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By Michael J. Smith on Saturday February 28, 2009 06:44 PM

Here's a well-observed piece by Jeremy Scahill, on Alternet:

Some anti-war analysts find hope in President Barack Obama's address at Camp Lejuene in North Carolina on Friday, in which he appeared to spell out a clear date for withdrawal from Iraq.

"I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011," Obama said in a speech that quickly generated headlines announcing that an end to the occupation is on the horizon.... [But] Obama's plan, as his advisors have often said, is subject to "conditions on the ground," meaning it can be altered at any point between now and 2011. Underscoring this point, a spokesperson for New York Rep. John McHugh, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said on Friday that Obama "assured [McHugh] he will revisit the tempo of the withdrawal, or he will revisit the withdrawal plan if the situation on the ground dictates it. … The president assured him that there was a Plan B."

Sometimes coincidence is a beautiful thing. At the time this astute reading of the tea-leaves crossed my screen, I happened to be re-reading Chalmers Johnson's wonderful book, The Sorrows Of Empire, and I came across this observation, by fresh-faced arch-reactionary Niall Ferguson:
''From 1882 until 1922, the British promised the international community 66 times that they would leave Egypt, but they never did."
Niall, at the time -- 2003 -- thought that we Yanks ought to take up the white man's burden, dropped by his grandparents' former colonial masters. I don't know what he thinks now. But he's a clever fella, all the same, and I think he's made the right comparison here.

Comments (25)

We're not leaving Iraq anytime soon. "Combat" troops may come home and get sent elsewhere, a "residual" force will stay. It's all bullshit wrapped in spin.

I wonder how long Obama will bask in the newness glow, before people start asking questions?


You get in the habit of disbelieving everything a President says. You reify the concept of Empire, and think it will never change. Obama sounds different but acts the same (so far). The issue is not that the President has changed, but that the world (external conditions we have to work with) has changed. We're broke; so are our allies; we need Iran's help in AFghanistan; we're probably on a five year exit plan from there. We didnt get oil rights in Iraq; Pakistan is falling apart. How do you know we're going to stay in Iraq? What's the point, if we find ourselves on the same side as Iran?

Truly, I believe these folks don't know what's coming down the road. They may have to back off Taiwan, in exchange for China funding our deficits. Possibly there is no long-term big picture strategy anymore, just ad hoc responses to little crises.


At least, McCain was honest enough to spell out his plans for a 100 year Raj.


Ferguson has a new book out. In an interview somewhere he says "there will be blood" in coming years, referring to "moderate" governments which will be overthrown as their economies collapse. He paints a picture of spreading chaos, hundreds of brush fires, with major powers struggling to align their interests into some kind of global balance. The good ol days of unilateral strategies are over.


Supremacist ideologues like Ferguson and Robert Kaplan love visions like those of Hieronymus Bosch. They need such fire and brimstone to keep the imperial morale from faltering. 'Clash of Civilizations' style apocalypticism and the necessity of a nemesis (PDF) are also helpful in propping up their phantasmagorical worldview.

Son of Uncle Sam:

Sometimes you just have to tell people something. Besides I'm sure our new gov hero's can squash 66 empty promises. Americans love an international challenge. It's makes me want to get shit faced to the Battle Cry of Freedom.


Oops, last link no longer works, nevermind. At any rate, George Orwell had a better handle on the type of imperialist we are dealing with now. Here is an excerpt from an essay he wrote on a Nobel-winning author and poet who coined the phrase White Man's Burden:

All left-wing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which those aims are incompatible. We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are 'enlightened' all maintain that those coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our 'enlightenment', demands that the robbery shall continue. A humanitarian is always a hypocrite, and Kipling's understanding of this is perhaps the central secret of his power to create telling phrases. It would be difficult to hit off the one-eyed pacifism of the English in fewer words than in the phrase, 'making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep'.


From 1882 until 1922, the British promised the international community 66 times that they would leave Egypt, but they never did.

Forty years wandering the desert. Seems about right, doesn't it? Pass the manna.


SK: thanks for the link to Orwell on Kipling. What a writer was George ("poetry. . . the least tolerated of the arts.")

The central idea, the hypocrisy of liberalism, is the ur-theme of Michael's blog, and the most important fact when thinking about what way America will go in the next few years.

Those Kids Today:

Oh my.

My good friend Al and my pub mate Michael Dawson are ganging up on me a few threads down and accusing me of "determinism" and here, faster than you can say "hey Augustin you charming North African Party Boy. Pick Up And Read," Mr. Smith magically crosses a copy of Chalmers Johnson with an article by Maureen Down quoting Niall Ferguson and comes to the conclusion that the American empire in 2009 will act exactly the way the British empire did in 1882.

Determinism is as determinism does.

But I think the point Chalmers Johnson (a good libertarian I rather admire) is trying to make is very different from Niall Ferguson's fantasy that the American Empire will pick up where the British empire left off. Why 1922? Well, what happened from 1914-1918? Why 1948? What happened in 1945.

Right now the most effective anti-war organizer imaginable is working the streets of America. He's not selling Trotskist newspapers. He's not shouting Free Mumia. He's not rocking a khaffiah and waiving his fist in the air. He's not tipping over trashcans. But he's working hard nontheless.

His name is Mr. T.H.E. Recession.

Johnson's point, which is quite different from Ferguson's, is that the British responded to economic catastrophe by drawing down their empire and building up socialized medicine. The Germans responded to Depression and hyperinflation by creating the Wermacht and looking east to expand their empire. Johnson (who's a bit too soft on socialism for my tastes but has his good points nonetheless) is that we have a choice. We can choose to be Germans and go down in flames. Or we can choose to be the British and get Benny Hill and East Enders.

Obama, as you point out, is worrying. His lefty, socialist ideals are very subject to being translated into militarism. But nothing is inevitable. We can always choose liberty.



You reify the concept of Empire, and think it will never change.... The issue is not that the President has changed, but that the world... has changed. We're broke; so are our allies....
These Kids Today:
Right now the most effective anti-war organizer imaginable is Mr. T.H.E. Recession.
I certainly hope this is true. But unfortunately, I don't think the US today is in the kind of shape Britain was in 1945.

Mr Obama's budget estimates $4 billion less for the military -- on a 2008 base of what, $660-some-odd billion?

I politely deny the imputation of determinism but I do believe in momentum. Institutions evolve and establish a certain way of operating, and they tend to keep doing what they do until something fairly big happens.

Is this recession big enough? The Great Depression wasn't. In fact you could argue that the US' response to that crisis was, among other things, to rev up the imperial machine.

However, if seneca and TKT prove to be right on this score, nobody will be more pleased than I.

Those Kids Today:

As for the US revving up the imperial machine during the Depression, who did you have in power during the 1930s, but the ultimate lefty hero Franklin Roosevelt?

The Neal Deal, what was it?

Well, it was basically Wilson's war planning board from 1917 that was taken out of the shed, oiled up and put back into service.

War creates socialist institutions. Socialist institutions create war. You can actually look at almost every New Deal institution and trace it back to something Woodrow Wilson did.

What would Obama use as a model?

Whatever you want to say about Bush, the Homeland Security model doesn't provide the framework for an extended period of imperial expansion. It was basically a one off disposable propaganda blitz to get the US into Iraq.


Ole FDR was certainly a thoroughgoing imperialist of breathtakingly large vision; TKT is right so far. And there are continuities between Wilson and FDR -- they're both Democrats, after all, and institutions have a life of their own, which has been the burden of our song here for some time.

TKT's formulation that "everything" Roosevelt did can be traced back to Wilson seems a little too sweeping, and the notion that socialism always produces war seems plainly wrong. No doubt TKT would consider Sweden socialist -- right?

I don't follow the argument in the last paragraph at all. What is the "Homeland Security Model"? What does it have to do with empire? And invading two different countries and setting up puppet governments and building bases looks a lot like imperial expansion to me.

In our shared zeal to bash the Democrats, let's not fall into the vulgar error of defending Bush.


"War creates socialist institutions. Socialist institutions create war."

Witty, but ridiculous, TKT!

Al Schumann:

I prefer it in syllogistic form, e.g. Democrats are socialists, Democrats start wars therefore socialists start wars. Or, the economic and social disasters of wars require full nationalization of vital sectors, which is socialism. Therefore socialism is an outcome of war and socialists should support wars for that reason—regardless of which party starts them, but especially when Republicans do. Because then they get to spite the Democrats.


one trick pony ???

his thought surface has lines
his truth
is a truth he holds to be self evident

if we share an opposition in thought
to a third position
we are identical in the long run

in all things essential we are think alike
only out of phase with each other always
connected by easy steps to each other

and since the mind is in motion
all differences even i guess all oppositions are but passing thru points

all sharp changes of direction
all oppositions
are like triangles or pentagons or n-gons
just deflormed circles

just all kinked up fat certain stall points
creating regular stall times
where change of direction
is in fact only continued motion
only awaits sufficient shock to occur

--- exact enough
for popular work ???----

there are no leaps no bounds no cuts no cross thrus
no .whatevers of any sort
vanity uses to delude itself ...

in fact if u zoom in close enough
not even any unique points of flection

our thought trains operate somewhere
in a smooth closed orbit of whatever irregular shape
an orbit we cycle around and around on
like a ...hamster

oh ya there are only to such orbits

yin = spooner = freedom

yang= fitzhugh = necessity

or is yin yang and yang yin ???

does it matter ???


picking at random some what

i think yang is the mob
busby berkley
socialism slavery chained legs
rum romanism and rebellion
whereas yin
is a hidden stash of stolen
spanish gold
a liberating shot of gin
a horn pipe on a quarter deck
a mellowing jerk off
by your mentor
horatio alger


"War creates socialist institutions. Socialist institutions create war."

As everyone here knows, there was no war , no carnage, no genocide on our beloved earth before those heathen socialists made their appearance.


Witty, but ridiculous, TKT!

I believe the technical term for that variety of formulation is: "Fucking Stupid."


one small point
on the whens of it all
"the US revving up the imperial machine during the Depression"

this seems overly compressed eh ??
to the point of becoming its opposite
-- the ultimo and apparently essential
tkt signature move--

the roosevelt path to total war
american style
required a switch back
sometime in the second half of the decade

---just exactly when
depending on the particular head ---

b4 that
a dovish recovery was the new deals way

yes wall street
it stalled of course
but the recovery recovered its forwad march
well prior to the build up to mortal national combat

the win the war economy
was indeed "required"
for us to perform the world historical
twin tasks
of a crusade in europe
and an imperial smack down in the pacific

both teddy R and st woodrow
found a son in franklin

much as jackson and clay
found a son in lincoln

who was the natural pop
in either case ???

i for one lack the careful
pertinacious sitz -flesh
for such flea from pepper seperation


Al: you've been infected by a virus, planted by TKT. A syllogism is a string of self-evident premisses. "Democrats are socialists" is not self-evident, or even arguable except by right wingnuts. Even OP has caught the virus!

Al Schumann:

Sure it's self-evident. With this magical post hoc powder, and these special shoes, I can make anything self-evident. I click my heels three times, repeat the mantra, post hoc ergo propter hoc, and sprinkle the powder. Then I win.


"Even OP has caught the virus"

hell "caught the virus" sen
i've become the virus

meet your own spoon playing
right here at SMBIVA
and without Al's prig-latin
i enter the meme jungle armed only with
my butter knife brain
and a special secret blend
of native ignorance

Save the Oocytes:

You guys seem to sure be spending a lot of time on the arguments of someone who has claimed, in the past, that he hopes for a revolution so that he can cheer on the police as they bludgeon you with truncheons. I'm not positive it's worth it.


War creates socialist institutions. Socialist institutions create war.

It makes perfect sense once you recognize the U.S. military-industrial complex as the largest socialist institution ever seen on the planet.

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