Wednesday, June 3, 2015

That's All Folks

 The blundering history of the human race
is always given coherence by power elites
and their courtiers in the press and academia
who endow it with a meaning and coherence it lacks.
They need to manufacture national myths
to hide the greed, violence and stupidity
that characterize the march of most human societies. 
--Our Mania for Hope is a Curse
 Chris Hedges 

I shouted out,
"Who killed the Kennedy's?"
When after all
It was you and me 
--Sympathy for the Devil,
 The Rolling Stones 

The people who burned witches at the stake
never for one moment thought of their act as violence;
rather they thought of it as an act
of divinely mandated righteousness.
The same can be said of most of the violence 
humans have ever committed 
--Violence Unveiled, Gil Bailie 

For the Ralph Peter's crowd, the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is a legitimate given, not to be questioned or deconstructed. As he said with the manly swagger of the armchair FOX warrior in a recent NY Post piece, "Sorry folks, but that's war (it's not dainty)." His view complements that of people like Mr. Rumsfeld who saw democracy in the rubble (war smells like democracy in the morning?)

But the United State's actions in Afghanistan and Iraq defy the logic of war. The actions of ISIS in the region make more military and political sense than anything exhibited by U.S. policy to date.

The purpose of war is to achieve a peace. The PWOT © has not in any instance led to peace. Military violence -- whether theirs or ours -- is not war, but simply violence unrestrained, unjustified and lacking an achievable strategic military goal. This violence is merely criminal activity.

The media shovels us the "Good News" when the Iraqi forces (or some semblance of them) "regain territory previously held by ISIS," as though the conflict was about terrain. What it is about is a millennial struggle within Islam for hegemony of the combatants, the different stripes of Islam.

The violence in Iraq and Afghanistan is not about terrain or body counts [though body counts are de rigueur again, thank you Mr. McNamara.] It is about which side is the true and divine representatives of their god here on earth. 

That is pretty simple and, if true, U.S. participation in the rodeo violates our core belief in separation of church and state for as members of Western society we are not supposed to kill for religious reasons. That behavior is so Middle and Dark Ages.

So why is the U.S. funding and conducting military violence to support sectarian violence?

If we fail to confront this basic reality, we are doomed to live our military and political lives as if they were violent video games, which is but a poor simulacrum of real life.

[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar.]


  1. Why do great powers always do lots of stupid stuff?

    Mostly because they are programmed to do it.

    Internal faction games cause all sorts of semi-thought out actions,
    where the poker chips represent tens of billions of dollars.

    These games end up tossing the countries citizens (and because it is a
    great power) many external people around like so much confetti.

    There is nobody steering the ship and there hasn't been for a long long time.

  2. The most stupid stuff was encouraging the Arab Spring. We should have left Khaddafi alone, but OH NO, we had to do Europe's bidding for them. It is also stupid to do Assad's bidding by bombing #Daesh in Syria. We are kind of between a rock and a hard place there. We should in fact have helped Kobani. And since we encouraged and armed the FSA I suppose it would not be a good thing to not help them with airstrikes against #Daesh. But it sure seems counterproductive. By doing so we seem to be helping out Assad and Iran.

    And in Iraq? Call me whatever you like. But I see no problem in our small violence against #Daesh in support of the peshmerga. There is certainly a problem with our support of the Shiite militias in Baghdad (aka Little Tehran on the Tigris). But my understanding is that we are not giving them support. Do you ken otherwise?

  3. Well, Ranger, here's my two cents for whatever it's worth...

    1) New York Post...why am I not surprised...the New York Post is pretty much the print version of Fox news.

    2) After reading the article Mr. Peterson is writing to the Fan Boy base who loves themselves some "BOOYAH BITCHES!" but most of whom are worst than armchair soldiers, they're Stupid and Industrious Walter Mittys who like to live vicariously through hot heads like Mr. Peterson.

    3) Did I mention that the New York Post is the print version of Fox news?

    Can't argue with you a Christian...and, a historian, I think a lot of people, Christians, CINO's, and Pseudo-Christians would be quite surprised to find out where Y'shua stands on the issue of war, violence, and killing...and here's a clue: "Believe in me" was not what got his ass tacked to a tree.
    But you won't hear the Republicans or their Right-Wing Cheer-leading squad of CINO's worrying themselves about that...religious affiliation is only relevant as a cultural identifier...if the US was an Islamic nation the Republicans and IINO's would all be screaming Jihadists.
    No my isn't about religion for us.
    It is about the gold ring of raw, financial and political power in the US, and the Republicans, Democrats, Wall-street, and the 1% will be damned if they give it up for some laughably quaint ass thing called Democracy.

    So to paraphrase Mr. Peterson's article in a sentence, "This is the new reality, people, suck it up buttercups, you're just fodder for the machine."

    Yours as always,


  4. Telephone Colonel* Ralph Peters is a legend in his own mind. A veteran of no combat, he became a vocal hawk following his retirement in 1998. I remember his name from Army Times articles he wrote while still serving. Mainly banal stuff promoting his ideas of a better Army. He's a perfect mouthpiece for Right Wing outlets such as Fox and the NY Post.

    *Telephone Colonel- a somewhat derogatory term used to identify Lieutenant Colonels who use the title "Colonel" to identify themselves when answering the phone. While not an incorrect usage, it's typically considered a bit of self puffery.

  5. Mike,
    to answer your question.
    i have no idea whats happening with US policy.
    whatever it is will be counter to all logic.
    i find Kerry to be a total wash.
    RP writes a lot of opinion pieces at Military History magazine. These pose as analysis.

  6. Coupla thoughts:

    1. Peters is a tool and his whining about "morality" is a strawman. The question has never been so much the "morality" of the drone war as the efficacy. His buddy Rummy famously stated that he - "we", the U.S. - really had no fucking idea whether all these dusky savages we were killing was doing any good, or harm, or what. We just didn't KNOW; it was like we were on one side of a 10-foot-high wall and we had people on the other side and we were lobbing grenades over the wall. We were killing people and blowing shit up, but we really had no idea if all that exploding was helping gain geopolitical control over the parts of the Middle East we wanted to control. I'd argue that we STILL don't know. What we DO know is that the rebellions we've been trying to suppress are still raging, so my guess would be "whatever we're doing probably isn't working..."

    2. But now, as for what the U.S. is doing...well, I'd argue that it's doing what it's been doing ever since it sent U.S. Grant and Bobby Lee and their buddies into Mexico in 1846...and probably since it sent GIs into Canada back in 1175 - diddling around in other people's countries for political and/or economic gain.

    That's what powers DO, and Great Powers do more of it than regional powers or local powers. The U.S. had been fiddlefucking around in North and South America since the 19th Century, in Asia and the Middle East since the 20th. The fact that we're dicking around in the factional fighting in the Middle East is completely unsurprising to me. What IS is that we seem to have no sort of intelligent Great Power thinking about that.

    To me, anyway, a Power needs to have two things to get involved somewhere; it needs to have vital or at least semi-vital interests there, and it needs to have both the means and the methods to achieve its goal of advancing those interests.

    I've talked this to death, but ISTM that the U.S. has three significant interests in the Middle East.

    It needs passage through the air and water transit points for its trade. In practice that basically means the Suez and the Persian Gulf.

    It needs petroleum - that is, it needs governments in the petrostates that will sell it petroleum at market price, and

    It needs some relative degree of "stability" - that is, it doesn't want excessively oppressive governments unless that oppression is successful in the long term. It doesn't want wars and rebellions - because instability breeds the sort of troublesome people who will end up troubling the U.S. over points #1 and #2.

    The problem I see is that the U.S. got roped into the "stability problems" there in 1948. Its unquestioning support of Israel put it on one side in the Israeli-Arab Wars. That, in turn, made it the target of every penny-ante "Islamic" troublemaker who has used the Israel as a recruiting sergeant. It made a bunch of boo-boos like the Mossadegh coup in the name of "anticommunism" because we defenstrated our Middle East hands at State after they helped "lose" China and the hardline Red-haters conflated the decolonial movement with communism. That stupidity on anticolonialism also got us on the wrong side of damn near every Middle Eastern independence movement.

    Now I think the problem is that we're too stuck into this tarbaby to get out. Even if we announced today that we were withdrawing every military mission, cutting off every scrap of military aid, officially taking a pure neutral stance on the issue of Israel and the Palestinian Arabs...that well is too thoroughly poisoned. The Middle East will continue to throw out "troubles" for the U.S. and anyone who thinks of allying with the US in the region...

  7. The other huge problem is, frankly, that there really are not a whole lot of good options for US geopolitical success in the region. The people who are willing to do business with us are either incompetent idiots like Chalabi or brutal thugs like the Shah. That's the other effect of the whole "poisoned well" problem. Remember when the Iranian kids who wanted liberalization pleaded with us NOT to try and lend them any help? We're poison in the Arab/Muslim world and that's a real killer...

    Back in 2009 I wrote:

    "If we HAD a strategy, what the fuck could it be?"

    We're fighting ideas: the ideas that Islam is for Muslims, the idea that Western notions of education, equal justice under law, nationalism, separation of church and state are evil and wrong. The idea that there should be a Jewish state on the eastern end of the Mediterranean. The idea that it's OK for Western and foreign powers to occupy and rule and state-build in Islamic states if the Westerners really, REALLY have the best interests of the Muslims living there in mind.

    How do you invent a "strategy" that convinces hardcore Islamic fundamentalists that all the above are good things?

    These people may be tribesmen living in the 10th Century but they're not fools. Building them dams, schools and madrassis - if you're building these things to "buy" their loyalty - will work about as well as you'd think it would. How well did the bridges, roads and schools the British built in the American colonies work to keep the colonists loyal to the British crown, back in the day? ISTM that the problem here isn't that we have no strategy, but that any "strategy" that is designed to further American political influence on the peoples, "states" and non-state actors in the Middle East and southwest Asia is designed to run up against the fact that their interests and our interests are not similar and, in many cases, are hostile. It's not that they hate our freedoms. Rather, they hate our official embrace of Zionist Israel, they hate our ignorance of and dismissal of their old ways, from arranged marriage to purdah to tribal heirarchy. Their ways may be bad ways, but they are their own. Imagine how you'd feel if some powerfully armed foreigner barged into your home and told you that you had to throw away all your "Rush" CDs and burn your DVD copy of "Runaway Bride"? If you had any spine at all you'd fight, even if you knew you had no hope of victory.

    So the only way such a "strategy" can be successfully accomplished is by bloodyhanded conquest."

    And the problem with THAT is that the old imperial formula depended on us having the Maxim gun and them not. Now every raggedy-ass mujeheddin can scrounge up an AK and knock together a homemade mine or booby trap that gives the low-birthrate Western nations with their tiny professional armies a case of hives in today's CNN/Al Jazeera/BBC cell-phone-video world where your grunts' spectacular deaths appear on the evening news the moment they happen. Small fragile Western armies can't do the sort of wholesale genocide needed to crush these sorts of rebellions. Sri Lankans can. Daesh could. We can't.

    So we're pretty much fucked; too far in to just drop everything and walk away...but unable to go Full Roman and become the inhuman savages we'd need to become to actually crush all these religious wars, make a desert, and call it peace.

  8. One last thing.

    I'm not so sure that this really IS Islam's Thirty Years War - that is, that this whole magilla in Iraq and Syria is just Sunni vs Shia to be king shit of Islam's Turd Hill. Sectarianism is a huge part of it, yes. But it's also ethnic, and political, it also goes back to the European colonial rulers who picked certain groups to boss their other subjects around. It goes back to the Ottomans and their history of corruption and nepotism, and to tribalism in the pre-Westphalian-state era...

    But...if it IS...well, then, shit. This part of the world is so thoroughly fucked that I'm not sure that there's a fucked-up term fucked-up enough to describe it. The Wars of Religion were horrific, and one of the reasons that I loathe people like our current crop of GOP candidates who seem determined to drag Christ into the voting booth by the neck is that they seem delighted at the notion of reviving the old religious wars as much as their Islamic counterparts, and the difference being that IS has neither navy nor air force.

    What a fuckstory.

  9. Chief,
    thanks for dropping by for a drink,especially since it's not pig night.
    i understand your comments, but they stop short of the point.i used to think that societies were not suicidal, but now believe differently. US policy is self defeating and as such leading to suicidal back roads.i'm influenced by J.Diamonds thinking.
    so back to you. if we are in a self destructive policy ,and there's nothing to do about it, and we have no way to wiggle out , then we have crossed into suicidal space.
    forget the ME, what are we gonna do here to save ourselves.
    as for your thoughts on Israel there's little that i can say except that they are the closest thing that we have to an ally in the region. lately though they are becoming right wing bat s--t crazy also. so whats to do?
    in our 1st ww we allied with a Great Britain and we starved out German. Us good democracy lovers even saw our brit ally try to introduce potato blight into the german homeland.the germans were not defeated on the battlefield, but rather by starvation. In ww2 we did the same to Japan.
    recent history since the fall of rome is filled with starvation as a course of we don't have to go roman,we can go British or American and use food as a weapon.
    Can IS or any of the ME feed themselves? they have out bred their environment. so can any of them eat oil?
    using food as a c/a seems doable.
    or we can pull in our perimeter and let the US POTUS be our Prez and not the champion of the world.
    thanks for dropping by, and please pay your bar bill.

  10. Well, I'll be the first one to agree that the U.S. hasn't exactly outdone itself in smart foreign policy over the last fifty years or so. But I'm not sure the "suicidal" is how I'd describe it.

    For one thing, this country has been so much wealthier than pretty much the whole rest of the world that the cost of these idiotic adventures has been relatively trivial. Certainly the blood spilt has been minuscule compared to the costs of, say, our Civil War, or WW2. That's the troublesome part; that there's no real downside for political support of these idiotic adventures. So they have continued, and will continue, with only the poor bloody GIs paying any price.

    IMO were doing tremendous damage to ourselves politically and socially...but more thru our return to the politics and economics of the Gilded Age than thru any of these idiotic foreign adventures.

  11. The definition of "allies" is that the two polities both get something out of the alliance. By that definition Israel is as useless as an ally of the U.S. as a tampon in a typhoon. If anything it is the direct descendant of what the Kingdom of Jerusalem was to medieval France; a worthless distraction the sucked up spare blood and treasure and served as a constant casus belli for every Muslim sonofabitch west of Goa.

    Now...I'll admit to a certain sentimental fondness for Israel - a fondness that goes back to the old secular, socialist Israel of the Sixties more than the nasty Occupation Israel of today - but that's pure indulgence on my part. Certainly a nation as wealthy and powerful as ours can afford similar indulgences. But they should be recognized and understood as such, along with the baggage they come with. Israel is a sentimental indulgence, on an ally, of the U.S., and one that comes with considerable unpleasant baggage. Any "debate" on the subject of the U.S.-Israel relationship which does not begin based on that fact is one doomed by its mistaken premises from the start.

  12. "...on an ally..." Should read "...NOT an ally...". Sorry.

  13. Problem with food as a weapon, jim, is a) it's very slow to take effect, b) its a "weapon of mass destruction" in that it kills oldsters, wimmen, and kiddes first, and c) it's fairly easy to workaround unless EVERYbody on the target's borders is on your side. Try and starve out the Daesh guys and you'd get every Islamic mook running contraband falafel through Turkey and Jordan...

    Like I said; I don't see any really "good" options here. It'd be nice if we could just drop the mike and walk off. But we've already poisoned that well AND the "special relationship" with Israel (not to mention the power-politics morons in DC...) will inevitably drag us back in...

  14. Chief,
    i'll stand pat with the suicidal call.
    i'm glad to hear from you.

  15. Chief,

    I don't get the anti-Semitism inherent in your thought, and that of so many erstwhile intelligent liberal thinkers (you are not "erstwhile".)

    It is not correct to say, "We're fighting ideas: .. (t)he idea that there should be a Jewish state on the eastern end of the Mediterranean." Israel is not an idea, it is a FACT created by a mandate, with UN bona fides.

    I agree that: The definition of "allies" is that the two polities both get something out of the alliance, but not By that definition Israel is as useless as an ally of the U.S. as a tampon in a typhoon. Do you think a Palestinian state would provide a better ally for the U.S.?

    You say the Muslims "hate our official embrace of Zionist Israel," but they hate a lot of other things, too. IS is lopping off Christian and many other heads besides those of Jews. Thinking that if the U.S. were to throw its one Western ally under the bus it would thereby appease and mollify the Middle East is incredible folly. The zeal for indulged Westerners (many Jewish!) to join the BDS movement eludes me.

    How can we NOT support Israel?

    Israel is a young nation. When the U.S. was young, we liquidated and resettled our native peoples. The U.S. launched a massive land and air war against nations not even responsible for the killing of 3,000 U.S. citizens 9.11.01, yet we urge Israel to show restraint facing far greater threats to its existence.

    9.11.01 was not an existential threat to the U.S., but Arab terrorism IS an existential threat to Israel.

    The press does not front the fact that Israelis lived a fairly peaceful and productive coexistence with the Palestinians for many years of its early existence, until outside players agitated and radicalized elements in the Palestinian population leading to the successive Intifadas.

    They are used as pawns by the Arab world, and like children in a bitter divorce, they are paid to do their bidding. But the Palestinians have never had an honest broker, which is their tragedy (along with their intractable anti-Semitism, but this is not their possession, alone.) Arafat refused the return of 98% of the Occupied Territories; hatred and fighting trumped a better day for his people.

    The fight is more toothsome than the win, and that hatred stokes the never-ending project of destruction. In one of Thomas Friedman's moments of clarity (we all have them), he said Israel is in the corner as she (and we) cannot deal with people who love killing more than they love their own children.

    There is no appeasing Arab hatred, the power behind the pathetic Palestinian cause, our eternal red herring. Remember Saddam's "Big Satan, Little Satan" (= U.S. + Israel).

    Appeasement will not work against a committed foe, and there will be no Peace in Our Time.

    I know we disagree, Chief, and I do see this as an existential problem with modern liberalism. Inn its zone of comfort, it must always, guiltily, run to the one it perceives as hard done by. With Israel, that = an anti-Semetic stance.

    I won't be supporting BDS anytime soon. And as you've said before, we shall agree to disagree on this one.

  16. Lisa, we can "not support Israel" for the same reason we didn't support our WW2 ally France in its attempt to retain Algeria. It wasn't in out interests. Nations don't HAVE friends. They have interests. It's not anti-Semitic to suggest that Israel is to "ally" as "millstone" is to "personal floatation device". It's a tough little state in a tough place founded by people who were trying to find a solution to millenia of horrendous persecution. Personally, I wish them all the best. But AS A NATION they have nothing my country needs.

    This has nothing to do with ideology. If you DO want to talk ideology, you might want to talk to some of these people, Bibi's new partners in the Knesset: I particularly like the deputy defense minister guy who calls Arabs "sub-human". I guess it sounded worse in the original German, eh?

    Personally I wish Israel all the best. Politically I wish MY country the best, and as I keep pointing out, the "best" this region can offer my country is petroleum, passage, and stability and Israel can offer none of those things - indeed, by its very existence it promises the exact opposite.

    It appear that you seem to think that I say this out of some softheaded love for the Arabs, Lisa. Let me put this straight; fuck the Arabs. But...fuck the Israelis, too. I'm a U.S. citizen. The place I give a flying fuck about is the United States. If it benefits the United States to ally with Iran against Israel, well, that's the breaks. In the game of thrones you win or you die.

    Like I said; Israel might be a nice little sentimental indulgence...if it wasn't currently governed by a bunch of aggro right wingnuts and an all-around irritant in a part of the world that needs more irritants like it needs more AK-47s. My disinterest in and disdain for Israel as an "ally" stems from pure callous hard-heartedness.

    Jim: Suicide, like homicide, requires not just motive and opportunity but capability. These little piddly-ass adventures completely lack the ability to drag down the U.S. Our own stupidity and greed, our willingness to destroy our own middle class, our willful indifference to things like investment in our national commons and our long-term socio-economic health will kill us long before a bagful of GIs roaming around West Buttfuckistan will.

    Now were we to suddenly go on the rampage against China or a group of legitimate powers? That'd be a different story. But so far we don't seem to be THAT stupid...

  17. So on the Middle East, Lisa, I would posit that the ideal position for he U.S. would be a "neutral"; neither allying with nor aggressing towards the locals. Let them do what they do, providing that they sell their petroleum at market prices (and if they don't, well, we'll have to come up with an alternative...), allow us passage through the trade routes (which is a fighting matter, as freedom of navigation is fairly critical to a trading nation, but that's a whole nut roll threre...) and keep out of our business.

    The obvious problem now is that we've long ago lost our neutrality. We've fiddle-fucked around there to the point where almost nobody likes or trusts us. That's kinda sad; in 1945 we were in a terrific position to become trading partners with the new nations - they had no real reason to loathe us, unlike their former colonial masters. We fucked that up thoroughly between "anticommunism" and pro-Israeli-ism.

    There is STILL no real geopolitical benefit from allying with Israel. They have nothing we need and act like an irritant in the region, preventing us from acting in our own best interests - dealing with Iran, for example, the regional power, in a realistic way - and generally torquing our policies out of shape. There's no real benefit with allying with the Saudis, either, frankly. We need their neutrality and their petroleum. Nothing more.

    The current Middle Eastern situation is, I'm afraid, un-unfuckable for the U.S. Plugging the drain that leaks money and lives chasing raggedy-ass muj around the Yemeni desert might be a good thing...but in the Big Picture it's a gnat on a camel's ass. The Big Picture is that the Middle East is thoroughly fucked and there's nothing constructive that the U.S. can really do at this point - even disengaging, while helpful, won't really "solve" the problems.


  18. Chief,

    The Charedim are a big internal problem for the Israelis. (Remember Python's "The Judean People's Front/People's Front of Judea"?) Netanyahu is an intelligent man, but we all know politics is the game of the unholy alliances.

    As far as your statement that Israel is an "all-around irritant", that's a bit too broad for me. Do any of the other ME states constitute irritants? If they are irritants, they are irritants to each other, and that is not our concern. The U.S. arms the world, and if we strategically withdraw from Israel, will we do so multilaterally? Unlikely, as stated, dealing with Iran sounds like good realpolitik to you.

    But you still have not answered my question: Would having Palestinians occupy the little strip of desert now called "Israel" be a better deal for the U.S.? If so, how?

  19. p.s.:

    Your "WASF" (fr. IntelDump days) is an apt neologistic acronym in so many ways.

  20. No Israel on the east side of the Med means no Arab-Israeli wars, no Lebanon 1983, probably no Iraq 2003. It means the US gets to pick and choose its ME policy based on national interest, not "how does this affect Israel?" The Arab polities would probably still be a shitshow but a shitshow the US could engage or ignore based on selfish concerns and not the goings-on in some crappy little latter-day Kingdom of Jerusalem.

    I've said this before but it bears repeating; if the Brita wanted to give the Zionists a state they had fucking Hampshire instead of playing colonial reindeer games in the wreckage of the Ottoman empire. And Truman could have offered up Utah. The last thing the Levant needed was one more irredentist ethnic group, and everyone involved is as guilty of creating the present mess as are the knotheaded Arabs who won't deal with their own defeat in a rational way...

  21. And Iran is the regional power in SW Asia, Lisa. Dealing with them on that basis isn't "real"'s reality. To keep pretending otherwise is silly.

  22. Hey Chief,
    You must be recovering from a trip to Colorado.
    It isn't reasonable to blame the jews for every problem and war in the region,especially when they are usually a proxie force.
    All of the stuff that u list can be blamed on the Brits and French, and later on the Russians and Amies for making the area a play ground of the cold war. Heck lets throw in the Ottoman empire and their German allies. The wars you list implicate the US by association. There's plenty of blame to spread around.
    Israel is not the problem, but rather a part of the problem.They as a nation have the right to defend themselves , much as do the Iranians. Is it permissable in your world to condemn the Israeli's from doing what the Arabs do? Isn't this a reality in your scheme?
    How would the world benefit if we flushed them?
    When smart men like you spout the stuff that you are saying , then i get scared.
    I fail to understand this logic.