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Thread: America’s relationship with the world is in disrepair...

  1. #21
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    Steve Metz:

    These explanations have more than scholarly importance. Whichever one is adopted will form a strategic "lesson."
    I think you are being a bit too linear here, the failure was a result of a bit of all three.

    Incompetent planning, underestimating the task as well as deliberate action by others all played a part.

    There is however another factor, and that is America's ongoing sin of Hubris, as exemplified by Rumsfeld's "Shock and Awe" spin and Bush's "Mission accomplished" fiasco. The Hubris will continue until such time as the economy collapses, at which time all those foreigners who are currently supporting the U.S. economy, decide that they would like a little less of America throwing its weight around if it wants continued financial support.l

    The "deliberate action by others" I refer to was not only the systematic feeding of disinformation into the planning process, but the process of silencing anyone who dared come forward with a dissenting opinion. We will not even know how far that process was carried until Bush and Cheney are out of power. The process appears to be continuing in an attempt to get America to attack Iran.

    You also said Steve:

    the pretense of intellectuals and pundits who shelter under American power while bemoaning the sins of the country that provides their protection. When and if a postAmerican world arrives, it will not be pretty or merciful. If we be Rome, darkness will follow the American imperium.

    Nothing dramatically new needs to be done by the next American...
    The saddest part of the reign of Bush is the loss of Americas former pre-eminent position as a bastion of human rights. Thats what the intellectuals have been crying about, as well as the appalling hypocrisy and decision making. Now any little tin pot dictator can do anything he likes to anyone, simply by labelling them "terrorists" and invoking the Bush Administration.

    As for nothing needing to be done by the next President, are you implying that the rest of the world can go jump in the lake? We (the rest of the world) ) are currently in the process of trying to prop up your rotting financial system, there will be a price for that.

    P.S. I don't think America is an imperium, thats delusions of grandeur, as the financial meltdown over the next few months may unfortunately demonstrate.

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by walrus View Post
    Steve Metz:



    I think you are being a bit too linear here, the failure was a result of a bit of all three.

    Incompetent planning, underestimating the task as well as deliberate action by others all played a part.

    There is however another factor, and that is America's ongoing sin of Hubris, as exemplified by Rumsfeld's "Shock and Awe" spin and Bush's "Mission accomplished" fiasco. The Hubris will continue until such time as the economy collapses, at which time all those foreigners who are currently supporting the U.S. economy, decide that they would like a little less of America throwing its weight around if it wants continued financial support.l

    The "deliberate action by others" I refer to was not only the systematic feeding of disinformation into the planning process, but the process of silencing anyone who dared come forward with a dissenting opinion. We will not even know how far that process was carried until Bush and Cheney are out of power. The process appears to be continuing in an attempt to get America to attack Iran.

    You also said Steve:



    The saddest part of the reign of Bush is the loss of Americas former pre-eminent position as a bastion of human rights. Thats what the intellectuals have been crying about, as well as the appalling hypocrisy and decision making. Now any little tin pot dictator can do anything he likes to anyone, simply by labelling them "terrorists" and invoking the Bush Administration.

    As for nothing needing to be done by the next President, are you implying that the rest of the world can go jump in the lake? We (the rest of the world) ) are currently in the process of trying to prop up your rotting financial system, there will be a price for that.

    P.S. I don't think America is an imperium, thats delusions of grandeur, as the financial meltdown over the next few months may unfortunately demonstrate.

    Actually, Fouad Ajami wrote the second thing you quoted.

    I'm not sure "hubris" is an alternative explanation. Since the first of the ones I suggested was "mistakes" were make, it would fit it there. Hubris (or, to be somewhat kinder, "overconfidence") was one factor contributing to the making of mistakes. I think there were others, including the idea that the people who made our policy toward Iraq had little personal experience with the Arab and Islamic worlds, and wholly relied on people who told them what they wanted to hear (Chalabi, Ajami, Lewis, etc).

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    I'm prepared to accept your description of how we got where we are now up to a point. However I fail to understand how we would repeat errors that were well known,

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    Quote Originally Posted by LawVol View Post
    I do not subscribe to the second theory because I believe that people want freedom, perhaps not American-style democracy, but freedom nonetheless. I do not believe that Iraqis are incapable of some form of representative democracy, it just may look different than what we have.

    I question this. I don’t believe that a desire for freedom is a universal trait among all humans and their societies. Certainly it is not something that has been present in all societies in all times.

    Consider Russia today. Putin seems to rule with considerable popular approval, but I don’t think you would consider it a “free” country. It is no longer a dictatorship of the Communist party, but I wouldn't say that makes it free, either. There is no tradition of “freedom” in Russia in the sense that we Americans would see it there, from the USSR all the way back to the Czars.

    Americans relish freedom, so we just sort of assume that everybody must do so. Because inside every foreigner is an American just waiting to get out? You could trace our inherited system of laws’ first baby step towards freedom perhaps back to the Magna Carta (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta) in 1215, while absolute monarchy was the norm elsewhere. I note that some Americans today aren’t really that bothered by violations of habeas corpus (see Jose Padilla case), so perhaps we aren’t as freedom loving as we claim?

    I’ve never understood why proponents of our democracy project in Mesopotamia saw this particular society as such fertile ground for such an experiment. Perhaps if more had either known or not forgotten the long process (with ups and downs along the way) that our own society has grappled with to ensure freedom we would not think it could be so easily transplanted in places where it has little or no tradition.
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    Default Freedom?

    I know American politicians are very keen on the word freedom - along with democracy and values - but am not all that sure what they mean by it. What do Americans mean, freedom from what or to-do what? Is there a set of core freedoms which are generally agreed upon? Democracy and values seem a bit elastic too. I always wondered if freedom and democracy were in fact the values making the whole thing rather self-referential and rhetorical aimed more at the ‘warm & fuzzy’ end of the market, guaranteed not to mean anything and therefore not likely to cause offence.
    Last edited by JJackson; 01-23-2008 at 09:21 PM.

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    Post Freedom Defined

    Quote Originally Posted by JJackson View Post
    I know American politicians are very keen on the word freedom - along with democracy and values - but am not all that sure what they mean by it. What do Americans mean, freedom from what or to-do what? Is there a set of core freedoms which are generally agreed upon? Democracy and values seem a bit elastic too. I always wondered if freedom and democracy were in fact the values making the whole thing rather self-referential and rhetorical aimed more at the ‘warm & fuzzy’ end of the market, guaranteed not to mean anything and therefore not likely to cause offence.
    As with anything in life it is up to any given subset of human society to determine what it means to them, but I think we often tend to undermine it in its most basic form by defining it in context of its societal interactions and accepted standards.

    For many of those from other countries with whom I have had the pleasure of meeting it is common to hear the term freedom associated in a somewhat apprehensive tone as it so often seems in their own minds to be associated with a much more chaotic form of societal norms than they would be comfortable with. This seems understandable as we find ourselves in the states so easily able to define their societies as not free due to lack of personal or individual capacity for self improvement, or in a broader context economic improvement.

    That said how often do we see that in any country throughout history there is a consistent trend on the individual level to better oneself or ones standing in the society within which they dwell. This is as far as I can tell unchanging. How often it happens, to what extent, or in what manner is and will be dictated by the structure under which they exist and the manner in which their governance adapts or fights against it.

    IE ( For dictatorships it is often quite an effective tool in maintaining " status quo " by reacting harshly and determinately against any and all who even seem like they may not accept what the government wants. Does this make any of the individuals within that society less likely to want for more in terms of theirs or their families livelihoods? I submit probably not. What it does do is often push them into a stay quiet and keep your head low mode which if continually perpetuated by governance long enough may often lead to a generational if not multi-generational habit.

    It never has been nor will it ever be unreasonable to believe and to pursue policies to encourage populations to take more control of their own destinies.
    It may however have been unreasonable to have expected them to be able to snap out of a historic pattern of lack thereof within a short period.

    For all people freedom is an honest expectation, but along with that comes responsibility to societal norms. It is probably these norms which have to change first before the actual freedom comes about in any real recognizable form.

    Can't remember who said this but I always liked it

    If one doesn't believe in something, then it could be said that one believes in nothing at all

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tacitus View Post
    I question this. I don’t believe that a desire for freedom is a universal trait among all humans and their societies. Certainly it is not something that has been present in all societies in all times.

    Consider Russia today. Putin seems to rule with considerable popular approval, but I don’t think you would consider it a “free” country. It is no longer a dictatorship of the Communist party, but I wouldn't say that makes it free, either. There is no tradition of “freedom” in Russia in the sense that we Americans would see it there, from the USSR all the way back to the Czars.

    Americans relish freedom, so we just sort of assume that everybody must do so. Because inside every foreigner is an American just waiting to get out? You could trace our inherited system of laws’ first baby step towards freedom perhaps back to the Magna Carta (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta) in 1215, while absolute monarchy was the norm elsewhere. I note that some Americans today aren’t really that bothered by violations of habeas corpus (see Jose Padilla case), so perhaps we aren’t as freedom loving as we claim?

    I’ve never understood why proponents of our democracy project in Mesopotamia saw this particular society as such fertile ground for such an experiment. Perhaps if more had either known or not forgotten the long process (with ups and downs along the way) that our own society has grappled with to ensure freedom we would not think it could be so easily transplanted in places where it has little or no tradition.
    Perhaps you are correct. Maybe I should have said "security" rather than "freedom." Maybe people are generally intellectually fat and lazy and seek only the "freedom" to be secure with respect to their basic needs. If sufficiently fed and reasonably guaranteed protection from violence, most are quite happy to go along to get along. But perhaps I am being too political here.

    What I mean is that people simply want to be free of fear and want (in the basic necessities sense, not in the "I want a BMW" sense). I would agree the Russia is not a free country in the way an American might define that word, but after going through some of the growing pains of democracy many were willing to trade a littel freedom for security. There are many in this country that would gladly do the same hence the Padilla issue you reference.

    I am not a proponent of "our democracy project in mesopotamia" as defined in those terms. Part of me could actually care less how they govern themselves as long as we are not threatened, but we're there now and leaving without "winning" might be worse than staying. The other part of me, however, views it from a humanist/moralist standpoint and thinks we should stop the sort of things that Saddam's regime did. But where do you draw the line? When does a ruler forfeit his/her "right" to govern? What authority do we have to determine this?

    We Americans are damned if we do and damned if we don't. We go into Iraq and people complain; we don't go into Darfur and people complain; we help out after the Tsunami and, yep you guessed it, people complain. It sort of makes one want to consider a neo-isolationist policy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    The thing is, that while everyone wants freedom for themselves, that's not enough to make a democracy works. It also requires that people accept and tolerate other people's freedom as well. I'm not sure that exists in Iraq.
    I'm not confident that maxim stands under scrutiny. The United States stood for a century with a peak of 15 percent of the population in slavery, then for another before she started dismantling the legal institution of discrimination in the South. Latin America's history of graduated liberty by ethnicity is considerably worse, and while Latin governments have hardly been the model of republican stability I don't think people would be to disappointed if Iraqi politics turned out to be as solid and resilient as Brazil's.
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    Default Triple-play

    I will respond to all three issues raises in this thread by way of one long convoluted post…

    1. Regarding our standing in the world – I think that we need to remember that our “unilateral” action in Iraq was only possible because of the tremendous political capital that President Bush had at home. Such a swell of capital does not occur often and certainly will not occur soon. This reality, coupled with a new President – no matter who it is – will do a lot to smooth over relations. In some circles, people are claiming that we need a Democrat in the White House in order to improve out standing in the world. Rather than looking towards one party, we should be looking for the best leader. That will be what improves our standing.

    2. In regard to concepts of freedom, I think that all humans yearn to be free from subjective rule. The absence of tyranny can take many forms.

    3. While we’re pointing fingers and throwing around blame – I see lots of jabs at Secretary Rumsfeld, various pundits, and even some senior military brass. I think that the most disappointing failure was that of the tactical leaders. When I was in Baghdad in 2003, my chain of command was content to sit in their hooches, watch VCDs, drink soda, and trade war stories from the first three weeks of the conflict.

    In the absence of orders, my platoon policed our neighborhoods, armed locals so that they could protect their homes, and attempted to stand up some semblance of local governance (not much success, but then again our only orders were “don’t die”). When we started doing more intense patrolling at night to stem the tide of criminals from surrounding neighborhoods entering our AOR, my commander actually told me to stand down because “the war is over.” That was in June of 2003. He later led us on three of the most poorly planned and executed raids in the history of the US Army, including one where we found nothing in our target building so, just for kicks, he ordered us to clear a building a block away and then detain anyone named Akmed (there turned out to be 3 nefarious Akmed’s).

    When the city was being looted and we were called upon to restore order, our battalion leadership (maybe it was Brigade’s idea?) ordered us to round up looters who were doing nothing more than stripping wire from government buildings that had been destroyed by US airstrikes. Why were we punishing this? Nobody could tell us. It made no sense. When many of us recommended that we not detain them and rather to encourage them to strip raw materials from the buildings, we were told to shut up and execute. We were just alienating the populace, depriving the underclass of some raw materials to sell, and taking time away from doing legitimate police work. It was mindless. Those detainees – I later discovered – were put into holding pens near BIAP, with no shade and little water, and supervised by Soldiers who were clearly on additional duty for some disciplinary infraction. After three days, the detainees were released and highly upset at US forces – rightfully so.

    Soon thereafter, we began retrograding our armored vehicles back to Kuwait as the insurgency quickly gained momentum around us. We replaced them with light-skinned HMMWVs that all had class II or III leaks for which we had very little POL and no spare parts. Resourceful and creative Soldiers found ways to keep them running.

    I was ordered, more than once, to send my platoon out on curfew enforcement missions while I stayed behind to participate in the battalion’s mandatory Officer movie night (I’m not making this up). Aside from watching comedies while our Soldiers patrolled, we also got to swap war stories… rather than address the war brewing around us. The first time that I got this order, I just assumed that there was some mix-up, since it made no sense, and I went with my platoon anyway. I was later pulled aside and given a stern talking-to for my transgression.

    I often encountered other units in my AOR and inquired as to what they were doing there. A common response was, “we’re looking for an ice cream shop.” Now that is some good work. Later in the summer, we were tasked with route security missions because convoys kept getting attacked. We quickly learned that the most effective way to stem attacks was to set up checkpoints for US forces. We would stop vehicles and instruct them to, “put on your helmet, put on your body armor, take your weapon out from behind your seat, load it, and don’t travel in groups of less than 4 vehicles – preferably with at least one having a turret-mounted weapon.” Simply doling out that advice seemed to reduce attacks.

    I could go on, but I will spare anyone who has read this far.

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    Waving Goodbye to Hegemony, By PARAG KHANNA. The New York Times Magazine, January 27, 2008.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    I think you've hit on the key point. Pundits and policy experts are never held accountable for faulty analysis or bad advice. Heck, Bill Kristol and Richard Perle are still proffering wisdom on Iraq.

    Sometimes Stalinist solutions are best

    As in "Just stand against that wall and give me your advice, comrade."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    As in "Just stand against that wall and give me your advice, comrade."
    Do they still get a last cigarette? Or is that banned now too?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    Do they still get a last cigarette? Or is that banned now too?
    Naw cigarettes are bad--might kill 'em prematurely

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    Default Steve Metz Reply

    As an unrepentant neo-con, I'd argue to the first variant in the Iraq "blame game". Doing so allows me to perserve intact the notion of "democratic transformation" save the incompetent execution of OIF phase IV by our political leaders, planners, and military commanders.

    Historical precedents of success were available. This argues against the second premise of "impossibility". An out-of-hand rejection wouldn't have been congruent with our past experience elsewhere. An honestly arrived answer of "impossible" could only result from detailed analyses of the requirements for military victory and civil stabilization. This didn't happen. Worse, powerful and bright people paid large sums of money by our nation didn't mind. Obviously, oversight and close supervised attention to detail was conspicuous in its absence.

    "The first is that mismanagement, incompetence, or bad decisions derailed what could have been a relatively successful transition from dictatorship to democracy."

    Steve, change "or" to "and". There's plenty of room for all three in your first premise.
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    Default Re Phase IV

    I was under the impression there was a detailed plan for Phase IV drawn up by state but that this did not get implemented primarily due to a turf war between DoS and DoD. I have been looking for something I read a while ago (somewhere on SWJ I think) by a British officer (not Jackson although he seemed to be of the same general view) who was involved in the planning. He was very unhappy with the way the kinetic (Phase III) planners froze out the Phase IV planners pre-launch and then made their job impossible once they all got to Baghdad. I may be misrepresenting him a bit but would be grateful if anyone knows what I am referring to and can help me find it again so I can re-read and check my facts.

    Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJackson View Post
    I have been looking for something I read a while ago (somewhere on SWJ I think) by a British officer (not Jackson although he seemed to be of the same general view) who was involved in the planning.
    Brigadier Nigel R.F. Aylwin-Foster

    http://usacac.army.mil/CAC/milreview...c05/aylwin.pdf
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJackson
    I was under the impression there was a detailed plan for Phase IV drawn up by state but that this did not get implemented primarily due to a turf war between DoS and DoD....
    The entire 13 volume study was released under FOIA in late '06 and is available at GWU's National Security Archive: State Department Releases on the "Future of Iraq" Project

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    Default Thanks for links

    CR6 & Jedburgh thank-you both for your links.
    I read Aylwin-Foster's piece - which I had not seen before - and the cover page and some bits of the Phase 4. Neither were what I had been trying to find but I have eventually remembered enough to locate it.

    It was in SWJ Magazine Vol.4
    Lessons from Iraq: Invasion and Occupation - Maj M W Shervington, British Army
    http://smallwarsjournal.com/document...ervington1.htm

    Shervington is writing more about the difficulties encountered, principally politically, by those who were planning for a Phase 4 scenario that did not envisage an easy transition, the impossibility of Jay Garners position, the reversal of core Phase 4 tenets within days of Bremer's arrival, the damage done by not securing the civil infrastructure in the first days in control etc. Aylwin-Foster's view dovetails well in that it relates more to the next period and how institutional mindsets could be seen to effect both.
    Last edited by JJackson; 02-01-2008 at 04:03 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJackson View Post
    Lessons from Iraq: Invasion and Occupation - Maj M W Shervington, British Army
    Excellent piece JJ. Thanks for posting the link. I was especially interested to read about the effect of the invasion on the Dulaimi tribal federation and the origins of their resistance to the occupation, as well as Shervington's highlights on how early American actions in Phase IV contradicted pre-invasion rhetoric, thus compromising the IO campaign very early on.
    "Law cannot limit what physics makes possible." Humanitarian Apsects of Airpower (papers of Frederick L. Anderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University)

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    Default I think our relationship with the world...

    has been up and down for decades. Add to that, no one loves Rome when it demands a price, they only love Rome when it is giving them something.

    And that is neither a belief in American Imperialism nor a rejection of it (at least in soft power terms, if not militarily).

    If I may interject, here, I believe our fall from grace begins Somalia and Bosnia and ends, not in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Largely because:

    1) NATO without Russia to confront was nothing more than an empty shell. With terrorism as its main enemy, being largely unaffected by the might of any military, no one, and I do mean no one, was prepared to fight it militarily at its roots.

    2) The demand or need (whichever one couches the defense requested post 9/11) for NATO compliance to agreements when NATO no longer saw a great enemy was a giant "come to Jesus" moment that most of these states did largely unwillingly because...

    3) They no longer saw the requirement for post WWII/cold war defense or offense and saw themselves as "peace keepers" who did a damn poor job of it, our forces included.

    The real issue here is that every post cold war event such as Somolia, Bosnia, Rwanda and places in between have severely screwed with the dream that our NATO allies had of the post cold war future world. I think that, in large part, they imagined that their presence somewhere under the UN banner was enough to influence the outcome and change the world. It never did. At the least those forces simply became voyeurs of the wholesale slaughter around them and in worst cases they became the facilitators.

    NATO, from this perspective, has never come to grips with the idea that their moral authority had little power in the face of genocide and that, yes, there will be war that might require them to lend forces that actually fight. They blame the United States for the destruction of their dream. It is why our foreign policies allegedly created 9/11 and every other action gains sneers. Not to mention that, for all their declarations of anti-imperialism, most of the nations are bent on their own soft imperialism. Our actions have an impact on their own aspirations and no one should forget that in all of the hand wringing about our relationships. One wonders, with some degree of cynical amusement, if the mirror has ever cracked when they look into it.

    I'm not rejecting the idea of our foreign policy as an issue fully, but we're not talking about 1 year of foreign policy here, we're talking about decades where Rome has guaranteed its allies protection, safe commerce and an umbrella under which to gird their ideological loins while opening and protecting markets across the world for trade. The fact that we demanded levies at all against signed treaties makes us persona non gratas. Beyond that, destruction of the "world without war" dream sealed it.

    In the mean time, reflecting on someone's comments above, for all the time we've spent giving, what we get back is "we're bailing you bastards out". Well, thanks, maybe we should remember that the next time someone needs "bailed out" across the ocean? I don't suspect we will since we still believe that strong allied democracies are a bulwark against villains of all stripes.

    I'll repeat my cynical take on the subject:

    Everyone loves Rome when it defends them against invasion or lines their pockets and larders, but no one loves Rome when it demands its price in return.

    What would the next president have to do? Withdraw our troops from Iraq, reduce our demands on NATO in Afghanistan and pretend that the military is strictly for defense. Against whom, considering the prevailing ideas on counter-terrorism and world vision of detente, is the question. I believe, with a very jaundiced eye, any move we make that will include expanding our forces and creating new and highly destructive weapons, will not endear us to the "world" but will simply be a re-enforcement that we are full of hubris and the cause of instability. Regardless of how many forces we withdraw from whatever theater or how much advice we take from our allies.

    Secondly, yes, I believe that we would have to prostrate ourselves to the great demands of the masses that believe "Rome" is taking an unfair share of energy resources and food among other commerce and staples.

    In short, the cynic in me believes that the post cold war world of the 90's has mitigated any "esteem" or "love" these nations might have perceived for their great ally in the west. And, that has turned into a belief that, that love was coerced by us for nothing. There was no great battle for the gap, thus, we were really never needed. A revision of history, if you will, that makes it easier to swallow their abandonment of such allegiances and decry any demands or requests.

    Mend our relationships? When uncle Sam takes off his body armor and mothballs his fleets. Even then, I think that time has past and we should accept that there is a new paradigm in international relationships that now renders us a feared adversary of all, or, at least, a nation that requires a wary eye, who will concentrate mightily on restraining our powers and economy until such a time as they think they might need us again or until a new polarity exists where we are never needed again.

    They will love us when we line their larders and pockets again without making too many demands besides "be prosperous". Even then, as long as we sit atop the heap without another competitor, we will be viewed with a jaundiced eye.

    Yankee go home!

    that's not the first time we've heard it, nor will it be the last I should say.
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