Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 15, 2015

The Deprofessionalized Empire

We can be sure that the number of times Mokhtar Belmokhtar was reported being killed is greater than the number of times he actually was killed:

Aside from the obvious unreliability of such reports one wonders what the killing of this or that "terrorist" is supposed to achieves. There will always be another one and the next one and so on and the violence will only get worse:

When their leaderships are debilitated in a successful strike, militant groups become far less discriminate in their target selection by redirecting their violence from military to civilian targets.

The constant U.S. resort to military means is an expression of the lack of conflict resolution policies.

As Chas Freeman elaborates:

In recent years, the United States has killed untold multitudes in wars and counterterrorist drone warfare in West Asia and North Africa. Our campaigns have spilled the blood, broken the bodies, and taken or blighted the lives of many in our armed forces, while weakening our economy by diverting necessary investment from it. These demonstrations of American power and determination have inflicted vast amounts of pain and suffering on foreign peoples. They have not bent our opponents to our will. Far from yielding greater security for us or our allies, our interventions – whether on the ground or from the air — have multiplied our enemies, intensified their hatred for us, and escalated the threat to both our homeland and our citizens and friends abroad.

Freeman sees a lack of a diplomatic mindset in U.S. policies. The militarization of policy is evolving into a self licking ice cream cone. The root cause he identifies is a lack of professionalism in leading policy positions:

The post-Cold War period has seen major expansion in the numbers of political appointees and their placement in ever lower foreign policy positions along with huge bloat in the National Security Council staff. This has progressively deprofessionalized U.S. diplomacy from the top down in both Washington and the field, while thinning out the American diplomatic bench. Increasingly, the U.S. military is being thrust into diplomatic roles it is not trained or equipped to handle, further militarizing U.S. foreign relations.

The chaotic response of U.S. political actors to this or that perceived problem, with contradicting alliances and daily changes of priorities, does not help to achieve anything but chaos. What does it say when even U.S. proxy forces do not understand what is going on:

“Until now we don’t know what the coalition wants. Does it intend to fight ISIS or empower ISIS?” said Gen. Ahmed Berri, the deputy chief of staff of moderate rebel forces, using an alternative name of the Islamic State.

I find it likely that even the policy makers in the National Security Council and the State Department have no real idea of what they are doing. As political appointees they lack, as Freeman says, foresight and experience. They are daily pulled into different directions of ever changing policies based on competing mediocre analyses from a manifold of self interested pressure group. Run this way the U.S. can be sure to soon lose even the pretense of being an empire.

Posted by b on June 15, 2015 at 8:17 UTC | Permalink


I sent Freeman's speech to my biggest list-serve. It's long but we all should read it. I sent it with Subject: Too Much Sense.

He titled the speech:
Too Quick on the Draw: Militarism and the Malpractice of Diplomacy in America

Posted by: okie farmer | Jun 15 2015 9:32 utc | 1

Granted it is undiplomatic and unprofessional, but there seems to be a method (if evil) to it. Different militant groups fighting each other with provided assistance, while the Kurds strengthen in the ME. US and allies do not lose in this scenario, while Turkey,Iraq,Syria and probably Lebanon do.

Meanwhile in Europe...the EU, or the fourth reich, will exist as long as it does the bidding of the US vis-a-vis Russia. Not pretty, but seems to be working so far. How did it happen? Perhaps those Fed financial strings are just too long.

Posted by: mrd | Jun 15 2015 10:10 utc | 2

Chas Freeman should take some Geritol and go hang with the grandkids on the front porch. man i get so fucking tired of all these 'former' professionals, all up to their eyeballs in the def/sec state, their sermons thoroughly imbued with american exceptionalism, harking back to the 'better diplomacy' of yesteryear.

all of which, of course, led us to where we are now.

from the over 500 treaties that were made with American Indian tribes, primarily for land cessations, that were broken, changed or nullified when it served the government’s interests, from the slavery that created the original american oligarchy, from the racist, discriminatory laws against the Chinese labor that built the transcontinental railway, from the corporate complicity with nazi Germany throughout ww2, from the garrisoning of western Europe and eastern Asia for what's now going on 70 years...etc., etc., etc.

it seems to me that there's nothing really new about committing Constitutional infractions. it seems to me that American 'diplomacy' has only served to obfuscate American 'policy' from the beginning. it seems to me that pretty much every potus in living memory has gotten away with treason.

Frank Zappa said it best, "Politics is the entertainment branch of industry."

Chas Freeman can take his cia medallion and stick it up his ass.

Posted by: john | Jun 15 2015 10:28 utc | 3

There's also the factor - which Freeman doesn't mention - of the increasing centralisation of diplomacy. The ease of communications means that Obama can be in direct control (apparently) of operations far away, thinking of him watching the taking of ObL. Diplomats no longer seem to be relevant when the elected president, or his close associates, can handle things himself. Even though they are not elected for their knowledge of foreign affairs. The spectacle of ignorant presidential candidates swinging through Europe and Israel, is a horrifying and embarrassing sight.

Not really different for the Brits - Cameron is just as embarrassing.

Posted by: Laguerre | Jun 15 2015 11:12 utc | 4

I think a lot of people miss the real point, that "our" intelligence" agencies are only vaguely correct. Whether it is because of a lack of abilities or deliberate obscurations is, IMHO, irrelevant. From "missing" the end of the USSR to 9-11to the Syrian debacle (though a very good case could be made that missing the 9-11 debacle was deliberate) the foreign policy decisions based on such demonstrates a remarkable consistency to shaping the intelligence to support State department directions rather than observing reality, then shaping foreign policy in light of reality. A red flag IMO is the extensive use of "official sources" to promote the public side of such "intel" and should be viewed as propaganda until a named figure actually involved in the actual events is willing to go public.

Posted by: Bardi | Jun 15 2015 12:00 utc | 5

In the fall of 2002, six months before Iraq was invaded, Charles Freeman was quoted in the Virginan-Pilot newspaper saying that, at the very first meeting of the Bush White House (in January, 2001), discussions included finding a reason for an invasion of Iraq.

The January, 2001 plans by the Bush administration for an invasion of Iraq were confirmed, in 2004, by Paul O'Neill (Bush's secretary of treasury).

Freeman, not a part of the Bush administration, demonstrated that word-on-the-street in D.C., from day-one of the Bush Administration, included searching for a reason to invade Iraq. All of the members of congress at the time would have been aware of this - especially after a reliable source like Freeman was quoted in newspapers as late as the Fall of 2001.

So what excuse did Senator Hillary Clinton have?

Posted by: Holdbar | Jun 15 2015 13:23 utc | 6

Real live whack a mole.Our leaders are intellectual and moral zeroes.

Posted by: dahoit | Jun 15 2015 14:08 utc | 7

john, if Freeman had a "cia medallion", why did AIPAC block his nomination as Sec of State after HRC announced her resignation.

Posted by: okie farmer | Jun 15 2015 14:50 utc | 8

Here's Greenwald's take down of the Sunday Times article I posted on the Open Tread
The Sunday Times’ Snowden Story is Journalism at its Worst — and Filled with Falsehoods

Posted by: okie farmer | Jun 15 2015 14:57 utc | 9

okie farmer says:

john, if Freeman had a "cia medallion", why did AIPAC block his nomination as Sec of State after HRC announced her resignation

well, the one has nothing to do with the other. he was awarded the cia medallion in nineteen ninety something for outstanding contributions to the langely hive. some later career move was disrupted by aipac because he made some paltry criticism of israel.

Posted by: john | Jun 15 2015 16:24 utc | 12


Is this Independent rumor based story about the IS any more believable than the Sunday Times rumor based story about Snowden/Russia/China?

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Jun 15 2015 16:36 utc | 13

@ b: "one wonders what the killing of this or that "terrorist" is supposed to achieves."

Easy one b. Propaganda and PR for the masses, true, or not.

Posted by: ben | Jun 15 2015 17:58 utc | 14

@ john | Jun 15, 2015 6:28:40 AM | 3

Stunning remarks, John. Freeman's erudition and insight are profound, if you've followed him over the years. Rare public servant and foreign officer. He speaks fluent Chinese, French, Spanish, and Arabic. He's not CIA.

Posted by: MRW | Jun 15 2015 18:01 utc | 15

Good article, b.

Posted by: MRW | Jun 15 2015 18:02 utc | 16

Dahoit @7

So very true. And what's worse is, people here in USSA pick sides and fight over which is BETTER (ie, in Newspeak: which one is more anti-intellectual and immoral than the other?)

Posted by: farflungstar | Jun 15 2015 19:39 utc | 17

Quos deus vult perdere, dementat prius.

Posted by: Some Guy | Jun 15 2015 19:48 utc | 18

Freeman's article is well worth reading in toto. He mops up the floor of the current State Dept and presidential advisors toward the end with this.

[Having just quoted Santayana's famous quote about condemned to repeat history.] But what if every four or so years, you administered a frontal lobotomy to yourself, excising your memories and making it impossible to learn from experience? What if most aspects of your job were always new to you? What if you didn’t know whether something you propose to do has been tried before and, if so, whether it succeeded or failed? To one degree or another, this is what is entailed in staffing the national security functions of our government (other than those assigned to our military) with short-term political appointees selected to reward not their knowledge, experience, or skill but campaign contributions, political sycophancy, affiliation with domestic interest groups, academic achievements, success in fields unrelated to diplomacy, or social prominence.

Alone among major powers, the United States has not professionalized its diplomacy. Professions are composed of individuals who profess a unique combination of specialized knowledge, experience, and technique. Their expertise reflects the distillation into doctrine – constantly refreshed – of what can be learned from experience. Their skills are inculcated through case studies, periodic training, and on-the-job mentoring. They are constantly improved by the critical introspection inherent in after-action reviews.

By contrast, Americans appear to believe that the formulation and conduct of foreign relations are best entrusted to self-promoting amateurs, ideologues, and dilettantes unburdened by apprenticeship, training, or prior experience. The lower ranks of our diplomatic service are highly regarded abroad for their intellectual competence and cross-cultural communication skills. With some notable exceptions, our ambassadors and the senior officials atop the Washington foreign affairs bureaucracies are not similarly admired. The contrast with the superbly professional leadership of the U.S. armed forces could not be greater. It should surprise no one that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines often wait in vain for guidance and support from the civilian side of the U.S. government’s national security establishment. Current trends suggest they may have to wait a long time for their civilian counterparts to shape up.

Posted by: MRW | Jun 15 2015 20:06 utc | 19

Another zinger:

Diplomacy, as such, is not part of civic education in the United States. A large percentage of our political elite has no idea what diplomats do, can do, or ought to do. Not for nothing is it said that if you speak three or more languages, you are multilingual. If you speak two languages, you are bilingual. If you speak only one language, you are American. And if you speak only one language, have never studied geography, and do not have a passport, you are probably a member of Congress.

Posted by: MRW | Jun 15 2015 20:10 utc | 20

if u can't read the text just see the pics

Posted by: Mina | Jun 15 2015 20:11 utc | 21

MRW @ 15

no doubt 'swell and erudite guy' Freeman was useful as an interpreter and interlocutor...but a quick perusal of his resumé tells you he has plenty of skeletons in the closet...and plenty of stories to tell the grandkids.

Posted by: john | Jun 15 2015 20:16 utc | 22


. . . this is what is entailed in staffing the national security functions of our government (other than those assigned to our military) with short-term political appointees selected to reward not their knowledge, experience, or skill but campaign contributions, political sycophancy, affiliation with domestic interest groups, academic achievements, success in fields unrelated to diplomacy, or social prominence.

Former US Ambassador to Italy:

Q: Why does the new Italian navy have glass-bottomed boats?
A: So the sailors can see the old Italian navy.

This so-called joke was in a story a few years back:

President Bush has doled out ambassadorships to so many cronies that it's hard to single out someone as the least qualified. Former Sen. Chic Hecht, who once argued that Nevada shouldn't get a "nuclear-waste suppository," liked being sent to the Bahamas because of the golf links there. Then there's Peter F. Secchia, a building-supply executive and GOP stalwart, who kicked off his tour of duty as ambassador in Rome with a little joke. The new Italian navy, he said, has glass-bottomed boats - so it can see the old Italian navy. Not very diplomatic, Pete. And there are plenty more lightweights swelling the ranks of U.S. ambassadors.

Posted by: PhilK | Jun 15 2015 22:55 utc | 23

Obviously diplomacy is not a panacea against ruinous war. WWI for example. Certainly the decision to go to war against Iraq was not a failure of diplomacy but rather was rather the highest levels of US foreign policy being taken over by the war party. We all know that it's most recent manifestation was known as the neo-cons. This is pure politics and in this case is where the Israeli advocates took over high level policy positions. The decision to go to war in these examples was driven by politics and professional diplomats are not that important.

However, what Chas Freeman is talking about today is accurate. Low level positions inside the State Department have been taken over by ideologues that are part of the war party with strong identification with right wing Israeli interests. Professional diplomats have been pushed to the side. There is no way that professional diplomats who were instructed to 'pivot to Asia' would have engineered a coup in Ukraine thereby forcing Russia to respond. Not just respond in a military way in Crimea and Ukraine but to seek a much stronger alliance with China to resist US aggression.

I still doubt that either Obama or Kerry were aware of what Nuland and Pyatt were doing until they succeeded in toppling Yanukovich. This created a new crisis that they didn't need. For political reasons they simply went along with events. If Obama had quickly fired both to those neocons, replaced them with diplomats that were open to solving the Ukrainian crisis the recent civil war would not have happened. But both Obama and Kerry took a path of political least resistance (at least inside the US) and joined the campaign against Russia.

Also in Libya and Syria Obama allowed the "humanitarian interventionist" to influence his decisions. In both cases professional diplomats would have given different advice, at least those who valued US national interests. Chas Freeman is part of that tradition.

Posted by: ToivoS | Jun 16 2015 0:21 utc | 24

ToivoS @ 24

for the last time(on this thread anyway)...there is only one party, the war party. the State Department and the CIA are inextricably linked. every US embassy has a CIA station chief and often the agency occupies an entire area of the building(i imagine in Baghdad it occupies the entire fucking fortress). every US fomented coup d'etat is executed through the relevant US embassy. obviously. the State Department is under the direction of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State is under the direction of the President of the United States, the President of the United States is under the direction of...

I still doubt that either Obama or Kerry were aware of what Nuland and Pyatt were doing until they succeeded in toppling Yanukovich. This created a new crisis that they didn't need. For political reasons they simply went along with events. If Obama had quickly fired both to those neocons, replaced them with diplomats that were open to solving the Ukrainian crisis the recent civil war would not have happened. But both Obama and Kerry took a path of political least resistance (at least inside the US) and joined the campaign against Russia

a statement like that is graphic proof that idiocy is indeed renewed with every generation, so, way to go pal.

Posted by: john | Jun 16 2015 9:37 utc | 25

I'm missing Denk, so I'll channeling him/her, on the latest blood moon tetrad occurring on the Jewish holidays of Passover and Sukkot, culminating on 28SEP15.

The "1493 tetrad" was tied to the Spanish Government expelling the Jews in 1492.
The "1949 tetrad" was tied to the birth of the nation of Israel
The "1967 tetrad" was the recapture of Jerusalem during the Six Day War.

The "2014 tetrad" which ends 28SEP15 could presage good, or evil, for Israel.
It doesn't matter whether you believe this or not, a whole lot of others do.

On 17th of September, Fed Bank will end QEn, and raise interest rates to 0.25%. By the 28th at Sukkot, US citizens will have begun bleeding out health and human services, to having those taxes go instead towards tribute ransom to the private international banksters, who laid their egregious and oh most odious synthetic consolidated debt obligations illegally onto the backs of the USArians people.

When the Fed interest rate reaches its usual 3%, the entire USArian health and human service budget, everything from EBT cards to school funding to healthcare, will be melted down into gold bars and shipped off to the private NYC Fed Bank, the same way the entire $38B worth of Ukraine bullion was looted and sent to NYC.

So the question you have to ask yourself, ...whether you believe in tetrad blood moons or not,, who are the sayanim, and how do you get your 401k cashed out in 1971 series $100s.

Of course, this debauch will be obscured by the media, Neil deGrasse Tyson jammering about Ms of other 'earth-worlds', by Bill Nye the Science Guy demanding more Climate Chains, by the bond default of Greece and Kiev roiling then crashing an already moribund global economy, that nobody will notice and nobody will blame, that the Fed demanded their pound of flesh in plain view ... and got it.

The only record of this Death Culture will be preserved on solar-powered tablet LPDDR3 chips, slowly disintegrating into fractal starbursts of color, behind shattered shards of gorilla glass.

Posted by: Chipnik | Jun 16 2015 10:18 utc | 26

A shout out to my Indu friends on Krabi, with proof that the West are not the only non-professionals, ...this post from a Russian blog on modern arms technology:

"Lasers are like hippies and works for no one. My dad worked on the lasers in the 80's and they couldn't get them to work unless they were on top of it, like hippies are always on top of each other."

Denk, I can't even see the keyboard, I'm laughing so hard.

Posted by: Chipnik | Jun 16 2015 11:02 utc | 27

The USA is torn between some christian moral stands and its greed...
On one side it claims to propagate the principle of justice, democracy and humanity and on the other side it ruthlessly tries to dominate as much as it can of the world.
Greed and moral proselytism are the two conflicting motors of the USA, No wonder it creates a mess.

Posted by: Virgile | Jun 16 2015 12:40 utc | 28

The Indy has a story on Chuck Blazer,the cheese eater,who will take down Fifa so he won't do 70 years in jail.Yeah,I believe him,yeah.
A corrupt new world disorder.
They whacked a Yemen mole today,or so they say.

Posted by: dahoit | Jun 16 2015 14:28 utc | 29

President Bush has doled out ambassadorships to so many cronies that it's hard to single out someone as the least qualified.
Posted by: PhilK | Jun 15, 2015 6:55:09 PM | 23

Bush II sent Oz his good mate the loud-mouthed Yankee "diplomat" Tom Schieffer, corporate lawyer, campaign manager, baseball team owner. Tom made himself highly unpopular by publicly airing his negative views on the political scene in Australia.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 16 2015 14:48 utc | 30

Today on the 8 o'clock news of France Culture, a governmental radio, a journalist said to have been watching pick-ups and a fertilizer (ammonium nitrate) used to make bombs going from Turkey to Tel Abyad for weeks
According to Turkish journalists, the budget of the djihadists just for what they were buying recently in Tal Abyad is in tens millions dollars.

Same day in the Guardian

Posted by: Mina | Jun 16 2015 15:19 utc | 31

Chipnik 27

bad moon rising.....

Posted by: denk | Jun 16 2015 17:01 utc | 32

@john.. i have to concur with your cynical and pessimistic views here.. thanks for your posts..

Posted by: james | Jun 16 2015 17:30 utc | 33

US foreign and domestic policy is that of pure destruction of others, the only option on the table. Blathering on about more enemies and critisising US pol choices is nice but trite. The more enemies there are out there to be droned, bombed, shot at, occupied, destroyed, nuked possibly in the future, to no rational purpose of course, the better it is for the arms industry, for the elite, for the bloodthirsty, for the hopeful corporations…

Targets include the US ppl, as the enemy is so everywhere as the police and military become one. Exterminating the native American-Indians, fast forward in history, the ‘settler’ Whites, poor ones, plus the ex-slaves, Blacks.

When you have only one card to play (all other cards being iffy, not understood, not liked, seem demeaning, etc.) then that card is played to the hilt. Miliary domination.

It bleeds the country dry, with a war ecnomy that has no space for anything else (Research, sutdent stipends, infrastructure, and so on) and hyper repression at home..

Posted by: Noirette | Jun 16 2015 17:59 utc | 34

@34 noirette... so true.. but like playing poker - the hand they are revealing is exactly opposite the hand they are playing..

Posted by: james | Jun 16 2015 18:53 utc | 35

more bullshit from NATO
Nato has condemned Russia's move to strengthen its nuclear arsenal, saying it amounted to "nuclear sabre-rattling" and was "unjustified" and "dangerous".

President Vladimir Putin said Russia would put more than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles into service this year.

It is part of a wide-reaching programme to modernise the country's military.

The move comes after the US proposed increasing its military presence in Nato states in Eastern Europe.

Tensions are high over Russia's role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the statement from Mr Putin was "confirming the pattern and behaviour of Russia over a period of time - we have seen Russia is investing more in defence in general and in its nuclear capability in particular".

He said: "This nuclear sabre-rattling of Russia is unjustified, it's destabilising and it's dangerous.

"This is something which we are addressing and it's also one of the reasons why we now are increasing the readiness and the preparedness of our forces."

He added that "what Nato now does in the eastern part of the alliance is something that is proportionate, that is defensive and that is fully in line with our international commitments".

Posted by: okie farmer | Jun 16 2015 19:47 utc | 36


talking about msg in plain sight,

ebola => alobe !

Posted by: denk | Jun 17 2015 4:11 utc | 37

Mina @21

The same in English.

Fleeing through the eye of a needle

By Bulent Kilic

Posted by: fairleft | Jun 17 2015 9:06 utc | 38

@34 @35

I think you are both right. The US is playing a game that's been over for at least a few years, since the ascendancy of China. And they either don't know it ... or don't care to know it. The people 'in charge' are in charge of looting the place for the mic, and so don't care - as Wall Street does not care - for 'externalites' : the real world to the rest of us. They know what's coming but they all feel they have their own, personal hidey-hole lined up and can weather the storm.

Pepe Escobar had a seance with the spirit of Lee Kuan Yew ... which was pretty weird but it included a link to an article by Alfred McCoy that I think fleshes out the situation quite well. What everyone needs to be thinking is ... what will we do after the collapse of the empire ... It need not collapse, but the people wielding the levers of power seem now bent on its collapsing. Just as the Germans and Americans, the G7, seem bent on a Grexit. They are not without ideas on what will happen after the collapse.

Posted by: jfl | Jun 17 2015 11:00 utc | 39


These reporters, not journalists, seem to be ignorant about Syrian agriculture, they import over 100,000 metric tons of AN every year for crop fertilizer so there is no need for the IS to go to Turkey for their fertilizer {ANFO} bomb supplies. The tens of millions of dollars may reflect actual massive fertilizer shipments @ about $.20 a pound these are huge loads but the ANFO bombs use relatively small amounts, a few thousand pounds that cost a few hundred dollars for each bomb.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Jun 17 2015 15:55 utc | 40

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