Threat inflation which Ukrainegate is a typical example relies on misrepresenting the facts, or presenting
them in the most alarming way possible. If another state is behaving in a way that our government doesn’t like, sometimes
the mere fact that it is displeasing is treated as proof of a dire threat. It doesn’t matter if the threat is a relatively
minor, manageable one -- it has to be cast as a threat to regional stability and “world order.” It doesn’t even matter if the
U.S. and its allies are actually threatened by the behavior in question, since the assumption that the US is a guarantor
of “world order” dangerously makes any and every threat to anyone our problem. The USA neoliberal elite in pursuing
its dominance over the globe regularly invents bogeymen that the USA need to fight,
and then wastes decades and trillions of dollars in futile and avoidable conflicts. Which at the end leave ordinary Americans poorer,
with less jobs, and less
secure than before.
As MIC lobbyists neocon aren’t interested in accurately assessing another state’s intentions. They
always look for ways to take relatively normal, self-interested behavior and make it seem especially sinister and
extraordinarily dangerous. Any attempt of the other state to defend its legitimate interests
tendentiously is interpreted as proof of worst intentions that “require” a massive military build-up, sanctions
strategy. This is the logic of Full Spectrum Dominance to which this MIC prostitutes subscribe. Demonization of foreign leaders
is a standard proactive. Neocons never consider the role that US and its allies in triggering undesirable behavior. In
there is not threat, the inflate invented them. As somebody puts it numerous mistresses for the personnel at USA foreign
bases need to be fed.
Any actions of the other state are blow out of proportion and CIA sponsored false flag operation are interpreted
as the most credible evidence of the nefarious intentions (MH17, Skripals poisoning, Russiagate, Ukrainegate) are the most
recent examples here. John Glaser and Christopher Preble have written an interesting
paper of the history and causes of threat inflation. They concluded that:
If war is the health of the state, so is its close cousin, fear. America's foreign policy in the 21st century serves as compelling
evidence of that. Arguably the most important task, for those who oppose America's apparently constant state of war, is to correct
the threat inflation that pervades national security discourse. When Americans and their policymakers understand that the United
States is fundamentally secure, U.S. military activism can be reined in, and U.S. foreign policy can be reset accordingly.
Threat inflation allows to manipulate public opinion and stifle dissent against foreign wars and military expansion. And the rules
of the game are such that no matter how ridiculous were the clams, neocons never pay the price (none of originator of Iraq war lies
went to jail.)
As MIC and financial oligarchy ("bankers are originators of all wars") controls the government there is no political price for sounding false alarms, no matter how ridiculous or over-the-top their
warnings may be. This necessarily warps every policy debate, permitting neocons to indulge in the most baseless speculation and
fear-mongering, and in order to be taken "seriously" the skeptics often feel compelled to pay lip service to the "threat" that has
been wildly blown out of proportion. In many cases, the threat is not just inflated but invented out of nothing. For example,
neither Iraq in he past, not Iran in the present pose a threat to the United States, but are routinely cited as the
most significant threats that the USA faces. They are targets of the USA imperial expansion not a threats, in the same
was of the USA Department of Defense in reality more properly should be called the Department of Offence.
Since the dissolution of the USSR, neocons created their own ecosystem of think tanks and magazines. They employ "professional
warmongers" for promoting their fictions. That has nothing to do with an objective assessment of Iranian capabilities or intentions, and it is driven
pretty much entirely by a propaganda script that most politicians and policymakers recite on a regular basis. Take Iran's missile program,
for example. As John Allen Gay explains in a recent
article , Iran's missile program is primarily defensive in nature:
The reality is they're not very useful for going on offense. Quite the opposite: they're a primarily defensive tool -- and an
important one that Iran fears giving up. As the new Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report entitled "Iran Military Power" points
out, "Iran's ballistic missiles constitute a primary component of its strategic deterrent. Lacking a modern air force, Iran has embraced
ballistic missiles as a long-range strike capability to dissuade its adversaries in the region -- particularly the United States,
Israel, and Saudi Arabia -- from attacking Iran."
Iran's missile force is in fact a product of Iranian weakness, not Iranian strength.
Iran hawks need to portray Iran's missile program inaccurately as part of their larger campaign to exaggerate Iranian power and justify
their own aggressive policies. If Iran hawks acknowledged that Iran's missiles are their deterrent against attacks from other states,
including our government, it would undercut the rest of their fear-mongering.
Glaser and Preble identify five main sources of threat inflation by the USA neoliberal elite:
Expansive overseas of the USA commitments require an exaggerated
justification to make those commitments seem necessary for our security;
Decades of pursuing expansive foreign policy goals have
created a class dedicated to providing those justifications and creating the myths that sustain support for the current strategy;
There are vested interests that benefit from expansive foreign policy and seek to perpetuate it;
A built-in bias in neoliberal political system in
favor of hawks gives another advantage to fear-mongers;
Media sensationalism and the level of control by the intelligence agencies of the USA MSM exaggerates dangers from foreign threats and stokes
Threat inflation also thrives on the public's ignorance. Most Americans
know little or nothing about another countries. So it is much easier to convince them that a
foreign government is aggressive and irrational. Or this or that "authoritarian regime" is a grave threat to our democracy
(which is on life support in view of the role of intelligence agencies in 2016 elections ;-), or our standard of living (which are undermined not by foreign players but multinationals and hired
by them neoliberal stooges in government and Congress. It goes without saying that the Congress is owned by banksters As Senator
Durbin put it in 2009: “And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created
— are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place,” he said on
1530 ‘s “Mornings with Ray Hanania.” Progress Illinois picked up the quote.
Dick Durbin Banks Frankly
Own The Place HuffPost) .
Threat inflation also is the direct consequence of the Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine adopted by the USA neoliberal elite after
the dissolution of the USSR (Wolfowitz Doctrine.) The two feed off of each other. When far-flung crises and conflicts
are treated as if they are of vital importance to USA security, every minor threat to some other country is transformed into an intolerable
menace to America.
In reality the USA is very secure from any foreign threats. So fake threat are invented: neocon propaganda machine and
necon factions in Goverment and Congress try to make other countries' internal problems seem essential to our national security. Ukraine is at most a peripheral interest
of the U.S., but to justify the policy of arming Ukraine we are
told by the more unhinged supporters
that this is necessary to make sure that we don't have to fight Russia "over here." Because the U.S. has so few real interests in most
of the world's conflicts, interventionists have to exaggerate what the U.S. has at stake in order to sell otherwise very questionable
and reckless policies. That is usually when we get appeals to showing "leadership" and preserving "credibility," because even the interventionists
struggle to identify why the U.S. needs to be involved in some of these conflicts. The continued pursuit of global "leadership" is itself
an invitation to endless threat inflation, because almost anything anywhere in the world can be construed as a threat to that "leadership"
if one is so inclined. To understand just how secure the U.S. really is, we need to give up on the costly ambition of "leading" the
Threat inflation is one of the biggest threats to U.S. security, as it increases changes if nuclear confrontation with Russia and
China. It also drives fledging alliance between Russia and China which are worrying about extremely aggressive turn of the USA
foreign policy and its military interventions. The latter makes "Full Spectrum Dominance" doctrine not only absolute, but
suicidal and their promoters like Ciaramella, Fiona Hill and Vindman the real threat to the USA national security. Because it repeatedly drives the US to take
costly and dangerous actions and to spend exorbitant amounts on unnecessary wars and weapons.
Threat inflation is a pervasive feature of international politics and an important
cause of international conflict. States have a chronic tendency to exaggerate the
aggressiveness and offensive capabilities of other states. As a result states often
believe they are less secure than in fact they are. They then take unneeded or counterproductive steps to gain security that they already enjoy. A self-fulfilling
prophecy develops: by their belligerent efforts to address imaginary threats, states
provoke others to pose real threats to their safety. For example, Britain was provoked to war against France in
1756 by false reports that French forces had invaded east of the Alleghenies and were preparing a general invasion of British
North America. The resulting Seven Years’ War (1756-63) was a vast conflict that saw lighting from North America and the
Caribbean to West Africa and South Asia. Its origins lay largely in inflated British fears an imperial hybrus.
As Russia was geopolitical threat to Britain, Russophobia became the official policy and that sparked the Сrimean
War (1854-56). In the Crimean conflict Britain spent 45.000 British lives to protect the Ottoman empire form the complete
decimation, which Russia would not undertake anyway.
Intelligence agencies pay important role in threat inflation. During 1955-61 CIA vastly exaggerated Soviet military
capabilities, first during the "bomber gap" period (1955-57), and then during the "missile gap" (1957-61). This deliberate misleading of the American public and civil government reached remarkable proportions. For
example, in late 1959 U.S. intelligence agencies forecasted that by 1961-62 the Soviet Union would have 1000-15000 intercontinental
ballistic missiles (ICBMs), compared to less than 100 ICBMs for the USA. In fact by September 1961 the
Soviets had deployed only four ICBMs less than one half of one percent of the missiles in the CIA assessment. Yes, there was a
missile gap, but hugely in favor of the USA (American
Foreign Policy and The Politics of Fear Threat Inflation since 9-11 (Routledge Global Security Studies)
These overestimates of soviet bomber and missile building led Cold War tensions by fueling American military' over-building and American fear that Soviet
intentions were aggressive. Americans wondered why the Soviets would seek military superiority, if not to bully the west into concessions or to launch aggressive
war? Such fears stoked outsized U.S. military programs. This U.S. military' over
building in turn provoked the USSR to desperate measures to strengthen its nuclear
capability by covertly moving intermediate range missiles to Cuba in 1962. This
reckless move triggered the Cuban Missile Crisis, our closest brush with World
The U.S. again exaggerated Soviet military capabilities in the late 1970s and
early 1980s. U.S. press commentators widely warned of Soviet nuclear and conventional superiority. But Soviet military superiority was an illusion. Both the
Soviets and the U.S. maintained vast secure nuclear deterrents during this period
neither came anywhere near superiority over the other - and NATO conventional
Neocons promoted threat inflation to the level of the official US policy:
The Bush administration’s launching of a global war on terrorism in the wake of 9/11, coupled with its aggressive campaign to
build public support for war against Iraq, have brought the term "threat inflation” into popular use. President Bush’s ability to
stoke public fear about Iraq’s connections to Al Qaeda and about its weapons of mass destruction despite the lack of any hard
evidence has fueled both public outcry as well as a vigorous debate among academics about why the administration argued with such certainty about Iraq and how its arguments came to dominate debate.
The implications of the debate are profound. To the extent that the
president can dominate debate about foreign threats, it becomes difficult for the
United States to rely on the marketplace of ideas (i.e., the news media and public
vetting of foreign policy) to assess accurately the pros and cons of competing arguments about foreign policy and the use of force. In extreme cases, as several scholars have labeled the invasion of Iraq, a president may convince the public to support
a war that it would otherwise strenuously oppose.
Neoliberal elite like any imperial elite is intrinsically interested in promoting threat inflation
The threat inflation is connected to the elite threat perception and, especially, the level of hegemonic ambitions. Which were
in overdrive since the dissolution of the USSR. In can be said that due to the dissolution of the USSR the neoliberal elite became
too arrogant and overconfident. As "Full Spectrum Dominance" doctrine presume that any event affects the USA it started the
death spiral of threat inflations and rampant militarism and wars to increase the global, led by the USA empire.
This is a same story that destroyed the USSR where the Bolshevik elite also fall on the sword of the treat inflation and
destroyed the economy to feed the military-industrial complex.
Many part of the elite especially intelligence agencies and Pentagon/MIC brass (as well as financial oligarchy, which is
interconnected intermarried with MIC) have institutional, electoral,
bureaucratic, personal or material incentives to promote threat inflation
Threat inflation can also be viewed as a simplistic and perverted way to coping with uncertainty,
the result of insufficient intelligence of the ruling elite. As well as the opacity of other states’ intentions coupled the
institutional and even material interests of factions of the elites.
This is a classe of manipulative strategies to gain political
advantage, increase institutional budgets, or to advance other goals kept hidden from the public and political opposition. For
example, many scholars have argued that overselling threats may in fact be a necessary evil.
MSM sensationalist bias, short attention
span, and superficiality help to promote necon threat exaggeration , providing little balance or sense of
perspective and stoking public fears essentially to sell papers or gain viewers and ratings.
superficiality and sensationalism of the USA MSM and level of media control by intelligence agencies in reality are far greater than
it has been historically in the USA. Increared media consolidation and corporate ownership are also important factors.
America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge
Wolfowitz Doctrine is an unofficial name of the Defense Planning Guidance for the 1994–99 fiscal years (dated February 18,
1992) authored by Under Secretary of Defense
for PolicyPaul Wolfowitz and his deputy
Scooter Libby. Not intended for public release, it was leaked
to the New York Times on March 7, 1992, and sparked
a public controversy about US foreign and defense policy. The document was openly
imperialist and outlined a policy of
unilateralism and pre-emptive military actions (wars) in forign
policy. Please note that personally Wolfowitz was a chicenhawk.
It connected with the US elite desire to create a rule the global neoliberal empire and was symptomatic for the period of "Triumphal
march of neoliberalism form 1980 till 2000, especially the decade after the collapse of the USSR (1991-2001)
They key idea is to prolog dominant position the USA acquired due to collapse of the USSR (which interpreted by neocons as the victory
in the Cold War, while in reality was the result of adoption of neoliberalism by the Bolsheviks elite, a coup d'état from above), attempt
to weaken and possible balkanize Russia, loot xUUSR republics (see Harvard Mafia,
Andrei Shleifer and the economic rape of Russia), and suppress any threat to the current "superpower". If necessary by force. As
such it is viewed by many researchers as a concise summary of the ideology of Neoconservatism and
the most recently it was applied in Ukraine
Although Wolfowitz was ultimately responsible for the Defense Planning Guidance, as it was released through his office and was reflective
of his overall outlook of Bush I administration. While associated with Wolfowitz, the document was prepared by Libby, who delegated
the process of writing the new strategy to Zalmay Khalizad,
a member of Libby's staff and longtime aide to Wolfowitz. Khalizad solicited the opinions of a wide cross-section of Pentagon insiders
and outsiders, including Andrew
Marshall, Richard Perle, and Wolfowitz's University of
Chicago mentor, the nuclear strategist 
Completing the draft in March of 1992, Khalizad requested permission from Libby to circulate it to other officials within the Pentagon.
Libby assented and within three days Khalizad's draft was released to the New York Times by "an official who believed this post-cold
war strategy debate should be carried out in the public domain."
The main postulated of the Wolfowitz doctnine
The doctrine announces the US’s status as the world’s only remaining superpower following the collapse of the
Soviet Union at the end of the
Cold War and proclaims its main objective to be retaining that
Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere,
that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying
the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources
would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.
This was substantially re-written in the April 16 release.
Our most fundamental goal is to deter or defeat attack from whatever source... The second goal is to strengthen and extend
the system of defense arrangements that binds democratic and like-minded nations together in common defense against aggression, build
habits of cooperation, avoid the renationalization of security policies, and provide security at lower costs and with lower risks
for all. Our preference for a collective response to preclude threats or, if necessary, to deal with them is a key feature of our
regional defense strategy. The third goal is to preclude any hostile power from dominating a region critical to our interests, and
also thereby to strengthen the barriers against the re-emergence of a global threat to the interests of the US and our allies.
The doctrine establishes the US’s leadership role within the new world order.
The US must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential
competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests.
In non-defense areas, we must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging
our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order. We must maintain the mechanism for deterring
potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.
This was substantially re-written in the April 16 release.
One of the primary tasks we face today in shaping the future is carrying long standing alliances into the new era, and turning
old enmities into new cooperative relationships. If we and other leading democracies continue to build a democratic security community,
a much safer world is likely to emerge. If we act separately, many other problems could result.
The doctrine downplays the value of international coalitions.
Like the coalition that opposed Iraqi aggression, we should expect future coalitions to be ad hoc assemblies, often not lasting
beyond the crisis being confronted, and in many cases carrying only general agreement over the objectives to be accomplished. Nevertheless,
the sense that the world order is ultimately backed by the US will be an important stabilizing factor.
This was re-written with a change in emphasis in the April 16 release.
Certain situations like the crisis leading to the Gulf War are likely to engender ad hoc coalitions. We should plan to maximize
the value of such coalitions. This may include specialized roles for our forces as well as developing cooperative practices with
The doctrine stated the US’s right to intervene when and where it believed necessary.
While the US cannot become the world's policeman, by assuming responsibility for righting every wrong, we will retain the preeminent
responsibility for addressing selectively those wrongs which threaten not only our interests, but those of our allies or friends,
or which could seriously unsettle international relations.
This was softened slightly in the April 16 release.
While the United States cannot become the world's policeman and assume responsibility for solving every international security
problem, neither can we allow our critical interests to depend solely on international mechanisms that can be blocked by countries
whose interests may be very different than our own. Where our allies interests are directly affected, we must expect them to take
an appropriate share of the responsibility, and in some cases play the leading role; but we maintain the capabilities for addressing
selectively those security problems that threaten our own interests.
The doctrine highlighted the possible threat posed by a resurgent Russia.
We continue to recognize that collectively the conventional forces of the states formerly comprising the Soviet Union retain
the most military potential in all of Eurasia; and we do not dismiss the risks to stability in Europe from a nationalist backlash
in Russia or efforts to reincorporate into Russia the newly independent republics of Ukraine, Belarus, and possibly others....We
must, however, be mindful that democratic change in Russia is not irreversible, and that despite its current travails, Russia will
remain the strongest military power in Eurasia and the only power in the world with the capability of destroying the United States.
This was removed from the April 16 release in favour of a more diplomatic approach.
The US has a significant stake in promoting democratic consolidation and peaceful relations between Russia, Ukraine and the
other republics of the former Soviet Union.
Middle East and Southwest Asia
The doctrine clarified the overall objectives in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve
US and Western access to the region's oil. We also seek to deter further aggression in the region, foster regional stability, protect
US nationals and property, and safeguard our access to international air and seaways. As demonstrated by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait,
it remains fundamentally important to prevent a hegemon or alignment of powers from dominating the region. This pertains especially
to the Arabian peninsula. Therefore, we must continue to play a role through enhanced deterrence and improved cooperative security.
The April 16 release was more circumspect and it reaffirmed US commitments to Israel as well as its Arab allies.
In the Middle East and Persian Gulf, we seek to foster regional stability, deter aggression against our friends and interests
in the region, protect US nationals and property, and safeguard our access to international air and seaways and to the region's oil.
The United States is committed to the security of Israel and to maintaining the
qualitative edge that is critical to Israel's
security. Israel's confidence in its security and US-Israel strategic cooperation contribute to the stability of the entire region,
as demonstrated once again during the Persian Gulf War. At the same time, our assistance to our Arab friends to defend themselves
against aggression also strengthens security throughout the region, including for Israel.
As a general rule, the more that hawks harp on the need to preserve U.S. "credibility," the
weaker their argument for armed aggression.
We will fight them over there so we do not have
to face them in the United States of America," George W. Bush said in a 2007 speech to the
American Legion, in a labored defense of his disastrous foreign policy record.
This is one of the better-known and more ridiculous rationalizations for both the endless
"war on terror" and for the Iraq war. The Bush administration conflated these two very
different conflicts and pretended that an aggressive, illegal invasion of Iraq had something to
do with defending the United States. There is absolutely no reason to think that having U.S.
forces fighting in Iraq in 2003 or 2007 or 2020 has made Americans the least bit more secure,
but this is the official line that we are still being fed today. Many of us could see long ago
that this was false, but the toxic legacy of the myth that aggression brings security remains
with us even now.
This myth that aggression brings security is certainly not unique to the U.S., but over the
last several decades our government has been one of its most prominent promoters. It is the
myth that has distorted our counterterrorism and counterproliferation policies for most of my
lifetime, and it continues to provide fodder to advocates of preventive war against Iran, North
Korea, and any other adversary that they think might possibly pose a threat in the distant
The practical consequences of believing this myth are overexpansion and overreach. Once
you accept that your security is contingent on going on the offensive against potential
threats, you begin to lose the ability to calculate costs and benefits rationally. Instead, you
begin to see every nuisance as an intolerable menace. That encourages increasingly reckless and
destructive policies as you lash out against anything and everything that you think might be a
danger to you. As a result, you exhaust yourself, alienate your allies, and drive other states
to band together to protect themselves from you. The U.S. has not quite reached that last
stage, but it is heading in that direction.
Great powers fall into the trap of overexpansion again and again. These states make this
costly error because they embrace myths that encourage them to fight in places that don't
matter and to make commitments that they don't have to make. Even though expansion inflicts
significant damage on the state that engages in it, advocates of aggressive policies never stop
insisting that expansion brings security. The U.S. has been going through a period of
overexpansion for almost twenty years, and the costs of continue to mount. At the same time,
there is tremendous resistance in Washington to anything even resembling retrenchment.
Jack Snyder wrote the classic study of the myths behind great power overexpansion,
Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition , thirty years ago. When he
concluded his book, the Soviet Union still existed and he had some reason to believe that the
United States had learned from its disastrous intervention in Vietnam. Snyder's work is
arguably more relevant now than it was then. However, the last thirty years of U.S. foreign
policy show that he was far too optimistic about the U.S. government's ability to learn from
its past excesses and failures.
Snyder argued that "American intervention in the Vietnam War was a clear case of strategic
overextension." He added that it is "difficult to explain in terms of any Realist criteria,
judging either from hindsight or from information available at the time."
U.S. intervention in Vietnam was fueled by ideology and the misguided belief that U.S.
"credibility" elsewhere would be jeopardized if the U.S. did not keep fighting there. This
argument made no sense when it was made, and our allies at the time rejected it. As Snyder puts
it, "American allies denied that American credibility was at stake in Vietnam, but American
decision makers insisted that it was." As usual, the people invoking "credibility" then were
just looking for an excuse to legitimize their reckless policy. It is a common claim put
forward by promoters of empire, and it usually doesn't have the slightest connection to the
That is why it is discouraging but also very revealing that a new study of Henry Kissinger
by Barry Gewen essentially endorses Kissinger's preposterous rationalizations for continued
U.S. involvement in Vietnam and the escalation of the war into neighboring Cambodia. According
to John Farrell's
review of The Inevitability of Tragedy , Gewen accepts the standard Cold War-era
arguments for some of the worst policies of the Nixon administration:
He takes on the "war crimes" arraignments in chapters on Chile and Southeast Asia,
concluding that the threat posed by Chilean socialism to hemispheric tranquillity generally
absolved the United States for helping to foster a bloody coup, and that the Cold War
necessity of preserving U.S. "credibility" and "prestige" justified Nixon's callous choice of
four more years of war in Southeast Asia.
As a general rule, the more that hawks harp on the "need" to preserve "credibility," the
weaker the argument for U.S. involvement in a conflict is. It is only when there are no obvious
vital interests at stake that hawks are reduced to summoning the mystical spirits of reputation
and resolve in a séance, and they do this because they have no other arguments left. The
sad thing is that this mumbo-jumbo continues to hold sway in our foreign policy debates. It is
used to override correct assessments of costs and benefits by pretending that the U.S. risks
suffering an enormous loss if it "fails" to intervene in some strategic backwater. Yesterday,
it was Vietnam, and today we hear much the same thing about Afghanistan.
There is no worse reason to fight a war than the preservation of supposed "credibility." For
one thing, fighting an unnecessary war always does more damage to a nation's reputation and
strength than avoiding it. Even if the U.S. managed to "win" such a war in a limited fashion,
it would not be worth the losses incurred. There is virtually nothing more debilitating to a
great power than an inability to extricate itself from a mistaken commitment. There is nothing
more foolish than persisting in such a commitment when there is an opportunity to get out.
One of the themes of the new study of Kissinger is that tragedy is unavoidable in this
world. That may be true as a general observation, but the terrible thing about continued U.S.
involvement in the Vietnam War was that it was entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, because of
the ideological blinders of our leaders and the flaws of our political culture the war
continued and expanded even further for many more years under Nixon. The U.S. was merely
prolonging the inevitable by refusing to leave a war that it had no business fighting, and
there was nothing realistic or wise about this.
When Snyder wrote Myths of Empire , he could plausibly argue that "America's
'imperial overstretch' has been moderate and self-correcting," but after almost two decades of
continuous desultory warfare in Afghanistan and almost three decades of being engaged in
hostilities in Iraq that verdict is no longer credible. Snyder was interested to explain both
"America's Cold War penchant for limited overexpansion and also its ability to learn from its
mistakes," but thirty years on there is no need to explain America's ability to learn from
mistakes because it has almost completely atrophied.
If we were to update Myths of Empire today, we would have to say that the elements of
democratic government that were supposed to protect the United States against the failings of
other systems have been waning. The "more open debate on foreign policy issues" that Snyder
found in the post-Vietnam era turned out to be narrower and more closed than he supposed. He
concluded that "the use of myths of empire to justify the Gulf War shows that democratic
scrutiny of strategic assertions is still needed."
What we have learned over the last thirty years is that Congress has mostly functioned as a
willing rubber stamp for whatever the executive wants to do, and its scrutiny of presidential
assertions about foreign threats is woefully lacking. It turns out that Snyder's judgment that
"there was no overexpansion, no disproportion between strategic costs and benefits" after the
Gulf War was premature. It was not evident in 1991, but we can see now that the costs of that
intervention were much higher than they seemed at the time. The U.S. embarked then on what
would prove to be a three-decade entanglement in the affairs of Iraq, and each time that there
was a chance of extricating ourselves from it one president after another used the myths of
empire to keep our forces there indefinitely.
Maybe I am wrong but this is my opinion. The strongest warmongerers have been the neocons
and the neoliberals (which in the case of foreign military intervention are
interchangeable) who are closely linked with AIPAC and Isael. If the US has an existential
threat then its usually plain for all to see but I will concede that the media has been
politicized and does not present objective factual news to the public. As an example,
Breitbart, Trump and others have been warning about China for decades but many politicians
have major business dealings ( bribes, payoffs, business dealings for their son and
relatives, etc) with China so they deflected to Russia whenever military or economic
concerns about China could not be hushed up. It was reported long before BushII went into
Iraq that the US and Israel had a plan for regime change in 7 middle eastern countries
which has always led me to believe that our military interventionism in the middle east is
not based on the US interest but in fact are proxy wars for US allies Israel / Saudi (and
other middle east allies) intentions at regime change in Iran. This is where Kissinger
should not be missed nor his supporters. It took a long time to switch the American
consciousness away from Russia toward China. Identifying foreign lobbyists or lobbyists for
a foreign country are easy because they must be disclosed to the Federal Govt. However, the
US needs to take a close look at its domestic lobbies, its internal corruption, its
internal conflicts of interest and its internal loyalties of those who are employees of the
federal govt or have capabilities to influence decision making of the federal govt. It
appears that we will never be able to extricate ourselves (ie USA) from foreign military
intervention in the middle east as long as we have powerful and wealthy middle eastern
allies using their influence to engage the US in proxy wars on its behalf.
The polls, where the desires of hoi poloi are captured, consistently show that US
"citizens" do not want military engagements and do not feel their security threatened all
the time. Enjoy your oligarchical run Republic.
Nothing Dan writes is without value, but I think he fails to recognize the extent to which
policymakers are worried about, not the credibility of the U.S., but that of the
"Establishment", of their own "right" to be in charge, to be important and to have vast
resources at their disposal. Ever since the end of the Cold War, the "military-intellectual
complex"--the Pentagon, the military suppliers, the intelligence community and its myriad
of contractors, the various think tanks, etc.--have all been seeking an excuse for their
continued existence. The real purpose of the invasion of Iraq was to create a ground for a
massive US overseas military commitment to replace NATO as a source for funding and
promotions. This enterprise has sadly dovetailed with the desires of the "Wilsonians" of
the Democratic Party. The domestic scene, after all, is clotted and congested. There's so
much more room to do good overseas! The strength of the Peace movement was significantly
vitiated first by the end of the draft (shrewd move, Mr. Nixon!) and then by the end of the
Cold War, for which Ronald Reagan deserved significant credit. Democrats proved sadly
susceptible to treating the Defense budget as an unlimited pork barrel. Since the
Republicans were buying, why not dig in? And, of course, pressure from AIPAC made voting
for a "firm" policy in the Middle East a political no-brainer.
The Trump administration's efforts to blame China for COVID-19's rising death toll in the
U.S. have not been backed up by intelligence assessments, but it has not stopped Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo from making the baseless assertion that the virus originated in a Chinese lab
or the Trump campaign from attacking the presumptive Democratic nominee, former vice president
Joe Biden, as too weak on China. But there may be more than political opportunism at play.
Weapons manufacturers stand to reap huge profits if they can stoke a new cold war between the
U.S. and China.
Those overlapping interests were on display last week when The Wall Street Journal published
an op-ed by
two former Trump administration officials claiming, "The Covid-19 pandemic has convinced many
that the U.S. must fundamentally change its policy toward China. Shifting course is necessary,
but it won't be achieved with a few policy tweaks."
"That's because," they added, "the pandemic's political and economic effects are bringing
about a more assertive Chinese grand strategy."
There are at least two big problems with this op-ed.
First, there's no actual evidence or explanation provided about COVID-19 "bringing about a
more assertive Chinese grand strategy" but the authors plow forward with their theory that
"Beijing was cruising to global domination" unchallenged.
Second, both of the op-ed's authors have undisclosed conflicts of interest that might
motivate their prescription for a new U.S. grand strategy centered on, among other things,
"maritime and aerospace power."
The authors, Elbridge Colby (who served as assistant secretary of defense for strategy and
force development from 2017-2018) and A. Wess Mitchell (who served as assistant secretary of
state for European and Eurasian affairs from 2017-2019), are both employed by institutions that
receive considerable funding from weapons manufacturers.
The Wall Street Journal describes Colby and Mitchell as "principals of the Marathon
Initiative," an entity that has no website and about which there is little public information
other than that it was formed on May 7, 2020 according to the Washington, DC Department of
Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
The Marathon Initiative shares an address with the Center for European Policy Analysis
(CEPA) where Mitchell serves as vice chairman and received $227,500 in compensation in
2017 . Donors to CEPA include a
defense industry who's who: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, and BAE Systems.
Mitchell's co-author, Colby, also appears to have benefited financially from funding
originating from arms manufacturers.
Colby is a senior adviser at WestExec Advisors, which does not disclose its client list. But
one of the company's co-founders, Obama Defense Department appointee Michèle Flournoy,
Intercept back in 2018 that "we help tech firms who are trying to figure out how to sell in
the public sector space, to navigate the DOD, the intel community, law enforcement ."
And from 2014 to 2017 and 2018 to 2019 Colby worked at the Center for a New American
Security (CNAS) which counts Northrop Grumman as one of its biggest donors (contributing more than
$500,000 between October 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019) as well as contributions from Lockheed
Martin, Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Boeing and DynCorp.
None of this is to say that Colby and Mitchell don't genuinely believe that COVID-19's
spread and China's lack of transparency about the virus's initial outbreak justifies the
military-heavy strategies they propose.
But when the op-ed concludes, "The West must recognize that it will either pay now or pay
later to contain China. Paying now is likely to produce a more tolerable bill," it's worth
noting that weapons manufacturers and defense contractors, who have helped finance the authors'
careers in the Beltway, will be the ones sending that bill to taxpayers.
"... The US behaves this way because increasingly its the military that forms the primary lever of US power. They need to create a sense of fear to justify the $1T that the military-industrial-security-intelligence complex consumes every year with zero real-world benefit for the poor tax-payers who are given no choice but to fund it. ..."
"... Oh no... imagine a nation-state exerting regional control over a regional issue without us being involved! The horror! The HORROR! ..."
"... Neocons never saw a country they didn't want to invade, nor any event beyond our national borders which was not a threat, nor any thing happening within our borders that did not justify a military escalation. Sadly, instead of remaining ex- Trotskyites on the fringe, they have become the mainstream in certain circles, mostly centering on the Pentagon and Congress. ..."
"... Unfortunately the US has forgotten that it was once a weak military power and that only through lengthy diplomatic negotiations would they have any real chance of achieving its commercial and political goals. Now that the US has massive military power successive administrations have been blindly seduced in to thinking that using military power is a rational substitute for diplomacy. ..."
"... Imagine all the nice things America could have if its defense budget were only, say, $300 billion dollars, i.e. still larger than any other country's . The $400 billion saved would buy a lot of ventilators and PPE, among other things. ..."
here have been news reports in the last few days that have portrayed fairly routine behavior
by other states as an attempt to "take advantage" of the U.S. during the pandemic. The
incidents in question are consistent with how these states were behaving before the outbreak.
For example, The Wall Street Journal
reported on Monday that China continues increasing its control in the Spratly and Paracel
islands. This is something that the Chinese government has been doing for decades before now,
but this is how it was described in the article:
In recent weeks, Beijing has conducted operations to gain more of a foothold in the
Spratly and Paracel island chains in the South China Sea, emblematic of China's attempts to
assert its influence around the world.
In other words, China continued a policy in its own backyard that it has been pursuing since
before the turn of the century, but because it is happening at the same time as the pandemic it
is treated as somehow more menacing than before. How asserting territorial claims on their
doorstep is "emblematic" of asserting influence "around the world" is left to the reader's
imagination. This is not just a problem of strange framing in media reports. U.S. officials are
promoting the idea that other states are "taking advantage" by simply doing the same things
they have done many times in the past:
While some of the operations might have been planned before the pandemic swept the globe,
U.S. officials said American rivals like China are capitalizing on the Trump administration's
diverted attention and the strains on its military.
"Beijing is a net beneficiary of global attention diverted towards the pandemic rather
than military activities in the South China Sea," said Navy Capt. Mike Kafka, a spokesman for
Indo-Pacific Command, Honolulu.
Claims like this raise an obvious question: what would the U.S. have been doing to
discourage this behavior if there were no pandemic? As far as I can tell, there is nothing that
the U.S. could or should be doing that would make China less likely to pursue its claims in the
South China Sea. The U.S. conducts so-called "freedom of navigation" operations (FONOPs) all
the time, but this has had no effect on anything China does. If the U.S. is not able to conduct
these operations right now, that doesn't invite more aggressive behavior from China because the
FONOPs weren't deterring anything in the first place. That strongly suggests that the U.S. is
wasting its time and resources on operations that serve no purpose.
The claim here that adversaries are using the coronavirus timeout to test US will is
silly; they're calling military activity that would've occurred anyway a test. What we're
really seeing is that presence patrols said to be vital to deterrence are an expensive waste
of time. pic.twitter.com/RzNBpHUm16
Similarly, recent "harassment" of U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf by Iranian boats is more
proof that the U.S. did not "restore deterrence" with Iran when it assassinated Soleimani at
the start of the year. That shows that the administration's Iran policy continues to backfire.
If adversaries are supposed to be taking advantage of a distracted U.S., the Iranian example
doesn't support that because the administration remains obsessively focused on Iran even now.
The Pentagon started drawing up plans for massive escalation last month
Last month, the Pentagon began drafting plans for a major escalation against the
Iran-backed factions -- namely the hardline Kataeb Hezbollah -- blamed for the rockets.
"Washington told us they'd simultaneously hit 122 targets in Iraq if more Americans died,"
a top Iraqi official said.
If tensions between the U.S. and Iran remain high, that is a consequence of earlier American
escalation. It is not happening because the U.S. is preoccupied by the pandemic.
All of the incidents cited in these reports pose no
serious threat to the U.S. or our military, and were it not for the pandemic they would be seen
as fairly typical and predictable behavior from all of these governments. The only reason that
these activities are being portrayed as "tests" of U.S. "resolve" is that our interests have
been inflated so absurdly over the decades that anything these governments do in their own
immediate neighborhood is viewed as a challenge. As we rightly focus on the threat from the
pandemic here at home, we should expect to hear more exaggerated warnings about minor foreign
nuisances as supporters of a bloated military budget seek to justify unnecessary missions and
""Beijing is a net beneficiary of global attention diverted towards the
pandemic rather than military activities in the South China Sea," said
Navy Capt. Mike Kafka, a spokesman for Indo-Pacific Command, Honolulu."
Capt. Kafka (his real name, I assume) is too polite to add that Beijing has also been a
net beneficiary of global attention having been diverted by twenty years of pointless,
botched Middle East wars that only benefited Saudi Arabia and Israel , and that that
is, oh I don't known, maybe a hundred times more important factor in causing our
neglect of real American national security issues than the past few months of coronavirus
Yes funny thing we an actual threat right here in river city and we are being told to
ignore it and get out and go to ball games and go shopping. Meanwhile 10,000 miles from our
shores some souped up Chris Crafts got a little to near to our ships.
When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like nail.
The US behaves this way because increasingly its the military that forms the primary
lever of US power. They need to create a sense of fear to justify the $1T that the
military-industrial-security-intelligence complex consumes every year with zero real-world
benefit for the poor tax-payers who are given no choice but to fund it.
That is well said, Gary. And the stakes for that justification get higher as the
military must get more and more money in an economy and zeitgeist that has less and less of
it to spare...until we get this kind of farce.
A quote I never thought I would post...but it's making more and more sense: "It will be a
great day when our schools have all the money they need, and our air force has to have a
bake-sale to buy a bomber."
Neocons never saw a country they didn't want to invade, nor any event beyond our national
borders which was not a threat, nor any thing happening within our borders that did not
justify a military escalation. Sadly, instead of remaining ex- Trotskyites on the
fringe, they have become the mainstream in certain circles, mostly centering on the
Pentagon and Congress.
But, hey, what would all those Generals do if they didn't have any Military-Industrial
Complex corporation board of directors to sit on after they "retire".
Unfortunately the US has forgotten that it was once a weak military power and that only
through lengthy diplomatic negotiations would they have any real chance of achieving its
commercial and political goals. Now that the US has massive military power successive
administrations have been blindly seduced in to thinking that using military power is a
rational substitute for diplomacy. The current Trump administration approach to foreign
policy is a total failure as it seems to be based on nothing more than bravado and pathetic
threats of using military force to attempt to influence international outcomes.
If the US
wants international approval and support, it is only going to be able to be rebuilt if the
US stops pretending that every treaty, international organization and agreement is biased
against the US and should be withdrawn from and instead return to the more proactive
approach of diplomacy.
I've thought all along, if we're expecting a manufacturing renaissance in this country and
a big increase in exports, and China wants to secure some of the shipping lanes we'll need
on their own dime, why not just let them?
Imagine all the nice things America could have if its defense budget were only, say, $300
billion dollars, i.e. still larger than any other country's . The $400 billion saved
would buy a lot of ventilators and PPE, among other things.
"The $400 billion saved would buy a lot of ventilators and PPE"
No go. If we cut back to $300 billion we couldn't keep sacrificing American lives and
money for Saudi Arabia and Israel. The ventilators and PPE you mention would only benefit
Americans. What we do for Saudi Arabia and Israel is far more important than that. Indeed,
cutting our defense budget necessarily entails bigotry and antisemitism because its
practical effect would be to deny the Jewish and Muslim heartlands full access to American
money and blood.
Cutting the defense budget and husbanding resources for our own use would also undermine
American credibility, because geopolitical competitors are invariably impressed and
deterred when a Great Power fritters away its resources on client states rather than
defending the lives and wealth of its own people.
One of the most striking features of the working of the U.S. imperial system and media is
the regular inflation of the threat posed by imperial targets-an inflation process that very
often attains the ludicrous and incredible. When the imperial managers want to go after some
hapless small country-Guatemala, Nicaragua, Yugoslavia, Iraq-that for one reason or another has
been put on the U.S. hit list, the managers issue fearsome warnings of the dire threat posed by
the prospective victim. The media quickly get on this bandwagon and suddenly give enormous
attention to a country previously completely ignored. Critical analyses of the reality of the
"threat" are minimal, and the gullibility quotient of the media escalates in view of the
alleged seriousness of the threat and need for everybody to be "on the team." As soon as the
small target is smashed-with great ease, despite the prior claims of its capability-and as
official attention moves elsewhere, the media drop the subject and allow the target to return
to black hole attention.
A closely related feature of the threat inflation process has been the unwillingness of the
media to allow that the United States poses any threat to the imminent victim. U. S. officials
may even have announced an intention to displace a government, they may have organized a proxy
army to invade, and positioned their own forces in the vicinity, but any actions of the target
to prepare to defend itself are considered sinister and further proof of their menacing
character. In the Cold War era, when targets reached out to the Soviet bloc to get arms, this
added to the proof of a threat, demonstrating that they were part of the larger Soviet threat.
That they sought weapons from the Soviet bloc because they were prevented from buying them from
the United States and its allies, and that forcing them to do this was part of a strategy
making their threat more credible, was outside the orbit of media thought.
Thus, in the official and therefore media view, threats were and remain
unidirectional-democratic Guatemala (1945 -54), Sandinista Nicaragua (1980-90), Iraq today have
allegedly posed threats to the United States, but they themselves are not threatened by it.
This results in part from the media's ideological and patriotic subservience. Just as in a
totalitarian society, the media here take it as a premise that their leaders are good and
pursue decent ends, so that invidious words like "threat" or "aggression" cannot be applied to
their language and behavior. This is helped along by the fact that the targeted leaders are
quickly demonized, so that any apparent threats from our end are a response to evil and quest
for justice (as well as countering a real threat). This exquisitely and comically biased
perspective has helped make it possible to find that no actions by the targets constitute "self
defense," and in effect they do not have any right of self-defense.
Guatemala in the late 1940s and early 1950s offers a model case. Guatemala's democratic
leaders had aroused suspicion by granting labor the right to form unions back in 1947, and when
in 1952 president Jacopo Arbenz proposed taking over idle United Fruit land (with compensation)
in the interest of landless peasants, United Fruit Company and U.S. government officials
escalated the charges of a dire Communist threat. The media, which had previously rarely
mentioned Guatemala, increasingly focused on the official target. The Communists never took
over" Guatemala (see Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer, Bitter Fruit), but United Fruit,
the U.S. government, and the media claimed that they had, and the media became frenetic and
hysterical on the subject. This was a completely fraudulent threat to U. S. national
On the other hand, the United States posed a genuine security threat to Guatemala, openly
menacing it with hostile words and organizing a "contra" army in Nicaragua to invade Guatemala.
The United States also refused to sell arms to Guatemala and got its allies to do the same.
When Guatemala imported a small quantity of arms from Czechoslovakia in 1953 this caused a
media frenzy, and demonstrated for the media the aggressive intent of the U.S. target. In the
U.S. media the notion that Guatemala was threatened and might be acting in self defense in
acquiring arms was outside the realm of permissible thought. After all, could the United States
be planning a proxy aggression against Guatemala? Not for the amazing U.S. media-the tiny
target threatened us.
None of the non-dictatorships in Latin America considered Guatemala a threat, although they
were closer to the U.S. target and less capable of defending themselves from it if the threat
were valid. But they were bribed and bullied by John Foster Dulles into condemning
"international communism" in the hemisphere and the need to confront it. Did the U.S. officials
believe the malarkey about a threat? The NSC Policy Statement on "United States Policy in the
Event of Guatemalan Aggression in Latin America" (May 28, 1954) conveys the impression of
official panic over the Guatemala menace, declaring Guatemala to be increasingly [an]
instrument of Soviet aggression in this hemisphere." This was about a virtually disarmed tiny
country that had not moved one inch outside its borders, in which the Soviet Union had invested
nothing and with which Guatemala didn't even maintain diplomatic relations (out of fear of U.S.
reaction), whose democratic government was shortly to be overthrown by a rag-tag proxy army,
with much U.S. assistance.
After the overthrow of the Guatemalan democracy in 1954 the media once again allowed
Guatemala to disappear from their sights. A very similar process took place following the
victory of the Sandinistas over the authoritarian Somoza regime in Nicaragua in 1980. Here
again it was the democratic government that quickly became a "threat" to the United States,
after the United States had supported dictatorship for 45 years. Here again it organized a
contra army to harass and invade the democracy. Once again it imposed an economic and arms
embargo on the target, forcing it to acquire arms from the Soviet bloc, and then using this to
demonstrate that it was an instrument of that bloc. Once again the nearby small countries were
not frightened by the new menace, and much of their effort was spent trying to settle the
conflict-in opposition to the Reagan administration's preference for the use of force.
Nicaragua, Soviet Threat, etc., etc.
Here again, also, after the Sandinista government was ousted, following a decade of boycott
and U. S. -sponsored international terrorism, the media were enthused over this triumph of
democracy and U.S. "patience" in using means other than a direct invasion to end social
democracy in Nicaragua. Once this "threat" was terminated, the media once again moved away from
Nicaragua to focus on other good deeds by their leaders coping with other threats. As with
Guatemala, and later in the case of NATO-occupied Kosovo, the media carefully averted their
eyes from the results, which were not in keeping with the alleged war aims and claims that
beneficial effects would follow the removal of the threat.
The big threat featured in the Cold War years was that posed by the Soviet Union, which at
least referred to the challenge of a serious rival on the global scene. But even here, the
threat was misread and hugely inflated. The Soviet Union was always a conservative and
defensive-minded regional power, its reach beyond its near neighbors tentative, reactive, and
weak. It never posed a threat to the United States and constantly sought accommodation with the
real (U.S.) superpower-its real threat was that it offered an alternative development model and
supported resistance to the global thrust of U. S. imperialism.
On the other hand, World War II was hardly over when the United States was funding groups
trying to destabilize the Soviet Union and in NSC 68 (1950) U.S. officials laid out an agenda
for destabilization and "regime change" in the Soviet Union as basic U.S. policy. The United
States never accepted the legitimacy of the Soviet Union and from the invasions in 1917 to the
final important assist given Yeltsin and his apparatchiks, its aim has been regime change.
But in the U.S. propaganda system it was an ideological premise that the Soviet Union was
trying to conquer the world and we were on the defensive, "containing" it. This was confirmed
when Khrushchev said, "We are going to bury you," a blustering statement that was hardly on a
par with the neglected NSC 68 policy pronouncement of an intent to bury the Soviet Union. A
prime fact of Cold War history was that the Soviet Union provided a limit to U.S.
expansionism-and it was the end of that real containment that has allowed the United States to
go on its current rampage.
It should be noted that throughout the Cold War U.S. officials proclaimed Soviet advances
and "gaps" that invariably proved to be disinformation, but which the New York Times and its
colleagues invariably passed along as truth. Equally important, when it turned out that the
"missile gap," "warhead gap," or "window of vulnerability" was a lie, the media kept
this under the rug, along with the fact that they had been propaganda and disinformation
agents. In his classic, The Myth of Soviet Military Supremacy (Harper & Row, 1986), Tom
Gervasi showed how the media passed along Reagan administration claims of Soviet superiority in
weapons systems that were refutable from the Pentagon's own information releases, but which the
New York Times and company were too lazy or too complicit with their leaders to examine and
challenge, saying merely that figures "were difficult to pin down" (NYT), which was false. As
Gervasi said, "The frequent assertions of editors...that they must strive for 'balance' and
'objectivity,' were simply an effort to hide the lack of attempt at either, to justify wholly
uncritical acceptance of official views, and to deny that a great deal of information was
missing from public view.
In the buildup to the first Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991, U.S. officials and the media
conveyed the impression that Iraq was a mighty power and huge military challenge to the United
States and its "allies," when in fact Iraq was a Third World country exhausted by its brutal
conflict with Iran and hardly able to put up token resistance to the "allied" assault. It was
overwhelmed within a week and forced into de facto surrender. Ironically, Iraq didn't dare to
use any weapons of mass destruction it possessed, but the "allies" blew up a number of Iraq
weapons caches, spewing forth chemicals on allied soldiers and Iraqi civilians. The United
States also used depleted uranium "dirty" munitions, thus making the Persian Gulf war a low
level nuclear war, as it was later to do in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. Once again, following
the war-or more properly, slaughter-the media failed to reflect on either the evidence that the
threat had been inflated or the costs of the war in terms of "friendly fire"_or rather
"friendly use of depleted uranium and release of enemy chemicals"-on both allied soldiers and
In the buildup to the prospective 2003 attack on Iraq, once again there has been a
multi-pronged threat inflation that the mainstream media pass along in their now standard
propaganda agency role.
Most important, there is the pretense that if Iraq possessed WMD it would pose a serious
threat of using them offensively and against the United States in particular. To make this
plausible the officials-media phalanx stress what a bad person Saddam is and the fact that he
used WMD in the 1980s. What the phalanx avoids discussing are: (1) that Saddam only used those
weapons when supplied and supported by the United States and Britain-he did not use them in the
Persian Gulf War; (2) that the sanctions and inspections regime has made him far weaker now
than in 1991 when he failed to use such weapons; (3) that his use of them offensively against
either the United States or any U.S. client state would be suicidal; and (4) that it follows
that if he possessed them they would only be serviceable for defensive purposes.
The idea that he poses a serious threat to the United States, claimed by President George
Bush and his associates, is therefore absurd. But it is reported in the media as real and is
essentially unchallenged. It is certainly never called absurd, as it is. Saddam does pose a
possible threat to U.S. forces if attacked, but only then. We get back to the fact, however,
that a target of U.S. enmity, from Vietnam to the Sandinista government of Nicaragua to Iraq
has no right of self-defense in the media propaganda system.
Further arrows in the war-makers quiver are the facts that Saddam is a cruel dictator and
that he has been less than completely cooperative with the inspections process designed to
assure the elimination of his WMD. The former is true but irrelevant and its use is
hypocritical. The United States and Britain supported this dictator when he served their
interests and it continues to support others who are amenable, as Saddam appeared to be in the
1980s. International law and the UN Charter do not allow "regime change" of dictatorships by
military intervention and actions with such design constitute straightforward aggression.
"Helping" people by warring on them is also profoundly hypocritical and there is every reason
to doubt any humanitarian end in Bush administration war planning.
It is also true that Saddam has not been fully cooperative with the inspections system, but
why should he be when the United States has repeatedly admitted that inspections are a cover
for an intent to dislodge him from power and have been used in the past to locate war targets?
(The same motive of regime change underlies the genocidal sanctions regime that has killed over
a million Iraqi civilians.) Furthermore, the inspections regime is a U.S.-British imposition
that reflects their domination of the Security Council and their political agenda, it has
nothing to do with justice. Israel is allowed to have WMD and ignore UN Security Council
rulings because it is a Western ally and client, but Israel not only threatens its neighbors,
it has repeatedly invaded Lebanon and is currently carrying out a ruthless program of
repression and ethnic cleansing in occupied Palestine, in violation of UN rulings and the
Fourth Geneva Convention. But the U.S. mainstream media ignore this, and have gotten on the
bandwagon, proclaiming that
Iraq's lack of full cooperation with the inspections regime is intolerable.
A number of critical writers have stressed that while Iraq poses no threat to the United
States, the attack on Iraq will create a threat in a feedback process. Thus Dan Ellsberg points
out that: (1) "the number of recruits for suicide bombing against the U.S. and its
allies...will increase a hundred-fold;" (2) "regimes with sizeable Muslim populations
(including Indonesia, the Philippines, France and Germany...) will find it politically almost
impossible to be seen collaborating with the US on the anti- terrorism intelligence and police
operations that are essential to lessening the terrorist threat..."; (3) Iraq under attack, and
possibly even segments of the Pakistani army, may finally share WMD with Al Qaeda and other
terrorist groups (Dan Ellsberg on Iraq, Weblog Entry, Jan. 23, 2003, www.ellsberg. net/weblog/
Once again the mainstream media have cooperated in a ludicrous threat inflation, which has
prepared the ground for their country to wage a war of aggression. That war will not reduce a
threat from Iraq, which was negligible, but it will produce serious threats as a consequence of
the attack. However, this may well be what some of Bush's advisers want, as it will justify
further U.S. militarization and warfare, intensified repression at home, and provide a cover
for further Bush service to his business constituency here and for Sharon's accelerated ethnic
cleansing and transfer in Palestine.
Edward S. Herman is an economist, author, media analyst, and a regular contributor to Z
"... Looking at the responses to the North Korea question over the decades, it is striking how little support there used to be for defending South Korea even during the Cold War. Over the last forty years, there has been a huge increase across the oldest three cohorts in a willingness to fight another war in Korea: ..."
"... Some of this increase might be explained by the demise of the USSR, but it cannot account for the dramatic increase in the last twenty years. There have been double digit increases in support for using U.S. forces to respond to a North Korean invasion since 2002, and in some of the cohorts the increase has been huge. 33% of Gen X respondents favored using U.S. troops in this scenario 18 years ago, and now 56% do. ..."
... there has been an increase since the start of the century. The story is much
the same with the Gen X cohort: in 1998, only 49% agreed with the "active role" option, and
today the number stands at 69%. All of these cohorts tend to become more supportive of an
"active role" as time goes by regardless of how much damage U.S. activist foreign policy
The most troubling result is the broad public support for military action to "stop Iran from
obtaining nuclear weapons":
It is remarkable that there is less support for coming to the defense of a treaty ally when
it is invaded than there is for attacking Iran in an illegal, preventive war. The good news is
that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons, so this scenario is not likely to happen, but it is
very worrisome that there is such an unthinking consensus in favor of an unjustified and
aggressive military option. When the cohort that is least supportive of military action still
favors launching an illegal attack on another country by two-to-one, that shows just how much
public opinion has been warped by constant fear-mongering and threat inflation about Iran.
Looking at the responses to the North Korea question over the decades, it is striking how
little support there used to be for defending South Korea even during the Cold War. Over the
last forty years, there has been a huge increase across the oldest three cohorts in a
willingness to fight another war in Korea:
Some of this increase might be explained by the demise of the USSR, but it cannot account
for the dramatic increase in the last twenty years. There have been double digit increases in
support for using U.S. forces to respond to a North Korean invasion since 2002, and in some of
the cohorts the increase has been huge. 33% of Gen X respondents favored using U.S. troops in
this scenario 18 years ago, and now 56% do.
34% of Silent generation respondents gave this
response in 2002, and it is now 76%. 38% of Boomers gave this answer at the start of the
century, and now 65% back using U.S. troops in a new Korean war. The sharpest increases seem to
be related to North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons. This is strange, since one wold
think that North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons would make Americans less likely to want
to get involved in a war on the Peninsula. Once again, it looks like public opinion on this
question has been driven by the steady drumbeat of fear-mongering about a manageable,
deterrable threat from the DPRK. It is interesting that the generation that has grown up with
the most threat inflation about Iran and North Korea is also the generation least inclined to
use force against them. It may be that the generation that came of age with 9/11 and the Iraq
war are understandably more skeptical of official claims and more likely to discount alarmism
about foreign threats. Whatever the reason, it is encouraging that younger Americans are less
supportive of military options, and if they stick with these views that bodes well for the
prospects of a more restrained and peaceful foreign policy in the decades to come.
Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC , where he also keeps a solo
blog . He has been
published in the New York Times Book Review , Dallas Morning News , World
Politics Review , Politico Magazine , Orthodox Life , Front Porch Republic,
The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week . He holds a PhD in
history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter . email
"... Taylor exaggerates what the conflict is about by saying that Ukraine is defending "the West." That's not true. Ukraine is defending itself. The U.S. does not have a vital interest in this conflict, but Taylor talks about it as if we do. He says that the relationship with Ukraine is "key" to our national security, but that is simply false. To say that it is key to our national security means that we are supposed to believe that it is crucially important to our national security. That suggests that U.S. national security would seriously compromised if that relationship weakened, but that doesn't make any sense. We usually don't even talk about our major treaty allies this way, so what justification is there for describing a relationship with a weak partner government like this? ..."
"... The op-ed reads like a textbook case of clientitis, in which a former U.S. envoy ends up making the Ukrainian government's argument for them ..."
"... To support Ukraine is to support a rules-based international order that enabled major powers in Europe to avoid war for seven decades. It is to support democracy over autocracy. It is to support freedom over unfreedom. Most Americans do. ..."
"... These make for catchy slogans, but they are lousy policy arguments. This rhetoric veers awfully close to saying that you aren't on the side of freedom if you don't support a particular policy option. In my experience, advocates for more aggressive measures use rhetoric like this because the rest of their argument isn't very strong. It is possible to reject illegal military interventions of all governments without wanting to throw weapons at the problem. ..."
"... Taylor has set up the policy argument in such a way that there seems to be no choice, but the U.S. doesn't have to support Ukraine's war effort. He oversells Ukraine's importance to the U.S. to justify U.S. support, because an accurate assessment would make the current policy of arming their government much harder to defend. Ukraine isn't really that important to U.S. security and our security doesn't require us to provide military assistance to them. Of course, our government has chosen to do it anyway, but this is just one more optional entanglement that the U.S. could have avoided without jeopardizing American or allied security. ..."
ormer ambassador William Taylor wrote an op-ed on Ukraine in
an attempt to answer Pompeo's question about whether Americans care about Ukraine. It is not
very persuasive. For one thing, he starts off by exaggerating the importance of the conflict
between Russia and Ukraine to make it seem as if the U.S. has a major stake in the outcome:
Here's why the answer should be yes: Ukraine is defending itself and the West against
Russian attack. If Ukraine succeeds, we succeed. The relationship between the United States
and Ukraine is key to our national security, and Americans should care about Ukraine.
Taylor exaggerates what the conflict is about by saying that Ukraine is defending "the
West." That's not true. Ukraine is defending itself. The U.S. does not have a vital interest in
this conflict, but Taylor talks about it as if we do. He says that the relationship with
Ukraine is "key" to our national security, but that is simply false. To say that it is key to
our national security means that we are supposed to believe that it is crucially important to
our national security. That suggests that U.S. national security would seriously compromised if
that relationship weakened, but that doesn't make any sense. We usually don't even talk about
our major treaty allies this way, so what justification is there for describing a relationship
with a weak partner government like this?
The op-ed reads like a textbook case of clientitis, in which a former U.S. envoy ends up
making the Ukrainian government's argument for them. The danger of exaggerating U.S. interests
and conflating them with Ukraine's is that we fool ourselves into thinking that we are acting
out of necessity and in our own defense when we are really choosing to take sides in a conflict
that does not affect our security. This is the kind of thinking that encourages people to spout
nonsense about "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here." If we view
Ukraine as "the front line" of a larger struggle, that will also make it more difficult to
resolve the conflict. When a local conflict is turned into a proxy fight between great powers,
the local people will be the ones made to suffer to serve the ambitions of the patrons. Once
the U.S. insists that its own security is bound up with the outcome of this conflict, there is
an incentive to be considered the "winner," but the reality is that Ukraine will always matter
less to the U.S. than it does to Russia.
If this relationship were so important to U.S. security, how is it that the U.S. managed to
get along just fine for decades after the end of the Cold War when that relationship was not
particularly strong? As recently as the Obama administration, our government did not consider
Ukraine to be important enough to supply with weapons. Ukraine was viewed correctly as
peripheral interest to the U.S., and nothing has changed in the years since then to make it
Taylor keeps repeating that "Ukraine is the front line" in a larger conflict between Russia
and the West, but that becomes true only if Western governments choose to treat it as one. He
concludes his op-ed with a series of ideological assertions:
To support Ukraine is to support a rules-based international order that enabled major
powers in Europe to avoid war for seven decades. It is to support democracy over autocracy.
It is to support freedom over unfreedom. Most Americans do.
These make for catchy slogans, but they are lousy policy arguments. This rhetoric veers
awfully close to saying that you aren't on the side of freedom if you don't support a
particular policy option. In my experience, advocates for more aggressive measures use rhetoric
like this because the rest of their argument isn't very strong. It is possible to reject
illegal military interventions of all governments without wanting to throw weapons at the
Taylor has set up the policy argument in such a way that there seems to be no choice, but
the U.S. doesn't have to support Ukraine's war effort. He oversells Ukraine's importance to the
U.S. to justify U.S. support, because an accurate assessment would make the current policy of
arming their government much harder to defend. Ukraine isn't really that important to U.S.
security and our security doesn't require us to provide military assistance to them. Of course,
our government has chosen to do it anyway, but this is just one more optional entanglement that
the U.S. could have avoided without jeopardizing American or allied security.
Our Intel community and Think Tanks are totally incompetent when it comes to analyzing other
countries but they are geniuses when it comes to manipulating the U.S. public. Claiming that
we are the victims of information warfare must be an inside joke to them. How do they keep a
straight face when they say, 'we are seeing increased Iranian activity in cyberspace'.
Obviously Iran isn't the greatest threat to "U.S. security," but the truth is that no foreign
state (not even a hypothetical Sino-Slavic alliance) poses a real threat to U.S. security,
properly defined. In short, the terms of "threat" and "security" are flawed."U.S. security"
just means "U.S. ability to project military power in other parts of the world." A "threat"
to U.S. security is just some other country which threatens that projection of military
power. Americans who watch the news hear "Iran is a threat to U.S. security" from the Trump
Administration and assume that it means that Iran is about to attack the homeland, when what
the Trump Administration means is that Iran is defending its own national security against
U.S. threats. This language is how Democrats (and Republicans) can pretend that U.S. military
aid to Ukraine is critical to "U.S. security" against the "threat" of Russia, even though
before Pres. Trump there was no such aid.
"... no reason to believe she'd be any less a hawk than she was as a senator, when she backed George W. Bush's war in Iraq, or as secretary of state, when she encouraged President Barack Obama to escalate the war in Afghanistan. If her nomination is as sure a thing as people say, then antiwar organizing needs to start right away. ..."
"... The New York Times ..."
"... it's something that might have been called neocon, ..."
"... Charles Davis is a writer in Los Angeles. His work has been published by outlets such as Al Jazeera, The New Republic, and Salon. Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights organization Global Exchange. She is also the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. ..."
Announcing her latest campaign for the presidency, Hillary Clinton declared she was entering the race to be the champion for "everyday
Americans." As a lawmaker and diplomat, however, Clinton has long championed military campaigns that have killed scores of "everyday"
people abroad, from Iraq to Yemen.
As commander-in-chief, there's no reason to believe she'd be any less a hawk than she was
as a senator, when she backed George W. Bush's war in Iraq, or as secretary of state, when she encouraged President Barack Obama
to escalate the war in Afghanistan. If her nomination is as sure a thing as people say, then antiwar organizing needs to start right
"If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue," he said, "it's something that might have been called neocon,
but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else."
We're going to call it what it is: More of the same sort of murderous policies that destroyed Iraq,
destabilized Libya, killed women
cluster bombs and drones in Yemen, and legitimized the undermining of democracy in Honduras. There's little chance the Republicans
will nominate someone better, but given Clinton's record as a senator and secretary of state - the latter giving us a very good idea
of how she would approach foreign affairs once in office - it will be hard for them to find anyone much worse.
We know that Clinton is no reliable friend of peace. Today she supports diplomacy with Iran, but
back in 2009, as secretary
of state, she was adamant that the U.S. keep open the option of attacking the Islamic Republic over never-proven allegations it was
seeking nuclear weapons. (In fact, Israel is the region's only
Her attempts to portray herself as an ally of those who are pro-peace, as a sort of reluctant imperialist, is the same sort of
co-opting distortion that has helped quiet opposition to President Obama's hawkish agenda. If anything, Hillary is even more militaristic
than the ostensibly reluctant warrior she's campaigning to replace. Still, that hasn't stopped her from trying to be all things to
all people - even people like us.
Indeed, in March 2003, Clinton did something she'll probably never willingly do again: She
met with CODEPINK to explain her support for the Iraq war.
"I like pink tulips around this time of the year," she began. They "kind of remind ya that there may be a spring. Well, you guys
look like a big bunch of big tulips!" It got progressively more awkward after that. "I admire your willingness to speak out on behalf
of the women and children of Iraq," said Clinton, but "There is a very easy way to prevent anyone from being put into harm's way
and that is for Saddam Hussein to disarm and I have absolutely no belief that he will."
We thought the easiest way to prevent harming the women, children, and other living things in Iraq was to stop a war of aggression,
ostensibly over weapons of mass destruction that UN inspectors on the ground couldn't find and which were, in fact, never found -
because they didn't exist. Clinton, however, was steadfast: "If Saddam were serious about disarming he would have been much more
forthcoming," she claimed. "The very difficult question for all of us is how does one bring about the disarmament of someone with
such a proven track record of a commitment, if not an obsession, with weapons of mass destruction?"
Her answer: Destroying Iraq by dropping millions of U.S.-made WMDs, including bombs with
depleted uranium that have more
than doubled the country's pre-2003
rate of cancer. Speaking
to the women of CODEPINK, Clinton even explicitly defended George W. Bush's unilateralism, citing her husband's go-it-alone intervention
in Kosovo back in the 1990s.
In 2011, when the Arab Spring came to Libya, Clinton was the Obama administration's
most forceful advocate for going above and beyond a no-fly zone to depose Muammar Gaddafi, whose U.S.-trained security forces
were killing Libyans with the help of weapons and equipment provided by his erstwhile allies in the United States, Britain, and France.
out-hawked Robert Gates, the defense secretary first appointed by George W. Bush who was less than enthusiastic about going to
war. When Libyan rebels carried out an extrajudicial execution of their country's former dictator, her response was sociopathic:
"We came, we saw, he died," she
said, smiling and laughing. That sent a message that the United States would look the other way at crimes committed by allies
against its official enemies; indeed, it was the same policy of tolerance for friends' war crimes that arguably led Gaddafi to believe
he could get away with killing anyone he labeled "al-Qaeda."
Libya was part of a pattern for Clinton. On Afghanistan, she advocated a repeat of the surge in Iraq, encouraging President Obama
to more than double
the number of troops there. Her State Department also provided cover for the expansion of the not-so-covert drone wars in Pakistan
and Yemen. Clinton's top legal adviser, Harold Koh, exploited his pre-government reputation as an advocate for human rights to declare
in a 2010 speech that not only did the government
have the right to detain people without charge at Guantanamo Bay, but it can kill them with unmanned aerial vehicles anywhere in
Clinton practiced "soft power" diplomacy too, of course: After Honduran forces trained at the U.S. School of the Americas carried
out a coup against elected president Manuel Zelaya, Clinton's State Department immediately got to work on legitimizing the regime
that seized power. As commentator
Weisbrot observes, she even said as much in her book, Hard Choices: "In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke
with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico," wrote Clinton. "We strategized on
a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render
the question of Zelaya moot."
The subsequent "free and fair" election would end up being between two candidates who supported a coup opposed by most "everyday
people" in Honduras, now one of the most violent,
drug-war ravaged countries in
the world. Clinton has also
called for deporting child refugees fleeing that violence. In Honduras, as elsewhere, it seems it's not the lives of "everyday
people" that are of chief concern to politicians like Clinton.
When Barack Obama became president, the anti-war movement became his first casualty - followed by a group of Pakistanis
droned to death three days after his inauguration. We should never lose hope that we can bring about positive change, but actually
changing the world for the better requires being aware that whoever sits in the White House come January 2017 is not going to be
Charles Davis is a writer in Los Angeles. His work
has been published by outlets such as Al Jazeera, The New Republic, and Salon. Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group
CODEPINK and the human rights organization Global Exchange. She is also the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.
"... Currently the United States is assisting Ukraine against Russia by providing some non-lethal military equipment as well as limited training for Kiev's army. It has balked at getting more involved in the conflict, rightly so. ..."
"... The Ukrainians were not buying any of that. Their point of view is that Russia is seeking to revive the Soviet Union and will inevitably turn on the Baltic States and Poland, so it is necessary to stop evil dictator Vladimir Putin now. They inevitably produced the Hitler analogy, citing the example of 1938 and Munich as well as the subsequent partition of Poland in 1939 to make their case. When I asked what the United States would gain by intervening they responded that in return for military assistance, Washington will have a good and democratic friend in Ukraine which will serve as a bulwark against further Russian expansion. ..."
"... But Obama chose to stay home as punishment for Putin, which I think was a bad choice suggesting that he is being strongly influenced by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the other neocons who seem to have retained considerable power in his administration. ..."
"... Obama told a crowd gathered outside the Nike footwear company in Oregon that the deal is necessary because "if we don't write the rules, China will " ..."
"... Obama takes as a given that he will be able to "write the rules." This is American hubris writ large and I am certain that many who are thereby designated to follow Washington's lead are as offended by it as I am. Bad move Barack. ..."
Currently the United States is assisting Ukraine against Russia by providing some non-lethal military equipment as well as
limited training for Kiev's army. It has balked at getting more involved in the conflict, rightly so. With that in mind,
I had a meeting with a delegation of Ukrainian parliamentarians and government officials a couple of weeks ago. I tried to explain
to them why many Americans are wary of helping them by providing lethal, potentially game changing military assistance in what Kiev
sees as a struggle to regain control of Crimea and other parts of their country from militias that are clearly linked to Moscow.
I argued that while Washington should be sympathetic to Ukraine's aspirations it has no actual horse in the race, that the imperative
for bilateral relations with Russia, which is the only nation on earth that can attack and destroy the United States, is that they
be stable and that all channels for communication remain open.
I also observed that the negative perception of Washington-driven
democracy promotion around the world has been in part shaped by the actual record on interventions since 2001, which has not been
positive. Each exercise of the military option has wound up creating new problems, like the mistaken policies in Libya, Iraq and
Syria, all of which have produced instability and a surge in terrorism. I noted that the U.S. does not need to bring about a new
Cold War by trying to impose democratic norms in Eastern Europe but should instead be doing all in its power to encourage a reasonable
rapprochement between Moscow and Kiev. Providing weapons or other military support to Ukraine would only cause the situation to escalate,
leading to a new war by proxies in Eastern Europe that could rapidly spread to other regions.
The Ukrainians were not buying any of that. Their point of view is that Russia is seeking to revive the Soviet Union and will
inevitably turn on the Baltic States and Poland, so it is necessary to stop evil dictator Vladimir Putin now. They inevitably produced
the Hitler analogy, citing the example of 1938 and Munich as well as the subsequent partition of Poland in 1939 to make their case.
When I asked what the United States would gain by intervening they responded that in return for military assistance, Washington will
have a good and democratic friend in Ukraine which will serve as a bulwark against further Russian expansion.
I explained that Russia does not have the economic or military resources to dominate Eastern Europe and its ambitions appear to
be limited to establishing a sphere of influence that includes "protection" for some adjacent areas that are traditionally Russian
and inhabited by ethnic Russians. Crimea is, unfortunately, one such region that was actually directly governed by Moscow between
1783 and 1954 and it is also militarily vitally important to Moscow as it is the home of the Black Sea Fleet. I did not point that
out to excuse Russian behavior but only to suggest that Moscow does have an argument to make, particularly as the United States has
been meddling in Eastern Europe, including Ukraine where it has "invested" $5 billion, since the Clinton Administration.
I argued that if resurgent Russian nationalism actually endangered the United States there would be a case to be made for constricting
Moscow by creating an alliance of neighbors that would be able to help contain any expansion, but even the hawks in the U.S. Congress
are neither prepared nor able to demonstrate a genuine threat. Fear of the expansionistic Soviet Union after 1945 was indeed the
original motivation for creating NATO. But the reality is that Russia is only dangerous if the U.S. succeeds in backing it into a
corner where it will begin to consider the kind of disruption that was the norm during the Cold War or even some kind of nuclear
response or demonstration. If one is focused on U.S. interests globally Russia has actually been a responsible player, helping in
the Middle East and also against international terrorism.
So there was little to agree on apart from the fact that the Ukrainians have a right to have a government they choose for themselves
and also to defend themselves. And we Americans have in the Ukrainians yet another potential client state that wants our help. In
return we would have yet another dependency whose concerns have to be regarded when formulating our foreign policy. One can sympathize
with the plight of the Ukrainians but it is not up to Washington to fix the world or to go around promoting democracy as a potential
solution to pervasive regional political instability.
Obviously a discussion based on what are essentially conflicting interests will ultimately go nowhere and so it did in this case,
but it did raise the issue of why Washington's relationship with Moscow is so troubled, particularly as it need not be so. Regarding
Ukraine and associated issues, Washington's approach has been stick-and-carrot with the emphasis on the stick through the imposition
of painful sanctions and meaningless though demeaning travel bans. I would think that reversing that formulation to emphasize rewards
would actually work better as today's Russia is actually a relatively new nation in terms of its institutions and suffers from insecurity
about its place in the world and the respect that it believes it is entitled to receive.
recently celebrated the 70 th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe. The celebration was boycotted by
the United States and by many Western European nations in protest over Russian interference in Ukraine. I don't know to what extent
Obama has any knowledge of recent history, but the Russians were the ones who were most instrumental in the defeat of Nazi Germany,
losing 27 million citizens in the process. It would have been respectful for President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry to
travel to Moscow for the commemoration and it would likely have produced a positive result both for Ukraine and also to mitigate
the concern that a new Cold War might be developing. But Obama chose to stay home as punishment for Putin, which I think was
a bad choice suggesting that he is being strongly influenced by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the other neocons
who seem to have retained considerable power in his administration.
And I also would note a couple of other bad choices made during the past several weeks. The Trans-Pacific multilateral trade agreement
that is currently working its way through Congress and is being aggressively promoted by the White House might be great for business
though it may or may not be good for the American worker, which, based on previous agreements, is a reasonable concern. But what
really disturbs me is the Obama explanation of why the pact is important. Obama
told a crowd gathered outside the Nike footwear company in Oregon that the deal is necessary because "if we don't write the rules,
China will "
Fear of the Yellow Peril might indeed be legitimate but it would be difficult to make the case that an internally troubled China
is seeking to dominate the Pacific. If it attempts to do so, it would face strong resistance from the Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipinos
and Koreans among others. But what is bothersome to me and probably also to many in the Asian audience is that Obama takes as
a given that he will be able to "write the rules." This is American hubris writ large and I am certain that many who are thereby
designated to follow Washington's lead are as offended by it as I am. Bad move Barack.
And finally there is Iran as an alleged state sponsor of terrorism. President Obama claims that he is working hard to achieve
a peaceful settlement of the alleged threat posed by Iran's nuclear program. But if that is so why does he throw obstacles irrelevant
to an agreement out to make the Iranian government more uncomfortable and therefore unwilling or unable to compromise? In an
interview with Arabic
newspaper Asharq al-Awsat Obama called Tehran a terrorism supporter, stating that "it [Iran] props up the Assad regime in
Syria. It supports Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It aids the Houthi rebels in Yemen so countries in the region
are rights to be deeply concerned " I understand that the interview was designed to reassure America's friends in the Gulf that the
United States shares their concerns and will continue to support them but the timing would appear to be particularly unfortunate.
The handling of Russia, China and Iran all exemplify the essential dysfunction in American foreign policy. The United States should
have a mutually respectful relationship with Russia, ought to accept that China is an adversary but not necessarily an enemy unless
we make it so and it should also finally realize that an agreement with Iran is within its grasp as long as Washington does not overreach.
It is not clear that any of that is well understood and one has to wonder precisely what kind of advice Obama is receiving when fails
to understand the importance of Russia, insists on "writing the rules" for Asia, and persists in throwing around the terrorist label.
If the past fifteen years have taught us anything it is that the "Washington as the international arbiter model" is not working.
Obama should wake up to that reality before Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush arrives on the scene to make everything worse.
Tom Welsh, May 19, 2015 at 7:02 am GMT • 100 Words
All of this misses the point, IMHO. There is really no need to explain that Russia has no plans to conquer Europe, China has
no plans to take over the Pacific, etc. Anyone with a little historical knowledge and some common sense can see that plainly.
What is happening is that the USA has overweening aspirations to control (and then suck dry) the entire world – and Europe, Russia
and China are next on its hit list.
So it naturally accuses those nations of aspiring to what it plans to do. Standard operating procedure.
The Priss Factor, May 19, 2015 at 7:19 am GMT • 100 Words
"The Ukrainians were not buying any of that. Their point of view is that Russia is seeking to revive the Soviet Union and will
inevitably turn on the Baltic States and Poland, so it is necessary to stop evil dictator Vladimir Putin now."
I can understand Ukrainian animus against Russia due to history and ethnic tensions.
But that is ridiculous. They can't possibly believe it. I think they're repeating Neocon talking points to persuade American
that the fate of the world is at stake.
It's really just a local affair.
And Crimea would still belong to Ukraine if the crazies in Ukraine hadn't conspired with Neocons like Nuland to subvert and
overthrow the regime.
"... The American people and most of the world bought into the lies and half-truths because they wanted to believe the fiction they were being spoon fed by the White House, but is there a whole lot of difference between what the US government did against Iraq in 2003 and what Hitler's government did in 1939 when it falsely claimed that Polish troops had attacked Germany? Was subsequent torture by the Gestapo any different than torture by a contractor working for Washington? ..."
"... A friend of mine recently commented that honest men who were formerly part of the United States government do not subsequently get hired by lobbying firms or obtain television contracts and "teaching" positions at prestigious universities. ..."
"... If the marketplace is anything to go by Feith and Tenet are running neck-and-neck on secondary book exchanges as George also can be had for $.01. ..."
"... The historian Livy summed up the significance of his act, writing "It is worthwhile for those who disdain all human things for money, and who suppose that there is no room either for great honor or virtue, except where wealth is found, to listen to his story." ..."
"... "Power is always dangerous. Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best." ..."
"... senior government officials and politicians routinely expect to be generously rewarded for their service and never held accountable for their failures and misdeeds ..."
"... One thing for sure about the Washington elite, you never have to say you're sorry. ..."
The United States already has by far the per capita largest prison population of any developed country but I am probably one of
the few Americans who on this Independence Day would like to see a lot more people in prison, mostly drawn from politicians and senior
bureaucrats who have long believed that their status makes them untouchable, giving them license to steal and even to kill. The sad
fact is that while whistleblowers have been imprisoned for revealing government criminality, no one in the federal bureaucracy has
ever actually been punished for the crimes of torture, kidnapping and assassination committed during the George W. Bush and Barack
H. Obama presidencies.
Why is accountability important? After the Second World War, the victorious allies believed it was important to establish responsibility
for the crimes that had been committed by officials of the Axis powers. The judges at the Nuremberg Trials called the initiation
of a war of aggression the ultimate war crime because it inevitably unleashed so many other evils. Ten leading Nazis were executed
at Nuremberg and ninety-three Japanese officials at similar trials staged in Asia, including several guilty of waterboarding. Those
who were not executed for being complicit in the actual launching of war were tried for torture of both military personnel and civilians
and crimes against humanity, including the mass killing of civilians as well as of soldiers who had surrendered or been captured.
No matter how one tries to avoid making comparisons between 1939 and 2015, the American invasion of Iraq was a war of aggression,
precisely the type of conflict that the framework of accountability provided by Nuremberg was supposed to prevent in the years after
1946. High level US government officials knew that Iraq represented no threat to the United States but they nevertheless described
an imminent danger posed by Saddam Hussein in the most graphic terms, replete with weapons of mass destruction, armed drones flying
across the Atlantic, terrorists being unleashed against the homeland, and mushroom clouds on the horizon. The precedent of Iraq,
even though it was an abject failure, has led to further military action against Libya and Syria to bring about "regime change" as
well as a continuing conflict in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the US has been waging a largely secret "long war" against terrorists employing torture and secret prisons. The
American people and most of the world bought into the lies and half-truths because they wanted to believe the fiction they were being
spoon fed by the White House, but is there a whole lot of difference between what the US government did against Iraq in 2003 and
what Hitler's government did in 1939 when it falsely claimed that Polish troops had attacked Germany? Was subsequent torture by the
Gestapo any different than torture by a contractor working for Washington?
Many Americans would now consider the leading figures in the Bush Administration aided and abetted by many enablers in congress
from both political parties to be unindicted war criminals. Together they ignited a global conflict that is still running strong
fourteen years later with a tally of more than 7,000 dead Americans and a minimum of hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, Afghans,
Libyans, Somalis and Syrians.
War breeds more war, due largely to the fact that guilty parties in Washington who piggyback on the prevailing narrative move
onward and upward, rewarded in this life even if not necessarily so in the hereafter. A friend of mine recently commented that
honest men who were formerly part of the United States government do not subsequently get hired by lobbying firms or obtain television
contracts and "teaching" positions at prestigious universities. Though not 100% accurate as I know at least a couple of honorable
former senior officials who wound up teaching, it would seem to be a generalization that has considerable validity. The implication
is that many senior government officials ascend to their positions based on being accommodating and "political" rather than being
honest and they continue to do the same when they switch over to corporate America or the equally corrupted world of academia.
I thought of my friend's comment when I turned on the television a week ago to be confronted by the serious, somewhat intense
gaze of Michael Morell,
warning about the danger that ISIS will strike the US over the Fourth of July weekend. Morell, a former senior CIA official,
is in the terror business. He had no evidence whatsoever that terrorists were planning an attack and should have realized that maneuvering
the United States into constantly going on alert based on empty threats is precisely what militant groups tend to do.
When not fronting as a handsomely paid national security consultant for the CBS television network Morell is employed by Beacon
Global Strategies as a Senior Counselor, presumably warning well-heeled clients to watch out for terrorists. His lifestyle and substantial
emoluments depend on people being afraid of terrorism so they will turn to an expert like him and ask serious questions that he will
answer in a serious way suggesting that Islamic militants could potentially bring about some kind of global apocalypse.
Morell, a torture apologist, also has a book out that he wants to sell, positing somewhat ridiculously that he and his former
employer had been fighting The Great War of Our Time against Islamic terrorists, something comparable to the World Wars of the past
century, hence the title. Morell needs to take some valium and relax. He would also benefit from a little introspection regarding
the bad guys versus good guys narrative that he is peddling. His credentials as a warrior are somewhat suspect in any event as he
never did any military service and his combat in the world of intelligence consisted largely of sitting behind a desk in Washington
and providing briefings to George W. Bush and Barack Obama in which he presumably told them what they wanted to hear.
Morell is one of a host of pundits who are successful in selling the military-industrial-lobbyist-congressional-intelligence community
line of BS on the war on terror. Throw in the neocons as the in-your-face agents provocateurs who provide instant intellectual and
media credibility for developments and you have large groups of engaged individuals with good access who are on the receiving end
of the seemingly unending cash pipeline that began with 9/11. Frances Townsend, who was the Bush Homeland Security adviser and who
is now a consultant with CNN, is another such creature as is Michael Chertoff, formerly Director of the Department of Homeland Security,
who has successfully marketed his
scanners to his former employer.
But the guys and gals who are out feathering their own nests are at least comprehensible given our predatory capitalist system
of government. More to the point, the gang that ordered or carried out torture and assassination are the ones who should be doing
some hard time in the slammer but instead they too are riding the gravy train and cashing in. To name only a few of those who knew
about the torture and ordered it carried out I would cite George Tenet, James Pavitt, Cofer Black and Jose Rodriguez from the intelligence
community. The assassination program meanwhile is accredited to John Brennan, currently CIA Director, during his tenure as Obama's
Deputy National Security Advisor. And then there are Doug Feith and Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon together with John Yoo at Justice
and Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, and Condi Rice at the White House, all of whom outright lied, dissimulated and conspired their way
to bring about a war of aggression against Iraq.
There are plenty of nameless others who were "only carrying out orders" and who should be included in any reckoning of America's
crimes over the past fifteen years, particularly if one also considers the illegal NSA spying program headed by Michael Hayden, who
defended the practice and has also
referred to those who oppose enhanced interrogation torture as "interrogation deniers." And then there are Presidents Bush and
Obama who certainly knew what was going on in the name of the American people as well as John Brennan, who was involved in both the
torture and renditions programs as well as the more recent assassinations by drone.
So where are they now? Living in obscurity ashamed of what they did? Hardly. Not only have they not been vilified or marginalized,
they have, in most cases, been rewarded. George W. Bush lives in Dallas near his Presidential Library and eponymous Think (sic) Tank.
Cheney lives in semi-retirement in McLean Virginia with a multi-million dollar waterfront weekend retreat in St. Michaels Maryland,
not too far from Donald Rumsfeld's similar digs.
George Tenet, the CIA Director notorious for his "slam-dunk" comment, a man who cooked the intelligence to make the Iraq war possible
to curry favor with the White House, has generously remunerated positions on the boards of Allen & Company merchant bank, QinetiQ,
and L-1 Identity Solutions. He sold his memoir At the Center of the Storm, which has been
as a "self-justifying apologia," in 2007 for a reported advance of $4 million. His book, ironically, admits that the US invaded
Iraq for no good reason.
James Pavitt, who was the point man responsible for the "enhanced interrogation" program as Tenet's Deputy Director for Operations,
is currently a principal with The Scowcroft Group and also serves on several boards. Cofer Black, who headed the Counter-Terrorism
Center, which actually carried out renditions and "enhanced interrogations," was vice chairman of Blackwater Worldwide (now called
Xe) and chairman of Total Intelligence Solutions, a Blackwater spin-off. He is now vice president of Blackbird Technologies, a defense
and intelligence contractor. Rodriguez, who succeeded Black and in 2005 illegally destroyed video tapes made of Agency interrogations
to avoid possible repercussions, is a senior vice president with Edge Consulting, a defense contractor currently owned by IBM that
is located in Virginia.
John Yoo is a Professor of Law at the University of California Berkeley while Condoleezza Rice, who spoke of mushroom clouds and
is widely regarded as the worst National Security Advisor and Secretary of State in history, has returned to Stanford University.
She is a professor at the Graduate School
of Business and a director of its Global Center for Business and the Economy as well as a fellow at the Hoover Institution. She
is occasionally spoken of as either a possible GOP presidential candidate or as a future Commissioner of the National Football League.
Her interaction with students is limited, but when challenged on her record she has responded that it was a difficult situation post
9/11, something that everyone understands, though few would have come to her conclusion that attacking Iraq might be a good way to
Paul Wolfowitz, the Bush Deputy Secretary of Defense, is seen by many as the "intellectual" driving force behind the invasion
of Iraq. He is currently a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and advises Jeb Bush on foreign policy. A bid to
reward Wolfie for his zeal by giving him a huge golden parachute as President of the World Bank at a salary of $391,000 tax free
failed when, after 23 months in the position, he was ousted over promoting a subordinate with whom he was having an affair. His chief
deputy at the Pentagon Doug Feith left the Defense Department to take up a visiting professorship at the school of Foreign Service
at Georgetown University, which was subsequently not renewed. He is reported to be again practicing law and thinking deep thoughts
about his hero Edmund Burke, who no doubt would have been appalled to make Feith's acquaintance. Feith is a senior fellow at the
neoconservative Hudson Institute and the Director of the Center for National Security Strategies. His memoir War and Decision did
not make the best seller list and is now available used on Amazon for $.01 plus shipping. If the marketplace is anything to go
by Feith and Tenet are running neck-and-neck on secondary book exchanges as George also can be had for $.01.
The over-rewarding of former officials who have in reality done great harm to the United States and its interests might well seem
inexplicable, but it is all part of a style of bureaucracy that cannot admit failure and truly believes that all its actions are
ipso facto legitimate because the executive and its minions can do no wrong. It is also a symptom of the classic American character
flaw that all things are of necessity measured by money. Does anyone remember the ancient Roman symbol of republican virtue Lucius
Quinctius Cincinnatus, who left his farm after being named Dictator in order to defeat Rome's enemies? He then handed power back
to the Senate before returning to his plowing after the job was done. The historian Livy summed up the significance of his act,
writing "It is worthwhile for those who disdain all human things for money, and who suppose that there is no room either for great
honor or virtue, except where wealth is found, to listen to his story." George Washington was America's Cincinnatus and it is
not a coincidence that officers of the continental army founded the Cincinnati Society, the nation's oldest patriotic organization,
in 1783. It is also reported that Edward Snowden used the alias "Cincinnatus."
Lord Acton once observed that "Power tends
to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." More recently essayist Edward Abbey
put it in an American context, noting
"Power is always dangerous. Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best." That senior government officials and politicians
routinely expect to be generously rewarded for their service and never held accountable for their failures and misdeeds is a
fault that is perhaps not unique to the United States but it is nevertheless unacceptable. Handing out a couple of exemplary prison
sentences for the caste that believes itself untouchable would be a good place to start. An opportunity was missed with David Petraeus,
who was fined and avoided jail time, and it will be interesting to see how the Dennis Hastert case develops. Hastert will no doubt
be slapped on the wrist for the crime of moving around his own money while the corruption that was the source of that money, both
as a legislator and lobbyist, will be ignored. As will his molestation of at least one and possibly several young boys. One thing
for sure about the Washington elite, you never have to say you're sorry.
Neocons lie should properly be called "threat inflation"
The underlying critical
point-at-issue is credibility as I noted in my comment on b's 2017 article. I've since
linked to tweets and other items by that trio; the one major change seems to have been the
epiphany by them that they needed to go to where the action is and report it from there to
regain their credibility.
The fact remains that used car salespeople have a stereotypical reputation for lacking
credibility sans a confession as to why they feel the need to lie to sell cars.
Their actions belie the guilt they feel for their choices, but a confession works much
better at assuaging the soul while helping convince the audience that the change in heart's
genuine. And that's the point as b notes--genuineness, whose first predicate is
"... I think the current period can be called the “collapse of neoliberalism” period. In any case the neoliberal elite who was in power (Blairists, Clintonists) lost the trust of people. This is true both for the US and labour in the UK. In this sense the anti-Semitic smear against Corbin is equivalent to neo-McCarthyism hysteria in the USA. Both reflect the same level of desperation and clinging to power of “soft neoliberals.” ..."
It’s time to stop pretending we’re still in the postwar period (the question is, are we in a pre-war one).
True. As “Full Spectrum Dominance” inevitably lead to “threat inflation” it is logically drives the USA into the major war.
I think the current period can be called the “collapse of neoliberalism” period. In any case the neoliberal elite who was
in power (Blairists, Clintonists) lost the trust of people. This is true both for the US and labour in the UK. In this sense the
anti-Semitic smear against Corbin is equivalent to neo-McCarthyism hysteria in the USA. Both reflect the same level of desperation
and clinging to power of “soft neoliberals.”
Unfortunately Corbin proved to be too weak to withstand the pressure and suppress Blairists. But Blairists in labour might
still be up to a great disappointment. The history train left the station and they are still standing on the neoliberal platform,
so to speak.
That’s why Brexit, as a form of protest against neoliberal globalization, has legs. It is a misguided, but still a protest
From now on, only the rich will have the luxury of any sense of historical continuity.
The rich are not uniform. Financial oligarchy wants to stay, while manufacturers probably would prefer Brexit.
Why did so many people – from government contractors and high-ranking military officers, to state department and National
Security Council officials – feel the need to lie about how the war in Afghanistan was going?
This is because it’s easy cash cow for the old boys club by sending working class kids to be killed in a far off land.
The pentagon with the full cooperation of MSM will sell it as we are defending our ways of life by fighting a country 10,000
This show the poor literacy, poor analytical thinking of US population constantly brain washed by MSM, holy men, clergy,
other neo con organisations like National rifle club etc.
manoftheworld -> Redswordfish 10 Dec 2019 15:47
Perhaps the only thing Trump has got right .. and ever will get right.. is his dislike for war. He is right about Afghanistan.
The terrible US press and political reaction to his peace talks with the Taliban showed that the deep state still doesn’t
Mattis, Graham et al are insane liars… and so is Hilary Clinton and Petraeus… none of them has ever had the guts to tell
the average American is way more indoctrinated than the average pupil at a madrasa. …we should boot these lying American
generals out of NATO.. they’re a threat to world peace…
In any case Brexit is a litmus test of what is the next stage for neoliberalism and neoliberal globalization.
William Lind warns about the cost of threat inflation
Larry Kummer, Editor
9 June 2019
25 June 2019
Summary: Trump promised to put America first and scale back our military adventures abroad. But the Deep State
needs to be fed, and that requires a fearful America. To keep the money flowing to the military and its allied
corporations, threats must be exaggerated. It is the kind of inflation the right-wing loves.
In the 1980s I used to give the slide-show briefing of the Congressional Military Reform Caucus to each
class at the Air Force's Squadron Officers' School. After one of the briefs, an Air Force captain, an
intelligence officer, came up to me and asked, "Does military reform mean I can stop inflating the threat?"
Threat inflation has been one of Washington's most successful growth industries for a long time. The purpose
of inflating the threat is to inflate the military budget. The obvious cost is wasting the taxpayers' money on
capabilities we do not need. But that is not the only cost. As the current tensions with Iran illustrate,
threat inflation can lead to counter-productive military planning and, sometimes, to war.
If the U.S. attacks Iran, the obvious Iranian response will be to seize as many U.S. troops in the region as
it can to serve as hostages. The Iranians have stated this response openly, saying, "Last time (in 1979), we
had hundreds of American hostages. This time, we'll have thousands." It is a promising response for the obvious
reason that we have no ready countermove. In 1979, we were largely left helpless, especially after we botched a
rescue attempt. One would hope President Trump would ask the Pentagon, "Okay, if they do that, what's our next
move?" I doubt he will get a reassuring answer.
So what are the communications we have intercepted about? Preparing that response. We have interpreted them
as preparing an attack instead. Why? Because DOD always inflates the threat.
We have also accused Iran of launching small attacks against four oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, attacks
that damaged the ships but did not sink them. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a carefully weasel-worded
statement said, "It seems like it's quite possible that Iran was behind them." That is true. It's also quite
possible other countries in the region that want a war between the U.S. and Iran, including Israel, were behind
them. Pointing only to Iran inflates the threat.
Threat inflation in a crisis can easily transmute itself into an escalatory ladder. That may be happening
here. Iran signaled de-escalation by
removing some "missiles" (probably just rockets) from some small fast boats
used by the Revolutionary
Guard. The Pentagon did not reciprocate by dialing back our actions. On the contrary, it asked President Trump
to send 20,000 more U.S. troops to the region. Wisely, the president chopped that number back to 900.
Editor's note: this is a standard trick of DoD. Ask for a massive increase in
troops, get less. Repeat as needed.
Here we see how threat inflation can lead to actions that are militarily just plain dumb. Iran threatens to
take U.S. troops in the region hostage. How do we counter that? By sending more U.S. troops to the region,
giving Iran more chances to take hostages. Who in the Pentagon is coming up with this, General Braxton Bragg or
General Ben Butler?
Most of the Washington threat inflation industry is focused on inflating the Russian and Chinese
"threats"–puffing the dragon is especially fashionable these days–which in turn feeds the bad strategy of
turning two countries that should be allies into opponents. That is a failure on the grand strategic level,
which is a high price indeed for threat inflation. But threat inflation is so deeply built into our whole
system that it warps everything we do. Does military reform mean we can stop inflating the threat? Yes. But
until the money runs out, the chance of reform is small.
Trump's behavior in this, as in most things, is standard GOP far-right. He has dashed the hopes of Change
aroused by his campaign. Pointless foreign wars, involvement in other nation's civil disorders, and withdrawal
from arms control treaties that have served us well – the mad policies that put America on the path to decline.
But many of those that voted for him, hoping for change, remain supporters. Expect Trump to repeat his con in
The View From Olympus: The Costs of Threat Inflation In the 1980s I used to give the
slide-show briefing of the Congressional Military Reform Caucus to each class at the Air
Force's Squadron Officers' School. After one of the briefs, an Air Force captain, an
intelligence officer, came up to me and asked, "Does military reform mean I can stop inflating
Threat inflation has been one of Washington's most successful growth industries for a long
time. The purpose of inflating the threat is to inflate the military budget. The obvious cost
is wasting the taxpayers' money on capabilities we do not need. But that is not the only cost.
As the current tensions with Iran illustrate, threat inflation can lead to counter-productive
military planning and, sometimes, to war.
For weeks, the Defense Department has been warning that Iran is planning to use allied
Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria to attack U.S. forces in those countries. It has cited
intelligence intercepts of communications between Iran's Revolutionary Guard and the militias
as evidence. I'm sure the intercepts are real. But the interpretation suggests classic threat
If the U.S. attacks Iran, the obvious Iranian response will be to seize as many U.S. troops
in the region as it can to serve as hostages. The Iranians have stated this response openly,
saying, "Last time (in 1979), we had hundreds of American hostages. This time, we'll have
thousands." It is a promising response for the obvious reason that we have no ready
countermove. In 1979, we were largely left helpless, especially after we botched a rescue
attempt. One would hope President Trump would ask the Pentagon, "Okay, if they do that, what's
our next move?" I doubt he will get a reassuring answer.
So what are the communications we have intercepted about? Preparing that response. We have
interpreted them as preparing an attack instead. Why? Because DOD always inflates the
We have also accused Iran of launching small attacks against four oil tankers in the Persian
Gulf, attacks that damaged the ships but did not sink them. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in
a carefully weasel-worded statement said, "It seems like it's quite possible that Iran was
behind them." That is true. It's also quite possible other countries in the region that want a
war between the U.S. and Iran, including Israel, were behind them. Pointing only to Iran
inflates the threat.
Threat inflation in a crisis can easily transmute itself into an escalatory ladder. That may
be happening here. Iran signaled de-escalation by removing some "missiles" (probably just
rockets) from some small fast boats used by the Revolutionary Guard. The Pentagon did not
reciprocate by dialing back our actions. On the contrary, it asked President Trump to send
20,000 more U.S. troops to the region. Wisely, the president chopped that number back to
Here we see how threat inflation can lead to actions that are militarily just plain dumb.
Iran threatens to take U.S. troops in the region hostage. How do we counter that? By sending
more U.S. troops to the region, giving Iran more chances to take hostages. Who in the Pentagon
is coming up with this, General Braxton Bragg or General Ben Butler?
Most of the Washington threat inflation industry is focused on inflating the Russian and
Chinese "threats"–puffing the dragon is especially fashionable these days–which in
turn feeds the bad strategy of turning two countries that should be allies into opponents. That
is a failure on the grand strategic level, which is a high price indeed for threat inflation.
But threat inflation is so deeply built into our whole system that it warps everything we do.
Does military reform mean we can stop inflating the threat? Yes. But until the money runs out,
the chance of reform is small.
Interested in what Fourth Generation war in America might look like? Read Thomas Hobbes'
new future history,Victoria.
John Glaser and Christopher Preble have written a valuable
study of the history and causes of threat inflation. Here is their conclusion:
If war is the health of the state, so is its close cousin, fear. America's foreign policy
in the 21st century serves as compelling evidence of that. Arguably the most important task,
for those who oppose America's apparently constant state of war, is to correct the threat
inflation that pervades national security discourse. When Americans and their policymakers
understand that the United States is fundamentally secure, U.S. military activism can be
reined in, and U.S. foreign policy can be reset accordingly.
Threat inflation is how American politicians and policymakers manipulate public opinion and
stifle foreign policy dissent. When hawks engage in threat inflation, they never pay a
political price for sounding false alarms, no matter how ridiculous or over-the-top their
warnings may be. They have created their own ecosystem of think tanks and magazines over the
decades to ensure that there are ready-made platforms and audiences for promoting their
fictions. This necessarily warps every policy debate as one side is permitted to indulge in the
most baseless speculation and fear-mongering, and in order to be taken "seriously" the skeptics
often feel compelled to pay lip service to the "threat" that has been wildly blown out of
proportion. In many cases, the threat is not just inflated but invented out of nothing. For
example, Iran does not pose a threat to the United States, but it is routinely cited as one of
the most significant threats that the U.S. faces. That has nothing to do with an objective
assessment of Iranian capabilities or intentions, and it is driven pretty much entirely by a
propaganda script that most politicians and policymakers recite on a regular basis. Take Iran's
missile program, for example. As John Allen Gay explains in a recent
article , Iran's missile program is primarily defensive in nature:
The reality is they're not very useful for going on offense. Quite the opposite: they're a
primarily defensive tool -- and an important one that Iran fears giving up. As the new
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report entitled "Iran Military Power" points out, "Iran's
ballistic missiles constitute a primary component of its strategic deterrent. Lacking a
modern air force, Iran has embraced ballistic missiles as a long-range strike capability to
dissuade its adversaries in the region -- particularly the United States, Israel, and Saudi
Arabia -- from attacking Iran."
Iran's missile force is in fact a product of Iranian weakness, not Iranian strength.
Iran hawks need to portray Iran's missile program inaccurately as part of their larger
campaign to exaggerate Iranian power and justify their own aggressive policies. If Iran hawks
acknowledged that Iran's missiles are their deterrent against attacks from other states,
including our government, it would undercut the rest of their fear-mongering.
Glaser and Preble identify five main sources of threat inflation in the U.S.: 1) expansive
overseas U.S. commitments require an exaggerated justification to make those commitments seem
necessary for our security; 2) decades of pursuing expansive foreign policy goals have created
a class dedicated to providing those justifications and creating the myths that sustain support
for the current strategy; 3) there are vested interests that benefit from expansive foreign
policy and seek to perpetuate it; 4) a bias in our political system in favor of hawks gives
another advantage to fear-mongers; 5) media sensationalism exaggerates dangers from foreign
threats and stokes public fear. To those I would add at least one more: threat inflation
thrives on the public's ignorance of other countries. When Americans know little or nothing
about another country beyond what they hear from the fear-mongers, it is much easier to
convince them that a foreign government is irrational and undeterrable or that weak
authoritarian regimes on the far side of the world are an intolerable danger.
Threat inflation advances with the inflation of U.S. interests. The two feed off of each
other. When far-flung crises and conflicts are treated as if they are of vital importance to
U.S. security, every minor threat to some other country is transformed into an intolerable
menace to America. The U.S. is extremely secure from foreign threats, but we are told that the
U.S. faces myriad threats because our leaders try to make other countries' internal problems
seem essential to our national security. Ukraine is at most a peripheral interest of the U.S.,
but to justify the policy of arming Ukraine we are told by the more
unhinged supporters that this is necessary to make sure that we don't have to fight Russia
"over here." Because the U.S. has so few real interests in most of the world's conflicts,
interventionists have to exaggerate what the U.S. has at stake in order to sell otherwise very
questionable and reckless policies. That is usually when we get appeals to showing "leadership"
and preserving "credibility," because even the interventionists struggle to identify why the
U.S. needs to be involved in some of these conflicts. The continued pursuit of global
"leadership" is itself an invitation to endless threat inflation, because almost anything
anywhere in the world can be construed as a threat to that "leadership" if one is so inclined.
To understand just how secure the U.S. really is, we need to give up on the costly ambition of
"leading" the world.
Threat inflation is one of the biggest and most enduring threats to U.S. security, because
it repeatedly drives the U.S. to take costly and dangerous actions and to spend exorbitant
amounts on unnecessary wars and weapons. We imagine bogeymen that we need to fight, and we
waste decades and trillions of dollars in futile and avoidable conflicts, and in the end we are
left poorer, weaker, and less secure than we were before.
Larison is a senior editor at TAC , where he also keeps a solo blog . He has been published in the New
York Times Book Review , Dallas Morning News , World Politics Review ,
Politico Magazine , Orthodox Life , Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and
Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week . He holds a PhD in history from the
University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter .