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Let’s look at ourselves in the mirror created by the conflict with Iran

20 January 2012

Summary:  Knowledge is power, including knowledge about ourselves.  One way to gain it is by looking at ourselves, what our leaders say, as others do — foreigners in our world, and the foreigners that will be our descendents.  Here will look at some statements about Iran, and some perspectives provided by fiction.  This is chapter 15 in a series about our conflict with Iran; at the end are links to other chapters.

Some advice about how to win the war with Iran.

“Know Thyself”
— Advice inscribed upon the temple of the Oracle at Delphi

“Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
— Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift. Hardly less important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves.”
— Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), The Doors of Perception (1954)

Contents

  1. Look at America as our grandkids will see us
  2. Everybody fighting Iran is on our side
  3. There is a solution
  4. Other posts in this series about our conflict with Iran
  5. For more information: advice from the past and the future

(1)  Look at America as our grandkids will see us

In their enthusiasm for war with Iran the people shown below forgot to mention that bombing Iran would violate the UN Charter, one of the great results of WWII — for which the US labored so long and hard. They forgot to mention the dead bystanders.  They don’t mention the consequences if Iran strikes back — as is their right — to our armed attacks.

(a)  The voice of lawless ignorant jingoistic bloodlust: John McCain

McCain explains that bombing other nations, assuming they cannot hit us back, is funny.  When campaigning for President at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina on 17 April 2007:  Asked by someone in the audience if as President he would bomb Iran, he began by giving new words to the Beach Boys song “Barbara Ann”: “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran”.  His handlers explained:

McCain campaign spokesman Kevin McLaughlin points out that the Senator’s song was not serious and the people in the room were laughing. “He was just trying to add a little humor to the event.”  ABC News

(b)  The voice of lawless ignorant jingoistic bloodlust: Rick Santorum

Santorum (supposedly the favorite of some calling themselves “evangelicals”) channels Jesus when campaigning for the Presidency in Greenville, South Carolina on 25 October 2011:

“On occasion scientists working on the nuclear program in Iran turn up dead. I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly.”


.

(c)  The voice of lawless ignorant jingoistic bloodlust: Editors of the New York Post

Bomb, bomb Iran“, Editorial of The New York Post, 15 January 2012 — They forget that assassinating civilians is terrorism.

A motorcycle throttle was probably the last sound Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan ever heard, as two men on a bike attached a magnetic bomb to his car in Tehran last week. A director at the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility — Iran’s largest — Roshan was caught in traffic when unknown assassins did him in. Vroom, vroom — then boom.

But Roshan is only the latest atomic scientist to be atomized. Back in November 2010, men on motorcycles attached bombs to two cars in Tehran, killing one nuke engineer and injuring a physicist. And last November a huge blast killed 30 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, including a senior general believed to be the architect of Iran’s missile program. Later that month, a massive blast was reported — and then covered up — at the uranium-conversion facility in Isfahan

… Still, whoever’s behind it, we certainly hope they keep it up. If Iran’s nuclear scientists are learning to fear the sound of a gunning motorcycle, all to the good. And if they’re beginning to look for new lines of work, even better.

(2)  Everybody fighting with Iran is on our side

Not all wars are sacred, or even self-defense.  From “With the sword he must be slain” by David Drake (1998):

The colonel had never met this tasking officer, but he was a Suit and the Colonel figured all Suits were the same.  The fact that this particular Suit was part of Hell’s bureaucracy rather than Langley’s didn’t make a lot of difference.

“Good to see you, Colonel,” the Suit said as he studied the folder in front of him.  “Please sit down.”  He didn’t get up from behind his desk, and he didn’t offer to shake hands.  Probably afraid he’d transfer sweat to the fine wool/silk blend of his garment. … There was a look of disdain in his eyes. …

When the Colonel figured out who his employer was, he didn’t much like it.  But neither did the knowledge make any real difference in what the Colonel did or how well he did it. … The Colonel paused before touching the doorknob and looked back, angry enough to say “Does it both you to be working for the losing side?”

“I beg your pardon?” the suit said.  He looked genuinely puzzled.

“This is the battle of Good against Evil” the Colonel said.  “Evil loses, right?

The Suit’s smile hardened. “You’re quite wrong.  Good doesn’t defeat you.”  The Suit shook his head.  “The Bible doesn’t say the armies of Good will defeat you,” the Suit said, giving the pronoun a slight emphasis.  “Good doesn’t have armies, Colonel.  Everyone who’s fighting is on our side.  You of all people should understand that.”

(3)  There is a solution

Wars tend to have unexpectedly large costs and unexpectedly poor “returns”. Yet we love them so. Fortunately there is a solution.  We can decide to avoid unnecessary wars (eg, occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq), and make stronger efforts to avoid those that look necessary — as described in “A Taste of Armageddon“, an episode of the original Star Trek, original broadcast on 23 February 1967:

ANAN (leader of the planet Eminiar Seven): You realise what you have done?

KIRK: Yes, I do. I’ve given you back the horrors of war. The Vendikans now assume that you’ve broken your agreement and that you’re preparing to wage real war with real weapons. They’ll want do the same. Only the next attack they launch will do a lot more than count up numbers in a computer. They’ll destroy cities, devastate your planet. You of course will want to retaliate. If I were you, I’d start making bombs. Yes, Councilman, you have a real war on your hands. You can either wage it with real weapons, or you might consider an alternative. Put an end to it. Make peace.

ANAN: There can be no peace. Don’t you see? We’ve admitted it to ourselves. We’re a killer species. It’s instinctive. It’s the same with you. Your General Order Twenty Four.

KIRK: All right. It’s instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. We’re human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands, but we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers, but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes. Knowing that we won’t kill today.

(4)  Other posts in this series about our conflict with Iran

  1. Is the War on Terror over (because there are no longer two sides)?, 3 September 2008 — Rumors of covert ops by us against Iran, including aid to terrorists
  2. Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?, 16 January 2009
  3. Iran will have the bomb in 5 years (again), 2 January 2010 — Forecasts of an Iranian bomb really soon, going back to 1984
  4. About the escalating conflict with Iran (not *yet* open war), 4 January 2012
  5. Have Iran’s leaders vowed to destroy Israel?, 5 January 2012 — No, but it’s established as fact by repetition
  6. What do we know about Iran’s nuclear ambitions?, 6 January 2012 — US intelligence officials are clear:  not as much as the news media implies
  7. What does the IAEA know about Iran’s nuclear program?, 9 January 2012 — Their reports bear little resemblance to reports in the news media
  8. What happens when a nation gets nukes?  Sixty years of history suggests an answer., 10 January 2012
  9. What happens if Iran gets nukes? Not what we’ve been told., 11 January 2012
  10. Status report on the already-hot conflict with Iran – and the looming war, 12 January 2012
  11. Continuity and dysfunctionality in US foreign policy (lessons for our conflict with Iran), 13 January 2012 — Insights about today from Cold War strategist Colin Grey
  12. What the conflict with Iran teaches us about modern State-to-State war, 16 January 2012
  13. Has Iran won a round vs. the US-Israel?, 17 January 2012
  14. Is Killing Iranian Nuclear Scientists Terrorism?, 19 January 2012 — By Kevin Jon Heller (Senior Lecturer at Melbourne Law School)
  15. Let’s look at ourselves in the mirror created by the conflict with Iran, 20 January 2012

(5)  For more information

Lessons and even advice from the past — and notes from the future

  1. Our futures seen in snippets of the past, 16 June 2008
  2. America’s grand strategy: lessons from our past, 30 June 2008
  3. President Grant warns us about the dangers of national hubris, 1 July 2008
  4. Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008
  5. The King of Brobdingnag comments on America’s grand strategy, 18 November 2008
  6. A warning from Alexis De Tocqueville about our military, 7 August 2009
  7. Another note from our past, helping us see our future, 16 September 2009 — by Daniel Ellsberg
  8. A note from America’s diary: “My power proceeds from my reputation…”, 22 September 2009
  9. Seeing today through the eyes of a future historian, 25 September 2009
  10. A look at America from a superior perspective: the future, 24 October 2010
  11. A warning from the past.  Might the American Empire drag down America?, 4 August 2011
  12. Advice from one of the British Empire’s greatest Foreign Ministers, 18 November 2011
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27 Comments leave one →
  1. Hoyticus permalink
    20 January 2012 3:20 am

    They claim to be Christians and yet they gleefully wish for the deaths of other humans that threaten them in no discernible way…I’m ashamed he’s American.

    • 20 January 2012 8:41 am

      People like Santorum like to talk about “faith” and “values” but when it comes down to it they lack the courage to stand for them in any meaningful way. As Jesus, and in modern times, Gandhi and Martin Luther King showed, turning the other cheek requires far more faith and conviction than pulling a trigger out of fear and giving into your savage instincts.

      My fear is that far too many of our fellow citizens agree with Santorum and carry within them the bloodlust that FB writes about. Until we can change their minds, Santorum and those like him will continue to be taken seriously instead of sent packing like they should be for being so cavalier about something as serious as war.

      My question is, what can we do to begin to change the minds of our fellow Americans? This blog has to make some difference but only for those who are already looking to challenge themselves intellectually. What about those who think watching cable news and reading a paper once in a while are enough?

  2. 20 January 2012 10:36 am

    Perhaps, Robert Michels (sociologist, Cologne 1876 – Rome 1936) and his “Iron Law of Oligarchies” might suggest an interesting perspective on the matter. See the succinct Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Iron_law_of_oligarchy&printable=yes:

    Robert Michels found that, paradoxically, the socialist parties of Europe, despite their democratic ideology and provisions for mass participation, seemed to be dominated by their leaders, just like traditional conservative parties.

    Michels’ conclusion was that the problem lay in the very nature of organizations. The more liberal and democratic modern era allowed the formation of organizations with innovative and revolutionary goals, but as such organizations become more complex, they became less and less democratic and revolutionary. Michels formulated the “Iron Law of Oligarchy”: “Who says organization, says oligarchy.”

    At the time Michels formulated his Law, he was an anarcho-syndicalist. He later gave up his socialist convictions and became an important ideologue of Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime in Italy, teaching economics at the University of Perugia.

    Reasons

    Michels stressed several factors that underlie the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Darcy K. Leach summarized them briefly as: “Bureaucracy happens. If bureaucracy happens, power rises. Power corrupts.” Any large organization, Michels pointed out, has to create a bureaucracy in order to maintain its efficiency as it becomes larger—many decisions have to be made daily that cannot be made by large numbers of disorganized people. For the organization to function effectively, centralization has to occur and power will end up in the hands of a few. Those few—the oligarchy—will use all means necessary to preserve and further increase their power.

    This process is further compounded, as delegation is necessary in any large organization, as thousands—sometimes hundreds of thousands—of members cannot make decisions via participatory democracy. This has been dictated by the lack of technological means for large numbers of people to meet and debate, and also by matters related to crowd psychology, as Michels argued that people feel a need to be led. Delegation, however, leads to specialization—to the development of knowledge bases, skills and resources among a leadership—which further alienates the leadership from the rank and file and entrenches the leadership in office.

    Bureaucratization and specialization are the driving processes behind the Iron Law. They result in the rise of a group of professional administrators in a hierarchical organization, which in turn leads to the rationalization and routinization of authority and decision making, a process described first and perhaps best by Max Weber, later by John Kenneth Galbraith, and to a lesser and more cynical extent by the Peter Principle.

    Bureaucracy by design leads to centralization of power by the leaders. Leaders also have control over sanctions and rewards. They tend to promote those who share their opinions, which inevitably leads to self-perpetuating oligarchy. People achieve leadership positions because they have above-average political skill (see charismatic authority). As they advance in their careers, their power and prestige increases. Leaders control the information that flows down the channels of communication, censoring what they do not want the rank-and-file to know. Leaders will also dedicate significant resources to persuade the rank-and-file of the rightness of their views. This is compatible with most societies: people are taught to obey those in positions of authority. Therefore the rank and file show little initiative, and wait for the leaders to exercise their judgment and issue directives to follow.

    Implications

    The “iron law of oligarchy” states that all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop oligarchic tendencies, thus making true democracy practically and theoretically impossible, especially in large groups and complex organizations. The relative structural fluidity in a small-scale democracy succumbs to “social viscosity” in a large-scale organization. According to the “iron law,” democracy and large-scale organization are incompatible.

  3. 20 January 2012 2:21 pm

    “Wars tend to have unexpectedly large costs and unexpectedly poor “returns””

    But sometimes they have big payoffs, for America and Russia in world war 2, Britain in the 7 years war and the Napoleonic wars, France in the 30 years war. But I suppose they were wars of vital national interest, its very hard to see any pay off with Iran.

    Its interesting to see who quickly things have deescalated in the last few days, perhaps those Israeli false flag operations have created some blowback, and that combined with Iran’s more concrete enunciation of what it might do if attacked seems to popped the giddy war talk bubble.

    • 20 January 2012 2:27 pm

      “But sometimes they have big payoffs, for America and Russia in world war 2, Britain in the 7 years war and the Napoleonic wars, France in the 30 years war.’

      Yes, sometimes wars have large payoffs. But — since the modern era began in 1648, what nation has started a large war and gained from it? I believe there are few instances; I cannot think of one (excluding civil wars).

      Also, I think your list of winners is too long. I doubt many Russians would say that WWII had a net payoff for Russia. I don’t know about Britain after Napoleon; an analysis of the net payoff of that long, expensive war would be interesting to see!

    • 20 January 2012 5:47 pm

      “But sometimes they have big payoffs, for America and Russia in world war 2, Britain in the 7 years war and the Napoleonic wars, France in the 30 years war. But I suppose they were wars of vital national interest, its very hard to see any pay off with Iran.”

      One very tangible payoff in this case is the guarantee of a non-nuclear Iran.

      If the cost of obtaining this guarantee is simply a bombing campaign and a few days of minesweeping (people like John McCain would like us to believe it’d be this easy), then it certainly would seem worth it.

    • 20 January 2012 6:53 pm

      Congratulations for your illustration of the effect of intensive indoctrination, and America’s resulting disconnect from reality.

      This is the 15th in a series of posts on the FM website describing the proproganda campaign conducted against the American public about Iran, citing over one hundred authoratative sources (eg, many from US and Israel intelligence) to document that it consists mostly of exaggerations, misrepresenations, and outright lies.

      In one comment you regurgitate most of the key lies, misrepresentations, and exaggerations.

      • It’s not clear that Iran even has an active program to build a bonb, let alone its possible size and scope (although, like Japan and others, they’re certainly and sensibly building the capability to build a bonb).
      • It’s debatable that a bomb will give Iran more than additional security.
      • It’s debatable that an Iranian bomb diminishes US national security.
      • A strike at Iran could initate a costly and risky war (not the cakewalk you imply).
      • A strike at Iran would almost certainly NOT “guarantee a non-nuclear Iran”; in fact it might incite an intense program to build nukes.

      Perhaps such a gullible people as we have become are not capable of self-government.

    • 20 January 2012 6:03 pm

      M James writes:
      If the cost of obtaining this guarantee is simply a bombing campaign and a few days of minesweeping (people like John McCain would like us to believe it’d be this easy)

      Iran has decent cruise missiles and antiship missiles. McCain is senile.

    • 20 January 2012 6:11 pm

      It’s kind of you to attribute it to senility.

    • 20 January 2012 7:12 pm

      “One very tangible payoff in this case is the guarantee of a non-nuclear Iran.
      If the cost of obtaining this guarantee is simply a bombing campaign and a few days of minesweeping (people like John McCain would like us to believe it’d be this easy), then it certainly would seem worth it.”

      But is that payoff worth further eroding of international law and order, something which may likely make destructive wars and proxy wars all that more common in the world? Furthermore, a strike could only realistically delay their nuclear program and it gives them even more incentive to restart it even more vigorously. At the end of the day though, I’m not sure why we feel Iran is such a threat in this regard. The Soviet Union, also a very determined and ideologically motivated state which engaged in covert missions and proxy wars all over the world, never gave nuclear weapons to third parties because they knew how dangerous that would be. The Iranian regime can be a lot of things, but it is not irrational to the point of being suicidal.

      The only thing nuclear weapons gives them is a deterrent against all out invasion and regime change. Santorum says it would also allow them to act with impunity in the Middle East, but they are doing that anyway because they are not going to stop doing what states always do; protect and advance their regional interests.

      I would prefer we just leave them alone and just try to act as an honest broker in the region along with offshore balancing as a backup plan. As much as it pains the crusaders among us, opening up trade, commerce, and cross cultural exchange between us and the Iranians is probably the best way to cool tensions in the long run. People forget that Ajmedinajad likely owes a great deal of his electoral victory to Bush’s rhetoric about the “Axis of Evil”, nothing less than a tragedy considering the reforms being pushed for by Khatami. Instead of embracing the reformist elements when they were in power, we rebuffed them and put the hardliners in Iran in a better position, a grave strategic error we can’t seem to move away from.

    • 20 January 2012 7:20 pm

      “But is that payoff worth further eroding of international law and order, something which may likely make destructive wars and proxy wars all that more common in the world?”

      In my estimation, no, the payoff is certainly not worth it.

  4. 20 January 2012 6:52 pm

    When I was watching the McCain “bomb iran” bit I couldn’t help but think how much of the ‘case’ against Iran is Ahmadenijad’s intemperate remarks about Israel, which are interpreted as threats. So we are supposed to accept that Iran is led by dangerous crazy people because their president says Israel should be destroyed, but it’s just yuk yuk yuk played for laughs when one of our politicians makes similar comments about another country. The hypocrisy is stunning.

  5. 20 January 2012 8:45 pm

    Here is the radical idea. If you drop bombs on someone, if you have soldiers in his country, maybe he is going to want to kill you back This in the ‘mainstream debate’ is considered ‘blaming America.’ The permissible explanations for anti-American sentiment are either that Muslims are inherently evil or that we’re just so cool and wonderful that they hate us out of envy. Any self-reflection has to be reconciled with the essential goodness of past and present American policy.

    >(1) Look at America as our grandkids will see us

    They’ll say “Don’t hate me, it was my grandparents who bombed all those countries.”

    • 21 January 2012 5:32 pm

      A great reply. On this basis alone you’d probably make a better SecDef than the folks actually in that chair, as you have a greater grasp of reality!

  6. mclaren permalink
    21 January 2012 4:46 am

    FM’s proposed “solution” (avoid starting unnecessary wars) sounds nice, but it’s hopelessly naive and unrealistic. As a matter of cold hard practical fact, America settled on a long-term economic strategy of military Keynesianism in 14 April 1950 when Paul Nitze authored NSC-68.

    The late Chalmers Johnson summarizes the problems with military Keynesianism in his February 2008 article “Why the U.S. has really gone broke.” Johnson cites a number of now well-known economic analyses which prove, among other things, that military spending creates fewer jobs than almost any other kind of spending (according to this MIT study).

    The problem, in 2012, remains that such a large part of the American economy now depends on military spending, broadly defined to include all the actual military expenditures in America that eliminating unnecessary wars would quickly raise a public clamor about why we’re spending more than 1.2 trillion dollars a year if we don’t use our massive military.

    The 1.2 trillion dollar figure comes from an accurate assessment of America’s current annual military spending. It includes money not listed or counted in the so-called “official figures,” such as the VA hospital system, military retirement, Pentagon “black” projects not officially included in the annual budget, the CIA which now operates massive fleets of armed UAV drones worldwide and armies of black ops assassins, the NSA, the NRO which launches and maintains military satellites, the DOE whose budget is mostly consumed by Pentagon Buck Rogers superweapon projects like the airborne laser system, the DHS which now operates as a paramilitary unit enforcing de facto martial law throughout America, and so on.

    You tell me — are military satellites part of the military? The NRO costs 60 billion dollars a year. According to the official budget of the United States, the NRO is not part of military spending. That’s an obvious lie, designed to scam voters into thinking America spends much less per year on its military than we really do. Ditto VA hospital spending: according to the official budget of America, this is not military spending. Likewise, spending on military retirements is not classified as “military spending,” which is obviously ludicrous. Spending on a literal army of mercs (Blackwater, now Xe) that runs well over 60 billion dollars a year and includes tens of thousands of ex-green berets and ex-special forces and ex-Army rangers and ex-SEALS who fight in foreign countries using military equipment is not classified as “military spending,” which once again is ludicrous beyond the need for rebuttal. DHS goons who patrol American train stations armed with military weapons and dressed in military outfits and who stop and arrest American citizens without charges or a trial, acting as though a state of martial law exists, are not classified as “military spending,” which once again fails the straight-face test.

    When we add up these obviously military expenditures, we get 700 billion (official number) + 60 billion (Blackwater/Xe) + 60 billion (CIA) + 60 billion (NRO) + 50 billion (Pentagon “black” projects not listed on any budget) + 20 billion (DOE, mostly futuristic weapons development for the military like the National Ignition Facility ostensibly designed for nuclear fusion power but in reality a testbed for military laser weaponry) + 67 billion (DHS) + NSA (60 billion) + military retirement (70 billion) + VA hospital system (73 billion) = 1.217 trillion dollars per year.

    This doubtless understates America’s real military expenditures in 2012. For one reason, because the Pentagon has such chaotic accounting practices that it has failed every audit for the last 11 years, and consequently the U.S. military doesn’t even known how much it actually spends (so how can anyone else?). For another, military spending since 9/11 has skyrocketed at such an exponential rate that these figures are undoubtedly inaccurate. The U.S. military now officially makes 8% of all durable goods, up from 3% in 2000 — but these figures fail to include so-called “dual-use technologies,” which surely puts the total of military manufacturing much higher than 8% of U.S. durable goods manufacturing.

    With annual spending of 1.2 trillion, American military spending accounts for 8% of the USA’s 14-trillion-dollar-per-year GDP. However, once again, this does not include “dual-use” technologies like UAV drones, so the total is undoubtedly far higher — perhaps 10%, or 12% or 14%…we don’t know for certain.

    What we can say with certainly is that figures like 8% or 12% of GDP are Soviet levels of military spending. Using a simple Kesynesian multiplier, we can estimate the effect of significantly cutting American military spending (which would surely be the result of ending our unnecessary wars, due to eventual public calls to reduce U.S. military spending since we aren’t using it to fight any wars). With a standard multiple of 1.5:1, a cut in America’s military spending by 50% would equate to a cut of 12% in America’s GDP. Huge numbers of civilian contractors would lose their jobs; large parts of the American educational system would shut down (RAND, Pentagon funding for blue-sky R&D like this wacky DARPA-funded contract to purportedly study the feasibility of a 100-year-long starship voyage to another solar system…the military utility of which can be discerned only by means of sensations which verge on the extrasensory).

    The impact of a 12% reduction in U.S. GDP on America’s long-term labor participation rate in an economy already brutally hit by automation and globalization-driven wage arbitrage remains an exercise for the economics student.

    Safe to say that the resulting 20%-or-so unemployment rate and savage recession would end the political careers of any president of congressman or senator that voted for it.

    So, to put it bluntly, America now finds itself in the position of a chronic heroin addict. The injections of military-Keynesian heroin made America feel wonderful for years…then the military-Keynesian spending stopped being a thrill and became a basic necessary. And now that we’re hopelessly addicted, because military Keynesian spending makes up such a huge part of the American economy along with its associated dual-use tech and knock-on effects from civilian contractors and secondary businesses which have sprung up to service those civilian contractors (one example involves the fast food franchises that have entwined themselves in Army bases worldwide, so that the Green Zone in Iraq had its own Pizza Hut and Subway sandwich outlets).

    So now America finds itself in the position of a chronic heroin addict: if we try to withdraw from the drug, we’ll suffer bone-shattering convulsions, a massive systemic crash, and possible death.

    America spent 62 years riding the back of Paul Nitze’s military-Keynesianism tiger. Now, unfortunately, like the girl in the story, we’ve wound up inside the tiger. It has swallowed us, and there’s no easy way to back away from our addiction. This explains why America now finds itself addicted to endless unwinnable wars worldwide — today, in a militarized economy that increasingly dominates a massively militarized society under de facto martial law, no wars are unnecessary. Today, in 2012, all wars are necessary for America because war has become “the health of state” in America.

    • 21 January 2012 5:27 am

      There are two ways to respond to this. First, many of the facts are grosssly wrong. Second, it is in its entirely an attack on something that bears zero relationship to what I’ve said many times at great length.

      (1) Facts – this grossly exaggerates military spending

      “When we add up these obviously military expenditures, we get 700 billion (official number) + 60 billion (Blackwater/Xe) + 60 billion (CIA) + 60 billion (NRO) + 50 billion (Pentagon “black” projects not listed on any budget) + 20 billion (DOE, mostly futuristic weapons development for the military like the National Ignition Facility ostensibly designed for nuclear fusion power but in reality a testbed for military laser weaponry) + 67 billion (DHS) + NSA (60 billion) + military retirement (70 billion) + VA hospital system (73 billion) = 1.217 trillion dollars per year.”

      (a) $80 billion for Blackwater/xe — that means Xi is larger than the CIA. That’s just nuts. The entire US expenditure for mercs is only a tiny fracton of that — and most of it is already in the DOD budget.

      (b) The intelligence budget is secret, but Mclaren’s estimate is for most of intel (not just CIA), and is already included in the DoD budget — and so should not be added to it. This is a well-known fact, and getting it wrong suggests mclaren has little knowledge of these things. From the Congressional Research Service report of 25 September 2006:

      Although the United States Intelligence Community encompasses large Federal agencies — the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the National Security Agency (NSA) — among others — neither Congress nor the executive branch has regularly made public the total extent of intelligence spending. Rather, intelligence programs and personnel are largely contained, but not identified, within the capacious budget of the Department of Defense (DOD).

      He also believes any “dual use technology” should be included as military spending. That’s nuts. Toilet paper is a dual use technology. The National Ignition Facility is potentially one of the breakthrough technologies of the 21st century; characterizing it as military because it could power lasers shows deeply flawed thinking.

      I could continue, but why bother with this nonsense.

      (2) “FM’s proposed “solution” (avoid starting unnecessary wars) sounds nice, but it’s hopelessly naive and unrealistic”

      Mclaren is not actually a fool, despite opening his comment with this. At 1600 words this post was already too long. The conclusion was a summary of the post, making the point (with a little humor) that wars are usually unneccessary. I’m confident that almost every other reader understood that the last sentence of the post — preceeding a quote from Star Trek — was not intended as a complete description of a political reform movement for America.

      Anyone interested in discussion of ways to reform America should look on the right-side menu bar for the Reference Page America – how can we stop the quiet coup now in progress?

  7. mclaren permalink
    21 January 2012 6:43 am

    FM’s claims are flatly and provably wrong. No surprise, for someone who denies global warming.

    Notice that FM gets his facts wrong in the very process of claiming that I get my facts wrong. If you read carefully, you’ll discern that I cited a figure of 60 billion for mercs like Xe. This is the annual amount spent on military contractors in-theater during the Iraq War, so it’s based on hard cold fact. Notice that FM claims I said “80 billion.”

    Clearly FM is someone who can’t even be bothered to read a simple sentence and extract its factual content — so how can we believe him when he claims to correct someone else’s facts?

    Second, notice that Chalmers Johnson comes to nearly the same figure I come to — Johnson states a total of 1.1 trillion per annum for U.S. military spending in 2008, while I come to a figure of 1.2 trillion in 2012. Accounting for inflation, I’m getting the same answer Chalmers Johnson is. Notice also that Chalmers Johnson cites other experts.

    “In discussing the fiscal 2008 defence budget, as released on 7 February 2007, I have been guided by two experienced and reliable analysts: William D Hartung of the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative (2) and Fred Kaplan, defence correspondent for Slate.org.” {Johnson, Chalmers, “Why America is Really Going Broke,” Le Monde Diplomatique, Feburary 2008, op. cit.]

    Naturally, FM dismisses both Johnson and the experts he cites. Everyone else is wrong; FM is right. Of course, FM provides no hard evidence, no references, nothing to back up his claims. Standard stuff for elements of the fringe, like global warming deniers, flat earthers, follow earthers, et al.

    FM goes on to contradict well-documented facts when he falsesly claims:

    The intelligence budget is secret, but Mclaren’s estimate is for most of intel (not just CIA), and is already included in the DoD budget — and so should not be added to it. This is a well-known fact, and getting it wrong suggests mclaren has little knowledge of these things.

    The DoD budget is a fabrication which bears little relation to fiscal reality, and so should not be taken seriously. This is a well-known fact, and getting it wrong suggests FM has little knowledge of these things.

    “Before we try to break down and analyse this gargantuan sum, there is one important caveat. Figures on defence spending are notoriously unreliable. The numbers released by the Congressional Reference Service and the Congressional Budget Office do not agree with each other. Robert Higgs, senior fellow for political economy at the Independent Institute, says: “A well-founded rule of thumb is to take the Pentagon’s (always well publicised) basic budget total and double it” (1). Even a cursory reading of newspaper articles about the Department of Defense will turn up major differences in statistics about its expenses. Some 30-40% of the defence budget is “black”,” meaning that these sections contain hidden expenditures for classified projects. There is no possible way to know what they include or whether their total amounts are accurate.” [Johnson, Chalmers, 2008, op. cit.]

    FM continues with his gross errors and counterfactual claims. Not satisfied with being flagrantly and provably wrong about the Pentagon’s budget and in contradiction to all the expert defense analysts who have looked at the budget numbers, FM goes on to claim that

    [mclaren] also believes any “dual use technology” should be included as military spending. That’s nuts. Toilet paper is a dual use technology. The National Ignition Facility is potentially one of the breakthrough technologies of the 21st century; characterizing it as military because it could power lasers shows deeply flawed thinking.

    Once again, FM shows that he is incapable of reading a sentence correctly. As he well knows, I never said all dual-use technologies should be included as military spending. Here’s what I said, and what FM is unable to read and understand:

    The U.S. military now officially makes 8% of all durable goods, up from 3% in 2000 — but these figures fail to include so-called “dual-use technologies,” which surely puts the total of military manufacturing much higher than 8% of U.S. durable goods manufacturing.

    I did not say “all” dual-use technologies. Clearly I refer to some dual-use technologies. Moreover, the example I gave of UAVs is clearly to the point, while FM’s counterexample is absurd and nonsensical — show us one (1) example of the U.S. military using toilet paper in battle. By contrast, I can cite many examples of armed UAV drones being used in military situations (Pakistan) but such drones are also now being used in non-military situations (by police within the U.S. and by the U.S. geodetic survey, among other examples). FM is either being deliberately deceptive here — i.e., he’s lying outright — or he’s simply stupid (which seems unlikely, unless he genuinely believes that American soldiers kill the enemy in Afghanistan by hurling toilet paper at them).

    I could continue, but why bother? Despite his frequent bizarre assertions and outlandish claims (global warming is a giant conspiracy of 97% of the world’s most esteemed climatologists), FM is not a complete fool. We should, however, regard his purported ‘corrections’ of commenters with the utmost skepticism, given FM’s proven inability to read English sentences and summarize their factual content accurately.

    • 21 January 2012 7:23 am

      mclaren: Interesting. I suppose these figures are appropriate for the world’s sole guarantor of security, though (if “security” is the right word).

      And don’t worry about responding to FM’s next response. Those who will bother reading and comprehending your first comment will already understand that “[FM] is incapable of reading a sentence correctly.”

    • mike j permalink
      21 January 2012 8:58 am

      mclaren -

      Based on your use of propaganda techniques and logical fallacies, I’m having a little trouble swallowing this. I can do it too, here:

      Mclaren repeatedly refers to “Xe,” which was Xe Services LLC, and before that known as Blackwater USA. However Xe has recently changed its name again to “Academi.” If Mclaren can’t be bothered to keep track of a simple thing like the name of this company, which others of his “facts” are out of date or wrong altogether?

      See what I did, there? Also, if you have something important to say, say it more concisely. The likelihood that I’ll read a response thoroughly is inversely proportional to its length, and most other people are the same.

    • 21 January 2012 4:44 pm

      I think most readers can recognize hysterial overstatements when they see it, so a response to Mclaren is not needed. And experience with Mclaren’s comments has shown that facts and logic play little role in his thinking — and so have no effect on him. Just for the heck of it I’ll make a brief response.

      “Everyone else is wrong; FM is right”

      Mclaren should get out more if he thinks “everybody” agrees with his numbers and reasoning. This is perhaps the most revealing statement of his LONG comments, showing someone self-imprisoned by his narrow sources of information.

      I do give specific counter-examples to mclaren’s statements, most of which Mclaren ignores (as usual, per his many previous comments).

      (a) Mclaren’s numbers (no matter who exhalted the source) are not accurate. I cite a 2006 Congressional Research Service report showing that much of the expenditures Mclaren says are outside the DoD — and hence s/b added to give an accurate picture — are inside the DoD budget. That’s a simple statement of fact.

      (b) I give specific rebuttals, such as how he characterizes the national ignition facility.

      (c) Most important, the lead paragraph of his comment was a silly misrepresentation of the conclusion to my post.

      I will give three additional counter-examples, showing the persistent errors which hopelessly mar Mclaren’s analysis.

      (1) “Naturally, FM dismisses both Johnson and the experts he cites.”

      This is the “just make up stuff” defense. I say nothing even remotely like this, as I don’t discuss the “military keynesian” theory about the impact of DoD spending. It’s too complex for comments.

      (2) “30-40% of the defence budget is ‘black’, meaning that these sections contain hidden expenditures for classified projects.”

      These sums are in the DoD budget, not outside it (as Mclaren states). They are “black” in the senese that their purpose is not discclosed.

      (3) “I did not say ‘all’ dual-use technologies. Clearly I refer to some dual-use technologies.”

      Mclaren gave one specific example of a “dual use technology” not in the DoD budget: the National Ignition Facility. Which I explained was a silly example. The other example he gave was UAV’s, which are dual-use technology but already in the DoD budget — hence my tolet paper analogy, which I thought made the point with humor. But then my humor often doesn’t work.

    • 15 February 2012 4:07 pm

      For a more current analyssis see “The Intelligence Appropriations Process: Issues for Congress“, Congressional Research Service, 16 December 2011 — Openign:

      “It is now publicly acknowledged that intelligence appropriations are a significant component of the federal budget, over $80 billion in FY2010 for both the national and military intelligence programs. In an era of fiscal austerity, it is likely that Members of Congress will review intelligence programs to ensure they are both effective and affordable. The appropriation process for intelligence activities is, however, complex and not widely understood.”

    • 21 January 2012 4:45 pm

      Mclaren — you are a liar of an especially vile sort, using lies to descredit the facts and logic of another. Please provide a quotation to support this statement.:

      “Despite his frequent bizarre assertions and outlandish claims (global warming is a giant conspiracy of 97% of the world’s most esteemed climatologists), FM “

      You have been warned about this before. Your comments are moderated. Replies on this thread will go though, but nothing else until you either retract or support that statement. That seems to me to be a reasonable response to your pattern of lies. If you cannot support what you say, peddle your lies elsewhere.

      We are suffering from a form of Gresham’s Law, where bad arguement drives out good arguement from the Internet. So long as we tolerate people like Mclaren who rely on it, then the Internet will too often make us dumb — and not fulfill its promise.

    • 21 January 2012 4:58 pm

      This statement of Mclarens is also a lie:

      “for someone who denies global warming.”

      I have repeated discussed the warming of the Earth during the past two centuries. The debate concerns the causes of this warming and forecasts of future warming.

    • 21 January 2012 5:51 pm

      Since I ask mclaren for quotes to support his statements, I hold myself to the same standard.

      Among the 134 posts about climate science are many statements about the nature of the debate. Here is one, from one of my early posts on the subject (later posts discuss these in more detail): “An article giving strong evidence of global warming“, 30 June 2008:

      (1) Anthropological global warming (AGW, caused by us) is more difficult to prove than global warming

      The data showed clear indications of global warming in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hence the difficulty of demonstrating AGW as a substantial driver of current warming, since the natural warming trend was established before massive global industrialization. Proving causation requires more than showing a trend, since the trend was already there. This is a repeated fallacy of general media articles about global warming (but not, of course, of the climate science literature).

      (2) Keeping the public ignorant of normal climate cycles

      The inconvenient truth about 19th and 20th century warming is omitted from many “educational” articles and movies, along with any mention of past climatic swings. Doing so makes it easier to arouse fears about AGW by exploiting the public’s ignorance of history and logic. AGW can be proven by appealing to post hoc ergo propter hoc — if industrialization preceded warming, then industrialization must have caused warming. This is a wonderful use of propaganda: false fact used to support false logic.

      (3) Will warming on balance help or hurt humanity?

      A thorough, balanced analysis might show that the global warming forecast will cause net harm to humanity. Or perhaps not. Has anyone done such an analysis? Unfortunately today the path to fame and glory today comes from articles attributing only ill effects from global warming – no matter how outlandish. One can read many, many articles before finding any hints that warming might have a few good effects.

      Note that this specifically describes the general media articles about climate. That has been the focus of these posts. While the debate among scientists rolls along in its usual sloppy way (the mills grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine), the public has been assaulted with a propaganda campaign intended to shape public policy.

      Also relevant: my recommendations have centered around increased funding for climate science due to the importance for America and humanity of the debate. For example see “My wish list” for the climate sciences in 2009“, 2 January 2009.

      For more information see these Reference Pages about Climate Science:

  8. 21 January 2012 9:44 pm

    Lost in the discussion was the question raised: how much does the US spend on defense?

    The short answer: too much. Far more than we need to spend.

    But specifically how much? It depends on how one defines defense. For an answer let’s turn to one of our top defense analysts: “Nightmare: How Much Should We Spend for National Insecurity?” by Chuck Spinney, posted by James Fallows at his column on The Atlantic website, 3 February 2011 — It’s a long analysis, relying on work by Winston Wheeler at the Center for Defense Information (CDI). His conclusion:

    “So, in answering the first question: how large is the current defense budget? Reasonable estimates place it between $739 billion and $1 trillion for 2011 — take your pick.”</blockquot title="CDI" target="_blank":ler's reports at the CDI.

    For more information see Wheeler’s reports at CDI.

  9. Mikyo permalink
    22 January 2012 1:14 pm

    For a moment, try to disregard the ideological content. Forget how the media, on both sides, have reimagined it. Better still, turn off the sound and just watch these two for a moment. See how they pose and speak. Even better, let’s have a caption contest. Or, do we realy need one. The pundits have already done that for us. He he he he.

    My entry, “Blow blow blow, blow blow my nose.”

    • 22 January 2012 4:06 pm

      Caption contest! A brilliant idea. We’ve not had humor on the FM website since the Editor forbid me to right any more funny articles (readers missed the point and took it seriously — firestorm!).

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