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Former Commando Dishes the Dirt

Full Spectrum Disorder - The Military in the New American Century by Stan Goff
Soft Skull Press 2004

Are ready for the revolution? If you think you are you should read this book first. Stan Goff is not only ready to give you what you want, he's got the cred to back it up. Goff is a retired Army Staff Sergeant who earned his stripes in Special Operations. Special Ops soldiers are the vaunted dudes that the Fox News and CNN cheerleaders are always creaming their pants over. These news assholes will never give Goff the time of day, because he doesn't fit their prefabricated fantasy of a heroic Rambo-type protecting us 'Mericans from the evildoers.

Goff did nasty things in nasty places all over the world, including Vietnam, El Salvador, Grenada, Columbia, Peru, Somalia, and Haiti. What happened was that while Goff spent years doing Uncle Sam's dirty work, he was also learning and questioning what, where, when, and why he was doing hideous things to people with whom he had no personal quarrel. While doing this work he put the political together with the primeval, and eventually went "native." That's military parlance for showing empathy for the people whose politics you are affecting with the direct use of automatic weapons. Now he is an unapologetic critic of what this country has done with and to its military over the last couple of decades. He also thinks that it's time to take action.

Through the first half of the book, Goff describes some of his experiences in Special Operations and how they relate to what's going on today, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq, speaking in both military and political terms. Goff is is at his best when he relates the dynamics of the modern battlefield and shares his insights of the developing reality of the use by America military force in the world. During the Clinton presidency, the American military was tasked with planning for what was called "full spectrum dominance." That meant the American military needed to be able to dominate militarily anywhere in the world at anytime and succeed. Goff makes a very strong case that this strategy is leading to inevitable catastrophe. He says "I have not one iota of doubt that America-as it is now politically constituted-will self destruct."

Goff aims much of his criticism at our blind faith in the capitalist system. He is also sharply critical of the many on the left not doing whatever is necessary. To overcome oppression requires dynamic innovation and bold action. He says the "Marxoid cults hawking their newspapers at demonstrations...have become arcane debating societies," a movement that "indoctrinates its new members on a college campus and obliges them to hawk newspapers no one wants."

Goff believes things are going to get very bad, and that we'd better be thinking like our lives depend on it, that we need to come up with ways to form societal bonds that can stand up to the coming global conflagration if humanity is going to survive. He especially believes that the left needs to understand that most military people, like most cops, are basically working class, and need to be included in planning for whatever comes.

Goff concludes that violence is inevitable, that "revolution is not a choice between capitalism and socialism. It is a question between the violent overthrow of the existing order or our own extermination by that order. Is that clear enough? Do we need a little sugar with that?" If you think you are serious about changing the way things are going in the U.S., or refer to yourself as an activist, you should read this book. If you think things are just fine, on the other hand, then you really need to read it.