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04 April 2015


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Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see

I was educated that the isolationism of the US was a contributory cause to WW2, on the Domino Theory, our Manifest Destiny as a nation. And then the light bulb came on, decades ago. We need to pull our forces back and cut loose all these world characters to fend for themselves. Let Europe pay for their own defense and ditto with the Asian Rim. Get the hell of our MENA.

Of all the things I could have imagined happening, being deeply disturbed about the potential for a republican lead nation (POTUS, Congress) giving a massive blank check to the Izzies to do whatever mischief they want to do was not one of them. I am not looking forward to the results of our 2016 elections.


“Bush years with the equally outsized "1% doctrine". On a global scale that posture was every bit as unsustainable and aggravating “

Shipping jobs and industries overseas to finance that doctrine (war) was/is a failure beyond imagination. In an alternate choice, keepin the jobs and using a fraction of war money to invest in NASA and the next frontier would have propelled US beyond anyones reach or imagination. Our new robber barons (1% doctrine) and their big corp henchman lobbyist plus their think tanks are the disease of out times. So long as they rule, 2016 and their dinosaur dynasties are not going to be pleasant..


Rd. to clarify on the "1%"

* Cheney's "1% doctrine" held that "if there was even a 1 percent chance of terrorists getting a weapon of mass destruction — and there has been a small probability of such an occurrence for some time — the United States must now act as if it were a certainty" i.e. it was excess by default.


* What you refer to are "the 1%" and that is an issue in its own right, though unrelated. That's not to say that I disagree with your sentiment it just isn't what I was writing about.



With all due respect, FB Ali, no matter how reliable the Saudis consider the US, the US cannot solve the deeper underlying problems for them. I enjoyed the exchange between MartinJ and Patrick Bahzad, on Patrick's recent contribution to matters.

Let's hope this does not turn into another Syria/Libya.

Reports from the fog of war.

Al-Jazeera: Yemen: 'I hope we will not turn into another Syria'


"Meanwhile, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has reinforced support for Saudi's military assistance and blamed Iran for instigating the unrest. "You are destroying Yemen with your adolescent trickery," Hadi said at the Arab League Summit in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday.

Hossain al-Bokhaiti, a member of the Houthis' political office, condemned the strikes as an aggressive move by the United States, Saudi and its allies against Yemeni people. "Less than 10 days ago, Yemenis were saying a final goodbye to loved ones who were killed by [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's] Friday mosque bombings. Now they are killing more people," Bokhaiti said."


from Al Jazeera: Houthis told to 'surrender' at Arab League summit

Stephen Calhoun

A present day synthesis of both 1% ideologies could be implied as a possibility.

(One other qualification is that, per Piketty et al, much of the 1% class's wealth generation in the first world is not in the least founded in equity investment in jobs, in people making and selling tangible stuff.)

William R. Cumming

IMO WWI also reflected American isolationism. If Theodore Roosevelt elected in 1912 no WWI?

William R. Cumming

CP thanks for excellent post. But you are far too kind to the US FP establishment whose ego and hubris has helped destroy American hard and soft power IMO. Why and how?

First few in US FP establishment were fluent in languages and cultures outside of West of Urals.

Second, the State Department poorly led and starved for staffing and funding.

Third, election to Presidency of those without FP knowledge, expeience, and competency.

Fourth US politicians ignoring the impact of FP on domestic policy and issues.

Fifth, the Washington view that no real need for strategy and policies but just choose up sides on issues.

Sixth, failure of US military to understand that HISTORY HAS NOT ENDED.

Flip-flop is US FP basis.

Much more could be said and argued but will stop there.

BTW, David Rothkop seems to understand these failures and impact on MENA.

Could go on but won't!


CP: Thank you for your thoughts and excellent post. My main disagreement is one of flavor. Over this same period there has been a rapidly accelerating shift in global power towards China (following the money - in ~15 years*, the US:China economic comparison will be of Germany:US). IMO a big part of that has been the US burning itself out in futile wars in the middle east (futile in that outcomes have not been in our national interest), and perhaps Obama is dialing back somewhat due to a recognition that our nation is tired, and needs to recoup if it is to have any hope of postponing by a decade or two a new world order when China dictates and the US suffers.

* I am assuming at some point a significant drop in the value of the dollar due to its no longer being the dominant trade currency, a process that China appears to be accelerating by challenging the current hegemony in finance and development of the World Bank and IMF.

Israel's signing up for the China investment bank is a good support of your point.


If any informed person here can make an estimate of what the Likudniks or Sauds expect their neighborhood to look like about 30 years from now I would appreciate it.

William R. Cumming

Agree! But note how China played the game of being a developing country and developed country in World Bank and IMF. Not forced to make a choice between status.


Iran demonstrates interesting self-propelled tracked robot machine-gun, with "range of 5km". (Israel and N.Korea already have similar capability.)

The next serious war will be fought with robot speedboats. So far the U.S. is in front of this one, testing self-thinking swarm robots with guns:
but Iran is also deploying manned, cheap mini air/sea flying-boats,
and unmanned boats are just a few steps up, should be expected.

Iran has also copied the ScanEagle recon aerial drone, called the "Yasir":

Excellent ZH article on geography of Iran, which is apparently one large salt marsh, only populated on/next to mountains:
Takeaway fact: Iran is 68% larger than Iraq plus Afghanistan COMBINED.
Can you say "quagmire", boys and girls? I knew that you could.


I am not remotely an expert, perhaps not even well informed, but I would expect that both are nearsighted, and only see themselves still in charge of their respective countries. Outside of that, they probably don't see a thing.


MS2, this is not exactly what you asked for, but it must be part of what the Saudis are aware of, at least some of them. One of my friends has worked in the region for going on 30 years, the last 20 in Saudi. He thinks demography is one major factor in what will come and some of what has been going down. He sent this along a few week ago (profanity alert): "as I've been saying for years, there is no political solution in the sense that we understand post-Enlightenment politics. It doesn't matter if our politics are based on our own selfish geopolitical interests or based on altruistic or humanitarian goals; they will not work. What we need here are socio-anthropologists (with a deep understanding of religious belief as well as tribal knowledge) and demographers. 70% of the population here is under 25. It will be even higher in the neighbouring country. Those statistics are a recipe for trouble anywhere.

"Things are not going to get any better. There will certainly not be an exit strategy [for the Yemen incursion]. All the comments on the operational side rang true. I'm supposedly teaching the creme de la creme, so fuck knows what the dregs are like!"


The overwhelming factor that is driving the world is technology - primarily computer technology.

The Three effects visible to me without much thought are:

1. The almost complete devaluation of human labour in the developed world as a result of computer and robotic technology. This has destroyed the wages of the lower and middle classes and with it their political power in the affected countries. This is why "the One Percent" has been able to emerge. Robots don't argue can't organise and therefore can't unionise or protest.

2. The massive improvement (?) in the quality, quantity and flow of information available to increasing populations via the Internet. This makes transnational conversation and organisation possible at the speed of light.

3. The massive unprecedented availability of a cornucopia of consumer goods and services to developed world populations.

All of the above have been delivered via the applications of the devices of free market economics and secular humanist values.

Our current problems are caused by the spread of technology and information to societies that cannot deal with the secular humanist values embedded in those products and services. It is very difficult, if not impossible to censor information (e.g.. Pornography) when a 64Gb microSD card is smaller than a fingernail).

Our future problems are going to be caused by the ruling One Percent deciding to dispense with the secular humanist values that built our society. For example, todays low interest rates are penalising the thrifty and prudent, and rewarding, instead of crucifying, the speculators and wastrels of Wall Street.



"...70% of the population here is under 25...."

The youth bubble has been growing in a number of countries for decades. I remember my father used to say that when they hit 18 they (the men especially) would be old enough, smart enough, and strong enough to join an army. Only it wouldn't be the Salvation Army. In one regard he was wrong. They are joining the Salvation Army - ISIS version. What alternative future do they see in this regard, to live like Palestinians? Your friend is correct on the need for "a deep understanding of religious belief as well as tribal knowledge"; however that is what is rejected amongst the academic and policy elites within the US.

Babak Makkinejad

I think you are over-estimating IT and underestimating metallurgy and chemistry - viz., the internal combustion engine.

The world is divided into those who can design and build the internal combustion engine and those who have to buy it.

Babak Makkinejad

I do not think those foreigners who are going to Syria to fight with ISIS and other religious groups against the Syrian Arab Republic are trying to avoid the fate of Palestinians.

different clue


If all the P5 +1 and Iran can all arrive at a real agreement of genuine percieved value to them all, then that would be an achievement for Obama to hand off to the DemPrez nominee of 2016 to run on defending and protecting and maintaining. The right DemPrez nominee could make the election a referendum on Iran Agreement: go forward or not? But that can only happen if enough DemPrez nominee-wannabes forcibly turn the nomination- campaign itself into a referendum about whether the DemPrez campaign of 2016 will be a referendum on the agreement.

The only potential candidate I can imagine who would even WANT to make the election into such a referendum would be Webb. He would be invested in forcing the campaign to force the issue, win or lose. Any other Dem nominee would be invested in winning at all costs. Perhaps if an agreement is secured, then he might enter the race for just that reason.


Nor do I or my friend on the ground. I did not get the sense that Fred intimated that either, but I will let Fred speak to that. I think my friend's point was that demography is shaping what is unfolding, that the Saudi's are aware of this, and that they have likely been exporting it due to their beliefs, political concerns and recognition that they have a restive youth population on their hands with media access and raging hormones. I will apologize for putting many words into my friend's mouth.

His main point was the need for folks who understand the multiple dynamics of the society and state, artificially constructed as it was after WWI.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your comments.

I do not think that "society and state, artificially constructed " is a valid criticism since any alternatives would be equally artificial.

Furthermore, one could argue that Central Asian States, Israel, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Africa, Uruguay, Canada, Australia are also artificially constructed.

As for the youth bulge; yes many countries have it, including India and Iran.

But Iranian Shia and Hindu Indians are not walking into Sunni Mosques blowing themselves up.

Youth bulge is not an explanation; in my opinion.


nor do Iranian Shia round up Sunni as heretics and shoot them in a ditch as ISIS does.

I listened to a Atlantic Council discussion on an 'artfully ballanced' American Strategy for the Persian Gulf yesterday and when the issue of political rights for minorities came up, the one point none of the panelists really wanted to talk about was the question of Sunni resentment and overt discrimination against Shia. What came was some 'inclusive political system' and 'increased politcal stability' blablabla.

As for causes of Sunni suicide terrorism - often directed against Shia - I propose this off the top of my head:

If I go back to Robert A. Pape and his notion that suicide terrorism is happening in a context of a violent struggle between two groups in which one is ethnically or religiously alien (usually a foreign occupier) I think that - absent Shia occupation (which may be, however, a factor in parts of Iraq and Syria) - one can safely focus on religion as the key matter here.

The Saudis have talked themseves into believing to be under a Shia threat and that the Iranians are still exporting the revolution. They point to Hezbollah and Iranian involvement in Iraq as proof, and are not the Houthi Shia, too?

Wahhabi Islam casts the Shia (not to mention Alawites) as heretics. I argue that for Wahhabi's Shia (and other minoritiees) have roundly been demonised as 'The Other'. Since the arguments for that are religious, the problem is one of Wahhabi clerics and the Saudis who indulge them. The youth bulge only makes that more toxic because it provides a lot of angry young men to act on that resentment.

In Iraq, it appears that ISIS uses suicide bombings against Shia ruthlessly to leave the Sunnis no choice but to align with ISIS since these bombings baits the Shia into lashing out against the Sunni. ISIS benefits from making the conflict more sectarian. They by now probably have done that often enough to cause enough ill will that to Shia security forces/militias in Iraq probably there is an increased perception that all Sunni are the enemy.

Disclaimer: Any oversights herein are for lack of breakfast and so I welcome your devastating rebuttals.


A third factor is the professional military, or rather, the corporatization of military without the concern of dependence on and accountability to shareholders.

Brad Carson, Undersecretary of the Army, noted in this interview that his job is

"trying to convince a nation that is no doubt fatigued by a decade in these conflicts that land power is going to be essential because in the end the Army has a singular competitive advantage; no other service has this:

We can make you change your mind when you otherwise don't want to. . . .The Army can kick in your door and make you stop doing what you want to do . . .and we have to do a great job of explaining that."

Explaining is one thing.

First you have to find -- or create-- a supply of doors to kick in that will last for the duration of a career.


"Brad Carson, Undersecretary of the Army" They ought to get rid of this guy. Why? He enables people like you who do not understand how the US government functions to write from places like western Pennsylvania that the US Army runs the country and that is simply not true. The US Army does what the civilian government tells it to do and that is all it does. pl


confusedponderer said in reply to Babak Makkinejad...

“The Saudis have talked themseves into believing to be “

CP – there is the atlantic council or other think tank version and then there is the simple one;

US has put the saud royals on the pedestal for decades , with the very many $B and the latest gadgetry, and fancy weapons, etc, its gotten to their heads. What suad royals have ever accomplished by themselves? Have you ever been around anyone of these guys, even from the lower end? They act like they owned and made the world, yet they never so much as pick a finger to look after themselves.

Hand out a $M lottery win to an ordinary person and 'most' lose their way. The saud royals are no different. Cut the petro $ and they will soon be back to where they have always been! Tribal tents in the desert. With friends like these and the other [the saudi closet compatriots]!!! one would hope the think not tanks, would eventually figure it out, I am not counting on that.

The 1% robber barons and their think tanks have a very narrow view point, their own self interest. They can not think out side their own box.



No, they are not. However there is plenty of discontent in Saudi Arabia and the religious ideology that drives ISIS is already present. They need go nowhere other than Riyadh to destroy the ruling family's power are restore true Islam (as they see it) to the kingdom.

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