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Obama’s Mission Accomplished Moment?

Posted on Jan 14, 2012
U.S. Army (CC-BY)

President Obama speaks to military members at Fort Hood in Texas.

By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

Like a magician pulling the proverbial rabbit from the hat, the president described the situation this way: “Over the next 10 years, the growth in the defense budget will slow, but the fact of the matter is this: It will still grow, because we have global responsibilities that demand our leadership.  In fact, the defense budget will still be larger than it was toward the end of the Bush administration.”

This magic trick was only possible because those headlined cuts were to come largely from the Pentagon’s “projected defense spending.”  You’ll get the idea if you imagine an obese foodie announcing that he’s going to “diet” by cutting back on his dreams of future feasts, even as he modestly increases his actual caloric intake.

Surrounded by Panetta, Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs, and the service secretaries, the president had so much more to offer.  Those nasty, unwinnable, nation-building-style counterinsurgency wars “with large military footprints” were now a thing of the past.  On them, the tide was, as he so poetically put it, receding.  Yes, there would be losers—Army and Marine Corps troop strength was slated to drop by perhaps 80,000 to 100,000 in the coming decade—but weren’t they already the losers of wars no one wanted?

Listening to his presentation and those to follow, you could have been pardoned for imagining that we were already practically out of Afghanistan and looking to a time when everything military would be just cool as hell.  In that future, there would be nothing but neat, high-tech military operations (and war toys) to the horizon.


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These would include our latest perfect weapon, the pilotless drone; nifty cyberwar-style online combat; plenty of new spy and advanced surveillance gear; and sexy shadow wars, just the thing for “environments where adversaries try to deny us access.”  Elite special operations forces—the secret military, cocooned inside the regular military, that took down Osama bin Laden—would be further expanded; and finally, there would be a “pivot to Asia” to confront the planet’s rising superpower, China, by sea and air, leaving all those nasty Arabs and Pashtuns and their messy, ugly guerrilla insurgencies, IEDs, and suicide bombers behind.

It couldn’t have sounded cheerier once the media speculation began and it offered something for just about anyone who mattered in imperial Washington. In fact, as sober as Obama looked and as business-like as his surroundings were, if you closed your eyes, you could almost imagine a flight suit and an aircraft carrier deck, for this felt eerily like his “mission accomplished” moment.

Hostilities of the old nasty sort were practically at an end and a new era of high-tech, super-secret, elite warfare was upon us.  The future would be so death-of-bin-Laden-ish all the way.  It would be safe, secure, and glorious in the hands of our reconfigured military and its efficiently reconfigured budget.

Military-First Imperial Realism

This particular reconfiguration also allowed the globe’s last great imperial power to put a smiley face on a decade of military disasters in the Greater Middle East and—for all the clever politics of the moment—to cry uncle in its own fashion.  More miraculous yet, it was doing so without giving up its global military dreams.

It was a way of saying that, if the U.S. ever gets itself out of Afghanistan, when it comes to invading and occupying another Muslim land, building hundreds of bases and an embassy the size of the Ritz, and running riot in the name of “nation-building” and democracy: never again—or not for a few decades anyway.

Consider this a form of begrudging imperial realism that managed never to leave behind that essential American stance of garrisoning the planet.  In fact, in order to fly all those drones and land all those special operations units, Washington may need more, not less bases globally.  And of course, those 11 carrier battle groups are themselves floating bases, massively armed American small towns at sea.

As it happens, though, we already know how this story ends and it’s nothing to write home about.  Yes, they’re going with what’s hot, especially those drones.  But keep in mind that, only a few years ago, the hottest thing in town was counterinsurgency warfare and its main proponent, General David Petraeus, was being hailed as a new Alexander the Great, Napoleon, or U.S. Grant.  And you know what happened there.

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By Michael, January 16, 2012 at 11:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Given the new legal climate & renewed, expanded powers of our central military
government, we can expect more of those weapons being pointed at “We the People”.
Just another reason to vote Ron Paul the only candidate making sense these days.

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By Sombrio, January 16, 2012 at 6:43 pm Link to this comment

It’s a good article: A good launching pad to a sober reflection on probable futures. One has to remember that the control mechanisms of principalities and the powers that be, differ between good times and bad. In good times material satisfaction is enough to buy compliance to global vivasection. In bad times violence is the only control method availble.
This yin yang effect is due to the nature of power structures. Elites are all based the leadership principal which only results in the debasement of those entrusted with that kind of decision making. Barak Obama is a perfect example and the purposes of power structures are not to solve problems: Their purpose is to keep and magnify control.
In this way the military program outlined by the Pentagon makes perfect sense. The probabilty of a financial/currency collapse only leaves open the option of escalating violence. The design of this military has finally shifted to its ultimate continious total warfare concept: Massive Terrorism to punish whoever stands in the way of the control of the Global New World Order. I would suggest that the complimentry NDAA bill is a vital compenent to the conclusion of a program that seemingly is a US initiative but really includes both friend and foe world wide.

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By bob zimway, January 16, 2012 at 9:53 am Link to this comment

Welcome to the Obamney police state.

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By Arianna, January 16, 2012 at 7:22 am Link to this comment

It seems that what MollyJ says is true.  In regard to the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress passed the buck when Mr. Obama asked that the indefinite detention part of the bill be added.  Why
didn’t they tell him no?  Are these representatives so
spineless that they are scared into sumission when their beliefs are forcefully altered by intimidation?
What happened to questioning what the President does?
What happende to voicing an opinion?  Are they so afraid that their lobbyists will cease to contribute to their coffers?  We have been lulled into believing
everything we are told.  Critical thinking has taken a
back seat to strong-arming tactics.  We are in trouble
if we can’t voice our opinions and make decisions, even if it means sometimes going against the current.
Our Bill of Rights has been shredded and the rest of the Constitution is in jeopardy of being destroyed.
Our financial institutions run rough-shod over our elected officials.  Our police look at all of us as if
we are criminals.  Our government wants us to all shut
up and do what we’re told.  This is so wrong in a
Republic where dissent is critical in keeping the system in check.  If we don’t have a voice, opinion or
dissent, we are all doomed to slavery and domination.

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By Steve E, January 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm Link to this comment

Leave the driving to us, we just need your children once and awhile for military

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By balkas, January 15, 2012 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment

well, folks, i got news for you: pissing on dead people could have
happened to me also. i, too, had been once much mindless or
mindful [comes to the same thing, anyway] as 99% of the regionals
aka, “americans”.
however, with help from the best educators and ‘best’ liars, i had
been able to perform volte face in my thinking.
but not until just 30 or so yrs ago.
yes, folks, we can learn a lot from rabbis, ulema [body of mullahs],
reverends, priests, MSM columnists, ‘teachers’, army echelons,
bankers, politocos, thinktanks, orgs, movements, constitutions,
earls, aghas, lords, warlords, people owners, counts, barons, princes,
kings, et al.

Report this

By balkas, January 15, 2012 at 10:18 am Link to this comment

greens: “if voters continue to be mindless mass….”.  could or should be changed thus: since the voters had been
over 200 yrs or so deliberately educated to behave mindlessly [i hate also that ‘explanation’]—you’re free fill in
the rest.
people are never mindless—people are always mindful. how they became mindful and what had been crammed
into their minds from childhood up, is what we need to study.
and it is a myth that only american children have been rendered semantically [ability to think and use language in
order to properly evaluate any situation] blind; ie., enhancing one’s survival on this planet!

look what happened to german, japanese, italian [just to list a few lands or empires] children since the www1!!
and alas, the same process is still applied to them in most lands and not just in usa.
the methodology of rendering children serfs is extremely simple: always tell them the biggest lies you can invent.
make sure that also schooling is mandatory! thanks bozhidar balkas, planet.

Report this

By balkas, January 15, 2012 at 9:41 am Link to this comment

i assert that jill stein is wrong in blaming only the w.h. for violating 6th, 7th, and 8th amendment to
the constitution.
MSM, cia/fbi, army echelons, large shareholders, bankers, congress, and judiciary are also involved
in the interpretation of whether these amendments are being violated or not.
there is only one USA and one ‘correct’ interpretation of any and all u.s constitutional directives,
wishes, pipe dreams, and demands.
fathers of the confederation weren’t that dumb not have realized what has to be done in order that
the their THOUGHT forever prevails; seemingly split the governance in three pieces.
they knew, i suggest, that as long as there is but one ideology in usa, it makes no difference of how
many branches of governance there is or what constitution says or doesn’t say.
actually, the THOUGHT early americans adopted and tacitly/explicitly proclaimed holy and infallible,
already existed in all of asia and europe and very dear to all of the nobles, very rich people, and all
of the clergy. thanks

Report this

By balkas, January 15, 2012 at 9:11 am Link to this comment

i do not recall when for the first time the thought arose in my head that one
shouldn’t split usa foreign policy into a democratic and republican ones.
and not just foreign policy but most other domestic policies, as well.
perhaps the truth of it dawned on me just 10 yrs ago.
as i have noted, some things never change. usa ideology; its quest for planet, and
imposition of usa ‘justice’, americanism, etc., on world has not changed an iota.

and if you don’t change u.s ideology, you change nothing. and it can be changed
only in one way: by a political party with a different ideology. thanks

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By Arianna, January 15, 2012 at 7:47 am Link to this comment

This seems to me, to be nothing more than rhetoric garnered from Project for a New American Century, a
Neo-conservative document written by Paul Wolfowitz, et al.  It reflects the desire to continue nation-building and the cooperation of other nations to co-mingle their military with ours.  Could this be a way
for our government to deploy foreign troops on US soil?  In the event of catastrophy or natural disaster
we could see that occuring.  It would alleviate the
responsibility of US troops having to arrest American
citizens and herding them off to FEMA detention centers.

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thecrow's avatar

By thecrow, January 15, 2012 at 6:26 am Link to this comment

“First, I’ve never been much of an “in”-sider. Second, I truly wonder how you can trust a leader who carries no compunction to keep his promises or his word — whether those words and promises were made in support of gay rights, to not start or perpetuate illegal/useless/costly military campaigns (or wars), in support of environmental causes even to the detriment of big business, to put an immediate end to torture and unlawful detainment, to rein in the bloat and greed of Wall Street, to oppose gun control, or to correct the broad overreach of a previous administration.

But perhaps most pointedly, if you can’t trust what a man says to a group of widows and children, then what words and promises of his can you trust?

So President Obama, am I IN? Will you be receiving my check?

Hell no.”

- Kristen Breitweiser

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thecrow's avatar

By thecrow, January 15, 2012 at 6:22 am Link to this comment

Doing what he was installed to do, nothing more.

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By MollyJ, January 15, 2012 at 6:20 am Link to this comment

The most bizarre aspect of living in these times is that the powers that be can say really stupid and transparent stuff and no one—NO ONE—calls them on it.

But, Tom, I wish you’d come to Kansas.  Our Governor is turning KS into the lab for far right ideas and he recently proposed in his state of the state a tax structure to move us toward a flat tax structure.  (We’ll go from having three major tax brackets to two.)  Lots of gifts for corporations and incentives for frackers to come to KS.

The news papers—KC Star, Capitol-Journal, Wichita Eagle are eerily quiet about all of this.  No one is writing stories about how this would play out for the education system, the social safety net, community budgets.  Oh, the Chamber of Commerce likes it.

The quiet is deafening.  And so on the last day of the session is a couple of months, Brownback and the tea party will get just what they wanted.  ANd that was the same process that got us Brownback.  That he would govern as he has was certainly my fear but during the campaign his opponent was the invisble man and there was no effort to even try to project how his legislative agenda would transpose to a KS government agenda.

And yet NOTHING he has done is surprising.

My local paper continues to run chit-chat and stories about “the underserving poor”.  Is there another kind?  We remain oblivious to the personal coup de grace delivered to us by long time KS company Boeing and talk about how we cannot maintain the social safety net but how we must incentivize jobs in KS through corporate America’s favorite modes—the tax cut and local incentives to come to town which are consumed and then leave behind abandoned structures and work forces.  The blindness and unwillingness to connect any dots is simply staggering.

David Cyr, I enjoy your comments and I will join you in voting for either Anderson or Stein whichever may appear on my ballot.

But the fallacy in only voting for these groups is that they still assume some shred of a functioning democracy.

And it is clear that is no longer true. 

So that leaves us with activism.

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David J. Cyr's avatar

By David J. Cyr, January 15, 2012 at 6:03 am Link to this comment

Cyr’s Law of FEARS:

Frightened Electorates Always React Stupidly (FEARS)

Only (D) sheeple vote for FEARS dependent Democrats.

Jill Stein for President:

Voter Consent Wastes Dissent:

Report this

By ardee, January 15, 2012 at 5:57 am Link to this comment

Outraged’s partisan nonsense vs. Englehardt’s reasoned accuracies.

Report this

By reXteryalizer, January 15, 2012 at 3:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Want to thank all of you, for your Powerfull stand against Oboma & His Corrupted political partners.
But there is so much more we can

do. Being aggressive and focusing on the facts and truth is only the first step.
We musT follow Up with more details standing by our

convictions and dont back down.

Oboma has NOT brought CHANGE, In fact ~! ~ THE ONLY real THING needing CHANGE !....Was

Barack Hussein Obama II.

Barack Hussein Obama II ( Who hates American Values ) who is A ” SELF PROCLAIMED

Enemy” ~of responsible, Morally Conscious HARD WORKING Americans.

oBOMAS Irresponsible & DRUG MAFIA and reckless

supporters KNOW~ that Barack Hussein Obama II,

WILL FORCE YOU to paY THEM, out of your PockeT

.{ FOR all of their UNCHECKED

Vices and THRILLS/ { All on YOU | / At your COST & Sacrifice

...This UN~CHANGABLE fraud, has done His VERY BEST to Inspire


THESE ARE OBAMAS OWN WORDS.. saying .........To his supporters.

Saying “Get ready for hand-to-hand combat with your

Fellow Americans”

– Obama has ALSO DECLARED to his Supporters

“I want all Americans to get in each others faces!– Obama

demands !

“You bring a knife to a fight pal, we’ll bring a gun” –

taxes….. THIS IS OBAMAS Change for america

/“Hit Back Twice As Hard”. He commands !

*Obama on the private sector: ~~ “We talk

to these folks…~ / so I know whose a*$ to KICK.“ OBOMA wants to KICK your a*$ /

Shouting THAT Republican victory would mean ~

“hand to hand combat”

HE IS EXPECTING people to be on Edge and BORDERLINE killing MODE, VIOLENT / and STAND up for their

immoral CAUSES


* Obama Tells democrats: “ I’m itching for a

fight.” !

....PLEASE…. go to reXes NEW WebsiTe ~ ! Oboma *( Just like Adolf Hitler~~\


for Un~Wanted Children

Barak Obama is A MURDERER .~Torturing UNWANTED babys on DEATH ROE


OBAMA TAKES a little NEW BORN innocent child. BORN. ALIVE sTabS it iN the head


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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, January 15, 2012 at 2:26 am Link to this comment

As I have not read your book Mr. Engelhardt, it is
difficult to ascertain what your meaning with this
article is. I’m speaking of the book you’ve titled ”
The United States of Fear”....... however, it seems
to me that you have written a very FEAR BASED
article. I’m sick of the fear, as I would like to
engage the reality.. all the good and all the bad,
but either way SIMPLY the reality. A couple of
examples of your fear mongering (which btw, are not
unlike the righties)

“One man is in charge of your future safety and

” In that future, there would be nothing but neat,
high-tech military operations (and war toys) to the

“These would include our latest perfect weapon, the
pilotless drone; nifty cyberwar-style online combat;
plenty of new spy and advanced surveillance gear; and
sexy shadow wars,”

“it offered something for just about anyone who
mattered in imperial Washington”

“Hostilities of the old nasty sort were practically
at an end and a new era of high-tech, super-secret,
elite warfare was upon us.”

“More miraculous yet, it was doing so without giving
up its global military dreams.”

“Consider this a form of begrudging imperial realism

” massively armed American small towns at sea.”

“we already know how this story ends”

“It hardly matters whether those planes in the
distant heavens have pilots or not, or whether they
can see ants crawl from 20,000 feet and blast them
away with precision.”

“without endangering the military-industrial-crony-
capitalist way of life.  That’s about as radical as
Obama’s Washington is likely to get.”

“storming the rhetorical barricades daily,
threatening war with Iran nightly, promising to
reinvade Iraq,”

“and to the passing, modestly apocalyptic eye, this
planet still looks as if it were destabilizing.”

Need I go on…...?

Anally stupid. Enough is enough.

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By Michael_Murry, January 14, 2012 at 8:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
Defeat is Victory

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By westcoaster, January 14, 2012 at 8:08 pm Link to this comment

Very good article.  question:  In order to use
drones, we need to know what it is we are shooting
at, which requires people on the ground.  Seems to me
that this is the problem.  Drones are only as good as
the spooks calling in the shots. 

Economy:  A world economy is subject to a world melt
down.  All banks are now interconnected. 

Obama’s military budget is suicidal.  Now I know why
Obama is not a progressive, or even a liberal.

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By gerard, January 14, 2012 at 6:19 pm Link to this comment

A healthy degree of courage, awareness, honesty, empathy and willingness to
work for essential changes and restore democracy is evident in the Occupy
Movement.  If a large enough number of the 99% get behind them and offer
support and elbow grease, intelligent and democratic restoration may yet be

Report this

By Jerry, January 14, 2012 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Obama is like an abusive husband.  Whispers sweat nothings to his base and then s*rews ‘em over as soon as they turn their back.

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David J. Cyr's avatar

By David J. Cyr, January 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment

The corporate party’s Obama delivers the deceits (D) dedicated “progressive” liberals love to vote for… greater evil appearing to be less.

War has virtually “ended” for liberals, with robotic weaponry now making murder for profit a sterile impersonal procedure.

VIDEO - A Message of Change, on Which Real Hope Depends:

Voter Consent Wastes Dissent:

Report this

By Dr Bones, January 14, 2012 at 2:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Election silly season.  They’ll be jacking the funding up again next year.  And surely there will be more unexpected wars.

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