« Worth a thousand words | Main | Making the mummies dance »

Pitiful helpless giant

By Michael J. Smith on Monday January 31, 2011 05:54 PM

Thus the immortal Dick Nixon, back in April 1970 -- oh, I remember it as if it were yesterday:

If, when the chips are down, the world's most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.
Totalitarianism and anarchy! There speaks a man of vision.

Old Dick must be spinning like a uranium centrifuge, out in his Underground White House in Yorba Linda. One of the most remarkable and wonderful things about the Egyptian uprising -- a conjuncture full of wonderful and remarkable things -- is the apparently empty-handed bystandership of the global hegemon. All the usual blustering gangsters in Washington, from Obie Himself down through Hillary and even into the yapping ranks of congressional Wilmers...

... are acting and speaking as though butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. A strange spirit of modesty and restraint has taken up residence in their heads. They're all like, wait and see, democracy is a good thing, on the one hand on the other hand....

Maybe they've got something frightful up their collective sleeve. But actually, I doubt it. What can they do? Nuke the place? Send the Marines?

Events in Egypt, I think, resoundingly confirm the More Of Us Than Them principle. Pulling Egypt into "our" orbit was perhaps the greatest foreign-policy achievement of the Imperium in my lifetime; and now the God-Emperor and the Gorgon Medusa and all the soup-hounds have to stand by, inconspicuously wringing their hands and trying to keep the dismay from their faces, as the jewel in the Mideast crown rolls inexorably toward what is, from their point of view, a sewer grate.

It's amazing how flimsy a thing Empires really are seen to be, when lit from the right angle -- how deeply they depend, like Oz the Great And Terrible, upon the manipulation of perceptions; and how rapidly thirty or forty million perceivers can suddenly agree to view matters in a different way.

Comments (21)

Michael Hureaux:

Wilmers indeed. And like the man in the movie said, the cheaper the hood, the gaudier the patter.


Once the run starts, the bank can go broke pretty quick.

But I have a feeling Obama's going to want to overcome his wimp-image at some point. He might start a war, just to prove he can start one. Weak rulers, like diseased animals, can become unpredictable and dangerous.

The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt may have already wrecked the timing of the intended crisis in Lebanon. The Special Tribunal indictments were planned as a pretext for intervention there, which in turn would lead to a crisis involving Syria and Iran.

That's what Obama and friends were planning. But Mohammed Bouazizi and friends seem so far to have caught the emperor by surprise.

Nick Hart:

It's pretty exciting to watch all this unfold. If Egypt falls out of the US orbit, what is to contain Gaza? And what is to stop every other US-backed autocrat from falling as well? And then where will the US be able to stage its backup forces? An isolated US-backed Iraq will be in an even more precarious position...


It's far from clear to me Barry sees himself as a wimp
Or thinks he needs to prove anything that starting a new scrap would "prove"


The sole global empire is in play it cool mode
I think the muted reactions are not uncle Stunned
But uncle in no more over reach....for now


Barry doesn't see himself as a wimp but is aware that a lot of other people see him as a wimp, say, potential 2012 voters. If El Baradei can climb on the bucking Egyptian population, all may be well from the USA POV. But if he gets tossed off there may arise a "responsibility to protect" the Egyptian men of quality. Also there is the issue of the Gaza blockade which doesn't work without Egyptian cooperation. Gazan missiles falling on Sderot could change everything. Just saying.....


I dunno. They might be able to deal with one problem at a time, but even with two -- like say Iraq and Afghanistan -- things actually aren't going so well. The Afghan war has a lost look; and the relative quiet of Iraq could fall apart any second, and will certainly fall apart sooner or later. Even without commitments elsewhere, it would be pretty hard to do anything about Egypt. In thirty years they haven't been able to do anything effective about Iran; if things really go off the rails in Egypt, that will be like Iran on steroids.

C'mon, you Grinches. A guy can hope, once or twice in a lifetime, can't he?


Sure does put in a crimp in their plan to knock Chavez down, no? Loveliness abounds.

I ain't grinchin' and I'm with you, Mr. Smith. This shit is outta control wonderful.


I'm getting the impression that the folks on the bridge of the Death Star are thinking they can quiet things down by shuffling Mubarak out of the country and moving some mummies around in the parliamentary display case. Maybe it'll work. I hope not, of course.


obviously i agree with this by mjs

"They might be able to deal with one problem at a time, but even with two -- like say Iraq and Afghanistan -- things actually aren't going so well"

boots on the ground in egypt won't happen
and precisely because there's an election on tap

the american people like snap topples and clean exits
grenada panama not haiti somalia etc

a quick knock out

but no such here possible

barry will keep it back stage

and don't play the aipac card
they are out weighed here ...for once in a blue moon

my friend deep guff called
the man that once leaked from foggy bottom

" the forces of history herself
ride rampant there tonite paino ...side bets are at hazard "




the callers for a general strike have an ambiguous pedigree
but clearly an independent union nucleus needs to form
if this is it bravo

the transport sector needs to be siezed and run in the interests of the people not the state
notice the rail shut down to reduce popular movement recently

indusatry needs to be occupied
great co ordination will be needed
from now on unless tate resistence
completely collapses
for these moves in particular
spontaneous siezures of strategic sectors and nodes
will be effectively resisted by state security
unless they come as a surprise
at this point that element is gone



hmmmmm two big figures in this general strike call

recent meany kirkland award winners ???

too much irony in that
to mean
we got real anti empire
class fighters on our hands here

is the cia sending their submarines into action ???

"honest broker " between occident and uprising
bobo baradei isn't alone for sure


The American ruling class can only think in terms of their own history. Can't you almost hear the "Obama lost us the Middle East" theme, like Truman losing China?

Or the murmurs of "don't be like Carter!" in the face of high unemployment, incipient stagflation, and Middle Eastern unrest?

Bobo in Paradise might try to become Bobo the Warrior King from Hell, ludicrous as it might be.

You're right that the USA can't intervene directly in Egypt. I'm still thinking that Obama might look for any sort of chance to "get muscular."

Perhaps he'll still go ahead with the planned crisis and intervention in Lebanon.

It works like this: the STL issues the indictments against Hezbollah. If the new Lebanese coalition gov't opposes, then come the whole battery of UNSC sanctions.

That sends the March 14 crowds back into the streets--the only genuine popular pro-USA element to be found anywhere in the region. If the Leb gov cracks down on the 14'ers, then the USA, Anglospherites, and the Euro-toadies intervene Yugoslavia-style to rescue those poor dumb expendable democratic forces.

If Hezbollah decides to fight the intervention, then the USA can go in bigger and heavier on the ground. If the Syrians try to support and supply Hezbollah, then the Americans finally have their pretext to attack Syria. Believe me, Syria has no kind of military force that can oppose them, and moreover has a disarmed populace quite unlike Iraq's was in 2003. American neocon strategists weren't lying when they called Syria "low-hanging fruit."

If the Iranians try to back up Syria, then the war gets bigger and more and more like the sort of war Americans are still good at fighting. The severity of the crisis, perhaps involving some actual military reverses, would have liberating effect on the Imperial commanders, since they will no longer be bound to avoid extreme measures. No more retail occupation light infantry bullshit, but wholesale battle with heavy units, and civvies be damned. Of course, if anyone scratches the Israelis, then they jump in too.

Since the "Arab Street" is now clearly lost, the argument will be made that nothing to be gained by even nodding in their direction, therefore finally the West and Israel can unabashedly bomb some people in unison, for the first time since 1956. Let the Egyptians riot some more, so what? Let some new terrorist group emerge and blow up a few airliners--it's tragic, but still tasty for the omelette!

And unlike during the Cold War, there is no geopolitical counterweight in this world-system. What's China gonna do, sell some bonds? Like whatever, lol.

If at any time the escalation stops, e.g. say Hezbollah rolls over, or Bashar abandons Lebanon to its fate, or he "flips" from Iran as the Clintonistas have been wanting to have happen for many years, then the conflict plateaus and Obama still gets to collect his little "Muscularity Badge," while restoring some imperial credibility.

That the mess and the memories will metastatize in decades to come has never stopped an imperialist before.

I disagree with you, Roland. I think you're under-estimating the importance of spinnability to the empire. As Chomsky always says, the Vietnam Syndrome is real, and the overclass knows it (and hates) it. The culture has progressed, bad as it is, so wars are harder to sell.

This Egypt things is a radical blow against the US and Israel. If it holds, the best they can hope for is containment. Even that seems unlikely, though.

If the U.S. launched any new war right now, there would be huge explosions, and Obama would be even more done than he is now.

As it stands, if FB's GS source is right about a looming recovery, Zero has a decent chance at re-election. A new unpopular war that can't be sold would end that. There's no way to attack Egypt directly, and the risks of bombing Iran just went way up.

This is a time for a bit of hope.

Milton Marx:

Roland, you're singing old songs. Oldies from another era. I can hear the crackle of the vinyl. But Michael's comment above is completely correct. And MJS is right to feel unambiguous cheer.

Doesn't happen often, but this is true liberation, and ain't a damn thing the "experts" or institutions can do about it.

Solar Hero:

MJS: As to "the relative quiet of Iraq" see


Also must see:

Frank Wisner in Cairo
The Empire's Bagman



the scale of mid east/oil gulf conflict roland proposes would do honor to
louis the 14th

Post a comment

Note also that comments with three or more links may be held for "moderation" -- a strange term to apply to the ghost in this blog's machine. Seems to be a hard-coded limitation of the blog software, unfortunately.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on Monday January 31, 2011 05:54 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Worth a thousand words.

The next post in this blog is Making the mummies dance.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License

This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.31