More Signs of US Impotence in Middle East: Overkill Yet Ineffective Strikes, Deluded “Reshaping the Middle East” Planted Piece, Hamas Blame Pre-Positioning for Probable Ceasefire Negotiation Fail

To tell our Middle East tale a bit out of order, let’s start with what is currently a linchpin factoid and work around to other elements:

So all the Israel government is willing to entertain is a protracted pause. All that does is extend the Gaza genocide timetable. Hamas leaders are presumably smart enough not to fall for that.

But with Israel having proposed a “ceasefire” that is actually unserious about stopping the extermination in Gaza, they have succeeded in playing their cards to make Hamas look like the bad guys. But since the West already runs crude Israel video fakes as real, Hamas would be scapegoated whether or not they were being reasonable. 1

If you have been following the state of play in the Middle East, Tony Blinken, who as far as I can tell has yet to get any deal done evah in the Middle East, looks to be continuing his track record. He set out to attempt to broker a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel. Even though Netanyahu and right-wing members of his coalition had maintained that destroying Hamas is first and getting the hostages back will follow from that, protests by the families of hostages have put pressure on the government to entertain talk of a ceasefire. But if I read this correctly, it’s na ga happen:

The speaker, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is head of the National Security Council. More important, he’s willing to topple the government if he does not have his way. From a recent Wall Street Journal story based on an exclusive interview with Ben-Gvir:

Now, crucially, Ben-Gvir has enough support in the ruling coalition to undermine Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule, and he says he is willing to use it. In his first interview with a foreign news organization since joining the government, Ben-Gvir warned that he would oppose any deal with Hamas that would free thousands of Palestinians held for terrorism or end the war before Hamas was fully defeated.

Ben-Gvir is a forceful proponent of clearing Gaza entirely of Palestinians and turning it into a Jewish enclave. He also believes Trump would be more willing to back these plans than Biden. It appears to take some months to organize new elections in Israel after a government falls (knowledgeable readers please pipe up). One could assume a caretaker government would continue existing policies and would not enter into something as important as a ceasefire deal, let alone one that was more than short term. So it is a little earlier than optimal for Ben-Gvir to force new elections. And Netanyahu obviously wants to stay Prime Minister as long as possible to hold off his prosecutions. But this calculus is part of the equation.

Consider also that, at least per some commentary, Biden is trying to contain the conflict surrounding Israel to more or less the current level, so as to avoid a regional war, at least before November elections. But it is hard to see his actions as being properly calibrated to achieve that end. Attacking g 85 targets to retaliate for 3 servicemember deaths on what is widely believed to be a US installation in Syria, hence illegal, is so excessive as to look silly, as in an admission of some combination of lack of emotional self control and lack of confidence in targeting.2 The US over the weekend made more strikes in Yemen when again many military experts have pointed out the use of force there won’t accomplish much….and it hasn’t save creating even stronger Yemeni support for the Houthis, more properly called Ansrallah. We can’t possibly invade Yemen. We don’t have the force strength and Hamas would likely sink some of our ships, a credibility disaster. And Yemen is just as difficult territory as Afghanistan, where neither the Soviet Union nor we prevailed.

And on the Iraq front, regardless of whether the strikes were all that effective, they look to have also had the effect being a big fat “no”‘ to an Iraqi insurgent offer to stop harassing the US if we’d keep on with the US plan to exit the country, as we’d allegedly said we’d do just a few days before. Recall, as we recounted, it was an Iraqi group, Kata’ib Hezbollah, that admitted to the strike that killed and said it was suspending strikes so as not to get in the way of the withdrawal deal. 85 strikes is way way more than what the US would need to make to keep up the appearance it was defending US forces. Perhaps one reason for the over-the-top number is that no way, no how will there be even an itty bittiest appearance that rebel action influence us.

On top of that, all of this threat display is using up more of our scarce weaponry. The US has supply issues with ship-borne missiles. We may not be as immediately constrained with ones launched from jets, but we look to be over-committed, between demands in Ukraine and sure-to-be-continuing needs on behalf of Israel.

With that introduction, let’s turn to the Administration’s fantasies about how it will get out of its current mess, as revealed in the planted Wall Street Journal story, U.S. Pairs Military Action With Diplomacy in Effort to Reshape Middle East. To its credit, the Journal plants a lot of skeptical markers: “monumental challenges,” “formidable obstacles,” “urgent challenge.” Its lead photo captures Tony Blinken in a “deer in the headlight” gaze.

Nevertheless, the article reveals the US is stuck in a badly-outdated picture of its influence, thinking it can drive events when we can’t even bring Israel to heel. From the report (emphasis ours):

On the military front, the U.S. has sought to buy time for its diplomacy by keeping Iran’s proxies at bay

The administration’s effort faces formidable obstacles, not least the demanding compromises it would require on all sides.

The article also makes clear the US will engage in at most two-state theater:

Advancing the Palestinians’ prospects for a state of their own has become a prerequisite for pursuing Israeli-Saudi normalization and with it the hope of fostering a broad anti-Iran alignment in the region.

Right before the end, the piece does acknowledge that the US has a armaments problem:

Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said that the Friday strike was the largest military action the U.S. has launched against Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq since the Iraq war.

“From the perspective of these proxies and Iran itself, they are engaged in a long-term attritional struggle against the U.S.,” Lister said. “For now at least, this looks more like a hiccup along the road for them.”

But rather than tease out the implications, the very next sentence talks about the US using hard power, as if we were still dominant in that category.

Contrast the US view of what it thinks it can still do with the Axis of Resistance perspective, conveyed in a Black Mountain Analysis article we highlighted in Links:

The main actor in the region, Iran, is driving the expulsion of foreign forces out of the Middle East, and is accelerating its efforts…

As soon as the Quds plan has been activated [and it was with October 7] there is no turning back. The Rubicon has been crossed. All disguised Quds operators across the Middle East act to help coordinate the moves. And since they have done this, they are visible to the Mossad….The end of what just started will be a free Middle East (from an Iranian perspective), or no Middle East.

In other words, good luck with Biden trying to contain the violence or have the US dictate or even significantly influence outcomes. Russia has been playing nice by geopolitical standards. The Axis of Resistance won’t if tested.


1 Hamas could try to set up a deal where the Israelis were likely to fail to deliver fully on their commitments, then cancel. For instance, it would make sense from a public health standpoint for Hamas to seek a very high level of food deliveries to make up for the many weeks of starvation conditions (as in get a little fat back on dangerously thin bodies). The Israelis make a point of holding up all arriving supplies with the excuse that they need to inspect truck for weapons. As for this idea in particular, in the event Hamas were to propose making up for the protracted calorie deficit, Israel is likely to contend this is actually a Hamas scheme to stockpile food for its own use.

2 CNN reported that the US says it destroyed or damaged 84 of the 85 targets. But as Scott Ritter and others reported regarding our previous strikes on Yemen, most if not all were targets we’d identified and shot at earlier. And on top of that, aside from it not being clear that there was much of anything left, it’s not clear there was much of anything there initially.

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Jeez fixed. See very different tweet at the top.

      I am now convinced there is an evil bug in Twitter. I often have screwed up tweets in Links but figure it was a copy and paste error, as in the copy of new embed code failed to override what is on the clipboard. But I put that one in at the top BEFORE I even found the Ben-Gvir tweet!

  1. The Rev Kev

    I’m thinking that this is all a desperate ploy. The Biden White House sees how it is being side-lined and being pushed out of the Middle East. And here you are talking about Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, both joining the BRICS, China starting to enter this region, etc. So all this bombing is a roll of the dice to make a statement that they won’t be pushed out. Yes, they may be running short of weaponry and ammo but this is their main chance to stay relevant. Reminds me of how in WW2 the Chinese won the Battle of Singapore, even though they were out-manned and were shooting off the last of their ammo. The British nerve broke and the rest is history. I can’t see Iran or any other organization just rolling over to these latest attacks. If they give in then it will be US attacks every other day for like forever. So the attacks will pick up again sooner or later. Maybe they should choose better targets like those oil wells that the US is occupying in NE Syria. Or maybe send drones loaded with thermite to chase those oil trucks as they head to Turkiye. Anybody remember when the Russians turned all those ISIS oil convoys to Turkiye to ash, much to the fury of the US? Point is that the US is badly stretched right now and logistically in a bad place. There is no better time to push the US out because if they don’t do it now. they will be dealing with them for decades to come.

    1. Pat

      I think it is a two factor response. The first being the one you describe. Which is also being pushed by increasing pressure on its power everywhere outside of Europe.

      But it also feeling political pressure at home. There is a growing desperation in the rants (and yes they may not be spittle flecked but are still rants) from top politicos about how recognition of the ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza and the enabling Biden Administration is antisemitism or a Putin plot. Washington may live in a bubble, but they haven’t missed that this isn’t working AND that it is losing them voters in numbers big enough to turn the election. This would be seen as an oldie but a goody. It may be a flawed and delusional strategy, but “fighting terrorists there” has been a winner before. They aren’t bombing a country, they are bombing “extremists”. Couple that with the wild hope that will help with Gaza. (HAMAS!!!)
      Yes I do believe this group is that venal and that stupid.

      1. Carolinian

        The Juan Cole poll article in Links says that both young people and minorities are deserting the Dems over Gaza. In other words for them the social justice theme constantly pushed by the Dems is more than a ploy to be dropped when convenient. Of course that doesn’t mean they will vote for Trump and Trump may very well be worse on this than Biden. But Trump has also said that the Jerusalem embassy switch was only done to appease Addelson (now deceased) and that he himself doesn’t trust Netanyahu, The Israelis may find that Trump is a lot more about Trump than about Israel. In any event he has an ego and it’s hard to imagine he can be even more subservient than Biden.

        I’d say that if the Greater Israel crowd think they have a shot then now’s the time. It doesn’t seem to be working out so far.

        1. KLG

          Many of the 20- and 30-somethings I know have washed their hands of Biden over Gaza. They won’t vote for Trump but neither will they vote for Biden. This might well change in the voting booth, but given Biden’s thin margins in swing states this is a real problem for him.

          1. .Tom

            We discuss who to write in here at home. She wants Jimmy Dore. I thought about Norm Finkelstein for a moment but settled on Chris Hedges. He’d be so good in debates and scolding journalists, and he knows how to write hard-hitting speeches (sermons).

            1. jan

              Can you write-in on a voting machine? I can’t remember.
              Else it will be 3d party again. Definitely not Biden.

    2. Michaelmas

      Rev Kev: Reminds me of how in WW2 the Chinese won the Battle of Singapore, even though they were out-manned and were shooting off the last of their ammo.

      You mean how the Japanese won the Battle of Singapore, don’t you?

      1. Revenant

        Well, the Chinese won the war for Singapore even if they didn’t win that battle – and the Communist Chinese at that. The Communist Chinese were the major insurgents against the Japanese occupation.

        They were then promptly suppressed in Malaysia after VJ day by all sides – Malays, Non Communist Chinese, British.

        The majority-Chinese population of Singapore then declared Singaporean independence shortly after Malaysia was founded. Although Lee Kwan You was no communist, I suspect a lot of the solidarity of the Singaporean national project was rooted in the WW2 unity against British and Japanese alike….

        1. CA

          “I suspect a lot of the solidarity of the Singaporean national project was rooted in the WW2 unity against British and Japanese alike….”

          December 19, 2018

          Profiles of foreigners awarded China reform friendship medals: LEE KUAN YEW

          The “founding father of Singapore,” Lee Kuan Yew, with his insightful vision, participated in and witnessed the great process of China’s reform and opening-up.

          When he passed away in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his message of condolences that Lee was an old friend of the Chinese people and the founder, pioneer and promoter of Sino-Singaporean relations.

          In November 1978, Lee, the then prime minister of Singapore, hosted visiting Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. At that time, the door to reform and opening-up was only just about to open. Having witnessed the economic achievements of Singapore, Deng said that China should learn from Singapore.

          Lee had visited Shenzhen several times and commented that the success of Shenzhen showed that the socialist path with Chinese characteristics had worked. He promoted the establishment of the Suzhou Industrial Park and Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City, introducing the new economic cooperation model between the two countries.

          Singapore’s development has provided valuable reference for China to solve problems during the process of reform and opening-up. Meanwhile, China’s development also created great opportunities for Singapore.

        2. notabanker

          SGP only declared independence after Malaysia rejected their joining.The agreement was in place for SGP to become part of Malaysia, but the Malay majority rejected it mostly due to the influence of the Chinese over SGP and long term concerns over how that would impact Malaysia.

          1. CA

            Thank you.


            Singapore was one of the 14 states of Malaysia from 1963 to 1965. Malaysia was formed on 16 September 1963 by the merger of the Federation of Malaya with the former British colonies of North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore. This marked the end of the 144-year British rule in Singapore which began with the founding of modern Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. At the time of merger, it was the smallest state in the country by land area, but the largest by population…

    3. Feral Finster

      “Reminds me of how in WW2 the Chinese won the Battle of Singapore, even though they were out-manned and were shooting off the last of their ammo.”

      The Japanese. And I would not bet that the Administration is bluffing.

    4. .Tom

      Funny you mention China. I was thinking about that and the Century of Humiliation this morning as I was reading 51st State: Why America Supports Israel in Conter (which presents an imperial historical answer in contrast to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s “because The Israel Lobby” answer). The article summarized the history and humiliation of the populations in the region since the end of the Ottoman Empire under Western imperial influence. The MoA post in Links today, which ends quoting Black Mountain Analysis, says that popular militant movements have gotten themselves organized and are calling themselves Axis of Resistance. Maybe we can think of them as fighting to end their own Century of Humiliation.

  2. Joe Well

    Re: hostages

    How many are likely left? Haven’t the Israelis been trying their hardest to kill every last living thing in Gaza, hostages included?

    A quick search shows no “proof of life” since November. I did find that the hostages’ families were denouncing the International Red Cross for not somehow working magic and visiting the hostages personally, even going so far as to call for international donors to cut off funding. So much for the hostages’ families being the chastened voice of reason.

    1. The Rev Kev

      The hostages’ families have also called for all food to be cut off from Gaza until the hostages are released. And I have seen this several times. They are not the caring, wonderful people that the media makes them out to be and are quite happy for what is going on in Gaza.

  3. Mikel

    The Masters of Disasters are working overtime making sure as many as Americans continue to believe the hype about US foreign policy:
    The US Can’t — and Shouldn’t — Escape the Middle East

    “…Conspiracy theories about the “Israel Lobby” or the military-industrial complex notwithstanding, this is the true source of America’s Middle Eastern purgatory. Washington is continually tempted to quit a region that has consumed so much US power, only to recoil at the destabilizing consequences that exit might produce.”

    Delusions that will end in horror.

  4. GDmofo

    >85 strikes is way way more than what the US would need to make to keep up the appearance it was defending US forces.

    So the US has realised it can no longer protect its assets in Iraq and Syria, and they are going to pull out. Theres, reportedly, 10k ISIS prisoners being held by Kurds, a little going away present that these strikes are going to soften up targets for. That’s why they hit a big ammo storage for an Iraqi PMU. That’s basically the only thing the strikes in Syria and Iraq are meant to accomplish.

  5. Danpaco

    The B1 bombing raids could continue for a while. That’s probably the only munition available in ample supply.

    1. ilsm

      B-1 was “suspended” in 1977. Reagan sponsored 100 of them.

      Not sure how much testing done, but SAC got 100 quickly.

      They were cruise missile carriers. Probably a lot of conventional missiles at or past “use by date”. Enough range to shoot from safe territory.

      Cost a lot to fly and occupied those air refuelers sent out…..

  6. furnace

    Zionists sure don’t stop doubling down (and frankly with 94% of the population thinking the bombing of Gaza is fine this is hardly limited to the government — which I suppose is truly “representative” in that sense). This is really looking like a proper “Götterdämmerung”, which I suppose is a fitting end to genocidal entities.

    As for Black Mountain Analysis, Aleks is good, but to me he is guilty of the same shortsight (though definitely not to the degree as Simplicius) of thinking that the Resistance forces are all directed from Iran. This is a bit of European 19th century “Great Power Politics” brain in which the big powers manipulate everything and decide everything that happens. I’m no expert, but I’m fairly convinced that Ansarallah doesn’t really answer to anyone, Iran included. Allies? sure. Proxies? hardly.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, thank you for making that point. I was bothered by him seeing these forces as Iran directed. The Houthis are clearly very independent even if they have Iran support. Qatar is a bigger funder of Hamas than Iran. Hezbollah does not take orders from Iran. The groups that might be tighter with Iran are some of the insurgents in Syria and Iraq, but maybe not.

      1. Aurelien

        It’s a feature of the way that westerners approach these questions, leaving nuance behind at the door. Outside powers seek to acquire influence in areas of conflict by supplying weapons and training to factions which they see advantage in supporting, or sometimes just because another state is supplying the same things to another faction. Sometimes (especially when the West does it) this blows up in our faces, with the arms falling into the wrong hands, or the group concerned changing sides. Generally, it’s a risky idea and seldom worth the effort.

        The Iranians have a better thought-out policy than most. It’s still opportunistic, and there are questions of whether the “Axis of Resistance” really exists outside Iranian propaganda, or whether it’s just a label stuck by Tehran on a series of very different relationships, some closer than others. Hezbollah is very close to Iran, and relies on Tehran for weapons and training, but any expert will tell you that they are essentially a Lebanese faction which, like all Lebanese factions, looks abroad for a patron. The best way to describe the relationship is probably the other way round: Hezbollah doesn’t take orders as such, but on the other hand it wouldn’t do anything that Iran didn’t approve of, and would certainly check with Iran before doing anything controversial.

        On the Houthis, there is an (unusually) good article in Jacobin which goes into the Iran-Houthi relationship in some detail. It is obviously closer than anything with Hamas, because the Houthis are fellow Shias.

        1. hk

          One might also note that the same holds true for the way many people view US: the notion that all “pro Western” gov’ts around the world are puppets of CIA or some other DC conspiracy. That this is not so is particularly demonstrated in Israel, some of whose leaders, eg Sharon, practically regarded US as an enemy.

          It does make it easy to simplify the thinking. Intra-alliance politics are complicated, ironically when there’s massive disparity in power: best to pretend they don’t exist and you only need to deal with “the head of the beast,” whether it is in Tehran or Washington DC

        2. ISL

          I would argue it is the Israeli’s that are being opportunistic, given the gradual (or not so gradual) US power decline including NATO demilitarization in Ukraine. If they wait five years of relative US decline viz. Russia and China… and well, even likudniks can see the trends. Thus, its now or possibly never for one last final mow-the-lawn – a little genocide or a big genocide – not hard to foresee.

          Meanwhile Hamas has evolved far beyond Israeli expectations (Iran would know) and could predict that Israel would enter Gaza and be unable to withdraw (or lose its fear deterrence – per Alastair Crooke). Key, is that I suspect assumptions were all biased towards the IOF, even by Hamas – that Oct 7 was so successful (amplified by Israel murdering its own citizens), that the Israeli military had decayed as much as it has (IOF soldiers seem unable to learn to not aggregate in front of windows!), that warfar has evolved against – no one could have seen, and our leaders do not recognize that alt media meant that citizens of the west would not be as easily brainwashed to support Genocide and user friendly.

          Thus, I would argue that Iran and allies are following a reasonable (loosely defined) contingency plan response to a foreseeable opportunistic Israeli’ effort to ethnically cleanse Gaza through mass murder.

      2. kemerd

        Indeed, Hamas in fact even sent fighters to Syria to support Islamists against the Syrian government.
        And, it was also clear that Hamas did not at all consult with Hezbullah before they launched their attack last november.

    2. NotThePilot

      I think this is definitely a good litmus test of how clearly people see the state-of-play in the Mideast.

      Or another way of looking at it, sometimes you’ll see writers firmly in the Blob-consensus immediately reach for the analogy of the Persian empire when describing Iran’s grand-strategy. If you really look at how the Axis of Resistance works, it’s more like a super-charged, bigger-tent, 21st century reboot of the old Ismaili order.

      Very decentralized, organized through common doctrine and strategy rather than unified command, independent nodes all capable of claiming seniority in given situations, rooted in more state-like populist strongholds, a preference for fighting asymmetrically, etc.

  7. Jeff A

    I’ve spent many years in that part of the world from Iran to Iraq to Saudi,,,etc and finally Algeria, and in all that time the only conclusion I can draw is the US’s only intent is to cause mayhem, they seem nonplussed regarding there own casualties, damage to there own facilities and the only advantage I see is Iraq is in some sort of contract to bank there oil sales in New York, similar in the gulf states but even that is steadily receding and they can make a bit selling Syrian oil to Israel (at a discount to them of course)via a now dead Kurdish middleman.
    The only state that all this really benefits is Israel, do they really worship Israel so much, do AIPAC and the Zionist Christian’s have so much influence or does Israel actually control the US govt/establishment as ‘Bibi’ often state?

    1. Late Introvert

      Too many questions to answer, but yes. Israel gets help with its ongoing Genocide from the US congress funded by AIPAC.

  8. John Wright

    I wondered what the well-known “humanitarian hawk” and USAID Administrator Samantha Power was currently doing:

    “During the conversation on Tuesday, a USAID employee, Hannah Funk, questioned whether the United States was squandering its moral authority on the world stage by rushing arms and equipment into Israel during its military campaign.”

    It was encouraging to see Powers questioned by one of her own employees and the event covered in the Washington Post.

    1. john r fiore

      It appears the US is the only country in the world where Women are just as belligerent as men.

  9. jax

    I was censored on Facebook this morning for sharing Ashok Kumar’s Twitter post. I’ll admit I put a picture of Hamas fighters with it to attract interest. But my post, consisting of the tweet and the picture, was taken down within 2 minutes for “going against community standards.” Now I can’t do any number of things I don’t do anyway, like create videos, blah blah blah.

    I fought the censure trying to figure out if it was the phrase ‘Palestinian resistance” or the picture of Hamas soldiers that was verboten. Of course, there are no answers when dealing with FaceBorg.

    It’s not that I don’t know that we’re getting censored regularly, but this post was so inane that the censure shocked me. FB has stepped up its game. How long before they go full Golda Meir and take down posts mentioning Palestinians? Chilling.

  10. hemeantwell

    American and Israeli framings understandably try to deflect attention away from factors that make the situation very different from the good old days of US hegemony, with an ongoing, very cost manageable charade of diplomacy masking meddling and grinding down efforts that always leave the Palestinians with less land, fewer people and isolated.

    But now the US and Israel have to be concerned about gradually increasing constraints, at least
    — the growing economic impact on Israel
    — munitions availability
    — the economic impact on allies, already a major problem given the Ukraine war

    And from that short list a variety of dangerous political consequences unfold. This isn’t like a game of chess, or if it is it’s like a game of chess in which the legs of the supporting table are rotting.

    What are we hearing about the impact on the Israeli economy?

    1. ChrisPacific

      To that I would add the increasing loss of legitimacy among Western countries and US allies (not counting Arab nations, where they never had it to begin with).

      While the US has never particularly objected to being complicit in atrocities, it does like to be able to sell them domestically as fighting for freedom and democracy, and keep the nastier details under wraps. Israel looks less and less interested in that part – they aren’t even bothering to pretend that they aren’t targeting medical facilities any more, for example. For most observers it makes for a jarring contrast with how America sells itself to the world. The degree of consensus in UN resolutions and the ICJ decision, for example, show how isolated the US and Israel are becoming.

  11. ex-PFC Chuck

    It’s interesting that they’re using B-1 bombers for these missions. The program for its procurement was arguably the most important one in the evolution of the MICLIMATTIC.* In the late 1960s the Air Force began considering the sort of bomber that should succeed its presumed to be soon obsolete B-52 (ha ha!). They converged on the specifications of what would become the B-1 and North American Aviation was selected as the prime contractor. But with the Vietnam War obviously headed south the military was in ill repute and the USAF powers that B were concerned that the required program funding would not be forthcoming from Congress. So the Air Force brass, the North American executives, and the program’s strong supporters in Congress decided the way to guarantee the funding of the program was to spread out the subcontracts as widely as possible across the nation. Targets on the order of 35 states and 250 congressional districts were established. The funding bill passed allocating about $2 billion for development $25M for each of four prototypes.

    Scores of new subcontractors had to be found and qualified across the country, and experienced subcontractors had to convince many of their employees to transfer to places such as bumf**k, Wyoming and its sister towns in other states. In the pre-internet days of the early 1970s this created an immense amount of friction during the project, and by the time the prototypes were on the runway the massive cost overruns throughout the project were matched by the performance deficiencies of its end product.

    Enter Colonel John Boyd, taking up his duties as the commanding officer of the Office of Development Plans, which would be his final gig as a uniformed officer before retirement. Having just returned from duty in Thailand, and after having gotten reacquainted with long-time colleagues in the Pentagon and elsewhere throughout the Air Force, Boyd sensed there was something seriously wrong with the B-1 program. Being who he was, he did not just sit back and coast into retirement like most predecessors had done in that dead end job. He instead recruited a bright young officer to assist him in doing an in-depth analysis of the B-1 program. The report they produced was conservative in the sense that it gave the program the benefit of the doubt on all controversial issues. In spite of that their work showed that the flyaway price would at least three times the initial $25M target; that is assuming all of the required performance fixes would be successful. The development budget as well would have to be increased several times over. These results forced the Air Force to kill the program, canceling the planned additional units that were going to be purchased.

    However, when half a dozen years later the Reagan administration took office, the Congress critters in all those states and congressional districts successfully demanded the B-1 be resurrected as part of the defense buildup that took place during those years. Ever since, the subcontracts of large procurements have been and continue to be routinely spread among as many states and congressional districts as possible. This is a large part of the explanation of why such procurements almost always get through Congress without a hitch.

    This story is well told by Robert Coram in Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art Of War.

    * When Ray McGovern coined the expansion of the acronym for President Eisenhower’s notion of the military industrial complex (MIC), He overlooked a critical member of the assemblage: MICLIMATTIC stands for Military-Industrial-Congressional-Lobbyist-Intelligence-Media-Academic-Think-Tank-Complex

  12. rowlf

    Last week a coworker and I spent the work day entertaining ourselves with the phrase “Iran-Backed _______”.

    Good times. Iran-Backed MAGA Voters, Iran-Backed Border Protectors, Iran-Backed Rain Clouds, etc.

    Probably even sillier than John McCain’s “Columns Of Russian Tanks” being spotted everywhere and Bibi’s 25 years of 30 minutes or whatever until the Ayatollahs have a nuclear weapon nonsense.

    1. ChrisFromGA

      It’s getting tougher for the Bill Kristols and Kagans of the world to get their story straight.

      I thought it was “Russia-backed MAGA voters”, “Russia-backed Border Protectors,” etc.

      1. rowlf

        Naw, we just thought the Iran-Backed phrase was getting laid on thick by the western media.

        Hamas and Iran doesn’t seem to fit together well after actions in Syria.

        Hopefully California does well with the Iran-Backed Rain Storms. /s

        1. Victor Sciamarelli

          I agree, still, for more than a century, American elites have a tradition of finding the cause of our problems outside the US.
          But how do the few rule over the many, David Hume asked, especially when the many have greater force due to their numbers?
          The answer was that the few control opinion. It doesn’t have to be an informed opinion or even a good opinion, it’s simply their opinion which they express constantly and you have little to no chance of expressing yours.
          I have to wonder why people are reluctant to vote for a third party candidate like Cornel West or RFK, Jr. I don’t think either would be a great president but a president who addresses everyone as either brother or sister, or wants to reduce the MIC, would have opinions very different from the current ruling class.

  13. David in Friday Harbor

    Something very bad bored-into the minds of American elites after the collapse of the USSR in 1991: the delusion that the United States is a global imperium backed by first-strike nuclear weapons. This American delusion claims the productive labor and the natural resources of the entire planet as imperial tribute. The “inferior races” of the world, especially if they’re Muslims, are denied any sort of self-determination, personal agency, or even the right to life itself by this American elite delusion.

    There is not the slightest logical or moral basis for the continued U.S. imperial military presence in Iraq and Syria against the wishes of the governments of both countries, other than the naked exercise of power by delusional American elites. Under this American delusion the only thing that matters is maintaining the illusion of elite power.

    There is no logical or moral basis for launching 89 bombing runs from halfway around the planet against groups admittedly not even involved in the Tower 22/Al-Tanf drone strike. Listen carefully to the non-sequiturs uttered by the nincompoops in charge such as our senile current President, the unprofessional amateur currently masquerading as our Secretary of State, or our psychopathic former-President. The only rational explanation is that our so-called “leaders” are certifiably insane.

    They are each and every one consumed by the delusion of an American imperium that never actually existed, except perhaps for a couple of brief decades during their pathetic childhoods when the other industrial powers lay in ashes (and in fear of nuclear annihilation) after the Second World War.

  14. Susan the other

    Just wow! best thing I have ever read dealing with US “foreign policy” because there is no bullshit here whatsoever. Calling the big maneuver for control of the Middle East (aka oil) including all the peripheral narrative to account. This post says basically there is no alternative to getting real. So why not stop the unmitigated violence (against not just fellow humanity, but the entire planet) and do it now? I personally believe that when a government like ours has clearly run out of believable justifications it has run out of its mandate to govern. I think this is a collapse of government but not of people because the people are much smarter than government. Just look at us; we are a political mess. Hence, to avoid giving up this mirage of American control, all we have had is the narrative to throttle honest journalism for the last 70 years. Thank you Yves. More please if possible.

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