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01 August 2012


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Babak Makkinejad

There is a common element to all 3 groupings: absolute contempt for the principles of Peace of Westphalia.

That has been the Washington DC Consensus for a long time; in my opinion.

The Twisted Genius

Stephen Cambone is standing foursquare on the poopdeck of this "ship of fools." He made these comments at the Aspen Security Forum just last week. He must be angling for a job in a possible Romney White House.

"[F]or Donald Rumsfeld’s one-time intelligence chief, the Iraq war wasn’t just the right call at the time. It was “one of the great strategic decisions of the first half of the 21st century, if it proves not to be the greatest.” Stephen Cambone, who served as the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence from 2003 until 2007, surprised the audience at the Aspen Security Forum this weekend when he hailed the Iraq war as an alloyed triumph that paved the way for the rebellions now sweeping the Middle East. “It will be one of the greatest strategic victories of the United States because…. of the aftershocks that you see flowing through the region, whether it be in Libya, or in Egypt, or now in Syria,” he said."



"It will be said in comments here that everything in American foreign policy is secretly about neo-colonialist economic looting. " pl

Col, What is it like to go to war? Karl Marlantes

Would appreciate your thoughts on that..




Some things cannot be described adequately. I tried in my books. Some people are better suited to the experience than others. IMO it is a matter of genetic endowment. In any event the reaction to hostile fire varies enormously. training attempts to create some of the effect of genetic endowment but it is only a partial solution. Experience brings natural talent to the fore as well. Some units act as gathering points for men who are natural soldiers. SF in VN was like that, men from the Iliad. There is a lot of nonsense said about the "phony tough and the crazy brave." some woman up in canada asked me once which group I belonged to. i asked if there were other choices. Read "The Thin Red Line" by James Jones and try to get beyond the surface trivialities to see the transition in the men of that unit. pl


Pat captured our incredibly naive and ignorant international meandering in a nutshell. I wish our leaders would wake up and listen to him. In fact, I wish he were in a key presidential staff advisory position. We've been wandering in a Lala land too long and I can see our policies are not based on true national interests and realities, but on ill conceived desires that ignore realities - it has already headed our country toward ruin and the only way to prevent ruin is to wake up, drop the nonsense and act in accord with realities.

Will Reks

Sir, what does it mean that "non-moderate" governments like that of Turkey are still willing to work with us constructively?

The liberal internationalists are fond of the idea of people determining their own brand of government, good or bad. One person one vote, right? What it will mean for our interests doesn't matter as much. The blowback will be interesting


Thanks for this very illuminating analysis.

"Nevertheless, over the decades, indeed, now centuries, the "center of gravity" in US thinking with regard to self-image as "savior" of mankind has grown stronger and stronger until we now reach a state of perfection in our own minds that is matched only by the defects in our present situation." - PL

What is the likely denouement of this thinking on global political and strategic affairs?

IMO, we are also sailing aboard a similar "ship of fools" when it comes to economic/financial policy. The neo-keynesian, neo-liberal and neo-monetarist groupthink, bereft of any common sense, has run upon the rocks our economic ship of state. I speculate that the thinking behind this is that business cycles driven by the waxing and waning of human behavior can be repealed by "technocratic" central planner elites.


will reks

they are working wih us because we are advancing their interests. pl


Well Babak....you raise an interesting question...at least for me. Since I am of the general conclusion that most of the members of all three groups have not heard of the Treaty of Westphalia. The few members that have heard of it, probably know little besides brief recollections of the name...utter in long ago Diplomatic History 101 classes.

So, I assume you will respond they are in contempt of it...even if ignorant of the specifics of Treaty.

I mean they are not saying "the hell with Westphalia! Down with it!" like they did with Yalta. So, what are the in contempt of within the Treaty...if not the Treaty itself?


Col Lang,
What did you think of "The Band of Brothers" HBO series?



A splendid essay - so splendid, that it dismays me not the least that I nothing to add.

I'l like to mention the writings of Andrew Bacevich who is quite illuminating about the group think aspect of this. See his latest book: Washington Rules.


Most human individuals have friends. While the friendship may have started from shared interests, it outlasts the transitory interests.
Nations do not have BFF, friends, nor do they have never placatable enemies; Nations have interests. Interests change. Remoras are not the sharks' friends but the shark does advance the remora's agenda and interests even if the shark could not find a way to care less about that interest. From the Remora's point of view, the Remora is guiding the enterprise. I think it might benefit the American Individual to assess more foreign countries as Remoras, not as friends or allies or BFFs.
There is a fourth strain in american foreign policy beliefs, it encompasses about 14% of the voting populace. For want of a better exemplar call it the Ron Paul stand. Free trade, non-interference, a military that defends the US borders at home and avoids adventurism abroad. Non hegemony at its best.



This post is clear why you rose to the top of Defense Intelligence Agency. What I don’t understand is why at the Turn of the Century the federal government stopped listening to common sense like yours. Perhaps it is socialization, a matter of where the paycheck comes from and the rise of government is evil ideology; but, with globalization, our government today does not give a damn for American citizens or their future. This is documented by the 20% real under employment rate; 46 million uninsured and the lack of response to climate change.


Thank you Col., I can appreciate the essence of your comment.

The Thin Red Line by James Jones

“Life was pointless. Whether he looked at a tree or not was pointless. It just didn't make any difference. It was pointless to the tree, it was pointless to every man in his outfit, pointless to everybody in the whole world. Who cared? It was not pointless only to him; and when he was dead, when he ceased to exist, it would be pointless to him too. More important: Not only would it be pointless, it would have been pointless, all along."

From what you suggest and what Marlantes talked about, I am just curious, would a typical VN 'natural' soldier have same experience?

Reminds me of what Ataturk once said; “Unless a nation’s life faces peril, war is murder.”, I can appreciate your insight on the 'natural' soldier. However, does the above Ataturk comment capture the essence of pointlessness? At least from one point of the view. Hence the broad reflection of your commentary “When hope was a policy...“ on the fallacy of US FP in recent years. Pointless


"they are working wih us because we are advancing their interests. pl "

with due respect, the Turkish leadership must have developed a rather twisted logic or selective memory loss to consider destabilizing Syria to be in their interest. While acting as Nato attack dog.

Perhaps the saudi influence has cluttered their old belief / values;

“Peace at home, peace in the world.”


“Unless a nation’s life faces peril, war is murder.”

The Turkish leadership is truly gone over the edge.

Babak Makkinejad

"...incredibly naive and ignorant..."

Because they believe that the enormos power of teh United States obviates the need to be sophisticated and informed.

A bulldozer is also careless of obstacles until falling into a ditch (or off a cliff).



"the Turkish leadership must have developed a rather twisted logic or selective memory loss to consider destabilizing Syria." First the destabilization, then the desired end state. pl



that kind of stuff is among the surface trivialities that I mentioned and said you should ignore. I saw the Marlantes thing when it was played. I thought at the time that Marlantes was a good example of men for whom combat is a personal tragedy. You will never understand and I don't care that you don't. You are mocking me and wish to argue with me frm the heights of your intellect about something of which you know nothing. I don't care what Ataturk wrote. pl



I have quite a good impression of American hoi polloi, regardless of these "cloud-cuckooland" idealists or the ones incharge of committing evils in their name on foreign real-estate.

But this article always I have in mind whenever an argument such as this comes into view.


Unfortunately there seems not any candidate now capable of steering this bulldozer of a Nation from careless calamity....


" You will never understand and I don't care. I suspect you are mocking me pl"

No mocking Col. just the pointlessness of US FP and its wars in recent decades. Just tragedy for most and its pointlessness are slowly coming to surface.

As for 'natural' soldiers, I was curious how that may play out when the experience is in defense of the home land vs defending some ideal in other parts of the word..


Col: How does a soldier really know he's brave until he's in combat?

Physical courage is a mystery.


If I may add, all three groups share a common belief that American action is needed to produce a "right" outcome to all world the world problems.

The reality is that often the reverse is achieved and all three groups then attempt to rationalize their actions and beliefs with hubris.

Whether your "ship of fools" sails under guidance of Polaris or The Southern Cross, both are sailing in the wrong direction and neither is likely to make any changes in their course.


oops forgot to add

Babak Makkinejad: The Peace of Westphalia was designed to weaken Germany and look at the results that came from that hubris.



Not "natural" soldiers, rather "natural soldiers" as in natural born soldiers. For those who are that, politics is for BSing recruits. Do you think Patton or Macarthur cared about the politics of WW2? Patton wanted to employ Nazis in the occupation government. The US WBS was an example in which the national political destiny was so clearly at stake that many, many overcame their fear to fight for what they beleived in, but I am sure that even in that war many of the most effective people fought for whom the situation required. George Thomas, a Virginian, had been "short-listed" for the professorship that TJ Jackson won at VMI. If Thomas had won do you think that he wold have fought for the Union? I think not. he would have fought for the South as all those around him did. In VN 14 man USSF detachments and their 14 man LLDB VN SF colleagues often fought off regimental sized attacks even when the CIDG ran like rabbits.How? Everyone fought. Everyone! The post WW2 US Army study of the performance of draftees in combat revealed that over 90% never fired their rifles when they were under fire. They just lay on the ground.and hoped it all would go away. Laughable. This is why lightly armed airborne units like the 101st Division could do things like stand off a German armored corps as at Bastogne. Don't bother me any more with this. pl

Babak Makkinejad

The world has changed since 1945 when US was the colossus bestriding the world. At that time, the United States was an imperial power the relationship to which defined the position of other states in the international system.

I think the mind-set among leaders of the United States has not kept up with the changes in the international system.

And other states are watching and waiting for the opportune time to take advantage of "careless calamity".

Business as usual.

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