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a column by Jeff Huber
for ePluribus Media

America's warfare-centric approach to foreign policy is turning us into a one-trick superpower, and the trick is losing its magic.

Since the early 20th century, war has proved to be a progressively counterproductive means of achieving America's national aims. Granted, some of our modern wars produced good things. Some were unavoidable. Many were noble. But without exception, they also produced unintended and unfavorable results.

Termination of World War I, "the War to End All Wars," laid the foundations of World War II. "The Good War" led to the decades-long Cold War and the third-world proxy wars that accompanied it. More than 50 years ago, we fought North Korea to a tie. Today, though North Korea can barely feed its own people, it still manages to give us security fits. And our 2004 presidential election showed that America still suffers from the aftershocks of Vietnam.

Like our other modern wars, the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) has produced some good things, most notably the ousting of Saddam Hussein from power. But one is hard-pressed to argue that the good has outweighed the bad.

Whatever Brave New Math the National Counterterrorism Center is using to measure global terrorism these days, it's clearly on an uptick. Iraq has become the international center for terrorist recruiting and training, and its progress at establishing a constitutional government has been, to put it kindly, less than confidence-inspiring.

Afghanistan, the "crown jewel" in the GWOT, is once again a haven for the Taliban and has turned into a narco-state, hence a major source of terror funding.

The "democratic domino effect" on the rest of the Middle East has transformed terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas into legitimate, popularly elected political parties.

And the tallest Arab ever wanted dead or alive by a president of the United States is still at large. If that's winning the war on terror, I'm glad we're not losing.

Sticker Shock and Awe

The worst news to emerge from this war is the demonstrated obsolescence of armed force as an instrument of national power. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform have been nothing short of magnificent, and yet....

The "best-trained, best-equipped" force in history did not defend America against the 9/11 attacks, nor did it deter them; and in Iraq, it is presently bogged down by a numerically inferior force of insurgents armed with handheld and improvised weapons.

According to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. military spending has increased 40 percent since 9/11 (and that doesn't include the cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan). The Congressional Budget Office projects that the combined costs of basic military funding and the expense of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere will be nearly $500 billion in 2006, a figure that will match the military expenditures of the rest of the world combined.

"These increases are needed," Secretary Rumsfeld says. "And, as a nation, we can afford them."

But one has to wonder how much America can afford to spend on a force that doesn't defend the homeland and is at best only so-so when it comes to achieving our aims overseas.

These are fiscally challenging times. America's dominance over the global economy is slipping. The European Union's gross domestic product has caught up with ours, and China's is growing at an eye-watering rate. Combined, their economies are half again larger than ours, and they're not bleeding half-a-trillion dollars a year on defense spending.

We face historic national debt. The once-almighty dollar struggles to keep pace with the formerly laughable euro. The price of oil had already gone through the roof by the time Hurricane Katrina came along.

No one knows for certain what the Katrina recovery effort will cost. Some "experts" put the tab at $175 billion. Others think it will go even higher. Whatever the amount turns out to be, it will not pass "go" on its way to the balance of the U.S. national debt.

What Kind of Gentler Nation?

Empires rise, empires fall. Some land softly, some crash into the back pages of other civilizations' history books. Almost without exception, empires that ended badly failed to understand that the military power that established them was not, in itself, sufficient to sustain them.

If America is to persist as a "first nation," we will have to make some tough decisions about what kind of military we need, how much we need to pay for it, what kinds of wars we need it to fight, and why we need it to fight them.

And we should make these decisions sooner rather than later.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired), is a freelance writer in Virginia Beach, VA.  His articles on military and political affairs have appeared in Proceedings, The Navy, Jane's Fighting Ships and other periodicals. Several of his essays have been required student reading at the United States Naval War College.  Read more of Jeff's commentaries at Pen and Sword.


ePluribus Contributors and Fact Checkers:   standingup, Sue in KY, JeninRI, and DEFuning




  Cross posted at ePluribus Media's Community site at ePluribus Media Community; come join us.


Originally posted to ePluribus Media on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 06:42 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's nice to know. (4.00)
    We can afford a 500 Billion defense department bill after a steady diet of tax cuts and subsidies for the wealthiest Americans. There's probably already a latter day Gibbon writing an introduction to "The Decline and Fall of the American Empire".
    •  the intro (4.00)
      There's probably already a latter day Gibbon writing an introduction to "The Decline and Fall of the American Empire".

      In a pinch, he or she could just quote large chunks of "Project for the New American Century" material.

      Too bad Barbara Tuchman is dead.

      Proud member of the reality-based minority

      by Bearpaw on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 07:20:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Chalmers Johnson (4.00)
        is alive, though.  Read The Sorrows of Empire : Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic to get a sense of the extent of our system of overseas bases.  You will begin to question the existence and maintainence of bases which were acquired in the aftermaths of those previous wars.  

        We're all in this together

        by JTML on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 07:33:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is a great read, (4.00)
          and an absolutely necessary follow-up is Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

          1)Buy it.
          2)Read it.
          3)Give it to someone else to read, preferably a Republican.
          4)Repeat many thouands of times.

          America saw the savagery of Katrina and prepared to help. Bush saw the savagery of Katrina and prepared for another round of golf.

          by Republic Not Empire on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 07:50:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  As long as we're recommending books (4.00)
            The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced By War by Andrew Bacevich (Professor of International Relations and Director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University).

            West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran Andrew Bacevich warns that America -- from the White House right down to popular culture -- has fallen dangerously in love with the idea of military might. It has become, he says, a country seduced by war.

            In his new book, "The New American Militarism," the soldier-scholar describes it as a dangerous new American union of militarism and utopian ideology. A union, he says, that is turning the United States into a nation that believes, unquestioningly, in the primacy of armed power.

            An interview with Mr. Bacevich is available from the On Point website at WBUR in Boston.

            Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change. - Tennyson

            by bumblebums on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 08:44:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  The Owl of Minerva . . . (4.00)
      takes flight with twilight closing in.  - GWF Hegel

      The name is not the thing named, the map is not the territory. -- Gregory Bateson

      by semiot on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 08:15:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Imagine what $500 Billion could do? (4.00)
      1.  Universal single payer healthcare
      2.  Comprehensive public transportation and nationwide infrastructure repair
      3.  Universal education through college
      4.  Alternative energy development
      5.  Worldwide AIDS Eradication
      6.  Rebuilding New Orleans and Water Control
      7.  Reforestation

      ...please feel free to add to the list.

      www.robmyers2006.com I am Rob Myers

      by lubarsh on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 08:48:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And its 500 billion with relatively no ROI (4.00)
        It is going into a giant expenditure black hole. (I know a few companies make profits in weapon development.) This is money that we really will never get back in any appreciable manner.

        Compare that to spending that benefits the economy and American workers with such things as universal healthcare or providing accessible post-secondary education. Simply, one kind of spending is for weapons and such that blow up in a different country contrasted with spending that bolsters the long-term foundation of a prosperous economy and higher quality of life with investments in social programs.

        The economic hangover of this massive military spending is going to make the stagflation of the 70's after Vietnam seem like the good old days.

        So, it is not just the massive amount that we are spending, but it's what are we getting out of it?

        Oh, wait, wait, wait - I forgot "freedom isn't free."

        "If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers." - Pynchon

        by HairOnFire on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 09:43:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The worst part of excessive (none)
      militarization is the wasted money that could helping improve lives instead of destroy them.

      After that comes the effect on our culture. Military training is outdated, focusing too much on dehumanizing people and institutionalizing some of the worst aspects of human nature. It contributes to soldiers being cruel and callous instead of mitigating that side of human nature.

      There is a standing order, part of the UCMJ, if I recall correctly, to diobey any unlawful order. In practice, it's unrealistic to expect a scared 19-yr.-old soldier to do this. So the blind obedience to authority leads to problems.

      Blind obedience to authority would be okay if the leadership was sound and the goals worthy. We can see how well that's playing out now.

  •  Nobody is safe.................. (4.00)
    "But one has to wonder how much America can afford to spend on a force that doesn't defend the homeland and is at best only so-so when it comes to achieving our aims overseas."

    Oh my God.................you got my crying this morning. I just hate the helpless feeling I have at this moment!

    Thank you for writing...words matter!

  •  Absolutely awesome diary topic (none)
    I just finished reading a short history of the Roman Empire and I was stunned at how many times I was hit with a sense of deja vu.

    I carried water for the elephant; Back and forth to the well I went; My arms got sore and my back got bent; But I couldn't fill up that elephant

    by Sylvester McMonkey Mcbean on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 07:43:00 AM PDT

  •  Military Industrial Complex (4.00)
    Eisenhower did not give a strong enough warning, these folks have taken the entire government, and are now busy shredding our constitution.  The Bushites have gone beyond all previous administrations in their utter disregard for what is best for America.  It's all about enriching their cronies and trampling any who get in their way.

    Howard Zinn's book, "The People's History of the US" gives a good explanation for the sad story.  Bushites are using proven propaganda techniques to grab power, and they will be hard to get out now that they control all three branches of government.  

    Will Jeb continue the Bush era in 2008?  That's a real disaster scenario.

    Throw out the Bushites in Nov. 2006, Impeach in Jan. 2007.

  •  No empire has ever lasted (none)
    I recently saw the movie "Alexander", and thought of the parallels:

      Democracy (or empire) cannot be forced upon foreign nations, especially when it's "on the march"

      betrayal, in one form or another (in our case it's whistle-blowers) always accompanies "charismatic" if not a bit infatuated or insane, leaders

      It runs in the family: Insane poilicies from fathers (even mothers) equals insane policies from the successor

    Our warmongering is indeed catching up to us. We've become what we are rooting out.

    Listen all of y'all it's a Sabotage! - Beastie Boys

    by See you out there on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 07:44:51 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for an insightful piece (4.00)
    I think Katrina has helped the US public to realize that the billions spent "fighting the enemy over there..." and on Homeland Security has not helped to make them safer.
    Public skepticism is cascading onto many of the Bush administration policy decisions and they are crumbling like the New Orleans levees.

    What Would Shirley Chisholm Do?

    by ricardo4 on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 07:45:30 AM PDT

  •  Our Republic is behaving Imperially (4.00)
    chiefly due, I believe, to the cancerous growth of the executive branch over the course of the 20th century, and acutely so under this president.

    (Can you tell from my KosID that this issue speaks to me?)

    I dream of a President like a Teddy Roosevelt (yes, even despite his own imperialistic tendencies) who understands clearly the nature of her office and that of the other two branches.

    Byrd laments loudly and well in his "Losing America" that the executive branch agencies have grown so large and so secretive that Congressional oversight is becoming untenable. This is precisely how democracies turn into tyrannies, when bloated tools of the executive, such as the Pentagon, drive policy independently of and more powerfully than the legislative branch.  I also believe that major corporations understand our new imperial structure, and point their business straight at the executive underlings,and thus we live in the toxic, bullet-filled  world we do today, with no truly democratic representation.

    Americans of all political stripes like clean air and water and stability, yet we remain blocked from it because of interests with access to folks who are constructing an empire from a republic.

    In order to save this country, I believe we need not just a Democrat but one with the historical perspective to clean house and make transparency and accountability the pillars of her administration.

    Where is our Cato, our Cicero, our (metaphorical) Brutus?

    America saw the savagery of Katrina and prepared to help. Bush saw the savagery of Katrina and prepared for another round of golf.

    by Republic Not Empire on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 07:45:39 AM PDT

    •  Hell, I'd even take a Claudius (none)
      at least as how Graves imagined him.

      We are not so far gone yet that someone with his belief the Republic would not be beneficial.  

      But if we wait too long, even a leader committed to the Republic will be trapped in the momentum of the Empire and will not be able to affect change.

      I carried water for the elephant; Back and forth to the well I went; My arms got sore and my back got bent; But I couldn't fill up that elephant

      by Sylvester McMonkey Mcbean on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 07:51:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Many Were Noble? (4.00)
    Granted, some of our modern wars produced good things. Some were unavoidable. Many were noble. But without exception, they also produced unintended and unfavorable results.

    Be more specific please. That doesn't cut the mustard standing alone as is.

    What are you even counting as a modern war? Twentieth Century? WWI and WWII, but then what? Kosovo? Not Korea, surely? Grenada (Hah)? Libya (Oh sure kill a terrorists daughter instigating Lockerbie and then sweep that under the rug)?

    What? One, two, or even three is not "many."
    Such generalities cannot be permitted to march on; they form the crux of prefab consent for future wars. Like Iraq.

    9/11 + 4 Years = Katrina... Conservatism Kills.

    by NewDirection on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 07:46:34 AM PDT

    •  asdf (4.00)
      Isn't WWI considered in Modern Times? Been a long long time since my US History but I think most people would classify US involvement in WWI and WWII as necessary and that yes out of great suffering, death and anguish some good did occur. As the daughter of WWII vet who helped liberate Dachau, I have to agree with the author.
      I am also the granddaughter of refugees from the area now called Poland/Russia pre WWI, so that colors my views on the US involvement in WWI. My father continues to describe his war experiences to anyone who will listen particularly the young because in his words "if people really understand what war is about they will never unnecessarily want to start a war".
      We must move to at time when leaders strived to avoid war and work to end human suffering and injustice without bullying, threats or invasions.

       

      What Would Shirley Chisholm Do?

      by ricardo4 on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 08:33:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  World War One (none)
        Is certainly considered to be in modern times but "modern times" is a bracket that is always in motion. Certain events are sticky and we don't like them to fall out of that bracket because we lose our connection to them. But how "modern" is the Depression? Prohibition? Or for that matter, moving even beyond WWII, Segregation?

        But militarily speaking, the idea of territorial conquest in the old imperial fashion is largely gone. The US and the USSR have bucked this trend a bit, often by involvement in internal conflicts (Vietnam and Korea, etc). Where this trend has been entirely bucked... Afghanistan and Iraq... The results have been disaster. But then, so too were they for the invaders in WWI and WWII.

        And that is why I question the modernity of the world wars. In the modern world a full-scale total war confrontation between great powers has the nuclear factor. So we went toe to toe with China a bit, and their lack of a big nuclear threat was significant in that.

        Modern wars are wars, therefore, waged by those who have nukes against those who do not in their home countries, or between those who do not have nukes. With terrorism beign the only means through which those who have no nukes can badger those who do where they live.

        9/11 + 4 Years = Katrina... Conservatism Kills.

        by NewDirection on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 09:04:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I understand your point (none)
          Yes terrorism is the tool of those without significant military force or nuclear weapons.

          I don't agree on the sliding view of modernism. The effects of WWI and WWII still impact parts of Eurpope today: Bosnia for example. Segregation has only be prettied up - laws enacted but slovenly enforced. Until the root cause of an injustice is resolved the  illness continues with different symptoms for decades.
          Modern wars are wars, therefore, waged by those who have nukes against those who do not in their home countries, or between those who do not have nukes.

          Don't forget civil wars or wars between countries or   groups who have no nukes...like the Sudan, and Bosnia . Do you classify them a different way?

          I think the Rumesfield model is the old imperialistic model with high tech flourishes. It fails because it tries to impose with military force the values and culture of invader. We have to understand that old imperialitic model because   of its impact on our children's children's children.  
           

          What Would Shirley Chisholm Do?

          by ricardo4 on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 09:29:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You Might Want To Reconsider This: (none)
            "I don't agree on the sliding view of modernism. The effects of WWI and WWII still impact parts of Eurpope today: Bosnia for example."

            The Roman Empire was modern once, then the Middle Ages were modern, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Napoleonic Era.... Times change. All of the past still affects the present. Today it is unthinkable that another "Midway" would ever be fought, because powers that could and were motivated enough to field huge navies against one another would have nukes and supersonic bombers/missiles in any case to employ instead. If something has become unthinkable it cannot be considered modern anymore.

            Meanwhile, the Crusades certainly impact the face of the world today... Even the history of the Hebrews does. That doesn't make them "modern" form our present position.

            9/11 + 4 Years = Katrina... Conservatism Kills.

            by NewDirection on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 09:47:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  mmm.... (none)
              you're forgetting about MAD.

              Two powers that believed in MAD might well fight a carrier battle yet not go nuclear.

              •  And What Would Be The Stakes? (none)
                The problem with that scenario... And I'm not talking about a sort of Top Gun scenario which (at least lower tech or smaller potatoes) did happen between the US and USSR... But a full scale epic all or nothing campaign...

                Is that there have to be stakes. There is no reason for two armed forces to have a conflict like that unless the implication is that, if not stopped, one will overrun the territory of the other. Knowing that if you smashed the army/navy of the enemy, you would then have nothing to gain unless you were willing to stare down nukes, you would not engage in such a conflict. There would be no commensurate reward.

                One could still posit an utterly mad leadership instigating such a conflict, but it would take that.

                9/11 + 4 Years = Katrina... Conservatism Kills.

                by NewDirection on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 10:23:14 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  ok, fine (none)
                  if you want a scenario... read Red Storm Rising.

                  One country is fighting for oil, the other to protect it's allies. The first seeks not to go nuclear unless pressed to the wall, while the second is protecting its allies and treaty commitments, not its own homeland.

                  •  I Did Read It... (none)
                    ...And it's a fantasy by a hexagonal wargame nerd who found that a lot of people wanted to be vicarious nerds through the vehicle of his scribblings. (Including me periodically, obviously.)

                    Nevertheless it holds as much weight in terms of real motive, as a Dungeons and Dragons novelization.

                    As to the specific scenario and why I don't think it's real-world:

                    The leadership of nations is primarily concerned with maintaining their own place, their own riches. It is a poor country indeed, a lot poorer than Russia or the USSR for that matter, that has to expand in order to feed the lifestyle of its elite.

                    Special cases have arisen with Hitlers and Napoleons who were willing to risk, and did suffer, personal disenfranchisment as a result of the nationalist greed they shaped. But modern regimes have safeguards against that kind of personality... It takes a great societal upheaval to produce a Napoleon or a Hitler or even a Stalin or at the low end, Hussein.

                    (The special problem of Bush notwithstanding... That is something else.)

                    9/11 + 4 Years = Katrina... Conservatism Kills.

                    by NewDirection on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 12:58:57 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

            •  um, no (none)
              the roman empire was contemporary once, but it was never modern. the dates of the modern period are historically debatable, but are generally situated in the 19th and 20th centuries, when the industrial revolution, empire, and mass politics began to shape all aspects of the modern world. the confusion that you're having is that you grew up in the modern period, so you're assuming that modern means "now," or "new." the roman empire no doubt felt "new" to those who lived in it, but it was not modern in any sense.

              crimson gates reek with meat and wine/while on the streets, bones of the frozen dead -du fu (712-770)

              by wu ming on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 11:42:05 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Sorry, Wrong (none)
                Modern is not a specific time period, it is a descriptive term. Nor is it absolute.

                That's a "sun revolves around the earth" mistake. Modernity moves through time, yet modernity does not revolve around us.

                And the Roman Empire was very modern in every sense... At the time. Although, like our own regimes, it of course had its bizarre quirks.

                9/11 + 4 Years = Katrina... Conservatism Kills.

                by NewDirection on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 12:10:52 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  i'm a historian (none)
                  and having both taken and taught courses on modern history, i would have to say that while modern is also used in the vernacular as a synonym of the word "contemporary," when it is used historically it is very much tied to a specific period of time, and is not free floating.

                  crimson gates reek with meat and wine/while on the streets, bones of the frozen dead -du fu (712-770)

                  by wu ming on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 12:17:39 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Read Some Contemporary Histories... (none)
                    From past periods, and you will see that "modern" and its predecessors in other languages has always meant "now and not too long before, and what we can expect soon."

                    Sorry, but it's patently absurd to think that this word, from the latin root, was created millenia ago to refer to the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

                    It moves. The period that "modern" covers moves. The opinion of what is "modern" is therefore revised. In 2050, would you be living in the "modern period" still, or would you have to rename it since "modern" is fixed?

                    From Book V of Histories, Tacitus, 109 A.C.E., Translated by Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb

                    Prodigies had occurred, which this nation, prone to superstition, but hating all religious rites, did not deem it lawful to expiate by offering and sacrifice. There had been seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the Gods were departing. At the same instant there was a mighty stir as of departure. Some few put a fearful meaning on these events, but in most there was a firm persuasion, that in the ancient records of their priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers, coming from Judaea, were to acquire universal empire. These mysterious prophecies had pointed to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, with the usual blindness of ambition, had interpreted these mighty destinies of themselves, and could not be brought even by disasters to believe the truth. I have heard that the total number of the besieged, of every age and both sexes, amounted to six hundred thousand. All who were able bore arms, and a number, more than proportionate to the population, had the courage to do so. Men and women showed equal resolution, and life seemed more terrible than death, if they were to be forced to leave their country. Such was this city and nation; and Titus Caesar, seeing that the position forbad an assault or any of the more rapid operations of war, determined to proceed by earthworks and covered approaches. The legions had their respective duties assigned to them, and there was a cessation from fighting, till all the inventions, used in ancient warfare, or devised by MODERN ingenuity for the reduction of cities, were constructed.

                    FYI, I am aware that historians refer to a loose "modern age" preceded by an "early modern age." But that's why history is a soft science... It's highly subjective in general and in this instance downright conceited.

                    9/11 + 4 Years = Katrina... Conservatism Kills.

                    by NewDirection on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 12:47:13 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

          •  No Nukes (none)
            Don't forget civil wars or wars between countries or groups who have no nukes...like the Sudan, and Bosnia . Do you classify them a different way?

            No, I listed that above, as the second half of:
            Modern wars are wars, therefore, waged by those who have nukes against those who do not in their home countries, or between those who do not have nukes.

            9/11 + 4 Years = Katrina... Conservatism Kills.

            by NewDirection on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 09:50:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  and all of this (4.00)
    has shown the rest of the world that the U.S. is merely a paper tiger. True or not, it's made us look much weaker than they thought we were--we're supposedly the most powerful, most advanced nation, but we can't win the war in Iraq against a smaller number of combatants armed with more primitive weapons, and we can't even protect one of our own major cities from massive destruction even though we knew about the hurricane risk long in advance.
  •  They're trying to help. Really. (4.00)
    The more people that can kill & be killed today, the fewer people to complain in the future.

    A time-based revision of the whole "fight 'em there so we won't have to fight 'em here" bullshit.

    "I'm not an actor, but I play one on TV."

    by zeitshabba on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 07:58:52 AM PDT

  •  While I agree with most of what was said (none)
    I'm not sure I agree with this, "Like our other modern wars, the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) has produced some good things, most notably the ousting of Saddam Hussein from power." Yes, Saddam was a cruel tyrant but I'm not sure if Iraq is better off without him. The power vaccum and chaos that has resulted from the invasion will, I think, lead to a full fledged civil war. I think we're already seeing a low level civil war. One thing Saddam could do is keep the country together.
    •  Iron fist better than anarchy? (4.00)
      Would the majority Shia in Iraq agree that the iron fist of Saddam would be preferable to the current state of civil war? Would the Kurds? The Baathist Sunni under Saddam were just as cruel as they are now without him, except that they were in unquestioned control. That was good, even relatively?

      We should have moved in with greater force and mounted a more effective occupation, for sure. But the notion that fascism is better than civil war -- what side would you have been on in Spain? When the "left" in America is more comfortable with fascism than anarchy, I worry.

      •  Absolutely agree... (4.00)
        ...wonderful comment, and I'd give you a 10 if I could.  It is understandable that many on the left side of the Democratic Party in America react to their furor at Bush on some level by minimizing facism in Iraq.  We on the left should never be apologists for the sort of regime that ran Iraq.  We should, instead, focus our anger on Bush's damage to international collaborative efforts to eliminating dictatorship, including strengthening UN rapid reaction forces, NATO, and other multi-national responses, as well as the application of international law.  We need collaboration and cost sharing if we are to remain in a peaceful world without beeding our treasury dry.

        Saddam was an obscenity.  Too bad we had an immature, ineffective, sociopathic idiot in the White House who was unable to make common cause and remove Saddam without sharing the costs, the responsibility, and strengthening international order in the process.  It is a horrible reflection on our country and our policies that Saddam is more popular in most of the (Sunni) Arab world than the United States, because no rational person would want to live under Saddam's rule.  

        This American exceptionalism is the worst thing about Roberts, by the way - he's very opposed to the domestic application of international laws and standards, including UN treaties.  I wonder what he will do to subvert the Convention Against Torture.  

        "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" ... Benjamin Franklin

        by ivorybill on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 10:08:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I Absolutely disagree (none)
          This is the kind of useless DNC talking point that takes us nowhere, except into the lower realms of rhetorical excess.  Saddam's regime was cruel and repressive, but no more so than any number of cruel and repressive regimes we do business with.  The current situation in which we have illegally flattened two major cities, depriving their citizens not only of livelihoods but places to live stands in ample comparison with the crimes of Saddam Hussein.  We have taken that country several steps back towards the Middle Ages.

          Saddam was always a talking point.  He was a dictator who would have died a natural death in a dozen years or so, and his regime would not have outlasted him by much -- his sons were clearly incapable of running a whorehouse, much less a nation-state.

          Saddam was made into a villain for two reasons: he was sitting on a lot of oil and spitting in the face of the West, and he was deemed a threat to Israel.  Take away those two things and you've got a garden-variety tinpot dictator who at least was providing fairly widespread public education and public health to his subjects, unlike other tinpot dictators one might think of.

          •  Talking points (none)

            I share your rage at Bush.  Get pissed off about uncritical US support for Israel...  I feel the same.  But I have to respond because your comments struck me as quite flippant for such a serious topic.  Saddam was a great deal more than a talking point to most Iraqis.  He was not just your average tin-pot dictator, not to millions of people who genuinely suffered under his rule.  One in five Iraqis - 5 million of them - fled the country to seek asylum in Europe or the US.  That's not what you see from your standard "tin-pot" dictator. I really wish you could travel to Iraq and see this first-hand, and actually talk to some Iraqis.  Your comments indicate to me that you probably do not have direct experience or know many Iraqis.

            Be clear that even though we seem to be pissing each other off, I'm not lumping you in the same category as the Republican chickenhawks.  You don't have a moral obligation to go.  I'd just advise more caution when imputing intentions or making predictions when it comes to what would have happened had the Ba'ath party remained in power.  This is separate from the issue of whether we should have unilaterally removed him.
             

      •  I disagree (none)
        "But the notion that fascism is better than civil war -- what side would you have been on in Spain?"
        Did you ever stop to think what will be the outcome of a civil war in Iraq? At present none of the sides seem concerned with the emancipation of women or their fellow citizens. Other than perhaps hundreds of thousands of more deaths I see no good coming out of an Iraqi civil war, in the same way that I see no good in decades of rule by Franco. Do you really think an Islamic Republic or a theocracy in Iraq is preferrable to Saddam? And even if you say yes, do you honestly think the cost to America makes it worth it? I'm not sure I understand your comparison to the Spanish Civil War. There is no Durutti Column in Iraq. There is no powerful left fighting in this war for the emancipation of their citizens. This is a war fought amongst fascists; there are Shiite fascists, there are Sunni fascists, the Al Qaeda fascists, etc. Really, I see zero comparison to what happened in Spain and I see no good coming out of civil war in Iraq, at least for the forseeable future. I think many Iraqis would agree. That is part of the reason you have seen protests supporting Saddam. People tend to crave stability, even if it is at the hands of a ruthless dictator.
        •  Two separate issues.... (none)
          ... is it worth it for the United States?  No.  I've said all along this should have been internationalized.  Share the cost, share the risk.  

          However, I think it is a western blunder to see things in terms of left, right and center.  It certainly is way off base to consider every group in Iraq "facist".  I think there is some value to the Spanish civil war analogy - the Ba'athists were facists.  Michel Aflaq, the founder of the party, was an understudy of Francisco Franco.  I would also say that the Kurds have a pretty good record in terms of women's rights, at least for the region, and that both the Kurds and the Shia' are fighting for emancipation.  I would certainly not consider the Kurds facists.

          The issue is to prevent these legitimate liberation struggles on the part of both Kurds and SHia' from decending into ethnic cleansing.  That's what needs to be addressed.  Too bad the UN is out of Iraq and ineffective.  

           

    •  What about us? (4.00)
      We were better off with Saddam. He was the most secular ruler in the muslim middle east.  By taking him down we destroyed our best potential partner in the GWOT.
      •  Wrong... (none)
        He was a monster that we helped create.  The Islamic reaction you are seeing in Iraq right now is not because we invaded the country - it is because Shia' clerics were put into wood chippers by the Ba'athists.  

        Don't interpret every reaction in Iraq only to this recent invasion.  Saddam was a product of Iraqi political culture and ethnic politics, with a big dose of Reagan-era realpolitik.  

        Sooner or later, what we are witnessing now would have occurred.  I also think it is a huge mistake to equate secularism in the middle east with progressivism.  Ceaucescu was a secularist in Romania, and I really don't think we should be holding up someone like him as a model partner.

        When people like Saddam or Ceausescu fall, they fall in blood.  That's what you are witnessing now, and to think that we would be better off by kissing and making up with dictators like that is a fundamental error.  

        •  Fundamental Error (none)
          The fundamental error is the belief that our democracy is God's present to mankind and thereby spreading democracy and fighting tyranny is a noble mission.  Arabs see thru such BS.  Nothing we do in the Middle East by gun point will ever be legitimate.  It is only a matter of time until the Shiites you think you liberated will turn against us in large numbers (not just power junkies like Sadr).
          •  You misunderstand me... (none)
            Sure the Shia' will not automatically support the US.  My problem is with those who ascribe to the theory that it's fine to support a dictator, even if "he's a bastard, at least he's our bastard" - to paraphrase FDR's comment about Somoza.  That was a stupid Latin American policy, which ultimately led to civil war, and it is even stupider when it comes to backing Saddam.  

            Can we impose a solution at the point of a gun?  I don't think I ever said that we could.  I don't believe that there was ultimately a peaceful solution.  Now whether the eventual denouement involved US forces or not, that's another matter.  What I did say is that there are a number of factors which led to the rise of Islamist movements in Iraq, some related to US policy, others a direct reaction against the Ba'ath.  

            What annoys me is when normally compassionate, intelligent people on the left take the position of backing a dictatorship that clearly is against the will of the people.  That was the stated position of the commenter who started this thread.  

            Was that your position as well? Or were you just making a point about "Arabs" reacting to the US?    

            •  Sometimes the dictator (none)
              is preferrable to what might follow. Case in point being Iraq. I don't think anyone is saying Saddam is somehow a good person. But do you honestly think a theocracy in Iraq is preferrable?
              •  Depends... (none)
                Southern Iraq will have a Shia' dominated Islamist government, whether the US likes it or not. The question is whether relative moderates will be in charge, or hard liners.  In that sense, political development in the Shia' community in Iraq has some resemblance to to Iran.  

                And yes, once Khomeni died, Iran has been far more democratic and a better place to live than Iraq.  I'm not justifying Iranian excesses or oppression of women.  I'm just saying that human rights reporting by Amnesty, HRW or other organizations throughout the 90's reflected the fact that Iran was consistently less repressive than Iraq in nearly all regards.

                Shia' parties such as Dawa' (Jaafari) and SCIRCI (al-Hakim) are similar to moderates or liberals in Iran like Khatami.  They are not Taliban.  

                So yes, I would much rather live under an Iranian-style theocracy than under a Ba'athist dictatorship, although I'd rather not live under either.  And I'm an atheist.  

            •  Idealism is not foreign policy (none)
              What annoys me is when normally compassionate, intelligent people on the left take the position of imposing our values on people that clearly have different values.  

              The "benefit" of the Iraq war argument is dangerous and was the platform that allowed this stupid adventure.  Deposing Saddam may be our interest, after we catch OBL and after we stopped the tide of militant Islam, by partnering with their rivals in the Muslim world.  

              Unfortunately (the world is not perfect) those anti-militant Islamist, included the Sunnis in Iraq. These Sunnis were more likely to adopt democracy than any other Muslim group in the Middle East (except the Palestinians).

  •  Seems to Me That Warfare (4.00)
    since WWII has helped turn America back to the historic norms of wealth distribution and will continue that trend.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 08:05:12 AM PDT

  •  Opium (4.00)
    You mentioned the Afghanistan opium trade....According to the CIA WORLD FACTS Afghanistan, slightly smaller than Texas and the world's largest opium producer, had unprecedential levels of opium production/narcotics in 2004. They supply 80-90% of Europe's heroin. And I remember reading a book about Viet Nam a while back talking of China's heroin trade and the US turning a blind eye back in that era.  BTW, what ever happened on the war on drugs? They are alive and well and apparently thriving.

    The stuff just keeps on coming, doesn't it. It feels like we are totally spinning out of control and the fox is guarding the hen house. You can be a Superpower, as in the Clinton years, and still be respected around the world. But you can not be a reckless administration with Yosemite Sam running the show and still be respected. The next President will have to get tough like Clinton, but tough at ourselves. We do need to police our own administration first. This war on Iraq, we know it was not about terrorism, will be around for a long time. We broke it. We need to glue it back together and put it back on the shelf because we are not helping the situation with our arrogant Commander In Chief. This is not going to be one of our proudest moments. And just as in Viet Nam, we will propably eventually leave with our tails between our legs. And this is not the soldiers fault. The Generals told 'Sam' what was needed. He ignored their advice and went on his own message from God. They are doing what the CIC said to do. But it is killing them and killing the innocent citizens of Iraq.  

    Oh, how I wish this was September, 2004!!!!

    •  Opium (none)
      The Western world coped fine in the 19th Century when opiates were legal. In the 20th Century opiates enabled Charlie Parker, William Burroughs and Jerry Garcia, among many others essential to our culture.

      Changing the farming habits of dirt-poor mountain farmers isn't simple, especially with the distorted international food prices maintained by the EU and the US to favor our own farm corporations. Yes, this all should be changed. No, it can't be changed just on the scale of a single, small, poor country. There is no good near-term alternative for much of Afghanistan than to remain an opium producer. And opium, despite all the propaganda, does minimal social harm, and definate cultural good in the West.

    •  War on Drugs? (4.00)
      Um, drugs won.

      (cease fire)

      ------------------------------------

      "If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers." - Pynchon

      by HairOnFire on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 09:45:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Which is why (4.00)
    we need a war powers amendment
  •  Great Essay (none)
    This is outstanding, possibly one of the most cogent and well-informed arguments against our current policies that I've seen anywhere.  And written by a former Navy Commander, natch.  
  •  Overall well written, but... (4.00)
    1. I don't see how taking Saddam Hussein out was a "good" thing, when you consider he wasn't a threat to anyone and was keeping fundamentalists from running Iraq. Iraq as a nation is now far worse off then it was under Saddam Hussein. Do I condone what he did? No, not at all, the man was a tyrant. But the world is full of tyrants and there's a right way to deal with them and a wrong way to deal with them and this was the wrong way. Iraq is now much worse off than it was before. This sounds more like a right-wing talking point than anything else, because justice has not been served by killing thousands of Iraqi's and dooming them to worse conditions exonomically, socially, and politically than what they had before. Is it "good" that we got Saddam locked up, well, yeah. It's one of the few things we didn't screw up in invading Iraq. Nevermind all the missing radiological materials and weapons caches, and...

    2. The fact that we were hit on 9/11 and the military did not prevent the attacks you assume was a direct result of a failure of the military. Unfortunately, that failure actually had little to do with the military and alot to do with politics, and intelligence. Based on all of the evidence I've seen the attacks could have been prevented if the White House had been interested in preventing them. The "War Against Terrorists" is a misnomer, because anyone who has honestly dealt with the problem knows it's a criminal act and must be dealt with as such, not through "war", but using the military, such as special forces does have a place in combating terrorism. The Clinton administration clearly demonstrated this when they went after the original WTC bombers and successfully prosecuted them.

    Having said that, in relation to what I think you are trying to say, is how the GOP has pushed the GWOT to build up the military, which is silly. The "Star Wars" programs wouldn't have prevented 9/11 from happening anymore then they would prevent the insurgency in Iraq.

    The U.S. Military is the best at what it does. However, it is not meant to "fight" terrorists or be an occupying force. It is meant to destroy other armies/navies/air forces. The mis-application of that power is the fault of those now in power as is the fundamental lack of understanding how to fight the terrorists.

    Of course, that is, assuming that they want to fight the terrorists. Based on what I've seen from this administration, terrorism is the distraction they use to dismantle our rights and take the resources of other nations. I think you've confused what they are doing with what they are saying and if you have watched the Bush Administration closely enough you know the two are rarely the same. For the Bush administration, terrorism is not a war to be won but a tool to be used as an excuse for whatever they deem necessary to fulfill their idealogical goals.

    Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it. -Tom Paine

    by Alumbrados on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 08:25:07 AM PDT

    •  With respect, Alumbrados... (4.00)
      I would be careful assuming that all of the Iraqi Shia' parties are "fundamentalists" who are worse than Saddam.  That's like saying that the FMLN or the Sandinistas were the moral equivalent of the Sendero Luminoso.  Most rational folks, myself included, were sympathetic to the Salvadoran rebels and to the Sandinistas who were fighting Somoza.  Did they go overboard sometimes?  Yes.  But they were legitimate political movements. On the other hand, the Sendero was a violent cult that, to me, never had much legitimacy as a political movement.

      Likewise, don't lump all the Shia' political parties into the "fundamentalist" rubric.  Just as the Republicans demonize any liberation movement in Latin America, the left seems to demonize the Shia' political movements in Iraq.  They are not all equal.  SCIRI and Dawa' are not as bat-shit crazy as people make them out to be, even if we disagree with many of their policies.  Muqtada al-Sadr, on the other hand, is a very dangerous demagogue who can really hurt lots of people.  The Sunni fundamentalist insurgents are bat-shit crazy and hideously violent.  

      So Saddam did keep the Shia' "in check"... but are Iraqis worse off with him gone?  I'm not so sure.  The majority of Shia' and Kurds are better off, and they are 80% of the country.  

      "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" ... Benjamin Franklin

      by ivorybill on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 10:18:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Like others here (4.00)
    I don't see any benefits of the so-called "war on terror."  To take a very narrow, nationalistic perspective, at least during World War II and the early years of the cold war, the government intervened in the economy to a terrific degree (military-industrial complex) that provided jobs and security for millions of Americans.  This is why the AFL-CIO, UAW, etc.,  are often further to the right than the Republican Party regarding foreign policy (at least until recently).  Okay, that's one positive aspect of militarism.

    But the horrible effects of our foreign policy during this period (Italy, Greece, Iran, Guatamala, and others) make the "benefits" at home difficult to swallow.

    During the "war on terror" (always use quotes with that phrase), we lack even the domestic economic benefits we enjoyed during the Cold War.  And the overthrow of Saddam had nothing to do with "terror," other than our own embrace of it as a tactic for establishing hegemony.

    "While there is a lower class, I am in it. While there is a criminal element, I am of it. While there is a soul in prison, I am not free." - Eugene Debs

    by matthewc on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 08:30:48 AM PDT

  •  War is not the answer (none)
    The ol hippified saying ahs come true. No matter your your strength in armaments or weaponry, we are all still vulnerable. War is a defeated concept left to barbarians. It simply does not work any longer.

    The new wars will be fought with finance. In that case, we will be losing. They have us by the throat.

  •  Given the speed (none)
    of communications in The Roman Empire when it collapsed, versus the speed of communications in The American Empire - how long before those political Visigoths; led by Dobson / Robertson et al sack Washington?
  •  We Teach Our Children... (none)
    that fighting is not the way to solve disputes.

    Why do we accept less from our nation's "leaders"?

    I think the United States has seen its peak as a civilization.

    This is CLASS WAR, and the other side is winning.

    by Mr X on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 08:53:46 AM PDT

  •  This is why we lose elections. (none)
    Don't you support the troops?

    Aren't you a "war pragmatist?"

    Don't you know Democrats must support the "war on terror" because the polling results say so?

    Don't you know we're battling a Sunni insurgency, and without continuing U.S. occupation the whole region will fall into civil war, ultimately threatening western civilization itself?

    Don't you know we had to invade and occupy Afghanistan in order to get bin Laden?

    </snark>

  •  Nice diary, weak numbers... (4.00)
    The numbers employed offend to no end.

    "According to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. military spending has increased 40 percent since 9/11 (and that doesn't include the cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan)." WHY would anybody ever listen to this moron? Is Congress that fucking stupid?

    "The Congressional Budget Office projects that the combined costs of basic military funding and the expense of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere will be nearly $500 billion in 2006, a figure that will match the military expenditures of the rest of the world combined."

    $500 billion? Does that include the cost of the continual treatment and care of the injured and sick?

    Hell, I don't know anything either so I'll make a projection of my own. "The Iraq war will cost  $3,000,000,000,000 over the next ten years if we bring our boys home this coming week."

    That $3 trillion dollar projection includes the continued treatment of the sick and injured soldiers. Additionally, I won't lie to you and tell you that we can afford such costs.

    ""These increases are needed," Secretary Rumsfeld says. "And, as a nation, we can afford them."

    Rumsfeld is not only stupid but a profound liar.

    •  PNAC Goal Met in 2004, to Exceed in 2005 (4.00)
      i did these calculations sometime ago but the gist of the article seems even more relevant now.  

      the data and the links are definitely dated so may not be accurate or functional at this point


      PNAC 2004 Goal Met Perfectly: 2005 Exceeds by 50%

      To carry out these core missions, we need to provide sufficient force and budgetary allocations. In particular, the United States must:
      ...
      INCREASE DEFENSE SPENDING gradually to a minimum level of 3.5 to 3.8 percent of gross domestic product, adding $15 billion to $20 billion to total defense spending annually.

      Executive Summary of PNAC's "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century", pp. iii - iv

      http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf

      vs.

      Table 1-1 NATIONAL DEFENSE BUDGET SUMMARY
      Total Obligational Authority (TOA) DoD - 051 ($ Millions)

      ----------------Change ------------------ Change
      FY 2003 -- FY 03-04 --- FY 2004 ------ FY 04-05 ----- FY 2005
      367,551 -- 13,161 ----- 380,712 ------- 19,567 ----- 400,279
      ---------------- 3.5% ---------------------- 5.1%

      http://www.defenselink.mil/comptroller/defbudget/fy2004/fy2004_greenbook.pdf

      http://www.defenselink.mil/comptroller/defbudget/fy2005/fy2005_greenbook.pdf

      ...Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor. Domestic politics and industrial policy will shape the pace and content of transformation as much as the requirements of current missions....

      V. Creating Tomorrow's Dominant Force, in "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century", p. 51

      http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf

      *******

      according to OMB, the 2005 discretionary budget is actually another $38M larger so that PNAC goal is exceeded by an even WIDER margin than they hoped!!

      page bottom -

      http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2005/defense.html

  •  Paul Kennedy (4.00)
    The Yale historian Paul Kennedy made very much the same point back in the late 1980s in his book, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.  We don't hear much of that book today, probably because Kennedy was looking to Japan as the next dominant world power (assuming there must be a one dominant power rather than a few roughly co-equal ones).  The bursting of Japan's "bubble" economy deflated Kennedy's argument in the eyes of some, and he didn't pay much attention to China.

    His core reason for the decline of great powers remains a worthy argument:  great powers decline when they enter a period of "imperial overstretch", i.e. they make commitments across the globe that they are unable to meet.  These declining powers tend to rely excessively on military power, which is made weaker by imperial overstretch.

    Kennedy also points out that there's a lag between when a great power begins its decline, and when its power is visibly weakened.  In other words, great powers appear to be stronger for longer than they actually are.

    And we'll all float on okay - Modest Mouse

    by Linnaeus on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 09:23:22 AM PDT

  •  The US government doesn't have enough (none)
    American dollars to pay for these expensive adventures. So, they sell bonds as a way of borrowing money. At the current rate of borrowing, the bond holders will soon control a sufficient amount of dollars as to represent a considerable economic threat to the US govt.

    If bond holders then refuse to buy more bonds (stop loaning the govt. money), or exercise other damaging economic options with their holdings, America's adjustment options become very limited. Unable to borrow money to war on its creditors, Washington may consider the nukular option as its last ditch option -- when there is nothing left to lose. Yeee!

    "On Olympos, Scholic Hockenberry, there are no permanent friends or trustworthy allies or loyal mates... only permanent interests." -- Dan Simmons

    by Eloi Scientist on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 09:40:43 AM PDT

  •  All we need (none)
    is a military strong enough to make a military attack on the U.S. itself a doomed enterprise.

    For that, we have more than we need.

    Five nukes might be more than we need, and we have far more than that.

    "Don't want to be an American idiot..." -- Green Day

    by Black Maned Pensator on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 09:54:07 AM PDT

  •  minor quibbles (none)
    1. North Korea did not fight us to a tie. We whipped North Korea totally after the inital battles, as might be expected due to relative size. We fought <bold>China</bold> (or "Chinese volunteers", if you prefer) to a tie.

    2. Iraq is weird, in that we're trying to do a peace-keeping type of mission there. It's different from smashing an enemy and then moving on, which I would argue we would do quite well at.
  •  Actually, North Korea can afford to feed (none)
    its people, but the government simply chooses to divert its resources to military applications.  WHat a horrific choice that country has made between guns or bread & butter.
    •  horrific choice (none)
      What a horrific choice that country has made between guns or bread & butter.

      Unfortunately, the US has made a similar choice.  The results are't as bad -- at least not yet -- but it's a matter of degree, not kind.

      Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

      Proud member of the reality-based minority

      by Bearpaw on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 10:31:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  read bruce comings' book "north korea" (none)
      the 1990s famine in north korea was as much as result of an oil-dependent industrial agricultural ecomomy collapsing in response to the end of free oil imports from russia after the fall of the soviet union as anything else. were we to hit peak oil with a vengeance, our situation would be strikingly similar, i'd imagine. the north korean army is a huge waste of resources, but it isn't the cause for sudden food shortages, because they had a huge army before the 1990s and never had problems with food. hell, without nuclear blackmail and missile exports, north korea would have no ability to earn the capital necessary to get that oil and keep the tractors running. just a thought.

      crimson gates reek with meat and wine/while on the streets, bones of the frozen dead -du fu (712-770)

      by wu ming on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 11:48:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks to all... (4.00)
    For the terriffic comments.  

    On "unintended, unfavorable results."  In a nutshell, this is true of just about any war you care to name.  One hopes that the goods will outweigh the bads, but one never knows.  War is a risky thing, and shouldn't be undertaken lightly.

    I'll write more specifics on this subject in later posts.  

    I stuck with WWI on for this piece because wars prior to that tended to involve territorial expansion (ex the Revolution and Civil War), and in my mind, were of a distinctly different nature.

    Anyhow, I enjoyed the discussion and look forward to hearing more from everyone.

    Best,

    Jeff

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." -- Voltaire

    by Jeff Huber on Wed Sep 14, 2005 at 10:54:49 AM PDT

  •  Look this guy up. (none)
    WSJ, Sept. 8th, published a huge article on the front page, about Michael Pillsbury who may be spearheading the drive behind our current militancy.  I've said before and I still believe, that our militancy is not about the Middle East.  It's about China.  The axis of evil lists countries that 1. have oil sources both China and the USA need and 2. countries that we don't control around the perimeter of China.

    Mr. Pillsbury's 35-year old China odyssey, from fondness to suspicion, parallels Washington's own hot and cold relations with Beijing-from the diplomatic warming of the 1970s, through the shock and disallusionment of the post-Tiananment Square era, to today's growing econmic and political tensions.  That's hardly a coincidence: Whether in public or in the policy making shadows, Mr. Pillsbury has been a persistent force in shaping official American perceptions of a nation increasingly seen as the world's fastest rising power.
    Neil King, Jr.

    I'm sorry that I can't give you a link, my WSJ is hard copy only.  

    Pillsbury is a fluent Mandarin speaker and author of three books on Chinese military stratagy.  He has become one of the Pentagon's most influential advisors on China, with a direct tie to Rumsfeld's top aides.

    He believes that China's military establishment is fascinated with ancient Chinese militarism and is in the process of developing weapons that can make assasin attacks on larger enemies.  Such weapons would, for example, take out communications satallites and sink submarines.  

    The White House is seriously considering giving him a DOD post.  We need to know more about him.

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