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  February 1, 2010

New mindset for US foreign policy? Pt.2

Peter Dale Scott: If you unleash the dogs of war it's not easy to pull them back.
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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay, coming to you from Washington. Now joining us from Berkeley, California, is Peter Dale Scott. He's a former Canadian diplomat and professor of English at the University of California Berkeley. He's a poet, a writer, and a researcher, and his books include Drugs, Oil, and War; The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America; and The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War. Thanks for joining us, Peter.

PETER DALE SCOTT: I'm glad to be here.

JAY: So, Peter, in the first segment of the interview we talked about that Obama didn't have a heck of a lot of choice, in the sense that it's the whole weight of the military foreign policy antiterrorism establishment that establishes policy somewhat less than the president does. What are the objectives? What has Obama bought into here?

SCOTT: Well, Obama personally, I think, was probably sincere when he said he wants to have the equivalent of a kind of surge, so that they're in a better position, and that he would like to start pulling troops out and negotiate. I think that's his personal objective. But I agree with Andrew Bacevich, who says that when you unleash the dogs of war, you can't just pull them back in again easily. And Johnson, again, was in the same situation. You know, when I was a diplomat, I was in the Canadian Foreign Service, and one of my Canadian superiors said—he said, for the Americans, there are two times you must never negotiate: one is when you're behind, and the other is when you're ahead. And, of course, it's always either one or the other. Well, right now, we're very clearly behind in Afghanistan, and I think Obama would like to think that they will get on top of the situation, and then that will make the Taliban want to negotiate. But I think a lot of observers think that he's fooling himself.

JAY: Now, as you know, I interviewed Zbigniew Brezinski recently, and he wrote the book The Grand Chessboard, where he talks about the big Euro-Asian objectives for US foreign policy and the need to dominate Eurasia if you're going to dominate the world, which he of course says the US should, for the sake of fighting global anarchy. To what extent do you think this fundamental outlook of the need for US dominance, to essentially be the world's policeman, in the way they see it themselves, at least the way they message it, how much has this informed Obama's decision in Afghanistan?

SCOTT: Well, it certainly informs the vision of people around him. It was the neocon vision for the world. Brzezinski was certainly not a neocon, but on this point he sounds very much like them. You know, when [Paul] Wolfowitz and [Lewis "Scooter"] Libby were working for Cheney, when Cheney was secretary of defense back in 1992, they came up with this defense planning guidance draft which was later disowned, but it was the same thing, that we must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role. And then there was a JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff] strategic document, Joint Vision 2020, which for all I know is still in force, calling for "full spectrum dominance." And this is a quote from the document: full spectrum dominance means the ability of US forces operating alone or with our allies to defeat any adversary and control any situation across the range of military operations. I mean, this talk is just insane, but it is the language of geopolitics, and I think it's the language that people learn in military schools. And that's why it's wrong to think it was just neocons. I've written something very recently and I'd like to quote it: all thought is socially conditioned, and at the center of large, highly developed societies, all bureaucratic thought is bureaucratically conditioned. But at the heart of dominant societies, this bureaucratic thinking slowly acquires the features of a dominance mindset, and those conditioned by this mindset come to participate in what I call the war machine. We saw it in Britain. And ironically, you know, when Britain started talking about global dominance, it was Sir Halford Mackinder, and the year was 1919, when Britain was already, after World War I, destined to no longer play the role that it played before. It's a way, I think, of trying to keep the morale up. And I think that Brzezinski, when he wrote that book in 1997, he was worried that America would not be interested in playing the dominance role. And he, of course, is by background a Pole, for whom the great enemy in the world was Russia. And so he was trying to cheer America on to do things which it's not capable of doing. His metaphor is The Grand Chessboard, which is, of course, a zero-sum model for world politics. The good sense of geopolitics is the way it's been talked about by, say, Kissinger, when he says it's seeking a mode of equilibrium in the world. And that, I think, is [inaudible] I think a better model than a chessboard for the world would be a canoe, an overloaded canoe with some very heavy players and it, and the art of geopolitics is to learn not to capsize the canoe.

JAY: And when you look at President Obama's own statements during the election campaign when asked about foreign policy, he always rooted himself very clearly in what he said was the tradition of American pragmatic foreign policy, starting with Truman. He even included George Bush senior, Reagan. He never differentiated himself fundamentally, other than with George Bush junior. But the idea, even his opposition to the war in Iraq, had to do with that it was a stupid war that would weaken America's ability to project power. So if you look at, in terms of Latin America, Afghanistan, his relationship with Russia, in terms of this either change of mindset or traditional, dominant theory of dominance, where do you put him after one year?

SCOTT: Well, as long as he's trying to look forward to a second term, he's going to fit into Washington. And I watched Brzezinski's interview with you—a very good interview, I thought—and I can see how Brzezinski repeatedly said that he's now no longer inside the system; he's an outside adviser and remote from the way power decisions are made. I think that's true. That allows him to be much wiser than he was when he wrote his book or when he had his famous interview with Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998. He is a wise man now, and almost by definition that means he doesn't have as much influence. The wise are not the people who prevail in Washington. So that Obama, now that he's at the heart of things, he's got to live with his joint chiefs, he's got to live with his Democratic Party. I mean, a lot of us like to think that democracy is the answer, but if we mean by democracy the two-party system that we have, the two-party system is very definitely part of the problem, because he is going to get attacked. If he does anything to pull back from Afghanistan, if he does anything that looks like he's knuckling under to those outside forces there, he will be jumped on by members of both parties, who are, of course, all elected with the same money from the same big donors. We used to emphasize how the big donors came from the military-industrial complex, but we have to add to that now, having seen what's happened in the last couple of years, they've come also from Wall Street and the big banks. They're all part of the same—.

JAY: Well, you've written a lot about another piece of the military complex, the antiterrorism security complex, if you will. And in the next segment of our interview, let's talk about them and their role in influencing US policy. Please join us for the next segment of our interview with Peter Dale Scott.


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