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March 29, 2013

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I saw a headline in a local paper: "US slow to provide visas for Iraqui interpeters" or somethig like that.

I was surprised to see a mention of Iraq in the mainstream media, let alone a mention of an area of neglected responsibility. I thought the war was down the memory hole.

It requires more moral courage than our nation has collectively to do a post mortum on Iraq. Just forget it, more on nothing to learn there. In a few years the meme will start that we could have won, or perhaps that we did win. Of course victory will not be defined.

Thanks; this angle hasn't been covered enough. I've written a bit about it in the past, but the State Department had a reconstruction plan that Rumsfeld and Cheney rejected, because they hated Colin Powell and really the entire the State Department. As for Phase IV, Rumsfeld actually threatened to fire anyone who talked about post-war occupation and reconstruction. (It's a neat trick, invading a country and then saying whatever happens next just isn't your problem. Hey, stuff happens.)

The Guardian recently carried some stories that cast an interesting light on Iraqi death squads and the US, based in part on wikileaks documents. Petraeus's name comes up, because one of the American advisers to the Iraqis at the detention centers where the torture occurred reported directly to him.

link

Darn that wikileaks. It's a good thing we're prosecuting whistleblowers while looking forward and not back.

Well, if you convince yourself that you are going tobe welcomed by the population throwing flowers to the troops, you obviously don't need to waste time and resources planning for Phase IV. Because the grateful naatives will magically adopt a peaceful, democratic government and everyone will live happily ever after.

Which also means that you don't have to bother with things like visas for interpreters. And can expell for homosexuality, or other irrelevant reasons, those interpreters that you do have in the military. Because, hey, who needs to bother with that stuff when magic is going to eliminate the problem?

President Nixon, in a great example of his genius for making enemies, once said that it is very rare for a first-class intellect to make a career of the military. Certainly we can find exceptions, but hide-bound bureaucracies of all kinds are stultifying places for intelligent people.

A pernicious result of doing away with conscription has been a narrowing of the pool from which the military is staffed. It always was the case that fewer of the brighter young officers stayed, but now there are fewer bright ones to begin with. It certainly turned my head to notice that the officers I liked applied to get out as soon as they could.

i can't help but think about my college days at vassar, a fine liberal arts school. i also had friends at suny new paltz, an excellent public university, and dutchess community college, a very good CC. the other school around there was of course West Point. when i think about the way we fetishize those who went to Army, but don't have the moniker "hero" to describe those who went to those other three schools, it makes me sad. i was endlessly intellectually challenged at vassar, as were my friends at SUNY and Dutchess, and no on was teaching us how to extend a sanguinary empire using poor moral judgment run by fascist methodology of training. i'd take any of my classmates or those at the other schools in a tight spot over anyone from West Point, as they actually learned how to think and create instead of how to be an automaton set to destroy.

Here's some information on IQs in the military. http://isteve.blogspot.com/2006/11/average-iq-of-enlisted-men.html

IQ is as much a proxy for education as ability, and I'm sure all our generals came from a decent background when it came to education prior to West Point.

I doubt the average IQ of our generals has declined. Nor do I think doing well on standardized tests is a good proxy for wisdom. Smart people do dumb stuff all the time. Rumsfeld didn't fail to plan for the aftermath of the war because he was stupid, he did so because he cared more about bureaucratic infighting than about war fighting. Colin Powell was trying to put together a plan for rebuilding Iraq after the war, and I suspect Rumsfeld was trying to cut Powell out of the process.

I have to wonder if our military failed to prepare for guerrilla war because if they were to continue to get their budgets and enjoy their status, they needed to continue to be organized to fight World War II again.

As Upton Sinclair was fond of saying, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

Rumsfeld didn't fail to plan for the aftermath of the war because he was stupid

How do you know? I mean, I understand that we're trained to give the benefit of the doubt to powerful old while guys, but all the evidence suggests that Rumsfeld and his associates was just a moron who was skilled at bullshitting people. Just because the press is populated by idiots too stupid to notice doesn't change that.

I have to wonder if our military failed to prepare for guerrilla war because if they were to continue to get their budgets and enjoy their status, they needed to continue to be organized to fight World War II again.

I think it is even simpler than that: people love blowing things up. They love buying awesome toys like fighter jets and tanks and MLRSs. Building an organization that uses awesome toys to blow up enemies is way better than spending a few years studying foreign languages just so you can have the privilege of spending hours at a time talking to some village elder drinking tea pretending to care about his interminable goat herding stories.

Even with the tincture of COIN Petreus experimented with, the USAF flipped out at the implication that maybe they weren't useful for much beyond transport (flying C-130s is necessary but nowhere near as much fun as F-16s).

It seems to me that nation building is a social process not s military one. Thus it's not surmising that the State department had the post-war plan and not defense. Not that that excuses anyone.

Turb's point about spending hours drinking tea strikes me as the correct one. That is what's done there. To win them over respect them and do what they do. Militarizes seem I'll suited to this task.

In addition to intelligence/education, here's an interesting psychological tidbit which I came across decades ago (hence the lack of a citation).

The best was to get promoted to brigadeer general is to be a conformist -- do what is expected, don't make waves. BUT, to get beyond that, you are far better off if you are a maverick. Which is ot say, the exceptions among those who manage the first steps are the only ones with a good chance to get any further.

Is that to dispute the earlier comments about group think, etc.? No. But it does suggest that there is a reason why the military does manage to get some new ideas bubbling up, in spite of putting a premium (at most ranks) on uniformity.

And it does raise an interesting question. Why? Why (and how!) does an organisation which is both stratified and built around uniformity somehow manage to reward very different characteristics at the highest levels?

All of this comes as no surprise to me. I recently watched -- back to back -- two episodes of the excellent tv series "Seconds From Disaster," one describing a Special Forces raid by British commandos, and one about the "Black Hawk Down" incident. Each segment featured interviews with several of the participants, and I was dumbstruck (and aggravated to the point where I had to eventually stop the video) at how arrogant the US personnel were. Where the British forces were careful, cautious, and thoughtful about their strategy, the US soldiers' entire attitude was "We don't need a backup plan; we're the American Military! What could possibly go wrong?" (In fact, that's damn near a verbatim quote from one of them.) Needless to say, when things went sideways, they got caught utterly flat-footed and had no idea what to do. Hubris is the tragic flaw that inevitably leads to downfall.

That kind of attitude -- leading to dangerous blindness -- doesn't come out of nowhere; the military culture is obviously inculcating it into at least some of its members. Since I'm not American and would like to see the American Empire go away, I'm not sure whether I'm pleased about it or not. On the one hand, the fish rots from the head. On the other, how many of us have to be killed, wounded, inconvenienced, or have our lives ruined before the empire falls?

Interroband, would you mind telling us what nationality you are? I'm just curious.

It's not as if the Brits hadn't had that arrogant attitude in the past too but they seem to have learned a lot since then (de-Blimped so to speak).

This is not necessarily true:

"I would actually say that it is *more* important. There is no excuse for fighting a battle if you don't have a strategy for ending the war."

It may be true if you are the aggressor, but not if you are the defender.

"Since I'm not American and would like to see the American Empire go away"

I too would like to know what nationality you are.

What do you mean by "American Empire"? What would you prefer in its place?

A nice, simple answer to sapient's question would be "The American Empire is the one that built the Imperial Governor's Palace in Baghdad".

Otherwise one would have to explain about the occupation forces in Europe and East Asia and Central Asia and Africa Command and the CIA and the Special Forces and the global drones fleet and the U.S. Navy's carrier forces and the foreign policy of the US State Department and of satellite states such as Japan, Britain and so forth.

Which would take up a lot of time, alas.

The Creator, you only addressed the first question. What about the second?

The first two answers that come to mind for me are:

1. A smaller, smarter, less-intrusive version;

2. nothing.

the first word in my captcha: Colonial

"one would have to explain about the occupation forces in Europe and East Asia"

Have you not heard of fighting against Nazis, who almost took over Europe, and Japanese fascists who almost took over Asia? Oh, maybe you have, and you supported them. Colonialism? Let me puke.

You people are ridiculous, historically blind, and stupid.

Sorry.

Battochio,

I've heard a slightly different variant on the postwar planning story. It's true that Rumfeld and the DoD folks tried to crowd out the State Department and Colin Powell during the planning for postwar reconstruction.

However, the State Department apparently didn't fight very vigorously to be included in the process. The logic being that State Department personnel were convinced that the entire effort was going to be a monumental disaster, and they didn't want to be tarred with any of the responsibility when things went pear-shaped. So in the end, they were quite happy to leave DoD holding that bag.

I tell you, if the Nazis had just gone into the Soviet Union without sacking Western Europe first, the US would not have lifted a finger or even supported them behind the scenes.
The Japanese were simply rivals. The US didn't give digestive final product about the fate of Asians but very much about those 'yellow monkeys' infringing on their SE Asian political and business interests.
The US has traditionally no problem with fascist regimes, military dictatorships and other unsavoury guys abroad as long as they claim to be anti-communist and pro-capitalism and don't interfere with perceived US interests.
And in WW1 there was a distinct possibility of the US entering the war on the German side against Britain. German political blunders blocked that for good but it was not a foregone conclusion.
US foreign policy has been and to a large degree still is at least as amoral as that of other major powers past and present.
That occasionally the results were positive for the recipients (see Western Europe) was a byproduct not the primary purpose.
As a West-Berlinian I appreciated the Western Allied presence but today I fully agree with those that say that Europe should take care of its own security. It's not about 'Ami go home!' but about the US wasting lots of money on a military presence in regions where the locals could and should do the job themselves but don't. Germany today is not South Korea (but also for too long the security of South Koreans was bought at the cost of having a US supported authoritarian regime running the show).

"I tell you, if the Nazis had just gone into the Soviet Union without sacking Western Europe first, the US would not have lifted a finger or even supported them behind the scenes."

And most of the people who comment here would have been totally supportive of that, considering that they hate, hate, hate interfering militarily with even the most horrific fascists who are currently placing bombs in refugee camps right this minute.

"The US has traditionally no problem with fascist regimes, military dictatorships and other unsavoury guys abroad as long as they claim to be anti-communist and pro-capitalism and don't interfere with perceived US interests."

Often that's true (and sadly so), but when you bother to examine those "fascist regimes, military dictatorships and other unsavory guys" you find that better alternatives aren't usually available. You can argue otherwise (or can you)? Let's look at the Arab Spring as an example. So simple to judge.

"That occasionally the results were positive for the recipients (see Western Europe) was a byproduct not the primary purpose."

I beg to differ, especially with regard to Western Europe. All of the wonderful stories of solidarity that my WWII veteran father and friends described about their European comrades ... you shame yourself. Of course, you're speaking as a German - sure, there was no love lost there. But, still, the sensible thing to do was to rebuild Europe - yes, in everyone's interest. Poor, poor losing Germans, having had the Marshall plan to lift them up after having terrorized the world, now living under an "empire" and being the strongest nation in Europe. Excuse me while I barf at your ingratitude.


By the way, Hartmut, your own Angela Merkel is a bit worried. What's the plan?

Anyway, most of the people here would totally agree that we occupied Europe because we're an Empire. They have totally forgotten that "we" stood against fascism. Or they wouldn't care, because fascism is okay with them, as long as it doesn't happen in the Boston suburbs.

And, yes, we've been on the wrong side in some cases. The Soviet Union was a horrible place, and the refugees from there, and from their client states will testify to that. And Mao? What a lovely dude he was. So you can imagine that it was confusing to be making foreign policy during the Cold War, and siding with this fascist dictator, or this Stalinist dictator. Hmmm. What would Jesus do, Hartmut? What would you have done?

I'm pretty darned sure the United States' involvement in WWII isn't what most of the people here have much of a problem with. But whatever. Interpret things as strangely as you like.

Wow. Who put LSD in sapient's enema?

FDR should have sent Hitler a 'Thank you' telegram for his declaration of war against the US. He was getting rather desperate because the US population had no desire for a war in Europe (and neither had a large part of the political establishment).
As far as Germany was concerned, the US purpose was emphatically not about liberating the Germans from fascism, only to liberate Western Europe from the Germans. The military directives were unambiguous about that 'The purpose is not to liberate but to occupy'. It took some outright insubordination by commanders on the ground to finally get that dropped (and it earned them the lasting German gratitude and the naming of major streets after them). My bet is still that the policy would have looked very different, if Stalin had not been at the doorstep to the East.
The soldiers on the ground saw a very different picture than those citizens left at home. In the beginning McCarthy era there was a strong sentiment of 'we backed the wrong side' much to the shock of war veterans that had seen the reality of Nazi atrocities.
If the US had stayed out of the war in Europe completely, the war there would have likely ended about 1950 with the Red Army at the Atlantic coast ogling Aistrip One..eh..the UK. The butcher's bill would have been several millions higher but Hitler's regime would have been wiped out even more thoroughly (In reality most NS functionaries turned coat and stayed in office, only the top level got removed. It took about 3 decades to change that from within).
US foreign policy esp. but not exclusively during the Cold War tended to follow the rule of the excluded third option. It was either 'our' sonovabitches or 'theirs' and (Westen Europe excepted) actual democracy was more of a bug than a desired feature. Thugs tend to be reliable and one can get rid of them with a better conscience when they become inconvenient (Saddam being just the most blatant example). The Russians and Chinese tended to do the dirty work themselves openly, the US preferred to have their puppets doing it for them. Western Europe were the 'socii', the thugs the 'amici', everyone else the 'hostes' of the the new Rome on the Potomac (the territories play the minor role of 'coloniae' but are not essential to the big picture. 'Clientes' are chosen and dropped as needed).

[/rant]

I will not comment on German policy or Frau Merkel. I have no idea what's in her head and wether her speeches are deliberate smoke candles or just hot air. What is beyond dispute is that they are exceptionally free of real substance. Whatever she thinks or does, it is futile to try to find it in anything she says in public.

Have you not heard of fighting against Nazis, who almost took over Europe, and Japanese fascists who almost took over Asia? Oh, maybe you have, and you supported them. Colonialism? Let me puke.

Last time I checked, the Nazis have long since been vanquished as have the Imperial Japanese. That happened over half a century ago. So, um, why are thousands of American soldiers in Germany and east Asia?

Wait, don't answer that. Instead, insinuate that I'm a nazi.

"I'm pretty darned sure the United States' involvement in WWII isn't what most of the people here have much of a problem with."

I was responding to the Creator, who believes that the U.S. has military bases in Europe and Asia because of "Imperialism". That's absurdly historically incorrect. Of course, no one comments on the absurdity and error of that statement because people here are so comfortable with the false idea that U.S. foreign policy is nothing but bad.

And then I was responding to Hartmut, who also accuses the U.S. of being "as amoral as that of other major powers past and present." That's an interesting statement coming from someone whose government (at the historical point in time we were discussing) was the most shamelessly murderous and sadistic regime in Western European history.

But please continue to miss the point in the service of hating on the United States.

By the way, this is not to deny seriously misguided foreign policy in our history, and tragically disastrous wars by the United States, namely Vietnam and Iraq. And, yes, we have supported bad regimes, Chile's Pinochet being one of many examples. But we weren't doing it as a result of imperialism. And if someone is complaining about our foreign policy currently, under this President, in 2013, is imperialism really a factor at all? Those nice people in Af/Pak who blew up the World Trade Center, shoot little schoolgirls and bomb refugees - we should, of course, just leave them alone.

Slartibartfast will now pile on, I'm sure, with ad hominem. What a silly place this has come to be.

Turbulence, please present an argument that we have troops in Europe and Asia because of Imperialism. (Hint: you might want to investigate whether there might be any treaties supporting their presence there, and whether the "client states" are subjugated or exploited.)

Serioulsy, sapient, you started all the nastiness with the sudden animosity about "you people" being stupid. Obviulsy you disagree with what someone said. Can't you get mad about their words without getting so directly personal? What happened? I don't remember you being so angry at individuals before.

I was responding to the Creator, who believes that the U.S. has military bases in Europe and Asia because of "Imperialism".

I think his point is worth considering, given our unique military presence across the globe. Perhaps it's thinly spread form of imperialism. Perhaps the use of "imperialism" is a rhetorical device intended to make a point about the intent (or lack thereof) of our global military presence and how comfortable most people are with it, as though that's just how things should be - a state of nature, if you will - because we're the good ol' US of A.

It would be one thing if people were complaining that we waited until, say, 1970 to close our bases in Europe. And you can continue to ignore all the other aspects brought up regarding our foreign policy, if that's convenient for the purposes of being outraged.

But please continue to miss the point in the service of hating on the United States.

I haven't read anyone as hating on the United States, so much as people questioning the US's compulsive shouldering about of some of the rest of the world. Dispassionately, for the most part.

Possibly hate is in the eye of the beholder?

What a silly place this has come to be.

You have made substantial recent contributions to its silliness. Take some responsibility, sapient. No one is demonstrating any major upset besides you. But I'm probably a Nazi sympathizer for thinking that.

Shorter me:

If you want people to be nicer to you, try being a little less hostile and antagonistic. If you don't care that much, continue being a dick.

First, I didn't accuse anyone of being a Nazi sympathizer, so perhaps you should reexamine your outrage.

I questioned the use of the word "imperialism" which has a specific meaning. It's not a synonym for having military spread across the world because of treaties and obligations taken on between the United States and various allies who were responding to their own history. If you'll recall, Europe was totally unprepared for WWII, as was the United States. It wasn't a given that we would win that war. Then nuclear arms were invented, and the arms race began. Our presence in various countries wasn't imperialism: it was seen as a defense of our allies - who engaged in treaties with us in order to assure mutual protection.

If you want to criticize the fact that the U.S. bears more than it should with regard to a defense burden, then feel free to do so. I might actually agree with that. But if your point is that the United States insinuates itself all over the world in order exploit the host countries (imperialism), you're simply wrong.

But if your point is that the United States insinuates itself all over the world in order exploit the host countries (imperialism), you're simply wrong.

If you think it doesn't, you're simply wrong. (Wow, that was easy....)

More seriously, plenty of examples have been put forth that go well beyond a "defense burden."

I questioned the use of the word "imperialism" which has a specific meaning.

I think you did a bit more than that. Nice try, though.

Could someone please check, where my quite long rant from a few hours agao went?
I saw it displayed when I last was here but now it is gone. Or was it considered too much oil on the fire and therefore removed?
There was admittedly quite a strong dose of bile in it.

It was directly after
Slartibartfast | April 05, 2013 at 01:02 AM

Done. It had somehow fallen into the spamheap.

IMO it's more than fair to say that US foreign policy, for decades, has been oriented toward establishing and preserving US hegemony, politically, economically, and militarily.

We haven't been an 'empire' on the model of either the empires of antiquity, or of the European colonial empires of the modern period, but we have eagerly and explicitly pursued the role of dominant world power.

Not just in our own area, but right around the world, and not just to counter credible threats to this country, but to further our 'interests'.

So, if 'empire' offends, 'hegemon' will do nicely.

It's worked out well for some of our allies and clients, less well for others. How it's worked out for us, also a mixed bag.

It does cost a hell of a lot of money.

George Bush's Excellent Adventrue in Iraq was intended to be imperiallistic. Rememeber all that crap about the New American Century? The invasion of Iraq was supposed to set off a chain reaction through a series of Middle Eastern countries, most of them oil producers, resulting in pro-American governments so the the US would be the only superpower etc etc.

'our oil under their sand' has not become a running gag for nothing. And then there was that rumor that the action in Iraq was originally named O peration I raqi L iberation = OIL but then renamed out of fear of the bad press that would get.
As for freedom, why is Saudi Arabia still on the allies list despite supporting international terrorism on a far larger scale than Iran at its worst?
---
Btw, I do not want in any way insinuate that Europe has clean hands there. Germany and France sold equipment for poison gas production to both Iraq (and Libya) at about the same time as the US gave Saddam the starter kit for the bioweapons.

I'm with Sapient. Nor do I think he's shown anything other than justified impatience with a slanted, highly ideological, revisionist view of history that is anything but historical. The dominant theme of post WWII US foreign policy was containing Soviet and then Chinese expansionism. It was the Soviets who concluded WWII by occupying at least 10 other countries. It was the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact that forward deployed four or more times the numbers of troops, tanks and aircraft than NATO which was always postured defensively.

When the Soviets imploded, we embraced Eastern Europe and the emerging former Soviet satelilites AND immediately began drawing down our own military across the board. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, we and our allies evicted Iraq and withdrew.

Russia is a shithole oligarchy that continues to oppress its citizens and murder dissidents. Ditto China. Russia and China together support the nastiest of regimes, we are clearly aligned with democracy and have actively worked to spread democracy, with more success than failure, for decades.

Germany and Japan are what they are today because of who we were in victory. Find another historical example of that.

The chiefneocon flaw early on was a belief that pretty much ANY country, if given the chance at liberal democray, would embrace it and fall in with the good people. The neocons woud have never gotten off the ground if Saddam hadn't invaded Kuwait and if 9-11 hadn't happened. Tthey compound their error by not recognizing just how wrong they were and how problematic they've made things.

As for maintaining a strong defense capability, has anyone noticed what's going on in the Korean penninsula? For decades, our umbrella has kept the peace there, at minimal relative cost. That may not last, but it won't be because we picked a fight. The fight is picking us. That will continue to happen whether we have an actual defense capabiity or whether we downsize to a Bacevich-sized territorial capacity. It won't make the world better or more stable if we do. It will just insure that the madmen of this world have a free hand.

Maybe, just maybe, parts of the world would be willing to contribute their share, if the US would stop to spend as much on its 'defence' as the rest of the world combined. Also, if the Pentagon would simply get its house together, it could save more money than all the mad dogs in the world combined spend on kaboom stuff. There has not been an actual successful audit in living memory. The US military could bury China with its yearly cost overruns alone.

Btw, the defense of South Korea was once an international undertaking and iirc the Korean war had a lot of influence on NATO development. It was also (unlike Vietnam* or later Kuwait) not an attempt primarily to defend one corrupt authoritarian regime from another (although that was what SK then became for decades).

*admittedly the original mess was a Frecnh one.

"people here are so comfortable with the false idea that U.S. foreign policy is nothing but bad."

Oh, late to the party. But I agree with most of the comments that have sapient all heated up, so speaking for myself, I only think maybe half of US foreign policy is bad, if you can quantify such things. Look, here's a brief summary--

"By the way, this is not to deny seriously misguided foreign policy in our history, and tragically disastrous wars by the United States, namely Vietnam and Iraq. And, yes, we have supported bad regimes, Chile's Pinochet being one of many examples"

To that I would go a little further into detail about just how vicious some of the people we've supported have been and sometimes they didn't even run a government. Jonas Savimbi, for example. Killed far more than our current opponents in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Oh, yes, supported mainly by Republicans in that case, so it's okay to disapprove.

" But we weren't doing it as a result of imperialism. "

That's a relief.

I think we were right to defend South Korea from invasion, but South Korea was a brutal murderous government in the late 40's, before the war, and remained so for decades. Here's a NYT article on their massacres--

link

North Korea was also murderous, of course, and unlike South Korea hasn't changed.

And the US carpet bombed North Korea. I once spent some time in a library looking at books on the Korean War--some mention this, putting the death toll at hundreds of thousands or higher, and some don't. That's America for you. A little thing like carpet bombing isn't necessarily worth mentioning. But then the British have only recently been truthful about their brutality in Kenya, so maybe we just need to wait a few more years. Bruce Cumings is very good on US and South Korean atrocities, but while admitting that North Korea is also brutal, he claims they aren't Stalinist. They seem sorta Stalinist to me.

another NYT link

I don't see the basis for the either/or thinking. Criticizing US policy doesn't imply support for Soviet or Chinese policy, nor does it imply a lack of recognition of imperialistic tendencies shown by other nations.

And a nation can be imperialistic at times and not at others or have mixed motives.

Just like old times!

The Korean peninsula is, because of history and geography, like the house down the street where the crazy family lives. By that, I mean it's a really hard case, and therefore very poor as a lens to view US foreign policy.

In olden times, we might have attributed bad vibes and terrible karma to ghosts or gods. Sort of like the Shining. While I think that might take out human agency a bit too much, I do think the pendulum has swung a bit too far. Korea's location means that it has a real hard time defining itself and deciding what it wants to do. The lack of knowledge about the situation and the people led to the situation we have now.

I'm hoping I can write a post, given that North Korea is in the news now, and try to discuss a view from Japan, so I won't give examples here, but thinking that Korean problems begin after 1945 really is going miss some important things going on.

I would appreciate such a post, LJ. I know very little about either Korea, beyond the obvious.

" thinking that Korean problems begin after 1945 really is going miss some important things going on."

Fortunately nobody here said that Korean problems began after 1945. .

Bruce Cumings, if I recall correctly, has a lot to say about the Japanese occupation. In his telling, I think he says the South Korean regime in the late 40's were basically the collaborators. Which of course doesn't mean the communists were nice people either. They clearly weren't and aren't. (Cumings, in my basically uninformed view, seems so eager to expose the unsavory facts of US policy he is sometimes a little too kind to the Northern government, while still acknowledging their brutality.)

"The Korean peninsula is, because of history and geography, like the house down the street where the crazy family lives. By that, I mean it's a really hard case, and therefore very poor as a lens to view US foreign policy."

The North Korean regime seems crazy, that's true. But Koreans might have a thing or two to say about the Japanese. Some people might see Americans as lunatics--the Cuban Missile Crisis was insane, for example. I actually said the US was justified in defending South Korea from the North, but that all sides committed enormous atrocities. Later I think some US administrations had the usual unsavory tendency to whitewash the crimes of our ally (when South Korea was still a dictatorship) and there were also South Korean troops in the Vietnam war who committed a number of massacres--I would guess we had some responsibility for that.

Bruce Cumings on the current Korean crisis--

link

Thanks, McKinney.

Donald, sure, we should definitely spend some time reexamining the Korean war(keeping in mind that our position was supported by the UN, which was designed to be the greatest hope for peace in the post-WWII era).

But to get back to the subject we were on: I would request that people put in their nominations for which country should succeed the US as the world hegemon. Who do you trust with that job? Please don't pretend that no one will come forward if we relinquish the role.

Obviously, if we don't relinquish it, we have the duty to elect leaders who will carry out a humane foreign policy. We haven't been flawless, but who will be better?

"Fortunately nobody here said that Korean problems began after 1945."

Well, you said
"but South Korea was a brutal murderous government in the late 40's, before the war"

and no one has mentioned anything before WWII, so I wanted to suggest that maybe looking at these problems not as an indictment or defense of US foreign policy might be in order.

"But Koreans might have a thing or two to say about the Japanese." I'm sure they do and I've often heard them say it. I have had a handful of students do their graduation theses on various aspects of Japanese-Korean relations and the problems of historical memory. I'll try to raise those points in a post real soon now, but if you have some to bring up, we can talk about them now.

Cumings does have quite a bit to say about the Japanese occupation, but I believe he locates the problems with the Japanese occupation in the 20th century. However, there is a much longer history that he doesn't make mention of, iirc, but I think actually has a strong influence on a number of aspects. I am also sure that Cumins probably knows a lot more about Korea than I do, and I am sure that he is not unaware of the older history. I don't see him as being 'wrong', but I think there are interesting deeper trends.

I would request that people put in their nominations for which country should succeed the US as the world hegemon.

Again a case of false dichotomy. The first thing to discuss should not be who will or should be the hegemon but whether a world hegemon is a good idea in the first place.

If you insist on a semiserious answer, I'd say the Canadian Triple Union (British Canada, French Canada, Blue Canada [i.e. the former US blue states after the US finally breaks up]). Their first job will be to keep Gilead/Jesusland under control.

"But to get back to the subject we were on: I would request that people put in their nominations for which country should succeed the US as the world hegemon. "

Sapient, how is it that you can bring in WWII if the discussion is about the present, but I can't discuss Korea (and you seem to miss the fact that I agree we should have intervened)? Apparently the subject under discussion changes to fit your exact whim when you type.

I like Hartmut's answer. I'd also suggest that since the US is the hegemon, we work very hard towards a world where all countries are held accountable for their war crimes. So, for example, if a country is guilty of war crimes, either it investigates them itself or it is investigated by others, and if that isn't going to happen because the country is the hegemon and won't do either, well, we who live in that country can at least have the decency to admit that we are a rogue state and our moral pretensions shouldn't be taken too seriously. But yeah, if it's a choice of thugs I prefer our thuggery to, say Chinese thuggery.

In a practical sense, support institutions like the ICC even if that means investigations into our own crimes and those of our allies. Neither political party wants that. Back in the Clinton era when the subject of the ICC (I think it was the ICC) came up, the conservatives claimed that it would be a bad idea to subject US soldiers to foreign politically motivated witch hunts. The Democratic response was almost as bad--it was to claim that there was nothing to worry about, because the international institution would only have jurisdiction in cases where the offending country didn't have strong justice system and couldn't investigate its own crimes. That was ludicrous and hypocritical even in the 90's (read Nick Turse's recent book on Vietnam and tell me how well it worked then). More recent events merely emphasize the point.

LJ--I'd be interested in whatever you want to write on Korea. You can wait and write it up in a front page article if you prefer. I know a microscopic amount about the modern era, but nothing at all about Korea's earlier history.

"That was ludicrous and hypocritical even in the 90's (read Nick Turse's recent book on Vietnam and tell me how well it worked then)."

I need to edit myself. My point being that in the 90's people should have known perfectly well the US doesn't do serious self-investigations into war crimes. Most people probably think "My Lai" regarding Vietnam, but My Lai was a small-scale thing compared to Operation Speedy Express. And even My Lai led to people feeling sorry for Lt. Calley.

I would request that people put in their nominations for which country should succeed the US as the world hegemon.

Implicit in this is the presumption that our nation, born in violence, expanded by wars, and with by far the largest military in the world is somehow exempt from the hubris of hegemony. But then those who have held this position before us said exactly the same thing.

That this does not give you cause for pause is, well, shortsighted at the very least.

As for nominations? Costa Rica.

... Costa Rica.

And a pony.

I would request that people put in their nominations for which country should succeed the US as the world hegemon.

Iceland gets my vote.

Great lamb, great salmon, beautiful women, and they know how to kick a bankster's @ss.

I, for one, welcome our new Viking overlords.

Well, I read the Bruce Cumings article. That is, I squinted at it. From what i could discern with my one good eye while squinting around a floater, Mr. Cumings is dissatisfied with forty some years of diplomacy from the US toward North Korea. That diplomacy seems to have consistated of ignoring belligerant rheotric and supporting South Korea while spendig huge amounts of money on anti-missle missles that don't work. Meanwhile North Korea seems to be headed in the direction of being able to back up belligerant rhetoric with reallife actions (Although it would be suicidal to bomb the US or Japan).

I wish Mr. Cumings had suggested an alternative diplomacy.

I think the only thing Cumings suggested for the present was no posturing on our side--referring to the B-2 flights. I'm not sure whether to agree or disagree. The North Koreans should know that if they actually used their nukes it will not go well for them, but they presumably know that already. On the other hand, if they know that, why would a few B-2 flights make any difference? International diplomacy in its posturing mode often seems to consist of adults acting like idiots and then trying to figure out whether the idiots on the other side are really as stupid as they pretend to be.

Though in this case, all the current idiocy is on the North Korean side. It's a rare day when I think something like that.

Iceland gets my vote.
[...]
I, for one, welcome our new Viking overlords.

Wait until they force hákarl down your throat and then make you try making sense of Icelandic pronounciation rules. ;-)

At least I am prepared by currently learning Icelandic. I am just disappointed that there seems to be no Icelandic H.P.Lovecraft book edition.

þađ er Cþúlhu (alt: þúlur)
þursa drottnari
Skrímsli stjörnur
Skelfing hann er manna
Dauður en dreymandi
Sinn dagur mun koma
Rikir brjálædi
En birta er ekki

Hi guys. Sorry I didn't get back to this earlier, I was on College Road Trip and then recovering from CRT.

sapient, your comment calling "you people" " ridiculous, historically blind, and stupid" is an ad hominem attack. Don't do that again or I'll be forced to ban you.

In general, I find it fascinating that the whole discussion has gone haring off after issues of World War II and Korea, and those of you who think the US is *not* imperialistic haven't addressed the conflicts I talked about in my actual post: Vietnam and Iraq.

Specifically, what the heck *is* that thing, if it's *not* the Imperial Governor's Palace? What *is* an "insurgency", if it's not a rebellion?

And for crying out loud, the answer to sapient's question, "which country should succeed the US as the world hegemon?" is obvious.

None.

As I've said before, The one who wants to rule the world is *The Bad Guy*. We should cast him down and have no one in his place.

Specifically, what the heck *is* that thing...?

It's either a monument to Republican foreign and fiscal policy rectitude....or the so-called Costa Rican embassy.

I suppose that if we're enforcing posting rules and all, I should now apologize for calling sapient a...member, and promise to never do it again.

My thoughts, though, are my own.

Maybe I'm making a slippery slope where there is none, but the notion "The one who wants to rule the world is *The Bad Guy*." suggests that anyone who wants to carve out a position of authority where there is none is then the bad guy, which is why we have the pushback we see.

I can see how one might say that is an unfair reductio ad absurdum, and I don't mean to be trying to sidetrack or undercut anyone's point, it's just something that I've been thinking about quite a bit. Here in Japan, there are a lot of devotees to a concept called Learner Autonomy (and I think that the concept has a lot of merit) but at a certain point, the failure of the teacher to accept that s/he has the role of authority and as such, has to impose some sort of direction on the course is an abdication of responsibility. I realize that some may note that the distance between giving someone an F and having drones enforce a Pax Americana as being in different galaxies (true dat), but with students, you have a general adherence to norms while with something like international peace-keeping, or even policing, there is an escalation of the situation that requires the Weberian monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force. That's why the answer 'none' may not satisfy folks who disagree. Perhaps those folks are not being sufficiently optimistic about man's inherent sense of justice, but they may feel that you are not being sufficiently realistic about how the world works. Which gets us to the impasse we see.

This should be seen as an attempt to put things in context, not as a plea that teachers should get drones to enforce homework deadlines, as appealing as that idea can seem to me at times.

wow. such fantasies. America is such an imperial power now, and the only hegemon now that the USSR is gone.

it is most fascinating to see such hubris and outright malarkey about American Imperial designs on the rest of the world.

most amazing, absolutely totally absurd. have you ever heard of Chalmers Johnson?
blowback?

Amazing to such dated concepts about America. and the sense of moral outrage, too.

like only one "type" of outrage is permitted, according to Sapient.

well, this certainly was a surprise. hard to believe Sapient is talking about 2013 and not 1980. times have changed drastically. whether Sapient wants to admit it, the US is now an Empire. it happened by default, the crashing of the USSR, and the US never stopped acting like a military hegemon.

fascinating take, sounds so defensive, almost religious.

No apologies necessary, Slart. Not sure what being a "dick" is (except for the obvious functions), but I'm sure I'm one at times.

As for "you people" out there, sorry about that!

As for taking offense, let me just take some offense for a moment:

I take offense that Doctor Science confuses Donald Rumsfeld's mismanagement of his civilian responsibilities for military incompetence. Doctor Science is confused about what the role of civilian Executive branch officials have versus what role military officers have in conducting foreign policies and war. I don't have time now to make a long comment, but Doctor Science once again presumes to know what it's like to do another person's job in a career with which she is totally unfamiliar.

As for ad homimem attacks: the creepy comment by Robogreen, which I read well before I decided to comment in response to some of the regulars here, shows a complete disdain for people who may have been called by a sense of duty to serve in the military. I wonder what Andrew Olmstead would have had to say. Honestly, there are many ways to serve one's country, and I'm not sure I would ever counsel any young person to serve in the military (and that's a whole different conversation), but that smug holier than thou attitude towards those who did choose that path seems grossly more offensive than anything I said here. Again, especially considering the memorial to Andrew Olmstead that exists perpetually here.

Obviously, that's just my opinion, Doctor Science. So ban me if you will, but beforehand, I'd be quite interested in learning what your response is.

Also, just to say this: the Vassar graduate's comment is close to incomprehensible in terms of English prose. And it was difficult not to go to sleep before Doctor Science's main post ended. Maybe a remedial English class is in order?

come on, sapient.

as much as this quote goes around, and others like it, we have a military fetishism problem.

""Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you; Jesus Christ and the American G. I. One died for your soul; the other for your freedom.""

I don't really want to weigh in on this, but I feel like I have to. Not wanting to bury the lede in a tl:dr comment, the key point is
Sapient, knock it off please.

As for details, Robogreen is not a handle that I am familiar with, and no one felt that the discussion was much worth having, so using it to justify your sojourn is flimsy at best.

Furthermore, Dr. Science came here, I am pretty sure, after Andrew died. It's really shitty argumentation to try and insinuate hypocrisy on her part because she hasn't demanded a full scale makeover of the front page.

Finally, if you care to remember, I've generally taken a position that is sympathetic to yours, so beyond being cack-handed, the whole 'you people' trope is not just stupid, it is objectively wrong. If you feel that people here need to change their minds, maybe you should up your game and get better at explaining. And if you feel that they just aren't going to change, maybe you better pass on trying to change their minds.

So, to reiterate, knock it off please.

It always amazes me how surprised a lot of Americans seem to be by the fact that people don't want them as their overlords - why on earth should 5% of the world's population be the hegemon over 95% and how can any sane person expect the latter to be happy with this arrangement?

Even if the hegemon was totally benign in both it's motives and actions, which it obviously isn't, most people with any sense of dignity wouldn't want to be ruled by it - just imagine the sentiment in the US if the tables were turned and some other power was in its current position: you would have US terrorists /freedom fighters right and left in no time, and it would be only natural.

Andy, as I remember him, permitted people some room to have their own opinions, even (possibly especially) when those opinions seemed to kick dirt on his entire life.

Go back and read his comments and see. It's behavior worthy of consideration, even if you don't care to emulate.

I wonder what Andrew Olmstead would have had to say

It'd be idle to speculate, because he's dead.

And, knowing that he might be killed, he specifically and explicitly requested that his name and memory not be invoked to score points in political arguments.

Part of the deal in commenting here is to respect that.

Feel free to invoke Hitler, Stalin, the KKK, or the Alamut assassins, as you wish. Andy's off limits, by his request and by consensus of everyone here.

Leaving aside the mention of anyone's name, I stand by my comment:

"Honestly, there are many ways to serve one's country, and I'm not sure I would ever counsel any young person to serve in the military (and that's a whole different conversation), but that smug holier than thou attitude towards those who did choose that path seems grossly more offensive than anything I said here."

lj suggests that newcomers can make ugly generalizations about people as they please.

How many degrees of wrong is Doctor Science's conclusion that West Point has low academic standards because General Petraeus got a bad grade on a test once?

Doctor Science negatively evaluates military competency without knowing anything about the institution, just as she negatively evaluates editorial competency without knowing anything about the profession or the industry.

My alleged rudeness should be the least of anyone's worries here.

so, a few thoughts about the original post.

First, there are lots of reasons why you might engage in a war without having a plan for ending it. None of those, IMO, apply in the case of either Vietnam or Iraq, but they exist. going to war, and the circumstances of when and how to go to war, are not always matters of choice.

There are lots and lots of bad decisions to point to in the case of Vietnam, but in terms of the specifically military aspects, one thing that doesn't seem to be discussed very often is our unwillingness to take and hold ground in North Vietnam. It's that much harder to win a war if you refuse to take and hold ground.

At the time of the Vietnam war, we were only 10 or 15 years past the Korean war, in which the normal strategy of taking and holding enemy ground resulted in the involvement of the Chinese army. I suspect the reality of "next stop, China!" and all that that might entail made an actual invasion of North Vietnam untenable.

But, as mentioned, that's only one of many aspects to the Vietnam situation.

As far as Iraq goes, IMO it was a clusterf**k and a shameless boondoggle from the get. Folly, with a capital F, pursued by a cabal of belligerent, arrogant fools.

As far as the intelligence and general abilities of military people, my own very limited experience with military folks is that they are often if not typically very intelligent, especially at the officer level. They typically have a very realistic understanding of the limits and realities of what they are engaged in, and typically can and will be very candid about it, to the degree that they can be given their responsibilities.

If there is a blind spot that is common to the military community, I would identify it as an extreme mission focus. If you put a task in front of a US military person, they will generally want to make it happen. They may consider the question of "why are we doing this in the first place" to be not part of their brief.

And, frankly, in a perfect world, it wouldn't be. That really ought to be our job, yours and mine, not theirs.

As far as empires and hegemons, I am not persuaded by the idea that having the US as global beat cop is in anyone's best interest. Not the world's, and not ours. And asking "who would be the best hegemon" is, to my mind, like asking "would you rather die in a fire or a plane crash".

I'd rather die at a ripe old age, in my sleep, in my own bed. Thanks for asking.

The world doesn't need a beat cop. And historically the world has typically not had a single, overwhelmingly powerful beat cop capable of global engagement. And, it's extremely expensive, and damaging to our own institutions and principles as a nation, to wear that hat.

also:

cack-handed

What a fabulous word. Thanks LJ!

And no, not a comment about sapient, just a comment about the word. It's a fabulous, juicy, spiky, pungent word, yet still SFW.

A gem.

One small clarification

"lj suggests that newcomers can make ugly generalizations about people as they please."

No, I don't. I suggest that you don't use newcomers' boorish behavior to excuse your own. I'm not completely on board with the comparison between West Point and other schools, and I've been trying to figure out how to craft a comment about it, but real life is really getting in the way at the moment. However, I would make the further suggestion that you address the issues rather get all bent out of shape what you perceive to be Dr. Science's shortcomings. You are not hurting anyone's case but your own.

How many degrees of wrong is Doctor Science's conclusion that West Point has low academic standards because General Petraeus got a bad grade on a test once?

Dr Science may have used poor reasoning, but she gets a free pass because she was correct. There's been a lot written about how the service academies are not very good. They're poor academic institutions in general, and compared to ROTC, they are much much more expensive even though they turn out lower quality officers. I mean, most of West Point's faculty lack doctorates: in that regard, it is like the world's most expensive community college ($450,000 per student).

Doctor Science negatively evaluates military competency without knowing anything about the institution, just as she negatively evaluates editorial competency without knowing anything about the profession or the industry.

Does Maj. Fernando Lujan of the US Army know anything about military competency? What about the US Army battalion commanders that Ricks cites here?

"My alleged rudeness should be the least of anyone's worries here."

Thanks for the advice, but I will continue to keep my own counsel in these matters.

"

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