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America Right or Wrong An Anatomy of American Nationalism is one of the best book on American exceptionalism. Here are some Amazon reviews

From Siegfried Sutterlin March 21, 2006  review of America Right or Wrong An Anatomy of American Nationalism  on Amazon:

... While there are incontestable civilizing elements to America's nationalism, there are also dangerous and destructive ingredients, a sort of Hegelian thesis and antithesis theme which places a strong question mark in America's historical theme of exceptionalism.

Unlike in other post-World War II nations, America's nationalism is permeated by values and religious elements derived mostly from the South and the Southern Baptists, though the fears and panics of the embittered heartland provide additional fuel.

Lieven's book, among other elements, is also a summation of lots of minor observations--even personal ones he made as a student in the small town of Troy, Alabama--and historical details which reflect the grand evolution of America's nationalism. When he says that "an unwillingness or inability among Americans to question the country's sinlessness feeds a culture of public conformism," then he has the support of Mark Twain who said something to the effect that we are blessed with three things in this country, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and, thirdly, the common sense to practice neither one! Ditto when he daringly points out America's "hypocrisy," which also is corroborated by other scholars, among them James Hillman in his recent book "A Terrible Love of War" in which he characterizes hypocrisy as quintessentially American.

Lieven continues with the impact of the Cold War on America's nationalism and then, having always expanded the theme of Bush's foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, examines with commendable perspective the complex and very much unadmitted current aspects of the U.S.'s relationships with the Moslems, the Iraq War and the impact of the pro-Israeli lobby. It is the sort of assessment one rarely finds in the U.S. media. He exposes the alienation the U.S. caused among allies and, in particular, the Arabs and the EU.

Lieven wrote this book with passion and commendable sincerity. Though it comes from a foreigner, its advice would without question serve not only America's interest but also provide a substantial basis for a detached and objective approach to solving the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the satisfaction of all involved before worse deeds and more burdens materialize.

Tom Munro:

What this book suggests is that a significant number of Americans have an outlook similar to European countries around 1904. A sense of identification with an idea of nation and a dismissive approach to other countries and cultures. Whilst in Europe the experience of the first and second world wars put paid to nationalism in America it is going strong. In fact Europeans see themselves less as Germans or Frenchmen today than they ever have.

The reason for American nationalism springs from a pride in American institutions but it also contains a deep resentment that gives it its dynamism. Whilst America as a nation has not lost a war there are a number of reasons for resentment. The South feels that its values are not taken seriously and it is subject to ridicule by the seaboard states. Conservative Christians are concerned about modernism. The combined resentments lead to a sort of chip on the shoulder patriotism which so characterizes American nationalism.

Of course these things alone are not sufficient. Europeans live in countries that are small geographically. They travel see other countries and are multilingual. Most Americans do not travel and the education they do is strong in ideology and weak in history. It is thus easier for some Americans to develop a rather simple minded view of the world.

The book suggests that the Republican Party is really like an old style European nationalist party. Broadly serving the interests of the moneyed elite but spouting a form of populist gobbledygook, which paints America as being in a life and death, struggle with anti-American forces at home and abroad. It is the reason for Anne Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. That is the rhetoric of struggle acts as a cover for political policies that benefit a few and lay the blame for the problems of ordinary Americans on fictitious entities.

The main side effects of the nationalism are the current policies which shackles America to Israel uncritically despite what that country might and how its actions may isolate America from the rest of the world. It also justifies America on foreign policy adventures such as the invasion of Iraq.

The book is quite good and repeats the message of a number of other books such as "What is wrong with America". Probably there is something to be said for the books central message.

Keith Wheelock (Skillman, NJ USA)

5.0 out of 5 stars A Socratic 'America know thyself': READ IT!, August 13, 2010

Foreigners, from de Tocqueville and Lord Bryce to Hugh Brogan and The Economist's John Micklethwait and Adrian Woodridge, often see America more clearly than do Americans. In the post-World War II period, R. L. Bruckberger's IMAGES OF AMERICA (1958) and Jean -Jacques Servan-Schreiber's THE AMERICAN CHALLENGE (1967) presented an uplifting picture of America.

Two generations later, Englishman Anatol Lieven paints a troubling picture of a country that is a far cry from John Winthrop's' "city upon a hill."

Has America changed so profoundly over the past fifty years or is Mr. Lieven simply highlighting historical cycles that, at least for the moment, had resulted in a near `perfect storm?' His 2004 book has prompted both praise [see Brian Urquhart's Extreme Makeover in the New York Review of Books (February 24, 2005)] and brick bats. This book is not a polemic. Rather, it is a scholarly analysis by a highly regarded author and former The Times (London) correspondent who has lived in various American locales. He has a journalist's acquaintance of many prominent Americans and his source materials are excellent.

I applaud his courage for exploring the dark cross currents in modern-day America. In the tradition of the Delphic oracle and Socrates, he urges that Americans `know thy self.' The picture he paints should cause thoughtful Americans to shudder. Personally, I found his book of a genre similar to Cullen Murphy's ARE WE ROME? THE FALL OF AN EMPIRE AND THE FATE OF AMERICA.

I do not consider Mr. Lieven anti-American in his extensive critique of American cross currents. That he wrote this in the full flush of the Bush/Cheney post-9/11 era suggests that he might temper some of his assessments after the course corrections of the Obama administration. My sense is that Mr. Lieven admires many of America's core qualities and that this `tough love' essay is his effort to guide Americans back to their more admirable qualities.

Mr. Lieven boldly sets forth his book's message in a broad-ranging introduction:

  1. "The [U. S.] conduct of the war against terrorism looks more like a baroque apotheosis of political stupidity;"
  2. "Aspects of American nationalism imperil both the nation's global leadership and its success in the struggle against Islamic terror and revolution;"
  3. "Insofar as American nationalism has become mixed up with a chauvinist version of Israeli nationalism, it also plays an absolutely disastrous role in U.S. relations with the Muslim world and in fueling terrorism;"
  4. "American imperialists trail America's coat across the whole world while most ordinary Americans are not looking and rely on those same Americans to react with `don't tread on me' nationalist fury when the coat is trodden on;"
  5. "One strand of American nationalism is radical...because it continually looks backward at a vanished and idealized national past;"
  6. "America is the home of by far the most deep, widespread and conservative religious belief in the Western world;"
  7. "The relationship between the traditional White Protestant world on one hand and the forces of American economic, demographic, social and cultural change on the other may be compared to the genesis of a hurricane;"
  8. "The religious Right has allied itself solidly with extreme free market forces in the Republican Party although it is precisely the workings of unrestricted American capitalism which are eroding the world the religious conservatives wish to defend;"
  9. "American nationalism is beginning to conflict very seriously with any enlightened, viable or even rational version of American imperialism;"
  10. "[George W.] Bush, his leading officials, and his intellectual and media supporters..., as nationalists, [are] absolutely contemptuous of any global order involving any check whatsoever on American behavior and interests;"
  11. "Nationalism therefore risks undermining precisely those American values which make the nation most admired in the world;" and
  12. "This book...is intended as a reminder of the catastrophes into which nationalism and national messianism led other great countries in the past."

Mr. Lieven addressed the above points in six well-crafted and thought-provoking chapters that I find persuasive. For some readers Chapter 6, Nationalism, Israel, and the Middle East, may be the most controversial. I am the only living person who has lunched with Gamal Abdel Nasser and David Ben-Gurion in the same week. I have maintained an interest in Arab-Israeli matters ever since. I find that Mr. Lieven's assessment of both the United States' and Israel's role rings true. While he does not excuse Arab leaders for their misdeeds, he clearly documents a history in which the United States has repeatedly subordinated vital U.S. regional interests in favor of accepting whatever Israel chooses to do.

In 1955 American historian Richard Hofstadter wrote,

 "The most prominent and persuasive failing [of political culture] is a certain proneness to fits of moral crusading that would be fatal if they were not sooner or later tempered with a measure of apathy and common sense."

I am confident that Professor Hofstadter would agree with me that AMERICA RIGHT OR WRONG is a timely and important book.


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[Jun 18, 2017] As a Chosen People with what Niebuhr refers to as a Messianic consciousness, Americans came to see them selves as set apart, their motives irreproachable, their actions not to be judged by standards applied to others.

Jun 18, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

JohnH -

, June 17, 2017 at 04:18 PM
Bacevich is a treasure...he's been inside the belly of the beast, and understands from first hand knowledge how it produces immense quantities of BS for public consumption and for preserving its own perks, privileges, and budgets.
libezkova - , June 17, 2017 at 11:39 PM
Yes, Bacevich is an interesting conservative critic of neocon foreign policy.

See for example his recent book:

https://www.amazon.com/Americas-War-Greater-Middle-East/dp/0553393952

He wrote a foreword to reprint of The Irony of American History (Paperback) by Reinhold Niebuhr which you can read on Amazon for free.

Niebuhr thought deeply about the dilemmas confronting the United States as a consequence of its emergence after World War I and, even more, after World War II, as a global superpower. The truths he spoke are uncomfortable ones for us to hear-uncomfortable not only because they demand a great deal of us as citizens, but also because they outline so starkly some of our recent failures. Four such truths are especially underlined in The Irony of American History: the persistent sin of American Exceptionalism; the indecipherability of history; the false allure of simple solutions; and, finally, the imperative of appreciating the limits of power.

The Anglo-American colonists who settled these shores, writes Niebuhr, saw their purpose as "to make a new beginning in a corrupt world." They believed "that we had been called out by God to create a new humanity." They believed further that this covenant with God marked America as a new Israel.

As a Chosen People with what Niebuhr refers to as a "Messianic consciousness," Americans came to see them selves as set apart, their motives irreproachable, their actions not to be judged by standards applied to others.

... ... ...

Niebuhr has little patience for those who portray the United States as acting on God's behalf. "All men are naturally inclined to obscure the morally ambiguous element in their political cause by investing it with religious sanctity," he once observed. "This is why religion is more frequently a source of confusion than of light in the political realm."

In the United States, he continued, "The tendency to equate our political with our Christian convictions causes politics to generate idolatry."9

Evangelical conservatism and its growing influence on American politics, which Niebuhr did not live to see, have only reinforced this tendency.

Niebuhr anticipated that the American veneration of liberty could itself degenerate into a form of idolatry. In the midst of World War II, he went so far as to describe the worship of democracy as "a less vicious version of the Nazi creed." He cautioned that "no society, not even a democratic one, is great enough or good enough to make itself the final end of human existence."

Although he rarely uses the term "American [neoliberal] empire", and I think never terms "Washington consensus", "debt slavery", or neoliberalism.

[Mar 03, 2017] America Right or Wrong An Anatomy of American Nationalism

Notable quotes:
"... an unwillingness or inability among Americans to question the country's sinlessness feeds a culture of public conformism, ..."
"... he daringly points out America's "hypocrisy," which also is corroborated by other scholars, among them James Hillman in his recent book "A Terrible Love of War" in which he characterizes hypocrisy as quintessentially American. ..."
"... The combined resentments lead to a sort of chip on the shoulder patriotism which so characterizes American nationalism. ..."
"... The book suggests that the Republican Party is really like an old style European nationalist party. Broadly serving the interests of the moneyed elite but spouting a form of populist gobbledygook, which paints America as being in a life and death, struggle with anti-American forces at home and abroad. It is the reason for Anne Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. That is the rhetoric of struggle acts as a cover for political policies that benefit a few and lay the blame for the problems of ordinary Americans on fictitious entities. ..."
"... The main side effects of the nationalism are the current policies which shackles America to Israel uncritically despite what that country might and how its actions may isolate America from the rest of the world. It also justifies America on foreign policy adventures such as the invasion of Iraq. ..."
"... " The [U. S.] conduct of the war against terrorism looks more like a baroque apotheosis of political stupidity;" ..."
"... "One strand of American nationalism is radical...because it continually looks backward at a vanished and idealized national past; " ..."
"... " [George W.] Bush, his leading officials, and his intellectual and media supporters..., as nationalists, [are] absolutely contemptuous of any global order involving any check whatsoever on American behavior and interests ;" ..."
"... I find that Mr. Lieven's assessment of both the United States' and Israel's role rings true. While he does not excuse Arab leaders for their misdeeds, he clearly documents a history in which the United States has repeatedly subordinated vital U.S. regional interests in favor of accepting whatever Israel chooses to do. ..."
Oct 30, 2016 | www.amazon.com
America Right or Wrong An Anatomy of American Nationalism is one of the best book on American exceptionalism. Here are some Amazon reviews

From Siegfried Sutterlin March 21, 2006

... While there are incontestable civilizing elements to America's nationalism, there are also dangerous and destructive ingredients, a sort of Hegelian thesis and antithesis theme which places a strong question mark in America's historical theme of exceptionalism.

Unlike in other post-World War II nations, America's nationalism is permeated by values and religious elements derived mostly from the South and the Southern Baptists, though the fears and panics of the embittered heartland provide additional fuel.

Lieven's book, among other elements, is also a summation of lots of minor observations--even personal ones he made as a student in the small town of Troy, Alabama--and historical details which reflect the grand evolution of America's nationalism. When he says that "an unwillingness or inability among Americans to question the country's sinlessness feeds a culture of public conformism," then he has the support of Mark Twain who said something to the effect that we are blessed with three things in this country, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and, thirdly, the common sense to practice neither one! Ditto when he daringly points out America's "hypocrisy," which also is corroborated by other scholars, among them James Hillman in his recent book "A Terrible Love of War" in which he characterizes hypocrisy as quintessentially American.

Lieven continues with the impact of the Cold War on America's nationalism and then, having always expanded the theme of Bush's foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, examines with commendable perspective the complex and very much unadmitted current aspects of the U.S.'s relationships with the Moslems, the Iraq War and the impact of the pro-Israeli lobby. It is the sort of assessment one rarely finds in the U.S. media . He exposes the alienation the U.S. caused among allies and, in particular, the Arabs and the EU.

Lieven wrote this book with passion and commendable sincerity. Though it comes from a foreigner, its advice would without question serve not only America's interest but also provide a substantial basis for a detached and objective approach to solving the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the satisfaction of all involved before worse deeds and more burdens materialize.

Tom Munro:

What this book suggests is that a significant number of Americans have an outlook similar to European countries around 1904. A sense of identification with an idea of nation and a dismissive approach to other countries and cultures. Whilst in Europe the experience of the first and second world wars put paid to nationalism in America it is going strong. In fact Europeans see themselves less as Germans or Frenchmen today than they ever have.

The reason for American nationalism springs from a pride in American institutions but it also contains a deep resentment that gives it its dynamism . Whilst America as a nation has not lost a war there are a number of reasons for resentment. The South feels that its values are not taken seriously and it is subject to ridicule by the seaboard states. Conservative Christians are concerned about modernism. The combined resentments lead to a sort of chip on the shoulder patriotism which so characterizes American nationalism.

Of course these things alone are not sufficient. Europeans live in countries that are small geographically. They travel see other countries and are multilingual. Most Americans do not travel and the education they do is strong in ideology and weak in history. It is thus easier for some Americans to develop a rather simple minded view of the world.

The book suggests that the Republican Party is really like an old style European nationalist party. Broadly serving the interests of the moneyed elite but spouting a form of populist gobbledygook, which paints America as being in a life and death, struggle with anti-American forces at home and abroad. It is the reason for Anne Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. That is the rhetoric of struggle acts as a cover for political policies that benefit a few and lay the blame for the problems of ordinary Americans on fictitious entities.

The main side effects of the nationalism are the current policies which shackles America to Israel uncritically despite what that country might and how its actions may isolate America from the rest of the world. It also justifies America on foreign policy adventures such as the invasion of Iraq.

The book is quite good and repeats the message of a number of other books such as "What is wrong with America". Probably there is something to be said for the books central message.

Keith Wheelock (Skillman, NJ USA)

A Socratic 'America know thyself': READ IT!, August 13, 2010

Foreigners, from de Tocqueville and Lord Bryce to Hugh Brogan and The Economist's John Micklethwait and Adrian Woodridge, often see America more clearly than do Americans. In the post-World War II period, R. L. Bruckberger's IMAGES OF AMERICA (1958) and Jean -Jacques Servan-Schreiber's THE AMERICAN CHALLENGE (1967) presented an uplifting picture of America.

Two generations later, Englishman Anatol Lieven paints a troubling picture of a country that is a far cry from John Winthrop's' "city upon a hill."

Has America changed so profoundly over the past fifty years or is Mr. Lieven simply highlighting historical cycles that, at least for the moment, had resulted in a near `perfect storm?' His 2004 book has prompted both praise [see Brian Urquhart's Extreme Makeover in the New York Review of Books (February 24, 2005)] and brick bats. This book is not a polemic. Rather, it is a scholarly analysis by a highly regarded author and former The Times (London) correspondent who has lived in various American locales. He has a journalist's acquaintance of many prominent Americans and his source materials are excellent.

I applaud his courage for exploring the dark cross currents in modern-day America. In the tradition of the Delphic oracle and Socrates, he urges that Americans `know thy self.' The picture he paints should cause thoughtful Americans to shudder. Personally, I found his book of a genre similar to Cullen Murphy's ARE WE ROME? THE FALL OF AN EMPIRE AND THE FATE OF AMERICA.

I do not consider Mr. Lieven anti-American in his extensive critique of American cross currents. That he wrote this in the full flush of the Bush/Cheney post-9/11 era suggests that he might temper some of his assessments after the course corrections of the Obama administration. My sense is that Mr. Lieven admires many of America's core qualities and that this `tough love' essay is his effort to guide Americans back to their more admirable qualities.

Mr. Lieven boldly sets forth his book's message in a broad-ranging introduction:

  1. " The [U. S.] conduct of the war against terrorism looks more like a baroque apotheosis of political stupidity;"
  2. "Aspects of American nationalism imperil both the nation's global leadership and its success in the struggle against Islamic terror and revolution;"
  3. "Insofar as American nationalism has become mixed up with a chauvinist version of Israeli nationalism, it also plays an absolutely disastrous role in U.S. relations with the Muslim world and in fueling terrorism;"
  4. "American imperialists trail America's coat across the whole world while most ordinary Americans are not looking and rely on those same Americans to react with `don't tread on me' nationalist fury when the coat is trodden on;"
  5. "One strand of American nationalism is radical...because it continually looks backward at a vanished and idealized national past; "
  6. "America is the home of by far the most deep, widespread and conservative religious belief in the Western world;"
  7. "The relationship between the traditional White Protestant world on one hand and the forces of American economic, demographic, social and cultural change on the other may be compared to the genesis of a hurricane;"
  8. "The religious Right has allied itself solidly with extreme free market forces in the Republican Party although it is precisely the workings of unrestricted American capitalism which are eroding the world the religious conservatives wish to defend;"
  9. "American nationalism is beginning to conflict very seriously with any enlightened, viable or even rational version of American imperialism;"
  10. " [George W.] Bush, his leading officials, and his intellectual and media supporters..., as nationalists, [are] absolutely contemptuous of any global order involving any check whatsoever on American behavior and interests ;"
  11. "Nationalism therefore risks undermining precisely those American values which make the nation most admired in the world;" and
  12. "This book...is intended as a reminder of the catastrophes into which nationalism and national messianism led other great countries in the past."

Mr. Lieven addressed the above points in six well-crafted and thought-provoking chapters that I find persuasive. For some readers Chapter 6, Nationalism, Israel, and the Middle East, may be the most controversial. I am the only living person who has lunched with Gamal Abdel Nasser and David Ben-Gurion in the same week. I have maintained an interest in Arab-Israeli matters ever since. I find that Mr. Lieven's assessment of both the United States' and Israel's role rings true. While he does not excuse Arab leaders for their misdeeds, he clearly documents a history in which the United States has repeatedly subordinated vital U.S. regional interests in favor of accepting whatever Israel chooses to do.

In 1955 American historian Richard Hofstadter wrote,

"The most prominent and persuasive failing [of political culture] is a certain proneness to fits of moral crusading that would be fatal if they were not sooner or later tempered with a measure of apathy and common sense."

I am confident that Professor Hofstadter would agree with me that AMERICA RIGHT OR WRONG is a timely and important book.

[Oct 30, 2016] The form of nationalism that prevails now can be called cultural nationalism not ethnonationalism . In a sense cultural nationalism is more inclusive, but it can be as radical as national socialism in the past. American exceptionalism is a good example of this type of nationalism.

Notable quotes:
"... Even if experience has shown it's futile, I still feel compelled to repeat the point that "tribalism" is a racist and imperialist pejorative ..."
"... "tribalism" is used to describe the very same racist ideological currents that give the term its rhetorical power in the first place. ..."
"... In essence, anything that relies on identification with an in-group against those outside the group. In that sense, nearly all of Trump's support base is tribalist, while only some could be described as racist/white nationalist. ..."
"... The term "Tribalism" implicitly stresses the ethnic/racial component in the complex phenomena that modern nationalism represents. That's a major weakness. ..."
"... Even in modern Ukrainian nationalism cultural elements are stronger then ethnic. ..."
"... 'Cultural nationalism' seems to come closest, at least in the Australian and British contexts I'm familiar with, because the so-called 'tribalists' seem to be people who have a strong idea about who are the 'right kind' of Australians (or Britons), and it is a mixture of cultural and racial/ethnic characteristics. ..."
"... Populations can be racialized according to literally any conceivable physical, social, or cultural characteristic - the idea that it can only depend on specific differentiating factors like one's melanin count or descent from Charlemagne or whatever is itself a racist idea, an attempt to reify particular forms of racism as rooted in some immutable aspect of "the way things are". ..."
"... "the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death" ..."
"... Except unlike with Quiggin's definition of tribalism @ 32, racism is explicitly a political and economic phenomenon to use a particular ingroup/outgroup differentiation as a way to systematically disenfranchise and subjugate the outgroup , which seems like the only reason we'd bother talking about it as a specific mass political movement at all. ..."
Oct 30, 2016 | crookedtimber.org
WLGR 10.30.16 at 10:30 am 16

Even if experience has shown it's futile, I still feel compelled to repeat the point that "tribalism" is a racist and imperialist pejorative (basically this imagery condensed into a single signifier) that shouldn't play such a pivotal role in any remotely serious understanding, let alone one in which "tribalism" is used to describe the very same racist ideological currents that give the term its rhetorical power in the first place.

As described in an earlier thread about all of this, my preference would be not to beat around the bush and go with "fascism" plain and simple, and even if one isn't comfortable making that assertion directly, "ethnonationalism" seems like it could play an equivalent role to "tribalism" in this analysis with little or no extra clarification needed. Call me crazy but this seems like a pretty minor lexical sacrifice to make for combating racist imagery in one's own language.

Call me crazy but this seems like a pretty minor lexical sacrifice to make for combating racist imagery in one's own language.

likbez 10.30.16 at 12:05 pm

@16

"ethnonationalism" seems like it could play an equivalent role to "tribalism" in this analysis with little or no extra clarification needed.

While I agree that "tribalism" a bad term that clouds the issue, I think the form of nationalism that prevails now can be called "cultural nationalism" not "ethnonationalism". In a sense "cultural nationalism" is more inclusive, but it can be as radical as national socialism in the past. American exceptionalism is a good example of this type of nationalism.

John Quiggin 10.30.16 at 7:33 pm

@WLGR I'm happy to reconsider terminology. But I've been using "tribalism" for a kind of politics that's not necessary as extreme as ethno-nationalism, let alone fascism.

In essence, anything that relies on identification with an in-group against those outside the group. In that sense, nearly all of Trump's support base is tribalist, while only some could be described as racist/white nationalist.

likbez 10.30.16 at 7:39 pm

@20

The term "Tribalism" implicitly stresses the ethnic/racial component in the complex phenomena that modern nationalism represents. That's a major weakness.

Even in modern Ukrainian nationalism cultural elements are stronger then ethnic.

Val 10.31.16 at 6:22 am

I tend to agree with what WLGR is saying about 'tribalists'. What porpoise @43 said is interesting historically, but I don't think it removes the overlay from later colonial and imperial associations of 'tribes' with 'primitives'/inferiors. So I don't think tribalism is a good word here, but not sure what would be a better one.

'Cultural nationalism' seems to come closest, at least in the Australian and British contexts I'm familiar with, because the so-called 'tribalists' seem to be people who have a strong idea about who are the 'right kind' of Australians (or Britons), and it is a mixture of cultural and racial/ethnic characteristics.

Here in Australia, it is certainly possible for people from non-Anglo backgrounds to be at least conditionally accepted by the 'tribalists' if they appear to embrace the tribalists' idea of Aussie culture (although it's conditional because the 'tribalists' who are 'accepting' the non-Anglo immigrants unconsciously see their ability to pass judgement as related to their own Anglo/white background, I think). Complicated, I am getting tied in knots, but I agree tribalist isn't the best word.

WLGR 10.31.16 at 3:52 pm

likbez @ 16,

It seems to me that the effort to differentiate race-based from culturally based ultranationalism is still tangled in the weeds of a colloquial understanding of "race" and "racism".

Populations can be racialized according to literally any conceivable physical, social, or cultural characteristic - the idea that it can only depend on specific differentiating factors like one's melanin count or descent from Charlemagne or whatever is itself a racist idea, an attempt to reify particular forms of racism as rooted in some immutable aspect of "the way things are".

Although from my understanding Ukrainian citizenship like that in most of Europe is primarily determined by jus sanguinis, and like most of Europe it's still deep in the muck of racial discrimination toward e.g. the Roma, so unless I'm misreading things it seems like a stretch to put too much distance between Ukraine (or Europe in general) and even a very colloquial sense of "ethnonationalism". It can be articulated more explicitly by outright fascists or more obliquely by mainstream centrist parties, but it's still there.

And as long as we're talking about academic definitions of racism (I'm partial to the definition proffered by Ruth Wilson Gilmore, "the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death", although Emmett Rensin's obnoxiously thorough definition is also good) funnily enough they tend to point at something pretty much identical to what Quiggin appears to mean by "tribalism".

Except unlike with Quiggin's definition of tribalism @ 32, racism is explicitly a political and economic phenomenon to use a particular ingroup/outgroup differentiation as a way to systematically disenfranchise and subjugate the outgroup , which seems like the only reason we'd bother talking about it as a specific mass political movement at all.

And again, as annoying as it is to have pigheaded reactionaries accuse us of twisting language and "playing the race card" and so on, putting up with this noise is preferable to sacrificing useful concepts like racism and fascism from one's everyday understanding of the world,

[Oct 30, 2016] Anatol Lieven · The Push for War The Threat from America

[Oct 30, 2016] Anatol Lieven · A Trap of Their Own Making The consequences of the new imperialism · LRB 8 May 2003

[Oct 30, 2016] After the attacks America's new cold war

September 28, 2001 | guardian.co.uk

"Who says we share common values with the Europeans? They don't even go to church!" Will the atrocities of September 11 push America further to the right or open a new debate on foreign policy and the need for alliances? In this exclusive online essay from the London Review of Books, Anatol Lieven considers how the cold war legacy may affect the war on terrorism

Not long after the Bush Administration took power in January, I was invited to lunch at a glamorous restaurant in New York by a group of editors and writers from an influential American right-wing broadsheet. The food and wine were extremely expensive, the decor luxurious but discreet, the clientele beautifully dressed, and much of the conversation more than mildly insane. With regard to the greater part of the world outside America, my hosts' attitude was a combination of loathing, contempt, distrust and fear: not only towards Arabs, Russians, Chinese, French and others, but towards 'European socialist governments', whatever that was supposed to mean. This went with a strong desire - in theory at least - to take military action against a broad range of countries across the world.

Two things were particularly striking here: a tendency to divide the world into friends and enemies, and a difficulty verging on autism when it came to international opinions that didn't coincide with their own - a combination more appropriate to the inhabitants of an ethnic slum in the Balkans than to people who were, at that point, on top of the world.

Today Americans of all classes and opinions have reason to worry, and someone real to fear and hate, while prolonged US military action overseas is thought to be inevitable. The building where we had lunch is now rubble. Several of our fellow diners probably died last week, along with more than six thousand other New Yorkers from every walk of life. Not only has the terrorist attack claimed far more victims than any previous such attack anywhere in the world, but it has delivered a far more damaging economic blow. Equally important, it has destroyed Americans' belief in their country's invulnerability, on which so many other American attitudes and policies finally rested.

This shattering blow was delivered by a handful of anonymous agents hidden in the wider population, working as part of a tightly-knit secret international conspiracy inspired by a fanatical and (to the West) deeply 'alien' and 'exotic' religious ideology. Its members are ruthless; they have remarkable organisational skills, a tremendous capacity for self-sacrifice and self-discipline, and a deep hatred of the United States and the Western way of life. As Richard Hofstader and others have argued, for more than two hundred years this kind of combination has always acted as a prompt for paranoid and reactionary conspiracy theories, most of them groundless.

Now the threat is real; and for the foreseeable future we will have to live with and seek to reduce two closely interlinked dangers: the direct and potentially apocalyptic threat posed by terrorists, mainly (though by no means exclusively) based in the Muslim world, and the potential strengthening of those terrorists' resolve by misguided US actions.

The latter danger has been greatly increased by the attacks. The terrorists have raised to white heat certain smouldering tendencies among the American Right, while simultaneously - as is usually the case at the start of wars - pushing American politics and most of its population in a sharply rightward direction; all of which has taken place under an unexpectedly right-wing Administration. If this leads to a crude military response, then the terrorists will have achieved part of their purpose, which was to provoke the other side to indiscriminate retaliation, and thereby increase their own support.

It is too early to say for sure how US strategies and attitudes will develop. At the time of writing Afghanistan is the focus, but whatever happens there, it isn't clear whether the US Administration will go on to launch a more general campaign of military pressure against other states which have supported terrorist groups, and if so, what states and what kind of military pressure? US policy is already pulled in two predictable but contradictory directions, amply illustrated in the op-ed pages of US newspapers and in debates within the Government.

The most unilateralist Administration in modern American history has been forced to recognise, in principle at least, the country's pressing need for allies. There are the beginnings, too, of a real public debate on how US policy needs to be changed and shaped to fight the new 'war'. All this is reminiscent of US attitudes and behaviour at the start of the Cold War, when Communism was identified as the central menace to the US and to Western capitalism and democracy in general.

On the other hand, the public desire for revenge has strengthened certain attitudes - especially in the Republican Party and media, as well as parts of the Administration - which, if they prevail, will not only be dangerous in themselves, but will make the search for real allies difficult. And real allies are essential, above all in the Arab and Muslim worlds. In the longer run, only the full co-operation of Arab regimes - along with reform and economic development - can prevent the recruitment, funding and operations of Arab-based terrorist groups.

As for Europe, British military support may be unconditional, but most European countries - Russia among them - are likely to restrict their help to intelligence and policing. Apart from the fact that most European armies are useless when it comes to serious warfare, they are already showing great unwillingness to give the US a blank cheque for whatever military action the Bush Administration chooses to take.

Yet a blank cheque is precisely what the Administration, and the greater part of US public opinion, are asking for. This is Jim Hoagland, veteran establishment foreign correspondent and commentator, in the generally liberal Washington Post:

"Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and many of the other Arab states Powell hopes to recruit for the bin Laden posse have long been part of the problem, not part of the solution to international terrorism. These states cannot be given free passes for going through the motions of helping the United States. And European allies cannot be allowed to order an appetiser of bin Laden and not share in the costs of the rest of a meal cooked in hell."

If this is the Post, then the sentiments in the right-wing press and the tabloids can well be imagined. Here is Tod Lindberg, the editor of Policy Review, writing in the Washington Times:

"The United States is now energetically in the business of making governments pick a side: either with us and against the terrorists, or against us and with them... Against the category of enemy stands the category of 'friend'. Friends stand with us. Friends do whatever they can to help. Friends don't, for example, engage in commerce with enemies, otherwise they aren't friends."

A strong sense of righteousness has always been present in the American tradition; but until 11 September, an acute sense of victimhood and persecution by the outside world was usually the preserve of the paranoid Right. Now it has spread and, for the moment at least, some rather important ideas have almost vanished from the public debate: among them, that other states have their own national interests, and that in the end nothing compels them to help the US; that they, too, have been the victims of terrorism - in the case of Britain, largely funded from groups in the United States - but have not insisted on a right of unilateral military retaliation (this point was made by Niall Ferguson in the New York Times, but not as yet in any op-ed by an American that I have seen); and that in some cases these states may actually know more about their own part of the world than US intelligence does.

Beyond the immediate and unforeseeable events in Afghanistan - and their sombre implications for Pakistan - lies the bigger question of US policy in the Arab world. Here, too, Administration policy may well be a good deal more cautious than the opinions of the right-wing media would suggest - which again is fortunate, because much opinion on this subject is more than rabid. Here is AM Rosenthal in the Washington Times arguing that an amazing range of states should be given ultimatums to surrender not only alleged terrorists but also their own senior officials accused by the US of complicity:

"The ultimatum should go to the governments of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan and any other devoted to the elimination of the United States or the constant incitement of hatred against it... In the three days the terrorists consider the American ultimatum, the residents of the countries would be urged 24 hours a day by the United States to flee the capital and major cities, because they would be bombed to the ground beginning the fourth."

Rosenthal isn't a figure from the lunatic fringe ranting on a backwoods radio show, but the former executive editor of the New York Times, writing in a paper with great influence in the Republican Party, especially under the present Administration.

No Administration is going to do anything remotely like this. But if the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has emerged as the voice of moderation, with a proper commitment to multilateralism, other voices are audible, too. Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defence, has spoken of "ending states which support terrorism", and in the case of Iraq, there are those who would now like to complete the work of the Gulf War and finish off Saddam Hussein.

Here, too, the mood of contempt for allies contributes to the ambition. Thus Kim Holmes, vice-president of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, argued that only deference to America's Arab allies prevented the US from destroying the Iraqi regime in 1991 (the profound unwillingness of Bush Senior to occupy Iraq and take responsibility for the place also played its part in the decision): "To show that this war is not with Islam per se, the US could be tempted to restrain itself militarily and accommodate the complex and contradictory political agendas of Islamic states. This in turn could make the campaign ineffectual, prolonging the problem of terrorism."

Getting rid of Saddam Hussein is not in itself a bad idea. His is a pernicious regime, a menace to his own people and his neighbours, as well as to the West. And if the Iraqi threat to the Gulf States could be eliminated, US troops might be withdrawn from Saudi Arabia: it was their permanent stationing on the holy soil of Islam that turned Osama bin Laden from an anti-Soviet mujahid into an anti-American terrorist.

But only if it were to take place in the context of an entirely new policy towards Palestine would the US be able to mount such a campaign without provoking massive unrest across the Arab world; and given what became of promises made during the Gulf War, there would first of all have to be firm evidence of a US change of heart. The only borders between Israel and Palestine which would have any chance of satisfying a majority of Palestinians and Arabs - and conforming to UN resolutions, for what they are worth - would be those of 1967, possibly qualified by an internationalisation of Jerusalem under UN control. This would entail the removal of the existing Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, and would be absolutely unacceptable to any imaginable Israeli Government. To win Israeli agreement would require not just US pressure, but the threat of a complete breach of relations and the ending of aid.

There may be those in the Administration who would favour adopting such an approach at a later stage. Bush Sr's was the most anti-Israeli Administration of the past two generations, and was disliked accordingly by the Jewish and other ethnic lobbies. His son's is less beholden to those lobbies than Clinton's was. And it may be that even pro-Israeli US politicians will at some point realise that Israel's survival as such is not an issue: that it is absurd to increase the risk to Washington and New York for the sake of 267 extremist settlers in Hebron and their comrades elsewhere.

Still, in the short term, a radical shift is unlikely, and an offensive against Iraq would therefore be dangerous. The attacks on New York and the Pentagon and the celebrations in parts of the Arab world have increased popular hostility to the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular, a hostility assiduously stoked by Israeli propaganda. But when it comes to denouncing hate crimes against Muslims - or those taken to be Muslims - within the US, the Administration has behaved decently, perhaps because they have a rather sobering precedent in mind, one which has led to genuine shame: the treatment of Japanese Americans during world war two.

This shame is the result of an applied historical intelligence that does not extend to the Arab world. Americans tend - and perhaps need - to confuse the symptoms and the causes of Arab anger. Since a key pro-Israel position in the US has been that fundamental Palestinian and Arab grievances must not be allowed legitimacy or even discussed, the only explanation of Arab hostility to the US and its ally must be sought in innate features of Arab society, whether a contemporary culture of anti-semitism (and anti-Americanism) sanctioned by Arab leaderships, or ancient 'Muslim' traditions of hostility to the West.

All of which may contain some truth: but the central issue, the role of Israeli policies in providing a focus for such hatred, is overwhelmingly ignored. As a result, it is extremely difficult, and mostly impossible, to hold any frank discussion of the most important issue affecting the position of the US in the Middle East or the open sympathy for terrorism in the region. A passionately held nationalism usually has the effect of corrupting or silencing those liberal intellectuals who espouse it. This is the case of Israeli nationalism in the US. It is especially distressing that it should afflict the Jewish liberal intelligentsia, that old bedrock of sanity and tolerance.

An Administration which wanted a radical change of policy towards Israel would have to generate a new public debate almost from scratch - which would not be possible until some kind of tectonic shift had taken place in American society. Too many outside observers who blame US Administrations forget that on a wide range of issues, it is essentially Congress and not the White House or State Department which determines foreign policy; this is above all true of US aid. An inability or unwillingness to try to work on Congress, as opposed to going through normal diplomatic channels, has been a minor contributory factor to Britain's inability to get any purchase on US policy in recent years.

The role of Congress brings out what might be called the Wilhelmine aspects of US foreign and security policy. By that I do not mean extreme militarism or a love of silly hats, or even a shared tendency to autism when it comes to understanding the perceptions of other countries, but rather certain structural features in both the Wilhemine and the US system tending to produce over-ambition, and above all a chronic incapacity to choose between diametrically opposite goals. Like Wilhelmine Germany, the US has a legislature with very limited constitutional powers in the field of foreign policy, even though it wields considerable de facto power and is not linked either institutionally or by party discipline to the executive. The resulting lack of any responsibility for actual consequences is a standing invitation to rhetorical grandstanding, and the pursuit of sectional interests at the expense of overall policy.

Meanwhile, the executive, while in theory supremely powerful in this field, has in fact continually to woo the legislature without ever being able to command its support. This, too, encourages dependence on interest groups, as well as a tendency to overcome differences and gain support by making appeals in terms of overheated patriotism rather than policy. Finally, in both systems, though for completely different reasons, supreme executive power had or has a tendency to fall into the hands of people totally unsuited for any but the ceremonial aspects of the job, and endlessly open to manipulation by advisers, ministers and cliques.

In the US, this did not matter so much during the Cold War, when a range of Communist threats - real, imagined or fabricated - held the system together in the pursuit of more or less common aims. With the disappearance of the unifying threat, however, there has been a tendency, again very Wilhelmine, to produce ambitious and aggressive policies in several directions simultaneously, often with little reference at all to real US interests or any kind of principle.

The new 'war against terrorism' in Administration and Congressional rhetoric has been cast as just such a principle, unifying the country and the political establishment behind a common goal and affecting or determining a great range of other policies. The language has been reminiscent of the global struggle against Communism, and confronting Islamist radicalism in the Muslim world does, it's true, pose some of the same challenges, on a less global scale, though possibly with even greater dangers for the world.

The likelihood that US strategy in the 'war against terrorism' will resemble that of the Cold War is greatly increased by the way Cold War structures and attitudes have continued to dominate the US foreign policy and security elites. Charles Tilly and others have written of the difficulty states have in 'ratcheting down' wartime institutions and especially wartime spending. In the 1990s, this failure on the part of the US to escape its Cold War legacy was a curse, ensuring unnecessarily high military spending in the wrong fields, thoroughly negative attitudes to Russia, 'zero-sum' perceptions of international security issues in general, and perceptions of danger which wholly failed, as we now see, to meet the real threats to security and lives.

The idea of a National Missile Defense is predicated on a limited revival of the Cold War, with China cast in the role of the Soviet Union and the Chinese nuclear deterrent as the force to be nullified. Bush's foreign and security team is almost entirely a product of Cold War structures and circumscribed by Cold War attitudes (which is not true of the President himself, who was never interested enough in foreign policy; if he can get his mind round the rest of the world, he could well be more of a free-thinker than many of his staff).

The collapse of the Communist alternative to Western-dominated modernisation and the integration (however imperfect) of Russia and China into the world capitalist order have been a morally and socially ambiguous process, to put it mildly; but in the early 1990s they seemed to promise the suspension of hostility between the world's larger powers. The failure of the US to make use of this opportunity, thanks to an utter confusion between an ideological victory and crudely-defined US geopolitical interests, was a great misfortune which the 'war against terrorism' could in part rectify. Since 11 September, the rhetoric in America has proposed a gulf between the 'civilised' states of the present world system, and movements of 'barbaric', violent protest from outside and below - without much deference to the ambiguities of 'civilisation', or the justifications of resistance to it, remarked on since Tacitus at least.

How is the Cold War legacy likely to determine the 'war against terrorism'? Despite the general conviction in the Republican Party that it was simply Reagan's military spending and the superiority of the US system which destroyed Soviet Communism, more serious Cold War analysts were always aware that it involved not just military force, or the threat of it, but ideological and political struggle, socio-economic measures, and state-building. The latter in particular is an idea for which the Bush team on their arrival in office had a deep dislike (if only to distance themselves from Clinton's policies), but which they may now rediscover. Foreign aid - so shamefully reduced in the 1990s - was also a key part of the Cold War, and if much of it was poured into kleptocratic regimes like Mobutu's, or wasted on misguided projects, some at least helped produce flourishing economies in Europe and East Asia.

The Republican Party is not only the party of Goldwater and Reagan, but of Eisenhower, Nixon and Kissinger. Eisenhower is now almost forgotten by the party. 'Eisenhower Republicans', as they refer to themselves, are usually far closer to Tony Blair (or perhaps more accurately, Helmut Schmidt) than anyone the Republican Party has seen in recent years, and I'd wager that the majority of educated Americans have forgotten that the original warning about the influence of the 'military industrial complex' came from Eisenhower.

Kissinger is still very much alive, however, and his history is a reminder that one aspect of the American capacity for extreme ruthlessness was also a capacity for radical changes of policy, for reconciliation with states hitherto regarded as bitter enemies, and for cold-blooded abandonment of close allies and clients whose usefulness was at an end. It would not altogether surprise me if we were now to see a radical shift towards real co-operation with Russia, and even Iran.

In general, however, the Cold War legacies and parallels are discouraging and dangerous. To judge by the language used in the days since 11 September, ignorance, demonisation and the drowning out of nuanced debate indicate that much of the US establishment can no more tell the difference between Iran and Afghanistan than they could between China and the Soviet Union in the early 1960s - the inexcusable error which led to the American war in Vietnam. The preference for militarised solutions continues (the 'War on Drugs', which will now have to be scaled back, is an example). Most worryingly, the direct attack on American soil and American civilians - far worse than anything done to the US in the Cold War - means that there is a real danger of a return to Cold War ruthlessness: not just in terms of military tactics and covert operations, but in terms of the repulsive and endangered regimes co-opted as local American clients.

The stakes are, if anything, a good deal higher than they were during the Cold War. Given what we now know of Soviet policymaking, it is by no means clear that the Kremlin ever seriously contemplated a nuclear strike against America. By contrast, it seems likely that bin Laden et al would in the end use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons if they could deliver them.

There is also the question of the impact of US strategies (or, in the case of Israel, lack of them) on the unity of the West - assuming that this is of some importance for the wellbeing of humanity. However great the exasperation of many European states with US policy throughout the Cold War, the Europeans were bound into the transatlantic alliance by an obvious Soviet threat - more immediate to them than it was to the US. For the critical first decade of the Cold War, the economies of Europe were hopelessly inferior to that of the US. Today, if European Governments feel that the US is dragging them into unnecessary danger thanks to policies of which they disapprove, they will protest bitterly - as many did during the Cold War - and then begin to distance themselves, which they could not afford to do fifty years ago.

This is all the more likely if, as seems overwhelmingly probable, the US withdraws from the Balkans - as it has already done in Macedonia - leaving Europeans with no good reason to require a US military presence on their continent. At the same time, the cultural gap between Europeans and Republican America (which does not mean a majority of Americans, but the dominant strain of policy) will continue to widen. 'Who says we share common values with the Europeans?' a senior US politician remarked recently. 'They don't even go to church!' Among other harmful effects, the destruction of this relationship could signal the collapse of whatever hope still exists for a common Western approach to global environmental issues - which would, in the end, pose a greater danger to humanity than that of terrorism.

· Anatol Lieven is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC.



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[Mar 04, 2015] Realism and Reality By Anatol Lieven

January 1, 2006 | The American Prospect | New America Foundation

Review of: The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World's Government in the 21st Century by Michael Mandelbaum (Public Affairs, 320 pages, $26.00)

Michael Mandelbaum's latest book is a superficial symptom of a grave, even potentially deadly disease: the inability of the overwhelming majority of the U.S. establishment to contemplate a limited scaling down of America's struggle for world dominance, even when the maximalist version of that goal has been clearly shown to be unsustainable. The neoconservatives represent only an extreme and crude version of this ambition. To a greater or lesser extent, it is shared by the leaders of both political parties and by a large majority of American politicians, soldiers, bureaucrats, and Washington policy intellectuals.

Unlike the neoconservatives, Mandelbaum has always been thought to belong to the realist tradition. Indeed, while in the Democrat camp in the 1990s he clashed bitterly with the Clinton administration's professed commitment to nation building and the spread of democracy, summing up his critique in the damning phrase "foreign policy as social work." The realist side of Mandelbaum is still evident in the emphasis that he gives to order, trade, and the prevention of security threats, relative to humanitarian intervention and the spreading of democracy and human rights.

Yet in the name of these goals Mandelbaum makes a claim more breathtakingly ambitious than any advanced by any previous realist, from any country -- assuming, that is, that Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler are to be classified as ideological fanatics rather than extreme realists. His argument is that the United States not only ought to be, but actually is in vital respects the government of the whole planet. He chooses as his symbolic figure for this power the biblical giant Goliath.

In Mandelbaum's words,

As portrayed in the pages that follow, [America's world role] has something in common with the sun's relationship to the rest of the solar system. Both confer benefits on the entities with which they are in regular contact. The sun keeps the planets in their orbits by the force of gravity and radiates the heat and light that make life possible on one of them. Similarly, the United States furnishes services to other countries, the same services, as it happens, that governments provide within sovereign states to the people they govern. The United States therefore functions as the world's government.

Actually, there was a realist who once made a similar claim, though about himself rather than his country: I was forgetting Louis XIV, the "Sun King" of France.

Mandelbaum's vision dangerously extends the common realist argument that the international system benefits from the existence of a "hegemon," or superpower, capable of imposing a certain degree of order. Although there is a great deal to be said for U.S. leadership, the Iraq disaster should have made absolutely clear -- long before Mandelbaum finished this book--that the level of global domination aspired to by the Bush administration, and by thinkers like Mandelbaum, is not only beyond America's resources but, if pursued, will bring even the beneficial aspects of America's global role to an early end.

Mandelbaum's first argument in support of his thesis concerns security, which is indeed the first and oldest function of every state. He suggests that just as the United States used nuclear deterrence to defend the non-Communist world and its own interests during the Cold War, so it now provides "reassurance" to the democratic world.

Across most of the globe, in Mandelbaum's analysis, the United States deters potential aggressors, preserves peace, and thus provides the essential basis for economic development. By preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons, especially to "rogue states," the United States performs an essential service not only for its own interests but for those of humanity in general. This aim, Mandelbaum suggests, continues to justify the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. The United States, of course, also combats international terrorism, though this is a threat that Mandelbaum puts second to traditional dangers of conflict between states.

Mandelbaum argues that the United States also fulfills a central function of government in the economic sphere: "The dollar serves as the world's money," he writes. American military deployments ensure the safety of trade in general and of the world's access to Middle Eastern oil in particular. U.S. power, expressed in part through international institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is essential to the functioning of the international market system and the avoidance of major crises.

Finally, the United States is the world government in that, like national governments, it acts to encourage high levels of consumption. The United States primes the pump of the world's economy by maintaining high demand in its population for foreign products, thereby fueling Chinese economic growth and directly or indirectly maintaining the economic stability of many other states.

These claims are of greatly varying validity. That the dollar serves in a sense as the world's currency is entirely correct. For both good and evil, the United States also does exert great influence--though not governmental power--through the IMF. In the past, it has also played an important part in securing the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, though the time may be fast approaching when U.S. policies in the region may be more of a threat than a help to the world's energy security.

There is no question that American consumers have fueled China's industrial boom, but it is more than a stretch to describe this effect as equivalent to the role of a government. Furthermore, due to America's resulting trade deficit, its role as the most voracious source of global demand is beginning to conflict directly with the task of maintaining a strong and stable dollar as the world's reserve currency.

Mandelbaum advances as evidence of America's fundamental "benignity" the fact that, unlike previous attempts at hegemony by one state, the rise of American power has not led other countries to form alliances to "balance" against it. He echoes the line of Fouad Ajami, Charles Krauthammer, and many others that most international criticism of the United States is basically motivated by envy, and suggests that other countries accept American leadership in part because they know that "they can reason with and sometimes redirect the attention and energies of Goliath...opportunities to be heard and heeded in Washington are so plentiful."

Finally, in Mandelbaum's account, the United States cannot be replaced as the world government by the United Nations, European Union, or any other single country. He suggests that U.S. global power may well wane, not as a result of external pressure or defeat but because Americans do not wish to pay for international dominance at the expense of social welfare at home. This, he says, would be a disaster for the world.

Mandelbaum's book is forcefully and sometimes wittily argued, and has some good points. Taken as a whole, however, it is specious. His central argument does not work whichever way you look at it. If you accept his thesis and believe that the United States is, in fact, the world's government, the Bush administration had better pray that no interplanetary commission of enquiry comes calling any time soon. For on a whole range of critical functions of government and stewardship, the United States has in recent years been grossly negligent.

This is, above all, true of global warming, which Mandelbaum addresses not so much to assess the seriousness of the threat to our civilization as to score points against the EU. On a range of other issues as well, from preventable disease through poverty reduction to resolving some of the world's most bloody and dangerous conflicts, the United States under George W. Bush does not qualify as a responsible government.

Mandelbaum and like-minded analysts seem incapable of understanding that much criticism of the United States today is motivated not by hostility to the idea of America leading, but by profound alarm at the quality of its leadership. Even soldiers who may fully accept the principle of military subordination may yet come to hate, fear, and disobey a particular general whom they regard as incompetent and rash.

The terrorist threat to U.S. allies raises the question of whether the United States is any longer a security provider to Europe, or a security destroyer. Naturally, therefore, Europeans have every right and reason to be profoundly concerned both about the U.S. strategy that led to the Iraq War and about the appallingly incompetent way in which that strategy was executed. Concerning nuclear nonproliferation, the question is not whether this goal is desirable--of course, it is--or whether the United States is essential to its pursuit. It is whether existing U.S. strategies have any real chance of working, at least without catastrophic regional wars.

The Iraq fiasco has made the invasion and occupation of Iran and North Korea an obvious impossibility. Bombing would at most delay these countries' programs, while vastly inflaming nationalist sentiment and the danger from Iranian-sponsored extremism in the Middle East. What is left, therefore, is diplomacy--and this requires a willingness to offer serious concessions as well as to bring economic pressure to bear.

The Bush administration may be edging toward this approach in dealing with North Korea, but it is very far from it in dealing with Iran. Instead, powerful elements of the Bush administration and the U.S. establishment--once again, Democrat as well as Republican--continue to dream that "regime change" will somehow solve this problem. Yet, even if Iran became a genuine democracy, every opinion survey shows that a great majority of its people--and by no means just the mullahs--believe that their nation has the right in principle to develop its own nuclear deterrent.

On one issue, this book is worse than specious--it is a disgrace. At no point does Mandelbaum address the question of international perceptions of the U.S.-Israeli alliance and its effect in diminishing international confidence in American leadership. This is especially true in the area of nuclear nonproliferation to which he devotes so much attention. Differing views of America's relationship with Israel are certainly legitimate. But for a public intellectual to ignore its impact on America's international role is a dereliction of duty.

But then again, why bother with omissions when the whole world-government thesis is gimcrack? The Bush experience has shown that the United States does not remotely have the power or will to function as a world government. On economic matters, it functions mainly through negotiation and cooperation with other major players. On environmental matters it barely functions at all.

And on security matters, Mandelbaum's choice of poor old Goliath as a symbolic figure was doubtless in part intentionally ironic, but it was also more ironic than he knew. For despite all his strength, Goliath was, of course, defeated by a much smaller opponent, as the United States is being defeated in Iraq, even if -- like the Vietcong -- the insurgents can never win on the battlefield.

Goliath would have done well to have been lighter on his feet, less ambitious--and, above all, less arrogant.

Copyright 2006, The American Prospect

Anatol Lieven is a professor in the war studies department of King's College London and a senior fellow of the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C. His previous book, co-authored with John Hulsman, is Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World. He is currently researching a book on Pakistan.

[Jan 25, 2015] How can the West solve its Ukraine problem? by

This news, supported by the USA, Drang nach Osten can proved to be costly to EU and, especially, Germany and ruinous to Ukrainian economy..
Dec 3, 2015 | BBC News

Russia badly overplayed its hand last year when it tried to bring Ukraine into the Eurasian Union against the passionate opposition of many Ukrainians.

The European Union is now risking the same thing by trying to bring Ukraine into the West without reference to economic reality or the willingness of European publics to bear the enormous costs involved, and at a time when the EU itself is in deepening crisis.

Russia is suffering badly as a result of Western economic sanctions - but Ukraine's situation is far worse, with a predicted fall in GDP of 7% this year.

If this decline continues, the Ukrainian state will face collapse,

Throughout the 23 years since the end of the Soviet Union, too many members of the Western media and policy worlds have ignored or misrepresented key aspects of the Ukrainian-Russian economic relationship.

The West simply does not have the means or the will to integrate Ukraine into the West while isolating it from Russia.

This allowed them in turn to ignore crucial features of the economic balance of power in Ukraine between Russia and the West.

In their zeal to denounce Russia for putting pressure on Ukraine over gas supplies, Western commentators usually neglected to mention that, through cheap gas and lenient payment terms, Russia was in fact subsidising the Ukrainian economy to the tune of several billion dollars each year - many times the total of Western aid during this period.

This allowed the same commentators not to address the obvious question of whether Western states would be willing to pay these billions in order to take Ukraine out of Russia's sphere of influence and into that of the West.

Russian trade vital

Western commentators were not wrong to portray Russia as supporting a deeply corrupt and semi-authoritarian system of government in Ukraine - but they too often forgot to mention that trade with Russia has also been responsible for preserving much of the Ukrainian economy.

It is not just that Russia remains Ukraine's largest partner, with trade in 2013 exceeding that with the whole of the EU; it is also a question of what is being traded. Ukraine exports manufactured goods to Russia, thereby supporting what is left of Ukrainian industry.

A gas pressure gauge on the main gas pipeline from Russia, in the village of Boyarka near the capital Kiev, Ukraine. Russian gas has been key to the Ukrainian economy
To the European Union, Ukraine mostly sends raw materials and agricultural products - with the latter in particular heavily restricted by EU quotas and tariffs.

Ignoring this enabled Western commentators to ignore the question of how - in order to move towards the EU - Ukraine could restrict its trading relationship with Russia without ruining its economy in the process; or, on the other hand, whether the EU would be willing to change its own rules so as to admit Ukrainian imports.

Finally, very few Western commentators indeed have mentioned what is perhaps the most significant aspect of the Ukrainian-Russian relationship, namely that Ukrainians are entirely free to move to Russia to work, and to work in the vast majority of jobs and professions.

As a result of Russia's much more successful economy, more than three million Ukrainians are now working in Russia, and sending remittances to their families in Ukraine - a vital contribution to the economies of several Ukrainian regions.

This is at least three times the number of Ukrainians working legally in the whole of the European Union.

In order to bring Ukraine into the West, would EU members be willing to allow free movement of Ukrainian labour?

And - as is necessary if the EU is to turn Ukraine into a strong anti-Russian ally - to do so not in some almost impossible future of Ukrainian EU membership, but tomorrow?

The answer is obvious.

No integration

The UK Independence Party is soaring in the polls and mounting a strong campaign to take Britain out of the European Union in a referendum backed by the Conservatives and scheduled for 2017.

All over the EU, right-wing parties are gathering strength.

In France, sober commentators are warning that there is a real chance that in 2022 the National Front could win the French elections and Marine Le Pen could become President of France.

And all of these developments are driven above all by hostility to immigration.

On the one hand, therefore, the West is clearly not prepared to make the economic sacrifices necessary to support the Ukrainian economy in the face of Russian hostility.

The existing conflict in Ukraine makes it impossible for any Ukrainian government to conduct the kind of economic and political reforms on which the EU is insisting

On the other, the existing conflict in Ukraine makes it impossible for any Ukrainian government to conduct the kind of economic and political reforms on which the EU is insisting, and on which Ukrainian progress towards the West depends.

By slashing subsidies and closing down much of Ukrainian industry, such reforms would drive much of the population of eastern and southern Ukraine into the arms of Russia.

By attacking corruption, they would destroy the position of oligarchs in those regions who are key to enforcing Kiev's authority there.

Kiev's dependence on these oligarchs and on nationalist militias to fight the war in eastern Ukraine represents a serious and growing threat to Ukrainian democracy and to the spread of liberal values in Ukraine.

A worrying sign in this regard was the appointment last month of Vadim Troyan as regional chief of police in Kiev. His regiment, the Azov battalion, is known for links to the far right and his promotion seems largely in reward for his group's participation in the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

This was counter-balanced by the appointment of a Jewish speaker in Parliament.

Compromise needed

But the lessons of all this should be obvious.

The West simply does not have the means or the will to integrate Ukraine into the West while isolating it from Russia.

The effort to do so is not strengthening but undermining Ukrainian democracy.

The time for blowhard posturing is over

If there is to be any chance of Ukrainian economic and political progress, a compromise must be found whereby Ukraine can continue to trade as openly as possible with both the EU and Russia and Ukrainians can continue to work freely in Russia.

That would leave Ukraine free to carry out the internal reforms that it needs to undertake, whether or not it is headed for EU membership.

This will be impossible unless at the same time there is a political compromise with Russia; and the terms of such a compromise are equally obvious.

In the first place, Ukraine should be neutralised.

This cuts both ways. Russia would formally have to abandon - as in effect it already has - hopes to bring Ukraine into a Russian-led bloc.

The West would formally have to abandon the possibility of bringing Ukraine into Nato; and the West too has in effect already done this by demonstrating again and again its unwillingness under any circumstances to fight to defend Ukraine.

As far as Ukraine's eastern Donbass region is concerned, any solution has to involve very extensive autonomy for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, guaranteed by the international community - not the ridiculous offer of temporary three-year autonomy which Kiev has offered so far.

In addition, the EU should back the guarantee of Russian language rights in Ukraine - not because Moscow is demanding it, but because the West badly needs to assert its own values in the face of the growing power of neo-fascist groups in Ukraine.

Opposition to such a deal in certain Western quarters will be bitter; but once again, these opponents need to ask themselves just how much they are prepared to sacrifice and to risk in order to turn Ukraine into a pro-Western and anti-Russian state.

The time for blowhard posturing is over. The time for hard economic calculation has begun.

Anatol Lieven is a professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar. He is author among other books of Ukraine and Russia: A Fraternal Rivalry.

[Jan 23, 2014] International Justice and Impunity - The Case of the United States ...

International justice will lose all credibility if powerful states continue to benefit from total impunity.

The case of the United States is emblematic: political aggression, inhuman treatment, illegal detention are all "international crimes" for which the guilty must be pursued, according to the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Conventions.

John Martin

A Clear account of American misbehavior in the world August 18, 2008

International Justice and Impunity: The Case of the United States, edited by Nils Andersson, Daniel Iagolnitzer and Diana G. Collier is must reading for anyone who is concerned about the role the United States plays in the world today. The book covers the proceedings of an international conference on the issue of impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity that was held in Paris in September, 2005. It is divided into three parts: From Hiroshima to Guantanmo, Humanitarian Law: Legal and Moral Values to Defend, and In Pursuit to an End to Impunity. A total of 26 articles are presented.

The list of contributers includes Ramsey Clark, Samir Amin, William Blum, Stephane Hessel, Jan Myrdal, Michaei Parenti, Tadatoshi Akiba, Antoine Bernard, and Genevieve Sevrin. These individuals, both personally and as respresentatives of their organization, make a compelling case that the United States has acted with impunity from at least the closing days of WW II in order to impose its worldview on others. The violence that American has perpetrated continues unabated and unpunished.

The book also provides a primer on international law and as such provides important information for anyone seeking to understand humanitarian law from an international perspective.

While the book may be faulted as providing only the prosecution side of the case against the United States, given that country's failure to acknowledge its crimes and its strong propaganda machine, the book is an important and valuable commentary. Further, coming as it does at the end of one of the most inhumane and unjust political administrations in American history it can serve as a lesson to the next American government if it will only pay attention.

Midwest Book Review

Has the United States been ignoring international law? July 11, 2008

Has the United States been ignoring international law? "International Justice and Impunity: The Case of the United States" claims so. Recent American acts in the middle east are skirting the Geneva Conventions and even inducing the torture of prisoners - a black mark on the country that used to be the champion of the United Nations. A scholarly work with contributions from people in various levels of the government and from around the world, "International Justice and Impunity: The Case of the United States" is highly recommended for community library International Studies and Political Science collections.

[Oct 07, 2012] Ethical Realism A Vision for America's Role in the World by Anatol Lieven, John Hulsman

Amazon.com
A necessary reminder of the roots of realism.,
January 10, 2007

Noboru Akimoto - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME) This review is from: Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World (Hardcover)

Much of realism's advocates in the realm of political science has always been quick to point out the nature of modern realism as denying any ethical or moral consideration in the world of power politics. Indeed the defensive and offensive realist models promulgated by Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer work in a world assumed to have little impact by the personalities of the leaders, but rather, that on a systemic level, nations will behave in a fixed manner. (It's interesting to note, that Mearsheimer's latest work seems to contradict that theory...however that's a discussion for another piece.)

Yet the roots of Morgenthau's classical realism, rather than detaching state behavior from humanity, is remarkable precisely because it attempts to grapple with how best to manage state behavior and reactions based upon what he sees as the ultimate human frailty: the lust for power. Yet simply characterizing Morgenthau's "Politics Among Nations" as a nihilistic portrayal of humanity as being undeniably anchored to power considerations also does much disrespect to a scholar who, while accepting that realism was the state of the world, continued to consider and contrast other theories to perhaps create a better one.

The important contribution made by Lieven and Hulsman in this work (and implicit in the message of Steve Walt in "Taming American Power") is the recognition that the heady idealism of the post-Cold War era has been warped in the post-post Cold War era into a a method of denying responsibility for ones actions because their intentions are good.

Hulsman (a former Neo-Conservative) and Lieven do a wonderful job of pointing out the weakness of the neo-conservative and liberal imperialist positions, where the INTENT to do good (either through hegemony or through the "indispensible nation") is in itself insufficient to warrant the name of ethics or morality.

Instead, what makes this work so important is that it returns the CONSEQUENCES of actions back into the debate. While there is a certain recognition that morality is not always absolute, the additional recognition that as much evil has been done in the NAME of good through irresponsible or ill thought out actions, and that acting in that fashion, particularly for a Super Power is unethical is vital recognition in establishing a more just world.

If I had to pick one part of this book to disagree with, it is the vaguerity of the specific policy suggestions. The philosophical background and historical background is good, but much of the latter half does not provide anything novel in the way of solutions, certainly nothing that hasn't been stated by the giants in the realist camp of International Relations, with perhaps the difference being in the emphasis on morality (or what Hulsman and Lieven refer to the "Great Capitalist Peace") over the national interests of the United States.

While I recommend this book to people, I do so with caveats. I suggest that people also read Lieven's "America: Right or Wrong" as well as Steven M. Walt's "Taming American Power" for a better and more nuanced view of both the background of modern American political nationalism and what Lieven uses as a basis for his arguments in this book, as well as for a better grounding of the conceptualization of realism as it applies to modern international politics.

A Good Start to a New World, February 25, 2007

By

John Matlock "Gunny" (Winnemucca, NV) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)

This review is from: Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World (Hardcover)

Besides the WMD fiasco, the United States entered the war with Iraq holding several misconceptions. Perhaps the biggest was that the people of Iraq would be ready to assume the benefits and the duties of democracy. Instead we have opened up old wounds that even now are increasing the level of violence. It's clear that our preconceptions were wrong.

In this book, the authors examine the old ideas and have created a new strategic vision: 'ethical realism.' They point out that states all have the right to protect their own citizens and have their own national interests and further that these interests have to be defined by the contries themselves, not by Washington.

Their overall answer is for an increase in capitalism in the world, not worrying about the type of government that other countries have. They then have hopes that democracy would follow. This is not unlike the direction that China seems to be taking.

I see two or three points that the authors seem to have ignored.

This is an important book because it is neither too left or too right. I think it is a little incomplete, but the discussion has to start somewhere.

R. Bono "Riccardo" (Pennsylvania) - See all my reviews

A New Vision out of a Great Tradition of American Statesmanship, April 2, 2007

This review is from: Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World (Hardcover)

This is an important book for a clear historical overview of the driving strategic philosophy which drove American Presidents from Truman and Eisenhower to Reagan and Bush I. That the "containment policy", so adroitly developed by George Kennan, and sustained and augmented by Truman and Eisenhower, was a success, is quite an understatement.

The authors well note that, the tremendous patience and wisdom which drove it, was not perfectly executed, and there were missteps, but that, by and large, variants of this policy, were quite successful in confronting aggressive Communism without the resort to thermonuclear war. The authors, themselves from opposite political camps, note that that to achieve success, presidents were often required to defeat political extremists, both from the left, and from the right...even, and I might add, especially, from their own parties......for almost 50 years.

There is an interesting chapter on Prudence, with reference to Augustine. Prudence, that first of the Cardinal Virtues of practical and perfectable right decision making, is correctly understood by these authors, as the central dictum of the "wisdom of the west", drawn as it is, from the first philosophical sources of the Greek, Roman and the Judeo-Christian traditions.

The prudent nation, and that nation's statesmen, they assert, know how the world is objectively, not how they might wish to it be, and not out of the blinkers of an ideology, but out of a nitty-gritty, clear eyed, and perfectably objective understanding of reality. This is the prudence of a George Kennan, Truman, and Eisenhower in the contemplation of Stalin.

Out of this five fingered grasp, as enlightened by a clear awareness of our spiritual values, they contend, comes policy rooted in ethical realism. This is the process and policy that these authors wish for America today....and it can be felt in each page of this book.

In fact, Their message for today is that Kennan's "ethical realism" can and should be applied to our own now post-communist world. The examples they give are thought provoking....but more than this, they give Americans hope to once again re-discover the true diplomatic path...that old path of enlightened ethical realism....for the good of our country, and for the good of our world.

Doug Bandow

A Real Foreign Policy Alternative October 4, 2006

By George W. Bush has made a hash of American foreign policy, but alternative visions seem in short supply. Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman offer a glimmer of hope, proposing a philosophy of "ethical realism."

They suggest several sensible preconditions for a successful foreign policy, preconditions completely lacking in the administration's philosophy of neoconservative imperialism. One is prudence, which was sadly absent at almost every stage of the Iraq disaster.

Another requirement is "national humility, and the tolerance and patience that stem from it." We haven't seen much of that over the last five years. The authors also cite the willingness to study and learn.

Moreover, write Lieven and Hulsman,

"neither in statecraft nor in common sense can good intentions be a valid excuse if -- as in the decision to go to war in Iraq -- they are accompanied by gross recklessness, carelessness, and indifference to the range of possible consequences."

Finally, the authors suggest patriotism, in contrast to mindless, destructive nationalism.

These principles are good starting point for any foreign policy. Ethical Realism is a refreshing read, an inciteful analysis that simultaneously critiques the mess that passes for American foreign policy today and offers a solid alternative. Anyone hoping for a real foreign policy debate should buy this book.

Heather E. Price

Hope and History in 200 Pages December 3, 2006

Messrs. Hulsman and Lieven have delivered a learned and principled gem for readers seeking an alternative to the reigning U.S. foreign policy of throwing hundreds of lives and billions of dollars down a wishing well vaguely dedicated to democracy. Ethical Realism is a lantern out of the morass, a book that offers a readable, sensible and practical vision to combat the international ills of today and shape tomorrow's solutions.

The authors present a foreign policy prescription grounded in history and ethics rather than ego or vendetta. The book's strength comes from its completeness, giving lessons from the past with applications for the future and a commonsense theory accompanied by realistic action. Clear writing highlights their clear thinking and the straightforward style is a refreshing change from numerous policy tomes that cloak threadbare ideas in overdressed prose.

Hulsman and Lieven themselves differ in their political affiliations and open the book by tracing the history of the Truman-Eisenhower moment when opposing parties shared a foreign policy that led to the containment of the Soviet Union and ultimately, the defeat of Communism and America's rise to the world's dominant power. The authors cogently discuss the pitfalls of the preventive war, the likes of which have led to an American death toll in Iraq rivaling that of 9/11 while the ostensible raison de guerre, Osama bin Laden, is watching Love Boat reruns in Balukastan. They also explore the so-called thinking -- from neoconservatives on the right and liberal hawks on the left -- that paved the way into Iraq without mapping a way out. The authors' bipartisan voice and broad-reaching scholarship will appeal to Democrats, Republicans, and those fed up with both parties.

Bad decisions have flowed from good intentions. As America tries to remain the city on the hill, Hulsman and Lieven draw attention to its foundations that risk erosion along with its diplomatic and political capital.

One of the book's important achievements is the much-needed and overdue restoration of an ethical character to realism, empowering readers who believe trying to save the world is immoral when it costs the country its soldiers, wealth and allies. Realism has often been cut from the debate of what is the "right" thing to do on the suspicion its proponents are self-interested cynics, thereby ceding decisions on foreign engagement to utopians who write better poetry than history. Hulsman and Lieven revisit the teachings of Hans Morgenthau, Reinhold Niebuhr, and others to revive realism and imbue it with the admirable virtues of prudence, patriotism, responsibility, study, and humility.

Ethical Realism cautions against the imperial aspirations that can yield raw power in the short term, but is won at the expense of America's values, institutions and legacy. It calls instead for a Great Capitalist Peace, for America to retain, not squander, its military and economic strength and to serve as an ordering, rather than a bullying, force in the world.

The authors apply their blueprint to current and future challenges, proposing clear and solid plans for dealing with Iran, Russia, China, Iraq and the Middle East. They stretch their solutions to much of the rest of the world through the concept of Developmental Realism, which promotes judicious aid and trade liberalization as cornerstones of global prosperity and peace.

Hulsman and Lieven have written an engaging work that spins history, philosophy, current events, and spirited prose into a hopeful - and yet practical -- vision for America. One hopes that the next time Washington forces gather to plot our nation's future course that the country has the good fortune to have Hulsman and Lieven at the table. Or at best, at 14 ounces, it's light enough to make the President's reading list.

Jill Malter

Not particularly profound July 4, 2007

Should we let facts get in the way of our daydreams?

This is a question posed by Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman early in this book. And, of course, their answer is yes. Not surprisingly, I agree. Let's see if they are willing to do that themselves.

Well, Iraq is a big mess right now. And the authors do say that some folks overrated our attempts to introduce democracy there. That's fair. They also say that in addition to criticism, we need effective counterproposals. That's fair as well.

There's a good discussion of the Marshall Plan. I agree that this plan was both moral and realistic.

And there is a discussion of the Bush administration record in reacting to the events of 9/11/2001. Is our security better now? Actually, not much. We have also increased our budget and undermined (via the Iraq war) our "ability to intervene or even threaten anywhere else." These are good points.

What about "pre-emptive" war. As the authors explain, Harry Truman said that all such wars prevent is peace. But perhaps that quote is overrated. There may indeed be a time and place where pre-emptive wars make sense. On the other hand, I agree with the authors that its recent use has been of dubious merit at best.

Could America become a garrison state? Could we lose our values? Yes. That is one of the threats we face. And the authors explain that there still are threats of direct attacks on the United States, and that our most important statecraft task is to reduce that risk. I think that is an exaggeration, as appeasement is a risk as well, and we need to be careful about engaging in it just to try to reduce the risk of an immediate attack.

The authors want peace in the Levant. And they have some recommendations on a peace settlement. While a peace settlement such as the one they suggest might be fine if it were agreed to and implemented, I think they ought to take an opportunity right here to let facts get in the way of their daydreams.

"Regional concert" in Iraq seems to me to have even more of the same problem. Yes, we may have a duty to make matters better, not worse. But I see no reason to think that this "concert" will help.

Anyway, the book is okay, but not really special.

[Sep 4, 2012] America and the Imperial Project A Talk with Anatol Lieven Asia Society

You end your recent article in The Nation with the following quote from Arnold Toynbee: "Great empires do not die by murder, but suicide." Is that the present trajectory of the United States?
"... Myths about American benevolence, myths about America spreading freedom, myths about the rest of the world wanting America to spread freedom, as opposed to listening to what the rest of the world really has to say about American policies. ..."
"... The second feature that cuts across this American messianism, however, is what I have called the "American antithesis", that is to say, those elements in the American nationalist tradition which actually contradict both American civic nationalism and the American Creed. These elements, which are very strong in parts of America, include national chauvinism, hatred of outsiders, and fear and contempt of the outside world. ..."
"... As the American historian Richard Hofstadter said, "It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one." ..."

Anatol Lieven is senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. A journalist, writer, and historian, Mr Lieven writes on a range of security and international affairs issues. He was previously editor of Strategic Comments published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London.

Anatol Lieven's journalism career includes work as a correspondent for the Times (London) in the former Soviet Union from 1990 to 1996. Prior to 1990, Lieven was correspondent for the Times in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He also worked as a freelance journalist in India. Mr Lieven's articles have been published in a number of journals and newspapers, among them The Financial Times, The London Review of Books, The Nation, and The International Herald Tribune.

In this interview with Asia Society, Mr Lieven addresses the urgent foreign policy issues confronting the United States in the theoretical context laid out in his recent book, America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism (New York: Oxford UP, 2004).

You argue in your book, America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism that American policies following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, "divided the West, further alienated the Muslim world and exposed America itself to greatly increased danger." You suggest that this response must be understood in the context of the particular character of American nationalism. What are the features of American nationalism that are important in this respect?

In the book I suggested that there are two principal features of American nationalism, both of which were evident in the response to 9/11. These are, in spirit, to a great extent contradictory but they often run together in American public life. The first is a certain element of American messianism: the belief in America as a "city on the hill," a light to the nations, which usually takes the form of a belief in the force of America's example. But at particular moments, and especially when America is attacked, it moves from a passive to an active form: the desire to go out and actually turn the world into America, as it were, to convert other countries to democracy, to the American way of life.

In principle, the desire to spread democracy in the world is of course not a bad thing. But there are two huge problems with it. One is that because this element of American messianism is so deeply rooted in American civic nationalism, in what has been called the "American Creed", and in fundamental aspects of America's national identity, it can produce - and after 9/11 did produce - an atmosphere of debate in America which is much more dominated by myth than by any serious look at the reality of the outside world. Myths about American benevolence, myths about America spreading freedom, myths about the rest of the world wanting America to spread freedom, as opposed to listening to what the rest of the world really has to say about American policies.

The second feature that cuts across this American messianism, however, is what I have called the "American antithesis", that is to say, those elements in the American nationalist tradition which actually contradict both American civic nationalism and the American Creed. These elements, which are very strong in parts of America, include national chauvinism, hatred of outsiders, and fear and contempt of the outside world. This is particularly true in the case of the Muslim world, both because America has been under attack from Muslim terrorists for almost two generations now, but also because of the relationship with Israel, and the way in which pro-Israeli influences here have contributed to demonizing the Muslim world in general.

This results in an incredible situation: on the one hand - and I am speaking here particularly of the neo-cons - the Bush administration wants to democratize the Muslim world, while on the other, neo-conservatives do not even bother to hide their contempt for Muslims and Arabs. Sometimes you hear, and even read, phrases like, "The only language that Arabs understand is force," "Let them hate us so long as they fear us" and so on. This is utterly contradictory: people saying they want to democratize the Arab world but displaying utter contempt for Arab public opinion. Of course this is not just a moral failing, or a propaganda failing. It also leads to practical disasters, like the extraordinary belief that you could pretend at least to be introducing democracy, and on the other hand, you could somehow impose Ahmed Chalabi on Iraqis as a pro-American strongman, and that somehow the local population would line up to salute you and happily accept this.

So these are very dangerous aspects of American nationalism. And these aspects by the way used to be very sharply and profoundly analyzed by great figures in the American intellectual tradition, conservative as well as liberal: figures like Reinhold Niebuhr, Richard Hoftstadter, Louis Hartz, George Kennan and William Fulbright. Though most of these figures were strong anti-Communists, they directed their critique at the reasons for the particular anti-Communist hysteria of the early 1950s, and at the reasons which led America to become involved in the war in Vietnam. And their arguments and insights are of tremendous importance to America today in understanding American behavior after 9/11.

But one of the striking and tragic things about the debate leading up to the Iraq war - although one can hardly call it a "debate" - was that the vast majority of it, outside certain relatively small left-wing journals, was conducted with almost no reference to the genesis of the Vietnam war, the debates which took place then, and the insights which were generated about aspects of the American tradition. Instead of analyzing what it was about their own system which was pulling them in the direction of war with Iraq, too many members of the American elite, including leading Democrats as well as Republicans, talked only about the Iraqi side.

Even that, of course, they got completely wrong, but they did not even once ask the obvious question: "What is it about our system that may make this a disaster?" After all is this not a general pattern of American behavior in the whole world by now? This business of a Green Zone in Baghdad, American officials bunkered down behind high-protective walls, with no contact with Iraqis, is this not part of a larger trend? Yet somehow it was assumed that in the case of Iraq it would be different, that America would go in, be welcomed with open arms, quickly reshape Iraq in accordance with American norms, and then quickly leave again.

You have said that, "Belief in the spread of democracy through American power is not usually consciously insincere. On the contrary, it is inseparable from American national messianism and the wider 'American Creed'". You have just talked about some of this, but could you elaborate your definition of American national messianism? And what do you think enables such naiveté - or perhaps cynicism?

As the American historian Richard Hofstadter said, "It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one." What really marks out America from the other Western democracies is not the content of America's democratic creed - because the basic principles are commonly held in all the democracies. Rather, it is the intensity and conformity with which these beliefs are held. This is because, precisely as Hofstadter said, these principles are or are felt to be essential to holding America together; that is, they are an essential part of the American national identity in a way that they are not to the British or the French or the German national identities.

This difference between the US and Europe may change of course because of the huge immigrant populations in Western Europe now. Western European countries too are having to rethink their identities and emphasize common values rather than common heritage or ancestry. But certainly up to now, America has stood out because of the extent of its commitment to this so-called American Creed. I should say here that the word 'creed' was chosen for this advisedly by a series of American thinkers (though the original phrase was G.K.Chesterton's) as suggesting an almost religious form of belief.

The extent to which this is fundamental to the American national identity and is widely believed to keep Americans together means that it is very difficult in this country to challenge these myths. They are also remarkably impervious to experience. Vietnam did not fundamentally change them, it only battered them for a while. Endless lessons in the Middle East have failed to change them. Now, despite the lesson of Iraq, there are still leading Democrats writing about the need to create alliances of democracies and spread democracy in the region. Not to ask what the people of the region actually want, not to ask about a sensible diplomatic strategy, but to use democratization as a substitute for any real strategy. This comes again from a central part of the American national and nationalist heritage.

There is some continuity in American foreign policy, as you suggest, from the Bush Sr. administration through Clinton to the present Bush administration. Although you argue that Clinton's multilateralism was more befitting of a stable hegemonic state, is it not the case that as far as policy is concerned, this was only a change in form rather than substance? And if so, what accounts for this extraordinary unanimity in foreign policy between the only two serious political parties in this country (further evidence of which was the Kerry campaign's inability to offer any policy alternatives to the most pressing foreign policy issues presently confronting the US: Iraq and Israel-Palestine)?

On the Middle East, both of the American parties are, frankly, crippled above all by their inability to confront the question of America's relationship with Israel. Indeed not just to confront it, but even to mention it, as we saw in the presidential debate.

On a range of other issues, though, Bush has not actually been as bad as many people think, or at least he has been much closer to Clinton - whatever that means. In the case of China, for example, the Bush administration came in with a very un-Clintonesque policy of confronting China, of containing China - and this could have led to some extremely dangerous results. But then 9/11 came along and ever since, the Bush administration has been pursuing an extremely Clintonesque policy of engaging China, of putting pressure on Taiwan not to declare independence, and so on. There was that moment in the presidential debates when it was Bush who was saying that the US needs a multilateral policy towards the threat of North Korea with a key role for China; a curious irony given the Bush administration's frequent celebration of its own unilateralism, but not actually wrong. Similarly with Russia, while I would not necessarily describe the Bush administration's policy as multilateralist, they have certainly been pursuing a very traditional, pragmatic, realist policy, and not an aggressive one.

The area where the Clinton and Bush administrations have moved farthest apart is in relations with Europe. Clearly the Bush administration is not nearly as interested in Europe as Clinton was,and it is not nearly as interested in NATO. I should emphasize here that it was not interested even in the eight months before 9/11, let alone afterwards. If Gore had won in 2000, there would have been a very real difference: he would have made a much greater effort to engage NATO and to consult with European governments after 9/11.

That does bring out certain key differences between Bush and the Clinton tradition. Of course they are both interested in expanding America's power in the world; they are both imperialists, in a certain sense. They both profess at least their belief in spreading democracy. But Clinton, I think, was much more of a genuine Wilsonian. Bush in many ways is a fake Wilsonian because while he professes this messianic, democratization line, he has completely ignored the other key aspect of Wilson's strategy: international cooperation, international institutions, creating a web of alliances and so forth. Clinton talked about this a great deal and was savagely attacked by the right-wing in this country for doing so. Clinton's idea was to place "America at the center of every world network" - a position which implies influence, leadership, and even hegemony, but also consultation and negotiation.

So when it comes to the differences between Bush and Clinton, and the similarities, one requires a rather nuanced picture in which in some ways they are closer than it appears, but in other ways, they are genuinely quite different.

In several articles and in your book, you point out that unlike in previous empires, the vast majority of ordinary Americans do not think of themselves as imperialist, or as possessing an empire. At the same time, you mention repeatedly the extent to which the American population is unaware of the policies pursued in its name, is indeed alarmingly ignorant of world affairs. Given this, how could they conceive of the United States as an imperial power? And why is the perception of "ordinary" Americans relevant to understanding the place of America in the world today?

If I remember rightly, according to a poll in Britain in the 1930s, a very small proportion of the British population could remember the name of more than two British colonies. They could remember maybe India and Australia, or probably they remembered the white colonies, but most of them could not remember the name of a single African colony. No one would ever have used that as an argument that the British people did not believe in empire; they were just ignorant.

In the book, I quote C. Vann Woodward on this subject, another great American critic of the past, whose insights I wanted to try to revive for contemporary Americans. Woodward talked about the American people as being bellicose but not militarist, and I think it is also true that they are bellicose but not imperialist. That said, this kind of bellicosity, this instinctive reaction to lash out if attacked or even if insulted, has been repeatedly, and by the way quite explicitly on the part of the neo-cons, used as a way of whipping up nationalist anger, and nationalist commitment to what are in fact imperialist projects.

This is a very old tradition in imperialism. In my book, I cite many examples from history to show that in general even at the height of the Western empires, ordinary Western people were not really very interested in great imperial projects if they were going to be expensive. They liked the idea of power and glory but they were very dubious about losing lives and spending large amounts of money to go out and conquer bits of Africa and so forth. If they could be convinced that this was not simply an imperialist project, but rather part of national rivalry with France or Germany, then it was possible to generate much more support.

In some ways, the American people do fit into this tradition. It is quite clear, for example, that even most of the ones who do consider themselves imperialist would be dead against the reintroduction of conscription in America. Even if it were proved to them that conscription was absolutely necessary in order to maintain America's imperial power in the world, they would not be persuaded. Equally the assorted jackasses who bray in the media about the American empire and the need for great sacrifices in its cause have shown no very ardent desire to go and serve themselves in Afghanistan or Iraq or anywhere else.

There is therefore a good deal of lack of underlying commitment to American power on the part of Americans themselves. More commitment certainly than exists almost anywhere else in the world by now but still not enough to generate a really full-scale imperial project. This also explains in part the relative pragmatism of the Bush administration in some areas of the world. After all even this administration recognizes that it cannot simultaneously run its present program in the Middle East and risk war with China and radically alienate Russia. If there were war with China or with North Korea then America would have to reintroduce conscription. Then the end of the American imperial project would be very close indeed.

Another differentiating feature of 19th century empires and the American empire is that the former were characterized by the so-called "civilizing mission" whereas the latter, in its self-conception, is motivated by the purely benevolent aspiration of spreading democracy and freedom. Are these two imperial strategies not more similar than they at first appear?

Well in some ways, yes, of course. The 19th century liberal-imperialist strategy was also enormously benevolent in its own esteem. The European powers conquered most of Africa while assuring their own populations and everybody else who would listen that this was all part of the process of ending slavery, expanding progress, bringing peace, spreading Christianity and so forth. Even the most ghastly European colonial project of all, King Leopold of Belgium's conquest of the Congo, professed benevolent goals: Belgian propaganda was all about bringing progress, railways and peace, and of course, ending slavery. In other words, hypocrisy is completely common to both, as it was to the Soviet or communist imperial project. So in that way they are very close.

But there is a critical difference. There was no absolutely intrinsic or self-evident clash between what the 19th century liberal imperialists said that they were going to do - leave aside what they actually did in terms of massacres, land theft, etc. - in terms of bringing progress and the inherent nature of their project, these were not radically incompatible because the 19th century liberal imperialists never talked about quickly bringing democracy to the countries they conquered. To have done so would have been logically completely counter to the assumptions of Western superiority and "native" cultural inferiority and incapacity for self-rule upon which the entire ideology of the "civilizing mission" was based.

When they did talk of bringing democracy, they only did in the context of the far future, something that might come about after several generations; in Africa, they talked about a thousand years of British or French rule eventually leading to self-government and democracy. In other words, they were absolutely clear and logical. These countries would need a long period, centuries literally, of Western authoritarian, imperial rule before they would be capable of self-government, constitutional rule, democracy and so forth. Indeed to an extent this was the way that it actually worked out: the British had ruled India or parts of India for 150 years before they introduced the first very limited local, district elections with fairly circumscribed powers and a franchise of less than 0.5 per cent of the population. They started doing that only from the 1880s on. They and the other liberal imperialists had a policy of what one might call authoritarian progress, not of democratization.

Now, of course, it is completely different. The liberal imperialists of today, because of the completely different ideological era in which we are living, have to say that what they are bringing is democracy. So they conquer a place and then within a year or two, they have to hold elections, they have to claim to be introducing free government and so forth. That is just, once again, absolutely, manifestly contradictory. There would have been nothing contradictory in the 19th century about imposing Ahmed Chalabi on Iraq; the British and French did that kind of thing again and again. They had some client ruler, some dissident prince or whatever, whom they wanted to make emir of Afghanistan or of somewhere in Africa, and they just marched in and imposed him. People may have criticized it, but there was no suggestion that this was incompatible with what they were setting out to do. Of course, if you say that you are bringing democracy, if you preach about democracy, if you say your whole moral position is based on democracy, and then you impose a puppet leader, then frankly you look not just hypocritical but ridiculous, which is essentially how the US appears in much of the Muslim world.

In the wake of nationalist movements in the colonial world, imperial powers - in particular Britain - slowly ceded a variety of powers to local elites, in effect developing sophisticated ways of ruling through them (what Marxists called a "comprador elite"). Is it possible to say that the US empire runs the Third World - of which the Muslim world is an important part - through such a model of what has been called "indirect rule"?

Yes, to a considerable extent this is the case. Of course the comprador model, in the strict Latin American sense, never quite fits because very few governments elsewhere in the world have been so completely subservient as some of the Latin American elites in the past. After all, Egypt still tries to take a different line on Israel; Jordan supported Saddam Hussein in 1991; Saudi Arabia could be seen as a comprador state in that it exists to produce and export oil, but clearly in its internal arrangements, it is not at all responsive to what America would like.

Perhaps it may be more difficult these days to run such manifestly comprador systems given that, as I suggested earlier, there does tend to be more democratic pressure from below than in the 19th century. A good example is Russia, although admittedly Russia also has its tradition of Great Power status and so forth which prevents it from becoming completely subservient to America. As I wrote in a previous book on the reasons for Russia's defeat in Chechnya between 1994 and 1996, there was a real attempt by America in the 1990s, with tremendous help from the Russian elites themselves, to turn Russia into a kind of comprador state, whose elites would be subservient to America in foreign policy and would exist to export raw materials to the West and transfer money to Western bank accounts. In the end, neither the Russian state nor the Russian people would accept that. The Yeltsin order was replaced by a kind of authoritarian, nationalist backlash under Putin. One sees the same thing in a rather different form in Venezuela, for example.

So I think there are strong elements of this comprador tradition in the present American-dominated international system but at the same time it is a troubled and contested setup.

You have said that the era inaugurated by the attacks of September 11th, 2001, brought out into the open "the complete absence of democratic modernization, or indeed any modernization, in all too much of the Muslim world." What do you mean by modernization, and how is its absence related to the professed motivations for earlier imperial conquests?

How many hours do I have! Modernization is after all such a tricky concept. If we take our canonical attitudes to modernization from Max Weber, as most of us do, unconsciously at least, then of course, as I wrote in the book, America itself today does not conform to Eurocentric patterns of modernization!

Certainly much of the Muslim world - not all by any means, there are exceptions, but certainly large parts of the Middle East - does not conform to many of the criteria laid down by Weber for successful modern states. These countries have clearly not been able to imitate some of the East Asian countries in bringing about radical economic growth and reform. Many of these countries remain ruled by what are essentially clans. The famous unkind phrase of Charles Glass of Arab states being "tribes with flags" is, I am afraid, rather accurate. Syria is a monarchy of the Alawite clan. The Ba'ath started very much as a modernizing fascistic movement, like fascists in Italy, but broke down into a kind of monarchical oligarchy. Then there are the formal autocratic monarchies in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Morocco. As East Asia has demonstrated, authoritarian rule as such is not necessarily an obstacle to economic modernization and progress. But then again, this has not worked in the Middle East either.

One of the tragedies is precisely that so many different models have been tried in the region and all in a sense have failed, if not absolutely then certainly to bring the countries concerned up to the economic level of the West or East Asia. The failure to compete successfully with the West has been horribly demoralizing in view of the Muslim world's past cultural and economic superiority, now followed by several hundred years of relative decline. Just as for several centuries Muslim states exploited the relative weakness of the Christian world to expand their power, so later Western states took advantage of Muslim weakness to conquer most of the Muslim world. This was followed by the establishment in the heart of the Muslim world of Israel, a tremendously militarily and economically successful Western surrogate power. Israel's successes, and Israel's oppression of the Palestinians, have underlined various aspects of Arab failure. Israel is in no sense the originator of these historical feelings of resentment and humiliation, but in recent decades has acted as a catalyst and focus for these older and deeper feelings.

If you take the example of Pakistan, the part of the Muslim world that I know best, that country of course is in some ways a vastly more modern society than it was 50 years ago, but then again in some ways it is not. In this context, it is interesting to ask what constitutes "modernity" in the case of political religion. Radical Islam in Pakistan and elsewhere is after all in many ways a modern force. It is not just a reaction to modernity, but also uses modern methods so one certainly cannot say that it is purely reactionary or regressive.

But certainly so far there has been in Pakistan a failure of political modernization in the form of democracy. Pakistan has essentially remained a state that is run by the military and the civil service. The political elites, with the exception of the MQM and to some extent the Islamists, cannot really be described as modern political parties with a serious mass base. The PPP is a cult of personality party presiding over an alliance of big landowners and urban bosses. And while the military and civil service have held the country together, they have obviously failed to develop Pakistan as a successful modern state.

The weakness of political culture, when added to economic and military weakness, lays the Muslim world open to the threat of physical intervention by the new world imperialist power, and it also weakens Muslim states morally and ideologically in terms of resisting such intervention.

You have pointed out several times the authoritarian character of most states in the Arab and Muslim worlds but do not mention the fact that a majority of these regimes depend for their existence on continued American patronage. Is it not the case that a number of these states are viewed as client regimes of the United States and that this is one of the major sources of Muslim resentment against the US? This is particularly true of your comments about Pakistan, where the US supported the Zia regime for over a decade and now supports the military government of General Musharraf.

As I have often said with regard to American and British professed support for democratization: we can all believe in a human capacity for redemption even if we are not born-again Christians, but most of us, not being saints, do not ask reformed burglars to guard our houses! We should not therefore ask Arabs and Muslims, given the British-American record on democracy in the Muslim world, to trust our professions today that we are sincere in our wish to bring democracy.

By contrast, I have always believed and continue to believe in the force of the US and Western example when it comes to spreading democracy. If we can go on demonstrating to the world that our societies are more peaceful, more stable, less oppressive and more economically successful than authoritarian or theocratic states, then there will be a strong tendency for democracy to spread without our having to intervene in other places to bring this about. In this sense, I am a strong believer in the American tradition stretching from President Adams to George Kennan which takes immense and justifiable pride in the American political system, but believes that America spreads democracy best when it maintains the health and strength of its own system. By the way, President Eisenhower said much the same thing at the end of his second term, so this is hardly a radical position, let alone an anti-American one.

As to US (and British) support for dictatorships, and the resentment this has caused, this is true. On the other hand, I think it cuts both ways. Does one believe that if these authoritarian regimes fell then viable democracies would follow? In Pakistan, unfortunately, this did not happen. Of course it is true that the army always stepped in eventually but then again look at the PPP government under Bhutto in the 1970s - certainly not a regime that was strongly supported by Washington - and its extremely brutal treatment of dissent. Look at the fact that when Musharraf took power he was supported by the great majority of the population, because of the outrageous corruption of governments in the 1990s.

I think that is a rather misleading claim. How do we know what proportion of Pakistan's population supported Musharraf's coup?

Quite right. Opinion polls are not necessarily reliable in a country like Pakistan. Let me put it another way: a great majority of the people certainly did not protest against it. If there had been true faith in democracy and its record in Pakistan, they presumably would have done so. My point is that when Musharraf assumed power, he was certainly not acting on behalf of America. Clearly, several of these authoritarian regimes do not stand because of American support but because of local tradition and domestic support: Iran, which is directly opposed to America; Libya; and the House of Saud, which is in some sense America's tool but who also have their own tradition and legitimacy which has nothing to do with American support.

Well the argument could be made that the Americans are only interested in Saudi Arabia's domestic political setup to the extent that it continues to serve their interests: oil, and in the case of the first Gulf war, the provision of military bases. Therefore the present arrangement works rather better for them than any subsequent setup might.

Until 9/11, this was true. But since then, there has been a strong and widespread belief in the US that the Saudi system is incubating terrorism, which of course is a somewhat belated realization. I met Saudi-backed extremists in Afghanistan while I was based in Peshawar in the late-80s and it was already apparent that we were building up a monster for ourselves. Since 9/11 this has been recognized.

I do not believe that America will improve its image in the Muslim world just by abandoning its present allies and preaching democracy, because I do not believe that given its geopolitical and other interests America will ever be truly sincere in this regard. America's professed ideals of democracy and freedom are always likely to come to a screeching halt at Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories but also whenever American ideals seem likely to lead to a result which will be really harmful for American geopolitical interests. One of the images which has been seared into American elite consciousness is what happened to Carter. When Carter tried to pursue a more moral policy, by putting pressure on the Shah over Savak atrocities, by putting pressure on Central American governments, was he thanked for it by the American establishment? No, he was pilloried as naïve, weak, as supporting communism, as giving opportunities to America's enemies, and so forth.

If a US President were to push Saudi Arabia really hard, for example, over democratic reform, and the Saudi regime collapses and there is an Islamist takeover, that American president would simply fall in the next election, as Carter did. Ditto with Pakistan. So America is trapped in this.

Looking beyond the publicly stated goals for the American invasion of Iraq, you said that the neo-conservative nationalists were all more or less unanimous in their agreement on one basic plan: "unilateral world domination through absolute military superiority". To what extent did the Iraq invasion have the intended results and what is the likelihood that such policies will continue to be pursued in the second term of the Bush presidency?

Iraq has been a disaster for their aims. They have gotten away with it of course in that they have been re-elected but it is perfectly obvious that they cannot launch another war of choice, another invasion of Iran, say. They simply do not have the troops. With almost 150,000 men pinned down in Iraq, they could not launch another war on that scale without introducing conscription. That would tear American society apart and for the first time since Vietnam lead to a significant anti-imperialist movement in this country. It would also, for the first time, lead to really serious questions about what America is doing in the Middle East at all.

From that point of view, Iraq really has not worked out as they had anticipated and has greatly reduced their plans. After all, in the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, all the neo-cons were going around saying: "Next stop: Iran". Or Syria. This kind of rhetoric has not disappeared completely - they are still refusing to talk to the Iranians - but the agenda on Iran has really narrowed just to the issue of nuclear weapons. So Iraq has had a major effect in this respect .

You suggest that various practices and institutions put into place during the Cold War make the constant threat of war a virtual necessity for the American foreign policymaking and security establishment. This may account in part for why Islam came very quickly to replace communism as the great ideological enemy of the United States. Given that Islam has no locus, that there are a billion Muslims spread out across the world, how is the US security establishment likely to continue to deal with this kind of enemy?

I say in the book that what seems essential is not the imminent threat of war, but rather constant belief in the possibility of war. There are all these institutions and economic interests which were put in place by the Second World War and still more by the Cold War. Eisenhower's original phrase apparently was "military-industrial-academic-complex". There are so many people in my world of think tanks in American universities with a deep stake in all these foreign policy agendas. In the book I also point out that - and this has been mentioned in other forms by people like James Mann, Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill and others - one of the reasons why 9/11 was able to happen was that the security elites under Clinton, and very much under Bush, were not looking seriously at the terrorist threat because, due to their Cold War backgrounds, they were obsessed with the very much lesser threat from major rival states.

When the Bush administration came to power, they had radical anti-Chinese agendas of containing China, of rolling back China, of creating a new Cold War with China. On the other hand, now there is this tremendous effort, certainly among the neo-cons, to present Islam or the Muslim world as the new Cold War enemy. You see all this nonsense by people like Norman Podhoretz about the Fourth World War. The interesting thing is precisely because, as you say, Islam is not a superpower like the Soviet Union, nor does it represent a relatively clear set of social, economic, and political principles like communism. One is dealing with an extremely diverse world with different cultures and societies and multiple motivations.

Even if you narrow the war on terror down to Al Qaeda and its allies, which of course the Bush administration and Israeli lobby have deliberately and manifestly failed to do, even then one is speaking of a web, a network of many, many different groups and nodes in this web which sometimes cooperate, sometimes act independently, with varying degrees of relative importance. Zarqawi's group in Iraq, like the international forces fighting in Chechnya, are in no sense subordinate to Al Qaeda.

To combat these groups requires a really detailed and acute knowledge of the societies concerned. Something once again that America failed to generate in the case of Vietnam before going to war there, failed to generate about Iraq before going to war there, and is indeed failing to generate in the case of large parts of the Muslim world. It does seem that there is a natural pull towards concentration on alleged threats from states. This was especially clear after 9/11: the astonishing speed with which the Bush administration turned its attention from the actual terrorist perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks to confront the "axis of evil" states and draw up plans for war with Iraq.

It is clearly much easier to threaten and invade Iraq than to think seriously about how to combat the appeal of groups like Al Qaeda and its allies in the Muslim world. Similarly it is much easier to concentrate on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons than having to think seriously about the Shia-Sunni relationship, or what to do about the Hezbollah in Lebanon. This is part of the built-in bias of military bureaucracies, but also owes much to the effects of the Cold War and the present intellectual configuration of American academia.

You explain in your book why the Cold War legacy has made it difficult for US policymakers, trained for the most part in the so-called "Realist" tradition, to conceive of a security threat as emanating from somewhere other than a nation-state, an assumption that is rather inadequate for addressing the threat of terrorism, as you just pointed out (and may account in part for why, as you say, quoting Bob Woodward, the Bush administration seemed incapable of staying focused on a terrorist threat, before and after the attacks on the US, and started planning for war on Iraq on November 21st, 2001; that is, 72 days after 9/11). Yet you supported the American invasion of Afghanistan when it seemed clear that Al Qaeda was a diffuse, dynamic network, with no state to claim as its own. Why was Afghanistan, then, a legitimate - morally, but also pragmatically - target for military strike?

The invasion of Afghanistan was justified by absolutely traditional and universally accepted traditions of self-defense. Al Qaeda had launched this attack; this was generally accepted by every rational person in the world. Al Qaeda were quickly and clearly identified as the perpetrators, and indeed subsequently made no real attempt to deny it. When it comes to the responsibility of the Taliban, Al Qaeda after all was functioning very much as part of the Afghan state under the Taliban, and provided the Taliban's praetorian guard.

It is true that, had I been in a position of authority, I would have made a greater effort to get the Taliban to extradite the Al Qaeda leadership if not directly to America then to somewhere else in the Muslim world from where they could be passed on to America. This was partly because I was afraid of what to some extent has in fact happened which is that by going in to Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance, America would alienate the Pashtuns.

Nonetheless, I thought the invasion of Afghanistan was covered by self-defense. Al Qaeda launched this attack, Al Qaeda was functioning as part of the Taliban and was being protected by the Taliban. Al Qaeda had, after all, also launched a series of attacks previously on American targets, which one should not forget: they were responsible for the massacre of very large numbers of Africans and others. I also regarded their Taliban protectors as a genuine "rogue" regime in a way that Iran certainly is not. They really were in the business of spreading instability, radicalism and terrorism (especially of course anti-Shia terrorism) in their area.

On a personal note, I detested what the Taliban stood for, and the damage that they and their allies were doing to Pakistan. Above all, I supported the US invasion of Afghanistan as legitimate self-defense and because of genuine shock at 9/11, shock at the idea that this could happen to a great modern city, and the belief that forces like Al Qaeda are a real threat to modern civilization - Muslim as well as Western. America did also enjoy a general international consensus behind its invasion of Afghanistan. To some extent the US even managed to gain some support in the Muslim world for the invasion, at least as far as states and elites are concerned. This is largely because the Sunni revolutionary element represented by Al Qaeda and the Taliban is of course a threat to every organized Muslim state as well.

So I felt that both on what Kerry called the "global test" and on the traditional test of self-defense, Afghanistan passed. Iraq did not.

You have suggested that radical American nationalists - many of who will continue in the present Bush administration - either wish to 'contain' China by overwhelming military force and the creation of a ring of American allies, or "in the case of the real radicals, to destroy the Chinese Communist state as the Soviet Union was destroyed." Have these radical elements in the present administration been sufficiently chastened by their experience in Iraq to relinquish such aspirations?

Yes, I believe so. Not to permanently relinquish their aspirations in principle: obviously they would still very much like to destroy China if they could, or at least destroy China as a potential future threat to American hegemony. But as long as they are tied down in the Middle East in the way they are, they will not have the military forces to do so.

Therefore, I believe that the Bush administration and future Democrat administrations will continue the existing line. That said of course there is always room for mistakes either on the part of Washington or of Beijing or of Taipei or most likely of all three simultaneously. The Taiwanese can go too far, and the Chinese can overreact, not because the Chinese want war but because they would trap themselves into a position where they would have to do something. If they were sensible of course the Chinese leadership would not react militarily, they would just tell any power that recognized Taiwan that China would break off diplomatic and trade relations the next day. Nobody would in fact recognize Taiwanese independence and then the Chinese could simply declare that these people have declared independence but no one recognizes them so why does it matter. This is by the way what Russia should have done in the case of Chechnya before 1994. But the Chinese could of course miscalculate and use force, and then the US, and particularly the American Congress, have put themselves in such a position that they would be forced to fight as well.

So I certainly do not rule out some kind of stumbling towards conflict. If that happens, of course, then all the old agendas would come back. Then the anti-Chinese hardliners in the bureaucracy, the think tanks and Congress would start roaring again about Communist aggression, they would gain greater influence and the Cold War agenda vis-à-vis China would be re-established. But I do not believe that any really powerful forces in Washington today actually want that.

In a recent article, you say that, "The Bush administration may be stumbling toward an attack on Iran's nuclear program that could have the most disastrous consequences for Iraq, Afghanistan and the entire American position in the Middle East." What is the likelihood of such an attack being carried out in the near future either by the Americans or the Israelis?

It is still a possibility. Not I believe such a strong possibility now because apart from everything else the Iranians do seem very anxious to play along with Europe, and are willing at least to suspend their nuclear weapons plans in response to a mixture of European pressure and incentives with American threats. But if America were to attack Iran, it would be a catastrophe. Poor old Tony Blair has accepted so many shattering blows already maybe nothing will finish him, but having invested so much in this process with Iran, if it were to end in an American attack, it seems likely that there would be a serious revolt within his government and party and he would have to resign. There are leading members of the British government briefing in private that whatever Tony Blair says, if America attacks Iran, that is the end. They will resign. This would almost certainly be the end of Blair's tenure as prime minister. It would also create a massive crisis with the Europeans. Moreover, given the fact that Iran's nuclear sites are dispersed and buried, America would very likely miss, at which point we will have the worst of all possible worlds. As the American military know very well, Iran in these circumstances would have numerous means of retaliation against American forces and plans in Iraq - whereas an American invasion of Iran looks impossible because of America's lack of troops.

So I am less worried on that score than I have been in the past. There is however a wild card involved: this is that the Israeli government appears implacably determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, without themselves offering any concessions in return; and may either attack itself or exert irresistible pressure on the US to reject a deal with the Iranians. The present deal between Iran and the West Europeans could also break down for a number of other reasons. It is not inconceivable that there could emerge some disastrous quid pro quo whereby Israel will make certain concessions towards the Palestinians and in return America go after Iran's nuclear weapons. But of course the consequences might be frightful because of course Iran would then have every incentive to try to really destabilize Iraq. Hezbollah could be reactivated as an international terrorist force. Iran would set out to destabilize Afghanistan, and so forth and so on.

All this is known to the American security elites. The uniformed military is certainly extremely opposed to anything like this. Of course they were also opposed to Iraq, but it still happened.

Could you elaborate on your argument regarding what accounts for the special relationship between Israel and America: namely the parallel between the situation of Palestinians and Native Americans?

This is not the core either of my argument or of the relationship itself, but only a subsidiary factor. At the core of the relationship lie completely legitimate sympathies and identifications between a majority of Americans and the state of Israel. These are rooted in old features of religion and culture, and more recent admiration for the achievements of the Israeli state. I should say by the way that I believe strongly in US support for Israel within the borders of 1967. in my book I express a number of positions which are certainly extremely unpopular in the Muslim world, and on the Left in Europe: support for the Jewish character of the Israeli state, opposition to all but the most limited Palestinian refugee return, and opposition to ideas of a binational state. I also accept that given the tragic circumstances of 1948, and the imperatives created by the Holocaust, a measure of ethnic cleansing was probably inevitable and would also undoubtedly have been carried out in the other direction if the Arab side had won.

So I am not arguing against sympathy for Israel as such, but only against certain forms of this identification. Sympathy rooted in comparisons between the American and Israeli settlement processes are generally confined to the American Right. Leo Strauss made land-theft the founding principle of every state, which, it must be said, if you go back far enough historically, is actually true to a considerable extent. Admittedly you have to go back in Britain 1,500 years. Certainly in the US there is a very interesting contrast in attitudes to this issue between Americans on the East Coast and in the South or the West of the country. East Coast Americans are either embarrassed about the dispossession of the Indians or have simply forgotten it. For most it is totally irrelevant, since they never encounter any Native Americans and since their ancestors in many or even most cases arrived in the US long after the East Coast Indians were dispossessed. In the South and the West, however, the frontier tradition is so much stronger. There is no real embarrassment over the dispossession; there is basically a celebration of the fact that their ancestors conquered this land and turned it, as the phrase used to be, into a "white man's country".

It does seem to me - and I am not original in pointing this out; there have been leading Israelis like Amos Elon who have done so - that this began by creating a certain community of sentiment between sections of the conservative Christian heartland in America and the rightwing in Israel, or Israel in general. In other words, it is a mistake when looking at this community of sentiment just to look at the apocalyptic element: millenarian religion. This is present but it would not have nearly the resonance that it does if it were not set in a wider context.

Now of course here I am talking about the conservative tradition in the American heartland, the Christian tradition, but of course sympathy with Israel is much broader: it has a great deal to do with the Holocaust, it has to do with the perception of Israel as a modern, democratic society, as a very successful society. This goes together, obviously, with tremendous support from the Jewish community for Israel on the whole. So all these factors work in concert.

There is nothing at all in principle wrong with people here supporting Israel as such, or admiring Israel for its tremendous success as a society. But on the American Right there are very much darker elements to this affinity, one of which is precisely the radical religious one but the other is a kind of sublimated racism.

You have also argued that American nationalism has become increasingly entwined with the nationalism of the Israeli Right. What are the historical reasons for the alliance between Christian fundamentalists in this country and Zionists? In other words, how should we understand the words of Jerry Falwell when he says, "The Bible belt of the United States is the security belt of Israel"?

If one just looks at the Christian fundamentalist issue, leaving the millenarian question aside, American evangelical Protestantism is Old Testament Protestantism - just as its forbearers in English radical Protestantism and Scottish radical Protestantism were in the 16th and 17th centuries. This creates a natural affinity with the Jewish religious tradition. When evangelical Christian Lieutenant-General William Boykin was quoted last year as saying, "My God is bigger than his," in reference to a Muslim, he was directly citing from Isaiah and this is obviously a man who spends a lot of his time in the Old Testament.

It is fascinating the degree to which the Old Testament eclipses the New Testament in the thought of evangelical Christians and this automatically leads one to a sympathy with Israel. Cromwell was the first ruler of England who allowed Jews to settle again in England after the Middle Ages. He was very much influenced in this by his Old Testament-based Christianity. But also it seems, from the time of Cromwell on, there has been this millenarian idea as well: the restoration of Israel is essential to bringing about the Apocalypse. Given the influence of millenarian thought on a minority of Evangelicals, but a very significant minority, one cannot deny this influence. Look at the immense popularity of the "Left Behind" series, for example.

Finally, there is also a considerable element of straight political opportunism. The Republicans are already well on their way to putting the Democrats in a very difficult position from the point of view of political demographics. The Republicans have this tremendously solid base. Mostly white, not just Protestant anymore but Protestant and Catholic conservative, including many Latinos. Unlike the deeply fractured Democrat base, the Republican base agrees on a majority of important issues. The Democrats by contrast are trying to tie together the remnants of the white working classes in the northern cities, the blacks, the Latinos, more progressive women and the various cultural liberals - groups which often detest each other.

If on top of this advantage the Republicans can take away a majority of the Jewish vote and campaign financing from the Democrats, they stand a chance of actually destroying the Democratic Party's chances of power for a generation to come. This hope is not a secret. It has been written about quite openly by conservative commentator Robert Novak and others. If the Republicans can conclusively seize the issue of support for Israel from the Democrats, then they can rule for the foreseeable future. Rightly or wrongly, that at least is the calculation the Republicans are making.

You point out the complicity of the American media in both supporting the government in various foreign policy adventures - you say in fact that the "propaganda program" in the wake of the Iraq war has few parallels in peacetime democracies for the systematic mendacity of its reportage - and for the most part, keeping silent on the excesses of the Israeli state. What accounts for this blindness in the context of a free press in a democratic country?

This is a little stronger than what I actually said. What I said was that the Bush administration's propaganda program had few parallels in peacetime democracies and that the American media had not criticized this. I did not mean to suggest that the American media as a whole were all part of the same propaganda machine. Even in some of the papers which supported the war, dissenting voices appeared.

When it comes to keeping silent on the excesses of the Israeli state, the reporting as such has not been very unfair or inaccurate - certainly if you look at the respectable media: the serious newspapers and some of the serious television channels. Israeli bombing raids are reported, shooting of Palestinian civilians is reported, and the issue of settlements too is reported to an extent. There are two things which are completely missing, as Michael Lind pointed out in Prospect magazine in England last year. The first is historical context and the second is the almost complete absence of analysis or critique. One of the questions I raise in my book has to do with why Palestinians were expected to have peacefully acquiesced to what was being done to them in the 1940s. According to any historical precedent, this would have been absurd. No other people would have ever accepted this. Are we suggesting that the Palestinians should have been insane? This is ridiculous. So that is the context. Secondly, as Michael also pointed out, in terms of analysis, the violence and its causes are always presented as Palestinian "terrorism", not Israeli occupation. Finally the number of opinion pieces seriously criticizing Israeli policies are simply heavily outnumbered, even in the mainstream and liberal media, by expressions of support.

On Iraq, why did the media not stand out against the war? It was partly because of the role of the Israel lobby. It is very difficult to conduct a truly searching analysis of the underlying reasons for American policy in the Middle East, and very difficult to draw up really serious alternatives to existing policies, if you are not prepared to address the question of Israeli policies and the part they play in damaging American interests in the Middle East. This does not mean that Israel must be at the heart of the argument but its influence cannot be denied: it is there not just in the form of the effects of the struggle with the Palestinians but in relations with Iran, Syria and the Muslim world in general. If this is to be swept aside, as it so often is by the accusation of anti-Semitism, it just makes the entire debate here much, much more difficult. You could as well ask why there was no really serious debate in the presidential campaign over the "War on Terror" as a concept. The Israel factor is a part of that too.

I should say by the way that I never wrote about this issue before 9/11. I have no history whatsoever of attacking Israel. But after the terrorist attacks on America, the Carnegie Endowment asked me to concentrate on the war on terror and on aspects of the situation in the Muslim world. After that, it would have been intellectually dishonest and morally cowardly not to discuss this critical issue. I may add, as a British citizen, that it would have been unpatriotic, since my country is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan alongside America and is running the same risks of terrorist attack. British citizens therefore have both a right and a duty to speak out against policies and attitudes which are undermining the war on terror and endangering British security.

Concerning the behavior of the media and intelligentsia in the US, the second point is that after 9/11 people were clearly running scared. There was this tremendous militant nationalist wave sweeping the country. This is not unique to America - the same would have been true in most countries which suffered an attack of this kind. However, in the US the response took certain forms which have precedents in US history. The silencing effects of such a wave have been seen before: McCarthyism most recently, and the anti-German, then the anti-communist hysteria in the First World War and the 1920s. People were to a considerable degree intimidated into silence.

Finally, there was a very good piece by Russell Baker about AJ Liebling in the November 18th issue of the New York Review of Books in which Baker was talking about how journalists used to regard themselves as just hacks. I used to be a journalist myself, essentially writing for money, trying to be accurate in my reporting and as amusing and intelligent as possible. Now there is this ghastly tendency of journalists, particularly those who get to the top of the US media, to regard themselves not as hacks but as pillars of the state. So they begin to behave almost as if they were senior officials not hacks like the rest of us; and not just that, but as if they had occupied a great office of state during some great crisis in American affairs, as if they had been Acheson during the Second World War or the Korean War. So many of these columnists and television journalists are like that now.

One last point, and this may appear at first sight contradictory: the figure of Bob Woodward bridges these two things. After Watergate, on the one hand journalists got an exaggerated sense of their own importance as the Fourth Estate, a political force which makes and breaks administrations. On the other hand, they became more and more addicted to being given enormous dollops of constructed information and "spin" on a plate - instead of doing real fieldwork and investigative reporting like Woodward did. So Woodward is turned from an investigative reporter into a court chronicler. He has fascinating information and very good insights but is nonetheless essentially a praise-singer of the American system. I think a lot of American journalists are like that now. When they depend for leaks and for information on either the government in power or the opposition they are clearly not going to say anything that will wreck their chances of getting what they regard as scoops.

You have said that, "The younger intelligentsia [in the United States] has also been stripped of any real knowledge of the outside world by academic neglect of history and regional studies in favour of disciplines which are often no more than a crass projection of American assumptions and prejudices…. This has reduced still further their capacity for serious analysis of their own country and its actions." In addition, you point out the very close links that exist between relevant university departments and government institutions. What are the implications of this?

Well it contributes enormously to the conformism when it comes to debates like that about the Iraq war or about Israel. As Henry Kissinger pointed out almost thirty years ago, too many people in the academic world are either defending previous records when in government or aiming to be in the next administration. This is not a situation likely to produce radical critiques or really strong alternative policies. These people are not at all anxious to say something which will either lead to them not being selected or to their being vetoed by a Senate committee.

I used to think that it is wonderful that the American state can recruit from people in academia but I have come to find it deeply corrupting. I almost prefer the British system now, of career civil servants who serve one administration after another. But one needs a strong ethos of the independence of the civil service and a very strong ethos that people cannot be sacked or penalized for political views as long as they maintain the discipline of their service. This actually leaves the public debate in the UK freer than in the US, particularly in the strange, solipsistic world of Washington DC. It is amazing in a republic with a strong tradition of individualism and cultural egalitarianism, that in DC the sense of hierarchy, of sometimes obsequious deference, of the court game, who is in, who out, dominates everything just as much as it did in an early medieval court. It does contribute to this lack of debate in America.

This is compounded by the tremendously strong power of American national myths. As previous American authors like Loren Baritz pointed out, Vietnam knocked these myths off their pedestal, but many Americans spent a whole generation resuscitating them. Reagan was elected very much to do just that, to restore America's image of itself. It would seem that these myths are so important to America's national identity and image of itself that the American political and intellectual establishment is simply incapable in the end of seriously examining them and asking what flaws they may embody. Of course, there are dissidents - even some very senior ones like Senator Fulbright; but it is striking how little influence they seem to have had in the long run.

In consequence, there are all these people running around Washington - very much among the Democratic intellectual elites as well as the Republicans - who really believe that all America has to do is try harder to generate and display a sense of will. If only America wants something badly enough, anything can be achieved. Any society in the world can be transformed, irrespective of the wishes and traditions of its people. Any country can become not just a democracy, but a pro-American democracy, irrespective of its own national interests or ideals.

This is part of a deep inability to see America as others see it. It is incredible but again and again I have found myself at meetings discussing Russia and China in Washington at which I have been the only person to point out that America does after all have its own sphere of influence in Central America and the Caribbean. Not just that, but a sphere of influence which is not doing very well either economically, or to a great extent, in terms of real democracy either. The rest of the world sees this perfectly well, and as a result, develops a belief in American hypocrisy which is itself very bad for American prestige and influence.

After all, how much did Haiti get after floods which killed thousands of people and devastated the country? Peanuts. A mere fifty million dollars or so from America. And Haiti is only a few hundred miles from America's own shores. Haiti also has a very large population here in the US and they got virtually nothing. Yet when I point this out to people in DC, and suggest that pouring money into the Middle East when countries close to America's shores and within America's old sphere of influence are suffering so badly, they often become furious. There is this strange moral bubble, it seems, and of course it is particularly bad in Washington, but then again, outside Washington and the universities, nobody thinks about these issues at all!

You end your recent article in The Nation with the following quote from Arnold Toynbee: "Great empires do not die by murder, but suicide." Is that the present trajectory of the United States?

I must state very strongly that in principle, and when thinking of the historical alternatives, I do not want the American empire to end. I have never been against a moderate, civilized and rational version of American hegemony. I certainly would not want to replace it with Chinese hegemony!

But it is easy to see how a combination of different events could bring American hegemony down over the next generation. America at present has no serious strategy for the Middle East. It has a series of ad hoc strategies for dealing with bits of the terrorist threat, and for trying to contain Iran, and manage Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It does not however have anything approaching a general strategy. If America continues to infuriate more and more Muslims, if then there is either a revolution elsewhere in the Middle East or a terrorist attack on the American mainland again, then it is very easy to see America lashing out in a way which will not only spread chaos and instability still further, but will lead to a complete breakdown of the alliance with Europe.

If America gets involved in another major war of occupation, then conscription will be back. When conscription comes back, Americans will come out on to the streets and start demanding answers: maybe even about energy saving and about the relationship with Israel.

Even given the profound weaknesses of America's strategy and position in the Middle East, however, the American empire has immense underlying strengths. In the Far East, for example, as long as the US does not grossly overplay its hand, most of the East Asian states actually want America to stay there as a balancer against China. In Europe, East Europeans in particular are anxious for the US to remain strongly present, whether out of continued fear of Russia or resentment at French and German domination. In Central America and the Caribbean, the US will always be predominant through sheer force of economic and military might.

But if the Bush administration were feeling suicidal, and were actually in the mood to throw itself over a cliff, like the Hapsburgs in 1914, there are a number of ways it could do that. It could invade Iran, that would do it very quickly. Or it could invade Saudi Arabia. Or it could support Taiwanese independence. I don't believe they will actually do any of those things. Unfortunately, one can much more easily imagine the Bush administration doing something like bombing Iran, which would not lead to immediate disaster but which could begin a spiral of retaliation leading ultimately to catastrophic conflict.

It has become increasingly clear that world oil reserves are depleting and their exhaustion is within sight. In addition, global oil and energy resources have formally been a "national-security" concern of the United States since Carter. How, and to what extent, will the geopolitics of oil determine US foreign policy in the coming decade?

To a great extent, they already do. One has seen the tremendous attempt to build up the Caspian as an alternative to the Persian Gulf as a source of oil. But the striking thing is that this has to a great extent failed. It has failed both because there is not enough oil in the Caspian really to compete with the Persian Gulf but also because there are other buyers: a great deal of that oil will go east to China and even to Japan. If the Chinese economy continues to grow, it is likely that oil prices will rise and rise - until, perhaps, environmental disaster destroys the present world economy and forces the world to limit its consumption.

So America's presence in the Middle East is of course not just about Israel. A tremendous amount of it is about oil - and not just the interests of the oil companies, but genuinely, in the view of many Americans, the preservation of the American way of life. It will be interesting if one sees serious instability in several of the major oil-producers simultaneously. If there were major instability in the Persian Gulf and some kind of meltdown in Nigeria, which is entirely possible, and in a very different way of course serious instability in Venezuela, then there is the possibility that somewhere at least America would intervene with its own troops on the ground to guarantee its oil supplies. Then once again we will be confronted with the whole question of whether America has enough troops, what this will lead to, etc. In some places in Africa American intervention could be presented as a peacekeeping operation, and indeed could even have genuine elements of that.

I am not saying that any of this will happen, but the geopolitics of oil will be absolutely central to America's global strategy in the years to come. Of course what I would like to see would be an approach to the same issue from the other end which is simply to reduce America's dependence on oil. This has been one of the very worst things that Bush has done, or rather not done: his complete failure to use 9/11 to make an argument for decreasing America's reliance on oil. Instead we have just seen American consumption going up and up. There is a strong possibility in future that just as in Iraq, America could again be drawn into occupying a country (or countries) in a way that would be perceived by the rest of the world as just about keeping its grip on oil supplies. The thing that might discourage a US administration from this however is that as Iraq has demonstrated, there is nothing easier to blow up than an oil pipeline.

Such a contingency has been widely discussed in the case of Saudi Arabia. If the US were to occupy other countries in order to secure its oil supplies, then every suspicion of the rest of the world concerning the US and its motives for the invasion of Iraq would essentially be confirmed. The US would begin to shed its last elements of true international idealism. It would become much more like a classical empire preoccupied with seizing raw materials and controlling them, irrespective of the wishes or the well-being of the populations concerned. In this case, America's ancient and very positive role as a beacon of democracy and progress for mankind would be destroyed. We should all pray, therefore, that this does not happen.

Interview conducted by Nermeen Shaikh of Asia Society.

[Dec 4, 2006] Ethical Realism A Vision for America's Role in the World Anatol Lieven,John Hulsman Books

5.0 out of 5 stars Hope and History in 200 Pages, December 4, 2006
By Heather E. Price (Culpeper, VA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
Messrs. Hulsman and Lieven have delivered a learned and principled gem for readers seeking an alternative to the reigning U.S. foreign policy of throwing hundreds of lives and billions of dollars down a wishing well vaguely dedicated to democracy. Ethical Realism is a lantern out of the morass, a book that offers a readable, sensible and practical vision to combat the international ills of today and shape tomorrow's solutions.

The authors present a foreign policy prescription grounded in history and ethics rather than ego or vendetta. The book's strength comes from its completeness, giving lessons from the past with applications for the future and a commonsense theory accompanied by realistic action. Clear writing highlights their clear thinking and the straightforward style is a refreshing change from numerous policy tomes that cloak threadbare ideas in overdressed prose.

Hulsman and Lieven themselves differ in their political affiliations and open the book by tracing the history of the Truman-Eisenhower moment when opposing parties shared a foreign policy that led to the containment of the Soviet Union and ultimately, the defeat of Communism and America's rise to the world's dominant power. The authors cogently discuss the pitfalls of the preventive war, the likes of which have led to an American death toll in Iraq rivaling that of 9/11 while the ostensible raison de guerre, Osama bin Laden, is watching Love Boat reruns in Balukastan. They also explore the so-called thinking - from neoconservatives on the right and liberal hawks on the left - that paved the way into Iraq without mapping a way out. The authors' bipartisan voice and broad-reaching scholarship will appeal to Democrats, Republicans, and those fed up with both parties.

Bad decisions have flowed from good intentions. As America tries to remain the city on the hill, Hulsman and Lieven draw attention to its foundations that risk erosion along with its diplomatic and political capital. One of the book's important achievements is the much-needed and overdue restoration of an ethical character to realism, empowering readers who believe trying to save the world is immoral when it costs the country its soldiers, wealth and allies. Realism has often been cut from the debate of what is the "right" thing to do on the suspicion its proponents are self-interested cynics, thereby ceding decisions on foreign engagement to utopians who write better poetry than history. Hulsman and Lieven revisit the teachings of Hans Morgenthau, Reinhold Niebuhr, and others to revive realism and imbue it with the admirable virtues of prudence, patriotism, responsibility, study, and humility.

Ethical Realism cautions against the imperial aspirations that can yield raw power in the short term, but is won at the expense of America's values, institutions and legacy. It calls instead for a Great Capitalist Peace, for America to retain, not squander, its military and economic strength and to serve as an ordering, rather than a bullying, force in the world.

The authors apply their blueprint to current and future challenges, proposing clear and solid plans for dealing with Iran, Russia, China, Iraq and the Middle East. They stretch their solutions to much of the rest of the world through the concept of Developmental Realism, which promotes judicious aid and trade liberalization as cornerstones of global prosperity and peace.

Hulsman and Lieven have written an engaging work that spins history, philosophy, current events, and spirited prose into a hopeful - and yet practical -- vision for America. One hopes that the next time Washington forces gather to plot our nation's future course that the country has the good fortune to have Hulsman and Lieven at the table. Or at best, at 14 ounces, it's light enough to make the President's reading list.