Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 06, 2017

New Sanctions Against Russia - A Failure Of U.S. Strategy

Recently the U.S. congress legislated sanctions against the Russian Federation over alleged, but completely unproven, interference in the U.S. presidential elections. The vote was nearly unanimous.

President Trump signed these sanctions into law. This was a huge and stupid mistake. He should have vetoed them, even as a veto would likely be overturned. With his signing of the law Trump gave up the ability to stay on somewhat neutral grounds towards Russia. This for no gain to him at all.

Sanctions by Congress are quasi eternal. The 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment restricted trade with the then "Communist block". It was supposed to press for Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union to Israel. But even after the Soviet Union broke down in the early 1990s, after the "communist block" had disappeared and long after any limits on emigrations had been lifted, the law and its economic sanctions stayed in place. It was only lifted in 2012 and only to be immediately replaced by the ludicrous Magnitsky act which immediately established a new set of sanctions against the Russian Federation and its interests.

The new additional sanctions, like the Jackson-Vanik amendment and the Magnitsky act, were shaped by domestic U.S. policy issues. There is nothing Russia could have done to avoid them and there is nothing it can do to have them lifted.

The new U.S. sanctions are not only directed against Russia but against any company and nation that cooperates with Russia over energy. This a little disguised attempt to press European countries into buying expensive U.S. liquefied natural gas instead of cheap Russian gas delivered by pipelines. The immediate target is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany which passes through the Baltic Sea to avoid potential conflict points in east Europe. The sanctions are a threat to an independent German energy policy. (Additional partners in the pipeline are Austria, France and the Netherlands.)  Consequently 35% of Germans name the U.S. as a "major threat to the country". Russia is seen as such by only 33%. This view is consistent with the global perception.

These sanctions will shape U.S.-Russian relation for the next 30 plus years. On August 2 the Russian Prime Minister Medvedev pointed to the weakness of President Trump as the main reason for these sanctions:

The US President's signing of the package of new sanctions against Russia will have a few consequences. First, it ends hopes for improving our relations with the new US administration. Second, it is a declaration of a full-fledged economic war on Russia. Third, the Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way. This changes the power balance in US political circles.

What does it mean for them? The US establishment fully outwitted Trump; the President is not happy about the new sanctions, yet he could not but sign the bill. The issue of new sanctions came about, primarily, as another way to knock Trump down a peg. New steps are to come, and they will ultimately aim to remove him from power. A non-systemic player has to be removed. Meanwhile, the interests of the US business community are all but ignored, with politics chosen over a pragmatic approach. Anti-Russian hysteria has become a key part of both US foreign policy (which has occurred many times) and domestic policy (which is a novelty).

Remember that Medvedev as Russian leader was, for a long time, the "hope" of the U.S. establishment. He was perceived as more amenable than the Russian President Putin. Medvedev may well become president again. But no U.S. media except the New York Post took notice of his statement. That in itself is astonishing and frightening. Can no one in the U.S. see where this will lead to? Medvedev predicts:

The sanctions regime has been codified and will remain in effect for decades unless a miracle happens. [...] [R]elations between Russia and the United States are going to be extremely tense regardless of Congress’ makeup and regardless of who is president. Lengthy arguments in international bodies and courts are ahead, as well as rising international tensions and refusal to settle major international issues.

Economically and politically Russia can and will cope with these sanctions, says Medvedev. But can the U.S.?

The supreme global role of the U.S. depends on preventing a Euro-Asian alliance between, mainly, Russia and China. In his latest "grand chessboard" piece Toward a Global Realignment the U.S. strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski - ruthless, amoral and capable - asserts:

[I]t behooves the United States to fashion a policy in which at least one of the two potentially threatening states becomes a partner in the quest for regional and then wider global stability, and thus in containing the least predictable but potentially the most likely rival to overreach. Currently, the more likely to overreach is Russia, but in the longer run it could be China.

The U.S. foreign policy establishment has declared war on Russia. The confrontational position towards China, which was en vogue under Obama, has noticeably changed. The Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama "pivot to Asia" was cancelled. The anti-Chinese Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement has been called off. Military provocations of China in the South Chinese Sea have been reduced and replaced by continuous provocations against Russia in eastern Europe. These steps follow the strategy Brzezinski laid out.

Russia has historically proven to be resourceful in its policies. It is extremely resistant to pressure. With the U.S. in a less hostile position against China, the behemoth will relentlessly press its own advantage. Russia will soon be one of China's main sources of fossil energy and other commodities. There is no major reason for China and Russia to disagree with each other. Under these circumstances the hoped for Russian-Chinese split will not happen. Core European countries will resist pressures that endanger their economies.

The Brzezinski strategy is clouded by a personal hate against Russia. (He is descendant of minor noble Galician-Polish family.) It is flawed as it enables China to establish its primacy. Even under Brzezinski's framework a Russian-European-U.S. alliance against Chinese pursuit of hegemony would have been the more logical way to go.

Hillary Clinton's strategy to blame Russia for her lack of likability and her failure in the election now results in a major failure of U.S. grand strategy. An organized White House policy could have prevented that but there is no such thing (yet) under Trump.

I fail to see how the current strategy, now enshrined by congressional sanctions, could ever end up in an overall advantage for the United States.

Posted by b on August 6, 2017 at 10:25 AM | Permalink

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Use of the terms "Isolationist" and "Isolationism" within the context of US History differs little from the use of the terms "Conspiracy Theory," Conspiracy Theorist," and "Revisionist"--all are used in an attempt to degrade the credibility of an individual or organization. A priori, everyone aside from First Peoples is an Internationalist as commerce with other nations of the world isn't optional--it's mandatory, thus the phrase within the Declaration about telling the world why. Rather, Isolationist is used to tar someone against Imperialism, the best examples being the very heated debate during the 1930s over the various Neutrality Acts when the hoi polloi last had some vestige of control over the federal government. (Pacifist was also a derogatory term used then for similar reasons.) Did Trump say he would close US borders to one and all--people, goods, financial instruments? No, of course not; so, he cannot be labeled an Isolationist. Now, is he what's known as a Nativist promoting an America First Nativism? During his campaign, he did use rhetoric of that sort, but his actions in office don't provide confirmation. (The 1932 presidential election also gives an excellent example of how the terms Internationalist and Isolationist are used politically, with FDR steadfastly refusing to acknowledge his Internationalism thanks to the divisive League of Nations debate after WW1.)

Essentially, to be an informed citizen of almost any nation, one needs the equivalent of a PhD in their national and world history, with minors in philosophy, anthropology and economics, which is why the citizenry seems so ill-informed--they are!--and easily led by the nose.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 7, 2017 3:44:05 PM | 101

@96 william bowles quote "Russian Rocket Engines Exempted from Sanctions Bill – Parabolic Arc"

well, perhaps russia would like to respond in kind by not allowing them to be shipped? this is the kind of stupid shit that happens when an exceptional nation gears up for war on others... some do indeed fight back..

Posted by: james | Aug 7, 2017 4:00:02 PM | 102

b wrote: This a little disguised attempt to press European countries into buying expensive U.S. liquefied natural gas instead of cheap Russian gas delivered by pipelines.

The problem with European countries buying US LNG is, beyond price, the infrastructure isn’t there and building it would take a decade! And be super expensive.. In fact this whole part of the tale is a strange pipe-dream (sic), I don’t know where it comes from. Trump, all the energy majors, anyone involved in the FF industry knows this. The EU (Union) officially imports about 15% (not sure sounds too! high..) of its gas as NLG … this involves liquifaction, transport by special ship, re-gazification at port of entry, then pipelines ..therefore crazy expense, prohibitive really…

Gas prices follow oil prices and as all know they have sunk (said to be a part of the economic war against Russia thru twisting the arms of KSA, idk?) so low gas prices - which don’t allow for fancy tech-high-jinks which aren’t necessary and are, more importantly, *incredibly* wasteful.

A bit like: burning coal (according to the coal ind. website 50% of US electricity comes from coal!) to create mechanical energy that spins a turbine which powers a generator which creates electric energy that is then stored in complex batteries which are inserted into cars to power moving 1,500 kilos of car uphill and down, round and about, with some load on board, say 100 kgs, a blondine, a friendly yapping doggo, and a suitcase or two. (The loss of energy is astounding, interesting to try and calc. it, I’m sure it’s been done but don’t have a link.)

Perhaps someone who know more about LNG / FF industry can chip in here, but Europe importing massive amounts of LNG is totally unrealistic, never happen. So why does the US (reportedly) tout aims that simply can never be fulfilled, as reality in the shape of physical constraints prevents?

Posted by: Noirette | Aug 7, 2017 5:17:38 PM | 103

@ 92 Skip

Your sarcasm seems to swing both ways. I'll take heaven over terra corrupta any day of the week.

Thanks for the laughs.

Posted by: JSonofa | Aug 7, 2017 6:35:23 PM | 104

Noirette @102--

Wikipedia has a good page on current and proposed LNG gasification and liquification terminals, At that page is a link to Wiki's main LNG article that deals with your technical questions. Unfortunately, much of the critical information lives behind paywalls, for example IEA's Natural Gas Information, 2017 will be available later this month in PDF format for 132 Euros. EIA does publish usage and extraction figures on a monthly basis that lags by 60 days on average. Here's its Nat Gas main page,

I studied the peak oil concept and was a member of ASPO USA during the oughts, but the concept's been rendered moot thanks to geopolitics, technology and geology, although we will eventually reach the point where fossil hydrocarbon extraction peaks and begins a never-ending fall, with many thinking the current "bumpy plateau" will end in 2020. The proper policy is to build away from fossil fuel reliance and establish an energy resilient economy based on 100% renewables, which is what China and Germany are doing feverishly while the Outlaw US Empire goes in the opposite direction.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 7, 2017 6:42:35 PM | 105

The US LNG export to EU in quantities large enough to satisfy the demand are quite unrealistic - because - the need to build infrastructure in the US (very expensive for new ones; all existing import LNG facilities wld have to be changed to export LNG); US does not have that much gas (even with fracking - expensive, plus wells that have an annual depletion rate of about 30%); EU wld need new import/processing facilities plus new pipelines); and the much higher cost. Even if - all of this wld take many years - and who'd cover the cost? This is a picture from the end of 2016 -
Maybe the sanctions are to make "a larger impact" on those pesky Europeans...
That this has been a long-term goal of the US is shown here:
(yeah, all those East and Centre E. really need US help!)
Except Poland, of course, which sees itself as the future hub for LNG deliveries (tell that to the Germans!) - but considering P's strained relations with the rest of EU, it is doubtful they'd give the country that much power (
Russia provides anywhere from 35%-40% of EU nat-gas (the 30% claims are not totally accurate) - there is no way US has that enough NG to replace such volume (plus consider the cost impact!).
And this is even more comprehensive:

Posted by: GoraDiva | Aug 7, 2017 8:51:25 PM | 106

Wwinsti 38 blues 6 fast freddy 22
I live in Huntsville and it's easy to see the big money thrown at NASA as well as the Army's missile ops here. Lots of waste and abuse; it happens in all the contractor communities. Meanwhile we've watched NASA get micro-mismanaged by Legislative and Executive branches. Programs start and are then stopped. That's big govt for you. It happens with other things like for example the super-collider that was going to be built in Texas.

Mataman 21
draft legislators from the people instead of the "professionals" we have now? Good idea. I think Icelanders did that in/after 2008 when they decided the banksters needed to be prosecuted, too.

Posted by: Curtis | Aug 7, 2017 9:01:52 PM | 107

Posted by: Noirette | Aug 7, 2017 5:17:38 PM | 102
(Unrealistic costs of LNG via ships vs pipelines)

The Russia Sanctions plot makes more sense if it's perceived as a panic attack by AmeriKKKa and Big Oil/ Big Coal's Climate Denying fossil fuel lobby. Germany has fervently embraced Clean Green Energy and Elon Musk's large scale storage battery arrays promise/ threaten to make wind and solar energy as reliable as fossil fuel energy, but much cleaner/ healthier.
Germany is also toying with the idea of replacing fossil-fueled cars with electric cars by 2040 (even though hybrids are a more practical interim path to Fully Electric cars, due to km per charge problems of FE cars).

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Aug 7, 2017 9:03:00 PM | 108

US needs enemies to keep the scam going. Even some of the brainwashed voters question the terrorist threat which was created to replace the Cold War. Reinventing the Cold War is essential to keep the money flowing for the bloated military and security complex, and to continue to tighten the leash on freedoms in the US and globally.

Most Americans can be made to believe the tooth fairy is a security threat. Unfortunately the rest of the world seems not to be much brighter.

Pretty sure Hollywood is writing the scripts for both US parties and the MSM and we all know Hollywood is a tool of the Deep State and global elites

Posted by: Pft | Aug 7, 2017 9:05:27 PM | 109

'The confrontational position towards China, which was en vogue under Obama, has noticeably changed.'

Change of theatre to
proxy war at Indo/Sino border,
ratched up provocation at Korean Peninsula, target China !

Posted by: denk | Aug 7, 2017 10:05:20 PM | 110

Haha, Russian rockets are exempt from the sanctions...? Really...? Well can someone explain to me what sort of sanctions they are...? Many thanks in advance. Seems to me it wouldn't matter what Trump signed from congress, it's worthless anyways. I dont have a huge massive problem with capitalism, that is, in the way that it's promoted...but what is promoted, and what actually not the same thing. Everybody here knows that free markets looking down the barrel of a gun is not really free markets. So, in the latter reality (and a stronger one in my opinion) these sanctions will prove worthless in time, the two great threats Russia & China will bond closer - and ironically, bond in ways that rabid capitalists teach - but maybe with the added strengthening agent of 'necessity'.

It won't be long until the real world market understands what is looks like a sanction is actually a clown shoe.

Posted by: MadMax2 | Aug 7, 2017 10:12:14 PM | 111

karlof1 | Aug 7, 2017 3:44:05 PM | 100
Essentially, to be an informed citizen of almost any nation, one needs the equivalent of a PhD in their national and world history, with minors in philosophy, anthropology and economics, which is why the citizenry seems so ill-informed--they are!--and easily led by the nose.
Spot on, yes.
Those who do not know history are doomed to ignorance.
The study of history is a most fascinating discipline, IMO.

Posted by: V. Arnold | Aug 7, 2017 11:27:34 PM | 112

MadMax2 | Aug 7, 2017 10:12:14 PM | 110

IMO, sanctions are not to be taken lightly; they are, in fact, an act of war.
Sanctions were a major factor in Japan attacking Pearl Harbor.
While the latest round against Russia, Korea, and Iran will likely have little real world effect; they were a desperate move, by a desperate country, and colossally stupid.

Posted by: V. Arnold | Aug 7, 2017 11:36:35 PM | 113

Even if the jackson/vanek law was in affect until 2012 it was really irrelevant to US foreign policy. Remember when Sandy Berger made that trip to Russia in 1999 and suddenly much of Russia's foreign debt was voided? Of course, Russia then decided to let the US build a base in Kosovo and tear that province from Serbia. In any case the President can do what he pleases when it comes to foreign policy -- Trump can, if he has the will, ignore these sanctions. His signing statement has signaled that possibility.

Posted by: ToivoS | Aug 8, 2017 4:33:48 AM | 114

Re: Posted by: Noirette | Aug 7, 2017 5:17:38 PM | 102

It's true, there's no way the US by itself can fulfill the gas demands of Europe by supplying US LNG - the US desperately needs some allies like Qatar or Australia with large gas deposits and facilities for LNG exports.

Do you know of any US allies Washington could draw upon to fill the hole with LNG exports like the two aforementioned countries?

Posted by: Julian | Aug 8, 2017 4:39:25 AM | 115

Gasprom can relie on Wintershall - only Europe decides on its energy policies - in German, Wintershall's CEO.

Sanctions are hated by lots of energy companies including Exxon, they are doing good business with Russia.

In other news, FDP - the "liberal" party - which in Germany means representing a certain type of business - came out with "Crimea could be recognized as permanent provisorium" :-)) or something like that.

Die Linke agreed. Socialdemocrats surely will agree, too, but keep silent for now.

Merkel runs on a non campaign being sure to win. Numbers are such that a coalition by everybody against Merkel minus AFD would be possible.

Detente with Russia got Social Democrats to power during the cold war. Let's see what happens.

Posted by: somebody | Aug 8, 2017 6:57:37 AM | 116

LOL China is really hypocrite:

China’s foreign minister says Japan kowtows to US policies in Asia

Posted by: Anonymous | Aug 8, 2017 6:59:35 AM | 117

Eric Zuesse on cites "brilliant blogger" MoA

- only a few days ago I had posted here a link to an article of his which I had found interesting :-)

Posted by: claudio | Aug 8, 2017 8:07:39 AM | 118

V. Arnold @110

Indeed, sanctions are an act of war. It is a bit bewildering to see them discussed as nothing more (morally) than a soundly-administered geopolitical parental spanking. Of course, nuance is required. Freezing foreign bank accounts of oligarchs is not the equivalent of a forcible seizure of territory. Yet, while lowering a nation's GDP does not immediately cause bodies to pile in the streets, larger sanctions which significantly adversely affect economies do lead to poverty, hunger, misery, early death.

Posted by: zakukommander | Aug 8, 2017 9:50:08 AM | 119

karlof1 @100:

Do you consider yourself to be one of the informed or one led by the nose?

I'm not saying you aren't informed. You clearly read a lot and quickly and synthesize the information together rapidly. I'm asking what you do to ensure your information isn't misleading you. It might be helpful.

Posted by: Charles R | Aug 8, 2017 9:56:45 AM | 120

Search "Florida Firm and Russian Rocket Engines"

That five-person company, RD Amross, is a joint venture of Russian engine maker NPO Energomash and a U.S. partner, aerospace giant United Technologies. According to internal company documents that lay out the contract, Amross stands to collect $93 million in cost mark-ups under its current multi-year deal to supply the RD-180 rocket engine.

Those charges are being added to the program despite a 2011 Pentagon audit that contested a similar, earlier contract with Amross. That deal would have allowed Amross to receive about $80 million in “profit” mark-ups and overhead expenses on RD-180 engines, government documents show.

The confidential report of the 2011 audit described the mark-ups and additional charges as improper under U.S. contracting law. Amross, the auditors concluded, was a middleman that did “no or negligible” work. The audit characterized the $80 million in added costs as “unallowable excessive pass-through charges.”

A spokesman for RD Amross told Reuters that the company resolved the dispute by reducing its charges under the first contract. Neither Amross nor the Pentagon would disclose the dollar amount of the price cut.

But the documents indicate that Amross later managed to make up for the concessions. In the current deal, Amross is charging the same average total price per engine - $23.4 million – that was proposed in the initial contract rejected by the Pentagon auditors.

The disclosure of the middleman’s profits and the 2011 contract dispute is likely to increase scrutiny of the deal - and the Russians behind it.

Posted by: fastfreddy | Aug 8, 2017 10:19:55 AM | 121

Scrutiny of the Russians behind it (the deal).

No scrutiny is necessary regarding the American profiteers. Nice work if you can get it.

Posted by: fastfreddy | Aug 8, 2017 10:22:33 AM | 122

zakukommander | Aug 8, 2017 9:50:08 AM | 118
It is a bit bewildering to see them discussed as nothing more (morally) than a soundly-administered geopolitical parental spanking.

Ain't it so; thanks for the reply.

Posted by: V. Arnold | Aug 8, 2017 10:32:40 AM | 123

Charles R @119--

When at university, I was extremely fortunate to become associated with a brilliant professor, the late Dr. Guy Bensusan, who had constructed a learning tool he called the Hexadigm designed to enable the learner to arrive at credible, objective analysis of information, which dovetailed well with my own historiographical quest for objectivity I'd previously formulated. Given the 24/7/365 job I have providing primary care for my Alzheimer's afflicted mother, I find it difficult to stay as informed as I'd like, nor can I adequately pursue my quest as an investigative historian of the US Empire. I'm most certainly a non-conformist and independent thinker; so, I'm definitely not led by the nose. The Socratic maxim to examine all facets of life is the mantra I've followed throughout my life and has served me well in my quest for objectivity. And I shouldn't omit my having a wonderful partner who serves as an excellent sounding board and knows her opinions and insights are valued, so she's not cowed by mine.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 8, 2017 11:35:39 AM | 124

@124 karlof1.. i for one, and i am sure there are many others - really appreciate your involvement here at moa.. thanks!

Posted by: james | Aug 8, 2017 3:03:57 PM | 125

karlof thx for the link, it is more than I thought, but maybe wiki is a tad exageratin’? Hard nos. are hard to come by / expensive as you say.

The EU public docs are quite political ..still interesting.. Ex:
(see refs.)

Gora Diva, yes, that is what I was getting at …Hoarse, as well…though I am not as optimistic as many here re. renewables and ‘moving away from FF’. - Not an argument for this thread.

Posted by: Noirette | Aug 8, 2017 3:28:45 PM | 126

Replacing Russian gas?
Costs aside, I don't see it happening on any significant scale, and certainly not in a longer-term 100% reliable fashion. The only other adequate source would be the Pars field, via a pipeline running through Iran and Turkey. Probably not what Washington has in mind...

I dare predict that shale oil and gas will be a short-lived boom.
karlof mentioned peak oil - so far, the theory's predictions were accurate afaik, including the current increase thanks to 'unconventional' oil. Expect a rapid decline beginning in the 2020s, whether due to scarcity or environmental concerns (maybe the US does need clean drinking water after all?).

Posted by: smuks | Aug 8, 2017 7:57:42 PM | 127

karlof1, thank you very much for your answer and for referencing Bensusan's hexadigm (just found an example on the 'net!). Always on the lookout for pedagogical insights. I have appreciated how you interact with folks and help out with clarifying links. Care is a virtue you exhibit, whether investigating or caretaking, it seems. 🌸

Posted by: Charles R | Aug 8, 2017 8:01:47 PM | 128

The ever-increasing sanctions mainly lead to US self-isolation. 'Splendid'...?
They will fail due to overestimation of its own capabilities, and lack of imagination - talk about a geopolitical one-trick pony.

Nonetheless, the strategic premises are correct:
Keeping Russia isolated continues to be the No 1 objective of US/UK foreign policy, same today as in Mackinder's time. A US-EU-Russia alliance, as suggested in the last paragraph, would break Moscow's isolation for good, establishing it as the pivotal Eurasian power broker. Having the most strategic options of any player, sooner or later it would take over the driver's seat from Washington.

'Containing China' may sound plausible, but would have to be done very differently, i.e. keeping it close enough while balancing it off against Europe. On the other hand, since China is part of the 'rimlands' and doesn't have a lot of natural resources, it is no geopolitical rival to the US.

I wonder:
Maybe the big mistake was not so much the recent shift, but rather the 'pivot to Asia'?
Or maybe it would be necessary to isolate both, which is impossible even in the short run?
In any case, it's too late now, the "damage" is done and undoing it too difficult a task even for Zbig.

Posted by: smuks | Aug 8, 2017 8:30:18 PM | 129

@129 smuks.. why can't the usa exist in a tri- or multi polar world? why does it always want to dominate everything? do the people of the usa really think they are exceptional people? i just don't get it... to me, i boil it down to money and power - a problem for all mankind, but mostly being lived out on the downside thanks the exceptional nations unwillingness to change.. change will be forced on it as a consequence..

Posted by: james | Aug 8, 2017 9:02:05 PM | 130

@ james who asks: ".....why can't the usa exist in a tri- or multi polar world? why does it always want to dominate everything? do the people of the usa really think they are exceptional people?"

In a tri or multi polar world it would be difficult to maintain the private finance "One Ring To Rule Them All" situation that pretty much exist now and has for centuries now. The people of the USA have been brainwashed to believe that they are exceptional in the same way the world is brainwashed to not understand the control of those that own private finance.

@ karlof1 who wrote earlier about a Constitution 3.0......I would really like to see such a creation and would appreciate you sending it to me, thanks......maybe share with others are part of future Open Thread.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Aug 8, 2017 9:26:34 PM | 131

Charles R @128--

Thanks for your reply! As you'll see, Dr Guy's formulation's rather complex. We collaborated on improving web-based educational delivery platforms at the end of the 20th century and continued to hone his pedagogical systems. I was shocked to learn years later that he'd passed just 18 months after our final collaboration. Throughout my several careers, I've always been a teacher, and continue to do so now in a small way. Thanks for your observation: Genuine humans care; monsters don't.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 9, 2017 12:11:18 AM | 132

@james 130

Don't blame the Americans.
Every empire tells its people that they are 'exceptional', 'superior', 'destined for greatness', 'natural leaders' or whatever - it's part of the ideological icing on the cake, stabilizing its political system. In many cases, this lingers on long after the empire is gone, e.g. Spain, Austria, England.

Also, Washington doesn't want to 'dominate everything' - at least not more so than others.

Any country tries to maximise its influence, by using its socio-economic resources and geographic position to its advantage. Having killed the indigenous population, the US found itself with a vast territory, plentiful natural resources, a growing and eager population and no enemies nearby - ideal conditions for building a huge economic and military power base. Any country finding itself in such a position will sooner or later seek to expand its power beyond its shores. Thanks to some strategy and some luck, the US was rather successful at this.

But globally, it remains an 'outsider': Throughout history, the global power centre has always been in Eurasia(+Egypt), for obvious reasons. Washington's hegemony is thus more fragile than that of most previous empires, and losing it would very likely be for good. In a multipolar world, the US will find itself far away from closely interconnected Eurasia. This will leave it with fewer strategic options than other players, and therefore likely not playing second, but rather fifth or sixth fiddle.

The US strategic imperative is thus to foster conflicts between the continental powers and keep them simmering. Its longer-term aim should be the emergence of a system of several (ideally five) powers of similar size on the 'world island' who trust each other 'only so much' - the same strategy Britain employed towards continental Europe in the 19th century. This would enable the 'outsider' to keep its alliances appropriately vague to 'tip the scales' in any given conflict, thereby maximizing its own influence.
Theoretically possible - but I have strong doubts whether this would be successful in the longer run.

Sorry for giving a lecture, I got carried away - ignore it as much as you wish.

Just trying to point out that there is no 'evil' foreign policy, neither in Washington nor anywhere else - just power players trying to use what they have to achieve maximum gains. Look at their geography and economy and you know what their foreign policy strategy will be.

@psycho 131

Sorry, but I think that's based more on your 'idée fixe' than on any reality. Any empire uses the tools offered by it's historic era to further its influence. Egypt and the Chinese empire had advanced agriculture, medieval kings had the church, renaissance Italy had banks and merchants. 'Private finance' is just another tool, used to perpetuate the geopolitical power backing it.
By the way: Many other nations also consider themselves 'exceptional'.

Posted by: smuks | Aug 9, 2017 9:27:45 AM | 133

psychohistorian @131--

Essentially, the project first looks at the 1787 Constitution and the preceding Articles of Confederation to assess their plusses and minuses then seeks to rectify them. IMO, one of the most glaring failures of the Constitution is the failure to specifically include mechanisms to implement the document's rationale as stated in the Preamble upon which other failures are founded. A question I posed to students was: Should the Preamble be modified, and if so how? This is the Preamble--Capitalizing words was how emphasis was applied:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

IMO, the Constitution has failed to deliver any of the ideal aims stated in the Preamble primarily because the document's too vague and vests far too much power in the Executive. Furthermore, the electoral system was almost immediately rendered inadequate, nor was any attempt made to deal with the rise of political parties, both of which haunt us today and have been used to neuter the Preamble's aims. So, clearly any Constitution 3.0 will be a far more complex document as it addresses the imbalances of power within and between the government and governed.

Another consideration is how to address the problem of the wholesale violation of the Constitution primarily by presidents but also by Congress that's gone on for decades--many in some cases--without any means of remedying by the public or Supreme Court. Of course, there are also other considerations besides this one, but I think this the most important.

More than an open thread, this topic requires a blog of its own.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 9, 2017 11:53:05 AM | 134

@131 psychohistorian.. thanks.. i get that..

@133 smuks.. thanks.. the lecture was fine.. i know americans aren't all responsible for this, but it's amazing how inoculated so many are, perhaps due the msm and politicians constantly telling them they're the greatest nation on the planet.. in fact, it is a corporatocracy / plutocracy plain and simple... americans don't actually call the shots in there own country.. the corporations do.. it is becoming this way globally.. corporations never have the interests of the people or the planet in mind.. again, i think it goes into world finance - money and power..

i really believe people can live together on the planet, but i see a few strong impediments to this - corporations and they dominance of the political spectrum being a big one.

we'll we are a few minutes to midnight here and something radical has to change.. the planet is going to have a major wake up call, or we are doomed.. sorry for being pessimistic so early in the morning..

Posted by: james | Aug 9, 2017 12:12:52 PM | 135


Which corporations decide Trump's policies on NorthKorea? I dont see it at all, isnt it rather psychopaths in deepstate, media, military, white house etc?

Posted by: Anon | Aug 9, 2017 12:16:51 PM | 136


It's not that different in other countries. In Peru, I witnessed a 'flag day' ceremony, where it was proclaimed in all seriousness: 'Our flag is the best flag in the world, because it is red and white, and it is the flag of all Peruvians!...' - the less history a nation-state has, the more it has to pretend.

Corporate power is a huge issue, though I would prefer calling it 'oligarch power' since it's not the corporations themselves calling the shots, but their (major) shareholders. Of course, many in the top management do own a lot of shares themselves.
In a way, it can be argued that it's just a new iteration of the old 'elite vs people' theme. In ancient times, the elite were the land & slave owners, later the aristocracy and religious leaders, today it's those in the Forbes each case, they can force people to work for them, only the justification varies.

Not that I'm overly optimistic myself, but I try to point out that even if things look grim, nothing is predetermined. There are always alternative paths, so there is no need to resign to fatalism or even hope for some 'unavoidable' final big bang.
We have the technology needed for a sustainable future - all we have to do is decide to use it wisely & efficiently, instead of clinging on to this outdated 'growth' imperative.

Posted by: smuks | Aug 9, 2017 3:15:15 PM | 137

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