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Posted October 23, 2003

"NATO's Eastern Enchantment"

Mr. Deliso's article sums up very well a number of the problems with NATO expansion and NATO itself. In connection with one of his points, I note that an early plan concerning the training of some 30,000 Iraqi police at Taszar air base near Kaposvar, revealed in the New York Times, created quite a furor in Hungary, as the article suggested that the decision to put the Iraqis in Hungary had already been taken without Budapest's knowledge.

That would be par for the course for this administration, though this time the foreign policy establishment may have gotten ahead of itself in counting on the loyalty of its vassal, Peter Medgyessy, the Socialist prime minister of Hungary. It may be that this plan is now out of the question, considering the overwhelming hostility to the idea in Hungary, but there is no doubt that Mr. Medgyessy's government is going to be willing to collaborate with the new foreign directives, much as he and his colleagues used to collaborate with the Soviets.

With respect to NATO's Russophobia and the continuing preoccupation with the strategic containment of a Russia that seems to have its hands relatively full suppressing the Chechens, it was striking to read an article in the Claremont Review of Books (an unfortunate choice of reading material, to be sure) that declared matter-of-factly that the Iraq war served the grand strategy of assisting Israel and knocking out a Russian satellite and was therefore already justified solely on those grounds.

Aside from the ignorance of the author, who assured us that Iraq and North Yemen had never been pro-Western in recent decades, the sheer amorality of the argument was breathtaking. It is rare to see such a candid admission of bankrupt Machtpolitik in the fumes emitted from the so-called Straussian Republican universe of pundits and "scholars," but it confirms what many in the opposing camp, especially among conservatives, have been saying about this administration. Far from emerging from the Cold War, they are sucking us back into a revived version of it. No wonder old Iran-Contra hands are running amok on Iran policy.

In spite of Mr. Bush's purportedly cozy relationship with President Putin, every major policy decision has been made to maximize damage to Russian interests, though at each turn it is not clear that American interests have been advanced one inch. Quite the opposite, probably. From NATO expansion in 2002 to the propping up of the apparatchik Shevardnadze to the establishment of central Asian bases, and now to the invasion of Iraq, Russian spheres of influence have been repeatedly invaded to relatively little advantage for the United States.

In the targeting of the rest of the "axis of evil," there is plainly a continued interest in battering down those strategically important countries that have close relations with Moscow, and in the reluctance to take an Indian alliance seriously the bizarre Cold War addiction to Pakistani dictatorship perpetuates the senseless tilt of the much wealthier, more stable India towards Russia while America is tied to a fissiparous nightmare of a made-up country. In the middle term, Pakistan may be useful for certain security arrangements, but so long as our government remains married to Islamabad's preoccupations in central Asia we will continually be forced into conflicts with a Russia that does not want a conflict and does not seriously impinge on any vital interests of the United States.

~ Daniel Larison, Chicago, Illinois

Christopher Deliso replies:

Point well taken. You bring up several interesting issues. Let me just add something regarding Hungary. I was there in January, right before they started the operation, and it was clear that the locals felt some trepidation. Our team interviewed the town mayor, military officials, some civilians and US soldiers at the base – who were not forthcoming, as you can imagine. And Americans encountered in a bar in this town in the middle
of nowhere concocted marvelous stories of what they were doing in Hungary (when it was obvious that they were off-duty soldiers). Mostly, the locals feared that they presence of such distinguished guests could result in revenge terrorism or sabotage from Saddam's forces. Although this didn't happen, no one was too sad when the program closed down early, having only "graduated" a handful from its expected student class. And that was Hungary.

There is a compelling reason for the abiding American obsession with Russia: it is the real key to Europe achieving complete independence and superpower status. The presence of new US bases along an East European corridor makes all the more sense in this context. Despite China's latest moves to get closer to the EU, which are wise in view of the rise of the euro, it is Russia that figures at the center of European strategic thinking.

Let us assume that France and Germany embark on a joint rearmament program aiming at the 3 percent of GDP level, and that they tap Russia's military-industrial complex for the provision of defense-related goods and services. Russia's armed forces are being hollowed out for lack of resources. Her economy is exceedingly dependent on exports of raw materials. She may thus gain a new economic engine and be in a position to rebuild her military on an accelerated schedule.

France and Germany would likely require that Russia take steps to anchor herself to Europe once and for all. This would be consistent with Russia's growing trade with the European Union and current policy regarding the euro. Russia in return would likely ask for the forming of a Euro-Russian defense market that favors her defense industry and some kind of non-aggression pact.

Major oil producers would be encouraged to follow Russia's lead and begin a move to the euro as they see the rearmament program get underway, as it would portend the end of unchallenged US military dominance. This would drive the euro higher against other strong currencies including the dollar, further bolstering the European defense partners' ability to borrow in their own currency, while increasing the purchasing power of Russia's fast-growing euro reserves.

Likewise, major East Asian industrialized nations would also diversify their massive foreign currency reserves and bond holdings in favor of the euro.

Parity between the euro and the dollar as trade and reserve currencies would become a realistic objective, despite the barrier to exports for Europeans resulting from the euro's appreciation, as this would be offset to no small degree by the economic benefits of the rearmament program, the improved foreign investment picture for euro holders, the improved ability of EU countries to borrow in euros, and the continued depreciation of the dollar against other strong currencies.

Overall, these new trends would increasingly limit the ability of the United States to boost her military on de facto foreign credit, whilst a sudden reversal of low taxation policies would create a crisis between both major American parties and their donor bases. As Europe, and later Russia, compete for a growing share of international lending and investment, US defense spending would quickly rise to politically unsustainable levels as a proportion of the federal budget.

By the same token, America's massive imports of cheap consumer goods, together with the high level of direct foreign investment by US corporations, would have to be curbed due to the weakening dollar. This would translate into a major shift back toward productive investment in the domestic industrial base.

The US would thus be forced to agree to a globalization condominium with Europe. At home, the key effect of the realignment would be to restore significant economic and political clout to a reemerging industrial middle class, which would be in a position to demand that a greater share of federal expenditures be directed to domestic programs as opposed to the military and intelligence budgets. This new trend would further reduce the clout of the American military-industrial complex.

Even though this scenario is predicated on a massive arms race – including strategic nuclear forces – neither Europe nor Russia should seek to confront, much less threaten, the United States. There would be growing economic incentives for the rest of the EU to jump on the French-German-Russian defense bandwagon. The new European defense infrastructure would end up being retrofitted into NATO, thus making the EU America's equal within the alliance and ending NATO's utility to the US as an adjunct military force.

Aware of the two friendly military powers in Western and Central Eurasia, American public opinion would grow less tolerant of US supremacist tendencies and more positive about international organizations and treaties that prevent or manage tensions with Europe and Russia. This would encourage military disengagement by the US from Europe, a long-standing strategic objective for Russia – and now also a key objective to achieve a European superpower.

Meanwhile, US incentives to engage in security cooperation with Europe and Russia in order to check growing Chinese power would only increase over time. If Japan wisely decided to align herself with the Europeans and the Russians, allowing the pact to span all of northern Eurasia, the strategic map would be redrawn in Asia as well. This would signal the dawn of a new balance of power in which both the US and China are militarily and economically outmatched by a vast Eurasian alliance.

~ Philippe Dambournet

Christoper Deliso replies:

Interesting analysis – replete with conditional clauses. I think you assume far too logical decision-making from leaders who increasingly do not see any real big picture. Don't forget, though, that despite the apparent Euro-Russia friendship, WTO negotiations have proven very difficult because neither side wants to make too many concessions. And Western Europe is still happily in control over NATO together with the US (as you will see in a forthcoming article on my website, www.balkanalysis.com). I quote from the same press briefing, citing Gen. Jones as describing the "very successful" joint Mediterranean naval operation which he says has slashed illegal immigration to the West by 50 percent – "thereby reducing the cost of commercial shipping insurance by 20 percent." Indeed, when Rummy was going on about shipping out of Germany, mayors of different German towns dependent on the US bases were lobbying in Washington to keep them. In fact, Gen. Jones reassured that NATO will keep operations in Germany, stating that it "doesn't make sense" to pick everything up and move 500 KM to the east. Besides, he also states that even despite its antiwar sentiment, Western Europe hosted significant percentages of necessary war cargo and was the vital staging post for US soldiers.

In the end, I believe I am correct to say that the combination of defense industry greed and the misplaced agenda of an eccentric but now powerful Pentagon gang is responsible for the Eastern push, more than fear of a scenario nearly so complex as you've described. You give them far too much credit!

Casualties in Iraq

Can you tell me the exact number of US troops in Iraq as of today?

~ Lupita R.

Mike Ewens replies:

On September 10th:

Number of U.S. Troops in Iraq Is 116,000

And remember: when you have a question.... GOOGLE (www.google.com) it.

According to the CDC, the suicide rate for the US population is between 16 and 20 per 100,000 (www.cdc.gov). The suicide rate of troops in the Iraqi theater at 17/100,000 is not higher than the US

~ Steven C.

Managing Editor Eric Garris replies:

True, but that is not the number to look at. The suicide rate for soldiers is much lower, so the comparison to look at is suicides among GIs in Iraq versus GIs overall. That is why the Army is looking into it.

Mike Ewens replies:

The Army has been quite ambiguous about many of the "non-combat" deaths in Iraq. Thus, there is some suspicion that the actual number is much, much higher than officially reported.

"Citizen Clark?"

You are losing focus – the object is to BEAT THE COMMANDER-IN-THIEF! Everyone of the candidates has personal weak points, but why dwell on any of that? Let the NEOCONAZIS do it, that's their thing, not ours. Talk about substantive issues, his talking points, his speeches. Not his past! IN 2000 I MADE THE MISTAKE OF SITTING ON THE SIDELINES AND CASTING THE "MORALLY CORRECT" VOTE FOR NADER. NOW I AM SCARED WE LIBERALS /PROGRESSIVES ARE BEING MANIPULATED BY THE AXIS OF EVIL (ROVE-CHENEY-RUMSFELD) INTO EATING OUR OWN YOUNG! Oppose him (I do in working for Kucinich), but at least follow his one good idea, "I will not speak ill of any Democrat."

~ M.A. "Radar" Browne-Middleton

Nebojsa Malic replies:

There seems to be some confusion here. I am neither 'liberal' nor (shudder) 'progressive,' but a libertarian with a distinct dislike of the White Marble Throne as an institution. To me, every Emperor is by definition a Commander-in-Thief (good phrase, there). My criticism of Clark was by no means an endorsement of Bush – or anyone else, for that matter. The Powers-That-Be would like us all to believe there are only two solutions to any given question: Democrats vs. Republicans, 'with us, or against us,' but it doesn't work that way. As Einstein is attributed with saying, problems cannot be solved using the same mindset that created them; yet at this point, whoever any of us votes for or not, the Emperor gets elected. How is that a solution? The week after 'Citizen Clark,' I wrote 'Return to the Crime Scene,' and said this at its conclusion:

"It would... seem logical for Americans to look at their former Emperor [Clinton], his favorite to become the next one [Clark], and the current one [Bush], and understand that all three believe in power and force. They use them in different places, and mask them with different platitudes, but does that really make a difference? It shouldn't."

I stand by that.

"Heed Bush Sr., Stop the $20 Billion Iraq Giveaway"

It can hardly be described as a "giveaway" since it's to go toward reconstruction. How much damage was was done to telephone exchanges, water treatment plants and electricity plants in an illegal war? This is not to mention the destruction of living accommodation and the killing and maiming of civilians. ...

Does America not intend to pay for the damage it has wreaked in its illegal invasion? It would indeed be a profitable business for the US to bomb countries to smithereens and then offer "loans" so that Halliburton et al could "reconstruct" for them. Or maybe that's the neocon plan?

~ Chris Cahill, Canada

Excellent thinking. Here is a 77-year-old Democrat asking you to run for President. I am ashamed of most of my Democrat reps and senators. As a W.W. II machine gunner the last thing we need is more WAR and concomitant DEBT.

~ Albert Mezzetti

"Thinkers Launch Anti-Empire Drive"

About darn time! How does one get on an email alert for updates?

~ Jeff M.

Eric Garris replies:

They haven't set up their email list yet, but here is the website: http://www.realisticforeignpolicy.org.

Red flags went up as soon as I saw this:

"Leaders of the 'Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy' charged that the administration is moving 'in a dangerous direction toward empire,' an idea that they said has never been embraced by the U.S. public."

I would not dare suggest that the Bush administration's foreign policy of Pax Americana is a polar shift from any previous administration. Do I agree with his foreign policy? No. But I have noticed how many journalists-who-seem-more-like-satirists have argued that Bush's doctrine of preemption is "unprecedented" in American history. That statement alone should compel one to ask whether or not this is a genuine anti-imperialistic organization, or another attempt by the establishment to control opposition, by co-opting the antiwar movement.

Given the names of the signatories (Gary Hart, et. al.), I would be very cautious about supporting such an organization. Gary Hart helped craft the Patriot Act, and has explicitly said that September 11 could be used to effectively set up a "New World Order."

~ Mark Anderson

"Agents of Empire"

The very first paragraph of Nebojsa Malic’s Agents of Empire perfectly sums up the very essence of all historic empires and, of course, of this particular (and very, very evil) empire:

"One of the secrets of Empire's success is that so many people have a vested interest in it. From the White Marble Throne itself to the lowliest NGO intern in some obscure occupied satrapy, the fact that they represent the Empire gives them power, authority and meaning. It is also a very lucrative source of income to many."

A great article, informative, poignant and quite scary.

~ Sika Likainen

"A Day in the Life of the Empire"

"Habitual liars don't care how many times they're caught because they just can't help themselves. They're addicted to lying, they get high from it."

I love your column and have learned a great deal from your insights – you always hit the nail on the head.

However, I would like to argue that your quote (above), which I've heard from several other sources on the web lately (e.g. David Corn) essentially misses the point and plays into the hands of the neocons.

Simply put: LYING WORKS. The habitual-ness of this behavior is not necessarily pathological but is function of its success – and is therefore quite premeditated.

Of course I can't prove this – one must simply ask Bush if he actually believes his World is safer now or is he just trying to keep his job – but that ain't gonna happen, is it?


While I admire much of what you write, and hail Antiwar.com as one of the Internet's greatest information resources, you are guilty of perpetuating the "dangerously elitist policy" you criticize that locks dissenters out of the political process by insisting that candidates must satisfy a poll threshold in order to be worthy of support.

Such a policy cedes power to the Media War Party which is capable of lifting or squashing a candidate's poll numbers with ease – especially those dissenters struggling for coverage and a place in TV debates.

That leaves you and your supporters with nowhere to go but to abstain or to support a War Party candidate.

Harry Browne, Libertarian for President in 1996 and 2000, was the greatest antiwar voice in the history of American presidential candidates. He was even ahead of Buchanan at one point in the polls.

Now the Libertarians again offer a true antiwar alternative – with no call for United Nations occupation and no apologizing (or ignoring) the deadly sanctions imposed in Iraq by the U.N. Gary Nolan is currently the leading candidate for the nomination.

It's time to do the right thing and support ONLY true antiwar, noninterventionist candidates. And refuse to support anyone else.

Small government is beautiful – and our only hope for peace.

~ Carla Howell, Wayland, Massachusetts, Libertarian for US Senate 2000, Libertarian for Governor 2002, Sponsor of Massachusetts End the Income Tax ballot initiative 2002

... The next time a general election comes along, take the opportunity to vote as many of these parasites out of office as we can. The Iraq war was a pretty blatant example of their lying. They are usually more careful about it but pulled out all the stops on this because they were desperate to launch their war. You can bet, though, that they are lying about most everything else that goes on in this process that we call "central government." It should be renamed "central manipulation". ...

America would be much better off with a bunch of no-name elected officials than the current crop of perennials that inhabit Washington.

~ KW

"How many little Alis are we breeding in Iraq? Will they one day wreak their vengeance in acts of terror yet undreamed of?"

This question goes both ways.

I wonder how many Americans will demand that we wreak our own special brand of vengeance on the Arab world when the next angry Ali carries out his orders to punish the "great Satan"?

I know that whatever happens, it ain't gonna be pretty. Not even a little bit.

~ Craig U.

Is the $87 billion a new kind of pork barrel? International corporations that end up getting their welfare checks will turn around and support the campaigns of those that supported them. With one eye on their campaign coffers incumbents and hopefuls alike are singing the same tune of support for this outrageous spending bill. The administration is not worried, as long as they deliver the money on time. Taxpayer's beware!

~ Paul S. Nofs

Justin writes: "yet the Democrats – with the exception of Dean – all supported it." Hopefully that was a slip of the tongue and not deliberate, because I'm sure you know very well that Kucinich is the ONLY one who VOTED against the war resolution (and, in fact, led the opposition to it). Dean SAYS he opposed it, and we can take him at his word, but he wasn't in a position of actually voting one way or the other since he wasn't in Congress.

~ Eli Stephens, Left I on the News

What History Teaches

In a 1997 lecture to the Eisenhower Institute on the topic of "What History Teaches About Grand Strategy", Yale's John Lewis Gaddis highlights a 1966 quote made by George F. Kennan to Senate Foreign Relations Committee commenting on the LBJ's claim that any reversal of course in Southeast Asia would fatally compromise American credibility:

"There is more respect to be won in the opinion of this world by a resolute and courageous liquidation of unsound positions than by the most stubborn pursuit of extravagant and unpromising objectives."

Maybe it needs to be re-said.

~ Tim Gillin, Sydney, Australia

"Fake 'Good News' from Iraq"

You cannot trust the military, you can only wait for veterans to come out from under the umbrella of peer pressure. For example, when USS RANGER visited Hong Kong in 1989, a written order came around explaining that (1) we must all sign off that we've read this, (2) that we will obey this written order not to cross over into China while in port in HK, (3) that this letter's signatures will be witnessed by a senior officer, (4) that said officer will shred this memo, (5) that said officer's word will be final on whether or not anyone read and signed, if anyone is caught disobeying said order. Everyone signed, and the letter was shredded. It was insane, but it was reality.

~ Bob Graham, Author, Military Secret


Can you please update your excellent Backtalk column more regularly? It is so refreshing to see other peoples point of view.

~ Patrick A.

Backtalk editor Sam Koritz replies:


For the time being at least we're planning to stay on our usual once or twice per week schedule. It's just more time-efficient to post a lot of letters once rather than a few letters several times. Between Backtalk postings you might want to check out AWC's blog and Yahoo Forum, if you haven't already.


Why not collect information about how it is possible for deserters to get refugee-status in different countries and publish it on your web-page. I wouldn't be surprised if the soldiers from Iraq could easily get political refugee status in Sweden. I guess one could ask the embassy.

– Eva Berglund, Sweden

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