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The recently-publicized plan to reconstruct the Pentagon building according to ecological, energy-efficient principles is an outward sign of a much-heralded remodelling of the US military's image. New regulations covering the acquisition of weapon systems are now geared to "integrating environmental considerations" into assessments of their "life-cycles". Native Americans may soon be allowed access to religious and sacred sites on Department of Defense lands. The military's mighty surveillance networks are being revamped as ecological early-warning systems. What next? The reforestation of Vietnam?
In an apparently humour-free gesture, the Marine Corps introduced a new recruiting poster which shows an amphibious landing craft unloading marines onto Pendleton Beach, California. Strutting in the foreground is a Western snowy plover, a bird that made it on to the endangered species list in 1993 and whose Pendleton Beach habitat would now seem to be protected through its use by the Marines as a combat training area. In a play on the Marines' unofficial motto, "We're Looking for a Few Good Men", the poster's caption - "We're Saving a Few Good species" - captures one of the most incongruous spectacles of our times: the "greening" of the armed forces, or, from another perspective, the emergence of a military-industrial-environmental complex.
Not A Salvation Army
Since the cessation of the Cold War and the half-hearted "conversion" of the permanent war economy, and in the wake of Operation Provide Comfort in Kurdistan, Operation Sea Angel in Bangladesh, Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti and Operation Support Hope in Zaire, the US armed forces and their allies have taken on many of the public relations functions of a "healthcare provider" in their attention to operations other than war. Indeed, things have become so soft in the new peace-keeping industry that Secretary of Defense, William Perry, recently complained to Congress: "We are an army, not a Salvation Army".
Many of the military's new ventures in environmental preservation and restoration focus on its own "iatrogenic" problems - medical terminology for illnesses induced by exposure to medical institutions themselves. In common with many new developments in technoscience, the Pentagon is increasingly fighting a battle …