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25 April 2014

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David Habakkuk

zanzibar,

There is an extraordinary disregard for the notion of objective truth. In today’s ‘Telegraph’, there is a report entitled ‘Syria: the children killed by Assad's chlorine gas bombs’.

(See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10789298/Syria-the-children-killed-by-Assads-chlorine-gas-bombs.html .)

To say that this report gives ground for suspicion that a disinformation operation might be at issue could perhaps be regarded as an understatement.

My suspicion, moreover, is that those who disseminate these stories are at some level conscious of this. They have simply lost any awareness of the basic fact that believing what you want to believe can get you into serious trouble.

David Habakkuk

Colonel Lang,

Absolutely.

I am not in general a great admirer of John Mearsheimer – particular as if he really believes, as Wikipedia suggests, that ‘states are rational actors, capable of coming up with sound strategies that maximize their prospects for survival’, I think he is in large measure living in a dream world.

What states is he talking about? The Germany of Hitler, or indeed the Second Reich? The Soviet Union of Stalin or indeed of Brezhnev? Have Mearsheimer and his like simply ducked out of any serious attempt to confront the questions that twentieth-century history ought to pose for political scientists?

(See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offensive_realism .)

Ironically, however, in his 2011 article ‘Imperial by Design’, Mearsheimer quite rightly, in my view, pointed to the way that the assumptions set out in Fukayama’s 1989 ‘End of History’ have dominated American policy in the post-Cold War period. As Mearsheimer aptly summarised Fukayama’s argument, it involved the belief that ‘liberal democracy and peace would eventually come to the Third World as well, because the sands of time were pushing inexorably in that direction.’

(For Mearsheimer's article, see http://mearsheimer.uchicago.edu/pdfs/A0059.pdf .)

The notion that any likely estimate of what is going to happen in the Third World, or indeed the First World, can be based upon an assessment of what the ‘sands of time’ are doing, is quite patently total BS. Indeed, it is BS very similar to that which made Soviet leaders believe that the ‘sands of time’ were pushing inexorably towards the global triumph of socialism.

The moral should be quite clear – that the notion that the United States is a ‘rational actor’ is theoretically quite as indefensible as the notion that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were. If one wants to understand how states behave – and I am not suggesting that the British state is in any way more ‘rational’ than others – one needs at least partially to emancipate oneself from these ‘rationalist’ assumptions.

Ken Roberts

I'm surprised that no-one has yet mentioned the Cuban Missile Crisis in trying to understand motivations. It seems to me that Putin's stance is much like that of Kennedy at the time of the CMC -- ie, resolve that there is a red line, in that case, and in this one too in regard to the Cook-Aegis incident (and other ABM siting topics).

One of the great strengths of the US in foreign relations, but in this instance perhaps a weakness, is the diversity of deciders and influencers. The President can agree to a treaty, or advocate a policy or relationship, but not be able to deliver -- "because" of the crazy congressman from (state), the (such and such) lobby, etc. With the rise of the imperial presidency, this deniability escape clause has been reduced. It is clear that movements of agencies of the executive are under direction, or at least fall within attributable responsibility of chain of command.

In which case, it becomes important to choose very capable people. The transition may be difficult. Recall earlier discussion of education. My brief experience watching the behaviour of recent journalism grads is not encouraging, and the reductions of diversity of influences on media coverage are also worrisome. One can only hope that the republic retains or recovers enough genuine diversity to be able to cope with challenges now and in future.


Babak Makkinejad

"What we have are elites who are still fervently committed to a vision of a global order based upon unilateral American hegemony, but who repeatedly demonstrate that they are unfit to pretend to any such hegemony. It is not a happy spectacle."

In other words, Masters should learn to act as Masters and slaves be content to remain slaves to the Utopia to be realized under the guide book called "The Republic" authored 2500 years ago by Plato.

That was to a large extent the world just before 1914 and I doubt that the Beige, the Brown, and Yellow, the Black people of the world would countenance its reemergence.


Babak Makkinejad

That is what I have been saying.

Babak Makkinejad

All:

I would like to draw your attention to 2 items:

A speech by Tony Blair against "Islamic Extremism":

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/apr/23/tony-blair-west-take-sides-growing-threat-radical-islam

and a piece of so-called performance art here

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2014/apr/22/artist-eggs-vagina-paintings-performance-art-milo-moire

Am I reading this correctly: a religious war against Islam is being advocated by a former UK leader in defense of depravity and decadence?

Where is Petronius the Arbiter to chronicle this madness?

VietnamVet

zanzibar,

If you still have a job, advancement is easier if you believe in the ground rules. But, the awakening realization that western leadership is deluded and can lash out completely irrationally and start WWIII is enough to make one ill.

In the Ukraine crisis besides neo-conservative delusions of winning a nuclear war with Russia, there are the wealthy aggressive NGOs seeking more wealth and power to exploit (less their whole house of cards collapse).

In addition, there are also other forces in play:
The complete break down for the rule of law for the wealthy,
Forced austerity on the people to avoid restructuring the banks’ bad debt, and
Debt Slavery for the young who will never afford the American Dream.

This is all hard to accept because it is discussed on only a handful of blogs. Yet, income disparity and the plight of the young are seeping into media. (Spoiler Alert) The last episode of “Continuum” on the SyFy channel, the law enforcement heroine in the future, 2070, saved two children in a fire rather than two top floor executives whose lost income was tacked onto her lifetime total debt.

Fred

David,

"‘liberal democracy and peace would eventually come to the Third World ..."

The US government can not find the political will to refinance Detroit or save pensioners incomes but the political appointee, a major Obama fundraiser, and new rubber stamp city council, could find $186,000,000 in tax revenue for one man - Michael Illych - to build a hockey arena over which he will have sole control. The Democratic delegation in Michigan - silent, right along with the Republicans. Our two senators, both democrats, silent. They did vote for a billion for citizens of 'Ukraine'. This complicity is just part of what our 'liberal democracy' is doing to average citizens.

Mearsheimer and Fukayama were only wrong in the details. We are busy replacing Godless Communism with Godless Democracy.

Fred

Babak,

The liberal elite are not concerned about a war against Islam, it is a war against religion in general. Please see the articles below. The most religious part of the country has a 'human rights' problem. They are predominantly Christian and conservative. That means they must be against 'human rights' as liberals see them:
http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/hrc-unveils-unprecedented-effort-to-bring-equality-to-alabama

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/24/gay-marriage-south_n_4850568.html

Most Christian denominations teach that anal sex between men is a sin. How long do you think it will be before one church or another is labeled a hate group because of that?

Ingolf


David,

Your "second point" seems to me crucially important. Everything the US gained through the long Cold War has been squandered in a brief two decades. And as you suggest so clearly, the opportunity at the time truly was historic.

9/11 offered a reset. Had the US responded in a sane and modest fashion, most of the world (including Russia) was probably ready to re-extend the benefit of the doubt. Instead . . . well, we all know what followed.

It's a great tragedy. It's also hard not to occasionally succumb to weeping or wailing at the banal stupidity that's brought it about.


jonst

Agree Col, agree 100%. But how serendipitous, when a "shared" view of humanity is also, thee, or at minimum, a, most profitable view.

jerseycityjoan

I have had many unpleasant thoughts about nuclear weapons in the past few years. Some came from the tsunami-caused disaster in Japan. Some came from the various unfortunate revelations concerning Air Force personnel.

The more I think about it, the less I can convince myself that our species is up to the job of handling nuclear weapons. We do not have the necessary level of consistent and rational behavior. I think that disqualifies us right there.

Even worse, we are inherently imperfectible. And yet error with nuclear materials can be deadly and long lasting beyond our imaginations' ability to recognize, process and admit to ourselves and others.

Someone think wrong, assume wrong, do wrong with their nuclear weapons in a catastrophic way, eventually. If it's not us who makes the first big mistake, it will be another nation.

I know we will not eliminate these weapons anytime soon.

But wouldn't reducing the world's supply of them be a good and doable thing?


David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

‘In other words, Masters should learn to act as Masters and slaves be content to remain slaves to the Utopia to be realized under the guide book called "The Republic" authored 2500 years ago by Plato.’

This is a tendentious reading of what I wrote.

To say that American or British elites no longer display the characteristics of a half-way competent ruling class does not imply that, if they did display such characteristics, a unilateral American, or indeed more broadly Western, hegemony could be maintained.

Indeed, I have thought for twenty-five years that such a unilateral hegemony – in particular, the kind of American hegemony over Eurasia advocated by Brzezinski – was a delusional fantasy, which was liable to end in nuclear war.

An appropriate goal, it has seemed to me, was one where the United States would be something rather more than ‘primus inter pares’ in a kind of polycentric ‘peace of Dives.’ A corollary of this is that the suitable strategy for the United States seemed to involve taking a leaf out of the book of the British Empire, and relying to a significant extent on ‘offshore balancing.’

To do this, however, it is necessary to be able to grasp that ‘appeasement’ is a key tool of imperial strategy – along with ‘deterrence’ and ‘compellence’. Indeed, commonly the different tools are appropriately used in conjunction.

All that said, the old Roman principle – that you should not attempt to control others until you can control yourself – remains pertinent. Indeed, the pathological fear of appearing weak which seems to characterise contemporary American elites may reflect a fundamental inability to practice self-control.

Reading Seymour Hersh’s description of Obama’s enthusiasm for bombing Syria, I could not help being reminded of Kipling’s phrase about ‘half-devil and half-child.’ And this is not a matter related to his skin colour or ethnic origins. The extraordinary op-ed by Anne-Marie Slaughter which Colonel Lang discusses in the next thread, or indeed the ghastly spectacle of Samantha Power weeping ‘with pain and emotion’ at the suggestion that she might harbour animus towards Israel provoke precisely the same reaction.

(See http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/.premium-1.528263 )

So also does the equally ghastly speech by Tony Blair on the need to combat Islamic extremism to which you link below.

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

You are conflating different phenomena.

1. Tony Blair is not a secularist. By origin, he was an Anglican Christian socialist. His wife is Catholic, being by background Liverpool Irish, and he eventually converted to her religion (‘poped’, as we say in Britain.) Whatever can be held against them, enthusiasm for scatological displays masquerading as ‘art’ is not as far as I am aware characteristic of either of the Blairs.

2. What they are, however, are silly socialists who, following repeated trouncings by Thatcher, followed her in becoming neocons. Under her rule, the covert element in British foreign policy became significantly more salient than earlier. In particular, it involved a covert alliance with the Saudis and American neocons to use Islam as a force against the Soviets, and subsequently the Russians.

3. When the assumption that the jihadists would not ‘bite the hand that fed’ them was proven wrong by the attack on the World Trade Center, the neoconservatives decided to appoint themselves ‘useful idiots’ of the IRGC – and, with Blair himself playing a not exactly trivial role, handed Iraq over to Shiite Islamists closely associated with Tehran.

4. This spectacular display of shooting oneself in the foot triggered a revival of the covert alliance between Saudis and American neocons, particularly as Israel perceived the Shiite axis as an ‘existential threat’. Dreams of enlisting the enormous power of the United States in the project of destroying Shiite power have, however, so far been frustrated. In part this is because key elements in the American intelligence community are determined not to see a repeat of the manipulation of intelligence which led to the invasion of Iraq, and also because – so far at least – General Dempsey has given a virtuoso display of the art of keeping one’s finger in the dyke.

5. What Blair’s speech actually represents is hardly advocacy of a ‘religious war against Islam’ – it would be better seen as a not very coherent attempt to make some sense of the contradictions which have devilled the neoconservative approach to the Middle East and have grown more and more glaringly apparent in recent years. Ironically, its most cogents part may be the justification of the toppling of Morsi by the Egyptian military, and the signs of concern about reining in Saudi enthusiasm for sponsoring jihadists.

6. In relation to policy towards Syria, or towards Iran, or indeed relations between Israel and the Palestinians, or the possibilities and problems of cooperating with Russia and China against jihadists, Blair is quite patently failing to confront what the realistic alternatives are.

Babak Makkinejad

I stand by what I said; a military alliance of White people denigrates any and all non-White power centers in the international arena that oppose its policies.

The posture against Russia is one that posits subjugation as the natural state of the Slav, like wise for Muslim powers etc.

Significantly, a confrontation with the Yellow Emperor has not yet taken place but if I am right, it will - sooner or later.

And all for what exactly; for naked young women to eject eggs out of the orifices of their bodies in public all over the world - say in Qum - and call it artistic Freedom?


David Habakkuk

Ingolf,

'It's also hard not to occasionally succumb to weeping or wailing at the banal stupidity that's brought it about.'

Absolutely.

In part, I am one of the 'spoilt children' of the 'Pax Americana' of which Dean Acheson has to be regarded as the principal architect.

There are, I think, relevant questions which can be raised about the way in which Acheson and others handled the Soviet Union; and it is important that they should be raised.

But that the hegemonic system Acheson and his associates set up both in Western Europe and East Asia was in very large measure extraordinarily benign for most of those incorporated in it seems to me palpably clear.

It seems to me equally clear that a realisation of this fact on the part of those with functioning brains among Soviet elites was central to the -- extraordinarily peaceful, if seen in any comparative context -- dissolution of the Soviet system.

That, on the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, American elites seem determined to repeat the mistakes which led Europe into catastrophe seems almost beyond belief.

David Habakkuk

Fred,

I am baffled by the fact that people who are supposed to be intelligent appear to be completely stupid.

Traditionally, in Britain, we were fortunate to have elites that paid some attention to what those over whom they ruled thought and felt. Moreover, quite a few of them had a good deal of practical experience – be it in business, the military, as was common among Tories, or simply in running local authorities or indeed trades unions, as was common on the Labour side.

Also relevant on the Labour side was the fact many key figures in the party in the post-war decades had serious military experience – Denis Healey, who ought to have led the party, and would have done so, had people like Blair not been dolts, had been a beachmaster at Anzio.

The effect of the economic crisis, and the fatuous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been to create a bizarre situation: a seething distrust and resentment of our elites, equally among crucial elements of those traditionally on the ‘right’ and among crucial elements of those traditionally on the ‘left’, together with an inability to see clearly any alternative.

But people like Obama, and also Cameron and Hague, seem completely oblivious to what is happening. Ironically, the current Labour leader, Ed Miliband, who is a nice Jewish boy from North London, and actually a decent enough human being, has some inkling. But, like almost all of the current British political class, he has zilch practical experience of anything.

turcopolier

David Habakkuk

I am struck by your point that the traditional elites in your country and mine have become dangerous because they lost their traditional purposes as class or classes and have been supplanted by uncultured new, commercial people like the nearly unlettered swine to be seen on "Sharktank," chez vous et ches nous. Now the old elites are largely creatures who inhabit universities, think-tanks and the like, festering in a mutual ignorance of real life and aspiring to run our lives on the basis of Mutual Ignorant Imagining (MII). My wife continues to learn more and more of my ancestry and I am depressed to think what those people would have thought of these times. pl

VietnamVet

jerseycityjoan,

The Washington Post today published a 150th year commemorative of the American Civil War in 1864. That year, for the first time, industrial slaughter killed hundred thousand men from the Wilderness to Atlanta to Petersburg and introduced the horrors of trench warfare to mankind.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/after-spotsylvania-grant-and-lee-waged-relentlesswarfare-through-virginia/2014/04/24/0fd876dc-be94-11e3-b195-dd0c1174052c_story.html

This was a prelude of the millions killed in WWI and WWII. Since 1945 there has not been one war between nuclear armed states. The reason is Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). All those who at one time served on the Fulda Gap in Germany are here today because they never faced waves of attacking Soviet Tanks, thanks to MAD.

Washington DC is insane if it thinks NATO and Russia can fight a war and not end up destroying the world. Ukraine is proof that the West and Russia have been and will always be in conflict and it is in our genes to lord it over others. I am for anything if it will get through to the 0.01% and their ideological handmaidens and get them to realize they will all be dead unless they back down from destabilizing Russia. If not, 2014 will be the end of our time on earth.

robt willmann

Not long ago I got a video of a documentary called "Dark Circle", made in 1982. It is about nuclear weapons and focuses on the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in Colorado and nuclear testing, and some about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think it is worth watching.

http://cbfilms.net/darkcircle.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Circle_(film)

http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Circle-Judy-Irving/dp/B000KJU1IW/ref=sr_1_3/178-2361403-0557533?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1398480225&sr=1-3&keywords=the+dark+circle

They handled plutonium at Rocky Flats and also made the triggers for hydrogen bombs, and the trigger was made of plutonium. When I heard that, I wondered about the nuclear theft by Israel discussed on this site previously, including the issue of nuclear triggers and Hollywood producer Arnon Michan with Netanyahu; were the triggers at issue ones containing plutonium or a different type of nuclear trigger?

http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2014/03/httpwwwprnewswirecomnews-releasessecrets-about-suspected-israeli-theft-of-us-weapons-grade-nuclear-materia.html

http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2013/11/httpwwwbusinessinsidercomarnon-milchan-and-israels-nuke-program-2013-11.html

I then became interested in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. There was some black and white film taken by Japanese after the bombings which was then confiscated by the U.S. and brought here. The Japanese government later got it or a copy back. A short film of about 15 minutes was made by Erik Barnouw of some of the footage, called Hiroshima Nagasaki August, 1945, and can be seen here--

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MSKoSbqHq0

A Japanese man, Tsutomo Iwakura, made a film around 1982 about Hiroshima and Nagasaki that may have some original footage in it, called "Prophecy". However, I have not been able to track it down. It may have been released only in Japan, though there may have been a public showing one time in the U.S.

When General Douglas MacArthur became head of the occupation of Japan, he ordered that film be made of Japanese cities to show the effects of the various bombings. As fate would have it, Lt. Daniel McGovern had some Hollywood filming experience and was put in charge of the project, and another member of the film crew was Lt. Herbert Sussan. They filmed it all in color and ended up with about 90,000 feet of footage, which apparently is of quite good quality. All the film was then "classified" and locked away from the public and the world. Greg Mitchell, who has been editor of Editor and Publisher magazine, got interested in the story. He details some of it in an article--

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-mitchell/for-64th-anniversary-the_b_252752.html

He also wrote a book about it, called "Atomic Cover-up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Greatest Movie Ever Made", which I have not yet read. He made a little video about the situation and his book with a tiny bit of the color footage here--

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZYvodtZDTc

All the color film seems to now be no longer marked secret and is sitting in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

A more recent documentary about nuclear weapons called "Original Child Bomb" is said to have been made around 2005, and it may have some of the color footage in it. But I have also not been able to find that documentary.

When the public starts to see what war really is, the propaganda of politicians, war profiteers, and war financiers has much less effect. This is of course why the films made of the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hidden for so long. And is why every effort was and has been made to prevent disclosure of photographs and film of the Iraq war beginning in 1990, the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq in 2003, the war in Afghanistan, and the attack on Yugoslavia and Serbia. The last war in which there was some film of soldiers from combat on television news was Vietnam.

Ingolf


It sure does, David.

Thanks, by the way, for your wonderful contributions. For me, they greatly enrich what is already a superb site.

Babak Makkinejad

These "American elites" who "..seem determined to repeat the mistakes which led Europe into catastrophe" are not opposed by any one in EU; not PM of UK, not President of France, not PM of Sweden, not PM of Italy etc.

Is there no sane political leader in EU that would oppose the insanity?

If not, then why have these meaningless elections and government structures in EU; send pro-consuls from Washington DC to rule these European provinces.

Anna-Marina

"He's been assuring allies all over the place that they can continue to rely on us."

After the US (via NATO) have been provoking Russia for years?

"I find it very understandable that the former Soviet countries turned away from Russia."

You mean that the pro-Russian sentiments among the sizable portion of Easter Ukraine' population are just an inconvenient illusion? There are between 26% and 70% of ethnic Russians in different parts of Eastern Ukraine. The behavior of the US cannot be qualified other than stirring a civil war there in Ukraine. Before going on grandiose projects to grab other peoples' mineral resources, the State Dept. needs to do some homework, like studying the history of the country in question.
And there is another minor addition: Please do not pretend to be oh-so-honorable because of "draining resources" in some distant lands. This draining is not altruistic. If Ukraine was not rich in natural resources and if Ukraine was not bordered with Russia that is becoming to threaten the unipolarity of the world, the US would care not to spend billions on the opposition in Kiev and the US would not send, shamelessly, the CIA' highest representative to educate the Kievan junta about “proper” course of actions.
This is not about obligations: this is about endangering the population of Europe by stirring another military conflict, this time a dangerously large one.

William R. Cumming

Great comment! The NUCLEAR PRIESTHOOD survives in the USA only due to its secrecy and still cannot explain its utility for warfare.

The firdst US President to announce a NO FIRST USE policy may undergoe imeachment but this must be done IMO!

William R. Cumming

Great comment!

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