In last year’s New Year’s column I contended that the Iranian nuclear issue is undoubtedly the most important question the United States would be facing in the coming year, and – for once – my prediction turned out to be largely correct. The ongoing negotiations, which began in January, were recently extended into 2015 – and the repercussions have impacted US foreign policy in a major way.
Our relations with Israel, our best frenemy, have deteriorated to the point where the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prefers to deal with the US Congress rather than the executive branch. The Jewish state, for its part, continues to teeter into full-blown extremism – threatening to take military action against Iran, and actively subverting negotiations with the Palestinians, which are at a standstill.
Meanwhile, in spite of Israeli sabotage, the talks between Tehran and the West continue – and war has so far been averted. That’s the best thing that has happened in ages – and we should all be grateful we’ve been spared the horrors of what would amount to World War III.
Another positive factor on the diplomatic front has been the opening to Cuba, undertaken by the Obama administration with uncharacteristic boldness. Protests by such throwbacks as Sen. Marco Rubio and the usual neocon suspects have only underscored their posturing unreasonableness: polls show the majority of Americans support the move. Chalk up another victory for non-interventionism and the subversive idea that trade and free travel between nations is the best remedy for dealing with the infections brought on by totalitarian sclerosis.
The debate over the 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden, which threw back the curtain on the National Security Agency’s worldwide spying operation, reached a fever pitch in 2014, with political implications that have yet to fully play out. The Obama administration’s intellectual Praetorian Guard went all-out in an attempt to trivialize and justify the Surveillance State, denigrating and smearing both Snowden and the journalists who brought this story to the American people. What struck me is that the Regime’s most enthusiastic defenders were, for the most part, self-identified "progressives," such as Prof. Sean Wilentz (a prominent friend of Hillary Clinton), George "I was for the Iraq war before I was against it" Packer, and Cass Sunstein, former Obama administration official and advocate of a sinister plan to "infiltrate" the Internet with pro-government agents.
On the other side of the barricades stood libertarian Republicans like Rep. Justin Amash and Sen. Rand Paul, who opened up a bipartisan offensive against the NSA’s embryonic police state. Meanwhile, the Snowden revelations continued to pile up – with the very worst being new documents showing that the British intelligence agencies have been instructing our spooks in the basics of targeting online – and destroying – political dissidents. Cass Sunstein’s "theoretical" arguments in favor of this practice – reminiscent of something the East German Stasi would do – should at least raise the possibility that such activities are even now being carried out by our benevolent masters in Washington.
Which brings us to the negative side of the ledger, where there’s plenty to cover – and that’s no surprise, now is it? I have to say that the very worst, at least in terms of its moral implications, was Israel’s destruction of Gaza – a disgusting orgy of murderous vindictiveness that once and for all underscored the pariah status of a nation maddened by endless war. Gaza is still in ruins, with tens of thousands homeless and reconstruction stalled. Particularly revolting was the spectacle of the Western media covering up and implicitly justifying the carnage – whose victims were mainly children. In spite of this rather obvious media bias, the international image of Israel was irreparably damaged – and while militant Palestinians and their supporters may find this to be a plus, as far as I’m concerned the price was far too high.
Worst of all in terms of its implications for the future, the US has re-entered – that is, re-invaded – Iraq, in response to the emergence of the "Islamic State," an entity not-so-covertly supported by our "allies" Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sheikdoms. ISIS, as it is alternately known, has done its best to provoke a US response by executing American journalists and aid workers, and Washington – ever eager to be provoked – took the bait. Without a vote of Congress or any meaningful debate, Iraq War III has commenced, with thousands of American soldiers in the role of "advisors" – sound familiar to those of you who remember the Vietnam war? – and the prospect of incremental escalation as time goes on.
While no one believes the outcome of this Iraqi adventure is going to be any better than the last two, the old rule book that dictates "three strikes and you’re out" is apparently unknown to our wise rulers, who just can’t accept defeat under any circumstances.
Back in 2013, the Obama administration was slapped down by a suddenly awakened American public when the President announced we were going to bomb Syria in response to a supposed chemical weapons attack by Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad on al-Qaeda linked rebels. Washington backed down in the face of public outrage, but the Syrian regime change operation – a pet project of Hillary Clinton‘s – got a shot in the arm when ISIS appeared on the horizon. We are now sending even more "aid" to the Islamist barbarians who want to establish a Sunni "caliphate" in the Levant. This, in tandem with our alliance with the de facto independent state of Kurdistan, is a recipe for trouble on a regional scale – another tripwire that could easily turn into a conflict with Iran and the Syrian regime on one side and the US and its regional sock puppets – including Israel – on the other.
Potentially even more destabilizing is the advent of a new cold war with Russia: our regime change campaign in Ukraine, which succeeded in overthrowing the democratically elected government, has resulted in a full-scale civil war in which thousands have been killed. Air strikes on civilian population centers by the "pro-Western" Kiev regime are routine, while the Western media – so quick to focus on the suffering of the Yazidis, the Darfurians, etc. – turns a blind eye. US military aid to Ukraine is a crucial factor in prolonging the war – a conflict that would have bankrupted the coup leaders in Kiev without Western support.
US relations with Russia haven’t been this bad since the Bad Old Days of the Cuban missile crisis, with both liberals and conservatives (as well as some fake "libertarians") jumping on the cold war bandwagon. The thieving oligarchs who fled Putin’s Russia have plenty of cash to spread around, and they are funding media outlets like "The Interpreter," run by neocon publicist Michael Weiss, to make sure the narrative of Russia Resurgent (a "revisionist, revanchist power," as Russia-hater Anne Applebaum puts it) becomes the conventional wisdom.
Their objective: regime change in Moscow and the subjugation of the Slavic world under the heel of the European Union. Sanctions have hurt the Europeans, but they have hurt the Russians more, whose ridiculously statist economic arrangements have set them up for a painful fall. Yet for all of Putin’s many faults, the alleged democrats of the West will pine for him when they meet his probable successor. Weimar Russia is likely to produce results similar to those that occurred in Weimar Germany in the 1930s – and then the neocons can yell about how every move toward peace is "another Munich" with rather more justification. Which is precisely what they want.
Even more depressing is the recent contretemps with North Korea over their alleged hack of Sony Entertainment because of a silly movie that dramatized the assassination of Kim Jong-un – a "comedy" that would have never attracted the least amount of attention but for the FBI’s solemn declaration that the hack job was retaliation by the North Koreans for insulting the Dear Leader. That a growing number of computer experts dispute this conclusion – and instead point to criminal gangs, teenage Japanese hackers, a disgruntled Sony insider, or some combination of these – is being steadfastly ignored by the Washington know-it-alls, who apparently were behind two cyber-attacks that took down North Korea’s laughable Internet infrastructure.
The “mainstream” media went along with the gag, until the protests of the experts became too loud for them to ignore. What’s especially galling about this is the fact that our "journalists" are not only easy to fool – they apparently want to be fooled. The Fourth Estate didn’t learn their lesson from the Iraq war, when they touted fabricated "evidence" of Iraq’s "weapons of mass destruction" and repeated US government talking points uncritically. It remained for non-mainstream outlets like Antiwar.com to report the truth.
Which brings me back to the Good, as opposed to the Bad and the Ugly. Antiwar.com had a very good year: our audience continues to grow. We got a Drudge link – for me a longstanding ambition that I never thought would be realized. And our readers responded positively to our continuing fundraising efforts: this last fundraiser was far less onerous than previous campaigns, and for that I shall be eternally grateful. Speaking of which …
Every donation made to Antiwar.com is 100% tax-deductible, and if you hurry you can cut your 2014 tax bill with a contribution to the cause of peace. Just do it before January 1, either online or by mail. Why let the Empire keep your hard-earned tax dollars when you don’t have to?
The new year brings with it opportunities for peace as well as war clouds darkening the horizon: a rising awareness of the costs of war on the part of the public as well as an increasing war hysteria on the part of our political elites. Which can only mean one thing: 2015, like its predecessor, will consist of the Good, the Bad, and the Downright Ugly. Make sure you tune in to this space – and this web site – to find out which is which.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.