One of the drawbacks of empire is you often have to look the other way regarding the depredations of your allies and satraps. From Danny Sjursen at antiwar.com:
“A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” Everyone who enters the gate at West Point Military Academy must memorize and recite these words on their first day. Failure to follow that protocol, including the “nontoleration clause,” can mean expulsion. Even insufficient adherence to the spirit of said value system can earn one pariah status at the academy. Those who graduate after four years of academics, military training and “character-building” are expected to live by and imbue in their fellow soldiers the seven Army values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. In most official documents, these terms are literally capitalized.
It’s an old system, one that both senior leaders and most junior officers have eagerly preserved. Yet in recent decades, the purportedly unstoppable force of military ethics has met a seemingly immovable object in the form of an entrenched Afghan child-rape culture. Because in that morally trying case, in which senior “leaders of character” regularly told their troopers to ignore the local practice (and occasionally punished those who refused), the U.S. military chose tactical expedience (or desperation) over virtue. And while what unfolded may not technically qualify as a violation of the honor code, tolerance of rape has nonetheless brought disgrace upon the entire US military.
The American-Afghan child sex scandal was briefly a major story in 2015, and it popped up periodically in the mainstream media through 2018. But if this story is slightly dated, it’s still worth remembering that the practice in rural Afghanistan has been an open secret among US soldiers for decades. Heck, I myself was shamelessly invited by local village elders to such a hashish-smoke-filled bacha bazi party just weeks into my deployment back in 2011 (I politely passed). So well-known was this not-so-secret rape culture that soldiers regularly joked about their own (usually tangential) introduction to its existence.
It is inevitable, given the trend towards decentralized violence, that any attempt at centralized violence such as the US’s many invasions would result only in chaos. From Danny Sjursen at tomdispatch.com:
U.S. Foreign Policy Goes Off the Rails
In March 1906, on the heels of the U.S. Army’s massacre of some 1,000 men, women, and children in the crater of a volcano in the American-occupied Philippines, humorist Mark Twain took his criticism public. A long-time anti-imperialist, he flippantly suggested that Old Glory should be redesigned “with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones.”
I got to thinking about that recently, five years after I became an antiwar dissenter (while still a major in the U.S. Army), and in the wake of another near-war, this time with Iran. I was struck yet again by the way every single U.S. military intervention in the Greater Middle East since 9/11 has backfiredin wildly counterproductive ways, destabilizing a vast expanse of the planet stretching from West Africa to South Asia.
Chaos, it seems, is now Washington’s stock-in-trade. Perhaps, then, it’s time to resurrect Twain’s comment — only today maybe those stars on our flag should be replaced with the universal symbol for chaos.After all, our present administration, however unhinged, hardly launched this madness. President Trump’s rash, risky, and repugnant decision to assassinate Iranian Major General Qassem Suleimani on the sovereign soil of Iraq was only the latest version of what has proven to be a pervasive state of affairs. Still, that and Trump’s other recent escalations in the region do illustrate an American chaos machine that’s gone off the rails. And the very manner — I’m loathe to call it a “process” — by which it’s happened just demonstrates the way this president has taken American chaos to its dark but logical conclusion.
Many of the factors responsible for the fading of US military dominance are directly attributable to US actions and policy. From Federico Pieraccini at strategic-culture.org:
Starting from the presidency of George W. Bush to that of Trump, the U.S. has made some missteps that not only reduce its influence in strategic regions of the world but also its ability to project power and thus impose its will on those unwilling to genuflect appropriately.
Some examples from the recent past will suffice to show how a series of strategic errors have only accelerated the U.S.’s hegemonic decline.
ABM + INF = Hypersonic Supremacy
The decision to invade Afghanistan following the events of September 11, 2001, while declaring an “axis of evil” to be confronted that included nuclear-armed North Korea and budding regional hegemon Iran, can be said to be the reason for many of the most significant strategic problems besetting the U.S..
The U.S. often prefers to disguise its medium- to long-term objectives by focusing on supposedly more immediate and short-term threats. Thus, the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) and its deployment of the Aegis Combat System (both sea- and land-based) as part of the NATO missile defense system, was explained as being for the purposes of defending European allies from the threat of Iranian ballistic missiles. This argument held little water as the Iranians had neither the capability nor intent to launch such missiles.
The dissolution of the USSR in 1991 presented the US with a golden opportunity to dramatically reduce military spending and to promote peace. George H.W. Bush blew that opportunity. From David Stockman at davidstockmanscontracorner.com via lewrockwell.com:
After the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989 and the death of the Soviet Union was confirmed two years later when Boris Yeltsin courageously stood down the Red Army tanks in front of Moscow’s White House, a dark era in human history came to an end.
The world had descended into a 77-Year War, incepting with the mobilization of the armies of old Europe in August 1914. If you want to count bodies, 150 million were killed by all the depredations that germinated in the Great War, its foolish aftermath at Versailles, and the march of history into World War II and the Cold War that followed inexorably thereupon.
Upwards of 8% of the human race was wiped out during that span. The toll encompassed the madness of trench warfare during 1914-1918; the murderous regimes of Soviet and Nazi totalitarianism that rose from the ashes of the Great War and Versailles; and then the carnage of WWII and all the lesser (unnecessary) wars and invasions of the Cold War including Korea and Vietnam.
Political leaders are always trying to get the citizenry to go to war by claiming provocation by the other side. From Jeff Thomas at internationalman.com:
There’s an old joke about an adult asking two boys how a fight started between them and one boy responded as stated above.
When two children are involved, we might choose to lecture them both and possibly punish the one who instigated the fight. But when nations are guilty of the same behaviour, we tend to simply accept the rather absurd explanation as being reasonable.
Back in the 1950s, the US sought to establish a presence in Vietnam. First, “military advisors” were sent in, then armaments. But soon, US troops were added. When the US public objected to their country instigating a war halfway around the world, where it had no business being, President Johnson made the announcement that the destroyer USS Maddox had just been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin.
As it turned out, the Maddox had sailed into the North Vietnamese harbour uninvited and began firing on North Vietnamese ships. The ships returned fire. Although only one bullet actually hit the Maddox, several North Vietnamese ships were damaged and Vietnamese sailors were killed.
President Johnson used this incident to convince the American people that North Vietnam had attacked a US ship and they needed to be taught a lesson. It was at that point that the US began the Vietnam War in earnest. It ended in defeat for the US, but not before over 1.3 million deaths were totted up.
To allow the President or any rogue government agency or individual to disregard the rule of law whenever, wherever and however it chooses and operate “above the law” is exactly how a nation of sheep gives rise to a government of wolves.
To be clear: this is not about Donald Trump. Or at least it shouldn’t be just about Trump.
This is a condemnation of every government toady at every point along the political spectrum—right, left and center—who has conspired to expand the federal government’s powers at the expense of the citizenry.
For too long now, the American people have played politics with their principles and turned a blind eye to all manner of wrongdoing when it was politically expedient, allowing Congress, the White House and the Judiciary to wreak havoc with their freedoms and act in violation of the rule of law.
George W. Bush is absolutely the last person on earth who can talk about dangers to peace. From Caitlin Johnstone at medium.com:
Humanity was treated to an important lecture on peace at a recent event for the NIR School of the Heart by none other than Ellen Degeneres BFF and world-renowned peace expert George W Bush.
“I don’t think the Iranians believe a peaceful Middle East is in their national interest,” said the former president according to The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin, whose brief Twitter thread on the subject appears to be the only record of Bush’s speech anywhere online.
“An isolationist United States is destabilizing around the world,” Bush said during the speech in what according to Rogin was a shot at the sitting president. “We are becoming isolationist and that’s dangerous for the sake of peace.”
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