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Bacevich writes: "In defense circles, 'cutting' the Pentagon budget has once again become a topic of conversation. Americans should not confuse that talk with reality. Any cuts exacted will at most reduce the rate of growth. The essential facts remain: U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without precedent in modern history."

US aircraft carrier with carrier battle group behind. (photo: US Navy)
US aircraft carrier with carrier battle group behind. (photo: US Navy)

Cow Most Sacred: Why Military Spending Remains Untouchable

By Andrew J. Bacevich, TomDispatch

20 August 16


[Note to TomDispatch Readers: Today, TD pays a visit to a classic piece published at this site on January 27, 2011. In a way, it couldn’t be a sadder story, since so little has changed in the five-and-a-half years since Andrew Bacevich wrote it and so it remains, as he suggests in his new introduction, painfully relevant. Tom]

A writer who dares to revisit a snarky article dashed off five-plus years earlier will necessarily approach the task with some trepidation. Pieces such as the one republished below are not drafted with the expectation that they will enjoy a protracted shelf life. Yet in this instance, I'm with Edith Piaf: Non, je ne regrette rien. The original text stands without revision or amendment. Why bother to update, when the core argument remains true (at least in my estimation).

This past weekend, I attended the annual meeting of Veterans for Peace (VFP), held on this occasion in funky, funky Berkeley, California. The experience was both enlightening and humbling. VFP members are exemplars of democratic citizenship: informed, engaged, simultaneously realistic -- not expecting peace to bust out anytime soon -- and yet utterly determined to carry on with their cause. To revive a phrase from another day, they insist that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

What particularly impressed me was the ability of rank-and-file VFP members to articulate the structural roots of American militarism and imperialism. They understand that the problem isn't George W. Bush and Barack Obama (and therefore won't be solved by Hillary or The Donald).  It's not that we have a war party that keeps a peace party under its boot. No, the problem is bigger and deeper: a fraudulent idea of freedom defined in quantitative material terms; a neoliberal political economy that privileges growth over all other values; a political system in which Big Money’s corruption has become pervasive; and, of course, the behemoth of the national security apparatus, its tentacles reaching into the far quarters of American society -- even into the funky precincts of the San Francisco Bay Area. There is no peace party in this country, even if a remnant of Americans is still committed to the possibility of peace.

If any of my weekend confreres have occasion to read this piece on the second go-round, I hope that it will pass muster with them. If not, I know they will let me know in no uncertain terms.

-Andrew Bacevich, TomDispatch

Cow Most Sacred
Why Military Spending Remains Untouchable

n defense circles, “cutting” the Pentagon budget has once again become a topic of conversation.  Americans should not confuse that talk with reality. Any cuts exacted will at most reduce the rate of growth.  The essential facts remain: U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without precedent in modern history.

The Pentagon presently spends more in constant dollars than it did at any time during the Cold War -- this despite the absence of anything remotely approximating what national security experts like to call a “peer competitor.”  Evil Empire?  It exists only in the fevered imaginations of those who quiver at the prospect of China adding a rust-bucket Russian aircraft carrier to its fleet or who take seriously the ravings of radical Islamists promising from deep inside their caves to unite the Umma in a new caliphate.

What are Americans getting for their money?  Sadly, not much.  Despite extraordinary expenditures (not to mention exertions and sacrifices by U.S. forces), the return on investment is, to be generous, unimpressive.  The chief lesson to emerge from the battlefields of the post-9/11 era is this: the Pentagon possesses next to no ability to translate “military supremacy” into meaningful victory.

Washington knows how to start wars and how to prolong them, but is clueless when it comes to ending them.  Iraq, the latest addition to the roster of America’s forgotten wars, stands as exhibit A.  Each bomb that blows up in Baghdad or some other Iraqi city, splattering blood all over the streets, testifies to the manifest absurdity of judging “the surge” as the epic feat of arms celebrated by the Petraeus lobby.

The problems are strategic as well as operational.  Old Cold War-era expectations that projecting U.S. power will enhance American clout and standing no longer apply, especially in the Islamic world.  There, American military activities are instead fostering instability and inciting anti-Americanism.  For Exhibit B, see the deepening morass that Washington refers to as AfPak or the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of operations.

Add to that the mountain of evidence showing that Pentagon, Inc. is a miserably managed enterprise: hide-bound, bloated, slow-moving, and prone to wasting resources on a prodigious scale -- nowhere more so than in weapons procurement and the outsourcing of previously military functions to “contractors.”  When it comes to national security, effectiveness (what works) should rightly take precedence over efficiency (at what cost?) as the overriding measure of merit.  Yet beyond a certain level, inefficiency undermines effectiveness, with the Pentagon stubbornly and habitually exceeding that level.  By comparison, Detroit’s much-maligned Big Three offer models of well-run enterprises.

Impregnable Defenses

All of this takes place against the backdrop of mounting problems at home: stubbornly high unemployment, trillion-dollar federal deficits, massive and mounting debt, and domestic needs like education, infrastructure, and employment crying out for attention.

Yet the defense budget -- a misnomer since for Pentagon, Inc. defense per se figures as an afterthought -- remains a sacred cow.  Why is that? 

The answer lies first in understanding the defenses arrayed around that cow to ensure that it remains untouched and untouchable.  Exemplifying what the military likes to call a “defense in depth,” that protective shield consists of four distinct but mutually supporting layers. 

Institutional Self-Interest: Victory in World War II produced not peace, but an atmosphere of permanent national security crisis.  As never before in U.S. history, threats to the nation’s existence seemed omnipresent, an attitude first born in the late 1940s that still persists today.  In Washington, fear -- partly genuine, partly contrived -- triggered a powerful response. 

One result was the emergence of the national security state, an array of institutions that depended on (and therefore strove to perpetuate) this atmosphere of crisis to justify their existence, status, prerogatives, and budgetary claims.  In addition, a permanent arms industry arose, which soon became a major source of jobs and corporate profits.  Politicians of both parties were quick to identify the advantages of aligning with this “military-industrial complex,” as President Eisenhower described it. 

Allied with (and feeding off of) this vast apparatus that transformed tax dollars into appropriations, corporate profits, campaign contributions, and votes was an intellectual axis of sorts  -- government-supported laboratories, university research institutes, publications, think tanks, and lobbying firms (many staffed by former or would-be senior officials) -- devoted to identifying (or conjuring up) ostensible national security challenges and alarms, always assumed to be serious and getting worse, and then devising responses to them. 

The upshot: within Washington, the voices carrying weight in any national security “debate” all share a predisposition for sustaining very high levels of military spending for reasons having increasingly little to do with the well-being of the country.

Strategic Inertia: In a 1948 State Department document, diplomat George F. Kennan offered this observation: “We have about 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population.”  The challenge facing American policymakers, he continued, was “to devise a pattern of relationships that will permit us to maintain this disparity.”  Here we have a description of American purposes that is far more candid than all of the rhetoric about promoting freedom and democracy, seeking world peace, or exercising global leadership. 

The end of World War II found the United States in a spectacularly privileged position.  Not for nothing do Americans remember the immediate postwar era as a Golden Age of middle-class prosperity.  Policymakers since Kennan’s time have sought to preserve that globally privileged position.  The effort has been a largely futile one. 

By 1950 at the latest, those policymakers (with Kennan by then a notable dissenter) had concluded that the possession and deployment of military power held the key to preserving America’s exalted status.  The presence of U.S. forces abroad and a demonstrated willingness to intervene, whether overtly or covertly, just about anywhere on the planet would promote stability, ensure U.S. access to markets and resources, and generally serve to enhance the country’s influence in the eyes of friend and foe alike -- this was the idea, at least. 

In postwar Europe and postwar Japan, this formula achieved considerable success.  Elsewhere -- notably in Korea, Vietnam, Latin America, and (especially after 1980) in the so-called Greater Middle East -- it either produced mixed results or failed catastrophically.  Certainly, the events of the post-9/11 era provide little reason to believe that this presence/power-projection paradigm will provide an antidote to the threat posed by violent anti-Western jihadism.  If anything, adherence to it is exacerbating the problem by creating ever greater anti-American animus.

One might think that the manifest shortcomings of the presence/power-projection approach -- trillions expended in Iraq for what? -- might stimulate present-day Washington to pose some first-order questions about basic U.S. national security strategy.  A certain amount of introspection would seem to be called for.  Could, for example, the effort to sustain what remains of America’s privileged status benefit from another approach? 

Yet there are few indications that our political leaders, the senior-most echelons of the officer corps, or those who shape opinion outside of government are capable of seriously entertaining any such debate.  Whether through ignorance, arrogance, or a lack of imagination, the pre-existing strategic paradigm stubbornly persists; so, too, as if by default do the high levels of military spending that the strategy entails.

Cultural Dissonance: The rise of the Tea Party movement should disabuse any American of the thought that the cleavages produced by the “culture wars” have healed.  The cultural upheaval touched off by the 1960s and centered on Vietnam remains unfinished business in this country. 

Among other things, the sixties destroyed an American consensus, forged during World War II, about the meaning of patriotism.  During the so-called Good War, love of country implied, even required, deference to the state, shown most clearly in the willingness of individuals to accept the government’s authority to mandate military service.  GI’s, the vast majority of them draftees, were the embodiment of American patriotism, risking life and limb to defend the country. 

The GI of World War II had been an American Everyman.  Those soldiers both represented and reflected the values of the nation from which they came (a perception affirmed by the ironic fact that the military adhered to prevailing standards of racial segregation).  It was “our army” because that army was “us.” 

With Vietnam, things became more complicated.  The war’s supporters argued that the World War II tradition still applied: patriotism required deference to the commands of the state.  Opponents of the war, especially those facing the prospect of conscription, insisted otherwise.  They revived the distinction, formulated a generation earlier by the radical journalist Randolph Bourne, that distinguished between the country and the state.  Real patriots, the ones who most truly loved their country, were those who opposed state policies they regarded as misguided, illegal, or immoral. 

In many respects, the soldiers who fought the Vietnam War found themselves caught uncomfortably in the center of this dispute.  Was the soldier who died in Vietnam a martyr, a tragic figure, or a sap?  Who deserved greater admiration:  the soldier who fought bravely and uncomplainingly or the one who served and then turned against the war?  Or was the war resister -- the one who never served at all -- the real hero? 

War’s end left these matters disconcertingly unresolved.  President Richard Nixon’s 1971 decision to kill the draft in favor of an All-Volunteer Force, predicated on the notion that the country might be better served with a military that was no longer “us,” only complicated things further.  So, too, did the trends in American politics where bona fide war heroes (George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John Kerry, and John McCain) routinely lost to opponents whose military credentials were non-existent or exceedingly slight (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama), yet who demonstrated once in office a remarkable propensity for expending American blood (none belonging to members of their own families) in places like Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  It was all more than a little unseemly.

Patriotism, once a simple concept, had become both confusing and contentious.  What obligations, if any, did patriotism impose?  And if the answer was none -- the option Americans seemed increasingly to prefer -- then was patriotism itself still a viable proposition? 

Wanting to answer that question in the affirmative -- to distract attention from the fact that patriotism had become little more than an excuse for fireworks displays and taking the occasional day off from work -- people and politicians alike found a way to do so by exalting those Americans actually choosing to serve in uniform.  The thinking went this way: soldiers offer living proof that America is a place still worth dying for, that patriotism (at least in some quarters) remains alive and well; by common consent, therefore, soldiers are the nation’s “best,” committed to “something bigger than self” in a land otherwise increasingly absorbed in pursuing a material and narcissistic definition of self-fulfillment. 

In effect, soldiers offer much-needed assurance that old-fashioned values still survive, even if confined to a small and unrepresentative segment of American society.  Rather than Everyman, today’s warrior has ascended to the status of icon, deemed morally superior to the nation for which he or she fights, the repository of virtues that prop up, however precariously, the nation’s increasingly sketchy claim to singularity.

Politically, therefore, “supporting the troops” has become a categorical imperative across the political spectrum.  In theory, such support might find expression in a determination to protect those troops from abuse, and so translate into wariness about committing soldiers to unnecessary or unnecessarily costly wars.  In practice, however, “supporting the troops” has found expression in an insistence upon providing the Pentagon with open-ended drawing rights on the nation’s treasury, thereby creating massive barriers to any proposal to affect more than symbolic reductions in military spending. 

Misremembered History: The duopoly of American politics no longer allows for a principled anti-interventionist position.  Both parties are war parties.  They differ mainly in the rationale they devise to argue for interventionism.  The Republicans tout liberty; the Democrats emphasize human rights.  The results tend to be the same: a penchant for activism that sustains a never-ending demand for high levels of military outlays.

American politics once nourished a lively anti-interventionist tradition.  Leading proponents included luminaries such as George Washington and John Quincy Adams.  That tradition found its basis not in principled pacifism, a position that has never attracted widespread support in this country, but in pragmatic realism.  What happened to that realist tradition?  Simply put, World War II killed it -- or at least discredited it.  In the intense and divisive debate that occurred in 1939-1941, the anti-interventionists lost, their cause thereafter tarred with the label “isolationism.” 

The passage of time has transformed World War II from a massive tragedy into a morality tale, one that casts opponents of intervention as blackguards.  Whether explicitly or implicitly, the debate over how the United States should respond to some ostensible threat -- Iraq in 2003, Iran today -- replays the debate finally ended by the events of December 7, 1941.  To express skepticism about the necessity and prudence of using military power is to invite the charge of being an appeaser or an isolationist.  Few politicians or individuals aspiring to power will risk the consequences of being tagged with that label. 

In this sense, American politics remains stuck in the 1930s -- always discovering a new Hitler, always privileging Churchillian rhetoric -- even though the circumstances in which we live today bear scant resemblance to that earlier time.  There was only one Hitler and he’s long dead.  As for Churchill, his achievements and legacy are far more mixed than his battalions of defenders are willing to acknowledge.  And if any one figure deserves particular credit for demolishing Hitler’s Reich and winning World War II, it’s Josef Stalin, a dictator as vile and murderous as Hitler himself. 

Until Americans accept these facts, until they come to a more nuanced view of World War II that takes fully into account the political and moral implications of the U.S. alliance with the Soviet Union and the U.S. campaign of obliteration bombing directed against Germany and Japan, the mythic version of “the Good War” will continue to provide glib justifications for continuing to dodge that perennial question: How much is enough?

Like concentric security barriers arrayed around the Pentagon, these four factors -- institutional self-interest, strategic inertia, cultural dissonance, and misremembered history -- insulate the military budget from serious scrutiny.  For advocates of a militarized approach to policy, they provide invaluable assets, to be defended at all costs. 

Andrew J. Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+58 # PaulK 2016-08-20 12:29
Alternative national strategies have been suppressed. Our government doesn't actively look for the causes of peace.

Our government doesn't recognize when various peoples of the world are on our own average citizen's side (sorry, but many of them don't like our politicians any more than we do).

Too often our government sides with foreign drug kingpins and with dictators for life, snubbing the idea that supporting democracy abroad brings a safer and more tranquil democracy at home. For example, our government kidnapped the elected President of Haiti, a former Catholic priest, spirited him thousands of miles away from his country and put thugs back in charge of the country.

When ISIL recruits, our government does a horrible job of counter-recruit ment.
+41 # Vardoz 2016-08-20 18:56
Our MIC is only interested in fabricated wars for profit and they are sucking the economic life out of our nation. I view all the theft of our economy as a form of corporate anarchy that is in free fall abandoning the stability and essential needs of our society for their financial gain. People's lives don't
matter, the environment doesn't matter it is total Laissez-faire economic rape and pillage. We are in a big race to the bottom. With jobs being out sourced, wages barely livable, the cost of living off the charts & tens of billions going to other nations, corporations paying little or no tax & getting gigantic loop holes & subsidies. I can see a financial collapse at some point & a great Depression if this level of greed & lack of caring for the health of our society doesn't change. At the very least we need to vote in reps who have different values. 469 seats are up for grabs & Bernie is working hard to put the right people in. No matter how dismal it may seem, Bernie keeps trying hard for us. I produced a documentary in the 80s with Dr. Michio Kaku and while interviewing an Admiral Eugene Carroll of the navy he told us that it wasn't true that the Russians were ahead. We were always ahead he said. It was just away for the Pentagon to get more money.
+21 # economagic 2016-08-20 20:45
Indeed. And the "missile gap" that was a central talking point in Nixon's 1960 campaign did not exist either.
-22 # MidwesTom 2016-08-20 22:08
Without our military, our currency drops like a rock and therefore our lifestyle. Our economy depends on building military tools. Let the US Dollar cease to be the currency of international settlement, and it is welcome to a much lower life style.
+2 # curmudgeon 2016-08-21 03:49
True words.....a good paraphrasing of Dr. Bacevitch's argument and conclusion
+16 # trottydt 2016-08-21 07:01
The massive US budget deficit is entirely due to its military expenditures, and the US Treasury Reserve mechanism is the biggest 3-card-trick in human history. A rude awakening is currently taking shape.
+13 # newell 2016-08-21 13:03
Quoting MidwesTom:
Without our military, our currency drops like a rock and therefore our lifestyle. Our economy depends on building military tools. Let the US Dollar cease to be the currency of international settlement, and it is welcome to a much lower life style.

So, the lifestyle that is destroying the planet is justified by killing millions of civilians? Do you hear yourself?
0 # hwmcadoo 2016-08-22 15:03
I didn't hear that it was justified only that it is happening.
+1 # Capn Canard 2016-08-23 10:58
Your position has the same limp, deflated, flaccid quality of common ignorance. On the contrary, a decrease in military spending would be a simple fix. Simply spend those dollars on domestic infrastructure and all associated social issues and problem solved. In fact more jobs would created, the economy would be growing. And most beneficial of all is that no one has to be killed. Keeping DoD at the same funding levels means that more poor people will be killed.
+1 # dbrize 2016-08-22 10:05
Quoting economagic:
Indeed. And the "missile gap" that was a central talking point in Nixon's 1960 campaign did not exist either.

It was the Kennedy campaign that promoted the "missile gap" theory.
+5 # wrknight 2016-08-21 17:59
Quoting PaulK:
...When ISIL recruits, our government does a horrible job of counter-recruitment.
On the contrary. Our government excels at recruiting jihadists for the enemy. Every bomb we drop, every civilian we kill and every home we destroy recruits at least 10 jihadists for every casualty they incur.

Oh, wait! Wasn't our government supposed to be recruiting good guys for our side?
0 # Capn Canard 2016-08-23 11:02
ISIS was the greatest invention of the American military intelligence to keep the DoD coffers full indefinitely.
+1 # BlueMorpho 2016-08-22 22:51
Sorry? For telling the truth? I've spoken with citizens of other countries while in the U.S. and when I was abroad who've voiced their justifiable dislike. It's damned embarrassing.
+50 # guomashi 2016-08-20 14:00
So many things are so badly wrong with US right now that one despairs of any of them being fixed ever.

The vector is certainly pointing in the wrong direction and no one is even thinking about improving the situation.
The only Hitler this country needs to worry about is the one it is about to elect.
+25 # indian weaver 2016-08-20 17:35
"The only Hitler this country needs to worry about is the one it is about to elect."
And, the current president, Mr. Nobel Peace Prize and World Class Terrorist, Torturer, Assassin, and all round Genocidal Maniac. Next one is in the wings, champing at the bit ...
+1 # wrknight 2016-08-21 18:04
Quoting indian weaver:
"The only Hitler this country needs to worry about is the one it is about to elect."
And, the current president, Mr. Nobel Peace Prize and World Class Terrorist, Torturer, Assassin, and all round Genocidal Maniac. Next one is in the wings, champing at the bit ...

It makes on wonder if the Nobel Prize committee ever considered retracting an award.
# Guest 2016-08-20 17:51
This comment has been deleted by Administrator
+45 # jsluka 2016-08-20 17:43
Quote: "U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without precedent in modern history."

Does this bloated military-indust rial complex make you feel safer, for example from the "threat of terrorism"?

And the US military STILL can't win a contemporary war against or in an impoverished, technologically backwards, Third World country like Afghanistan (now the longest war in US history).

As President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in his "The Chance for Peace" speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16,1953:
"This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

See, for an excerpt of this speech:
+30 # sfreeman 2016-08-20 19:18
jsluka, you seem to rely on media misrepresentati ons of fact & history in saying the Afghanistan war is the longest war in U.S. history. The Viet Nam (2 words, not 1) war lasted 17 years--look at the dates for the 1st & last names on The Viet Nam Memorial Wall. Thus far, Afghanistan has lasted 16 years. Consequently, it may well become longer than the Viet Nam war. However, the Banana Wars in Central America lasted 24 years (1902-1933). Admittedly, that was a series of wars rather than one war; but U.S. military forces basically were involved in constant combat operations in Central America during that time. If you don't want to count it because it was a series of wars confined to a very small area, I understand. But Afghanistan, at best, is the nation's second longest war, & arguably its 3rd longest war. What we should pay attention to is our nation's LONG history of war. Counting wars against the Native American population, the U.S. has fought 101 wars in its 240 year history, & has spent 68.8% of its history at war against someone. During the War Between the States, the Union not only fought the Confederacy, but wars against the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Sioux, Kiowa, Comanche and Nez Perc. The people of the U.S. may be a "peace loving" people, but the government of the U.S. is, and always has been a warrior government. IF we want to be a prosperous nation, we need to become a peaceful nation; which means reducing U.S. military spending by AT LEAST 50%, probably more.
+24 # economagic 2016-08-20 20:43
Clearly it depends on what and how you count. The point is that the US has always been an aggressor nation on a grand scale.
+26 # jazzman633 2016-08-20 20:51
Ike also said that if NATO were still around in ten years, it will have failed. Other countries must get strong enough to provide for their own defense. Here we are 50 years later, pushing NATO to Russia's doorstep. Who's driving that policy, if not the MIC?
+8 # Navigatio di Brendani 2016-08-21 01:58
Great point about the longevity of the United Nations being indicative of the failures of "battleship diplomacy," Jazzman.

I would only suggest that we be more wary of sound bites and lazy abbreviations like "MIC," my friends! Ike was sandbagging us with his MIC speech- by 1959 we already had a military industrial financial media congressional executive complex. Since then the only two institutions added where academic and judicial.

We cannot do anything about the damned Beast if we don't acknowledge its actual size and its dynamic interactive components. Only then can we identify, publicize, and attack/change its weaker components.

Media, academic, and judicial components might be good places to focus the beginning of a revolution on.
+5 # Navigatio di Brendani 2016-08-21 11:18
I suggest attacking media, academic, and judicial components of today's MIFMACJEC because they are the latest and least entrenched components, as well as the most effective means of winning hearts and minds nationwide.

In furtherance of that strategy, may I suggest that all of us spend more time posting on other news sites than RSN, where we are often just "preaching to the choir?"

Many powerful voices here do all they can to post first and gain as many ego-inflating up votes as possible.

Why not visit and post on more mainsream sites or even neocon sites with much larger readerships?

Screw easy upvotes! Take the battle to the FOE, which you will not find in this safe little harbor, me Buckos! Nothing risked, nothing gained.

Posting comments are fine, but longer and of necessity more thoughtfully and cleverly composed letters, articles, and even books are more powerful tools, usually.

At age 60 I am still learning that lesson via trial and error: I have penned many Godot articles, some of which suck, and some are pretty damned good. But hey - I'm a self-educated carpenter who learns by doing, and lo and behold, over 25,000 folks have read my musings.

Writing for Godot is a GREAT teaching and learning resource - a great way to get your writer's "sea legs" before venturing out into larger and more hostile media platforms. Hah - I even
sent my magnum opus "Talk I Would Like to Present to the Bilderberg Group" to Kissinger and Associates.
+2 # Navigatio di Brendani 2016-08-21 12:32
I realize Writing for Godot is a safe harbor for me, too, of course.

But I have printed out articles and snail-mailed them to a number of powerful individuals, think tanks, university departments and magazines. Hard copy has much more impact on editors and individuals than spammy emails. They appreciate the exra effort and can take your writings home, slowly savoring and contemplating them at leisure, with a brandy snifter in hand, re-reading artful or complex paragraphs.

Don't start out too preachy. Extend a few warm courtesies and offer a few insider "secret handshakes," then slip a needle thin intellectual rapier through their power elite chain mail. Wrapping/disgui sing your blade in humor is very often the best way to deliver a coup de grasse. Explore "Mark Twain Brainy Quotes" to amass a very effective arsenal.

Re mass media, when I posted a lot in The Daily Beast when it still had a comment field, TDB writers stole my stuff a numbet of times. But that was okay with me, because whether or not crucial data had my name on it, it was getting OUT THERE.
0 # hwmcadoo 2016-08-22 15:16
We keep talking of winning wars. This is a concept that is difficult especially when the USA starts the wars. WWII is a slightly different concept but even there it probably would not have been "won" without Russia.

In war all are losers; look at the Vietnam war, totally unnecessary and we had casualties in the hundreds of thousands with 50,000 killed not to mention several million Vietnamese.

This is winning, especially when we left in disgrace? It is worse when we keep up the same stupidity in order to make the supper rich even richer and the people have to fend for themselves even after paying taxes that other countries use for education, healthcare, infrastructure etc.

The USA is a failing Country and the rate if demise is accelerating. Obama has been a disaster balancing sounding benevolent to the people while giving away the Country to the fascists. Hillary can only be worse

Only a terminal country would choose two candidates like those we have.
+14 # Anonymot 2016-08-20 18:15
America is a Germanic nation with 20% of all of us having Teutonic roots. We are now witnessing the Teutonic routes that follow. As one whose field includes behavioral evolution, I have little doubt that in the two millenniums since Tacitus first described the unique warrior qualities of Germanium little has changed.

We have delusions of Empire.
We have delusions of being the Master Race in our exceptionalism.
We have delusions that once conquered, everyone will love us.
We have delusions that we have endless wealth to support endless wars.
Our Teutonic ancestors had those same delusions in the Thirties.
We have reached about 1935. The Clintons are at about 1937.
Our Generals are at about 1938.
We will soon arrive at about 1944, but our heroic leaders point out that the demolished German industries were reborn and are pillars of heavy German industry - because we put their Humpty Dumpty back on the wall.

So who will put us back on the wall after our Clintons, the CIA and MIC ruin us? Russia? China? Will there be anyone left?
+26 # Sunflower 2016-08-20 21:02

I think there have been many empires over the centuries, no need to bring in genetics for this. People seem to have the impulse to play `king of the mountain' every time they have more money/resources than their neighbors or other people in the world. Look at Spain, for example. The minute they got their hands on gold/silver that they stole from South America they immediately wanted to conquer more of Europe.

And, if you want to talk genetics, we certainly have inherited a lot of the Brit
propensity for conquering and oppressing-- especially those who are unable to resist
our aggression.

Pretty disgusting, by the way, that our country has been beating up on people that are the poorest and least able to defend themselves-- and they call it `assymetric warfare' when it is just bullying on a massive scale against people who not only
weren't hurting us, but couldn't possibly fight back.

One of the most unseemly, and pitiful examples, is our funding the Saudis to beat up on the Yemenis, some of the poorest people on the planet.
-1 # Caliban 2016-08-22 08:58
I doubt we fund "the Saudis to beat up on the Yemenis". We fund the Saudis to guarantee endless access to their petroleum resources. What the Saudis do with said funding s left to them, without official and public evaluation.
+8 # Navigatio di Brendani 2016-08-21 02:41
Interesting thesis, Anonymot. One thing you didn't list here, but are probably aware of, is Yale's ultra powerful Brotherhood of Death fraternity - its slightly less grim and descriptive nickname being Skull and Bones - that was modeled on the German Thule Society. It is only one of a number of nasty similar frats at Yale and other Ivy League colleges.

CIA meetings are often referred to by insiders as "Yale alumni meetings." While I agree with Sunflower that we have strong Anglo ties - for decades the membership rolls of the powerful Bohemian Club read like a 1930s London phone book - there certainly are strong Germanic influences at work here. You might enjoy my Godot article below that shows that we let Nazis rape and loot the world, then took that accumulated loot they stashed in Merkers Mines from them.

Explaining the Clear the Board Monopoly Game of World War Two in 3 Paragraphs

Also search:

Google Images Merkers Mines

There is clearly much to support the notion that the fascist Fourth Reich is is here in America, aka our military industrial financial media academic congressional judicial executive complex.
+7 # Anonymot 2016-08-21 02:48
In the last half century or so, we are not tied to Britain. They are tied to us. That's especially true since Blair. They have become weak - as we will. Our size will make no difference.
0 # Navigatio di Brendani 2016-08-21 15:59
Your post is an exercise in pretzel logic, mon frer. We both agree the trans Atlantic Anglo tie exists. Nowhere did I say or imply that Britain, which went bankrupt before we joined it in fighting Nazis that some of our corporations and brokerage houses largely created, had the upper hand in our relationship.

But to imagine that, the same as it was in WW II, the Island Fortress / Forward Base Britain wouldn't be totally INDISPENSIBLE if NATO crumbles as it very certainly may soon, is sheer lunacy, Anonymot.

Please understand I am not a cheerleader for USA world domination. I am merely pointing out on-the-ground strategic realities that will hold sway for the next few decades, even if a Democratic Socialist president is elected in 2020 as I hope will happen.
+1 # Navigatio di Brendani 2016-08-22 09:51
Quoting Anonymot:
In the last half century or so, we are not tied to Britain. They are tied to us. That's especially true since Blair. They have become weak - as we will. Our size will make no difference.

Actually, our size will make a difference: Brits were a major international force to be reckoned with for about 600 years. Our military was only ranked 18th in the world in 1939.

I seriously doubt the American Empire will survive past the year 2100, for a grand total of 150 years. Bigger is not better, all empires fall, most following a bell curve. We zoomed to the top of our bell curve in only a few decades, stayed there for a few decades and are now on the downhill side of that curve.

Given present world volitility, speed of light transfers of trillions of dollars in funny money, all eggs in one fucking basket Internet, under exponentially increasing cyber attacks, doomed to crash, taking most of the world's food, shipping, power, manufacturing healthcare, financial and transport infrastructure down with it, the world as we know it might not last another decade.

Ancient Egypt defied gravity for 3500 years for 3 main reasons: The Nile's fertile silt was renewed yearly by floods bringing eroded soil from upstream, and taxes were tied to rise and fall of the Nile.

Egypt was strongly female/right brain affirmative and no women in history had more power or freedom.

Finally, they used right brain pictographs, not a left brain alphabet.
+38 # angryspittle 2016-08-20 18:16
All of this money right down the damn drain. We haven't won goddamn war since 1945. And we have been at war damn near continuously.
+17 # Navigatio di Brendani 2016-08-21 03:00
Money down the drain for us taxpayers, but money in pockets of power elite, my friend. War and preparation for war is the most profitable enterprise.

Niccolo Machiavelli advised that if a prince/nation wishing to become great had no enemy, then one must be CREATED. Karl Rove, architect of the NeoCon movement, reads Machiavelli's book "The Prince" every year on his birthday!
+36 # reiverpacific 2016-08-20 18:59
My most front and central howl of protest is lack of universal healthcare- and I keep shouting this to all who have ears -even those who turn their heads away.
This would be criminal in any civilized country other than this one who can't even get it on "the table". whatever THAT is!
The US powers that be refuse to look around the more successful, humanitarian nations who have this as a basic social norm but treats its citizens of a certain age as "qualified" to be cannon-fodder, yet denies is veterans many basic physical and mental support systems.
-Yet the provocations and warmongering continue.
Someday, blowback will be this country's principal problem before final collapse into the abyss which sucked up so many aggressive, plundering regimes before it!
+12 # Anonymot 2016-08-21 11:45
I'll give you a neat example. A dermatologist in the U.S. said get this prescription before you leave. It will solve your problem. I went to Walgreen's where I have a Club discount for which I pay $25 annually. Sure, they said, we have that. With your discount it's only $306.

I simply couldn't afford that. How about this prescription from my cardiologist. It's more important than my chronic rash. Sure, that costs $190 per month's supply. I was supposed to take it from now on.

So I thanked him and left with no medication. The cardiologist explained the importance of the heart medication. That worried me. I got on the plane.

I'm now in one of the EU countries by the sea. I went into a pharmacy. The $306 medication, same brand (a Bayer product) cost a bit over 12 Euros (about $13.50!!) I asked about the cardiac medication. It will cost me about 35 Euros ($40) per month. Again, same brand. Rest assured, the producers have a profit in the EU prices, but not just rolling in pig grease.
+31 # Brian Flaherty 2016-08-20 19:07
Pay attention! Mr Bacevich speaks the truth. . .!!

I have been ashamed for the past 60+ years ( to be a "Murrican!") since I was old enough to understand the Bullshit Line!. . .And, I DID understand when I was that young. . that the US was as great a danger to the Rest of the World as any that had gone before!

I first traveled abroad in 1973; and, I was asked "Why do you Americans do what you do?" (re: the Rest of the world who look to you with "admiration" and "respect" and " hope!")

We've had everything going for us. . .And, we can't even give "It" to ALL of our own people! We treat our own People of Color like crap! We treat those of our own "less advantaged" WORSE than crap!

And, we let those who would gain from this kind of behavior, push the "Rest of US" into performing like "trained animals" in pursuit of THEIR gains! [My apologies to "animals". . They do not generally act this way toward "their" own!]

Do you need any greater example(s) than the jerks we have proposed to lead us in the current upcoming election??! Trump??? Clinton??? A real pair of "losers" in the overall Human Race!
+24 # futhark 2016-08-20 19:32
Commitment to sustained high levels of military spending is an addiction and, like any other kind of addiction, has long-term negative consequences. Breaking the addiction will no doubt be painful.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 we had a chance to do it. People started talking about the peace dividend we could award ourselves using the resources that would otherwise have been spent on instruments of death and destruction. However, before any clear consensus emerged from discussions, people in communities where employment at military bases started campaigns to have "their base" spared from closure. Undoubtedly arms industry lobbyists worked overtime to justify maintaining a large and wasteful military establishment. Then President G. H. W. Bush first tempted his former ally Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait and subsequently discovered that this invasion presented a serious threat to American security and world peace! That was a mighty close call for the MIC!

Since that time policies have been crafted with the intention of keeping the Middle East on a kind of slow boil, not enough to cause real problems, but just enough to justify continuing American military engagement there. This continuing mission has reached the status of perpetual accomplishment!
+28 # crowtower 2016-08-20 19:52
Who are we? Are we just nice ole folks, moms, dads, grandparents, Sunday school teachers and Little League coaches or are we a sick and insane militaristic culture whose GNP is 50% devices that kill any of our fellow humans in the way of our greedy quest for more and more consumptive material crap the whole process of which has initiated runaway planetary life form extinction.
0 # wrknight 2016-08-21 18:37
Quoting crowtower:
Who are we? Are we just nice ole folks, moms, dads, grandparents, Sunday school teachers and Little League coaches or are we a sick and insane militaristic culture whose GNP is 50% devices that kill any of our fellow humans in the way of our greedy quest for more and more consumptive material crap the whole process of which has initiated runaway planetary life form extinction.

There have been five mass extinction events in Earth's history. In the worst one, 250 million years ago, 96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land species died off. It took millions of years to recover.

There is good reason to believe that the 5th major extinction was caused not by meteoric impact but by climate change and destruction of it's environment by the dinosaurs which were then the dominant species. Now, humans are the dominant species experiencing climate change and destruction of our environment at a rate never experienced before.

We can forgive the dinosaurs because they couldn't realize what they were doing. But humans are supposed to be more intelligent than dinosaurs.
+9 # economagic 2016-08-20 20:21
"What happened to that realist tradition? Simply put, World War II killed it -- or at least discredited it."

(From Factor 4, "Misremembered History," fifth paragraph from the bottom.)

No it didn't: World War II provided the opportunity and the excuse for the military-indust rial-MEDIA (TV) complex to kill it.

Global Communism was not a genuine threat to the US "homeland" (or fatherland, if one wants to get Germanic about it) even in 1950 after the fall (or rise, depending on one's perspective) of China. The Former Soviet Union WAS a credible threat, and the overreach of China in Korea further roiled the waters.

But the guerillas in Guatemala were not, and to the extent that the people of such oppressed countries seemed to look toward the Soviets as a model it was because no other alternative to their oppressors presented itself, especially as the US and its allies continued to support the oppressors just as we had in the 1930s, and as the Bretton Woods Institutions began to plunder them in ways the European colonists of the 18th and 19th centuries never imagined.

+14 # economagic 2016-08-20 20:40

(The BW Institutions -- the World Bank and IMF, standing in the same relation as Morgan-Chase and Countrywide five decades later -- were organized in the aftermath of the War, ostensibly to Westernize and capitalize the Less Developed Countries. Whatever their original mission really was, they soon found it profitable to use "structural adjustment" loans to extract resources from the LDCs in the form of mineral resources, but more important in the form of cheap or free labor. The similarity to the actions of the big banks 1996-2008 is noteworthy.)

Two books from the period, one fiction and one non-fiction, tell part of the story to which the US Mainstream Media and Beltway insiders turned a blind eye in order to maintain the official fiction discussed in the article above. "The Ugly American" (1958, by Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer) is a work of historical and political fiction about how the Soviets out-maneuvered the US in Southeast Asia without firing a shot. Lederer wrote "A Nation Of Sheep" in 1961 to tell the same story and extend it. Much of what they wrote about the betrayal of this country by the US establishment, primarily through sloth and lust for private profit, can be documented from publicly available sources.
+7 # Realist1948 2016-08-21 08:04
I agree. Another book that sheds light on U.S. policy blunders of the post-WWII period is "The Brothers" by Stephen Kinzer. Brothers Allen and John Foster Dulles were behind the toppling of legitimate, elected governments in Iran and Guatemala. The Dulles brothers were key figures in laying the groundwork for the futile efforts to oppose Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. Their paranoid view of communism, and their intolerance of foreign leaders who wished to remain neutral in the Cold War, were the seeds for several conflicts that still haunt us today.
0 # economagic 2016-08-21 17:14
Oh yes, I remember reading about that book when it was published three years ago. I ought to read it, as I'm old enough to remember the names, though not quite old enough to have understood what they were doing. I learned more from the reviews alone than I had known previously. At the top of my list when I retired at the end of last year was reading. Alas, recuperation and one of those "infinitely expanding home improvement projects" have thus far left me with barely enough time and energy to keep up with the news, and I have estimated that it would be impossible for me to read even half of the books currently on my shelves!
+10 # ellen.rosser 2016-08-20 23:02
Well, there is a solution. Vote for Jill Stein, who will end all the wars and cut military spending. If enough people do it, she will win. Otherwise, it will create a viable third party for the next election--if we survive the MIC, Clinton's wars with Syria and possibly Russia or Trump's failure to deal with climate change. There's only one real choice in this election. Don't vote for the lesser of two evils: vote for what you believe in.
+3 # wrknight 2016-08-21 18:09
"The thinking went this way: soldiers offer living proof that America is a place still worth dying for, that patriotism (at least in some quarters) remains alive and well; by common consent, therefore, soldiers are the nation’s “best,” committed to “something bigger than self” in a land otherwise increasingly absorbed in pursuing a material and narcissistic definition of self-fulfillment."

That was wishful thinking. The real thinking is that soldiers find the rewarding careers with little risk in the military much better than unemployment or under-employmen t at McDonald's and Walmart.
-1 # corals33 2016-08-22 01:51
Now this is what makes America a great Nation.let's have more and more of it.
0 # Mountain Man 2016-08-22 22:24
Oh, don't say that the missle gap wasn't real. It was very real, & the Soviet Union was never able to close it.
0 # RLF 2016-08-24 05:53
If anyone is wondering why we have a crumbling infrastructure, horrible education, are 50th in health care(at best) it is!

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