Andrew Bacevich: What Obsessing About Trump Causes Us To Miss

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By Andrew J. Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, now out in paperback. His next book will be an interpretive history of the United States from the end of the Cold War to the election of Donald Trump. Originally published at TomDispatch

If only it were so.  How wonderful it would be if President Trump’s ascendancy had coincided with a revival of hard-hitting, deep-dive, no-holds-barred American journalism.  Alas, that’s hardly the case.  True, the big media outlets are demonstrating both energy and enterprise in exposing the ineptitude, inconsistency, and dubious ethical standards, as well as outright lies and fake news, that are already emerging as Trump era signatures.  That said, pointing out that the president has (again) uttered a falsehood, claimed credit for a nonexistent achievement, or abandoned some position to which he had previously sworn fealty requires something less than the sleuthing talents of a Sherlock Holmes.  As for beating up on poor Sean Spicer for his latest sequence of gaffes — well, that’s more akin to sadism than reporting.

Apart from a commendable determination to discomfit Trump and members of his inner circle (select military figures excepted, at least for now), journalism remains pretty much what it was prior to November 8th of last year: personalities built up only to be torn down; fads and novelties discovered, celebrated, then mocked; “extraordinary” stories of ordinary people granted 15 seconds of fame only to once again be consigned to oblivion — all served with a side dish of that day’s quota of suffering, devastation, and carnage.  These remain journalism’s stock-in-trade.  As practiced in the United States, with certain honorable (and hence unprofitable) exceptions, journalism remains superficial, voyeuristic, and governed by the attention span of a two year old.

As a result, all those editors, reporters, columnists, and talking heads who characterize their labors as “now more important than ever” ill-serve the public they profess to inform and enlighten.  Rather than clearing the air, they befog it further.  If anything, the media’s current obsession with Donald Trump — his every utterance or tweet treated as “breaking news!” — just provides one additional excuse for highlighting trivia, while slighting issues that deserve far more attention than they currently receive. 

To illustrate the point, let me cite some examples of national security issues that presently receive short shrift or are ignored altogether by those parts of the Fourth Estate said to help set the nation’s political agenda. To put it another way: Hey, Big Media, here are two dozen matters to which you’re not giving faintly adequate thought and attention.

1. Accomplishing the “mission”: Since the immediate aftermath of World War II, the United States has been committed to defending key allies in Europe and East Asia.  Not long thereafter, U.S. security guarantees were extended to the Middle East as well.  Under what circumstances can Americans expect nations in these regions to assume responsibility for managing their own affairs?  To put it another way, when (if ever) might U.S. forces actually come home?  And if it is incumbent upon the United States to police vast swaths of the planet in perpetuity, how should momentous changes in the international order — the rise of China, for example, or accelerating climate change — affect the U.S. approach to doing so?

2. American military supremacy: The United States military is undoubtedly the world’s finest.  It’s also far and away the most generously funded, with policymakers offering U.S. troops no shortage of opportunities to practice their craft.  So why doesn’t this great military ever win anything?  Or put another way, why in recent decades have those forces been unable to accomplish Washington’s stated wartime objectives?  Why has the now 15-year-old war on terror failed to result in even a single real success anywhere in the Greater Middle East?  Could it be that we’ve taken the wrong approach?  What should we be doing differently?

3. America’s empire of bases: The U.S. military today garrisons the planet in a fashion without historical precedent.  Successive administrations, regardless of party, justify and perpetuate this policy by insisting that positioning U.S. forces in distant lands fosters peace, stability, and security.  In the present century, however, perpetuating this practice has visibly had the opposite effect.  In the eyes of many of those called upon to “host” American bases, the permanent presence of such forces smacks of occupation.  They resist.  Why should U.S. policymakers expect otherwise?

4. Supporting the troops: In present-day America, expressing reverence for those who serve in uniform is something akin to a religious obligation.  Everyone professes to cherish America’s “warriors.”  Yet such bountiful, if superficial, expressions of regard camouflage a growing gap between those who serve and those who applaud from the sidelines. Our present-day military system, based on the misnamed All-Volunteer Force, is neither democratic nor effective.  Why has discussion and debate about its deficiencies not found a place among the nation’s political priorities? 

5. Prerogatives of the commander-in-chief: Are there any military actions that the president of the United States may not order on his own authority?  If so, what are they?  Bit by bit, decade by decade, Congress has abdicated its assigned role in authorizing war. Today, it merely rubberstamps what presidents decide to do (or simply stays mum).  Who does this deference to an imperial presidency benefit?  Have U.S. policies thereby become more prudent, enlightened, and successful?

6. Assassin-in-chief: A policy of assassination, secretly implemented under the aegis of the CIA during the early Cold War, yielded few substantive successes.  When the secrets were revealed, however, the U.S. government suffered considerable embarrassment, so much so that presidents foreswore politically motivated murder. After 9/11, however, Washington returned to the assassination business in a big way and on a global scale, using drones.  Today, the only secret is the sequence of names on the current presidential hit list, euphemistically known as the White House “disposition matrix.” But does assassination actually advance U.S. interests (or does it merely recruit replacements for the terrorists it liquidates)?  How can we measure its costs, whether direct or indirect?  What dangers and vulnerabilities does this practice invite?

7. The war formerly known as the “Global War on Terrorism”: What precisely is Washington’s present strategy for defeating violent jihadism?  What sequence of planned actions or steps is expected to yield success? If no such strategy exists, why is that the case?  How is it that the absence of strategy — not to mention an agreed upon definition of “success” — doesn’t even qualify for discussion here?

8. The campaign formerly known as Operation Enduring Freedom: The conflict commonly referred to as the Afghanistan War is now the longest in U.S. history — having lasted longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. What is the Pentagon’s plan for concluding that conflict?  When might Americans expect it to end?  On what terms?

9. The Gulf: Americans once believed that their prosperity and way of life depended on having assured access to Persian Gulf oil.  Today, that is no longer the case.  The United States is once more an oil exporter. Available and accessible reserves of oil and natural gas in North America are far greater than was once believed. Yet the assumption that the Persian Gulf still qualifies as crucial to American national security persists in Washington. Why?

10. Hyping terrorism: Each year terrorist attacks kill far fewer Americans than do auto accidents, drug overdoses, or even lightning strikes.  Yet in the allocation of government resources, preventing terrorist attacks takes precedence over preventing all three of the others combined. Why is that?

11. Deaths that matter and deaths that don’t: Why do terrorist attacks that kill a handful of Europeans command infinitely more American attention than do terrorist attacks that kill far larger numbers of Arabs? A terrorist attack that kills citizens of France or Belgium elicits from the United States heartfelt expressions of sympathy and solidarity.  A terrorist attack that kills Egyptians or Iraqis elicits shrugs.  Why the difference?  To what extent does race provide the answer to that question?

12. Israeli nukes: What purpose is served by indulging the pretense that Israel does not have nuclear weapons?

13. Peace in the Holy Land: What purpose is served by indulging illusions that a “two-state solution” offers a plausible resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?  As remorselessly as white settlers once encroached upon territory inhabited by Native American tribes, Israeli settlers expand their presence in the occupied territories year by year.  As they do, the likelihood of creating a viable Palestinian state becomes ever more improbable. To pretend otherwise is the equivalent of thinking that one day President Trump might prefer the rusticity of Camp David to the glitz of Mar-a-Lago.

14. Merchandizing death: When it comes to arms sales, there is no need to Make America Great Again.  The U.S. ranks number one by a comfortable margin, with long-time allies Saudi Arabia and Israel leading recipients of those arms.  Each year, the Saudis (per capita gross domestic product $20,000) purchase hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. weapons.  Israel (per capita gross domestic product $38,000) gets several billion dollars worth of such weaponry annually courtesy of the American taxpayer.  If the Saudis pay for U.S. arms, why shouldn’t the Israelis? They can certainly afford to do so.

15. Our friends the Saudis (I): Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on September 11, 2001, were Saudis.  What does that fact signify?

16. Our friends the Saudis (II): If indeed Saudi Arabia and Iran are competing to determine which nation will enjoy the upper hand in the Persian Gulf, why should the United States favor Saudi Arabia?  In what sense do Saudi values align more closely with American values than do Iranian ones?

17. Our friends the Pakistanis: Pakistan behaves like a rogue state.  It is a nuclear weapons proliferator.  It supports the Taliban.  For years, it provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden.  Yet U.S. policymakers treat Pakistan as if it were an ally.  Why?  In what ways do U.S. and Pakistani interests or values coincide?  If there are none, why not say so? 

18. Free-loading Europeans: Why can’t Europe, “whole and free,” its population and economy considerably larger than Russia’s, defend itself?  It’s altogether commendable that U.S. policymakers should express support for Polish independence and root for the Baltic republics.  But how does it make sense for the United States to care more about the wellbeing of people living in Eastern Europe than do people living in Western Europe?

19. The mother of all “special relationships”: The United States and the United Kingdom have a “special relationship” dating from the days of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.  Apart from keeping the Public Broadcasting Service supplied with costume dramas and stories featuring eccentric detectives, what is the rationale for that partnership today?  Why should U.S. relations with Great Britain, a fading power, be any more “special” than its relations with a rising power like India?  Why should the bonds connecting Americans and Britons be any more intimate than those connecting Americans and Mexicans?  Why does a republic now approaching the 241st anniversary of its independence still need a “mother country”?

20. The old nuclear disarmament razzmatazz: American presidents routinely cite their hope for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons.  Yet the U.S. maintains nuclear strike forces on full alert, has embarked on a costly and comprehensive trillion-dollar modernization of its nuclear arsenal, and even refuses to adopt a no-first-use posture when it comes to nuclear war.  The truth is that the United States will consider surrendering its nukes only after every other nation on the planet has done so first.  How does American nuclear hypocrisy affect the prospects for global nuclear disarmament or even simply for the non-proliferation of such weaponry?

21. Double standards (I): American policymakers take it for granted that their country’s sphere of influence is global, which, in turn, provides the rationale for the deployment of U.S. military forces to scores of countries.  Yet when it comes to nations like China, Russia, or Iran, Washington takes the position that spheres of influence are obsolete and a concept that should no longer be applicable to the practice of statecraft.  So Chinese, Russian, and Iranian forces should remain where they belong — in China, Russia, and Iran.  To stray beyond that constitutes a provocation, as well as a threat to global peace and order.  Why should these other nations play by American rules?  Why shouldn’t similar rules apply to the United States?

22. Double standards (II): Washington claims that it supports and upholds international law.  Yet when international law gets in the way of what American policymakers want to do, they disregard it.  They start wars, violate the sovereignty of other nations, and authorize agents of the United States to kidnap, imprison, torture, and kill.  They do these things with impunity, only forced to reverse their actions on the rare occasions when U.S. courts find them illegal.  Why should other powers treat international norms as sacrosanct since the United States does so only when convenient? 

23. Double standards (III): The United States condemns the indiscriminate killing of civilians in wartime.  Yet over the last three-quarters of a century, it killed civilians regularly and often on a massive scale.  By what logic, since the 1940s, has the killing of Germans, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Afghans, and others by U.S. air power been any less reprehensible than the Syrian government’s use of “barrel bombs” to kill Syrians today?  On what basis should Americans accept Pentagon claims that, when civilians are killed these days by U.S. forces, the acts are invariably accidental, whereas Syrian forces kill civilians intentionally and out of malice?  Why exclude incompetence or the fog of war as explanations?  And why, for instance, does the United States regularly gloss over or ignore altogether the noncombatants that Saudi forces (with U.S. assistance) are routinely killing in Yemen?

24. Moral obligations: When confronted with some egregious violation of human rights, members of the chattering classes frequently express an urge for the United States to “do something.”  Holocaust analogies sprout like dandelions.  Newspaper columnists recycle copy first used when Cambodians were slaughtering other Cambodians en masse or whenever Hutus and Tutsis went at it.  Proponents of action — typically advocating military intervention — argue that the United States has a moral obligation to aid those victimized by injustice or cruelty anywhere on Earth.  But what determines the pecking order of such moral obligations?  Which comes first, a responsibility to redress the crimes of others or a responsibility to redress crimes committed by Americans?  Who has a greater claim to U.S. assistance, Syrians suffering today under the boot of Bashar al-Assad or Iraqis, their country shattered by the U.S. invasion of 2003?  Where do the Vietnamese fit into the queue?  How about the Filipinos, brutally denied independence and forcibly incorporated into an American empire as the nineteenth century ended?  Or African-Americans, whose ancestors were imported as slaves?  Or, for that matter, dispossessed and disinherited Native Americans?  Is there a statute of limitations that applies to moral obligations?  And if not, shouldn’t those who have waited longest for justice or reparations receive priority attention?

Let me suggest that any one of these two dozen issues — none seriously covered, discussed, or debated in the American media or in the political mainstream — bears more directly on the wellbeing of the United States and our prospects for avoiding global conflict than anything Donald Trump may have said or done during his first 100 days as president.  Collectively, they define the core of the national security challenges that presently confront this country, even as they languish on the periphery of American politics.

How much damage Donald Trump’s presidency wreaks before it ends remains to be seen.  Yet he himself is a transient phenomenon.  To allow his pratfalls and shenanigans to divert attention from matters sure to persist when he finally departs the stage is to make a grievous error.  It may well be that, as the Times insists, the truth is now more important than ever.  If so, finding the truth requires looking in the right places and asking the right questions.

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51 comments

  1. MoiAussie

    This well-meaning lament at the moribund state of the media seems rather naive. The author already knows that

    “journalism remains pretty much what it was prior to November 8th of last year”

    but then goes on to list a bunch of important issues that should be getting more attention, almost all concerned with war or foreign policy, and suggests that Trump is distracting us from all this. (No mention of all the other important issues that should be getting more attention, but we can perhaps excuse the narrowness of scope given this is promotion of a book about warfare.)

    It is not obsessing about Trump that causes “us” to miss these issues. It is the role and purpose of the modern MSM to avoid these issues, because their patronage and profits and hence power and, ultimately, existence, depend upon that behaviour. It’s about as sensible as saying to media consumers

    Stop paying attention to the Kardashians and the Oscars, ignore the sports results, there’s important stuff that you should be thinking about.

    What would be far more useful than a specialised list of inadequately reported topics would be to analyze this MSM behaviour, explore how it comes about and how it has evolved, to reveal some of the darker connections to power, and put up some strategies for slowly reversing it. In a nutshell, how to foster thriving independent media with broad reach that expose MSM stenography and resist censorship?

    Reply
    1. DH

      Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” has many of the answers to the questions about why the MSM is the way it is.

      People are hard-wired to react to sound bites, especially potential pleasure or terror. The MSM is very good at that. Populist politicians feed off of the same.

      Reply
    2. B.J.M.

      “What would be far more useful than a specialised list of inadequately reported topics would be to analyze this MSM behaviour, explore how it comes about and how it has evolved, to reveal some of the darker connections to power, and put up some strategies for slowly reversing it.”

      Sorry MoiAussie, but the analysis has already been done, unfortunately nobody really cares.

      Propaganda and the Public Mind
      Deterring Democracy
      Manufacturing Consent
      Necessary Illusions

      Reply
      1. MoiAussie

        Thanks, I appreciate your response. I know Chomsky’s work, but was actually looking for something at a different level. I’m undoubtedly guilty of not expressing myself clearly enough, so let me try again.

        Reading Chomsky is surely valuable, but what I’ve read doesn’t offer much in the way of an analysis of what is happening in the media today, with old empires crumbling, journalists being dispensed with, doubling down on self-censorship and profit-driven stenography, fake news and fake fake news arguments raging, the rise of social media as people’s sole news source, leak and whistleblower based journalism in the public interest being progressively criminalised, and rigorous independent media that asks hard questions and exposes big lies struggling to be heard amongst the babble. It also doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of strategy for fostering, protecting and broadening the reach of the latter.

        Sharing lists of stuff being ignored or swept under the carpet by the MSM perhaps makes a minor contribution to consciousness raising, as evidenced by some of the positive comments downthread here, but I can’t see how doing that will bring about any change in the media landscape. It may lead to a bit more support for independent media from those with eyes newly opened, but it too is not any kind of strategy for strengthening reliable media and protecting it from looming threats of censorship.

        Recent laws and court judgements are making it easier for governments to force ISPs to blacklist and block access to sites that host “bad content” and even sites that have links to such sites. Ditto search engines, which also act according to their own motives. I suspect we’re not far away from a time when a site like NC could be blocked in countries such as the UK on some trumped up charge of copyright violation or for “linking to fake news”. As the slide down the slippery slope continues, the charge might be something simpler and less defensible, such as “damaging UK national interests” for its Brexit analysis. How long until access to the static and streaming media of foreign countries deemed insufficiently friendly is blocked in the US? The war drums are a little quieter this month but government preparations for wartime media censorship are advancing worldwide.

        So if the problem is “How to promote and strengthen reliable independent media, and protect it from censorship?” then solutions such as “read Chomsky” or “point out some failings of the MSM to your friends” don’t seem to get us very far. They both boil down to consciousness raising, of self or others. “Support NC and tell your friends about it” is a little better, but limited in scope and effectiveness. Maybe something like an independently curated directory of media selected for living up to minimum standards, with rankings and regular commentary on the strengths, biases and blindspots of particular contributors. There is such a wealth of knowledge here at NC about the connections, biases and backgrounds of authors and mouthpieces, but it’s scattered, and deserves to be collated and made more accessible. And what kind of business and delivery channel model would have a chance of supporting such an endeavour?

        I know it’s a big ask, but I had hoped that others had turned their attention to the problem and people here might be aware of some up-to-date strategies and even plans to address it.

        Reply
        1. B.J.M.

          “Maybe something like an independently curated directory of media selected for living up to minimum standards, with rankings and regular commentary on the strengths, biases and blindspots of particular contributors.”

          I think your suggestion is a good one and step in the right direction. There are lots of very good independent sites doing excellent work but as you note it is fragmented and scattered. Personally, I take the time to navigate around from one to another. It is a lot of work but worth the effort. What we are really talking about is a new newspaper, something to replace the NYT and Washington Post, one that is truly independent and honest with writers who have real expertise in the subjects they cover. Yves could be the editor of the business section. Steve Walt could be the foreign policy editor. Glen Greenwald the editor for political coverage and so on.

          In the meantime we are stuck with what Michael Crichton so accurately described in the fourth issue of Wired magazine, in the fall of 1993, just as the Internet was entering public consciousness. Michael Crichton argued that newspapers were doomed because they were too dumb. As information became cheaper, more plentiful, and easier to get, consumers, he argued, would become ever more immersed in their specific interests and understand that their more generally oriented paper—at least in the matter of a reader’s special interest, but also by inference everything else—had no idea what it was talking about.

          I have no idea where this is all heading but it is pretty clear that these legacy news sources are slowly dying. One by one people are waking up and realizing that they are unreliable. They are part of the existing power structure and their primary role is to control the public mind inspite to all their slogans about their independent and importance.

          Reply
    3. witters

      “What would be far more useful than a specialised list of inadequately reported topics would be to analyze this MSM behaviour, explore how it comes about and how it has evolved, to reveal some of the darker connections to power, and put up some strategies for slowly reversing it. In a nutshell, how to foster thriving independent media with broad reach that expose MSM stenography and resist censorship?”

      Well, yes. Except the behaviour you are analysing is, presumably, among other things, the behviour involved in inadequately addressing these topics.

      Reply
    4. Damson

      Very ‘careful. :

      Perhaps it wouldn’t get published otherwise?

      Or else in the style of a limited hangout.

      Reply
  2. cat's paw

    One can sleep soundly tonight safe in the knowledge that not even the pretense of a nonreply to Bacevich’s questions will be forthcoming.

    Reply
    1. MoiAussie

      You’re right, that’s the status quo. But it raises the question, what can individuals do to change the behavior of the media?

      Tactically, we can support media that’s doing its job, especially sites like NC. But what would be a more strategic approach?

      Reply
      1. oho

        stop fighting about identity politics (i’m not holding my breath for either side)

        elements of both sides want to return to a non-interventionist US foreign policy, except there is always a fight about something else that serves as a distraction.. like cats and shiny toys.

        Reply
      2. Norb

        The only thing one can do is persistently bring important issues forward to friends and colleagues. In other words, become in many respects a social pariah. Challenging the status quo by definition makes you an outsider.

        The strategic effectiveness of this dissent becomes manifest when you actually change how you live your life. You become an example for others to follow.

        Any successful movement building must follow this path. The strategic plan is to live and think like a socialist in a crumbling capitalist world. The rising levels of inequality must surely bring this about, one way or another.

        Socialism or Barbarism. How many working people could disagree with that? It needs to be repeated over and over. That spirit needs to be reflected in individual life in order to survive.

        Reply
      3. B.J.M.

        ” But it raises the question, what can individuals do to change the behavior of the media?”

        We can continue to ignore them and opt for the following: Naked Capitalism, CounterPunch, ZeroHedge, Liberty Blitzkreig, ContraCorner, Truthout, Consortium News, The Unz Review, Tom Dispatch, Democracy Now, Pando Daily, The Intercept, etc, etc. That is the mainstream media’s worst nightmare.

        The only reason to check the NYT or Washington Post is to see what meme is being promoted by the deep state; then you know what not to believe.

        I find this whole debate about fake news to be somewhat laughable. Americans have been subject to fake news for decades, they just didn’t know it. Noam Chomsky has been writing about this for 40 years. His books: Propaganda and the Public Mind, Deterring Democracy, Manufacturing Consent and Necessary Illusions are all excellent and contain extensive research and details to support his claims. Of course part to the fake news strategy has been to ignore people like Chomsky. Instead we get intellectual clowns like Tom Friedman telling us how the world works.

        Now that we have some real news, the fake news mainstream media has gone into panic mode and its strategy is to label the real new as fake news. Orwell and Huxley must be rolling in their graves with laughter.

        Enjoy the show!

        Reply
        1. MoiAussie

          Thanks muchly for the list, there are a few on it I hadn’t paid much attention to. Would be interested to see some expansion of the “etc, etc” part, and to discover the 10 most reliable independent UK media sites, whatever the hell they are (the only one that comes straight to mind is Ian Welsh’s blog), plus Canada, Oz, etc. Then there are all the foreign-but-in-english sites that often report stuff that is ignored by the MSM, no matter how slanted their coverage may be.

          This is a actually good start on what I was talking about in reply to you a bit upthread.

          Reply
      4. TheCatSaid

        Check out newsbud.com
        They are doing some amazing and revolutionary things in the media area.

        Reply
    2. optimader

      True, the big media outlets are demonstrating both energy and enterprise in exposing the ineptitude, inconsistency, and dubious ethical standards, as well as outright lies and fake news, that are already emerging as Trump era signatures. That said, pointing out that the president has (again) uttered a falsehood, claimed credit for a nonexistent achievement, or abandoned some position to which he had previously sworn ….
      .
      I really didn’t get more than a couple lines past this after it went through my intellectual processing buffer.
      1.) Big media remains substantially a fail, nothing changed here
      2.) Is …”uttered a falsehood, claimed credit for a nonexistent achievement, or abandoned some position..” a new development in POTUS behavior ushered in by DTrump??

      Reply
  3. craazyboy

    Ok, so the USG has 24 issues. Let’s not be nit-picky.

    On this one, we’ve had a bit of progress.

    “8. The campaign formerly known as Operation Enduring Freedom: The conflict commonly referred to as the Afghanistan War is now the longest in U.S. history — having lasted longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. What is the Pentagon’s plan for concluding that conflict?  When might Americans expect it to end?  On what terms?”

    We dropped a $30 million BMF’ing bomb on an undefensible, open plain. Killed 67 trees and terrified Afgan flora from border to border. Egyptian cotton kids refuse to migrate there on their little parachute thingies because they are terrified!

    Declassified CIA leaks from the DNC indicate these trees actively made maple syrup for terrorists. This gives terrorists big muscles, like Popeye, and reduces urges to eat human organs.

    This is appreciated by other terrorists in camp and they sleep better , too.

    However, the Fava Beans and Olive Oil have been spilled. Unemployed tree hugger reporters report that the BMF’ing bomb caused the tree sap to instantly turn to maple sugar candies and the candies are now enclosed in a depleted uranium candy tins. Fake research scientists believe the bomb casing was made of the depleted uranium. Could happen, opines Krugman, now minority owner of the NYT, and seconded by Chelsea, whom did the secret HS science project back in the 90s in Yugoslavia. She drew a cute picture of Daddy on the bomb’s belly, but a lot of Very Serious Men In Black Suits did everything else.

    As to when the entire Afgan issue ends, we know the war becomes fiscally irresponsible when the USG runs out of new trees to bomb and the maple sugar candies no longer can fund the onslaught.

    Krugman is working on the macro analysis and will send the Noble Prize people an advanced copy for editing, puffing up, and general focus grouping. One area of neglect is developing a universal political correctness language – the semantics are daunting and definitions have to be dynamic, yet synchronized with meanings according to domestic needs. That’s a tough one.

    Then people have to learn it, instead of lazily doing what they do now. Which I think may involve much use of sign language.

    An advance against the reward money is expected, and a pic of the statues with Kruggies name on it would signal good faith and seal the deal. Bully to Trump!

    Reply
    1. fresno dan

      craazyboy
      May 8, 2017 at 2:05 am

      “The conflict commonly referred to as the Afghanistan War is now the longest in U.S. history — having lasted longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. What is the Pentagon’s plan for concluding that conflict? When might Americans expect it to end?”

      Apparently, the Afghanistan war has ended. It makes me feel a little less stupid, although I have a lot of excess stupid in reserve, to know others missed it as well…..

      fresno dan
      May 7, 2017 at 8:27 am
      Questions for US military after doubt cast on efficiency of Afghan bombing Guardian. resilc: “mother of all dudzzzz.”

      After dropping its largest conventional bomb ever used in combat in Afghanistan on 13 April, the US military said the massive ordnance air blast, or Moab, was a “very clear message to Isis” that they would be “annihilated”.

      Defence secretary Jim Mattis said the bomb was “necessary to break Isis”. The Afghan government claimed the bomb killed 94 Isis militants, while harming no civilians.

      =======================================================================
      That seemed like deja vu to me for some reason. So I started looking for a similar phrase, but while doing that I was surprised to learn:
      http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2014/12/29/afghanistan-war-officially-ends/21004589/

      Well, looks like I missed the war ending….but with the war ended, one would think we wouldn’t have to be dropping the world’s biggest bomb…

      Reply
        1. fresno dan

          optimader
          May 8, 2017 at 11:22 am

          the military takes more and more “police actions” while the police use more and more military equipment and tactics…..
          Considering all the “surplus” stuff that goes to the police, how soon before the police drop the biggest “anti-criminal suppression device” i.e., the mother of all bombs???

          Reply
          1. optimader

            how soon before the police drop the biggest “anti-criminal suppression device” i.e., the mother of all bombs???

            low yield Neutron bomb.. don’t damage what left of the domestic infrastructure, the REIT managers would go crazy!

            The backhanded criticism that the MFing bomb didn’t do enough damage is related to where it was used.
            Try a barometric pressure bomb in a place like Manhattan and it would be a much different outcome than say on the other end of the spectrum, at a latitude/longitude in Nevada where the before and after pics would be identical.

            A dark side of the media criticism of the MFing Bomb is that it may well goad the MIC/Pentagon Product Managers into a do-over. Afterall, who likes their handiwork criticized?

            DTrump told them I want something big and flashy while Xi is in town and that’s what they came up with..

            Back to the Product Development Group. Just need to tweak the neutron emission!
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_(nuclear_device)

            Reply
        2. DH

          They are just suppressing protests. In the US they are limited to tear gas but in Afghanistan they can use MOAB since the ACLU is weak there.

          Reply
      1. DH

        “The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea.” Mao Zedong

        The cool thing about guerilla warfare is it largely eliminates the concept of civilians since anybody could be a soldier, even children. That is why civilian casualties are frequently so low, because pretty much anybody over the age of 6 is a combatant. it also increases the enemy combatant body count which makes it clear that the government forces are winning, as was so ably shown in the Vietnam War.

        Reply
    2. optimader

      I’m thinking the bigMFing bomb was more a marketing theater driven initative rather than Afgan Strategic Theatre driven.

      It was so DTrump could be at the breakfast table before the President of China and to greet him with.. Wow, sorry I had to cut out before Dessert last night, had some things to take care of, how was the Chocolate cake.. the Cake?” ( he like to repeat things)

      Reply
      1. DH

        I view the use of MOAB on ISIS as the equivalent of giving an antibiotic shot so that the in-country Taliban immune system can wipe out the remaining ISIS bacteria. I don’t think the Taliban wants ISIS there since it focuses too much US attention on the area, so they may be willing to mop up the remaining ISIS fighters.

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  4. Dick Burkhart

    Some great questions here. Recently I was at a Town Hall with my representative to Congress and asked him if our government, or even just the Democrats, had a long term strategy for peace in the Middle East. The answer was basically, No. A few weeks later I actually got a phone call from his office on this very question, yet the answer was still basically No. He did say that Kerry had sought a UN brokered regime change in Syria (opposed by Russia), after I suggested something like this.

    However Bacevitch needs to be a little more critical about all the claims about US energy. The US may be exporting some oil and oil products, but it is importing more. We have no prospect of “energy independence” in the forseeable future, unless there is a drastic cutback in consumption. When it comes to energy forecasting, top governmental agencies have had an abysmal record. Independent experts like David Hughes and Art Berman regularly expose the wishful thinking and poor analysis of the economists at these agencies.

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    1. DanB

      “Independent experts like David Hughes and Art Berman regularly expose the wishful thinking and poor analysis of the economists at these agencies.” Thanks for pointing this out.

      Reply
    2. TheCatSaid

      “We have no prospect of “energy independence” in the forseeable future, unless there is a drastic cutback in consumption.”

      Or unless the US government opens up access to the other energy forms whose patents it controls but keeps secret. Dr. Judy Wood documents how such technologies have already been demonstrated. She is not the only one, however. And the suppression of energy technologies by government march-in rights at the US Patent Office is a well-known fact. UK Patent Office has similar rights.

      Reply
  5. Toolate

    This truly is an appalling list. One wonders how many Americans have ever considered even one of these ?

    Reply
  6. Temporarily Sane

    It’s great to see people from across the ideological spectrum who served in the military, intelligence services and in various administrations, speaking out. Hindsight is 20/20as the cliche goes. Now if only people who are currently serving in those institutions would step up to the plate and speak truth to power. At what point does it become unconscionable for good people to do nothing? Or, rather, when does critical mass kick in and make resisting the insanity that reigns in our institutions more than just a flash in the pan and career suicide?

    Reply
    1. John Wright

      The past is not encouraging, war hero Eisenhower could only warn of the MIC as he was exiting.

      The economic footprint of the MIC + think tanks + academia + security agencies is huge (maybe a trillion/year)

      A lot of people depend on the defense budget staying large as the MIC is a jobs program throughout much of the USA,.

      I remember CA Senator Boxer, one of the few senators who voted against the AUMF in Iraq, fighting to keep the local (to me) Mare Island Naval Shipyard from closing in 1996.

      The adjacent city, Vallejo, subsequently went through bankruptcy.

      One illustrative MIC family is the Kagan-Nuland family,

      Victoria Nuland was Hillary Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and seemed to be in charge of stirring up trouble in the Ukraine.

      Her husband is noted neocon (he prefers “liberal interventionist”) Robert Kagan of the Bookings Institution, and his brother, Frederick, is at the American Enterprise institute.

      Frederick’s wife, Kimberly, heads up the “Institute for the Study of War” funded by Raytheon, General Dynamics, DynCorp and others.

      One might suggest this family gets meaning, purpose and income through USA military action.

      One could posit there many other similar families.

      It is difficult to be optimistic that much can be done.

      Reply
  7. Mel

    These aren’t independent issues (and, ultimately, there’s no reason they have to be.)
    Like, what’s preventing the solution of #1 (expecting nations in these regions to assume responsibility for managing their own affairs?) #17. When the Pakistanis have to deal with huge problems on the other side of the invisible line, they aren’t so reliable about sticking to the script. Especially a script that has written out all the huge problems.

    I guess that is the point. 45 seconds with this list pastes two items together and makes the framework for a story. But the run of stories that appear are like Captain America saw a bad guy and punched him in the face. Makes a good comic panel, and, when the press has been taught the true meaning of “profitable”, it makes a good newspaper page too. Right.

    A working State Department could do interesting things with this list too, but — Captain America.

    Reply
  8. oho

    the US hasn’t fought a peer nation since 1945—even then the USSR did a lot of the heavy lifting. the US still hasnt beaten the Taliban.

    US full spectrum dominance could be propaganda for all we know—-with our vaunted carriers and fighters sitting ducks to swarms of cheap first-world missiles.

    in any fight with China or Russia, theyd only have to play defense. The US would be the ones without home field advantage, likely in a war with limited domestic support as the fight probablyt would not be about an existential issue to the US homeland

    Reply
    1. DH

      If a group like the Taliban has indigenous support, then you pretty much are left with destroying the village in order to save it as the only military option. Putting a corrupt mafia in charge of the country is not the appropriate alternate civilian political approach to win hearts and minds.

      In the 1990s nobody cared about the Taliban except when they were blowing up big Buddhas. Their fatal error was allowing bin-Laden to launch major attacks against the US home soil. My guess at this time is that the Taliban have been inoculated against spreading terror overseas. If the US left Afghanistan, the Taliban would probably take many of the valleys back and kick ISIS out so that they don’t have to worry about the US coming back in to deal with 9/11 terrorists again. Afghanistan would probably be fairly “peaceful” at that point in a fundamental Muslim way, kind of like the fundamental Christian utopia that Mike Pence tried to create in Indiana.

      Reply
  9. hemeantwell

    Bacevich’s indictment suffers from an inability to explain how this genuflecting celebration of American intentions degenerated into what he goes on to elaborate.

    Accomplishing the “mission”: Since the immediate aftermath of World War II, the United States has been committed to defending key allies in Europe and East Asia. Not long thereafter, U.S. security guarantees were extended to the Middle East as well.

    The beginning of the Cold War continues to be shrouded in assumptions about Soviet aggressiveness and American and British benevolence. Otherwise critical thinkers become kool aid dispensers when they are obliged to reference it. Bacevich skates over questions such as the division of Germany — was it because the US wanted to allow Germany to quickly reindustrialize and the Soviets were afraid of yet another invasion? — and whether city-destroying nuclear weapons would be internationally controlled or remain a US monopoly. Instead he invites us all to assume the Soviets were acting and the West was reacting. In my view this genuinely childish view of international relations is the template for American exceptionalism and, unless we break free of it, a logic of privileged exceptionalism will continually assert itself. The Trump era offers us a chance to raze this mythology and seriously confront how market-oriented imperatives, not devils and angels, drive international conflict.

    Reply
  10. JEHR

    I would like to see CNN or any other channel begin a series of TV presentations where each one of these items is discussed by the relevant people. (When no officials show up for the program, then the producers will know they are on the right track.) A great idea for a series of investigative reports by journalists also.

    However, would such a program make any difference in how things are done?

    Reply
    1. TheCatSaid

      Newsbud.com is doing something like this.
      James Corbett at corbettreport.com also has lots of good investigative journalism.

      Both of the above quote their sources.
      Both reveal that much of the geopolitical information we’ve been told about these things is incorrect. You will never get the facts from the likes of CNN.

      Reply
  11. Lil'D

    It’s systemic
    Journalism is a business of delivering eyeballs to advertisers

    These important issues don’t sell

    Get more flashy drama in the framing of the story and you might have a chance…

    Reply
    1. B.J.M.

      exactly, it is “systemic”! Until one understands that the mainstream media’s core business is not news; it is selling audiences to advertisers, one will never properly understand the problem.

      Reply
    2. TheCatSaid

      That’s why Newsbud.com is doing what it does with zero advertising and zero grants/institutional funds.

      Reply
  12. Felix_47

    Could it be that our leadership in Washington has no idea why we are still in Afghanistan either? Could it be that our allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, like the idea of the US military sitting at the back door to Iran? Could it be that we are getting the best foreign policy Saudi and Israeli money can buy? And the MIC is glad to oblige.

    Reply
    1. Art Eclectic

      My assumption is that everything inexplicable is ultimately explained by money if you dug deep enough.

      Reply
  13. Susan the other

    Well we can certainly speculate on 1 – 24. In almost every case there is an implied answer: We aren’t quite finished yet establishing and maintaining our control. Over finance and power. And even though war is too expensive and we have resorted to a kind of high-tech guerrilla warfare, we still need boots on the ground. That is because we live in a material world and goods are manufactured, transported and trafficked. An even more stubborn war is going on in international finance (Hudson) – that’s the one I’d like to see reporters understand. Colonel Wilkerson said it is all about finance and power and we will be in Afghanistan for 50 years. What’s going on right now really seems like never ending pointlessness. So maybe we should discuss exactly what we want to achieve control for – what’s the plan? In detail. Starting with the health of the planet and sustainable civilization.

    Reply
  14. templar555510

    Andrew could have headed his piece ” Analysis of an Empire ‘ and then added the sub-heading ‘ A Tale of Vested Interests ‘ because that is surely why these atrocities ( yes that’s right ) continue ad infintum, ad nauseum . And these same interests are those that sell us soap, automobiles, liquor etc, etc, maybe not directly, but the interconnections are now so complete as to make distinctions irrelevant.

    Reply
  15. Sluggeaux

    Is it because a self-perpetuating top-heavy military bureaucracy was never properly demobilized after the Second World War, and only promotes the sort of sociopathic, narcissistic, borderline personalities who are relentlessly able to bully the groveling toadies and wussies who make up our perpetually campaigning political-climber class?

    Reply
  16. Gen Dau

    Andrew Bacevich needs to study more deeply about Syrian history and politics, since his description of Syrian president Bashar Assad as a brutal dictator fits as a description of Bashar’s father Hafez Assad but is inaccurate in relation to Bashar Assad, who seems to have a rather gentle personality and is actually one of the more benign leaders in the Middle East. Bashar Assad had planned to be a doctor, and he studied medicine for two years in the UK before being ordered to return to Syria by his father after his elder brother died in an accident. Although there were some excesses by the police in 2011, Bashar Assad quickly relaxed some old security laws and pushed for a new democratic constitution, which was promulgated in 2012. Under that new constitution, in 2014 he ran in a free election observed by international observers against two other politicians and was reelected president. He has promised that if he loses the next election he will step down.

    Nevertheless Assad has been systematically demonized by the governments and MSM of the US, UK, and France, as well as by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Demonization is a technique that is often used to prepare the way for regime change, and it is not based on objective analysis. Although Assad is often called a butcher who gasses his own people, experts such as Theodore Postol of MIT and others have shown that not a single allegation of gassing by the Syrian government under Assad has ever been proven. In addition, many of the excesses by the Syrian police against demonstrators in 2011 seem to have been initiated by armed members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda in Syria, who quickly infiltrated the demonstrations. There have even been allegations that jihadi sharpshooters on rooftops shot demonstrators in false-flag attacks. Similar tactics were used in Ukraine in February 2014 by ultranationalist Right Sector sharpshooters, who were seen shooting Maidan demonstrators. The deaths of the demonstrators were then blamed on the police. In the case of Syria:

    “Syrian-based Father Frans van der Lugt was the Dutch priest murdered by a gunman in Homs…. His involvement in reconciliation and peace activities never stopped him from lobbing criticisms at both sides in this conflict. But in the first year of the crisis, he penned some remarkable observations about the violence – this one in January 2012:

    “’From the start the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.’

    “In September 2011 he wrote: ‘From the start there has been the problem of the armed groups, which are also part of the opposition…The opposition of the street is much stronger than any other opposition. And this opposition is armed and frequently employs brutality and violence, only in order then to blame the government.'”
    https://www.rt.com/op-edge/157412-syria-hidden-massacre-2011/

    For an objective overview of the context of the events of 2011 in Syria that led to the international war against the elected Syrian government, see Stephen Gowans, “The Revolutionary Distemper in Syria That Wasn’t.”
    https://gowans.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/the-revolutionary-distemper-in-syria-that-wasnt/
    Also see Gowans’ well-researched 2016 book ‘Washington’s Long War on Syria.’ The US has been demonizing and trying to overthrow the Syrian government for several decades now, above all because it is the only remaining semi-socialist nation in the Middle East and has single-payer national health insurance, support for the elderly, and free college education for all. Assad is no saint, but he is one of the more democratic and forward-looking leaders in the Middle East today.

    Reply

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