The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Level Of American Foreign Policy Incompetence

Is breathtaking. Brzezinski was Carter’s National Security Adviser. In 1997 he wrote, not long after the fall of USSR, that:

Potentially the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia and perhaps Iran, an ‘anti-hegemonic’ coalition, united not by ideology but by complementary grievances. . . . Averting this contingency . . . will require a display of US geostrategic skill on the western, eastern and southern perimeters of Eurasia simultaneously.” — Zbigniew Brzezinski

It’s sort of hard to do commentary on this, because of the jaw dropping, head-banging stupidity of it all.

I don’t like US foreign policy after WWII thru the late 60s, but it wasn’t brain-dead. Evil, often, but not stunningly stupid. Nixon was a terrible person, but his “opening of China” was smart and policy after him thru to Bush the Elder was, while not good, or smart, was at least not always stupid.

But since then American policy has been brain-dead. Making Russia into an enemy. Making Iran into an enemy. Shipping America’s industry to China so that a few oligarchs could get richer for maybe two generations. None of this was necessary, for decades polls in Iran showed that Iranians had positive views of America. Russia was so enamored of the West that Putin, in his early years, begged to be let in.

But the US had greed and grudges. The Russkies were always bad and the Iranians had humiliated America, so there could never truly be cooperation and peace and trade which was designed to benefit both side.

And so America lost its global hegemony, precisely by doing what it was repeatedly warned not to do: unite the greatest Asian powers against it.

American and Western elites in general aren’t suited to run lemonade stand, let alone countries or an Empire.

Imbeciles, specialized only in self-promotion and accumulated money which will be worth one-tenth what it used to be when the Empire collapses.

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The Rate Of Child-Deaths In Gaza Are About To Soar


Open Thread


  1. “Hey, lets spend several trillion dollars every 4 years bombing, invading, apply sanctions, and destroying countries all over the world. What could go wrong?”

    America is the bully on the playground. The strength of a bully comes from the audience believing they wont be next as long as they don’t help the victim. It gets harder to believe you wont be next when the bully is going around punching every kid in in the school.

  2. Tallifer

    America has made countless mistakes, but I doubt that China could ever have been a responsible partner for peace and prosperity given its aggressive foreign policy toward Taiwan, support for Third World dictators, demolition of Hong Kong’s democracy and prosperity, and geocide against the Uighurs. Likewise, if you think Viktor Orban is a cancer inside the EU and NATO, imagine what Putin would have been like? As for Iran, the 1979 hostage crisis is old history: its support for jihadists everywhere is the big problem. I am surprised you did not list North Korea and Venezuela among the angels whom America should have appeased. Slava Ukraini.

  3. Bill H.

    Specifically, American leadership needed a foreign enemy to distract the American people from the various manners in which they were fighting for and holding on to power domestically.

  4. —-
    I doubt that China could ever have been a responsible partner for peace and prosperity
    Which countries has China invaded, bombed, sanctioned, couped, funded terrorists or military groups in? Zero.
    There’s a saying about the third world that goes “When China comes we get a new hospital and road built. When the west comes we get bombs, and a moral lecture.”

    Peace is war.
    Prosperity is starvation.

    It’s a testament to the skill of American propaganda that people believe those two lines are true.

  5. Carborundum

    Amazing how stupid any failed contingency looks when one focuses only on that contingency.

    I also am no fan of the modern practice of American foreign policy (particularly the extent to which the American political establishment treats it as a trifle to be fucked with for transitory perceived gains) but, having not been under a rock for the past two decades and a bit, I will note that they were a bit preoccupied with other issues. The true art, of course, would have been making sure those issues didn’t expand to take all the oxygen out of the room, but that’s not the way of bureaucracies – particularly military, intelligence and foreign relations bureaucracies – and it’s been a long time since any significant density of politicians did anything other than run with the wind.

  6. Purple Library Guy

    @Tallifer Support for dictators and genocide should have put China on the US’ number one best friends list.

  7. Carborundum

    Tallifer, any clear-eyed Western strategist should be willing to trade an independent Taiwan for a greater China fully integrated into the world system in a heartbeat. It’s a given that China will be a giant, far better that it be a giant with the same myriad formal and informal Lilliputian ties that bind the other paramount power. Similarly, if Western powers are too addicted to loose monetary policy (i.e., rock-bottom interest rates) to encourage the investments required to compete for third world market share, tant pis for them. It is not my business / problem who is running their show as long as *how* they run their show doesn’t constitute a threat to my interests and systemic stability.*

    *One can certainly make cogent arguments that China is being run in that manner (at least if systemic stability includes ecosystems stability), but a) that has very little to do with which flavour of political system rules there, which is what we tend to myopically focus on, and b) we’re every bit as implicated.

  8. Feral Finster

    The irony is that Russia and China are not a great fit as natural allies, in the sense where each has what the other wants and can best get through cooperation. Russia and China are an even worse fit. American aggression has pushed them together.

    Tallifer sounds like a neocon caricature. The last time Chinese troops fought a war outside of China was 1979. Contrast the track record of the peace-loving United States since that time.

  9. Soredemos


    I can never tell if this handle is some sort of performance art or not.

  10. Mary Bennet

    But the US had greed and grudges.

    Granted. And, also, in addition, we also had and have a Mittle European diaspora for whom Russia is The Hereditary Enemy, and now said diaspora is no longer inhabiting a small, relatively powerless country. That same Brzezinski was willing to destabilize all of Central Asia in order to get back at Russia.

    The larger part of this diaspora, most especially the neo-con faction, cannot and will not understand that the USA is not part of Europe. The neo-cons and fellow travelers and allies think us Americans are still colonials. So, but of course, with the exception of a few nondescript peaceniks, we will come to the aid of the mother civilization in Ukraine.

    In Ukraine right now, I think we see a clash of three different civilizations, resurgent Russian, declining Western European and the nascent North American finally beginning to assert itself. I wonder if the pro-war establishment is not clinging to Biden, with well-funded Haley as the backup, because it knows that no other president would be able to get yet more war funding through Congress, and most would not even try.

  11. Curt Kastens

    If the American leadership is head bangingly stupid what does that say about the leadership of Canada, the UK, Western European leaders, Eastern European Leaders with the possible exception of Orban, Ukrainian leaders, Israeli leaders, Australian leaders, Tiawanese leaders, Korean leaders, Japanese leaders, Turkish Leaders, Egyptian leaders, and Jordanian leaders.
    If there are this many leaders that must by definition be even stupider than American leaders, as they all follow the gang leader, perhaps it is not an accurate assessment to call US leadership stupid.
    Although it appears that the US is losing its grip on the world should people assume that the leaders of the US really even give a crap about losing their grip on the world.
    Is it unlikely that those in charge are pessimisstic about the future of the planet. The leaders of the United States have been waging war not only against lands half way around the world for many decades they have been waging war against the population of the United States for decades if not centuries.
    The books Disaster Capitalism and The Wrecking Crew have stood the test of time very well. (According to me. But I am a fan of Saint Ludicross who is buried just down the road from here) It looks to me like the only thing that the western leaders got wrong in their attempt to colonize Russia was that they expected the Russia Army to lose its cohesion when faced with a difficult foe. Ok the best hopes of those that intstigated the war proxy war against Russia did not materialize. That is a long way from being defeated. Especially when the 2 minute warning that the great game is almost over has already sounded.

  12. Mark Level

    “I doubt that China could ever have been a responsible partner for peace and prosperity given its aggressive foreign policy toward Taiwan”. Uhhm, somebody who is in contact with all the best “experts” (the ones who continue to mansplain how Ukraine is gonna whup Russia like the Anglo Texans did the dirty Mex’cans) sure lacks any knowledge of actual foreign policy facts. (And much as I despise Ben Shapiro, “Facts don’t care about your feelings” is correct.)

    So, somebody’s never heard of “the One China Policy” acknowledged by both China proper and the semi-autonomous Taiwanese for decades (going back to sometime after the Nixon-Kissinger detente, which is to say several decades.) China doesn’t have a “foreign policy” with regard to Taiwan as Taiwan is a part of China, & heavily economically integrated with it. (I know for a fact that China has treated Taiwan way better than the US has treated Puerto Rico, since I have a sister-in-law from there.)

    As to Sorodemos’ comment, it could be performance art but I tend to wonder if it’s paid trolling. At least there is humor value in the dispatches shared; but Karen Finley was a lot less silly & a lot more relevant in any case. Even the long departed (and not missed by me) Hugh rarely ascended such heights of absurdity. Bravo!!

  13. UphillBend

    Already 20 years ago, the late great Chalmers Johnson could see the outlines of what was to come.

    “Failing such a reform, Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and vengeance, the punisher of pride and hubris, waits impatiently for her meeting with us.”

    The Sorrows of Empire, Ch 10, pg. 312

    He still had hope, though, couched in a believer’s vocabulary of American democracy and the Founding Fathers, that things could be turned around. I wonder what he would say if he were around to observe these days.

    Here’s another gem from the pagan world.

    “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”

    So we have hubris and madness as harbingers of decline. Or maybe the American versions are garnished a bit more with greed and idiocy.

  14. mago

    Toxic ideologies from toxic bodies and minds. I’m always going on about it—endocrine failure and hormonal imbalances along with social echo chambers among the elite leading to thick mental fog and disastrous agendas and policy decisions.
    So I’ll skip it, and just say—because I can’t help myself—
    Oh Tallifer oh Tallifer
    Your mother’s calling out for you
    So take your toys and hit the road Jack
    Time to go home/adios and sayonara. . .

  15. different clue

    Brzezinsky’s advice reads fairly sensible. And yet it was Brzezinsky himself who helped drive the ” let’s alienate and enemify Russia” by driving NATO eastward, ever eastward. He was part of the advisory pressure on Clinton to do that very thing. And Clinton thought that Burrzinskie was really smart, because he was an “intellectual” and he had an “international man of danger” accent.

    So Buhrzinskee pursued his own antiRussianitic racists anti-Russianite policy against Russia, driven in part by his own incurable class and ethnic grudge about his Zlachta ancestors having lost their rights and privileges to the Czarist Empire centuries before.

  16. bruce wilder

    I think about American decadence as rooted in two classes of ruling elites: predators and parasites. Admittedly it is hard to reliably distinguish them one from the other. Both are engaged in scavenging.

    The “predators” are the financial capitalists, who are liquidating the capital stock and with it what little remains of the middle class. The “parasites” are the professional and managerial classes, manning the institutional administrative apparatus — the credentialed bureaucrats in other words. The two groups have realized a symbiosis of sorts.

    In American foreign policy, the predators are the military-industrial complex feeding off perpetual war and the parasites are the sycophants for Israeli Zionists and Eastern European Russophobic fascists.

    It looks like stupidity because no one in either camp cares at all about any discernible national interest let alone the interest of humanity as a whole.

    Arms control? Ha! Negotiation and accommodation? No way! Working to enhance cooperation and stability? You’ve got to be kidding!

  17. VietnamVet

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, his daughter, Mika Brzezinski, and Anne Applebaum are the small circle of influential Polish expatriates who have the catholic orthodox religious Holy War hatreds imprinted into their genes. He changed history after the fall of the US Republic by diverting the Imperial Western Empire onto its current World War Crusades in Ukraine and Gaza. He and Jimmy Carter first pulled the triggers for these wars by funding the Mujahideen to take down the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and declaring that the United States would use military force, if necessary, to defend its national interests in the Persian Gulf. Today the US Navy is losing the drone/missile war with the Yemen Houthis blockading the Red Sea.

    With the triumph of the oligarchs, war mongers/profiteers hitched a ride on the gravy train to get even richer. The death of millions of humans is of no concern. Only money matters. Morals, society and culture do not exist to them. This pathology keeps them completely separated from reality to the detriment of everyone else who inhabits the Earth.

  18. GrimJim

    “If there are this many leaders that must by definition be even stupider than American leaders, as they all follow the gang leader, perhaps it is not an accurate assessment to call US leadership stupid.”

    It is Biggest Bully Syndrome.

    Most kids on the block go with what the Biggest Bully on the block wants, or at the very least, does not get in their way. Why?

    Simple survival. The Biggest Bully cannot be ignored, especially if he brings the other bullies on the block under his sway.

    You either go his way or do your best to get ignored. If you stand up to him and his minions, you get crushed — a wedgie if you are lucky, or beaten to a pulp if you are not.

    Compare the current events in Ukraine and Gaza and the alliances built by the US today versus the alliance built by the US during the invasion of Afghanistan and Gulf War II.

    Every other nation on earth basically fell in line when the US decided it wanted to invade Afghanistan and later invade Iraq, except the Usual Suspects.

    Today, the US can barely muster support even in Europe for it support of Ukraine and Israel. Why?

    Because though the US is still the Biggest Bully, it has become weak and feeble, and other Bullies have arisen. The other kids on the block have not had to fall in line with the other Bullies — yet — but the Biggest Bully is so weak that they are no longer forced to bow and scrape before him.

    Only those who remain cowed have to give the US their lunch money. The other, rising Bullies, are still working out their own protection rackets.

    The Unipower is fading, and we are returning to a multilateral world. More and more countries will be able to perform their own diplomacy as they choose, rather than simply follow along with what the US wants. Some will fall more directly under the protection/control of Russia, others under China, and many will play the three against each other, enjoying a precarious position of freedom.

    Well, maybe. We’ll see how long that lasts. I’m guessing not long, between the Empire’s Death Spasms and global climate catastrophe…

  19. Jan Wiklund

    As George Orwell said about 1940: They have such a thick padding of money between themselves and reality that they don’t need to know anything.

    I suppose Britain in 1940 was just as rentier-run as the whole North Atlantic region is today.

  20. Tallifer

    Recognized sholarly history and trained journalism are the best source for facts.

  21. Stewart Millen

    The incompetence of the Western foreign policy elites is indeed jaw-dropping. I see it as an institutional defect, the groupthink we’ve nutured inside these circles has now developed into something akin to religion, unperturbed by contrary facts.

    Israel is currently not our “friend” and hasn’t been for some time. Neither is Saudi Arabia our “friend”. Both pursue policies that their governments see as desirable to their (usually short-term and short-sighted) self-interest, with no regard on its affect on the US.

    Russia wanted to be our friend, and there are almost no intrinsic geopolitical points of conflict between Russia and the US. The ones that exist now are completely artificial and unwarranted; if the old USSR was re-created it still would not tangibly hurt the US in any way. Yet we have treated Russia like the West treated China more than 100 years ago, “unequal treaties” and breaking the larger country up into smaller political pieces (China’s warlord period). When Russia rises again, like China, they will remember our treatment of them.

    This is why while I admit that US foreign policy has always been problematic, I am more impressed by the FDR-era leadership. After WWII, we were wise enough to realize that the best outcome of such a war would be to treat our former enemies as future friends, and to rebuild their societies to make them richer than they ever dreamed of being. This required direct assistance from the government aid; in particular West Berlin was turned into a showcase for a better Germany with large infusions of aid instead of relying on “the magic of the market”. By contrast, after the USSR’s breakup, we sent our banksters in to help Russian criminal gangs loot the place, and instead of making Russians and Eastern Europeans richer than they had ever dreamed of being their life expectancy went down the toilet. The people who decry Putin should remember that someone like him coming to power didn’t have to happen.

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