Monday, October 22, 2007



Chalmers Johnson reviews:

The Matador's Cape, America's Reckless Response to Terror by Stephen Holmes (Cambridge University Press, 367 pp., $30).]

Holmes conclusion on Yoo and his fellow neocons is devastating: "[I]f the misbegotten Iraq war proves anything, it is the foolhardiness of allowing an autistic clique that reads its own newspapers and watches its own cable news channel to decide, without outsider input, where to expend American blood and treasure -- that is, to decide which looming threats to stress and which to downplay or ignore" (p. 301).

Stephen Holmes is a law professor at New York University. In The Matador's Cape, he sets out to forge an understanding ... of the Iraq war, which he calls "one of the worst (and least comprehensible) blunders in the history of American foreign policy" (p. 230). His modus operandi is to survey in depth approximately a dozen influential books on post-Cold War international politics to see what light they shed on America's missteps.

Why did American military preeminence breed delusions of omnipotence,
  • Robert Kagan's Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (Knopf, 2003)?

How was the war lost, including U.S. envoy L. Paul Bremer's disbanding of the Iraqi military.
  • Fiasco (Penguin 2006) by the Washington Post's Thomas Ricks
  • Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor (Pantheon, 2006)?

How did a tiny group of individuals, with eccentric theories and reflexes, recklessly compound the country's post-9/11 security nightmare?
  • James Mann's Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet (Viking, 2004).

What roles did Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld play in the Bush administration,
  • Michael Mann's Incoherent Empire (Verso, 2003)?

Why did the U.S. decide to search for a new enemy after the Cold War,
  • Samuel Huntington, in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Simon and Schuster, 1996)

What role did left-wing ideology play in legitimating the war on terror,
  • Samantha Power in "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide (Basic, 2002)

How did pro-war liberals help stifle national debate on the wisdom of the Iraq war,
  • Paul Berman in Power and the Idealists (Soft Skull Press, 2005)

How did democratization at the point of an assault rifle become America's mission in the world,
  • Francis Fukuyama in America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy (Yale University Press, 2006)

Why is the contemporary American antiwar movement so anemic,
  • Geoffrey Stone in Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (W. W. Norton, 2004)

How did the embracing of American unilateralism elevate the Office of the Secretary of Defense over the Department of State,
  • John Ikenberry in After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars (Princeton University Press, 2001)

Why do we battle lawlessness with lawlessness (for example, by torturing prisoners) and concentrate extra-Constitutional authority in the hands of the president,
  • John Yoo in The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11 (University of Chicago Press, 2005)

Hidden agendas:
  • Cheney's desire to expand executive power and weaken Congressional oversight;
  • Rumsfeld's schemes to field-test his theory that in modern warfare speed is more important than mass;
  • plans by some of Cheney's and Rumsfeld's advisers to improve the security situation of Israel;
  • administration's desire to create a new set of permanent U.S. military bases in the Middle East to protect the U.S. oil supply in case of a collapse of the Saudi monarchy;
  • the desire to invade Iraq and thereby avoid putting all the blame for 9/11 on al Qaeda -- ... Clinton was right in warning Bush and his top officials that the main security threat to the United States was a potential al Qaeda attack or attacks.

"Because Americans…. have sunk so much of their national treasure into a military establishment fit to deter and perhaps fight an enemy that has now disappeared,"...the very nature of the 9/11 attacks undermined crucial axioms of American national security doctrine...
  • a non-state actor on the international stage successfully attacked the United States
  • Overwhelming military might cannot deter non-state actors who accept that they will die in their attacks on others

Bush/Cheney reflexively implemented out-of-date formulas in a radically changed security environment" -- rogue state vs. non-state terrorist organization -- by reacting to the threat of modern terrorism with an attack on a substitute target

...(Holmes) underplays the roles of American imperialism and militarism in exploiting the 9/11 crisis to serve vested interests in the military-industrial complex, the petroleum industry, and the military establishment. Holmes leaves the false impression that the political system of the United States is capable of a successful course correction.

Chalmers Johnson's solution to the crisis we face.
  • dismantle both the empire that has been created and
  • the huge, still growing military establishment that undergirds it.

A task ... comparable to that undertaken by the British government when, after World War II, ... Britain avoided the fate of the Roman Republic -- of becoming a domestic tyranny and losing its democracy,

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