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The Totemic War Against the Islamic Caliphate

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More mush from the chimp: Obama declares war on ISIS [1]

More mush from the chimp: Obama declares war on ISIS

The sudden enthusiasm of the Obama regime for a war against the Islamic State (IS) is interesting because it seems so out of character. The timing is particularly interesting because up until recent weeks the US government had been doing all it could to back out of the Middle East. It is also well known that IS and its predecessors (ISIS and ISIL) had been butchering and raping with impunity, and, either directly or indirectly, had been supported by the US and its allies.

Furthermore, it is the political consensus between informed and disinterested parties almost everywhere that whatever America does in this latest conflict, it will not bring order or solve the basic problem. Even if IS can be destroyed, its destruction will be meaningless because America has no intention of filling the resulting a vacuum and is reluctant to allow the rise of any state that can.

So, why is America pointlessly intervening again in the Middle East again? Some will see it as part of a new geopolitical Chaos Theory aimed at serving Israeli interests, the idea being that Israel, in order to survive, needs to be “vacuum-packed” by the chaos of its Arab neighbours, as this both weakens them while also galvanizing Israelis to support their own geopolitically bankrupt state.

This is a cute theory, but ultimately unconvincing because chaos was doing just fine without further US involvement. The simple choice on the table was Middle Eastern chaos involving America and Middle Eastern chaos not involving America.

But, if the point of the exercise is not to stop the chaos or win any meaningful victory, there can be only one possible deduction: the point of this so-called war is simply for America to be involved in a war (or something that can plausibly be called a war). America has to be seen to be fighting a war. That is the point of this latest conflict.

Many people will find this hard to fathom, but a war against ISIS has many advantages. Firstly, it is a war fought in the wide open spaces of desert countries with plenty of scope for US armaments to explode impressively and without too many civilian casualties. Secondly, it is a war fought against an almost perfect pantomime villain (only actual Nazis with monocles would be better). Thirdly, American forces are unlikely to be defeated or even seriously embarrassed, especially as most of their fighting will be by remote control, from high in the sky, and by special ops. Their affirmative action hirings and women soldiers are unlikely to be anywhere near the action. Fourthly, like a race in a more progressive children’s school, there is no finish line.

America doesn’t have to win to say they won. They just have to generate a lot of “sound and fury signifying nothing.” The fact that the conflict is three-cornered, with Assad’s Syria also involved, and is also complicated by the involvement of several other mutual rivals – the Kurds, Iran, and various Gulf states – can only help this obfuscation of decisiveness.

What this war does is allow America to thump its chest and holler. The more timid members of the international community might even mistake this for strength. The President can do his sub-Churchillian act to the teleprompters; the media can make references to our “brave allies” and “evil enemies”; misdrawn maps can pop up on CNN demonstrating American power extending into unknown regions; armchair generals can rake over new grainy footage of ghost-like figures being annihilated by laser-directed strikes, etc., etc. Pass the popcorn.

But even without significant casualties such entertainment works out expensively. Why this sudden decision for America to strut its stuff and flex its increasingly saggy muscles? The answer is that this war is essentially totemic – a chance for America to construct a Potemkin village of Superpower power – a thin, plywood version of real strength and power. And the reason this is happening now is because the American deep state has been made to feel weak, impotent, and on its way out.

It is no coincidence that the sudden enthusiasm for this war followed directly in the wake of the resurgence of the Russian position in the Ukraine.

America was never going to fight a direct war against the Russians, but there was a feeling that by supporting Poroshenko and applying sanctions and diplomatic pressure the brakes could be slowly put on the Russians, while the Ukrainians did the dirty work of finishing off the rebels. The events of recent weeks, when Russia turned up its dial of support for the rebels, showed that this was not to be the case. It became clear that Putin was prepared to do whatever was necessary to get a positive result for his Kremlin state, and was doing this in just the right way to maintain support at home without provoking too much opposition among Europeans and other third parties. America realized it had lost this struggle.

Then like some pathetic suitor who had been turned down by a woman out of his league, America felt emasculated and need to prove its masculinity once again. This is why America has made a sudden and unexpected return to the political whorehouse of the Middle East, the place where a big boy with plenty of petrodollars can be made to feel like a real man again by banging some unwashed, sloe-eyed little slut who might claw his back and hiss like a bitch while he does it.