Stephen Walt dissects a Manichean War Party meme used to brainwash and pacify the population of the West, to which Glenn Greenwald recently pointed elsewhere to show the propagandists’ play on words.
Stephen Walt, Realpolitik professor of international relations at Harvard University, nominated the former chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq for the “most callous statement recently uttered by a prominent U.S. diplomat”.
George Schultz was interviewed by Deborah Solomon at The New York Times Magazine for an article published at the beginning of this month. He displayed the common narrow-sighted ignorance that leads to the destruction of bloody wars against ‘them all the way over there’.
From Prof. Walt’s blogpost yesterday at the website of the magazine Foreign Policy:
Shultz reveals that the committee never actually met and that he didn’t even know who all the members were, which seems like a pretty cavalier approach to a major foreign policy decision. Solomon asks him if he has any regrets about the invasion (he doesn’t, though he wishes it had gone quicker). And then, after some not-very insightful questions about whether the Bechtel Corporation (which Shultz used to head) made money from the war, there is the following exchange:
Solomon: ‘It’s been seven years since we invaded Iraq, and there is so much sorrow in the world. I don’t see things getting a lot better.‘
Shultz: ‘You ought to come out to California. We have problems out here; but the sun is shining, and it’s pleasant here on the Stanford campus.’
I grew up about 4 miles from Stanford and did my undergraduate studies there. Shultz is absolutely right: It’s a very pleasant place, and I’m sure it’s even nicer when you’re a multi-millionaire. But to dismiss the death and destruction that the United States wreaked on Iraq—as well as all the other suffering that occurs elsewhere in the world—with a blithe reference to California sunshine strikes me as emblematic of the indifference that underpins a lot of American meddling around the world. So long as the sun is shining where we are, we don’t care all that much about what our foreign policy decisions are doing to other people. And then we get surprised and irate when some people in some far-flung part of the world resent what we are doing, and when a few of them try to do what they can to pay us back.
We fail to see the connection between our heavy-handed diplomacy and penchant for using force and the persistent anti-Americanism that occurs in the places where we’ve interfered most often. And when you’re the 800-lb gorilla in the international system, you can allow your foreign policy to be swayed by well-connected “letterhead” committees that never actually meet and whose funders and motives remain hidden. Great power allows states to behave irresponsibly, in short, because others suffer the consequences and future generations get stuck with the bill.
But for men (and women) like him, the world is a stage on which to operate, and the consequences for others are just “collateral damage.”
Explaining why he takes a Realpolitik view of geopolitics in his analysis, Prof. Walt added:
There isn’t a lot of altruism in the conduct of foreign policy, even though great powers always tell themselves that their motives are pure and that they are really acting for the greater good. It would be nice if things were different, but that ain’t the world we live in.
The former head of MI5, the domestic ‘intelligence’ organization of the U.K., recently testified on how the U.S.-led policies supposedly fighting a ‘war on terror’ are self-defeating. To which constitutional lawyer and Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald yesterday commented [emphasis mine, as Mr. Greenwald as well bolds his own emphases]:
So if I understand this deeply esoteric and surprising concept correctly, what causes many Muslims to become radicalized and want to mount violent attacks on a particular country is when that country brings war, bombings, and other forms of destruction and interference to the Muslim world. Who knew? British Muslims became “radicalized” and “swamped” that country with Terrorist plots only after watching the Government attack two separate Muslim nations. Add to that things like lawless detentions, Guantanamo, a torture regime, attacks in places like Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen and others—all on top of two occupations in the Muslim world that will extend for a full decade at least—and only the densest among us (or those who actively desire high levels of Terrorism threats for their own interests) will fail to see how the very policies justified in the name of fighting Terrorism are the ones most exacerbating that problem. [And, as always, those who have been told that American interference and violence in the Muslim world began only after 9/11 should read about Mohammad Mossadegh; Joy Gordon’s new book on the devastation brought by American air attacks on Iraq in the Persian Gulf War and especially the decade-long sanctions regime that followed; our endless support for continuous Israeli wars and occupation in that part of the world; and our decades-long support for tyrants from Egypt to Indonesia]. The issue is causation, not justification, and it’s as crystal clear now as it was in 2003 when the U.S. Government itself recognized it.
Shorty after 9/11, Professor Noam Chomsky gave a talk, in which he articulated: “We certainly want to reduce the level of terror, certainly not escalate it. There is one easy way to do that and therefore it is never discussed. Namely stop participating in it.”
In a separate post this week, Mr. Greenwald highlights how the U.S. government employs those who don’t “wear uniforms, follow a recognized chain of command, carry their arms openly”—which Bush Administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey interprets are defining characteristics of “war criminals”, not “ordinary criminals”; therefore “unlawful combatants” or Terrorists”—as reported by Dana Priest and William Arkin’s “Top Secret America” special investigation at The Washington Post [emphasis mine, as Mr. Greenwald as well bolds his own emphases]:
The irony here is that the decision to declare enemy fighters in Afghanistan as “unlawful enemy combatants”—which is what, in turn, “justified” denial of Geneva Conventions protections for them (at least until the Supreme Court ruled otherwise)—was grounded in the fact that they do not, as Mukasey put it, “wear uniforms, follow a recognized chain of command, carry their arms openly.” That’s what made them, in the U.S. lexicon, not only “unlawful combatants” but even Terrorists. But, of course, exactly the same is true for our countless private contractors who are acting as combatants for the U.S. in multiple parts of the world; as Priest and Arkin document, they are so numerous and unaccountably embedded in secret government functions that they are literally “countless”.
The complicity for this arbitrary kidnapping crosses party lines into the White House and leadership on Capitol Hill. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) stated that shutting down the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is “not a priority“, where detainees kidnapped from around the world by the U.S. government continue to fight in court to force their accusers to present the evidence against them. These battles are lotteries because of this “terrorist” distinction that terrorists are war criminals and what designates a terrorist is whoever the U.S. government decides to call a ‘terrorist’.
Rep. Hoyer sent a letter to then-President George W. Bush demanding the detention center be closed because the policy put Americans in danger. To which Mr. Greenwald aptly commented:
How can it be that it’s not a priority to end something which—as Hoyer put it in 2007—”threatens the safety of U.S. citizens and military personnel detained abroad”? Why would Democrats like Hoyer be so willing to jeopardize the safety of American citizens and the lives of Our Troops abroad by de-prioritizing something which (at least if the 2007 Hoyer was to be believed) directly threatens them? Also, we had wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2007 along with a whole variety of other problems—if those issues now justify de-prioritizing the closing of Guantanamo, why wasn’t that also true in 2007 when Hoyer (and most other Democrats ) were vocally demanding that Bush close the camp?
This, needless to say, is par for the course: policies which establishment Democrats pretended to vehemently oppose when out of power magically transformed into policies they embrace when in power.