New York Times acknowledges US global empire

by SHELDON RICHMAN

IMAGE/Revolution Chronicles

One big advantage the war party has is the public’s ignorance about the activities of the far-flung American empire. Athough frustrating, that ignorance is easy to understand and has been explained countless times by writers in the public choice tradition. Most people are too busy with their lives, families, and communities to pay the close attention required to know that the empire exists and what it is up to. The opportunity cost of paying attention is huge, considering that the payoff is so small: even a well-informed individual could not take decisive action to rein in the out-of-control national security state. One vote means nothing, and being knowledgeable about the U.S. government’s nefarious foreign policy is more likely to alienate friends and other people than influence them. Why give up time with family and friends just so one can be accused of “hating America”?

In light of this systemic rational ignorance, we must be grateful when a prominent institution acknowledges how much the government intervenes around the world. Such an acknowledgment came from the New York Times editorial board this week. The editorial drips with irony since the Times has done so much to gin up public support for America’s imperial wars. (See, for example, its 2001-02 coverage of Iraq and its phantom WMD.) Stlll, the piece is noteworthy.

The Oct. 22 editorial began:

The United States has been at war continuously since the attacks of 9/11 and now has just over 240,000 active-duty and reserve troops in at least 172 countries and territories.

That alone ought to come as a shock to nearly all Americans. The UN has 193 member states — and the U.S. government has a military presence in at least 89 percent of them! The Times does not mention that the government also maintains at least 800 military bases and installations around the world. That’s a big government we’re talking about. And empires are bloody expensive.

The Times went on:


While the number of men and women deployed overseas has shrunk considerably over the past 60 years, the military’s reach has not. American forces are actively engaged not only in the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen that have dominated the news, but also in Niger and Somalia, both recently the scene of deadly attacks, as well as Jordan, Thailand and elsewhere.

The editorial writer might have mentioned that the U.S. government has been bombing seven Muslim countries for years when you count Pakistan and Libya. Civilian casualties were high under Barack Obama and are growing under Donald Trump. Having an alleged isolationist in the White House hasn’t done much for the long-suffering Muslims in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa.

The Times then provided this useful tidbit: “An additional 37,813 troops serve on presumably secret assignment in places listed simply as ‘unknown.’ The Pentagon provided no further explanation.”

Unknown, that is, to the people whom in theory the government is of, by, and for. Under the government’s actual operating principle, no explanation is required. Who the hell do the people think they are anyway?

To its credit, the Times reminded us “there are traditional deployments in Japan (39,980 troops) and South Korea (23,591) … along with 36,034 troops in Germany, 8,286 in Britain and 1,364 in Turkey — all NATO allies. There are 6,524 troops in Bahrain and 3,055 in Qatar, where the United States has naval bases.”

The writer suggested these are defensive deployments. I guess it’s too much to expect the Times to acknowledge that the U.S. government has a knack for creating the threats it then claims it must defend against.

The editorial writer pointed out that

America’s operations in conflict zones like those in Africa are expanding: 400 American Special Forces personnel in Somalia train local troops fighting the Shabab Islamist group, providing intelligence and sometimes going into battle with them. One member of the Navy SEALs was killed there in a mission in May. On Oct. 14, a massive attack widely attributed to the Shabab on a Mogadishu street killed more than 270 people, which would show the group’s increased reach. About 800 troops are based in Niger, where four Green Berets died on Oct. 4.

The U.S. presence in Niger was surely news to most people — it certainly was to senior members of the U.S. Senate.

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