By David P Beiter

Date:     Fri Sep 08, 1995  1:36 am  CST
From:     snet l
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TO:     * David Beiter / MCI ID: 635-1762
Subject:  BOB BLACK on WAR (repost)



			    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

     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-

     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

     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.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


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