Gaius Publius: Is Anti-War Fever Building in the U.S.?

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive  here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny

Jimmy Dore highlights and discusses Bernie Sanders’ recent foreign policy statement. Portions of Sanders’ speech are discussed below, but the entire video is worth watching.

Is anti-war fever building in the U.S.? One would not think so given all the signs — apparent public apathy toward multiple military involvements, happy compliance with “security” at the increasingly painful airport, lack of protests and so on.

Yet there are two signs I’d like to put forward as indicating a growing willingness to forgo foreign “entanglements” (undeclared wars), springing either from a weariness with them, a nascent abhorrence of them, or a desire to focus U.S. dollars on U.S. domestic solutions, like the hugely popular Medicare for All. (Click to see just how popular Medicare for All, called “Medicare Buy-In” at the link, is across party lines.)

The first sign is Bernie Sanders, the most popular politician in America and by far its most popular senator, making statements like these in the speech linked and discussed in the video at the top of this piece. For example, at 9:00 in the clip, Sanders says (emphasis his):

SANDERS: In other words, what we have seen in time and time again, disasters occur when administrations, Democrat and Republican, mislead Congress and the American people. And when Congress fails to do its constitutional job in terms of asking the questions of whether or not we should be in a war. And I think we need to ask that very hard question today.

And here is the point that I hope the American people are asking themselves. Is the war on terror, a perpetual, never-ending war, necessary to keep us safe?

I personally believe we have become far too comfortable with the United States engaging in military interventions all over the world. … We have now been in Afghanistan for 17 years. We have been in Iraq for 15 years. We are occupying a portion of Syria, and this administration has indicated that it may broaden that mission even more.

We are waging a secretive drone war in at least five countries. Our forces, right now, as we speak, are supporting a Saudi-led war in Yemen which has killed thousands of civilians and has created the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet today.

Talk like this is anathema in our militarized state, comments usually relegated to the fringes of public discourse. For Sanders to say this (and similarly anathemic remarks elsewhere in the speech) certainly denotes a shift, especially since Sanders during the campaign was not considered strong on foreign policy, especially progressive (non-orthodox) foreign policy.

As Jimmy Dore said in reply to the last sentence quoted above, “It’s not Syria? Can you [say] “stop the butcher” is the worst? No. Turns out what we’re doing is the ‘worst humanitarian crisis in the world today,’ committing siege warfare in Yemen, which … is a war crime. And we’re doing it, with Saudi Arabia.”

Sanders also says we’re “fighting terror” in 76 countries. Let that sink in, as Sanders wishes it to — we’re engaged in military conflict in 76 countries, almost a third of the nations in the world. I’m not sure many in the lay public appreciate the importance, or the likely consequences, of that surprising fact. (For one example of those consequences, consider that foreign wars often come home.)

Elsewhere in the video Dore asks, “Do you see Chuck Shumer saying our wars have had ‘dire consequences’?” Sanders, it seems to me, is launching a toe-to-toe battle with what right-wingers have lately been calling the American “deep state” and I’ve been calling the security establishment.

The second sign comes from Donald Trump during the campaign. This isn’t just Sanders going out on a limb — taking a flier, as it were — on a deeply unpopular position. Consider how often Donald Trump, the campaign version, made similar statements:

He also famously said this about NATO and its mission:

What I’m saying is NATO is obsolete. NATO is — is obsolete and it’s extremely expensive for the United States, disproportionately so. And we should readjust NATO.

If the U.S. security establishment is working to get rid of Trump, to take him out by whatever means necessary, campaign statements like that would be one of many reasons.

If Americans Could Vote Against the Forever War, Would They Do It?

I recently noted how different the outcomes are when the public indicates policy preferences with their votes versus polling data. DC politicians of both parties ignore polling with impunity. Votes, on the other hand, especially in party primaries, can force change — witness the Trump nomination and the Sanders (stolen) near-nomination.

In some ways, small but not insignificant, the 2016 election was a test of the anti-war waters, with Trump asking questions about the need and mission of NATO, for example, that haven’t been asked in over a generation, and Clinton, the proud choice of the neocon left and right, in strong disagreement.

It’s too much or too early to say that Trump’s public pullback from U.S. hegemony helped his election, though that’s entirely possible. But it’s certainly true that his anti-Forever War sentiments did not hurt him in any noticeable way.

I’ll go further: If Sanders runs in 2020 and adds anti-war messaging to his program, we’ll certainly see the title question tested.

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  1. Rob P

    If the U.S. security establishment is working to get rid of Trump, to take him out by whatever means necessary, campaign statements like that would be one of many reasons.

    Bernie had better watch his back then. Make sure no one associated with him has any contact with any Russians or Iranians or whatever.

    1. JTMcPhee

      The “security establishment/Blob” no coubt has already filled its supply chain with anti-Bernie Bernays-caliber ordnance, ready to deploy. I don’t doubt that there are plenty of James Earl Rays out there, happy to be the ones who will “rid the Blob of this troublesome politician.” Just remember that Bernie has a summer house, and his wife was president of a failed college, and he’s a GD Socialist, for Jeebus’ sake!

      Any stick to beat a dog…

    2. cocomaan

      There’s far less than six degrees of separation between any one person and someone who is Russian or Chinese or Iranian or whatever. Even two degrees of separation is enough for a headline these days.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      Maybe we should prepare ourselves not to fall for blackmail or smearmail or whatever else when the inevitable cardboard-replica links and ties to Russia and Iran are magically produced when needed. Maybe we should prepare . . . not to care.

  2. Lambert Strether

    Districts with military casualties correlate to Trump votes.

    I’d would be nice to see Sanders do a Town Hall on the empire, in six months or so when this speech has time to sink in, in one such district.

    1. hemeantwell

      Yes. Sanders is going to have to pull off a communicative high wire act bridging relatively acceptable criticism of “unnecessary and expensive foreign entanglements” to hinting at the idea that the US citizens have to understand the expansive pressures that flow from capitalism and the MIC. I’ve appreciated the regular links here to American Conservative and Unz articles. They are valuable reminders that some on the Right aren’t in complete denial, at least about the MIC.

      One scenario would see a revival of the terms of discussion that briefly saw daylight in at least the late 1940s, when state planners openly linked a “defensive” military posture with a need for markets. It would at least get the cards out on the table and assist in clarifying how world politics isn’t just a matter of great and secondary powers inevitably pushing each other around. The idea of Realpolitik is a fundamental and fatal ground of reification.

    2. johnnygl

      Presidential ambitions aside, it would be a good idea to pressure trump’s crew that are plotting to attack Iran. Plus, any chance to push back against the awful Dem leadership is also a positive. We need to see more grassroots pushback against that leadership. Sanders is the best around at generating that grassroots pushback.

    3. Pookah Harvey

      Bernie makes many salient points on the Military Industrial Complex in a floor speech concerning the Defense Dept. budget bill. I especially like the part where he is trying to add an amendment that would limit the compensation of CEOs of defense contractors to no more than the Secretary of Defense ($205,000). This speech will not make him any friends among the military corporate contractors. (26 min.)

  3. Scott1

    Russia could win a conventional war in Europe. They have enough tanks for it. At least that is what war reporting has said. It was so reported in at the Huffington Post the other day.
    We have been at Econ War with Russia since Crimea was annexed and the Ukraine was invaded. Russia’s response has been Hybrid War.
    Trump’s policies are to appease Putin. It is fine with him since he is enamored of oligarchs and aspires to be himself a neo-feudalist oligarch.
    Makes no difference to Trump since privatization as sold to Yeltsin the American ruling class sold it and is engineering it everywhere in the US and the world they can.

    Through education and the vote and reversal of Citizens United and enforcement of anti trust laws and those sentiments that worked to give the nation fine public schools, we might over time replace the Congresspersons and the Senators who will give Trump all the support he needs to implement complete privatization.

    Sanders is not against the Congressional approval of war. At least it does not seem so to me.

    If we have a Congress that says to the American People, “We have tried Economic War against Russia and it hasn’t worked and we have too many of our forces wasting time and resources that are needed to confront Russia in Europe and we need to work with our Allies of Nato to reposition our resources on a real front from which tanks will roll towards our allies.” then we have to tell them why we have to do that.

    We cannot bear to lose a war with Russia. We will nuke Russian Tanks if they roll into Europe. That would mean the Apocalyptic Riot.

    We might not actually nuke tanks that are in Germany, but just nuke Moscow. That might stop it? Nope, that probably means apocalyptic riot as well.

    Well, personally I’d like to know how many tanks the US has in the wrong places. The US and its allies need to have enough tanks to fully discourage tank warfare in Europe.

    Food is the number one ingredient for peace. I have some concepts on how to lead with food. I have come concepts for creating a Big Dog UN. The UN is not going to prevent apocalyptic riot as it stands right now. It worked for the Cold War power balance, but it isn’t working for the current power balance.


    1. albrt

      So you’re saying the Europeans should build themselves some tanks and the US should get out?

      I’d agree with that.

        1. Lambert Strether

          We are in the world’s most favorable geopolitical position. We have the Atlantic to the east, the Pacific to the West, Canada to the North, and Mexico to the South. We have enough nukes to blow up the world many times over. I don’t know why we don’t don’t treat the entire imperial enterprise as a sunk cost and get out, starting with the Middle East (and by get out, I mean cut off all funding, too).

          1. cocomaan

            Strangely, I think we’re in a “Trump Peace”. Yes, there are still brushfire wars raging, but this just happened:


            The Taliban announced the three-day halt to hostilities earlier this month, days after a unilateral ceasefire lasting until Wednesday was ordered by the government.

            It is the Taliban’s first ceasefire since the government they ran was toppled by the 2001 US-led invasion.

            I don’t know if it’s Trump or it’s just coincidence. But peace has broken out in Korea for hte first time in decades, and now peace has broken out in Afghanistan for the first time in decades.

            I’m just happy it’s happening.

    2. Richard

      You should take a look at The Threat by Andrew Cockburn. Fairly exhaustive detail about how Russian military might was inflated, in the 70s and 80s, in virtually every possible way. From badly coordinated civil defense, to the complete irreadiness of its airforce, to the caste system pervading the army that had reduced morale to almost nothing, the overall picture is pretty stunning, compared to the magnitude of the threat that was presented to the US public. It wasn’t just bad intelligence, it was consistently purposeful bad intelligence. The consequences have been dire for the world, and our country as well. The Russians in that period never represented a serious military threat even to the continent of Europe, far less the US. Nor do they now, spending less than a tenth on their military than the US. The 80 billion dollar incease in the US military budget this year was more than the entire Russian military budget. Meanwhile,our own bases encompass the globe, and we wage war and threaten genocide wherever we choose. The facts are abundantly clear, that our own military represents by far the greatest threat to human life on this planet.
      I want to tell you, that you and I and everyone in this damned country, we are not just the most lied to people in the world. We’re arguably the most lied to people in history, at least if you consider the number and frequency of lies. It’s a wonder we get anything right at all! I encourage you to read more, and read more widely, and to start at a position of distrust, with any foreign policy reporting that isn’t based on first hand knowledge.
      I am heartened by the position Bernie is taking, even as I disagree with him on the Russia hysteria and wonder at some of his qualifications like “blunder” to describe out and out imperialism. We need to start somewhere, and why not start with “let the people and the people’s representatives decide when we use our military”?

      1. Ashburn

        I know many progressives on the left have questioned Bernie’s foreign policy positions and for not going far enough in opposing our imperial wars. Personally, I think Bernie knows exactly how stupid, immoral, illegal, and costly our wars are, especially as it “crowds out spending” on his favored domestic policies. Bernie is also smart enough to know how he would be attacked by our right-wing corporate media and the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex if he were too outspoken. So, he tempers his statements, not just because his domestic agenda is most important to him, but also because he knows attacking our militarized foreign policy will not play well with the working class base he needs to appeal to. Unlike Obama who played up his anti-Iraq War vote, only to expand our wars across the Middle East and Africa (after collecting his Nobel Peace Prize), Bernie is holding his cards closer to the vest.

        1. Lambert Strether

          > play well with the working class base he needs to appeal to

          I think the working class in the flyover states is ready to hear that the endless war needs to end. It’s tricky message to convey, because “Are you saying my child died in vain?” But Trump saying Iraq was a strategic blunder went over very well, and military casualties correlate with Trump votes. I think Sanders (or his as-yet-unknown successor) must deliver that message, but it’s going to be tricky, if only because it will smash an enormous number of rice bowls in the national security and political classes (which overlap). Maybe we could move all the uniform-worshippers to an island, give them a few billion dollars, and let them play war games among themselves. Cheap at twice the price.

          UPDATE I would bet “addiction” would work as a trope in the flyover states; “the war machine is a needle in America’s arm” is the concept. Especially because veterans are prone to opioid addiction. Again, the rhetoric would be tricky to avoid blaming victims or “hating the troops,” but I think there’s good messaging to be found here. (People do horrid things when trapped in addictive systems. That’s why they seek cure…)

          1. The Heretic

            Sanders needs to protect the people who are part of the 95% who work for the military industrial complex. He does this not by raising welfare (which Americans find humiliating), not by only giving extensive retraining benefits, (which in an opportunity starved country like America, will only lead to work stints at an Amazon Warehouse) but by repurposing the capitol and retraining the working people to issues that must be addressed for the future, such as energy sustainability or infrastructure that can resist increasingly severe climate chaos. Furthermore, he must announce and do both simultaneously, probably via an MMT program and raising Taxes on rhe elite 2% and via transaction taxes on all capitol outflow from the USA.

            Stopping the war machine, but putting people out of work, will never be acceptable to those who work for the war machine or the friends and family of those people.

          2. VietnamVet

            You are correct. The forever wars are just one of the ways to bleed the Middle Class dry. The media propaganda and rule by the 10% can’t let the suckers know what is really going on. There are always enough men to man the colonial wars but they are unwinnable unless the whole nation is involved. The Bolshevik Revolution and the Bonus Army were within living memory of WWII leaders. The new global aristocracy has lost all history and doesn’t perceive the inevitable consequences of inequality. My personal opinion was that for Marshall and Truman one of the reasons for the use of atomic weapons on Japan was that they did not want millions of combat tested soldiers traveling across the USA by train with the ultimate destination a number of deadly invasions of the Japanese Islands. Each worse than Okinawa. They were afraid of what the soldiers would do. This is also the reason why these Vets got a generous GI Bill.

          3. ArcadiaMommy

            You reminded me of Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq. She protesteted at the GWB TX compound if you recall and remains an activist to this day. I can’t speak for her but it seems to me like she understands that her son should not have died to further this ugly, pointless war.


            I can’t begin to understand the pain of losing a child, spouse, parent, etc., but I can wrap my head around it enough that I don’t want anyone to experience it. And I have no doubt that facing the true causes of the war would make the pain worse. But every time I hear this nonsense about how some poor kid “didn’t die in vain” in VietRaq, I want to scream “yes they did! Now what are we going to do to stop it from happening again???”.

            The tropes of “supporting the troops”, yellow ribbons, “they are protecting us”, etc. just keeps the propaganda ballon inflated. Here is how I support the troops: I’m against war.

            1. The Heretic

              This reminds me of Forest Gump where some well meaning hippies call Forest Gump a baby killer…
              The peace activists must refrain from blaming and shaming soldiers as a group; specfic criminals (such as those who committed crimes at my lai) should investigated, shamed and punished, the whistleblowers should be greatly honoured, and soldiers ad a group should be respected and not blamed for going to war, as indeed many do not know the truth for why the war was fought. On the other hand, politicians, lobby groups, and venal media and intelligence agencies should be exorciated for the lies that they believe or spread, as indeed it should be their business to try to discern the truth.

              Hence it was very admirable when members of the Mossad leaked out facts that Iran was not pursuing development of the Nuclear bomb, even while Netanyahoo was pursuing a media blitz to justify greater economic and ultimately military aggression against Iran

              1. ArcadiaMommy

                Who is “blaming and shaming” anyone? I’m saying that I agree with this mother who lost her child that we should be extremely skeptical about the motivation for war of any kind. And the lack of skepticism (expressed or not) impedes any real movement away from war without end.
                The Sheehans are real people who lost a son and brother. Forest Gump is just some character from a dumb movie. Good grief.

          4. ChrisPacific

            I think that you can respect the sacrifice and commitment of people who sign up to fight for their country while still criticizing the uses that leaders have chosen to put them to. In fact I think that makes the message stronger: the willingness of our friends, family, children etc. to sign up to fight and die for America places a duty and obligation on our leaders to ensure they are deployed wisely and for the betterment of America and the world. Those leaders – the ones we elected – have failed in that trust, and continue to fail. Our military friends and family haven’t let us down – we’ve let them down, by not holding our government accountable. It’s time we changed that!

        2. John Wright

          You wrote:

          > Unlike Obama who played up his anti-Iraq War vote.

          Obama was not in the US Senate at the time to vote.


          “The rally featured a pointed anti-war speech from Obama, then a fairly anonymous state lawmaker, who deemed the impending Iraq engagement ‘a dumb war.’”

          The political entertainer Obama gave a number of speeches advocating transparency in government, advocating for financial reform and even mentioned “we tortured some folks” decrying torture.

          Then behind the scenes Obama did very little to back up his speeches with actions as he went with the flow.

          Obama’s Illinois anti-war speech served him well, as he could milk this “anti-war” stance for years while running military actions as President.

          Obama had two groups to satisfy, the populace and the elite.

          The populace got empty words, the elite got what they wanted.

          Bernie Sanders actually DID vote against the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq

        3. Montanamaven

          Obama was not in the Senate until 2005. He could not vote against the Iraq war. He gave a speech in Chicago prior to the war.

          1. Lambert Strether

            Sadly, there is no contemporaneous transcript* or recording. I remember the 2008 controversy vividly, because the Obama campaign released a campaign ad that purported to be Obama delivering the Chicago 2002 speech, but it quickly emerged that he had re-recorded it for the campaign (see the link).

            This site purports to have a 2002 transcript, but the Wayback machines says the material was first posted in 2007. So.

            Adding, I can’t even find a contemporaneous link to Obama’s “dumb war” formulation, though with Google’s crapification, who knows.

      2. oh

        I think we’re more than being lied to. The MSM is waging a propaganda campaingn at every level completely obscuring the truth. And the politicians play the fear card at every level. I don’t believe any of us is in “happy compliance” at the airport. I for one, grind my teeth and cuss out the crooked corporations (including that bastard “skull” Chertoff who personally benefited from the x-ray screening machines) that reap a bundle of money from the so called screening and invasive body searches. Travel has become something to dread.

    3. marku52

      You can tell a lot about a country’s intent by the design of the army they assemble. Here is a deep technical description about the new army the Russians are putting together. Hint: it is not designed to attack.

      “The decision to create a tank army (armoured corps in Western terminology) is an indication that Russia really does fear attack from the west and is preparing to defend itself against it.

      In short, Russia has finally come to the conclusion that

      NATO’s aggression means it has to prepare for a big war.”

      Interesting technical take on the whole thing. Worth a read.

    4. Oregoncharles

      The preventive for tank warfare isn’t more tanks, it’s effective anti-tank weapons, preferably at the foot soldier level.

      Those exist; even Hezbollah has them. The disadvantage is that they’re relatively cheap, compared to tanks, and much more defensive.

    5. Plenue

      Well, Russia could probably triumph over the austerity-racked countries of the EU, with the possible exception of France. But it wouldn’t be able to hold much for long if it had to occupy anything. And it would take a mauling in the process, a mauling that would be prohibitively expensive to repair. The modern Russian military simply isn’t organized in a fashion that is conducive to large scale conquest. It has exactly one fully integrated, combined arms unit suitable for full-scale armored warfrare, the 1st Guards Tank Army, which was reactivated in 2014.

      The nightmare visions of armor pouring through the Fulda Gap were basically always delusional. In 2018 they’re downright laughable.

  4. Kk

    If the economic crisis of 2007 was the modern Depression then we are about due for a really big war.kk

  5. The Rev Kev

    I don’t think that the US can stop at this point. As an example, the one time the people were asked if they wanted to bomb Syria the answer was a definite ‘no’ so the next time they never even bothered asking them. There is far too much money, power and prestige at stake too consider stopping. The officer corps might be an opponent but I think that America has been badly served by them due to how officers are selected & trained and who makes it to the top. The only time they balk is when some idiot in Washington pushes them to fight the Russians or the Chinese. And most people don’t really care in any case so long as the US wins. Out of sight, out of mind as they say.
    America is more likely to get single-payer health than for the US armed forces to pull back as any suggestion of the later brings charges of being ‘unpatriotic’. At least with single-payer health you only get charged with being a ‘socialist’. Know a good place to start? The US Special Operations Command has about 70,000 people in it and they want more. The US would be better served by cutting this force in half and giving their jobs back to regular formations. These are the people that want constant deployments in more and more countries hence cutting them back would be a good idea. I expect things to go along until one day the US armed forces will be sent into a war where they will take casualties not seen since the bad days on ‘Nam. Then there will be the devil to pay and him out to lunch.

  6. Pespi

    It’s harder and harder to sell these military actions to the public. What are we in Korea and Japan for? To contain China? If you ask most people, they’ll probably tell you that China won, or at very least our bosses are in league with their bosses.

    The borg moves without regard to public sentiment, so we have to replace politicians with those who’ll bring it to heel. That’s a death sentence, but I feel like enough people have the guts to try and make it happen.

    1. Sid_finster

      *sigh* someone please trot out that Goering quote again.

      To the extent that public opinion matters, public opinion is easy to arrange.

  7. PlutoniumKun

    One issue I have right now with ‘anti-War’ is that to be ‘anti’ is one thing, but to make serious arguments you have to be able to present arguments about what you are actually ‘for’. For example, if the US were to suddenly withdraw from the eastern Pacific, the effect could be highly destabilising and could actually increase the chance of war. These are questions that need to be answered.

    Just to take one example of I think a positive idea – there is research here which argues that the ‘optimum’ nuclear deterrent is less than 100 warheads. This is of course a difficult argument to put into political play, but its important I think to put the militarists on the back foot in order to make arguments for withdrawal from empire and peace mainstream.

    1. kiwi

      I would bet that most people think that being anti-war encompasses the following:

      -being for peace
      -being for stability
      -being for more social spending instead of military spending
      -being for fewer civilians being killed
      -being for fewer military deaths

      Is that enough to meet your ridiculous threshold for ‘serious arguments?’

      1. tegnost

        you’re being cavalier. PK makes a great point, and your vague and oyerly broad “fors” remind me of many arguments regarding the 2016 election. The democrat side (Brock and CTR et al) couldn’t say
        what they were for outside of abstract bernaysian generalities. If you want to convince people (and I have this difficulty, as do I’m sure most of the readers here, trying to get dems off of the russia russia russia putins bitch train) You really need to focus on slow walking through complicated and dangerous waters, and just shut up sometimes when certain people are just not going to listen, but if you can get that one cogent, not hysterical argument into the minds of the people you want to convince, then you have a chance to stem the tide. Read some of the fantastic commentary regarding brexit from our european commenters as an example of what works in discourse, and how to puts facts on the ground in a way people can relate to.

        1. Lambert Strether

          > You really need to focus on slow walking through complicated and dangerous waters…. Read some of the fantastic commentary regarding brexit from our european commenters as an example of what works in discourse, and how to puts facts on the ground in a way people can relate to.

          That’s a cogent argument. I don’t mean to imply in my comments that “getting out” will be easy. (“You must do it, Catullus, you must do it. You must do it whether it can be done or not.”)

          We might begin by renaming the “Department of Defense” to the “Department of War,” just to be truthful, and then ask ourselves what kind of wars we want to fight. And I think most people would be very willing to cross anything that looked like Iraq off the list, followed (it is to be hoped) with a willingness to rethink self-licking ice cream cones as our industrial policy. In a way, the project would have the same feel as my hobbyhorse, gutting the administrative layers of the universities as not central to mission.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          Thanks tegnost. I don’t mean to suggest that there isn’t a solid electoral reason to have nice vague policies, not least because a campaign against foreign wars would be an excellent way for the left to make common cause with some parts of the right, such as the paleoconservatives and isolationists.

          The problem as I see it with policies ‘against’ something is that you end up a little like Five Star in Italy – having gotten into power on opposing everything bad about Italy, they are now facing a ‘now what’ moment, and are seemingly clueless about what to do. As usual, the right makes the running.

    2. diptherio

      The war-mongers will always find “serious arguments” for why we musn’t end the American empire. Their arguments will be nuanced and filled with details that would take the average citizen months, if not years, to verify and analyze. When the best minds in the American empire can fail to forsee the fall of the Soviet Union or the response to their coup on Chavez, why should we put credence in their “serious” analyses?

      Meanwhile, the case against war is a simple and easily verifiable. “My son is dead.” “My friend came home a broken person.” etc. Telling poor Americans that their family members need to keep dying because allowing them to come home would, maybe, make war more likely in a country they’ve only seen on a map is an argument not likely to find much traction. It is also, in my mind, ethically vapid — an argument that presses for a guaranteed evil as a means of avoiding a possible evil.

      Trying to forsee the outcome of major (or even minor) changes to a system as complex as the American empire is a sucker’s game. Anyone who tells you otherwise is likely a sucker themselves. In situations of such complexity, the only way forward is the ontological one. All teleology is sheer fantasy. We should act, therefore, not on the basis of what we think will happen as a result of our actions, but rather on the basis of what the just thing to do is. You can’t base your actions on ends (as in “the ends justify the means”) because the situation is so complex that there is no way to credibly predict the ends that any action might lead to.

      IMHO, the ethical policy is to bring ’em home. All of ’em. Let them protect our country, as they’ve sworn to do. Let us put them to work rebuilding our infrastructure, assisting those who need it, and making the country better than it is, rather than filling it up with more walking wounded from our endless imperial adventuring.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Plus, at some point China’s going to build a squillion drones and overwhelm an aircraft carrier with sheer numbers. And that will be that. Best get out of the way.

        1. marku52

          Carriers are already an endangered species. Stealth subs (and not expensive ones, either) sink them all the time in war games. And now yo’ve got to figure in ballistic missles and hypersonic cruise model. I think carriers are a death trap in a war against China or Russia.

          Maybe even Iran if they are in the gulf

    3. Ape

      Did the Soviet withdrawal destabilize eastern Europe? I think this is pseudo-strategizing.

      1. VietnamVet

        It did for Russia. There is now an ongoing civil war on its border in Ukraine. NATO went to war with Serbia in the later 1990’s. The breakup of the Atlantic Alliance will splinter Europe. Humans being humans. The strong will try to steal from the weak.

        The question is how to restore the West’s middle class. Without a middle class; revolts, religious and ethnic wars will inevitable break out all over. The unrest right now is due to democracy not being compatible with globalization.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          ^^” The unrest right now is due to democracy not being compatible with globalization.”^^

          rather than trying to retreat into past watchfull peace with Capital, perhaps we need to go the other way…Global New Deal, or something…although since we can’t hardly get democracy to work on even a county scale, without svengalism and corruption, I despair at ever getting good enough at it to implement it worldwide.
          Regardless, one of the stated promises of what we call Neoliberalism was that not only Capital would be free, but humans as well. That didn’t happen, of course, and the memory of that part of the promise has been erased.
          every avenue is closed off, it seems, without a radical evolution of human nature.

          “For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern” — William Blake

  8. Edward

    It was not just Bush who told lies to justify an invasion of Iraq. Members of Congress and the press did as well. Sen. Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee then, would only allow pro-war people to testify to his committee. At the time a lobbyist told me that the leadership of the Democratic party had decided to promote this war. They felt this would remove this issue from the next election, which would then focus on economic issues that would play to their strength.

  9. Carolinian

    Thanks for this. Another reason to break up the MIC is all the money that would be freed up for health care, infrastructure and the country’s many other needs. Perhaps Sanders now realizes that the balance in USG priorities needs to be restored and he is making an economic, and not just humanitarian argument.

    As for Trump, it’s just possible he meant what he said about NATO and all the rest. If one believes his real priorities are his family and business it’s hard to see what he gets out of perpetual war. That’s more Obama and Hillary’s bag.

    Which doesn’t make the above true. But we should at least entertain the possibility that it could be true.

    1. Newton Finn

      As one who could never bring himself to vote for Trump (or for Clinton, for that matter), let me make a counter-intuitive prediction. If Trump allows the MIC to goad him into starting a new war with Iran, he will lose if he decides to run again. If, on the other hand, he starts no new war against Iran or any other country that does not threaten us militarily, then he will be re-elected should he decide to go for another term. The old adage that our country rallies around a war president is no longer operative IMHO. In a nation tired of perpetual war, the commander-in-chief would get at best a short-term surge in public approval by opening up a new battle zone, before slipping precipitously in the polls. Why on earth have the Democrats eagerly embraced the role of the war party, while our country literally crumbles for lack of public investment? Could there be a more effective losing strategy?

      1. tegnost

        Why on earth have the Democrats eagerly embraced the role of the war party, while our country literally crumbles for lack of public investment? Could there be a more effective losing strategy?

        They do it for the money, pretty much everyone in congress is a millionaire, including the ones who were not millionaires when they got elected… hmmmmmm….

      2. cocomaan

        Those are their constituents: beltway bandits, private contractors, public/private partnerships, insurance companies, arms companies, private equity firms, military contractors, and whatever other combinations you want to come up with.

        I remember when Tim Kaine gleefully suggested that we needed an “intelligence surge” to protect the country. I almost gagged. It was a not so subtle message of “prepare for the handouts to the private military contractor industry”.

    2. Lambert Strether

      > Another reason to break up the MIC is all the money that would be freed up for health care, infrastructure and the country’s many other needs

      Since Federal taxes don’t fund Federal spending, the connection between gutting the MIC and more money for health care is not direct.

      However, if you think in terms of real resources, the effect is as you say. (The same reasoning applies to finance, where enormous salaries sucked in the best talent that might otherwise have been put to non-parasitical purposes.)

      1. John k

        Mt is not yet sellable to the public, will take years
        Best story is that foreign wars strip resources from local spending and jobs, which is also what most pols seem to think. Bills should be presented as less for mil and mor for infra.
        Starve mic

  10. juliania

    You don’t have to go back to the last campaign to see anti-war rhetoric as a strategy. Trump is already, in his meeting with Kim, starting the ball rolling. (Moon of has a good recent post on the subject). Sorry Bernie, you are late to the party, too late. Reminds me a bit of 1968. Nixon got in promising to end that war (which he didn’t.) But it is good to see anti-war stuff going mainstream at last. May it bear fruit this time around!

    And yes, Gaius Publius, anti-war statements Trump made during his first campaign DID make a huge difference. They won him the presidency, in my opinion.

    1. Schmoe

      How does positioning 2,000 – 4,000 US troops in Syria fit into your “Trump is a peace-maker” narrative? How about the comment Wednesday that the US will attack Syrian forces if they attack Sunni jihadis (er “moderate rebels”) in SW Syria?
      How about us aiding and abetting a famine in Yemen that could kills tens of thousands?

      Is setting us on a potential course for war with Iran further evidence of your “dovish” Trump?

      1. diptherio

        I think you are attributing a sentiment to juliania that her comment does not actually contain. She doesn’t say Trump is a peace-maker, she says he was far in front of Bernie in using “anti-war rhetoric as a strategy.” The example of Nixon doing the same thing indicates that juliania is well aware that strategic rhetoric and actual decisions are not the same thing.

        I know a fair number of Trump voters, and my read is similar to juliania’s: Trump’s anti-war rhetoric was a big draw for a lot of people, and helped many be able to hold their nose and vote for him. Understanding this and commenting on it does not make one a Trump supporter, obviously, or indicate that one puts any credence in his dovish rhetoric.

        1. Schmoe

          You might be correct and my apologies to juliania if I misread her post. I have heard so much of the “Trump is fighting [the deep state, Wall Street, the neocons]” on other blogs that I am a bit hypersensitive and go off on a rant when I see or perceive that argument. From my perspective, Trump is doing everything in his power to entrench Wall Street, the neocons, etc.

          I was also receptive to the idea that Trump might be less hawkish than HRC (although I did not vote for him) but have now been thoroughly disabused of that notion.

      2. Sid_finster

        Provide a link to the recent statement.

        I believe you, just always looking for more ammunition to demolish “we’re fighting ISIS” arguments.

  11. Susan the other

    The war in Yemen is to secure the Saudi monarchy and our interest in their vast reserves of oil and gas. The war in Syria is to secure our preferred pipeline feeding the EU. Our entrenched position surrounding Iran is no accident – we are an existential threat to Iran and intend to remain that way. If China discovered a giant oil field under its western desert we’d be there too. One rationale for all this control freakery is that we think we can maintain our “capitalist” economy, our silly pretenses about a free market, etc. But Karma is the real truth-teller here: Free markets do not work. So it follows logically that privatization also does not work. And to continue, at some point, forced capitalism fails. Markets fail. Profit seeking could be the thing that brings it all down. It’s a strangely comforting thought… because it leaves us with a clear vision of what not to do anymore. Unfortunately, people are not angels. If we attempt to invoke the ghost of John Foster Dulles and not engage in little wars but just sell arms to every tin pot dictator it will be worse chaos than it is now. And worse still, chaos in a time of environmental devastation. The only good option is the Mr. Scrooge option. Instead of arms and WMD and fascist control for the sake of preventing uprisings, we should skip the fascist control part and directly mainline the resources to make civilization thrive. Since that’s definitely not capitalism, we’ll have to think up a new ism.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > sell arms to every tin pot dictator

      Yes, let’s devote enormous real resources to fabricating bespoke military aircraft that catch fire on the runway. Meanwhile, we don’t have any machine shops anymore….

  12. Summer

    Yes, there is more anti-war sentiment.
    And will they or won’t they (Congress) continue to legislate away their ability to authorize war/use of force?

    I say they continue to absolve themselves of the responsibility. Bounding their own hads behind their backs, smirking at the concept of peace.

    And it puts people more in taxation without representation territory.

  13. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I have the feeling that Sanders here is reacting to all the ex-CIA (but not 100% ex) candidates taking over the D Party.

    Will the road to the White House in 2020 be journeyed through another vehicle?

    1. Lambert Strether

      > I have the feeling that Sanders here is reacting to all the ex-CIA (but not 100% ex) candidates taking over the D Party.

      That is an excellent point. (I don’t think it’s just CIA, though; it’s CIA and military personnel generally.* That’s why I voted against ranked Jared Golden low, because Golden (like Seth Moulton in MA) fits that template, which is vile.

      UPDATE * “Professional authoritarians,” we might call them. That would fit all this neatly into Thomas Frank’s framework.

      1. flora

        People ask if capitalism and democracy are compatible, and I think they are, at least I don’t see any inherent reason why they would not be compatible.

        Another question: Are militarism* and democracy compatible? I’m not so sure they are.


        1. Sid_finster

          Ancient Athens was on some level democratic, and the populist party typically favored war and expansion. E.g.Pericles and the peloponesian war come to mind. By contrast, the aristocratic parties were generally less in favor of military adventurism.

          However,a constitutional republic is not compatible with empire.

          Therein lies the problem.

          1. Schmoe

            The link between populism and war featured prominently in “Electing to fight. Why emerging democracies go to war” This is a fairly obscure book (one review in Amazon), but – by a wide margin – the best book I have ever read about politics or political science. The last 100 pages are cliff notes versions of the politics underlying the start of many wars; the first 150 pages are a really dense read.

        2. Alejandro

          A lot depends on how you define “democracy”, “will of the people” etc.. What the role of “finance” in a context of “capitalism” and “democracy” should be, e.g., citizens united(note orwellian language) may be considered a ” reason why they would not be compatible” and even antithetical. Noting that “militarism” depends on public funding, where should the power to influence this funding be? Neo-cons, dominated by militarists, and neo-liberals, dominated by de-regulated banksters, may not be the same but certainly seem like symbionts in the context of 326MM people.

  14. Bernard

    America itself is the most destabilizing force on the planet. i would love to see what America leaving the world to its’ own devices would look like. Like Weimar/Nazi Germany, nothing good comes from these kind of “American Values.”

    the Ugly American is what American Values signify, and mostly always have. America is the most destabilizing force i ever read of or heard of. Americans have just taken the Nazi theme of One People, One Land and One Leader on a Global scope. and it ain’t good. Either do as America tells you, or we will bring American Democracy to your country.

    Maybe there’s hope, as Caitlyn Johnstone implies in her last essay, i sure doubt it, though, as long as America/the Empire continues to destabilize not just the Pacific but everywhere else in the world. Why does anything think the South/Central Americans come to America. The American Empire has screwed up the Western Hemisphere so badly, these “refugees hope to escape from the American made Plantations the Western Hemisphere has been carved into. These immigrants are just part of the blowback from the American Way.

    also makes me wonder if the Europeans don’t understand why there are refugees coming through Greece and via boats, primarily to Italy. dont they see it’s America’s Wars in MENA that are causing this “invasion.” gosh, what a black and white cause and effect. Germany needs workers due to the low birth rate. so, open the doors to the chaos America has made in the Middle East, and voila, cheap labor and departure from an America made hell in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, Algeria, the whole “New American Century” Project the Neocons have us in and paying for.

    Doesn’t the average European see how American and Apartheid Israeli support for forces like the Taliban, Al Queda, Wahabbism, and the ongoing media censored Yemeni/Palestinian Holocaust, wars of profit, i.e. created the refugess that are streaming into Europe. Maybe the Europeans are also stymied by the Rich who keep the wars going and the Media who profit off the death of the “deplorables” who no longer “matter.”

    i know in America most Americans are ignorant due to total control of the Media and the “narrative” that controls what can be said. Americans have no shame when it comes to getting what they want, politically. no enough blowback. no sense of connection between here and there or anywhere outside the Media Narrative.

    as a bumper sticker from long ago said, “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” The Empire will not give up until it can’t go on.

    1. Ape

      No most people with influence don’t see how the system that gives them influence also is sending waves of refugees.

    2. Bruce Walker

      Every American should have to read your post twice a day, until maybe they get it. The best post I have read in ages, Thumbs Up Bernard.

  15. Lambert Strether

    > (Click to see just how popular Medicare for All, called “Medicare Buy-In” at the link, is across party lines.)

    Picking a nit and off-topic, but #MedicareForAll and Medicare Buy-In are not at all the same. “Buy-In,” by definition, retains a markets-first focus, and also maintains the vast congeries of Rube Goldberg devices and neoliberal chokepoints for determining eligibility, the level of subsidy, etc., etc. By contrast:

    Sanders plan does not subject consumers to any out-of-pocket spending on health aside from prescriptions drugs. This means there would be no charge when you go to the doctor, no copayments when you visit the emergency room. All those services would be covered fully by the universal Medicare plan.

    Creating brand confusion between Medicare, Medicare for All, Medicare Extra, Medicare buy-in, etc., has been and is a key strategy employed by liberal Democrats to stave off the dreaded “single payer.” I’m disapppointed that KHN would, er, buy into this.

    1. grayslady

      Thanks for calling attention to this. I noticed the same thing immediately, and I gave the remainder of the article less credence because of it. A true leftie knows the difference between Improved Medicare for All and a Medicare buy-in program.

      1. Gaius Publius

        Nevertheless, approval of “Medicare buy-in” (M4A wasn’t on the list of choices) could well be a good proxy for approval of “Medicare for All.” Just saying.


  16. kiwi

    To me, making the argument that one must be ‘for’ something is simply a way to dismiss whatever the ‘anti’ side represents, whether or not PK meant to be dismissive.

    And it reminds me of the efforts to impede and dismiss the anti-war or occupy-type movement outright – “what, you people don’t have any policies (and nothing for us to analyze to death and criticize??) !!!! How dare you speak up about something!!! Go away until you go to Harvard and produce a few papers. Until then, your silly notions mean nothing to us!!” and the underlying elitism of the concept.

    So, that is what I am reminded of, again, whether or not PK meant it that way.

    1. tegnost

      you spoke up with a thought provoking comment, you want to make the next occupy movement succeed. Make a good argument is all.

  17. Oregoncharles

    (Before reading the comments) “If Americans Could Vote Against the Forever War, Would They Do It?”

    Sadly, I think the answer is no, mainly because Americans do not vote based on foreign policy unless it “comes home,” eg in the form of body bags – a lot of them. The “wasted money” argument, which brings it home, might be the most effective; that’s a pitfall of MMT. Of course, as a practical matter there’s a POLITICAL choice between guns and butter, whether or not the economics is valid.

    In those remarks, Sanders is filling in the gaping hole in his resume. It may be an indication that he plans to run in 2020.

    Finally: I question whether the 2016 nomination was actually “stolen.” Certainly there was a good deal of cheating by the party, but I’m not convinced it was decisive (there’s no way to be sure). The actual votes ran about 47% for Sanders, and that’s including Oregon and California. I think that reflects the actual nature of the Democratic Party.

    The reason is that its membership has been falling, if not plummeting, at the same time that its policies have become more and more right-wing. Affiliation, which is a poll result, is down near 30%; I suspect registrations have fallen, too, but I haven’t seen numbers. Given the variations in state law, registrations aren’t very indicative. All that means that the remaining party members are a remnant that has been selected for conservatism. The primary vote reflects that. (This doesn’t change the argument that the Dems knowingly chose their weaker candidate; it just means that the voters did, too.)

  18. precariat

    Observations : Trump, scandals, security state

    The military is A-ok with Trump and this is what seems to matter.
    The roar of hysteria from the media over Trump first 2-3 months in office died down considerably when he showed a willingness to engage in a show of force by striking Syria (remember when he was so concerned about the welfare of children?)

    Only a *faction” of the security establishment is anti-Trump because he is skeptical of *neoliberal* globalism. However this faction is doing a great job of re-enacting the framework used to deny/disrupt/disable during the Clinton administration: scandals and selective corruption investigations. This serves a purpose: to martyr the Prez with the constituents who *should* be holding the Prez accountable on lack of follow through and betrayal of promises made on the camapign trail. Trump voters can’t make him hold himaccountable; they are too busy feeling he has been victimized — and many Trump voters are victims, so the identification is real.

    Meanwhile, the Prez who can’t seem to enact *anything* to make lives better for the eople who put him in office, is magically able to enact the agenda of the 1%.

    This repeat of the 1% ‘s manipulations is one I can do without.

  19. precariat

    Sorry for the typos, jumping cursor! It occurs to me that what I have described is a recipe for info-ops or how to hijack a ‘democracy.’

  20. Jeremy Grimm

    Regarding the question posed by this post I think there is very little evidence of an anti-war “fever” and even if there were, and if it were projected into the streets and/or ballot box, I am pessimistic that it could have any effect on the U.S. government of today. I don’t think the U.S. government cares what the American people think or feel about anything — except of course as those cares and feelings affect the mechanisms of control through the propaganda pushed through our media, the levels of surveillance and suppression, and the increased viciousness of our “laws” and their enforcement.

    I believe the U.S. government is run by several powerful and competing interests. So I think I’ll ask a different question — though in the same vein as that posed by the title of this post. Are those interests who compete with the interests of the MIC and Spook Industrial Complex (SIC) beginning to see the futility and stupidity of our endless wars? Are those interests growing anxious at enriching their share of the pie by shoving aside the budget gluttons feasting on war? Are any of those interests whose long-term, and often short-term interests are damaged by endless wars and their ongoing deconstruction of American Empire finally growing weary of how those wars undermine the American Empire? War may be a racket but the burning of bridges and collapse of Empire isn’t a racket I would hope even the most clueless of our masters will continue to tolerate. Have the MIC and SIC assumed power?

  21. WorkerPleb

    “Peaceniks are Kremlin stooges!”

    It’s depressing when you can predict the media’s response six months in advance.

    1. Massinissa

      The media already said that 40 years ago about the Hippies. Some things don’t really change.

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