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War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Remember the good old days? The US and the Soviet Union constantly staring each other down? Mutual Assured Destruction? Perpetual brushfire and proxy wars punctuated by deadly and disastrous conflicts like Korea and Vietnam?

They’re baaaaaaack …

America’s War Party (a faction that sprawls across Democratic and Republican affiliation lines) has been looking for something to replace the Cold War ever since it ended.

As the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact collapsed, the rationale for spending one of every four US government budget dollars on a military jobs program and corporate welfare for “defense” contractors evaporated. With peace breaking out, American politicians faced the daunting task of remaining relevant without an external boogeyman to scare the bejabbers out of us commoners.

Bush the Elder and Bill Clinton tried hard to keep the scare up with Iraq, but after Desert Storm nobody really bought Saddam Hussein as a major threat to world peace. It took 9/11 to really put the War Party back in charge. They took full advantage, joyfully dancing on 3,000 graves while they dragged the US into interminable and expensive fiascoes in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, all the while grooming a reluctant China as the next monster under the foreign policy bed.

All that was wearing thin, too, even after US president Barack Obama drew his “red line” in Syria and went to war without so much as a do-you-mind to Congress, seemingly unable to decide from day to day whether the enemy was the Islamic State or the Assad regime.

Enter Vladimir Putin. He’s perfectly suited to serve as the War Party’s new hobgoblin: Former KGB agent, head of an authoritarian regime, already on the US enemies list after frustrating US ambitions in Georgia and Ukraine … what’s not to like?

As I write this, Putin is escalating Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict, going from airstrikes against Islamic State targets to having the Russian navy fire cruise missiles in support of a regime ground offensive.

Frankly, Putin seems to be going gangbusters at  one of the two jobs Obama can’t seem to decide between (liquidating the Islamic State as a military force) while making it clear that the other job (“regime change” in Syria) is no longer on the table unless we want to go back to the days of two superpowers brandishing nukes at each other.

No more solitaire for the American empire. It’s back to high-stakes poker. Which, of course, is exactly what War Party politicians on both sides of the aisle want. Gambling with our money and lives is their bread and butter.

Can we build a real American peace movement to call the War Party’s bluff? Our lives may depend on it.

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Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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