Very few policymakers even concede that Washington’s overseas military adventures often have not turned out as planned.
The leaders and most of the news media in the U.S. seem to believe that Washington’s foreign policy over the past several decades has been a success and benefitted both the United States and the world. That assumption wasn’t really true even during the Cold War, although that confrontation eventually resulted in the peaceful demise of America’s nasty totalitarian adversary. There was plenty of collateral damage along the way, with the suffering caused by Washington’s conduct in Vietnam and Afghanistan being the most glaring examples.
The performance of U.S. leaders after the Cold War has been even worse. An array of disruptive, bloody tragedies—most notably those in the Balkans, Afghanistan (again), Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen—mark Uncle Sam’s global trail of wreckage. The Biden administration’s decision to use Ukraine as a pawn in Washington’s power struggle with Russia is fast becoming the latest example.
Very few policymakers even concede that Washington’s overseas military adventures often have not turned out as planned. The news media, which is supposed to serve as the public’s watchdog, have routinely ignored or excused America’s foreign-policy disasters. Instead, when one intervention fails, they simply move on to lobby for the next crusade pushed by U.S. leaders. Consider how few news accounts now deal with the ongoing violence and chaos in places such as Libya, Syria, and Yemen, even though Washington was a major contributor to all of those tragedies. Paul Poast, a scholar with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, aptly describes the conflict in Syria as America’s “forgotten war.” “That the war in Syria has become the “forgotten war,” he observes, “points to a more disturbing trend in U.S. foreign policy: The United States is so engaged in wars and interventions around the world that a conflict involving the U.S. military that has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians does not even register with the American public anymore.”
The biggest problem in American foreign policy is that the institutions and postures that were supposed to bring security have in fact brought profound insecurity. U.S. officialdom is edging closer to armed conflict, but seemingly without consciousness of the profound vulnerabilities war would bring. This contradiction is not a novel feature of the American position in the world, but it is perhaps more manifest today than ever before. Assuming responsibility for the world’s conflicts, the United States has enmeshed itself in all the world’s conflicts. Its national security state has become a threat to the security of the American people.
The present age is distinguished from the past in one vital respect. It is marked by the existence of embedded interdependencies in numerous domains—military, financial, economic, ecological, cyber, biological—all of which have immense harm-producing potential. To go to war, even to the brink of war, brings all these vulnerabilities into play. In effect, it makes hostages of the American people to the vicissitudes of America’s world role. That prospect doesn’t seem to frighten our rulers. It should frighten the ruled.
It hardly needs demonstration that the United States is closer to war with Russia than at any time in the past three decades, and more so than most times during the Cold War. By the 1960s there were clear “red lines,” understood and respected by both sides; that is no longer true. That the United States has revived the Lend Lease legislation of 1941 is eerily symbolic, because that earlier moment featured both a fierce determination to aid the allies and a no less emphatic public unwillingness to get into the war. We know how that contradiction was resolved. The United States is not formally at war with Russia, but it has adopted aims that cannot be achieved without a war.
Would a war against Russia have any better outcome than U.S. interventions elsewhere? The question almost answers itself. From Andrew J. Bacevich at thenation.com:
The people now gunning for a showdown with Putin were gunning for a showdown with Saddam Hussein two decades ago—with the same promises of a happy outcome.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Moscow. (Alexei Druzhinin / AP Photo)
While some wars may be necessary and unavoidable, a war pitting Russia against Ukraine—and potentially involving the United States—doesn’t make the cut. Yet, should such a war occur, some members of the American commentariat will cheer. They have yearned for a showdown with Vladimir Putin. The depth of their animus toward Putin and the hyperbole it inspires is a bit of a puzzle that deserves examination.
A veteran New York Times correspondent charges that Putin “has put a gun to the head of the West.” In an op-ed recently published in the Times, a former US national security official accuses President Biden of “sending the message that the United States is afraid of confronting Russia militarily.” “In an era when fascism is on the march,” a Boston Globe columnist warns, “much more may hang in the balance” than simply the security of a single country on the far eastern fringe of Europe.
A sense of impending doom punctuates the taunts: With unnamed fascists gathering outside the city gates and the very survival of the West at risk, the sitting president succumbs to cowardice. Whence does such overheated language come? What does it signify?
One obvious explanation is the unvarnished Russophobia pervading the ranks of the American political elite. With roots going at least as far back as the Bolshevik Revolution, disdain for Russia only deepened across several decades of Cold War. Although the Cold War ended a generation ago, this habitual animus survives fully intact, nowhere more so than in Washington. Demonizing Russia is an easy sell.
In international politics, most crimes, no matter how heinous, are forgivable. Even those perpetrated by the Nazi regime do not figure in day-to-day US relations with the Federal Republic of Germany. Nor, as it turns out, does the United States hold Ukraine’s collaboration with the Third Reich against it.
The hijackers who carried out the attacks on 9/11, like all radical jihadist groups in the Middle East, spoke to the U.S. in the murderous language it taught them.
Original illustration by Mr. Fish.
I was in Times Square in New York City shortly after the second plane banked and plowed into the South Tower. The crowd looking up at the Jumbotron gasped in dismay at the billowing black smoke and the fireball that erupted from the tower.
There was no question now that the two attacks on the twin towers were acts of terrorism. The earlier supposition, that perhaps the pilot had a heart attack or lost control of the plane when it struck the North Tower seventeen minutes earlier, vanished with the second attack.
The city fell into a collective state of shock. Fear palpitated throughout the streets. Would they strike again? Where? Was my family safe? Should I go to work? Should I go home? What did it mean? Who would do this? Why?
The explosions and collapse of the towers, however, were, to me, intimately familiar. I had seen it before. This was the familiar language of empire. I had watched these incendiary messages dropped on southern Kuwait and Iraq during the first Persian Gulf War and descend with thundering concussions in Gaza and Bosnia. The calling card of empire, as was true in Vietnam, is tons of lethal ordnance dropped from the sky.
The hijackers spoke to America in the idiom we taught them.
The American empire is a moral and Constitutional abomination. From Andrew Napolitano at lewrockwell.com:
The debacle of the nearly 20-year American occupation of Afghanistan continues to unfold. This disaster began when President George W. Bush — stung deeply by the intelligence that he failed to heed, thus enabling the attacks of 9/11 to take place unimpeded — convinced the American people and Congress and most of our allies that the bad guys who ran Afghanistan in the early part of this century needed to be taught a lesson, whether they personally enabled or facilitated the 9/11 attacks or not.
This moral monstrosity was executed in the name of retaliation, deterrence and liberation, but in reality, it was American hubris.
Here is the backstory.
Bush — knowing days after the 9/11 attacks that they had been perpetrated and paid for by the Saudis — believed that by blaming the attacks on Afghanistan, destroying much of that country and causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents, he would somehow teach the world that no one would “mess with us” without severe consequences.
His knee-jerk reaction, and exploitation of raw American fear in the weeks following 9/11, set in motion a series of events that culminated last week in the triumph in Afghanistan of the very mindset Bush and his military, and his 2 trillion borrowed American dollars, tried to destroy.
One thing you can count on after the US withdraws from Afghanistan—the US foreign policy establishment will have learned nothing from the two-decade fiasco. From Patrick Lawrence at consortiumnews.com:
Remaking the world — all of it — in the U.S. image has been a foundation stone of American foreign policy since the Wilson administration — a century ago.
On July 8, U.S. President Joe Biden said there was little likelihood of the Taliban “overrunning everything and owning the whole country.” (White House, Hannah Foslien)
Tragedy, a scholarly friend reminds me, does not mean merely a disastrous event or events — serial murders, a ravaging hurricane, losses in war, famines. Tragedy entails self-knowledge through suffering, transcendent clarity after great destruction.
In Sophocles’ celebrated tragedy, pride and hubris have blinded Oedipus to who he is and what he has done. He hunts his father’s murderer only to discover he is the patricidal killer. When he blinds himself in despair, it signifies he has seen the truth. He knows himself at last by way of another kind of sight and that is insight.
The debacle in Afghanistan is not a tragedy however many times we call it one. The 20 years of violence and destruction are a disaster, yes. Nearly 160,000 people have died, the Watson Institute’s Cost of War Project tells us, and the U.S. wasted $2.3 trillion it could have spent bettering the human condition anywhere it wanted at home or abroad. Is there clarity, self-recognition, insight? Don’t look for any now that the Afghan adventure is over.
Sarah Abdallah, a Lebanese journalist with a lively presence on Twitter, compiled a list of eight U.S. presidents who had a hand in the Afghanistan war — her chronology extending back not two decades but four.
The U.S. government went in search of monsters to destroy and it found them. It didn’t however, destroy them. Afghanistan was lost the day the U.S. military invaded, and it only took them twenty years to figure it out. From Jacob G. Hornberger at fff.org:
It is becoming increasingly clear that the strategy of interventionist dead-enders is to blame President Biden for losing Afghanistan to the Taliban. If only he had kept U.S. troops there a bit longer or even indefinitely, their argument goes, the crooked and corrupt U.S.-installed Afghan puppet regime could have won the war and finally brought “enduring freedom” to Afghanistan.
Never mind that the U.S. national-security establishment had twenty long years to achieve its goal of bringing a model society to Afghanistan.
Never mind that U.S. officials sacrificed the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Afghans in their quest to bring “democracy” and “enduring freedom” to Afghanistan.
Never mind that U.S. officials spent around a trillion dollars in U.S. taxpayer money on their intervention, much of it ending up in the personal pockets of their crooked and corrupt Afghan puppets.
Never mind that the Trump administration entered into an agreement with the Taliban to exit the country last May. Given that Biden unilaterally broke the agreement by extending the U.S. exit to September, the dead-enders argue, he should have just broken it even more by extending the exit date another several months or perhaps even indefinitely into the future.
The defeat of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, after 20 long years of massive death and destruction, provides the American people with an opportunity to engage in some serious soul-searching as to where we are as a nation and we should go from here.
On the one hand, things can proceed in a business-as-usual fashion, with no fundamental changes, simply saying that the Afghanistan intervention was a “mistake” that we need to put behind us and move on.
It’s hard to believe this excellent article was in Newsweek, it’s so non-mainstream media. From William M. Arkin at newsweek.com:
A peace agreement with the Taliban and a May 1 deadline for American withdrawal of troops. A new pledge by President Biden to end the war. A Congressional step toward revoking the 20-year-old consent to use military force in Iraq. Talk, even, of rescinding the post-9/11 authorization to pursue Al-Qaeda. You might think America’s forever wars are finally coming to an end. They’re not—because everything we’ve learned from the past two decades at war has made it more difficult to actually end the wars.
Though the new administration seems intent on ending America’s oldest war and there is growing fatigue over endless wars in the Middle East, and though the Pentagon is scrambling to refocus resources and attention away from counterterrorism to big war pursuits against the likes of Russia and China, war isn’t going to actually end. That’s because there is something about the way the United States fights—about how it has learned to fight in Afghanistan and on other 21st-century battlefields—that facilitates endless war.
This transformation of the American military happened gradually as the armed forces shifted the preponderance of tasks away from boots on the ground, away even from dependence on regular soldiers. The new American way of war moved even the means of bombing and killing—mostly through aircraft and drones, but also virtually in cyberspace—out of the actual war zones.
No problem, $143 billion grows on trees, and anyway, who said that Afghans deserve honest government, even if it is just a puppet of the US government? From Martin Sieff at strategic-culture.org:
The U.S.-created and supported government of Afghanistan is on the brink of collapse. It has lost all credibility with its people because of its incompetence and unbelievable corruption. If U.S. military aid and the enormous inputs of international aid were to be withdrawn, the Taliban would be at the gates of Kabul and poised to take over the entire country in a matter of days.
Since President George W. Bush idiotically proclaimed the goal of creating a modern, progressive, pro-Western, stable, democratic state in Central Asia from scratch 20 years ago, the United States has poured $143 billion into Afghanistan reconstruction. And it has all been wasted.
Today, the biggest factor destroying the credibility of the Afghanistan government among its own people is not the attacks and military opposition of the insurgent Taliban: It is the U.S.-dominated and directed international aid which has totally undermined and discredited the very government it is supposed to support.
These elementary truths have been repeatedly pointed out by outspoken critics of the disastrous U.S. military misadventure in Afghanistan over the past two decades. I and many other contributors to this platform have repeatedly made them. But on March 10, they were all stated – clearly and unequivocally – by the most senior U.S. government official charged with monitoring the war effort in that unhappy Central Asian nation, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko himself.
Would anybody be surprised that the same crew who brought us Libya and Syria forever wars would start a new one in the Middle East? From Michael Snyder at themostimportantnews.com:
The American people are really going to regret putting the warmongers back in control. Joe Biden has been in the White House for less than two months, and the warmongers that Biden has surrounded himself with have been feverishly setting the stage for the next war in the Middle East. I do not believe that it will start within the next week, but I do believe that it is inevitable. While President Trump was in the White House for four years, the U.S. didn’t start any new conflicts, but now the Biden administration is quite determined to start projecting “American influence” all over the globe once again. Most Americans don’t understand the bigger picture, but the truth is that this is going to have very serious implications over the next few years.
In this article, I would like to examine some of the chess moves that have been made since Joe Biden entered the White House. As you will see, a very troubling picture emerges once you start putting all of the pieces together.
#1 Literally one day after Biden was inaugurated, a massive U.S. military convoy rolled into Syria…
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