When war against tyrants makes you cozy up to tyrants....that's the Ziocon's policies at work....
No, no, no, writes Leslie H. Gelb, to the neoconservatives once again rising from the undead to lead America to another war, bigger Pentagon budgets, and a bizarre blame game over Iraq.
They’re back! The neoconservatives who gave America clueless, unpaid-for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus a near doubling of military expenditures, during the Bush years have risen from their political graves. Someone, maybe a media tiring of President Obama’s interminable plight, pulled the stake from their heart. Now they’ve returned to the op-ed pages, the talk shows, the think-tank discussions, and the advisory ranks of Republican presidential candidates.
I find it hard to believe that any of these new tricks will work, but I have come never to underestimate the neoconservatives, that formidable group mostly of Republicans who sprang from the loins of the great Democratic senator from Washington, Henry “Scoop” Jackson. They are very smart and far tougher than their liberal and moderate opponents. They write and speak with far greater simplicity and force. (Democrats just must make 17 complicated points about everything.) They are always relentless and on the attack. The only ones to stand up to them effectively have been other Republicans, specifically the best of the foreign-policy realists such as George Shultz, James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, and George H.W. Bush.
Here’s a standard technique for the neoconservatives: One of America’s many nasty enemies does something provocative, as they inevitably do. The neocons say the president has to get tougher. Then the enemy does another nasty thing, and the neocons say the president wasn’t tough enough. And so on until they’re off to the races and suggesting that the only effective means to stop the devils is a bombing attack, or a hundred thousand troops, in and out quickly, of course. If some poor Democratic president doesn’t follow their advice, he’s labeled a wimp who is endangering U.S. security. If the wimp starts a war, the game continues with charges that the president isn’t really trying to “win” the war and should be adding more troops. We’ve heard this routine so many times, you’d think that the wimpy Democrats would have built up some immunity, and that the media would stop providing the bullhorns. Alas, it goes on and on.
Iran sits atop the neocons’ list of priorities. Beyond argument, its leaders are dangerous. They are probably trying to construct nuclear weapons. On top of this, we seemingly have some Quds Force general buying a hit on the Saudi ambassador in a D.C. restaurant. Bill Kristol is leading the charge, calling the recent alleged Iranian assassination plot “an engraved invitation” to use force. He continued: “We can strike at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and weaken them. And we can hit the regime’s nuclear weapons program, and set it back.” Were these mere musings? No! He goes on to say that if the White House doesn’t use force, Congress should authorize force against a variety of Iranian targets, and against its “nuclear weapons program.”
Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is equally direct. He approves the administration’s current efforts to tighten and target. “But they will not scare it,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “The White House needs to respond militarily to this outrage. If we don't, we are asking for it.” And what of the likely wave of terrorist attacks that will follow worldwide from such attacks? The Iranians are not going to just cower in the corner because we talk and act tough. Alas, that just doesn’t happen. They escalate, too.
And in case you believed that Republicans, faced with America’s economic calamity and indebtedness, won’t press for higher military spending, take another look. Mitt Romney, the moderate establishment candidate, wants to put a 4 percent floor on the baseline defense budget. According to The Wall Street Journal, that would amount to about a $30 billion increase over the current base. In his recent foreign-policy speech and white paper, Romney proposed increasing Navy ship production: “I will reverse the hollowing of our Navy and announce an initiative to increase the shipbuilding rate from 9 per year to 15. I will begin reversing Obama-era cuts to national missile defense and prioritize the full deployment of a multilayered national ballistic missile defense system.” Those bills would be incalculably high.
The neocons’ Iraq caper irritates me particularly because of its blatant hypocrisy. Their line is that Obama will “lose” Iraq to Iran because of the decision he made to take out all U.S. forces from that country. The formidable John Bolton puts it this way in The Daily Beast: “The consequence of an Obama policy that continues the withdrawal of American forces down to zero in Iraq would unquestionably strengthen Iran.” Well, Obama didn’t invent that policy—George W. Bush did. He was the one who approved the agreement with Iraq to completely withdraw all U.S. forces by the end of 2012. Bush had little choice because the Iraqi government would accept no less. Obama also has little choice because Iraq won’t give American soldiers immunity from prosecution. Frankly, if anyone lost Iraq to Iran, it was the neocons. It was they who pressed to crush Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and when they did, they destroyed the only regional counterweight to Iran. Take a bow, neocons....
The whole Cheney vist was ugly. All the locals were afraid to speak, to complain about the parking, to say anything whatever about the USA, about Americans in general. The entire town just froze up. I will never forget it.
This is the sort of power that the Neocons wish to project in the world. Jackboot power.....
Bill Bonner What's Bill doing in Cyprus...?
We'll get to that. First, what happened in the markets? On Friday, the Dow rose 267 points. Gold went up too -- $23.
A big move to the upside. And why? No apparent reason. Gaddafi bit the dust, almost literally. And the Europeans seemed to be stumbling to yet another solution...in which they borrow more money to help fund the troubles created by borrowing money in the past.
Nothing new, in other words...
Your editor brought his wife here to Cyprus on a weekend get-a-way. Besides, he wanted to see where Solon died. Whether or not Solon, the great Greek lawgiver, died in Cyprus or not is a matter of some dispute. And what he was doing here is unknown. But Herodotus says his body was ‘consumed in Cyprian fire.' So this is the place he must have gone back to ash.
Solon was in charge of Athens in the second part of the 7th century BC. Then, as now, the people had gotten themselves into a jamb. They owed too much money. The burden of debt was so great that the economy was apparently being crushed by it.
But Solon was no dope.
"The Athenians were in the habit of disguising the unpleasant aspects of things, giving them endearing and charitable names," wrote Plutarch. "They refer to whores as mistresses, taxes as contributions, garrison cities as guards and the common jail as a residence."
So, according to Aristotle, Solon figured the thing to do was to organize a "shaking off of burdens." Solon "made a cancelation of debts, both private and public...they shook off the weight lying on them."
The problem with today's solons is that they do not shake off the weight lying on the public. They add to it. The problem in Europe is government debt. But every government in the EU continues to go further and further into debt.
And next week – on Halloween – the US is supposed to pass the point where it has national debt greater than 100% of its GDP. And at the present pace, each year's deficit adds about another $1.5 trillion.
If we are really following in the footsteps of Japan – as we think we are – we'll see the feds double their debt over the next 7-10 years.
But wait. Japan has an advantage. It has no military expenses of any consequence. The US has them up the kazoo. The cost of its wars and foreign meddling is more than $1 trillion a year. It cost a million a year just to maintain one soldier in Afghanistan. These expenses could be cut without much pain or suffering in the US itself.
But empires don't back up. Certainly, the Greek empire didn't. After Solon sorted out their debt problems, they were soon back in the empire business and back in debt. That's why much of the history of Cyprus is the story of one Greek misadventure after another. Sometimes the Athenians were fighting the Persians and the Phoenicians. Sometimes they were fighting other Greeks. Sometimes they were fighting the Cyprians. Sometimes they were fighting alongside the Cyprians. Like the Americans, they had troops all over the place...making enemies wherever they went.
A stele was discovered that recorded the names of the Athenians of the Erechtheid tribe who fell in the years 459-458 BC.
"Of the Erechtheid tribe, these are they who died in war, in Cyprus, in Egypt, in Halieis, in Aegina, at Megara..." Inscribed are the names of 177 soldiers.
Athens didn't back up. It kept going until it had gone too far. In 431 BC Pericles gave the kind of speech that Mitt Romney just gave at the Citadel. (No presidential candidate can talk openly about managing the process of decline....that would be political suicide.)
Pericles praised his forefathers for their efforts:
"They dwelt in the country without break in the succession from generation to generation, and handed it down free to the present time... And if our remote ancestors deserve praise, much more do our own fathers, who added to their inheritance the empire which we now possess, and spared no pains to be able to leave their acquisitions to the present generation.... You may reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty and a keen feeling of honor in action that men were enabled to win all this..." .
Then, he vowed to stay the course:
"You cannot decline the burdens of empire and still expect to share its honors."
He should have backed up. Under his guidance, Athens continued to make war on just about everyone...until the Spartans invaded it, laid wasted to the city and enslaved its people. Pericles died of plague.
Don't expect the US to back up either.
Threatened with budget cuts, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reacted not with thoughtful reflection, but with Greek-like lunacy. As to the budget cuts, he called them a "doomsday mechanism." They would be ‘catastrophic.' We would be "shooting ourselves in the head," he went on.
These would be the effects, said he, of spending only as much as the whole rest of the world put together.
Of the people who propose to put on the brakes, they are like the Nazis at Bastogne, asking Patton to surrender. "Nuts," says he replied.
Spending cuts are intolerable...so is any talk of "decline" or backing up. The armed zombies who run the defense industry won't permit it.
But imperial decline doesn't have to be such a bad thing. Gideon Rachman, in the Financial Times, explains:
What the UK discovered after 1945 is that a decline in national power is perfectly compatible with an improvement in living standards for ordinary people, and with the maintenance of national security. Decline need not mean the end of peace and prosperity. But it does mean making choices and forging alliances. In an era of massive budget deficits, and rising Chinese power, the US will have to think harder about its priorities. Last week, Hillary Clinton insisted that America will remain a major power in Asia – with all the military expenditure that this implies. Very well. But what does that mean for spending at home? Few politicians are prepared to have that discussion. Instead, particularly among Republicans, they fall back on feel-good slogans about American "greatness".
Those who refuse to entertain any discussion of decline actually risk accelerating the process. A realistic acknowledgement that America's position in the world is under threat should be a spur to determined action on everything from educational reform to the budget deficit. The endless politicking in Washington reflects a certain complacency – a belief that America's position as number one is so impregnable that it can afford self-indulgent episodes such as the summer's near-debt default.
The failure to have a proper discussion of relative decline also risks leaving American public opinion unprepared for a new era. As a result, the public reaction to setbacks at home and abroad is less likely to be calm and determined and more likely to be angry and irrational – feeding what the historian Richard Hofstadter famously called "the paranoid style in American politics".
These days the British have learnt almost to revel in failure. They buy volumes with titles like the "Book of Heroic Failures" in large numbers. It is quite common for the supporters of a losing English soccer team to chant, "We're shit and we know we are." This is not a habit I can see catching on in the US. When it comes to managing decline, self-abasement is optional.
And here's another piece from the Financial Times, describing America's "Eclipse" :
...In this challenging new study, Arvind Subramaniam of the Peterson Institute for International Economics writes of the next transfer, that from the US to China. This one is surely closer. While Americans were prating of the "unipolar moment", its economic foundations were crumbling away. Properly measured, he argues, China is already its economic equal. Very soon it will be far more powerful, economically, and ultimately, also militarily.
The book's most striking prediction is that the renminbi will match, or replace, the dollar as a reserve currency by the early 2020s, far sooner than most now suppose. This is largely because China will emerge as far and away the world's largest trading power: currency follows trade....