Fighting the Last War

by | Jul 8, 2019 | Scott Horton's Articles

Reprinted from

America is still fighting the last war. I admit to having a bit of the same problem. I’m now working on a new book to follow-up my previous one about the war in Afghanistan. The tentative title is Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism. [You are cordially invited to participate in a fundraiser for the project here.] The biggest problem with writing this book now is that the times have changed. The terror wars may all still be raging, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Mali, but the government’s main attention has been turned back toward great power competition with Russia and China.

The neocons’ declared “unipolar moment” is over. America’s relative power is in decline, in no small measure due to the horrible waste and destabilization wrought by the Middle Eastern terror wars in the first place. In response to this, the empire is frustrated, lashing out at the closest things they have to near-peer competitors, accusing them of aggression and declaring an intent to fully renew the old Cold War. Nixon may have ended the previous Cold War with China 45 years ago and Reagan and Bush Sr. the Cold War with the USSR even before it finally dissolved 30 years ago, however, the two independent nations remain the greatest excuse for the special interests at the heart of the American empire to exploit to the ends of the earth and cash in bigtime in the process.

One need not be a supporter of Manuel Noriega, David Koresh, Saddam Hussein, Mullah Omar, Ali Khamenei, Abdullah Saleh, Mohammed Morsi, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al Assad, Ismail Haniyeh, Slobodan Milosevich, Eduard Shevardnadze, Viktor Yanukovych, Nicolás Maduro, Xi Jinping, or Vladimir Putin to see that the designated enemies of the American state and their motives might not always be all that they were originally cracked up to be.

In the case of Russia, it’s clear that despite every negative thing they have done from the end of the Soviet Union to this day, 99 percent of the problems between our nation and theirs are our government’s fault. The Bill Clinton administration started us down this road when they betrayed George Bush Sr. and James Baker’s promise not to expand America’s NATO military alliance east as long as the Russians would withdraw and allow Germany to be reunified under Western dominance. Clinton was warned that since the U.S. had no true intention to integrate Russia into NATO as an ally, as some had proposed, the eastern expansion of the alliance would only provoke Russia to respond. Then, as George Kennan, the former State Department “gray beard” and original author of the Cold War-era containment policy, predicted in 1998, the Russian reaction would be transformed into the excuse for the provocation:

“I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. [NATO expansion] was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs.

“What bothers me is how superficial and ill-informed the whole Senate debate was. I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don’t people understand? Our differences in the Cold War were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime. … It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are – but this is just wrong.”

George W. Bush and Barack Obama only made it worse with their continued expansion of the alliance right up to Russia’s western border in the Baltics and their multiple U.S. NED-backed “color-coded revolutions” against Russia-friendly leaders as far away as the southern Caucasus Mountains and two coups in Ukraine, in 2004 and 2014. The latter of these resulted in the Russian seizure of the Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea and a bloody war launched by Kiev against pro-Russian groups in the east of the country who refused to accept the rule of the new junta. For the sin of helping these people defend themselves from American and U.S.-backed Nazino kidding Nazi – forces, we are supposed to believe that Russia now has designs on re-conquering all of Eastern Europe like the bad old days.

It was nothing but good news to the corrupt arms dealers of D.C.’s Chrystal City. Some trumped up crisis with Russia? Hooray! they shouted. It’s good for the army and the air force, and it’s good for their suppliers.

Even worse, Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to pursue the missile defense scam, and now Trump, interested in introducing medium range nuclear weapons into the Pacific, has torn up the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, which had previously seen the banishment of thousands of missiles from the European theater.

President Trump, effectively “reined in” from his campaign promises to prioritize a positive working relationship with Russia, due to the Russiagate Hoax, has also accepted the addition of Macedonia and Montenegro to the NATO alliance. What good they are supposed to be in World War III is undetermined. Perhaps like Colorado and Nebraska they are designated to be the “nuclear sponge” meant to absorb the worst effect of an H-bomb war, thus sparing our betters on the coasts.

It’s also no mystery that the Russians stayed out of the U.S. and allied-orchestrated catastrophe in Syria until the end of 2015, when al Qaeda and the Islamic State began to truly threaten the existence of the Ba’athist regime there. The very same men and women who now cry that Russia has returned to the Middle East for the first time since the Cold War are the ones who promoted U.S. support for those pretended “moderate” terrorists from 2011-2017 and have only themselves to blame.

The same is essentially true in the case of China, which has yet to be provoked into doing anything so stark as seize territory that essentially belonged to them anyway, as the Russians did in Crimea, unless you count some uninhabited rocks in the South China Sea. Is 100 percent of the Pacific Ocean an American lake, or only 95 percent? The fate of the world hangs in the balance.

The U.S. previously encouraged the right wing of the Chinese Communist Party to abandon the evils of Maoism for a more productive fascist model which our leaders now claim threatens us. But they are still our second largest trading partner. They’re also armed with enough hydrogen bombs to destroy your hometown and mine. These reasons alone should be enough for our nation to want to do everything possible to cooperate and get along with them for all of our long-term future.

Mostly, the Chinese are guilty of being a more credible enemy for TV than the Iranian regime and their speed boats. Didn’t you hear? Spooked by U.S. capabilities displayed in Iraq War I in 1991 and Bill Clinton’s intervention in the Taiwan Straits Crisis of 1996, China has embarked on a threatening new strategic buildup called “Anti-Access/Area Denial.” In other words, they are prioritizing defensive measures to keep the U.S. at bay. Though some experts seem to think that U.S. allies could adopt similar doctrines to defend themselves, that’s just too bad, because the new Cold War against China is good for our navy and marines, and their suppliers. You have “A2-AD?!” Well, we’ve got Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons doctrine to build and maintain at high cost to counter it.

Who cares if your boat can even float? Is it expensive? The navy wants it. Who cares if your plane can even fly? The navy, air force and marines all want it. Who cares if you can even use a thermo-nuke without committing the gravest act of genocide against innocent civilians? The Pentagon, Department of Energy and all their most dependent contactors have decided that what the U.S.A. needs is more H-bombs and sooner. Their proposal for a new generation of nuclear weapons and the complete reinvention of America’s nuclear weapons industry went from a cool trillion dollars to 1.7 without anyone batting an eye. If we live to see the project completed, we’ll be lucky to see it come in at less than 4 trillion dollars in the end. Just don’t make ’em mad.

Poor SOCOM and JSOC, they’re left with only Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Mali, Tunisia, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. I’m sure they and their suppliers will make do somehow.

Back when the war party was first inventing the containment policy in the Harry Truman years, they beat down Robert Taft and the Old Right’s arguments against the establishment of NATO with the specter of the most dangerous threat of all: Communism. This was no ordinary Russian empire we’re dealing with, which we could live with. Even after the death of Joseph Stalin, this particular menace “changed everything,” supposedly necessitating what could otherwise never be justified: indefinite alliances and military mobilization.

Those who remember that betrayed Cold War promise that America could someday soon again become a “normal country in a normal time,” once Communism was defeated, may be fading away, but regardless, the American people are already sick and tired of the wars in the Middle East. We certainly don’t want to pick whole new unnecessary fights with countries who can actually hit back and make it really hurt.


I am beginning a fundraiser today to make an advance of sorts on my new book, Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism. Anything you might to do help support would be greatly appreciated.

Scott Horton is editorial director of, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from He’s the author of the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan. He’s conducted more than 5,000 interviews since 2003.

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