Today’s top news story in the International Herald Tribune is that Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, came back from his vacation in New Hampshire, and his visit with George W. Bush, and made a stunning announcement. The world faces only two choices, he said, both of them involving bombs. Either Iran gives up its plans to build a nuclear bomb, or it gets bombed.
‘Peace and Prosperity’ are the traditional twin goals of modern, democratic public policy. Both appear to be giving us the slip. Prosperity is disappearing for all the reasons described in these Markets and Moneys for the past eight years . We repeat them today, just so we don’t forget: the ‘boom’ of the last 10 years was phony. In America (and Britain), it was based on debt, not on increases in productivity, output, or rising earnings. That is why the average person has seen no real income growth. Attempts by the manipulators to keep the phony boom going only make it worse… by increasing amounts of debt and bad investments.
As to peace, who wants it? Like so many other things, the desire for peace comes in cycles.
After a war, people crave it more than anything else. Before a war, peace is often the last thing they want.
Paul Craig Roberts, former undersecretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, is indignant about it:
“The Bush regime says it is going to designate part of Iran’s military – the Revolutionary Guards – a terrorist organization, whose bases and facilities Bush intends to bomb along with Iran’s nuclear energy sites. Three U.S. aircraft carrier strike forces are deployed off Iran. B-2 Stealth bombers are being fitted to carry 30,000 pound ‘bunker-buster’ bombs to use against hardened sites. Politicised U.S. generals assert that Iran is providing arms and aid to the Iraqi resistance to the U.S. occupation. The media are feeding the U.S. population the same propaganda about nonexistent Iranian weapons of mass destruction that they fed us about nonexistent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. A former CIA Middle East field officer, Robert Baer, has written in Time magazine that the Bush regime has decided to attack the Revolutionary Guards within the next six months. Remember the ‘cakewalk war’? Well, this time the neocons think that an attack on the Revolutionary Guards will free Iran from Islamic influence and cause Iranians to back the U.S. against their own government.
“Lies, unprovoked aggression, and delusional expectations – the same ingredients that produced the Iraq catastrophe – all over again. The entire Bush regime and both political parties are complicit, along with the media and U.S. allies.”
War appeals to Americans, for reasons also described and explained to long-suffering readers in these columns. Like it or not, the USA is the world’s leading empire . Fish gotta swim; birds gotta fly; and empires gotta live by the sword until they are finally put to death by it. War also appeals to Americans, more than to, say, Germans or Japanese, because war has been good to them. They came out of the two big wars of the last century ahead of the game; while other nations’ economies were destroyed, the United States gained market share… and gained credits. No nation was owed more money by more foreigners than the United States of America, following both WWI and WWII…
But now it is more than half a century later. Now, no nation OWES more money to more foreigners than the USA. Relatively speaking, Americans get poorer while the rest of the world gets richer. But the U.S. military is still Numero Uno; is it really any wonder America loves it so… and wants to use it?
And speaking of the U.S. military, a recent Newsweek cover story on the search for Osama bin Laden asserts that instead of bombing caves like when the search for Osama began, the U.S. military wanted to “fight on a grander scale where it could show off its mobility and power.” And how did they manage that? By invading Iraq, of course.
Newsweek continues: “Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was on Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board and, at the time, a close confidant of the SecDef. In November 2001, Gingrich told a NEWSWEEK reporter, ‘There’s a feeling we’ve got to do something that counts – and bombing caves is not something that counts.'”
“Not in the realm of public spectacle, it’s no. You can’t send in special ops to put a bullet between bin Laden’s eyes and expect too much mileage out of it. You can’t telegraph it for weeks or months in advance. Nor can you have TV cameras set up for the decisive moment. You can trot out bin Laden’s corpse after the deed is done, but its utility is limited; it’s not as if the video can be run in an endless loop to cover the talking heads on cable TV for more than a day or two.
“But a ‘shock and awe’ bombing campaign on a major urban center? That’s got staying power. It’s a storyline that’ll last for weeks. There’s ample opportunity for live coverage as it’s happening, punctuated by ample down time during which the pundit class (and a host of Pentagon-approved retired generals) can pontificate about the significance of the moment. It is, in short, a public spectacle of spectacular magnitude.”
But now, the International Herald Tribune tells us that terrorism has been pushed out of the limelight.
“Bad credit cited as riskier than terrorism to U.S.,” says the headline. The story tells us that the National Association for Business Economics polled its members and found that 50% more of them were worried about loan defaults and excessive debt than were about terrorism.
Terrorism poses a tiny statistical danger to Americans… but never any real danger to the USA. Instead, the Bush Administration correctly identified it not as a threat, but as an opportunity… to spend more money and boss people around. Trouble was, the money being spent hadn’t been earned yet; we wonder if it ever will be.
Markets and Money