The limits of power

"Obama –whose rise to the presidency was built partially around his opposition to the Iraq War – is definitely cognizant of Americans’ aversion to too much intervention abroad. As recently as Tuesday, he defended his foreign policy strategy — with a nod to the conflict that galvanized support for him as a candidate in 2007 and 2008. “For some reason, many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again,” he said, adding that “my job as Commander-in-Chief is to look at what is it that is going to advance our security interests over the long term, to keep our military in reserve for where we absolutely need it.”"  NBCnews


Well, well. perhaps he has actually learned something about the limits of power.  If that is so he should get rid of those around him who have not learned that lesson.  pl

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33 Responses to The limits of power

  1. VietnamVet says:

    Your link “47% Say U.S. Should Reduce Role in World Affairs” has a great background picture of the troopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. I assume it was taken as they landed in Poland to serve as a tripwire but it isn’t captioned. Omissions such as this by corporate media keeps the percentage up this high. If the media pointed out that when the USA previously imposed economic sanctions, it ended in a war with Japan, North Vietnam, Iraq, Panama, Serbia and Libya, the percentage would fall lower. When Americans realize that NATO is headed for a hot war with Russia, the percentage would collapse.
    The fear that a hot war with Russia would lead to a nuclear holocaust is not silly hysteria for those of us who grew up in the Cold War despite what the following links says:
    Stalin, Mao, LBJ, and George Bush did not start WWIII because Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) works and is still in force. This is why in 67 years no nuclear power has gone to war with another, yet.
    I remember the Hungarian Uprising and the Prague Spring. The 173rd Airborne on their border and Western Ukraine in NATO are existential threats to Russia. I am shocked that Russia has not invaded Ukraine, yet. Its very name “Borderland” in English indicates that Ukraine is a buffer between the West and Russia. It may well be that Moscow realizes that this crisis was planned by factions in Washington DC to egg them on to invade and to ultimately split Russia away from the EU and destabilize it.

  2. walrus says:

    With the greatest of respect Col. Lang, I fear your hopeful suggestion that the President has undergone a Pauline conversion is is unfounded.
    Remember we are dealing with a Narcissist here who will say anything and everything he needs to say for his own personal gratification today with an absolutely blink – free straight face.
    Our continuing campaign in the Ukraine is evidence he has not learned anything. If anything it appears Kerry is now conflating “defence of the Ukraine” with “defence of every inch of NATO territory” if this report can be believed.
    Obama is still kicking on the gates of hell.

  3. JohnH says:

    “Perhaps he has actually learned something about the limits of power.” Let’s not give him the benefit of the doubt until he actually earns it.
    Obama has said lots of encouraging things in the past, things that won him a Nobel Peace Prize. After each speech, it was business as usual.

  4. drifter says:

    Perhaps he has learned. I doubt it. Sounds more like an excuse for for his lack of action. Love him or hate him, he doesn’t do … anything.

  5. Alba Etie says:

    I would like to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt – and that I try to judge him by his actions . We have not bombed Syria, Iran , or any country since Libya – what two years ago now (maybe three) . Its cold comfort though to know we have no shooting wars currently happening – but Nuland er al are still acting out bad policy for our Nation. I am encouraged that Sec of Defense Hagel and JCS General Dempsey are still in place and apparently being listened to closely by BHO. And as another indicator Sec of State Kerry has not walked back all that much from his apartheid remark concerning Israel .

  6. mac says:

    At this time, from my perspective, a reduced footprint, managed shrewdly, is the better road to travel down for American statecraft, so I welcome what you once aptly described as BHO’s “fortitude” in resisting the best efforts of the Nuland et al crowd. Which is why the Ukraine policy and subsequent mishandling of relations with Moscow is all the more perplexing. It feels like amateur hour at Foggy Bottom….

  7. turcopolier says:

    Perhaps we can hope that his narcissism will cause him to stop kicking at the door of hell and try to save himself. pl

  8. Imagine says:

    So why do we still have Gitmo? Serious question.
    Pres. Obama campaigned on closing it down. Sen. Feinstein, oldest and one of the most powerful (Chair of Intelligence Committee) senators visited and calls it an “abomination”. Yes it is “someone else’s problem” and so there are only weak general short-term reasons to act today, while inertia gives moderate, immediate forces to procrastinate. But the long-term external liability, and the poisoning lack of integrity internally, give strong reasons to act decisively and close it down.
    Is it really just trying to lift a mattress? Or are there limits to power, someone or something more powerful than a President, a senior Senator, and the majority of we the American people?

  9. turcopolier says:

    The Congress won’t allow it to be closed. pl

  10. The Twisted Genius says:

    Micheal Flynn and David Shedd just announced they will leave DIA and retire this Fall. “Sources say he’s stepping down because he’s fed up with bureaucratic fights in Washington.” Seems he had a lot of run ins with Clapper and Vickers. I’m not surprised. He wanted to move a lot of DIA assets to the combatant command J2s. As I remember, a lot of the J2 staffs were cut to DIA as part of the “Defense Intelligence Enterprise” just as I was leaving that rat race.

  11. turcopolier says:

    That’s funny because Clapper’s big initiative when he was Director of DIA was to give DIA’s analytic assets to the theater J-2s who had no idea what to do with them. I am going to post on this piece of Washington skullduggery tomorrow after I have heard from enough people in the WH, the DNI and CIA. pl

  12. Dubhaltach says:

    In reply to Alba Etie @ 30 April 2014 at 10:01 PM
    Its cold comfort though to know we have no shooting wars currently happening.
    All American and allied forces have been withdrawn from Afghanistan without a further shot being fired?
    A remarkable achievement how did they do it without the rest of the world in particular those Afghans who have dead relatives to avenge catching on?

  13. Norbert M Salamon says:

    All – slightly off topic:
    Sorry, my computer is incapable of posting URL-s here, so someone has to do it, if interested.
    Battleground Ukraine: A Comprehensive Summary {From a Russian Perspective]
    The essays is rather long, but excellent background.

  14. Valissa says:

    Zero Hedge got it from Wikispooks… here is the original link.
    Document: Battleground Ukraine
    A wide ranging analysis of the 2013-2014 situation in Ukraine, its antecedents and consequences from the perspective of a senior Russian academic. A lecture transcript by Andrei Fursov (Director of Russian Studies, Moscow University. Member of the International Academy of Sciences) dated 2014/04/14

  15. Bill H says:

    All: as John H. said, BHO has said many things that sounded like he was changing American policy, and then proceeded to do business as usual. I have learned to believe his promises when I see them actually carried out. Like drifter, I suspect this one is nothing more than noise to give him cover for doing nothing — so far.
    @turcoplier: Yes, Congress won’t let him close it, but how hard is he trying? And how much power does Congress really have? The Democratic Congress of 2006 was elected for the express purpose of stopping the war in Iraq, made the promise of stopping the war in Iraq, and we got “the surge” instead.

  16. NMS, Valissa, Charles Dekle:
    The piece by Andrei Fursov is fascinating, for two distinct reasons – which need to be distinguished.
    One is that the apocalyptic view of Western intentions is likely to represent how a significant section of Russian opinion sees the current situation, and the developments of the past few years.
    The other is that a good deal of the information in it is likely to be true. In particular, the argument that a central dynamic in what has been happening in Ukraine has to do with conflict between oligarchic clans is, to put it mildly, plausible. It is also clearly the case that Western intelligence agencies are involved up to the hilt.
    That said, however, specific allegations may or may not be true. So, for example, one of Fursov’s claims – that Robert Shelter-Jones, one of the ‘main advisers’ to the oligarch Dmitri Firtash, is ‘from MI6’, would be explosive if it is in fact the case. The claims about links between Firtash and Semyon Mogilevich – one of the FBI’s ‘Ten Most Wanted’ – would appear in an interesting light.
    So also would be the established facts about the funding by Shelter-Jones both of the former chairman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, and the Tory MP Robert Halfon, former Political Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel.
    And, last but not least, one would be left with questions about the background to the arrest of Firtash in Vienna, and ongoing attempts by the U.S. authorities to have him extradited.
    (On all this, see ; ; )
    Precisely because of the fact that, once one explores their ramifications, claims about Shelter-Jones have such radical implications, they could well be disinformation.
    Irrespective of whether these claims by Fursov are or are not disinformation, however, they point towards two critically important conclusions.
    One is that the mainstream Western media make no attempts whatsoever to examine what is actually happening in Ukraine. Once again, they prefer to present incredibly complex intrigues – intrigues which Machiavelli would have relished – in terms of a childish story of ‘black hats’ versus ‘white hats’.
    Another is that the ‘covert’ dimension in Western foreign policy, always present, may well have increased in saliency in recent decades. This increase in saliency, however, would not seem to have been accompanied by any increase in the capacities of Western intelligence agencies to handle these kinds of intrigue with basic competence.
    It is perhaps worth reflecting on the account given back in 2004 by the political columnist and former Tory MP Matthew Parris of the attempts by British intelligence to recruit him – attempts which should never have been made, since that back in the early 1970s his homosexuality would have made him an obvious blackmail target.
    (See )
    His account raises the suspicion that perhaps Andrei Fursov thinks of MI6 on the basis of the novels of its sometime employee John Le Carré. It might be that he would have done better to have looked at the portrait of the organisation given by a former spook of an earlier time, Graham Greene.
    (See )

  17. Valissa says:

    As others have pointed out, Obama is a known liar and master of vague meaningless speech.
    While I find the idea that the US is recognizing “The limits of Power” personally appealing and I also enjoyed the Bacevich book on that topic, the realist in me doesn’t see that happening except for very superficially. Apologies for the triteness of this statement but “empires will be empires” despite the attempts of honorable men and women in it’s employ to create a kinder and gentler empire (though I greatly appreciate their efforts).
    One huge area of growth the empire these days is in Africa, courtesy of AFRICOM.
    U.S. Military Averaging More Than a Mission a Day in Africa
    The US Military Has Been ‘At War’ in Africa on the Sly For Years

  18. Valissa says:

    Here’s another interesting article…
    Ukraine Crisis Accelerating the Restructuring of the World

  19. walrus says:

    We bought our way out of Afghanistan with cold hard cash paid per vehicle. Lots of it.

  20. Thomas says:

    Is Shelter-Jones a Bullingdon Boy?
    The civil oligarch war in Ukraine may ignite one on the Land as the two sides pick up on the fight.
    “He very actively supports the Hasidic group Chabad, which is not a sect, it’s a movement. He’s the main sponsor of the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community. An old friend of Berezovsky. He owns about 200 companies, controls 40% of Ukrnafta, the media. A big fan of soccer. He owns: FC Dnipro, of Dnepropetrovsk, Arsenal Kyiv, and Hapoel of Tel-Aviv. He’s the vice president of the Football Federation of Ukraine. Its president, Surkis, is a millionaire too, albeit not as big as Kolomoisky. He owns Dynamo Kyiv. Information frequently appears in the media about Kolomoisky’s connections with international organized crime. He really wanted to buy up the assets of Sevastopol. Indeed he was on the verge of buying. He is the sponsor of Yuschenko, Tymoshenko and Klitschko, and of, paradoxical though it is, the ultra-nationalist Tyaghnibok.
    In general what characterizes the situation in Ukraine is that there isn’t a single political center, This propagates into Ukraine’s Jewish community too. They don’t have a unified center either. There are constant squabbles, to impose their point of view. There are angry clashes between the secular part and those who support the Hasids and Chabadists.”
    Nothing good will come from this Ukrainian crisis.

  21. Alba Etie says:

    Mr Dubhaltach
    Concede the point, – we still have service members in harms way in Afghanistan . Possibly good news there the Northern Alliance Leader Abdullah Abdullah seems to be winning the race to replace Karzai .

  22. Alba Etie says:

    From your lips to God’s ears …

  23. Alba Etie says:

    That is one thing BHO tried to do and the purse strings were tied in Gordian note by the likes of Sen Lindsey Graham .

  24. Dubhaltach says:

    In reply to walrus 01 May 2014 at 04:03 PM
    Your statement:
    “We bought our way out of Afghanistan with cold hard cash paid per vehicle. Lots of it.”
    is utterly at variance with the facts. There are plenty of American vehicles in Afghanistan, there are plenty of USA Armed Forces personnel in remaining in Afghanistan.
    The original comment by Alba Ettie @ 30 April 2014 at 10:01 PM included this statement:
    “Its cold comfort though to know we have no shooting wars currently happening”
    Which as American Armed forces are currently engaged in a shooting war in Afghanistan is also at variance with the facts. I think that I can point out that the word “irony” does not mean “tasting of iron” without breaching our host’s rules against ad hominem attacks.

  25. Valissa says:

    More on Shetler-Jones, from 2010 where he is ranked #2 ‘most influential’ in a series on the Richest and Most Influential Foreigners in Ukraine
    Honorable Mention: Robert Shetler-Jones

  26. Valissa says:

    DH, thanks for another very informative comment!
    I found it very interesting to hear the point of view of a pro-Russian Russian academic/intellectual. I found the piece very informative but I don’t have enough background to be able to accurately assess how much of it is merely biased opinion or disinformation. It would be useful to learn more about the ‘groupthink’ and beliefs about the West of Fursov’s colleague’s in order to get some perspective on the information he presented. Oftentimes disinformation is “passive” meaning received from trusted others as truth, which is then accepted and passed on further.
    What most struck me were his comments on nuclear waste and related radiation poisoning. I had not heard that before, so don’t know how much of that is true, though I have read about a similar problem in Iraq.
    Iraq: War’s legacy of cancer – Two US-led wars in Iraq have left behind hundreds of tonnes of depleted uranium munitions and other toxic wastes.
    I was struck by this sentence of yours about the media, which is similar to some remarks you made the other day at the post ‘Open Thread – 27 April, 2014’:
    ” Once again, they prefer to present incredibly complex intrigues – intrigues which Machiavelli would have relished – in terms of a childish story of ‘black hats’ versus ‘white hats’.”
    Yes, simple black & white narratives with good guys and bad guys are the standard MSM style and have been for many years. This is not unlike the TV shows I grew up watching. Simple morality plays that engage one’s sentiments rather than one’s mind, and that actively avoid addressing the complex, and often morally ambiguous world we live in. This is also the way history was taught when I was in grade school & high school. No wonder Americans have such simplistic attitudes and beliefs about the world!
    How does one learn to think about the world in all of it’s multi-dimensional glory and in many shades of gray? If you are not taught or educated by someone “in the know” you have to puzzle it out for yourself. That takes time and energy, something most people can’t be bothered with. It also takes a willingness to buck conventional thinking, which most people are afraid to do.
    I think the main reason Game of Thrones is so popular is because it does not follow the simple morality play narrative style. Also because it addresses issues of “power” explicitly, without academic euphemisms and false civility.

  27. Charles Dekle says:

    David habakkuk,
    Thank you for the insight. I will admit to being out of my depth here. I am very puzzled about the brief reference to the slumbering Yellowstone super volcano. Do you have any idea what Fursov meant?
    BTW, I read all of Le Carré’s Smiley novels and several of Greene’s novels to include our Man in Havana. I enjoyed both authors.

  28. Mark Logan says:

    Bill H.
    On Gitmo, I am going to pass along something that was told to my by a Washington State Dept of Corrections lawyer. Never know, it might even be true.
    Seems that all Federal prisons are on State lands, and all the states have slightly different codes of jurisdiction covering these federal facilities on their land, but one thing they all have in common is reserving the right to enforce State laws within these facilities. This makes sense, as nearly all the employees will be citizens of that state and the power to “protect and serve” is thereby preserved.
    The problem? It’s more than a reserved right, it is also an obligation. A state can theoretically be sued for failing to enforce it’s laws within that facility, and holding people who have not been given trials is a crime.
    His opinion was it’s highly likely a lot of Governors were warned of huge legal bills and other embarrassing events likely to come from even a single prisoner from Gitmo coming to their state. This was passed along to the Congress people.

  29. Madhu says:

    It might reenvigorate a terrible second term if he were to shake things up but I don’t think he can do those skillful things. Maybe I’m wrong. Is Michelle Obama a natural interventionist or is she different from Rice/Powers?

  30. Thomas says:

    Thanks, the post suggests he was already a recruited intelligence agent when he arrived in Ukraine.
    I find Fursov’s who’s who narrative of the oligarchs to seem legit. The Israeli oligarchs fight would account for Delta showing up and getting a Glory Story in Haaretz for job well done, an Israeli News babe dispatched to Kiev for CCTV though she was never on the network before and has recently disappeared, Bookings Institute(Nate Rothschild’s domain) members foaming at the mouth on TV for intervention, and the disconnect between the Neos and the Administration. Which Billionaire’s War Banner they stand under defines their view. It is also fascinating that the inter communal battle between the Hasidim and Enlightenment followers of the 18th century has been revived again.
    As for the disinformation question, in this current situation the best thing for Russia to do is hit back with the truth (i.e. Nuland’s non-secure phone call) as much as possible so that the public is informed and the propagandists credidbility is further eroded.

  31. Thomas says:

    Charles Dekle,
    The Yellowstone part was strange. My guess is he is implying a instigation of a natural calamity as a Force Majeure reason for economic collapse.

  32. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Walrus is Australian. I believe all Australian troops have pulled out of Afghanistan already and they may well have cut the deal he describes to arrange the withdrawal.

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