demise of his vision of permanent peace, War Department General Order 115, issued on October 7, 1919, formally declared that, at least as far as the United States was concerned, the recently concluded hostilities would be known simply as the World War.

In September 1939 — presto chango! — the World Warsuddenly became the First World War, the Nazi invasion of Poland having inaugurated a Second World War, also known asWorld War II or more cryptically WWII.  To be sure, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin preferred the Great Patriotic War. Although this found instant — almost unanimous — favor among Soviet citizens, it did not catch on elsewhere.

Does World War II accurately capture the events it purports to encompass?  With the crusade against the Axis now ranking alongside the crusade against slavery as a myth-enshrouded chapter in U.S. history to which all must pay homage, Americans are no more inclined to consider that question than to consider why a playoff to determine the professional baseball championship of North America constitutes a “World Series.”

In fact, however convenient and familiar, World War II is misleading and not especially useful.  The period in question saw at least two wars, each only tenuously connected to the other, each having distinctive origins, each yielding a different outcome.  To separate them is to transform the historical landscape.

On the one hand, there was the Pacific War, pitting the United States against Japan.  Formally initiated by the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, it had in fact begun a decade earlier when Japan embarked upon a policy of armed conquest in Manchuria.  At stake was the question of who would dominate East Asia.  Japan’s crushing defeat at the hands of the United States, sealed by two atomic bombs in 1945, answered that question (at least for a time).

Then there was the European War, pitting Nazi Germany first against Great Britain and France, but ultimately against a grand alliance led by the United States, the Soviet Union, and a fast fading British Empire.  At stake was the question of who would dominate Europe.  Germany’s defeat resolved that issue (at least for a time): no one would.  To prevent any single power from controlling Europe, two outside powers divided it.

This division served as the basis for the ensuing Cold War,which wasn’t actually cold, but also (thankfully) wasn’t World War III, the retrospective insistence of bellicose neoconservatives notwithstanding.  But when did the Cold Warbegin?  Was it in early 1947, when President Harry Truman decided that Stalin’s Russia posed a looming threat and committed the United States to a strategy of containment?  Or was it in 1919, when Vladimir Lenin decided that Winston Churchill’s vow to “strangle Bolshevism in its cradle” posed a looming threat to the Russian Revolution, with an ongoing Anglo-American military intervention evincing a determination to make good on that vow?

Separating the war against Nazi Germany from the war against Imperial Japan opens up another interpretive possibility.  If you incorporate the European conflict of 1914-1918 and the European conflict of 1939-1945 into a single narrative, you get a Second Thirty Years War (the first having occurred from 1618-1648) — not so much a contest of good against evil, as a mindless exercise in self-destruction that represented the ultimate expression of European folly.

So, yes, it matters what we choose to call the military enterprise we’ve been waging not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in any number of other countries scattered hither and yon across the Islamic world.  Although the Obama administration appears no more interested than the Bush administration in saying when that enterprise will actually end, the date we choose as its starting point also matters.

Although Washington seems in no hurry to name its nameless war — and will no doubt settle on something self-serving or anodyne if it ever finally addresses the issue — perhaps we should jump-start the process.  Let’s consider some possible options, names that might actually explain what’s going on.

The Long War: Coined not long after 9/11 by senior officers in the Pentagon, this formulation never gained traction with either civilian officials or the general public.  Yet the Long War deserves consideration, even though — or perhaps because — it has lost its luster with the passage of time.

At the outset, it connoted grand ambitions buoyed by extreme confidence in the efficacy of American military might.  This was going to be one for the ages, a multi-generational conflict yielding sweeping results.

The Long War did begin on a hopeful note.  The initial entry into Afghanistan and then into Iraq seemed to herald “home by Christmas” triumphal parades.  Yet this soon proved an illusion as victory slipped from Washington’s grasp.  By 2005 at the latest, events in the field had dashed the neo-Wilsonian expectations nurtured back home.

With the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan dragging on, “long” lost its original connotation.  Instead of “really important,” it became a synonym for “interminable.”  Today, the Long Wardoes succinctly capture the experience of American soldiers who have endured multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

For Long War combatants, the object of the exercise has become to persist.  As for winning, it’s not in the cards. TheLong War just might conclude by the end of 2014 if President Obama keeps his pledge to end the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan and if he avoids getting sucked into Syria’s civil war.  So the troops may hope.

The War Against Al-Qaeda: It began in August 1996 when Osama bin Laden issued a “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” i.e., Saudi Arabia.  In February 1998, a second bin Laden manifesto announced that killing Americans, military and civilian alike, had become “an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.”

Although President Bill Clinton took notice, the U.S. response to bin Laden’s provocations was limited and ineffectual.  Only after 9/11 did Washington take this threat seriously.  Since then, apart from a pointless excursion into Iraq (where, in Saddam Hussein’s day, al-Qaeda did not exist), U.S. attention has been focused on Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have waged the longest war in American history, and on Pakistan’s tribal borderlands, where a CIA drone campaign is ongoing.  By the end of President Obama’s first term, U.S. intelligence agencies were reporting that a combined CIA/military campaign had largely destroyed bin Laden’s organization.  Bin Laden himself, of course, was dead.

Could the United States have declared victory in its unnamed war at this point?  Perhaps, but it gave little thought to doing so.  Instead, the national security apparatus had already trained its sights on various al-Qaeda “franchises” and wannabes, militant groups claiming the bin Laden brand and waging their own version of jihad.  These offshoots emerged in the Maghreb, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, and — wouldn’t you know it — post-Saddam Iraq, among other places.  The question as to whether they actually posed a danger to the United States got, at best, passing attention — the label “al-Qaeda” eliciting the same sort of Pavlovian response that the word “communist” once did.

Americans should not expect this war to end anytime soon.  Indeed, the Pentagon’s impresario of special operations recently speculated — by no means unhappily — that it would continue globally for “at least 10 to 20 years.”   Freely translated, his statement undoubtedly means: “No one really knows, but we’re planning to keep at it for one helluva long time.”

The War For/Against/About Israel: It began in 1948.  For many Jews, the founding of the state of Israel signified an ancient hope fulfilled.  For many Christians, conscious of the sin of anti-Semitism that had culminated in the Holocaust, it offered a way to ease guilty consciences, albeit mostly at others’ expense.  For many Muslims, especially Arabs, and most acutely Arabs who had been living in Palestine, the founding of the Jewish state represented a grave injustice.  It was yet another unwelcome intrusion engineered by the West — colonialism by another name.

Recounting the ensuing struggle without appearing to take sides is almost impossible.  Yet one thing seems clear: in terms of military involvement, the United States attempted in the late 1940s and 1950s to keep its distance.  Over the course of the 1960s, this changed.  The U.S. became Israel’s principal patron, committed to maintaining (and indeed increasing) its military superiority over its neighbors.

In the decades that followed, the two countries forged a multifaceted “strategic relationship.”  A compliant Congress provided Israel with weapons and other assistance worth many billions of dollars, testifying to what has become an unambiguous and irrevocable U.S. commitment to the safety and well-being of the Jewish state.  The two countries share technology and intelligence.  Meanwhile, just as Israel had disregarded U.S. concerns when it came to developing nuclear weapons, it ignored persistent U.S. requests that it refrain from colonizing territory that it has conquered.

When it comes to identifying the minimal essential requirements of Israeli security and the terms that will define any Palestinian-Israeli peace deal, the United States defers to Israel.  That may qualify as an overstatement, but only slightly.  Given the Israeli perspective on those requirements and those terms — permanent military supremacy and a permanently demilitarized Palestine allowed limited sovereignty — the War For/Against/About Israel is unlikely to end anytime soon either.  Whether the United States benefits from the perpetuation of this war is difficult to say, but we are in it for the long haul.

The War for the Greater Middle East: I confess that this is the name I would choose for Washington’s unnamed war and is, in fact, the title of a course I teach.  (A tempting alternative is the Second Hundred Years War, the “first” having begun in 1337 and ended in 1453.)

This war is about to hit the century mark, its opening chapter coinciding with the onset of World War I.  Not long after the fighting on the Western Front in Europe had settled into a stalemate, the British government, looking for ways to gain the upper hand, set out to dismantle the Ottoman Empire whose rulers had foolishly thrown in their lot with the German Reich against the Allies.

By the time the war ended with Germany and the Turks on the losing side, Great Britain had already begun to draw up new boundaries, invent states, and install rulers to suit its predilections, while also issuing mutually contradictory promises to groups inhabiting these new precincts of its empire.  Toward what end?  Simply put, the British were intent on calling the shots from Egypt to India, whether by governing through intermediaries or ruling directly.  The result was a new Middle East and a total mess.

London presided over this mess, albeit with considerable difficulty, until the end of World War II.  At this point, by abandoning efforts to keep Arabs and Zionists from one another’s throats in Palestine and by accepting the partition of India, they signaled their intention to throw in the towel. Alas, Washington proved more than willing to assume Britain’s role.  The lure of oil was strong.  So too were the fears, however overwrought, of the Soviets extending their influence into the region.

Unfortunately, the Americans enjoyed no more success in promoting long-term, pro-Western stability than had the British.  In some respects, they only made things worse, with the joint CIA-MI6 overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran in 1953 offering a prime example of a “success” that, to this day, has never stopped breeding disaster.

Only after 1980 did things get really interesting, however.  The Carter Doctrine promulgated that year designated the Persian Gulf a vital national security interest and opened the door to greatly increased U.S. military activity not just in the Gulf, but also throughout the Greater Middle East (GME).  Between 1945 and 1980, considerable numbers of American soldiers lost their lives fighting in Asia and elsewhere.  During that period, virtually none were killed fighting in the GME.  Since 1990, in contrast, virtually none have been killed fighting anywhere except in the GME.

What does the United States hope to achieve in its inherited and unending War for the Greater Middle East?  To pacify the region?  To remake it in our image?  To drain its stocks of petroleum?  Or just keeping the lid on?  However you define the war’s aims, things have not gone well, which once again suggests that, in some form, it will continue for some time to come.  If there’s any good news here, it’s the prospect of having ever more material for my seminar, which may soon expand into a two-semester course.

The War Against Islam: This war began nearly 1,000 years ago and continued for centuries, a storied collision between Christendom and the Muslim ummah.  For a couple of hundred years, periodic eruptions of large-scale violence occurred until the conflict finally petered out with the last crusade sometime in the fourteenth century.

In those days, many people had deemed religion something worth fighting for, a proposition to which the more sophisticated present-day inhabitants of Christendom no longer subscribe.  Yet could that religious war have resumed in our own day?  Professor Samuel Huntington thought so, although he styled the conflict a “clash of civilizations.”  Some militant radical Islamists agree with Professor Huntington, citing as evidence the unwelcome meddling of “infidels,” mostly wearing American uniforms, in various parts of the Muslim world.  Some militant evangelical Christians endorse this proposition, even if they take a more favorable view of U.S. troops occupying and drones targeting Muslim countries.

In explaining the position of the United States government, religious scholars like George W. Bush and Barack (Hussein!) Obama have consistently expressed a contrary view.  Islam is a religion of peace, they declare, part of the great Abrahamic triad.  That the other elements of that triad are likewise committed to peace is a proposition that Bush, Obama, and most Americans take for granted, evidence not required.  There should be no reason why Christians, Jews, and Muslims can’t live together in harmony.

Still, remember back in 2001 when, in an unscripted moment, President Bush described the war barely begun as a “crusade”?  That was just a slip of the tongue, right?  If not, we just might end up calling this one the Eternal War.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University and a TomDispatch regular. His next book, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Countrywill appear in September.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook orTumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’sThe Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

View this story online at: http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175704/

Read Full Post »

Biblioteca Virtual de Puerto Rico

Luego de la Guerra Hispanoamericana se escribieron muchos libros sobre las nuevas posesiones que adquirió Estados Unidos  en el Pacífico y en el Caribe. Y es que todo iba dirigido a marimutque la sociedad y el capital americano conociera las nuevas oportunidades de negocio que ofrecía estos territorios. El libro Our Island and Their People  (1900) fue uno de esos libros y a su vez es uno de los más conocidos. Para Puerto Rico el valor de esta obra recae en la extensa colección de fotos y descripción de nuestra isla para esos años.

El Dr. José A. Mari Mut, destacado científico y entomólogo del Recinto Universitario de Mayaguez (UPR) luego de una extensa producción en la literatura científica, ha decidido realizar diversos trabajos sobre la historia y cultura de Puerto Rico. Y gracias a estos trabajos, el Dr. Mari Mut nos vuelve a traer a la atención  precisamente…

Ver la entrada original 82 palabras más

Read Full Post »

En este interesante artículo publicado por la History News Network (HNN) el  historiador norteamericano Keith W. Olson (University of Maryland) examina la presidencia de Dwight D. Eisenhower (Ike). Olson concluye que en estos momentos en que el Partido Republicano –derrotado por Barack Obama en noviembre pasado– busca reiventarse, Eisenhower debería ser el modelo a seguir por los Republicanos. Para ello destaca el caracter moderado del que es, sin lugar dudas, el presidente Republicano más importante de la segunda mitad del siglo XX.

Republicans Should Like Ike | History News Network.

469px-Dwight_D._Eisenhower,_official_Presidential_portrait

Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Ike”

As Republican leaders continue to try to redefine their party identity they would do well to review the legacy of Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, arguably, the most successful president since World War II. As president he faced crises and challenges both foreign and domestic, different from those of today but equal in magnitude, as well as the need to maintain national leadership.

During the 1950s the containment of the nuclear-armed Soviet Union dominated all other concerns. From the Truman administration, Eisenhower also inherited a limited war in Korea. A year later he faced a French request for military aid to save their colonial empire in Southeast Asia. Also in 1954 — and again in 1958 — he confronted tense relations with the People’s Republic of China over territorial claims and policies in the Formosa Strait.

In October 1956 three of the nation’s closest allies — the United Kingdom, France, and Israel — invaded Egypt without informing Eisenhower. The war soon involved threats from the Soviet Union. Simultaneously, the Soviets invaded Hungary to crush the Hungarian Revolution, which had overthrown the communist government in that country. A year after the Suez crisis the Soviets launched the world’s first human-made satellite, called Sputnik, to orbit the earth. While not a military threat, Sputnik sparked serious public discussion about America’s ability to compete with the Soviets.

To all of these crises Eisenhower sought non-military resolutions.

In Korea he completed a negotiated settlement, a policy the Truman administration had started. Eisenhower likewise successfully negotiated with the People’s Republic of China and aggressively pressured Britain and France into withdrawing from the Suez.

Eisenhower’s political, and economic achievements reflected stability, continuity, and moderation. As president he favored an increase in the minimum wage and extended unemployment benefits to an additional four million workers. In 1956 he broadened Social Security to include new categories of occupations and thereby added 10.5 million wage earners, including public school teachers.

Two initiatives illustrated Eisenhower’s commitment to infrastructure. The first was the St. Lawrence Seaway Act, which provided construction of locks that linked the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. In 1956 Congress enacted his proposed Federal Aid Highway Act, the largest public works project in American history. He wanted the project to finance itself through a federal tax on gas and oil with states contributing ten percent of construction cost in their states. In 1958 the National Defense Education Act provided the first major aid to higher education since 1862. Under Eisenhower the budget of the National Science Foundation more than doubled.

For Eisenhower the economy, especially the federal budget, directly related to military strength and domestic prosperity. He inherited a budget deficit of approximately $10 billion. By 1956 he balanced the first of his balanced budgets. Steadfastly he maintained high federal income tax to uphold economic health. For incomes over $400,000, the federal income tax was 91 percent (albeit with deductions). Eisenhower also systematically reduced the military budget in actual dollars as well as in percentage of the total budget through his New Look policy.

The congressional elections of 1954, 1956, and 1958 returned Democratic majorities to both houses of Congress. His 1956 re-election meant that he faced Democratic control of Congress for the last six years of his presidency.

In his farewell address Eisenhower wanted “to share a few final thoughts with you my countrymen.” After this beginning, he immediately reported that “Our people expect their president and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the nation.” He referred to this relationship as “mutually interdependent” and continued that “In this final relations, the Congress and the administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the nation should go forward.” He concluded that “my official relationship with the Congress end[s] in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.”

The American voters responded enthusiastically to Eisenhower’s leadership. In 1952 he won election by more than 6.5 million votes. Four years later he won reelection by more than 9.5 million votes. Another measure of evaluation was approval rating. Harry Truman left office with a rating of 23 percent, the lowest of any post-World War II president (until George W. Bush, that is). In Eisenhower’s last year 61 percent approved of Americans approved of his performance. His eight-year average approval was 65 percent. The trust American had in their government to do what was right all or most of the time constituted yet another category of evaluation. In 1960 the trust in government reached 70 percent.

The more scholars have researched about Eisenhower and his administration the higher their assessments. Consistently in polls he now merits eighth, ninth, or tenth rank among all presidents. In 1996, for example, The Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. poll of historians placed Eisenhower tenth. The Siena College Institute found that “experts” listed him in the top ten in its 1994, 2002, and 2010 surveys. C-SPAN’s 2009 analysis by “sixty-five historians and professional observers of the presidency” placed Eisenhower eighth.

With hindsight, of course, not all of Eisenhower’s decisions, actions, and policies win applause — but the total record is overwhelmingly favorable. In terms of legislation, international relations, and economics he left solid achievements. Voters overwhelmingly supported his presidency and scholars admire his record. During his presidency Eisenhower’s achievements and his public image contributed to high public trust in government, belief in the role of government, and ability to form bipartisan coalitions to advance the national interest. Eisenhower’s record is one Republican leaders should celebrate, not ignore.

Read Full Post »

Foner - ReconstructionEn su reunión anual celebrada en San Francisco a mediados de abril de 2013, la Organization of American Historians (OAH) rindió un merecido homenaje al historiador Eric Foner (Columbia University) por los veinticinco años de la publicación de su clásico libro Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. Publicado en 1998 por Harper & Row, la obra de Foner  es uno de los libros imprescindibles para entender el periodo posterior a la guerra civil norteamericana.

El fin del conflicto Norte-Sur dio paso  a un problema: ¿qué hacer con los  estados sureños derrotados ? Abraham Lincoln favorecía una política generosa que permitiera la reintegración rápida de los sureños a la Unión norteamericana. Lamentablemente para éstos, Lincoln fue asesinado en 1865, lo que llevó a un intenso debate entre su sucesor, Andrew Johnson, y el Congreso federal.  Johnson creía necesario que los estados sureños fueron reincorporados a la nación norteamericana rápidamente. En el Congreso había un grupo de senadores y representantes conocidos como los radicales,  liderados por Thaddeus Stevens, que creían necesario aprovechar la derrota del Sur para reconstruir o rehacer esa región. Las diferencias entre el presidente y el Congreso desembocaron en un  conflicto directo que resultó en una victoria de los congresistas radicales. De ahí que se identifique el periodo posterior a la guerra civil como la era de la Reconstrucción.

Para celebrar los 25 años de Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, la OAH organizó una mesa  compuesta por Foner, Kate Masur (Northwestern University), Heather Andrea Williams (Univeristy of North Carolina- Chapel Hill), Gregory P. Downs (CUNY), Thavolia Glymph (Duke University) y Steve Hahn (UPenn University). Estos colegas desarrollaron un interesante y valioso intercambio sobre la importancia de la obra de Foner en el desarrollo de la historiografía norteamericana.

Comparto con mis lectores un video de esta mesa que fue preparado por The History News Network (HNN).

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Científicos del Smithsonian Institute confirman la práctica de canibalismo en Jamestown, el primer asentamiento británico exitoso en América del Norte.

Cannibalism confirmed at Jamestown | History News Network.

Read Full Post »

1360065831La British Association of Nineteenth-Century Americanists (BrAnca) pone a disposición de aquellos interesados en la investigación de la historia y cultura de los Estados Unidos, una interesante y valiosa lista de recursos digitales. Esta lista abarca temas tan diversos como la literatura anti-esclavista, Mark Twain y su época, una impresionante colección de  fotos de linchamientos y  una colección de panfletos afro-americanos.

Read Full Post »