Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Back to Politics

The political lamp is lit. Not in my usual way but a bit hurried and haphazard. (Still catching up, carelessly!) ANd yet, important stuff.

Before other matters, let us turn to Russ Daggatt:

Yesterday, Memorial Day, 10 more American troops were killed in Iraq. That brings the total so far this month (with two days to go) to 117. Last month it was 104. That is the first time since Bush started this war that over 100 US troops have died in each of two consecutive months. Over 80 have died in each of the past six consecutive months -- prior to that, there had been no two consecutive months with over 80 US dead. It just keeps getting worse and worse. 557 in the past six months. In the six months prior to that it had been 417. 974 in the past year -- exceeding the 807 of the year prior to that. Every year is worse than the previous year. Every six months is worse than the six months before that.

And yet, as I've noted repeatedly, I'm now more worried about the next war -- against Iran -- than I am about Iraq. Bush is going to run out the clock on the Iraq war and there is probably little we can do about it. Unfortunately for those of us worried about an Iran war, there are mounting signs that we will attack Iran before the end of Bush's presidency. Not a certainty, but better than even odds and growing. Take this tidbit:

The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.

The pretext, that Iran is allying itself with Sunni Al Qaeda in Iraq, adds yet another layer to the head-scratching that any sensible person ought to be doing till he’s bald. Um... exactly who are our “friends” over there and who is attacking us?

The Shiite-dominated and Iran-friendly Baghdad government? Al Sadr’s Mahdi Army? The Sunnis who oppose Al Sadr and the government? But aren’t they Al Qaeda? Isn’t the answer than NOBODY is on the friends list and EVERYBODY is on the enemy list?

So what the $#@$&! are we even TRYING to do over there?

(An aside, are leaks like this a sign that the professionals are acquiring some backbone, at last?)

---- More items -----

The Globalist remains an online journal that churns out brief pieces ranging from utterly dreary-boring to perspective broadening to downright boggling. One in the last category tells about a concept called the “Palestinian Arc” that would seem to be one of the foremost examples of modernist, problem-solving ambition that I have seen in a long time! (And to qualify, an idea has to have aspects that seem at least a bit, well, crackpot.)

It is well-worth looking at, just to sit back and go :”huh! If only people were that sensible!”

Alas, the article ALSO ties this project it to “redeeming Dick Cheney’s legacy”... a dubious and vastly more far fetched project. Moreover, it assumes that the very people who have deliberately kept their Palestinian cousins in camps for three generations, in order to maintain a festering wound to blame on Israel, will suddenly change their mind and share some oil -wealth pocket change, in order to vitalize a vibrant and modern Palestine, that would only spread modernist memes throughout the Middle East. Oh, yeah. That’s gonna happen.

A side note, this project contains some elements of applying geometry to developmental planning. Something I have long urged.

Ah, but here’s something more “believably Cheney.”

“April 10, 2007 Halliburton Says It's Done in Iran - The Halliburton Company said yesterday that its subsidiary that does business in Iran had completed all its commitments and was no longer working in the country. In January 2005, the company, which was once led by Vice President Dick Cheney, said that it would not accept new work in Iran but that it would complete existing contracts there.” Comments Russ Daggatt: “I could never understand how Cheney got away with this Iran business. The sanctions law prohibits using a foreign subsidiary to get around the sanctions unless the foreign sub is truly independent of the parent.”

My answer is that treason is only treason if you aren’t the one calling the shots and controlling the government.

In a grim sign of the times, the "Wall of the Fallen," set up by House Republican leaders in June, is almost full. The mounting death toll from Iraq has forced U.S. House staffers to study how to reconfigure the display in the lobby of the Rayburn Building - the largest office building for members of Congress - to squeeze in more names.

Jamais Cascio has delivered another concise bit of wisdom in the form of a book review of John Robb’s BRAVE NEW WAR. Which joins the clade of modernist tomes that urge a model of western civilization that is based upon openness, adaptability and resiliency.

From Jamais’s essay:

Robb makes it clear that the tactics the United States (and, to a lesser extent, Europe and other post-industrial nations) now employs are bad, bad ideas. "Knee-jerk police states" and "preemptive war" fall into a category Robb borrows from security specialist : Bruce Schneier "brittle security." The big problem with brittle security is that, when it fails, it fails catastrophically; moreover, by employing these tactics, the U.S. (etc.) undermines the very moral suasion and memetic influence that are among the most important tools to fight empowered extremism.

I’ve not read Robb’s book, but I have to wonder if he cites Arquilla and Ronfeldt and their classic NETWAR and also IN ATHENA’S CAMP, two books that some years ago spoke cogently about matters of dispersed organizations taking on lumbering titans.

Cascio continues:

Looking more broadly, Robb lists three rules for successful "platforms," or sets of services, operating under his resiliency model: transparency (so all participants can see and understand what's happening); two-way (so all participants can act as both providers and consumers of the services); and openness (so the number and kind of participants isn't artificially limited). Again, these rules should sound very familiar to readers of (among other sites) Open the Future and WorldChanging. (Um... and, Jamais, some EARLIER sages on these topics? Ahem?)
I make a point of highlighting these similarities in order to demonstrate that the concepts that Robb discusses as a way of dealing with a particular kind of challenge actually have far broader applicability. An open, transparent, distributed and resilient system is precisely what’s needed to survive successfully threats from:

Natural disasters, such as tsunamis, earthquakes, and pandemic disease.
Environmental collapse, especially (but not solely) global warming.
Emerging transformative technologies, such as molecular manufacturing, cheap biotechnology and artificial general intelligence.
Open source warfare. and so on...

Jamais is one of the wise guys.

A final aside: watching Ken Burns’s wonderful CIVIL WAR documentary with my kids, I heard the way one Confederate soldier reacted, upon learning that poor men were to be drafted and kept in for the duration, while rich men were set loose to guy home and prosper and “keep an eye” on their slaves.

“Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight,” he muttered, in an expression that could easily apply to today’s war in Iraq, For we now face an incredible situation. In all of our past wars, the rich and mighty at least had the patriotism to step up and help pay for the struggle. But the elites behind today’s GOP, while calling upon the nation to sacrifice, deem nothing to be more sacred than their precious tax cuts.


David Brin said...


A correspondent sent in this quotation collage, plus more...

"I do not want--as I believe most Americans do not want--to sell out American interests, to simply withdraw, to raise the white flag of surrender. That would be unacceptable to us as a country and as a people. But I am concerned--as I believe most Americans are concerned--that the course we are following at the present time is deeply wrong. I am concerned--as I believe most Americans are concerned--that we are acting as if no other nations existed, against the judgment and desires of neutrals and our historic allies alike. I am concerned--as I believe most Americans are concerned--that our present course will not bring victory; will not bring peace; will not stop the bloodshed; and will not advance the interests of the United States or the cause of peace in the world. I am concerned that, at the end of it all, there will only be more Americans killed; more of our treasure spilled out; and because of the bitterness and hatred on every side of this war, more hundreds of thousands of [civilians] slaughtered; so they may say, as Tacitus said of Rome: "They made a desert, and called it peace." . . .

"The reversals of the last several months have led our military to ask for more troops. … But isn't this exactly what we have always done in the past? If we examine the history of this conflict, we find the dismal story repeated time after time. Every time--at every crisis--we have denied that anything was wrong; sent more troops; and issued more confident communiqu├ęs. Every time, we have been assured that this one last step would bring victory. And every time, the predictions and promises have failed and been forgotten, and the demand has been made again for just one more step up the ladder. But all the escalations, all the last steps, have brought us no closer to success than we were before. . . . And once again the President tells us, as we have been told for … years, that "we are going to win"; "victory" is coming. . . . It’s becoming more evident with every passing day that the victories we achieve will only come at the cost of the destruction for the nation we once hoped to help. . . .

"Let us have no misunderstanding. [They] are a brutal enemy indeed. Time and time again, they have shown their willingness to sacrifice innocent civilians, to engage in torture and murder and despicable terror to achieve their ends. This is a war almost without rules or quarter. There can be no easy moral answer to this war, no one-sided condemnation of American actions. What we must ask ourselves is whether we have a right to bring so much destruction to another land, without clear and convincing evidence that this is what its people want. But that is precisely the evidence we do not have. . . .

"The war, far from being the last critical test for the United States , is in fact weakening our position in [the region] and around the world, and eroding the structure of international cooperation which has directly supported our security for the past three decades. . . . All this bears directly and heavily on the question of whether more troops should now be sent--and, if more are sent, what their mission will be. We are entitled to ask--we are required to ask--how many more men, how many more lives, how much more destruction will be asked, to provide the military victory that is always just around the corner, to pour into this bottomless pit of our dreams? But this question the administration does not and cannot answer. It has no answer--none but the ever-expanding use of military force and the lives of our brave soldiers, in a conflict where military force has failed to solve anything yet. . . .

"… There is a contest on, not for the rule of America , but for the heart of America . . . . I ask you to go forth and work for new policies--work to change our direction--and thus restore our place at the point of moral leadership, in our country, in our hearts, and all around the world." Robert F. Kennedy

After Robert Kennedy spoke these words, he was assassinated, Richard Nixon was elected president and Nixon escalated the US war in Vietnam , increasing US force levels and expanding it into Cambodia . The US remained in Vietnam for another seven years.

More than 30,000 American troops – more than half the US troops who died in the Vietnam war – died after RFK spoke these words. The number of Vietnamese who died from then until the US withdrew in April 1975 can’t be accurately calculated. But it is certainly more than a million and maybe two million or more.

Anonymous said...

We can only succeed in Iraq with the help of the Iraqi people or we have to use the tactics of Rome or the Ottoman Turks.

The Iraqi government and the factions in it may be waiting for the coming chaos where a general on a horse will take over.

This is a very thought provoking article about the above issue.


If we win that way what will become of us?

Anonymous said...

Sorry URL was truncated.


Anonymous said...

So what the $#@$&! are we even TRYING to do over there?

Hold on to our newly conquered province long enough to plunder it's resources & possibly acquire another province full of valuable resources.

If you don't like the course of events, impeach Bush & Cheney. Nothing else will stop them, just don't expect the Democrats to do it, they can't even stop a war 60% of the American public is against.

(That is what happens when you destroy your base of support)

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the speculation about terrorism being involved with the XDR-TB that currently has a man quarantined in Atlanta?

Now what? If political protests become unwieldy, will Bush declare some convenient "TB quarantines"?

reason said...

I read the piece about the "The Arc". And I must say there are some things I don't understand about it.
Why does it say only Dick Cheney could do this? And why does it regard Halliburten as competent? As far as I know Dick Cheney has never mentioned it.
As I see it this is a standard (if spectacular) civil engineering project and many people could do. It doesn't even need to involve the USA (in fact it would probably be better if it didn't.)
I have often wondered why a sovereign link between Gaza and the West Bank has not been a higher priority (I suspect the Israelis are against it because they think it would be used for weapons smuggling.) One could definitely criticise Israel for never doing anything to ensure the economic viability of a Palestinian state (there is the small issue of water as well).

Anonymous said...

This subway is a good idea in principle, but it's manifestly a non-starter. If Israel had wanted to let the Palestinians easily get from one part of Palestine to another, it wouldn't have filled the West Bank with all those roadblocks in the first place (and that at the height of the Oslo "peace" process as well. A rather long stretch of such a subway would go underneath Israeli territory, which Israel seems less than eager to let Palestinian labourers into. Even from an Arab perspective, making the manifestly unjust Swiss-cheese network of Palestinian islands in an Israeli-controlled sea less economically unviable without reopening the roads has the extremely negative side-effect of reducing pressure on Israel to vacate its colonies in the West Bank. And as long as Israel keeps blockading Gaza, there won't be too many goods getting exported down this Arc. The idea would certainly be worth pursuing if there were some kind of peace, but then again, if there were peace, the blockades and barriers that make it necessary in the first place wouldn't be there.

Anonymous said...

I found this article by Scott Ritter at CommonDreams.org.
Is there a such a thing as a Constitution blog where citizens can question/discuss these concerns?

Anonymous said...

I have had a conversation with Random Sequence on this blog about the issue of the rule of law. I brought up the subject of constitutionality of several entitlement programs. In particular Social Security. RS was adamant that even though SCOTUS had never rulled on this by making the point that FDR had intimidated the Court. His justification was that (his numbers) since 2/3 of Congress was in favor of it and 80% of the populace was in favor of Social Security then it was OK to pass the Law. My question was:
If the numbers where correct then on the face of it you have the majority needed to get an Amendment. Why wasn't it done?

His other justification (implying violating the constitution) was that it was too hard to amend the constitution. So it was OK to pass an illegal law.

Entitlement programs have changed the fundamental basis of our country, aren't we owed a amendment when such a radical change is made?

When does a law cease to be law when it is interpreted.

Every time you interpret a law you in effect write a new law.

I reject his philosophy of shades of gray, because he would have us go from a two color to a one color morality.

There are real rights and wrongs.

Rob Perkins said...

If unifying and enriching a Palestinian city-state has the side effect of making Dick Cheney more popular, or less unpopular...

...then I'm still willing. What I'd be unwilling to do, were I in power, would be to make Israel offer any more concessions. Nuff o dat.

reason said...

Rob Perkins,
What I'd be unwilling to do, were I in power, would be to make Israel offer any more concessions.

I'm curious Rob as to what concessions you think the Israelis have made?

Anonymous said...

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