The Most Destructive Presidencies In American History, Part 2: The Fatal Incoherence Of Bush/Obama Foreign Policy

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

The tragic reality is the Bush II/Obama administrations have made the world a far more dangerous place.

A great many rationales have been floated for the most destructive foreign policy in American history, i.e. the fatally incoherent policies of the Bush II/Obama presidencies.

These rationales come in several flavors:

1. The official administration (public relations) rationales

2. The not-so-secret rationales of Empire and realpolitik

3. Conspiracy-type rationales proposed by outsiders

The official rationale has two basic variations:

1. The (now repudiated) Neoconservative agenda of remaking the world in our image (i.e. neoliberal democracy) with military force and nation-building.

2. The longstanding policy of hemming in hostile ideologies and empires with alliances, mutually beneficial trade arrangements and the threat of overwhelming military response to any over-reach by hostile nation-states and/or alliances.

The unspoken goal of maintaining U.S. military, diplomatic, economic and cultural dominance is the not-so-secret rationale of Global Empire. From the point of view ofrealpolitik, the official rationales serve as the PR facades of Empire.

Realpolitik is the unspoken underbelly of both official rationales: the essence ofrealpolitik is the ends justify the means: if we have to kiss up to psychopathic dictators, kleptocrats, brutal juntas, extremist groups, unsavory guns-for-hire and even regimes that are visibly hostile to American values and dominance to reach operational goals (for example kill the bad guys), so be it: we will do anything necessary to further our short-term operational goals.

The problem with this kind of short-term thinking in an incoherent strategy is that it only serves expediency: without a coherent strategy based on core values and deeply informed, clearly defined national interests based on those values, expediency inevitably leads to blowback.

In incoherent policies such as those pursued by Bush II/Obama, expedient operations lead to failures that trigger more secrecy and expediency, and there is no end to the failure born of expediency and avoidance of accountability.

Examples of conspiracy-type rationales include One-World agendas fostered by elite groups such as Bilderburg. I find these much less persuasive than good old Empire (i.e. global dominance), because we have to remember that the leadership has to have a narrative that "sells" the tens of thousands of people who are the operational core of the Empire an idealistic and idealized rationale for their sacrifice of morals, values and often their lives.

Serving an Elite agenda isn't persuasive, and neither is neocon nation-building. What sells is "fighting the enemy before they bring the battle to our Homeland" and the broad service of American Interests, i.e. #2 above: the fostering of democracy and Neoliberal Capitalism with soft power (alliances, trade, loans, etc.) and striking devastating blows to potential enemies before they can organize a strike against us.

The fundamental incoherence arises from the conflicting narratives and goals of these rationales. Precisely how can we serve American Interests by trashing the values we espouse and supporting the very psychopaths, juntas and extremists who foment the sort of instability that threaten American Interests?

If the Master Narrative of U.S. foreign policy is the ends justify the means, then clearly we have chosen our means very poorly.

This raises the larger question of whether a foreign policy that requires actively undermining our values and purported goals of democracy, open markets, stability and prosperity for all can possibly achieve its goal of maintaining Imperial dominance. if the victims of our realpolitik policies and those we have tasked with implementing them both lose faith in the American Project, then it is operationally impossible to win hearts and minds with more drone strikes, more laser-guided bombs and more alliances with the dregs of humanity.

Simplistic ideologies such as Neoconservatism fail in the complex environment of the real world. We might profitably recall that the 1960s equivalent of Neoconservatism was the "domino theory" that held that all small nation-states in a region were prone to "falling like dominoes" to Communist insurgencies, regardless of their history, culture, society, economy and form of government.

In other words, the stubborn ignorance of U.S. foreign policy based on ideological simplicities is near-infinite.

The second source of incoherence is the legalistic mindset that everything can be finessed with more words and policy refinements. This legalistic approach--so clearly the dominant mindset of the Obama administration--is one manifestation of American Exceptionalism: that not only can we remake the world in our astonishingly parochial image, but that we can control the world like we control the power structure at home: by finessing problems with legalistic subtleties ("it depends on the definition of is") and threatening overwhelming violence (just lace demonstrators with pepper spray and threaten whistleblowers with life in prison) to make the problem go away.

That this legalistic mindset guarantees failure in the real world is lost on those devoted to legalizing all of their extra-legal policies--if not in principle then in name.

Legalizing secrecy, ignorance and killing does not make magically transform these abuses of power into a successful policy. This may well summarize the Bush II/Obama administrations in history.

The vast ignorance at the heart of the Bush II/Obama foreign policy is breath-taking. We can argue about the ignorance of these two destructive presidents, but I see little to contest the ignorance of the policies and the institutions that make the operational decisions.

There are smart, well-informed and globally experienced people in the U.S. government, but they are ignored, dismissed or marginalized precisely because their knowledge threatens the incoherent mess that passes for foreign policy in these catastrophically inept presidencies.

The defining characteristic of the Bush II/Obama administrations is the reliance on secrecy--not to protect "national security" but to avoid accountability. If the operation is secret, its failure can be safely buried. This is the reason why everything is classified in the Bush II/Obama administrations: transparency and public knowledge are anathema because they enable scrutiny and analysis and eventually, accountability.

Secrecy is all about avoiding accountability. "National security" is the facade.

Secrecy is the refuge of every dictatorship, totalitarian regime and fascist junta on the planet. We need only look at the savage response of the Obama administration to whistleblowers who have risked their careers and livelihoods, not to mention their freedom, to expose the most egregious violations of the Constitution and American values to see just how dependent the Obama administration is on secrecy to avoid accountability.

Bush II was no better: using proxies (private contractors, local militia, etc.) has a long history in the U.S. Imperial Project as a way of avoiding accountability and scrutiny, but the Bush II/Obama foreign policy is totally dependent on proxies of one kind or another (consider the explosive rise in the use of killer drones, Obama's favored proxy).

The real world is not as forgiving as a bought-and-paid-for media; blowback takes many forms. The incoherence of the Bush II/Obama administrations is not only reaping horrendous harvests in the playgrounds of their Imperial ambitions, it is eroding the American public's trust in their government and the institutions that claim to protect them in a dangerous world.

The tragic reality is the Bush II/Obama administrations have made the world a far more dangerous place. That is blowback writ large.

None of this is new; it's all well-documented in the public record. The list of books written about the destructive consequences of the Bush II/Obama foreign policies is long; here is a short list of worthy titles to explore:

The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy, and Presidential Power
The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth
The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace
Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War
Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone
Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror
State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism

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Soul Glow's picture

Dumb and ODumber

Emergency Ward's picture can't tell which is which, like twins separated at birth.

Stackers's picture

I actually think Bush and Bush 2.0 do have a foreign policy and have been very consistent with pursuing it. Global destabilization to keep America on top. Destabilize has much of the world as possible in regional instability so that local leaders are too busy trying to hold on to power, reestablish power and/or create a new power base from scratch to organize any kind of meaningful power axis that might threaten the euro-americana NATO power beast.

Pinto Currency's picture


Destabilizing and dominating a major oil producing region that historically demanded gold for oil is not incoherent.

Amoral but not incoherent.

TahoeBilly2012's picture

Dear Mr. Deep State. These aren't guys dumb, they are following orders. The US is knocking on Putin's doors and the Mid East is very near the Zionist goal to destroy all nation states in Mid East, just need Iran to get into war with everyone else...WINNING!

FYI you don't seem to know very much, read the Israeli docs in the 50's planning destruction of all mid east nation states.

SoberOne's picture

So explain to me how killing the dollar serves the empire, aka Usa. I disagree with the author.

FeralSerf's picture

Killing and maiming innocent people so they can enrich themselves and their co-conspirators is NOT "amoral", ("being neither moral nor immoral; specifically : lying outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply").

McMolotov's picture

Yeah, it's pretty obvious to all of us on ZH, but not to most people.

Everyone should go read the editorial in the WSJ by Dick Cheney, and then read the comments. Then understand that most Republican voters have learned absolutely nothing from this mess over the last decade plus. They will easily be led into supporting an even bigger fiasco in the future.

The Red/Blue team sport mentality is amazing to behold. Regardless of who's in charge, the Deep State's agenda advances. When you're in the R vs. D game, it's impossible to notice. It's only when you step outside of it to observe at a distance that you realize everything is sliding toward tyranny.

maskone909's picture

dick totally predicted what would happen if we invaded and pulled out of iraq.  see the vid i posted below.  what is most incredible is his blatant flip flopping from his original stance on the matter.  dick indeed +1

McMolotov's picture

Believe me, I know. I used to show that clip of Cheney to people who supported the Iraq war, but they'd just get angry and try to tell me how times had changed and that we simply had to get rid of Saddam. It's insane.

The war in Iraq was the issue that opened my eyes, so to speak. I come from a solidly Republican family. Probably would have voted for Perot if I'd been old enough, so maybe I was always slightly iffy. First vote for president: Bob Dole. Second vote for president: George W. Bush. Third vote for president: Ron Paul.

Fourth vote for president: Fuck it, I'm getting drunk instead.

maskone909's picture

you can probably imagine the blowback i get from my democrat family.  i still pound the ZH knowledge into them every chance i get.  cognitive dissonance is a disease much like a drug addiction.  most dont change until they hit rock bottom. 

Dull Care's picture

Any highlights of their ignorance that you'd care to share? It's always entertaining and frightening to be around blue pill people.

I'm a hardcore libertarian conservative type and it's always amusing to be around my myopic NPR listening, Economist reading older brother. He's truly convinced there's a recovery and loves the state.

maskone909's picture

"obamma care is a step in the right direction"

"the fed creates boom bust cycles, this is all simply a normal functioning economy"

"things are getting better"

"housing prices always go up, they did a nobel thing bailing out those banks"

"they are doing whats best"

"you are just a republican, you just dont like obamma"- although i am not supporting either party

"if you dont like the way things are, get out there and vote"

"you sound like you watch too much fox news" i never watch fox news


oh yeah and my favorite.  when i ask them why democrat they always say something to the effect...

"dems care about the little guy.  we have to take care of the less fortunate. if that measn giving a little, so be it" argggggggg!


drendebe10's picture

Q: How many democraps does it take to change a light bulb?

A:  That's not funny and you're a racist....


"I am the democrat party's worst nightmare. A thinking black man."  Charles Ramsey in his book Dead Giveaway

McMolotov's picture

It seems like I make headway while I'm talking to my parents, but then they basically revert to their old ways of thinking by the next time I see them. I think the longer a person has been (hate to use the phrase) in the matrix, the harder it is to change. I've had more luck with my sister and her husband.

The Blank Stare's picture

I predicted it too....and don't call me Dick

JRobby's picture

As the plan continues to work flawlessly. Hey! Let's watch the news on TV............................

teslaberry's picture

i don't see how you could possible leave clinton and obama out of this continuous policy. 


it is very much the truth that all of these presidents work in concert with a nearly fossilized bearacracy at the cia and executive branch generally , themselves under substantial consistent control, by private interests that have long term planning power. 


there  really aren't ANY discontinuities as far as i can see. 


it's not as if bush 2 ever had a 'long term' plan for iraq OTHER than destabilizing civil war in the long run. 

i mean fuck....what experienced emperor or king ever bets on the fact that they can more likely secure long term peace than they can simply instigate periodic conflict.  

the kings aren't the presidents. the presidents are a continuous line of servants. the kings of our day don't need or want too much public scrutiny.

JRobby's picture

Obama is included. Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall. Obviously needs to be included.

jbvtme's picture

i'm long shame and embarrassment with some expiring calls on remorse

maskone909's picture


this guy is always spot on with his analysis of geopolitics.  its quite amazing, his clip of cheney from 94' concerning the iraq invasion.

max2205's picture

Talk about dumb and dumber. ..

Stupid and criminal is more like it

In 14 years the country is un recognizable

Stoploss's picture

What do you expect from a shitshow run out of England??

Send their kids to die for their own reasons, leave ours out this round.

Think of it as 'tenure'

TheReplacement's picture

Which means that:

1.  They are meaningfully on the same team.

2.  They are both amazingly incompetent.

3.  They are both controlled.

4.  They think they are on the same team but are in fact amazingly incompetent despite being controlled.

Canadian Dirtlump's picture

The concept of this being something like incompetence or incoherence is just too much for me to entertain.

prains's picture

Exactly.....the Banker controlled politcal agenda works in lock step with the MIC. They are two in the same.....destabilizing is the game. Whoop Whoop munee for nutting......they love, crave, desire YOUR blood. Each and everyone of your children will be lead to the slaughter, eventually, if you're not payng attention.

NotApplicable's picture

Yep, it's only incoherent if you believe the script. Otherwise, it's so fucking coherent you cannot help but to see it in all of its glory.

Long story short: if I can see how this shit works, there's absolutely NO WAY that they don't. And I'm not talking about the hollow suits prostituting themselves in DC, either. They are but a Grand Facade.

Stupid people simply do not manage to own everything in the whole world.

dearth vader's picture

The hollow suits acting on their own! Of course, that's why the emperor has no clothes.

buzzsaw99's picture

they are puppets but each string has a different puppeteer that's why they dance so funky.

Ignatius's picture

The "coherence" is Gangsta Capitalism.

Regulated market economies work fine until the gangstas grab the levers of power to form cartel, eliminate competion and freeze out markets.

Banker Buster's picture

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote that the people often replace a bad leader with an even worse one.  Human nature strikes again.  Swing hard right with bush, then swing hard left with obummer.  Maybe U.S. can find a middle ground next time and we can get on with it for fuk sakes.

madcows's picture

Look, just kill all the people I don't like, and the world will be a better place.

NoDebt's picture

Short version:  Foreign policy is basically dog psychology.  If they think you're strong, they'll go along with you, even if they they think you're misguided in your aims.  If they think you're weak, they give you the middle finger no matter how rational, fair and beautiful your ideas are.  Guess where we are right now.

HamRove's picture

We the People of this country have a huge responsibility to keep the wretched hive of scum and villany out of our governement. 

We the people voted these con-men in. We the people have put up with increasing debt, and war, and surveillance.

We the people allowed Clintons and Bushes, and Obama to trash it all, and I hardly saw anyone do anything about it for years.

Yes, they suck. but we were so busy with our fucking football, Iphones, and Facebook to care.

It's time to stop it, NOW. 

NotApplicable's picture

Our government? Friend, you are lost in a land of fiction, while providing legitimacy to the structure that empowers pure evil.

You want to save the world? How about stop participating in evil?

Walk the fuck away.

HamRove's picture

It could be OURS again, buddy. 

FeralSerf's picture

Absolutely! It hasn't been OUR government for a very long time, if ever. The only REAL choice is showing the ones that own the/THEIR Government that we agree to be bound by THEIR choices by voting for one of THEIR candidates or not voting.

All is chosen's picture

Lord Blair of Conceitville will be furious. He thought he'd done the damage for his string pullers all by his clever little self. 

Canadian Dirtlump's picture

You spelled bLIAR wrong.. That new age satanic troll needs to report to the nearest fire and die in it.

All is chosen's picture

Sorry, he is (painfully) earmarked as my lacky for three lifetimes. Then he is all yours :)

pods's picture

All can be summed up pretty easily:
"Do whatever you can to keep the USD as the reserve currency otherwise we're skullfucked."



JustObserving's picture

The Vietnam war cost $738 billion in 2011 dollars and yet forced the US off the gold standard  on August 15, 1971.

The decade-long American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would end up costing as much as $6 trillion, the equivalent of $75,000 for every American household, calculates the prestigious Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Flakmeister's picture


It was the US oil production peaking and having imports rocket higher that forced the end to convertability at a fixed rate...

Flakmeister's picture

In all fairness to Obama, Otto von Bismarck would have been in over his head to pick up the pieces of 8 years of failed NeoCon policy...

O clearly was not up to the task....

SheepDog-One's picture

Again, we were all rosy up until 'Bush II', then we suddenly in a mess even Tha Messiah couldn't fix? Clearly there's a lot of delusion going on in this country these days with people and their 1 decade blinders on unable to see the bigger picture.

Zerozen's picture

He's had 6 years already and has only made it worse.

Libya, Syria, Ukraine for example are 100% Obama.

Flakmeister's picture

Alright brainiac, what would you have done in each case... 

BTW, meddling in Syria didn;t start in 2013. For that you have to go waaaaaay back...