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August 16, 2007

Crappy Little Countries, In Theory And Practice

You probably remember Jonah Goldberg's endorsement of Michael Ledeen's worldview:

I've long been an admirer of, if not a full-fledged subscriber to, what I call the "Ledeen Doctrine"..."Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

But you may not be aware of Richard Nixon explanation of how he was going to put this theory into practice. (There are barely any references to it online.) This is from Nixon's oval office tapes, on May 4, 1972:

NIXON: Here's what we're gonna do. We're gonna get through it. We're going to cream them. This is not anger. This is all business. This is not "petulance." That's all bullshit. I should have done it long ago. I just didn't follow my instincts.

South Vietnam may lose. But the United States cannot lose...Whatever happens to South Vietnam, we are going to cream North Vietnam...For once, we've got to use the maximum power of this country...against this shit-ass little country."

ALSO: In the same tape, Nixon refers to Vietnamese as "those little cocksuckers." Manly!

Posted at August 16, 2007 07:41 PM | TrackBack

Fuck us. Just fuck us.

What a fucking piece of shit country the US is.

Posted by: Mike at August 17, 2007 09:12 AM

Who were the 'two-bit pricks' in question?

Posted by: Gag Halfrunt at August 17, 2007 10:31 AM

Somalis, who failed to understand that the US had to kill thousands of them in order to save the rest. If you follow the link you can read more of the context.

Posted by: John Caruso at August 17, 2007 12:17 PM

Wasn't Chomsky's take on the Vietnam war that the U.S. won, because it was able to use Vietnam as an example of what would happen to small, defenseless countries that defied the U.S.?

Sure, the U.S. was eventually forced to leave (just as we will eventually be forced to leave Iraq), but who in their right mind would want to "win" the way the Vietnamese did?

Nixon's comments seem to confirm this view. "South Vietnam" was essentially irrelevant. It was just about demonstrating our willingness to use the maximum level of brutality on anyone who got in our way.

And considering the period of US economic hegemony that followed, I'd have to say it worked. Mission Accomplished!

Posted by: SteveB at August 17, 2007 04:16 PM

WE should have invaded Kuwait instead of Iraq. Smaller, just as irrelevent to the GWOT as Iraq, and they are all rich so we know their kids won't fight. (Plus they have OIL)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 17, 2007 05:41 PM

Mike Meyer's comment raises a question. Under this theory, why the hell wasn't it good enough to stick to invading Afghanistan? There's more to it than random bullying.

And speaking of Afghanistan, didn't any of these policymakers ever think about the Soviets' experience there? Maybe the deaths in Vietnam didn't create any real consequences for the elites, or killing Serbians/Grenadans/Panamanians didn't bother but the U.S. leaders, but Russians could tell you that this "beat the crap out of a little country" thing doesn't always help your empire.

Or, on a related point, see the experience of the French in North America in the 18th century. Supporting the American Revolution bankrupted the monarchy and led to a lot of beheadings of French elites. Talk about "blowback!" (Of course, Paris didn't have Paris Hilton to distract the peasants back then).

(That's too many points for one comment; sorry).

Posted by: Whistler Blue at August 17, 2007 06:48 PM

Of course there is more to it than "random" bullying and that is a mischaracterization of the stated position. There is nothing 'random' about who we bully. To borrow a rhetorical device from Chomsky, as he is the the point of departure for this discussion, if Iraq's main domestic product was pickles or lettuce then we wouldn't be there.

The "threat of a good example" is more than a pet theory or reductive explanation of U.S. foreign policy. If memory serves correctly, Chomksy makes explicit reference to the threat as articulated in considerations mentioned in policy planning documents since released in one way or another over the years. Iraq is different in that it was not a good example threat, but a defiant threat. They had to be brought to heel lest others get the notion that they too could ignore or go against Washington's directives.

As a side note, I think where Chomsky misses the mark is to mistake stupidity, hubris and irrational behavior with well thought out motives. I understand that he does this because to get into the things I mention is to play pet psychologist and he refuses to do that. But it seems to me that the U.S.'s behavior in Iraq (or Vietnam, etc.) is partly explained by the needs of empire with much of the tactical bungling is a conflation of hidden agenda (Chomsky's domain), hubris, stupidity and cultural ignorance.

Posted by: Justin at August 17, 2007 07:37 PM

The more points per comment, the better. You've seen what the comments look like at other blogs....

Posted by: StO at August 17, 2007 07:38 PM

Whistler Blue: ( the secret clue is OIL in Kuwait NONE in Afghanistan)In the 1880's (yes 1880's) Britain tried to negotiate an OIL PIPELINE from Uzbekistan to Karachi (then part of India). OUR gift or payment to the Brits is Afghanistan and another shot at the OIL PIPELINE. So you see Whistler, there is NO percentage for the US in Afghanistan as the OIL PIPELINE goes to the Queen (BP OIL). (BTW The Wyoming National Guard has already built the concrete pads for the pumping stations in Uzbekistan.)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 17, 2007 08:46 PM

I hate to say it, but I believe that throwing little countries that have oil against the wall is one of those things that is done because it is FUNDAMENTALLY GOOD for the US, but bad for the world.

Do you even THINK with your crumbling infrastructure, fundamentally borrowed prosperity, and your high oil prices that you can LAST ANY LONGER without showing you mean business? Especially to countries with the oil?

That's why it is good for the US.

In the same sense that infecting the body is a good thing for a cancerous growth, but bad for the body.

Soon or late the rest of the world is going to find some way to remove it, if you don't destroy yourself first.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at August 17, 2007 10:19 PM

the george snuffleupagus book has an interesting bush/v/clinton quote a couple pages later.

clinton shared safire's conclusion that part of america's "new impotence is the unwillingness of too many americans to expend blood and treasure" beyond our borders. but [president clinton] told me to call safire and remind him that "even though we're a volunteer army, we're not a mercenary army. that's the big difference." in public interviews, he joked about the good old days — "gosh, i miss the cold war" — when our foreign policy was filtered through the anti-soviet framework. but in private he railed against liberal critics, like times columnist anthony lewis, who were making his life miserable by pushing him to send troops to bosnia and haiti…. sometimes he just exploded in frustration: "what would they have me do? what the fuck would they have me do?"

three points. (1) bushcheneyco obviously believes it has a mercenary army, alongside its mercenary army, and (2) missed the strategic narrative worse than anybody. (3) if it hasn't been, the meaning of "cruise missile liberals" should be divided into pre- and post-9/11 flavors, allowing the latter to be examined for sincere if reckless counter-terror intentions, apart from world cop or world top.

i hope that makes sense.…

Posted by: hapa at August 18, 2007 03:38 AM

SteveB wrote: "...demonstrating our willingness to use the maximum level of brutality on anyone who got in our way."

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were also demonstrations of that principle -- our use of the A-bomb certainly sent Joe Stalin a message, didn't it?

But I think the U.S. has been following the same principle since at least the Monroe Doctrine -- seems to be built into our national psyche. It is a character defect that urgently needs rooting out.

Of course, I'm just an old peacenik who thinks that rampaging around the planet dropping bombs on people is a catagorically bad thing to do.

Posted by: rebecca at August 18, 2007 09:05 AM

hapa: "george snuffleupagus"? That's a classic.

Posted by: John Caruso at August 18, 2007 05:05 PM

Gag Halfrunt: Works much like Iraq for Halliburton.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 19, 2007 11:12 AM