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15 May 2011

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William R. Cumming

Probably because of my almost total agreement with Harper I find this a great great post.

I know all these countries are different peoples, cultures, languages, history etc. but if our foreign policy is to be effective over the long term others must understand what the USA stands for in the long run and perhaps in the short run also. I do have sympathy with those on the "right" side disarmed by USA policy while we aid their enemies directly and indirectly. If it is true that at least 50% of all petro dollars world wide recycle through the US economy this would seem to give US some leverage.

chimneyswift

Loan forgiveness is a great idea whose time came a long time ago. It will never happen without significant revolution in parts of the world much closer to home. There is no good reason that so many aspiring countries are hobbled by debt. It seems most likely to me, therefore that we are not arguing against a good reason and that the incapacitation and dependency of small countries imposed by their debt structure is a goal, rather than a byproduct of the policy.

The Twisted Genius

Three cheers for Harper! I'm in full agreement. I just read that Dennis Blair publicly called for the same thing in advance of Obama's speech to the Nation scheduled for this Thursday about events in the Middle East. "I think it brings us the opportunity to get on the right side of history, the things we believe in," [Blair] said. "The Arab Spring is not just about Israel, it is about freedom and democracy. And I think that sentiment is very powerful, plays to our strengths and we should be strongly in favor of that."

Thursday is a chance for Obama to come out in support of El Warfally's reasonable requests and forgive Egypt's interest payments as concrete steps in supporting the Arab Spring. Hoping he will also tell the Israeli government to piss off is, as Harper asserts, just way too much to hope for... but it would be a sweet sound bite.

jr786

I wish it were so but it wo't happen. Tunisia and Lybya are one thing, but Syria and Jordan are another. There is no way the Israel Firsters will allow democratic processes in any country where those same processes might result in anything that would even remotely prejudice Israeli interests, however creepy and criminal they are.

Remember, if the hoses are turned on Palestinians it's because they're on fire.

William R. Cumming

Chimney Swift raises an interesting point. How Washington, including its multilateral organizations decides to forgive debts is as opaque as who is who in the WH pecking order after the first rung! Did you know that many singles and new available formerly married regard WH employment as the ultimate pick up bar? And that looks not competence often is the main selection factor? Congressional staff also!

Matthew

Another Obama speech?

He already "spoke" to the Arab World when he vetoed the anti-Settlement resolution.

Who cares what he says now?

michael brenner

THE IMPULSE TO ERROR


It is generally assumed that everything on this earth has its natural limits. That holds for human endeavors individual and collective. Obtuse American foreign policy in the greater Middle East seems to defy that norm of nature. It has been said that the Bourbon ruling houses forgot nothing and learned nothing. We forget everything and learn nothing. I guess that's progress.

The past five months has seen events of historic importance: the upheavals of the Arab Spring whose repercussions continue to register; the Hamas-Fatah political reconciliation; and the Osama bin-Laden affair. All of American strategy is challenged thereby, its premises undermined, its aims misaligned with new realities, its tactics losing viability, America's standing losing credibility. Yet nothing in Washington's mentality changes. Indeed, it fantasizes that in important respects these developments will enable us to plunge further into the dead-ends that entrap us. Let us look at the principal elements of our 'grand strategy' in turn.

First, "the war on terror." One might think that having harpooned our great white whale the relentless campaign to wipe the last violent Islamist jihadi from the face of the earth would abate. After all, the great symbol is gone. The brain of the terrorist octopus has been extinguished. Vengeance has been exacted. A sharp drop in blood pressure levels should permit us to acknowledge these cardinal facts. In nearly a decade there has not been a serious terrorist operation against the United States at home or indeed anywhere outside of war zones; al-Qaidi, to the extent that it exists, is a franchise operation whose chapters have local agendas; its philosophy is fading rapidly among all Muslims - especially Arabs; we have spent a few trillion to little advantage. Cool it? - not on your life. instead we are excitedly redoubling our efforts to track down the rest of the 'network,' the Taliban in all its incarnations; the Somalia Saaba insurgents, and a whole bunch of other evil elements.

Our methods remain crude. Each day the White House dribbles out another juicy tidbit about the life and times of Osama bin-Laden intended to tarnish his image among followers and sympathizers - and to scare Westerners. He hid behind his wife when the Seals assaulted the compound. Now admitted to be a lie. He spoke to associates about attacking American railway lines. Well, in nine and a half years this easy to accomplish task has never been attempted. Any three of us could find the explosives, place them on a railroad line someplace in the middle of nowhere and be back home in time to see the Miami Heat play the Chicago Bulls. It was just talk. What do they think a bunch of aging terrorists cooped up without cable or telephone do - dissect Tiger Woods' putting game?

Next, Viagra discovered in the great man's house. The Leader as impotent and vain. Who knows? Who cares? Who believes us? Al-Qaidi followers around the world are going to believe official Washington? Will anyone else believe us after our long record of deceit and untruths? Do I believe them? 50-50 with a generous benefit of the doubt. The same with the stash of pornography. What next - packets of Uncle Tom's pork sausages in the freezer?

The second element of our inertial Middle East policy is our ignoring that the constellation of allies that backed us on Palestine, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and whatever is now broken. Egypt was the main cog. It already has pivoted away from the American position on all these issues. It will pivot further once an elected government comes into office. Fatah, seeing the handwriting on the wall and discredited by its caving in to American pressure to play the role of Israel's Quislings, also is defecting. We are left alone with the regions monarchist autocracies. They are scared stiff. So scared that they are inviting Armageddon in the Gulf by brutally repressing their people and drawing lines of blood in the sand between Sunnis and Shia, between themselves and the Persians. We are backing them to the hilt. So too are we backing to the hilt Mr. Saleh of Yemen - the blood soaked master of downtown Saana and his tribal lands. Why? because he provides some scanty legal cover for our turkey shoots aimed at assassinating Las Cruces native Anwar al-Awlaki of underwear bomber fame. Awalki who grows in our imagination every day that passes since bin-Laden's disappearance from the scene.

As a consequence we have painted ourselves in bold colors as the region's godfather to Reactionary forces - in an age of Revolution. How bold? Washington has given its blessing to a deal between Blackwater’s Kim Prince and the U.A.E. to set up a mercenary ‘rapid reaction’ corps of 1,000 men. Its envisaged missions include suppression of local unrest, SWAT type counter terrorism, and pro-active operations to forestall (and harass) Iran in the Gulf. The multinational team of trainers, specialists and commanders will have Americans at the top of the brigade’s command chain. In other words, the same brigands who caused mayhem in Iraq and who now bedevil on relations with Pakistan. It surely will be seen as an American enterprise created to bolster the forces of repression and to taunt Iran. Maximum risk exposure, minimal control, obscure purpose and guaranteed havoc. In other words, apiece with everything else that we’ve been doing in the region for a decade.

As to Iran, it is the all-purpose enemy number 1. Terrorism, nuclear weapons, subversion, abettor of the Taliban, and God knows what other noxious mischief. We and the Gulf autocrats are now avowed allies of the sacred and profane against the Persian devil.

Finally, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the days immediately after the Miracle of Abbottabad, there were hopes in some quarters that the White House might use the event, and the political capital that it generated for Obama, to rethink the open-ended commitment to the war on both sides of the Durand Line. That we might accept something less than a complete sanitizing of all those who dislike us. That we might see the full dangers of provoking a civil war in Pakistan. That we've become so unpopular among elites and masses alike that we could reach our objectives only by sending half a million troops to control effectively both places. And that any escalation - of resources, of tactics, of geography - only adds to the risks of something unfortunate happening to the 100 odd Pakistani nuclear weapons. Not on your life! The adrenaline and testosterone coursing through the American body politic has made the Obama administration more reckless and more heedless of the pernicious consequences that await us.

So now a more aggressive campaign to coerce the Pakistani authorities to accept in effect our taking control of their intelligence operations and military missions in the Northwest. We will direct what they do. We will conduct the investigation of who knew what when about Abbottabad. We will ferret out the other terrorists that they're harboring. We will force them to deliver the Haqqani network. We will turn them into the equivalent of Israeli's servile Fatah. That's the near unanimous conviction among Washington's double-latte set. This is feel-good foreign policy. It has no grounding in understanding or logic. It betrays monumental ignorance of the Pakistani elite - of what makes them tick. It reflects no cost/benefit calculus or estimate of probabilities. It lacks all proportion and perspective. It reeks of hubris.

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul. ... we are master and captain, “ . . . because we have the power to control our thoughts”. ...

Where is America's vaunted sound common sense, our pragmatism, and absence of imperial ambition?
Despair not. We now have learned that President Barack Obama is spending long hours in consultation with Thomas Friedman.

graywolf

When you elect a part-time law teacher/community organizer as leader of the free world/POTUS, why would anyone be surprised?

Jackie

M. Brenner: Your last sentence gives me a serious case of the heebee jeebees. I quit reading Friedman years ago when he was shilling for war on Iraq. So, I'll watch and listen to see if Obama picks up any misguided ideas.

optimax

M. Brenner

You only need explosives to derail a train if either you are filming a movie or want to get caught. One person with less than $100 of tools from a hardware store can derail a train. It's simple and has been done before, and I will not give instructions. But the fact that OBL in 10 years could not persuade one follower to attempt it or figure out how to sabatoge a train, makes me question OBL's ability as a terrorist mastermind, considering that the documents taken from his compound say he considering how to sabatoge a train. OBL may have been a spiritual leader and one time fanancier of terrorists but it doesn't appear he had the technical ability to hook up a VCR.

William R. Cumming

Okay perhaps someone could summarize exactly what USA positions were and their relative success or failure in MENA since December 1st of 2010 with the exception of Libya where there was a military intervention?

And of course what has our actual policy been and not just words spoken? As in actions speak louder than words!

William R. Cumming

It would be of great interest to me if General Ali could post as to his views of how fundamental the changes are in fact in the last year in MENA with the exception of Libya?

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