U.S. role in the world: Neocons want more muscle than Obama Doctrine

MinnPost photo illustration by Corey Anderson

What should America do in the world, to the world, for the world, about the world?

President Obama gave the latest version of his answer to those questions in the commencement address to the West Point graduating class last week. (Full text here.)

Nothing in the speech was terribly surprising. America remains militarily strong, Obama said — in some ways, compared to its leading rivals, stronger than ever. But, at least under this president, it will use military force reluctantly, sparingly, selectively.

This paragraph from the speech is probably the best, and certainly the most colorful summary of this version of the Obama Doctrine:

Here’s my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership. But U.S. military action cannot be the only, or even primary, component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.

Here’s a shocker: The righty commentariat hated the speech. They divided between those who felt Obama was advertising and bragging about exactly the kind of fecklessness they’ve been ripping him about for five years, and those, like, for example, Charles Krauthammer, who called the speech “empty.”

Krauthammer hit hard on the argument that Obama had constructed a set of straw men in which the world consisted of pacifists, who think nothing is worth fighting for, and militarists who want to invade every country that annoys them. Creating that spectrum of war-mongers and isolationists conveniently left Obama as the reasonable man in the middle, willing to use force, but only when necessary.

In reality, Krauthammer argued, nobody is calling for U.S. “boots on the ground” in Syria, and nobody is calling for an American withdrawal from the world.

There is some rough justice in Krauthammer’s reaction. Obama did use the speech to make himself look like the occupant of the reasonable middle. In truth, by recent U.S. standards, Obama’s ability to get through five-plus years of a presidency without starting a new war, a shock and awe bombing campaign or a CIA overthrow of a foreign government makes him look like a raging peacenik, (notwithstanding his continuing use of drone warfare, his success in degrading Al Qaida and his “surge” policy in Afghanistan).

What Obama didn’t say

On the other hand, Obama Derangement Syndrome caused Krauthammer to hear things that Obama didn’t say.

Obama didn’t say that anyone is advocating for U.S. “boots on the ground” in Syria, nor that anyone was arguing for U.S. withdrawal from the world. If you look at how Obama actually described those who think he should use the military more and those who think he should stay out of more conflicts, his descriptions are much more accurate than the imaginary ones that Krauthammer mocked. Here’s how Obama framed it:

Today, according to self-described realists, conflicts in Syria or Ukraine or the Central African Republic are not ours to solve. And not surprisingly, after costly wars and continuing challenges here at home, that view is shared by many Americans.

A different view, from interventionists from the left and right, says that we ignore these conflicts at our own peril, that America’s willingness to apply force around the world is the ultimate safeguard against chaos, and America’s failure to act in the face of Syrian brutality or Russian provocations not only violates our conscience, but invites escalating aggression in the future.

Surely Krauthammer wouldn’t deny that some say the trouble in Syria and Ukraine “are not ours to solve,” nor that some — including most of Krauthammer’s fellow travelers — do indeed suggest constantly that Obama’s “failure to act in the face of Syrian brutality or Russian provocation… invites escalating aggression in the future.” In fact, isn’t that pretty much their main criticism of Obama’s foreign policy?

The American sheriff

But the real righty argument against Obamaism in foreign policy was written in advance of the speech.

In the New Republic (for which he is a “contributing editor”), neoconservative intellectual Robert Kagan lays out generalized case for America to do more — almost irrespective of its own interests — to maintain world order by strengthening good guys and weakening bad guys — and by making sure that bad guys know that if they get too far out of line, the American sheriff will gun them down at high noon.

If that seems incredibly vague, as if it obligates the United States to be constantly at war for ambiguous purposes that might have little to do with its own concrete interests, here’s a paragraph from the Kagan piece that show it is precisely that:

World order maintenance requires operating in the gray areas between victory and defeat. The measure of success is often not how wonderful the end result is, but whether the unsatisfying end result is better or worse than the outcome if there had been no action. To insist on outcomes that always achieve maximum ends at minimal cost is yet another form of escapism.

Don’t click this link to the full Kagan piece unless you have a few minutes. Kagan’s argument is long, slow, theoretical and goes back to at least the 19th century to create a historical context for an argument that, in the 21st century, America must use its power — and certainly that includes military power — around the world or things will fall apart.

In other words, the world needs for the United States to flex its muscles periodically without necessarily waiting for a situation that fits the normal rhetoric about a threat to its “vital interests” and all that jazz. Sometime during the 19th or 20th century, America learned the advisability of getting into wars early and often. The United States adopted, Kagan says:

A new military strategy aimed to discourage would-be aggressors before they became aggressors, or as [Theodore] Roosevelt put it, to “end future wars by stepping on their necks before they grow up.”

But this lesson, Kagan worries, is being “unlearned” by Americans who have grown weary of policing the world. In the 1950s and ‘60s, America “fought in costly wars in Korea and Vietnam, with uncertain and unsatisfying results,” Kagan said, which left us dangerously reluctant to play sheriff.

He cites with alarm a recent Pew Poll that found that “more than 50 percent of Americans today believe that the United States ‘should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own’ — the highest number ever recorded since Pew started asking the question 50 years ago.”

Personally I would say that the United States, even under Obama, is more entangled with the rest of the world than any other country. By any fair reckoning, it gets into more wars and lesser military actions — by a wide margin — than whoever comes in second. But the drift seems downright isolationistic to Kagan, who wrote that:

Unless Americans can be led back to an understanding of their enlightened self-interest, to see again how their fate is entangled with that of the world, then the prospects for a peaceful twenty-first century in which Americans and American principles can thrive will be bleak.

Kaganism, which is neoconservatism, is pretty much the opposite of Obamaism. Obama has said for years that his hope and plan was to wind down the two wars he inherited from President George W. Bush and try to avoiding starting a new one. It looks to me like he is on his way to fulfilling that goal.

Haunted by deaths

When he talked to the West Point cadets about the fact four young soldiers, who were in the audience a year ago when Obama had announced the troop surge in Afghanistan, had died in that operation, Obama underscored his determination to use troops only when necessary:

I believe America’s security demanded those deployments. But I am haunted by those deaths. I am haunted by those wounds. And I would betray my duty to you, and to the country we love, if I sent you into harm’s way simply because I saw a problem somewhere in the world that needed fixing, or because I was worried about critics who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak.

I confess I’m with Obama in spirit here. Lethal force should be a last resort. Obama also made clear his feeling that every time the United States kills people abroad, they plant seeds of anti-American hatred that could lead to future wars.

But Kagan, unless I’m misreading his doctrine, thinks America and the world benefit from frequent demonstrations that the United States is on the bad guy beat.

David Brooks, in a New York Times column that called Kagan’s piece “brilliant,” also celebrated the happier days “in the 1990s, for example, [when] President George H.W. Bush and President Clinton took military action roughly every 17 months to restrain dictators, spread democracy and preserve international norms.” Brooks referred to it as “forward-leaning interventionist garden-tending.”

Brooks should find a better metaphor for war than “garden-tending.” We are talking about bombing and blood, killing by the thousands and hundreds of thousands and invading and overthrowing. We are talking about one nation, because it is the world’s most powerful, arrogating to itself the decision of whom is fit to govern other smaller nations.

Those decisions, by the way, are inevitably mixed with the superpower’s self-interest, including economic, material, corporate interests. The obsession of the United States with Iraq and Iran cannot be separated from the oil. The United States was friendly with Saddam Hussein — who had already established himself as one of the world’s most brutal dictators — as recently as the 1980s. The United States is apoplectic over the ayatollaocracy that runs Iran, but the United States overthrew the only democratically elected leader Iran ever had (Mohammed Mossadegh).

Barack Obama became the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008, to some extent, because he was the only one among the leading candidates who had opposed the Iraq war in advance.

Justifying war in Iraq

One reason it is vital to bring the Iraq war into the discussion of the Obama West Point speech and especially of the Kagan “prebuttal” is that Kagan was one of the co-founders and leaders of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which is best known for advocating and justifying the decision to launch a U.S. war against Iraq.

The launching of that war and the fall of Saddam Hussein were the high moments of the “neoconservative” creed that Kagan and PNAC helped make famous.

But the aftermath of Saddam’s fall, the failure to find the promised Weapons of Mass Destruction that had been used to justify the war (even though U.N. inspectors pretty much knew there were no weapons), the long, bloody years of occupation (in contrast to the euphoric “candy and flowers” greeting that had been promised), the civil war, and the subsequent descent of Iraq into the thugocracy and kleptocracy all cast doubt on the clarity of the neocon vision and the advisability of the neocon prescription.

I found the tone of Kagan’s long New Republic essay very reasonable, bordering on humble, occasionally pulling back from statements that would have been overreaches, occasionally acknowledging facts and arguments that undermined his overall point.

But apart from my instinctive opposition to unnecessary warfare, I have trouble taking his overview seriously unless and until he takes the latest big example of a “war of choice” that went badly — the Iraq war with which he and his fellow travelers are so closely associated — and puts it on the table and fits it into his overall argument.

The closest I found in his long piece was this:

The long interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan certainly played a part in undermining American support, not just for wars but for the grand strategy that led to those wars.

True that, most definitely with respect to Iraq. But if he wants Americans to get on board with the idea that a garden-tending, world-order maintenance mission every couple of years is a good thing, he needs to deal directly with the most recent case that turned out not to be such a great idea, or does he think it was?

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Comments (51)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/03/2014 - 09:36 am.

    ” his “surge” policy in Afghanistan”

    Whoa there, cowboy. Who’s “surge” policy?

    Obama adopted the worst decisions Bush made (TARP and amnesty for illegal immigrants come to mind), while simultaneously blaming him for every bungle he made. And now you’re going to write Bush out of the ones that worked?

    Bush also started detaining terrorists in GITMO. Obama has kept that ball rolling for six years, but has finally put his own unique stamp on it by side-stepping Congress to release 5 top Taliban leaders (one of whom was a close associate of Bin Laden).

    Anyone want to bet it won’t be Bush’s fault when these fine fellows show up on the battle field…or in Chicago?


  2. Submitted by Doug Gray on 06/03/2014 - 10:10 am.

    a long way from Sun Tzu

    The neocons should have had their day. Any defense of their wooly-headed ideas about what America’s role in the world needs to be should be required to be accompanied by an explanation of how, exactly, America or the world is better off today than they were before the neocons started a war of choice in Iraq.

    One would think that someone who’s studied history would have a better appreciation of the lessons, if not of Vietnam and Iraq, then of Sun Tzu, Jomini and Clausewitz. But then again few, if any, neocons have ever actually served in the military they are so eager to put into harm’s way in order to achieve their “unsatisfying end results.”

  3. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/03/2014 - 10:32 am.

    Meaningless words

    Representing a meaningless foreign policy.

    Obama: “Here’s my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will.”

    Yeah, Captain Obvious? But that was always true, ironically, until you took office. This administration has made a point of “leading from behind.” In Egypt, in Libya, in Syria, in Ukraine. America hasn’t led on the world stage since he drew a red line in the sand and then looked the other way when Assad stepped over it. Some would say it was since he let Mubarak get overthrown by the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Obama: “The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership.”

    That’s always been the Neocon argument. Use American force or the *threat of force* to affect world events, specifically, to bring freedom to the people of the world who are being oppressed by authoritarian regimes. That was certainly Reagan’s policy which ultimately defeated the Soviet Union and it was the policy of both Bush administrations. People forget that George W. Bush spent months at the UN and elsewhere trying to convince Saddam to surrender his WMD peacefully (which the world was convinced he had) and avoid war.

    Obama: “But U.S. *military action* cannot be the only, or even primary, component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”

    Strawman. No one’s ever made the argument that “military action” should be “the only, or even primary,” component of our leadership. This is where Obama’s ignorance of the use of the threat of military force seemed to shock people who heard this speech, especially the young officers it was aimed at. When has that not been U.S. policy? That’s why the speech received such a shockingly muted reaction from the West Pointers. Captain Obvious mouthing meaningless words.

    I’m proud to have been a part of the most potent deterrant force in the history of warfare. We stood ready and willing to vaporize the Soviet Union at a moment’s notice and they knew it. Even though that act would have guaranteed our own demise, we never flinched. And that willingness to pay the ultimate price kept the peace until 1989 when the Soviet Union effectively surrendered with the collapse of the Berlin wall.

    Obama doesn’t understand the value of any of that and that’s why he’s failed as a world leader.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/03/2014 - 11:06 am.

      ….No one’s ever made the argument that “military action” should be “the only, or even primary,” component of our leadership…

      Perhaps you should read you own writings with respect to Libya, Syria, Egypt, Ukraine and all of the possible but muted military response by Obama (eg., start with your second paragraph).

    • Submitted by Doug Gray on 06/03/2014 - 12:31 pm.

      cold war memories

      I, too, have emotional memories of the Cold War. But pride is not one of them.

    • Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 06/03/2014 - 02:50 pm.

      Lead in war

      Those who call out for increased American military intervention in other countries should be the first to volunteer to go and fight. If they’re too old, they should send a junior member of their own family. I’m tired of pointless wars for the benefit of war profiteers, who should be ashamed of themselves, not bragging about it.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/04/2014 - 05:38 am.

        I served

        eight years in the submarine service, sir.

        • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 06/06/2014 - 01:11 pm.

          That’s all fine and good, and I applaud you for your service, but unless those 8 years intersected World War 2, you never ‘fought.’ Again, I am not trying to minimize the sacrifice and effort, but what’s being discussed is totally irrelevant to submarine service. Submarine service is inherently dangerous, yes, but to my knowledge, there hasn’t been a US Submarine loss since what, the 1960’s? The ratio of infantry to sailors KIA since WW2 is wildly lopsided.

          Also, there were many more before you, and no doubt after you, on both sides of the conflict, on air, land, and sea, who stood ‘ready to vaporize the enemy.’ I for one am glad that cooler heads prevailed on so many occasions, where there was doubtlessly some ‘flinching’ happening. I think the descendants of humanity will be pleased at this outcome too.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 06/03/2014 - 04:53 pm.

      Even more meaningless

      is equating mutually assured destruction with freedom. Fortunately, this country has seen the last of those who pride themselves in believing that sort of asinine rhetoric.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/03/2014 - 10:42 am.

    Straw men

    “In reality, Krauthammer argued, nobody is calling for U.S. “boots on the ground” in Syria, and nobody is calling for an American withdrawal from the world.”

    Conservative resort to certain characterizations of statements and arguments with such an alarming frequency, that it seems to be the case, that such characterizations aren’t isolated incidents, that they in fact are the result of systemic problems in conservative thinking. Accusations of “straw man” are an example of that. Why is that? Are liberals consistently engaging in straw me arguments? Is there something about conservatives that invites such tactics?

    I think the straw man problem comes from the fact that while conservatives criticize liberals, they don’t do it from a position of their own. You see that from the Krauthammer comment above. Of course, Charles isn’t calling for military intervention in Syria. He isn’t really calling for anything at all, apart from Obama to be different, something which you think about it, is logically impossible. Krauthammer doesn’t have an alternative policy apart from the need to modify rhetorical flourishes. And he doesn’t need one. He isn’t in charge of anything. There are no awesome responsibilities which he bears. President Obama isn’t so fortunate. His actions have consequences, He has policy choices he must make. In thinking about those choices, he can’t be concerned if the way he characterizes them exactly fits the way others think, especially when as is the case with Krauthammer, there is no real reason that he is thinking of any coherent policy alternative at all. Inevitably, when you do have to think about policy alternatives, which the president’s critic’s won’t state themselves you have to create straw men.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/03/2014 - 10:50 am.

    Remember Phil Ochs

    ” It’s always the old to lead us to the war
    It’s always the young to fall”

  6. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/03/2014 - 10:56 am.


    “No one’s ever made the argument that “military action” should be “the only, or even primary,” component of our leadership.”

    But there have been times when military action has been the backbone of our leadership, at least primarily. Did the German army surrender in WW II, because they found Roosevelt’s rhetoric about the Four Freedoms to be so compelling? I know politics is conducted on multiple levels. But when you are on the level in which a loaded weapon is being held to the head of another, decisions relating to that, are the primary components of leadership, and indeed the only component of leadership that matters.

    Obama’s critics don’t have a policy of their own, therefore any attempt to fill the policy vacuum they create will inevitably create straw men. If they don’t want that, they step up and create real policy alternatives that advance the debate and illuminate our discussion of the issues.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/03/2014 - 11:35 am.

      The problem is

      it’s too late. Alternate policies have to be established upfront when you still have some credibility with your friends and adversaries.

      You can’t engage in saber rattling after you’ve already demonstrated that it’s made of rubber.

      The opportunity for alternative strategies is now only going to happen when we get new leadership and everyone knows it.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/03/2014 - 12:35 pm.


        I am not a big fan of credibility. Credibility concerns can too easily be self serving. In the case of President Obama or President Bush, for that matter, they can’t really allow policy to be influenced by someone else’s judgment of their credibility. For one thing, it’s often in the interest of someone else to choose not to believe in what Obama or Bush might say.

        There are other problems associated with an excessive concern for credibility. Way too often, credibility is confused with truthfulness. Credible people are just as capable of lying as anyone else, and if they have a reputation for credibility, that can make their lies more dangerous. Similarly, people who are not credible, are perfectly capable of being truthful. In mythology, there is the case of Cassandra, whose curse it was to both be truthful and not believed, the ultimate example of someone with credibility issues.

        “You can’t engage in saber rattling after you’ve already demonstrated that it’s made of rubber.”

        Are you under the impression we arm our military with rubber sabers? History has taught many tyrants that they make such assumptions at their peril. And I should also note, that the pattern of our history going back to the Revolutionary War if not before, is for our adversaries to perceive us as weak, and when we are weak, our capacity to rather suddenly get stronger.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/04/2014 - 02:09 pm.

          David Kaiser’s new book

          on FDR and the ramp up to WWII is worth reading on this topic.
          He describes how we went from militarily impotent in 1935 to a major weapons manufacturer in 1938 to the world’s strongest military by 1942.
          In this case, Hitler and Hirohito were the ones who underestimated our capabilities.
          In the long run, being a major manufacturing power trumps being a major military power. That’s what Putin is starting to discover.

      • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 06/03/2014 - 03:47 pm.

        You know the way a country loses

        Credibility Tester? A president trumps up evidence of WMDs and starts a totally unnecessary war against a far less powerful nation Iraq, expecting an easy win. Despite claims of mission accomplished, the war drags out for years and years because the initial assault creates a religious civil war. The war accomplishes absolutely nothing. Many American soldiers are killed and maimed for nothing, especially unacceptable after the travesty of Vietnam. Stupid wars to begin and then lose are the problem with this country’s image abroad, including the knowledge that we have spent billions and billions of dollars in Iraq which could have been used for more scary nukes that you like so much.

        • Submitted by Tom Lynch on 06/03/2014 - 05:05 pm.

          Actually Trillions

          Avstudy from Brown University says the Iraq war has cost the U.S. $2 Trillion so far. That’s $2,000,000,000,000! And by the time all veterans’ cost are paid, it could cost up to $6 Trillion. That’s $6,000,000,000,000!

          They estimate 134,000 Iraqis were killed, with possibly 4 times that many.

  7. Submitted by Amy Farland on 06/03/2014 - 11:16 am.

    lacking muscle?

    The US military has a presence in and is currently fighting in 74 countries that it admits to publicly. The actual figure is classified. That folks is called a transparent democracy.


    • Submitted by jason myron on 06/03/2014 - 05:01 pm.

      Add that to the fact that

      more terrorist leaders have been dispatched under Obama than during the entire two terms of George Bush. It just continues to illustrate the absurdity of the Neocon ideology. They idolize Reagan for bringing the Soviet Union to its knees, when in reality, all he did was explode the debt to outspend them on military hardware.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/04/2014 - 08:05 am.

        Five terrorist leaders released

        in return for a deserter. He’s freed international war criminals who he admits will probably kill again, so the most despised enlisted man in history could come home to his hippy parents. That’s Obama’s record on terrorism.

        And Reagan did bring the Soviets to their knees. But some people in this country still feel badly about it.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/04/2014 - 09:16 am.

          What the Gipper did

          He also traded 1500 missiles to Iran for the release of three hostages.

          It’s interesting that someone with such faith in free-market capitalism would think that it took tough guy rhetoric from a Republic serial to bring down the Soviet Union. Isn’t it just as likely that the internal inefficiencies and cumbersome bureaucracy of the Soviet state brought it down from within?

          Back in the early 60s, Whittaker Chambers (a conservative icon, from back when conservatives read actual books) predicted the end to Soviet communism. He predicted it would happen pretty much the way it did, what with the “satellite” states of eastern Europe abandoning the system first. I know that doesn’t fit in with the narrative that St. Ronald of Reagan is responsible for all that is good in the world, but it is a mistake to overlook the role the people of eastern Europe played in their own political fates.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/04/2014 - 09:51 am.

          Everyone at Gitmo

          is declared a ‘leader’;
          that’s the excuse for holding them (in violation of international law, not to mention ours) without charges or trial.
          Al Qaeda (in its various transmogrifications) hardly needs more fighters.
          Its got millions; five more won’t make any difference.
          And if you don’t like Bowe Bergdahl, the best thing to do is to bring him home to face charges, which is exactly what’s happening.

        • Submitted by jason myron on 06/04/2014 - 12:40 pm.

          Hippy parents?

          Typical… not only is your politics mired in ancient history, but so is your world view. May I remind you that Bergdahl hasn’t been tried and convicted of anything, but you go right ahead believing the unsubstantiated rhetoric set loose by GOP strategists. Outrage over anything is all that’s left of what passes for the GOP. As for the soviets demise, that must be why the Neocons are worked into a lather by the shirtless stud, ex- KGB officer that runs the country.

          • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/04/2014 - 04:23 pm.

            Actually, the most strident condemnations have been “set loose” from the families of the men lost while looking for Bergdahl, and the men in his company. Google “MSG Mark Allen” to get a flavor of what I’m speaking of.

            I’m pretty sure the outrage, at both Bergdahl and the man that traded 5 terrorists for him, is being shared by many current and former veterans who are not GOP strategists as well, myself included.

  8. Submitted by Doug Gray on 06/03/2014 - 12:31 pm.

    Kagan’s war

    “In principle it would be quite simple to waste the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society. What is concerned here is not the morale of masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long as they are kept steadily at work, but the morale of the Party itself. Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist.” — George Orwell, *Nineteen Eighty-Four*

  9. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/03/2014 - 01:26 pm.


    Do you think Orwell was being ironic here? Did he mean this? Or did he mean something like the opposite? Do you think emotion is necessary to sustain a hierarchy? It’s been a while since I read 1984 but as I recall, the culmination of the novel was when Winston Smith finally came to a realization that he loved Big Brother, the emotion which in the novel would sustain the state. Is the future of a hierarchical structure like the Target Corporation endangered if the checkout clerk doesn’t love the CEO?

  10. Submitted by David Frenkel on 06/03/2014 - 02:06 pm.

    Congress has the fewest number of US military veterans since WWII. I certainly didn’t invent the word but there are plenty of ‘chickenhawks’ in Congress just looking for a good reason to see if those expensive weapon systems work. The other major issue is China who is projected to be an equal military power to the US in 5 to 10 years. The military and political landscape may change also if Russia and China become closer allies.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/03/2014 - 05:52 pm.

      There is a risk, but….

      Those estimates of China’s military power were made before China’s economy began to implode (and its estimates were shown to be as inflated as those of the Soviet Union during the Cold War).
      And Russia in the long run (after the next 5-10 years when its energy glut runs down) will be at best a minor partner/rival of China.
      Present day Russia is not the Soviet Union; it’s economy is a lot smaller than the EU or China.

  11. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/03/2014 - 03:58 pm.

    The problems that can be solved by applying deadly force at a specific time/place/person and have the 99.9% predictable result and subsequent reordering that you want are very few and far between.

    And there are very few instances of your enemy wandering across an open field, unaccompanied and unarmed, without the possibility of additional and “collateral” damage.

    Those people who first reaction is to say “apply force” (“boots on the ground”, bombers, drones, or military equipment, etc.) have never learned the truth of ,“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”(Helmuth von Moltke)

    That’s a lesson taught again in many ways in our recent adventures.

  12. Submitted by Terry Hayes on 06/04/2014 - 08:31 am.

    in the words of Mavis Staples….

    “See now I ain’t gonna fight no rich man’s war. That ain’t what God
    wanna use me for.”

    These wars are only about protecting corporate interests.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/04/2014 - 08:47 am.

    They disgrace our nation

    Yeah, real tough guys when it comes to putting someone elses boots on the ground, but when asked to personally face the miniscule risk of releasing 5 guys from Gitmo they howl with cowardice.

    I just hope the Democrats don’t fall into the a debate trap over this. Obama is the president of the United States, not the world. All he’s gotta do is point out that Americans are the priority here. The truth is that the vast majority of Americans don’t even know where Syria is, and they don’t really care, and certainly don’t want to jump into another war of some kind just we’re finally getting out the last two Neo-Con fiascos. All Obama has to do is point that out and move on.

  14. Submitted by Jon Lord on 06/04/2014 - 09:17 am.

    It’s been said

    The New World Order! Kagan advocates for war as the New World Order.

    In the novel 1984 Winston Smith finally realized that insanity was the only thing that would keep him from being punished. “War is Peace”, “Freedom is Slavery”, “Strength is Ignorance”. I mean, how insane is that?

    Economic ruin through decades of isolationism brought the USSR to it’s knees while Reagan was in office. The USSR would have crumbled no matter who was in office. Russia however, still exists.

  15. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/04/2014 - 09:44 am.

    Commander-in-Chief military experience

    I’m convinced that much of Obama’s problems with his abysmal foreign policy record is that he has no military experience, nor do any of his White House inner circle.

    Prior to Bill Clinton, no post WW2 president had ever been elected who had not served in the military. Those who hadn’t served need not even apply.

    So when Clinton, who had been quoted as saying that he “loathed the military,” was elected over George Bush, a man who had been the youngest Navy combat pilot in history, I frankly knew it was all over. The nation’s soul had been lost forever.

    And then as if to rub salt into the wound, to put the final nail in the coffin of a society that had been always willing to fight and die for its freedom, they elected Barack Obama over a Navy fighter pilot who had been shot down on a combat mission against communists and who spent 6 plus years as a brutalized POW.

    That national preference for a politician who promised to re-distribute the wealth over a true patriot with a history of self-sacrifice is now coming home to roost, to quote his alleged pastor.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/04/2014 - 02:58 pm.


      If elected, he would have been the oldest (72) person to become president.

      He also picked a VP that raised big questions with a large segment of the population.

      That was the fork in his election hopes.

      His “self-sacrifice” was in offering up Palin as a worthy successor.

    • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 06/04/2014 - 02:40 pm.

      Military experience

      I’m sure you were distraught when a Vietnam war hero lost to a National Guard deserter.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/04/2014 - 04:20 pm.

        Kerry’s no hero

        And anybody who thinks he is needs to talk to a few Vietnam vets. Kerry faked the paperwork to get three purple hearts because that was the ticket home. His own crew has said that.

        George Bush flew interceptors for TANG and his performance reviews were stellar. He was excused from his reservist duties to work on a political campaign. But don’t let the truth prevent you from perpetuating nonsense.

        • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/04/2014 - 07:35 pm.

          …. But don’t let the truth prevent you from perpetuating nonsense….

          says the man in the ‘swift boat’.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/05/2014 - 03:26 pm.

          He also chose

          to fly a plane that was scheduled to be phased out, so there was not chance he would see combat.
          As to Kerry, no one has yet documented those claims (libels would be a better term).
          And they were made not by the crew of his own boat (who supported him), but by the crew of another boat who were not involved in the same actions, and thus had no basis (other than politics) for their claims.
          Kerry may not have been a hero, but he did serve honorably, and he did face enemy fire (unlike some ‘professional veterans’).

        • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 06/06/2014 - 12:44 pm.

          2000 election

          How do you know he wasn’t referring to the 2000 Republican Presidential Nomination?

    • Submitted by Jon Lord on 06/05/2014 - 07:03 am.

      And then

      that Navy fighter pilot, at an advancing age, began to tell about an incident where the hero of the novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book, The Gulag Archipelago, is talking with another prisoner. With each retelling he himself began to think he was that person. That did not go unnoticed.

  16. Submitted by jason myron on 06/04/2014 - 03:13 pm.

    So the people should have elected

    McCain based on the fact that he was shot down and imprisoned? That’s quite a template for a presidency. The fact that McCain wants to go to war with anyone over anything is vindication enough that America made the right choice. Love the hyperbole of a statement like “The nation’s soul had been lost forever,” however. Sounds like it was torn right out of a John Milius screenplay.

  17. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/04/2014 - 03:22 pm.


    “Prior to Bill Clinton, no post WW2 president had ever been elected who had not served in the military. Those who hadn’t served need not even apply.”

    Yeah, because Roosevelt who never served did such a lousy job of winning the biggest war the US ever fought.. on two fronts no less. Meanwhile “Didn’t show up for duty” Bush did such a bang of job of bringing us to war with Iraq and gettin er done right.

    All the Neo-cons have is an impressive list of fiasco’s and illegal interventions supplemented with false claims about “winning” the cold war as apposed to just being there with the Soviet Union collapsed upon it’s own weight and morphed into the problem it is today.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/05/2014 - 03:30 pm.

      And of course

      the justification for WWII was clear (we were actually attacked and faced an existential threat), and a large proportion of able bodied males of service age served in the military. So it’s not surprising that most politicians of that era had served in the military. Different situation, not different people.

  18. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 06/04/2014 - 08:56 pm.

    A Large Number of Americans Have Grown Sick to Death

    of these aging Neocons using our tax dollars and our sons and daughters to turn international relations into nothing more than the psychodrama they feel they need to prove that they’re still acceptably tough and masculine,…

    sending the US military into ill advised wars so that those who did everything in their power to stay OUT of the military when there actually was a war, or if that couldn’t be avoided, to stay as far as possible from combat, to NOW prove how “tough” they are (when it’s all B.S. and they’re just trying to hide their own cowardice) and prove to themselves that they’ve still “got it,”…

    using our troops as if they were nothing but G.I. Joe (and Jane) action figures in a cartoon,…

    and, of course, to assuage their fears of inadequacy by playing out the homoerotic “my missile’s bigger than your missile” game using whole nations as their game pieces.

    …and some of us need to remember that, although we thank them for their service, time on a submarine is NOTHING like the close, bloody, violent, watching your friends get blown to pieces combat that the troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan have had and continue to experience.

    Thank you for service, but it’s NOT the same thing.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/05/2014 - 07:30 am.

      Playing piccolo in the Coast Guard band

      is not the same thing either, but at least they put on the uniform and served their country, pledging to die for it if necessary.

  19. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 06/04/2014 - 11:21 pm.

    I suppose it takes more “muscle” to be bully-on-the-globe, but..

    Sounds like military might is accepted as the ‘muscle’ that feeds into the belief that we are ‘exceptional’ and what ever we do; how many wars we create feeds into one overbearing, worn-out label that makes us above-the rest?

    We play bully on-the-globe even as we lose wars and call them victorious…even as we victimize our own young men and women and never blink as we view the death of so many others ( but not ours so who cares,eh?) in those “interventions”?

    Obama is working with his policy hands tied behind his back by the mediocrity of a congress that are only concerned about their future as part of that body of fools who have betrayed us too often.

    We call soldiers “warriors’ now to entice them to believe they will always be heroes…sad indeed how we praise them but do not respect their right to be.

    We cannot bring back the dead or put a flag ( made in China) on their grave stone without feeling some sense of guilt and sadness for the Bush wars that began this war-is-the-answer journey into muscle making misconceptions that believes might-makes right.

    No body loves us anymore just could be true…need we wonder why?

  20. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 06/05/2014 - 11:50 am.

    Military Expenditures

    The bottom line here is we really can’t afford to be the police force for the entire world. Other countries need to step up to the plate and cover their own areas if they want to promote peace and stability. Our military budget is how much bigger than everyone else combined? If I remember correctly, it’s the next nine countries on the list. We have more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world.

    We simply can’t afford that huge of a budget. Especially when you consider that our roads and bridges are crumbling. We need to take that money and invest it here at home, not in some country halfway around the world.

    Let’s bring the troops home and invest in ourselves. Syria’s neighbors need to get their act together and take care of Syria.

  21. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/07/2014 - 02:01 pm.

    Whenever someone suggests that

    military engagement isn’t the best solution to a particularly problem or that the United States really can’t do anything about a certain international situation, the neocons cry, “You’re an isolationist!”

    No, actually, it’s the neocons are the real isolationists. They ‘re isolated from a number of realities:

    1) Purported “U.S. interests” are sometimes just the interests of its corporate sector and either have no bearing on the welfare of the American people or harm the country by wasting resources in stupid wars.

    2) Other countries have legitimate interests, too, such as not having the U.S. interfere in their elections or engineer the overthrow of their elected leaders, a right to secure borders, being permitted to experiment with social and economic models other than those that prevail in the U.S., and being able to control their own natural resources.

    3) Just because a rival of the U.S. is on one side in a conflict does not automatically make the other side “the good guys.” Sometimes there are no “good guys” in a conflict.

    4) While the neocons claim that failure to act militarily makes other countries look down on the U.S., the opposite is true. Anti-Americanism is precisely the result of overbearing American attempts to subdue or blackmail other countries.

    5) World War II and the Cold War are over. There is no one who needs to be “contained,” and some of the countries that the mainstream media portray as our enemies actually have less repressive governments and better living conditions than our supposed friends.

    6) Before trying to fix the entire world, we have a lot of work to do to fix this country. Anyone who has traveled to Western Europe or East Asia knows that many features and institutions of our country seem shabby in comparison to what can be found in other First World countries.

    6) Every military venture that the U.S. has engaged in since the Korean War has been in some sense stupid, usually because of one or more of the factors above.

  22. Submitted by Kurt Anderson on 06/08/2014 - 03:20 pm.

    Churchill and the neocons

    Churchill was hopelessly archaic regarding India and perhaps other questions affecting the British Empire, but he was dead-on accurate in assessing Hitler. I would keep an ear open to the neocons despite their costly error in Iraq — especially when their tunes fall into harmony with their “realist” adversaries such as Mearsheimer. Ukraine and the Spratly Islands tensions may be leading up to our Rhineland moment(s), and whether you call it geo-realpolitik or defending the frontiers of freedom, we need to view these situations very seriously.

    Time and time again since 2009, I have been amazed to look back and see how Obama has walked through the tide of criticism on various issues and has gotten the policy right. I hope I will be able to do that again. The Euro-sanctions and renewed defense arrangements with the Philippines are welcome indicators, but time will tell.

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