A Global Force for Goods

Also on the subject of cultural-historically informative television commercials showing during the NBA playoffs:

Somewhat predictably, the US Navy’s recruiting motto “A Global Force for Good” has been criticized not for its imperial presumptions, but for its seeming overemphasis on humanitarian missions and purposes. Similar criticisms have been lodged at recruiting commercials that depict Marines speeding “Toward the Sounds of Chaos” while trucking AID pallets along with their weaponry and each other.

Any notion that the US military exists or can be justified for the purpose of “foreign aid” runs into well-conditioned political reflexes – against wasting lives or resources or money or anything at all on ungrateful foreigners; in favor of a military purposed for, as they say, hurting people and breaking things – but surely there are few supporters of the American military who conceive of it as a “global force for evil,” or as a completely neutral force. The underlying neo-imperial concept, and the only possible truth of the popular-patriotic understanding even in its most irascibly bloody-minded, Jacksonian articulations, is that the American role in the world is already aid enough, as America is already good enough or embodiment of a highest wordly good. In this connection no one to my knowledge has yet improved on General George C Marshall’s wartime formulation of the American military aim of aims, that “our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand, of overwhelming power on the other.” The two-sided comprehension frames an era of seeming contradictions, a national purpose enshrined in and by victory in the 20th Century “War of the World,” like a setting sun still casting its light on us from or from just over the horizon behind us.

Another ad in the series pairs statistics on the neo-imperial or global political-economic purposes of the US Navy with images of such “overwhelming power.”  “90% of World Trade”: The USN as force for global consumer and capital “goods.”

To my ear, the voiceover actor seems more conscious than apparently the vast majority of listeners of yet another “good,” the one contained in the idiom “for good,” as in “permanently, forever,” the eternal or godly “good.” That hardly anyone acknowledges hearing the words this way, that even the authors of the motto at the US Navy Recruiting Command may not have consciously thought them this way, may underline, not contradict, the more deeply laden, virtually inarticulable beliefs they invoke and the power they project in this ad campaign whose central subject, like the Navy’s central purpose, is power projection.

What the commercials want to tell or remind us is this: The US Navy is the US global-historical role and meaning objectified, American ideology concretely, defined by a presumption that the two, or three, senses of “for good” must become the same meaning over time, are always approaching each other via that arc “bending toward justice” that the President likes to recall in his seemingly most heartfelt speeches, and that all of his predecessors, or anyway the most important ones, have also honored in their own words.

It may not quite go without saying that the current state of the world state cannot be a truly permanent state, or that the idea of one world or world system secured by overwhelming power under a flag of freedom is neither universally acknowledged nor any more eternal than any other human-made thing or any material thing at all. The US Navy may lack a countermeasure for heat-death of the universe, or for those relatively more mundane threats that exist within human historical time, yet remain beyond the range of its satellites and missiles, but the world after the disappearance of a global force for good, after the end of a will and ability to apply force globally for the good and for goods will be a different world. As far as this world, the world we know, is concerned, it will be another time entirely, and it is always merely facile at best to assume that that other time or the time of getting there will be widely experienced as a better time.

5 comments on “A Global Force for Goods

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  1. From surfing around on this it does appear that the “for good”/finality meaning has not been much discussed. The closest I found to it, and it takes still considerable reading into to get there, is this vid:


    Since it is a few years old, I wonder if the Navy considers the ads successful in recruitment.

    • To my way of thinking, if the discussion had been taking place noticeably, if everyone got “the joke,” and the usual suspects were angry about it, the message would be less powerful or meaningful. I imagine people hearing it, taking it in, absorbing it, making it a part of themselves or recognizing it simply as already a part of themselves. I think it’s easier to put out there under a President and during a period rightly or wrongly imagined to be “power-recessive” at least compared to the previous period, and believably on some kind of secular power down-slope of indeterminable length and dependability. Or maybe the Popular Sovereign speaks to me in a voice no one else hears. Do you recall the meaning occurring to you, or do you think you felt it, when you first heard the motto?

      • It’s pretty common for me to not get commercials, at least for a while. These commercials were in the “this is just too bizarre” category, which means I don’t spend much cognitive effort on it. I feel like the finalty meaning occurred right away but the juxtopositions with the other meanings were more than I wanted to consider since I was probably watching sports ie not paying much attention to anything.

        I think at some point I wondered if this, and some other commercials which I can’t specifically recall, are directed more at parents of potential recruits rather than the recruits themselves. I seem to remember some commercials clearly directed this way, and I’m wondering if these commercials are at least in part, part of that strategy.

  2. Well it’s not that new, in fact this is part of the general counterinsurgency strategy, also those who despised the Navy’s actions in South Asia, were a little more silent regarding the relief missions during the Tsunami

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