Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 31, 2014

Exceptionalism Without Exceptional Means?

The Obama administration wants to achieve its "pivot to Asia", its plan to counter China's rise, without using military force. That is not going to work. The local countries, who the U.S. wants to use as proxies, fear that without a believable threat by the U.S. to cover their asses with its nukes there will be no restriction of what China can and will do around its block. They are right and will have to adopt.

That is why the U.S. is in trouble at the recent security conference in Singapore:

But as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited this city-state for a security conference with all of the interested parties on Friday, that much-vaunted Asia policy appeared to be turning into more of a neighborhood street fight, with the United States having to simultaneously choose sides and try to play the role of referee.

But why anyway is it U.S. business what happens in the in the Pacific beyond Hawaii? It is nothing but "exceptionalism", the urge for global dominance and the desire to rule the world that lets the U.S. interfere.

Obama's recent West Point speech was lauded by Pat Lang as a push back against neoconservatives and neoliberals and a step back to rationality in foreign policy:

The president's wise, if late, decision not to attack Syria's armed forces, his steadfast search for a negotiated solution with Iran against the pressure of the Zionists, his reluctance to plunge into the depths of the Ukraine crisis and his insistence on continuing the withdrawal from Afghanistan all pointed to a return the kind of rationalist foreign policy followed by the United States from the end of WW II until the hysteria of post 9/11 life swept away the careful consideration of risks and benefits that had controlled US policy.

President Obama's policy speech at West Point announces the end of jacobin imperialist dominated policy in Washington.

It is a step in that direction, but it is not going far enough. Rhetoric wise the speech may have been a step back from the financially ruining use of large scale military forces but despite restricting the use of military force it still contained the stupid claim of "exceptionalism" and the desire to "lead":

I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions. (Applause.)

(Why, by the way, would anyone applause such obvious lies?) Some five years ago Obama had a bit different view of such bollocks:

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.

Claiming extraordinary exceptionalism, as Obama again does, without the will to use exceptional means is not going to work for three reasons. It is unlikely to end a push towards new wars, it may instead create more damage without creating any positive results and it makes allies turn away. It would be much better to refrain from both, exceptionalism AND the use of military force. 

That Obama is now back to point out U.S. exceptionalism as something special is not a good sign. As Billmon remarks:

If 1 believes America is "exceptional," then it's natural to assume it has the right & the duty to lead.
If 1 assumes America has right & duty 2 lead the world, 1 can logically conclude that opposition to that leadership is morally wrong...
..and that American "values" (however defined) are universal values that the world can & should embrace.
From there, it's not really a big leap to assume that American values can & should be exported -- if necessary at the point of gun.

And that, says Billmon, will create natural resistance and thereby new enemies and wars. If the U.S. steps back from the use of force it also must also step back from its irrational claim of "exceptionalism". Obama's speech is contradictory as it does not do that.

As Chinahand points out there is another issue with such contradictory Obama exceptionalism. That even as it refrains from direct use of military force it is still not at all peaceful and may still cause enormous damage but without achieving any reasonable result:

Unfortunately, the flip side of the Obama doctrine, [to use military force only as very last resort,] is that the United States remains committed to a forward counterterrorism posture and US“leadership” i.e. the ability to shape events overseas even without using military power.

Even when holding back on military power, there are plenty of ways for the United States to cripple a designated adversary. There’s economic sanctions; financial warfare through the international banking, economic, and trade system; there’s subversion, through the Internet, through support of dissident parties and insurrectionists; there’s proxy wars. There’s JSOC. And of course, there’s drones.
In other words, the United States still reserves the right to cruelly and counterproductively f*ck up any country with any and all means short of the direct commitment of US military forces.

That means plenty more Syrias.
From an ethical point of view, is it a better, more humane policy to eviscerate a country slowly through sadistic proxies than simply to send in the troops and brutalize the locals briskly and efficiently and with some hope of genuine international oversight?

Looking at Syria, I don’t think so.

As a practical matter, I’m afraid the Obama Doctrine won’t fly as a matter of realist geopolitic.

Taking the possibility of US military action off the table in the case of lower-priority objectives undercuts the deterrent character of the US military machine.

It does and it should do that. There is no need for the U.S. to deter China in its local businesses unless one claims some nutty exceptional role. The U.S. must not only refrain from the use of large scale military force but also from claiming a special role in the world.

There is a third problem with the claim of being "exceptional" that it is not backed up by exceptional force. Other countries in a coalition, even when inclined to work with the U.S., do not like to be pushed around as if they were not grown ups themselves. If the U.S. does not want to use its exceptional military force why should any U.S. ally accept its lead? It is rather likely that the desire to lead without the will to use the means will produce more unwillingness by allies to work as subordinates in any coalition with the U.S.

If the U.S. is unwilling to physically lead how will the Japanese, South Koreans and Vietnamese react to being verbally referred to as "kids" -twice- in a story on the front page of the New York Times?

[A]dministration officials have privately prodded their Japanese counterparts to think carefully before acting, and to refrain from backing China into a corner.

“If these are kids in the schoolyard, they are running around with scissors,” said Vikram J. Singh, who until February was the United States deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia and is now the vice president for national security at the Center for American Progress.
Mr. Hagel and the large American military contingent on hand [...] spent their time shuttling from delegation to delegation to make sure those contingencies did not come up.

“Any good teacher knows that you want to get the kids to behave in the first place, rather than try to referee a dispute that breaks out,” said Andrew L. Oros, an associate professor of political science at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., and a specialist on East Asia.

The "kids" recognize that the U.S. is not really interested in challenging China. They had agreed to accept a leading U.S. role as long as it was backed up by superb force. With that gone they will no longer accept to play the role of the "kids" in U.S. power games. Being too small and disunited to counter China alone they will now have to accommodate China's rise and the birth of the Eurasian century just as they naturally should.

It would be good for the world if the U.S. could find a way back to some realistic foreign policy that refrains from militaristic threats and the use of force. But as long as exceptionalism is held up as doctrine the inherent contradictions between claims of exceptionalism and the unwillingness to use (financially ruining) exceptional means will rip Obama's envisioned policy apart. A real step back to realism requires to shun both.

Posted by b on May 31, 2014 at 19:23 UTC | Permalink


I don't see any major change in foreign policy from Obama's speech. The US has been planning to fight wars in a new way for years now, as in, it has been in the works for years. The intent for dominance hasn't changed at all. The intent to meddle hasn't changed. They're just not going to do it w/ massive numbers of troops and physical invasions.

JSOC and CIA paramilitary are doing the fighting now, using technology, massive surveillance, manipulation (via NGOs), overthrowing governments and installing people who will submit to the US, then using elite US forces to train troops on the ground in each respective country, widespread use of contractors and mercenaries.

How is this *not* a neocon foreign policy? It's tempered, modified by neoliberal foreign policy but still neocon FP.

How is this

Posted by: gemini333 | May 31 2014 20:19 utc | 1

the only 'kid' in all of this is the usa as expressed by the propanganda wing of it's own version of prvada..

the myth of exceptional-ism is all a part of the brainwashing of it's people into a permanent state of apathy, while the military industrial complex continues running rampant as a plague on the planet.. we need to figure out a way to stop it which is no easy task. thanks for pointing out all the bullshit it comes with.

Posted by: james | May 31 2014 20:21 utc | 2

I don't think it makes much of a difference, because Obama is on his way out. If Hillary Clinton runs in the next presidential election, and it seems likely that she will both run and win, then Obama's doctrine will be replaced with a much less benign and (unfortunately) more hawkish one.

Posted by: Maracatu | May 31 2014 20:30 utc | 3

It all shows a complete lack of understanding of Asia. Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore even Vietnam all have strong cultural and economic ties to China.

Posted by: dh | May 31 2014 20:33 utc | 4

If terrorism is now the main threat to the U.S., as Obama claimed in his speech, how is it consistent with that doctrine to continue to try to topple Assad?

Posted by: lysias | May 31 2014 20:50 utc | 5

Excellent article. The French are in uproar over the US penalizing BNP Paribas, a French bank and are trying to get the Bank to plead guilty and extract a 10 Billion dollar fine for violating sanctions against Iran, as was said on another thread these 'Scarlet letters' are causing fury in the US's supposed allies.

Posted by: harry law | May 31 2014 21:13 utc | 6

Right on cue a top Chinese military official slammed Hagels speech in Singapore as being full of threats, intimidation and hegemony. The Chinese will not be intimidated, they have too much self respect. They know the US is a busted flush or the Chinese might prefer to say a 'paper tiger'.

Posted by: harry law | May 31 2014 21:29 utc | 7

harry, my neighbors are very mixed on the Paribas deal. Some think the bank should be nationalized, some are outraged with US overreach, and some (most) are wondering how sanctions could have tripped up the bank (the naive).

Posted by: okie farmer | May 31 2014 21:35 utc | 8

US hegemonic influence depends crucially on the dollar retaining its role as THE international reserve currency. Russia and China are sending clear signals that they want to take the buck down a few pegs

With gold Under pressure the buck looks invincible right now . But I suspect we will see a BIG change in the near future. A strong rise in the gold price would signal serious problems for the dollar and the US ability to continue running huge deficits at very little cost.

Posted by: Andoheb | May 31 2014 21:44 utc | 9

A short, but apt, definition for US "exceptionalism" is that the US believes itself to be morally superior to all others and as a result of this 'moral superiotity', it is justified in imposing its will on all others.

Posted by: chet380 | May 31 2014 21:48 utc | 10

' President Obama's policy speech at West Point announces the end of jacobin imperialist dominated policy in Washington. '

Huh ? It adds fuel to the fire. Read it here yourself and see what you think.

Posted by: john francis lee | May 31 2014 22:25 utc | 11


The witch Hilary Clinton to win? what a joke! She has zero chance in my view. Her disastrous performance as secretary of state, the Benghazi fiasco and her lie about her 30 days in hospital will come and haunt them the moment she announces her candidacy. I doubt she will even present herself as a candidate for fear or a certain second slap. She is too old and too dumb to get any job of responsibility.
If she wins then that would confirm that the USA is going down faster than we are imagining.

Posted by: Virgile | May 31 2014 22:51 utc | 12

I don't buy Pat Lang's thesis that there ever was a "rational" US foreign policy pre-9/11. I know the Colonel has a vested interest in spit polishing the era he was a part of the US war machine - but it doesn't hold.

The fact is we are living in a direct continuation of the American policies began in the late 19th Century when America made its first attempts at becoming an world empire. The rationales have changed - first it was saving "our little brown brothers", then it was saving Europe from the Huns and establishing "self-determination", then it was long, bloody battle against Communism both at home and abroad, and now it is "fighting terrorism". All different wrappers on the same blood-soaked package.

Obama should be given some credit for not rashly attacking Syria and Iran directly, but there is little evidence that this was his decision and not the effect of a revolt amongst the American people and the brave actions of Russia and China. Obama has attacked where he felt safe to do so. And obviously where the attack in Syria has failed, Obama has mounted new and even more dangerous offensives in Ukraine. One gets the idea that the US hasn't so much come to its senses, so much as it has the sense to wait for more opportune moments. There is no evidence that US bloodlust has subsided - there is only evidence that, for the time being anyway, US power has.

And this loss of power is what we will now see the US try and reverse - by hook or by crook. Because for those who fear the loss of American prestige and power, the Project for a New American Century is a necessary one because, all things left to their own devices, it is clear that centuries of European dominance and imperialism have come to an end.

Posted by: guest77 | May 31 2014 22:56 utc | 13

Let's get a laugh, brought to you by Obama.

From the NY TIMES:

"[Obama] said the United States had successfully isolated President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia."

The delusion is strong. You can't make this shit up.

Posted by: ChrisMcLavelli | May 31 2014 23:26 utc | 14


I wonder if theyre bullshitting on purpose knowing its bullshit, or if they actually believe that shit.

Im afraid of knowing the answer to that question.

Posted by: Massinissa | May 31 2014 23:31 utc | 15

@15 I think, from what we've seen of the total media dominance over Ukraine, that they know it's BS and run it because they know it it'll work. And some portion (percentage unknown to me) of them believe it because it's easier on the mind than holding two realities.

Posted by: Grieved | Jun 1 2014 0:04 utc | 16

@12 I suspect that what people here know and think about Hillary and what the great mass of voters think about her, only knowing her as the first-ever woman president, are two different things.

Posted by: Grieved | Jun 1 2014 0:06 utc | 17

Boy, Pat Lang really misses the boat on this one. It's like he was listening to an entirely different speech than the one Obama gave!

Obama didn't give any ground at all. It was just a restating of the Bush Doctrine almost word for word. He pretty much said that he expects to depend on the military as his most important source of power. That's not exactly what you'd expect from a Nobel peace prize winner.

Posted by: plantman | Jun 1 2014 0:12 utc | 18

The "Americans" are after the same thing against China they are after against Russia. They cant actually got to war openly with troops, so they use every other strategy in the book, from covert terrorism, to economic war to goebellsian propaganda. A Russia-China alliance spells the end of western dominance, the the freaks cant live with that.

The main problem for Russia and China is how to neutralize the "Masada minds" among the western fascists "gently". ;)

Posted by: scalawag | Jun 1 2014 0:44 utc | 19

Not to pick on the Colonel, but this is also a man who described America's Vietnam-era death squad program - named Phoenix - as some sort of benign "re-education" program.

I'm not saying Col. Lang should be avoided, I'm just saying he should be read knowing that he sees America in a brighter light than most.

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 1 2014 1:13 utc | 20

With all the votes counted by privatized e-voting machines, 2016 is well in hand. Not to worry America, there's a plan ahead for ALL us peons. The forecast is for more economic pain.

Posted by: ben | Jun 1 2014 2:17 utc | 21

Obama's bragging that he has isolated Putin reminds me of the man who tells his that he wants to kill his wife but he doesn't know how. The friend tells him that if he has sex with her every night for exactly a year she'll die from exhaustion. 364 days later the friend comes back and finds the man in a wheelchair. Alarmed, he asks where his wife is. Gasping, the man tells him she at the gym, lifting weights. "Little does she know that tomorrow she'll be dead."

Posted by: jeremiah | Jun 1 2014 2:44 utc | 22

(Corrected version of previous comment)

Obama's bragging that he has isolated Putin reminds me of the man who tells his friend that he wants to kill his wife but he doesn't know how. The friend tells him that if he has sex with her every night for exactly a year she'll die from exhaustion. 364 days later the friend comes back and finds the man in a wheelchair. Alarmed, he asks where his wife is. Gasping, the man tells him she at the gym, lifting weights. "Little does she know that tomorrow she'll be dead."

Posted by: jeremiah | Jun 1 2014 2:48 utc | 23

Nobody should take this "exceptionalism" nonsense seriously. It is just the latest re-packaging of the old racial theories which justified slavery and turned plundering the vulnerable into godly duty.

It is a really remarkable comment on the shameless stupidity of the US "elite" that this empty schlock, dragged out of the bottom of the dustbin of history, dripping with slime and stinking, as corpses which ought to have been interred 90 years ago will, is not only posted on the presidential teleprompter but is greeted by analysis of the Langian or Gelbian sort rather than gales of laughter.

America exceptional indeed! What nonsense. Are there no mirrors in Washington?

What it really means is that, given the enormous vested interest in maintaining a military/secret policing budget in excess of a trillion dollars per annum, and given the fact that this vast wasted expenditure of finite national resources no longer elicits commensurate expenditures by, for example, China-which is quite content to employ its capital in more rewarding investments than the MIC's technological potlatches- how can this year's absurd waste, in the face of millions of needy citizens, crumbling infrastructure, and burgeoning social crises be justified?

And Obama's answer is to turn to one of his team of vulgar rhetoricians (Rhodes?) to come up with another farrago of spreadeagle drivel, to be delivered in a boyish tenor growl, to the effect that America is Beautiful and has a duty to tell itself so. What used to be the staple of July 4ths has now become the basis of every public appearance the President makes. Obama has stopped looking for a raison d'etre and settled for whoring his set piece performances from ceremony to ceremony. (The connoisseur will have caught the bit of circus business involving Marshall's plaque at West Point.)

There is, after all, nothing novel about this "exceptionalism." It is a very old story and one of the world's Beerfest favourites.
Mark Twain had all manner of fun with it. It is a natural for any international comedian's routine, crying out for parody. Baron Cohen could make a fortune out of it.

The tragedy of American empire has declined into a crude but extremely comic farce with the JSOC and other Death Squads taking the role of Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition. Personally I found Graham Chapman much more convincing.

Posted by: bevin | Jun 1 2014 2:49 utc | 24

The world turns faster now. The Roman Empire took centuries for their Legions to evolve from landowning farmers to hired mercenaries. It occurred to the American Empire in my lifetime. I am in the last cohort of males to be drafted into the US Army. Once it is pulled out of Afghanistan in 2016, the US Army becomes irrelevant; too small and too expensive to be used except as backdrop for Presidential Speeches. Just as the Vandals showed up at the Gates of Rome, the Nazis in Ukraine and the Jihadists in Syria, both now supported by the US Government, will ultimately rip apart the Western Hegemony.

The current neo-liberal/neo-conservative foreign policy of war for profit is stupid, dangerous, and morally wrong.

This is not going to end well.

Posted by: VietnamVet | Jun 1 2014 3:36 utc | 25

I like this statement by b: [in reference to the West Pacific island nations] Being too small and disunited to counter China alone they will now have to accommodate China's rise and the birth of the Eurasian century just as they naturally should.

I had fun making this argument in the Guardian's CiF thread following the article on Hagel's speech. In general the comments ridiculed Hagel. But there was one fairly articulate Philippine who was worried about Chinese hegemony. In response to the argument that the Philippines should begin to realize that China is their neighbor and the US is really quite limited in their ability to reverse that fact, this guy basically agreed, though he didn't approve.

These statements by Obama and Hegel are just more evidence that the US does not have a coherent foreign policy regarding China or the whole world for that matter. The US is coasting on previous policies that are crashing against the shoals of reality and US statements of policy seem to respond to one crisis or another without any bigger plan other than responding to the latest circumstance.

Posted by: ToivoS | Jun 1 2014 4:04 utc | 26

The American Empire has no real prestige to lose, at this point, and it only clings to the power to destroy. And the "pivots", as they are known, are only self-serving invitations to that destruction. The US is just steeping in its own poisons at this point. Its insecurities are ruts that have become roads to torture chambers. Dark sites and dark moons that provide cover for assassination, cities left in desolation under the dust of radioactive munitions.

There is no diplomacy left, no respect for other nations; it is all a farce based on threats, followed by more serious threats, culminating in murders and burning villages and cities. Assassins, mercenaries, stooges and quislings, bag men, drug and gun runners, propagandists, lobbyists, snoops and intelligence men, finks and trolls, fascists, bankers and speculators, whores and whore masters---you name it. Prisons too at home, broken soldiers, the homeless, and men held and forgotten in solitary confinement.

And necrophilia, of course. The pride in killing. This is the empire. The rhetoric that some consider to be conciliatory in Obama, or from his mouthpieces, is nothing but a ruse, a holding pattern. These fellows are merely stalling until a opportune moment presents itself. What is irrefutable, is that this is a system of methodical aggression, irrational waste, and a psychotic sense of entitlement.

What must the Russians and Chinese conclude about such signs of desperation?

Posted by: Copeland | Jun 1 2014 6:40 utc | 27

The whole monstrous Axis of Evil can and will do tremendous amounts of damage yet ...

President Obama's remarks at West Point

On the other hand, when issues of global concern do not pose a direct threat to the United States, when such issues are at stake, when crises arrive that stir our conscience or push the world in a more dangerous direction, but do not directly threaten us, then the threshold for military action must be higher. In such circumstances, we should not go it alone.

Instead, we must mobilize allies and partners to take collective action. We have to broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development, sanctions and isolation, appeals to international law, and if just, necessary and effective, multilateral military action. In such circumstances, we have to work with others because collective action in these circumstances is more likely to succeed, more likely to be sustained, less likely to lead to costly mistakes.

US House approves $600 million military aid package for Israel

The US House of Representatives, controlled by a pro-Israel Republican majority, adopted the National Defense Authorization Act for 2015 that includes the approval of $600 million military aid package for Israel for missile defense.

IAF to increase operational capabilities by 400%

The Israeli Air Force's offensive capabilities will quadruple by the end of 2014, IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel said last week.

“We have an unprecedented offensive capability, which allows us to accurately strike thousands of targets in one day. We have doubled our abilities twice in the past two years. By the end of 2014, we will see an improvement of 400 percent to our offensive capabilities relative to the recent past, as a result of a long improvement process.”

... while the American people, the only ones with any leverage at all over the reeling Polyphemous flailing about clutching its single, bunged and burned eye, continue to regard American politics as someone else's problem.

Whose, exactly?

Posted by: john francis lee | Jun 1 2014 7:10 utc | 28


Obama should be given some credit for not rashly attacking Syria and Iran directly

so obama should have cred for having sanctions and threatening Iran like every other week? He should have cred for arming terrorists in Syria?

Posted by: Anonymous | Jun 1 2014 7:56 utc | 29

Posted by: Anonymous | Jun 1, 2014 3:56:13 AM | 29

"so obama should have cred for having sanctions and threatening Iran like every other week? He should have cred for arming terrorists in Syria?"

Well, of course. He could have stopped the terrorism and made peace and made good the damage the USA and Israel have caused these two nations over many years, and also made sure the criminals behind the devastation were prosecuted... ;)

IE: Cheers. I really don't understand why supposed leftists continually try soft peddle that war criminal's "moderate" side as if it is something worth praise. Sort of like praising that nazi collaborator wannabee Icchak Jeziernicky (Yitzhak Shamir) for being to the "left" of Begin later on.

Posted by: scalawag | Jun 1 2014 9:18 utc | 30

Putin puts it in a nutshell. "Moscow/Washington, September 12, Interfax - Russian President Vladimir Putin considers dangerous U.S. President Barack Obama's conviction that the U.S. nation is exceptional in some way.

"I carefully studied [Obama's] address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States' policy is 'what makes America different. It's what makes us exceptional'. It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," Putin said in an article published in the Wednesday issue of The New York Times.

"There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal," Putin said.

Posted by: harry law | Jun 1 2014 9:50 utc | 31


Please support your claims about AU with some real research.
My observation shows AU has absolutely no correlation with $, whatsoever.
AU always precedes the market down, which bodes poorly, since gold is tanking.
You would think news the US GDP shrank 1% would spike AU, but exactly the opposite.

I continue to be amazed at goldbug friends, since Goldman launched a fiat 'gold' index.
'Gold' is as 'fiat' as the $ now, it has no real value, except as overnight trading hedge.
I know for a fact that Chinese are selling tungsten blanks for every gold coinage, and
central banks are all busy drilling their gold bullion to search for more tungsten.

Besides, the Feds know where every 1/10-ounce of gold was sold and shipped to, certified.
You can't move it out of the country, you can't use it at the grocery, it has even less value than bitcoin, if that were possible, both as a currency and as a non-fiat hedge.
Well, humans are crazy for that 'gold', plated tungsten or fiat toilet paper shares.

Posted by: chip nikh | Jun 1 2014 9:53 utc | 32

If the US was so exceptional how is it they have lost wars to rag tag opposition in Afghanistan and Iraq? Even in Vietnam, one week before the fall of Saigon an American General told his Vietnamese counterpart "You know you never beat us on the battlefield" the General replied "that may be so, but it is also irrelevant"

Posted by: harry law | Jun 1 2014 9:56 utc | 33


It wasn't exactly helpful for the Ayatollah to issue a fatwah against America, although I would have preferred to read an Al Jazeera translation, to the one at the New York Post. Do they realize every time they do that, the US gets all locked-and-loaded and cruise-missled?
The same commander behind the Minot nuke-cruise-missile theft might be in Diego-Garcia now.

Posted by: chip nikh | Jun 1 2014 10:24 utc | 34

Syrian Blow-back: French Jihadi Arrested In Brussels'Jewish Museum Shooting

29-year-old Mehdi Nemmouche arrested in possession of weapons of the same type used in attack that killed four; according to reports, he was active with jihadist elements in Syria in 2013.

Posted by: Oui | Jun 1 2014 11:04 utc | 35

“Pat Lang as a push back against neoconservatives”

This, and his comment on American exceptionalism would be rather laughable if this matter weren't so serious. As a (former) Colonel, for observers of the imperial culture and customs, one can't read anything else - let alone some sociologically based article - than to say/write something what is in within the National Narrative.

So are everybody else who are more or less within its Tribal groupthink, i.e. patriotic lunatics. Of course, if you want to be "followed" and "cited" it is a must.

These days, epic failure (in a human terms) of imperial policy, internally and externally, is explained to us as neoliberal policy, blame oligarchy (Koch), or Israel(!!??), or blame goes to single person the President Obama. None of it can endure test of serious and well intended analysis which will tell us all aforementioned is just "plain" and old USA. It is systemic policy with its all purposeful aims and ends.

So, what is difference between George Wallace from 1963:

In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

and Obama? Obama did not say politically incorrect things what Wallace said openly but for the followers of matter there are implicit even now. Aren't they?

Posted by: neretva'43 | Jun 1 2014 11:47 utc | 36

Although weakened, the US still retains the strategic initiative, and will for the foreseeable future. The rest of the world know this and are preparing their defences for the next attack. We are a long way from the light at the end of the tunnel.

Posted by: Knut | Jun 1 2014 11:58 utc | 37

I have difficulty grasping the idea that the executive in place actually matters or is anything more than a mouthpiece for various powerful factions, the office having been effectively compromised in '63. But whether that executive is a frivolous frat boy or a supposed constitutional scholar, he should be ignored.

Consequentially, I don't look to Obama's speeches for useful information and don't spend time worrying about analysis of his words. He's an actor, a focal point, but not an authoritative source. If there is a shift in foreign policy going on, it is only in locale and not substance, which is simply the desire to dominate the entire planet, by force if necessary.

Posted by: Mark Tokarski | Jun 1 2014 13:07 utc | 38

so obama should have cred for having sanctions and threatening Iran like every other week? He should have cred for arming terrorists in Syria?

No. You might have a better reading if you can confine your imagination to what I actually said.

Obama should be given some credit for not rashly attacking Syria and Iran directly, but there is little evidence that this was his decision and not the effect of a revolt amongst the American people and the brave actions of Russia and China.

Maybe if you and scalawag would read the rest of the sentence instead of just seizing on half of it as a chance to take an internet victory lap, it might be more informative to the rest and make you both look a little less like cheap dickheads.

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 1 2014 14:26 utc | 39


Anyone that even thinking of giving obama cred isnt right in their head imo.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jun 1 2014 15:12 utc | 40

@31 harry law. nice quote. thanks

@37 mark tokarski. obama is a figurehead. as a figurehead i think he reflects the general attitude in the usa, while also coaching a general attitude in the usa - exceptionalism.. in this regard i think image does matter. but as our host b points out claiming exceptionalism and not being able to back it up( in the asian area or ukraine area) means it isn't going to last for long.. as the myth gets further out of sync with the reality, a wake up call or permanent sleep is pending with those residents in the land of exceptionalism..

Posted by: james | Jun 1 2014 15:14 utc | 41

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 1, 2014 10:26:53 AM | 38

"cheap dickheads."

While that is an all too frequent response from you, that is the sort of childish comment one expects from teenagers or rednecks (who are essentially overstuffed teenagers) when they disagree with someone, not from supposed thinking adult interested in communication.

Posted by: scalawag | Jun 1 2014 16:51 utc | 42

Posted by: Mark Tokarski | Jun 1, 2014 9:07:14 AM | 37

Yeah, I agree. I'm not even sure if U.S. presidents have final say in who they appoint or hire into their regime administrative positions any more.

Posted by: scalawag | Jun 1 2014 17:49 utc | 43

"..I'm not even sure if U.S. presidents have final say in who they appoint or hire into their regime administrative positions any more.".
scalawag@ 42

That is interesting. Perhaps you will tell us when you find out.
In the meantime you might want to explain when it was that US Presidents did have final say on appointments.

Here's a clue: it wasn't in Mark Hanna's time. Nor in Lincoln's. Maybe Jefferson but I doubt it.

Posted by: bevin | Jun 1 2014 18:28 utc | 44

Posted by: bevin | Jun 1, 2014 2:28:22 PM | 44

My, my, the "New York waiter" in you appears to be rather cranky today. Maybe a glass of milk and an afternoon nap is in order?

Posted by: scalawag | Jun 1 2014 19:59 utc | 45

The contents of your latest defecation @45 puzzle me. But please, leave it at that, the smell is enough.

Posted by: bevin | Jun 1 2014 20:48 utc | 46

All I heard in that West Point speech was a new $5B fund to help governments deal with terrorists.

If that isn't another car in the money train to Ukraine, I don't know how to read.

There's already $1B funded. We fund the IMF and NATO. And poor Ukraine is bankrupt due to endemic corruption. They just can't afford to fight OUR civil war due to their rotten economy. So we can start with another $5B to help them make war on Slavyansk. They're $35B in debt so we'll have to fund that through the IMF starting with half of that at $17B. We can supply arms and weapons through NATO. But OUR wars cost $1B per day. And they're just not able to do that job right at all. So we'll definitely need to take over that part of the problem and do all of the funding for that 'support and training'.

This fund is NOT going to help Assad fight OUR Qaeda terrorists - oops - last week Obama told them they're now religious MODERATES who are Syrian PATRIOTS (from 29 countries) and their Qaeda allies have to change their flags and units to new names that don't represent Qaeda factions...and their only goal here is to fight for 'freedom and democracy' in Syria. And we'll be happy to support, train and fund them.

It's certainly NOT going to make Libya or Mali 'whole' again. So we're still going to have to find funds to train the terrorist rebel groups in those areas. Plus we are fomenting overthrows all over Africa here - under the 'legitimate' cover that we aren't making war there - we're merely acting in support of our ally France so we don't need Congressional approval or opinions on that one.

As to how we're going to cover our new belligerent stance against China re: Vietnam and Japan...that's a question for 'later'...we just need to be stirring the pot for the China takedown here...after we get through with Putin.

As for American money for Americans???!!! That's not part of our global primacy here.

Posted by: MoonFan | Jun 1 2014 21:40 utc | 47

So my problem with Obama's new 'war by proxy' plan is paying the proxies!!! AND funding their governments!!!

Posted by: MoonFan | Jun 1 2014 21:42 utc | 48

@41: Since Obama under the law has the power to be much more than a figurehead, why is he willing to be a mere figurehead?

Posted by: lysias | Jun 1 2014 22:11 utc | 49

@49 - He knows his job, and he knows that he could get rolled by the media into impeachment or worse. Plus, he has his future at CHASE Manhattan or some other Too Big To Fail Institution to consider.

Since before he was in office, he made clear to all around him his intention to be nothing more than a front man for the banks:

Bill Clinton: I know what else he said to his economic advisers. He said tell me what the right thing to do is. What's the right thing for America, and don't tell me what's popular. You tell me what's right and I'll figure out how to sell it. [link]

I doubt he had any illusions what he'd be going in - a puppet of the banks.

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 1 2014 22:42 utc | 50

@49 lysias.. i basically share @50 guest77's viewpoint, but let me put it in my own words. usa political spectrum is the new opera. you see the singer doing some amazing vocalizations implying his/her profound love for whatever at the same time you know it is all theatre and no substance.. obama is a cheap operatic version of the same thing with all the packaged bullshit that goes with it - what it means to be an american and etc.. he probably just wants to take off his 'tights' so he can go back home and be with his family doing activity that is a lot more relevant and meaningful.

obama is nothing more then a figurehead for the banking/military agenda that are stringing every other political leader in our 'westernized' societies.. it might be this way for other cultures too - i don't know, but it sure as hell is for the folks in yankee doodle land, as it is up here in 'we want to be like those crazies to the south of us' political/power legaleeze bullshit office seekers..

Posted by: james | Jun 1 2014 22:58 utc | 51

Posted by: harry law | Jun 1, 2014 5:56:13 AM | 33

If the US was so exceptional how is it they have lost wars to rag tag opposition in Afghanistan and Iraq? Even in Vietnam, one week before the  fall   liberation of Saigon an American General told his Vietnamese counterpart "You know you never beat us on the battlefield" the General replied "that may be so, but it is also irrelevant"

Fixed it for you.

Posted by: kyria | Jun 1 2014 23:07 utc | 52

kyria | Jun 1, 2014 7:07:01 PM | 52

One tiny correction, the discussion was between two colonels. However that quote is accurate and the full essay by Weyland (a general when he wrote it is worth reading).

why we lost the war in vietnam

Posted by: ToivoS | Jun 2 2014 1:43 utc | 53

If the US disappeared as an Imperialist Power tomorrow and nothing else changed there would be no light at the end of the tunnel.

Posted by: Marc | Jun 2 2014 4:09 utc | 54

State Dept Sideshow: Jen Psaki’s most embarrassing fails, most entertaining grillings (VIDEO)

The repulsive Psaki harpy is a very good example of American "exceptionalism" in practice.

Posted by: scalawag | Jun 2 2014 5:41 utc | 55

But why anyway is it U.S. business what happens in the in the Pacific beyond Hawaii?

That question was apt back in 1899, but not after Hiroshima, Korea, and Vietnam. The US is the exemplar of world imperialism. Either it (and most of the rest of the world) will be destroyed in a World War instigated by America's quest to run the world, or humanity will rediscover that the struggle for international socialism is necessary to defeat the voracious destructive twin forces of
nationalism and capitalism. The time is growing short, as the US is stepping up its war drive aimed at its main prize, the Eurasian land mass (Russia and China).

Posted by: Valtin | Jun 2 2014 6:58 utc | 56

The Neocons are getting desperate. They have purchased Google keywords to slam Putin.

Posted by: Yonatan | Jun 2 2014 11:46 utc | 57

Hillary Clinton cannot win the Presidency. If she even stands (doubtful imho.) She lost once against Obama (primaries) and would lose again against almost anyone (which she surely knows.) - See Virgile at 12. It is like saying Strauss-Khan would have been Prez. of France, that was a pipe dream before the Sofitel affair. (pipe in French is sexual slang for .. )

The exceptionalism discourse is mostly for internal consumption - see james at 2, bevin at 24. Yet, even as deliberate propaganda, it echoes, exemplifies, and fuels arrogance and pride on the US leader's part. The US FP has not changed, call it full spectrum dominance, the PNAC, or the perpetual threat of intervention, or whatever. - See guest77 at 13, plantman at 18, scalawag, in part, at 19.

Obama - or just time passing and change in strategy - prefers social control, surveillance, drones, covert ops, assassinations, sanctions, financial jiggery-pokery, manipulation, influence, threats and blackmail, etc. Partly because of expense and over-reach and more (see Copeland at 27)..and following on from Copeland, the threat of if you can’t make it you break it as US doctrine, is very real and truly terribly frightening. (See also Knut at 37.)

So who will be the first to directly stand up to the US? Nobody at present...How can an alliance be constructed? That is the nitty-gritty. (See also e.g. Valtin at 56.)

Posted by: Noirette | Jun 2 2014 15:24 utc | 58

Just read Theirry Meyssan's reflections on the West Point speech - thoroughly enjoyable. I hadn't realized only a quarter of the graduates applauded Obama's speech (and no standing ovation for sure). Here's Meyssan's final paragraph:

This speech is only a facade of verbiage trying to hide an irreversible decline. He stunned the audience which understood dreams of conquest are at an end. Against all odds, less than a quarter of the 1064 graduates of the Military Academy at West Point applauded the president, while the majority remained unmoved. The Empire is slowly dying.

An Empire Without a Military Strategy for a Military Strategy Without an Empire

Posted by: Grieved | Jun 2 2014 15:51 utc | 59


Agree with you on Clinton. Way past here prime with a lot of baggage and much too hawkish to survive the primaries. There will be an "anything but Clinton" movement that will finish her off.

Posted by: b | Jun 2 2014 17:16 utc | 60

One more time I re-posting links with essential readings for those confused about Obama's position in current affairs, which changed dramatically in the evening of the day he was re-elected. Many belligerent statements from him and his administration are nonsensical but those are just for show, actions are louder than words. Notice also removal of many figures in service of the western ruling satanic cabal (Bilderberg now just meeting in Denmark - there should tread on this IMO, see also Committee of 300 Member List) including queen Beatrix, a director of Lockheed-Martin, CIA chief in Afghanistan, Robert Ford in Syria, McFoul in Moscow, pope Benedict and just now king Juan Carlos II. Revealing the cesspool of pedophiles around Saville (now 500 cases) in the UK is also part of this process. On the other hand creeping terrorism campaign has been launched with many false flag events like Aurora, Fort Hood, Sandy Hoax, Santa Barbara (there is a connection of the last two to the creators of the "Hunger Games") in order to deny guns for the US citizens and undermine Obama, either try to impeach him, or violently overthrow him (Kokesh and his armed "march on WDC"). Israelis murderous regime and its minions/hasbara/sayanim have been awfully silent recently focused on the psyop operation attempting at deceiving the public that they are on the Russia's side on the Ukraine and that Putin is "their man" (some idiotic posts at Saker's claim that).

Of course the ruling evil cabal will not go down in history without fighting and taking with them as many innocent people as they can. Something BIG is up, another nuclear event or "zombie apocalypse".

Will Obama and Putin partition the ME?

In an article published on 26 January in Russia, Thierry Meyssan exposes the new partition plan in the Middle East on which work the White House and the Kremlin. The author reveals the main data of the current negotiations without prejudice to a final agreement or its implementation. The interest of the article is that it helps to understand the ambiguous positions of Washington pushing its allies in a stalemate so as to impose a new order in the near future they will be excluded...

Once stabilized Syria, an international conference to be held in Moscow for a comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbors. The United States considers that it is not possible to negotiate a separate between Israel and Syria peace because the Syrians first require a solution for Palestine in the name of Arabism. But it is not possible to negotiate a peace with the Palestinians, because they are extremely divided, unless Syria is loaded to force them to abide by a majority agreement. Therefore, any negotiations should be comprehensive on the model of the Madrid Conference (1991). In this case, Israel would withdraw as much as possible to its 1967 borders. Palestinian Territories and Jordan would merge to form the final Palestinian state. His government would be entrusted to Muslims that would make acceptable solution in the eyes of current Arab governments Brothers. Then, the Golan Heights would be returned to Syria in exchange for dropping the Sea of ​​Galilee, according to the scheme previously proposed negotiations Shepherdstown (1999). Syria would guarantee respect of treaties by the Jordanian-Palestinian side...

The gift of the new Obama administration to Vladimir Putin twice more calculations. Not only divert the Russian Far East, but also use it to neutralize Israel. If a million Israelis have united states dual citizenship, another million Russian-speaking. Installed in Syria, Russian troops would deter the Israelis to attack Arabs and Arabs to attack Israel. Therefore, the United States would no longer have to spend huge amounts of money for the security of the Jewish settlement...

Obama II – the purge and the pact | "Before our very eyes"
Telephone conversation between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama
Obama Surprise Admissions in Terror Talk
Planned war on Iran and the General who said No!
US military planned mutiny on the Bounty to topple Obama
Obama told friends he reneged on progressive promises out of fear of MLK's fate -- former CIA analyst says
Report: Obama Will Ask Israel to Stop Assassinating Iranian Scientists
Obama to Israel: Relations with Iran to be normalized
Obama to demand Israel withdraw from West Bank: Report
Exit poll: 80,000 Americans in Israel voted, 85% for Romney, 14% for Obama
Obama’s Victory Shocks Israel
Obama victory spells trouble for Israel's Netanyahu
Publisher of the 'Atlanta Jewish Times' suggests Mossad should assassinate Obama
Bloomberg Caught in “Psyop” Treason
Al Qaeda: Private Army of America’s Neocon Right
Gladio – the Gift that Keeps on Giving
Is America the Mother of Al Qaeda?
Israel Tries to Assassinate Top US General, Then Invites Him for Tea
A “Superhighway” to Israeli Rule in America
Israel’s plan for World War enters high gear
Why America Must Have an Anti-War Uprising (from 2010)
NEO – Odessa: A Model of Warfare On the Cheap
The Globalization of Special Forces
Preparing GLADIO/AlQaeda campaign for southern Europe:

General announced that he would attend a NATO meeting in Brussels [5] which runs along the historic visit of Putin in China and said that because of the Ukrainian crisis whose "effects could severely disrupt the lives of European countries, both in the south and elsewhere in Europe, "Atlanticism is at the" crossroads ", insofar as it must" review "its" blank south (Portugal, Spain , Italy and Greece), which is closely linked to the Middle East and North Africa. " In short, it seems that Europe is threatened from all sides. Has it been realized in Germany and France the spooky sword of Damocles that Al-Qaeda is?

This is how war in Ukraine will look like (hence Blackwater/Academi mercenaries sent there)

In a 2011 article in Foreign Affairs, NATO`s Victory in Libya. The Right Way to Run an Intervention. Foreign Affairs. March/April 2012. Pp.2 – 7., Stavridis and Ivo H. Daalder, describe NATO’s intervention in Libya as a “teachable moment and a model for future interventions”.

As we know today, US and NATO intelligence services have been involved in preparing the subversion of Libya with the help of Muslim Brotherhood militants and Al-Qaeda brigades since 2007.

The NATO ”intervention” in Libya was again discussed in the same terms during NATO’s 25th Summit in Chicago in 2012. A 2010 US Special Forces Training Circular, the TC 18-01, describes the strategy of subversion in great detail and stresses that “the USA, for the foreseeable future, predominantly will be engaged in unconventional warfare”...

Yatsenyuk meetings weeks ago with EU and Obama - look carefully at the body language on the photos. There is conspicuous reservation towards Yats, what Obama shows is clearly disdain IMHO.

Posted by: PP4ever | Jun 2 2014 23:16 utc | 61

Just in,Obomba says the "full force of the good ol USA is behind Eastern Europe in its defense against aggression"Uh,and the aggression is from US,so I guess we are gonna go suicidal.
Political posturing(Bergdahl?),or as Lysias implies,a true believer?I go with insane true believer in bullsh*t.Sigh.

Posted by: dahoit | Jun 4 2014 17:38 utc | 62

The United States are toast, the only thing exceptional about the country will be its gigantic economic implosion, a chain of events which has already started.

The US is a cars and highway economy, public transport almost non existent. By looking at the quantity of retail gasoline sales within the country one gets a pretty good idea how the economy is doing. In 2007 the average was about 60 million gallons per day, today its 20 million, that's a reduction of 66%. Holy fuck!

Also, the velocity of the M2 money stock, in other words the number of times a dollar is spend within a given time frame, has dropped by 25% since 2007. US Americans are holding onto their money for longer, domestic spending is in free fall.

At the same time, as in the last 4 years, the Federal Reserve has increased the monetary base (printed $$$) from $800 billion to 3.2 trillion, a parabolic move. This money however did not flow into the real economy where you and I live but into equities and bond markets, where we see a similar exponential rise eg the Dow Jones, the economy the 1%'ers live in.

Whilst US politicians blabber on about being exceptional, reality is having a good old laugh. From Dan Collins at the China Money Report:

Why Google is closing the last U.S. made smart phone plant and moving it to China

June 3, 2014

Google has announced that its North Texas factory, which makes Motorola handsets, will close by end-2014. With the plant closure it will bring an end to any dreams of manufacturing high tech smart phones in the U.S. Google will continue to make the phones in China.

So what happened? Most people will instantly assume labor costs are the problem but there are much deeper business realities that are the major cause that not only this plant but 75,000 other manufacturing plants have closed in the U.S. since the year 2000.


Secondly , tax rates at a plant in China, will be 0% for 3 years, and 7% after that and worst case will rise to 15% if you have not done a deal with the local government. In the United States you will be taxed at 38%, the highest rates in the world. And thats just tax at the Federal level! In China, there is a value add tax of 17% but only if the phones are sold domestically, if you export the phones you receive all of that money back,therefore, encouraging exports. Most of the world has gone to Value-add and consumption taxes while the U.S. remains mired in a 19th century tax code designed to enrich tax lawyers and accountants. The U.S. tax code focuses heavily on labor
and production…hence…it all left.

Thirdly,and what Americans will refuse to accept is that Chinese work harder than Americans and are better educated. The high school drop out rate in China is close to 0%, in the U.S. its around 30%. The same people who would be expected to work on an assembly line in this type of plant in the U.S. are not educated and nowadays in many cases are immigrants with only primary school educations. [...]

Fourthly, and probably most importantly, all of the smart phone technology is owned and manufactured by Korean and Taiwanese companies. The entire supply base is in China. The Dallas based plant would be totally dependent on importing components from Asia to send to Dallas. It just makes more sense to slap it together in China.

Thats the harsh reality of the American manufacturing climate and jobs outlook. Until American leadership wakes up to real reform of the economy the joblessness will continue. In the U.S., the money has been sucked to the core of New York and Wall Street through endless money printing and banker bailouts which continue to this day. [...]

The US is bankrupt, morally as well as financially. The sound of their yapping about being exceptional is akin to the music heard from the Titanic's ball room as the ship was going down.

Posted by: Juan Moment | Jun 6 2014 0:29 utc | 63

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