Imperialist US?

Recent US war history in a nutshell: Responding to an ’01 terror attack on NYC by activists from Saudi Arabia, funded by Pakistan, and trained in Afghanistan, the US in ’03 attacked Iraq, supposedly because they had “weapons of mass destruction,” never found. US denied it wanted control of the strategic resource-rich Persian Gulf, saying it remains there to “nation-build.”  In ’07 US geologists reported Afghanistan has $1 trillion in mineral wealth, and then in ’09 the US more than doubled its Afghanistan troops, supposedly to fight terrorists and “nation-build.”  It now denies it wanted the minerals:

Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Monday that the $1 trillion figure didn’t surface until recently because a military task force working on the issue had been focused on Iraq. … It wasn’t until late last year that the task force got around to looking at a 2007 study by the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s when the group estimated the minerals’ value, Lapan said. The New York Times first reported the $1 trillion figure on Sunday night.

Many are suspicious of US motives in both Iraq and Afghanistan. An ’04 world survey:

Majorities in all four Muslim nations surveyed doubt the sincerity of the war on terrorism. Instead, most say it is an effort to control Mideast oil and to dominate the world. … There is broad agreement in nearly all of the countries surveyed – the U.S. being a notable exception – that the war in Iraq hurt, rather than helped, the war on terrorism. … Solid majorities in France and Germany believe the U.S. is conducting the war on terrorism in order to control Mideast oil and dominate the world. … Large majorities in almost every country surveyed think that American and British leaders lied when they claimed, prior to the Iraq war, that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction.

Today in Afghanistan:

The Pentagon’s announcement that Afghanistan possesses $1 trillion worth of unexploited minerals will have the unintended consequence of confirming one of the most deeply entrenched conspiracy theories among Afghans.  Many Afghans I have spoken with believe firmly that America wants to permanently occupy the country in order to take Afghan land and resources. Even educated Afghans friends who generally support a temporary US presence have told me the same. I had to laugh when one suggested that Americans would want to move to Afghanistan to snatch up Afghan land for homes. … For many Afghans, it makes no sense that the US cannot wrap up the Taliban – so an imperialist land grab becomes a plausible explanation.

Historians agree that once upon a time colonial powers, including the US, did invade nations to try to gain their natural resources. (Not clear they benefited overall though.)  The world is now asked to believe that the US has lost this inclination and ability – gosh, the US folks who chose to attack Afghanistan didn’t even know it was a gold mine, honest.  Nor did Iraq’s oil influence invading it.  So why didn’t the US invade lots of other nations similarly plagued by terrorists, or nations like Iran, North Korea, or Pakistan that threaten nuclear instability?  It’s just random, the world is asked to believe.

I can see why the world is skeptical here. Now I can also understand the position that the US is no longer organized or capable enough to purposely target and gain advantage from invading resource-rich nations.  What I can’t understand is how folks who believe this can simultaneously believe the US is organized and capable enough to “build nations,” a task where we’ve seen little success lately, and a task made even harder by widespread suspicion of US motives. Really, that’s your story?!

Added 17June:  Some question the trillion dollar figure.

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  • http://www.brazzy.de/ brazzy

    I believe the attack on Iraq was in ’03, not ’01.

    Apart from that: most (if not all) people in the Bust administration probably *did* believe there were WMDs, and that they were going to make Iraq a better place.

    It’s amazing how easy it is to believe in all kinds of idiotic crap that just happens to justify actions you benefit from.

  • Chris

    *What I can’t understand is how folks who believe this can simultaneously believe the US is organized and capable enough to “build nations,” a task at which we’ve see little track record of success anywhere lately,…*

    Doesn’t KFOR (of which the US is a part) count as nationbuilding?

    I don’t recall many recent attempts at nationbuilding either, so one could plausibly argue that we should look at historical cases (e.g. Germany, Japan, Korea) when trying to determine if it is an achievable task.

  • Jess Riedel

    Fairly damning evidence, for sure. But how is the opinion poll of the populations of those various countries important?

    After all, the US public didn’t know about the minerals in Afghanistan, yet overwhelmingly supported the war. You wouldn’t use an opinion poll of the US public (even assuming complete honesty) to argue that the US’s motivation’s were legit because when you refer to “the US’s motivations”, you really mean a mix of

    (a) the conscious motivations of the leaders, which may certainly be influenced by the possibility of personally benefiting from mineral wealth and

    (b) the invisible hand that would push citizens/industry/politicians toward invading countries with mineral wealth without their conscious awareness.

    Therefore if we’re talking about (a) and (b), why do opinion polls of any populaces (US or foreign) matter at all?

  • Jess Riedel

    Also, I’m not really familiar with the numbers, but is it obvious that the US’s net surplus from buying cheap minerals from Afghanistan and Iraq is larger than the costs of the respective wars? A quick search suggest that the troop build up costs about $40b/year (40k extra troops at ~$1m/soldier-year). Stretched over the better part of a decade, this is a significant fraction of $1 trillion. It’s not clear at all that the US stands to make this much back from buying Afghan minerals as opposed to other sources.

    Or is the claim not so much that the US (construed as monolithic self-interested agent) has imperial motivations but rather that certain parties within the US will on the net benefit–and that these parties have exerted sufficient influence to start/extend wars which otherwise wouldn’t have been started/extended?

    • mobile

      A trillion dollars sounds like a lot of money. But it is 25 days of U.S. GDP. Or five months of U.S. government outlays. The invasion will not pass a cost/benefit test on this mineral find alone.

  • Constant

    Now I can sort of understand the position that the US is no longer organized or capable enough to purposely target and gain advantage from invading resource-rich nations.

    Not a question of ability but of choice. When we rebuilt Germany and Japan, we did not loot them. This predicts what we have attempted in the Middle East. The same worldwide ambition to build without dominating also produced the league of nations and the UN. The indended domination is a spiritual one, an ideological one: we want the world to become ideologically progressive, and have since Woodrow Wilson.

    So why didn’t the US invade lots of other nations similarly plagued by terrorists, or nations like Iran, North Korea, or Pakistan that threaten nuclear instability?  It’s just random, the world is asked to believe.

    There are many important differences. It’s not random at all. The invasion of Afghanistan was predictable. The invasion of Iraq less so at that particular moment but we were in ongoing conflict with them which was likely sooner or later to come to a head. On the other side, if the cause was oil, why didn’t we invade Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, or Kuwait?

  • Wilson

    Its bewildering to me how this could possibly be seen as a good deal for the shadow-autocrats that in this story supposedly run our country. The commodities market is where we get these resources and if anything invasions that disrupt the stability of these areas and make it harder to get them. Nobody is going to set up a strip mine in Afganistan while the Taliban is running around, and does anyone actually think that area is going to be stable enough for substantial commercial development any time soon? I mean putting aside the fact that invasions cost a fortune, despots want to sell us their resources to finance their despotism. If we’re so self-interested, why don’t we just buy their resources? Why would we ever place sanctions on Iraq?

    I mean, on this theory it would be far more profitable to invade Venezuela than Afganistan. Why aren’t we demonizing Saudi Arabia? Kuwait has lots of oil too, and they’re much weaker! Vietnam isn’t exactly resource rich, yet we spent years fighting that at a much higher cost.

  • Unnamed

    Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan are too dangerous to invade. They have much stronger militaries than Iraq or Afghanistan, and could kill a lot of people.

    If we invaded Iraq to control its oil then we acted foolishly, given the costs of the war (estimated in the trillions) and the benefits we’ve gotten from the oil (which are, what?).

  • http://www.brettbolkowy.com Brett Bolkowy

    Now I’m anything but qualified to make an accurate judgment on this situation, but for the sake of this discussion it’s worth noting the number of terrorist attacks carried out on U.S. soil post-9-11. Zero. People would have better reason to say that the War on Terror wasn’t working or was even increasing terrorist activities if there were any actual, you know, terrorist attacks.

    I’m not trying to equate correlation with causation – it’s also possible that while the U.S. has been decreasing terrorism it has been going after control of resources. I’m also fully aware that instead of the invasion of Iraq it could have been another unrelated factor that has affected terrorism, but based on what we know I don’t think that it would be any stretch to think that the largest activity that the U.S. has undertaken to try to eliminate terrorism has actually had an effect on the amount of terrorism.

    Essentially, whatever the U.S. has been doing, it has been successful in reaching its ultimate goal post-9-11 of zero terrorist attacks.

    If anybody wants to dissect my reasoning and show me the flaws in it, then I am more than happy to learn from it (and I’m not being sarcastic.)

    Anecdotal evidence should be taken as anything but proof but I have also talked to a couple of mid-level army personnel who have come back to North America from being stationed in Afghanistan and they both truly believed that they were making a difference in the lives of the Afghani people. They felt as if they were taking on more of a peacekeeping role as opposed to a combat role. Those are just their words. These two individuals were Canadians and the Canadian military has been primarily focused on Afghanistan since the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan. There have been repeated calls (since ’07 at least) in Canada for help in Afghanistan. It’s implied in this post that the reason the U.S. increased the number of troops in Afghanistan was for the resources – I’m not denying it or confirming it but the calls from Canada is another reason to add in to the mix.

    • David C

      You must be using a pretty narrow definition of a terrorist attack. The first thing that comes to mind is the anthrax attack which began a week after 9-11. All in all, I’d say the number of terrorist attacks on US soil during the 9 years after 9/11 aren’t statistically significantly different from the number of terrorist attacks on US soil during the 9 years prior to 9/11.

      • Jess Riedel

        I assume he’s talking about terrorism by Islamic extremists. Even so, it’s hardly sensible to weigh the anthrax attacks when judging the post-9/11 US effort to defeat terrorism, seeing as that there wasn’t time to have any response yet.

        Further, I don’t think he’s claiming there is statistical evidence that the US has decreased terrorism on US soil. He’s just saying that–seeing as there have been no attacks since 9/18 (or am I missing something?)–it’s tough to argue with much confidence that US policy has made things worse (as is often argued).

      • http://www.brettbolkowy.com Brett Bolkowy

        Precisely. Thanks Jess!

      • toto

        I think there is a problem in using successful terrorist attacks in the US as a measure of “islamic terrorism”. IIRC the total sample size is 2 (both attacks on the WTC).

        If you include unsuccessful attacks, and certainly if you include attacks in other countries, then islamic terrorism has greatly increased since the invasion of Iraq. That’s especially true if you include the consequences in Iraq itself (admittedly much of the killings arose from a mostly local sectarian civil war, but since Al Qaeda in Iraq was largely involved in it I think it’s fair to include it at least in part within “islamic terrorism”).

        The main effect of the Iraq war has been to validate the message of the fanatics (“Americans are evil imperialist who want to take over Muslim countries” – well, duh, let’s just do that!), turn Al Qaeda from an obscure, local sect into a global brand, and provide them with an endless supply of young, easily-fooled recruits from all over the world. There may well be long-term positive effects with regard to democratization, especially if the recent election results are upheld, but it’s likely that the same process would have occurred after Saddam’s death anyway.

        As for the cause of the invasion itself – collective delusion from over-confident, ideologically rigid elites seems to fit much of the picture.

      • Popeye

        It seems to me that virtually every foiled terror attack in the us/uk since 9/11 has been motivated largely by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And of course there have been successful terrorist attacks in other countries,

      • Popeye

        It seems to me that virtually every foiled terror attack in the us/uk since 9/11 has been motivated largely by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And of course there have been successful terrorist attacks in other countries,

    • http://www.brettbolkowy.com Brett Bolkowy

      I think there is a problem in using successful terrorist attacks in the US as a measure of “islamic terrorism”. IIRC the total sample size is 2 (both attacks on the WTC).

      If you include unsuccessful attacks, and certainly if you include attacks in other countries, then islamic terrorism has greatly increased since the invasion of Iraq. That’s especially true if you include the consequences in Iraq itself (admittedly much of the killings arose from a mostly local sectarian civil war, but since Al Qaeda in Iraq was largely involved in it I think it’s fair to include it at least in part within “islamic terrorism”).

      Excellent points, toto.

  • Sean

    A point I always bring up mind when discussing Iraq:

    It was only the most recent war that was built on lies. The attack on Serbia because of Kosovo was done on the lie that there was ethnic cleansing going on. It was found there were no such attacks until after the NATO bombing began. It was perfectly reasonable to expect such attacks, because of the experience in Bosnia and Serbia’s continued intransigence (just as Iraq’s history and continued intransigence made WMDs reasonable to expect).

  • http://www.angryblog.org Brian Moore

    The only problem I have with the oil motivation is that we had perfectly fine access to oil before invading Iraq (in 1991, or 2003). Saddam was previously our ally, after all. All we would have needed to do was look the other way and he would’ve gladly sold us all the oil we wanted, as would any other oil-rich country.

    No, I really do think we invaded Iraq and that we continue to stay in both for nation-building reasons, but while I realize this is considered to be a higher motivation, I consider it to be a lot more threatening. After all, we don’t have many problems accessing the resources of the world with money, but the number of countries that could conceivably need some nation-building is rather high.

    Also, I think the US gov chose to invade Iraq, in its opinion, as a warning to other WMD-seeking countries, such as Iran or NK. I truly think they made a list of terrorist-ish/WMD-ish countries and graded them on invade-a-bility. Iraq topped the list because we had already invaded them 12 years earlier. The irony that Iraq had largely abandoned their WMD quest (though of course previously trying very hard to gain them, and use them, if you count the gassing of the Kurds) is just tragic geopolitics.

    • nazgulnarsil
      • http://www.angryblog.org Brian Moore

        That’s an explanation for the 2003 invasion, but not for 1991. Dollars would not be the “currency of the enemy” pre-1991 because Saddam thought we were on the same side. If we were truly interested only in getting oil, having an ostensible ally (from the Iran-Iraq war) take over Kuwait, without damaging the oil wells, seems like a win-win. It was only when we retaliated that the oil supply was damaged.

        If our prime motivator is oil, that explains our friendly relationships with Saddam in the 80’s and Saudi Arabia now. It explains us looking the other way as they abuse their people or neighbors, so long as we get oil. It doesn’t explain us invading, causing disruption to the supply and sending the prices skyrocketing.

        I don’t doubt that oil is a motivator for US policy. It just looks to me like it is a motivation that can be overridden by things like protecting Kuwaiti sovereignty or signalling to the American public that the government is Really Serious about Terrorism.

  • Kanchay

    Nation-building? That’s the most inhumane thing I ever heard. What kind of human being would wack the head of someone else so that he changes his behavior? (I would guess idealists.)

    I see it as retaliation and as a preemptive strike. It makes sense, but it is no excuse for the egocentrism of the U.S.A. and the turmoil caused afterward. In an ever more connected world, time, I believe, would have done a better job. Do not we as a specie aspire to peace and stability? (I am not sure about that one.)

    In the country of Marthin Luther King Jr., I doubt that it would have been the choice of the majority to the wage that war. But I suppose the leaders think the masses can’t know what is best for them.

    • Doug S.

      What kind of human being would wack the head of someone else so that he changes his behavior?

      Parents?

  • RLaing

    So perpetrators view violence differently than victims or neutral third parties. What a shock. What could possibly explain such a thing? Clearly victims and third parties must suffer some sort of neurological deficiency that blinds them to the noble idealism of the powerful.

  • Steven Schreiber

    If you look at the history of colonialism, particularly in Africa, you’d note that occupation is easier when you want to exploit the resources there. It much more easily directs operations, defines objectives and places costs into focus.

    On the other hand, I wonder why you have such questions since you’d probably agree that an imperialist policy would likely be more optimal for all the parties in both countries. It’s not as if there was much welfare flowing to either population to begin with. So I have to wonder why you’re not crusading for imperialism like Romer is.

  • Indy

    When I was in Iraq – it snowed heavily one day – it was around Valentine’s day 2004 I think. Now this is a rare event where I was posted, not unheard of, just rare.

    So, I got back to base and there were some local Iraqi interpreters near my motor pool, and as we proceeded to perform after-mission maintenance on our rare type of vehicles, one of the soldiers reached the point where he had to elevate one of the large sensors that sits on motorized periscope-like apparatus. Very Sci-Fi looking piece of equipment.

    At any rate, I look back at at the interpreters and say (keeping a straight face but meaning it as a joke), “That machine is a special weather control machine, and my colonel said to me, ‘Iraq is to hot for us Americans, even in February! So we need to cool it down. Now go and use the weather machine!” and so we did. We just wanted cool rain, but the soldiers set the machine too low and we made it snow. We apologize – that soldier is fixing the problem now, we promise it won’t happen again.”

    Now I expected these guys to either get the joke and laugh, or be angry with my trying to fool them and scold me for telling ridiculous stories. Maybe they would joke back. There was a slight chance that they would just believe me and marvel at American technology, perhaps.

    But, instead, they were upset in a different way, “What do you think we’re ignorant and uneducated. Of course we already well know that you Americans have weather machines and that it is your fault that it snowed today. We were talking just before you arrived and concluded that you did it with your ‘weather satellite’ but now it is clear that you simply used your mobile version. Make sure your soldier fixes it because we don’t want it icy – that will cause lots of accidents as we don’t know how to drive on ice.”

    Now, at first I thought this was an elaborate retort joke. And then I though, “Perhaps this is some complex ‘avoidance of embarrassment’ or saving-face routine.”

    But now, after some back-and-forth, I discovered that they were being completely serious. Add about 20 more stories like this, and one concludes the Iraqis will believe just about anything.

    The Afghanis are even more gullible and ever more fantastic fabulists and storytellers. They will believe in the tooth-fairy if you act seriously while telling them about it.

    So, I’m inclined to conclude that it just doesn’t matter very much how much effort we allocate to rumor-and-conspiracy-theory control in that part of the world. They’re going to believe crazy things about us no matter what we do. We can be honest to preserve our own sense of integrity and honor, but it impossible for us to build reputational capital in Southwest Asia.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    I found Michael Neumann‘s explanation for why we invaded Iraq the most convincing. I don’t predict we’ll recoup much from Afghanistan. The Chinese are laughing at us, getting their raw materials through the cunning route of purchasing them from functioning countries rather than expensively breaking everything.

    A while back, Victor Davis Hanson debated Arianna Huffington on whether the U.S is an empire. Might be of interest to folks. I think the word “hegemon” works better.

    • http://www.angryblog.org Brian Moore

      “getting their raw materials through the cunning route of purchasing them from functioning countries rather than expensively breaking everything.”

      Yeah. I think in this case, the Chinese government seems like it is much more oil/resource motivated than us. They aren’t invading Nigeria to get access, they just buy it.

    • Jess Riedel

      I found Michael Neumann’s explanation for why we invaded Iraq the most convincing.

      I read the article, and he basically doesn’t say anything about the reason the US invaded (the article is focused on how the left should resist the war) except to say that the oil motivation doesn’t make sense. The key line is:

      Why then did the US go into Iraq? To my mind it was because the US had to show the world that it was powerful after the humiliation of 9-11, and especially after the equally great humiliation of failing to capture or kill Bin Laden and the Mullah Omar. But it really doesn’t matter why the US went in…

      This was a tangential statement, and it isn’t supported by any evidence in the article.

      Or did I miss something?

  • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

    At this stage I think a lot of us yeoman technocrats hope that the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan makes some type of long term fiscal sense.

    But it seems more likely to me that it was of the same cloth as mortgage meltdown missteps by Wall Street and the regulators, and Gulf oil spill missteps by BP and the regulators.

    Whatever it is you’re doing in this post, Professor Hanson, it doesn’t seem like serious thinking. A small indulgence on your part (this post) regarding what I think is a big continuing indulgence by US society (the two occupations)

  • josh

    You make a good point; unfortunately you bury it in the last paragraph. Politics being the mind killer, it might be better to state it upfront before going through the motions of empathizing with people who you eventually admit are wrong.

  • http://un-thought.blogspot.com/ Floccina

    I have thought a lot about why we invaded and stayed in Iraq and Afghanistan and I can only come up with two things:

    1. Ignorance among the median voter
    2. Anger post 9-11 among the median voter

    Ignorance in that some people still do not understand that we can buy resources and that they are far, far less important than technology. WIth technology we can make resources.

    Anger because people were angry post 9-11 and Politicians feared that they would loose the next election had they not invaded some country.

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  • Drewfus

    Well Robin, if you think the US’s role in those wars is suspect, then consider the motivation of a country like Australia, who has troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq, not specifically for the purpose of winning those wars, but simply to show allegiance to the US. This simple truth is being admitted more often and more ‘freely’ by Australian politicians as the occupations/wars drag on. Not that showing allegiance in itself is wrong, but at least the US can say that it’s in it to win it!

  • Drewfus

    However, i don’t think the purpose or motivation of these wars is access to resources, defense against terrorism, WMD’s or really anything particularly concrete. It’s more about confidence. Confidence that the political leadership remains in control of our destiny, and that they have secured the country from physical attack.

    Social life is just a succession of confidence tricks. Keynesian economics tricks us into believing the government has the economy under its control, and that even if we didn’t avoid recession this time, well, it would have been much worse if the government had done nothing. Same with terrorism. All that airport security really did help to keep the bad guys under control – our leaders have told us so. The medical profession has our health care needs under its control – why else would the government want to spend so much money on it? It must work!

    Confidence, confidence, confidence. That’s all there is to it.

    • http://un-thought.blogspot.com/ Floccina

      I agree with your comments, do you mind of I quote from it?

      Although I would add that the politician think what must I say to get people to vote for me (if people are confident in me they will vote for me).

      • Drewfus

        Yes, quote it, that’s fine.

  • Thomas Schminke

    It should be pointed out that the US attacked Afghanistan (not Iraq) in response to the 911 attacks. They moved on to Iraq later. The change in Afghanistan after the mineral wealth discovery there was just a surge in the previously existing war.

    That said, I think the imperialist story can (and will/was) be framed using the correct facts as well. But forgetting to mention the initial attack on Afghanistan after 911 is disingenuous.

  • http://queersingularity.wordpress.com/ Summerspeaker

    For a historical perspective, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq almost have to at least contain elements of imperialism. If natural resources suddenly don’t affect U.S. foreign policy, that would be quite a development.

  • http://akinokure.blogspot.com agnostic

    U.S. imperialism doesn’t look like it ever had much to do with acquiring resources. There isn’t jack squat in Central America, but that was by far the leading place where we were imperialist during the whole decade of the 1980s. Nothing worth grabbing in Southeast Asia either. Or the Balkans in the late ’90s. Or during our occupation of Haiti earlier in the 20th C.

    Rather it’s a signal of our might — “look what we can and will do, without provocation, so don’t mess with us.”

    I had an idea that U.S. imperialism goes up or down with the domestic crime rate. When the world gets more dangerous at home, voters want something to be done, hence tough-on-crime campaigns. But voters don’t limit their fear to those inside our borders, so politicians have to deliver tough-on-foreign-dictators policies to show they’re trying to keep us safe:

    http://akinokure.blogspot.com/2010/04/foreign-interventionism-tracks-domestic.html

    That explains why we went to war primarily against Iraq — in the public’s subjective perception, as revealed by surveys, that’s who was ultimately behind 9/11.

  • Realist Writer

    “I think there is a problem in using successful terrorist attacks in the US as a measure of “islamic terrorism”. IIRC the total sample size is 2 (both attacks on the WTC).”

    WRONG. The United States has been targeted by terrorist attacks even after 9/11. For some reason though, the general public do not classify them as terrorist attacks, hence they have been overlooked. Here’s a forum topic that gives you a list of terrorist attacks in the US that took place from Sept. 12 2001 to Dec. 2007. During that time period, 45 terrorist attacks occured.

    http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=54639.msg1174795#msg1174795

    The United States is still suffering from terrorism. To claim that the US has never been attacked is foolhardy.

  • Popeye

    That explains why we went to war primarily against Iraq — in the public’s subjective perception, as revealed by surveys, that’s who was ultimately behind 9/11.

    Eh, the public perceived Iraq as responsible because the leaders who wanted to go to war with Iraq portrayed Iraq as responsible.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    Kanchay, opinion polls show that most Americans actually did support the Iraq war. Similarly, when MLK Jr was actually alive (before his deification removed everything about him but a symbol) and protesting the Vietnam war, most Americans also supported it.

    Jess Riedel, I guess I should have written “plausible”, it’s been a while since I actually reread his article. But I do think that’s the explanation. We were still angry from 9/11 and not satisfied with just Afghanistan. Jonah Goldberg expresses the “Ledeen doctrine” as “every once in a while the United States has to pick up some shitty country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business”. Thomas Friedman similarly says the real (and perfectly legitimate!) reason we invaded was to say “Suck. On. This”.

    • http://un-thought.blogspot.com/ Floccina

      The really problem that I have with Iraq and Afghanistan is we went we saw we conquered. We won everything there is to win we got Sadaam and took out the Taliban so why did we not admit victory and go home? After the pounding we put on them the Taliban and Iraq government are not likely to attack us. Al Qada is a different story but IMO we could keep pressure on them without holding Iraq or Afghanistan.

  • http://queersingularity.wordpress.com/ Summerspeaker

    U.S. imperialism doesn’t look like it ever had much to do with acquiring resources.

    Untrue. Control over the oil reserves in the Middle East has been a U.S. strategic goal at least since World War II. For example, why do you think the country supported the coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh after he nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company?

    Nothing worth grabbing in Southeast Asia either.[/quote]

    Also untrue. Business leaders at the time talked about the various raw materials they would be able to extract from Vietnam. The war was more about beating communism, of course, but that contest was about becoming the dominant world power, a position that give one greater control over resources.

  • http://akinokure.blogspot.com agnostic

    Even hardcore leftists like Michael Albert at ZNet have nothing but ridicule for the idea that we were in Vietnam to get access to whatever puny pile of tin, zinc, copper, or whatever. They’ve got nothing.

    Control over oil is a big concern, and explains our interest in the Middle East, but that is a small piece of U.S. imperialism. We’ve never done anything there on the scale of Central America, South America, Caribbean, Southeast Asia, or the Pacific Islands. Compared to those adventures, our involvement in the Middle East has been a sideshow.

  • Mike

    I am genuinely confused by the type of argument made in the post. When is the last time that the US “looted” a country’s natural resources? Have we done so in Iraq or Kuwait? How does the looting occur? I mean this as a genuine question. I can see if the conquered country were required to provide cheap oil leases to our corporations how that might occur. But when is the last time it happened?

    Until this is explained, I am baffled by this type of argument. It seems like a conspiracy theory on the order of the “truthers.”

  • http://queersingularity.wordpress.com/ Summerspeaker

    Even hardcore leftists like Michael Albert at ZNet have nothing but ridicule for the idea that we were in Vietnam to get access to whatever puny pile of tin, zinc, copper, or whatever.

    I must be even more hardcore, then. The primary sources speak for themselves. It may not have significantly influenced U.S. policy, but folks invoked the allure of natural resources at the time.

    Compared to those adventures, our involvement in the Middle East has been a sideshow.

    Until 1991, perhaps so. These days it’s the main attraction.

  • cee

    The fact of the matter is that the US is an imperial power with hundreds of military bases throughout the world. They seek to dominate global markets, resources, and labor, as do the European Union. The fact that billions of dollars are spent , and thousands of lives lost in the course of war are immaterial because it is we they tax payer and the ‘little people’ that pick up the ‘bill’ while the global elite become ever richer.

    Once the conquest is complete, the Trans National corporations move in and reap the rewards. The IMF and World Bank dish out ‘Aid’ and in return the ‘conquered’ open up their markets, sell the rights to their mineral wealth, allow cheap subsidized foreign imports to flood the country, thus bankrupting the local farmers/businesses. And all the while the puppets that are are allowed to rule fill their pockets and the people become impoverished. Impoverished people equal a force force prepared to work for peanuts in sweat shops.

    But we are the dumb ones because we know that politicians are liars but we believe the BS about ‘spreading Democracy, Nation Building, WMD, war on terror,.

    THE SIMPLE PLAIN FACT IS THIS, CHECK HISTORY, WARS ARE THOUGHT OVER LAND AND RESOURCES. Yes sometimes they are fought in self the defense, but in defense of land and resources!