of concentrating on completing our operations in Afghanistan,
the Pentagon seems to be looking for opportunities to stay
longer and expand our presence in the region. We seem to be
good at developing entrance strategies but not on developing
exit strategies. ... There's no end in sight in our mission
right, Senator, it’s a war without end, extending into Yemen,
the Philippines, and the former Soviet republic of Georgia,
fer chrissakes – and all without the consent or even the knowledge
of Congress, except after the fact. The President and his
advisors are openly planning an all-out attack on Iraq, including
a "regime change," and now even Iran is within Bush’s sights.
The President consults with Tony Blair, but doesn’t bother
with a mere US Senator. When and where will it all end?
is baffling is that the Senator, who never saw a government
spending program he didn’t like – especially if the beneficiaries
reside in West Virginia – finds the Pentagon’s behavior mysterious.
It ought to be perfectly explicable to a Big Government Democrat
like Byrd, who has been a major cause of the federal gigantism
that infects the body politic. Just like any government program,
military activities and institutions take on a dynamic all
their own, not only surviving but expanding exponentially
long after their initial purpose has been nearly forgotten
or rendered irrelevant.
intervention works much the same way as federal intervention
in the economic and social life of our nation: once the machinery
is built and turned on, no one can find the off button. The
rent controls imposed on New York City during World War II
as an "emergency" measure are still extant – as is the US
military occupation of Japan.
MORE THINGS CHANGE …
defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz was the target of Byrd’s
oratorical onslaught in a Senate subcommittee hearing on the
Pentagon budget, and the Senator’s jeremiad was a response
to Wolfowitz’s refusal to be pinned down on the cost or the
length of this war. As Reuters reported it:
said the Pentagon has no clear view of how long U.S. troops
should remain in Afghanistan or how much the operation might
eventually cost. That's because ‘things change and they change
rapidly,’ Wolfowitz said. ‘Everything has gone in ways that
visible for a deputy secretary, Wolfowitz is the foreign policy
poster boy of the neoconservatives,
whose most grandiose foreign policy fulminations he wrote
up, in 1992, in
the form of a policy memorandum. This remarkable document,
a forty-six page manifesto of unabashed neo-imperialism, envisions
America dominant on every continent, pressing the Russians
in the Caucasus, moving to secure hegemony in the Pacific,
and crushing any show of resistance without hesitation or
remorse. According to the Wolfowitz
Doctrine which is now the de facto Bush Doctrine
-- we must be willing to go to war with the Russians if they
give us undue trouble over NATO expansion. With US troops
headed for Georgia, and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze’s
application for NATO membership on file, it isn’t hard to
imagine a scenario in which such a confrontation with Russia
comes to pass. What Reagan thought he abolished – the threat
of nuclear war with the Russians – Wolfowitz and this administration
to the Wolfowitzian vision – now the dominant foreign policy
vision in Washington – the goal of the US must
be to prevent the emergence of any possible rival on a regional
level: US troops and "vital interests" must occupy – even
dominate – every continent. Warning about the possible foreign
policy consequences of a Bush victory in the 2000 election,
I wrote in this space on September 20, 1999:
[Wolfowitz] memo purports to be a foreign policy blueprint
for the next century. If so, it will be a century of endless
wars…. The great goal of the Wolfowitzian vision is to prevent
the emergence of any regional powers as possible rivals to
American world hegemony. All must be reduced to the status
of small and militarily impotent states, lest they challenge
the imperial dominance of the One and Only Superpower. Was
a madder, more megalomaniac vision ever conceived outside
of a loony bin?"
the post-9/11 world, which certainly resembles a loony bin
in several key respects, the Wolfowitzian vision of Empire
is a kind of madness that has gripped not only the pundits
but the policymakers. Of course Wolfowitz can’t predict
the cost, or the length of the war: how long will it take
for the US to conquer the world? Ten years? Twenty? A hundred?
FATE OF ICARUS
has gone in ways that are unpredictable," avers Wolfowitz,
but you don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict the horrific
and inevitably fatal consequences of such a course. The world
is filled with the bones of empires motivated by a belief
in their own invulnerability: they all met the
fate as Icarus, and plunged as fast and far as they rose.
is the original sin of humankind, the trademark of our species,
and we are a long way indeed from the days when George W.
Bush was touting the virtue of "humility" and promising
us a "more humble" foreign policy. If this is "humble,"
then what would overweening arrogance look like?
chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Byrd
could prove to be a large and immovable roadblock to the administration’s
war plans, and hopefully he gave us a preview of what kind
of fireworks we might expect if warhawks like Wolfowitz get
their way. Speaking of fireworks, the declarations
of "victory" trumpeted by the triumphalists who wondered
"where’s the quagmire?" seem to have been a bit premature:
the news that Al
Qaeda has beaten back the most massive US offensive yet
and our "Northern Alliance" allies are at
each other’s throats should answer that question definitively.
child could have seen this coming, but naturally our war-emboldened
punditocracy missed it: of course, a quagmire, by definition,
is not apparent at first, and perhaps that explains their
inability to see what was coming. But I prefer George
Orwell’s explanation of the reason for this peculiar blindness.
In his classic essay on "James
Burnham and the Managerial Revolution," Orwell tried to
explain the view of many intellectuals at the time, including Burnham, that the Germans would win World War II: "One
might assume that high intelligence and bad military judgement
always go together," he writes. "However, it is not so simpleas that":
worship blurs political judgement because it leads, almost
unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue.
Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.
… This habit of mind leads also to the belief that htings
will happen more quickly, completely, and catastrophically
than they ever do in practice. The rise and fall of empires,
the disappearance of cultures and religions, are expected
to happen with earthquake suddenness, and processes which
have barely started are talked about as though they were already
at an end."
Orwell noted, are peculiarly vulnerable to the sin of hubris,
and I recalled his insight as I sat and listened to David
Brooks, of the Weekly Standard on
the PBS News Hour last Friday. Brooks was responding to
Shields, who wondered if 100,000 US troops are "going
to be the western Christian pro-Israeli occupying force in
think the Brits in Northern Ireland had a tough time, let
me tell you, that's an assignment that I think ought to be
debated and ought to be determined by free debate in the country."
are 25 new democracies in the last 20 years. What the U.S.
has done is created a world order which is allowed local heroes
like Cori Aquino, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa to create their
own democracies. I would say that's something that's something
that's possible in Iraq. That's something that's happened
25 times in the last 30 years. It is plausible to think we
can happen in Iraq and think of the upside; think what happens
if there is a democracy in Iraq; think what happens if we
export our ideas that all human beings have inalienable rights
to Iraq, to the middle of the Arab world.
seems to me that revolutionizes the world, so the risks
are tremendous but the upside is also tremendous and I think
that sort of effort which Bush envisions brings out the best
in the country."
SOUL OF A NEOCON
that’s what the neoconservative vision of American
foreign policy is all about: an effort to "revolutionize
the world"! No wonder so many ex-Communists,
left-wing nutballs have so effortlessly converted
to the neocon creed – because it mirrors the same world-transforming
power-lust that so enamored intellectuals of the left
in the modern era. They told us that "everything’s changed"
since 9/11, but the spectacle of so many alleged "conservatives"
proclaiming their desire to "revolutionize the world"
is surely a transformation of stunning irony, and one
that may cause at least some on the Right to question
the direction their leaders are taking them.
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