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16 June 2010

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Farmer Don

Why is it hard to see that the US can not afford these wars?

The answer is that nobody sees the amount of use-full investments that did not happen because of the military spending. China is building the fastest high speed train line in the world between Beijing and booming Shanghai. What large infrastructure project is the US doing? Why does the US need offshore drilling for oil? Partly it is because $ that could have been used for wind or solar energy were shipped overseas and used up in wars.
Why is unemployment so high? Same reason, less investment in production within the US because tax money is going overseas to fund the giant external-destucture products in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Add to that, the phony FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) economy which is a drag on real production.
I don’t see a turn around in the US economy until the US puts it’s focus back on business.

Jackie

Sir,
I don't think McChrystal is going to get any kind of "surge". It's Afghanistan, let the Afghans work it out or someone closer to their
neighborhood.

If the Republicans want to run on this loser of a war, let them. On the radio yesterday, I heard McCain call Petraeus a "war hero"? I did not know that. I don't know how he got the "fruit salad" on his uniform, but I doubt it was a real, live war. (If my comments ever offend you, please don't post).

JohnH

"Americans are not that smart." Precisely. In 2006 Democrats won Congress back in large part due to opposition to the Iraq war. During 2007, they promised vigorous efforts to end it. Then Harry Reid scheduled Petraeus' hearings on 9/11/2007, which led to Democrats' reversing their opposition and supporting the "surge." Message to the American people--SUCKERS!

Then Obama secured his nomination in large part to his opposition to the Iraq War. But when faced with a decision on the pointless war in Afghanistan, he simply followed McCrystal's recommendation and escalated. Message to American people--SUCKERS!

A political collapse in support in Afghanistan? So what? Democrats will find a way to finesse it. Their track record shows that they're professionals at suckering the American people with impunity.

different clue

Perhaps if some serious determined people started a Social Democrat Party in a few possibly friendly states, that impunity would be stripped away in stages.

Sidney O. Smith III

Is anyone in the US Military or, for that matter, the USG, required to read Marguerite Higgins 1965 book, Our Vietnam Nightmare?

Higgins warned about the danger of imposing Western values on other cultures.

And I believe she got that piece of wisdom, not by hanging out in Saigon hotels, but by going out and talking to US soldiers in the field, specifically Green Berets. Her point, if I recall, was that in 1964 or so, the policy makers and even strategists were ignoring this piece of wisdom coming from the fields, and such arrogance, if it were allowed to continue, would lead to a nightmare.

Based upon our what has unfolded in Iraq and Afghanistan, I get the impression that few at the Pentagon or elsewhere checked out her book in the last 45 years.

FB Ali

Nevertheless, the outcome of this struggle over the last hundred years is that Muslims prefer their traditional civilization in all its variety.

There is a reason for this. For the last several hundred years Muslim populations almost everywhere have lived under colonial rule; it is only in the last fifty years that these countries have shaken off the foreign yoke. During this period of having their daily life controlled by an alien power, with the inevitable pressures exerted by this alien culture, Muslims turned inwards in self-defence, towards their own tradition and culture, attempting to maintain their own identity while rejecting the foreign one that was being held up before them as superior. Inevitably, a price was paid for this: whereas other colonized peoples embraced the education and technology of their rulers, Muslims generally shunned them, and thus lost out in the ‘modernization’ game.

Even after colonial rule retreated from Muslim lands, its place was taken by autocratic (and often corrupt) oligarchies. They had no interest in the development of their peoples, especially since this helped to consolidate their rule. These Muslim populations have continued to cling to their traditional religion and culture as a refuge against the stresses caused by their economic, educational and societal backwardness, and the external pressures of the world around them.

fanto

Farmer Don - you have said what many others think; I would add to your FIRE one more - Health Care - which is source of unproductive jobs - (or even counerproductive jobs, if you think of keeping old comatose renaly challenged wrecks of humanity on respirators, for a few more weeks on this earth)

Richard Armstrong

"One can guarantee that it is better to have a credible chance of victory in 2012-2013 than it is to rush to defeat in 2010-2011."-Porter

"People in that part of the world are not really citizens of nation states."-Lang

Afghanistan is NOT a nation in the sense of the word that the west uses.

So who in the heck are we fighting and what will victory look like?

The Soviets stayed the course for ten years. One would hope that the civilian leadership of this country would have the fortitude to quit listening to the military and pull our troops out before we reach that same milestone.

While the insurgency in Afghanistan doesn't have a North Vietnam to aid them Vietnam had only one Viet Cong. It appears that Afghanistan has more than you can shake a stick at.

toto

People in that part of the world are not really citizens of nation states

At least from the outside, Ayad Allawi looks very much like a typical secular leader with a nation-state outlook. He's not the new Ataturk or Robespierre, but rising above sectarian differences to build on a common identity appears to be a central part of his message.

And yet he did win national elections with his "miminally-sectarian" platform (saying "non-sectarian" would probably be a stretch).

So perhaps there is a real desire, among a significant number of Iraqis, to build something similar to a united, non-sectarian nation-state. Or is it just an illusion?

graywolf

Give it up.
What is our strategic interest in a land-locked wasteland living in the 12th century?
Al Qaeda?
Camps destroyed and our inept government never could find a 6'6" man on dialysis.
We're sacrificing lives and wasting money (BTW, we're broke)....for what?
To satisfy the careerist "can do, sir!!" generals?
Or to give Obama (the "ass kicker") a phony tough-guy image?
Convergence of interests?

N M Salamon

Please excuse! Off topic.

With respect to the President's speech on energy, an overview of the economic consequence of declining volume of inexpensive oil [as per total production cost, including geophysical survey, exploratory & production wells, pipelines, water, frac chemicals etc] and the future of a declining [world] economic output:

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6574#more

approx 1000 words and some graphs]

READ AND PONDER!

Matthew

Col: Was there a similar "El Dorado" story about Vietnam?

Castellio

It isn't as if Arabic thinkers aren't also aware of these historical issues, and I think we should be spending more time understanding their analysis.

The Iranian Shariati is interesting.

clifford kiracofe

FB Ali,

Indeed. And the pattern of some Muslim elites falling to the position of an oligarchy linked to external "neo-colonial" powers is not new. We had Tories here during our Colonial days, and one can observe the various linkages of Latin American elites to foreign powers: UK, France, US and so on over time.

The implications for US policy at the end of the Cold War in 1992 were: 1) go for the role of the hegemonic power or 2) adjust to an emerging multi-polar situation, gain economically from some breathing space, then be in a position to compete in decades to come having benefitted from a strategic retrenchment.

Of course, the infinitely stupid US foreign policy elite chose the former. Thus we arrived at little Bush and Obama with his Stan the Man, Holbrooke and the others in the ship of fools that is this Administration.

The US foreign policy elite has also failed to grasp deeper trends it would seem. For example, the process of decolonization begun after WWII and worked out in the 1960s. In historic context, this meant the eventual end of the dominance of the white race (Europeans) over the planet which began with say Henry the Navigator's Portugal, then the Dutch, then the Brits, then the US and, and, and....

In the emerging multipolar world, Asia generally(the "Orient") is a rising factor.

Perhaps certain US elites linked to the Anglo-Zionist core element and their circles of poodles in Euroland calculate that to keep divide and rule going one must have permanent instability in Eurasia. Thus US policy out that way?????

Patrick Lang

Matthew

There was not. The rubber plantations belonged to the French. There was a little oil out in some islands in the South China Sea but there was really no plausible economic determinist explanation for the war. pl

N M Salamon

The Anglo-Zionist movement's false analysis of P/I propaganda is well analysed in nhistorical analysis:
http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/06/17/top-ten-myths-about-the-israeli-palestinian-conflict/all/1

Babak Makkinejad

Castellio:

Shariati was not an Arab and Arabs have no thinkers.

Adam L. Silverman

Sir,

I think the issue was less a locked in focus on the grand theories that undergird the social sciences, but rather the people that put themselves forward or were put forward as subject matter experts (SMEs) really don't understand research and analysis, let alone applied research and analysis. When you look at these SMEs what you find are basically ideologically captured and driven scholars (and I'm using scholars because I can't really come up with a better turn) who spend their times at institutes attached to universities or at think tanks churning out short, medium, and long polemics. Essentially they have arguments, sprinkled with some facts and largely searching for the important ones, and they're presented as empirical evidence. When this is combined with the all too fragile intelligence cycle, which is so abused its amazing it hasn't been taken away and placed in protective foster care, which fails to feed our decision makers with what they need to know to act, we get Iraq, Afghanistan, bad Middle East policy, bad defense and economic policy, etc. I've worked inside and outside the academy with a lot of really, really good researchers - for those folks their personal beliefs don't matter; the question to be answered does! For the people that acted, and often still act, as SMEs on this stuff, and many other important topics, personal beliefs are the drivers and personal advancement doesn't seem to be too far behind.

And this goes straight into what Mr. Ali and Professor Kiracofe are remarking on. There are both real SMEs in many American universities who know a lot about Afghan or Iraqi or Islamic socio-cultural issues. About the interaction of religion with different ethno-national and ethno-linguistic constructs, about attitudes towards other groups and outsiders, and the effects of foreign intervention and colonialism on the Islamic portions of the globe. Had these people been listened to, as well as external to the academy specialists in government service, the military, those retired from both, those in the media, etc, then perhaps a great deal of the mistakes, insanity, and inanity that we've seen over the past decade could have been averted. Unfortunately the SMEs that helped take us into Iraq and Afghanistan, and have helped to keep us their, never seem to loose their exalted status - no matter how wrong they are and how often they demonstrate that they do not understand what they are talking about!

It is very easy to forget, in fact most Americans most likely never even knew, that were it not for Arabs - largely Muslims, but in the case of those like Maimonides, some Jews as well - what we think of as Western Civilization would have been completely lost as a result of what we used to call the Dark Ages, but now having given it a PR makeover call the Medieval period. Ibn Rushd (Averoes) and Ibn Sinaw (Avisena) and others helped to save the literary and philosophical canons of the Greeks and Romans. Algebra, the bane of all 13 year old math students, was an Islamic creation as were advances in architecture, medicine, astronomy, and many other important areas. Today we see the Islamic world, which was never one overarching monolithic socio-cultural phenomenon we believe it to be, beset by autocracy and dictatorship, its various indigenous understandings of civil society reduced to tatters and fragments, and racked by what is, in truth, an internal Islamic dispute: what is Islam? how should it be practiced? and why?

In many ways Islam today looks like Christianity from the end of the Medieval period through the Reformation and Counter-reformation. It may be that reformism, revivalism, and fundamentalism, and the violence associated with them, are all developmental stages within monotheistic religions. And if that's the case then we're seeing Islam go through today what Christianity went through several hundred years ago.

Patrick Lang

Adam

As all here should know by now I have a low opinion of the social "sciences." pl

Patrick Lang

Babak

That is unkind. What about Nasim Taleb the Black Swan man? pl

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

Nasim Taleb is a Greek Orthodox who by an accident of birth grew-up in an Arabic milieu.

He is no more Arab than Kavafi.

Since my knowledge of Arabic language is rudimentary, I have to rely - for my opinions - on what is available in translations.

Another measure would be the number of books translated into Arabic from other languages.

According to the 2002 UN report written by a number of Arab intellectuals and released in Cairo, the number of books translated annually from other languages into Arabic, in the entire Arab world, is about 300. This is 1/5 of the figure for Greece - with a population less than 11 million. For comparison, the same number is about 3000 for Turkey and Iran (the highest among Muslim states).

The number of books translated into Arabic, since the time of the Abbasid Khalif Maa'moun a 1000 years ago is estimated - according to the same report - to be less than what Spain translates each year.

Ian

There is a reason for this. For the last several hundred years Muslim populations almost everywhere have lived under colonial rule...

Right. You can't have a nation state without some genuinely nationalist sentiments, and those cannot be imposed from the outside. It should not be surprising that the only Muslim-majority country that is undeniably a nation-state, Turkey, was also the only Muslim-majority country not to have been colonized.

Patrick Lang

Ian

The populations of the states of present day Islamdom never participated in the essentially European process of the fomation of nation-states. They were outside that process. It remains largely alien to them. The Republic of Tukey is a product of Kemalist enthusiasm for European style nationalism. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Adam L. Silverman:

In my opinion, the role of Subject-Matter Experts in the Anglo-Saxon World is different. They are supposed to be on tap and not on top. They can try to influence policy to a degree but much of policy is made by people who have made their minds already and are looking for competent SMEs to carry it out. their orders. And no amount of SME input could save a fundamentally wrong decision.

You can see that in the explosion of Challenger, the loss of Colombia, and now in the Oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. SME are listened to - at best - and then are ignored.

It is only in the field of Medicine that Subject-Matter Experts carry any weight.

In regards to Civilization - it is a machine for keeping human beings in a modicum of comfort from their births to their deaths. It is a device, a tool, an artifice - just like an automobile or a cooking pot. Christians have their machine and Muslims (and Hindus, and Chinese) have theirs.

And these machines, while addressing the same common needs of human beings, are conceived differently and constructed along different lines. They are fundamentally incommensurable and any attempt at transforming one into another will fail - just like an attempt to transform a GM vehicle into a GAZ will fail.

The Clash of Civilizations is a fundamentally flawed thesis in as much as it ignores the power dynamics of human collectives embodied in various states (nation-states or not). That is the essence of the current situation, in my opinion.

Babak Makkinejad

Ian:

Morocco, Iran, Afghanistan were never colonized.

The European model of Nation-State was achieved by blood and sword, for example Italy and Germany.

In France, in late 19-th century, 1/4 the population did not speak French. It was conscription and state education that created France.

And if we take the European model of Nation-State seriously, Germany and Austria ought to combine, Canada and US as well, and Belgium and Spain should be broken up, yes?

The model is fundamentally in-applicable to the vast areas of Africa and Eurasia. It is a good fit for the Far East, to the Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Koreans of this world with their quaint and archaic racialist beliefs.

And I say fundamentally inapplicable because its application will require wholesale annihilation or displacement of human beings from their ancestral lands. Just look at what Turkey did to the Armenians and to the Pontic Greeks and the Greeks – in turn – did to the Turks. Consider the repatriation of populations at the end of WWII. Hundreds of millions of people have to die for this model to even approximately realized.

European models are irrelevant to the rest of the world. Non Europeans can, at best, glean some ideas from the experiences of Europe, but cannot copy the institutions of Europe.


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