Monday, January 30, 2012


Via Josh Rogin, we are just now finding out that the inspiration for President Obama's ode to American imperialism in his speech last week came from, of all people, Mitt Romney's NeoCon foreign policy adviser! According to Rogin, who writes for Foreign Policy magazine, Obama just can't get enough of Robert Kagan's screed in the The New Republic, which says the good old days of American superiority are here to stay. People have always kvetched that the USA is in decline, even when it was in its fetal stage and Patrick Henry despaired.  It wasn't true then, says this cheerleader for the Iraq surge -- and it isn't true now. Depression, shmepression.  Economic inequality is just a bothersome and distracting subplot in the continuing saga of of American superiority over all other nations.  We are built to last, people!

And the title of Kagan's piece is just too damned cute for words: Not Fade Away. Nothing like co-opting The Rolling Stones* to make the case for endless hegemony. (Personally, I would have called it Sympathy for the Devil) Here are some of the mendacious snippets: 

The present world order—characterized by an unprecedented number of democratic nations; a greater global prosperity, even with the current crisis, than the world has ever known; and a long peace among great powers—reflects American principles and preferences, and was built and preserved by American power in all its political, economic, and military dimensions.
(Pay no attention to decades-long wars, the rise of the security state and the greatest income disparity the world has ever known. It's been peace, love and rock n roll all along.... reality is only for wimpy pessimists. As long as the 1% get along within their own elite cliques, who cares about the little people and the little countries).

 Some of the pessimism is also due to the belief that the United States has lost favor, and therefore influence, in much of the world, because of its various responses to the attacks of September 11. The detainment facilities at Guantánamo, the use of torture against suspected terrorists, and the widely condemned invasion of Iraq in 2003 have all tarnished the American “brand” and put a dent in America’s “soft power”—its ability to attract others to its point of view.
The fact is, Kagan seems to argue, is that the rest of the world has always gone through these periods of hating us, just like small children who, when throwing tantrums, scream that they hate their parents. But they don't really mean it, and everything always ends up sweetness and light because Father Knows Best. Kagan lists example after example of countries falsely hating the USA to their own detriment, case after case of past predictions of American decline never coming true. The Cold War is over, Communism was destroyed, we shall prevail. America has survived all the blows to its reputation abroad: the McCarthy witch hunts, racial discrimination, The Ugly American depicting Uncle Sam as a big fat bully, assassinations, Kent State, riots at conventions, Vietnam, Watergate.
If one wanted to make a case for American decline (Kagan continues) the 1970s would have been the time to do it; and many did. The United States, Kissinger believed, had evidently “passed its historic high point like so many earlier civilizations.... Every civilization that has ever existed has ultimately collapsed. History is a tale of efforts that failed.” It was in the 1970s that the American economy lost its overwhelming primacy, when the American trade surplus began to turn into a trade deficit, when spending on entitlements and social welfare programs ballooned, when American gold and monetary reserves were depleted.
More examples follow of America not being to control external events: even the world paternalist could not make Israel and Palestine get along. The rest of the world continued to complain about American overreach throughout the 80s and 90s. So what if we don't have complete and total world dominion every minute of every day, Kagan retorts. Whoever said the people we dominate have to love us?  We still got de power! We're in it for the long haul. Here is possibly the most nauseating paragraph in the whole article:

Today the United States lacks the ability to have its way on many issues, but this has not prevented it from enjoying just as much success, and suffering just as much failure, as in the past. For all the controversy, the United States has been more successful in Iraq than it was in Vietnam. It has been just as incapable of containing Iranian nuclear ambitions as it was in the 1990s, but it has, through the efforts of two administrations, established a more effective global counter-proliferation network. Its efforts to root out and destroy Al Qaeda have been remarkably successful, especially when compared with the failures to destroy terrorist networks and stop terrorist attacks in the 1990s—failures that culminated in the attacks of September 11. The ability to employ drones is an advance over the types of weaponry—cruise missiles and air strikes—that were used to target terrorists and facilities in previous decades. Meanwhile America’s alliances in Europe remain healthy; it is certainly not America’s fault that Europe itself seems weaker than it once was. American alliances in Asia have arguably grown stronger over the past few years, and the United States has been able to strengthen relations with India that had previously been strained.

(Translation: we killed hundreds of thousands of people to make up for the murder of 3000 on 9/11. And we will continue to kill countless thousands more. Nothing is our fault.  The global banking cabal headquartered on Wall Street has bolstered our strength even as it has crushed our own citizens).

And finally, Kagan considers economic crises irrelevant to our continuing status of World Superpower. He continues the GOP lie that "entitlements" will destroy our nation faster than any war. Watch for this paragraph to be included, in some form, in an upcoming column by David Brooks: 
What about the financial expense? Many seem to believe that the cost of these deployments, and of the armed forces generally, is a major contributor to the soaring fiscal deficits that threaten the solvency of the national economy. But this is not the case, either. As the former budget czar Alice Rivlin has observed, the scary projections of future deficits are not “caused by rising defense spending,” much less by spending on foreign assistance. The runaway deficits projected for the coming years are mostly the result of ballooning entitlement spending. Even the most draconian cuts in the defense budget would produce annual savings of only $50 billion to $100 billion, a small fraction—between 4 and 8 percent—of the $1.5 trillion in annual deficits the United States is facing.
So yeah, since war is cheap, let's blame Grandma for eating more than her share. This is the theme hammered away in countless forms by Brooks. And as an aside, how's this for a Tale of Three Davids: Obama campaign operative David Axelrod told David Gregory yesterday that David Brooks is one of the country's "great public thinkers." 

This perfectly gels with Barry's new man-crush on Kagan. But maybe man-crush is too intense a characterization, because Kagan is already taken. He is married to Dick Cheney's former deputy national security advisor, Victoria Nuland. And just to show how much Obama is truly the embodiment of Bush's Third Term, Nuland was appointed spokesman for the State Department last summer. She replaced P.J. Crowley, who was fired after criticizing inhumane treatment of war crimes whistleblower Bradley Manning.

Ezra Klein elaborates on Obama's enthusiasm for his newfound hero: 
In a recent, off-the-record meeting with news anchors, Obama spent more than 10 minutes "going over its arguments paragraph by paragraph, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor confirmed." National Security Advisor Tom Donilon was dispatched to Charlie Rose to "discuss Kagan's essay and Obama's love of it." So it's not just the president who likes Kagan's article. It's the White House communications team who likes the idea of letting people know the president likes Kagan's article.
Okay, it's official. Barack Obama is a NeoCon and he wants everybody to know it. So rest easy, Republicans despairing over losing this year's election: you have already won. 

*  The Rolling Stones did a cover of "Not Fade Away" in 1964, and that version is listed in the 500 greatest hits in rock history. It was originally recorded by Buddy Holly in 1957. Thanks, Marina.


Kat said...

Hi Karen,
I just wanted to highlight this comment in response to the NYT drones-over-Iraq article. Fortunately, no one at this time has recommended it.
I know that this is not suitable for posting.
ete L.
Princeton, NJ

"What's the big deal? At least for now, we BOUGHT those Iraqi skies, with American lives and taxpayer dollars. How can we be so concerned about Iraqi sovereignty? That's like arguing over the constitutional right to bear arms when discussing the behavior of a 6 year old.
The principal here is no different than the whiners on this board would use with a "nanny cam." When you don't feel you can be 100% trusting, you make sure you keep an eye on things.. As time goes on and trust is EARNED, you relax the level of oversight.
The people of Iraq certainly haven't done much to make us feel we can trust them, so there's nothing wrong with treating them like children."

Yes, our enemies are so childish! That's ok, like children they'll all soon forget as Kagan noted.


Annie Oakley said...

Ok, shoot me. I have made my decision. I am voting for the anti-war candidate, as I have always done, although I did get bamboozled and hoodwinked once. My candidate is Ron Paul.

It is Paul's foreign policy and intention to dismantle the Empire that really seals the deal. Being anti-war already weakens the Empire, but to dismantle it also by closing bases all over the world? That's hitting them where they really hurt. It's not a moment too soon to start.

We've never had a choice of a candidate who even talked about doing both. Until and unless another viable candidate comes along who stands strongly and CREDIBLY for both, I feel my only option is Ron Paul. When Democrats vote for Obama and get Bush III again, they shouldn't complain. They'd better not, with the powers of NDAA and Patriot Act, and who knows what else the Powers-That-Be are cooking up.

As Rick Santorum pointed out in a debate to explain how dangerous Ron Paul is, a President cannot accomplish any of his policies on his own EXCEPT for wars and foreign policy. Everything else is up to Congress, and Santorum said Paul's policies are out of sync with Congress, as if that was a bad thing. Santorum really made the case: No way will Paul get anything done EXCEPT where he is most 'Dangerous!', foreign policy, wars, Empire. Dangerous in protecting our civil liberties by being one of the few to oppose both the Patriot Act and NDAA. What crap.

I cannot in good conscience reward the warmongering, Assassinator-In-Chief Obama with my vote, no matter how many abortions I can have in return. War should not be easy or taken lightly, and should be a rare, last option occurrence. So should abortion, especially since, like war, there are plenty of other options to avoid getting to that point, such as PlanB. That's my personal compromise to get what is really important to me - a saner foreign policy that in effect starves the very Beast itself.

War/no war, empire/no empire, abortion/no abortion, corporate reign/corporate free rein. Obama-Romney/Paul. Pick your poison. I have.

Fire away!

Denis Neville said...

"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle" — George Orwell

Barry and Mittens, two peas in the same pod, two different versions of the status quo, one 1%-approved stooge taking on the other 1%-approved stooge

Obama's ode to American imperialism in his SOTU speech came from, of all people, Mitt Romney's NeoCon foreign policy adviser!

Robert Kagan, of hawkish foreign policy fame!!!

“Why would any rational person listen to Robert Kagan?” Glenn Greenwald asked five years ago.

Stephen Walt writes, “Whether or not the U.S. is declining is the wrong question.”

“The issue isn't whether the United States is about to fall from the ranks of the great powers, or even be equaled (let alone surpassed) by a rising China.

“Instead, the real issue is whether developments at home and overseas are making it harder for the United States to exercise the kind of dominant influence that it did for much of the latter half of the 20th century. The United States had a larger share of global GDP in the 1940s and 1950s, and it wasn't running enormous budget deficits. The United States was seen as a reliable defender of human rights, and its support for decolonization after World War II had won it many friends in the developing world.”

“There's an important issue at stake. Posing the question in the usual way ("Is the U.S. Still #1?", "Who's bigger?", "Is China Catching Up?" etc.,) focuses attention primarily on bilateral comparisons and distracts us from thinking about the broader environment in which both the United States and China will have to operate. The danger, of course, is that repeated assurances that America is still on top will encourage foreign policy mandarins to believe that they can continue to make the same blunders they have in the recent past, and discourage them from making the strategic choices that will preserve U.S. primacy, enhance U.S. influence, and incidentally, produce a healthier society here at home.”

DreamsAmelia said...

Yup, Kat, I saw that comment too, and it took my breath away...
Yup, we're not going to let whiners slow us down! 400 protesters locked up in SF, Europeans flown straight back home for joking on Twitter accounts-

Now all we have to do is use NDAA to apprehend indefinitely, with no hope of a trial, ever, Steve Colbert, Jon Stewart, the staff of The Onion, and The Borowitz Report
(, and we will be a country of adults only, no whining children, reveling in the sanctimony of hegemony...basking in the sweet sunshine of ideological purity, with no one to point out the source of the steaming rays warming our cheeks and noses...

Valerie said...

@Annie Oakley

I am not sure why your comments have been directed at Neil who has always taken a anti-corporate stance, anti-status quo stance. In fact, of all the people writing into the blog, I would consider his views to align more closely with yours than with any other commenter.


4Runner said...

Karen, judging by your second paragraph I suspect you may be an old Rolling Stoneser. Excellent! They were the best in their heyday. During the 1980s and '90s I taught courses in the history of rock music and the blues @ the University of Miami, where I was infamously known as "Dr. Rock". My own fave tune by the Stones was "Salt of the Earth"--written by Keith, of course.

Denis Neville said...

@ Annie Oakley - Obama-Romney/Paul. Pick your poison. My candidate is Ron Paul.

Who is the lesser of two evils, Obama-Romney or Ron Paul?

“Why is Ron Paul so perfect, for establishment liberals?” asks Freddie De Boer.

“He is an open invitation to change the subject. The United States keeps killing innocent people, keeps propping up horrific regimes, keeps violating international law, keeps trampling on the lives of those who lack the power to defend themselves - but Ron Paul is a racist, and believes in the gold standard, and opposes abortion, and in general supports some of the most odious domestic policies imaginable. What I insist, and what people like Glenn Greenwald keep insisting, is that Ron Paul's endless failings shouldn't and can't exist as an excuse to look away from the dead bodies that we keep on piling up. What I have wanted is to grab a hold of mainstream progressivism and force it to look the dead in the face. But the effort to avoid exactly that is mighty, and what we have on our hands is an epidemic of not seeing.”

“Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich have embraced discussion of foreign policy and civil liberties, and for their trouble they have been dismissed as unserious by the self-same progressives who now dismiss Ron Paul's ideas. For far too long, mainstream progressives have signaled their "seriousness" precisely by denying the validity of people like Kucinich or Sanders, so taken with some bizarre definition of the reasonable that they effectively silence the leftist non-interventionists they say they want. If you want left wing criticism of our militarism and surveillance state, stop ridiculing those who express it.”

Denis Neville said...

Occupy Barnaul!

Russian police also don't take kindly to Occupy protesters – even if they're 5cm high and made of plastic.

“Police in the Siberian city of Barnaul have asked prosecutors to investigate the legality of a recent protest that saw dozens of small dolls – teddy bears, Lego men, South Park figurines – arranged to mimic a protest, complete with signs reading: "I'm for clean elections" and "A thief should sit in jail, not in the Kremlin".

Lego as a social, global power for good! Rise up! You have nothing to lose but your Lego!

Annie Oakley said...


Yes indeed, Neil meshes very well with my beliefs 99% of the time, but that does not mean I cannot disagree with him when I find cause. I copied his quote to specify the statements that I was disagreeing with and why.

I would hope disagreements are welcome here and even encouraged, although I have read complaints from some who felt that those who disagree are driven out. I have received criticism for some of my opinions in the past, as you may recall. I said I felt sorry for Michelle Bachmann once and you disagreed rather strongly. Another time I expressed concern that Elizabeth Warren would become an Obama puppet if she headed that agency, and you also disagreed. I even conceded your point about Warren and corrected myself.

My ego is not wrapped up in my beliefs or opinions and I just assumed the same with others, but I am willing to admit that I am wrong. I'm sorry if it felt personal to you, to Neil, and to anyone else who agreed with his opinion of what the 1% wants, and what they do not want, in regard to violence and firearms.

Kat said...

Plus, it should be "Hang out with the President", not "Hangout with the president". Either way, I'll pass.

Marina said...

Credit where credit is due: Not Fade Away is a Buddy Holly song.

I feel that I have no choice but to vote for Obama: the Supreme Court, and the ACA--for what it's worth--are in the balance. The part about kids getting to stay on their parents' insurance policy until 26 is not insignificant. That said, I feel genuinely depressed by what I read here, Karen; I know that your points are well-taken.

People want to vote for Ron Paul? Really?? The homophobic anti-Semite?

Neil said...

Great job Karen connecting the dots. Let me round out the circle with a reminder that Obama is a distant relative of Dick Cheney. And Kagan is a Yale Bonesmen. So Kagan’s piece could be called the Skull and Bones view of the world.

This one sentence from Kagan’s story explains our decline: "America’s share of the world’s GDP, nearly 50 percent after World War II, fell to roughly 25 percent by the early 1970s, where it has remained ever since." In 1971 Pres. Nixon went off the gold standard to prop up our perceived standard of living. Beginning in 1980 Pres. Reagan kept the ball rolling with increased deficit spending. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 set the stage for the economic bubble, then collapse of 2008, which was compounded by new deficit war spending. There are no tricks left to extend our perceived standard of living to a time when US GDP was 50 percent of world output circa 1945-1970. The party is over.

Apart from our economy, Kagan wrote this about world politics: "Yet for every great achievement in the early Cold War, there was at least one equally monumental setback." Seems like that is usually the case, US action followed by setbacks and blowback.

Kagan claims America is not in decline. NASA space workers at Cape Canaveral might disagree, the 5,000 people now out of work. The old St. Pete Times reported July 3, 2011 "As NASA's final space shuttle mission nears, workers prepare to lose the jobs they love"

"A generation of American workers is preparing for the final shuttle launch. It's a milestone in history, but for these workers, it's personal. For many of these employees of NASA contractors such as United Space Alliance, Boeing and others, this has been their last chance to turn a wrench on a ship that leaves Earth."

Is this not one more sign of our national decline? President Kennedy stood before Congress in 1961 and issued a challenge, that "this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."

We achieved that goal, but what was behind the apparent success? People like Arthur L. Rudolph, a Nazi scientist, was brought to the U.S. and given safe haven for his rocket-making expertise under Operation Paperclip, and later honored by NASA and credited as the father of the Saturn V rocket. See the Times story link below, which fails to mention Wernher von Braun, a Nazi SS man, another NASA rocket scientist.

Perhaps the space program was a front, a ruse to develop intercontinental missiles - the real mission - with the help of Nazi rocket scientists. Now, instead of the space program, America has Predator B drones. As Kagan wrote "The ability to employ drones is an advance over the types of weaponry - cruise missiles and air strikes - that were used to target terrorists and facilities in previous decades."

Obama replaced Pres. Kennedy’s lofty aspirations, or rocket ruse, with drones and policy where a secret panel can put Americans on a "kill list" for assassination. That sounds like a plan from the Nazi SS playbook.

On the other hand, maybe Kagan and Obama are right, perhaps American is not much different than in earlier times, but only has a problem with the illusion of greatness.

Earlier I wrote "The party is over." But there appears to be one trick left for TPTB: Cull the herd, get rid of the sick, the old, the poor, and as much of the 99 percent as necessary, to lessen entitlements and social spending. Another plan from the Nazi SS playbook…

Neil said...

@ Denis

Ron Paul has a welcome position on foreign policy. But in my view he has no chance of winning the presidential election. None. But that does not mean you should not vote for Paul, or any other candidate of your choice.

Barring some major event, the next president will be Obama or the Republican candidate, decided by the Electoral College, its 538 electors nominated by the political parties. They will vote for either Obama or the Republican. Our popular vote does not elect the president.

Al Gore lost the 2000 presidential election even though he won the popular vote. The US Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount in Bush v. Gore, and five conservative justices gave (stole) the election to Bush on the basis of the Electoral College.

Even going back to the 1992 third party candidacy of Ross Perot, he received 19,743,821 votes, which was 18.91% of the popular vote. But Perot did not get a single Electoral College vote.

The United States Constitution, Article Two, Clauses 1 through 8, define the President and Vice President and how they are chosen. Clause 2 is the Electoral College:

"Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector."

There are additional requirements for the Electoral College under various Amendments.

Currently a candidate must receive 270 of the 538 Electoral College votes to become president. This requirement essentially limits the president to either a Democrat or Republican.

Seems to me it is business as usual until we have a free presidential election determined by popular vote.

Marina said...

Sorry about yesterday's Ron Paul rant...I hadn't read Dennis Neville's quote from De Boer (which I don't happen to agree with--I feel you can be a committed pacifist without having to embrace a racist icon while you're at it--but the quote does explain the rationale.

Neil said...


Thank you, appreciate your kind words.

@ Annie Oakley

You are welcome to express your beliefs. All I ask is that you please not project your beliefs on me. I do not believe in, or condone, any of the things you wrote.

I read your ideas for change and they are admirable. In my view change is unlikely so long as we have a political duopoly. The Electoral College essentially limits the president to either a Democrat or Republican. For real change to occur we must get rid of the Electoral College and hold a free presidential election decided by a popular vote.