Mirable Dictu! Americans Diss Obama’s Ukraine Adventurism, Want US to Play More Modest Global Role

Wow, Obama is really losing it. He can’t even manage a good war scare any more.

Despite a runup-to-Iraq-war-level propagandizing, Americans aren’t buying what the Administration is selling. Obama’s bizarre push to rebrand the US’ botched efforts to destabilize the Ukraine into some sort of Russian threat to democracy and the American way has backfired spectacularly. Americans are having none of it. They aren’t persuaded that Putin is a threat, much less a belligerent that merits starting a new Cold War.

Perhaps as important, Obama economic neoliberalism has collided headlong with his support of neocon adventurists. Spend the better part of three years engaging in budget scaremongering and guess what? The great unwashed public starts paying more attention to where Federal dollars are going. It’s not hard to notice that our supersized military is a big cost item. Again and again in polls, voters have said in substantial majorities that they want to preserve programs like Medicare and Social Security. Poll have also consistently found that voters want military spending cut rather than cutting these critical safety nets, and they’d also be willing to raise taxes to preserve them.

Now normally, the wishes of the American public don’t count for anywhere near as much as they should; the pet desires of large corporations and wealthy donors carry more weight. But we are just a hair more than six months away from Congressional elections in which the Democrats are at real risk of losing the Senate, and the Republicans plan to pound hard on the unpopularity of Obamacare. Mind you, overall poll numbers, which give the impression that the insurance scheme is gaining more support, don’t give a full picture. For the most part, the respondents who give positive marks to Obamacare aren’t terribly keen about it, while many of its opponents dislike it intensely. Citizens with strong sentiments are more likely to go out and vote. Moreover, we also anticipate that satisfaction levels will drop as many users come to realize that what they’ve gotten are costly policies that don’t provide much in the way of coverage.

So focusing Americans on foreign threats was a way to divert attention from Obama’s domestic policy train wrecks: his failure to rein in global-economy-wrecking banksters; catastrophically high levels of unemployment, particularly among recent college graduates, a housing “recovery” that is faltering thanks to private equity buyers pulling back; his ongoing support for a burgeoning surveillance state. And that’s just a starter list. One of my disillusioned but well-connected insiders says that Democratic party operatives are pushing Thomas Piketty’s new book on inequality hard in the media because, despite inequality getting worse under Obama, media attention on wealth disparity favors the Democrats as the presumed lesser evil on that topic.

But now the strategy of positioning Obama as a war (lite) leader is backfiring. And the negative public reaction is coming close enough to the midterms that the Administration might feel compelled to take heed.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Americans in large numbers want the U.S. to reduce its role in world affairs even as a showdown with Russia over Ukraine preoccupies Washington, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.

In a marked change from past decades, nearly half of those surveyed want the U.S. to be less active on the global stage, with fewer than one-fifth calling for more active engagement—an anti-interventionist current that sweeps across party lines….

The poll showed that approval of President Barack Obama’s handling of foreign policy sank to the lowest level of his presidency, with 38% approving, at a time when his overall job performance drew better marks than in recent months…

Similarly, the Pew Research Center last year found a record 53% saying that the U.S. “should mind its own business internationally” and let other countries get along as best they can, compared with 41% who said so in 1995 and 20% in 1964.

“The juxtaposition of an America that wants to turn inward and away from world affairs, and a strong feeling of powerlessness domestically, is a powerful current that so far has eluded the grasp of Democrats and Republicans,” said Democratic pollster Fred Yang, who conducts the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “The message from the American public to their leaders in this poll seems to be: You need to take care of business here at home.”…

Support for Mr. Obama’s handling of Russian intervention in Ukraine slipped to 37% in the new poll from 43% in March.

This is the critical chart from the poll:

Screen shot 2014-04-30 at 1.07.06 AM

I’m a bit surprised at this finding, which shows globalization to be less unpopular than in 2007 and 2008, when unemployment was lower:

Screen shot 2014-04-30 at 1.09.50 AM

However, the Wall Street Journal depicts this result as a “consistent majority of Americans believe globalization has been bad and question the usefulness of free-trade pacts.” And in contrast to December 2007 and March 2008, where “free trade” stories weren’t getting much play, the Administration has been on a big media push to sell the TransPacific Partnership and its cousin, the Tranatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, to the American public. So even with a big public relations push, most Americans remain skeptical about big-corporate-favoring trade deals.

We said back in 2010 that Obama believed that every policy problem could be solved by better propaganda. That strategy looks to have reached its sell-by date. My bet is that Obama, despite his carefully cultivated 11th-dimensional chess reputation, does not have a backup approach in his arsenal.

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  1. Dan H

    At the moment, were just too poor for war. If we keep this aversion to violence after another terrorist attack, then well be getting somewhere.

    1. diptherio

      Too poor for war…only not really. If the national debt is really what’s behind the populace not wanting to start WWIII, maybe it’s best that they don’t understand MMT.

      1. worker-owner

        OK, so we’re already spending a trillion or so dollars a year on “defense” without a really fun millions-killing war agains several of the biggest countries in the world on our hands. Do we think the folks who took the trillions out of the treasury for their little gambling screw-up (the too-big-to-jail banksters and their hedgester friends) will give back a few trillion to fund this new adventure? Just maybe, even the Magical Thinkers, are worried about where the money will come for bombs, missiles, and first-class airfare for all those troops … worried that one more time it is going to come out of their pockets. The Austerians want to fuel growth in the incomes of our corporate overlords at the expense of real people and one hopes that even they recognize that a real nation-threatening War is bad for business. (Another way to phrase Dan H’s reference to “too poor”.)

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        I don’t think he means the headline number of GDP, but when people are more worried about how they would fix a vehicle if they were in an accident or how to pay copays and deductibles, they start to not care when Our Leaders demand that we protect the urbanized babies by blowing their homes away.

    2. F. Beard

      We’re never too poor for war. The nation that let people starve during the Great Depression had plenty to spend defeating Germany and Japan simultaneously just a few years later.

    3. Jim Shannon

      $9,000,000,000,000 – $9Trillion spent since inception on the Nuclear Weapons Program – and counting and No National Health Care or Education. Americans truly are stupid voters!
      $9 Trillion spent to destroy everything and everyone – and WeThe People – let it happen!
      When the Goons in Washington get boxed in they WILL use their “Toys”! So don’t be surprised. They are clearly itching for a fight, any fight to keep their funding front and center and growing!

    4. mellon

      We shouldn’t be spending so much on the military. Half of each tax dollar, one way or another goes to the military, paying down debt incurred during wars, etc. We spend more than all the other countries in the world, combined.

      If we spent half of what we’re spending now, and put that money into education and our people’s health and future, intelligently, we would be far stronger than we are spending that money on high tech weaponry and surveillance programs. We wouldn’t have a need to maintain the status quo by force.

      Also they are lying about the free trade agreements. For example U.S. Trade Deficits Have Grown More Than 440% with FTA Countries, but Declined 16% with Non-FTA Countries

  2. Henry

    Great reminder of why NC is not a foreign policy blog. I get the idea of trying to balance out the coverage, but a lot of your stuff on Ukraine has been skewed, even a bit uncritically, towards the complete opposite direction just for its own sake.

    1. lolcar

      The unspoken assumption in what you write being that it’s simply not possible for the U.S. to be propagandizing their own efforts at regime destabilization as Russian aggression. Just not possible. Anyone saying so must be out of their foreign policy depth saying so or indulging in contrarianism for its own sake. How patronizing.

      1. Henry

        I’m afraid you’re reading a bit too much into my comment. I had no such underlying assumptions.

        1. lolcar

          You weren’t very clear about what you find so skewed about NC coverage of Ukraine so what is the reader to assume other than it is “Obama’s bizarre push to rebrand the US’ botched efforts to destabilize the Ukraine into some sort of Russian threat to democracy and the American way has backfired spectacularly.” which you find so naive and contrarian. If you think you can make that case, do so, don’t rely on a naked appeal to authority.

    2. reprobate

      Looks like the Obamabot trolls are on 24/7 duty. As a regular reader and mainly a lurker, my observation is that this site has provided lots of Ukraine links that have been solid and informative and has not pretended to comment on foreign policy (although it’s been pretty actively snarking in its regular Links feature on how Obama, Kerry, and various pundits have been abjectly misrepresenting the US role in the Ukraine). This post is not about foreign policy but about how Obama’s use of foreign policy for domestic gain is blowing up in his face. But you don’t address that, you straw man the post and NC’s commentary generally.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        In this case, I don’t think the bots are Obots. Cassbots, perhaps, but these bots won’t try to justify an Obama embarrassment as a victory. There is a foreign service industry for Internet trolling. If Syria was uttered, there would be bots accusing O of cowardice and bots declaring him the greatest leader since Dumbledore (Obots suffer from a lack of historical knowledge).

    3. jgordon

      I’m honestly pretty confused here. Complete opposite direction from what exactly? I mean surely it’s openly acknowledged fact that the US government paid a lot of money to have the democratic government of Ukraine overthrown and replaced with fascist, though ostensibly pro-American, puppets.

      I suppose your allusion to “opposite” refers to the general NC position that our involvement in the Ukraine is a mistake, whereas the common media position in the US is in favor of inciting world war III? Just out of curiosity, which foreign policy publications are you/blogs are you reading. personally I have been greatly enjoying Moon of Alabama posts on the Ukraine, and recently Dmitry Orlov has been posting remarkably insightful material on his blog as well. Perhaps we could share our respective sources of information and thus obtain an even more comprehensive understanding of the situation.

      1. worker-owner

        Henry, you might find a casual walk through Peter Dale Scott’s most recent (actually any) book enlightening. After you follow the first fifty footnotes and realize he’s just compiling the revelations readily available in public documents you are forced to admit that it is likely that the some arm or other of the US government in fact did fuel this mess in the Ukraine for “geopolitical realpolitik”. Let us remember that this would be a way to disrupt Russia’s petro-revenues as the big pipeline runs through the Ukraine … just sayin’

      2. Henry

        Fascist puppets, eh? Yanukovich was ousted by a West-Ukrainian popular uprising, and the government fell as his party members fled for Eastern Ukraine and Russia. I don’t think U.S. money played as big a role there as you seem to imply. Fascists were involved in the Maidan movement, no doubt, and have a couple of medium-weight seats in the acting government, but they are pretty distinctively a different group from your familiar Western-friendly oligarch cronies forming the bulk of the current government.

        Off the top of my head, a couple of recent (English-language) articles that I’ve found enlightening in some respects (not implying I agree with all):

        On Russian strategy and intentions

        Maidan and the economic crisis
        http://pando.com/2014/02/24/everything-you-know-about-ukraine-is-wrong/ (slightly older)

        Then there’s this, which is, I admit, somewhat uncritical of US foreign policy intentions and efforts towards Russia, but nevertheless carries some balancing arguments against the Russian encirclement bullshit: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/04/08/nato_expansion_didnt_set_off_the_ukrainian_crisis

        1. Banger

          Again you have to see the pattern of the official policy of “full spectrum dominance” and how the Ukraine situation resembles the general pattern that has been part of U.S. Policy since WWII and, in particular the policy to dominate the area around Russia–you are saying that in this situation, it’s just freedom-loving people who want to join the Imperial realm–no doubt many do, but the Great Game is real and this a very, very high stakes game.

        2. Jackrabbit

          Assuming that you are not ideologically inclined to your position (your prior comments on NC show a stubborn resistance to changing your opinion), you really need to learn more and apply some critical thinking skills.

          Look back at NC posts and links.

        3. Strangely Enough

          “somewhat uncritical of US foreign policy intentions and efforts towards Russia”

          Of course the author isn’t critical of US foreign policy (unless we’re not killing enough of the right people). Jamie Kirchick is a foaming at the mouth neo-con loon.

    4. Pokey

      There is no apt analogy because the U.S. has never shed one of its pieces, but we did not allow Russian nukes in Cuba, we invaded Granada because of what? Something about American medical students at some perceived risk. If the Russians or Chinese created a disturbance in Mexico or Canada, can anyone imagine our not stepping in with military force? A telegram from Germany to Mexico helped get the U.S. in WWI. Let’s not even talk about Iraq.

      Russia has a lot more business in “the Ukraine” than we do.

      Another question. Why are encouraging more death and destruction in Syria by sending antitank weapons? “Isolationist” has a bad reputation dating from around 1940, but it may be time to reconsider.

      1. Nathanael

        Actually, the US did give up Cuba. More or less voluntarily.

        As for Syria — the big question is why Russia is sending bombs and aircraft to Assad to kill civilians with. As long as Putin’s doing that, it makes sense to send anti-aircraft weapons and anti-tank weapons to the population, unfortunately.

        I don’t think Russia’s actions are geopolitically sound: Syria makes a bad puppet state for Russia and a permanent drain on Russian resources.

        1. Synopticist


          So a half century of sanctions and more failed intel plots and assasination attempts than you’ve had hot dinners is ” More or less voluntarily”?

          Putin is sending weapons to Assad because he’s the legitimate head of government and an ally. As well as being a son of a bitch. The west is arming loathsome jihadi scum because were f*ckin stupid, and our foreign policy elite are corrupt morons intoxicated by power and a delusional sense of self-righteusness.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Oh oh, those inconvenient truths. That Assad received 65% of what was agreed was a representative vote, with much higher turnout than any US election. That Assad is fighting Islamic fundamentalist rebels, the exact same guys who killed our boys across the MidEast from Afghanistan to Iraq. Doing the same thing that Obomba would (will) do if Texas decided on armed rebellion. That our great ally Turkey engineered the gas attack to draw the US in. And now Mr. 11th dimension chess player, taking a break from stuffing corporo-fascist TPP down our “friends” throats, can’t seem to gin up enough blind ignorance to sell the Ukraine as anything but just another war-mongering set of lies. I said it here years ago: Worst.President.Ever. And that from a guy who voted for every single Dem since McGovern.

            1. Synopticist


              He’s the most disappointing politician of my lifetime, and I say that as a repentant Blairite. To have embraced the whole “third way” BS before the sh*t hit the fan is one thing, to still suck banker c*ck afterwards is something else.

              There was political room for a leftward move after Bush, and he didn’t do it. To NOT purge the neo-cons was politically more difficult than purging them would have been.

              1. ian

                What’s amazing to me is that more people don’t wake up and smell the coffee. He talks a good game and pretends to be for “the little guy”, but he’s been better for the 0.00001% than anyone I can remember.

                1. NotTimothyGeithner

                  Many of Obama’s supporters called liberal-lefty critics racists, idiots, and so forth. They were simply vile, and many just don’t want to admit they were pricks blindly supporting an imaginary boyfriend,

                  There are low info voters who don’t know better, but your local prominent Democrats know better and still behave this way because they would have to question their identity, morality, and critical thinking skills because Obama’s crummy nature was apparent back in 07 or even 04 when he gave a speech wrapped in metaphors designed to undercut the wealth inequality message of Edwards.

            2. NotTimothyGeithner

              Wilson and Dubya have much larger wars to their name, and Polk created the conditions where the Southern elite thought they could have an Atlantic to Pacific trading empire. Worst…let’s just say we’ve had more bad El presidentes than tolerable ones.

    5. Clive

      I don’t comment on any of the Ukraine posts (normally) because I have zilch knowledge, experience or even much opinion to add any value. But at a foil against the MSM’s frankly just plain dumb and intelligence insulting “US/West==Good — always with honest and enlightened intent, Russia==Bad — always with evil warmongering for the sake of it intent” narrative I struggle to find an alternative anywhere else for, I’m stumped as to why anyone would object to the coverage.

      If you want coverage in a vacuum (such as failing to explain how Russia has been able to establish a victim mentality justification for its meddling and partial annexation due to the bumbling EU’s attempt at eastward expansion which was catastrophic because it appealed to a majority but not the universality of Ukraine’s population) then you can go here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-27222023 or any other places where that kind of simplistic Roy Rogers-esque coverage abounds.

    6. Banger

      I’m going to challenge you on that. How is the general trend here “going in the “opposite direction” mean anything? The general trend of a significant part of the foreign policy elite is towards “full-spectrum dominance” aka imperialism. Is that true or not? Take a look at the history of U.S. interventions since WWII which, during the Cold War, could be described, as, well, sordid. And what about the history of U.S. interventions since 2001? Iraq? Afghanistan? Libya? Syria? How is Ukraine different after 5 billion spent to turn as many former Soviet Republics into bases for NATO–why do you suppose the U.S. wants to do that? To give Ukranians freedom? Give me a break–make an argument that supports the U.S. position because I really want to hear it I haven’t yet. The mainstream just gives us propaganda straight out of the Office of the Secretary of State. Give me something rational, please. Yes, Putin is an oligarch and an authoritarian–but so are most of the leaders in the world.

    7. Cocomaan

      but a lot of your stuff on Ukraine has been skewed, even a bit uncritically, towards the complete opposite direction just for its own sake.

      Opposite of what?

  3. John

    Presidents that wake up and realize they are running a failed domestic policy go overseas to look for problems. It is normally easier to tackle. The problem with Obama his international policies are falling apart as well.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The possibility of a two-state solution is impossible at this point given Likud policies since Sharon had a stroke. At this point, one group has to leave the scene, or we have to give up on the idea of a State of Israel.

        Any attempt is more or less doomed for this reason.

  4. Jim

    The strange globalism bump may be due to a slight, temporary lift in the spring economy after a dismal winter, or due to a change in question wording in previous rounds of polling. The question is massively biased toward choice A–corporate competition has nothing to do with it and opportunities for American businesses don’t necessarily create more jobs. But strangely, the WSJ may have actually seen through this ridiculously worded question and correctly concluded that, despite the question screaming “SAY GOOD!”, Americans still (& won’t ever) buy this bill of goods.

    1. Brindle

      The wording of the globalization question:

      “Do you think the fact that the American economy has become increasingly global is good because it has opened up new markets for American products and resulted in more jobs, or bad because it has subjected American companies and employees to unfair competition and cheap labor?”

      Notice how the phrase “global is good” is stuck in there?, and how “global is good” =
      “new markets and “more jobs”.

      1. arby

        The wording is peculiar because America is manufacturing a decreasing share of world products and has been generating negative manufacturing jobs since the globalization craze gathered steam. So, the question is not about the reality of globalization at all.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      If the globalization question was asked over the Ukraine question, people might easily confuse the globalization question as letting international organizations and local neighbors act without constant checking with Foggy Bottom and Langley.

    3. JTFaraday

      “despite the question screaming “SAY GOOD!”, Americans still (& won’t ever) buy this bill of goods.”

      Exzackly. All that offshoring is undermining their vaunted right to work– and Americans certainly know a human right when they see one.

  5. allcoppedout

    USUK hasn’t got into any wars it couldn’t win for a while, only occupations doomed on what was known before invasions. Russia is a war we could lose, but Ukraine an occupation we’d never have to do. This said, the Russian forces are thought to be largely conscripts too poor to evade the draft and equipment not up to scratch and badly maintained. Sentiment in Britain before the Falklands was anti-war, but swung very pro as soon as our Task Force set sail. Afterwards, the previously reviled Thatcher was so popular one could hardly believe one lived in a country of such oafs. My guess this is closer to a shooting war than we are thinking. I’m wondering why there have been so many cock-ups on the PR front. Is that hair being worn on Kerry’s head and who chiselled the parting? What would a politician care about about a few ten thousand dead to see the pipeline shut for two years? I expect to see an atrocity against Russian speakers in Ukraine soon, but even if he moves his boys into East Ukraine, we have little to squark about. But the pipeline might then be shut off at Kiev with the US providing gas and oil in an emergency. Germany is this stuffed on cheapish gas for industry, leaving Merkel to lead an EU rescue mission. USUK then rides in after two old enemies have killed a lot of each other, perhaps destroying each others’ industry so ours can be competitive again.

    1. worker-owner

      Interesting definition of “to win” here. I would have scored both Iraq and Afghanistan as ties, at best. And all the subterfuge under the Arab Spring seems to have backlashed unless it was our intent to increase the number of failed states. Just my warped view, of course.

      1. Brindle

        Creating “failed states” are seen as successes. Usually the FS will have a neoliberal puppet sign production agreements with global energy companies that are not in the FS’s benefit.

      2. RUKidding

        Someone(s) made lots of money. One who did is called Dick Cheney. there are others, of course. Wasn’t that the real goal? And in that sense, were those artificially ginned up conflagrations then failures? Not for some. And Afghanistan, I thought, was about re-booting heroin production, which the Taliban had pretty successfully shut down. The Alphabets needed their source of black income, doncha know? Again: success? or failure? From one perspective: a resounding success. The rest is of no importance. Depends on perspective.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I can’t remember when I first became aware of this idea, but I have seen it suggested and believe that Cheney was interested in destroying evidence of 90’s era sanction violations. Cheney and company believed Curveball because they needed a reason to level Iraq, and Hussein’s trial was limited in scope to prevent American oil companies from being exposed in light of the growing surveillance and information sharing.

      3. allcoppedout

        I regard all these wars/occupations as failures. If your view is warped WO we still share it. In terms of gaining air supremacy and heavy, open exchanges one can assess ‘winning’. Generally, “we” are top-bully. My view is we also know before we do the bullying knowing we will win that part, we also know that occupation will be impossible as will any democracy. Whilst not much reported here, Africa has been kept in a WW3 condition for decades I suspect its not you or that are warped.

    2. steviefinn

      As it appears that it is NATO forces who are involved in the majority of the current military mobilisations to defend the ” Free ” world, could it be that Obama is counting on these forces & not having to send too many potential body bag occupants, in order to look good by forcing Putin to back down.

      I’m not sure that NATO troops might be too happy about this as it’s pretty obvious that the US is calling the shots, & from what I have read the ” Russia is evil ” propaganda, doesn’t seem to be convincing people in Europe either. Russia’s army might not be the best, but with Putin’s high approval rating, the fact that unlike everybody else, the Russian people know what it’s like to be had from behind by Western Neoliberals, I would assume that there is plenty of potential for casualties.

      The ” What could possibly go wrong ” factor is on a whole different scale to the recent acts of adventurism by those who feel they have no real skin in the game.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The other possibility is Obama like so many others such as Kerry in Syria believes US weapons/NATO have become invincible and really believes his own propaganda. If Obama has a paranoid streak, he might not believe generals who think the Russians could fight back and perceive those generals as out to get him. The officers who resigned and warned against the Iraq War have been forgotten, and to the shallow, they sure did look like worry warts when Dubya was playing dressup on the aircraft carrier.

        Plenty of our elected have justified military spending by claiming it works, but what if it doesn’t work? People might get angry, so it’s easier to believe the recruiting ads.

        1. steviefinn

          Stalin purged most of his best generals pre-WW2 – maybe ignoring & sidelining those who are cautious & perhaps critical in favour of those who make the right noises in the right way, is just a less extreme way of obtaining the same result.

          I have seen it in industry where those who best know how to play to the bosses ego tend to have plenty of influence on policy or simply reflect his opinions back to him in a new shining light.

    3. Banger

      The Falkland incident was clear–there was very little ambiguity to the situation. In contrast, the Ukrainian situation is as clear as mud. There will be no support for a U.S. war unless there is a major false-flag event which is entirely possible.

      1. allcoppedout

        No Banger – nothing was clear about the Falklands. USUK had been degrading Argentina’s real military weapons for years and we had special forces working on repression there too (the very repression that we were using as an excuse not to service their planes). We we selling them dud arms through Brazil for 18 months prior to the Taskforce despatch in 82. And as for the right to the territory, that went back to a time before Argentina and wars with the Spanish Viceroyship that included islands off what is now Equatorial Guinea (now run by privatised CIA).

    4. fasteddiez

      Your information on Russian military capabilities was once correct, but is now past its’ consume by date. Putin noticed when Yeltsin screwed the pooch in Chechnya, and his thrust in there was much more efficacious. The Russkies have/had? a deal to have the French build them an amphibious min carrier. The article I attached will highlight some of this. It is dated 2009, thus, it is safe to say they have improved since. Russian Mil

  6. Working Class Nero

    That is a substantial jump in the support of Globalization and has to be credited to Obama. I would say that the main reason is that in emphasizing the Free Trade agreement with the EU and in highlighting the disagreements with Japan on the TPP he is playing into the fact that many people (myself included) believe that, in theory at least, free trade (but not the loss of sovereignty that the recent pacts include) between economic equals is generally a good thing. What I object to about Globalization are the class warfare aspects of transferring out working class jobs to the third world and/or transferring in the third world to take working class jobs.

    So for example on the tactical level the recent tiffs with Japan may embarrass Obama a little, but he is winning on the strategic level because these discussions frame free trade as occurring between equal countries which is only going to help weaken opposition to it. The last thing Obama and the oligarchs behind him want is for the argument to be with China or other poor sweatshop-friendly country, which is why China will be folded into the TPP quietly a little while after the main pact passes. But in the end that is exactly the type of globalization the Oligarchs want; the “free trade” deals between economic equals are unfortunately just there to erode the power of any rich state to ever protect themselves from cheap labor or the diktats of multi-national corporations just in case one of the many rising nationalist parties (outside of the US) ever gets power.

    So look for a grand compromise on Globalization, the Republicans will ever so reluctantly agree to pass the Oligarch’s Immigrant’s Dream Act guaranteeing at least another 20 years of cheap illegal huddled masses in return for the Democrat’s ever so reluctant acceptance of TPP which will ensure another 20 years of offshoring the jobs that cheap immigrants just will not do. Partisans from both parties will be able to point out how they made the other team make huge concessions but the only winner in this Globalization Champion’s League will be the team that never loses; Oligarchs United.

    1. diptherio

      “…many people (myself included) believe that, in theory at least, free trade (but not the loss of sovereignty that the recent pacts include) between economic equals is generally a good thing. What I object to about Globalization are the class warfare aspects of transferring out working class jobs to the third world and/or transferring in the third world to take working class jobs.”

      The class warfare aspects and loss of sovereignty are inseparable from “free” trade generally. Your statement is the equivalent of saying “I believe that, in theory at least, that having unprotected sex with many random partners is generally a good thing. What I object to is getting STDs.”

      Perhaps what is driving the increase in acceptance of globalization is people realizing that their crappy wages won’t allow them to afford anything but cheap Chinese junk. Or maybe it’s an effect of framing within the poll itself. I wonder what questions led up to the globalization one? But I’m not so pessimistic as believe that it’s because more Americans are buying the free-trade kool-aid.

      1. Working Class Nero

        I think a distinction needs to be made in free trade (and just like free markets, truly free trade never exists) deal between economic equals like for example Sweden and Norway and a similar deal between economic unequals like the US and Bangladesh. In the first case there is no incentive for Norwegian oligarchs to offshore their factories to Sweden since salaries are more or less the same. And if there is some Swedes moving to Norway and vice versa no one is too bothered by it since no one is having their wages undercut. Consumers will have access to the other country’s production with minimal risk to their jobs. In the second case there is a huge incentive to US oligarchs to offshore their factories and call centers to Bangladesh. And once they get used to paying such low salaries there will be a huge incentive to bring Bangladeshis to the US to do the jobs the locals just will not do for a third world wage. So sure the US gets a quick infusion of cheap goods imported back but at the long term expense of having their societies hollowed out as the good working to middle class jobs disappear.

        Now of course when free trade goes beyond taking down tariffs and gets into for example limiting environmental or health regulations then that is a different story. This is why I emphasized the part about theory and mentioned the loss of sovereignty.

        So to twist your simile a bit I believe that, in theory at least, that having unprotected sex with a committed long-term equal partner is generally a good thing. The benefits outweigh the small chance of copping an STD. On the other hand going down to the darker side of town and having unprotected sex with the poor working girls or boys is almost always a bad thing because while it may feel great in the short term, the long term impact is certainly a nasty batch of societal STD’s

        1. MikeNY

          I also do not have a problem with free trade. I drive a Subaru. I cook with curry and garam masala. I have a favorite cashmere sweater. Is that so wrong?

          I have a big problem with the benefits or spoils of free trade accruing exclusively to oligarchs. To me the issue is inequality: corporatocracy and plutocracy.

          (This leaves aside the question of how much free trade is based on the availability of cheap hydrocarbons. But that is a whole ‘nother question.)

            1. MikeNY

              Not entirely true. Some models are imported from Japan, such as the WRX I owned (and loved).

        2. diptherio

          What I hear you saying is that some relatively open trade policies can be beneficial while others are detrimental. I agree, but that is not what most people mean by “free trade.” Definitely not what our PTB have in mind when they use that phrase.

          Your view on trade (istm) is nuanced: policies should be considered on a case-by-case basis and adopted only if their outcomes will be socially beneficial. But that is not “free trade.” I think, rhetorically, it’s a bad choice of words to use, since most people have a very different understanding of that phrase than what you are putting forth.

      2. diptherio

        And I would add that there is nothing about “economic equals” in the idea of Ricardian comparative advantage, which seems to be the basis of most “free trade” arguments. Again, you are using that phrase in a very different way than most.

        1. Nathanael

          Interestingly, Ricardo’s idea of “comparative advantage” has precisely zero data backing it. There is no evidence for it whatsoever.

          (Absolute advantage actually does have evidence behind it. Comparative advantage doesn’t.)

    2. mellon

      In the next 20 years we’re going to have as much technological change as we saw in the last 100. So we need to be more aware of the need to keep as many jobs here as is possible and recapture as many back as we can (with automation) because so many jobs are already gone or going to be vanishing soon. People who aren’t involved with technology have NO idea how fast technology is moving forward. Politicians are pretending this isn’t happening.

      The dumbest thing we could ever do is get into a war, any war. The next big war would almost certainly escalate and literally wipe out the human race. Either that or whoever remained would envy the dead. A recent study shows that even a small regional nuclear war would kill 2 billion people all around the world simply because the price of food would skyrocket.

    3. mellon

      Whoever is supporting these FTAs are making a huge mistake. They have been a disaster for Americans. They have almost nothing to do with actual world trade, they are more like power grabs, attempts to nullify democracy.

      Here are some links:

      “Investor-State” Disputes in Trade Pacts Threaten Fundamental Principles of National Judicial Systems

      Here are some of the recent posts on Eyes on Trade

      As Obama Visits TPP Countries, New Obama Administration Report Targets Their Public Interest Policies as “Trade Barriers” to be Eliminated
      Administration Desperate to Announce Breakthrough on TPP in Japan, But Congress not Buying Economic or Foreign Policy Sales Pitch and Won’t Give Obama Fast Track
      Corporate Group Launches “Fact-Based” Trade Series, Avoids Facts
      TPP Foreign Policy Arguments Mimic False Claims Made for Past Pacts
      Colombia’s Anti-Union Violence Remains Rampant after Three Years of the FTA-Enabling Labor Action Plan
      Data Debunk for USTR Froman’s Thursday Committee Hearing
      U.S. Trade Deficits Have Grown More Than 440% with FTA Countries, but Declined 16% with Non-FTA Countries
      Administration Uses Data Omissions and Distortions to Try to Hide Dismal Korea FTA Realities
      On 2nd Anniversary of Korea FTA, U.S. Exports Down, Imports Up and Trade Deficit Balloons, Fueling Congressional TPP Skepticism
      The 2014 Trade Agenda: What Hole? Keep Digging.
      TPP Talks Fizzle Again under Broad Opposition
      Administration Desperate to Announce Deal at TPP Ministerial, But What Is a Real Deal?
      Fact-checking Froman: The Top 10 Myths Used by Obama’s Top Trade Official
      New York Times: Obama’s TPP-Promoting Mexico Visit Is “Politically Fraught”
      Obama Mexico Visit Spotlights 20-Year Legacy of Job Loss from NAFTA, the Pact on Which Obama’s TPP Is Modeled

  7. diptherio

    “One of my disillusioned but well-connected insiders says that Democratic party operatives are pushing Thomas Piketty’s new book on inequality hard in the media because, despite inequality getting worse under Obama, media attention on wealth disparity favors the Democrats as the presumed lesser evil on that topic.”

    That explains why Kruggy’s got such a hard-on for it. I knew it wasn’t because Piketty’s economics and data are so unassailable. Krugman and the rest of mainstream economics have managed to ignore plenty of other economists who’s arguments are at least as convincing as Piketty’s. Party hack till the day he dies…

    1. allcoppedout

      I suspect Piketty may have been chosen because the work is very bad. I have to read so much dross I forget most people read less in a year than I might in a week and don’t do the speed read thing. I think the idea this is a data-driven approach is hype, despite several visits to the site with the numbers. The data has no ‘so we must conclusively do this’ about it. And, of course, inequality now and historically can be otherwise grasped, even by digging up human bones. Whatever the Piketty stuff is, it’s not data that unifies factions and can be easily dismissed by suggesting its use is theory-laden. Mankiw has already done this, accepting the data as good hard work and interpretations of it as irrelevant. Sociology was way ahead of this book (90s)and able to declare inequality as killing people.

      Frankly, a few of us could go out and do 100 interviews each and take some camera footage and make the real points.

      1. Dan Kervick

        It’s an outstanding book, in my opinion. Don’t let the fact that operatives have seize on it throw you. The hacks will always try to glom onto something important and take credit for it.

        1. ben white

          Dan, and everyone else, I also think the book is a good read. First time commenter, small business owner in the Midwest. Not an economist, but a home builder. I have to assume that the book hasn’t been read by everyone that comments; I’m only a third through. Got the book through my local public library. It is written in a simple manner (so maybe I’m being conned) but I don’t think so. I don’t think Picketty thinks he’s a savior; just someone that has studied a bit and has a few conclusions. Change is hard. It’s either fast and violent, slow and difficult or meaningless when it meanders.

        2. Alejandro

          Until recently, the “debates” and ‘conversations’ have been about ‘income’ inequality. After the recently well synchronized and orchestrated fanfare around Mr. Piketty’s book, it seems to be having the effect of saying “no, no-it’s really ‘wealth’ inequality”…and this, imo, is closer to where it should be. However, regardless of what Keynes, Marx or whatever other ghost we care to invoke might say, it’s becoming increasingly and less deniably about the DISPROPORTIONALITY. Anyone interested in the study of inequality should recognize that poverty can never be fully understood ‘intellectually’, only experientially…and the loftiness of abstractions can never be ‘truisms’ unless they can be translated to contextualize the daily.

          1. JTFaraday

            I haven’t followed this Piketty phenomenon too closely, but I’m likewise under the impression that it is shifting the public discussion from income to wealth, at least for the time being, and that this might be more to the point.

            From 2010:

            “In case you somehow harbored the notion that the other half doesn’t live differently than the rest of us, an eye-opening report released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, “Lifting as We Climb,” analyzes a topic that too often gets short shrift, the net worth, or “wealth” of the lower economic strata…

            Here is the punch line:

            …the median wealth for women of color (in the prime working years of ages 36-49) is only $5.”


        3. allcoppedout

          Piketty has been ably defended by Gillian Tett on BBC Newsnight 30 April. He isn’t the problem and I doubt he’d see any of us as one. What is, is that much wider questions (and a lot of answers) have been available to the debate on inequality and still don’t get in MSM. As Opti says, ‘free-trade’ relies on dud and dated Richardoism. We need to understand more of the real theory. And also that we can get out and learn without ‘doing books’ and fix things.

  8. David Lentini

    People seem to forget that there is no such thing as 11-dimensional chess. Perhaps Obama’s problem is one of being a genius in a fantasy world.

  9. ArkansasAngie

    “a housing “recovery” that is faltering thanks to private equity buyers pulling back” … and? You want them to buy more? You want to give more money to PE so they can buy more?

    The recovery that isn’t a recovery (not)shockingly, did not fix the problem. So trillions spent to fix it, hailed as “we saved you” didn’t save us … it save insolvent 1%’ers.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Did you manage to miss the quotation marks around “recovery”? I’m not about to spoon feed you. Plus my history on this topic is very clear, if you read this site regularly or bother searching.

  10. Dan Kervick

    I’m not surprised that Americans have a positive attitude about globalization. No matter what company they work for, if it is of any size at all, the emphasis is probably on increasing their sales abroad, since opportunity in America itself has dried up under our reigning bosses.

    This actually goes together with the distaste for foreign intervention. Americans understand that the US is weaker now than it used to be, and can’t afford the path of self-sufficiency. They want the US to just join the world and stop trying to run it and making trouble in it.

  11. TarheelDem

    One hopes that the mood of the US public causes the imminent retirement of Victoria Nuland, Geoffrey Pyatt, and John Brennan for extremely bad advice. The departure of Susan Rice and/or some of the other White House saber-rattlers would also be helpful. The Syria “bright red line” and the coup in Ukraine have be giant eff-ups, some might say neo-con moves to prevent the normalization of relations with Iran, which would be a Presidential accomplishment of major proportions and realign the US out of the Persian Gulf.

    Obama himself is in no way a foreign policy wonk. He deliberately inherited most of his national security establishment from the Bush administration and through happy accidents has found some degree of attrition in Bushie ranks–McChrystal, Petraeus, Podesta, Alexander. Netanyahu and Abdullah cannot hide their contempt for Obama. Erdogan has been exposed as meddling in Syria and trying to manipulate the US into the civil war in Syria. The Trans-Pacific Partnership has proceeded with the worst public relations possible. Will pragmatism allow events to rip out the neo-conservative US policy with Obama finally letting go American exceptionalism in fact even as he loudly and strongly rhetorically defends it?

    Very interesting times. I hope we survive our sick domestic politics. Especially as it stampedes foreign policy– (cough) McCain, (cough) Graham, (cough) Schumer, (cough) Menendez.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘One hopes that the mood of the US public causes the imminent retirement of Victoria Nuland, Geoffrey Pyatt, and John Brennan for extremely bad advice.’

      Let’s pause for a moment to give credit where it’s due to Hillary Clinton, who as Sec State nurtured the careers of Nuland and Pyatt.

      A few weeks ago, Hillary compared Putin to Hitler. Like the Benghazi debacle, the Ukraine debacle illustrates Hillary’s policies of busybody meddling and reckless aggression in action.

      1. RUKidding

        Quite agree. And just imagine should Hillary the Inevitable become POTUS! Second Verse, same as the first. shudder.

        Hillary has always been quite the War Hawk. For all his many many faults & debilities, etc, I’ve always had a feeling (warning: total speculation) that Obama is much less of a War Hawk/NeoCon than Hillary and has tried to avoid some conflicts through procrastination. JMHO, of course.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Obama is a hawk. There is no denying this, but the army is fought out. Iraq was the target of a decade long siege, and we had propositioned resources, up to date intel, and strategies mapped out. Syria and have maintained their air defense, and we don’t really know what will happen. Remember the F-22’s, featured so prominently in the transformers movie were grounded for half of last year. Officers who know the Iraqi air defense is non existent and are positive Afghani goats haven’t mastered flight aren’t so aggressive when they consider occupation costs and the liklihood future targets won’t follow the baathists of Iraq and go into hiding in hopes of being handed the country in two years.

          Even Dubya’s actions went through plenty of kabuki before shock and awe. We have to have bases, ports, and supply routes. We don’t have a support surface fleet anymore. A ship has to find a friendly port to bring on new booze from time to time. There is USS Walter Mondale to handle laundry, and this reduces what where we can project force. If country X doesn’t approve of bombing country Z, they c an deny resupply, and we don’t have the forces to launch operations worldwide. We launch plenty anyway.

        2. F. Beard

          Yep, nothing worse for world peace than a woman trying to prove she has balls unless it is short guy trying to compensate ala Napoleon?

      2. TarheelDem

        The President still makes the appointment and when the appointment came up, no doubt Hillary suggested the very practical course of sending Nuland and Pyatt before the Republicans in the Senate. It was right after the 2010 election disaster after all. No doubt Hillary assured Obama that she as Secretary of State could control Nuland and Pyatt. And no doubt she extracted that agreement from those two. After Kerry became Secretary of State, Nuland was free to operate on her own while Kerry was distracted by Iran, Syria, and the new I/P initiative. And the Ukraine became the perfect crisis to (1) stop Middle East attention in its tracks, (2) do tit-for-tat for Russia’s intervention to prevent the neo-con wing from creating its own reality in Syria, and (3) slow normalization of relations with a Iran to a crawl. Nuland and Pyatt are not interested in Obama or Hillary having any major foreign policy victories no matter how compliant they are. The Kagan-Cheney axis is still alive and hungry for oil and natural gas. And shutting Russian access to Sebastapol. Obama and Hillary are still bent under the albatross that the Republicans put on Democrats during the Vietnam War. And determined to outwarmonger the warmongers.

        1. Jackrabbit

          . . . . Nuland was free to operate on her own while Kerry was distracted . . .

          I think you have this wrong. As far as I can see, Nuland has the full support of the Obama Administration. On her “F@#k the EU!” phone call, she spoke with great authority – even confidently offering to bring VP Biden in. Everything she arranged actually happened, and there has not been ANY indication that Obama or his Administration is displeased with her.

          I would also caution against assuming that the peace overture to Iran is real.

          1. hunkerdown

            I’m partial to Stephen Gowans’ angle on this. When Myanmar spread ’em to Western investment, the mainstream narrative of a backwards military junta flipped to push liberal warm fuzzy buttons (plucky, aspiring, woman-led “emerging economy”) so quickly one could almost hear the “well why didn’t you say so, friend!”.

            Rouhani, if I remember correctly, has spoken favorably yet coyly to allowing foreign investment (that little tease) and I very vaguely remember something about their central bank aligning toward the West in some fashion I can’t recall. The USA isn’t going to back Israel if they keep trying to start static in a market state. Syria, well, Assad isn’t letting in the foreign investors.

            “Foreign investors welcome” are the three little words that mean never having to say you’re sorry. It’s a pretty reliable way to get the USA to stop bullying, anyway.

      3. JerseyJeffersonian

        Yes, something to think on seriously here.

        Permit me to blog-whore my own post from today’s “Links” thread, as it seems appropriate to a discussion of NeoCons/R2Pers. I was assembling various blog posts from around the Interweb today that speak to this point. The post follows:

        An email I sent along to some friends and family (who are probably heartily tired of such emails) with the subject line NeoCons As Far As You Can See. Now it’s your turn, for whatever good may come of it:

        Like the famous parrot in the Monty Python skit, they’re not dead, they’ve just been resting. Actually, I think that they’ve been very, very active, thank you very much. Here are a couple of posts all concerned with elements of their subterranean activities and their more open resurgence.


        From Justin Raimondo, ideologically a libertarian. Don’t think much of his social theories, but his aversion to foreign interventionism? Sir, I salute you.

        Next, a scathing assessment of the “modest proposal” by Anne-Marie Slaughter (aptly named, I must say) to revisit military intervention in Syria to teach those Russkies a lesson:


        Be it noted that she was placed into the position of Director of Policy Planning at the State Department in 2009 at the direct instigation of…Hillary Clinton (more on her later), in which capacity she served for two years before returning to Princeton. She was probably a soulmate of Victoria “Fuck the EU” Nuland in her single-minded faith in American Exceptionalism. You might think that she is actually more an adherent of the Responsibility-To-Protect (R2P) school; but functionally, R2Pers and NeoCons bleed over into one another, something readily apparent when one scratches their surface. At minimum, they reinforce each others’ pernicious tendencies.

        Now it’s time to meet your next Democratic candidate for President:


        Again, recall that both Ms Slaughter, as well as Ms Nuland, were proteges of SoS Clinton. So if she becomes President Clinton, you will likely get both of them back in policy-making positions, perhaps within the inner circle. Sound enticing?

        And last, but not least, we should note that the NeoCons have been working like termites to undermine alternatives to reflexive international confrontations:


        And with some success, one notes. The last thing that we need is another Cold War, or policy of “containment”, or strategy of tension. But I guess hegemonic thinkers inevitably gravitate toward these stratagems. What a waste for the rest of us.

        Pray for peace and sanity.

  12. armchair

    The idea that the Administration can’t get traction with the public on Ukraine, because the public is still stuck on believing the last wave of propaganda is too funny. It sounds like the Aspen Institiute will need to work this out. How many back-to-back contradictory propaganda campaigns can you run before the public is totally tuned out? Convene a panel! Perhaps a weather report type of approach might work better for ‘leading the people’. “This week looks like a front of heavy warmongering moving across the plains, followed by a front of we can’t afford anything. Don’t get confused by the changes in weather folks, just do as we say.”

    1. RUKidding

      Made me laugh, but OTOH, you’re right. The Vox Populi is speaking out against this current propaganda campaign based on how well the rabble was brainwashed by the previous propaganda campaign. Ergo, PTB are summarily hoist on their own petards. Tally ho!

  13. Dino Reno

    Let’s throw Obama on the couch after that weird confessional about ignoring is mother during a recent speech at the end of his Far East tour. Suddenly he realizes that the one person who tried to do right by him was the victim of his scorn. While the father who ran off and turned his back on him was the subject of a whole book. Dare I say, this is Obama in a nutshell. Support him and be his friend, then be prepared to get the shaft. Ignore him, insult him, undermine him and he will go nuts trying to win you over. The bankers read him well and struck just the right tone. Their disdain reaped huge rewards from his administration. Obama supporters were, on the other hand, thrown immediately under the bus from day one. Putin is a special case. The more Obama wanted to win him over, the more Putin pulled away. Putin saw Obama as someone who could be easily out maneuvered and humiliated given his personality disorder. Call it his KGB gift. Now we are all held captive by this strange situation. Obama has never been thrown so far off kilter. His game has been upended.
    He has become a joke on the world stage. Europe, on the whole, is holding their breath, hoping for the best, hoping he just puts down his weapons and slowly backs away. This has the potential to get very ugly in a hurry if Obama takes this personally and thinks he has a score to settle with the one person who rejected him once and for all.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I suspect Obama didn’t care and treated Vlad as a junior associate on issues important to the Russians and issues where the Russians aren’t junior partners despite the “reset” button. Obama’s “dis” of Russia as a regional partner was bizarre as the Prince of Kiev founded the Russian state.

    2. RUKidding

      Obama’s personality issues, as you’ve described them, may be a factor in how & why Obama behaves/governs the way he does. IMO, I think Obama is much ruled by the PTB to whom he’s beholden and who compensate him (now and into the future). That’s my take on it. Think it has much more to do with Deep State and the weird jockeying for power – which one kinda/sorta gets glimpses of if paying attention – going on behind/below the scenes.

      IMO those that we see in roles of “power” are just functionaries and the talking heads. Clearly these days what “we the people” think or need or care about or want has little impact on how the machine is run.

    3. Synopticist

      I think you might be on to something there. His willingness to screw his own supporters while appeasing the people who show him disdain. Daddy issues.

      And you’re right about Europe. We don’t want a major falling out with Russia just so Nuland can get neo-con bragging rights.

    4. ian

      I have found this situation fascinating so far. I get the impression that Putin and Obama are playing different games. Obama talks about “carefully calibrated responses” – it all has an abstract, technocratic ring to it. Putin is more of a street fighter – he is doing what he thinks he can get away with – willing to win ugly, as long as he wins.

  14. John Q. Public

    Strictly speaking, Americans want Obama to obey the fucking law.

    Namely, https://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/36/a36r103.htm

    As the World Court says, “The principle of non-intervention is to be treated as a sanctified absolute rule of law,” with “all the weight that law could ever commend in any case.” It’s customary international law. It’s conventional international law. It’s a peremptory norm of international law. It’s the supreme law of the land.

    Just fucking obey the law or we’re going to hang you upside down from a lamppost like Mussofuckinlini.

    Where do I check that on your bullshit NBC propaganda poll?

  15. F. Beard

    Yes, until we learn how to quit oppressing our OWN people, what have we got to “share” with the rest of the world? Crowd control technology?

  16. ltr

    Great news, any lessening of American militarism would be ever so welcome and is ever so necessary.

  17. Banger

    Eventually results matter. U.S. wars have been a disaster and there is no way, no way that you can hide that fact forever. Iraq is now an Iranian satellite and in chaos, Aghanistan is a disaster from one end to the other, Libya is in chaos, Syria is well…. I know one thing for sure, however you slice it, war for the U.S. is a scam perpetrated by profit-making organizations to loot the U.S. Treasury in partnership with a nomenklatura jokeying for power within the Imperial Court–yes, there are other considerations but that’s the major dynamic at work. U.S. security policy has very little to do with providing security to the majority of Americans.

    1. Banger

      As for globalization, Americans appreciate getting a variety of cheap goods at Walmart. I can buy a power tool made in China for the same amount of money I spent thirty years ago, everyone knows this and most people like it. and we’d be fools not to. Yes, globalization destroyed the industrial heartland but it didn’t have to become a tragedy it became–we had the means to make globalization work better for the American people but chose not to take that road.

      1. Synopticist

        .” I can buy a power tool made in China for the same amount of money I spent thirty years ago, ”

        Yup, and people are working as labourers on building sites for the same hourly rate I was earning twenty years ago.

      2. different clue

        Will your China power tool for thirty years like the one you bought thirty years ago could? Does it perform as well till it stops working or breaks?

  18. Dennis Redmond


    For the thousandth time, THERE WAS NO COUP IN UKRAINE. The US and the EU had zero, nada, zilch to do with anything that happened there. There was a genuinely popular and democratic protest against a Wall Street-style crook and thief, Yanukovych, who stole billions from Ukraine, crashed the economy, and then fled from office. Putinism has been trying to stir up trouble in Ukraine ever since, without much success (folks in eastern Ukraine are angry at poor governance and corruption, but don’t want to join Russia). Ukraine’s revolution is broadly similar to Argentina’s in 2001 — mass protests against a thieving elite. Also, trust NOTHING from RT.com. It’s degenerated into a completely non-credible, Fox News-style bullhorn of lies and Russo-imperialism. My own take on Ukraine and Russia, for those interested in the geopolitical angle: http://monkeybear.info/Uplink/Uplink31.html

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The problem is no one cares who you are, and a growing number of people have been given “fulsome” evidence that our own country is run by dangerous psychopaths. The monsters in DC represent a greater threat to the average American than whether Kiev is run by Brussels or Moscow.

      When the Iraq war mongers are jailed, the war profiteers have been led to the gallows, and a Truman commission has cleaned house, I bet we will be ready to listen as to why a mob should subvert elections.

      1. Vatch

        It’s not black and white. Sure, the U.S. and the E.U. were involved in the Ukrainian crisis, but that doesn’t mean that they were successfully controlling the events. And despite the U.S./E.U. involvement, vast numbers of Ukrainians had legitimate grievances against the Yanukovych administration. There really was a significant populist aspect of the uprising. A large majority of the parliament voted unanimously to impeach Yanukovych, although they were about 10 votes short of the required quorum for such a vote. Yanukovych effectively resigned the presidency, a bit like Richard Nixon in 1974, expect Yanukovych didn’t have the decency to admit that he resigned.

        There has been mob behavior on both sides of the Ukrainian Crisis, and people have been killed by both sides, most prominently by the mysterious snipers in Maidan. There has been highly symbolic thuggery, such as the fist fight in the parliament instigated by rightists, and the kidnapping of international observers by Russophile rebels in the east.

        There are plenty of psychopaths (or sociopaths — I’m not clear on the difference) in high ranking positions in the United States government. There are also plenty of psycho(socio)paths in high ranking positions in almost every government around the world, including Russia.

        We live in a world of grays and colors, not just black and white.

        1. Vatch

          I meant to say ” except Yanukovych” instead of ” expect Yanukovych”.

          I’ll probably never develop an immunity to typo fever!

        2. NotTimothyGeithner

          Of course, it’s not black and white, but this is about trust and necessity. Ignoring the hyperbole of a Hillary Clinton, does Putin’s most hideous described action require a response even if the Kiev Junta makes Mother Theresa look like a tyrant sitting atop a throne of skulls given other problems which have greater needs and are often cheaper to solve?

          When there is a regular who’s who of Iraq War supporters hyperventilating, there is no room for any kind of agreement with their ilk. They’ve cried wolf too many times. If the guy pimping his blog is serious about Put in as a threat, he would understand that Chamberlain can’t remain as PM and expect to govern.

          Sides and the morality of Sherman’s March to the Sea can be discussed, but bad actors would be prosecuting any action on our behalf without any kind of legitimate justification except crummy emotional appeals to fear of little urbanized premies being tossed from incubators and doomed to limbo. Spare me this nonsense.

        3. Banger

          Look, this is not one incident that should be seen as a discrete situation. It is part of a long series of similar events. We could start with Italy and Greece just after WWII move to Iran and Guatemala and on and on and on and end with Libya and Syria. So, I’m sure you don’t know much about the NED or it’s origins. Do some research. find out who Victoria Nuland is and read her husband’s writings. Then tell me this is just a coup by freedom loving liberals to bring democracy and prosperity to the Ukraine. Also you might learn that ThenUkraine was, largely, an invention of German General Staff during WWI.

          1. FederalismForever

            I know who Nuland is and I’ve read her husband’s writings. It is quite debatable whether the agenda advanced by Nuland and her husband is the same agenda that led to U.S. involvement in Greece and Italy after WWII.

            1. Banger

              The agendas are different and the situation is different. There was a fairly rational case to be made for those operations after WWII but the pattern of imperial rule started then.

          2. Vatch

            The U.S. has a long history of imperial adventurism, as does Russia, especially in its incarnation as the Soviet Union. The Soviets invaded Finland and Poland in 1939 and seized Estonia and Latvia. At some point, Mongolia became a Soviet satellite. After WWII, the Soviets swallowed up all of Eastern Europe. They had adventures in Greece and Turkey, along with the U.S.

            In 1956, they reconquered Hungary, and they did the same in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. meddled in many African countries, as well as some in Latin America. Russian imperial involvement in other countries has a long history — just like the United States. Putin would love to restore Russia to her former glory, and that requires imperial action.

            Furthermore, I did not say that the recent events in Ukraine were caused by freedom loving liberals. I agree that the U.S. had influence on what was happening, but the Ukrainians had enormous, legitimate grievances against Yanukovych. Saying that the U.S. was fully responsible for the demonstrations is like saying that the Soviets were responsible for the civil rights protests of the 1960s in the U.S.

            I don’t believe that Ukraine is an invention of the German General Staff during WWI. Ukraine was part of the Russian Tsarist empire, and their culture was suppressed by the government, but they had existed for centuries before that. Ukraine did not magically appear from the German General Staff like Athena emerging fully formed from the head of Zeus.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              This is just way off. The Ukraine like much of Eastern Europe lacked the borders which made development of states such as France and England difficult. Neighboring villages were radically with Catholic slavs, Catholic germans, different kinds of Jews, quirky muslims, and Russians.

              After both World Wars populations were moved for one reason or another. For example, my father’s polish mother’s ancestral village is outside of Vienna. The food she cooked was not Polish, but her language was Polish and was clearly Slavic. How could this be? Things change all on their own all the time.

              Whole villages changed hands in a generation b et ween different ethnic groups. Much of this was stamped out by the wars, the holocaust, and Sovietization, but there is no secret Ukrainian nation. There were a bunch of jeans who lined up to help the nazis because they w anted to grab t heir neighbor’s stuff. The Prince of Kiev founded Moscow.

              Ukraine is the name of a region, and the grandparents of those freedom fighters in the square made sure to help squash out some of the old local flavor.

              1. Vatch

                Poland didn’t exist from 1795 until after World War I. Does that make it a product of the German General Staff during WWI?

                There are plenty of non-Russian ethnic groups within Russia. Should Russia be broken up to accommodate those different groups? Perhaps it should, but it won’t happen.

                The borders of France changed over time, and less than 200 years ago the dialect of French in the south was close to unintelligible to the people in the north, and vice versa. Does that mean that there’s no France?

                You’re right that things change all the time, and that includes national borders. But Banger’s assertion about the German General Staff is just plain wrong.

    2. Jackrabbit

      I imagine you closing your eyes, covering your ears and loudly repeating your mantra a thousand times like a stubborn child.

    3. washunate

      Yves, this post is a compliment that speaks highly of the success of NC. Keep up the good work!

    4. Banger

      So then, did I imagine Nuland’s claim that 6IB was spent on promoting “democracy” in Ukraine? And do you know what the NED actually does and what series of events caused it to be formed? You also ignore the looooooooong history of USG involvement in overthrowing governments it didn’t like sometimes through “demonstrations” sometimes through invasions. Here at NC most of us weren’t born yesterday and, fortunately the American people are beginning to see the con.

      1. Synopticist

        “fortunately the American people are beginning to see the con.”
        This quite true, and extremely welcome. I’ve been heartened by the level of scepticism seen BLT on stories about the Ukraine in the US MSM. You expect it on Syria, we are after all siding with loathsome jihadis, but there’s not been the type of unanimous Russia hate which I’d half expected.

    5. Synopticist

      No-one is denying there was popular revulsion at the thieving elite. But there was more to it than that.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        It was a localized reaction, not nationwide. This is important. Everyone in Egypt lives in relative proximity to the Nile Delta region. The Ukraine is big, and unlike Egypt, there have been elections with a scheduled one for the Summer, I think. This is a big distinction. It was popular in many Southern states to rebel after losing an election, and locally, the rebels were a pretty solid majority except maybe in North Carolina. Should they have been able to tell Lincoln to go home and return the slaves?

        The Maidan revolt has no list of changes except they are against corruption while they return other corrupt people to power who can’t win elections anymore. I wouldn’t agree it was a popular movement. A mob did this. A large and motivated mob, but it’s important t o recognize the popularity was entirely local in nature.

        1. Synopticist

          It was a localised demonstration with genuine greivances that foreign funding and organisation turned into a putsch.

    6. ian

      What you say may be true, but to be blunt: why is what goes on in the Ukraine my problem?

  19. MrColdWaterOfRealityMan

    The reason war with Russia over Ukraine hasn’t happened is because it’s not profitable for anybody, yet.

    When resources like oil and iron were cheap, land wars used to be profit centers for transnational corportations. Not so, now. Both governments and corporate heads know that a land war would first tank world stock and bond markets, taking the world into a depression. If the USA, Russia and/or China still, somehow managed to continue a land and/or naval war, they might use up the world’s remaining cheap oil supply before (wave hands hopefully here), a cheap and portable energy substitute is found.

    So, there will be no war with Russia, China, Iran or anybody else. Count on it. Not until and unless there’s enough money for the .01% to make it worth their while.

    1. Banger

      More or less, I agree with you. War, in the American context is mainly a scam. The idea is to maintain tensions that are high enough to scare people in throwing money at the MIC. Most of the Cold War was a con as is the War on Terror.

  20. Paul Niemi

    I’m tired of the war scares too. I think looking at the dynamics of a system that seems to require a crisis du jour is necessary. Really, I think the potential for normal, peaceful relations globally, between nations big and small, has never been better. As I read this post, I found myself wondering whatever happened to getting out of Afghanistan? When we lurch from crisis to crisis, how much necessary work falls by the wayside, as attention is shifted elsewhere?

    Yes, there is a congressional election coming up. If Americans aren’t distracted, they might focus on questions like: Why aren’t the bridges getting replaced? What happened to the money to fix the potholes? Why are returning veterans begging on street corners? Why am I paying ten percent of my income to the cable company? Why are there empty houses on every block? Why can’t my son get a job and move out? Why can’t I retire? Has anyone actually seen my congressperson lately? Why is he/she running the exact same ads he/she ran six or eight years ago? How can I start to make a difference in all of this?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Op-ed letters and go to their town halls. Make sure to ask them about their voting record or discipline for wayward members.

    2. cnchal

      The answers.
      Why aren’t the bridges getting replaced?
      What happened to the money to fix the potholes?

      The US military is like a money magnet. After they are through gorging themselves on the money left over after Wall Street and the sick industry are finished gorging themselves, there is no money for bridges or potholes. Besides, the .01% don’t drive, they fly.

      Why are returning veterans begging on street corners?


      Why am I paying ten percent of my income to the cable company?

      The distraction caused by consuming the product provided by my cable company causes me to forget to calculate the percentage of income I am paying to them.

      Why are there empty house on every block?

      We all know why.

      Why can’t my son get a job and move out?


      Why can’t I retire?


      Has anyone actually seen my congressperson lately?

      Those, that want or are offering a political or monetary favor, can find your congressperson without problem.

      Why is he/she running the exact same ads he/she ran six or eight years ago?

      They won the last time with them.

      How can I start to make a difference in all of this?

      Stop pissing into the wind.

      Use credit cards and credit less, cash more. Go without 10% of income going to cable and do something else with the money and time.

      Figure out ways to stretch your resources and structure your life to not be beholden to the .01%

      Don’t buy what the plutocrats are selling.

      1. Paul Niemi

        And the answer is: To ask the questions, keep asking the questions, and keep forming more questions. This has more power than saying “we should,” or “we ought.” It is non-dismissible. It demands response. It differentiates those who can respond adequately from those who can’t. No one expects to throw all the bums out, not all at once, but holding them accountable by asking the disquieting questions can be done.

  21. docg

    I’ve noticed in comment after comment posted in response to one opinion piece after another, often in major venues, such as the NY Times, Guardian, NY Review of Books, etc., a flat out refusal to go along with the official take on Ukraine, Russia, Putin and, of course, Obama. I’d say the public rejection of official US policy, as echoed in so many of our major media outlets, runs roughly 80 to even 90% negative. When will the message get through that Americans have had it with all the Russia, China and Iran baiting, the daily bombardment of aggressive and unwarranted rhetoric of demonization spewing forth so irresponsibly from so many “responsible” sources?

    1. Nathanael

      It’s interesting to analyze further.

      The stupider segment of the population, upon disapproving of the US official policy, starts supporting Putin.

      The smarter segment rejects both forms of warmongering idiocy and is spending most of its time explaining to the other half “Yes, Obama and Nuland are crazy and dangerous. Putin is crazy and dangerous TOO.”

      1. Synopticist

        There’s nothing crazy about how Putin is acting. He’s a c*nt, but he’s acting as any rational, calculating Russian leader would. He’s part of the “reality based community”. The neo-con holdouts who are dictating US policy are not.

  22. Peter Pan

    So how much worse must Obama’s poll standings get before he’s labeled a lame duck?

    With a little lame luck perhaps he’ll have multiple failures in his neo-liberal economic agenda and his interventionist neo-con agenda.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Isn’t he already? I think the GOP’s racism and white guilt have prevented the bottom from falling out, but the guy has been harping on bipartisan procorporate immigration favored by the elites of bot parties for 2 years now. Yet, no one cares. Senators begged the guy to put off keystone and tpp, and what else is he into? SS won’t be changed anytime soon, and the executive orders are minor changes to government operations which could have been done by an autosigner in Jan. 09.

      The Senate killed his newest foreclosure whitewash, and the Senate adores the banks more than the banking elite themselves.

      1. Nathanael

        Obama became a lame duck long, long ago, sometime around when he decided to extend the Bush tax cuts. He couldn’t even do NOTHING successfully.

  23. Jackrabbit

    We have discussed many possible reasons for Ukraine meddling (Ukraine’s resources, pushback/payback for Syria, etc.) but one could well wonder if Obamatrade is also in the mix.

    I am struck at the propaganda that portrays Russia as threatening ALL of Eastern Europe. Doesn’t a renewed ‘red menace’ (both Russia and China) help to convince countries on the fence to sign on to Obamatrade?

  24. Ron

    American media has the ability to push for higher levels of military involvement and bring the popularity for military action much higher but the targets tend to be 3rd world countries, pirates, religious muslims, not large military state’s with nuclear weapons. Obama/Democratic’s also have the election coming up and didn’t want to seem soft so lip moving and tough talk is the order of the day.

  25. Jeffrey

    The sad part is that Americans have yet to grasp firmly that electing Republicans will change absolutely nothing regarding the essential disfunctionality of our oligarchic political system. The neocons, the Pentagon-armaments-Congress complex, and Wall Street will still be in the saddle. The Supreme Court will be as corrupt, “bought and paid for” as ever, along with the Senate and the House. Participating in “elections” does nothing positive, it reinforces the illusions and mythology that enable the elites to manipulate the American public.

  26. MikeW_CA

    If we could lead the world from a position of strong moral authority, that would be one thing…
    Since we’re clearly in a different position, I’m with the 53%.

  27. Nathanael

    Bluntly, Putin *is* a threat to world stability and to democracy… but there’s nothing the US can do about it. The US is not in a position to do anything, having abandoned the moral high ground.

    This is like the run-up to World War I. Kaiser Wilhelm was awful, but so was the Tsar, and so were the governments of Austria-Hungary, and of the Ottoman Empire… and the British and French weren’t *that* great either.

    Support the Tsar or the Kaiser? Neither is correct.

    Interestingly, World War I ended with the destruction of nearly every government involved. The British and French governments, the most democratic of the governments involved, survived, more or less.

  28. Rosario

    It’s interesting how being bombarded with information (even if it is all bunk) can appear to be a good thing for a country’s citizens. In this case, preventing our “complete” (this is a key word) involvement in another conflict. Today, the US government’s customers are inconveniently distracted by social media, relentless marketing, endless commodities, and all other forms of information glut. We have a harder time being swept up by the old fashioned propaganda models. The September 11 propaganda machine had Hollywood style destruction and stories dripping with emotion that could sustain an American’s need for revenge for years, and the American political class shamelessly utilized (and continue to utilize) this “perfect tragedy” at every opportunity. All conflicts we have brewed post-Afghanistan/Iraq wars have been, for our safety, concocted in foreign lands for similar crypto-cynical purposes, but somewhere in the imperial game our politicians lost the 9/11 playbook and now we have, well, nothing. I’m not even sure how our government is trying to convince Americans we need to go to war anymore. The terrorism thing has become too similar to villains from the Legion of Doom and other comic book tropes for Americans to take it seriously (I mean this seriously, look at how many comics/comic based movies in the past, and particularly today, have used the terrorist villain, it is perfect comic book fodder). We know “terrorism” is real, but it was always a problem of state authority versus non-state authority, not good guys versus bad guys. Therefore it’s complexity was always a difficult problem for the State Department’s PR people to wrap their head around. How can they define an undefinable enemy in a sustainable way (i.e. keep our interest piqued)? They have tried the racist, “othering”, methods typically practiced in the past, but these usually backfire, and they are far less effective in a world of increased communication and intercultural awareness. Then the marketers move on to defending autonomy/representation, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and so on. This is the propaganda tool being utilized now and it is just as ethically/morally bankrupt as othering an enemy (hijacking serious issues for nationalist and militarist purposes). Though, this method is a bit more effective (think the boycotting of all things Russia because of the anti-gay laws). Besides this method often being hypocritical (USA has Anti-gay laws on the books still, and lots of them) it is an incredibly complex propaganda tapestry to weave. Our government has two options, find a way to convince us to board the war ship, or set sail under cover of darkness. The disturbing reality is an increased reliance on shadow warfare. The population may not be screaming for blood, more likely, they may not even know what is going on, but the same military endeavors are occurring in a similar, albeit quieter fashion. I wonder if we can ever return to the deep meditation on ideas I believe we practiced collectively just decades ago without falling prey to some of its darker tendencies (group think, inflexible ideology, racism, xenophobia, etc.).

  29. Ping

    It feels like I’m living in a reverse universe where up is down, night is day etc.

    With typical insistence we engage almost everywhere militarily, John McCain (and his ilk) spoke about sending military equipment/supplies to Ukraine to boost morale and show support and even though it would not influence outcome he reasoned that we send military support to 50 other countries so why not Ukraine too?

    Really???…the US contributes military stuff to 50 other countries while seeking to dismantle it’s citizen’s social insurance and the commons?

    Even with the most unrelenting propaganda denigrating Medicare and Social Security and pretty much everything that isn’t a profit center …I ask myself how can the public not make the connection between exorbitant military spending in parts of the globe that most people know nothing about and our dire financial situation.

    And imagine that those vast resources redirected from military adventurism to the basics for a healthy society and environment would really make a difference in their community.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      In the case of the GOP voters, they are craven, rabid, or bought off through subsidies and select issues such as guns or gas marrying. Occasionally, they can surprise you. Exhibit A. Rep. Morgan Griffith and pot.

      The Democrats are another story. Their voters believe their leaders are being one upped by the GOP who are perceived as idiots and machiavellian strategists at the same time. Folksy banter obscures Democratic malfeasance such as today’s vote to raise the minimum wage stopped by that awful filibuster which the Supreme Court has already ruled as a mere gentlemen’s agreement. Some are stressed and don’t have time, but there is an element who derive their value from being Team D and if they recognize Team D malfeasance they will have to question their blind support or demand accountability from their heroes. Hillary Clinton received ample support from people with hippie type bumperstickers, and when confronted with her record, they will find a way to justify their love of 90’s Patsy Cline.

      Independent swing voters represent the laziest and most selfish people on the planet interested in tomorrow. Fortunately, there aren’t many of them, but the basic issue is people don’t want to accept their heroes aren’t heroes or they benefit directly from bad policy.

  30. Is it safe?

    There’s a crucial undercurrent here. CIA needs some war hysteria to get them safely past the treaty body review. NCS and JSOC torture cowards are scared they might get some due process in an independent court. ICCPR reviewers just tore them a new one. They also called for prosecution of the head torturers in DoJ and EOP. The Convention Against Torture is going to come down really hard in November. That’s universal jurisdiction implemented in US law. The Human Rights Council reviews the US government next year, and they accept petitions from individual victims of government criminals. The torturers are panicking. Remember when they threatened to rebel when Obama first came in and scared him into acquiescing to torture? Well, all this mobilization and great-power confrontation going on, that’s them rebelling against the whole world. Like they say, hostis humani generis. So everybody’s gotta ask yourself, are you with them, or against them?

  31. Roland


    At least Stalin didn’t have any of his brass planting a bomb in his headquarters when things were going badly at the front. There’s something to be said for a purge of the officer corps from time to time. War is politics. What good is technical competence among officers, if those officers prove disloyal to the government, or are unwilling to fight?

    Stalin was also probably counting on having some more time in which to reconstitute his officer corps. In 1938-39, during this purge, how many informed observers were predicting that in 1940 the Germans would be able to completely annihilate the French and British armies in less than six weeks?

    Hitler, by contrast, pursued a policy of accomodation with the aristocratic class who provided many of the senior officers, even though they despised him as an upstart. The aristos demanded blood in order to seal the deal. Hitler duly sacrificed the SA, which had been intended by many of his fellow Nazis to form a people’s-army-in-waiting. This pact formed the basis of the Hitler regime. Both Hitler and the aristos despised each other, but they both separately calculated that an internal political reckoning was best postponed until Germany’s geopolitical situation had been satisfactorily resolved.

    But the grand bargain in the Third Reich lasted only as long as there was an expectation of victory. When the war went sour, a cabal of aristocratic officers plotted to overthrow the government. So Hitler ended up having to purge the officer corps anyhow, except he had to do it at the same time that Germany faced a huge crisis on all fronts.

    Moral of the Story: any country that has recently emerged from bitter internal strife faces the question of how to ensure that the armed forces high command is properly aligned with the government. Purge sooner, or purge later? There are dangers and costs either way.

    The problem of political loyalty in high command also plagues stable, well-established regimes. It was not by accident that the USA’s two most highly qualified generals spent almost the whole war relegated to secondary campaigns, while a staff colonel without any record of field command skyrocketed to four stars and the big show at SHAEF. Politics.

  32. John Jones

    What were the names of the two highly qualified generals
    and the staff colonel?

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