War Profits Soar as Diplomacy Sinks

W.J. Astore

I came across a remarkable stat while reading William Hartung’s latest article, “The Profits of War,” at TomDispatch.com. The giant military contractor, Lockheed Martin, received $77 billion in federal funds in FY2020 (Lockheed Martin builds the F-35 fighter jet), almost double the entire budget for the U.S. State Department (roughly $44 billion). So as President Biden gives speeches about favoring diplomacy over military action, he might want to consider how the Pentagon’s budget (and related spending on weaponry, including new nuclear weapons) is roughly 20 times that of the State Department. Biden once said, show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value. Looks like weaponry and war remains number one and job one. USA! USA!

I had to laugh when I saw this headline from the New York Times in my email this morning: “At U.N., Biden calls for diplomacy, not conflict, but some are skeptical.” Readers, I can’t fathom any skepticism about U.S. intentions, can you? We are a peace-loving nation. We just choose to show it by constantly building new weapons in a febrile quest for “full-spectrum dominance” as we showcase our global reach and global power with assassin drones and endless wars. Does any other country in the world have 750 overseas military bases in 80 countries? Does any other country in the world slice and dice the map into regional commands (Africa Command, Central Command, and so on) led by four-star generals and admirals? Proving the world is not enough, America now seeks to dominate space with our “Space Force” and virtual worlds like cyberspace.

Time to practice some “diplomacy” in space.

Remember how Teddy Roosevelt said to speak softly but also to carry a big stick? That needs to be amended. The U.S. policy for decades has been: Shout loudly and swing a big stick. And that “big stick” is the U.S. military, which routinely gobbles up more than half of the federal discretionary budget.

Let me know when the State Department’s budget soars to $750 billion and the Pentagon’s budget plunges to $44 billion and maybe I’ll believe Joe Biden’s words about the new importance of diplomacy in America.

America is a force for good …

W.J. Astore

A friend sent along the following statement from the U.S. State Department:

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My Commentary:

Sovereignty is just fine, Iraqi people — as long as you do exactly what America says.  By the way, I thought ISIS was 100% eliminated, according to President Trump.

I’m sure the Iraqi government can’t wait to have this “conversation” with the U.S. government.  Note, however, that any “conversation” about withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq is already forbidden.  So much for sovereignty!

Wikileaks and America’s Boorish, In Your Face, Diplomacy

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With the recent arrest of Julian Assange in London with the goal of extraditing him to the U.S. to face charges, I thought I’d revive this article that I wrote back in 2010.  Assange and Chelsea Manning helped to reveal war crimes by the U.S. as well as a pattern of boorish, imperious, “in your face” behavior by its officials and diplomats.

George W. Bush claimed that the terrorists hated us for our freedoms — but maybe they simply hate us for our behavior?  If we ride roughshod over the “little people,” they might just remember — and bite back.

Anyway, the main sin of Assange and Manning was embarrassing the powerful while shedding light on their behavior.  And the powerful know how to hang on to a grudge…

Written in 2010:

Boorish, “in your face” behavior is everywhere. Most of the time, I’m able to avoid it, or walk away from it.  Nevertheless, afoot in America is an astonishing sense of imperious entitlement. People are told they can have it all – heck, that they deserve it all – and to hell with anyone who raises an objection. Rugged individualism is not enough; roughshod individualism is the new American ethos.

Now, what has this to say about WikiLeaks? Take a close look at many of the State Department cables and tell me how you would feel to be on the receiving end of roughshod American imperiousness. So what if we kidnap the wrong German citizen and torture him? Not only do we have no need to apologize: We’ll even bully the German government into silence. And we can bully Spain too, if need be, to inhibit Spanish attempts to prosecute Americans for torture or murder. Need more information about the United Nations and its diplomats? Let’s not only spy on them in traditional ways, but let’s steal their passwords, their biometric data: Heck, let’s even take DNA samples from them. If they complain, too bad: They shouldn’t have taken a drink from the cup we offered them. And the list goes on: We’ll even strike secret deals with Britain to hide our cluster bombs.

In these memos, it never seems to be America’s fault. Being a loud and boorish and imperious American means never having contritely to say you’re sorry.

Are we oblivious? Do we just don’t care? Neither question will matter if the resentments we breed overseas find their way to America’s homeland.

Professor Astore writes regularly for TomDispatch.com.

Hillary Clinton’s Email Fiasco

Trust me!
Trust me!

W.J. Astore

Once again, Hillary Clinton is in the news for the wrong reason.  She used a private email account while she was Secretary of State, rather than an official government email account.  As a result, not all of her (unclassified) emails are part of the public record. Many may be “lost,” consigned to the dustbin of history, whether by accident or design is hard to say.  In the press conference she then gave to explain herself, she was less than forthcoming.  And it now appears that her email server wasn’t even encrypted for the first three months she served as Secretary of State, meaning her official emails were eminently hackable and readable by foreign governments.

Just another meaningless scandal, right?  No — what this reveals is the arrogance of power. Official rules may apply to “little people” like you and me, but to the Clintons, those rules can be ignored.  They think they can do whatever they want.  It’s a clear double standard, and it’s just one more reason why the prospect of Hillary Clinton as president disturbs me.

I remember when Hillary Clinton served as First Lady and worked on health care reform in the early 1990s.  Her right-hand man was Ira Magaziner.  I’d heard of Magaziner since he had served as an outside consultant to my hometown. According to Wikipedia:

“After Oxford, Magaziner and a group of former Brown students attempted to implement social democratic reforms in the city of Brockton, Massachusetts. These reforms included starting an agricultural cooperative, supporting liberal candidates for city council, strengthening the union movement, and printing a progressive town newspaper. Magaziner soon abandoned the project, after the group recognized that the effects of foreign business competition on the local manufacturing base would undercut their efforts.”

Not as I heard it.  Magaziner thought he could come to Brockton and serve as its “instant expert,” remaking the city in his image without paying much attention to the desires of the locals.  Brockton is working-class, fairly conservative, and tough-minded, proud of its championship boxers (Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler).  The people of Brockton were less than enamored with Magaziner and his fellow “experts” telling them what to do and how to do it.  So Magaziner withdrew, mission unaccomplished.

Magaziner then took his know-it-all approach and applied it to health care reform, working hand-in-hand with Hillary Clinton and her team.  They concocted a massive reform of the health care system with no buy-in from major stakeholders.  Arrogant policy wonks, they believed their ideas and reforms were so brilliant and compelling they’d easily win assent from Congress.  Instead, they fell flat on their faces.

Nobody likes being dictated to.  And nobody likes people who make their own rules while dancing on the heads of the little people. Hillary’s latest fiasco once again reminds us of her imperious nature, her arrogance, her lack of political deftness.

She’d make a formidable empress.  But a president?  No thanks.