What Drives Obama’s Foreign Policy?

The intensity of US efforts to foment conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East continue to be treated by Mr. Market as a nothingburger, as witnessed by a continued slide in oil prices and continued complacency in global stock markets. Yet it’s hard to miss that there are significant microeconomic implications of the uptick in warmongering. The Administration is clearly going all in for the guns part of the classic guns versus butter budgetary tradeoff.

But what is the underlying logic of this foreign policy stance? It has become commonplace to depict Obama as weak and overly reactive to Republican and media pressure. But that view conveniently ignores that Obama is a Republican in Democratic clothing.

This Real News network interview with Andrew Levine of the Institute of Policy Studies endeavors to shed some light on the increase in US foreign policy aggressiveness. Levine focuses squarely on the fact that, contrary to the Reagan and Bush the Senior administrations, which took pains to handle the USSR carefully, the Clinton Administration showed no respect for Russia’s geopolitical position and repudiated security promises made to Russia.Russia’s reactions to US provocations are entirely predictable.

Levine argues that Obama has continued Clinton policies if nothing else because he has brought so many Clinton operatives into his Administration, starting with Hillary. The talk also extends into other ways that Obama is triangulating among his various financial backers.

One area that this talk does not address is whether and how escalation of global tensions serves the banking industry. On a mundane level, central bank backstopping of risk has produced a low volatility environment which makes for fewer trading opportunities, so a moderate uptick in uncertainty would probably suit financial intermediaries just fine. But on a broader basis, the US has long pressed for financial liberalization of both advanced and emerging economies (the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation spearheaded the latter effort), which was intended to make the world safer and more profitable for US investment banks. The Robert Rubin strong dollar policy was also designed to help US financial firms at the expense of real economy players.

I doubt the bank boosters in the Clinton Administration foresaw that creating larger international capital flows and having foreign banks become more significant dollar currency players could enable the US to use its role in the dollar payments system as a foreign policy weapon. My guess is that the success of sanctions against Iran, in terms of inflicting real economic costs on that economy, demonstrated that finance could serve as a weapon in a way that it hadn’t before (note that in the past folks like Marc Rich, who ironically was pardoned by Clinton for tax evasion, and Adnand Khashoggi made fortunes by arranging barter deals, which showed that past sanctions often were leaky enough so as to be more inconveniently and costly than damaging). A 2011 Bank of International Settlements paper found that international capital flows were over 60 times trade volumes, so do not labor under the misapprehension that the rise in money sloshing around the world is the result of trade liberalization. I welcome reader input on how banking plays in, if at all, in the US shift to a more aggressive foreign policy posture.

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    1. JerseyJeffersonian

      Bingo. Ditto with Ukraine. But Germany seems to be fine with looting Eastern Europe, disaster capitlism style, with the advantage that they don’t have the obligation to pay for upgrading Eastern Europe, unlike with the reunification; in this instance, keeping die Untermenschen down, cap in hand, hoping for crumbs works just fine. Intra-EU mercantilism, Lebensraum zum Osten without all of the yucky deaths, & the local neoliberal compradors take on the administrative duties.

      1. OIFVet

        I blame the French, the Frankenmonster of unaccountable bureaucracy that is the EU was largely their creation, as they thought it was a way to control Germany. It ended up being the other way around, with the EU simply a politically correct name for the Fourth Reich. Still, there are some Eastern Europeans who are now openly questioning the set-up, particularly the Hungarians and the Slovaks. The Czechs are less vocal but not too enthused either, as exemplified by Vaclav Klaus (http://www.klaus.cz/clanky/3595: “it is quite evident that we have entered neither a healthy, prosperous, fast growing economic zone, nor a truly democratic entity”). Which is true enough, though Klaus seems to think that the EU is a “socialist” entity, which is both laughable and delusional. Greece continues to be looted with the help of the local Fifth Column, Austria is looking Eastward, and aspiring member Serbia defies Euro orders to destroy its economy by “voluntarily” joining the sanctions against Russia. Frankly, all of this, coupled with the separatists and nationalists movements in various countries, makes me rather hopeful that the EU is a dead entity walking.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Mitterand specifically. He wanted to thumb his nose at the U.S. and rushed the EU integration in an attempt for France to be the big player before the reunited Germany worked itself out.

          1. EmilianoZ

            Varoufakis told the same story in a post some weeks ago. Apparently even de Gaule was fooled. He had this funny image where Germany would be the horse and France the cart driver. How could they be so wrong? Maybe the French counted on the guilt about the war atrocities to last a lot longer. Or maybe they never had a say in the matter and invented a fairy tale to make themselves accept something they couldn’t prevent.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              I think the expectation was the new order would be established rather quickly, and Germany would be dealing with real internal struggles. I’m not positive, but I think the decision to shut down East Germany in favor of West German expansion was considered a major game changer. There wasn’t a constitutional crisis. West Germany just added the old industrial heartland. Two, the Soviets weren’t always as bad as the media made them out to be. East Germans weren’t 19th century Ukrainian peasants.

              Clinton weakened the French position by expanding NATO, and the U.S. stood as a political and military leader while Germany focused on economics.

              I suppose the French underestimated German efficiency, and I think Mitterand was afraid of the Germans. The French weren’t doing too well in recent spats. This was the peak of German and Japanese companies buying everything and making employees go to the gym.

              I wouldn’t underestimate old prejudices. Libya was possible because Gaddafi was a bad guy before we officially started a campaign to remove him, but the current Assad was always just a negotiated foreigner who never became a cartoon super villain.

            2. Lexington

              I don’t know what kind of economist Varoufakis is, but he’s a terrible historian. His post was chock full of revisionist history -including the claim that de Gaulle came out against the EEC- that was fabricated out of whole cloth to produce a clean, uncomplicated narrative that flatters his anti-EU ideology.

              Needless to say many NC regulars loved it.

              There are plethora of solid scholarship on European politics available to anyone with a sincere interest in the subject. It requires some intellectual effort to engage with the material however, and because people are basically lazy what most of them really want is just to have the beliefs to which they are already ideologically committed regurgitated and spoon fed back to them. Guys like Rush Limbaugh make an excellent living doing exactly that.

              Since you bring it up however if you are genuinely interested in the history of the EEC you should google “Common Agricultural Policy”, which is pretty seminal to understanding France’s initial material interest in the common market (as anyone who has taking an introductory course in European politics knows). From there you can move on to a deeper exploration of how postwar economic policy in Europe was used both as a framework for reconciliation between former antagonists and as a mechanism for coping with the continent’s diminishing global influence.

              The term paper topic will be 10 pages on how Charles de Gaulle envisioned the Paris-Bonn axis forming a counterweight to the perceived dominance of the Washington-London axis in the western alliance, with particular attention to how this informed his opposition to British membership in the EEC.

  1. mmckinl

    What Drives Obama’s Foreign Policy?

    US/EU oligarchic hegemony. Through the use of social, financial and military means this oligarchy wants to control the world’s food, fuel and finance for their own wealth and power.

    Russia, China, Iran, India, Venezuela and many others stand in their way. Foreign policy, the Media, sanctions and war are being used as a weapon to defeat these “nationalistic” countries to integrate banksterism worldwide.

    The arrival of climate change and specifically peak resources such as oil have hastened their gambit as real growth, their real moneymaker, is coming to a halt. The only way to underwrite their wealth is more and more control over these dwindling resources and reluctant countries.

    1. JerseyJeffersonian

      Not only control, but demand destruction, reducing competition for the resources, along with the capacity to resist hegemonic power as other nations are kneecapped.

    2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      What Drives Obomba’s Foreign Policy? Why, business as usual fascism, of course. That’s because they are all the same business as usual fascists as before:
      What will drive Hilary’s foreign policy? Why, business as usual fascism, of course. Only she will have even more pressure to keep manufacturing enemies by flinging bombs across the length and breadth of the globe. Luckily she will have her trusted advisors Lindsay Graham and John McCain and Rupert Murdoch to guide her.

    3. Oregoncharles

      Yes, especially the end of real growth. At this point, the economy is really just pretending to grow, hence blowing bubble after bubble.
      I think this is a real lesson of naked capitalism but not yet fully grasped by the site operators. Or – I’d gladly stand corrected.

  2. proximity1

    I don’t think it’s mysterious. Obama is not an imaginative, original thinker. He’s conservative, conformist and, within his blinkered views, believes he is risk-averse when actually, his is more risk-blind. So, like all presidents since at least the First World War, Obama’s foreign policy is one which operates from adversarial assumptions. Nations are more or less antagonists, doomed to play game-board version of world politics. Principles are off the table except as flimsy cover for public consumption. Thus, force–through coalitions and alliances, through proxy actions, is often the short, mid- and long-term stategic frame. Obama, like others, looks at a game-board configuration–which “players” are “threatening” “us”?– how and where? Who and what do we have to counter them? Can we bribe them? Trick them? Bluff or bully them with verbal threats or must we invest in firepower? Which resources are at risk and where are they? How vital are they to us? Will the market’s operations secure our needs or must we find or create an enforced access? What are the ways we could do that and what are their financial costs ? Much of the game-board was inherited from the previous administration’s set of moves and mistakes and miscalculations. Which regimes can we still count on? Which are wobbling? Which are slipping away? Which have we lost? Which are we winning? Law is invoked when that is convenient, ignored when it is not. In no way is Obama seriously interested in seriously changing these dynamics fundamentally. He accepts them fatalistically.

    Do world leaders ever sit around in private and muse over the theoretical possibilities of different bases of international affairs than force and trade in back-room dealings? Do they ever ask each other, “What if we approached things very differently?” I doubt it. Heads of state see their publics as their property-interests to protect against encroachments and injuries from beyond. They are also bodies to be manipulated and used for political purposes on the domestic scene. Thus, this a world of short-term, ad hoc, reactive, force-and-threat dominated world power relations, a place where, except for cynical show, realpolitik always trumps principle–as principle itself becomes merely an occasional resort by which the cynical may demonstrate that they do operate through good-faith, reason and fair principles. Some people explain that all this is merely the difference between the world of adults and the world of children, the difference between reality and a fairy-tale, between “hardball” and “softball” play. These appear to be the limits of our present capacities to manage affairs. The United Nations, once held up as the alternative to such a realpolitik world, was never allowed to be more than a ridiculous side-show, a disgrace as far as meaningful use of principled use of law is concerned. We’re evidently going to blunder along in the ways we currently do until we commit sufficient irreversable catastrophes to definitively settle our hash unless, by some miracle, we gain in social and moral maturity before that happens.

    Where, in all that do banking, finance and domestic and foreign trade interests play their parts? In the consideration, first of all, of vital primary resources—notably, petroleum, rare metals, arable land, sufficient water to produce food-stocks, and trade relations for the supply of those things which we cannot provide through our own internal means. A hierarchy will dictate which products and services are sacrificed and which are spared in any given scenario. We have to place food and other necessities ahead of automobile export sales. And we can’t trade for vital imports if we’re flat broke. Etc.

    Obama has shown a remarkable capacity to combine the morally-bankrupt with the cruel, the ineffective, and the completely self-defeating, self-destructive and, to top it all off, the futile and needless. Many presidents have done that at some point or other. Obama has done it again and again in his constantly shifting nothing-beyond-the-end-of-his-nose approach. Last of all, from a man who’d promised so much, and from whom we’d expected at least some of the long hidden, long-denied truth about our political system’s workings, we get nothing. Obama would do anything rather than tell people the truths they most need to understand about what is really going on behind the curtain, behind the closed doors. He won’t even tell us some of the truths he could afford to let slip out.

    A single, rather lowly-placed individual, one Edward Snowden, took a courageous principled stand, acted upon that and, by doing so, showed the yawning chasm between Obama’s moral emptiness and what a person of conviction does. It’s Obama’s shame and ours that this young man, Snowden, has to live in fear and in exile, because others, far more powerful and protected do not possess anything even approaching his insight, his courage or his capacity for telling the truth.

    1. James Levy

      I can hardly praise this post too highly. I believe you got at the crux of the thing. We can, and I am sure will, quibble over the details, but the breadth and thrust of what you said speaks volumes. Thank you.

      1. proximity1

        Dear James,

        I read and re-read those kind words of appreciation, went away, thought about it, and decided not to let the Sun set on this day without posting this, my grateful acknowledgement of your post.

        I write and post partly to help myself discover what I actually think about issues of social importance. But I also do it, as I mentioned in a post last week, for an imagined reader who might read and appreciate what I’ve written. You’re an example of such a reader and you’re so very welcome. Your appreciation is the big pay-off I prize (and suppose as a potential result) for my efforts and proof that I’m not entirely mistaken in thinking that sometimes what I write and argue makes some sense to another reader. That’s probably already more than enough from me on the point.

    2. Banger

      I think Obama is, to be crude, largely a figurehead presiding over a shifting set of power-players within an Imperial Capital that replaces the word Byzantine with the word “Washingtonian.” Washington is a nest of operatives and hustlers each hatching plots and conspiracies, not just because its fun as hell, but because the stakes are much higher than at any point in history.

      1. Synopticist

        Yup, that’s the short answer. Obama doesn’t have a lot of say in FP, but in fairness to the man, his “don’t do stupid stuff” policy is smarter than any other senior player has had for the last 16 years.

          1. Synopticist

            No, they don’t, but that’s kinda the point me and Banger are trying to make. He doesn’t have that much authority to not do stupid stuff, as he’s quite weak in FP terms, and is surrounded by stupid people. (Which he appointed or failed to purge, but that reinforces the original argument.)

            1. OIFVet

              Or, alternatively, his FP is like Bush’s domestic policies: ugliness masked behind Orwellian language. Think “Healthy” Forrests, “Clean, Water, etc. Sorry but I just don’t buy this image of helplessness. He may not be that strong, but he is not that weak either. He is simply the perfect frontman for the operation, and he is far from unenthusiastic about it. He believes in American Exceptionalism as much as the next neocon does, and if there are any disagreements on policies they appear to me to be about the details, not the substance.

      2. OIFVet

        That may well be true, but it doesn’t mean that Obama does not believe in the same toxic exceptionalism as everyone else in DC. What difference does it make when he may only disagree with the details of the foreign policy? It sounds way too much like Obama apologism to me.

    3. redleg

      What if Obama is not a figurehead and really does have the conviction to do what he sees as right, and is actually doing that with vigor? WYSIWYG.

      1. Synopticist

        It doesn’t really fit the facts. Surging in Afghanistan, leaving Iraq. Bombing Libya, not (yet) bombing Syria. Red lines getting crossed. Abandoning Mubarek, trying to change their minds then abandoning him again. Welcoming in the Muslim Brotherhood then deserting it.

        Please don’t expect me to point out the inconsitencies within US FP in the last 6 years. I’ll need to go to bed early with a bottle of vodka.

        1. OIFVet

          Obama as a candidate in 2008 stated precisely that: that the fight is in Afghanistan and not in Iraq. So as a president that is exactly what he did: surged Afghanistan and withdrew from Iraq. One of the few promises he kept, and something that should give you a serious pause before you continue to try to paint him as a total puppet. He is not, at least not anywhere near the absolute puppet that you and Banger try to portray him as.

          1. Synopticist

            He’s not an absolute puppet, but he came into power without anything approaching a FP power base. So he had to rely on the old Bush and Clinton crowd, plus he added some “responsibilty to protect” human rightsy types like Samantha Power. In my opinion he mistook those people for realists and/or pacifists who would keep him out of too many stupid foreign entanglements, rather than the messianic maniacs and Neo-con allies they’ve proven to be.

            1. ian

              Regarding those “responsibility to protect” types – its the folks with good intentions that you have to watch out for. I’ll take the cynical realists any day of the week.

    4. steelhead23

      Mr/Ms Proximity – I pray you are old enough to understand this reference – “There you go again!” These were four words Ronald Reagan used every time Jimmy Carter came within a hair’s breadth of telling the unwashed masses, the truth during their debates. You see my friend, the truth, as you see it, cannot be captured in a simple Goebbels-esque slogan (like Hope and Change), so in some ways (frightening ways), with elections being exercises in mass psychology, we are doomed to the simplistic, sloganeering, othering form of global leadership. Further, with much of the world’s wealth in the hands of the professional gamblers of Wall Street and the City of London we are left to the tender mercies of those who believe “there can only be one winner.” BTW – I very much enjoyed your post, keep it up.

      1. proximity1

        ( it’s “Mr”–but never mind about titles ) Proximity – I pray you are old enough to understand this reference – “There you go again!”

        Oh, I do remember those words, yes.

        My memory also goes back to “…Well, I am not a crook.” and “Our long national nightmare is over,” back to, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

        Those were my politically-formative years, filled with far-flund news reports the sign-off lines of which ran,

        ” This is Walter Cronkite, … This is Charles Kuralt, … Richard Threlkeld,…Terry Drinkwater, …Lesley Stahl,… Fred Graham, … Ed Bradley,… Bruce Morton,… Bernard Kalb, …Nancy Dickerson, …Hughes Rudd,… Robert Trout, …CBS News reporting, …from the White House, … in Saigon, … in Phnom Penh, in Washington, in Paris, in Chicago, in Kent, Ohio, in Memphis, Tennessee, in Newark, New Jersey, etc.

  3. LucyLulu

    I think you overestimate the man. After six years, I’ve reached the unavoidable conclusion Obama hasn’t a clue what he’s doing….which isn’t meant to imply his intentions are benevolent.

    1. Clive

      I have to agree with you Lucy, the man’s an idiot.

      Also, a odd thing happened a week or so ago when he visited the UK. He, for some strange reason, made an impromptu visit to Stonehenge which is not far from here. I don’t normally watch TV footage when he’s on, it’s usually just either him operating in the bubble or else in carefully stage managed appearances in unfamiliar (to me) locations. But I looked more closely than I usually do — mainly to see if I recognised someone I knew — and something struck me. The way he moved, the way he looked, it all seemed really strange, a sort of stilted, disconnected set of motions and mannerisms. If I didn’t know better, I’d have sworn he was on something.

      1. abynormal

        ive seen it too…could we be witnessing the physical result of drug intervention for a Sociopath or a Psychopath?
        “Research suggests that, “psychopaths are a stable proportion of any population, can be from any segment of society, may constitute a distinct taxonomical class forged by frequency-dependent natural selection, and that the muting of the social emotions is the proximate mechanism that enables psychopaths to pursue their self-centered goals without felling the pangs of guilt. Sociopaths are more the products of adverse environmental experiences that affect autonomic nervous system and neurological development that may lead to physiological responses similar to those of psychopaths. Antisocial personality disorder is a legal/clinical label that may be applied to both psychopaths and sociopaths” (Walsh & Wu, 2008).
        The PCL-R identifies interpersonal deficits (such as grandiosity, arrogance and deceitfulness), affective deficits (lack of guilt and empathy), and impulsive and criminal behaviors (sexual promiscuity, stealing, etc.) that are typical deficits of the psychopath. In his book, Without Conscience, Hare stated that the difference between psychopathy and sociopathy “reflects on the origins and determinations of each.”
        Therefore, both psychopaths and sociopaths are capable of committing heinous crimes; however, the psychopath would commit crimes against family members or “friends” (as well as strangers) and feel little to no remorse.”

        1. Banger

          I really don’t believe he is a sociopath–he’s a manager of a very complicated enterprise with forces moving at supersonic speeds all around him and a Board of Directors at odds with each other who tell him to go left, go right, stop, go forward often all at the same time. I believe he is relatively normal–just bewildered and, probably, drugged.

            1. cnchal

              Here are some quotes from the article, in reference to the current sitting President of the United States.


              Bill McKay, from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, said: “I voted for Obama, even though I was pretty sure he was Kenyan.

              “But all the other presidents we’ve had were American and the vast majority were shit. So I thought ‘let’s see how it goes with a Kenyan fella’.

              “He was smart, confident and gave good speeches about hope. But then it turned out that speeches aren’t actually the same as life.”


              Bethany Gordon, from Greensburg, Maryland, said: “Looking back, I’m kind of embarrassed. It’s like I was part of a cult.


              NPD. Narcissistic personality disorder. Every sign is there.

      2. Ping

        Funny you mention this as I’ve noticed the same thing. I would guess he’s taking anti anxiety and/or anti depressants, his marriage is rocky and he’s breaking down. On the world stage, perhaps one must descend into sociopathic/psychotic depths to avoid reconciling the hope/change that fueled his election along with the entire world’s enthusiasm after the disastrous Bush presidency only to institutionalize and expand atrocious policies and sell outs.

        The word ‘hope’ has a permanent negative connotation for me now. The disappointment in him must be breathtaking.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Thank you for this comment, it’s the single central fact guiding us as we attempt to geolocate this man’s “moral center”. Turns out that he thinks it’s acceptable to borrow money from our grandchildren in order to randomly kill other people’s grandchildren. The society he serves also thinks this is an acceptable form of national conduct, which also tells us everything we need to know about it.

      3. Synopticist

        There’s nothing strange about making a impromptu visit to stonehenge, it’s stonehenge FFS. And the reason he seemed a bit odd? He was in fuckin stonehenge.

        1. Ping

          I am referring to his demeanor at recent brief news conferences and appearances.
          I did not see the Stonehenge piece.

          1. OIFVet

            Like this one? http://youtu.be/yKAGV4pbgek?t=3m50s. Sorry for the superfluous and irritating presence of Jon Stewart BTW, couldn’t find a clean copy of the press conference. Here Obama is definitely at less than half speed, and though I didn’t pay heed f it at the time I now wonder what sort of psychoactive substances might be responsible.

        2. Clive

          I probably should expand a bit. Obama flew into an air force base more-or-less across the road from the monument. Then a motorcade (it was at least 10 vehicles from the US contingent, plus another dozen or so UK police / secret service) conveyed him in Cadillac 1 the, all of a mile or two, to the site. Then the whole thing repeated itself in reverse. The expressway was closed adjacent to the site. The traffic tailed back for miles, almost reaching my town 7 or 8 miles away. “ordinary” visitors, including the usual tourist crowed many of whom would have made a special trip had to wait until the President had cleared the area before being allowed in. A lot of local (and presumably, non-local too) people were, putting it mildly, a bit peeved.

          If Louis XIV had been watching this unfolding spectacle, created for what was basically just your common-or-garden photo opportunity, even he would have said “well, that was all a bit over the top”.

          1. Synopticist

            I’m not sure that calvacade was all that extravagant for a president. Didn’t Clinton once spend $50 million for a day trip to Ghana?
            Incidently, this…”(it was at least 10 vehicles from the US contingent, plus another dozen or so UK police / secret service)” drove through MY wiltshire town later on that evening. I suppose if he’s gone to Avebury and the traffic held up for 6 miles I might have got pissed off with the “expressway” closed.

            1. Clive

              Apologies due to proper British readers for linguistic mangling (I do internationalise my comments here, if I’d said “the dual carriageway was closed” US readers would most likely have wondered what the heck I was on about !)

              What really pee’ed off locals was the rat running by the motorcade http://staga303.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/mr-president-you-areofficially-rat.html through Amesbury

              But you’re right, compared with the infamous Air Force 1 hairdo http://www.nytimes.com/1993/05/21/us/haircut-grounded-clinton-while-the-price-took-off.html this is pretty small beer…

            2. ambrit

              Gone to Avebury? What for, to burnish his New Wave cred? Are we now going to see a smear campaign based on “Obama Channels Druid Forebearers?”

      4. MaroonBulldog

        “… a sort of stilted, disconnected set of motions and mannerisms …” In the old days, we Midwesterners might have said it seems “his wires were crossed”:

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Malevolence and incompetence go hand in hand. Empathy breeds competence if not one’s own it drives people to seek out competence. Obama has been protected by a number of factors such as the grandeur of the Presidency and W being awful, but now that people want results, Obama is being exposed as a selfish pig who wanted to play President.

      The defenders of Obama at the elite level are thinking about life without Obama. Even the push for Hillary is largely the elite trying to distance themselves from Obama, but not being particularly competent, they don’t grasp Obama failed for running as a perceived anti-Clinton and governing as a Clinton. Hillary won’t enjoy the kid’s glove treatment. They would be better off with a fresh face.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Empathy breeds competence if not one’s own it drives people to seek out competence.


        They would be better off with a fresh face farce.
        Minor correction.

        Sanders is contemplating a run against Hillary. I suspect this will be as some sort of foil (agreed upon theatre). He would not be allowed to run otherwise.

        1. Oregoncharles

          The big remaining question is whether he would run as a Democrat (silly, since he isn’t) or an independent (which, at least, he is). The latter has a much greater impact, largely as a way of undercutting Hillary.
          Personally, I think the next president will be a Republican, regardless, so I don’t think it matters much. It’s now Obama’s job to make sure of that.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            the next president will be a Republican

            It is their turn. Can they get out from under the clown costume presto-voila or is that costume indeed their ticket to a position which -thanks to Obama- has been fast shifting from the white house to an out house (where they keep the constitution -handy- as separate sheets on a nail).

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              Team Blue has every Kerry state plus Ohio and Iowa locked. The GOP is too racist to win the White House, even with stealing. W. was the Great White Hope, and he came at a perfect point to steal an election.

              1. Oregoncharles

                My theory is that, since Clinton, the major parties have a little deal and simply trade the WH back and forth, two full terms at a time. That’s what has happened, and it’s the only explanation I can see for some very strange elections.
                We’re more than 2 years out, and things will get much stranger, so you can’t really say anybody has anything “locked.” And yes, I think they will cheat if necessary. Remember, if the Republicans can, so can the Democrats. But they’re more likely to manipulate the nominations and the campaigns – harder to get caught that way.
                As Brooklin says: it’s their turn.

                1. NotTimothyGeithner

                  They didn’t rig the demographics in the late 80’s to produce the 2008 result. A manchurian candidate is more likely.

                  Bill enjoyed Pert and his effect on the electorate which was representative of the split in the GOP between the Bush I element and Reagan/Dixiecrat elements.

                  When we discuss the stolen election in Florida, it’s a discussion about 10,000 votes. Even in the four years between 2004 and 2008, many people turned 18. It was a boom-let. The GOP pinned their hopes on swinging rapidly aging upper mid-west states such as Minnesota, Pawlenty gets talked up for VP for this reason because it’s the only way they can win or make it close enough to steal.

                  The GOP especially the Bush I element has advocated immigration reform because they know Hispanic bloc voting is their only way back. The Solid South strategy has run out. Half the population of the South isn’t Southern. It worked well enough for 30 years, but they haven’t recruited young people.

                  The only way the Democrats lose is if they nominate Hillary and she remains herself. All that matters is the Dem primary. Hillary is doing what s he can to lock up the nod because she knows a 69 year old despised by a large portion of her party, with a terrible record, and no relevance to anyone under 35 will ascend to t he White House.

          2. psychohistorian

            The next president an R!!!!!

            Please tell us who is on your short list for the Rs’ president contenders????

            1. ambrit

              If Jeb Bush can avoid the “Curse of the Dynasty” he would get it. However, too much baggage, which assumes a serious Dem contender. Right now, Marco Rubio would be my gut feeling candidate. He is young, photogenic, and capable of making ‘Tea Party Lite’ noises, yet now experienced enough to run to the Establishment Position, “Assume the Position!” for a general election. He also can court the Latino vote, no small feat for a Republican. He also has state level political experience. That can be important in a close general election. (Remember the 2000 Florida Miracle?)
              My thoughts for what they’re worth.

              1. NotTimothyGeithner

                It’s not happening. The voters who soured on Team Blue aren’t independent swing voters. Hispanics aren’t going to swing for Jeb because their number one issue is the economy not immigration (voters are already citizens; this is why Team Blue’s grand plans to run on immigration fell apart), and the racists/evangelicals who are skeptical of the Bush I element won’t rock the vote because they are losing voters everyday due to age.

                Rubio is just a doofus with no charm. The Paul element or GOP sympathizers (Hussein was a cartoon villain; Obama didn’t get credit from the GOP for his Afghanistan surge because the boogeyman wasn’t there) will hammer Rubio. Republican voters weren’t gun-ho about Syria. GOP support collapsed for intervention because they were afraid of their voters.

                The only Republican who could win would be a non-interventionist, basically a Democrat, with a nice story as opposed to Santorum who could win the primaries as the evangelicals/libertarians/Randlibertarians/racists/country club Republicans split the vote or had a repeat of 2004 where McCain was the default as the least offensive candidate.

    3. ian

      I wish this comment section allowed ‘recommend’ settings.
      You are spot on.
      He’s the ‘being there’ candidate.

  4. John

    Lets face it, Obama has had utter contempt for his base of voters and the things they stood for. They are too progressive for his blood. He’s the kind of guy who sought counsel from right-wingers all the while ignoring the Dems. The right-wing has pestered him for years about his lack of resolve to keep the military full throttle. Now he has his chance to prove it to them.

    Domestic programs? Those are for wooses.

    1. Tom Allen

      Why shouldn’t Obama, and Democratic politicians in general, have contempt for their base? It keeps voting for them no matter how far right they move, just so long as it’s an inch or so to the left of the Republicans.

      1. Vatch

        As I and others occasionally point out here at NC, that’s a reason to vote for a third party candidate, when there is one running for an office. We might be able to scare a few of the Democrats from moving so far to the right.


  5. Fíréan

    ” I doubt the bank boosters in the Clinton Administration foresaw that creating larger international capital flows and having foreign banks become more significant dollar currency players could enable the US to use its role in the dollar payments system as a foreign policy weapon.”

    I wouldn’t doubt it at all. The one administration on these matters is, in my humble opinion, a continuation of the previous, albeit cloaked in different colors ; a slight of hand which deceives the public into believing in the possibily of change of which they would approve and that they, the public, are an influencial force in instigatging that change.
    i cannot believe Clinton, his advisors and mentors to be niave as the quoted statement might suggest, especially when considering Clinton’s publicly voiced acceptance of the inevitability of a one world government and globalization.
    (short reply due to time schedules)

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘My guess is that the success of sanctions against Iran, in terms of inflicting real economic costs on that economy, demonstrated that finance could serve as a weapon in a way that it hadn’t before.’

      My guess is that the World Jewish Congress lawsuit against Swiss banks demonstrated long before then that finance could serve as a weapon:

      ‘NYC Comptroller Alan Hevesi withheld an operating license for the merger of Union Bank of Switzerland with Swiss Bank Corporation. Author Angelo Codevilla argues that this was essentially blackmail of the banks by state banking officials, with backing of the US administration, to force a settlement between the banks and the WJC. Negotiations involving the banks, the WJC, and Undersecretary Stuart Eizenstat ultimately resulted in a settlement of $1.25 billion in August 1998.’



      Pioneered by Hevesi and continued at a larger scale by Lawski, extortion works … until the victims make other arrangements to protect themselves.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I was at Goldman and had some exposure to Bob Rubin, who became Clinton’s Treasury secretary. The strong dollar policy was Rubin’s doing. Making the world safe for America’s investment bankers was Reagan/Bush the Senior policy that Rubin of course insisted be continued.

      The seminal neocon docs of the 1990s make no mention of finance as part of their strategy. Rubin had no interest in geopolitics. Your argument amounts to hindsight bias.

  6. JGordon

    What drivers Obama’s foreign policy? That’s a pretty clear and easy answer for me; I was actually surprised that it was not generally well understood when I read the above just now: the Obama regime is heading the world’s current empire (the world always has an empire, America being the current one, as I learned from the John Michael Greer interview here: http://www.extraenvironmentalist.com/2014/09/02/episode-81-falling-empires/) at a time when the strategic resource that allows the regime’s empire to operate, fossil fuels, is in steep decline. Every geopolitical action in the great game today is either about exploiting fossil fuel resources or denying others use of fossil fuel resources. And that sums up the conflicts in the Ukraine and Syria.

    1. Fíréan

      And might we add; maintaining world payment for that, the most dominant energy, source to be in USA dollars, to continue the USA government access to loan those $ from the countries from where the ‘fossil fuels’ originate. To maintain US dollar as world’s reserve currency, please correct me if I’m wrong, and to disable any potential political, military and financial strength in unity between the countries from where the ‘fossil fiuels’ (oil and gas) originate least they become, collectively, a greater power than the USA. and it’s mayor ally in the region.

      1. James Levy

        Back when I was a grad student earning an enlightening if useless MA in Political Science (International Relations/International Political Economy concentration) the term that was “hot” in those days (circa 1988) was regime. In the old Talcott Parsons taxonomy, regimes were about “systems maintenance”–one actor or state in a system took on the job of establishing rules and norms, paid a price, but got a real big cookie in return (think Britain and the Gold Standard). Those who do the thinking for the American elite seem to like to paint a picture for themselves in which what America does is fundamentally about systems maintenance, i.e. we are “the indispensable nation.” But America is not Britain. Britain always lacked the ability to bend the system to its every whim. The other Great Powers were simply too strong–they had to be brought on or bought off, which made the cost of Empire much greater for them, and the benefits in the long run less enticing. America is an 800 pound gorilla whose self-image is that of a maligned Good Samaritan. Since Americans cannot A) acknowledge how self-serving everything they do is, and therefore B) can’t understand why other powers would want any world not run by the beneficent Uncle Sam, we are a menace. Add to this evil stew the emergence of the Neocons, who are very happy with the idea of America running every show and who feel it is our God-given right to rule over the less breeds, and you have the drift from the Wilson/FDR/Nixon axis of American foreign policy (bad as that could be) to what we have today.

      2. abynormal

        ‘a greater power’ indeed…but leaves me wondering why Water resources, on a global economic level, has not yet made its debut? why are they wasting their time on the last drip of oil? ‘drawing lines in the sand’ drains from directly transferring remaining wealth.

        “He tries to find the exit from himself but there is no door.”
        ― Dejan Stojanovic

    2. susan the other

      Absolutely. It is a confrontation that will last a long time. Hence “ISIS” – so we can all agree on one tiny but extremely disgusting thing. The stuff above that caught my attention was Yves’ comment that “International capital flows (2011) were over 60 times trade volumes.” Whoa. Are derivatives and swaps included? But why do we need so much insurance if we’re just gonna go blow up the entire world? Yves says this flood of money has nothing to do with trade liberalization. (So then it is all speculation and destabilizing other economies hoping to make our minimum of 8% – ala Goldman Sachs?) And I’ve been thinking that our foreign policy was to stimulate industry and trade in other countries, regardless of the cost. I still think that we have pushed money around the world almost frantically, trying to jump start a global capitalism and then fudge books and stick the American taxpayer with whatever balance is unavoidable. Lately that’s been all of it. And it hasn’t worked. Little wonder we have a wall-street-president who doesn’t know his brain from a hot rock. Gosh, the Free Market is so efficient!

  7. JTFaraday

    “I welcome reader input on how banking plays in, if at all, in the US shift to a more aggressive foreign policy posture.”

    I don’t have the answers, but I think this is a very good question.

  8. NotTimothyGeithner

    Laziness, traditional Democratic political fears, and now panic. Obama came into office and was content to replicate W. policy from Iraq in Afghanistan and to follow the 2007 Status of Forces Agreement.

    The effects of neo-liberal economics, fraudulent ngos, organizations without a purpose still in existence, and so forth were ignored because it’s hard work and would risk Democratic funding delusions.

    Obama’s numbers are tanking despite a growing demographic advantage in theory, admittedly dumping all over Hispanics isn’t likely to win any votes. Losing the empire will destroy the political careers of any Obama lackey, and Obama is in danger of throwing up a white elephant at the U. of Chicago. Obama is too small to see the ludicrous nature of a Presidential library (Mr. Jefferson donated his library and built a school; no Presidential library), and in a sense, he is too small to see a world beyond the 90’s hyperpower world.

    Losing the status of hyperpower officially would seal the failure of Obama’s legacy in his mind. This is where we are. Even in public, Obama speaks as if Putin is a misbehaving child who answers to D.C. There was no hint of irony when Obama called Russia a regional power when it came to the Ukraine. He is delusional and living in a different age.

    The loss of contracts for U.S. companies and the public’s lack of desire for military spending is driving Obama to try to scare Europe into picking up the slack. But if he can’t see a multi-player world or at least a world where regional powers don’t roll over at his command, Obama can’t grasp Europe governments won’t rescue U.S. contractors when they have defense industries.

    1. OIFVet

      UofC is the perfect place for it though. Think about it, they just finished a shrine to Milton Friedman, expropriating a public street (58th street between University Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue) for the purpose in a move Ol’ Milton would be very proud of. UofC: the place where psychopaths are enshrined and worshiped.

  9. Tatanya

    Well, if any of Obama’s domestic and/or foreign policies disturbed Israel enough, Obama’s thinking would immediately ‘evolve.’ Ultimately, corruption pulls all the political puppets’ collective strings, backed up by state sanctioned violence. If I were trying to illustrate the basic scenario to a child familiar with the James Bond films, I would use the SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) analogy to explain what makes the Empire’s chief puppet and the world tick.

  10. wbgonne

    “It has become commonplace to depict Obama as weak and overly reactive to Republican and media pressure. But that view conveniently ignores that Obama is a Republican in Democratic clothing.”

    The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I’d say that Obama, being an ultra-conservative of the most fundamental sort, is more inclined to adopt Conservative policies becase he thinks that the Conservative Rebublicans and the Conservative media are the power centers he must cater to. IMO, Obama’s lodestar “personal belief” is an ideological adherence to neoliberalism. Everything else goes where the Conservative wind blows it.

  11. EmilianoZ

    Basically, nothing. It’s like a random walk or Brownian motion. Diverse interests collide with each other and with Obama and sometimes Obama moves here and sometimes he moves there.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The President is like a bull in a China shop on top of everything else. Obama’s intervention in Libya did destroy WMD control treaties for a decade. Everyone saw Gaddafi be toppled after he disarmed. The one good thing W did, Obama cast aside for a bit of glory.

  12. Linda Jansen

    Financial sanctions were used as a weapon against Iraq. Madeleine Albright, who had nothing to lose as it turned out, said on television “it” was worth it to kill 500,000 Iraqi kids. She still traipses around selling her biography to enthralled crowds.

    The impunity which allowed that outrageous episode to pass unpunished by the world granted the hegemon its wish to lumber on, spewing poison and supplying its murderous allies with weaponry to kill other babies in Palestine and anywhere else there is a defiant impulse.

    Now Americans live shabby lives surrounded by the knowledge that their government really is the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and their meager resources are being robbed to pay for it.

    1. OIFVet

      I agree with everything except the last sentence. Most Americans believe that the US is as wholesome as apple pie.

      1. Linda Jansen

        Hi, OIFVet. Well, yes, but I said they were surrounded by the knowledge. Many of them choose not to take it in. ;)

  13. TarheelDem

    A better question is where is the information coming from that forms the basis for Obama’s foreign policy decisions. Not being a foreign policy wonk himself, the historical and situational analyses presented to him as context for policy and action decisions shape the way he thinks about the issue at hand more so than it would have for, say George H. W. Bush.

    It is instructive that the partisan attack on Obama’s foreign policy has been blunted by the unity of the former Presidents club. And that the partisan attack has been one of Democratic weakness, not recklessness, and demands even more reckless actions.

    The question this diary asks IMO is what exactly do we mean these days by “American interests”. Is it oil or banks?

    The reason for the leaning to guns in the guns or butter decision-making is not hard to find. When radical libertarian conservative ideology argues that the only legitimate functions of government are national security, law enforcement, and enforcement of contracts, and there is a House of Representatives enforcing that ideology, the only way to goose the economy is through military Keynesianism. Destroying MRAPs there so that we can replace them here is only a different form of paying for digging a hole and then paying for filling it up. In that sort of perverse logic, arming the Free Syrian Army to have the weapons taken away by ISIL/ISIS and then subsequently destroyed by the “allies” in the US campaign against ISIL/ISIS make a degree of sense. And it postpones just a little longer the bankers’ day of reckoning.

    1. MaroonBulldog

      Your comment seems to assume that these people are capable of foreseeing the natural and probable consequence of their actions. I lack confidence that they are so reasonable.

  14. Brooklin Bridge

    I welcome reader input on how banking plays in, if at all, in the US shift to a more aggressive foreign policy posture.

    To answer that it might be worth knowing who follows who’s orders, or is it like a group orgy, lovers enthralled by a perverted passion to a pathological end. I think Obama is intelligent, shrewd, not weak (except in a spiritual sense where he is bankrupt), but to get where he is, he made a Faustian bargain with TPTB – one that by happenstance of history, character, and upbringing he is inclined to be comfortable with or even believe in. Meritocracy, boot straps, making it on your own, is a very seductive and attractive ideology as has been discussed in other posts on NC. Then, given the complexity of his position, one nudges, one does not not drive, the ship of state. Success is defined by potential, not immediate result. Obama has been more competent at both these things than many are willing to grant. Clinton weakened, but Obama virtually destroyed the Democratic party and yet watch, Hillary will win and probably quite handily. That ideological somersault, from representative, people’s, government to Fascism = Democracy, in less than eight years, is both remarkable and constitutes huge potential success by the measure Obama believes in and was given for “One America”.

    The fact that these goals have batsh*t crazy results visible as such to a relatively small number of people does not make Obama weak or stupid or ineffective. The banking industry is out -in a blaze of passion- for a pyramid of spoils taking, they could care less about banking, and somehow this fits in with a foreign policy of war mongering, immense human upheaval which means both unimaginable suffering and geopolitical instability, and unrestrained or unhinged military spending as well as the job of selling the package to Americans and the world at large as an endless parade of flag waving friendly protective uncle Sam. It is a feat.

  15. Steven

    Dr. Michael Hudson wrote the bible on this subject – “Super Imperialism” – in 1972. He has continued to develop this theme of the use of money as a weapon of conquest in his more contemporary work. With apologies to Dr. Hudson in case I got some of this wrong, let me attempt a short synopsis:
    Money since the takeoff of fractional reserve banking has been created almost completely in the financial ledgers of banks and governments rather than on their printing presses or by government mints. As such, that money is much easier and less expensive to create than a modern military. Moreover, it is MUCH more effective in securing the compliance of the population targeted for resource (i.e. labor, fossil fuels, other raw materials, etc) extraction. Entire populations don’t have to be bought, only those ‘in charge’. Gold used to back and put some constraints on the fiat money created by governments. But all pretense of that backing ended with the demise of the 1944 Bretton Woods international monetary system. Since then money has been backed solely by the coercive power of the state through the de jure and de facto legal tender principle. The lure of getting something for essentially nothing has proven way to strong to resist for both the bankers who must formally create money under the current system of private money creation and for politicians who can use that money to pay off powerful constituents using the ‘near money’ of government they are allowed to create. More and more, the U.S. government as the principle creator of the world’s money, has had to resort to the coercive power of its military as nations around the world begin to understand the debt they have been accepting in payment for real wealth furnished to the U.S. and to other countries using the dollar to pay them for this wealth is “debt that can’t be repaid (and) won’t be.”

    1. Steven

      That is “the near money of government debt”. That was really the problem with deregulation. The greedy little pigs on Wall Street got carried away with their money creation and Washington’s stupid or corrupt politicians let them get away with it. What is at stake here is the financial credibility of the lender of last resort, nominally the Federal Reserve but really ‘your’ government. You can create an infinite amount of ex nihilo money (as debt). But since we live in a finite world, you can’t create an infinite amount of wealth for it to purchase. At some point it comes down to a choice between guns and crony capitalism or butter.

      1. MaroonBulldog

        It’s not a simple choice between spending money on guns or spending money on butter. The guns give the money its value to begin with, it’s hard to refuse money tendered at the point of a gun. If the guns fail, the money will fail, too.

        1. Steven

          I think you are preaching to the choir here but let’s back up. Yves’ question is ” how banking plays in, if at all, in the US shift to a more aggressive foreign policy posture.” Besides tendering money at gunpoint there are a couple of ‘peaceful’ ways in which (as Minsky expresses it) one can get the money one creates ‘accepted’. It boils down to a promise of return on or of capital, AKA the ability to ‘store value’. The ‘butter’ part of the above choice is of course simply valued received for taxes paid. But if Wall Street and Washington want to go own creating money they must first of all be able to roll over the debt they have already created and secondly, if ZIRP ever ends, pay a little something for the use of borrowed wealth. That means insuring the liquidity of bond markets and paying the interest on government debt first, before minor obligations like Social Security. That’s why we ‘need’ austerity. In order for the sheep world-wide to continue to be shorn the sheep in the U.S. need to be willing to pony up their governments services, Social Security and retirement benefits so Wall Street and Washington can continue to hang their paper, i.e. their “butter”. The guns are for those heads of state who doubt the conventional wisdom in the financial community about the absolute security of U.S. government debt and want something more than unpayable IOUs in exchange for their nations’ wealth.

          1. Steven

            should be
            ” In order for the sheep world-wide to continue to be shorn the sheep in the U.S. need to be willing to pony up their governments services, Social Security and retirement benefits, i.e. their “butter”, so Wall Street and Washington can continue to hang their paper.

  16. TedWa

    “The intensity of US efforts to foment conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East continue to be treated by Mr. Market as a nothingburger, as witnessed by a continued slide in oil prices and continued complacency in global stock markets.” Already baked into prices.

  17. Tatanya

    I agree this is a very good question. It would be fascinating to have the cui bono behind the scenes banking forensics/analysis. Historically, of course, international finance has been intimately entwined with militaristic foreign policy.

  18. steviefinn

    Maybe it’s just the way the World works as is illustrated by this article regarding the 1st trans-national corporation, namely the East India company. Maybe it’s just me, but there modus operandi seems familiar & was instigated under many governments & Obama types, which they manipulated with the bankers to suit their interests. At the beginning bullion was heading East, but eventually through the use of trade deals & military force this expenditure was reversed by using the resources & extracted rents of the East to pay for the imported goods. The opium wars for instance were fought to force the Chinese to buy opium & as in the free market economic theory that led to the Irish famine, millions also died in India as a result.

    Deja vu ? http://www.rrojasdatabank.info/urban/euv14n1p79.pdf

  19. Banger

    There is no “Obama” foreign policy there is just a shifting consensus on foreign policy within the National Security State that has been running pretty much on its own since 1963.

    One feature that stands out though is to replace blunt force “boots on the ground” with a multitude of covert operations, drone attacks, massive disinformation campaigns and so on. Was in the cards before Obama took over anyway–his people just continued it–what choice did they have?

  20. scraping_by

    I don’t know about the Ukraine, but the ME policy maps perfectly with Saudi Arabia’s long term imperialist goal of exporting Wahhabi Islam and through it, Saudi hegemony over the Muslim world. The destruction of secular governments (Iraq, Syria) in favor of failed states controlled by warlords in the pay of the House of Saud is the result too often not to be the goal. All means from subversion to invasion are on the table, despite the wishes and interests of the American people.

    The Saudi strategy is indoctrination for the masses, compensation for the elites. The truly historical amounts of money sloshing around that family is their only attraction: as a geopolitical ally they’re not even a joke. Banks treat big depositors as gods on the earth, so assume the role of middleman for various acts of bribery, subversion, and outright war with the slogan that money has no smell.

    So while neoconservatism may be the armed wing of neoliberalism, in the ME it’s a little simpler. There’s a big paycheck in store for anyone who does Saudi bidding, and that includes using the US Military as the mercenaries for the House of Saud. Obama, with the permission and direction of his banking controllers, are pleasing Big Money.

  21. The Dork of Cork

    The objective of this war is to reduce the size of the Euro scarcity engine and thus restart it.
    In reality this means more Kerosene for the Dublin to London route (one of the busiest if not thee busiest in the world prior to the crash) and less flights to Moscow.
    A less stable world means more tourists fly to Ireland rather then east of Berlin.
    The £ &$ spent in that banking jurisdiction is then conducted through this conduit country so as to pay off the odious debt.
    Evidence is mounting in Ireland.
    It was the first euro country to fall and will be the first to rise.
    Of course to most people this burst of activiity is completly pointless but the purpose of capitalism has never been about wealth creation – its sole purpose is concentration at all costs.

  22. Jay M

    Brings to mind Hobson (1902) then Lenin (1916), financialization leads to everything being commodity values.
    Does the market function superbly when the values go down–deflation?

  23. JM Hatch

    Keke, so much for anger at UAE bombings in Lybia. Oz would not make this move without clearing it with Washington.


    Up to eight Super Hornet combat aircraft (F/A18) to be deployed (at UAE)

    At least four support aircraft will be sent, including an E-7A Wedgetail early-warning and control plane and a KC-30A tanker for airborne refuelling. There is already at least one C-130J Hercules and one C-17A Globemaster operating from the UAE to deliver stores and military supplies



    1. John Yard

      In the 1970’s I had a friend/associate who was an Iraqi expert , and his sole comment I remember was how the Iraqis ‘loved the Brits’ due to Mr. Churchill’s use of the RAF to strafe rebellious Iraqi tribes in the early 1920s. I do remember walking in 1972 in Cairo, and watching the crowds spit on the British ambassador’s car ( the car flew the British flag on the front bumper). At that time many loved America – we were not Britain.

      I have never been able to figure out why in the invasion of Iraq and the wars since we have let the Brits nuzzle up to us given the animosity many/most Arabs have for Britain . The material contribution is minor , and the onus is great. In my fallible memory I have never read a comment in an Arabic language newspaper or magazine that was favorable to Britain. Of course many years have passed.

      And with ISIS history repeats itself. Why ?

      1. JM Hatch

        The hubris of Empire would be my guess. Luttwak is a rabid Israeli apologist, but some of his insights on the thinking inside the belt line and at the Pentagon still ring true. It’s interesting to watch China throw away much of the good will it built up in East Asia as it’s own empirical power rises.

  24. FWIW

    Regular bankers — up to the size of the mega regionals — don’t have management that could find Ukraine on a map without help.
    The investment bankers are too busy fighting regulation, securing tax breaks, and enlarging their franchise in straightforward ways that they don’t have time to think much about foreign policy. And, since they are living large, have zero interest in mixing it up with a country with a lot of nukes.

    The military industrial complex, on the other hand, isn’t a huge economic force, but has no focused opposition. Its influence far exceeds its economic importance.

    It may seem reasonable to assume that banks have their hands in everything, but the real money is in misrepresenting risk. That is more than a full time job.

    But what drives it?
    Which is, in many ways more frightening than power elites with some sort of agenda.
    Economically, Ukraine is a basket case. It would make more sense to pay Russia to take it than try to bail it out. I would actually feel better if someone were at least making some money on it.

  25. Paul Tioxon

    There is a dirty secret people who complain about everything don’t know. All you have to do is look and you will find that when it comes to the government, they are more than happy to provide with all of the information you want about what they want their foreign policy to be. Probably the most easy to locate information is attached to the primary players in foreign policy. In the case of the Obama Administration, his 2 chief players are Susan Rice previous UN Ambassador and current National Security Adviser along with Samantha Power, the current UN Ambassador. Ms. Power is well known for her Human Rights writings, in particular the history of genocide and a strong advocate for women’s rights and LGBT rights around the world, not just in American culture wars. She has been a close adviser to Obama when he was a US Senator, a Harvard Law grad, a proponent of intervention of the US to stop genocide. Here crowning policy achievement can be seen in the following White House Official Policy announcement:

    ” Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States. Our security is affected when masses of civilians are slaughtered, refugees flow across borders, and murderers wreak havoc on regional stability and livelihoods. America’s reputation suffers, and our ability to bring about change is constrained, when we are perceived as idle in the face of mass atrocities and genocide. Unfortunately, history has taught us that our pursuit of a world where states do not systematically slaughter civilians will not come to fruition without concerted and coordinated effort.

    -Presidential Study Directive 10, August 4, 2011

    President Obama has made the prevention of atrocities a key focus of this Administration’s foreign policy.

    The Obama Administration has amassed an unprecedented record of actions taken to protect civilians and hold perpetrators of atrocities accountable. These include:

    Leading international efforts to bring pressure to bear on the abusive Qadhafi and Asad regimes through the formation of Groups of Friends, the imposition of extensive sanctions, support for the opposition, and support for efforts to bring perpetrators of atrocities to justice;
    Leadership in securing the passage of UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973, which authorized—in an unprecedented combination of measures—referral of the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court, an arms embargo, a no-fly zone, comprehensive sanctions against the Qadhafi regime that preserved Libya’s wealth for its people, and a mandate for the protection of civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack;
    Leadership of a successful international military effort to protect civilians in Libya;……… ”

    It is the policy of the Obama administration, not to go to war against nations, but to go to do battle with human atrocities such as genocide, attacks on civilian populations by their own government etc. To that end, he established the ATROCITY PREVENTION BOARD. Yes, this is an actual federal government board which will study and take positions on human rights abuses that rise to the level of atrocities. This is the guiding principle for military intervention into nations such as Libya or Syria, where we would in fact be invading a nation against the will of their recognized government under the policy of preventing the civilian population from being attacked by their own military. Logically, what recourse do they have but to have a foreign power intervene on their behalf, so the policy goes. And in the cases where atrocities are being committed beyond the power of the government to protect its citizens, the US will honor appropriate request for military backing and use of its forces to assist the weaker states. So, that in a nut shell, is the driving force. We do have treaties, but they are not so much the driving force as well establish diplomatic links with standing geopolitical history. When it comes to decision making in new situations, the anti-atrocity rubrik will most likely be applied. Needless to say, we will not stop every atrocity, especially the one’s that are our collateral damage in pursuing this policy.


    “The President’s speech outlined an unprecedented effort to institutionalize normative commitments to atrocity prevention by creating a high-level interagency Atrocities Prevention Board, the APB, under the chairmanship of the National Security Council’s Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Samantha Power. The Board will meet on a monthly basis, starting today, with rotating attendance by senior representatives across the relevant Departments at the Assistant Secretary level or higher. Apart from identifying threats, the Board will oversee the development and implementation of atrocity prevention and response policy.”

    MS Power has moved up the power ladder to the UN as our the US Ambassador there where her long stand ing reputation and interests will be the hall mark of foreign policy, a direct slapping down of the Project For The New American Century. While a patina of morality and decency may veil the iron fist of US military might, it’s activation will now be other than to assert unbridled triumphalist drum beats to war against one nation after another, simply for getting in the way of one faction or another profit seeking enterprises. A small but notable distinction.

  26. proximity1

    Further thoughts on the banking/finance angle in high-level foreign-policy-making:

    Last night, BBC Channel 2 aired “Traders: Millions by the Minute” (Part 1 of 2). It places things in useful perspective. In the course of it we follow a half-dozen market traders– Virginia McGathey
    Grain futures broker, at Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT); Piers Curran, of Amplify Trading, London; Bob Lassandrello, Cattle futures, CBOT: Scott Redler, Chief Strategic Officer, T3 Trading Group, N.Y.; Karen Finerman, who runs her own fund, Metropolitan Capital Advisors Inc., and who trades on her own account in equities and is a panelist on CNBC’s “Fast Money” program; finally, we meet a member of a Danish mega-programmed trading operation where millions of trades (and billions in USD, GBP, Euros) are calculated each second of the trading day.

    Fifty-five minutes of such a tour suffices to show that, as a feature of high-level foreign-policy-making (FP / FPM) , high-level banking and finance play a part which day-by-day, doesn’t and could never hope to, follow and react to the impossibly complicated world of financial markets’ movements. Rather, the banking and finance and traded markets’ interests comprise some of the most important “front-loaded” presuppositions of those concerned in foreign-policy making. Instead of watching the markets with one eye, the FP established comes to work with its major concerns already internalised as working assumptions. Since governments borrow and lend on world-wide money-markets, their excutives and policy staff are careful to avoid what conventional theory tells them would court market disaster for their currencies, their mortgage and pension markets, their essential import and export trading market-partners, etc. Beyond taking account of the unusual and spectacular market slumps, the FP cannot afford the time for daily close scrutiny of more than the grandest market overviews figuring in their calculations. But these are there, as working assumptions, with all their more or less accurate or erroneous aspects.

    links: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04j52br

  27. proximity1

    RE: The comment which begins, “Dirty secrets” and “people who complain about everything” — what is one to make of that?

    Under Obama’s “watch,” we see the establishment of an ATROCITY PREVENTION BOARD and we hear many and melifluous words about guiding principles. These are sorted and filed in binders which line the shelves of governments’ agencies’ staff’s office bookscases.

    Meanwhile, today, six years into Obama’s two-term presidency, we find the world with more people living in refugee camps, more people driven by violent force from their land, their homes, and more people seeking refuge via corruption-ridden human-trafficking rings, than at any time since the end of the Second World War. We also see that, eleven years since its inception, and, with many, many hundreds of billions of USD expended, the lands of the near and middle east are, if anything, even deeper in chaos and violent conflict than they were before Operation Enduring Freedom had begun or was extended through Obama’s first term.

  28. Everythings Jake

    Obama is a soulless narcissistic sociopath (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/01/noam-chomsky-blasts-obama-he-has-no-moral-center/), a liar (http://www.blackagendareport.com/node/14396) and a POS Uncle Tom (http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/01/16/rev-jeremiah-wright-lambastes-obama-during-mlk-breakfast-king-said-i-have-a-dream-barack-said-i-have-a-drone/). He sold his ass for his own personal benefit and the price he was happy to pay was to F&%! yours: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJ4SSvVbhLw.

  29. Steven

    Let’s try an answer to Yves’ question ”how banking plays in, if at all, in the US shift to a more aggressive foreign policy posture.” written in 1931:

    So that it comes about that by far the great part of what the modern world regards as wealth, and what is a perennial source of wealth to individuals, is not wealth but a consequence of lending or having lent wealth, and is in fact a form of national or communal debt. 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, 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 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.


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