Streams

All Together Now

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In his new book The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (Metropolitan Books, 2008), Andrew Bacevich, professor of international relations and history at Boston University, West Point graduate, and Vietnam veteran, critiques U.S. foreign policy and unilateral action but also points the finger at the U.S. citizenry.

Guests:

Andrew Bacevich

The Morning Brief

Enter your email address and we’ll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.

Comments [51]

BL Producer from WNYC

We've removed a few comments that were not on topic. Please keep in mind WNYC's comment posting guidelines, and keep the conversation civil.

Aug. 21 2008 02:38 PM
Gary Krasner from new york

Eva, most of my friends are liberals. I used to be one in the 60s to the 80s. That wasn't the point repub and I were making. The point was simply that If Nazi Germany were still here, your side would be defending the sovereignty of Germany from outside interference in its domestic extermination campaigns, as you've done with respect to Saddam's regime. You sang a different tune when it was the sovereignty of Pinochet's regime. Or Marcos' in the Phillipines. The only philosophically consistent ones have been the neocons, like Paul Wolfowitz.

We now know that the mistake in Iraq was making it a US occupation, without even supplying the necessary troop levels, and rules of engagement that were a tragic joke. That is a far different question as to whether toppling Saddam was efficacious. As my essay from 2004 shows: http://www.americandaily.com/article/1448. The theory was correct. The execution was bad. Blame Bush for that. But Patraeus has proved that it could have been done correctly from the beginning. That was the tragedy----and not the toppling of a homicidal tyrant.

Aug. 21 2008 02:50 AM
eva

Gary, give it a break. I'm not going to read Jonah Goldberg.
You can rant all you want about Mussolini, but the fact is that the occupation of Iraq has been a disaster from day one. There was no planning, there was no reason, and now we've got a $9.5 trillion federal deficit, none of that sum includes the $3 trillion that this occupation will cost us. Throw in unfunded mandates and you're looking at 59 trillion, with a shtload owed to China.
The deficit poses far greater risks to us at this point than any terrorist.

Aug. 20 2008 05:34 PM
Gary Krasner from New York

I meant to write:

[...] to read the passionate support of Mussolini and Stalin among 1920s and 30s liberals in the US [...]

Aug. 20 2008 05:21 PM
Gary Krasner from New York

Eva Writes: QUOTE------With all due respect, that's a completely specious allegory. It's also contemptuous. There's no comparison betwen this fiasco of an occupation and the ALLIED efforts during WWII------UNQUOTE

Eva, I refrain from making such comparisons. But Nazi germany would be a member of the UN today. No? Them please tell me exactly which one of Nazi Germany's policies would have excluded it from being a member of the UN, given the membership today of N Korea, Soviets (earlier), Rowanda, Suddan, Saddam's regime, Pol Pot 's Regime, etc.

Also, without debating the old arguments of the similarities of totalitarianism with the philosophy of liberalism, you jaw will drop clear to the floor to read the passionate support of Mussolini and Stalin, not to mention that the nazism championed an astounding number of agenda items among animals rights, organic food, chemical free food, vegetarian, environmentalism, etc. even promoting the use of hemp!

Cabinet secretaries in Roosevelt's admin idolized Mussolini. One state dept secretary in that Admin, who had also served under Woodrow Wilson's, had a photo of Mussolini in his office. Mussolini and his father before him had been renowned and respected socialists in Europe. read Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism.

Aug. 20 2008 05:16 PM
eva

Repub,
With all due respect, that's a completely specious allegory. It's also contemptuous. There's no comparison betwen this fiasco of an occupation and the ALLIED efforts during WWII,
Don't kid yourself...

Aug. 20 2008 04:36 PM
Repub101 from Manhattan

I applaud your effort, Gary, but if Hitler were alive today, and the U.S. went into Germany, many of these folks would say that we were just "invading" in order to take over Volkswagen.

Aug. 20 2008 03:34 PM
Gary Krasner from New York

chris o writes: QUOTE------It is pathetic to trot out the genocidal acts of Saddam. We provided him with chemical and biological weapons and aided him in their use against Iran in 1983. Then he gassed the Kurds in 1988 and we were silent. Then he did a massive crime against the southern Shi'a after they rose up per GHW Bush and we turned away when they needed our help. Then 12 years later, or 15 years later, we use these events to justify an attack - that is pretty weak. Can you just say "OIL"? Please?

Yes, I can say oil: Oil is a fiduciary commodity that doesn't affect just the US w respect to prices. And the US wasn't getting a drop of oil from Iraq. The idea was to deny the oil wealth from going to jihadists from rogue states (can you say "Saddam"?!) Intercepts from jihadists hears them actually call such a resource, "the oil weapon". OK? And we provided chemical kits to Saddam to defend iraq against the hords of a million invading troops, plus pre teens among them, from the jihad supporting regime of iran, which was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of marines in Lebanon. And the US condemned iraq after the weapons had been misused. case closed. Tell me, how much oil have we stolen from iraq since the invasion "to steal their oil". Huh?

Aug. 20 2008 02:34 PM
Gary Krasner from New York

chris o writes: QUOTE-------Sorry Gary, you state my facts are wrong but I think not. I simply countered your claim that the US seeks consensus by stating that the UN did not support either of our attacks on Iraq or Afghanistan - that is reality. They likely would have supported our invasion of Afghanistan but we did not seek or care for their assent. At the UN, you can blame the French but all of the peoples of the world (except, shock, Israelis), by overwhelming majorities opposed the aggressive and unjustified attack on Iraq.

chris, I never addressed your comments, let alone allege they were wrong. But since you asked, I never said the US obtained UN permission. I said that the US SOUGHT multilateral consensus, and OBTAINED it---both in iraq and afghanistan. I mentioned NATO re Afghanistan. And it's not just Israel re Iraq. Dozens of nations are part of ther coalition. Consensus doesnt mean "UN". I was clear on that.

Aug. 20 2008 02:21 PM
Gary Krasner from New York

Paulo writes: QUOTE------And we now know why!" --> Yes, we sure do. Because they saw then that the Bush administration was fishing for a pretext for war. ----UNQUOTE

Wrong. France, China, and Russia wanted to keep doing business with Saddam and taking his bribes. All documented. The rationale for toppling saddam didnt have to be "fished" for. It was word for word what the Clinton Admin advocated. it was just a copy and paste operation. not a "fishing" operation.

QUOTE------You assume that everyone agrees that it was within our interests to invade Iraq. That is the point of contention. So saying that people are taking the stand that our interests should be able to be blocked is a straw man argument at best.-----UNQUOTE

Wrong again. If the socalled evil neocons have been quoted on countless times, it is that the US should act in instances in which it is BOTH in our national interests, AND in accord with altruistic/humanitarian concerns. They've been critical of the liberal preference to act SOLELY if there's a humanitarian issue at stake, AND ABSOLUTELY NO national self interest. An absurdly naive preference.

Aug. 20 2008 01:54 PM
Gary Krasner from New York

hjs writes: QUOTE------"the interests of people trying to avoid Saddam's genocidal policies with the Marsh Arabs, the Khurds, the Shi'ites" -----come come u know that's not why we went there!----UNQUOTE

hjs, You'll be surprised to learn that during a yr prior to the invasion, Bush cited such humanitarian rationales in 67 separate speeches and statements. That according to nonpartisan renowned journalist, Lou Cannon and his son who wrote a biography of Bush. Also, we can thank Coffe Anan for the focus on WMD, because he told the Bush adm that there will be no resolution voted on in the Security Council UNLESS it alleged WMD. That's one reason why we heard so much WMD talk absent of other rationales.

Aug. 20 2008 01:54 PM
chris o from new york city

It is pathetic to trot out the genocidal acts of Saddam. We provided him with chemical and biological weapons and aided him in their use against Iran in 1983. Then he gassed the Kurds in 1988 and we were silent. Then he did a massive crime against the southern Shi'a after they rose up per GHW Bush and we turned away when they needed our help. Then 12 years later, or 15 years later, we use these events to justify an attack - that is pretty weak.

Can you just say "OIL"? Please?

Aug. 20 2008 12:19 PM
chris o from new york city

Sorry Gary, you state my facts are wrong but I think not. I simply countered your claim that the US seeks consensus by stating that the UN did not support either of our attacks on Iraq or Afghanistan - that is reality. They likely would have supported our invasion of Afghanistan but we did not seek or care for their assent. At the UN, you can blame the French but all of the peoples of the world (except, shock, Israelis), by overwhelming majorities opposed the aggressive and unjustified attack on Iraq.

Aug. 20 2008 12:17 PM
Gary Krasner from New York

Paulo, you're wrong again:

you wrote: "Russia had such an agreement with Georgia."
in fact, Georgia had a treaty with Russia in which Russia would defend georgia if it is threatened with a nuclear attack. There was no nuclear attack, and Russia invaded Georgia---not defend it.

You wrote: QUOTE----My point is that given past realities, signing agreements with corrupt dictators permitting troops to help retain their power (you yourself said it was to prevent insurrection) on top of whatever bribes might be given to them, is no measure of "altruistic" intentions.------QUOTE

You should read what I wrote. I didn't say that. I said such private bilateral treaties belie the public rhetoric from said nations that the US is a bully or is unilaterral etc. OK? One cannot bash a nation, yet enter into agreements that belie the criticism.

Aug. 20 2008 12:10 PM
Gary Krasner from New York

Paulo writes:
QUOTE---If a country's material wealth and modernity is a measure of a country's importance in the war on terror, then we should invade Europe. If, on the other hand, RELEVANCE is the most important factor, then Afghanistan/Pakistan is the place to be in this war.-----QUOTE

Your calculation is wrong. Yes, jihadists can train in sanctuaries permitted by the host country. But the gov of Afghanistan is not going to allow that. And we don't need 20 brigades to insure that. Read that article I posted the link for. On the other hand, jihadists need money to make up for the lack of followers they have. And they can sap the wealth of countries that have it, and in the case of Iraq, disrupt the flow of oil to the world.

Aug. 20 2008 12:09 PM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

Michael from Manhattan (#30) -- agree totally! And the hijackers were almost caught -- they barely hid what they were up to. That's the real tragedy. Along with the airlines and the FAA, the FBI also failed us. Not at the grass roots level where local agents sent numerous alerts, but at the top which stuck its collective head in the sand. 9/11 was the total failure of agencies already in place. It was absolutely not necessary to turn this country into a police state to protect us further. All we needed to do is make use of what we already had.

Aug. 20 2008 11:51 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

"With respect to Iraq, you are slanting the facts. The UN didn't stop short of voting for our final resolution. It was France's announcement to Colin Powell that France would not agree to any armed force against Saddam under ANY circumstances. And we now know why!"

Yes, we sure do. Because they saw then that the Bush administration was fishing for a pretext for war.

"Therefore, the US had no reason to dick around with the Security Council after what France declared. You believe that one nation is permitted to veto our interests, and the interests of people trying to avoid Saddam's genocidal policies with the Marsh Arabs, the Khurds, the Shi'ites, etc??!!! You are welcome to that morally bankrup position."

You assume that everyone agrees that it was within our interests to invade Iraq. That is the point of contention. So saying that people are taking the stand that our interests should be able to be blocked is a straw man argument at best.

Aug. 20 2008 11:51 AM
hjs from 11211

gary
"the interests of people trying to avoid Saddam's genocidal policies with the Marsh Arabs, the Khurds, the Shi'ites"

come come u know that's not why we went there!

Aug. 20 2008 11:47 AM
hjs from 11211

chris o,
guess u would have to explain 'expense'
but the US taxpayer often further interests of citizens of other nations, especially corporate interest. the princes of saudi arabia and others benefit from US protection and arms sales at US expense, etc

Aug. 20 2008 11:44 AM
Gary Krasner from New York

Chris,

You got your facts wrong. The UN didn't approve of our invasion of Afghanistan----but NATO had. NATO troops are fighting there as you speak. That there is multilateralism. But the UN didn't vote sanctions against the US for Afghanistan, because we had the right to fight back.

With respect to Iraq, you are slanting the facts. The UN didn't stop short of voting for our final resolution. It was France's announcement to Colin Powell that France would not agree to any armed force against Saddam under ANY circumstances. And we now know why! Therefore, the US had no reason to dick around with the Security Council after what France declared. You believe that one nation is permitted to veto our interests, and the interests of people trying to avoid Saddam's genocidal policies with the Marsh Arabs, the Khurds, the Shi'ites, etc??!!! You are welcome to that morally bankrup position.

Aug. 20 2008 11:39 AM
chris o from new york city

no hjs not sarcasm; that was meant as a "realpolitic" analysis because not only would joe 6-pack be against helping others with his tax dollars, the rulers of society have no interest in helping others either, joe 6 pack included

Aug. 20 2008 11:36 AM
Michael from Manhattan

Fact is no matter what the right wingers say. 911 has nothing to do with National Security, Afghanistan and whatever. It could have been prevented with better Airline security. PERIOD. Planes have been bombed and Hijacked for over 40 years. Ther is no excuse that there were better security systems on a 15K car then on multimillion $ aircraft. IT is the FAA and the Airlines responsibility. If simple procedures and security measures were in place as they should have been , it would have never happened.

Aug. 20 2008 11:35 AM
chris o from new york city

McCain is disgusting with his rhetoric on Iraq. What a phony manipulative tool and I used to like him. He talks of victory as if Iran has not already emerged victorious and we have not already emerged weakened no matter what happens hereon out. We can minimize the damage but we can't turn back the clock. Yet he gets away with his absurd analysis of victory vs. failure which the media dutifully transcribes and passes on as a he said/she said. No observer can seem to talk about the reality of the Iraq mess.

Aug. 20 2008 11:32 AM
Repub101 from Manhattan

Your comment on freedom is so interesting to me. Yet, when freedom is taken away, its value is much more obvious.

Aug. 20 2008 11:32 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

hahahah...Ron Paul has been talking about humble for. policy and morals for the length of his campaign and you peeps ignored him...

Aug. 20 2008 11:31 AM
hjs from 11211

chris o
" It would also be wrong for US taxpayers to further the interests of citizens of other nations at the expense of the US interest - and so it does not happen."

was that sarcasm?

Aug. 20 2008 11:29 AM
Gary Krasner from New York

hjs,

I didn't say we must retreat from Afghanistan. I just said that we shouldn't be escalating the war there in the manner Obama has suggested, in his glorious ignorance. Please READ:

OBAMA'S AFGHAN ABSURDITIES
http://www.nypost.com/seven/08052008/postopinion/opedcolumnists/obamas_afghan_absurdities_123039.htm

Aug. 20 2008 11:28 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

"You do not enter into such agreements with a foreign power unless you embrace the notion that the foreign power will not abuse the arrangement."

Russia had such an agreement with Georgia.

I'm not saying that we necessarily have imperial ambitions in all of these countries. My point is that given past realities, signing agreements with corrupt dictators permitting troops to help retain their power (you yourself said it was to prevent insurrection) on top of whatever bribes might be given to them, is no measure of "altruistic" intentions.

Aug. 20 2008 11:27 AM
Robert from NYC

Actually with all due respect to the Danish troops, the withdrawl of 50 or 100 troops is not minimal, it's nil...NIL!

Aug. 20 2008 11:27 AM
RC

Professor Baevich my condolences to you over the death of your son who was serving in Iraq.

I am reading a book called "Descent into Chaos" by Pakistani journalist Amhed Rashid. He disagrees with you on the warlords. He contends that that there were opportunities early on after the fall of the Taliban to have a strong central government and to weaken the warlords. We allowed the CIA to prop up the warlords.

And because we did not spend enough money in Afganistan, none of our NATO allies ponied up much money either.

Only if we take the lead can we get the rest of the world to follow.

Also does the U.S. have a moral obligation to absorb the over 2 million Iraqi refugees?

Aug. 20 2008 11:26 AM
chris o from new york city

Brian,
The Georgians did call their troops in Iraq home and the US military transported them there while you were on vacation.

Aug. 20 2008 11:26 AM
chris o from new york city

It is extremely naive to believe we act altruistically in foreign affairs, as naive as it would be to think Russia behaves this way. It would also be wrong for US taxpayers to further the interests of citizens of other nations at the expense of the US interest - and so it does not happen.

Aug. 20 2008 11:24 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey


If a country's material wealth and modernity is a measure of a country's importance in the war on terror, then we should invade Europe. If, on the other hand, RELEVANCE is the most important factor, then Afghanistan/Pakistan is the place to be in this war.

Aug. 20 2008 11:23 AM
robert from park slope

What should be the determinant for our getting involved in foreign matters? Human rights? "Preemptive" defensive moves? Oil?

Aug. 20 2008 11:21 AM
Gary Krasner from New York

Paulo, we have these bilateral agreements with nations for whom we never colonized, nor had a sphere of influence over. Like Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and over a dozen African nations. You do not enter into such agreements with a foreign power unless you embrace the notion that the foreign power will not abuse the arrangement. Which nation's armed forces would YOU permit on US soil?!

Aug. 20 2008 11:21 AM
Repub101 from Manhattan

American exceptionalism doesn't mean that we are by virtue of citizenship better than others. It means that the freedoms and basic values that the country was founded on have helped the country flourish like few others in history. That is what makes this country unique. It is not a perfect country, but then again, there is no such thing as a perfect country.

Aug. 20 2008 11:20 AM
chris o from new york city

#4 - No the US did not seek UN consensus for Afghanistan, it was quite the opposite. As for Iraq, while seeking UN support, when we did not get it, we just said, "Screw you, UN." So those are good examples from my perspective of the US need for or interest in consensus.

Aug. 20 2008 11:19 AM
hjs from 11211

gary
kayda had and still has free run in Afghanistan & pakistan. that's what makes it
the center bush's terror war not iraq's oil

Aug. 20 2008 11:15 AM
O from Forest Hills

I second hjs.

Aug. 20 2008 11:14 AM
hjs from 11211

Chamberlain

no i don't believe that but it is our choice to be drones. we give MSM their power. so we are to blame. we are where we want to be

Aug. 20 2008 11:12 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

Having bilateral agreements for troop presence is in no way a measure of altruistic goals. Virtually every empire has had at least some kind of agreement from some friendly leader in the countries where they set up colonies and protectorates to justify their presence there. Even France had such agreements in the Ivory Coast. They didn't INVADE the Ivory Coast. They didn't have to. They were already there.. they had been for years.

Aug. 20 2008 11:12 AM
Gary Krasner from New York

Iraq leads in oil and gas reserves. It's a modern state with an educated population. Whereas Afghanistan is a "backwater", in the words of Charles Krauthammer. And yet that is the nation that Obama believes is the center of the war on terrorism??!!!

Aug. 20 2008 11:11 AM
O from Forest Hills

Well, Chamberlain, in a penthouse, you are not doing so bad are you.

Easy to attack when all is comfortable in the land of wealth among the rabble.

Aug. 20 2008 11:08 AM
Chamberlain Duntry from A Penthouse In Manhattan

hjs, yes, yes, sure you're right. I'm sure the electorate will rise up and eliminate the mainstream media that has reduced the brains of the public to the size of Obama's ears and Paris Hilton's breasts. Actually the latter would be an overestimation, but I'm sure you're right, the same people who can't even tell Jay Leno who the current VP is, will suddenly attain through their own volition and momentum, an incisive understanding of politics. Good boy, hjs, you keep on believing that.

Aug. 20 2008 11:05 AM
hjs from 11211

Chamberlain Duntry, this is said to be a democracy so i would agree "We have no one to blame but ourselves"

Aug. 20 2008 11:00 AM
Chamberlain Duntry from A Penthouse In Manhattan

We have no one to blame but ourselves, your promo reads. Really? No one but ourselves? Not the media whores? Not Fox News? Not Main Stream Media? Not Rush Limbaugh? Not the coursening of society as practioned by the scummy media? Please.

Aug. 20 2008 10:56 AM
Gary Krasner from New York

Under Bush, we now have bilateral agreements with dozens of nations, including most in the mideast, in which our armed forces are given immunty from criminal prosecution if the US armed forces are requested by these governments to suppress insurections and defend them from invasion. Does that not prove to anyone that there is more faith in the altruism and good faith of the US than the public pronouncements from these governments would indicate?!

Other nations do not have "exit strategies" after the invade another country. They do not obsess over the possibility that the world will not love them if they act in their own national interests. When liberals in the US wrung their hands over our supposed "unilateralism" in Iraq, France invaded the Ivory Coast to protect their interests. They didn't seek UN permission as the US had in Iraq. France didn't even bat and eye over their invasion of that African nation, and neither did our domestic knee-jerk domestic critic of Bush.

Aug. 20 2008 10:47 AM
Gary Krasner from New York

Bacevich will discuss US foreign policy, I suspect. But I've never accepted the argument that the US is a unilateral power.

We seek consensus from NATO all the time. Same with the UN. We sought it for Afghanistan and Iraq. The only reason China, France and Russia balked at regime change with Iraq was because their foreign ministers were bribed by Saddam (oil for food scam).

I don't recall Clinton obtaining consensus for Somalia and Kosova, if you want to discuss "nations that never attacked us."

Aug. 20 2008 10:47 AM
Jose from Queens

Brian,
Could you PLEASE stop saying that Ossetians are ethnic Russians. This is simply NOT true.
The Ossetian language belongs to the Indo-Iranian language family, and even their looks are closer to Iranians than to Russians.
Do they ALSO speak Russian? Yes, and so do Georgians. That does not mean they are Russian!

Ref:
http://www.ethnologue.com/show_lang_family.asp?code=oss

Aug. 20 2008 10:41 AM
whoindatgarden from Brooklyn

Well what Prof/Col Bacevich is pointing out is nothing new really, he is articulate and has written in a succinct forceful way bu little will change.
America is heading to become a Oligarchy along with many of the Western European countries included.
People are in the Rip Van Winkle effect stuck in a long comatose.
To think a Obama will bring about change people are totally mistaken and I will not surprised that he does not win this Novembers election as the country has not yet been pushed up against the wall.

Aug. 20 2008 10:08 AM
Dag Sheepshanks from Pacific and Nostrand

OK, here is what I dont understand....I ve seen Bacevich on Bill Moyers last Friday and I ve heard similar stories on NPR this morning. How is it we re living above our means instead of our incomes arent keeping up with the expenses? In NYC and a few other cities we spend average 60-70% of our monthly income on housing. if we were to spend within our means what it say is that we are not meant to live. How many of you on this board are "living" and how many others are "surviving"? Its possible to make the argument that people wouldnt need or use credit if their incomes kept pace with inflation. It can also be said that GM and Ford wouldnt be doing so bad if peoples incomes increased as well. More disposable income gives you more to dispose of. But no, GM(& others) saw fit to make more money financing the sale instead of building the product. Hence the need for credit. You make more money on interest payments than the actual sale.
But my point is what would really happen the the US economy if people lived within their means without the aid of credit?

Aug. 20 2008 09:07 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.