The Fallacy of ‘Regime Change’ Strategies

“Regime change” or destabilizing sanctions are Official Washington’s policy options of choice in dealing with disfavored nations, but these aggressive strategies have proved harmful and counterproductive, says ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Many variables are involved in the messy predicaments in the Middle East, but one way of framing the history and issues of U.S. policy toward the region is in terms of the approaches that have been taken toward so-called rogue regimes. That term, one should hasten to add, obscures more than it enlightens. But it has been in general use for a long time. Take it as shorthand to refer to regimes that have come to be considered especially troublesome and are subjected to some degree of ostracism and punishment.

Three basic approaches are available in formulating policy toward such a regime: (1) keep ostracizing and punishing it in perpetuity; (2) try to change the regime; or (3) negotiate and do business with it, to constrain it and to influence its actions. There are some contradictions between the approaches. Any regime that is led to believe that it is going to be overturned anyway, or that it will be perpetually punished anyway, lacks incentive to make concessions in a negotiation.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a press conference on Sept. 9, 2012. (State Department photo)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a press conference on Sept. 9, 2012. (State Department photo)

The approaches that outside powers, especially Western powers and above all the United States, have taken toward Middle Eastern regimes that have come to be considered rogue have varied — not only from one state to another but also over time in the policy toward any one state.

Iraq was subject to punishment for a long time, with the prevailing outlook not involving urgency to try different things. The perspective, as voiced by Secretary of State Colin Powell, was that Saddam Hussein was “in his box.”

Then suddenly the policy became one of forceful regime change, stimulated by nothing other than such a project has been on the neoconservative agenda and that the surge in militancy in the American public mood after the 9/11 terrorist attack, even though Iraq had nothing to do with that event, finally made realization of that agenda item politically possible.

Libya under Muammar Gaddafi was subject to years of punishment and ostracism. As far as international sanctions were concerned, this did have a specific declared objective: involving the turning over of named suspects in the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1988. Once Qaddafi surrendered the suspects, real negotiation ensued. It resulted in an agreement that ended (while opening up to international inspection) Libya’s unconventional weapons programs and confirmed the Libyan regime’s exit from international terrorism.

Then, after an internal insurrection broke out in Libya, the idea took root — first in Western European capitals, although Washington would go along — that the situation should be exploited to intervene on behalf of the rebels and to help overthrow the regime. Regime change supplanted negotiation.

President George W. Bush in a flight suit after landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln to give his "Mission Accomplished" speech about the Iraq War.

President George W. Bush in a flight suit on May 1, 2003, after landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln to give his “Mission Accomplished” speech about the Iraq War.

Policy toward Syria has been a mixed bag all along. There has been lots of punishment, but without some of the isolation to which other regimes have been subjected; the United States kept diplomatic relations with Syria even after placing it on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Once an internal revolt broke out in Syria, a situation similar to Libya arose, in that some outsiders (principally Gulf Arab states and Turkey) wanted to take advantage of the situation to topple the Assad regime. With Russian and Iranian help, and also for internal reasons, the regime has managed to hang on.

But “Assad must go” became a slogan elsewhere, and many in the West took regime change to be an objective. There was negotiation leading to the surrender and disposal of Syrian chemical weapons, but some, including in the United States, did not like that approach.

While there has been some backing away from the idea that Assad must go, others outside Syria say that still should be an objective. In short, there has been conflict and controversy, even within the United States let alone in any larger coalition, over just what the objective should be.

Iran has been subject to much punishment in the form of sanctions. Then after Hassan Rouhani’s election in 2013 there was real negotiation on an important issue. This led to the conclusion and implementation of a multilateral agreement that places limits on, and subjects to international scrutiny, Iran’s nuclear program.

A Balance Sheet

Before turning to a balance sheet regarding the results of these different approaches, some observations are in order about what has too often been overlooked with two of the approaches. The sustained use of punishment in the form of sanctions often has been accompanied by confusion about exactly what the objectives are — if that objective is to be anything besides punishment for punishment’s sake, which does not advance anyone’s interests.

An objective might be to make it directly harder for the targeted regime to do certain things, such as to procure advanced military technology. Or it might be to try to provoke an internal revolt, although this rarely works, for several reasons including where the blame for the pain usually falls.

Often the rationale for the sanctions is that it is an inducement to get the targeted regime to change its policies. But this does not work unless there is a positive alternative to the negative one of punishment and sanctions, and unless there is a firm expectation that the sanctions will end if the regime chooses a different, specific, identifiable course. And that is what has often been overlooked and missing.

Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shortly before he was murdered on Oct. 20, 2011.

Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shortly before he was murdered on Oct. 20, 2011.

This explains the years of failure of imposing sanctions on Iran without providing any positive alternative. If such an alternative had been offered, a nuclear agreement could have been reached years earlier, when Iran’s nuclear program was much smaller.

As for regime change, one needs to reflect first of all on just how irregular and extreme is the notion that if we don’t like someone else’s government, forcefully overthrowing it is to be considered as just another policy option. Such a notion is contrary to tenets of international law and international order than have been in effect since the Peace of Westphalia in the Seventeenth Century.

Also overlooked when regime change is turned to is how other people may have different ideas from our own about what rulers are legitimate and who should get their support — a factor in considering the status of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Overlooked all too often as well is what comes after the ruler we don’t like is gone. A simple faith that something better is bound to fall into place has led to the problems we have seen in spades in Iraq and Libya.

Now for the balance sheet. The results of regime change in Iraq have been too glaringly bad to need a full recounting. They include a civil war that has never ended and has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands, has disrupted the Iraqi economy, and has created enormous flows of refugees and displaced persons. These include the birth of a major terrorist group that we now know as ISIS. And for those who don’t like to see Iranian influence anywhere, the war that toppled Saddam resulted in the single biggest increase in Iranian influence in the region in at least the last couple of decades.

Libya has seen prolonged chaos since the removal of Gaddafi. Contending governments based in different parts of the country have competed for power, with only tentative and fragile progress made recently toward a reconciliation. The economy, despite the oil resources, is in shambles. Instability has been exported from Libya in the form of both men and materiel, and ISIS established in Libya its biggest presence outside of Iraq and Syria.

In Syria, the closest thing to successes have come from the bits of negotiation and diplomacy that have come into play: those involving the Assad regime’s surrender of chemical weapons and some partial and temporary cease-fires. The war in Syria — the war itself, not any particular political outcome in Damascus — has been a major breeder of extremism and the threat of instability spilling over borders.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Actions against the regime have brought counteractions not only from external supporters of the regime but also internal players who see the alternatives as worse for them. Moreover, it would be difficult to escape a similar conclusion from the point of view of our own interests — that is, that the most feasible alternatives to the current Syrian regime would not be those hoped-for moderate forces the building up of which always seems to fill short, but instead radical extremists.

The brightest spot in this regional picture is found in the one place where the policy move by the United States, in cooperation with international partners, has been in the direction of negotiation. That involves Iran, and the big result so far has been the agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear program, which certainly is one of the most significant steps in recent years on behalf of nuclear nonproliferation.

It is just one issue, but an important one. And lest we forget, it was the issue about which anti-Iran activists had for so long been crying most loudly. What comes later in dealings with the Iranian regime will depend in large part on the continued attempts of hardliners in more than one capital, but especially in Washington, to sabotage the nuclear agreement.

But at least there has been an unshackling of diplomacy in the Middle East in the sense of establishing, even in the absence of full diplomatic relations, something closer than before to a businesslike dialogue with one of the most significant states about issues of mutual concern (including countering ISIS, an issue on which U.S. and Iranian interests run parallel).

It should have been apparent, on an a priori basis alone, that overthrowing foreign government we don’t happen to like is not to be considered as just another foreign policy option, even for a superpower. And it should have been apparent that punishment for the sake of punishment doesn’t do anyone any good, beyond registering our dislikes.

When we take into account the actual record of results from the different approaches that have been taken toward regimes we choose to call rogue, these conclusions should be all the more obvious.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

45 comments for “The Fallacy of ‘Regime Change’ Strategies

  1. Ted Tripp
    August 2, 2016 at 16:23

    The costly regime change in Ukraine, instigated by the NED, CIA, and State Department for years should be put on the balance sheet as well. I understand the neocons are just itching to regime-change Putin as well.

  2. Northern Observer
    August 2, 2016 at 09:37

    If Clinton and her foreign policy advisers, you know the guys who helped make Iraq happen, think they can get away with ramping up the conflict the Ukraine and Syria they have another thing coming. Actions have consequences, as the US learned in pushing the Soviets out of Afghanistan, and the consequences of “success” in Ukraine and Syria is chaos and death. Don’t imagine for a second that the US can remain untouched by such forces. It really brings me to question the integrity and intelligence of the senior sitting members of Americas foreign policy establishment. Either they are on someones payroll or they simply don’t have the character or raw intelligence to understand issues and speak up about it.

  3. Kim
    August 1, 2016 at 16:57

    The rational of this regime change policy is flawed for a number of reasons, but what is clear is that those in positions of power in our country do not understand human behavior. If the goal is ultimately changing regions with despots and dictators that oppress people and destroy their ability to rise and making them more “free”, the only way to futher that goal is by leaning on others that are more of a “model” of ideal behavior and making them the poster children of success. Instead of all this nonsense in Syria, Libya, and Iraq, the US could have made Jordan, with its moderate and capable King, the case for modernization so that other Arab countries could see that progressing towards a more modern society was good for the elites and well as the peasants. When others in the Arab world saw that Jordan was thriving, while their own societies and economies were stagnating – through global pressure as needed, they would then have been more likely to adopt more modern cultures. Instead, our “leaders” decided to align themselves with the great SATAN of Saudi Arabia as the model of how to behave in the Muslim world. This was the first mistake and it needed to be “undone” a LONG TIME AGO. Our government “leaders” cannot go around the world proclaiming that they are for freedom when they support a regime that stones and decpaitates women in the streets, locks up those who dare question the Saudi royal family, kills homosexuals without a second thought, and treates women as sub-human.

    Let’s face it – the leadership in DC is a COMPLETE FAILURE because they fail to understand that the best way to provide incentives is through a model that others can see. However, in order to do that now, this country, that is now controlled by a slave economic system, must be changed before we can help anyone else. We have gone so far off the path of true democracy (through slave trade agreements and oligarchy models of business and a lack of workers rights) that we have nothing to offer the world because our country is a failed model – due to the money and (through it) corruption in our goverment that has made a mockery of our ideals of personal freedoms. As my great-grandmother, who died at 98 and lived through the Great Depression, used to say, “You should not worry about sweeping someone else’s porch until you clean up yours first!”

    At this point in time, our “democracy” has ALOT of at-home porch sweeping to do before we can undue the global damage that has already been done.

  4. J'hon Doe II
    August 1, 2016 at 09:24

    July 30, 2016 at 3:37 pm
    I find with experience that a team of lawyers, and even the Supreme Court, is far more likely to seek only a prepaid misinterpretation of law, and almost never looks at the intentions of Congress or the Constitutional Convention. When they do, most just select fragments of debate that contradict the whole but fit their own prejudice.

    There is seldom much concern for truth or even justice; self-interest rules.

    So so true, Erik.

  5. Bob in Portland
    July 31, 2016 at 13:45

    There is something happening at the Incirlik air base right now. Erdogan wants to “inspect” the base because this essentially American air base was used by the rebels during the failed coup. The US stores fifty to ninety nukes there. You’d think that this would crack the American media. Guess not.

  6. Bob Van Noy
    July 31, 2016 at 11:38

    “It should have been apparent, on an a priori basis alone, that overthrowing foreign government we don’t happen to like is not to be considered as just another foreign policy option, even for a superpower. And it should have been apparent that punishment for the sake of punishment doesn’t do anyone any good, beyond registering our dislikes.”

    Thank you Paul R. Pillar for that statement. This is what I find so personally frustrating about American Foreign a Policy; that it seems so naïve. When one reads comments of negotiations by Sergey Lavrov, for instance, one can instantly see the clarity of thought, the diplomacy, the understanding of complexity of international relations and of sovereignty of nations. Surely it is those characteristics that indicate statesmanship. America has been incapable of statesmanship since the Kennedy Administration.
    The other truth that Paul Pillar points out is the seeming lack of understanding in neocon dogma, of the possibility that their theories are simply wrong. Which they are…

    • Bob Van Noy
      July 31, 2016 at 11:52

      In academia, there is the underlying concept of peer review that offers the necessary criticism to any given theory. While one can argue the fine points of such review; it surely offers, at least, a counter to the kind Of incestuous dogma that is common in all bureaucratic endeavors and seems to be a particular problem in our State Department.

  7. Sam
    July 31, 2016 at 07:49

    Lately I cannot see the comments on this site until I post a comment. I have cookies blocked. Does anyone know the cause?

  8. July 31, 2016 at 04:37

    ISIS/Daesh/Isil/Al qaeda/ al Nusra Front/ Jabhat Fatehal Sham . All straight out of SEARS summer catalogue of TAKFIRIS/. Created and sponsored by ANGLO-ZIONIST/GCC/CIA

  9. James lake
    July 30, 2016 at 16:36

    You forgot to mention Russia and the attempts at Regime change theres through sanctions and isolation and demonisation of Putin and the Russian people

    • DocHollywood
      July 30, 2016 at 23:43

      “You forgot to mention Russia. . .”
      . . . and Ukraine, Honduras, Egypt, Cuba, Palestine, Haiti, Somalia, Afghanistan, Greece, Indonesia. . .

  10. Joe B
    July 30, 2016 at 15:03

    The disposition of the USG to use force rather than diplomacy and foreign aid represents a primitive mode of thought, far inferior to the wisdom of the people. It is the disposition of the bullies and scammers who rise to power in an unregulated economy, serving the oligarchy. It makes no difference to them that it doesn’t work at all: they just lie and blame the opposition, the same strategy that has brought them power all their lives. It works because we have oligarchy instead of democracy. There is the regime change we need.

    • Bill Bodden
      July 30, 2016 at 18:20

      Talking of “scammers” there was an interesting moment during the Democrats’ convention when Michael Bloomberg, referring to Donald Trump, said as a New York he could spot a con. This while he was at the convention to help get two of the nation’s most successful con artists – Hillary and Bill Clinton – back in the White House. Orwellian-speak lives on with infinite variations.

  11. Bill Bodden
    July 30, 2016 at 13:33

    Among the first American initiatives for regime change after the Second World War was the Marshall Plan promoted by the Truman administration. It was non-violent and created the impression of moral leadership by the United States. It was eminently successful – something that can’t be said for other regime change programs since.

    • Joe Tedesky
      July 30, 2016 at 13:38

      We need a George Marshall.

  12. Erik
    July 30, 2016 at 11:22

    The first question is the decision to employ coercion instead of persuasion and assistance, allowing local processes of improvement to work by improving education, health, nutrition, and standard of living, and encouraging cultural and political development by non-coercive means. Coercion requires decision that the long-term amount of suffering under that civilized assistance is much greater than the worst case overall suffering if coercive means are used. In reality that computation is not even discussed let alone modeled or computed by policymakers, so we know right off that the decision for coercion has nothing to do with the legitimate interests of the people or the duties of civilized nations: it is always an abuse of office in some form.

    Regime change will generally be reasonable only where genocide or other persecution is in progress and there is near certainty of greatly reducing overall long term suffering. That requires reaching some kind of stable resulting government (that is, not opposed by a religious, ethnic, or anti-colonial insurgency or warlords or militant factions). In real cases profit is unlikely for the intervening state(s). That result state has never been considered by US policymakers, because their goals are not humanitarian.

    In the US, policymakers are seldom intelligent, seldom humanitarian, and are largely factional demagogues bribed by special interests, obsessed or seduced to aggrandize and please themselves by using military force with no consideration of final results. Nearly all of them are the right wing tyrants over democracy of whom Aristotle warned, creating foreign enemies to pose falsely as protectors and accuse their opponents of disloyalty.

    The problem is the corruption of the people of the US by the tyranny of economic power. Form almost any group of six or more persons in the US, and within a week the third of them who are scoundrels have organized to control the rest, the third who are good citizens are their victims and targets, and the remaining third are dependents, admirers, and slaves of the scoundrels. This is the character and organization of America, and all of its governmental, business, and social organizations. This is what America offers the world as freedom®, democracy®, and “human rights.” This is what the world has come to know and expect of America.

    We will eliminate the problem of regime change policies when we have freed the tools of democracy, the mass media and elections, from the tyranny of economic power. But that is probably impossible because those tools of democracy are already controlled by economic power. So regime changes will likely proceed until someone does that to the US, which is not likely to result in a more democratic government.

  13. Joe Tedesky
    July 30, 2016 at 10:24

    What is the legal loop hole America uses to invade a sovereign nation? I’m not a lawyer, so tell me are these invasions legal, or not? Is the loop hole, that if a wealthy nation is self declared to be ‘exceptional’, then it’s okay to invade any country it deems worthy of regime change? May any nation take on this level of self proclaimed superiority? What qualities must a nation acquire to become exceptional? Why are some nations human rights abuses overlooked over other nations poor treatment of their citizens? Is a barrel bomb any worst than a Tomahawk missile? Just how does this all work? These are questions never asked on the Sunday morning talk shows, and I wonder why. Could it be, because all of these invasions are illegal, and it’s better if the question isn’t asked? That can’t be right, because it is often said how we are a nation of laws, so are these invasions legal?

    • John
      July 30, 2016 at 11:40

      Discovering the definition….Discovering intension…….Take the word invasion, one school of thought see the invasion as abusive while another sees it as a rescue…..and discovering the original intension of the framed law takes a team of lawyers ……

      • John
        July 30, 2016 at 12:18

        One more thing. The seat of the power structure is forming a consensus among the coalition…..This is where Trump presents a problem for the entire coalition….And it’s always good to bring a bag of US dollars : )

      • Erik
        July 30, 2016 at 15:37

        I find with experience that a team of lawyers, and even the Supreme Court, is far more likely to seek only a prepaid misinterpretation of law, and almost never looks at the intentions of Congress or the Constitutional Convention. When they do, most just select fragments of debate that contradict the whole but fit their own prejudice. There is seldom much concern for truth or even justice; self-interest rules.

        As for the legality of regime change, the Constitution restricts the federal powers to repelling invasions and suppressing insurrections: no foreign intervention is allowed. But it allows treaties, and those have been used to expand federal powers to include foreign wars. The founders warned against such foreign entanglements. Aristotle warned that such powers allow the right wing tyrant to displace democracy.

        As a result of WWI-II we have NATO whose raison d’etre expired with the USSR and success of the EU, but has been used by the right wing tyrants (including Dems) and MIC to continue the cold war fearmongering that pays their salaries. To control US warmongers, NATO should be severely restricted in the absence of verified major external threats, and if that is not agreeable to the members, the US should withdraw. The US should severely reduce its military to 20 percent of current levels, with reserve and re-armament capability, or employ the same staff primarily in peacetime development projects in poor nations, without intervention plans. It should use the savings for foreign aid that will yield far more security than regime changes

        The greatest danger we have faced since WWII is right wing tyranny, and we now have it, operating largely in secret, with the full cooperation of the mass media of the oligarchy. That is the only real security threat to freedom and democracy that we must deal with.

        • Joe Tedesky
          July 30, 2016 at 16:13

          I find this interesting;

          The Guano Islands Act (11 Stat. 119, enacted 18 August 1856, codified at 48 U.S.C. ch. 8 §§ 1411-1419) is federal legislation passed by the U.S. Congress that enables citizens of the U.S. to take possession of islands containing guano deposits. The islands can be located anywhere, so long as they are not occupied and not within the jurisdiction of other governments. It also empowers the President of the United States to use the military to protect such interests and establishes the criminal jurisdiction of the United States.

          I just find it fascinating how the U.S. grants itself the right to take control of something which technically may not be beholden to the U.S..

          • Erik
            July 30, 2016 at 18:01

            Most of those guano islands were along the SW coast of S America so are probably now within territorial waters of those countries, and similarly those in the Pacific. The large island of Chiloe was considered as a site for Israel and would have worked much better for everyone, but was not on the zionist agenda.

            There is little public recognition of the legal limitations of US federal power overseas, despite widespread fear of domestic federal overreach, simply because the oligarchy and its politicians prefer to abuse powers for private gain and care very little for humanity, the nation, or the future.

          • Joe Tedesky
            July 30, 2016 at 22:01

            If I find a dog without a collar is then my pet? How low or high must the denomination of found money be before I make an attempt to find the frantic owner? Why can’t the homeless find shelter in an abandoned home?

            If the Indigenous Native American had established laws which the early Europeans would have had to respect, then where would be? No the European came here planted their flag, and went back home to Europe proclaiming look what I found. It’s just plain ignorant how, just because the Indigenous didn’t look European, and didn’t have fancy courts made of marble, the European felt perfectly fine taking what wasn’t theirs.

        • John
          July 30, 2016 at 20:57

          The definition of “The New World Order” is consensus among the coalition nations. The constitution may restrict the federal powers of the United States but it does not restrict other nations from implementing the agenda of the coalition…….

          • Joe Tedesky
            July 30, 2016 at 21:49

            America’s sovereignty was lost to trade agreements, and coalitions.

    • Bill Bodden
      July 30, 2016 at 13:26

      … are these invasions legal, or not? Is the loop hole, that if a wealthy nation is self declared to be ‘exceptional’, then it’s okay to invade any country …

      I’m not a lawyer either, Joe, but I believe except in rare instances regime changes are immoral and unethical. Is there anything more immoral than causing the deaths of millions of innocent people?

      If one of the two leading candidates becomes president of the US in 2017, most likely many people around the globe and in the United States will be hoping for regime change here over the next four years.

      While contemplating any law related to regime change or prosecution of cops who kill unarmed black men and children we should note that law and justice are not necessarily the same thing.

      • Joe Tedesky
        July 30, 2016 at 21:36

        Better not ask Madeline Albright if killing millions of innocents is immoral, you may not like her answer.

        I’m not sure if someday the U.S. won’t be invaded, but if that ever happens it won’t be as pretty as when the Beatles did their American invasion back in 64. Although there have been times when I could swear that our cash strapped states were willing to sell off the U.S. piece by piece. I know not long ago there was talk of selling vital highways to the Chinese.

        With Israeli trained police departments, things will get much worst before they ever get better. Until the law enforcement authorities return to protecting the citizens, and learn to cultivate relationships within their communities, nothing will change.

        • Bill Bodden
          July 30, 2016 at 22:19

          Until the law enforcement authorities return to protecting the citizens,…

          Traditionally, the role of law enforcement has been to protect their establishments. Note how they have acted in strikes and protests in the past. The Democratic convention of 1968 and Occupy Wall Street are but two examples.

      • August 1, 2016 at 08:40

        “The problem is the intervention itself in Syria, which in my mind is absolutely unjustified under international law and the UN Charter. The Russians are at least supporting the legitimate government in Syria. The US and its partners are trying to overthrow that government. Somehow, I must have missed the UN authorization for the US to do that, or the designation of the US as global policeman.” – Alan Ned Sabrosky, A 10 year U.S. marine, who served for more than five years of service at the U.S. Army War College as Director of Studies, Strategic Studies Institute, and holder of the General of the Army Douglas MacArthur Chair of Research.

    • Ol' Hippy
      July 30, 2016 at 14:21

      Along the same lines: The question I’ve often asked; who are exactly the ones wanting regime change and how do they ‘decide’ that their actions warrant such violent behavior? Also which nation state has the balls to take on the US Government? How do regular Americans voice complaints that they think their government is completely, morally just wrong. Remembering the crimes of the Nazi regime and the ease they carried out their ‘solution’ with, supposed, support of the German people. Are US citizens just as culpable as the Germans? Also the difference between a barrel bomb and a cruise missile has to do with profit of the manufacturer of the missile. Barrel bombs are just cheaper and more cost effective. These are all good questions that will never be asked on any TV, at
      least those that want to keep operating, at a profit.

      • Bill Bodden
        July 30, 2016 at 18:12

        … who are exactly the ones wanting regime change …

        We would probably do well to recognize that regime change is not the primary reason for aggression against other nations, but we should be aware that regime change is just a tool to establish conditions for the Establishment’s primary mission; that is, help global corporations to enhance their profits. As others said in the past, if Iraq’s main product had been broccoli and not oil the Bush/Cheney aggressors would never have attacked Saddam Hussein.

      • Joe Tedesky
        July 30, 2016 at 21:47

        Ol Hippy, I was making a reference to Syrian barrel bombs and Israeli missiles. I find it funny, especially when John McCain makes so much out of Syria’s use of barrel bombs, because the U.S. used barrel bombs when we fought in Vietnam. Whether we are talking about German atrocities or Assad’s weapon of means, it is always amazing to see how the U.S. spins their motives in the most positive light. Hypocrites always ignore the obvious as if we are all blind, but if caught well then their excuse is, everybody does it. Sound like Hillary a little bit? I’m beginning to believe Orwell really did travel to the future.

        • Bill Bodden
          July 30, 2016 at 23:01

          It’s the old story, Joe. It’s wrong when they do it, but it is okay when we do it.

      • Ted Tripp
        August 2, 2016 at 16:21

        Ol’ Hippy, surely you remember our (futile) attempts to stop the genocidal Vietnam War!

    • David Smith
      July 30, 2016 at 17:21

      Joe Tedesky, The Hague Conventions define War Crime No.1 as aggressive invasion of another sovereign state, that is starting a war. This is why the USA waited until attacked by Japan to get into WWII, after you are attacked anything goes. Germany felt Hague Conventions enough to dress some Polish prisoners in Polish Army uniforms and shoot them so they could say they were invaded first. The loophole in 2003 was that Iraq was about to nuke the US as soon as they built one, that is imminent attack, however there is no “response to an imminent attack” clause in the Hague Conventions, nor is there a Responsibility To Protect clause(R2P is merely a UN resolution, and poorly defined). R2P was used in the thoroughly illegal attack on Libya(and require Sec Council resolution). I suppose they will invoke R2P for Syria, ignoring the Sec Council, a slippery slope that could lead to using it to attack Russia(R2P Ukraine), or China(R2P S China Sea). Follow the Hague Conventions, and the world is at peace, it is very simple.

      • Joe Tedesky
        July 30, 2016 at 23:09

        Thanks, your comment is very informative. I suppose that the more exceptional a nation is to become, the less that nation has to honor another country’s sovereignty. Why not, it worked taking land away from the Indigenous people of this vast continent, so why not take the show on the road, and conquer the world. Seriously, before we get too critical of what our forefathers did with their Manifest destiny, we would be a thoughtful lot to consider how as a nation we are still doing the very same thing our predecessors did. How is this in anyway an example of human evolution? In fact, a good argument could be made to how war is a hundred years past it’s due date. This planet isn’t getting any larger, and all these wars isn’t getting any smaller. Just think we are the civilized ones.

    • Realist
      July 30, 2016 at 19:18

      Good for you, Joe. You are starting at the logical beginning of the whole issue, rather than in the talmudic middle using the terms and definitions of those who have a vested interest in the conclusions drawn. Your approach is akin to demanding the proof that angels exist before commencing a discussion of how many can dance on the head of a pin. Or, how time travel would not be a blatant violation of the first law of thermodynamics (the conservation of energy) rather than trying to massage the speed of light into some fanciful mechanism. (Traveling to another time would require the annihilation of space-time and all the matter and energy therein in one time frame and its re-creation ex nihilo in the other. I’m with the Vulcans on this, although THEY didn’t explain their thinking on the TV show.) Verbal prestidigitation is no substitute for logical thinking. Don’t let the pols or their ‘garchs kid you.

      • Joe Tedesky
        July 30, 2016 at 23:19

        A good mechanic would check the battery before changing all the light bulbs. Now if you were the bulb salesperson, well then…you would never check the battery. Possibly we would all do better to be critical of the military’s wasteful spending, because at least then we would be attacking the most valuable thing they got. Wouldn’t it be fun to watch their warmongering faces when the next time they want to take our country to war, and we the people would say no, because we can’t afford it?

    • Herman
      August 1, 2016 at 10:51

      Amen to article. When we talk about ISIS or other terrorists and we look for someone to blame, we need only to look in the mirror.

      When we allow any nation to ignore the rights of sovereign nations, we are asking for trouble, not for us but the sovereign nations. Syria, Iraq, and Libya, once secular relatively stable nations where their battles were often with the extremists we supported and now condemn are failed states at least for the foreseeable future. .

      We supported extremists in Afghanistan to damage the USSR, extremists inside and peripheral to Iran and Russia and no doubt are egging the Uighurs on. We open the box and wow, who knew what was inside.

      Arrogance, immorality, greed, stupidity, we got it all when it comes to our foreign policy. And yet what we have seen with the two candidates is agreement on our existing foreign policy and promising the American people even more of the same.

      Since the people who protest our foreign policies are so few, maybe we just don’t get it.

    • Keith Lembke
      August 8, 2016 at 00:28

      It’s easy – just call them he-man woman haters (gets Hillary and her “billion dollar speech audiences (wink, wink)” on your side), terrorists (I mean, once “labeled” a terrorist by a western nation state and/or UN progressive – whether its true or not – you are automatically guilty of something and should be eradicated by any efficient means possible) or called a “meanie” by “some” of the people you lead, you no longer have human legal rights. According to the “New Progressive’s Legal Handbook”, 3rd Addition, the people of the categories described – woman haters, accused terrorists, and meanies – especially if they are male – can be eliminated with no judicial review because their guilt is sooooo obvious.

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