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16 June 2014


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Col: the "fools" are still aired because they reinforce the conceit it's only ever about us, not them. Even when the "them" includes other Americans outside of Washington. See, e.g., http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/06/16/resisting-the-stupid-shit/

The Beaver


Have you seen this one?

"The New Republic cover article, “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire,” struck such a nerve in the White House that many in the foreign policy establishment considered part of Mr. Obama’s speech last month at West Point outlining a narrower vision for American force in world affairs to be a rebuttal, and the president even invited Mr. Kagan to lunch to compare world views. But the rapid advancement of militants from Iraq and Syria on Baghdad, and Mr. Obama’s announcement on Friday that he was weighing the use of force to counter them, makes the debate suddenly less abstract."

David Habakkuk

Colonel Lang,

Unfortunately, having been taken up with other matters, I was not able to contribute to the fascinating discussion on the ‘torment of the neocons’ thread. As the caravan is passing on, and there is a large overlap between issues on that thread and issues raised by ongoing developments on the ground in Iraq, it may be worth posting a few remarks on this one.

In relation to the U.K., there is no warrant whatsoever for Babak Makkinejad’s conviction that the government’s support for neoconservative policies reflects the sentiments of the people at large. As regards the Tony Blair article in the ‘Telegraph’ to which he linked, the paper did not allow comments on the piece.

Having followed comments on the ‘Telegraph’ and ‘Mail’ intermittently but sometimes with close attention over the past few months, I am in no doubt that a large number of people could have been expected to point out that Blair was a ‘fool and knave’ who has been ‘consistently wrong about Iraq’ in no uncertain terms.

Every year, the BBC World Service commissions a ‘Country Rating Poll’ in which samples of the population of countries all over the world are asked to rate the role of other countries as ‘mainly positive’ or ‘mainly negative’. In the most recent poll, published earlier this month, Iran is the most unfavourably rated nation, followed by Pakistan, North Korea, and then Israel.

In the U.K., Israel’s rating has improved somewhat since last year, as the ‘mainly positive’ figure has gone up from 14% to 19% -- but the ‘mainly negative’ figure remains at 72%. Collapse in sympathy for Israel actually appears to be general in ‘old Europe’, as is evident from the figures for Germany, Spain and France.

(For this year’s poll, see http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/country-rating-poll.pdf . Last year’s poll is at http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/2013%20Country%20Rating%20Poll.pdf .)

From time to time, one sees reports in the Israeli media complaining about British hostility. In 2010, a study commissioned by the Reut Institute explained that ‘London is home to a loosely coordinated local network of delegitimizers and serves as the leading hub of the global Delegitimization Network.’

(See http://reut-institute.org/en/Publication.aspx?PublicationId=3949 .)

The study, unfortunately devotes a large amount of attention to radical-left and Islamist elements in London whose influence on the mainstream is rather marginal – and indeed in different circumstances could have worked in Israel’s favour. What its authors cannot face up to, quite patently, is the obvious fact that their country’s delegitimisation – the term is actually not a very useful way of describing what has been happening – is essentially the work of its leaders and people, together with its fellow-travelers abroad, above all in the U.S.

Less sophisticated Israelis treat disillusion with their country here as a product of a revival of anti-Semitism, while in fact as far as any causal link exists, it is the other way round.

As I write, the annual tennis tournament at Wimbledon is about to begin. If the British hosted an annual championship for ‘delegitimisers’, Netanyahu would be the Pete Sampras figure: the star whom everyone needs to beat. Perhaps the pair Sheldon Adelson and Shmuley Boateach (who describes himself, apparently,as 'America's rabbi' -- might do well in the doubles. The Palestine Solidarity Committee on which the Reut Institute focuses would, if it even qualified, be knocked out in the opening round.

In many ways, however, the most significant architects of the delegitimisation of Israel are Richard Perle and the other authors of the 1996 ‘Clean Break’ paper. The central point about the paper is that its authors encouraged Israelis in their determination to avoid the kind of acutely painful concessions which just might have made a two-state solution possible, on the basis of a delusional belief that U.S. military power combined with Machiavellian manipulation could be used as an instrument to install Israel-friendly regimes across the Middle East.

The result, at least as far as the U.K. is concerned, is that an increasing number of those who were foolish enough to delude themselves into believing that the Israelis were serious about the two-state solution now think that Netanyahu is a barrow-boy. Meanwhile, there is seething resentment arising from Blair’s decision to follow the U.S. into the disastrous invasion of Iraq.

While British hostility only matters if – as the Reut Institute people clearly fear – it turns out to be a sign of how opinion is moving more generally, I think it is important to be clear that there is little reason to believe that either the neocons or the Israeli government have anticipated the kind of shambles which has developed over the past few years. In the ‘Clean Break’ paper, Perle & Co explain that:

‘The predominantly Shia population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shia leadership in Najf, Iraq rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizballah, Iran, and Syria. Shia retain strong ties to the Hashemites: the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet’s family, the direct descendants of which – and in whose veins the blood of the Prophet flows – is King Hussein.’

(http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article1438.htm .)

I can see no reason why the ‘Clean Break’ authors should have produced this kind of patent gibberish, unless they believed it. The obvious source, of course, is Chalabi, the Iranian agent-of-influence whose family had been close to the Hashemites, but who would never have deluded himself that a restoration of the dynasty was a real possibility.

Being condescended to is often part of the ‘bitter bread’ of exile. Although I think that Chalabi is a complete scumbag, I also think that he may, in part, have been getting his own back for an insult those who administered it could not understand they had inflicted.

As the famous quote erroneously attributed to Mark Twain puts it, ‘Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.’

Confronted by the shambles they have created, the neocons and the Israeli leadership may well have been pushed towards the kind of thinking which is exemplified in the 1982 Oded Yinon memorandum. Subject to correction from others better informed than me, however, I remain deeply sceptical about the notion that the vision Yinon set out describes what Perle & Co, let alone their fellow-travellers like Tony Blair, set out to produce. It is I suspect more sensible to regard them as having been ‘imbeciles who really mean it.’

And this is precisely what makes them so frightening.


One of the better summations of our adventures in Iraq http://www.stonekettle.com/2014/06/absolutely-nothing.html

Medicine Man

Regarding the fools and knaves: This is what comes from never holding people to account for their mistakes. I can't think of a single Neocon who suffered lasting career damage for helping steer the US into Iraq in the first place. As a consequence they (and their Neolib allies) will all fearlessly stroll out of the woodpile to advocate protecting their "legacy". It is just disgusting.


Colonel Lang has laid out what needs to be done right now in Iraq. As the US government dithers, it is clear that all of the Arab and Russian experts have been weeded out of the US government.

I’d support a bombing campaign against ISIS with FACs on the ground in coordination with the other regional nations and settlement of the Syrian civil war and a regional Islamic Peace Keeping Force. The last thing American citizens need is a failed state in the Levant with thousands of true believers who’d like to do nothing better than kill infidels to be admitted to paradise. A regional Islamic peace settlement is the last thing the Likud Party, war profiteers and the true believers want; so the killing and churn will continue.

The cool rational Presidency is a bunch of hogwash. This government supplied arms to Syrian Jihadists that are are being used right now to kill Iraqis. This government has started a warm war with Russia.

The stupidity, hubris and ignorance demonstrated so far insures that the Ukraine Civil War will turn into a hot NATO Russian war shortly. A super power nuclear war will make the Middle East conflicts a moot point once the Northern Hemisphere is destroyed.

Ex-PFC Chuck

"What are we to think of that? "
I don't think that the appropriate language meets the standard of civil discourse you've established for this blog.


Tal Afar now? I was there as well.

Will ISIS and the old Iraqi Army turn on each other after its all said and done?



IMO my old friends among the very combat experienced and well schooled officers of the old army will certainly fight it out with ISIS when they are done with Maliki's government. In memory they were Scotch and beer drinking heathens who were nationalists and liked to fight. In other words, they were our kind of people. The idiots in the civilian world think that because one managed to defeat an opponent, that opponent is without virtue. We know better than that. pl


Tal Afar has fallen.


BBC reports Tel Afar just fell.



What is the chance that the old army of Iraq leaders could successfully call upon the former enlisted ranks (not just those within their own tribal or religious affiliation) to join them and take over what is left of Iraq in an attempt to restore the old Republic or some portion thereof?


The Beaver,

I for one fully support sending Mr. Kagan to the front. Surely he volunteered, right? He is a man of principle afterall.

"But Exhibit A for what Robert Kagan describes as his “mainstream” view of American force is his relationship with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton,..."

Can't wait to see Chelsea join up now that women can serve in combat.....



That we do.

It looked like there was a "useful idiot" quality to the ISIS/Iraqi Army alliance. Let the former play jihadi and measure beard lengths while occupying the rearuntil Maliki's hash is settled, and then be the saviour from the Salafists.

Wonder if there's any deal in the works with Assad to smash ISIS between the Syrian Army once its all said and done.


Excellent summary. To the point:

There is no daylight between Israeli national security objectives and neocon policy prescriptions.

But it is important to distinguish between the two. Whether your publicist-tool (the neocons, or at least most of them) fully comprehend the implications and risks of your policy dictate is irrelevant. The policy has for decades been destabilization and/or regime change for Israel's adversaries regardless of the rationale each time. They even bankrolled and supported the creation of Hamas as a counterweight to Arafat (they like fundamentalists a lot). Speaking metaphorically, let's say that in Israel time and again the argument was won by Sharon and not Yitzhak Rabin.

You can be assured that those who formulate those objectives, the handlers of the neocons, never entertained such fantasies and dream scenarios as described in Clean Break and other such papers. They live there and have been doing this for a long time. In fact, some of the grownups in Israel have nothing but contempt for some of those American-born "softies". But it helps greatly to have propagandists, and undoubtedly some of them are true believers who believe their own propaganda. The policy however has for decades been destabilization and regime change, whatever the excuse and regardless of the consequences to the local populations.

It is wrong to think of the Israeli national security establishment consensus, the Lobby and the neocons as independent, different entities. They are part of the same apparatus, with policy being prescribed in Israel (the mind), the Lobby pushing it in the US - primarily in Congress - (the body) and the neocons taking care of the public relations campaign for the upper echelons of US government when they don't exercise any power directly themselves (the hands).

Tony Blair and many others were the usual useful idiots. History is unfortunately full of those. There is an argument in Britain however that he wasn't really a true believer but that he had to do it to save the "special relationship", regardless of the methods he had to use and the rationale he had to present to the public. I think that is debatable, but not convincing.

robt willmann

The Associated Press says that president Obama is considering sending a "small number" of American Special Forces soldiers to Iraq, possibly as an "advising and training" mission, and would "fall under the authority of the U.S. Ambassador"--


Fall under the authority of the U.S. Ambassador? Doesn't that sound like the structure during the undeclared Vietnam war?

cville reader

How does your understanding of neoconservatism and the Israeli national security establishment explain Victoria Nuland's actions in Ukraine?

Surely Nuland and her husband are both members of the neoconservative hierarchy.

Here is what Wikipedia says the Wolfowitz Doctrine as formulated in 1992 was:

Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.

Doesn't that mandate seem a little broader than just matters pertaining to Israel?

Babak Makkinejad

I do not care specially about Israel or any other state.

In the confrontation of EU in Ukraine with Russia, who is ultimately repsponsible if not the electorate?

If nuclear war breaks out tomorrow, will a historian of the future - if the hypothetical possibility be admitted - attribute any responsibility of the EU electorates?

Or will he line up the usual suspects: the Lobby, the Neo-Cons, Militarists, Systemic Dysfunction, Fools and Knaves and leave it at that?

The beaver


I would say her husband also. If he can take sabbatical to enjoy his ski trips, for sure he can enlist on behalf of his MIL.

BTW: There is something that is bugging me since this WE.
Why do the Americans allow dual citizenship "advisers" who make it a point to join the Israeli army instead of the US one ( like the Mayor of Chicago e.g) work so closely with the POTUS in the executive branch or the Sec of State


Medicine Man,

I first noticed the non accountability of American elites during and after Vietnam. A guy named Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense at the time, is generally considered the number one architect of the disastrous American approach to the Vietnam war.

His punishment for this epic screw up….he was made president of the World Bank. At the top nobody is held responsible.

We suffer the consequences of their ineptitude, they get Golden Parachutes. Current example; who was the idiot with stars on his shoulders, who was in charge of rebuilding the Iraqi army?

The Virginian

Regardless of what happens, intensified terrorist / militant activity in Baghdad is likely. Since 2003 the city has become even more demographically Shia, thus the call up of the Shia militias will increase the likelihood of additional ethnic cleansing efforts westward and north / south into mixed neighborhoods in addition to engagement with any advancing ISIS / neo-Baath elements coming south or east.


Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice.... Oh nevermind.
Pathetic, it is!

dilbert dogbert

Just read this: http://www.vox.com/2014/6/15/5810262/who-are-major-iraqi-political-groups-kirk-sowell

I would enjoy some comments on the article from Col Lang or others.

Jim Ticehurst

Syria is beginning serious airstrikes up North even into Iraq,,,So what happens if Iran steps it up and engages likewise...A New Persian Empire By Next Year,,? Maybe even including Saudi Arabia this time..Who else when domination of Oil Fields seem likely..?

Peter C

Excellent long range strategy plan! Use those iron beasts with skilled ground troops and control of the air space to send them packing. Who would want a bunch of homeless ISIS footloose in their country?

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