The Shifting U.S. Military

I am nearing the end of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, which I was at first reluctant to read. Though I found the topic compelling (and thoroughly admired No Logo), I had heard Klein speak on the subject at Seattle's Town Hall and found her disappointingly short on information (very unlike her book). (A friend and I played Buzzword BINGO during the event, as Klein repeated the words: exodus, dystopia, dictatorship, shock and awe, agenda, Chicago, revolutionary, Haliburton, terror, and torture.) But I picked up a copy of the book (gave it a few curls; it's heavy) and haven't put it down. I have come to believe Klein's analysis of disaster capitalism is probably one of the most thought-provoking reads of the century.

Now, I realize I am also guilty of speaking rhetoric without information to back it up with my jab at America on the post about the Vancouver tasering, which some found inappropriate. I apologize for that and post here a few shifting baselines excerpts from The Shock Doctrine that were on my mind at the time. According to Klein (p. 380):

The numbers tell the dramatic sotry of corporate mission creep [into the U.S. military]. During the first Gulf War in 1991, there was one contractor for every hundred soldiers. At the start of the 2003 Iraq invasion, the ratio had jumped to one contractor for every ten solidiers. Three years into the U.S. occupation, the ratio had reached one to three. Less than a year later, with the occupation approaching its fourth year, there was one contractor for every 1.4 U.S. soldiers.

The Associated Press put the number of contractors in Iraq at 120,000, almost equivalent to the number of U.S. troops. In scale, this kind of privatized warfare has already overshadowed the United Nations. The UN's budget for peacekeeping in 2006-2007 was $5.25 billion--that's less than a quarter of the $20 billion Halliburton got in Iraq contracts, and the latest estimates are that the mercenary industry alone is worth $4 billion.

The war in Iraq..was a model for privatized war and reconstruction--a model that quickly became export-ready. Now a new frontier can open up wherever the next disaster strikes.

Naturally, we run into problems (regulating torture is just one) when the people who are supposed to govern and protect a nation are not employed by the nation (or any nation). Undoubtedly, the Bush Administration believes that the Chicago-style free market strategy used for warfare (and anything else) is fully ethical. On this point, Klein cites political scientist Michael Wolfe, who says, "Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reasons that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called up to do is wrong, you are unlikely to do with very well."

Klein discusses all the inner-workings of the privatization of war and market-based anti-terrorism strategies and torture in her brilliant masterpiece The Shock Doctrine. If you can lift it up, you aren't likely to put it down.

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The contractor issue can be understood in multiple ways. I have an interesting Stratfor piece about it that I can email you if you provide me with your address (I cannot find it on this site).

Mine is milan-at-sindark-dot-com.