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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/

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La edición de julio de la revista paleo-conservadora norteamericana The American Conservative contiene un corto artículo del historiador norteamericano Andrew J. Bacevich que llamó mi atención. En su escrito titulado “Will Iraq Be  Forgotten Like Vietnam?”, Bacevich utiliza el tema de los más de 2,500 norteamericanos prisioneros de guerra  (Prissioners of War, POW) o perdidos en acción (Missing in Action, MIA) durante el conflicto de Vietnam para reflexionar en torno al tema de la memoria histórica en los Estados Unidos.

El autor comienza describiendo un cuadro que podría resultar familiar para quienes hayan vivido en un suburbio norteamericano: en el centro de Walpole (Massachussets) se encuentra, junto al asta de la bandera estadounidense, un estandarte negro con la siglas POW-MIA y la inscripción “You are not forgotten” (“No los hemos olvidado”). Esta bandera fue designada por el Congreso de los EEUU, en agosto de 1990, como “símbolo de la preocupación y compromiso de la nación norteamericana de resolver tanto como sea posible el destino de los norteamericanos que aún permanecen encancelados, perdidos o desaparecidos en el sudeste asiático” (U. S. Public Law 101-355, 10 de agosto de 1990).

Aunque la inscripción “You are not forgotten” enuncia un compromiso nacional de no olvidar a los perdidos en Vietnam, Bacevich reconoce que la realidad es otra, pues la mayoría de los estadounidenses –él incluído– hace tiempo que olvidó a quienes quedaron atrás en la junglas vietnamitas. Sólo los familiares de los POW-MIA mantienen vivo su recuerdo, pero este grupo está compuesto por un número muy limitado de personas.

A pesar de esta dura realidad, Bacevich plantea, no sin razón, que si la bandera ondeando en el centro de Walpole fuese removida, los habitantes de ese pueblo a 18 millas de Boston, levantarían su protesta e indignación.   ¿Por qué esta aparente contradicción? Para Bacevich la respuesta es sencilla: remover la bandera provocaría un “psychic void” (un vacío síquico) que los habitantes de Walpole no podrían tolerar porque, a pesar de los más de treinta años trascurridos desde su fin,  la guerra de Vietnam es un episodio inacabado de la historia estadounidense. Para el autor, desplegar la bandera de los POW-MIA es un testimonio de que Vietnam es “una parte del pasado que aún no ha sido totalmente relegada al pasado”. Esta acción conlleva, por un lado, el reconocimiento de un pérdida  como también de una gran falla nacional. Por el otro lado, también conlleva, nos dice Bacevich, la falsa pretensión de un ajuste de cuentas con el pasado y con la guerra de Vietnam en particular. En otras palabras, los perdidos en acción merecen volver a casa y el pueblo norteamericano merece saber por qué esos soldados fueron enviados al sudeste asiático.

Según Bacevich, esa reflexión histórica es prácticamente imposible porque  reexaminar lo ocurrido en Vietnam obligaría  a los norteamericanos a enfrentar “una plétora de verdades incómodas” no sólo sobre aquellos que  involucraron a la nación estadounidense en el conflicto indochino, sino también sobre la  forma de vida norteamericana y las premisas sobre las que ésta está basada. Muy pocos norteamericanos están dispuestos a enfrentar las duras realidades que abrir la puerta del tema vietnamita dejaría al descubierto porque ello les obligaría a revisar su forma de vida. Es por ello que, según Bacevich, prefieren calmar su conciencia con banderas, pretendiendo que les importa cuando en la realidad están desesperados por olvidar.

Para Bacevich, en la actualidad los norteamericanos continúan reproduciendo  el proceso de olvidar cuando pretenden recordar, pero no con relación a Vietnam. Hoy día es Irak la guerra que es necesario olvidar, dejar atrás para salvaguardar su forma de vida (yo añadiría, sus mitos nacionales, su comunidad imaginaria, su idea de nación cuyas acciones están siempre motivadas por objetivos nobles, su excepcionalismo y, sobre todo, su inocencia). De acuerdo con el autor, ya la administración Obama lo hizo al hacer causa común con los revisionistas de derecha que pretenden declarar la guerra en Irak un “gran triunfo” basados en el alegado éxito del “surge”, olvidando el costo humano de esa guerra antes y después del aumento de tropas norteamericanas a partir de 2007. La administración Obama está concentrado en su guerra en AfPak (Afganistán-Pakistán) y, convenientemente, ha dejado a Irak en el pasado.

Monumento a los Veteranos de Vietnam, Washington, D.C.

Bacevich cierra su escrito lanzando una interesante pregunta: ¿Se conocerá algún día la verdad sobre la guerra de Irak? Su respuesta es un categórico NO. Es muy probable que llegue el día que el Congreso estadounidense apruebe la construcción de un monumento a la guerra de Irak en la zona del Mall en la capital de los Estados Unidos, pero  según él, nunca investigará a fondo el fracaso norteamericano en tierras iraquíes porque “la verdad seguirá siendo inoportuna”. Desafortunadamente, la preferencia de los estadounidenses por una historia desinfectada y esterilizada continuará.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez.

Lima, Perú, 30 de mayo de 2010

Nota: Todas las traducciones del inglés son mi responsabilidad.





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Chalmers Johnson

Chalmers Johnson

En un ensayo titulado “There Good Reasons to Liquidate Our Empire and Ten Steps to Take to Do So» (TomDispatch.com, 30 de julio de 2009), el historiador norteamericano Chalmers Johnson enfoca uno de los elementos más característicos del imperialismo norteamericano: la extensión de sus bases militares alrededor del mundo.  Johnson es profesor emérito de la Universidad de California (San Diego) y uno de los críticos más filosos de la política exterior norteamericana. Este antiguo asesor de CIA es  autor de un trilogía clave  en el desarrollo de la historiografía reciente del imperialismo norteamericano: Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000), The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004) y Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (Metropolitan Books, 2006).

A Johnson le preocupa el efecto que pueda tener el imperio de bases militares sobre el programa reformista del Presidente Barack Obama. Para el autor, las bases militares ­–y el militarismo del que son una expresión– podrían tener tres consecuencias devastadoras para los Estados Unidos: sobre extender (“over-stretch”) militarmente a los Estados Unidos, provocar un estado perpetuo de guerra y/o llevar a la nación norteamericana a la ruina económica. Todo ello podría provocar un colapso similar al que sufrió la Unión Soviética. Palabras fuertes de un historiador sin pelos en la lengua.  Veamos a que se refiere Johnson.

Citando un inventario realizado por el Pentágono en 2008, Johnson alega que los Estados Unidos poseen 865 bases militares en 46 países y territorios estadounidenses. Según ese mismo inventario, los Estados Unidos tenían desplegados 196,000 soldados en sus bases. Por ejemplo, en Japón hay 46,364 miembros de las fuerzas armadas estadounidenses, acompañados por 45,753 familiares y apoyados por 4,178 empleados civiles norteamericanos.  Sólo en la pequeña isla de Okinawa hay 13,975 soldados norteamericanos.


Para Johnson, tal despliegue de poder militar no sólo es innecesario para garantizar la seguridad nacional de los Estados Unidos, sino que también excesivamente costoso. Citando un artículo de Anita Dancs, analista del “think tank” Foreign Policy in Focus, Johnson arguye que los Estados Unidos gastan $250 mil millones anuales en el mantenimiento de sus bases militares con un solo objetivo: garantizar su control de un imperio que nunca necesitaron y que “no pueden sostener”.

El autor identifica tres razones que, según él, hacen necesaria la eliminación de ese imperio de bases como un paso inevitable para el bienestar de los Estados Unidos:

  1. Los Estados Unidos ya no son capaces de mantener su hegemonía global  sin convocar a un desastre nacional. Según Johnson, los Estados Unidos no pueden mantener su rol hegemónico por razones económicas, pues son un país al borde de la bancarrota y en franca decadencia económica. Obviar esas realidades insistiendo en retener sus bases mundiales podría llevar al gobierno norteamericano a la insolvencia. Para justificar sus argumentos el autor recurre a cifras muy impresionantes, pues según él, para el 2010 el déficit presupuestario norteamericano será de $1.75 trillones, cifra que no incluye el presupuesto militar para el 2009 ascendente a $640 mil millones,  ni el costo de las guerras en Irak y Afganistán.  Johnson concluye que el pago de tal deuda tomara generaciones.
  2. Los Estados Unidos están destinados a ser derrotados en Afganistán. Según Johnson, las autoridades norteamericanos no han sido capaces de reconocer que tanto ingleses como soviéticos fracasaron en sus empresas militares en Afganistán empleando las mismas estrategias usadas por los Estados Unidos hoy en día. Esto constituye “uno de nuestros  más grandes errores estratégicos”.  Johnson critica que las acciones estadounidenses en Afganistán no estén basadas en el reconocimiento de la historia de una región que históricamente ha resistido con éxito la presencia de fuerzas foráneas. Éste crítica las tácticas estadounidenses, en especial, el uso de aviones a control remotos o “drones”, porque éstos provocan la muerte de civiles afganos inocentes,  enajenando el apoyo de quienes supuestamente los estadounidenses están “salvando para la democracia”. Además, las operaciones militares estadounidenses en Afganistán y Pakistán carecen de una inteligencia precisa sobre ambos países  y reflejan, por ende, una visión miope de la realidad política de la región.  Johnson cree que los Estados Unidos deben reconocer que la guerra en Afganistán está ya perdida y no desperdiciar más tiempo, vidas humanas y dinero en un conflicto que no pueden ganar.
  3. Es necesario que los Estados Unidos pongan fin a la vergüenza que acompaña su imperio de bases. El autor visualiza las bases militares como una especie de campo de juego sexual (“sexual playground”) donde los soldados norteamericanos comprometen con su conducta la imagen de los Estados Unidos. Según Johnson, miles de soldados norteamericanos son destinados a países cuya cultura no entienden y que, además, han sido enseñados a ver a sus habitantes como entes inferiores, lo que provoca serios problemas en su comportamiento, sobre todo, sexual. Para probar este punto el autor nos brinda cifras muy interesantes y reveladoras sobre la violencia sexual de que son objetos los residentes de las zonas aledañas a las bases militares norteamericanas ­–además de las mujeres que forman parte de las fuerzas armadas estadounidenses– y de cómo las autoridades militares norteamericanas no hacen, prácticamente, nada para frenar y castigar los delitos sexuales que comenten sus soldados. Para Johnson la solución está en reducir el tamaño de las fuerzas armadas trayendo de vuelta a los Estados Unidos a miles de soldados estadounidenses, desmantelando las bases donde éstos están desplegados.

Johnson no sólo identifica las razones que hacen necesario que los Estados Unidos desmantelen su imperio de bases, sino que también nos brinda diez medidas que él considera necesarias para ello. Entre ellas destacan: poner fin al mito creado por el complejo militar-industrial de que el establecimiento militar norteamericano es valioso en términos económicos, pues produce empleos e investigación científica. Johnson recomienda poner fin al uso de la fuerza como “el principal medio para alcanzar los objetivos de la política exterior” estadounidense.  El autor también sugiere reducir el tamaño del ejército, darle más ayuda médica a los veteranos afectados física o mentalmente, eliminar el ROTC, dejar de ser el principal exportador mundial de armas y restaurar la disciplina y la responsabilidad por sus acciones entre las tropas estadounidenses. NS_Rota

Johnson cierra su ensayo reconociendo que a lo largo de la historia pocos imperios han renunciado a “sus dominios” para salvar sus instituciones políticas. Es necesario, según el autor, que los Estados Unidos aprendan de dos ejemplos recientes (Gran Bretaña y la Unión Soviética) y tomen las medidas necesarias para frenar los efectos del imperialismo. El autor concluye su trabajo pronosticando que si los estadounidenses no aprenden de los errores  de los imperios que le antecedieron, será imposible evitar la “caída y decadencia” de los Estados Unidos de América.

Este corto ensayo nos brinda información valiosa sobre la extensión del militarismo norteamericano a nivel mundial y de sus consecuencias. Es claro que Johnson ve el mantenimiento de las  cientos  de bases militares norteamericanas como una rémora que compromete valiosos recursos económicos que podrían ser usados para enfrentar algunos de los serios problemas que enfrenta la nación estadounidense. Su enfoque es claramente aislacionista y moralista. Para él, los Estados Unidos deben reconocer que ya no son lo ricos y poderosos que solían ser, y concentrarse en sí mismos. Su tono refleja una visión muy pesimista del futuro de los Estados Unidos. Para Johnson, la nación norteamericana es un país en franca decadencia gracias a su obsesión belicista.  Es curioso que a principios del siglo XX analistas y críticos de la política exterior norteamericana, especialmente de la retención de las Filipinas como colonia y de la expansión de la marina de guerra, pronosticaron exactamente lo que hoy Johnson denuncia de forma tan severa.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez, Ph. D.

Lima, Perú, 10 de septiembre de 2009

Nota: todas las traducciones del inglés son mías.

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