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October 10, 2009


"Some Analysts Warn Obama's Nobel Peace Prize Complicates War Efforts"

Via John Caruso

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at October 10, 2009 01:00 PM

NPR noted lugubriously that it will now take "several weeks" for Obama to sort out the differing opinions on Afsmackistan. Several weeks to allow all this ruckus about the Nobel Pony to die down and, at least by most regular truck-drivin' folk, be forgotten. Then, fait accompli, Johnny Peaceboy will send another 40,000 dragoons to make the place safe for oil pipelines and forward logistics bases for the Iran hit. The Taliban-led dearth of opium having already been rectified.

Nothing more than an annoying speedbump on the highway to Hell.

I appreciate Orlov's take, noting how Gorbachev's Peace Prize was doled out at the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Empire. Perestroika = Change, or, more precisely, Restructuring.

Posted by: Oarwell at October 10, 2009 01:37 PM

I think it's a negative complication, but maybe not; the opinion of Obama on the Right couldn't have been much lower anyway.


My hope is that Obama will piss McChrystal off and send less than the 40,000 on the strategy-shifting rationale of a war against al qaeda rather than the COIN strategy of petraeus. Of course, that would still involve those awful Predators and Reapers, but it would involve fewer troops and maybe less killing (I'm not sure.) Most important, I would think it would increase the chances of a gradual easing of the fighting, which will be more difficult the more troops we have there. Down the road it would be much easier to say al qaeda is gone than to say that the insurgency is over.

Posted by: N E at October 10, 2009 02:55 PM

N E writes:

"My hope ... would involve fewer troops and maybe less killing (I'm not sure.) Most important, I would think it would increase the chances of a gradual easing of the fighting, which will be more difficult the more troops we have there. Down the road it would be much easier to say al qaeda is gone than to say that the insurgency is over."

how about

"If we kill only 80 percent as many people in the coming months, this would clearly be progress. In fact, even a reduction to 85 percent would undoubtedly...blah blah blah..."

What the hell are you talking about?

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at October 10, 2009 03:21 PM

"What the hell are you talking about?"-Jonathan Versen

JV I'm stunned that you don't recognize a Grand Master of lesser evilism when you encounter one.

Posted by: Coldtype at October 10, 2009 04:06 PM

Aside from the Continuing Nightmare, this whole robotic Imperial flyer thing has introduced a new quandary for the ethically inclined. Is it better to use robots to hunt the rebels, thereby limiting Imperial losses, knowing that such a "bloodless" robot war will likely go on forever, or, in the interests of eventual peace, to sustain Imperial casualties in the hope that the war will be made unpopular on the home planet and pressure will be placed on the Senate to end it sooner? This I like to think of as the Vaderian Conundrum.

Just as Mighty Milhouse Nixon watching Patton 4 times before deciding to bomb Cambodia, it is rumored that McChrystal has seen Surrogates over 10 times, and was photographed holding a copy of Phil Dick's 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.' There are also recordings of him making obscure references to snails crawling on the edges of straight razors, but no one knows what to make of them.

Of course, Imperial pain rays can do wonders to keep the home crowd complacent, and tend to obviate the ethical concerns.

Posted by: Oarwell at October 10, 2009 04:27 PM

Peace is War. -- Nobel Prize Committee

Great take by John Caruso on what it takes to get such a prize and what you should say by way of thanks. I'm humbled, so humbled that I think you should stop making weapons. I will fucking kill you if you don't stop and if you don't believe me, look east. B H Obama, CMP*

*certified man of peace.

Posted by: drip at October 10, 2009 04:58 PM


Just as Mighty Milhouse Nixon watching Patton 4 times before deciding to bomb Cambodia,

Is this really true?

I did read or hear-I don't remember which-that the pentagon did watch the film The Battle of Algiers before invading Iraq... a great film if you haven't seen it though a bit dated.-Tony

Posted by: tony at October 10, 2009 05:49 PM

Jonathan Versen:

Somebody has to figure out how to end the war IN A WAY THAT CAN ACTUALLY BE ACCOMPLISHED. Do you think that Obama could stop US involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2010, with all US troops gone and bombing and missiles stopped? I'd like to know how quickly you think Obama could extricate the US from Afghanistan if he tried, and what problems, if any, would follow.

Posted by: N E at October 11, 2009 12:52 AM

Yes N E, he could. His big-ass rolodex of powerful friends might grow leaner, his post presidential speaking fees and book deals might lose some luster, and his successor would probably take up drumming up a new war to replace the old ones-- but yes.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at October 11, 2009 01:17 AM


One must consider the Norweigian abiding fatalism.

In truth, I've only known one Norwegian, but he told me the following joke, which he said sums up the Norwegian worldview.

First Norwegian: It's a dog-eat-dog world.

Second Norwegian: Yeah, but it's a good thing it's not the other way around.

Posted by: Paul Avery at October 11, 2009 02:21 AM

Grandmaster of lesser evilism....that was hilarious.

Of course "maybe decreasing the body count a little bit," is a trap, a false argument, but taking the bait, I'd say, no, it won't, as the millions of dead Cambodians and Vietnamese can't attest to. It will decrease American soldier body counts, perhaps, that's what Democrats are good at. So good History pretends there were no wars under Clinton, or the Clinton Administration, or the rule of the semi-evil people who hypnotized the good Billy Clinton into bombing a half dozen countries.

Barry Obomb COULD end the war, all of them, Afpak, Somali, Iraq, Drugs, as well as throw a wrench into the Wars on Poor People, Nonbankers, Coloreds, etc. I mean he could if he were somehow replaced with someone bearing a conscience. He'd have to be assassinated though, regardless of who was behind any assassination in history, I don't think there is any doubt about this. I mean if a POTUS tried to disrupt the multitrillion dollar warbanking machine, he'd have to be stopped, the life of one man certainly isn't going to come between war profiteers and their profits, that's by definition. Of course, the Obomb isn't in any danger, as he's not going to cross his employers.

Posted by: Marcus at October 11, 2009 04:12 AM

Somebody has to figure out how to end the war IN A WAY THAT CAN ACTUALLY BE ACCOMPLISHED.

I wonder what you mean by this. Are you saying that withdrawing troops from Afghanistan isn't physically possible, or that you wouldn't like the consequences? If it's the latter, are you seriously asking for a plan for withdrawal that won't have any adverse consequences for anyone? Why does the withdrawal have to meet a standard that the occupation doesn't have to meet?

Posted by: SteveB at October 11, 2009 08:18 AM

"Somebody has to figure out how to end the war IN A WAY THAT CAN ACTUALLY BE ACCOMPLISHED."

Only the collapse of the Roman dinar will finish the legions and our mercenaries.

All hail Bernanke, the Man of Peace!

Posted by: Oarwell at October 11, 2009 09:46 AM

Gary Trudeau has a joke that sums it all (Afghanistan War) up, if you don't get it then you're part of the problem. Here it is:

Posted by: knowdoubt at October 11, 2009 10:18 AM

Daddy Warbanks, bus driver on The Highway To Hell. Lil' Orphan Annie and her dog Toto are in for one hell of a ride as the troops disembark into the dead zone with faulty M4's and crappy body armor. Good to see the price of gas going down though. THAT means I can fire the ole' 9mpg guzzler up again for the winter. KEEP PAYING KEEP PLAYING.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 11, 2009 11:09 AM

N E might try recalling that the POTUS is the only person with constitutional authority to declare war, which means Obama is in the position of ending all military adventure abroad with a simple exercise of his exclusive war power.

But never mind that. N E has more evils to sell as lesser than other evils.

Posted by: The Anti-Federalist at October 11, 2009 03:22 PM

CONGRESS ONLY has the Constitutional Power to declare war. Techincally the "Global War On Terror" does NOT exist, its UNDECLARED by Congress. Its JUST another police action, EXACTLY like Viet Nam. READ THE CONSTITUTION!!!

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 11, 2009 05:49 PM

Jonathan Versen:

Wow. I'm a little stunned. That's a witty answer, but I invite you to consider what would happen AFTER the press conference during which Obama announced that we are pulling completely out of Afghanistan by the end of 2010, including Bhagram and the other bases.

I don't mean to sound flip. I assume you do recognize that there would be quite a response, though frankly, unless Obama reached his decision in absolute secrecy without consultation with anyone, the response would likely precede and prevent such a press conference. If, on the other hand, Obama did reach his decision without consultation and in secrecy, the reaction would almost certainly be even more dramatic than the announcement and would focus almost exclusively on the deterioration of the President's mental health since winning his Nobel Peace Prize.

Since this sort of thing NEVER actually happens, you might ask yourself why that is the case. I submit the answer is that the real world doesn't work this way, and you appear to have no conception of the power of the military and intelligence agencies, aka the National Security State.

I suspect some people can imagine potential responses to a Presidential decision that flies 100% in the face of the President's own prior position, the advice of his military advisers, the views of the GOP and most leading members of the Democratic Party, and all the TV pundits. It's possible to imagine what would appear in the media, what would be said by the military and in Congress, by the GOP, by the DNC, by allies, by NATO. I would bet that impeachment would be discussed within the week, at the outside. In the meantime, other things would begin to happen.

Responses to Prsidential decisions need not be verbal. Responses can also consist of actions and events. Imagine the oucry when a massacre in Afghanistan followed the President's announcement. And imagine how that oucry would grow when a week or two after the President's announcement, an Al Qaeda terrorist attack occurred in (pick the city of your choice).

Some people perhaps can't believe the military would do something murderous and underhanded to cause or prolong a war, and if that's the case you probably don't have a thought when you hear the words Tonkin Gulf or "Remember the Maine" and you certainly haven't read I.F. Stone's Hidden History of the Korean War or know the real story of The Pueblo or why JFK had reason to consider the Bay of Pigs treason, or know why it was that Richard Secord and Oliver North were involved in Operation Eagle Claw, the conveniently horribly planned and executed mission to rescue the Iranian hostages. That is just a top-of-my-head list, not something exhaustive. A complete list would go on and on and on and on.

Shit happens.

And, of course, there is the great wrinkle of implementation. The troops could not be withdrawn immediately, and the military situation could suddenly get very complicated in the field. Hostages could even be taken. At a minimum, it would be necessary to delay the withdrawal, and then other events could arise.
What would be the grounds for demanding immediacy, especially when the military indicated that would risk lives? More pundits would discuss the President's stress level and that Peace Prize again.

I can imagine any number of possibilities. The only UNIMAGINABLE possibility, because there is a zero percent chance of its occurrence, is that a withdrawal from Afghanistan would ensue by the end of 2010 pursuant to a Presidential announcement, with the troop withdrawl then proceeding smoothly until all troops left the country by the end of 2010 according to plan. No number of calls from a Presidential rolodex, and indeed almost nothing in heaven or on earth, can make that happen. Such is the power we have surrendered to the National Security State.

So I repeat, the withdrawal from Afghanistan has to be considered by the President IN A WAY THAT CAN ACTUALLY BE ACCOMPLISHED.


Geez, do you really not know that only Congress has the power to declare war? Go away and read the Constitution and don't come back until you're finished.

SteveB: See above.

Posted by: N E at October 11, 2009 06:37 PM

N E: SINCE NO war has been declared by Congress, Afghanistan falls under the "War Powers Act" therefore under TOTAL control and say-so of The President. IF The President goes to war in Afghanistan, WE GO to war in Afghanistan. Should The President decide to leave Afghanistan then WE LEAVE Afghanistan, NO ifs, ands, or buts. Its ALL Obama's decision, NO one's elses.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 11, 2009 08:27 PM

Mike Meyer:

U R 2 funny! TEll that TO the PENTAGON!

Posted by: N E at October 11, 2009 09:43 PM

Mike Meyer:

U R 2 funny! TEll that TO the PENTAGON!

Posted by: N E at October 11, 2009 09:43 PM

N E,
You are just making excuses. As far as your pedantic response to Anti-Federalist, it seems you didn't realize that he was having you on, as Mike Meyer illustrated.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at October 11, 2009 10:57 PM

N E; He's THE DECIDER, can't change that, wouldn't be prudent.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 11, 2009 10:59 PM

NE: As much as I appreciate your making the effort to type the words "see above" next to my name, I don't think you've answered my question.

But, to answer your question, it's quite simple: You get your puppet in Kabul on the phone and tell him you want him to demand a withdrawal timetable. The you have your ambassador negotiate exactly the timetable you already had in mind. Didn't Bush do that in Iraq? Didn't get a bullet through the head for it either, as I recall.

Posted by: SteveB at October 11, 2009 11:08 PM

I did not know what post to put this under since it is not really related to any currently under discussion so the one headed "Joke" seemed most appropriate.

Chomsky book banned from Guantanamo.Tony

Posted by: tony at October 12, 2009 08:56 AM


When it comes to scoring mega-military-related contracts, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s multimillionaire husband, Richard Blum, is right in the thick of things. First up: a contract announced last week between the Army and URS Corp., the San Francisco planning and engineering company that specializes in defense work — and that happens to be partly owned by Blum’s investment firm. The contract — which could grow to $600 million — is to help with troop mobilization, weapons systems training and anti-terrorism methods. That’s on top of a $3.1 billion Army contract that URS snared back in February for weapons systems and homeland defense.

Posted by: Oarwell at October 12, 2009 09:24 AM

N E, you might try reviewing any of the "wars" ongoing now and check how many of them is/are authorized by the Congress.

Seems that when you try to outsmart me, you trip on your own... uh... rooster.

Posted by: The Anti-Federalist at October 12, 2009 10:45 AM

Well, I'm glad to finally know the nature of the Taliban's "mission."

BTW, 1 way the administration could have pushed the war/occupation/Katrina-style restoration along is to ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISH a free and fair election without ballot-stuffing so rampant it rivals the recent achievements of the Revolutionary Guard.

Because then, hey, maybe the Kabul government would gain some of the legitimacy they need to stand on their own and run the country.

Further, once their puppet has retired and they are no longer seen as occupiers, the US could easily withdraw to Kabul and the Indian Ocean and provide backup from there. And they could give the Kabul government veto power over any Predator/Raptor airstrike or Special Forces door-kicking, so there could be fewer weddings-slash-funerals.

Just some thoughts that don't have anything to do with faux ready-made inside-the-Beltway excuses.

Posted by: Baldie McEagle at October 12, 2009 01:05 PM

the US could easily withdraw to Kabul and the Indian Ocean

And if by 'Indian Ocean' you mean Diego Garcia, it would be nice if the US would get their sorry asses off that island and hand it back to the people they got the UK to steal it from.

Maybe the US could withdraw to, say, Boise.

Posted by: NomadUK at October 12, 2009 01:41 PM


No, I meant whatever carrier group is hanging out in the Indian Ocean---which means, no doubt, shore leave or whatever at Diego Garcia. So, point taken.

But that base won't close until it has no defensible mission whatsoever. Let's plan our fantasy history of the world one step at a time, shall we? ;)

I was deliberately suggesting ACTUALLY (ACCOMPLISHABLE(TM) actions, per fellow poster N.E.)

Posted by: Baldie McEagle at October 12, 2009 02:02 PM

i think nomaduk's suggestion of a withdrawal to boise is really excellent. But I think as a courtesy we should ask liz cheney what she thinks.

the crazy-torture-loving-full-spectrum-dominance-nationalists who now want the US to run the whole world and think the norwegians should be grateful are the in many way the successors to the same nationalist crowd who were isolationist before world war two, and maybe if we remind them of that they will remember how important they once thought places like boise were.

Posted by: N E at October 12, 2009 10:42 PM

N E: Huh?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 12, 2009 11:04 PM

Jonathan Versen:

I suppose you think I'm making excuses for Obama, on the theory that I like him and don't want to admit that he could end the war if he wanted to, but if that's so you still don't understand my views. I certainly haven't concealed them, so you can study them all you want. If you don't want to figure them out, that's up to you. I don't think it's likely to do you or anyone else any good to understand anyway, so doing charity work would be a better use of your time.

Subject to that disclaimer, the position you are putting forward isn't just politically naive, it is inconsistent with the realities of our institutions. My sense is that you don't realize this because you don't have a workable theory of the National Security State and base your views on little beyond the basic formal Constitutional structure of our government. That formal Constitutional structure has little significance. Like almost all Americans, you vastly underestimate the power of the Pentagon and the intel agencies and believe too much of what is presented by the media even though you think you don't. Our whole society is dominated by the National Security State. The last century of our history can be studied almost exclusively with reference to the steady accretion of its power. The fact that the National Security State doesn't interfere with many of our vices, which are the fundemental underpinning of the American economy and the most treasured of American freedoms, doesn't mean it isn't exerting a pervasive and pernicious influence on us; it just means most of us don't even notice that influence. You need to learn to be more alert to it.

Posted by: N E at October 12, 2009 11:17 PM

Steve B:

I most certainly did answer your question, but if it wasn't obvious enough, let me just repeat that the Pentagon and the NSA and the CIA and the other dozen or so intelligence agencies and the other vast panoply of agencies and divisions and departments and NGOs and defense contractors and other corporations that contract with the government, whether Rand or Blackwater (or whatever its current name is) or Halliburton or the many CIA shell companies, they are vastly powerful, with enormous control over both Congress and the media, as well as both major political parties and just about everything else. And, on top of that, they have a great ability to control both the happening of events, and even more important the reporting of events.

This whole conglomeration is know for short as the National Security State, and if there is a consensus within it that the United States shold not pull all of its troops out of Afghanistan, and quite obviously there is such a consensus, then that is not going to happen. And if you disagree with that, I think that you need to reexamine how the country works and pay a lot more attention to our history.

Posted by: N E at October 12, 2009 11:29 PM

Below is a link to an article published today by Andrew Bacevich, the author of The New American Militarism and The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.

Bacevich is also the proponent of making the focus of the war in afghanistan one of counterterrorism rather than counterinsurgency. The difference is not inconsequential. Bacevich does not mince words in stressing how important it is that Obama deny McChrystal, and behind him Petraeus and the Pentagon, what they have asked for.

Posted by: N E at October 12, 2009 11:54 PM

mike meyer: i just thought nomaduk's remark about boise was funny. ignore the historical reference and point i obliquely made. it wasn't much anyway.

Posted by: N E at October 13, 2009 12:02 AM

N E:
When will the National Security State become less powerful so that something can be done? How can the National Security State's influence be diminished so that something can be done?

Posted by: Jeff65 at October 13, 2009 04:09 AM


I doubt the National Security State will become less powerful anytime soon, but i didn't say that nothing can be done. I said that Obama can't just end the war in afghanistan by decree even if he wants to right now.

I most emphatically AM NOT saying that people should not oppose the war, raise hell about the war, organize, or anything else (nonviolent) they can think of. Those things are important and not happening enough, probably because it seemed like they didn't accomplish anything anyway in the case of iraq. But our problem goes way beyond Obama, and misidentifying the problem as one more or less solely related to Obama's character because he could end the war if he wanted to isn't going to get anybody to do the things that need to be done to get us out of central asia. That's going to be a longer and harder struggle.

As for diminishing the national security state's influence long term, that's not a battle that seems likely to be won anytime soon. We're David against Goliath, and I can't tell you where the sling is. But the National Security State feeds on militarism, war, and empire, and it can't really digest much else, so without them it would starve. The problem is, when we don't feed it, it goes hunting for itself, and from Havanna harbor in 1898 to Ground Zero, it has shown itself to be a good hunter. People need to be more aware of that so they can't be manipulated so easily.

Posted by: N E at October 13, 2009 09:07 AM

N E is engaged in straw-man construction where he responds to Jonathan Versen. NOthing in that mini-screed resembles an honest assessment of what Versen knows. It is a straw-man built and destroyed, pompously, to make N E sound authoritative. I wonder which of his "experts" he's parrotting there.

N E is engaged in silly solipsism when he responds to jeff65. Again I'd wonder which of his saintly "authorities" he's parrotting.

I wonder when N E actually has offered an independent thought borne from his own noggin. Has that ever happened? It's very doubtful. N E is just another Digby.

Posted by: The Anti-Federalist at October 13, 2009 10:15 AM

Jeff65/ NE; Want to stop these wars? Take a chance-STOP PAYING FOR THEM. Of course it involves an element of risk, but then look at the risk YOUR neighbor's kids and YOURS face each and every day in Iraq and AF/PAK. REACH OUT to them and bring them home. These wars are NOT for GOD AND COUNTRY, they ARE for Halliburtton's&Corhorts bottom line. That's ALL they've EVER been for, ALL they will EVER be. If YOU want to support Halliburton and such, then please, buy their stock, NOT shed YOUR neighbor's BLOOD. One joins the military to DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION--Halliburton ain't it, Iraq ain't it, AF/PAK ain't it. The time to GET BIN LADEN was Tora Bora and George blew it. I'm thinking on it was on purpose to increase the bottom line. Time to think about AMERICA. Cut the line and let Halliburton DRIFT on out to sea.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 13, 2009 10:23 AM

Why are you all attacking NE when he correctly notes that Obama is not an absolutely powerful Decider who can unilaterally decide that the war in Afghanistan will end right now? Why are you claiming that NE is defending the war in any way, is pro-war, likes Obama, etc etc etc? He is merrely pointing out an unpleasant reality. That's not "Inside the Beltway" knowledge, but the truth. Sure, it sucks. But believing that does not mean it is not true. At least acknowledge the horrible array of power against any such actions.

Many of you are speaking purely from emotion. Daddy Obama can end the war right now, so the reason he is not is because Daddy is a bad, bad man!!!!! Call Nancy Pelosi to make it stop!!!!!

Come on rational here. Sure, the emotionalism that comes from the inevitable sense of betrayal that the Obama Administration represents (for those who really did expect CHANGE, that is, but that naivite is another topic). Pointing out the facts is not lesser evilism. Read Chalmers Johnson.

The War Machine will sputter to a halt when our creditors stop paying for it. Because they need us to keep buying their surplus manufactured goods and as a place to park their excess dollars, that won't be happening soon. Wishing it were different does not make it so.

Believing in this kind of naive civics view of America is an even more ridiculous kind of American Exceptionalism that the Neocons. The Neocons' views at least reflect and realize how empires work ('s nasty, not like a Shining City on the Hill should work). YOUR view, of America the Good, is simply ridiculous. And it always has been.

Posted by: BMiller at October 13, 2009 11:15 AM

Mike Meyer:

Since the telephone calls to Nancy are no longer working you are now advocating non payment of taxes? Prison time and all that. Good luck with that. You're not a CEO, so you are required to pay your taxes.

The War Machine won't even notice a few hundred (thousand) non payers.

Posted by: BMiller at October 13, 2009 11:18 AM

BMiller: Pelosi IS doing alright by my reconing at this point in time so I'll keep calling. AND YES, Obama IS THE DECIDER. READ The War Powers Act.
What YOU are saying is that YOU DON'T want to make the EFFORT to guide OUR President in a PROGRESSIVE direction. Don't speak out, don't call, just cry.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 13, 2009 11:42 AM

BMiller/N E: How about YOU? Are YOU willing to stand on some hill in Afghanistan and FIGHT?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 13, 2009 12:24 PM

"N E: My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought, careening through a cosmic vapor of invention."

OK, OK. So you're 172,000 times smarter than me; you have asserted it, so it must be true. As far as understanding you goes, while I haven't waded through everything you've written in ATR comments, I've read quite a bit, and while I understand where you are coming from-- I think you are wrong.

If you maintain, as you seem to, that the only way somebody can disagree with your assessment is because they just don't understand the multi-faceted fineness of your argument, then you're being intellectually dishonest.

Anti-Federalist, your support is appreciated, although I think a better comparison for N E would be to David Broder rather than to Digby; but your point is well taken.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at October 13, 2009 12:54 PM

BMiller: YOUR view, of America the Good, is simply ridiculous.

I've not sure who you have in mind, but if you think the number of people here who believe in "America the Good" is greater than zero you might want to (re-?)read the archives. It appears you may have been misled by NE's standard straw man, which is that you either 1) accept unconditionally his exact notions of how powerful institutions function and what capabilities they have, or 2) believe that Barack Obama is the sole source of political power in the United States, singlehandedly responsible for all elements of foreign and domestic policy. I seriously doubt there's anyone reading this site who doesn't appreciate the power of political, military, and corporate interests in our society, but there's no middle ground with him.

As for naivete, that's exactly why NE's views get so little respect: because he also believes that Obama is a victim of these powerful interests rather than their willing co-conspirator. And he clings to this notion on the basis of nothing more than Obama's words, since Obama's actions clearly don't bear it out. The fact that he maintains this faith in Obama as a good man struggling against powerful forces, while constantly deriding other people for being naive and misguided, is painfully ironic—and if people are impatient with him it's because he hijacks every third thread to say it.

Posted by: John Caruso at October 13, 2009 03:52 PM

Many of you are speaking purely from emotion. Daddy Obama can end the war right now, so the reason he is not is because Daddy is a bad, bad man!!!!! Call Nancy Pelosi to make it stop!!!!!

No better way to introduce yourself to a bunch of strangers than by insulting them.

But, to take this "argument" more seriously than it deserves, consider how much how much actual effort - not just passive compliance - it takes on the part of Obama to keep the US empire going. To take just one small example, someone had to call Palestinian President Abbas and strong-arm him into opposing a UN investigation of Israeli war crimes in Gaza. Even if the job was delegated to some under-secretary of state, do you really think that Obama's power is so minimal that he can't even say, "No, let's not make that phone call."

Keeping an empire running is hard work - foreign elections have to be fixed, UN resolutions suppressed, allies cajoled for more troops, the sovereignty of other nations must be violated and airstrikes must be escalated, etc. A slackening of effort on any one of these fronts is damaging to the whole enterprise, but Obama proves to be, as John Caruso notes, a willing co-conspirator.

Posted by: SteveB at October 13, 2009 05:33 PM

Mea culpa (I've been reading this site for a long time, and I have even commented before, though).

Intemperate language. Sorry about that. Internet posturing and all that :(

But, there just seemed to be faith here in the "Make It So" model of the Presidency. That is where I read NE's commenary as apropos. Whereas Mike and some others seem to believe that Obama can unilaterally make these decisions, I believe the system is so calcified and corrupt that a drastic change in policy would not be accepted by the power interests in this country. I would not be dismissive of a "Hondurus" kind of situation. We arguably had a coup already that brought W into power...if there were plans afoot by any president to make drastic changes in policy, the affected powers would react drastically. Probably via the assassin's bullet rather than anything as messy as a coup, but....the system will save itself.


"As for naivete, that's exactly why NE's views get so little respect: because he also believes that Obama is a victim of these powerful interests rather than their willing co-conspirator."

I can't speak for NE, but I certainly don't believe that (in the remote chance he does believe that Obama is an innocent victim, then he doesn't necessarily deserve any support or accolades. Not that he cares what I think anyway) I think Obama is a perfect product of the system, a perfect marketing campaign by the ongoing interests who control this country. I had no illusions he represented any change at all. Thus, sending him emails is less than useless. It validates decisions he is already making.

As for "standing on a hill in Afghanistan." What in my post leads you to the conclusion that I support the war in Afghanistan in any way? That's utterly ridiculous. So...of course not.

Posted by: BMiller at October 13, 2009 06:08 PM

BMiller: But YOU don't seem to mind SOMEONE ELSE standing on that hill in place of YOU. YOU support those wars enough to try to disuade myself and others from trying just ANY crazy idea or arguement to stop others from manning that hill position.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 13, 2009 06:28 PM

I've read most of NE's manifestos and (contrary to what he seems to think), agreed with much of it. As John says, that's probably true of all of us. I've said almost the same things that NE said about what would happen if some ideal lefty President got in office through some miracle--the people in the various bureaucracies and other politicians and their allies in the press would all combine to tear him apart. He (or she) would be portrayed as a lunatic. I wouldn't go quite as far as NE in speculating about what would happen to him--I think the usual techniques of ridicule, malicious press reports, and propaganda would ensure that a (looks to see that Mike of Angle isn't watching me engage in fanboyism) President Kucinich would be a failure.

I differ from NE on details--I think there are some conspiracies he believes in that would be virtually impossible to pull off. I don't doubt that there are some in the military industrial complex that would do almost anything to enhance their power if they thought they could get away with it. And I also think NE romanticizes Obama for some reason (yes, I've read his caveats about that)--there's nothing in his general philosophy that would suggest any reason for thinking Obama actually wants to do more than he says he wants to do. Obama's own statements make him pretty much a centrist Democrat on foreign policy, which is a saner thing to be than a crazed Cheney-like militarist, but it still means you believe in America's basic right to bomb recalcitrant foreigners. You just choose the wars you are sure you can win. Obama wasn't against war, just against dumb wars, in his own words.

As for real life people being complicated, well, yes, of course. My own favorite example of that is Jimmy Carter. Helped Indonesia murder the Timorese, yet out of office he really does work hard to do some good things. People are complicated.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at October 13, 2009 06:34 PM

IF some OPENLY lefty President got into Office, the Majority would back him against the right wing portion of the bureaucracy. The key IS majority support. Population wise, Obama got slighly over 50% of ACTUAL voters. THAT means that around half the people he meets are pro status quo. Since his actions (not words) point to Obama The War President and since he EVEN ran as a war candidate for office, that means he meets many pro war people that voted for him PLUS ALL the pro war people that voted against him. The numbers are against the left. THEREFORE the left MUST MAKE THE DIFFERENCE BY SHEAR EFFORT. As luck would have it the FACTS OF THE SITUATION (reality) are on OUR side. The wars are ALREADY EXPENSIVE LOSERS. 8 years of CONSTANT battle have depleted the military and the BANKERS are depleteing the Treasury. George and Dick have PROVEN GREED AND STUPIDITY are unsustainable for the long run. I feel Obama is just STARTING to learn that lesson. Time will tell. Once THE DECIDER decides, WE, the sheep, will follow because following is what WE do best.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 13, 2009 07:17 PM

"BMiller: But YOU don't seem to mind SOMEONE ELSE standing on that hill in place of YOU. YOU support those wars enough to try to disuade myself and others from trying just ANY crazy idea or arguement to stop others from manning that hill position."

Ridiculous. Since we are going all ad homimen here (mea culpa): My argument is that your ideas (Call Nancy Pelosi...Try to stiff the IRS) are utterly pointless and effectively meaningless.

So...can we assign the next Afghani village bombing YOUR name? Because if I am raring to die on the Afghani hill, a raver on the internet who STILL BELIEVES IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY must be a true believer in the War? Because the precious Democratic Party helped create this war. Diane Feinstein and her crew make MILLIONS of dollars in personal profits from the wars. so, I'm sure they are trembling at your emails and phone calls. And, stiffing the IRS doesn't matter much anyway because we are borrowing all the money from the Chinese and Japanese.

Rave on, brave Mikey, rave on.

Posted by: BMiller at October 13, 2009 07:37 PM

BMiller: Whereas Mike and some others seem to believe that Obama can unilaterally make these decisions, ...

Yes, he can. Nobody can stop him from making a decision.

...I believe the system is so calcified and corrupt that a drastic change in policy would not be accepted by the power interests in this country.

You're right, it wouldn't. But these are two entirely separate questions—as is the question of whether or not a president who decided to assert his Constitutional power to withdraw U.S. forces could make his case to the populace well enough to outmaneuver the institutions arrayed against him. Typically when people make the argument that Obama can't end the war in Afghanistan (for example), they mean he can't do it without damaging his political career, creating a massive shitstorm in the political/military/pundit classes, etc, etc. But nobody's saying there'd be no cost—just that his choice to carry on the imperial project in nearly indistinguishable form from George Bush and his refusal to exercise the powers he ostensibly possesses, consequences be damned, is just that: a choice. As a human being with free will, he's free to make a different one.

...if there were plans afoot by any president to make drastic changes in policy, the affected powers would react drastically. Probably via the assassin's bullet rather than anything as messy as a coup, but....the system will save itself.

You could make the same argument much more plausibly for countries like Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, and so on that have had explicit military dictatorships—yet they've been able to throw them off and take extraordinary strides toward real democracy and genuine populist reforms. It's certainly true that those with a powerful vested interest in the system as it is are going to fight back in any country, and sometimes (as in the case of Honduras) they may go all the way to drastic action (though even there the results aren't at all black and white; Zelaya is alive and back in the country rallying the populace, the coup government is facing near-unanimous international rejection and pressure, and so on). There's not some point at which regressive forces are going to admit defeat and pack it up. But it's a serious mistake to credit them with omnipotence.

Posted by: John Caruso at October 13, 2009 07:45 PM

An America in which Dennis Kucinich could be elected would be a very different America than the one we live in today. People who argue against left and third-party candidates never seem to get this: "Well, what's the point in electing Ralph Nader? Even if he won, he wouldn't be able to do anything!" But a country that would elect Nader president would be a country in which a majority of the people had already proven themselves immune to the corporate-media propaganda that would be used in an attempt to destroy a genuinely left president.

We don't have to look far to find positive examples: Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina. In all of these cases, the public voted for leftist candidates despite right-wing media campaigns against them, and those candidates, now in office, are enacting real reforms that are challenging the power of corporations and the ruling class. Why is this possible (and even routine) in Latin America (a region that has a long history of military domination) but it's not possible in America?

Posted by: SteveB at October 13, 2009 07:49 PM

"You could make the same argument much more plausibly for countries like Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, and so on that have had explicit military dictatorships—yet they've been able to throw them off and take extraordinary strides toward real democracy and genuine populist reforms."

I should have thought of that myself.

Especially when--

" Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina. In all of these cases, the public voted for leftist candidates despite right-wing media campaigns against them, "

Someone else thinks of the same argument simultaneously.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at October 13, 2009 08:08 PM

John Caruso:

For someone who talks about straw men, you don't try very hard to understand my positions. I don't mind snark, because I'm an experienced scrapper, and if your style is personal insults, that's up to you. But it is a little comical that you accuse me of hijacking every third thread to put across my position when you can't even come close to stating it accurately. Apparently, in your case I haven't stated my position often enough, because it's not so complicated that a person of your intelligence can't state it.

For me the purpose of exchanging views and information here is both to learn and to teach, both with respect to the views of others and my own. Often questions someone asks me make me think about things I had not considered, or in a new light. And often other people's points are good. I learn quite a bit around ATR, including from some of your posts, which lately haven't made me feel so much like i've been dragged to church against my will.

In the sense that you say Obama is a "willing co-conspirator," so has been every US President. My position isn't that Obama is a good man, and you certainly would know that if you read even a small number of the comments I make. If you don't try very hard to understand others' views, you'll never even know whether you're missing something important.

My fairly straightforward position is that Obama is not the problem we have as a nation whether or not he yields to his generals and does the wrong thing. He has, after all, done many "wrong" things, but it's encouraging to me, though also worrisome, that his generals are angry at him and speaking openly against him. That being said, Obama made his compromise with the National Security State in order to get elected, so it would be ridiculous to assume that he will pursue a nonviolent strategy, or that he is a moralist. He wouldn't be in office if he were, and if he were to have an epiphany and become a moralist he would promptly leave office one way or another. But Obama is NOT the problem, and he could turn out to be a partial solution. Hell, even Richard Nixon took some important steps for world peace in the midst of slaughtering the populations of Cambodia and Laos and North Vietnam. Does that mean Richard Nixon was a good man? Errr, no. Am I glad that Nixon did some things to make a nuclear war less likely? Errr, yes.

How Obama will develop isn't something I can predict. But whether he develops positively or disappoints doesn't change the fact that the fundamental problem is the National Security State. If we don't recognize that, which begins by understanding what those within the National Security State can and cannot do, we'll never fix that fundamental problem.

I find it frustrating that someone commenting at ATR can think it's immoral to even consider ways to wind down the war in Afghanistan rather than declare its immediate end because of a conviction that an immediate conclusion to the war could be accomplished if Obama merely had the will to do it. That isn't on the table for a reason, and if people truly think they have given more thought to what can and cannot be accomplished than Andrew Bacevich has, they are kidding themselves. Unbridled moralism about a strategy developed by Bacevich from people who haven't educated themselves enough about our history and our present distressing state of affairs, let alone lost a child to these wars, is subject to a variety of criticisms that I presumably don't need to spell out beyond that observation.

Posted by: N E at October 13, 2009 09:47 PM

N E: Did YOU lose a son or daughter to one of OUR many wars in the Gulf?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 13, 2009 10:12 PM

John Caruso Again (on Substance of response to B. Miller):

Your comment to B. Miller states your belief that Obama has the power to end the war in Afghanistan and remove all troops because "nobody can stop him from making a decision," and adds that he simply has to "make his case to the populace well enough to outmaneuver the institutions arrayed against him," with the downside for him being "the cost to his political career."

I find that very naive in our post-911 world. Most of the "institutions arrayed against" Obama do not view our presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia as an idle debate topic or an issue to be resolved by the public after spirited argument. The National Security State does not trust the public to decide questions based on a showing of hands after informed discussion.

To protect the National Security of the United States, the military will do what it thinks necessary, and it will not limit itself to principled conduct. The GOP and its members will do whatever serves their interests, and they will not limit themselves to principled conduct. The intelligence agencies will do whatever is necessary to further their perception of the National Security interests of the United States, and they will not limit themselves to principled conduct. Those things have been demonstrated over and over again in the last decade. The only real question is "how unprincipled" will they get.

Your comment suggests that the worst thing that would happen is that Obama would be criticized so much that he might not be re-elected. That actually might be enough to sway him, of course, because politicians obviously do care whether they will lose power, but I don't think that is remotely all that could happen. The elections of 2000 and 2004, the creation of the war on terror, and the Invasion of Iraq caused me to reevaluate my view of what the National Security State can and cannot do.

I assume that even if you don't recognize some of the peculiarities of the events of 9/11, you are aware of the abundants warnings preceding the event, which raise direct and questions about Rumsfeldt's remarkable and unexplained change in the intercept protocols shortly before the event. That was a major contributing factor in the failure of any interception of the hijacked jets, and that change in the intercept protocols certainly raises very grave questions of foreknowledge. The fact that such questions were never even addressed, along with a host of other issues that the 9/11 families wanted addressed, raises very grave questions about the functionality of our whole political system and suggested to me that the National Security State has become essentially unchallengeable. The elections of 2000 and 2004 and the media's conduct in connection with the invasion of Iraq support the same conclusion. All that is not ancient history. The National Security State has not changed in the meantime, because nothing has happened to diminish its power. What it could do then, it can do now.

We are not in Afghanistan or Central Asia to combat terrorism. If you believe that we are, you truly must be naive. So the question is, why are we there? Energy is of course part of the answer, as well as geopolitics, but almost any answer you reach should suggest to you that a complete withdrawal by Obama would not be permitted unless whatever interests that gave rise to our presence were to determine that our presence is no longer necessary there. Again, nothing has changed to make that true.

If anything has been shown in the past decade, it is that what the National Security State wants to do, it can do. There is no effective external opposition. At present, the only potential hope is internal division, as there has been with regard to an attack on Iran. But as to Afghanistan, the extent of disagreement within the National Security State extends to whether more troops should be deployed or more Predators used. Nothing more.

If Obama were to go beyond the most nonviolent of the options before him, I would expect him to be destroyed, and then I would expect a change in policy toward even more, rather than less violence, because the only brake on the level of violence would have been burned out.

Posted by: N E at October 13, 2009 11:03 PM

Obama made his compromise with the National Security State in order to get elected, so it would be ridiculous to assume that he will pursue a nonviolent strategy, or that he is a moralist.

That's an excellent point, I'll be sure to repeat it if I ever meet anyone who believes that.

Posted by: SteveB at October 13, 2009 11:09 PM

Mike Meyer:

If that were true, it would have been as tasteless of me to have said as it was tasteless of you to have asked that question.

Bacevich did.

Good lord.

Posted by: N E at October 14, 2009 12:04 AM


Have you been locked in your attic for the past decade? Most of the GOP believes that and more about Obama, and the overwhelming majority of the military and intel people belong to the GOP.

Posted by: N E at October 14, 2009 12:13 AM

John Caruso Again:

You are correct that Brazilians, Chileans, Bolivians and others in South America have thrown off explicit military dictatorships, but it's odd that you imply that to be more difficult. It is not--it is much easier, because in the case of an explicit dictatorship, everyone knows an illegitimate government is in power. Here, on the other hand, people have had it drummed into their heads that the government is always legitimate, because this is America and we're a democracy.

I assure you that we have had the equivalent of coups by way of assassinations, attempted and threatened asssassinations, and scandals (such as Watergate), all of which were orchestrated and led to direct changes in important policies and personnel. Soldiers didn't have to surround the White House, but they didn't need to. Power changed hands, and after each such change in power policies related to war and peace and empire changed too. And each time the change led to greater mililtarism.

The typically American inability to believe that such things could happen here is one of the worst features of American exceptionalism. The great majority of Americans presume that such things don't happen here based on nothing more than their belief that they couldn't happen here. It's the "aw come on" position, and from the left it is so inconsistent with the left's views of power and militarism that it's hard to figure out what's behind the reluctance other than timidity.

Whatever the basis of that political blinkeredness, it keeps people from looking into potential government crimes very deeply. And that's lucky for the National Security State too, because in fact, such crimes do happen here, just as they do everywhere else, but here it amounts to nothing because most people will eventually shrug their shoulders and believe something as ridiculously idiotic on its face as the single bullet theory.

The Brazilians and Bolivians and Chileans have probably straightened out their government better than we have because they don't have their heads in the sand.

Posted by: N E at October 14, 2009 12:53 AM

@NE: If you're still reading, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the point SteveB made about George W. Bush and the deal for the U.S. military to leave Iraq.

Posted by: Nell at October 14, 2009 03:34 AM


Sorry I didn't address Bush's withdrawal from Iraq. I was multitasking, and that's quite a challenge. Please excuse the factual mistakes that I'm sure to make below, but I'll give it a shot.

SHORT ANSWER: Removing forces from Afghanistan during a war that is going badly in a fiercely contested region considered important to US strategic interests is not comparable to a troop drawdown from an area already effectively secured after the military phase of the war was won, and where the military has no major objection to the drawdown.

I don't recall Bush having any real opposition to establishing a timetable for withdrawing uS combat troops from Iraq. By the time that troop withdrawal was negotiated, we had already finished tearing the country apart with what Cheney so charmingly called the Salvadorean option, which he thought had worked so well in the 80s. That ghastly US-induced fratricidal civil war had split Iraq into three separate ethnic zones governed by the three main ethnic/religious groups. Baghdad and the south had become Shia, the rest of the center Sunni and managed by the leadership councils we paid off, and the north had become Kurd. The US continued and continues to occupy its enormous self-contained bases, from which it is able to dominate the skies and from which it can emerge whenever necessary for further aggression or "peacekeeping." In that respect, the US is probably considered useful to have around by the corrupt leadership we installed in the separate zones, though of course they won't say that publicly.

I confess that at the moment I don't know where the issue of oil stands in Iraq, but an important effort from the start was to get a new oil law enacted there to give the oil companies access to all that low-cost Iraqi oil, some of the cheapest in the world to extract and refine. The Iraqis had consistently balked as of the last time I read about that, but I'm pretty sure George Bush didn't compromise or endanger the legal positions of any oil companies by agreeing to that troop withdrawal timetable. I don't remember him actually compromising any military positions either. My recollection was that the troop withdrawl agreement was done to create a political appearance, and basically a false one.

The US military has not left Iraq, and it's not going to leave it. We and our ally/proxy Israel control the Gulf, and we have no real rivals there. We certainly aren't going to relinquish control of Iraq, and Bush certainly didn't agree to do so. We removed "combat" troops, and General Odierno has stopped trying to keep as many troops there as he can, likely pursuant to direction from the Pentagon, and basically he has agreed to withdrawal of some so they can be redeployed to Afghanistan. And I'm sure gradually more will be withdrawn, but we're going to keep the big bases, and maybe a surprising number of other bases. Chalmers Johnson has pointed out astutely that we just never seem to be able to let go of bases, which are seedy outposts of vice and corruption around the world. The number of them is becoming absurd, and the bases in Iraq are now part of our enormous collection. It seems that our military is a little bit controlling and just can't let go of bases. Hoarding.

Central Asia is not Iraq. Despite the claim by Astore in the Nation article linked in Jonathan Schwartz's post, China and Russia have a huge interest in what happens in and around Afghanistan, and they certainly aren't just passive onlookers. The Caspian and Caususus regions are fiercely contested, with the Caspian basin containing enormous oil reserves perhaps as large or greater than those in the Persian Gulf, which have been being depleted for quite some time. (Remember that California and Texas and Mexico were once the leading oil producing regions in the world; new sources are always important.) Russia still considers the FSU (Former Soviet Union) states within its traditional area of control, and China's western borders are right there too, along with most of the natural resources that China needs going forward. That is entirely different from the situation in the Gulf, where the US has overwhelming military dominance and faces only the risk that Iran will get nuclear weapons and complicate its ability to unilaterally control essentially everything that happens without "outside" interference.

Removing forces from Afghanistan during a war that is going badly in a fiercely contested region considered important to US strategic interests is not comparable to a troop drawdown from a region we already effectively control and where we maintain bases. The Pentagon didn't consider the troop withdrawal in Iraq to endanger the US's strategic interests there, but they certainly would think that about withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan. They would consider it surrender, and probably treason. Not figuratively, but literally.

This is a huge problem. Trying to control Central Asia is not likely to be a workable strategy for the US going forward into the 21st century. It is, to say the least, an overly agressive policy, the product of hubris and an overdose of American exceptionalism. Russia and China are enormous countries, not minor international players like Vietnam or Afghanistan, and THEY ARE IN CENTRAL ASIA and very affected by what we do there. We are on the other side of the world, and if we enter into a military conflict with either Russia or China in Central Asia, we would lose eventually unless we were to risk destroying the world, because fighting a major power in its own backyard hasn't worked out many times across the ages. Sadly, it seems that most military men would rather destroy the world than lose, or even just lose face, and their faith in American military supremacy is almost limitless. They recognize the difficulty of occupations, but they don't really think they can lose a war. Whenever that attitude prevails, look out, because the generals get crazy when they think they can't lose.

Our footprint in Central Asia has grown quite a bit since the dissolution of the USSR, especially since 9/11, which has justified our burgeoning presence there for nearly a decade already. Eventually our military presence in Central Asia is likely to create conflict, and conflict can always be expanded by jingoes and exploited by those with an incentive, so a major war is a possible ultimate outgrowth. A suspiciously timed provocation that might have led to a larger conflict happened in Georgia/Ossovetia just before the Presidential election last year. Sometimes such small affairs, like one in Serbia in 1914, can have a rippling effect. Today if a conflict ripples into a major war, it could mean millions or even hundreds of millions of casualties.

So I personaly we really need to get the hell out of Central Asia, even apart from the immorality of murdering the inhabitants, but the National Security State isn't going to want to leave. Doing so would involve a complete reversal of our National Security policy, which now involves not permitting rivals to challenge our power in any region of the globe of strategic importance. That means, to spell it out, if Russia and China begin to approach the point where they can challenge us militarily in the region in a meaningful way, we would have to strike against them before they reach the point where there is parity. If our power begins to decline and theirs increases, even only becuse they want to protect themselves in light of our rather aggressive point of view, our militarists will call for a correction of the developing trend. And to maintain our strategic dominance in the region, we need forward deployment bases like Bagram. We aren't going to just pack up and leave.

There is some chance that Barack Obama will recognize the long-term madness of our Central Asian policy, even though he either didn't think it through before his election or, more likely, because he knew then what position he had to take but won't feel constrained to stick to it. (Like everybody else, Barack Obama might not turn out to not feel obligated to honor a deal forced on him by crooks.) Whatever he has said and done to date, he can change his mind, and he does have the power to set the nation's long-term course in some meaningful ways, especially through the power of public rhetoric. Thus, he has some real potential ability to help prevent catastrophe, at least in the longer term. He just won't be allowed to make all US troops leave Afghanistan during the next year.

No one of any influence within the National Security elite seems to be saying that the United States should retreat from its position that it maintain military dominance in every region of the globe, including Central Asia. We have become, in Madeline Albright's words, "the indispensable nation," and neither Democrats nor Republicans have suggested that we retreat from that role. A pullout of all troops from Afghanistan would be such a retreat.

Even in the longer term, neither the Pentagon nor the intelligence agencies nor any part of the National Security State is likely to view the situation in Central Asia in any terms that take into account anything other than the national interest of the United States. Nationalists think about the national interest and reflexively expect everyone else in the world to be grateful to us, because they should see how remarkably selfless we are. Liz Cheney essentially said yesterday that the world owes us a debt of gratitude for protecting it and ensuring stability everywhere, which reminded me of what George W. Bush has said after Saddam was toppled. As I recall, W told someone that the most important quality in the new leadership of Iraq after Saddam was toppled was that they be appropriately grateful to the United States. It sounded to me like W was completely unaware of how that would sound to an Iraqi.

In his memoir In Retrospect, Robert McNamara wrote that we need to understand how the leaders of other nations look at the world, because he had seen up close and personal how those in power struggled to do so. Especially in the military, leaders lack any real sense of how others with different beliefs see things, and consequently they make mistakes of epic and tragic proportions in evaluating their adversaries' motives and ambitions. That, and their intolerance of any security risks, leads to wars. The job of the civilians is to keep them under control, but unfortunately the officers corps believes the lesson of Vietnam was that they deferred too much to the civilians and thereby lost the war. They believe that was a dereliction of duty by the military, and a book by that title was even popular a West Point in the 90s. That was the wrong conclusion for the military to reach, and even worse, a dangerous conclusion, because it invites insubordination. Little did they know that has been the military's biggest problem all along.

All this warfare in the world needs to end. Everyone can piss on Woodrow Wilson and FDR and JFK (those stinking Democratic Presidents) all they want, but in the end they all saw that something had to be done about war, and they tried to get us at least part of the way there. Regrettably, they had to make their deals with the generals and admirals first, and having helped create and/or perpetuate a military juggernaut, it proved beyond their power to control it. See Frankenstein.

As for W, he never did anything to further the interests of peace, let alone made any personal sacrifice or took any risk for it. He doesn't seem like he has ever made a personal sacrifice for anything in his life, and he certainly didn't by agreeing to the troop withdrawl from Iraq. If W had tried to get all troops out of Iraq by the end of his term in office, that would have been a risk.

Sorry for not being more succint. It's hard to edit in these little windows.

Posted by: N E at October 14, 2009 10:34 AM

Thank you N E for a very perceptive essay. I just have to ask you one question: How many Afghani children have you personally shivved? Are you willing to personally strap ordinance onto your childrens' bodies and blow them up in a marketplace?

Because, obviously, if you don't believe Obama will presto changeo get rid of 100 years of American foreign policy, you must personally support the war, right?

I would also agree that comparing our dilemna, the dilemna of the imperial machine and state, to military dictatorships in South America is challenging. There is a sense of self righteoussness, that American Exceptionalism, that shamelessness (exemplified by Cheney) that makes such a sea change more difficult. Do I LIKE that? Of course not. Yet, one has to acknowledge that it is there and it shared by both political parties. Sites like this one, which generally do not buy into the myth of the Democratic Party as a Party of Peace, are important, even if on the very farthest fringe of the real debate.

Posted by: BMiller at October 14, 2009 11:01 AM

N E continues to work the Markos Moulitsas Zuniga angle. If N E's prose were a bit more pompous, I'd swear that it was written by George Stephanopoulos.

B Miller seems to be, essentially, Rahm Emanuel.

Well, there's your predictability for the ATR comment threads. If you want to know the DLC talking points, just read N E or BMiller.

Posted by: The Anti-Federalist at October 14, 2009 11:36 AM

BMiller: Neither YOU nor NE will EVER personally shive anyone nor strap bombs to children nor shoot those armed children nor bomb them. YOU're too willing to PAY someone else to do YOUR dirty work for YOU. Poor people and their children, like me and mine, are foolish enough to take up THAT cause for room, board, a uniform, and dollar. WE were raised to it I suppose.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 14, 2009 11:51 AM

Mike: Doesn't posting personal attacks take time away from your IMPORTANT efforts to spam every vaguely leftist discussion board with urgent calls to email Nancy Pelosi or stop paying your taxes? You have a more VITAL task, my man. get to it!

Anti-federalist: So, people who explain why Obama is not going to teleport our troops out of Afghanistan is now 110% in favor of the imperial project? Yeah, right. I despise the Democratic Party. That's why I don't expect them to DO ANYTHING that changes the Imperial Project. And, as long as our single party state has apologists who tell us that Obama can just instantly change everything with no consequences...or more importantly that he WANTS to change anything, than the political debate in this country will remain unrealistic and ineffective. Earnest discussions about why Obama can transform a century of militarized policy instantaneously are as useful as M. Meyers's emails to Nancy "I Like Spying and Torture if I am Doing It" Pelosi.

That doesn't mean I think our hosts should stop talking about it, stop arguing, even stop sending emails. Permit me my cyncicm, though, when N E explains why Obama, who was supported fully by corporate America and has always been a conservative Democrat, is not likely to make major, sudden changes in a decades-long pattern of behavior.

Rahm Emmanuel? A smart, utterly amoral operator. Noting reality, which includes the activities of such imperial courtiers, does not make one a supporter of such men.

Posted by: BMiller at October 14, 2009 01:12 PM


if you're going to respond to my posts, please respond to what I posted. I didn't post anything like what you've accused me of saying.

You are mistaken that you're not a clone of Emanuel. You are an equivocator, pretending to be against Obama/Biden et alia, while offering "criticism" essentially demanding that we all accept things as they are, as a "reality" with which we're stuck. In other words, you're telling us all that we can't do better, so we need to push back "from the inside."

Nope. Dead wrong. And honestly, it's nothing more than weak attempts to prevent anyone from imagining that they have a choice beyond Repub and Dem.

Why do you fear people taking back power, that's what I'd like to know. Why?

Posted by: The Anti-Federalist at October 14, 2009 01:42 PM


You can argue with the anti-Federalist if you want to, compadre, but . . .

Mike Meyer:

What HAS gotten INTO yOu? I think NANCY is WaItInG bY ThE PHoNe. :)

Anti-Federalist: phhhhhhttttthhhh!

Posted by: N E at October 14, 2009 02:54 PM


I vow to contribute $.05 to the Mike Meyers IRS Defense Fund.

In other words, you're telling us all that we can't do better, so we need to push back "from the inside."

No. That's the problem-we are talking past each other. I am skeptical that such change "from within" can occur. You, however- this is EXACTLY what you are saying. You are expecting Obama to make changes. You are expecting Obama to respond to pressure from people and groups which he himself considers trivial and unimportant. (And, in the scheme of the Security State, Democrats who are peace advocates are trivial. I'm sorry, but that's reality). We are merely pointing out why this is not likely to happen, and the likely response of the Security State even in the unlikely event that a man who is a product, a prodigal result of said Security State, made a drastic change not in the interest of said state.

"And honestly, it's nothing more than weak attempts to prevent anyone from imagining that they have a choice beyond Repub and Dem."

Now where in the hell do you get this argument from? It is you and your supporters who still tie all change to Obama and the purported "left wing (hah!) of the Democratic Party (Heck, our hosts certainly do not, in general, make this mistake).

Honestly, I am disappointed here. I'll admit my first post on this topic made the same mistake, but a frequent response to N E's well-thought out points has been "Nya Nya Nya...You want to personally bomb an Afghan villager and you must love Rahm Emmanuel, you Inside the Villager." Ad hominem attacks do not illuminate the discussion at all. But then, again, I guess I am reaping what i sowed...but I am trying to move beyond that now.

John Caruso at least tries to explain why he thinks Obama can (if he really wanted to) make dramatic changes. I may disagree, but that is a rational argument, at least.

Why do you fear people taking back power, that's what I'd like to know. Why?

What does this mean? Who are "The People"? What is this mythological unitary beast that needs merely be LIBERATED by an email campaign from Mike Meyers (Nancy Pelosi awaits. She fears The People but will serve it if only "progressives" make enough noise!) What if The People LIKE war? History certainly suggests this may be the case in this country, at least. What if The People like oppressing its minority groups?

I am merely a lowly middle aged bureaucrat. I have no solutions, only critiques. But I know FALSE solutions and false messiahs and unwarranted faith in government institutions when I see them. Mea culpa

Posted by: BMiller at October 14, 2009 03:17 PM

BMiller: THANX, BUT that's been settled for YEARS now. I don't mind the donations except they are unnecessary, I've already fed the cows so I have plenty of time 4U. It wasn't an attack its just the TRUTH.
NE: I caLLed TODay alreaDy, how about YOU?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 14, 2009 04:39 PM

Have you called DiFi yet, though? You may have trouble getting through, though. She's probably busy talking with her financial advisors about the oddles of money she and her hubsand will be making from the latest, greatest Democratic Party war ('cause the 30 year Afghanistan War was STARTED by the Dems back in Saint Jimmy's day...and Obama's expansion of the war is certainly making this war his very, very own.) But...I'm sure DiFi is eager to hear from you, Mike!

Posted by: BMiller at October 14, 2009 05:32 PM

AH...finally a politician that "gets it" (LOL)

Posted by: BMiller at October 14, 2009 06:20 PM

BMiller: Why don't YOU call her. She's NOT Speaker Of The House and I don't live in her district. If I were to call the Senate I would call Harry Reid. I DO call Cynthia Lomis with some of my concers BUT she is a solid Republican as are my senators Enzi and Barrasso. SO, I'll just keep calling Nancy Pelosi. (I DON'T e-mail Pelosi, in fact I don't E-mail anyone. I don't use E-mail because of spam)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 14, 2009 06:56 PM

BMiller: Why be upset over my saying that YOU wouldn't personally bomb children? WE ALL PAY AT THE PUMP to do so, none of us any more guilty than the next. Its a volunteer military these days, so those that pull the trigger on OUR GUNS, are willing to do so in the beginning.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 14, 2009 07:19 PM

It is you and your supporters who still tie all change to Obama and the purported "left wing (hah!) of the Democratic Party...

BMiller, just as you're being badly misunderstood as an apologist for Democratic rule when it's obvious you're not, I think you're misunderstanding what other people are saying. I'm sure there's nobody in in this thread who holds the positions you're denouncing above (and the irony is that the person who comes closest is N E, who regularly defends Obama against criticism, refusing even to hold him responsible for his own actions—like drone attacks he's ordered in Pakistan).

Part of the problem is that you seem to be reading the statement that Obama can order the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan—which is a simple statement of fact—as a belief that there's the slightest chance he ever would, or that everyone should put all their efforts into trying to convince him to do so. But "can" and "will" are entirely separate questions (and ditto for "would be successful"). Obviously there's no chance in hell he'd ever do it, but that is in fact a choice on his part, and one he can and should be judged for. Obama apologists claim that he dearly wants to end the war(s), and he's only held back by the forces arrayed against him. My point is that we should judge Obama (like anyone else) by his actions, not his empty rhetoric, and certainly not on the basis of naive notions about what he really feels in his secret heart of hearts.

Posted by: John Caruso at October 14, 2009 09:57 PM

Well, at least he's NOT George Bush and neither are WE. I think WE ALL deserve a Nobel for THAT.
John Caruso: NEVER say never, the Afghanis may well have a different opinion on who stays and who goes. Much like the Iraqis, they're showing US the door.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 14, 2009 11:11 PM


What John Caruso said.

Also, if you get into too many arguments online, you'll occasionally find yourself in the position you're in--being attacked for positions you don't hold and attacking others for positions they don't hold. Loads of fun, let me tell you.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at October 15, 2009 08:12 AM

John Caruso:

For whatever reason, you talk about my opinions without getting them right, either because you haven't read them or because you are so sure of yourself that you don't even need to think about what I say before rejecting it.

That's sort of my take on how you think about Obama and the Presidency in general too: Why bother considering any other facts, let alone other opinions, when you can quote a newspaper article that tells you what you wanted to hear and deride or mischaracterize others for not agreeing with you.

As far as I can tell, with the exception of poor reading comprehension of my views, you're bright, and you have respectable opinions and values like most commenters around here, but you do have a lot to learn factually, possibly because you haven't been willing to consider the possibility that you do. You're much deeper in skepticism, morality, and power of observation than in factual knowledge, and to anyone not singing in your chorus that's not so hard to see. Consider the possibility that you might be wrong about something a little more often and that will likely change. Questions lead to questions once a person loses his certainty. I do know about that.

If you have something to say about the points I raise, please say something substantive about them. If you don't have anything to say about the actual points I make, you might take at least a moment to ask yourself why that is. A lot of those points go to the very heart of our political history, the evolution and power of the National Security State, Presidential power, the corruption of our political system, and how we have become such a militaristic juggernaut, wreaking havoc around the world with no apparent sense of the impact of that destruction on other people. To say that the positions I have put forward are controversial is an understatement. They are outright heresy in mainstream circles, certainly in the real world and even here at ATR in different ways, because they introduce unwanted wrinkles. So it would be noteworthy for you to have no views on most of the substance at all, and if you don't it would be asking yourself why that is too.

My assumption is that people don't know many of these things, which are difficult to know because they are concealed and exploration of the events is frowned upon or prohibited, but there could be other reasons too. Sometimes a person can learn something from asking himself what he doesn't like to think about and why. That has certainly been true for me at times, but it does require some honesty with oneself, which can suck, frankly, so personally I try not to get carried away with that.

But enough of that. Whether you or I like Obama is a dull and unimportant question. I certainly may be wrong in what I say about him and many other things, particular with regard to questions where we have too little reliable information. As information improves, so do my opinions, and they have definitely changed a great deal, and not because I had a moral epiphany. In fact, my morals are the same as they ever were, and I doubt I'm a better person than I ever was. (I know what your first thought was there.) My views have been significantly evolving for most of the past decade, but not my morals. I just didn't know much of what I know now ten years ago, and obviously I can therefore be asked lots of "were you wrong then or are you wrong now" questions. But frankly, I don't care. That is unimportant.

What's important are questions like how the First Gulf War was put into play, how the military and the government deceived people about it, what that led to, and where we have ended up. That's important, and understanding how the National Security State pulled it off is important. I didn't even know I had been played at the time. Most people don't know they are constantly being played. Most probably don't even want to know. But some do, and the rest should, because we're all getting screwed whether we know it or not.

Isn't that more important than whether we think Barack Obama has free will or is a good man?

Posted by: N E at October 15, 2009 10:30 AM

Will Obama KEEP HIS CANPAIGN PROMISES? Otherwise who in their right mind cares about his free will or goodness? We elected him President, We didn't marry him.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 15, 2009 03:37 PM

Mike Meyer:


Posted by: N E at October 15, 2009 05:50 PM

I MARRIED HIM and I thought I was marrying CYNTHIA MCKINNEY. I've been bitter EVER SINCE.

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at October 15, 2009 09:53 PM

StO: Hint: I ALWAYS test drive before I buy.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 15, 2009 11:01 PM

Mike Meyers:

Four days ago I said in this thread that if the military brass thought Obama was going to pull out of Afghanistan altogether, things would likely start blowing up all over the place, among other problems that would arise.

Well, I may have been optimistic. It seems bombs could also start blowing up all over Pakistan if Obama were just a little too undecided about not giving McChrystal what he asked for. Of course, the bombings could be just a coincidence, but there is a well-documented history of these sorts of shenanigans over the years, and if a President doesn't sign on the dotted line to military requests for funds and authorization, things seem to consistently start blowing up and going wrong.

So when you test drive your next car, make sure you take it to your own mechanic and have him look it over very thoroughly.

Posted by: N E at October 15, 2009 11:55 PM

N E: What if I DON'T want to spend MY TAX DOLLAR on political and military problems in Pakistan? What if I want MY TAX DOLLAR spent on healthcare for my poor fellow AMERICANS here instead? I've NEVER been to Pakistan and do NOT plan on going at this point in my life. Call me hard hearted and incurious N E, but I don't care to be Pakistan's puppetmaster. I buy all sorts of Pakistani products. Let THAT be enough money I send their way, THAT and my prayers and best wishes. They give sanctuary to OSAMA BIN LADEN and associates so it appears that Mike Meyer ain't their good buddy and I damn sure ain't their Santy Claws.

Posted by: Miker Meyer at October 16, 2009 09:53 AM

One and ALL: Stan McChrystal hasn't MENTIONED GETTING OSAMA BIN LADEN. If he CAN'T GET BIN LADEN then he's as useless as I am to the situation.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 16, 2009 10:12 AM

Mike Meyer: Good grief, McChrystal and the Pentagon don't care about Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden has probably been dead since December 2001, despite all those videotapes. What would surprise you is how many officials have said he is probably dead. The funniest thing I've seen, in a sick way, was footage of W saying back around 2005 in the presence of the corrupt Porter Goss, then CIA head, that we were going to catch Osama eventually. Porter Goss actually smiled, and it looked like he might start laughing.

You've been played.

Those damn taped message by Osama sure have been handy to keep this ridiculous, bloody, expensive game going strong this long, with no end in site, not to mention during the 2004 election.

But I'm glad you don't want to screw around in Asia. Me either.

Posted by: N E at October 16, 2009 11:27 AM

OH, but N E...not calling Nancy every day (she is awaiting his calls) means that you personally are Rahm Emmanuel and you personally want to bomb Afghani wedding parties! GET wITh tHE PrOGRAM, man!

Posted by: BMiller at October 16, 2009 12:01 PM

N E; Until there is PROOF that OSAMA BIN LADEN is dead then I'll believe that he is still alive. Otherwise its just an extention of the REPUBLICAN LIE that BIN LADEN is not relevant.
BMiller: Do YOU really think she's waiting for my calls? I'm impressed!

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 16, 2009 01:33 PM

Mike Meyer:

The Republicans don't think Osama is irrelevant. They think that he is the second-biggest cash cow in the universe, Jesus being first, of course, so they don't want him captured OR dead. That would ruin the videotape business.

Ooops, there I go sounding just like Marcos Zuninga again.

Posted by: N E at October 16, 2009 03:42 PM

N E: George Bush and Dick Cheney said he was irrelevant. I believe they are Republicans and in fact LEADERS of the Republican Party at the time the idea of irrelevance was first proposed.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 16, 2009 03:53 PM

N E, et al,

More and more, I'm inclined to think that the conflict between Obama and the general may largely be for show, for our benefit, and for their respective constituencies. So they can be in agreement all along while Obama demonstrates he's a democrat(whatever that still means), and McChrystal shows the pentagon that he's a tough badass, etc.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at October 16, 2009 06:13 PM

Jonathan Versen:

There is certainly a big element of politics and theater to the whole dispute because Obama doesn't want the dove wing of the Democratic party to think he is a hawk, and McChrystal of course wants to impress not just Petraeus and his peers, but also tough guys throughout the military, including those he leads. In that sense, I think there is certainly much that is "for show," to use your words. I'd say that has to be going on, though it doesn't really say anything one way or another about what either Obama or the Generals think of each other.

I think what you suggest is close to the mark in another way too. The operation of the National Security State in practice narrows the range of debate. As I said elsewhere, if Obama were to say, "you know what, i've changed my mind, and this is a foolish war, so we're leaving afghanistan by the end of next year," then I feel sure all hell would break lose in every imaginable way to prevent that. The National Security State (the military, intel agencies, and associated entities) wouldn't permit that. No way.

Short of stopping the war, everything becomes a question of strategy and tactics over which the President can only exercise so much control via general high-level directives. Wars are administered by the bureaucracy, and options are implemented through it once the President has issued orders. Even when the President is at odds with large segments of the bureaucracy, the overall process strikes me as necessarily collaborative.

Now here's the rub. I don't doubt for a minute that Obama would like a very different type of world than McChrystal or most of his Generals. He can be called a warmonger the same way Woodrow Wilson or FDR or JFK or Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton wan be--because he presides over a large bureaucracy that makes war more than any nation on earth. But Obama is certainly not a bezerker like Teddy Roosevelt who would like to paint himself with blood and run around clubbing people over the head. McChrystal and most Generals are that type.

In the minds of the Generals, and I'd bet Obama too, that difference between them is real and enormous. Obama is a politician, and a smooth one, and I'd doubt many of the Generals voted for him, certainly not McChrystal. And Obama probably doesn't see much political or social intelligence in the Generals. This leads them to not trust each other, and I'm pretty sure that mistrust is real. So I don't think when McChrystal or another General is incensed about not getting his way, it's necessarily phony. To them, what a dove would consider an almost imperceptible difference in policy might seem like the difference between protecting the country and treason. Go figure.

I think all that is going on, and I don't think it's unusual. That's why someone can say, for example, that JFK was a hawk and be partly right, and say most of the military brass hated his guts and be right, and say he made great sacrifices for peace and be right, and say he was a Cold Warrior and be right, and say he was a player in the system and not revolutionary in any way and be right. That sort of litany could be made with other Presidents who were Democrats too, and I think it can with Obama as well. I suspect that's partly why it's possible for people to disagree so strongly about whether those Democratic Presidents were warmongers or heroes and think others with different opinion are crazy.

Posted by: N E at October 16, 2009 07:17 PM