Friday, February 18, 2011

--Camel Jockeys, Petar Pismestrovic

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule,

where fifty-one percent of the people

may take away the rights of the other forty-nine

--Thomas Jefferson


Watching U.S. policy floundering in the Middle East is like watching the obsessive-compulsive t.v. character Monk walking a sidewalk.

He knows there are cracks, but he assiduously avoids stepping on them, his arduous crack-avoiding walk allowing him to maintain a measure of equanimity. He would deny that he's making any accommodation for something that is driving him mad -- he would deny even seeing the cracks -- and so it is with U.S. foreign policy.
The fictional Monk is OCD, but how do we diagnose U.S. policy, one as bizarre as Mr. Monk's strange denial and sidesteps?

Our leaders have been all atwitter about the upswell of mob action in Egypt, elevating mobocracy to democracy. This ignores the reality that mob rule should not / cannot be tolerated by any government, democratic, autocratic or otherwise.
The U.S. has never tolerated mob rule, nor should we.

The streets of Washington were planned with crowd control in mind. The School of the Americas at Ft. Benning taught crowd control as a basic element of foreign Army training. U.S. mobile training teams worldwide taught the host nation forces how to control crowds.
Here in the States, elite Airborne Infantry units have performed domestic crowd control, and the National Guard is well-versed in the topic.

So . . . why is the U.S. so optimistic about riots and mobs in the streets of Cairo? Further, was Obama's 2009
Hope - Change Cairo speech the match to this tinderbox (Dictators and Hedgehogs)? We are inconsistent: The U.S. heralds mobs in one place yet quashes them in another, forcing the residents to accept rulers they do not want.

How can the U.S. disingenuously press on with its counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan in the face of such hypocrisy?
It spends trillions of dollars forcing people not to be insurgent, while sitting back on its haunches calling mobs elsewhere constellations of freedom fighting? Furthermore, isn't a mob a form of Low-Intensity Conflict (LIC)?

Will we allow Sadrist mobs to control Baghdad? No, so why can mobs overthrow a regime in Cairo but not in Baghdad? If U.S. policy is to empower mobs, then
COIN should be abandoned as dead-in-the-water.

We need to think versus reacting in a Pollyannaish, vacuous Katie Couric moment. We do not know where Egypt will end up, nor do we know if the results will be constructive or democratic. Additionally, we do not know if democracy in Egypt will benefit the U.S. On the pragmatic side: What leader will cast his lot in with us when he knows he will be tossed to the wolves after he has done our bidding for 30 years?

One thing is certain: Democracy does not prosper in mobs.


  1. Every President-for-life knows about about casting aside friends and allies as expediency dictates. It is part of the job and they are not stupid.

    As far as the great Arab rebellion goes, the USA is mostly along for the ride. It can kibitz in the back seat, but nobody is paying it much attention.

  2. What Ael said. The U.S. cannot afford to be seen helping quash the mobs in Cairo if those mobs look like they're going to be successful; the Japanese general Tokugawa Ieyasu said that nothing justifies rebellion. Except success.

    So the U.S. HAS to try and ride this wave somehow. Official policy a)wants access to Arab petroleum, b) wants cooperation against the jihadis, and c) wants to support Israel. These things are brutally difficult to balance in the ME, and the result is a fairly ugly and contradictory policy.

    But short of abandoning a through c above, the U.S. has to try and ride the Egyptian mob-tiger to ensure something of a U.S.-favorable outcome. So I don't see anything contradictory or Pollyannaish going on here, just foreign policy-as-usual.

    IMO a genuinely self-interested U.S. would cut Israel adrift and begin a Manhattan Project-scale development of alternative energy power for internal combustion engines so as to return the Middle East to what it was pre-1945; a shithole backwater populated by warring tribes which we could ignore 99% of the time and swat with punitive expeditions when it got irritating. But that's just me.

  3. And I should add that democracy doesn't prosper in POOR mobs and bad breaks. The mobs that tore into the Swiss Guards at the Tuileries managed to eventually produce a fairly decent democracy because of the fundamental strengths of French society and a lot of good breaks. But the Russian mobs that stormed the Winter Palace and the Philippine mobs that brought down Marcos were products of their fatally flawed societies. I suspect that no mater what their "revolutions" were pretty doomed. I think that Egyptian revolution is doomed, too. Too many strikes against it.

  4. FDChief: IMO a genuinely self-interested U.S. would cut Israel adrift and begin a Manhattan Project-scale development of alternative energy power for internal combustion engines so as to return the Middle East to what it was pre-1945; a shithole backwater populated by warring tribes which we could ignore 99% of the time and swat with punitive expeditions when it got irritating. But that's just me.

    Nope. You sold me on it as well.

  5. aviator,
    If we follow your wish, then isn't Israel a base of operations for these punitive ops?
    Or are we still gonna suck Saudi dick?

  6. Chief,
    Riding the wave is another word for vapor locked.

  7. jim:
    I agree. Those crazy Saudis.

    Forcing the USA to veto another Security Council resolution against Israel. Especially when the vote was 14-1.

    The Saudis couldn't even get the lapdog British to abstain. I mean it is embarrassing how much of a lock the Saudis have on US foreign policy.

  8. Ranger: "One thing is certain: Democracy does not prosper in mobs."

    No shit, Ranger. Unfortunately, it seems as if the U.S. is moving towards mob rule in current politics. We're seeing it in the House of Representatives, which now under Republican control, seems bent on forcing a government shutdown, something that will cause much misery to the populace. We're seeing it in Wisconsin and we'll see it everywhere the amazingly vapid Tea Party has gotten a toehold.

    "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves..."

    Cassius tells us the problem is not how the U.S. is dealing with foreign states. The problem is how the U.S. is dealing with its own issues. Our own nation is failing on so many counts that it's become more and more difficult to muster the enthusiasm to find fault elsewhere.

    Those poor schmucks in Egypt and elsewhere have finally decided to throw off the yoke. Maybe good for them, but probably not good for us because you can almost bet that they'll end up with Sharia rule and will end up being implacable enemies of ours. Of course, they'll end up regretting the fruits of their revolutions, but it'll be too late. They're fundamentally doomed to live a life of peonage no matter whether the generals or the mullahs are in charge.

    Excellent post, Ranger. And meanwhile, the nation that actually pulled off a revolution and made it work for its citizens is falling apart.

  9. AEL,
    I must be nutso beyond redemption.
    All terrorism that bites the US on the ass originates in Egyptian foundations and is funded and supported by Saudi money and leadership- but we ignore this fact and fight a PWOT w/o addressing this reality.
    Now that's strategic thinking. It's easier to succumb to the rule of the schoolyard and to advocate throwing ISRAEL under the bus. That makes a lot of sense.

  10. Publius,
    Thanks for adding your comments.
    We always fail to connect the dots.
    Fuck Egypt and a bunch of Egyptians. As you know i always focus on what is happening in the US of A., thanks for helping maintain this focus.
    And it ain't encouraging.

  11. jim:

    I suppose that bomb they found in Spokane the other day was funded by the House of Saud and planted by an Egyptian.

  12. "If we follow your wish, then isn't Israel a base of operations for these punitive ops?
    Or are we still gonna suck Saudi dick?"

    This isn't 1898, jim; we can stage punitive ops right out of McDill. Israel is our luxury, our purse-dog. That's fine, unless the damn thing keeps biting strangers and gets you into fights you don't need.

    And we will continue to chow Saudi chong - and whoever's else spews that sweet, sweet crude - until we understand that a polity that is utterly dependent on a reasource controlled by others has only two choices; to whore for those others or to pimp them out. We chose the latter for Egypt with Mubarak as our street pimp. Now he's gone and we'll either have to find a new pimp to work with or drop to ur knees and start knobbin'.

    Either way it's pretty degrading. But as Publius points out, the fact that Uncle Sam is either bitchslapping or knobbing off these foreign countries has a lot more to do with his mental problems than the other nations'. Their problems are their problems; if we had our shit together their problems would only become ours about 1-2% of the time rather than the way they seem to be dominating our foreign policy...

  13. And while I don't actually recommend it, you could take a look at the very sort of thing that Publius is talking about here ( where Ralph Peters - who used to be a sort of semi-sane Cold War analyst - goes all bugshit about the state of the nation and how it means that our Evil Enemies are going to kill us because they're Sharia Tough(TM) and we're just pussified and not fearful enough and don't want to kill Muslims and sue each other when our kids get in fights. It's fucking nuts, but kind of gives you the idea of the sort of thing that people who believe that if we just keep fighting in central Asia long enough that magical pony good governments will happen.

    My favorite is this: "When the United States is forced to go to war—or decides to go to war—it must intend to win. That means that rather than setting civilian apparatchiks to calculate minimum force levels, we need to bring every possible resource to bear from the outset—an approach that saves blood and treasure in the long run."

    Translation: "Having lectured you about how little you know (and how much I know) about history, I will now try and convince you that everything history tells us about Great Powers fighting cabinet wars in the imperial periphery is wrong, and we need to power up the military Megazord for every pissant little war like we were fighting Hitler's Germany"

    "And we must stop obsessing about our minor sins. Warfare will never be clean, soldiers will always make mistakes, and rounds will always go astray, despite our conscientious safeguards and best intentions. Instead of agonizing over a fatal mistake made by a young Marine at a roadblock, we must return to the fundamental recognition that the greatest “war crime” the United States can commit is to lose."

    Translation: "Fuck those sand-niggers."

    And this is the kind of thing you're fighting against, jim.


  14. Chief,
    I need to know if this milpub is an anti Israel site, or an open forum.?

  15. Ranger, speaking for myself, I would say that MilPub is not an anti-Israeli site, but that it is also not a pro-Israeli site. Given the loose terms of agreement under which we launched this site, it'd be pretty difficult to be pro- any nation other than the U.S. From where I sit, MilPub is a pro-American site, even though I freely take advantage of every American's given right to criticize.

    Further, and WRT this whole pro and anti business when it comes to foreign states, I'm always mindful of the old axiom that nations do not have friends among other nations; they have interests. I think the U.S. would do well to be a little more mindful of this commonsensical saying.

    Who said this? "I may disapprove of what you say, sir, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

    Open forum? Sure.

  16. jim: Well, we're not turing names over to the Mukhabarat yet, so...

    Anyway. In re: Israel, the opinions expressed in my comments and posts are my own. And, as you've noticed, IMO this joined-at-the-hip relationship the U.S. has with Israel is costly in economic and political terms. As Publius points out (I seem to say that a lot; this Publius must be a smart guy or something) nations are supposed to plot their geopolitical course by their interests, not who has pretty girls and drinks beer.

    In geopolitical terms Israel has nothing the U.S. needs other than pretty Israeli girls and Maccabee. Like I said, we can stage out of freaking McCord AFB for anywhere in the world. The MOSSAD has been notorious for spying as much against as for us. There is no petroleum in Israel, nor does it control a strategic chokepoint like the tip of Puntland or the Malacca Strait.

    No, Israel is our indulgence, our hat-tip to the guilt trip of not stopping the Holocaust. I like Israelies, as a rule, and I understand that Great Powers can afford the sort of political indulgences that smaller nations cannot. But those sort of indulgences have costs, and the bizarre dance we do in the Middle East has a lot to do with those costs.

    The Peters article is a good example of someone who IMO has completely lost sight of strategic objectives and US interests in the Middle East in some sort of paranoid haze about fighting religious wars against Muslims. Your task of focussing American thoughts on American interests has to go up against that; and where it has U.S. interests have usually lost.


    I don't think this is treason, or "throwing Israel under the bus". Israelis are big boys and can do their own fighting perfectly well without Uncle Sam holding their coat. And if they can't, well, maybe they would be better off if they DIDN'T have that big guy to fall back on all the time.

    I guess I don't quite understand; do you believe that I'm singling you out for this, or that I am running some sort of ideological purity test on the subject of U.S.-Israeli relations? I'm not; I'm just opinionating, and my opinions are no more authoritative than yours.

    So let me back off and regroup. Are you suggesting we:

    - push to restore the Mubarakite regime to power in Cairo as the price of continuing to fight the muj in A-stan/Iraq?

    - or are you suggesting we abandon COIN as the price of lending support for the Egyptian protestors?

    - or are you saying, in effect, "To hell with all of you crazy bastards"?

  17. Chief,
    I don't give a rats ass about Mubarak. Or barak, while i'm at it.
    If we force people to accept gov'ts ,ie COIN, then how can we accept riots as a form of voting?
    Yes to hell with all you crazy bastards. That does not include publius or chief.joke.
    I am not taking anything personal here, i am not Jewish , BUT, I sense an underlying rascism in some of the anti- comments here at the pub.
    I agree with publius and yourself- this is an open forum etc... etc....but Israel is a friend.
    I TOTALLY DISAGREE with your prev cmt that all expeditions can be launched from Mc Dill. MY ASS! Name the last punitive expedition that was launched w/o a buildup on the ground. Pls don't say Grenada /Panama. The last small one was the Marines in 83 Beirut, and their shorts got ate.
    Any action of significance NEEDS a assembly area. I can't believe that Saddam didn't atk our build up in the first goat fuck.
    Anyway- i take little personal, but i'm getting a little nagging feeling here.

  18. jim: I will just echo Publius' observation: nations don't have "friends". Would the sailors of the USS Liberty call Israel our friend? The troopers that Ike had warned might have to attack the Israeli/Brit/French forces along the Canal back in '57? The guys hunkered down at the airport in Beirut back in '83, catching hell for the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon? The guys in Saudi back in '91 working their asses off to keep the Israelis from jumping into the Second Gulf War and losing every Arab state in the coalition?

    Israel, like Britain, like France, has worked with us at times. Like them, it has been neutral at times. Like them, it has worked against our interests at times. To recognize this isn't racist, it's accepting the reality of geopolitics.

    Israel is a sovereign nation. It has its interests, some of which coincide with the U.S. Many do not. The U.S. has interests it has to sacrifice if it wishes to provide unqualified support to Israel. Sometimes these sacrifices are trivial. Sometimes they are not. To recognize that isn't racist, either.

    Generally speaking I wish the Israelis well. Until their interests run across the interests of MY country. Then they can go piss up a rope. If this be racisim, let us make the most of it.

  19. And re: Israel as a power projection asset.

    Israel is pure poison in the Middle East. The fact this is is nonsensical; the Arab states would be well advised to forget their idiot hissy about the jewish state and get to work tightening up their own shot groups. Their deposts have used Israel for generations as a shiny pretty to distract the grumblers.

    But it IS a fact. And the fact prevents the U.S. from using Israel in any sort of really usable way. The only real military expeditions to the ME had to go out of their way to AVOID Israel to prevent the Arab press and the enemy governments from having a field day. We had to go the long way around to the Gulf, work out of Italy (in '83), or do things under strictest secrecy - and you can't stage an airborne brigade in secret - to prevent the political shitstorm we would have created had we worked with the Tzahal.

    Most of the memoirs from '91 make much of the fact that an assload of diplomatic and military pressure had to be expended keeping the Israelis from acting in their own interests (!) and striking back at Saddam's missile launchers for fear that all the other damn Arab states would freak out.

    And from a personal perspective, I've worked alongside the Tzahal in the Sinai. Very professional guys, good people. But THEY never forgot that they were neither "friends" not allies, but in the peculiar position of a sort of semi-client army, dependent on the U.S. in a lot of ways and yet more proficient in many aspects of soldiering than their rich uncles. They always kept operational security in mind when dealing with us, and good for them. They knew that when the cash was on the blanket they could only depend on themselves.

    I think you believe that, too. I know I do. I wish our country would start acting like it believed that...

  20. "If we force people to accept gov'ts ,ie COIN, then how can we accept riots as a form of voting?"

    Because, as I quoted above, the only excuse for treason is success. When it became obvious that the only choices for the Mubarak regime were butchery or surrender we forced surrender to prevent being pulled down with them.

    At the same time, we're forcing the Afghans to buy into the corrupt Karzai kleptocracy because it's the only game in town for us. If we had a better option we'd take it.

    IMO the whole business is a mug's game. I laid out my ideas: grab a hat, let 'em all sort out their damn problems whilst we invent a car engine that runs on catshit, or whatever.

    But until we're willing to do that, we're stuck making the damn dumbass, contradictory decisions because we're trying to get A out of Country B and B out of Country C.

    I agree with you that it's fucked. But I can see the fucked-up logic to it...

  21. Would the sailors of the USS Liberty call Israel our friend?

    They do tend to be reckless with the toys we buy for them and send them, don't they?

    High Seas piracy and their own little ghetto fish barrel in Gaza.

    A very large part, in fact I'd argue the vast majority part, of the reason we're inseparably linked to Israel is the Jewish constituency here in the US ( recall the US Irish who kept the IRA well-supplied and funded ) and the religious connection.

    One of the great disadvantages of "e pluribus unum", unfortunately.


  22. Oh, another log onto the fire:


  23. I'd say what's happening in Libya is Mob Rule. What happened in Egypt and Tunisia is tame in comparison.

    It's a big step for each of these countries. Let's hope it leans away from chaos and war.

  24. wourm: Given Libya's recent history, mob rule is probably a step up from Gaddafi, but I'd call it really more-or-less civil war more than anything else.

    And I would say that they already have the chaos and war. The question is can they settle the war in a way that leads to something better. My survey of history and the conditions within Libya suggests that unless they manage to throw out an Ataturk or a Washington, probably not. Some places are just fucked...

  25. Chief, Tunisia and Egypt look promising. From what I was reading earlier today, Libya sounds like the warlords of Somalia. Not a pretty picture.

  26. wourm and chief,
    My discomfort w. the present unrest /mobs in the ME is the persistent spin by an ever hopeful US media that every thing is gonna be a bed of roses. All req'd is to throw out the bad guys.
    Yah, and good guys are standing in the door ready to take over.
    I see nothing good from these events.

  27. jim: The public is an ass; you know that, I know that, and, sadly, the news media know that, too. An adult discussion of the immense problems inherited by whoever gets the booby prize of ruling places like Egypt and Libya would be followed by the sound of hundred of thousands of TV dials being switched over to "The Biggest Loser" and "True Blood".

    IMO the people in these countries have every right to do whatever they think is best until those things directly threaten our country. But, as you point out, it is unlikely that anything particularly good will come out of these civil wars; the deck is just stacked against these peoples - too poor, too uneducated, too much history of bad government or despotism or cronyism or all of the above.

    But the news media can't be expected to report all that. Well, they could, but they won't; partially because they buy into the dumb memes but lergely, I think, because they know that any real in-depth analysis of the political, social, and economic conditions in these countries is both beyond and of no interest to 95% of their viewers/readers...

    And, unfortunately, the U.S. is buried ass-deep in this region because of our junkie-like dependency on petroleum. So we end up getting sucked into this mess.

    Yep. It's a fuckstory. What ya gonna do?

  28. Chief, The song WHAT YA GONNA DO WHEN THE WELL RUNS DRY keeps playing in my head.
    It's not the news coverage that bothers me but rather what our leaders are saying. Now that's scary.
    Fact- the only leadership available, across the board is the guys with the guns, training and will to apply these. In other words- the military. No gain there.
    Yes we are in agreement , basically.