The War on Terror started in October of 2001, with the invasion of Afghanistan. Since then the US, either unilaterally or multilaterally, has intervened in over ten countries resulting in the over two million deaths, twice that amount of in terms of misplaced and injured, and 2,324.7 billion dollars spent. Despite these measures to protect America’s borders, many experts and non-experts argue the US is not any safer than it was on September 10th 2001. There have been thousands of interrogations and tortured suspects, thousands more detained in the infamous Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp and yet only one conviction. Despite this lack of success by the most resourceful country in the world fighting against, not another nation, but small terrorist networks, not enough Americans question the conduct of the war.
Many skeptics argue that the problem is semantic in nature; that the US cannot fight a war on something as intangible as a tactic or ideology. On the contrary it is very possible to fight this kind of war, but the means to fight it will not be with bombs and tanks but rather with aid, and diplomacy. Through examination of Marx’s theory of ‘Ruling Ideas’, and a few outside sources, it can be discovered as to why the United States habitually continues to use pre-emptive and destructive tactics to wage a war that requires patience and peace.
In his work, The German Ideology, from the composition of his works, Writings of the Young Marx; Marx introduces to the reader his theory of ‘Ruling Ideas’. He states that “ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas” (Marx 438) That is to say what people perceive as common or “ruling” beliefs are nothing more than a worldview of a select individuals who posses the means to have their ideas broadcasted as universal norms. Those that have the ruling material power of society are at the same time its ruling intellectual power. (Marx, 438) This can be interpreted as the people who own the means to produce wealth also own the means to produce common beliefs. These individuals can afford to have their beliefs spread throughout society in an objective tone. ‘Ruling Ideas’ that are especially difficult to question because they are accepted as universal truths are known hegemonic beliefs. These are the hardest to scrutinize because they are known simply as common sense.
Today, in the Global War on Terror, it is widely believed that to fight Islamic extremists and other terrorist networks the United States must primarily use force; our enemies know no other way. However, considering the damage the invasions and millions of deaths have done to the US’s credibility in the world and the strength of its military, a serious inquiry is warranted as to the effectiveness of this resolution. Marx would advise that these futile tactics remain the norm because there exists a section of society who present their worldview as objective truth so as not to merit serious questioning.
As of March 26, 2009, corporations have far exceeded the influence of the American citizen on a social, economical and political level. The primary objective of a corporation is to accumulate as much wealth in a single quarter as possible. The effects of its actions on people or the environment are rarely considered, unless they begin to affect profit margins. The US has special interests, lobbyists, political advisors and now even a vice president with direct connections to the agenda of a corporation. In the documentary The Corporation it is learned that they own our media networks, controlling what people learn about the world. General Electric owns NBC, Time Warner own CNN, Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch. It can already be concluded that it is not the first objective of these news outlets to deliver real thoughtful news, because this may not increase profits. They also (often the same ones that control the media) control the entertainment industry controlling what people view as entertainment and how they are stimulated. Through the media corporations disseminate what would be best for an elite few as objective truth. None of the major media outlets mentioned above have had a serious segment questioning US conduct of the War on Terror at a time when it mattered. Fortunately it is not the media that makes the final decision with regard to US domestic and foreign policy. That power belongs to the politicians. Unfortunately, corporations through campaign contributions, and random gifts can heavily influence legislation that will affect their profits. Corporations are just a third of the trifurcate of the Military Industrial Complex.
In the documentary Why We Fight, it is discovered this system is made up of the military private industry and congress. Private industries create and sell (many times unnecessary) weapons and different divisions of the armed forces bid over them according to what is allocated to their budget. The different divisions of the armed forces do not pay them however, and once prices are settled Congress uses US taxpayer dollars to buy an over abundance of weapons overpriced.
The then company makes factories in every district of the US so that if a congressman tries to stop the process, he is obstructed in two ways. First he is labeled as anti American for not “supporting America’s right to defend herself” and second to remove the factories that produce these weapons that politician is removing jobs from their district, thus losing votes. This cycle of the military industrial process is also very profitable. The defense budget is 750 billion dollars. Profits rose to well over 25% when the US invaded Iraq. The military contractors profit from deaths of Americans as well as other enemy combatants.
Despite the urgency with which the US should re-think its strategies, it will not happen until those controlling the ruling ideas by influencing the media and politicians, no longer profit. Until then they will continue to maintain political power using fear and implant their own ideas of violence as “patriotic” truths and any alternative as “unpatriotic”.
If people were given the freedom to question what Marx called “Ruling Ideas” they would find that the US is fighting a war on an ideal as if it was a war on a country or regime, and those are just temporal manifestations of the ideal. It doesn’t matter how many Saddam Hussein’s or Osama Bin Ladens you kill, if you still conduct yourself in a manner that breeds the hate, you allow more to come to power. Terror’s headquarters’ is not in a base guarded with a squadron of soldiers, though that is what conventional wisdom would like you to think. It lives in the fears and anxieties of the people. There is no profit in peace, and so they must perpetuate the ideas of hate and violence as though they are unfortunate but very necessary universal truths. By using Marx’s theory of ‘Ruling Ideas’ it can be understood that that view should only be held by a few. The truth is that terrorism, has never been, is not today, and will not ever be won with violence. It will take the condemnation of an ideal, not the persecution of a people to defeat.