The Tragic U.S. Choice to Prioritize War Over Peacemaking

Yves here. Medea Benjamin and Nicholas Davies explain how American ignorance and jingoism, even at supposedly elite levels, allow neocons to continue to foment war, despite their record of failure.

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies, the authors of War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, published by OR Books in November 2022. Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and the author of several books, including< Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq

President Xi of China at the head of the table at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Photo credit: DNA India

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. – Matthew 5:9

In a brilliant Op-Ed published in the New York Times, the Quincy Institute’s Trita Parsi explained how China, with help from Iraq, was able to mediate and resolve the deeply-rooted conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, whereas the United States was in no position to do so after siding with the Saudi kingdom against Iran for decades.

The title of Parsi’s article, “The U.S. Is Not an Indispensable Peacemaker,” refers to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s use of the term “indispensable nation” to describe the U.S. role in the post-Cold War world. The irony in Parsi’s use of Albright’s term is that she generally used it to refer to U.S. war-making, not peacemaking.

In 1998, Albright toured the Middle East and then the United States to rally support for President Clinton’s threat to bomb Iraq. After failing to win support in the Middle East, she was confronted by heckling and critical questions during a televised event at Ohio State University, and she appeared on the Today Show the next morning to respond to public opposition in a more controlled setting.

Albright claimed, “..if we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see here the danger to all of us. I know that the American men and women in uniform are always prepared to sacrifice for freedom, democracy and the American way of life.”

Albright’s readiness to take the sacrifices of American troops for granted had already got her into trouble when she famously asked General Colin Powell, “What’s the use of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Powell wrote in his memoirs, “I thought I would have an aneurysm.”

But Powell himself later caved to the neocons, or the “fucking crazies” as he called them in private, and dutifully read the lies they made up to try to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq to the UN Security Council in February 2003.

For the past 25 years, administrations of both parties have caved to the “crazies” at every turn. Albright and the neocons’ exceptionalist rhetoric, now standard fare across the U.S. political spectrum, leads the United States into conflicts all over the world, in an unequivocal, Manichean way that defines the side it supports as the side of good and the other side as evil, foreclosing any chance that the United States can later play the role of an impartial or credible mediator.

Today, this is true in the war in Yemen, where the U.S. chose to join a Saudi-led alliance that committed systematic war crimes, instead of remaining neutral and preserving its credibility as a potential mediator. It also applies, most notoriously, to the U.S. blank check for endless Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, which doom its mediation efforts to failure.

For China, however, it is precisely its policy of neutrality that has enabled it to mediate a peace agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the same applies to the African Union’s successful peace negotiations in Ethiopia, and to Turkey’s promising mediation between Russia and Ukraine, which might have ended the slaughter in Ukraine in its first two months but for American and British determination to keep trying to pressure and weaken Russia.

But neutrality has become anathema to U.S. policymakers. George W. Bush’s threat, “You are either with us or against us,” has become an established, if unspoken, core assumption of 21st century U.S. foreign policy.

The response of the American public to the cognitive dissonance between our wrong assumptions about the world and the real world they keep colliding with has been to turn inward and embrace an ethos of individualism. This can range from New Age spiritual disengagement to a chauvinistic America First attitude. Whatever form it takes for each of us, it allows us to persuade ourselves that the distant rumble of bombs, albeit mostly American ones, is not our problem.

The U.S. corporate media has validated and increased our ignorance by drastically reducing foreign news coverage and turning TV news into a profit-driven echo chamber peopled by pundits in studios who seem to know even less about the world than the rest of us.

Most U.S. politicians now rise through the legal bribery system from local to state to national politics, and arrive in Washington knowing next to nothing about foreign policy. This leaves them as vulnerable as the public to neocon cliches like the ten or twelve packed into Albright’s vague justification for bombing Iraq: freedom, democracy, the American way of life, stand tall, the danger to all of us, we are America, indispensable nation, sacrifice, American men and women in uniform, and “we have to use force.”

Faced with such a solid wall of nationalistic drivel, Republicans and Democrats alike have left foreign policy firmly in the experienced but deadly hands of the neocons, who have brought the world only chaos and violence for 25 years.

All but the most principled progressive or libertarian members of Congress go along to get along with policies so at odds with the real world that they risk destroying it, whether by ever-escalating warfare or by suicidal inaction on the climate crisis and other real-world problems that we must cooperate with other countries to solve if we are to survive.

It is no wonder that Americans think the world’s problems are insoluble and that peace is unattainable, because our country has so totally abused its unipolar moment of global dominance to persuade us that that is the case. But these policies are choices, and there are alternatives, as China and other countries are dramatically demonstrating. President Lula da Silva of Brazil is proposing to form a “peace club” of peacemaking nations to mediate an end to the war in Ukraine, and this offers new hope for peace.

During his election campaign and his first year in office, President Biden repeatedly promised to usher in a new era of American diplomacy, after decades of war and record military spending. Zach Vertin, now a senior adviser to UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, wrote in 2020 that Biden’s effort to “rebuild a decimated State Department” should include setting up a “mediation support unit… staffed by experts whose sole mandate is to ensure our diplomats have the tools they need to succeed in waging peace.”

Biden’s meager response to this call from Vertin and others was finally unveiled in March 2022, after he dismissed Russia’s diplomatic initiatives and Russia invaded Ukraine. The State Department’s new Negotiations Support Unit consists of three junior staffers quartered within the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. This is the extent of Biden’s token commitment to peacemaking, as the barn door swings in the wind and the four horsemen of the apocalypse – War, Famine, Conquest and Death – run wild across the Earth.

As Zach Vertin wrote, “It is often assumed that mediation and negotiation are skills readily available to anyone engaged in politics or diplomacy, especially veteran diplomats and senior government appointees. But that is not the case: Professional mediation is a specialized, often highly technical, tradecraft in its own right.”

The mass destruction of war is also specialized and technical, and the United States now invests close to a trillion dollars per year in it. The appointment of three junior State Department staffers to try to make peace in a world threatened and intimidated by their own country’s trillion dollar war machine only reaffirms that peace is not a priority for the U.S. government.

By contrast, the European Union created its Mediation Support Team in 2009 and now has 20 team members working with other teams from individual EU countries. The UN’s Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs has a staff of 4,500, spread all across the world.

The tragedy of American diplomacy today is that it is diplomacy for war, not for peace. The State Department’s top priorities are not to make peace, nor even to actually win wars, which the United States has failed to do since 1945, apart from the reconquest of small neocolonial outposts in Grenada, Panama and Kuwait. Its actual priorities are to bully other countries to join U.S.-led war coalitions and buy U.S. weapons, to mute calls for peace in international fora, to enforce illegal and deadly coercive sanctions, and to manipulate other countries into sacrificing their people in U.S. proxy wars.

The result is to keep spreading violence and chaos across the world. If we want to stop our rulers from marching us toward nuclear war, climate catastrophe and mass extinction, we had better take off our blinders and start insisting on policies that reflect our best instincts and our common interests, instead of the interests of the warmongers and merchants of death who profit from war.

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  1. Stephen

    A good article.

    I am less clear though that large dedicated teams of “peacemakers” are the full answer. They sound good, no doubt justify budgets and appeal to technocratic mindsets I guess. Bit like a Risk Function in a bank where executives prioritise short term bonus and the Board lacks teeth. The Risk Function might write nice reports but ultimately it will not be able to address the fundamental decisions and may even get “captured” to write biased appreciations.

    What is really needed is a less warlike attitude be embedded into everyday diplomacy. The UN may have 4,500 people in a peace building team (the size of these bodies always fascinates me) but China has brokered the peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran with what seems like very little UN involvement. Similarly, the UN seems not to be driving peace so forcefully in Ukraine and nor did it in Donbass post 2014.

    The orientation of leaders seem to be the most decisive factor. Which the article does recognise. Until we all wake up across the west and push for different leaders then it is hard to see how things will change. Getting to that feels super tricky. Answers here are not easy.

    1. FreeMarketApologist

      …a less warlike attitude be embedded into everyday diplomacy.

      How about a less warlike attitude embedded into everyday life? So much of the advertising, conversation, and attitude we are exposed to all the time is based on competetion, aggression, and domination. Perhaps if the focus were on collaboration, compatability, and acknowledgement we’d have a more successful society, and, by extension, foreign policy.

      1. .human

        Yes. The “fighting for” meme needs to be “killed with fire” as this well-worn phrase is used here to describe processes that mute it in deference to the peace policies you note above.

    2. jsn

      “We” haven’t chosen “leaders” at least since the Powel Memo was operationalized by the Reagan Administration (with former CIA Directors as the VP and running the campaign).

      Success of Powel’s plan has left the erstwhile electorate isolated, disenfranchised and deluded. “Democracy” is the circus provided in lieu of bread to tighten the whip hand of hunger. Oligarchies innovation since the Roman prototype is freeing the slaves: slaves cost them for sustenance, free “homo economicus” have to fend for themselves.

      Change of leadership now appears to be contingent on total system failure at some level. The GFC proved this: so long as the system can be propped back up, “leaders” created by and for it will continue to prop it up.

    3. Carla

      “What is really needed is a less warlike attitude be embedded into everyday diplomacy.”

      Maybe a lot fewer lethal weapons on the streets of USA! USA! would help…

  2. Paul. Whittaker

    As in most things which seem complicated…..follow the money. The war machine is making billionaires while peace making gets cents. The whole stinking mess smells like a carcass left in the hot sun for way too long.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      While certainly a big factor, I don’t think the sale of arms is the only motivation for our beloved Billionaires. They also see lots of natural resources out there that they’d like to get their hands on. It got to be so obvious when it came to oil, that Trump even said it out loud with respect to the U.S.-occupied portion of Syria that’s now getting so hot.

      That also lies behind what is meant these days by “autocrat.” Whenever one of the billionaires sees something he wants, if it turns out that the leadership of the country where the thing resides does not immediately bow to the billionaire’s wish, then that leader is an “autocrat.” It’s not about oppression of the people that earns the title “autocrat,” it’s oppression of the billionaires that is the concern.

      1. Susan the other

        All that and more. Currently USAID is doing an end run around both autocrats and the Chinese in Africa by persuading governments to change land inheritance laws to now allow women to inherit and to own land. Well gee. Toe in the door for long range financial windfall. All the breathless little reporters on NPR were drama majors, telling us brain dead listeners what a wonderful thing this new law will be because then women can run the family business, etc. But I really do not think there is a single soul in Africa, man or woman, who can’t see the ploy here. Let all those hard working African women take out mortgages from the IMF, work themselves to a thankless frazzle just to service that debt, and ultimately lose the family farm to foreclosure. Just my guess.

  3. The Rev Kev

    If you are going to be fair, the EU is also prioritizing war over peace as well with lots of bellicose statements by their top leaders. The worse thing for the US and the EU is that they make it personal. So they both insult Putin personally and come up with a bogus arrest warrant while Biden goes out of his way to personally insult Xi in his State of the Union speech which is suppose to be pretty bad in Chinese culture. The net effect is that because of this warmongering attitude, that they have severely boxed themselves into a very tight corner and have very few ways to step back without experiencing a severe loss in credibility which both are loath to do. Another side effect of this warlike attitude is that the 85% of countries that are not part of this war see that these western countries have gone crazy and want no part of this war nor take part in any of the sanctions that the west demands that they make on Russia. To take it further, most countries are tired of the US & the EU running around and blowing up some countries while setting fire to others which has resulted in all these peace moves that we see between the Saudis and the Iranians, the Syrians and the other Arabs States, the Turks and the Syrians, etc.

  4. Rolf

    If we want to stop our rulers from marching us toward nuclear war, climate catastrophe and mass extinction, we had better take off our blinders and start insisting on policies that reflect our best instincts and our common interests, instead of the interests of the warmongers and merchants of death who profit from war.

    Super post. Yves. Thanks wholeheartedly for including it here.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      It was a good article, but I had trouble with this:

      All but the most principled progressive or libertarian members of Congress go along to get along with policies so at odds with the real world that they risk destroying it…

      I was trying very hard to think of one principled “progressive” member of Congress who had voted against this war-prolonging aid to Ukraine. Bernie? Nope. AOC? Nope. Omar? Nope. Who was it on the Democratic side of this who voted against it? And that quickly withdrawn letter was a joke. Maybe McGovern and Hatfield should have sent Nixon a sternly worded letter.

  5. KD

    Its more bizarre than this really. America reaches Unipolar moment after the collapse of the USSR. Foreign Policy Establishment embraces “American Exceptionalism” and seeks total domination of the Globe to be accomplished in the last instance by the projection of force (which gets projected to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.) as well as regime change color revolutions. In contrast, Hitler’s ambitions for Germany were basically Europe and the Mackinder Heartland. . . maybe a lack of imagination on his part, but American Exceptionalism exceeds the historic scope of most of the ultra-nationalists and imperialists of history past.

    At the same time that you have this militarized and ultranationalist foreign policy, if we understand mobilization is the capacity of a nation to command men and resources to fight a total war (as America did in WWII), you have a national campaign to de-mobilize the American industrial base and mobilize the Chinese industrial capacity. In addition, you have anti-natalist and anti-patriotic campaigns disseminated through public schools and the mainstream media to demoralize youth, discourage family formation, and denigrate the historic U.S. nation. . . and they wonder why there is a recruiting crisis?

    Please note: I am not offering a value judgment above, but you create a problem if on one hand you are pushing ultranationlist imperialism on the international order and domestically pushes an anti-nationalist collective demobilization campaign. Its a sure combination to insure you get hoisted by your own petard. On top of this strategic vision, you manage to alienate the other two great powers in the world and push them into a de facto alliance against you. Has history recorded a greater example of folly?

    Further, there is no clear means how the current power structure can reverse any of it, as the driver is at the end of the day short-term profit, and while the above represents collective suicide, return on equity will increase the closer you get to the edge of the cliff, and then its too late.

    1. Samuel Conner

      > At the same time that you have this militarized and ultranationalist foreign policy, if we understand mobilization is the capacity of a nation to command men and resources to fight a total war (as America did in WWII), you have a national campaign to de-mobilize the American industrial base

      this might be a case of two bad ideas partially impairing each other. If US were still the world’s factory, as it was in the early post-war period, …

      1. marku52

        David Aurelian points out that everyone in DC hates everyone else, and all seats of power act against others, it seems possible to have such an incoherent (and counter productive) set of policies as we have.

        Re homing industries, and paying the wages those jobs would require would be bad for profits. Our oligarchs hate that. In the mean time, starting senseless wars all over the globe are good for the MIC and the campaign contributions thereof.

        So these two policies can happily coexist.
        Until they can’t.

    2. JBird4049

      >>>In addition, you have anti-natalist and anti-patriotic campaigns disseminated through public schools and the mainstream media to demoralize youth, discourage family formation, and denigrate the historic U.S. nation. . . and they wonder why there is a recruiting crisis?

      Aside from directly increasing profits, deindustrialization was done to destroy the unions, and by extension, the various social organizations and communities that were a hindrance to further increasing power and wealth extraction of the elites from everyone else.

  6. Verifyfirst

    The newly elected U.S. representative’s knowing nothing about foreign affairs reflects their constituents. I recall being shocked during the iraq war–not once did anyone bring it up to me (in the U.S.)– at work, socially, in the grocery store–nowhere. What percent of Americans could find Ukraine on a map? Well under half if the map were labeled, 2% if it were not labeled?

    1. Susan the other

      I have often felt that our role as “citizens” is not to question anything, but only to buy and consume. We are the prize hog, raised to eat everything but the electric fence. And we are in fact very valuable to our dear nation because without us, manufacturing and precious productivity in other nations would fall flat. Our overconsumption is a top bargaining inducement. Our country sells our capacity to eat the planet to other countries in trade deals that are very beneficial to our finance industry. A virtuous circle. I’d love to see an analysis of just how valuable all of us consumers are to the bottom line of every country. And for us consumption is a bribe. A self licking ice cream cone, as Lambert might say. So the fact that nobody pays any attention to our inept State Department just goes according to plan. Military spending is the big one but without the clout of the American Consumer the whole thing implodes.

      1. KLG

        I wish I remember where I first read this:

        “Consumer” is Neoliberal for “citizen.”

      2. some guy

        How many American Consumers would have to turn themselves into American Conservers to implode the whole thing on purpose, and with malice aforethought towards those who deserve that malice?

        1. some guy

          Here is a comparative map of passenger rail routes in America as against Europe. You can’t take a train where no trains go.

          There are parts of America which are as densely populated as most of Europe. Could those parts function as a semi-separate “country” to develop a Euro-level of train travel in their own dense population area? That would be an “investing in peace” kind of thing to do.

          (Separately, in these times of the Covid Permademic, made that way on purpose by malicious governing and anti-health authorities, many people would be afraid to ride in sealed anti-ventilated Typhoid Mary Covid Coffins on rails. That problem would have to be solved within the high population areas which hope to revive train travel, if any do. And it would have to be resolved against the bitter opposition of the Business Community and its National Government).

  7. Aurelien

    No longer posting as David, to reduce confusion and make the job of the moderators easier.
    It’s more complicated than that, and frankly, calling a team “mediators” is beside the point. Most diplomats (and a lot of non-diplomats, for that matter) have the skills to propose solutions and help others find consensus. It’s a basic skill for working within governments, let alone between them. Mediation itself is a different skill from developing solutions to problems and finding peaceful solutions, and it’s a different skill from trying to coerce or persuade.

    It all depends on what the government concerned wants to do, and how it sees its relations with a country or area. The US suffers from two abiding problems. First, its government machine is so huge, that it feels equipped to go charging into any situation in the world, proposing solutions and offering incentives. But often it lacks people with language skills, local knowledge and cultural awareness, and even with the best of intentions it frequently makes things worse. It also tends to support people it can understand, who speak English, and who respond sympathetically. But these may not be the right people. Second, in theory, a foreign policy is the expression of a whole of government consensus: you don’t have one part of government favouring conflict and another favouring “mediation.” The problem in Washington is precisely that it’s very hard to get a consensus of any sort, and lots of different agencies have what amounts to their own foreign policy: foreigners are continually surprised by how little influence the State Department has. In Bosnia under several Presidents, for example, the State Department had a policy, the Pentagon had a policy, the CIA had a policy etc. On that occasion the State Department was all gung-ho, but the military didn’t want to get involved.

    The article misunderstands how government works. The State Department’s policies are the government’s policies as they affect foreign affairs, and they vary with the strength of various lobbies in Washington. The tragedy is that there are lots of very competent career people in the US government, but they are prisoners of an incoherent and confused system. There are plenty of cases (Lebanon for example) where the US has quietly been playing a useful role. But in that case, it’s also been playing a noisily unhelpful role, because of its anti-Iran and thus anti-Hezbollah vendetta. I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that there isn’t a US “policy” on most issues, rather a Venn diagram where the boundaries of warring agencies overlap.

    1. Cristobal

      I have had limited experience in negotiating with bureaucracies – big corporations or governments, but I have learned one thing: negotiate with the person who can say yes. Usually, in a conflict there is a key issue, the nub of the negotiation. It is a waste of time nibbling around the edges when the other party has absolutely no intention to agree to the critical, indispensable point. Negotiations are complicated, sure, but better start at the top to see if you might have a deal and then work out the details. This is why the idea that the UN has thousands of ¨negotiators¨ roaming the world on expense accounts and attending meetings where nothing is decided is not very comforting. Maybe this is why the Chinese have been able to accomplish more with less.

      1. Aurelien

        Again, this is something I’m not sure the authors understand. The 4500 figure seems to refer to everybody in the HQ in New York, and everybody non-military who’s on mission somewhere in the world, including security staff and people in charge of finance. I suspect it also includes a fair number of people recruited locally (drivers, interpreters etc.) Few of these people engage in negotiations, still less in “mediation.” Those that do will be part of a team under a Special Representative of the Secretary General, of whom there are about twenty at the moment, by no means all concerned with negotiations.

  8. Carolinian

    I think Michael Hudson has the best explanation for DC. We have been corrupted by our wealth and success just as ancient Rome was. Motives become distorted and have little to do with rationality. When you are at the top you spend all your time worrying about who is going to knock you off of your perch.

    A new Alastair Crooke strikes me as on the mark (will try to find a link).

    Woke defies nomenclature by treating politics as a matter of personal moral hygiene: It isn’t something you ‘do’; it is what you ‘are’. You think ‘right thoughts’ and utter ‘right speak’. Persuasion and compromise reflect moral weakness in this vision. Yes, it is cultural revolution.

    But over time, the project kept on bumping up against the U.S. system’s gross contradictions, and its underlying endemic corruption and élite entitlement. Everywhere, it seemed, schisms were only deepening. ‘Old think’ was pushing back, but also since woke politics overwhelmingly is concerned with linguistics and the emotional, its’ practitioners were, and are, not very adept at doing real politics.

    This essentially is what sets the Russian and Chinese approach apart. The latter do the real politics of compromise (which is so abhorrent to a ‘moral hygiene’ perspective that is more intent on inhabiting an elevated moral station).

    In other words our politics consist of hegemony defending itself rather than the practical matter of results. We have cast aside the WASP values that, however flawed, were the glue holding the society together and replaced with a new doctrine that only individual rights matter. In the above article Albright says, in effect, isn’t it great that all those lower class deplorables are willing to go fight for my hegemonic goals. But what if they go on strike? Pentagon recruiting is down and they may soon hope that their whiz bang AI weapons work because otherwise they will have nobody to fight other than proxies as in Ukraine.

    As Hudson says the country is in a morass of bad thinking and the lies are all about keeping the teetering house of cards upright. Many of us simply hope this can end with a whimper rather than a bang.

  9. spud

    the article was close, but not enough emphasis on the real causes of this, yes its feverish fanatics and nutcases behind this, but what drives them?

    every country, small, medium, and large size goes through periods of war like behavior, there is nothing unique about america, that is till feverish fanatics get a hold of our government.

    first one was andrew jackson and his fanaticism with free trade.

    woodrew wilsons assault on the world with his free trade fanaticism.

    then of course the real destruction came in 1993, not bush, he was the second one, this one set the stage for what we have today.

    Syria Emerging Victorious

The anti-imperialist camp: splintered in thought

By Thierry Meyssan

    regime change polices were set up by bill clinton: This was a unit established by President Bill Clinton, then continued by Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz. Mike Pompeo, the current director of the CIA, has confirmed that this unit exists.

    When Iraq Was Clinton’s War
    Chip Gibbons
    Bill Clinton’s “quiet war” on Iraq set the stage for George W. Bush’s bloody invasion.

    “And our understanding of the Clinton years is the worse for it. Omitting the decade leading up to the 2003 invasion distorts the roots of the war, which wasn’t just a product of post–9/11 hysteria or the creation of various Bush administration personalities.”

    “Five years later, Clinton signed the “Iraq Liberation Act” into law, formalizing the US’s demand for regime change. The legislation, which also appropriated $97 million to fund Iraqi opposition groups, was followed up with yet more military action: Operation Desert Fox.”

    bill clinton scraped 2 deals with iran, outlawed all trade with iran, and set up todays iranian debacles: President Bill Clinton swiftly scrapped the deal by issuing two executive orders that outlawed all trade with Iran. Clinton announced the decision on April 30, 1995, in a speech before the World Jewish Congress in what at the time was described as “a major demonstration of support for Israel


    “Extraordinary rendition” is when shady government operatives stuff a bag over your head and fly you off to some foreign country where they can legally torture you. It sounds like something Alex Jones might dream up in a paranoid frenzy, but it’s a well-documented phenomenon under both Bush, Jr. and Obama—and Bill Clinton was the guy who started it all.

    Clinton and Gore signed off on the first rendition back in the ’90s, despite being aware that it breached international law. Until recently, rendered people frequently wound up in the prison cells of places like Mubarak’s Egypt or Gaddafi’s Libya, where they were tortured with electric shocks, rape, beatings, and even crucifixion. It can sometimes go hideously wrong: In 2003, the CIA snatched a terrorist off the streets and beat, tortured, and sodomized him, only to discover they’d accidentally grabbed the wrong man. The victim just happened to share a name with a wanted criminal. His suffering came care of the Clinton/Gore dream team.”

    of course this is just a sample of the death and destruction started in 1993 till today. and if anyone ignores the root causes, that is free trade, whats mine is mine, whats yours is mine. then they missed world war II.

  10. Cristobal

    Very good article. I have puzzled for years as to why the US, and not just the crazies in the basement, is so warlike. Of course there is the Fronteir Thesis and the veneration of the 6-shooter as the solution to all problems, and the idea that we are God´s chozen people (just like every other band of fanatics). I am slowly coming to the conclusion that it is also because the US is so young. It is one of the youngest nations in the world with one of the oldest governments. The US is a cocky young dude that has never been beat. Our national psyche has never had to absorb the shame and humiliation of a real conslusive defeat like almost all other countries have at one time or another (the Great Depression almost did it). The combination of all this is that force – violence – is the only thing that the US understands. This is bad news. Somebody is going to streach Uncle Sam out on the canvas before he comes to his senses.

    The post also makes a point that the US position in its foreign policy affects the people who live there. A wonderful paragraph from the post:

    The response of the American public to the cognitive dissonance between our wrong assumptions about the world and the real world they keep colliding with has been to turn inward and embrace an ethos of individualism. This can range from New Age spiritual disengagement to a chauvinistic America First attitude. Whatever form it takes for each of us, it allows us to persuade ourselves that the distant rumble of bombs, albeit mostly American ones, is not our problem.

    This cognative dissonence is expressed not just through New Age, Hippy dippy kumbaya stuff, but through blind violence – school shootings, shopping mall shoot-em-ups and so forth. Corruption public and private. I read a while back that the Chinese had been very interested in what happened to the old Soviet Union that caused it to collapse (since they didn´t want it to happen to them). They came to the conclusion that the real reason was that the mass of the people had just lost faith in the project.

    1. KD

      I would not rule out the effect of being the sole superpower for thirty years as far as giving people a false conviction of omnipotence, as well as permitting ideology to supplant realism as you really have no serious security threats (so strategy doesn’t matter because you have no real skin in the game), except some rag-tag terrorists who are probably better addressed through law enforcement. This coming off WWII leaving US the dominant world power as well, kind of whiskey with beer chasers for the soul.

      So you have to gin up some elective wars to feed the MIC, and you get this impression that you are a four year old boy playing with ants again, and the power goes to your head, and then you have a temper tantrum when someone tries to tell you to stop burning ants with your magnifier (or carpet bombing weddings or stealing Syrian gas or whatever).

  11. Daniel Raphael

    Consciousness–and its societal bearers, the various mouthpieces & commentators that constitute its human activity–does not usher from nowheresville. It is the sign, symptom, & product of societal organization & the demands of that system. “Aggressive talk” & militarism are the less-toxic staples of the ludicrously named “free enterprise system,” with the more dangerous fruit of business as usual now appearing as the imminent threat of another world war, this time with nukes. Our “betters” like Hillary can fantasize over at Harvard about how our CIA-trained “elite” can manage all this in their “situation room,” but reality, as usual, is not under their control. Systems promote & amplify those who perform its functions according to need–and the premier need of capitalism at this stage is military: manifested as aggression abroad, and repression in the domestic sphere. We are “living the dream” of this familiar process, and we are in great peril. You suppose No-Change Joe will stop the madness? Just asking.

    1. Piotr Berman

      Diplomacy in a normal sense of the word is impossible. Before, “peace” was made synonymous with “surrender”, but now, it is described as apocalyptic catastrophe. Today, Kiev, tomorrow, Berlin, after tomorrow, commissars in D.C. organizing GULAG camps to incarcerate all who are good and decent, outlawing apple pie and chicken soup (if properly prepared, i.e. from a can). This are inexorable consequence of approving any Russian or Chinese proposals. Euro-American way of live is at stake.

  12. Anne Neveson

    This article, otherwise good, surrenders all credibility in its laudatory concluding reference to the European Union and its “Mediation Support Team” given the EU’s performance and rhetoric this past year vis-a-vis the conflict in Ukraine and its aggressive condemnation of any countries who’ve chosen to remain neutral. Does anyone seriously think the likes of vaunted “gardeners” von der Leyen, Borrell, and Michel have any standing left in the rest of the world, aka., the “jungle”? As for the United Nations, the interrogation this past week by a Chinese journalist of the hapless UN representative who denied any presence of US troops in Syria, is only the latest evidence of an institution long past its prime.

  13. chris

    I’d be happier if we could take the small step to understanding that there are many different ways to engage the other nations on this planet. That there are a range of options between war and isolationism. And that working for peace and talking to our alleged enemies is not the same as appeasement.

    I’m tired of the warmongers painting all alternatives as unacceptable risks compared to war.

  14. Susan the other

    It’s very uncomfortable to sit down and put all your cards on the table. A moderator or a psychiatrist asks each person what they need. What is actually at stake? And gradually egos are worn down. I really can’t imagine the United States saying, “Well we are running out of oil and at some point in the near future we won’t have any so we are trying to get control of it… or rather we were and we failed, so now we see our best choice as a military takeover of all essential resources”. And the Russians, the Iranians, the Saudis and Iraqis, and even Venezuela all burst out laughing.

  15. DMK

    The New York Times did well in reminding us of America’s love of war when it offered this quote from Mark Twain: Got created war so that Americans could learn geography.

    The quote appeared not in the news or an op-ed section, but in a NYT crossword puzzle.

  16. TomW

    This might sound bizarrely off topic, but in sharp contrast to an endless succession of military ineptitude,an example of “soft power” success might be interesting. The recent World Baseball Classic was a success by just about any criteria. It was globally popular. Sports writers point to it as providing a historic matchup of possibly the world’s best pitcher vs the worlds best batter.
    A little background…professional baseball players compete for their home countries in an Olympic style completion.
    It was a success because it is seen as a fairly managed competition. In a world where the the dominate leagues are American.
    Anyway, the World Baseball Classic is owned jointly by Major league baseball and the MLB Player’s Association. Hence, my characterization of it as soft power. So, of course there are competing global organizations who would like to own this event. It was a kind of effortless exercise that was barely noticeable as either American or an exercise of power. Even Venezuela participated and did surprisingly well.
    My concluding thought is that maybe we should look at things that succeed and go from there.

    1. Piotr Berman

      The latest rendition of “soft power” is the dissemination of “less than rock solid intelligence” for the media to be stenographed and spread. One may wonder how far from “rock solidity” is that intelligence… I think that if it was used to make a mattress rather then media meme, it would satisfy the most pampered princess (except for the stink, but soft it is).

      Previously, “soft power” was a PR issue, coining catchy slogans and themes, recruiting celebrities to participate in promotions etc. “Play with USA, have fun all day”, a chorus of NATO official and national commanders “We are the world”, flash mobs… [this is what comes to me when I imagine that I have to design a PR strategy with lives of my family at stake.] Now we hear about “charm offensives”, but they seem to be long on “offensive” and short on “charm”.

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