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Seeking War to the End of the World


July 27, 2015
Robert Parry / Consortium News

Despite the disastrous Iraq War, neocons still dominate Washington's inside-outside game. Government policymakers work with think-tank opinion leaders to keep world tensions high and money flowing to military projects, a process personified by Robert Kagan and Victoria Nuland. Kagan and Nuland have a great mom-and-pop business. From the State Department, she generates wars while he lobbies Congress to buy more weapons while grateful military contractors pour money into think tanks where other Kagans work.

https://consortiumnews.com/2015/07/19/seeking-war-to-the-end-of-the-world/

Seeking War to the End of the World
Robert Parry / Consortium News

(July 19, 2015) -- If the neoconservatives have their way again, US ground troops will reoccupy Iraq, the US military will take out Syria's secular government (likely helping Al Qaeda and the Islamic State take over), and the US Congress will not only kill the Iran nuclear deal but follow that with a massive increase in military spending.

Like spraying lighter fluid on a roaring barbecue, the neocons also want a military escalation in Ukraine to burn the ethnic Russians out of the east, and the neocons dream of spreading the blaze to Moscow with the goal of forcing Russian President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin. In other words, more and more fires of Imperial "regime change" abroad even as the last embers of the American Republic die at home.

Much of this "strategy" is personified by a single Washington power couple: arch-neocon Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century and an early advocate of the Iraq War, and his wife, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who engineered last year's coup in Ukraine that started a nasty civil war and created a confrontation between nuclear-armed United States and Russia.

Kagan, who cut his teeth as a propaganda specialist in support of the Reagan administration's brutal Central American policies in the 1980s, is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing columnist to The Washington Post's neocon-dominated opinion pages.

On Friday, Kagan's column baited the Republican Party to do more than just object to President Barack Obama's Iranian nuclear deal. Kagan called for an all-out commitment to neoconservative goals, including military escalations in the Middle East, belligerence toward Russia and casting aside fiscal discipline in favor of funneling tens of billions of new dollars to the Pentagon.

Kagan also showed how the neocons' world view remains the conventional wisdom of Official Washington despite their disastrous Iraq War. The neocon narrative gets repeated over and over in the mainstream media no matter how delusional it is.

For instance, a sane person might trace the origins of the bloodthirsty Islamic State back to President George W. Bush's neocon-inspired Iraq War when this hyper-violent Sunni movement began as "Al Qaeda in Iraq" blowing up Shiite mosques and instigating sectarian bloodshed.

It later expanded into Syria where Sunni militants were seeking the ouster of a secular regime led by Alawites, a Shiite offshoot. Though changing its name to the Islamic State, the movement continued with its trademark brutality.

But Kagan doesn't acknowledge that he and his fellow neocons bear any responsibility for this head-chopping phenomenon. In his neocon narrative, the Islamic State gets blamed on Iran and Syria, even though those governments are leading much of the resistance to the Islamic State and its former colleagues in Al Qaeda, which in Syria backs a separate terrorist organization, the Nusra Front.

But here is how Kagan explains the situation to the Smart People of Official Washington: "Critics of the recent nuclear deal struck between Iran and the United States are entirely right to point out the serious challenge that will now be posed by the Islamic republic. It is an aspiring hegemon in an important region of the world.

"It is deeply engaged in a region-wide war that encompasses Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, the Gulf States and the Palestinian territories. It subsidizes the murderous but collapsing regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and therefore bears primary responsibility for the growing strength of the Islamic State and other radical jihadist forces in that country and in neighboring Iraq, where it is simultaneously expanding its influence and inflaming sectarian violence."

The Real Hegemon
While ranting about "Iranian hegemony," Kagan called for direct military intervention by the world's true hegemonic power, the United States. He wants the US military to weigh in against Iran on the side of two far more militarily advanced regional powers, Israel and Saudi Arabia, whose combined weapons spending dwarfs Iran's and includes -- with Israel -- a sophisticated nuclear arsenal.

Yet reality has never had much relationship to neocon ideology. Kagan continued: "Any serious strategy aimed at resisting Iranian hegemony has also required confronting Iran on the several fronts of the Middle East battlefield. In Syria, it has required a determined policy to remove Assad by force, using US air power to provide cover for civilians and create a safe zone for Syrians willing to fight.

"In Iraq, it has required using American forces to push back and destroy the forces of the Islamic State so that we would not have to rely, de facto, on Iranian power to do the job. Overall, it has required a greater US military commitment to the region, a reversal of both the perceived and the real withdrawal of American power.

"And therefore it has required a reversal of the downward trend in US defense spending, especially the undoing of the sequestration of defense funds, which has made it harder for the military even to think about addressing these challenges, should it be called upon to do so. So the question for Republicans who are rightly warning of the danger posed by Iran is: What have they done to make it possible for the United States to begin to have any strategy for responding?"

In Kagan's call for war and more war, we're seeing, again, the consequence of failing to hold neocons accountable after they pushed the country into the illegal and catastrophic Iraq War by selling lies about weapons of mass destruction and telling tales about how easy it would be.

Instead of facing a purge that should have followed the Iraq calamity, the neocons consolidated their power, holding onto key jobs in US foreign policy, ensconcing themselves in influential think tanks, and remaining the go-to experts for mainstream media coverage. Being wrong about Iraq has almost become a badge of honor in the upside-down world of Official Washington.

But we need to unpack the truckload of sophistry that Kagan is peddling. First, it is simply crazy to talk about "Iranian hegemony." That was part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rhetoric before the US Congress on March 3 about Iran "gobbling up" nations -- and it has now become a neocon-driven litany, but it is no more real just because it gets repeated endlessly.

For instance, take the Iraq case. It has a Shiite-led government not because Iran invaded Iraq, but because the United States did. After the US military ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, the United States stood up a new government dominated by Shiites who, in turn, sought friendly relations with their co-religionists in Iran, which is entirely understandable and represents no aggression by Iran. Then, after the Islamic State's dramatic military gains across Iraq last summer, the Iraqi government turned to Iran for military assistance, also no surprise.

Back to Iraq
However, leaving aside Kagan's delusional hyperbole about Iran, look at what he's proposing. He wants to return a sizable US occupation force to Iraq, apparently caring little about the US soldiers who were rotated multiple times into the war zone where almost 4,500 died (along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis). Having promoted Iraq War I and having paid no price, Kagan now wants to give us Iraq War II.

But that's not enough. Kagan wants the US military to intervene to make sure the secular government of Syria is overthrown, even though the almost certain winners would be Sunni extremists from the Islamic State or Al Qaeda's Nusra Front. Such a victory could lead to genocides against Syria's Christians, Alawites, Shiites and other minorities. At that point, there would be tremendous pressure for a full-scale US invasion and occupation of Syria, too.

That may be why Kagan wants to throw tens of billions of dollar more into the military-industrial complex, although the true price tag for Kagan's new wars would likely run into the trillions of dollars. Yet, Kagan still isn't satisfied. He wants even more military spending to confront "growing Chinese power, an aggressive Russia and an increasingly hegemonic Iran."

In his conclusion, Kagan mocks the Republicans for not backing up their tough talk: "So, yes, by all means, rail about the [Iran] deal. We all look forward to the hours of floor speeches and campaign speeches that lie ahead. But it will be hard to take Republican criticisms seriously unless they start doing the things that are in their power to do to begin to address the challenge."

While it's true that Kagan is now "just" a neocon ideologue -- albeit one with important platforms to present his views -- his wife Assistant Secretary of State Nuland shares his foreign policy views and even edits many of his articles. As she told The New York Times last year, "nothing goes out of the house that I don't think is worthy of his talents. Let's put it that way." [See Consortiumnews.com's "Obama's True Foreign Policy ‘Weakness.'"]

But Nuland is a foreign policy force of her own, considered by some in Washington to be the up-and-coming "star" at the State Department. By organizing the "regime change" in Ukraine -- with the violent overthrow of democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 -- Nuland also earned her spurs as an accomplished neocon.

Nuland has even outdone her husband, who may get "credit" for the Iraq War and the resulting chaos, but Nuland did him one better, instigating Cold War II and reviving hostilities between nuclear-armed Russia and the United States. After all, that's where the really big money will go -- toward modernizing nuclear arsenals and ordering top-of-the-line strategic weaponry.

A Family Business
There's also a family-business aspect to these wars and confrontations, since the Kagans collectively serve not just to start conflicts but to profit from grateful military contractors who kick back a share of the money to the think tanks that employ the Kagans.

For instance, Robert's brother Frederick works at the American Enterprise Institute, which has long benefited from the largesse of the Military-Industrial Complex, and his wife Kimberly runs her own think tank called the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

According to ISW's annual reports, its original supporters were mostly right-wing foundations, such as the Smith-Richardson Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, but it was later backed by a host of national security contractors, including major ones like General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and CACI, as well as lesser-known firms such as DynCorp International, which provided training for Afghan police, and Palantir, a technology company founded with the backing of the CIA's venture-capital arm, In-Q-Tel. Palantir supplied software to US military intelligence in Afghanistan.

Since its founding in 2007, ISW has focused mostly on wars in the Middle East, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, including closely cooperating with Gen. David Petraeus when he commanded US forces in those countries. However, more recently, ISW has begun reporting extensively on the civil war in Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Neocons Guided Petraeus on Afghan War."]

So, to understand the enduring influence of the neocons -- and the Kagan clan, in particular -- you have to appreciate the money connections between the business of war and the business of selling war. When the military contractors do well, the think tanks that advocate for heightened global tensions do well, too.

And, it doesn't hurt to have friends and family inside the government making sure that policymakers do their part to give war a chance -- and to give peace the old heave-ho.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com's "A Family Business of Perpetual War."]



A Family Business of Perpetual War
Robert Parry / Consortium News

(March 20, 2015) -- Neoconservative pundit Robert Kagan and his wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, run a remarkable family business: she has sparked a hot war in Ukraine and helped launch Cold War II with Russia -- and he steps in to demand that Congress jack up military spending so America can meet these new security threats.

This extraordinary husband-and-wife duo makes quite a one-two punch for the Military-Industrial Complex, an inside-outside team that creates the need for more military spending, applies political pressure to ensure higher appropriations, and watches as thankful weapons manufacturers lavish grants on like-minded hawkish Washington think tanks.

Not only does the broader community of neoconservatives stand to benefit but so do other members of the Kagan clan, including Robert's brother Frederick at the American Enterprise Institute and his wife Kimberly, who runs her own shop called the Institute for the Study of War.

Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution (which doesn't disclose details on its funders), used his prized perch on the Washington Post's op-ed page on Friday to bait Republicans into abandoning the sequester caps limiting the Pentagon's budget, which he calculated at about $523 billion (apparently not counting extra war spending). Kagan called on the GOP legislators to add at least $38 billion and preferably more like $54 billion to $117 billion:

"The fact that [advocates for more spending] face a steep uphill battle to get even that lower number passed by a Republican-controlled Congress says a lot — about Republican hypocrisy. Republicans may be full-throated in denouncing [President Barack] Obama for weakening the nation's security, yet when it comes to paying for the foreign policy that all their tough rhetoric implies, too many of them are nowhere to be found. . . .

"The editorial writers and columnists who have been beating up Obama and cheering the Republicans need to tell those Republicans, and their own readers, that national security costs money and that letters and speeches are worse than meaningless without it. . . .

"It will annoy the part of the Republican base that wants to see the government shrink, loves the sequester and doesn't care what it does to defense. But leadership occasionally means telling people what they don't want to hear. Those who propose to lead the United States in the coming years, Republicans and Democrats, need to show what kind of political courage they have, right now, when the crucial budget decisions are being made."

So, the way to show "courage" -- in Kagan's view -- is to ladle ever more billions into the Military-Industrial Complex, thus putting money where the Republican mouths are regarding the need to "defend Ukraine" and resist "a bad nuclear deal with Iran."

Yet, if it weren't for Nuland's efforts as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, the Ukraine crisis might not exist. A neocon holdover who advised Vice President Dick Cheney, Nuland gained promotions under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and received backing, too, from current Secretary of State John Kerry.

Confirmed to her present job in September 2013, Nuland soon undertook an extraordinary effort to promote "regime change" in Ukraine. She personally urged on business leaders and political activists to challenge elected President Viktor Yanukovych. She reminded corporate executives that the United States had invested $5 billion in their "European aspirations," and she literally passed out cookies to anti-government protesters in Kiev's Maidan square.

Working with other key neocons, including National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman and Sen. John McCain, Nuland made clear that the United States would back a "regime change" against Yanukovych, which grew more likely as neo-Nazi and other right-wing militias poured into Kiev from western Ukraine.

In early February 2014, Nuland discussed US-desired changes with US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt (himself a veteran of a "regime change" operation at the International Atomic Energy Agency, helping to install US yes man Yukiya Amano as the director-general in 2009).

Nuland treated her proposed new line-up of Ukrainian officials as if she were trading baseball cards, casting aside some while valuing others. "Yats is the guy," she said of her favorite Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Disparaging the less aggressive European Union, she uttered "Fuck the EU" -- and brainstormed how she would "glue this thing" as Pyatt pondered how to "mid-wife this thing." Their unsecure phone call was intercepted and leaked.

Ukraine's ‘Regime Change'
The coup against Yanukovych played out on Feb. 22, 2014, as the neo-Nazi militias and other violent extremists overran government buildings forcing the president and other officials to flee for their lives. Nuland's State Department quickly declared the new regime "legitimate" and Yatsenyuk took over as prime minister.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had been presiding over the Winter Olympics at Sochi, was caught off-guard by the coup next door and held a crisis session to determine how to protect ethnic Russians and a Russian naval base in Crimea, leading to Crimea's secession from Ukraine and annexation by Russia a year ago.

Though there was no evidence that Putin had instigated the Ukraine crisis -- and indeed all the evidence indicated the opposite -- the State Department peddled a propaganda theme to the credulous mainstream US news media about Putin having somehow orchestrated the situation in Ukraine so he could begin invading Europe. Former Secretary of State Clinton compared Putin to Adolf Hitler.

As the new Kiev government launched a brutal "anti-terrorism operation" to subdue an uprising among the large ethnic Russian populations of eastern and southern Ukraine, Nuland and other American neocons pushed for economic sanctions against Russia and demanded arms for the coup regime. [See Consortiumnews.com's "What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis."]

Amid the barrage of "information warfare" aimed at both the US and world publics, a new Cold War took shape. Prominent neocons, including Nuland's husband Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century which masterminded the Iraq War, hammered home the domestic theme that Obama had shown himself to be "weak," thus inviting Putin's "aggression."

In May 2014, Kagan published a lengthy essay in The New Republic entitled "Superpowers Don't Get to Retire," in which Kagan castigated Obama for failing to sustain American dominance in the world and demanding a more muscular US posture toward adversaries.

According to a New York Times article about how the essay took shape and its aftermath, writer Jason Horowitz reported that Kagan and Nuland shared a common world view as well as professional ambitions, with Nuland editing Kagan's articles, including the one tearing down her ostensible boss.

Though Nuland wouldn't comment specifically on her husband's attack on Obama, she indicated that she held similar views. "But suffice to say," Nuland said, "that nothing goes out of the house that I don't think is worthy of his talents. Let's put it that way."

Horowitz reported that Obama was so concerned about Kagan's assault that the President revised his commencement speech at West Point to deflect some of the criticism and invited Kagan to lunch at the White House, where one source told me that it was like "a meeting of equals." [See Consortiumnews.com's "Obama's True Foreign Policy ‘Weakness.'"]

Sinking a Peace Deal
And, whenever peace threatens to break out in Ukraine, Nuland jumps in to make sure that the interests of war are protected. Last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande hammered out a plan for a cease-fire and a political settlement, known as Minsk-2, prompting Nuland to engage in more behind-the-scenes maneuvering to sabotage the deal.

In another overheard conversation -- in Munich, Germany -- Nuland mocked the peace agreement as "Merkel's Moscow thing," according to the German newspaper Bild, citing unnamed sources, likely from the German government which may have bugged the conference room in the luxurious Bayerischer Hof hotel and then leaked the details.

Picking up on Nuland's contempt for Merkel, another US official called the Minsk-2 deal the Europeans' "Moscow bullshit."

Nuland suggested that Merkel and Hollande cared only about the practical impact of the Ukraine war on Europe: "They're afraid of damage to their economy, counter-sanctions from Russia." According to the Bild story, Nuland also laid out a strategy for countering Merkel's diplomacy by using strident language to frame the Ukraine crisis.

"We can fight against the Europeans, we can fight with rhetoric against them," Nuland reportedly said.

NATO Commander Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove was quoted as saying that sending more weapons to the Ukrainian government would "raise the battlefield cost for Putin." Nuland interjected to the US politicians present that "I'd strongly urge you to use the phrase ‘defensive systems' that we would deliver to oppose Putin's ‘offensive systems.'"

Nuland sounded determined to sink the Merkel-Hollande peace initiative even though it was arranged by two major US allies and was blessed by President Obama. And, this week, the deal seems indeed to have been blown apart by Nuland's hand-picked Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, who inserted a poison pill into the legislation to implement the Minsk-2 political settlement.

The Ukrainian parliament in Kiev added a clause that, in effect, requires the rebels to first surrender and let the Ukrainian government organize elections before a federalized structure is determined. Minsk-2 had called for dialogue with the representatives of these rebellious eastern territories en route to elections and establishment of broad autonomy for the region.

Instead, reflecting Nuland's hard-line position, Kiev refused to talks with rebel leaders and insisted on establishing control over these territories before the process can move forward. If the legislation stands, the result will almost surely be a resumption of war between military forces backed by nuclear-armed Russia and the United States, a very dangerous development for the world. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Ukraine's Poison Pill for Peace Talks."]

Not only will the Ukrainian civil war resume but so will the Cold War between Washington and Moscow with lots of money to be made by the Military-Industrial Complex. On Friday, Nuland's husband, Robert Kagan, drove home that latter point in the neocon Washington Post.

The Payoff
But don't think that this unlocking of the US taxpayers' wallets is just about this one couple. There will be plenty of money to be made by other neocon think-tankers all around Washington, including Frederick Kagan, who works for the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, and his wife, Kimberly, who runs her own think tank, the Institute for the Study of War [ISW].

According to ISW's annual reports, its original supporters were mostly right-wing foundations, such as the Smith-Richardson Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, but it was later backed by a host of national security contractors, including major ones like General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and CACI, as well as lesser-known firms such as DynCorp International, which provided training for Afghan police, and Palantir, a technology company founded with the backing of the CIA's venture-capital arm, In-Q-Tel. Palantir supplied software to US military intelligence in Afghanistan.

Since its founding in 2007, ISW has focused mostly on wars in the Middle East, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, including closely cooperating with Gen. David Petraeus when he commanded US forces in those countries. However, more recently, ISW has begun reporting extensively on the civil war in Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Neocons Guided Petraeus on Afghan War."]

In other words, the Family Kagan has almost a self-perpetuating, circular business model -- working the inside-corridors of government power to stimulate wars while simultaneously influencing the public debate through think-tank reports and op-ed columns in favor of more military spending -- and then collecting grants and other funding from thankful military contractors.

To be fair, the Nuland-Kagan mom-and-pop shop is really only a microcosm of how the Military-Industrial Complex has worked for decades: think-tank analysts generate the reasons for military spending, the government bureaucrats implement the necessary war policies, and the military contractors make lots of money before kicking back some to the think tanks -- so the bloody but profitable cycle can spin again.

The only thing that makes the Nuland-Kagan operation special perhaps is that the whole process is all in the family.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. His latest book is America's Stolen Narrative

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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