BET THE RANCH
one wonders, does he think we are now? A full decade
after the end of the cold war, the United States maintains
over eight hundred Defense Department facilities located
overseas, from listening posts to major military bases.
American troops still occupy Japan over half a century after
the end of World War II. In Europe, too, the legacy of that
war, and the superpower standoff that followed it, has yet
to recede into the mists of history: American troops are
not only patrolling the Balkans but are still occupying
Germany, as if on eternal guard duty against the ghost of
Hitler should he rise from his unmarked grave. In Central
and South America, the "drug war" has meant that American
soldiers "advisors" all have penetrated deep
into the jungles of Colombia, Peru, and beyond, armed with
an all-purpose ready-made rationale for intervention anywhere.
If the President pledges the end of "overdeployment," is
he really promising to pull back from the radical
over-extension begun in the late 1940s? Will American troops
be coming home from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East? Don't
hold your breath.
HIS LIPS: NO NEW DEPLOYMENTS
troops, the President told soldiers of the Third Infantry
Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia, were "overdeployed
and underpaid." While the latter could be taken care
of by Congress, only the President could ensure that the
former promise would be kept, and Dubya gave his solemn
word: "When we send you into harm's way," US forces will
have "a clear mission, with clear goals." And there was
more good news: Bush promised them $1.4 billion in pay raises
and $4.3 billion for improved housing and healthcare benefits.
"If our military is to attract the best of America, we owe
you the best," he said, to sustained applause. What was
striking about the tone and content of this speech, and
was noted in the IHT headline, was that foreign leaders
looking for some clue as to the shape of a new activism
in US foreign policy had no reason for encouragement: in
particular, the bit about overdeployment did not bode well
for our overseas satraps, who depend on US military aid
and economic largess for their very survival. Bush praised
the troops as the embodiment of our readiness to "project
American power," but the President's speechwriters were
careful to qualify that with "wherever America's interests
on Monday, the President was a foreign policy "realist,"
with definite "isolationist" tendencies. There was even
a touch of the old "humility" line he gave out during the
presidential debates, and this same note was struck when
he asked the assembled soldiers to bow their heads and pray
for "those still missing after the tragic
accident involving one of our naval submarines and a
Japanese fishing vessel off the coast of Hawaii. Please
join me in a moment of silence for those missing, their
families, and our friends, the people of Japan." Ah, but
on Tuesday, speaking at Norfolk Naval Air Station, in Virginia,
it was an
entirely different story.
of reiterating his promise that US armed forces will no
longer be "overdeployed," and holding out goodies for the
grunts, the President's speech to the assembled NATO-crats
at Norfolk was basically a hymn to NATO expansion and the
"transatlantic" "unity" to be ushered in by Star Wars technology.
Citing Harry Truman on NATO's founding, the President reaffirmed
the interventionist dogma of collective security, which
globalizes every local conflict, as the foundation stone
of US foreign policy. "None of us alone can assure the continuance
of freedom," said Truman, and "this is still true today,"
averred the President. "Our challenges have changed, and
NATO is changing and growing to meet them," he declared,
"but the purpose of NATO remains permanent." While the enemy
is was organized to defeat has long since defeated itself,
NATO, we are told, will not join the Warsaw Pact on the
dustbin of history. A defensive alliance against a vanquished
enemy can either disband, or else become an alliance designed
to take the offensive, and Bush segues into this theme in
his very next sentence: "As we have seen in the Balkans,
together, united, we can detour the designs of aggression,
and spare the continent from the effects of ethnic hatreds."
HE DUMB, OR JUST PLAIN STUPID?
Election Day, 2000, candidate Bush said as little as possible
on Kosovo: when pressed, the Bushies mumbled something that
certainly sounded encouraging to some conservative Republican
opponents of Clinton's "humanitarian" war. Remember all
that pre-election talk from Condolezza Rice about how we
might even start withdrawing US troops from the Balkans?
It was a feint, of course, as
I warned in this column on
several occasions, and now this is confirmed by the
President's reaffirmation of our Balkan role, not only our
commitment to NATO but to what he believes to be the essential
justice of Clinton's war. Anyone who believes that US intervention
has spared Kosovo and environs the effects of accelerated
ethnic hatreds is either not paying attention or else is
willfully blind. Of course, there is a third possible explanation,
and this again raises the question with which I opened this
column: Is Dubya a moron, or not?
spite of all appearances to the contrary, I think not. Instead,
our new President seems like a canny politician, one who
knows how to talk out of both sides of his mouth
often at the same time. In speaking to the grunts assembled
at Fort Stewart whom, he acknowledged, were among
the most deployed in the nation Bush the rah-rah
nationalist invoked America's national interests,
but when addressing the assembled princes of NATO, and the
grand-high mucka-mucks of the "defense" establishment, he
affected quite a different tone: not only far less humble
and plainspoken, as might be expected, but affected with
an undertone of grandiosity. Our interests are no longer
national: that was yesterday. Today, in Bush's phrase, they
are "transatlantic." In other words: Don't worry, we won't
withdraw from the Balkans. Far from it, we mean to expand
NATO and expand our presence and influence
on the continent. In asserting that "our unity is essential
for peace in the world," Bush addressed the princes of NATO
like a feudal king addressing his noble vassals: "Nothing,"
he declared, "must ever divide us." Nothing? Not
culture, not history, not differing economic and political
arrangements, nor clashing national interests?
BLAST FROM THE PAST
is permanent. Nothing must divide us. So Octavian
might have addressed his centurions in a similar ceremony
a thousand years ago, solemnly proclaiming the essential
unity of the Roman Empire just before it went into
President had a few reassuring words for the armaments industry,
whose hopes for a Bush-driven boom went into a tailspin
after it was announced that there would be a general review
of all military expenditures before any additions were made
to the new military budget: the sigh of relief could be
heard from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. The President
also made mention of terrorism in the form of vague "new
threats" that seem to involve the landing of nuclear-tipped
messages-in-a-bottle on American shores. But the climax
of the speech came at its end, when he reiterated the glories
NATO allies have brought their own character and courage
to the defense of liberty," said Bush (II). "We're cast
together in a story of shared struggle and shared victory."
NATO's war against the former Yugoslavia was no defense
of liberty, but a criminal aggression, and in that there
is only a shared shame, one that millions of Americans
especially those who form the base of the President's party
felt as they watched Clinton rain down hellfire on
the Serbians from 30,000 ft. But now that a Republican President
is safely in office, it is safe for him to come out of the
closet, so to speak, in one sense, as a Balkan hawk whose
foreign policy will turn out to be even more Euro-centric
(in the worst sense) than the Clintonistas: and, in another
sense, as an unapologetic "transatlanticist," or what used
to be called an "Angophile." By that I don't mean fans of
Eastenders, but the upper classes of the Eastern
seaboard who have always felt closer to London than, say,
Chicago, and points West. As the Brits and the rest of the
Europeans looked on approvingly, our President cast back
in history to uncover the colonial roots of the "transatlantic"
where three ships from England once passed on their way
to Jamestown, we carry on the alliance that joined the old
world and the new. We're allies and we are friends. As long
as we stand together, power will always be on the side of
peace and freedom."
carry on the "alliance" that joined the old world and the
new is to recreate, in effect, the old British Empire
a project for which this speech is practically a blueprint.
With a greatly-expanded NATO at its core, this new Anglo-American
Imperium will stretch at least from American shores to the
Russo-Polish border: indeed, if some have their way, NATO's
eastern frontier will extend practically to the Urals, eventually
spilling over into the Caucasus. This is the ultimate dream
of the NATO-crats, and it is a vision of empire all but
endorsed by Bush (II) in the first weeks of his administration.
Setting the tone for his foreign policy, the double-talking
leitmotif of this administration is becoming firmly established.
Less than 24 hours after commiserating with the troops for
their being "overdeployed," and promising them a better
deal, the President is not only announcing the permanence
of NATO but also endorsing the chief foreign policy disaster
of his predecessor the same interventionist policy
that led to the dangerous increase in American troop deployments
to begin with.
is interesting to speculate on the motives for such a Janus-faced
approach the radically different themes of the Fort
Stewart and Norfolk addresses. One of my favorite Internet
David Hackworth, throws some light on this. Writing
in WorldNetDaily and his column alone
is good reason to pay a visit to that consistently interesting
site Hackworth opines that gung-ho military types
often fail to see the long-range consequences of their impulsive
failing to compute the long-term effects of actions, American
military leaders seldom have learned from the past. History
shows they've repeatedly made the same mistakes. Stuff that
turned sour in World War II also went wrong in Vietnam
and the screw-ups that went down there were replayed again
in Somalia. Despite all the Lessons Learned pamphlets, the
studies and the history books, the record shows there's
little institutional memory in the US armed forces."
proposes adding a "Consequence/Lessons Learned officer"
to every commanding officer's staff. We have special officers
who handle administration, intelligence, operations, logistics,
and civil affairs. Why not have someone "to advise the boss
of both the consequences of his or her intended act or policy
and any relevant history lessons from the past several hundred
years where we waded through the same or similar minefields"?
is a wonderful idea wonderfully subversive, that
is, which is why it will never ever be implemented.
For this would create a whole class of officers who would
act as an automatic brake on the gung-ho imperialist impulses
of their civilian masters, a major sector of the US military
whose job it would be to point to the bleached bones of
past empires the Russians, the Brits, the Romans,
the fabled domain of Alexander as a lesson and a
warning. What Hackworth is proposing, if ever put into practice,
would turn the US military a virtual hotbed of "isolationism"
of peace activism and this the War Party will
never permit. What is interesting, however, is the expression
of such a proposal from a military man, a retired soldier
now an author and columnist widely read as the voice of
the "grunts." His general hostility to the world-saving,
romantic gestures so beloved by civilians points to an amusingly
ironic development. Growing anti-interventionist sentiment
in the military is yet another feature of the post-cold
war world that was hardly foreseen, but is now quite acutely
sensed by this administration. (Thus the rhetoric against
ON THE BRAKES
war clouds gather in the Middle East, Hackworth raises the
specter of American involvement, and asks us whether there
needs to be some institutional method by which we can avoid
the quagmires of the past: Vietnam, Somalia, etc. Of course,
this institutional brake is the will of the armed forces
themselves: their willingness to fight wars of conquest
far from home. This willingness is now increasingly coming
into question and I would even go so further.
ISLAND OF VIRTUE
would go so far as to say that, while the rest of society
seems sunk in the cultural morass of neo-paganism
its attendant politics evoking the "bread and circuses"
atmosphere of Imperial Rome there is an argument
to be made that the military caste, to a large extent isolated
from all this, retains at least some of the stern republican
virtues that are the legacy of the Founders. The decadent
political culture of post-cold-war America has yet to penetrate
and break down the military's conservative traditions: first
and foremost among these traditions is their historical
continuity with the Continental Army of George Washington
rather than with King George's redcoats, as our President
would have it. This is why, in a neat turnaround of events,
the anti-interventionist movement of the future is going
to be centered in the armed forces of the United States
but I'm afraid that somewhat startling thesis will
have to wait for a future column.
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