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Anti-Americanism (anti-American sentiment), is a term used to describe opposition or hostility to the people to the American empire including but not limited to the culture and aggressive foreign policies of the United States. In practice this broad range of attitudes and actions critical of or opposed to the United States invention of other countries and maintaining military bases in more then 400 locations around the globe( American Empire).
Anti-Americanism also has some set of stereotypes, prejudices and criticisms towards Americans, American culture, and/or major US corporation, often including a pointed politically and economically based criticism. It is closely connects with Neocolonialism which is a predominant USA policy toward developing nations, especially nations with natural resources. It is often masked by "exporting democracy scam" -- promoting democracy as a smoke screen of imperial ambitions.
Whether sentiment hostile to the United States reflects reasoned evaluation of specific policies and administrations or a prejudiced belief system is another aspect of this phenomena. Increases in perceived anti-American attitudes strongly correlate with particular policies or actions in the region, such as the Vietnam, and Iraq wars. For this reason, critics sometimes argue the label is a propaganda term that is used to dismiss any censure of the United States as irrational.
The key constituent of anti-Americanism is the opposition to the "hegemonic" US foreign policy, especially military interventions in various parts of the globe. That includes wars, covert operations, attempts to stage "color revolutions" as well as hypocritical usage of democracy as a new Christianity for new series of Crusades to overthrow governments that Washington does not like (while having deep friendship and "special relations" with Saudi Arabia, Israel and similar states).
Jul 01, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org
NemesisCalling | Jun 30, 2017 8:21:54 PM | 31For all the haters of us ugly Americans, just remember that we at this blog are suffering in our country standing up for the truth, pitted against our neighbors, coworkers, and friends in the arena of political debate and decrying the massive injustice of our foreign aggression.lex.talionis | Jun 30, 2017 9:14:01 PM | 36
I won't call ya out by name, but lumping us forlorn sacks into your "untouchable" category reeks of reactionary arrogance that is, to pay patrons at this fine blog their due, beneath you.
In the mean time, American issues = issues concerning the empire they we all want to see destroyed. Liberating Americans should also be on your wish list.Amen @31
The world knows the military industrial complex that has worked over years, and year to create the ugly tentacles throughout what was once our government has been usurped. Dollars. All these bastards see is dollars. Not human life. Not the potential of that lost life in science, math, technology. Just dollars.
For heavens sakes the voters in Arizona returned the worst of ALL Warmongers to Congress. And you, the World, think for a moment we, citizens in this colony, have a snowball's chance in hell reeling these creatures in all by ourselves are sorely mistaken.
We can't even get the voters to learn that their votes equal WAR pushed by both Parties they are aligned with. Get real. Our challenge is yours. Help us!
h | Jun 30, 2017 8:38:56 PM | 32
I know there are many highly intelligent Americans, who are already today suffering and paying a price. And I agree that (widespread) anti-American sentiment is as stupid and reactionary as any other form of nationalism. It's just another 'divide and rule' ideology to keep ordinary people at each others' throats, rather than see them united against their common enemy, the global so-called 'elite'/ oligarchs.
Playing groups of people against one another is the oldest domination trick in the world, but it seems to work every single time...sad! ;-)
smuks | Jun 30, 2017 8:50:51 PM | 35
@ Nemesis and all,
I'm from California. Technically the USA. My take on things is we United States of Americans are exceptional. Most of us are exceptionally ignorant and violent. That is exceptionally sad.
I am very glad to have found MoA and the crew of experts. I have learned so very much.
Big up b! Booyakah as they say in JA. God help us.
Dec 22, 2017 | www.unz.com
When Russians Were Americanophiles Anatoly Karlin December 18, 2017 700 Words 298 Comments Reply
At the tail end of the Cold War, there was an incredible atmosphere of Americanophilia throughout the USSR, including amongst Russians.
Blue – approve of USA; orange – disapprove.
Around 75%-80% of Russians approved of the United States around 1990, versus <10% disapproval.
By modern standards , this would have put Russia into the top leagues of America fans , such as Poland, Israel, and the United Kingdom. It was also around 10%-15% points higher than contemporary US approval of Russia.
The blogger genby dug up a VCIOM poll from 1990 asking Russians – that is, Russians within the RSFSR, i.e. the territory of the modern day Russian Federation – what they thought about Americans.
The poll was redone in 2015, keeping the same questions, which allows a direct comparison between the two dates.
What in your opinion characterizes the United States? 1990 2015 High criminality and moral degradation 1 15 No warmth in people's relations 1 15 High living standards 35 12 Large gap between rich and poor 5 11 Racial discrimination 1 9 Highly developed science and technology 15 7 Success depends on personal effort 20 7 Free society 13 5 Other . 6 Can't say for sure 10 12
I would wager Russian opinions on America were more positive c.1990 than the opinions of the average American on his own country today!
Is US government friendly or hostile to Russia? 1990 2015 Friendly 35 3 Not very friendly 40 32 Hostile 2 59 Can't say 23 6
These results speak for themselves and hardly need more commentary.
Nowadays, of course, things are rather different. Suffice to say the numbers of America fans have plummeted, while the percentage of Russians with actively negative views emerged essentially out of nowhere to constitute majority opinion. According to other polls, Russian approval of the US rarely breaks above 30% , and the sentiments are quite mutual . Just 1% (that's one percent) of Russians approved of US leadership by 2016 . Although there were hopes that this trend would turn around after Trump, which seemed plausible in early 2017 and indeed seemed to be happening , this was in the end not to be.
What I think is more significant is that nobody likes to talk about it now, because it reflects badly on pretty much everyone.
Russians would have to acknowledge that they were naive idiots who threw away an empire centuries in the making to end up within the borders of old Muscovy in exchange for jeans and "common human values." These figures testify to the complete and utter failure of Soviet propaganda, which spent decades spinning tales about American criminality, unemployment, and lynched Negroes only to end up with a society with some of the most Americanophile sentiments in the entire world. It also makes it much harder to scapegoat Gorbachev, or the mythical saboteurs and CIA agents in power that feature prominently in sovok conspiracy theories, for unraveling the Soviet Union, when ordinary Soviets themselves considered America the next best thing since Lenin and the US government to be their friend.
For their part, Americans would have to acknowledge that Russians do not have a kneejerk hatred of America, and that the "loss of Russia" was largely of their own doing. The arrogant refusal to take into account Russian interests after the Cold War, instead bombing their allies, expanding NATO to Russian borders in contravention of verbal commitments made to the USSR, and for all intents and purposes treating it as a defeated Power, may have made sense when it seemed that the US would be the world's dominant hyperpower for the foreseeable future and Russia was doomed to die anyway – as was conventional wisdom by the late 1990s. And from a purely Realpolitik perspective, the results have hardly been catastrophic; the US gained a geopolitical foothold in Eastern Europe, tied up further European integration into an Atlantic framework, and closed off the possibility of the "Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok" envisaged by Charles de Gaulle. On the other hand, in a world where China is fast becoming a peer competitor – with the implicit backing of a resentful Russia – this may, in retrospect, not have been the best long-term play.
Anon , Disclaimer December 18, 2017 at 2:10 pm GMTWell, this Americanophobia plays well for Americans, who afford a new arms race. Yes, you may think that America is deep in debt, but its creditors see it as an investment. When the Exxons of the West will milk the Siberian mineral riches, America will pay everything back. The alternative, a world where they would invest in Rosneft in order to get a share of the plunder of, idk, Gulf of Mexico, is silly. As we saw in the 80′s, the best form of war against Russia is not to bomb and starve Moscow. That won't scare the locals. Let Kremlin do it instead.Art Deco , December 18, 2017 at 2:32 pm GMT
If Putin is not careful, if he doesn't go low tech, low cost, the Americans will win the long game.Russians would have to acknowledge that they were naive idiots who threw away an empire centuries in the making to end up within the borders of old Muscovy in exchange for jeans and "common human values."Randal , December 18, 2017 at 2:37 pm GMT
Your 'empire' fell to pieces as rapidly as the Hapsburgs' in 1918 and you had to expend handsome sums in an attempt just to hold onto Chechenya (populaiton 1.1 million). You have 150 million people as is and can do without having to stomp on recalcitrant minorities and to craft institutions which function in multilingual environments. You never had much of a constituency in Austria for attempting to reassemble the Hapsburg dominions and Hungary's ambitions haven't in the last century gone beyond attempting to capture Magyar exclaves.
Look at the other principals in the 1st world war: overseas dependencies retained by them consist of a portfolio of insular territories which prefer their current status and whose total population hardly exceeds that of Switzerland. The only one which has retained contiguous peripheral provinces predominantly populated by minorities would be Turkey. You're not injured for the loss of an opportunity to replicate the Turkish experience with ethnic cleansing (of Greeks and Armenians) conjoined to abuse (of Kurds). Everyone lost their empire, and they're not generally the worse for it.
You have a large national state. Kvetching that you don't have Azerbaijan or Estonia is inconsistent with good sense.Randal , December 18, 2017 at 2:56 pm GMT
Russians would have to acknowledge that they were naive idiots who threw away an empire centuries in the making
What's remarkable to me about that graph of opinion over time is how pig-headedly resilient Russian naivety about the US has been. Time after time it appears the scales would fall from Russians' eyes after the US regime disgraced itself particularly egregiously (Kosovo, Iraq, Georgia), and within a few months approval would be back up to 50% or above. It took the interference in the Ukraine in 2014 to finally make the truth stick.@Art DecoVerymuchalive , December 18, 2017 at 3:17 pm GMT
There are no disgraces incorporated into any of these events
That might be your opinion, but Kosovo and Iraq were openly illegal wars of aggression in which the US shamelessly flouted its own treaty commitments, and supporting Georgia was, like NATO expansion in general and numerous other consistently provocative US foreign policy measures directed against post-Soviet Russia, a literally stupid matter of turning a potential ally against the real rival China into an enemy and ally of said rival.
You are perfectly entitled to endorse mere stupidity on the part of your rulers, but the fact that you so shamelessly approve of waging illegal wars counter to treaty commitments discredits any opinions you might have on such matters.inertial , December 18, 2017 at 3:26 pm GMT
Russians would have to acknowledge that they were naive idiots who threw away an empire centuries in the making to end up within the borders of old Muscovy
Actually, present Russian borders are more those of Peter the Great, circa 1717, than Old Muscovy. Russia, unlike nearly all the Great Powers of the C20th, has retained its Empire – Siberia, the Russian Far East, Kamchatka, South Russia and the Crimea ( first acquired as recently as 1783 ).
Once those dim-witted Ukies finally implode the Ukrainian economy, Russia will be able to gobble up the rest of southern and eastern Ukraine – all the way to Odessa.
The places that seceded from the Soviet Union are places that Russians don't want ( Northern Kazakhstan excepted ) and are urgently required to receive all those Central Asian immigrants who will be deported by sensible Russian governments in the near future. ( I exclude Armenians from the last clause )Yes, US had squandered a lot of good will in exchange for extremely valuable "geopolitical foothold in Eastern Europe."Mitleser , December 18, 2017 at 3:35 pm GMT
Incidentally, Soviet propaganda was never anti-American. It was anti-capitalist, an important distinction. Whereas in America, anti-Russian propaganda has always been anti- Russian .Art Deco , December 18, 2017 at 4:46 pm GMT
the US gained a geopolitical foothold in Eastern Europe, tied up further European integration into an Atlantic framework,
Washington could get both by integrating and not alienating americanophile Russia.
closed off the possibility of the "Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok" envisaged by Charles de Gaulle.
It also closed off the possibility of an American-led Global North.@Randal That might be your opinion, but Kosovo and Iraq were openly illegal wars of aggression in which the US shamelessly flouted its own treaty commitments,Felix Keverich , December 18, 2017 at 5:01 pm GMT
We had no treaty commitments with either Serbia or Iraq and both places had it coming.@Art DecoFelix Keverich , December 18, 2017 at 5:12 pm GMT
You have a large national state.
Correction: Russian Federation is not a nation state. It is a rump state . Its Western borders are artificial, drawn by the Communists in the 20th century, they exclude those parts of Russia, which the Communists decided to incorporate into separate republics of Belarus and Ukraine.
I don't know of any Russian nationalist, who wants Azerbaijan back, but reclaiming Belarus and Ukraine is absolutely essential to have a country, we could all proudly call 'home' – an actual Russian nation-state. Again, what really matters here is not the size of the country, it's that all the land that's historically Russian should be fully within the borders of this country.
PS: just because we had trouble holding onto Chechnya doesn't mean that annexing Belarus will be hard. Sure, we can expect blowback in the form of Western sanctions, but I don't anticipate much resistance from inside Belarus.@Art Deco With that kind of thinking I don't see how you can criticise Russia's incursions into the Ukraine. At least Russia has an actual reason to fight a war in the Ukraine. US invaded and destroyed Iraqi state for no reason whatsoever. US interests suffered as a result of its ill-advised aggression, they ended up empowering their avowed enemy – Iran.Art Deco , December 18, 2017 at 5:50 pm GMT@Felix Keverich With that kind of thinking I don't see how you can criticise Russia's incursions into the Ukraine. At least Russia has an actual reason to fight a war in the Ukraine.Felix Keverich , December 18, 2017 at 5:58 pm GMT
They dissed you. La di dah. My own countrymen have put up with that from an array of Eurotrash and 3d world kleptocrats every time we open the newspaper.
US invaded and destroyed Iraqi state for no reason whatsoever.
No, we did so because that was the best alternative. The other alternative was a sanctions regime which Big Consciences were assuring the world was causing a six-digit population of excess deaths each year or taking the sanctions off and letting Saddam and the other Tikritis to follow their Id. Iraq was a charnel house, and the world is well rid of the Tikriti regime, especially Iraq's Kurdish and Shia provinces, which have been quiet for a decade. You don't take an interest in the ocean of blood for which the Ba'ath Party was responsible, but you're terribly butthurt that politicians in Kiev don't take orders from Moscow. Felix, I can taste teh Crazy.@Art Deco
Your 'rump state' extends over 6.6 million sq miles and has a population of 152 million.
Exactly, and you're missing the point. Re-read my previous comment again:
I don't know of any Russian nationalist, who wants Azerbaijan back, but reclaiming Belarus and Ukraine is absolutely essential to have a country, we could all proudly call 'home' – an actual Russian nation-state. Again, what really matters here is not the size of the country, it's that all the land that's historically Russian should be fully within the borders of this country.
Russians know more about these things than you do. The vast majority of us do not regard Belarus and Ukraine as part of "заграница" – foreign countries. Ukrainians and in particular Belorussians are simply variants of us, just like regional differences exist between the Russians in Siberia and Kuban'.
I don't care, because this isn't a popularity contest. There were similar polls in Crimea showing majority support for the EU, just before the peninsula voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia. LOL
The question that matters to me is will there be a vast resistance movement inside Belarus following the annexation, and to be honest I don't expect one.
Oct 10, 2017 | russia-insider.com
Particularly guilty are the media, because they are in the business of selling this horror show to the unsuspecting public.
Take a few minutes and listen to what this man has to say.
He says it well, and he hits the nail on the head, as painful as it might be to admit it.
Time for a change of leadership, America.
(Full transcript follows below with key points in bold.)
Isn't this how how the US acts all over the world though? They destroy countries, cause civil wars, bring sorrow and poverty to entire nations. Just like that. They seem to not even notice the consequences of their actions. They blame others for everything, and then gloat about being sinless. With this simple, carefree mentality, they can allow themselves everything.
America fines European banks and companies, to punish them for defying America. They impose unilateral sanctions in Europe against those who want to buy cheaper Russian gas, instead of the more expensive American gas. They tap phones and read emails of billions of people on the planet, including the leaders of US allied countries. They arrest foreign citizens all over the world and throw them in secret jail outside of the US. Outside of the US of course, so that they can torture them , without fear of breaking any of their own laws. They plan and execute coup d'etats and color revolutions. They usually time them with the elections in the victim country.
They de facto continue to militarily occupy Germany and Japan . The US has a huge number of military bases in these countries. A base, by the way, is a foreign military force. It directly limits the sovereignty and the ability of the occupied country to act in their own national interests.
They start and execute military operations without sanctions from the UN. They falsely justify their own actions and act on false pretenses . For cover, they gather fake coalitions And all of this is done with that simple American air of naïveté. That same mindset allows them to be allied with what is left of Islamic State in Deir-ez-Zor.
With the same simple-mindedness, Trump threatened to destroy an entire country at the UN General Assembly. The Americans have already announced that they are pulling out of the the nuclear agreement with Iran. Without any justifiable reasons, in spite of everything and everyone. Just like that.
When Donald Trump became President, he received the people's mandate to build a rational relationship with Russia, and to implement a more rational policy in the world.
He wasn't supposed to overthrow foreign governments . Right now , Trump acts in direct opposition to his voters' expectations.
Is there, at least , one problem in the world which the US has helped solve this year? - No.
What's worse, he made North Korea even more dangerous and non-complying. South Korea and Japan are in clear danger now. He has deployed more troops to Afghanistan , but we don't know what he is trying to accomplish there either. In Syria, the US has lost its strategic goals and started to directly oppose Russia and the anti-terrorist forces. He is on bad terms with Turkey, he has scared off Europe, and nothing good is happening in South America, either. Tensions between the US and China are growing. Relations with Russia are at an all-time low.
It's bad enough that the US took over Russian diplomatic residencies, but they are also tearing through them like nobody's business. How else one would label the actions of those agents in our Consulate in San Francisco? Does it mean that Russia must respond in a mutual manner? Perhaps as simple-mindedly as the US does? If Russia did, it would ruin the very concept of diplomacy. What would be next? Or does Washington prefer not to think about that? Or do they? The less diplomacy there is, the less politeness and nice words, the higher the demand for US weapons. That's much better.
It's not like diplomacy is very lucrative. It's about airing concerns, which leads to...unneeded restrictions. Taking the high road is difficult, and the low road is always there . It is coarser, but it does have elements of cheap theatricality.
Take for example what Trump did when he went to Puerto Rico after the hurricane. For appearances sake, he brought his wife along. She wasn't wearing her usual high heels , but specially bought yellow Timberlands. He made the local Americans happy, personally throwing paper towels into the crowd. It looked like one big ridiculous show.
And it all took place on a day of nationwide mourning in honor of the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Oct 09, 2017 | www.amazon.com
H. I. on May 13, 2011This Book Explains EVERYTHING!!!!!
Hedges cogently and systematically dismantles the most pernicious cultural delusions of our era and lays bare the pitiful truths that they attempt to mask. This book is a deprogramming manual that trims away the folly and noise from our troubled society so that the reader can focus on the most pressing matters of our time.
Despite the dark reality Hedges excavates, his screed is a liberating tonic against the crazy-making double-speak and the lies Americans are sold by our country's elite in order to distract us from the true threat and nature of the Corporate State, from the cult of celebrity, to how our nation's Universities have been hijacked to serve the interests, not of the public, but of our corporate overlords. It explains the self-same conditions in all aspects of our society and culture that we now must face, the ever-shrinking flame of enlightenment being exchanged for the illusory shadows on a cave wall.
As a twenty-something caught in the death-throes of American Empire and culture, I have struggled to anticipate where our country and our world are heading, why, and what sort of life I can expect to build for myself. Hedges presents the reader with the depressing, yet undeniable truth of the forces that have coalesced to shape the world in which we now find ourselves. The light he casts is searing and relentless. He fearlessly and incisively calls us out on the obvious farce our democracy has become, how we got here, and highlights the rapidly closing window in which we have to do something to correct it. It is a revelation, and yet he merely states the obvious. The empire has no clothes.
One of the most powerful aspects of this book was in regard to how our Universities are run these days. I may be in the minority, but I experienced a life-changing disillusionment when I gained entrance to a prestigious "elite" University. Instead of drawing the best and the brightest, or being a place where scholarship was valued, where students were taught critical thinking skills, the University I attended was nothing more than an expensive diploma mill for the children of the wealthy. In the eyes of the University, students were not minds to be empowered and developed, but walking dollar signs.
Instead of critical thinking, students were taught to OBEY, not to question authority, and then handed a piece of paper admitting them to the ruling class that is destroying America without a moral compass. Selfishness, deceit, disregard for the common good, and a win-at-all-costs attitude were rewarded. Empathy, curiosity, dissent, and an honest, intellectually rigorous evaluation of ourselves and our world were punished. Obviously I am not the only one to whom this was cause to fear for the future of our country.
Five stars is not enough. Ever since I began reading Empire of Illusion, I have insisted friends and family pick up a copy, too. Everyone in America should read this incredibly important book.
The truth shall set us free.
By Franklin the Mouse on February 5, 2012Dream WeaversBy Walter E. Kurtz on September 25, 2011
Mr. Hedges is in one heck of a foul mood. His raging against the evolving of American democracy into an oligarchy is accurate, but relentlessly depressing. The author focuses on some of our most horrid characteristics: celebrity worship; "pro" wrestling; the brutal porn industry; Jerry Springer-like shows; the military-industrial complex; the moral void of elite colleges such as Yale, Harvard, Berkeley and Princeton; optimistic-ladened pop psychology; and political/corporate conformity.
Mr. Hedges grim assessment put me in a seriously foul mood. The chapter involving the porn trade that is run by large corporations such as AT&T and GM (the car maker, for crying out loud) was an especially dark, profanity-laced depiction of the abuse and moral decay of American society .
He is correct in his belief that the continual barrage of psuedo-events and puffery disguised as news (especially television) has conditioned most of Americans to be non-critical thinkers.
Entertainment, consumption and the dangerous illusion that the U.S. is the best in the world at everything are childish mindsets.
The oddest part of Mr. Hedges' book is the ending. The last three pages take such an unexpectedly hard turn from "all is lost" to "love will conquer," I practically got whiplash. Overall, the author should be commended for trying to bring our attention to what ails our country and challenging readers to wake up from their child-like illusions.
Now, time for me to go run a nice, warm bath and where did I put those razor blades?...Amazing bookBy Richard Joltes on July 18, 2016
I must say I was captivated by the author's passion, eloquence and insight. This is not an academic essay. True, there are few statistics here and there and quotes from such and such person, but this is not like one of those books that read like a longer version of an academic research paper. The book is more of author's personal observations about American society. Perhaps that is where its power comes from.
Some might dismiss the book as nothing more than an opinion piece, but how many great books and works out there are opinion pieces enhanced with supporting facts and statistics?
The book is divided into five chapters. Chapter one is about celebrity worship and how far people are willing to humiliate themselves and sacrifice their dignity for their five minutes of fame. But this is not just about those who are willing to make idiots out of themselves just to appear on television. This is about how the fascination with the world of rich and famous distracts the society from the important issues and problems and how it creates unhealthy and destructive desire to pursue wealth and fame. And even for those few who do achieve it, their lives are far from the bliss and happiness shown in movies. More than one celebrity had cursed her life.
Chapter two deals with porn. It offers gutwrenching, vomit inducing descriptions of lives and conditions in the porn industry. But the damage porn does goes far beyond those working in the "industry". Porn destroys the love, intimacy and beauty of sex. Porn reduces sex to an act of male dominance, power and even violence. Unfortunately, many men, and even women, buy into that and think that the sex seen in porn is normal and this is how things should be.
After reading this chapter, I will never look at porn the same way again. In fact, I probably will never look at porn at all.
Chapter three is about education. It focuses mostly on college level education and how in the past few decades it had increasingly changed focus from teaching students how to be responsible citizens and good human beings to how to be successful, profit seeking, career obsessed corporate/government drones. The students are taught that making money and career building are the only thing that matters. This results in professionals who put greed and selfishness above everything else and mindlessly serve a system that destroys the society and the whole planet. And when they are faced with problems (like the current economic crisis) and evidence that the system is broken, rather than rethink their paradigm and consider that perhaps they were wrong, they retreat further into old thinking in search of ways to reinforce the (broken) system and keep it going.
Chapter four is my favorite. It is about positive thinking. As someone who lives with a family member who feeds me positive thinking crap at breakfast, lunch and supper, I enjoyed this chapter very much. For those rare lucky few who do not know what positive thinking is, it can be broadly defined as a belief that whatever happens to us in life, it happens because we "attracted" it to ourselves. Think about it as karma that affects us not in the next life, but in this one. The movement believes that our conscious and unconscious thoughts affect reality. By assuming happy, positive outlook on life, we can affect reality and make good things happen to us.
Followers of positive thinking are encouraged/required to purge all negative emotions, never question the bad things that happen to them and focus on thinking happy thoughts. Positive thinking is currently promoted by corporations and to lesser extent governments to keep employees in line. They are rendered docile and obedient, don't make waves (like fight for better pay and working conditions) and, when fired, take it calmly with a smile and never question corporate culture.
Chapter five is about American politics and how the government and the politicians had sold themselves out to corporations and business. It is about imperialism and how the government helps the corporations loot the country while foreign wars are started under the pretext of defense and patriotism, but their real purpose is to loot the foreign lands and fill the coffers of war profiteers. If allowed to continue, this system will result in totalitarianism and ecological apocalypse.
I have some objections with this chapter. While I completely agree about the current state of American politics, the author makes a claim that this is a relatively recent development dating roughly to the Vietnam War. Before that, especially in the 1950s, things were much better. Or at least they were for the white men. (The author does admit that 1950s were not all that great to blacks, women or homosexuals.)
While things might have gotten very bad in the last few decades, politicians and governments have always been more at the service of Big Money rather than the common people.
And Vietnam was not the first imperialistic American war. What about the conquest of Cuba and Philippines at the turn of the 20th century? And about all those American "adventures" in South America in the 19th century. And what about the westward expansion and extermination of Native Americans that started the moment the first colonists set their foot on the continent?
But this is a minor issue. My biggest issue with the book is that it is a powerful denunciation, but it does not offer much in terms of suggestions on how to fix the problems it is decrying. Criticizing is good and necessary, but offering solutions is even more important. You can criticize all you want, but if you cannot suggest something better, then the old system will stay in place.
The author does write at the end a powerful, tear inducing essay on how love conquers all and that no totalitarian regime, no matter how powerful and oppressive, had ever managed to crush hope, love and the human spirit. Love, in the end, conquers all.
That is absolutely true. But what does it mean in practice? That we must keep loving and doing good? Of course we must, but some concrete, practical examples of what to do would be welcome.An excellent and sobering view at the decline of reason and literacy in modern societyBy Jeffrey Swystun on June 29, 2011
This is an absolutely superb work that documents how our society has been subverted by spectacle, glitz, celebrity, and the obsession with "fame" at the expense of reality, literacy, reason, and actual ability. Hedges lays it all out in a very clear and thought provoking style, using real world examples like pro wrestling and celebrity oriented programming to showcase how severely our society has declined from a forward thinking, literate one into a mass of tribes obsessed with stardom and money.
Even better is that the author's style is approachable and non judgemental. This isn't an academic talking down to the masses, but a very solid reporter presenting findings in an accurate, logical style.
Every American should read this, and then consider whether to buy that glossy celebrity oriented magazine or watch that "I want to be a millionaire" show. The lifestyle and choices being promoted by the media, credit card companies, and by the celebrity culture in general, are toxic and a danger to our society's future.What does the contemporary self want?By S. Arch on July 10, 2011
The various ills impacting society graphically painted by Chris Hedges are attributed to a lack of literacy. However, it is much more complex, layered, and inter-related. By examining literacy, love, wisdom, happiness, and the current state of America, the author sets out to convince the reader that our world is intellectually crumbling. He picks aspects of our society that clearly offer questionable value: professional wrestling, the pornographic film industry (which is provided in bizarre repetitive graphic detail), gambling, conspicuous consumption, and biased news reporting to name a few.
The front of the end of the book was the most compelling. Especially when Hedges strays into near conspiracy with comments such as this: "Those who manipulate the shadows that dominate our lives are the agents, publicists, marketing departments, promoters, script writers, television and movie producers, advertisers, video technicians, photographers, bodyguards, wardrobe consultants, fitness trainers, pollsters, public announcers, and television news personalities who create the vast stage for illusion. The are the puppet masters." As extreme as that is, he is more credible when he says, "Commodities and celebrity culture define what it means to belong, how we recognize our place in society, and how we conduct our lives." I say 'credible' because popular and mass culture's influence are creating a world where substance is replaced by questionable style.
What resonated most in the book is a passage taken from William Deresiewicz's essay The End of Solitude: "What does the contemporary self want? The camera has created a culture of celebrity; the computer is creating a culture of connectivity. As the two technologies converge -- broadband tipping the Web from text to image, social-networking sites spreading the mesh of interconnection ever wider -- the two cultures betray a common impulse.
Celebrity and connectivity are both ways of becoming known. This is what the contemporary self wants. It wants to be recognized, wants to be connected: It wants to be visible. If not to the millions, on Survivor or Oprah, then to the hundreds, on Twitter or Facebook. This is the quality that validates us, this is how we become real to ourselves -- by being seen by others. The great contemporary terror is anonymity. If Lionel Trilling was right, if the property that grounded the self, in Romanticism, was sincerity, and in modernism it was authenticity, then in postmodernism it is visibility."
Visibility has replaced substance and accomplishment; packaging over product, sizzle not steak. Chris Rojek calls this "the cult of distraction" where society is consumed by the vacuous and the vapid rather than striving for self-awareness, accomplishment and contribution ("Propaganda has become a substitute for ideas and ideology."). Hedges builds on Rojek's descriptor by suggesting we are living in a "culture of illusion" which impoverishes language, makes us childlike, and is basically dumbing us all down.
This is definitely a provocative contribution and damning analysis of our society that would be a great choice for a book club. It would promote lively debate as conclusions and solutions are not easily reached.A book that needs to be read, even if it's only half true.By Bruce E. McLeod Jr. on February 11, 2012
Empire of Illusion might be the most depressing book I've ever read. Why? Because it predicts the collapse of America and almost every word of it rings true.
I don't know if there's really anything new here; many of the ideas Hedges puts forth have been floating around in the neglected dark corners of our national discourse, but Hedges drags them all out into the daylight. Just about every social/cultural/economic/political ill you can think of is mentioned at some point in the text and laid at the feet of the villains whose insatiable greed has destroyed this once-great country. Hedges is bold. He predicts nothing less than the end of America. Indeed, he claims America has already ended. The American Dream is nothing more than an illusion being propped up by wealthy elites obsessed with power and the preservation of their lifestyle, a blind academia that has forgotten how to critique authority, and a government that is nothing more than the puppet of corporations. Meanwhile, mindless entertainments and a compliant news media divert and mislead the working and middle classes so they don't even notice that they are being raped to death by the power-elite and the corporations.
(Don't misunderstand. This is no crack-pot conspiracy theory. It's not about secret quasi-mystical cabals attempting world domination. Rather, Hedges paints a credible picture of our culture in a state of moral and intellectual decay, and leaders corrupted by power and greed who have ceased to act in the public interest.)
At times Hedges seems to be ranting and accusing without providing evidence or examples to substantiate his claims. But that might only be because his claims have already been substantiated individually elsewhere, and Hedges's purpose here is a kind of grand synthesis of many critical ideas. Indeed, an exhaustive analysis of all the issues he brings forth would require volumes rather than a single book. In any case, I challenge anyone to read this book, look around honestly at what's happening in America, and conclude that Hedges is wrong.
One final note: this book is not for the squeamish. The chapter about pornography is brutally explicit. Still, I think it is an important book, and it would be good if a lot more people would read it, discuss it, and thereby become dis-illusioned.Thorough and illuminatingBy Richard Steiger on January 14, 2012
Chris Hedges book, "Empire of Illusion" is a stinging assessment and vivid indictment of America's political and educational systems; a well-told story. I agree with his views but wonder how they can be reversed or transformed given the economic hegemony of the corporations and the weight of the entrenched political parties. Very few solutions were provided.
Corporations will continue to have a presence and set standards within the halls of educational and governmental institutions with impunity. Limited monetary measures, other than governmental, exist for public educational institutions, both secondary and post-secondary. Historically, Roman and Greek political elitists operated in a similar manner and may have set standards for today's plutocracy. Plebeian societies were helpless and powerless, with few options, to enact change against the political establishment. Given the current conditions, America is on a downward spiral to chaos.
His book is a clarion call for action. Parents and teachers have warned repeatedly that too much emphasis is placed on athletic programs at the expense of academics. Educational panels, books and other experts have done little to reform the system and its intransigent administrators.
Today's delusionary and corrupted officials, corporate and government, are reminiscent of the narratives penned by Charles Dickens. Alexander Hamilton referred to the masses as a "great beast" to be kept from the powers of government.
Edmund Burke used propaganda to control "elements of society". Walter Lippmann advised that "the public must be kept in its place". Yet, many Americans just don't get it.
They continue to be hood-winked by politicians using uncontested "sound bites" and "racially-coded" phrases to persuade voters.
Divide and conquer is the mantra--rich vs. poor; black vs. white. According to Norm Chomsky's writings, "In 1934, William Shepard argued that government should be in the hands of `aristocracy and intellectual power' while the `ignorant, and the uninformed and the antisocial element' must not be permitted to control elections...."
The appalling statistics and opinions outlined in the book demonstrate the public ignorance of the American culture; the depth and extent of the corporatocracy and the related economic malaise; and, the impact substandard schools have on their lives. This is further exemplified by Jay Leno's version of "Jaywalking". On the streets, he randomly selects passersby to interview, which seems to validate much of these charges.
We are all culpable. We are further susceptible to illusions. John Locke said, "Government receives its just powers from the consent of the governed".
This idea was recently usurped by the U.S. Supreme Court where representative government is called to question, rendering "our" consent irrelevant. Every voting election is an illusion. Each election, at the local and national level, voters never seemingly "miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" to eliminate irresponsible and unresponsive officials.
Walt Kelly's quote "We have met the enemy and he is us" prevails!Powerful in spite of itself
There are many flaws with Hedges' book. For one thing, he is given to writing sermons (his father was a minister), hurling down denunciations in the manner of the prophet Amos. The book also tends to be repetitious, as Hedges makes the same general statements over and over. It's also hard to follow at times as Hedges attempts to stress the connections between pop culture and social, political. and economic policy. Nor is Hedges a particularly stylish writer (a sense of humor would help).
His last-second "happy ending" (something like: we're all doomed, but eventually, somewhere down the line, love will prevail beacuse it's ultimately the strongest power on earth) is, to say the least, unconvincing.
SO why am I recommending this book? Because in spite of its flaws (and maybe even because of them), this is a powerful depiction of the state of American society. The book does get to you in its somewhat clumsy way.
The stomach-turning chapter on trends in porn and their relationship to the torture of prisoners of war is a particularly sharp piece of analysis, and all of the other chapters do eventually convince (and depress).
This book will not exactly cheer you up, but at least it will give you an understanding of where we are (and where we're heading).
Sep 03, 2017 | marknesop.wordpress.com
Matt , September 3, 2017 at 3:06 pmStrawman, that many here, including Mark and PO, have tried using against me. First, I have criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, like the 2003 Iraq war, intervention in Libya, and the war in Afghanistan. This debunks the first part of your post.likbez , September 3, 2017 at 6:10 pm
As for the second: anyone who blames the U.S. for something it is not responsible for, in an attempt to distract from the country's economic issues for example, is an anti-American. Ditto for anyone who wants the U.S. to collapse, be destroyed, or makes fun of its people with stereotypes.
The above paragraph can be applied to any country in the world and is standard fare for defining phobia against a country. You and your ilk are quick to whine about "Russophobia", but when similar tactics are used against the U.S., you start calling anyone who calls them out an "imperialist".
Such extreme over-simplifications do nothing except twist my words and make it easier for you to avoid critically self-assessing your views on U.S. foreign policy. An easy way to avoid debate.
Same old, same old."Ditto for anyone who wants the U.S. to collapse, be destroyed, or makes fun of its people with stereotypes."
That's too simplistic. The USA simultaneously represents a country and a global neoliberal empire led from Washington. The latter gave us all those wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Syria (KSA is a part of the empire).
You may want prosperity for the USA proper, and the collapse of this neoliberal empire at the same time. This is essentially Bannon's position and the position of other "economic nationalists" in the USA, who are now tarred and feathered as "Putin friends" (Putin's position is also somewhat closer to economic nationalism then to neoliberalism, although in certain areas he sits between two chairs).
The USA is a great country which among other things gave the world Internet, as we know it. As well as modern CPUs and computers ( although here British scientists and Germans made important contributions too, often as staff of foreign subsidiaries of the US companies such as Intel, and IBM) . Due to which such forums are possible.
Neoliberalism and US governed global neoliberal empire will most probably shrink or even collapse after the end of cheap oil and due to the rise of nationalist movements in almost all EU countries and elsewhere, which partially reverses the trend toward neoliberal globalization that existed before. That's uneven process. In the USA neoliberalism demonstrated amazing staying power after financial crisis of 2008, which buried neoliberal ideology.
Recently in some countries (not without some help from the USA) neoliberalism staged revenge (Argentina, Brazil), but the general trend now does not favor neoliberal globalization and, by extension, kicking the can down the road via color revolutions and such.
The typical forecast for end of cheap oil is a decade or two. KSA is the canary in the mine here. It should collapse first.
The USA as a country probably will be OK because it is rich in hydrocarbons, but the neoliberal empire will collapse as the USA probably it will not be able or willing to serve as armed enforcer of multinationals around the globe any longer. The set of ideas known as neoliberalism are already on life support. See https://www.amazon.com/dp/0199283273 A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey. Also see http://softpanorama.org/Skeptics/Political_skeptic/Neoliberalism/index.shtml
Neoliberals who control the US state after Reagan coup (or even starting with Carter) still push down the throats of Americans those dead ideas due to power of propaganda machine, but they are less and less effective. Trump election means that allergic reaction to neoliberal propaganda already is a factor in the US political life. Hillary positioned herself as quintessential globalist and warmonger for the USA led neoliberal empire and lost. Trump proved to be no better then the king of "bait and switch" Barak Obama and shed all his election promises with ease. But the fact remains. .
For the same reason we also need to distinguish between neocons, who currently determine the US foreign policy (and dominate the State Department) and the rank-and-file Americans who suffer from this imperial overreach, from outsourcing, with some of them returning home dead or maimed. There nothing bad in denigrating neocons.
I would view the current round of hostilities between Russia and the USA through the prism of the fight for the preservation of the US neoliberal empire. They need an external enemy to squash mounting resistance to neoliberalism with the USA. And Ukraine gambit was designed explicitly for that. If they can take out Russia (by installing Yeltsin-style regime, which is the goal) the life of empire might be prolonged (they tried and failed in 2012). The second round of looting also might help with paying external debt. The shot in the arm which the USA got from the collapse of the USSR led to [fake] prosperity in 1994-2000.
Mar 08, 2015 | The Washington Post
After a year in which furious rhetoric has been pumped across Russian airwaves, anger toward the United States is at its worst since opinion polls began tracking it. From ordinary street vendors all the way up to the Kremlin, a wave of anti-U.S. bile has swept the country, surpassing any time since the Stalin era, observers say.
The indignation peaked after the assassination of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, as conspiracy theories started to swirl - just a few hours after he was killed - that his death was a CIA plot to discredit Russia. (On Sunday, Russia charged two men from Chechnya, and detained three others, in connection with Nemtsov's killing.)
There are drives to exchange Western-branded clothing for Russia's red, blue and white. Efforts to replace Coke with Russian-made soft drinks. Fury over U.S. sanctions. And a passionate, conspiracy-laden fascination with the methods that Washington is supposedly using to foment unrest in Ukraine and Russia.
The anger is a challenge for U.S. policymakers seeking to reach out to a shrinking pool of friendly faces in Russia. And it is a marker of the limits of their ability to influence Russian decision-making after a year of sanctions. More than 80 percent of Russians now hold negative views of the United States, according to the independent Levada Center, a number that has more than doubled over the past year and that is by far the highest negative rating since the center started tracking those views in 1988.
Nemtsov's assassination, the highest-profile political killing during Vladimir Putin's 15 years in power, was yet another brutal strike against pro-Western forces in Russia. Nemtsov had long modeled himself on Western politicians and amassed a long list of enemies who resented him for it.
The anti-Western anger stands to grow even stronger if President Obama decides to send lethal weaponry to the Ukrainian military, as he has been considering. The aim would be to "raise the cost" of any Russian intervention by making the Ukrainian response more lethal. But even some of Putin's toughest critics say they cannot support that proposal, since the cost is the lives of their nation's soldiers.
"The United States is experimenting geopolitically, using people like guinea pigs," said Sergey Mikheev, director of the Kremlin-allied Center for Current Politics, on a popular talk show on the state-run First Channel last year. His accusations, drawn out by a host who said it was important to "know the enemy," were typical of the rhetoric that fills Russian airwaves.
"They treat us all in the same way, threatening not only world stability but the existence of every human being on the planet," Mikheev said.
Soviet rhetoric was officially anti-Western, but it couldn't repress ordinary Russians' passion for the Beatles or their enthusiasm for getting news from jammed Voice of America broadcasts. Those positive feelings spilled over after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
But the list of perceived slights from the United States has long been building, particularly after the United States and NATO bombed Serbia, a Russian ally, in 1999. Then came the war in Iraq, NATO expansion and the Russia-Georgia conflict. Each time, there were smaller spikes of anti-American sentiment that receded as quickly as they emerged.
Putin cranked up the volume after protest movements in late 2011 and 2012, which he blamed on the State Department. It wasn't until last year, when the crisis started in Ukraine, that anti-Americanism spread even among those who once eagerly hopped on planes to Miami and Los Angeles.
Fed by the powerful antagonism on Russian federal television channels, the main source of news for more than 90 percent of Russians, ordinary people started to feel more and more disillusioned. The anger seems different from the fast-receding jolts of the past, observers say, having spread faster and wider.
The years of perceived humiliations have "led to anti-Americanism at the grass-roots level, which did not exist before," said Vladimir Pozner, a journalist who for decades was a prominent voice of the Soviet Union in the United States. More recently, he has to explain the United States inside Russia. "We don't like the Americans, and it's because they're pushy, they think they're unique and they have had no regard for anyone else."
... ... ...
Many Russians tapped into a deep-rooted resentment that after modeling themselves on the West following the breakup of the Soviet Union, they had experienced only hardship and humiliation in return.
"Starting from about 1989, we completely reoriented toward the West. We looked at them as a future paradise. We expected that once we had done all that they demanded, we'd dance for them and they would finally hug and kiss us and we would merge in ecstasy," said Evgeny Tarlo, a member of Russia's upper house of parliament, on a Russian talk show last year. Instead, he said, the West has been trying to destroy Russia.
The anti-Americanism makes it harder for American culture to make inroads through its traditional means - soft-power routes such as movies, music and education. Last year, Russian policymakers ended a decades-old high school exchange program that offered their nation's best and brightest the chance to spend semesters at U.S. schools. Few Western artists now perform on Russian soil.
Western diplomats also say privately that they find themselves frozen out of speaking engagements and other opportunities to explain their countries' positions to Russian audiences. And Russians who work for local outposts of Western companies say their friends and neighbors increasingly question their patriotism.
... ... ...
Even McDonald's, long an embodiment of Russian dreams about the West, was targeted for supposed health violations in the fall. Some of its most prominent locations were forced to shut down temporarily. When they reopened, McDonald's started an advertising campaign emphasizing its local ties and its 25-year history in Russia, playing down the Golden Arches' global significance as a bright beacon of America.
Last week, one McDonald's billboard in the heart of Moscow read: "Made in Russia, for Russians."
Michael Birnbaum is The Post's Moscow bureau chief. He previously served as the Berlin correspondent and an education reporter.
In regards to Time Magazine, it's no surprise. Time apparently thinks that most everyone in the world is thoughtful and intelligent–except for Americans–who are mostly at the intellectual level of narcissistic, mentally-handicapped imbeciIes who just escaped from an asylum after receiving a lobotomy. Or at least that's what one would gather after looking at this.
Well, they might not be wrong.Peter Schitt
"Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders … didn't make it on [Time's] shortlist" for 2015 Person of the Year."
If Time considered Sanders a serious threat, they could dispatch him in a trice by putting his mug on a Person of the Year cover.
The most recent example of the cover story jinx in action came from Mexico. At the start of this year Time profiled president Enrique Pena Nieto as the man 'Saving Mexico', and that was the sentiment at the time. The writer of that story quoted me to the effect that, "In the Wall Street investment community, I'd say that Mexico is by far the favourite nation just now."
Since then it has been all downhill for Pena Nieto and Mexico, with the president embroiled in a series of scandals and economic growth coming in at a disappointing 2.2% this year.
The MSM is never right. And they always lie.
I'd say that Time are right in their assessment of Americans. As Morris Berman says, "what else could you expect of 321 million douchebags".
I still remember that smug look on his face, followed by the matter-of-fact remarks that had western journalists laugh out loud.
"I'm now going to show you a picture of the luckiest man in Iraq," General Norman Schwarzkopf, known as "Stormin" Norman, said at a press conference sometime in 1991, as he showed a video of US bombs blasting an Iraqi bridge, seconds after the Iraqi driver managed to cross it.
But then, a far more unjust invasion and war followed in 2003, following a decade-long siege that cost Iraq a million of its children and its entire economy.
It marked the end of sanity and the dissipation of any past illusions that the United States was a friend of the Arabs. Not only did the Americans destroy the central piece of our civilizational and collective experience that spanned millennia, it took pleasure in degrading us in the process. Their soldiers raped our women with obvious delight. They tortured our men, and posed with the dead, mutilated bodies in photographs – mementos to prolong the humiliation for eternity; they butchered our people, explained in articulate terms as necessary and unavoidable collateral damage; they blew up our mosques and churches and refused to accept that what was done to Iraq over the course of twenty years might possibly constitute war crimes.
Then, they expanded their war taking it as far as US bombers could reach; they tortured and floated their prisoners aboard large ships, cunningly arguing that torture in international waters does not constitute a crime; they suspended their victims on crosses and photographed them for future entertainment.
Their entertainers, media experts, intellectuals and philosophers made careers from dissecting us, dehumanizing us, belittling everything we hold dear; they did not spare a symbol, a prophet, a tradition, values or set of morals. When we reacted and protested out of despair, they further censured us for being intolerant to view the humor in our demise; they used our angry shouts to further highlight their sense of superiority and our imposed lowliness.
They claimed that we initiated it all. But they lied. It was their unqualified, inflated sense of importance that made them assign September 11, 2001 as the inauguration of history. All that they did to us, all the colonial experiences and the open-ended butchery of the brown man, the black man, any man or woman who did not look like them or uphold their values, was inconsequential.
All the millions who died in Iraq were not considered a viable context to any historical understanding of terrorism; in fact, terrorism became us; the whole concept of terror, which is violence inflicted on innocent civilians for political ends, abruptly became an entirely Arab and Muslim trait. In retrospect, the US-Western-Israeli slaughter of the Vietnamese, Koreans, Cambodians, Palestinians, Lebanese, Egyptians, South Americans, Africans, was spared any censure. Yet, when Arabs attempted to resist, they were deemed the originators of violence, the harbingers of terror.
Furthermore, they carried out massive social and demographic experiments in Iraq which have been unleashed throughout the Middle East, since. They pitted their victims against one another: the Shia against the Sunni, the Sunni against the Sunni, the Arabs against the Kurds, and the Kurds against the Turks. They called it a strategy, and congratulated themselves on a job well done as they purportedly withdrew from Iraq. They disregarded the consequences of tampering with civilizations that have evolved over the course of millennia.
When their experiments went awry, they blamed their victims. Their entertainers, media experts, intellectuals and philosophers flooded every public platform to inform the world that the vital mistake of the Bush administration was the assumption that Arabs were ready for democracy and that, unlike the Japanese and the Germans, Arabs were made of different blood, flesh and tears. Meanwhile, the finest of Arab men were raped in their jails, kidnapped in broad daylight, tortured aboard large ships in international waters, where the Law did not apply.
When the Americans and their allies claimed that they had left the region, they left behind bleeding, impoverished nations, licking their wounds and searching for bodies under rubble in diverse and macabre landscapes. Yet, the Americans, the British, the French and the Israelis, continue to stage their democratic elections around the debate of who will hit us the hardest, humiliate us the most, teach the most unforgettable lesson and, in their late night comedies, they mock our pain.
We, then, sprang up like wild grass in a desert, multiplied, and roamed the streets of Rabat, Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, calling for a revolution. We wanted democracy for our sake, not Bush's democracy tinged with blood; we wanted equality, change and reforms and a world in which Gaza is not habitually destroyed by Israel and children of Derra could protest without being shot; where leaders do not pose as divinities and relish the endless arsenals of their western benefactors. We sought a life in which freedom is not a rickety dingy crossing the sea to some uncertain horizon where we are treated as human rubbish on the streets of western lands.
However, we were crushed; pulverized; imprisoned, burnt, beaten and raped and, once more, told that we are not yet ready for democracy; not ready to be free, to breathe, to exist with even a speck of dignity.
Many of us are still honorably fighting for our communities; others despaired: they carried arms and went to war, fighting whoever they perceive to be an enemy, who were many. Others went mad, lost every sense of humanity; exacted revenge, tragically believing that justice can be achieved by doing unto others what they have done unto you. They were joined by others who headed to the West, some of whom had escaped the miseries of their homelands, but found that their utopia was marred with alienation, racism and neglect, saturated with a smug sense of superiority afflicted upon them by their old masters.
It became a vicious cycle, and few seem interested now in revisiting General Schwarzkopf's conquests in Iraq and Vietnam – with his smug attitude and the amusement of western journalists – to know what actually went wrong. They still refuse to acknowledge history, the bleeding Palestinian wound, the heartbroken Egyptian revolutionaries and the destroyed sense of Iraqi nationhood, the hemorrhaging streets of Libya and the horrifying outcomes of all the western terrorist wars, with blind, oil-hungry dominating foreign policies that have shattered the Cradle of Civilization, like never before.
However, this violence no longer affects Arabs alone, although Arabs and Muslims remain the larger recipients of its horror. When the militants, spawned by the US and their allies, felt cornered, they fanned out to every corner of the globe, killing innocent people and shouting the name of God in their final moment. Recently, they came for the French, a day after they blew up the Lebanese, and few days after the Russians; and, before that, the Turks and the Kurds, and, simultaneously, the Syrians and the Iraqis.
Who is next? No one really knows. We keep telling ourselves that "it's just a transition" and "all will be well once the dust has settled". But the Russians, the Americans and everyone else continue bombing, each insisting that they are bombing the right people for the right reason while, on the ground, everyone is shooting at whoever they deem the enemy, the terrorist, a designation that is often redefined. Yet, few speak out to recognize our shared humanity and victimhood.
No – do not always expect the initials ISIS to offer an explanation for all that goes wrong. Those who orchestrated the war on Iraq and those feeding the war in Syria and arming Israel cannot be vindicated.
The crux of the matter: we either live in dignity together or continue to perish alone, warring tribes and grief-stricken nations. This is not just about indiscriminate bombing – our humanity, in fact, the future of the human race is at stake.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is a media consultant, an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press).
The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War by Andrew Bacevich
Oxford, 270 pp, £16.99, August 2005, ISBN 0 19 517338 4
A key justification of the Bush administration's purported strategy of 'democratising' the Middle East is the argument that democracies are pacific, and that Muslim democracies will therefore eventually settle down peacefully under the benign hegemony of the US. Yet, as Andrew Bacevich points out in one of the most acute analyses of America to have appeared in recent years, the United States itself is in many ways a militaristic country, and becoming more so:The president's title of 'commander-in-chief' is used by administration propagandists to suggest, in a way reminiscent of German militarists before 1914 attempting to defend their half-witted kaiser, that any criticism of his record in external affairs comes close to a betrayal of the military and the country. Compared to German and other past militarisms, however, the contemporary American variant is extremely complex, and the forces that have generated it have very diverse origins and widely differing motives:
at the end of the Cold War, Americans said yes to military power. The scepticism about arms and armies that informed the original Wilsonian vision, indeed, that pervaded the American experiment from its founding, vanished. Political leaders, liberals and conservatives alike, became enamoured with military might.
The ensuing affair had, and continues to have, a heedless, Gatsby-like aspect, a passion pursued in utter disregard of any consequences that might ensue.
The new American militarism is the handiwork of several disparate groups that shared little in common apart from being intent on undoing the purportedly nefarious effects of the 1960s. Military officers intent on rehabilitating their profession; intellectuals fearing that the loss of confidence at home was paving the way for the triumph of totalitarianism abroad; religious leaders dismayed by the collapse of traditional moral standards; strategists wrestling with the implications of a humiliating defeat that had undermined their credibility; politicians on the make; purveyors of pop culture looking to make a buck: as early as 1980, each saw military power as the apparent answer to any number of problems.
Two other factors have also been critical: the dependence on imported oil is seen as requiring American hegemony over the Middle East; and the Israel lobby has worked assiduously and with extraordinary success to make sure that Israel's enemies are seen by Americans as also being those of the US. And let's not forget the role played by the entrenched interests of the military itself and what Dwight Eisenhower once denounced as the 'military-industrial-academic complex'.
The security elites are obviously interested in the maintenance and expansion of US global military power, if only because their own jobs and profits depend on it. Jobs and patronage also ensure the support of much of the Congress, which often authorises defence spending on weapons systems the Pentagon doesn't want and hasn't asked for, in order to help some group of senators and congressmen in whose home states these systems are manufactured. To achieve wider support in the media and among the public, it is also necessary to keep up the illusion that certain foreign nations constitute a threat to the US, and to maintain a permanent level of international tension.
That's not the same, however, as having an actual desire for war, least of all for a major conflict which might ruin the international economy. US ground forces have bitter memories of Vietnam, and no wish to wage an aggressive war: Rumsfeld and his political appointees had to override the objections of the senior generals, in particular those of the army chief of staff, General Eric Shinseki, before the attack on Iraq. The navy and air force do not have to fight insurgents in hell-holes like Fallujah, and so naturally have a more relaxed attitude.
To understand how the Bush administration was able to manipulate the public into supporting the Iraq war one has to look for deeper explanations. They would include the element of messianism embodied in American civic nationalism, with its quasi-religious belief in the universal and timeless validity of its own democratic system, and in its right and duty to spread that system to the rest of the world. This leads to a genuine belief that American soldiers can do no real wrong because they are spreading 'freedom'. Also of great importance – at least until the Iraqi insurgency rubbed American noses in the horrors of war – has been the development of an aesthetic that sees war as waged by the US as technological, clean and antiseptic; and thanks to its supremacy in weaponry, painlessly victorious. Victory over the Iraqi army in 2003 led to a new flowering of megalomania in militarist quarters. The amazing Max Boot of the Wall Street Journal – an armchair commentator, not a frontline journalist – declared that the US victory had made 'fabled generals such as Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian seem positively incompetent by comparison'. Nor was this kind of talk restricted to Republicans. More than two years into the Iraq quagmire, strategic thinkers from the Democratic establishment were still declaring that 'American military power in today's world is practically unlimited.'
Important sections of contemporary US popular culture are suffused with the language of militarism. Take Bacevich on the popular novelist Tom Clancy:
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, honour, 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.
Such attitudes go beyond simply glorying in violence, military might and technological prowess. They reflect a belief – genuine or assumed – in what the Germans used to call Soldatentum: the pre-eminent value of the military virtues of courage, discipline and sacrifice, and explicitly or implicitly the superiority of these virtues to those of a hedonistic, contemptible and untrustworthy civilian society and political class. In the words of Thomas Friedman, the ostensibly liberal foreign affairs commentator of the ostensibly liberal New York Times, 'we do not deserve these people. They are so much better than the country … they are fighting for.' Such sentiments have a sinister pedigree in modern history.
In the run-up to the last election, even a general as undistinguished as Wesley Clark could see his past generalship alone as qualifying him for the presidency – and gain the support of leading liberal intellectuals. Not that this was new: the first president was a general and throughout the 19th and 20th centuries both generals and more junior officers ran for the presidency on the strength of their military records. And yet, as Bacevich points out, this does not mean that the uniformed military have real power over policy-making, even in matters of war. General Tommy Franks may have regarded Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense, as 'the stupidest fucking guy on the planet', but he took Feith's orders, and those of the civilians standing behind him: Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the president himself. Their combination of militarism and contempt for military advice recalls Clemenceau and Churchill – or Hitler and Stalin.
Indeed, a portrait of US militarism today could be built around a set of such apparently glaring contradictions: the contradiction, for example, between the military coercion of other nations and the belief in the spreading of 'freedom' and 'democracy'. Among most non-Americans, and among many American realists and progressives, the collocation seems inherently ludicrous. But, as Bacevich brings out, it has deep roots in American history. Indeed, the combination is historically coterminous with Western imperialism. Historians of the future will perhaps see preaching 'freedom' at the point of an American rifle as no less morally and intellectually absurd than 'voluntary' conversion to Christianity at the point of a Spanish arquebus.
Its symbols may be often childish and its methods brutish, but American belief in 'freedom' is a real and living force. This cuts two ways. On the one hand, the adherence of many leading intellectuals in the Democratic Party to a belief in muscular democratisation has had a disastrous effect on the party's ability to put up a strong resistance to the policies of the administration. Bush's messianic language of 'freedom' – supported by the specifically Israeli agenda of Natan Sharansky and his allies in the US – has been all too successful in winning over much of the opposition. On the other hand, the fact that a belief in freedom and democracy lies at the heart of civic nationalism places certain limits on American imperialism – weak no doubt, but nonetheless real. It is not possible for the US, unlike previous empires, to pursue a strategy of absolutely unconstrained Machtpolitik. This has been demonstrated recently in the breach between the Bush administration and the Karimov tyranny in Uzbekistan.
The most important contradiction, however, is between the near worship of the military in much of American culture and the equally widespread unwillingness of most Americans – elites and masses alike – to serve in the armed forces. If people like Friedman accompanied their stated admiration for the military with a real desire to abandon their contemptible civilian lives and join the armed services, then American power in the world really might be practically unlimited. But as Bacevich notes,
having thus made plain his personal disdain for crass vulgarity and support for moral rectitude, Friedman in the course of a single paragraph drops the military and moves on to other pursuits. His many readers, meanwhile, having availed themselves of the opportunity to indulge, ever so briefly, in self-loathing, put down their newspapers and themselves move on to other things. Nothing has changed, but columnist and readers alike feel better for the cathartic effect of this oblique, reassuring encounter with an alien world.
Today, having dissolved any connection between claims to citizenship and obligation to serve, Americans entrust their security to a class of military professionals who see themselves in many respects as culturally and politically set apart from the rest of society.
This combination of a theoretical adulation with a profound desire not to serve is not of course new. It characterised most of British society in the 19th century, when, just as with the US today, the overwhelming rejection of conscription – until 1916 – meant that, appearances to the contrary, British power was far from unlimited. The British Empire could use its technological superiority, small numbers of professional troops and local auxiliaries to conquer backward and impoverished countries in Asia and Africa, but it would not have dreamed of intervening unilaterally in Europe or North America.
Despite spending more on the military than the rest of the world combined, and despite enjoying overwhelming technological superiority, American military power is actually quite limited. As Iraq – and to a lesser extent Afghanistan – has demonstrated, the US can knock over states, but it cannot suppress the resulting insurgencies, even one based in such a comparatively small population as the Sunni Arabs of Iraq. As for invading and occupying a country the size of Iran, this is coming to seem as unlikely as an invasion of mainland China.
In other words, when it comes to actually applying military power the US is pretty much where it has been for several decades. Another war of occupation like Iraq would necessitate the restoration of conscription: an idea which, with Vietnam in mind, the military detests, and which politicians are well aware would probably make them unelectable. It is just possible that another terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 might lead to a new draft, but that would bring the end of the US military empire several steps closer. Recognising this, the army is beginning to imitate ancient Rome in offering citizenship to foreign mercenaries in return for military service – something that the amazing Boot approves, on the grounds that while it helped destroy the Roman Empire, it took four hundred years to do so.
Facing these dangers squarely, Bacevich proposes refocusing American strategy away from empire and towards genuine national security. It is a measure of the degree to which imperial thinking now dominates US politics that these moderate and commonsensical proposals would seem nothing short of revolutionary to the average member of the Washington establishment.
They include a renunciation of messianic dreams of improving the world through military force, except where a solid international consensus exists in support of US action; a recovery by Congress of its power over peace and war, as laid down in the constitution but shamefully surrendered in recent years; the adoption of a strategic doctrine explicitly making war a matter of last resort; and a decision that the military should focus on the defence of the nation, not the projection of US power. As a means of keeping military expenditure in some relationship to actual needs, Bacevich suggests pegging it to the combined annual expenditure of the next ten countries, just as in the 19th century the size of the British navy was pegged to that of the next two largest fleets – it is an index of the budgetary elephantiasis of recent years that this would lead to very considerable spending reductions.
This book is important not only for the acuteness of its perceptions, but also for the identity of its author. Colonel Bacevich's views on the military, on US strategy and on world affairs were profoundly shaped by his service in Vietnam. His year there 'fell in the conflict's bleak latter stages … long after an odour of failure had begun to envelop the entire enterprise'. The book is dedicated to his brother-in-law, 'a casualty of a misbegotten war'.
Just as Vietnam shaped his view of how the US and the US military should not intervene in the outside world, so the Cold War in Europe helped define his beliefs about the proper role of the military. For Bacevich and his fellow officers in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, defending the West from possible Soviet aggression, 'not conquest, regime change, preventive war or imperial policing', was 'the American soldier's true and honourable calling'.
In terms of cultural and political background, this former soldier remains a self-described Catholic conservative, and intensely patriotic. During the 1990s Bacevich wrote for right-wing journals, and still situates himself culturally on the right:
As long as we shared in the common cause of denouncing the foolishness and hypocrisies of the Clinton years, my relationship with modern American conservatism remained a mutually agreeable one … But my disenchantment with what passes for mainstream conservatism, embodied in the Bush administration and its groupies, is just about absolute. Fiscal irresponsibility, a buccaneering foreign policy, a disregard for the constitution, the barest lip service as a response to profound moral controversies: these do not qualify as authentically conservative values.
On this score my views have come to coincide with the critique long offered by the radical left: it is the mainstream itself, the professional liberals as well as the professional conservatives, who define the problem … The Republican and Democratic Parties may not be identical, but they produce nearly identical results.
Bacevich, in other words, is sceptical of the naive belief that replacing the present administration with a Democrat one would lead to serious changes in the US approach to the world. Formal party allegiances are becoming increasingly irrelevant as far as thinking about foreign and security policy is concerned.
Bacevich also makes plain the private anger of much of the US uniformed military at the way in which it has been sacrificed, and its institutions damaged, by chickenhawk civilian chauvinists who have taken good care never to see action themselves; and the deep private concern of senior officers that they might be ordered into further wars that would wreck the army altogether. Now, as never before, American progressives have the chance to overcome the knee-jerk hostility to the uniformed military that has characterised the left since Vietnam, and to reach out not only to the soldiers in uniform but also to the social, cultural and regional worlds from which they are drawn. For if the American left is once again to become an effective political force, it must return to some of its own military traditions, founded on the distinguished service of men like George McGovern, on the old idea of the citizen soldier, and on a real identification with that soldier's interests and values. With this in mind, Bacevich calls for moves to bind the military more closely into American society, including compulsory education for all officers at a civilian university, not only at the start of their careers but at intervals throughout them.
Or to put it another way, the left must fight imperialism in the name of patriotism. Barring a revolutionary and highly unlikely transformation of American mass culture, any political party that wishes to win majority support will have to demonstrate its commitment to the defence of the country. The Bush administration has used the accusation of weakness in security policy to undermine its opponents, and then used this advantage to pursue reckless strategies that have themselves drastically weakened the US. The left needs to heed Bacevich and draw up a tough, realistic and convincing alternative. It will also have to demonstrate its identification with the respectable aspects of military culture. The Bush administration and the US establishment in general may have grossly mismanaged the threats facing us, but the threats are real, and some at least may well need at some stage to be addressed by military force. And any effective military force also requires the backing of a distinctive military ethic embracing loyalty, discipline and a capacity for both sacrifice and ruthlessness.
In the terrible story of the Bush administration and the Iraq war, one of the most morally disgusting moments took place at a Senate Committee hearing on 29 April 2004, when Paul Wolfowitz – another warmonger who has never served himself – mistook, by a margin of hundreds, how many US soldiers had died in a war for which he was largely responsible. If an official in a Democratic administration had made a public mistake like that, the Republican opposition would have exploited it ruthlessly, unceasingly, to win the next election. The fact that the Democrats completely failed to do this says a great deal about their lack of political will, leadership and capacity to employ a focused strategy.
Because they are the ones who pay the price for reckless warmongering and geopolitical megalomania, soldiers and veterans of the army and marine corps could become valuable allies in the struggle to curb American imperialism, and return America's relationship with its military to the old limited, rational form. For this to happen, however, the soldiers have to believe that campaigns against the Iraq war, and against current US strategy, are anti-militarist, but not anti-military. We have needed the military desperately on occasions in the past; we will definitely need them again.
Vol. 27 No. 20 · 20 October 2005 " Anatol Lieven " We do not deserve these people
pages 11-12 | 3337 words
Mar 13, 2015 | The Guardian
We yearn for politicians to fill the shoes of their all-powerful predecessors. But there are terrible dangers in trying to be superman
There is a general lament about the Lilliputian nature of our current leaders. Where are the towering figures of the past? Why do we have such uninspiring leaders who can't even eat a bacon sandwich, or resist chillaxing on the job, or, in the case of the Greens, even remember their policies?
There is, of course, nothing new about this. If you look back at the newspaper columns of the 1960s you will find commentators demanding to know where were the current-day Churchills and Bevans, and in the 1930s they wanted to know where leaders of the stature of Gladstone and Disraeli had gone. It is the familiar syndrome – from which I suffer – that as you get older, policemen look younger and younger.
Nonetheless it is indisputably true that at the moment there is an unusual lack of strong, charismatic leaders, not just in the UK but in Europe too.
It has come to something when Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is the dominant figure in Europe. I admire her quiet and subtle style of leadership, and she towers over her colleagues, but she is scarcely a colossus in the mould of a De Gaulle or even a Kohl. I vividly remember the first time Tony Blair met her, in the new British embassy in Berlin in 2004. Then the leader of the opposition in Germany, the soon-to-be chancellor plonked herself down in front of him and said disarmingly, "I have 10 problems" – and then began to list them, starting with a lack of charisma.
The dearth of strong leaders is more than just the usual feast and famine – or it wouldn't extend across the west
... ... ...
So maybe we should be careful what we wish for. Maybe strong leaders are not quite as alluring as we think, and we should celebrate the fact that our leaders are just like us. Just because one candidate can't remember his whole speech and the other likes to put his feet up on the job doesn't mean they can't govern. It could be that in the more constrained environment of developed democracies and a globalised economy, we actually want and need leaders in shades of grey rather than the towering figures of the past.
Dani123 15 Mar 2015 01:09
I don't want a "Führer", it's good for war and bloodshed only.
In peaceful times grey technocrat manager are maybe abit color- but also bloodless.
People from the past would envy us for our oh-so-boring kind of politicians.
You wish for interesting times with interesting "personalities", well I don't.
I like my lame and uninteresting times quite well, thank you....
VelvetRevolutionary 14 Mar 2015 12:44
Do you want to know why our political "...leaders can't be heroes anymore."? Our 21st century leaders are sorely lacking in human integrity, and they have completely lost their moral compass. That's why.
dilawar 14 Mar 2015 02:20
The French political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville, a great observer of man's affairs, while witnessing the birth of democracy in America, thought that the age of democracy will be the age of mediocrity. There will be a dead level plane of achievement in almost every kind of activity. A democratic person, due to various reasons he explains lucidly, does everything in hurry. He is always satisfied with "pretty well" and does not pause for an instance to think what he is doing.
"His curiosity is at once insatiable and cheaply satisfied; for he cares more to know a great deal quickly than to know anything well: he has no time and but little taste to search things to the bottom". To make matter worse, "men of democracy worship chance, and are much less afraid of death than of difficulty".
Despite his strong attachment to democracy, Tocqueville took great pains to point out what he thought to be a negative side of democracy: it will be an unheroic age. Tocqueville maintained that there wont be heroes in democratic societies because democracies are inherently incapable of producing them.
But modern democracies were not able to do without heroes and this was also foreseen by Tocqueville with much misgivings. He believed, rightly or wrongly, that unlike aristocracy, there will not be a proper place for heroes or hero-worshipers in democracies, and when they arose they would sooner or later turn into despots. Modern democracy may or may not do without heroes but they certainly can not do without leaders. And in this modern age, which breeds them in great profusion, the problem is to know what to do with them.
Democracies are no longer restricted to Europe or United States. They are now in many parts of this world in their own peculiar forms. They have acquired some distinct features of the societies in which they are able to grow. Human societies value heroes or charismatic personalities but some among are always more obsessed with them. These days, people seems to be somewhat tired of their politicians but it is not that people are tired for charisma; it only moves from politics to other area of public life. People reserve their praise and transfer their adulation for movie starts, sadhus and sants, sports-personalities and sometimes, for man of sciences.
Here in India and neighbourhood, charismatic people from various fields have been using their charisma in politics. Some have been quite successful. NTR missed becoming the prime minister of India, Imran Khan is trying the same in Pakistan. The appeal of charisma, by which I mean the personal quality that secure instant and unquestioned devotions to the leader of his followers, is in decline everywhere. Not only there is no Nehru today, there is no de Gaulle and Winston Churchill. The consideration of this for the prospect of democracy and health of its institutions deserves some serious attention.
Banditolobster 14 Mar 2015 01:37
I don't particularly want our leaders to be heroic or devastatingly charismatic, I would settle for them being quietly competent and un corrupt, it amuses me that Merkel gets some stick in this article, she strikes me as a better leader by simply getting on with it, than many other leaders who are trying to summon up shades of Churchill and De Gaulle
danielarnaut -> StTrevorofIlford 13 Mar 2015 17:17
Thank you for your interest, though I lived in Britain most of my life I am of Catalan origin so I have always been interested in the ill fortune of some of the men and women who scape the Franco regime on the other side of the Pyrenees, so I started visiting the many concentration camps the Vichy regime built for the republican Spaniards in French soil.
My neighbour in Newbury told me a weird story of Austrians in Frith Hill, or Frimley, near Camberley in Surrey. I heard of concentration camps for Irish freedom fighters in Shewsbury and Bromyard. I haven't got any information about those apparently in Tipperary and Southend. However, there are lots of information and literature on several concentration camps near Douglas and Peel in the Isle of Man which were built during the II WW.
The BBC reported about a concentration camp near Leicester, Donnington Hall.
But the most bizarre discovery I made was this one : I was just driving in the Dordogne (France) in 2010 when I came across a program in France Inter (radio) called " La bas si j'y suis ", I was speechless.
A British historian was being interviewed about thirty concentration camps where more than two hundred thousand unemployed British guys were deported and put to hard labour, after the 1929 crash; these camps were in use up to 1939 ; that means the period under the labour government of Ramsey MacDonald. The idea was called: a New Deal (does it remind you of Tony's campaign for power?)
People were forced to go these camps maybe to stop riots in certain cities. If they refused to go to the camps they had their benefit stopped at once. The inmates lived under awful conditions. They were treated like slaves and put to work for ten hours a day, forced to build roads, chop trees and crack stones.
These were the years previous to the II WW and these concentration camps provided cheap labour before being sent to fight for king and country.
HolyInsurgent, 13 Mar 2015 23:06
Jonathan Powell: In part this vacuum is the result of a familiar pattern that normally a strong leader is immediately followed by a weak one. Margaret Thatcher was followed by John Major, Blair by Gordon Brown, Ronald Reagan by George Bush Sr, and so on.
The theory is obviously meaningless. In each case, which one was the strong leader and which the weak one? Who decides?
Without a substantial army they cannot take a leading role in world affairs. And as part of Nato and the European Union, their scope for independent foreign policy initiatives is severely limited.
Considering NATO is America's military branch to enforce its foreign policy, the UK is simply an American client state. There is nothing to stop NATO from being dissolved and the EU pooling its separate countries' militaries as a united force. But of course America won't allow NATO to be dissolved. Why would it?
No one in Russia would complain that they suffer from weak leaders at the moment.
The Russian people voted for Putin. The West can think what they like of him, but he was elected.
In China, with "Papa Xi", the cult of personality has returned virtually to the levels under Mao.
What does the author suggest be done about it?
Beyond terrible, an irrelevant article. There is simply no point being made, just a slapdash bundle of clichés thrown out in sequence in the vain hope of forming an argument.
VarmintRaptScallion 13 Mar 2015 14:11
I don't think you can get through Michael Sandal's Justice lecture series without acknowledging that the battle between moral principles and moral utilitarianism forces a leader to wade into some pretty grey areas.
As a society it is probably better that we accept the inevitable corruption that takes hold in leaders and design political systems that take account of this. The concept of heroes and villains is at the heart of propaganda and only serves the status quo.
Just like the erroneous belief that the current political paradigm is somehow the pinnacle of human evolution.
BlogAnarchist 13 Mar 2015 13:23
Got up to here and realised this article was a joke piece.
In part this vacuum is the result of a familiar pattern that normally a strong leader is immediately followed by a weak one. Margaret Thatcher was followed by John Major, Blair by Gordon Brown, Ronald Reagan by George Bush Sr, and so on. It is very hard for a new strong leader to grow up in the shadow of an existing strong leader. Their successors are nearly always lower-key figures.
Nathaniel P -> Cape7441 13 Mar 2015 13:21
I noticed this. Politicians are basically allowed no respite, and their very characters are dissected in the media. It is almost as if they are not allowed to be human. It seems to me that the rivalry is just too strong- while debating and having different views is of course central to democratic politics, politicians should never be spiteful and nasty to rival politicians because they have a different political view- they should even feel comfortable complimenting their rivals' ideas and promises if they feel the need, but this never happens because the rivalry was too strong.
Apparently, PM Stanley Baldwin used to politely chat to politicians in Parliament buildings, regardless of their party- maybe if this kind of thing was increased, politicians would be followed and seen as 'heroes' as they would be seen as human beings like the rest of us and not participants in slagging matches!
greyskies 13 Mar 2015 13:15
A politician should be a hero. They have the power to affect the lives of millions and should feel the weight of that responsibility every day. There are thoughtful and responsible MPs in our current parliament: Rory Stewart, Douglass Carswell, David Davis, Sarah Wollaston, Tom Watson, Margaret Hodge to name a few that I can respect. Unfortunately thoughtful MPs are rarely seen because they feel they should be loyal to their party or because they are rightfully afraid of being misunderstood. We need our MPs to be more heroic and put themselves out there and argue for their visions of the future of the country.
socialistnotnulabour -> TwigTheWonderKid 13 Mar 2015 13:01
You don't live in the real world if you think anyone just basing their arguments on evidence.
I make my arguments based on evidence but I'm not so conceited to believe my beliefs don't have some effect on how I view the evidence.
Zealots seem to believe they are the ones with the only correct view of evidence and are inflexible to believe anything else despite being shown they have come to the wrong conclusion.
You should always be open to the fact that your conclusion from the evidence may actually be wrong.
Even in the scientific world, evidence and facts are not always used in a truthful way.
Bryced 13 Mar 2015 12:38
The Labour Party. A man of the stature of Nye Bevin to the likes of puppet Tony B-lair and his collaborators. Yikes. Times have certainly changed. Deep, no deeper than that, endless bloody sigh. Makes you want to weep.
HumanistLove 13 Mar 2015 12:17
Accountable, intelligent, promise keeper, not beholden to special interests, consensus oriented, domestic issues as priority, sensitive to the most vulnerable in society...a mensch for, by and of the people.
I believe a leader's personal life should be respected as private, as we all wish for ourselves.
kippers 13 Mar 2015 11:42
The Butler Report into the lack of WMD in Iraq criticised "sofa government". This was a polite way of criticising the way decisions were taken by Tony Blair and a small group of unelected advisors without the knowledge of Cabinet (and sometimes contrary to what had been decided in Cabinet). Jonathan Powell was one of those advisors. His response to that criticism was that this was the way things were done these days.
Few people want leaders to be heroes. They want accountable government. That would reduce the risk of small groups of people seizing the controls and making erroneous assumptions like "it is an established fact that Iraq has WMD" and "the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan will be short and sharp".
Krishnamoorthi 13 Mar 2015 11:20
This a typical syndrome affecting every aspect of capitalist society. Individuals have their limitations and it is the system of government and the state apparatus which makes or unmakes an individual! Even if Churchill was not there there would have been another one to replace him. Giving too much of credit to individuals is just flattery! Individuals like Mandela are products of a wider Picture! To reduce the achievements or failures on a single person is just a simpleminded argument!
stuartMilan 13 Mar 2015 11:07
and the Graun stands up for British decency again..?
Mr Powell kindly take my advice and fuck off, give your old china another award for his international legacy, shut up and be grateful you'll never face a criminal investigation for your part in the Iraq war.
Ricardo111 13 Mar 2015 10:50
Competent would be good. And honest. And principled.
Instead what we have is corrupt, two-faced snake-oil salesmen in posh style.
As for the "superhero" politicians of the past, they were no such thing: only the ignorant of history and weak of spirit would deify past leaders.
weematt 13 Mar 2015 10:36
We do not need leaders.It is silly to expect politicians to be leaders in the class struggle.
Politicians are elected to run capitalism in the interests of the business class 1-5%. In a representative democracy this is diametrically opposed to the interests of workers 95-99%.
All the economic clout is with the corporations and landowners, owned by a tiny minority of people, possibly around 5 percent. Owning the means of production allows them to cream off a profit or a surplus for themselves, and they do this by exploiting the rest of us. Their economic power is backed up by political power. The state is there to try and manage the status quo, and protect the interests of those with all the wealth. This doesn't mean that they have control over the economy, though. Market forces fluctuate between growth and slump regardless of what politicians and corporate strategists want.
This arrangement leads to massive inequalities in wealth, not just within this country, but across the globe. Goods and services only go to those who can afford them, not to those who need them. Those who can't afford the basics risk falling into a lifestyle of poverty it's hard to escape from. Living in an unequal world where everything is rationed creates divisions between us, leading to prejudice and discrimination. Even those of us with a reasonable standard of living never have enough real involvement or sense of ownership in where we work and live.
To solve the problems in society, we have to change the way society is structured. This means going from our world where the means to produce and distribute wealth are owned by a minority, to one where those resources and facilities are owned by everyone in common. Then, goods would be produced and services would be run directly for anyone who wants them, without the dictates of the economic market. Industries and services would be run just to satisfy people's needs and wants.
All this could only be achieved by fundamentally changing the way society is organised, a revolution. The kind of revolution we want is one which involves the vast majority of people across the world. Every country now is part of an integrated global economy and class structure. So, people across the world would have to want to change society. The only legitimate and practical way this could be achieved is by organising equally and democratically. This means voluntary, creative work, with decisions and responsibilities agreed through everyone having an equal say. This would mean a much broader and more inclusive use of democracy than we're used to today. Different democratic organisations or procedures would apply in different circumstances. This doesn't mean having leaders or groups with more authority than others.
"I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition; as it is now the capitalists use your heads and your hands." Eugene Debbs
mespilus 13 Mar 2015 10:14
If you are one of the 1%,
there have been several Supermen in the last 5 years;
George Osborne has lowered the upper rate of income tax, and given a bountiful tax break to hedge funds.
Andrew Lansley has made it much easier to divert public funds towards contracted out private health care providers.
Michael Gove has given away untold wealth by handing over school premises to Academy chains, and diverted local authority destined funds towards 'Free School's.
Vince Cable sold the Royal Mail for a song, and the share in Eurostar will soon join HS1 in private hands.
Supermen one & all.
I'm sure you can add a few more.
Matthew2012 13 Mar 2015 10:14
I think that our modern politicians read Nietzsche and decide that they are supermen (ubermensch) not men.
It matters little to them what we want - if they can get our vote.
The problem is that they don't think that they need to listen
ClericPreston 13 Mar 2015 10:09
Leaders are not leaders of much any more.
They don't have to be strong, they have to be fair, consistent and honest. The difficulty arises in the 2 dimensional thought that they have to do something big, stamp their mark, start some war or other to be the Big man (or woman in the case of Thatch).
Cameron will never appear strong because he's obviously a bought man, too many vested interests leaning on him. How can you look up to a person who can be "swayed" so readily for donations and has lied on so many occasions?
A lot of the day to day business of the country is now run by outsourcing companies, they don't answer to any elected leader, you would think this would allow a leader to develop in a more focused way, but this hasn't materialised, far from Cameron rolling up his sleeves at an appropriate time (rather than an opportunistic moment) and getting on with something for the people he seems to have spent his entire premiership publicising his party and raising funds to further drive that process not just for the last month or two but since the day he took office, 5 years! I don't think that even at the height of Thatcher's time can it be said that so much time has been spent on such things by a PM.
Our leader, imho, is a Publicity machine first, a Tory second and a PM last. To me that is the wrong way around.
Caroline Kennedy 13 Mar 2015 10:09
As we all know, Jonathan Powell is one of Tony Blair's most simpering apologists. He, like many other Blair sycophants, ended up on the board of Save the Children.
Hence the tainted "Global Legacy Award" for Blair, a man responsible for the deaths, injuries and long term disabilities of literally tens of thousands of children in Iraq, Afghanistan and across areas of the Middle East. Not to mention the number of orphans he has created.
To compare Tony Blair with any politician other than those we already despise for their despotic rule, such as Robert Mugabe, Emperor Bokassa, Ferdinand Marcos etc is to insult those we admire such as Roosevelt, Kennedy and Mandela.
Matthew2012 JayEnn 13 Mar 2015 10:09
or about Gordon Brown being ugly?
Media influence and vacuums in real substance.
In WWII no one really cared what Churchill looked like in comparison to his policies.
When we see so little integrity in our politicians, no accountability, ignoring expert advice and influence of vested interests? How do we judge the difference in our politicians?
We have issues such as climate change where we are being failed in the most fundamental respect by politicians everywhere. And rather then debate it - we are faced with a 3 party agreement not to discuss it.
The ideologies have become stale and the centre vote is all that is pursued. So whether you agree with issues or not it is no longer a matter of principles but about getting voted in.
The UK government is being treated like a middle manager job and we don't see a great deal of proven competence by any of them.
danielarnaut 13 Mar 2015 09:32
Quite ingenuously, or lack of knowledge, Churchill is described by most of you as a great war leader. I am surprised people don't remember the famine provoked in southern Asia, the threat of military heavy handed action against the miners, or simple his own declarations admitting adhering to fascism. Without a Furher, Britain could have easily slipped into a dictatorship. And we had all the ingredients such as inflicting fear, massacres, starvation, imposition of twisted rules, concentration camps built even in the north of England for the unemployed and wherever a country fell on the hands of the sacro saint british empire people were forced to change behaviour, culture, language... to embrace the new deal and be civilised. Human loss was considerable. Churchil could have continue this trend.
excathedra 13 Mar 2015 09:20
Thatcher wasn't a strong leader, she was a lunatic hell bent on destroying the working class and the social advantages the post war consensus had brought.
As for leaders I, and I suspect many others, just want honesty, decency and an end to the greed, hubris and vanity projects. If they want war then they ought to be in the front not organising and garnering contacts for future use.
Wishful thinking I know but the alternatives are not worth continuing with.
tobymoore 13 Mar 2015 08:57
Trapped in an economic system which is clearly no longer capable of providing the society that people want, or could have if it we were solely limited by human ingenuity, the main job of our so-called leaders is to "manage expectation", i.e. to tell us what we can't have.
There is no room left for visions of a better future. In any case, the obsession with leaders is infantile and leaves the door wide open for frauds and demagogues.
crinklyoldgit 13 Mar 2015 06:56
This article is hopeless. The issue here is that politicians and their appointees have become able to evade accountability by legal clever stepping . Blair is untouchable, legally speaking, but no one is under illusions about his abuse of privilege. All else is meaningless drivel until we can claw some meaningful accountability into the way affairs are managed, and make those who would abuse their powers think twice.
Jimcomment 13 Mar 2015 04:50
The difference with the Press shows the key difference here - international corporations have huge power these days. Politicians whose interests do not align with theirs find that media and funding strategies quickly go against them.
Right or wrong, previous leaders held firm convictions. Cameron shows very clearly that he has none - he is a PR man with no interest in working as a politician, let alone being PM. But this suits those who wield economic and media power, and so he is financially backed and applauded by much of the Press.
JonPurrtree 13 Mar 2015 04:23
I'm not sure Hollande ever was on a pedestal. And if it wasn't for those pesky americans, Strauss-Kahn would have been President, no questions asked about his wandering hands and worse.
But how on earth did we end up with the likes of Hollande and Milliband2 ?
I'd be happy with boring yet competant looking people like Darling or Major, but such people seem to have been culled.
Feb 17 2005 | The Economist
George Bush will encounter a more complex animosity than is often portrayed when he ventures abroad next week
EVER since the days of the Founding Fathers, America has regarded what George Washington called "the foreign world" with a degree of suspicion, and the foreign world has often reciprocated. Never more than now, it seems. Under George Bush, anti-Americanism is widely thought to have reached new heights-and, in the view of the Pew Research Centre, a Washington surveyor of world opinion, new depths. Its latest report says that "anti-Americanism is deeper and broader now than at any time in modern history." But though anti-Americanism spans the globe, the phenomenon is not everywhere the same. It mutates according to local conditions, and it is seldom straightforward.
No wonder. Most people's feelings about America are complicated. "America", after all, is shorthand for many other terms: the Bush administration, a Republican-dominated Congress, Hollywood, a source of investment, a place to go to study, a land of economic opportunity, a big regional power, the big world power, a particular policy, the memory of something once done by the United States, a set of political values based on freedom, democracy and economic liberalism, and so on. It is easy to be for some of these and against others, and some may wax or wane in importance according to time, circumstance, propaganda or wishful thinking. So it should be no surprise that some people can hold two apparently contradictory views of America at once. The incandescent third-world demonstrator, shrieking "Down with America!" in one breath and "Can you get me a green card?" in the next, has become a commonplace.
As Mr Bush may discover when he meets his French counterpart over dinner on Monday, no country contains this mixture of attitudes in greater abundance than France. France is a longstanding ally of the United States (since 1778); it gave America the Statue of Liberty; it conferred honorary citizenship on Madison; it was the country of Lafayette (American revolutionary hero), of Montesquieu (profound influence on Jefferson) and of L'Enfant (designer of Washington, DC).
Yet France is also the country that rails against American hyperpuissance (hyperpowerdom), cheers when rustic thugs lay waste McDonald's and laps up books like "11 Septembre 2001: l'Effroyable Imposture", whose thesis, that the attacks on the twin towers were "an appalling deception" to justify American adventurism, won it sales of 100,000 in its first week of publication. France, moreover, is the home of Gaullism, a form of nationalism saturated with anti-American bilge-and the well-spring of Mr Chirac's political creed.
All this has made France the locus classicus of anti-Americanism. Yet many ordinary French people, as distinct from their more politically-minded countrymen, are rather pro-American. They go to American movies, take holidays in the United States, eat in McDonald's (rustics permitting) and shop in places that look much like American giant stores. In a poll conducted in 21 countries by the BBC World Service last month, only a small majority (54%) of those interviewed in France said they viewed American influence unfavourably-not much more than in Australia (52%), and rather less than in Mexico (57%), Canada (60%) and Germany (64%).
The repulsion of similars
So what explains France's reputation for anti-Americanism? The main answer is that it is proclaimed bombastically by so many of those in France who strike political attitudes. They do this partly because of the rivalry between France and America, based on their remarkably similar self-images: the two countries both think they invented the rights of man, have a unique calling to spread liberty round the world and hold a variety of other attributes that make them utterly and admirably exceptional. Jealousy also plays a part. America is often better than France at activities that the French take great pride in, such as making movies or even cooking-at least if popular taste is the judge. And French politicians are not blind to the value of criticising someone else in order to divert attention from their own failures: French anti-Americanism tends to rise when France has just suffered a setback of some kind, whether defeat at the hands of the Germans, a drubbing in Algeria or the breakdown of the Fourth Republic.
Not many countries share all these characteristics, but several have some of them. Take Iran, where political diatribes, religious sermons, rent-a-mob demonstrations and heroic graffiti regularly denounce the Great Satan and all his doings. Anti-Americanism is central to the ideology of Iran's ruling Shia clerics. Yet Iranians at large, like the French, are not noticeably hostile to America. The young in particular seem thoroughly pro-American, revelling in America's popular culture, yearning for its sexual freedoms, some even hoping for an American deliverance from their oppression. Whether the affection runs deep is another matter: pro-Americanism among the young is a form of anti-regime defiance that might evaporate quickly if their country were attacked.
Great Satan cramps Little Satan
Yet why should the clerics bang on so relentlessly about the United States when the British were just as deeply involved in the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh's regime in 1953, when Iraq under Saddam Hussein posed a much greater threat, and when, recently at least, America has shown itself ready to get rid of the Baathists next door and pave the way for a Shia-led government in Iraq? The main explanation, as in France, is rivalry. Iran's theocratic regime has clear ambitions to be a leader not just of the Middle East but of the entire Muslim world. America, now avowedly bent on spreading democracy across the region, is in the way.
The regime has other reasons as well, no doubt: to divert attention from its many failures; to keep alive the thought that the wicked shah, restored to power in the 1953 coup, was the creature of the Americans, even though memories of his rule glow ever more brightly for many older Iranians; and, inevitably, to exploit the widespread feeling among Muslims almost everywhere that the United States is pro-Israel, anti-Palestine and indeed anti-Islam, a feeling that has intensified, according to the polls, since September 11th 2001. Pew says anti-Americanism is nowhere more acute than in the Muslim world.
Even here, though, the picture is not uniform. In Indonesia, the biggest Muslim country, anti-Americanism is largely an armchair affair. People are happy to curse the United States-a current rumour suggests it could have given warning of the December tsunami but chose not to-yet none of the recent terrorist attacks in Indonesia seems to have been directed at Americans. In Arab countries, by contrast, some people are clearly ready to take up arms in pursuit of al-Qaeda's jihad.
Arab anti-Americanism is a much younger phenomenon than its European counterpart
Arab anti-Americanism is a much younger phenomenon than its European counterpart. Although it shares with European left-wingery much claptrap about the wickedness of American materialism, it became widespread in the Middle East only with America's open support for Israel after the 1967 six-day war. Eleven years earlier, Arabs had been all for the United States: it had just put a stop to the Suez affair, the British-French-Israeli attempt to overthrow the Nasser regime in Egypt. But since 1967 America has been considered by Arabs to be incomprehensibly pro-Israeli. The potency of this view probably owes more to Arab failures than to anything else-failures to deal with Israel, to establish democracies, to create modern economies, to produce heroes in virtually any field of respectable human endeavour. This must be someone's fault. Whose? Why, the local thug (Israel) and its sponsor (America), of course.
A seminal event, akin to the 1967 war for Arabs, may be found in plenty of other places where anti-Americanism flourishes. In Greece it was America's backing for the rule of the colonels (1967-74). In Spain, it was the support-implicit, if not explicit-of the Franco regime that came with America's military bases in the 1950s. Some say Spain's dislike for America dates back to the Spanish-American war of 1898, but in truth that made little impact on the left, which saw the war as an agent of Spain's modernisation. When American soldiers arrived at Torrejón and other bases in the 1950s, though, the Spanish left saw them as collaborators, not liberators.
Most of the far left in Europe is still anti-American, for familiar reasons: America is materialist, imperialist, interventionist, etc. But right-wingers, too, are sometimes hostile. The ideas of the American revolution have inevitably challenged anciens régimes and anti-democrats of any stripe (including Franco's, until the bases). As conservatives have come to terms with democracy, those who have taken against America have done so mostly for snobbish or cultural reasons: hence the antagonism of such British writers as Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis.
Latin Americans may think they have better reasons to harbour a grudge. Mexico, for instance, lost about half its territory to the United States in the war of 1846-48. In the BBC survey last month, only 11% of the Mexicans polled had a mainly favourable view of the influence of their northern neighbour, less even than the proportion of Argentines, who are in other respects even more hostile. Cubans have resented the United States ever since 1898, when their hard- and long-fought war of independence against Spain was in effect stolen from them by the yanquis prosecuting the Spanish-American war. The United States then made some 30 military interventions in and around the Caribbean in the next 30 years, many of them under Smedley Butler, a marine corps general, who summed up his career thus:
I helped make Honduras "right" for American fruit companies in 1903. I helped make Mexico...safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street...I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China, I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
For most of the 19th century, Latin Americans-including their great liberator, Simón Bolívar-had drawn inspiration from the American colonists' anti-British revolt. But the war of 1898 and the interventions that followed turned most of them against the great power next door. The hostility remains, in varying degrees, though 15 years of democratisation, emigration to and trade with the United States have done much to soften attitudes, especially in Central America.
Other nations that have experienced American meddling also continue to resent it. For evidence, just go to Congo, where Mobutu Sese Seko ruled imperiously for decades courtesy of the United States, or to Angola, whose long wars were drawn out by the superpower sponsorship of its local tyrants. Yet anti-Americanism in such places does not seem to run deep. This is not just a matter of distance. The Philippines is hardly adjacent, yet its experience as an American colony for half a century has left it with a persistent strain of anti-Americanism-as well as an infatuation, among the young at least, with basketball and country music.
Proximity makes the heart grow colder
That suggests that the intensity of the American experience may be the decisive factor in the creation of lasting anti-Americanism. It would explain why Indians, for instance, though their governments were long hostile to America in foreign policy, have never shown much antagonism in other ways. Yet the intensity test certainly does not provide an iron rule. On the one hand, Canada, which has never suffered anything worse from its neighbour than cultural imperialism, ignoration and disdain, is perpetually critical of the United States. If it were not-if it did not define itself in opposition to its neighbour-Canada, it seems, would have no reason to exist. On the other hand, Vietnam, less than 30 years after a long war against the Americans in which it lost about 5m of its people, seems to harbour little hostility towards its old foe. Perhaps it is just too busy to hate.
It may help, too, that Vietnam has not had any subsequent reason, real or imaginary, to resent America. In many of the places where the embers of anti-Americanism burn brightest, some event has taken place to rekindle them.
- For Arabs, the war in Iraq is one. For Latin Americans, it was the United States' support for Augusto Pinochet's coup in Chile (and now its stomp-all-over-the-place war on drugs).
- For Greeks, it was the American-led interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo-interventions on behalf of Muslims, though many Muslims seem to forget it. The Greeks, though, did not. They were outraged by NATO's attacks on the Serbs, another Orthodox Christian people.
- In the Philippines, America was considered far too friendly to the kleptocratic and ruthless Ferdinand Marcos.
- In every country with American bases, any outrage by American servicemen-the rape of a Japanese child, the running over of two South Korean girls, the severing of an Italian cable-car's wires-tends to strengthen latent hostility.
The vigour of anti-American feeling varies strongly even among peoples who, to the casual observer, seem to have no good reason for their differing reactions. The Japanese, for example, defeated in war-Tokyo fire-bombed, Hiroshima and Nagasaki triturated with atomic bombs-seem far more pro-American than the South Koreans, who owe much of their freedom to American force of arms. Why? Perhaps because the Japanese feel, rightly or wrongly, much more threatened by China and North Korea than do the South Koreans, and are therefore much more grateful to a protective Uncle Sam.
Hostility to America is often mitigated by feelings of friendship and gratitude
Certainly, hostility to America is often mitigated by feelings of friendship and gratitude. Plenty of elderly Frenchmen remember America's role in liberating their country. Plenty of Germans remember the Berlin airlift. Plenty of elderly Iranians are proud that they once studied in the United States. Many, if not most, of the reformist democrats in Latin American governments have been to American universities, as have several of their east and central European counterparts.
An American diaspora may also have a mollifying effect in the old country. France, which has sent few emigrants to North America since before the European Enlightenment, is unusual in providing no hyphenated Americans (which may help to explain why French anti-Americanism is matched by American anti-Frenchism). Huge communities of Latin Americans, Indochinese, Greeks, Koreans, Iranians, you name it, have grown up in recent decades in the United States and ensure that a constant flow of money, ideas and hope flow from America to other parts of the world.
This background of ties, aspirations and shared values means that in some places anti-Americanism can be dissipated quite quickly with a visit (such as Bill Clinton's trip to India in 2000) or some other gesture (debt forgiveness perhaps, or some post-tsunami assistance). In other places, though, it would take much more to change attitudes: an American-engineered peace between Israel and the Palestinians, say, or a credible commitment to tackle global warming, and even these might prove ineffective without other policy changes sustained over many years. And in some places it may well be impossible for America to do very much. The mere fact of being a great power ready to intervene (in, say, Kosovo) is enough to make enemies. And then some states, like some people, have chips on their shoulders. Anti-Americanism in Argentina and parts of the Arab world has as much to do with the inadequacies of these countries as with anything done by the United States.
Why, anyway, should America care if a bunch of foreigners dislike it, or affect to? Maybe, as a military and economic power without rival, it should not be too worried. Yet America needs the co-operation of other governments if it is to conduct trade, combat drugs, reduce pollution and fight terrorism. Moreover, Mr Bush is now committed to spreading "freedom" across the Middle East, indeed across the world. If foreigners, disillusioned with America, believe this is merely a hypocritical justification for getting rid of regimes he dislikes, the task may be harder. It is striking that Mr Bush's 49 mentions of liberty or freedom in his inaugural address last month do not seem to have struck the sort of chord round the world that Jack Kennedy's quixotic commitments did in the 1960s.
Shining city loses lustre
That may reflect the greater cynicism of the worldwide audience 40 years on. But the polls suggest it also has something to do with Mr Bush. Last month's BBC poll found that opposition to Mr Bush was stronger than anti-Americanism in general, and that the particular had contributed to the general. Asked how Mr Bush's election had affected their views of the American people, 42% said it had made them feel worse towards Americans.
That is the, perhaps short-term, view of some non-Americans. It is accompanied by another view, increasingly common among pundits, which holds that America is losing its allure as a model society. Whereas much of the rest of the world once looked to the United States as a beacon, it is argued, non-Americans are now turning away. Democrats in Europe and elsewhere who once thought religiosity, a belief in capital punishment and rank hostility to the United Nations were intermittent or diminishing features of the United States now see them as rising and perhaps permanent. Such feelings have been fortified by Mr Bush's doctrine of preventive war, Guantánamo, opposition to the world criminal court and a host of other international agreements. One way or another, it is said, people are turning off America, not so much to hate it as to look for other examples to follow-even Europe's. If true, that could be even more insulting to Americans than the rise in the familiar anti-Americanism of yesteryear.
Jan 27, 2015 | The American Conservative
If the outpouring of condolences emanating from the upper echelons of the U.S. government over the death of King Abdullah last week are anything to go by, one could easily be led to believe that the world lost a truly humane, wise, perhaps even visionary leader. In fact, Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted as much, calling Abdullah a "man of wisdom and vision." President Obama issued a statement calling the deceased despot "a force for stability and security in the Middle East" while the UK's David Cameron-in addition to ordering flags to fly at half-mast-praised Abdullah's role in "strengthening understanding between faiths." The IMF's Christine Lagarde even went so far as to claim Abdullah was "strong advocate of women." Gloria Steinem, call your office!
But this really is all a bit de trop.
Making matters worse is the fact that President Obama is rushing off to Riyadh to pay his respects in person. This is all the more egregious since the administration sent no senior officials to the Je Suis Charlie solidarity march in Paris earlier this month, which the ever tin-eared presidential confidante Valerie Jarrett dismissed as a mere "parade." Further, Mr. Obama, as the New York Times pointed out on Sunday, rarely travels abroad solely to pay his respects to departed foreign leaders, one notable exception being his decision to travel to South Africa on the occasion of Nelson Mandela's passing. This, it hardly needs pointing out, is not that.
... ... ...
According to Human Rights Watch, the Abdullah regime beheaded 19 people over the course of 16 days last August; one of the executed was, according to a report issued by Amnesty International, mentally ill, while another was beheaded for the crime of "black magic sorcery." Meanwhile, a blogger by the name of Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, while only recently a video emerged of a Saudi policeman beheading a Burmese woman in the middle of a street in Mecca as she screamed for her life. She is one of 10 people beheaded in Saudi Arabia so far this year.
Then of course there is Saudi Arabia's role in providing material support for the 9/11 atrocity that took the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans. Obama continues to protect the Saudis by refusing to release the 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission report having to do with Saudi Arabia's funding of and complicity in the attacks. This despite his own promises to the 9/11 families that he would do so. Efforts by U.S. Congressmen Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) to force the administration to release the redacted pages are ongoing. In addition, former senator and Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham (D-Fla.) has also called on the administration to release the 28 redacted pages, whose content he says, "points a finger in the direction of Saudi Arabia."
... ... ...
Meanwhile, the Saudis continue to fund - to the tune of billions of dollars a year - the propagation of the most sinister and violent branch of Islam throughout the world, leading to, among other things, the ritual slaughter of a staff of cartoonists in the very heart of Europe, hostage taking in Sydney, and murderous rampages in Ottawa and Brussels, to say nothing of a series of subway bombings in Madrid, London, and Moscow.
It is by now bindingly clear that the regime in Riyadh will resort to the most medieval of measures towards anyone-within or without its borders-who is not in thrall to the violent tenets of Wahhabi Islam. So the question remains: why does our own government pretend that this is not so?
Meanwhile, we are treated to the spectacle of certain of our own Middle East experts worrying that the Obama administration-because it supposedly has paid insufficient attention to the wishes of the Saudi tyranny-faces "an uphill struggle to regain the full trust of the royal family." Pardon me, to regain their trust?
James W. Carden served as an advisor to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission at the State Department from 2011-2012.
07/01/2014 | Zero HedgeRecall that about a month ago we reported that shortly after France was stunned to see its largest bank slammed by its bestest buddy, the US, with a record $9 billion fine, "France responded to the fine by announcing it will train hundreds of Russian seamen to operate the French-Made Warship", the Mistral. In other words, for all the angry rhetoric of sanctions against Russia, France was merely the latest country to admit that it too can't exist without Russian business (not to mention natural gas) even if, or especially if, it means incurring US wrath which is taken out on its banking institutions. After all, if the US is engaging in scorched earth tactics France needs a stable trade partner, especially if it is one who turns on the gas, so to speak.
As a reminder, this is what all the commotion is about:
However, it turns out that was only a small part of the story.
Earlier today, when speaking to Russian diplomats in Moscow, Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of blackmailing France to scrap a contract to sell Russia Mistral warships by offering to cut a record $8.97 billion fine against BNP Paribas. From Bloomberg:
France's largest bank agreed to plead guilty in court documents yesterday to processing almost $9 billion in banned transactions involving Sudan, Iran and Cuba from 2004 to 2012. The company will be temporarily barred from handling some U.S. dollar transactions.
French President Francois Hollande has refused to cancel a contract to sell two Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Russia in the face of criticism from the U.S.
"We know about the pressure which our U.S. partners are applying on France not to supply the Mistrals to Russia," Putin told Russian diplomats in Moscow today. "And we even know that they hinted that if the French don't deliver the Mistrals, they would quietly get rid of the sanctions against the bank, or at least minimize them," he said without naming BNP Paribas.
"What is that if not blackmail?" Putin said.
Well it is blackmail, but what's worse it shows to what depths the US will fall when it fails to get its way in the international arena even with its so-called allies, which under Obama, is essentially always.
But one wonders: since the biggest opponent of Russian sanctions in Europe is, by and far, Germany - despite what Merkel spouts any given day - and since Russia is sure to antagonize the US in the coming months, one wonders: just what legal and criminal action will the US reveal against Deutsche Bank in the coming months as first blackmail, then "punishment" for daring to engage America's suddenly most hated superpower adversary?
And perhaps a better question: with US foreign policy set to continue its disastrous ways, does this mean that the best way to profit from the incompetence of John Kerry et al is merely to short a basket of European banks? After all, if it happened with BNP it is sure to happen elsewhere in Europe - a continent which, for better or worse, is now wrapped around Putin's gas finger.
In addition, the essay details the various propaganda techniques and avenues that were employed to project a friendly and supportive U.S. attitude and a hostility towards the Soviet Union and communism. For example, techniques included the use of:
- Foreign Aid
- Posters and Brochures
- Newspapers, Magazines, Newsreels
- Cultural Influences
- Exchange Programs and Associations
- Semiotics (using signs and symbols)
- Inter government collaboration
- U.S. collaboration with
- U.S. media
- Private Associations
- Publishing Industry
The types of themes promoted included projection of:
- Freeedom, emphasizing to the world America's role as a beacon of freedom for the world.
- Prowess, demonstrating "the overwhelming and increasing industrial and military strength of the United States"
- Peace-loving, by also being admired as a peace-loving nation, differentiating itself from a violent and disruptive Soviet Union
- Promoting nuclear and other scientific advances
- Religion as a propaganda asset, as for decades, "religious tradition was viewed as a valuable asset that could be exploited to achieve American ends". This included Saudi Arabia's conservative interpretation of Islam, as "an important asset in promoting Western objectives," including anticommunism, in the Middle East.
Yet, of course it was not easy, as today's often militant and anti-American feelings testify. Some of the problems included:
- The Palestine issue -- the priorities and concerns of many people of the Middle East (such as Palestinian refugees early on) and U.S. priorities were seen as being at odds with each other.
- Competing national interests also complicated U.S. plans for anticommunist propaganda directed at the Kurds.
- Anticolonialism feeling was high and the U.S. was seen as a close ally with British and French.
- "Anti-western" nationalism was viewed as one of the principal threats to U.S. interests in the Middle East. Efforts to impress Middle East audiences with U.S. popular culture and display of material success, were not always going as smoothly as hoped.
- Demands for change -- many were unhappy with the U.S. support for a repressive status quo.
- Disillusionment with U.S. policies
In drawing parallels to the current war on terror, the Archives concludes:
During the Cold War, American propaganda was a tool in an anticommunist crusade; today, it is a facet of the U.S. "war on terrorism." Now, as then, it is characterized as a remedy for anti-Americanism. Now as in the past, U.S. policy toward Palestine is the primary source of Arab and Muslim dislike for the U.S., generated as well by apparent American indifference to the suffering of Iraqi civilians under sanctions and the pervasive presence of U.S. military forces, viewed by many as protectors of autocratic and unpopular regimes rather than as defenders against external aggression.
Methods for disseminating propaganda are vastly more sophisticated today than in the past: there is now widespread access to radio and satellite television, videos, popular music, and the Internet. But the effectiveness of America's propaganda apparatus is limited by inadequate knowledge of Middle Eastern languages, culture, and social mores. The U.S. government seeks help from the private sector in targeting the region, but a predilection for cartoonish depictions of Middle Easterners and Middle East issues is likely to limit the appeal of products created by the American entertainment industry. For the foreseeable future, exchange-of-person programs will be hindered by visa restrictions, the inconvenience of travel for those from the region, hostility, and grass roots movements among Arabs and Muslims encouraging the rejection of U.S. influence.
...Propaganda strategies developed in tandem with war plans will include those arguments explaining and defending U.S. actions that have the widest popular appeal. As has become the rule for U.S. military operations, information will be controlled and filtered by the Pentagon. In Iraq, some will welcome an overthrow of the present repressive government, even if brought about by a foreign invasion; the U.S. government will do what it can to ensure that this reaction monopolizes news coverage. The administration has reason to be confident that a passive opposition party, a pro-war mainstream press, all the apparatus of news manipulation available to the government, and a public and mass media predisposed to view the motives of their country in a favorable light, and to hope that their sense of insecurity will be lessened by an attack on a designated enemy, are likely to ensure that a U.S. invasion of Iraq will be judged a success - at least in the short term.
- Joyce Battle, U.S. Propaganda in the Middle East - The Early Cold War Version, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 78, December 13, 2002
And, as N. Janardhan highlights in an Inter Press Service news report, (January 2, 2003) "As anti-American sentiments rise in the Middle East, Washington is stepping up its propaganda battle through new radio stations that are airing restyled programs designed to woo the hearts and minds of the region's youth."
By 1970, the world was already what was called tripolar economically, with a U.S.-based North American industrial center, a German-based European center, roughly comparable in size, and a Japan-based East Asian center, which was then the most dynamic growth region in the world. Since then, the global economic order has become much more diverse. So it's harder to carry out our policies, but the underlying principles have not changed much.
Take the Clinton doctrine. The Clinton doctrine was that the United States is entitled to resort to unilateral force to ensure "uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources." That goes beyond anything that George W. Bush said. But it was quiet and it wasn't arrogant and abrasive, so it didn't cause much of an uproar. The belief in that entitlement continues right to the present. It's also part of the intellectual culture.
For the faction that controls the Pentagon, the military industry and the oil industry, the Cold War never ended. It went on 'below the radar' creating a global network of bases and conflicts to advance their long-term goal of Full Spectrum Dominance, the total control of the planet: land, sea, air, space, outer space and cyberspace. Their methods included control of propaganda, use of NGOs for regime change, Color Revolutions to advance NATO east, and a vast array of psychological and economic warfare techniques, a Revolution in Military Affairs as they termed it. The events of September 11, 2001 would allow an American President to declare a war on an enemy who was everywhere and nowhere, who justified a Patriot Act that destroyed that very freedom in the name of the new worldwide War on Terror. This book gives a disturbing look at that strategy of Full Spectrum Dominance.
M. Lachlan White
FULL SPECTRUM DOMINANCE is a rare and essential book -- one that orients readers quickly and deeply to the world we live in, and how we arrived here. William Engdahl presents the historical background of policy making and decision analysis that explains how the United States arrived at its present "mission" in the world. The value of Engdahl's brilliant book is not only that it familiarizes American readers with a history that is not usually revealed to us, but it also guides us through the many overt and covert tactics employed by the US for regime change-- primarily via the Pentagon and its nefarious weapons contractors, but also through various think tanks and foundations with innocuous names disingenuously referring to "democracy" and "freedom."
The "full spectrum" of tactics and deceptions and tricks -- both violent and non-violent -- is revealed here. Needless to say, this book falls within the honorable tradition of political histories that blow the cover off America's much vaunted pretense and propaganda about serving the cause of "freedom" and "democracy" around the world! It is the only book available today that covers ALL of this, with ample quotations and documents from the architects of US policies, in just 250 well written pages.
FULL SPECTRUM DOMINANCE is unique in presenting the evolution of CIA tactics, ranging from its crude "coups" of yesteryear (as in Iran and Guatemala) to its current -- and perhaps more insidious -- use of "non-violent" electronically manipulated technological "crowd control" via cell phones and (as is currently evident on the streets of Tehran) Twitter. If Americans are woefully ignorant of the full range and dangerous extremes of American violence around the world, of American interventions into and manipulations of other countries' elections and environments and economics, then there is no longer any excuse for such ignorance.
FULL SPECTRUM DOMINANCE is a "must read." To understand pipeline politics, the critical importance of Eurasia to US defense contractors, read this book. To understand how and why America has become such a rapacious and violent empire with bases all over the world and tens of thousands of agents provocateurs doing its dirty work from Tibet to Tehran, manipulating elections, staging phony "revolutions" to surround Russia with hostile Made-in-USA regimes, propping up American-trained puppets or fomenting chaos from Myanmar to Congo and from Ukraine to Iran -- read this book!
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) An obsessive military agenda, January 23, 2010
As in his other books, F. William Engdahl exposes vital aspects of the world today and, in the first place, the battle for total control of our planet and the space around it.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, important segments of the US establishment panicked as their power base (national security and the Cold War) fell apart: how to justify the huge arms spending and a massive intelligence apparatus without a direct enemy?
The solution for them was to replace the Cold War by a geopolitical agenda: Full Spectrum Dominance. Crucial aspects of this agenda are control of the Eurasian Heartland, the encircling of Russia and control of China's lifelines (oil tanker traffic). With the help of their diabolical media machine, this agenda was sold to the public under the veil of colonial liberation, democracy and free markets, and partly realized by false flag operations. A major aspect of this agenda is also Nuclear Primacy (First Strike).
As V. Putin stated: `today almost uncontained hyper use of military force in international relations is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts.' Adds Russian general L. Ivashov: `terrorism is simply a new type of war in order to install a unipolar world, a pretext to establish the rule of a world elite.'
According to Z. Brzezinski, those who control Eurasia control Africa, the Middle East and global oil and gas flows (the economic artery system of the world).
The Balkan, Kossovo and Afghanistan wars, as well as the installation of military bases in the `Stans' were (are) major pieces in an encircling network of Russia. The Yukos - Khodorkovsky affair was a battle for the control of Russian oil and gas (Yukos would have been partly sold to foreign private interests).
The wars in Africa (Congo, Darfur) as well as the Myanmar issue (control of the coastline of the Strait of Malacca, good for 85 % of Chinese oil tanker traffic) are indirect confrontations with China and its vital economic interests.
Ultimately, F. William Engdahl poses the cardinal question: can the US survive this obsessive and costly military agenda?
This book is a must read for all those who want to understand the world we live in.
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (February 17, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199278083
- ISBN-13: 978-0199278084
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BiographyDavid Harvey teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and is the author of many books including Social Justice and the City, The Condition of Postmodernity, The Limits to Capital, A Brief History of Neoliberalism and Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development.
In the last thirty years or so, there has been a growing body of thought and literature in the world that America is the next Empire, maybe not in the Roman mold, but surely as powerful as the old English empire. Contributions to this train of thought have come from numerous corners; peace activists protesting the Vietnam War, anti-globalization groups protesting US corporations, French farmers protesting McDonalds, Muslim scholars and clerics throughout the world, and isolationists within American politics. These groups and their arguments have tended to emphasize the how of empire; how America came to empire, how it is an Empire, and of course, how we will fall like other Empires. This book tries to give a why, and does so from the oldest of corners opposing the American Way: socialism, and the writings of Marx and his followers. As such, it does an impressive job within a very short number of pages.
To be brief, this book proposes several points. First, America has gradually turned into an empire over the last fifty years. As evidence, the author points to the dozens of military bases the US has around the world. American now has more military installations in more places than any other nation that has ever existed. Many of these bases are located in countries that are not democratic; i.e. the citizens of these countries did not vote to invite America's military in. The only possible conclusions are that the local government stays in power through America's support (financial or otherwise), or are outright puppet governments.
Second, this is not an empire built on the control of land and the founding of colonies in say the English mold, but instead is an empire built on opening up consumer markets for American corporations and controlling non-renewable natural resources such as oil, again for domestic consumption. The first part of this argument is self-evident; America has no colonies in the most literal sense and our ambassadors in most countries are holed-up in concrete fortresses instead of prancing around like local kings of the hill. The second part of this argument is also as self-evident, to those whose eyes and ears are open. Specifically, America's aid, money, attention and soldiers often end up in places that are either important trade posts (Suez and Panama Canals), have oilfields (the entire Middle East), or have a large business community which we do business with (Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Germany).
Third, America has made this transformation to the ignorance of most of its citizens, but to the alarm and suspicion of almost everyone else. This is probably the most important point of this book. Pull over any American on the street, give her a map of the world and ask her to point out all the countries which have been militarily attacked (bombed, invaded, occupied, etc...) by the US since 1900 (excluding the two World Wars). She should answer Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and might recall North Korea, Somalia and Serbia. She will probably leave out Haiti, Cuba, Panama, Philippines, Libya and Mexico, and will surely be unawares of Russia (US troops invaded during the Russian Revolution), Cambodia (secret bombings ordered by Nixon during the Vietnam War) and China (prior to World War II). No other nation in the history of the world has intruded upon the soil of so many other countries as has the USA. If this does not qualify America as an empire, than nothing can.
Fourth, this growth of empire has been fueled by the same historical reasons and processes that fueled the growth of the British Empire, the Nazis, the Roman Empire, and other great empires. War serves as a way to divert the public attention from domestic troubles; usually economic. To be exact, the fruits and costs of war alleviate various economic pressures that could doom a nation's leadership if otherwise left to fester. The centuries prior to England's Age of Empire was marked by a stratification of English society. Most of the livable land in England passed into the ownership of a small, wealthy minority. You were either born into it or outside of it. Those born into it were not going to give up wealth to their less privileged brethren, so colonial expansion provided a way by which those born outside of it could achieve wealth and status in life. Population growth was relieved by sending people off to other lands. The poor benefited because emigration kept the labor pool small, thereby keeping up wages. The rich benefited because English colonies provided an outlet for their produced goods, and a source of natural resources (e.g. tea from India) and cheap labor (cotton from the American south). Similarly, war and the resulting influence of other countries economic and political policies help the US economy grow.
Fifth, all of this is not unexpected. The path America has taken was described over a century ago by Karl Marx and his followers as the path all capitalist countries take. After the end of the Cold War, intellectuals the world over concluded that Marxist thought was over; relegated to the trash heap of history. Actually, the historical processes described my Marx have played themselves out numerous times in the 20th century.
Sixth, the current Bush administration marks a watershed in the history of America, akin to the rule of Augustus in Rome. Specifically, the latter's rule marked the official transition from Roman Republic to Roman Empire. The Bush administration, with either the consent or ignorance of the American electorate, have quickly exited the numerous treaties it had bound itself to in the previous five decades, has openly called out enemies to oppose, and has invaded two countries (so far). As such, the span from 2001 - 2008 is when America, in the eyes of others, has decided to transform from world leader to world bully, akin to the transition from Roman Republic to Roman Empire.
Seventh, like all empires, America clothes its actions abroad (i.e. foreign policy) in morals and ethics, but they are mostly driven by self-interest. The author does not argue this point fully, primarily because it is elaborated elsewhere. This keeps the page count down, but reduces the impact and persuasiveness of the book. In response to the other (incredibly ignorant) review for this book, I will take up this argument here.
a. In World War II, the US declared war on the Nazis ONLY AFTER they declared war on the US. If the US was such a high-minded nation as the other review implies, America would have declared war on Germany the moment Nazi troops entered Poland. Related to this, millions of Jews tried to flee Europe during the 1930's and 1940's. Many of them tried to enter the US. The US rejected most of them and only allowed in those with political connections, those with money, and those with training in quantum physics, nuclear physics, weapons technology (Einstein, Oppenheimer, etc...), and others that could help US science and technology. If the US was such a moral nation, it would have allowed in all the Jews. We, America, defeated the Nazis because they declared war on us, and posed a mortal threat to us. This is no different and no better than one street gang eliminating another street gang that steps on its turf.
b. During the Cold War, the US intervened militarily in other countries to prevent the spread of communism. This was often and usually done without the explicit consent of the populations of the host countries. Vietnam is a prime example. Throughout the 1960s, the US military frequently held secret, mock elections in villages throughout South Vietnam. The Communist candidates nearly always won, even when the US-backed candidates had more funding and resources to bribe the electorate. Why? Because the Communist candidates offered what the people wanted. This is why there was never an election in South Vietnam during the US occupation. America did not care about what the South Vietnamese wanted; we only cared about what we wanted.
c. During the Cold War, the US provided aid to other countries that publicly supported the fight against communism. An example is South Africa. As long as the white government publicly opposed communism, the US government and US corporations turned a blind eye towards apartheid. It was only the civil rights movement, and especially black activists that brought this to a halt in the 1980s.
These and other experiences in countries around the world prove beyond a doubt that America did not care about liberty, justice, freedom and democracy in other countries, but only that they oppose communists. The question then begs as to why America was so interested in opposing communism. This leads to the last point argued in this book. Every empire needs an opposite; Greece had Persia, Rome had Carthage, the English had first the Spanish and then later Napoleon. We had communists. Communists are bad for business because they believe in communal, non-transferable rights to everything, which is anathema to the concept of individual, transferable ownership of anything, the basis of capitalism and business. Who runs America? Not civil rights leaders like Caeser Chavez or Martin Luther King Jr. Not progressive politicians like Eugene Debs or Ralph Nader. No, America is run by businessmen (current and ex) and those who cater to business interests. It was Robert McNamara, JFK and others connected to the business world who led America and its naïve president LBJ into Vietnam, not those who were fighting for freedom and liberty like MLK Jr. or Malcolm X.
In all, this is a great book to read, though the text is tough and hard to work through.
Picking up on a few key theoretical points not included in other reviews. Harvey is pressing an academic point within the broad Marxian tradition-- a point which also has broad practical consequences for confronting imperialism's latest incarnation. A central contention is that the capitalist world has been experiencing a crisis of overaccumulation since about 1973, as evidenced by a lack of opportunities for profitable investment (for which, by the way, he offers no statistical data, but which is not at issue here). Growth prior to the 1973 watershed, he argues, was driven by expanded reproduction with the US exercising hegemonic authority as a result of its WWII reorganization of old European colonialism. However, for various reasons (chiefly Vietnam era inflation) this regime broke down. At that point, he argues, the much-marginalized neo-liberal thinking of von Mises and von Hayek began to get a sympathetic hearing and commenced its long march through the institutions of the capitalist world. This new strategy utilizes neo-liberal measures, such as trade and finance liberalization (IMF, World Bank, GATT, et al.) to force open hitherto closed or regulated foreign markets, thereby helping to employ surplus capital. A related tool is to force devaluation upon a target economy, enabling foreign investors to buy cheaply and improve opportunity for increased profit margins. Thus, in broad outline, a new form of imperialism has arisen, one that remains similar to its classic colonial predecessor in that it still seeks to relieve accumulation problems at home by shifting profitability problems abroad, sometimes forcibly so.
Harvey descibes this new imperialism as accumulation by dispossession, a controversial description since dispossession in classic Marxist thinking is supposed to be restricted to the primitive forms of accumulation of times gone by. Still, the evidence is considerable given the wave of privatization of formerly public assets (water and education, in particular) in many parts of the world, (think also of recent attacks on Social Security). Indeed, these institutional measures inside and outside the US, do in fact resemble the classic "enclosues" of capital's earlier, more primitive stage. Recent attacks on formerly state-sponsored economies such as Yugoslavia's and Iraq's amount to further cases in point. But, again, this revived dispossession need not depend on military invasion; the subtler form attacks through the avenues of capital markets and state-sponsored privatization. Though the current period is dominated by dispossession, Harvey points out that accumulation by reproduction still continues. In fact, he asserts, the two are `organically' related and `dialectically' connected, for which however he offers scant elaboration.
The practical upshot of imperialism by dispossession is to force a shift in anti-imperialist thinking away from the familiar strategies that challenged the pre-1973 expanded reproduction regime. That earlier response stressed organizing the proletariat into a political force in order to seize state power in behalf of socialist principles. Movements outside that exclusive strategy were considered secondary at best, and counter-revolutionary at worst. Though this effort failed in its primary task, the author points out that it's hard to conceive of Europe's social democracies or America's New Deal as taking place without the single-minded drive of communist party politics. However, these methods are now clearly inadequate for confronting neo-liberalism and its capacity to bypass both organized labor and state power (consider neo-liberalism's sabotage of France's Mitterand in his effort to deepen socialist programs in the 1980's). Instead, current forms of resistance are much more diverse and localized, as evidenced by Mexico's Zapatista movement or Bolivian resistance to water privatization schemes. If there's a central rallying cry among these diverse groups, it's opposition to `globalization', at least in neo-liberal form. Generally, the central challenge facing anti-imperialists, as Harvey sees it, is to combine the wisdom of former strategies with the developing modes of today-- a not inconsiderable task, to say the least.
All in all, this is a stimulating read. There is much to digest, especially in grappling with the theoretical aspects. It's important to point out that Harvey approaches the topic as a critical observer and not as an economist, a fact which some may count as a fault since many of the conclusions rest on economic data. Still and all, the work remains an important prism for examining current trends.
- Excellent book...
D. Harvey places in context the recent developments in US foreign policy. He wrote this book before April 2003 yet, he could still easily see through the smoke screen arguments of WMD, democracy!
Concerning Iraq, Harvey argued that the main goal of USA was regime change and to establish a client state there to control the oil reserves & routes of Middle East. He reminds the US had plans set up for a conflict with Iraq much before the first Gulf War.
Harvey notes the existence of a US empire was long recognized by leftists long ago. It was only after 9/11 when the conservatives started also to recognize this empire and in fact argued for the benefits of one. During Clinton years, this American empire was more like the old Ottoman Empire, a tolerant one with light footprints. Now, it is more like the hard-pressing Roman Empire, trying to change cultures wholesale, not satisfied with only the consent of governments. Most Americans don't understand this, but the pressure by USA in less developed countries in fact causes only resentment and anger there.
He also speculates the war may be a method to distract Americans from rebelling against the government because of deteriorating conditions in economy.
Overall, it is an easy short read containing substantial arguments.
They seek him here, they seek him there,
The G-Men seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven, or is he in hell?
Where's that damned elusive Pimpernel?
(with apologies to Baroness Orczy)
The famed fictional Pimpernel, Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart., enraged revolutionary France by snatching aristocrats from the jaws of the guillotine. Our modern version, a curious Australian name Julian Assange, has outraged the United States and given its citizens a chance to see its government at work abroad – and it's not a pretty sight.
Ignore all the screams from official Washington and angry Republicans about violations of security. Bureaucrats the world over hate like crazy to see their blunders, double-dealing and incompetence exposed to public gaze.
But far from the "9/11 of diplomacy," as Italy's overexcited Italian foreign minister proclaimed, so far the WikiLeaks revelations don't offer much that is new – at least to this veteran journalist and intelligence observer. Lots of amusing gossip, yes, but no bombshells – yet. And a rather melancholy view of an empire that seems on its way out.
Decent people may be shocked by reading about Washington's heavy-handed treatment of friends and foes alike, its bullying, use of diplomats as junior-grade spies, narrow-minded views, and snide remarks about world leaders. But more Americans seem annoyed by the leaks than by the imperial diplomatic hubris of their elected government.
The 19th century American cynic Ambrose Bierce aptly defined diplomacy as, "the patriotic art of lying for one's country."
WikiLeaks has given the public a badly needed sharper view of Afghanistan as a cesspool of corruption and drug-dealing. Americans who believe government agitprop about building democracy and human rights in Afghanistan, should be particularly shocked and dismayed.
It was also interesting to see US diplomatic cables showing many of Pakistan's politicians and senior generals as little better than obsequious house servants for Uncle Sam. More Pakistanis will now believe their nation has indeed been virtually occupied by the United States.
The new anthem of Pakistan's government should be the old calypso song, "Working for the Yankee dollar!"
For cynical professionals, WikiLeaks showed business as usual in US foreign policy. They reaffirm that great powers really want obedience, not international cooperation or improved relations.
Even the British came across looking more like Jeeves the Butler than our equal partners in the hallowed – and quite spurious – "special relationship." The French will take special delight in this embarrassing portrait of "perfide Albion."
Having almost joined the US State Department many eons ago, I understood that the cables released by WikiLeaks were written by career diplomats who invariably follow the State Department's current party line. These cables are official bureaucratic reporting, not independent fact, as most people wrongly believe. They tell Washington exactly what it wants to hear.
Gone for good are the days when outspoken senior diplomats used to advise Washington it was badly mistaken, or present a very different view of events.
For a diplomat, telling Washington it's wrong is a surefire way to get transferred to the US Embassy in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, or Monrovia, Liberia. Or face the end of one's career. That's why I decided not to take up a job offered me on State's Mideast desk.
I've seen US and British diplomats fired or sidelined who dared speak the truth or oppose the party line. When Hillary Clinton tells you Uzbekistan is a flowering democracy, you better believe her and keep repeating this canard.
That's why so far there have been no big surprises from WikiLeaks. Note the total absence of any criticism of Israel in spite of the fact that it is so deeply involved in making US Mideast policy. In fact, we have seen Israel's viewpoint, particularly towards Iran, woven through WikiLeaks – and no dissenting opinions.
Sound foreign policy should be built on the productive conflict of thesis, antithesis, and the resulting synthesis. When every diplomat sings from the same script, something is very wrong.
US Arab allies were also treated with kid gloves. Not a peep to date about rigged elections in Egypt, human rights violations by Israel, torture by Morocco or about Algeria's exceptionally brutal regime that even proudly called itself, "the eradicators."
The Saudis were depicted as snarling in private about Iran's nuclear program. In fact, the Gulf Arabs do not fear Iran's nuclear policies so much as the threat of Iranian-style Islamic revolution that would sweep away the corrupt Arab oil monarchs, our local satraps, and replace them by populist Islamic regimes that would not jump to Washington's tune or buy tens of billions of American arms they cannot use.
But what we get is all Iranian nuclear threat, all the time. The Arab oil monarchs do not speak for their people, any more than Egypt's US-backed dictator, Husni Mubarak, represents his heavily-police people. Note there was not a peep of protest from Washington over this weekend's crudely rigged "election" farce in Egypt.
Leaks about Turkey being a "terrorist state" were absurd. Turkey is fast emerging as a major power under the most effective democratic government it has ever had and should remain a key US ally.
So was the claim that China favorably views a US-South Korean takeover of North Korea. This is either arrant nonsense or a devious Chinese ploy to confuse US policy makers.
There's also something about WikiLeaks that smells nasty to me. I sense the leaks have been heavily censored, or cherry-picked before the public saw them. Much seems to be missing. But what these missing pieces are remains an unknown.
For example, the New York Times, one of the recipients of the entire leak package of thousands of cables, appeared to use them selectively to push its pro-war position in Afghanistan and press for war against Iran. The "revelations" brought cheers from the war party.
But where was information about involvement of Afghanistan's Tajik-Uzbek Northern Alliance, the key US ally there, in running the drug trade? Or the influential Afghan Communist Party?
Call them the dogs that didn't bark.
The US media and Congress have been blasting WikiLeaks for "treason" or "terrorism," and demanding it be silenced – while gleefully using parts of the leaks to promote war against Iran. US media and Congress seem to have forgotten about free speech. Or the right of Americans to know what their government is really up to around the globe.
Some of America's dimmer Republican politicians called for charges of "terrorism" against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Terrorism has become America's catch-all charge for annoying or rebellious activity, much as the Soviets used to charge people with being "enemies of the state."
Any people or groups forcefully opposing US policy abroad is now branded "terrorist" and added to Washington's blacklist. I refuse to use the term, "terrorist," preferring instead, "anti-American," which is far more accurate. President George W. Bush made the US detested or scorned around the globe. After a surge of hope, President Barack Obama failed to ameliorate America's battered image.
Lots of anti-Americans out there, but we can't brand them all "terrorists" or we will be fighting the world in a hopeless struggle.
The uproar over WikiLeaks may also well spur efforts by the hard right to impose censorship on the Internet, which has replaced the fawning corporate media as the people's tribune.
Interestingly, the WikiLeaks furor comes as the combined 16 US intelligence agencies are reportedly preparing to release a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) unanimously concluding Iran is not building nuclear weapons. Quite a coincidence, to say the least.
Washington sources say this latest NIE reconfirms the previous 2007 NIE finding that Iran had ceased all development of nuclear arms four years earlier. Before the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, CIA and UN reports that Saddam Hussein's regime had no weapons of mass destruction were ignored or covered up by the Bush White House, which was racing toward war.
Now, a fierce struggle over the next NIE is raging in Washington between groups urging war against Iran and the US intelligence community and elements in the Pentagon. There are still officials in Washington who put America's national interests first and resist bending to political pressure or financial inducements.
The upright Adm. Dennis Blair, the last US national intelligence director, was reportedly ousted because he refused to endorse claims Iran was making nuclear weapons.
President Barack Obama appears to have ducked this explosive issue. Politically wounded and unable to fully control all the levers of presidential power, Obama seems unwilling or unable to stand up to the pro-war party.
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks is at least doing in part what America's elected leaders and supposed free media should have been doing: telling citizens what's really going on.
January 3, 2011
The WikiLeaks revelations have shined a light on the dark nature of U.S. foreign policy. As Eric Margolis recently described it: "Washington's heavy-handed treatment of friends and foes alike, its bullying, use of diplomats as junior-grade spies, narrow-minded views, and snide remarks about world leaders."
As much as I, an American, hate to say it, U.S. foreign policy is actually much worse. It is aggressive, reckless, belligerent, and meddling. It sanctions the destabilization and overthrow of governments, the assassination of leaders, the destruction of industry and infrastructure, the backing of military coups, death squads, and drug traffickers, and imperialism under the guise of humanitarianism. It supports corrupt and tyrannical governments and brutal sanctions and embargoes. It results in discord, strife, hatred, and terrorism toward the United States.
The question, then, is simply this: Can U.S. foreign policy be fixed? Although I am not very optimistic that it will be, I am more than confident that it can be.
I propose a four-pronged solution from the following perspectives: Founding Fathers, military, congressional, libertarian. In brief, to fix its foreign policy the United States should implement a Jeffersonian foreign policy, adopt Major General Smedley Butler's Amendment for Peace, follow the advice of Congressman Ron Paul, and do it all within the libertarian framework of philosopher Murray Rothbard.
Thomas Jefferson, our first secretary of state and third president, favored a foreign policy of "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations - entangling alliances with none." This policy was basically followed until the Spanish-American War of 1898. Here is the simple but profound wisdom of Jefferson:
No one nation has a right to sit in judgment over another.
We wish not to meddle with the internal affairs of any country, nor with the general affairs of Europe.
I am for free commerce with all nations, political connection with none, and little or no diplomatic establishment.
We have produced proofs, from the most enlightened and approved writers on the subject, that a neutral nation must, in all things relating to the war, observe an exact impartiality towards the parties.
No judgment, no meddling, no political connection, and no partiality: this is a Jeffersonian foreign policy.
U.S. Marine Corps Major General Butler was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. After leaving the military, he authored the classic work War Is a Racket. Butler proposed an Amendment for Peace to provide an "absolute guarantee to the women of America that their loved ones never would be sent overseas to be needlessly shot down in European or Asiatic or African wars that are no concern of our people." Here are its three planks:
1. The removal of members of the land armed forces from within the continental limits of the United States and the Panama Canal Zone for any cause whatsoever is hereby prohibited.
2. The vessels of the United States Navy, or of the other branches of the armed service, are hereby prohibited from steaming, for any reason whatsoever except on an errand of mercy, more than five hundred miles from our coast.
3. Aircraft of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps is hereby prohibited from flying, for any reason whatsoever, more than seven hundred and fifty miles beyond the coast of the United States.
Butler also reasoned that because of "our geographical position, it is all but impossible for any foreign power to muster, transport and land sufficient troops on our shores for a successful invasion." In this he was echoing Jefferson, who recognized that geography was one of the great advantages of the United States: "At such a distance from Europe and with such an ocean between us, we hope to meddle little in its quarrels or combinations. Its peace and its commerce are what we shall court."
And then there is our modern Jeffersonian in Congress, Rep. Ron Paul, the only consistent voice in Congress from either party for a foreign policy of peace and nonintervention. In a speech on the House floor several months before the invasion of Iraq, Ron Paul made the case for a foreign policy of peace through commerce and nonintervention:
A proper foreign policy of non-intervention is built on friendship with other nations, free trade, and open travel, maximizing the exchanges of goods and services and ideas.
We should avoid entangling alliances and stop meddling in the internal affairs of other nations - no matter how many special interests demand otherwise. The entangling alliances that we should avoid include the complex alliances in the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO.
The basic moral principle underpinning a non-interventionist foreign policy is that of rejecting the initiation of force against others. It is based on non-violence and friendship unless attacked, self-determination, and self-defense while avoiding confrontation, even when we disagree with the way other countries run their affairs. It simply means that we should mind our own business and not be influenced by special interests that have an ax to grind or benefits to gain by controlling our foreign policy. Manipulating our country into conflicts that are none of our business and unrelated to national security provides no benefits to us, while exposing us to great risks financially and militarily.
For the libertarian framework necessary to ensure a foreign policy of peace and nonintervention, we can turn to libertarian political philosopher and theoretician Murray Rothbard:
The primary plank of a libertarian foreign policy program for America must be to call upon the United States to abandon its policy of global interventionism: to withdraw immediately and completely, militarily and politically, from Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, from everywhere. The cry among American libertarians should be for the United States to withdraw now, in every way that involves the U.S. government. The United States should dismantle its bases, withdraw its troops, stop its incessant political meddling, and abolish the CIA. It should also end all foreign aid - which is simply a device to coerce the American taxpayer into subsidizing American exports and favored foreign States, all in the name of "helping the starving peoples of the world." In short, the United States government should withdraw totally to within its own boundaries and maintain a policy of strict political "isolation" or neutrality everywhere.
The U.S. global empire with its 1,000 foreign military bases and half a million troops and mercenary contractors in three-fourths of the world's countries must be dismantled. This along with the empire's spies, covert operations, foreign aid, gargantuan military budgets, abuse and misuse of the military, prison camps, torture, extraordinary renditions, assassinations, nation building, spreading democracy at the point of a gun, jingoism, regime changes, military alliances, security guarantees, and meddling in the affairs of other countries.
U.S. foreign policy can be fixed. The United States would never tolerate another country building a string of bases around North America, stationing thousands of its troops on our soil, enforcing a no-fly zone over American territory, or sending their fleets to patrol off our coasts. How much longer will other countries tolerate these actions by the United States? We have already experienced blowback from the Muslim world for our foreign policy. And how much longer can the United States afford to maintain its empire?
It is time for the world's policeman, fireman, security guard, social worker, and busybody to announce its retirement.
Laurence M. Vance is a free-lance writer in central Florida. He is the author of The Revolution That Wasn't. Visit his website: www.vancepublications.com. Send him email.
Why is the United States losing credibility with the Philippines-one of its most dependable Pacific Rim allies? Base closures, pollution and military misconduct have strained relations between two traditional friends and allies. What does this portend for the future?
Base closures, toxic waste disputes, distrust of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank as American "pawns" and concern over conduct of United States servicemen: these issues have strained United States/ Philippines relations in the 1990s. What does the future hold for these traditional friends and allies? And why is the United States losing credibility with one of its most dependable and most important strategic partners in the Pacific Rim?American troops have once again landed on Philippine soil. But this landing was only for a joint military exercise, held from January 31 to March 3 of this year, by approximately 2,500 United States troops and their Filipino counterparts. The name of the exercise was "Balikatan 2000"-a Filipino phrase which means, "shouldering the load together." It is an appropriate description of the cooperation and good will these two nations have experienced, as friends and allies, for most of this century.
The United States and the Philippines have historically enjoyed an unusually warm and intimate relationship. "Filipino-Americans are our largest overseas population. Filipinos of all ages love the United States," former President Fidel Ramos said in a 1997 interview by former U.S. Secretary of the Navy James Webb ("Our Friend-the Philippines," Parade Magazine, May 25, 1997, p. 5).
According to the article, as of 1997, an estimated 30,000 Americans were visiting the Philippines each month. Approximately 2 million Filipino-Americans were living in the United States, making them the largest Asian-American population nationwide. As of 1997, the United States has been the Philippines' biggest trading partner, accounting for 33 percent of the Philippines' exports and 20 percent of its imports. Former Secretary Webb commented, "With almost every Filipino, one finds an affection for the U.S. and a desire to continue our unique historical relationship."
Yet that "unique historical relationship" is being strained. The recent Balikatan 2000 exercises belie a growing undercurrent of distrust of American involvement in the Philippines. Although this year's Balikatan exercises were the 16th since the series began in 1981, nearly five years had passed since the last exercise. Bitter anti-American protests rocked the nation in 1998 as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which laid the legal groundwork for the American troops' visit, was vigorously debated but ultimately ratified by the Philippine Senate.
What does the future hold for these long-time allies? And why is the credibility of the United States waning in the eyes of many in a nation that has been, historically, a trusted friend and loyal supporter?
Roots of Tension, Bells of Heroism
The history of the two countries' intimate but sometimes tense relationship goes back to the turn of the 20th century. When the United States declared war on Spain in 1898, Filipinos were also fighting a desperate struggle to overturn more than 300 years of Spanish domination. U.S. Commodore George Dewey steamed into Manila Bay and was at first considered an ally by Emilio Aguinaldo of the Filipino resistance movement. Dewey used the resistance movement to help defeat the Spanish.
However, Filipino hopes of independence were dashed when the United States declared the Philippines a protectorate. Many Americans are not aware that several years of war followed-a war that pitted American occupation forces against Filipino guerillas.
Although the Filipino rebellion was eventually put down, this period of history left deep scars. One wound which causes pain yet today was the controversy of the "Bells of Balangiga." During the Filipino resistance movement, church bells were used to warn local resistance fighters of oncoming American forces. During one skirmish, on September 28, 1901, 48 American soldiers were surprised and killed by Filipino guerillas. In retaliation, the 9th Infantry Battalion Commander, U.S. Brig. Gen. James Smith ordered his men to kill all the male natives of the island of Samar aged 10 years and above. This action came to be known as the "Samar Massacre." As a prize of war, American forces from this battalion took some of the church bells home with them, two of which are installed at the U.S. Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Numerous Philippine government efforts to reclaim the bells, especially during the Centennial celebrations in 1998, have fallen on deaf ears among veterans groups in Wyoming. Senate President Pro Tempore Blas Ople said he hoped "the Philippines will soon be the rightful owner and custodian of the two bells that symbolize the heroism of Filipino and American soldiers during the dark period of our history" ("Senate supports return of Balangiga bells," Balita, March 9, 1998).
Retired Major Daniel Tarter, who in the 1980s commanded the same unit that was involved in the raid, has been a proponent of returning the prized bells. He commented on the damaging effects of this controversy on United States-Philippines relations:
"I don't think they understand the damage they are causing to the image of the United States and the American military in Southeast Asia, not just the Philippines. It is high time to let the Balangiga bells go home" ("Former U.S. Army Officer Laments Delay of Balangiga Bells Return," Balita, March 13, 1998).
Despite the good relations between the United States and the Philippines, it is controversies like the "Bells of Balangiga" that continue to cause ongoing friction.
Calls for Independence, Closure of Bases
With the close of World War II, the Cold War standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union showed the importance of strategic Clark Air Force Base and Subic Naval Base in the Philippines. During the 1980s, 16,000 American troops were stationed in the Philippines. The reason for this strong presence was the large fleet of Soviet ships kept in the Pacific Ocean-two dozen warships and a formidable air force were stationed at nearby Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam (Webb, p. 4). But with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, strident opponents of an American military presence demanded the closure of United States bases. Rising nationalism and calls for independence from American influence were two of the reasons.
In 1990, then-President Corazon Aquino rejected a United States plan for a 10-year extension of the bases' lease, which expired in 1991. Instead, she required all forces to leave within three years. In a Los Angeles Times article, President Aquino was quoted as saying, "[The bases] are not the heart of our economy, nor the soul of our political well-being. Certainly, they do not define our society... They are important, but they are not everything." In the same article, base opponent Sen. Wigberto E. Tanada complained, "They are the worst part of our national problems and not the solution." ("Aquino Calls for Orderly Pullout of U.S. Forces," Los Angeles Times, Bob Drogin, September 18, 1990). The base closings coincided with a general military reduction in three crucial Pacific Rim countries-the Philippines, South Korea and Japan.
A growing number of Filipinos today are deeply conscious of not wanting to be seen as cowing to the United States, but rather as a fully-independent nation in its own right. When President Joseph Estrada pledged support for the VFA to U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, the New Nationalist Alliance (Bayan) called the meeting a "complete sell-out of the Philippine interests." The leftist group said, "If there is one thing in grave peril to this country, it is the undermining of our national sovereignty through the ratification of the U.S.-RP [Republic of the Philippines] Visiting Forces Agreement. There is no immediate threat to this country." The group also accused Estrada, Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado and Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon of being United States "lackeys" who have "embraced the U.S. military strategic security in the region hook, line and sinker" ("Philippine Leftists Slam Estrada-Cohen Meeting as a 'Sell-Out,'" Balita, August 4, 1998).
Former Secretary Webb described well the contradiction. On the one hand, most Filipinos, especially from the older generation, are proud of the role their country played in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War. On the other hand, many Filipinos today are "now adamant about showing their independence from the U.S." (Webb, p. 4).
Toxic Waste and Social Irresponsibility
But old wounds and calls for nationalism are not the only reasons that a growing number of Filipinos are expressing chagrin over continued American involvement in the Philippines. Another reason is the social repercussions of the almost 100-year American presence. One such effect of United States involvement is the issue of toxic waste left by the exiting forces.
Recent reports have exposed the United States military as the source of many environmental disasters in countries hosting its bases. But some experts fear the worst may be former bases found in Third World countries, such as the Philippines. Reports point to tons of toxic waste dumped into Subic Bay. One Air Force official in Washington, when asked about environmental compliance at Clark Air Force Base, said that since there was no legal necessity to assess ecological damage on the sprawling base, no such survey was done. He added: "We comply with host country laws. In the Philippines, there are none, so we are not in violation of any" ("U.S. Military Leaves Toxic Trail Overseas," Los Angeles Times, John M. Broder, June 18, 1990).
Throughout the 1990s, ongoing environmental issues have strained relations between the United States and the Philippines. When Secretary Cohen visited the Philippines to lobby for passage of the VFA, reporters asked him when the United States would do something about base clean-up ("Visiting Forces Agreement Would Benefit Region." U.S. Department of State, Manila, August 3, 1998). During his visit with Vice President Al Gore during the 1998 APEC meetings in Kuala Lumpur, President Joseph Estrada brought up the same environmental issue, asking if the United States would help clean up the former bases ("U.S. Tells Erap RP Remains a Very Important Ally," Balita, November 24, 1998).
Although the American forces in the Balikatan 2000 exercises engaged in many community projects, such as giving free medical, dental and veterinary services to Filipinos, the media focused on how victims of toxic exposure were left out of the treatment ("US Medics Leave Out Toxic Waste 'Victims,'" The Philippine Star, Ding Cervantes, February 25, 2000).
While military might was a welcome deterrent against Communist aggression from the 1950s through the 1980s, the environmental question soured relations in the 1990s. It is another reason why American credibility in the Philippines has taken a turn for the worse.
Personal Conduct of Visiting Forces
During the vigorous and sometimes angry debates and protests prior to the return of American soldiers for joint exercises, one of the most emotional issues was the conduct of American soldiers. In particular, many opposed the introduction of American troops on the grounds that it would encourage prostitution.
The implication was also given that American troops would be granted total immunity in Philippine courts, even if arrested for wrongdoing. A September 17, 1998 article in the Today newspaper, entitled "Bases Treaty Rejection Recalled," pointed out that "the ratification of the VFA is facing strong opposition from different cause-oriented groups and the [Catholic] Church because of the provision which grants United States military personnel special privileges and access into the country, including alleged immunity from criminal prosecution by Philippine courts." The article briefly mentioned that legal immunity only applied to personnel while on duty. Off-duty personnel were fully responsible for their conduct and could be tried in the Philippine justice system. It also noted that the United States had been refused a similar request to exempt its overseas military personnel from the jurisdiction of a United Nations court accepted by 137 other countries.
Whether the VFA provided undue legal protection for American soldiers or not, the sad and deplorable issue was that the conduct of visiting forces was a major point of contention. United States military personnel are seen, not as good examples of high moral conduct, but rather the contrary.
Tools of American Imperialism?
Even though the United States and the Philippines enjoy a great deal of economic cooperation, this, too, is becoming a source of consternation to some Filipinos.
In some anti-American camps, the United States is identified as a hindrance to the Philippines' economic success. In a statement before the Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reforms on October 19, 1999, President Joseph Estrada was quoted as saying that 11 major industrial projects in the 1980s did not succeed because the plan "was sabotaged by the Americans. They didn't want us to be strong economically, because a strong economy would spur nationalism, which means people would be against the U.S. bases." ("The Roots of Poverty," Today, Alejandro Lichauco, October 23, 1999). He went on to say that "we must not antagonize the Americans," but his previous statement showed there is a powerful movement in the country which is distrustful of American economic intervention and involvement. The article went on to say that these initiatives were resisted by the IMF and the World Bank-which some in Asia see as pawns of American economic policy. The author mentioned that the same thing happened during the Aquino administration, when the IMF and the World Bank discouraged plans for a full-scale integrated steel industry.
Regardless of the truth of the matter, the unmistakable perception among some is that the IMF and the World Bank are United States tools to keep Third World countries in subjection to the dominant economies of the West, not to promote their development and growth.
Some blamed the 1997 Asian currency disaster on economic policies and intervention of the West. In an article entitled, "The Asian Man's Burden," by Herman Tiu Laurel (Today, December 9, 1997), the author stated that free trade between East and West is just a new method of "colonization." "Asia should never allow the colonial history to be repeated. It can never fully develop until it is free of Western imperialism. Asia can prosper and grow without the West; it is self-sufficient in science and technology, in markets and resources. This is why the West has tried to destroy every proposition of Asia to be left alone... What that currency crisis has triggered, and championed by the likes of Mahathir, is the final stage of the struggle to throw off the yoke, the Asian man's burden, since the 17th-century colonialism of the West."
Why the Loss of Credibility?
Why this perception? Why has the United States lost much of its credibility in the Philippines-one of its closest friends and allies? Is it because of the sometimes-bittersweet history between these two nations? Is it the issue of toxic waste? Is it the issue of immunity and conduct of American soldiers? Is it the perception of IMF "meddling" in the economy? Is it simply the desire of an increasingly independent-minded nation to throw off the last yoke of "Western imperialism?"
Although these are all components of the United States-Philippines relationship today, are they the real, underlying reasons for the United States' loss of credibility in the Philippines? The surprising answer is "no!" It is much larger than that-it was prophesied! The United States, like Great Britain before it, was prophesied to lose the pride of its power (Leviticus 26:19), to lose its powerful sea gates that have enabled it to achieve global domination in this century! (For more information on the identities and future of the American and British-descended nations, write for our free booklet, What's Ahead for America and Britain?)
The United States and Great Britain have enjoyed unprecedented success in the past two centuries. They have had power over the "gates of their enemies," as prophesied in Genesis 22:17: "...in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies" (KJV). "Gates" refer to chokepoints or strategic bases-Clark Air Force Base and Subic Naval Base have been two vital elements in the American military presence in the Pacific. Analysts say the removal of a United States military presence in the Philippines represented "the most significant security realignment in Asia since the American retreat from Vietnam..." When voices in the Philippines first began demanding the removal of American troops from Clark and Subic, the Pentagon insisted that its Philippine bases were "key to protecting vital sea lanes in the Indian and Pacific Oceans" ("Aquino Calls for Orderly Pullout of U.S. Forces," Los Angeles Times, Bob Drogin, September 18, 1990).
Long ago, because of Abraham's obedience, God made certain temporal promises to him and to his descendants. He said in Genesis 12:3, "I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Yet because of U.S. national and personal sins, its blessings are being taken away one by one. Instead of being a good example, Israel (including today's United States) was prophesied to become a byword. Deuteronomy 28:37 says, "And you shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all nations where the Lord will drive you." The NIV says "you will become... an object of scorn and ridicule."
Why is the U.S. losing credibility among its most staunch supporters and its most loyal allies? It is because it has turned its back on God, so God is turning His back on the United States and the British-descended peoples all over the earth. Jeremiah 4:22 says: "For My people are foolish, they have not known Me. They are silly children, and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge." The direct result of this rampant immorality and materialism is the loss of allies. Verse 30 goes on to say, "And when you are plundered, what will you do? Though you clothe yourself with crimson, though you adorn yourself with ornaments of gold, though you enlarge your eyes with paint, in vain you will make yourself fair; your lovers will despise you; they will seek your life." It is going to get worse before it gets better.
But it is not too late! If the U.S. repents, seeks God and endeavors to use its national and material blessings not "as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13), it can be a powerful example of the type of servant leadership God intended! Otherwise the American people will have to be punished in the worst time of trouble ever to come upon the face of the earth (Matthew 24:21).
It is not likely that the U.S., as a whole, will repent. However, if Americans individually begin to really walk with God, and serve and obey Him, they can be protected from the coming prophesied calamities. And, more importantly, they will be training as firstfruits to rule with Christ at His return. That will be a glorious time when all nations, including the United States and the Philippines-though historical allies-will, for the first time, really experience the mutual respect, deep understanding and real lasting national friendship that God intended them to have!
America is not a Democracy - it never was. It was designed intentionally as a Republic by the founding fathers. [knew this before Skywalker TOS yapped about it incessantly]
We do not vote on line item basis for what our government does.
That fact agreed upon, your post might be reworded and posed about the American government. I would disagree if it was regarding the US government in 1944.
The people of the US *do* have a history of caring. They have poured out their hearts and dollars generously to many others on this planet. Certainly they were less predatory than the Europeans during the colonial era (perhaps because they joined the feeding frenzy late).
They relate far better to suffering of a single person than a group of people suffering (why is that?). But they also have tried to solve perceived injustice without knowing the facts well and used meataxe tactics at times - to the deep resentment of peoples they affected.
But Americans DO care and Americans and their government and its actions should be distinquished.
December 21, 2004 | AsiaSource
Anatol Lieven is senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. A journalist, writer, and historian, Mr Lieven writes on a range of security and international affairs issues. He was previously editor of Strategic Comments published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London.
Anatol Lieven's journalism career includes work as a correspondent for the Times (London) in the former Soviet Union from 1990 to 1996. Prior to 1990, Lieven was correspondent for the Times in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He also worked as a freelance journalist in India.
Mr Lieven's articles have been published in a number of journals and newspapers, among them The Financial Times, The London Review of Books, The Nation, and The International Herald Tribune.
In this interview with AsiaSource, Mr Lieven addresses the urgent foreign policy issues confronting the United States in the theoretical context laid out in his recent book, America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism (New York: Oxford UP, 2004).
You argue in your book, America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism that American policies following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, "divided the West, further alienated the Muslim world and exposed America itself to greatly increased danger." You suggest that this response must be understood in the context of the particular character of American nationalism. What are the features of American nationalism that are important in this respect?
In the book I suggested that there are two principal features of American nationalism, both of which were evident in the response to 9/11. These are, in spirit, to a great extent contradictory but they often run together in American public life.
- The first is a certain element of American messianism: the belief in America as a 'city on the hill', a light to the nations, which usually takes the form of a belief in the force of America's example. But at particular moments, and especially when America is attacked, it moves from a passive to an active form: the desire to go out and actually turn the world into America, as it were, to convert other countries to democracy, to the American way of life.
In principle, the desire to spread democracy in the world is of course not a bad thing. But there are two huge problems with it. One is that because this element of American messianism is so deeply rooted in American civic nationalism, in what has been called the "American Creed", and in fundamental aspects of America's national identity, it can produce - and after 9/11 did produce - an atmosphere of debate in America which is much more dominated by myth than by any serious look at the reality of the outside world. Myths about American benevolence, myths about America spreading freedom, myths about the rest of the world wanting America to spread freedom, as opposed to listening to what the rest of the world really has to say about American policies.
- national chauvinism, hatred of outsiders, and fear and contempt of the outside world. The second feature that cuts across this American messianism, however, is what I have called the "American antithesis", that is to say, those elements in the American nationalist tradition which actually contradict both American civic nationalism and the American Creed. These elements, which are very strong in parts of America, include national chauvinism, hatred of outsiders, and fear and contempt of the outside world. This is particularly true in the case of the Muslim world, both because America has been under attack from Muslim terrorists for almost two generations now, but also because of the relationship with Israel, and the way in which pro-Israeli influences here have contributed to demonizing the Muslim world in general.
This results in an incredible situation: on the one hand - and I am speaking here particularly of the neo-cons - the Bush administration wants to democratize the Muslim world, while on the other, neo-conservatives do not even bother to hide their contempt for Muslims and Arabs. Sometimes you hear, and even read, phrases like, "The only language that Arabs understand is force," "Let them hate us so long as they fear us" and so on. This is utterly contradictory: people saying they want to democratize the Arab world but displaying utter contempt for Arab public opinion. Of course this is not just a moral failing, or a propaganda failing. It also leads to practical disasters, like the extraordinary belief that you could pretend at least to be introducing democracy, and on the other hand, you could somehow impose Ahmed Chalabi on Iraqis as a pro-American strongman, and that somehow the local population would line up to salute you and happily accept this.
So these are very dangerous aspects of American nationalism. And these aspects by the way used to be very sharply and profoundly analyzed by great figures in the American intellectual tradition, conservative as well as liberal: figures like Reinhold Niebuhr, Richard Hoftstadter, Louis Hartz, George Kennan and William Fulbright. Though most of these figures were strong anti-Communists, they directed their critique at the reasons for the particular anti-Communist hysteria of the early 1950s, and at the reasons which led America to become involved in the war in Vietnam. And their arguments and insights are of tremendous importance to America today in understanding American behavior after 9/11.
But one of the striking and tragic things about the debate leading up to the Iraq war - although one can hardly call it a "debate" - was that the vast majority of it, outside certain relatively small left-wing journals, was conducted with almost no reference to the genesis of the Vietnam war, the debates which took place then, and the insights which were generated about aspects of the American tradition. Instead of analyzing what it was about their own system which was pulling them in the direction of war with Iraq, too many members of the American elite, including leading Democrats as well as Republicans, talked only about the Iraqi side.
Even that, of course, they got completely wrong, but they did not even once ask the obvious question: "What is it about our system that may make this a disaster?" After all is this not a general pattern of American behavior in the whole world by now? This business of a Green Zone in Baghdad, American officials bunkered down behind high-protective walls, with no contact with Iraqis, is this not part of a larger trend? Yet somehow it was assumed that in the case of Iraq it would be different, that America would go in, be welcomed with open arms, quickly reshape Iraq in accordance with American norms, and then quickly leave again.
You have said that, "Belief in the spread of democracy through American power is not usually consciously insincere. On the contrary, it is inseparable from American national messianism and the wider 'American Creed'". You have just talked about some of this, but could you elaborate your definition of American national messianism? And what do you think enables such naiveté - or perhaps cynicism?
As the American historian Richard Hofstadter said, "It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one." What really marks out America from the other Western democracies is not the content of America's democratic creed - because the basic principles are commonly held in all the democracies. Rather, it is the intensity and conformity with which these beliefs are held. This is because, precisely as Hofstadter said, these principles are or are felt to be essential to holding America together; that is, they are an essential part of the American national identity in a way that they are not to the British or the French or the German national identities.
This difference between the US and Europe may change of course because of the huge immigrant populations in Western Europe now. Western European countries too are having to rethink their identities and emphasize common values rather than common heritage or ancestry. But certainly up to now, America has stood out because of the extent of its commitment to this so-called American Creed. I should say here that the word 'creed' was chosen for this advisedly by a series of American thinkers (though the original phrase was G.K.Chesterton's) as suggesting an almost religious form of belief.
The extent to which this is fundamental to the American national identity and is widely believed to keep Americans together means that it is very difficult in this country to challenge these myths. They are also remarkably impervious to experience. Vietnam did not fundamentally change them, it only battered them for a while. Endless lessons in the Middle East have failed to change them. Now, despite the lesson of Iraq, there are still leading Democrats writing about the need to create alliances of democracies and spread democracy in the region. Not to ask what the people of the region actually want, not to ask about a sensible diplomatic strategy, but to use democratization as a substitute for any real strategy. This comes again from a central part of the American national and nationalist heritage.
There is some continuity in American foreign policy, as you suggest, from the Bush Sr. administration through Clinton to the present Bush administration. Although you argue that Clinton's multilateralism was more befitting of a stable hegemonic state, is it not the case that as far as policy is concerned, this was only a change in form rather than substance? And if so, what accounts for this extraordinary unanimity in foreign policy between the only two serious political parties in this country (further evidence of which was the Kerry campaign's inability to offer any policy alternatives to the most pressing foreign policy issues presently confronting the US: Iraq and Israel-Palestine)?
On the Middle East, both of the American parties are, frankly, crippled above all by their inability to confront the question of America's relationship with Israel. Indeed not just to confront it, but even to mention it, as we saw in the presidential debate.
On a range of other issues, though, Bush has not actually been as bad as many people think, or at least he has been much closer to Clinton - whatever that means. In the case of China, for example, the Bush administration came in with a very un-Clintonesque policy of confronting China, of containing China - and this could have led to some extremely dangerous results. But then 9/11 came along and ever since, the Bush administration has been pursuing an extremely Clintonesque policy of engaging China, of putting pressure on Taiwan not to declare independence, and so on. There was that moment in the presidential debates when it was Bush who was saying that the US needs a multilateral policy towards the threat of North Korea with a key role for China; a curious irony given the Bush administration's frequent celebration of its own unilateralism, but not actually wrong. Similarly with Russia, while I would not necessarily describe the Bush administration's policy as multilateralist, they have certainly been pursuing a very traditional, pragmatic, realist policy, and not an aggressive one.
The area where the Clinton and Bush administrations have moved farthest apart is in relations with Europe. Clearly the Bush administration is not nearly as interested in Europe as Clinton was, and it is not nearly as interested in NATO. I should emphasize here that it was not interested even in the eight months before 9/11, let alone afterwards. If Gore had won in 2000, there would have been a very real difference: he would have made a much greater effort to engage NATO and to consult with European governments after 9/11.
That does bring out certain key differences between Bush and the Clinton tradition. Of course they are both interested in expanding America's power in the world; they are both imperialists, in a certain sense. They both profess at least their belief in spreading democracy. But Clinton, I think, was much more of a genuine Wilsonian. Bush in many ways is a fake Wilsonian because while he professes this messianic, democratization line, he has completely ignored the other key aspect of Wilson's strategy: international cooperation, international institutions, creating a web of alliances and so forth. Clinton talked about this a great deal and was savagely attacked by the right-wing in this country for doing so. Clinton's idea was to place "America at the center of every world network" - a position which implies influence, leadership, and even hegemony, but also consultation and negotiation.
So when it comes to the differences between Bush and Clinton, and the similarities, one requires a rather nuanced picture in which in some ways they are closer than it appears, but in other ways, they are genuinely quite different.
In several articles and in your book, you point out that unlike in previous empires, the vast majority of ordinary Americans do not think of themselves as imperialist, or as possessing an empire. At the same time, you mention repeatedly the extent to which the American population is unaware of the policies pursued in its name, is indeed alarmingly ignorant of world affairs. Given this, how could they conceive of the United States as an imperial power? And why is the perception of "ordinary" Americans relevant to understanding the place of America in the world today?
If I remember rightly, according to a poll in Britain in the 1930s, a very small proportion of the British population could remember the name of more than two British colonies. They could remember maybe India and Australia, or probably they remembered the white colonies, but most of them could not remember the name of a single African colony. No one would ever have used that as an argument that the British people did not believe in empire; they were just ignorant.
In the book, I quote C. Vann Woodward on this subject, another great American critic of the past, whose insights I wanted to try to revive for contemporary Americans. Woodward talked about the American people as being bellicose but not militarist, and I think it is also true that they are bellicose but not imperialist. That said, this kind of bellicosity, this instinctive reaction to lash out if attacked or even if insulted, has been repeatedly, and by the way quite explicitly on the part of the neo-cons, used as a way of whipping up nationalist anger, and nationalist commitment to what are in fact imperialist projects.
This is a very old tradition in imperialism. In my book, I cite many examples from history to show that in general even at the height of the Western empires, ordinary Western people were not really very interested in great imperial projects if they were going to be expensive. They liked the idea of power and glory but they were very dubious about losing lives and spending large amounts of money to go out and conquer bits of Africa and so forth. If they could be convinced that this was not simply an imperialist project, but rather part of national rivalry with France or Germany, then it was possible to generate much more support.
In some ways, the American people do fit into this tradition. It is quite clear, for example, that even most of the ones who do consider themselves imperialist would be dead against the reintroduction of conscription in America. Even if it were proved to them that conscription was absolutely necessary in order to maintain America's imperial power in the world, they would not be persuaded. Equally the assorted jackasses who bray in the media about the American empire and the need for great sacrifices in its cause have shown no very ardent desire to go and serve themselves in Afghanistan or Iraq or anywhere else.
There is therefore a good deal of lack of underlying commitment to American power on the part of Americans themselves. More commitment certainly than exists almost anywhere else in the world by now but still not enough to generate a really full-scale imperial project. This also explains in part the relative pragmatism of the Bush administration in some areas of the world. After all even this administration recognizes that it cannot simultaneously run its present program in the Middle East and risk war with China and radically alienate Russia. If there were war with China or with North Korea then America would have to reintroduce conscription. Then the end of the American imperial project would be very close indeed.
Another differentiating feature of 19th century empires and the American empire is that the former were characterized by the so-called "civilizing mission" whereas the latter, in its self-conception, is motivated by the purely benevolent aspiration of spreading democracy and freedom. Are these two imperial strategies not more similar than they at first appear?
Well in some ways, yes, of course. The 19th century liberal-imperialist strategy was also enormously benevolent in its own esteem. The European powers conquered most of Africa while assuring their own populations and everybody else who would listen that this was all part of the process of ending slavery, expanding progress, bringing peace, spreading Christianity and so forth. Even the most ghastly European colonial project of all, King Leopold of Belgium's conquest of the Congo, professed benevolent goals: Belgian propaganda was all about bringing progress, railways and peace, and of course, ending slavery. In other words, hypocrisy is completely common to both, as it was to the Soviet or communist imperial project. So in that way they are very close.
But there is a critical difference. There was no absolutely intrinsic or self-evident clash between what the 19th century liberal imperialists said that they were going to do - leave aside what they actually did in terms of massacres, land theft, etc. - in terms of bringing progress and the inherent nature of their project, these were not radically incompatible because the 19th century liberal imperialists never talked about quickly bringing democracy to the countries they conquered. To have done so would have been logically completely counter to the assumptions of Western superiority and "native" cultural inferiority and incapacity for self-rule upon which the entire ideology of the "civilizing mission" was based.
When they did talk of bringing democracy, they only did in the context of the far future, something that might come about after several generations; in Africa, they talked about a thousand years of British or French rule eventually leading to self-government and democracy. In other words, they were absolutely clear and logical. These countries would need a long period, centuries literally, of Western authoritarian, imperial rule before they would be capable of self-government, constitutional rule, democracy and so forth. Indeed to an extent this was the way that it actually worked out: the British had ruled India or parts of India for 150 years before they introduced the first very limited local, district elections with fairly circumscribed powers and a franchise of less than 0.5 per cent of the population. They started doing that only from the 1880s on. They and the other liberal imperialists had a policy of what one might call authoritarian progress, not of democratization.
Now, of course, it is completely different. The liberal imperialists of today, because of the completely different ideological era in which we are living, have to say that what they are bringing is democracy. So they conquer a place and then within a year or two, they have to hold elections, they have to claim to be introducing free government and so forth. That is just, once again, absolutely, manifestly contradictory. There would have been nothing contradictory in the 19th century about imposing Ahmed Chalabi on Iraq; the British and French did that kind of thing again and again. They had some client ruler, some dissident prince or whatever, whom they wanted to make emir of Afghanistan or of somewhere in Africa, and they just marched in and imposed him. People may have criticized it, but there was no suggestion that this was incompatible with what they were setting out to do. Of course, if you say that you are bringing democracy, if you preach about democracy, if you say your whole moral position is based on democracy, and then you impose a puppet leader, then frankly you look not just hypocritical but ridiculous, which is essentially how the US appears in much of the Muslim world.
In the wake of nationalist movements in the colonial world, imperial powers - in particular Britain - slowly ceded a variety of powers to local elites, in effect developing sophisticated ways of ruling through them (what Marxists called a "comprador elite"). Is it possible to say that the US empire runs the Third World - of which the Muslim world is an important part - through such a model of what has been called "indirect rule"?
Yes, to a considerable extent this is the case. Of course the comprador model, in the strict Latin American sense, never quite fits because very few governments elsewhere in the world have been so completely subservient as some of the Latin American elites in the past. After all, Egypt still tries to take a different line on Israel; Jordan supported Saddam Hussein in 1991; Saudi Arabia could be seen as a comprador state in that it exists to produce and export oil, but clearly in its internal arrangements, it is not at all responsive to what America would like.
Perhaps it may be more difficult these days to run such manifestly comprador systems given that, as I suggested earlier, there does tend to be more democratic pressure from below than in the 19th century. A good example is Russia, although admittedly Russia also has its tradition of Great Power status and so forth which prevents it from becoming completely subservient to America. As I wrote in a previous book on the reasons for Russia's defeat in Chechnya between 1994 and 1996, there was a real attempt by America in the 1990s, with tremendous help from the Russian elites themselves, to turn Russia into a kind of comprador state, whose elites would be subservient to America in foreign policy and would exist to export raw materials to the West and transfer money to Western bank accounts. In the end, neither the Russian state nor the Russian people would accept that. The Yeltsin order was replaced by a kind of authoritarian, nationalist backlash under Putin. One sees the same thing in a rather different form in Venezuela, for example.
So I think there are strong elements of this comprador tradition in the present American-dominated international system but at the same time it is a troubled and contested setup.
You have said that the era inaugurated by the attacks of September 11th, 2001, brought out into the open "the complete absence of democratic modernization, or indeed any modernization, in all too much of the Muslim world." What do you mean by modernization, and how is its absence related to the professed motivations for earlier imperial conquests?
How many hours do I have! Modernization is after all such a tricky concept. If we take our canonical attitudes to modernization from Max Weber, as most of us do, unconsciously at least, then of course, as I wrote in the book, America itself today does not conform to Eurocentric patterns of modernization!
Certainly much of the Muslim world - not all by any means, there are exceptions, but certainly large parts of the Middle East - does not conform to many of the criteria laid down by Weber for successful modern states. These countries have clearly not been able to imitate some of the East Asian countries in bringing about radical economic growth and reform. Many of these countries remain ruled by what are essentially clans. The famous unkind phrase of Charles Glass of Arab states being "tribes with flags" is, I am afraid, rather accurate. Syria is a monarchy of the Alawite clan. The Ba'ath started very much as a modernizing fascistic movement, like fascists in Italy, but broke down into a kind of monarchical oligarchy. Then there are the formal autocratic monarchies in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Morocco. As East Asia has demonstrated, authoritarian rule as such is not necessarily an obstacle to economic modernization and progress. But then again, this has not worked in the Middle East either.
One of the tragedies is precisely that so many different models have been tried in the region and all in a sense have failed, if not absolutely then certainly to bring the countries concerned up to the economic level of the West or East Asia. The failure to compete successfully with the West has been horribly demoralizing in view of the Muslim world's past cultural and economic superiority, now followed by several hundred years of relative decline. Just as for several centuries Muslim states exploited the relative weakness of the Christian world to expand their power, so later Western states took advantage of Muslim weakness to conquer most of the Muslim world. This was followed by the establishment in the heart of the Muslim world of Israel, a tremendously militarily and economically successful Western surrogate power. Israel's successes, and Israel's oppression of the Palestinians, have underlined various aspects of Arab failure. Israel is in no sense the originator of these historical feelings of resentment and humiliation, but in recent decades has acted as a catalyst and focus for these older and deeper feelings.
If you take the example of Pakistan, the part of the Muslim world that I know best, that country of course is in some ways a vastly more modern society than it was 50 years ago, but then again in some ways it is not. In this context, it is interesting to ask what constitutes "modernity" in the case of political religion. Radical Islam in Pakistan and elsewhere is after all in many ways a modern force. It is not just a reaction to modernity, but also uses modern methods so one certainly cannot say that it is purely reactionary or regressive.
But certainly so far there has been in Pakistan a failure of political modernization in the form of democracy. Pakistan has essentially remained a state that is run by the military and the civil service. The political elites, with the exception of the MQM and to some extent the Islamists, cannot really be described as modern political parties with a serious mass base. The PPP is a cult of personality party presiding over an alliance of big landowners and urban bosses. And while the military and civil service have held the country together, they have obviously failed to develop Pakistan as a successful modern state.
The weakness of political culture, when added to economic and military weakness, lays the Muslim world open to the threat of physical intervention by the new world imperialist power, and it also weakens Muslim states morally and ideologically in terms of resisting such intervention.
You have pointed out several times the authoritarian character of most states in the Arab and Muslim worlds but do not mention the fact that a majority of these regimes depend for their existence on continued American patronage. Is it not the case that a number of these states are viewed as client regimes of the United States and that this is one of the major sources of Muslim resentment against the US? This is particularly true of your comments about Pakistan, where the US supported the Zia regime for over a decade and now supports the military government of General Musharraf.
As I have often said with regard to American and British professed support for democratization: we can all believe in a human capacity for redemption even if we are not born-again Christians, but most of us, not being saints, do not ask reformed burglars to guard our houses! We should not therefore ask Arabs and Muslims, given the British-American record on democracy in the Muslim world, to trust our professions today that we are sincere in our wish to bring democracy.
By contrast, I have always believed and continue to believe in the force of the US and Western example when it comes to spreading democracy. If we can go on demonstrating to the world that our societies are more peaceful, more stable, less oppressive and more economically successful than authoritarian or theocratic states, then there will be a strong tendency for democracy to spread without our having to intervene in other places to bring this about. In this sense, I am a strong believer in the American tradition stretching from President Adams to George Kennan which takes immense and justifiable pride in the American political system, but believes that America spreads democracy best when it maintains the health and strength of its own system. By the way, President Eisenhower said much the same thing at the end of his second term, so this is hardly a radical position, let alone an anti-American one.
As to US (and British) support for dictatorships, and the resentment this has caused, this is true. On the other hand, I think it cuts both ways. Does one believe that if these authoritarian regimes fell then viable democracies would follow? In Pakistan, unfortunately, this did not happen. Of course it is true that the army always stepped in eventually but then again look at the PPP government under Bhutto in the 1970s - certainly not a regime that was strongly supported by Washington - and its extremely brutal treatment of dissent. Look at the fact that when Musharraf took power he was supported by the great majority of the population, because of the outrageous corruption of governments in the 1990s.
I think that is a rather misleading claim. How do we know what proportion of Pakistan's population supported Musharraf's coup?
Quite right. Opinion polls are not necessarily reliable in a country like Pakistan. Let me put it another way: a great majority of the people certainly did not protest against it. If there had been true faith in democracy and its record in Pakistan, they presumably would have done so. My point is that when Musharraf assumed power, he was certainly not acting on behalf of America. Clearly, several of these authoritarian regimes do not stand because of American support but because of local tradition and domestic support: Iran, which is directly opposed to America; Libya; and the House of Saud, which is in some sense America's tool but who also have their own tradition and legitimacy which has nothing to do with American support.
Well the argument could be made that the Americans are only interested in Saudi Arabia's domestic political setup to the extent that it continues to serve their interests: oil, and in the case of the first Gulf war, the provision of military bases. Therefore the present arrangement works rather better for them than any subsequent setup might.
Until 9/11, this was true. But since then, there has been a strong and widespread belief in the US that the Saudi system is incubating terrorism, which of course is a somewhat belated realization. I met Saudi-backed extremists in Afghanistan while I was based in Peshawar in the late-80s and it was already apparent that we were building up a monster for ourselves. Since 9/11 this has been recognized.
I do not believe that America will improve its image in the Muslim world just by abandoning its present allies and preaching democracy, because I do not believe that given its geopolitical and other interests America will ever be truly sincere in this regard. America's professed ideals of democracy and freedom are always likely to come to a screeching halt at Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories but also whenever American ideals seem likely to lead to a result which will be really harmful for American geopolitical interests. One of the images which has been seared into American elite consciousness is what happened to Carter. When Carter tried to pursue a more moral policy, by putting pressure on the Shah over Savak atrocities, by putting pressure on Central American governments, was he thanked for it by the American establishment? No, he was pilloried as naïve, weak, as supporting communism, as giving opportunities to America's enemies, and so forth.
If a US President were to push Saudi Arabia really hard, for example, over democratic reform, and the Saudi regime collapses and there is an Islamist takeover, that American president would simply fall in the next election, as Carter did. Ditto with Pakistan. So America is trapped in this.
Looking beyond the publicly stated goals for the American invasion of Iraq, you said that the neo-conservative nationalists were all more or less unanimous in their agreement on one basic plan: "unilateral world domination through absolute military superiority". To what extent did the Iraq invasion have the intended results and what is the likelihood that such policies will continue to be pursued in the second term of the Bush presidency?
Iraq has been a disaster for their aims. They have gotten away with it of course in that they have been re-elected but it is perfectly obvious that they cannot launch another war of choice, another invasion of Iran, say. They simply do not have the troops. With almost 150,000 men pinned down in Iraq, they could not launch another war on that scale without introducing conscription. That would tear American society apart and for the first time since Vietnam lead to a significant anti-imperialist movement in this country. It would also, for the first time, lead to really serious questions about what America is doing in the Middle East at all.
From that point of view, Iraq really has not worked out as they had anticipated and has greatly reduced their plans. After all, in the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, all the neo-cons were going around saying: "Next stop: Iran". Or Syria. This kind of rhetoric has not disappeared completely - they are still refusing to talk to the Iranians - but the agenda on Iran has really narrowed just to the issue of nuclear weapons. So Iraq has had a major effect in this respect .
You suggest that various practices and institutions put into place during the Cold War make the constant threat of war a virtual necessity for the American foreign policymaking and security establishment. This may account in part for why Islam came very quickly to replace communism as the great ideological enemy of the United States. Given that Islam has no locus, that there are a billion Muslims spread out across the world, how is the US security establishment likely to continue to deal with this kind of enemy?
I say in the book that what seems essential is not the imminent threat of war, but rather constant belief in the possibility of war. There are all these institutions and economic interests which were put in place by the Second World War and still more by the Cold War. Eisenhower's original phrase apparently was "military-industrial-academic-complex". There are so many people in my world of think tanks in American universities with a deep stake in all these foreign policy agendas. In the book I also point out that - and this has been mentioned in other forms by people like James Mann, Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill and others - one of the reasons why 9/11 was able to happen was that the security elites under Clinton, and very much under Bush, were not looking seriously at the terrorist threat because, due to their Cold War backgrounds, they were obsessed with the very much lesser threat from major rival states.
When the Bush administration came to power, they had radical anti-Chinese agendas of containing China, of rolling back China, of creating a new Cold War with China. On the other hand, now there is this tremendous effort, certainly among the neo-cons, to present Islam or the Muslim world as the new Cold War enemy. You see all this nonsense by people like Norman Podhoretz about the Fourth World War. The interesting thing is precisely because, as you say, Islam is not a superpower like the Soviet Union, nor does it represent a relatively clear set of social, economic, and political principles like communism. One is dealing with an extremely diverse world with different cultures and societies and multiple motivations.
Even if you narrow the war on terror down to Al Qaeda and its allies, which of course the Bush administration and Israeli lobby have deliberately and manifestly failed to do, even then one is speaking of a web, a network of many, many different groups and nodes in this web which sometimes cooperate, sometimes act independently, with varying degrees of relative importance. Zarqawi's group in Iraq, like the international forces fighting in Chechnya, are in no sense subordinate to Al Qaeda.
To combat these groups requires a really detailed and acute knowledge of the societies concerned. Something once again that America failed to generate in the case of Vietnam before going to war there, failed to generate about Iraq before going to war there, and is indeed failing to generate in the case of large parts of the Muslim world. It does seem that there is a natural pull towards concentration on alleged threats from states. This was especially clear after 9/11: the astonishing speed with which the Bush administration turned its attention from the actual terrorist perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks to confront the "axis of evil" states and draw up plans for war with Iraq.
It is clearly much easier to threaten and invade Iraq than to think seriously about how to combat the appeal of groups like Al Qaeda and its allies in the Muslim world. Similarly it is much easier to concentrate on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons than having to think seriously about the Shia-Sunni relationship, or what to do about the Hezbollah in Lebanon. This is part of the built-in bias of military bureaucracies, but also owes much to the effects of the Cold War and the present intellectual configuration of American academia.
You explain in your book why the Cold War legacy has made it difficult for US policymakers, trained for the most part in the so-called "Realist" tradition, to conceive of a security threat as emanating from somewhere other than a nation-state, an assumption that is rather inadequate for addressing the threat of terrorism, as you just pointed out (and may account in part for why, as you say, quoting Bob Woodward, the Bush administration seemed incapable of staying focused on a terrorist threat, before and after the attacks on the US, and started planning for war on Iraq on November 21st, 2001; that is, 72 days after 9/11). Yet you supported the American invasion of Afghanistan when it seemed clear that Al Qaeda was a diffuse, dynamic network, with no state to claim as its own. Why was Afghanistan, then, a legitimate - morally, but also pragmatically - target for military strike?
The invasion of Afghanistan was justified by absolutely traditional and universally accepted traditions of self-defense. Al Qaeda had launched this attack; this was generally accepted by every rational person in the world. Al Qaeda were quickly and clearly identified as the perpetrators, and indeed subsequently made no real attempt to deny it. When it comes to the responsibility of the Taliban, Al Qaeda after all was functioning very much as part of the Afghan state under the Taliban, and provided the Taliban's praetorian guard.
It is true that, had I been in a position of authority, I would have made a greater effort to get the Taliban to extradite the Al Qaeda leadership if not directly to America then to somewhere else in the Muslim world from where they could be passed on to America. This was partly because I was afraid of what to some extent has in fact happened which is that by going in to Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance, America would alienate the Pashtuns.
Nonetheless, I thought the invasion of Afghanistan was covered by self-defense. Al Qaeda launched this attack, Al Qaeda was functioning as part of the Taliban and was being protected by the Taliban. Al Qaeda had, after all, also launched a series of attacks previously on American targets, which one should not forget: they were responsible for the massacre of very large numbers of Africans and others. I also regarded their Taliban protectors as a genuine "rogue" regime in a way that Iran certainly is not. They really were in the business of spreading instability, radicalism and terrorism (especially of course anti-Shia terrorism) in their area.
On a personal note, I detested what the Taliban stood for, and the damage that they and their allies were doing to Pakistan. Above all, I supported the US invasion of Afghanistan as legitimate self-defense and because of genuine shock at 9/11, shock at the idea that this could happen to a great modern city, and the belief that forces like Al Qaeda are a real threat to modern civilization - Muslim as well as Western. America did also enjoy a general international consensus behind its invasion of Afghanistan. To some extent the US even managed to gain some support in the Muslim world for the invasion, at least as far as states and elites are concerned. This is largely because the Sunni revolutionary element represented by Al Qaeda and the Taliban is of course a threat to every organized Muslim state as well.
So I felt that both on what Kerry called the "global test" and on the traditional test of self-defense, Afghanistan passed. Iraq did not.
You have suggested that radical American nationalists - many of who will continue in the present Bush administration - either wish to 'contain' China by overwhelming military force and the creation of a ring of American allies, or "in the case of the real radicals, to destroy the Chinese Communist state as the Soviet Union was destroyed." Have these radical elements in the present administration been sufficiently chastened by their experience in Iraq to relinquish such aspirations?
Yes, I believe so. Not to permanently relinquish their aspirations in principle: obviously they would still very much like to destroy China if they could, or at least destroy China as a potential future threat to American hegemony. But as long as they are tied down in the Middle East in the way they are, they will not have the military forces to do so.
Therefore, I believe that the Bush administration and future Democrat administrations will continue the existing line. That said of course there is always room for mistakes either on the part of Washington or of Beijing or of Taipei or most likely of all three simultaneously. The Taiwanese can go too far, and the Chinese can overreact, not because the Chinese want war but because they would trap themselves into a position where they would have to do something. If they were sensible of course the Chinese leadership would not react militarily, they would just tell any power that recognized Taiwan that China would break off diplomatic and trade relations the next day. Nobody would in fact recognize Taiwanese independence and then the Chinese could simply declare that these people have declared independence but no one recognizes them so why does it matter. This is by the way what Russia should have done in the case of Chechnya before 1994. But the Chinese could of course miscalculate and use force, and then the US, and particularly the American Congress, have put themselves in such a position that they would be forced to fight as well.
So I certainly do not rule out some kind of stumbling towards conflict. If that happens, of course, then all the old agendas would come back. Then the anti-Chinese hardliners in the bureaucracy, the think tanks and Congress would start roaring again about Communist aggression, they would gain greater influence and the Cold War agenda vis-à-vis China would be re-established. But I do not believe that any really powerful forces in Washington today actually want that.
In a recent article, you say that, "The Bush administration may be stumbling toward an attack on Iran's nuclear program that could have the most disastrous consequences for Iraq, Afghanistan and the entire American position in the Middle East." What is the likelihood of such an attack being carried out in the near future either by the Americans or the Israelis?
It is still a possibility. Not I believe such a strong possibility now because apart from everything else the Iranians do seem very anxious to play along with Europe, and are willing at least to suspend their nuclear weapons plans in response to a mixture of European pressure and incentives with American threats. But if America were to attack Iran, it would be a catastrophe. Poor old Tony Blair has accepted so many shattering blows already maybe nothing will finish him, but having invested so much in this process with Iran, if it were to end in an American attack, it seems likely that there would be a serious revolt within his government and party and he would have to resign. There are leading members of the British government briefing in private that whatever Tony Blair says, if America attacks Iran, that is the end. They will resign. This would almost certainly be the end of Blair's tenure as prime minister. It would also create a massive crisis with the Europeans. Moreover, given the fact that Iran's nuclear sites are dispersed and buried, America would very likely miss, at which point we will have the worst of all possible worlds. As the American military know very well, Iran in these circumstances would have numerous means of retaliation against American forces and plans in Iraq - whereas an American invasion of Iran looks impossible because of America's lack of troops.
So I am less worried on that score than I have been in the past. There is however a wild card involved: this is that the Israeli government appears implacably determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, without themselves offering any concessions in return; and may either attack itself or exert irresistible pressure on the US to reject a deal with the Iranians. The present deal between Iran and the West Europeans could also break down for a number of other reasons. It is not inconceivable that there could emerge some disastrous quid pro quo whereby Israel will make certain concessions towards the Palestinians and in return America go after Iran's nuclear weapons. But of course the consequences might be frightful because of course Iran would then have every incentive to try to really destabilize Iraq. Hezbollah could be reactivated as an international terrorist force. Iran would set out to destabilize Afghanistan, and so forth and so on.
All this is known to the American security elites. The uniformed military is certainly extremely opposed to anything like this. Of course they were also opposed to Iraq, but it still happened.
Could you elaborate on your argument regarding what accounts for the special relationship between Israel and America: namely the parallel between the situation of Palestinians and Native Americans?
This is not the core either of my argument or of the relationship itself, but only a subsidiary factor. At the core of the relationship lie completely legitimate sympathies and identifications between a majority of Americans and the state of Israel. These are rooted in old features of religion and culture, and more recent admiration for the achievements of the Israeli state. I should say by the way that I believe strongly in US support for Israel within the borders of 1967. in my book I express a number of positions which are certainly extremely unpopular in the Muslim world, and on the Left in Europe: support for the Jewish character of the Israeli state, opposition to all but the most limited Palestinian refugee return, and opposition to ideas of a binational state. I also accept that given the tragic circumstances of 1948, and the imperatives created by the Holocaust, a measure of ethnic cleansing was probably inevitable and would also undoubtedly have been carried out in the other direction if the Arab side had won.
So I am not arguing against sympathy for Israel as such, but only against certain forms of this identification. Sympathy rooted in comparisons between the American and Israeli settlement processes are generally confined to the American Right. Leo Strauss made land-theft the founding principle of every state, which, it must be said, if you go back far enough historically, is actually true to a considerable extent. Admittedly you have to go back in Britain 1,500 years. Certainly in the US there is a very interesting contrast in attitudes to this issue between Americans on the East Coast and in the South or the West of the country. East Coast Americans are either embarrassed about the dispossession of the Indians or have simply forgotten it. For most it is totally irrelevant, since they never encounter any Native Americans and since their ancestors in many or even most cases arrived in the US long after the East Coast Indians were dispossessed. In the South and the West, however, the frontier tradition is so much stronger. There is no real embarrassment over the dispossession; there is basically a celebration of the fact that their ancestors conquered this land and turned it, as the phrase used to be, into a "white man's country".
It does seem to me - and I am not original in pointing this out; there have been leading Israelis like Amos Elon who have done so - that this began by creating a certain community of sentiment between sections of the conservative Christian heartland in America and the rightwing in Israel, or Israel in general. In other words, it is a mistake when looking at this community of sentiment just to look at the apocalyptic element: millenarian religion. This is present but it would not have nearly the resonance that it does if it were not set in a wider context.
Now of course here I am talking about the conservative tradition in the American heartland, the Christian tradition, but of course sympathy with Israel is much broader: it has a great deal to do with the Holocaust, it has to do with the perception of Israel as a modern, democratic society, as a very successful society. This goes together, obviously, with tremendous support from the Jewish community for Israel on the whole. So all these factors work in concert.
There is nothing at all in principle wrong with people here supporting Israel as such, or admiring Israel for its tremendous success as a society. But on the American Right there are very much darker elements to this affinity, one of which is precisely the radical religious one but the other is a kind of sublimated racism.
You have also argued that American nationalism has become increasingly entwined with the nationalism of the Israeli Right. What are the historical reasons for the alliance between Christian fundamentalists in this country and Zionists? In other words, how should we understand the words of Jerry Falwell when he says, "The Bible belt of the United States is the security belt of Israel"?
If one just looks at the Christian fundamentalist issue, leaving the millenarian question aside, American evangelical Protestantism is Old Testament Protestantism - just as its forbearers in English radical Protestantism and Scottish radical Protestantism were in the 16th and 17th centuries. This creates a natural affinity with the Jewish religious tradition. When evangelical Christian Lieutenant-General William Boykin was quoted last year as saying, "My God is bigger than his," in reference to a Muslim, he was directly citing from Isaiah and this is obviously a man who spends a lot of his time in the Old Testament.
It is fascinating the degree to which the Old Testament eclipses the New Testament in the thought of evangelical Christians and this automatically leads one to a sympathy with Israel. Cromwell was the first ruler of England who allowed Jews to settle again in England after the Middle Ages. He was very much influenced in this by his Old Testament-based Christianity. But also it seems, from the time of Cromwell on, there has been this millenarian idea as well: the restoration of Israel is essential to bringing about the Apocalypse. Given the influence of millenarian thought on a minority of Evangelicals, but a very significant minority, one cannot deny this influence. Look at the immense popularity of the "Left Behind" series, for example.
Finally, there is also a considerable element of straight political opportunism. The Republicans are already well on their way to putting the Democrats in a very difficult position from the point of view of political demographics. The Republicans have this tremendously solid base. Mostly white, not just Protestant anymore but Protestant and Catholic conservative, including many Latinos. Unlike the deeply fractured Democrat base, the Republican base agrees on a majority of important issues. The Democrats by contrast are trying to tie together the remnants of the white working classes in the northern cities, the blacks, the Latinos, more progressive women and the various cultural liberals - groups which often detest each other.
If on top of this advantage the Republicans can take away a majority of the Jewish vote and campaign financing from the Democrats, they stand a chance of actually destroying the Democratic Party's chances of power for a generation to come. This hope is not a secret. It has been written about quite openly by conservative commentator Robert Novak and others. If the Republicans can conclusively seize the issue of support for Israel from the Democrats, then they can rule for the foreseeable future. Rightly or wrongly, that at least is the calculation the Republicans are making.
You point out the complicity of the American media in both supporting the government in various foreign policy adventures - you say in fact that the "propaganda program" in the wake of the Iraq war has few parallels in peacetime democracies for the systematic mendacity of its reportage - and for the most part, keeping silent on the excesses of the Israeli state. What accounts for this blindness in the context of a free press in a democratic country?
This is a little stronger than what I actually said. What I said was that the Bush administration's propaganda program had few parallels in peacetime democracies and that the American media had not criticized this. I did not mean to suggest that the American media as a whole were all part of the same propaganda machine. Even in some of the papers which supported the war, dissenting voices appeared.
When it comes to keeping silent on the excesses of the Israeli state, the reporting as such has not been very unfair or inaccurate - certainly if you look at the respectable media: the serious newspapers and some of the serious television channels. Israeli bombing raids are reported, shooting of Palestinian civilians is reported, and the issue of settlements too is reported to an extent. There are two things which are completely missing, as Michael Lind pointed out in Prospect magazine in England last year. The first is historical context and the second is the almost complete absence of analysis or critique. One of the questions I raise in my book has to do with why Palestinians were expected to have peacefully acquiesced to what was being done to them in the 1940s. According to any historical precedent, this would have been absurd. No other people would have ever accepted this. Are we suggesting that the Palestinians should have been insane? This is ridiculous. So that is the context. Secondly, as Michael also pointed out, in terms of analysis, the violence and its causes are always presented as Palestinian "terrorism", not Israeli occupation. Finally the number of opinion pieces seriously criticizing Israeli policies are simply heavily outnumbered, even in the mainstream and liberal media, by expressions of support.
On Iraq, why did the media not stand out against the war? It was partly because of the role of the Israel lobby. It is very difficult to conduct a truly searching analysis of the underlying reasons for American policy in the Middle East, and very difficult to draw up really serious alternatives to existing policies, if you are not prepared to address the question of Israeli policies and the part they play in damaging American interests in the Middle East. This does not mean that Israel must be at the heart of the argument but its influence cannot be denied: it is there not just in the form of the effects of the struggle with the Palestinians but in relations with Iran, Syria and the Muslim world in general. If this is to be swept aside, as it so often is by the accusation of anti-Semitism, it just makes the entire debate here much, much more difficult. You could as well ask why there was no really serious debate in the presidential campaign over the "War on Terror" as a concept. The Israel factor is a part of that too.
I should say by the way that I never wrote about this issue before 9/11. I have no history whatsoever of attacking Israel. But after the terrorist attacks on America, the Carnegie Endowment asked me to concentrate on the war on terror and on aspects of the situation in the Muslim world. After that, it would have been intellectually dishonest and morally cowardly not to discuss this critical issue. I may add, as a British citizen, that it would have been unpatriotic, since my country is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan alongside America and is running the same risks of terrorist attack. British citizens therefore have both a right and a duty to speak out against policies and attitudes which are undermining the war on terror and endangering British security.
Concerning the behavior of the media and intelligentsia in the US, the second point is that after 9/11 people were clearly running scared. There was this tremendous militant nationalist wave sweeping the country. This is not unique to America - the same would have been true in most countries which suffered an attack of this kind. However, in the US the response took certain forms which have precedents in US history. The silencing effects of such a wave have been seen before: McCarthyism most recently, and the anti-German, then the anti-communist hysteria in the First World War and the 1920s. People were to a considerable degree intimidated into silence.
Finally, there was a very good piece by Russell Baker about AJ Liebling in the November 18th issue of the New York Review of Books in which Baker was talking about how journalists used to regard themselves as just hacks. I used to be a journalist myself, essentially writing for money, trying to be accurate in my reporting and as amusing and intelligent as possible. Now there is this ghastly tendency of journalists, particularly those who get to the top of the US media, to regard themselves not as hacks but as pillars of the state. So they begin to behave almost as if they were senior officials not hacks like the rest of us; and not just that, but as if they had occupied a great office of state during some great crisis in American affairs, as if they had been Acheson during the Second World War or the Korean War. So many of these columnists and television journalists are like that now.
One last point, and this may appear at first sight contradictory: the figure of Bob Woodward bridges these two things. After Watergate, on the one hand journalists got an exaggerated sense of their own importance as the Fourth Estate, a political force which makes and breaks administrations. On the other hand, they became more and more addicted to being given enormous dollops of constructed information and "spin" on a plate - instead of doing real fieldwork and investigative reporting like Woodward did. So Woodward is turned from an investigative reporter into a court chronicler. He has fascinating information and very good insights but is nonetheless essentially a praise-singer of the American system. I think a lot of American journalists are like that now. When they depend for leaks and for information on either the government in power or the opposition they are clearly not going to say anything that will wreck their chances of getting what they regard as scoops.
You have said that, "The younger intelligentsia [in the United States] has also been stripped of any real knowledge of the outside world by academic neglect of history and regional studies in favour of disciplines which are often no more than a crass projection of American assumptions and prejudices…. This has reduced still further their capacity for serious analysis of their own country and its actions." In addition, you point out the very close links that exist between relevant university departments and government institutions. What are the implications of this?
Well it contributes enormously to the conformism when it comes to debates like that about the Iraq war or about Israel. As Henry Kissinger pointed out almost thirty years ago, too many people in the academic world are either defending previous records when in government or aiming to be in the next administration. This is not a situation likely to produce radical critiques or really strong alternative policies. These people are not at all anxious to say something which will either lead to them not being selected or to their being vetoed by a Senate committee.
I used to think that it is wonderful that the American state can recruit from people in academia but I have come to find it deeply corrupting. I almost prefer the British system now, of career civil servants who serve one administration after another. But one needs a strong ethos of the independence of the civil service and a very strong ethos that people cannot be sacked or penalized for political views as long as they maintain the discipline of their service. This actually leaves the public debate in the UK freer than in the US, particularly in the strange, solipsistic world of Washington DC. It is amazing in a republic with a strong tradition of individualism and cultural egalitarianism, that in DC the sense of hierarchy, of sometimes obsequious deference, of the court game, who is in, who out, dominates everything just as much as it did in an early medieval court. It does contribute to this lack of debate in America.
This is compounded by the tremendously strong power of American national myths. As previous American authors like Loren Baritz pointed out, Vietnam knocked these myths off their pedestal, but many Americans spent a whole generation resuscitating them. Reagan was elected very much to do just that, to restore America's image of itself. It would seem that these myths are so important to America's national identity and image of itself that the American political and intellectual establishment is simply incapable in the end of seriously examining them and asking what flaws they may embody. Of course, there are dissidents - even some very senior ones like Senator Fulbright; but it is striking how little influence they seem to have had in the long run.
In consequence, there are all these people running around Washington - very much among the Democratic intellectual elites as well as the Republicans - who really believe that all America has to do is try harder to generate and display a sense of will. If only America wants something badly enough, anything can be achieved. Any society in the world can be transformed, irrespective of the wishes and traditions of its people. Any country can become not just a democracy, but a pro-American democracy, irrespective of its own national interests or ideals.
This is part of a deep inability to see America as others see it. It is incredible but again and again I have found myself at meetings discussing Russia and China in Washington at which I have been the only person to point out that America does after all have its own sphere of influence in Central America and the Caribbean. Not just that, but a sphere of influence which is not doing very well either economically, or to a great extent, in terms of real democracy either. The rest of the world sees this perfectly well, and as a result, develops a belief in American hypocrisy which is itself very bad for American prestige and influence.
After all, how much did Haiti get after floods which killed thousands of people and devastated the country? Peanuts. A mere fifty million dollars or so from America. And Haiti is only a few hundred miles from America's own shores. Haiti also has a very large population here in the US and they got virtually nothing. Yet when I point this out to people in DC, and suggest that pouring money into the Middle East when countries close to America's shores and within America's old sphere of influence are suffering so badly, they often become furious. There is this strange moral bubble, it seems, and of course it is particularly bad in Washington, but then again, outside Washington and the universities, nobody thinks about these issues at all!
You end your recent article in The Nation with the following quote from Arnold Toynbee: "Great empires do not die by murder, but suicide." Is that the present trajectory of the United States?
I must state very strongly that in principle, and when thinking of the historical alternatives, I do not want the American empire to end. I have never been against a moderate, civilized and rational version of American hegemony. I certainly would not want to replace it with Chinese hegemony!
But it is easy to see how a combination of different events could bring American hegemony down over the next generation. America at present has no serious strategy for the Middle East. It has a series of ad hoc strategies for dealing with bits of the terrorist threat, and for trying to contain Iran, and manage Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It does not however have anything approaching a general strategy. If America continues to infuriate more and more Muslims, if then there is either a revolution elsewhere in the Middle East or a terrorist attack on the American mainland again, then it is very easy to see America lashing out in a way which will not only spread chaos and instability still further, but will lead to a complete breakdown of the alliance with Europe.
If America gets involved in another major war of occupation, then conscription will be back. When conscription comes back, Americans will come out on to the streets and start demanding answers: maybe even about energy saving and about the relationship with Israel.
Even given the profound weaknesses of America's strategy and position in the Middle East, however, the American empire has immense underlying strengths. In the Far East, for example, as long as the US does not grossly overplay its hand, most of the East Asian states actually want America to stay there as a balancer against China. In Europe, East Europeans in particular are anxious for the US to remain strongly present, whether out of continued fear of Russia or resentment at French and German domination. In Central America and the Caribbean, the US will always be predominant through sheer force of economic and military might.
But if the Bush administration were feeling suicidal, and were actually in the mood to throw itself over a cliff, like the Hapsburgs in 1914, there are a number of ways it could do that. It could invade Iran, that would do it very quickly. Or it could invade Saudi Arabia. Or it could support Taiwanese independence. I don't believe they will actually do any of those things. Unfortunately, one can much more easily imagine the Bush administration doing something like bombing Iran, which would not lead to immediate disaster but which could begin a spiral of retaliation leading ultimately to catastrophic conflict.
It has become increasingly clear that world oil reserves are depleting and their exhaustion is within sight. In addition, global oil and energy resources have formally been a "national-security" concern of the United States since Carter. How, and to what extent, will the geopolitics of oil determine US foreign policy in the coming decade?
To a great extent, they already do. One has seen the tremendous attempt to build up the Caspian as an alternative to the Persian Gulf as a source of oil. But the striking thing is that this has to a great extent failed. It has failed both because there is not enough oil in the Caspian really to compete with the Persian Gulf but also because there are other buyers: a great deal of that oil will go east to China and even to Japan. If the Chinese economy continues to grow, it is likely that oil prices will rise and rise - until, perhaps, environmental disaster destroys the present world economy and forces the world to limit its consumption.
So America's presence in the Middle East is of course not just about Israel. A tremendous amount of it is about oil - and not just the interests of the oil companies, but genuinely, in the view of many Americans, the preservation of the American way of life. It will be interesting if one sees serious instability in several of the major oil-producers simultaneously. If there were major instability in the Persian Gulf and some kind of meltdown in Nigeria, which is entirely possible, and in a very different way of course serious instability in Venezuela, then there is the possibility that somewhere at least America would intervene with its own troops on the ground to guarantee its oil supplies. Then once again we will be confronted with the whole question of whether America has enough troops, what this will lead to, etc. In some places in Africa American intervention could be presented as a peacekeeping operation, and indeed could even have genuine elements of that.
I am not saying that any of this will happen, but the geopolitics of oil will be absolutely central to America's global strategy in the years to come. Of course what I would like to see would be an approach to the same issue from the other end which is simply to reduce America's dependence on oil. This has been one of the very worst things that Bush has done, or rather not done: his complete failure to use 9/11 to make an argument for decreasing America's reliance on oil. Instead we have just seen American consumption going up and up. There is a strong possibility in future that just as in Iraq, America could again be drawn into occupying a country (or countries) in a way that would be perceived by the rest of the world as just about keeping its grip on oil supplies. The thing that might discourage a US administration from this however is that as Iraq has demonstrated, there is nothing easier to blow up than an oil pipeline.
Such a contingency has been widely discussed in the case of Saudi Arabia. If the US were to occupy other countries in order to secure its oil supplies, then every suspicion of the rest of the world concerning the US and its motives for the invasion of Iraq would essentially be confirmed. The US would begin to shed its last elements of true international idealism. It would become much more like a classical empire preoccupied with seizing raw materials and controlling them, irrespective of the wishes or the well-being of the populations concerned. In this case, America's ancient and very positive role as a beacon of democracy and progress for mankind would be destroyed. We should all pray, therefore, that this does not happen.
Interview conducted by Nermeen Shaikh of AsiaSource
The United States is currently locked into a global war whose primary battleground is not Iraq, Afghanistan or the tribal areas of Pakistan but in that ill-defined terrain of the mind where the beliefs, convictions and passions of men reside. As difficult and unpleasant as it is to admit, America is not winning on this psychological battlefield; if we do not reverse this trend quickly we may someday find ourselves in danger of losing on a physical battlefield.
In a recent interview, Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli - the senior military adviser to the secretary of defense and a highly decorated combat veteran - told me he believed only 40 percent of winning a war was based on the "kinetic fighting" at which American Forces excel, while fully 60 percent was predicated on winning the battle of ideas. "Look at our enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan," the general explained. "He is cutting people's heads off, murdering women and children, blowing up religious sites - and yet we say he is winning the information war? That's got to change."
Another highly decorated veteran of combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Col. Lee Fetterman, said of this battle of the mind, "Wars are won in the will, and if someone or a group of someone's hates another group with enough passion, it can be a very long and difficult struggle."
If some of the Army's most accomplished battle leaders of today understand the critical value of ideas and how important they are to winning wars, why do we seem to be lagging behind an enemy who, as Gen. Chiarelli points out, butchers women and children? Many in the United States shake their heads in incredulity, particularly when American efforts to care for the dispossessed are contrasted so sharply against such brutality. Upon closer examination, however, we find the reasons may not be so hard to understand.
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when America possessed considerable admiration and respect in the minds of people across the world. But over time that prestige has tarnished while at the same time our domestic condition improved to unprecedented heights. It seems we began to believe all the stories about how great we were while inversely showing less and less consideration, respect and appreciation for those beyond our borders. This undesirable condition has worsened over the past decade, and as is now becoming very clear, works against our self-interest.
Shortly after Desert Storm, when the Soviet Union dissolved and the Cold War ended, instead of working to further diminish tensions and develop a partner relationship with Moscow, we took the unnecessary step of expanding the NATO military alliance toward a weakened Russia, we unilaterally abandoned the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty because it suited our preference and in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom we diplomatically bludgeoned longtime allies France and Germany, completely disregarding their opinions and concerns.
Today, we need Russian diplomatic help with North Korea and Iran, but now that Russia is no longer weak, Moscow is much less inclined to act in ways that benefit the United States. We need French and German help in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and true to our historic friendship they have helped - but that help was much delayed in coming and has been less than it could have been as a result of the way we ignored them in the run-up to the Iraq war. And, ominously, because of perceived double standards, even popular opinion in Turkey - one of our most critical allies in that part of the world - has turned sharply against the United States.
I could offer a number of specific policy and organizational recommendations for reform, but frankly none of that will matter unless there is first a fundamental change in the mind of Americans. If we do not accept that along with our many and substantial virtues we are also guilty of sometimes not insignificant pride, arrogance and hubris, no reform is even possible. It is imperative that our national leaders concede the fact that part of the reason we're not winning the global battle of the mind is our past behavior, our insistence on having things our way and our unwillingness to compromise on non-critical issues to our friends and allies.
We can't undo the past, but we most assuredly can change what we do from here forward. Perhaps a slice of "humble pie" with a holiday meal would be in order to facilitate a fresh start in the new year.
Our success on future battlefields could depend on it.
I do not believe that someone who disagrees with me should be criticized for that reason alone," Schmidt said at a ceremony to celebrate his 85th birthday in 2003. And he added: "But he must be criticized if he states an opinion that is not real." Let us subject the various opinions to a reality test. Schmidt says: "Russia poses far less of a threat to world peace today than, for example, the United States. You can go ahead and print that." These were the words Schmidt uttered in an interview with his own paper, the weekly Die Zeit. He also said that, although he does not view Russian President Vladimir Putin as a flawless democrat, he does consider him an "enlightened potentate."
But why are the Americans more dangerous than the Russians? Why should we be more afraid of the cradle of democracy than of a potentate, no matter how "enlightened" Schmidt says he is? And is it even relevant whether the censor is educated, disadvantaged, harsh or amiable? What is important, however, is that the censor engages in censorship, while the potentate gives arbitrariness free rein.
Isn't precisely the opposite of what Schmidt says true? That the experienced American democracy is fundamentally less dangerous than Russia, which, after surviving czarism and communism, has experienced only a few years of Putin-style democracy? Even the loud and sometimes insufferable America of President George W. Bush is already significantly less dangerous than it was when he came into office. Today Bush is a dog that barks but can no longer bite. He is limited by four factors, which, in their absoluteness, are foreign to Putin: his own people, the US Constitution, the independent judiciary and the free press. All four factors lend legitimacy to the United States -- and withdraw it again. This is precisely the beauty of a democracy: the people have the first and last word.Schmidt rightfully characterizes the Iraq war as "a war of choice, not a war of necessity." But even this choice is no longer available to the outgoing president. Another ground war is no longer an option. Even the military is tired of war. "We are overstretched," the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff recently said. Preparations are already underway for a partial withdrawal from Iraq. The man in the White House may be gritting his teeth, but he is bringing the first troops home -- reluctantly and gruffly -- but bringing them home he is.
Bush would be truly dangerous if he could do as he wished. But he can't. This is precisely the difference. In a democracy, the will of the individual is answerable to the people, and not the other way around. I, in any case, prefer narrow-minded democrats over enlightened potentates any day. Of course, enlightened democrats -- the kind of person Helmut Schmidt once was and will hopefully remain for a long time -- are the best thing for the country.
It is hard to articulate, let alone justify hatred. It is, by definition, irrational and one is immediately suspected of intellectualizing that which is really visceral and counterfactual. It is politically incorrect to hate, an insensitive and "primitive" "gut" reaction. Hating is widely decried as counterproductive.
Collective hatred is reserved to "hate figures" designated by the media and the elite and rendered obnoxious and abominable by ceaseless indoctrination, often tinged with falsities. One hates a Hitler or a bin Laden. One is exhorted in most Western media to merely disagree with the United States, or to criticize Americans - but never to hate them.
Mercifully, larges swathes of humanity - being less synthetic and fake - are still prone to the unbridled expression of their emotions. One of the most frequent and all-pervasive sentiments among them seems to be anti-Americanism - a spectrum of reactions ranging from virulent aversion, through intense dislike, to vocal derision.
The United States is one of the last remaining land empires. That it is made the butt of opprobrium and odium is hardly surprising, or unprecedented. Empires - Rome, the British, the Ottomans - were always targeted by the disgruntled, the disenfranchised and the dispossessed and by their self-appointed delegates, the intelligentsia.
Yet, even by historical standards, America seems to be provoking blanket repulsion.
The Pew Research Center published last December a report titled "What the World Thinks in 2002". "The World", was reduced by the pollsters to 44 countries and 38,000 interviewees. Two other surveys published last year - by the German Marshall Fund and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations - largely supported Pew's findings.
The most startling and unambiguous revelation was the extent of anti-American groundswell everywhere: among America's NATO allies, in developing countries, Muslim nations and even in eastern Europe where Americans, only a decade ago, were lionized as much-adulated liberators.
"People around the world embrace things American and, at the same time, decry U.S. influence on their societies. Similarly, pluralities in most of the nations surveyed complain about American unilateralism."- expounds the Pew report.
Yet, even this "embrace of things American" is ambiguous.
Violently "independent", inanely litigious and quarrelsome, solipsistically provincial, and fatuously ignorant - this nation of video clips and sound bites, the United States, is often perceived as trying to impose its narcissistic pseudo-culture upon a world exhausted by wars hot and cold and corrupted by vacuous materialism.
Recent accounting scandals, crumbling markets, political scams, technological setbacks, and rising social tensions have revealed how rotten and inherently contradictory the US edifice is and how concerned are Americans with appearances rather than substance.
To religious fundamentalists, America is the Great Satan, a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah, a cesspool of immorality and spiritual decay. To many European liberals, the United states is a throwback to darker ages of religious zealotry, pernicious bigotry, virulent nationalism, and the capricious misrule of the mighty.
According to most recent surveys by Gallup, MORI, the Council for Secular Humanism, the US Census Bureau, and others - the vast majority of Americans are chauvinistic, moralizing, bible-thumping, cantankerous, and trigger-happy. About half of them believe that Satan exists - not as a metaphor, but physically.
America has a record defense spending per head, a vertiginous rate of incarceration, among the highest numbers of legal executions and gun-related deaths. It is still engaged in atavistic debates about abortion, the role of religion, and whether to teach the theory of evolution.
According to a series of special feature articles in The Economist, America is generally well-liked in Europe, but less so than before. It is utterly detested by the Moslem street, even in "progressive" Arab countries, such as Egypt and Jordan. Everyone - Europeans and Arabs, Asians and Africans - thinks that "the spread of American ideas and customs is a bad thing".
Admittedly, we typically devalue most that which we have formerly idealized and idolized.
To the liberal-minded, the United States of America reified the most noble, lofty, and worthy values, ideals, and causes. It was a dream in the throes of becoming, a vision of liberty, peace, justice, prosperity, and progress. Its system, though far from flawless, was considered superior - both morally and functionally - to any ever conceived by Man.
Such unrealistic expectations inevitably and invariably lead to disenchantment, disillusionment, bitter disappointment, seething anger, and a sense of humiliation for having been thus deluded, or, rather, self-deceived. This backlash is further exacerbated by the haughty hectoring of the ubiquitous American missionaries of the "free-market-cum-democracy" church.
Americans everywhere aggressively preach the superior virtues of their homeland. Edward K. Thompson, managing editor of "Life" (1949-1961) warned against this propensity to feign omniscience and omnipotence: "Life (the magazine) must be curious, alert, erudite and moral, but it must achieve this without being holier-than-thou, a cynic, a know-it-all, or a Peeping Tom."
Thus, America's foreign policy - i.e., its presence and actions abroad - is, by far, its foremost vulnerability.
According to the Pew study, the image of the Unites States as a benign world power slipped dramatically in the space of two years in Slovakia (down 14 percent), in Poland (-7), in the Czech Republic (-6) and even in fervently pro-Western Bulgaria (-4 percent). It rose exponentially in Ukraine (up 10 percent) and, most astoundingly, in Russia (+24 percent) - but from a very low base.
The crux may be that the USA maintains one set of sanctimonious standards at home while egregiously and nonchalantly flouting them far and wide. Hence the fervid demonstrations against its military presence in places as disparate as South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.
In January 2000, Staff Sergeant Frank J. Ronghi sexually molested, forcibly sodomized ("indecent acts with a child") and then murdered an 11-years old girl in the basement of her drab building in Kosovo, when her father went to market to do some shopping. His is by no means the most atrocious link in a long chain of brutalities inflicted by American soldiers overseas. In all these cases, the perpetrators were removed from the scene to face justice - or, more often, a travesty thereof - back home.
Americans - officials, scholars, peacemakers, non-government organizations - maintain a colonial state of mind. Backward natives come cheap, their lives dispensable, their systems of governance and economies inherently inferior. The white man's burden must not be encumbered by the vagaries of primitive indigenous jurisprudence. Hence America's fierce resistance to and indefatigable obstruction of the International Criminal Court.
Opportunistic multilateralism notwithstanding, the USA still owes the poorer nations of the world close to $200 million - its arrears to the UN peacekeeping operations, usually asked to mop up after an American invasion or bombing. It not only refuses to subject its soldiers to the jurisdiction of the World Criminal Court - but its facilities to the inspectors of the Chemical Weapons Convention, its military to the sanctions of the (anti) land mines treaty and the provisions of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty, and its industry to the environmental constraints of the Kyoto Protocol, the rulings of the World Trade Organization, and the rigors of global intellectual property rights.
Despite its instinctual unilateralism, the United States is never averse to exploiting multilateral institutions to its ends. It is the only shareholder with a veto power in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), by now widely considered to have degenerated into a long arm of the American administration. The United Nations Security Council, raucous protestations aside, has rubber-stamped American martial exploits from Panama to Iraq.
It seems as though America uses - and thus, perforce, abuses - the international system for its own, ever changing, ends. International law is invoked by it when convenient - ignored when importune.
In short, America is a bully. It is a law unto itself and it legislates on the fly, twisting arms and breaking bones when faced with opposition and ignoring the very edicts it promulgates at its convenience. Its soldiers and peacekeepers, its bankers and businessmen, its traders and diplomats are its long arms, an embodiment of this potent and malignant mixture of supremacy and contempt.
But why is America being singled out?
In politics and even more so in geopolitics, double standards and bullying are common. Apartheid South Africa, colonial France, mainland China, post-1967 Israel - and virtually every other polity - were at one time or another characterized by both. But while these countries usually mistreated only their own subjects - the USA does so also exterritorialy.
Even as it never ceases to hector, preach, chastise, and instruct - it does not recoil from violating its own decrees and ignoring its own teachings. It is, therefore, not the USA's intrinsic nature, nor its self-perception, or social model that I find most reprehensible - but its actions, particularly its foreign policy.
America's manifest hypocrisy, its moral talk and often immoral walk, its persistent application of double standards, irks and grates. I firmly believe that it is better to face a forthright villain than a masquerading saint. It is easy to confront a Hitler, a Stalin, or a Mao, vile and bloodied, irredeemably depraved, worthy only of annihilation. The subtleties of coping with the United States are far more demanding - and far less rewarding.
This self-proclaimed champion of human rights has aided and abetted countless murderous dictatorships. This alleged sponsor of free trade - is the most protectionist of rich nations. This ostensible beacon of charity - contributes less than 0.1% of its GDP to foreign aid (compared to Scandinavia's 0.6%, for instance). This upright proponent of international law (under whose aegis it bombed and invaded half a dozen countries this past decade alone) - is in avowed opposition to crucial pillars of the international order.
Naturally, America's enemies and critics are envious of its might and wealth. They would have probably acted the same as the United States, if they only could. But America's haughtiness and obtuse refusal to engage in soul searching and house cleaning do little to ameliorate this antagonism.
To the peoples of the poor world, America is both a colonial power and a mercantilist exploiter. To further its geopolitical and economic goals from Central Asia to the Middle East, it persists in buttressing regimes with scant regard for human rights, in cahoots with venal and sometimes homicidal indigenous politicians. And it drains the developing world of its brains, its labour, and its raw materials, giving little in return.
All powers are self-interested - but America is narcissistic. It is bent on exploiting and, having exploited, on discarding. It is a global Dr. Frankenstein, spawning mutated monsters in its wake. Its "drain and dump" policies consistently boomerang to haunt it.
Both Saddam Hussein and Manuel Noriega - two acknowledged monsters - were aided and abetted by the CIA and the US military. America had to invade Panama to depose the latter and plans to invade Iraq for the second time to force the removal of the former.
The Kosovo Liberation Army, an American anti-Milosevic pet, provoked a civil war in Macedonia two years ago. Osama bin-Laden, another CIA golem, restored to the USA, on September 11, 2001 some of the materiel it so generously bestowed on him in his anti-Russian days.
Normally the outcomes of expedience, the Ugly American's alliances and allegiances shift kaleidoscopically. Pakistan and Libya were transmuted from foes to allies in the fortnight prior to the Afghan campaign. Milosevic has metamorphosed from staunch ally to rabid foe in days.
This capricious inconsistency casts in grave doubt America's sincerity - and in sharp relief its unreliability and disloyalty, its short term thinking, truncated attention span, soundbite mentality, and dangerous, "black and white", simplism.
In its heartland, America is isolationist. Its denizens erroneously believe that the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave is an economically self-sufficient and self-contained continent. Yet, it is not what Americans trust or wish that matters to others. It is what they do. And what they do is meddle, often unilaterally, always ignorantly, sometimes forcefully.
Elsewhere, inevitable unilateralism is mitigated by inclusive cosmopolitanism. It is exacerbated by provincialism - and American decision-makers are mostly provincials, popularly elected by provincials. As opposed to Rome, or Great Britain, America is ill-suited and ill-equipped to micromanage the world.
It is too puerile, too abrasive, too arrogant - and it has a lot to learn. Its refusal to acknowledge its shortcomings, its confusion of brain with brawn (i.e., money or bombs), its legalistic-litigious character, its culture of instant gratification and one-dimensional over-simplification, its heartless lack of empathy, and bloated sense of entitlement - are detrimental to world peace and stability.
America is often called by others to intervene. Many initiate conflicts or prolong them with the express purpose of dragging America into the quagmire. It then is either castigated for not having responded to such calls - or reprimanded for having responded. It seems that it cannot win. Abstention and involvement alike garner it only ill-will.
But people call upon America to get involved because they know it rises to the challenge. America should make it unequivocally and unambiguously clear that - with the exception of the Americas - its sole interests rest in commerce. It should make it equally known that it will protect its citizens and defend its assets - if need be by force.
Indeed, America's - and the world's - best bet are a reversion to the Monroe and (technologically updated) Mahan doctrines. Wilson's Fourteen Points brought the USA nothing but two World Wars and a Cold War thereafter. It is time to disengage.
THE Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the United States wields its power in a way that is worse than Britain during its imperial heyday.
Rowan Williams claimed that America's attempt to intervene overseas by "clearing the decks" with a "quick burst of violent action" had led to "the worst of all worlds".
In a wide-ranging interview with a British Muslim magazine, the Anglican leader linked criticism of the United States to one of his most pessimistic declarations about the state of western civilisation.
He said the crisis was caused not just by America's actions but also by its misguided sense of its own mission. He poured scorn on the "chosen nation myth of America, meaning that what happens in America is very much at the heart of God's purpose for humanity".
Williams went beyond his previous critique of the conduct of the war on terror, saying the United States had lost the moral high ground since September 11. He urged it to launch a "generous and intelligent programme of aid directed to the societies that have been ravaged; a check on the economic exploitation of defeated territories; a demilitarisation of their presence".
He went on to suggest that the West was fundamentally adrift: "Our modern western definition of humanity is clearly not working very well. There is something about western modernity which really does eat away at the soul."
Williams suggested American leadership had broken down: "We have only one global hegemonic power. It is not accumulating territory: it is trying to accumulate influence and control. That's not working."
He contrasted it unfavourably with how the British Empire governed India. "It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly, that's what the British Empire did - in India, for example.
"It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put it back together - Iraq, for example."
In the interview in Emel, a Muslim lifestyle magazine, Williams makes only mild criticisms of the Islamic world. He said the Muslim world must acknowledge that its "political solutions were not the most impressive".
He commends the Muslim practice of praying five times a day, which he says allows the remembrance of God to be "built in deeply in their daily rhythm".
Read the interview in full
The comments on this story tell a sorry tale: each one eager to invoke the Marshall Plan as a grand sign of U.S. largesse toward Europe, but apparently having forgotten that that's the kind of thing that we did fifty years ago under a Democratic administration. Today, we have spent more money destroying Iraq than we spent during the ENTIRE Marshall Plan, even after having adjusted for inflation -- and instead of winning the goodwill of the Europe and the whole world as we did then, we have alienated everyone. Silly people, the Archbishop isn't some kind of lone left-wing voice shouting into the wind; it is you who are the tiny reactionary minority who still imagine that there is something good to be said about George Bush's debacle in Iraq.
David Cunningham, Holland, Michigan
How predicatable and how utterly depressing. Dr. Williams must live in a parallel universe. There are malign, despotic, corrupt regimes aplenty and he can only criticise the US. It is infantile, lefty student hogwash. Williams and his ilk have never, ever, levelled the same public damnation on a single crackpot or dispicable left wing regime. And he would certainly not want to offend the Islamists ( or whatever it is we are permitted to call them these days) who would have us all dead. No, far easier to blame the world's woes on the Americans. After all they are not likely to take such offence that it would demand they decapitate you in public. This joker certainly doesn't speak for the whole of Britain.
tony, london, uk
What the Archbishop says is findamentally true. Of course we need the USA strength along side our other allies in Europe and around the world, but we should all be singing from the same hymn sheet, not pressing ahead with our own adgendas and motives. Have we leant nothing from the past?
The Archbishop is right to mock the "God is on our side" notion of the US. God in whichever religion you care to name, is always there. How well do the American people know the beliefs and aspirations of the average Muslim, or of the average Hindu, Sikh, Buddist?
American policy reminds me of an Engishman abroad, shouting at the French cafe owner to make himself understood, without the slightest thought of trying to speak a word of French. If he doesn't understand, shout louder and then hit him to get your point over.
Simon Cotton, West Mersea, Essex
The United States is behaving like the Soviet Union did before: it is intervening in other countries in an imperialistic way, at the same time accusing them of being "imperialists" or "racists", i.e. it is using basically Marxist rhetoric (presently called "political correctness") in order to undermine countries it views as competitors. Hence the dismantling of Yugoslavia, the support of Bosnian Muslim, Kosovo Albanian and Chechen terrorists, as wel as the "liberation" of Iraq (that is, from 655,000 inhabitants).
Arthur Rambler, Yushnokurilsk, Russia
As an american i am deeply ashamed of the current administration. As a democracy, we asked for what we got by not voting the right way. I dislike though his reference on islam being a good belief system. Its a very violent religion calling for holy wars. Makes the catholic inquistion look like a field day in the park. As to our manufacturing muscle during world war 2, it was not an easy taski getting our industry into a war effort. Also world war 2 ended the US depression.
Philip B Kirschner, Brooklyn,NY, USA
He has struck a blow against the biggest travesty of Christianity in recent times -- the hijacking of its language for the nefarious purposes of American imperialism. The naivety and genuine innocence of many of the American responses on this thread show how deep is the enthrallment of Americans to this idol. The adhominem attacks on the speaker, his church and Christianity itself actually suggest to me that all three are more relevant that is sometimes imagined. The Gospel was surely never more verified nor more clearly needed than in these times where the largest allegedly Christian nation is openly justifying torture and fomenting war. To most Europeans the Archbishop will seem to be pointing out the obvious, though they may be happy that a churchman says it, and to most Americans he will seem to be gratuitously insulting their country. The divide of perception here is vast -- vaster than that between Sunni and Shiite!
Joseph S. O'Leary, Tokyo, Japan
Генри Миллер: США между гениями и лунатиками ("La Jornada", Мексика)Мы с самого начала проводили геноцид! Долой всех тех, кто с нами не согласен!
Генри Миллер / Henry Miller,
4 года назад, 16 марта 2003 года, США начали военную операцию против Ирака. Публикация из архива ИноСМИ.Ru
Последние два столетия, пролетевшие как единый миг, мы словно скатывались по водосточной трубе. Там-то мы и сломаем себе шею! И никто не всплакнет по нам; даже те, кому мы помогли выжить. В какой-то момент нашей истории мы просто стали отравлять весь мир. Мы отравляли его нашими идеями о прогрессе, продуктивности и механизации. Наших сильных духом пионеров-первооткрывателей мы превратили в роботов. Мы провели дегуманизацию мира, в котором живем.
Aборигены, прежде населявшие наш континент, сначала приняли колонизаторов из Старого Мира за богов. Но очень скоро разочаровались. Очень скоро они научились бояться и ненавидеть нас (именно мы, бледнолицые, научили индейцев рубить головы своим врагам!). Точно с такой же жестокостью поступали и мы сами с теми, кто не разделял наших взглядов на жизнь. Именно мы уничтожили удивительную общину Онейда, так же как и многие другие религиозные общины. Мы отобрали у индейцев их земли и сделали все возможное, чтобы уничтожить эти народы. И мы ни разу даже не попытались компенсировать им наши деяния.
Кажется, что все мы были зачаты среди ненависти и насилия, и рождены, чтобы грабить, насиловать и убивать. Книги по нашей истории стараются залакировать все те жестокость, мерзость и аморальные поступки, совершенные нашими предводителями. Достаточно привести единственный пример - один из самых великих людей, рожденных нашей нацией, Томас Джефферсон (Tomas Jefferson), имел незаконнорожденного сына от своей чернокожей рабыни. Почти все великие политики, что возводили здание нашей демократии, были рабовладельцами. Это они придумали для нашей нации названия республика и демократия, но на самом деле их у нас никогда не было, даже сейчас. Этой страной управляет всего лишь несколько патрициев из влиятельных семейств. Еще во времена Уолта Уитмена (Walt Whitman) вся эта территория была поражена коррупцией. Поэзия Уитмена в "Листьях травы" - великолепная песнь во имя "Я", но все его прозаические произведения - это обвинительный приговор в адрес американского общества.
Не так давно мне на глаза попались фотографии всех наших вице-президентов, помещенные в одну рамку: они могли бы стать прекрасным примером для иллюстрации дурного вкуса. Кто-то из них походил на преступников, кто-то - на тупиц, а кто-то и просто на идиотов. По правде говоря, президенты выглядели не намного лучше. Вот уж точно, что государственные мужи всего мира кажутся тупоголовыми и пройдохами. И Черчилль (Churchill) не был исключением.
К имени Линкольна (Lincoln) многие относятся с благоговением, хотя, по моему мнению, именно он во многом несет ответственность за начало гражданской войны, потому как в его силах было не допустить развязывания войны между Севером и Югом. Та гражданская война, как и все прочие, подобные ей столкновения, стала примером страшной жестокости, от которой страна по-прежнему полностью не оправилась.
Участие в первой мировой войне было - как бы так помягче сказать - страшным безумством. Достаточно лишь вспомнить, что стало с тем прежним, страшным врагом всего человечества!
Война, война-. С самых ранних лет своего детства я помню то, что было связано с войной между Испанией и Соединенными Штатами, русско-японской войной, войной на Балканах - и так без конца. Как написал в своем "Отказе от повиновения" ("Refus d'Obeissanse") Жан Жионо (Jean Giono), войны питают капитализм, без них он вообще не может существовать.
Сегодня все партии ведут войну: партии либеральные, партии реакционные, партии какие угодно. Коммунисты такие же убийцы, как капиталисты или фашисты. Кажется, что человек рожден, чтобы убивать. Наша страна занималась тем, что учила весь оставшийся мир заниматься самоуничтожением, умерщвляя все, в том числе флору и фауну.
В какой-то момент общество заинтересовалось полетом на Луну. Сейчас складывается впечатление, что тот эксперимент не преследовал никаких благих целей - все плоды собрал Пентагон. Очень скоро окажутся ненужными ни форма, ни военная подготовка, ни военные дисциплины. Мы усядемся там, где нам будет удобно, и со своего места сможем управлять самым смертоносным оружием. И все войны будет проходить вдалеке от нашего кресла-качалки! И не будет никакой необходимости в генералах, адмиралах и прочих командующих. Все вместе и каждый в отдельности - будь то мужчина, женщина или ребенок - превратятся в потенциальные бомбы.
Когда я говорю, что мы катимся по водосточному желобу, я имею в виду и всех наших последователей во всем мире. Мы упадем все вместе. Холокост, возможно, смогут пережить самые примитивные организмы и некоторые представители диких тварей. И лишь тогда, возможно, мы станет свидетелями зарождения нового человечества. Мы - те, кто в настоящее время и составляет общество, на самом деле пока не готовы привести в порядок корабль Государства. Любое преследование прогрессистской идеи уводит нас все дальше и дальше в прошлое.
С самых первых лет своего существования у нас были свои гангстеры, свои убийцы и свои же коррумпированные политики. Когда мы жили в счастливые, добрые и чистые времена? Согласно моим подсчетам - никогда. Я был еще ребенком, когда впервые услышал рассказы о Таммани-Холл. Когда я был еще ребенком, то видел, как конные полицейские разгоняли толпу безоружных людей на Юнион-Сквер (они походили на хорошо тренированных казаков). Когда я был еще совсем маленьким, мне рассказывали о таких "героях" как адмирал Дьюи (Dewey) - настоящий простак - и Тедди Рузвельт (Teddy Roosevelt) , участвовавший в сражении при Сан-Хуан Хилл. Но мне ничего не рассказывали об Эмерсоне (Emerson), Торо (Thoreau) или Уитмене. В те времена моим "героем" был Уильям Дженнингс Брайан (William Jennings Bryan) - "оратор с серебряным языком". Уже позднее я узнал о тюрьмах Синг-Синг, Даннемора, Ливенворт и прочих, им подобных. Самым любимым моим писателем в юности был О'Генри, но никто при этом не рассказал мне о человеке, который подтолкнул его к писательству - Але Дженнингсе (Al Jennings) - с которым писатель-кумир моей юности сидел в одной камере в тюрьме в Огайо.
В нашем районе не было ни публичных библиотек, ни книжных магазинов. Только в двадцать один год мне повезло и я встретил в Калифорнии, в Сан-Диего Эмму Голдман (Emma Goldman), открывшую мне существование такого слова как культура. И лишь благодаря ей, я смог совершить поворот от Марка Твена (Mark Twain) к Фридриху Ницше (Friederich Nietzsche).
И не только наши вице-президенты были толпой тупиц и простаков, но и - почти вся страна в целом. Скольких великих писателей, художников, музыкантов породила наша страна за эти два столетия? Гораздо легче вспомнить количество знаменитых бездельников, порожденных ею!
Стоит вспомнить весь тот цирк под названием Уотергейт. Если судить по реакции нашего общества, так может сложиться впечатление, что наши политики могут совершать лишь самые тривиальные ошибки, что они не совершили ни одного преступления. Мы много раз поступали так, словно были твердо убеждены, что зло можно искоренить раз и навсегда.
Когда Линкольн (Lincoln) издал свою "Декларацию об освобождении", мы решили, что положили конец рабству. Мы и представить себе не могли, что на севере существуют гораздо более серьезные расовые проблемы, чем на юге. Мы не только создали черных рабов, мы придумали и рабов белых - рабов эры господства машин. Ку-клукс-клан существует до сих пор. И до сих пор существует мафия! У нас не бывает погромов, но антисемитизм по-прежнему растет и крепнет.
И вполне очевидно, что из-за всей этой нашей болтовни о прогрессе мы страдаем узостью сознания, всяческими предрассудками и жажда крови в нас сильна так же, как и прежде. Одного лишь упоминания военного ведомства - Пентагон! - достаточно, чтобы напугать. Война во Вьетнаме была настоящей низостью! Тамерлан (Tamerlane) и Аттила (Attila) - младенцы по сравнению с монстрами наших дней, вооруженных атомными бомбами и напалмом. Если Гитлера (Hitler) обвиняют в геноциде, то в чем же обвинять нас?
Мы проводили геноцид с самого начала! Долой всех тех, кто с нами не согласен! Мы проводили геноцид в отношении индейцев, негров, мексиканцев. А затем появились кино и телевидение, и там можно увидеть все, что угодно. Дети растут и видят, как на экранах совершаются преступления, убийства, грабежи, пытки и все мыслимое и немыслимое, что связано со злодейством, обскурантизмом и жестокостью. Все, что является частью столь любимого нами "прогресса". И мы по-прежнему задаемся вопросом, почему мы (как нация и как народ) разваливаемся.
Я действительно пытаюсь понять, существует ли что-то в американской "цивилизации", достойное похвалы. И не могу ничего вспомнить. Тюрьмы - это гнездилища порока. Знание в школах добывается лишь высиживанием на заднице, но что это может быть за знание, когда учителя боятся своих учеников?! Каждый кого-нибудь боится и так, по цепочке, этот страх передается самим зародышам. Ни один смельчак не отважится выйти на улицу ночью в одиночку и уж тем более безоружным. И потому, само собой разумеется, что тот, кто ночью оказывается на улице, вызывает подозрение.
Теперь опять все чаще обсуждаются такие темы, как венерические заболевания и культура потребления наркотиков. Болезни, передающиеся половым путем, получают все большее распространение среди подростков. То же самое происходит с наркотиками и алкоголем. Целая нация алкоголиков и наркоманов! О чем можно говорить, если напиваются даже бабушки!
Ну а что сказать о наших доблестных полицейских, наших предполагаемых защитниках? В скольких преступлениях они виновны! Они навязывают нам подозрения и ненависть!
Коррупция - вот подходящее жесткое слово, чтобы охарактеризовать их! Где они, все эти наши герои? Стоит поискать среди спортсменов, и тогда мы найдем там Мохаммеда Али (Mohammed Ali). Потом ими станут какой-нибудь игрок американского футбола или пинчер-левша. Да, у нас были настоящие герои, но большинство из них либо оказались в тюрьме, либо были убиты. У нас было много безымянных героев. Но воспоминания о вьетнамской войне вызывают у меня приступы тошноты. А ведь до сих пор некоторые называют "героями" ветеранов той войны. Да простит их Господь.
И хотя мои слова могут казаться едкими, я не испытываю ненависти ни к Соединенным Штатам, ни к американцам. Оглядываясь на наше бурное прошлое, мы могли бы то же самое сказать и о других, так называемых, цивилизованных странах. Я не могу думать о гражданах любой великой страны мира, что рассуждают как пигмеи: "Мы счастливы оттого, что мы такие как есть. Нам не надо ничего менять". И среди всех цивилизованных стран мира американская нация кажется мне самой беспокойной, самой неудовлетворенной, тем идиотом, который стремится изменить мир по своему образу и подобию. И вот занимаясь этим, как ему кажется, улучшением мира, он не понимает, что разрушает и отравляет его. Поэт Уолт Уитмен осознал это более ста лет назад и назвал нас нацией идиотов. Возможно, именно Уолт Уитмен и является самым великим американцем, жившим на нашей земле!
Вот слова самого Уитмена, написанные им больше стал лет назад: "Вперед, мои возлюбленные американцы, еще дальше гоните своих коней - волнение! деньги! политики! Открывайте все затворы, пусть они раскачиваются и дальше, давя всех остальных. Очень скоро и ты окажешься там, и захочешь сдержать их, но только не сможешь. Вы лишь вовремя отдайте указ (старым и новым странам), чтобы строили тысячи сумасшедших домов. Потому как вы выбрали лучший путь для создания нации идиотов".
Писатель Генри Миллер, автор таких произведений, как "Тропик Рака" и "Тихие дни в Клиши", скончался 7 июня 1980 года.
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Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers : Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy
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Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law
Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds : Larry Wall : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOS : Programming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC development : Scripting Languages : Perl history : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history
The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-Month : How to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Hater’s Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite
Most popular humor pages:
Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor
The Last but not Least
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Last modified: February 19, 2018