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[Dec 29, 2012] Oliver Stone 'US has become an Orwellian state'

We applaud the Soviets for not invading when countries were liberating themselves from the Soviet Union and then we immediately go and invade Panama and then we invade Iraq. So we are saying that "it is great that you are showing restraint, but we are not going to because we are the hegemon." As Madeline Albright, Secretary of State under {Bill] Clinton, says "if the US uses force it's because we are the United States of America; we are the indispensable nation. We see further and stand taller than other nations." That is the attitude that Oliver and I are challenging. This sense of American Exceptionalism that the US is a city on the hill, God's gift to humanity, if we do it, it is right. And that is not acceptable.
28 December, 2012 | RT

Edited: 29 December, 2012

Americans are living in an Orwellian state argue Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuznick, as they sit down with RT to discuss US foreign policy and the Obama administration's disregard for the rule of law.

Both argue that Obama is a wolf in sheep's clothing and that people have forgiven him a lot because of the "nightmare of the Bush presidency that preceded him."

"He has taken all the Bush changes he basically put them into the establishment, he has codified them," Stone told RT. "It is an Orwellian state. It might not be oppressive on the surface, but there is no place to hide. Some part of you is going to end up in the database somewhere." According to Kuznick, American citizens live in a fish tank where their government intercepts more than 1.7 billion messages a day. "That is email, telephone calls, other forms of communication." RT's Abby Martin in the program Breaking the Set discusses the Showtime film series and book titled The Untold History of the United States co-authored by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick.

"Obama was a great hope for change"

RT: It took both of you almost five years to produce this series. And in it you have a chapter called Obama: Management of a Wounded Empire. You give a harsh critique of the Obama administration. What in your eyes has been the most troubling aspect of his presidency, Oliver?

Oliver Stone: I think under the disguise of sheep's clothing he has been a wolf. That because of the nightmare of the Bush presidency that preceded him, people forgave him a lot. He was a great hope for change. The color of his skin, the upbringing, the internationalism, the globalism, seemed all evident. And he is an intelligent man. He has taken all the Bush changes he basically put them into the establishment, he has codified them. That is what is sad. So we are going into the second administration that is living outside the law and does not respect the law and foundations of our system and he is a constitutional lawyer, you know. Without the law, it is the law of the jungle.

Nuremburg existed for a reason and there was a reason to have trials, there is a reason for due process – 'habeas corpus' as they call it in the United States.

RT: Do you agree Peter?

Peter Kuznick: I agree, if you look at his domestic policy, he did not break with the Bush administration's policies. If you look at his transparency – he claimed to be the transparency president when he was running for office. There has not been transparency. We have been actually classifying more documents under Obama than we did under Bush. All previous presidents between 1970 and 2008 indicted three people total under Espionage Act. Obama has already indicted six people under the Espionage Act. The surveillance has not stopped, the incarceration without bringing people to trial has not stopped. So those policies have continued.

Then there are war policies, militarization policies. We are maintaining that. We are fighting wars now in Yemen, Afghanistan, we are keeping troops in Afghanistan. We have not cut back the things that we all found so odious about the Bush administration and Obama added some of his own. The drones policy – Obama had more drone attack in the first eight months than Bush had his entire presidency. And these have very dubious international legality.

OS: Peter was hopeful that the in the second term there will be some more flexibility, we hope so. But, there is a system in place, which is enormous – the Pentagon system.

RT: It almost seems that they took the odious CIA policies and just branded them, so it is now acceptable – the assassinations, the extrajudicial executioner without the due process. It is fascinating. ­ "We are all ultimately watching ourselves"

PK: We complained during Bush years that Bush was actually conducting surveillance without judiciary review. Obama is killing people, targeted assassinations without judiciary review. That to us is obviously much more serious.

RT: You also cover Pearl Harbor, which of course led to the internment of Japanese American citizens. I do not think a lot of people acknowledge that once again underreported aspect of really what that meant. When you look at the surveillance grid in America today it almost seems like it is an open-air internment camp, where they do not need to intern people anymore because we have this grid set up in place. What do you guys think about that?

PK: The US government now intercepts more than 1.7 billion messages a day from American citizens. That is email, telephone calls, other forms of communication. Can you imagine: 1.7 billion? We've got this apparatus set up now with hundreds of thousands of people, over a million of people with top security clearances in this kind of nightmarish state, this 1984 kind of state.

OS: One million top security clearances. That is a pretty heavy number. In other words, we are living in a fish pond and I think the sad part is that the younger people accept that. They are used to the invasion. And that is true, how can we follow the lives of everybody? But the truth is that we are all ultimately watching ourselves. It is an Orwellian state. It might not be oppressive on the surface, but there is no place to hide. Some part of you is going to end up in the database somewhere.

Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone (right) and historian Peter Kuznick ­ "US fears things, we fear the rest of the world"

PK: And it can be oppressive on the surface. One of the things we feared after 9/11 was that if there was a second serious attack like 9/11 then the constitution would be gone. The crackdown would be so outrageous at that point. And there is still this obsessive fear. The US fears things, we fear the rest of the world. We spend as much money on our military security intelligence as the rest of the world combined. Do we have enemies that we feel so threatened by? Do we really need this anymore? Is this what our priorities should be? No we think not, we want to turn that around.

RT: The evisceration of the rule of law, especially the National Defense Authorization Act, which eradicates due process – our basic fundamental freedom in this country. I wanted to bring up another interesting point that really struck me in the film series, which are the kamikaze pilots. They were brave, that was the bravest act that you could do and then I can't help but think of suicide bombers today and Bill Maher, he goes out and loses his show for saying these people are brave. And you have people like Ron Paul get up there and talk about blowback as a reality and he is ridiculed. How did we get here, where the discourse is just so tongued down when we can't even acknowledge the truths such as that?

OS: Primitive of course. There has been a blind worship of the military and patriotism. I strongly believe in the strong military, but to defend our country, not to invade other countries and to conquer the world. I think there is a huge difference that has been forgotten: morality. Once you take the laws away, as Einstein once said famously, the country does not obey its laws, the laws would be disrespected. So it seems that the fundamental morality has been lost on us somewhere on the way recently and now it is what is effective. Can we kill Bin Laden without having to bring him to trial, can we just get it done? And that 'get it down' mentality justifies the ends and that is where countries go wrong, and people go wrong. All of our lives are moral equations. Does the end justify the means? No, it never did.

PK: And the other side of what you are asking is about the constraints upon political discourse in this country. Why are people so uninformed? That is what we are to deal with in the series. If people don't understand their history, then they don't have any vision of the future and what is possible. If they think what exists now – the tyranny of now – is all that is possible, then they can't dream about the future. They can't imagine the future that is different from the present. That is what I am saying – people have to understand the past because if you study the past then you can envision a future that is very different.

We came really close on many occasions to going into very different direction in the future. We came very close in 1944-1945 to avoiding atomic bombing and potentially not having the kind of Cold War that we had. We came very close in 1953 upon Stalin's death to ending the Cold War. We came close in 1963 when Kennedy was assassinated to ending the war in Vietnam, to ending the Cold War, to heading into a very different direction. Then there were the Carter years, again a possibility of a different direction. And at the end of the Cold War in 1989 Gorbachev was reaching out to Bush. Did Bush take that olive branch that Gorbachev was giving him? No, very much different. What did we do instead? We applaud the Soviets for not invading when countries were liberating themselves from the Soviet Union and then we immediately go and invade Panama and then we invade Iraq.

So we are saying that "it is great that you are showing restraint, but we are not going to because we are the hegemon." As Madeline Albright, Secretary of State under {Bill] Clinton, says "if the US uses force it's because we are the United States of America; we are the indispensable nation. We see further and stand taller than other nations." That is the attitude that Oliver and I are challenging. This sense of American exceptionalism that the US is a city on the hill, God's gift to humanity, if we do it, it is right. And that is not acceptable.

"We want the country to begin thinking about the big questions again"

OS: It is very funny because the book has been out a few weeks, series have been playing for the fifth week now. We go to TV shows, we sit in these beautiful sets and they are always rushing and rushing. They got news in Gaza, they got Obama. And they ask us what are you talking about? History? What does it have to do with today? What is your point? We sit there very patiently and it is very bizarre to me that they say the past is prologue, that is all happened before and if we are smart you will see it more calmly and won't overreact. We also argue that this kind of media is driven by dollars, the greed. You have a show and it is really not a news show, it is about rating and how you can get that – with a lot of speed, a lot of zoom and a lot of fancy sets and people watch. Goal is to keep it moving, don't think, just keep it moving. PK: A show like this, we can actually discuss the issues at a little more depth, a little more critically.

RT: If both of you are to make a film about this generation right now, what is one facet that you think is the most underreported or misrepresented? OS: I don't know about the younger generation, I have three children. I think it is an eternal story in some degree. People no matter what have a similar morality and consciousness, patterns re-emerge again and again. The young men and young women want to make their way into the world. And it is not that far off from what we went through. So I believe in cyclical history and I think my children are going through what I and my father and mother went through. I always look for those patterns first beyond the superficiality.

PK: I find that my students care very passionately about what is going on in the world. They are all doing lots of volunteer work. But what I find in this generation, like Oliver's and my generation, is that they treat the symptoms. They are not asking the questions about the root cause of all of these problems. They care, they try to change things, but it is more superficial.

What we are challenging them to do is look at the patterns. Look at what has happened from the 1890s all the way through to today. Look at the consistency of the wars, interventions, the military expenditures, the paranoia, they fear of outsiders, the oppression. And get it to the root, what is making the system as a whole sick in a certain ways and how can we root out those deeper causes.

Now that we understand that, we can begin to change that. The Occupy movement did some of that there have been times in the 1930s, 1970-80s, 1960s when people were challenging on that scale. We want the country to begin thinking about these big questions again. What is our past, how did we get here, what are the possibilities for the future, what have we done wrong and what can we get right? RT: Do you think these superficialities in the conventional wisdom that we hear are perpetuated to keep us in a perpetual state of war?

PK: I don't know if it is quite so deliberate, but that seems to be the effect – dumbing down the population to the point where they cannot think critically and then you can pull anything over their eyes. They have a five-minute attention span and a five-minute memory of what happened in the past. We are saying learn your history, study it and think about what the alternatives are, think in utopian ways how different the world could be, how better it could be if we start to organize it rationally in the interest of people, not in the interest of profit, not in the interest of Wall Street, not in the interest of military, in the interest of our common humanity, the six billion of us who occupy this planet.

OS: The model of the series of The World at War, which was made by the BBC in the 1970s about WWII. Ours are 10 feature films, cut with care, an hour each, pure narration, music, and sometimes clips of films that make our point or don't make our point. Either way we try to keep it flowing like a young person could enjoy it like a movie, I am glad you did.

Goodbye, Pax Americana by John Glaser

December 10, 2012 | Blog

By 2030, the US will no longer be the global hegemonic power, according to the US National Intelligence Council.

In a report called Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, the office of the Director of National Intelligence concludes that, "In terms of the indices of overall power – GDP, population size, military spending and technological investment – Asia will surpass North America and Europe combined." And "with the rapid rise of other countries, the 'unipolar moment' is over and Pax Americana-the era of American ascendancy in international politics that began in 1945-is fast winding down."

Most notably since the end of WWII, the US has been pursuing global dominance through force and coercion. This project got a boost with the end of the Cold War – that so-called unipolar moment – in which the one great power rival Washington faced abruptly fell apart. The geo-political implications of this prompted euphoria among crafters of US foreign policy. In 1992, the Defense Department circulated what came to be known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine, after then Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz. "America's political and military mission in the post-cold-war era," the New York Times reported, "will be to ensure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territories of the former Soviet Union." America's mission, read the DoD document, would be "convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests."

The primary consequence of unrivaled power and dominance on the world stage is that the US could perpetrate savagery on other states and peoples with hardly any accountability or threat of retaliation. It is comparable to what happens when an authoritarian gains unquestioned power over a single country: no checks or balances, no responsibility for grave transgressions, etc.

Now, because of a mixture of hubris, profligacy, emerging economies, and the rise of non-state actors, "the post-war US approach to strategy is rapidly becoming insolvent and unsustainable," concluded a recent CSIS report. In some ways, Washington is taking this news kicking and screaming, desperately boosting US military presence in the Middle East and Asia. But "If Washington continues to cling to its existing role on the premise that the international order depends upon it, the result will be increasing resistance, economic ruin, and strategic failure," according to CSIS.

Mark · 2 days ago
There is the real possibility that, unlike the fall of the Soviets, the United States will go quietly into the night. The citizens of the U.S.S.R. knew their leaders were inept and corrupt as was the entire system ("we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us"). Not so for the U.S. Much of the citizenry believes the hubristic P.R. that the government puts out ("USA, USA, We're Number 1, We're Number 1") to such a degree that they will violently hold fast to that self-delusional fantasy long after the implosion of this unworkable system based on fiat money and conceit.

[Jul 07, 2012] American Exceptionalism and the Politics of Foreign Policy

July 07, 2012 | The Globalist

Democrats and Republicans in Congress have gone along with the creation of a large and expensive defense establishment, and a powerful executive branch has used it to wage wars of choice overseas. Our "Thomas Paine" columnist examines how this came about - and how the country might rein in its expensive and constitutionally unnecessary military-industrial complex.

The Democratic and Republican parties have gotten out of step with the public. Neither of the major parties is serious about solving the nation's fiscal crisis. Republican candidates won't reduce military spending. Democratic candidates won't reduce entitlement spending.

The price of the Republic is accepting personal risk and failure. The price of empire is the loss of personal freedom and the collective failure of the nation.

To protect their respective priorities and constituencies, the parties go along with both the welfare state and the warfare state. Hence, Democratic and Republican exceptionalism guarantees fiscal irresponsibility.

Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that America's number one national security threat is debt. Rasmussen polls show that eight out of ten Americans believe that economic threats are greater than military ones. Two out of three voters want a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes. Four out of five voters think Americans are overtaxed.

Only a third of Americans share the Republican view of exempting the military from budget reductions. The public only supports a dozen of the United States' standing commitments to defend 56 nations.

Only 11% of Americans want to be "global policeman," 75% think no troops should be stationed overseas except for "vital national security interests," and only 28% want to keep troops in Europe. Most Americans favor "Protect America First" - rather than "Send Americans First."

The Democratic and Republican parties serve different constituencies and identity groups, yet both are beholden to Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, AIPAC and other major special interests.

The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street protest the corruption of the two-party system. Campaign finance reform isn't popular with politicians whose job is raising money. The left feels betrayed by the Democratic Party. The right feels betrayed by the Republican Party. And the American people are betrayed by both parties.

Democratic and Republican exceptionalism has failed the country. We are in the midst of the greatest constitutional crisis the nation has faced in 225 years. The imperial Presidency must be ended and the executive brought back into balance with Congress and the courts.

Political competition has become a destructive zero-sum game for the nation. Democrats pay taxes for the welfare state, and are willing to raise taxes to pay for the warfare state. Republicans pay taxes for the warfare state, but refuse to pay more taxes for the welfare state. Trillion dollar annual deficits are covered through unsustainable borrowing. Republicans and Democrats compete to be fiscally irresponsible.

... ... ...

Since the Cold War ended, the United States has been at war two out of every three years. None of these wars were declared by Congress as required by the Constitution. Consequently, few Americans can name every war the President is fighting.

The United States is currently engaged in many clandestine military operations around the globe. There is no end in sight, with war aims not clearly stated or understood. President Obama, as a war president, is no longer under the law, he is the law.

This is the fourth and final installment of The Globalist's "Thomas Paine" series "Death of American Exceptionalism." Previous installments are here:

Part I: The Idea of American Exceptionalism
Part II: Democratic and Republican Exceptionalism
Part III: How We Lost American Exceptionalism

[Jul 04, 2012] 'American Exceptionalism': A Short History BY URI FRIEDMAN

I strongly doubt that Stalin was the first to use the term... Also the rest of the history is suspect...
JULY/AUGUST 2012 | Foreign Policy

How did a phrase initially used dismissively by Joseph Stalin become shorthand for who loves America more?

On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney contrasts his vision of American greatness with what he claims is Barack Obama's proclivity for apologizing for it. The "president doesn't have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that we do," Romney has charged. All countries have their own brand of chest-thumping nationalism, but almost none is as patently universal -- even messianic -- as this belief in America's special character and role in the world. While the mission may be centuries old, the phrase only recently entered the political lexicon, after it was first uttered by none other than Joseph Stalin. Today the term is experiencing a resurgence in an age of anxiety about American decline.

Putin's Got America Right Where He Wants It by Michael Weiss

There are limits to power and seeking constantly to impose one's unyielding will on others will strain resources beyond a nation's capacity to grow and thrive.
Foreign Policy


The author does not understand that other countries have their foreign policy objectives that may not be the same as Americans. Russia and China supported the resolution on Libya and watched the West create five debacles.

  1. First, Qaddafi had been fighting Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb along the Libya-Niger border before the rebellion and invervention forced him to move his army north. AQIM moved south to join Boko Haram in northern Nigeria as advisers and trainers. Before 2011, Boko Haram attacked with knives and clubs and were easily driven off. AQIM taught Boko Haram to make and use explosives that let them attack police to gain firearms and ammunition. Their attacks have become increasingly sophisticated as they have gained more training and experience with AQIM. Boko Haram may be able to threaten Nigerian oil that is sold to the US and NATO.
  2. Second, Libya has internal conflicts, is unsettled, and may turn out badly.
  3. Third, the Tauregs who served Qaddafi went through Niger to northern Mali, defeated the Malian army that had received training by US AFRICOM, and set up a separate state in northern Mali with Sharia law in the cities. The Malian army overthrew the civilian government, claiming that the government had not given the army enough support. Recently, AQIM drove the Tauregs out of Goa, one of the three provincial capitals in northern Mali because AQIM has hardened veterans who can fight as well as any troops.
  4. Fourth, the military campaigns through Niger and Mali have disrupted agricultural production and 7.5 million Africans are at risk for starvation.
  5. Fifth, the former African slave owners helped the former colonial masters drop bombs on Africans in a former African colony. China supported the African Union when it condemned the exceeding of the UN resolution by the US and NATO. Fortunately, China's trade with Africa rose by double digits while US trade with Africa fell. The US and NATO caused five debacles with one intervention. This must be a record. Putin is correct to distrust the US and NATO after their betrayal of the UN and the five incompetent debacles that the US and NATO inflicted on themselves.

Now, the US and its allies want sanctions and war with Iran over WMD's that do not exist. The military and intelligence chiefs of the US and Israel have confirmed that Iran is not making nuclear weapons. Despite this, the US and its allies are determined to isolate and punish a country that is not doing what the liars and idiots in the West claim that it is doing. After the debacle in Iraq over WMD's that did not exist, it is amazing that Americans need to be taught that brutal lesson again. The best way to stop western aggression is to provide Iran with military technology and targetting information on Israel and the US to make any western aggression as costly as possible for the countries most involved in pursuing suicidal stupidity. It is also advisable to devise financial arrangements that allow Iran to sell its oil and buy needed supplies without the western aggressors becoming aware of the procedures. Then, watch the West fall into another recession of its own making while Russia, China, and Iran continue to develop peacefully.

Putin knows and accepts the truth that western ideologues refuse to understand and acknowledge. There are limits to power and seeking constantly to impose one's unyielding will on others will strain resources beyond a nation's capacity to grow and thrive. He sells arms to Syria just as the US sells arms to many other countries. He is not responsible for deciding how everyone in the rest of the world will be governed. He is involved in Syria to the point of offering to bring Syrians together to settle their governance of their affairs in their manner, without setting preconditions on who the next leader of Syria will be or not be. That is an issue for the Syrians to decide.

[Jun 28, 2012] Must America Embrace Empire to Be Safe? by David Gordon

an informal empire by using its military and economic muscle - and its culture and ideology … to install and maintain compliant, friendly regimes in foreign territories.
Mises Daily

Both authors agree on a fundamental fact. America is at the present time an empire, despite the facts that our leaders disclaim imperial ambitions.

Is America an empire? Yes, it is. An empire is a state that surpasses all others in capabilities and sense of mission … an empire has worldwide interests … empires always have a mission they seek to accomplish - this is usually creating, and then maintaining, a world order. (p. 3)

True, our political leaders refuse to use the word "empire," but this is understandable:

They choose not to use it because it does not help to achieve the grand strategic goals of the United States.… For an American president or senior official to state that America is an empire would only help to organize resistance to it. (p. 4)

A better objection to thinking that America is an empire is that we do not have very many colonies, in the style of the empires of old. This however is a matter of form rather than substance.

A great power also can establish an informal empire by using its military and economic muscle - and its culture and ideology … to install and maintain compliant, friendly regimes in foreign territories. By ruling indirectly through local elites, an imperial power can forego the burdens of direct colonial rule. (p. 59, emphasis in original)

Thayer defends the current order, in which America seeks to dominate the world, but it is not altogether clear why he does so. He devotes the bulk of his essay to a description and celebration of American power, arguing that we can, if so minded, continue for a long time to impose our will on the rest of the world.

The United States has the ability to dominate the world because it has prodigious military capability, economic might, and soft power. ["Soft power," roughly, is cultural and ideological influence.]… Will it be able to do so in the future? The answer is yes, for the foreseeable future - the next thirty to forty years. (p. 12)

No doubt America also has the power to blow up the world, but it hardly follows that we should do so: "can" does not imply "ought." If, as Thayer thinks, we need to undertake the very costly task of imposing order on the rest of the world, must there not be some nation, or group of nations, that would otherwise pose a grave danger to our safety? If no such danger impends, why should we undertake the Herculean task of dictating and enforcing the terms of international order?

Thayer fails utterly to show that the United States stands in peril from any other country. To the contrary, he shows that each of the two most likely challengers to American hegemony - China and the European Union - faces significant obstacles to an attempt to become the world's dominant power.

Although its continued economic growth is impressive, China faces major problems that will hinder its ability to replace the United States as the world's hegemon … unlike China, the EU [European Union] does nor pose a danger to the American Empire for two major reasons - political and economic. (pp. 32, 34)

Thayer argues to this effect in order to show that the United States can maintain world dominance, but he does not see that he has at the same time undermined the case for doing this. Unless we face some powerful global antagonist, what is the point of the enterprise Thayer recommends?

Thayer might reply to our objection in this way. We face no imminent danger from others only if we maintain our hegemonic position. Should we abandon this, other nations, China in particular, might supplant us and hence threaten our security.

This response exposes the most basic objection to the line of thought that Thayer pursues. He takes for granted that a world power, at least one with a different political system from our own, poses a threat to us. Why need this be so? To take his example of China, in what way would even a vastly expanded and more powerful China pose an existential threat to the United States? What political ambition does China have in the Western hemisphere, let alone in America itself? The only territorial conflict Thayer adduces between America and China involves Taiwan, surely not an integral area for American security. Of course, a power that vies for hegemonic primacy is a threat to America, if one assumes that America needs to be the world's dominant power. But why assume this? Thayer's defense of American hegemony begs the question by building hegemony into the requirements for American security.

In fairness to Thayer, he does succeed in mentioning a genuine threat to America. He is right that Islamic terrorist groups pose a genuine danger, but it surely does not require world hegemony to contain attacks from them. Further, as Layne aptly points out, these attacks are responses to American policy in the Middle East, itself a product of the hegemonic grand strategy. Were America to pursue a modest strategy confined to defense of our own territory, it is highly doubtful that these groups would view us as a target.

The United States may be greatly reviled in some quarters of the Islamic world, but were the United States not so intimately involved in the affairs of the Middle East, it's hardly likely that the detestation would have manifested itself as violently as it did on 9/11. (p. 70)

The assumption that American security requires world hegemony is indeed a puzzling one, and it is Layne who clarifies what lies behind it. As mentioned earlier, both authors are realists, who stress the primacy of power in international relations. Layne notes that one type of realist theory underlies Thayer's approach. "Offensive realism holds that the best strategy for a great power is to gain primacy because, if it can do so, it will not face any serious challenges to its security" (p. 62).

As the old adage has it, the best defense is a good offense, and some proponents of this school of thought willingly embrace drastic prescriptions for policy. The mere prospect that China might rise in power to challenge American primacy is for these offensive realists sufficient grounds for launching a preventive war against that country.

Advocates of containment hope that … this strategy will halt China's rise and preserve America's primacy. However, as one leading proponent of containment argues, if these steps fail to stop China's great power emergence, "the United States should consider harsher measures." That is, before its current military advantage over China is narrowed, the United States should launch a preventive war to forestall China's emergence as a peer competitor. (p. 73)

Layne does not mention in the text the author of this harrowing idea, but his reference discloses that it is the book's coauthor, Bradley Thayer (p. 99, note 74).

Layne's response to offensive realism is within its own terms a good one. He points out that the pursuit of world hegemony will arouse the resentment of other nations, encouraging them to unite against the dominant power.

Up to a point … it is a good thing for a state to be powerful. But when a state becomes too powerful, it frightens others; in self-defense, they seek to offset and contain those great powers that aspire to primacy. (p. 63)

So far as the danger to us posed by rising powers like China is concerned, why not rely on regional coalitions of nations to "balance against" the new threat? This is the essence of the "offshore balancing" strategy that Layne favors. It is, he holds, much less costly and dangerous than offensive realism.

The key component of a new geopolitical approach by the United States would be the adoption of an offshore balancing strategy.… The other major powers in Asia - Japan, Russia, India - have a much more immediate interest in stopping a rising China in their midst than does the United States, and it is money in the bank that they will step up to the plate and balance against a powerful, expansionist state in their own neighborhood. (p. 76)

Though Layne makes some excellent points, he fails fully to break with the "realist" axiom that the mere existence of a powerful state poses a danger to us. Thus, he calls for the government to regulate trade with China in order to hamper its technological progress:

American trade with China should be driven by strategic, not market, considerations.… Individual American corporations may have an interest in penetrating the Chinese market, but there is no national interest, for example, in permitting U.S. firms to facilitate China's development of an advanced aerospace industry. (p. 74)

Unless a nation directly threatens us, why should we endeavor to impede its activities?

Despite taking for granted this dubious realist dogma, Layne's essays are insightful. He notes that, in justification of American hegemony, offensive realism is often combined with another wrongheaded view, democratic-peace theory. This holds that democracies do not fight other democracies. Hence, it is highly desirable for world peace to establish democratic regimes where these do not presently exist. Concerning this position, Layne remarks,

Truth Has Fallen and Taken Liberty With It by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

"Americans have little regard for truth, little access to it, and little ability to recognize it... Wherever money is insufficient to bury the truth, ignorance, propaganda, and short memories finish the job... Intelligence and integrity have been purchased by money... The militarism of the U.S. and Israeli states, and Wall Street and corporate greed, will now run their course. "

There was a time when the pen was mightier than the sword. That was a time when people believed in truth and regarded truth as an independent power and not as an auxiliary for government, class, race, ideological, personal, or financial interest.

Today Americans are ruled by propaganda. Americans have little regard for truth, little access to it, and little ability to recognize it.

Truth is an unwelcome entity. It is disturbing. It is off limits. Those who speak it run the risk of being branded "anti-American," "anti-semite" or "conspiracy theorist."

Truth is an inconvenience for government and for the interest groups whose campaign contributions control government.

Truth is an inconvenience for prosecutors who want convictions, not the discovery of innocence or guilt.

Truth is inconvenient for ideologues.

Today many whose goal once was the discovery of truth are now paid handsomely to hide it. "Free market economists" are paid to sell offshoring to the American people. High-productivity, high value-added American jobs are denigrated as dirty, old industrial jobs. Relicts from long ago, we are best shed of them. Their place has been taken by "the New Economy," a mythical economy that allegedly consists of high-tech white collar jobs in which Americans innovate and finance activities that occur offshore. All Americans need in order to participate in this "new economy" are finance degrees from Ivy League universities, and then they will work on Wall Street at million dollar jobs.

Economists who were once respectable took money to contribute to this myth of "the New Economy."

And not only economists sell their souls for filthy lucre. Recently we have had reports of medical doctors who, for money, have published in peer-reviewed journals concocted "studies" that hype this or that new medicine produced by pharmaceutical companies that paid for the "studies."

The Council of Europe is investigating the drug companies' role in hyping a false swine flu pandemic in order to gain billions of dollars in sales of the vaccine.

The media helped the US military hype its recent Marja offensive in Afghanistan, describing Marja as a city of 80,000 under Taliban control. It turns out that Marja is not urban but a collection of village farms.

And there is the global warming scandal, in which NGOs. the UN, and the nuclear industry colluded in concocting a doomsday scenario in order to create profit in pollution.

Wherever one looks, truth has fallen to money.

Wherever money is insufficient to bury the truth, ignorance, propaganda, and short memories finish the job.

I remember when, following CIA director William Colby's testimony before the Church Committee in the mid-1970s, presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan issued executive orders preventing the CIA and U.S. black-op groups from assassinating foreign leaders. In 2010 the US Congress was told by Dennis Blair, head of national intelligence, that the US now assassinates its own citizens in addition to foreign leaders.

When Blair told the House Intelligence Committee that US citizens no longer needed to be arrested, charged, tried, and convicted of a capital crime, just murdered on suspicion alone of being a "threat," he wasn't impeached. No investigation pursued. Nothing happened. There was no Church Committee. In the mid-1970s the CIA got into trouble for plots to kill Castro. Today it is American citizens who are on the hit list. Whatever objections there might be don't carry any weight. No one in government is in any trouble over the assassination of U.S. citizens by the U.S. government.

As an economist, I am astonished that the American economics profession has no awareness whatsoever that the U.S. economy has been destroyed by the offshoring of U.S. GDP to overseas countries. U.S. corporations, in pursuit of absolute advantage or lowest labor costs and maximum CEO "performance bonuses," have moved the production of goods and services marketed to Americans to China, India, and elsewhere abroad. When I read economists describe offshoring as free trade based on comparative advantage, I realize that there is no intelligence or integrity in the American economics profession.

Intelligence and integrity have been purchased by money. The transnational or global U.S. corporations pay multi-million dollar compensation packages to top managers, who achieve these "performance awards" by replacing U.S. labor with foreign labor. While Washington worries about "the Muslim threat," Wall Street, U.S. corporations and "free market" shills destroy the U.S. economy and the prospects of tens of millions of Americans.

Americans, or most of them, have proved to be putty in the hands of the police state.

Americans have bought into the government's claim that security requires the suspension of civil liberties and accountable government. Astonishingly, Americans, or most of them, believe that civil liberties, such as habeas corpus and due process, protect "terrorists," and not themselves. Many also believe that the Constitution is a tired old document that prevents government from exercising the kind of police state powers necessary to keep Americans safe and free.

Most Americans are unlikely to hear from anyone who would tell them any different.

I was associate editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal. I was Business Week's first outside columnist, a position I held for 15 years. I was columnist for a decade for Scripps Howard News Service, carried in 300 newspapers. I was a columnist for the Washington Times and for newspapers in France and Italy and for a magazine in Germany. I was a contributor to the New York Times and a regular feature in the Los Angeles Times. Today I cannot publish in, or appear on, the American "mainstream media."

For the last six years I have been banned from the "mainstream media." My last column in the New York Times appeared in January, 2004, coauthored with Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer representing New York. We addressed the offshoring of U.S. jobs. Our op-ed article produced a conference at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and live coverage by C-Span. A debate was launched. No such thing could happen today.

For years I was a mainstay at the Washington Times, producing credibility for the Moony newspaper as a Business Week columnist, former Wall Street Journal editor, and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. But when I began criticizing Bush's wars of aggression, the order came down to Mary Lou Forbes to cancel my column.

The American corporate media does not serve the truth. It serves the government and the interest groups that empower the government.

America's fate was sealed when the public and the anti-war movement bought the government's 9/11 conspiracy theory. The government's account of 9/11 is contradicted by much evidence. Nevertheless, this defining event of our time, which has launched the US on interminable wars of aggression and a domestic police state, is a taboo topic for investigation in the media. It is pointless to complain of war and a police state when one accepts the premise upon which they are based.

These trillion dollar wars have created financing problems for Washington's deficits and threaten the U.S. dollar's role as world reserve currency. The wars and the pressure that the budget deficits put on the dollar's value have put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block. Former Goldman Sachs chairman and U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is after these protections for the elderly. Fed chairman Bernanke is also after them. The Republicans are after them as well. These protections are called "entitlements" as if they are some sort of welfare that people have not paid for in payroll taxes all their working lives.

With over 21 per cent unemployment as measured by the methodology of 1980, with American jobs, GDP, and technology having been given to China and India, with war being Washington's greatest commitment, with the dollar over-burdened with debt, with civil liberty sacrificed to the "war on terror," the liberty and prosperity of the American people have been thrown into the trash bin of history.

The militarism of the U.S. and Israeli states, and Wall Street and corporate greed, will now run their course. As the pen is censored and its might extinguished, I am signing off.

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: [email protected]

America's first neocon war - American History -

On the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812

Monday, NPR's "Morning Edition" noted that this obscure conflict resulted in the sacking of Washington in 1814, but also gave us the Star Spangled Banner. This reassuring balance of costs and benefits makes for a tidy historical footnote while managing to gloss over the few reasons why the War of 1812 still matters today.

It matters mostly as an occasion for patriotic pomp and circumstance in the mid-Atlantic states and Canada where the war was fought. Maryland has issued a commemorative license plate, complete with bombs bursting in air. Replicas of the tall ships of that era are sailing in Baltimore Harbor. But the war also has some historical relevance. In Foreign Policy, James Traub calls the War of 1812, the "most important war you know nothing about."

The War of 1812 matters because it was America's first war of choice. The United States did not have to declare war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812, to survive as a nation and indeed President James Madison did not want to. The newly founded United States was growing westward but the "war hawks" in Congress pressed for a conflict with America's former colonial masters in the hopes of gaining even more territory to the north. The term "hawk" was coined in the run-up to the War of 1812 and the hawks of U.S. foreign policy have been with us ever since.

The War of 1812 was America's first neocon war. With an audacity that would become familiar, the war hawks appealed to a combination of personal pride - the British navy was forcibly conscripting Americans - and the prospect of material gain - the absorption of British Canada - wrapped up in love of country. No one said the conquest of Canada would be a "cakewalk," but the hawks were confident the Americans would be greeted as liberators.

Like future neoconservative wars, the War of 1812 did not go so well. Neither the citizenry nor the army was quite as ready as the hawks imagined. The Americans did destroy Indian tribes that had allied with the British but they underestimated the Canadians. U.S. forces attacking Canada were repeatedly repulsed in 1812-1814, giving the Canadians a quiet superiority complex that they have not entirely lost to this day.

While some U.S. naval commanders scored audacious victories, the U.S. government could do nothing to prevent the powerful and well-provisioned fleet of the British navy from roaming the Eastern Seaboard, plundering at will. Not for the last time, the hawks had maneuvered the country into disastrous circumstances.

In August 1814, the British advanced on Washington, determined to teach the upstart Americans a lesson about who was the world's only superpower. Francis Scott Key, an attorney and amateur poet, joined the troops that massed in Bladensburg, Md., to stop the British advance. The British invasion was especially unnerving to slave owners like Key because the British were offering freedom to African-Americans who joined their side. Thousands of slaves in southern Maryland walked away from their owners in order to gain their freedom. Some black men asked for duty on the front lines so that they might get an early opportunity to plug a slave master with hot lead.

The War of 1812 matters today because it was the first war in which America's hawks got their asses whipped. The British routed the numerically superior American force at Bladensburg and the U.S. troops fled in fear, an epic retreat that was soon dubbed "the Bladensburg Races" by the Jon Stewarts of the day. The British proceeded to burn down the White House, the Congress and the Library of Congress, making it the single worst day in American history until Sept. 11, 2001. Showing a distinct lack of spine, Key cowered in his Georgetown house for several days.

Yet the War of 1812 also gave us the template of how hawks recover from their debacles - with the invocation of idealistic patriotism. It happened when the British moved on to Baltimore with hopes of plundering the city as they had done Washington. Key followed them, seeking to obtain the release of a friend who had been detained by the British troops. Through the night of Sept. 14, 1814, Key witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry at the mouth of Baltimore Harbor. In the morning, a gigantic American flag was still hanging on the ramparts. The Americans had not been defeated, and the British decided to move on. Key decided to write a song to celebrate, fitting his lyrics to the melody of a popular English drinking club song.

While the tune is difficult to sing, Key's words infused the music with bold images and a hopeful spirit that is quintessentially American: O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light/What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? At end of the first stanza, he asked another question. O say does that star spangled banner yet wave/O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

In the modern mind, that is where the song ends and the ballgame begins.

But for Key, that question - does the banner still wave? - was just the prelude to three more stanzas that seek to explain why the American flag should still wave. These stanzas, taught in American public schools for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, have been largely forgotten. In them, the flag not only survives but goes on to greater glory, at least as it was imagined at the time.

In the third verse Key scorned the African-Americans who dared to join the British cause to escape bondage. He took the artistic liberty of transforming the ignominy of the Bladensburg Races into an American victory.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Key's lyrics flattered Americans by suggesting the U.S. troops had expelled the British mercenaries and the freed slaves from American soil. In fact, the British left Baltimore and Washington on their own accord and faced no American resistance. And the vast majority of the African-Americans who joined the British forces neither fled in terror nor went to the grave. Some 3,000 of them gained their freedom and settled in Novia Scotia or the Caribbean. (This verse is one reason why African-Americans long resisted the adoption of Key's song as the national anthem.)

In Key's forgotten fourth stanza, the defensive hopes of the first stanza swell into a celebration of just war that envisions America going from near-defeat to a godly victory:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

It was the totality of the song, not just the first verse, that made Key's Banner popular at the time. The singing of the song spread as the war with Great Britain came to a close. On the battlefields of Europe, the British had largely defeated their principal enemy, France, and no longer needed to worry about the United States. In December 1814, Great Britain and the United States negotiated a peace treaty. If the United States had not won the War of 1812, it had not lost it either. For the war hawks and a grateful and relieved nation, that was enough. The "Star Spangled Banner" transformed the mediocre results of the war into a national triumph.

Survival was all America needed after 1814, Traub notes.

Only with the war's end could rival political parties form around differing visions of the country's own future: a strong versus a weak central government; a manufacturing versus an agrarian economy; and, ultimately, a nation of freemen versus one of owners and slaves. America was now free to fulfill its territorial, economic, demographic, and - for better and worse - political destiny.

The Star Spangled Banner expressed that sense of destiny. In 288 words Key captured and defined something exceptional and enduring in America's love of nation. His song summoned the "Heaven-rescued land" into righteous action - conquer we must when our cause it is just. This spirit would animate the idea of America's Manifest Destiny as a global power for the next two centuries.

Yet we no longer teach our schoolchildren the national anthem as it was sung during the War of 1812 and for good reason. The spirit of American exceptionalism is strong, but scorning American blacks for seeking their freedom is no longer respectable, and advocating conquest in the name of God is not far behind. Two hundred years later, Francis Scott Key's rhetoric is out of step with modern ideals, a reminder that a dominant strain of American patriotism was born in the War of 1812, the offspring of military adventurism and racial posturing that we choose to forget.

[Jun 14, 2012] Review: America, Right or Wrong by Anatol Lieven

The Guardian

America, Right or Wrong
by Anatol Lieven
274pp, HarperCollins, £18.99

We should have seen it coming. All the signs were there in the 1990s - the mania about resisting outside influences, the narrow religious beliefs, the harking back to a golden age, the sense of being under threat from modernity, the readiness to use violent means. The roots of it went back centuries. But it took the attacks of 9/11 for us to realise how powerful was this burgeoning extremism. Whether the world can deal with it effectively is the critical question of our times.

We are not, of course, talking here about Islam or about al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden, but about America. It is Anatol Lieven's contention in this illuminating book that Bin Laden's assault on the United States stripped away many of the remaining restraints on the intolerant, irrational, and self-destructive side of American nationalism. Whether this nationalism is a greater problem than that represented by Islamic extremism is a moot point, but it is clear that the combination of the two could bring disaster on us all. Lieven's work is one of dozens which, since the invasion of Iraq, have attempted to clarify the reasons why the American government and American society have behaved in the ways in which they have behaved. Some have seen the key in the elevation of the neo-conservatives to positions of influence, others have emphasised America's interest in controlling the oil resources of the Middle East, others still have examined the links between the Bush administration, its Christian fundamentalist supporters, and the Likud regime in Israel. Analysts such as Jim Mann have profiled the cast of characters who make up the Bush administration. Scholars such as John Lewis Gaddis have offered essays on the way in which Iraq fits into the American foreign policy tradition as it has been shaped since independence, while journalists such as Bob Woodward have tried to reconstruct the decisionmaking chain.

The virtue of Lieven's book, however, is that it is not a book about 9/11 or Iraq but about the entirety of the nationalist tradition which reacted to the one and inspired the other, and which itself has been changed by both. Lieven draws on his wide reading, consultation and much personal observation to bring balance, perspective, and historical sense to what is a rather intricate tale. They allow him to tell the story of America's Janus-faced nationalism in an unusually clear way. No single factor or group of factors dominates or distorts the analysis. This is evident, for instance, in his relatively cursory treatment of the neo-cons. Small in number, and outweighed in the Bush administration by more traditional conservatives like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, they had one moment of decisive influence on Iraq policy. But they cannot possibly represent more than a fraction of the answer to the question of why things in America are as they are. Lieven puts them in the proper context, as more symptom than cause.

His readiness to call a spade a spade is not only refreshing but basic to his method. He cuts through the conformist political rhetoric of America, the obfuscating special language of the "American dream", or the "American exception", which infects even foreign accounts. Even to use the word "nationalism" to describe an American phenomenon is, as he notes, not normal. Americans are not "nationalist", they are "patriotic". It is a patriotism which too often leaves no room for the patriotism of others, combining a theoretical care for all humanity with, in practice, an "indifference verging on contempt" for the interests and hopes of non-Americans. Nothing could be more distant from "the decent respect to the opinions of mankind" recommended to Americans in the early years of their independent existence.

Lieven first paints a picture of an in some ways admirable American "civic nationalism", based on respect for the rule of law, constitutionality, democracy, and social (but not economic) equality, and a desire to spread these values in the world. But because this nationalism unrealistically holds that such "American" values can be exported at will, it blinds Americans to the different nature of other societies, sustaining the mistaken idea that if only particular rulers or classes can be displaced, "democracy" will prevail - a "decapitation" theory which contributed to the decision to attack Saddam. The American campaign to democratise other societies, Lieven says, harshly but fairly, "combines sloppiness of intellect and meanness of spirit". But, while in part mythic and not entirely rational, this side of American nationalism is of some value not only to the United States but to the world as a whole.

Then he turns to the bundle of alternative traditions which constitute what he calls the American antithesis. At its centre is a Scots, Irish and northern English nonconformist obduracy about matters of faith which later events have transformed into an anger at American elites and at the rest of the world. Lieven is at his most interesting when he explores this theme of the loser nation inside the winner nation. The rural white Protestants who experienced, and are still experiencing, defeat and decline in America, especially but not only in the south, have in modern times made common cause with Irish Catholics and many other ethnic groups and classes conditioned by their own disappointments. This constituency, including the large part of it animated by Protestant fundamentalist and evangelical Christian belief, is in a permanent state of ferment. Its values are under constant assault from American popular culture, yet it entrusts itself politically to the representatives of the business elite who profit from and largely drive that culture. The circle is squared by assigning to "liberals" and foreigners a demonic role in undermining family, religion, and nation, in which latter category can now be included not only the American but the Israeli nation, so Zionist has fundamentalist Bible-belt Christianity become.

This attitude of mind meshed - not perfectly, but unfortunately quite effectively - with that of a security elite and a military industrial establishment looking to reinvent itself after the end of the cold war. That effort first took shape in the 90s in exaggerations of both the Russian and the Chinese threats, and then accommodated itself to the Islamic threat - not only the terrorist threat but that to Sharon's Israel and to American control of Middle Eastern sources of oil - which events brought along. As Lieven shows, that accommodation is uneasy, since this establishment prefers threats to come from states rather than movements, and prefers tension and small and easy wars to serious conflict.

But, whatever the internal contradictions between and within the various strands of American nationalism, the result today is a kind of magical thinking which touches reality only occasionally. The result, Lieven argues, is that instead of the mature nationalism of a satisfied and dominant state, American nationalism is more akin to that of late developing and insecure states such as Wilhelmine Germany and Tsarist Russia. "While America keeps a splendid and welcoming house," Lieven writes in his preface, "it also keeps a family of demons in its cellar. Usually under certain restraints, these devils were released by 9/11." They have escaped to cause havoc in the past, as with McCarthyism, but a self-correcting mechanism on which American historians have often congratulated their country has always come to the rescue. Will it do so again, Lieven asks, given the possibility of serious terrorist attacks, the seemingly irreversible compact with Likud Israel, and the possible further economic decline of the American middle class - all likely to deepen American anger and undermine American rationality? Certainly the chances of a correction will be reduced if Americans do not undertake that close look which Lieven recommends at a nationalism that so many of them at present barely recognise for what it is.

The Myth of American Exceptionalism

C. P. Anderson

Hodgson basically has two theses.

This second idea is probably the more important one, as Hodgson does seem to be an admirer of the US and does see some real, admirable examples of exceptionalism in our early history. More than anything, he seems to be asking "where did you go wrong?" There are, of course, many factors, but exceptionalism is definitely an important one.

I am familiar with a lot of the ideas in the book, but am really impressed with how Hodgson ties them altogether, the excellent arguments he makes, and his stinging-but-never-smarmy style.

My only objections were a somewhat wandering first chapter and a rather repetitious last one. All in all, though, this is an excellent read. It really provides a lot of light on recent history.

J. Grattan

This book really has two concerns: foremost is the newfound, American aggressiveness in foreign policy, but perhaps as important is an examination of the actual performance in several areas of American society. Is America really a superior nation?

America alone in the industrialized world has a private, for profit, health care system with serious consequences in terms of access, exclusions of treatments, longevity, infant mortality, and costs. Education systems are underperforming and becoming more exclusive and costly. Inequality in terms of income and wealth have skyrocketed with wages no longer keeping up with productivity gains. Democratic processes from elections to governing are dominated by those with money. The repair and improvement of our nation's infrastructure takes a back seat to massive defense spending that exceeds that of the entire world. Our incarceration rates are right at the highest in the world. However, if the myth of American superiority is repeated often enough, real examination of these institutions is precluded to the detriment of the American people and American credibility worldwide.

It's difficult to say whether the author's theme of inflated self-regard fully captures and explains the foreign policy aggressiveness of the neo-conservatives of the last fifteen years or for that matter our interventions to counter perceived Communistic threats since WWII. Couldn't our interventions in places like Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, and the like be explained simply as geo-political hardball that in hindsight seems excessive? There were no claims made about spreading democracy in those cases. In fact, self-determination was crushed. One wonders if the recent interventions in the Middle East, despite Messianic overtones and misrepresentation of facts, are not really more a reaction of a powerful nation that recognizes the precariousness and unsustainability of the distribution and usage of scarce natural resources, namely oil. That is not to say that there are not elements of arrogance and bullying that descend from and are a perversion of our original exceptionalism based on liberty, equality, and democracy.

While for the author, the global ramifications of a distorted and justifying view of American exceptionalism are most important; for Americans, the serious shortcomings of our key institutions are more disturbing - not the myth, the reality. Perhaps both situations are two sides of the same coin. Until Americans regain control of their own political, social, and economic order, there will doubtlessly be global leakage that reflects those shortcomings.

The book is not especially original. American hubris has long been noted. The approach is basically a brief historical look that compares America with Europe since our founding, which largely undermines uniqueness or exceptionalism. The book, though short, manages to be somewhat repetitious, perhaps reflecting that exceptionalism and/or its myth is really just a part of more complete histories. Nonetheless, an interesting take on American thought.

Michael Caracappa

In the first two-thirds of the book, Hodgson takes the reader on an entertaining and knowledgeable ride through American history, and highlights those qualities that many Americans believe set themselves apart from the rest of the world when, in fact, those qualities are found in many other countries and often even originated outside the U.S. For instance, other countries have experienced peaceful, large-scale immigration. People in other countries love freedom. People in other countries respect the rule of law. People in other countries donate money to worthy causes. People in other countries are patriotic. Those positive qualities are not unique to Americans.

In the last third of the book, Hodgson details the areas where America truly is exceptional among industrial nations: last in health care, near last in educational achievement, first in incarceration rates, first in violent crime, last in intercity train service and public transit, first in income inequality, first in the amount spent on the military, first in allowing lobbyists and money to influence the democratic process.

[May 30, 2012] Soon, Iraq survivors will question a war By Daniel N. Nelson,

May 30, 2012 | Philadelphia Inquirer

As we observe Memorial Day, another American defeat is now at hand. And another monument will be constructed on the Mall.

In 1969, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., was one of the many Army bases where basic training occurred for those drafted by "lottery." As we trained in a mock Vietnamese village with pop-up targets, most of us knew we would be part of Richard Nixon's "Vietnamization" - a slow defeat camouflaged as a strategy. That strategy killed the artist from Kansas City whose bunk was next to mine, a gung-ho kid from Guam who had enlisted, a farm boy from upstate New York, and many others whose names are now etched in black marble in Washington.

American defeats are hauntingly similar. Informed by cultural and political ignorance, we invade and occupy while denying intelligence that warns against folly. Hubris tells us our power is unassailable. Politicians market paranoia to silence reasoned deliberation, and those who profit from war or reconstruction buy into the conflict as long as it adds to the bottom line.

American defeats are self-inflicted. We fight the wrong wars against illusory foes, thinking the enemy is one when it is another. We sense ubiquitous peril from all who differ from "us."

We had a momentarily decisive battlefield victory in Iraq. But triumph was illusory and ephemeral. Too soon, 2,000 Americans will have died, 12,000 seriously wounded, and additional thousands with psychological or other illness will have required evacuation. Iraqi deaths are now 50 to 100 per day. The number of coalition members and their troops are ebbing. The frequency and severity of insurgent attacks against U.S., Iraqi or allied assets continue to rise - encouraged, not abated, by an election and formation of a government. Even the Bush administration's National Intelligence Council reported in early 2005 that global terrorism has been strengthened, recruiting new generations of jihadists to kill and die for charismatic leaders.

Three and a half years after 9/11, the United States is engaged in a two-front ground war (Iraq and Afghanistan), in both cases claiming that elections have demonstrated the success of democracy. Yet these elections have neither halted violence nor unified states. And, the continuing presence of American and "coalition" forces continues to breed and spawn, rather than shock and awe, terrorists.

When Americans withdrew from Vietnam, they did not do so because democracy had been preserved or a timetable was set, but because of the unmitigated defeat of the puppet regime they had created and maintained. Washington decision-makers should contemplate such a scenario in Iraq, before we need helicopter evacuation of Americans from rooftops of the Green Zone.

America's weakening global position should spur thoughts of withdrawal. The United States today has fewer friends than at any time since the end of World War II, and its strengths are hemorrhaging. The "insecuring" of America involves the rapid and simultaneous ebbing of national capacities: Cultural tolerance is trampled by religious zealotry, political freedom constrained by irrational fear, and financial institutions weakened under massive deficits.

Those who fall in Iraq soon will have their own monument in Washington. But on future Memorial Days, little solace will come to a nation made far weaker and less secure in these eight years. Survivors will question, as they did in the last generation, the purpose of sacrifice.

Daniel N. Nelson is dean of the College of Arts & Sciences of the University of New Haven. [email protected].

[May 12, 2012] No Tickee – No Takee Miriam Elder's Post-Dry-Cleaning Breakdown

May 12, 2012 | The Kremlin Stooge


But wait, there's more! The History of the World, according to American teenagers (continuing on the dawn of WWI, ushering in a new error in the anals of human history):

17. The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. He never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He wrote tragedies,comedies, and hysterectomies, all in Islamic pentameter. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet. Romeo's last wish was to be laid by Juliet.
18. Writing at the same time as Shakespeare was Miguel Cervantes. He wrote Donkey Hote. The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained.
19. During the Renaissance America began. Christopher Columbus was a great navigator who discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic. His ships were called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Fe.
20. Later, the Pilgrims crossed the ocean, and this was called Pilgrim's Progress. The winter of 1620 was a hard one for the settlers. Many people died and many babies were born. Captain John Smith was responsible for all this.
21. One of the causes of the Revolutionary War was the English put tacks in their tea. Also, the colonists would send their parcels through the post without stamps. Finally the colonists won the War and no longer had to pay for taxis. Delegates from the original 13 states formed the Contented Congress. Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the Declaration of Independence. Franklin discovered electricity by rubbing two cats backwards and declared, "A horse divided against itself cannot stand.". Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.
22. Soon the Constitution of the United States was adopted to secure domestic hostility. Under the constitution the people enjoyed the right to keep bare arms.
23. Abraham Lincoln became America's greatest Precedent. Lincoln's mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves by signing the Emasculation Proclamation. On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposedly insane actor. This ruined Booth's career.
24. Meanwhile in Europe, the enlightenment was a reasonable time. Voltaire invented electricity and also wrote a book called Candy.
25. Gravity was invented by Issac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the autumn when the apples are falling off the trees.
26. Johann Bach wrote a great many musical compositions and had a large number of children. In between he practiced on an old spinster which he kept up in his attic. Bach died from 1750 to the present. Bach was the most famous composer in the world and so was Handel. Handel was half German half Italian and half English. He was very large.
27. Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling for him. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.
28. The French Revolution was accomplished before it happened and catapulted into Napoleon. Napoleon wanted an heir to inherit his power, but since Josephine was a baroness, she couldn't have any children.
29. The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire is In the East and the sun sets in the West.
30. Queen Victoria was the longest queen. She sat on a thorn for 63 years. She was a moral woman who practiced virtue. Her death was the final event which ended her reign.
31. The nineteenth century was a time of a great many thoughts and inventions. People stopped reproducing by hand and started reproducing by machine. The invention of the steamboat caused a network of river to spring up. Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick raper, which did the work of a hundred men.
32. Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbis. Charles Darwin was a naturalist who wrote the Organ of the Species. Madman Curie discovered radio. And Karl Marx became one of the Marx brothers.
33. The First World War, caused by the assignation of the Arch-Duck by an anahist, ushered in a new error in the anals of human history.

[Mar 28, 2012] Simon Johnson and James Kwak on Learning -- or Not -- from the Past



In 1774 the vast majority of colonialists did not want war with England. It was a tax rebellion. The taxes were principally on luxury items. The elites won that argument by enticing Britain to act more aggressively. The colonies were in serious debt at the end of the war. Partly prompting the federation.

The first use of the US standing army was to put down a tax revolt. The tax was an excise tax on whiskey. The largest distiller in the country was the president of the US. The tax and its enforcement eliminated a large amount of his competition.

In 1812 the people did not want war with England. However, the shipping interests and the industrialists who exported did. Again the elites got the government to go to war, but they did not want the internal strife associated with raising taxes.

In 1850 the people did not want to war with Mexico. Pres. Tyler and other elitists dreaming of manifest destiny did. The gov't raised taxes to pay for the war. There was internal strife. Thoreau went to prison rather than pay taxes to support an unjust war and became a hero to most of the US.

The Civil War tax was also not popular. Lincoln's unconstitutional levy of an income tax spurred rioting in the streets. The Union could not raise the taxes to pay for the war. It borrowed heavily. At the outbreak of WWI, the US had still not paid its debt from the Civil War.

I have not studied the economics of the Spanish-American war. Pulitzer made it popular. It was a very short war: 6 months of active hostilities--less than one year from start to finish.

From 1914 t0 1916 the vast majority of Americans wanted nothing to do with the European War. The elites who wanted greater US influence in World affairs did. Even after the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 Americans did not want war. Germany promised not to use U-Boats to sink our ships anymore. We restrained. In 1917 Germany declared unrestricted U-Boat war to stop US war materials from reaching Europe. The mercantists got the US to declare war over a breach of promise. The US levied a war tax of one cent per item mailed to pay for the war. It also war taxed phone calls at 3%. It was a very short war. I can find no tax revolt.

The US stayed out of WWII because it was another European war and the yeoman farmer was still the norm. No one knows why FDR tried to strangle Japan's access to oil. But, that is why they attacked us. First War for oil I can find. The US raised its income tax for the first time. Instead of a tax on the rich it became a tax on everyone. People making as little as $500 per year were taxed at marginal rate of 23%; millionaires at 93%. The average tax was 20.3%. The biggest change was collection by wage witholding. The treasury did this because they did not want the people to have a chance to refuse to pay their taxes. Even so in 1945 tax revenues were $45B and war expenditures (all by themselves) exceeded $83B. More than half the cost of the war was paid for by borrowing (war bonds).

Truman raised taxes on everyone and everything to pay for the Korean War. The US still had to borrow money to support it. Many veterans were bitter that they were taxed for surviving the war to pay for the war they fought.

Johnson adamantly opposed raising taxes to support the Vietnam war. It was unpopular and raising taxes would make it more so. From 65 to 68 Johnson tried to "pay for both guns and butter without raising taxes" (quote from Johnson). He did not ask Congress for a tax hike until 1968. The best estimate I can find is that we spent $423B on the war without raising taxes.

Bush went to two wars, both fairly popular at the time. He cut taxes. (Perhaps to keep them popular?)

Perhaps if we had to pay for military adventures in real time we would stop having military adventures?

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