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  1. #1

    Default American Power

    It's like, believe it or not, I'm not a neocon nut. I'm not a Cowboy. I don't have the means to watch Fox News. I read the Guardian more than the Telegraph or even the Times.

    I've read quite a lot about the abuse of American Power, especially under Kissinger, Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr, and Clinton.

    But reading the use, and abuse, of American Power as one consistent line seems rigid and counterproductive to me, especially now, when US foreign policy and international politics have both changed profoundly.

    The worse thing afflicting Bush's foreign policy is hypocrasy and lack of consistency, not neo-imperial aggression. For example, to bolster the idea of promoting democracy in the Middle East, they should promote fledgling democracies like Jordan and Bahrain, and vocally support the massive push for reform in Iran (maybe engagment is better than attack in this case: new ties between Iran and the US might, actually, kick off serious opposition to the Mullocrats), and, on the other side, distance themselves from the corrupt and disgusting House of Saud.

    Connect America to its rich vein of political literature: to critique its power interests and its State gangsters and fundamentalist nuts, but also to counter the prevalent mode of thinking that tars the US as neo-imperialist or, even, neo-fascist.

    Cos I'm not buying that argument, especially when it's based on analysis that's over 10 years out of date.

    The best and closest of you, like Sufi and Luka and Mark, have twigged that my attitude to US power is complex, convoluted, and somewhat derivative. I can't deny that. Actually, my attitude is also based on studying the greatest scandal of the last decade: Rwanda. So let's talk about the idea of intervention, too. Because serious intervention to stop such catastrophes (see the Balkans in particular) rests, for success, on US military balls.

    But to start, as Thomas Friedman put it, some reading: the US constitution, Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points speech, and the Declaration of Independance. I'd add to that: the Prospect interview with and the <a href="">New Yorker portrait</a> of Paul Wolfowitz.

    Now, let's argue. (Come on, don't embarrass me, don't let this thread die, I know you all care passionately about this...)
    Last edited by craner; 09-12-2004 at 11:34 PM. Reason: I'm not telling.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    you want to get pearsil in here,
    not sure if he's a neo-con either , but we're straight into discussing american power on darfur thread...
    i wonder if he'd agree with this:
    Quote Originally Posted by OC
    Because serious intervention to stop such catastrophes (see the Balkans in particular) rests, for success, on US military balls.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    You can't use html on this board. Links work like this: [ url = ] blah [ /url ] (just remove the spaces)

    Paul Wolfowitz interview

    I'm not a neo-con, I'm basically a centrist who can swing quite a bit in either direction as I see fit. Mostly I dislike any systematic world view that claims that everything can be explained by looking through a certain prism - it's bullshit. I'm harsher on left-wing view points than I am on right-wing ones because I used to be a fairly orthodox liberal, but once you start questioning one aspect of it you find you have to re-evaluate a lot of your positions.

    As far as the discussion of American power goes, I broadly agree with you. I'll wait to see what else this thread throw up before I add my thoughts.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    one thing right away: i need to find it again (hang on) but i read a comparison of the iraq invasion with an imagined rwanda intervention that contended that iraq was by far the easiest country on earth to invade; i think this was meant to have a chilling effect on any iran-talk. Iraq: lots of int'l "blue" water around to park carriers, surrounded by unsupportive or enemy states, 3 US allies among them, and the country itself photographed and bombed daily for a decade after an earlier overwhelming defeat. Rwanda had none of these handy logistical features and a "humanitarian" goal which always makes defense beancounter types nervous. But it's general thesis was "Iraq, easy; Rwanda, hard."

    ok i looked, but googling "Rwanda Iraq" turns up a billion things, sorry.

  5. #5
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    Oct 2004


    Quote Originally Posted by oliver craner
    The worse thing afflicting Bush's foreign policy is hypocrasy and lack of consistency, not neo-imperial aggression.
    For what it's worth, I think that's dead right.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    this thread is only going to be good if you can get someone to call america 'facist lite'
    then you can shout slogans at each other and get increasingly heated and unpleasant.
    it'll be really boring if everyone goes, yeah, good point about america, theyve got some good things going for them.

    iraq and afghanistan weren't really straight intervention, they certainly weren't sold that way. clinton did more actual intervening. i think its odd how you keep defending bush by reference to all the intervening (which he hasn't done) but, as i understand it, thats how you came to be a bush supporter, because you think its up for intervention and you think intervention is brilliant.

  7. #7
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    Oct 2004


    and by the way oliver, i'm not happy about being told to read a 500,000 word article on wolfovitz just to learn that 'some of his best friends are muslim'
    that took up a lot of my time, i could have been cutting my toenails.

  8. #8
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    Oct 2004


    ok, however far off it may be, wouldn't a better idea (than american intervention) be a functioning European army, or more realistically some kind of revived Nato that had and was prepared to use force?

    What the world needs most now is America being drawn back into a multilateral foreign policy environment. The UN, as far as the US is concerned, seems as discredited as the League of Nations was a couple of generations ago. In the FT, I think, there was a good article about a month ago proposing the idea of a new league of democratic nations, with some kind of pooled army. The key point of this league would be that it only admitted countries who could pass a strict democratic audit: no failed states, no theocracies, no corrupt princedoms. The authors suggested that America, in its current overstretched position, might welcome this potential support. what do people thinK?

  9. #9
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    Oct 2004


    trouble is those failed states, theocracies and corrupt princedoms are inherently suspicious of any intervention, not to mention the concerns of various democaracies with similar relations have (& i'm not defending them) grown up with various working concepts (such as sovereignty) that are difficult to replace, though the us seems to be attempting to do many reespects for itss own interests, which leads back too the former suspicions...rather ethnocentric to limit the moral authority of sadi body to 'strict deemocratic audit' also weren't the authors rather close to an essentially internationally authoritarian position?
    Last edited by rewch; 10-12-2004 at 10:29 AM. Reason: missed out a word & thanks for romeo's name...see darfur thread

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    NYC , Tokyo

    Default American power

    [QUOTE=jaybob]ok, however far off it may be, wouldn't a better idea (than american intervention) be a functioning European army, or more realistically some kind of revived Nato that had and was prepared to use force?

    Another thread I'm coming late to , sorry .
    I find it interesting to rd through though and then ask well, which is it going to be -
    an America that intervenes too much or an America that intervenes not enough ?

    As Jaybob asks , where's the functioning Euro Army or useful NATO when you need them ...

    Of course , Re: America's 'foreign policy' , the US' self interests come first - is it any other way in any other country ?.
    As a somewhat 'centerist' (seeing many sides to the many debates) citizen I'd like see those big $ spent towards universal health care for us (yeah, I'd like to have insurance !) , best possible edu ,
    overhauling shoddy institutions and stripping out the crap we have built up here in our own house in the 200 plus years of existence.

    Over the wkend The Times (NY Times that is) ran the editorial (sorry no link, you'd have to join their site)
    headlined 'Modest Proposal : Israel joining NATO'
    It's one of the quote 'new ideas' afloat in the 'surge of optimism' after Arafat's death.
    To wit, closer ties with NATO - and possibly eventual membership -would embed Israel in the West and by providing security assurances , give Israel more confidence to to make a comprehensive peace .
    One Uzi Arad , a former Israeli intel officer and head of the Inst. For Policy and Strategy says
    it's time to drop the 'Groucho attitude' towards NATO and work on relationships w/ Europe and US .
    Arad has been joined by other American and European officals who helped manage the two expansions of NATO since Soviet collapse and draft NATO's Partnership For Peace which has Georgia and Azerbaijan prettying themselves up for possible membership.
    Why Georgia and not Israel ?

    Of course, it's up to Israel to go for it , but with NATO reinventing itself to deal more with terrorism
    it has to deal with issues that Israel has been dealing with for years ,
    (I'm more then ambiv on those efforts, mind you) both sides could benefit from going through the pros and cons .
    Together or alone both parties could be facing not only the Middle East issues they know now -
    the Israeli - Palestine ongoing back and forth battling and a nuclear Iran ,
    but possibly an Islamicized Saudi Arabia or a collaping Egypt.
    For the Euopeans then , a benefit would be that they can't let Israel divide Europe from the America , possibly NATO could help Israel get out of their occupation mess.
    At NATO's summit in June , the possibility of relationships with each Middle East country was opened.
    Arad would like to see Israel seize the chance and start an arrangement like Sweden's (no full membership , but compatibility of forces and consultation.Membership could come later , if at all.

    American power has some limit.
    Others have to step up .
    Watching the first Tower fall from my bedroom window on 9/11 ,
    the thought ' is this the beginning of the end of America ? ' raced unbidden through my brain.
    And this is from a freelance New Yorker born of German /Ukrainian parents
    whose father worked in the Pentagon (in communications , worked on the early Monet, left during Viet Nam) and whose younger brother is in the Air Force .
    It's a *ucked up game out there in the RW .

  11. #11


    Luka, you shit-stirrer, after my Christmas indulgence, you're dead meat!

  12. #12

    Default blah blah...

    Well, put! I was expecting more bile and silliness than this. Jeepers. Was the tone of my question too conciliatary? North Korea next! Nuke Tehran!

    Oh and the thing about Rwanda is this: the point was never full scale invasion a la Iraq. Basically Clinton dropped to ball badly and got his administration to say anything to get out of admitting that straightfoward, clean-cut genocide was being unleashed, and with this US reluctance to get involved in any capacity, the UN was too tied and timid and weak to do anything, and Romeo Dallaire (you shoild never forget him) was militarily paralysed, stuck there with his troops watching Tutsis being machine gunned and chopped to bits, without being able to do anything. Clinton didn't want to get sucked in BECAUSE of, among other things, the nightmare in Somalia...oh, anyway, you get the picture.

    I liked it when Madaleine Albright tackled Colin Powell, who didn't want his boys going anywhere near the Balkans, and said "what do we have this big army for anyway?"

    He went mental! "I almost had an aneurysm," he said.

    Intervention isn't just military invasion, of course: it can = good old diplomacy, like Colin Powell helping to diffuse nuclear war between India and Pakistan, although India's powerful IT sector probably had the most influence there.

    Bush hasn't really "intervened" at all. But he has destroyed two nasty regimes, and scared a bunch of others witless. Therefore he's empowered the opponents of tyranny across the world, unless they're in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan or...

    There are people here, I know, who despise America, and not just because of Bush and not just because of the American military, but because of American everything. The United Snakes crew.

    I want to get them out of the woodwork.

    And K-Punk's already decided that America is a fascist superpower. So where's the K-Punk chorus?

  13. #13


    Robert Kagan made the same point in 'Paradise and Power', he reckons that the key to peace in the future between US and Europe is by Europe investing more in its military and becoming a counterweight, in some respects, to the US.

    He's like, otherwise European resentment of US dominance will fester and become something much more malignant. It's literally military power that creates the gulf: economically, Europe and the US are more equal.

    And, the best thing for Darfur, for instance, is a strong, functioning African Union army. And the leaders of the free world willing to say the word genocide when they ought to.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    yeah in terms of your argument, (intervention is cool, use to Power to defeat Evil), the us can't really do it anyway because it doesn#t have the public support, the military muscle or the dollars. it might be able to handle a couple of projects a year, but theres loads of fucked up shit in the world. if you want to have a go at every fucked up situation you need an international body.

  15. #15


    Let's revive this piece of shit you dickeheads. Do I have to start?

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