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August 27, 2007

Where's Snow White? We've got the Dwarves...

Friedrich von Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards,

Are you following the positions of the various candidates for President? I happened on a copy of Foreign Affairs the other day and noticed that the editors appear to have invited many of the front running candidates to submit summaries of their foreign policy proposals. I read the articles written (at least ostensibly) by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the July/August edition, and by Rudolph Giuliani and John Edwards in the September/October edition.

My summary? There is more similarity than difference between them.

All of them take it for granted that the U.S. should remain large and in charge on the world scene. As John Edwards remarks in his piece, "Reengaging with the World":

There was a time when a [U.S.] president did not speak just to Americans--he spoke to the world. People thousands of miles away would gather to listen to someone they called, without irony, "the leader of the free world."...Even if these ordinary men and women did not always agree with our policies, they looked to our president and saw a person--and a nation--they could trust...We need to reach out to ordinary men and women from Egypt to Indonesia and convince them, once again, that the United States is a force to be admired.

Rudy Guliani stresses our obligations to what he calls "the international system" in his piece, "Towards a Realistic Peace":

The next U.S. president will face three key foreign policy challenges. First and foremost will be to set a course for victory in the terrorists' war on global order. The second will be to strengthen the international system that the terrorists seek to destroy. The third will be to extend the benefits of the international system in an ever-widening arc of security and stability across the globe.

Barack Obama chimes in on the not-to-be-shirked American burdens in his piece, "Renewing American Leadership":

After thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars spent, many Americans may be tempted to turn inward and cede our leadership in world affairs. But this is a mistake we must not make... We can neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission. We must lead the world, by deed and by example. Such leadership demands that we retrieve a fundamental insight of Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy--one that is truer now than ever before: the security and well-being of each and every American depend on the security and well-being of those who live beyond our borders.

Mitt Romney enlists us all in the front lines of a (yet another) clash of civilizations in his piece, "Rising to a New Generation of Global Challenges":

In the aftermath of World War II and with the coming of the Cold War, members of "the greatest generation" united America and the world around shared values and actions that changed history...Our times call for equally bold leadership and for a renewed sense of service and shared sacrifice among Americans and our allies around the world...Many [Americans] still fail to comprehend the extent of the threat posed by radical Islam, specifically by those extremists who promote violent jihad against the United States and the universal values Americans espouse...Radical Islam has one goal: to replace all modern Islamic states with a worldwide caliphate while destroying the United States and converting all nonbelievers, forcibly if necessary, to Islam. This plan sounds irrational, and it is. But it is no more irrational than the policies pursued by Nazi Germany in the 1930s and the 1940s and Stalin's Soviet Union during the Cold War. And the threat is just as real.

Something sounds irrational, anyway. The natural consequence of all this world-spanning ambition is, of course, an ever-larger military capability (with an ever larger price tag.) John Edwards isn't big on quoting dollar numbers, but his view of our military mission is fairly all inclusive. It covers, well, the whole world:

The force structure of our military should match its missions... The U.S. armed forces have three important missions: deterring or responding to those who wish to do us harm, ensuring that the problems of weak and failing states do not create dangers for the United States, and maintaining our strategic advantage over major competitor states, in part so that they choose to cooperate with us, rather than challenge our interests militarily.

Rudy Giuliani is much more specific, laying out our new weapon-system requirements:

The U.S. army needs a minimum of ten new combat brigades...We must also take a hard look at other requirements, especially in terms of submarines, modern long-range bombers, and in-flight refueling tankers...The next U.S. president must also press ahead with building a national missile defense system.

Mr. Obama is more focused on the need for new soldiers:

We must use this moment both to rebuild our military and to prepare it for the missions of the future. We must retain the capacity to swiftly defeat any conventional threat to our country and our vital interests. But we must also become better prepared to put boots on the ground in order to take on foes that fight asymmetrical and highly adaptive campaigns on a global scale. We should expand our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the army and 27,000 marines...At the same time, we need to commit sufficient funding to enable the National Guard to regain a state of readiness.

Mr. Romney, on the other hand, sees everybody else and raises 'em:

First, we need to increase our investment in national defense. This means adding at least 100,000 troops and making a long-overdue investment in equipment, armament, weapons systems, and strategic defense. The need to support our troops is repeated like a mantra in Washington. Yet little has been said about the commitment of resources needed to make this more than an empty phrase...The next president should commit to spending a minimum of four percent pf GDP on national defense. [emphasis original]

But just to show that they're all regular guys, not obsessed with strutting and fretting their hour upon the stage, each delivers up a truly zany idea, presumably for comic relief. From Mr. Edwards we get a paean to soft power:

In the coming years, we will most likely see an increasing need to stabilize weak and failing states and provide humanitarian assistance to the victims of disasters across the world... I will establish a Marshall Corps during my first year in office, named for our greatest secretary of state, General George Marshall. The Marshall Corps, patterned after the military reserves, will consist of at least 10,000 civilian experts who could be deployed abroad to serve in reconstruction, stabilization, and humanitarian missions.

From Mr. Giuliani, the global marketplace hath charms to soothe the savage breast:

Economic development and engagement are proven, if not fail safe, engines for successfully moving countries into the international system...Ever more open trade throughout the world is essential...we need a similar type of exchange with the Muslim countries we hope to plug into the global economy. Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are pointing the way by starting to interpret Islam in ways that respect the distinctiveness of their local cultures but are consistent with the global marketplace...Their leaders recognize that modernization is their ticket to the global marketplace. And the global marketplace can build bridges between the West and the Islamic world in a way that promotes mutual respect and mutual benefit.

From Mr. Obama, we get... well, a vision of the millennium, although he's a bit vague on how to get there:

Citizens everywhere should be able to choose their leaders in climates free of fear. American must commit to strengthening the pillars of a just society. We can help build accountable institutions that deliver services and opportunity: strong legislatures, independent judiciaries, honest police forces, free presses, vibrant civil societies. In countries wracked by poverty and conflict, citizens long to enjoy freedom from want. And since extremely poor societies and weak states provide optimal breeding grounds for disease, terrorism, and conflict, the United States has a direct national security interest in dramatically reducing global poverty and joining with our allies in sharing more of our riches to help those most in need. We need to invest in building capable, democratic states that can establish healthy and educated communities, develop markets and generate wealth. Such states would also have greater institutional capacities to fight terrorism, halt the spread of deadly weapons, and build health-care infrastructures to prevent, detect and treat deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and avian flu.

That quote was kind of long, but no synopsis could have conveyed its unique flavor. Mr. Romney would unleash our secret weapon, moderate Muslims:

In no area is our leadership more important and more urgently needed than in the Islamic world. Today the Middle East is facing a demographic crisis: over half the population there is under 22 years old, and the GDP of all Arab nations put together remains lower than that of Spain...If elected, one of my first acts as president would be to call for a summit of nations to address these issues. In addition to the United States, the countries convened would include other leading developed nations and moderate Muslim states. The objective of the summit would be to create a worldwide strategy to support moderate Muslims in their effort to defeat radical and violent Islam...A critical part of this effort would involve creating new trade and economic opportunities for the Middle East that could be powerful forces, not only economically, but also in breaking down barriers to cooperation on even the most intractable problems.

Taking part in electing a president of the caliber of these men just makes you proud to be an American, don't it?



posted by Friedrich at August 27, 2007


These excerpts you've quoted are deeply dispiriting. Foreign policy based on reflexive interventionism and the need to keep feeding the maw of the military-industrial complex is unhealthy and a terribly destructive drain on our resources.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on August 27, 2007 9:43 PM

You have the dwarves.

What about Snow White (AKA Hillary)?

Posted by: Adriana on August 27, 2007 9:54 PM

I'd love to "cede our leadership in world affairs" myself. Is there anyone I can root for?

Have I ventured my theory about why politicians seem love foreign affairs? 1) It's far more glamorous than attending to domestic problems is. 2) It's far more entertaining for them too.

Similar to the way they love "initiatives" far more than just making sure the country is working OK. I relate it to personal life. Far more entertaining to come up with new and fun projects to do than it is to actually face the dishes that need to be washed and the closet that needs to be cleaned.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 27, 2007 10:07 PM

Elections in free countries are and always have been about picking the lesser evil rather than finding the ideal. Once in a while the electorate gets lucky and gets to pick a Lincoln or a Reagan. More often, as is currently the case, the choice is between an array of apparent charlatans and mediocrities. Most voters ignore the position papers, which at best indicate candidates' initial positions and at worst are complete fluff, and vote on perceived character and on how each candidate stands on whatever matters most to each voter. That said, the position statements you quote shed a lot of light on what matters to the candidates. However imperfect they are, there are big differences between them on important issues, and voters are wise to pay serious attention to those differences.

Posted by: Jonathan on August 27, 2007 10:17 PM

I'd love to "cede our leadership in world affairs" myself. Is there anyone I can root for?

Don't worry. Pay attention to only the things that interest you. Ignore our enemies. Nobody will bother us if we pull the covers over our heads.

Posted by: Jonathan on August 27, 2007 10:23 PM

Sorry, but no Pax without Imperium, and you guys are (one hopes) the Antonines. The alternatives are such institutions as the EU and UN, which are worse than no alternative.

Sadly, none of the presidential candidates can speak of civilisation's dire long-term enemy: the nature-worshippers, body-snatched zealots who move among us like upper-middle class folk questioning the provenance of the their sea-bass, the carbon-print of their favourite spring-water. Until...

Until their zealot Hero comes to power...and then is soon replaced by his party's book-keeper...who keeps immaculate records...and is most thorough...

Posted by: Robert Townshend on August 27, 2007 10:49 PM

Ah, yes, Western Civilization's existential enemy, the upper-middle-class environmentalist. Even the dreaded EU and the UN are but pathetic dying empires compared to this horrible scourge, with their earnest recycling drives and Prius-buying.

You're absolutely right, Mr. Townshend - forget our drive toward endless, pointless interventions in foreign lands that didn't want or ask for our help. We've met the enemy, and its Al Gore, standing behind an iBook.

Lord help us.


Posted by: The Mechanical Eye on August 28, 2007 4:24 AM

The U.S. currently spends almost as much on the military as the rest of the world combined (about 47-48% of global military spending).

Posted by: Steve Sailer on August 28, 2007 5:56 AM

To put it more concisely, self-loathing is the enemy. It's the connection between feminists who sympathise with the Taliban and bloated plutocrats who brow-beat common folk over their free use of basic amenities. The self-loathing comes first, the bogus science and earnest analysis follow it.

And we are not just another species, okay? We are special. Very special. We can do this:

Posted by: Robert Townshend on August 28, 2007 9:39 AM

Steve Sailer wrote: The U.S. currently spends almost as much on the military as the rest of the world combined (about 47-48% of global military spending).

Suits me just fine. But whadda I know: I'm a former soldier who was surely brainwashed for good back in 1961. Nevertheless, history and common sense suggest to me that the weaker we are the more tempting we are to others.

That statistic probably doesn't take into account that military spending (in dollar terms) likely goes a lot farther in China than it does in the USA and Europe.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on August 28, 2007 10:31 AM

Let me see if I understand Mr. Townsend's argument.

Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell tap dancing on a Hollywood sound stage proves that humans (or at least white American humans) are creatures elevated above all other species here on earth ... we're already close to being divine. Our elevated status exempts us from natural laws. It is only "self-loathing" (disbelief in our unique status) that threatens us. Were it not for "Taliban loving feminists" (I never met or read anything by anyone who fits this description, but there are probably a few dozen of them out there somewhere) and the REAL enemy, middle class "nature-worshippers," then we'd be sailing merrily along toward a global Pax Americana. I guess all we need is to name Karl Rove or Robert Grant Emperor for Life, pump up the war chest and go pacify the rest of the planet. When are you tossing your hat in the Presidential race Mr. Townsend?

Posted by: Chris White on August 28, 2007 10:50 AM

Looks like the only thing we have going for us in the 2008 election is that after Bush there's nowhere to go but up.

Posted by: Michael P on August 28, 2007 10:51 AM

And another thought ... correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't one of our Cold War strategies to continually up the ante in terms of military spending so that the USSR would eventually collapse due to the fact that their "domestic" economy could not sustain itself if too much of their GDP went into military spending? And wasn't there going to be a great "peace dividend" following the soviet breakup? If we continue to employ the same strategy in a era of asymmetric warfare, don't we fall on the wrong side of the equation?

And I must say, in light of the great success we're seeing in our nation building efforts in Iraq, the idea of creating a service corps of "civilian experts who could be deployed abroad to serve in reconstruction, stabilization, and humanitarian missions" sounds like a colossal waste of money. All we need are the good ol' Army and Marines to liberate oppressed people in places like Iraq. Just like there we'll be met with open arms as liberators and before you know it, there will be McDonalds and KFCs and WalMarts dotting the newly liberated country, with grateful citizens anxious to enter the global community of consumers.

Posted by: Chris White on August 28, 2007 11:11 AM

Thanks to all for your comments.

A fairly detailed discussion of military spending by the U.S. and the rest of the world can be found at

If this discussion can be trusted, it appears that U.S. military spending is only around 40% of the world's total. Looked at another way, however, this account suggests that we spend 7 times as much as China (the #2 nation) and 3 times as much as Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria combined.

Can we spend more? Sure, if we choose not to spend money on other things. But I find it remarkable how little meaningful discussion obtains in organs like Foreign Affairs generally or in the candidate's essays on topics like:

(1) what ordinary Americans actually get for their military spending, the vast majority of which transparently has nothing to do with defending the U.S. against attack or invasion,

(2) the limits of what military action can accomplish as "politics via other means"(particularly given our unwillingness to utilize harsh measures such as the British used to defeat the Boers or the Nazis used successfully to control hundreds of millions of conquered Europeans with relatively few combat troops during World War II),

(3) the temptations to which such a large military machine inevitably subjects our rather feeble political decision-making apparatus--when you pay for this big club, every so often it's hard to resist using it, even if there are foreseeable and foreseen risks that come with using it, and

(4) the historical conundrum in which too much military spending may result in a less secure situation (see Hapsburg Spain, France under Louis XV, the Netherlands in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Germany in early 20th century, the Soviet Union, etc.)

An ability to defend oneself is necessary in the world, but the U.S. government, confronting a number of significant challenges (many of which are internal), should choose to spend only those sums on the military that make sense in light of the total situation--not because those sums underwrite the power, prestige and careers of politicians and contributors to Foreign Affairs.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 28, 2007 12:12 PM

It's the sheer cluelessness of the comments that is disturbing, isn't it? It's like they haven't paid any attention at all for the last 6 (or 60)years. Like whoever it was who said the Greatest Generation "united the world around shared ideals." Huh? When did they do that? Isn't much of what is going on today a result of the fact that they didn't, and probably couldn't, "unite the world" around our ideals?? Or any ideals? That perhaps it isn't even appropriate to assume we can?

I heard the other day a comment: "I don't remember having to explain to the Italian people that we didn't have a problem with them, just with Mussolini. Why do people think we need to take the Muslim countries out for an ice cream cone? They'll like when we win." Ay, there's the rub. When and how do we "win"?

The quotes included do not seem to even register the question.

However, the cluelessness of the electorate is also fully to blame. Many, many voters would NEVER cast a vote for someone who said "we should just cede leadership in world affairs to someone else." They are clinging to yesterday's fantasy. If politicians learned anything, they learned from the folly of Jimmy Carter's "our best days are behind us" fiasco. Enter Ronald Reagan.

Posted by: annette on August 28, 2007 12:53 PM

'People thousands of miles away would gather to listen to someone they called, without irony, "the leader of the free world."...': where do you find them, folks? I rather fear that Little Madam Cattle-Futures will win, and prove to be your third dud in a row.

Posted by: dearieme on August 28, 2007 3:02 PM

I have great confidence in Rudi Giuliani. I think that he's the best candidate for president since Ronald Reagan. (And, in my youth I was one of those people who thought Dutch was an intellectual embarassment. Turned out, it was our intellectuals who were an intellectual embarassment. They spent 50 years deluding themselves that Marxism did not lead inexorably to Stalinism.)

I don't know how to assess this post. The U.S. has no choice but to project its military power throughout the world. This is not even an option.

The U.S. remains just about the sole hope in this world for democracy and freedom. I'd like to think that this post was created out of goodwill, but I'm afraid it's just another remnant of that post-Vietnam obsession with seeing the U.S. as the cause of the world's evils.

While I'm a great fan of 2Blowhards, that Manhattan perspective often rules here. And, that Manhatttan perspective remains obsessed with the notion that old fashioned masculine values, and religious values are absurd.

War is part of the human condition. It's not going away. Attempts to make war go away ultimately will result in even greater violence. There are things worth fighting for.

Rudi turned New York around by ignoring the sophisticated intellectuals of Manhattan and embracing the common sense of old fashioned folks in the boroughs. Manhattan remains a place where airhead intellectuals have no daily interaction with black people, yet are full of advice for how people in Brooklyn and the Bronx should deal with the reality of the violence and crime of black communities. The world view of the Manhattan intellectual is damned stupid.

I hope Rudi also ignores the sophisticated intellectuals when it comes to issues of military and foreign policy. He'll win my vote by doing so.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on August 28, 2007 3:08 PM

Guliani has many plusses but I don't trust him on restricting immigration or using our military power in a way that actually serves US and West's strategic interests. And his repulsive personal behavior is another whole thing.

With Rudy Guliani, we could have the worst of G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton rolled into in one.

Posted by: PA on August 28, 2007 3:53 PM

"War is part of the human condition."

Then revise the human condition. The problem is, you are speaking from the viewpoint of the paradigm of framentation. You see individuals and nations as being seperate from other individuals and nations. You fail to see the network of all relationships between everything and humans and between humans and humans. We do not have enemies; they are simply a different manifestion of our own state. Our health as a nation requires a more symbiotic, dynamic relationship with other entities. You profess that our relationship with other nations should be linear and "patriarchal". This does not harmonize with the reality of well function systems. However, a new paradigm of wholeness does harmonize with new understandings of the nature of well functioning systems. In this new paradigm it is tacitly understood that no individual or individual nation is responsible for "leading", but rather, all individuals and nations are linked in a mutually beneficial network of relationships. The notion of competition between nations is inherently flawed. Sure, it may look like we are in competion from the fragmented world-view, but, in the wholeness world-view, it is immediately understood that is not the case.

Posted by: Tony on August 28, 2007 4:15 PM

Depressing reading.

But then we know that no candidate will go against
the nationalism of the people.

It is a good time to read John Lukacs to understand what is going on.

Posted by: Adriana on August 28, 2007 4:18 PM

Niall Ferguson has pointed out that whatever the flaws of the American colossus, the likely alternatives are almost certainly worse. America spends massively on its military, but that spending has created a world where states now find it far more difficult to achieve their aims through conventional warfare, since an American intervention would almost certainly be decisive. Now the only tactics that work against the US are indirect, and for all the horrors of terrorism, those tactics have produced far fewer dead and far less destruction than the great wars of the past.

US military spending is never going to get credit for what it most deserves credit for...all the wars that didn't happen on its watch. When American supremacy is a thing of the past, that past will be seen as a relative Golden Age.

I can't say I'm particularly interested in dying anytime soon, but I'm not sure I'd want to live in a world without Uncle Sam and his hard boys around to keep things all nice and peaceful. Who else would you want in that role? The Chinese?

Posted by: PatrickH on August 28, 2007 4:34 PM

There is no threat out there that can be usefully addressed by a larger ground army. In fact, there's not much of a short-term threat out there at all. Except the threat from within: crazy people. That one is serious, as always.

You have to have physical power to be a substantial short-term threat, and jihadists don't have any: not one tank, not one jet, no money, no industrial base, no scientists. Oh, and I forgot, no _country_, no state. No nukes and no prospect of getting any. Shit, if they had the entire Arab world under their imaginary caliphate, they'd still be weak as a kitten: the contemporary version of the Ottoman Empire.

In the longer run, someone without physical power can sometimes make a difference (i.e. cause trouble) with ideas: but of course the Moslem world doesn't have any. "No major invention or discovery has emerged from the Moslem world for well over seven centuries now." They haven't even managed to come with up with fast-selling bullshit like Marxism or psychoanalysis. _I'm_ likely to cause more of that kind of trouble than all the Moslems on Earth without even trying.

Posted by: gcochran on August 28, 2007 4:41 PM

Yes, Shouting Thomas, that Manhattan perspective can be a real worry. Still, got to love the Blowhards. I'm in Oz, but I think you guys should go for Rudi. He'll be tricky in a good way.

Posted by: Robert Townshend on August 28, 2007 5:05 PM

Who are you calling a "Manhattan intellectual"? Now that's going to cause a *real* fight.

But seriously ... Assuming we all agree that the U.S. needs to take self-defence seriously ... Why should I (you, him, her, whoever) care if Pisspooristan wants to go to war with Absurdintina? I mean, wish 'em well and all, but what business is it of ours? And, so far as terrorism goes, what are we going to accomplish by invading and/or monkeying around with loser countries except to generate more resentment and hatred of us? Which there's plenty around of already, thank you.

We're lucky: we're rich, we're infinitely more powerful than any other country. Why not enjoy it? Plus we're well situated: Atlantic on one side, Pacific on another, Canada on a third ... The real-est danger to us, it seems to me, is the near-open border we have with Mexico, which is transforming us in absolute-number terms and in ethnic-mix terms in ways that most Americans don't want. Why aren't we attending more to this actual danger, which is affecting us today, and fretting (and fantasizing) less about how we ought to be scooting around the great big world (one we don't understand very well) putting things right?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 28, 2007 5:44 PM

Why should I (you, him, her, whoever) care if Pisspooristan wants to go to war with Absurdintina? I mean, wish 'em well and all, but what business is it of ours?
Yeah, but if some other country messes with Oblivia we'd better be there to help! We might lose access to the deposits of unobtainium and you know what THAT would do to the economy.

Posted by: Reid Farmer on August 28, 2007 6:32 PM

And wasn't there going to be a great "peace dividend" following the soviet breakup?

There WAS a peace dividend (no scare quotes!). Don't you remember the 1990s? Military spending was about flat in constant dollars from 1992 to 2000 and shrank from about 5% of GDP to less than 3% of GDP. The economy boomed and we balanced budgets. Clinton and Gore were able to claim that they reduced the number of government employees by cutting active duty military personnel.

We enjoyed our holiday from history, didn't we?

Posted by: Reid Farmer on August 28, 2007 6:43 PM

"Taking part in electing a president of the caliber of these men just makes you proud to be an American, don't it?"

So why don't you run for president? Why don't you run for any elected office?

Posted by: Greg Hlatky on August 28, 2007 6:51 PM


You say you don't understand my point; I guess that's fair, because I don't understand your points either.

You say:

The U.S. has no choice but to project its military power throughout the world. This is not even an option.

Really? Why are our options so limited? To be honest with you, this sounds a lot like a descriptions of Germany's strategic situation delivered by the General Staff before World War I; that is, according to the logic of their power politics, there was simply no choice about whether to go to war with Russia and France, and very little choice about when. How'd that work out for them and the long-term interests of the German aristocracy?

You say:

While I'm a great fan of 2Blowhards, that Manhattan perspective often rules here. And, that Manhatttan perspective remains obsessed with the notion that old fashioned masculine values, and religious values are absurd.

I live in Los Angeles, and I assure you that I have no problem with old fashioned masculine values. I have three children and I've been in my share of fights. But I've also learned over the years that it's silly to go looking for fights, or start fisticuffs unless there is absolutely no other option.

You say:

War is part of the human condition. It's not going away. Attempts to make war go away ultimately will result in even greater violence. There are things worth fighting for.

Absolutely. But I doubt you have to look too far back in history to see that people also fight over things NOT worth fighting for. And maintaining the U.S. in a posture of perpetual military mobilization--especially at a level that is far in excess of what we really need to defend ourselves in any meaningful way--has many costs both financial and cultural.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 28, 2007 8:27 PM


The above quotes should be keying people in on a very important point--that militarily speaking, there is not one significant difference between the political left and right. All the democrats should contrast the above statements with the campaign statements to start withdrawing troops from Iraq. It ain't gonna happen, but its nice theater, isn't it?

By now it should also be clear to the right that there is no true right--that the practical difference between the political right and left is pretty small.

In fact, the two political parties are two sides of the same coin, run by the same international banking and business interests. Its should scare the crap out of anybody reading the above statements that this is true, because it means that the american people will be dragged into foreign wars to further the interests of the bankers and corporations, and that we will be lied to in order to make that happen. In a very real sense, we have almost lost any control over our country as power is consolidated in those hands.

I can't for the life of me figure out why we as americans should spend any more money on our defense budget when it does not defend us, but is used offensively against "enemies" like the Serbs and Iraqis. You'll note that our wonderful military did nothing to prevent the 911 attacks--real defense--but then went after states that had nothing to do with attacking americans (Serbia, Iraq). If it hasn't become completely apparrent to everybody by now that the War on Terror is a hoax, as we run around the world, yet leave our boders WIDE open, then you're just not thinking straight.

911 Truth. Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth. WTC Building 7 (omitted from the 911 Report). North American Union, NAFTA Superhighways. Economist Alan Blinder's turning on free trade when he found out at a global trade meeting that US corporate executives planned on outsourcing 40 million american jobs in the next 20 years. Wake Up!*


Posted by: BIOH on August 28, 2007 8:33 PM

"Why should I ... care if Pisspooristan wants to go to war with Absurdintina?" It isn't "Pisspooristan" that wants to go to war, it's the gangsters in control of Pisspooristan who want to take over Absurdintina.

Let's suppose you live in Cleveland. And you hear there is a big gang upsurge in Pittsburgh. Goons from Philadelphia are taking over the city - using violence to intimidate police, officials, and citizens. They want to loot the city as they have Philly: where most tax revenue is stolen, every business pays heavy protection, pimped girls and stolen property are openly traded, and honest citizens huddle behind locked doors hoping not to be noticed by the thugs.

Why should you care? _You_ don't live in Pittsburgh. Though you might notice a stream of refugees from Pittsburgh to Cleveland; and you might even notice Philly agents in Cleveland schmoozing city officials and spreading money around...

The U.S. is not an island. The present struggle is not really against terrorism, or Islamofascism, it is against national and trans-national gangsterism. Law and order versus crime and disorder.

We need to stop it everywhere we can, or it _will_ come to us.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on August 28, 2007 10:29 PM

Mr. Hlatky:

Are you nominating me? I'm so flattered.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 28, 2007 10:51 PM

" it _will_ come to us."

How? This is a practical question. I can't see any hard-to-stop way of people in Somalia or Trashcanistan causing us much trouble at all, even if they desperately wanted to, which they mostly don't.
The Long War is hot air.

Tell me how how Islamofascists are going to really bother the US if we refuse to stamp their visas. You think they're going to use orbital mind-control lasers? Amphibious camels? How is this supposed to happen - how are a few thousand (max) semiliterate, dirt-poor bandits hiding in North Waziristan going to cause the US significant trouble? I suppose you think that
'9-11 changed everything' - well, guess what, it changed back.

If your 'long war' seriously pisses off even five thousand people, anywhere on Earth, it leaves you worse off than you were in the first place. Apparently anyone anywhere thinking negative thoughts is a deadly menace, regardless of their war potential or the lack thereof.
I'm sure you'd worry about armless, legless cripples that had to be put in a bowl to beg.

Not that irritating a few thousand Lurs or Mordvins would particularly worry _me_, but according to you, weakness is strength. Or was that ignorance?

Posted by: gcochran on August 29, 2007 12:59 AM

Rich Rostrom:
Then how about bringing back the immigration restrictions like we enacted in 1924? It seems to me that as long as our borders are indescriminently open, all the talk about struggle for law & order or whatever is just a bunch of hot air.

I'm surprised you're not a Tom Tancredo guy, my pick BTW.

Posted by: PA on August 29, 2007 7:56 AM

I think Reid's "unobtainium" and Cochran's "Trashcanistan" are pretty darn good -- almost in a class with "The Bullwinkle Show"'s immortal "Wassamatta U."

Attention, debaters: agree with him or not, Greg Cochran (unlike the rest of us, I suspect) has some hands-on experience he's drawing on. He's done actual in-person research, examined actual evidence, and consulted with actual people in the actual spy-and-diplomacy biz. And he was right -- and right, right off the bat -- about what was up (or wasn't up) in Iraq, as well as about what would become of our efforts there. Had we listened to him five years ago we'd be better off today. He's ultra worth paying attention to. And he isn't coming at any of this from a wimpy or starry-eyed leftie p-o-v, to put it mildly.

Sample Cochran here and here.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 29, 2007 8:10 AM

Well, except....I have a feeling a number of commenters might feel quite differently if we substitute "Israel" and "Egypt" (or "Saudi Arabia") for "Pisspoorvia" and "Absurditina".

And I don't think a realistic conversation can be held about this issue without mentioning those names specifically.

Let's face it, even if Saddam did have WMD---who was his most likely first target? Not the U.S.

Posted by: annette on August 29, 2007 8:40 AM

OK, so I went a little off my rocker.

This subject is enough to make my skin crawl. Let me recount the facts in a very broad fashion, as I know them:

1. The enemy (Islamic fascists) has openly declared war on the United States.

2. The enemy has successfully launched a major attack against the U.S. in New York City and Washington, D.C., killing thousands of our fellow citizens.

3. The enemy pledges to continue to attack the U.S. whenever an opportunity presents itself.

The appropriate response to this is to want to beat the hell out of these sons-of-bitches and kill as many of them as possible. Listen, I do Yoga, too. At one point in my life, I also tried to appropriate all the stances of hipdom. I live in Woodstock (and work in Manhattan), for Christ's sake, and I understand well the necessity of try to appear blissfully above going stark raving mad and tearing your enemy limb from limb.

Our current circumstances demand the old fashioned human response of revenge and violence in kind. Our intellectual class is trapped in the suicidal mode of preening its enlightenment.

The candidates are speaking in this fashion because they are responding to the vast majority of middle class Americans who understand that this is no time for reasoned debates. This is a time for ass kicking.

It's more fun, too. I'm here to tell you that the reasoned, intellectual, enlightened response that predominates in Woodstock (and Manhattan) is so fucking boring that it makes you want to lay down and take a nap. It's turned the white men into dreadfully sanctimonious, pious, sissified chumps who compete over who wears the itchiest hair shirt. I'll take war any day over that alternative. Have all of you forgotten how much fun it is to rumble? And, it's time for a rumble. You might want to listen to the Link Wray song for an example of how this is done.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on August 29, 2007 9:31 AM

I think Reid's "unobtainium" and Cochran's "Trashcanistan" are pretty darn good -- almost in a class with "The Bullwinkle Show"'s immortal "Wassamatta U."

I wish I could take credit for thinking up "unobtainium" but when I worked in aerospace it was the generic term for any expensive or difficult to procure alloy. The generic term for an alloy that was difficult to work with or unreliable was "manurium".

Posted by: Reid Farmer on August 29, 2007 12:10 PM

Always nice to hear from a representative of the majority of Americans who can't find Iraq on a map. Shouting Thomas: I'd be happy to beat the crap out of you if it would convince you of my authenticity. Or just to improve the day.

Many of you seem to think that invading a country that had nothing to do with 9-11 was a reasonable response, just as we always attacked the Navaho or the Cheyenne in response to Comanche attacks. Ah, but we didn't, because that would have been pointless and incredibly stupid. Nor did we talk as if the redskins were the coming threat to Western Civilization, even though jihadists are actually relatively weaker than Sitting Bull was.

By the way, if Saddam had had a couple of atomic bombs, he wouldn't have had any target at all. The point was to deter Iran from someday launching a likely-successful conventional war. He didn't realize that the US was crazy enough to need deterring. The idea that he was dreaming of Armageddon is stupid.
The notion that governments want bombs so that they can then initiate and lose a nuclear war with Israel is incorrect. No government wants that.

Michael: you have, I suspect, noticed that correct predictions seem not to be valued at all by most readers? They want someone to tell them what they want to hear, and no matter how many times reality takes away the football, they keep listening to the same idiots. If accuracy or making sense mattered, I can think of a a few hundred pundits who would be cleaning septic tanks right now.

Posted by: gcochran on August 29, 2007 12:27 PM

Cochran lost me in the first paragraph with this:

"We pretty much thought the same: crushing Saddam’s army would be easy; we would then install a pro-American government (Ahmad the Thief) and have most of our Army home by fall."

"We" didn't, at least not those of us coming from "a wimpy or starry-eyed leftie p-o-v." "We" acknowledged that yes of course it would be easy to topple Sadaam, that's not the point. The point WAS that a) should we? (no) and b) the real challenge was the aftermath. Us leftie fags were screaming that mantra from the get-go. We were right.

Now were in a fucking mess that we can't just pull out of. See, most of us on the left (not the politicians) see perfectly well that to up and leave would be disastrous. It is a bitter pill to swallow considering our opposition to going there in the first place.

Anyway, I'm ranting because I've got a pounding headache.

Posted by: the patriarch on August 29, 2007 12:36 PM

I would like to be able to take credit for "Trashcanistan", but its heart belongs to another.

Posted by: gcochran on August 29, 2007 1:13 PM

Wimps. At least I can claim credit for "Pisspooristan" and "Absurdintina." At least I think I can ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 29, 2007 2:13 PM

Read more carefully. "we" meant the Government of the United States and most of its citizens. I figured that a low-intensity guerrilla war was likely before we ever invaded.
Now I have the joy of saying "I told you so"
over and over again - and you know, it gets funnier _every single time_.

Posted by: gcochran on August 29, 2007 2:52 PM

Michael, I will grant you authorship of "Pissporistan." My father used to say: "They're so poor they haven't got a pot to piss in." So, obviously, there is a deep relationship between poverty and urine.

I prefer the term "pussy" to "wimps."

gcochran, I'll meet you out behind the barn at 9 p.m. I'll kick your ass from here to Absurdintina. Eye-rak is right there by Wal-Mart, just south of the Burger King.


Posted by: Shouting Thomas on August 29, 2007 3:17 PM

I think Carlyle put it pretty well (from Latter-Day Pamphlets, #4):

When the Continental Nations have once got to the bottom of their Augean Stable, and begun to have real enterprises based on the eternal facts again, our Foreign Office may again have extensive concerns with them. And at all times, and even now, there will remain the question to be sincerely put and wisely answered, What essential concern has the British Nation with them and their enterprises? Any concern at all, except that of handsomely keeping apart from them? If so, what are the methods of best managing it?--At present, as was said, while Red Republic but clashes with foul Bureaucracy; and Nations, sunk in blind ignavia, demand a universal-suffrage Parliament to heal their wretchedness; and wild Anarchy and Phallus-Worship struggle with Sham-Kingship and extinct or galvanized Catholicism; and in the Cave of the Winds all manner of rotten waifs and wrecks are hurled against each other,--our English interest in the controversy, however huge said controversy grow, is quite trifling; we have only in a handsome manner to say to it: "Tumble and rage along, ye rotten waifs and wrecks; clash and collide as seems fittest to you; and smite each other into annihilation at your own good pleasure. In that huge conflict, dismal but unavoidable, we, thanks to our heroic ancestors, having got so far ahead of you, have now no interest at all. Our decided notion is, the dead ought to bury their dead in such a case: and so we have the honor to be, with distinguished consideration, your entirely devoted,--FLIMNAP, SEC. FOREIGN DEPARTMENT."--I really think Flimnap, till truer times come, ought to treat much of his work in this way: cautious to give offence to his neighbors; resolute not to concern himself in any of their self-annihilating operations whatsoever.

Posted by: Mencius on August 29, 2007 8:54 PM

I'm not surprised, but I am disappointed that anyone today still fantasizes about retreating into Fortress America. I am all in favor of immigration restriction and enforcement, but that wouldn't change the facts that the U.S. imports and exports a large fraction of its GDP, that the U.S. has immense overseas investment, and foreigners have immense investments here. Nor would it directly address the facts that millions of Americans go abroad for work, study, research, and pleasure, and millions of foreigners _visit_ the U.S. for the same reasons.

Like it or not, we are deeply connected to the world. If the rest of the world rots, we rot too.

As to how the rot will come to us: we already see the effect of drugs coming in from states too rotten to stop production. We have seen the corrupting effect of foreign money in our politics. (For a case of severe rot-contagion, see France, where Third-World-despot money bribed Ministers and Presidents.) Organized crime has gone international, and fighting crime in America will only be harder when overseas sanctuaries and bases multiply.

Ah, but we can refuse to stamp their visas! _Right_. That's like expecting to stop rats and cockroaches and termites and bacteria with printed notices.

Incidentally, our policy is very far from reflexively interventionist. The problem is that the rot has spread so far that we face more and more catastrophes: we ignore problems or apply band-aids till they get too acute to ignore. And mostly what we do is stick on bigger band-aids.

For all the talk of "nation-building", what we've really done is nation-propping and nation-patching. Unfortunately, the military dislikes the idea and liberals are phobic about the use of force required.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on August 30, 2007 8:41 PM

Mr. Rostrom:

Let's skip discussions of foggy, emotionally loaded abstractions like "retreating into fortress America"--the point of my post is that the world is a dangerous place, and what we need is a lot more hard-headed, well-informed thinking about what we can or cannot do and at what cost than the USA has been displaying lately. This type of serious thinking, BTW, is nowhere detectable in the essays of the four presidential candidates.

You discuss our tendency to

...ignore problems or apply band-aids till they get too acute to ignore. And mostly what we do is stick on bigger band-aids. For all the talk of "nation-building", what we've really done is nation-propping and nation-patching.

I don't understand what this means in practice. You seem to be proposing even more profound interventions in other countries than we have undertaken so far, in order to stop what you describe as the rot. Presumably this would involve more bloodshed and a greater investment of money and time to make some corner of the world the kind of place we want it to be. One would think this would require greater selectivity, resources always being finite. Where would your priorities lie?

I run a small business. This business faces many challenges, but has limited resources. It has to pay its way in addition to addressing problems, no matter how repulsive not addressing them may seem. Tradeoffs must be made, and made very realisitically. Based on the evidence of their essays, I certainly wouldn't hire any of the presidential candidates to run my business; why should I want to install them as president to run my country?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 31, 2007 3:35 AM

American intellectuals are fond of crying out, "the whole world hates us!"

It is mostly middle class journalists in other countries that foment the "America is hated" meme. Their more sensible countrymen apply to get into America in great numbers. I encourage all of you to go by the official US Govt immigration site and look at the stats for yourselves. People from all over the world - the world that supposedly hates us - apply for some kind of entry status beyond tourist in huge numbers.

If the world hated us so much why is everyone trying to get in here?

Posted by: Doug on August 31, 2007 11:09 AM

Doug - you're wrong. We have polls: world opinion turned decisively against the US after we invaded Iraq.

And since it takes maybe a minute to google those Pew polls, I have to think you're not interested in being right.

I could put it more strongly.

Posted by: gcochran on September 1, 2007 1:39 AM

"War is part of the human condition."

So are pedophilia and incest.

Posted by: Ian Gould on September 10, 2007 8:51 AM

gcochran - The world may hate us, but they're still trying to get in here in huge numbers. In that respect Doug is right.

Also, I find your insolent tone off-putting to say the least.

Posted by: ted turner on September 10, 2007 8:03 PM

I am not so presumptuous as to denigrate either Mr.Cochran's analytical skills or to be dismissive of the historical perspective he brings to this discussion. And I am aware of Santayana's warning to those who ignore history's lessons. But I am wondering if we could now be facing something history cannot prepare us for, absurd as that notion might be. (In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I assumed that a new age of warfare had dawned after the Cruise missile attack on a Libyan leader some several presidential administrations ago. To paraphrase a Texas ranger slogan: one war, one missile. With the ability to accurately target a troublesome individual from afar, I incorrectly thought that the world had entered the age of Cruise diplomacy. Some country giving you a problem? No need to put thousands of troops in harm's way; no need for logistical lines stretching halfway around the world...just send a Cruise missile into the bedroom or boardroom of the offending leader. Either he changes his tune, as did our Libyan friend, or he will eventually be replaced by some leader down the line who cuts out the foolish rhetoric and things will simmer down. Didn't happen. The Iranian idiot can sleep soundly tonight can Castro,et al..) But back to matters at hand. Might a successful WMD attack on a major American or European city bring down our house of cards? In this regard I am thinking of Wellington's post-Waterloo remark contrasting Napoleon's battle plan with his. He said Napoleon's was like a fine French leather bridle, his like a rope halter. If his broke somewhere he just had to tie a knot and press on. If Napoleon's broke, it couldn't be fixed..too fancy. Has the interdependent complexity of our sophisticated civilization made us too fancy, and too vulnerable to something like a dirty bomb in downtown D.C.? Isn't Iran trying its best to build such a device? Aren't there supposed to be missing Russian suitcase bombs? Do the Iranians or the Russian Mafia have moral compunctions that I haven't been apprised of? Or how about an induced pandemic paralyzing our social service and health-care infrastructure ..causing mass hysteria..economic engines grinding to a civil chaos a la post-Katrina New Orleans..stock markets crashing..etc.. Is it possible that traditional military might (how many divisions can the Pope put into the field/) is no longer needed to wreak havoc on an enemy country? Just wondering.

Posted by: Pollingue on September 10, 2007 10:01 PM

gcochran - The world may hate us, but they're still trying to get in here in huge numbers. In that respect Doug is right.

I don't reckon there are as many trying to get in as think America's kind of lost its way lately, other than in Mexico obviously.

Also, I find your insolent tone off-putting to say the least.

Insolence is kind of like impertinence, it implies the transgressor's actions are somehow inappropriate to his or her station. Why this should apply to Mr. Cochran I have no idea.

Aren't there supposed to be missing Russian suitcase bombs?

Short shelf life unless you have a supply of tritium available to refresh them with, I hear.

Posted by: Adrian Smith on September 19, 2007 11:16 AM

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