April 8, 2023
There is no peace on earth today for reasons mainly rooted in Imperial Washington — not Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, Damascus, Mosul or the rubble of what remains of Raqqa. Imperial Washington has become a global menace owing to what didn’t happen in 1991 (when the USSR collapsed). At that crucial inflection point, Bush the Elder should have declared “mission accomplished” and parachuted into the great Ramstein Air Base in Germany to begin the demobilization of America’s war machine.
So doing, he could have slashed the Pentagon budget from $600 billion to $250 billion (2015 $); demobilized the military-industrial complex by putting a moratorium on all new weapons development, procurement and export sales; dissolved NATO and dismantled the far-flung network of US military bases; reduced the United States’ standing armed forces from 1.5 million to a few hundred thousand; and organized and led a world disarmament and peace campaign, as did his Republican predecessors during the 1920s.
Unfortunately, George H. W. Bush was not a man of peace, vision or even middling intelligence.
He was the malleable tool of the War Party, and it was he who singlehandedly blew the peace when, in the very year the 77-Years’ War ended with the demise of the Soviet Union, he plunged America into a petty argument between the impetuous dictator of Iraq and the gluttonous emir of Kuwait. But that was none of George Bush’s or America’s business.
Furthermore, George H. W. Bush should never be forgiven for enabling the likes of Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Gates and their neocon pack of jackals to come to power — even if he eventually denounced them in his doddering old age.
Alas, upon his death, Bush the Elder was deified, not vilified, by the mainstream press and the bipartisan duopoly. And that tells you all you need to know about why Washington is ensnared in its Forever Wars and is the very reason there is still no peace on earth.
Even more to the point, by opting not for peace but for war and oil in the Persian Gulf in 1991, Washington opened the gates to an unnecessary confrontation with Islam and nurtured the rise of jihadist terrorism that would not haunt the world today save for forces unleashed by George H. W. Bush’s petulant quarrel with Saddam Hussein.
We will momentarily get to the 52-year-old error that holds that the Persian Gulf is an American lake and that the answer to high oil prices and energy security is the Fifth Fleet.
Suffice it to say here that the answer to high oil prices everywhere and always is high oil prices — a truth driven home in spades by the oil busts of 2009, 2015 and 2020, and the fact the real price of oil today (2022 $) is no higher than it was in the mid-1970s.
But first it is well to remember that in 1991 there was no plausible threat anywhere on the planet to the safety and security of the citizens of Springfield, MA, Lincoln, NE, or Spokane, WA, when the Cold War ended.
The Warsaw Pact had dissolved into more than a dozen woebegone sovereign statelets; the Soviet Union was now unscrambled into 15 independent and far-flung republics from Belarus to Tajikistan; and the Russian motherland would soon plunge into an economic depression that would leave it with a GDP about the size of Philadelphia.
And China’s GDP was even smaller and more primitive than Russia’s. Even as Mr. Deng was discovering the People’s Bank of China’s printing press, which would enable it to become a great mercantilist exporter, an incipient Chinese threat to national security was never in the cards.
The First Gulf war — A Catastrophic Error
Confronted with the greatest opportunity for global peace in nearly a century, George H. W. Bush did not hesitate: Upon the advice of his retainers, he immediately elected the path of war in the Persian Gulf.
This endeavor was hatched by Henry Kissinger’s economically illiterate protégés at the National Security Council and Bush’s Texas oilman, Secretary of State James Baker. They falsely claimed that the will-o’-the-wisp of “oil security” was at stake and 500,000 American troops needed to be planted in the sands of Arabia.
That was a catastrophic error and not only because the presence of “crusader” boots on the purportedly sacred soil of Arabia offended the CIA-recruited and trained mujahideen of Afghanistan, who had become unemployed when the Soviet Union collapsed.
The CNN-glorified war games in the Gulf during early 1991 also further empowered another group of unemployed crusaders. Namely, the neocon national-security fanatics who had misled Ronald Reagan into a massive military buildup to thwart what they claimed to be an ascendant Soviet Union bent on nuclear-war-winning capabilities and global conquest.
So when the defense budget went from $134 billion in 1980 to $304 billion in 1989, this unprecedented 130% peacetime rise (+50% in inflation-adjusted dollars) went overwhelmingly to the building of a globe-spanning conventional forces armada that was utterly unneeded in a world with or without the Soviet Union.
Accordingly, everything on land, sea and air was upgraded and expanded. This included the 600-ship Navy and 12 carrier battle groups; massive upgrades of the fleet of M1 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles; and endless procurement of cruise missiles, fixed wing planes, rotary aircraft, air-and sea-lift capacity, surveillance and electronic warfare capacity and a black budget so large as to dwarf anything that had gone before.
In a word, the misguided Reagan defense buildup enabled the invasions and occupations that commenced almost instantly after the Soviet demise. That is to say, the neocon defense buildup of the 1980s fathered the “Forever Wars” of the 1990s and beyond.
The folly and deceit of the purportedly anti-Soviet defense buildup was evident enough at the time because by the mid-1980s the Evil Empire was already unraveling at the seams economically — and for the simple reason that communism and rigidly centralized command-and-control economics don’t work.
Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and rest of the neocon gang surrounding Bush the Elder managed to deftly pull a “bait and switch” maneuver of no mean extent. Suddenly, it wasn’t about the Soviet Union at all but the alleged lesson from Washington’s Pyrrhic victory in Kuwait that “regime change” among the assorted tyrannies of the Middle East was in America’s national interest.
More fatally, the neocons now insisted that the first Gulf War proved regime change could be achieved through a sweeping interventionist menu of coalition diplomacy, security assistance, arms shipments, covert action and open military attack and occupation via the spanking new conventional forces armada that the Reagan Administration had bequeathed.
What the neocon doctrine of regime change actually did, of course, was to foster the Frankenstein’s monster that ultimately became ISIS.
Bin Laden would have amputated Saddam’s secularist head if Washington hadn’t done it first, but that’s just the point. The attempt at regime change in March 2003 was one of the most foolish acts of state in American history.
That the Islamic State was Washington’s Frankenstein’s monster became evident from the moment it rushed upon the scene in mid-2014. But even then the Washington War Party could not resist adding fuel to the fire, whooping up another round of Islamophobia among the American public and forcing the Obama White House into a futile bombing campaign for the third time in a quarter century.
But the short-lived Islamic State was never a real threat to America’s homeland security.
The dusty, broken, impoverished towns and villages along the margins of the Euphrates River and in the bombed-out precincts of Anbar Province did not attract thousands of wannabe jihadists from the failed states of the Middle East and the alienated Muslim townships of Europe because the caliphate offered prosperity, salvation or any future at all.
What recruited them was outrage at the bombs and drones dropped on Sunni communities by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and by the cruise missiles launched from the bowels of the Mediterranean that ripped apart homes, shops, offices and mosques that mostly contained as many innocent civilians as ISIS terrorists.
The truth is the Islamic State was destined for a short half-life anyway. It had been contained by the Kurds in the North and East and by Turkey with NATO’s second-largest army and air force in the Northwest. And it was further surrounded by the Shiite Crescent in the populated, economically viable regions of lower Syria and Iraq.
Absent Washington’s misbegotten campaign to unseat Assad in Damascus and demonize his confession-based Iranian ally, there would have been nowhere for the murderous fanatics who had pitched a makeshift capital in Raqqa to go. They would have run out of money, recruits, momentum and public acquiescence in their horrific rule in any event.
But with the USAF functioning as their recruiting arm and France’s anti-Assad foreign policy helping to foment a final spasm of anarchy in Syria, the gates of hell had been opened wide, unnecessarily.
In any event, bombing did not defeat ISIS; it just temporarily made more of them.
Ironically, what did extinguish the Islamic State was the Assad military, the Russian air force invited into Syria by its official government and the ground forces of its Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard allies. It was they who settled an ancient quarrel that had never been any of America’s business.
But Imperial Washington was so caught up in its myths, lies and hegemonic stupidity that it could not see the obvious. Accordingly, 31 years after the Cold War ended and several years after Syria and friends extinguished the Islamic State, Washington has learned no lessons.
The American Imperium still stalks the planet for new monsters to destroy — presently in the precincts of Russian-speaking eastern and southern Ukraine that are utterly irrelevant to America’s peace and security.
Reprinted with permission from International Man.