Monday, May 16, 2005

Riffs On Foreign Policy

James Wolcott takes on the chickenhawk brigade, the usual gang of tough guys that is perfectly happy to use other people's kids in a strategic fashion. Hell, someone has to man the battlements at the think tanks and policy fora, right?

It's almost impressive how much militaristic gusto is packed inside the inert biomass of some of our leading neoconservatives. Not only are they avid to have others wage World War IV, the final global battle of good vs evil being promoted by fight managers Norman Podhoretz and James Woolsey, but they're hankering to refight old wars that ended before some of them were born, assuming they were born and not hatched in underground silos. If only it had been George Bush or John Podhoretz sitting there with Churchill, Stalin never would have gotten away with that swindle at Yalta. And of course they wouldn't have wimped out in Vietnam, letting the liberals and peaceniks undermine our will to win. They would have released Slim Pickens through the bomb bay chute atop a nuke no matter how much it would have riled the Chinese.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't John McCain, Chuck Hagel, and Colin Powell about the only Republicans (of national standing) of age who actually went to war? You can make fun of Al Gore's Mickey Spillane duty or John Kerry's Swift Boat patrols all you want, but at least they went. There is a difference, and all the pale, feckless attempts to qualify their service by the armchair generals won't change that.

And any of them that did support Vietnam, and found the usual lame excuses not to go, are utterly beneath contempt, and probably know it, deep down inside. They're cowards who were content to let someone else get forced to fight their battles for them, and cowards die a thousand deaths.

Speaking of contemptible douchebags, Pat Buchanan has some interesting historical revisionism for the kids:

Bush told the awful truth about what really triumphed in World War II east of the Elbe. And it was not freedom. It was Stalin, the most odious tyrant of the century. Where Hitler killed his millions, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot and Castro murdered their tens of millions.

Leninism was the Black Death of the 20th Century.

The truths bravely declared by Bush at Riga, Latvia, raise questions that too long remained hidden, buried or ignored.

Ah. And here I thought that was why we spent 40 years fighting a Cold War, under the constant threat of mutually assured destruction.

If Yalta was a betrayal of small nations as immoral as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, why do we venerate Churchill and FDR? At Yalta, this pair secretly ceded those small nations to Stalin, co-signing a cynical "Declaration on Liberated Europe" that was a monstrous lie.

As FDR and Churchill consigned these peoples to a Stalinist hell run by a monster they alternately and affectionately called "Uncle Joe" and "Old Bear," why are they not in the history books alongside Neville Chamberlain, who sold out the Czechs at Munich by handing the Sudetenland over to Germany? At least the Sudeten Germans wanted to be with Germany. No Christian peoples of Europe ever embraced their Soviet captors or Stalinist quislings.

By the time Yalta took place, the world was exhausted, and it is ridiculous to presume that FDR and Churchill should have divined Stalin's intent or willingness to subsequently starve tens of millions of Russians. Buchanan doesn't seem to proffer a viable alternative here. Perhaps we should have just kept going until we pushed the Russkies back across the Urals, or at least to Minsk.

Other questions arise. If Britain endured six years of war and hundreds of thousands of dead in a war she declared to defend Polish freedom, and Polish freedom was lost to communism, how can we say Britain won the war?

If the West went to war to stop Hitler from dominating Eastern and Central Europe, and Eastern and Central Europe ended up under a tyranny even more odious, as Bush implies, did Western Civilization win the war?

These are stupid questions, inaptly framed, perhaps deliberately. Britain didn't "win the war" so much as fight on the side that ultimately won. And the West went to war to stop all the Axis powers, not just Germany. It succeeded in this endeavor, at a tremendous cost. There was simply nothing left with which to turn back the Soviets, and again, hindsight is always 20/20.

In the long run, Western civilization did win the Cold War. Did Yalta give the Soviets an opportunity to rebuild and challenge the West? Sure. It also gave us the chance to do the same, from a better geopolitical position.

Don't worry. Pat is working to his point, slowly, surely, insanely.

True, U.S. and British troops liberated France, Holland and Belgium from Nazi occupation. But before Britain declared war on Germany, France, Holland and Belgium did not need to be liberated. They were free. They were only invaded and occupied after Britain and France declared war on Germany – on behalf of Poland.

When one considers the losses suffered by Britain and France – hundreds of thousands dead, destitution, bankruptcy, the end of the empires – was World War II worth it, considering that Poland and all the other nations east of the Elbe were lost anyway?

If the objective of the West was the destruction of Nazi Germany, it was a "smashing" success. But why destroy Hitler? If to liberate Germans, it was not worth it. After all, the Germans voted Hitler in.

Get that? It wasn't "worth it" to destroy Hitler, because he was democratically elected. And the objective of the European campaign most certainly was to eliminate the vicious, aggressive, vile Nazi regime. That Pat even has to ask this question speaks volumes. Yes, stupid, Hitler had to go. He was a pretty bad guy, as you may have heard.

If it was to keep Hitler out of Western Europe, why declare war on him and draw him into Western Europe? If it was to keep Hitler out of Central and Eastern Europe, then, inevitably, Stalin would inherit Central and Eastern Europe.

Was that worth fighting a world war – with 50 million dead?

Hitler was already ramping up the Wehrmacht to start encircling Western Europe by the time we got in. Buchanan is asking circular, tautological questions. The only real question here is whether he's too ignorant to realize it, or too venal to care.

FDR -- and subsequently, Truman -- knew they were in for the long haul with containing communism and Soviet expansionism. One could hypothesize that if not for the Cold War, Stalin and Mao would not have starved tens of millions to feed their own war machines and revolutionary expansionism.

One can play these "what if" games forever. The bottom line is that Buchanan's scenarios veer between preposterous and repulsive, and his over-arching contention that a fourth-rate intellect like George W. Bush would have any merit in second-guessing FDR and Churchill sixty years later -- on anything whatsoever -- is utterly ludicrous and self-serving.

The bodaciously talented and propitiously named Lance Mannion has an excellent Oedipal take on all this.

Freedom continues to march in Uzbekistan, uncomfortably, inexorably, toward a confrontation with the vile dictator who runs the place. Chances are there are more Uzbeks than Iraqis involved in anti-US terrorism, as Uzbekistan is considered something of a hotbed of Islamic radicalism.

(Afghan warlord Rashid Dostum, also a murderous scumbag who is known for fun things like skinning people alive, or strapping them to tank treads and driving the tanks forward a foot or so at a time, is an ethnic Uzbek. But he, like Islam Karimov, is working with the big dog, so we leave him be.)

Then again, Karimov considers growing a beard "Islamic radicalism". Uh-oh. Guess I better cross Tashkent off my list of travel destinations.

Pravda takes a break from sniffing Condi Rice's unmentionables and actually reports something useful. Surely a plague of locusts and a mark of blood on the door of every male Midianite can't be far behind.

Who are the suicide bombers of Iraq? By the radicals' account, they are an internationalist brigade of Arabs, with the largest share in the online lists from Saudi Arabia and a significant minority from other countries on Iraq's borders, such as Syria and Kuwait.

So the majority of the jihadists is not Iraqi at all? Well, I suppose the braintrust deserves some credit for so-called "Operation Flypaper" -- the notion that the occupation of Iraq is more likely to send terrorists there than to the US. Fine by me -- the world won't miss these assholes, and it's hard to argue that we're making them crazy. They're crazy to begin with, though the occupation is inciting them to act.

The hardcore jihad brigade supposedly makes up only 10% of the overall insurgency, but accounts for a majority of the suicide bombing attacks. The real problem here is the civilian toll these bastards take -- again, the world is better off without fundamentalists of all stripes, but these fuckers don't care whom they take with them, or whom they behead on camera.

The thing that really gets me is the preponderance of Saudis involved in this shit. Our good buddies, once again. Well, not really -- the House of Saud are our good buddies, but the civilian population is much more conservative and militant, rightly sees their rulers as decadent and corrupt, but unfortunately sees us as the enablers of this decadence and corruption.

The silver lining of rising gas prices is that Americans may finally be seeing the light here -- the demand for the gargantuan fuck-you-mobiles has dropped off to the point where General Motors and Ford are trading at junk-bond status, and GM is going to close either the Buick or Pontiac division by the end of the year. Which is too bad -- thousands of jobs will be lost, and none of the gas-guzzlers were rolling out of Buick or Pontiac.

The demise of the American auto industry should be a cautionary tale for the country at large. Our current rate of consumption is simply unsustainable with finite resources. The free market does not always know best, if it is simply used to exploit and profit from hopelessly self-destructive, short-sighted trends.

Right now we are operating on the principle that we are simply too big to fail; as the #1 economy, we are the engine that drives the rest of the world. But that's right now. This will not always be true. We need to start making hay while the sun is still shining.

Finally, you may recall in our recent deconstruction of Pat Sajak's font of political wisdom, we mentioned the likelihood of a South American power bloc forming that could serve to effectively counter our interests in the region, and indeed thwart our already waning hegemony.

Well, that didn't take long.

The United States is nursing a bruised ego. After decades of funding malleable regimes, fomenting right-wing coups and building economic hegemony in the Americas, Washington just found itself locked out of its own backyard.

This week saw leaders of the Latin American and Arab worlds meet in a historic summit in Brazil - and the US was denied even the courtesy of observer status. Washington is outraged, fearing that this was more than just a diplomatic slight: it sees it as the latest gesture of defiance from the two regions that bear the deepest grudge over recent US foreign policy.

Yeah, I'd guess that when they won't even let you observe, much less participate, it's not just a diplomatic slight. ¿Como se dice "fuck you Yanqui" en Español?

The Summit of South American-Arab Countries, which concluded on Wednesday and was attended by Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, furthered Latin America's drive to strengthen relationships away from the United States. Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva led moves by South American states to cement alliances outside the US, which has traditionally held the South on a short leash economically.

Somehow, Talabani's attendance seems huge. I find it hard to believe that we'd sign off on him attending something in our backyard that we'd been overtly disinvited from. This is something that merits further watching, one of those little things that's bound to develop.

The State Department dismissed suggestions that the US' continental dominance is under threat. "We hope our friends in the hemisphere do not fall back on the failed policies of the past," said a State Department official, who declined to be named. "We will work with any country, provided its leader is democratically elected," he said. " We urge them to crack down on corruption and promote free trade."

That exhortation seems to fall on deaf ears. Washington's grand plans for a Free Trade Area of the Americas have stalled after Latin American leaders objected to proposals restricting access to US markets and continued subsidies for US industry. The rhetoric of the Brazilian summit will do nothing to quell fears that the FTAA is dead in the water.

Washington's most throbbing Latin American headache takes the form of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Birns believes Chavez, a man who has publicly called President Bush a "dickhead", was "instrumental in orchestrating the summit".

Venezuela, which controls 40% of the US' oil imports, has moved closer to Cuba, the bête noire of US-Latin American relations, since Chavez was elected president in 1998. He survived a US-backed coup in 2002 and, with the example of his radically socialist "Bolivarian revolution", is giving the rest of the continent a lesson in bucking the north's neo-liberal agenda.

Dickhead, eh? Hey, what a coincidence -- that's what we call him!

This is no doubt the main reason behind the attempted Chavez coup in 2002 -- because his prickly autocratic methods provide a bad example for neighboring regimes that we've just taken for granted as being in our orbit.

Da Silva seems intent on turning Brazil from a quaint, overly religious Carnaval backwater into a technological and economic dynamo, and he has his country behind him. He could be a real force to reckon with, especially if Brazil escalates its tech development to the extent it becomes an infotech destination like India, or even a stem-cell R&D base.

Regardless, in diplomatic terms, it's like having your neighbor shove you and pimp-slap you in front of your wife and the whole neighborhood. It ain't good. It's another regional headache, in a world already chock-full of them. Stay tuned.


oldwhitelady said...

whew! Heywood J., you sure have a lot of news, there. I guess I'll focus on one little snippet.

GM is going to close either the Buick or Pontiac division by the end of the year.

Just watch. They'll probably close the Pontiac division. I really like Pontiacs, but dislike Buicks. They were really pushing their new Buick designs during the Kentucky Derby.

Kitchen Window Woman said...

Hey Heywood, Wow! a good read..... Congressman Duncan Hunter is Vietnam vet - and a total Hawk-hawk and a contributing $$$ supporter of Tom DeLay.

I have been reading more and more history of WWII and am astounded at the American corporate involvement with Hitler.... business opportunities galore for the Dulles's, Bushes, Walkers, Rockefellers, and Harrimans...and many more.

Who's making money $$$$ off of this war? Blood-money often runs through the veins of chickenhawks....KWW

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