Date: Fri Sep 08, 1995 1:36 am CST From: snet l EMS: INTERNET / MCI ID: 376-5414 MBX: firstname.lastname@example.org TO: * David Beiter / MCI ID: 635-1762 Subject: BOB BLACK on WAR (repost) IS WAR THE HEALTH OF THE STATE? BY BOB BLACK anti-copyright 1995 No one ever made a more insightful observation in seven words than Randolph Bourne once did: "War is the health of the State." (Resek, 1964:71) War has been the main motor for the extension of state power in Europe for over a thousand years (Tilly, 1992), and not only in Europe but globally throughout history. War enlarges the state and increases it's wealth and powers. It promotes obedience and justifies the repression of dissent, redefined as disloyalty or treason. It relieves social tensions by redirecting them outwards at an enemy state which is, of course, doing exactly the same thing with all the same consequences. From the state's perspective, there is only one thing wrong with wars: they end. That wars end is ultimately more important than whether they end in victory or defeat. Occasionally defeat spells destruction for states, as experienced by the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires after World War I, but not usually, and even if it does, the defeated state gives way to a new state. The state system not only endures, it prevails. Usually war is well worth the risk - not to the combatants or the suffering civilians of course: but well worth the risk to the state. Peace is something else again. The immediate consequence may be a recession or depression, as happened after the American Revolution and World War I (Zinn, 1980), whose hardships are all the more galling when they fall upon the population which "won" the war and naively supposes it will share in the fruits of a victory which belongs to the state, not to the people. The regime may artificially prolong the wartime climate of repression and sacrifice, as did the United States by working up the Red Scare after World War I, but soon the people crave what Warren Harding promised them, a return to normalcy. The vanquished, of course, rarely fare as well as occupied Japan and Germany did after World War II, but even then the Germans initially experienced, state orchestrated rape, murder and plunder at the hands of the occupying forces. State imposed famine quickly followed. There have been epochs in which certain states were almost always at war, such as Republican Rome, whose oligarchs, as Livy (1960) repeatedly demonstrates, were well aware of the way war was a safety-valve for dissipating class conflict. Colonial wars well serve this purpose since they are fought far from the home country and usually waged against antagonists who are, however gallant, greatly inferior militarily. The British Empire of the 18th and 19th centuries is a good example. Engorged with the wealth created by the revolutionary new system of commercial capitalism (soon to be unimaginably enlarged by the Industrial Revolution), secure in it's insularity, shielded by the world's greatest navy, with a robust and ruthless ruling class wise to the ways of statecraft; the British State could afford a war any time it needed one. The cannon fodder was easy to come by. There were always outright mercenaries such as the Hessians on the market. And yesterday's enemies were today's troops. The Irish, repeatedly crushed in the seventeenth century, were one source. Starting in 1746 the British annihilated the society and culture of the Scottish Highlanders, then recruited regiments from the survivors. They would repeat these cost-effective measures in India, Africa, everywhere. And, if needs be, there were always English sources of expendables: the peasants forced off the land by enclosure of the commons, and the urban poor. They would not be missed, and there were always more where they came from. But times have changed. Some states can possibly carry on in the old way for awhile - maybe. Serbia, North Korea, Iraq - but the United States cannot, for at least two reasons: we are too squeamish and we are too poor. Too squeamish in the sense that, as Saddam Hussein crowed before the second Gulf War; "America is a society which cannot tolerate 10,000 dead." He was right, although that did him no good since he was unable to inflict 10,000 or even 1,000 deaths. Grenada and Panama were larks, but two-bit gang wars such as Lebanon and Somalia were not, and no one has any stomach for war in Bosnia or Haiti. Americans are fast losing their taste for real war. And too poor for any war long enough to put a lasting blip in any President's ratings. The attack on Iraq was a turning point. As adroitly handled as the manipulation of the mass mind was, Americans only went along with the war on the condition that the "Allies" pay for it. Even the most dim-witted are vaguely aware that the lion's share of their Federal tax dollars goes towards war debts and military spending from which they never reaped any benefit. The trade-off for lives in a high-tech, media-savvy, photogenic war is money. It costs more, immensely more, to wage real war now than war ever has. But America does not have more, immensely more wealth than it ever has. It has less and less and less all the time. Even with the massed forces of CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and all the rest of the mainstream media behind him, and despite an overwhelming victory which owed as much to luck as to skill, George Bush became the first President to win a war and then lose an election - to, no less than a pot-smoking, womanizing draft- dodger. Thus the regime is caught in what Marxists call a "contradiction." It needs war, for war is the health of the state, but (with occasional ephemeral exceptions) it cannot afford either to win wars or lose them. But what kind of war is it possible to wage, at not too intolerable a cost, which avoids these twin pitfalls - a war which cannot be won or lost? A War On Drugs perhaps? A war which is not a real war, of course, but what the Germans call a Sitzkrieg, a phony war. Once they sold us the war to end all wars. Now they sell us an endless war. The March of Dimes is an instructive precedent. The March of Dimes raised lots of money which (what was left of it after most of it went for advertising and administration) financed research on a polio vaccine. Then catastrophe struck: Jonas Salk found a polio vaccine. So it's purpose accomplished, the March of Dimes went out of business, right? (Just Kidding!) No, the organization moved on to an amorphous quest, to conquer "birth defects," of which there are so many varieties that the March of Dimes can count on doing business for many years to come. Some people say "the ends justify the means," others say they don't. The March of Dimes has transcended the contradiction: for them the means justify the end. Such is the utility, to the state, of the War on Drugs. It cannot be lost, for there is no enemy to lose it to. And for countless reasons it can't be won. The government cannot interdict more than a tiny fraction of the cocaine, heroin, marijuana and other drugs which, by criminalizing them, the government has raised the price to the point that they are well worth smuggling in. And some of the dope, such as marijuana and opium, is easily produced domestically. Many tens of millions of Americans have indulged in illegal drugs, including the President and the Speaker of the House. Their kids see no reason not to try what their parents did, regardless of what the parents are preaching now. Children tend not to heed their parents when they know they are lying. In the suburbs as well as in the ghetto, illegalizing drugs has jacked up their prices so much that busting drug dealers has no "supply-side" effect. Taking a drug dealer off the streets just opens up a vacancy for another entrepreneur. Indeed, it is common practice for dealers to get their competitors busted to get a competitive edge. But it makes no more difference who is dealing the drugs than it does who runs the state. Indeed, they may very well be the same people! The Drug War is the new health of the state. Because it is a phony war, the War on Drugs is fiscally manageable. The government can spend as little or as much as it likes, since the result is always the same. Even the out-of- pocket costs are disguised, divided as they are between Federal, state and local governments, confused with funding for law- enforcement. The single greatest expense in this phony war, prisons, is the one which most people believe is just about the grandest thing the state does for them. Underpinning this fundamental error is the basic misconception about what the product of the criminal justice system is. It is not crime control, for even if that could be measured with any accuracy, there is no evidence that law-enforcement controls or reduces crime in any way. (Jacob, 1984) The product of the criminal justice system is crime rates (Black, 1970) which are a function, not of the amount of crime, but of the amount of law-enforcement activity. The authorities can manufacture a "crime wave" if they want more money, or ease up on "enforcement" if they want to take credit for doing the exact opposite - a reverse Catch-22, a no- lose situation. Aside from themselves and their higher-ups, the only beneficiaries of those 100,000 more police that President Clinton wants to put on the streets will be Dunkin' Donut franchisees. What's more, to some extent the War on Drugs pays for itself. Just as armies used to subsist largely by "living off the land," pillaging the districts they passed through, so the drug warriors cram their coffers with booty from forfeitures. And that's just on the formal, legal level. Off the books, of course, the police have always seized a lot more drugs than ever found their way to the evidence room. The dealers and their customers are unlikely to complain. (The classic scenario: a cop makes an illegal search on the street. He finds something. He asks courteously, "Is this yours?" The answer is always no.) Some dope the police sell on their own account. Some they use themselves. And some they keep for "flaking" (planting drugs on unwitting suspects) and "padding" (adding more dope to what was found to turn a misdemeanor into a felony.) (Knapp Commission 1973: 103-104.) In still another way the War on Drugs offers one more of the benefits of a real war without it's costs and risks. Every war is a civil liberties holocaust (Murphy, 1973). Even on the formal, legal level, national security - a so-called compelling state interest - tends to trump fundamental rights, at least till the shooting stops. Meanwhile, rabble-roused vigilantes carry out the lynchings, firebombings, beatings, castrations and rapes of officially designated "domestic enemies" of the state - the dirty work too dirty for the state to do, even in a supposed wartime emergency, but not too dirty for the state to wink at afterwards. The United States during World War I and the ensuing bloody Red Scare which followed is one example (Zinn, 1980). Post-WWI Italy which let Mussolini and his thug army, the brown- shirts, take over, after encouraging them to smash the socialists, communists and anarchists, is another. But peace returns and the legal ground lost is mostly recovered. Once the state has demolished the political opposition irreparably, it may well restore constitutional rights to the impotent remnants and bask in it's own self-proclaimed glory, parading it's tolerance once it doesn't matter any more. The phony war is much more effective. It cannot be conducted without massive invasions of liberty and property. The single most important right endangered by the War on Drugs is the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable searches and seizures. The erosion of this amendment and the perverse body of law undermining this fundamental right effectively began during alcohol prohibition, and today it is , as Professor Fred Cohen says, "driven by drugs." The rights of everyone are defined by the rights the judiciary grudgingly grants to drug offenders. Other rights are reduced too. Under the forfeiture laws, private property is taken without due process or just compensation. Applied to Native Americans and others, drug laws interfere with freedom of religion; as does the common practice of forcing drunk drivers and drug "abusers" into "rehabs" for indoctrination in the religious tenets of Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous. Even the campaign against gun ownership is an indirect consequence of the War on Drugs. Participants in the drug trade have to enforce their own contracts, since the state will not. Prohibition has made drugs very valuable commodities: in the inner cities, by far the most valuable commodity. Meanwhile, drug addicts rob and steal to support their artificially expensive habits. The result is an arms race and a clamor for gun-control. One prohibition leads to another. For the criminal, the ultimate challenge is the perfect crime. For the state, it is the perfect law. Is it prohibition? Maybe not. Drug prohibition is today much more popular than alcohol prohibition ever was. But within living memory, during the 1970's, decriminalization was a serious possibility. It might become so again if the anti-drug hysteria continues to rise till it reaches a level impossible to sustain. And the hysteria probably will rise, because the drug war has been institutionalized. Various agencies and organizations have a vested interest in it's unlimited extension. Unfortunately, for the state, unlimited extension is impossible to maintain because it deprives the state of the great advantage that the drug war has over real war: it's predictability and manageability. As some organs of government grow, there is less for others. Since victory, like defeat, is impossible, there will never be a "peace dividend" to divvy up. The state is already draining more wealth out of civil society than is consistent with the state's long- term interests. If it continues to take more and more, the parasite will kill the host. That is if the host doesn't kill the parasite first. Eventually the state may succumb to it's own success. The state is huge and it is bureaucratic. This means that it is intricately subdivided by function, or by what was initially considered function. In fact, overlapping or competing jurisdictions are common and tend to increase over time. Even if the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, it may not be able to do anything about it. Inter-agency cooperation becomes more difficult as it becomes more frequent and more necessary. "The complexity of joint action thwarts action, or it's purpose." (Pressman & Wildavsky, 1984: ch 5) It is very hard, administratively, to reduce a bureau's budget, but very easy to increase it. Bureaus fiercely resist zero-based budgeting - that is, starting from scratch, annually justifying every line in the budget request - considering that exercise as pointless as reinventing the wheel. And it is difficult for higher-level authority to identify areas for cost reduction, even if it wants to, since the very foundation of bureaucratic organization is deference to institutionalized expertise and adherence to precedent. The easy way is to take the previous budget as presumptively the next one; it is only departures from the status-quo, not the status-quo itself, which require justification. The bureau, staffed with so-called experts, is the usual source of justifications for departures, and the departures are always in the direction of more money and more power for the bureau. What goes for one bureau goes for all. Thus government grows. Referring to the way competition between workers lowers wages for all of them, Fredy Pearlman (1969: 17) observed, "The daily practice of all annuls the goals of each." Inter-agency interactions tend to have the same effect. So does inter-agency competition for tax-money. The long term implications for the War on Drugs are ominous. The more the state extends it's control over society, the less control it has over itself. The more the state absorbs society, the less responsive the state becomes as an entity subject to a common will. It disintegrates into an authoritarian pluralism of agencies reminiscent of feudalism; minus medieval romantic charm. Some agencies fatten off the War on Drugs, most do not. The ones that do are the first to go their own way. No one seamed to have any control of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms when they launched their disastrous extermination campaign against the Branch Davidians in Waco Texas which ultimately resulted in the immolation of nearly one hundred people including eighteen children. With true authoritarian disdain for decency, the ATF officials responsible for the planning and execution of this monumental fiasco were promoted, given pay raises and accolades. The Drug Enforcement Agency is likewise as unaccountable for their actions and excesses as are the FBI, CIA, IRS and a host of other shadowy Federal clandestine fiefdoms. For the state, another inevitable consequence of the Drug War is corruption. (Sisk, 1982). Not that corruption is necessarily a bad thing for the state. Up to a point, police shakedowns of drug dealers, pimps, bookies and other extra-legal entrepreneurs benefit the state in more than one way. The more cops collect in payoffs and confiscations, the less they have to be paid in salaries. Cops who's supervisors know they are on the take, (as they do, since they are on the take as well) (Chambliss,1988) look the other way unless and until for some reason they need to get rid of a particular cop. Corruption is thus a management tool. But some cops get too greedy and go too far. Most are "grass-eaters" (bribe takers) who take what comes their way. But some are "meat-eaters" (extortionists) - proactively corrupt - who actively seek out or set up corruption opportunities. (Daley, 1978: Knapp Commission, 1973). The grass-eaters cover for the meat-eaters (the blue "code of silence") since they all have something to hide. Until recently, police administrators and their academic allies thought they could keep corruption under control through various institutional reforms, most of which were initially proposed by the Knapp Commission (Sherman, 1978). Possibly those reforms could have worked except for one thing: the War on Drugs. Corruption has made a big-time comeback, even in the Knapp reformed NYPD (Dombrink, 1988). Because penalties are much harsher and the profits are much higher, the protection the police sell commands a much higher price (Sisk, 1982). Drug- driven corruption is the growth sector of police misconduct (Carter, 1990). For the state, the problem with runaway corruption is that it cannot be confined to where it's benefits exceed it's costs. The state needs the police for a modicum of selective law- enforcement, and much more importantly, for social control as the occasion calls for; to break strikes, evict squatters, suppress riots, repress dissidents and keep traffic moving. Even in our relatively sophisticated times, when manipulation and deliberate disinformation are the hippest of control strategies, there is often no substitute for the billy-club and the gun. But a pervasively corrupt police force cannot be counted on when push comes to shove. Meat-eaters cannot spare the time to enforce the law. Officers on the take are ineffective knights of the realm. Witness the lackluster response of the LAPD to the 1992 riots and the continuing series of highly publicized police misadventures in that city. Police Departments immersed in the corruption generated by the Drug War are unavailable for other duties. There's been an explosion of undercover police work in recent years (Marx, 1988), inevitably accompanied by more corruption (Girodo, 1991). Police as workers are notoriously difficult to manage because they are usually out by themselves, unsupervised. Detectives are especially in a position to be secretive about their activities (Skolnick, 1975; Daley, 1978), and more drug "enforcement" means more detective/undercover work. These cops are pursuing their own agendas. Why do dogs lick their balls? Because they can! Corruption scandals demoralize the police and undermine the authority of the state. Most people obey the law most of the time, not because they fear punishment, but because they believe in the system. As they cease to believe, they will cease to obey - not only the laws that don't matter (like "don't do drugs") but also the ones that do (like "pay your taxes"). And, ironically, crackdowns on police corruption impairs police effectiveness for other purposes (Kornblum, 1976). The state has overbuilt itself so heavily that the weight is cracking the foundations. It is not the sort of elephantiasis that can bee eased by privatization. It doesn't matter who collects the garbage. What matters is who has the guns. The essence of sovereignty - the means to enforce order - is tumorous. This cancer may well be inoperable. As a result of the Drug War, the state may die, fittingly, of an overdose. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * REFERENCES Black, Bob (1992) "Friendly Fire" ; Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia. Black, Donald (1970) "Production of Crime Rates" ; American Sociological Review 35 : pgs 733-748. Carter, David L. (1990) "Drug-Related Corruption of Police Officers : A Contemporary Typology" ; Journal of Criminal Justice 18 : pgs 85-98. Chambliss, William J. (1988) "On The Take: From Petty Crooks to Presidents" ; 2nd ed. Bloomington & Indianapolis, IN. Indiana University Press. Daley, Robert (1978) "Prince of the City: The True Story of a Cop Who Knew Too Much" ; Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. Dombrink, John (1988) "The Touchables: Vice and Police Corruption in the 1980's" ; Law and Contemporary Problems 51: pgs 201- 232. Girodo, Michael (1991) "Drug Corruption in Undercover Work: Measuring the Risk" ; The Journal of Behavioral Science and the Law 9: pgs 361-370. Jacob, Herbert (1984) "The Frustration of Policy: Responses to Crime by American Cities" ; Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co. Knapp Commission (1973) "The Knapp Commission on Police Corruption" ; NY, George Braziller. Kornblum, Allen M. (1976) "The Moral Hazards: Police Strategies for Honesty and Ethical Behavior" ; Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Livy (1960) "The Early History of Rome" Translated by Aubrey de Selincourt. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books. Marx, Gary T. (1988) "Undercover: Police Surveillance in America" ; Berkeley, CA. University of California Press. Murphy, Paul L. (1972) "The Constitution in Crisis Times, 1918 - 1969" ; NY. Touchstone Books. Pearlman, Fredy (1969) "The Reproduction of Real Life" ; Detroit, MI: Harper Torchbooks. Pressman, Jeffery L. and Aaron Wildavsky (1984) "Implementation" ; 3rd ed, expanded. Berkeley Ca: University of California Press. Resek, Carl, ed (1964) "War and the Intellectuals: Essays by Randolph S. Bourne, 1915 - 1919" ; NY: Harper Torchbooks. Sherman, Lawrence M. (1978) "Scandal and Reform: Controlling Police Corruption" ; Berkeley Ca: University of California Press. Sisk, David E. (1982) "Police Corruption and Criminal Monopoly: Victimless Crimes" ; Journal of Legal Studies 11: pgs 395- 403. Skolnick, Jerome H. (1975) "Justice Without Trial: Law- Enforcement in a Democratic Society" 2nd ed. ; NY: John H Wiley & Sons. Tilly, Charles (1992) "Coercion, Capitol and European States, AD 900 - 1992" Rev paperback ed. ; Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Zinn, Howard (1980) "A People's History of the United States" ; NY: Harper Perennial.
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