Why the U.S. is rarely at peace and often seeking monsters to destroy

REUTERS/Marko Djurica
We are always going abroad, at least partly seeking monsters to destroy.

This is not normal for the ordinary nations of the world, but the United States is pretty much never at peace, although the degree to which we are “at war” rises and falls.

And, to the degree that we are sometimes approaching that happy state where our military isn’t killing anyone and the CIA isn’t plotting the covert overthrow of any foreign government, there is at least a permanent discussion of whether we should be killing or overthrowing somewhere in “bad guy” territory.

(And, as I’ve mentioned recently, the U.S. public generally starts out believing that the war will be worth it but eventually concludes that it wasn’t.)

Washington-based journalist Robert Parry, editor of Consortium News and who broke some of the biggest elements of the Iran-Contra story, has continued to shine a light on the doings of the permanent war party.

In an overview of how this works, Parry calls the permanent war-sters by two labels,  “Neo-conservatives” and “liberal interventionists,” and, in a recent effort to explain the whole phenomenon, he lumps them together as “the anti-realism.”

It’s a long piece and I highly recommend it to those who can handle an unsentimental discussion of U.S. actions in the world over recent history.

Parry starts with a great quote from John Quincy Adams, in 1821 when he was secretary of state under President James Monroe:

Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will [the United States’] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

For many decades now, the reality has been roughly the opposite. We are always going abroad, at least partly seeking monsters to destroy and perhaps to benefit various elements of the military-industrial complex and the U.S-based multinational corporations. The resulting wars and covert overthrows, Parry suggests, seldom deliver real democracy or the better future to the target people.

I can’t do Parry’s analysis justice here, but I can recommend that you click through and read the whole thing. Here’s one more taste from Parry’s summary section, which is in some ways a summary of his life’s work:

These interventions are always dressed up as moral crusades — the need to free some population from the clutches of a U.S.-defined “monster.” There usually is some “crisis” in which the “monster” is threatening “innocent life” and triggering a “responsibility to protect” with the catchy acronym, “R2P.”

But the reality about these “anti-realists” is that their actions, in real life, almost always inflict severe harm on the country being “rescued.” The crusade kills many people — innocent and guilty — and the resulting disorder can spread far and wide, like some contagion that cannot be contained. The neocons and the liberal interventionists have become, in effect, carriers of the deadly disease called chaos.

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Comments (60)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/20/2015 - 09:01 am.

    Shorter version:If it

    Shorter version:

    If it doesn’t personally affect you, let it go, you’ll just f** it up trying to fix it.

    Live and let (despots) live.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/20/2015 - 03:20 pm.

    This is what empires do

    The British Raj had the same problem (sometimes in the same places; read your Kipling, such as ‘The Ballad of East and West’).

  3. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 01/20/2015 - 10:17 am.

    The term,….

    “liberal interventionalist” fits this administration perfectly. They have forgotten that the purpose of the US military is to defend this country, not to do the heavy lifting for sleazy organizations like the UN. Barack Hussein Obama was elected partly on his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now he is enjoying having the command of the worlds largest military at his fingertips.

    But wait, there’s more. Had John McCain been elected, it would have been worse. We would have been fighting wars everywhere.

    • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 01/20/2015 - 10:52 am.

      interventionalist

      “”liberal interventionalist” fits this administration perfectly. They have forgotten that the purpose of the US military is to defend this country, not to do the heavy lifting for sleazy organizations like the UN.”

      It would also fit the Clinton administration perfectly as well.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 01/20/2015 - 08:59 pm.

        Rest assured it will fit a NEW Clinton administration, too,…

        …if that’s what comes out of the next presidential sweepstakes.

        Bill Clinton was mistaken for a thorough-going liberal. He was actually a very conservative Democrat, as is Hilary.

        Of course, they both also espouse liberal causes, but when push comes to shove and the money’s on the table, they can be counted on to lean to the right in contradiction of their liberal claims.

        Consider, in war policy, these examples: Bosnia – Yes ! Rwanda – No !

  4. Submitted by Doug Gray on 01/20/2015 - 11:13 am.

    plus ce change

    As opposed to the George II Administration, who to judge by results invaded Iraq in order to do the heavy lifting for Iran and China?

  5. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/20/2015 - 11:34 am.

    He didn’t serve

    We get it.

    It’s just amusing the lengths of rationalization that people will go to to assuage their guilt for not manning-up when it was their turn, that’s all.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/20/2015 - 02:28 pm.

      Guilt?

      In order to feel guilty about not doing something, you have to believe that what you did not do was the right thing. I do not feel guilty about not having participated in any of the interventions that would have involved me (R. Wilson Reagan’s splendid little invasion of Grenada, his Republic serial episode in Lebanon, or Bush pere’s Operation Just ‘Cuz in Panama). Those forays were, at best, wasteful neo-imperialist blustering that should never have happened.

      Guilt would be over not having served in a just war. Since I was not alive during the Second World War, I need feel no guilt about not having served.

  6. Submitted by Tom Rees on 01/20/2015 - 11:36 am.

    And who warned us?

    “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
    Full text: http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/indust.html

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 01/20/2015 - 01:33 pm.

      And the administrations since have all ignored

      The truth of Eisenhower’s statement, plus ignore the lessons of Vietnam

  7. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 01/20/2015 - 12:27 pm.

    Militaries

    The U.S. spends as much on its military as the next sixteen nations combined.

    That’s a lot of dough!

    Couldn’t we pare that back a bit and only spend as much as, say, the next five countries? But we have this huge military that presidents want to use, Congress berates him for not using it, and soldiers get to be maimed and killed by being used.

    Basically the military is a huge jobs program on several different fronts. (Pardon the phrase.) Privates are drawn from the poor who are looking for a job, an education, and benefits. States love the military because of all the money they bring into the area. Don’t believe me? Just try closing a base in your state.

    Then there are corporations, who love the contracts for everything from weapons systems to munitions to food service. If you try to cancel a weapons contract, then senators and lobbyists come into play, pointing out all the jobs that will be lost and the competitive edge we lose against our hypothetical opponent. They’ll even tell you that we need to keep building so many aircraft carriers, submarines, and guided missile cruisers per year or we’ll lose the capability to manufacture them.

    Not once does someone stop to ask if we need those systems in the first place.

    Maybe we should pause for a moment and think about what could be accomplished if we put all those people and funds into improving our country. Perhaps a couple of billion dollars into NASA to go back to the moon instead of a couple billion into new tanks. Or soldiers building soccer fields in Nebraska instead of in Iraq.

    Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t have a military to defend our boarders, but rather do we need a military that big.

    Just a little food for thought for you folks.

  8. Submitted by David LaPorte on 01/20/2015 - 01:13 pm.

    Intervention isn’t always a bad idea

    although it often is.

    There are, however, exceptions. In my opinion, Bosnia was a war where intervention was the right thing to do. We could have stood by (and we did for too long) as the Serbs slaughtered the Muslims. When we finally intervened, it was far less of a quagmire than anyone had expected. And we save thousands of innocent lives.

    Obviously, Iraq and Afghanistan are entirely different. But, rather than dismissing all interventions as mistakes, we should learn what we can from both the successes and the failures and use those lessons to inform future decisions.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/20/2015 - 03:27 pm.

      People who serve

      don’t get to pick and choose which wars are worthy of their participation. You either volunteer to fight and if necessary, die for your country or you don’t. Fight or flight is a decision made prior to volunteering.

      It seems the “don’ts” vastly outnumber the “do’s” in this modern nation of armchair generals.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/20/2015 - 03:54 pm.

        Armchair Generals

        I’m sorry if you disapprove, but I don’t think it’s healthy for the nation to send as many soldiers to fight as many dubious wars as it has. As an American citizen, I happen to think it was a bad idea to spill as much blood as was spilled in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have never been convinced that the original invasion of Iraq in 1991 was necessary. The invasion of Panama, the strutting into (and slinking out of) Lebanon, and the frolic that was Grenada were all wastes of time, money, materiel, and lives (I am listing only those that have happened at a time when I would have been old enough to play).

        And I know you don’t like it, but the Constitution that you took an oath to uphold says that the military in the United States is under civilian control. You may call me an armchair general if you like, but as a citizen, I do not believe in using our Armed Forces to prove our manhood. Call me a “don’t,” if you prefer. Don’t send our soldiers to be killed for no good reason. Don’t invade other nations and kill their soldiers and civilians just because it’s cool. Don’t tie up billions of dollars of money in military posturing. Don’t go to war unless we have to.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 01/21/2015 - 09:46 am.

        “volunteer…and…die for your country”

        It is a vast confusion to believe that when our leaders blunder into a false basis for war – based upon misunderstanding, hubris, and corporate venality – that by enlisting in their foolishness, you are engaged in a noble pursuit, and by hiding under a cloak of faux patriotism, have no responsibility for your actions and their result.

        The long-delayed release of Lyndon Johnson’s White House tapes show clearly that very early in the Vietnam war, the leadership (including Johnson, Sec. of Defense MacNamara, and advisor Bundy) KNEW that the war was unwinnable – that the most that could possibly come of it was some vague notion of a standoff. While they dithered trying to figure out how they could possibly mitigate their (our) losses, many thousands more died from their lack of spine. And by the way, the Vietnamese don’t call it the Vietnam War – they call it the American War.

        When the fraudulent basis for the Iraq War was in full public view, I thought to myself that certainly, the American public would never forgive the President and his clique for such a massive blunder, costing so many lives and so much treasure and lost stature. Boy, was I wrong !! There are far more Americans with attitudes like your own than I believed.

        Neither of these wars was a matter of “fighting for your country” – quite the opposite, they have harmed our country’s vital interests.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 01/21/2015 - 11:02 am.

        It seems the “don’ts” vastly outnumber the “do’s”

        and that’s a good thing. I’ve always found it puzzling that the testosterone laden, flag wavers that hate government and think it couldn’t organize a one car funeral suddenly blindly trust that same government to determine which country they should send our young people to for a possibly ticket to eternity.

  9. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/20/2015 - 01:19 pm.

    Parry’s piece

    …reminds me of two things:

    First, Eisenhower’s prescient warning about the military-industrial complex, which we’ve ignored, with consequences that should have been predictable. Not only have we engaged in “live-fire” tests of weapons systems on populations that have done nothing to deserve being the subject of those tests, ignoring Eisenhower’s warning has led to regions and states in the U.S. that have become economically (and thus politically) dependent upon military contracts to sustain their economies, to the detriment of both the people and the civil institutions in those regions and states.

    Second, William Fulbright’s “The Arrogance of Power.” Some of the names and details have changed, but the overall picture remains accurate: that of a nation full of itself, believing its own propaganda about “exceptionalism,” and using that belief as justification for a long list of horrific military and foreign policy mistakes, not to mention the corrosion of its own internal political institutions. The personification of this ugly mind set and behavior, for me, at least, is former Vice-President Cheney, guilty of treason by the definition in the Constitution, who “had other priorities” when it was his turn to serve his country militarily, but who now routinely characterizes as a traitor anyone who disagrees with his neocon view of the world and our perverse foreign policy.

  10. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 01/20/2015 - 04:38 pm.

    We have made it much to easy.

    Require the armed forces to have sufficient man power to their needs: no more Haliburton or Blackwater. If truck drivers and cooks are needed and recruiting is unable to meet the need, a draft is required. Watch the attitudes towards going to war change when every 18 year old has an equal chance of being the one with a weapon or a potato peeler. Better yet, require every 18-22 year old to serve 1 year of national service: a 3 month basic training followed by anything from the Peace Corp to the Marine Corp. Our partisan generation does not benefit from the effect of sharing the same battles that the WW2 generation had.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/20/2015 - 05:01 pm.

      Nonsense

      Free societies don’t need to use conscripts to fight their wars. There have always been an ample supply of warriors willing to die so others may be free.

      Besides, the only people who I’ve ever heard suggest a military draft are those too old to be drafted.

      And ask anyone who’s ever served and they’ll tell you that they’d rather not go to battle with a man who doesn’t want to be there. “We would not die in that man’s company that fears his fellowship to die with us.”

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/20/2015 - 05:29 pm.

        If there hadn’t been a draft in WWII

        you’d be speaking German now,
        And conscription was in effect in the Revolution, the Civil War, and WWI.
        In fact, the Selective Service Act and System are still in effect — ‘draft cards’ are still being issued.
        I suspect that the President could legally reinstate the draft.

        • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 01/20/2015 - 07:09 pm.

          And..

          The war of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish American War, the Korean War and the Viet Nam War. Which is the sum total of all wars short of our current situation. The math of it is 9 wars over 200 years: a little over one war every 22 years conducted with draftees. In our current “ample supply of warriors willing to die so others may be free” we have 3 wars in 25 years for a little over 8 years between wars and the prospect of a fourth war (ISIS) and fifth (Iran) in 26 years fast approaching. And “ask anyone who’s ever served and they’ll tell you that they’d rather not go to battle with a man who doesn’t want to be there” is an insult to our drafted WW2 greatest generation soldiers.

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/20/2015 - 08:45 pm.

          My father enlisted

          On Monday morning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. According to him, there was a line around the block of men waiting to enlist.

          • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 01/21/2015 - 09:14 am.

            Oh,

            So your telling us there was no draft during WW2? Apocryphal stories aside, if we make it easy to go to war, we go to war more frequently and that is clearly evidenced by the events in Iraq. War should be the last resort of conflict resolution and anyone with rational reasoning ability knows we should have not invaded Iraq. Not in retrospect and not in the moment of the time. It was going to be cheap, easy and quick we were told, let’s do it. Cheap easy and quick is not a rationale to ask a soldier to give his life for his country. Take away the ability to put war on a credit card and the ability to hire $200,000 per year mercenary truck drivers and potato peelers and we will be better for it.

            • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/21/2015 - 04:24 pm.

              Right

              One reason why we need fewer troops now is the fact that many functions that used to be done by troops are now performed by mercenaries (er, ‘contractors’). And we’ve seen what happens with some of these literal loose cannons.

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/21/2015 - 04:28 pm.

            That means

            that you know that at least a hundred men volunteered, out of an army of millions.
            That’s why the volunteers that we rely on now are called back for seven or eight tours of duty — few people are interested in volunteering when there’s a chance that they’ll be shot at or blown up.
            Of course, there have been times in some of our lifetimes when one could volunteer and get a free (at the taxpayers’ cost) technical education at minimal personal risk.

  11. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/20/2015 - 07:39 pm.

    Nonsense

    The actual nonsense is in Mr. Tester’s comment.

    Yes, I might prefer to have someone who believes in the cause in the trench or cockpit or conning tower with me, but the U.S. has engaged in several wars for which there was NOT an “ample supply of warriors” willing to die. The Revolution, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam ALL relied on conscript soldiers to defend our interests, and sometimes, even the country itself. Prior to the 1970s, the only “major” war of note that relied on volunteers was our first little adventure in imperialism, the Spanish-American War. For our later imperial adventures, we’ve relied on volunteer forces, it’s true, but that tradition is only a generation old, and as RB Holbrook has pointed out, even our professional armed forces are under civilian control.

    • Submitted by Doug Gray on 01/21/2015 - 09:56 am.

      first blood

      Our first adventure in imperialism was the Mexican-American War in the 1840s. Since then, apart from the Civil War when we were busy killing each other, there have been few if any decades when U.S. troops have not been intervening in some country or other. The Long War differs in degree, not in kind, from the long, sad history of global U.S. militarism.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/21/2015 - 01:21 pm.

        Or put another way

        No nation has ever given as much in blood and treasure to secure the freedom of other people.

        • Submitted by Doug Gray on 01/21/2015 - 01:48 pm.

          and how’s that working out

          for the Iraqis we “liberated” from Saddam these days; or the Somalis; or the Yemenis; or the…

  12. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 01/20/2015 - 10:14 pm.

    The difference

    This time the referenced piece makes some sense. Yes, neo-conservatives and liberals are similar to some degree in their approach to international affairs in that they want to improve the lives of people living in those countries. It is a foolish and unachievable objective but they do believe in it (the open question is why liberals hate neo-conservatives so much for doing what they like doing?) even though it never works. But there is a big difference: Neo-conservatives go into countries where there are some American interests involved (security in most cases – or oil as liberals contends) so there is at least some reason to be involved (and if only they could stop at the right moment, after a victory but before getting involved in “helping,” some results may be positive). Liberals, on the other hand, go to countries where American interests are nowhere to be found (Yugoslavia, Ethiopia, Libya) so those affairs are as useless as anything can be and will always end in fiasco.

    As for the size of American military, we have to remember that it is used to defend not only America but the entire Europe (which couldn’t deal with Serbs or Kaddafi without American help) and Japan along with South Korea…

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/21/2015 - 10:01 am.

      neo-conservatives and liberals

      Most people apparently aren’t aware that the “neo conservatives” (new conservatives) that came to influence Bush, were Jewish intellectuals with names like Kristol, Wolfowitz, Podhoretz, who had come to realize that the Left in general and the European communists specifically, were anti-Semitic and were aligned with the Arabs and Palestinians in their beef against Israel.

      The purpose of the modern neocon movement has always been to save Israel from destruction, which started out as a mission to democratize the middle east under the theory that democracies don’t go to war against each other, to the more recent and realistic position of defending Israel militarily if that’s what it’s going to come down to.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 01/21/2015 - 11:24 am.

        Hence the problem…

        the thought that we can march into some country, whip a little democracy on them and everything comes up roses. That lesson should have been learned back in 1968, but apparently, those among us who still live in fear of the “red menace”, never received the memo.

  13. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/21/2015 - 08:05 am.

    So, at the end of the day, the phrase “That whole country is not worth one American soldier’s life”, applies across the board?

    No issue, no principle and no outrage too extreme to necessitate venturing outside of the border?

  14. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 01/21/2015 - 08:38 am.

    Wiping the oil off our faces is a tough one…

    Violence generates violence, it is the insidious nature of the act itself.

    With righteous certainty, the perpetrator of the retaliatory acts may claim all is a necessary means of deterring acts of violence by others, even if we are the first ones on the playing field… sometimes pushed into the field by bully corporations politicians and zealots, fundamentalists with a ‘savior’ complex?

    But in the silent moments of that introspective self, a dull, nagging doubt survives. So pertinaciously the warrior gods among us may perform or more safely, ‘delegate’ acts of violence again and again hoping to silence the dull throbbing, hoping to make it all right.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/21/2015 - 10:12 am.

    Parry’s a little off mark.

    The first half of Parry’s article, the conceptual framework, is glitchy and problematic and in the end provides a shaky basis continuity at best. The second half of the article where Parry describes the interventions is much stronger. Clearly Parry’s strength is as a reporter rather than political science or history.

    The attempt to define early neo-cons as “realists” as apposed to later neo-cons who were anti-realists is problematic for several reasons. Kissinger et al’s adventures in East Timor, Cambodia, the Middle East, and South/Central America were no more reality based than Bush’s invasion of Iraq or Reagan’s support for the Contra’s. There wasn’t rift between the “real” and the “unreal”, it was more like a generation gap.

    It’s important to remember that all these people were making stuff up, and they made up stuff within a given historical context. Kissinger, MacNamara, Kennedy, made stuff up about the communist threat. Clinton, and Bush had to make up stuff about other threats because the Soviet Union collapsed. That doesn’t make Cold War interventions more “reality” based than post Cold War interventions. I think the concept of “realists” risks lending far more credibility to Cold War interventionists than they deserve. It’s important not mistake a changer in rhetoric for a change in actual motivations.

    The notion of liberal interventionists is less problematic in some ways but it still runs into problem of confusing rhetoric with real underlying motivations. Just because Johnson framed the Vietnam war as a fight for South Vietnamese dignity doesn’t mean that was the US objective. Clinton’s escapades in Haiti had little to with Humanitarianism and produced little in the way of Humanitarian results.

    Parray’s over-all history is also a little askew. A lot of people like to reference Adam’s comment on “foreign entanglements” but the fact is two years later a different American President declared that any European attempts to colonize or interfere with South or Central American governments would be considered an act o Aggression against the US. (The Monroe Doctrine) It also depends what you mean by “foreign”, when the United States won it’s revolution everything beyond the 13 original states was “foreign” territory; expansion was clearly on the agenda, and the application of military force on behalf of that expansion is documented history., we fought Indian wars for what? 70 years? By the Time Adam’s warned us about foreign entanglements we had already invaded Canada and were building Fort Snelling here in MN. Within a few years the war with Mexico would appear on the horizon.

    It’s important not to confuse the rhetoric of a given era with the actual motivations behind US policy. The rhetoric may change but the motives don’t. The Narrative may change, but the story doesn’t. The basic motivations behind the Vietnam war were not that different from the war with Mexico or Custer’s invasion of the Dakota’s. The objective has always been colonization, effective control and dominance of geographical regions that can be exploited by US money’d interests. The seed of the Iraq wars were planted by Jimmy Carter when he declared that Middle East oil is an strategic US interest. This had nothing to do with anyone being “evil” despite later anti Saddam rhetoric by Clinton and Bush. So Cold War presidents use Soviet Expansion as an excuse for South and Central American intervention while Smedly Butler’s Presidents talked of Democracy, but the policy was the same.

    There are cleaner narratives for US policy over time than the one that Parry gives us. Back in the 60s Progressive intellectuals created the concept of Neo-Liberalism as a place where conservative and liberal interventionist converge. This is Market driven ideology where both Clinton and Bush find common ground, they offer different rationale’s for a given intervention but the agenda is the same. Basically the agenda is easy and cheap US access to a regions resources if not outright control by US corporate interest. For example the problem with Allende wasn’t that he was a Communist or Socialists, the problem was that he wanted to Nationalize Chile’s telephone system… which was run by AT&T at the time. The problem with Noriega in Panama wasn’t that he was evil, the problem was that he had become progressively more independent after being installed by the CIA. Independent governments, like the one Ho Chi Min would have set up in Vietnam, or Castro in Cuba, would not grant the kind of access that US interests demanded.

    John Stockwell did a good job of laying this narrative in his 1984 book: “In Search of Enemies” which focused on the CIA operations in Anglola. Then there’s Noam Chomsky’s 1991: “Deterring Democracy” and more recently: “Profit over People: Neoliberalism and the Global Order”. And of course if you want to see how US Presidents and leaders get those initial approval numbers for these interventions: “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media” by Herman and Chomsky is a must-read.

  16. Submitted by Ann Spencer on 01/21/2015 - 11:47 am.

    As usual, follow the money

    War is, among many other things, one of the most effective methods known to man for converting massive numbers of taxpayer dollars into private profit. That alone goes a long way toward explaining our seemingly perpetual state of war.

  17. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 01/21/2015 - 06:16 pm.

    Simple explanation

    The reason for American intervention shall be obvious to anyone: Great powers have interests everywhere. Costa Rica doesn’t care what happens in Southeast Asia and even if it did, it can’t do anything about that. America cares and can do something (in some cases it thinks that it can but in real world it is the same). So complaining about American intervention (or questioning it) is like grumbling about lions hunting zebras – it is natural and unavoidable.

    On the other hand, that old adage about “multi-national corporations” and “military-industrial complex” (by the way, a staple of any article in Pravda mentioning international affairs) has outlived itself. At some point in history, natural resources were the most valuable assets and many a war was fought over them. Then people (or labor force) became the thing to look for. But now it is the brains, invention, and technology that everyone is after and those are what no military operation or even territory conquest can deliver. Does China bring troops to American soil or just its cheap goods? On the other hand, we do not need an army to force Chinese to make those cheap goods for us…

    By the way, ideology and propaganda sometimes has a sneaky ability to affect its source which starts to believe its own creation. Chomski has as much understanding of today’s world as Suslov (an ideology leader of the Communist party in the Soviet Union) did; plus they also have many things in common, including hatred of America and Israel.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/22/2015 - 09:16 am.

      Today’s Wars

      I don’t see any wars being fought over brains, invention, or technology. It’s not like Seal Team 6 is flying into Bangalore to kidnap engineers. Wars today are fought over access to resources–oil, especially–no matter how we couch them as interventions to bring democracy to a benighted people. Once upon a time, these wars were fought over spices or opium. Little has changed, except the justification.

      You have a good point about intervention being inevitable. It’s what empires do. Unfortunately, they all tend to reach a bad end (not infrequently, in Afghanistan) and someone else comes along to take their place.

  18. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/21/2015 - 08:59 pm.

    You’re not referring to

    Noam Chomsky by any chance, are you?
    I don’t agree with his linguistics, but I haven’t seen any indication that he ‘hates’ America or Israel, although he often disagrees (as many of us do) with the policies of their governments.

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/22/2015 - 11:40 am.

    Empire?

    Yes, the United States is an Empire, and acts like one. But check it out… progressives who have been pointing that out since the 1850s (Henry David Thereau) have always been marginalized and shut out of the main stream discourse, why? This gets back to a comment I made elsewhere about the Kissinger-Zinn phenomena. Guys Like Howard Zinn who make the simple observation that these policies are those of an imperial empire (albeit without a Monarchy) are never interviewed or part of the conversation on Charlie Rose. Those who deny this simple observation in a variety of ways are standard fixtures of polite discourse. So despite the fact that we have a supposedly “independent” media, you’ll come away with a better understanding of the Iraq wars if you watch: “Three Days of the Condor” than you will after watching months of “Meet the Nation”.

    This talk about Empire actually points to another observation I like make every chance I get: a substantial number of our current crop of “conservative” republicans on a very basic level don’t actually believe in democracy. As ILya put’s it:

    “So complaining about American intervention (or questioning it) is like grumbling about lions hunting zebras – it is natural and unavoidable.”

    In liberal democracies like ours, government policy is supposed to reflect the will of the people, as long as the people aren’t behaving like a mob. In democracies, citizens are actually supposed to question and complain about bad government policies. And in fact, if our government actually did base it’s policy on the will of the people fiascso’s like the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, and Iraq, would never have happened. None of these were grass roots initiatives that grew out of public discontent. The vast majority of Americans would rather just buy their gasoline, even at $4.00 a gallon, than send their kids to far off lands to fight and die for it. And the people would be right, the price of oil was cheap compared to the price of the war. You can’t promote America as an Empire, and support it as a democracy at the same time.

  20. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/22/2015 - 12:49 pm.

    Recite the Pledge of Allegiance

    There’s a difference between a Republic and a Democracy.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/22/2015 - 01:50 pm.

      Actualy, our republic IS a democracy.

      This idea that we live in a “republic” instead of a democracy is pure sophistry. The fact that we don’t have a system that requires every citizen vote on everything the government does i.e. “direct” democracy, or a single state, i.e. a nation without local semi-autonomous government units, does not mean this isn’t a democratic form of government. The distinction between a representative liberal democracy and a “republic” is a distinction in search of a difference. The Federalists won the constitutional debate here in the United States. No modern nation functions as a direct democracy, or without local government units, yet we don’t deny that there are democratic forms of governments in the world.

      But again, this refrain, that we don’t live in a democracy, is a typical refrain from those who don’t actually believe in democracy, and illustrates my point rather well. It’s a bit mental mental gymnastics that pretends one can be a patriot without supporting basic democratic principles the nation is founded upon. This rhetoric allows one to pretend that a “republic” can be an empire because our empire is not a democracy, thus one can reject democratic principles and claim to be a patriot at the same time.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 01/22/2015 - 05:36 pm.

        I for one

        Wish that they would just come clean about what they are, feudalists. Conservatism, especially of the neocon ilk, is simply hellbent on bringing about a return to what this country ostensibly rebelled against. Authority = order and stability I guess, crushing those you disdain into a permanent underclass is a tempting fringe benefit too, ( if one is “confident”, enough to really believe they will somehow be left out when this underclass is created, that is).

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/22/2015 - 07:35 pm.

        The point is

        that we have entrusted decision making to elected representatives.
        People who say that when we disagree with the decisions made by those representatives we should over rule them with a referendum, rather than be electing new representatives are distorting the way our system works.
        The Founders did NOT want mob (‘demos’ in Greek) rule, and set up a system to prevent it.

        Of course, ‘democracy’ has also become a political slogan do distinguish between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

        And I’d say that our political system, however you label it, governs the relationships among citizens.
        There’s nothing in having a democratic governing system that is incompatible with forming an empire; that’s a relationship with other nations.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/23/2015 - 09:43 am.

          Huh?

          “People who say that when we disagree with the decisions made by those representatives we should over rule them with a referendum, rather than be electing new representatives are distorting the way our system works.”

          Who said anything about referendums? Again, this is a representative democracy, but a democracy nevertheless. Oddly enough the biggest champions of constant referendums these days are the people who don’t believe we live in a democracy- note the last two referendums on the MN ballot and who put them there.

          I’ve never seen anyone suggest we override the decision to launch military interventions with some kind of referendum. What we’re talking about here is a hijacked democracy and the failure of accountability. Referendums aren’t the solution, a truly informed citizenry, as apposed to a misinformed and manipulated citizenry is the solution. The current discussion is basically examining the phenomena of a democracy with a supposedly “independent” media and all kinds of free speech rights wherein the citizens are consistently blinded by propaganda. The question is: “how does that happen and why?” The problem isn’t how to override our elected representatives whether we’re talking about Viking stadiums or Iraq wars; the problem is getting our representatives to represent us. We understand how the system works, we’re just pointing out the fact that it’s not working the way it’s supposed to.

  21. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 01/22/2015 - 07:28 pm.

    Not an empire

    Empire definition: a group of countries or regions that are controlled by one ruler or one government. Sorry, this definition is not applicable to America as it does not rule other countries and regions and, more importantly, does not have a desire to rule them. So let’s put this word (usually viewed negatively) to rest. On the other hand, America is a single dominating force in the world and, as I said many times before, the world should be happy that it is because an alternative is Russia or China (or a multi-polar world which is even worse since it guarantees that wars for domination will be endless). The best and quietest time in the world was when everyone understood the American superiority and its ability and readiness to strike – right after 9/11 and until we blew up the victory in Iraq. A small nuclear device dropped at Tora-Bora not only would have killed bin Laden but would have sealed this quiet in the world for a long time thus saving countless lives.

    Mr. Holbrook, it is much cheaper to buy oil than go to war over it (and Mr. Udstrand mentioned that as well) so NO current war has been fought over oil. I gave an example of cheap Chinese goods that we are getting without any war or threats. And, to put this to rest, I also do not see Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney becoming world’s richest men over Iraqi oil that they supposedly were lusting after in 2003.

    America is a democracy and in democracies government is supposed to do what people want it to do and that thing is security above all and that is what American government is doing – sometimes better, sometimes worse. I pointed it out before but can repeat here again: The main job of the government is to provide security to the people, internal and external and, ironically, that is what liberals do not trust it to do by demanding explanation of every strike abroad and questioning police actions all the time. On the other hand, they (liberals) trust government in everything else like economy, social changes, medical help, etc. But security is the area where we, the people, cannot check the government because we do not (and should not) know all classified information about what bad guys do. However, in economy, social engineering, education, etc. we do know all the facts and can make intelligent choices and make decisions. Please explain this contradiction to me…

    Mr. Brandon, I was talking about Noam Chomsky. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with this country’s government (or any other country’s government, of course) – in fact it is a responsibility of a good citizen to question what government does. But if one ALWAYS disagrees with the policies of one’s own country and ALWAYS finds fault with it (and that country is a free and decent one) while finding multiple excuses for terrorists and all despots and dictators of the world, that person cannot be taken seriously and clearly either doesn’t have a clue or doesn’t want to have a clue for whatever reason.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/23/2015 - 09:17 am.

      “NO current war has been fought over oil?”

      It is true that it is “cheaper” to buy oil than fight over it. In a rational world, that would mean that no one would fight over oil. We do not, however, live in a rational world.

      Why did we go to war in Iraq in 1991? Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, with one of the provocations being Kuwait tapping into oil fields claimed by Iraq. Why did the US care about the government of Kuwait? It wasn’t to promote democracy–Kuwait is, and remains, a theocratic monarchy, making 1991 the year American soldiers were sent to die to put a king back on his throne (please stop spinning in your graves, Messrs. Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin–you’ll frighten the children). The US turned on its former ally to ensure a steady, economical supply of oil. It’s all very well to say we find it more economical to buy oil, instead of fight for it. In order to buy, someone has to be willing to sell.

      It was also cheaper to buy nutmeg, opium, or rubber than to fight over it. That calculus did not stop those wars.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/23/2015 - 10:15 am.

        Uh huh…

        “The US turned on its former ally to ensure a steady, economical supply of oil. It’s all very well to say we find it more economical to buy oil, instead of fight for it. In order to buy, someone has to be willing to sell.”

        “We’re sitting on billions and billions of dollars worth of oil but we’re not selling any of it”… Said no one ever. At the start of the 2nd Iraq War oil was selling for $35 a barrel.

        Just because national leaders have a rationale for their wars, doesn’t mean they’re always right. Vietnam, Iraq, etc. were huge mistakes and they were not mistakes driven by popular demand.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/23/2015 - 10:41 am.

          Buying and selling

          In any narcotic sale, who has the upper hand–the dealer, or the junky?

          It’s the same thing with oil. Demand is inelastic and can go down only so far. The price may fluctuate, but eventually, someone is going to have to buy it.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/23/2015 - 11:25 am.

            Oil addiction

            I think the “addiction” metaphor is way overplayed when it comes to oil. Complex energy markets and demands don’t lend themselves well to 12 step or street seller analogies.

            Demand for oil can actually be quite elastic, US demand for Saudi oil has dropped by almost 50% I think for instance. A decade ago no nation on the planet was committed to 100% renewable energy, and politicians are now arguing that gas taxes can’t fund our infrastructure because we’re burning less and less gas.

            We didn’t fight a war for oil because no one was selling us oil, or even threatening to stop selling us oil. It was just an ill conceived grab for Iraqi oil. Even if oil supply were to have tightened, that would have driven up the price and eventually made the oil shale reserves economical anyways, without a war. If push came to shove we could always have just directly subsidized fracking, that would still have been cheaper than the war. We didn’t need to get a million Iraqi’s killed, or bring thousands of Americans home in body bags and pieces. The reason Americans have decided the war was a bad idea is it WAS a really really bad idea. That’s the thing to keep in mind- when American’s decide these wars were a bad idea… they’re right.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/23/2015 - 12:58 pm.

              Agreed

              I recall reading back in ’91 that we would one day look on wars for oil the same way as we now look at wars for spices or opium. “Why did they bother?” As Mr. Gutman pointed out, it makes more sense just to buy the stuff.

              Of course, if we were rational animals, none of this discussion would be necessary.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/23/2015 - 12:07 pm.

      In a democracy you don’t get to dictate priorities

      “America is a democracy and in democracies government is supposed to do what people want it to do and that thing is security above all and that is what American government is doing ”

      Yes, and here’s where we point out the fact that public opinion poll in the US rarely put “security” at the top of the list. For a while after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, terrorism was up there, but the economy was the major concern most of the Iraq war. Security may be YOUR priority, but isn’t THE priority, and for a very good reason… the last time the US mainland was invaded by a foreign power was in 1812. None of he conflicts we’ve been discussing involved any credible threat to the United States. From missile gaps, to domino’s, to WMD’s, we faced manufactured threats, not REAL threats. The sad fact is that between the Civil War and the 2nd war with Iraq only two conflicts can be said to have been about US security: WWII and Afghanistan. So no, the government isn’t doing security, in fact quite the opposite (As Parry correctly points out, Afghanistan under the communists was less of a threat than Afghanistan under the Taliban turned out to be). And security isn’t the thing above all else that American’s want their government to do.

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/23/2015 - 11:47 am.

    Anyways…

    We’re rarely at “peace” because we have an aggressive and violent prone government for a variety of reasons. The fact is that with the exception of WWII Japan and Germany the United States has attacked and invaded, either directly or indirectly, more nations than any other country on the planet. War isn’t just something that “descends” on us… I’m afraid it’s who we are.

  23. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 01/23/2015 - 07:37 pm.

    War and peace

    Mr. Holbrook, the reason we went to Iraq in 1991 was not oil supply (Saddam would have continued to sell Kuwaiti oil the same way Kuwait had been selling it, maybe even cheaper – no change here) but a threat to the world order: You can’t allow countries to invade their neighbors with impunity. Of course, the fact that Kuwait was considered our ally made this intervention absolutely necessary. And no, at some point in history, it was cheaper to conquer the territory than to buy some materials, especially considering that the infrastructure had to be built and security had to be provided. So to reiterate, both Iraq wars had nothing to do with oil and desire to control it – the second one was also to maintain the world order because Saddam was violating countless UN resolutions defying the US and daring it to do something (of course, all intelligence services of the world also believed that Saddam was building nukes so that was the last drop). And again, war was won easily and quickly, it was the democracy building that was a failure.

    Mr. Udstrand, security is not a priority for people exactly because the American government is doing a relatively good work of providing it. People would never consider what they already have a priority – it is always what they do not have and want (would a millionaire call money a priority?); that is why after 9/11 security became a priority. So this just proves my point that people do need security first, above all, and if they have it, then they will think of other things. On the other hand, you keep saying that there is no threat but how do you know? Have you been present during all presidential security briefings? Are you reading all CIA and FBI reports? You did not address my question: How come you do not trust government with security and international politics but trust with finances and social changes? By the way, if America did not do what it had to do, we would not be writing this now since Communist Party of America would not like it.

    • Submitted by Terry Hayes on 01/27/2015 - 09:35 am.

      WOW….so many words, so few facts

      In the first place, freedom is more important than security. That’s what Ben Franklin meant when he said those who love security more than freedom deserve neither.
      Secondly, ‘You can’t allow countries to invade their neighbors with impunity.’ But if they’re not your neighbors it’s okay not only to invade them but to pulverize and destroy them?
      Thirdly, Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction (ask Colin Powell to explain it to you) and he was not responsible for 9/11.
      Fourthly, you should read the PNAC manifesto and note how oddly it presages the events of the Bush/Cheney regime.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 01/27/2015 - 06:52 pm.

        Just a few words

        What Franklin meant was that people should fight for their freedom instead of living in secure slavery. And that is exactly what America is doing by killing terrorists when it can. I do not feel myself any less free since 9/11 but I feel more secure (well, felt until six years ago). You see, terrorism did not exist at Franklin’s times…

        Invading other countries and pulverizing them… I think you mean something… Oh, maybe Iraq… but they pulverized themselves.

        Maybe I had too many words to read… but I actually said that “all intelligence services of the world believed at that time that Saddam had WMD.”

        As for PNAC “manifesto,” why do I need to read it if I lived through those times and can make my own opinion?

  24. Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 01/26/2015 - 01:00 pm.

    “Perhaps”???

    “perhaps to benefit various elements of the military-industrial complex and the U.S-based multinational corporations.”

    That has to be the funniest use of “perhaps” in recorded history.

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