Saturday, January 12, 2019

Fools and their fooling?

Buried under the flaming dumpster that is the Trump Shutdown was a pretty remarkable bit of policymaking that took place in Cairo the other day. SecState Pompeo delivered a little oration that was remarkable either for its' 1) mendacity, or 2) delusion. What fascinates me is that I'm honestly not sure which it represents.

You can read the full text of the remarks at the link, but the gist of Pompeo's remarks was that:

1. The U.S. is, and always has been, a "force for good" in the Middle East,
2. That Iran, OTOH, is massively evil and stinky and bad.
3. That Obama was almost as bad and stinky as Iran because he tippy-toed around in the Middle East while "apologizing" for bad U.S. behavior,
4. Unlike Trump, who is a real Man and loves him some muscular Christian war against eeeeevil Islamist terrorism and Iran,
5. That Real Muslims like y'all love, too!

Fred Kaplan sums up the problems with this nonsense better than I can, so I can't do better than quote him:
“America is a force for good in the Middle East,” Pompeo said at the start of his speech. But to the extent he defined good, it was solely in terms of helping certain allies (mainly Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia) while hurting certain enemies (ISIS, terrorists, and especially Iran). There was no recognition of complexity: Nothing was said about the Saudi bombing of Yemen (only Iran was painted as a force for bad, contrary to human-rights organizations); nothing was said about Trump’s divisions with Europe over Iran; nothing was said (one way or the other) about the role of Russia or Turkey in the Syrian conflict, or the Saudi murder of a U.S.-based journalist.

Obama may have been naïve in hoping that the pursuit of common ground and mutual interests might soothe the ancient tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims or upend the chessboard of Great Game geopolitics that have played on those tensions for centuries. But Pompeo’s speech makes clearer than ever that Trump has no interest in trying to soothe anything: He wants to take sides in the conflict, join the war—but even here, he has no idea how to do so with authority or effectiveness. He is indulging in partisan mythologies that bear little relation to the actual past and shed little insight on a fruitful way forward."
My question, though, is this - is this really "indulging in partisan mythologies"?

Or does this joker - and, by inference, his Orange Master - truly believe this nonsense?

I think the difference makes a difference, and that, in turn, goes back to the issue Andy raised in the comments several posts back about the difference between Trump and the Trumpkins words, and deeds.

If this Pompeo word salad is simply an attempt to blow more smoke up the Arab world's backside, that's one thing. Propaganda and blather can be simply the bodyguard of lies that can be re-arranged, or abandoned, as needed. A realistic Middle Eastern policy can be crafted with one hand whilst the other performs silly magic tricks to distract the rubes Arab "street".

But the precedent here is the Bushies. I truly believe that the bulk of the Bush cabal really, truly believed their neo-conservative nonsense about smoking guns and mushroom clouds and letting freedom reign. The cynics, the Cheneys, were the minority. I think the bulk of the Bush coterie were captured by their own rhetorical disinformation and air-castle fantasies.

The trouble with sussing out the difference is the long history of piss-poor U.S. geopolitical strategic thinking. It's damn deadly difficult to determine whether the mistakes are deliberate and caused by a boneheaded idee fixee' driven into the policymakers heads by some political philosophy (whether Ayn Randian free market fantasies or "liberal interventionist" fantasies really makes no nevermind...), or whether they were simply mistakes driven by poor intelligence analyses and craptacular institutional structures of the U.S. geopolitical decisionmaking apparatus.

I think it makes a big difference whether these people are the fools, or the fooled.

But I'm damned if I can figure out which.

16 comments:

  1. Pompeo's speech has an intended audience of one person. Although that person will only watch it on Fox, so it matters how they report it.

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  2. Thing is, I don't think it was carried anywhere; it was barely reported on anywhere outside of Egypt. So I don't think he was trying to suck up to Mess-o-lini. That's the thing; I'm not sure WHAT this was. The "Arab street" knows better than to swallow this ridiculous pablum about Syria or the Iraq invasion, so I can't think it's part of a legit propaganda offensive. What I'm afraid of is that Pompeo actually believes this nonsense. If so, he's liable to do some truly appallingly idiotic things in the region.

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    1. Maybe he meant to signal that the Americans are still providing stability to friendly regimes regardless of the lying moron, and he did so by reciting all the dumbness that coins U.S. Middle East policy in the past 17 years.

      It's more believable that he's actually believing the crap becuase he has an utterly twisted perspective on things, though.

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    2. The message to Trump was very clear: Obama gave a speech in Cairo and said "America Sucks!" I gave a speech in Cairo and said: "Obama sucks, America Rulez!"

      That message was assuredly carried by Fox.

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    3. Yeah, that's kind of what I'm afraid of.

      If Pompeo is telling him this nonsense, given Trump's belligerence and stupidity, it's entirely likely that he's going to do something even MORE dangerously stupid in the Middle East than his predecessors, which is kind of amazing, when you think about it...

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  3. You guys are already heading in the direction I was going to explore. I would be willing to bet small dollars that Trump had not idea Pompeo was going to give a speech in Egypt and still has no interest in the topic or its fall out now.


    Trump is exclusively interested in how the US media responds to his personal comments about things that interest him (which is how smart and forceful Trump is). Pompeo was a necessary paperweight appointment and has no meaning to Trump. The Middle East and Trump are mutually disinterested in each other. Trump basically views any article written about the Middle East as a waste of space because it cannot possibly be about how strong, forceful, and good-looking Trump was in the last 24 hours.

    Sadly, Hilary might have been an even worse President than Trump because we would have had a horrible time trying to explain to other countries why she said what she said. We can explain that Trump was totally insane and hopefully we will have a better President in 2021. If not, I fear for the very near term of this country.

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    1. Trump's "interests" in the Middle East appear to be:

      1) Sucking Saudi schlong. He got into the habit when he was trying his real estate grift there, and they've done a fairly brilliant job playing him, between MBS being Jared's BFF and telling him booga-booga scare stories about Iran, which is another of his ME fixations, because he wants to
      2) undo Obama's Iran deal. I don't think it's because he's infected with the "Real men want to go to Tehran" Cheneyite disease, but more because of his burning hatred of Obama for the White House dinner pwning (Trump IS good at one thing; he's an outstanding hater).
      Those are the biggies. I think he also sorta-kinda has two other objectives that he'll halfheartedly pay attention if nothing else like Mexican rapists get in the way;
      3) helping out his friend Bibi genocide as many Arab residents of the Territories as he can, one way or the other (I don't think Netanyahu and his partisans have a Hitlerian obsession with Arab deaths, but the Palestinians are a nuisance and the Likudniks want them out of the way; it's a kind of "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest!" kind of murder-plot-origin-story thing), and
      4) helping out his pal Vlad Make Russia Great Again by furthering Pootie's Middle Eastern schemes.

      Beyond that? Yeah, it's all "what cool shit did you say about me today?" He's perhaps the perfect icon for a Chief Executive in the age of social media; he's entirely obsessed with adulation on the public square.

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    2. I don't think the Israelis aim any higher than now. They're content taking West Bank land piece by piece with settlements. Netanjahu is content if he can avoid going to jail for his quite obvious corruption. The corruption accusations may make him dangerous, but also weak. He pulled a very similar political stunt at Trump's border crisis address a couple days ago.

      Overall, I'm not sure Trump is intelligent enough to have the motives that FDChief diagnosed. They sound awfully consistent, and I don't see that.

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    3. With Trump I don't think it's so much "motives" or "ideas" as there is just triggers for his hindbrain to start raging. "Obama" is a massive trigger, as is "Muslims", "negroes", and "beaners". He's also basically a mobster, and he's absorbed the mob ethos of sucking up to the Big Boss, which in his case is Putin, since he knows Pootie has the kompromat in the form of the money laundering receipts...

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  4. Meanwhile Iran's counterpart to Pompeo, Mohammad Javad Zarif is in Baghdad. BTW Zarif is a 'real' diplomat and not a political hack like Pompey. He and the Iraqis, and the Kurds in northern Iraq, are talking closer ties and holding trade conferences. Iran is already sending natural gas to Iraq and they are both looking for ways to expand that. Plus there are joint talks about surveys and sharing arrangements for oilfields that sit on their borders.

    India is also ignoring the Trump sanctions on Iran, along with China and Russia, and some in Europe.

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  5. I also suspect Pompey's trip may also have been brought on by recent Saudi/Russian talks on enhancing bilateral relations.

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  6. Don't call him "Pompey". Pompey was actually a military and political giant, probably the most successful naval campaign leader besides Nimitz.

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    1. I was thinking more of Shakespeare's Pompey, a pimp.

      But your point is taken. A better term for him would be Pomp or Pom-pom.

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  7. In Oregon, the Saudis helped five of its citizens flee the the state and the US after they were convicted or charged with murder, rape and child porn. That plus Saudi war crimes committed in Yemen, and imprisoning & torturing women activists.

    Meanwhile Pom-pom is joking with Mr Bone Saw.

    https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2019/01/gone-more-cases-emerge-of-saudi-students-vanishing-while-facing-oregon-charges.html

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dw3vRe3WkAIu8yW.jpg

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    1. The U.S. relationships with both Israel and the KSA have done a shitload of damage to U.S. foreign (and domestic) policy. Both fall under what I consider the category of "worthless allies"; supposedly useful but in fact more likely to get the U.S. involved in pointless local disputes that the superpower has no other reason to be anything other than a true neutral.

      Both Israel and the KSA have pulled this sort of chicanery to protect either their citizens or their spies here in the U.S.

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  8. https://www.wsj.com/articles/white-house-sought-options-to-strike-iran-11547375404?ns=prod/accounts-wsj

    Just a reminder that these people are 1) exceptionally stupid, 2) clueless geopolitically, and 3) infinitely vicious, petty, and aggro. Trump himself is this way only in pursuit of cash and brown people here domestically, but Bolton is an utter loon with a hard-on for the Ledeen Doctrine. It's our only good fortune that he's also a monster asshole who nobody really likes, so in a White House that depends on the largesse of the Orange King he has a hard time getting Le Roi L'Orange to listen to him.

    But, again; these people are going to go utterly bugnuts if they ever get their own 9/11, and by that time the bodies will be piling up, their lunatic 35% base will be foaming at the mouth, and it'll be too late for the rest of us to "do anything" about them.

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