HOME



Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405



Facebook: Digby Parton

Twitter:
@digby56
@Gaius_Publius
@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)
@spockosbrain



emails:
Digby:
thedigbyblog at gmail
Dennis:
satniteflix at gmail
Gaius:
publius.gaius at gmail
Tom:
tpostsully at gmail
Spocko:
Spockosbrain at gmail
tristero:
Richardein at me.com








Infomania

Salon
Buzzflash
Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Slate
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic
Common Dreams
AmericanPoliticsJournal
Smirking Chimp
CJR Daily
consortium news

Blog-o-rama

Eschaton
BagNewsNotes
Daily Kos
Political Animal
Driftglass
Firedoglake
Taylor Marsh
Spocko's Brain
Talk Left
Suburban Guerrilla
Scoobie Davis
Echidne
Electrolite
Americablog
Tom Tomorrow
Left Coaster
Angry Bear
oilprice.com
Seeing the Forest
Cathie From Canada
Frontier River Guides
Brad DeLong
The Sideshow
Liberal Oasis
BartCop
Juan Cole
Rising Hegemon
alicublog
Unqualified Offerings
Alas, A Blog
RogerAiles
Lean Left
Oliver Willis
skippy the bush kangaroo
uggabugga
Crooked Timber
discourse.net
Amygdala
the talking dog
David E's Fablog
The Agonist


Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

01/01/2003 - 02/01/2003 02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008 02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008 04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008 05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008 06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008 08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008 09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008 10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008 11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008 12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009 01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009 02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009 03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009 04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009 05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009 06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009 07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009 08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009 09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009 10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009 11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009 12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010 01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010 02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010 03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010 04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010 05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010 06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010 07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010 08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010 09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010 10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010 11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010 12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011 01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011 02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011 03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011 04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011 05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011 06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011 07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011 08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011 09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011 10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011 11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011 12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012 01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012 02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012 03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012 04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012 05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012 06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012 07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012 08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012 09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012 10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012 11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012 12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013 01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013 02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013 03/01/2013 - 04/01/2013 04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013 05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013 06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013 07/01/2013 - 08/01/2013 08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013 09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013 10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013 11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013 12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014 01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014 02/01/2014 - 03/01/2014 03/01/2014 - 04/01/2014 04/01/2014 - 05/01/2014 05/01/2014 - 06/01/2014 06/01/2014 - 07/01/2014 07/01/2014 - 08/01/2014 08/01/2014 - 09/01/2014 09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014 10/01/2014 - 11/01/2014 11/01/2014 - 12/01/2014 12/01/2014 - 01/01/2015 01/01/2015 - 02/01/2015 02/01/2015 - 03/01/2015 03/01/2015 - 04/01/2015 04/01/2015 - 05/01/2015 05/01/2015 - 06/01/2015 06/01/2015 - 07/01/2015 07/01/2015 - 08/01/2015 08/01/2015 - 09/01/2015 09/01/2015 - 10/01/2015 10/01/2015 - 11/01/2015 11/01/2015 - 12/01/2015 12/01/2015 - 01/01/2016 01/01/2016 - 02/01/2016 02/01/2016 - 03/01/2016 03/01/2016 - 04/01/2016 04/01/2016 - 05/01/2016 05/01/2016 - 06/01/2016 06/01/2016 - 07/01/2016 07/01/2016 - 08/01/2016 08/01/2016 - 09/01/2016 09/01/2016 - 10/01/2016 10/01/2016 - 11/01/2016 11/01/2016 - 12/01/2016 12/01/2016 - 01/01/2017 01/01/2017 - 02/01/2017 02/01/2017 - 03/01/2017 03/01/2017 - 04/01/2017 04/01/2017 - 05/01/2017 05/01/2017 - 06/01/2017


 

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Hullabaloo


Thursday, February 28, 2013

 
When can we end the empire?

by digby

Oliver Stone's Untold History continues to provoke the academic and political establishment into fits of mean girl nastiness. I imagine Stone is used to this, but it's still astonishing to see scholars dismiss documentary work out of hand. The latest is a review of the series and book by Bill Clinton BFF Sean Wilentz in the NY Review of Books which, in a nutshell, defends the US National Security State as if it had been ordained by God and complains that Stone and Peter Kuznick (his collaborator) are doing the devil's work by suggesting that engagement with the Soviets might have yielded benefits that the cold war could not. (I'm being somewhat facetious, obviously, but if you read the piece you'll see what I mean.)

Jonathan Schwarz has written a long piece on Wilentz's review that's well worth reading in its entirety but I'd like to focus on the important observation about the series' documented National Security through-line from the post war period to the Iraq debacle. He points out something that should be obvious to all of us and yet none of us (or very few) have actually noticed:
We can never know what might have come to pass had the U.S. adopted a different posture toward the Soviet Union, either after World War II or during the decades that followed. From the viewpoint of liberals like Wilentz, the answer clearly is: nothing good. The Soviets were determined to export their totalitarianism to the world, and any naive failure on our part to resist would end in disaster. Yes, the U.S. might have gone overboard here and there, but the overall story of the cold war was that the Soviet Union acted and we reacted.

But this is what we can know: if Wilentz's understanding of history is correct, U.S. cold war policies should have ended with the cold war itself. If the leftists were right, U.S. policies would have continued almost completely unchanged – except for the pretexts provided to Americans.

I think we know the answer to that, don't we?

The question reminded me of the many, many times during the past decade that I noted the odd fact that the national security establishment, the neocons in particular, saw everything in the world in terms of the old fight against totalitarianism. Back in 2004, I was complaining about this:

Many people have been writing recently, and some of us quite some time ago, about the fact that the Bush administration, instead of seeing the assymetrical threat of terrorism for what it was, simply applied their cold war tenets of nation state rollback to the new threat. It is an intellectual failure of huge magnitude and it will haunt us for many years to come.

If you look back at the PNAC manifestos of the late 90's that served as the guiding documents of Bush's policy you will see that terrorism per se was not perceived as a threat. Indeed, it was hardly mentioned. Richard Clarke and others have verified that the Bush administration did not take it seriously. But, what is most distressing is that they refused to let go of their erroneous notions of state sponsored terrorism even after 9/11 which led to the mistaken belief that the key to defeating al Qaeda was to overthrow the Taliban, (thus freeing them to go after what they perceived to be a real threat, the totalitarian dictator Saddam Hussein.)

There has been a lot of discussion about the "faith based" nature of this presidency, drawing parallels to unquestioning fundamentalist religion and cults of personality. There are obviously elements of all of this in explaining why the Bush administration has made so many huge strategic errors that were entirely predictable before any action was taken. However, it's more than that. You cannot explain intellectuals like Wolfowitz away with fundamentalist religion and there is no reason to believe that men like Rumsfeld and Cheney are subject to any Bush cult of personality. But, they all have one thing in common that is demonstrable throughout their public careers --- their relentless adherence to their beliefs, no matter what the facts may seem to show. Going all the way back to TEAM B and the Committee for the Present Danger, these people have been proven wrong --- proven, mind you --- again and again and yet they maintain their bedrock belief that the threat of totalitarian nations is the singular overwhelming threat to our country and they must be defeated militarily wherever they occur. These people are stuck in a fringe cold war mindset that nothing can shake. 9/11, it seems, did not change anything.

For instance, their beliefs about Iraq sponsored terrorism were not solely fometed by Laurie Mylroie. She neatly piggybacked her theory that Saddam the Stalinist was the root of all mid-east terrorism onto an earlier theory promoted by Claire Sterling which posited that all terrorism was sponsored by the Soviet Union. Her book, The Terror Network from back in 1980 made the case that terrorism could not exist without the support of a state sponsor and that idea has guided the Republican foreign policy establishment even until this day. Just as it is said that Wolfowitz and Feith encouraged everyone in the DOD to read Mylroie's book, William Casey responded to his analysts assertion that there was no Soviet terrorist conspiracy by saying,"Read Claire Sterling's book and forget this mush. I paid $13.95 for this and it told me more than you bastards whom I pay $50,000 a year." This is, then, an old story.

In those days I saw this as a peculiarly neo-conservative worldview. But the truth is that this was the rationale behind the bipartisan National Security Policy of the entire post-war period, which Untold History documents (and which I should have remembered --- hey,hey LBJ how many kids....) The neo-cons were just more aggressive about it and both sides created the illusion that there was a serious argument about these things for their own purposes.

It was awkward for a while after the cold war, trying to fit that old totalitarian square peg into the asymmetrical terrorist threat. The selling of Iraq was so terribly clumsy, consciously drawing upon Stalinist imagery with lugubrious rhetoric about rape rooms and "gassing his own people," because they were still caught up in their own fantasy, as if it was the only way they knew how to get off. It would appear that the Obama administration has gone a long way toward solving that problem with its antiseptic drone warfare that keeps the threat level high and the risk level low. We have adjusted now and no longer need totalitarianism to sell us on the need for our empire. Today it's all about us needing a "light footprint" on the ground and eyes in the sky all over the planet to keep us safe from the boogeyman.

I didn't see Stone's series saying that the containment theory was wrong in all respects but merely that there were missed opportunities, particularly at the end of the war and the decade following to try to seek a different path. The temptation to be a military superpower was too great and the industrial and political forces that wanted it were too powerful. (And anyway, you can't be a great hero without a great villain, right?) But even if it's absolutely true that the Soviet threat required two generation's worth of global military build up, it's also certainly true that one would have expected the period since 1989 to be one of withdrawal from empire. And that has not happened. Like Jonathan, I can't help but see that as just more evidence that much of the rationale for the National Security State was bullshit from the very beginning.

As he points out:

[E]stablishment historians like Wilentz play the same role today as they did during the cold war: not just refusing to ask critical questions about U.S. history and its effect on the present day, but shouting down those who attempt to do so. That's what Wilentz is doing with his review of Untold History. And it's what he did in October, 2001 when he explained why the U.S. had just been attacked: "To the terrorists, America's crime – its real crime – is to be America."

Or as George W. Bush put it:

I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us. I am -- like most Americans, I just can't believe it because I know how good we are.

I'm sure the Soviets believed exactly the same thing.



.