Tag Archives: US empire

The U.S. Military’s Lost Wars, by William J. Astore

Once upon a time militaries were supposed to win wars. From William J. Astore ate tomdispatch.com:

Overfunded, Overhyped, and Always Over There

One of the finest military memoirs of any generation is Defeat Into Victory, British Field Marshal Sir William Slim’s perceptive account of World War II’s torturous Burma campaign, which ended in a resounding victory over Japan. When America’s generals write their memoirs about their never-ending war on terror, they’d do well to choose a different title: Victory Into Defeat. That would certainly be more appropriate than those on already published accounts like Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez’s Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story (2008), or General Stanley McChrystal’s My Share of the Task (2013).

Think about it. America’s Afghan War began in 2001 with what was essentially a punitive raid against the Taliban, part of which was mythologized last year in 12 Strong, a Hollywood film with a cavalry charge that echoed the best of John Wayne. That victory, however, quickly turned first into quagmire and then, despite various “surges” and a seemingly endless series of U.S. commanders (17 so far), into a growing sense of inevitable defeat. Today, a resurgent Taliban exercises increasing influenceover the hearts, minds, and territory of the Afghan people. The Trump administration’s response so far has been a mini-surge of several thousand troops, an increase in air and drone strikes, and an attempt to suppressaccurate reports from the Pentagon’s special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction about America’s losing effort there.

Turn now to the invasion of Iraq: in May 2003, President George W. Bush cockily announced “Mission Accomplished” from the deck of an aircraft carrier, only to see victory in Baghdad degenerate into insurgency and a quagmire conflict that established conditions for the rise of the Islamic State. Gains in stability during a surge of U.S. forces orchestrated by General David Petraeus in 2007 and hailed in Washington as a fabulous success story proved fragile and reversible. An ignominious U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011 was followed in 2014 by the collapse of that country’s American-trained and armed military in the face of modest numbers of Islamic State militants. A recommitment of U.S. troops and air power brought Stalingrad-style devastation to cities like Mosul and Ramadi, largely reduced to rubble, while up to 1.3 million children were displaced from their homes. All in all, not exactly the face of victory.

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The United States of Empire, by John Freeman

Everything the empire’s minions do bespeaks weakness, desperation, and a crumbling empire. From John Freeman at lewr0ckwell.com:

We’re getting close to the end now. Can you feel it?  I do.  It’s in the news, on the streets, and in your face every day. You can’t tune it out anymore, even if you wanted to.

Where once there was civil debate in the court of public opinion, we now have censorshipmonopolyscreaminginsultsdemonization, and, finally, the use of force to silence the opposition. There is no turning back now. The political extremes are going to war, and you will be dragged into it even if you consider yourself apolitical.

There are great pivot points in history, and we’ve arrived at one. The United States, ruptured by a thousand grievance groups, torn by shadowy agencies drunk on a gross excess of powerrobbed blind by oligarchs and their treasonous henchmen and decimated by frivolous wars of choice, has finally come to a point where the end begins in earnest. The center isn’t holding… indeed, finding a center is no longer even conceivable. We are the schizophrenic nation, bound by no societal norms, constrained by no religion, with no shared sense of history, myth, language, art, philosophy, music, or culture, rushing toward an uncertain future fueled by nothing more than easy money, hubris, and sheer momentum.

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Naked Emperors Don’t Get Much Respect, by Robert Gore

What happens when most of your military infrastructure is suddenly obsolete?

The emperor was the last to realize he was naked. This is not unusual, emperors are the last to find out anything. Who has the fortitude to tell them the truth, especially an upsetting truth? And so it is with the US’s empire, the existence of which most of its citizens, media organs, and officials are unaware or won’t acknowledge. The truth is, the American empire, acknowledged or not, is over. It will be years before that’s accepted by the governing class. They’ll never officially inform their subjects, who are stuck with the tab for its immensely wasteful spending.

Empires are built on military strength. The American empire was no exception. Many Americans still think the US military enjoys the dominance it had back in 1946, a notion Vladimir Putin buried March 1. On that date he announced new weaponry which will render our naval surface fleet, ground forces, worldwide bases, and antiballistic systems obsolete (see here, here, and here). The US military leadership has grudgingly acknowledged many of Putin’s claims.

The unmistakable conclusion: most US military spending is the welfare state with epaulets. It pays for weapons, bases, and personnel whose uselessness would be revealed within half an hour after a non-nuclear war with Russia began. We have no conventional defenses against Russia’s new weaponry.

It’s cold comfort that US land installation, submarine, and airborne nuclear deterrents are still relevant. If Russia or anyone else launched a conventional or nuclear attack against us, we can annihilate the aggressor. The destruction we bore would be matched in kind, but the planet might be rendered uninhabitable.

Fortunately, it can be said with 99 percent certainty that Russia has no desire to launch a war, nuclear or conventional, against the US. That nation wants what many nations and US citizens want: for the US government to leave it alone. Although spending only 10 percent of what the US does on its military and intelligence, Russia now has the muscle to back it up. The Chinese are right behind.

The story doesn’t say what happened to the emperor and his courtiers after the lad revealed his nudity, but we can assume the emperor’s smarter toadies started heading for the exits. Why stay on a vessel that can’t navigate the shoals of reality?

Welfare states—giving money to people who haven’t earned it—so inevitably lead to corruption that they might as well be synonyms. For years the US has bought compliance with its dictates within its confederated empire, picking up the lion’s share of the defense tab. Nations hosting US military bases welcome the jobs and spending just like congressional districts back home.

Even before Putin’s March 1 announcement, asking how non-nuclear bases, domestic and abroad, actually made anyone in the US safer occasioned awkward silence. Russia’s military spending and economy are dwarfed by the US’s and its EU protectorate’s; a Russian invasion of Europe, even with its new weapons, would be suicidal. The chances of Russia or any other nation invading the US are even more remote. Russia has been invaded far more often than it has invaded, and other than securing its own neighborhood, exhibits no desire to launch offensive warfare. Putin stressed the new weapons’ role defensive role.

After the announcement, US bases will be targets, the personnel they house hostages. That includes the mobile bases known as the US surface fleet, from aircraft carriers on down. They have no defense against the Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile, aircraft-launched with a range of 2000 kilometers, capable of reaching Mach 10.

Defending on sea or land against the Russians’ new nuclear powered cruise missiles—which have essentially unlimited range—is possible but problematic, especially if they’re launched in a swarm. Location has become irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if the US outpost is in Germany, Texas, or floating in the middle of the Pacific, they’re all vulnerable.

Poland’s recent proposal for the US to establish a military base there, at Poland’s expense, possibly to be named Fort Trump, is a strong contender for the year’s, perhaps the decade’s, most insane idea. Fort Courage, from the zany F Troop TV show, would be a more appropriate name. It’s one thing to hop on the US military spending gravy train, that’s just venal and corrupt. To install a useless military base and pay for it as well is incalculably stupid. The goal of politics is to get someone else to pay for your stupid ideas, but perhaps they do politics differently in Poland.

If you’re running one of the US’s protectorates, why should you accept the empire’s dictates when it can no longer defend your country? The question has added piquancy in Europe. Setting aside Russia’s new weapons, how would a country that’s botched military engagements in second string nations like Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria defend Europe short of nuclear war? If the answer is that it can’t, where does US leverage come from? The US demands more useless defense spending and presses Europe to curtail or cease profitable trade relations with Russia and Iran, both of which pose a minimal threat to Europe’s safety. Why should Europe comply?

President Trump has questioned the US subsidization of Europe’s defense. How much effort would the US make to defend Macedonia or Latvia? If the answer is not much, or if it can’t actually protect those or any other European country, then subsidies are the only “glue” for the American Empire, European division. It’s unclear if Trump realizes he can’t have his cake and eat it too. He may be happy to see Europe come unglued. Bankruptcy looms; the US has to start cutting spending somewhere.

It should come as no surprise that some countries aren’t toeing the US line, faithfully parroted by the EU. Turkey, straddling Europe and Asia, is edging toward Russia and China, and the goodies promised by their Belt and Road Initiative.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban and Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, head of the League party that shares power there, are seeking better relations with Russia, notwithstanding the US and Europe’s long running demonization of Vladimir Putin. Those two are also challenging received wisdom on the desirability of open borders and unlimited immigration. They and other nationalist leaders are finding an increasingly receptive audience among Europe’s voters.

The two Koreas are also writing their own script, one that diverges from the one the US has written for them since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Among those who favor the status quo, the line is that impoverished albeit nuclear-armed North Korea poses an offensive threat to South Korea, Japan, and the US. Kim Jong Un is singing a beguiling song of denuclearization, rapprochement, trade, and peace, but he’s not to be trusted. Only if he agrees beforehand to the complete subjugation of his country can negotiations proceed.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has other ideas. The people of both Koreas want reconciliation and an end to the war (there’s an armistice but no official peace). Moon appears willing to entertain the possibility that Kim would rather bring his country into the 21st century than launch nuclear strikes. The impetus for negotiations has come from these two leaders and Trump has jumped on the bandwagon, much to the consternation of a motley collection of swamp denizens who profit from current arrangements. Peace may come in spite of their efforts to prevent it.

As the US government continues to spend money for weapons, bases, and personnel our putative enemy can obliterate, defend countries that are under no threat, and intervene in conflicts that promise only interminable stalemate and lost blood and treasure, the question presents itself: are those running the empire and its satrapies stupid, rapaciously corrupt, evil, or all of the above? We’ll take the obvious: all of the above.

Those who have placed their safety in the hands of the US’s would-be emperors can no longer afford to ignore the emperors’ nudity…and insanity. The empire is fraying at the edges and it won’t be long before fraying becomes unraveling. Nobody respects a naked emperor, certainly not one who doesn’t even realize he’s naked.

You Should Be Laughing At Them!

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The Eagle, the Dragon, and the Bear, by Robert Gore

Does Trump recognize the limits of US power?

Trump’s new world order comes straight from The Godfather. There are three global powers: the US, Russia, and China. None of these powers can militarily defeat either of the other two, and even an alliance among two of them would have trouble defeating the third.

Like Don Corleone, Trump is dividing up the larger territory into smaller, great-power controlled sub-territories. He is tacitly recognizing Russia and China’s dominance in their own spheres of influence, and holding them to account in their territories. The implicit agreement among the three is apparently that each power will, in their, “sphere of influence…enforce peace.”

Trump’s New World Order,” SLL 3/20/18

In one week President Trump confirmed that his first concern is the United States, that he has what may be a workable vision for its place in the world, and he loathes globalism and the globalists. A good measure of his efficacy is the outrage he generates. By that measure, that week was his finest hour…so far.

Europe won’t have a seat at Trump’s great-power table. Its welfare states are addicted to their handouts, deeply in debt, rely on uneven trade arrangements with the US, and have below-replacement birth rates. They are cowed by Soros-sponsored propaganda—Immigration is the answer!—and haven’t shut off the immigrant invasion. Refusing to spend on their own militaries, they’ve used what they save on defense to subsidize welfare spending and state bureaucracies.

They’re ignoring a lesson from history: nations that rely on other nations for their defense generally come to regret it. Instead, they’re wedded to the globalist acronyms: NATO, EU and UN. They have frittered away their power and their glory—Europe’s heritage and civilization—opting for overrun masquerading as assimilation by dogmatic and implacable foes.

Trump is all about power and despises weakness. There isn’t always strength in numbers. A confederation of weaklings doesn’t equal strength, especially when the weaklings’ premises and principles are fundamentally wrong. Strongest of the weaklings is Germany, a trade powerhouse but a US military vassal. It’s hard to say if Trump’s dislike of Angela Merkel is business—she’s one of the world’s most visible and vociferous proponent of globalism, or personal—it’s always her way or the highway. Probably both, and it looks like Germany may finally be rejecting her way on immigration.

Trump clearly relished snubbing her and her G-6 buddies, particularly boy toys Trudeau and Macron, who may actually believe his bone-crushing handshakes intimidated Trump. When you’re paying for a continent’s defense and you’re giving them a better deal on trade than they’re giving you, that’s leverage, and Trump knows it. He’s not intimidated.

US Atlanticists have used that leverage to cement Europe into the US’s confederated empire. That Trump is willing to blow off Europe suggests that he may be blowing off empire. America’s imperialists equate backing away from empire with “decline,” but such a sea change would be the exact opposite. Empires require more energy and resources to maintain than can be extracted from them. They are inevitably a road to ruin.

Nothing is as geopolitically telling as Trump leaving Europe’s most “important” heads of state early to meet with the leader of one of Asia’s most impoverished backwaters. Europe’s time has passed, the future belongs to Asia. Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia may look like the same recognition, but it was not. That pivot was designed to encircle China diplomatically, economically, and militarily. That thinking persists among much of the US military, but Trump may have something different in mind.

China has its problems. Much of its economy, especially its financial sector, is state-directed, despite the capitalistic gloss. There will be a reckoning from its debt binge. The repressive social credit system typifies the government’s immoral objective: keeping China’s people compliant but productive drones. However, enforced docility and innovation—the foundation of progress—mix as readily as oil and water, and theft of others’ innovations can’t fill the void.

Notwithstanding its issues, China is a major power and is not going to be encircled or regime changed by the US. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) it cosponsors and finances with Russia is the centerpiece of a basket of initiatives designed to further those countries’ influence and leadership within Eurasia and among emerging market countries. BRI is an apt symbol of the movement towards multipolarity, with competition shifting from the military to the economic and commercial sphere.

Trump tacitly accepts Russian and Chinese dominance in Eurasia. However, Trump doesn’t give without receiving; he’s going to extract concessions. Number one on the list is North Korea and its nuclear weapons. We’ll probably never know what has gone on behind the scenes between Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, and perhaps Vladimir Putin, but Kim may have received an offer he couldn’t refuse. Both China and Russia would be well-served by a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons and US troops. Whatever transpired, Kim came around. Trump ameliorated any potential humiliation, journeying to Kim’s neck of the woods, laying on an inspirational movie video, and flattering the North Korean leader and his country. Kim the farsighted leader may be able to reach a deal; Kim the browbeaten puppet couldn’t. If he tried, he’d probably be deposed, always a danger for dictators.

As global competition moves from military to economic, Trump is also going to make sure he tilts, as much as possible, the rules of that competition back towards the US. There are the existing trade arrangements with Europe, Canada, and Mexico that he’s willing to blow up, presumably to obtain better arrangements.

China is in a league of its own when it comes to gaming trade, and it’s getting the Trump treatment as well. Much of the Chinese “advantage” stems from Chinese overcapacity, fueled by below market interest rates in China and around the globe. Trump can’t do much about that “advantage.” The low-interest regime will eventually crash and burn, but it’s going to take a depression to clear overcapacity in China and elsewhere.

Innovation and intellectual property are America’s one indisputable comparative economic advantage. It will be a tough nut, but Trump is bent on curbing China’s acquisitions, by fair means and foul, of US know how. If he succeeds it will slow, but not stop, the Chinese economic juggernaut. It has millions of smart, well-educated, industrious people who will continue to fuel indigenous innovation (notwithstanding state-enforced docility).

Three realities confronted Trump when he assumed office. The US empire is unsustainable, so too is the trajectory of its spending and debt, and the government is fundamentally corrupt. It would be foolish to bet Trump doesn’t understand these issues and the linkages between them.

“Trump’s New World Order”

If Trump has recognized that first reality and is implementing Don Corleone’s spheres of influence concept, he may get some breathing room to address the intractable second and third realities: the trajectory of US spending and debt, and the fundamentally corrupt government. On the debt, all the breathing room in the world isn’t going to save him. The US keeps adding to principal, which is compounding at rising rates. Cutting imperial expenditures would help some, although transfer payments are the biggest enchilada. To make even the first step on the thousand mile journey to solvency, however, the US government will have to run a bona fide surplus for many years. That prospect is not on the horizon.

As for corruption, thousands of articles by bloggers and commentators, including SLL, may have less instructional value for the populace at large than one simple demonstration: most of America’s rulers and its captive media are speaking out against a peace initiative, not on the merits of the initiative itself, but because Donald Trump was one of its initiators. That tells those Americans who are paying attention all they need to know about their rulers and their captive media. Whether they do anything about it is another question.

You Should Be Laughing At Them!

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Declining and Falling, by Robert Gore

Are we destined for the same fate as that other empire?

At the end of World War II, the US enjoyed geopolitical supremacy unmatched since the Roman empire. Friends and foes had been devastated by the war: millions dead, thousands of towns and cities destroyed, commercial and industrial infrastructure decimated. The only conflict on US soil was Pearl Harbor. Total war casualties were comparatively light. The US had the atomic bomb. American industry was intact, could quickly be retooled for production of civilian goods, and would face limited competition in global markets.

Power corrupts in direct relation to the degree of power; absolute power corrupts absolutely. That leaves only one direction for the occupant of a summit: down. That would be the proper starting point for some future Edward Gibbon, writing a magnum opus on the decline and fall of the American Empire.

The New Deal was a motley menagerie of ineffectual statist nostrums, cover for a naked power grab. The government took control of the economy, credit, the financial system, agriculture, industry, and a much larger share of the gross domestic product. Notwithstanding its unprecedented call on American incomes, it ran record deficits. Opposition was demonized, cowed, or persecuted. The judiciary was reconstituted as a rubber stamp and the Constitution stretched beyond recognition. The New Deal paved the way for further expansion of government control during World War II.

At war’s end, America’s rulers had no intention of relinquishing that control. Conveniently, the Soviet Union, wartime ally but postwar foe, developed its own atomic bomb in 1949. Now the US government had the excuse it needed—the Cold War—to justify global interventionism as “leader of the free world,” and the military and intelligence programs and budgets needed to sustain that role. Leaving office, Eisenhower issued his famous warning about the “military-industrial complex,” but by then it was too late. The establishment would maintain its empire by fair means or foul.

To its “free world” allies the US made an offer they couldn’t refuse. The US would provide their defense and pay the lion’s share of the costs. Trade access would be granted to the US market, often without reciprocal access to the foreign market. In return, the ally gave up its sovereignty, its ability to conduct an independent military or foreign policy. The dollar was the reserve currency, and trade in oil, the world’s most important commodity, was to be conducted in dollars. Countries which ran trade surpluses with the US were expected to recycle their excess dollars back into US government debt.

The velvet-glove treatment for its friends doesn’t hide the iron fist. The US has ways of dealing with regimes it doesn’t like, and enemies of the regimes it does. US military and intelligence traffic in regime change, revolutions, direct wars, proxy wars, repression, subversion, sabotage, subterfuge, and espionage against “hostile” regimes, while propping up dictatorships, euphemized as “authoritarian regimes,” that toe the US line. The US provides its allies with arms; intervenes in their wars; trains militaries, intelligence agencies, and secret police; doles out “development assistance,” financing, and bribes; rigs elections; propagandizes on their behalf, and goes to bat for them in international forums.

Corruption’s silver lining is that it carries the seeds of its own destruction. Unfortunately, demise always takes too long.

Money backed only by a promise―always broken―not to manufacture too much of it is corrupt by definition. In 1971, Richard Nixon removed the reserve from the reserve currency, “temporarily” suspending the dollar’s convertibility into gold (it has never been reinstated). The empire was free to flood the world with its flimsy fiat currency and fiat debt. Its vendors and creditors at home and abroad could accept the paper or pound sand.

Or they could start tightening their terms. It was a long time coming, but interest rates probably reached a generational low on July 6, 2016. Only the machinations of its captive central bank had kept rates trending downward for as long as they did. In a world carrying a record debt load, plus an unsustainable pile of pension and medical care promises, with virtually every income stream pledged and asset mortgaged, creditors call the tune on the availability and price of credit. The US empire will find its debt increasingly costly, central banks likely the main buyer.

That the world’s “best” military hasn’t won a war since World War II is an important clue about what wars have become. They’re another welfare state scam. Defense and intelligence contractors, their lobbyists, pro-intervention think tanks, corrupt foreign governments, and their lobbyists are gravy train gluttons plumping for never-ending war. Winning would be tragic.

Welfare corrupts the recipients and the government doling it out. Evidence of corruption is ubiquitous. Washington area incomes are the highest in the nation. Cities and infrastructure crumble. The $20 plus trillion national debt climbs relentlessly higher. Educational and medical systems are failing. Opioid abuse, obesity, and suicide skyrocket. Much of the Middle East and Northern Africa lie in smoldering ruins from US-sponsored wars. Millions have been wounded or killed. Many of the US soldiers who survived those wars are broken and bitter. As legendary political analyst Ringo Starr once observed, everything government gets its corrupt hands on turns to crap.

When an empire is bent on turning the whole world into crap, there’s bound to be pushback. Russia and China have long chafed under US unipolarity. They have, for the most part, sidestepped the US’s inane interventionism and quest for global dominance. In part to counter US hegemony, they are reaching agreements with myriad nations in trade, finance, infrastructure, economic development, and military security. Not surprisingly, much of the world is more receptive to that approach than bluster, bribes, bullets, and bombs.

US vassals Europe, South Korea, and Japan are questioning their vassalage. Why should a currency its issuer can create at will continue as the reserve currency? Are Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran actual military threats? If not, why go along with US sanctions and trade restrictions? Why not seek access to those markets, and to Russian and Chinese-led development efforts? Why should Europe bear the brunt of terrorist and refugee blowback from the US’s Middle East and Northern Africa fiascos? Why not question the arrangements that have been in place for decades, especially when America has a president who is questioning them from the American perspective? Do we vassals have the fortitude to fend for ourselves and thus reclaim our sovereignty?

Donald Trump deserves credit for asking questions from the American perspective. What has the US got from its interventionism other than stalemates, carnage, and trillions of dollars down the drain? If such adventures in imperialism make no sense, does empire itself make sense? Perhaps there are gains to be had by reaching out to our adversaries.

As for our friends, Trump upset apple carts at the G-7 imbroglio when he argued the one-sided trade access the US has granted as a requisite cost of empire no longer makes sense. It’s partially responsible for the trade deficit, the hollowing of American manufacturing, and a loss of jobs. The countries enjoying the benefits of the US military shield are wealthy and can afford conventional defenses, even if, as likely, they remain under the US nuclear umbrella.

The swamp’s most noxious denizens lurk in the empire’s military-industrial-intelligence backwater, swimming in their own excrement. Russiagate reveals the depths of their toxic and terminal corruption. The question is whether or not they’ll finish pulling the rest of the country into the sewage. Can America reject the filth and change course? The answer determines if America ever lives up to its founding promise, or if the present day is merely a middle chapter in The Decline and Fall of the American Empire.

You Should Be Laughing At Them!

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Fifteen Thoughts About Israel, by Caitlin Johnstone

Israel is the Middle Eastern branch of the Western empire. From Caitlin Johnstone at medium.com:

1. I hate writing about Israel. The accusations of anti-semitism which necessarily go along with literally any criticism of that nation are gross enough, but even worse are the assholes who take my criticisms of the Israeli government as an invitation to actually be anti-semitic. They really do hate Jews, they really do think that every problem in the world is because of Jews and they post Jewish caricature memes and calls for genocide in the comments section on social media and it’s incredibly gross and I hate it. It feels exactly as intrusive, jarring and violating as receiving an unsolicited dick pic. But the Israeli government keeps committing war provocations and massacring Palestinians, so it’s something I’ve got to talk about.

2. Anti-semitism (or whatever word you prefer to use for the pernicious mind virus which makes people think it’s okay to promote hatred against Jewish people) is a very real thing that does exist, and I denounce it to the furthest possible extent. Anti-semitism is also a label that is used to bully the world into accepting war crimes, apartheid, oppression, and mass murder. Both of those things are true.

3. There were dozens of Palestinians killed and well above a thousand injured in the Gaza protests over the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem yesterday. I haven’t found any report of so much as a single Israeli injury. The only way to spin this as the fault of the Palestinians is to dehumanize them, to attribute behaviors and motives to them that we all know are contrary to human nature. To paint them as subhuman orc-like creatures who are so crazy and evil that they will keep throwing themselves at a hail of bullets risking life and limb just to have some extremely remote chance of harming a Jewish person for no reason. This is clearly absurd. A little clear thinking and empathy goes a long way.

4. Trump could have prevented all this violence by doing what previous administrations had done and keeping the US embassy in Tel Aviv. Experts warned that this would happen. Trump ignored them. He is ultimately responsible for the mounting pile of corpses resulting from this provocation.

5. The Trump campaign was given $25 million by billionaire oligarch Sheldon Adelson (the largest campaign donation made by anyone to any candidate), who provided a further $5 million for Trump’s inauguration. Adelson is a sociopathic pro-Israel hawk who once called on the US to drop a nuclear bomb on Iran. He was present at the opening of the Jerusalem embassy, getting what he paid for.

To continue reading: Fifteen Thoughts About Israel

The Other Conspiracy Against Trump, by Robert Gore

Trump faces foes that make the Washington crowd look like child’s play.

President Trump has announced he will speak with Robert Mueller under oath. He’s waving the victory flag. By allowing Mueller’s probe to proceed despite substantial irregularities and bias that would have justified a “You’re Fired!”, Trump has decisively faced down the opposition. The tables are turned and they’ll be on the run for years. If he does talk to Mueller (and he says that’s subject to his lawyers) it will be an exclamation point on Trump’s repeated contentions that there’s nothing to the Russiagate investigation.

Having vanquished the foes he could vanquish, Trump faces an enemy he has little hope of defeating: the economics of empire. It’s felled countless regimes. Empires always take more energy and resources to maintain than what they can steal from their subjugated provinces. They incur debts they can’t repay and levy crushing taxes. Then they collapse.

At its zenith after World War II, the US provided Europe’s defense against the threat of Soviet invasion. In exchange, behind the veneer of sovereign states, elections, and other trappings of democracy, the US ran Europe.

Seven decades later, the Soviet Union is no more, but the US is still providing most of Europe’s defense. Russia, the Soviet successor, has a GDP about one-fourteenth the size of either the US or Europe’s. It spends about one-tenth of what the US does on its military.

Even President Vladimir Putin most rabid opponents don’t suggest he would launch an attack against Europe. Its deadliest military assets is its nuclear arsenal (it has reportedly developed a torpedo that can take out the US’s west or east coast). However, going nuclear would provoke a US response that would wipe out Russia. and probably most of the rest of the planet.

The US “defends” Europe when there’s nothing in the way of external military threats to defend against (they’re in more danger from the Muslims). President Trump has carped about picking up the tab. Europe could easily afford to pay 100 percent of the cost of defending itself against the minimal threats it faces. The US presence has nothing to do with defending Europe. The US maintains an imperial garrison and will happily continue to bear most of the cost.

Trump, seemingly enamored of empire, has gone quiet about the NATO bill. Yet he faces empire economics: the US gets out less than what it puts in. Military spending in a land not under threat generates no economic returns, it’s a deadweight loss.

You’d be hard pressed to find a square inch on this planet that somebody in the US government doesn’t claim represents a vital US interest. The reasoning is so warped that the US not sticking its nose somewhere is now regarded as a threat to its interests.

Russia, Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah subdued ISIS, the US’s ostensible enemy, in Syria and Iraq. Syria is on the threshold of peace for the first time in seven years. After millions have been killed, wounded, or displaced—in large part because of the US’s botched intervention—the US could claim more credit than it deserves for vanquishing ISIS, declare victory, and go home.

Instead, against the stated desire of the Syrian government and in clear contravention of international law, the US continues doing what it’s done: staying put, funding rebel and jihadist groups of every stripe, and hoping that somehow Bashar al-Assad will be driven from power. There simply can’t be a country in the Middle East left free from US meddling.

After a long freeze, relations between North and South Korea are beginning to thaw. President Trump’s bellicose rhetoric may be responsible. Perhaps North Korean dictator Kin Jong-Un recognizes that talk is better than war. If so, that puts him a step ahead of numerous US commentators, mostly of the neoconservative persuasion, who lament the thaw may “drive a wedge” between the US and its best friend forever, South Korea. The chances of war recede and they’re disappointed.

The US has driven a wedge between the two Koreas. If there is a rapprochement, the US could tone down and eventually stop its annual war exercises with South Korea. Thousands of troops it has stationed there could be redeployed. The wedge removed, Koreans would decide the fate of the Korean Peninsula. Given South Korea’s economic prowess and North Korea’s economic backwardness, the resolution would probably tilt towards South Korea. But that’s not going to happen. It would leave the peninsula intolerably free of the US government.

Military and intelligence spending has made its contribution to the US’s $20 trillion plus deficit. There’s the direct effect, and in the way Washington works, the legislative “price” of military spending is often increased non-military spending as well, an indirect effect. The US economy was having a tough time bearing its debt load under Obama, and more debt is coming. But for Federal Reserve sleight of hand the load would weigh even heavier. Rising interest rates are ringing a bell. Empire and debt always go hand-in-hand, and so, eventually, does bankruptcy and collapse.

Encouraged by his generals, Trump has increased military budgets, redefined the US’s “mission” as global competition with Russia and China, doubled down on Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Iran, and continued to expand the size and reach of US special operations forces. The argument can be made that he is feinting one direction and will go another, more advanced strategic thinking comparable to his maneuvers on Russiagate. In this analysis it’s a head fake, a prelude to reducing the US’s outsize footprint and spending. Get bigger before you get smaller.

Even if that implausible argument proves correct, the economics of empire and debt are impervious to head fakes. They’re not the deluded, corrupt Washington crowd Trump has outsmarted; they’re relentless and inexorable. Trump’s predecessors left him in a deep hole. That he digs deeper but plans to stop one day is irrelevant.

President Trump is a master of persuasion and sales. He’s demonstrated a Machiavellian flair for hardball political tactics, making fools of those who had dismissed him as a fool.

Unfortunately, empire drains the US and its debt compounds. Trump spends more on the empire and won’t address that other driver of debt, domestic entitlements. What Robert Mueller can’t do—drive Trump from office—empire and debt might. Theirs is a particularly ruthless conspiracy. Like countless rulers before him, Trump may recognize the danger too late to do anything about it.

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