"Walrus" sent me this. I am not "Walrus." I agree with much of this, especially the numbered points. pl
Reading from Barbara Tuchman’s "March of Folly" Again, I would like to paraphrase what we have seen and can expect to see in future.
To do so, you need to understand what the NeoCons objectives have been from the outset. They are a little Like Kaiser Wilhelms’ reasons for encouraging German militarism from about 1900.
1. Protect the existence and power of the "military Industrial Complex". This has been under threat since the demise of the Soviet Union because people started to demand a "peace Dividend". The result was the PNAC and the idea that America, now being the sole pre-eminent superpower, should maintain this position – in other words keep spending on defence.
2. Demonise Arabs, the existence of an enemy is a pretext by a ruling class for postponing any social change aimed at reversing the massive social inequities between rich and poor in America for example reforming taxation, social security, health care, education, etc. etc. "because we are at war". These issues threaten the rich.
In other words, the entire NeoCon thing is all about maintaining the status quo and keeping the lid on the pressures for reform.
Then of course we have the Israeli Likudnik plan – which is to provide the demonic enemy with which the NeoCons have conjured with. If one listens to them one would think that Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, the Taliban, Al Qaeeda, the muslim brotherhood, and the rest of these organisations are part of the evil Islam Inc. which is plotting to take over the known universe, controlled by a group of bearded and bejwelled fiends living in a cave high in the mountains of Iran, even now plotting the destruction of Peoria or some place.
They have successfully enticed us into destroying their main enemy – Iraq for them.
That is the reality we are being sold.
Of course on the ground in Iraq there is real "reality" which is considerably different from the NeoCon/Likudnik version.
So anyway they are now confronted with a mess – and as the Kagan powerpoint presentation points out, failure will be cataclysmic.
Of course what they really mean is that failure will be cataclysmic for them and their backers.
If America backs out of the middle east leaving Iran intact, the following will happen:
1. Iran is now the recognised regional power in the Middle East and will have a very large say in dictating what happens to the remains of Iraq.
2. Israel will be faced with the need to make some form of accomodation with the Islamic powers in the region.
3. Successive Congresses will bind the President and the military industrial complex hand and foot to prevent a repeat of this folly.
4. Right wing thinktanks and their associated pundits will be discredited.
5. Congress will have to reform taxation to pay for the war (remember when Iraqi Oil revenue was supposed to cover the cost of all this?)
6. A decade of soul searching and reform about the electoral system, the media, campaign finance, lobbying and similar issues will occur – sharply reducing the powers of the current ruling class to manipulate Americans so easily.
In other words, for Bush and his friends, defeat really is "unthinkable", just as it was to Kaiser Wilhelm when Wilson proposed a "victorless Peace" to Germany in 1917. Unless there is victory, the entire NeoCon world gets swept away, as do the Likudniks.
For that reason, expect a savage campaign to clear Baghdad of insurgents – which will fail with the loss of a great deal of American and Iraqi blood, followed by an all out bombing attack on Iran.
For the NeoCons, there is no other choice available to them, that is the tragedy.
Walrus knows that the “twilight war” (GWOT) should be called the “piggy bank” war. It will last until we run out of money–and then declare victory. Followed by a TV movie…and then a bitter Oliver Stone film.
“Successive Congresses will bind the President and the military industrial complex hand and foot to prevent a repeat of this folly.” That sounds great but how do you know this will happen? Seems to me that the MI complex is entrenched in its power, and the Congress is in its pocket. Until we make campaigns financed by public money (with free TV ads – because networks broadcast under license from the gov. for the public good, so they can be banned from charging for election ads) until then we won’t see Congress binding any major corporate interest hand and foot. Not MI, not insurance or health, nobody.
I am supposed to be an optimist but on this one, I just don’t see it happening. But I sure do like the idea and I hope I’m wrong.
“4. Right wing thinktanks and their associated pundits will be discredited.” I wish. Seems to me there’s a hard core of folks who have bought the koolaid, and some of them seem to own newspapers. Again, I know I’m being very negative, but this prognosis is another one that doesn’t seem like it will happen based on the way things are now.
But the climate of opinion can change quickly. Let’s see.
Where do Baker/Hamilton and the ISG figure in all this? They want to back us out of Iraq, leaving Iran and Syria intact, and arranging an accomodation between Israel and Palestine
and all Israel’s other neighbors, involving Israel confined to within its borders of ’67, and the State of Palestine arising upon the territory of to-be-de-occupied Palestine. That
goes against the LikudNeocon
goals. Does the Baker/Hamilton ISG group picture itself to be a bold
group of rebels fighting the
Ruling Class? I thought the
ISG group pictured itself to
be speaking FOR the old establishment ruling class.
After all, some of the items
Walrus describes the PNAC/Neocons as wanting are also items which Baker and his traditional establishment also want. For example, the Baker community also supports eternal runaway military spending for major investor
profits. Baker, Bush, etc.,
invest in or work for the Carlyle Group. Are there any Neocons in the Carlyle Group? Baker, Bush, etc., also don’t want any soulsearching about our manipulable system. Baker was the lead lawyer, after all, in the Republican Party
effort to prevent an honest
vote recount in Florida and
get the Supreme Court to install Bush as President. Baker…led that effort. Is
Baker a Neocon? And doesn’t
the Establishment which the Baker/Hamilton ISG speaks for also want to preserve Military-Industrial Complex
primacy and profitability unbound? And doesn’t the traditional Establishment Upper Class also oppose the
existence of a Peace Dividend, lest taxes harvested from working class
hamsters such as myself be returned as social and civil
infrastructure spending back
to working class hamsters such as myself?
That is why it still looks to me as though we are
seeing a power-struggle WITHIN the Ruling Classes, between the Baker-Bush type
Establishment and the LikudNeocons whom the Baker-
Buscists installed into powerful positions in order to write the sales brochures
and sell the war-hype in order to defend and extend
Establishment Power against just the reformist trends Walrus outlines above.
I hadn’t considered the Kaiser Wilhelm analogy which
Walrus offers. It could be very useful in analyzing our
drift toward World War Desert One. However, the analogy which had occured to
me some time ago involves Germany in 1933. The German
elite thought the Hitler Nazis would be a useful movement for defeating German Communism, Socialism,
and Workerism. The Nazi Party got a plurality, not a
majority, of votes in elections, and the German elite could see their Nazi
vehicle losing popularity. So they installed von Hindenburg as President and Hitler as Chancellor while they still had the chance. They assumed they would control Hitler, use him, and
then discard him. They didn’t think he knew how to consolidate his own power and rise to rule the Establishment itself. In the same way, the Corporation-Old Money elite,
working through Baker himself at the critical Florida moment, worked to install Cheney/Bush into the
Presidency, assuming that they would control the Cheney/Bush Administration.
Instead, Cheney, Bush, and
Rumsfeld brought in the NeoCons, who worked with Bush and his already-pre-existing desire to invade Iraq in any case, to engineer the invasion. I also sincerely wonder whether President Bush isn’t
a True Believer in the Robertson-Falwell Book of Revelation End Times Rapture
vision. I wonder whether President Bush might sincerely want a nuclear war
over the whole earth in order to hasten the Return of Christ and the Advent of
His Kingdom. Certainly some
of his extremist ‘Christian
Zionist’ supporters want that.
I can’t be satisfied to accept events as an unavoidable tragedy, in which we all get to play the
part of people already locked in the rolling boxcars. If there is a “War
In Heaven”–a power struggle
within the American Ruling Class, is there something we
can do to support the Baker ISG side for now? Long enough to short-circuit and
prevent the Drive to Iran?
I know my thoughts about
Bush and etc. are uncharitable but time-running-out and danger rising make me uncharitable.
I don’t question Walrus’s analysis of the LikudNeocons’ goals and motives. I only offer my alternative view of where the power centers may be, who wants what, and where the fault lines are in the hope that: the more accurately and precisely we
understand exactly what is going on inside the Power Centers, the better chance we have of applying the right kind of pain against the right pressure points to
make the System pivot away from its present Attack Iran
course. And for the immediate future, I think maybe helping the Baker ISG
group defeat the CheneyBush
would be the best way to spend the next 2 or 3 months. If anyone else thinks that line of thought is useful, does anyone have real ideas on how to do that?
I would like to flesh out Walrus’ prediction.
The key is John Negroponte.
He just resigned his post as the head of the entire National Security apparatus to go work for Condoleeza Rice.
Yes, you heard that right.
Ask yourself why. Well, there are two possibilities. Either working for Rice is really great or heading National Security is really bad. Let’s eliminate choice one. Working for Rice can’t possibly be that great.
So that leaves choice two. But, hey, what’s so bad about being the big man at National Security?
Nothing at all…unless you have been told that there will be a terrorist nuclear attack on NYC that is necessary to enable the Bush administration to re-institute the draft and take the country to war against Iran and whoever else Iran can get to help them.
You’re Negroponte. You can accept the necessity for wiping out NYC (probably Hillary with the same stone). But you just don’t want to take the blame. So you go work for Rice.
“3. Successive Congresses will bind the President and the military industrial complex hand and foot to prevent a repeat of this folly.
4. Right wing thinktanks and their associated pundits will be discredited.
6. A decade of soul searching and reform about the electoral system, the media, campaign finance, lobbying and similar issues will occur – sharply reducing the powers of the current ruling class to manipulate Americans so easily.”
Frankly, I think you are dreaming. The american public,or more accurately the portions of it that actually matter, is by and large addicted to militarism, is right wing (in the Rush Limbaugh sense of the term)
and has no really major issues with the current economic-political setup. These are the people who gave near total backing for OIF, swallowed the propaganda begging for more and went out voting for Bush in droves after it had become clear that they had been fooled and the US was stuck fighting a guerrilla war. Only after the price to be paid skyrocketed they began having second thoughts.
The mentality which has produced this isn’t going to change just because the US has lost a small war far away. It will take some time before they will be able to come up with a passable
for their failure and spread it to an eager public, as well as
incorporating some improvements in the Army that could restore the invincibility mantle. But, bar catastrophic socio- economic upheavals it will not be a very long time.
The bottom line is that people generally have the ruling èlites that they deserve. Just like Italy got a buffoon like Berlusconi and Iraq got a bloody iron fist tyrant America got a leader with the head filled by bravado and jesus talk.
Very good Walrus. It must be added that the Congress is equally culpable.
Where is the congressperson announcing to the Great Decider (“GD”) that he/she would drop a bill of impeachment in the hopper were the GD to strike Iran on a pretext?
you have accurately detailed the pressures facing Bush and co. It is interesting that the strongest voices are those outside the Congress.
Would you be willing to give Bush a pardon for this little adventure in the same light as Nixon’s?
Are we to be seen as “wanting blood” or justice?
Now it should be born in mind that the Saudi Strategic Energy Initiative is to have enough spare capacity to be able, by June of this year, to replace Iran’s production, should there be a problem.
“In other words, for Bush and his friends”
“For the NeoCons”
“the entire NeoCon world gets swept away, as do the Likudniks.”
I am not sure you can limit the sweeping away to just the NeoCons and Bush. Much of the Democratic party is as friendly with the Likudniks as the NeoCons. If the system falls apart the current leadership of the Democratic party may be bigger victims of it than most Republicans.
Given the shift announced at the State Department I would anticipate a massive blood letting in Iraq, prior to Mr. Bush losing his Army.
I don’t know who Walrus is, but I would say that is one comprehensive post.
Would you be willing to comment on how much of it you agree with.
I personally think he or she is pretty much on the money.
Glad to see Ms Tuchman was as astute in her observations as you are in your correlation. WWI was a war that should have easily been avoided just like this one and Vietnam for that matter. Everybody is busy with their own agenda and, contrary to Adam Smith, it is no longer functioning to bring about a better condition for anyone.
I have changed the post to indicate that I agree with a lot of it, especially the numbered points. pl
Great piece by Walrus. Barbara Tuchman one of the great chroniclers of the 20th Century.
Col – What’s your take on the aftermath of our “surge” to Baghdad?
I always find your blog to be cogent and a “must read”.
I am sure that our politics differ, but your insightful analysis is always a pleasure to read.
I often recommend your site to my equal liberally leaning friends.
I am not sure how many of them read it, but I think they all should.
Reading only the articles with which you totally agree becomes tiresome and counter-productive.
A little declinist, are we? Sadly, it makes sense to me.
I think Walrus made the most salient point under #2.
The US, after the end of the cold war, eagerly persuaded themselves and the world they beat Russia (I think Russia merely went bankrupt first) their position of primacy was in fact eroding. They saw the Europans start talking about a multilateral world, a multipolar world. How dare they! These ingrates! For illustration only re-read the rabid neo con ravings about a EU command, let alone the perpetually evil French.
This understanding that times are changing was IMO the reason why NATO went to war against Serbia, (a) to roll back that last bastion of communism in Central Europe and (b) to give NATO a new role while (c) promoting investment in the military-industrial complex NATO-wide and (d) justifying US leadership in the organization. As far as troop number are concerned the US are outnumbered by their NATO partners. The only reason that gives the US leadership are their technological capabilities, which were then demonstrated.
The other field where the US are vastly superior is the US nuclear arsenal, to the extent it is still an umbrella over NATO territory. It is not by accident that the neo-cons have there also pushed for new roles, just think of Rumsfeld’s brilliant ‘NuBBAToRS’ initiative (Nuclear bunker busters against Terrorists & Rogue States). But in the real world, nukes are of very limited utility.
The GWOT offers an opportunity from their point of view: The new face of conflict requires, second after bold and morally clear US leadership (as opposed to timid and cynical French/European lack thereof), new weapons systems and a ‘rallying’ (read: subordination; I don’t think one can read the meaning of ‘global dominance’ or ‘global benevolent hegemony’ in another way) of the West around the US.
Israel finds itself in a similar situation where it’s influence is eroding. Despite having never been beaten on the battlefield (if you discount the Lebanon adventures – which were Israeli wars of choice), Israel is in a strategic situation that forces it to accommodate it’s neighbours to be bearable in long term. And that while actually, the enemies are disappearing. Egypt, Jordan and Syria aver going to war with Israel? Tough chance. The enemies learned their lesson. Today Syria has a greater chance than ever to get back the Golan heights at a time when it is ever more unlikely they will even have to go to war for it. Rather, and darkly ironic, despite having won them and held them and deapite being in a position of nominal military dominance, it is increasingly likely for Israel to go to war to keep them.
And in the meanwhile these insufferable Palestinians still don’t give up and keep fighting dirty despite, or because of, all their misery and breed and multiply and will soon outnumber the Israelis in Greater Israel.
It must be plain maddening for a hard core Likudnik that the Palestinians just breed them out. It must drive a neo-con to frenzy that the Europeans today simply say: “Thank you for US protection over the last half century, but let’s talk trade policy please!” Where is *their* ‘victory dividend’? That sentiment is even understandable. But what does it help?
They got used to a role of supremacy, they think they deserve it, and now they desperately miss it and want it back. The Cold War was their Golden Age.
What they both don’t get is that leadership to work requires mutual acceptance. Every small unit leader understands that. If that basis falls away, it gets a whole lot more difficult, and you got to make compromises, or rely on force. When you got to make more compromises than you think your strength requires you to, you’ll resort to use that force to enforce what you think is yours.
The result are coalitions of the bribed and arm twisted, because when you’re so hard core you’re unlikely to find anyone honestly willing to help you. And in all honesty, why should they when the neo-cons only press for maximal US advantage, my-way-or-the-highway? After all, alliances are about mutual advantage. As allies do think and have an understanding of their interest, that suggests that bogey mongering is no surrogate for a real enemy.
It might suffice for the US domestic audience but not for the rest of the world. It’s one thing to claim Russians are three metres tall when they’re in fact only two metre’s tall. People who’re far away may believe that. But they’re still two metres tall. But to claim that Bin Laden clutches his jewelled fingers in a cave in Afghanistan plotting the demise of the Western World as know it (wonderful picture) is plain preposterous. To use a Lord of the Rings analogy, it’s like claiming that Gollum is Sauron, and as such a bloody joke in plain sight.
The GWOT is a huge conflation. The GWOT is an attempt to artificially construct a vessel for US leadership analogous to the Cold War. It’s really striking how much the neo cons are caught in their Cold War template. Islamo Facism is what World Communism used to be. Somalia is their proxy war against the islamo facist hordes, much like Angola and countless other Cold War skirmishes were proxy wars against Russia.
The agressive policies of both Likud and the neo-cons are ultimately the expression of their refusal to accept an inconvenient reality, coupled with a stubborn persistence to fight it out, despite the odds being against them, and to press their military advantage as long as they still hold it. That is classic militarist thinking, illustrated by Madeleine Albright: ‘What use is that splendid army of your’s, if we ain’t gonna use it?’
In the fights they picked, they can only lose. The war on Iraq and in Lebanon meant to ‘smash a country at the wall’ in the phrasing of Michael Ledeen, to restore credibility and especially deterrence. They want to prove themselves on the battle field. For that to work you need an inferior opponent. Like Iraq, or Lebanon, or Iran.
The US failure to either curb the violent resistance and curb the emerging civil war in Iraq, and the Israeli defeat at the hands of Hezbollah underline the limits of this coercive policy. But that can’t be, and for that both Likud and the neo-con have only one solution: Escalation. One can counter: ‘When in a hole, stop digging’, but that would mean admitting to have been wrong, and it would mit admitting failure, both ‘can’t be-s’.
That’s what all this babble about ‘asymmetry’ is about. It is the changing face of the world, and the frustration unable to do anything about it despite all your nukes. The enemy has after 60 years of trying, found a formula how to deal with western warfare. The longer the war goes, the better they’ll get. That is a very good reason to keep wars short, and avoid them if not absolutely necessary. The US and Israel will both lose badly, further undermining any claims of leadership by the US or demands for support Israel. Yet the consequences for Israel will be much graver than for the US.
Walrus is right when he sais: “For the Neo Cons, there is no other choice available to them, that is the tragedy.”
I fear the confrontation with Iran will run on its own steam to war – any compromise is appeasement, and Iranian surrender is improbable – war is the only option that has the potential, if, and only if, it succeeds, to realize the neo-con maximalist expectations. Israel’s approach to their Palestinian problem is quite similar. Which is unlikely.
They created their self-fulfilling prophecy, and while they pour gasoline on the bonfire they speak aloud: ‘Don’t you see we’re men of peace, evildoers? Isn’t that we haven’t bombed you yet a sign of our goodwill? You leave us no other choice!’ (well, except, maybe, of not pouring gasoline on the bonfire) And they believe every single word they say. Unlike Fukuyama they can’t jump off that train of theirs. But then, Fukuyama is and has always been one of the brightest of the lot. I think Walrus is right to draw the analogy to the beginning of WW-I.
“So muß denn das Schwert entscheiden. Mitten im Frieden überfällt uns der Feind. Darum auf zu den Waffen! Jedes Schwanken, jedes Zögern wäre Verrat am Vaterlande.”
‘So the sword has to decide! In midst of peace, the enemy is upon us. To arms! Any waffling, any hesitation is treason on the fatherland!’
Expect that being part of the coming ‘sacrifice speech’. America has a wagnerian valkyrie ride ahead.
I also find some of walrus’ speculations regarding the good that would come of failure of the current cabal to be overly optimistic.
No one any where near the halls of power in the US, for instance, is really all that interested in limiting the mil-indust complex, no matter what happens in Iraq.
Regardless, I strongly agree with the over all point. Where we’re at doesn’t look good.
The interesting thing to me is that even now, after a crushing electoral defeat and an obvious catastrophe in Iraq, there are almost no loud voices in the national debate calling for a significant re-evaluation of our current policy. One could argue that we cannot bother with that when we’re trying to stop the fools from making things worse with the “surge” proposal, but our gracious host here has been one of the only prominent voices speaking out in this regard! If you ask me, the entire American elite have lost a sense of self correction and/or flexibility. It always seems to be someone else’s problem.
As for the 1-6 points which summarize likely consequences of “defeat” in Iraq, something quite similar happened following our strategic failure in Vietnam. CIA raked over the coals, hearings on “Transnational Corporations,” Big Oil was nearly dismembered, and so on.
The international financial dislocations which can be traced in major part to the expense of the Vietnam war included the end of Bretton Woods and double-digit inflation.
And don’t forget the Middle East. In 1970, the oil fields were all securely in the hands of the oil majors under exclusive concessions. By the end of the decade, it had all been nationalized. Biggest loss of property by the U.S. elite since the abolition of slavery (in relative terms). Crippled by Vietnam, there weren’t a darn thing the U.S. could do about it.
Rumsfeld and Cheney and Kissinger were there. They watched it all happen.
Are they about to watch it all happen again?
It took centuries for a succession of European powers to figure out that Europe could not be dominated militarily. Even the Romans couldn’t do it.
How long will it take for Americans to figure ouot that the world cannot be controlled with military power?
Happy New Year, Col. Lang, and thanks once more for keeping this small island of sanity going.
The Negroponte thing is a kremlinology head scratcher. Just moving over to State is not going to absolve him of any blame for anything. And if he wants to divorce himself from the Bush cabal, why not go completely? Why this half measure?
Have to re-read Tuchman.
I don’t agree with arbogast, no suprise…
What will happen to the neocons and their friends, when they attack Iran and cause global recession/depression? How will their industries do in such a situtation? It seems that attacking Iran is not wise, if one cares for the global economy.
Then again, neocons may not consider themselves as part of the global economy. They are ETs.
the neocons are afraid of freedom of the public, as it puts in jepoarday their little fiefdom. so they institute ‘restraints’ on the public at large:
spying internally against those who would disagree with their neo-insanity.
take a look at the latest in addition to their listening to the public’s phone conversation — steaming the public’s mail:
New York Daily News – Home – W pushes envelope on U.S. spying
the new congress has some work for them ahead. it’s called — repeal, repeal, repeal.
church commission part deux?
Negraponte is moving from a coordination position to a position where he will formulate policy. Power is in policy.
It seems to me that the call for a bigger Army is a cost of failure in Iraq. We’ve proved that we couldn’t do the job with the Army we have, so now we must have a larger army to overcome the next resisters to our hegemony. Just more expense. We need smarter neocons.
IH: Not agreeing with a wildly conspiratorial view of Administration machinations is a sign of sanity.
But they really and truly need conscription, and it is going to take more than a few Presidential stem-winders to get it.
Just bombing Iran (and I do believe that it is more sane than not to assume they will) doesn’t cut it. Not when you were counting on the Iraqi army to liberate Iran six weeks after our invasion of Iraq.
They really need another terrorist attack on US soil. Hell, Pat Robertson has had one revealed to him by God, isn’t that good enough for you?
But in the last analysis, IH, I hope you are sane and I am not.
An excellent post by Walrus. Thank you for sharing it with us Colonel.
I read these comments and would like to know from the ‘gurus’ what is China saying to this turmoil? The Sec of Treasury was there recently with a big delegation and what did they hear? Is China silent on this ?
Comment to Matti’s post.
Look at CEO earnings and stock appreciation over the last five years?
Look at Oil prices this past year?
They are investing in cash. That should see them through the “Hormuz Crisis”.
The Walrus reminds me of two related political phenomena—the security dilemma and imperialism. The security dilemma posits arms races. A state arms itself for protection from other states which respond in kind and so on and so forth. The United States is at the pinnacle of this self help system. America has no serious military threat to its survival. Imperialism provides a solution for what John Hobson saw as capitalism’s main problems: overproduction, under consumption, and restive capital. Put the two phenomena together. The iron triangle (congressmen-industry-Pentagon) has to manufacture a threat commensurate to its ambition. As others have pointed out, peace and no looming threat are bad for business. The steady expenditure of defense-related materials in Iraq and the existential threat of monolithic al-Qaedaism are good for business. Hobson’s observations are now o.b.e. Material considerations are back in balance for the iron triangle. Now, throw in the neoconservative ideology, arguably, the facilitator for the iron triangle.
The Walrus indicates the parallels to German militarism at the turn of the 20th century. It was not just German militarism, it was European militarism. And, a vital component of that militarism was the belief that sooner was better than later for a showdown with Germany. Or, to put it another way, Britain, France, and Russia wanted to hang on to their dominance while they enjoyed military superiority. This argument, use the military advantage while available, is a tenet of the neoconservative platform. Power, after all, is relative, just ask the other Great Powers. So, like Walrus, I believe the neoconservatives and the Bush administration have only one path to pursue—expansion. My compliments to Walrus for a well-thought article.
Walrus fails to consider one internal American factor: US demographics.
Thirty percent of the US electorate continue to support the Christian Zionist and traditional Zionist interpretation of history, and the role of American and Israel in the ME. Within that 30%, let’s say that 1/2-1% have the wealth and power; these include most corporate and religious interests who want to maintain the status quo.
This means that there are 70% of the American population who do not agree with them.
If you look at Bush’s domestic and foreign policy, there has been one over-riding theme: privatization. Why? So that more of the nation’s wealth can be concentrated in the hands of the 1/2-1%, in areas like defense, health ,etc.
Most Americans have not figured this out.
There are several problems with this approach. As more wealth becomes concentrated, the wealth gap increases. Eventually, as the economy in the US takes a dive, the poorer people will figure out that they have been had.
But the wealthy have figured this out, and they want to defend their interests. This is why there have been private military corporations formed lately; these are Blackwater, Halliburton KBR, CACI and Titan. Is it any accident that these companies are closely aligned with Christian Zionist organizations? They are called private defense contractors; I call them militias.
Is it any mistake that they have been major beneficiaries of the 450B spent by the US government in Iraq?
The demographic problem is that the US, in its demographic makeup, is becoming very complicated, with no single dominant group. There are just a lot of minority groups with different worldviews and interests.
The US used to be dominated by a mainly white middle-class; but now that has been greatly weakened; if you are not born with a certain amount of wealth, it is getting harder and harder to become well off.
Furthermore, whites are divided along political, religious and wealth lines. The religious right is mainly concentrated in the south, while the less religious are in the northeast and west. Then of course, let us not forget Hispanics, African-Americans and Asian-Americans, who all have a very different worldview than the Christian Zionists and religious right.
The stage is set for a re-distribution of power. If we look at this demographics, the situation in the US is very similiar to Lebanon in 1975, which was then dominated with Christian Maronites at the top, then Sunnis in the middle, and Shi’ites at the bottom of the economic ladder.
The Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990 was largely about the re-distribution of political power. All of the groups had their own militias, which fought it out.
The US has private militias which have been flexing their muscles and practicing in Iraq, and whose parent companies have become very wealthy since 2003.
If there is one lesson about American history, it is that the powerholders NEVER surrender their power without some kind of struggle.
I do not believe that any single dominant group can come out on top and hold the country together, unless there is some kind of American Saddam Hussein who is not afraid to kill millions and hold the country together through sheer force.
If this does not happen, the country will fragment along ethnic/political/religious lines, where each group will hold a majority in a smaller geographical area.
America, through its prolonged intervention in the ME, will have degenerated into the ME, divided along ethnic, religious and political lines.
The Christian Zionists have long predicted the end of the world and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. They are only partially right about this self-fulfilling prophecy; they will end the US, and because it is gone, Israel will be quickly overwhelmed, but not the world.
Great post. Some here have mentioned that Walrus has been unrealistic, overly optimistic, but actually that was his point. It ain’t gonna happen, we’re too far gone, so expect a big war in the ME starting with an attack on Iran. Spreading to involve most of the world as in WW2, for as long as the oil lasts.
I think the only hope is for a huge US economic hit brought on by our foreign creditors dumping their dollar reserves. But if this is going to happen it needs to happen soon, should have happened by now. I am feeling incredibly bitter towards Israel for hijacking our government to do its’ bidding in the ME. Iran is not our enemy. And with the US Congress pretty well bought and paid for by a foreign government lobby there is no chance that ordinary Americans will be able to get it working right and responsive to American interests.
I think I’ll go out and dig up the back yard. Might as well get my Victory Garden in early. There’s likely to be food shortages once this thing gets underway.
Walrus: “If America backs out of the middle east leaving Iran intact, the following will happen: [points numbered 1 to 6.]”
Regarding point 1, I wonder how much influence Iran will have over anyone but the majority Shiites who will be tending southward.
And even if America were to destroy Iran so it is NOT “intact,” aren’t numbers 2 though 6 going to happen anyway?
Nice mask there, Mr Walrus. Looks like the Phantom of the Iceflow 🙂
Like other commenters, I’d like to believe that actions have consequences. I’d like to believe that flawed political philosophies which engender catastophic policies are eventually widely recognized as misguided, even if sometimes well-intentioned.
I’d like to believe that, but I’m not sure I do. It’s been pointed out that movement conservatism itself cannot fail. People can fail to live up to it, but the movement itself is always above reproach.
The right-wing think tanks and their media mouthpeices will not be discredited. America will simply have shown itself to be unworthy of the movement, and thus will ours failures and guilt be explained to us.
If only our poorly-planned strategy was carried out competently! If only we had had the firm resolve to resort to whatever final solutions swirl around the bowl of their fetid imaginations.
But failure in Iraq? That’ll be a failure of our will, not of their plan. We’re in for a couple decades of Dolchstosslegende.
I’m amazed at responses to my post. I guess it was fate that led me to a second hand bookshop looking for some holiday reading and there was Barbara Tuchman sitting on the shelf, as fresh and relevent today as in 1984.
I’d only take issue with two points here, and that is to respectfully point out to Marcello that I don’t agree that “The mentality which has produced this isn’t going to change just because the US has lost a small war far away.”
How does losing our entire force in Iraq, gasoline at $10 per gallon and an economic collapse rivalling the great depression sound? That’s the scale on which I’m talking.
And with respect to confused ponderer, U.S. and NATO involvement in the Balkans should be seen through the lens of Europeans. The last time any European interfered in the Balkans, 20 million people died in WW1. The Russians still have the same level of fellow feelings for their co-religionists and Europeans are justifiedly reticent about antagonising them. Thats why the U.S. had to do the heavy lifting.
As my aged (European born) Father said at the time. “Let them kill each other, enough blood has been spilled on their behalf.”
I also hold no hopes that this Congress will do anything to stop whats going to happen. If anything the Democrats are more beholden to the Likudniks then the Republicans and I believe the Bush Administration will entangle them in the GWOT very quickly, to the rage of many of their supporters.
I also think the Baker/ISG report resulted from smarter and older NeoCons getting a glimmer of whats coming down the pike and trying to apply the brakes. Baker must feel like Count von Bernstoff must have felt in 1916 after he tried to convince the Kaiser and the general staff that unrestricted submarine warfare was a fatal mistake.
P.S. My favourite quote repeated by Tuchman concerned Phillip II of Spain :
“No experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence.”
Well done, Walrus. and thanks for posting this Colonel.
We are where we are. So let’s assume we have to start frome here and not someplace else.
Just about all the contributors seem to agree that Iraq is not a good place to fight in, and maybe they are correct. However, it’s not always easy to be certain sure when you’re in the thick of it. For example, Lee Kuan Yew, the elder statesman of Singapore, in his recent lecture tour of the US has pointed out that the benefits of resisting for so long in Vietnam did not become evident until many years later, and the sacrifices are still undervalued by many:
“…The conventional wisdom in the media now is that the war in Iraq is an unmitigated disaster. Conventional wisdom in the 1970s assumed that the war in Vietnam was similarly an unmitigated disaster. It has been proved wrong. It bought the time and created the conditions that enabled non-communist East Asia to follow Japan’s path and develop into the four dragons (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore), followed by the four tigers (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines). Time brought about the split between the Soviet Union and China, and that led to China attacking Vietnam when it attacked Cambodia and thus broke the domino effect of communist victory in Vietnam…”
For the full speech, see:
So, despite the horrendous problems, my point is that it may be too soon to make a clear judgement on whether or not to get out of Iraq right now. We have had (in spades) the case for quitting; the immediate advantages are clear. But what of the aftermath? We know they will fight each other, but how would we be affected? Would someone care to write a plausable scenario for what would happen, say 1 to 5 years after withdrawal (including Iran)?
Philip II is a particularly nice touch. I expect you’ll be prove right pronto–events are racing along in your direction. Killer post. Thanks to you and to Col. Lang for highlighting it.
Walrus, good point to ponder about.
I disagree with Lee Kuan Yew since one cannot judge how the historical process could have evolved in the absence of this or that event. What he is suggesting is akin to religious faith.
I also would like to suggest that if he were indeed correct in his assessment, then the burden of the war should have been borne by these Asian-Values states and not by US.
I also think that one does not need to wait for years or decades to form a correct assessment regarding an specific historical process. As counter examples I submit to you US interventions in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. In my opinion, they were quite useless to US and were not worth “it”.
Or consider WWII: FDR, Stalin, and Churchill were all quite cognizant that the war would find US in a pretty good position.
I think 5 years from now you will have a stronger (I am an oil determinist) Shia dominated government in Arab Iraq with a continued Sunni insurgency – sort of like Chechnya or Israel in the Occupied Territories.
I think you will have a stronger Kurdish Iraq which will continue to be a prosperous but uneasy tribal confederation (Barzani & Talabani tribes).
I do not know how long Iran will continue to pursue her fantasies just as I do not know how long US will pursue hers. But the destruction of the Iraqi State has left her with a very strong position and that cannot be changed regardless of what the advocates of air power claim.
But I think that 5 years from now you will see the same type of relationship (but stronger) between Iran & Iraq that Iran has with Afghanistan today – specially Western Afghanistan.
I believe that Iraq will never again be (re-)constituted as an “Arab Nationalist” state. In fact, I think Arabism is also dead.
All that is left is a choice between restricted representative government such as the Islamic Republic of Iran or more despotism (secular or religious: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Azerbaijan etc.).
Freeman, you raise some important points. A good start to addressing your points would be to compare the Iraq mission to the Weinberger Doctrine:
The Weinberger doctrine:
1. The United States should not commit forces to combat unless the vital national interests of the United States or its allies are involved.
2. U.S. troops should only be committed wholeheartedly and with the clear intention of winning. Otherwise, troops should not be committed.
3. U.S. combat troops should be committed only with clearly defined political and military objectives and with the capacity to accomplish those objectives.
4. The relationship between the objectives and the size and composition of the forces committed should be continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary.
5. U.S. troops should not be committed to battle without a “reasonable assurance” of the support of U.S. public opinion and Congress.
6. The commitment of U.S. troops should be considered only as a last resort.
The consequences of the Iraq War can not be plausibly assessed. The consequences of ending our involvement today, tomorrow, or in 2009 can not be plausibly assessed. Most assuredly, the consequences are already bad for U.S. foreign policy and relations, and likely to get worse. We know where we are; we must understand how we got here to figure out where we are going. Maybe 30 or 40 years from now, Ahmad al-Irani will speak at SMU and extol all the good things the US presence in Iraq did for his country, Iran. Just looking for a good reason to sacrifice.
One of your more pithy columns; however, you want it two ways: The Israelis dragged us into Iraq! It’s the ruling class/ military industrial complex protected now by neo-cons who have made the war. I don’t think we can blame this on Israel. That doesn’t mean that the Likudniks and those crazies to their right have a grip on reality. They don’t.
Now,having been an anti war activist decades ago it warms my heart to hear men of your intelligence stating that there is a ruling class in America (that used to be nothing but a left-wing paranoid delusion) and as Ike said we have to beware of the MI complex. I think it is a mistake to think the ruling class needs the neo-cons to do their bidding. They’ve been doing fine long before there were neo-cons and will continue until their dark logic of more profit and greater hegemony– destroys the world they want to dominate and exploit– an old fashioned contradiction in capitalism. What do I mean? Well, isn’t it a little too warm for this time of year in your hometown?
We, America that is, could’a been a contender, could have shown the way to a more transparent, less destructive and democratic kind of governence, but corporate interests (they’re real)
now international in scope, have so penetrated the consciousness of plain folks like us through brilliant marketing, media manipulation and the oblique supression of so much vital information, that many of us now believe that patroitism=consumption and that America doesn’t do nasty things intentionally.
What more did Bush and his boys need to sell the war on Iraq to us and our shameful representatives? I agree with you and Kevin Phillips that we may be at the beginning of the end of the American empire–which this war will no doubt hasten– I just pray there is something of value left when it collapses…like maybe our constitution. Michael Singer
I am not “Walrus.” pat
You can make too much of the Neocon thing. What these folk are up to is business as usual; Woodrow Wilson would recognize his children. DC is behaving like any other great power selfishly pursuing what it perceives to be its interests. This is what nation states are for.
The US since its inception been dominated by a narrow and often eccentric elite. The US often did oafishly stupid things in the past; what’s odd is the toleration of a whole series of spectacular damaging policy pratfalls by the American polity.
Walrus outlines that DC has failed to adjust to the post Cold War world. A very foolish mood of triumphalism gripped America when it was found that after decades of peripheral skirmishes the Soviets had abandoned the field. The PNAC dreaming certainly follows from that.
The principal architects of this mess are not the Likudnik neocons but Cheney and Rumsfeld. Two opportunist Cold War revenents shell shocked by 9-11. In front of them we have a ideologically blinded gilded patrician combining the worst elements of JFK and Jimmy Carter. Groveling beneath we have a vacillating Congress filled with vacuous timeserving senators of both almost indistinguishable stripes. The other actor is Rove the man who most ably span the web of truthiness that snared the culpably gullible voters imagination. Out on the periphery we have the court jester Tony Blair abasing his person and nation before power. Add to this a vacillating mainstream press that pumps out laughable Pentagon propaganda and you have a train wreck waiting to happen. This is a systemic failure characterized by uncorrected, irresponsible, incompetent action not a conspiracy.
The more rationally minded French at this point would riot, dissolve the Republic and start over. In DC they have been re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic for at least two years and are set to continue.
“The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes – and ships – and sealing-wax –
Of cabbages – and kings –
And why the sea is boiling hot –
And whether pigs have wings.”
Felipe the mastermind of the Armada’s certainty is one of the more repulsive characteristics of the devout.
To over-quote (perhaps) Mencken: “Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on ‘I am not too sure’.
and (yet another favorite)
“The worst government is the most moral. One composed of cynics
is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there
is no limit to oppression.”
“How does losing our entire force in Iraq, gasoline at $10 per gallon and an economic collapse rivalling the great depression sound?”
If the situation became so deperate that the US Army in Iraq was on the verge of annihilation the full might of the USAF would be brought to bear on the iraqi people. Systematic nuclear and conventional bombardment of population centres would be the order of the day. The rest sounds like the same Depression that drove germans in Hitler hands.
Admittedly the americans got FDR but as of lately I have begun to suspect it might have been a tossup, although I need to learn more about the period to make a more accurate judgement.
“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity” – Hanlon
“Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by ignorance or stupidity” -Asimov
“Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice” – W James
“You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity” – Heinlein.
“…misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent.” – Goethe’s
“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” – Albert Einstein
“Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.” – Schiller
“Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.” – Hubbard
Those who now wail away at Bush’s follies have joined him and his neocons in their myoptic vision and their illusion of control, not noticing the neo-Khawarij’s rejoicing in their every increasing success in furthering the Zones of Savagery.
Zarqawi smiles in his grave.
Meanwhile, in the Pacific, the Neocons have seen Taiwan as the “Israel of the Orient”, but one who paid for the products of our Military-Industrial Complex until recently. Apparently many Taiwans realize their limits now — in spite of the fact that Uncle has provided their defensive shield to date. And many South Koreans are fed up with us as well. We’re squandering our resources in the Middle East and purse strings are tightening in the Far East. Everything seems to be going to hell in a hand basket.
Why are Iraqi Sunnis (for instance) alarmed enough by the prospect of Shia power to get extremely violent?
Or to put it another way, why would not one in Virginia even finger a weapon over the prospect of a Senator Webb or Senator Allen or President Bush or President Kerry?
The reason is that we believe that the power of our elected officials is limited and is temporary, and that they will be held accountable for everything that they do.
Clearly the Iraqis do not share in this kind of faith. Being out of power means you’ll be victimized in that world-view.
The reason I bring up this rather trivial observation is that we need to worry about what makes Americans ultimately fearful about their own government, and fix those problems. That really is what is most vital to our well-being.
Recent events show a trend of ever-increasing government power. 9/11, Iraq are in some sense transient, except in that these are used as opportunities to corrupt our government.
A war was fought in US over all of these issues 140 years ago. It was called the Civil War. That’s when the increase in the US Federal Government power began.
“In other words, the entire NeoCon thing is all about maintaining the status quo and keeping the lid on the pressures for reform.”
Congratulations, Colonel, for cutting to the chase so swiftly and succinctly. One of the most interesting political trends of the Iraq War years has been watching “paleocons” (or at least, the intelligent variety) recognize and grapple with the realities of corpotate capitalism and the entrenched oligarchies it creates and empowers. First Jim Webb and now you. There may be hope for the old republic after all.
But this seems a little off:
“They have successfully enticed us into destroying their main enemy – Iraq for them.”
Actually, they enticed us (or rather, our idiot president) into taking down a weakened and only marginally dangerous Saddam as a first step in tackling their REAL public enemy number one: Iran.
Now, as you point out, they have little choice but to push for the same objective with redoubled force but under far less favorable conditions. It is, as a blogger I know once called it, a classic case of the flucht nach vorne.
However it’s not clear to me that the Dauphin is willing to up his wager that much. Unlike Hitler, he seems to have chosen “the small solution” in Baghdad over the “large solution” in Tehran.
All thing considered, perhaps we should be grateful he’s not going for broke?