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LBJ Redux

Written By: - Date published: 9:07 am, January 7th, 2020 - 36 comments
Categories: Donald Trump, International, Iran, iraq, politicans, Syria, United Nations, war - Tags:

March 31 1968 was a big deal for the United States’ global military prestige. President Johnson announced bringing U.S. troops back from Vietnam. Weeks later he announced that he wouldn’t stand for re-election.

With the United States assassination of the highest Iranian military official and the Iranian and Iraqi governments responding accordingly, President Trump is on the road for a remarkable feat not seen since LBJ’s fateful move.

President Trump has got most U.S. troops out of Syria in 2019. In doing so he abandoned thousands of Kurds who fought alongside them against ISIS, and abandoned all that the US military and its other allies fought for to the interests of Iran and Russia, propping up the murderous Assad family again.

Goodbye Syria.

President Trump has sought to enable an agreement with the Afghan Taliban last year. The Taliban already control 15% of the country and a further 29% is unstable. Thousands of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars, countless wounded since 2001. It will conclude, with well documented doubt and disillusionment for the U.S. military over years, that very little was gained for anyone.

See ya Afghanistan.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahd has condemned the assassination attack yesterday as outrageous, increasing the likelihood that remaining troops and bases will get chucked out faster than ever.

Ta-taaa Iraq.

Of course the U.S. still has huge air and naval bases in Qatar. UAE, Oman, Bahrain, and further afield in Turkey (Adama), Jordan (Al-Azraq), and elsewhere.

So it’s not the moment to go all misty-eyed about Trump’s United States going all peacenik or anything.

But the broader picture is something akin to LBJ’s withdrawal from Vietnam. While retaining peripheral bases, the U.S. vacuum left chaos in the region that lasted for decades making odd allies and unlikely enemies.

Imagine a move so brazen that it could unite the governments of Iran and Iraq. That’s a feat. A world in which one could start to imagine after 30 years – from Afghanistan to Iran to Iraq to Syria – United States no longer enforces military order.

It’s almost LBJ redux, but so much larger, deeper, and greater in waste and damage.

While immediate consequences remain unpredictable, the United States pattern now is clearer.

36 comments on “LBJ Redux”

  1. RedLogix 1

    Very good. Peacenik no … but there is no question the USA is trending back to it's default isolationism. Here's another critical data point everyone keeps overlooking … since 2018 the USA is now the largest crude oil producer in the world. Many people's geopolitics haven't really caught up with that fact.

    In fact the one nation now most dependent on Middle East oil … and permanently so … is China, who have a relatively weak presence in the region, both historically and ideologically.

      • RedLogix 1.1.1

        Obviously the Chinese are looking for ways out of the oil dependency bind they are in, but neither of those articles are exactly upbeat about the prospects.

        • pat

          suggest you read them again…..and you may also wish to revisit your statement around Chinese dependency on mid east oil…Russia are their largest supplier….and its worth noting they have a common land border

          • RedLogix

            So how am I supposed to read this:

            Even at full capacity in 2025, the pipeline won’t account for more than one-sixth of China’s estimated import needs, according to estimates by Sinopec, China’s other oil and gas champion.

             Keep in mind China is still increasing it's fossil fuel use. They're already 27% of global CO2 and even small percentage increases are large in absolute terms.

            As for their shale oil production, while they've announced some big finds for propaganda purposes, when you drill into the details they aren't so flash. These new fields may have potential, but it's 10 years into the future. 

            For at least the near term China is going to be reliant on Middle East oil at a massive scale, and that will be making them very nervous indeed.

            • pat

              China imports around 15% of its oil needs from Saudi….significant but not insurmountable, consider how quickly the US became a net fuel exporter with fracking, a technology China has spent considerably effort on developing through joint ventures with US companies.

              There is on;y one major economy (or block) that is serious about transitioning away from oil and thats the EU (major driver of Brexit?)…..China is hedging its bets by concurrently developing both renewables and fossil…energy is the source of power, economic and political.

              Like Easter island we are living through the power grab to cut down the last tree

              • RedLogix

                The point is China is massively exposed to a volatile global oil market in a way that the USA is no longer so. If the Middle East blows up, and especially if open shipping lanes become constrained, both the price and availability of oil … from anywhere … could become a very big problem for them.

                Which incidentally is a problem both NZ and Australia should be paying more attention to.

                • pat

                  less so for China than any of the other major players (which Oz and NZ are NOT) both because of their political system and geography….. who will be the last man standing?


                  • RedLogix

                    You keep overlooking the importance of the absolute numbers involved. Percentages are always useful when making comparisons … but ultimately it's how many supertankers need to arrive weekly that counts. In this China is deeply exposed, in a way the USA is not.

                    My point is not so much that this gives the USA a strategic advantage … it does but unlike WW2 petro access is no longer the whole story … but that it's one of the pragmatic reasons why they no longer feel obliged to provide military solutions to every threat and troublespot in the world. That in essence supports one of the primary contentions in Ad’s OP

                    By contrast the CCP is a thuggish totalitarian regime that has sustained 70 years of power mainly by keeping it's population pacified enough with economic growth. A growth path that is already widely acknowledged as faltering and now exposed to an oil price shock. This makes them a player in this confrontation, and one with a lot of potential clout.

                    • pat

                      Again, Chinas reliance on supertankers from the Gulf is overstated by you….they have built a number of pipelines  in recent years.

                      and.."A growth path that is already widely acknowledged as faltering and now exposed to an oil price shock. This makes them a player in this confrontation, and one with a lot of potential clout."….may make some sense to you but eludes me completely


                    • RedLogix

                      Not fond of Zero Hedge as a source, but they have the graphs.

                    • RedLogix

                      OK pretend all you want that graphs projected 20 years into the future will somehow mean that an oil crisis today will just magically go away for the world's largest oil and gas importer:

                      This is a really big deal for other consumers: oil and gas supply over 60% of the world’s energy.  China has 1.4 billion people, a government obsessed with economic growth, energy usage that accounts for 25% of the world’s total, and an ever-extending global reach that has procuring energy supplies at its core, namely oil and gas in any area, any country at any time. Oil and gas constitute a rising 30% of China’s total energy demand.


                      Maybe in 20 years time they will have a lot of solar and wind power, but even the IEA projections you link to don't show any real reduction in their oil and gas dependency. Basically the IEA has them cutting back a fair bit on coal and substituting a lot of wind and solar … but TBH I'm skeptical on that projection. Renewables have their place, but at the scale being implied here there are immense resource and environmental costs.

                      It baffles me a little why you keep running off at these tangents … none of your arguments change my basic contention … that while the USA is in a position of energy independence right now; their biggest contender on the world stage is demonstrably not. And in the context of what happens in the next few months this could matter a great deal.

                    • pat

                      quite simply because its a long game…and China are well positioned to play it better than the US….not too mention your original contention was totally inaccurate.

                      "In fact the one nation now most dependent on Middle East oil … and permanently so … is China, who have a relatively weak presence in the region, both historically and ideologically."

                    • RedLogix []

                      Your own reference supports my statement. China's own domestic oil production appears to be in permanent decline, therefore they must import at massive levels into the forseable future. 

                      Nothing suggests otherwise. The long game is all very well, but you still have to deal with today.

                    • pat

                      If you can find support for that statement in those links then you are indeed an individual of unique talents.

  2. Blazer 2

    Well the Vietnam War (the American War)lasted until 1975.Seven more years after LBJ's withdrawal.

    'While immediate consequences remain unpredictable, the United States pattern now is clearer.'


    Seems pretty much 'same old' to me.Venezuela-regime change,backing Israel in the M.E,going nowhere with Nth Korea.

    The Pentagon budget is hardly shrinking and the defence industry is  still raking it in.

    Ultimately the strength or weakness of the U.S $ is the main factor influencing foreign and domestic policy.

    Public and private debt in the U.S is at eyewatering levels.

    Greenspan said the U.S can never default because it can merely print more greenbacks.This is a supreme luxury that cannot…last.

    • McFlock 2.1

      Greenspan said the U.S can never default because it can merely print more greenbacks.

      Ah, the Weimar approach.

      • Blazer 2.1.1

        except the DM was NOT default international currency.

        Bretton Woods served international finance quite well.

        Until  Nixon took the $ off the gold standard after Camp David.

    • Nic the NZer 2.2

      If your waiting for the $US to influence foreign policy you will be waiting a long long time.

      • Blazer 2.2.1

        The Pentagon budget influences U.S  foreign policy every day of the week.


        Eisenhower warned of the danger of the military/industrial complex ,and was right.


        Trump maintains he wants to trim spending on the  U.S militaries  present international operations.

        • Nic the NZer

          Yes thats what I was suggesting. The availability and sale of arms for $US is one of the things supporting the demand for the $US. The US will probably always have significant demand for their currency. The thing to effect change in the military budget will be domestic political pressure.

  3. Brigid 3

    "Hundreds of American soldiers are remaining in Syria to occupy its oil reserves and block the Syrian government from revenue needed for reconstruction. Trump said openly, “We want to keep the oil.”"

    For those interested this article goes into some depth on the US occupation of Syria as to who is gaining and who it is designed must pay for American hegemony.


  4. RedLogix 4

    Sighs. This is deplorable.

    The Trump administration is barring Iran’s top diplomat from entering the United States this week to address the United Nations Security Council about the U.S. assassination of Iran’s top military official in Baghdad, violating the terms of a 1947 headquarters agreement requiring Washington to permit foreign officials into the country to conduct U.N. business, according to three diplomatic sources.


    • Ad 4.1

      Life without a functioning diplomatic order in the world is gong to get pretty weird.

      Weenie little states like New Zealand – and maybe even middleweights like Australia – are going to find the world feels a whole bunch colder and more unstable.

      Probably we will have to rely more on Trade Agreement instrument agreements and regional peak bodies like APEC to actually talk to each other in any meaningful sense.


    • McFlock 4.2


      Wasn't this the guy who put up Gaddafi when he was addressing the UN…

  5. soddenleaf 5

    The way I read it, only from Arab news, the US and Iran obviously had a agreement to not bicker while taking on Isis. So when the US embassy was attacked it followed that the understanding was off. At the time he was meeting Iraqi militia, dead set against the people protests. So the partisan parliament declaring all foreign troops out, would also qualify Iranian general's no matter how close they are to the current pm. a pm put in place by a US structure that balances power between each. I.e. it's bush juniors fault that Iran has so much influence. Iraq for Iraqi's.If anything is true, iranian looking like a theocracy, really doesnt help their case. Trump will continue to throw stuff around, thats the problem for us all.

  6. Wayne 6

    When the wars that encompassed Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos ended (including the removal of Pol Pot) East Asia turned a corner. Continuous growth and prosperity for the last 45 years. Including the opening up of China.

    Maybe that could happen in the Middle East. It would require Iran to be part of that, although Iran is not as large within the Middle East context as China is within Asia. 

    That would require some form of deal between the US and Iran, just as there was between China and the US in the 1970’s. It would mean the end of sanctions, and some sort of economic arrangement. Seems hard to see that happening any time soon. But who knows? Nixon and Chou en Lai managed it.

    • RedLogix 6.1

      You have to hope this is possible Wayne. But right now you would have to agree there are no promising signs. For all the meddling and game playing by the great powers, for all the catastrophically badly advised invasions and sanctions … the Middle East was always an unhappy, unstable region. 

      There is I fear much to play out yet. Although never discount the possibility of a miracle.

    • Dennis Frank 6.2

      Well, for a start oil wasn't part of the context.  At a stretch, Trump/Putin could produce a resolution, analogous as you suggest, but the historical context in the ME is one of deeply-embedded regional hostilities going back millennia.  Somehow the regional antipathies in east Asia seem more superficial.

      I think the Nixon initiative worked due to suiting all players, but nobody has been able to design a similar scheme for the ME.  Israel is still doing zionism – their own form of imperialism.  Antiquated, sure, but when your god gives you a promised land and it gets taken away, then you get much of it back, you want the remainder, right?  So they torpedo the two-state solution.

      Then you've got the sunni/shia schism, unresolved for about 13 centuries.  It would take a lot of win/win design to make that seem irrelevant.  At the risk of being facile, could be your analysis has a fatal flaw in presuming growth & prosperity would work the magic…

      • RedLogix 6.2.1

        presuming growth & prosperity would work the magic

        Well I always thought the best way to fix the ME was sex, drugs and heavy metal … but Islam seems peculiarly resistant to it. 🙂

    • Blazer 6.3

      'When the wars that encompassed Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos ended (including the removal of Pol Pot) East Asia turned a corner. Continuous growth and prosperity for the last 45 years. Including the opening up of China.'

      Very simplistic.

      The U.S lost the war and embarked on sanctions the 'make the economy scream option after bombing them back to the Stone age..failed.

      Vietnam got rid of the KR…Laos is still a back water economically and China's rise was Western  corporations offshoring manufacturing labour.

      That's why Trump is in power ,the rust belt ,middle America has suffered as the tradeable sector and jobs have been lost.

      Meanwhile Wall St banks have increased their market caps by a ludicrous % ,aided and abetted by a Fed captive to the Q.E drug.

      Nixon was a crook and ever since the world went off the gold standard ,real inflation has skyrocketed.

  7. My understanding is that Trump didn't take any troops out of Syria. He's moved them to another part of northern Syria to protect the oilfields there


  8. Byd0nz 8

    You must remember, the U.S.A. is a  military dictatorship. Facism is where the state works for the benefit of big-business,there is no greater business than arms manufacturing and dealing. The comander in chief boasts of its two trillion defence budget, but that is not for the millions of homeless American families, or for the millions who have no health cover. So when adverseries of the U.S.A. say death to America, I'd have to agree.

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    I move, That this House place on record its appreciation and thanks for the devoted and distinguished service to New Zealand by the late Rt Hon Michael Kenneth Moore, member of the Order of New Zealand, a member of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, an Honorary Member of the ...
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