Is the consensus foreign policy of the United States, the establishment or default policy of the leadership of both parties, the governing classes at large, and the mainstream media, about to change?
There are signs that a shift is beginning to take place. If so, it can’t happen soon enough for an economically weakening world.
U.S. foreign interventionism has a long track record of making things worse. The most egregious recent example was George W. Bush’s elective Iraq war. The direct cost to the U.S. economy is best summed up in the title of Nobel-prize winner Joseph Stiglitz’s 2008 book The Three Trillion Dollar War. Actually Stiglitz told me at the time the book came out that he really thought the cost of the Iraq war would be more like $5 trillion.
|U.S. foreign interventionism has a long track record of making things worse.|
Now it looks like it will turn out to be even more costly than he thought. Add to that enormous tab other costs of the consensus foreign policy that usually go unreckoned, costs like the fear premium saber-rattling and war-making added to the price of American oil imports.
The unintended consequences of their interventionism that blindsided the establishment also include the accelerated radicalization of the region and the rise of ISIS, developments that haunt us today.
Not least among the tolls of the feckless war is the human suffering and carnage. It cannot be reckoned by any measure.
“Recent history should humble anyone who would predict the direction of regime change.” That was the editorial opinion of the hyper-interventionist New York Times last week, the very newspaper that during the lead up to the Iraq war was “eager,” according to one editor, to support “the war-mongering out of Washington.”
The new contrition comes in a piece called “Shifting Realities in Syria.”
The Times’ editorial board belatedly offers up the conclusion of a Rand Corporation study that the collapse of the Assad regime in Syria would be the “worst possible outcome,” and ratifies that observation by finding that ISIS is the “greater threat” in the region.
You don’t recall the rip-roaring national debate about the pressing need for the U.S. to topple Bashar al Assad? You don’t remember the Congressional declaration of war before the clandestine shipment of arms to Syria’s rebels began (some of which came from Libya in the aftermath of the U.S. interventionist debacle there)?
There’s nothing wrong with your memory. There was no national debate. There was no declaration of war.
Now ISIS has spread beyond Syria and even Iraq and has reached the Islamic Maghreb, targeting Algeria and Libya. And even Egypt.
Like the tragicomic Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the global interventionists unleashed forces they did not understand and cannot contain.
Was there no natural check in the region on the growth of ISIS, even after we had secretly fortified it in Syria? Of course. The Assad government was one. There were others, but we were so busy halfway around the world checking those natural counters to the rising jihadists that they could not block the metastasizing cancer of ISIS in their own neighborhood.
Now the Times acknowledges as much, citing American officials saying that “the only way to end the civil war and forge a common front against ISIS is some kind of political agreement that includes Russia and Iran.”
The interventionists have things so bollixed up that the bellwether New York Times has begun to realize it. The establishment is growing anxious to disown the monster it midwifed.
More threatening to our immediate economic security is the growing prospect of a hot war that pits the U.S. or its proxies against Russia. Already the impact of sanctions and embargos on Russia has contributed mightily to Europe’s woes. Germany, Italy, and France alone exported €55 billion to Russia in 2013. At the same time the sanctions are eating away at this trade, Russian purchasing power has tanked thanks to the collapse in oil prices.
Now Standard & Poor’s has given Russian debt a junk rating. Nothing is imminent, but if Russia were eventually to default on its debt and things play out as usual, its creditor banks will look to the taxpayers — to us — to make them whole.
But the U.S. standoff with Russia may be about to shift. First, the European consensus that supported sanctions is shattering. EU asset freezes and sanctions on Russia are expiring over the next several months. Their renewal demands the support of all 28 EU members.
But Alex Tsipras, the new prime minister of Greece, and the new foreign minister have said that sanctions on Russia harm Europe. Their party, Syriza, fell only two seats short of a majority in Sunday’s election.
The November election here sent reinforcement warmongers to Washington to join John McCain and Lindsey Graham, but the intelligentsia of the establishment is having second thoughts about NATO expansionism and our bellicose posture on Moscow’s doorstep.
A couple of pieces of evidence for this policy revisionism: Foreign Affairs, the journal of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, published a piece in the fall called “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault.” Not long thereafter former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, an icon of the governing classes, echoed the point of the West’s responsibility for escalating events in Ukraine.
Where the establishment intelligentsia leads, the lapdog press soon follows. After all, it falls to the media, suggested Walter Lippmann, to “manufacture consent.”
Well after it was too late to do any good, the Times offered apologies for its gullible Iraqi “Weapons of Mass Destruction” reporting. It is now starting to recognize the incoherence of U.S. Syrian policy.
Maybe there is a chance it will see the folly of a hot war in Ukraine.
The “newspaper of record” need only revisit the State Department’s $5 billion coup campaign in Ukraine in light of its own editorial conclusion last week: “Recent history should humble anyone who would predict the direction of regime change.”
Now, since the parliament in Kiev has ordered up a massive conscription, with U.S. armored vehicles already being delivered and U.S. soldiers set to deploy to Ukraine this spring, would not be a moment too soon.
Currency wars are in our future. We don’t need a hot war, too.