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04 March 2010

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Graeme

I wish I could make an effective retort to your jab at Canadians....but give the quality of our discourse on Afghanistan, I'm inclined to agree that we're at least equally ineffective at understanding the middle east and beyond.

A lot of people here honestly believe we can and are bringing democracy to Afghanistan. The presumption is that they must want exactly the same things as we want, and we can remake them in our image.

We were less bamboozled on the WMD issue however.

joe brand

Really hope you've seen the cover of this week's "Newsweek." It's nausea-inducing.

Lysander

Col Lang et al, two questions if I may.

1) Do you see Iran ever actually consolidating its influence over Iraq?

2) The post gulf war sanctions against Iraq are technically still in place as far as I know. Will the US try to keep them and are they enforceable?

Thank You

Jose

Any opinions on allowing partitioning as a means to block Iranian influence to only Southern Iraq?

Partitioning would prevent a bloodbath like Yugoslavia and prevent a direct land bridge from Tehran to Beirut which would lead to even more bloodbaths in the future.

SubKommander Dred

Pat:
Yes, it is unfortunate that my countrymen are grossly uneducated when it comes to foriegn affairs in general. For what it's worth, I smelled a rat in 2002 with the drums beating for war in Iraq, but Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, for various reasons, thought it would be good for business. And buddy, business has been booming! Dyncorp, Halliburton, Xe or whatever the hell it's called these days are all doing quite well. The rest of us...not so much. In fact, these people (Bush Administration) would appear to have no shame. For example, John Yoo, a man who deserves his own Nuremburg moment, is coming to my town to speak in a few weeks. And who would have thunk that all you needed to beat the rap of war crimes was to have some lawyer tell you it was all legal?
Unfortunately, it would appear that for most of my fellow Americans, the wars remain a kind of side show, and even at this late date, I daresay a random sampling of the populace would reveal a persistent ignorance about what is going in Iraq and Afghanistan. When I had to explain the difference between Sunni, Shia and Kurd to some of my colleagues, all educated with at least 4 years of college and professionals in their own right, their total lack of understanding of the ethnic and tribal nature of their culture (not that I know much about it myself) was shocking. The way I look at it, if a person is advocating the idea of invading another country, at least in a functioning democracy you would figure concerned citizens would want at least check out some facts about the place first before we send the marines.

Jackie

What has been really sad in this entire fiasco (beside all the other stuff) is Iraq was a fairly modern country, with buildings and apartments, etc. I saw some footage tonight on MSNBC and it is rubble now. After six years of this nonsense, we have achieved rubble? Go team USA, you get the gold medal for a country's destruction.

I don't think I'll ever get the bitter taste of this out of my mouth. I would never be able to forgive us.

William R. Cumming

With Presidential administrations locked into attempts to maintain "control" over events, an essentially one big issue at a time Presidency will always fail somewhere. Added to that the inability of Congress to deal with multiple issues at the same time and disaster is always around the corner. It is not just ignorance that is destroying US effectiveness in foreign policy and foreign relations but a return to the personalized satrapy of the past. Think of what a published rationale not just a speech might be a prerequisite to US action on any issue or policy? We are being outthought not just outfought when measured over the long term by those in opposition to US interests, which of course includes some important "allies"! The State Department cannot even complete the statutorily mandated diplomatic history of the US anymore for lack of will and talent.

Charlie Brown

Aargh!

Mark Gaughan

WAFU

mo

Sir,

From my experience, its only been since 9-11 that I have seen a sharp increase in any kind of interest and curiosity in America's involvement in the Middle East from the American public.

And considering the gordian knots that Arab and Middle Eastern politics can tie you up in, it is possibly harsh to say that Americans cannot understand it or are easily fooled.

From my point of view, if you are an American trying to learn about the subject, you are severly handicapped by the fact the mainstream avenues for information are severley partisan; There seems, outside of cable shows like The Daily Show, little in the way of subjective unbiased reporting.

But, as an example, simply counting the number of articles and arguments against AIPAC today, against counting the number of people who had even heard of AIPAC in the 90's.


From a govt. aspect, things are obviously a lot more sinister. Everything the US govt. does in the ME boils down to Oil and Israel (although I'm not sure which is perceived as more important).

The Neo-con project for the New American Century was supposed to begin by removing all enemies of Israel. Hence, under Bush's tenure we saw the attacks on Iraq, Hizballah, Hamas, Syria and the Taliban. Had any of these gone well, I believe the plans against Iran would have been far more advanced by now.

Had Bush & co really cared about the people of these countries rather than the people of the country they were entrusted to protect (not the US obviosuly), had they really cared anout the consequences of Americas actions, they certainly would not have brought in the most corrupt Iraqis they could find to run the country.

They certainly would not have such an enemy of Sadr, the only leading Shia the Sunnis and the Kurds had any trust in (and the Shia leader believed to be most independent of Iran's influence).

But lets fast forward to Obamas regime. Now, the goal is to "flip" Syria. Same end-goal, removing an opponet to Israel, just different methodology.

Now just about anyone with any interest in the subject could reel off a list of "things Syria must do to get American approval". But there was Hilary Clinton this week, publicly announcing the list, lecturing the Syrians.

So it is at this point that I think, is the US really trying to get Syria onside? Because if there is one way to guarantee that Assad would not do what the US "demands" and that is to make sure that everyone knows that the US has demanded it.

Or could the Obama administration really be so naive as to not get this?

grae castle

couldn't agree more.

it would be nice to see some form of compulsory 2 year military or public/social service for all newly minted 18+/- year olds (ok, some exceptions - but not many). at least one of those years would need to be served in a foreign (for now...) country.

i'm consistently amazed at the limited worldview of my "tea party" neighbors. it's almost like they've never even been the proverbial "ugly american" touristas...

it would be much more difficult to bamboozle a people that had worked and lived alongside a people our "elites" constantly demonize.

it ain't gonna happen i'm afraid but it could help considerably in resolving many of our "issues"; including an ever-increasing disconnect within our "generation next" kids.

505thPIR

The coming Second Insurgency is going to make 2006 seem like a minor dust-up. A Shia strong man will eventually rule. The ethnic cleansing will commence in earnest in late 2012.

N. M. Salamon

Sir:

The USA will withdraw completely from Iraq, Afganistan and probably some of the 700+ forward bases [and some carrier fleets] in the next couple of years for the reason that the UNEMPLOYMNET {Offical} rate is the worst, and longest since WWII.

please look at:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_pMscxxELHEg/S5EJ-B5NWlI/AAAAAAAAHrk/5IKBW_ftUC4/s1600-h/EmploymentRecessionsFeb2010.jpg

One US soldier in Afganistan is $1 nillion per year, which is equivalent to to 66 + minimum wage jobs in USA [@ $15000]and probably 40-50 per USA armed force member in Iraq. 150 000 times 55 [average as a guess] would make a large dent in Unemployment rate [and save lot of oil].

Would there be a double dip recession [quite probable] then that is the end of USA advernturism.

What the Iraquis achive in the election is non of USA's business, for there will be blowback from 1991 to present due to USA's ill conceived actions,
without doubt.

Iran will have some influense, but not overwhelming; so will Saudi Arabia, again of minor importnace. The USA' attempt to influense will not be welcome!

wsam

Leave Canada alone. We've got our own problems.

Right now Canada has the worst, most undemocratic, sneaky government in the Western World.

We are ruled by a bunch of bully-boy neo-conservatives who make Dick Cheney look thoughtful and fair – what could be more pathetic than a Canadian Neo-Conservative? The term itself is an oxymoron.

It would be hilarious if it weren’t true, but Canada’s current government are true believers in the neo-conservative program. Might makes right. The west is the best.

For them, the only mistake the Bush Administration made was one of details. Iraq suffered from poor execution but, otherwise, the attempt to remake the Middle East was sensible policy.

Canada’s present government will lead it nowhere good.

confusedponderer

mo,

Now just about anyone with any interest in the subject could reel off a list of "things Syria must do to get American approval". But there was Hilary Clinton this week, publicly announcing the list, lecturing the Syrians.

So it is at this point that I think, is the US really trying to get Syria onside? Because if there is one way to guarantee that Assad would not do what the US "demands" and that is to make sure that everyone knows that the US has demanded it.

Or could the Obama administration really be so naive as to not get this?

Probably the lecturing is simply lived American Exceptionalism.

Because people everywhere generally tend to resent being lectured by foreigners, such speeches are of limited utility and largely declaratory. Clinton's sermon thus probably was primarily for domestic American consumption, a cause for annoyance in Syria, and perhaps also helped to give the speaker a warn and fuzzy feeling. Maybe the list is indeed born of genuine idealism, and thus had to be voiced.

But even after Bush American Exceptionalism put into practice more or less appears to still involve that rogue states like Syria must unconditionally surrender accept American benevolent guidance, for their own good.

I hope I am wrong, but my take is that that is so that it matters not so much what is happening or politically feasable in Syria but what Washington's domestic political debate dictates. Example: When AIPAC holds the view that Syria must first do A, B and C people like Dennis Ross will likely insist on Syria having to do A, B and C before any deal with America is possible (that isn't a result of nefarious AIPAC pulling the strings; Ross doesn't need guidance, he is sufficiently ideological as to function autonomously).

If no deals comes out of it, all the better, then Israel can continue to utilise for example the Golan and it's water as they do right now. If negotiations fail because of unrealistic demands that only proves that no deal can be made and it stalls further talks for the time being. That has the added benefit that Israel needs not give up things they eventually came to like. I am told that skiing in the Golan is nice and that Golan wine is popular in Israel. It is fairly easy to hide those ends behind rhetoric like a laundry list of things Syria needs to do to be accepted as a 'serious partner'. And anyway, if things go too well and talks progress anyway, well, that is nothing that, say, a little Israeli air strike into Syria couldn't wreck, ironically with considerable domestic US support.

I am not convinced that the people doing Obama's foreign policy vis a vis Syria, much less the current Israeli government, are really all acting in good faith, and are themselves serious partners for Syria. In that light, Clinton's laundry list is a consequent step either way - from an idealist's or a cynic's perspective.

walrus

Col. Lang,

"I have come to the conclusion that with the exception of foreign agents, Americans are just too unsophisticated to deal with Middle Eastern affairs. We are easily bamboozled and the Canadians naifs would be even more so. It is appalling that so many are willing to accept the nonsense of the mindless and scheming, concerning the Iraqi "threat" to the US before 2003. I, and many other colleagues, disassembled Iraq's nuclear program after the first Gulf War. There was no WMD threat in 2003. Now, the mindless await a return to power and a return to a boundless aggression in pursuit of the goals of foreigners."


1. Too unsophisticated to deal with the Middle East? Too unsophisticated to deal with much of anything, it seems to me. One has to ask, exactly how, in this information age, how was this situation allowed to develop into its current, life threatening, state?

2. My father, an old intelligence officer, smelled a rat in the lead up to the Iraq war and told me he hoped that the intelligence was accurate for all our sakes.

Clifford Kiracofe

There may be enough authentic Middle East specialists and foreign policy specialists in the US to develop and to implement policies in the US national interest.

BUT.....the political elites in charge do not wish such specialists to be in positions of authority and decisionmaking.

Why? Because the perspective and policy recommendations that authentic specialists (patriotic Americans) such as our host at SST, and others, would have or the influence they would have are not desired. This is so because the core power elites are "pro-Israel" and linked to foreign interests to put it mildly.

Although Americans have been dumbed down by television, Hollywood, the "news" media, Madison Avenue and so on for the last century, we have been out in the Middle East for two centuries as I have noted many times. Our Med. Squadron was stationed out there as early as 1801. There are thousands of academic specialists working in higher education in the US with a Middle East focus. We have experienced diplomats and we have skills and knowledge and experience in the intelligence and law enforcement communities, and etc.

I think we have expertise, but it is purposely ignored because such expertise would run counter to the policies the core parasitic "pro-Israel" elite desires to force down the throats of the American people and to implement across the globe.

The Neocons and similar netorks are merely the gophers for the higher circles...who desire the "New World Order."

Such parasitic elites wish to harness the brute force of the USA, and our tax dollars, irrespective of the desires of the US public or recommendations of specialists, to achieve their ends...making the world safe for cosmopolitan finance capital being one objective.

confusedponderer

CK,
isn't that about the fear - to paraphrase the theme - that those with too much regional knowledge and experience are actually a danger to the US because they 'went native', identified with the locals too much and lost out of sight US interests, and thus can't be trusted with their judgement and can't be entrusted leadership positions?

* irony alert *

Green Zone Cafe

"Continues to oppress the Sunni Kurds and Arabs?"

Oh yes, those Kurds are sooo oppressed, from their booming development in Erbil and Sulymaniyah, right out to their Peshmerga checkpoints in Kirkuk and on the outskirts of Mosul. And the Sunni Arabs? Yes, there was a bloody payback after Samarra in 2006, but after how many bombing outrages targeting ordinary Shia workers and pilgrims? How many bombs in Karbala and Najaf over the last years, and continuing in Baghdad?

Maliki's State of Law will get the largest slice of seats, and then the dealing will begin. Who he seeks to partner with will determine the tone of the government.

This will take months, unfortunately. But the situation is nowhere as bleak as you portray.

Note that Maliki took on the most direct proxies of Iran, the Shia militias, in Basra in 2008.

Oh, and are they having a referendum on the U.S. security agreement on Sunday?

Clifford Kiracofe

cponderer,

that is a line often used.

one example, among many per different regions, is the attack by the "pro-Israel" forces against the so-called "Arabists" at State and elsewhere in our Federal service.

Take Bob Kaplan's book "The Arabists" for example. Here is Dan Pipes' gushy review of it:
http://www.danielpipes.org/885/the-arabists-the-romance-of-an-american-elite

I go into some detail in my book "Dark Crusade" (London: Tauris, 2009) about our early engagement with the Middle East. I then contrast this with what you would expect me to.

Thus, by definition if your dad is a hardline Revisionist Zionist living in Israel you qualify to be the Chief of Staff at the White House particularly if you have served in the Israeli Army...can't wear that cute little tutu around the White House much but what the heck...maybe once in a while to an NSC meeting...

confusedponderer

CK,
actually, I have ordered and am awaiting your book currently. Looking forward to read it.

Clifford Kiracofe

cponderer,
thanks, hope it is helpful. i included an extensive bibliography.

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