Decline toward a fall?

Michael Singer is a friend who lives in the "deep north."  He and I come from different places politically.   We share a mutual interest in the events of the ’60s and early ’70s.  I am glad we met after all that "wonderfulness" was over, long over.  Maybe.

He wrote such an interesting comment on the "National Interest" article that I have posted it here (with his agreement).

Pat Lang


"The National Interest piece is a great service. I wish it were required reading for the war planners working on Iran now for Rummy. The discussion about the piece has also been compelling except for one very important point.
What you and commenters have described is an America in the twilight of its hegemony, hemmed in by it’s deficit, a military with hundred of billions to spend which cannot provide body and vehicle armour for its troops fighting in real time and a government run by men and women so profoundly inadequate to the tasks of making war, securing a peace and providing for the common defense-that being the job of "Katrina" Chertoff. What is lacking here is a perspective, a step-back-look at what is really happening here: There something profoundly sad about this America you describe in your piece…it seems right and it is an America in a box it has helped build itself, which it cannot get out of short of using nucs – which, as you point out, is irrational and yet it is the weapon on which we once built our security at an unfathomable cost.
What this situation cries out for is some new thinking about intelligence, diplomacy, non UN transnational cooperation, and other than violent tools to work toward a brake on our decline. This country’s beginning was sheer genuis and it’s short history(until recently) has so much that is good to offer the world. But our light, it seems, is slowly going out, maybe being put out by some conditions out of our control and with the help of our current leadership."  Michael Singer

This entry was posted in Current Affairs, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Decline toward a fall?

  1. jonst says:

    Michael S writes:
    “What is lacking here is a perspective, a step-back-look at what is really happening here”. Well, yes, undoubtedly, “perspective” is lacking. But I would argue that as much as we need “perspective”, and we do, we need courage even more. Look, the things that are now, finally, being said or written about, in public, were known, for the most part, 3 years ago. However, most people did not have the courage to step up and tell this administration, and the American people, what the real score was. They were not going to be ‘swiftboated’.
    It was, and still is, for the most part, as simple as that. Because one can say what they want about the criminal that presently occupies the White House, but he, and more important, his Family and their friends, know how to punish people. And they know how to reward people. Does anyone think the corporate media had the courage to stand up to these guys? Did one, one, military officer publicly say “I resign” this is a silly, ill conceived and incompetent plan that will end up hurting our nation and the men and women that serve it. Did anyone stand up and publicly say to Gen Franks, “man, you got out there quickly”.
    And finally, the American people lacked courage as well. There were people that knew, knew this was going to be a disaster. They went along with it. They went along with the way a husband goes along with lending his wife’s younger brother money to open a business. The husband, who knows it’s going to be a disaster, goes along with it because he wants to stay on his wife’s good side. And what the hell “maybe the dope will get lucky and actually pull it off”. So people who knew better said nothing. The firing started and the thinking stopped. And the dope did, most emphatically, NOT get lucky.
    And now said same dope is about to up the ante in Iran. Like some gambler who is doubling his bets in a self-destructive dash to recoup his losses. Down where I once roamed in NYC, we knew the ending of those kinds of jags…….a couple of wiseguys always showed up at the door asking if the dope was home.

  2. zanzibar says:

    The National Interest piece was excellent, providing a sober analysis of the options.
    Although the economic angle was presented I don’t think the full import of our dire financial situation was explored. We are essentially broke and there is a larger economic civil war brewing here at home. This is currently papered over as the dollar is the reserve currency of the world. When we look at the obligations of the federal government including social security and medicare its over $51 trillion. That’s over 4 times current GDP. When we get past all the accounting “smoke & mirrors” and look at the government fiscal deficit on an accrual basis with social security and medicare and other liabilities “owed” to our citizens it is around $3.4 trillion annually. Or put it in other terms our real fiscal deficit is rising by the equivalent of our current GDP every 3 years. Even if all our citizens wages were taxed a 100% it would not cover the real deficit. So its only a matter of time that what is “owed” our citizens by the federal government will have to be cut either directly or through devaluation of our currency. Imagine the debate then – fund this huge military-intelligence complex with a trillion dollars annually or fund the survival of our parents, grandparents and our children’s health care.
    Since China, Russia and the PetroSheikhs fund us today to the tune of $2 billion each day and growing, all they need to do is to not add to their dollar reserves at the margin. They don’t need to dump their dollar holdings to cause a currency crisis. And at some point for pure financial reasons they cannot continue to accept more of our paper for their resources and goods.
    Our true financial state and our hegemonic military ambitions do not square up.
    The NPT also does not seem to work. Real nuclear weapons states like Israel, India and Pakistan are not signatories. And the other major weapons states have not kept their end of the bargain to truly work to eliminate nuclear weapons. The biggest nuclear proliferator, Pakistan, was just given a slap on the wrist when they were caught providing nuclear weapons technology to anyone with cash. And now we reward India with nuclear technology and a tacit agreement that they can continue to develop weapons. Relative to Iran the bigger threat IMO is Pakistan, the creators of the Taliban and the home base of all the transnational Islamic jihadist groups. Pakistan is just an assasination away from having a jihadist friendly government.
    The reality maybe that we are going to have to live with all these countries becoming nuclear weapons states and the best we can do maybe is to collectively insure that these weapons do not get into the hands of terrorists. The world order is surely changing and Russia and China are slowly strengthening relative to us. It may behove us to get in front and build alliances and strategies for the next era taking into account what we can accomplish with our constrained financial and economic situation. The other choice is to believe our fanatsy while we go the way of every other hegemonic power through history.

  3. Norbert Schulz says:

    I rather hope not.
    What I fear is incestous threat perception amplification inside the Whitehouse bubble. The apparent lack of options the U.S. have might persuade Bush and Cheney for some silly ideas, like to boldly ‘act now, before it’s too late’ on Iran and conjure up some blowback that would make Iraq look like a boyscout picknick.

  4. searp says:

    Why haven’t we been real agressive on ALL aspects of the NPT? We have a huge conventional military advantage, yet our laughable build-down in nuclear weapons gives other countries a ready-made excuse for their own weapons programs.
    The rest-of-world sees our stance on nonproliferation as hypocritical and designed to lock in a permanent military hegemony.
    Seems to me that we’d be better off were we able to make the case that we would be very happy if the nukes went away, for everyone.
    I do not think I am naive. The NPT has to viewed positively by the countries of the world that have the potential to acquire nukes if it is to have any useful purpose. If not, we ought to just fuggetaboutit and deal with a much more dangerous world and no mechanism to restrain proliferation.

  5. Norbert Schulz says:

    That’s Bolton’s point. He wants the NPT dead, or a US vassal (just think about his quixotish attempt to get rid of El Baradei), and is probably convinced that in this evil world U.S. power is guarantee enough for U.S. safety – he wouldn’t try undermining both the UN and the IAEA if it wasn’t so.
    I happen to disagree with him.

  6. Curious says:

    Why haven’t we been real agressive on ALL aspects of the NPT? We have a huge conventional military advantage, yet our laughable build-down in nuclear weapons gives other countries a ready-made excuse for their own weapons programs.
    Posted by: searp | 06 March 2006 at 03:29 PM
    NPT is dead. It’s just that nobody has admited yet. Worst case scenario:
    1. Bush sells nuke materials to India with agreement that basically says India can do whatever they want with their nuclear weapons program.
    2. This means Pakistan will soon demand the exact same thing. Or else, no more cooperation capturing Osama. (well, in so many words)
    3. Since India and Pakistan can have all the nuclear toys, why should anybody else follow the rules?
    4. So China will start selling Pakistan nukes stuff, just to balance out India. (old rehash)
    5. Russia will sell nukes to Iran, to protect their central Asian interest. (there is practically nothing anybody can do at this point. It’s a done deal, what we see above is mere diplomatic spiele. I wish somebody call out the spiele and keep it real.)
    6. Which means Israel, Saudi will demand nukes pronto just to balance Iran.
    7. Brazil, Egypt, Turkey, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea will probably go nuclear asap, the moment our military power collapses. (budget and political will wise.) They need the nuke to defend and counter balance everybody else.
    Better hope the middle east is a stable region in the next 2 decades, or else we all going to need radioactive suits whenever the wind is blowing this way through…

  7. Pat:
    Just in case you haven’t checked over at the “Contemplating the Ifs….” thread I left this little comment there
    ps: I’m not into black socks but masks do intrigue me… the wife too… 8^)
    psst: Anything when you hit 6-0 …

  8. Norbert Schulz says:

    Curious, it’s an old adage that an international treaty is only as effective or ineffective as it’s members, or the most influential members want it to be.
    That applies generally from everything starting with the UN in general, the IAEA/ NPT in particular and other treaties like NAFTA or WTO.
    The point is always the insight that one draws advantages from a treaty – if it’s too idealistic it won’t work. You don’t do these for fun, just like you don’t do multilateralism in general for the sake of having company.
    Evidently the current U.S. administration lacks the neccessary goodwill to make threaties, even those that are in their interest, work. Or they see that the NPT has failed to prevent a nuclear India or Pakistan. While that may be true, it has prevented others from aspiring. It is certainly better than unlimited trading of sensitive techniology guarded over only by the limited influence of U.S. power – after all the U.S. don’t have the monopoly on nuclear technology, and they can’t control the entire world. To me this would suggest cooperating and collaborating.
    Given that proliferation of nuclear tech is today a serious concern, one might presume the U.S. would see it as a vital interest to counter that – after all the NPT has written ‘preservation of status quo’ written all over it.
    But the geniusses pulling the strings on U.S. policy in this field think that U.S. power alone is enough to ensure U.S. safety. Considering the limits of U.S. powers as demonstrated in Iraq, that is an as dangerous as deluded folly.
    And the U.S. approach to international treaties under Bush Jr. can only be described as destructive, callous and reckless.

  9. Gotham Image says:

    It always good to try to be optimistic even when that looks very hard. Mr. Singer makes some interesting observatition but there have been other times when things were worse or looked like they were heading in the wrong direction, but progress resumed. What is troubling is that many who support the current course, often do so on the basis of falsehoods, not necessarily erroneous intrepretations. Though some have cast doubt upon a recent poll of service personel in Iraq, it appears that an overwhelming majority have been led to believe that they are in Iraq because of the atrocity of nine eleven. Over time, learning otherwise will be difficult and will just add to other difficulties.

  10. BadTux says:

    What is most interesting about today’s “leadership” is their complete and utter disinterest in governing. Like latter-day Roman emperors, they are interested in wealth and power, not in governing. And just as the latter-day Roman emperors neglected the fundamental infrastructure of the Empire while playing their Game of Empire, resulting in an impoverished and starving Rome that was no longer able to even feed itself much less defend itself against the Ostrogoths, Vandals, and others, today’s latter-day would-be Emperors are neglecting the fundamental infrastructure of their Empire while playing their Game of Empire in sandpits overseas.
    The result is the aftermath of Katrina. The result is inadequate soldiers in Iraq to maintain order because raising the taxes on themselves in order to pay for the necessary Army would interfere with their pursuit of raw power and wealth. The result is inevitable imperial decline.
    This is not, of course, the first time that the United States has had vile and venal rulers. It is, however, the first time that said rulers have dared disregard the very forms of Democracy, have dared torture and dared imprison people without trial, have dared grab raw and unfettered power with a child-like enthusiasm and audacity and had nobody stand up to them. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt, trying to bring the nation out of the Great Depression via grabbing for powers unprecedented in the history of this nation, had vigorous and spirited opposition from the Republicans.
    Then look at who controls the new electronic voting machines, and weep for the Republic, for it is dead. Weep for the Empire, too, for Empires require a wise and thoughtful Emperor in order to thrive, and all I see are vile and venal men intent upon wealth and power, with not a thought towards the well-being and health of the Empire as a whole.
    Walk through the 9th Ward of New Orleans today. Step over the electrical wires lying in the streets, step around the rubble of houses slouched onto the pavement, wonder at the occasional person camped in the rubble of their former home with no water, sewer, or electricity, and you see the fate of all empires whose rulers are disinterested in governing. All such empires inevitably fall to ruin, for when disasters hit they have no inclination or desire to respond and/or rebuild in the aftermath. And disasters do hit, inevitably, until eventually the majority of the population is starving in ramshackle hovels that are pieced together from the remains of what were once homes, aside from the ones who give up on civilization altogether and become brigands or subsistence farmers on whatever land they can seize from its rightful owner. That is the fate of empires whose rulers lack interest in governing…

Comments are closed.