Same Plan, Different Means
Since the 1970s, fate has conspired to create the appearance that liberals are less belligerent than their conservative peers. Jimmy Carter followed Richard Nixon and Vietnam. Bill Clinton followed Reagan era and the collapse of the Soviet Union. And Barack Obama followed George Bush and the 9/11 wars.
Because of what preceded them, Democrats have had to approach the project of imperial conquest with considerably more subtlety than their conservative peers. Instead of overt war, Democrats have often had to opt for covert war, given the rising public disgust with endless bloodshed.
But Democrats are no less committed to imperialism than Republicans. Both parties participate in imperial slaughter. Depending on the circumstances, either party may prove more vicious in its pursuit of full-spectrum dominance. The lesser evil is always a proposition bet. Nothing is guaranteed.
Historically, it was the idealistic Wilson Democrats that steamrolled public resistance to World War One and gleefully plunged us into the world’s first experiment with industrial warfare. It was New Deal Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt who, if you believe critics like Gore Vidal, baited Japan into laying waste to Pearl Harbor as a pretext for entering World War Two.
It was avuncular Democrat Harry Truman who deposited the world’s first nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki simply to make a point. It was down-home Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson who presided over the Gulf of Tonkin false flag event and launched open warfare against North Vietnam, flinging ever more blood and treasure into that South Asian sinkhole. (It could be fairly well argued, by the way, that the consequence of Vietnam was the stagflation of the early seventies, which cleared a path for the wolfish neoliberalism that has savaged the planet ever since.)
This isn’t the resume of a peaceable political party; it is a transcript of imperial aggression. Yet in 2016 those left of the far-right political center will likely assume that Obama has been a tame administrator of American foreign policy, a kind of latter-day Hadrian who with his Iranian “peace” agreement has constructed a wall delimiting the outer edges of empire.
This is a nice little fairy tale, a useful narcotic to help ease the garden-variety centrist back into the voting booth, the badge of lesser evilism pinned to one lapel and a Hillary slogan to the other. But this fiction doesn’t match the reality of the Obama years, especially when slotted into historical context.
The Carter Model
After Vietnam, President Carter avoided major overt interventions—humanitarian or otherwise—not because he was a nonviolent saint, but because he presided over a population repulsed by the war in Vietnam. It wasn’t going to tolerate another feckless campaign of imperial slaughter.
Rather than consider doing nothing—and saving the world numberless tragedies—Carter took the imperial project underground. He facilitated clandestine actions that would eventually produce giant conflagrations. Andrew Cockburn lately revealed in Harper’s that Zbigniew Brzezinksi convinced Carter to sign off on supporting trigger-happy Mujahedeen before Russia invaded Afghanistan.
That’s right, our support for the Mujahedeen wasn’t a response to Russian intervention, but a move designed to provoke it. Brzezinksi himself predicted that American support would precipitate a Russian invasion.
Likewise, President Barack Obama entered office at the tail end of disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that increased terrorism sevenfold. He continued to wind down one war while temporarily enlarging the other.
But these were secondary considerations; he was just wrapping up Bush-era projects.
Obama’s real mandate was to launch the next phase of the same neoconservative plan for full-spectrum dominance that Bush had followed. The plan has global and regional features.
Globally, we must preclude the rise of rival powers, as outlined by Paul Wolfowitz in a 1992 defense-planning document for the Clinton administration. Regionally, we must finally sort out the Middle East, preferably using the “seven countries in five years” blueprint of the early Bush administration.
Tactically, the global agenda means weakening Russia and encircling China. The regional agenda means shattering the Shia Crescent in the Middle East.
Curiously, Obama has deployed the Carter-Brzezinski jihadist model to address both the global and regional objectives of the imperial project.
Repeating history almost step for step, Obama went radio silent, conducted a stealth campaign to train, arm, and fund jihadists from all over the world who would battle against the Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad; then funded a fascist-led uprising in Ukraine against a similar Moscow-leaning government; and launched an Asian pivot hinged on a transpacific trade agreement that conspicuously excludes China.
Happily for the West, two of the conflicts have usefully engaged Russia, sapping its resources even as its economy suffers from Washington-Riyadh induced collapse in oil prices.
Like Carter, Obama produced a violent conflict where there was none. Instead of precipitating a foreign intervention by a rival power—though he later did this—he allowed the CIA to hijack a fledging peaceful protest movement against the Syrian regime. Also like Carter, his clever machinations produced the moral pretext required to peddle the war to a purblind populace.
Hence Carter and Obama entered office with similar mandates. Both were reduced to covert actions, shrouded in the vagaries of foreign aid, and deniably disguised behind the veils of Saudi zealotry.
After all, nobody in the Pentagon or Oval Office wants to have to explain how it came to be that, fifteen years after September 11th, America was arming the colleagues of al-Qaeda. Terms like ‘treason’ are uncomfortably close to this supposition, and no ‘fog of war’ excuse would cut it with a nervy public. So Obama went off the grid.
The Big Picture
Both the overarching global and regional objectives of the Washington master plan are tactically aimed at derailing the economic juggernaut called the New Silk Road project. Envisioned in Beijing and joined by Moscow, the project plans an economic corridor running from Vladivostok to Madrid.
It is notably envisioned in currencies other than the dollar, with construction loans issued from entities other than the IMF and World Bank, and uplifting economies other than that of the United States.
This is Washington’s nightmare scenario. Ever since Zbigniew Brzezinski penned The Grand Chessboard in the late nineties, beltway mandarins have spent their wee hours in sleepless consternation at the appalling prospect of a global economic hub emerging beyond its reach, denominated in some dollar-less currency regime, fueled by trade agreements to which it is not a party, and fulfilling the iconoclast dreams of Turkmen and Pashtuns, Kazaks and Siberians, Mongolians and Uighurs in the misty outback of Central Asia.
Destroying Arab and Persian resistance, dismembering Russia, and staging an economic siege of China, all help Washington address this larger fear.
But Moscow sees what’s happening. Having witnessed the eastward march of Western powers, and having watched Washington’s machinations in the Middle East and Asia, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided it was finally time to challenge America’s plans for global dominion.
He has stepped into the Arab crucible, believing that he must halt the Carter-Obama model for clandestine regime change before it reaches the doorstep of the Kremlin. He saw the fate of Gaddafi, brutally assassinated on camera as jihadist thugs backed by indifferent West.
Putin has hastened to create and expand ties with China in the hopes of forming a common front against Washington. He likewise hopes that together with Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah, he can repel the imperial forces.
Perhaps this eastern alliance believed that a vitiated Obama would pull his charges back from the brink. If they did, it was a costly miscalculation.
As much as he’d prefer not to leave an abattoir of factionalisms for his successor to deal with—as Bush left for him—Obama has little appetite to fight off the army of neocons that festoon his administration. Consider the provocations the West and its jihadist proxies undertook since Russia’s entry into the fray:
·Downed a Russian passenger plane, killing hundreds;
·Downed a Russian fighter jet for a 17-second border violation;
·Conducted a coalition attack on Syrian troops in which it was quite possibly providing air cover for an ISIS attack on Deir az-Zor in eastern Syria;
·Bombed Iraqi troops just as ISIS descended on them;
Given the actors involved—including at least five nuclear nations—the Syrian debacle is more than a sectarian conflict, more than a pipeline war, and more than a battle over water. It is rather a titanic struggle for the balance of world power. Such as it is, the outlook is bleak.
The U.S. elections are likely to christen a neoconservative administration to pair with a CIA regime happily facilitating the jihadist war against Damascus. Behind these federal agencies, a cynical community of defense contractors, finance capital, and AIPAC lobbyists are either cheering them on or rubbing their hands in private delight.
The corporate media is thoroughly committed to continuing the Manichean narrative of good versus evil, rolling out pretexts and justifications for every Washington action.
Largely as a matter of timing, Obama has led the world to the precipice of its first nuclear exchange. The man who once declared he represented “Change We Can Believe In” now presides over a somber and only nominally free world, unlit by hope, and overshadowed by premonitions of apocalypse.
In this light, a November vote for a lesser evil seems patently absurd. It is the project of empire itself that must end, but this viewpoint will never penetrate the corridors of power so long as people believe the Democrats are the solution to the Republicans. Both are corporate cancers that serve capitalist imperialism.
Until the wage slaves recognize the corporate slaves for what they are, hope is an urban legend in an occupied territory.
Mr. Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire: Unmasking American Imperialism. He lives in New York City and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.