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11 July 2009


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This has been true since the conquests of the Spanish American War with regard to political control, but indirect economic control may be another matter. A couple of recent books make for provocative reading on this topic: John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hitman, and Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. Col., if you happen to have read either of these your comments about them would no doubt be insightful.


Pat, I read the WAPO piece earlier today and am not surprised to see you decided to comment at length:

Well put... and thank you.

If I may add one general observation that points back to the discussion of anthropologists and sociologists as the technocrats of COIN via the HTS, I think you indirectly answered the critique by inferring above to the fundamental difference between the expertise that should go into the establishment of operational tactics and objectives versus the preexisting knowledge base that should be exploited to the utmost when evaluating the viability of strategic goals...

... because as I see it, the serious participants in HST have been given a mission and are doing their best to get it done... but that does not mean that the mission is actually viable.

PS: Is the comment in the article about the 'struggle' for control of PRTs between SOCOM and the "regular" officer corps an indication of an important fault line in the analysis being presented to the WH? If so, what would you prescribe to Obama to "clarify" matters?


to replace the current Navy and Air Force commanders of at least half of the 12 U.S. provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan with Special Operations officers

Do I understand correctly that the PRTs, which are intended to help Afghanistan rebuild, are being turned into units which are going to intervene militarily, as they certainly will, if they have Special Ops officers in charge?

That will discredit the US even more in the eyes of Afghans. So, help supposedly offered wasn't really help at all, just a means of infiltration.

I think Afghans always knew this, it is just astounding to see it stated openly.


This post is off-topic: I am very interested in the goings on in Honduras and would a) love to hear from you, Patrick Lang, and the other fine gentlemen on this blog about the goings on down there. I don't know where else to look to find un-biased, objective perspectives on Latin America.

My own perspective, having travelled extensively in Central and South America, is that the President Zelaya was overthrown by the same composition of greedy, upperclass Honduran power-elites that feel their wealth threatened by socialist/populist policies (raising minimum wage, raising teacher salaries, nationalizing phone and utility companies, extending presidency to two 4 year terms instead on one).

I guess I just want to hear some honorable, intelligent American men who know the truth state plainly, "Yes, we are supporting the bad guys once again. We are supporting murderous rich guys who just want to hold on to their money at the expense of the suffering poor who just want a better standard of living."

thats how I see it...would like to hear other views on this topic.


Anyone who knows the real Afghanistan knows the concept of an 'Afghan force' is a farce. Still it will be somebody to blame when the time comes.

Carl O.

In 2005, British Maj. Gen. Jonathon Riley, who was then the British liaison to Centcom, extolled the virtues of British COIN doctrine in a speech at the annual Association of the U.S. Army meeting. He called the British campaign in Malaya in the 1950's the "touchstone" of British expertise in imperial policing after World War II, clearly encouraging trhe US to adopt the same methods (and citing Sir Robert Thompson to make his argument). In the q and a portion of that same panel discussion, the head of the Malaysian delegation, of similar rank to Riley, took the microphone to point out that, while the British may consider that campaign to have been successful, the Malaysians were stuck with the problem for another 30 years. Apparently, the Communists weren't really defeated until 1989. One can only wonder if the Iraqis and Afghans will be saying the same thing about us in 2040.

Babak Makkinejad

ll true but there are 2 other obstacles to US effort:

1- The impatience of the American people - expectations for quick positive results.

2- A Muslim polity cannot be run by a Christian power any longer - that time is past

Ken Hoop

Couldn't agree more. Which classification btw does this fantasiast Thomas PM Barnett belong in? He was bragging in a snippet on his blog a coupla weeks ago the Iraq War was a political victory, pointing to the imminent oil deals.

Babak Makkinejad


Off topic - who is this woman?


Does anyone know?

Patrick Lang


In re your #2, I don't think that is desired. In a way the fact that these societies have become inacessible to control by non-Muslim government is one of the major reasons why the COIN game is not worth the candle for us.


I think you misunderstand. What is sought is leadership for the teams that actually understands the country. Special Ops officers are not all knuckle dragging commandos. My knuckles have never quite reached the ground when I am in a standing position.


Keep in mind the fact that the HTS teams have no authority. They are "participant observers" in the best tradition of anthropology. They are there as descriptors for the Army officers in command. pl


I think you misunderstand. What is sought is leadership for the teams that actually understands the country. Special Ops officers are not all knuckle dragging commandos.

I do not despise Special Ops officers. The point I was making is that they have another allegiance, which is likely to be stronger than that to the PRTs, and certainly will be seen that way by the Afghans.



Mayara Tavares, from Brazil. I understand she is there as part of a Junior G-8 program.


The original video:



Sarkozy has that giant knowing smirk. lol. There need to be adult supervision in G-8 meeting, specially with Berlusconi around.


Dave of Maryland

Off topic - who is this woman?

Not Sarcozi's wife. You can see her here:


(and you're warned)

Of the first picture, Michelle Obama appears to be in the background.

Patrick Lang


Sarkozy is French. He know that such momentary lusts are of no importance.

If you are not grown up enough to know that, then you do not belong here. pl

Babak Makkinejad



Viva Brazil.


If "what is attempted in this doctrine is the construction of a society that is more attractive and viable than that promised by the insurgents," what is the point of a colonial project in the first place? Isn't it an oxymoron to say that a colonial ruler will share the wealth?

Per the assertion that the US has gained nothing of value in Iraq, I suggest you read Michael Schwartz' piece:
The return of Iraqi sovereignty appears to be the same recycled "sovereignty" returned after Bremer left. Far from leaving the oil fields to the infidels, the US appears to be hunkering down under dark of night, or of the media blackout on what's really happening there.

Per Honduras, I suggest you read the following:

Interestingly, the major American airbase in Honduras, Soto Cano, is now commanded by Colonel Richard A. Juergens, who apparently directly the kidnapping of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide when Juergens was director of special operations in the Special Operations Command. If true, you can draw you own conclusions about American involvement.

Duncan Kinder

Re: photographs.

This explains why the United States won the Cold War.

On the other hand, this explains why the United States is loosing the War on Terror.

I hope this helps.

Babak Makkinejad


On Iraqi Oil:




I think Andrew Bacevich's recent piece in The Atlantic addresses this spot on and nails your argument:


Best, McGee

Mark A. Gaughan

"This has been true since the conquests of the Spanish American War with regard to political control, but indirect economic control may be another matter. A couple of recent books make for provocative reading on this topic: John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hitman, and Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. Col., if you happen to have read either of these your comments about them would no doubt be insightful."


I think Minnesotachuck is right. In South Africa the blacks gained political control but not economic. We've all heard, "It's the economy, stupid."


I'd also like to know if you've read Shock Doctrine and what you think of it. If you haven't, you should.


Loved your post!!!

When colonialism works it is nation building, when it fails it is self defence ?

Yet, the Iraqis failed to thank their liberators.

Clifford Kiracofe

"the US has gained nothing of economic value ..."

Indeed, so why are we expending billions-trillions and blood?

With the emergence of a multipolar world (US, China, Russia, Japan, EU) after 1992 things are more complex. Logically, our "friends" and rivals shed no tears for the US draining its blood and treasure. We weaken ourselves and they have time and space for self-strengthening.

Seems to me those in the military-industrial complex recommending (and profiting from careerwise and financially) unnecessary neoimperial wars which WEAKEN the US do not serve US national interests. They facilitate our rivals' interests in increasing their relative "wealth and power." This raises issues.

Ken Hoop,

Barnett is a so-called "strategist" who advises the Navy and Pentagon. He promotes neoimperial ideology like the neocons. Basically, he uses the Marxist "center-periphery" concept developed by Wallerstein at Yale and manipulates it for his purposes. This is the so-called "world sytems theory."
Nothing new here. He writes books so it is all out in the public domain.

The idea here for Barnett and his unsophisticated military groupies is to force states and peoples in the "periphery" (of the dominant white European-American capitalist "center")to come under the center's global economic system dominated by finance capital. Planetary social engineering to serve Wall Street and the cosmopolitan financiers. Iraq and Afghanistan are examples...

Thus COIN is being oriented to serve the broader global capitalist "world system" in this theory of Barnett's and others.

Gen. Smedley Butler had some things to say about all this some time back. Same old, same old...


One of your best posts ever! I thought this was gold:

In Iraq, the US has gained nothing of economic value and is rapidly surrendering control of the governance of Iraq to a government that is not truly friendly. The outcome of last week's oil service contract auction should be instructive to those who think the US (as opposed to the looters granted no-bid contracts to batten on US money) has gained anything of value in Iraq. And how much have we spent there to date? How high is the butcher's bill as of today?

It is the same in Afghanistan. Fantasize all you like... There is nothing in Afghanistan that the US wants or needs other than the ability to disrupt Al-Qa'ida's further plotting against our own soil.

Re Iraq, I will simply say that the waste is well illustrated in the great new film, The Hurt Locker.

As for Afghanistan (and Pakistan for that matter) how does one disrupt Al-Q plotting against the US without "boots on the ground"? Also don't we have another objective in Afghanistan, in seeking to suppress the poppy trade? And how does one do that without "boots on the ground?"

Just so I'm clear, I consider Afghanistan and Pakistan complete cesspools not worth the life of a single American, much less thousands of lives and billions of dollars. They can keep their tribalism and hideous terrain so long as they don't threaten us. But there's the rub. How do we keep these benighted areas from becoming Al-Q havens? In Pakistan, how do we deal with an ungovernable semi-rogue state with nuclear weapons?

I don't know. What are your thoughts, Col. Lang?

Patrick Lang


You will have to be clearer. Your comment is incomprehensible to me. Is your point the notion that whatever the US does the result is still colonialism? pl


I have actually been rather clear about those two little problems. pl

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