President George W. Bush liked to play cowboy as commander-in-chief… and the world paid (and is still paying) a terrible price.
Maybe it’s the phrase — “commander in chief” — that best captures the transcendent absurdity and unaddressed horrors of the 2016 election season and the business as usual that will follow.
I don’t want to elect anyone commander in chief: not the xenophobic misogynist and egomaniac, not the Henry Kissinger acolyte and Libya hawk. The big hole in this democracy is not the candidates; it’s the bedrock, founding belief that the rest of the world is our potential enemy, that war with someone is always inevitable and only a strong military will keep us safe.
In a million ways, we’ve outgrown this concept, or been pushed beyond it by awareness of global human connectedness and the shared planetary risk of eco-collapse. So whenever I hear someone in the media bring “commander in chief” into the discussion — always superficially and without question — what I hear is boys playing war. Yes, we wage war in a real way as well, but when the public is invited to participate in the process by selecting its next commander in chief, this is pretend war at its most surreal: all glory and greatness and hammering ISIS in Mosul.
“What about our safety here?” Brian Williams asked Gen. Barry McCaffrey on MSNBC the other night, as they were discussing the awfulness of terrorism and the need to bomb the bad guys out of existence. I cringed. How long can they keep selling this?
Our safety is far, far more imperiled by the fact that we have a military at all than by any enemy that military is allegedly fighting, but is, in fact, creating as it churns out endless collateral damage, a.k.a., dead and injured civilians.
The essential truth about war is this: The enemies are always on the same side. Regardless who “wins,” what matters is that war itself continues. Just ask the military-industrialists.