Another Invented Enemy?

A Call for a New Peace Movement

by Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone*

Why do U.S. elites invent so many enemies? And how do they do it?

Former U.S. "friends" Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein were recently metamorphosed into Evil Monsters. Now former Yugoslav servant of the I.M.F., President Slobodan Milosevic, is the new Evil One. It was so much simpler when the U.S.S.R. was the Evil Empire! While the U.S. foreign policy establishment and its corporate and media friends [1] keep inventing enemies to bomb, let's consider their need for these enemies. This need has at least three sources. Continued cold war-level arms spending, on which so many congressional elections depend, lacks justification since the U.S.S.R.'s collapse. And then U.S.-sponsored global expansion of free markets is supposed to spread wealth, but since it provokes resistance by its actual effect of deepening global poverty, U.S. willingness to bomb needs to be regularly demonstrated. As Bill himself said: "If we're going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world, Europe has got to be a key....That's what this Kosovo thing is all about." [2] Finally, foreign wars are a dandy diversion of our attention from our leaders' inability to solve grave problems here at home.

Historically Americans have opposed foreign interventions. But we are being trapped in Orwell's 1984. In that novel having external enemies was a way to govern. It didn't matter if the enemy was invented. Indeed the ruling circles of the fictional nation "Oceania" and its enemies all secretly knew their enemies were invented. But just having enemies allowed these elites both to marginalize political opponents as traitors and to dominate their domestic populations. This was because most citizens could be made to heed patriotism's drum roll by inventing an enemy.

Other writers in this booklet tell of the real agenda behind NATO's war against the current Evil Other. Here we focus on the mechanism of the trick for fooling Americans into focusing on designated enemies. When informed leaders slap the label "Evil" on someone on national TV, commiting our youth to armed opposition to them, it is hard to resist believing there's something to it. But such elaborate and lethal performances rely on a psychological mechanism of projection. Virtually anyone can fill the role of Other. But when we find something unacceptable, conflictual, or just ambiguous in ourselves this ambiguity can magically become by projection an Evil feature of this Other. This Evil Other is by definition an enemy, and constituting another as enemy automatically awards the status of Good to Us.

If we subjectively accept this bestowal of Goodness on us everything gets easy: we need not learn why the Other is Evil. The media, seeking only to confirm the Evil, finds enough. This works because our culture is Manichean: Evil is anything (even positive change) which disturbs the present; the status quo is Goodness itself. Amidst such opposites, if we reject ambiguity in ourselves a "place" or "role" for the Evil Other is opened. Auditions can begin. The projection industry can crank up.

Consider the ambiguity in the query: is a society racist that jails almost a third of its black males? We are saved from real anti-racist change of the status quo, or any honest reflection on this query, if the hint of Evil in us is projected onto the Other. Milosevic's "racist" and "genocidal" nationalism absorbs all the hate we feel for a racism which our system cannot solve and our leaders won't address. Only after the war started did the media tell us how carefully Serb nationalism had been provoked at Rambouillet by U.S. negotiators who "deliberately set the bar higher than the Serbs could accept." [3]

The Evil which our elites point to in those Others absolutizes our status quo as Good, not only hiding our own institutionalized racism but also the elites' foot on our necks. Massively taken up by the media, this projection becomes Truth. Those who see through it are isolated since search on the internet or in alternative media is needed just to get the facts. Meanwhile, death is rained on an invented enemy in righteous moral purity. In the moral fury of projection ("Hitler" and "the Holocaust" are invoked) it matters little if civilian targets are criminally bombed, ecological disaster wrought, and Milosevic preserved as enemy-in-waiting. The projection fooled or marginalized enough Americans for elites to prosecute an illegal war that had been denied congressional approval. Yet responsibility for the criminal war lies much more with those who scripted the role of Evil Other than with Serbians who played assigned roles or with those (perhaps few) fooled by the media show at home.

Once Mancheaism is fixed in the rhetoric of U.S. leaders and media, alternatives to the Good U.S. must be or be made to be mere forms of the Evil Other. There can be no Good alternatives. Under Tito Yugoslavia had a potent, independent kind of worker self-managed socialism. Stalin was outraged. Capitalist countries were alarmed. Led in the 1960s by Yugoslavia, Cuba, and Algeria, the "non-aligned" nations made space for non-Stalinist socialism. As a Good "third way" this movement above all had to be crushed. If a socialist country isn't Stalinist (Yugoslavia and Cuba), it can be made so. When after Tito's death, Yugoslavia ran up debts, its socialism became vulnerable. IMF and World Bank "structural adjustment" programs moved in. Dismantling began with Croatia's and Slovenia's independence, aided by Milosevic-style Serb nationalism. Result: the independent-minded Serb citizenry which had resisted the I.M.F against Milosevic and rejected both Stalin and NATO, had to be bombed into borrowing money and submitting to the global profit system. NATO's war over, demands to divert the world's huge arms budgets to a system free of poverty must be forestalled. Peace cannot be allowed for long. War must be the norm. So we are now to support intervention in East Timor.

As wrongs to U.S. workers are deepened by elite action these workers may be asked to project their resulting problems onto new Evil Others. When Social Security is about to be privatized or campaign finance reform again defeated, Bradley or Bush may grab the TV to denounce "discovery" of atrocities by the "Marxist" Colombian guerillas, an Evil demanding armed intervention by the U.S. or U.N.

Get ready. If this analysis is true, what follows? The alternative to positing ourselves as Good that follows from projection is not positing ourselves as Evil. It is instead to first expose the device by which government/media elites try to manipulate us into forgetting the real changes needed to address our problems at home. Granted these problems -- a racist criminal justice system; phony democracy due to corporate money; huge increases in the "working poor" due to class polarization; an out-of-control environmental crisis; a foreign policy to depress wages at home by armed intervention abroad, etc. --are not easily solved.

But making Milosevic, Hussein and Noriega the Evil Other is an easy road to sainthood that actually conceals our power to solve our problems. No soul-searching for Evil in us is needed. The American people are fine. It's the projection scam that needs changing: our leaders and their profit system. First the lies tried on us need denouncing by "speaking truth to power" as the saying goes. But this needs doing in public and in the media if possible, since our strength is in our fellow citizens. Media challenges to the next demonization, demands for democratic process before intervening, and questioning the real aims -- these all help block intervention build-up.

In effect we need a new peace movement that restores traditional U.S. non-interventionism. "Free market" global capital that goes wherever misery is greatest and labor cheapest hurts both U.S. and foreign workers-- directly in paychecks, indirectly in environmental ruin. This profit system compels the needy to accept peanuts, it flees from or punishes assertions of worker rights, and it spreads malnutrition and death by recycling poverty. In 1998 UNICEF reported "nearly 12 million children under five...die each year in developing countries mainly from preventable causes." [4] We are amidst low-intensity mass killing, annual mini-Holocausts by alterable market mechanisms which grinds the landless poor under the heel of the wealthy. Though war-like, immoral, and unsustainable, this is the legal status quo. To disturb it is to "disturb the peace," hence to do Evil.

How can a peace movement stop this "Good" system?

First of all, we must set projection aside and face reality: the profit system's smooth working, with its normal and workaday mass killing, is policed and enforced by U.S. interventionism (U.N. and NATO are covers), mostly with U.S. taxpayers' money. This must cease. If workers' rights at home and abroad are to be protected, all U.S., NATO and U.N. interventions should be firmly opposed in principle and without exception until the system is fundamentally changed to serve human needs instead of profit.

Secondly, a new world needs building. NATO should be dismantled and its participants' arms budgets devoted first to reparations to Serbs and then to human needs at home and abroad. Domestic sources of war in race, gender, and class conflicts need addressing. Just getting the present system off the backs of the world's poor will be an enormous gift. They could then get their land back and feed themselves. The goal of a peaceful world can unify all humans since it springs from a single global source: human need. Such a peace movement will be obvious to itself if, at the next intervention, invitiations to project Evil are declined in favor of concrete projects to meet human needs. An era of globalization from below will then have begun.

*Betsy Bowman is an independent scholar living in New York City. Bob Stone, a co-founder of the Radical Philosophy Association, teaches at C.W. Post Center of Long Island University.

1- Despite personnel changes, this coalition's sociology is unchanged since the Vietnam War. See William Domhoff "Who Made American Foreign Policy, 1945-1963?" in Corporations and the Cold War, ed. D. Horowitz (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969).

2- Quoted in Benjamin Schwartz and Christopher Lane, "The Case Against Intervention in Kosovo," The Nation, April 19, 1999.

3- Quote of a senior U.S. State Deptartment official, in The Nation, June 14, 1999.

4- "The State of the World's Children 1998," published by the United Nations Children's Fund, forward by Kofi Annan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 11.