Foreign Policy

Is Energy Independence from Russia Worth the Cost?

As the trade war over Ukraine heats up, we should ask ourselves what costs and benefits come along with energy independence from Russia. Even if we accept current Western policy, the divestment campaign will not yield the desired political outcomes.

As episodic breezes of cooler air reach European shores, the continent’s inhabitants are reminded by the fact that winter is gradually but surely creeping up on them. Thus, Europeans are getting ready for a tough winter in the midst of the escalating trade conflict over Ukraine. But instead of prioritizing an uninterrupted and affordable flow of energy, the European Union has doubled down on its policy of rapidly divesting from Russian fossil fuels.

On February 24, the starting day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyden announced “massive” sanctions beyond those already implemented after the Russian take-over of Crimea in 2014. But in the months since, as the West has placed itself firmly behind Ukraine, the European Union (EU) has gone much further than traditional sanctions.

Following on the heels of Washington, the 27-nation bloc has made plans to wean itself completely off Russian fossil fuels. Whereas an American ban of Russian oil, gas, and coal went into effect in March, the EU, which is much more dependent on Russia for its energy consumption, seeks to accomplish this task over the next five years. Crude oil transported by sea will be banned as early as December 5 of this year, while an embargo on petroleum product imports will follow two months later. Phasing out the import of Russian natural gas, which constitutes about 40% of the EU’s import total, is a tougher task. Yet, the EU is determined to achieve independence from Russian gas by 2027 through a 210 billion euro plan consisting of three ledgers: in addition to an import shift to more non-Russian gas, the EU is to slash energy consumption by 13% and bring the share of renewable energy up to 45% by 2030.

The EU recognizes that Europeans will suffer from these policies. On Wednesday, Von der Leyden admitted in a speech that “making ends meet is becoming a source of anxiety for millions of businesses and households.” Yet, she stood undeterred in the “unshakeable” EU solidarity with Ukraine, arguing that “we are in for the long haul” and that “this is the time for us to show resolve, not appeasement.” She was convinced, moreover, that “Putin will fail, and Europe will prevail.”

In short, the divestment plan is seen as worth the price of rolling back Russian aggression in Ukraine while it gives a helpful boost to the EU’s ambitious climate goals. But is the price really worth it? Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

First of all, it will not help the climate. As long as European countries keep on shunning nuclear energy, banning Russian oil and gas will crank up the production of coal, which emits much more CO2. Rising coal consumption and CO2 emissions were already documented in anti-nuclear countries like Germany before the war began, and these developments have exacerbated since. Moreover, as Russian coal used to make up 70% of all European imports but is banned completely as of August, the import of coal from other countries (which is expected to increase by almost 50% by next year) will undoubtedly make energy more expensive.

But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Consumers will pay a much higher price for the divestment plan than the 210 billion euros that the EU has set aside for the purpose. To get an idea of the true cost, we need to be aware of the seen and unseen effects of the EU’s energy policy. For one, the European-Russian gas infrastructure, in which European companies have invested untold billions over the last few decades, will go to waste. This path of dependency has created a situation in which Russia has become the main exporter of fossil fuels to Europe and thus is in a position to provide energy at a cheap price. Changing the energy mix by government decree will therefore lead to soaring energy prices, especially at a time of already out-of-control inflation.

Indeed, a recent report from Golden Sachs estimates total expenditures on energy in Europe to grow by $2 trillion this year, and that is only counting households. According to the report, the typical European household will probably pay more than three times more on their monthly energy bills this winter. If Russia will turn off the gas tap completely, as Putin threatened to do last week, the price of energy could rise almost fourfold compared to last year, reaching as high as 600 euros for the average family unit.

Meanwhile, paradoxically, Moscow has profited from the European divestment plans, at least in the short run. In the first hundred days of the conflict, Russia’s fossil fuel revenues, which make up close to half of its federal budget, have reached a record 93 billion euros. According to the The New York Times, these exports exceed what the country is spending on its war in Ukraine. Even if European imports of oil halt completely by the end of the year, Russia can shift its oil exports to China, which has become the largest importer of Russian fossil fuels in the course of the war. Redirecting Russian gas exports to the East will require hundreds of billions and take decades, however, as Russian pipeline and LNG infrastructure is developed with the goal of supplying gas to Europe. In the long run, European divestment from Russian fossil fuels will therefore certainly hurt Moscow, as it will hurt Brussels.

But overall, it does not look like the war has so far hurt the Russian economy much more than the European economy. For instance, the ruble has hit its strongest level in seven years this summer, while the exchange rate of the euro has precipitately declined as the inevitable effect of the massive monetary inflation since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic has kicked in. It is certainly possible that the strength of the ruble is a temporary illusion, however, as Western sanctions have decreased Russian imports. Again, Russia suffers from the war economically, as does Europe.

Economic sanctions are a popular tool in the Western foreign policy tool kit. Especially since the end of World War I, sanctions have become a common alternative to open warfare. Yet, a careful examination of 115 sanctions between 1914 and 1990 has demonstrated that only in five instances can they (i.e., not additional policies) be said to have caused the desired political effect. This low rate of success is in large part the result of the “rally around the flag” effect. Economic sanctions tend to disproportionately affect the poor, which has the unintended effect of disempowering the population and playing into the hands of the victimization discourse of the target government. Often, this makes the enemy regime more popular, as in the current crisis. Putin’s approval ratings have increased from somewhere around 65% in 2021 to more than 80% since the beginning of the war.

Still, if the EU and its allies are in it “for the long haul,” perhaps they will eventually break the popular support for the war inside Russia. The recent Ukrainian successes on the battlefield may help the Russian people realize that little can be gained from continuing the war. If the world then shows its unity in solidarity with the Ukrainian people by isolating Russia, this process might be sped up. But it is precisely that unity which is lacking.

The most cited successful sanctions effort in recent history is undoubtedly the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against Apartheid South Africa, in which civil society groups around the world led the way in voluntary boycotts for decades before Britain, the United States and other countries slapped on national sanctions in the late 1980s. Such a show of global disgust with the Russian war on Ukraine is lacking. Inhabitants of Western countries might appear united in their “unshakeable” solidarity with Ukraine, but this support will come under increasing duress as the energy crisis unfolds. More importantly, there is no international unity beyond the Western world. Most countries in the Global South have taken an apathetic stance. Only a handful of small countries that had not previously put sanctions on Russia joined in the recent sanctions effort. Moreover, most of the large non-Western nations, such as Brazil, India, and China, refused to condemn the invasion and have maintained, if not expanded, trade relations with Moscow.

It is thus improbable that Western divestment from Russian fossil fuels will convince Moscow to halt its invasion, let alone induce a popular revolt against Putin. Other factors, be they of a military or diplomatic nature, will be much more decisive.

What the divestment campaign will accomplish, however, is fostering the reemergence of a bipolar world order. Even before the war, the Biden administration decided to rhetorically divide the globe into a democratic and an authoritarian camp. Now, the alienation of Russia from the West is pushing Moscow into Beijing’s arms ever more than before, thereby turning the Wilsonian crusade pitting democracy against authoritarianism into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The West should not be all too sure that it will win this cosmic battle. A global poll from 2021, for instance, demonstrated that the respondents in fifty-three countries were more concerned about the American threat against democracy in their country than they were of Russian or Chinese influence.

Much of this global distrust of the West of hinges on Washington’s interventionist foreign policy around the world, which makes for easy rhetorical fuel to help people “rally around the flag” in authoritarian countries and support the creation of anti-Western alliances. This week, for instance, Putin met with both India’s Narendra Modi and China’s Xi Jinping. Undoubtedly, Putin and Xi exchanged views on how to counter what they see as malign Western intrusion in their own traditional spheres of influence, including Ukraine and Taiwan. Whatever Westerners may think of that, many people in Russia, China and around the world agree with that sentiment.

European divestment from Russian fossil fuels will exacerbate this descent into new cold war blocs. If the EU is serious about abandoning the European-Russian natural gas infrastructure, so symbolic of Western Europe’s détente policies during the Cold War, it will eventually make way for an energy grid that connects Russia with the East instead. Indeed, in July Mongolia confirmed the onset of the construction of a Siberia-China gas pipeline through its country in 2024, while the EU signed a contract to double gas imports from NATO Partnership for Peace participant Azerbaijan.

In the United States, some segments of the foreign policy elites are starting to see the implication of the current Western strategy. Foreign Affairs, for instance, recently ran an article pressing for a strategy that is geared towards convincing Moscow that “its destructive imperial tendencies are leading it to the bleak future of becoming a vassal of China.” The authors did not oppose short-term sanctions and military aid to Kyiv, but they stressed that, in the long run, the West needs to demonstrate a desire to avoid military escalation and prevent political chaos and/or an economic meltdown inside Russia. In other words, Russia should eventually be a partner again, not a foe.

In addition to having a counterproductive economic and political impact, the severing of energy relations might lead to a much deeper political—even cultural—break-up between East and West. This rift risks the creation of a new cold war climate, which, in turn, is a precondition for intentional military escalation. This is ultimately what the current policy amounts to. Indeed, grasping for reasons why states engage in sanctions in spite of their ineffectiveness, the above-mentioned study on 20th century sanctions concluded that they often serve a more sinister goal: “leaders often use sanctions not for international coercion but for domestic mobilization, giving peace a chance in order to disarm criticism of the use of force later.” Brace yourselves.

A last defense of divestment is that it does not serve the traditional function of temporary punishment at all. Rather, breaking economic ties with Russia in the long term is seen as a virtue, because it would break Europe free from using restraint in its foreign policy toward Moscow. Western officials and pundits routinely talk about how Putin engages in “blackmailing” Europe by “weaponizing” energy when he threatens to turn off the gas tap. If the EU would not be reliant on Russian energy imports, however, Brussels would be undeterred in taking a tougher stance against the Kremlin.

Chilean Lessons for the American People

In a nationwide vote, Chilean voters recently rejected a new constitution that was being proposed to them. The rejection was surprising because Chileans had previously voted in favor of having a new constitution to replace the constitution put into place by Chilean military general Augusto Pinochet after he took power in a coup in 1973.

It’s worth revisiting that coup because it provides valuable lessons for the American people. 

In 1970, the Chilean people democratically elected a socialist named Salvador Allende to be their president. Allende did not receive a majority of the votes and, therefore, under Chile’s constitution, the election was thrown into the hands of the Chilean congress. Given that Allende had received a plurality of the votes, the congress elected him president.

Chile had the same type of governmental structure that the United States did—a national-security state, which consisted of a permanent, all-powerful military-intelligence establishment. Like the U.S. national-security establishment, the Chilean national-security establishment was extremely rightwing, anti-communist, and anti-socialist. 

It’s important to note that Allende’s election took place when the Cold War was still being waged. The Cold War was based on the notion that there was an international communist conspiracy that was supposedly based in Moscow, Russia, whose supposed aim was to place the United States and the rest of the world under communist rule. In fact, in 1970 U.S. military forces were still waging war against the communists in Vietnam, which was resulting in thousands of casualties among U.S. forces.

U.S. officials immediately deemed Allende to be a grave threat to U.S. national security. They decided that he needed to be ousted from office, notwithstanding the fact that he had been democratically elected. Rather than assassinate him, however, they instead settled on having a military coup oust him from office. 

One big obstacle was the overall commander of Chile’s armed forces, Gen. Rene Schneider. His position was that Chile’s military-intelligence establishment would not oust Allende from power because the nation’s constitution did not provide for that. Under the Chilean constitution, the nation’s president could only be ousted by impeachment or by election.

In a conspiracy based in Virginia and Washington, the CIA removed Schneider from power by orchestrating his kidnapping and assassination on the streets of Santiago. The CIA then began laying the groundwork for a coup by fomenting economic chaos within the country. As President Nixon put it to the CIA, “Make the economy scream.”

The Pentagon and the CIA then convinced their Chilean national-security counterparts that they had a moral duty to oust Allende, notwithstanding the fact that the nation’s constitution did not provide for that. The Pentagon’s and CIA’s position was that a nation’s constitution was not a suicide pact. If following the constitution would result in doom for the nation, the national-security branch of the government had to act to save the country.

For the next three years, the Chilean national-security establishment and Allende were at war with each other, just as the U.S. national-security establishment and President Kennedy went to war against each other after the Bay of Pigs disaster and after Kennedy’s resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis. (See my newest book An Encounter with Evil: The Abraham Zapruder Story as well as FFF’s book JFK’s War with the National-Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated.)

Finally, in 1973, the war between Allende and the military-intelligence establishment went violent. The military surrounded the national palace, where Allende and other members of the executive branch were situated, and attempted to assassinate him with missiles fired from fighter jets and bullets fired from high-powered rifles by ground troops. 

Allende and a few of his comrades fought back but they were no match against the overwhelming power of the national-security branch of the government. At the end of the battle, Allende was dead and replaced by Gen. Pinochet, whose national-security forces proceeded to round up some 60,000 supporters of Allende, and torture, rape, disappear, execute, or reeducate them.

All of this was done with the full support of the Pentagon and the CIA, both of whom had agents in Chile during the coup. After the round-ups, rapes, torture, executions, and reeducation commenced, U.S. officials flooded the Pinochet regime with U.S. taxpayer money to help him out.

There are valuable lessons here for the American people.

First, in any nation that has a national-security type of governmental system, the national-security part of the government will inevitably wield omnipotent power—much more power than the other parts of the government. After Pinochet took power, the legislative and judicial branches remained in existence but deferred to the omnipotent power of the military-intelligence establishment. Of course, that has also been the case here in the United States. (See National Security and Double Government by Michael J. Glennon, professor of law at Tufts University and former counsel for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.)

Second, the mindset of the U.S. national-security establishment is the same as that of Pinochet’s national-security establishment. Under that mindset, the Pentagon and the CIA wield the power to determine whether a democratically elected president constitutes a threat to national security. If they determine that he does, as a practical matter they wield the power to remove him from office, including through assassination, as they did with President Kennedy. (See JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James W. Douglass). Not surprisingly, every president since Kennedy has displayed passivity and deference to the national-security establishment, just as Congress and the Supreme Court have.

Third, in a crisis in which the nation appears to be threatened by domestic enemies, the national-security establishment will not hesitate to brutally put down such enemies, just as Pinochet and his forces did in Chile. Whether the victims are deemed to be communists, socialists, terrorists, or insurrectionists, the final outcome is not in doubt. That’s what comes with any national-security state.

The conversion of the U.S. government from a limited-government republic to a national-security state after World War II occurred without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment. The question facing the American people is the same as that facing the Chilean people: Would Americans be better off restoring their founding system of a limited-government republic and, in the process, ditching their national-security state system of government?

This article was originally featured at the Future of Freedom Foundation and is republished with permission.

Military Leadership Has Lost Its Rightwing Congregation

Last week, an open letter from every living former secretary of Defense (with the notable exception of Dick Cheney) and every living chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (with the less notable exception of H. Hugh Shelton) was published on the popular military website War on the Rocks, outlining what they perceive to be the foundational tenets of civil-military relations. While attempting to remain largely above the fray, the former leaders cannot help but to place the blame for the dramatic, recent decline in civil-military relations on anyone but themselves and their own failures in the Global War on Terror and their overt ideological shift to the left.

This esteemed and bipartisan group of leaders believes that this nation is undergoing a crisis in civil-military relations and very clearly points the finger at former President Donald Trump for this:

Many of the factors that shape civil-military relations have undergone extreme strain in recent years. Geopolitically, the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ramping up of great power conflict mean the U.S. military must simultaneously come to terms with wars that ended without all the goals satisfactorily accomplished while preparing for more daunting competition with near-peer rivals. Socially, the pandemic and the economic dislocations have disrupted societal patterns and put enormous strain on individuals and families. Politically, military professionals confront an extremely adverse environment characterized by the divisiveness of affective polarization that culminated in the first election in over a century when the peaceful transfer of political power was disrupted and in doubt. Looking ahead, all of these factors could well get worse before they get better…[Emphasis added]

Data seems to support their conclusion that the military is indeed facing a crisis of confidence. In a fascinating November 2021 poll, the Ronald Reagan Foundation found that trust in the military has “precipitously” dropped across practically the entire American populace between 2018 and November 2021:

Trust and confidence in the military is down across the major demographic subgroups, including age, gender, and party identification. Since 2018, those reporting the highest level of confidence in the military have fallen among Republicans by 34 points to 53%, Democrats by 17 points to 42%, and Independents by 28 points to 38%. The highest level of confidence is down 25 points among both men and women. And it is declining among all age groups as well, down 25 points among those over 65, by 26 points among those ages 45- 64, and 28 points among those 30-44.

One of the leading consequences of this trend has been that the military, and especially the Army, is facing a historic shortfall in its recruiting for the year despite the economy performing poorly. Normally, military recruitment fares well during economic downturns, when desperate people are more easily convinced to place themselves into indentured servitude in order to provide for their families.

Surely, this rapid decline in confidence among Republicans poses a dramatic threat to the health of the U.S. Armed Forces. Was that what prompted this letter? That the eroding confidence of the nation was concretely impacting the ability of the military to deter and if necessary defeat an enemy at war? No doubt, the military leaders must have concluded that they are at least partially to blame for this outcome?

A term of art in the military’s academic and political wings, “civil-military relations” refers to the relationship between the military and the various other institutions in society, most importantly with the branches of the federal government, but also more broadly with segments of or the body politic of a nation. In general, the analysis of civil-military relations is largely a navel-gazing exercise by senior officers and academics in measuring and seeking ways to improve these relations, however defined (in the military, we use a different, more explicit, term of art for this sort of inward-facing and self-affirming group activity).

The goal of this highly smug and pompous sub-discipline of the military sciences is the maintenance of a high degree of trust (and consequently deference) between the military and the other institutions in society. Taken at face value, this is to preserve and protect the democratic institutions of society from the military; it is certainly only a coincidence that a society skeptical of its military is reluctant to fund it or give it power. As such, it should be no surprise that the fault nearly always lies elsewhere when a decline in civil-military relations is observed.

According to MSN, the letter originated in early 2022 when retired General Martin Dempsey approached a fellow faculty member and scholar of civil-military relations at Duke University after “Trump and some of his advisers alarmed Pentagon leaders with their rhetoric and ideas.”

We will set aside for the moment the claim that Mr. Dempsey became suddenly concerned with the decline in civil-military relations well over a year after Mr. Trump left office and at the same time that the United States was escalating its military involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. More importantly, the separation of the “geopolitical” and “political” causes seem artificial, perhaps even odd, and in my mind obscure the true causes for the precipitous decline in the confidence of the American people in the military: the disastrous conclusion of the war in Afghanistan and the long, leftward ideological march of military leadership since the Obama administration. After all, in the famous words of Clausewitz, “war is a mere continuation of politics by other means,” and what could be worse for a politician than a war that went terribly?

Indeed, I was officially reprimanded for publishing an article for the Libertarian Institute about my experience in Kabul shortly after returning home. To be fair, I deserved it and accepted the punishment because I deliberately disregarded the proper procedures for publishing an article while still on active duty. At the time, however, I did not know that there was an actual order prohibiting the publishing of any type of eyewitness accounts about our experience.

In fact, the political pressure to prevent any discussion of Afghanistan from re-entering the public consciousness remains so great that at recent events held by soldiers to memorialize the one-year anniversary of the suicide attack in Kabul, Army leaders ordered soldiers to not post anything on social media about the event under pain of punishment. Laughably, they were told this was to preserve operational security. In reality it has everything to do with the dismal political situation the current administration finds itself in ahead of the midterm elections. Any re-emergence of this extraordinarily embarrassing event would no doubt further degrade the public’s confidence in the White House and by extension the members of its political party. For the military’s leadership that cannot be risked, truth be damned, so soldiers are silenced and forced to internalize their grief.

For the most part, Democrats have historically had a lower opinion of the military that got only lower after the disastrous withdrawal. For Republicans, however, the conclusion of the war in Afghanistan was the wake-up call that something was wrong with the military. I expect this trend to continue to worsen on the American Right.

Critiques that the military leadership has been captured by cultural left-wingers is rampant among right-wing media outlets, and not without good reason. President Joe Biden’s recent prime-time speech is an excellent example of the acceleration of this phenomenon. In the wake of a raid specifically directed by President Biden on his principal political rival’s home based around technicalities, and against a backdrop of blood red floodlights illuminating Independence Hall, the president delivered the most deeply divisive and partisan speech in recent memory flanked by two faceless United States Marines.

In the first few minutes of the speech, President Biden clearly laid out “his” argument that Donald Trump’s base, which at a minimum includes tens of millions of people, literally “threaten the very foundation of our republic.” The implication is clear. Military force is behind him, and what is the military for except to defend the foundations of our republic? Even mainstream media outlets dismissed the ridiculous excuse given by the administration for the presence of the Marines and were forced to contend with the obvious implications of this imagery, even if in their own ham-handed way.

Whatever they are, senior military leaders are not stupid people. I do not believe that they are unaware of the consequences of their collective actions, nor do I think that they have no overarching strategy. Its not like them to haphazardly grasp in the dark for the next course of action, or to be at a loss for what to do.

From absurdly participating in transgender politics, to mandatory COVID vaccines, to participating in the ridiculous impeachment debacle, the military is prioritizing the extension of its own influence, money, and power rather than defense of the nation. At worst, to right wing Americans the military leadership is actively participating in the culture war on the side of the Left. In my mind, senior military leaders are making a calculated decision to alienate themselves from their most important demographic, the ones who compromise the vast majority of their recruits (conservatives). The consequences of this shift in the institution of the military will be profound, and likely disastrous, regardless of the specific outcome. I wonder who they will blame for the next decade of failures?

The National Football League’s Manipulative Militarism

The National Football League (NFL) is a massive, capitalist endeavor. It provides wildly profitable entertainment, is adept at steering taxpayer money its way, and is a premier collaborator in our participatory fascist social order.

Capitalist culture is relentlessly anti-capitalist. As such, the NFL (a privately owned organization) makes for a good villain. Hollywood cast it as the “Evil Corporation” in the 2015 film Concussion.

The film features this line:

The NFL owns a day of the week. The same day the Church used to own. Now it’s theirs.

The implication that the NFL is as powerful as the medieval Catholic Church is downright adorable. Because, whereas skeptics raised reasonable doubts about the existence of the Christian God, no one doubts the existence of the deity the NFL venerates in its 32 tax-subsidized, stadium-temples. It’s called the Pentagon and it is vastly more powerful than the Holy Catholic Church ever was. It’s an actual god in our society, the Apollo to our American Zeus: mass democracy.

Democracy might be the God that failed to secure individual liberty, but it sure is good at securing national security budgets. Its think tank-monasteries are filled with obedient intellectuals who generate pro-imperial discourse. Its Hollywood rhapsodes praise the power of D.C. and its primacy. And the NFL is expert at providing a space for citizens to worship permanent militarism.

There are ceremonies, fly overs, and moments of silence. There are full-field flag displays, upbeat soldier profiles and always, always, always the National Anthem.

The military has even used stadiums as training grounds and maintains the capability to drop parachute commandos from a Lockheed C-130 Hercules onto the football field. The military might be providing support for Al Qaeda in Yemen, but hot biscuits, parachute commandos!? That is awesome!

The military previously paid the NFL for its PSYOP services. Following congressional controversy, the payments reportedly stopped. These days the NFL is just doing its unpaid, patriotic, participatory fascist duty. The effect is the same: public reverence for the war machine.

To be sure, the NFL might have engaged in negligence and fraud as its players suffered concussion related dementia, but the U.S. military has killed millions of children. And while there has been an alarming trend of suicide among NFL employees, since the 9/11 attacks combat soldiers and veterans have killed themselves in the tens of thousands. Four times as many soldiers have killed themselves than have been killed in combat.

The worst thing about the NFL is its relationship to government, but Hollywood would have us believe it to be an uber villain in its own right. A demon that must be held to account…by the government.

The Evil Corporation trope is fun because corporations have been implicated in much evil.

But who created the modern corporate model? The government, that’s who. As Chalmers Johnson explained:

The multinational corporation partly replicates one of the earliest institutions of imperialism, the chartered company. In such classically mercantilist organizations, the imperialist country authorized a private company to exploit and sometimes govern a foreign territory on a monopoly basis and then split the profits between government officials and private investors.

Lockheed Martin and Raytheon haven’t been put in charge of Ukraine, nor were Exxon Mobil and the Heinz Corporation made proconsuls of Venezuela. But they certainly reap the benefits of America’s benevolent global hegemony.

Under communism the government owns the corporations. Under democratic capitalism the corporations own the government. Communism is a lot worse because while Coca-Cola might be inadvertently trying to kill you with its government-subsidized, tariff protected, high fructose corn syrup beverages, communism starves its own citizens to death.

Yet our government likes to beat up on the corporations. Congress dragged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell before it this summer. Critique Goodell all day long, sure, but he’s not responsible for losing the Afghanistan War.

In spring, Congress set its sights on the Hertz car rental corporation. Hertz also uses football to market itself (and always pays for it), but this didn’t protect it from being cast as the Evil Corporation by the U.S. Senate. While Hertz might have initiated false arrests (conducted by government police employees), this scandal is nothing compared to the massive injustice of the federal government’s decades long War on Drugs.

Come the Super Bowl, academics, pundits and talking points-sayers will obsess about its corporate advertisements. Never forget what the NFL is primarily selling: imperialism, militarism, and war without end.

We Need More Giuliani Moments

After 9/11, the principles in arch neocon Paul Wolfowitz’s notorious 1992 Defense Planning Guidance were embraced by the George W. Bush administration. Subsequently, throughout successive Democrat and Republican administrations, the warmongers running the National Security State have been in pursuit of nothing less than world domination.

After the fall of the Soviet Union left the United States as the sole remaining superpower, the Pentagon decided to prevent the rise of any country or conceivable alliance of countries that could ever again challenge American military power. Thus, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, out of fear the American people gave their rulers a blank check and entrusted their foreign policy—the most important and consequential aspect of what the U.S. government does—to people whose imperial designs would make a James Bond villain blush.

In 2007, Ron Paul heroically threw a monkey wrench into this bloody scheme by telling the American people the other side of the story: what our ruling class did to provoke the terrorists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans.

He explained the attack was a prime example of what the CIA calls “blowback,” the unintended consequences from secret or unknown foreign policies. The unfortunate reality is that such instances are seen as an opportunity to gain leverage over the public by neoconservatives and other hawks. The nature of blowback, and indeed 9/11 itself, is that it has the dangerous potential to catch us plebs off guard, leaving citizens vulnerable to intense manipulation via propaganda, particularly narrative management.

Dr. Paul educated GOP audiences who tragically had no clue that we were attacked over a fight Bill Clinton started by brutally sanctioning and ceaselessly bombing Iraq for eight years, killing hundreds of thousands. The bombing was launched from U.S. military bases peppered throughout the Arabian Peninsula. He explained these bases were located on territory Saudi and Egyptian al Qaeda members considered holy land. As a result, our nation paid a price. He asked are we prepared to persist with this hyper-interventionist foreign policy now knowing the unnecessary risks? How would we feel if somebody else did this to us?

The American government’s solution was to wage seven new wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, and Yemen plus countless secret proxy wars which have devastated northern Africa. Conservative estimates suggest millions have been killed directly or indirectly as a result of these illegal, unconstitutional wars.

We are now at a crucial moment where libertarian and antiwar activists must urgently get out ahead of coming wars and oppose them before they occur. We can never have this kind of blood on our hands again. Our movement and the new leadership of the Libertarian Party should be the loudest voices opposing the Joe Biden regime’s economic war in Afghanistan. This callous policy threatens to kill more Afghans than the 20 year war and occupation. The “Great Power Competition” fights the Pentagon, the neocons, and liberal interventionist hawks have picked could get us all killed in a nuclear war.

We must be the most prominent political opposition to Biden’s unprecedented escalation and brinksmanship with China, especially over Taiwan. We need to be the loudest voices calling for diplomacy with Russia in the midst of this merciless NATO proxy war in Ukraine. There are many good allies on the left and the right we can work with to have an extraordinary impact.

We have to explain, in plain terms, to the American people that it is Washington’s decades of myriad hostile actions and military provocations against both Russia and China which have raised tensions so high and plunged relations with both countries to their lowest points since the previous Cold War.

Our libertarian movement should also raise the alarm that, as executive vice president of the Quincy Institute Trita Parsi has warned, under Joe Biden we have come closer to war with Iran than we ever were under Donald Trump, Barack Obama, or even George W. Bush.

We urgently need more Giuliani moments.


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