For the last few months I have been battling some cognitive dissonance when making conclusions about the current state of U.S. foreign affairs. Ever since the Ron Paul days of 2008, I have been firm in my conviction that the libertarians are correct in this regard. I think on one hand that despite whatever disasters that may occur after a full military pull-out of all foreign countries, the situation couldn’t possibly be worse than allowing the U.S. government to continue the policy of the last century.
On the other hand, I am not privy to any inside-information. How can I possibly make conclusions about a subject that I have very limited knowledge of? What if Ron Paul himself made it into the White House and decided to continue the current policy because it’s the thing any sane person would do if they had the relevant facts and the ability to make the calls? This could explain the many reversals that we have witnessed from presidents as they transition from candidate-to-president.
While I still ultimately think the right course of action is a complete termination of the interventionist policy and that the politicians are war criminals, I don’t have a strong answer to the second, contradictory premise.
Yeah, no, that’s all wrong. Bush was lying when he said he wanted a more humble foreign policy. Obama was telling the truth when he said he wanted to get out of Iraq so as to help shore up the power of the American empire elsewhere. Trump was lying when he said he wanted to abandon “globalism” (the empire). None of them ever truly ran as Ron or Kucinich did as actual anti-imperialists. And so none of them truly had their minds changed about anything. (Trump’s resistance to Afghanistan-alone was still only ever paper-thin.)
“It was not immediately clear how close the U.S. military recon jet was flying near Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between NATO allies Poland and Lithuania. This fall, Russia moved nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad, putting some European capitals in strike range.” — Armed Russian jet comes within 5 feet of US recon jet
“At the end, we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war. We came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals — Kennedy was rational, Castro was rational, Khrushchev was rational — came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today. The major lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis is this: The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will destroy nations.” –U.S. Vietnam “War” Defense Sec. Robert McNamara, The Fog of War
So, is it just “Nuclear Chicken” – or is it Russian Roulette? Or maybe both?
Pfaff was the singular heir of American writers who preceded him in condemning our historic addiction to war. And the more he criticized the U.S. for shooting first and thinking later, the fewer America dailies printed his columns. The New York Times, which owns the International Herald-Tribune where his work regularly appeared, rarely if ever published his piercing anti-interventionist columns. He was, after all, an outspoken opponent of the Iraq invasion when the paper went overboard in favor of the war. His few daily newspaper outlets were limited essentially to Newsday and the Chicago Tribune though liberal journals like the New York Review of Books, William Shawn’s New Yorker, which printed some seventy of his pieces, and Commonweal, the liberal Catholic magazine, welcomed him.
I was hired in 1972 by the American Jewish Committee to serve as editor of a new magazine I named Present Tense. My vague assignment was to be more “Jewish” than the well-established and influential Commentary magazine, which, while also parented by the AJC, had shifted its primary attention to more worldly interests under Norman Podhoretz, its smart and creative editor, who had abandoned his and the magazine’s traditional liberalism and moved right, very far right, into the brawling territory of U.S. foreign policy and national politics. From 1972 to 1990, when we were closed down, my office was one flight below that of Commentary.
From the very beginning Present Tense was “a sort of counter-Commentary,” as Susan Jacoby, one of our regular columnists, shrewdly noted in her illuminating book, “Half-Jew: A Daughter’s Search for Her Family’s Buried Past.” Early on, a reader wrote us that we were doomed to obscurity and worse because the further we veered left, the more we became too liberal for the AJC’s conservative donors (they also had liberal donors, equally unhappy with Commentary). Even so, we lasted for many years, sometimes taking on the Israel Lobby, disdainful of Reagan for Iran-Contra and his proxy war in Central America, while celebrating his anti-nuke huddle in Reykjavik with Gorbachev and publishing all sides of the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and I mean, all sides, including right, center and left. We also refused to forgive and forget the ugly legacy of McCarthyism and how its impact still blunted dissent in the American Jewish world, as the novelist and journalist Anne Roiphe, another of our intrepid columnists, pointed out in our final issue. Continue reading “The Neocons: First in War, Last in Peace”