Today, President Bush maintains that the nation is in a war against terrorism — what Pentagon officials call “the long war” — in which civilization itself is at stake. Yet six years into this war, the armed forces — not just the Army, but also the Air Force, Navy and Marines — have changed almost nothing about the way their promotional systems and their entire bureaucracies operate. ~Fred Kaplan
Kaplan’s article is an interesting read, but I think the juxtaposition of WWII and the current fight Kaplan makes here doesn’t really reveal what he wants it to reveal. He is right that there have not been significant changes in military procedures over the past many years, but this is more of a revelation of how overblown and exaggerated the scope and scale of the conflict have been. It is tempting to put everything down to administration and bureaucratic incompetence, and there may be a lot of that, but I think the failure to make so many of the necessary changes to the military, as well as failures in upgrading port security, protection of infrastructure, disaster response, and, obviously, border security, tells us that no one is making these things a priority. Why don’t they? Because the “existential” threat they are meant to guard againt is mostly so much hot air emanating from warmongering politicians. Almost six years ago, the propagandists said that “everything had changed,” but there have been impressive continuities of bad policy, mediocre decisionmaking, institutional structures and bureaucratic procedures. Unconservative in almost every other way, the administration has at least managed to preserve the same flawed hegemonist goals and the same misguided obsessions with certain Near Eastern regimes that previous administrations have shared.
There is one of two reasons for this: either no one knows how to make the proper changes, or changes are considered unnecessary. If the latter, perhaps it is because there is not really a “long war” to be fought, but instead the “long war” serves as a rhetorical umbrella to justify whatever it is that hegemonists thought needed to be done anyway. Call it the “long pretext.”