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Wed Jan 30, 2013, 10:24 AM

The Setting Sun and the American Empire

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/01/29



The Setting Sun and the American Empire
by Tom Engelhardt
Published on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 by TomDispatch.com

The euphemisms will come fast and furious. Our soldiers will be greeted as “heroes” who, as in Iraq, left with their “heads held high,” and if in 2014 or 2015 or even 2019, the last of them, as also in Iraq, slip away in the dark of night after lying to their Afghan “allies” about their plans, few here will notice.

This will be the nature of the great Afghan drawdown. The words “retreat,” “loss,” “defeat,” “disaster,” and their siblings and cousins won’t be allowed on the premises. But make no mistake, the country that, only years ago, liked to call itself the globe’s “sole superpower” or even “hyperpower,” whose leaders dreamed of a Pax Americana across the Greater Middle East, if not the rest of the globe is… not to put too fine a point on it, packing its bags, throwing in the towel, quietly admitting—in actions, if not in words —to mission unaccomplished, and heading if not exactly home, at least boot by boot off the Eurasian landmass.

Washington has, in a word, had enough. Too much, in fact. It’s lost its appetite for invasions and occupations of Eurasia, though special operations raids, drone wars, and cyberwars still look deceptively cheap and easy as a means to control... well, whatever. As a result, the Afghan drawdown of 2013-2014, that implicit acknowledgement of yet another lost war, should set the curtain falling on the American Century as we’ve known it. It should be recognized as a landmark, the moment in history when the sun truly began to set on a great empire. Here in the United States, though, one thing is just about guaranteed: not many are going to be paying the slightest attention.

No one even thinks to ask the question: In the mighty battle lost, who exactly beat us? Where exactly is the triumphant enemy? Perhaps we should be relieved that the question is not being raised, because it’s a hard one to answer. Could it really have been the scattered jihadis of al-Qaeda and its wannabes? Or the various modestly armed Sunni and Shiite minority insurgencies in Iraq, or their Pashtun equivalents in Afghanistan with their suicide bombers and low-tech roadside bombs? Or was it something more basic, something having to do with a planet no longer amenable to imperial expeditions? Did the local and global body politic simply and mysteriously spit us out as the distasteful thing we had become? Or is it even possible, as Pogo once suggested, that in those distant, unwelcoming lands, we met the enemy and he was us? Did we in some bizarre fashion fight ourselves and lose? After all, last year, more American servicemen died from suicide than on the battlefield in Afghanistan; and a startling number of Americans were killed in “green on blue” or “insider” attacks by Afghan “allies” rather than by that fragmented movement we still call the Taliban.

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Reply The Setting Sun and the American Empire (Original post)
unhappycamper Jan 2013 OP
malthaussen Jan 2013 #1
DreamGypsy Jan 2013 #2

Response to unhappycamper (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 10:53 AM

1. If Mr Engelhart really thinks this will make a difference...

... then he's gotten hold of some strange weed. You need only look at Africa to see that interventionism -- or "son of containment" -- is alive and well.

I think he's making an understandable mistake -- he's assuming we have a *goal* in our war policies. Apparently, the question he hasn't asked himself is: are we just fighting to fight, to keep in a military stance, to redistribute money from the taxpayers to the purveyors of things that go "boom" in the night? In our past few wars, we have declared no objectives, and thus can claim "victory" at any point and pick up our bats and balls and go play elsewhere. Those who protest or object are scorned and ridiculed -- as were those who protested or objected to earlier military adventures -- while the country hastens to "support the troops" -- or the chickenhawks -- until such time as it becomes obvious that nothing is being accomplished but random death and destruction -- whereupon the same people run to the other side of the ship and bay for blood. Point being, nobody learns squat -- except the people who lost something in the adventure -- and nobody is going to learn squat this time. A military larger than all the rest of the world would not be necessary, if we didn't want to use it.

-- Mal

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Response to unhappycamper (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 11:00 AM

2. Aghanistan,..., and Iraq, ... and Vietnam...

... all appropriately described by the lines of Phil Ochs' song White Boots Marching in Yellow Land:

The comic and the beauty queen are dancing on the stage
Raw recruits are lining up like coffins in a cage
We're fighting in a war we lost before the war began
We're the white boots marching in a yellow land


Yes, Pogo, sometimes the enemy is us.


Thanks for the post, UC.

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