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03 June 2015


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Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

These "Accommodation-ists"; were they largely Southerners or with connections to the Old South?



Quite a lot of them but certainly not all. pl

Babak Makkinejad

So when the Confederacy was formed and later crushed by the Union armies, the only sane native response to "Exceptional-ist" doctrines in US political discourse vanished with it; never to be resurrected as the Union continues its "ideological hegemony" on US mind?



Unfortunately, you have opened the door to denunciations in which the words "Lost Cause" myth and slavery as evidence of Southern moral depravity will appear. These words provide a convenient way to ignore the truth that the South's greatest sin lay in being un-Northern. pl


The FAO program should be a excellent tool for the military- (I am a former Russian FAO). Expecially now with a critical need for language and culturaal skills. However, as you noted, it has morphed into an ajunct advisory source for senior military and civilian leadership. The dedicated and skilled FAO officers that I worked with were a real asset, and it is a shame that the FAO program has not been used to its potential.


Babak, the Northerners were also guilty of "Manifest Destiny." You make a case that " The Project for a New American Century" is based on those principles.


Outstanding bit of writing. Most people do not have a clue what the U.S. Special Forces were created for............and most would not believe the actual early History and original purpose. Damned sad how so much "good" gets twisted beyond recognition.


Twain is the man. I think his short work "The War Prayer" captures the US in a nutshell and fits our culture just as well today as when he wrote it. Nothing every really changes...



You've nailed the paradox many here are unable or unwilling to acknowledge. The same commenters here who deride US foreign policy will breathlessly promote the same strain of domestic idiocy here at home. It comes from the same strain of thought!

Yesterdays puritans are today's social justice warriors - real term btw.



For what it is worth, my personal experience with the Southerners and the Northerners fits your characterization (of Northerners being more infected by the sense of "ideological hegemony.")

I found that Northerners, especially those who pride themselves on being liberal and progressive, are far quicker to see people through the lens of stereotype and far slower to abandon them. While they are not necessarily "bad" all the time, I always drove me bonkers how persistently and insistently they'd put me in the "East Asian" box. I found Southerners much more inclined to see and judge people as individuals, even if their stereotypes may not necessarily be as "positive." Generally, I've enjoyed interacting with the Southerners much more than the Northerners. I figure that Northerners probably make better acquaintances and business associates. I firmly believe that Southerners make far better friends and family-by-choice.


I've always thought that part of this intolerant culture truly showed it's ugly head in the guise of 'unconditional surrender'.

ex-PFC Chuck

Then there is Manifest Destiny's evil spawn, the deliberate American “foreign aid” policy of corrupting developing countries' leaders while simultaneously saddling said countries with crushing debt loads.

One of the more provocative whistle-blower coming out parties of the last decade was the publication of “The Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” by John Perkins. Following a Peace Corps gig in Ecuador in the late 60s Perkins signed on with the Boston-based architect-engineering firm Charles T. Main and Co. as an economist. Main's core business was designing and overseeing the construction of electric utility infrastructure in developing countries, for example hydro and steam-electric power generation plants, transmission lines, substations, etc. Their projects would begin with a study team sent to the country to evaluate its potential requirements and then develop a plan to meet them. The economist was the key person at the front end of this process, since his projections would drive the engineering process that followed.

Perkins underwent a period of training for his duties upon being hired. Some if it took place in the company offices, but for the most important piece he was sent off to Washington for several weeks. To his initial surprise, this phase of his education took place not in an office, as one would typically expect, but in an apartment occupied by an attractive woman known to him only as Claudine, who said she was affiliated with the NSA. Over the course of several weeks she made two things explicitly clear to him. First, the primary objective of his job was to develop grossly inflated estimates of a country's economic prospects, potential that would justify an enormous engineering and construction project financed by comparably enormous loans from American banks. Next was to cooperate with the rest of the team in selling it to the country's leaders, preferably by personally corrupting them in the process.

Of course, the wildly inflated predictions seldom were realized, in which cases the countries had increasing difficulties meeting the debt payments. When the eventual financial crises raised their heads the IMF would come in with their draconian austerity policies, which were installed to make sure the debt service was in front of the line ahead of the peoples' needs. In those cases where the leaders, god forbid, insisted that the desperate needs of their people not be ignored, or saw through the scam in the first place and refused to sign on, the knuckle draggers were sent in. Not long after came the coup or the unfortunate accident in which the finance minister was killed.

Although he Perkins, who was married at the time, doesn't say so explicitly in the book he implies that his relationship with Claudine had a physical side. He also implies that part of her responsibilities, in addition to the conveying of information, was to assess how he would perform in the job, and especially whether he would keep its secrets. Perhaps the affair, assuming there was one was to gain insight in how he would handle the moral duplicity involved.

Not long after Hit Man's publication he began hearing from others who had had similar jobs with Main and also other companies, as well as some of the knuckle draggers. Their stories are briefly shared in his second book, “The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption.”



William R. Cumming

P.L.! Thanks and AMEN to you opinions which I share. Still I wonder if those reading the Atlantic will get "it"?

Patrick Bahzad


Insightful piece as always. May I say that I find the Atlantic article seriously misguided in its analysis of war. It is based on a misunderstanding that you underlined: the US of old was winning wars against second or third rate enemies, never against a major military power and never on its own. That legacy of misunderstanding has merged with the lessons taken away from these wars into what Emmanuel Todd - who is in no way a military expert - very aptly called the military culture of the "Indian wars" : the enemy has to be annihilated or there can't be any victory.
While this cultural thinking may prevail in a war between states, when the destruction of the enemy's army is in line with the legacy of the "Indian wars", guerilla wars, insurgencies or national independence wars - all of them part of the asymmetric war model - don't follow that logic and don't fit into that cultural model for American victory.

C Webb

Sit tibi copia, sit sapientia, formaque detur ; Inquinat omnia sola superbia, si comitetur.

plus ça change


Yes. It still makes me shiver.



Patrick Bahzad

I think that is a bit overstated. You would call WW2 Japan a second rate enemy? I would not and in spite of the efforts of our British Commonwealth friends we were by the far the main actors in the defeat of Japan. The Confederate Army was one of the great armies of all military history. It took four long years to beat them. If you think we did not fight well in VN you should have been there. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Which, I should think, implies that Abraham Lincoln was the first Liberal Imperialist, no?

Babak Makkinejad

So they gave him a rented woman for the duration.

When I compare this to the way potentates and kings of yore behaved in the past, in the Near East, in India, or in China, he was shabbily treated - they would have given him that woman for keeps.

Patrick Bahzad

I was talking about formative years of American military culture, let's say from the early settlers to 1917 (civil war set aside). this US cultural concept of military victory as being either "unconditional surrender" or anhilitation was shaped by the Indian and Mexican wars mostly.
In wars between states armies, like WWII, such a type of victory was possible. Not so anymore in VN already, as this wasn't just a war between states but also a"national liberation war" for the North or a guerilla war for VC. It Required total mobilization of their people for achieving the goals set by the leadership and you don't beat a people the way you beat an army, regardless how well your troops fight.
Again this bias is rooted in the tradition of Indian wars and the absence of any adversary whose destruction didn't come at a very heavy prize for the winning side (meaning the U.S.), until the civil war.
The European powers on the other hand had realized through centuries of war with each other that victory isn't always sweet and total and that sometimes it just means, live to fight some more another day.
One side effect of that cultural bias can be seen in the famous "mission accomplished" banner when George W self congratulated himself about OIF. Saddam's armies had been destroyed. But some people couldn't comprehend that the U.S. wasn't actually fighting an army but an ideology, or rather several ideologies or religions. The problem is, how do you even define victory in such cases, let alone achieve it ?


Colonel, Stanley, Adam, TTG,

Speaking of fureign (foreign) activities, here's a recent article on China and their PLA wanting to play in their wading pools.

China is using one of the most dangerous conflicts on the planet as a distraction



Last time I recall looking, nearly half of FAO slots have been relegated to security assistance.

State Department performs the POLAD function for CINCs.

FB Ali

Col Lang,

Your astute observations are well borne out by what happened in Afghanistan in the first year of the war.

These days I am reading Anand Gopal's "No Good Men Among the Living", an account of this war as seen through Afghan eyes. What this book shows is that the US completely defeated the Taliban in the first few weeks of the war, thus achieving its war aim. However, it was the subsequent actions of the US army (especially the SF) that created the Taliban insurgency - which ultimately forced the US to withdraw after 12 gruelling years.

The actions that caused this outcome were largely due to the problems you have highlighted. For example, the Taliban cadres, especially their leaders, having given up the fight, either sought an accommodation with the new set-up, or quietly retired to their homes. But the US had such little knowledge of local conditions and the language that they found themselves completely dependent on "friendly" Afghans for intelligence and guidance.

These were quick to seize the opportunity thus provided. They made the US SF their 'private army' by feeding them false information about people they wanted sorted out, or wanted to shake down. The SF, itching to do some 'steamrolling', would raid these targets, killing and capturing innocent people. This continued account-settling with former Taliban leaders and cadres ultimately forced them to take up arms against the new order and its foreign defenders.

The stories Gopal tells are enough to make one weep. The opportunity to win a real victory in Afghanistan, and put it on a new path, was blindly thrown away through ignorance of the country and the desire to 'steamroll' an imagined enemy.



Nearly 50%? Good. That is a good change from what I had heard. As for a POLAD he is only one of a number of staff assistants to a senior commander and is often ignored and sometimes mocked. pl


FB Ali

Aaron Bank and Arthur Simons would weep at what was made of "their children." pl

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