Tag Archives: Iraq

Perfidious Americus

Running an empire is not for sissies.

Since 1945, the U.S., holding the aces, had to finesse a role once played by the Europeans with Washington pulling up the Latin American rear. But that tacit alliance maintained worldwide stability for only two decades, in part because pre-digital America could sulk behind two oceans.

After Western Civilization’s second bloody civil war, rules changed: colonialism was abnegated, first “officially” in the 1943 Cairo Declaration. Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his Nationalist China ally Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek acknowledged European domination would go following the Allied victory. Of course, Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill, there too, was soon to meet British class voter retribution, and within less than two decades, the last of the Tory Grandees, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, would wrap up what had been the empire on which the sun never set. So much for Churchill’s vow he had not become the King’s first minister to preside over liquidation of the British imperium.

But Soviet aggression setting off The Cold War, and, U.S. amateurism, never allowed Washington. to get ahead of the time curve. [After “Cairo” former Sec. of State Dean Rusk, then a young political officer in the South East Asia Command, signaled Washington for instructions on French Indochina. He never got a response.] Furthermore, it was always America’s idealistic aim to set new standards for mutual respect and benefit, even while it had not yet cleaned up its own racist backyard.

Washington learned quickly managing alliances never comes easy, even with hegemonic power. The reason is obvious: too many conflicting demands. Still Pres. Harry Truman’s good old Midwestern common sense, gifted European leadership, and American dough-re-me, girded Western Europe to defeat the Soviet challenge. Although we may well look aghast at today’s tatters, NATO was perhaps the most successful alliance in history, winning a long, costly struggle – “peacefully”.

You wouldn’t know that, of course, listening to the self-deprecation and, indeed, abysmal groveling, of the Obama Administration. That alone would have torpedoed current American prestige and strategy, unhinged by Islamic terrorism and an abrupt end to the most prosperous era in world history – gained in no small part through trillions of dollars in U.S. generosity still continuing to client states.

The Obama Administration, though, was intent on “leading from behind”. Too clever by half, as our British cousins would say, forgotten were the first elements in any alliance: at least temporary loyalty to a common cause, and stalwart if sometimes painful leadership by example. First there were petty insults to the Brits – return of Churchill’s bust from the Oval office, gimcrackery for the Queen, etc. Instead of securing an Iraq alliance at the heart of the Arab/Muslim world, there was a hallelujahed withdrawal timetable. There is, apparently, coming abandonment of a Kabul regime on lifesupport long before victory. Vociferous equating of Israeli and Palestinian claims doomed any accommodation there, especially after a problematic “Arab Spring” explosion demonstrated Israeli-Arab relations was only one, and probably not the most important, Mideast problem..

In all these instances, typically, semiruptures came with American media piling-on, campaigns of fact and fiction about the steadfastness, or lack thereof, of allies. This tactic flouts — particularly with third world countries — the obvious: helping inept, corrupt regimes to modernize is the name of the game. Were that not true, America would not be there in the first place.

Now in the election silly season, Obama Administration foreign policy proceeds on autopilot. Not only are arms – required under U.S. law – denied Taiwan but “a high official Administration source” publicly trashes the opposition candidate in the upcoming January presidential elections. Regarding Pakistan, whose overwhelming problem is dysfunctional government, Washington chooses war on the front pages and NPR, simultaneously publicly delivering ultimata. These latter may, in the end, turn bluff given the critical role that country’s geography and its menace of becoming a factory for creating jihadists [with nukes] on a half a billion impoverished, semiliterate Muslim base.

Alas! It is all too reminiscent of the unlearned lessons in the demise of the South Vietnam alliance now a half century ago after loss of 58,000 American lives and enormous treasure. Pompous media, including some conservatives, are still repeating old clichés. No wonder Washington doesn’t seem to have learned a lot about running alliances. Perfidious Albion, indeed!


Americans abroad — in the Mideast

Behind the Desert Storm

Pavel Stroilov

Price World Publishing, LLC

ISBN: 978-1932549676

$19.95, Publication date Aug.1, 2011

One cannot read this book without recalling that wonderful aphorism of Otto von Bismarck: “There is a Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America.” Almost on every page is an illustration of the blundering American policymakers blabbing their way through conversations in the jungle of Mideast problems with their native interlocutors, seemingly oblivious to realities demonstrated for all to see all around them. In the short term, of course, Washington did luck out with the immediate collapse of the Sadam Hussein tyranny in The First Gulf War.

For those of us – not Orientalists but the ordinary variety of human beings – who try to follow events in the region, there are not that many totally surprising moments here. Who did not know the perfidy of Washington’s Arab allies? We knew that not only Saudi Arabia but the so-called Bathist Arab Socialist regime in Damascus joined the most extensive alliance in history for their own narrow interests – not for the love of liberty for the relatively tiny sheikhdowndom [cq] of Kuwait which had been attacked and bested quickly by Sadam. Contrary to Washington’s perennial wishful thinking – aided and abetted by the usual Sovietologist suspects in the academy who have never called a shot right yet — most of us sensed, too, that Mikhail Gorbachev was not a “reformer” but another Communist apparatchik trying to save what was left of the system on the eve of the Soviet implosion. [In all transparency, this writer whipped out a book on that hypothesis, Living Off the West: Gorbachev’s Secret Agenda and Why It Will Fail {Nov 1990}, never anticipating Gorbie would blow it so quickly!] Nor did many of us underestimate the scheming, venal, anti-Americanism of Francois Mitterand – perhaps the only politician in European history to reverse the peregrination of that old French adage, “Heartless if not a socialist at 20, headless if a socialist at 40”.

But what a young Russian “nerd”, a student/programmer who has stolen one of the most fascinating archives in recent diplomatic history, has given us is documentation for all those old assumptions – and much more. This observer, for example, never had any doubts about Jimmy Baker’s fierce anti-Israel monomania verging on anti-semitism. But I had always assumed we were dealing with a hard-nosed, clever by half as the British would say, cynical manipulator who knew from where the world’s oil supply was coming. Instead, what is revealed in these pages, is a total amateur, buying into every trap Moscow, Paris, Baghdad and London, can lay for him, sometimes to be saved, by of all people, Brent Scowcroft, a fellow traveler in most of his prejudices.

Washington finally lucks out, Bismarckian fashion, apparently, mostly because having – as Joe Alsop used to say – marched up the hill with flags flying, drums rolling and trumpets flaring, pulling together the most sophisticated fighting machine the world has ever seen [as noted repeatedly by the Chinese Communists], there was nothing to do but use it to break Sadam.

Stroilov lays all this out with several footnotes and documents text on every page. We are told that as a student he worked on papers Gorbachev was withdrawing from state, KGB and other Soviet files. Gorbachev, who comes through these pages, too, as a pigmy who never got through Machiavelli 101, apparently intended to use them to prove that he was a martyred political genius, defeated by the likes of that ruffiian and drunk Boris Yeltsin and the evil intent of the U.S. But, Stroilov says, Gorbie decided after a few leaks that there should be no further releases – perhaps sensing they would prove the opposite.

Meanwhile, Stroilov says, under the sponsorship of the noted dissident, Vladimir Bukovsky, and the former KGB operator, Alexander Litvinenko whom Russian émigré circles believe Vladimir Putin had murdered in London with radioisotopes, he smuggled the whole lot out of Russia. If –and some intelligence mavim in Washington are prepared to to believe his story, his bonafides, and the integrity of his 50,000 documents — he is going to tell what really happened in the waning days of the Soviet empire, there should be much, much more to come as we saw in a recent Der Spiegel lifting germane German material

Regrettably, the book, itself, is less than its parts, mainly because Stroilov – and one feels for him – cannot contain his anger, his contempt and his sarcasm for most of the leading characters, not least the Soviet players. The narrative leaves out too much for those of us who are not Sovietologists, but pounds too many obvious points too many times too heavily. The epilogue – a cri de coeur for Western democrats not to repeat the follies of Iraq, Act I and II, but to support the intent of “the Arab Spring” – is no less naïve than the players he describes. He, like the rest of us, has no hard solutions for the intractable problems of Arab/Muslim society, not least a rambunctious youth bulge seeking jobs as much as new free societies, perhaps too ready to accept the totalitarian temptation of Islamic fundamentalism.

— Sol W Sanders

A version of this book review appeared in The Washington Times, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011

All American

Maybe this is a stretch too far, but I watched two TV interviews with Cheney on Fox Sunday afternoon [Sept. 4, 2001]. And I came away with a good, warm feeling: seems to me he is the example of what good old American common sense can do/does in the artificial hothouse environment of Washington. I mean here is a guy who came into public life via the Republican Establishment [after all, he was Ford’s chief of staff! and had made his way pretty much through the “normal” Washington career ladder to near the top], yet, faced with the horrible decision-making that came when he became “assistant president” rather than the usual [“a bucket of warm p___”] vice president with Bush II, he acted with integrity and in the face of an overwhelming opposition within the Bush
cabinet most of the time. [I am forgiving him backing Kay Bailey Hutchison against Rick Perry in the GOP primary for governor of Texas; he had a friendship with her during their Washington sojourns.] By the way, his wrestling match with a bad heart certainly didn’t make any of this easier.
Of course, I am probably taking him “out of context”; Even with all we know about a public figure, we don’t know and never will know the ins and outs of motivation. But we do know that he pretty much hit rock-bottom in his early days — alcohol, dropped out of school, was working as a lineman, not that that isn’t a worthy occupation. [We had proof of that in this damned hurricane!] One story I have heard is that Liz Cheney — whom I also see as a pretty admirable character and we know an intelligent public speaker — did it by refusing to marry him until he went back to school, straightened up, etc.
Then there is Wyoming which I don’t know, but dream of as a pretty wonderfully, “pure” place — and I don’t want to be disenchanted!
Anyway, in a peculiar way, it brightened my day.

The COIN of the realm is counterfeit!


Afghanistan, America, and the “Vietnam” Syndrome  

by Sunil Ram


Global Research, April 18, 2010
Frontline Defense – 2010-01-01




Some years ago, I wrote in an article for the Royal Canadian Military Institute that surmised it was “too easy for those who do not follow history to make glib and simple comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam.” I further noted that “at best, most of these and other comparisons are misleading and at worse they are simply wrong.” Thus, I am loath to make such comparisons with Afghanistan, yet, after some eight years of war, the similarities are more and more striking.

It seems America has forgotten both the lessons of Vietnam and the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, and has fallen back on stupid and arrogant ideas that are simply a rehash of failed tactics and strategies of yesteryear.

It is stunning to hear the same mindless rhetoric of 30, 40 and 50 years ago from current day military leaders in London, Ottawa or Washington. It has not helped that the sycophantic academics, media pundits, and so-called military experts, who all have a vested interest in perpetuating these foolish ideas, propagate them to the ignorant public, government leaders and bureaucrats.

Clearly, Afghanistan is not Vietnam (for obvious reasons revolving around time and space). The Vietnam War was an extension of the decolonization process in post World War II Asia. It was also part of the larger global Cold War struggle between the Soviets and the Americans, and was fought along political and ideological lines. That said, there remain many strategic parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam for the United States.

Ye Olde Crabb sez:

My old mantra still holds: insurgencies in the nature of things are endlessly particularistic. There is little if anything that relates the Tupamaros in urban Montevideo in the 1960s to the Moros in the Philippines in the 1890s to the Vietcong in the Mekong Delta in the 1960s. These were all were generated in intensely local, specialized political, social and economic environments with long and often complicated and virtually  [to those who did not have nor took the time] indecipherable histories.

There are no generalizations about fighting all insurgencies that are not vapid; e.g., the army should not steal the peasants’ chickens.

Therefore, there is no such thing as “a science of counter insurgency”, a product of that great American intellectual heresy, social science. [William James warned us about it almost 150 years ago! http://www.todayinsci.com/J/James_William/JamesWilliam-Quotations.htm Read down.]

COIN is total BS and its purveyors are either not too bright or charlatans.