The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: “Competition” Replaces War

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We had the Cold War. Then the war on terror. Now, it’s the GPC or Great Powers Competition.

Defense Secretary General Jim Mattis has announced a monumental change in US foreign policy. The war on terror, which fueled George W. Bush’s foreign policy and was continued by Barack Obama, has not only become secondary, but it has been degraded from its status as a “war” to a mere “campaign.” As he tells it, “We will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists that we are engaged in today, but great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.”

Here is today’s 3D definition:

Competition (Great Power):

The non-belligerent sounding pretext for maintaining and developing a war economy in times of peace and reassuring the population that the war under preparation is just another fun economic game

Contextual note

Here are some other quotes from the general’s speech, followed by rapid-fire comments from The Daily Devil’s Dictionary:

“…we made [these choices] based upon a fundamental precept, namely that America can afford survival.”

This may be an attempt at humor, but it makes Mattis appear less like a wit or a comic than a pretentious character in a Monty Python sketch. Obama had his Affordable Care Act. Will Donald Trump provide us with an Affordable Survival Act?

“…this strategy expands our competitive space, prioritizes preparedness for war … and builds a more lethal force to compete strategically.”

There is no difference in his mind between war and competition. Call it the military free market. Or in our neo-Cold War, should we now be talking about the “competitive space race”?

“…our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare, air, land, sea, space and cyberspace, and it is continuing to erode.”

The opposite appears to be true since the US spends more on the military than the next eight countries combined.

“…the foundation for our competitive edge: reforming the business practices of the department…”

When POTUS is a career businessman, the secretary of defense easily slips into the role of CEO of the Pentagon. Let us all meditate on the “business practices” of war.

“…bright people on our Defense Innovation Board. They come out of places like Silicon Valley, and they are the top of the line.”

It sounds like a business plan seeking a venture capitalist to fund his burn rate!

“no nation … has a wider competitive space, in terms of its moral or ethical or economic or military power, than we can amass, if we choose to use it wisely.”

An interesting conditional: It’s already wide; it needs to be wise! It’s also interesting to ponder what it means to “amass moral or ethical power.” Is it a form of hoarding? And where do you store it?

Historical note

This is yet another indication that the mentality in Washington has returned squarely to the logic of the Cold War — that glorious past when America was great. This time around both Republicans and Democrats agree with its focus on Russia, though in two contrasting ways. For the Democrats, Russia colludes with the Trump administration. For the Republicans, Russia is a competing “great power.”

The GOP had to invent this term because everyone knows that since the demise of the Soviet Union, the US is the only superpower left. It doesn’t require deep research to understand that the US, with around 800 military bases and a military presence in 150 countries has a literal monopoly on superpower.

To justify the continuing expansion of an already bloated and hypertrophied US military, Trump needed a new type of rivalry, between “great powers,” because Russia alone wasn’t enough. A question of credibility. Combining the two seems to create the kind of equivalence that made things work during the Cold War. And, of course, they both carry the historical stain of communism, the driver of Cold War psychology.

Of course the Cold War was basically a competition? That was the role of the “arms race.” But now that no nation can compete with the US, how can geopolitics be redesigned around the notion of competition? General Mattis has found the solution: “GPC,” the basis of a neo-Cold War ideology that will undoubtedly make America look great again.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Ilkin Zeferli / Shutterstock.com

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