Archive for the ‘political science’ Tag

Thom Responds on Interventionism   2 comments

The last couple of weeks (Here and Here), I played devil’s advocate by putting on the perspective of the countries we meddle with and asking the question “Might the US be the reason the world is such an unstable place?” This week, Thom replies to me.

Thom StarkYou have an … unusual … view of history, to say the least. I’m afraid it’s also more than a little misinformed – again, to say the least. Two weeks worth of your essays have created quite a collection of topics, so, rather than going through them point by point, I’ll try to confine myself to addressing the major ones.

Except your “sympathy for the devil” discourse on Hitler, that is. That one is simply too egregiously wrong for me to duck.

Adoph Hitler was born in 1889. Far from being a 10-year-old boy, in 1918 he was a corporal serving as an artilleryman in the German army. His experiences on the front lines inspired in him a lifelong hatred of Germany’s officer class, based on his resentment about having been repeatedly passed over for promotion, while officers he considered incompetent were awarded medals and promotions of their own. (He talks in considerable detail, and with great heat about those experiences and his contempt and anger towards the military in his autobiographical book, My Battle, btw.)

Nowhere in your imaginative portrait do you account for the future Fuhrer’s deeply irrational antipathy towards Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, communists, and intellectuals, all of whom would be targets of systematic pogroms after he became Reichschancellor. Nor do you seem to in any way acknowledge his galloping megalomania, paranoia, and determination to dominate, control, and modify to his liking every single aspect of German civil life – all of which contributed to Germany becoming a menace to world civilization as the putative Thousand-year Reich. And, again, all of that, along with his blueprint for conquest and subjugation, first of Europe, then of the entire world, I know, not because it was spoon-fed to me by rote, but because, as a teenager, I actually read Mein Kampf. About the same time, I also read Paul L. Shirer’s massive, detailed, and thoroughly-documented The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – a book I also recommend to you.

Likewise, your portrayal of the liberal/corporate elite meeting to conspire to change the character of America seems equally cockeyed to me. Just as a single example, J. Pierpont Morgan’s U.S. Steel cartel was dismantled by Theodore Roosevelt’s trust-busters. When Morgan offered to make any changes the Justice Department required (including substantial divestments) in order to allow his steel monopoly to continue, he was informed that there were no changes he could possibly make in order to satisfy the Feds – and that they were determined to end his monopoly, and make a very public example of him in the process. That he would then conspire with Teddy’s cousin to bring about a novus ordum seculorum is risible, at best.

And T.R. himself was a big fan of interventionism, as well. Spanish-American War, anyone? Moro Rebellion, perhaps?

Your explanation of the roots of WWI is equally flawed. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was merely the final act of a long-building confrontation between the Germanies and the allies of Western Europe. When Austria declared war on Serbia over the assassination, Germany was obligated by treaty to follow suit – which then, in turn, brought France and England into the war because of their treaty obligations to Serbia. By the time of the sinking of the Lusitania – the event that precipitated the U.S. entry into active conflict with Germany – it’s true enough that the English were blockading German ports. It is also true, however, that Germany was doing its best to return the favor. It was just a lot harder for them to cut off access by sea to England than it was for the British navy to shut down German ports, because of their respective geographies (England controlled Gibraltar, so it could exclude trans-Atlantic cargo from access to conquered Mediterranean ports, and the German ones were all Baltic-facing, and conveniently close to one another for blockade purposes).

Churchhill’s after-the-fact rationalization notwithstanding, the sinking of the Lusitania is what forced us into the war. It was a passenger liner, and in no sense a legitimate target for the German navy. Public outrage over its sinking left Franklin Roosevelt and Congress no choice but to formally declare war.

Speaking of which, your father knew exactly why we entered WWII – because the Japanese navy conducted a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, in a bid to foreclose our navy from opposing their planned invasion of the Phillipines. (The fact that the Japanese ambassador had orders to present the President with a declaration of war half an hour before the scheduled attack isn’t well-known – he got caught in traffic on the way to the White House, btw – but it wouldn’t have made any difference, because Japan’s formal declaration of war would have obligated Germany to declare war on us, as well.) It was only in the wake of the allied invasion of the German homeland that the reality of the death camps had any meaningful impact on the American public’s perception of the true horrors of Nazism. Before that, they were just “the bad guys” because they had declared war on us after the Japanese surprise attack.

And I know that, because, as a child, I voraciously read my father’s collection of Yank, the armed forces newspaper, with its many first-person accounts of war in Europe and the Pacific, and its detailed portraits of life on the front lines by reporters such as the great Ernie Pyle.

Yes, our Lend-Lease program infuriated Hitler. But, nonetheless, he was never willing to unilaterally declare war on us, because he knew full well that America would add enormously to Allied power, should it become a combatant. The Japanese bombing attack on Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Field forced his hand.

Treaty obligations, you know?

But let’s talk about American post-WWII interventionism.

If you expect me to defend the CIA’s policy of covertly destabilizing leftist regimes during the Cold War, I’m going to have to disappoint you. It’s important, though, to realize that the Agency’s geopolitical machinations were a product of the Dulles brothers dominance of foreign policymaking at the time. John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, was a rabid anti-communist, and his brother Alan was Director of the CIA. Between them, they managed to create incredible ill-will toward this country in the name of fighting the global spread of communism – and, more importantly, they did so in the most foolishly short-sighted and counterproductive possible manner. And that same policy of destabilizing left-leaning governments and installing repressive, autocratic, often military governments in their place didn’t end with les frères Dulles, either. It continued throughout the Cold War, everywhere from Peru to Grenada.

Nor was that the worst of the CIA’s sins. The disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion was an Agency operation – and so was the Gulf of Tonkin “incident.” That was a completely manufactured causus belli. It was the pretext on which Congress authorized introducing American combat troops into the Vietnam conflict, and it was a complete fliction. Not even President Johnson knew that the CIA had simply made it up out of whole cloth, manufacturing every bit of evidence, to force us into physical conflict with North Vietnam – whose overtures for American assistance John Foster Dulles had contemptuously rejected when Ho Chi Minh approached the State Department for help in overthrowing the French colonial occupation of the North.

So I think we agree on the issue of CIA culpability for American interventionism during the Cold War.

We’re also in agreement about the calamitous invasion of Iraq in 2003. About whether we were justified in leading a coalition to eject Iraqi forces from Kuwait, maybe not as much, though. There, Iraq was, in fact, the unprovoked aggressor, overrunning the country of Kuwait in order to appropriate its oil fields. Our treaty obligations to Kuwait forced us into war with Iraq over that invasion. Yes, it’s true that we had previously supplied Saddam Hussein with weapons and financial support in his wars with Iran. Whether that was a good idea or not is arguable. It certainly kept Iranian expansionism contained at no cost in American lives. What’s inarguable is that our invasion of Iraq to topple his regime was utterly misbegotten. There was no justification for that, Judith Miller’s recent aplogism notwithstanding, because the actual intelligence community assessment was that Saddam’s Iraq posed zero direct threat to the USA. Iinstead, it was the cherry-picked intelligence that the never-to-be-sufficiently-condemned Douglas Feith (the odious Wormtongue to Dick Cheney’s Saruman the Black) dredged up from among the dissenters to the consensus view that was used to justify the invasion to the UN and the American people.

That disastrous adventure was prompted not by the CIA – which opposed it – but by the vision of the neo-con nitwits at the Project for a New American Century. PNAC was a think tank from which emerged most of the staffers for Cheney’s Office of the Vice-President, as well as highly-placed members of the Defense and State departments under the Bush administration. Their thesis was that America should embrace its role as the world’s policeman, and impose regime change on rogue nations by force. One of their central tenents was the the USA needed a permanent military base in the heart of the Middle East from which it could with impunity project power throughout the region. That was music to Cheney’s ears, and, with the lure of all that high-grade Iraqi crude just waiting for Halliburton Corporation to exploit, it constituted the impetus for invasion and conquest of Iraq.

It was the PNAC idiots – Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz among them – who advocated and pushed through that invasion in the wake of 9/11 … which was entirely a pretext, because they’d been plotting the takeover of Iraq since the very outset of the Bush 43 era. Throughout, they remained purposefully blind to the consequences of that entirely-unprovoked aggression: the destabilization of the principal bulwark against Iran, the inevitable disintegration of Iraq as a political entity, and the inflaming of Islamic enmity towards the U.S., despite being repeatedly warned of the probability of those outcomes by CIA and State Department analysts who (unlike the ideologues of PNAC) had made careers out of studying and trying to understand the region. And, likewise, having been repeatedly cautioned that the all-volunteer military’s strength was completely inadequate for the task of occupying a hostile country the size and unruliness of Iraq (cautions that cost a number of highly-capable generals their careers under Rumsfeld, who demoted or reassigned them to dead-end postings, replacing them with bootlickers and yes-men).

So that, too, is an area on which we agree.

However, you’re way, way off base in asserting that the CIA was behind either the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, or the toppling of Viktor Yanukovich’s government. Yanukovich was the architect of his own downfall, as documented in the New York Times investigative piece titled Ukraine Leader Was Defeated Even Before He Was Ousted:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/04/world/europe/ukraine-leader-was-defeated-even-before-he-was-ousted.html

It was Yanukovich’s fateful decision to order his police to fire on peaceful, unarmed protesters that lost him the support of his own allies, including the Ukrainian military. And his ouster was not illegal under Ukrainian law, because Ukraine’s parlaiment voted to remove him from office. In other words, Ukraine’s elected government declared him unfit to be President and removed him from office, not the CIA. Only Putin and his propaganda organs insist the CIA was involved – and Putin, as you well know, has a long history of lying with his bare face hanging out whenever it’s politically convenient for him to do so.

On the other hand, I can’t blame him for taking advantage of the situation to take control of Crimea. It had always been part of Russian until Nikita Khrushchev (who, let’s note, was himself Ukranian) transferred it to Ukraine in 1954. Nor do I disagree that a partition of modern Ukraine into a rump state and a Russian province is unlikely. In fact, that’s probably been Putin’s goal all along.

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedNone of which invalidates my central thesis that the current balance of world power, in general, is a product of the Cold War-era global American military empire. I’m not now, and never have been, an advocate of military interventionism, except as required by our treaty obligations. I’m convinced that we shoud go to war only as a last resort, and only against an active aggressor’s actual military invasion of an allied nation’s soil. However, as a lifelong student of history, I well understand that creating a power vacuum inevitably leads to armed conflict among nations that might benefit from attempting to fill that vacuum. That’s why I advocate keeping our military empire, purely as a deterrent to such would-be opportunists. If we should abandon our military presence in Europe, it would unquestionably provoke war between Germany and Russia over the historic buffer state of Poland. Likewise, if we pulled out of Japan, South Korea, and Thailand, that would precipitate a war between Japan and China for control of the Spratly Islands in the North China Sea. In both cases, treaty obligations would force us to intervene. Without the bases necessary to effectively project conventional military power in those regions, nuclear war would result.

And that would be the ultimate – and final – intervention.

Thom Stark is the author American Sulla, an apocalyptic thriller series. Lela Markham is the author ofTransformation Project, an apocalyptic dystopian series. Both these series look at America following nuclear terrorism.

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