Tag Archives: warmonger

The Right urges us to blame Obama & directly fight ISIS. Will we repeat our mistakes?

Summary:  As ISIS (grandly calling itself the “Islamic State”) expands, the Right blames Obama and calls for more direct military involvement by America. Their arguments rely on our amnesia about the past and delusions about the nature of modern war. Learning from experience is a vital skill for a nation hoping to navigate the rapids of 21st C geopolitics; so far we refuse to even try.  (2nd of 2 posts today.)

“They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.”
— French naval officer Charles Louis Etienne in a 1796 letter to Mallet du Pan.

Let's make a choice!

Our grandchildren will marvel at the obtuseness of our foreign policy. Future generations of historians will discuss the causes of our inability to learn from experience in our post-9/11 wars. Not only do we appear determined to repeat painful mistakes, we continue to take advice from the people who guided us into these failed wars — ignoring the clear lessons of post-WWII history — rather the people whose warnings proved prophetic.

Can any nation, no matter how rich and power, survive such a combination of amnesia, blindness, and arrogance?

The fall of Ramadi was avoidable” by Kimberly Kagan and Frederick W. Kagan, op-ed in the Washington Post, 18 May 2015. She is president of the Institute for the Study of War. He is a Director at the American Enterprise Institute. Despite being consistently wrong, our wars have been good for them — although not so good for America, for our troops that fight them, and for the nations we seek to help.

Learning From Mistakes” by David Brooks, column in the New York Times, may 2015. Our wars promoted Brooks from neocon hack at the Weekly Standard to mainstream respectability at the NYT. Simon Maloy at Salon eviscerated Brooks’ “learning” in “David Brooks’ sickening Iraq apologia“. “How the New York Times hack just rewrote history. The conservative New York Times columnist explains what he’s learned from his Iraq war boosting: largely nothing.”

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John Bolton reveals a serious threat to America

Summary: Since 9/11 our leaders have become increasingly militant, urging America to attack an even invade an ever-growing list of nations for flimsy or imaginary reasons. We’re powerful but not omnipotent. War is a game that cannot be played forever with painful consequences. Eventually we’ll attack someone (a nation or group) who either retaliates irrationally but severely, or we’ll spark growth of a coalition of nations determined to restrain our military adventures. Our leaders work to make such disasters happen. A little bad luck and they will get their way.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}


An op-ed in today’s New York Times shows what might be the greatest threat to America: “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran” by John R. Bolton. It’s another volley in the well-funded multi-decade propaganda campaign to involve America in an endless series of foreign wars, a program that no series of failures and revealed lies can derail. Let’s review the high points.

… the president’s own director of National Intelligence testified in 2014 that they had not stopped Iran’s progressing its nuclear program. There is now widespread acknowledgment that the rosy 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which judged that Iran’s weapons program was halted in 2003, was an embarrassment, little more than wishful thinking. Even absent palpable proof, like a nuclear test, Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear weapons has long been evident.

Bolton’s acknowledgement that there is no proof is the only fact in this essay. He offers no evidence of the “widespread acknowledgement” about the 2007 NIE. Bolton’s statement about Clapper’s testimony is incorrect since he does not say that Iran has a “nuclear weapons program”, let alone that it’s “progressing” (international agreements allow Iran — like other nations — to have a civilian nuclear program). Clapper said:

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Will our geopolitical “experts “lead us to ruin?

Summary:  Yesterday’s introduction by Tom Engelhardt explained how we follow experts with records of almost continuous failures, but are surprised by the logical result. Today Andrew Bacevich takes this logic one step deeper, asking about the role of intellectuals in setting America’s geopolitical strategy — which has been one of increasing belligerence and militarization during the past 2 decades. This is another in our series of posts about experts.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Intellectuals In Action

Rationalizing Lunacy:
The Intellectual as Servant of the State

By Andrew J. Bacevich
Posted at TomDispatch, 8 March 2015.
Re-posted here with their generous permission.
Headlines & graphics added.

Policy intellectuals — eggheads presuming to instruct the mere mortals who actually run for office — are a blight on the republic. Like some invasive species, they infest present-day Washington, where their presence strangles common sense and has brought to the verge of extinction the simple ability to perceive reality. A benign appearance — well-dressed types testifying before Congress, pontificating in print and on TV, or even filling key positions in the executive branch — belies a malign impact. They are like Asian carp let loose in the Great Lakes.

Origins of the Intellectually-advised Government

It all began innocently enough.  Back in 1933, with the country in the throes of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt first imported a handful of eager academics to join the ranks of his New Deal.  An unprecedented economic crisis required some fresh thinking, FDR believed. Whether the contributions of this “Brains Trust” made a positive impact or served to retard economic recovery (or ended up being a wash) remains a subject for debate even today.   At the very least, however, the arrival of Adolph Berle, Raymond Moley, Rexford Tugwell, and others elevated Washington’s bourbon-and-cigars social scene. As bona fide members of the intelligentsia, they possessed a sort of cachet.

Then came World War II, followed in short order by the onset of the Cold War. These events brought to Washington a second wave of deep thinkers, their agenda now focused on “national security.”  This eminently elastic concept — more properly, “national insecurity” — encompassed just about anything related to preparing for, fighting, or surviving wars, including economics, technology, weapons design, decision-making, the structure of the armed forces, and other matters said to be of vital importance to the nation’s survival.  National insecurity became, and remains today, the policy world’s equivalent of the gift that just keeps on giving.

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How to Create a National Insecurity State.

Summary:  An essential part of leaning as citizens is learning on whom to rely. We don’t do this well, an important part of the FAILure to learn which has imperiled the Republic. Today Tom Engelhard — editor of the invaluable website TomDispatch — shows how since 9/11 a coterie of always-wrong experts have helped build the national security state.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Department of Fear

How to Create a National Insecurity State

By Tom Engelhardt
Posted at TomDispatch, 8 March 2015.
Re-posted here with his generous permission.

In our era in Washington, whole careers have been built on grotesque mistakes.  In fact, when it comes to our various conflicts, God save you if you’re right; no one will ever want to hear from you again.  If you’re wrong, however… well, take the invasion of Iraq.  Given the Islamic State, that creature of the American occupation, can anyone seriously believe that the invasion that blew a hole in the heart of the Middle East doesn’t qualify as one of the genuine disasters of our time, if not of any time? In the mad occupation that followed, Saddam Hussein’s well-trained army and officer corps were ushered into the chaos of post-invasion unemployment and, of course, insurgency.  Meanwhile, at a cost of $25 billion, a whole new military was trained that, years later, summarily collapsed when faced with insurgents led by some of those formerly out-of-work officers.

But the crew who pushed it all on Washington has never stopped yakking (or being listened to).  They’ve been called back at every anniversary of the invasion to offer their wisdom in the New York Times and elsewhere, while those who counseled against such an invasion have been nowhere in sight.  Some of the planners of the invasion and occupation are now advisers to Jeb Bush as he heads into the 2016 election campaign, while the policy wonks who went off to war with the generals (taking regular VIP tours of America’s battle zones) couldn’t be better thought of in Washington today.

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After 13 years of failed wars, do we know our warmongers?

Summary:  After 13 years of wars that failed at great cost in money and blood, our hawks urge that we start yet another war — in Syria. But we have learned. Some have found the courage to name our warmongers. This experience has been dearly bought, and might yet prove insufficient. Further lessons might prove even more expensive.

The War on Peace


Don’t Fight in Iraq and Ignore Syria“, Anne-Marie Slaughter, op-ed in the New York Times, 17 June 2014  — That she sings this is unsurprising. That so many still listen is sad, an astonishing Failure To Learn.


For the last two years, many people in the foreign policy community, myself included, have argued repeatedly for the use of force in Syria — to no avail. We have been pilloried as warmongers and targeted, by none other than President Obama, as people who do not understand that force is not the solution to every question. A wiser course, he argued at West Point, is to use force only in defense of America’s vital interests. …

Slaughter is a foreign policy insider , served under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as director of policy planning at the State Department (2009–11), and is now CEO of the New America Foundation (bio here). She was one of the major advocates of our disastrous intervention in Libya.

On the other hand after 13 years of futile war there is progress. Acknowledging the obvious truth is the first step to reconnecting with reality: “A Warmonger By Any Other Name“, Daniel Larison, The American Conservative, 18 June 2014 — Opening:

It’s a little strange that Slaughter opens with these lines.

  1. She has been a consistent supporter of using force in foreign conflicts, which is how she has earned a reputation for always being in favor of military action.
  2. Not only has she supported intervention time after time, but she has been an outspoken and vocal advocate for these views.
  3. She is notable among Syria hawks for having made some of the most outlandish arguments in favor of bombing Syria.

No doubt she has argued for more aggressive policies because she believes them to be preferable to the status quo or any other alternatives, but that is exactly why she doesn’t get to complain when critics point out the problems with her consistent hawkishness and advocacy for military action. Slaughter is one of the liberal hawks that made a point of celebrating the Libyan war as a success and as vindication for their interventionist instincts. As far as I know, she has never faced up to the negative consequences of the Libyan war on Libya or the surrounding region, nor has she applied any of the lessons that might have been learned from the Libyan intervention to her arguments on Syria.

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America’s hawks sing a song of national decline

Summary: The calls for war ring again from American pundits and geopolitical experts. No cause is too small, hopeless, or irrelevant to us — threatening war is always the right response, says a loud and influential number of Americans, to maintain our credibility and reputation. They sign a siren song of national decline. No nation, however great, can so dissipate it resources (both physical and political). And eventually they will get the disastrous war they seek. This is a follow-up to About the Ukraine-Russia conflict. First, know what we don’t know.

Nuclear Kraken

Release the Kraken!   (Art by lchappell.)

A flood of books published this year help us commemorate the centennial of WWI and remember its lessons. A common theme is the stupidity of Europe’s peoples — and their leaders — in 1914, so carelessly sliding into a calamitous war for so little reason.

To see how this happens, read your newspaper. America’s papers overflow with cries for America to threaten (or use) economic and military force in response to Russia’s increasingly assertive actions in its “near abroad” (their version of the Monroe Doctrine zone) — their aggressive moves into other nations (like ours into Afghanistan and Iraq).

These people’s screeds seldom balance risk with the potential gains, or measure the danger of escalation. They seldom assert that US national interests are at stake (that’s seen in the frequency of their calls for belligerence : in Iran, in Yemen, in Sudan, in Libya, in Syria, in Ukraine).

Rather they would deploy US power in pursuit of chimeras like prestige and credibility. In fact no nation can gain such things by routinely threatening force over issues in which it has no substantial interest — except through Nixon’s “Madman Theory” (based on a sentence of advice by Machiavelli), which would bring its own shattering blowback if believed (e.g., forfeiting Western leadership).

These people are the unwitting agents of national decline for America, in two ways. Even when unable to influence policy, they push leaders to greater belligerence in order to avoid “looking weak” (a bad thing in the eyes of foolish people) and losing domestic political support. And occasionally they will get their way, leading America into a new cycle of pointless conflict — diverting our limited resources from pressing domestic needs.

If left unopposed — and they are largely unopposed on the public stage (another parallel with 1914) — they might eventually get the war they seek. I doubt that will turn our well for America (It didn’t work well for Athens).

A quick look at a few of the hawkish squawks

Formally recognize Ukraine, prepare NATO troops“, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Nathan Gardels, op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor, 3 March 2014 — Brzezinski was Carter’s National Security Advisor. Money paragraph; very coy:

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Why we fight

Summary:  Today we look at one of the great mysteries of the 21st century, seeking explanations for America’s mad pursuit of foreign wars despite their repeated failure, despite their irrelevance to preventing another 9-11 (many intel experts believe we’re making another attack more likely). In their 13th years even the reasons for our wars remain unclear. Here are some guesses, which can warn even if they don’t enlighten.

War is Peace


  1. Our 4GWs are not wars
  2. Why do warmongers support them?
  3. Why do warriors support them?
  4. Why do our elites support them?
  5. Why do we support them?
  6. For More About Chet’s Perspective
  7. For More Information

(1)  Our 4GWs are not wars

Some experts on modern war, such as Chet Richards, describe the 4th generation conflicts of the post-WW2 era as something other than war. Despite the length of these conflicts (US troops are in their 13th year of fighting in Afghanistan), their cost in money and blood — they’re not war. How can this be? I have long pondered this, a question high on the long list of things I don’t understand.

Our latest failed wars give us new data, adding to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq (even the Cold War was waged with mad intensity). Here are a few articles describing some examples of our mad foreign policy.

  1. Libya: In Search of a Strongman“, Nicolas Pelham, New York Review of Books, 26 September 2013 — “It is perhaps a measure of how close Libya is to breaking apart that two years after ousting one dictator, many Libyans are craving another.”
  2. Iraq-Syria“, Adam Shatz, London Review of Books, 29 December 2013 — “The Iraq war is not over; it never really ended. It just spilled into a new war, the war in Syria. We may one day speak of Iraq-Syria the way that we speak now of ‘Af-Pak’.”
  3. How al-Qaeda Changed the Syrian War“, Sarah Birke, New York Review of Books, 27 December 2013 — Looking at our almost-allies in Syria (before Russia saved us from our stupidity)

After writing about these wars for ten years, I believe there is no one reason for our wars. I see layers of reasons.  The last is the most important.

(2)  Why do warmongers support these wars?

We have been a militarized nation since 1940, now spending almost half the world’s total on military and intel spending. Creation of a massive warmonger lobby was an inevitable side-effect. Unfortunately, a side-effect that we’ve embraced — not fought. For details see:

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