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I did a little venting yesterday on the NPR site, in the comment section of this article:
‘Sheer Terror’ As Attack Along French Riviera Kills At Least 84
regarding the Nice attack. (Am I the only person that, when reading headlines in English about the attack, mostly goes default on the pronunciation of the word Nice as it is pronounced in English? 🙂
In any case, the comment section was infested by American neocons and Muslim haters who were shrieking there fanaticism at the top of their typing lungs. The majority of people in the US, UK, and France are incredibly primitive and Nazi-like when it comes to geopolitics.
So I vented a bit – responding repeatedly by highlighting the ugly simple truth of the world we currently live in:
The US, UK, and France have killed and continue to kill millions of innocent people around the world, especially in the ME and Africa, in their endless corrupt wars to put their grubby hands on resources and to exploit other people. They are terrorist governments and military and do a lot more evil and damage in the world than any little so-called “terrorist” group. These “terrorist” attacks in the West are a blow-back from all the death and destruction the West is currently inflicting on other people.
the US, the UK and France have murdered or provided the weapons for
the murder of many more innocent people than the number killed by ISIS,
but please continue your nonsense. And most of ISIS’s weapons were all
provided from Western powers, which explains why they’re fighting Assad
and the US hates the idea of Russia killing them all.
As you can see, I was “on message” all the time. Very Nicely on message. 🙂 Oh, and speaking of Nicely, two more:
Toulouse your head or not to Toulouse your head is the question in such a situation.
That would be Brest but I don’t think I Cannes.
Idk99: More senseless truck violence.
Alessandra Reflections: There are no Seine people left, I tell you.
Back to serious issues, the problem with this ugly ugly propaganda from the US, UK, and France was also summarized in a few other comments at The Guardian:
The Nice attack reminds us that France is at war –
Did Iraq or Afghanistan invade France, Australia, Britain or the US?
The US and NATO attack country after country even while financing and arming terrorists to cause even more attacks, and then use attacks on Western citizens (mostly by deranged individuals) to justify what they have been doing all along. It’s totally criminal and the citizens of the West have been propagandized to believe that they are innocent and undeservingly attacked.
No one needs reminding the whole world is at war, not least the millions who have died due to the proxy crusades. The attacks from both sides have become more deadly and more frequent. And in what, the name of oil? Each attack desensitises the world to death further, to the point that people are now suggesting criminals be deported.. To where – labour camps? That mistake has been made before and it seems it could again. War is profitable and there are no winners apart from those financing it.
Genocide in Algeria
Pacific nuclear tests
Rainbow warrior bombing
Bombing in Iraq and Syria
The French aren’t the egalitarian, innocent victims they make themselves out to be. Then there’s Chad, Lybia, Mali, and all the Northern and Central African countries the French love to exploit and destroy…
The war against terrorism was invented by Ronald Reagan. Ironically the US is only country found guilty of terrorism in the International Court of Justice.
Thankfully many commenters commented on the idiocy of the article’s title repeating the same idiocy that Hollande proffered back in November: now France is at war!
Now! And when it was bombing and killing people in myriad wars and committing every kind of atrocity against innocent people around the world, it was what? Peace?
These people are such Nazis! The West is such a fraud, such a fraud!
Some people are getting the full picture at Tomdispatch/The American Conservative. Below is a well-argued article by Andrew J. Bacevich, aimed to persuade Americans not to continue WWW IV (or III, as you might prefer to label the current World War we are experiencing in 2015). As it’s explained in the article, the IV is used since the Cold War is deemed to have already been WW III. The tone is serious but, as persuading articles must, it largely refrains from incisively attacking the US for all its past atrocious war activities everywhere post-Vietnam. Read the full article at Tomdispatch or TAC, various excerpts below. I especially liked that Bacevich highlighted the economics of war, something that most of the US news media (and elsewhere in the West) is too corrupt to engage with.
ISIS and the Folly of World War IV – Are we ready to commit millions of troops to decades of occupation?
Assume that the hawks get their way—that the United States does whatever it takes militarily to confront and destroy ISIS. Then what?
Answering that question requires taking seriously the outcomes of other recent U.S. interventions in the Greater Middle East. In 1991, when the first President Bush ejected Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait, Americans rejoiced, believing that they had won a decisive victory. A decade later, the younger Bush seemingly outdid his father by toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan and then making short work of Saddam himself—a liberation twofer achieved in less time than it takes Americans to choose a president. After the passage of another decade, Barack Obama got into the liberation act, overthrowing the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in what appeared to be a tidy air intervention with a clean outcome. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton memorably put it, “We came, we saw, he died.” End of story.
In fact, subsequent events in each case mocked early claims of success or outright victory. Unanticipated consequences and complications abounded. “Liberation” turned out to be a prelude to chronic violence and upheaval.
Indeed, the very existence of the Islamic State (ISIS) today renders a definitive verdict on the Iraq wars over which the Presidents Bush presided, each abetted by a Democratic successor. A de facto collaboration of four successive administrations succeeded in reducing Iraq to what it is today: a dysfunctional quasi-state unable to control its borders or territory while serving as a magnet and inspiration for terrorists.
The United States bears a profound moral responsibility for having made such a hash of things there. Were it not for the reckless American decision to invade and occupy a nation that, whatever its crimes, had nothing to do with 9/11, the Islamic State would not exist. Per the famous Pottery Barn Rule attributed to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, having smashed Iraq to bits a decade ago, we can now hardly deny owning ISIS.
In that regard, the glibly bellicose editor of the Weekly Standard, William Kristol, is surely correct in suggesting that a well-armed contingent of 50,000 U.S. troops, supported by ample quantities of air power, would make mincemeat of ISIS in a toe-to-toe contest. Liberation of the various ISIS strongholds like Fallujah and Mosul in Iraq and Palmyra and Raqqa, its “capital,” in Syria would undoubtedly follow in short order.
In the wake of the recent attacks in Paris, the American mood is strongly trending in favor of this sort of escalation. Just about anyone who is anyone—the current occupant of the Oval Office partially excepted—favors intensifying the U.S. military campaign against ISIS. And why not? What could possibly go wrong? As Kristol puts it, “I don’t think there’s much in the way of unanticipated side effects that are going to be bad there.”
It’s an alluring prospect. In the face of a sustained assault by the greatest military the world has ever seen, ISIS foolishly (and therefore improbably) chooses to make an Alamo-like stand. Whammo! We win. They lose. Mission accomplished.
Of course, that phrase recalls the euphoric early reactions to Operations Desert Storm in 1991, Enduring Freedom in 2001, Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and Odyssey Dawn, the Libyan intervention of 2011. Time and again the unanticipated side effects of U.S. military action turned out to be very bad indeed. In Kabul, Baghdad, or Tripoli, the Alamo fell, but the enemy dispersed or reinvented itself and the conflict continued. Assurances offered by Kristol that this time things will surely be different deserve to be taken with more than a grain of salt. Pass the whole shaker.
Embracing Generational War
Why this repeated disparity between perceived and actual outcomes? Why have apparent battlefield successes led so regularly to more violence and disorder? Before following Kristol’s counsel, Americans would do well to reflect on these questions.
Cue Professor Eliot A. Cohen. Shortly after 9/11, Cohen, one of this country’s preeminent military thinkers, characterized the conflict on which the United States was then embarking as “World War IV.” (In this formulation, the Cold War becomes World War III.) … “It was World War IV in 2001,” Cohen insists. “It is World War IV today.”
In the United States today, confusion about what war itself signifies is widespread. Through misuse, misapplication, and above all misremembering, we have distorted the term almost beyond recognition. As one consequence, talk of war comes too easily off the tongues of the unknowing.
What will distinguish the war that Cohen deems essential? “Begin with endurance,” he writes. “This war will probably go on for the rest of my life, and well into my children’s.” Although American political leaders seem reluctant “to explain just how high the stakes are,” Cohen lays them out in direct, unvarnished language. At issue, he insists, is the American way of life itself, not simply “in the sense of rock concerts and alcohol in restaurants, but the more fundamental rights of freedom of speech and religion, the equality of women, and, most essentially, the freedom from fear and freedom to think.”
With so much on the line, Cohen derides the Obama administration’s tendency to rely on “therapeutic bombing, which will temporarily relieve the itch, but leave the wounds suppurating.” The time for such half-measures has long since passed. Defeating the Islamic State and “kindred movements” will require the U.S. to “kill a great many people.” To that end Washington needs “a long-range plan not to ‘contain’ but to crush” the enemy. Even with such a plan, victory will be a long way off and will require “a long, bloody, and costly process.”
Cohen’s candor and specificity, as bracing as they are rare, should command our respect. If World War IV describes what we are in for, then eliminating ISIS might figure as a near-term imperative, but it can hardly define the endgame. Beyond ISIS loom all those continually evolving “kindred movements” to which the United States will have to attend before it can declare the war itself well and truly won.
To send just tens of thousands of U.S. troops to clean up Syria and Iraq, as William Kristol and others propose, offers at best a recipe for winning a single campaign. Winning the larger war would involve far more arduous exertions. This Cohen understands, accepts, and urges others to acknowledge.
And here we come to the heart of the matter. For at least the past 35 years—that is, since well before 9/11—the United States has been “at war” in various quarters of the Islamic world. At no point has it demonstrated the will or the ability to finish the job. Washington’s approach has been akin to treating cancer with a little bit of chemo one year and a one-shot course of radiation the next. Such gross malpractice aptly describes U.S. military policy throughout the Greater Middle East across several decades.
Yes, we killed many tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans, but if winning World War IV requires, as Cohen writes, that we “break the back” of the enemy, then we obviously didn’t kill nearly enough.
Nor were Americans sufficiently willing to die for the cause. In South Vietnam, 58,000 G.I.s died in a futile effort to enable that country to survive. In Iraq and Afghanistan, where the stakes were presumably much higher, we pulled the plug after fewer than 7,000 deaths.
Americans would be foolish to listen to those like William Kristol who, even today, peddle illusions about war being neat and easy. They would do well instead to heed Cohen, who knows that war is hard and ugly.
What Would World War IV Look Like?
Yet when specifying the practical implications of generational war, Cohen is less forthcoming. From his perspective, this fourth iteration of existential armed conflict in a single century is not going well. But apart from greater resolve and bloody-mindedness, what will it take to get things on the right track?
As a thought experiment, let’s answer that question by treating it with the urgency that Cohen believes it deserves. After 9/11, certain U.S. officials thundered about “taking the gloves off.” In practice, however, with the notable exception of policies permitting torture and imprisonment without due process, the gloves stayed on. Take Cohen’s conception of World War IV at face value and that will have to change.
For starters, the country would have to move to something like a war footing, enabling Washington to raise a lot more troops and spend a lot more money over a very long period of time. Although long since banished from the nation’s political lexicon, the M-word—mobilization—would make a comeback. Prosecuting a generational war, after all, is going to require the commitment of generations.
Furthermore, if winning World War IV means crushing the enemy, as Cohen emphasizes, then ensuring that the enemy, once crushed, cannot recover would be hardly less important. And that requirement would prohibit U.S. forces from simply walking away from a particular fight even—or especially—when it might appear won.
At the present moment, defeating the Islamic State ranks as Washington’s number one priority. With the Pentagon already claiming a body count of 20,000 ISIS fighters without notable effect, this campaign won’t end anytime soon. But even assuming an eventually positive outcome, the task of maintaining order and stability in areas that ISIS now controls will remain. Indeed, that task will persist until the conditions giving rise to entities like ISIS are eliminated. Don’t expect French President François Hollande or British Prime Minister David Cameron to sign up for that thankless job. U.S. forces will own it. Packing up and leaving the scene won’t be an option.
How long would those forces have to stay? Extrapolating from recent U.S. occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, something on the order of a quarter-century seems like a plausible approximation. So should our 45th president opt for a boots-on-the-ground solution to ISIS, as might well be the case, the privilege of welcoming the troops home could belong to the 48th or 49th occupant of the White House.
In the meantime, U.S. forces would have to deal with the various and sundry “kindred movements” that are already cropping up like crabgrass in country after country. Afghanistan–still? again?—would head the list of places requiring U.S. military attention. But other prospective locales would include such hotbeds of Islamist activity as Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Somalia, and Yemen, along with several West African countries increasingly beset with insurgencies. Unless Egyptian, Pakistani, and Saudi security forces demonstrate the ability (not to mention the will) to suppress the violent radicals in their midst, one or more of those countries could also become the scene of significant U.S. military action.
Effective prosecution of World War IV, in other words, would require the Pentagon to plan for each of these contingencies, while mustering the assets needed for implementation. Allies might kick in token assistance—tokenism is all they have to offer—but the United States will necessarily carry most of the load.
What Would World War IV Cost?
During World War III (aka the Cold War), the Pentagon maintained a force structure ostensibly adequate to the simultaneous prosecution of two and a half wars. This meant having the wherewithal to defend Europe and the Pacific from communist aggression while still leaving something for the unexpected. World War IV campaigns are unlikely to entail anything on the scale of the Warsaw Pact attacking Western Europe or North Korea invading the South. Still, the range of plausible scenarios will require that U.S. forces be able to take on militant organizations C and D even while guarding against the resurgence of organizations A and B in altogether different geographic locations.
Even though Washington may try whenever possible to avoid large-scale ground combat, relying on air power (including drones) and elite Special Operations forces to do the actual killing, post-conflict pacification promises to be a manpower intensive activity. Certainly, this ranks as one of the most obvious lessons to emerge from World War IV’s preliminary phases: when the initial fight ends, the real work begins.
U.S. forces committed to asserting control over Iraq after the invasion of 2003 topped out at roughly 180,000. In Afghanistan, during the Obama presidency, the presence peaked at 110,000. In a historical context, these are not especially large numbers. At the height of the Vietnam War, for example, U.S. troop strength in Southeast Asia exceeded 500,000.
In hindsight, the Army general who, before the invasion of 2003, publicly suggested that pacifying postwar Iraq would require “several hundred thousand troops” had it right. A similar estimate applies to Afghanistan. In other words, those two occupations together could easily have absorbed 600,000 to 800,000 troops on an ongoing basis. Given the Pentagon’s standard three-to-one rotation policy, which assumes that for every unit in-country, a second is just back, and a third is preparing to deploy, you’re talking about a minimum requirement of between 1.8 and 2.4 million troops to sustain just two medium-sized campaigns—a figure that wouldn’t include some number of additional troops kept in reserve for the unexpected.
In other words, waging World War IV would require at least a five-fold increase in the current size of the U.S. Army—and not as an emergency measure but a permanent one. Such numbers may appear large, but as Cohen would be the first to point out, they are actually modest when compared to previous world wars. In 1968, in the middle of World War III, the Army had more than 1.5 million active duty soldiers on its rolls—this at a time when the total American population was less than two-thirds what it is today and when gender discrimination largely excluded women from military service. If it chose to do so, the United States today could easily field an army of two million or more soldiers.
Whether it could also retain the current model of an all-volunteer force is another matter. Recruiters would certainly face considerable challenges, even if Congress enhanced the material inducements for service, which since 9/11 have already included a succession of generous increases in military pay. A loosening of immigration policy, granting a few hundred thousand foreigners citizenship in return for successfully completing a term of enlistment might help. In all likelihood, however, as with all three previous world wars, waging World War IV would oblige the United States to revive the draft, a prospect as likely to be well-received as a flood of brown and black immigrant enlistees. In short, going all out to create the forces needed to win World War IV would confront Americans with uncomfortable choices.
The budgetary implications of expanding U.S. forces while conducting a perpetual round of what the Pentagon calls “overseas contingency operations” would also loom large. Precisely how much money an essentially global conflict projected to extend well into the latter half of the century would require is difficult to gauge. As a starting point, given the increased number of active duty forces, tripling the present Defense Department budget of more than $600 billion might serve as a reasonable guess.
At first glance, $1.8 trillion annually is a stupefyingly large figure. To make it somewhat more palatable, a proponent of World War IV might put that number in historical perspective. During the first phases of World War III, for example, the United States routinely allocated 10% or more of total gross domestic product (GDP) for national security. With that GDP today exceeding $17 trillion, apportioning 10% to the Pentagon would give those charged with managing World War IV a nice sum to work with and no doubt to build upon.
Of course, that money would have to come from somewhere. For several years during the last decade, sustaining wars in Iraq and Afghanistan pushed the federal deficit above a trillion dollars. As one consequence, the total national debt now exceeds annual GDP, having tripled since 9/11. How much additional debt the United States can accrue without doing permanent damage to the economy is a question of more than academic interest.
To avoid having World War IV produce an endless string of unacceptably large deficits, ratcheting up military spending would undoubtedly require either substantial tax increases or significant cuts in non-military spending, including big-ticket programs like Medicare and social security—precisely those, that is, which members of the middle class hold most dear.
In other words, funding World War IV while maintaining a semblance of fiscal responsibility would entail the kind of trade-offs that political leaders are loathe to make. Today, neither party appears up to taking on such challenges. That the demands of waging protracted war will persuade them to rise above their partisan differences seems unlikely. It sure hasn’t so far.
The Folly of World War IV
As the United States enters a presidential election year, plain talk about the prospects of our ongoing military engagement in the Islamic world should be the order of the day. The pretense that either dropping a few more bombs or invading one or two more countries will yield a conclusive outcome amounts to more than an evasion. It is an outright lie.
As Cohen knows, winning World War IV would require dropping many, many more bombs and invading, and then occupying for years to come, many more countries. After all, it’s not just ISIS that Washington will have to deal with, but also its affiliates, offshoots, wannabes, and the successors almost surely waiting in the wings. And don’t forget al-Qaeda.
Cohen believes that we have no alternative. Either we get serious about fighting World War IV the way it needs to be fought or darkness will envelop the land. He is undeterred by the evidence that the more deeply we insert our soldiers into the Greater Middle East the more concerted the resistance they face; that the more militants we kill the more we seem to create; that the inevitable, if unintended, killing of innocents only serves to strengthen the hand of the extremists. As he sees it, with everything we believe in riding on the outcome, we have no choice but to press on.
While listening carefully to Cohen’s call to arms, Americans should reflect on its implications. Wars change countries and people. Embracing his prescription for World War IV would change the United States in fundamental ways. It would radically expand the scope and reach of the national security state, which, of course, includes agencies beyond the military itself. It would divert vast quantities of wealth to nonproductive purposes. It would make the militarization of the American way of life, a legacy of prior world wars, irreversible. By sowing fear and fostering impossible expectations of perfect security, it would also compromise American freedom in the name of protecting it. The nation that decades from now might celebrate VT Day—victory over terrorism—will have become a different place, materially, politically, culturally, and morally.
In my view, Cohen’s World War IV is an invitation to collective suicide.
Arguing that no alternative exists to open-ended war represents not hard-nosed realism, but the abdication of statecraft. Yet here’s the ultimate irony: even without the name, the United States has already embarked upon something akin to a world war, which now extends into the far reaches of the Islamic world and spreads further year by year.
Incrementally, bit by bit, this nameless war has already expanded the scope and reach of the national security apparatus. It is diverting vast quantities of wealth to nonproductive purposes even as it normalizes the continuing militarization of the American way of life. By sowing fear and fostering impossible expectations of perfect security, it is undermining American freedom in the name of protecting it, and doing so right before our eyes.
Cohen rightly decries the rudderless character of the policies that have guided the (mis)conduct of that war thus far. For that critique we owe him a considerable debt. But the real problem is the war itself and the conviction that only through war can America remain America.
For a rich and powerful nation to conclude that it has no choice but to engage in quasi-permanent armed conflict in the far reaches of the planet represents the height of folly. Power confers choice. As citizens, we must resist with all our might arguments that deny the existence of choice. Whether advanced forthrightly by Cohen or fecklessly by the militarily ignorant, such claims will only perpetuate the folly that has already lasted far too long.
Andrew J. Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University. He is the author of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country, among other works. His new book, America’s War for the Greater Middle East (Random House), is due out in April 2016.
Sounds like it will be a very needed and interesting book!
I’ve been reading and watching way too many things to post anything here. Ah, where to begin. I’ve been in shock in the last few days, ever since the Paris attacks because I realized the extent of my naiveté in thinking that I lived in anything that could be called a democracy. So this is what living in Germany at the time of the Reichstag fire was like. And it’s moving fast. Europe and the US are no longer democracies. (And it didn’t just happen yesterday, but my illusion was lingering, painful as it is to realize that we are to live in the same world of 75 years ago).
I’m very distressed to understand that the problem are the proxy wars. Instead of Russia, the US, France, the UK, and the Saudis bombing each other, they are bombing “the poorest of the poorest”, including masses of civilians, which includes, even worse, always a large number of children. No solidarity from the West to all the murdered and terrorized and maimed children in Africa and the Middle East, whether the killings come from these noxious “coalitions” of mass murder governments, or the so-called terrorists. When you think about it, any of the following governments: the US, Russia, France, UK, and the Saudis are just terrorists with much more means – both in arms and in resources. And what a propaganda machine! So oiled, so shameless.
I had always thought part of the reason Hitler et al had been able to come to power around 1930 was that ‘it was a different era then’, ‘people were more stupid’, they had ‘more stupidifying education’, they had less access to information, society’s culture was more dumbed down.
Alas, nothing has changed. We live in a world with masses of morons who gladly give their support to today’s Hitlers. What then must we do? That’s what I’ve been thinking.
And I’ve had the displeasure to spend this last week focusing on thoughts about war itself, and several of the concrete wars that are currently going on. One thought out of many – why are people in the West so shocked about beheadings? It’s one person killing another. Whereas a jet dropping dozens of bombs is one (or a couple of people) killing a huge pile of human beings and injuring so many others. I haven’t heard of the fighters beheading children. What are children being killed with in these wars? Modern arms. Really, who are the barbarians? While all groups use modern arms, the people who have killed the most civilians in Africa and the Middle East are the usual culprits: the US, the UK, France, Russia, and now more recently, they were joined by the Saudis, with their massacres in Yemen.
The Russians arming Assad, who used chemical weapons on people. The US and Saudis arming the Islamic State, which is now being attacked from various sides. And it’s millions of people forced to live in the hell these powers create that pay the most cruel price. It’s disgusting.
Below some good links to read – I won’t even bother to post the title first on some, because it will take too much time: