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16 December 2013


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I know the "shock doctrine" extremely well, having been (sort of) involved in it when it went down, albeit very indirectly (as a college student some of whose professors were involved in such things). In some sense, everything I'd been doing since has been shaped by that experience. If I learned one thing, it is that being a doctrinaire fundamentalist, in "science," "religion," "reason," or "free markets," without knowing something about the "patient" in question is a very dangerous thing. If I might filibuster a bit, I don't quite share the extreme skepticism about "social sciences" of our host and some of the posters (I am professionally in the field, after all), but, like the saying goes, the beginning of the wisdom is understanding what it is that you don't know after all...and being too much of a believer blinds you to what you don't know...


Please MRW, get the facts right:

EU is one thing, the EMU another. You can of course join the former without being a member of the latter.

Greece gave up her own currency to join the EMU, not the EU. You are talking nonsense.

Wether a loan is in EUR or another currency is a matter of negotiation.


The Obama Administration remains split between the foreign policy "realists" and the humanitarian interventionists. We saw this in Egypt, where Kerry and Hagel opposed cuts in aid to the Egyptian military and Susan Rice and Samantha Power wanted to cut off aid altogether. To undercut kerry, Rice sent McCain and Graham to Cairo to rail against the Generals and defend the Muslim Brotherood Morsi government as "legitimate" because they were elected, ignoring the tens of millions who took to the streets to demand his ouster. I do not rule out that the same behind the scenes fight is going on vis a vis the Ukraine. After all, Kerry is trying to work with Lavrov on Iran, Syria and probably even on the North Korea mess. My question is simple: Did Rice either deploy or encourage McCain and Murphy to go to Kiev? I know our Ambassador to the EU, Victoria Nuland (married to neocon Robert Kagan) was also in the square in Kiev handing out Twinkies last week, so the Administration is definitely siding with the "join the EU" mobs. A careful study of the 1,000 page Associates Agreement with the EU that President Yanukovych refused to sign, demanding a better deal, would have wiped out the entire industrial and agricultural economy of Ukraine for years to come. It provided for over 1,000 commodities to be imported to Ukraine duty free, meaning dumping of European goods on the Ukraine market, while Ukraine would have had to bring its manufacturing in conformity with EU standards before exporting to Europe. Yanukovych demanded 20 billion euro a year for an indefinite period of time to allow Ukraine to meet EU standards of production as a precondition for signing the AA. He was laughed at by Hollande and others for even daring to suggest such a "level playing field" deal.

David Habakkuk


As one of those posters who has on occasion expressed scepticism about aspects of the ‘social sciences’, I would like to say that I have found some of their products extremely useful.

One aspect I have found worrying, however, is that on occasion whole fields of study seem to be dominated by assumptions which are little short of dotty. In a discussion of what she terms Putin’s ‘sistema’ last year, a very interest Russian sociologist now based in London, Alena Ledeneva, had some interesting remarks on the political aspect of scholarship relating to notions of ‘transition’:

“The idea that there was a range of preconditions for democracy relating to issues of wealth, class, institutional legacy and political culture – some would even request American-type middle classes and a heritage of protestant individualism – lost ground to the belief that ‘all that seems to be necessary for democratization [is] a decision by a country‘s political elites to move towards democracy’. Thus, the role of elites becomes central, given the lack of need for preconditions of transition. Democratic transition should include a transplanted institutional design, with the determinative importance of elections.”

(See http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/International%20Affairs/2012/88_1/88_1ledeneva.pdf )

This is precisely the mindset which has underpinned much Western policy ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Events in the Ukraine, following on from those in Syria, once again illustrate quite how effectively people in the grip of this mindset manage to filter out evidence which might call the basic assumption that the only obstacles to democratisation have to do with the wickedness of elites into question.

A corollary of the basic assumptions involved, of course, is that detailed 'area studies' knowledge is marginalised.


David Habakkuk

"A corollary of the basic assumptions involved, of course, is that detailed 'area studies' knowledge is marginalized." That is absolutely correct. the neocons were drenched in social science dreck and assumed that a detailed knowledge of any of the countries they wished to transform was simply unnecessary because these places would be different after their transformation, pl


Yeltsin's government followed the best 'advice' the western governments, corporations, think tanks and consultants had to offer. Putin and Yanukovych are apparently not willing to get shafted one more time so that immense wealth can be transferred once again to the West while their societies receive years of turmoil in exchange.



McCain was on the stage in Kiev just accompanied by Mikheil Saakashvili who also addressed the crowd there so he should have known.

After speaking to the crowd at "Euromaidan" Saakashvili flew into the US because he fears if he enters Georgia he may be arrested. I don't know though whether McCain and Saakashvili flew back to the US in the same plane.


Fred: It gets better. See http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2013/12/17/president-obama-sochi-billie-jean-king-winter-games-russia-putin/4058273/

So we are not going to send any real politicians to Sochi, just gay activists?

Whether you agree with the Russia's anti-gay law (and I do not), I doubt this has been thought out. What does Obama do if Putin decides to turn King back at the airport? (Israel has been doing this to pro-Palestinian activists for years.) The Russians can use Google.

Including King in the official delegation would have sent a message. By the Administration essentialy boycotting Sochi--but sending a gay activist--Obama is needlessly antagonizing Putin.
And, I fear, setting us up to look ridiculous. lous.



What struck me as hilarious was the mention of Victoria Nuland handing out candy. The mental image so created is haunting. The only candy I can imagine her to ever hand out is sour drops. But no, twinkies! Now I see in my mind that morose face, uttering in English to Ukrainian kids: No! This isn't ordinary candy, these are Freedom Twinkies! DO keep that in mind!

How I came to see her in such a light? Ah well, her performance as a spokesperson when the US cut off UNESCO funding after UNESCO admitted Palestine in was quite memorable.


What leaves me somewhat incredulous is that indeed we have the US Ambassador to NATO taking overt sides in an Ukrainian election.

The phrase 'blatantly and visibly meddling in internal affairs of another country' come to mind.

It's almost as unbelievable as if Bibi came to DC to campaign for Romney ... oh, wait ... what could possibly be wrong about that? Likewise, dear Viccy is just nudging the Ukrainians to do the right thing, or else.

I think, feeling bold this morning, that the next colour coded revolution should be the Twinkie Revolution. Maybe Miss Nuland can even secure a corporate sponsor as a novelty.

William R. Cumming

This dispute will continue until the next invasion of the Ukraine by steppe peoples!


I'm not entirely sure if that view is necessarily reflective of "serious" academics, whose views tend to be too nuanced, "theoretical," and "impractical" for the minds of policymakers. Policymakers seem to like to bring in advice from people who are interested in changing the world and use their academic imprimatur to justify why the world should be and can be changed as they dictate (the choice of the words intentional). So, we wind up with a paradoxical situation: people who supposedly bring in "academics" are interested only in that these people bring their convictions and their credentials (and the people who are brought in aren't really "serious" academics at all, in the sense that they have little or no interest in understanding the situation in depth, beyond what might be necessary to further advance their agenda--thus no time for nuances like cultural backgrounds and situation-specific details that get in the way of their grand notions--nevermind that most "theories" are built on rather (too) specific premises.) This is just glorified hackery, hardly deserving of the term "scholarship." Yet, these are the "intellects" that hold sway with the powers that be, unfortunate. I tend to get frustrated when I hear people attacking "social sciences" on the bases of these charlatans, but these are the most prominent "social scientists" most people see, unfortunately.

Ursa Maior

Well said colonel. And the lack of serious US support in 56, still plagues Hungarian-US relations. Seeing the so to say indecisive US foreign policy more and more people over here say 'better the devil you know'. And are after strengthening ties with 'horribile dictu' Putin's Russia.


What, what? Didn't the US appease World Communism by not having WW-III over Hungary?

But, on a serious note, the point is well taken.

Another example would be the US encouragement of the Shiite uprising against Saddam, and than watching rom the sidelines. An awful lot of people got killed because of that. There are more examples.

The US saying such things gets people ideas, which is why such utterances should be made carefully and responsibly.

If these ideas are mistaken, and the expected US support is not forthcoming, they then have taken a position which irreversibly puts them in a bad situation.

Among others, the Hungarians and Iraqi Shia can testify to how that feels.


I registered that for Germany a member of the CSU or a member of the specific Bavarian part of the Christian democrats spoke next to McCain. That was all I needed to know in spite of a famous boxer being paraded as the pro-Europe party's face for us Germans.



But what about this Pat?


How much space to move Obama really has concerning Iran?

I could never understand why Norman Finkelstein disliked Elie Wiesel as much as seemingly he did, I start to get an idea why that may have beeen:



Obama is just proving how powerless he is. So the LGBT community is not happy with Russia's domestic policies? Just look at what they demand in Hollywood - conform to their standards or lose your job:


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