William Pfaff is the author of The Irony of Manifest Destiny, published in June 2010 by Walker and Company (New York) -- his tenth and culminating work on international politics and the American destiny. He describes the neglected sources and unforeseen consequences of the tragedy towards which the nation's current effort to remake the world to fit America's measure is leading. His previous books and his articles in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and his syndicated newspaper column, featured for a quarter century in the globally read International Herald Tribune, have made him one of America's most respected and internationally influential interpreters of world affairs.   [Read more...]
Columns : Chuck Hagel, the Defense Department, and the Israel Lobby
on 2012/12/27 17:50:00 (4128 reads)

Paris, December 26, 2012 – Christmas has provided a day of distraction from war, the usual condition for most of the world, and the steady-state of the modern American nation, so to speak.

At the end of 1941, following Pearl Harbor, the United States had a War Department, as had been the case since 1789. This became the Defense Department in 1949, which might be called the year when plain speaking ended in the United States government.

Nineteen forty-nine was the same year in which the NATO alliance was created by a government whose first president, George Washington, had said in his farewell address that “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world” – unrealistic advice, no doubt, but advice which the United States managed to follow for the century that followed.

President Woodrow Wilson set for the United States the perpetual task on which it has persevered ever since, which is war to end wars, an undertaking that will be completed only when all real or contemplated challengers have been crushed -- the reason the United States now has larger military forces than all the rest of the world combined, with elements in its Congress avid for more.

One of the assets of former Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (from Nebraska), now a professor at Georgetown, is to be a plain speaker. This is the reason he seems generally thought in Washington today to be unfit for the post of Secretary of Defense, to which President Barack Obama has been suspected of nominating him for his second term in presidential office. The former senator served in the Vietnam War as an infantry officer and was wounded and decorated. He criticized the genesis and conduct of that war, and as a member of the Senate opposed the American invasion of Iraq and the war with Iraq.

He has also declined to support the bi-partisan American policy of subordinating American national interests to those of Israel, for which the furies of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and allied supporters of Zionism and holders of Washington public office who benefit from their support, have been loosed upon him.

In the case of former Ambassador Charles Freeman (Assistant Secretary for Defense for International Security Affairs in 1993-94), who in President Obama’s first term was bruited to become Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (which prepares National Intelligence Estimates), and was then massively attacked as lacking the appropriate obeisance to Israeli policies, the president chose (to use a Zionist polemical expression) “to throw him under the bus.”

The same fate may await former Senator Hagel, since outside election campaigns President Obama has not shown himself much of a fighter. Such would be a great pity because the U.S. Defense Department is probably the Washington entity most in need of a new leader who speaks plainly and expresses straightforward opinions.

Aside from the current wars, and foreshadowed wars, preparations for possible future wars -- or indefinitely prolonged assassination campaigns -- advocated by interest groups in the United States have now been authorized by the first Obama administration. These demand energetic and dispassionate scrutiny by officials of the new administration.
Why, for example, is the United States assuming a provocative military stance towards China? The United States has defensive commitments to Japan, Taiwan and to South Korea.

It has a right to insist that China’s territorial and maritime disputes with these countries, and those of others who make claims in the South China Sea and various islands and coastal territories, be submitted to adjudicated in international law or seek negotiated settlements.

Why has Washington made a heavily publicized military “pivot” from Europe and Central and West Asia to East Asia? Does it wish to signal an expectation of war with China, instead of peaceful negotiation of difficulties?

Why the preposterous stationing of Marines in Australia? (With New Zealand seemingly to come?) Why new drone bases in Australia’s Cocos Islands and in the Philippines and Mariana islands?

Why has the head of U.S Pacific Command declared the Pacific Ocean a “commons” which will be protected by the United States? One would think an ocean a commons in whose security all its littoral states share an interest.

Why should Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia be considered potential “military allies” of the United States (according to President Obama, on his recent visit there)? Should China’s defense authorities seek military alliances with Venezuela, Cuba, and Mexico or Colombia? Why not?

Why is the U.S. Army’s African Command building small but permanently manned and expandable “lily-pad bases” throughout Africa? With whom in Africa is the U.S. planning war?

Why, for that matter, are the two most advanced American fighter aircraft, the F-22 “Raptor,” and the F-35 “Lightning” (or joint strike fighter) neither of them yet operational, with both billions of dollars over programmed costs? The F-35 is stuck in an early test phase, and the F-22, meant to fight a Soviet airplane never built, has been grounded because of a thus-far insoluble problem of man-machine interface in oxygen supply (the pilot faints).

These are all matters about which there has been next to no straight-talk from the Pentagon. You are needed, Mr. Hagel!

©Copyright 2012 by Tribune Media Services International. All Rights Reserved.


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