Washington DC

How Did We Get Here?

By David Stockman  |  December 18, 2019

Assyria soon discovered a painful truth: empires are like Ponzi schemes: financial frauds in which previous investors are paid returns out of new investors’ deposits. The costs of holding imperial territory can only be underwritten by loot and tribute extracted by constant new conquests; empires must continue to expand if they are not to collapse.

– Paul Kriwaczek, Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization (2010)

On Monday I wrote, “Imperial Washington is now a monolithic menace to the peace and security of the planet.”

It started in 1914. And the long process that’s seen America slouch from “empire of liberty” toward “empire of tyranny” is certainly fraught. But certain events stand out for their significance.

Indeed, in 1991, George Bush the Elder assembled a motley collection of foot-dragging European and Middle Eastern nations to impose a “rule of law” settlement upon an utterly irrelevant spat between the Emir of Kuwait and Saddam Hussein.

It was all about the former’s slant-drilling into the Rumaila oilfield that straddles the border of these two concoctions of World War I-era European map-drawers.

They called it the “Coalition of the Willing.” And it was the first form of an even more egregious form of multilateralism that’s only served to legitimize Imperial Washington’s idea of its hegemony.

To be sure, the so-called First Gulf War made little sense even then. It stemmed from the personal pique of Bush the Elder at Saddam’s failure to heed his commands.

From the perspective of 28 years later, it made no sense at all. For crying out loud, Kuwait isn’t even a real country. It’s a decent-sized bank account atop some prolific oilfields, the borders of which were drawn by the British Foreign Office in 1913 for obscure reasons long ago lost in the fog of history.

Likewise, the chaotic and bloody demise of Saddam’s jerry-built rule of “Iraq” by the sword and the spoils of oil prove, if nothing else, that the British, along with the France’s Foreign Ministry, had no idea what they were doing.

When they carved up the Ottoman Empire in 1916, they decreed the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds would henceforth make nice within a national fraternity without ethnic, political, and/or religious coagulants. And they would do so inside borders that no one recognized and that had no historical roots.

Bush the Elder assembled the Coalition of the Willing for no purpose that could better the plight of the impacted Middle Eastern peoples.

Indeed, the major Arab participants in the Coalition – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar – had no more noble aim then to get back the billions they had foolishly loaned to Saddam Hussein to prosecute his failed war against Iran.

Nor did it have anything to do with America’s homeland security. Saddam was obviously no military threat to America, or Europe for that matter.

And history – both long before and ever since – proved that whoever controls the oil fields will produce as much as they can in order to fund the arms and alms by which Middle Eastern potentates rule – regardless of political, religious or ideological orientation.

What the first Gulf War accomplished, however, was far more nefarious.

It put 500,000 pairs of Western boots on the purported holy sands of Arabia, thereby turning Osama bin Laden from America’s leading mercenary jihadist warrior in Afghanistan to its worst nightmare.

That paved the way for the al-Qaeda attacks first on American outposts in the Middle East and then the atrocities of 9/11 and the misbegotten War on Terrorism that followed.

But here’s the thing. Without this seminal episode of post-Cold War multilateralism – the Bush Coalition of the Willing – there likely would have been no Gulf War 1.0.

Without that fig leaf of international sanction, Bush the Elder – a weak-spined pragmatist to the core – would not have sent an American war armada to the Persian Gulf all by Washington’s lonesome.

Instead, he would have found a face-saving retreat from his foolish threat to Saddam that “this aggression will not stand.”

Accordingly, what was an utterly irrelevant dispute between the Emir of Kuwait and Saddam would have been adjudicated by the Arab League, the United Nations, or some other forum of ad-hockery.

And the Saudis and the other sheikdoms would have settled their financial claims on Baghdad for cents on the dollar.

More importantly, the grievance that inflamed Osama bin-Laden and his jihad – American troops bivouacked in Saudi Arabia – would not have materialized.

Likewise, there would have been no war of retribution against Iraq in the 1990s. There would have been no mobilization of al-Qaeda in response. There would have been no 9/11.

There would have been no attempt to accomplish in the Afghan Hindu Kush what Alexander the Great and all would-be conquerors who followed failed at.

There would have been no calamity of Gulf War 2.0.

There would have been no resulting regional mayhem that’s turned Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen into shambles and hotbeds of anti-American vengeance.

Folks, multilateralism is a fig leaf for Washington’s imperial adventures.

And it’s fueled the rise of a bipartisan War Party on the banks of the Potomac that threatens the very existence of the republic.

Don’t Be a Menace…

I’ll say it again: This is the most politicized market in history. And the Tweeter-in-Chief is still in charge. So, the situation is changing almost by the minute.

It’s “Impeachment!” in Imperial Washington and all over the Mainstream Media. It’s “Easy Money!” on Wall Street and across Bubblevision.

And it seems as if the whole world has, indeed, gone mad.

Amid this chaos, prices will continue to rise and fall, trends will continue to develop and dissipate.

Well, The Stockman Letter is made for times like these. And we’ve updated our design to help us better navigate to not only the safest harbors but also the most promising opportunities.

The stakes are as high as they can be heading into 2020. Markets appear to be straining, catching up to an economy that’s been weak and getting weaker for years.

The Donald is tied up in the day-to-day movements of the major stock indexes like no president before him. The increasingly desperate incumbent will do anything he must to hold the White House.

It’s a major tipping point. And there’s no telling what the Donald’s great disruptions could do to your wealth.

Please click here to learn more about The Stockman Letter and what comes next…

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David Stockman

David Stockman is the ultimate Washington insider turned iconoclast. He began his career in Washington as a young man and quickly rose through the ranks of the Republican Party to become the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street.MORE FROM AUTHOR