Andrew Bacevich on US Presidential History

Susan Modares of Press TV’s excellent Autograph interviews Andrew J. Bacevich, one of PULSE’s top 10 global thinkers of 2010.

Americans mostly tend to divide their history into presidential terms. Thus, they think there are great differences between the presidents. Many, however, believe there is a national security policy consensus which continues through all presidencies without any change. The same issue is discussed with author and Boston University Prof. Andrew J. Bacevich in this edition of The Autograph.

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Ostrich America?

by Chase Madar

Famous photograph of the US isolating itself in Iwo Jima. (Photo: Joe Rosenthal, 1945)

Of all the received ideas that clog America’s foreign-policy discourse, none is more at variance with reality than the threat of isolationism. We have never been more engaged with every corner of the world, yet we have never been lectured more often about the consequences of “retreating within our borders.” The more countries we attack—Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen—the more dire warnings we get about national introversion. The specter of isolationism has never looked healthier.

A case in point was George W. Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address, a venue he used to tell a spine-chilling tale. With his foreign policy exploding all around him, Bush warned against an even more disastrous alternative: there were those who would “tie our hands” and have us “retreat within our borders.” From the tenor of his talk, he seemed to think that Americans were about to burn down both the Pentagon and Department of State, beat defense intellectuals into postal workers, and force every house in the land to set up a little steel foundry in the back yard—just like in the Great Leap Forward—while learning to live on grubs and wild mountain honey.

Of course, this is absurd: as many pointed out in response to this scaremongering, there are no isolationists in America—not in either political party, not in the media, and not in the academy. (The i-word is often used as a synonym for unilateralism. Here I am assigning only its most common meaning: a tendency to ignore security threats beyond territorial borders and disengage diplomatically, politically, and economically from the rest of the world.) Nevertheless, the menace of a return to geopolitical autarky is carted out whenever our sclerotically narrow foreign-policy consensus gets an unwelcome jolt. This habit of mind did not end with the exit of George W. Bush.

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The Impact Today and Tomorrow of Chalmers Johnson

by Steve Clemons

chal johnson.jpgNext week, Foreign Policy magazine and its editor-in-chief Susan Glasser will be releasing its 2nd annual roster of the world’s greatest thinkers and doers in foreign policy. I have seen the list — and it’s impressively creative and eclectic.

There is one name that is not on the FP100 who should be — and that is Chalmers Johnson, who from my perspective rivals Henry Kissinger as the most significant intellectual force who has shaped and defined the fundamental boundaries and goal posts of US foreign policy in the modern era.

Johnson, who passed away Saturday afternoon at 79 years, invented and was the acknowledged godfather of the conceptualization of the “developmental state“. For the uninitiated, this means that Chalmers Johnson led the way in understanding the dynamics of how states manipulated their policy conditions and environments to speed up economic growth. In the neoliberal hive at the University of Chicago, Chalmers Johnson was an apostate and heretic in the field of political economy. Johnson challenged conventional wisdom with he and his many star students — including E.B. Keehn, David Arase, Marie Anchordoguy, Mark Tilton and others — writing the significant treatises documenting the growing prevalence of state-led industrial and trade and finance policy abroad, particularly in Asia.

Today, the notion of “State Capitalism” has become practically commonplace in discussing the newest and most significant features of the global economy. Chalmers Johnson invented this field and planted the intellectual roots of understanding that other nation states were not trying to converge with and follow the so-called American model.

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Manufacturing Consent and Violence: Azadi, Arundhati, Hindutva Terror, and Indian Media

by Huma Dar

At a groundbreaking seminar, ‘Azadi: The Only Way,’ organized by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) in New Delhi, India, on October 21st, 2010, the minutes record that Arundhati Roy, the prize-winning author of The God of Small Things, asserted that

[Kashmir] has never been an integral part of India and the Indian government recognised it as a disputed territory and took it to the UN on its own accord. In 1947 we were told that India became a sovereign democracy. But it became a country as per the imagination of its colonizer, and continued to be a colonizer even after the British left the country. Indian state forcibly or deceitfully annexed the North-East, Goa, Junagarh, Telangana, etc… the Indian state has waged a protracted war against the people which it calls its own. Who are the people it has waged war against? The people of North-East, Kashmir, Punjab, etc. This is an upper caste Hindu state waging a continuing struggle against the people. Continue reading “Manufacturing Consent and Violence: Azadi, Arundhati, Hindutva Terror, and Indian Media”

“Only the mood music has changed”: Tariq Ali on Obama’s presidency

OK… here’s the PULSE exclusive I’ve been working on. Hope you enjoy.

Is president Barack Obama the change America has been waiting for or is he another corporate Democrat representing elite interests?  According to Tariq Ali, very little has chanced between Obama and former president George W. Bush.  In his latest book “The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad,” Ali argues that Obama is carrying on the reckless policies of the Bush regime.  If Obama continues down this path, the Democratic Party not only face the prospect of the House & Senate in 2010 but also the presidency in 2012.  This should be a cause for concern.

I caught up with Ali during his American book tour and here’s what he had to say about the Obama presidency.

Where did the idea for this book emanate from? Why did you want to write a book about “The Obama Syndrome” and what does that refer to?

The idea occurred because I speak a lot on the United States. People ask me questions after each talk and increasingly in the past two to three years, the talk has been about Obama.  I thought a short book which essentially provided a balance sheet from the left on the mid-term would be a useful exercise. Given that he’s being attacked nonstop for being a socialist, a leftist, being a Muslim and all this nonsense that comes from the Tea Party-Fox Television alliance, I thought it was better to have a hard-headed realistic account about who the guy really is.  So my book is a critique of him, but it’s also by implication a very sharp critique of people who claim that everything Obama is doing is so radical that they can’t take it anymore.

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Zionist Dialectics: Past and Future

Excerpted from Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave: 2009).

by M. Shahid Alam

My God! Is this the end? Is this the goal for which our fathers
have striven and for whose sake all generations have suffered?
Is this the dream of a return to Zion which our people have
dreamt for centuries: that we now come to Zion to stain its soil
with innocent blood?”

Ahad Ha’am, 1921

This study has employed a dialectical framework for analyzing the destabilizing logic of Zionism. We have examined this logic as it has unfolded through time, driven by the vision of an exclusionary colonialism, drawing into its circuit – aligned with it and against it – nations, peoples, forces, and civilizations whose actions and interactions impinge on the trajectory of Zionism, and, in turn, who are changed by this trajectory.

It would be a bit simplistic to examine the field of interactions among the different actors in this historic drama on the essentialist assumption that these actors and their interests are unchanging. Instead, we need to explore the complex ways in which the Zionists have worked – and, often have succeeded – to alter the behavior of the other political actors in this drama: and, how, in turn, the Zionists respond to these changes. Most importantly, we need to explore all the ways in which the Zionists have succeeded in mobilizing the resources of the United States and other Western powers to serve their specific objectives.

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On Vaïsse’s ‘Neoconservatism’ and Taboo

Review of  Justin Vaïsse, Neoconservatism:  The Biography of a Movement (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010), 366 p.

by Stephen J. Sniegoski

The mainstream media acclaim Neoconservatism:  The Biography of a Movement as the best book on neoconservatism—the definitive account—and portray its author, Justin Vaïsse, a French specialist on American foreign policy and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, as a veritable Alexis de Tocqueville for his masterly insights. The mainstream’s high praise of this book, however, would seem to be due in large part to its minimization of two taboo issues—neoconservatism’s Jewish nature and its focus on Israel.  Where the book breaks through what  was heretofore largely blacked-out in the mainstream media is its discussion of the major role played by the neoconservatives in bringing about the war on Iraq.

The black-out had essentially placed the entire idea that the neoconservatives played a central role in bringing about the US attack on Iraq in 2003 beyond the pale of public discussion.  In its most extreme form, this approach denied the very existence of neoconservatives.  More moderate variants accepted the neocons’ existence  but denied their influence on US policy.  Instead the war on Iraq was alleged to have been essentially planned by President George W. Bush and/or  Dick Cheney; or, for the anti-war Left, the  war was brought on by the greedy oil interests or by unnamed nebulous corporatists (presumably gentile).    Even to dwell on the neoconservatives could be taken as a sign of being “anti-Semitic.”

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