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10 April 2008


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Sherry  Long

Col. Lang,

Have you seen this piece by Tony Cordesman?


New Report on Iraq




Colonel, there was a great "Nova" program on PBS about volcanoes some years ago. One segment was about Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines destroying Clark Air Force Base. As the lava advanced a skeleton crew of scientists and Air Force personnel remained at the base to observe and maintain a U.S. presence. The Air Force General in command kept vaccilating, trying to decide whether the base should finally be abandoned. Finally, one of the volcanologists had had enough, "General, you'd better put jam in your pockets, because we're all about to become toast!" This nudged the General into at last giving the command to get the Hell out of there as fast as their vehicles could go. As a Naval Captain said on such an occasion, "I didn't leave the ship, the ship left me."

Walter Lang


I did see that. I agree with him pl


"George Bush is the man responsible for whatever we think we can call policy in the Middle East." PL

Only 285 days until he's gone.

Mark K Logan

An address to the Cordesman CSIS report referenced by Ms. Long, lest
it scroll off the home page
and become difficult to find:

I thought it very worth reading, myself.

robt willmann

I was able to see only a very small dose of the appearances by the Ambassador to the Green Zone, Ryan Crocker, and Gen. David Petraeus before Congress. Yet, something seemed new.

I watch very little television, and so have not seen him much, but Ryan Crocker seemed somewhat stressed-out and haggard. He is starting to look a little "ragged out", as we say.

I did not see the old arrogance that matched his patrons in the White House and executive branch. Something is up with Crocker. On the other hand, Gen. Petraeus has his act down pat (no pun [or insult] intended!).

How foolish--or complicit--the U.S. Senators are, as they pretend that this was some sort of fact-finding hearing, when the job of Crocker and Gen. Petraeus, who have thrown their lot in with the outlaws promoting the war, is to keep kicking the can down the road.

This has been an effective strategy by the White House: annoint Gen. Petraeus as some sort of counter-insurgency guru, have him appear before Congress and promise to give the straight skinny in future appearances (conveniently spaced out over 6 month periods), and thereby sucker the Congress into these charades at which objectivity does not exist, since Gen. Petraeus and Crocker are both in essence operators for the White House.

Unfortunately for the suffering families of U.S. soldiers killed and wounded, and for the suffering families of killed and wounded Iraqis, this strategy directed at Congress is working.

Stephen Calhoun

Mr. Cordesman, who has been very forthright at reading the tea leaves ever since he published the (now) stark report in late 2002, 'Preparing for a Self-Inflicted Wound.' argues sensibly for the US remaining in Iraq, and for strategic patience in using leverage to support political accommodation, and do so in a situation where the US has little real control. Cordesman states the US has no control.

Here's the rub: an honest statement of strategy pitched to US voters based in their understanding the nuanced difference between 'leverage' and 'control' seems to be a stretch. After all, it seems the campaign is going to be waged between a bellicose call for staying the course for the sake of victory and running so as to cut losses.

I would like to hear expert commentary on the use of the military for sophisticated purposes, here termed leverage, in situations where simple application of its violent expertise can't alone obtain the desirable outcome.

Of course in the Iraq situation, using the military this way still allows for its slow bleeding, so I'm curious as to whether there are historical comparisons.

Richard Whitman

On the lighter side, am I the only old geezer that thought that Petreus testifying in full uniform with all his decorations looked remakedly like Dan Rowan of Laugh-In in the late 60's or Sid Caesar in Your show of Shows in the 50's

Walter Lang


The bottom five or six rows of ribbons were for service. You get those for showing up. The rest of them in his case are for achievement. I don't see any decorations for valor or wounds. I might be wrong about that. It is difficult to see what might be lurking under his lapel.

If you look at photos of Eisenhower or Marshall during WW2 you will see that they usually just wore three or four ribbons of the many that they were entitled to. pl

Sidney O. Smith III

A couple of quotes from Osama Bin Laden in 2004:

"We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah,"

“We, alongside the mujahedeen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat,"

With those quotes in mind, I sometimes wonder if military experts of COIN have ever factored this AQ objective into their analysis. This strategic objective on the part of Al-Q would seem to break the Trinquer-Galula paradigm upon which Petraeus relies -- and break it completely.

We read endlessly about military and political objectives, but I am yet to see anything arising out of the Pentagon that addresses this Al-Q strategic objective. Is there any military manual that recognizes the Al-Q objective and offers a way to husband resources?

A few quotes from Sun Tzu (which I do not believe were cited in the Petraeus COIN manual or any other that I am aware of) to make the point:

"10. Poverty of the State exchequer causes an army to be maintained by contributions from a distance. Contributing to maintain an army at a distance causes the people to be impoverished.

12. When their substance is drained away, the peasantry will be afflicted by heavy exactions.

13,14. With this loss of substance and exhaustion of strength, the homes of the people will be stripped bare, and three-tenths of their income will be dissipated; while government expenses for broken chariots, worn-out horses, breast-plates and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and shields, protective mantles, draught-oxen and heavy wagons, will amount to four-tenths of its total revenue. ”


Well, while Bush may technically be "responsible" for our supposed ME policy, Cheney is the one who dreamed the whole thing up and got it "approved" during his weekly no notes, no document meetings.

I suspect.

And we'll never know for sure---that was the point of the game.

But the latest sequel of the Crocker/Petraeus Show of Shows is just more of the same executive shell game---acting like the WH is "deferring" to the strategy of military and diplomatic "experts", when the whole grotesque, deformed thing is the WH's baby.


Richard, From another old geezer - Laugh-In it is!

Babak Makkinejad

Sidney O. Smith III:

South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait through their central banks, are supporting US war effort in Iraq.

US is not going to go bankrupt fighting in Iraq - her costs are mostly in "opportunity lost" - in my opinion.



So in a sense is China supporting the Iraq war, by buying T-Bills, etc., that prevent the US dollar from plummeting and their losing advantageous trade positions; however, the borrowed money must be paid back - One way or another. The US cannot go "bankrupt," but then again, neither did Russia - it just rapidly shrank and shrank and shrank. Rather unpleasant for anyone not an oligarch. And a reduced status on the world stage.

Note: S.A. and Kuwait have not supported the US effort by pumping more oil... Only, they have not yet decided to cut and run on the dollar. But faced with steady erosion of their massive dollar holdings and their very high levels of imported inflation, sooner or later they will sleuthily switch to the euro.

The shrinkage and diminished status is what Sun Tzu refered to - although I suspect he would have been amazed (I am) at a superpower mortgaging its future to its main competitor (enemy) by debt financing a secondary war simply to avoid negative public opinion from raising taxes on the populace (inflation is a sort of tax, as is the price of gas).


Babak Makkinejad


Thank you for your comments.

Yes, indeed all these states are indirectly supporting the war in Iraq - they have to keep the buyer-of-the-last-resort solvent! What I would like to know is the M1 and M2 values over the last 10 years, the T-Bills and dollar purchased by these other central banks and the relationship between the fall of the dollar and the above parameters.

I think Russia was never a great economic power but always a great military and political power over the last 300 years. R.N. always cautioned against writing Russia off!

I do not think that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have any capacity to pump more oil. I have read that Saudi Arabia has in fact pumped (or is pumping) a million barrels of high-sulfur crude but has trouble selling it. But they owe US for Iraq War I and thus they will continue supporting the dollar.

35 years ago, the Shah of Iran had indeed suggested tying the price of oil to the special basket of currencies called Special Drawing Rights. Perhaps the time has come to do so; it will certainly help ameliorate global nflation.

I do not see China as a potential enemy of US any more than many other states. It certainly is not pre-ordained and I do not comprehend why the 3 US presidential candidates are picking on the Olympic Games in China; it is stupid.

In regards to mortgaging the future in US and all of that I think the causes are manifold:

Certainly the growth of financial sector over the last 30 years in US made it the dominant component of US economy. Why bother making things that people want to buy when you can make more money more easily by creating financial instruments?

Add to that the US Federal Government's policy of pumping money out of the industrialized Great Lake States in order to subsidize the good life in California and elsewhere over the last 40 years. (In fact, had Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario formed a new country - say the United Northern Republic - back in 1974 they would have had the highest per-capita income in the world and [probably to this day.)

On top of the above you have the blind semi-religious faith in neo-liberal dogma starting with JFK and continued by both Republican and Democratic administrations.

In a way, this is like UK in late 19-th century when her elites decided to become the financiers of the world rather than workshop of the world. [The chemical dies were first discovered in England but it was Germany that invested the resources to make them on an industrial scale.] And that policy damn near caused them to loose WWII. I personally think that the policy of de-industrialization, with every one wanting a flat belly and a red sports car is the road to ruination.

I think that a states’ global status that you are referring to has several dimensions: political, military, social (internal), moral, and economical. I think in only the categories of moral and political you can safely state US has diminished clout. I think the US military and economic powers are not diminished globally but her standing politically and morally had sustained damage.

Since the end of WWII the international system has had a single axis – the United States. By that I mean that the position of a state in the international system is determined by her relationship with the United States. While the centrality of US to the international system has diminished since that time, the fact of that centrality has not and will not end for short (1 year), medium (3 to 5 years), or long (> 10 years) term. To wit, the rest of the world’s governments still have to deal with US one way or another and their place in the international system is in fact still being determined by that relationship. It is in this sense that US is an empire. What has been lost to US, in my opinion, is the low-cost of getting her projects carried out in the international arena.



I find much to agree with in your response. As my personal finances are a part of the US economy I certainly hope changes will come slowly; however, for a non-manufacturing debtor country (a bankrupt GM, has intrinsic value-assets, Bear-Stearns has none), change has the potential to occur unbelievably fast - if forced to pay cash (not-debt) for commodities, products, oil, just a couple of years could do it. The change has been on-going slowly and subtly, the dollar was something like 80% of central banks holdings a decade or so ago, I think its close to or under 60%, now. That is a remarkable erosion of faith in the dollar. This erosion in economic power, is visible in many aspects, simply consider that the EC and Asia are ignoring US pleas to lower interest rates to help the global (and US) economy.

Re: China, I too advocate a friendship approach, if only because in the long run other approaches likely would be disastrous. However, the US's currently acts as if all global aspects are in our national interest - exceptionalism, is the underlying thesis - and all three candidates agree. Unfortunately, IMHO, either US attitudes will change, or there will come increasingly severe direct conflict of interest between China and the US over resources (Russia has plenty of resources). Yet, by running vast deficits, we by definition will be unable to outbid China for said resources. Thus, re: Sun Tzu, given even the potential (not necessarily probability) for conflict, handing (voluntarily) China a "nuclear (financial) option" - China's terminology there - is an incredible strategic mistake, viz: borrowing the money for the war (and everything else) from elsewhere, such as the mideast.

M1 and M2 are currently expanding at a galloping rate and are a huge inflationary factor; various (unofficial) sources suggest it is now close to 10 - 11%. Consider, Germany, which does not monkey with its econ stats worries about 4-5% inflation due to high oil (oil is not in official US inflation stats), thus if one adds in a debasing dollar, 10% inflation may not be unreasonable.

Re: oil and SA, SA may not be able to pump consistently more oil (although they could equivocate); however, they have large reserves that could be released where the surprise factor would remove much of the speculative oil overpricing (may $10-15?), and Kuwait has spare capacity. Further, if S.A. said the equilibrium oil price should be $75 bbl, it would drop. Certainly the high oil price is turning the public against the administration and the war. Yet, none of of these simple actions have occurred. Thus, I conclude that we are seeing narrow economic self-interests, rather than actual US policy support.

William R. Cumming

Curiousity killed the cat? In this case who and whom does polling in Iraq and who pays for it? They certainly have time to answer pollsters questions so why not a test vote by qualified pollsters? Should the US stay or git? Hey if it is good enough for the Presidential candidates should be good enough for the Iraqis and their 50-60 different religious factions. Of course might have to be conducted in at least 12 -18 languages!

Steve Smith

Sen Bayh's remark reminded me of the joke I heard when living in Italy: The ALITALIA pilot came on the intercom after the flight reached cruising altitude, and said that he wasn't sure exactly where they were, but that they were right on schedule!

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