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06 February 2015

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Valissa

I will leave it to others to argue when the Rubicon was crossed... but I find it most useful to think of the US as an empire. That's the simplest explanation for US foreign policy and international behavior. Exactly what type of empire, the date on which it commenced, and whether it's waxing or waning (gently or steeply)- are all interesting topics of discussion.

Accordingly, the people who work at the highest level of government are all imperialists. Here is a great article on America's imperial class by Robert Kaplan formerly of STRATFOR. This article is one of their free ones and well worth reading.

America's Imperial Class http://www.stratfor.com/sample/analysis/americas-imperial-class

What is an imperial class, and what are its beliefs?
An imperial class is a large group of people who have a deeply evolved sense of imperial mission, and whose professional interests are connected to that mission succeeding. They number journalists and policy experts at think tanks who collectively define the debate among elites throughout the Boston-to-Washington media corridor; and by defining that debate determine the opinions that bombard any administration on the foreign policy front. This class is financially well off and generally educated at the best schools. It is the product of decades of prosperity going back to the post-World War II era. Whereas Washington in the mid-20th century had barely a handful of think tanks, the city is now packed with them. As for the media, it now constitutes a power center all its own that includes both liberal internationalists and neoconservatives, both of whom have in the past supported using the American military to impose American values.

C Webb

If taken to the extreme, it ends when the economy collapses.

Pity the tax payer. Pity the common man. Pity western civilisation if that happens.

Adam L Silverman

C Webb makes an interesting point. For the first time in the history of anywhere war was undertaken without a dedicated revenue stream. Not only were war taxes not instituted, federal taxes were cut. and since we don't really take tribute, in the classic sense, from our clients, there was none of that revenue to be had to cover the costs. Additionally, the debates for the AUMFs for Afghanistan and Iraq were exceedingly perfunctory. If I'm recalling correctly the Iraq AUMF debate lasted no more than an hour and all the combat veterans in Congress in opposition, such as Senators Hagel and Cleland, were basically ignored and their concerns were dismissed.

AEL

Wasn't the American Revolutionary war largely funded by simply printing (continental) dollars?

Funding war through debt is a long standing tradition.

William R. Cumming

This is a terrific comment and link IMO! "They" argue for a "PAX America" not their desire for imperial rule. But when asked what Americans would do with PEACE none can articulate that America.

William R. Cumming

In a quite interest 2011 book entitled KEEP FROM ALL THOUGHTFUL MEN-How U.S. Economists Won WWII author Jim Lacey points out how the Federal Reserve and its ability to print money were able to ensure adequate war funding on an indefinite basis. The British of course while experts at war finance exhausted all forms of treasure including GOLD but ran out until rescued by LEND-LEASE!

LeaNder

Adam, as one line of thought, interestingly slightly in tune with Venassa's more general ideas above. No doubt from my limited perspective and there an even smaller focus but mirroring the larger US economy, I wondered at one point if a larger economic crisis (deficit) could not have been dealt with by war. Or the idea sold may have been that this could help the US economy. (neocon focus?)

Please don't misunderstand, I have absolutely no problem with the US entering WWII, but without any doubt that resulted in the thorough recovery of the US economy.

Dismayed

I don't think we (America) are an empire, but we are IN an empire. Our 'establishment' by and large has no loyalty to America the Constitutional Republic, but is instead loyal to a vision of global empire in which America is simply the dominant productive element. Our leaders elected and unelected increasingly don't even bother to pretend that our constitution is a meaningful constraint on their doing whatever they want. I expect that most of them think of themselves as being loyal to America, but what that means to them is radically different than what it means to the vast majority of the rest of America.

The empire we are in grows, similar to the early Roman Empire, by co-opting local elites of the nations joining it. This is mostly done, imo, through their personal enrichment in the web of multi-national corporations that form the glue connecting the various productive national elements together.

Agents (in the dictionary sense of the word: one who acts for another) of the Empire work to increase the strength of connectivity by weakening national sovereignty. This is done through international institutions like the IMF and with 'free' trade agreements, especially ones weakening national legal authority over MNC's, and by harnessing state power, especially the USG. I think the root of the dispute with Russia is that Putin put a firm break on the ability of MNC's to influence the direction of Russian political and economic development. He and his nationalist faction refuse to cede that much sovereignty. I've read, but have no idea how true it is, that Russian elites weren't allowed to join the Empire on a reasonably equal footing.

This means that we Americans can count on our national leaders, both Rep & Dem, to formulate and execute policies designed to serve Imperial rather than American national interests. The use of open-ended AUMF's instead of proper declarations of war is one of many examples. (2 more: almost open immigration and the export of 1/3 of our industrial activity to China and other nations)

Changing this would at a minimum require that We elect a President willing to go to DC and fire most of the senior leadership at many federal agencies and replace them with nationalist Americans. Can a President legally do that? Are there even enough of us left with appropriate qualifications? Revocation of security clearances might work, as retention of clearance is part of the contract they sign. (at least it was for me, iirc) If that could be done, then it would be necessary to sever ties (especially financial) to most think-tanks and international organizations. Can a President choose not to allocate money that Congress has authorized, e.g. order DoS to not hand over annual subsidies to think tanks that don't serve American national interests? Basically, we'd have to have a President do for us what Putin has done for Russia. I'm not betting on it. We got frog-boiled: I think the Empire is here to stay. Russia escaped (for the present) because the rate of heating (to push the analogy) was much much higher than it was for us.

VietnamVet

Colonel,

America since WWII developed a trans-national elite to rule its Empire. Since its first leaders were veterans of that war, they had a fairly realistic view of war and the world. The Vietnam War changed that. Later generations who took charge had avoided the draft. They knew that a people’s army would not fight their Colonial Wars. Instead. they reverted to employing a volunteer army, mercenaries, jihadists or neo-Nazis. There is no need for sovereign nations, morality or tradition. Old institutions, constitutions and citizens were dumped into the trash of history. Since 2008 Western Rulers have not had to worry about jail time. Anything goes. Russia is in their sights. The thousands of nuclear weapons are of no concern. They are the chosen ones. They know they will survive the End Days if it ever happens to cross their minds in the darkness of the night.

Adam L Silverman

AEL,

I'm not arguing against weaponized, or any other form of Keynesianism. In every one of our wars the debt has gone up - I've got a great chart of this I'll try to dig up over the weekend. I was just stating that this is the first war/set of wars I've ever heard of where dedicated funding was not also utilized, whether from tax, tribute, or some combination of the two. Funding for the American Revolution can from many sources, not just the issuance of continental dollars.

rjj

Hearing those 29 standing ovations in the mind's ear. An AIPAC liveried legislature as a check/balance on our Princeps wannabes? How would that work?

rjj

What would Americans do with peace [and freedom]? We have had it for seventy years.

LeaNder

William, I feel uncomfortable reading a single explanation on matters without a solid knowledge in economics. But without any doubt the economy matters.

We seem to have "fiat money"--as it was called in some circles way back--too by now. Or I misunderstood something. Economy, apparently has one principle, inflation may be something needed from an economic point of view. Now printing money may result in deflating the money already circulating.

From the article Vanessa linked to above:
"An imperial class is a large group of people who have a deeply evolved sense of imperial mission, and whose professional interests are connected to that mission succeeding. They number journalists and policy experts at think tanks who collectively define the debate among elites throughout the Boston-to-Washington media corridor; and by defining that debate determine the opinions that bombard any administration on the foreign policy front. This class is financially well off and generally educated at the best schools. It is the product of decades of prosperity going back to the post-World War II era. Whereas Washington in the mid-20th century had barely a handful of think tanks, the city is now packed with them. As for the media, it now constitutes a power center all its own that includes both liberal internationalists and neoconservatives, both of whom have in the past supported using the American military to impose American values."

The liberal internationalists on one side the neoconservatives on the other remind me of the Euston Manifesto that surfaced at one point in Britain.

Notice the perceived prosperity going back to the post-World War II era.

A lot of Germans didn't pay enough attention what exactly made their life easier under the Nazis, to not pick out the usual topic here. But the rather high unemployment no doubt influenced their votes to start with. It was felt that the Weimar Republic and its many competing parties was the main source of evil. ... Add to unemployment a mind baffling inflation.

But to what extend did employment recover under the Nazis? Didn't this mainly result from preparing for war? To pick out one example. The German Autobahn network wasn't created to help the masses move faster from place to place. Not that many owned a car at that time. But without any doubt it later helped to move troops faster.

LeaNder

VV, I seem to keep mixing up Robert D. Kaplan and Robert Kagan. Thus I looked the two up.

Follow the link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_D._Kaplan#After_9.2F11

"Demand for Kaplan's unorthodox analysis became more popular after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. In his book, Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos, published shortly after 9/11, Kaplan offered the opinion that political and business leaders should discard Christian/Jewish morality in public decision-making in favor of a pagan morality focused on the morality of the result rather than the morality of the means. He also published a pure travel book titled Mediterranean Winter"

The rest is expert use of PR.

Babak Makkinejad

Was Kaplan regurgitating Machiavelli?

But neither "Pagan" morality nor "Christian" morality can be safely practiced; there are always unpredictable and unintended consequences in practice of politics.

To that must be added the issue of moral choice - what is to be done in a case such as the Civil War in Spain.

Was the Republic moral in pagan sense? Or Christian sense?

Were the Nationalists?

Machiavelli at least understood that the principle of right action in human politics is one of "Accumulation of Power".

Even pagans would recoil from such a formulation.

MikeS

Maybe it's time to dust off the old copies of "Report from Iron Mountain," ultimately proved to be a spoof (well maybe), but thought by many at the at the time (late 60's) to be a real document prepared by elite thinkers of the military/industrial/government complex.

It made the case for perpetual war, or at the minimum, a society on a perpetual war footing. Here's a good summary of the major points, extracted from an Amazon review:

The premise of this [report} is that a special Cold War-era think tank (the "Special Study Group", or SSG) was tasked with evaluating what challenges the USA would face if a prolonged peace occurred. To assess the impact, the SSG outlines the role of war in society. As you might guess, war is a foreign policy device: a tool-of-last resort to enforce policies, advance national goals, protect/defend territories, etc. Somewhat less intuitive, however, are the "secondary benefits" of war (Section 5, beginning p.51):

1. Economic- the defense (war) sector of the economy is completely under the control of the government, and is relatively protected from the boom/bust cycles of the private sector. Thus, defense spending (via civilian contracting) is a powerful tool with which the government can stimulate or moderate the domestic economy.
2. Political- the threat of external enemies tends to unite the public, quell dissent and bolster support for the sitting regime. The widespread domestic support for George W. Bush in the days immediately following 9/11 seems to illustrate this point sufficiently.
3. Sociologic- service in a standing army provides a socially and legally sanctioned mechanism for people with violent tendencies (and even criminal records!) to channel their energies.

Philip Coppins has a nice history of "The Rport....." for those interested.
http://www.philipcoppens.com/ironmountain.html

And yes, there are still those who think it was a real, leaked government-commissioned document.

Charles I

Theoretically fiat money and fractional banking could sustain the cash flow necessary for war indefinitely. I used to have arguments with my American History prof over why inflation and consumerism could not just go on forever.

I couldn't really articulate an answer aside from platitudes about the limits of growth, and the inevitable cataclysmic resolution of the private/corporate vs Commons dialectic I was just learning to brandish.

Globalization had not been invented back in 1980. It seems to have revealed and disseminated information on phenomena that opposition to can be broadly supported as public good antithetical to growth, eg. climate change, wealth concentration. Capital however, has to date, seemingly overcome local limits to growth by mobility that offers the appearance of sustainable growth. Imho it s in fact just a whack-a-mole approach to concentration of power and reduction of civil society and organized defenses of the Commons that war facilitates and Capital desires.

Whoever will Capital fight when we are all Chinese?

Valissa

Babak -

The Greeks and Romans were pagans, at least until the 4th-5th century. Sun Tzu was a Taoist Confucian (IIRC). My observation is that war is war, regardless of the religion or lack thereof. However, a culture's religious beliefs do color their perception of and attitudes about war.

I would label Kaplan as neo-Machiavellian. Although both he and Kagan are imperialists, Kaplan is much less ideological and concerned with straight forward power dynamics. I enjoyed reading Kaplan's "Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos", probably because it is rather unconventionally pragmatic about power. My take on it is that he is referring primarily to Roman attitudes about power and war in this book. For most of the history of the Roman Empire the members of the establishment were pagans. btw, Jupiter and Mars were the gods of most soldiers until early forms of Christianity became more culturally dominant in the latter days of the empire.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your comments.

I disagree with you on multiple ideas.

For one thing, "War is War" statement does not accurately reflect the War Between States in US in contradistinction to war waged by Mongols against within the Iranian plateau - for example. The US Civil War was a picnic in comparison. Likewise for the war in Eastern Front during World War II.

The Pagans were not without religion; Ancient Greeks and Romans had 2 or 3 religions; one based on the worship of their domestic gods (their ancestors), one based on the worship of their city/polis gods, and the third one, which applied to the Roman Empire was the worship of the Collective Roman Man reified in the Roman Republic an later the Empire.

They had an ethical system, based on the worship of the "Collective", the "Family" and the "Tribe" & Nation.

Machiavelli does not need any of that - his ideas are as non-ethical within a Roman milieu as they are within a theistic view; his is the pursuit of power for the sake of power.

The Romans, for example, understood and accepted the notion of "honor" - for Machiavelli honor is yet another quaint notion that is immaterial to the essential objectives of a Prince.

Kagan and Kaplan do not understand the ancient world - which, of course, means that I do.

anna-marina

A growing danger of a war with Russia:
http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.com/2015/02/there-is-hope-and-there-is-another-west.html
http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.com/2015/02/talks-in-moscow-two-part-analysis.html
"...Anyone reading the Western media now cannot fail but see that there is a growing sense of defeat. Sanctions have failed to work, the Ukrainian economy is disintegrating and the junta's military is being defeated.
That was not the case last spring, when many in the West had convinced themselves that the junta would win the military struggle with the NAF...

The reason Hollande is there [in Moscow] and appears to be taking the lead is to provide Merkel with cover. The one thing Merkel cannot afford politically is the appearance of a Moscow-Berlin stitch-up that the hardliners in Washington, Kiev, London, Warsaw and the Baltic States will claim is a new Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to divide Europe into German and Russian spheres of influence...

... for the first time there is public disagreement in Europe with Washington on the Ukrainian question. Whether that crystallises into an actual break with Washington leading to a serious and sustained European attempt to reach a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis against Washington's wishes is an altogether different question. A peaceful solution to the Ukrainian conflict ultimately depends on European resolve to face down the hardliners in Washington and Kiev. It is going to be much harder to do this now than it was last year.

Moreover, despite the bad news on the economy and on the front line in Debaltsevo, the hardliners in Kiev are bound to have been emboldened by all the talk in Washington about sending them arms, which is going to make the effort to bring them round even harder than it already is."

Imagine

Netanyahu as Cardinal Richelieu (red force) against the King's Men (blue force). Epic sword battles ensue whenever the King wants to do anything, which is always opposed by the Cardinal's men. All must kiss the One Ring.

anna-marina

You are so right! What we witness is the cynicism of the haves in their fight for preserving the status of the "exceptional one" in the matters of currency. This status gives a fundamentally unfair advantage to the US financial system that has become a parasitic institution on a living body of humanity.
There is a zero chance of Europe avoiding a major war considering the ignorance and psychopathy of the Western Rulers. Similar to the Revolution in the pre-Soviet Russia, the absence of channels for affecting the governmental policies via democratic participation will bring the empire to its demise. Since truth became the first victim of the neoliberal (actually, anti-liberal) regime, the populace at large is not able to grasp the stupidity and mortal danger of the policies run by the Western Rulers.
Big money make governments. The banking system has positioned itself at the nexus of societal activities, making it impossible to dismantle the cancerous growth of the criminal financial sector without creating a world-wide disorder. Russia does not have a chance to avoid the vicious attack from the Banksters. This is not about nations: the Banksters are a multiethnic entity (with disproportional number of loyalists to the "promised land," though.) The upcoming war is about grabbing other peoples' mineral wealth and smothering a competitor. In short, the WWIII will be about preserving the supremacy of the US dollar.

Charles Dekle

Dismayed,

Before retiring I was part of a team that researched policy related to the risk of purchasing electronic parts from overseas suppliers. These parts are used in the design and manufacture of all new weapons systems. One of the ares that we were most concerned with was the provenance of programmable integrated circuits.

This practice has been on going since we switched from MIL-STD parts to commercial-off-the-shelf parts. I would often use the boiled frog metaphor in high level meetings. The usual responses were either blank stares or a statement that I was too old fashioned or paranoid. There are many boiled frogs within the empire, IMHO.

Kind regards,

Charles Dekle

MikeS,
In support of item number 2:

"What the public believes to be true
U.S. adults believe that the following are true about the war in Iraq:
• Seven in ten (70%) believe that the Iraqis are better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein (slightly down from July 2006 when 72% said this was true).
• Fifty-two percent say it is true that Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al Qaeda (down significantly from 64% in July 2006).
• Just under half (48%) think history will give the U.S. credit for bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq (down from 55% in July 2006)."
http://tinyurl.com/nfztvek
November 10, 2008 Significant Minority Still Believe that Iraq Had Weapons of Mass Destruction When U.S. Invaded
Harris Interactive Poll (Harris Interactive®)

Thank you for the reference. I knew nothing of the report but will read the Phillip Coppins piece.

Regards,

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