These Disunited, War-Ravaged States

Posted on 20/11/2011 by

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Just recently I went on a day-trip to Yakima, Washington. I highly recommend not moving there, for any reason. If you already live there, dear Reader, you have my sympathies. The city looks like it had been carpet bombed. Only one real city street was left, filled with very sad and poor people and looked over by decayed and neglected buildings. The rest of Yakima was suburban blight and failing fruit processing manufactories.

Be that as it may, the experience was quite enlightening. I really wish I could say I was surprised, but I was not: the economic and infrastructural collapse of the United States continues unabated. Highways are caving in, their surfaces potholed and fractured. Bridges are decades past their intended lifespans, with absolutely no money to replace them.

Washington is one of the ‘wealthier’ States in the Union. Many are far, far worse off, due to pervasive and entrenched poverty. Anyone who has driven through Illinois or Upstate New York will know what I mean. Simply put, public infrastructure is in a disastrous condition all throughout these United States. Estimates for the much-needed rehabilitation of the country’s transportation infrastructure alone rests in the conservative trillions.

Trillions only exist for the benefit of the US war machine. There will be no grand reinvestment and reinvention of these United States, simply because the priorities of those who hold the purse strings are very much elsewhere. Untold bags of money for all things militarily expansionistic military, and austerity for the rest.

These skewed priorities are not going to change any time soon. They are part and parcel of the entrenched institutional culture of the US Federal Government. This is easily seen by the utter lack of any conversation about real domestic reinvestment from either side of the two-party dictatorship. The only way to break this impasse will be to break the two-party dictatorship itself.

Barring that happy eventuation, there will continue to be trillions for all things military, and austerity for everything else. This has been the one, dependable centrepiece of all US policy for decades now, with no sign of changing.

Since the administration of William McKinley, these United States have been on a permanent economic war footing. Excepting the War Between the States, the military budget was until then a tiny fraction of the Federal Government’s expenditures. After McKinley, and especially Theodore Roosevelt, Federal military expenditures began to gorge upon an increasing share of the budget. This has continued unabated to the present day.

Essentially, these United States have been on a Federally-mandated war footing for over a century. Anything and everything which didn’t pertain to the US war machine has slowly but surely been starved of vital investment to sub-maintenance levels. Proper maintenance is not really possible, much less providing for rehabiliation and replacement on a meaningful schedule.

There are many ways a country can be ravaged by war, without there ever having been a single battle on that country’s soil. As @ViridisKnight put it in a Twitter conversation some time ago, the most destructive thing is a war between imperialist forces on one’s own soil. Financing that war, however, takes its toll as well. These United States have laid waste to their collective infrastructure by pouring more and more resources into the war machine. Over the past one hundred and some years has been a lot of very expensive warring, leaving the USA is effectively a war-ravaged country.

Because of the vastness of the United States, just on a sheer physical scale — ever driven across Montana? — transportation is beyond vital. It’s the only way this huge country can be politically administered: even State-level politicians and functionaries must travel very large distances in order to reach State capitals.

Even more fundamental is the necessity of cultural integration. Again because of the vastness of the United States, there is very impressive cultural variation. This is easily shown by the political conflict which is ongoing, between self-described ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ ethics.

Take, for instance, the ‘culture wars’, or the vociferous arguments over abortion, recreational drugs, gay rights, so on and so forth. These arguments are highly polarised, with little common ground admitted on either side. Additionally, each side is only interested in total victory, not an arrangement which would facilitate the existence of both opinions. The idea of Total War is one which infects more than just military matters.

This vitriolic political conflict has a curious aspect: it increases as transportation infrastructure falls apart and mass, long-distance mobility decreases. Rather than being coincidental, I suggest these phenomenon are directly related. As people are increasingly unable to travel, they are also increasingly unable to viscerally understand the circumstances of people in distant parts of the country. No longer are they ‘fellow Americans’ with different views on similar problems. Rather, they are very nearly some sort of enemy who is out to undo the fabric of ‘everything America stands for’.

The situation is probably beyond the point where the rifts can be healed. Even if reconciliation were possible, it would necessitate the huge reinvestment in non-war-related infrastructure which is simply not going to happen. Regardless, this unchecked situation has ensured the disintegration of the United States, by virtue of making integration and travel increasingly difficult, and in cases of extreme poverty, effectively impossible.

War can more than simply destroy infrastructure, even when a single artillery shell never falls on the soil. It can destroy an entire country, as it has done with these United States. Barring some incredible and unforeseen eventuation, the fate of the USA is sealed by its own war-mongering. That fate is dissolution.

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Posted in: Analysis