“As many frustrated Americans who have joined the Tea Party realize, we cannot stand against big government
at home while supporting it abroad. We cannot talk about fiscal responsibility while spending trillions on occupying and bullying
the rest of the world. We cannot talk about the budget deficit and spiraling domestic spending without looking at the costs of
maintaining an American empire of more than 700 military bases in more than 120 foreign countries. We cannot pat ourselves on
the back for cutting a few thousand dollars from a nature preserve or an inner-city swimming pool at home while turning a blind
eye to a Pentagon budget that nearly equals those of the rest of the world combined.”
New American militarism is connected with the desire to establish global neoliberal empire ruled by the USA (the dream of total world
dominance). It became official policy since the collapse of the USSR and involves "heliocentric" view on foreign policy,
when the USA is the center of the world order and other states just rotate around it on various orbits. The US population is by-and-large-completely
brainwashed into this vision.
Opposition to the US militarism is almost non-existent due contemporary US popular culture infused with the language of militarism
and American exceptionalism. As Bacevich noted:
In any Clancy novel, the international order is a dangerous and threatening place, awash with heavily armed and implacably determined
enemies who threaten the United States. That Americans have managed to avoid Armageddon is attributable to a single fact: the men
and women of America’s uniformed military and its intelligence services have thus far managed to avert those threats. The typical
Clancy novel is an unabashed tribute to the skill, honor, extraordinary technological aptitude and sheer decency of the nation’s
defenders. To read Red Storm Rising is to enter a world of ‘virtuous men and perfect weapons’, as one reviewer noted. ‘All the Americans
are paragons of courage, endurance and devotion to service and country. Their officers are uniformly competent and occasionally inspired.
Men of all ranks are faithful husbands and devoted fathers.’ Indeed, in the contract that he signed for the filming of Red October,
Clancy stipulated that nothing in the film show the navy in a bad light.
The "New American militarism" or as it called "Neocon mentality" is not that different
from the early Soviets militarism (of Trotskyite variety), eager to spread the blessings of Scientific Socialism toward other
countries on the tips of bayonets. Here the role of scientific socialism is played by neoliberal ideology. With the slogan
"Transnational elite unite" and Davos style Congresses of the new "Neoliberal International" of comprador elites. While
converting other countries into neoliberal model using color revolution of direct military invasion or combination of both) are disguised
as spread of "democracy".
In this new Crusade for world hegemony the key ideas of Trotsky Permanent Revolution remains intact -- a crusade for establishing
new social system on all counties on the Earth. This is just Great Neoliberal Crusade, instead of Communist Crusade. This new
justification for Crusades has the same problems as two previous. But it does not matter as the key role of democracy here is the same
as in quote "the goal justifies the means"
Professor Andrew Bacevich wrote several short books on the subject. he avoids the term neoliberalism and did not try to explain new
American militarism in terms of the quest for neoliberal empire expansion. But he is a very good observer and the books contain many
insights into US elite thinking and blunders. Among them we can note two:
While all three books are excellent and raise important issues, they overlap. Probably the most original and the most important
on them is Washington Rules, were Bacevich attempts to explain "Permanent War for Permanent Peace" that the USA practice since the end
of WWII. All three books have the same weaknesses: Bacevich does not see connection between Neoliberalism demand for economic expansion
and "New American Militarism" and regime of permanent wars that the USA pursue since WWII.
He provide sharp critique of neocons, but never ask the question: which political forces brought those pathetic second or third rate
thinkers to the forefront of formulation of the US foreign policy and maintain them for more then a decade after Iraq debacle.
He also mistakenly believe that American people (who were completely estranged from any influence on nation's policies) bear some
guilt for the policy which was formulated to benefit the first hundred of the largest US corporations. In other words he does not understand
that the USA is yet another occupied country.
[Neocons] advocate permanent war for permanent peace
The foreign policy of the USA since 1945, but especially, after the dissolution of the USSR was and is "open militarism". Recently
John Quiggin tried to define militarism is came to the following definition (crookedtimber.org):
100 years after the Battle of the Somme, it's hard to see that much has been learned from the catastrophe of the Great War and
the decades of slaughter that followed it. Rather than get bogged down (yet again) in specifics that invariably decline into arguments
about who know more of the historical detail, I'm going to try a different approach, looking at the militarist ideology that gave
us the War, and trying to articulate an anti-militarist alternative.
Wikipedia offers a definition of militarism which, with the
deletion of a single weasel word, seems to be entirely satisfactory and also seems to describe the dominant view of the political
class, and much of the population in nearly every country in the world.
Militarism is the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and
be prepared to use it aggressively[^1] to defend or promote national interests
This new epidemic of the US militarism started after the dissolution of the USSR was called by Professor Bacevich (who is former
colonel of the US army) it New American Militarism.
global interventionism is used to achieve those ends.
Professor Bacevich had shown that the main driver of the US militarism is neocons domination of the US foreign policy, and, especially,
neocons domination in State Department regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats are in power. They profess that the US that is
uniquely qualified to take on the worldwide foes of peace and democracy, forgetting, revising, or ignoring the painful lessons of World
War II, Vietnam, and Iraq. And that establishing and maintaining the neoliberal empire is worth the price we pay as it will take the
USA into the period of unprecedented peace.
Bacevich scored a direct hit on the foundations of the American national security state with this scathing critique, and demolishes
the unspoken assumptions that he believes have led the United States into a senseless, wasteful, and counter-productive "perpetual
war for perpetual peace".
Bacevich scores a direct hit on the foundations of the American national security state with this scathing critique, and demolishes
the unspoken assumptions that he believes have led the United States into a senseless, wasteful, and counter-productive posture of
nearly perpetual war. These assumptions take the form of the "credo" -- which holds that the United States has the unique responsibility
to intervene wherever it wants, for whatever purpose it wants, by whatever means it wants -- and the supporting "trinity" of
requirements for the U.S. to maintain a global military presence, to configure its military forces for global power projection, and
to counter threats by relying on a policy of global interventionism.
Lessons that President Obama is clearly never able to learn. In this sense his book
Washington Rules: America's
Path to Permanent War is an excellent peace of research with sections that some may find very troubling as it suggest that the USA
elite is suicidal and is ready to sacrifice the county for achieving its delusional goal of world domination.
UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper CXXXVII: September 27, 2010, 7:00 p.m.
Andrew J. Bacevich, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War (New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company, August
The Washington consensus on national security policy that constitutes convention wisdom in American foreign policy began with
the Cold War and survived, remarkably, the Vietnam War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, no longer serves American interests,
but the failure of the Obama administration to alter it shows that change can only come from the American people.
Introduction: Slow Learner
The author's faith in orthodoxy began to crumble when visiting the BrandenburgGate in Berlin in the winter of 1990-1991(1-4).
In October 1990 a visit to Jenarevealed the backwardness of EastGermany (4-6). During his years in the Army, Bacevich had kept down
doubts; after the end of the Cold War he retired, and his loss of status freed him to educate himself (6-10).
"George W.Bush's decision to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 pushed me fully into opposition" (10). "This book aims to
take stock of conventional wisdom" (11). The past 60 years of American history shows continuity: a symbiotic "credo" (formulated
by Henry Luce in 1941 as the "American Century") and a "sacred trinity" ("the minimum essentials of international peace and order
require the United States to maintain a global military presence, to configure its forces for global power projection, and to counter
existing or anticipated threats by relying on a policy of global interventionism") together define "the rules to which Washington
In this book, "Washington" refers to the upper echelons of the three branches of government, the main agencies of the national
security state, select think tanks and interest groups, "big banks and other financial institutions, defense contractors and major
corporations, television networks and elite publications like the New York Times, even quasi-academic entities like the Council on
Foreign Relations and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government" (15).
This book aspires to
(1) trace the history of the Washington rules;
(2) show who wins, who loses, and who pays under them;
(3) explain how itis perpetuated;
(4) show that the rules have lost what utility they might once have had;
and (5) re-legitimate "disreputable (or 'radical') views to our national security debates" (16).
The American Century is ending, and it "has become essential" to devise an "alternative to the reining national security paradigm"
Ch. 1: The Advent of Semiwar.
As president, Barack Obama's efforts to change the U.S.'s exercise of power "have seldom risen above the cosmetic"(20). He made
clear he subscribes to the "catechism of American statecraft," viz. that 1) the world must be organized, 2)only the U.S. can do it,
3) this includes dictating principles, and 4) not to accept this is to be a rogue or a recalcitrant (20-21).
It follows that the U.S. need not conform to the norms it sets for others and that it should maintain a worldwide network of bases
Imagine if China acted in a comparable manner (23-25). The extraordinary American military posture in the world (25-27). To call
this into question puts one beyond the pale(27). James Forrestal called this a permanent condition of semiwar, requiring high levels
of military spending(27-28).
American citizens are not supposed to concern themselves with it (29-30). As to how this came about, the "standard story line"
presents as the result of the decisions of a "succession of presidential administrations," though this conceals as much as it reveals
Eisenhower's 1961 Farewell Address on the "military-industrial complex" was a rare exception (32-34). More important than presidents
were Allen Dulles [1893-1969] and Curtis Lemay [1906-1990] (34-36).
Bacevich attributes the vision for an American-dominated post-World War II world with the CIA playing an active role to the patrician
Dulles (36-43). The development of the U.S. military into a force capable of dominating the world, especially in the area of strategic
weapons, he attributes to the hard-bitten Curtis LeMay, organizer of the StrategicAir Command (SAC) (43-52). Dulles and LeMay shared
devotion to country, ruthlessness, a certain recklessness (52-55). They exploited American anxieties and insecurities in yin (Dulles's
CIA) yang(LeMay's SAC) fashion, leaving the mainstay of American military power, the U.S. Army, in a relatively weak position(55-58).
Ch. 2: Illusions of Flexibility and Control
Kennedy kept Dulles and LeMay to signal continuity, but there was a behind-the-scenes struggle led by Gen. Maxwell Taylor to reassert
the role of the U.S. Army by expanding and modernizing conventional forces that was "simultaneously masked by, and captured in, the
phrase flexible response " (60; 59-63).
This agenda purported to aim at "resisting aggression" but really created new options for limited aggressive warfare by the U.S.
McNamara engaged in a struggle with LeMay to control U.S. policy on nuclear weapons, but he embraced the need for redundancy based
on a land-sea-air attack "triad" and LeMay et al. "got most of what they wanted" (66-72).
In the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy instituted the morally and legally "indefensible" Operation Mongoose," in effect,
a program of state-sponsored terrorism" against Cuba (80; 72-82 [but Bacevich is silent on its wilder elements, like Operation Northwoods]).
U.S. recklessness caused the Cuban Missile Crisis, and to his credit Kennedy acknowledged this (albeit privately) and "suspended
the tradition" in defusing the crisis (82-87).
Bacevich rejects as a romantic delusion the view that in the aftermath of this crisis Kennedy turned against the military-industrial
complex and the incipient Vietnam war and shows no interest in Kennedy's assassination itself (87-92).
He sees a parallel between escalation in Vietnam and post-9/11 aggression as "fought to sustain the Washington consensus" (107;
Ch. 3: The Credo Restored.
William Fulbright's The Arrogance of Power (1966) urged a rethinking of the Washington rules (109-15). A radicalized David Shoup,
a Medal of Honor winner and former commandant of the MarineCorps, argued in "The New American Militarism" (Atlantic, April 1969)
that the U.S. had become "a militaristic and aggressive nation" (120; 115-21). The 1960s Zeitgeist shift made LeMay "an
embarrassment, mocked and vilified rather than venerated," which showed that the Washington rules had incurred serious damage in
Vietnam; the Army was in dire shape (122; 121-27).
Yet astonishingly, in the subsequent decade the "sacred trinity" (cf. 11-15) was "fully restored" (127). As in post-1918 Germany,
élites looked for scapegoats and worked to reverse "the war's apparent verdict" (128). The Council on Foreign Relations 1976 volume
entitled The Vietnam Legacy: The War, American Society, and the Future of American Foreign Policy is an expression of élite
consensus that the Vietnam war was insignificant, an anomaly (129-34).
By 1980, Democrats and Republicans were again on the same page (134-36).Reagan's election "sealed the triumph of Vietnam revisionism"
(136; 136-38). And the end of the Cold War posed no challenge to the Washington rules, as Madeleine Albright's pretentious arrogance
Ch. 4: Reconstituting the Trinity
The period from 1980 to 2000 saw "notretrenchment but reconfiguration" (147). The new mission was not American defense but
facilitation of a new world order (148-50). After 9/11 this pretense was dropped and "[a]ctivism became the watchword" (150,
emphasis in original;150-52). Resorting to war became "notably more frequent and less controversial" in 1980-2000, finding "its ultimate
expression in the Bush Doctrine of preventive war" (152-53). Americans "passively assented" (154).
Behind the scenes, the shape this took was struggled over by the officer corps and civilian semi-warriors pushing RMA(Revolution
in Military Affairs) (154-64).Initially, U.S. élites held that victory in Iraq demonstrated that speed could be substituted for mass
in military campaigns (165-75). But the experience of the occupation revealed this to be a fantasy (175-81).
Ch. 5: Counterfeit COIN.
Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine, replacing "shock and awe" as "the Long War" replaced the "global war on terror," is the latest
doctrinal effort to preserve the Washington rules (182-86). The so-called "surge" implicitly marked a quest for conditions allowing
the U.S. to leave Iraq without admitting defeat (186-91).Gen. David Petraeus emerged as an advocate (and as salesman, through FM3-24,
the manual he revised and which Bacevich insists is in its emphasis on narrative replete with postmodernism) of counterinsurgency
doctrine as "a substitute [for warfare] suited to the exercise of great power politics in the twilight of modernity" (197; 191-97).
Implicitly, the manual argues that "war as such . . . no longer worked" (198; 198-202). Petraeus took credit for progress in Iraq
that he did not achieve (202-04).
The general with a Princeton Ph.D. was lionized with a view to normalizing war and lowering expectations, a view now embraced
by the Obama administration(205-11). Proponents of global counterinsurgency (GCOIN) emerged, like John Nagl and Gen. Benet Sacolick
(211-13). Obama embraced the GCOIN version of the Long War with Gen.Stanley McChrystal to carry it out in Afghanistan, forfeiting
the opportunity to reassess American policy (213-21).
Ch. 6: Cultivating Our Own Garden.
Time-honored no-nonsense American pragmatism has turned into an absurdity-swallowing herd mentality (222-23). The problem set the
U.S. faces has radically changed from the time of the early Cold War, but the "sacred trinity" (cf. 11-15) that proposes to address
them remains essentially the same (224-25).Eisenhower would have been appalled(225-26). The size of the Pentagon budget, the
size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and the extent of overseas military presence cannot be justified(226-27).
These persist because of the interests they serve, not the mission the fulfill, and are likely to do so for sometime (228-30).
Bacevich invokes George Kennan, William Fulbright, and Martin Luther King Jr. in urging that the U.S. needs a new approach, to model
freedom rather than impose it (231-37). First and foremost, America should save not the world but itself (237).
Bacevich proposes a new trinity:
the purpose of the military is to defend the U.S. and its vital interests;
soldiers' primary duty stations are on American soil;
force should be used only as a last resort and in self-defense, in accord with the Just War tradition (238-41).
The American public must shoulder its complicity in what has happened, fostered by an all-volunteer force and debt-financed budgets
(241-47). It is tragic that Barack Obama, elected to institute change, has lacked the courage to alter the Washington rules,
instead "choosing to conform" (247-49). "If change is to come, it must come from the people"(249). The need for education "has
become especially acute" (249; 249-50).
Except from Macmillan
Introduction: Slow Learner Worldly ambition inhibits true learning. Ask me. I know. A young man in a hurry is nearly uneducable:
He knows what he wants and where he's headed; when it comes to looking back or entertaining heretical thoughts, he has neither the
time nor the inclination. All that counts is that he is going somewhere. Only as ambition wanes does education become a possibility.
My own education did not commence until I had reached middle age. I can fix its start date with precision: For me, education began
in Berlin, on a winter's evening, at the Brandenburg Gate, not long after the Berlin Wall had fallen. As an officer in the U.S. Army
I had spent considerable time in Germany. Until that moment, however, my family and I had never had occasion to visit this most famous
of German cities, still littered with artifacts of a deeply repellent history. At the end of a long day of exploration, we found
ourselves in what had, until just months before, been the communist East. It was late and we were hungry, but I insisted on walking
the length of the Unter den Linden, from the River Spree to the gate itself. A cold rain was falling and the pavement glistened.
The buildings lining the avenue, dating from the era of Prussian kings, were dark, dirty, and pitted. Few people were about. It was
hardly a night for sightseeing. For as long as I could remember, the Brandenburg Gate had been the preeminent symbol of the age and
Berlin the epicenter of contemporary history.
Yet by the time I made it to the once and future German capital, history was already moving on. The Cold War had abruptly ended.
A divided city and a divided nation had re united. For Americans who had known Berlin only from a distance, the city existed primarily
as a metaphor. Pick a date— 1933, 1942, 1945, 1948, 1961, 1989—and Berlin becomes an instructive symbol of power, depravity, tragedy,
defiance, endurance, or vindication. For those inclined to view the past as a chronicle of parables, the modern history of Berlin
offered an abundance of material. The greatest of those parables emerged from the events of 1933 to 1945, an epic tale of evil ascendant,
belatedly confronted, then heroically overthrown.
A second narrative, woven from events during the intense period immediately following World War II, saw hopes for peace dashed,
yielding bitter antagonism but also great resolve. The ensuing stand-off—the "long twilight struggle," in John Kennedy's memorable
phrase— formed the centerpiece of the third parable, its central theme stubborn courage in the face of looming peril. Finally came
the exhilarating events of 1989, with freedom ultimately prevailing, not only in Berlin, but throughout Eastern Europe.
.... ... ...
Although commonly depicted as the most advanced and successful component of the Soviet Empire, East Germany more closely resembled
part of the undeveloped world.
... ... ...
Briquettes of soft coal used for home heating made the air all but unbreathable and coated everything with soot. In the German
cities we knew, pastels predominated—houses and apartment blocks painted pale green, muted salmon, and soft yellow. Here everything
was brown and gray
... ... ...
Bit by bit, my worldview started to crumble. That worldview had derived from this conviction: that American power manifested a
commitment to global leadership, and that both together expressed and affirmed the nation's enduring devotion to its founding ideals.
That American power, policies, and purpose were bound together in a neat, internally consistent package, each element drawing strength
from and reinforcing the others, was something I took as a given. That, during my adult life, a penchant for interventionism had
become a signature of U.S. policy did not—to me, at least—in any way contradict America's aspirations for peace. Instead, a willingness
to expend lives and treasure in distant places testified to the seriousness of those aspirations. That, during this same period,
the United States had amassed an arsenal of over thirty-one thousand nuclear weapons, some small number of them assigned to units
in which I had served, was not at odds with our belief in the inalienable right to life and liberty; rather, threats to life and
liberty had compelled the United States to acquire such an arsenal and maintain it in readiness for instant use.2 I was not so naíve
as to believe that the American record had been without flaws. Yet I assured myself that any errors or misjudgments had been committed
in good faith. Furthermore, circumstances permitted little real choice. In Southeast Asia as in Western Europe, in the Persian Gulf
as in the Western Hemisphere, the United States had simply done what needed doing. Viable alternatives did not exist. To consent
to any dilution of American power would be to forfeit global leadership, thereby putting at risk safety, prosperity, and freedom,
not only our own but also that of our friends and allies.
The choices seemed clear enough. On one side was the status quo: the commitments, customs, and habits that defined American globalism,
implemented by the national security apparatus within which I functioned as a small cog. On the other side was the prospect of appeasement,
isolationism, and catastrophe. The only responsible course was the one to which every president since Harry Truman had adhered. For
me, the Cold War had played a crucial role in sustaining that worldview.
Given my age, upbringing, and professional background, it could hardly have been otherwise. Although the great rivalry between
the United States and the Soviet Union had contained moments of considerable anxiety — I remember my father, during the Cuban Missile
Crisis, stocking our basement with water and canned goods — it served primarily to clarify, not to frighten.
The Cold War provided a framework that organized and made sense of contemporary history. It offered a lineup and a scorecard.
That there existed bad Germans and good Germans, their Germans and our Germans, totalitarian Germans and Germans who, like Americans,
passionately loved freedom was, for example, a proposition I accepted as dogma. Seeing the Cold War as a struggle between good and
evil answered many questions, consigned others to the periphery, and rendered still others irrelevant.
Back in the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, more than a few members of my generation had rejected the conception of the Cold War
as a Manichean struggle. Here too, I was admittedly a slow learner. Yet having kept the faith long after others had lost theirs,
the doubts that eventually assailed me were all the more disorienting. Granted, occasional suspicions had appeared long before Jena
My own Vietnam experience had generated its share, which I had done my best to suppress. I was, after all, a serving soldier.
Except in the narrowest of terms, the military profession, in those days at least, did not look kindly on nonconformity. Climbing
the ladder of career success required curbing maverick tendencies. To get ahead, you needed to be a team player. Later, when studying
the history of U.S. foreign relations in graduate school, I was pelted with challenges to orthodoxy, which I vigorously deflected.
When it came to education, graduate school proved a complete waste of time — a period of intense study devoted to the further accumulation
of facts, while I exerted myself to ensuring that they remained inert.
Now, however, my personal circumstances were changing. Shortly after the passing of the Cold War, my military career ended. Education
thereby became not only a possibility, but also a necessity. In measured doses, mortification cleanses the soul. It's the perfect
antidote for excessive self-regard. After twenty-three years spent inside the U.S. Army seemingly going somewhere, I now found myself
on the outside going nowhere in particular. In the self-contained and cloistered universe of regimental life, I had briefly risen
to the status of minor spear carrier. The instant I took off my uniform, that status vanished. I soon came to a proper appreciation
of my own insignificance, a salutary lesson that I ought to have absorbed many years earlier. As I set out on what eventually became
a crablike journey toward a new calling as a teacher and writer—a pilgrimage of sorts—ambition in the commonly accepted meaning of
the term ebbed. This did not happen all at once. Yet gradually, trying to grab one of life's shiny brass rings ceased being a major
Wealth, power, and celebrity became not aspirations but subjects for critical analysis.
History—especially the familiar narrative of the Cold War—no longer offered answers; instead, it posed perplexing riddles. Easily
the most nagging was this one: How could I have so profoundly misjudged the reality of what lay on the far side of the Iron Curtain?
Had I been insufficiently attentive? Or was it possible that I had been snookered all along? Contemplating such questions, while
simultaneously witnessing the unfolding of the "long 1990s"— the period bookended by two wars with Iraq when American vainglory reached
impressive new heights—prompted the realization that I had grossly misinterpreted the threat posed by America's adversaries. Yet
that was the lesser half of the problem. Far worse than misperceiving "them" was the fact that I had misperceived "us." What I thought
I knew best I actually understood least. Here, the need for education appeared especially acute.
George W. Bush's decision to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 pushed me fully into opposition. Claims that once seemed elementary—above
all, claims relating to the essentially benign purposes of American power— now appeared preposterous. The contradictions that found
an ostensibly peace-loving nation committing itself to a doctrine of preventive war became too great to ignore. The folly and hubris
of the policy makers who heedlessly thrust the nation into an ill-defined and open-ended "global war on terror" without the foggiest
notion of what victory would look like, how it would be won, and what it might cost approached standards hitherto achieved only by
slightly mad German warlords. During the era of containment, the United States had at least maintained the pretense of a principled
strategy; now, the last vestiges of principle gave way to fantasy and opportunism. With that, the worldview to which I had adhered
as a young adult and carried into middle age dissolved completely. *
What should stand in the place of such discarded convictions? Simply inverting the conventional wisdom, substituting a new Manichean
paradigm for the old discredited version—the United States taking the place of the Soviet Union as the source of the world's evil—would
not suffice. Yet arriving at even an approximation of truth would entail subjecting conventional wisdom, both present and past, to
sustained and searching scrutiny. Cautiously at first but with growing confidence, this I vowed to do. Doing so meant shedding habits
of conformity acquired over decades. All of my adult life I had been a company man, only dimly aware of the extent to which institutional
loyalties induce myopia. Asserting independence required first recognizing the extent to which I had been socialized to accept certain
things as unimpeachable. Here then were the preliminary steps essential to making education accessible. Over a period of years, a
considerable store of debris had piled up. Now, it all had to go. Belatedly, I learned that more often than not what passes for conventional
wisdom is simply wrong. Adopting fashionable attitudes to demonstrate one's trustworthiness—the world of politics is flush with such
people hoping thereby to qualify for inclusion in some inner circle—is akin to engaging in prostitution in exchange for promissory
notes. It's not only demeaning but downright foolhardy. This book aims to take stock of conventional wisdom in its most influential
and enduring form, namely the package of assumptions, habits, and precepts that have defined the tradition of statecraft to which
the United States has adhered since the end of World War II— the era of global dominance now drawing to a close. This postwar tradition
combines two components, each one so deeply embedded in the American collective consciousness as to have all but disappeared from
The first component specifies norms according to which the international order ought to work and charges the United States with
responsibility for enforcing those norms. Call this the American credo. In the simplest terms, the credo summons the United States—and
the United States alone—to lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world. In a celebrated manifesto issued at the dawn
of what he termed "The American Century," Henry R. Luce made the case for this spacious conception of global leadership. Writing
in Life magazine in early 1941, the influential publisher exhorted his fellow citizens to "accept wholeheartedly our duty to exert
upon the world the full impact of our influence for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit." Luce thereby captured
what remains even today the credo's essence.3 Luce's concept of an American Century, an age of unquestioned American global primacy,
resonated, especially in Washington. His evocative phrase found a permanent place in the lexicon of national politics. (Recall that
the neoconservatives who, in the 1990s, lobbied for more militant U.S. policies named their enterprise the Project for a New American
Century.) So, too, did Luce's expansive claim of prerogatives to be exercised by the United States.
Even today, whenever public figures allude to America's responsibility to lead, they signal their fidelity to this creed.
Along with respectful allusions to God and "the troops," adherence to Luce's credo has become a de facto prerequisite for high office.
Question its claims and your prospects of being heard in the hubbub of national politics become nil. Note, however, that the duty
Luce ascribed to Americans has two components. It is not only up to Americans, he wrote, to choose the purposes for which they would
bring their influence to bear, but to choose the means as well. Here we confront the second component of the postwar tradition of
American statecraft. With regard to means, that tradition has emphasized activism over example, hard power over soft, and coercion
(often styled "negotiating from a position of strength") over suasion. Above all, the exercise of global leadership as prescribed
by the credo obliges the United States to maintain military capabilities staggeringly in excess of those required for self-defense.
Prior to World War II, Americans by and large viewed military power and institutions with skepticism, if not outright hostility.
In the wake of World War II, that changed. An affinity for military might emerged as central to the American identity. By the midpoint
of the twentieth century, "the Pentagon" had ceased to be merely a gigantic five-sided building.
Like "Wall Street" at the end of the nineteenth century, it had become Leviathan, its actions veiled in secrecy, its reach extending
around the world. Yet while the concentration of power in Wall Street had once evoked deep fear and suspicion, Americans by and large
saw the concentration of power in the Pentagon as benign. Most found it reassuring. A people who had long seen standing armies as
a threat to liberty now came to believe that the preservation of liberty required them to lavish resources on the armed forces. During
the Cold War, Americans worried ceaselessly about falling behind the Russians, even though the Pentagon consistently maintained a
position of overall primacy. Once the Soviet threat disappeared, mere primacy no longer sufficed. With barely a whisper of national
debate, unambiguous and perpetual global military supremacy emerged as an essential predicate to global leadership. Every great military
power has its distinctive signature. For Napoleonic France, it was the levée en masse— the people in arms animated by the ideals
of the Revolution. For Great Britain in the heyday of empire, it was command of the seas, sustained by a dominant fleet and a network
of far-flung outposts from Gibraltar and the Cape of Good Hope to Singapore and Hong Kong. Germany from the 1860s to the 1940s (and
Israel from 1948 to 1973) took another approach, relying on a potent blend of tactical flexibility and operational audacity to achieve
The abiding signature of American military power since World War II has been of a different order altogether. The United States
has not specialized in any particular type of war. It has not adhered to a fixed tactical style. No single service or weapon has
enjoyed consistent favor. At times, the armed forces have relied on citizen-soldiers to fill their ranks; at other times, long-service
professionals. Yet an examination of the past sixty years of U.S. military policy and practice does reveal important elements of
continuity. Call them the sacred trinity: an abiding conviction that the minimum essentials of international peace and order require
the United States to maintain a global military presence, to configure its forces for global power projection, and to counter existing
or anticipated threats by relying on a policy of global interventionism. Together, credo and trinity—the one defining purpose, the
other practice—constitute the essence of the way that Washington has attempted to govern and police the American Century. The relationship
between the two is symbiotic. The trinity lends plausibility to the credo's vast claims. For its part, the credo justifies the trinity's
vast requirements and exertions.
Together they provide the basis for an enduring consensus that imparts a consistency to U.S. policy regardless of which political
party may hold the upper hand or who may be occupying the White House. From the era of Harry Truman to the age of Barack Obama, that
consensus has remained intact. It defines the rules to which Washington adheres; it determines the precepts by which Washington rules.
As used here, Washington is less a geographic expression than a set of interlocking institutions headed by people who, whether acting
officially or unofficially, are able to put a thumb on the helm of state. Washington, in this sense, includes the upper echelons
of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government. It encompasses the principal components of the national
security state— the departments of Defense, State, and, more recently, Homeland Security, along with various agencies comprising
the intelligence and federal law enforcement communities. Its ranks extend to select think tanks and interest groups. Lawyers, lobbyists,
fixers, former officials, and retired military officers who still enjoy access are members in good standing. Yet Washington also
reaches beyond the Beltway to include big banks and other financial institutions, defense contractors and major corporations, television
networks and elite publications like the New York Times, even quasi-academic entities like the Council on Foreign Relations and Harvard's
Kennedy School of Government.
With rare exceptions, acceptance of the Washington rules forms a prerequisite for entry into this world. My purpose in writing
this book is fivefold: first, to trace the origins and evolution of the Washington rules—both the credo that inspires consensus and
the trinity in which it finds expression; second, to subject the resulting consensus to critical inspection, showing who wins and
who loses and also who foots the bill; third, to explain how the Washington rules are perpetuated, with certain views privileged
while others are declared disreputable; fourth, to demonstrate that the rules themselves have lost whatever utility they may once
have possessed, with their implications increasingly pernicious and their costs increasingly unaffordable; and finally, to argue
for readmitting disreputable (or "radical") views to our national security debate, in effect legitimating alternatives to the status
quo. In effect, my aim is to invite readers to share in the process of education on which I embarked two decades ago in Berlin. The
Washington rules were forged at a moment when American influence and power were approaching their acme. That moment has now passed.
The United States has drawn down the stores of authority and goodwill it had acquired by 1945. Words uttered in Washington command
less respect than once was the case. Americans can ill afford to indulge any longer in dreams of saving the world, much less remaking
it in our own image. The curtain is now falling on the American Century. Similarly, the United States no longer possesses sufficient
wherewithal to sustain a national security strategy that relies on global military presence and global power projection to underwrite
a policy of global interventionism. Touted as essential to peace, adherence to that strategy has propelled the United States into
a condition approximating perpetual war, as the military misadventures of the past decade have demonstrated.
To anyone with eyes to see, the shortcomings inherent in the Washington rules have become plainly evident. Although those most
deeply invested in perpetuating its conventions will insist otherwise, the tradition to which Washington remains devoted has begun
to unravel. Attempting to prolong its existence might serve Washington's interests, but it will not serve the interests of the
Devising an alternative to the reigning national security paradigm will pose a daunting challenge—especially if Americans look
to "Washington" for fresh thinking. Yet doing so has become essential. In one sense, the national security policies to which Washington
so insistently adheres express what has long been the preferred American approach to engaging the world beyond our borders. That
approach plays to America's presumed strong suit—since World War II, and especially since the end of the Cold War, thought to be
military power. In another sense, this reliance on military might creates excuses for the United States to avoid serious engagement:
Confidence in American arms has made it unnecessary to attend to what others might think or to consider how their aspirations might
differ from our own.
In this way, the Washington rules reinforce American provincialism—a national trait for which the United States continues
to pay dearly. The persistence of these rules has also provided an excuse to avoid serious self-engagement. From this perspective,
confidence that the credo and the trinity will oblige others to accommodate themselves to America's needs or desires — whether for
cheap oil, cheap credit, or cheap consumer goods—has allowed Washington to postpone or ignore problems demanding attention here at
Fixing Iraq or Afghanistan ends up taking precedence over fixing Cleveland and Detroit. Purporting to support the troops in their
crusade to free the world obviates any obligation to assess the implications of how Americans themselves choose to exercise freedom.
When Americans demonstrate a willingness to engage seriously with others, combined with the courage to engage seriously with themselves,
then real education just might begin.
In their article ‘The American Century’ Has Plunged the World Into Crisis. What Happens Now?"
Conn Hallinan and
Leon Wofsy outlined important reasons of the inevitability
of the dominance of chicken hawks and jingoistic foreign policy in the USA political establishment:
U.S. foreign policy is dangerous, undemocratic, and deeply out of sync with real global challenges. Is continuous war inevitable,
or can we change course?
There’s something fundamentally wrong with U.S. foreign policy.
Despite glimmers of hope — a tentative nuclear agreement with Iran,
for one, and a long-overdue thaw with Cuba — we’re locked into seemingly irresolvable conflicts in most regions of the world. They
range from tensions with nuclear-armed powers like Russia and China to actual combat operations in the Middle East, South Asia, and
Why? Has a state of perpetual warfare and conflict become inescapable? Or are we in a self-replicating cycle that reflects an
inability — or unwillingness — to see the world as it actually is?
The United States is undergoing a historic transition in our relationship to the rest of the world, but this is neither acknowledged
nor reflected in U.S. foreign policy. We still act as if our enormous military power, imperial alliances, and self-perceived moral
superiority empower us to set the terms of “world order.”
While this illusion goes back to the end of World War II, it was the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union that
signaled the beginning of a self-proclaimed “American Century.” The idea that the United States had “won” the Cold War and now —
as the world’s lone superpower — had the right or responsibility to order the world’s affairs led to a series of military adventures.
It started with President Bill Clinton’s intervention in the Yugoslav civil war, continued on with George W. Bush’s disastrous invasions
of Afghanistan and Iraq, and can still be seen in the Obama administration’s own misadventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and
In each case, Washington chose war as the answer to enormously complex issues, ignoring the profound consequences for both foreign
and domestic policy. Yet the world is very different from the assumptions that drive this impulsive interventionism.
It’s this disconnect that defines the current crisis.
Acknowledging New Realities
So what is it about the world that requires a change in our outlook? A few observations come to mind.
First, our preoccupation with conflicts in the Middle East — and to a significant extent, our tensions with Russia in Eastern
Europe and with China in East Asia — distract us from the most compelling crises that threaten the future of humanity. Climate change
and environmental perils have to be dealt with now and demand an unprecedented level of international collective action. That also
holds for the resurgent danger of nuclear war.
Second, superpower military interventionism and far-flung acts of war have only intensified conflict, terror, and human suffering.
There’s no short-term solution — especially by force — to the deep-seated problems that cause chaos, violence, and misery through
much of the world.
Third, while any hope of curbing violence and mitigating the most urgent problems depends on international cooperation, old and
disastrous intrigues over spheres of influence dominate the behavior of the major powers. Our own relentless pursuit of military
advantage on every continent, including through alliances and proxies like NATO, divides the world into “friend” and “foe” according
to our perceived interests. That inevitably inflames aggressive imperial rivalries and overrides common interests in the 21st century.
Fourth, while the United States remains a great economic power, economic and political influence is shifting and giving rise to
national and regional centers no longer controlled by U.S.-dominated global financial structures. Away from Washington, London, and
Berlin, alternative centers of economic power are taking
hold in Beijing, New Delhi, Cape Town, and Brasilia. Independent formations and alliances are springing up: organizations like the
BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa); the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (representing 2.8 billion people);
the Union of South American Nations; the Latin American trade bloc, Mercosur; and others.
Beyond the problems our delusions of grandeur have caused in the wider world, there are enormous domestic consequences of prolonged
war and interventionism. We shell out
over $1 trillion a year in military-related expenses even as our social safety net frays and our
infrastructure crumbles. Democracy itself has become virtually
Short Memories and Persistent Delusions
But instead of letting these changing circumstances and our repeated military failures give us pause, our government continues
to act as if the United States has the power to dominate and dictate to the rest of the world.
The responsibility of those who set us on this course fades into background. Indeed, in light of the ongoing meltdown in the Middle
East, leading presidential candidates are
tapping neoconservatives like John Bolton
and Paul Wolfowitz — who still think the
answer to any foreign policy quandary is military power — for advice. Our leaders seem to forget that following this lot’s advice
was exactly what caused the meltdown in the first place. War still excites them, risks and consequences be damned.
While the Obama administration has sought, with limited success, to end the major wars it inherited, our government makes wide
use of killer drones in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and has put troops
back into Iraq to confront the
religious fanaticism and brutality of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) — itself a direct consequence of the last U.S. invasion
of Iraq. Reluctant to find common ground in the fight against ISIS with designated “foes” like Iran and Syria, Washington clings
to allies like Saudi Arabia, whose leaders are fueling the crisis of religious fanaticism and internecine barbarity. Elsewhere, the
U.S. also continues to give massive support to the Israeli government, despite its expanding occupation of the West Bank and its
horrific recurring assaults on Gaza.
A “war first” policy in places like Iran and Syria is being strongly pushed by neoconservatives like former Vice President
Dick Cheney and Senate Armed Services Committee
Chairman John McCain. Though it’s attempted
to distance itself from the neocons, the Obama administration adds to tensions with planned military realignments like the “Asia
pivot” aimed at building up U.S. military forces in Asia to confront China. It’s also taken a more aggressive position than even
other NATO partners in fostering a new cold war with Russia.
We seem to have missed the point: There is no such thing as an “American Century.” International order cannot be enforced by a
superpower alone. But never mind centuries — if we don’t learn to take our common interests more seriously than those that divide
nations and breed the chronic danger of war, there may well be no tomorrows.
There’s a powerful ideological delusion that any movement seeking to change U.S. foreign policy must confront: that U.S. culture
is superior to anything else on the planet. Generally going by the name of “American exceptionalism,” it’s the deeply held belief
that American politics (and medicine, technology, education, and so on) are better than those in other countries. Implicit in the
belief is an evangelical urge to impose American ways of doing things on the rest of the world.
Americans, for instance, believe they have the best education system in the world, when in fact they’ve dropped from 1st
place to 14th place in the number of college graduates. We’ve made students of higher education the most indebted section
of our population, while falling to 17th place in international education ratings. According to the Organization for Economic
Cooperation, the average American pays more than twice as much for his or her education than those in the rest of the world.
Health care is an equally compelling example. In the World Health Organization’s ranking of health care systems in 2000, the United
States was ranked 37th. In a more recent
Institute of Medicine report in 2013, the U.S. was ranked the lowest among 17 developed nations studied.
The old anti-war slogan, “It will be a good day when schools get all the money they need and the Navy has to hold a bake sale
to buy an aircraft carrier” is as appropriate today as it was in the 1960s. We prioritize corporate subsidies, tax cuts for the wealthy,
and massive military budgets over education. The result is that Americans are no longer among the most educated in the world.
But challenging the “exceptionalism” myth courts the danger of being labeled “unpatriotic” and “un-American,” two powerful ideological
sanctions that can effectively silence critical or questioning voices.
The fact that Americans consider their culture or ideology “superior” is hardly unique. But no other country in the world has
the same level of economic and military power to enforce its worldview on others.
The United States did not simply support Kosovo’s independence, for example. It bombed Serbia into de facto acceptance. When the
U.S. decided to remove the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Gaddafi from power, it just did so. No other country is capable of
projecting that kind of force in regions thousands of miles from its borders.
The U.S. currently accounts for anywhere from 45 to 50 percent of the world’s military spending. It has hundreds of overseas bases,
ranging from huge sprawling affairs like Camp Bond Steel in Kosovo and unsinkable aircraft carriers around the islands of Okinawa,
Wake, Diego Garcia, and Guam to tiny bases called “lily
pads” of pre-positioned military supplies. The late political scientist Chalmers Johnson estimated that the U.S. has some
800 bases worldwide, about the same as the British Empire had at its height in 1895.
The United States has long relied on a military arrow in its diplomatic quiver, and Americans have been at war almost continuously
since the end of World War II. Some of these wars were major undertakings: Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Kuwait, Afghanistan,
Iraq (twice), Libya. Some were quick “smash and grabs” like Panama and Grenada. Others are “shadow wars” waged by Special Forces,
armed drones, and local proxies. If one defines the term “war” as the application of organized violence, the U.S. has engaged
in close to 80 wars since 1945.
The Home Front
The coin of empire comes dear, as the old expression goes.
According Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, the final butcher bill for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars — including
the long-term health problems of veterans — will cost U.S. taxpayers around
One can add to that the over $1 trillion the U.S. spends each year on defense-related items. The “official” defense budget of some
half a trillion dollars doesn’t include such items as nuclear weapons, veterans’ benefits or retirement, the CIA and Homeland Security,
nor the billions a year in interest we’ll be paying on the debt from the Afghan-Iraq wars. By 2013 the U.S. had already paid out
$316 billion in interest.
The domestic collateral damage from that set of priorities is numbing.
We spend more on our “official” military budget than we do on Medicare, Medicaid, Health and Human Services, Education, and Housing
and Urban Development combined. Since 9/11,
we’ve spent $70 million an hour
on “security” compared to $62 million an hour on all domestic programs.
As military expenditures dwarf funding for deteriorating social programs, they drive economic inequality. The poor and working
millions are left further and further behind. Meanwhile the chronic problems highlighted at Ferguson, and reflected nationwide, are
a horrific reminder of how deeply racism — the unequal economic and social divide and systemic abuse of black and Latino youth —
continues to plague our homeland.
The state of ceaseless war has deeply damaged our democracy, bringing our surveillance and security state to levels that many
dictators would envy. The Senate torture report, most of
it still classified, shatters the trust we are asked to place in the secret, unaccountable apparatus that runs
the most extensive Big Brother
spy system ever devised.
Bombs and Business
President Calvin Coolidge was said to have remarked that “the business of America is business.” Unsurprisingly, U.S. corporate
interests play a major role in American foreign policy.
Out of the top 10 international arms producers, eight are American. The arms industry spends millions lobbying Congress and state
legislatures, and it defends its turf with an efficiency and vigor that its products don’t always emulate on the battlefield. The
F-35 fighter-bomber, for example — the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history — will cost $1.5 trillion and doesn’t work.
It’s over budget, dangerous to fly, and riddled with defects. And yet few lawmakers dare challenge the powerful corporations who
have shoved this lemon down our throats.
Corporate interests are woven into the fabric of long-term U.S. strategic interests and goals. Both combine to try to control
energy supplies, command strategic choke points through which oil and gas supplies transit, and ensure access to markets.
Many of these goals can be achieved with standard diplomacy or economic pressure, but the U.S. always reserves the right to
use military force. The 1979 “Carter Doctrine” —
a document that mirrors the 1823 Monroe Doctrine about American interests in Latin America — put that strategy in blunt terms vis-à-vis
the Middle East:
“An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital
interests of the United States, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”
It’s no less true in East Asia. The U.S. will certainly engage in peaceful economic competition with China. But if push comes
to shove, the Third, Fifth, and Seventh fleets will back up the interests of Washington and its allies — Japan, the Philippines,
South Korea, and Australia.
Trying to change the course of American foreign policy is not only essential for reducing international tensions. It’s critically
important to shift the enormous wealth we expend in war and weapons toward alleviating growing inequality and social crises at home.
As long as competition for markets and accumulation of capital characterize modern society, nations will vie for spheres of influence,
and antagonistic interests will be a fundamental feature of international relations. Chauvinist reaction to incursions real or imagined
— and the impulse to respond by military means — is characteristic to some degree of every significant nation-state. Yet the more
that some governments, including our own, become subordinate to oligarchic control, the greater is the peril.
Finding the Common Interest
These, however, are not the only factors that will shape the future.
There is nothing inevitable that rules out a significant change of direction, even if the demise or transformation of a capitalistic
system of greed and exploitation is not at hand. The potential for change, especially in U.S. foreign policy, resides in how social
movements here and abroad respond to the undeniable reality of: 1) the chronic failure, massive costs, and danger inherent in “American
Century” exceptionalism; and 2) the urgency of international efforts to respond to climate change.
There is, as well, the necessity to respond to health and natural disasters aggravated by poverty, to rising messianic violence,
and above all, to prevent a descent into war. This includes not only the danger of a clash between the major nuclear powers, but
between regional powers. A nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India, for example, would affect the whole world.
Without underestimating the self-interest of forces that thrive on gambling with the future of humanity, historic experience and
current reality elevate a powerful common interest in peace and survival. The need to change course is not something that can be
recognized on only one side of an ideological divide. Nor does that recognition depend on national, ethnic, or religious identity.
Rather, it demands acknowledging the enormous cost of plunging ahead as everything falls apart around us.
After the latest U.S. midterm elections, the political outlook is certainly bleak. But experience shows that elections, important
as they are, are not necessarily indicators of when and how significant change can come about in matters of policy. On issues of
civil rights and social equality, advances have occurred because a dedicated and persistent minority movement helped change public
opinion in a way the political establishment could not defy.
The Vietnam War, for example, came to an end, despite the stubbornness of Democratic and Republican administrations, when a stalemate
on the battlefield and growing international and domestic opposition could no longer be denied. Significant changes can come about
even as the basic character of society is retained. Massive resistance and rejection of colonialism caused the British Empire and
other colonial powers to adjust to a new reality after World War II. McCarthyism was eventually defeated in the United States. President
Nixon was forced to resign. The use of landmines and cluster bombs has been greatly restricted because of the opposition of a small
band of activists whose initial efforts were labeled “quixotic.”
There are diverse and growing political currents in our country that see the folly and danger of the course we’re on. Many Republicans,
Democrats, independents, and libertarians — and much of the public — are beginning to say “enough” to war and military intervention
all over the globe, and the folly of basing foreign policy on dividing countries into “friend or foe.”
This is not to be Pollyannaish about anti-war sentiment, or how quickly people can be stampeded into supporting the use of force.
In early 2014, some 57 percent of Americans
agreed that “over-reliance on military
force creates more hatred leading to increased terrorism.” Only 37 percent believed military force was the way to go. But once the
hysteria around the Islamic State began, those
numbers shifted to pretty much an even split: 47 percent supported the use of military force, 46 percent opposed it.
It will always be necessary in each new crisis to counter those who mislead and browbeat the public into acceptance of another
military intervention. But in spite of the current hysterics about ISIS, disillusionment in war as an answer is probably greater
now among Americans and worldwide than it has ever been. That sentiment may prove strong enough to produce a shift away from perpetual
war, a shift toward some modesty and common-sense realism in U.S. foreign policy.
Making Space for the Unexpected
Given that there is a need for a new approach, how can American foreign policy be changed?
Foremost, there is the need for a real debate on the thrust of a U.S. foreign policy that chooses negotiation, diplomacy, and
international cooperation over the use of force.
However, as we approach another presidential election, there is as yet no strong voice among the candidates to challenge U.S.
foreign policy. Fear and questionable political calculation keep even most progressive politicians from daring to dissent as the
crisis of foreign policy lurches further into perpetual militarism and war. That silence of political acquiescence has to be broken.
Nor is it a matter of concern only on the left. There are many Americans — right, left, or neither — who sense the futility of
the course we’re on. These voices have to be represented or the election process will be even more of a sham than we’ve recently
One can’t predict just what initiatives may take hold, but the recent U.S.-China climate agreement suggests that necessity can
override significant obstacles. That accord is an important step forward, although a limited bilateral pact
cannot substitute for an essential
international climate treaty. There is a glimmer of hope also in the U.S.-Russian joint action that
removed chemical weapons from Syria,
and in negotiations with Iran, which continue despite
fierce opposition from U.S. hawks and the Israeli
government. More recently, there is Obama’s bold move — long overdue — to
restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. Despite
shifts in political fortunes, the unexpected can happen if there is a need and strong enough pressure to create an opportunity.
We do not claim to have ready-made solutions to the worsening crisis in international relations. We are certain that there is
much we’ve missed or underestimated. But if readers agree that U.S. foreign policy has a national and global impact, and that it
is not carried out in the interests of the majority of the world’s people, including our own, then we ask you to join this conversation.
If we are to expand the ability of the people to influence foreign policy, we need to defend democracy, and encourage dissent
and alternative ideas. The threats to the world and to ourselves are so great that finding common ground trumps any particular interest.
We also know that we won’t all agree with each other, and we believe that is as it should be. There are multiple paths to the future.
No coalition around changing foreign policy will be successful if it tells people to conform to any one pattern of political action.
So how does the call for changing course translate to something politically viable, and how do we consider the problem of power?
The power to make significant changes in policy ranges from the persistence of peace activists to the potential influence of the
general public. In some circumstances, it becomes possible — as well as necessary — to make significant changes in the power structure
Greece comes to mind. Greek left organizations came together to form Syriza, the political party that was
successfully elected to power on a platform of ending austerity.
Spain’s anti-austerity Podemos Party — now the number-two party in the country — came out of massive demonstrations in 2011 and was
organized from the grassroots up. We do not argue one approach over the over, but the experiences in both countries demonstrate that
there are multiple paths to generating change.
Certainly progressives and leftists grapple with the problems of power. But progress on issues, particularly in matters like war
and peace and climate change, shouldn’t be conceived of as dependent on first achieving general solutions to the problems of society,
... ... ...
Conn Hallinan is a journalist and a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus. His writings appear online at
Dispatches From the Edge. Leon Wofsy is a retired
biology professor and long-time political activist. His comments on current affairs appear online at
"...These rules have pushed the United States to a state of perpetual war. With enemies supposedly everywhere, the pursuit of
security has become open-ended. "
"...One is reminded of John Winthrop,
who, in 1630, told the future residents of Massachusetts Bay Colony: "We shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are
upon us." Over subsequent decades, Winthrop's sermon became the American mission, fired by self-righteousness and fueled by self-confidence.
From that mission emerged the idea of Manifest Destiny -- American ideals should spread across the continent and around the globe. Along
the way, Americans lost sight of what Winthrop actually meant. His words were both inspiration and warning: Aspire to greatness, but
remain honorable. Power lies in virtue. Winthrop envisaged a shining beacon, worthy of emulation. He saw no need to come down from the
hill and ram ideals down the throats of the recalcitrant. "
"...Back in 1963, the Kennedy administration was faced with a steadily disintegrating situation in Vietnam. At a turbulent cabinet
meeting, Attorney General Robert Kennedy asked: If the situation is so dire, why not withdraw? Arthur Schlesinger, present at the meeting,
noted how "the question hovered for a moment, then died away." It was "a hopelessly alien thought in a field of unexplored assumptions
and entrenched convictions." The Washington rules kept the United States on a steady course toward disaster. "
"...Barack Obama once promised that change was coming, but then quickly adhered to the old rules by escalating an unwinnable and
certainly unaffordable war in Afghanistan. Failures, as Steffens hoped, have been illuminating, but after each flash of light, darkness
has prevailed. "
"We need some great failures," the muckraking journalist
Lincoln Steffens wrote in his autobiography. "Especially
we ever-successful Americans -- conscious, intelligent, illuminating failures." What Steffens meant was that a people confident in
righteousness need occasionally to be reminded of their fallibility. The past 50 years have produced failures aplenty -- the Bay
of Pigs, Vietnam and Iraq among them. Unfortunately, as Andrew Bacevich and John Dower demonstrate, the light of failure has not
penetrated the darkness of delusion. As a result, wars provide a repeating rhythm of folly.
Rules" and "Cultures
of War" are two excellent books made better by the coincidence of their publication. In complementary fashion, they provide a
convincing critique of America's conduct of war since 1941. Steffens would have liked these books, specifically for the way they
use past failures to explain the provenance of our current predicament.
Read "Cultures of War" first. It's not an easy book, but it is consistently perceptive. Dower examines Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima,
Sept. 11 and the second Iraq War, drawing disconcerting linkages. Pearl Harbor and Iraq, he feels, demonstrate how otherwise
intelligent leaders are drawn toward strategic imbecility. Both attacks were brilliantly executed in the short term, but neither
paid sufficient attention to the long-term problem of winning a war. More controversially, Dower pairs Hiroshima with Sept. 11, both
acts of terror born of moral certitude. Osama bin Laden and Harry Truman justified wanton killing with essentially the same Manichean
rhetoric. Motives, context and scale might have been different; methods were not. For both leaders, the ability to separate good
from evil made killing easy.
In 1941, Americans drew comfort from the stereotype of the irrational Oriental. They assumed that the Japanese would be easily
defeated because they were illogical -- as their attack upon Pearl Harbor proved. That attack was indeed illogical (given the impossibility
of defeating the United States in a protracted war), but it was not peculiarly Japanese. As Dower reveals, the wishful thinking,
delusion and herd behavior within the court of Emperor Hirohito was a symptom of war, not ethnicity. The same deficiencies,
in 2003, convinced those in the Oval Office that invading Iraq was a good idea.
Since the culture of war encourages patterned behavior, folly proliferates. This is the essence of the Washington rules that Bacevich
elucidates. The rules dictate that protection of the American way of life necessitates a global military presence and a willingness
to intervene anywhere. Power and violence are cleansed by virtue: Because America is "good," her actions are always benign. These
rules have pushed the United States to a state of perpetual war. With enemies supposedly everywhere, the pursuit of security has
The alternative, according to Bacevich, is not isolationism or appeasement, two politically loaded words frequently used to pummel
those who object to Washington's behavior. He advocates, instead, a more level-headed assessment of danger, advice all the more cogent
since it comes from a former soldier. Iraq and Afghanistan did not threaten America; in fact, those countries and the world have
become more dangerous because of heavy-handed American intervention. Nor does North Korea pose a threat. Nor did Vietnam.
One is reminded of John Winthrop,
who, in 1630, told the future residents of Massachusetts Bay Colony: "We shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are
upon us." Over subsequent decades, Winthrop's sermon became the American mission, fired by self-righteousness and fueled by self-confidence.
From that mission emerged the idea of Manifest Destiny -- American ideals should spread across the continent and around the globe.
Along the way, Americans lost sight of what Winthrop actually meant. His words were both inspiration and warning: Aspire to greatness,
but remain honorable. Power lies in virtue. Winthrop envisaged a shining beacon, worthy of emulation. He saw no need to come down
from the hill and ram ideals down the throats of the recalcitrant.
The power of virtue is Bacevich's most profound message. Instead of trying to fix Afghanistan's
Helmand Province, he insists, Americans should fix Detroit
and Cleveland. Instead of attempting to export notions of freedom and democracy to nations that lack experience of either, America
should demonstrate, by her actions, that she is still a free, democratic and humane nation. Her real strength lies in her liberal
tradition, not in her ability to kill.
Back in 1963, the Kennedy administration was faced with a steadily disintegrating situation in Vietnam. At a turbulent cabinet
meeting, Attorney General Robert Kennedy asked: If the situation is so dire, why not withdraw? Arthur Schlesinger, present at the
meeting, noted how "the question hovered for a moment, then died away." It was "a hopelessly alien thought in a field of unexplored
assumptions and entrenched convictions." The Washington rules kept the United States on a steady course toward disaster.
Those unexplored assumptions and entrenched convictions have now pushed the United States into a new quagmire. Despite that
predicament, both Dower and Bacevich try to end positively. "If change is to come, it must come from the people," argues Bacevich.
Dower agrees. But these feeble attempts at optimism are the least convincing parts of two otherwise brilliant books. Barack Obama
once promised that change was coming, but then quickly adhered to the old rules by escalating an unwinnable and certainly unaffordable
war in Afghanistan. Failures, as Steffens hoped, have been illuminating, but after each flash of light, darkness has prevailed.
Gerard De Groot is a professor of history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and author of "The Bomb: A Life."
For his first 40 years, Andrew Bacevich lived the conventional life of an army officer. In the military world where success depended
on conformity, he followed the rules and “took comfort in orthodoxy…[finding] assurance in conventional wisdom.” Comfort, that is,
until he had a chance to peer behind the Iron Curtain, and was shocked to find East Germany more third-world shambles than first-rate
That experience, combined with the introspection that followed his subsequent retirement from the army, led Bacevich to reevaluate
the relationship between truth and power. After having taken his superiors at their word for decades, he slowly came to understand
“that authentic truth is never simple and that any version of truth handed down from on high…is inherently suspect. The exercise
of power necessarily involves manipulation and is antithetical to candor.”
Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War
is Bacevich’s fourth book on the subject of American exercise of power. This time, he takes up the question of the political calculations
that have produced the basic tenets of American foreign policy since the beginning of the Cold War, examining how and why they came
to exist and to survive all challenges to their supremacy.
Bacevich describes two components that define U.S. foreign policy.
The first is what he dubs the “American credo,” which calls on “the United States — and the United States alone — to lead
save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world.”
Second is what he calls the “sacred trinity,” which requires that the United States “maintain a global military presence,
to configure its forces for global power projections, and to counter existing or anticipated threats by relying on a
policy of global interventionism.”
These rules, Bacevich argues, are no longer vital to the existence of the United States, and have led to actions that threaten
to break the army and bankrupt the treasury. Rather, they are kept in place by individuals who derive personal benefit from their
continuance. Bacevich does not hesitate to blame a Washington class that “clings to its credo and trinity not out of necessity, but
out of parochial self-interest laced with inertia.”
This is a theme that runs throughout the book: that those who make the rules also benefit from them, and thus their demands should
always be regarded skeptically.
While abstaining from questioning the patriotism of past leaders, Bacevich is not reluctant to point out how many policies that
were later widely embraced were originally trumpeted by ambitious men who had as much to gain personally by their acceptance as did
General Curtis LeMay, who built a massive nuclear arsenal as head of Strategic Air Command;
Allen Dulles, who backed coups across the globe as CIA director;
General Maxwell Taylor, who rode the idea of “flexible response” from retirement to the position of chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The story of foreign policy, then, is not so much different than any government bureaucracy through which vast sums of money
flow, and is driven as much by officials jockeying for status than by genuine concern for policy outcomes. Whether in disputes
between the Army and the Air Force or the Pentagon and the White House, and whether over money or over purpose, different sectors
of the national security establishment propose and promote new doctrines that necessitate increasing their budgets and enhancing
But Bacevich is not content to only blame leaders. In contrast to George Washington’s ideal of the citizen who would consider
it his duty to actively serve his country, Bacevich finds today’s Americans “greedy and gullible,” pursuing personal gain in the
stead of collective benefit. Any solution, he argues, must come from an awakened people who demand change from the people they put
As for what that change should look like, Bacevich proposes a new credo and trinity. As a new mission statement, he offers: “America’s
purpose is to be America, striving to fulfill the aspirations expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as
reinterpreted with the passage of time and in light of hard-earned experience.”
As a new trinity, he suggests that “the purpose of the U.S, military is not to combat evil or remake the world but to defend the
United States and its most vital interests…the primary duty station of the American soldier is in America…consistent with the Just
War tradition, the United States should employ force only as a last resort and only in self defense.”
Bacevich writes in the short, clipped style with which he also speaks, presumably a legacy of his West Point education and decades
in the military. His style allows for easy comprehension and neat packaging of his ideas, and readers will not get bogged down in
Parts of Bacevich’s thinking require further scrutiny and remind readers of his self-identification as a conservative (lowercase
“c”). Economically, he is no fan of stimulus spending, and socially he places blame on individual failings and personal flaws, choosing
not to mention an unequal economic system that leaves tens of millions of Americans with barely the resources to take care of their
families, much less have time to be informed and active citizens.
In fact, the emphasis throughout the book is on the fact that expansionism, at this particular moment, is not wrong but impossible.
Bacevich is, after all, a realist when it comes to international relations theory, and though he happens to agree with liberal anti-imperials
on many issues, it is often for different reasons.
However, debates over theory can wait for when the republic is in less immediate peril. This is the second work Bacevich has published
under the auspices of the American Empire Project, a book series documenting America’s imperial adventures and their disastrous consequences.
The contribution of conservative authors to this task is vital. They remind us that opposition to imperialism is hardly just a liberal
cause, and in fact for much of American history was actually a rallying point for conservatives across the country.
Washington Rules is valuable for putting in print what those inside the military establishment don’t dare admit: that,
even aside from moral concerns, U.S. international strategy is neither successful nor sustainable and maintained more by lies than
by actual results. Bacevich can truly be said to be a realist in that he understand that leaders, when faced with the choice of admitting
failure or lying, will almost always choose the latter.
Andrew Feldman is an intern with Foreign Policy In Focus.
This is the bluntest, toughest, most scathing critique of American imperialism as it has become totally unmoored after the demise
of the Soviet Communist empire and taken to a new level by the Bush administration. Even the brevity of this book - 182 pages - gives
it a particular wallop since every page "concentrates the mind".
In the event a reader knows of the prophetic work of the American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, you will further appreciate this
book. Bacevich is a Niebuhr scholar and this book essentially channels Niebuhr's prophetic warnings from his 1952 book, "The Irony
of American History". The latter has just been reissued by University of Chicago Press thanks to Andrew Bacevich who also contributed
In essence, American idealism as particularly reflected in Bush's illusory goal to "rid the world of evil" and to bring freedom
and democracy to the Middle East or wherever people are being tyrannized, is doomed to failure by the tides of history. Niebuhr warned
against this and Bacevich updates the history from the Cold War to the present. Now our problems have reached crisis proportions
and Bacevich focuses on the three essential elements of the crisis: American profligacy; the political debasing of government; and
the crisis in the military.
What renders Bacevich's critique particularly stinging, aside from the historical context he gives it (Bush has simply taken an
enduring American exceptionalism to a new level), is that he lays these problems on the doorstep of American citizens. It is we who
have elected the governments that have driven us toward near collapse. It is we who have participated willingly in the consumption
frenzy in which both individual citizens and the government live beyond their means. Credit card debt is undermining both government
This pathway is unsustainable and this book serves up a direct and meaningful warning to this effect. Niebuhrian "realism" sees
through the illusions that fuel our own individual behavior and that of our government. There are limits to American power and limits
to our own individual living standards and, of course, there are limits to what the globe can sustain as is becoming evident from
American exceptionalism is coming to an end and it will be painful for both individual citizens and our democracy and government
to get beyond it. But we have no choice. Things will get worse before they get better. Bacevich suggests some of the basic ways that
we need to go to reverse the path to folly. He holds out no illusions that one political party or the other, one presidential candidate
or the other, has the will or the leadership qualities to change directions. It is up to American citizens to demand different policies
as well as to govern our own appetites.
While this is a sobering book, it is not warning of doomsday. Our worst problems are essentially of our own making and we can
begin to unmake them. But we first have to come to terms with our own exceptionalism. We cannot manage history and there are no real
global problems that can be solved by military means, or certainly not by military means alone.
By Edwin C. Pauzer VINE VOICE on September 24, 2008
This is one of those books you might find yourself sitting down to read chapter and verse over and over again, only because the
writing is so intelligent and so profound. "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism," by Andrew Bacevich, is one
of those works that will enthrall the reader with its insight and analysis.
According to the author, the US has reached its limit to project its power in the world. His rationale for this conclusion are
three central crises we now face: economic and cultural, political, and military, all of which are our own making.
The first crisis is one of profligacy. Americans want more, whether it is wealth, credit, markets, or oil, without consideration
for cost or how these things are acquired. There is complete apathy in what policies are being produced as long as they provide plenty.
The political crisis was born of our mobilization in World War II to meet the threat of tyranny, and from the Cold War to meet
the challenge of the Soviet Union. Both gave rise to unprecedented presidential power, an ineffectual Congress, and a disastrous
foreign policy. Bacevich contends that our legislature no longer serves their constituents or the common good "but themselves
through gerrymandering, doling out prodigious amounts of political pork, seeing to the protection of certain vested interests" with
the paramount concern of being re-elected. Our presidents have been willing accomplices in keeping the American dream or greed alive
by using our military as part of a coercive diplomatic tool to feed and fuel the first crisis.
Bacevich traces the end of the republic to the start of both wars, which gave rise to the "ideology of national security." The
mission of the new Department of Defense is not defense, but to project power globally where we will view any nation as a threat
that tries to match us in military might. At the same time, the largest intelligence agencies in the world are created to afford
us more security, but after seventy years are unable to defend our cities and buildings in the US while it worries about intrigues
worldwide. Competition and rivalry lead to a lack of cooperation, intelligence, and security when it was needed most.
The third crisis is our military which has been employed to satisfy the neuroses of the first and second crises. The author puts
much of the blame squarely at the feet of inept military leadership, which he believes has confused strategy with operations. Content
with the resilience of the American fighting man or woman, he is scathing in his critique of their leadership finding them "guilty
of flagrant professional malpractice, if not outright fraud." He illustrates how improvised explosive devices that cost no more than
a pizza have checked a military that is designed for speed and maneuver--that was considered invincible.
Andrew Bacevich contends that nothing will change as long as Americans are told to go to Disney World instead of making sacrifices,
as long as the same one half percent of our population continue to populate the military that the president sees as his personal
army, as long as an apathetic public and an ineffectual Congress continue to make periodic, grand gestures of curbing presidential
power, the United States will have reached the limits of its power and exceptionalism.
This book profoundly moved me, and I was impressed by the insight that Professor Bacevich could bring in such few pages. Passages
of this book should be plastered in the halls and offices of Congress, as well as the West Wing.
This book really stands out as a jewel in a sea of mediocre publications by radio and TV personalities who think they know what
they are talking about when it comes to economics or geopolitics. The difference is that Andrew Bacevich does
Mayer, Jane, "The Dark Side, The Inside Story How The War on Terror Turned into a War on America's Ideals."
Schlesinger, Arthur, "War and the American Presidency."
Mann, Thomas & Ornstein, Norman, "The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track."
Zinni, Tony (Gen. Ret.), "The Battle for Peace: A Frontline Vision of America's Power and Purpose."
Niebuhr, Reinhold, "The Irony of American History."
For your convenience some of them which I judge to be the most insightful are reproduced below:
Andrew J. Bacevich's The New American Militarism: How Americans Are seduced By War, Oxford University Press, New
York, 2005, ISBN 0-19-517338-4, is the most coherent analysis of how America has come to its present situation in the world that
I have ever read. Bacevich, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Center for International Relations at Boston
University, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds a Ph.D. in history from Princeton. And he is retired
military officer. This background makes him almost uniquely qualified to comment on the subject.
Bacevich admits to an outlook of moderate conservatism. But in ascribing fault for our plight to virtually every administration
since W.W. II, he is even handed and clear eyed. Since he served in the military, he understands the natural bureaucratic instincts
of the best of the officer corps and is not blinded by the almost messianic status that they have achieved in the recent past.
His broad brush includes the classic period, the American Revolution - especially the impact of George Washington, but he moves
quickly to the influence of Woodrow Wilson and his direct descendants of our time, the Neoconservatives. The narrative accelerates
and becomes relevant for us in the depths of the despair of Vietnam. At that juncture, neocon intellectuals awakened to the horror
that without a new day for our military and foreign policy, the future of America would be at stake. At almost the same time, Evangelical
Christians abandoned their traditional role in society and came to views not dissimilar to the neocons. America had to get back on
track to both power and goodness. The results of Vietnam on American culture, society, and - especially - values were abhorrent to
both these groups.
The perfect man to idealize and mythologize America's road back was Ronald Reagan. Again, Bacevich does not shrink from seeing
through the surreal qualities brought to the Oval Office by Reagan to the realities beneath them. The Great Communicator transformed
the Vietnam experience into an abandonment of American ideals and reacquainted America with those who fought that horrible war. Pop
culture of the period, including motion pictures such as Top Gun and best selling novels by many, including Tom Clancy completely
rehabilitated the image of the military.
The author describes how Evangelical leaders came to find common cause with the neocons and provided the political muscle for
Reagan and his successors of both parties to discover that the projection of military might become a reason for being for America
as the last century closed.
One of his major points is that the all volunteer force that resulted from the Vietnam experience has been divorced from American
life and that sending this force of ghosts into battle has little impact on our collective psyche. This, too, fit in with the intellectual
throw weight of the neocons and the political power of the Evangelicals.
Separate from but related to the neocons, Bacevich describes the loss of strategic input by the military in favor of a new priesthood
of intellectual elites from institutions such as the RAND Corporation, The University of Chicago and many others. It was these high
priests who saw the potential that technology provided for changing the nature of war itself and how American power might be projected
with `smart weapons' that could be the equivalent of the nuclear force that could never be used.
So it was that when the war we are now embroiled in across the globe - which has its antecedents back more than twenty years -
all of these forces weighed heavily on the military leaders to start using the force we'd bought them. The famed question by Secretary
of State Madeline Albright to General Colin Powell: "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about
if we can't use it?" had to have an answer and the skirmishes and wars since tended to provide it.
Bacevich clearly links our present predicaments both at home and abroad to the ever greater need for natural resources, especially
oil from the Persian Gulf. He demolishes all of the reasons for our bellicosity based on ideals and links it directly to our insatiable
appetite for oil and economic expansion. Naturally, like thousands of writers before him, he points out the need for a national energy
policy based on more effective use of resources and alternative means of production.
It is in his prescriptions that the book tends to drift. The Congress must do its constitutionally mandated jobs or be thrown
out by the people. Some of his ideas on military education are creative and might well close the gap between the officer corps and
civilians that he points to as a great problem.
But it is the clearly written analysis that makes this book shine. It should be a must read for those who wonder how we got to
Iraq and where we might be heading as a society. The nation is in grave danger, and this is a book that that shows how we got to
this juncture. Where we go from here is up to us. If we continue as we are, our options may narrow and be provided by others.
READ THIS BOOK
===This review is from: The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Hardcover)
In his book The New American Militarism (2005), Andrew Bacevich desacralizes our idolatrous infatuation with military might, but
in a way that avoids the partisan cant of both the left and the right that belies so much discourse today. Bacevich's personal experiences
and professional expertise lend his book an air of authenticity that I found compelling. A veteran of Vietnam and subsequently a
career officer, a graduate of West Point and later Princeton where he earned a PhD in history, director of Boston University's Center
for International Relations, he describes himself as a cultural conservative who views mainstream liberalism with skepticism, but
who also is a person whose "disenchantment with what passes for mainstream conservatism, embodied in the present Bush administration
and its groupies, is just about absolute." Finally, he identifies himself as a "conservative Catholic." Idolizing militarism,
Bacevich insists, is far more complex, broader and deeper than scape-goating either political party, accusing people of malicious
intent or dishonorable motives, demonizing ideological fanatics as conspirators, or replacing a given administration. Not merely
the state or the government, but society at large, is enthralled with all things military.
Our military idolatry, Bacevich believes, is now so comprehensive and beguiling that it "pervades our national consciousness
and perverts our national policies." We have normalized war, romanticized military life that formally was deemed degrading and
inhuman, measured our national greatness in terms of military superiority, and harbor naive, unlimited expectations about how waging
war, long considered a tragic last resort that signaled failure, can further our national self-interests. Utilizing a "military metaphysic"
to justify our misguided ambitions to recreate the world in our own image, with ideals that we imagine are universal, has taken about
thirty years to emerge in its present form. It is this marriage between utopians ends and military means that Bacevich wants to annul.
How have we come to idolize military might with such uncritical devotion? He likens it to pollution: "the perhaps unintended,
but foreseeable by-product of prior choices and decisions made without taking fully into account the full range of costs likely to
be incurred" (p. 206). In successive chapters he analyzes six elements of this toxic condition that combined in an incremental and
After the humiliation of Vietnam, an "unmitigated disaster" in his view, the military set about to rehabilitate and reinvent
itself, both in image and substance. With the All Volunteer Force, we moved from a military comprised of citizen-soldiers
that were broadly representative of all society to a professional warrior caste that by design isolated itself from broader society
and that by default employed a disproportionate percentage of enlistees from the lowest socio-economic class. War-making
was thus done for us, by a few of us, not by all of us.
Second, the rise of the neo-conservative movement embraced American Exceptionalism as our national end and superior coercive
force as the means to franchise it around the world.
Myth-making about warfare sentimentalized, sanitized and fictionalized war. The film Top Gun is only one example of "a glittering
new image of warfare."
Fourth, without the wholehearted complicity of conservative evangelicalism, militarism would have been "inconceivable," a
tragic irony when you consider that the most "Christian" nation on earth did far less to question this trend than many ostensibly
Fifth, during the years of nuclear proliferation and the fears of mutually assured destruction, a "priesthood" of elite defense
analysts pushed for what became known as the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). RMA pushed the idea of "limited" and more humane
war using game theory models and technological advances with euphemisms like "clean" and "smart" bombs. But here too our "exuberance
created expectations that became increasingly uncoupled from reality," as the current Iraq debacle demonstrates.
Finally, despite knowing full well that dependence upon Arab oil made us vulnerable to the geo-political maelstroms of that
region, we have continued to treat the Persian Gulf as a cheap gas station. How to insure our Arab oil supply, protect Saudi Arabia,
and serve as Israel's most important protector has always constituted a squaring of the circle. Sordid and expedient self interest,
our "pursuit of happiness ever more expansively defined," was only later joined by more lofty rhetoric about exporting universal
ideals like democracy and free markets, or, rather, the latter have only been a (misguided) means to secure the former.
Bacevich opens and closes with quotes from our Founding Fathers. In 1795, James Madison warned that "of all the enemies of public
liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other." Similarly, late in his
life George Washington warned the country of "those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious
to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hotile to republican liberty."
Relevant and Objective, January 3, 2007
Author Andrew Bacevich has superb credentials on military, diplomatic, and historical issues. A Vietnam Veteran, 25+ year career
in the Army and now professor of International Relations, Bacevich is one of the few that has the experience *and* knowledge to
dissect what has been occurring in American socio-political culture and society for the last several decades. Bacevich notes the
current focus on the military to solve the world's problems and to promote America's interests is not the sole work of a President
and Congress, but the combination of culture, mentality, political, and now primarily economic, interests. This book has tons
of footnoting, which allows you to delve further into these issues on your own.
The author astutely reinforces the fact that the Militarist Mentality won't change, regardless of which political party is
in control of the Executive and Houses of Congress in the United States. Here only some examples out of many:
Entry of the U.S. military into the Middle East:
THE CARTER DOCTRINE:
The Carter Doctrine was prescribed at the State of the Union Address in 1980. Another civilian prescription utilizing
the military as medicine to alleviate and even cure, political symptoms. This Doctrine began a new era of U.S. involvement in
the Middle East, specifically using the American military to enforce its economic interests and lifestyle dependence on oil.
The Carter Doctrine was a major shift in American foreign policy in the Middle East. It specifically stated that use of
the military can and will be used to enforce U.S. economic interests.
At his State of the Union Address, Carter stated:
"Any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be declared as an assault on the vital
interest of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force"
Worth noting is that the Carter Doctrine was declared during the Cold War, when there was a adversary to check U.S interests.
Today, that rival is gone.
Some argue the so-called 'War on Terror' is merely a historical continuation of American foreign policy interests in
using its military to promote its geo-political and economic interests.
WAR AS SPECTATOR SPORT:
War has been, and now is presented as a spectacle. No different than a spectator sport. Live reports, video display, and
laymen presentations of new technology, usually via video, to the civilian public at press conferences.
One example of many are current U.S. newspaper reports: they don't use the term "wounded" when reporting about American soldiers
in Iraq. They use the euphemistic term, "injured." "17 Iraqis 'wounded' and 3 American soldiers 'injured.'" Similar to a football
game. Slogans such as "Shock and Awe, Support the Troops," and deck of cards identifying the most wanted Baath party members.
"Freedom is not Free." Many American military personel (and civilians) have internalized this propaganda.
Using Hollywood To Enhance "Honor" and perpetuate myths:
Bacevich carefully details the planned and choreographed footage of George W. Bush dressed as a fighter pilot on the USS Abraham
Lincoln. This was intentionally and specifically lifted from the movie "Top Gun." Immediately after this planned footage, an action
figure doll was created and sold for $39.99. It was called the "Elite Force Aviator: George W. Bush: U.S. President and Naval
Aviator" (p. 31).
Well-dressed, handsome, and beautiful anchors report about the war in such series as "The Week in War." More simulation of
the spectator sport of war in our pop culture. One segment in the "Week in War program" is called "The Fallen," where the photo
of a soldier, his name, age, and hometown are presented, and the date of his death. Then the cameramen go to his family's home.
Often a family picture of the "fallen soldier" is shown. Then, an interview with the somber, and at times tearful family in their
living room, sitting on their couch: "He was a good kid. He always wanted to help people."
The "Fallen" is related to a concept that the Germans began about 300 years ago. This concept is called the "Cult of the Fallen
Soldier." When a soldier is killed in war he is elevated to a higher status because of his death. He is placed on a pedestal,
because somehow, and in some enigmatic way, he "sacrificed" for a noble cause that is often abstract or confusing to the public.
To further simplify the confusion and sullenness resulting from the soldier's death, religion is often injected into the deceased
soldiers elevation on a pedestal. You can see this Cult of the Fallen Soldier in Arlington, Virgina today, and in many military
cemeteries around the world.
GLORIFICATION OF THE MILITARY THROUGH MOVIES:
Bacevich notes moves and their role. "Top Gun" had a tremendous impact in many ways. Pop culture, and Navy recruiting sky-rocketing.
As for the flurry of "Vietnam war movies," again the noble concepts of "courage, honor, fear, triumph" are latently and explicitly
reinforced to the public of all ages and socio-economic levels.
It took me a chapter or two to get used to Bacevich's writing style, but I grew to like it.
Chapters: 1) Wilsonians Under Arms 2) The Military Professions at Bay 3) Left, Right, Center 4) California Dreaming 5) Onward
6) War Club 7) Blood for Oil 8) Common Defense
"Support" for the military is often incorrectly linked with one's "patriotism." This faulty thinking is perpetuated by the
electronic and print media in often subtle forms but extremely effective forms, and at times very explicit and in aggressive manners.
The government intentionally steers the publics' focus to the 'Military aspects of war' to avoid attention to the more realistic
and vital 'political aspects.' The latter being at the real heart of the motivation, manner, and outcome of most *political* conflicts.
Bacevich notes journalists: journalist Thomas Friedman complained that a Super Bowl half-time show did not honor the "troops."
He then drove to the Command Center to visit and speak with the "troops." Soon after, he carried on with his own self-centered
interests, like everyone else.
The military in and of itself is not dangerous nor pernicious. The military doesn't formulate foreign policy. The military
just implements it, carrying out the orders and instructions of elitist civilians who have never served in the armed forces. It's
not the military nor the men and women serving in it, we must be wary of. It's the civilians masters with vested interests in
the governmental and corporate world who must be held accountable.
General Creighton Abrams wanted to diminish the influence of civilian control over the military after Vietnam. Civilians and
politicians were making military decisions. It seems the situation is similar in 2007. Chairman of the JCS Peter Pace sounds political.
History will be the judge.
This is a very insightful book for those interested in recent history as well as the current situation the United States is
in. The troops should be supported for what they do. Because unfortunately they are the ones that pay the price for elitist decisions
made by upper-class civilians from the Ivy League cliques that run the U.S. politically and economically.
Highly recommended and relevant to our contemporary times and our future.
Andrew Bacevich did excellent research and writing in this book. I'll think we'll be hearing a lot more of him. Hopefully He'll
get more access to the public. If - the mainstream media allows it.
Robert S. Frey
An Informed, Insightful, and Highly Readable Account of American Foreign Policy Today, December 23, 2006
Andrew J. Bacevich's "The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War," should be read and considered carefully
by every member of the national political leadership in the United States as well as by adult Americans in general. Bacevich brings
impeccable credentials to his work in this book--professor of history and international relations at Boston University, West Point
graduate, and veteran of the Vietnam conflict. His writing is engaging, insightful, and historically well anchored. Importantly,
this work is highly accessible and eminently readable. The level of documentation is very valuable as well. Finally, the book
is not about fault-finding and finger-pointing toward any one national figure or group.
What I found most beneficial was that the book presented well-argued alternative historical "meta-narratives" that are much
more closely aligned with post-World War II historical events and processes than the ones currently accepted as "conventional
wisdom." A case in point is the periodization of World War IV beginning with President Carter's pronouncements regarding the Persian
Gulf area in 1980 rather than with the terrorist attacks on America on 9/11. "The New American Militarism" carefully and credibly
brings together the many seemingly disparate actions, decisions, and events of the past 60+ years (e.g., the atomic bombing of
Japan, Vietnam, oil shortages of the 1970s and 80s, the end of the Cold War, the First Gulf War, etc.) and illustrates important
patterns and trends that help to explain why United States' foreign policy is what it is today. Dr. Bacevich's book helps us understand
and appreciate that the global projection of American military power today has deep roots in the national decisions and behaviors
of the second half of the twentieth century.
Robert S. Frey, M.A., MBA, MSM
Adjunct Professor, History
Dr. Lee D. Carlson
Interesting, insightful, and motivating, October 21, 2006
Why is it that some people, including this reviewer, are reluctant to criticize the writings or verbalizations of those Americans
that have been or are currently in the military? This is particularly true for those officers and soldiers who have served in
combat. To be critical of someone is who has faced such horror would be a sacrilege. Their opinions on subjects, especially those
related to war and the military, are given much higher weight than those that have never been in the military. What is the origin
of this extreme bias and does it not thwart attempts to get at the truth in matters of war and politics? If a war is illegal or
immoral, are not the soldiers who participate in it themselves war criminals, deserving the severest condemnation?
The author of this book sheds light on these questions and gives many more interesting opinions on what he has called the 'new
American militarism.' If one examines carefully American history, it is fair to say that Americans have been reluctant to go to
war, preferring instead to settle conflicts via negotiation and trade agreements. Americans have been led to the horrors of war
kicking and screaming, and breath a sigh of relief when they are over. Historically, Americans have applied extreme skepticism
to those politicians, like Woodrow Wilson, who wanted to participate in World War I to make the world "safe for democracy." So
if Americans are "seduced by war", as the author contends they have been in recent decades, an explanation must be found. It is tempting to say that they have been merely "brainwashed", and contemporary neuroscience lends some credence to this claim,
but one must still be open to alternative explanations, and let the evidence determine the proper interpretation. Once
the causes have been identified, it becomes necessary to find methodologies and strategies to counter these causes, lest we find
ourselves in another unnecessary and brutal conflict, initiated by some who do not directly participate in it, and have no intention
ever to do so.
This book is not a scientific study, but instead is a collection of opinions, mostly supported by anecdotal evidence, to support
the author's thesis. On the surface his opinions do seem plausible, but one must still apply to his writings the same level of
skepticism applied to other studies of the same kind. It does seem reasonable to believe for example that current attitudes about
war are governed by the American failure in Vietnam, Carter's supposed ineptitude in dealing with the resulting loss in "self-esteem"
of the American populace, and Reagan's exploitation or correction of this loss. But more evidence is needed to set such a conclusion
The author though is intellectually honest enough to admit that he has not obtained the "definitive version of the truth" on
the new American militarism within the pages of his book. His words are more "suggestive than conclusive" he writes, and he welcomes
criticism and alternative interpretations. Vietnam, oil and energy considerations, 9-11, and the media all have a role to play
in the current American attitudes about war he argues. Further analysis though is needed, and cognizance must be made that all
readers, including this reviewer, are embedded in the same culture as the author, and subjected to the same ideological, historical,
and media pressures. We must be extremely cautious in our acceptance of what we find in print and indeed in all information outlets.
And we must learn that soldiers, active duty or otherwise, are not infallible and must be subjected to the same criticism as any
other citizen. This is again, very difficult to do, and this difficulty is perhaps the best evidence for the author's thesis.
Exceptional Polemic; 4.5 Stars, October 19, 2006
This concise and well written book is the best kind of polemic; clear, well argued, and designed to provoke debate.
Bacevich is definitely interested in persuading readers of the truth of his views but his calm and invective free prose, insistence
on careful documentation, and logical presentation indicate that his primary concern is promote a high level of discussion of
this important issue. Bacevich argues well that a form of militarism based on an exaggerated sense of both American mission and
American power, specifically military power, has infected public life. He views this militarism as both leading to unecessary
and dangerous adventures abroad, epitomized by the Iraq fiasco, and corrupting the quality of domestic debate and policy making.
Beyond documenting the existence of this phenomenon, Bacevich is concerned with explicating how this form of militarism, which
he views as contrary to American traditions, came to be so popular.
Bacevich argues well that the new militarism came about because of a convergence of actions by a number of different
actors including our professional military, neoconservative intellectuals and publicists, evangelical Christians, resurgent Republican
party activists, and so-called defense intellectuals. For a variety of reasons, these sometimes overlapping groups converged
on ideas of the primacy of American military power and the need to use it aggressively abroad. Bacevich devotes a series of chapters
to examining each of these actors, discussing their motivations and actions, often exposing shabby and inconsistent thinking.
Some of these, like the role of neoconservative intellectuals and the Religous Right, are fairly well known.
Others, like the behavior of professional military over the last generation, will be novel to many readers. Bacevich's chapters
have underlying themes. One is the persisent occurrence of ironic events as the actions of many of these groups produced events
counter to their goals. The post-Vietnam professional military attempted to produce a large, vigorous military poised to
fight conventional, WWII-like, combats. This force was intended to be difficult for politicians to use. But as these often
highly competent professionals succeeded to restoring the quality of the American military, the temptation to use it became stronger
and stronger, and control escaped the professionals back into the hands of politicians as varied as Bush II and Clinton.
Another theme is that politicians seized on use military force as an alternative to more difficult and politically unpalatable
alternatives. Jimmy Carter is described correctly as initiating the American preoccupation with control of the Persian Gulf oil
supplies, which has generated a great deal of conflict over the past generation. Bacevich presents Carter as having to act
this way because his efforts to persuade Americans to pursue sacrifice and a rational energy policy were political losers. Ronald
Reagan is presented as the epitome of this unfortunate trend.
Bacevich is generally convincing though, perhaps because this is a short book, there are some issues which are presented onesidely.
For example, its true that Carter began the military preoccupation with the Persian Gulf. But, its true as well that his administration
established the Dept. of Energy, began a significant program of energy related research, moved towards fuel standards for vehicles
and began the regulatory policies that would successfully improve energy efficiency for many household items. No subsequent administration
had done more to lessen dependence on foreign oil.
Bacevich also omits an important point. As he points out, the different actors that sponsored the new militarism tended to
converge in the Republican Party. But, as has been pointed out by a number of analysts, the Republican Party is a highly disparate
and relatively unstable coalition. The existence of some form of powerful enemy, perceived or real, is necessary to maintain
Republican solidarity. The new militarism is an important component of maintaining the internal integrity of the Republican party
and at unconciously appreciated as such by many important Republicans.
An interesting aspect of this book is that Bacevich, a West point grad, former career Army officer, and self-described cultural
conservative, has reproduced many of the criticisms put forward by Leftist critics.
Bacevich concludes with a series of interesting recommendations that are generally rational but bound to be controversial and
probably politically impossible. Again, this is an effort to change the nature of the discussion about these issues.
How Permanent Military Deployment Became Congruent With World Peace, June 29, 2006
In The New American Militarism, Andrew J. Bacevich contends that American culture and policy since the end of the Cold War
has merged a militaristic ethos with a utopian global imaginary. He notes that American militarism is a "bipartisan project" with
"deep roots" that even garner support on the political margins, with some leftist activists seeing a humanitarian mission for
U.S. global military hegemony. He traces these roots to the worldview of Woodrow Wilson, who envisioned a globe "remade in America's
image and therefore permanently at peace." Yet Wilson's view was moderated by a public and policy perception of war as an ugly,
costly, brutal, traumatic and unpredictable last resort. This is corroborated by the massive military demobilizations that followed
U.S. involvement in both world wars. Bacevich also points to works of popular culture, from Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet On
The Western Front to Oliver Stone's Platoon, that reflect on the inhumanity of war from World War I through Vietnam.
Bacevich sees a massive deviation from these historical trends after the end of the Cold War. While conceding that a permanent
military mobilization was expected during the Cold War (from roughly NSC-68 to the fall of the Berlin Wall)--no significant demobilization
followed. Forces slated for deactivation were quickly mobilized for Operation Desert Storm. No successful popular culture critiques
of that war's brutality would emerge. The author sees the end of the cold war and Desert Storm as framing a period of "new American
militarism" that breaks from historical precedent in several regards. He claims that since the 1988 presidential campaign, the
character of the presidency has emphasized military more than civilian leadership. This contradicts previous presidents of military
stature (e.g. Grant, Eisenhower) who obsessively positioned themselves as civilians. Post-Cold War military budgets have been
dramatically larger despite no global adversary. The public has uncritically accepted a permanent military stance. The perception
of war as ghastly and treacherous has been replaced with war as a clinical and technologically managed spectacle. The link between
the covenant of citizenship and military service has been replaced by a specialized force of volunteers. The numbers of veterans
serving in congress has steadily decreased since World War II. Bacevich correlates this with the shunning of military service
by elites as the military has increasingly drawn from areas of the population that are poor and brown. Because of this, force
is "outsourced" and in turn the stature of soldiers has dramatically increased through an infrastructure of praise by the majority
who are not involved in military operations. Senior military officers have tremendous clout in politics, policy, and spending.
To understand this new militarism, Bacevich notes that it is point-for-point an inversion of Vietnam's military milieu. There,
politicians up through the president framed themselves as civilians, officers felt out of touch with bureaucratic decisions, and
war was perceived as carnal and bumbling. The book traces cultural responses to Vietnam that reformed the American relationship
to militarism. As military leaders like Creighton Abrams sought to mandate broad political investment for military action by creating
interdependence with reserves and to limit the criteria for deployment with the Weinberger doctrine, politicians like Ronald Reagan
rehabilitated an American demoralization that peaked with Carter's failed Operation Eagle Claw by invoking popular culture mythologies
Bacevich is unabashedly religious. He ultimately couches America's outsourced and technocratic militarism as a departure from
natural Gods in the pursuit of a scientistic idol that more perfectly regulates human affairs. He openly sees in this scientism
the same flaw and outcome as Communism or Fascism. He suggests that affirmation of military service across economic privilege
would raise the stakes of military engagements and help to contradict the cultural illusions that form the basis of American militarism.
(That war is technical, distant, clinical, predictable, outsourced, humane, and everything contrary to what writers like Remarque
tell us.) He meticulously synthesizes a new paradigm that relates the difficult subjects of military policy and popular sanction.
In this regard, The New American Militarism is an exciting contribution to historical scholarship.
The New American Militarism - A Bipolar Look at Todays State of Affairs, February 4, 2006
Andrew J. Bacevichs', The New American Militarism, gives the reader an important glimpse of his background when he wrote that,
as a Vietnam veteran, the experience baffled him and he wrote this book in an effort to "sift through the wreckage left by the
war." After the Vietnam War, the author stayed in the military because he believed being an American soldier was a "true and honorable"
calling. Bacevich states he is a devoted Catholic and a conservative who became disillusioned with mainstream conservatism. He
also states that he believes the current political system is corrupt and functions in ways inconsistent with genuine democracy.
Bacevich states that he tried to write this book using facts in an unbiased way. However, he cautions the reader that his experiences
have shaped his views and that his views are part of this book. This is a way to tell the reader that although he tried to remain
unbiased, his background and biases find voice in this book. I believe the authors warning are valid; he draws heavily upon his
background and biases to support his thesis.
The book is about American militarism, which Bacevich describes as the "misleading and dangerous conceptions of war, soldiers,
and military institutions" that have become part of the American conscience and have `perverted' US national security policy.
According to Bacevich, American militarism has subordinated the search for the common good to the permanent value of military
effectiveness that will bankrupt the US economically and morally. Bacevich supports this thesis by discussing issues that have
contributed to this state of affairs.
Bacevich believes the current state of American militarism has roots dating back to the Wilson administration. Wilson's vision
was to remake the world in America's image. God Himself willed the universal embrace of liberal democracies and Wilson saw the
US as a `divine agent' to make the world a safe and democratic place. Today, with no serious threat to keep our military forces
in check, we are now, more than ever, free to spread liberal democracy using military force, if necessary.
Considering the military, Bacevich makes the point that the militarism of America is also due, in part, to the officer corps of
the US military trying to rehabilitate the image and profession of the soldier after the Vietnam War. Officers attempted to do
this by reversing the roles of the soldiers and the politicians that was problematic during the Vietnam War. They tried to establish
the primacy of the military over the civilians in decisions as to how to use the military. The Weinberger and Powell doctrines
were the manifestation of this idea by spelling out conditions for the use of the US military in combat.
Neo-conservatives further enhanced the trend of militarism. They see US power as an instrument for good and the time was right
to use the military to achieve the final triumph of Wilson's idea of spreading American liberal democracy around the globe.
Religion also played a role. According to Bacevich, evangelical Protestants see the US as a Christian nation singled out by
God and Americans are His chosen people. These evangelicals believed the Vietnam War was not only a military crisis, but also
a cultural and moral crisis threatening our status. Evangelicals looked to the military to play a pivotal role in saving the US
from internal collapse due to the higher expression of morals and values found in the military. The military would become the
role model to reverse the trend of godlessness and social decay.
Another set of actors that contributed to American militarism were the defense intellectuals whose main contribution was to
bring the military back under civilian control. According to Bacevich, they laid the groundwork of our current policy of `preventative
war' and reinforced American militarism.
Finally, Bacevich accuses politicians of deceiving the American public as to the true nature of American militarism by wrapping
militarism in the comfortable trappings of nationalism. By using labels such as the Global War on Terrorism, politicians are using
a political sleight-of-hand trick to hide our true militaristic nature in patriotic terms. Bacevich concludes his book with a
list of recommendations to mitigate the current trend of American militarism.
Bacevich seems to create a mosaic of conspiracy perpetrated by sinister actors aimed at deceiving an unsuspecting public as
to the true nature of American militarism. Until the last chapter where Bacevich tells the reader that there is no conspiracy,
it is very easy to believe there might be one lurking in the shadows. I was shocked when I reached Bacevich's recommendations.
The contrast between his recommendations and the rest of the book is astounding. I was expecting highly provocative recommendations
that would match the tone of the rest of the book. However, his recommendations were solid and well thought out...delivered in
the calm manner one would expect from a political scientist. Nevertheless, in the end, Bacevich's message leading up to his recommendations
were hard to swallow. I believe he wrote this book not to enlighten but to be provocative in order to sell books and build his
status in academic circles. If Bacevich's aim was to build a convincing argument on a serious subject, he needed to be less provocative
and more clinical.
What is militarism? What is it, particularly as applied to today's America? West Point educated Andrew Bacevich opens his book
with a concise statement: "Today as never before in their history Amercans are enthralled with military power. The global military
supremacy that the United States presently enjoys . . . has become central to our national identity." This is the basic premise
of The New American Militarism. Anyone who does not accept the accuracy of this statement, or is unconcerned about its implications
should probably not read this book--it will only annoy them. For those, however, who are concerned about how militarism is increasingly
seeping into our core values and sense of national destiny, or who are disturbed by the current glaring disconnect between what
our soldiers endure "over there", and the lack of any sacrifice or inconvenience for the rest of us "over here", this book is
Refreshingly, Bacevich approaches the new American militarism as neither a Democrat nor Republican, from neither the left nor
the right. No doubt, those with a stake in defending the policy of the present Administration no matter how foolish, or in castigating
it as the main source of our current militarism, will see "bias" in this book. The truth though is that Bacevich makes a genuine
effort to approach his subject in a spirit of open and disinterested inquiry. He has earned the right to say, near the end of
his book, that "this account has not sought to assign or impute blame." As a result, he is not stymied by the possibility of embarrassing
one political side or the other by his arguments or conclusions. This leads to a nuanced and highly independent and original treatment
of the subject.
In chronicling the rise of American militarism, Bacevich rightly starts with Wilson's vision of American exceptionalism: an
America leading the world beyond the slaughterhouse of European battlefields to an international order of peaceful democratic
states. But where President Wilson wanted to create such a world for the express purpose of rendering war obsolete, Bacevich notes
that today's "Wilsonians" want to export American democracy through the use of force. He follows this overview with an insider's
thumbnail history of American military thinking from Vietnam to the first Gulf war. He explains how the military in effect re-invented
itself after Vietnam so as to make it far more difficult "to send the Army off to fight while leaving the country behind." Today's
highly professionalized and elite force is largely the result of this thinking. In turn this professional military presented to
the country and its civilian leaders a re-invented model of war: war waged with surgical precision and offering "the prospect
of decision rather than pointing ineluctably toward stalemate and quagmire." Gulf War I was the triumphant culmination of this
model. The unintended and ironic consequence, of course, was that war and the aggressive projection of American military power
throughout the world came to be viewed by some in our nation's leadership as an increasingly attractive policy option.
The body of the book analyzes how the legitimate attempt to recover from the national trauma of Vietnam led ultimately to a
militarism increasingly reflected in crucial aspects of American life. In religion he traces how a "crusade" theory of warfare
has supplanted the more mainstream "just war" theory. In popular culture he discusses the rise of a genre of pop fiction and movies
reflecting a glamorized and uncritical idealization of war (he examines "An Officer and A Gentleman", "Rambo: First Blood Part
II", and "Top Gun" as examples). In politics he identifies the neo-conservative movement as bringing into the mainstream ideas
that "a decade earlier might have seemed reckless or preposterous"; for example the idea that the United States is "the most revolutionary
force on earth" with an "inescapable mission" to spread democracy -- by the sword if necessary. Bacevich calls these ideas "inverted
Trotskyism", and notes that the neo-conservative movement shares with Mao the assumption that revolution springs "from the barrel
of a gun".
Bacevich concludes his book with a pithy ten-point critique offered as a starting point for "a change in consciousness, seeing
war and America's relationship to war in a fundamentally different way." Among his points are greater fidelity to the letter and
the spirit of the Constituional provisions regarding war and the military, and increased strategic self-sufficiency for America.
Perhaps the most important points of his critique are those about ending or at least reducing the current disconnect between er
how we might reduce
Careful observers will note the abolute claims that lie under the surface of these criticisms. If you criticize anything about
the United States, you're automatically anti-Bush. If you question the wisdom of viewing the military as a first-option in handling
international problems, you're even worse: a liberal anti-Bush peacenick. History supposedly demonstrates that diplomacy never
works with any "tyrant" (whatever that is), while war allegedly always work. It's just one stark claim after another, with never
any gray area in the middle.
If you read the book, this "you're either with us or with the terrorists, either dream war or hate President Bush" mentality
should remind you of something. It very closely resembles the description Bacevich gives of neoconservatism, which he says engenders
a worldview that is constantly in crisis mode. Things are always so dire for neocons, Bacevich explains, that only two feasible
options present themselves at any given time: doing what the neocons want (usually deploying military force in pursuit of some
lofty but unrealistic goal), or suffering irreversible and potentially fatal setbacks to our national cause.
Is it really surprising that the reviews of this book from a neocon mindset are also the reviews giving one star to a book
that sytematically critiques and upends neoconservatism?
In actuality, as many have pointed out already, Bacevich is "anti-Bush" only insomuch as he is anti-neoconservative. Bacevich
openly states that he throws his full weight behind traditionally conservative issues, like small government and lower taxes.
Indeed, he is a devoutly religious social conservative who himself severed twenty years in the Army officer corps. This is why
his exposee on America's new militarism has so much credibility.
Since he was in the military, he knows that sometimes the military is necessary to handle situations that develop in the world.
However he also understands that the military is often grossly unfit to handle certain situations. This is the main theme of his
book. At its core, the story is about how, in response to Vietnam, military leaders worked frightfully hard to rebuild the military
and to limit the freedom of starry-eyed civilians to use the armed forces inappropriately.
Their most important objective was to ensure that no more Wilsonian misadventures (like Vietnam) would happen. The officer
corps did this by carving out a space of authority for the top brass, from which they could have unprecedented input in policy
decisions, and be able to guide strategy and tactics once the military deployed into action. After ascending to a position of
greater prominence, they implemented the "Weinberger Doctrine," followed by the "Powell Doctrine," both specifically tailored
to avoid Vietnam-style quagmires. The Gulf War, claims Bacevich, saw the fruition of fifteen years of hard work to accomplish
these reforms. And they worked beautifully.
However, the end of the last decade saw the Neo-conservatives challenge the status quo. And with the election of W. Bush, they
were finally in a position where their ideas could again have a disproportionate influence on foreign policy. What we now have
in Iraq is another military quagmire, where the solution must be political, but where military occupation renders political solutions
This story is about how the military profession emerged from the post-Vietnam wilderness, dazzled the world during the first
Gulf War, then once again lost its independent ability to craft related policies with the arrival of Rummie and the neocons.
It's a fascinating story, and Bacevich relates it skillfully.
Andrew S. Rogers:
Baedecker on the road to perdition, December 5, 2005
I was sorry to see Andrew J. Bacevich dismiss Chalmers Johnson's 2004
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy,
and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project) quite as quickly as he did (on page 3 of the introduction, in fact),
because I think these two books, taken together, provide probably the best -- and certainly the most historically-informed --
look at the rise and consequences of American empire. I endorse "The New American Militarism" as heartily as I did "The Sorrows
Bacevich's capsule summary of Johnson's work notwithstanding, both these books take the long view of America's international
military presence and are quick to grasp one key point. As Bacevich notes on page 205, "American militarism is not the invention
of a cabal nursing fantasies of global empire and manipulating an unsuspecting people frightened by the events of 9/11. Further,
it is counterproductive to think in these terms -- to assign culpability to a particular president or administration and to imagine
that throwing the bums out will put things right."
In several insightful chapters, Bacevich traces the rise of militarism over the course of several administrations and many
decades. A former Army officer himself, the author is particularly insightful in charting the efforts of the military's officer
corps to recover from the stigma of Vietnam and reshape the *ethos* of the armed services as an elite intentionally separate from,
and morally superior to, the society it exists to defend. But the officers are only one of the strands Bacevich weaves together.
He also looks at the influence of the "defense intellectuals;" the importance of evangelical Christians and how their view of
Biblical prophecy shapes their understanding of politics; the rise of (yes) the neo-conservatives; and even the role of Hollywood
in changing America's understandings of the "lessons of Vietnam" and the re-glamorization of the military in films like "Top Gun."
The author is a sharp-eyed analyst, but also an engaging writer, and he gives the reader a lot to think about. I was intrigued,
for example, by his discussion of how "supporting the troops" has become the *sine qua non* of modern politics and how doing so
has replaced actual military service as an indicator of one's love of country. More fundamentally, his identification and analysis
of "World War III" (already over) and "World War IV" (currently underway, and declared [surprisingly] by Jimmy Carter) struck
me as a remarkably useful lens for interpreting current events.
In tying his threads together, Bacevich is not afraid to make arguments and draw conclusions that may make the reader uncomfortable.
As the passage I quoted above makes clear, for example, someone looking for a straightforward declaration that "It's all Bush's
fault!" will have to go someplace else. As a further implication of the above passage, Bacevich argues that the "defense intellectuals,"
the evangelicals, and even the neocons were and are doing what they believe are most likely to promote peace, freedom, and the
security of the American people. "To the extent that we may find fault with the results of their efforts, that fault is more appropriately
attributable to human fallibility than to malicious intent" (p. 207). Additionally, Bacevich is unashamed of his military service,
holds up several military leaders as heroes, has some choice words for the self-delusions of leftist "peace activists," and even
argues that federal education loans should be made conditional on military service.
This doesn't mean the president and his fellow conservatives get off much easier, though. Bacevich is roundly critical of Bush
and his administration, including Colin Powell; dismisses the Iraq invasion ("this preposterous enterprise" [p. 202]); and in
a move that will probably get him crossed off the Thayer Award nominations list, suggests officer candidates be required to graduate
from civilian universities instead of West Point (his alma mater) or Annapolis -- intellectually-isolated institutions that reinforce
the officer caste's separation from civil society.
So this book isn't one that will blindly reinforce anyone's prejudices. In part for that reason -- but mostly for its trenchant
analysis, readable prose, and broad historical view -- I'm happy to list "The New American Militarism" as one of the best and
most important books I've read in some time. Perhaps even since "The Sorrows of Empire."
Militarism and Public Opinion, August 12, 2005
According to many of the custodians of public opinion, Andrew Bacevich has earned his right to a fair hearing. Not only is
he a graduate of West Point, a Vietnam veteran, and a conservative Catholic, he is a professor of international relations and
a contributor to "The Weekly Standard" and "The National Review." Obviously, if he were a left-leaning anti-war Democrat and a
contributor to, say, "The Nation," he wouldn't be taken seriously as a critic of American militarism - he would be merely another
Bacevich sees militarism manifesting itself in some disquieting ways. Traditionally America has always gauged the size of its
military with the magnitude of impending threats. After the Civil War, World War I and II, the military was downsized as threats
receded. Not so after the fall of the Soviet Union. The military budget has continued to grow and the expenditures are greater
- by some measures - than all other countries combined. American military forces are now scaling the globe and the American public
seems quiet comfortable with it. And everyone else is growing uneasy.
The mindset of the current officer corps is dominant control in all areas "whether sea, undersea, land, air, space or cyberspace."
In other words, supremacy in all theaters. Self-restraint has given way to the normalization of using military force as a foreign
policy tool. From 1989 (Operation Just Cause) to 2002 (Operation Iraqi Freedom) there have been nine major military operations
and a number of smaller ones. The end of the Cold War has given the US a preponderance of military strength (the proverbial unipolar
moment) that has enamoured successive administrations with the idea of using military force to solve international problems. In
earlier times, war was always an option of the last resort, now it is a preventative measure.
War, according to Bacevich, has taken on a new aesthetic. During World War I and II, and also Vietnam and Korea the battlefield
was a slaughterhouse of barbarism and brutality. Now, with the advent of the new Wilsonianism in Washington, wars are seen as
moments of national unity to carry out a positive agenda, almost as if it were international social work.
The modern soldier is no longer looked upon as a deadbeat or a grunt, but rather as a skilled professional who is undertaking
socially beneficial work. In fact, in a poll taken in 2003, military personnel consider themselves as being of higher moral standards
than the nation they serve.
In the political classes, the Republicans have traditionallly been staunchly pro-military, but now even Democrats have thrown
off their ant-military inclinations. When Kerry was running for president he did not question Bush's security policies, he was
actually arguing that Bush had not gone far enough. Kerry wanted to invest more in military hardware and training. Even liberal
Michael Ignatieff argues that US military intervention should be used to lessen the plight of the oppressed and that we should
be assisting them in establishing more representative government.
But superpowers are not altruistic; they are only altruistic to the extent that it serves their self-interest. That's probably
why Ignatieff will not get much of a hearing and Bacevich will. This book should give us pause as to why the range of opinion
in the America on the use of military force is so narrow. If there is one voice that stands a chance of being heeded, it is from
this conservative ex-soldier. \
The US may have been an expansionist and aggressive power as history shows. But unlike European peers, the American public
never really took to the seductions of militarism. That is, until now. This is an important and occasionally brilliant book that
tells a forty-year tale of creeping over-reliance on the military. And a heck-of an important story it is. I like the way Bacevich
refuses to blame the Bush administration, even though they're the ones who've hit the accelerator. Actually the trend has been
in motion for some time, especially since 1980 and Reagan's revival of military glory, contrived though it was.
Each chapter deals with an aspect of this growing militariism movement. How intellectual guru Norman Podhoretz and other elites
got the big engine together, how twenty million evangelical passengers abandoned tradition and got on board, and how a crew of
enthusiastic neo-cons charted a destination -- nothing less than world democracy guaranteed by American military might. All in
all, the ride passes for a brilliant post-cold war move. Who's going to argue with freeing up the Will of the People, except for
maybe a few hundred million Sharia fanatics. Yet, it appears none of the distinguished crew sees any contradiction between dubious
means and noble end, nor do they seem particularly concerned with what anybody else thinks. (Sort of like the old Soviets, eager
to spread the blessings of Scientific Socialism.) However, as Bacevich pounts out, there's a practical problem here the crew is
very alert to. Policing the world means building up the institutions of the military and providing a covering mystique to keep
John Q. Public supportive, especially with tax dollars and blood supply. In short, the mission requires sanitizing the cops on
the beat and all that goes into keeping them there. It also means overcoming a long American tradition of minding-one's-own-business
and letting the virtues of democratic self-governance speak for themselves. But then, that was an older, less "responsible" America.
Bacevich's remedies harken back to those older, quieter traditions -- citizen soldiers, a real Department of Defense, a revived
Department of State, and a much more modest role in international affairs.With this book, Bacevich proves to be one of the few
genuine conservatives around, (a breed disappearing even faster than the ranks of genuine liberals). Much as I like the book,
especially the thoughtful Preface, I wish the author had dealt more with the economic aspects of build-up and conquest. But then
that might require a whole other volume, as globalization and the number of billion-dollar servicing industries expands daily.
At day's end, however, someone needs to inform a CNN- enthralled public that the military express lacks one essential feature.
With all its hypnotizing bells and whistles, history shows the momentum has no brakes. Lessons from the past indicate that, despite
the many seductions, aggressive empires make for some very unexpected and fast-moving train wrecks. Somebody needs to raise the
alarm. Thanks Mr. Bacevich for doing your part.
Still his critique of neocons is a class of its own has value in itself as it comes from professional military officer. Professor
Bacevich argues that the US new militarism which emerged after the dissolution of the USSR is the result of a convergence of actions
by a number of different groups including our professional military, neoconservative intellectuals and publicists, evangelical Christians,
resurgent Republican party activists, and so-called defense intellectuals (see New American
Andrew Bacevich has a wonderful essay, in the form of an open letter to Paul Wolfowitz,
in the current Harper's. You
have to subscribe to read it -- but, hey, you should be
subscribing to any publication whose work
you value. This essay isolates the particular role Wolfowitz had in the cast of characters that led us to war. As a reminder, they
Dick Cheney, who was becoming a comic-book churl by this stage of his public life;
Colin Powell, the loyal soldier, staffer, and diplomat whose "Powell Doctrine" and entire life's work stood in opposition
to the kind of war that he, with misguided loyalty, was to play so central a role in selling;
Tony Blair, the crucial ally who added rhetorical polish and international resolve to the case for war;
Donald Rumsfeld, with his breezy contempt for those who said the effort would be difficult or long;
Paul Bremer, whose sudden, thoughtless dismantling of the Iraqi army proved so disastrous;
Condoleezza Rice, miscast in her role as White House national-security advisor;
George Tenet, the long-time staffer who cooperated with the "slam-dunk!" intelligence assessment despite serious disagreement
within the CIA;
and of course George W. Bush himself, whose combination of limited knowledge and strong desire to be "decisive" made
him so vulnerable to the argument that the "real" response to the 9/11 attacks should be invading a country that had nothing to
do with them.
But Paul Wolfowitz was in a category of his own because he was the one who provided the highest-concept rationale for the
war. As James Galbraith of the University of Texas has put it, "Wolfowitz is the real-life version of Halberstam's caricature of
McNamara" [in The Best and the Brightest].
Bacevich's version of this assessment is to lay out as respectfully as possible the strategic duty that Wolfowitz thought the U.S.
would fulfill by invading Iraq. Back before the war began, I did a much more limited version of this assessment
as an Atlantic article.
As Bacevich puts it now, Wolfowitz was extending precepts from his one-time mentor,
Albert Wohlstetter, toward a model of how the United
States could maximize stability for itself and others.
As with the best argumentative essays, Bacevich takes on Wolfowitz in a strong rather than an oversimplified version of his world-view.
You have to read the whole thing to get the effect, but here is a brief sample (within fair-use limits):
With the passing of the Cold War, global hegemony seemed America's for the taking. What others saw as an option you, Paul, saw
as something much more: an obligation that the nation needed to seize, for its own good as well as for the world's....
Although none of the hijackers were Iraqi, within days of 9/11 you were promoting military action against Iraq. Critics have
chalked this up to your supposed obsession with Saddam. The criticism is misplaced. The scale of your ambitions was vastly greater.
In an instant, you grasped that the attacks provided a fresh opportunity to implement Wohlstetter's Precepts, and Iraq offered
a made-to-order venue....In Iraq the United States would demonstrate the efficacy of preventive war.... The urgency of invading
Iraq stemmed from the need to validate that doctrine before the window of opportunity closed.
Bacevich explains much more about the Wohlstetter / Wolfowitz grand view. And then he poses the challenge that he says Wolfowitz
should now meet:
One of the questions emerging from the Iraq debacle must be this one: Why did liberation at gunpoint yield results that differed
so radically from what the war's advocates had expected? Or, to sharpen the point, How did preventive war undertaken by ostensibly
the strongest military in history produce a cataclysm?
Not one of your colleagues from the Bush Administration possesses the necessary combination of honesty, courage, and wit to
answer these questions. If you don't believe me, please sample the tediously self-exculpatory memoirs penned by (or on behalf
of) Bush himself, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Tenet, Bremer, Feith, and a small squad of eminently forgettable generals...
What would Albert [Wohlstetter] do? I never met the man (he died in 1997), but my guess is that he wouldn't flinch from taking
on these questions, even if the answers threatened to contradict his own long-held beliefs. Neither should you, Paul. To be sure,
whatever you might choose to say, you'll be vilified, as Robert McNamara was vilified when he broke his long silence and admitted
that he'd been "wrong, terribly wrong" about Vietnam. But help us learn the lessons of Iraq so that we might extract from it something
of value in return for all the sacrifices made there. Forgive me for saying so, but you owe it to your country.
Anyone who knows Andrew Bacevich's story will understand the edge behind his final sentence. But you don't have to know that to
respect the challenge he lays down. I hope Paul Wolfowitz will at some point rise to it.
For another very valuable assessment of who was right and wrong, when, please see
Judis's piece in The New Republic.
20190116 : Corporatism is the control of government by big business. This is what we have in the USA today. The main difference between corporatism and fascism is the level of repressions against opposition. Corporatism now tales forma of inverted totalitarism and use ostracism instead of phycal repressions ( Jan 16, 2019 , profile.theguardian.com )
While the USA run the show, EU was complicit in this war.
"... The American Conservative, ..."
"... In 2014, a European Union task force confirmed that the ruthless cabal that Clinton empowered by bombing Serbia committed atrocities that included murdering persons to extract and sell their kidneys, livers, and other body parts ..."
"... Clint Williamson, the chief prosecutor of a special European Union task force, declared in 2014 that senior members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) had engaged in "unlawful killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions in camps in Kosovo and Albania, sexual violence, forced displacements of individuals from their homes and communities, and desecration and destruction of churches and other religious sites." ..."
"... a Council of Europe investigative report tagged Thaci as an accomplice to the body-trafficking operation. ..."
In a 2011 review for The American Conservative, I scoffed, "After NATO planes
killed hundreds if not thousands of Serb and ethnic Albanian civilians, Bill Clinton could
pirouette as a savior. Once the bombing ended, many of the Serbs remaining in Kosovo were
slaughtered and their churches burned to the ground. NATO's 'peace' produced a quarter million
Serbian, Jewish, and Gypsy refugees."
In 2014, a European Union task force confirmed that the ruthless cabal that Clinton
empowered by bombing Serbia committed atrocities that included murdering persons to extract and
sell their kidneys, livers, and other body parts .
Clint Williamson, the chief prosecutor of a special European Union task force, declared
in 2014 that senior members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) had engaged in "unlawful
killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions in camps in Kosovo and
Albania, sexual violence, forced displacements of individuals from their homes and communities,
and desecration and destruction of churches and other religious sites."
The New York Times reported that the trials of Kosovo body snatchers may be stymied
by cover-ups and stonewalling: "Past investigations of reports of organ trafficking in Kosovo
have been undermined by witnesses' fears of testifying in a small country where clan ties run
deep and former members of the KLA are still feted as heroes. Former leaders of the KLA occupy
high posts in the government." American politicians almost entirely ignored the scandal. Vice
President Joe Biden hailed former KLA leader and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in 2010 as
"the George Washington of Kosovo." A few months later, a Council of Europe investigative
report tagged Thaci as an accomplice to the body-trafficking operation.
Clinton's war on Serbia opened a Pandora's box from which the world still suffers. Because
politicians and pundits portrayed that war as a moral triumph, it was easier for subsequent
presidents to portray U.S. bombing as the self-evident triumph of good over evil. Honest
assessments of wrongful killings remain few and far between in media coverage.
"... the Iranian economy is in a free fall with oil exports down as much as 90 percent from mid-2018 levels. As far as Iran is concerned, this means that it's already at war with the United States and has less and less to lose the longer the U.S. embargo goes on. ..."
"... MBS, as he's known, celebrated by launching an air war in neighboring Yemen two months later – and then disappearing on a week-long vacation in the Maldives – and by funneling hundreds of U.S.-made TOWs (anti-tank guided missiles) to Syrian rebels under the command of Al-Nusra, the local Al-Qaeda affiliate, for use in an offensive in that country's northwest province of Idlib. ..."
"... For the Saudis, it was a neo-medieval crusade whose goal was to topple two religio-political allies of Iran, the Alawite-dominated government in Damascus and Yemen's Houthis, who adhere to a non-Iranian form of Shi'ism that is no less anathema to the Sunni Wahhabist theocracy in Riyadh. ..."
"... Just two days after the start of the Saudi air assault in Yemen, Obama meanwhile telephoned Salman to assure him of U.S. support. When asked why America would back a war by one of the Middle East's richest countries against the very poorest, another anonymous U.S. official told The New York Times (April 2, 2015): ..."
"... "If you ask why we're backing this, beyond the fact that the Saudis are allies and have been allies for a long time, the answer you're going to get from most people – if they were being honest – is that we weren't going to be able to stop it." ..."
"... The Obama administration was so anxious to smooth ruffled Saudi feathers and tone down criticism of the impending Iranian accord that it felt it had no choice but say yes to Saudi aggression. ..."
"... The American empire was possibly so over-extended that it was at the mercy of its ostensible clients. Even while making peace with Iran, Obama thus green-lit Saudi wars that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Syria and another 100,000 or so in Yemen while triggering a surge of international terrorism and the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. While reducing tensions in some respects, the 2015 nuclear negotiations, paradoxically, caused them to explode in others. ..."
"... Announcing his presidential bid in June 2015, he launched into a typical Trumpian rant against China, Japan, Mexico – and Obama's nuclear talks. "Take a look at the deal he's making with Iran," he said. "He makes that deal, Israel maybe won't exist very long." A month later, he tweeted that the agreement, just inked in Vienna, "poses a direct national security threat." Two months after that, he told a Tea Party rally in Washington: ..."
"... Trumpian isolationism was fleeting, if it ever existed at all. Under intense pressure from neoconservatives, the Zionist lobby, and pro-Israel Democrats such as Russiagate attack dog Rep. Adam Schiff demanding stepped-up opposition with Iran , Trump did an about-face. In May 2017, he flew to Riyadh, announced an unprecedented $110-billion arms deal, and proclaimed himself the kingdom's newest BFF – best friend forever. ..."
"... He echoed the Saudis by accusing Iran of funding "terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region" and backed a Saudi blockade of neighboring Qatar. When ISIS launched a bloody assault on central Tehran in early June that killed 12 people and injured 42, the only White House response was to declare that "states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote." ..."
"... It was Democrats who, in a typical attempt to outflank Trump on the right, introduced legislation in June 2017 by forcing him to impose penalties on Russia, North Korea, and Iran as well. But after repudiating the JCPOA (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal) in May 2018, Trump upped sanctions even more in November – not only against the Iranian government but against some 700 individuals, entities, aircraft, and vessels. After Iran shot down a $130-million U.S. surveillance drone last month, Trump imposed sanctions on "supreme leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his office, and his closest associates. Two weeks ago, he imposed penalties on Mohammad Javad Zarif , Iran's U.S.-educated foreign minister. ..."
"... It was a gesture of contempt for the very idea of diplomacy. So what happens next? The problem is that re-starting negotiations would not be enough. Instead, Iran has demanded that the U.S. remove all sanctions and apologize before agreeing to a new round of talks. Since this would be tantamount to re-authorizing the JCPOA, it's unlikely in the extreme. While Trump is known for changing his mind in a flash, a course correction of this magnitude is hard to imagine. ..."
"... The pro-Israel Lobby owns both Republican and Democrat Russiagate enthusiasts and is the source of near hysterical demands for opposition with Iran. ..."
"... But in June 1914, clearly there were multiple political and military leaders in Europe for whom war was far from inconceivable. War was simply a question of timing and so it would be better to have a war when the circumstances were most propitious. "I consider a war inevitable", declared senior German generals such as Helmuth von Moltke the Younger in 1912. "The sooner the better". ..."
"... such blatant and reprehensible behavior carries risks for everyone but mostly the targets of our barbaric behavior seems never to enter the President, his neocon handlers' and his rabid supporters' minds. ..."
"... "If you ask why we're backing this, beyond the fact that the Saudis are allies and have been allies for a long time, the answer you're going to get from most people – if they were being honest – is that we weren't going to be able to stop it." That is unmitigated nonsense. Why not be honest. We don't want to stop it. ..."
"... To "stop it", Uncle Sam would have to first cease being a part of it. The bombing of Yemen came courtesy of U.S. mid-air refueling efforts, targeting "intelligence", and "made in America" weaponry. The blockade (starvation) of Yemen is also a duel accompaniment. It's supposed to look like a Saudi "thing", but in actuality, it's just more Uncle Sam doing his thing. Obama called it "leading from behind". ..."
T raffic accidents normally take just a second or two. But the coming collision in the
Persian Gulf, the equivalent of a hundred-vehicle pile-up on a fog-bound interstate , has been in the
works for years. Much of it is President Donald Trump's fault, but not all. His contribution
has been to take an insane policy and make it even crazier.
The situation is explosive for two reasons. First, the Iranian economy is in a free fall with oil exports down
as much as 90 percent from mid-2018 levels. As far as Iran is concerned, this means that it's
already at war with the United States and has less and less to lose the longer the U.S. embargo
Second, after Trump denounced the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord from the moment he began his
presidential run , it's all but impossible at this point for him to back down. The result
is a classic collision between the immovable and the unstoppable with no apparent way out.
How did the world bring itself to the brink of war? The answer, ironically, is by bidding
The process began in early 2015 just as the nuclear talks were entering their final stages.
hand-wringing , it was clear that success was in sight simply because the participants
– China, France, Russia, Germany, Britain, the European Union, Iran and the U.S. –
all wanted it.
Saudi Proxy War
But other regional players felt differently, Saudi Arabia first and foremost. The kingdom's
survival strategy depends on its special relationship with America, its patron since the 1940s.
Hence, it was panic-stricken by anything smacking of a U.S. rapprochement with its
long-standing arch-enemy Iran. The upshot was a proxy war in which the Saudis set out to roll
back Iranian power by striking out at pro-Iranian forces.
The offensive began after a new Saudi monarch ascended the throne in January 2015. King
Salman, a doddering 79-year-old reportedly suffering from
Alzheimer's , immediately handed over the reins to his favorite son, 29-year-old Muhammad
bin Salman, whom he named deputy crown prince and minister of defense. MBS, as he's known,
celebrated by launching an air war in neighboring Yemen two months later – and then
disappearing on a week-long vacation in the Maldives
– and by funneling hundreds of U.S.-made TOWs (anti-tank guided missiles) to Syrian
rebels under the command of Al-Nusra, the local Al-Qaeda affiliate, for use in an offensive in
that country's northwest province of Idlib.
For the Saudis, it was a neo-medieval crusade whose goal was to topple two religio-political
allies of Iran, the Alawite-dominated government in Damascus and Yemen's Houthis, who adhere to
a non-Iranian form of Shi'ism that is no less anathema to the Sunni Wahhabist theocracy in
President Barack Obama went along. With regard to Syria, an unidentified "senior
toldTheWashington Post that while the White House was "concerned that Nusra
has taken the lead," all he would say in response to U.S.-made missiles winding up in Al-Qaeda
hands was that it was "not something we would refrain from raising with our partners." (See "
Climbing into Bed with
Al-Qaeda ," May 2, 2015.)
Just two days after the start of the Saudi air assault in Yemen, Obama meanwhile
telephoned Salman to assure him of U.S. support. When asked why America would back a war by
one of the Middle East's richest countries against the very poorest, another anonymous U.S.
official told The New York Times (April 2, 2015):
"If you ask why we're backing this, beyond the fact that the Saudis are allies and have been
allies for a long time, the answer you're going to get from most people – if they were
being honest – is that we weren't going to be able to stop it." But plainly the nuclear negotations were key. The Obama administration was so anxious to smooth ruffled Saudi feathers
and tone down criticism of the impending Iranian accord that it felt it had no choice but say
yes to Saudi aggression.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with King Salman bin Abdulaziz at Erga
Palace in Riyadh, Jan. 27, 2015. (White House/Pete Souza/Flickr)
The American empire was possibly so over-extended that it was at the mercy of its ostensible
clients. Even while making peace with Iran, Obama thus green-lit Saudi wars that claimed
hundreds of thousands of lives in
Syria and another
100,000 or so in Yemen while triggering a surge of international terrorism and the greatest
refugee crisis since World War II. While reducing tensions in some respects, the 2015 nuclear
negotiations, paradoxically, caused them to explode in others.
The results were so devastating in a region torn by war, sectarianism, and economic collapse
that Trump could not possibly make them any worse – except that he did.
Announcing his presidential bid in June 2015, he launched into a typical Trumpian rant
against China, Japan, Mexico – and Obama's nuclear talks. "Take a look at the deal he's
making with Iran," he said. "He makes that deal, Israel maybe won't exist very long." A month
later, he tweeted that the
inked in Vienna, "poses a direct national security threat." Two months after that, he
told a Tea Party
rally in Washington:
"Never, ever, ever in my life have I seen any transaction so incompetently negotiated as
our deal with Iran . They rip us off, they take our money, they make us look like fools, and
now they're back to being who they really are. They don't want Israel to survive, they will
not let Israel survive, [and] with incompetent leadership like we have right now, Israel will
Iran's Landmark Concession
It was all nonsense. Rather than threatening the Jewish state, the treaty represented a
landmark concession on Iran's part, since Israel, with an estimated 80 to 90 nuclear warheads in its
arsenal and enough fissile material for a hundred more, would maintain its nuclear monopoly in
the Middle East indefinitely. As for "our money," the $150 billion in various foreign accounts
were actually Iranian assets that had been frozen for years – a sum, moreover, that was
closer to $56 billion once
Iran settled its foreign debts. Once sanctions were lifted, it was hardly unreasonable that
such assets be restored.
Still there was hope. While railing against Iran, Trump also taunted the Saudis for their
role in 9/11: "Who blew up the World Trade Center?" he told
Fox & Friends. "It wasn't the Iraqis, it was Saudi [Arabia]." He repeatedly assailed the
2003 invasion of Iraq – even if he exaggerated his own role
in opposing it – and criticized Obama for supporting Saudi-backed jihadis seeking to
topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"Assad is bad," he said in an October 2015
interview . "Maybe these people could be worse."
Trumpian isolationism was fleeting, if it ever existed at all. Under intense pressure from
neoconservatives, the Zionist lobby, and pro-Israel Democrats such as Russiagate attack dog
Rep. Adam Schiff demanding
stepped-up opposition with Iran , Trump did an about-face. In May 2017, he flew to Riyadh,
announced an unprecedented $110-billion arms deal, and proclaimed himself the kingdom's newest
BFF – best friend forever.
He echoed the Saudis by
accusing Iran of funding "terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread
destruction and chaos across the region" and backed a Saudi blockade of neighboring Qatar. When
ISIS launched a bloody assault on central Tehran in early June that killed 12 people and
injured 42, the only White House response was to declare
that "states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote."
But back in September 2003, some 60,000 Iranian soccer fans had observed a moment of silence
in honor of the victims of the World Trade Center while then-President Mohammad Khatami
declared on nationwide TV:
"My deep sympathy goes out to the American nation, particularly those who have suffered
from the attacks and also the families of the victims. Terrorism is doomed, and the
international community should stem it and take effective measures in a bid to eradicate
Yet all the Trump administration could say was that Iran had it coming.
It was Democrats who, in a typical attempt to outflank Trump on the right, introduced
legislation in June 2017 by forcing him to impose penalties
on Russia, North Korea, and Iran as well. But after repudiating the JCPOA (the Joint
Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal) in May 2018, Trump upped
sanctions even more in November – not only against the Iranian government but against
individuals, entities, aircraft, and vessels. After Iran shot down a $130-million U.S.
surveillance drone last month, Trump imposed sanctions on "supreme leader" Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, his office, and his closest associates. Two weeks ago, he imposed penalties on
Javad Zarif , Iran's U.S.-educated foreign minister.
Crowd at Tea Party rally listening to Donald Trump denounce the Iran Nuclear Agreement,
Sept. 9, 2015. (YouTube)
It was a gesture of contempt for the very idea of diplomacy. So what happens next? The
problem is that re-starting negotiations would not be enough. Instead, Iran has demanded that
U.S. remove all sanctions and apologize before agreeing to a new round of talks. Since this
would be tantamount to re-authorizing the JCPOA, it's unlikely in the extreme. While Trump is
known for changing his mind in a flash, a course correction of this magnitude is hard to
Thus, the confrontation is set to continue. Iran may respond by seizing more oil tankers or
downing more drones, but the problem is that the U.S. will undoubtedly engage in tit-for-tat
escalation in response until, eventually, some kind of line is crossed.
If so, the consequences are unpredictable. U.S. firepower is overwhelming ,
but Iran is not without
resources of its own , among them anti-ship ballistic missiles, mobile short-range rockets
that can hit naval targets, plus heavily-armed high-speed boats, mini-subs, and even "
ekranoplans ," floating planes designed to skim the waves at
115 miles per hour. Such weaponry could prove highly effective in the 35-mile-wide Strait of
Hormuz. Iran also has allies such as Lebanon's Hezbollah, which has an estimated 130,000
missiles and rockets in its own arsenal, Assad's battle-hardened military in Syria, Yemen's
Houthis, and pro-Iranian forces in Shi'ite-majority Iraq.
The upshot could be a war drawing in half a dozen countries or more. A confrontation on that
scale may seem inconceivable. But, then, war seemed inconceivable in the wake of Archduke Franz
Ferdinand's assassination in June 1914.
Daniel Lazare is the author of "The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing
Democracy" (Harcourt Brace, 1996) and other books about American politics. He has written for a
wide variety of publications from The Nation to Le Monde Diplomatique and blogs
about the Constitution and related matters at D aniellazare.com.
Jeff Davis , August 20, 2019 at 12:42
America is Israel's b*tch.
The American experiment is over. A variety of corporate/neoliberal interests and foreign
interests have hollowed it out, and soon, when every last bit of loot has been extracted, the
dried up husk of the Empire will collapse. There is no saving it because the looters are
still in control. Their control is unbreakable because buying Congress is such a minor and
manageable expense for them, and the Congressmen/women are simply incapable of setting aside
personal interest and personal ambition for the good of the country. Incapable, because if
they ever chose country over their own careers , the "owners" -- ie donors/looters -- would
find someone to replace them. There is no way out until it comes crashing down.
Don Bacon , August 20, 2019 at 11:33
Iran whipped the US in Syria, cementing the 'Shia crescent' from Tehran to Beirut, which
gives Iran the mantle of ME leadership. Washington had to respond to that fact because it
threatens the US and its Carter-Doctrine position as the predominate ME power. So don't blame
Zhu , August 20, 2019 at 05:44
You forgot to mention pressure from Religious Right Republicans, eager for the Rapture,
the Return of Jesus, etv., etc. Christism Zionists in short.
Broompilot , August 20, 2019 at 01:19
I find it interesting that there is no mention of Netanyahu appearing before Congress or
the U.N. drawing silly looking pictures of bombs. Or Netanyahu claiming he had jacked some
new documents from Iran proving they had a nuclear weapons program. Or Netanyahu
disrespecting Obama with his appearance in Congress. Or Bibi's landing in L.A. with a
motorcade that screwed up traffic all over town to demonstrate who is really important in
this country. Reading this piece you would think this is 95% about Saudis and has very little
to do with Israel. There is no doubt that the gulf monarchies do not want successful
representative governments breaking out on their borders and giving their citizens ideas, but
I doubt they have anything resembling the Israeli lobbies and their influence operating in
the U.S. with the power to influence Iran policy.
AnneR , August 20, 2019 at 08:23
True, Broompilot. And I too awaited throughout the article for Mr Lazare to discuss the
really existing and marked part that Israel has played and is playing in all of the more
recent destruction in neighboring countries, and that illegitimate state's huge influence on
this country's politics, military actions (in the MENA countries when those actions might
benefit Israel), administration decisions (not to mention the cooperation among US and
Israeli secret services *and* electronic-internet companies which anyway themselves both
derive from the military and remain closely entwined with it).
Most US presidents – and seemingly all US Congresses – since WWII have aided
and abetted Israel and its appalling human rights record which never ends and continues with
impunity. But Trump is perhaps more so than most if only because his daughter, a convert to
Judaism, is married to an ardent Zionist, and buddy-buddy to Netanyahu. Lazare hints at
Trump's pro-Zionism (whatever its basis) but leaves it there.
Marko , August 19, 2019 at 22:50
"Trump's Persian-Gulf Car Crash"
When you view foreign policy as a Demolition Derby competition , as Trump and the neocons
do , this is called "Winning !"
Gregory Herr , August 19, 2019 at 20:44
The war of terrorism waged upon the people of Syria didn't come about because the U.S. was
"possibly so over-extended that it was at the mercy of its ostensible clients", or because
the "Obama administration was so anxious to smooth ruffled Saudi feathers and tone down
criticism of the impending Iranian accord that it felt it had no choice but say yes to Saudi
Washington's Long War on Syria (Stephen Gowans) began well before Obama, Yahoo, Erdogan,
and Petraeus set up rat lines of weaponry and training for terrorists in Jordan and Turkey.
The current iteration of "topple thru terror" was in the offing, with or without Saudi
Syria stands in the way of Greater Israel and Wall Street/central bank dominance.
Obama "went along" alright. But it wasn't the Saudis he was "appeasing".
Obama should have normalised relations with Iran and disavowed all the b.s. rhetoric about
them. His "deal" had "made to be broken" written all over it because of his rhetoric. All
done in bad faith with the Path to Persia kept open.
Jeff Harrison , August 19, 2019 at 18:30
The big problem is that the US is convinced that it knows what it's doing when, in fact,
it is clueless. The US also is perpetually optimistic when it has nothing upon which to base
said optimism. It's not as if we've actually defeated anybody in the Middle East. Revoltin'
Bolton may think he's scaring people with aircraft carriers and B52s but you'll notice that
Iran snatched the British tanker and the Iraqi tanker after the US moved it's carrier and
bombers into the Gulf. They also shot down our drone in the same time frame.
We're playing a losing strategy.
Jeff Davis , August 20, 2019 at 12:11
We're playing a losing strategy because America is Israel's bitch.
The American experiment is over. A variety of corporate/neoliberal interests and foreign
interests have hollowed it out, and soon, when every last bit of loot has been extracted, the
dried up husk of the Empire will collapse. There is no saving it because the looters are
still in control. Their control is unbreakable because buying Congress is such a minor and
manageable expense for them, and the Congressmen/women are simply incapable of setting aside
personal interest and personal ambition for the good of the country. Incapable, because if
they ever chose country over their own careers , the "owners" -- ie donors/looters -- would
find someone to replace them. There is no way out until it comes crashing down.
Don Bacon , August 19, 2019 at 18:29
"It was all nonsense. Rather than threatening the Jewish state, the treaty represented a
landmark concession on Iran's part,. . ."
Calling the Obama agreement a treaty is nonsense, rather it was an agreement involving
only the executive branch and not the Senate as required by the Constitution for treaties.
Obama needed an achievement for his presidential library, so he waited until his term was
almost over to do what he could have done, with Brazil and Turkey, in 2010. Therefore Trump
had every right to overturn an agreement made by his hated predecessor, with the knowledge
that the Senate never would have approved it since they are all corrupted.
This is another example (Bush-43 on Iraq withdrawal was another) of what the US has come
to. This so-called "rules-based democracy" has become a stomping ground for the
"commander-in-chief" to display his executive privilege and do any damned thing he takes a
mind to, including war, with nary a peep from the so-called "checks and balance" folks who
are supposed to be looking after US democracy, but aren't.
"Trumpian isolationism was fleeting, if it ever existed at all."
It never existed.
A clueless Lazare has been repeatedly informed of the fact in the comments of his CN
Now he's feebly wondering "if".
"Under intense pressure from neoconservatives, the Zionist lobby, and pro-Israel Democrats
such as Russiagate attack dog Rep. Adam Schiff demanding stepped-up opposition with Iran,
Trump did an about-face."
The pro-Israel Lobby owns both Republican and Democrat Russiagate enthusiasts and is the
source of near hysterical demands for opposition with Iran.
Trump has never been under "intense pressure" and has not done "an about-face" because he
has always been avowedly "1000 percent" pro-Israel.
A worse than clueless Lazare has been repeatedly informed of the fact in the comments of
his CN articles.
Lazare apparently finds lots of things "hard to imagine", even "inconceivable".
But in June 1914, clearly there were multiple political and military leaders in Europe for
whom war was far from inconceivable. War was simply a question of timing and so it would be
better to have a war when the circumstances were most propitious. "I consider a war
inevitable", declared senior German generals such as Helmuth von Moltke the Younger in 1912.
"The sooner the better".
Current Israeli leadership holds such a view. The Trump administration foreign policy purchased by the pro-Israel Lobby reflects this
But for the obviously very well informed but perpetually clueless Lazare, it all somehow
Depressing. Having defended Trump because attacks were directed at the President of the
United States, any president, it is hard to support a man whose every move is a political
calculation. That such blatant and reprehensible behavior carries risks for everyone but
mostly the targets of our barbaric behavior seems never to enter the President, his neocon
handlers' and his rabid supporters' minds.
One comment in this depressing article caught my eye.
"If you ask why we're backing this, beyond the fact that the Saudis are allies and have
been allies for a long time, the answer you're going to get from most people – if they
were being honest – is that we weren't going to be able to stop it." That is unmitigated nonsense. Why not be honest. We don't want to stop it. The We, of
course, being our decision makers and a too large segment of our brainwashed electorate.
Gregory Herr , August 19, 2019 at 19:52
To "stop it", Uncle Sam would have to first cease being a part of it. The bombing of Yemen
came courtesy of U.S. mid-air refueling efforts, targeting "intelligence", and "made in
America" weaponry. The blockade (starvation) of Yemen is also a duel accompaniment. It's
supposed to look like a Saudi "thing", but in actuality, it's just more Uncle Sam doing his
thing. Obama called it "leading from behind".
Pat lost its touch with reality " Around the world, America is involved in quarrels, clashes
and confrontations with almost too many nations to count." That's what empires do. Why he can't
understand this simple fact?
Friday, President Donald Trump met in New Jersey with his national security advisers and
envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is negotiating with the Taliban to bring about peace, and a U.S.
withdrawal from America's longest war.
U.S. troops have been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001, in a war that has cost 2,400
Following the meeting, Trump tweeted, "Many on the opposite sides of this 19 year war, and
us, are looking to make a deal -- if possible!"
Some, however, want no deal; they are fighting for absolute power.
Saturday, a wedding in Kabul with a thousand guests was hit by a suicide bomber who,
igniting his vest, massacred 63 people and wounded 200 in one of the greatest atrocities of the
war. ISIS claimed responsibility.
Monday, 10 bombs exploded in restaurants and public squares in the eastern city of
Jalalabad, wounding 66.
Trump is pressing Khalilzad to negotiate drawdowns of U.S. troop levels from the present
14,000, and to bring about a near-term end to U.S. involvement in a war that began after we
overthrew the old Taliban regime for giving sanctuary to Osama bin Laden.
Is it too soon to ask: What have we gained from our longest war? Was all the blood and
treasure invested worth it? And what does the future hold?
If the Taliban could not be defeated by an Afghan army, built up by the U.S. for a decade
and backed by 100,000 U.S. troops in 2010-2011, then are the Taliban likely to give up the
struggle when the U.S. is drawing down the last 14,000 troops and heading home?
The Taliban control more of the country than they have at any time since being overthrown in
2001. And time now seems to be on their side.
Why have they persevered, and prevailed in parts of the country?
Motivated by a fanatic faith, tribalism and nationalism, they have shown a willingness to
die for a cause that seems more compelling to them than what the U.S.-backed Afghan government
has on offer.
They also have the guerrillas' advantage of being able to attack at times and places of
their own choosing, without the government's burden of having to defend towns and cities.
Will these Taliban, who have lost many battles but not the war, retire from the field and
abide by democratic elections once the Americans go home? Why should they?
The probability: When the Americans depart, the war breaks out anew, and the Taliban
And Afghanistan is but one of the clashes and conflicts in which America is engaged.
Severe U.S. sanctions on Venezuela have failed to bring down the Nicholas Maduro regime in
Caracas but have contributed to the immiseration of that people, 10% of whom have left the
country. Trump now says he is considering a quarantine or blockade to force Maduro out.
Eight years after we helped to overthrow Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Libya is still mired in civil
war, with its capital, Tripoli, under siege.
Yemen, among the world's humanitarian disasters, has seen the UAE break with its Saudi
interventionist allies, and secessionists split off southern Yemen from the Houthi-dominated
north. Yet, still, Congress has been unable to force the Trump administration to end all
support of the Saudi war.
Two thousand U.S. troops remain in Syria. The northern unit is deployed between our Syrian
Kurd allies and the Turkish army. In the south, they are positioned to prevent Iran and
Iranian-backed militias from creating a secure land bridge from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus
In our confrontation with Iran, we have few allies.
The Brits released the Iranian tanker they seized at Gibraltar, which had been carrying oil
to Syria. But when the Americans sought to prevent its departure, a Gibraltar court ruled
against the United States.
Iran presents no clear or present danger to U.S. vital interests, but the Saudis and
Israelis see Iran as a mortal enemy, and want the U.S. military rid them of the menace.
Hong Kong protesters wave American flags and seek U.S. support of their demands for greater
autonomy and freedom in their clash with their Beijing-backed authorities. The Taiwanese want
us to support them and sell them the weapons to maintain their independence. The Philippines
wants us to take their side in the dispute with China over tiny islets in the South China
We are still committed to go to war to defend South Korea. And the North has lately
test-fired a series of ballistic missiles, none of which could hit the USA, but all of which
could hit South Korea.
Around the world, America is involved in quarrels, clashes and confrontations with almost
too many nations to count.
In how many of these are U.S. vital interests imperiled? And in how many are we facing
potential wars on behalf of other nations, while they hold our coat and egg us on?
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of "Nixon's White House Wars: The Battles That Made and
Broke a President and Divided America Forever."
Raimondo was an astute analyst of events in Syria... This is his analysys from 2015. It is
still cogent as of August 2019.
"... "War on terrorism" turns into cold war against Russia ..."
"... By the way, according to the Pentagon's own testimony before a congressional committee, only sixty "vetted" fighters were sent into Syria to take on both Assad and ISIS. And while they denied, at first, that their pet "moderates" betrayed Washington and handed over most of their weapons and other equipment to al-Qaeda in return for "safe passage," the Pentagon later admitted it . ..."
"... [I]t is hypocritical and irresponsible to make declarations about the threat of terrorism and at the same time turn a blind eye to the channels used to finance and support terrorists, including revenues from drug trafficking, the illegal oil trade and the arms trade ..."
"... It is equally irresponsible to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve your political goals, hoping that later you'll find a way to get rid of them or somehow eliminate them. ..."
"... "I'd like to tell those who engage in this: Gentlemen, the people you are dealing with are cruel but they are not dumb. They are as smart as you are. So, it's a big question: who's playing who here? The recent incident where the most 'moderate' opposition group handed over their weapons to terrorists is a vivid example of that. ..."
"War on terrorism" turns into cold war against Russia
Posted on August
19, 2019 August 18, 2019In both Yemen and Syria, the War Party has found an
ally that they can get behind, you know, one that really supports our values: al-Qaeda.
From time to time they have even managed to get President Trump to go along with this
nonsense – presumably due to the baleful influence of John Bolton. (See
Ron Paul's recent discussion of recent developments.) It is worth a look back at an
earlier high-points in this strange alliance between the West and al-Qaeda against Russia and
Syria. Justin's column from four years ago (October 2, 2015) analyzes it in depth.
Originally published October 2, 2015
As Russian fighter jets target al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, the Western media is up in arms
in denial . They deny the Russians are taking on ISIS – and they are indignant that
targeting al-Qaeda , which is almost never referred to by its actual name, but is instead
described as " al-Nusra ," or the more inclusive "
Army of Conquest
," which are alternate names for the heirs of Osama bin Laden.
And there are no ideological lines being drawn in this information war: both the left and
the right – e.g. the left-liberal Vox and the Fox News
network – are utilizing a map put out by
"Institute for the Study of War" to "prove" that Putin isn't really attacking ISIS
– he's actually only concerned with destroying the "non-ISIS" rebels and propping up
the faltering regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The premise behind this kind of propaganda is that there really is some difference between
ISIS and the multitude of Islamist groups proliferating like wasps in the region: and that,
furthermore, al-Qaeda is "relatively" moderate when compared to the Islamic State. Yes,
incredibly, the US and British media are pushing the line that the al-Qaeda fighters in
Syria, known as al-Nusra, are really the Good Guys.
Didn't you know that we have always been at war with Eastasia?
much whining , this [Thursday] morning, that a supposedly US-"vetted" group known as
Tajammu al-Aaza has felt Putin's wrath – but when we get down into the weeds, we
discover that this outfit is fighting alongside al-Qaeda:
"Jamil al-Saleh, a defected Syrian army officer who is now the leader of the rebel
group Tajammu al-Aaza,
told AlSouria.net that the Russian airstrikes targeted his group's base in
al-Lataminah, a town in the western Syrian governorate of Hama. That area represents one of
the farthest southern points of the rebel advance from the north and is therefore a crucial
front line in the war. An alliance of Syrian rebel factions, including both the al
Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front and groups considered by Washington to be more
moderate, successfully drove Assad regime forces out of the northern governorate of Idlib
and are now pushing south into Hama."
By the way, according to the Pentagon's own testimony
before a congressional committee, only sixty "vetted" fighters were sent into Syria to take
on both Assad and ISIS. And while they denied, at first, that their pet "moderates"
betrayed Washington and
handed over most of their weapons and other equipment to al-Qaeda in return for "safe
passage," the Pentagon later
admitted it . Furthermore, we were told that these were the only "vetted" fighters
actually in the field, but now we are confronted with "Tajammu al-Aaza," which – it's
being reported – is deploying US-supplied missile guidance systems against Syrian
So a handful of "vetted" fighters suddenly turns into an entire armed force – one
which, you'll note, has effectively merged with al-Qaeda.
The lies are coming at us so fast and thick in the first 24 hours of the Russian strikes
that we face a veritable blizzard of obfuscation. They range from the egregious –
alleged photos of "civilian casualties" that
turn out to be fake – to the more subtle: a supposed Free Syrian Army commander is
reported killed by a Russian air strike, and yet it appears that very same commander was
kidnapped by ISIS last year . We are told that the town of Rastan, the site of Russian
strikes, isn't under the control of ISIS – except it was when
ISIS was executing gay men there .
The Russians make no bones about their support of Assad: in his speech to the United
Nations, Putin stated his position clearly: "We think it's a big mistake to refuse to
cooperate with the Syrian authorities and government forces who valiantly fight terrorists on
the ground." On the other hand, the objectives of the Western alliance in Syria aren't so
clear: on the one hand, Washington claims to be directing the main blow against ISIS, but its
claims of success have been
greatly exaggerated . Yet we have spent many millions arming and training "vetted" rebels
who have been defecting to ISIS and al-Qaeda in droves.
It's almost as if we're keeping ISIS around so as to put pressure on Assad to get out of
Dodge. As Putin put it in his UN speech :
" [I]t is hypocritical and irresponsible to make declarations about the threat of
terrorism and at the same time turn a blind eye to the channels used to finance and support
terrorists, including revenues from drug trafficking, the illegal oil trade and the arms
" It is equally irresponsible to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve
your political goals, hoping that later you'll find a way to get rid of them or somehow
"I'd like to tell those who engage in this: Gentlemen, the people you are dealing with
are cruel but they are not dumb. They are as smart as you are. So, it's a big question: who's
playing who here? The recent incident where the most 'moderate' opposition group handed over
their weapons to terrorists is a vivid example of that. "
The reality is that there are no "moderates" in Syria, and certainly not among the rebel
Islamist groups: they're all jihadists who want to impose Sharia law, drive out Christians,
Alawites, and other minority groups, and set up an Islamic dictatorship. These are our noble
"allies" – the very same people who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on
September 11, 2001, and against whom our perpetual "war on terrorism" was launched.
It's pretty clear. Saudi Arabia has lost, and,
notes Bruce Riedel, "the Houthis and Iran are the strategic winners". Saudi proxies in Aden
– the seat of Riyadh's Yemeni proto-'government' – have been turfed out by secular,
former Marxist, southern secessionists. What can Saudi Arabia do? It cannot go forward. Even
tougher would be retreat. Saudi will have to contend with an Houthi war being waged
inside the kingdom's south; and a second – quite different – war in Yemen's
south. MbS is stuck. The Houthi military leadership are on a roll , and
disinterested – for now – in a political settlement. They wish to accumulate more
'cards'. The UAE, which armed and trained the southern secessionists has opted out. MbS is
alone, 'carrying the can'. It will be messy.
So, what is the meaning in this? It is that MbS cannot 'deliver' what
Trump and Kushner needed, and demanded from him: He cannot any more deliver the Gulf 'world'
for their grand projects – let alone garner together the collective Sunni 'world' to
enlist in a confrontation with Iran, or for hustling the Palestinians into abject
subordination, posing as 'solution'.
What happened? It seems that MbZ must have bought into the Mossad 'line' that Iran was a
'doddle'. Under pressure of global sanctions, Iran would quickly crumble, and would beg for
negotiations with Trump. And that the resultant, punishing treaty would see the dismantling of
all of Iran's troublesome allies around the region. The Gulf thus would be free to continue
shaping a Middle East free from democracy, reformers and (those detested) Islamists.
What made the UAE – eulogised in the US as tough 'little Sparta' – back off? It
was not just that the Emirs saw that the Yemen war was unwinnable. That was so; but more
significantly, it dawned on them that Iran was going to be no 'doddle'. But rather, the US
attempt to strangulate the Iranian economy risked escalating beyond sanctions war, into
military confrontation. And in that eventuality, the UAE would be devastated. Iran warned
explicitly that a drone or two landed into the 'glass houses' of their financial districts, or
onto oil and gas facilities, would set them back twenty years. They believed it.
But there was another factor in the mix. "As the world teeters on the edge of another
financial crisis", Esfandyar Batmanghelidj has
noted , "few places are being gripped by anxiety like Dubai. Every week a new headline
portends the coming crisis in the city of skyscrapers. Dubai villa prices are at their lowest
level in a decade, down 24 percent in just one year. A slump in tourism has seen Dubai hotels
hit their lowest occupancy rate since the 2008 financial crisis – even as the country
gears up to host Expo 2020 next year. As Bloomberg's Zainab Fattah reported in November of last
year, Dubai has begun to "lose its shine," its role as a center for global commerce "undermined
by a global tariff war -- and in particular by the US drive to shut down commerce with nearby
An extraneous Houthi drone landing in Dubai's financial zone would be the 'final nail in the
coffin' (the expatriates would be out in a flash) – a prospect far more serious than the
crisis of 2009, when Dubai's real estate market collapsed, threatening insolvency for several
banks and major development companies, some of them state-linked – and necessitating a
$20 billion bailout.
In short, the Gulf realised MbS' confrontation project with Iran was far too risky,
especially with the global financial mood darkening so rapidly.
Emirati leaders faced off with MbZ, the confrontation ideologue – and the UAE came
out of Yemen formally (though leaving in situ its proxies), and initiated outreach to
Iran, to take it out of that war, too.
It is now no longer conceivable that MbS can deliver what Trump and
Netanyahu desired . Does this then mean that the US confrontation with Iran, and Jared
Kushner's Deal of the Century, are over? No. Trump has two key US constituencies: AIPAC
and the Christian Evangelical 'Zionists' to 'stroke' electorally in the lead up to the 2020
elections. More 'gifts' to Netanyahu in the lead into the latter's own election campaign are
very likely also, as a part of that massaging of domestic constituencies (and donors).
In terms of the US confrontation with Iran, it seems that Trump is turning-down the volume
on belligerence toward Iran, hoping that economic sanctions will work their 'magic' of bringing
the Islamic Republic to its knees. There is no sign of that however – and no sign of any
realistic US plan 'B'. (The Lindsay Graham initiative is not one).
Where does that leave MbS in terms of US and Israeli interests? Well, to be brutal, and
despite the family friendships 'expendable', perhaps? The scent of an eventual US
disengagement from the region is again hanging in the air.
The deeper meaning in the 'lost Yemen war', ultimately, is an end to Gulf hopes that
'magician' Trump would undo the earlier Gulf panic that the West would normalise with Iran
(through the JCPOA), thus leaving Iran as the paramount regional power. The advent of Trump,
with all his affinity towards Saudi Arabia, seemed to Gulf States to promise the opportunity
again to 'lock in' the US security umbrella over Gulf monarchies, protecting these states from
significant change, as well as leaving Iran 'shackled', and unable to assume regional
A secondary meaning to Yemen is that Trump and Netanyahu's heavy investment in MbS and MbZ
has proved to be chimeric. These two, it turned out were 'naked' all along. And now the world
knows it. They can't deliver. They have been bested by a ragtag army of tough Houthi
The region now observes that 'war' isn't happening (although only by the merest hair's
breadth): Trump is not – of his own volition – going to bomb Iran back to the
1980s. And Gulf States now see that if he did, it is they – the Gulf States – who
would pay the highest price. Paradoxically, it has fallen to the UAE, the prime agitator in
Washington against Iran, to lead the outreach toward Iran. It represents a salutary lesson in
realpolitik for certain Gulf States (and Israel). And now that it has been learned, it is hard
to see it being reversed quite so easily.
The strategic shift toward a different security architecture is already underway, with
and China proposing an international conference on security in the Persian Gulf: Russia and
Iran already have agreed joint naval exercises in in the Indian Ocean and Hormuz, and China is
mulling sending its warships there too, to protect its tankers and commercial shipping.
Plainly, there will be some competition here, but Iran has the upper hand still in Hormuz. It
is a powerful deterrent (though one best threatened, but not used).
Of course, nothing is assured in these changing times. The US President is fickle, and prone
to flip-flop. And there are yet powerful interests in the US who do want see Iran
comprehensively bombed. But others in DC – more significantly, on the (nationalist) Right
– are much more outspoken in challenging the Iran 'hawks'. Maybe the latter have missed
their moment? The fact is, Trump drew back (but not for the stated reasons) from military
action. America is now entering election season – and it is fixated on its navel. Foreign
policy is already a forgotten, non-issue in the fraught partisan atmospherics of today's
Trump likely will still 'throw Israel a few bones', but will that change anything? Probably,
not much. That is cold comfort – but it might have been a lot worse for the Palestinians.
And Greater Israel? A distant, Promethean hope.
We all know the Hypocrisy of that War. Clinton had to distract the masses from MonicaGate
and Hillary had to prove to the MIC that she could be beneficial to them.
Result : Those Kosovo Albanians had a state handed to them, and instead of building
it(with uncle Sam's and EU help) as prosperous country, they used their weapons and
"expertise" in becoming the low level gangsters of Europe. Every Europol analysis points to
the direction of Kosovo Albanians as the criminal thugs in prostitution and drug trade and
protection rackets. The largest percentage of a single ethnic group in European jails is that
The most unjust and illegal of wars in the late 20c.
There was only one reason to bomb white Christian brothers in Serbia thereby aiding the
Muslim of Kosovo and Albania, and that was Russia, which by that stage had got its act
together and dealt with the traitorous oligarchs who had sold their country out to the
Hillary and her cronies no doubt lost a lot of money when the Russians shut their rat
I hope I live long enough to see those fuckers swing, and Tony Blair, Alistair Campnell
and Peter Mandelson as well.
Again, your Muslims are to blame for everything. Muslims are all different. And it is
necessary to separate the faithful Muslims from the bandits who are only covered by Muslim
NATO and your godless government are to blame!
An Afghan Freedom Fighter in Donbass - ENG SUBTITLE
It happened at the time of the Lewinsky affair and the possible impeachment of Clinton.
They needed a distraction.
Milosevic btw. agreed to all conditions imposed on the FR of Yugoslavia except for one
condition that nobody would accept: the full and unhindered access to the territory of FRY by
NATO troops. That effectively meant an occupation. Nobody would agree to that. NATO and
Albright deliberately came up with that condition for they knew it was unacceptable. Even
Kissinger said that condition was over the top. NATO and Albright wanted that war. Serbia
btw. saved Albright twice when she was still a little Slovakian Jewish girl whose family
found refuge twice in Serbia. Once they escaped the Nazis that way and the second time the
NATO thought they would need 48 hours but they needed 78 days and Milosevic only gave in
after NATO switched from hitting military targets to civilian targets: Hospitals, commuter
trains, civilian industry, an open market, random houses in random villages. After Milosevic
pulled out his troops out of Kosovo, the KLA started killing Serbs and moderate Albanians,
not to mention engage in organ trafficking (...). As the article said, well over 200k Serbs,
moderate Albanians, Roma and other minorities were ethnically cleansed from Kosovo.
The US also used cluster bombs and DU weapons. Of the 4000 Italian KFOR troops that went
into Kosovo after the bombing, 700 are dead from cancer and leukemia with several hundreds
more seriously ill. The American KFOR troops wore hazmat suits. The Italians did not have
them and were not warned. Today, many people in southern Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo itself
are sick and dying.
yes just like USA tried to help Vietnam against communists... by killing 2 million
Vietnamese. and tried to help Korea by killing 20 % of the population. and by helping Iraq
get rid of "bad" Saddam Hussein by killing 2 million Iraqies.
Bring back the draft. On the whole Americans have no idea what the carnage of combat
produces. Combat vets do. And the ones that aren't natural psychopaths never want to
experience it again. This volunteer army we have is over loaded with a them. A military draft
will actually bring some sort civilian control.
Hillary seems to enjoy killing people. If it wasn't Gaddaffi, it was all the people on her
body bag count, and now it's known she encouraged killing people in Serbia. Someone needs to
take that old cow out into the center of the town and burn her at the stake.
Partially true, otherwise as usually excellent Dr. Paul, ... The Pandora's box situation
was opened years before Clinton's bombing of Serbia, which was part of a larger scheme
started nearly a decade before.
That was when the US armed the religious extremists in Bosnia, in order to bring war,
"civil war" and chaos, and disintegration, the way they more recently tried to do with Syria,
or "succeeded" in doing in Libya, bringing chaos and open-air slave markets in a country that
was one of the most developed on the African continent under Gaddafi (a truth that was so
easily erased by propaganda).
And the whole neocon scheme started two decades before, with the Zbigniew Brzezinski
doctrine, when the US started arming the mujahedin in Afghanistan, provoking the trap for the
Soviet invasion of 1979, which was the real opening of US neocon's Pandora's box we are
regrettably so familiar with by now. We've all fallen in that old
neocon/military-industrial-congressional-complex trap by now. And there seems to be no end in
sight to those eternal wars "for civilization" (the old colonial trope dressed under new
fatigues). Unless serious societal and political changes take place in the US to put an end
to the US "imperial" death drive.
By all measures Clinton is a war criminal... Hilary is a female sociopath or worse.
"... Hillary Clinton revealed to an interviewer in the summer of 1999, "I urged him to bomb. You cannot let this go on at the end
of a century that has seen the major holocaust of our time. What do we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?" ..."
"... The Kosovo Liberation Army's savage nature was well known before the Clinton administration formally christened them "freedom
fighters" in 1999. ..."
"... Sen. Joe Lieberman whooped that the United States and the KLA "stand for the same values and principles. Fighting for the KLA
is fighting for human rights and American values." ..."
"... Clinton administration officials justified killing civilians because, it alleged the Serbs were committing genocide in Kosovo.
After the bombing ended, no evidence of genocide was found, but Clinton and Britain's Tony Blair continued boasting as if their war
had stopped a new Hitler in his tracks. ..."
Twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton commenced bombing Serbia in the name of human rights, justice, and ethnic tolerance.
Approximately 1,500 Serb civilians were killed by NATO bombing in one of the biggest sham morality plays of the modern era. As British
professor Philip Hammond recently noted, the 78-day bombing campaign "was not a purely military operation: NATO also destroyed what
it called 'dual-use' targets, such as factories, city bridges, and even the main television building in downtown Belgrade, in an
attempt to terrorise the country into surrender."
Clinton's unprovoked attack on Serbia, intended to help ethnic Albanians seize control of Kosovo, set a precedent for "humanitarian"
warring that was invoked by supporters of George W. Bush's unprovoked attack on Iraq, Barack Oba-ma's bombing of Libya, and Donald
Trump's bombing of Syria.
Clinton remains a hero in Kosovo, and there is an 11-foot statue of him standing in the capitol, Pristina, on Bill Clinton Boulevard.
A commentator in the United Kingdom's Guardian newspaper noted that the statue showed Clinton "with a left hand raised, a
typical gesture of a leader greeting the masses. In his right hand he is holding documents engraved with the date when NATO started
the bombardment of Serbia, 24 March 1999." It would have been a more accurate representation if Clinton was shown standing on the
corpses of the women, children, and others killed in the U.S. bombing campaign.
Bombing Serbia was a family affair in the Clinton White House. Hillary Clinton revealed to an interviewer in the summer of
1999, "I urged him to bomb. You cannot let this go on at the end of a century that has seen the major holocaust of our time. What
do we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?" A biography of Hillary Clinton, written by Gail Sheehy and published
in late 1999, stated that Mrs. Clinton had refused to talk to the president for eight months after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke.
She resumed talking to her husband only when she phoned him and urged him in the strongest terms to begin bombing Serbia; the president
began bombing within 24 hours. Alexander Cockburn observed in the Los Angeles Times,
It's scarcely surprising that Hillary would have urged President Clinton to drop cluster bombs on the Serbs to defend "our
way of life." The first lady is a social engineer. She believes in therapeutic policing and the duty of the state to impose
such policing. War is more social engineering, "fixitry" via high explosive, social therapy via cruise missile . As a tough therapeutic
cop, she does not shy away from the most abrupt expression of the therapy: the death penalty.
I followed the war closely from the start, but selling articles to editors bashing the bombing was as easy as pitching paeans
to Scientology. Instead of breaking into newsprint, my venting occurred instead in my journal:
April 7, 1999: Much of the media and most of the American public are evaluating Clinton's Serbian policy based on
the pictures of the bomb damage -- rather than by asking whether there is any coherent purpose or justification for bombing.
The ultimate triumph of photo opportunities . What a travesty and national disgrace for this country.
April 17: My bottom line on the Kosovo conflict: I hate holy wars. And this is a holy war for American good deeds
-- or for America's saintly self-image? Sen. John McCain said the war is necessary to "uphold American values." Make me barf!
Just another Hitler-of-the-month attack.
May 13: This damn Serbian war is a symbol of all that is wrong with the righteous approach to the world and to problems
within this nation.
The Kosovo Liberation Army's savage nature was well known before the Clinton administration formally christened them "freedom
fighters" in 1999. The previous year, the State Department condemned "terrorist action by the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army."
The KLA was heavily involved in drug trafficking and had close to ties to Osama bin Laden. Arming the KLA helped Clinton portray
himself as a crusader against injustice and shift public attention after his impeachment trial. Clinton was aided by many congressmen
eager to portray U.S. bombing as an engine of righteousness. Sen. Joe Lieberman whooped that the United States and the KLA "stand
for the same values and principles. Fighting for the KLA is fighting for human rights and American values."
In early June 1999, the Washington Post reported that "some presidential aides and friends are describing [bombing] Kosovo
in Churchillian tones, as Clinton's 'finest hour.'" Clinton administration officials justified killing civilians because, it
alleged the Serbs were committing genocide in Kosovo. After the bombing ended, no evidence of genocide was found, but Clinton and
Britain's Tony Blair continued boasting as if their war had stopped a new Hitler in his tracks.
In a speech to American troops in a Thanksgiving 1999 visit, Clinton declared that the Kosovar children "love the United States
because we gave them their freedom back." Perhaps Clinton saw freedom as nothing more than being tyrannized by people of the same
ethnicity. As the Serbs were driven out of Kosovo, Kosovar Albanians became increasingly oppressed by the KLA, which ignored its
commitment to disarm. The Los Angeles Times reported on November 20, 1999,
As a postwar power struggle heats up in Kosovo Albanian politics, extremists are trying to silence moderate leaders with a
terror campaign of kidnappings, beatings, bombings, and at least one killing. The intensified attacks against members of the moderate
Democratic League of Kosovo, or LDK, have raised concerns that radical ethnic Albanians are turning against their own out of fear
of losing power in a democratic Kosovo.
American and NATO forces stood by as the KLA resumed its ethnic cleansing, slaughtering Serbian civilians, bombing Serbian
churches, and oppressing non-Muslims. Almost a quarter million Serbs, Gypsies, Jews, and other minorities fled Kosovo after Clinton
promised to protect them. In March 2000 renewed fighting broke out when the KLA launched attacks into Serbia, trying to seize
territory that it claimed historically belonged to ethnic Albanians. UN Human Rights Envoy Jiri Dienstbier reported that "the [NATO]
bombing hasn't solved any problems. It only multiplied the existing problems and created new ones. The Yugoslav economy was destroyed.
Kosovo is destroyed. There are hundreds of thousands of people unemployed now."
U.S. complicity in atrocities
Prior to the NATO bombing, American citizens had no responsibility for atrocities committed by either Serbs or ethnic Albanians.
However, after American planes bombed much of Serbia into rubble to drive the Serbian military out of Kosovo, Clinton effectively
made the United States responsible for the safety of the remaining Serbs in Kosovo. That was equivalent to forcibly disarming a group
of people, and then standing by, whistling and looking at the ground, while they are slaughtered. Since the United States promised
to bring peace to Kosovo, Clinton bears some responsibility for every burnt church, every murdered Serbian grandmother, every new
refugee column streaming north out of Kosovo. Despite those problems, Clinton bragged at a December 8, 1999, press conference that
he was "very, very proud" of what the United States had done in Kosovo.
I had a chapter on the Serbian bombing campaign titled "Moralizing with Cluster Bombs" in Feeling Your Pain: The Explosion
and Abuse of Government Power in the Clinton–Gore Years (St. Martin's Press, 2000), which sufficed to spur at least one or two
reviewers to attack the book. Norman Provizer, the director of the Golda Meir Center for Political Leadership, scoffed in the
Denver Rocky Mountain News, "Bovard chastises Clinton for an illegal, undeclared war in Kosovo without ever bothering to mention
that, during the entire run of American history, there have been but four official declarations of war by Congress."
As the chaotic situation in post-war Kosovo became stark, it was easier to work in jibes against the debacle. In an October 2002
USA Today article ("Moral High Ground Not Won on Battlefield") bashing the Bush administration's push for war against Iraq,
I pointed out, "A desire to spread freedom does not automatically confer a license to kill . Operation Allied Force in 1999 bombed
Belgrade, Yugoslavia, into submission purportedly to liberate Kosovo. Though Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic raised the white flag,
ethnic cleansing continued -- with the minority Serbs being slaughtered and their churches burned to the ground in the same way the
Serbs previously oppressed the ethnic Albanians."
In a 2011 review for The American Conservative, I scoffed, "After NATO planes killed hundreds if not thousands of Serb
and ethnic Albanian civilians, Bill Clinton could pirouette as a savior. Once the bombing ended, many of the Serbs remaining in Kosovo
were slaughtered and their churches burned to the ground. NATO's 'peace' produced a quarter million Serbian, Jewish, and Gypsy refugees."
In 2014, a European Union task force confirmed that the ruthless cabal that Clinton empowered by bombing Serbia committed atrocities
that included murdering persons to extract and sell their kidneys, livers, and other body parts. Clint Williamson, the chief prosecutor
of a special European Union task force, declared in 2014 that senior members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) had engaged in "unlawful
killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions in camps in Kosovo and Albania, sexual violence, forced displacements
of individuals from their homes and communities, and desecration and destruction of churches and other religious sites."
The New York Times reported that the trials of Kosovo body snatchers may be stymied by cover-ups and stonewalling: "Past
investigations of reports of organ trafficking in Kosovo have been undermined by witnesses' fears of testifying in a small country
where clan ties run deep and former members of the KLA are still feted as heroes. Former leaders of the KLA occupy high posts in
the government." American politicians almost entirely ignored the scandal. Vice President Joe Biden hailed former KLA leader and
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in 2010 as "the George Washington of Kosovo." A few months later, a Council of Europe investigative
report tagged Thaci as an accomplice to the body-trafficking operation.
Clinton's war on Serbia opened a Pandora's box from which the world still suffers. Because politicians and pundits portrayed that
war as a moral triumph, it was easier for subsequent presidents to portray U.S. bombing as the self-evident triumph of good over
evil. Honest assessments of wrongful killings remain few and far between in media coverage.
James Bovard is a policy adviser to The Future of Freedom Foundation. He is a USA Today columnist and has written
for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New Republic, Reader's Digest, Playboy, American Spectator,
Investors Business Daily, and many other publications. He is the author of Freedom Frauds: Hard Lessons in American Liberty
(2017, published by FFF); Public Policy Hooligan (2012); Attention Deficit Democracy (2006); The Bush Betrayal
(2004); Terrorism and Tyranny (2003); Feeling Your Pain (2000); Freedom in Chains (1999); Shakedown (1995);
Lost Rights (1994); The Fair Trade Fraud (1991); and The Farm Fiasco (1989). He was the 1995 co-recipient of
the Thomas Szasz Award for Civil Liberties work, awarded by the Center for Independent Thought, and the recipient of the 1996 Freedom
Fund Award from the Firearms Civil Rights Defense Fund of the National Rifle Association. His book Lost Rights received the
Mencken Award as Book of the Year from the Free Press Association. His Terrorism and Tyranny won Laissez Faire Book's Lysander
Spooner award for the Best Book on Liberty in 2003. Read his blog . Send
him email .
In July 30, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported
that the Afghan government and international military forces, primarily
the United States , caused most of the civilian deaths in Afghanistan during the first six
months of 2019. That's more killings than those perpetrated in the same time period by the
Taliban and ISIS combined.
Aerial operations were responsible for 519 civilian casualties (356 deaths and 156
injuries), including 150 children (89 deaths and 61 injuries). That constitutes a 39 percent
increase in overall civilian casualties from aerial attacks. Eighty-three percent of civilian
casualties from aerial operations were carried out by the international forces.
The targeting of civilians amounts to war crimes under the Rome Statute of the
International Criminal Court (ICC).
... ... ...
Team Trump's deadly actions are a continuation of the Bush and Obama
administrations' commission of the most heinous crimes in Afghanistan. On April 12, the ICC's
Pre-Trial Chamber found a "reasonable basis" to
believe that the parties to the Afghan conflict, including the U.S. military and the CIA,
committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, most of them occurring between 2005 and 2015.
They include "the war crimes of torture and cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity,
and rape and other forms of sexual violence pursuant to a policy approved by the U.S.
The chamber, however, refused to open a formal investigation into those crimes, as
recommended by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. In concluding that "an investigation
into the situation in Afghanistan at this stage would not serve the interests of justice," the
chamber questioned the feasibility of such a probe. An investigation would be "very wide in
scope and encompasses a high number of alleged incidents having occurred over a long time
period," the chamber wrote. It noted the extreme difficulty in gauging "the prospects of
securing meaningful cooperation from relevant authorities for the future" and found "the
current circumstances of the situation in Afghanistan are such as to make the prospects for a
successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited."
Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of
the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of
Democratic Lawyers and a member of the advisory board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent
book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.