Twenty-six years ago this month, peace was breaking out in a manner that the world had not experienced since June 1914. The Berlin Wall — the symbol of state tyranny, mass warfare and the nuclear sword of Damocles that hung over the planet — came tumbling down on Nov. 9, 1989.

It was only a matter of time before the bankrupt Soviet regime would die off and the world’s vast arsenal of weapons and nuclear bombs could be dismantled. The Soviet Union officially ended on Christmas Day, 1991.

Ronald Reagan had called the dying Soviet Union an evil empire. But it was actually a passing freak of history. It had arisen by a fluke 72 years earlier — almost to the day of the Berlin Wall’s fall — only because Imperial Russia had been reduced to anarchy by the carnage of the Great War. That enabled Lenin to install his own special Bolshevik brand of hell on Earth.

The demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant the world could have reverted to a normalcy of peace, liberal commerce and a minimum of armaments that had prevailed in the late 19th century. The 20th-century curse of militarism, totalitarianism and global warfare was over.

So with its “mission accomplished,” there was no logical reason why NATO shouldn’t have been disbanded along with the Warsaw Pact. And for an obvious and overpowering reason: There were no longer any material military threats from Soviet aggression. But not only did NATO continue — it expanded.

According to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, President George H.W. Bush promised that NATO would not expand by “as much as a thumb’s width further to the East” if the Russians acquiesced to the reunification of Germany. That promise was broken. Not only did NATO advance a thumb’s width further eastward — it advanced all the way to within 100 miles of St. Petersburg. Former Soviet republics are now members of NATO. It’s an accident waiting to happen.

The Soviet Union’s gone, but a major threat to peace is still lurking on the Potomac. The great general and president Dwight Eisenhower called it the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address. But that memorable phrase had been abbreviated by his speechwriters, who deleted the word “congressional” in a friendly gesture to the legislative branch.

The Soviet Union’s gone, but a major threat to peace is still lurking on the Potomac. The great general and president Dwight Eisenhower called it the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address.

But if you restore Ike’s deleted reference, the circle is complete. Congress, supported by armies of lobbyists, kept the entire national security apparatus in business. This “congressional-military-industrial complex” constituted the most awesome machine of warfare and imperial hegemony since the Roman legions controlled most of the civilized world.

The real threat to peace circa 1990 was that Pax Americana would not go away quietly in the night.

Needless to say, the sudden end to 20th-century history posed an existential threat to Imperial Washington. A trillion-dollar complex of weapons suppliers, warfare state bureaucracies, intelligence and security contractors, arms exporters, think tanks and much more were all suddenly without an enemy or a purpose. That wasn’t good for business.

And as it has happened, Imperial Washington did find its necessary enemy in the rise of so-called “global terrorism.”

But the everlasting truth is that the relative handful of suicidal jihadi who have perpetrated murderous episodes of terror like 9/11 and this weekend’s carnage in Paris did not exist in November 1989. Further, they would not be marauding the West today were it not for the unrelenting arrogance, stupidity, duplicity and lying of Imperial Washington.

The gates of hell have been opened by Washington’s senseless destruction of regimes in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere that refused to do its bidding. But none of these backwaters of economic and military insignificance posed any threat whatsoever to the safety of American citizens in Lincoln, Nebraska, or in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The Middle East and the Arab/Islamic world is now a burned-out zone of failed states and an incubator of barbaric fanaticism because Imperial Washington made it that way.

What has metastasized from the ruins left by American intervention is not an organized military threat or a tide of state-sponsored attacks on the civilian life of the West.

It is blowback from the same jaws of hell that Washington so foolishly opened.

Neoconservatives in the Bush White House argued that “regime change” in the tyrannies of the Middle East was in America’s national interest.

But the neocon doctrine of regime change actually fostered the Frankenstein that became ISIS. In fact, the only real terrorists in the world that threaten normal civilian life in the West are the products of Imperial Washington’s post-1990 mischief in the Middle East.

The CIA-trained and armed Mujahideen mutated into al-Qaeda not because Bin Laden suddenly had a religious epiphany that his Washington benefactors were actually the Great Satan because of America’s freedom and liberty.

His murderous crusade was inspired by the Wahhabi fundamentalism loose in Saudi Arabia. That religious fanaticism became agitated to a fever pitch by Imperial Washington’s violent plunge into Persian Gulf political and religious quarrels. The U.S. stationed troops in Saudi Arabia. It also enacted a decade-long barrage of sanctions, embargoes, no fly zones, covert actions and open hostility against the Sunni regime in Baghdad after 1991.

Yes, Bin Laden would have amputated Saddam’s secularist head if Washington hadn’t done it first. But that’s just the point. The attempt at regime change in March 2003 was one of the most foolish acts of state in American history.

The younger Bush’s neocon advisers had no clue about the sectarian animosities and historical grievances that Hussein had bottled up. He did that by passing around the oil loot and keeping everyone in line under the banner of Baathist nationalism. But “shock and awe” blew the lid and Bush’s de-baathification campaign unleashed chaos.

No sooner had George Bush pranced around on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln declaring “mission accomplished” than Abu Musab al-Zarqawi emerged as a flamboyant agitator in the now disposed Sunni heartland. Zarqawi was a CIA recruit to the Afghan war a decade earlier and small-time specialist in hostage-taking and poisons.

The founder of ISIS succeeded in Fallujah and Anbar province just like the long list of other terrorist leaders Washington claims to have exterminated. That is, Zarqawi gained his following and notoriety among the region’s population of deprived, brutalized and humiliated young men by being more brutal than their occupiers.

The point is, regime change and nation building can never be accomplished by the lethal violence of 21st century armed forces. Especially in a land seething with 13 century-old religious divisions and hatreds.

In fact, the wobbly, artificial state of Iraq was doomed the minute Cheney and his gang decided to liberate it from the brutal, but serviceable and secular tyranny of Saddam. That’s because the process of elections and majority rule necessarily imposed by Washington was guaranteed to elect a government beholden to Iraq’s Shiite majority.

After decades of mistreatment and Saddam’s brutal suppression of their 1991 uprising, the Shiite population had revenge on its mind. And the Kurds in northern Iraq had dreams of an independent Kurdistan that had been denied their 30-million strong tribe way back at Versailles.

So the $25 billion spent on training and equipping the armed forces of post-liberation Iraq was bound to end up in the hands of sectarian militias, not a national army.

In fact, when the Shiite commanders fled Sunni-dominated Mosul in June 2014, they transformed the ISIS uprising against the government in Baghdad into a vicious fledgling state in one fell swoop. Its instruments of terror and occupation were the best weapons that the American taxpayers could buy. That included 2,300 Humvees and tens of thousands of automatic weapons, as well as vast stores of ammunition, trucks, rockets, artillery pieces; even tanks and helicopters.

And that wasn’t the half of it. The newly proclaimed Islamic State also filled the power vacuum in Syria created by that country’s so-called civil war. But in truth the Syrian civil war was another exercise in Washington-inspired and financed regime change undertaken with the assistance of Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

These Sunni-dominated states were surely not interested in expelling the tyranny next door. They’re tyrannies themselves. Instead, the rebellion was about removing Iran’s Alawite/Shiite ally in Damascus and laying gas pipelines to Europe across the upper Euphrates Valley.

In any event, ISIS soon had troves of additional American weapons. Some of them were supplied to Sunni radicals by way of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. More came up the so-called “ratline” from Gaddafi’s former arsenals in Libya through Turkey. And still more came through Jordan from the “moderate” opposition trained there by the CIA. These “moderates” more often than not sold the weapons or defected to the other side.

That the Islamic State was Washington’s Frankenstein monster became evident from the moment it rushed upon the scene 18 months ago. But even then the Washington war party could not resist adding fuel to the fire. It pressured the Obama White House into a futile bombing campaign for the third time in a quarter century.

But if bombing really worked, the Islamic State would be sand and gravel by now. Indeed, it really is not much more than that anyway.

The dusty, broken, impoverished towns and villages along the margins of the Euphrates River and in the bombed-out precincts of Anbar province do not attract thousands of wannabe jihadists from the failed states of the Middle East and the alienated Muslim townships of Europe because ISIS offers prosperity or salvation. It doesn’t offer any future at all.

What recruits them is outrage at the bombs and drones being dropped on Sunni communities by the U.S. Air Force. And by the cruise missiles launched from American ships in the Mediterranean.

What recruits them is outrage at the bombs and drones being dropped on Sunni communities by the U.S. Air Force. And by the cruise missiles launched from American ships in the Mediterranean. These missiles rip apart homes, shops, offices and mosques that contain as many innocent civilians as ISIS terrorists.

The truth is, the Islamic State was destined for a short half-life anyway. It was contained by the Kurds in the north and east. It was also contained by Turkey with NATO’s second largest army and air force in the northwest. And it was surrounded by the Shiite crescent in the populated, economically viable regions of lower Syria and Iraq.

So, absent Washington’s misbegotten campaign to unseat Assad in Damascus and demonize his Iranian ally, there would have been nowhere for the murderous fanatics to go. They would have quickly run out of money, recruits, momentum and public toleration of their horrific rule.

But the U.S. Air Force has been functioning as their recruiting arm. And France’s anti-Assad foreign policy helped generate a final spasm of anarchy in Syria. So the gates of hell have been opened wide. What’s come out of those gates is not an organized war on Western civilization as French president Francois Hollande so hysterically proclaimed in response to the mayhem of last weekend.

It was just blowback carried out by a small group of mentally deformed young men who can be persuaded to strap on a suicide belt.

Needless to say, bombing won’t stop them. It will just make more of them.

Ironically, what can stop them is the Assad government and its Iranian allies. It’s time to let them settle an ancient quarrel that has never been any of America’s business anyway.

But Imperial Washington is so caught up in its myths, lies and hegemonic stupidity that it cannot see the obvious.

And that is why a quarter century after the cold war ended peace still hasn’t been given a chance. It’s also why horrific events like last week’s barbarism in Paris still keep happening.

The original version of this article was first published at David Stockman’s Contra Corner. This version was written for Daily Reckoning.
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