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First came Fallujah, then Mosul, and later Ramadi in Iraq. Now, there is Kunduz, a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan. In all four places, the same story has played out: in cities that newspaper reporters like to call “strategically important,” security forces trained and equipped by the U.S. military at great expense simply folded, abandoning their posts (and much of their U.S.-supplied weaponry) without even mounting serious resistance. Called upon to fight, they fled. In each case, the defending forces gave way before substantially outnumbered attackers, making the outcomes all the more ignominious.

Together, these setbacks have rendered a verdict on the now more-or-less nameless Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). Successive blitzkriegs by ISIS and the Taliban respectively did more than simply breach Iraqi and Afghan defenses. They also punched gaping holes in the strategy to which the United States had reverted in hopes of stemming the further erosion of its position in the Greater Middle East.

Recall that, when the United States launched its GWOT soon after 9/11, it did so pursuant to a grandiose agenda. U.S. forces were going to imprint onto others a specific and exalted set of values. During President George W. Bush’s first term, this “freedom agenda” formed the foundation, or at least the rationale, for U.S. policy.

The shooting would stop, Bush vowed, only when countries like Afghanistan had ceased to harbor anti-American terrorists and countries like Iraq had ceased to encourage them. Achieving this goal meant that the inhabitants of those countries would have to change. Afghans and Iraqis, followed in due course by Syrians, Libyans, Iranians, and sundry others would embrace democracy, respect human rights, and abide by the rule of law, or else. Through the concerted application of American power, they would become different — more like us and therefore more inclined to get along with us. A bit less Mecca and Medina, a bit more “we hold these truths” and “of the people, by the people.”

So Bush and others in his inner circle professed to believe. At least some of them, probably including Bush himself, may actually have done so.

History, at least the bits and pieces to which Americans attend, seemed to endow such expectations with a modicum of plausibility. Had not such a transfer of values occurred after World War II when the defeated Axis Powers had hastily thrown in with the winning side? Had it not recurred as the Cold War was winding down, when previously committed communists succumbed to the allure of consumer goods and quarterly profit statements?

If the appropriate mix of coaching and coercion were administered, Afghans and Iraqis, too, would surely take the path once followed by good Germans and nimble Japanese, and subsequently by Czechs tired of repression and Chinese tired of want. Once liberated, grateful Afghans and Iraqis would align themselves with a conception of modernity that the United States had pioneered and now exemplified. For this transformation to occur, however, the accumulated debris of retrograde social conventions and political arrangements that had long retarded progress would have to be cleared away. This was what the invasions of Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom!) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom!) were meant to accomplish in one fell swoop by a military the likes of which had (to hear Washington tell it) never been seen in history. POW!

Standing Them Up As We Stand Down

Concealed within that oft-cited “freedom” — the all-purpose justification for deploying American power — were several shades of meaning. The term, in fact, requires decoding. Yet within the upper reaches of the American national security apparatus, one definition takes precedence over all others. In Washington, freedom has become a euphemism for dominion. Spreading freedom means positioning the United States to call the shots. Seen in this context, Washington’s expected victories in both Afghanistan and Iraq were meant to affirm and broaden its preeminence by incorporating large parts of the Islamic world into the American imperium. They would benefit, of course, but to an even greater extent, so would we.

Alas, liberating Afghans and Iraqis turned out to be a tad more complicated than the architects of Bush’s freedom (or dominion) agenda anticipated. Well before Barack Obama succeeded Bush in January 2009, few observers — apart from a handful of ideologues and militarists — clung to the fairy tale of U.S. military might whipping the Greater Middle East into shape. Brutally but efficiently, war had educated the educable. As for the uneducable, they persisted in taking their cues from Fox News and the Weekly Standard.

Yet if the strategy of transformation via invasion and “nation building” had failed, there was a fallback position that seemed to be dictated by the logic of events. Together, Bush and Obama would lower expectations as to what the United States was going to achieve, even as they imposed new demands on the U.S. military, America’s go-to outfit in foreign policy, to get on with the job.

Rather than midwifing fundamental political and cultural change, the Pentagon was instead ordered to ramp up its already gargantuan efforts to create local militaries (and police forces) capable of maintaining order and national unity. President Bush provided a concise formulation of the new strategy: “As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.” Under Obama, after his own stab at a “surge,” the dictum applied to Afghanistan as well. Nation-building had flopped. Building armies and police forces able to keep a lid on things now became the prevailing definition of success.

The United States had, of course, attempted this approach once before, with unhappy results. This was in Vietnam. There, efforts to destroy North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces intent on unifying their divided country had exhausted both the U.S. military and the patience of the American people. Responding to the logic of events, Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon had a tacitly agreed upon fallback position. As the prospects of American forces successfully eliminating threats to South Vietnamese security faded, the training and equipping of the South Vietnamese to defend themselves became priority number one.

Dubbed “Vietnamization,” this enterprise ended in abject failure with the fall of Saigon in 1975. Yet that failure raised important questions to which members of the national security elite might have attended: Given a weak state with dubious legitimacy, how feasible is it to expect outsiders to invest indigenous forces with genuine fighting power? How do differences in culture or history or religion affect the prospects for doing so? Can skill ever make up for a deficit of will? Can hardware replace cohesion? Above all, if tasked with giving some version of Vietnamization another go, what did U.S. forces need to do differently to ensure a different result?

At the time, with general officers and civilian officials more inclined to forget Vietnam than contemplate its implications, these questions attracted little attention. Instead, military professionals devoted themselves to gearing up for the next fight, which they resolved would be different. No more Vietnams — and therefore no more Vietnamization.

After the Gulf War of 1991, basking in the ostensible success of Operation Desert Storm, the officer corps persuaded itself that it had once and for all banished its Vietnam-induced bad memories. As Commander-in-Chief George H.W. Bush so memorably put it, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”

In short, the Pentagon now had war figured out. Victory had become a foregone conclusion. As it happened, this self-congratulatory evaluation left U.S. troops ill-prepared for the difficulties awaiting them after 9/11 when interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq departed from the expected script, which posited short wars by a force beyond compare ending in decisive victories. What the troops got were two very long wars with no decision whatsoever. It was Vietnam on a smaller scale all over again — times two.

Vietnamization 2.0

For Bush in Iraq and Obama after a brief, half-hearted flirtation with counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, opting for a variant of Vietnamization proved to be a no-brainer. Doing so offered the prospect of an escape from all complexities. True enough, Plan A — we export freedom and democracy — had fallen short. But Plan B — they (with our help) restore some semblance of stability — could enable Washington to salvage at least partial success in both places. With the bar suitably lowered, a version of “Mission Accomplished” might still be within reach.

If Plan A had looked to U.S. troops to vanquish their adversaries outright, Plan B focused on prepping besieged allies to take over the fight. Winning outright was no longer the aim — given the inability of U.S. forces to do so, this was self-evidently not in the cards — but holding the enemy at bay was.

Although allied with the United States, only in the loosest sense did either Iraq or Afghanistan qualify as a nation-state. Only nominally and intermittently did governments in Baghdad and Kabul exercise a writ of authority commanding respect from the people known as Iraqis and Afghans. Yet in the Washington of George Bush and Barack Obama, a willing suspension of disbelief became the basis for policy. In distant lands where the concept of nationhood barely existed, the Pentagon set out to create a full-fledged national security apparatus capable of defending that aspiration as if it represented reality. From day one, this was a faith-based undertaking.

As with any Pentagon project undertaken on a crash basis, this one consumed resources on a gargantuan scale — \$25 billion in Iraq and an even more staggering \$65 billion in Afghanistan. “Standing up” the requisite forces involved the transfer of vast quantities of equipment and the creation of elaborate U.S. training missions. Iraqi and Afghan forces acquired all the paraphernalia of modern war — attack aircraft or helicopters, artillery and armored vehicles, night vision devices and drones. Needless to say, stateside defense contractors lined up in droves to cash in.

Based on their performance, the security forces on which the Pentagon has lavished years of attention remain visibly not up to the job. Meanwhile, ISIS warriors, without the benefit of expensive third-party mentoring, appear plenty willing to fight and die for their cause. Ditto Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The beneficiaries of U.S. assistance? Not so much. Based on partial but considerable returns, Vietnamization 2.0 seems to be following an eerily familiar trajectory that should remind anyone of Vietnamization 1.0. Meanwhile, the questions that ought to have been addressed back when our South Vietnamese ally went down to defeat have returned with a vengeance.

The most important of those questions challenges the assumption that has informed U.S. policy in the Greater Middle East since the freedom agenda went south: that Washington has a particular knack for organizing, training, equipping, and motivating foreign armies. Based on the evidence piling up before our eyes, that assumption appears largely false. On this score, retired Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, a former military commander and U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, has rendered an authoritative judgment. “Our track record at building [foreign] security forces over the past 15 years is miserable,” he recently told the New York Times. Just so.

Fighting the Wrong War

Some might argue that trying harder, investing more billions, sending yet more equipment for perhaps another 15 years will produce more favorable results. But this is akin to believing that, given sufficient time, the fruits of capitalism will ultimately trickle down to benefit the least among us or that the march of technology holds the key to maximizing human happiness. You can believe it if you want, but it’s a mug’s game.

Indeed, the United States would be better served if policymakers abandoned the pretense that the Pentagon possesses any gift whatsoever for “standing up” foreign military forces. Prudence might actually counsel that Washington assume instead, when it comes to organizing, training, equipping, and motivating foreign armies, that the United States is essentially clueless.

Exceptions may exist. For example, U.S. efforts have probably helped boost the fighting power of the Kurdish peshmerga. Yet such exceptions are rare enough to prove the rule. Keep in mind that before American trainers and equipment ever showed up, Iraq’s Kurds already possessed the essential attributes of nationhood. Unlike Afghans and Iraqis, Kurds do not require tutoring in the imperative of collective self-defense.

What are the policy implications of giving up the illusion that the Pentagon knows how to build foreign armies? The largest is this: subletting war no longer figures as a plausible alternative to waging it directly. So where U.S. interests require that fighting be done, like it or not, we’re going to have to do that fighting ourselves. By extension, in circumstances where U.S. forces are demonstrably incapable of winning or where Americans balk at any further expenditure of American blood — today in the Greater Middle East both of these conditions apply — then perhaps we shouldn’t be there. To pretend otherwise is to throw good money after bad or, as a famous American general once put it, to wage (even if indirectly) “the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy.” This we have been doing now for several decades across much of the Islamic world.

In American politics, we await the officeholder or candidate willing to state the obvious and confront its implications.

Andrew J. Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University. He is the author of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country, among other works. His new book, America’s War for the Greater Middle East (Random House), is due out in April 2016.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Afghanistan, Iraq 
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  1. When will our media finally proclaim all our famous four-star Generals this past decade incompetent? No one is worse than General Keane, who made millions of dollars on “training” contracts yet still appears in the media demanding more money for his warmongering conspirators. One can imagine the turmoil should an enlightened President (Trump or Sanders or Webb) appoint Becevich as Secretary of Defense.

  2. it always fails because there just aren’t enough suckers in the world who would fight our wars for us.

  3. tsotha says:

    We were successful with the Kurds because they’re not fighting for us. They’re fighting for themselves.

    As Pournelle is wont to point out, running an empire takes a certain amount of skill. We’ve no reason to be an empire, but if we’re going to be an empire at least we ought to be a competent empire.

  4. They can train & equip. It’s doubtful whether they can organise, given cultural differences. They absolutely certainly cannot motivate the unmotivated. I don’t think anyone can – I doubt Russia or Britain would do better. The difference is that the US is uniquely detached from reality in seeing all foreign cultures and foreign militaries as “gooks with Americans inside, trying to get out”. The US training & equipment helps the Peshmerga because the Peshmerga are already highly motivated. The US cannot motivate Iraqi Shia soldiers to defend Sunni Mosul.

    • Agree: Deduction
  5. LSWCHP says:

    The Pentagon has achieved something that is unparalleled in the history of warfare. They have created an Afghan army that can’t or won’t fight.

    These are people who treat war as entertainment and they have fought off every comer in the history of mankind. To persuade well armed Afghans not to fight takes a true gift. I take my hat off to the geniuses at the Pentagon for their achievements in this area.

  6. TheJester says:

    Why US organized, equipped, and trained foreign forces fold is clear. When, the US arrives to “save” a country, it arrives with contractors, arms dealers, and billions of dollars in loans and grants to bribe the local warlords, landowners, bankers, and whomever else can be categorized as elite. It uses planeloads of cash to grease its agendas.

    Yes, power corrupts … and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In the presence of billions of dollars floating through the local political-sphere, the process is almost immediate. Hence, the presence of the US military breeds corruption and incompetence wherever it deploys as the locals scramble for the cash and then scramble for the exits. What are left are empty shells of countries where nothing works, including the military — Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the European Union. Syria was on this track until the Russians arrived.

    • Replies: @Minnesota Mary
  7. Sean says:

    This is the old War of the Flea myth. IS have been forced out of Ramadi in Iraq. The Taliban were also gave up their recent gain of a city. Kurds thrashed IS. Where Islamic State are not fighting they are essentially invisible. This is why they can survive in the face of US planes. In Afghanistan all that was needed was to the Taliban expose themeselves to bombing by defending their territory . Islamic State will be unable to hold their territory. At present in Syria no one is attacking IS, they are doing the attacking (with Assad and Russian air support).

  8. Jim says:

    A fundamental issue here is that there never were any such nations as “Iraq” or “Afganistan” or any such peoples as “Iraqis” or “Afghans”, just as there never was any such nation as “Yugoslavia” or any such people as “Yugoslavs” . These names had as little connection to reality as the names “Ruritania” or “Ruritanians”.

    People believe in “word magic” – the belief that if we make up names we can control reality. Talking of a nation called “Afghanistan” doesn’t make any such thing real any more than writing a novel makes “Ruritania” real. Our foreign policy is based on fantasy.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  9. Jim says:

    The difference between the Kurds and the “Iraqis” or “Afghans” is that the Kurdish people are actually a real people. But the names “Iraqis” or “Afghans” only refer to fictions. There are no such people as “Iraqis” or “Afghans” any more then there are any such animals as “unicorns”.

    • Replies: @Cute little baby
  10. Sean says:

    The need for the US to create armies is really a result of the regimes friendly to the US having little popular legitimacy. South Vietnam’s military strength was much greater than it’s political strength ‘Good Germans and nimble Japanese’ do not want to fight any more, they are freeloaders on US power. In fairness the US army relies on air support and artillery, and the Kurds fight well because of that support they have as well as other reasons, but they pay very dearly for those victories. The western way of war is alien to Arabs. and to ask them to fight in that style without massive heavy weapons support is a bit much when US forces don’t fight that way. The incidences of them doing so in Vietnam such as Hamburger Hill, caused uproar. When Byron and pals tried to get the Greeks to fight they were very disillusioned by the Greeks running away all the time.

  11. Jim says:

    On the question of whether the advance of technology increases human happiness – this is not a straightforward question. Humans today are much more technologically advanced than Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. Are they more happy? Probably not. I would guess that the inhabitants of Sentinel Island are at least as happy as most modern people, quite likely happier.
    Most likely the Sentinelese would be miserable if they were placed in a modern society to which they are very poorly adapted. On the other hand most modern people would be miserable living the life of a Sentinel Islander. The advance of technology is associated with changes in what humans are so comparisons of the degree of happiness in relation to technology become meaningless.

  12. Jim says:

    I disagree that the problem is a lack of ability at military training on the part of the US armed forces. We probably can do a pretty good job of training Kurds or South Koreans in military skills. The reason we can’t create an effective Afghan army isn’t due to suppossed poor training ability on the part of the US military. The reason we can’t create an effective Afghan army is because there are no such people as “Afghans” and there is no such nation as “Afghanistan”.

  13. War for Blair Mountain [AKA "Great Battle for Blair Mountain"] says:

    For the record:The US won the Vietnam War. Evidence:1)child labor in Vietnam for US Corporations..2)Vietnam has been completely homo-normed…in addition to legalized homo marriage, Vietnam-like Thailand-is becommig a number one Gay Tourist destination…and this means pedophilia….the late Gore Vidal could have vouched for this.

    The Vietnam Vets gay normed Vietnam. They should stop boasting through their bumperstickers that they served in Vietnam….they ought to be ashamed that they served in Vietnam!!!

  14. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    They’re not as stupid as the Americans believe them to be. They know the US cynically considers them to be expendable cannon fodder, mere puppet troops carrying out US goals. They might need the paycheck but there’s only so much risk they’d be willing to take. If they get killed they’d be dying for nothing and they know it; there’s no real cause on the American agenda that’s relevant to them and thus worth dying for. American hubris leads it to think it can it can march into any poor third world country waving dollar bills and expect the locals to rent themselves out as whores for Uncle Sam.

  15. @Jim

    tl;dr. What constitutes a “people”?


    Afghan is simply the the Persian-origin exonym for the Pashtun people, just as German is the Latin-origin exonym for that people who call themselves Deutsch.

    If Iraqis ain’t no people, then precisely by what logic are Americans/Australians/Canadians/Brazilians/Argentinians/Cubans etc. a people?

    Indeed, if Iraqis ain’t no people, then precisely by what logic are Italians a people?

    Also, is there a Swiss people?

    Also, in your opinion, do Britons exist?

    • Replies: @Jim
  16. Fred Reed says:

    When you invade a country, and then ry to get some of its people to fight the rest of its people for your benefit, not theirs, how much enthusiasm can you expect? Over and over and over.

    • Replies: @Begemot
  17. iffen says:

    abandoning their posts (and much of their U.S.-supplied weaponry

    Isn’t this a good way to get weapons into the hands of various terrorist groups?

  18. Bill says:

    What are the policy implications of giving up the illusion that the Pentagon knows how to build foreign armies? The largest is this: subletting war no longer figures as a plausible alternative to waging it directly.

    This doesn’t seem to follow, really. Or, it only follows if you feel you need to keep the “freedom agenda” part of our insanity. We did a fine job of using the Northern Alliance to topple the Taliban without any noticeable commitment of US ground forces. Siding with a cohesive minority, placing it in power, and thus making it dependent on you is a pretty routine part of being an empire.

    The problem is the desire, on our part, to impose our culture, comprehensively and rapidly, on foreigners. For that we probably do need decades or generations of authoritarian occupation with our forces.

    We have refused to limit ourselves to the feasible. The Northern Alliance were not Jeffersonian Democrats. They were more like a savage mafia. It’s the fantasy that we can conjure Jeffersonian Democrats into existence that’s the problem.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  19. MarkinLA says:

    Isn’t this a Fred column?

    I thought he already covered this. I remember a column of his where he talked about our proxy armies that won’t fight since when he worked for SOF he had contact with them. Mostly they are thugs and criminal who just want our money and will tell our stupid CIA operatives anything they want to hear to get it. The CIA operatives tell their leaders in the CIA who want to tell the people in the White House what they want to hear and the money flows.

  20. MarkinLA says:

    The problem with the Northern Alliance was that they could never control the population and were bound to be overrun by the Taliban as soon as we left just like they were after the USSR left. We should have known that and made our effort in Afghanistan a purely punitive action on the Taliban and forgot the nation building garbage.

    As for imposing our culture, we did everything to do just the opposite when they overthrew their royal family and started getting cozy with the USSR. Then we were all for getting rid of a secular government and western style society.

    Let’s face it, we don’t have a coherent policy, other than the enemy of my enemy is my friend – until you are no longer needed.

  21. Jim says:
    @Cute little baby

    Very good questions. A people are the result of a complex process of genetic-cultural co-evolution.

    Clearly there is no such thong as the Swiss people. Schweitzers and French Swiss have little liking for one another. The only thing that unites them is their disdain for the Italian Swiss.
    One of my college roommates was an American of North Italian descent. He let me know in no uncertain terms what he thought of South Italians and Sicilians. There are Englishmen and Scotsmen but there is no such thong as a “Britishman”. Americans are not a people. Blacks and whites in American have little in common.

    In a state like France there may be enough French people to provide a fair degree of national cohesion despite the presence of Bretons and Basques. However continue the immigration of North Africans into France and that will cease to be the case.

    There are some countries like Iceland, Norway or Japan where the great majority of the population do compose a people. Afghanistan is an area of a myriad of tribes speaking some 200 different languages – Indo-Iranian, Turkic and some Caucasian. Some a region may be held together for a time by sufficent force like Tito held together a bunch of Balkan peoples for a while. But there never were any “Yugoslavs” just as there have never been any “Afghans” .

  22. OutWest says:

    There’s room for a bit more nuance. Vietnam was actually a fairly successful example of Kennan’s Containment Strategy. Ho would probably be dismayed at the independent if socialist Viet Nam of today. Same for Korea. Costly but effective.

    But the cold war is-was?- over. Why do we care about the Middle East? Our response is just force of habit. And of course provocation from those needing us as a bogey man to organize the simple ones. Why make their task so easy by taking the bait.

    It took deft political will to get us into WW2. But, once Japan was inept enough to bite and Hitler stupid enough to gratuitously declare war, the national blood lust was arouse in the US. Disengagement now would certainly be cheaper in blood and treasure. A relatively small portion of our current spending on weapons could make our shores very costly to violate.

  23. Wally says: • Website

    A real eye roller is here:

    “But this is akin to believing that, given sufficient time, the fruits of capitalism will ultimately trickle down to benefit the least among us …”

    Bacevich The Red needs a history lesson. Capitalism has lifted the lives of countless millions of people of all walks of life in societies where it exists.

    Look around. The “least among us” have cars, air conditioning, smartphones, wide screen TVs, leisure, and are generally over fed, on & on.

    Granted, the monstrous leftist governments in the west are increasingly doing their very best to destroy the goose that laid the golden egg while allowing totalitarian government supporting elitist minorities to profit mightily. Of course that is no longer capitalism, but is mercantilism, or better yet, neo-Marxism. Bacevich ignores the facts.

  24. Wally says: • Website

    “… and Hitler stupid enough to gratuitously declare war …”

    Germany had a treaty with Japan, knucklehead.
    And the US was shooting at German subs & shipping in violation it’s stated neutrality. Not to mention the illegal massive arms / military supplies shipments to Britain and the communist USSR. All before the German declaration of war.

    And do note that Britain & France declared war on Germany for it’s justified attack on Poland while ignoring the USSR’s invasion of Poland from the east.

    Your WWII history must have come from Time & Life magazines and the NY Times.

    • Replies: @Jan
    , @OutWest
  25. rod1963 says:

    Tribal peoples – which the Muslims of Iraq are fight for religious and tribal reasons. Beyond that they don’t go or get.

    Same with Afghanistan which is very much a tribal culture from the 7th century. With them the enemy is tribe in the next valley over. Not some fellas a 100 klicks away they never heard of.

    Then factor in the endemic corruption that permeates Islamic societies from top to bottom. You can’t make a military from such people.

    The fault of the American military officer corps was their absolute ignorance of the role of culture and religions plays with these people. These dumb asses from West Point thought if they dusted off these buggers a bit they’ll be just like the grunts in the 82nd or Black Horse. Doesn’t work that way with peoples like these.

    For starters most of the men are illiterate, have no work ethic, no sense of hygiene, or impulse control, thievery comes natural them. Then there is that issue they have with young boys. Then you have the average IQ of 85 which is a show stopper.

    These buggers looted the bases we gave them when we left Iraq. This is how they think and operate. I read horror story after horror story in Afghanistan when we would build up facilities for the locals and once we left they stole everything not nailed down.

    We should have never set foot in such cess pits.

    • Replies: @Jim
  26. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The opening sentence should read ‘first came Saigon’.

    This con game of spending lots of the treasure of American taxpayers to try to buy mercenary armies to fight the wars that DC wants has been going on for much longer than this writer indicates.

  27. Jan says:

    … and Germany needed Japan to declare war on the Soviet Union. Firstly to force the Soviets to fight on two fronts and, maybe even more importantly, to close Vladivostok as a gateway for non-military supplies (such as trucks) from the USA.

    • Replies: @OutWest
  28. Meanwhile, ISIS warriors, without the benefit of expensive third-party mentoring, appear plenty willing to fight and die for their cause

    Patently false. The backbone of ISIS has been Saddam’s unemployed officer corps and Petraeus trained and equipped (and subsequently unemployed, following U.S. withdrawal) Sunni ‘awakening councils’, not to mention Islamic State has had the benefit of USA mentoring:

    No small wonder Bacevich is a contributor to the CIA’s Ford Foundation funded TomDispatch.

    And, of course, it would never do to point out the USA’s Phoenix Program 2.0 but the Guardian Films/BBC Arabic has that covered:


    • Replies: @Deduction
    , @WorkingClass
  29. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The fundamental problem is this. We are always fighting for an empire against people who feel they are fighting for their homes, their religion or their way of life. Such fighters are always going to be far more committed to their cause than mercenary fighters who are fighting for someone else’s empire.

    So, yes, we can destroy the economy of a country to the point where the mercenary jobs we offer are the only jobs around. And yes, we can fill the ranks with soldiers who need a paycheck. And we can fill an officer corps with connected people who want to cash in on corrupt supply deals or rosters of fake soldiers that only supply a paycheck to the commander. We can then boast in Congressional hearings about how many battalions of such troops we’ve put into the field.

    But, when they come up against committed fighters that are fighting for some combination of defending their homes, defending their religion against ‘crusaders’, or just simply fighting to throw out the foreign devils who occupy their land, then its always going to turn out this way. We should know that, after all the Patriots defeated the Hessians too back in the day.

  30. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    One of the key parts of the ‘victory’ of the first Iraq War by Bush-the-Not-Stupid was that the leaders of that era had enough sense to realize that it would be a horrible blunder to drive on to Baghdad and topple the government and take over the country themselves. They could see that path led to disaster and quaqmire. So, they took their limited victory and went home.

    The right-wing nuters in this country, led by people like Dick Cheney, of course attacked and belittled this decision as being the work of cowards and traitors and vowed to finish the job.

    The minor fact that America’s expensive to build and deploy military can only fight a short war and isn’t built for a long occupation never seemed to occur to them. America’s defense contractors, lobbyist and bought-off politicians love expensive stuff like fighter planes that cost tens of millions of dollars apiece. Profits and Payoffs for everyone. But, this also means that American can have great striking power in the short run, but bankrupts itself in a longer fight.

    Of course, the politicians who want to destroy America for greater defense industry profits now insist that America keep dumping more and more and more of its national treasure into these efforts. And a side-line is the ‘training’ of these propped up militaries. Since all that matters in DC is the next pork-barrel handout for training yet another mercenary army, this all just flows along in DC and we, the American people, just keep working more jobs and overtime to pay the taxes to pay for it over and over again.

    Like the Wall Street Ponzi schemes, it can’t continue for ever. Blowing up the weapons we gave to the terrorists with multi-million dollar jets firing million dollar ‘smart’ bombs might be great for defense industry profits, but its not a workable or winnable long-term strategy. And, this is how empires always fall. The insiders who are concerned with their own profits always push stupid decisions that are only plausible if you drink the kool-aid that the empire is and always will be invincible. And yet, empires always fall.

    • Replies: @Ronald Thomas West
  31. @Anonymous

    You might enjoy this satire (or not)

    However more germane to your observations on empire

    ^ on economics & counterinsurgency

  32. Deduction says:

    Andrew Bacevich, you get it, you understand, you identify the lessons that we should be learning from the last 15 years exactly.

    The motley crew of conspiracy nuts and crazies, both commenters and writers, on this site, should heed yours words.

    No-one is evil, no-one is all bad and our governments genuinely had mostly good intentions. They just didn’t have a fucking clue how to deliver. And they haven’t yet learnt.

    They’re still trying ‘multi-ethnic checkpoints’, moderate force building and social engineering abroad, and I blame the opposition. The opposition to all of this can come up with no serious argument because they prefer to wallow in fables of good and evil and global conspiracy.

    The opposition needs to get a grip and stop pretending that they are the heroes in some fairy tale fantasy. They are not. They’re simply poor thinking weirdos who happen to be on the right side.

    The wars were wrong and it’s easy to point out why. I took part in them. It’s clear to me. And it’s clear to you Andrew. Thank you for raising a genuinely grounded and rational opposition to our naive wars of self styled global improvement!

  33. The Russians managed to create a somewhat competent army in Afghanistan. If Najib hadn’t been cut-off from all arms supplies he would have hung on. As it was it took a few years and a big effort by the CIA and Pakistan to get rid of him.

    Even now if you find a literate semi-competent guy in the Afghan military the odds are he was in Najib’s army.

  34. The South Koreans have done a pretty good job of standing up for themselves. All the others, not so much. Of course the South Koreans are motivated. Having a raving mad dog running the country just to their north should motivate anyone.

    • Replies: @Quercusalba
  35. OutWest says:

    Actually, I read a good bit of history. For instance, when did Hitler start honoring treaties? Or am I missing something in his nonaggression treaty with the Soviets? And maybe Britain and France were being a bit more honest about the Soviets than their phony war against Germany.

    I’m assuming that you’re aware that FDR wanted the US in the war though most of the nation was of the opinion that we should stay out of Europe’s then latest war. So he was stretching his power to get the US in the war –lend lease and a shooting war off Iceland. But it was that Japan took the bait of restricted steel and fuel sales –particularly the latter- and started a war they had no chance of winning. And I suppose Hitler by this time was pissed enough to jump in as he did when Mussolini got in over his head in Greece and Africa –driving another nail into Germany’s coffin.

    Oh, and I agree that the wiser course would be for Japan to attack the Soviets in Mongolia, leave England to fester and, at all costs, keep the US out of the war.

    • Replies: @Wally
  36. @OutWest

    It took deft political will to get us into WW2. But, once Japan was inept enough to bite and Hitler stupid enough to gratuitously declare war, the national blood lust was arouse in the US.

    Loretta Sanchez recited the four bases on which a [moral, law-abiding] nation may go to war:
    ( @ 6 min)

    1. If someone attacks us
    2. If we think that they are about to attack us.
    3. If we’re invited in by the government, to help them, i.e. an ally.
    4. If we have a resolution from the UN Security Council that says, Go in.

    #4. did not pertain to WW2, of course.

    But you wrote that “It took deft political will to get us into WW2.”

    As noted earlier, Irving Kristol is on record saying, “FDR lied, deceived and manipulated to get US into WW2, thank god.” Kristol added that FDR’s administration “provoked Hitler to attack us.”

    In “Those Angry Days,” Lynn Olsen catalogued the ways that the Roosevelt administration — and a host of British propagandists and dirty-tricksters and even criminal agents provocateur created that “political will.”


    In other words, none of conditions 1., 2., or 3. that Representative Sanchez cited as the parameters of law within which a US leader must operate, were present when FDR’s administration exercised “deft political will” to involve USA in WW2.

    There was no casus belli between the USA and Germany, absent US provocations and “deft” manipulations of “political will.”

    So who started WW2 against Germany?

    Just to beat this horse one more time:

    In January 2015 Robert Cohen included this declamation in a commemoration of the liberation of Auschwita:

    Holocaust denial will remain a fringe issue. The documentation is secure in its veracity and overwhelming in its volume. If anything, today’s school children are in danger of thinking that Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin went to war against Hitler because of what was happening to the Jews.

    a. The implication is that the perception that” Churchill, Roosevelt & Stalin went to war against Hitler because of what was happening to Jews” is incorrect.

    So what is the correct answer to “Why did Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin go to war against Hitler?”

    b. How did “today’s school children” come to think that ” Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin went to war against Hitler because of what was happening to the Jews.” ? Who planted that thought in their minds?
    Is it a correct thought?
    What are the implications of teaching our children apparently incorrect history, in a Constitutional republic in which the people have a voice, in which, as James Madison wrote:

    A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

    c. Cohen also implies that any thinking about Why Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin went to war with Hitler that is other than “what was happening to the Jews” constitutes “Holocaust denial,” and is a “fringe issue.”
    In other words, the freedom, even obligation to pursue an alternative or fuller answer to the question has been shut down.
    How can a well-ordered Constitutional Republic function under such a constraint? (see James Madison!).

    d. What was “happening to the Jews” such that Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin felt compelled to go to war against Hitler?
    Did any of those “happenings” rise to the level of any of the three reasons listed by Rep. Sanchez?

    Leonard Stein spent many years as Chaim Weizmann’s right-hand man as Weizmann worked to persuade the British government to support Jews in creating a homeland in Palestine. In two pamphlets published in 1933, Stein catalogued the grievances expressed by Jews against the new government that had taken power in Germany. The preponderance of the complaints involved Jews being denied admission to universities and being removed from posts in Germany’s administration and government.

    As noted, Stein, and Weizmann, operated out of London (Weizmann had relocated to Rehovath by 1937, where Erich Mendelsohn built a lavish residence for him). German Jews were opposed to the zionist project and to the provocations emanating from zionists in Britain and in USA. German Jewish organizations wrote letters and published articles and petitions against the zionist provocations of the new German government. Rabbi Stephen Wise wrote in his autobiography that he “ignored” and “refused to open” letters from German Jews that beseeched him to stop stirring up trouble in Germany.

    In a somewhat heated exchange with an audience member at a 2006 discussion of his book, history professor Jeff Herf acknowledged that

    Audience member: “I think the interesting period for me is earlier . . .the end of World War I, the stab in the back theory, and the arrival back to Germany by the first world war German soldiers who found , you know, Kurt Eisner, communists, Rosa Luxemburg, uh, evidence of what they thought was the Jewish Bolshevik conspiracy. Which you referred to but you, in my view, you didn’t give it sufficient emphasis. . . . But certainly, when the German soldiers came back and there were , there had been surrender by the German generals, when many Germans and the German soldiers thought they were winning the war, and then this stab in the back attributed to Jews, coming back to Germany and finding Jewish communists and socialists in positions of power, Bela Kuhn in Hungary, I mean all of this was tremendously important I think in terms of motivation and Jewish bolshevism . . .”

    Herf: “The uh anger about uh the post-war period, and I don’t want to get into the substance of those details at the moment. Everything you mentioned would be a rationale for persecuting the Jews, for right wing- for the German right wing, for driving them out of the universities, denying them citizenship, driving them out of Germany, passing the Nuremberg race laws, uh treating them horribly in every way. Uh but that’s not a rationale for murdering them. Or it’s not a rationale for implementing a continent-wide program for murdering all of them. That’s what I’m trying to explain.

    But in 1933 — the period Leonard Stein assayed; nor at least through 1935, as Herf acknowledges, Jews were certainly not being “murdered” nor was a “continent-wide program for murdering them implemented.” In fact, Brietman and Lichtman wrote that between 1933 and late-1938 the NSDAP quelled violence against Jews.

    On the other hand, and also in 1933, “International Jewry declared war on Germany,” and prosecuted an economic war intended to “bring Germany to its knees,” up until 1940.

    In a talk at the Jewish Heritage Museum late in 2014, Ron Rosenbaum and Martin Amis asserted that murders of Jews were taking place in concentration camps in 1941. In a June 11, 1944 meeting of the Jewish Agency in TelAviv chaired by David Ben Gurion, the Committee wrote that their belief was that “Auschwitz is a labor camp.” That being the case, the Committee declined to request that the Allies bomb the camp, “lest a single Jew be harmed.”

    All this is to say that prior to 1940, numerous Jewish historians and political leaders agree that no Jew was being harmed by Germans in a way that rose to the level of a casus belli.

    The question(s) remains: why did Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin wage war on Hitler?

    Why did FDR’s administration and British propagandists work as zealously as they did in 1940 to move to American public to call for war, as Lynn Olson describes in “Those Angry Days”?

    Why did FDR “lie, deceive and manipulate,” and “provoke Hitler” in an effort to involve the US in war against Germany, if there was no action of Germany vis a vis the USA that fit any of the conditions Rep. Sanchez listed?

    In “Fog of War,” Robert McNamara’s reflections on his experiences in America’s war-making apparatus, he discussed Curtiss LeMay’s leadership in the firebombing of Japan and Germany. Contemplating those acts,

    “LeMay said if we’d lost the war we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals. And I think he’s right: he and I were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost.

    But what makes it immoral if you lose but not immoral if you win?

    In considering the morality or immorality of a nation’s acts, it seems to me to equally important to assess whether entering into war on the basis of lies, deceit and provocation does not make that action a priori illegitimate and immoral, and necessarily taint the moral character of any subsequent action in that war.

    In another exchange in his book discussion, Dr. Herf was asked by (the late) Carla Cohen, co-owner of the bookstore where Herf was speaking:

    Cohen: “Are you saying, No war, no final solution?”
    Herf: No.
    Cohen: Is that right!!
    Herf: uh um the um whatever uh whatever Hitler was planning to do with the Jews in Germany — 600,000 people — um he could not have gotten his hands on most of the Jews of Europe if he had not launched a war.

    Herf’s reference to the 600,000 Jews in Germany leads to consideration of one more extremely important piece of information:

    Rabbi Stephen Wise recorded in his autobiography, “The Challenging Years,” that by Feb. 14, 1933, Louis Brandeis, acknowledged hof Juden and zionist leader, directed Wise that “All Jews must leave Germany; I urge that no Jew remain in Germany.”

    Wise, incredulous, replied, “How shall we remove 587,000 Jews from Germany?

    Brandeis brushed it aside: “All Jews must leave Germany.”

    The Jewish zionist leadership that directed and worked diligently to remove Jews from Germany was the same Jewish leadership that worked just as diligently to ensure that there would be a war against Hitler. The Wilson administration had attempted to destroy Bolshevism in Russia in 1918-1919; it was a safe bet that the NSDAP, whose major cause of complaint was the attempt of Communist Bolsheviks to overthrow Germany, would lash out against Bolshevism-Russia.

    We know from Henry Morgenthau, Jr’s diaries that he and FDR began planning for the manufacture of bombers shortly after the Munich Pact was agreed to by Britain and France and a few weeks before Herschel Grynszpan assassinated German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris. The destruction of Germany by air attack was in the works well before the first German Jew was interned in a German concentration camp.

    We know from Irving Kristol that FDR’s administration provoked Hitler into war.

    We know from Etan Bloom’s dissertation on Arthur Ruppin that Ruppin was a prize-winning eugenicist, and that he did not consider Slavic Jews the most desirable “human material” for the “new Jew.”

    We know from Vladimir Jabotinsky’s biographer and friend, J. Schactman, that Jabotinsky was “repulsed” by the condition of his co-religionists when he first encountered them in Prague.

    We heard Jeffrey Herf tell us that war was necessary to give Hitler access to Jews outside Germany.

    In this talk we can hear Michael Ledeen apprise his audience of the Torah basis for Jews– Levites, like Ledeen — killing Jews.

    Why did so many Jewish leaders work so hard to provoke a war from which German Jews were sheltered but in which non-German Jews were left in threatened territory where it was foreseeable that they would be harmed? Why didn’t Brandeis demand their removal/rescue?

    Why is this important?

    1. Because the same tactics, informed by the same ideologies, are being advanced by adherents of the WW2-era leaders who waged war on- and destroyed- Germany, are being carried out against Iran, the latest in a series of states to be destroyed by an unaccountable and exceptional superpower nation, in league with an apocalyptically-deluded ethnocidal state.

    2. Because however tragic it is that the same murderous schemes are being repeated, even if they were not, it is essential that a nation understand its history honestly and totally (as Machiavelli insisted); otherwise, like Croesus who misinterpreted the oracle and lost Lydia, we will lose our nation.

    PS. re “It took deft political will to get us into WW2.”
    It doesn’t take that much character or skill to involve a nation in war, not when you’re willing to lie to your own people and provoke an adversary that has done you no harm.

    • Replies: @Drapetomaniac
  37. The Anglo/Zionist Empire is committed to ruling the world by force of arms. Anyone who resists Imperial aggression must be imprisoned or killed. The impulse to empire arises in evil men who rise to worldly power. You and I are not a part of this empire. We are it’s subjects. Standing up foreign armies is an imperial project. I rejoice in its failure. I despise the evil men who cause death and suffering for the multitudes so that they may profit from it. And I pity the otherwise good people who unwittingly serve them.

  38. Deduction says:
    @Ronald Thomas West

    Yeah mate, sure! Andrew Bacevich has genuine experience, makes considered and well thought out points while you are an internet weirdo, but somehow you’re right and he’s wrong because really he’s a CIA spy….lol.

    Oh, I forgot, you can mass post a bunch of irrelevant links….lol.

    Have you even ever left the United States?

    • Replies: @Ronald Thomas West
  39. @Ronald Thomas West

    “Patently false.”

    Agreed. Thank you.

  40. Ivy [AKA "Enquiring Mind"] says:

    Future historians are likely to study the policy influence of the psychotic neo-cons and their fellow travelers in the media. The gulf between their views and those of the average American represent an unhealthy deviation from the political process that was envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

  41. The root of the problem is that the Department of Defense is misnamed. What we in fact have is the Department of Offense.

  42. @Deduction

    Hi again Troll

    The FF [Ford Foundation] has developed a sophisticated strategy of funding human rights groups (HRGs) that appeal to Washington to change its policy while denouncing U.S. adversaries their “systematic” violations. The FF supports HRGs which equate massive state terror by the U.S. with individual excesses of anti-imperialist adversaries. The FF finances HRGs which do not participate in anti-globalization and anti-neoliberal mass actions and which defend the Ford Foundation as a legitimate and generous “non-governmental organization”.

    History and contemporary experience tells us a different story. At a time when government over-funding of cultural activities by Washington is suspect, the FF fulfills a very important role in projecting U.S. cultural policies as an apparently “private” non-political philanthropic organization. The ties between the top officials of the FF and the U.S. government are explicit and continuing. A review of recently funded projects reveals that the FF has never funded any major project that contravenes U.S. policy.

    In the current period of a major U.S. military-political offensive, Washington has posed the issue as “terrorism or democracy,” just as during the Cold War it posed the question as “Communism or Democracy.” In both instances the Empire recruited and funded “front organizations, intellectuals and journalists to attack its anti-imperialist adversaries and neutralize its democratic critics. The Ford Foundation is well situated to replay its role as collaborator to cover for the New Cultural Cold War.

    ^ That’s your ‘Nation Institute’ [sponsor of TomDispatch] sourced funding:

    As well people can look up your technique at:

    ^ ‘The Gentleperson’s guide to Forum Spies’

  43. In Kubrick’s movie Full Metal Jacket, the infamous scene of Private Joker coming across a massacre of civilians during the Tet offensive during the Vietnam war he has a conversation with a senior Marine Officer, the Colonel states:

    Son, all I’ve ever asked of my Marines is for them to obey my orders as they would the word of God. We are here to help the Vietnamese, because inside every gook there is an American trying to get out.

    I dare say this is epitome of Neocon thinking, to this day.

  44. @OutWest

    Vietnam was actually a fairly successful example of Kennan’s Containment Strategy.

    I guess you weren’t there. Nothing was contained. Everything was lost. Ho was not our enemy. We killed three millions of “them” while losing 58,000 of our own just to make a few rich men richer.

    • Agree: Realist
    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  45. Wally [AKA "BobbyBeGood"] says: • Website

    Yes you certainly are missing something.

    And what treaties would that be, the cruelty and insanity of Versaille?

    The German attack on the USSR was a pre-emptive attack. That’s why so many offensively positioned Soviets troops, equipment & supplies were gobbled up easily in Operation Barbarossa.
    Stalin’s own speeches confirm the planned attack on Germany.
    Stalin’s own people have confirmed the planned Soviet attack on Germany.
    ‘Operation Barbarossa Was A Preventive Attack’
    Debate there if you have what it takes.
    also see:

    As I said, Hitler had little choice as the “neutral” US was firing on German subs & shipping, illegally sending massive arms to Britain, and illegally supplying the communist USSR.

    Yes, we now know that Roosevelt knew of the impending attack on Pearl Harbor and allowed 2,600 men to die.
    Yes, we now know that Roosevelt forced countless Japanese Americans, Italian-Americans, & German-Americans into slave labor US concentration camps.

    • Replies: @Andrew E. Mathis
  46. Begemot says:
    @Fred Reed

    And those who do join the invader are usually called collaborators. Generally not a well esteemed group in their communities.

    • Agree: Deduction
  47. @SolontoCroesus

    “Loretta Sanchez recited the four bases on which a [moral, law-abiding] nation may go to war:”

    1. “If someone attacks us” and in no way were provoked to do so by us or any of our agents.

    2. Nope

    3. Nope, unless you as an individual do so and the recipient of your help was attacked first.

    4. Nope.

    Loretta Sanchez has pretty lame morals – lame enough to extend man’s savagery in perpetuity.

  48. @Wally

    Who’s “we”? Do you have a mouse in your pocket?

  49. @Jim

    Considering that Britain got into trouble more than once in 19th century Afghan wars and the reality of an 8 year Iraq-Iran war you would be as hard pushed to demonstrate that it never made sense to treat Afghanistan or Iraq as nations as to prove that the Austro-Hungarian Empire didn’t exist.

    • Replies: @Jim
  50. @WorkingClass

    I think a lot of Singaporeans, Malaysians, Koreans and Thais, inter alios, would say that the USSR and its dependants were usefully contained by US involvement in Vietnam. Arguably it contributed in the long run to victory in the Cold War (compared to hands off in SE Asia). Which is not to say that there weren’t better policies for the US to pursue especially in its own interests – though I’m far from sure what they would have been.

  51. @Hannah Katz

    What do you know of the leader of North.Korea other than the propaganda about him disemminated by our extremely unreliable news media? The answer is you know nothing personally and you should have sufficient intelligence not to believe all your read or hear.

  52. Jim says:

    No doubt what you say about the peoples living in Afghanistan is true but its not the essential point. It wouldn’t matter that much if the average IQ of the tribes there was 100 or higher. The basic problem in trying to create an efffective “Afghan” army is the same as the basic problem with trying to create an effective “Ruritanian” army. The problem with the latter goal is that there are no “Ruritanians”. The problem with trying to create an effective “Afghan” army is that there are no “Afghans”. There are many different tribes living in that area of the world but none of them are “Afghans”.

    Yugoslavia in the time of Tito had many different peoples – Serbs, Slovenes, Croats, Albanains, Hungarians, and on and on. However there was one ethnic group they had none of. There were no “Yugoslavs” in Yugoslavia or anywhere else for that matter.

  53. Jim says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a multicultural empire not a nation-state. Of course there never were any “Austro-Hungarian” people. A multicultural empire may be held together by force for a long time but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it ever becomes a nation based on a people. The Ottoman Empire lasted a long time but it produced no “Ottoman” people.

    The fact that some tribe defeated British forces in a particular battle doesn’t mean that Afghanistan was a nation any more than Custer’s defeat by some Dakota Indians meant that American Indians were a nation.

    • Replies: @OutWest
  54. Sam Shama says:

    Is it not fair to say that the USA and its close allies are guided by that undeterred mission of Manifest Destiny?

    Is there a method to this seemingly chaotic incompetence? What appears to the world a bumbling imperium, is in fact the Industrial Complex simply circulating surplus hardware to the military indigents across the ME?

    Mostly, are we not preparing for a wider scale drone and robotics based warfare? One should expect that an entire generation of video-game trained high schoolers ought be perfect recruits to make the transition: not so much for the craggy terrain of Afghanistan, but a darkly-lit parlour-like setting in Houston should suit very well indeed, thank you!

    And here we have the latest revelations:

  55. OutWest says:

    The concept of “nation” didn’t exist in Europe until Louis XIV. Poor communications allowed local nobles to run the show but with a fairly loose obligation to the royals for defense and taxes. Louis XIV tempted the nobles to Versailles and delegated the administration of local affairs to bourgeoisie experts. Thus, as the center of everything, he became the Sun King.

    With the advent of nationalism and the threat thereof to various empires that were a collection of newly aware nations the old empires started to fail. WWI was the irrational result of this tension; assassination by a disgruntled nationalist and gross overreaction by threatened empires. The empire/sphere of influence problem is still very troublesome.

    • Replies: @Jim
  56. OutWest says:

    Your point is basically sound. But if Japan had attacked the Soviets rather than the US there would have been no US aid to blockade. Maybe to England when they ran out of money; but if Hitler had focused on the USSR England could have dealt with Mussolini without the US and without threatening Hitler.

  57. Jim says:

    Yes, the modern Western nation-state is quite new even in the West. Nothing remotely like it exists in the area we call Afghanistan. But in our foreign policy we act as if entities like “Afghanistan” or “Iraq” are something like a modern Western state. This is a fantasy.

  58. tbraton says:

    “Vietnam was actually a fairly successful example of Kennan’s Containment Strategy.”

    Then how do you explain that Kennan himself was strongly opposed to our war in Vietnam? See and (“As I recall, Kennan was strongly opposed to the Vietnam War, while Solzhenitsyn probably thought the war should still be going on today. There is no doubt in my mind who I would want giving me foreign policy advice when it comes to the U.S. Vietnam was a war we never should have gotten involved in in the first place, and we now know that our entry was based on pure lies and deception (see Gulf of Tonkin Resolution).”)

  59. Very interesting and well written column. I read Andrew Bacevich’s book, “Washington Rules,” and I plan to order his book, “Breach of Trust.”

    I also plan to order a book from (Ignatius Press) that will be out on November 15th. The book is titled “The Lost Mandate of Heaven” by Geoffrey Shaw. The book’s subtitle reads, “The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem the President of Vietnam.” The Diem brothers were demonized the way Assad and Putin are demonized today. They were assassinated in a U.S. sponsored coup. I think this book will be of interest to Viet Nam War vets who are still searching for answers.

    The author, Geoffrey Shaw, Ph.D was Assistant Professor of History for the American Military University for 2004 -2008. He has written and spoken widely about U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and the Middle East.

  60. @TheJester

    How about the \$billions in cash that were sent in planes to Iraq and are totally missing? They government/military can’t account for what happened to all that cash.

    My guess is that it went to ISIS.

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