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The Avoidable War, The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping’s China

American Politics, History stuff Posted on Tue, April 18, 2023 15:02:00

Kevin Rudd: The Avoidable War, The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping’s China, published by Public Affairs (Hachette Book Group), New York 2022.

Rudd is an interesting guy. There are numerous videos with him talking about China on YouTube. He has been the Labor Party Prime Minister of Australia twice. At the moment he is busy moving to Washington as Australia’s new Ambassador to the US.

From High School he entered the Australian National University where he graduated with honors in Chinese studies and is fluent in Mandarin.

He became a diplomat stationed in China numerous times. He took time off to get another degree from a University in Taiwan. He has interacted with Xi and many of the other leaders in China many times and seems to know them well.

In this book he puts Chinese-American relations into historical perspective, pointing out how the Chinese leaders study America in so many ways all the time. Xi’s only child (girl) has graduated from Harvard. How many American leaders have had their kids study in China?

American political leaders and policy makers have sadly no idea at all about what makes China say what it says and do what it does. Ignorance rules in the US.

For Zi Taiwan is the last great shame from the Century of Shame when China was dominated by the West and the Chinese treated as less than animals by the West. Zi sees his goal in life to reunite China by any means needed, including war.

When Zi took power in 2015 he began to transform the Chinese military. China has also put a lot of effort into Cyber warfare and in rapidly expanding their Navy. They have also added a new branch of the military, in addition to the Army, Navy and Air Force they now also have a land-based Missile Force. The Missile Force is stationed along the coast and is tasked with blowing enemy ships and or aircraft out of the water or sky if they threaten China. They have the new Chinese subsonic (speeds of Mach 6/7) missiles that are intended to sink American Aircraft Carriers as they are just too fast to intercept.

Xi has tasked the military with being capable of invading and reuniting Taiwan with China by 2027.

American Military leaders say that 2025 is a more likely date. Add to that the political storm that will be on-going in the US towards the end of 2024 and it becomes more likely than not that China will attack during 2025.

American political and military leaders take for granted that China is incapable of upholding any agreement that they sign, and will lie about everything. Deception is considered a Chinese specialty. China, on the other hand, takes for granted that the US wants to destroy China by any means necessary and doesn’t trust the US at all.

After Rudd has shown how both China and the US have strategic interests that will lead to conflict (war) sooner or later, he goes on to present how such a war can be avoided.

His solution is called Managed Strategic Competition. He wants China and the US to sit down behind closed doors and agree on guidelines for peaceful conflict in a great many areas, from Cyberspace to the South China Sea. By doing so Rudd thinks that they will be able to build a trusting relationship over time; however his book has just shown on page after page why such a trusting relationship is absolutely unthinkable.

Rudd says that the alternative is unthinkable, as any war between the two will have devastating consequences for China, the US and the rest of the world.

Megadonors and the rise of the Radical Right in the United States

American Politics Posted on Tue, February 22, 2022 15:04:40

A group of libertarian billionaires in the US have taken advantage of the Supreme Courts’ decision on 21 January 2010 in the Citizens United case. The decision overturned a century of restrictions banning corporations and unions from spending money to support political candidates. They can now make unlimited contributions to political candidates, as long as they do so by giving money to groups that support the candidates, and not directly to the candidates.

These groups were previously called PACs, or Political Action Committees and had been limited to accepting donations of no more than $5,000 per individual and year. They now became “Super PACs” and they could now accept unlimited donations as long as the donation had no direct connection to the politician that would benefit. A writer for the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin; wrote that it “gave the rich people more or less free rein to spend as much as they want in support of their favored candidates”.

Billionaire activists were quick to establish large numbers of secretive nonprofit organizations that all claimed the right to conceal their donors´ identities.

The rich had found a means to weaponize philanthropy. They donated what has come to be known as Dark Money to these nonprofit “social welfare” groups that could forward untraceable cash to politicians they wanted to see in power. And, it was tax-deductable!

In the 2012 elections these Megadonors contributed more than $1,000,000,000 (one Billion) to influence federal elections.

Mark Meadows is perhaps best known today for refusing to talk to the Jan 6 Congressional Investigation about the events of that day. He has been held in contempt of Congress and the House has sent a request to the DOJ to have him put on trial for it.

Prior to his election to the House of Representatives in November 2012 Meadows had been a restaurant owner and Bible – school teacher in a small town in the westernmost corner of rural North Carolina. He was the kind of radical right candidate that Dark Money wanted to send to Washington. After only 8 months in Washington he had instigated a revolt on the part of 79 Republican House members against Obamacare by encouraging them to refuse to appropriate any funds for implementation of that law. They became known as the “Suicide Caucus” as they brought a virtual halt to the entire federal government for 16 days in 2013.

Meadows is typical of the type of Radical Right candidate that the Billionaires support. Their goals are simple: lower all taxes, and end all social welfare costs. There should be as little “government” as possible. The country is seen as having 53% “Givers” and 47% “takers”. The Givers are hard working Christians and the Takers are lazy folks looking for a free lunch. As the rich generate jobs they shouldn’t pay taxes.

Two of the most infamous Billionaire Megadonors are the Koch brothers, Charles and David. During the 2016 election Koch Industries and Freedom Partners (collective name for all their nonprofit front organizations) poured $750,000,000 into at least nineteen Senate, forty-two House, and four gubernatorial races.

The Koch brothers have also directed millions of dollars into education. An example is the Topeka (Kansas) school system where one of their organizations, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy taught classes for the district. Students were taught that FDR didn’t alleviate the Depression, minimum wage laws and public assistance programs hurt the poor, lower pay for women was not discriminatory, and government, rather than business, caused the economic crash of 2008. This program even paid students to take additional courses on-line.

According to Forbes in March 2015, the Koch brothers were worth $41,600,000,000 each. (41,6 billion)

Dark Money

The Next Civil War

American Politics Posted on Tue, January 18, 2022 15:32:10

The tile is an unfortunate one, as it brings to mind our last Civil War where the North and South faced off on battlefields 1861-65 and over 600,000 Americans died. A far better title would have been America on the Verge of Violent Social Unrest.

The author, Stephen Marche, is a Canadian journalist and novelist who has been a writer for numerous periodicals, such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Esquire, and others.

Avid Reader Press, New York, 2022

His book belongs to a category that can be called Counter-factual History, or just plain speculation.

His starting point is the presentation of five possible conflict scenarios all based on probable outcomes according to research he has done with individuals and institutions that would be involved in such a scenario.

As journalist, Marche has travelled extensively in the USA and seen how Americans are no longer capable of interacting with one another. They seem to belong to different tribes. The Republican Party has become the party of conservative and often lesser-educated white people, with few non-white members at all, whilst the Democratic Party has become a multi-cultural party largely based in urban areas. The rich often stick with the Republican Party as it aims to lower taxes for them.

Trump is not to blame, according to Marche as the US was already deeply divided before Trump was elected in 2016. The problem is no longer who is in power, but rather the structures of power itself. He writes that “The American political system has become so overwhelmed by anger that even the most basic tasks of government are increasingly impossible. The legal system grows less legitimate by the day.” p.10

America is suffering from the political consequences of information pollution, according to Marche. Social Media and its algorithms (pushing more of the same at you, whatever your bias) have contributed to the creation of alternative realities. Those that trust Trump and Fox News often avoid exposing themselves to the so-called “liberal media” (CNN, New York Times, etc), and the opposite applies as well. Civil discourse has ceased, now you are either one of US or one of THEM. In a country with more guns (400 mil) than people (330 mil) this can quickly become a problem.

I’ll only mention one of his scenarios here: the Battle of the Bridge.

There are 616,087 bridges in the USA and almost 40% are 50 years old, or older. No funds were set aside for maintenance, and many of them are structurally deficient today, as in dangerous to use. In this scenario agents from the Federal Highway Administration show up for a routine inspection and find crumbling concrete, water damage and other structural problems. They have to direct the local County’s supervisors to close the bridge as a danger to public safety. Now things get complicated, as the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) requires an environmental assessment before any repairs can be made. The EPA has staffing shortages and a backlog of work to do, so it could take some time to produce the required report. Meanwhile, the bridge will be barricaded with concrete blocks and barbed wire. Drivers in this rural county will need to take the long way around.

The local Sheriff, an elected official, will wake up to angry phone calls from his constituents demanding that the bridge be reopened quickly. The Sheriff is quick to see a political possibility and in order to ensure his reelection he goes to the bridge and has it cleared for traffic. This is filmed for his Facebook page along with his comments about how Federal Government is not going to be allowed to mess with people’s lives in his county as long as he is Sheriff.

Soon Fox News arrives and the Sheriff becomes a popular man on national TV. Local militia groups show up with their own media equipment and begin broadcasting from the Bridge. National militia groups are also on the move towards the bridge.  The State’s governor needs to be reelected and chooses to do nothing about this.

The Federal Government in Washington doesn’t want to activate the local National Guard as they can’t count on the local population (in national guard uniforms) to actually do anything they are told to do. Washington feels forced to send in regular troops from the US Army. The situation gets worse day by day. Only one accidental shot is required and the power of the American Army will sweep the militia groups away in minutes. The dead and wounded will be broadcast live on the Internet as it happens. Riots will then break out in many places around the country. Things will go from bad to worse rapidly.

Marche takes up five such situations, however there could be many more possible situations that could have been included.

According to Marche, what needs to be done to prevent these situations is for America “to implement a modern electoral system, to restore the legitimacy of the courts, to reform its police forces, to root out domestic terrorism, to alter its tax code to address inequality, to prepare its cities and its agriculture for the effects of climate change, to regulate and to control the mechanisms of violence.” p.226

I think it is going to be difficult to avoid small scale armed conflict in the near future in the USA. Most likely it will be localized and relatively small scale, but could happen in numerous places more or less at the same time. Don’t expect to see large battles between angry groups. This kind of low level conflict could go on for a very long time. The political system is just too broken to deal with this.

Steve Bannon’s Dream

American Politics Posted on Sat, February 29, 2020 11:54:59

Where does Steve get his inspiration from?

Established academic historians hesitate to predict the future based on the past. It is something they call “counter-factual” history, as in Fake News. The Historian/Economist Neil Howe, together with William Strauss, a man of unclear academic background, has written a book with the rather longish title ” An American Prophecy, The Fourth Turning – What the Cycles of History Tell us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny“. According to numerous social media comments this book is where Steve Bannon has found his inspiration in Life. 

For those that haven’t heard of Steve Bannon I’ll include some biographical information from Wikipedia:

“Bannon was an officer in the United States Navy for seven years in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After his military service, he worked at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker, and left as vice president. In 1993, he became acting director of the research project Biosphere 2. In the 1990s, he became an executive producer in Hollywood, and produced 18 films between 1991 and 2016. In 2007, he co-founded Breitbart News, a far-right website which he described in 2016 as “the platform for the alt-right”.

In August 2016, Bannon was named the chief executive officer of Trump’s 2016 presidential bid. Following Trump’s victory, Bannon was appointed Chief Strategist in the Trump administration. He left this position on August 18, 2017 and rejoined Breitbart. In January 2018, Bannon was disavowed by Trump for critical comments reported in the book Fire and Fury, and left Breitbart.”



“After leaving the Navy, Bannon earned a master’s degree in national security studies at Georgetown University and then went on to Harvard Business School before landing an investment banking job at Goldman Sachs’ New York offices.”



Steve Bannon

Steve likes to portray himself as a just another White Trash supporter of President Trump. That is not the case. Steve is intelligent, resourceful and calculating. Everything he says and does is directed towards fulfilling the goals found in his favorite book, The Fourth Turning.

What exactly do the 380 pages of this book deal with?

The authors maintain that there is a crisis or “turning” in American history about every 20 or so years. These turnings come in packages of four, over a period of 70 to 110 years.

The 4th Turning is seen as a regular cyclic event, an era of secular upheaval, when the values that have dominated the cycle of the 4 turnings is overthrown and new values arise to herald the arrival of the 1st turning of the new cycle of events.

The authors disagree with the concept of Linear Time, and instead see history evolving in cycles of events structured around generational differences with a pinch of the psychologist CJ Jung’s archetypes thrown in for good measure.

The best short version of Jung’s archetypes could be this one:

Jung rejected the tabula rasa theory of human psychological development, believing instead that evolutionary pressures have individual predestinations manifested in archetypes. Jung first used the term primordial images to refer to what he would later term “archetypes”. Jung’s idea of archetypes was based on Immanuel Kant’s categories, Plato’s Ideas, and Arthur Schopenhauer’s prototypes. For Jung, “the archetype is the introspectively recognizable form of a prioripsychic orderedness”.


In order to maintain some semblance of readability here I am not going to dive too deeply into how their cycles are structured. Suffice to say that the authors have created a matrix built around their Theoretical Construction and then sought to Place Anglo-American history, from the 15th Century to today, inside their matrix. Having done so they Point towards patterns that they claim are easy to see. In short, we are expecting to see the United States either destroyed or victorious within the next 10-20 years.

Traditional academic historians would never go looking for facts to place in a pre-conceived matrix. Historians examine factual material and try to use the facts to explain the historical context. Their book would never pass inspection in any University history department that I know of.

Destruction of Biblical size awaits us, they say.

When we add to this equation the 2nd coming of Jesus, awaited by Evangelicial Christians in the US, we have a formula for mass destruction (war) far beyond anything we could imagine. Trump’s newly launched so-called Peace Proposal for the Middle East is just another step towards greater conflict between Jews and Arabs in the region. Trump is doing what is required for the 4th Turning to become reality.

The salvation of the United States is aligned with the 2nd coming of Jesus. The road to American greatness lies through Cultural Conflict, both inside America and with others outside of America. Christianity and the USA are to stand up against all others (read Islam and non-Whites everywhere).

The KKK and other White extremists in the USA are supportive of this concept. Christian evangelists see Trump as sent by God to make the 2nd coming of Jesus a reality, so it doesn’t matter what Trump says or does that they otherwise would agree to call disgusting, he is their man!

Thoughts on modern American Political History

American Politics Posted on Thu, January 02, 2020 11:27:20

As 2020 begins and we try as Americans to evaluate what has brought us to where we are there is good reason to look back at American history.

In the election of 1866, during the period known as Radical Reconstruction in the South (occupied, after the end of the Civil War, by Northern troops 1865-1877) over 80% of Republican voters in the South (all former slaves) easily won positions of power due to former Confederate soldiers not being allowed to vote at all — the whites that could vote in the South voted for the Democratic Party, perhaps because it was the pro-slavery party prior to the Civil War breaking out in 1861.

Today the Democratic Party in the United States is heavily dependent on the “Black vote”, and the Republican Party has few Black members. What happened?

One of my main sources for much of what follows is a relatively new History of the United States, published late in 2018, and written by a Harvard Professor of American History, Jill Lepore. Highly readable, even though it has some 930 pages.

book cover

As our memories are at times not to be trusted entirely, I’m using the Oxford University Companion to United States History for fact-checking purposes. Published in 2001 it is also too heavy to carry around in your pocket (940 pages).

The Democratic Party in the 1930’s, under the leadership of President FDR , implemented the New Deal based on Keynesianism – an economic theory derived from the writings of the British economist John Maynard Keynes. Keynes, in response to the Great Depression, challenged the ability of traditional Capitalism to deal with mass unemployment and poverty. According to Keynes public (tax financed) investment would stimulate the economy and create jobs. Workers that had been involved in tax-financed employment would then move back into the private sector due to the greater demand for goods and services. According to Keynes this increased demand was caused by their getting income from tax-financed jobs. FDR’s New Deal policies were extremely popular with the working class and caused the Democratic Party to gravitate towards the interests of the Trade Union movement. Workers, usually men, became the party activists of the Democratic Party and were the infrastructure of the party. The rich were expected to pay higher taxes to ensure the survival of Capitalism.

We are seeing today how Keynesianism is making a comeback in the Presidential election with both Saunders and Warren seeing the benefits of a return to New Deal thinking and Public Works projects as a way of dealing with poverty in America today.

The Republican Party of the 1930’s did not agree with FDR, and denounced public spending as a source of corruption, maintaining that Keynesianism created welfare dependency making the poor unwilling to look for “real jobs” in the private sector. Instead, they promoted the importance of hierarchy and patriarchy and claimed to find virtue in austerity. The Government, according to the Republican Party, needed to cut back on taxes, stop spending money on welfare, and support the needs of the private sector, i.e., help provide access to cheap labor by making unemployment painful. Cultural changes, they maintained, caused cultural decline and should be avoided. Traditional Christian values (God, Country and Family) were promoted. From 1945 to 1955 church membership in American grew from 75 to 100 million members and much of that growth was due to Southern Baptist preachers, white conservative Protestants, such as my fellow North Carolinian Billy Graham. They found a home in the Republican Party. During the 1950’s a new group of women emerged, they were the housewives. For them Family, God and Country were a perfect fit and many joined the Republican Party and took over responsibility for making coffee, baking cookies, and ringing doorbells during elections. By the 1950’s a majority of party activists were women, they had become the infrastructure of the party. In 1972 Nixon began the process of making the Republican Party an anti-abortion party in response to the feelings of Republican women members. Barry Goldwater admitted that there would be no Republican Party without all those women. Nixon couldn’t stand them and said once “I will not go and talk to those shitty ass old ladies!” , but of course he did anyway as they were important for getting him elected.

Ronald Reagan, in 1981, said that “Government is not the solution to our problem, Government is the problem.” Trump agrees. Taxes for the rich need to be lowered and government spending on benefits for the poor must be ended. The poor need to be encouraged to get a job and that can only be done by making unemployment exceptionally painful.

After 9/11, the White Supremacist movement in America began to revive and regain strength based on their two main goals: they wanted to preserve the icons of the Confederacy and also stop all immigration of non-whites into the USA. When Trump started talking about the need for a wall in order to keep out Latino murders and rapists they became enthusiastic supporters of his election. Here we find many of his core supporters today, side by side with Christian groups that may feel uncomfortable with Trump as a person, but feel strongly that Trump has been chosen by God to do numerous Good Deeds, such as outlawing abortion and packing the Supreme Court with Christian Conservatives. The Christian Conservatives had a meeting with Trump during the 2016 election and gave him a list of their candidates to the Supreme Court. Two have been appointed already. They also presented a list of hundreds of Christian Conservative candidates that they wanted to have as federal judges. Trump has been appointing them and well over 100 are already appointed.

I feel that radical changes are needed in the United States, however I am doubtful about the probability of such changes taking place.

In the Democratic Party we have three potential Presidential candidates: Joe Biden, who represents “more of the same” and will not make any radical changes at all, and then we have Saunders/Warren that both represent middle of the road Social Democracy from a European perspective. Neither are “radical” from a German or Swedish perspective. It is understandable that the rich and super-rich in America fear having to pay any taxes, as they are not used to doing so, however the shrinking middle class should vote for Saunders/Warren with both hands and both feet.

If we get another 4 years with Trump we can forget about Democracy in America. Saunders/Warren, if elected in November, will need 10 years or more to repair the damage Trump has already done to American Democracy.

Vietnam Deserters in Sweden

Vietnam War Posted on Sat, December 14, 2019 13:19:32

Operation Chaos – The Vietnam Deserters who fought the CIA, the Brainwashers, and themselves
By Matthew Sweet, Picador 2018, UK

As I experienced the events covered by the book, at least in relation to the Deserters and Sweden, I opened it with some amount of eager anticipation. It was a little like watching the first movie version of The Hobbit after having read the book 3 times. I could glimpse the book in the film, but had an uneasy feeling that the director hadn’t read the book.
In the interest of fairness, Sweet wrote a highly entertaining and easily read book, oftentimes providing information and perspectives that I found of value.

Sweet promised a book about Deserters, CIA and Brainwashers. This should have been really interesting, however…

The CIA, as Sweet points out, was fond of shredding any and all documentation of issues that might cast a shadow on their activities, especially when such activities might be seen as clearly illegal. Sweet could therefore find nothing of value or interest in public CIA files relating to the CIA’s Operation Chaos, which was directed against the Deserters in Sweden. He did however find some limited mention made of the CIA operation in FBI files. Thanks to J Edgar Hoover, the FBI has an entirely different attitude towards the documentation and the saving of said documentation than that of the CIA. Unfortunately, the documentation Sweet found in FBI files only justified a few of the pages in his book. The CIA, he found, sent agents to Stockholm and most likely placed agents inside of the deserter/exile community, although their identities have not yet been revealed. Speculation as to their identity has been rife since 1968, both within the exile community and among the general public.

As Sweet mentioned, about 1,000 Americans came to Sweden 1968-1972 in protest against the Vietnam war. Only about 30% of these were actual deserters, i.e., active duty members of some branch of military service. The vast majority were resisters and had not left military service to come to Sweden. Sweet has several main characters that he follows throughout the book, the majority of them being resisters, not deserters. The main character, a kind of spider at the center of the net, Mike Vale, was neither a deserter nor a resister. What he was remains an open question even today.
The brainwashing turns out to have been Mike Vale browbeating a number of members of the exile community to make them his allies. Two such cases, a deserter named Bill Jones and a resister named Warren Hamerman become Vale’s hatchet men in the exile community.

A third close associate of Vale’s, Cliff Gaddy, is something of a mystery man and Sweet insinuates that Gaddy may have been the CIA mole in the exile community. Mike Vale, the spider in our exile community web, occupied a large apartment in central Stockholm where the exile community often collected during 1968. I spent a lot of time there myself during 1968 and yet I managed to miss out on all the brainwashing that Sweet said was taking place. I never even heard anyone mention it.

Oh well, that takes care of the Deserters, the CIA and the Brainwashers. What’s left in the book? Although some mention is made of a number of exile community participants, a great deal of the book’s contents deal with how a select (Vale, Jones, Gaddy, and Hamerman) became involved with a remarkable American political sect, the NCLC (National Caucus of Labor Committees) run by their a cult figure named LaRouche.

If you are interested in paranoid/nutty conspiracy theories then LaRouche is the man to study. Sweet uses far too many of the pages in his book dealing with the absurdities of the various LaRouche front organizations and following these members of the exile community as they wandered in and out of the LaRouchian Maze in Sweden, Germany, France and the USA.
Sweet is a talented writer.

I am looking forward to seeing him write a book about the Vietnam War Deserters in Sweden. Let’s hope he does that. When he does I hope he will take up some of the many success stories to be found in the exile community, as he had no place for them in this book.

What kind of EU do we want to have?

EU issues Posted on Sat, December 14, 2019 10:57:29

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a powerful Chinese warlord is said to have sent several wise men off on an important mission. They were sent to discover what an elephant was.

In order to avoid their being biased by what they might see, they were blinded. Upon their return the warlord was dismayed by their report.

One wise man said he had held the elephant in one hand, and it felt like a snake, while another said that that was nonsense, as he had felt it and found it to be round and thick like a tree. Yet another wise man said it was big and flat, like a wall. All were of course right, the elephant is all of these things and more besides.

People relate to the EU in much the same way. They are all looking at the same thing, but see different things depending upon their different perspectives.

One group is called the federalists. Another the confederates.

The federalists quote from various EU documents and maintain that the goal of the EU is the establishment of a United States of Europe with one currency, one government, one military establishment, a joint income tax, and so on.

And then we have the confederates, who maintain that the EU is a group of sovereign states that have agreed to do certain things together – nothing more or less than a system of cooperation between free and independent countries.

To make matters worse, they all quote from the same documents, albeit different passages. Wherein lies the truth of the matter?

As I see it the EU is in a state of permanent transition, a process of metamorphoses. Where this process of change will lead is still an open question. The EU is not “something,” it is many different somethings to many different people. This “thing” has a system of institutions that “do” stuff.

If you are a staunch federalist then you want the European Parliament to have a greater say in the workings of the EU, and you complain about a lack of democracy in the Union.

If you are a confederate then this does not interest you at all. Why indeed should some Eurocrats somewhere be allowed to vote on questions of vital importance for your country? Such questions ought to be resolved within the confines of your own national Parliament, and nowhere else.

At the heart of Brexit

The EU-Confederates in the UK felt that the EU had become too federalized and chose to leave as they didn’t want to be dominated by the other EU members.

Perhaps some of them wanted to make sure that their pints were not taken from them, and perhaps feared being forced to order a 440ml beer instead of a pint?

In times of turmoil

**source: a right-wing website:

In times of conflict we usually seek to unite in order to better defend ourselves, and the same will probably apply for the EU. Conflict outside of and within our common borders will cause member states to want more of federalism, not less. We may see the emergance of a European Income Tax in order to finance a common European Union Army to defend the EU from external threats. If this is good or bad will depend upon your stance in the federalist/confederate debate.

Leap of Faith – The War on Iraq

History stuff Posted on Fri, December 13, 2019 14:12:27

While visiting my family in North Carolina in July of this year I ran out of reading material and found a small bookstore, The Country Bookshop, in downtown Southern Pines, located on 140 NW Broad St if you ever find yourself close by. There is really only one main street in the town, so you can’t miss it. My home town, Aberdeen, is even smaller and doesn’t have a bookstore.

To my great surprise, they had a relatively large section for history books, perhaps 4-6 shelf meters. There I found a new book (Leap of Faith – Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy), published in March 2019, and found it of interest as I’ve already read perhaps far too many books about American involvement in the Middle East and still can’t really understand how we screwed up so badly, to put it mildly.

As a child, growing up in North Carolina, I had assumed that we had the best possible leaders for our country and that they were both knowledgeable and talented individuals with high moral values. As I grew older I realized that the American historian Barbara Tuchman was probably right when she said in one of her books that we seem doomed to always choose the worst possible leaders of our countries. She was talking about the countries participating in the negotiations at Versailles in 1919 to establish the Peace Treaty to end WWI. Their thirst for vengeance created the soil in which the Nazis could grow to threaten world peace. Today’s leaders haven’t improved much. This morning I read in the on-line version of the Guardian about Boris victory in the UK elections, paving the way for Brexit on 31 January 2020. Our President in the US is busy getting impeached and Putin in Russia is busy trying to influence elections in many countries, not just in the US.

Before I bought the book I checked to see who wrote it. Michael J Mazarr is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation and has previously served as the associate dean and professor of national security strategy at the US National War College in Washington, DC. With 95 pages of notes and bibliography it can be said to be well-researched. He had over 100 interviews with the decision makers of that time and ploughed his way through numerous memoirs written by government officials that were active then. Perhaps most importantly, he accessed every declassified document available, from both the US and British governments. As Mazarr was an employee of the Department of Defense (DoD) during part of his time working on the book, he submitted the draft manuscript for security clearance and was cleared by the DoD for publication.

So, what does he have to say in 500 pages? The short version is that we screwed up big time and that we risk doing it again and again in the future.

The longer version:

President George W. Bush was a born-again Christian that truly believed that he was on a mission from God. Before 9/11 senior government officials were already convinced that sooner or later Saddam had to go. The events of 9/11 functioned as a turning point or catalyst pushing the administration forward towards what was already seen as an inevitable war with Iraq.

After the end of the Cold War in 1989-91, the consensus of opinion within the US national security community was one of messianic purpose. God had made the US the chosen one, we were bringing civilization to the barbarians. If you were not for us, you were against God, and you would regret being on the wrong side of history.

Our American leadership actually thought that the Iraqi people would be so pleased by the arrival of American troops that they would welcome us as saviors, in much the way of the French when we marched into Paris after the D-Day invasion. They planned accordingly.

No plans were made for administrating a defeated Iraq, as it was assumed that our friends in Iraq would create a new pro-American government and take care of their country themselves. When that didn’t happen we had no plans for solving the chaos that followed. To make matters (far) worse, one of our first acts as an occupation force was to dissolve the Iraqi military and send them home to unemployment and frustration. We also blacklisted all Baath-Party members from participation in government and from holding positions of responsibility – effectively ostracizing the vast majority of educated and qualified Iraqis. Arms and ammunition dumps were left unguarded and frustrated Iraqis could collect the arms and ammunition needed to fight the foreign occupiers.

The US did not set aside any funds at all for civilian law enforcement and/or reformation after a victory in the war was won. We just assumed that the Iraqi police and courts would continue with business as usual. Unfortunately, their business, as usual, was administrating law and order in a single-party dictatorship, aided by 5 different secret police agencies that all used rape and torture as part of their SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). The police went home, taking their weapons with them. In many cases they joined the armed fight against foreign occupation.

Those within the US government that saw these problems did nothing to prevent them. Their usual excuse being that they assumed that the leadership knew what it was doing. Those that voiced a conflicting opinion were quickly silenced by a compact majority that “knew” we were doing the right thing. To criticize was seen as disloyal conduct in a time of national crisis.

Mazarr warns us that “It is the marriage of these two factors – the driving engine of the messianic sensibility in US foreign policy and the emergence of a specific moralistic urge to act in service of sacred values – that so often produces disasters.” (page 411)

He fears we will see more of the same in the future. I really wish I could say that he must be wrong about this, but I can’t.

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