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Andrew Bacevich on The New American Militarism

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  “As many frustrated Americans who have joined the Tea Party realize, we cannot stand against big government at home while supporting it abroad. We cannot talk about fiscal responsibility while spending trillions on occupying and bullying the rest of the world. We cannot talk about the budget deficit and spiraling domestic spending without looking at the costs of maintaining an American empire of more than 700 military bases in more than 120 foreign countries. We cannot pat ourselves on the back for cutting a few thousand dollars from a nature preserve or an inner-city swimming pool at home while turning a blind eye to a Pentagon budget that nearly equals those of the rest of the world combined.”

Ron Paul


New American militarism is connected with the desire to establish global neoliberal empire ruled by the USA (the dream of total world dominance). It became official policy  since the collapse of the USSR  and involves "heliocentric" view on foreign policy, when the USA is the center of the world order and other states just rotate around it on various orbits. The US population is by-and-large-completely brainwashed into this vision.

Opposition to the US militarism is almost non-existent due contemporary US popular culture infused with the language of militarism and American exceptionalism. As Bacevich  noted:

In any Clancy novel, the international order is a dangerous and threatening place, awash with heavily armed and implacably determined enemies who threaten the United States. That Americans have managed to avoid Armageddon is attributable to a single fact: the men and women of America’s uniformed military and its intelligence services have thus far managed to avert those threats. The typical Clancy novel is an unabashed tribute to the skill, honor, extraordinary technological aptitude and sheer decency of the nation’s defenders. To read Red Storm Rising is to enter a world of ‘virtuous men and perfect weapons’, as one reviewer noted. ‘All the Americans are paragons of courage, endurance and devotion to service and country. Their officers are uniformly competent and occasionally inspired. Men of all ranks are faithful husbands and devoted fathers.’ Indeed, in the contract that he signed for the filming of Red October, Clancy stipulated that nothing in the film show the navy in a bad light.

The "New American militarism" or as it called "Neocon mentality" is not that different from the early Soviets militarism (of  Trotskyite variety), eager to spread the blessings of Scientific Socialism toward other countries on the tips of bayonets.  Here the role of scientific socialism is played by neoliberal ideology. With the slogan "Transnational elite unite" and Davos style Congresses of the new   "Neoliberal International" of comprador elites. While converting other countries into neoliberal model using color revolution of direct military invasion or combination of both) are disguised as spread of "democracy".

In this new Crusade for world hegemony the key ideas of Trotsky Permanent Revolution remains intact -- a crusade for establishing new social system on all counties on the Earth. This is just Great Neoliberal Crusade, instead of Communist Crusade.  This new justification for Crusades has the same problems as two previous. But it does not matter as the key role of democracy here is the same as in quote "the goal justifies the means" 

Professor Andrew Bacevich wrote several short books on the subject. he avoids the term neoliberalism and did not try to explain new American militarism in terms of the quest for neoliberal empire expansion. But he is a very good observer and the books contain many insights into US elite thinking and blunders. Among them we can note two:

While all three books are excellent and raise important issues,  they overlap. Probably the most original and the most important on them is Washington Rules, were Bacevich attempts to explain "Permanent War for Permanent Peace" that the USA practice since the end of WWII. All three books have the same weaknesses: Bacevich does not see connection between Neoliberalism demand for economic expansion and "New American Militarism" and regime of permanent wars that the USA pursue since WWII.

He provide sharp critique of neocons, but never ask the question: which political forces brought those pathetic second or third rate thinkers to the forefront of formulation of the US foreign policy and maintain them for more then a decade after Iraq debacle.

He also mistakenly believe that American people (who were completely estranged from any influence on nation's policies) bear some guilt for the policy which was formulated to benefit the first hundred of the largest US corporations. In other words he does not understand that the USA is yet another occupied country.

Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War; War as a natural state of the USA since 1945

[Neocons] advocate permanent war for permanent peace

Professor Basevich

The foreign policy of the USA since 1945, but especially, after the dissolution of the USSR was and is "open militarism". Recently  John Quiggin  tried to define militarism is came to the following definition (

100 years after the Battle of the Somme, it's hard to see that much has been learned from the catastrophe of the Great War and the decades of slaughter that followed it. Rather than get bogged down (yet again) in specifics that invariably decline into arguments about who know more of the historical detail, I'm going to try a different approach, looking at the militarist ideology that gave us the War, and trying to articulate an anti-militarist alternative. Wikipedia offers a definition of militarism which, with the deletion of a single weasel word, seems to be entirely satisfactory and also seems to describe the dominant view of the political class, and much of the population in nearly every country in the world.

Militarism is the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively[^1] to defend or promote national interests

This new epidemic of the US militarism started after the dissolution of the USSR was called by Professor Bacevich (who is former colonel of the US army)  it New American Militarism.

Bacevich's book  Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War  describe the "sacred trinity" of global US-led neoliberal empire:

Professor Bacevich had shown that the main driver of the US militarism is neocons domination of the US foreign policy, and, especially, neocons domination in State Department regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats are in power. They profess that the US that is uniquely qualified to take on the worldwide foes of peace and democracy, forgetting, revising, or ignoring the painful lessons of World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq. And that establishing and maintaining the neoliberal empire is worth the price we pay as it will take the USA into the period of unprecedented peace.

Bacevich scored a direct hit on the foundations of the American national security state with this scathing critique, and demolishes the unspoken assumptions that he believes have led the United States into a senseless, wasteful, and counter-productive "perpetual war for perpetual peace".

Bacevich scores a direct hit on the foundations of the American national security state with this scathing critique, and demolishes the unspoken assumptions that he believes have led the United States into a senseless, wasteful, and counter-productive posture of nearly perpetual war. These assumptions take the form of the "credo" -- which holds that the United States has the unique responsibility to intervene wherever it wants, for whatever purpose it wants, by whatever means it wants -- and the supporting "trinity" of requirements for the U.S. to maintain a global military presence, to configure its military forces for global power projection, and to counter threats by relying on a policy of global interventionism.

Lessons that President Obama is clearly never able to learn. In this sense his book Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War is an excellent peace of research with sections that some may find very troubling as it suggest that the USA elite is suicidal and is ready to sacrifice the county for achieving its delusional goal of world domination.

Here is the summary from Bacevich - Washington Rules (2010) - Synopsis by Mark K. Jensen

UFPPC ( Digging Deeper CXXXVII: September 27, 2010, 7:00 p.m. 

Andrew J. Bacevich, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War (New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company, August 2010).


The Washington consensus on national security policy that constitutes convention wisdom in American foreign policy began with the Cold War and survived, remarkably, the Vietnam War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, no longer serves American interests, but the failure of the Obama administration to alter it shows that change can only come from the American people.

Introduction: Slow Learner

The author's faith in orthodoxy began to crumble when visiting the BrandenburgGate in Berlin in the winter of 1990-1991(1-4). In October 1990 a visit to Jenarevealed the backwardness of EastGermany (4-6). During his years in the Army, Bacevich had kept down doubts; after the end of the Cold War he retired, and his loss of status freed him to educate himself (6-10).

"George W.Bush's decision to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 pushed me fully into opposition" (10). "This book aims to take stock of conventional wisdom" (11). The past 60 years of American history shows continuity: a symbiotic "credo" (formulated by Henry Luce in 1941 as the "American Century") and a "sacred trinity" ("the minimum essentials of international peace and order require the United States to maintain a global military presence, to configure its forces for global power projection, and to counter existing or anticipated threats by relying on a policy of  global interventionism") together define "the rules to which Washington adheres" (11-15).

In this book, "Washington" refers to the upper echelons of the three branches of government, the main agencies of the national security state, select think tanks and interest groups, "big banks and other financial institutions, defense contractors and major corporations, television networks and elite publications like the New York Times, even quasi-academic entities like the Council on Foreign Relations and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government" (15).

This book aspires to

(1) trace the history of the Washington rules;

(2) show who wins, who loses, and who pays under them;

(3) explain how itis perpetuated;

(4) show that the rules have lost what utility they might once have had;

and (5) re-legitimate "disreputable (or 'radical') views to our national security debates" (16).

The American Century is ending, and it "has become essential" to devise an "alternative to the reining national security paradigm" (16-18).

Ch. 1: The Advent of Semiwar.

As president, Barack Obama's efforts to change the U.S.'s exercise of power "have seldom risen above the cosmetic"(20). He made clear he subscribes to the "catechism of American statecraft," viz. that 1) the world must be organized, 2)only the U.S. can do it, 3) this includes dictating principles, and 4) not to accept this is to be a rogue or a recalcitrant (20-21).

It follows that the U.S. need not conform to the norms it sets for others and that it should maintain a worldwide network of bases (22-23).

Imagine if China acted in a comparable manner (23-25). The extraordinary American military posture in the world (25-27). To call this into question puts one beyond the pale(27). James Forrestal called this a permanent condition of semiwar, requiring high levels of military spending(27-28).

American citizens are not supposed to concern themselves with it (29-30). As to how this came about, the "standard story line" presents as the result of the decisions of a "succession of presidential administrations," though this conceals as much as it reveals (30-32).

Eisenhower's 1961 Farewell Address on the "military-industrial complex" was a rare exception (32-34). More important than presidents were Allen Dulles [1893-1969] and Curtis Lemay [1906-1990] (34-36).

Bacevich attributes the vision for an American-dominated post-World War II world with the CIA playing an active role to the patrician Dulles (36-43). The development of the U.S. military into a force capable of dominating the world, especially in the area of strategic weapons, he attributes to the hard-bitten Curtis LeMay, organizer of the StrategicAir Command (SAC) (43-52). Dulles and LeMay shared devotion to country, ruthlessness, a certain recklessness (52-55). They exploited American anxieties and insecurities in yin (Dulles's CIA) yang(LeMay's SAC) fashion, leaving the mainstay of American military power, the U.S. Army, in a relatively weak position(55-58).

Ch. 2: Illusions of Flexibility and Control

Kennedy kept Dulles and LeMay to signal continuity, but there was a behind-the-scenes struggle led by Gen. Maxwell Taylor to reassert the role of the U.S. Army by expanding and modernizing conventional forces that was "simultaneously masked by, and captured in, the phrase flexible response " (60; 59-63).

This agenda purported to aim at "resisting aggression" but really created new options for limited aggressive warfare by the U.S. (63-66).

McNamara engaged in a struggle with LeMay to control U.S. policy on nuclear weapons, but he embraced the need for redundancy based on a land-sea-air attack "triad" and LeMay et al. "got most of what they wanted" (66-72).

In the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy instituted the morally and legally "indefensible" Operation Mongoose," in effect, a program of state-sponsored terrorism" against Cuba (80; 72-82 [but Bacevich is silent on its wilder elements, like Operation Northwoods]).

U.S. recklessness caused the Cuban Missile Crisis, and to his credit Kennedy acknowledged this (albeit privately) and "suspended the tradition" in defusing the crisis (82-87).

Bacevich rejects as a romantic delusion the view that in the aftermath of this crisis Kennedy turned against the military-industrial complex and the incipient Vietnam war and shows no interest in Kennedy's assassination itself (87-92).

He sees a parallel between escalation in Vietnam and post-9/11 aggression as "fought to sustain the Washington consensus" (107; 92-107).

Ch. 3: The Credo Restored.

William Fulbright's The Arrogance of Power (1966) urged a rethinking of the Washington rules (109-15). A radicalized David Shoup, a Medal of Honor winner and former commandant of the MarineCorps, argued in "The New American Militarism" (Atlantic, April 1969) that the U.S. had become "a militaristic and aggressive nation" (120; 115-21). The 1960s Zeitgeist shift made LeMay "an embarrassment, mocked and vilified rather than venerated," which showed that the Washington rules had incurred serious damage in Vietnam; the Army was in dire shape (122; 121-27).

Yet astonishingly, in the subsequent decade the "sacred trinity" (cf. 11-15) was "fully restored" (127). As in post-1918 Germany, élites looked for scapegoats and worked to reverse "the war's apparent verdict" (128). The Council on Foreign Relations 1976 volume entitled The Vietnam Legacy: The War, American Society, and the Future of American Foreign Policy is an expression of élite consensus that the Vietnam war was insignificant, an anomaly (129-34).

By 1980, Democrats and Republicans were again on the same page (134-36).Reagan's election "sealed the triumph of Vietnam revisionism" (136; 136-38). And the end of the Cold War posed no challenge to the Washington rules, as Madeleine Albright's pretentious arrogance exemplifies (138-45).

Ch. 4: Reconstituting the Trinity

The period from 1980 to 2000 saw "notretrenchment but reconfiguration" (147). The new mission was not American defense but facilitation of a new world order (148-50). After 9/11 this pretense was dropped and "[a]ctivism became the watchword" (150, emphasis in original;150-52). Resorting to war became "notably more frequent and less controversial" in 1980-2000, finding "its ultimate expression in the Bush Doctrine of preventive war" (152-53). Americans "passively assented" (154).

Behind the scenes, the shape this took was struggled over by the officer corps and civilian semi-warriors pushing RMA(Revolution in Military Affairs) (154-64).Initially, U.S. élites held that victory in Iraq demonstrated that speed could be substituted for mass in military campaigns (165-75). But the experience of the occupation revealed this to be a fantasy (175-81).

Ch. 5: Counterfeit COIN.

Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine, replacing "shock and awe" as "the Long War" replaced the "global war on terror," is the latest doctrinal effort to preserve the Washington rules (182-86). The so-called "surge" implicitly marked a quest for conditions allowing the U.S. to leave Iraq without admitting defeat (186-91).Gen. David Petraeus emerged as an advocate (and as salesman, through FM3-24, the manual he revised and which Bacevich insists is in its emphasis on narrative replete with postmodernism) of counterinsurgency doctrine as "a substitute [for warfare] suited to the exercise of great power politics in the twilight of modernity" (197; 191-97). Implicitly, the manual argues that "war as such . . . no longer worked" (198; 198-202). Petraeus took credit for progress in Iraq that he did not achieve (202-04).

The general with a Princeton Ph.D. was lionized with a view to normalizing war and lowering expectations, a view now embraced by the Obama administration(205-11). Proponents of global counterinsurgency (GCOIN) emerged, like John Nagl and Gen. Benet Sacolick (211-13). Obama embraced the GCOIN version of the Long War with Gen.Stanley McChrystal to carry it out in Afghanistan, forfeiting the opportunity to reassess American policy (213-21).

Ch. 6: Cultivating Our Own Garden.

Time-honored no-nonsense American pragmatism has turned into an absurdity-swallowing herd mentality (222-23). The problem set the U.S. faces has radically changed from the time of the early Cold War, but the "sacred trinity" (cf. 11-15) that proposes to address them remains essentially the same (224-25).Eisenhower would have been appalled(225-26). The size of the Pentagon budget, the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and the extent of overseas military presence cannot be justified(226-27).

These persist because of the interests they serve, not the mission the fulfill, and are likely to do so for sometime (228-30). Bacevich invokes George Kennan, William Fulbright, and Martin Luther King Jr. in urging that the U.S. needs a new approach, to model freedom rather than impose it (231-37). First and foremost, America should save not the world but itself (237).

Bacevich proposes a new trinity:

  1. the purpose of the military is to defend the U.S. and its vital interests;
  2. soldiers' primary duty stations are on American soil;
  3. force should be used only as a last resort and in self-defense, in accord with the Just War tradition (238-41).

The American public must shoulder its complicity in what has happened, fostered by an all-volunteer force and debt-financed budgets (241-47). It is tragic that Barack Obama, elected to institute change, has lacked the courage to alter the Washington rules, instead "choosing to conform" (247-49). "If change is to come, it must come from the people"(249). The need for education "has become especially acute" (249; 249-50).

Except from Macmillan

Introduction: Slow Learner Worldly ambition inhibits true learning. Ask me. I know. A young man in a hurry is nearly uneducable: He knows what he wants and where he's headed; when it comes to looking back or entertaining heretical thoughts, he has neither the time nor the inclination. All that counts is that he is going somewhere. Only as ambition wanes does education become a possibility.

My own education did not commence until I had reached middle age. I can fix its start date with precision: For me, education began in Berlin, on a winter's evening, at the Brandenburg Gate, not long after the Berlin Wall had fallen. As an officer in the U.S. Army I had spent considerable time in Germany. Until that moment, however, my family and I had never had occasion to visit this most famous of German cities, still littered with artifacts of a deeply repellent history. At the end of a long day of exploration, we found ourselves in what had, until just months before, been the communist East. It was late and we were hungry, but I insisted on walking the length of the Unter den Linden, from the River Spree to the gate itself. A cold rain was falling and the pavement glistened. The buildings lining the avenue, dating from the era of Prussian kings, were dark, dirty, and pitted. Few people were about. It was hardly a night for sightseeing. For as long as I could remember, the Brandenburg Gate had been the preeminent symbol of the age and Berlin the epicenter of contemporary history. 

Yet by the time I made it to the once and future German capital, history was already moving on. The Cold War had abruptly ended. A divided city and a divided nation had re united. For Americans who had known Berlin only from a distance, the city existed primarily as a metaphor. Pick a date— 1933, 1942, 1945, 1948, 1961, 1989—and Berlin becomes an instructive symbol of power, depravity, tragedy, defiance, endurance, or vindication. For those inclined to view the past as a chronicle of parables, the modern history of Berlin offered an abundance of material. The greatest of those parables emerged from the events of 1933 to 1945, an epic tale of evil ascendant, belatedly confronted, then heroically overthrown.

A second narrative, woven from events during the intense period immediately following World War II, saw hopes for peace dashed, yielding bitter antagonism but also great resolve. The ensuing stand-off—the "long twilight struggle," in John Kennedy's memorable phrase— formed the centerpiece of the third parable, its central theme stubborn courage in the face of looming peril. Finally came the exhilarating events of 1989, with freedom ultimately prevailing, not only in Berlin, but throughout Eastern Europe.

.... ... ...

Although commonly depicted as the most advanced and successful component of the Soviet Empire, East Germany more closely resembled part of the undeveloped world.

... ... ...

Briquettes of soft coal used for home heating made the air all but unbreathable and coated everything with soot. In the German cities we knew, pastels predominated—houses and apartment blocks painted pale green, muted salmon, and soft yellow. Here everything was brown and gray

... ... ...

Bit by bit, my worldview started to crumble. That worldview had derived from this conviction: that American power manifested a commitment to global leadership, and that both together expressed and affirmed the nation's enduring devotion to its founding ideals. That American power, policies, and purpose were bound together in a neat, internally consistent package, each element drawing strength from and reinforcing the others, was something I took as a given. That, during my adult life, a penchant for interventionism had become a signature of U.S. policy did not—to me, at least—in any way contradict America's aspirations for peace. Instead, a willingness to expend lives and treasure in distant places testified to the seriousness of those aspirations. That, during this same period, the United States had amassed an arsenal of over thirty-one thousand nuclear weapons, some small number of them assigned to units in which I had served, was not at odds with our belief in the inalienable right to life and liberty; rather, threats to life and liberty had compelled the United States to acquire such an arsenal and maintain it in readiness for instant use.2 I was not so naíve as to believe that the American record had been without flaws. Yet I assured myself that any errors or misjudgments had been committed in good faith. Furthermore, circumstances permitted little real choice. In Southeast Asia as in Western Europe, in the Persian Gulf as in the Western Hemisphere, the United States had simply done what needed doing. Viable alternatives did not exist. To consent to any dilution of American power would be to forfeit global leadership, thereby putting at risk safety, prosperity, and freedom, not only our own but also that of our friends and allies.

The choices seemed clear enough. On one side was the status quo: the commitments, customs, and habits that defined American globalism, implemented by the national security apparatus within which I functioned as a small cog. On the other side was the prospect of appeasement, isolationism, and catastrophe. The only responsible course was the one to which every president since Harry Truman had adhered. For me, the Cold War had played a crucial role in sustaining that worldview.

Given my age, upbringing, and professional background, it could hardly have been otherwise. Although the great rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union had contained moments of considerable anxiety — I remember my father, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, stocking our basement with water and canned goods — it served primarily to clarify, not to frighten.

The Cold War provided a framework that organized and made sense of contemporary history. It offered a lineup and a scorecard. That there existed bad Germans and good Germans, their Germans and our Germans, totalitarian Germans and Germans who, like Americans, passionately loved freedom was, for example, a proposition I accepted as dogma. Seeing the Cold War as a struggle between good and evil answered many questions, consigned others to the periphery, and rendered still others irrelevant.

Back in the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, more than a few members of my generation had rejected the conception of the Cold War as a Manichean struggle. Here too, I was admittedly a slow learner. Yet having kept the faith long after others had lost theirs, the doubts that eventually assailed me were all the more disorienting. Granted, occasional suspicions had appeared long before Jena and Berlin

My own Vietnam experience had generated its share, which I had done my best to suppress. I was, after all, a serving soldier. Except in the narrowest of terms, the military profession, in those days at least, did not look kindly on nonconformity. Climbing the ladder of career success required curbing maverick tendencies. To get ahead, you needed to be a team player. Later, when studying the history of U.S. foreign relations in graduate school, I was pelted with challenges to orthodoxy, which I vigorously deflected. When it came to education, graduate school proved a complete waste of time — a period of intense study devoted to the further accumulation of facts, while I exerted myself to ensuring that they remained inert.

Now, however, my personal circumstances were changing. Shortly after the passing of the Cold War, my military career ended. Education thereby became not only a possibility, but also a necessity. In measured doses, mortification cleanses the soul. It's the perfect antidote for excessive self-regard. After twenty-three years spent inside the U.S. Army seemingly going somewhere, I now found myself on the outside going nowhere in particular. In the self-contained and cloistered universe of regimental life, I had briefly risen to the status of minor spear carrier. The instant I took off my uniform, that status vanished. I soon came to a proper appreciation of my own insignificance, a salutary lesson that I ought to have absorbed many years earlier. As I set out on what eventually became a crablike journey toward a new calling as a teacher and writer—a pilgrimage of sorts—ambition in the commonly accepted meaning of the term ebbed. This did not happen all at once. Yet gradually, trying to grab one of life's shiny brass rings ceased being a major preoccupation.

Wealth, power, and celebrity became not aspirations but subjects for critical analysis.

History—especially the familiar narrative of the Cold War—no longer offered answers; instead, it posed perplexing riddles. Easily the most nagging was this one: How could I have so profoundly misjudged the reality of what lay on the far side of the Iron Curtain? Had I been insufficiently attentive? Or was it possible that I had been snookered all along? Contemplating such questions, while simultaneously witnessing the unfolding of the "long 1990s"— the period bookended by two wars with Iraq when American vainglory reached impressive new heights—prompted the realization that I had grossly misinterpreted the threat posed by America's adversaries. Yet that was the lesser half of the problem. Far worse than misperceiving "them" was the fact that I had misperceived "us." What I thought I knew best I actually understood least. Here, the need for education appeared especially acute.

George W. Bush's decision to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 pushed me fully into opposition. Claims that once seemed elementary—above all, claims relating to the essentially benign purposes of American power— now appeared preposterous. The contradictions that found an ostensibly peace-loving nation committing itself to a doctrine of preventive war became too great to ignore. The folly and hubris of the policy makers who heedlessly thrust the nation into an ill-defined and open-ended "global war on terror" without the foggiest notion of what victory would look like, how it would be won, and what it might cost approached standards hitherto achieved only by slightly mad German warlords. During the era of containment, the United States had at least maintained the pretense of a principled strategy; now, the last vestiges of principle gave way to fantasy and opportunism. With that, the worldview to which I had adhered as a young adult and carried into middle age dissolved completely. *

What should stand in the place of such discarded convictions? Simply inverting the conventional wisdom, substituting a new Manichean paradigm for the old discredited version—the United States taking the place of the Soviet Union as the source of the world's evil—would not suffice. Yet arriving at even an approximation of truth would entail subjecting conventional wisdom, both present and past, to sustained and searching scrutiny. Cautiously at first but with growing confidence, this I vowed to do. Doing so meant shedding habits of conformity acquired over decades. All of my adult life I had been a company man, only dimly aware of the extent to which institutional loyalties induce myopia. Asserting independence required first recognizing the extent to which I had been socialized to accept certain things as unimpeachable. Here then were the preliminary steps essential to making education accessible. Over a period of years, a considerable store of debris had piled up. Now, it all had to go. Belatedly, I learned that more often than not what passes for conventional wisdom is simply wrong. Adopting fashionable attitudes to demonstrate one's trustworthiness—the world of politics is flush with such people hoping thereby to qualify for inclusion in some inner circle—is akin to engaging in prostitution in exchange for promissory notes. It's not only demeaning but downright foolhardy. This book aims to take stock of conventional wisdom in its most influential and enduring form, namely the package of assumptions, habits, and precepts that have defined the tradition of statecraft to which the United States has adhered since the end of World War II— the era of global dominance now drawing to a close. This postwar tradition combines two components, each one so deeply embedded in the American collective consciousness as to have all but disappeared from view.

The first component specifies norms according to which the international order ought to work and charges the United States with responsibility for enforcing those norms. Call this the American credo. In the simplest terms, the credo summons the United States—and the United States alone—to lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world. In a celebrated manifesto issued at the dawn of what he termed "The American Century," Henry R. Luce made the case for this spacious conception of global leadership. Writing in Life magazine in early 1941, the influential publisher exhorted his fellow citizens to "accept wholeheartedly our duty to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit." Luce thereby captured what remains even today the credo's essence.3 Luce's concept of an American Century, an age of unquestioned American global primacy, resonated, especially in Washington. His evocative phrase found a permanent place in the lexicon of national politics. (Recall that the neoconservatives who, in the 1990s, lobbied for more militant U.S. policies named their enterprise the Project for a New American Century.) So, too, did Luce's expansive claim of prerogatives to be exercised by the United States.

Even today, whenever public figures allude to America's responsibility to lead, they signal their fidelity to this creed. Along with respectful allusions to God and "the troops," adherence to Luce's credo has become a de facto prerequisite for high office. Question its claims and your prospects of being heard in the hubbub of national politics become nil. Note, however, that the duty Luce ascribed to Americans has two components. It is not only up to Americans, he wrote, to choose the purposes for which they would bring their influence to bear, but to choose the means as well. Here we confront the second component of the postwar tradition of American statecraft. With regard to means, that tradition has emphasized activism over example, hard power over soft, and coercion (often styled "negotiating from a position of strength") over suasion. Above all, the exercise of global leadership as prescribed by the credo obliges the United States to maintain military capabilities staggeringly in excess of those required for self-defense. Prior to World War II, Americans by and large viewed military power and institutions with skepticism, if not outright hostility. In the wake of World War II, that changed. An affinity for military might emerged as central to the American identity. By the midpoint of the twentieth century, "the Pentagon" had ceased to be merely a gigantic five-sided building.

Like "Wall Street" at the end of the nineteenth century, it had become Leviathan, its actions veiled in secrecy, its reach extending around the world. Yet while the concentration of power in Wall Street had once evoked deep fear and suspicion, Americans by and large saw the concentration of power in the Pentagon as benign. Most found it reassuring. A people who had long seen standing armies as a threat to liberty now came to believe that the preservation of liberty required them to lavish resources on the armed forces. During the Cold War, Americans worried ceaselessly about falling behind the Russians, even though the Pentagon consistently maintained a position of overall primacy. Once the Soviet threat disappeared, mere primacy no longer sufficed. With barely a whisper of national debate, unambiguous and perpetual global military supremacy emerged as an essential predicate to global leadership. Every great military power has its distinctive signature. For Napoleonic France, it was the levée en masse— the people in arms animated by the ideals of the Revolution. For Great Britain in the heyday of empire, it was command of the seas, sustained by a dominant fleet and a network of far-flung outposts from Gibraltar and the Cape of Good Hope to Singapore and Hong Kong. Germany from the 1860s to the 1940s (and Israel from 1948 to 1973) took another approach, relying on a potent blend of tactical flexibility and operational audacity to achieve battlefield superiority.

The abiding signature of American military power since World War II has been of a different order altogether. The United States has not specialized in any particular type of war. It has not adhered to a fixed tactical style. No single service or weapon has enjoyed consistent favor. At times, the armed forces have relied on citizen-soldiers to fill their ranks; at other times, long-service professionals. Yet an examination of the past sixty years of U.S. military policy and practice does reveal important elements of continuity. Call them the sacred trinity: an abiding conviction that the minimum essentials of international peace and order require the United States to maintain a global military presence, to configure its forces for global power projection, and to counter existing or anticipated threats by relying on a policy of global interventionism. Together, credo and trinity—the one defining purpose, the other practice—constitute the essence of the way that Washington has attempted to govern and police the American Century. The relationship between the two is symbiotic. The trinity lends plausibility to the credo's vast claims. For its part, the credo justifies the trinity's vast requirements and exertions.

Together they provide the basis for an enduring consensus that imparts a consistency to U.S. policy regardless of which political party may hold the upper hand or who may be occupying the White House. From the era of Harry Truman to the age of Barack Obama, that consensus has remained intact. It defines the rules to which Washington adheres; it determines the precepts by which Washington rules. As used here, Washington is less a geographic expression than a set of interlocking institutions headed by people who, whether acting officially or unofficially, are able to put a thumb on the helm of state. Washington, in this sense, includes the upper echelons of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government. It encompasses the principal components of the national security state— the departments of Defense, State, and, more recently, Homeland Security, along with various agencies comprising the intelligence and federal law enforcement communities. Its ranks extend to select think tanks and interest groups. Lawyers, lobbyists, fixers, former officials, and retired military officers who still enjoy access are members in good standing. Yet Washington also reaches beyond the Beltway to include big banks and other financial institutions, defense contractors and major corporations, television networks and elite publications like the New York Times, even quasi-academic entities like the Council on Foreign Relations and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

With rare exceptions, acceptance of the Washington rules forms a prerequisite for entry into this world. My purpose in writing this book is fivefold: first, to trace the origins and evolution of the Washington rules—both the credo that inspires consensus and the trinity in which it finds expression; second, to subject the resulting consensus to critical inspection, showing who wins and who loses and also who foots the bill; third, to explain how the Washington rules are perpetuated, with certain views privileged while others are declared disreputable; fourth, to demonstrate that the rules themselves have lost whatever utility they may once have possessed, with their implications increasingly pernicious and their costs increasingly unaffordable; and finally, to argue for readmitting disreputable (or "radical") views to our national security debate, in effect legitimating alternatives to the status quo. In effect, my aim is to invite readers to share in the process of education on which I embarked two decades ago in Berlin. The Washington rules were forged at a moment when American influence and power were approaching their acme. That moment has now passed. The United States has drawn down the stores of authority and goodwill it had acquired by 1945. Words uttered in Washington command less respect than once was the case. Americans can ill afford to indulge any longer in dreams of saving the world, much less remaking it in our own image. The curtain is now falling on the American Century. Similarly, the United States no longer possesses sufficient wherewithal to sustain a national security strategy that relies on global military presence and global power projection to underwrite a policy of global interventionism. Touted as essential to peace, adherence to that strategy has propelled the United States into a condition approximating perpetual war, as the military misadventures of the past decade have demonstrated.

To anyone with eyes to see, the shortcomings inherent in the Washington rules have become plainly evident. Although those most deeply invested in perpetuating its conventions will insist otherwise, the tradition to which Washington remains devoted has begun to unravel. Attempting to prolong its existence might serve Washington's interests, but it will not serve the interests of the American people.

Devising an alternative to the reigning national security paradigm will pose a daunting challenge—especially if Americans look to "Washington" for fresh thinking. Yet doing so has become essential. In one sense, the national security policies to which Washington so insistently adheres express what has long been the preferred American approach to engaging the world beyond our borders. That approach plays to America's presumed strong suit—since World War II, and especially since the end of the Cold War, thought to be military power. In another sense, this reliance on military might creates excuses for the United States to avoid serious engagement: Confidence in American arms has made it unnecessary to attend to what others might think or to consider how their aspirations might differ from our own.

In this way, the Washington rules reinforce American provincialism—a national trait for which the United States continues to pay dearly. The persistence of these rules has also provided an excuse to avoid serious self-engagement. From this perspective, confidence that the credo and the trinity will oblige others to accommodate themselves to America's needs or desires — whether for cheap oil, cheap credit, or cheap consumer goods—has allowed Washington to postpone or ignore problems demanding attention here at home.

Fixing Iraq or Afghanistan ends up taking precedence over fixing Cleveland and Detroit. Purporting to support the troops in their crusade to free the world obviates any obligation to assess the implications of how Americans themselves choose to exercise freedom. When Americans demonstrate a willingness to engage seriously with others, combined with the courage to engage seriously with themselves, then real education just might begin.

In their article ‘The American Century’ Has Plunged the World Into Crisis. What Happens Now?" Conn Hallinan and Leon Wofsy outlined important reasons  of the inevitability of the dominance of chicken hawks and jingoistic foreign policy in the USA political establishment:

June 22, 2015 |

U.S. foreign policy is dangerous, undemocratic, and deeply out of sync with real global challenges. Is continuous war inevitable, or can we change course?

There’s something fundamentally wrong with U.S. foreign policy.

Despite glimmers of hope — a tentative nuclear agreement with Iran, for one, and a long-overdue thaw with Cuba — we’re locked into seemingly irresolvable conflicts in most regions of the world. They range from tensions with nuclear-armed powers like Russia and China to actual combat operations in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa.

Why? Has a state of perpetual warfare and conflict become inescapable? Or are we in a self-replicating cycle that reflects an inability — or unwillingness — to see the world as it actually is?

The United States is undergoing a historic transition in our relationship to the rest of the world, but this is neither acknowledged nor reflected in U.S. foreign policy. We still act as if our enormous military power, imperial alliances, and self-perceived moral superiority empower us to set the terms of “world order.”

While this illusion goes back to the end of World War II, it was the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union that signaled the beginning of a self-proclaimed “American Century.” The idea that the United States had “won” the Cold War and now — as the world’s lone superpower — had the right or responsibility to order the world’s affairs led to a series of military adventures. It started with President Bill Clinton’s intervention in the Yugoslav civil war, continued on with George W. Bush’s disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and can still be seen in the Obama administration’s own misadventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and beyond.

In each case, Washington chose war as the answer to enormously complex issues, ignoring the profound consequences for both foreign and domestic policy. Yet the world is very different from the assumptions that drive this impulsive interventionism.

It’s this disconnect that defines the current crisis.

Acknowledging New Realities

So what is it about the world that requires a change in our outlook? A few observations come to mind.

First, our preoccupation with conflicts in the Middle East — and to a significant extent, our tensions with Russia in Eastern Europe and with China in East Asia — distract us from the most compelling crises that threaten the future of humanity. Climate change and environmental perils have to be dealt with now and demand an unprecedented level of international collective action. That also holds for the resurgent danger of nuclear war.

Second, superpower military interventionism and far-flung acts of war have only intensified conflict, terror, and human suffering. There’s no short-term solution — especially by force — to the deep-seated problems that cause chaos, violence, and misery through much of the world.

Third, while any hope of curbing violence and mitigating the most urgent problems depends on international cooperation, old and disastrous intrigues over spheres of influence dominate the behavior of the major powers. Our own relentless pursuit of military advantage on every continent, including through alliances and proxies like NATO, divides the world into “friend” and “foe” according to our perceived interests. That inevitably inflames aggressive imperial rivalries and overrides common interests in the 21st century.

Fourth, while the United States remains a great economic power, economic and political influence is shifting and giving rise to national and regional centers no longer controlled by U.S.-dominated global financial structures. Away from Washington, London, and Berlin, alternative centers of economic power are taking hold in Beijing, New Delhi, Cape Town, and Brasilia. Independent formations and alliances are springing up: organizations like the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa); the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (representing 2.8 billion people); the Union of South American Nations; the Latin American trade bloc, Mercosur; and others.

Beyond the problems our delusions of grandeur have caused in the wider world, there are enormous domestic consequences of prolonged war and interventionism. We shell out over $1 trillion a year in military-related expenses even as our social safety net frays and our infrastructure crumbles. Democracy itself has become virtually dysfunctional.

Short Memories and Persistent Delusions

But instead of letting these changing circumstances and our repeated military failures give us pause, our government continues to act as if the United States has the power to dominate and dictate to the rest of the world.

The responsibility of those who set us on this course fades into background. Indeed, in light of the ongoing meltdown in the Middle East, leading presidential candidates are tapping neoconservatives like John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz — who still think the answer to any foreign policy quandary is military power — for advice. Our leaders seem to forget that following this lot’s advice was exactly what caused the meltdown in the first place. War still excites them, risks and consequences be damned.

While the Obama administration has sought, with limited success, to end the major wars it inherited, our government makes wide use of killer drones in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and has put troops back into Iraq to confront the religious fanaticism and brutality of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) — itself a direct consequence of the last U.S. invasion of Iraq. Reluctant to find common ground in the fight against ISIS with designated “foes” like Iran and Syria, Washington clings to allies like Saudi Arabia, whose leaders are fueling the crisis of religious fanaticism and internecine barbarity. Elsewhere, the U.S. also continues to give massive support to the Israeli government, despite its expanding occupation of the West Bank and its horrific recurring assaults on Gaza.

A “war first” policy in places like Iran and Syria is being strongly pushed by neoconservatives like former Vice President Dick Cheney and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain. Though it’s attempted to distance itself from the neocons, the Obama administration adds to tensions with planned military realignments like the “Asia pivot” aimed at building up U.S. military forces in Asia to confront China. It’s also taken a more aggressive position than even other NATO partners in fostering a new cold war with Russia.

We seem to have missed the point: There is no such thing as an “American Century.” International order cannot be enforced by a superpower alone. But never mind centuries — if we don’t learn to take our common interests more seriously than those that divide nations and breed the chronic danger of war, there may well be no tomorrows.


There’s a powerful ideological delusion that any movement seeking to change U.S. foreign policy must confront: that U.S. culture is superior to anything else on the planet. Generally going by the name of “American exceptionalism,” it’s the deeply held belief that American politics (and medicine, technology, education, and so on) are better than those in other countries. Implicit in the belief is an evangelical urge to impose American ways of doing things on the rest of the world.

Americans, for instance, believe they have the best education system in the world, when in fact they’ve dropped from 1st place to 14th place in the number of college graduates. We’ve made students of higher education the most indebted section of our population, while falling to 17th place in international education ratings. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation, the average American pays more than twice as much for his or her education than those in the rest of the world.

Health care is an equally compelling example. In the World Health Organization’s ranking of health care systems in 2000, the United States was ranked 37th. In a more recent Institute of Medicine report in 2013, the U.S. was ranked the lowest among 17 developed nations studied.

The old anti-war slogan, “It will be a good day when schools get all the money they need and the Navy has to hold a bake sale to buy an aircraft carrier” is as appropriate today as it was in the 1960s. We prioritize corporate subsidies, tax cuts for the wealthy, and massive military budgets over education. The result is that Americans are no longer among the most educated in the world.

But challenging the “exceptionalism” myth courts the danger of being labeled “unpatriotic” and “un-American,” two powerful ideological sanctions that can effectively silence critical or questioning voices.

The fact that Americans consider their culture or ideology “superior” is hardly unique. But no other country in the world has the same level of economic and military power to enforce its worldview on others.

The United States did not simply support Kosovo’s independence, for example. It bombed Serbia into de facto acceptance. When the U.S. decided to remove the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Gaddafi from power, it just did so. No other country is capable of projecting that kind of force in regions thousands of miles from its borders.

The U.S. currently accounts for anywhere from 45 to 50 percent of the world’s military spending. It has hundreds of overseas bases, ranging from huge sprawling affairs like Camp Bond Steel in Kosovo and unsinkable aircraft carriers around the islands of Okinawa, Wake, Diego Garcia, and Guam to tiny bases called “lily pads” of pre-positioned military supplies. The late political scientist Chalmers Johnson estimated that the U.S. has some 800 bases worldwide, about the same as the British Empire had at its height in 1895.

The United States has long relied on a military arrow in its diplomatic quiver, and Americans have been at war almost continuously since the end of World War II. Some of these wars were major undertakings: Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq (twice), Libya. Some were quick “smash and grabs” like Panama and Grenada. Others are “shadow wars” waged by Special Forces, armed drones, and local proxies. If one defines the term “war” as the application of organized violence, the U.S. has engaged in close to 80 wars since 1945.

The Home Front

The coin of empire comes dear, as the old expression goes.

According Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, the final butcher bill for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars — including the long-term health problems of veterans — will cost U.S. taxpayers around $6 trillion. One can add to that the over $1 trillion the U.S. spends each year on defense-related items. The “official” defense budget of some half a trillion dollars doesn’t include such items as nuclear weapons, veterans’ benefits or retirement, the CIA and Homeland Security, nor the billions a year in interest we’ll be paying on the debt from the Afghan-Iraq wars. By 2013 the U.S. had already paid out $316 billion in interest.

The domestic collateral damage from that set of priorities is numbing.

We spend more on our “official” military budget than we do on Medicare, Medicaid, Health and Human Services, Education, and Housing and Urban Development combined. Since 9/11, we’ve spent $70 million an hour on “security” compared to $62 million an hour on all domestic programs.

As military expenditures dwarf funding for deteriorating social programs, they drive economic inequality. The poor and working millions are left further and further behind. Meanwhile the chronic problems highlighted at Ferguson, and reflected nationwide, are a horrific reminder of how deeply racism — the unequal economic and social divide and systemic abuse of black and Latino youth — continues to plague our homeland.

The state of ceaseless war has deeply damaged our democracy, bringing our surveillance and security state to levels that many dictators would envy. The Senate torture report, most of it still classified, shatters the trust we are asked to place in the secret, unaccountable apparatus that runs the most extensive Big Brother spy system ever devised.

Bombs and Business

President Calvin Coolidge was said to have remarked that “the business of America is business.” Unsurprisingly, U.S. corporate interests play a major role in American foreign policy.

Out of the top 10 international arms producers, eight are American. The arms industry spends millions lobbying Congress and state legislatures, and it defends its turf with an efficiency and vigor that its products don’t always emulate on the battlefield. The F-35 fighter-bomber, for example — the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history — will cost $1.5 trillion and doesn’t work. It’s over budget, dangerous to fly, and riddled with defects. And yet few lawmakers dare challenge the powerful corporations who have shoved this lemon down our throats.

Corporate interests are woven into the fabric of long-term U.S. strategic interests and goals. Both combine to try to control energy supplies, command strategic choke points through which oil and gas supplies transit, and ensure access to markets.

Many of these goals can be achieved with standard diplomacy or economic pressure, but the U.S. always reserves the right to use military force. The 1979 “Carter Doctrine” — a document that mirrors the 1823 Monroe Doctrine about American interests in Latin America — put that strategy in blunt terms vis-à-vis the Middle East:

 “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

It’s no less true in East Asia. The U.S. will certainly engage in peaceful economic competition with China. But if push comes to shove, the Third, Fifth, and Seventh fleets will back up the interests of Washington and its allies — Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Australia.

Trying to change the course of American foreign policy is not only essential for reducing international tensions. It’s critically important to shift the enormous wealth we expend in war and weapons toward alleviating growing inequality and social crises at home.

As long as competition for markets and accumulation of capital characterize modern society, nations will vie for spheres of influence, and antagonistic interests will be a fundamental feature of international relations. Chauvinist reaction to incursions real or imagined — and the impulse to respond by military means — is characteristic to some degree of every significant nation-state. Yet the more that some governments, including our own, become subordinate to oligarchic control, the greater is the peril.

Finding the Common Interest

These, however, are not the only factors that will shape the future.

There is nothing inevitable that rules out a significant change of direction, even if the demise or transformation of a capitalistic system of greed and exploitation is not at hand. The potential for change, especially in U.S. foreign policy, resides in how social movements here and abroad respond to the undeniable reality of: 1) the chronic failure, massive costs, and danger inherent in “American Century” exceptionalism; and 2) the urgency of international efforts to respond to climate change.

There is, as well, the necessity to respond to health and natural disasters aggravated by poverty, to rising messianic violence, and above all, to prevent a descent into war. This includes not only the danger of a clash between the major nuclear powers, but between regional powers. A nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India, for example, would affect the whole world.

Without underestimating the self-interest of forces that thrive on gambling with the future of humanity, historic experience and current reality elevate a powerful common interest in peace and survival. The need to change course is not something that can be recognized on only one side of an ideological divide. Nor does that recognition depend on national, ethnic, or religious identity. Rather, it demands acknowledging the enormous cost of plunging ahead as everything falls apart around us.

After the latest U.S. midterm elections, the political outlook is certainly bleak. But experience shows that elections, important as they are, are not necessarily indicators of when and how significant change can come about in matters of policy. On issues of civil rights and social equality, advances have occurred because a dedicated and persistent minority movement helped change public opinion in a way the political establishment could not defy.

The Vietnam War, for example, came to an end, despite the stubbornness of Democratic and Republican administrations, when a stalemate on the battlefield and growing international and domestic opposition could no longer be denied. Significant changes can come about even as the basic character of society is retained. Massive resistance and rejection of colonialism caused the British Empire and other colonial powers to adjust to a new reality after World War II. McCarthyism was eventually defeated in the United States. President Nixon was forced to resign. The use of landmines and cluster bombs has been greatly restricted because of the opposition of a small band of activists whose initial efforts were labeled “quixotic.”

There are diverse and growing political currents in our country that see the folly and danger of the course we’re on. Many Republicans, Democrats, independents, and libertarians — and much of the public — are beginning to say “enough” to war and military intervention all over the globe, and the folly of basing foreign policy on dividing countries into “friend or foe.”

This is not to be Pollyannaish about anti-war sentiment, or how quickly people can be stampeded into supporting the use of force. In early 2014, some 57 percent of Americans agreed that “over-reliance on military force creates more hatred leading to increased terrorism.” Only 37 percent believed military force was the way to go. But once the hysteria around the Islamic State began, those numbers shifted to pretty much an even split: 47 percent supported the use of military force, 46 percent opposed it.

It will always be necessary in each new crisis to counter those who mislead and browbeat the public into acceptance of another military intervention. But in spite of the current hysterics about ISIS, disillusionment in war as an answer is probably greater now among Americans and worldwide than it has ever been. That sentiment may prove strong enough to produce a shift away from perpetual war, a shift toward some modesty and common-sense realism in U.S. foreign policy.

Making Space for the Unexpected

Given that there is a need for a new approach, how can American foreign policy be changed?

Foremost, there is the need for a real debate on the thrust of a U.S. foreign policy that chooses negotiation, diplomacy, and international cooperation over the use of force.

However, as we approach another presidential election, there is as yet no strong voice among the candidates to challenge U.S. foreign policy. Fear and questionable political calculation keep even most progressive politicians from daring to dissent as the crisis of foreign policy lurches further into perpetual militarism and war. That silence of political acquiescence has to be broken.

Nor is it a matter of concern only on the left. There are many Americans — right, left, or neither — who sense the futility of the course we’re on. These voices have to be represented or the election process will be even more of a sham than we’ve recently experienced.

One can’t predict just what initiatives may take hold, but the recent U.S.-China climate agreement suggests that necessity can override significant obstacles. That accord is an important step forward, although a limited bilateral pact cannot substitute for an essential international climate treaty. There is a glimmer of hope also in the U.S.-Russian joint action that removed chemical weapons from Syria, and in negotiations with Iran, which continue despite fierce opposition from U.S. hawks and the Israeli government. More recently, there is Obama’s bold move — long overdue — to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. Despite shifts in political fortunes, the unexpected can happen if there is a need and strong enough pressure to create an opportunity.

We do not claim to have ready-made solutions to the worsening crisis in international relations. We are certain that there is much we’ve missed or underestimated. But if readers agree that U.S. foreign policy has a national and global impact, and that it is not carried out in the interests of the majority of the world’s people, including our own, then we ask you to join this conversation.

If we are to expand the ability of the people to influence foreign policy, we need to defend democracy, and encourage dissent and alternative ideas. The threats to the world and to ourselves are so great that finding common ground trumps any particular interest. We also know that we won’t all agree with each other, and we believe that is as it should be. There are multiple paths to the future. No coalition around changing foreign policy will be successful if it tells people to conform to any one pattern of political action.

So how does the call for changing course translate to something politically viable, and how do we consider the problem of power?

The power to make significant changes in policy ranges from the persistence of peace activists to the potential influence of the general public. In some circumstances, it becomes possible — as well as necessary — to make significant changes in the power structure itself.

Greece comes to mind. Greek left organizations came together to form Syriza, the political party that was successfully elected to power on a platform of ending austerity. Spain’s anti-austerity Podemos Party — now the number-two party in the country — came out of massive demonstrations in 2011 and was organized from the grassroots up. We do not argue one approach over the over, but the experiences in both countries demonstrate that there are multiple paths to generating change.

Certainly progressives and leftists grapple with the problems of power. But progress on issues, particularly in matters like war and peace and climate change, shouldn’t be conceived of as dependent on first achieving general solutions to the problems of society, however desirable.

... ... ...

Conn Hallinan is a journalist and a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus. His writings appear online at Dispatches From the Edge. Leon Wofsy is a retired biology professor and long-time political activist. His comments on current affairs appear online at Leon’s OpEd.

Another useful review is from  Gerard De Groot -- Andrew Bacevich's Washington Rules and John Dower's Cultures of War  Here are some highlights:

"...These rules have pushed the United States to a state of perpetual war. With enemies supposedly everywhere, the pursuit of security has become open-ended. "
"...One is reminded of John Winthrop, who, in 1630, told the future residents of Massachusetts Bay Colony: "We shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us." Over subsequent decades, Winthrop's sermon became the American mission, fired by self-righteousness and fueled by self-confidence. From that mission emerged the idea of Manifest Destiny -- American ideals should spread across the continent and around the globe. Along the way, Americans lost sight of what Winthrop actually meant. His words were both inspiration and warning: Aspire to greatness, but remain honorable. Power lies in virtue. Winthrop envisaged a shining beacon, worthy of emulation. He saw no need to come down from the hill and ram ideals down the throats of the recalcitrant. "
"...Back in 1963, the Kennedy administration was faced with a steadily disintegrating situation in Vietnam. At a turbulent cabinet meeting, Attorney General Robert Kennedy asked: If the situation is so dire, why not withdraw? Arthur Schlesinger, present at the meeting, noted how "the question hovered for a moment, then died away." It was "a hopelessly alien thought in a field of unexplored assumptions and entrenched convictions." The Washington rules kept the United States on a steady course toward disaster. "
"...Barack Obama once promised that change was coming, but then quickly adhered to the old rules by escalating an unwinnable and certainly unaffordable war in Afghanistan. Failures, as Steffens hoped, have been illuminating, but after each flash of light, darkness has prevailed. "
September 12, 2010 |

WASHINGTON RULES: America's Path to Permanent War

This Story

By Andrew J. Bacevich

Metropolitan. 286 pp. $25


Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq

By John W. Dower

Norton. 596 pp. $29.95

"We need some great failures," the muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens wrote in his autobiography. "Especially we ever-successful Americans -- conscious, intelligent, illuminating failures." What Steffens meant was that a people confident in righteousness need occasionally to be reminded of their fallibility. The past 50 years have produced failures aplenty -- the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam and Iraq among them. Unfortunately, as Andrew Bacevich and John Dower demonstrate, the light of failure has not penetrated the darkness of delusion. As a result, wars provide a repeating rhythm of folly.

"Washington Rules" and "Cultures of War" are two excellent books made better by the coincidence of their publication. In complementary fashion, they provide a convincing critique of America's conduct of war since 1941. Steffens would have liked these books, specifically for the way they use past failures to explain the provenance of our current predicament.

Read "Cultures of War" first. It's not an easy book, but it is consistently perceptive. Dower examines Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Sept. 11 and the second Iraq War, drawing disconcerting linkages. Pearl Harbor and Iraq, he feels, demonstrate how otherwise intelligent leaders are drawn toward strategic imbecility. Both attacks were brilliantly executed in the short term, but neither paid sufficient attention to the long-term problem of winning a war. More controversially, Dower pairs Hiroshima with Sept. 11, both acts of terror born of moral certitude. Osama bin Laden and Harry Truman justified wanton killing with essentially the same Manichean rhetoric. Motives, context and scale might have been different; methods were not. For both leaders, the ability to separate good from evil made killing easy.

In 1941, Americans drew comfort from the stereotype of the irrational Oriental. They assumed that the Japanese would be easily defeated because they were illogical -- as their attack upon Pearl Harbor proved. That attack was indeed illogical (given the impossibility of defeating the United States in a protracted war), but it was not peculiarly Japanese. As Dower reveals, the wishful thinking, delusion and herd behavior within the court of Emperor Hirohito was a symptom of war, not ethnicity. The same deficiencies, in 2003, convinced those in the Oval Office that invading Iraq was a good idea.

Since the culture of war encourages patterned behavior, folly proliferates. This is the essence of the Washington rules that Bacevich elucidates. The rules dictate that protection of the American way of life necessitates a global military presence and a willingness to intervene anywhere. Power and violence are cleansed by virtue: Because America is "good," her actions are always benign. These rules have pushed the United States to a state of perpetual war. With enemies supposedly everywhere, the pursuit of security has become open-ended.

The alternative, according to Bacevich, is not isolationism or appeasement, two politically loaded words frequently used to pummel those who object to Washington's behavior. He advocates, instead, a more level-headed assessment of danger, advice all the more cogent since it comes from a former soldier. Iraq and Afghanistan did not threaten America; in fact, those countries and the world have become more dangerous because of heavy-handed American intervention. Nor does North Korea pose a threat. Nor did Vietnam.

One is reminded of John Winthrop, who, in 1630, told the future residents of Massachusetts Bay Colony: "We shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us." Over subsequent decades, Winthrop's sermon became the American mission, fired by self-righteousness and fueled by self-confidence. From that mission emerged the idea of Manifest Destiny -- American ideals should spread across the continent and around the globe. Along the way, Americans lost sight of what Winthrop actually meant. His words were both inspiration and warning: Aspire to greatness, but remain honorable. Power lies in virtue. Winthrop envisaged a shining beacon, worthy of emulation. He saw no need to come down from the hill and ram ideals down the throats of the recalcitrant.

The power of virtue is Bacevich's most profound message. Instead of trying to fix Afghanistan's Helmand Province, he insists, Americans should fix Detroit and Cleveland. Instead of attempting to export notions of freedom and democracy to nations that lack experience of either, America should demonstrate, by her actions, that she is still a free, democratic and humane nation. Her real strength lies in her liberal tradition, not in her ability to kill.

Back in 1963, the Kennedy administration was faced with a steadily disintegrating situation in Vietnam. At a turbulent cabinet meeting, Attorney General Robert Kennedy asked: If the situation is so dire, why not withdraw? Arthur Schlesinger, present at the meeting, noted how "the question hovered for a moment, then died away." It was "a hopelessly alien thought in a field of unexplored assumptions and entrenched convictions." The Washington rules kept the United States on a steady course toward disaster.

Those unexplored assumptions and entrenched convictions have now pushed the United States into a new quagmire. Despite that predicament, both Dower and Bacevich try to end positively. "If change is to come, it must come from the people," argues Bacevich. Dower agrees. But these feeble attempts at optimism are the least convincing parts of two otherwise brilliant books. Barack Obama once promised that change was coming, but then quickly adhered to the old rules by escalating an unwinnable and certainly unaffordable war in Afghanistan. Failures, as Steffens hoped, have been illuminating, but after each flash of light, darkness has prevailed.

Gerard De Groot is a professor of history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and author of "The Bomb: A Life."

 Andrew Feldman review (Review Washington Rules - FPIF)

Army-officer-turned professor Andrew Bacevich makes the realist case against American expansionism.

By Andrew Feldman, August 26, 2010.


For his first 40 years, Andrew Bacevich lived the conventional life of an army officer. In the military world where success depended on conformity, he followed the rules and “took comfort in orthodoxy…[finding] assurance in conventional wisdom.” Comfort, that is, until he had a chance to peer behind the Iron Curtain, and was shocked to find East Germany more third-world shambles than first-rate threat.

That experience, combined with the introspection that followed his subsequent retirement from the army, led Bacevich to reevaluate the relationship between truth and power. After having taken his superiors at their word for decades, he slowly came to understand “that authentic truth is never simple and that any version of truth handed down from on high…is inherently suspect. The exercise of power necessarily involves manipulation and is antithetical to candor.”

Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War is Bacevich’s fourth book on the subject of American exercise of power. This time, he takes up the question of the political calculations that have produced the basic tenets of American foreign policy since the beginning of the Cold War, examining how and why they came to exist and to survive all challenges to their supremacy.

Bacevich describes two components that define U.S. foreign policy.

These rules, Bacevich argues, are no longer vital to the existence of the United States, and have led to actions that threaten to break the army and bankrupt the treasury. Rather, they are kept in place by individuals who derive personal benefit from their continuance. Bacevich does not hesitate to blame a Washington class that “clings to its credo and trinity not out of necessity, but out of parochial self-interest laced with inertia.”

This is a theme that runs throughout the book: that those who make the rules also benefit from them, and thus their demands should always be regarded skeptically.

While abstaining from questioning the patriotism of past leaders, Bacevich is not reluctant to point out how many policies that were later widely embraced were originally trumpeted by ambitious men who had as much to gain personally by their acceptance as did the country:

The story of foreign policy, then, is not so much different than any government bureaucracy through which vast sums of money flow, and is driven as much by officials jockeying for status than by genuine concern for policy outcomes. Whether in disputes between the Army and the Air Force or the Pentagon and the White House, and whether over money or over purpose, different sectors of the national security establishment propose and promote new doctrines that necessitate increasing their budgets and enhancing their importance.

But Bacevich is not content to only blame leaders. In contrast to George Washington’s ideal of the citizen who would consider it his duty to actively serve his country, Bacevich finds today’s Americans “greedy and gullible,” pursuing personal gain in the stead of collective benefit. Any solution, he argues, must come from an awakened people who demand change from the people they put in office.

As for what that change should look like, Bacevich proposes a new credo and trinity. As a new mission statement, he offers: “America’s purpose is to be America, striving to fulfill the aspirations expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as reinterpreted with the passage of time and in light of hard-earned experience.”

As a new trinity, he suggests that “the purpose of the U.S, military is not to combat evil or remake the world but to defend the United States and its most vital interests…the primary duty station of the American soldier is in America…consistent with the Just War tradition, the United States should employ force only as a last resort and only in self defense.”

Bacevich writes in the short, clipped style with which he also speaks, presumably a legacy of his West Point education and decades in the military. His style allows for easy comprehension and neat packaging of his ideas, and readers will not get bogged down in flowery language.

Parts of Bacevich’s thinking require further scrutiny and remind readers of his self-identification as a conservative (lowercase “c”). Economically, he is no fan of stimulus spending, and socially he places blame on individual failings and personal flaws, choosing not to mention an unequal economic system that leaves tens of millions of Americans with barely the resources to take care of their families, much less have time to be informed and active citizens.

In fact, the emphasis throughout the book is on the fact that expansionism, at this particular moment, is not wrong but impossible. Bacevich is, after all, a realist when it comes to international relations theory, and though he happens to agree with liberal anti-imperials on many issues, it is often for different reasons.

However, debates over theory can wait for when the republic is in less immediate peril. This is the second work Bacevich has published under the auspices of the American Empire Project, a book series documenting America’s imperial adventures and their disastrous consequences. The contribution of conservative authors to this task is vital. They remind us that opposition to imperialism is hardly just a liberal cause, and in fact for much of American history was actually a rallying point for conservatives across the country.

Washington Rules is valuable for putting in print what those inside the military establishment don’t dare admit: that, even aside from moral concerns, U.S. international strategy is neither successful nor sustainable and maintained more by lies than by actual results. Bacevich can truly be said to be a realist in that he understand that leaders, when faced with the choice of admitting failure or lying, will almost always choose the latter.

Andrew Feldman is an intern with Foreign Policy In Focus.


The Limits of Power The End of American Exceptionalism

Here is one Amazon reader review of he first book ( David R. Cook Dave Cook's review of The Limits of Power The End of American E...)

Cliche or not, this is a "Must Read" book

By David R. Cook on August 15, 2008

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

This is the bluntest, toughest, most scathing critique of American imperialism as it has become totally unmoored after the demise of the Soviet Communist empire and taken to a new level by the Bush administration. Even the brevity of this book - 182 pages - gives it a particular wallop since every page "concentrates the mind".

In the event a reader knows of the prophetic work of the American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, you will further appreciate this book. Bacevich is a Niebuhr scholar and this book essentially channels Niebuhr's prophetic warnings from his 1952 book, "The Irony of American History". The latter has just been reissued by University of Chicago Press thanks to Andrew Bacevich who also contributed an introduction.

In essence, American idealism as particularly reflected in Bush's illusory goal to "rid the world of evil" and to bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East or wherever people are being tyrannized, is doomed to failure by the tides of history. Niebuhr warned against this and Bacevich updates the history from the Cold War to the present. Now our problems have reached crisis proportions and Bacevich focuses on the three essential elements of the crisis: American profligacy; the political debasing of government; and the crisis in the military.

What renders Bacevich's critique particularly stinging, aside from the historical context he gives it (Bush has simply taken an enduring American exceptionalism to a new level), is that he lays these problems on the doorstep of American citizens. It is we who have elected the governments that have driven us toward near collapse. It is we who have participated willingly in the consumption frenzy in which both individual citizens and the government live beyond their means. Credit card debt is undermining both government and citizenry.

This pathway is unsustainable and this book serves up a direct and meaningful warning to this effect. Niebuhrian "realism" sees through the illusions that fuel our own individual behavior and that of our government. There are limits to American power and limits to our own individual living standards and, of course, there are limits to what the globe can sustain as is becoming evident from climate changes.

American exceptionalism is coming to an end and it will be painful for both individual citizens and our democracy and government to get beyond it. But we have no choice. Things will get worse before they get better. Bacevich suggests some of the basic ways that we need to go to reverse the path to folly. He holds out no illusions that one political party or the other, one presidential candidate or the other, has the will or the leadership qualities to change directions. It is up to American citizens to demand different policies as well as to govern our own appetites.

While this is a sobering book, it is not warning of doomsday. Our worst problems are essentially of our own making and we can begin to unmake them. But we first have to come to terms with our own exceptionalism. We cannot manage history and there are no real global problems that can be solved by military means, or certainly not by military means alone.

Without Exception
By Edwin C. Pauzer VINE VOICE on September 24, 2008

This is one of those books you might find yourself sitting down to read chapter and verse over and over again, only because the writing is so intelligent and so profound. "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism," by Andrew Bacevich, is one of those works that will enthrall the reader with its insight and analysis.

According to the author, the US has reached its limit to project its power in the world. His rationale for this conclusion are three central crises we now face: economic and cultural, political, and military, all of which are our own making.

The first crisis is one of profligacy. Americans want more, whether it is wealth, credit, markets, or oil, without consideration for cost or how these things are acquired. There is complete apathy in what policies are being produced as long as they provide plenty.

The political crisis was born of our mobilization in World War II to meet the threat of tyranny, and from the Cold War to meet the challenge of the Soviet Union. Both gave rise to unprecedented presidential power, an ineffectual Congress, and a disastrous foreign policy. Bacevich contends that our legislature no longer serves their constituents or the common good "but themselves through gerrymandering, doling out prodigious amounts of political pork, seeing to the protection of certain vested interests" with the paramount concern of being re-elected. Our presidents have been willing accomplices in keeping the American dream or greed alive by using our military as part of a coercive diplomatic tool to feed and fuel the first crisis.

Bacevich traces the end of the republic to the start of both wars, which gave rise to the "ideology of national security." The mission of the new Department of Defense is not defense, but to project power globally where we will view any nation as a threat that tries to match us in military might. At the same time, the largest intelligence agencies in the world are created to afford us more security, but after seventy years are unable to defend our cities and buildings in the US while it worries about intrigues worldwide. Competition and rivalry lead to a lack of cooperation, intelligence, and security when it was needed most.

The third crisis is our military which has been employed to satisfy the neuroses of the first and second crises. The author puts much of the blame squarely at the feet of inept military leadership, which he believes has confused strategy with operations. Content with the resilience of the American fighting man or woman, he is scathing in his critique of their leadership finding them "guilty of flagrant professional malpractice, if not outright fraud." He illustrates how improvised explosive devices that cost no more than a pizza have checked a military that is designed for speed and maneuver--that was considered invincible.

Andrew Bacevich contends that nothing will change as long as Americans are told to go to Disney World instead of making sacrifices, as long as the same one half percent of our population continue to populate the military that the president sees as his personal army, as long as an apathetic public and an ineffectual Congress continue to make periodic, grand gestures of curbing presidential power, the United States will have reached the limits of its power and exceptionalism.

This book profoundly moved me, and I was impressed by the insight that Professor Bacevich could bring in such few pages. Passages of this book should be plastered in the halls and offices of Congress, as well as the West Wing.

This book really stands out as a jewel in a sea of mediocre publications by radio and TV personalities who think they know what they are talking about when it comes to economics or geopolitics. The difference is that Andrew Bacevich does

--without exception.

Also Recommended:

The New American Militarism

There are several very insightful reviews of Bacevich latest book The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (2005) on Amazon. I strongly recommend to read them.

Bacevich argues that the new militarism came about because of a convergence of several social forces (and as such has significant social base):

For your convenience some of  them which I judge to be the most insightful are reproduced below:

Andrew J. Bacevich's The New American Militarism: How Americans Are seduced By War, Oxford University Press, New York, 2005, ISBN 0-19-517338-4, is the most coherent analysis of how America has come to its present situation in the world that I have ever read. Bacevich, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds a Ph.D. in history from Princeton. And he is retired military officer. This background makes him almost uniquely qualified to comment on the subject.

Bacevich admits to an outlook of moderate conservatism. But in ascribing fault for our plight to virtually every administration since W.W. II, he is even handed and clear eyed. Since he served in the military, he understands the natural bureaucratic instincts of the best of the officer corps and is not blinded by the almost messianic status that they have achieved in the recent past.

His broad brush includes the classic period, the American Revolution - especially the impact of George Washington, but he moves quickly to the influence of Woodrow Wilson and his direct descendants of our time, the Neoconservatives. The narrative accelerates and becomes relevant for us in the depths of the despair of Vietnam. At that juncture, neocon intellectuals awakened to the horror that without a new day for our military and foreign policy, the future of America would be at stake. At almost the same time, Evangelical Christians abandoned their traditional role in society and came to views not dissimilar to the neocons. America had to get back on track to both power and goodness. The results of Vietnam on American culture, society, and - especially - values were abhorrent to both these groups.

The perfect man to idealize and mythologize America's road back was Ronald Reagan. Again, Bacevich does not shrink from seeing through the surreal qualities brought to the Oval Office by Reagan to the realities beneath them. The Great Communicator transformed the Vietnam experience into an abandonment of American ideals and reacquainted America with those who fought that horrible war. Pop culture of the period, including motion pictures such as Top Gun and best selling novels by many, including Tom Clancy completely rehabilitated the image of the military.

The author describes how Evangelical leaders came to find common cause with the neocons and provided the political muscle for Reagan and his successors of both parties to discover that the projection of military might become a reason for being for America as the last century closed.

One of his major points is that the all volunteer force that resulted from the Vietnam experience has been divorced from American life and that sending this force of ghosts into battle has little impact on our collective psyche. This, too, fit in with the intellectual throw weight of the neocons and the political power of the Evangelicals.

Separate from but related to the neocons, Bacevich describes the loss of strategic input by the military in favor of a new priesthood of intellectual elites from institutions such as the RAND Corporation, The University of Chicago and many others. It was these high priests who saw the potential that technology provided for changing the nature of war itself and how American power might be projected with `smart weapons' that could be the equivalent of the nuclear force that could never be used.

So it was that when the war we are now embroiled in across the globe - which has its antecedents back more than twenty years - all of these forces weighed heavily on the military leaders to start using the force we'd bought them. The famed question by Secretary of State Madeline Albright to General Colin Powell: "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?" had to have an answer and the skirmishes and wars since tended to provide it.

Bacevich clearly links our present predicaments both at home and abroad to the ever greater need for natural resources, especially oil from the Persian Gulf. He demolishes all of the reasons for our bellicosity based on ideals and links it directly to our insatiable appetite for oil and economic expansion. Naturally, like thousands of writers before him, he points out the need for a national energy policy based on more effective use of resources and alternative means of production.

It is in his prescriptions that the book tends to drift. The Congress must do its constitutionally mandated jobs or be thrown out by the people. Some of his ideas on military education are creative and might well close the gap between the officer corps and civilians that he points to as a great problem.

But it is the clearly written analysis that makes this book shine. It should be a must read for those who wonder how we got to Iraq and where we might be heading as a society. The nation is in grave danger, and this is a book that that shows how we got to this juncture. Where we go from here is up to us. If we continue as we are, our options may narrow and be provided by others.


===This review is from: The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Hardcover)

In his book The New American Militarism (2005), Andrew Bacevich desacralizes our idolatrous infatuation with military might, but in a way that avoids the partisan cant of both the left and the right that belies so much discourse today. Bacevich's personal experiences and professional expertise lend his book an air of authenticity that I found compelling. A veteran of Vietnam and subsequently a career officer, a graduate of West Point and later Princeton where he earned a PhD in history, director of Boston University's Center for International Relations, he describes himself as a cultural conservative who views mainstream liberalism with skepticism, but who also is a person whose "disenchantment with what passes for mainstream conservatism, embodied in the present Bush administration and its groupies, is just about absolute." Finally, he identifies himself as a "conservative Catholic." Idolizing militarism, Bacevich insists, is far more complex, broader and deeper than scape-goating either political party, accusing people of malicious intent or dishonorable motives, demonizing ideological fanatics as conspirators, or replacing a given administration. Not merely the state or the government, but society at large, is enthralled with all things military.

Our military idolatry, Bacevich believes, is now so comprehensive and beguiling that it "pervades our national consciousness and perverts our national policies." We have normalized war, romanticized military life that formally was deemed degrading and inhuman, measured our national greatness in terms of military superiority, and harbor naive, unlimited expectations about how waging war, long considered a tragic last resort that signaled failure, can further our national self-interests. Utilizing a "military metaphysic" to justify our misguided ambitions to recreate the world in our own image, with ideals that we imagine are universal, has taken about thirty years to emerge in its present form. It is this marriage between utopians ends and military means that Bacevich wants to annul.

How have we come to idolize military might with such uncritical devotion? He likens it to pollution: "the perhaps unintended, but foreseeable by-product of prior choices and decisions made without taking fully into account the full range of costs likely to be incurred" (p. 206). In successive chapters he analyzes six elements of this toxic condition that combined in an incremental and cumulative fashion.

  1. After the humiliation of Vietnam, an "unmitigated disaster" in his view, the military set about to rehabilitate and reinvent itself, both in image and substance. With the All Volunteer Force, we moved from a military comprised of citizen-soldiers that were broadly representative of all society to a professional warrior caste that by design isolated itself from broader society and that by default employed a disproportionate percentage of enlistees from the lowest socio-economic class. War-making was thus done for us, by a few of us, not by all of us.
  2. Second, the rise of the neo-conservative movement embraced American Exceptionalism as our national end and superior coercive force as the means to franchise it around the world.
  3. Myth-making about warfare sentimentalized, sanitized and fictionalized war. The film Top Gun is only one example of "a glittering new image of warfare."
  4. Fourth, without the wholehearted complicity of conservative evangelicalism, militarism would have been "inconceivable," a tragic irony when you consider that the most "Christian" nation on earth did far less to question this trend than many ostensibly "secular" nations.
  5. Fifth, during the years of nuclear proliferation and the fears of mutually assured destruction, a "priesthood" of elite defense analysts pushed for what became known as the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). RMA pushed the idea of "limited" and more humane war using game theory models and technological advances with euphemisms like "clean" and "smart" bombs. But here too our "exuberance created expectations that became increasingly uncoupled from reality," as the current Iraq debacle demonstrates.
  6. Finally, despite knowing full well that dependence upon Arab oil made us vulnerable to the geo-political maelstroms of that region, we have continued to treat the Persian Gulf as a cheap gas station. How to insure our Arab oil supply, protect Saudi Arabia, and serve as Israel's most important protector has always constituted a squaring of the circle. Sordid and expedient self interest, our "pursuit of happiness ever more expansively defined," was only later joined by more lofty rhetoric about exporting universal ideals like democracy and free markets, or, rather, the latter have only been a (misguided) means to secure the former.

Bacevich opens and closes with quotes from our Founding Fathers. In 1795, James Madison warned that "of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other." Similarly, late in his life George Washington warned the country of "those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hotile to republican liberty."

K. Johnson:

 Relevant and Objective, January 3, 2007

Author Andrew Bacevich has superb credentials on military, diplomatic, and historical issues. A Vietnam Veteran, 25+ year career in the Army and now professor of International Relations, Bacevich is one of the few that has the experience *and* knowledge to dissect what has been occurring in American socio-political culture and society for the last several decades. Bacevich notes the current focus on the military to solve the world's problems and to promote America's interests is not the sole work of a President and Congress, but the combination of culture, mentality, political, and now primarily economic, interests. This book has tons of footnoting, which allows you to delve further into these issues on your own.

The author astutely reinforces the fact that the Militarist Mentality won't change, regardless of which political party is in control of the Executive and Houses of Congress in the United States. Here only some examples out of many:

Entry of the U.S. military into the Middle East:


The Carter Doctrine was prescribed at the State of the Union Address in 1980. Another civilian prescription utilizing the military as medicine to alleviate and even cure, political symptoms. This Doctrine began a new era of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, specifically using the American military to enforce its economic interests and lifestyle dependence on oil. The Carter Doctrine was a major shift in American foreign policy in the Middle East. It specifically stated that use of the military can and will be used to enforce U.S. economic interests.

At his State of the Union Address, Carter stated:

"Any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be declared as an assault on the vital interest of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force" (p. 181).

Worth noting is that the Carter Doctrine was declared during the Cold War, when there was a adversary to check U.S interests. Today, that rival is gone.

Some argue the so-called 'War on Terror' is merely a historical continuation of American foreign policy interests in using its military to promote its geo-political and economic interests.


War has been, and now is presented as a spectacle. No different than a spectator sport. Live reports, video display, and laymen presentations of new technology, usually via video, to the civilian public at press conferences.

One example of many are current U.S. newspaper reports: they don't use the term "wounded" when reporting about American soldiers in Iraq. They use the euphemistic term, "injured." "17 Iraqis 'wounded' and 3 American soldiers 'injured.'" Similar to a football game. Slogans such as "Shock and Awe, Support the Troops," and deck of cards identifying the most wanted Baath party members. "Freedom is not Free." Many American military personel (and civilians) have internalized this propaganda.

Using Hollywood To Enhance "Honor" and perpetuate myths:

Bacevich carefully details the planned and choreographed footage of George W. Bush dressed as a fighter pilot on the USS Abraham Lincoln. This was intentionally and specifically lifted from the movie "Top Gun." Immediately after this planned footage, an action figure doll was created and sold for $39.99. It was called the "Elite Force Aviator: George W. Bush: U.S. President and Naval Aviator" (p. 31).

Well-dressed, handsome, and beautiful anchors report about the war in such series as "The Week in War." More simulation of the spectator sport of war in our pop culture. One segment in the "Week in War program" is called "The Fallen," where the photo of a soldier, his name, age, and hometown are presented, and the date of his death. Then the cameramen go to his family's home. Often a family picture of the "fallen soldier" is shown. Then, an interview with the somber, and at times tearful family in their living room, sitting on their couch: "He was a good kid. He always wanted to help people."

The "Fallen" is related to a concept that the Germans began about 300 years ago. This concept is called the "Cult of the Fallen Soldier." When a soldier is killed in war he is elevated to a higher status because of his death. He is placed on a pedestal, because somehow, and in some enigmatic way, he "sacrificed" for a noble cause that is often abstract or confusing to the public. To further simplify the confusion and sullenness resulting from the soldier's death, religion is often injected into the deceased soldiers elevation on a pedestal. You can see this Cult of the Fallen Soldier in Arlington, Virgina today, and in many military cemeteries around the world.


Bacevich notes moves and their role. "Top Gun" had a tremendous impact in many ways. Pop culture, and Navy recruiting sky-rocketing. As for the flurry of "Vietnam war movies," again the noble concepts of "courage, honor, fear, triumph" are latently and explicitly reinforced to the public of all ages and socio-economic levels.

It took me a chapter or two to get used to Bacevich's writing style, but I grew to like it.

Chapters: 1) Wilsonians Under Arms 2) The Military Professions at Bay 3) Left, Right, Center 4) California Dreaming 5) Onward 6) War Club 7) Blood for Oil 8) Common Defense

"Support" for the military is often incorrectly linked with one's "patriotism." This faulty thinking is perpetuated by the electronic and print media in often subtle forms but extremely effective forms, and at times very explicit and in aggressive manners. The government intentionally steers the publics' focus to the 'Military aspects of war' to avoid attention to the more realistic and vital 'political aspects.' The latter being at the real heart of the motivation, manner, and outcome of most *political* conflicts.

Bacevich notes journalists: journalist Thomas Friedman complained that a Super Bowl half-time show did not honor the "troops." He then drove to the Command Center to visit and speak with the "troops." Soon after, he carried on with his own self-centered interests, like everyone else.

The military in and of itself is not dangerous nor pernicious. The military doesn't formulate foreign policy. The military just implements it, carrying out the orders and instructions of elitist civilians who have never served in the armed forces. It's not the military nor the men and women serving in it, we must be wary of. It's the civilians masters with vested interests in the governmental and corporate world who must be held accountable.

General Creighton Abrams wanted to diminish the influence of civilian control over the military after Vietnam. Civilians and politicians were making military decisions. It seems the situation is similar in 2007. Chairman of the JCS Peter Pace sounds political. History will be the judge.

This is a very insightful book for those interested in recent history as well as the current situation the United States is in. The troops should be supported for what they do. Because unfortunately they are the ones that pay the price for elitist decisions made by upper-class civilians from the Ivy League cliques that run the U.S. politically and economically.

Highly recommended and relevant to our contemporary times and our future.

Andrew Bacevich did excellent research and writing in this book. I'll think we'll be hearing a lot more of him. Hopefully He'll get more access to the public. If - the mainstream media allows it.

Robert S. Frey
An Informed, Insightful, and Highly Readable Account of American Foreign Policy Today, December 23, 2006

Andrew J. Bacevich's "The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War," should be read and considered carefully by every member of the national political leadership in the United States as well as by adult Americans in general. Bacevich brings impeccable credentials to his work in this book--professor of history and international relations at Boston University, West Point graduate, and veteran of the Vietnam conflict. His writing is engaging, insightful, and historically well anchored. Importantly, this work is highly accessible and eminently readable. The level of documentation is very valuable as well. Finally, the book is not about fault-finding and finger-pointing toward any one national figure or group.

What I found most beneficial was that the book presented well-argued alternative historical "meta-narratives" that are much more closely aligned with post-World War II historical events and processes than the ones currently accepted as "conventional wisdom." A case in point is the periodization of World War IV beginning with President Carter's pronouncements regarding the Persian Gulf area in 1980 rather than with the terrorist attacks on America on 9/11. "The New American Militarism" carefully and credibly brings together the many seemingly disparate actions, decisions, and events of the past 60+ years (e.g., the atomic bombing of Japan, Vietnam, oil shortages of the 1970s and 80s, the end of the Cold War, the First Gulf War, etc.) and illustrates important patterns and trends that help to explain why United States' foreign policy is what it is today. Dr. Bacevich's book helps us understand and appreciate that the global projection of American military power today has deep roots in the national decisions and behaviors of the second half of the twentieth century.

Robert S. Frey, M.A., MBA, MSM
Adjunct Professor, History
Brenau University

Dr. Lee D. Carlson

Interesting, insightful, and motivating, October 21, 2006

Why is it that some people, including this reviewer, are reluctant to criticize the writings or verbalizations of those Americans that have been or are currently in the military? This is particularly true for those officers and soldiers who have served in combat. To be critical of someone is who has faced such horror would be a sacrilege. Their opinions on subjects, especially those related to war and the military, are given much higher weight than those that have never been in the military. What is the origin of this extreme bias and does it not thwart attempts to get at the truth in matters of war and politics? If a war is illegal or immoral, are not the soldiers who participate in it themselves war criminals, deserving the severest condemnation?

The author of this book sheds light on these questions and gives many more interesting opinions on what he has called the 'new American militarism.' If one examines carefully American history, it is fair to say that Americans have been reluctant to go to war, preferring instead to settle conflicts via negotiation and trade agreements. Americans have been led to the horrors of war kicking and screaming, and breath a sigh of relief when they are over. Historically, Americans have applied extreme skepticism to those politicians, like Woodrow Wilson, who wanted to participate in World War I to make the world "safe for democracy." So if Americans are "seduced by war", as the author contends they have been in recent decades, an explanation must be found. It is tempting to say that they have been merely "brainwashed", and contemporary neuroscience lends some credence to this claim, but one must still be open to alternative explanations, and let the evidence determine the proper interpretation. Once the causes have been identified, it becomes necessary to find methodologies and strategies to counter these causes, lest we find ourselves in another unnecessary and brutal conflict, initiated by some who do not directly participate in it, and have no intention ever to do so.

This book is not a scientific study, but instead is a collection of opinions, mostly supported by anecdotal evidence, to support the author's thesis. On the surface his opinions do seem plausible, but one must still apply to his writings the same level of skepticism applied to other studies of the same kind. It does seem reasonable to believe for example that current attitudes about war are governed by the American failure in Vietnam, Carter's supposed ineptitude in dealing with the resulting loss in "self-esteem" of the American populace, and Reagan's exploitation or correction of this loss. But more evidence is needed to set such a conclusion in stone.

The author though is intellectually honest enough to admit that he has not obtained the "definitive version of the truth" on the new American militarism within the pages of his book. His words are more "suggestive than conclusive" he writes, and he welcomes criticism and alternative interpretations. Vietnam, oil and energy considerations, 9-11, and the media all have a role to play in the current American attitudes about war he argues. Further analysis though is needed, and cognizance must be made that all readers, including this reviewer, are embedded in the same culture as the author, and subjected to the same ideological, historical, and media pressures. We must be extremely cautious in our acceptance of what we find in print and indeed in all information outlets. And we must learn that soldiers, active duty or otherwise, are not infallible and must be subjected to the same criticism as any other citizen. This is again, very difficult to do, and this difficulty is perhaps the best evidence for the author's thesis.

R. Albin:

 Exceptional Polemic; 4.5 Stars, October 19, 2006

This concise and well written book is the best kind of polemic; clear, well argued, and designed to provoke debate. Bacevich is definitely interested in persuading readers of the truth of his views but his calm and invective free prose, insistence on careful documentation, and logical presentation indicate that his primary concern is promote a high level of discussion of this important issue. Bacevich argues well that a form of militarism based on an exaggerated sense of both American mission and American power, specifically military power, has infected public life. He views this militarism as both leading to unecessary and dangerous adventures abroad, epitomized by the Iraq fiasco, and corrupting the quality of domestic debate and policy making. Beyond documenting the existence of this phenomenon, Bacevich is concerned with explicating how this form of militarism, which he views as contrary to American traditions, came to be so popular.

Bacevich argues well that the new militarism came about because of a convergence of actions by a number of different actors including our professional military, neoconservative intellectuals and publicists, evangelical Christians, resurgent Republican party activists, and so-called defense intellectuals. For a variety of reasons, these sometimes overlapping groups converged on ideas of the primacy of American military power and the need to use it aggressively abroad. Bacevich devotes a series of chapters to examining each of these actors, discussing their motivations and actions, often exposing shabby and inconsistent thinking. Some of these, like the role of neoconservative intellectuals and the Religous Right, are fairly well known.

Others, like the behavior of professional military over the last generation, will be novel to many readers. Bacevich's chapters have underlying themes. One is the persisent occurrence of ironic events as the actions of many of these groups produced events counter to their goals. The post-Vietnam professional military attempted to produce a large, vigorous military poised to fight conventional, WWII-like, combats. This force was intended to be difficult for politicians to use. But as these often highly competent professionals succeeded to restoring the quality of the American military, the temptation to use it became stronger and stronger, and control escaped the professionals back into the hands of politicians as varied as Bush II and Clinton. Another theme is that politicians seized on use military force as an alternative to more difficult and politically unpalatable alternatives. Jimmy Carter is described correctly as initiating the American preoccupation with control of the Persian Gulf oil supplies, which has generated a great deal of conflict over the past generation. Bacevich presents Carter as having to act this way because his efforts to persuade Americans to pursue sacrifice and a rational energy policy were political losers. Ronald Reagan is presented as the epitome of this unfortunate trend.

Bacevich is generally convincing though, perhaps because this is a short book, there are some issues which are presented onesidely. For example, its true that Carter began the military preoccupation with the Persian Gulf. But, its true as well that his administration established the Dept. of Energy, began a significant program of energy related research, moved towards fuel standards for vehicles and began the regulatory policies that would successfully improve energy efficiency for many household items. No subsequent administration had done more to lessen dependence on foreign oil.

Bacevich also omits an important point. As he points out, the different actors that sponsored the new militarism tended to converge in the Republican Party. But, as has been pointed out by a number of analysts, the Republican Party is a highly disparate and relatively unstable coalition. The existence of some form of powerful enemy, perceived or real, is necessary to maintain Republican solidarity. The new militarism is an important component of maintaining the internal integrity of the Republican party and at unconciously appreciated as such by many important Republicans.

An interesting aspect of this book is that Bacevich, a West point grad, former career Army officer, and self-described cultural conservative, has reproduced many of the criticisms put forward by Leftist critics.

Bacevich concludes with a series of interesting recommendations that are generally rational but bound to be controversial and probably politically impossible. Again, this is an effort to change the nature of the discussion about these issues.

Adam Bahner
How Permanent Military Deployment Became Congruent With World Peace, June 29, 2006

In The New American Militarism, Andrew J. Bacevich contends that American culture and policy since the end of the Cold War has merged a militaristic ethos with a utopian global imaginary. He notes that American militarism is a "bipartisan project" with "deep roots" that even garner support on the political margins, with some leftist activists seeing a humanitarian mission for U.S. global military hegemony. He traces these roots to the worldview of Woodrow Wilson, who envisioned a globe "remade in America's image and therefore permanently at peace." Yet Wilson's view was moderated by a public and policy perception of war as an ugly, costly, brutal, traumatic and unpredictable last resort. This is corroborated by the massive military demobilizations that followed U.S. involvement in both world wars. Bacevich also points to works of popular culture, from Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet On The Western Front to Oliver Stone's Platoon, that reflect on the inhumanity of war from World War I through Vietnam.

Bacevich sees a massive deviation from these historical trends after the end of the Cold War. While conceding that a permanent military mobilization was expected during the Cold War (from roughly NSC-68 to the fall of the Berlin Wall)--no significant demobilization followed. Forces slated for deactivation were quickly mobilized for Operation Desert Storm. No successful popular culture critiques of that war's brutality would emerge. The author sees the end of the cold war and Desert Storm as framing a period of "new American militarism" that breaks from historical precedent in several regards. He claims that since the 1988 presidential campaign, the character of the presidency has emphasized military more than civilian leadership. This contradicts previous presidents of military stature (e.g. Grant, Eisenhower) who obsessively positioned themselves as civilians. Post-Cold War military budgets have been dramatically larger despite no global adversary. The public has uncritically accepted a permanent military stance. The perception of war as ghastly and treacherous has been replaced with war as a clinical and technologically managed spectacle. The link between the covenant of citizenship and military service has been replaced by a specialized force of volunteers. The numbers of veterans serving in congress has steadily decreased since World War II. Bacevich correlates this with the shunning of military service by elites as the military has increasingly drawn from areas of the population that are poor and brown. Because of this, force is "outsourced" and in turn the stature of soldiers has dramatically increased through an infrastructure of praise by the majority who are not involved in military operations. Senior military officers have tremendous clout in politics, policy, and spending.

To understand this new militarism, Bacevich notes that it is point-for-point an inversion of Vietnam's military milieu. There, politicians up through the president framed themselves as civilians, officers felt out of touch with bureaucratic decisions, and war was perceived as carnal and bumbling. The book traces cultural responses to Vietnam that reformed the American relationship to militarism. As military leaders like Creighton Abrams sought to mandate broad political investment for military action by creating interdependence with reserves and to limit the criteria for deployment with the Weinberger doctrine, politicians like Ronald Reagan rehabilitated an American demoralization that peaked with Carter's failed Operation Eagle Claw by invoking popular culture mythologies like Rambo.

Bacevich is unabashedly religious. He ultimately couches America's outsourced and technocratic militarism as a departure from natural Gods in the pursuit of a scientistic idol that more perfectly regulates human affairs. He openly sees in this scientism the same flaw and outcome as Communism or Fascism. He suggests that affirmation of military service across economic privilege would raise the stakes of military engagements and help to contradict the cultural illusions that form the basis of American militarism. (That war is technical, distant, clinical, predictable, outsourced, humane, and everything contrary to what writers like Remarque tell us.) He meticulously synthesizes a new paradigm that relates the difficult subjects of military policy and popular sanction. In this regard, The New American Militarism is an exciting contribution to historical scholarship.

M. Ward:

The New American Militarism - A Bipolar Look at Todays State of Affairs, February 4, 2006

Andrew J. Bacevichs', The New American Militarism, gives the reader an important glimpse of his background when he wrote that, as a Vietnam veteran, the experience baffled him and he wrote this book in an effort to "sift through the wreckage left by the war." After the Vietnam War, the author stayed in the military because he believed being an American soldier was a "true and honorable" calling. Bacevich states he is a devoted Catholic and a conservative who became disillusioned with mainstream conservatism. He also states that he believes the current political system is corrupt and functions in ways inconsistent with genuine democracy.
Bacevich states that he tried to write this book using facts in an unbiased way. However, he cautions the reader that his experiences have shaped his views and that his views are part of this book. This is a way to tell the reader that although he tried to remain unbiased, his background and biases find voice in this book. I believe the authors warning are valid; he draws heavily upon his background and biases to support his thesis.

The book is about American militarism, which Bacevich describes as the "misleading and dangerous conceptions of war, soldiers, and military institutions" that have become part of the American conscience and have `perverted' US national security policy. According to Bacevich, American militarism has subordinated the search for the common good to the permanent value of military effectiveness that will bankrupt the US economically and morally. Bacevich supports this thesis by discussing issues that have contributed to this state of affairs.
Bacevich believes the current state of American militarism has roots dating back to the Wilson administration. Wilson's vision was to remake the world in America's image. God Himself willed the universal embrace of liberal democracies and Wilson saw the US as a `divine agent' to make the world a safe and democratic place. Today, with no serious threat to keep our military forces in check, we are now, more than ever, free to spread liberal democracy using military force, if necessary.
Considering the military, Bacevich makes the point that the militarism of America is also due, in part, to the officer corps of the US military trying to rehabilitate the image and profession of the soldier after the Vietnam War. Officers attempted to do this by reversing the roles of the soldiers and the politicians that was problematic during the Vietnam War. They tried to establish the primacy of the military over the civilians in decisions as to how to use the military. The Weinberger and Powell doctrines were the manifestation of this idea by spelling out conditions for the use of the US military in combat.

Neo-conservatives further enhanced the trend of militarism. They see US power as an instrument for good and the time was right to use the military to achieve the final triumph of Wilson's idea of spreading American liberal democracy around the globe.

Religion also played a role. According to Bacevich, evangelical Protestants see the US as a Christian nation singled out by God and Americans are His chosen people. These evangelicals believed the Vietnam War was not only a military crisis, but also a cultural and moral crisis threatening our status. Evangelicals looked to the military to play a pivotal role in saving the US from internal collapse due to the higher expression of morals and values found in the military. The military would become the role model to reverse the trend of godlessness and social decay.

Another set of actors that contributed to American militarism were the defense intellectuals whose main contribution was to bring the military back under civilian control. According to Bacevich, they laid the groundwork of our current policy of `preventative war' and reinforced American militarism.
Finally, Bacevich accuses politicians of deceiving the American public as to the true nature of American militarism by wrapping militarism in the comfortable trappings of nationalism. By using labels such as the Global War on Terrorism, politicians are using a political sleight-of-hand trick to hide our true militaristic nature in patriotic terms. Bacevich concludes his book with a list of recommendations to mitigate the current trend of American militarism.

Bacevich seems to create a mosaic of conspiracy perpetrated by sinister actors aimed at deceiving an unsuspecting public as to the true nature of American militarism. Until the last chapter where Bacevich tells the reader that there is no conspiracy, it is very easy to believe there might be one lurking in the shadows. I was shocked when I reached Bacevich's recommendations. The contrast between his recommendations and the rest of the book is astounding. I was expecting highly provocative recommendations that would match the tone of the rest of the book. However, his recommendations were solid and well thought out...delivered in the calm manner one would expect from a political scientist. Nevertheless, in the end, Bacevich's message leading up to his recommendations were hard to swallow. I believe he wrote this book not to enlighten but to be provocative in order to sell books and build his status in academic circles. If Bacevich's aim was to build a convincing argument on a serious subject, he needed to be less provocative and more clinical.

David Friedman:
What is militarism? What is it, particularly as applied to today's America? West Point educated Andrew Bacevich opens his book with a concise statement: "Today as never before in their history Amercans are enthralled with military power. The global military supremacy that the United States presently enjoys . . . has become central to our national identity." This is the basic premise of The New American Militarism. Anyone who does not accept the accuracy of this statement, or is unconcerned about its implications should probably not read this book--it will only annoy them. For those, however, who are concerned about how militarism is increasingly seeping into our core values and sense of national destiny, or who are disturbed by the current glaring disconnect between what our soldiers endure "over there", and the lack of any sacrifice or inconvenience for the rest of us "over here", this book is a must-read.

Refreshingly, Bacevich approaches the new American militarism as neither a Democrat nor Republican, from neither the left nor the right. No doubt, those with a stake in defending the policy of the present Administration no matter how foolish, or in castigating it as the main source of our current militarism, will see "bias" in this book. The truth though is that Bacevich makes a genuine effort to approach his subject in a spirit of open and disinterested inquiry. He has earned the right to say, near the end of his book, that "this account has not sought to assign or impute blame." As a result, he is not stymied by the possibility of embarrassing one political side or the other by his arguments or conclusions. This leads to a nuanced and highly independent and original treatment of the subject.

In chronicling the rise of American militarism, Bacevich rightly starts with Wilson's vision of American exceptionalism: an America leading the world beyond the slaughterhouse of European battlefields to an international order of peaceful democratic states. But where President Wilson wanted to create such a world for the express purpose of rendering war obsolete, Bacevich notes that today's "Wilsonians" want to export American democracy through the use of force. He follows this overview with an insider's thumbnail history of American military thinking from Vietnam to the first Gulf war. He explains how the military in effect re-invented itself after Vietnam so as to make it far more difficult "to send the Army off to fight while leaving the country behind." Today's highly professionalized and elite force is largely the result of this thinking. In turn this professional military presented to the country and its civilian leaders a re-invented model of war: war waged with surgical precision and offering "the prospect of decision rather than pointing ineluctably toward stalemate and quagmire." Gulf War I was the triumphant culmination of this model. The unintended and ironic consequence, of course, was that war and the aggressive projection of American military power throughout the world came to be viewed by some in our nation's leadership as an increasingly attractive policy option.

The body of the book analyzes how the legitimate attempt to recover from the national trauma of Vietnam led ultimately to a militarism increasingly reflected in crucial aspects of American life. In religion he traces how a "crusade" theory of warfare has supplanted the more mainstream "just war" theory. In popular culture he discusses the rise of a genre of pop fiction and movies reflecting a glamorized and uncritical idealization of war (he examines "An Officer and A Gentleman", "Rambo: First Blood Part II", and "Top Gun" as examples). In politics he identifies the neo-conservative movement as bringing into the mainstream ideas that "a decade earlier might have seemed reckless or preposterous"; for example the idea that the United States is "the most revolutionary force on earth" with an "inescapable mission" to spread democracy -- by the sword if necessary. Bacevich calls these ideas "inverted Trotskyism", and notes that the neo-conservative movement shares with Mao the assumption that revolution springs "from the barrel of a gun".

Bacevich concludes his book with a pithy ten-point critique offered as a starting point for "a change in consciousness, seeing war and America's relationship to war in a fundamentally different way." Among his points are greater fidelity to the letter and the spirit of the Constituional provisions regarding war and the military, and increased strategic self-sufficiency for America. Perhaps the most important points of his critique are those about ending or at least reducing the current disconnect between er how we might reduce

Patrick Connor

Careful observers will note the abolute claims that lie under the surface of these criticisms. If you criticize anything about the United States, you're automatically anti-Bush. If you question the wisdom of viewing the military as a first-option in handling international problems, you're even worse: a liberal anti-Bush peacenick. History supposedly demonstrates that diplomacy never works with any "tyrant" (whatever that is), while war allegedly always work. It's just one stark claim after another, with never any gray area in the middle.

If you read the book, this "you're either with us or with the terrorists, either dream war or hate President Bush" mentality should remind you of something. It very closely resembles the description Bacevich gives of neoconservatism, which he says engenders a worldview that is constantly in crisis mode. Things are always so dire for neocons, Bacevich explains, that only two feasible options present themselves at any given time: doing what the neocons want (usually deploying military force in pursuit of some lofty but unrealistic goal), or suffering irreversible and potentially fatal setbacks to our national cause.

Is it really surprising that the reviews of this book from a neocon mindset are also the reviews giving one star to a book that sytematically critiques and upends neoconservatism?

In actuality, as many have pointed out already, Bacevich is "anti-Bush" only insomuch as he is anti-neoconservative. Bacevich openly states that he throws his full weight behind traditionally conservative issues, like small government and lower taxes. Indeed, he is a devoutly religious social conservative who himself severed twenty years in the Army officer corps. This is why his exposee on America's new militarism has so much credibility.

Since he was in the military, he knows that sometimes the military is necessary to handle situations that develop in the world. However he also understands that the military is often grossly unfit to handle certain situations. This is the main theme of his book. At its core, the story is about how, in response to Vietnam, military leaders worked frightfully hard to rebuild the military and to limit the freedom of starry-eyed civilians to use the armed forces inappropriately.

Their most important objective was to ensure that no more Wilsonian misadventures (like Vietnam) would happen. The officer corps did this by carving out a space of authority for the top brass, from which they could have unprecedented input in policy decisions, and be able to guide strategy and tactics once the military deployed into action. After ascending to a position of greater prominence, they implemented the "Weinberger Doctrine," followed by the "Powell Doctrine," both specifically tailored to avoid Vietnam-style quagmires. The Gulf War, claims Bacevich, saw the fruition of fifteen years of hard work to accomplish these reforms. And they worked beautifully.

However, the end of the last decade saw the Neo-conservatives challenge the status quo. And with the election of W. Bush, they were finally in a position where their ideas could again have a disproportionate influence on foreign policy. What we now have in Iraq is another military quagmire, where the solution must be political, but where military occupation renders political solutions impossible.

This story is about how the military profession emerged from the post-Vietnam wilderness, dazzled the world during the first Gulf War, then once again lost its independent ability to craft related policies with the arrival of Rummie and the neocons.

It's a fascinating story, and Bacevich relates it skillfully.

Andrew S. Rogers:

 Baedecker on the road to perdition, December 5, 2005

I was sorry to see Andrew J. Bacevich dismiss Chalmers Johnson's 2004 The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project) quite as quickly as he did (on page 3 of the introduction, in fact), because I think these two books, taken together, provide probably the best -- and certainly the most historically-informed -- look at the rise and consequences of American empire. I endorse "The New American Militarism" as heartily as I did "The Sorrows of Empire."

Bacevich's capsule summary of Johnson's work notwithstanding, both these books take the long view of America's international military presence and are quick to grasp one key point. As Bacevich notes on page 205, "American militarism is not the invention of a cabal nursing fantasies of global empire and manipulating an unsuspecting people frightened by the events of 9/11. Further, it is counterproductive to think in these terms -- to assign culpability to a particular president or administration and to imagine that throwing the bums out will put things right."

In several insightful chapters, Bacevich traces the rise of militarism over the course of several administrations and many decades. A former Army officer himself, the author is particularly insightful in charting the efforts of the military's officer corps to recover from the stigma of Vietnam and reshape the *ethos* of the armed services as an elite intentionally separate from, and morally superior to, the society it exists to defend. But the officers are only one of the strands Bacevich weaves together. He also looks at the influence of the "defense intellectuals;" the importance of evangelical Christians and how their view of Biblical prophecy shapes their understanding of politics; the rise of (yes) the neo-conservatives; and even the role of Hollywood in changing America's understandings of the "lessons of Vietnam" and the re-glamorization of the military in films like "Top Gun."

The author is a sharp-eyed analyst, but also an engaging writer, and he gives the reader a lot to think about. I was intrigued, for example, by his discussion of how "supporting the troops" has become the *sine qua non* of modern politics and how doing so has replaced actual military service as an indicator of one's love of country. More fundamentally, his identification and analysis of "World War III" (already over) and "World War IV" (currently underway, and declared [surprisingly] by Jimmy Carter) struck me as a remarkably useful lens for interpreting current events.

In tying his threads together, Bacevich is not afraid to make arguments and draw conclusions that may make the reader uncomfortable. As the passage I quoted above makes clear, for example, someone looking for a straightforward declaration that "It's all Bush's fault!" will have to go someplace else. As a further implication of the above passage, Bacevich argues that the "defense intellectuals," the evangelicals, and even the neocons were and are doing what they believe are most likely to promote peace, freedom, and the security of the American people. "To the extent that we may find fault with the results of their efforts, that fault is more appropriately attributable to human fallibility than to malicious intent" (p. 207). Additionally, Bacevich is unashamed of his military service, holds up several military leaders as heroes, has some choice words for the self-delusions of leftist "peace activists," and even argues that federal education loans should be made conditional on military service.

This doesn't mean the president and his fellow conservatives get off much easier, though. Bacevich is roundly critical of Bush and his administration, including Colin Powell; dismisses the Iraq invasion ("this preposterous enterprise" [p. 202]); and in a move that will probably get him crossed off the Thayer Award nominations list, suggests officer candidates be required to graduate from civilian universities instead of West Point (his alma mater) or Annapolis -- intellectually-isolated institutions that reinforce the officer caste's separation from civil society.

So this book isn't one that will blindly reinforce anyone's prejudices. In part for that reason -- but mostly for its trenchant analysis, readable prose, and broad historical view -- I'm happy to list "The New American Militarism" as one of the best and most important books I've read in some time. Perhaps even since "The Sorrows of Empire."

Izaak VanGaalen:
 Militarism and Public Opinion, August 12, 2005

According to many of the custodians of public opinion, Andrew Bacevich has earned his right to a fair hearing. Not only is he a graduate of West Point, a Vietnam veteran, and a conservative Catholic, he is a professor of international relations and a contributor to "The Weekly Standard" and "The National Review." Obviously, if he were a left-leaning anti-war Democrat and a contributor to, say, "The Nation," he wouldn't be taken seriously as a critic of American militarism - he would be merely another "blame-America-first" defeatist.

Bacevich sees militarism manifesting itself in some disquieting ways. Traditionally America has always gauged the size of its military with the magnitude of impending threats. After the Civil War, World War I and II, the military was downsized as threats receded. Not so after the fall of the Soviet Union. The military budget has continued to grow and the expenditures are greater - by some measures - than all other countries combined. American military forces are now scaling the globe and the American public seems quiet comfortable with it. And everyone else is growing uneasy.

The mindset of the current officer corps is dominant control in all areas "whether sea, undersea, land, air, space or cyberspace." In other words, supremacy in all theaters. Self-restraint has given way to the normalization of using military force as a foreign policy tool. From 1989 (Operation Just Cause) to 2002 (Operation Iraqi Freedom) there have been nine major military operations and a number of smaller ones. The end of the Cold War has given the US a preponderance of military strength (the proverbial unipolar moment) that has enamoured successive administrations with the idea of using military force to solve international problems. In earlier times, war was always an option of the last resort, now it is a preventative measure.

War, according to Bacevich, has taken on a new aesthetic. During World War I and II, and also Vietnam and Korea the battlefield was a slaughterhouse of barbarism and brutality. Now, with the advent of the new Wilsonianism in Washington, wars are seen as moments of national unity to carry out a positive agenda, almost as if it were international social work.

The modern soldier is no longer looked upon as a deadbeat or a grunt, but rather as a skilled professional who is undertaking socially beneficial work. In fact, in a poll taken in 2003, military personnel consider themselves as being of higher moral standards than the nation they serve.

In the political classes, the Republicans have traditionallly been staunchly pro-military, but now even Democrats have thrown off their ant-military inclinations. When Kerry was running for president he did not question Bush's security policies, he was actually arguing that Bush had not gone far enough. Kerry wanted to invest more in military hardware and training. Even liberal Michael Ignatieff argues that US military intervention should be used to lessen the plight of the oppressed and that we should be assisting them in establishing more representative government.

But superpowers are not altruistic; they are only altruistic to the extent that it serves their self-interest. That's probably why Ignatieff will not get much of a hearing and Bacevich will. This book should give us pause as to why the range of opinion in the America on the use of military force is so narrow. If there is one voice that stands a chance of being heeded, it is from this conservative ex-soldier. \

Douglas Doepke:

The US may have been an expansionist and aggressive power as history shows. But unlike European peers, the American public never really took to the seductions of militarism. That is, until now. This is an important and occasionally brilliant book that tells a forty-year tale of creeping over-reliance on the military. And a heck-of an important story it is. I like the way Bacevich refuses to blame the Bush administration, even though they're the ones who've hit the accelerator. Actually the trend has been in motion for some time, especially since 1980 and Reagan's revival of military glory, contrived though it was.

Each chapter deals with an aspect of this growing militariism movement. How intellectual guru Norman Podhoretz and other elites got the big engine together, how twenty million evangelical passengers abandoned tradition and got on board, and how a crew of enthusiastic neo-cons charted a destination -- nothing less than world democracy guaranteed by American military might. All in all, the ride passes for a brilliant post-cold war move. Who's going to argue with freeing up the Will of the People, except for maybe a few hundred million Sharia fanatics. Yet, it appears none of the distinguished crew sees any contradiction between dubious means and noble end, nor do they seem particularly concerned with what anybody else thinks. (Sort of like the old Soviets, eager to spread the blessings of Scientific Socialism.) However, as Bacevich pounts out, there's a practical problem here the crew is very alert to. Policing the world means building up the institutions of the military and providing a covering mystique to keep John Q. Public supportive, especially with tax dollars and blood supply. In short, the mission requires sanitizing the cops on the beat and all that goes into keeping them there. It also means overcoming a long American tradition of minding-one's-own-business and letting the virtues of democratic self-governance speak for themselves. But then, that was an older, less "responsible" America.

Bacevich's remedies harken back to those older, quieter traditions -- citizen soldiers, a real Department of Defense, a revived Department of State, and a much more modest role in international affairs.With this book, Bacevich proves to be one of the few genuine conservatives around, (a breed disappearing even faster than the ranks of genuine liberals). Much as I like the book, especially the thoughtful Preface, I wish the author had dealt more with the economic aspects of build-up and conquest. But then that might require a whole other volume, as globalization and the number of billion-dollar servicing industries expands daily. At day's end, however, someone needs to inform a CNN- enthralled public that the military express lacks one essential feature. With all its hypnotizing bells and whistles, history shows the momentum has no brakes. Lessons from the past indicate that, despite the many seductions, aggressive empires make for some very unexpected and fast-moving train wrecks. Somebody needs to raise the alarm. Thanks Mr. Bacevich for doing your part.

Still his critique of neocons is a class of its own has value in itself as it comes from professional military officer. Professor Bacevich argues  that the US new militarism which emerged after the dissolution of the USSR is the result of a convergence of actions by a number of different groups including our professional military, neoconservative intellectuals and publicists, evangelical Christians, resurgent Republican party activists, and so-called defense intellectuals (see New American Militarism).

Andrew Bacevich has a wonderful essay, in the form of an open letter to Paul Wolfowitz, in the current Harper's. You have to subscribe to read it -- but, hey, you should be subscribing to any publication whose work you value. This essay isolates the particular role Wolfowitz had in the cast of characters that led us to war. As a reminder, they included:

But Paul Wolfowitz was in a category of his own because he was the one who provided the highest-concept rationale for the war. As James Galbraith of the University of Texas has put it, "Wolfowitz is the real-life version of Halberstam's caricature of McNamara" [in The Best and the Brightest].

Bacevich's version of this assessment is to lay out as respectfully as possible the strategic duty that Wolfowitz thought the U.S. would fulfill by invading Iraq. Back before the war began, I did a much more limited version of this assessment as an Atlantic article. As Bacevich puts it now, Wolfowitz was extending precepts from his one-time mentor, Albert Wohlstetter, toward a model of how the United States could maximize stability for itself and others.

As with the best argumentative essays, Bacevich takes on Wolfowitz in a strong rather than an oversimplified version of his world-view. You have to read the whole thing to get the effect, but here is a brief sample (within fair-use limits):

With the passing of the Cold War, global hegemony seemed America's for the taking. What others saw as an option you, Paul, saw as something much more: an obligation that the nation needed to seize, for its own good as well as for the world's....

Although none of the hijackers were Iraqi, within days of 9/11 you were promoting military action against Iraq. Critics have chalked this up to your supposed obsession with Saddam. The criticism is misplaced. The scale of your ambitions was vastly greater.

In an instant, you grasped that the attacks provided a fresh opportunity to implement Wohlstetter's Precepts, and Iraq offered a made-to-order venue....In Iraq the United States would demonstrate the efficacy of preventive war.... The urgency of invading Iraq stemmed from the need to validate that doctrine before the window of opportunity closed.

Bacevich explains much more about the Wohlstetter / Wolfowitz grand view. And then he poses the challenge that he says Wolfowitz should now meet:
One of the questions emerging from the Iraq debacle must be this one: Why did liberation at gunpoint yield results that differed so radically from what the war's advocates had expected? Or, to sharpen the point, How did preventive war undertaken by ostensibly the strongest military in history produce a cataclysm?

Not one of your colleagues from the Bush Administration possesses the necessary combination of honesty, courage, and wit to answer these questions. If you don't believe me, please sample the tediously self-exculpatory memoirs penned by (or on behalf of) Bush himself, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Tenet, Bremer, Feith, and a small squad of eminently forgettable generals...

What would Albert [Wohlstetter] do? I never met the man (he died in 1997), but my guess is that he wouldn't flinch from taking on these questions, even if the answers threatened to contradict his own long-held beliefs. Neither should you, Paul. To be sure, whatever you might choose to say, you'll be vilified, as Robert McNamara was vilified when he broke his long silence and admitted that he'd been "wrong, terribly wrong" about Vietnam. But help us learn the lessons of Iraq so that we might extract from it something of value in return for all the sacrifices made there. Forgive me for saying so, but you owe it to your country.

Anyone who knows Andrew Bacevich's story will understand the edge behind his final sentence. But you don't have to know that to respect the challenge he lays down. I hope Paul Wolfowitz will at some point rise to it.

For another very valuable assessment of who was right and wrong, when, please see John Judis's piece in The New Republic.

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[Jan 17, 2019] Managerialism is synonym for corporatism

Jan 17, 2019 |

JulesBywaterLees -> Zagradotryad , 29 Nov 2018 08:29

Managerialism is a state of European/Western politics, power has moved to large corporations. In 2008 the finance industry held countries to ransom...
Zagradotryad , 29 Nov 2018 08:03

power that has become too distant from the people.

That's the problem.

It's not technology, or Russians, or Trump or any other of the things you throw up to convince yourself the problem is external.

Managerialism has merely delivered gross inequality. The tools don't matter.

[Jan 17, 2019] The Coke or Pepsi and parties is a perfect corporatist arrangement, which guarantee filtering out any opposition to the oligarchy in 99 percent of elections

Only a severe political crisi can shake this "controlled duopoly" of the US coporatism.
Jan 16, 2019 |

William Williamson, 15 Jan 2019 10:38

Well put. All the USA has is Coke or Pepsi.
With a lot of masquerading in between.
A couple people who aren't on THE payroll,
or wanting to be.
MyGenericUsername , 15 Jan 2019 07:38
Half of Americans don't bother voting for president. Why is the American media full only of people who insist that the country is divided in half between Democrat and Republican supporters? Where are the people of influence who think it's a problem and reflects poorly on the country that half of eligible voters don't see a reason to participate, and that it's worth changing things in order to get more people to change their minds about that?

Both parties are content with being unpopular, but with political mechanisms ensuring they stay in power anyway. The Democrats aren't concerned with being popular. They're content with being a token opposition party that every once in a while gets a few token years with power they don't put to any good anyway. It pays more, I guess.

CanSoc , 15 Jan 2019 07:34
It still looks like if Americans want to live in a progressive country, they'll have to move to one. But as it is clear that the neoliberalism of establishment Democrats has little or nothing to offer the poor and working class, or to non-wealthy millennials, the times they are a-changing.

[Jan 17, 2019] The rise of National Socialism in Germany in the 30s had many causes and some surprising supporters

Jan 17, 2019 |

RogerPalmer -> 5nufk1n4prez , 29 Nov 2018 07:30

True but incredibly naive.

The rise of National Socialism in Germany in the 30s had many causes and some surprising supporters.

Part of the problem was undeniably the crippling reparations for WWI forced on Germany by the victorious allies.

Part of the problem was communism strengthening in Russia and a growing communist threat in Germany.

Part of the problem was a desire by the entrenched elites to use the National Socialists as a counter to challenge the populism of the communism.

There are many contributing factors and the responsibility for the Nazis reaches far beyond the German border.

[Jan 17, 2019] Seymour Hersh George H.W. Bush Team Leaked To Media To Reveal CIA's Iran-Contra Affair

Notable quotes:
"... London Review of Books ..."
Jan 17, 2019 |

bevin , Jan 17, 2019 3:05:49 PM | link

A new piece by Seymour Hersh in the London Review of Books gives some insight into secret U.S. operations during the Reagan administration. The Vice President's Men includes a quite sensational claim of who revealed the Iran-Contra affair.

According to the conventional wisdom, as reflected in Wikipedia, an Iranian operator revealed to a Lebanese paper that the U.S. was selling weapons to Iran in the hope to get hostages in Lebanon released:

After a leak by Mehdi Hashemi, a senior official in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa exposed the arrangement on 3 November 1986. This was the first public report of the weapons-for-hostages deal.

People is the National Security Council used profits from these weapon sales to illegally arm and finance CIA run anti-government gangs in Nicaragua. Both, the weapon sales to Iran and the weapon delivery to guerilla in Nicaragua, were illegal under U.S. law. The leak to Lebanese paper blew up both operations.

That Mehdi Hashemi, the Iranian operative, leaked the affair is only supported by second hand hearsay from a dubious source. Seymour Hersh reports of a very different culprit.

According to his sources former CIA director George H.W. Bush, who was then Reagan's vice president, ran his own secret operations through a special office in the Pentagon. It was led by Vice-Admiral Arthur Moreau. The office and its operations were kept outside of congressional oversight. Neither the CIA nor the Joint Chief's of Staff were aware of its doing. During some 30 different operations the Bush team used small groups of U.S. marines to effect Soviet operations in foreign countries and to get rid of unwanted foreign politicians. Bush essentially ran the prequel of the 'war on/of terror' which today is run by the CIA and the Joint Special Forces Command.

Bush disliked William Casey, who Reagan had named as new CIA director. Casey was a business man who got the job after he managed Ronald Reagan's election campaign. Bush thought that he was too incompetent to run the clandestine service.

One of the operations run under Bush also involved Nicaragua, but had nothing to do with the later Iran-Contra scandal. At the same time the CIA director William Casey was drumming up support for the Contras in Nicaragua. The two operations collided when Lieutenant Colonel Oliver (Ollie) North at the National Security Council used the proceeds from the weapon sales to Iran to illegally finance the CIA's Contras in Nicaragua. While North was also a confident of the Bush/Moreau's operations, he allegedly freelanced and eventually deserted to the CIA side.

According to a former officer involved in Bush's operations office, Bush and Moreau feared that the CIA's widely expanding Iran-Contra operation run by Oliver North would become a threat to their own operations. They decided to blow it up:

'Ollie brings in Dick Secord and Iranian dissidents and money people in Texas to the scheme, and it's gotten totally out of control,' the officer said. 'We're going nuts. If we don't manage this carefully, our whole structure will unravel. And so we' – former members of Moreau's team who were still working for Bush – 'leaked the story to the magazine in Lebanon.' He was referring to an article, published on 3 November 1986 by Ash-Shiraa magazine in Beirut, that described the arms for hostages agreement. He would not say how word was passed to the magazine, ...

According to Hersh's source the effect of the leak to the Lebanese paper was foreseen and intended:

The officer explained that it was understood by all that the scandal would unravel in public very quickly, and Congress would get involved. ' Our goals were to protect the Moreau operation, to limit the vice president's possible exposure, and to convince the Reagan administration to limit Bill Casey's management of covert operations. It only took a match to light the fire. It was: "Oh my god. We were paying ransom for the hostages – to Iran."'

If Hersh's anonymous source is correct, which I have no reason to doubt, the Iranian Mehdi Hashemi did not leak the issue. It was bureaucratic infighting between a former CIA director, who continued to run secret operations, and a sitting one, who was deemed incompetent by the former, that led to the disclosure of the Iran-Contra affair.

Seymour Hersh is known to have lots of contacts with former officials and officers. According to his on telling he is actively seeking them out as soon as they retire. Old men like to tell war stories, but dislike to damage their still living friends. George H.W. Bush died last November. Hersh likely knew the story long ago but is only now allowed to tell it.

The new Hersh/LRB piece is quite long and the details seems to have little relevance for current affairs. But his sources tell an interesting story about the backstage fights that went on between the various branches of the national security bureaucracy during the Reagan presidency. There is no doubt that similar fights, including intentional leaks to damage competing officials, continue today.

Posted by b at 02:11 PM | Comments (36) Interesting too that Hersh cannot finds a publisher in the United States. The fact that this is in the LRB-where I just read it- tells you all you need to know about, for example, the New Yorker, The Atlantic and Harpers. As to the newspapers, they are a lost cause.
Now let us see if there is any follow up in the MSM..anywhere. My guess is that RT will cover it.
Congratulations, again to b, for spotting the stories that matter and making sure that the imperialist media cannot suppress them.

Cherrycoke , Jan 17, 2019 3:13:47 PM | link

"That Mehdi Hashemi, the Iranian operative, leaked the affair is only supported by second hand hearsay from a dubious source."

That dubious source is George Cave aka Ibrahim Razin aka Oswald LeWinter, poet, Shakespeare expert, and involved since the Sixties in disinformation of the highest order. He had a role -- mainly as disinformant, I believe -- in at least the following cases: Charlie Manson, Propaganda Due, Iran-Contra, Olof Palme, Princess Diana, Lockerbie. LeWinter turns up in Francovich's Gladio as well as his Lockerbie movie.

See Wiki and:

LeWinter died a few years ago. A piece of work.

snake , Jan 17, 2019 3:14:26 PM | link
I think the take home is how agency structure at different levels is used to circumvent relevant laws and public awareness. An auditor applying normal audit technique under contract to one agency would be hard pressed to find this kind of activity because it exist in another agency at a different level. My question is how could this have been discovered at the time it happened? What formula, question or technique could produce a discovery that would lead to the existence of this kind of activity? Even more important did the auditors discover the activity and fail to report it or did they have the data to discover it and just missed it. The audit firm involved might owe the government some money.

Reconciling the actually delivery of assets deployed to the funds that were used to acquire and transport them might have produced a discovery result.?

Red Ryder , Jan 17, 2019 3:15:46 PM | link
If you search the most nefarious and deadly covert operations, you will usually find Naval Intelligence deeply involved.

Bush-CIA was always a cover for Bush-Naval Intel.

The Kennedy Assassination plot overlord was Naval Intelligence.

The most pervasive war-mongering by the Hegemon is led by US Naval Intelligence.

See Bob Woodward's background, even Steve Bannon's CV.

The US Navy projects US hegemonic power and is decisive for Logistical transport of war efforts.

The most elite of SOF is Navy SEALS. SEALS are always sent on the most sensitive missions.

The Rumsfeld-Cebrowski doctrine followed this century to destroy the sovereignty of third world states is the masterplan of Cebrowski, an Admiral. Thierry Meyssan always refers to it as the strategic basis for the chaos in MENA and coming to Africa and Latin America.

From the USS Maine in Havana harbor, to Pearl Harbor, to Iran-Contra, to Iraq,Libya, Syria, the handprint is there.

[Jan 13, 2019] Mitt Romney, Commander of the Fake Internationalists by Doug Bandow

Notable quotes:
"... Mitt Romney, Commander of the Fake Internationalists Newly-inaugurated Senator has been promoted to standard-bearer for the bipartisan War Party, filling in for John McCain. ..."
"... Washington Post ..."
"... Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of ..."
Jan 10, 2019 |
Mitt Romney, Commander of the Fake Internationalists Newly-inaugurated Senator has been promoted to standard-bearer for the bipartisan War Party, filling in for John McCain.

No surprise: Senator Mitt Romney does not like President Donald Trump, as he recently explained in The Washington Post . But what, one wonders, was the former GOP presidential candidate thinking two years ago when he supped with the man he now claims to deplore while seeking an appointment as secretary of state?

Much of Romney's complaint is over manners. Yes, the president is a boor. Most people, including many of Trump's supporters, recognize that. Trump won not because of his etiquette but because of what he stood for -- and against.

Romney also defended The Blob, Washington's bipartisan foreign policy establishment. In his article attacking the president, he offered the usual vacuous bromides that characterize the interventionist consensus, which poses as internationalism but with plenty of bombing raids, illegal occupations, and nation-building. Most importantly, this perspective presumes permanent American domination, irrespective of cost.

Romney wrote: "America has long been looked to for leadership. Our economic and military strength was part of that, of course, but our enduring commitment to principled conduct in foreign relations, and to the rights of all people to freedom and equal justice, was even more esteemed." Indeed, "The world needs American leadership, and it is in America's interest to provide it. A world led by authoritarian regimes is a world -- and an America -- with less prosperity, less freedom, less peace."

In fact, Romney appears more committed to dependence on allies than American leadership. For him, these are two sides of the same coin. The only alternative he sees to Washington in control is the bad guys leading.

Related is Romney's apparent belief that foreign policy is fixed, irrespective of circumstance: the very same U.S.-dominated alliances created in 1950 are needed today. Although America's friends have raced ahead economically, politically, even militarily, Washington must forever treat them as helpless derelicts. For instance, Russia, a weakened declining power, faces the U.S. and Europe -- which together have more than 20 times its GDP. Yet Romney sees Moscow as the greatest threat facing America. It is 1945 all over again.

Romney's most important omission is Iraq. After the war there turned bad, he remained silent about his support for it. The Iraq disaster is an important reason why Trump won and other Republicans, including Romney, lost. In 2008, Americans rejected John McCain, the very symbol of promiscuous war-making. Four years later, Romney criticized President Barack Obama for leaving Iraq too soon, by which the Republican nominee probably meant leaving at any time. In saying he would keep more troops in Iraq, he ignored the fact that the Iraqis had refused to negotiate a status of forces agreement with the Bush administration.

Romney also failed to mention Afghanistan, both as a presidential candidate in 2012 and senator in 2019. After all, what good can be said for entering the 18th year of nation-building in a region of little strategic interest? As for Syria, last November, Romney predictably denounced as "recklessness in the extreme" exiting a multi-sided civil war in a country never important to America.

Whose Side is Mitt Romney On? Robert Kagan's Jungle Book of Forever War

Now Romney is being touted as the new standard-bearer for the bipartisan War Party, filling in for John McCain. Bloomberg columnist Hal Brands theorized that Romney was attempting to "position himself as heir to John McCain as the congressional conscience of U.S. diplomacy" (defined as advocating policies designed to prolifically kill and destroy).

Towards this effort, Romney is articulating "a renewed Republican internationalism based on opposition to aggressive authoritarian regimes." Brands celebrates Romney's Russophobia, saying he "deserves credit for being anti-Russia before being anti-Russia was cool." No hint that the U.S. might have contributed to Moscow's hostility through the aggressive "internationalism" of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama -- violating commitments not to expand NATO, dismantling Moscow's Slavic friend Serbia, and encouraging violent regime change against an elected government that neighbored Russia. After all, equivalent Russian intervention in Mexico would have triggered an extremely hostile reaction in Washington.

Neoconservative Max Boot lauded Romney for throwing "down the gauntlet to President Trump." Indeed, argued Boot, "it now falls upon Romney to champion the cause of principled conservatism in Washington." Boot hoped the freshman senator would lead a general opposition and seemed especially pleased at Romney's support for the interventionist status quo.

Yet the passion-less Romney is a poor substitute for the perennially angry McCain. It is difficult to imagine Romney leading Lindsey Graham and Joseph Lieberman on another apocalyptic ride, demanding that death and destruction be visited upon an enemy du jour. Indeed, Romney admitted as much, complained The New York Times , which noted that he said he "would only speak out against Mr. Trump on issues of 'great significance,' which means not much."

Worse, Romney is a typical denizen of Washington and lacks any connection to the disastrous consequences of his policies. Give McCain credit: he and his sons served in the military. Not Romney. He received four deferments during the Vietnam War, explaining that he "had other plans." This sounds eerily like Dick Cheney, who said his five deferments reflected "other priorities."

Moreover, none of Romney's five sons served. That is, of course, their prerogative. But their decision further insulated Romney from any consequences of his policies. His response to questions about their lack of service: "One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president." Did Romney believe working for him was as dangerous as fighting Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah? Or that his personal interest in winning the election was as important as the nation winning a war?

My friend William Smith at the Center for the Study of Statesmanship at Catholic University argued that Romney's article "is another clear sign that the bipartisan political establishment is largely oblivious to the terrible tragedy of wartime casualties disproportionately inflicted on certain communities." Candidate Trump did particularly well in states that so suffered. Complained Smith: "What is astonishing is that, after all this tragedy, Romney offers only cliched neoconservative bromides to the many heartbroken communities across the nation."

However, The Blob, which dominates foreign policy under both parties, poses an even larger problem. These policymakers consider permanent war to be America's natural condition. They seek to suppress dissident views to ensure united support for permanent war. Anyone who hesitates to back every proposed new intervention is demonized and marginalized.

The favorite technique, recently employed by Frederick Kagan in The Hill, is to call opponents, irrespective of their actual positions, "isolationists." Thus did Kagan urge left and right "internationalists" -- meaning military interventionists -- to work together to defend "the principle that the United States must remain actively engaged in the world," by which he meant warring without end on multiple countries.

Exclaimed Kagan: "The isolationists who have condemned the United States involvement in the Middle East and the rest of the world for decades are about to get their wish. We will witness what the world looks like when left to its own devices."

Egads. Imagine what might have happened had the U.S. not intervened in the Lebanese Civil War, armed Turkey to kill tens of thousands of Kurds and destroy thousands of Kurdish villages, invaded Iraq and triggered sectarian conflict, fostered civil war in Libya and the chaos that followed, supported decades of violent occupation over millions of Palestinians by Israel, backed murderous Saudi Arabia in Bahrain and Yemen, supported a coup against Iran's democratically elected government and a brutal invasion backed by chemical weapons against Iran's Islamist regime, actively underwritten tyranny across the Middle East, and tried to sort out the Syrian Civil War. Something bad might have happened.


In Syria, Kagan views as "isolationist" the withdrawal of an illegal military deployment that risks violent confrontation with Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Russia over minor stakes. In contrast, "internationalism" means war everywhere all the time, especially in a country like Syria.

Trump, complained Kagan, is leaving "Afghanistan for no clear reason whatsoever." No reason other than Washington long ago having achieved its objective of degrading and displacing al-Qaeda and punishing the Taliban for hosting al-Qaeda. And eventually having recognized, after more than 17 years passed, trillions of dollars were spent, and thousands of lives were lost, that using force to create a liberal democracy in Central Asia is a fool's errand. Why leave, indeed?

It has oft been recognized that Donald Trump is a flawed vehicle to achieve almost any foreign policy end. However, he still possesses far more common sense than Mitt Romney. It is time to rescue "internationalism" from those who love humanity so much that they would destroy the world in order to save it.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Foreign Follies: America's New Global Empire . MORE FROM THIS AUTHOR

Attack of the Pork Hawks Does It Really Matter If North Korea Denuclearizes? Hide 20 comments 20 Responses to Mitt Romney, Commander of the Fake Internationalists

EliteCommInc. January 9, 2019 at 11:01 pm

"No reason other than Washington long ago having achieved its objective of degrading and displacing al-Qaeda and punishing the Taliban for hosting al-Qaeda."

One should avoid the back pedal here. the Taliban did not host Al Quaeda in the manner your reference suggests.

John_M , , January 9, 2019 at 11:06 pm
I truly voted against Romney when he ran for president because of his omnidirectional belligerence. I also didn't like his vulture capitalism style (and I did technical due diligence for venture capital activities as a side line).

I don't see that he has gotten any wiser.

Own Goal , , January 10, 2019 at 2:22 am
Romney just guaranteed that he won't get the nomination. Amazing, really, stupid and gratuitous.

He could at the least have shown a little "growth" in the direction of populist disgust with the wasteful, reckless, failed wars, not to mention concerns about the growth of government and corporate mass surveillance of the public, and the continuing unholy collaboration between Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Washington in ripping off taxpayers and importing cheap labor to take American jobs.

Not Mitt. He seems to think he's running for president of our utterly discredited, pseudo-meritocratic "Establishment".

steve mckinney , , January 10, 2019 at 2:48 am
Let's all thank the knuckle-headed Utahns for delivering another unimaginative empty suit to the Nation's State House. Sure, Trump is often a boor, and unmistakably human, but give me a man-child with conviction and Devil-may-care determination over a dapper dolt whose ideas are contrived platitudes and whose passion is a Macbeth-like obsession with stature and power any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Well written Mr. Bandow! Keep fighting the good fight.
polistra , , January 10, 2019 at 4:10 am
I get the sense that the "isolationist" line doesn't work any more. It was a commonly used rhetorical weapon 10 years ago, and it effectively silenced opposition. Now it's not used much, and it seems to be ignored or derided when it is used. Most Americans understand now that maintaining and expanding an empire is destroying us.
Aunt Lila , , January 10, 2019 at 7:44 am
You really don't get Romney, do you. Who are you to decided what anyone sees or feels. Do you think you could use the word seems like a professional journalist. I don't construe
Romney that way. You SEEM to put words in his mouth and thought in his head. Please be professional.
Dan Green , , January 10, 2019 at 8:12 am
My take is Mitt see's himself as a Gerald Ford calming effect, for this 4 year disruption, the Swamp battles with. The Deep state needs an impeachment win and soon. With that said it will be ever difficult for the Beltway to change Americans perception , they don't trust the government.
Kolya Krassotkin , , January 10, 2019 at 10:23 am
For someone so smart Romney should realize that Americans will reject him (again), when he takes up the mantle of McCain (again) as quickly as they did the last time. But that he fails to realize that substance trumps form, which is why 67 million Americans voted for the President, demonstrates what a shallow narcisst and sociopath he is. I mean, it's okay to rob your neighbor so long as you say "please" and "thank you," isn't it?
Stephen J. , , January 10, 2019 at 11:31 am
The writer states: "Now Romney is being touted as the new standard-bearer for the bipartisan War Party, filling in for John McCain."

I believe The "War Party" are:
"The Maniacs of Militarism"

The maniacs of militarism are creating wars
Countries are bombed by warmongering whores
Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and other countries too
Are hell holes of the earth, "The work," of this insane crew

Enabled by politicians in positions of power
These well dressed war criminals hide and cower
The generals salute their political masters
Then the brainwashed obey these bemedaled disasters

Cities are destroyed and reduced to rubble
Where are the perpetrators that created all this trouble?
They are residing in luxury and given fancy titles
War crimes trials are needed, and are so vital

But this is not happening: the system is corrupted
And these evil beings, by some are worshiped
Blood-soaked villains that never do the fighting
They are the "experts" that do the inciting

They are the producers of death and destruction
Others are profiteers of all the bloody actions
Missiles, bombs and horrendous weapons
There is no end to the endless aggression

Millions are dead, and millions are homeless
Millions are refugees, and all this is atrocious
Once they had jobs, families, and homes as well
Then their countries were bombed by the agents from hell

Setting the world on fire is what these war arsonists do
The money for their depredations comes from me and you
They have made us all accessories to their criminal acts
Our Taxes are the blood money and that is a fact

Will the people ever say: "We have had enough"?
And put all these villains in secure handcuffs
Then lock them up in maximum security prisons
Then, we can say "goodbye" to the maniacs of militarism
[more info at link below]
-- --
"More War "

More war is needed to keep armies trained and employed
More wars are needed so that countries can be destroyed
More killing, bombing, destruction and death
More of this is needed until the victims have nothing left
[read more at link below]

prodigalson , , January 10, 2019 at 1:21 pm
Romney is such an empty suit i'm not sure if he isn't weakening his position just by virtue that, he Romney, supports it.

Does this guy inspire anyone to any emotion other than revulsion? Along with Hillary, they both strike me both as elites who want to become president, not from any actual passions or desires, but because they've run out of other things to add to their C.V.

The only thing I can say with certainty that Mitt Romney believes in, is Mitt Romney. So I'm intensely skeptical that ANYONE in America, aside from the most firebrand resistance types, are going to take anything coming out of this corporate drone's mouth with any seriousness. And even for the resistance types the support would equally follow a labrador retriever, just so long as it opposed Trump, so Mitt doesn't even have that thin thread of loyatly going for him.

I guess that leaves him with the neocons as BFFs. They're welcome to each other.

One Guy , , January 10, 2019 at 1:32 pm
Why are we ragging on Romney? Is it because he had the audacity to criticize Trump? Shouldn't we wait until he actually does something bad before ragging on him? Has he lied 6,000 times in the last few years, for example? Did he refuse to rake the forests?
Mike Clements , , January 10, 2019 at 2:54 pm
Such trashing of Romney becomes a real challenge for me.

I can't decide if it's the fevered imaginings or the straw man arguments that disappoint me the most.

Tim , , January 10, 2019 at 3:34 pm
I think Romney is simply miffed that the boorish Trump became president and he did not and sadly, he may be running for president again. I think someone used the word revulsion about Romney. I approve. It's ironic the boorish Trump isn't nearly as revolting as the urbane Mitt.
Jeeves , , January 10, 2019 at 4:09 pm
@Mike Clements
For me it's the straw man arguments that are most egregious. As an Arizonan, I knew John McCain, and Romney is no McCain (whose like we will never see again, if we're lucky).

Just to single out one objection to Mr. Bandow's argument: Romney didn't refer to the SOFA, which supposedly required Obama to abandon Iraq, for the very good reason that Leon Panetta, who should know, has said that Obama, with plenty of time to do it, made no effort whatsoever to re-negotiate the SOFA 2011 deadline. Panetta regrets this and so do I.

fabian , , January 10, 2019 at 4:34 pm
Romney is the epitome of the decay of the USA. Further, he shows the complete inability of the Republican party to choose the correct casting. After Bush and Iraq they propose McPain. After the Great Financial Crisis they propose Mittens. It's akin to cast Dany de Vito to play Casanova. When Trump is gone, this party is finished.
Kolya Krassotkin , , January 10, 2019 at 5:06 pm
I approve. It's ironic the boorish Trump isn't nearly as revolting as the urbane Mitt.

That Americans are revolted more by Romney than by Trump, in fact, speaks well for them. All morally mature folk should be repelled more by a polite, urbane, well-scrubbed pirate, who made his fortune destroying people's lives and wealth than by a loud-talking, crude womanizer, who creates wealth and, in fact, shows his concern for the people below him more than the polite, charming, well-bred pirate.

Bacon , , January 10, 2019 at 10:11 pm
As I understand it, Romney's saying we need more Middle East wars, more Wall Street bailouts, and more immigrants.

I think we already knew that Romney wants those things. It's why we don't want Romney.

Also, it's its unnecessary to counter Kagan's arguments. He's not taken seriously any more. Too many bad and wrong judgments about important things.

rta , , January 11, 2019 at 10:09 am
@Jeeves, Obama would have stayed in Iraq if the Iraqi's had allowed us to continue to kill with impunity. Thankfully, they said no. And why on earth would you regret us not negotiating a new SOFA?
kswc , , January 11, 2019 at 11:24 am
Mitt Romney is the Republican's answer to the Democrat's John Kerry.
WorkingClass , , January 11, 2019 at 5:06 pm
If Utah has a problem with Trump they could have elected a Democrat.

Romney is obsolete. Never Trump Republicans are sinking in a tar pit. Romney cannot be nominated much less elected even if Trump does not run. He can help with the impeachment of Trump if it comes to that. But again, a Democrat would be more useful.

[Jan 13, 2019] Those Porky Pentagon Earmarks Never Really Went Away

Notable quotes:
"... What's 5 billion dollars for a largely useless wall compared to this. The mind boggles. ..."
"... "People say the Pentagon does not have a strategy. They are wrong. The Pentagon does have a strategy; it is 'Don't interrupt the money flow, add to it.'" -Col. John R. Boyd (USAF Ret.) John Boyd (Fighter Pilot, Tactician, Strategist, Conceptual Designer, Reformer) died in 1997. ..."
Jan 13, 2019 |


Those Porky Pentagon Earmarks Never Really Went Away In fact, the new scheme is even more venal, underhanded, and wasteful. By Winslow T. Wheeler January 11, 2019

Michael Hogue In past years, Congress has become notorious for adding dubious items we call "pork" to spending bills. That way, senators and House members can advertise themselves to their constituents as bringing home the bacon, while picking up a few campaign contributions from thankful contractors along the way.

This practice was particularly notorious in defense bills, especially, and only became worse during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After they were exposed spending billions of taxpayer dollars for earmarked projects like museums, artificial lungs, and VIP air transports for senior generals, bureaucrats, and lawmakers, Congress supposedly reformed the practice of earmarking -- first in 2007 by the Democrats in the majority, and again in 2011 by the Republicans in the majority, who claimed to have banned them altogether.

In truth, both parties in Congress have simply swapped the pork system for a scheme that is even more venal and underhanded. They've circumvented their own rules and are putting even more pork in defense bills than before. They hypocritically proclaim that their bills are earmark-free, while simultaneously boasting about the pork to constituents. They deceptively pay for the hidden earmarks by raiding essential accounts for soldiers' pay and military readiness, and they readily accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions from the very contractors who received huge chunks of the billions of dollars that Congress added.

The new pork system is deceptive and complex. It took all of my 31 years of experience on Capitol Hill to fully unravel it, with the help of some excellent research from two outstanding watchdog groups, Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.


To explain, let's start with one of the more brazen acts of hypocrisy.

On October 22, Niels Lesniewski reported in Roll Call that 10 senators from both parties announced in a letter to the House and Senate leadership that they wanted to strengthen the existing ban on earmarks and make it impossible for anyone to "bring back earmarks" as President Donald Trump and others have suggested . Their new bill , they said, would impose even more serious procedural blocks on any earmark in any bill. But the bill, the senators' press release, and their letter are a sham. Another Roll Call reporter pointed out that gimmicks and various porky items in a new Department of Defense appropriations bill gave the lie to the idea that contemporary bills were free of earmarks. And Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance noted at the same time that the new DoD appropriations bill, just signed into law, was already stuffed with hundreds of earmarks costing billions of dollars.

The explanation of Congress's new, more deceptive and expensive pork system starts with Trump declaring that "America is being respected again" on September 28, while signing an appropriations bill into law that provided $675 billion to the Pentagon. The bill was passed in the House of Representatives with the vote of four of every five House members and in the Senate with almost nine of every 10 senators.

Speech after speech credited the bill with solving the problem of planes that cannot fly, ships with repairs delayed for years, and pay increases for soldiers who deserve more for their service.

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Notably, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the top-ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, praised the bill he helped to write, saying , "The priority of this defense bill is supporting our troops . This bill shows what Democrats and Republicans can accomplish when we work across the aisle to solve problems." The chairman of the subcommittee, Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, who had an even larger hand in shaping the bill, said , "I am proud to present this legislation to my colleagues and urge their strong support."

The issues they didn't talk about

Despite numerous speeches in the congressional record praising the defense spending bill, important details attracted not one word of discussion. The bill was riddled with earmarks, and the very pay and military readiness accounts that member after member praised were being raided to pay for it. This is hardly new. In my three decades on Capitol Hill, this behavior was typical -- and even self-styled "pork busters" including, I regret to say, the recently passed Senator John McCain, were known to participate. Despite the rule changes in 2007 and 2011, nothing ultimately changed for the better. Today, the money flow for earmarks has greatly increased, and the process that was once evident with a little inspection has been almost totally obscured.

What earmarks? The legislation has none; it says so. The joint explanatory statement (JES) for the defense spending bill, which purports to clarify the statutory text, contains the following on page two : "The conference agreement does not contain any congressional earmarks as defined by clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the House of Representatives."

That rule defines an earmark as spending specifically requested by a member of Congress for "an entity, or targeted to a specific State, locality or congressional district ." But simply fuzz up the authorship, recipient, or location of an added spending item, and it transforms from an earmark to a "congressional special interest item." There are hundreds of those, most of them buried in sparsely worded tables in the JES.

But these congressional special interest items are important: the conference committee that wrote the JES went to some length to cite them to the Pentagon for special treatment; they made the congressional special interest items subject to special rules to prevent DoD from reducing the amount to be spent. That conference committee, appointed to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, consisted of senior members of the same House and Senate defense appropriations subcommittees who wrote the original bills, such as Senators Durbin and Shelby.

Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) reported that 68 procurement programs in this defense bill received $7.5 billion in new, unrequested spending, a large portion going to the Lockheed Corporation. These are blatant earmarks, as explained by TCS, which also pointed out that the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee added $5.6 billion to the procurement account for these items, while its Senate counterpart added a more generous $6.2 billion. The bill was "compromised" by the conference committee at a level above both: $7.5 billion.

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) tabulated all the add-ons in the bill -- not just the 68 in Procurement -- above the Pentagon's request. Again, the Senate Defense Subcommittee proved more generous than the House, and again the final conference was higher than either subcommittee's recommendation. TPA found 679 earmarks costing $19.3 billion.

Pigs in a poke

Are these earmarks all pork, that is, poorly justified spending slipped into bills to enable a member to boast that he or she can "bring home the bacon" for jobs back home or to appease defense corporations?

The authors of this bill don't want you to know. In the past, earmarks would specify things like "Intrepid Naval Museum," "Fort Richardson Running Trail," or "Fort Huachuca Readiness Center" as the recipient, and for a short period, committee reports identified them and their House or Senate sponsors.

Now, none of that is done. Instead, sparsely worded tables contain vague entries like "Program Increase." Many add a hint such as designating the increase for "modernization" or "silicon fiber research." But there is nothing to indicate the state or district, the contractor, or any other specifics. Hence, they do not technically qualify as "earmarks." However, after the bill is law, congressional staff contact the Pentagon to make sure it knows where the money is to go -- and what will happen if it doesn't.

The rules meant to reform earmarking have made the practice worse. It is now more opaque, and it gobbles up more money than ever. The $19.3 billion TPA found in 2019 absolutely dwarfs the amounts that I and others, such as the Congressional Research Service and the Committee Against Government Waste , found in these bills before the so-called reforms took hold.

Perhaps the biggest joke is the recent debate on whether it would be a good idea to "bring back earmarks." They never went away. The hypocrisy of the members who opine on this is only exceeded by the cluelessness of the press and the president, who raised it as something to ponder. Then there's the mendacity of those 10 senators who designed their phony legislation to pretend earmarks are gone and must not be allowed to come back. The last section of their bill reads as follows : "(e) APPLICATION. -- This section shall not apply to any authorization of appropriations to a Federal entity if such authorization is not specifically targeted to a State, locality, or congressional district."

Yes, you are reading that right: the bill exempts any earmark that fuzzes up the targeted location, and under the existing system that would be all of them. The 10 authors of this fraud are the following: Senators Claire McCaskill, Jeff Flake, Pat Toomey, Mike Lee, Ben Sasse, Rob Portman, Joni Ernst, James Lankford, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz.

Too big to be hidden

Despite the carefully applied opacity, some of the biggest giveaways and their authors are clear. The House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee chairwoman, Texas Republican Kay Granger, was widely identified as behind $726 million added for six additional F-35Cs to be built by Lockheed in her Fort Worth congressional district.

But is this an example of pork? Granger and official Pentagon witnesses would surely testify that more F-35Cs are urgently needed. Others, including myself and colleagues at the Project on Government Oversight, will tell you that the F-35 is an ineffective boondoggle and is not ready for initial operational testing, let alone expanded production. However, despite many critical Government Accountability Office evaluations and embarrassing official and leaked reports from the Pentagon, the majority of Congress rejects such advice and welcomes more F-35 spending. Pork is in the eye of the beholder.

However, such easily identified earmarks are few and far between.

Trump requested $676 billion for the defense bill; the final Conference Report reduced that by $1.1 billion to $674.9 billion. How was the additional $19.3 billion found by TPA for 679 earmarks stuffed into a bill that cut spending?

While publicly touting the "largest pay raise for troops in nearly a decade" and claiming the bill "improves military readiness," Defense Subcommittee Chairman Shelby, Ranking Member Durbin, and other authors actually cut the budget for both.

They reduced the Pentagon's request for military pay, the Military Personnel account, by $2.1 billion. That's right: while praising themselves for supporting higher pay, they actually cut the budget for it. The request was $148.2 billion; the bill provided $146.1 billion.

Praising their handiwork on supporting military readiness, they cut the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) request from the Pentagon by $5.8 billion. O&M is a huge diverse account, but it is also the heart and core of spending for training, maintenance, spare parts, military depots, and everything else that means "readiness." The Pentagon requested $199.5 billion; it got $193.7 billion.

The way they cut both the Military Personnel and O&M accounts was notably duplicitous. A veteran journalist, John M. Donnelly, reported in Roll Call that most cuts were obtusely justified with explanations such as "Revised Estimate," "Historical Unobligated Balances," and "Not Properly Accounted."

My own research shows $809 million of cuts in those "Revised Estimates." They are completely unexplained in any text and neither committee report from the House or Senate appropriations committees mentions any such reduction. They appear to have been an invention of the conference committee.

When I worked for a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee member (Republican Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico), I observed staffers being instructed to phony up reductions with just such a ruse. In one case, to make room for all senators' earmarks, the subcommittee chairman, Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, directed the staff to use the earmark dollar total to determine the cuts to be announced. I suspect this crude offset technique underlies the "revised estimates" that appeared out of nowhere.

In both R&D and Procurement, they cut $1.5 billion using "Historical Unobligated Balances" or "Historical Unobligations" as a reason. An unobligated balance is money that DoD has planned but not yet spent: the program may be behind schedule, or it may be on schedule, but the timetable for sending out the money has not occurred yet. Here, some unidentified actor took the money away without a word of explanation as to what parts of the program were being lost or why.

The "Not Properly Accounted" justification meant $706 million in unexplained cuts.

Another term in the bill is "Rate Adjustments"; they cut $124 million. How is this different from "Revised Estimate" or "Historical Unobligated Balances?" The House Defense Subcommittee contains not a word of explanation. The Senate Defense Subcommittee report contains assertions of "Improving funds management: Rate adjustments," but that is all the explanation you get.

Further indecipherable cuts included "Unjustified Growth," another $1.1 billion; "Excess Growth," $468 million; "Underexecution," $134 million; and "Insufficient Justification," $35 million.

Yet another ruse was to transfer $2 billion out of the O&M budget to Title IX of the bill that funds the "Global War on Terrorism." But there, only $1.4 billion of the transferred $2 billion is actually retained. The transfer is a shell game.

There are other ruses in other parts of the bill; the details are mind-bending, but you get the point.

They were cutting military pay and readiness accounts so they could add to the DoD Research and Development (R&D) and the Procurement accounts. That's where the vast majority of the earmarks -- rather, congressional special interest items -- are.

In R&D they added $3.9 billion to the Pentagon's request. The account went from $91 billion to $94.9 billion. In Procurement, they added $4.8 billion to the Pentagon's request of $130.6 billion. Some of the earmarks in these accounts were huge. The controversial F-35 got over $2 billion in several earmarks, the notorious Littoral Combat Ship got $950 million, unrequested C-130s got $640 million, and so on.

Other unspoken consequences

While money over the years was being redirected to earmarks, something very different was happening at the other end of the world -- among our operating military forces.

On January 8, 2014, 29-year-old Liuetenant Wes Van Dorn died when his MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter, beset with maintenance problems the Navy had deferred, caught fire due to frayed wires and a leaking fuel line. He had been battling for three years to get adequate spare parts and much-needed refurbishment work to bring these old and unreliable helicopters up to minimally safe flying condition. His was only one of several lethal accidents involving the MH-53E resulting from inadequate maintenance, as reported by Mike Hixenbaugh and others in the The Virginian-Pilot and in a new documentary by investigative reporter Zachary Stauffer.

Such accidents resulted from raiding O&M money, such as in 2010 when, for example, Democratic Defense Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha of Pennsylvania cut O&M by a net $2.3 billion to stuff money into earmarks.

Advertising the earmarks they said didn't exist

Though their legislation proclaims earmarks banned, the authors of the defense bill changed their tune when they self-advertised to constituents.

In a press release from his personal office, Senator Dick Durbin declared , "From Rock Island Arsenal to Scott Airforce Base and Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois [t]his bill safeguards Illinois defense jobs by continuing investments in our state's defense installations and initiatives." Durbin took credit for funding nine programs in Illinois, costing $2.8 billion, most of it for Boeing -- headquartered in Chicago and the producer of the Navy's F/A-18 Super Hornet and MQ-25 Stingray refueling drone.

Subcommittee Chairman Shelby claimed he helped acquire $8.3 billion for 25 projects in Alabama.

Granger claimed she helped win over $12.3 billion for Fort Worth -- including $9.4 billion for Lockheed's F-35, $1.8 billion for Lockheed's C-130J, and $1.1 billion for the Bell Boeing V-22.

Note that they each claimed credit not just for their add-ons but for the entire program expense, including both the Pentagon-requested money and money spent outside their states or districts. For example, the C-130 is assembled in Marietta, Georgia, not Durbin's Illinois, and the F-18's engines are contracted by General Electric in Ohio. In fact, the entire F-18 is fabricated in Missouri; Durbin is advertising himself not to workers but to the Boeing headquarters.

The ranking member on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Pete J. Visclosky of Indiana, did not participate in these overblown claims. His website shows no press release listing defense budget goodies for his Indiana district.

The under the table incentives

On the other hand, Visclosky was no shrinking violet when it came to accepting campaign contributions from the corporations benefiting from the legislation's earmarks., a project of the Center for Responsive Politics that documents federal campaign contributions, shows that for his 2018 reelection campaign, Visclosky accepted $347,933 from defense-related donors, $59,800 of it from Lockheed . The $347,933 constituted 27 percent of Visclosky's total campaign contributions , reported as of November 2018. For these and other efforts, Visclosky is getting a promotion: with the Democrats taking over the House next year, he is slated to be defense subcommittee chairman.

Chairwoman Granger accepted $397,560 from defense aerospace and electronics donors, constituting 17 percent of her larger total of $2,371,044 in reported contributions. Granger's contributions from Lockheed were more than twice Visclosky's: $136,360 .

The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member, Senator Durbin, does not run for reelection until 2020. The data on his last election in 2014 show that Durbin accepted $236,549 from defense aerospace donors, making him the Senate's top beneficiary of such donations at the time. Adding other defense contribution categories, he took in $455,799 .

Senator Shelby's total reported defense-related contributions for his reelection in 2016, before he became defense subcommittee chairman, were $334,800. Commensurate with his elevation to chairman in 2018, he received $1,048,000 , nearly tripling his defense-related total, and he is four years away from his next campaign in 2022.

Granger, Durbin, and the others will resent any implication that their actions are influenced by the generosity of Lockheed or other defense contractors, lobbyists, and PACs. Indeed, campaign finance laws, as written by Congress, make it hard to conclude that contributions illegally influence congressional decision-making, and a recent Supreme Court ruling makes it even more difficult.

The bottom line

All this adds up to a Pentagon budget process in Congress that is:

Dishonest : The bill and its authors proclaim it is free of earmarks, but it has 679 of them costing $19.3 billion according to research from an independent group. Deceptive : The bill's authors, with huge support from the rest of Congress, proclaim their dedication to better pay for the troops and military readiness, and yet cut those very accounts by almost $8 billion. The reductions are arbitrary and vague, and are used to offset those 679 earmarks. The senators and representatives circumvent their own rules on earmarks by fuzzing up sponsors, recipients, and locations, making the entire process opaque. Hypocritical : Imagine the gall of nine Republicans and one Democrat with their bill to profess earmarks gone and making sure they don't "come back." There is nothing new about members of Congress posing as pork reformers and actually being pork enablers; however, these 10 assume an unprecedented level of cluelessness among the press; in some but not all corners, they were right to do so. Mercenary : $19.3 billion in earmarks makes rich material for senators and representatives to advertise themselves, with considerable exaggeration, as successful porkers for their states and districts. They also accept hundreds of thousands of dollars from the contractors, lobbyists, and PACs that benefit from the millions, if not billions, of dollars that the Pentagon never requested.

All this is not illegal, but according to common English, it is venal.

Winslow T. Wheeler worked in the U.S. Senate for Republican and Democratic senators and in the Government Accountability Office on national security issues for 31 years. After he left the Senate in 2002, he ran the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, which moved to the Project on Government Oversight in 2012. He retired in 2016.


HenionJD January 11, 2019 at 4:43 pm

What's 5 billion dollars for a largely useless wall compared to this. The mind boggles.
Minnesota Mary , , January 11, 2019 at 5:13 pm
This is a rather long article but well worth reading. I am sick of the Washington 2-Step dance.
Ed Lindgren , , January 11, 2019 at 7:48 pm
"People say the Pentagon does not have a strategy. They are wrong. The Pentagon does have a strategy; it is 'Don't interrupt the money flow, add to it.'" -Col. John R. Boyd (USAF Ret.) John Boyd (Fighter Pilot, Tactician, Strategist, Conceptual Designer, Reformer) died in 1997.
Taras 77 , , January 11, 2019 at 11:16 pm
This is a solid article by a very respected critic of the obscene defense spending and weapons programs. I believe Mr Wheeler early on was on this F-35 debacle, labeling it the flying swiss army knife. (aplogies to the manufacturer of the knife and its fans.) Notable of recent are a series of feel good reports that the F-35 is combat ready, etc. Hopefully, the pilots of the F-35's will never have to face the real test.

Thank you, Mr Wheeler, for the continuation of exposing this fraud.

EliteCommInc. , , January 12, 2019 at 1:26 am
Deeply appreciated this article.
Brendan Sexton , , January 13, 2019 at 1:56 pm
Now that we are well into this new era of draining the swamp, we are all over our heads in muck and democracy AND prosperity are in danger of drowning. Venal is awfully polite.

[Jan 13, 2019] Potencial of having a nuclear cataclysm out of civil war in Ukraine is firtneing perspecitve

Jan 13, 2019 |

EugeneGur , says: July 23, 2018 at 9:30 pm GMT

@Peter Akuleyev

who has spent time in Ukraine knows how deep hatred of Russia goes

I don't know where is Ukraine you spent your time and in what company, but this is complete BS. The South-Eastern Ukraine hates the Western Ukrainian "banderovtsi" as much as the Russians do if not more -- after all, the followers of Bandera operated mostly on the Ukrainian soil. There are deranged individuals in every country, of course, and Ukraine has been subjected lately to intense hate propaganda as well as repressions, but there is no hatred of Russia. This is contradicted by both sociology and everyday behavior of Ukrainian, which move to Russia in droves, spend time in Russia, support Russian sport teams, etc.

we are supposed to dismiss the actual wishes of Ukrainians, Estonians, Poles, Georgians and other peoples who hate Russia (and love the US)

Nobody is asking about what the real Ukrainians, Estonians, Georgians or even Poles actually think, least of all the US. There are almost as many Georgians living in Russia as there are in Georgia, and they show no desire to move back. In 2008 during the conflict, their biggest fear was that they'd be deported.

The Ukraine's Maidan was a violent coup, where a few thousand militants armed and trained abroad overthrew a government elected by the entire country. Protests that immediately started all over the country were suppressed with force -- the one in Donbass still is.

How could anyone with an access to Internet remain unaware of these facts is beyond me.

Vojkan , says: July 24, 2018 at 8:25 am GMT
@Peter Akuleyev Why should anyone freaking care and put his ass in the line of fire because you bunch of primitives hate Russia? Between having a nuclear cataclysm because you pathetic dwarfs of nations are frustrated to have a neighbour you can't bully and Russia obliterating you, I say let Russia obliterate you, thus we won't have to suffer the ear-hurting dissonnance of your incessant whining any more. Though I doubt Russia would stomp on you. When you see shit, you don't stomp on it, you don't want you don't want your shoes to stink, you just walk around it.

[Jan 13, 2019] Who are the people populating Ukrainian Armed Forces?

Jan 13, 2019 |

peterAUS , says: July 23, 2018 at 10:25 pm GMT

@EugeneGur That's an interesting point. Even if true, doesn't matter. One could wonder ..who are the people populating Ukrainian Armed Forces?

Or who are the guys, in Ukrainian Armed Forces, presently engaged against Donbass? All of them. Including those is logistics/maintenance depots far away from the (current) line of separation?

The will to fight against "Russia" ranges from a deep hate to simply not wishing to go against the (current) Ukrainian government. The former are in those "shock" battalions. The later are manning the logistics train. And everything in between.

Now .if/when a real shooting starts, as soon as Russia, as expected (and desired) by the most of readers here, starts delivering ordnance into operational depth of Donbass enemy, the ratio hate/don't care shall shift, hard and fast. Not in Russian favor, I suspect.

[Jan 13, 2019] The USA repeats the history of the later Roman empire, with the army and intelligence agencies firmly in control

Intelligence agencies are a new Praetorian Guard
Jan 13, 2019 |

jilles dykstra , says: July 23, 2018 at 7:30 am GMT

In my opinion, no dementia. Too many careers and institutions are built on continuing hostility towards Russia. First ECB President Duisenberg's ph d thesis had as title 'The economic consequences of peace', something like that, his conclusion was that demilitarization was possible economically, when controlled sensibly.

Did anyone read 'The Iron Mountain Report', I never quite knew what to make of it, but it also is about if demilitarization is possible. Barbara Hinckley Sheldon Goldman, American Politics and Government, Glenview Ill.,1990 describes how the USA weapons industry skillfully prevents that spending on useless weapons diminishes. The history of the later Roman empire, the army in control.

[Jan 11, 2019] The ticking time bomb is because a large part of young people working now are working on non – permanent contracts that don t pay benefits. These people won t have any pension at all and there are a lot of them

Naomi Klein's book "Shock Doctrine", encapsulated by this post as "global elites used periods of crisis around the world to force damaging neoliberal policies derived from the Chicago School and Washington Consensus upon unhappy populations that suffered greatly as a result."
Notable quotes:
"... Eventually, Poland emerged as the major US agent of influence within the EU (along with GB) with the adamant anti-Russian stance. Which taking into account the real state of Polish manufacturing deprived of the major market is very questionable. Later by joining sanctions, they lost Russian agricultural market (including all apple market in which they have a prominent position). ..."
"... Gowan's book, Global Gamble, is also good on the details of shock therapy in the former Warsaw Pact nations. One key problem was that shock therapy partly rested on he assumption that western European buyers would want to invest in modernizing plant and equipment in industries they acquired, but it quickly turned out that the German and other western buyers were really interested only in acquiring new MARKETS for their own products. ..."
"... I remember a couple of paragraphs about Poland in my Economics 101 course, some 20 years ago. Was it in in Mankiw's book? or Lipsey-Chrystal? I do not remember anymore. One of those vicious neoliberal propaganda mouthpieces, anyway. The textbook pitched Poland's success story against Russia's abject failure, claiming that the former had dismantled and shut down all its inefficient state-run companies, while the latter still kept its unprofitable heavy industry on life support. ..."
"... Somehow neoclassical economists always distort history into a cartoonish parody that confirms their models. ..."
"... If you looked carefully, you could still find older books, barely touched, that touted Albania as a neoliberal success story along the same lines as Poland. Albania almost collapsed in civil war in 1998. ..."
"... The author's criticism doesn't really address Klein's central points at all, which would be that the crisis was used as leverage to ram through otherwise politically unpalatable change, and that a great deal of the constraint forcing that was provided by actors both undemocratic and external. He seems to be of the school that regards such niceties as beside the point, as long as various macroaggregates eventually rose. ..."
"... Any discussion of the Polish economy that completely ignores this massive level of economic outmigration, and it's continued rise among the young, misses a great deal. In a vibrant economy, it seems unlikely that so many educated Poles would find, for example, lower tier jobs in Britain to be their best path forward. ..."
"... Out-migration is a huge factor in eastern and central Europe and without it, the picture would look entirely different. The Baltics, Bulgaria and Romania are even more affected. ..."
"... Inter-war Poland is celebrated a lot in Poland these days, conveniently ignoring the facts it was really a totalitarian state – when Czechoslovakia was Muniched in 1938, Poles (and Hugarians) were quick to grab bits of territory right after that. ..."
"... Poland has taken around a million Ukrainians over the past ten years so while many Poles are emigrating to Europe, they are being replaced by Ukrainians, who are ethnically and linguistically fairly similar to Poles. ..."
Jan 11, 2019 |

The argument largely seems to hold for the original poster boy example in Chile with the Pinochet coup against the socialist Allende regime. A military coup replaced a democratically government. Whiole Chlle was experiencing a serious inflation, it was not in a full-blown economic collapse. The coup was supported by US leaders Nixon and Kissinger, who saw themselves preventing the emergence of pro-Soviet regime resembling Castro's Cuba. Thousands were killed, and a sweeping set of laisssez faire policies were imposed with the active participation of "Chicago Boys" associated with Milton Friedman. In fact, aside from bringing down inflation these rreforms did not initially improve economic performance, even as foreign capital flowed in, especially into the copper industry, although the core of that industry remained nationalized. After several years the Chicago Boys were sent away and more moderate policies, including a reimposition of controls on foreign capital flows, the economy did grow quite rapidly. But this left a deeply unequal income distribution in place, which would largely remain the case even after Pinochet was removed from power and parliamentary democracy returned.

This scenario was argued to happen in many other narions, especially those in the former Sovit bloc as the soviet Union disintegrated and its successor states and the former members of the Soviet bloc in the CMEA and Warsaw Pact also moved to some sort of market capitalism imposed from outside with policies funded by the IMF and following the Washington Consensus. Although he has since expressed regret for this role in this, a key player linking what was done in several Latin American nations and what went down after 1989 in Eastern and Central Europe was Jeffrey Sachs. Klein's discussion especially of what went down in Russia also looks pretty sound by and large, wtthout dragging through the details, although in these cases the political shift was from dictatorships run by Communist parties dominated out of Moscow to at least somewhat more democratic governments, although not in all of the former Soviet republics such as in Central Asia and with many of these later backsliding towards more authoritarian governments later. In Russia and in many oothers large numbers of people were thrown into poverty from which they have not recovered. Klein has also extended this argument to other nations, including South Africa after the end of apartheid.


The level of the naivety of Barkley Rosser is astounding.

Poland was a political project, the showcase for the neoliberal project in Eastern Europe and the USSR. EU was pressed to provide large subsidies, and that marionette complied. The commenter ilpalazzo (above) is right that there has been " a tremendous development in real estate and infrastructure mostly funded by the EU that has been a serious engine of growth." Like in Baltics and Ukraine, German, French, Swedish and other Western buyers were most interested in opening market for their products and getting rid of local and xUSSR competitors (and this supported and promoted Russophobia). With very few exceptions. University education system also was partially destroyed, but still fared better than most manufacturing industries.

I remember talking to one of the Polish professors of economics when I was in Poland around 1992. He said that no matter how things will develop, the Polish economy will never be allowed to fail as the USA is interested in propelling it at all costs. That means that there was no CIA activity to undermine the financial system, deindustrialize the country, and possibly to partition the county like it was in Russia with Harvard mafia (Summers, Shleifer, etc.)

Still, they lost quite a bit of manufacturing: for example all shipbuilding, which is ironic as Lech Wałęsa and Solidarity emerged in this industry.

Eventually, Poland emerged as the major US agent of influence within the EU (along with GB) with the adamant anti-Russian stance. Which taking into account the real state of Polish manufacturing deprived of the major market is very questionable. Later by joining sanctions, they lost Russian agricultural market (including all apple market in which they have a prominent position).

But they have a large gas pipeline on their territory, so I suspect that like Ukraine they make a lot of money via transit fees simply due to geographic. So they parochially live off rent -- that why they bark so much at North Stream 2.

Polish elite is a real horror show, almost beyond redemption, and not only in economics. I do not remember, but I think it was Churchill who said " Poland is a greedy hyena of Europe." This is as true now as it was before WWII.

Now they are propelled by cheap labor from Ukraine, which they helped to destroy (along with Sweden and Germany)

ilpalazzo , , January 10, 2019 at 3:04 pm

My post seem to have vanished into oblivion so I'm pasting from the clipboard.

I am a Pole and have been a daily reader here since 2008. I hope a better versed compatriot will come out of the closet and give a better picture (I know there are a few).

Let's just say the shock was pretty bad. In terms of amount of human suffering the worst was dissolving state owned farms. Hundreds of thousands of people were just let go without any help, although many farms were profitable and others could be restructured or converted into collectives etc. I live in a small town where there was a huge state farm and I can see former employees started to recover and get by just recently judging by the looks of their dwellings.

Most of the manufacturing and heavy industry was sold off and extinguished. We used to have pretty decent capital producing capabilities like tooling etc. Not a trace of that now. There is a lot being manufactured now here but mostly simple components for german industry to assemble.

Pension system was thoroughly looted by you know who and is a ticking time bomb. Most of it was quasi privatized – that is managed by western companies but still part of the state system. There were supposed to be individual saving accounts managed by sophisticated investment specialists but the money ended up invested in state bonds, issued to subsidize it. Managing fee 7 – 10 percent charge on every payment into the system, regardless of performance, anyone? It was a heist of the century.

The ticking time bomb is because a large part of young people working now are working on non – permanent contracts that don't pay benefits. These people won't have any pension at all and there are a lot of them.

Healthcare is single payer fund but heavily underfunded. Private practice and hospitals are allowed and skim most profitable procedures leaving the rest to public fund. There are unrealistic limits on number of procedures so if you need to see a specialist in July or later prepare to pay cash or wait till January.

Municipal service companies, at least the most lucrative ones have ben sold off to foreign investment funds. A few of our cities' municipal companies, like central heating or energy have been sold off to german municipal companies (!). State telecom has been sold off to french state telecom (and one of the biggest and most famous fortunes made).

Local printed press is 90% german corps owned.

This is a map of state rail company railways in 1988 and 2009 . It has been a meme here for some time. It is true. Cancelled lines are the subsidized ones workers relied on to get to job. I closely know a thousand years old town that had rail built in 1860 by germans and liquidated right in 1990. The populace is now halved, all young emigrated, businesses dead. There have been a huge investment in freeways and other kind of roads so every one has to own a car to get to her job. Most cars are used 10+ year old german imports. Polish car mechanic and body shops are the best in the world specialists of german automotive produce.

I live in a small contry town that was a home to a wealthy aristocrat. There is a beautiful baroque palace and huge park, the complex is literally a third part of town. After the war it was nationalized, there were sporting facilities built in the park for locals and school pupils to use. The palace was re-purposed as medical facility and office complex for state farm management. In the nineties the whole thing was given back to aristocrat descendants – a shady bunch hiding in Argentina AFAIR. They couldn't afford to keep it so they sold it to a nouveau – riche real estate developer. He fenced the whole thing off and refurbished into a sort of conference complex – it is underway and still not clear what's gonna happen with it. The effect is that a third of my town that used to be public space is fenced off and off limits now.

To conclude, there has been a tremendous development in real estate and infrastructure mostly funded by the EU that has been a serious engine of growth. Lot of people got mortgage and financed homes or flats and there has been a whole industry created around it. A few crown jewel companies (copper mining, petroleum and other chemistry) are state owned. But most of the sophisticated furnishings used in real estate are german made (there is german made nat gas furnace in 95% of newly built homes) etc. Two million young people emigrated to work mostly to UK and Ireland. I'd lived in Dublin for a year in 2003 and there were Chinese people as salespersons in groceries and seven – elevens everywhere, now there are Poles instead.

Recommended reading about the transformation years dealing is this book:

The author is Kalecki's pupil.

Darthbobber , , January 10, 2019 at 5:21 pm

Thanks for this. Gowan's book, Global Gamble, is also good on the details of shock therapy in the former Warsaw Pact nations. One key problem was that shock therapy partly rested on he assumption that western European buyers would want to invest in modernizing plant and equipment in industries they acquired, but it quickly turned out that the German and other western buyers were really interested only in acquiring new MARKETS for their own products.

And in agriculture, they both insisted on the elimination of subsidies within the eastern nations, and proceeded to use the area as a dumping ground for their own (often subsidized) agricultural surpluses.

JTMcPhee , , January 10, 2019 at 6:51 pm

All this gets back, in my minuscule view, to failure to have a decent answer to one little question:

What kind of political economy do "we, the mopes" want to live within?

And related to that, what steps can and must "we, the mopes" take to get to that hopefully wiser, more decent, more homeostatic and sustainable, political economy?

And it likely doesn't matter for us old folks (obligatory blast at Boomers as cause of all problems and distresses, dismissing the roots and branches of "civilization," current patterns of consumption, and millennia of Progress), given what is "baked in" and the current distribution of weatlhandpower. But maybe "we, the mopes" can at least go down fighting. Gilets Jaunes, 150 million Indians, all that

But without an answer to the first question, though, not much chance of "better," is there? Except maybe locally, for the tiny set of us mopes who know how to do community and commensalism and some other "C" words

"We, the mopes" could make some important and effective changes. Enough of us, and soon enough, to avoid or mitigate the Jackpot?

Unna , , January 10, 2019 at 4:09 pm

Thanks very much for this. Very graphic. So, if you would, could you explain who the Law and Justice Party is, and why they won the election, and what exactly are they doing to make themselves popular? Are they in fact enacting certain social programs that we can read about or are they primarily relying on something else, like mainly Catholic traditionalism, for their political power?

disc_writes , , January 10, 2019 at 4:33 pm

I remember a couple of paragraphs about Poland in my Economics 101 course, some 20 years ago. Was it in in Mankiw's book? or Lipsey-Chrystal? I do not remember anymore. One of those vicious neoliberal propaganda mouthpieces, anyway. The textbook pitched Poland's success story against Russia's abject failure, claiming that the former had dismantled and shut down all its inefficient state-run companies, while the latter still kept its unprofitable heavy industry on life support.

It is unsurprising to read that Poland followed a more nuanced approach. Somehow neoclassical economists always distort history into a cartoonish parody that confirms their models.

That was in the early 2000s. The university was then brand new and was still filling the shelves of the library. If you looked carefully, you could still find older books, barely touched, that touted Albania as a neoliberal success story along the same lines as Poland. Albania almost collapsed in civil war in 1998.

todde , , January 10, 2019 at 5:08 pm

Yellow Vests knock out 60% of traffic cameras

smart move. Or at least I would say so.

Darthbobber , , January 10, 2019 at 5:08 pm

Klein at least provided footnotes, and sources for her claims. Which are conspicuously absent from this piece.

The World Bank, (World Development Indicators, 2006), one of Klein's sources, has a nationwide poverty rate only for 1993, and has it at 23% at that point, or between 2.3 times and more than 4 time the most common estimate he cites under the ancient regime.

The same source has unemployment averaging 19.9% in 1990-92, and 19% in 2000-2004.

As to the later poverty rate, Klein's source is Przemyslaw Wielgosz, then editor of the Polish edition of le Monde Diplomatique, who gives this: " Poles living below the 'social minimum' (defined as a living standard of £130 (192,4 EUR) per person and £297 (440,4 EUR) for a three person family per month) affecting 15% of the population in 1989 to 47% in 1996, and 59% in 2003." but whence he obtains these figures he does not say. Given that it falls in a period when unemployment was pushing 20% for a prolonged period, and that both the EU's subsidies and outmigration to the EU as an escape valve only start to kick in in 2003, the figure seems not wildly implausible.

The author's criticism doesn't really address Klein's central points at all, which would be that the crisis was used as leverage to ram through otherwise politically unpalatable change, and that a great deal of the constraint forcing that was provided by actors both undemocratic and external. He seems to be of the school that regards such niceties as beside the point, as long as various macroaggregates eventually rose.

The contrast between what was done, and what Solidarnosc had claimed to be all about when in opposition is incredibly striking, basically the difference between libertarian Communism and uber Dirigisme style capitalism.

Darthbobber , January 10, 2019 at 10:27 am

Any discussion of the Polish economy that completely ignores this massive level of economic outmigration, and it's continued rise among the young, misses a great deal. In a vibrant economy, it seems unlikely that so many educated Poles would find, for example, lower tier jobs in Britain to be their best path forward.

Yes, your unemployment and poverty rates are lower if a significant fraction of the population works elsewhere in the EU, and reatriates the money. Though the pattern may cause a few other problems. (while many nations like to export their unemployment, not everybody wants to import it.)

upstater , January 10, 2019 at 11:28 am

You beat me to the punch

Out-migration is a huge factor in eastern and central Europe and without it, the picture would look entirely different. The Baltics, Bulgaria and Romania are even more affected.

vlade , January 10, 2019 at 2:01 pm

The migration from Poland does not have only economic reasons. A lot of Poles migrate because they find the polish society (especially small towns and rural) very stiffling.

A friend of mine left Poland the moment she got her MSc – literally, the same day she was on a bus to Germany. She's now a sucessfull woman, director level at a large consultancy. Yet her father calls her "old spinster" (this is the polite version), as she wasn't maried by 30, and she basically avoids going to Poland.

She says she could never be as sucessfull in Poland, being a woman, and not being keen on marrying. I've heard similar stories from young Poles, not just women.

Inter-war Poland is celebrated a lot in Poland these days, conveniently ignoring the facts it was really a totalitarian state – when Czechoslovakia was Muniched in 1938, Poles (and Hugarians) were quick to grab bits of territory right after that.

Kasia, January 10, 2019 at 5:17 pm

Poland has taken around a million Ukrainians over the past ten years so while many Poles are emigrating to Europe, they are being replaced by Ukrainians, who are ethnically and linguistically fairly similar to Poles.

So Poland is proof that nationalist, populist policies can indeed work. Poland has had to taken rough measures with our judicial system and media to ensure globalist forces do not undermine our successes. No one, I mean no one, in Poland mouths the words, "diversity is our strength". Internationalist, liberal minded people who are so susceptible to globalist propaganda, are generally the ones leaving the nation. Indigenous Western Europeans who are suffering the joys of cultural enrichment and vibrant diversity are starting to buy property in Eastern Europe - more Hungary than Poland - but as the globalists push even more multiculturalism and continue to impoverish indigenous Europeans, Eastern Europe will become a shining beacon on the hill free of many of the evils of globalisation.

[Jan 09, 2019] Mattis One More General For The Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone

Jan 09, 2019 |

Mattis: One More General For The "Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone"

by Tyler Durden Wed, 01/09/2019 - 21:55 20 SHARES Authored by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos via The American Conservative,

Big brass and government executives play both sides of the military revolving door, including "the only adult in the room."

Before he became lionized as the "only adult in the room" capable of standing up to President Trump, General James Mattis was quite like any other brass scoping out a lucrative second career in the defense industry. And as with other military giants parlaying their four stars into a cushy boardroom chair or executive suite, he pushed and defended a sub-par product while on both sides of the revolving door. Unfortunately for everyone involved, that contract turned out to be an expensive fraud and a potential health hazard to the troops.

According to a recent report by the Project on Government Oversight, 25 generals, nine admirals, 43 lieutenant generals, and 23 vice admirals retired to become lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for the defense industry between 2008 and 2018. They are part of a much larger group of 380 high-ranking government officials and congressional staff who shifted into the industry in that time.

To get a sense of the demand, according to POGO, which had to compile all of this information through Freedom of Information requests, there were 625 instances in 2018 alone in which the top 20 defense contractors (think Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin) hired senior DoD officials for high-paying jobs -- 90 percent of which could be described as "influence peddling."

Back to Mattis. In 2012, while he was head of Central Command, the Marine General pressed the Army to procure and deploy blood testing equipment from a Silicon Valley company called Theranos. He communicated that he was having success with this effort directly to Theranos's chief executive officer. Even though an Army health unit tried to terminate the contract due to it's not meeting requirements, according to POGO, Mattis kept the pressure up. Luckily, it was never used on the battlefield.

Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise but upon retirement in 2013, Mattis asked a DoD counsel about the ethics guiding future employment with Theranos. They advised against it. So Mattis went to serve on its board instead for a $100,000 salary. Two years after Mattis quit to serve as Trump's Pentagon chief in 2016, the two Theranos executives he worked with were indicted for "massive" fraud , perpetuating a "multi-million dollar scheme to defraud investors, doctors and patients," and misrepresenting their product entirely. It was a fake.

But assuming this was Mattis's only foray into the private sector would be naive. When he was tapped for defense secretary -- just three years after he left the military -- he was worth upwards of $10 million . In addition to his retirement pay, which was close to $15,000 a month at the time, he received $242,000 as a board member, plus as much as $1.2 million in stock options in General Dynamics, the Pentagon's fourth largest contractor. He also disclosed payments from other corporate boards, speech honorariums -- including $20,000 from defense heavyweight Northrop Grumman -- and a whopping $410,000 from Stanford University's public policy think tank the Hoover Institution for serving as a "distinguished visiting fellow."

Never for a moment think that Mattis won't land softly after he leaves Washington -- if he leaves at all. Given his past record, he will likely follow a very long line, as illustrated by POGO's explosive report, of DoD officials who have used their positions while inside the government to represent the biggest recipients of federal funding on the outside. They then join ex-congressional staffers and lawmakers on powerful committees who grease the skids on Capitol Hill. And then they go to work for the very companies they've helped, fleshing out a small army of executives, lobbyists, and board members with direct access to the power brokers with the purse strings back on the inside.

Welcome to the Swamp

"[Mattis's' career course] is emblematic of how systemic the problem is," said Mandy Smithberger, POGO's lead on the report and the director of its Center for Defense Information.

"Private companies know how to protect their interests. We just wish there were more protections for taxpayers."

When everything is engineered to get more business for the same select few, "when you have a Department of Defense who sees it as their job to promote arms sales does this really serve the interest of national security?"

That is something to chew on. If a system is so motivated by personal gain (civil servants always mindful of campaign contributions and private sector job prospects) on one hand, and big business profits on the other, is there room for merit or innovation? One need only look at Lockheed's F-35 joint strike fighter, the most expensive weapon system in history, which was relentlessly promoted over other programs by members of Congress and within the Pentagon despite years of test failures and cost overruns , to see what this gets you: planes that don't fly, weapons that don't work, and shortfalls in other parts of the budget that don't matter to contractors like pilot training and maintenance of existing systems.

"It comes down to two questions," Smithberger noted in an interview with TAC.

" Are we approving weapons systems that are safe or not? And are we putting [servicemembers'] lives on the line" to benefit the interests of industry?

All of this is legal, she points out. Sure, there are rules -- "cooling off" periods before government officials and members of Congress can lobby, consult, or work on contracts after they leave their federal positions, or when industry people come in through the other side to take positions in government. But Smithberger said they are "riddled with loopholes" and lack of enforcement.

Case in point: current acting DoD Secretary Patrick Shanahan spent 31 years working for Boeing , which gets about $24 billion a year as the Pentagon's second largest contractor. He was Boeing's senior vice president in 2016 just before he was confirmed as Trump's deputy secretary of defense in 2017. Last week he recused himself from all matters Boeing, but he wasn't always so hands off. At one point, he "prodded" for the purchase of 12 $1.2 billion Boeing F-15X fighter planes, according to Bloomberg.

But the revolving door is so much more pervasive and insidious than POGO could possibly catalogue. So says Franklin "Chuck" Spinney , who worked as a civilian and military officer in the Pentagon for 31 years, beginning in 1968. He calls the military industrial complex a "quasi-isolated political economy" that is in many ways independent from the larger domestic economy. It has its own rules, norms, and culture, and unlike the real world, it is self-sustaining -- not by healthy competition and efficiency, but by keeping the system on a permanent war footing, with money always pumping from Capitol Hill to the Pentagon to the private sector and then back again. Left out are basic laws of supply and demand, geopolitical realities, and the greater interest of society.

"That's why we call it a self-licking ice cream cone," Spinney explained to TAC.

" [This report] is just the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot more subtle stuff going on. When you are in weapons development like I was at the beginning of my career, you learn about this on day one, that having cozy relationships with contractors is openly encouraged. And then you get desensitized. I was fortunate because I worked for people who did not like it and I caught on quickly."

While the culture has evolved, basic realities have persisted since the massive build-up of the military and weapons systems during the Cold War. The odds of young officers in the Pentagon making colonel or higher are slim. They typically retire out in their 40s. They know implicitly that their best chance for having a well-paid second career is in the only industry they know -- defense. Most take this calculation seriously, moderating their decisions on program work and procurement and communicating with members of Congress as a matter of course.

" Let's just say there's a problem [with a program]. Are you going to come down hard on a contractor and try to hold his feet to the fire? Are you going to risk getting blackballed when you are out there looking for a job ? Sometimes there is no word communicated, you just don't want to be unacceptable to anyone," said Spinney. It's ingrained, from the rank of lieutenant colonel all the way up to general.

So the top five and their subsidiaries continue to get the vast majority of work, usually in no-bid contracts ($100 billion worth in 2016 alone) , and with cost-plus structures that critics say encourage waste and never-ending timetables, like the $1.5 trillion F-35. "The whole system is wired to get money out the door," said Spinney. "That is where the revolving door is most pernicious. It's everywhere."

The real danger is that under this pressure, parties work to keep bad contracts alive even if they have to cook the books. "Essentially from the standpoint of Pentagon contracting you are not going to have people writing reports saying this product is a piece of shit," said Spinney. Worse, evaluations are designed to deflect criticism if not oversell success in order to keep the spigot open. The most infamous example of this was the rigged tests that kept the ill-fated "Star Wars" missile defense program going in the 1980s.

* * *

Everyone talks about generals like Mattis as though they're warrior-gods. But for decades, many of them have turned out to be different creatures altogether - creatures of a semi-independent ecosystem that operates outside of the normal rules and benefits only a powerful minority subset: the military elite, defense contractors, and Congress. More recently, the defense-funded think tank world has become part of this ecology, providing the ideological grist for more spending and serving as a way-station for operators moving in and out of government and industry.

Call it the Swamp, the Borg, or even the Blob, but attempting to measure or quantify the revolving door in the military-industrial complex can feel like a fool's errand. Groups like POGO have attempted to shine light on this dark planet for years. Unfortunately, there is little incentive in Capitol Hill or at the Pentagon to do the very least: pull the purse strings, close loopholes, encourage real competition, and end cost-plus practices.

"We generally need to see more (political) championing on this issue," Smithberger said. Until then, all outside efforts "can't result in any meaningful change."

Son of Captain Nemo , 4 minutes ago link

So tell me again how "Mad Pedo" evaded Obama's axing of all the non-compliant General(s) and Admiral(s) in charge of the U.S. strategic command?!!!

Answered my own question. He's like the rest of them since the Balkans that just does counter insurgencies!...

"SUCCESS" in every direction on the weather vane you look!!!

Or... Another way of saying it.

How to build your successful U.S. military career turning $8 trillion in unfunded liability debt into $200 trillion in unfunded liability debt in less than 20 years!

Who wants to line up for that 'self help book"?!!!

MusicIsYou , 9 minutes ago link

Mattis is just another self serving cockroach in a U.S uniform.

__name___3O4jF">Realname Wild tree , 31 minutes ago link

It has nothing to do with the defense of our nation, or the unnecessary spilling of the blood of our nation.

It has everything to do with greed at the expense of our youths blood and the nations security. Follow the money.

As the light of truth shines as this article illustrates, the cockroaches scurry. Rumsfield's DoD 2 trillion missing comment the day before 9/11 comes to mind. Wonder how he knew.......

Wild tree , 31 minutes ago link

It has nothing to do with the defense of our nation, or the unnecessary spilling of the blood of our nation.

It has everything to do with greed at the expense of our youths blood and the nations security. Follow the money.

As the light of truth shines as this article illustrates, the cockroaches scurry. Rumsfield's DoD 2 trillion missing comment the day before 9/11 comes to mind. Wonder how he knew.......

hotrod , 39 minutes ago link

All this corruption in so nauseating. Yet Americans do nothing

peippe , 39 minutes ago link

These generals have been in the military a long time.

Not long enough to remember winning a real war....

Mr. Kwikky , 25 minutes ago link

It was and is never about winning, but keeping the US in perpetual war state (report from iron moutain). Cui bono? the mic

[Jan 04, 2019] There's only one thing necessary to maintain the respect and affection of DC's ruling political and media class: affirm standard precepts of US imperialism militarism

Jan 04, 2019 |

anne , January 02, 2019 at 07:05 AM

Glenn Greenwald‏ @ggreenwald

There's only one thing necessary to maintain the respect and affection of DC's ruling political and media class: affirm standard precepts of US imperialism & militarism. You can work for Trump, or cheer menacing authoritarians, and you'll still be revered as long as you do that:

Nikki Haley @NikkiHaley

Congratulations to Brazil's new President Bolsonaro. It's great to have another U.S.-friendly leader in South America, who will join the fight against dictatorships in Venezuela and Cuba, and who clearly understands the danger of China's expanding influence in the region.

4:03 AM - 2 Jan 2019

[Jan 04, 2019] Trump Fought For His Withdrawal For a Year by Willy B

Notable quotes:
"... Very interesting. It is understandable that Trump does not read briefings, if all he is fed is a variety of permanent war options at odds with his strategic goals. ..."
"... Trump had lunch with Lindsay Graham who has allegedly said that Trump is "reconsidering ". The Neocons haven't given up.. ..."
Jan 04, 2019 |

Gareth Porter, in an article published in the American Conservative, definitively shows that Trump's Dec. 19 announcement of the US withdrawal from Syria was, in fact, the end of a fight of at least a year, between Trump on the one side and his national security team, lead by Mattis and Dunford on the other. Published accounts of the policy process over the past year "show that senior national security officials and self-interested institutions have been playing a complicated political game for months aimed at keeping Trump from wavering on our indefinite presence on the ground in Syria ," Porter writes. "The entire episode thus represents a new variant of a familiar pattern dating back to Vietnam in which national security advisors put pressure on reluctant presidents to go along with existing or proposed military deployments in a war zone . The difference here is that Trump, by publicly choosing a different policy, has blown up their transparent schemes and offered the country a new course, one that does not involve a permanent war state."

Porter cites an April 2018 Associated Press account of an NSC meeting at which Trump's impatience with his national security team boiled over. At that meeting, Trump ordered them unequivocally to accept a fundamentally different Syria deployment policy. Instead, they framed the options as a binary choice -- either an immediate pullout or an indefinite presence in order to ensure the complete and permanent defeat of Islamic State. Mattis and Dunford, Porter continues, were consciously exploiting Trump's own defensiveness about a timeline–he had attacked Obama during the 2016 campaign for imposing a timeline in Afghanistan–"to press ahead with their own strategy unless and until Trump publicly called them on it."

"The Syria withdrawal affair is a dramatic illustration of the fundamental quandary of the Trump presidency in regard to ending the state of permanent war that previous administrations created. Although a solid majority of Americans want to rein in U.S. military deployments in the Middle East and Africa, Trump's national security team is committed to doing the opposite, " Porter concludes. "Trump is now well aware that it is virtually impossible to carry out the foreign policy that he wants without advisors who are committed to the same objective. That means that he must find people who have remained outside the system during the permanent war years while being highly critical of its whole ideology and culture. If he can fill key positions with truly dissident figures, the last two years of this term in office could decisively clip the wings of the bureaucrats and generals who have created the permanent war state we find ourselves in today."

Trump has called the bluff of the permanent warfare crowd and now has his decision, but the possibility of sabotage by that crowd's assets inside the Pentagon cannot yet be discounted. This is indicated by an exclusive Reuters report claiming that planners at the Pentagon are proposing that the YPG be allowed to keep the heavy weapons that the US has supplied it with, though Reuters' sources stress that the planning is still at an early stage and nothing's been decided yet. And yet, there must be a reason why this is being reported now. It obviously would throw a monkey wrench in the arrangements that Trump is trying to make with Erdogan to keep eastern Syria stable in the wake of the US withdrawal. It would also represent a back down from US promises made earlier to the Turks to retrieve the weapons and Erdogan would throw a fit. Certainly, the idea that the U.S. military can retrieve all of the weapons that it handed over is a dubious one, at best , and there are legitimate questions about whether or not Turkish troops could really operate in the Middle Euphrates valley near the Iraqi border, hundreds of kilometers from the Turkish border.

But the key to the proposal is this: The recommendation "is a rejection of Trump's policy to withdraw from Syria," a person familiar with the discussions told Reuters. So, really, it is an attempt at sabotage.

Barbara Ann , 6 days ago

Very interesting. It is understandable that Trump does not read briefings, if all he is fed is a variety of permanent war options at odds with his strategic goals. The Syrian war that matters is clearly now being fought within the USG and Trump has won the latest battle. As Porter says, this war will only be won if Trump can successfully replace key Borg positions with people of his own.

If the pullout can be completed without being sabotaged, Russia ought to be able to seamlessly step in guarantor of peace - and the SAG and Iraq between then can finish IS. The permanent war crowd with then just have to vent their frustrations elsewhere. A good outcome for all.

Pat Lang Mod -> Barbara Ann , 6 days ago
He was IMO suckered into taking a lot of these people because he didn't know anyone in government. His problem will be to find people not already working for the other side.
Walrus , 5 days ago
Trump had lunch with Lindsay Graham who has allegedly said that Trump is "reconsidering ". The Neocons haven't given up..
John Waddell , 5 days ago
"that the YPG be allowed to keep the heavy weapons that the US has supplied it with"

I would love to find out what those "heavy weapons" were exactly. I have been putting up comments all over the place saying that as far as I have been able to find out the US has not supplied anything with a barrel bigger than an 80mm mortar or a vehicle heavier than a MRAP. Up to now no-one has contradicted me. The reason the US did this was precisely this situation, not to upset the Turks if gear was left behind.

Am I wrong? Is this equipment now regarded as "heavy weapons"?

Taras77 , 5 days ago
I have looked as to where I might post my comment on this important site; this article seems to be the best fit for my comment on another site about the retirement of Gen Kelly and a link to an interview with Gen Kelly (I hope Col Lang will be lenient in allowing a secondary posting of my comment from another site):


My original comment follows:

On the subject of trump this AM, zerohedge has a summary of an interview with Gen Kelly which occurred just prior to his departure-to say that it was "bone crushing hard" probably is a long way from describing the difficulty of that Chief of Staff job in a chaotic white house working for a chaotic individual.

I have just a ton of respect for Gen Kelly-even in this totally mucked up country with all of its unending flustercucks, there are individuals still willing to step up and try, emphasis on try, to restore some sanity to the situations. God speed, Gen Kelly!!

English Outsider -> Taras77 , 3 days ago
Should he not have resigned earlier, or even not taken the job, if he was so opposed to his boss's policy?
Stumpy , 6 days ago
Two factors not mentioned are the SAA and support from Russia. Turkey may be somewhat off the hook for a deep thrust if Syrian forces move in and convince the YPG to stand down, by force or otherwise. As Col. Lang points out, starving the YPG of ammunition is a practical approach. If the PMU links up with Syrian forces to secure the eastern border areas, the Kurdish interests should be balanced out. My point being that the so-called vacuum left for Iran to fill is an overplayed shadow puppet.

[Dec 30, 2018] Trump comes clean from world's policeman to thug running a global protection racket by Finian Cunningham

In any case withdrawal from Syria was a surprising and bold move on the Part of the Trump. You can criticizes Trump for not doing more but before that he bahvaves as a typical neocon, or a typical Republican presidents (which are the same things). And he started on this path just two month after inauguration bombing Syria under false pretences. So this is something
I think the reason of change is that Trump intuitively realized the voters are abandoning him in droves and the sizable faction of his voters who voted for him because of his promises to end foreign wars iether already defected or is ready to defect. So this is a move designed to keep them.
Notable quotes:
"... "fight against terrorism" ..."
"... "sticking it to" ..."
"... "The United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world. It's not fair when the burden is all on us, the United States We are spread out all over the world. We are in countries most people haven't even heard about. Frankly, it's ridiculous." ..."
"... "We're no longer the suckers, folks." ..."
"... "spread all over the world" ..."
"... "America shouldn't be doing the fighting for every nation on earth, not being reimbursed in many cases at all. If they want us to do the fighting, they also have to pay a price," ..."
"... "not pulling their weight" ..."
"... "world's policeman" ..."
"... "A lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking", ..."
"... "defend freedom and democracy." ..."
"... "business solutions." ..."
"... "our protection." ..."
"... Trump is one man against Billions of people and dollars in corruption. ..."
Dec 27, 2018 |

President Trump's big announcement to pull US troops out of Syria and Afghanistan is now emerging less as a peace move, and more a rationalization of American military power in the Middle East. In a surprise visit to US forces in Iraq this week, Trump said he had no intention of withdrawing the troops in that country, who have been there for nearly 15 years since GW Bush invaded back in 2003.

Hinting at private discussions with commanders in Iraq, Trump boasted that US forces would in the future launch attacks from there into Syria if and when needed. Presumably that rapid force deployment would apply to other countries in the region, including Afghanistan.

In other words, in typical business-style transactional thinking, Trump sees the pullout from Syria and Afghanistan as a cost-cutting exercise for US imperialism. Regarding Syria, he has bragged about Turkey being assigned, purportedly, to "finish off" terror groups. That's Trump subcontracting out US interests.

Critics and supporters of Trump are confounded. After his Syria and Afghanistan pullout call, domestic critics and NATO allies have accused him of walking from the alleged "fight against terrorism" and of ceding strategic ground to US adversaries Russia and Iran.

'We're no longer suckers of the world!' Trump says US is respected as nation AGAIN (VIDEO)

Meanwhile, Trump's supporters have viewed his decision in more benign light, cheering the president for "sticking it to" the deep state and military establishment, assuming he's delivering on electoral promises to end overseas wars.

However, neither view gets what is going on. Trump is not scaling back US military power; he is rationalizing it like a cost-benefit analysis, as perhaps only a real-estate-wheeler-dealer-turned president would appreciate. Trump is not snubbing US militarism or NATO allies, nor is he letting loose an inner peace spirit. He is as committed to projecting American military as ruthlessly and as recklessly as any other past occupant of the White House. The difference is Trump wants to do it on the cheap.

Here's what he said to reporters on Air Force One before touching down in Iraq:

"The United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world. It's not fair when the burden is all on us, the United States We are spread out all over the world. We are in countries most people haven't even heard about. Frankly, it's ridiculous." He added: "We're no longer the suckers, folks."

Laughably, Trump's griping about US forces "spread all over the world" unwittingly demonstrates the insatiable, monstrous nature of American militarism. But Trump paints this vice as a virtue, which, he complains, Washington gets no thanks for from the 150-plus countries around the globe that its forces are present in.

As US troops greeted him in Iraq, the president made explicit how the new American militarism would henceforth operate.

"America shouldn't be doing the fighting for every nation on earth, not being reimbursed in many cases at all. If they want us to do the fighting, they also have to pay a price," Trump said.

'We give them $4.5bn a year': Israel will still be 'good' after US withdrawal from Syria – Trump

This reiterates a big bugbear for this president in which he views US allies and client regimes as "not pulling their weight" in terms of military deployment. Trump has been browbeating European NATO members to cough up more on military budgets, and he has berated the Saudis and other Gulf Arab regimes to pay more for American interventions.

Notably, however, Trump has never questioned the largesse that US taxpayers fork out every year to Israel in the form of nearly $4 billion in military aid. To be sure, that money is not a gift because much of it goes back to the Pentagon from sales of fighter jets and missile systems.

The long-held notion that the US has served as the "world's policeman" is, of course, a travesty.

Since WWII, all presidents and the Washington establishment have constantly harped on, with self-righteousness, about America's mythical role as guarantor of global security.

Dozens of illegal wars on almost every continent and millions of civilian deaths attest to the real, heinous conduct of American militarism as a weapon to secure US corporate capitalism.

But with US economic power in historic decline amid a national debt now over $22 trillion, Washington can no longer afford its imperialist conduct in the traditional mode of direct US military invasions and occupations.

Perhaps, it takes a cost-cutting, raw-toothed capitalist like Trump to best understand the historic predicament, even if only superficially.

This gives away the real calculation behind his troop pullout from Syria and Afghanistan. Iraq is going to serve as a new regional hub for force projection on a demand-and-supply basis. In addition, more of the dirty work can be contracted out to Washington's clients like Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia, who will be buying even more US weaponry to prop the military-industrial complex.

'With almost $22 trillion of debt, the US is in no position to attack Iran'

This would explain why Trump made his hurried, unexpected visit to Iraq this week. Significantly, he said : "A lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking", regarding his decision on withdrawing forces from Syria and Afghanistan.

Since his troop pullout plan announced on December 19, there has been serious pushback from senior Pentagon figures, hawkish Republicans and Democrats, and the anti-Trump media. The atmosphere is almost seditious against the president. Trump flying off to Iraq on Christmas night was reportedly his first visit to troops in an overseas combat zone since becoming president two years ago.

What Trump seemed to be doing was reassuring the Pentagon and corporate America that he is not going all soft and dovish. Not at all. He is letting them know that he is aiming for a leaner, meaner US military power, which can save money on the number of foreign bases by using rapid reaction forces out of places like Iraq, as well as by subcontracting operations out to regional clients.

Thus, Trump is not coming clean out of any supposed principle when he cuts back US forces overseas. He is merely applying his knack for screwing down costs and doing things on the cheap as a capitalist tycoon overseeing US militarism.

During past decades when American capitalism was relatively robust, US politicians and media could indulge in the fantasy of their military forces going around the world in large-scale formations to selflessly "defend freedom and democracy."

Today, US capitalism is broke. It simply can't sustain its global military empire. Enter Donald Trump with his "business solutions."

But in doing so, this president, with his cheap utilitarianism and transactional exploitative mindset, lets the cat out of the bag. As he says, the US cannot be the world's policeman. Countries are henceforth going to have to pay for "our protection."

Inadvertently, Trump is showing up US power for what it really is: a global thug running a protection racket.

It's always been the case. Except now it's in your face. Trump is no Smedley Butler, the former Marine general who in the 1930s condemned US militarism as a Mafia operation. This president is stupidly revealing the racket, while still thinking it is something virtuous.

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is a Master's graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.


Once again, Cunningham has hit the nail on the head. Trump mistakenly conflates fear with respect. In reality, around the world, the US is feared but generally not respected.

My guess is that the same was true about Trump as a businessman, i.e., he was not respected, only feared due to his willingness to pursue his "deals" by any means that "worked" for him, legal or illegal, moral or immoral, seemingly gracious or mean-spirited.

William Smith

Complaining how the US gets no thanks for its foreign intervention. Kind of like a rapist claiming he should be thanked for "pleasuring" his victim. Precisely the same sentiment expressed by those who believe the American Indians should thank the Whites for "civilising" them.

Phoebe S,

"Washington gets no thanks for from the 150-plus countries around the globe that its forces are present in."

That might mean they don't want you there. Just saying.


None of these wars are working out for the US strategically. All they do is sow chaos. They seem to not be gaining anything, and are just preventing others from gaining anything as well.

Ernie For -> ProRussiaPole

i am a huge Putin fan, so is big Don. Please change your source of info Jerome, Trump is one man against Billions of people and dollars in corruption. He has achieved more in the USA in 2 years than all 5 previous parasites together.


It could be a change for a better direction. Time will tell. 'If you do what you've always been doing, you'll get what you've always been getting.'

[Dec 27, 2018] There is a lot of silly hostile talk against Russia and China, but have you noticed how the US military always makes sure that there are no direct confrontations with countries that can turn the US into radioactive dust?

Notable quotes:
"... Maybe I am overestimating the intelligence of MIC profiteers, but my impression is that those thieves know that their loot is only useful as long as they are alive. There is a lot of silly hostile talk against Russia and China, but have you noticed how the US military always makes sure that there are no direct confrontations with countries that can turn the US into radioactive dust? The profiteers want huge Pentagon budget to steal from, but not the war where they lose along with everyone else. ..."
Dec 27, 2018 |

AnonFromTN , says: December 26, 2018 at 10:37 pm GMT

@Harold Smith

Maybe I am overestimating the intelligence of MIC profiteers, but my impression is that those thieves know that their loot is only useful as long as they are alive. There is a lot of silly hostile talk against Russia and China, but have you noticed how the US military always makes sure that there are no direct confrontations with countries that can turn the US into radioactive dust? The profiteers want huge Pentagon budget to steal from, but not the war where they lose along with everyone else.

As to the wall, it is one of the silliest projects ever suggested. Maybe that's why it was so easy to sell it to the intellectually disadvantaged electorate. There are two things that can stop illegal immigration.

First, go for the employers, enact a law that fines them to the tune of $50,000 or more per every illegal they employ. Second, enact the law that anyone caught residing in the US illegally has no right to enter the US legally, to obtain asylum, permanent residency, or citizenship for life, and include a provision that marriage to a US citizen does not nullify this ban.

Then enforce both laws. After that illegals would run out of the country, and greedy employers won't hire any more. Naturally, the wall, even if built, won't change anything: as long as there are employers trying to save on salaries, immigration fees, and Social Security tax, and people willing to live and work illegally risking nothing, no wall would stem the flow.

Unfortunately, no side is even thinking about real measures, both are just posturing.

[Dec 27, 2018] In which prosperous U.S. Zionist "career" field has John Yoo landed?

Dec 27, 2018 |

geokat62 , says: December 26, 2018 at 10:44 pm GMT


Am wondering in which prosperous U.S. Zionist "career" field has John Yoo landed?

He is a distinguished professor at Berkley Law, UC. Here's his bio:

Professor Yoo is the Emanuel Heller Professor of Law and director of the Korea Law Center, the California Constitution Center, and the Law School's Program in Public Law and Policy. His most recent books are Striking Power: How Cyber, Robots, and Space Weapons Change the Rules for War (Encounter 2017) (with Jeremy Rabkin) and Point of Attack: Preventive War, International Law, and Global Welfare (Oxford University Press, 2014). Professor Yoo is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution

From 2001 to 2003, he served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he worked on issues involving foreign affairs, national security and the separation of powers.

Notice how they gloss over his diabolical activities as deputy AG for the Bush II Adminstration "where he worked on issues involving foreign affairs, national security and the separation of powers."

And, oh, yeah, he cobbled together legal statements that gave the Bush Admin carte blanche to engage in "enhanced interrogation techniques," more commonly known as "torture." He was about to be in big dodo for his crimes. but just like the 5 dancing Israelis were rescued by Chertoff, a guy named David Margolis managed to get Yoo off the hook:

The Office of Professional Responsibilty (OPR) report concluded that Yoo had "committed 'intentional professional misconduct' when he advised the CIA it could proceed with waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques against Al Qaeda suspects," although the recommendation that he be referred to his state bar association for possible disciplinary proceedings was overruled by David Margolis, another senior Justice department lawyer.

Anyone familiar with David Margolis? Is he a MOT?

[Dec 23, 2018] Post 2001 the USA foreign policy was driven by MIC, neoliberals trying to open foreign markets and attemopts to grab natiral resources (especially oil), and Isreal acting as MIC lobbyist

Dec 23, 2018 |

Ray Joseph Cormier December 21, 2018 at 3:07 pm

With an ever faster News cycle, People forget what happened in the Past bringing this World to the Present.