Saturday, July 12, 2008

The way that history is not taught

At Corrente, this analysis of the motivation for the New Deal was laid out oh so clearly:

[In one of the more interesting political twists of all time, it was fear of Communism taking hold in America during the Great Depression that drove FDR and his allies to institute the New Deal programs; FDR co-opted the very social changes being advocated by the American Communist Party and used them to promote and eventually stabilize a new American Middle Class as the dominant socioeconomic structure, the first time in history that was ever achieved. One could say, without any exaggeration, that the publically-voiced political deceits of the Communist Party (in private truth they were of course terrible totalitarians) saved American democracy – but that isn’t the way history is taught, is it?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Prescience - a monumental diversion

Bill Montgomery's Whiskey Bar was one of my favorite blogs. In his final blog post, dated 21 December, 2006, he put together a retrospective of his seemingly prescient postings on the U.S. invasion of Iraq. His blog provided more of the most useful information and insights on that debacle in real time than the regular television and cable news networks and top 20 most popular daily U.S. news papers combined.

In the end, policy mistakes -- particularly big ones -- tend to produce a kind of circular reasoning -- in which those in charge try to justify the policy by citing the need to avoid, at all costs, the failure of the policy. So it was in Vietnam. So, too, with our latest misadventure in Iraq . . . Because America in Iraq, it must fight the "terrorists." And because it must fight the terrorists, America has to be in Iraq.

This kind of circular logic permeates the entire enterprise. Why has the high command proclaimed that current U.S. troop strength in Iraq -- about 140,000 men, give or take -- is the "optimal" force? Could it be because that also happens to be the maximum force that can be scraped together by the hard-pressed Army?

Calling the war in Iraq the central battle in the war against terrorism ignores the distinct possibility that it is in fact a monumental diversion from the real struggle against terrorism -- a strategic distraction that will make huge demands on the American military and the American intelligence community for years, if not decades.

The Self Inflicted Wound
July 28, 2003

Loose cannon of American foreign policy

Jeff Huber criticizing the CIA
for its politicization, lack of oversight, loss of seasoned personnel, and incompetence:

Since CIA director Michael V. Hayden is an Air Force intelligence officer and a Bush appointee to boot, anything he says tends to be standard issue effluvium, and what he's saying now about his agency's right to privacy stinks to high heaven.


The CIA has always been the loose cannon of American foreign policy, running silent around the Defense and State Departments and out of sight most of the legislature. Today's Central Intelligence Agency is becoming the kind of secret intelligence and paramilitary tool of the executive branch we saw in the worst totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.

The way things work now, see, if a president wants have him a little war and he's afraid Congress won't let him use the military for it, he just signs himself a finding and has the CIA agitate it for him.

When surplus situations come to an end

Ian Welsh has long provided some of the most useful and insightful economic analysis to be found anywhere on the internet. At Firedoglake, he concludes this post about recent Arentinian Government decision with these observations:

Food and oil are created in specific countries. Those countries, as food and oil become scarce, will tend to take care of their own needs first. This is especially true in states that are democratic, where the rulers can't just say "let them eat cake". Specific long term contracts will matter. The world market will become less and less of a fact as more and more oil and food is sold based on bilateral arrangements.

Likewise, in democracies, there will be a real temptation to take commodity resources that are necessary for manufacturing and use them at home. Why sell the raw stuff when you can do the value add yourself? Sure, it may cost a bit more than if it was done in some cheaper or more productive country, but when there's an absolute scarcity of key resources, that doesn't matter. You have pricing power and you can extract the extra money. It gives your population more and better jobs, which gives you a better tax base. And it gets you reelected.

Global markets are based on surplus situations without strong incentives for nations to horde or make bilateral deals. Those circumstances are ending and we are coming to an end of this era of "free" trade.


Professor Juan Cole offers a reality based assessment
of the present situation in Iraq, as it relates to the Iraqi people:

All this talk about security improvements in Iraq distracts everybody from the real and continuing dangers of living there. Friends of mine are still being killed, wounded and kidnapped, and living in fear remains the norm. Before the surge the violence was unimaginable, now it is only horrible. How we (and especially the media) can let McCain and Lieberman obfuscate and declare victory is shameful.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

moderate reublican realist?

With political analysis as wooden headed as this (McCain - moderate Republican realist? Obama - liberal left internationalist?) one is forced to conclude that ABSOLUTELY NONE of the assumptions of conclusions of this piece are valid.

But what if the Europeans don’t get the message? Or what if Iran continues its cat-and-mouse negotiating mixed with intransigence? Israel’s future in this regard is indeed bleak. For even if a moderate Republican realist like John McCain, or even worse, a liberal-left internationalist like Barrack Obama, is elected president, each is likely to subsume Israel to larger geopolitical considerations, rather than hold it up as an icon to be both supported and worshipped in the post-9/11 era, as George W. Bush has done.

Broken agency

Spencer Ackerman, writes in The Nation about the CIA:

[T]he agency was clawing for self-preservation during a delicate moment. The 9/11 attacks temporarily made Bush a political giant. It took years before the press absorbed, thanks to the 9/11 Commission, that the CIA had given strategic warning to the White House in the summer of 2001 that there would be a terrorist attack. In the meantime, the standard line in the media--which Bush was eager to exploit--was that 9/11 was an intelligence failure. Tenet, a consummate careerist, decided to let the White House have its way with the Iraq intelligence. Tenet's successor, a Bush loyalist named Porter Goss, was even worse: he not only purged officials deemed politically suspect but also informed the agency in an e-mail shortly after Bush's re-election that its job was to "support the administration and its policies in our work." It is hard to dismiss Goodman's conclusion that the agency "no longer knows how to provide truth to power and lacks the courage to do so."


But nothing fundamental will change until America decides to abandon the hegemony business. Covert action is part of the imperial cast of mind: its implicit premise is that America, by virtue of its position of dominance, has the right to recast the world according to its prerogatives. The failures of the CIA are failures, in the final analysis, of the impossible--failures to read people's minds, predict the future or determine the shape of history. Calls for "strengthening" or "unleashing" the CIA are indicative of this uncritical imperial mind-set and will forever miss the point that the agency's failures are in fact failures of policy. John McCain is a case study in misdiagnosis. The GOP presidential candidate advocates establishing a "modern day OSS [that] could draw together specialists in unconventional warfare; covert action operators; and experts in anthropology, advertising, and other relevant disciplines."

Monday, July 7, 2008

The things that might have been

Via a comprehensive enumeration of failed republican policies by Turkana posting at the Left Coaster, I came across a link to this Joe Conanson piece at Salon:

Following the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the new president sent stringent antiterrorism legislation to Congress as part of his first crime bill. The passage of that legislation many months later was the last time he would enjoy real cooperation against terrorism from congressional conservatives. When he sought to expand those protections in 1995 after the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, he was frustrated by a coalition of civil libertarians and antigovernment conservatives, who argued that his "overreaction" posed a threat to constitutional rights. Among that bill's most controversial provisions were new powers to turn away suspect immigrants, swifter deportation procedures, and a new deportation court that could view secret evidence. (During his 2000 campaign, George W. Bush won support from American Muslims by denouncing that provision.)

Thanks to an increasingly obstreperous Republican majority on both sides of the Capitol, law enforcement officials were denied new authority for roving wiretaps and new powers to monitor money laundering. All that would have to wait until after September 11, when the Republicans suddenly reversed position with a vengeance.

How can one party forever be so behind the curve? Think global warming.

Indiana Representative David McIntosh, a leading conservative ideologue in Congress, enunciated the typical partisan reaction to Clinton's counterterror proposals. McIntosh insisted on steering the debate back to a phony White House scandal. "We find it very troubling that you're asking us for additional authority to wiretap innocent Americans," he declared, "when you have failed to explain to the American people why you abuse their civil liberties by having FBI files brought into the White House."

Among the most conspicuous opponents of counterterrorist action was former Senator Phil Gramm, who blocked an administration bill to close loopholes that let terrorist groups launder money through offshore banks. The Texas Republican denounced that legislation, since endorsed by the Bush White House as essential in dismantling al-Qaida, as "totalitarian."

Not really surprising that the Phil the missing link from the Savings and Loan scandals to the Enron collapse to the Subprime Meltdown would oppose anything that put money into banks, no matter how dirty the money.

Washington's favorite parlor game: 2002

More from Plan of Attack -- page 87.

When Rice read an early draft, she was pleased that the president would be raising the connection between terrorism and WMD. It was an issue that had been put off of Bush's September 20, 2001 speech to Congress because he didn't want to scare the country any more than it already was. [YET - MG] Calling the connection an "axis" was clever and calling it an "axis of evil" was most clever, she thought.

Rice and Hadley were aware of the secret war planning on Iraq, and they worried that singling out Iraq as the embodiment of the "axis of evil" connection between WMD and terrorism would appear a declaration of war.

Rice was keeping tabs on what was by then a favorite parlor game in Washington: When does the Iraq war start? ... So she and Hadley suggested adding other countries. North Korea and Iran were the clear candidates because both supported terrorism and pursued weapons of mass destruction.

The president liked the idea of the three countries--Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

Hadley had second thoughts about including Iran. The country had a complicated political structure with a democratically elected president, though the real power was held by the religious extremist and ayatollahs. Rice agreed initially and worried that there would be criticism that the president didn't understand that Iran was different, that it had a fledgling democracy movement.

I'm not entirely sure as to who didn't get the memo (about Iran being different) -- did Bush not get it? Did Cheney not get it?

I Read The Best and the Brightest, a few years ago. One theme pervaded - POWER. In reading present day political commentary, I find another theme pervading -- GAMES. So few of the elites have any personal stake in the continuing occupation of Iraq, and the presumptive invasion of Iran. Matters of life and death viewed as parlor games. The decadence and perversity of this environment sickens me.

(book continues, page 88)

Rice and Hadley proposed that Iran be dropped. Hadley said it would be inflammatory.

"No," the president said, "I want it in." Iran would stay. In an interview later, the president recalled he had specific reasons. (MG - someone sent him the memo that Iran, too, had OIL) "It is very important for the American president, at this point in history to speak very clearly about the evils the world faces," he said. "No question about it, North Korea, Iraq and Iran are the biggest threats to peace at the the time." Iran was unique, he said, because "there is a freedom in Iran and Iran is relatively open compared to other countries that are run by, you know, theocratic people, because of the Internet, the Diaspora here from the United States and Iran."

You cannot defend against terrorism

Rumsfeld on the impossibility of defending against terrorism (from Plan of Attack - Bob Woodward, page 35)

In an interview four months after 9/11 [Rumsfeld] said, "The key thought about this is that you cannot defend against terrorism." He had learned that when he had spent six months as the Middle East envoy for President Reagan in 1983-84. "You can't defend at every place at every time against every technique. You just can't do it, because they just keep changing techniques, time, and you have to go after them. And you have to take it to them, and that means you have to preempt them."

This was four and one-half months before Bush formally announced his preemption doctrine. Rumsfeld was thinking of a future when the U.S. should be ready to strike first.

Of course, Rumsfeld extrapolated from the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing attacks which killed 241 U.S. service men - the deadliest single attack on Americans overseas since WW II - to Sept 11, 2001. Casualties were growing exponentially.