Sure! On the 1st of Never. The two wars being Iraq II and Afghanistan, begun under Bush, finished, more or less, with Obama, but both thoroughly bipartisan affairs.
Because if we’d won either war, you’d be seeing victory parades. And you’d be seeing politicians at the head of the parades. Also too monuments. Do you see any? No. So, no victory. WaPo’s Dana Milbank writes:
Gen. Harold Greene’s funeral is a fitting coda to a dozen years of war
Oh. A “fitting coda.” Oddly, or not, although Milbank mentions the 33-car press motorcade, he doesn’t name any of the dignitaries who must have been in attendance; Greene was, in death, like defeat is, an orphan.
Because of his high rank, there was great pageantry: the riderless horse with boots backward in the stirrups; the Army chief-of-staff presenting the flags; the pounding, 13-cannon salute.
The fanfare was a fitting coda to a dozen years of war. President George W. Bush often said there would be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship. Now the wars are over, for better or worse – and the general’s burial was .
The Iraq war is history, at least for U.S. ground troops, and soon Afghanistan will be, too. Greene’s death captures well the end:
What’s “ambiguous” about it? We’re leaving $7 billion worth of material in Afghanistan, and if the Afghan army collapses the way the Iraq army did, we’re going to end up bombing whatever we left in working order. Does that sound like victory to you?
He was the No. 2 general in charge of training Afghan forces to take over after the Americans’ imminent departure, and he was killed — , it seems — by one of the Afghans who was supposed to be on our side.
It was a closing act of an American pullout ordered somewhere between victory and defeat.
“Senseless” to whom? Not the
crazy brown person Afghani who gave his life in the assault, presumably.
Far be it from me to suggest that the Army, right now, is ineffective as a fighting force, or that Obama didn’t put “boots on the ground” in Syria because he couldn’t. (Yes, the American people are said, rightly, to be “war weary,” but since when did the American people have any influence in Washington, DC?) However, in last days of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, humor is everything in our decaying and sclerotic empire. Here are some headlines from the military’s The Onion, Duffle Blog:
‘We Would Have Won The War If I Was In Charge,’ Low-Ranking Afghanistan Veteran Says
US Prepares Massive Shipment Of Thoughts And Prayers To Kurds
Pentagon Welcomes Afghanistan As Newest F-35 Program Partner
After Reaching Baghdad, ISIS Militants Declare ‘Mission Accomplished’
Catch the drift?
In the Army, we’re clearly looking at a troubled institution: Recruiting standards have been lowered, suicides are much higher than the civilian rate, the officer corps is, often, abusive and corrupt, and perhaps issues with a relatively small volunteer force as such, beyond the family and health issues of multiple deployments (“I had come to accept, without question, my reality because of fear”), all leading to breakdowns in leadership and discipline.
Peter Beinert, of all people, writes:
When it comes to foreign policy … the key divide is no longer between Democrats and Republicans. It’s between the elites of both parties and their rank and file. When asked about arming Syria’s rebels, an Iran deal that allows some uranium enrichment, and whether America should do more or less in the world, both Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly take the more dovish view. On each question, the partisan divide is five percentage points or less.
The real gap emerges when you compare ordinary Americans to elites. According to Pew, for instance, rank-and-file Republicans are 34 percentage points more likely to want America to do less overseas. Rank-and-file Democrats are 31 points more likely to want America to do less. Members of the prestigious, bipartisan Council on Foreign Relations, by contrast, are 20 points more likely to say America should do more.
The political class, egged on by those who own or rent them (the title of Beinert’s article is “How Money Warps U.S. Foreign Policy”) yearns for war, but must work — frustratingly for them — through proxies and straws (or “thoughts and prayers,” as Duffel Blog puts it) because they themselves blunted the edge of their favored instrument with two defeats. At the same time, having dissipated our soft power with Abu Ghraib, torture, drones, and so forth, they and we are about to learn what it means to live in a world of purely hard power. No doubt there are many who will be happy to teach us.
 Milbank tactfully avoids the question of who Bush expected to be the victor on that battleship deck.
 And this:
… ordered somewhere between victory and defeat…
1. Note lack of agency. Who did the ordering? Obama, presumably, as Commander-in-Chief.
2. Note vague context. Is it time? Does “somewhere between victory and defeat” mean that had we stayed in, victory was achievable? (In other words, Obama jumped off the timeline that leads to inevitable American victory.) Is it outcome? Does “somewhere between victory and defeat” mean an outcome that isn’t victory or defeat? (In other words, this was the best Obama’s “surge” could do, even for a “smart war.”)
Clue stick, Dana: It’s defeat, and the political class knows it. Ground war, no victory parade, no politician claiming credit: That’s defeat. As Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said:
Iraq “blew it” by choosing not to sign a Status of Forces Agreement that would have kept US troops in the country longer, and Afghanistan is unlikely to make the same mistake, he added [or maybe not].
Now, when it comes to Iraq, US troops are unlikely to have any desire to return to the country, he added.
“I mean, we can only give so much. And nobody – no one in uniform – wants to say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m ready to go back.’ No way.”
“I mean, we can only give so much. And nobody – no one in uniform – wants to say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m ready to go back.’ No way.”
With “givers” like the US military, who needs “takers”?
Saying it with film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWGAdzn5_KU
Ugh, history repeats itself. Howard Zinn remarks on a similar malaise in the military after the Vietnam War. And what was the response of our elites? Opportunistic invasions of small, defenseless islands in the Caribbean, and Central American counter-revolutionary excursions, to show that the US was still THE force in the neighborhood. To restore the American people’s confidence in the military, you know. And, of course, to keep the dollars flowing to the MIC. Gotta have that, you know, ruat coelum….
it looks like they’re trying to pick a fight with a much stronger opponent this time
This sort of lunacy reminds me of Kaiser Wilhelm, unfortunately. Remember what happened to his country?
Let’s not do that, please.
“We’re leaving $7 billion worth of material in Afghanistan, ”
And what could we have done in THIS country with that $7 billion? Could we go over there & have a “yard sale” so we could bring the proceeds home?
it could go to your local PD
it’s hard to argue that the war was a defeat officially, but when you look at the objectives, you have to admit that it was at least a partial success. greg palast argued in one of his reports a couple of years ago that the war in iraq was not about stealing their oil but about keeping it off the markets and keeping prices high. i completely agree with that but think he only got half the story. the reason why prices were to remain high was so that they could start fracking the world. we all know fracking technology has been around for decades and the only thing that had saved us from it was that it was not equitable. high oil prices removed that protection.
then there’s the fact that the primary goal of the elites seems always to be to syphon public money into private hands and iraq, and the war of terror generally, achieved that spectacularly. finally, at least $19b of iraqi resources were embezzled straight up, disappearing without a trace. you can be sure some people somewhere are pretty happy about that. so victory or defeat is just a matter of perspective. if you believe war is waged for the benefit of the nation, then you might understandably see it as a debacle; but if you see the united states for what it is – an oligarchy ran for the benefit of a few – the war served its purpose and then some.
On some high level of abstraction, you are correct–for the elites, it wasn’t much of a defeat. But they depend for their power and influence on an instrumentality, the US military, and that is in poor shape: undermanned for the missions it may have dumped on it, demoralized by failure (at their end of the spectrum), short on spares and with a lot of tired out equipment (by its standards), and endlessly creamed of what quality cadres it has for newer, more cool-sounding “special forces/special ops” units, and saddled with the pricey, inept F-35. And, perhaps most ominous, pumped up for all its worth as the “greatest fighting force since the Big Bang” by a huge media hype machine. Throw this force up against the Russians or the Chinese and you are in a world of trouble. America hasn’t fought a first-class enemy since the Korean War ended (and they were, initially, a high-quality experienced army coming out of the war with Japan and the Chinese Civil War, but one weak in firepower). No American general has a clue what it’s like to fight outnumbered and without complete control of the skies and a full Intel picture of the enemy. But the clowns in Washington think they’ve got Julius Caesar’s legions up against hopelessly inferior wogs. This mismatch between perceived and real capability could lead to a third world war.
Surely there’s a feedback loop between the eroding capacity of the Army and the suite of high-tech warfare from cruise missiles and tomahawks through attack drones to signals and cyber intelligence etc. Isn’t the whole direction of US military thinking inclined towards putting distance and electronics between the bombers, the shooters, the bombed and the shot? Polls say drones are popular with Americans. It’s not hard to envisage entire offensive or defensive systems capable of delivering huge amounts of directed firepower over a huge battlefield under the control of a small team.
But I wonder, James, if the Army is in as sad a state as you describe, it’s possible soldiers would simply refuse to be sent to yet another war they can themselves feel society at large is not looking to fight? Maybe that’s the miracle on offer – the Army goes on strike unless/until vital interests are threatened by the actions of an enemy, not those of Washington.
The catch is that we must speculate on what the real objectives were. This is not how a working democracy is suppose to function.
Re: “the real objectives” are to satisfy the fundamental, never ending, greed of the military-industrial complex with emphasis on profits for the weapon suppliers being insured and assured by our bought-&-paid-for elected politicians along with the revolving door political appointees.
You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. Where is Jack Nicholson when you need him?
Vidimi, Palast was only partially right. Cheney’s original idea was to use the war to break Opec. But the oil companies convinced him that that was a very bad idea, not that he took much convincing. The oil companies wanted the price of oil to stay high and so it has come to pass.
States wage wars and win or lose them, not elites. Even if states and civil society are two sides of the same coin, they are still two sides of the same coin, if you see what I mean.
Every “mistake” made in Vietnam is endlessly repeated. Small country riven by internal factions is invaded–U.S. military policy involves a dozen different strategies all being carried out at once–most obvious in Vietnam was “hearts and minds” and the Phoenix Program. Free-fire zones, and giving chocolate to children. The Pentagon Papers largely tell us that internal government studies that were reasonably objected came to the right conclusions about the War in Vietnam but the President and his people did not and would not listen. Because a close family member was on the front-lines of policy-making day-to-day during the build up of the War I know pretty accurately (the family member did not talk until many decades later) what and how of that period (65-67). The USG supported one corrupt and unpopular regime after another–the last couple were deeply involved in the drug trade as was the CIA and elements of the military. Drugs, in fact, feature prominently in U.S. policy-making as Peter Dale Scott and Doug Valentine have documented.
The military claimed that it “learned” something from Vietnam–it didn’t. Wars are fought to feed the military-industrial complex, punish and create “examples” out of weak states (Chomsky’s theory that we “won” Vietnam) to not oppose dictates from Washington, and make the American people remain fearful (we live in a world full of “threats” etc—no we don’t other than those created by the Deep State), and dependent on the illegitimate and now solidly post-Constitutional Washington regime. In terms of rank and file military, there’s nothing that wrong with them–they are just led by political generals who get ahead by catering to the military-industrial-congressional complex and the spooks who largely run the show behind the scenes. Is that CT enough for ya?
Remember–when the U.S. invaded Iraq (the classic example of 100% corrupt war-strategy) they threw out both CIA (from the analytic part of the Agency–very different than the operations part) and State Department studies and briefing–and probably even military strategies in order to carry out their atrocities and to steal money from the Treasury. This was exactly the same technique carried out day-to-day by the WH in the sixties.
The sad part is this is all obvious. Like the latest crisis in Iraq concerning IS–which is obviously and clearly a construction of, at the very least, our “allies” in the region–Turkey and the Gulf States and, I believe, the US and Israeli intel community to create a more credible “threat” than the vague “terror” threat that seems to have gotten way too old. It’s all a f-cking protection racket people and it’s hidden in plain sight.
I agree very much that our great adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan reflect the worst of the foolishness and insanity of Vietnam. But I think the military-industrial-complex and politicians and “intellectuals” actually learned quite a lot.
First, they learned that the “stabbed in the back” storyline developed by the German generals after the First World War is still very effective at deflecting blame. As with the German generals, who pushed the Kaiser to accept Allies terms because they feared unrest at home, so too with the U.S. generals who, having allowed themselves to get into a war they knew they couldn’t win on rational terms (i.e., short of total occupation of Vietnam and likely war with the PRC that would include nuclear weapons), they blamed the public for “cutting and running”.
Second, they learned that a draft army, while critically important in a democracy, was an impediment to their high-tech, lightning response fantasies. An “All Volunteer Army”, on the other hand, would do whatever they wanted.
Third, they learned they could use the press for a scapegoat and that the public would accept even total press censorship in war.
Fourth, they learned that public harbored so much remorse about “losing” the Vietnam War that they could use that vision as a lever to do whatever they wanted.
These folks may be evil, but they ain’t stupid.
One more point—I think that the basic nature of war as put so well by Clausewitz, “War is merely the continuation of politics by other means”, is still lost on Americans generally and by most of our élites. We are very much trapped in the fantasy of WWII and the Civil War, in which all we have to do is pummel the other guy, and then he’ll do whatever we want. This certainly was Robert McNamara’s claimed he was thinking in Fog of War. The public certainly thinks this way, and I think that’s true of most of Washington. The only ones who seem to get the point are a few senior officers who are quickly pushed aside, like General Shinseki.
Of course, waging war without any purpose other than to kill and destroy is murder. And we see yet again that without any real political strategy, without any plan for dealing with military victory, we gain nothing and lose immensely.
Didn’t you just contradict yourself? Sounds like you think they are stupid.
I was trying to be tongue-in-cheek. But I think the issue with the Clausewitz quote has less to do with stupidity than with a foolishness brought on by technocratic arrogance that has been part of American culture for a long time now.
By looking at the world just in terms of finding the most efficient method for getting what we want, we no longer ask the hard questions of what it is that we really need.
In the Middle East we do have a purpose. And we are in no hurry to achieve a resolution. It serves our purpose well (controlling oil-critical now to our MIC) to have chaos. It’s the best of both worlds. We can be there to support our allies (and comandeer the oil market) and we can be innocent of the great theft we are perpetrating. So nobody, please, put too fine a point on what is really going on. If you think of Vietnam and the Middle East as a continuum, the chaos to achieve control started in Vietnam almost experimentally, but with dedication. We probably prevented France and Britain and the Netherlands from going down in flames in Indochina and Indonesia; we temporarily saved the dollar, we robbed southern China of squillions in gold via a connection with Laos (my suspicion); and we partnered in the opium trade with Burma, making drugs the commodity of preference of the oligarchs. And etc. And it was all facilitated by chaos.
Always interesting when people discuss the “purpose” of American policy in the Middle East with no mention of Zionism and the Israeli state. Let’s put it another way— if California were an independent country would have the eighth largest economy in the world. Yet it is entirely possible to be elected to any national office–including the presidency— and pay absolutely no attention to the desires of the voters or elected leaders in California.
But for any US national candidate to publicly oppose the Israeli state and its policies is to commit political suicide. Israel and its supporters in government and academic positions demonstrably have more influence on US foreign policy than the eighth largest economy in the world– one that happens to be a part of the US.
That raises an interesting question— Is Israel a client state of the US, or is the US a client state of Israel?
It certainly doesn’t account for all aspects of US middle east policy, but it is instructive to look at actual historical policies from the point of the Israeli national goals of destroying or weakening enemies, increasing national security, and providing opportunities for territorial expansion.
There’s no single issue on which Californians will vote as a block. For Jewish Americans support for Israel is such an issue, as is being anti-Castro for Cuban Americans. Both nations have assumed an importance in our foreign policy far out of proportion to their economic size.
Should have said “Thus both nations…”
There’s a lot of Jewish Americans who will vote against Israel. The numbers increase as Israel commits more crimes against humanity, builds ghettos, commits pogroms, etc…
Don’t forget that Israel has the built-in and nearly reason-free support by staunch Christians. Even if they are not bible thumping fanatics their faith provokes uneasiness at the mere thought of crossing Israel.
I actually think these guys, the Christian nutcases, are the larger and more dangerous source of brainless “pro-Israel” politics in the US.
In the US Civil War, we won because our cause was just. Really.
The Confederacy had to operate a police state just to maintain slavery; they weren’t even popular among the poor whites; and as a result, they lost an entire year of the war suppressing Unionists in the South, had a complete blockade instituted successfully against them during the same period, and then watched their professional bullies fall like dominos against volunteer officers like Grant and Sherman; whose armies got *larger* as they liberated the South, because so many former slaves joined them.
We haven’t really had a war like that again, ever.
Why hide something the majority of people(not just in America) don’t want to see? Even when it becomes obvious to them they still will refuse to believe it. Getting nostalgic now for those wonderful mornings in school and standing for the national anthem. They did their job very effectively. Only the odd apple fell off the cart and landed somewhere, like NC.
It’s actually in their interest to be more open in order to push the envelope to see what they can get away with. That was the main point of 9/11 and later Boston. For instance, they know they can never bring back conscription. The draft was the one mistake which prevented them from turning Vietnam into the 50 Years War. But can they get away with collapsing the economy and forcing more people to volunteer to serve in the military simply because there’s no other work around? Ultimately I believe their goal has always been to condition us to accept a first nuclear strike by the US or Israel. How infuriating it must be for them to have all those powerful weapons but have their hands tied and not be able to use them.
Arguably then, it was a mistake for the Left to oppose the draft (rather than just defying it) because the end of the draft also made it easier for the government to go on unpopular military adventures, with a volunteer/mercenary army.
I agree. It’s anti-democratic, because now only professionals have, as it were, skin in the game; and it’s also classist, because now the elites can go to school without fear, and the grunts come from dying towns in the flyover states. And it’s really a market state solution, isn’t it? Pay people to be patriots. Another mid-70s sin, when things started to go so very wrong. Milton Freidman was, IIRC, a volunteer Army guy.
Spot on, Lambert. “Bring back the draft”, I say. But allow me to go one more step – the first drafted should always be the sons and daughters of the congressmen and women who voted to authorized the use of military force. Let’s turn that 60s song Fortunate Son upside down. If we citizens could somehow make that idea a reality, we might actually be able to achieve that other 60s cliche – No More War.
As regards whether the Bush wars were won or lost, even if one looks past Iraq and Afghanistan, the corollary question is “Are U.S. citizens safer today, than they were on Sept. 12, 2001.” I would encourage you to look toward Ferguson, MO, Libya, Pakistan, Egypt, anon anon for your answer.
BTW – Not that long ago HCR announced that she looks to the CFR to tell her what to do – and as this piece suggest, they would like the U.S. to do more – war that is.
The Left is made up of many diverse elements. Therefore the answer to your question depends on whether the individual is opposed to war. We’re all victims of our upbringing. We get brainwashed from family, society and peers. Very few people ever outgrow that programming. The Left was very much onside for the Afghanistan invasion. Plus many supported the attack on Yugoslavia. I’ve yet to be convinced the Left is consistently an anti-war force. After all, the Left elect an anti-war President then look the other way when it comes to his pro-war actions. My sole objection to the Left is the narrative it continually pushes that it has a monopoly on morality, in contrast to the Right. Human, all too human. All this Left-Right jargon simply reveals that our earlier indoctrination has not been outgrown.
Why do you put “mistake” in quotes? Why this refusal to believe that our elites, on a fundamental level, don’t know what they are doing? Was the domino theory just PR to gull the masses or did they really believe it? Credible histories of the period indicate that they did believe it, were mistaken. And the most likely reason for the greatest tragedy of my generation is that Kennedy and Johnson didn’t wan’t to appear “soft.” Power has its own reasons for doing things, and they aren’t always rational.
Why do I not believe these wars were mistakes? It’s a very good question and the answer is critical to understanding how our world is arranged and is the most frequent argument against the conspiracy view of history.
First, in the case of the U.S. decisions are not made by individuals. Though our modern republican/democratic form of government has experienced some centralization particularly since Roosevelt the power-elite are not a centrally organized strictly hierarchical structure with one or a handful of “deciders.” Instead we have a distributed system thus we talk about the “military industrial complex” or the “mainstream media” as single communities but we don’t actually believe they are run by one person. These entities act collectively to insure their interests. For example, Scott Ritter was asked to meet with CNN execs during the lead up to the Iraq War and queried about what he would say if he were invited to appear on their network. Since he was going to tell the truth that 99%+ of all WMDs (mainly nerve gas) had been accounted for by the inspection regime he was told that no network or mainstream media outlet would allow him to be heard. Why did some execs at CNN feel they were able to speak for the entire industry? Because the significant decision makers had already agred that there would be an invasion. George Bush and Dick Cheney did not order CNN to block Ritter–they had no power to do so–rather, the alliance had been put together long before that and they had been steering the USG, like a huge gargantuan ocean liner towards war for a long time before 9/11–why? Because the power-elite had achieved their power through manufacturing threats–without a fearful and compliant public their collective power was unsustainable.
My point is that we are seeing collective decisions here wherein certain communities profit through power and money from government policies. Actually eliminating “threats” would defeat the purpose of the ruling class which is to appear to be “protecting” us against crazy Russians and Muslims who are bent on destroying our freedoms. They are mad-dogs that we are too civilized to simply nuke out of existence but must be relentlessly hunted down and traced through the NSA, U.S. military, militarized police, intel organizations (today they are often private contractors acting in concert with foreign intel agencies and organzied criminal and “terrorist” organizations) and so on. How can Iraq be a “mistake” if so many profited from that war? How can it be a mistake that planners in the WH threw out all the analysis of the situation in Iraq and how to transition Iraq to a post-Saddam society? How could any group of people all make the same mistakes time after time and yet these same people were smart enough to claw their why to the top of the power ladder? Are these people so stupid? Not in my experience of several decades in Washington. The decision making process involves groups and communities not people like Hitler to meddled in the Russian front and sabotaged the more careful strategy of the German General Staff. Bush didn’t have much to do with any military strategy–all that had been decided elsewhere by political brokers who gave portions of the Iraq meal to various power-groups and military contractors and directed, like the mob bosses their own posses to skim off the best of the loot.
In the final analysis this government is in the hands not of idiots but Machiavellian operators who wheel and deal for their own interests and not the interests of the American people as a whole–why isn’t that blatantly obvious to you? Is it that it is to burdensome to face the reality we are living under even as the evidence is overwhelming? You think Bush was deluded about Saddam? You think Powell really believed the BS he laid out at the UN? Do you believe Pentagon or State Department planners really believe they could turn Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine into healthy liberal democracies at this point. Look at the results in each of those countries chaos followed by chaos followed by chaos followed by chaos followed by chaos–and you think chaos is not the plan? You think that, for another example, that when reporters and editorial writers get it wrong that they suffer any consequences in their news organizations? Is that because their editors are incompetent? No, they are not–they are fairly intelligent–but they, unlike the public, know that certain featured news personalities represent certain sections of the power-elite and are untouchable.
“Actually eliminating “threats” would defeat the purpose of the ruling class which is to appear to be “protecting” us against crazy Russians and Muslims who are bent on destroying our freedoms. They are mad-dogs that we are too civilized to simply nuke out of existence but must be relentlessly hunted down and traced through the NSA, U.S. military, militarized police, intel organizations (today they are often private contractors acting in concert with foreign intel agencies and organzied criminal and “terrorist” organizations) and so on.”
As usual, you are a Banger of nails squarely on the head! I think we are now witnessing a new phase in the elite’s pursuit of full spectrum dominance. The “othering” of any person or institution here in the United Stasi States of America who isn’t eagerly onboard with assisting the kleptocrats in their worldwide looting. Environmentalists who resist fracking, arctic drilling, etc., are becoming “eco-terrorists.” People of conscience who oppose police brutality and murder are “militant” protesters, defying the “forces of law and order.” Workers who dare to organize and press for a better deal are “union thug” ingrates who should feel lucky they haven’t already been replaced by robots. Jewish scholars, with the guts to offer even mild criticisms of IDF atrocities, are “self-loathing” traitors who must be driven from their academic posts.
The veneer of civilized restraint that U.S. kleptocrats and their authoritarian lackeys have traditionally shown to most bourgeois whites may be about to disappear. What will this look like? We can’t know for sure, but this passage offers a clue:
“With those children, he thought, that wretched woman must lead a life of terror. Another year, two years, and they would be watching her night and day for symptoms of unorthodoxy. … All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over 30 to be frightened of their own children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which The Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak – “child hero” was the phrase generally used – had overheard some compromising remark and denounced its parents to the Thought Police.”
George Orwell, 1984
“The veneer of civilized restraint that U.S. kleptocrats and their authoritarian lackeys have traditionally shown to most bourgeois whites may be about to disappear. What will this look like? ”
This has happened before.
It will look like the French or Russian Revolution. Take your pick.
Your reply seems to be premised upon a conversation that supposedly took place between Scott Ritter and CNN (as reported by Scott Ritter?) but that doesn’t strike me as much proof for such a broad assertion. Also weren’t we talking about the “mistake” of Vietnam? It might be easier to use the historical example since it’s more extensively documented.
And the truth is that without the decisions of a few individuals–John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson–there probably wouldn’t have been a Vietnam War. In fact the nutty Dulles may have been most culpable. However once we were involved both Kennedy and Johnson were told that the Vietnam might be a hopeless quagmire and yet allowed the U.S.involvement to continue because withdrawal would be politically humiliating. In Johnson’s case he was also persuaded by his technocrats that the war could be won with superior American technology. It was all a case of wishful thinking over common sense…not exactly the stuff of Machiavelli.
And yes it’s quite possible that the Bush gang knew their wmd charges were bogus but I think they did believe they would find something that could serve as a post hoc casus belli. Plus there’s really no question that they thought the Iraq invasion would be a cakewalk requiring far fewer men and far less time to pacify the country. Once again wishful thinking triumphed over common sense. Also I don’t buy your collective decision idea. No Bush and Cheney, no Iraq war. Gore might have attacked Afghanistan but not Iraq. The Iraq war was flat out off the wall as we all knew at the time.
So once again history is made by individuals, they are fallible and do make mistakes. It may be perversely comforting to believe that events are controlled by unknown invisible forces that we can’t stop but that can be just an excuse for throwing up our hands and doing nothing. So it’s worth pushing back against that idea. Indeed I suspect one of the prime “human nature” motivators of people like Obama or Jamie Dimon is vanity. Perhaps one way to get the elites to change their ways is to start treating them as the boobs they really are. They honestly don’t deserve so much credit as to be considered “evil.”
I like your response. You are right about Vietnam. I agree with your remarks about Iraq, and would add that the decision to fire the whole Iraqi civil service, because they had belonged to the Ba’th party, was where the “cakewalk” started falling apart. You are also right that without Bush and Cheney, the Iraq war would not have happened; it was the President’s decision. The gods on Mt. Olympus didn’t make him do it, and neither did anyone else.
Indeed, they act “collectively.” But the collective action includes co-operation, collusion, and conflict, including betrayal, and sometimes even rigtheous acts. Each actor also acts opportunistically, and maintains a portfolio of options.
If I may say so, the cross-cutting and interference between all the actors probably means that focus on too much detail can end up being a distraction; especially when we throw mis- and disinformation into the mix.
I throw out these methodological considerations because it’s not easy to write a narrative without a hero, a villain, and a beginning, middle, and end, but that’s what our press wants to do. In fact, a narrative may not be the appropriate genre, but rather a playbook or an encyclopedia or a possibly even a “hobby” (i.e., labor done as a gift) rather like birdwatching or model railroading or rotisserie baseball. That would make (for example) Kos right as to method, but wrong as to topic or objective. Hmm.
Spot on, Banger.
If the US wars were “mistakes” that incompetent leaders stumbled into why has it become standard operating procedure to initiate almost every war with a false flag event? Just to mention three:
—Oreo Colin Powell lying before the UN about WMD’s as prelude to attacking Iraq.
–The coordinated airplane attack and controlled demolition of Buildings 1, 2 & 7 and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 to provide cover for the National Security State & Homeland Insecurity’s “War on Terror”
–The shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight 14 by the US’s Neo-Natzi clients in the Ukraine– with a NSA or Blackwater advisory likely looking over their shoulder– as an excuse for the opening salvo of economic warfare against Russia.
“You think Bush was deluded about Saddam?”
In fact, yes. The evidence for the view that G.W. Bush really thought there were these “weapons of mass destruction” is much more compelling than the theory that he actually knew there were none and merely used that as a cynical pretense. The problem is that such people routinely do use deliberate cynical pretense as cover. But they also sometimes become stubbornly convinced of mistakes of fact and, like everyone does sometimes and many peopledo much of the time, they are inclinedt to see what happens to suit their needs of the moment. People are rationalizers and they routinely lie to themselves as well as to others. The fact is, Bush often was both ignorant and stupid. But he was also often the key “decider”–his own silly word for it–and wasn’t always a dupe of his coterie of advisors–though sometimes he was. More precisely, among his advisors were camps of opposing opinion which were rivals for the president’s accord. It’s they who sought to manipulate the data in the first instance and using the press and other media for their aims is only part of that process.
” You think Powell really believed the BS he laid out at the UN?”
In fact, yes. Powell was supplied with and he relied on lousy information. And yes, it’s also his fault that his was naive and sloppy and failed to make sure the facts he presented were accurate. It isn’t necessary to suppose that he was duped in order for certain of his rivals to have found reason to rejoice in his humiliation–even though that humiliation also seriously harmed the ability of the Hawks in the admin. to argue their case for invasion.
“Do you believe Pentagon or State Department planners really believe they could turn Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine into healthy liberal democracies at this point.”
Yes. Policy wonks are famous for their ability to convince themselves of the most amazing nonsense.
“The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
“Look at the results in each of those countries chaos followed by chaos followed by chaos followed by chaos followed by chaos–and you think chaos is not the plan?”
Chaos is common not just because it may be useful or intended as a consequence but also because it is so easily the result of not taking enough care, of simply being stupid and making mistakes or the result of the fact that often reality’s constraints often present no really “good option.” Of course, there is real malevolence and chicaney and these are tremendously large factors. And, just because chaos can and often does facilitate certain of the power structure’s near, mid, and long-term interests doesn’t mean or prove that chaos is always the primary (determinative) factor in either planning or in ex post facto explanations of events in political affairs. Every policy (and all of the consequences of them) will always present elements which subjectively or objectively both favor and disfavor the same power and interest groups–whether in one case or another these are at one time cooperating and another time in determined opposition.
Power interests are multifaceted in their operation. At one and the same time, within a single set of policy circumstances, individuals and groups are faced with assessing varied and conflicting or cooperating aims and interests and their associated human actors.
Things are at once simpler and more complicated than you present them. Simple: even high level people can and do make stupid mistakes and create problems for themselves and others which are neither intended nor foreseen. Complicated : no single reductive explanation will serve to satisfy such a shifting and complex world of events. Power interests have clientele interests at multiple levels of society’s organization. There is no reason to suppose that these are always or even usually mainly in harmony.
Compelling analysis, Banger. So really the post title is a trick question; we didn’t actually lose at all: mission accomplished. Chaos reigns; we’ve achieved a perpetual war machine — mass-murder for profit.
“victory” is how you define it.
The victory parade is the parade of numbers, the immense profits earned by contractors.
Begin with cheney’s Halliburton 39.5 Billion in Iraq. then list, say, the 10 top earners in Iraq. Or perhaps the 100 top earners? Then list the top 10 earners in Afghanistan. Or top 100.
Then maybe a list of what the CEOs of the 10 top earners earned, the 100 top, each war.
Billions of dollars. Millions for the CEOs. Trillions of dollars spent total with hundreds of billions going to the victorious corporations. A victory for them and isn’t that all that counts today?
(Never mind that lining that parade route are the ghosts of the hundreds of thousands of people who died [including recently one general]. Hundreds of thousands of People with families, mothers and fathers and sons and daughers, just like those CEOs who made huge troves of money overseeing those corporations who made huge profits, though sometimes I wonder are these people really humans.)
What’s thousands and thousands of expendable people next to billions and billions of dollars in profits? if they ever admit the wars were lost, well, they’ve already made their profits.
Yes, but you can only whip a mule so much, and when that mule has the firepower to overthrow the State, it pays to treat it nicely. If the US military comes to the conclusion that it is being abused so the guys at Haliburton, Bechtel, General Dynamics, et al. can get rich, it will 1) fight very poorly and lose when you need it to win, 2) refuse to fight altogether, or 3) turn its guns on its abusers. And I think they are one sacrificial loss away from reaching one of the stages above. Combat power is only partly a function of weapons. The trigger-pullers have at the least to be reconciled with their predicament in order to put up any kind of fight. If they become disaffected, their fighting power plunges. I posit the Iraqi Army as Exhibit A.
“Here’s the [Machine] trick:
Design the machine that will produce the result your analysis indicates occurs routinely in the situation you have studied. Make sure you have included all the parts – all the social gears, cranks, belts, buttons, and other widgets -and all the specifications of materials and their qualities necessary to get the desired result.”
– Howard S. Becker
“Civilians unacquainted with the ways of the Building have only vague ideas about what it is the Pentagon does. They think the real business of the Pentagon has something to do with defending America. But it does not. The real business of the Pentagon is buying weapons.”
– Robert Coram
The Pentagon is not a war-fighting machine. The Pentagon is a weapons-buying machine.
The Pentagon has not waged a successful war since WWII. The U.S. lost in Vietnam, and invaded and was pushed back to stalemate in Korea. The U.S. military has succeeded only in limited engagements which did not hold ground (Grenada, Panama).
Funding for the Pentagon continues to be an order of magnitude above the nearest rival. The machine trick does suggest that something has changed; the Pentagon (pardon the personification) is the sales wing of the weapons industry, while adjuncts like Israel are doing the weapons demonstrations for foreign customers.
F-35 sales demand application of the Cheney Criteria: “Is this corrupt, or just incompetent?” No one ever suggested Cheney was incompetent. As for the Pentagon: can it be both?
Testify, Steve H.
Yes, and a machine for generals to award other generals medals. Take a look at the jacket of a US Army WWII general officer, and then check one out today. It would be comic if it wasn’t so infuriating. Here’s one of 5 star general HAP Arnold, commander of our Air Forces in WWII:
Check out pictures of Eisenhower–two rows of medals, sometimes three on more formal occasions. Then check out Petraeus. It’s a joke.
Merchants of Death, as they called them after World War One. They were one of the main causes of WWI.
So we killed a few million folks. We were afraid! Don’t be going all high and mighty on us.
Whatever it takes to keep ISIS from storming the Capitol.
They are already out there in Lafayette Park, holding up images of their black pirate flag on their iPhones.
I saw this in a tweet, so I know it is true.
The thing is they can now pretend that people are up in arms over this even tho’ nobody in their right mind will think this is serious. And the deeper threat is that now they have a patsy for any false flag crap they do as “ISIS.”
Lindsey Graham Cracker still uses “fight them over there or fight them here” rallying cry. And we are now equipping the police in the USA to do so, except them is us.
I just LUVS it when Miss Lindsey talks all butch!
RE: Pentagon Welcomes Afghanistan As Newest F-35 Program Partner
What a fitting end (we hope) for “Flying Tu*d Airlines”!
The Duffle Blog is quite the eye-opener. Clicking around a bit, a came across this piece which is possibly the blackest piece of black-comedy I’ve read in a long time–maybe ever. So dark on so many different levels:
I wonder how widespread this type of (well-placed) cynicism is among the rank-and-file of our armed forces?
No way to tell, but I’d predict extremely common. This is one reason why scenarios of a successful fascistic crackdown are so unlikely. The security forces themselves are completely cynical and distrust the system. Remember, this is how the USSR collapsed; Gorbachev was the only thing holding it together. After the coup against Gorbachev, the military and security forces just refused to support the coup plotters, the governors of the local SSRs saw their chance for power, and bang, it was over.
Just to answer Lambert’s question: no. Omniscience is how this crowd sell themselves. Takes bigger men to admit to mistakes.
As for the various comments saying mission accomplished because of weapons sold, oil contracts etc, that’s like saying Hitler invaded Poland for the benefit of Krupp Steel Works–way too reductive.
what then, in your eyes, a true victory in iraq would have looked like? or vietnam for that matter? were there any set victory conditions at all?
I think the premise of this NC post is the conventional meaning of victory….peace declared, enemy defeated, America triumphant. Obviously that didn’t happen in Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq. It didn’t happen for Hitler either. The interesting thing about powerful people is that they almost always end up defeated by their own foibles. Of course in the meantime millions die. But there is a “human nature” component to all this. There’s reason to think that Bush and Cheney did think they were establishing some kind of Pax Americana, not just greasing the palms of their oil buddies. So by that standard they should admit abject failure, but won’t.
It’s hard to admit defeat when your mouth is stuffed with tax-paid lobster.
There was no image or interest in “victory” in my view. There was a covering ideology of making those countries resemble the USA but that was a very, very vague notion never thought out nor implemented.
The permanent presence of American troops in the Persian Gulf as a means of projecting power and destabilizing hostile regimes (ie: Iran) would’ve been a strategic victory. This is the reason why everybody is howling about the failure to reach a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government. The occupation forces fighting a hostile populace in revolt was mostly a defeat.
Who knows if America’s imperial decline would’ve been successfully thwarted if the former scenario played out like it was suppose to. What I do know is that decline was a popular subject among certain circles in Washington and certainly amidst the PNAC types in the 90s.
I disagree. Too lazy to find the links, but I think Bush and his band of whacky Christianists really did think they could set up a new and functioning Iraqi state; “stand up” a “young Democracy” were the words. The problem was that Bush’s Christianists didn’t have the imperial mindset, skills, experience, or education to get the job done. They were totally out of their depth; deeply provincial. (That’s not to say that many other factions in the ruling class didn’t have their own agendas — Halliburton *** cough ***, Cheney *** cough *** — but as far as the State goes, I think that’s what they believed the mission was.)
“I think Bush and his band of whacky Christianists really did think they could set up a new and functioning Iraqi state”
Whether Bush believed any of that propaganda or not is irrelevant. A functional Iraq state, whether it had a democratic government or not, would likely have been independent and anti-western in it’s policies. Washington doesn’t care about a lick about the whole country or it’s people. If they did they wouldn’t be tacitly supporting Kurdish independence.
The American empire is still desperately looking for bases to project it’s geopolitical power from. Otherwise they’ll never control Eurasia. No control over Eurasia means the end of Pax Americana and the end of the empire is in sight. Why do you think the US is bombing the Islamic State as it advances on Kurdistan? If you thought it was because the evil men of the IS are murdering religious minorities you weren’t paying any attention to the R2P crowd the first time around.
When sanctions were ravaging the country there was no such sentimental outbursts. The imperialists as a group, including the liberal R2P crowd, are not nearly that kind hearted, but judging them by common human decency is projecting your individual moral and ethical standards onto them as a whole. As individuals they could be perfectly moral in their own private lives.
“Yet the ambitions and greed of dominant economic groups within each nation are not the only cause of international conflict. Every social group tends to develop imperial ambitions which are aggravated, but not caused solely, by the lusts of its leaders and privileged groups. Every group, as every individual, has expansive desires which are rooted in the instinct of survival and soon extend beyond it. The will-to-live becomes the will-to-power. Only rarely does nature provide armors of defense which cannot be transmuted into instruments of aggression.” -Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society
As with ordinary individuals, countries and empires are bound by the same natural impulses and desires that is a common experience of the human condition.
Yeah, all of the shifty, shifting Iraq war premises were knowingly fabricated for public consumption, especially democracy, the bane of Bush-Cheney, who wouldn’t give a damn about that. The mass-marketing, forgeries, false witness, etc. was simply too driven for any of it to remotely be considered an honest, earnest mistake. The closest they came the truth was the acronym from “Operation Iraqi Liberation”, probably a clever dig at the gullible masses. Ditto for Grenada, Panama, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and now Ukraine. The relentless repetition of “mistakes” is not remotely plausible. The quotes belong; Machiavellian is the right adjective.
“that’s like saying Hitler invaded Poland for the benefit of Krupp Steel Works–way too reductive.” Yep.
I don’t like cheap cynicism; I’m more for expensive cynicism :-)
Afghanistan like Russia – Where the dreams of Generals die.
I enjoy reading Lambert’s work, but discussing the military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of “win/lose” does not seem appropriate to me.
We’ve been raping (the only suitable word, and in numerous documented instances, literally) Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade. Actually, we’ve been raping Iraq for twenty-some years, when you factor in the First Gulf War and sanctions that murdered 200,000 children (extremely conservative estimate).
“Will the political class admit that the U.S. lost two land wars?” Much better question: How do we sleep at night? As for me: alcohol.
I wonder how many of the estimated million orphans have joined Isis.
To Trish and Steve H.:
And what will happen if we stop our foreign adventures, including arming Israel? Our pension funds, including my TIAA-CREF “Social Choice” plan,* in which war materiel providers such as HP, Motorola, etc., are heavily represented, will go up in smoke. I’d give anything to have the opportunity to invest ethically, even if it meant much lower returns (the tax break on the contribution is one of the most important things, as far as I can tell).
*the American Friends (“Quakers”) have been trying to change this for years, with a small amount of success.
Some social machines grab onto you, pull you in, and use you to grease the gears.
Best answer I’ve seen:
Milo Minderbinder lives! For those of you unfamiliar with the name, he was a character in Catch-22, Joseph Heller’s dark satire about a WW2 bomber command. Minderbinder was a con man and schemer who protected himself by giving everyone involved a tiny share in his business ventures. “Everyone gets a share!” His schemes culminate with him renting his unit out to the Germans to bomb and strafe their own airfield. Nobody court martials him for treason because they all earned money.
The switch from defined benefit pensions to 401k schemes is the recent version of this. Everyone of any political stripe wants Wall Street to be happy because we don’t want to be living in refrigerator boxes in retirement. Everyone gets a share!
If you can tolerate being a rentier landlord, put your money in TIAA Real Estate (or TIAA Traditional, which is the same thing pretty much).
Thanks Lambert for citing the Beinert article. Getting money out of politics via public funding or similar would correct a big flaw in capitalism (or whatever you call the philosophy running the system today).
I completely agree. And what is more shameful is that really the ONLY reason that we invaded Iraq was to control all the oil and gas in the Middle East. I address solutions to this whole mess in my new book
GREED IS GOOD-SO IS SOCIALISM: A UNIFICATION MANIFESTO
Wendell H. Williams
Former Democratic Nominee
U.S. Congress (ca.10)
The American people understand that the way we have so much more than everybody else is because we have the biggest stick and are willing to use it. The is the nature of man [especially in groups]. The particulars are beyond our ability to comprehend, but simply have to do with how all of the bottom-feeders use their skills in vying for position to catch the shards of economic value created in the process of creating the greatest of all something for nothing scams…war.
Here’s my solution to war: Designate a spot on the earth as the Designated Battle Zone, available to all who want to go to war. Each nation sends its army there and lines up on each side of the field. No weapons except for knives. Then each side strips- bare naked- no uniforms, nothing to identify who The Bad Guy is. Then blow the whistle and let them have at it.
Now, how brave do you think those soldiers are going to be when they know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that in order to kill the enemy- or even survive- they are going to have to get IN THAT GUY’S FACE and kill him before he does the same to them? How brave are they going to be when they know they are very likely to come off the field- if at all- with horrible wounds?
At the very most advanced, arm each side with smoothbore Brown Bess muskets and line them up to maneuver and bang away at each other in good old 18th century style.
Either way, the point is that you SEE the men you are fighting and you have to have the nerve to stand your ground and actually go at it with him- they’re not just some dot on a screen to be eliminated.
A promising basis for a new reality TV show, only girls instead of guys and paintball guns w/ vodka jello shot paintballs instead of knives
Also called ‘The Peace Game’.
since when did the American people have any influence in Washington, DC?
When there were a quarter million protesters around the White House and President Johnson was told by his military advisers to use nukes on North Vietnam, and he told them to have a cold shower, because he feared the people outside his window.
Didn’t work this time, though. The anti-Iraq protests were huge, and worldwide.
Louis XVI, Tsar Nicholas.
When the leadership are not paying attention to public opinion, they are headed to the dustbin of history. Unfortunately it’s quite messy when that happens.
I’m still of the opinion that the Iraq war was started because we had a budget surplus and the Republicans and corporations didn’t want to spend that money on…., ohh say, free health care for all? Free college for all? Now those things are off the table for decades at least.
Instead of leaving $7 billion in military equipment, why didn’t we destroy it? The aim was to arm future enemies of the “Homeland” – success !
What troubles me about posts like this is the failure to look at first causes. They’ve been understood for a long time but we are a society so addicted to the status quo we are unwilling to challenge the powers that be leading this nation and all humanity to its destruction. Yes indeed there is a military-industrial complex, run by sociopaths willing to do anything for money. And there is the “presstitute” MSM, able and willing to conceal existential threats, particularly in countries like the U.S. where the horrors of modern (as in 150 years ago) warfare are nothing but a fading memory.
But there is also the rest of us who will fight tooth and nail to preserve the jobs and profits the military-industrial complex brings to our communities. If the “presstitute” MSM is willing to deceive at the bidding of its masters, we the public are willing to be deceived. Besides the possibility of preserving the American Dream of becoming so impossibly rich your posterity could never spend the wealth you acquire down to the Nth generation, there is the reality that, in the face of automation, many of us have become what Henry Kissinger is reputed to have called “useless eaters”. That would most certainly be the judgment of those infallible free markets if the products of our unassisted labor were forced to compete against those of a well-programmed machine.
But rather than face that judgment, rather than admit all of us can not become a Bill Gates, we allow the MSM and the government to conjure up nightmare visions of terror (and perpetrate them when those visions lose credibility?) It would be far more efficient – and far less of a danger to the future of humanity – to put those of us who are not needed on the dole than to pretend there is something for everyone to do, e.g. in the (military?) ‘services’ industry, in the fast-foods industry so we can forget all about how to take care of ourselves, or in the expansion of government so those so employed can use the excuse of taking care of us to take care of themselves.
I guess what bothers me most is that those of us with our eyes at least a little open really do nothing but preach to each other about what we see (“10 degrees to the left of center in good times; 10 degrees to the right when it affects them (us) personally” – Phil Ochs, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal”) OK. So both parties are irredeemably corrupt. So the MSM will continue to lie and lead us over the cliff. What can we do about it??? (And I don’t mean just more whining like this!)
P.S. This started out to be a pitch for the work of Frederick Soddy, who wrote in the 1930s and died in 1956. His work is hard to get hold of (even if you can manage to find a copy) but worth the effort. If you want a more contemporary confirmation of Soddy’s insights see the work of Michael Hudson.
Here is a Soddy sample:
The intense competition for foreign or overseas markets in time of peace, aggravated by the home market drying up through the loss of purchasing power of the unemployed, is not due to any altruistic or missionary spirit of the industrialised nations in wishing to unload of their abundance for the enrichment of the newer and less industrialised nations, but to the necessity of finding new debtors, with good future prospects of being able to pay interest, to whom to lend their wealth. The prospects and capacity of those at home in this respect diminish steadily as the days go by.
The modern wars that break out between industrialised nations have a precisely parallel explanation. Then the belligerent nations rather than individuals shoulder the debt. The glut of wealth, that in time of peace cannot be profitably exchanged, is now owed for as it is produced by the nations as such Along with the flower of the country’s manhood, it is destroyed as rapidly as the most powerful modern engines of destruction allow. The dead do not return, but the wealth destroyed discards its corruptible body to take on an incorruptible. It, is national debt, better than wealth to individuals, a permanent source of wealth, defying the passage of time and the ravages of rats and worms.
“MONEY versus MAN: A STATEMENT OF THE WORLD PROBLEM FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE NEW ECONOMICS”, pp. 27-28
We do indeed have to look in the mirror and the vast majority of the American people do wish to be deceived and that can be established by looking the spectacular frauds perpetrated by the power-elite on the citizenry–there is nothing “secret” about the deep state/secret government it is all hiding in plain sight but no one wants to see it for a variety of reasons. Of course, don’t discount the power of the most sophisticated and advanced mind-control regime ever known as having some small role in all this–this regime started officially in 1917 and has continued in various but uninterrupted forms since then growing every more potent and using every advance of social and neuro-science to achieve their goals. Now all they have to do is wave a few arms point in a direction and everyone will follow–Europe is now, it seems, under it’s thrall so y’all across the pond can just stop feeling smug–you were supposed to know better but you fell for it.
this regime started officially in 1917
I’m quibbling, but 1898 is probably the better year. It marked the extension of American empire beyond the North American continent using military force and the latest technology to control the local populations.
See McCoy’s Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines and the Rise of the Surveillance State
I agree. You can look at the Phillipines as the the epicenter or patient zero of the American empire. A very very ugly war with some very very ugly consequences.
The US eventually lost that war, pretty much…
The key event there, of course, is the successful assassination of McKinley, which vastly improved US history. I think things may have gone downhill much more sharply had he lived. Only historic assassination I can find which made things better.
Sorry, I’m missing the “first cause” in your comment? Anyhow, I’m not a mono-causal type of guy…
I hear you about “mono-casual”. It isn’t often that one stumbles across what turns out to be a relatively simple explanation for complex problems like war and social disintegration. Trying to put the substance of Soddy’s argument in a couple of sentences is probably a foolish endeavor but let me try. Our civilization mistakes money for wealth. We don’t seem to have a clue what wealth really is. That makes it hard to know when to stop trying to pile up more of it. With money on the other hand, which is really just debt reckoned in numbers, one doesn’t need to stop and think about such questions. What most of us want is to pile up ever more claims on society’s real wealth. Since mathematics allows one to count to infinity, there is no need to stop. However, at least two real world considerations intervene:
1- when people have what they really need, they have no need for your money. Conversely, you have no one to whom it can be lent
2- other people in other countries are competing with you for the highest score in the money game. At some point that competition begins to impinge upon your ability to pile up more money.
War solves both problems. It makes the world poor again and eliminates the competition – with the added benefit of creating a huge black hole of debt which even the most productive economy could not hope to repay, at least in any real sense. Take a look at the Soddy quote.
JUST FOR — MISCHIEVOUS — FUN :-0
I like to date later Vietnam War years as After Westmoreland: A.W. (numbers are approximate)
After Westmoreland the US gave up on his truly murderous strategy of killing our young men to kill more of theirs: attrition, against a Ho Chi Minh who would have been willing to see everybody in Vietnam croak as long as the last breath was taken by a communist (not much of an exaggeration). We suffered stretches of bringing home 3,000 body bags a month — the goal being, in Westmoreland’s own words, to reach the “cross-over” point at which the North could no longer replace soldiers faster than we could kill them (his own words!).
That’s the war everybody thinks we waged — and lost!
3 A.W. The US ambassador to Vietnam could now drive anywhere in the countryside without a military escort: the payoff of counter-insurgency. The Viet Cong guerrilla army had been reduced to totally non-Southerners, which in turn left NVA main force units (those guys you see in the movie We Were Soldier Once and Young) eating grass and without ammo.
North Vietnamese Army main force units — hiding most of the time like guerrillas — required supplies of food and ammunition to be propositioned in hidden caches before they could mount an attack. After the countryside was wrested from VC control it was no longer practicable to cache supplies or maintain cave systems.
It was easily practicable to “win the hearts and minds of the people” simply because the Viet Cong were so hated. The movie Full Metal Jacket portrays the Viet Cong massacre during the battle of Hue: calling in police and teachers and government office workers, etc., for “re-education” and then shooting them in mass graves (bodies depicted under white powder). The movie said the body count was twenty, Wikipedia calls the civilian and POW count possibly as high as 6000!
Beginning with his struggle to take over the North (more on that below) Ho and friends only approach to recruitment was to kill and kill and kill anybody who didn’t see things their way.
A.W. 4 1/2 The North tried an out and out Korea style conventional invasion — beaten off with 50% casualties.
A.W. 5 The US Congress cuts off the money and supplies the South needed to continue the war along with US air support — all reduced to a trickle. The South begins rationing bullets and artillery rounds.
A.W. 7 1/2 The North — having harvested a few more crops of eighteen years olds — finally sent them to overrun the US Congress-disarmed South in six weeks.
Two million South Vietnamese anti-communists fled the advancing forces — one million by boat. Good thinking; the North rounded up and shot 130,000 who did not.
To be a bit more precise, try the end of Bretton Woods, the formal death of which was I believe in 1971. After that, the U.S. – or again more precisely the U.S. financial / Congressional military industrial complex – got the free lunch we all would like. As Hudson says, “the product of Wall Street is debt”. After 1971 that ‘product’ was no longer constrained by supplies of the “barbaric metal”. The banks could get rid of not only the gold but all the ‘creative accountants’ required to dress up the fraud of fractional reserve banking. As for the politicians, what is more powerful than the ability to write hot checks and pass them off at gunpoint? The much-maligned military-industrial complex may be the least culpable in all this. At least it had to furnish a tangible product. And at least the lower ranking members often paid with life and limb.
For more historical background, consult Hudson’s “Super Imperialism” and its sequel “Global Fracture”.
Ah, the stab in the back theory. Well done.
Sounds like Denis might have been there. If so he would have a right to be a little pissed – “the best and the brightest” squandering lives for reasons having nothing to do with US national security. Way back then it might still have been possible to believe we had the right and wisdom to save the world from itself. But not now.
Actually I wasn’t there. But I am hung up (phrase from the ’60s) on (squirrily?) motives:
Why were we in Vietnam? Why did we bomb populated cities (!) in helpless Japan? Why did we let millions of Koreans die defending their rice and fish exporting peasant culture from collectivization — when Russia was still on it’s back, it’s dictator not moving aggressively, only wanting to be Czar; and Mao not really known yet?
We bombed Japan out of force of habit. If we had never bombed Germany — in desperation to keep it from taking over the world — it never would have occurred to us to bomb a single populated city (!) in Japan.
We defended Korea much out of the same force of habit. Having just fought off two little countries (with single time zones and insufficient natural resources which ironically motivated their aggressions) we just naturally took on world communism — even though it posed no giant threat and even though the end of the Korean peninsula offered no place else to go. That happened to turn out just fine.
By 1965, Vietnam’s decision year, communism was at high tide: the two biggest countries in the world were coming at us (“We will bury you”, “Your children will live under communism” — for those who weren’t around for Khrushchev) with bombs that could literally leave a half-mile deep crater where Hiroshima used to be. Very scary time. Khrushchev was a true believer who challenged us everywhere (Berlin grab, Cuban missiles); Mao was as bloodthirsty as Ho (see above) — and we feared that if the democracies just let Ho run over South Vietnam it would open up the whole world to communist aggressions
Realistic? ??? At least there was a plausible rationale. Also Lyndon Johnson couldn’t back out on Vietnam and keep his voluminous domestic legislation moving safely past “good old boy” Southern US Senators. What a choice.
By 1975 we had won globally — communism was receding worldwide — we could afford to lose locally. We, not the South Vietnamese.
Not really accurate about Ho Chi Minh: his philosophy was fundamentally nationalist. Basically, in his view, absolutely any foreigners and anyone who was foreign funded would be fought to the last man. He ended up fighting China, Laos, and Cambodia as well as the US, France, and of course Japan.
The US should have understood this given his history, but the US was run by idiots like Dulles.
Yes, they lost, but why in the world would you want them to have won. It’s good that they lost. They need to lose everything to bring this empire project to an end. The Wolfowitz-Brzezinski ideas of hegemony are out of whack with reality and also, for that very reason, monstrous.
the Wolfowitz-Brzezinski ideas of hegemony are out of whack with reality
Brendan, the masters of the American empire create new realities, ones to their liking. Please read, and re-read, suskind’s quote of Karl Rove.
Like M-M’, that only works for so long.
They create new realities, but not ones they like at all. Because they’re idiots. When you create a new reality without understanding reality, you don’t create the one you want to create; you create a different one which you didn’t want.
Essay in English The West on the wrong path
by Gabor Steingart
The Ukraine, Corrupted Journalism, and the Atlanticist Faith
By Karel van Wolferen • August 14, 2014
that unz article is excellent. thanks for that
you’ve been writing great pieces, lambert. Here’s video of Greene’s funeral. I find it very jarring to hear gunfire at a funeral.
From Milbank’s column in the militaristic WaPo
Milbank is recommending a descent into mindless, unquestioning patriotism and uncritical reverence for those who follow the elite’s orders. Unsurprisingly, he’s not clear about what “good” that will do us.
We should recall that those men and women in section 60 mostly hurt the US horribly. We should apologize to those who were conned into joining, and arrest the rest.
War is a Racket… conversely MIC is a pathological group think with some strong Pavlovian responses baked in… the Gawd factor is a multiplier imo…
Heh, winning a war, that is funny and old fashioned. All the absurdity of anyone “winning” a war aside I think we are missing the purpose of the Iraq-Afghan wars. We are not in a world of the big competing ideologies as we were in the 20th century (WWI, WWII, proxies of the Cold War). The 21st century is the century of Globalized Capitalism and everyone is playing the same game (even “dictators” in the middle east). The only country that could be considered somewhat outside the modern order is North Korea, and even here I would argue they are still subject to it. We (as in the nation-state of the USA) didn’t “win” the Iraq and Afghan wars because we are viewing modern warfare through an antiquated lens. Iraq and Afghanistan were and are wars for the international Capitalist elite alone. Unlike in the past where Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan, [insert elite Capitalist], still had to remain subservient to American military tradition, honor, whatever, who cares. It is a brave new world of war for Capital and Capital only.
Oh, we won the wars. We just lost the occupations.
Had we declared war — what a concept! declaring war –, on Afghanistan and Iraq, we could have claimed victory because we ousted the Taliban and Hussein, and made peace treaties with the new gov’ts. Mission accomplished, as they say. But no, we did not declare war and then we stuck around, trying to win the peace. That worked about as well as reconstruction in the South.
The USA has been at war with the Iraqis for 23 years and counting since Desert Storm with the aerial bombardment of the Islamic State in Northern Iraq. The USA has reignited the Cold War with Russia which is on the brink of being a very hot war.
There are multiple reasons for these endless global wars but the major one I believe is Richard Nixon’s ending the draft due of the Silent Mutiny which made continuing the Vietnam War forever impossible. After this, the Multi-National Elite realized they no longer needed the American people, who they can’t stand, as cannon fodder. Unions were busted, Charter Schools started and Lexus Lanes built; anything and everything to screw and loot us. The Volunteer Army makes starting wars easier. War Profiteers and Shock Capitalism Plutocrats intensely lobby for more war. But, right now, a credible overseas enemy is needed to blame when their financial house of cards collapses.
There is an interesting if confusing article by a US General, David Bolger, in this month’s Harpers, discussing the losses in the two wars. Among other things, he says the army is designed to win short decisive battles, that it did so in Afghanistan and Iraq, and then the leadership of the Army allowed itself to get sucked into counter-insurgency effort that it knew it could not win.
I can’t tell you whether they won or lost those wars, unless I knew what their aims were in those wars.
WRT the Iraq War, if we take at face value the publicly stated war aims (i.e. get rid of WMD, establish stable friendly democratic regime), then obviously the USA did not win that war.
On the other hand, if the aim of the Iraq War was merely to make a bloody example out of one of the relatively strong and independent sovereign states in the Middle East, then we must admit, “Mission Accomplished!”
The most important thing to bear in mind is the degree of moral hazard involved in the warmaking of an unchecked hegemonic power.
Even if we deemed the USA to have been defeated in these wars, the defeat cost them very little. These wars’ costs, both human and material, were for the most part successfully externalized by the aggressors.
Casualties? The invaders’ casualties were minimal, and had no significant lasting impact on the ability of the rulers to continue to wage wars. Almost all of the human suffering happened to the defenders.
Financial costs? What a joke. Foreign bondholders have fully subscribed the financial cost of US warmaking in the 21st century, and they did so at negative real interest rates. It seems like the world’s capitalists have been willing to accept an international division of labour in which the USA’s bourgeoisie would more or less monopolize the global market in enforcement services.
As a result, the USA was able to not only to ease borrowing conditions while it invaded country after country, but they treated themselves to tax cuts, too! What a triumph of MMT. A quarter of a million dead Iraqis can only rot in sad agreement. In a fiat currency empire, a negative current account is a story of real wealth extraction from the rest of the world. Deficits don’t matter when you’re a hegemon.
Whether there will be a serious and lasting falling-out among the world’s capitalists, over the future of the global enforcement services market, remains to be seen. Can the Russians revive their old brand identity?
Now we could say that the living standard of the majority of the US population declined markedly during the period of war. That is true. But it shouldn’t be a news flash that empires are established and operated for the benefit of their rulers, not for the benefit of their subjects.
Besides, from what I can see, most American subjects have been willing to accept a steady erosion of their living standard and social status in exchange for the intangible cultural good of partaking in their empire’s glory. We have not yet measured the limit of the US rulers’ ability to demand sacrifices from the American subjects in the name of the Empire.
Cost? The long-term political cost is incalculable. Bush Jr. sacrificed the image of US invincibility, which his father had carefully built up. He also blew away the aura of moral superiority of the US. Getting rid of these two things simultaneously pretty much eliminated any possibility of long-term US hegemony (because those are the two psychological tricks which US hegemony was based on). This is contrary to the interests of the elite. To put it another way, it’s stupid.
Re: the true believers among the Bushite occupiers in Iraq.
A lot of the criticism of the occupation officials is merely driven by factional infighting among the US ruling class. The argument is basically that “Our faction could have oppressed Iraqis more efficiently than your faction!”
Now I admit that people around the world, due to the present fact of American hegemony, are forced to learn much more about the petty factional rivalries among American bourgeois than any of us would normally stomach, unless it were one’s own academic specialty. But in terms of objective analysis of the war of the American empire against Iraq, these factional squabbles proved to not matter very much.
Or perhaps the fact that a bunch of earnest amateur imperialists were turned loose upon the conquered might constitute strong evidence of how unimportant the governing of Iraq or welfare of Iraqis were to US decision-makers. One can picture Cheney’s shrug: “What happens to Iraqis doesn’t matter, so let the kids play! If the kids manage to achieve something worthwhile, fine. If they screw up, all that means is that a bunch more Iraqis get killed. So what?”
But it should also be borne in mind that the ferocity and duration of guerrilla resistance was indeed a genuine surprise to the invaders. Neither American soldiers nor American politicians expected Iraqi guerrillas to prove as brave, as persistent, or as adaptable as they did. The Iraqi guerrillas did much to humiliate the occupiers.
Nevertheless, with a policy of classic “divide and rule,” along with the lack of foreign sponsorship for the resistance, the Iraqi guerrillas were eventually overcome, despite their valour and ingenuity.
An impediment? Yes. An embarrassment? Yes. A defeat? No, and all the more so, since there’s nothing to stop the Americans from trying the same thing again elsewhere.
The guerrillas have decisively won in Iraq. Haven’t you noticed?
That’s the subtle and tricky thing about grassroots guerrilla warfare. You can defeat any one specific group, and you still lose unless you have managed to discourage people from starting new groups of guereillas.
Sorry to triple post here. But one more thing.
It’s easy for anybody to start reasoning along the lines of “this empire is badly run, its military is overstretched, and its ruling class is at odds with each other, so it can’t go on much longer, etc. etc.”
If you ever catch yourself thinking that way, go sit down and read Sallust’s Jugurthine War. You’ll be enthralled by a tale of government corruption, military inefficiency, deliberate delays caused to increase contractors’ profit, and embarrassing reverses at the hands of hopelessly outclassed opponents–all while members of the imperial ruling class murdered one another.
All this story of epic imperial screwups took place during a period of rapid expansion of the Roman Empire–in fact the Empire proper hadn’t even begun yet.
Finally, go look at maps of US military alliances and bases around the world. Compare a map for 1984 with a map for 2014. Rapid expansion, inefficiencies be damned.
It’s fine to talk about all the screw-ups. Indeed they are screw-ups. But unfortunately it takes more than a bunch of screw-ups to end an Empire.
On the contrary, a bunch of screw-ups will end an Empire quite reliably… if they’re the right sort of screwups.
Specifically, economic screwups. And yes, the US is making them. Rome got its economics absolutely right even while it was making a hash of the military operations.
“Even if we deemed the USA to have been defeated in these wars, the defeat cost them very little. These wars’ costs, both human and material, were for the most part successfully externalized by the aggressors.”
Wow. For fatal blindness, this tops everything. Back in late 2002, when George “W.” was setting up invasion of Iraq as a fait accompli by deploying the people and material which made such an invasion inevitable, I warned in public discussion fora such as this–mainly in the NYTimes’ readers’ fora of the day–that the Bush administration was on the verge of making a nation-destroying catastrophe (that of his own, the U.S.), and one from which there would never be a real recovery. With Bush’s “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Bush took a fateful step which was tantamount to driving the nation over a cliff’s edge. I said then that the U.S. would find their social and political undoing in that blunder and never recover from it. Today, as much as ever, I remain convinced of that. Not only has the cost been enormous, it’s beyond most people’s capacity to imagine. The “cost” is still ahead of us as well as in puny payments already made in injury and suffering. What’s still happening all around us today constitutes only the opening stages of the whirlwind so long sown and which shall be reaped for generations to come.
Everything that constitutes what we think of as necessary and desirable for sustainable civilized society has been forfeited. The recognition of this, still only dimly seen, will grow and grow until it cannot be denied, even by the most fatally stupid who try to deny it.
I still hear and read people insist that, “Well, we survived (fill in the blank), so we’re going to survive this, too.” What they don’t understand is that, in fact, no, we didn’t and we haven’t “survived” those things. We only have an illusion of having survived them. As I wrote 12 years ago, once the car goes over the cliff, there’s no “going back”–the deed is done and irrevocable. We’re paying now and we’re going to pay and pay and pay—indeed, most of price paid so far has been borne by not by us but by our victims. That doesn’t mean we’ve escaped and we certainly haven’t survived. We made this mess and our collective stupidity meant that we richly deserve it. Though many others did and do not.
“Far be it from me to suggest that the Army, right now, is ineffective as a fighting force…” That’s okay, I’ll flat out state it for you then. The Army in particular, and American military in general, is ineffective as a fighting force when its opponents are 4G oriented. It’s probably still as good as they come – albeit muchly frayed – against anyone else dumb enough to stand up and go toe-to-toe with it. But those sorts of opponents are going to be hard to come by in the future.
Kind of sad that recruiting standards have dropped – I remember the proud announcement while I was in that “the Army no longer had to accept CAT-IV recruits.” The lowest level. But to the extent that you want to build a 2G army of, essentially, Hessian mercenaries – the low end of the recruitment pool is probably the better place to be looking.
proximity1, for all your hyperbole, you don’t mention many facts.
The only “nation-destroying catastrophe” that happened during the Iraq War was obviously the one that the USA inflicted upon Iraqis.
Whether or not one supported the idea of waging a war upon Iraq, and whether or not one thinks that the aggressors won or lost that war, everyone must admit that the aggressors started a war, wrecked a sizeable country, and got away with it easily.
1. Most obviously, nobody retaliated militarily against the USA, nor did any foreign powers give significant aid to the Iraqis. The USA faced no embargo, economic sanctions or other strictures on account of their aggression.
2. Foreign bondholders fully subscribed the financial cost of the Iraq War, at negative real interest rates. The credit of the aggressor regime has been little affected by the course or outcome of their attack on Iraq. The value of their USA’s currency was also in the main unaffected by their warmaking. These outcomes show both the glory and the horror of modern fiat monetary systems when employed by a power whose hegemonic position confers upon their currency a world reserve status.
3. The casualties suffered by the invader, although substantially greater than was ever admitted by the regime, were nevertheless very light in view of the size of the country they invaded, and the duration of hostilities. The regime never even bothered to mobilize its reserves. No actual operations were ever altered or abandoned on account of a lack of forces available to the regime. The US regime never faced any serious recruitment crisis in the aftermath of the war.
4. The aggressor regime was willing to go to war in Syria a mere few years after the winding-down of the Iraq War. The only thing that stopped them was that unlike Iraq, Syria enjoyed the open support of a third power which still retained its own nuclear legacy forces. Though balked from engaging in open invasion of Syria, the USA has not been defeated, and indeed the USA is intensifying economic and political pressure on Russia itself.
proximity1, I don’t think that things can be more plain. Unless you try to stretch the timeframe of “payback” to an absurd extent, I think you have to realize that the USA did not suffer much military or economic harm on account of their regime’s aggression against Iraq.
The US military power is over. It just hasn’t noticed it yet. If you want the modern comparison, look at the Russian war in Afghanistan in the 1980s — they were bled dry of morale. And the same has happened to the US. It’s dead.
Fooling around with countries which are even worse off is irrelevant; the US and Russians kept messing around in Africa continuously, but it doesn’t *matter*. What matters is the US position relative to other great powers, and under Bush, that self-destructed.
You mention various facts, true. Unfortunately, none of them are necessarily pertinent to effectively rebutting my arguments. Your preferred time-frame is conveniently arbitrary in a way that mine is not. I take it as given that as long as fundamental problematic issues remain unresolved, “payback” can extend into the future indefinitely and you present us with nothing but your own contentious views that your chosen financial parameters and time-frame are all that are significant. That’s tantamount to asserting that you enjoy the special privilege of defining the relevant terms and anyone who disputes them is, by your favored definition of things, wrong.
Bond-holders subscribed to Hitler’s Third Reich. So what? Financial-market confidence can be mistaken—and is never required to operate by morally-respectable standards of social values. In other words, financially, the unscrupulous can make a financial killing in the most morally disgusting of social circumstances. To use such measures as a guide to what is healthy and sustainable in the mid or long term tells us some interesting things about your habits of reasoning–morally and otherwise.
Again, the reality-based world that you insist on ignoring is going to devour your nonsense with a vengeance. The fact that you refuse to understand such things is your failing, not mine.