Washington Blows Itself Up With Its Own Bomb. US Strategy Backfires
By F. William Engdahl
Global Research, May 26, 2015
These are sad days in Washington and Wall Street. The once unchallenged sole Superpower at the collapse of the Soviet Union some quarter century ago is losing its global influence so rapidly that most would not have predicted anything comparable six months ago. The key actor who has catalyzed a global defiance of Washington as Sole Superpower is Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President. This is the real background to the surprise visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Sochi to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then a four hour talk with “Satan” himself, Putin.
Far from a “reset” try, Washington’s hapless geopolitical strategists are desperately trying to find a better way to bring the Russian Bear to her knees.
A flash back to December 2014 is instructive to understand why the US Secretary of State holds out an apparent olive branch to Russia’s Putin at this juncture. At that point, Washington appeared about to pin Russia to the ground, with its precision targeted financial sanctions and its deal with Saudi Arabia to collapse oil prices. In mid-December the Ruble was in free fall against the dollar. Oil prices were similarly plummeting down to $45 a barrel from $107 only six months earlier. As Russia is strongly dependent on oil and gas export revenues for its state finances, and Russian companies held huge dollar debt obligations abroad, the situation was bleak as seen from inside the Kremlin.
Here fate, as it were, intervened in an unexpected way (at least by the USA architects of the financial warfare and oil collapse strategy). Not only was John Kerry’s September 2014 deal with ailing Saudi King Abdullah delivering heavy pain in the Russian finances. It was also threatening an explosion of an estimated $500 billion in high-risk-high-yield “junk” bonds, debt that the US shale oil industry had taken on from Wall Street banks in the past five years to finance the much-touted US shale oil revolution that briefly propelled the USA ahead of Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer.
US strategy backfires
What Kerry missed in his clever Saudi horse trading was the sly double agenda of the Saudi royals. They had earlier made clear they did not at all want their role as world premier oil producer and market king to be undercut by an upstart US shale oil industry. They were happy to give Russia and also Iran pain. But their central aim was to kill the US shale oil rivals. Their shale projects were calculated when oil was $100 a barrel, less than a year ago. Their minimum price of oil to avoid bankruptcy in most cases was $65 a barrel to $80 a barrel. Shale oil extraction is unconventional and more costly than conventional oil. Douglas-Westwood, an energy advisory firm, estimates that nearly half of the US oil projects under development need oil prices greater than $120 per barrel in order to achieve positive cash flow.
By end of December a chain-reaction series of shale oil bankruptcies threatened to detonate a new financial tsunami at a time the carnage from the 2007-2008 securitization financial crisis was anything but resolved. Even a few high-profile shale oil junk bond defaults would have triggered a domino-style panic in the US $1.9 trillion junk bond debt market, no doubt setting off a new financial meltdown that the over-stressed US Government and Federal Reserve could scarcely handle. It could have threatened the end of the US dollar as global reserve currency.
Suddenly in the first days of January, IMF head Lagarde was praising Russia’s central bank for its “successful” handling of the ruble crisis. The US Treasury Office of Financial Terrorism quietly eased off on further attacks on Russia while the Obama Administration pretended it was “World War III as usual” against Putin. The US oil strategy had inflicted far more damage on the US than on Russia.
USA Russia policy failure
Not only that. Washington’s brilliant total war strategy against Russia initiated with the November 2013 Kiev EuroMaidan coup d’etat has become a manifest, utter failure that is creating the worst imaginable geopolitical nightmare for Washington.
Far from reacting as a helpless victim and cowering in fear before the US efforts to isolate Russia, Putin initiated a brilliant series of foreign economic, military and political initiatives that by April added up to the seed crystal of a new global monetary order and a new Eurasian economic colossus to rival US sole superpower hegemony. He challenged the very foundations of the US-dominated dollar system and her global world order everywhere from India to Brazil to Cuba to Greece to Turkey. Russia and China signed mammoth new energy deals that allowed Russia to redirect its energy strategy from the west where the EU and Ukraine, both under strong Washington pressure, had sabotaged Russian EU gas deliveries via Ukraine. The EU, again under intense Washington pressure threw one monkey wrench after another into Gazprom’s South Stream natural gas pipeline project to southern Europe.
Rather than be defensive, Putin shocked the EU during his visit to Turkey and meeting with President Erdogan when he announced on December 1 that he had cancelled Gazprom’s South Stream project. He announced he would seek an agreement with Turkey to deliver Russian gas to the Greek border. From there, if the EU wants the gas they have to finance their own pipelines. The EU bluff was called. Their future gas needs were more remote than ever.
The EU sanctions on Russia also backfired as Russia retaliated with a ban on EU food imports and a turn to Russian self-sufficiency. And billions of dollars of contracts or exports from German firms like Siemens or France’s Total were suddenly in limbo. Boeing saw large aircraft orders to Russian carriers cancelled. Russia announced it was turning to national suppliers in production of critical defense components.
Then Russia became an “Asian” charter member of China’s remarkably successful new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) designed to finance its ambitious New Silk Road Economic Belt high-speed rail network across Eurasia into the EU. Rather than isolate Russia, US policy backfired badly as, despite strong pressures, US staunch allies including Britain, Germany, France and South Korea all rushed to join the new AIIB.
Further, at their May meeting in Moscow, China’s President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin announced that the China silk road rail infrastructure would be fully integrated with Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union, a staggering boost not only to Russia bit to Eurasia into China, a region containing the majority of the world’s population.
In short, by the point John Kerry was told to swallow hard and fly to Sochi, hat in hand, to offer some kind of peace pipe to Putin, US leading circles, the American Oligarchs had realized their aggressive neo-conservative warhawks like Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland of the State Department and Defense Secretary Ash Carter were propelling the creation of a new alternative world structure that could spell the ruin of the entire post-Bretton Woods Washington-dominated Dollar System. Oops.
In addition, by forcing her European “allies” to toe the US anti-Putin line, to the severe detriment of EU economic and political interests, alone her vigorous participation in the New Silk Road Economic Belt project and the economic boom in investment that will bring with it, Washington’s neo-conservatives have managed also to accelerate a probable parting of the ways between Germany, France and other Continental European powers to Washington.
Finally, as the whole world (including even Western anti-Atlantists) came to view Putin as the symbol of resistance to the American dominance. This perception first emerged at the time of the Snowden story but has solidified after the sanctions and blockade. Such perception, by the way, plays a significant psychological role in the geopolitical struggle – the presence of such a symbol opens up novel venues in the fight against the hegemony.
For all these reasons, Kerry was clearly sent to Sochi to sniff out possible soft points for a renewed assault in the future. He told the rogue US-backed lunatics in Kiev to cool it and respect the Minsk cease-fire accords. The demand came as a shock in Kiev. US-installed Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told French TV, “Sochi is definitely not the best resort and not the best place to have a chat with Russian president and Russian foreign minister.”
At this juncture the only thing clear is that Washington has finally realized the stupidity of its provocations against Russia in Ukraine and globally. What their next scheme will entail is not yet clear. Clear is that a dramatic policy shift has been ordered on the Obama administration from the highest levels of US institutions. Nothing else could explain the dramatic shift. If sanity replaces the neo-con insanity remains to be seen. Clear is that Russia and China are resolute about never again leaving themselves at the mercy of an incalculable sole superpower. Kerry’s pathetic attempt at a second Russia “reset” in Sochi will bring Washington little at this point. The US Oligarchy, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet put it, is being “hoist with their own petard,” as the bomb maker blows himself up with his own bomb.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
China Blasts Obama's "Paranoid, Narrow-Minded, Arrogant, & Hypocritical" Foreign Policy
by Tyler Durden 03/04/2015 --- Zero Hedge
Yeah but apart from that, US-China relations are excellent. Following President Obama's barbed comments aimed at China's new counter-terrorism laws (and their implications for US tech companies - as NSA spying 'facts' reduce China's appetite for American-made IT products), Beijing has blasted back. In one of the least holds-barred undiploatic statements in recent times, China (speaking through its official mouthpiece Xinhua), calls Obama's criticism "utterly groundless and another piece of evidence of arrogance and hypocrisy of the U.S. foreign policy." And with that they are just getting started...
U.S. President Barack Obama's criticism of the upcoming counterterrorism law of China is utterly groundless and another piece of evidence of arrogance and hypocrisy of the U.S. foreign policy.
Although the enactment of a Chinese law is an entirely internal affair of China, Obama insisted that the measure, which would require technology firms to give Chinese authorities surveillance access in order to collect intelligence about terrorists, is "something they are going to have to change if they are to do business with the United States".
To begin with, the provisions are written for and solely for acquiring more and better counterterrorism intelligence, as China is facing severe threats from various domestic terrorists, for instance, the so-called "East Turkestan Liberation Organization."
Terrorists nowadays use more and more modern technologies for communications and collaboration. And it hasbecome a common practice in many Western countries, including the U.S. itself, to keep a close watch on the Internet and telecommunication networks for possible hints of terrorism and other criminal activities.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency both have access to the equipment of major U.S. technology firms.
FBI Director James Comey publicly warned companies like Apple and Google in 2014 against using encryption that the law enforcement authorities cannot break.
While defending the legitimacy and necessity of similar behaviors in his own country, Obama's criticism of Chinese counterterrorism law obviously shows selfishness and hypocrisy of the U.S. foreign policy.
Secondly, the surveillance of terrorism actions on equipment of the Internet and telecommunication companies in China will be carried out strictly in accordance with the law.
Russia and China have finally realized that their choice is vassalage or war
by Paul Craig Roberts
Keynote Address to the Annual Conference of the Financial West Group, New Orleans, May 7, 2015
The defining events of our time are the collapse of the Soviet Union, 9/11, jobs offshoring, and financial deregulation. In these events we find the basis of our foreign policy problems and our economic problems.
The United States has always had a good opinion of itself, but with the Soviet collapse self-satisfaction reached new heights. We became the exceptional people, the indispensable people, the country chosen by history to exercise hegemony over the world. This neoconservative doctrine releases the US government from constraints of international law and allows Washington to use coercion against sovereign states in order to remake the world in its own image.
To protect Washington’s unique Uni-power status that resulted from the Soviet collapse, Paul Wolfowitz in 1992 penned what is known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine. This doctrine is the basis for Washington’s foreign policy. The doctrine states:
“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”
In March of this year the Council on Foreign Relations extended this doctrine to China.
Washington is now committed to blocking the rise of two large nuclear-armed countries. This commitment is the reason for the crisis that Washington has created in Ukraine and for its use as anti-Russian propaganda. China is now confronted with the Pivot to Asia and the construction of new US naval and air bases to ensure Washington’s control of the South China Sea, now defined as an area of American National Interests.
9/11 served to launch the neoconservatives’ war for hegemony in the Middle East. 9/11 also served to launch the domestic police state. While civil liberties have shriveled at home, the US has been at war for almost the entirety of the 21st century, wars that have cost us, according to Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, at least $6 trillion dollars. These wars have gone very badly. They have destabilized governments in an important energy producing area. And the wars have vastly multiplied the “terrorists,” the quelling of which was the official reason for the wars.
Just as the Soviet collapse unleashed US hegemony, it gave rise to jobs offshoring. The Soviet collapse convinced China and India to open their massive underutilized labor markets to US capital. US corporations, with any reluctant ones pushed by large retailers and Wall Street’s threat of financing takeovers, moved manufacturing, industrial, and tradable professional service jobs, such as software engineering, abroad.
This decimated the American middle class and removed ladders of upward mobility. US GDP and tax base moved with the jobs to China and India. US real median family incomes ceased to grow and declined. Without income growth to drive the economy, Alan Greenspan resorted to an expansion of consumer debt, which has run its course. Currently there is nothing to drive the economy.
When the goods and services produced by offshored jobs are brought to the US to be sold, they enter as imports, thus worsening the trade balance. Foreigners use their trade surpluses to acquire US bonds, equities, companies, and real estate. Consequently, interests, dividends, capital gains, and rents are redirected from Americans to foreigners. This worsens the current account deficit.
In order to protect the dollar’s exchange value in the face of large current account deficits and money creation in support of the balance sheets of “banks too big to fail,” Washington has the Japanese and European central banks printing money hand over fist. The printing of yen and euros offsets the printing of dollars and thus protects the dollar’s exchange value.
The Glass-Steagall Act that separated commercial and investment banking had been somewhat eroded prior to the total repeal during the second term of the Clinton regime. This repeal, together with the failure to regulate over the counter derivatives, the removal of position limits on speculators, and the enormous financial concentration that resulted from the dead letter status of anti-trust laws, produced not free market utopia but a serious and ongoing financial crisis. The liquidity issued in behalf of this crisis has resulted in stock and bond market bubbles.
Implications, consequences, solutions:
When Russia blocked the Obama regime’s planned invasion of Syria and intended bombing of Iran, the neoconservatives realized that while they had been preoccupied with their wars in the Middle East and Africa for a decade, Putin had restored the Russian economy and military.
The first objective of the Wolfowitz doctrine–to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival–had been breached. Here was Russia telling the US “No.” The British Parliament joined in by vetoing UK participation in a US invasion of Syria. The Uni-Power status was shaken.
This redirected the attention of the neoconservatives from the Middle East to Russia. Over the previous decade Washington had invested $5 billion in financing up-and-coming politicians in Ukraine and non-governmental organizations that could be sent into the streets in protests.
When the president of Ukraine did a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed association of Ukraine with the EU, he saw that it didn’t pay and rejected it. At that point Washington called the NGOs into the streets. The neo-nazis added the violence and the government unprepared for violence collapsed.
Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt chose the new Ukrainian government and established a vassal regime in Ukraine.
Washington hoped to use the coup to evict Russia from its Black Sea naval base, Russia’s only warm water port. However, Crimea, for centuries a part of Russia, elected to return to Russia. Washington was frustrated, but recovered from disappointment and described Crimean self-determination as Russian invasion and annexation. Washington used this propaganda to break up Europe’s economic and political relationships with Russia by pressuring Europe into sanctions against Russia.
The sanctions have had adverse impacts on Europe. Additionally, Europeans are concerned with Washington’s growing belligerence. Europe has nothing to gain from conflict with Russia and fears being pushed into war. There are indications that some European governments are considering a foreign policy independent of Washington’s.
The virulent anti-Russian propaganda and demonization of Putin has destroyed Russian confidence in the West. With the NATO commander Breedlove demanding more money, more troops, more bases on Russia’s borders, the situation is dangerous. In a direct military challenge to Moscow, Washington is seeking to incorporate both Ukraine and Georgia, two former Russian provinces, into NATO.
On the economic scene the dollar as reserve currency is a problem for the entire world. Sanctions and other forms of American financial imperialism are causing countries, including very large ones, to leave the dollar payments system. As foreign trade is increasingly conducted without recourse to the US dollar, the demand for dollars drops, but the supply has been greatly expanded as a result of Quantitative Easing. Because of offshored production and US dependence on imports, a drop in the dollar’s exchange value would result in domestic inflation, further lowering US living standards and threatening the rigged, stock, bond, and precious metal markets.
The real reason for Quantitative Easing is to support the banks’ balance sheets. However, the official reason is to stimulate the economy and sustain economic recovery. The only sign of recovery is real GDP which shows up as positive only because the deflator is understated.
The evidence is clear that there has been no economic recovery. With the first quarter GDP negative and the second quarter likely to be negative as well, the second-leg of the long downturn could begin this summer.
Moreover, the current high unemployment (23 percent) is different from previous unemployment. In the postwar 20th century, the Federal Reserve dealt with inflation by cooling down the economy. Sales would decline, inventories would build up, and layoffs would occur. As unemployment rose, the Fed would reverse course and workers would be called back to their jobs. Today the jobs are no longer there. They have been moved offshore. The factories are gone. There are no jobs to which to call workers back.
To restore the economy requires that offshoring be reversed and the jobs brought back to the US. This could be done by changing the way corporations are taxed. The tax rate on corporate profit could be determined by the geographic location at which corporations add value to the products that they market in the US. If the goods and services are produced offshore, the tax rate would be high. If the goods and services are produced domestically, the tax rate could be low. The tax rates could be set to offset the lower costs of producing abroad.
Considering the lobbying power of transnational corporations and Wall Street, this is an unlikely reform. My conclusion is that the US economy will continue its decline.
On the foreign policy front, the hubris and arrogance of America’s self-image as the “exceptional, indispensable” country with hegemonic rights over other countries means that the world is primed for war. Neither Russia nor China will accept the vassalage status accepted by the UK, Germany, France and the rest of Europe, Canada, Japan and Australia. The Wolfowitz Doctrine makes it clear that the price of world peace is the world’s acceptance of Washington’s hegemony.
Therefore, unless the dollar and with it US power collapses or Europe finds the courage to break with Washington and to pursue an independent foreign policy, saying good-bye to NATO, nuclear war is our likely future.
Washington’s aggression and blatant propaganda have convinced Russia and China that Washington intends war, and this realization has drawn the two countries into a strategic alliance. Russia’s May 9 Victory Day celebration of the defeat of Hitler is a historical turning point. Western governments boycotted the celebration, and the Chinese were there in their place. For the first time Chinese soldiers marched in the parade with Russian soldiers, and the president of China sat next to the president of Russia.
The Saker’s report on the Moscow celebration is interesting. Especially note the chart of World War II casualties. Russian casualties compared to the combined casualties of the US, UK, and France make it completely clear that it was Russia that defeated Hitler. In the Orwellian West, the latest rewriting of history leaves out of the story the Red Army’s destruction of the Wehrmacht. In line with the rewritten history, Obama’s remarks on the 70th anniversary of Germany’s surrender mentioned only US forces. In contrast Putin expressed gratitude to “the peoples of Great Britain, France and the United States of America for their contribution to the victory.”
For many years now the President of Russia has made the point publicly that the West does not listen to Russia. Washington and its vassal states in Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan do not hear when Russia says “don’t push us this hard, we are not your enemy. We want to be your partners.”
As the years have passed without Washington hearing, Russia and China have finally realized that their choice is vassalage or war. Had there been any intelligent, qualified people in the National Security Council, the State Department, or the Pentagon, Washington would have been warned away from the neocon policy of sowing distrust. But with only neocon hubris present in the government, Washington made the mistake that could be fateful for humanity.
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost.
In fact, the same paranoid and narrow-mindedness, as demonstrated by the over-action of Obama and his cabinet members to the provisions in the Chinese anti-terrorism law, has also denied Chinese technology companies' access to the U.S. market.
Contrary to the accusations of the United States, China's anti-terror law will put no unfair regulatory pressures on foreign companies, because the provisions will apply to both domestic and foreign firms.
Moreover, to win the global fight against terrorism, Obama and his government should treat China on equal terms and stop making foreign policies based on realpolitik and the short term pursuit of its own unilateral interests.
Less than three weeks after Obama held the "counterterrorism summit" in Washington and referred terrorism as one the greatest threats in this generation, the president has begun to slam the counter-terrorism efforts of another country, which makes people naturally question the real intentions of such accusations.
China's new counterterrorism law can help fight terrorism in a better and more effective way. Any setback of terrorists is a victory of all countries.
The sooner Obama and his government understand this, the better will the world benefit
The Myth of American Exceptionalism
The idea that the United States is uniquely virtuous may be comforting to Americans. Too bad it's not true.
BY STEPHEN M. WALT ----- Foreign Policy
Over the last two centuries, prominent Americans have described the United States as an "empire of liberty," a "shining city on a hill," the "last best hope of Earth," the "leader of the free world," and the "indispensable nation." These enduring tropes explain why all presidential candidates feel compelled to offer ritualistic paeans to America’s greatness and why President Barack Obama landed in hot water — most recently, from Mitt Romney — for saying that while he believed in "American exceptionalism," it was no different from "British exceptionalism," "Greek exceptionalism," or any other country’s brand of patriotic chest-thumping.
Most statements of "American exceptionalism" presume that America’s values, political system, and history are unique and worthy of universal admiration. They also imply that the United States is both destined and entitled to play a distinct and positive role on the world stage.
The only thing wrong with this self-congratulatory portrait of America’s global role is that it is mostly a myth. Although the United States possesses certain unique qualities — from high levels of religiosity to a political culture that privileges individual freedom — the conduct of U.S. foreign policy has been determined primarily by its relative power and by the inherently competitive nature of international politics. By focusing on their supposedly exceptional qualities, Americans blind themselves to the ways that they are a lot like everyone else.
This unchallenged faith in American exceptionalism makes it harder for Americans to understand why others are less enthusiastic about U.S. dominance, often alarmed by U.S. policies, and frequently irritated by what they see as U.S. hypocrisy, whether the subject is possession of nuclear weapons, conformity with international law, or America’s tendency to condemn the conduct of others while ignoring its own failings. Ironically, U.S. foreign policy would probably be more effective if Americans were less convinced of their own unique virtues and less eager to proclaim them.
What we need, in short, is a more realistic and critical assessment of America’s true character and contributions. In that spirit, I offer here the Top 5 Myths about American Exceptionalism.
There Is Something Exceptional About American Exceptionalism.
Whenever American leaders refer to the "unique" responsibilities of the United States, they are saying that it is different from other powers and that these differences require them to take on special burdens.
Yet there is nothing unusual about such lofty declarations; indeed, those who make them are treading a well-worn path. Most great powers have considered themselves superior to their rivals and have believed that they were advancing some greater good when they imposed their preferences on others. The British thought they were bearing the "white man’s burden," while French colonialists invoked la mission civilisatrice to justify their empire. Portugal, whose imperial activities were hardly distinguished, believed it was promoting a certain missão civilizadora. Even many of the officials of the former Soviet Union genuinely believed they were leading the world toward a socialist utopia despite the many cruelties that communist rule inflicted. Of course, the United States has by far the better claim to virtue than Stalin or his successors, but Obama was right to remind us that all countries prize their own particular qualities.
So when Americans proclaim they are exceptional and indispensable, they are simply the latest nation to sing a familiar old song. Among great powers, thinking you’re special is the norm, not the exception.
The United States Behaves Better Than Other Nations Do.
Declarations of American exceptionalism rest on the belief that the United States is a uniquely virtuous nation, one that loves peace, nurtures liberty, respects human rights, and embraces the rule of law. Americans like to think their country behaves much better than other states do, and certainly better than other great powers.
If only it were true. The United States may not have been as brutal as the worst states in world history, but a dispassionate look at the historical record belies most claims about America’s moral superiority.
For starters, the United States has been one of the most expansionist powers in modern history. It began as 13 small colonies clinging to the Eastern Seaboard, but eventually expanded across North America, seizing Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California from Mexico in 1846. Along the way, it eliminated most of the native population and confined the survivors to impoverished reservations. By the mid-19th century, it had pushed Britain out of the Pacific Northwest and consolidated its hegemony over the Western Hemisphere.
The United States has fought numerous wars since then — starting several of them — and its wartime conduct has hardly been a model of restraint. The 1899-1902 conquest of the Philippines killed some 200,000 to 400,000 Filipinos, most of them civilians, and the United States and its allies did not hesitate to dispatch some 305,000 German and 330,000 Japanese civilians through aerial bombing during World War II, mostly through deliberate campaigns against enemy cities. No wonder Gen. Curtis LeMay, who directed the bombing campaign against Japan, told an aide, "If the U.S. lost the war, we would be prosecuted as war criminals." The United States dropped more than 6 million tons of bombs during the Indochina war, including tons of napalm and lethal defoliants like Agent Orange, and it is directly responsible for the deaths of many of the roughly 1 million civilians who died in that war.
More recently, the U.S.-backed Contra war in Nicaragua killed some 30,000 Nicaraguans, a percentage of their population equivalent to 2 million dead Americans. U.S. military action has led directly or indirectly to the deaths of 250,000 Muslims over the past three decades (and that’s a low-end estimate, not counting the deaths resulting from the sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s), including the more than 100,000 people who died following the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. U.S. drones and Special Forces are going after suspected terrorists in at least five countries at present and have killed an unknown number of innocent civilians in the process. Some of these actions may have been necessary to make Americans more prosperous and secure. But while Americans would undoubtedly regard such acts as indefensible if some foreign country were doing them to us, hardly any U.S. politicians have questioned these policies. Instead, Americans still wonder, "Why do they hate us?"
The United States talks a good game on human rights and international law, but it has refused to sign most human rights treaties, is not a party to the International Criminal Court, and has been all too willing to cozy up to dictators — remember our friend Hosni Mubarak? — with abysmal human rights records. If that were not enough, the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the George W. Bush administration’s reliance on waterboarding, extraordinary rendition, and preventive detention should shake America’s belief that it consistently acts in a morally superior fashion. Obama’s decision to retain many of these policies suggests they were not a temporary aberration.
The United States never conquered a vast overseas empire or caused millions to die through tyrannical blunders like China’s Great Leap Forward or Stalin’s forced collectivization. And given the vast power at its disposal for much of the past century, Washington could certainly have done much worse. But the record is clear: U.S. leaders have done what they thought they had to do when confronted by external dangers, and they paid scant attention to moral principles along the way. The idea that the United States is uniquely virtuous may be comforting to Americans; too bad it’s not true.
America’s Success Is Due to Its Special Genius.
The United States has enjoyed remarkable success, and Americans tend to portray their rise to world power as a direct result of the political foresight of the Founding Fathers, the virtues of the U.S. Constitution, the priority placed on individual liberty, and the creativity and hard work of the American people. In this narrative, the United States enjoys an exceptional global position today because it is, well, exceptional.
There is more than a grain of truth to this version of American history. It’s not an accident that immigrants came to America in droves in search of economic opportunity, and the "melting pot" myth facilitated the assimilation of each wave of new Americans. America’s scientific and technological achievements are fully deserving of praise and owe something to the openness and vitality of the American political order.
But America’s past success is due as much to good luck as to any uniquely American virtues. The new nation was lucky that the continent was lavishly endowed with natural resources and traversed by navigable rivers. It was lucky to have been founded far from the other great powers and even luckier that the native population was less advanced and highly susceptible to European diseases. Americans were fortunate that the European great powers were at war for much of the republic’s early history, which greatly facilitated its expansion across the continent, and its global primacy was ensured after the other great powers fought two devastating world wars. This account of America’s rise does not deny that the United States did many things right, but it also acknowledges that America’s present position owes as much to good fortune as to any special genius or "manifest destiny."
The United States Is Responsible for Most of the Good in the World.
Americans are fond of giving themselves credit for positive international developments. President Bill Clinton believed the United States was "indispensable to the forging of stable political relations," and the late Harvard University political scientist Samuel P. Huntington thought U.S. primacy was central "to the future of freedom, democracy, open economies, and international order in the world." Journalist Michael Hirsh has gone even further, writing in his book At War With Ourselves that America’s global role is "the greatest gift the world has received in many, many centuries, possibly all of recorded history." Scholarly works such as Tony Smith’s America’s Mission and G. John Ikenberry’s Liberal Leviathan emphasize America’s contribution to the spread of democracy and its promotion of a supposedly liberal world order. Given all the high-fives American leaders have given themselves, it is hardly surprising that most Americans see their country as an overwhelmingly positive force in world affairs.
Once again, there is something to this line of argument, just not enough to make it entirely accurate. The United States has made undeniable contributions to peace and stability in the world over the past century, including the Marshall Plan, the creation and management of the Bretton Woods system, its rhetorical support for the core principles of democracy and human rights, and its mostly stabilizing military presence in Europe and the Far East. But the belief that all good things flow from Washington’s wisdom overstates the U.S. contribution by a wide margin.
For starters, though Americans watching Saving Private Ryan or Patton may conclude that the United States played the central role in vanquishing Nazi Germany, most of the fighting was in Eastern Europe and the main burden of defeating Hitler’s war machine was borne by the Soviet Union. Similarly, though the Marshall Plan and NATO played important roles in Europe’s post-World War II success, Europeans deserve at least as much credit for rebuilding their economies, constructing a novel economic and political union, and moving beyond four centuries of sometimes bitter rivalry. Americans also tend to think they won the Cold War all by themselves, a view that ignores the contributions of other anti-Soviet adversaries and the courageous dissidents whose resistance to communist rule produced the "velvet revolutions" of 1989.
Moreover, as Godfrey Hodgson recently noted in his sympathetic but clear-eyed book, The Myth of American Exceptionalism, the spread of liberal ideals is a global phenomenon with roots in the Enlightenment, and European philosophers and political leaders did much to advance the democratic ideal. Similarly, the abolition of slavery and the long effort to improve the status of women owe more to Britain and other democracies than to the United States, where progress in both areas trailed many other countries. Nor can the United States claim a global leadership role today on gay rights, criminal justice, or economic equality — Europe’s got those areas covered.
Finally, any honest accounting of the past half-century must acknowledge the downside of American primacy. The United States has been the major producer of greenhouse gases for most of the last hundred years and thus a principal cause of the adverse changes that are altering the global environment. The United States stood on the wrong side of the long struggle against apartheid in South Africa and backed plenty of unsavory dictatorships — including Saddam Hussein’s — when short-term strategic interests dictated. Americans may be justly proud of their role in creating and defending Israel and in combating global anti-Semitism, but its one-sided policies have also prolonged Palestinian statelessness and sustained Israel’s brutal occupation.
Bottom line: Americans take too much credit for global progress and accept too little blame for areas where U.S. policy has in fact been counterproductive. Americans are blind to their weak spots, and in ways that have real-world consequences. Remember when Pentagon planners thought U.S. troops would be greeted in Baghdad with flowers and parades? They mostly got RPGs and IEDs instead.
God Is on Our Side.
A crucial component of American exceptionalism is the belief that the United States has a divinely ordained mission to lead the rest of the world. Ronald Reagan told audiences that there was "some divine plan" that had placed America here, and once quoted Pope Pius XII saying, "Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind." Bush offered a similar view in 2004, saying, "We have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom." The same idea was expressed, albeit less nobly, in Otto von Bismarck’s alleged quip that "God has a special providence for fools, drunks, and the United States."
Confidence is a valuable commodity for any country. But when a nation starts to think it enjoys the mandate of heaven and becomes convinced that it cannot fail or be led astray by scoundrels or incompetents, then reality is likely to deliver a swift rebuke. Ancient Athens, Napoleonic France, imperial Japan, and countless other countries have succumbed to this sort of hubris, and nearly always with catastrophic results.
Despite America’s many successes, the country is hardly immune from setbacks, follies, and boneheaded blunders. If you have any doubts about that, just reflect on how a decade of ill-advised tax cuts, two costly and unsuccessful wars, and a financial meltdown driven mostly by greed and corruption have managed to squander the privileged position the United States enjoyed at the end of the 20th century. Instead of assuming that God is on their side, perhaps Americans should heed Abraham Lincoln’s admonition that our greatest concern should be "whether we are on God’s side."
Given the many challenges Americans now face, from persistent unemployment to the burden of winding down two deadly wars, it’s unsurprising that they find the idea of their own exceptionalism comforting — and that their aspiring political leaders have been proclaiming it with increasing fervor. Such patriotism has its benefits, but not when it leads to a basic misunderstanding of America’s role in the world. This is exactly how bad decisions get made.
America has its own special qualities, as all countries do, but it is still a state embedded in a competitive global system. It is far stronger and richer than most, and its geopolitical position is remarkably favorable. These advantages give the United States a wider range of choice in its conduct of foreign affairs, but they don’t ensure that its choices will be good ones. Far from being a unique state whose behavior is radically different from that of other great powers, the United States has behaved like all the rest, pursuing its own self-interest first and foremost, seeking to improve its relative position over time, and devoting relatively little blood or treasure to purely idealistic pursuits. Yet, just like past great powers, it has convinced itself that it is different, and better, than everyone else.
International politics is a contact sport, and even powerful states must compromise their political principles for the sake of security and prosperity. Nationalism is also a powerful force, and it inevitably highlights the country’s virtues and sugarcoats its less savory aspects. But if Americans want to be truly exceptional, they might start by viewing the whole idea of "American exceptionalism" with a much more skeptical eye.
As A Nation, we are seriously delusional
The world is right to hate us:
Arrogance, ignorance and obscene foreign policy This White House was supposed to be different. But our arrogant foreign policy has been the same since the 1950s
by PATRICK L. SMITH ----- Salon
Every time we overhear American diplomats talking when we are not supposed to, the conduct of American foreign policy sounds stupider and less imaginative. You step back and say, No wonder America’s relations in the Middle East and across both oceans have deteriorated since the Berlin Wall crumbled to the point they are now a probably irretrievable muddle.
The latest lifting of the lid occurred just the other week. And this one is a doozy — better than some of the tidal wave of stuff Chelsea Manning gave WikiLeaks for release in the summer and autumn of 2010.
This time we are in Kiev, and we get to hear two American diplomats talking about Washington’s plan, already in motion, to install a client regime in the Ukraine. The operational detail is astonishing.
The two State Department hacks are Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary for European affairs, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the Obama administration’s ambassador in Kiev. Both are foreign service careerists, and it shows: They are ready to disrupt the Ukrainian political process with subterfuge and manipulation that are of a fine Cold War vintage.
Readers may be familiar with the four-minute audio clip, which YouTube disseminated last Friday. The thing went fairly viral, mostly because of Nuland’s X-rated recommendation for the European Union, which also takes a lively interest in Ukraine these days. The Europeans, she told Pyatt, should be shoved aside with what in another context would be called the act of love.
“No, exactly,” the sycophantic Pyatt replies without missing a syllable.
Well, yes, exactly. The sailor’s language is surprising, and maybe a little fun to find in an exchange of supposedly sophisticated diplomats. But anyone titillated by Nuland’s vulgar tongue more than very briefly misses the point entirely.
Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, quickly tweeted as the recording spread around the world, “Critics of @VictoriaNuland worldwide: let him who has never used strong language in private cast the first stone.” This is the point. Forget that stone. There are others to cast.
A little background. As a republic in the old Soviet Union, Ukraine has been restless within its economic and geopolitical political confines since it declared independence in 1991. There is a desire to shake free of the ancien regime in favor of freer markets, a more liberal society, and so on.
Last year President Viktor Yanukovich was in negotiations with the European Union for an extensive trade agreement, to be signed in tandem with an International Monetary Fund bailout. It would have been the key moment of departure for Ukrainians: They would walk away from their post–Soviet inheritance and enter — tentatively at first, maybe more later — the West European orbit.
Then Yanukovich pulled an abrupt volte-face, turning back to Moscow and a $15 billion bailout package President Putin dangled. And this is when protesters against the Yanukovich government, as seen and described in the world’s media daily, began to fill Kiev’s streets.
It is plain what happened. And demonizing Yanukovich is a distraction. Numerous of his opposition are oligarchs of the new Russian model, in it for the opportunity. Yanukovich was all for the break with Moscow, but Ukraine could not afford it. The EU’s offers came with too many conditions and amounted to small fractions of Putin’s; they did not address an economy in critical trouble.
A Reuters correspondent, Elizabeth Piper, produced a superb blow-by-blow account of Ukraine’s predicament late last year. In it she quoted Volodymyr Oliynyk, a close ally of the president. “We go one way to Russia and we get hit,” he said. “We go the other way, to Europe, and we get hit. We stand still, and we get hit.” And then, referring to the turn back to Moscow: “But it will hurt less this way.”
It is persuasive. Look at the numbers Piper cites. Read the EU conditions, some of which were spiteful and without point other than to cultivate euro-tilted political tendencies, an intent with no place in a trade and economic package.
There are regrettable things in this. One is the extent to which geography and history can stifle aspirations and ask great sacrifice. Another — and we saw this severally after the Wall came down — there is a tendency in the East European nations to idealize the West, as if Westernizing is the solution to all problems. I see this among the Kiev demonstrators. It is a mistake. Disillusion is never far when people follow this line of thought to its end.
Now we come to Nuland’s remarks to her underling.
The Europeans and the Americans share a goal in Ukraine: The West unites on the thought of undermining Putin’s neo-imperial ambitions and pushing institutions such as NATO up to his doorstep. Here is the departure: The EU proposed doing this by enticing Kiev westward with a carrot surrounded on the dish with sticks, while the Americans wanted to go in directly to exert covert influence in the political process.
Nuland’s language interests me only to the extent it reveals the extraordinary limitations of an influential representative of the U.S. Repeat the phrase a few times, think of who said it and at what moment, and you are forced to recognize it actually stands as a policy judgment.
More interesting by far are the machinations Nuland and Pyatt describe. The American plot revolves around manipulating various figures in the opposition, backing the fortunes of some, keeping others from the table, so inducing some sort of friendly post-Yanukovich government, bent from its very conception.
We arrive only briefly amid a months-long conversation, but the undertaking is clear in outline and apparently not far from getting underway. “I think we’re in play,” Pyatt offers. And: “We’ve got to do something to make it stick … We want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing.”
On this last point, Nuland thinks Vice President Biden is the man, and she wants some good U.N. cover in the meantime. “That would be great,” she remarks, “to help glue this thing and to have the U.N. help glue it and, you know, fuck the EU.”
We do not know who recorded these remarks. It is almost certainly the Russians, though neither Moscow nor Kiev has had any comment. And it is unlikely, let us say, that Moscow thought Nuland’s vulgarity was so awful it was worth exposing. The clip is about meddling; this was Putin’s point (assuming it was his point).
There are a couple of good guides through this important audio clip — interestingly, neither supplied by an American. The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, gives us an annotated transcript. Another view comes from the Centre for Research on Globalization, an independent think tank in Montreal.
There are take-homes for us in this mess. I find it astonishing that in 2014 Washington fields diplomats executing policies — intrusive, probably illegal, corrupting — that are in essence unchanged since the Dulles brothers — Allen at the CIA and John Foster at State — devised them in the early 1950s.
I find the revelation of ignorance astonishing, too. Look at a map. What good could possible come of an attempt to install a client government on Russia’s doorstep? How could anyone judge this wise — or to hold even a smidge of promise? Equally, the history: Do Nuland and Pyatt and those above them reflect upon how 60-odd years of these kinds of operations have worked out?
I hear a disturbing inability to think or see the world as it is or alter course in those four minutes of YouTube. Foreign policy is pure function now: No need to consider the why or the wisdom of it; ambitious apparatchiks will simply get it done as it has been done before.
In a world busy changing, the nation that cannot change — well, anyone can finish this sentence.
Patrick Smith is the author of “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century.” He was the International Herald Tribune’s bureau chief in Hong Kong and then Tokyo from 1985 to 1992. During this time he also wrote “Letter from Tokyo” for the New Yorker. He is the author of four previous books and has contributed frequently to the New York Times, the Nation, the Washington Quarterly, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter, @thefloutist.
The Myth of American Exceptionalism
by Godfrey Hodgson
The idea that the United States is destined to spread its unique gifts of democracy and capitalism to other countries is dangerous for Americans and for the rest of the world, warns Godfrey Hodgson in this provocative book. Hodgson, a shrewd and highly respected British commentator, argues that America is not as exceptional as it would like to think; its blindness to its own history has bred a complacent nationalism and a disastrous foreign policy that has isolated and alienated it from the global community.
Tracing the development of America’s high self regard from the early days of the republic to the present era, Hodgson demonstrates how its exceptionalism has been systematically exaggerated and—in recent decades—corrupted. While there have been distinct and original elements in America’s history and political philosophy, notes Hodgson, these have always been more heavily influenced by European thought and experience than Americans have been willing to acknowledge.
A stimulating and timely assessment of how America’s belief in its exceptionalism has led it astray, this book is mandatory reading for its citizens, admirers, and detractors.
Godfrey Hodgson is a Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford. He lives in Oxfordshire, UK.
A History of American Silliness Regarding Other Countries
About a hundred years after the Marquis de Lafayette and other French nobles volunteered as officers in the American Revolutionary War, which the French government also helped fund, about 200,000 people lined the docks at New York to welcome a ship named Isère, which carried in 214 wooden crates the copper pieces of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France and a bond of two of the world's oldest and surest democracies. About a hundred years after that, the U.S. Congress ordered its cafeteria to relabel French fries as "freedom fries." Soon after, French's Mustard put out a press release assuring consumers, "The only thing French about French's Mustard is the name."
from: The Atlantic
In March 2003, a gung-ho U.S. House of Representatives opted to rebrand french fries and french toast in the chamber's cafeteria as "Freedom fries" and "Freedom toast." The previous October, a rubber-stamp Congress had approved President George W. Bush's plans to invade Iraq. Among the United States' Western allies, France was the most outspoken in opposition.
French diplomats wanted more time for U.N. weapons inspectors to evaluate whether Saddam Hussein's Iraq possessed the "weapons of mass destruction" that the Bush administration was convinced it had. In hindsight, they, alongside many others opposed to the invasion, were right.
Nevertheless, American ire at France's refusal to go along with Bush's war was pronounced. And it led to the churlish renaming of fried foods. "This action today is a small but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally France," said Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), then the chairman of the Committee on House Administration.
from: The Washington Post
Ironically, french fries were not originally a French food but a Belgian one. The term was carried over to the United States by veterans of World War I, who also brought us the term "French toast," even though the concept for French toast was also created in Belgium.
Compare this phenomenon to the substitutions of "hot dog" for "frankfurter" (which caught on enough to survive) and "liberty cabbage" for "sauerkraut" (which is downright silly, and didn't). Anti-German sentiment during World War I was responsible for this sort of thing. Dachshunds also became "liberty hounds." The dumbest of these was the renaming of German measles to "liberty measles.
One might wonder at Americans associating the French with freedom and the Germans with liberty.
Similarly, during the Cold War when the word "red" was used as a derogatory term for communists and socialists, the Cincinnati Reds officially changed their name from "Reds" to "Redlegs" from the 1953 through the 1960 seasons. (The team still uses the name "Mr. Redlegs" for its 1890s-style mascot.)
from: Rational Wiki
Europe will Move Closer to Russia & Greece will Exit Euro
Armstrong Economics --- February 8, 2015 by Martin Armstrong
Despite the hard-line insanity of US foreign policy that seems to be hell-bent on creating World War III keeping in line that it has historically been the Democrats that take America into War, everything from behind the curtain is hinting that Europe will have no choice but align itself closer with Russia.
The arrogance of the Obama Administration is tearing the world apart just as the arrogance of the Athenian Empire. In both cases, that self-centeredism of Athens turned her allies to the other side – Sparta. The USA is doing exactly the same thing because human nature never changes. The sanctions were stupid for they only hurt Europeans, not Americans. It sent record numbers of European farmers into financial crisis for no reason whatsoever.
Putin is the master chess player. He simply had to step up pressure in Ukraine to force a divide between USA and Europe. He knew the West was weak and would not send in ground troops. It was a brilliant strategy that is indeed yielding fruit. The fact that Kerry has to come out to DENY that there is a split between US and European views regarding Russia proves the entire point. Politicians do not have to deny things that are not true. Conspiracy theories that make no sense they do not bother to deny – it’s just not necessary.
Turns out "don't do stupid shit" is an underrated guiding principle for a president
Not the most destructive: that title would go to the decision to invade Iraq, plus the ongoing ramifications of the age of torture, open-ended war, and the security/surveillance state.
But the Cuba policy has been the stupidest, because there have been absolutely zero rational arguments for its strategic wisdom or tactical effectiveness. Jeffrey Goldberg, who has traveled in Cuba and interviewed Castro, more tactfully calls it "ridiculous." In my impetuous youth a few years ago, I called it not the stupidest part of U.S. policy but the "most idiotic." Take your pick.
I choose "at least 35 years" as the demarcation point for undeniable irrationality because that is when the U.S. fully normalized its relations with mainland China. If successive Republican and Democratic administrations could see the merit of trying to engage (rather than exclude) a one-party repressive communist-run state, even when that state had four times as many people as the U.S. did, and is nuclear-armed, and is a regional rival of several U.S. allies, how much more obvious is the case for a tiny little island practically within eyesight of the American mainland and certain to fall under the sway of U.S. cultural and economic influence if given a chance?
Not to mention that recognizing the People's Republic of China meant cutting off America's relationship with the people and government of the Republic of China on Taiwan, which itself has twice the population of Cuba and nearly 10 times as large an economy. There is no comparable tit-for-tat cost for the U.S. in normalizing relations with Cuba. As shown by the photo above, there are protests in Little Havana today. That is nothing compared with the riots in Taiwan after the U.S. announcement, which Warren Christopher braved when traveling there in 1978 to deliver the official news that the U.S. no longer considered Taiwan a real country.
The stupid policy persisted because of inertia, and because there actually was a counterpart to the Cold War-era "China Lobby" that pressured against dealing with Mao's Beijing government and in favor of Chiang Kai-Shek's Taiwan. This was of course the emigre Cuban community concentrated in Florida. Let's round up to say that perhaps 1 percent of the U.S. population has modern family ties to Cuba. That's not many people. But enough members of that 1 percent would work hard enough, in a concentrated enough political sphere, with enough resources and intensity behind them, that they were able, NRA-style, to make this a line just not worth crossing for most politicians. Very few members of the remaining 99 percent of the electorate were going to switch their votes based on Cuba policy. Why should politicians take the risk of infuriating the minority that cared?
Thus even though people out of electoral office--Richard Nixon as an ex-president, William F. Buckley, even (bravely!) Paul Ryan before his vice-presidential run—have urged opening up to Cuba, for people in office, or considering a run, the ramifications in Florida have made such a move not worth the risk and bother. Every sane person knew the Cuba policy "would" and "should" change. But it didn't.
Until now. It is unwholesome for U.S. democracy that so little now happens through normal "bill becomes a law" procedure, and so much depends on executive action. But in this case the executive is doing manifestly the right thing. Congratulations, thanks, and it's about time. "Don't do stupid shit" may have limits as a worldview, but it is an improvement over continuing a path of folly.