micah holmquist's irregular thoughts and links
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Sunday, October 12, 2003
In a speech from Friday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke on the legacy of Ronald Reagan and the "war on terror" in a manner that seemingly ignored any possibility that the United States ever did anything for reasons that do not support the proposition that the U.S. never does anything with an alterior motive.
I laughed out loud at this part:
Like President Reagan, President Bush has not shied from calling evil by its name or declaring his intention to defeat its latest incarnation -- terrorism -- just as free men and women of all political persuasions, here and abroad, defeated fascism and communism before.I doubt that the Bush Administration has any consistent definition of "terrorism" for explicit public consumption but if they did, it is hard to imagine that would be anything "new." That said, here Rumsfeld appears to say that "terrorism" is the umbrella term for violence against the U.S. in the post-Soviet period. In other words, in the present tense, it is violence that the U.S. doesn't like.
When President Reagan came to office, Soviet Communism was on the march and our country was still weakened by the experience of the Vietnam War, and a lingering fear of the projection of American power. President Reagan saw the danger. He knew that weakness is provocative. One of his most important strategic innovations was the idea that to roll back the communist expansion, America need not send a half a million U.S. troops to every trouble spot where freedom was threatened. In many cases, there were people in those countries who were willing to fight and die for their own freedom. It was Ronald Reagan's genius to make common cause with those freedom fighters, providing them with arms, training, intelligence and other support.Yeah getting local support for interventions is an act of "genius" and had nothing to do with a political need to keep U.S. casualties low.
Rumsfeld also said, "it would have been impossible for Iraqis to overthrow that regime without significant numbers of coalition forces. Still, we've kept our footprint relatively modest" as if the U.S. isn't running Iraq and keeping U.S. control in only certain areas didn't provide any advantages for Team Bush in their "war on terror."
There's also this brilliance from Rumsfeld:
One in particular is worth mentioning here. It's a letter he [Reagan] wrote by hand in April of 1981 to Soviet leader Brezhnev. Brezhnev had sent him a letter accusing the United States of destabilizing the world with its territorial ambitions and imperialistic designs. President Reagan replied, quote, "There's not only no evidence to support such a charge; there's solid evidence that the United States, when it could have dominated the world, at no risk to itself, made no effort whatsoever to do so.Reagan's response doesn't deal with the actual question at hand, which was U.S. intentions in 1981. At the same time Reagan, and apparently Rumsfeld, seem to be suggesting that nuclear bombings of numerous other countries as a means of pacifying them didn't propose some serious problems and was a way of getting around costly occupations. It is left to your imagination to figure out what exactly the point of controlling a world that you have obliterated is.
Along the same lines, but coming earlier in the speech, Rumsfeld says:
I arrived this morning from Colorado Springs, where the United States hosted a meeting of the NATO defense ministers. At that meeting of the 19 NATO nations were three former Warsaw Pact adversaries: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, now NATO allies. Also present, interestingly, were seven former East Bloc nations: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia, nations that have been invited to join NATO and will becoming part of that alliance in the early part of next year. The membership of those recently-free nations is changing the alliance. It is injecting a new energy into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a new love of freedom which can really possibly only come from nations that so recently were enslaved. That's the world that Ronald Reagan left us.I could cite counterexamples of former Soviet Bloc entities that have been less supportive in Iraq or who have done other things that don't mess with some aspect of the "war on terror." That, however, is less important than that it at least appears like assisting the U.S. isn't particularly popular in at least some of the countries Rumsfeld cites, which suggests that another factor could be in play. Could it be that the governments in these countries see lending a hand to the U.S. as a good way to get some carrots and become further part of a U.S. empire along the lines Chalmers Johnson sketches out in Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (Metropolitan Books, 2000)?
Such a possibility deserves consideration that is absent from Rumsfeld speech because, I suspect, even granting a mention or consideration to that idea means acknowledging that something about U.S. policy could be less than the perfect ideal that he has presented. We can't have that, now can we?
By ignoring this possibility Rumsfeld looks like a fool because it also means ignoring U.S. President George W. Bush's famous September 20, 2001 proclamation, "[e]very nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Since all regimes -save for France, of course- don't like being overthrown -we'd take over France in an instant if we didn't know how happy it'd make them bastards-, one could be excused for thinking that these countries have an alterior motive for helping the U.S. But I guess alterior motives don't exist in Rumsfeld's world.
Truth be told, the "[e]ither you are with us, or you are with the terrorists" was probably macho bluster not meant to be taken as a literal principle except when utilizing it comes in handy...
In today's Independent Patrick Cockburn writes:
US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops.Jazz? Cockburn is a bit loose on where he got that part exactly so I wonder if it is true. Actually, he is a bit loose on all of the details so I am less than completely confident on any of it. Still I have the most difficulty imagining some saying, "put on some Bird, we're fucking with some towel heads."