Strategically and Morally Bankrupt: U.S. Policy in the Middle East - Col. Lawrence Wilkerson

Retired U.S. Colonel Larry Wilkerson discusses the Biden administration’s unconditional support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bombardment of Gaza and large-scale indiscriminate attacks on Palestinian civilians. He points to state-sanctioned torture and other unlawful acts committed by the U.S. after 9/11 and asserts that the Israeli government is responding to Hamas’ attacks in a similar fashion by wholly disregarding international legal norms. In doing so, Israel is putting its own population at risk, as well as collectively punishing the Palestinians.

Talia Baroncelli

Hi, I’m Talia Baronelli, and you’re watching My guest today is Colonel Larry Wilkerson, who’ll be joining me to speak about U.S. involvement in the Middle East. If you’d like to support the work that we do, feel free to go to our website,, and make a donation via the red button at the top right corner of the screen. Also, get onto our mailing list so that you’re updated whenever there’s new content. Like and subscribe to our channel on whichever platform you watch this show. See you in a bit with Larry.


Following the gruesome atrocities committed by Hamas in Israel on October 7, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared war to root out Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The death toll has exceeded 1,400 people in Israel, most of whom were civilians, and over 8,000 civilians in Gaza, 40% of which were children. Israel has put a stranglehold on Gaza’s access to water, food, electricity, and fuel. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, only 118 trucks have been allowed into Gaza via the Rafah crossing so far due to the elaborate and time-consuming security checks conducted on the trucks.


Following talks with the Biden administration, Israel has announced that it will allow 100 trucks a day into the enclave to alleviate the humanitarian crisis. Though many aid organizations question whether this will be sufficient to address the dire needs of over two million Palestinians on the territory. This announcement came after the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA, insisted that the existing number of aid trucks entering Gaza was not enough to meet the enormous humanitarian needs of the population.


International calls for a ceasefire were made abundantly clear in a recent UN General Assembly resolution calling for a humanitarian truce, with 120 countries voting in favor and 14 countries vetoing the resolution. Netanyahu has rejected calls for a ceasefire or a pause in the bombardment of civilians until all the hostages have been released. The Israeli army has called up 360,000 reserves and has started its ground offensive on Gaza. The U.S. has also been increasing its presence in the region by sending additional missile and air defense systems, as well as 900 troops, largely in response to the killing of U.S. contractors and personnel in Syria by Iranian-backed groups. These developments point to a potential regional escalation and feared widening of the conflict. Although Vice President Kamala Harris has stated that no combat troops will be sent to Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories.


Joining me now is Larry Wilkerson. He’s a retired Colonel who worked in the U.S. Army for 31 years. He served as Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell during the George W. Bush administration between 2002 and 2005. He also worked for Powell when Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War. Thank you very much for joining me again, Larry.

Lawrence Wilkerson

Thank you for having me, Talia.

Talia Baroncelli

Following the horrific attacks on October 7 by Hamas militants on Israel, in which over 1,400 civilians were killed, not only Israelis but also people of other nationalities, such as Thai workers. President Biden gave a speech in which he was speaking about 9/11 and how the Israelis should not be consumed by rage in their response to the Hamas attacks. He did say that the U.S., in the post-9/11 period, sought to get justice and that they did get justice, but that they made mistakes.


I wanted to ask you about the post-9/11 response because there was a report by Brown University in 2021 called The Costs of War. In this report, it showed that the post-9/11 wars killed upwards of 900,000 people, and the U.S. incurred over $8 trillion in costs. How was this response in any way, shape, or form considered to be getting justice? Why would Biden even make this comparison if the post-9/11 response was such a disaster?

Lawrence Wilkerson

The only reason I can apply, if I’m looking at motivations or rationales that Biden might have, is that he was part of it. He was right there, and he was signing up to everything. The Congress indeed signed up to everything. They signed up to the National Intelligence Assessment in October 2002, which Colin Powell famously presented at the United Nations, and which was at least 70%-80% false. He signed up to the Iraq Liberation Act, which gave carte blanche, really, to the president to do whatever he wanted to before even the resolution that was issued after the [inaudible 00:05:07] revolution that was issued after 9/11.


It was a terrible time for the United States. It featured state-sanctioned torture for the first time in our colonial or national history. A president of the United States approved of other human beings being tortured. Now, we had tortured people in previous conflicts, but we’ve never had a president sign off on it as an official U.S. policy torture. Putting aside the casualties for a moment, it was a terrible moment for the United States in terms of its own conduct and its behavior. The costs are just out of this world enormous. 

I know The Cost of War project pretty well. I know the people who put it together pretty well. I think it’s a bit over the top, but I would say it’s probably somewhere in the $5 to $6 trillion range, and I don’t want to quibble over trillions, but that’s a huge amount of money. Think of the opportunity cost for that: education, meeting the climate crisis, and all the things we have to do in this country when we’re in such debt. We’re in so heavily right now that the interest payments on our debt, the interest payments are going to consume all discretionary federal spending. That’s incredible. That’s the office of the budget telling us that. Yet we’re still going down the road of spending money, $100 billion to Ukraine, $100 billion to this country or that country.


To your specific question, the rage that took over after 9/11 was visible in a way that even caused the evangelical George W. Bush to call in religious leaders to the Oval Office. Franklin Graham was amongst them. It was great getting advice from Franklin Graham, but he wanted them to help him contain his rage. Well, they didn’t do all that good a job, in my view, because we went to Afghanistan, at least, with a lot of rage in our heart and our strategy, and the way we impacted Afghanistan and then subsequently Iraq was partly because of that rage. It was not strategic genius that was operating. It was, I got to stay in office. I don’t want to be impeached, so I have to show the American people that I’m going to do something about this worse than Pearl Harbor tragedy that happened. Pearl Harbor was around 2,400, I think, and 9/11 was roughly around 3,000. Not that that’s a way to compare it, but it was significant. It was a blow to the present.


There were people who were scared they were going to be impeached for the first 24 hours. The way you deal with that is the way Netanyahu is dealing with it right now, is you’re fierce. You’re fierce. You start pointing fingers at all the people who are guilty besides you, and you’re the guilty party. You start doing things like slaughtering people in Gaza that make your people think that you’re responding in the way that you should. That’s not unlike what we did after 9/11. I think we were a little bit more circumspect about it politically because we didn’t have someone, even with the innocent, inexperienced George W. Bush, we didn’t have someone who was not fairly well advised by his cabinet to not be like Netanyahu’s being right now, just flat-ass, brutal.


If we were to be in the conversations Netanyahu is having, particularly not the unity government, but the members of his former Nazi government, if we were in those conversations, we’d probably hear some of the most beastly talk we’d ever want to hear. We got to exterminate. We must exterminate.


This was an intelligence failure because of three things. If it wasn’t contrived, I’ve heard enough evidence that the whole thing might have been contrived. I’m not buying that yet. I’m buying that it was a massive intelligence failure: arrogance, hubris, and arrogance, no imagination. You can’t think what your enemy might do to you. Third, which follows from the second, they’re subhuman. They’re not up to you. They’re not anywhere near you. They can’t do this because you’re too good and they’re too bad. That’s what happened.


In essence, that’s what happened to the United States of America, too. Bin Laden was smarter than we were. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was smarter. In many respects, they’ve gotten what they wanted. Bin Laden’s gotten what he wanted. The United States has bled its treasury, massively bled its treasury. The amount of money we spent on the so-called global war on terror to include Afghanistan and Iraq. We’ve massively disturbed the body politics, if you will. The domestic sanity of the nation is fractured right now. That’s what produced all of the problems. We have done exactly what Bin Laden said in that 98, 99 fatwa. We have caused ourselves to begin to fall apart, and that’s what he wanted to do. That’s what he conducted the attacks for.


Fast forward. What is Israel doing now with its current lack of a real strategy but a bunch of tactics to blow people up, kill people, slaughter people, kill innocent civilians, and so forth? What has he done? He sealed Israel’s doom in my mind. He sealed Israel’s doom. I said two years ago that Israel would not be a state in 20 years. Boy, have I been taken to task for that?


Rick Scott, the minority member of Elizabeth Warren’s Personnel Subcommittee in the SASC, I’m testifying on the revolving door, how we need to stop the revolving door where generals go out and leave and work for Lockheed Martin or Raytheon. What does Rick Scott spend five minutes doing in his opening remarks, the minority leader of that subcommittee? He accuses me for saying Israel won’t be a state in 20 years. I’m sorry, Rick. How do you feel now? Things are not looking good. This state is going to be a pariah of the international community of the entire world, if not the enemy of three-quarters of the world.


Does that bother Bibi Netanyahu? Not at all, because he said it. He said he doesn’t care if everybody in the world is his enemy. As long as he’s got the United States, which he controls, those are his words, and he’s got Israel. He’s not worried about it.


Well, I’ve got news for him. I don’t care who you are or what you are, the rest of the world will get rid of you if they detest you sufficiently, and they are getting to that point. Even American Jews are getting to the point where they detest Netanyahu sufficiently to get rid of him. The next step, unless Israel fixes this, is the state of Israel.

Talia Baroncelli

Well, there have been a lot of polls recently on Israelis’ opinions or responses to what Netanyahu has been doing in Gaza with the bombardment of Gaza, cutting off electricity, cutting off fuel, and the supply of water and food. It seems like his approval ratings are actually quite low, both among Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis. From what I’ve heard from other scholars and journalists in Israel, it does seem like a large segment of the population still supports this targeting of Gaza because they don’t foresee any future peace being possible at all.


In light of this sentiment, I do want to speak about a report that was leaked recently to the press. It’s a report by an independent government body and an intelligence ministry in Israel. This specific report isn’t something that’s binding on the Israeli government, but the report did outline certain day-after strategies for the Israeli government in terms of what they could do after the war with Hamas is over. One of the options they were discussing was depopulating Gaza and pushing the Palestinians into the Sinai Peninsula. The way they wrote this report was that the international community would actually praise this move and see it as an effort to protect the Palestinians.


What do you think the options are right now that are being discussed by Netanyahu and his unity government? It doesn’t seem like they’re openly discussing this option, but do you think they would actually consider this option of permanently ethnically cleansing and depopulating the Gaza Strip?

Lawrence Wilkerson

I think Meir Ben-Shabbat, former National Security Advisor for Netanyahu, had his hand in this. Knowing that particular individual and knowing what the smaller think tank-like apparatus that put this together with the Ministry of Intelligence, whatever they call themselves, I think it’s out of the realm of the possible, and it’s probably been judged so by Netanyahu even, but particularly the unity government. I do think that it was parleyed. I think it was discussed. I think that was something that was on the table, very much so, particularly with the extreme right wing.


The government in Jerusalem is a theocracy. The government in Tehran is a theocracy, and we hate it because it’s a theocracy, but it’s a Muslim theocracy. The one in Jerusalem is a Jewish theocracy, but it’s a theocracy nonetheless. As we were shaping things up under Netanyahu with [Itamar] Ben-Gvir and the rest of them conducting programs in the West Bank and killing Palestinians and dispossessing them every day of the week, we saw how bad that was, but we didn’t say anything about that because this is a Jewish theocracy. We won’t even use the word theocracy. They backed away from that now because they realized, I think, that’s part of the reason that they got what they got on October 7. That and the fact that the United States… and I have to believe that as ill-equipped for any real diplomacy as Bliken and Biden are, I have to believe that in this situation, they have laid the law down. We must certainly stand behind it, behind the scenes, so to speak, and say, “No, you’re not doing this.”


Do you know what [Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi has told us he will do? He has told us that he will abrogate the peace treaty, and he will start to move forces into the Sinai to keep you from doing what you want to do, and you’re going to come in contact with the Egyptian army. Jordan has told us the same thing. Do you know how many Palestinians are already in Jordan? There are more there than there are bed ones by a factor of four or five to one. This is not tenable. You cannot do this. Plus, el-Sisi’s got all the Sudanese who come out of a real tragic situation down in East Africa. This is untenable. It simply can’t happen.


Now, the extermination of many of the two-plus million Palestinians, as Gideon Levy has pointed out, is certainly on the minds of many Israelis, not just in the government.


I participate in something every other week called the Israel-Palestinian Confederation, and I have been doing it for two years. We discussed with Knesset members, with scholars from Israel, scholars from the U.S., and scholars from Europe, putting a government over both, well three: Hamas, PA, and Israel; a federal government over them and giving each one of the subsidiary governments veto power over our legislations. The purpose is to bring peace to the two states. We have some people on that simulation that you just wouldn’t believe. Well, there are a lot of those people in Israel. Too many, as a matter of fact. Too many of them adhere to Ben-Gvir and other people like that’s philosophy. The only good Palestinian is a dead Palestinian. That’s their philosophy.


There are other options for exterminating the Palestinians, one of which is being executed right now by the IDF. It’s going to be incumbent upon the international community not to let that happen. They’ve killed UN workers, especially the Relief Agency. They’ve killed, I forgot the number, it is growing every day, the number of UN workers. The number of children they’re killing. These UN figures, I think, are fairly accurate. The Israelis say all those figures are exaggerated. I think the UN figures are getting pretty accurate, and they’re shocking enough. We’ve got to watch this carefully, and the United States has got to put its foot down and step in there in case it gets out of hand.


Israel is thinking, “What do I do afterward?” They have no strategy. They have no strategy. I see, I detect, no, I don’t see an iota of strategy. All I see is tactics. The tactics are the same as they’ve been since Israel was formed. Let’s just mow the lawn a little bit. Of course, they’re saying, “No, this time it isn’t going to happen again. We’re going to push them all out.” You’re not going to do that. You’re not going to push them all out. What are you going to do? Who’s going to govern them? What’s the government going to look like? Oh, well, let’s get rid of that curmudgeon; I don’t know what they call it, Mahmoud Abbas. He is way beyond his sell-by date. Need to get rid of him. Need to get somebody in the Palestinian Authority. They had some people in there, but Mahmoud Abbas got rid of them. We need someone in there who can actually form and execute a government, and we need to put that in charge probably of the two million or whatever’s left, Palestinians in Gaza.


We need to start talking seriously about a two-state solution, not this palaver that we’ve had for 40 years. That two-state solution now is probably going to have to have a UN force in between the one state and the other. They’re going to have to shoot people maybe from their position in the demarcation zone to make a point that Israelis, you stay on your side of the line in your state, and you Palestinians stay on your side of the line in your state, and there will be no terrorism across the line by either side because the Israelis are just as apt to do it as the Palestinians.


We forget about the Israelis who were some of the most horrific terrorists in the world against the British. In the ’40s, when the British had given up their mandate in Palestine, the worst terrorists in the world were the Israelis. We need a two-state solution. We need a peacekeeping force in the middle, a peace enforcement. Chapter Six, Chapter Seven, a peace enforcement force in between them and maybe for 75 years as in Cyprus, as in Kashmir, as in the Korean Peninsula, we need that. We need a two-state solution. Your one-state solution, where it’s a single state that’s democratic and not Jewish, I think, has gone by the wayside.


We were getting ready to go. The IPC that I just told you about, we were going to all leave. We got permission and spent $30,000 on a sign, a big sign, a billboard; we were going to put that up. It says, “A Jewish state is not good for Jews.” We were going to preach from that sign literally. It’s off now. I think they’re going to postpone it and maybe do it later, but that’s the truth. A Jewish state is not good for Jews. It’s not a democracy. It’s a theocracy. A theocracy manned by people like Ben-Gvir and such, it’s not going to last. It’ll be a pariah. It’ll be gone. I said two years ago, Israel would not be a state in 20 years. I stand by that. Rick Scott, notwithstanding, all the people notwithstanding, I stand by that. Not to let the Democrats out when it came to Tim Kaine, my Virginia Senator, is trying to question me. He opened up with three minutes of diatribe against me for not loving Israel. That’s how badly we are in the hands of Jerusalem.

Talia Baroncelli

Well, I do hope that doesn’t happen, as it would inevitably lead to more deaths both on the Palestinian side and on the Israeli side. It would kill any prospect of a peace process, and most likely, Arab states would also enter into a wider regional conflict.


I did want to get your response to something Netanyahu said the other day. Israeli journalists were asking him to respond to international calls for a ceasefire. He said, “Just as the United States would not agree to a ceasefire after the bombing of Pearl Harbor or after the terrorist attack of 9/11, Israel will not agree to a cessation of hostilities with Hamas after the horrific attacks of October 7. Calls for a ceasefire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism, to surrender to barbarism. That will not happen. Ladies and gentlemen, the Bible says that there is a time for peace and a time for war. This is a time for war, a war for a common future. Today, we draw a line between the forces of civilization and the forces of barbarism. It is a time for everyone to decide where they stand.” He’s using this biblical language to justify his decisions on launching a bombardment of Gaza and potentially avoiding any reflection on his own responsibility in what happened on October 7, given that he allegedly received intel from the Egyptians that some attack would take place, and he didn’t react accordingly.


Since then, the U.S. has sent in Lieutenant General James Glynn, who has urban warfare experience in places like Iraq. It seems like they’re trying to potentially use urban warfare tactics in Gaza. This, according to other anti-terror experts, seems to be a bit unwise given that in places like Mosul, where there was urban warfare, for every ISIS soldier or ISIS terrorist who was killed, an Iraqi soldier was also killed, and numerous civilians were killed. How do you see this strategy working at all in Gaza?

Lawrence Wilkerson

You got me. I see nothing but failure here, strategic failure in particular. Your remarks about Netanyahu’s remarks remind me of the man who is third in succession for the presidency of the United States right now, the new speaker of the House who believes that Noah had dinosaurs on his arc, who has commercial interest in two museums and educational facilities in Kentucky and Tennessee, to which yellow school busses pull up every day with middle schoolers and elementary school kids in them and go in and learn creation theory.


Netanyahu can spout the Bible all he wants to. He’s putting himself in that same category as the speaker of the U.S. House and worse. He’s putting himself in the category of the man who blew the trumpets, and the walls fell down. He’s putting himself in the category of other people from Israel who, in early times, felt like killing their enemies was the only option. If you’re in a world basically run by the empire of Rome or whatever time period you’re talking about, maybe that had a little bit of relevance, and maybe the people who put the Bible together, maybe they were writing from a Homeric position, if you will, a Virgil position of recording myths and such. That’s what the Bible is; it’s full of myths. Myths!


For example, this business that my friends sometimes cite is “a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye.” Well, that leaves the world toothless and blind. That’s an absurd philosophy, but it catches headlines. The Bible is basically a freaking myth. It’s a myth just like America is a myth, just like Russia is a myth, and it has about as much relevance to anything as misdo in that situation.


Yeah, okay, we were people who said the only good Indian is a dead Indian. How do you fast forward that into the 21st century and say a very opposite aphorism? [Philip] Sheridan was right. [William] Sherman was right. The only good Indian is a dead Indian. That’s what Netanyahu would say. That’s using the absolutely most evil aspects of your myth to inform current modern policy. That’s stupid. Netanyahu is an idiot when you really boil it down to its bare facts. He needs to be gone. The Israelis need to get rid of him. The unity government does not need Bibi Netanyahu. It needs him gone, maybe behind bars. I’d love to see him gone. That’s the first step they should have taken. Get rid of that guy, put him in jail, and form a new government, whatever it might be called, however elected eventually, and then go after your strategy. There’s no strategy right now. There’s no strategy. There are only tactics on the ground.


Of the things you’ve pointed out, and that I’ve expertly enumerated, this tactic that they have of exterminating as many people as they possibly can and doing it as rapidly as they possibly can and taking Hamas into account in that process is not going to result in anything but the same thing that was happening before. Anyone who couldn’t, seven months out, nine months out, my whole discussion group was saying this. Look at what Gideon Levy said. There were two million Palestinians in an open-air concentration camp and to think there wasn’t going to be another Intifada, that there wasn’t going to be a reaction from the other side; it was just nuts, and we got it. We got it. Now, they were caught out. They were caught out with their pants down, and Mossad, IDF, Shin Bet, and everybody else, Netanyahu in particular, were made to look the fool. That makes their rage even deeper and their passion to fix things even deeper.


They’re not going to fix things with the tactics they’re using right now with no strategy. There isn’t going to be anybody to rule the Palestinians but Palestinians. There isn’t going to be anybody to rule the Palestinians in Gaza unless the Palestinian authorities refurbish or something like that. You don’t want Hamas running it.


They had a lot to do with that, too. Netanyahu was actually influential in the 2006 elections in getting Hamas elected. Netanyahu has been working with the Emir, the double-faced Emir down there in Qatar, who’s a Muslim brotherhood supporter, who sends money to the Palestinians for humanitarian purposes and also funds Hamas. This is the guy who hosted the Taliban, remember? This is the guy that the Taliban felt comfortable with when having talks with the United States. This is a convoluted story that Americans don’t pay any attention to, nobody pays any attention to, and everybody gets away with their crimes. Well, I’m sorry. The crimes are going to stop here, and Israel is going to be lucky to be a state in 20 years.

Talia Baroncelli

Well, why don’t we elaborate on Qatar’s role in all of this? My understanding is that they’ve helped with the release of four hostages.

Lawrence Wilkerson


Talia Baroncelli

Right. I think two Americans and two other Israeli hostages.

Lawrence Wilkerson

 I think the first two were Americans. You have to get your priorities right. I’ll just cite what Colin Powell used to say about Prince Bandar. Prince Bandar, the guy who was ambassador to the United States for 10 or so years and then as slick as heck, bribed Tony Blair with a $5 billion bribe and said, “Well, I have money. Why shouldn’t I?” Bandar said one time, “Here’s how to assess,” and Powell used this metaphor president after president, “The Arabs are like this, particularly the Saudis, they watch a horse race, and the horse is pulling out about the midpoint in the race, and so they put all their money on that horse. Then, about three-quarters through the stretch, the horse starts to fall back, and another horse comes up and evens with you or maybe ahead of you. They shift all their money to that horse. Then, by the time they get to the finish line, there’s a horse that’s just about to beat everybody. It looks like it’s going to be the winner. They shift all their money to that horse.” That’s the Saudis. They don’t have any fealty to anyone.


To a certain extent, the other Emirs and kings are the same way. Qatar was boycotted by Saudi Arabia because of its very flagrant support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Do you know how we turned that around for Qatar? Al Udeid is the largest Air Force base on the face of the planet. It is fully funded by Qatar. We don’t have to pay for fuel. We don’t have to pay for taxi rides or anything. Fully funded by Emir.


When we were going to side with Riyadh on the boycott of these terrorists backing the Emirs in Qatar, the Pentagon weighed in. The Pentagon said, “Oh, no, we can’t lose that base. We can’t lose the Al Udeid. We have to have Al Udeid or increase our budget tenfold. They paid for everything. We backed off. We backed off and stood up against Riyadh and supported Qatar and got them back into the community of Arab nations, as it were. They’re still supporters of the Muslim brother. They’re still supporters of the most venomous terrorists on the face of the Earth.


Where did the Muslim Brotherhood come from? I’ll ask you that question too. Where did they come from? They came from Erdoğan’s territory. What’s happening there? What’s happening with Turkey? Why is Erdoğan looking like he’s a kingmaker now, or at least a queenmaker? Why is he picking up all these pieces and suddenly changing this and changing that? Why did he say the other day when they asked him if he still wanted to be a member of the EU? I would have said the same thing. Are you kidding me? This is crazy. This is crazy. He’s trying to decide what he wants to be now. Tell me NATO isn’t collapsing, which I’ve said in a number of places. He’s a principal NATO member. He anchors the southern plank of NATO. He’s not a NATO member. He’s just there ostensibly. We have troops in Turkey. We have a base in Israel. Someone told me the other day we still have nuclear weapons in Israel. I don’t know that, but I wouldn’t doubt it. Erdoğan’s trying to figure out if he wants to be neutral and the leader of the Muslim world. There, he’s in a contest with Mohammed bin Salman, or does he want to be aligned with Russia and China rapidly becoming the axis to be aligned with? Or does he want to still be a member of NATO?


John Mearsheimer was in Australia. He was telling the Australians, Look at this. Look at the United States right now. Here we are in the Eastern Mediterranean with one carrier and another one steaming flank speed to get there. We’re funding Ukraine to the point of desperation in terms of our budget. The Republicans are at least finally taking some action about that. Not the right reasons, but they are physical reasons. Where’s the real threat? The real threat is China. We’ve pivoted, but we haven’t pivoted. We’ve pivoted, but we haven’t pivoted. We’ve pivoted again, but we haven’t pivoted. We’re in the Eastern Mediterranean, and we’re backing Ukraine. The threat’s over there. Guess what’s happening with the other side of the Ukraine war? It’s in a nexus with Beijing. Guess what Beijing may do with Putin and probably has already had the agreement made? He used plutonium from Russia to build out his nuclear weapons complex faster than he would have been able to with what he has right now because this is good stuff to build your nuclear weapons with. Is he going to go from 200-400 weapons to 2,000 to 3,000 weapons? Probably. They’d made that decision, I think.


What are we doing in the Eastern Mediterranean backing Ukraine when if there is a true threat to the Republic, it is in East Asia? It is in the country that is going to rapidly replace us, already has, in terms of purchasing parity, economically, strategically, and militarily. Maybe it has already replaced us in several of those categories. What are we doing in the Eastern Mediterranean with this pipsqueak issue? What are we doing? This is absurd. John’s right. I don’t agree with him that the war with China is inevitable. I think good diplomacy and some [inaudible] could prevent the war. But I don’t know that. There is this tendency that history gives us of a rising power and a status quo power whose power is declining fighting, inevitably fighting. John thinks they’re going to fight. I would want to keep my powder dry, and I would want to be ready to fight them if I had to. We are not ready to fight Burma, Myanmar. We couldn’t fight them now. We’re in terrible shape. We talked about this before the show. The all-volunteer force is falling apart. Our army is smaller than the army of Bangladesh. We can’t recruit. We can’t do the things we need to do to put people into the army. Why is the propensity of 18-24-year-olds 9% lowest it’s ever been? One, stupid wars, stupid wars, stupid wars, which haven’t stopped. We’re still in Syria illegally. The vested head of that state has not asked us to be there, so we’re there illegally. We’re still fighting the global war on terror. We’re still militarizing Africa to the tune of coup after coup. We’re a disaster, tell you. We are a disaster.

Talia Baroncelli

It seems like the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, is really gung ho about increasing the military presence in the Middle East.

Lawrence Wilkerson

Good luck.

Talia Baroncelli

Whose decision is it in the end? Where are the centers of this decision-making power? Does it rest with the president in this case? Or would you see this coming from people like Jake Sullivan, who recently wrote this really long annoying article in Foreign Affairs in which he was talking about how the U.S. needs to keep these alliances, especially after President Trump destroyed a lot of those transnational alliances and also invest in competition, alleged competition with China?

Lawrence Wilkerson

Well, as far as the most important alliance the United States was a member of, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, it was doomed anyway. But with Putin’s Russian invasion of Ukraine and with Biden, Blinken, Nod, and Nudge, which is what I call that group, it’s been sped up incredibly. I think NATO is done. I think it’s toast. I think Erdoğan is just the first flight to desert. I think we orchestrated it very carefully. I know I was there when we started this. Governments in places like Finland, Norway, and Sweden would be amenable to entering NATO.


One Norwegian said to me the other day, a journalist, “Larry, we’ve been neutral since time immemorial. Why did we do this?” I said, “Well, check out your government because your government might not necessarily reflect more than about 45% of your people.” We engineered the Secretary General of NATO, Stoltenberg, Jens Stoltenberg. We engineered Guterres at the UN. We had a much better candidate in Helen Clark. She was a tremendous candidate for the Secretary-General. We didn’t want her to be it because we knew she would continue the cleanup she’d done of the corruption, and she wouldn’t necessarily agree with us all.


I’m happy to see Guterres finally grew a set and said some things the other day about the conflict in the Middle East. He got himself in trouble with people. But nonetheless, that’s what he should be doing. We orchestrated all of this, and what we did was to reestablish American hegemony over Western Europe. We failed. The Germans are going to leave us. The Turks are going to leave us. Other countries are going to peel off. France will peel off.


I’ve said I believe that within a decade, NATO will be gone. It’d be dissolved, and it would be our fault, largely for doing it and not picking up on the fact that it was happening and crafting it in a way that was a little more conducive to both Western Europe’s and our interests. It’s time Europe grew up. It’s time they had their own security identity. It’s time to disestablish this monster called NATO. Bill Clinton made it a monster. We now have countries in NATO that couldn’t pass the democracy test alone, let alone the corruption test that was required before to be a member of NATO or a member of the EU. We just took anybody. We took Montenegro, one of the most stolen automobile capitals of the world. It’s a disaster. It’s a disaster.

Talia Baroncelli

It’s hard to see what Germany’s future role will be, though, because there is this change in policy, what’s called the Zeitenwende, where they are changing a lot of long-standing policies, investing more in the military, which is not something that the German government has been doing over the past few decades. Following the war on Ukraine, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they have changed that policy. I almost wonder if Germany will emerge as NATO’s clearest backer in the future, but that’s maybe just speculation.

Lawrence Wilkerson

I don’t think so. From what I’m hearing from the Bundestag and from others, people say, “Well, those are leftists.” I’d say, “Oh, they’re second in the voting count now.” A lot of them are East Germans, former Communists. The number two party in the vote count in Germany now is the alternative to whatever it is. I forget the name in German.

Talia Baroncelli

They’re not leftist, though. They’re right-wingers.

Lawrence Wilkerson

Well, they’re right-wingers only to an extent. They’re not right-wingers in the sense of NATO. They’re right-wingers in the sense of Germany. That in itself is frightening if you think of it in historical terms. I don’t think of it that way. I think it’s been 75-plus years since World War II. Japan has grown up largely. Japan is contemplating being a fully-up nuclear weapon state right now. I’m not sure I’m in favor of that, but if that’s what the Japanese people vote for, that’s what they’re going to do. They are a responsible, democratic country, and so is Germany. Germany needs to grow up, too. We have mollycoddled them. We have kept them under our blanket for too long. They’ve become inebriated because of that. We need to back out. We tried to do this way back when at the end of the Cold War. We had a European security identity. We were going to form a separate Brigade. It was going to not pull troops away from NATO. It was going to act internally if it needed to act in the European sphere, so to speak. NATO wouldn’t act. It would act. We killed it. We killed it. We killed it because we wanted to maintain that political economic hegemony over Europe, particularly over Germany. Impossible. You can’t do that.


John Mearsheimer is right. That’s the second priority now. Whether it’s Germany, or it’s Finland, or it’s France, or it’s England, little England, that’s second priority, maybe even third. The big cojones is out there in East Asia. The big cojones dwarfs them all. You even put the 740 million Europeans together, throw the Russians in, and get a little more. Their GDP is equal to ours, but they can’t get their political act together. That behemoth out there in East Asia has got his political act, and it’s got basically a dictator in Xi Jinping. There’s the threat. There’s the problem. What are we doing? We’re fooling around with the crap in Europe and the crap in the Middle East. I’m not calling it crap because it’s not important. I’m saying that in terms of strategy, real strategy, we’re focused on the wrong areas.

Talia Baroncelli

Well, I don’t want to get too sidetracked, but I do want to say that Alternative für Deutschland, they are an incredibly xenophobic party. I think their success is largely explained by austerity politics, which have really unleashed horrible policies, particularly in East Germany, where a lot of people struggle to find jobs. As a result of that, the scapegoat has become this figure of the Muslim migrant that’s going to come and rape all their women. They mobilize a lot of this anti-Islamic, xenophobic rhetoric to also support Israel because they see blanket support of Israel as serving their own interests and furthering their xenophobic agenda.

Lawrence Wilkerson

I didn’t say I was in favor of them. What I’m talking about is Germany has its problems, too.

Talia Baroncelli


Lawrence Wilkerson

We’ll see what’s going to happen to Germany when a really tough winter hits and they’re still buying that extraordinarily expensive, permeation-based gas from the United States rather than that cheap and much greater gas from Russia, if that’s still going on, we’re going to see a Germany that says, for whatever reason, “Goodbye. I’m not in NATO anymore, and I’m not hooked up to you anymore.” That East German group might be a part of that in terms of bringing the politics about to do that.

Talia Baroncelli

Yeah, there are a lot of alliances that are unlikely at the moment. I do see what you mean that a lot of these terrible policies are giving rise to more hateful right-wing parties because they’re opposed to certain things in E.U. policy that are objectively bad, so a lot of these terrible E.U. policies.

Lawrence Wilkerson

We’re also looking at the climate crisis, eating us all, eating our lunch, just taking us all left. We’re not moving nearly fast enough. Europe is moving a lot faster than we are. Regardless of their problems, they’re moving a lot faster than we are. Whether it’s hydrogen, wind, power, or experimentation in places like Finland and Norway on different types of energy, they are so much further down the road than we are. They’re almost as far down the road as China is in selective areas. China pretty much wiped everybody out in solar, including us. No one’s talking about that, and that’s the real crisis. That’s the real crisis. I talk about China being a threat. Come on, maybe another 20 years or maybe another 30 years, then everybody’s going to be worried about the water around their knees, the rain falling on their head incessantly, and the heat going up. It’s there, it’s coming, it’s real, it’s not fake. We’re doing relatively little except quantificating it.


Where did we hold the last COP? In the fossil fuel kingdom of the Earth. We got a statement out of that COP on fossil fuels that was generated by that individual. Instead of saying, “No more fossil fuels, period. Everybody’s got a deadline now. No more fossil fuels. No more burning fossil fuels. Pick out your hydrogen, nuclear, or whatever the hell you’re going to pick. Pick it and go after it. But no more fossil fuels.” Now we caveat. Well, the guy’s got a lot of money, and he’s got a lot of oil, and he’s going to sell it all. He doesn’t want any stranded assets. He’s going to sell it all. So is MBS; they’re going to sell it all. They’re going to burn it all while they go down.

Talia Baroncelli

Yeah, it’s almost like you can’t distinguish between where the limits of big oil and gas ends and where some of the power of these countries and these governments begin. It seems like there’s an overlap there.


I wanted to go back to the 1980s because I think there are some parallels there with what’s going on in the Middle East right now. The ’80s, especially the early ’80s, were an incredibly volatile time in Israel as well as in Lebanon. There were numerous attacks by Palestinian liberation organization militants on Israel. In response to that, there was the operation, codenamed Peace for Galilee, which started in 1982, where the Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, started bombarding Beirut for seven weeks straight.


There was this infamous phone call between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Begin in which he said, “Stop this bombardment. It’s a Holocaust.” There’s this awkward discussion there because Begin responded by saying, “Don’t tell me what a Holocaust is. I know what it is.” But Reagan still was able to stop them from continuing the bombardment. It’s reported that he said to his Secretary of State, [George] Schultz, “Oh, I didn’t know I actually had that power.”


This points to the power that is, I guess, actualized or manifested within the presidency of the U.S., the United States President. I feel like Biden can be doing so much more right now, but because of so many of the factors you discussed, he’s not pressuring the Israelis to have some ceasefire or at least humanitarian pauses. I just wonder, what else do you think we could take from that particular example of Reagan? I don’t want to say that his policy in the Middle East was a great one. There were a lot of wars that followed that. I’m not characterizing him as some model president, but it seemed like he put his foot down at that moment.

Lawrence Wilkerson

He did, and there were a number of reasons for it. I don’t know if Schultz’s comment is apocryphal or not. I’ve studied Reagan extensively, taught him at William & Mary. I agree with [Edmund] Morris, his authorized biographer who, after two years of being with Reagan, Nancy, and others, said he didn’t know whether he was the brightest, most astute politician he’d ever met or a flaming idiot. It’s very difficult to figure out who Ronald Reagan is, and that quip, if it’s true, might have been simply Reagan playing Schultz. That’s the Reagan that Morris says is pretty smart.


Reagan sold F-15s and AWACS to Saudi Arabia, which was bitterly opposed by Israel. Then, H.W. Bush came along, and H. W. Bush used the war, the First Gulf War, as leverage to get them ultimately to Oslo. He bent their arms behind their back. Maybe we need a Republican. I don’t know. Anyway, the only presidents who seem to have stood up to Israel are Republicans.


What are the circumstances of those situations, though? They’re usually brought on by a really perfidious, desperate, in some respects, stupid Israel. The invasion of Lebanon, and such. 

Footnote: why does Israel bomb all the economic facilities in Lebanon when it bombs Lebanon? Go back and look at any time it’s bombed Lebanon several times because it’s the most potential competitor in the Eastern Mediterranean for Israel’s economy. What you do is you go and mow the grass in Lebanon. You take out industrial targets, you take out factories, you take out business. That’s part of Israel’s motivation, too, which is to hate us, but that’s the way they do business. I don’t think we’re going to get a president who stands up to Israel in the way you’re insinuating, and I don’t use that term [inaudible 00:50:57] until they do something so heinous that he has to, and they’re about to. They’re about to, in my view, they’re about to. If Biden is not the President to do something in that circumstance, then God help us.

Talia Baroncelli

Well, I think we should end on that note because there’s no amount of speculation that can reverse this really scary prediction. Larry Wilkerson, thank you so much for joining me.

Lawrence Wilkerson

Thanks for having me.

Talia Baroncelli

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Lawrence B. Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. theme music

written by Slim Williams for Paul Jay’s documentary film “Never-Endum-Referendum“.  

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