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Posts Tagged ‘endless wars’

The anti-war wing of both parties is dead

Posted by M. C. on August 21, 2020

Each candidate has duly recited his lines about ending endless wars and can truthfully point to his opponent’s failure to do likewise. And whoever takes office in January can continue exactly that failure, probably without much political consequence. He can deplore his bombs and drop them too. Americans will remain preoccupied with more immediate domestic concerns; Washington will stay stuck in its interventionist consensus; and those endless wars will live up to their name.

Bonnie Kristian

Elect Joe Biden, former (Republican) Secretary of State Colin Powell said in his Democratic National Convention appearance Tuesday night, and he’ll “restore America’s leadership in the world.”

Powell’s comments were followed by a video touting Biden’s friendship with the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), another heavyweight GOP hawk. Meanwhile, there’s a pro-Biden super PAC of George W. Bush administration alumni, and Biden has racked up support from a who’s who of neoconservatives (Bill Kristol, Max Boot, David Frum, Jennifer Rubin), as commentators left and right have observed.

These alignments highlight an increasingly undeniable fact of American politics in 2020: The anti-war wing of both major parties is dead. Your presidential choice is between war and war. There’s no faction of Republicans or Democrats which combines real power with a durable, principled interest in turning American foreign policy away from global empire.

That’s not to say no one in major-party politics diverges from Washington’s standard-issue military interventionism. There’s Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) challenging Trump administration officials in Senate hearings and seeking to counter Trump’s more hawkish influences on the links. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has pushed for the U.S. to exit Yemen’s civil war and has slammed the administration’s January dalliance with executive warfare against Iran. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) tries every year to rein in abuses of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) has spent decades in lonely opposition to military adventurism. As a Democratic presidential candidate this past year, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was more interested in peace than the party establishment which has now twice rejected him as their standard-bearer.

I don’t mean to discount the good work of these and other comparatively anti-war legislators. It is not without effect. There’s some evidence, for example, that Paul steered Trump toward decreasing the U.S. military footprint in Syria. But neither should their ability to retain office confuse us into thinking they have more control over American foreign policy than they do.

The reality is these officials and anyone who agrees with them have little meaningful power on this issue — occasional influence, perhaps, but certainly not power than can be reliably wielded. Paul’s golf course chats with Trump may eke a win from time to time, but this is a lucky backchannel that can be dammed at any moment. It has no formal, institutional authority. This week’s handwringing at Foreign Policy about the supposed ascendancy of “isolationism” on left and right alike is absurd, the foreign policy version of Tucker Carlson’s bizarre claim of libertarian dominance of Washington. The main voices advocating greater restraint in American foreign affairs are not isolationist, and though they kick up quite a ruckus, they have little to no say over actual policy direction. How can anyone look at half a dozen wars and think we have an isolationism problem?

The Trump vs. Biden race only underlines this state of affairs. Neither will give us a foreign policy that can even plausibly be caricatured as isolationism, Trump’s inane protectionism notwithstanding.

The president pays occasional lip service to ending “endless wars” and prioritizing diplomacy (“the greatest deals,” in his parlance), but his better impulses are constantly overcome by his selfishness, short attention span, stupid militarism, and choice of counsel like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Trump has brought us closer to open conflict with China, squandered his chance for productive negotiations with North Korea, exacerbated tensions with Iran, and repeatedly recommitted to enabling Saudi war crimes. What few good foreign policy ideas he hits upon are almost always happenstance byproducts of service to his own political fortunes. He has yet to end a single war.

Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, are more conventional liberal interventionists than Trump, but the crucial assumption of intervention is same. There are a few points for war critics to like here, including Biden’s vehement opposition to the Obama-era surge in Afghanistan, Harris’s objection to U.S. involvement in Yemen, and their plan to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. Biden pledges he’ll “end the forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East,” but, like Trump, lacks a specific plan to do so. Biden has no apparent interest in Pentagon cuts, has hired some markedly hawkish advisers (are all those neocons going to stick around, too?), and is trying to out-hawk Trump on China. Certainly with Biden we can expect more multilateral diplomacy and fewer reckless tweets, but there’s little reason to think he’ll break the broader foreign policy patterns of the past 20 years.

From a purely political perspective, what’s curious about all this is the mutual foregoing of potential electoral gain. Restraint rhetoric is consistently popular — our last three presidents all campaigned on it to some degree — and public opinion is on a years-long trend toward wanting a smaller U.S. military role abroad, one more tailored to defending U.S. interests, narrowly conceived. You’d think one party or the other would espy an opportunity here.

Or perhaps both already have. Each candidate has duly recited his lines about ending endless wars and can truthfully point to his opponent’s failure to do likewise. And whoever takes office in January can continue exactly that failure, probably without much political consequence. He can deplore his bombs and drop them too. Americans will remain preoccupied with more immediate domestic concerns; Washington will stay stuck in its interventionist consensus; and those endless wars will live up to their name.

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Tomgram: Danny Sjursen, The End of War As We Know It? | TomDispatch

Posted by M. C. on May 27, 2020

Posted by Danny Sjursen

Covid-19, an ongoing global human tragedy, may have at least one silver lining. It has led millions of people to question America’s most malignant policies at home and abroad.

Regarding Washington’s war policies abroad, there’s been speculation that the coronavirus might, in the end, put a dent in such conflicts, if not prove an unintended peacemaker — and with good reason, since a cash-flush Pentagon has proven impotent as a virus challenger. Meanwhile, it’s become ever more obvious that, had a fraction of “defense” spending been invested in chronically underfunded disease control agencies, this country’s response to the coronavirus crisis might have been so much better.

Curiously enough, though, despite President Trump’s periodic complaints about America’s “ridiculous endless wars,” his administration has proven remarkably unwilling to agree to even a modest rollback in U.S. imperial ambitions. In some theaters of operation — Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, and Somalia above all — Washington has even escalated its militarism in a fit of macabre, largely under-the-radar pandemic opportunism.

For all that, this is an obvious moment to reflect on whether America’s nearly two-decade-old “war on terror” (perhaps better thought of as a set of wars of terror) might actually end. Predictions are tricky matters. Nonetheless, the spread of Covid-19 has offered a rare opportunity to raise questions, challenge frameworks, and critically consider what “ending” war might even mean for this country.

In some sense, our post-9/11 wars have been gradually subsiding for some time now. Even though the total number of U.S. troops deployed to the Middle East has actually risen in the Trump years, those numbers pale when compared to the U.S. commitment at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The number of American soldiers taking fire overseas has, in recent years, dropped to levels unthinkably low for those of us who entered the military around the time of the 9/11 attacks.

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Biden vs. Trump on Foreign Policy – Original

Posted by M. C. on May 9, 2020

We won’t know what’s in them until the election has passed.

We all know that President Donald Trump’s foreign policy has been a disaster. But is Joe Biden’s any better?

Trump promised to stop America’s endless wars but has stationed some 80,000 troops in the Middle East. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord, and imposed harsh sanctions and even sent drones to assassinate a top Iranian Revolutionary Guard. But Iran still has more political influence in Iraq than the United States. His administration negotiated an agreement with the Taliban, only to see it rejected by the US-installed Afghan government.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee, sharply criticizes Trump but, unfortunately, continues to defend many of the failed policies of the Obama Administration.

During Biden’s time as Vice President, the White House went from fighting two active wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) to seven (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, drone war in Pakistan, and escalation in Somalia).

Biden now says he disagreed with some of Obama’s interventionist policies, most notably in Libya. Today Biden calls for easing Iran sanctions, returning to the Iran nuclear accord, and reestablishing relations with Cuba.

“Biden represents the return of the classical foreign policy establishment,” Alan Minsky, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, tells me. “Biden is running a campaign as a restoration candidate.”

But given significant changes in the world’s balance of power, it’s not all that clear what Biden could restore.

A changing world

Many corporate, State Department, military, and intelligence officials – otherwise known as the Deep State – hate Trump for his nationalist, America First policies.

The President imposed tariffs on allies around the world. He’s questioned the need for NATO. China and Russia have grown stronger economically and politically on the world stage, even after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even card-carrying members of the Deep State acknowledge Washington has no reason to keep fighting in the Middle East. Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, says what’s “been hard for many in the American foreign-policy establishment, including me, to accept: Few vital interests of the US continue to be at stake in the Middle East.”

In a major mea culpa in The Wall Street Journal, Indyk admits, “[A]fter the sacrifice of so many American lives, the waste of so much energy and money in quixotic efforts that ended up doing more harm than good, it is time for the US to find a way to escape the costly, demoralizing cycle of crusades and retreats.”

Whoever wins the election in November will face an economy wracked by recession, an electorate wary of more long-term military interventions, and other countries determined to go their own way.

What kind of foreign policy will that produce?

Biden boasts

Biden boasts of his foreign policy credentials. He chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2001-2003 and 2007-2009. While generally hewing to interventionist Democratic Party policies, he has taken some independent stands, for example, by voting against the 1991 Gulf War.

By far Biden’s most reprehensible stand was his strong support for the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. As documented by Professor Stephen Zunes in The Progressive, Biden forcefully supported the war, but later claimed he opposed it. (Of course, Trump lied about his support for the war as well.)

When the Iraqi occupation failed in the mid-2000s, Biden infamously called for splitting Iraq into three parts along sectarian lines, so the United States could continue imperial control at least in Kurdistan.

Even today, Biden favors maintaining some troops in the region, using the excuse of fighting ISIS. “I think it’s a mistake to pull out the small number of troops that are there now to deal with ISIS,” he’s said.

Biden hasn’t learned the lessons of the Afghan war either. After nineteen years of failed war and occupation, he still wants to maintain some troops in the country.

“I would bring American combat troops in Afghanistan home during my first term,” Biden tells the Council on Foreign Relations. “Any residual US military presence in Afghanistan would be focused only on counterterrorism operations.”

But whoever wins in November will have to face the new reality: People in Afghanistan and the United States are fed up with the war. All foreign troops will have to withdraw.


Besides his bad record in the Middle East, Biden continues to support US domination in Latin America. Both Trump and Biden call for the removal of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, for example. Last year they supported efforts by Juan Guaido, the former head of the National Assembly, to anoint himself president.

The Venezuelan government accuses Washington and Guaido of trying to overthrow Maduro by armed force. Rightwing, former military officers tried to assassinate Maduro with a drone strike last year. Then on May 4, a group of mercenaries – including two US Army vets – landed on the Venezuelan coast intending to overthrow Maduro and install Guaido in power. The coup plot was organized by a Florida private security company. It has the earmarks of a US intelligence operation, although not surprisingly, Trump denies it.

While Biden has not formally called for regime change in Venezuela, neither has he criticized the armed coup attempts. And he favors economic sanctions to cripple the economy, saying: “The US should push for stronger multilateral sanctions so that supporters of the regime cannot live, study, shop, or hide their assets in the United States, Europe, or Latin America.”

In my opinion and that of many others, Bernie Sanders offered a far better foreign policy program than Biden. But Biden may at least restore the Iran nuclear accord, normalize relations with Cuba, and take steps to end the Yemen War.

But one thing is for sure. Those who oppose America’s wars of aggression should take to the streets in peaceful protests no matter who wins.

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Tomgram: Danny Sjursen, Trump’s Own Military Mafia | TomDispatch

Posted by M. C. on May 1, 2020

And that’s my point, really. We have a system in Washington that couldn’t be more lawful and yet, by any definition, the class of ’86 represents one giant conflict of interest (and they don’t stand alone). Alums from that year are now ensconced in every level of the national security state: from the White House to the Pentagon to Congress to K Street to corporate boardrooms. And they have both power and a deep stake, financial or otherwise, in maintaining or expanding the (forever) warfare state.

Posted by Danny Sjursen

I’m sure you still remember them. The president regularly called them “my generals.” They were, he claimed, from “central casting” and there were three of them: retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, who was first appointed secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and then White House chief of staff; Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, who became the president’s national security advisor; and last (but hardly least) retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, whom Trump particularly adored for his nickname “Mad Dog” and appointed as secretary of defense. Of him, the president said, “If I’m doing a movie, I pick you, General Mattis, who’s doing really well.”

They were referred to in Washington and in the media more generally as “the adults in the room,” indicating what most observers (as well as insiders) seemed to think about the president — that he was, in effect, the impulsive, unpredictable, self-obsessed toddler in that same room. All of them had been commanders in the very conflicts that Donald Trump had labeled “ridiculous Endless Wars” and were distinctly hawkish and uncritical of those same wars (like the rest of the U.S. high command). It was even rumored that, as “adults,” Kelly and Mattis had made a private pact not to be out of the country at the same time for fear of what might happen in their absence. By the end of 2018, of course, all three were gone. “My generals” were no more, but the toddler remained.

As TomDispatch regular, West Point graduate (class of 2005), and retired Army Major Danny Sjursen explains in remarkable detail today, while the president finally tossed “his” generals in the nearest trash can, the “adults” (and you do have to keep that word in quotation marks) didn’t, in fact, leave the toddler alone in the Oval Office. They simply militarized and de-militarized at the same time. In fact, one class from West Point, that of 1986, from which both Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo graduated, is essentially everywhere in a distinctly militarized (if still officially civilian) and wildly hawkish Washington in the Trumpian moment. Tom

“Courage Never Quits”?
The Price of Power and West Point’s Class of 1986
By Danny Sjursen

Every West Point class votes on an official motto. Most are then inscribed on their class rings. Hence, the pejorative West Point label “ring knocker.” (As legend has it, at military meetings a West Pointer “need only knock his large ring on the table and all Pointers present are obliged to rally to his point of view.”) Last August, the class of 2023 announced theirs: “Freedom Is Not Free.” Mine from the class of 2005 was “Keeping Freedom Alive.” Each class takes pride in its motto and, at least theoretically, aspires to live according to its sentiments, while championing the accomplishments of fellow graduates.

But some cohorts do stand out. Take the class of 1986 (“Courage Never Quits“). As it happens, both Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are members of that very class, as are a surprisingly wide range of influential leaders in Congress, corporate America, the Pentagon, the defense industry, lobbying firms, Big Pharma, high-end financial services, and even security-consulting firms. Still, given their striking hawkishness on the subject of American war-making, Esper and Pompeo rise above the rest. Even in a pandemic, they are as good as their class motto. When it comes to this country’s wars, neither of them ever quits.

Once upon a time, retired Lieutenant General Douglas Lute (Class of ’75), a former U.S. Ambassador to NATO and a senior commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, taught both Esper and Pompeo in his West Point social sciences class. However, it was Pompeo, the class of ’86 valedictorian, whom Lute singled out for praise, remembering him as “a very strong student — fastidious, deliberate.” Of course, as the Afghanistan Papers, released by the Washington Post late last year, so starkly revealed, Lute told an interviewer that, like so many U.S. officials, he “didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking in Afghanistan.” Though at one point he was President George W. Bush’s “Afghan war czar,” the general never expressed such doubts publicly and his record of dissent is hardly an impressive one. Still, on one point at least, Lute was on target: Esper and Pompeo are smart and that’s what worries me (as in the phrase “too smart for their own good”).

Esper, a former Raytheon lobbyist, had particularly hawkish views on Russia and China before he ever took over at the Pentagon and he wasn’t alone when it came to the urge to continue America’s wars. Pompeo, then a congressman, exhibited a striking pre-Trump-era foreign policy pugnacity, particularly vis-à-vis the Islamic world. It has since solidified into a veritable obsession with toppling the Iranian regime.

Their militarized obsessions have recently taken striking form in two ways: the secretary of defense instructed U.S. commanders to prepare plans to escalate combat against Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, an order the mission’s senior leader there, Lieutenant General Robert “Pat” White, reportedly resisted; meanwhile, the secretary of state evidently is eager to convince President Trump to use the Covid-19 pandemic, now devastating Iran, to bomb that country and further strangle it with sanctions. Worse yet, Pompeo might be just cunning enough to convince his ill-informed, insecure boss (so open to clever flattery) that war is the answer.

The militarism of both men matters greatly, but they hardly pilot the ship of state alone, any more than Trump does (whatever he thinks). Would that it were the case. Sadly, even if voters threw them all out, the disease runs much deeper than them. Enter the rest of the illustrative class of ’86.

As it happens, Pompeo’s and Esper’s classmates permeate the deeper structure of imperial America. And let’s admit it, they are, by the numbers, an impressive crew.

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We Have a Choice To Make – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on March 30, 2020

But even if that false dichotomy were true (and the past century of human history screams to us that it is not), the question that remains hanging in the air is: What kind of lives? Do we want to live lives in which we get to make our own choices and decisions, or do we want to live the kind of lives where our choices are made for us, by some centralized authority?


As I write this, I am no longer “allowed” to frequent businesses the state has deemed to be “nonessential.” Doing so has been prohibited by a man who has the power to shut down an entire economy with the stroke of a pen. Meanwhile, the mayor of a neighboring city has said that water and power will be turned off for any of these “nonessential” businesses that do not comply with the order (while his own office, the only purpose of which seems to be getting in everyone else’s way, remains open.) We now have to stand in line to get into the grocery store, are only able to purchase limited quantities of food and other supplies, and the California National Guard has been activated in my state to help “distribute… food and medical supplies…” among other tasks.

There has been plenty of debate as to whether these draconian measures are necessary to halt the spread of Covid-19; about what the socioeconomic costs will be (devastating); and about whether the virus is even as deadly as was originally projected.

But lost in all of this is a much bigger question: The question as to the kind of world we want to live in.

In a crisis like this one, words like “personal liberty” are brought up and almost immediately tossed aside by politicians and commentators, as if they are mere luxuries–and selfish ones at that. Because “saving lives is more important.”

But even if that false dichotomy were true (and the past century of human history screams to us that it is not), the question that remains hanging in the air is: What kind of lives? Do we want to live lives in which we get to make our own choices and decisions, or do we want to live the kind of lives where our choices are made for us, by some centralized authority?

Because that is what we are talking about. When a few politicians can order entire economies to grind to a halt, when they can dictate to us what goods and services are “essential” (a category that always includes themselves) and which are not, then there is very little they cannot do. I would argue that there is nothing at all they cannot do.

And now they and their mad-scientist cohorts are talking about “digital certificates” to indicate everyone’s infection and vaccination status. Bill Gates, in a recent Reddit forum, said:

“Eventually we will have some digital certificates to show who has recovered or been tested recently or when we have a vaccine who has received it.”

Would Gates’ “certificates” be required in order to board an airplane? To get a driver’s license? To shop in a store? Gates did not say. But already, vaccination records are required in Argentina, in order to get a passport or driver’s license. So the idea is not far-fetched.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said that a vaccine could be available for widespread use within 12-18 months. And then what? Will everyone be required to be tested for Covid-19? And to have this vaccine? Regardless of any possibly dangerous side effects, regardless of how quickly it has been developed and tested? regardless of the waiving of product liability for those who make the vaccines?

How about: No.

The most critical issue in all of this is not, and never was, determining the most effective way to deal with crises like this one (and if it were, there is more than enough evidence from this outbreak alone to entirely disqualify state action from that competition.) This is not about whether government-ordered lockdowns “work” to stem the spread of a deadly virus. Nor is it even about how deadly that virus is or is not.

The much more important issue is: What kind of world are we creating when we allow a government to have this kind of power?

Fortunately–or perhaps not so fortunately–we don’t have to use our imaginations to come up with an answer. The 20th Century’s tragic experiments with all-powerful authoritarian regimes give us plenty of real-life examples. Those regimes were born out of dreams of perfect societies, crafted by “experts” and directed from above.

It’s a shame that nearly everyone in the US has learned entirely the wrong lessons from these tragedies. We say “never again,” we visit Holocaust memorials, we condemn the internment of Japanese Americans, and we vow to treat all people as equals, never to hate an entire group of people because of their race or ethnicity or sexual preference.

And all of that is beautiful. But it completely misses the point. The atrocities of the century before ours did not take place because a lot of people hated a lot of other people. Those atrocities were the product of all-powerful states that could do whatever they wanted to the people living under them. Not a single one of the living nightmares of the Nazis or the Soviets, of Pol Pot or Mao or any of the others could ever have happened without total state power. And once a state has that kind of power, there is very little that anyone living under it can do to stop it.

And here we are.

Meanwhile, as the state grabs more and more power for itself, everywhere there are examples of private individuals and businesses rising to the occasion to help solve the problem:

Individuals sewing masks to donate to hospitals; businesses repurposing their manufacturing to make needed items like hand sanitizer; open-source 3D printing of scarce ventilator parts and other medical supplies; a hackathon to create an open-source ventilator; open-source real-time tracking of the genetic evolution of Covid-19; and of course the labs who tried to create tests at the outset but were prohibited from doing so by the CDC. And as always, there are the neighbors (and non-neighbors) helping each other everywhere, however they can.

Likewise, there are examples of jurisdictions that have not implemented such heavy-handed state restrictions and are so far dealing well with the outbreak. Human beings are in fact pretty amazing, especially in a crisis. And they are perfectly capable of handling crises without using force against each other.

But again, that is not the point.

The point is that, quite apart from what will surely be the devastating costs of an unprecedented economic shutdown, there is a tremendous human cost incurred by allowing any state to have this much power over us. It is a cost that very few are even talking about. But it is the one we most urgently need to be talking about.

Each one of us needs to ask ourselves this question. Each one of us needs to decide which side of this they are on, which side they will stand up for. And yes, there really are only two sides: Choosing to go in the direction of a more free society, or choosing to go in the direction of a more authoritarian one.

For myself, I would much rather take my chances with the sum of the people around me making their own decisions about this virus (and me and my family making ours). Not because I think they are better people than our rulers, but because there are ways to hold individuals accountable for their actions and for harm they inflict on others. The same can never be said for the state.

We should all be far more frightened by the consequences of letting a government have this much power over our lives, than we should be of any pathogen. Why? Because human beings have the tools and the capacity to deal with viruses.

But after all this time, after all the man-made famines, the endless wars, the gulags, the killing fields, the death camps… after all of this, we still have not yet found the tools to effectively deal with the problem of an all-powerful state.

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Coronavirus Means America Is Really Broke. Trump Should Get the Hell Out of Syria. | The National Interest

Posted by M. C. on March 23, 2020

The U.S. is broke. Before the coronavirus made its malign appearance, Washington was set to run trillion-dollar annual deficits this year and as far as we can see beyond. Now revenues will fall and expenses rise this year, at least, as a result of the sharply contracting economy. And Congress is preparing to pass a $1 trillion “stimulus” package on top. Why are we still in Syria?

by Doug Bandow

The U.S. is broke. Before the coronavirus made its malign appearance, Washington was set to run trillion-dollar annual deficits this year and as far as we can see beyond. Now revenues will fall and expenses rise this year, at least, as a result of the sharply contracting economy. And Congress is preparing to pass a $1 trillion “stimulus” package on top.

Yet America’s endless wars continue in the Middle East. If the U.S. stopped tomorrow it would end up spending an estimated $6.4 trillion on conflicts which by and large ended disastrously: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Every day the Trump administration continues to pour good money after bad.


Washington’s promiscuous war-making is discretionary: the Mideast has lost its strategic significance. No one threatens to conquer the oil upon which the West depends. No one threatens the survival of Israel, a regional superpower. What justification is there for Americans to continue attempting to socially engineer one of the world’s most fractious, unstable regions?

It is not enough to say no to any new geopolitical crusades, such as war with Iran, which would be a regional catastrophe. The U.S. should pull out of existing conflicts. Ending support for Saudi Arabia’s depredations in Yemen should be easy. So should be exiting Iraq as anger grows against Washington for trading blows with pro-Iranian militias on Iraqi soil.

Most important is leaving Syria. American officials have spent nine years attempting to shape that conflict’s outcome, so far without success. The administration should withdraw U.S. forces, leaving the region’s powers to sort out that country’s future.

Washington’s involvement never made any sense. President Bashar al-Assad is an evil man who was no friend of America but never threatened the U.S. Nor had Damascus done much to endanger Israel in years. The Syrians did not even retaliate for an Israeli strike on a nuclear reactor being built with North Korean aid.

Syria’s collapse into civil war was a tragedy, though more complex than often portrayed. The Assad government was brutal, but not guilty of genocide: low-tech civil wars typically are bloody and many of the dead were regime supporters. Jihadist insurgents also killed prolifically and brutally, even using chemical weapons. It was the kind of conflict in which one could only wish all combatants ill.

Yet with the absence of a militarily effective, politically moderate movement—America’s attempt to find and aid such fighters was tragically ineffective, even incompetent—the best outcome for Washington was Assad’s survival. Turning a nation-state over to Islamist radicals was the sort of horrid specter typically presented as the reason the U.S. had to intervene in such conflicts. The Obama administration’s willingness to bring about that end, intentional or not, was perverse, even bizarre.

There is much bad to say about Trump’s foreign policy and decision-making process. However, apparently he alone in the administration—the result of his decision to surround himself with only members of the “endless war” crowd—understands the necessity of leaving Syria. When urged in 2017 to reinforce the U.S. military there, he reportedly responded: “I’m not sending any more forces into Syria. Arm the Kurds, take Raqqa, get ISIS out of there, and then get the hell out of Syria.”

Three years later the only proper bottom line remains the same: “Get the hell out of Syria.”

Yet the desire to play social engineer, ignoring religion, geography, history, ideology, interest, and culture, remains strong. Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin recently penned an article on why Americans, as their country slid toward crisis over COVID-19, “should care about Syria.” In fact, the piece brilliantly makes the opposite case.

Rogin’s contentions:

1. “What happens in Syria doesn’t stay in Syria. A New wave of refugees will destabilize European democracies.” Sure, but those “European democracies” match the U.S. in economic strength and exceed America in population. Let the Europeans, finally, after years of cheap-riding, confront a military problem rather than assume it is Washington’s responsibility. After all, in case they have not noticed, Americans are rather busy with their own problems right now.

2. “The United States has interests all over the region that will be threatened by the rising chaos.” Uh, the Mideast has been a disastrous mess for years. Much of it caused by U.S. policies. Washington destroyed democracy in Iran, blew up Iraq, helped destroy Libya, and is continuing to help dissolve Yemen. Stating that interests are stake does not mean that they are important enough to warrant war, or that military action can save them. What have American policymakers done in the last two decades to suggest they are capable of fixing Syria?

3. “The Islamic State will seize the opportunity to revive itself. Eventually, when strong enough, its fighters will attack Americans wherever they can.” Actually, ISIS broke sharply from al-Qaeda in seeking to create a caliphate, or quasi-nation state, not attack the far enemy, namely the U.S. The only Americans killed by the Islamic State before Washington intervened were those who had traveled to Syria. Anyway, the movement is opposed by every government and a host of groups in the region—Syria, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, the Gulf States, Israel, Kurds, Hezbollah—as well as outsiders Russia and Europe. Is the emerging ISIS juggernaut so great that only Washington can halt a revival?

4. If Assad retakes Idlib, “his next target is Syria’s northeast, where several hundred U.S. servicemembers are based, which will make that our problem.” Actually, that is not a problem. Those personnel could and should be withdrawn. They are illegally occupying another country, with neither congressional nor United Nations authority, and for no good strategic reason.

5. “It we remove those troops, we will lose all leverage to push for a political solution.” At one point Assad was on the military ropes while Washington was funding insurgents and a gaggle of other nations, most notably Turkey and the Gulf States, also were aiding his opponents. That “leverage” gained nothing. Today he has won the civil war and is attempting to reconquer the last area, Idlib, under insurgent control. Now Washington’s pressure is expected to force him from power?

6. “The Islamic State and Iran will fill the vacuum.” Actually, the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, is likely to fill the vacuum. One of the essential contradictions of U.S. policy was attempting to eliminate ISIS while overthrowing Assad, the group’s most important enemy. That effort failed as he left America to concentrate on the Islamic State while he targeted other insurgents. Allowed to occupy the rest of his country, Assad would battle any ISIS resurgence. As for Iran, it already is in Syria at the invitation of the government, its presence impelled by insurgencies backed by America. Freer access for Tehran to Syria’s north won’t matter to America, or even to Israel, which has demonstrated its ability to ensure its security.

7. “With just a few hundred soldiers and some help to our allies, the lives of millions can be spared from Assad’s cruel rule.” Having stood by for nine years as civil war ravaged Syria, it is a little late to imagine Washington doing much to protect civilians there. Anyway, exactly how this is to be accomplished is not clear. Surely not by direct U.S. military intervention. Supporting Turkey, which slaughtered Kurdish civilians in Turkey before illegally invading Syria to kill Kurds there, would be a strange step to take in the name of humanitarianism. (Never mind Ankara’s domestic slide toward authoritarianism and Islamism, intervention in Libya’s civil war, and dalliance with Russia.) Nor is leaving Idlib under the rule of a collection of Islamists, led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Hurras al-Din, both connected to al-Qaeda, and other equally dubious jihadist groups, a humanitarian solution. Nor is this in America’s interest. Finally, since Syria, backed by Iran and Russia, is unlikely to voluntarily yield sovereign territory, any U.S. intervention would have to be perpetual, for no discernible American advantage or interest.

8. Citing David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee, “The war in Syria will, dangerously, become a precedent for a new normal for brutal, divisive, contagious conflict.” The conflict has raged for nine years killing upwards of a half-million people. If a precedent might be set, it already has been set. However, the past is filled with equally horrendous conflicts that long raged, slaughtering and destroying indiscriminately: Afghanistan, Burma/Myanmar, Burundi, Colombia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Yemen, Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo. Go back in history a little: Algeria, Angola, Cambodia/Kampuchea, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria (Biafra). Alas, the bloody precedent has been very well established.

9. “If Americans are not convinced by the moral or strategic arguments, consider this: There are at least six U.S. citizens being held as prisoners by the Assad regime right now. … If we leave Syria and don’t insist on playing a role in its future, our chances of negotiating their release go way down.” If Washington’s demand to play a role in Syria’s future hasn’t won their release after eight years—Austin Tice went missing in 2012—it isn’t likely to do so in the future. But if U.S. officials gave up their determination to oust the Assad government, they would have a much better chance of winning the release of people who are, after all, just bargaining chips to Damascus…

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Make no mistake: Military robots are not there to preserve human life, they are there to allow even more endless wars — RT Op-ed

Posted by M. C. on January 7, 2020

Helen Buyniski
Helen Buyniski
When human troops are replaced by robots on the battlefield, it won’t be because the Pentagon’s had some revelation about the value of human life – it’ll be an effort to defuse anti-war protests by minimizing visible casualties.

US military commanders are itching to get their hands on some killer robots after an Army war game saw a human-robot coalition repeatedly rout an all-human company three times its size. The technology used in the computer-simulated clashes doesn’t exist quite yet – the concept was only devised a few months ago – but it’s in the pipeline, and that should concern anyone who prefers peace to war.


Captain Philip Belanger gushed to Breaking Defense last week, after commanding the silicon soldiers through close to a dozen battles at Fort Benning Maneuver Battle Lab.  When they tried to fight an army three times their size again without the robotic reinforcements? “Things did not go well for us,” Belanger admitted.

What could go wrong?

So why shouldn’t the US military save its troops by sending in specially-designed robots to do their killing? While protecting American lives is one reason to oppose the US’ ever-metastasizing endless wars, it’s far from the only reason. Civilian casualties are already a huge problem with drone strikes, which by some estimates kill their intended target only 10 percent of the time.  Drones, an early form of killer robot, offer minimal sensory input for the operator, making it difficult to distinguish combatants from non. Soldiers controlling infantry-bots from afar will have even less visibility, being stuck to the ground, and their physical distance from the action means shooting first and asking questions later becomes an act no more significant than pulling the trigger in a first-person-shooter video game.

Any US military lives saved by using robot troops will thus be more than compensated for by a spike in civilian casualties on the other side. This will be ignored by the media, as “collateral damage” often is, but the UN and other international bodies might locate their long-lost spines and call out the wholesale slaughter of innocents by the Pentagon’s death machines…

Meanwhile, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of anti-war groups, scientists, academics, and politicians who’d rather not take a ‘wait and see’ approach to a technology that could destroy the human race, are calling on the United Nations to adopt an international ban on autonomous killing machines. Whose future would you prefer?

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Fact Check: Tulsi Gabbard is Correct, American Veterans Want the Endless Wars to End

Posted by M. C. on November 21, 2019

Anti-war, pro-peace Gabbard is the most disparaged Dem candidate.

Obviously a Russian asset.

She wouldn’t be well liked in Republican circles either.

by John Binder

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) said during the fifth Democrat presidential primary debate that American veterans are “calling for an end” to the “regime change wars” that have persisted with support from the Washington, DC, national security establishment.

“I’m running for president to be the Democratic nominee that rebuilds our Democratic Party, takes it out of their hands, and truly puts it in the hands of the people of this country,” Gabbard said.

“A party that actually hears the voices of Americans who are struggling … and puts it in the hands of veterans and fellow Americans who are calling for an end to this … policy doctrine of regime change wars, overthrowing dictators in other countries, needlessly sending my brothers and sisters in uniform into harm’s way to fight in wars that actually undermine our national security and cost us thousands of American lives,” Gabbard continued.

The most recent Pew Research Center survey reveals that Gabbard is correct in saying that American veterans who risked their lives in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are increasingly opposing foreign interventionism.

About 64 percent of veterans say the Iraq War is “not worth fighting,” along with 62 percent of all American adults who agree. Only 33 percent of veterans say the Iraq War is worth fighting.

Likewise, nearly 60 percent of veterans and all American adults say the Afghanistan War was not worth the fight. Less than 40 percent say the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was worth fighting.

Former President George W. Bush led the U.S. into war in Afghanistan and Iraq with more than 4,500 Americans dying in Iraq — including more than 3,500 killed in combat — and up to 205,000 Iraqi citizens dying in the war since March 2003. In total, Bush’s post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and intervention in Pakistan have resulted in the deaths of between 480,000 and 507,000 people — including nearly 7,000 American soldiers who had deployed to the regions.

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Ending Endless War | Foreign Affairs

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Veterans Oppose the Endless Wars, Back Trump: ‘A Lot of Wasted Lives’

Posted by M. C. on November 5, 2019

by John Binder

American Veterans who risked their lives in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are increasingly opposing foreign interventionism that continues to dominate the Washington, DC, political establishment.

The latest Pew Research Center survey on the issue finds that 64 percent of Veterans say the Iraq War is “not worth fighting,” along with 62 percent of all American adults who agree. Only 33 percent of Veterans say the Iraq War is worth fighting.

Likewise, nearly 60 percent of Veterans and all American adults say the Afghanistan War was not worth the fight. Less than 40 percent say the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was worth fighting.

In interviews with the New York Times, Veterans explained their support for President Trump’s effort to end what he has dubbed the “endless wars” across the Middle East which has cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

“All in all, it is a lot of wasted lives and money and time and effort spent to accomplish a goal we never accomplished,” said 31-year-old Tyler Wade, who received a Purple Heart for his service in Afghanistan, told the Times.

Veteran Dan Caldwell said American men and women signed up to defend their homeland against terrorists, not to nation-build whole countries and remain until stability in the region is regained.

“For conservative-leaning veterans, we signed up to defend our country,” Caldwell said. “We didn’t sign up to build girls schools in the Al Anbar Province. We had friends killed or wounded in action; it wasn’t clear for what.”

Veteran Amber Smith, 37-years-old — who served in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2005 and 2008 — said the minority of Veterans in Congress who continue to support U.S. military intervention in foreign countries do so at the expense of their brothers and sisters in the uniform.

“We gave it nearly two decades, thousands of U.S. lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, and we have learned at this point there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan,” Smith told the Times. “There are a few veterans in Congress who are very pro-military-involvement in the Middle East. Well, they already fought that fight. They are not going back. As we have seen, when Trump talks about reducing troops, everyone in D.C. becomes unhinged. Unfortunately, the U.S. service members pay the consequences for that.”

Even when it comes to the U.S. intervention in Syria, Veterans by a majority oppose the effort. The Pew Research Center survey found that 55 percent of Veterans said U.S. involvement in Syria is “not worth it” while almost 60 percent of American adults agreed.

Former President George W. Bush led the U.S. into war in Afghanistan and Iraq with more than 4,500 Americans dying in Iraq — including more than 3,500 killed in combat — and up to 205,000 Iraqi citizens dying in the war since March 2003.

In total, Bush’s post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and intervention in Pakistan have resulted in the deaths of between 480,000 and 507,000 people — including nearly 7,000 American soldiers who had deployed to the regions.

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Imperial Capital But America-First Nation – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on October 29, 2019

Three are anti-interventionist and anti-war, which may help explain why Democrats are taking a second look at Hillary Clinton.

Mr. B is optimistic. If Trump loses in 2020 the war machine will go full steam ahead.


“Let someone else fight over this long blood-stained sand,” said President Donald Trump in an impassioned defense of his decision to cut ties to the Syrian Kurds, withdraw and end these “endless wars.”

Are our troops in Syria, then, on their way home? Well, not exactly.

Those leaving northern Syria went into Iraq. Other U.S. soldiers will stay in Syria to guard oil wells that we and the Kurds captured in the war with ISIS. Another 150 U.S. troops will remain in al-Tanf to guard Syria’s border with Iraq, at the request of Jordan and Israel.

And 2,000 more U.S. troops are being sent to Saudi Arabia to help defend the kingdom from Iran, which raises a question: Are we coming or going?…

But in this imperial capital, the voice of the interventionist yet prevails. The media, the foreign policy elite, the think tanks, the ethnic lobbies, the Pentagon, the State Department, Capitol Hill, are almost all interventionist, opposed to Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds. Rand Paul may echo Middle America, but Lindsey Graham speaks for the Republican establishment.

Yet the evidence seems compelling that anti-interventionism is where the country is at, and the Congress knows it.

For though the denunciations of Trump’s pullout from Syria have not ceased, one detects no campaign on Capitol Hill to authorize sending U.S. troops back to Syria, in whatever numbers are needed, to enable the Kurds to keep control of their occupied quadrant of that country.

Love of the Kurds, so audible on the Hill, does not go that far…

In 1940-41, the anti-interventionists of “America First” succeeded in keeping us out of the world war (after Hitler and Stalin invaded Poland in September of 1939 and Britain and France went to war). Pearl Harbor united the nation, but not until Dec. 7, 1941, two years later — when America First folded its tents and enlisted.

Today, because both sides of our foreign policy quarrel have powerful constituencies, we have paralysis anew, reflected in policy.

We have enough troops in Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban from overrunning Kabul and the big cities, but not enough to win the war.

In Iraq, which we invaded in 2003 to oust Saddam Hussein and install a democracy, we brought to power the Shia and their Iranian sponsors. Now we battle Iran for political influence in Baghdad.

Across the Middle East, we have enough troops, planes and ships to prevent our expulsion, but not enough to win the wars from Syria to Yemen to Afghanistan…

To the question, “Are we going deeper into the Middle East or coming out?” the answer is almost surely the latter.

Among the candidates who could be president in 2021 — Trump, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders — none is an interventionist of the Lindsey Graham school. Three are anti-interventionist and anti-war, which may help explain why Democrats are taking a second look at Hillary Clinton.

According to polls, Iran is first among the nations that Americans regard as an enemy. Still, there is no stomach for war with Iran. When Trump declined to order a strike on Iran — after an air and cruise missile attack shut down half of Saudi oil production — Americans, by their silent acquiescence, seemed to support our staying out.

Yet if there is no stomach in Middle America for war with Iran and a manifest desire to pull the troops out and come home, there is ferocious establishment resistance to any withdrawal of U.S. forces. This has bedeviled Trump through the three years of his presidency.

Again, it seems a stalemate is in the cards — until there is some new explosion in the Mideast, after which the final withdrawal for America will begin, as it did for the exhausted British and French empires after World War II.

That we are leaving the Middle East seems certain. Only the departure date is as yet undetermined.

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