This brilliant article by Lewis Lapham discusses the period leading up to George Bush’s War on Iraq which cost a trillion dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives and accomplished absolutely nothing. It is well worth reading in light of recent statements by politicians and their TV cheerleaders advocating preemptive military action against Syria and Iran. When you hear a politician talk about the need for war you should always ask if they are planning to participate. Note — Don’t miss Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer” at the end…
The Road to Babylon
Lewis H. Lapham | Harpers | Oct 02
Misgovemment is of four kinds, often in combination. They are: 1) tyranny or oppression, of which history provides so many well-known examples that they do not need citing; 2) excessive ambition, such as Athens’ attempted conquest of Sicily in the Peloponnesian War, Philip II’s of England via the Armada, Germany’s twice-attempted rule of Europe by a self-conceived master race, Japan’s bid for an empire of Asia; 3) incompetence or decadence, as in the case of the late Roman empire, the last Romanovs and the last imperial dynasty of China; and finally 4) folly or perversity.
— Barbara W. Tuchman
When President George W. Bush in his January State of the Union address pronounced the sentence of doom on Saddam Hussein (“America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security I will not wait on events, while dangers gather”), I assumed that he was striking at a target of rhetorical convenience. The war on terrorism was not going as well as planned (Osama bin Laden still at large, Afghanistan not yet transformed into a Connecticut suburb, bombs exploding every seven or eight days on a bus in Israel), and who better than the tyrant of Baghdad to stand surrogate for all the world’s evildoers? The man was undoubtedly a villain, a brutal psychopath who murdered children and poisoned village wells, stored biological weapons in hospitals, subjected his enemies to unspeakable torture, and imprisoned his friends in the cages of perpetual fear. Not a nice fellow. Who would not be glad to learn that he had retired from politics or died in a traffic accident? If Mr. Bush chose to express his disapproval in what he called “the language of right and wrong,” who was I to deny him his demagogue’s right to issue harebrained threats?
In another fascinating article Professor Bacevich explores the startling parallels in geopolitical strategy between Israel and its giant patron, the US. The major remaining difference is that so far the US has not surrounded itself with a wall. Yet…
How We Became Israel
Andrew Bacevich | The American Conservative | 10 Sep 12
Peace means different things to different governments and different countries. To some it suggests harmony based on tolerance and mutual respect. To others it serves as a euphemism for dominance, peace defining the relationship between the strong and the supine.
In the absence of actually existing peace, a nation’s reigning definition of peace shapes its proclivity to use force. A nation committed to peace-as-harmony will tend to employ force as a last resort. The United States once subscribed to this view. Or beyond the confines of the Western Hemisphere, it at least pretended to do so.
A nation seeking peace-as-dominion will use force more freely. This has long been an Israeli predilection. Since the end of the Cold War and especially since 9/11, however, it has become America’s as well. As a consequence, U.S. national-security policy increasingly conforms to patterns of behavior pioneered by the Jewish state. This “Israelification” of U.S. policy may prove beneficial for Israel. Based on the available evidence, it’s not likely to be good for the United States.
It is generally accepted that the reason why America launched the 2nd Gulf War was to eliminate Saddam’s non-existent WMDs. As this article points out, that may not have been the primary cause. In this letter to the architect of that conflict, Andrew Bacevich asks Paul Wolfowicz for an acknowledgement that the war and its underlying strategic premise was a mistake. I’m not holding my breath waiting for a reply…
A Letter to Paul Wolfowitz
Occasioned by the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war
Andrew J. Bacevich | Harpurs | 25 Mar 13
I have been meaning to write to you for some time, and the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war provides as good an occasion as any to do so. Distracted by other, more recent eruptions of violence, the country has all but forgotten the war. But I won’t and I expect you can’t, although our reasons for remembering may differ.
Twenty years ago, you became dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and hired me as a minor staff functionary. I never thanked you properly. I needed that job. Included in the benefits package was the chance to hobnob with luminaries who gathered at SAIS every few weeks to join Zbigniew Brzezinski for an off-the-record discussion of foreign policy. From five years of listening to these insiders pontificate, I drew one conclusion: people said to be smart — the ones with fancy résumés who get their op-eds published in the New York Times and appear on TV — really aren’t. They excel mostly in recycling bromides. When it came to sustenance, the sandwiches were superior to the chitchat.
The conflict between Israel and the people who once owned and occupied their land began many years before the declaration of Israeli nationhood. Since that time many people have spoken out about the injustices Israel has inflicted on its indigenous population. None of those speakers has been clearer and more incisive than Rashid Khalidy. In today’s NYTimes Khalidi comments on President Obama’s forthcoming trip to Israel, his first as President. In the ‘kabuki’ performance that is American policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there is little hope that the President will do anything to resolve it. Khalidy makes that abundantly clear…
Is Any Hope Left for Mideast Peace?
Rashid Khalidy | NYTimes | 13 Mar 13
WHAT should Barack Obama, who is to visit Israel next Wednesday for the first time in his presidency, do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
First, he must abandon the stale conventional wisdom offered by the New York-Washington foreign-policy establishment, which clings to the crumbling remnants of a so-called peace process that, in the 34 years since the Camp David accords, has actually helped make peace less attainable than ever.
Political reporter and Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Ricks offers a candid and accurate assessment of Fox News’s absurd excuse for journalism…
Thomas Ricks on Fox News
Thomas Ricks | Fox News | 26 Nov 12
________________________________________________________________________________ Thomas E. Ricks writes on defense topics. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning former reporter for the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.
Much of the political debate these days centers on taxes, particularly those not paid by very rich people like Mitt Romney. If he gets elected chances are good he and his pals will pay even less. It is important, therefore, to understand America’s tax policy in context. The chart accompanying this article (see below) helps to do this. While the article may only interest a few the chart should grab everyone’s attention…
America the Undertaxed
U.S. Fiscal Policy in Perspective
Andrea Louise Campbell | Foreign Affairs | Sept-Oct 12
Compared with other developed countries, the United States has very low taxes, little income redistribution, and an extraordinarily complex tax code. If it wanted to, the government could raise taxes without crippling growth or productivity. Tax reform is ultimately a political choice, not an economic one — a statement about what sort of society Americans want.
________________________________________________________________________________ Andrea Louise Campbell is a professor of Political Science at MIT.
I can just imagine the response this article will get from AIPAC and the rest of the neocon bestiary…
Why Iran Should Get the Bomb
Kenneth N. Waltz | Foreign Affairs | July 12
The past several months have witnessed a heated debate over the best way for the United States and Israel to respond to Iran’s nuclear activities. As the argument has raged, the United States has tightened its already robust sanctions regime against the Islamic Republic, and the European Union announced in January that it will begin an embargo on Iranian oil on July 1. Although the United States, the EU, and Iran have recently returned to the negotiating table, a palpable sense of crisis still looms.
It should not. Most U.S., European, and Israeli commentators and policymakers warn that a nuclear-armed Iran would be the worst possible outcome of the current standoff. In fact, it would probably be the best possible result: the one most likely to restore stability to the Middle East.
If you read news reports about the European economic mess you probably think Greece is a giant ponzi scheme that got caught in the act. This view is understandable because the news media generally avoids pointing the finger at those who bankrolled Greece and the other schemers in Europe’s rapidly collapsing house of cards. Paul Krugman, however, doesn’t hesitate to call a spade a spade…
Greece as Victim
Paul Krugman | NYTimes | 17 Jun 12
Ever since Greece hit the skids, we’ve heard a lot about what’s wrong with everything Greek. Some of the accusations are true, some are false — but all of them are beside the point. Yes, there are big failings in Greece’s economy, its politics and no doubt its society. But those failings aren’t what caused the crisis that is tearing Greece apart, and threatens to spread across Europe.
No, the origins of this disaster lie farther north, in Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin, where officials created a deeply — perhaps fatally — flawed monetary system, then compounded the problems of that system by substituting moralizing for analysis. And the solution to the crisis, if there is one, will have to come from the same places.
Stephen M. Walt | Harvard-Kennedy School of Government | May 12
________________________________________________________________________________ Stephen M. Walt is a professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Among his most prominent works are “Origins of Alliances and Revolution and War”. He coauthored “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” with John Mearsheimer.
Although it is too early to make a judgement, it looks as if Israel’s Iran policy has back-fired and may result in a very different outcome from the one Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has long sought.
Israel’s thinking these past three years has been that punitive sanctions, cyber warfare and the assassination of Iran’s nuclear scientists must eventually force a crippled Islamic Republic to agree to ‘zero enrichment’ of uranium – that is to say to dismantle its entire nuclear programme. This, it was hoped, would open the way for ‘regime change’ in Tehran.