Archive for the 'Too many countries' Category

Apr 23 2014

More than little familiar………

Published by under Too many countries,Travel

Scott Adams has to be spending his days at our office:

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There is a serious point here. Travel always is the first thing that gets cut-even when its not the root cause of the financial problem. Our new, erstwhile,  masters don't see that problem as well as they should-even while they spend travel money for the preferred customers, while lecturing the herd on how we need to save money. In reality-you can save money and still travel.The devil is the details-and stop being penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to travel. Trust me, I ran travel budgets for over 15 years.

But now that's a big part of my ongoing frustration. Knowing-and I do mean knowing-I am right, and not having my concerns listened to. They may choose not to listen. 

But it does not mean I am wrong.

And besides-those frequent flyer miles are not going to earn themselves.

 

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Jan 06 2014

There was never a chance………..

Phib, in one of his repeated themes, bemoans the fact that we did not give ourselves a chance to "succeed" in Afghanistan. "All it required was about another four-five years of patience. Of course, that 4-5 from now is based on an alternative history where we did not announce our retreat in DEC 09 … but what is, is. District by district "Shape, Clear, Hold, Build" was a solid way to do it – but just as it was getting roots as the surge soaked in, we stopped feeding it. The following results will be sadly predictable."

Complete and total horseshit.

This is a peculiarly American disease where we always place the blame everywhere but where it really lies. This is how we get pundits like William "The Bloody" Kristol- who,  incidentally, could not be bothered to serve one day in his miserable life, but is more than willing to send other people's children to die for his right to earn six figures a year-advocating war with out end in the Middle East.

Didn't give it enough time? We will have been in that Godforsaken country for over 13 years. How much f*cking time do we need? Or more correctly, how many chances do the Afghans get before we tell them to go f*ck themselves?

Two facts here are really important. One, the clock did not stop ticking in Afghanistan just because we invaded Iraq. So the very idea that we could "just pick up where we left off" and somehow, magically we would have a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, by spending ten plus years-losing Americans-to create what? And two, the patience of the American people is not unlimited-and we are long past the point of patience with any of the wars for most reasonable Americans.

A land of people who refuse to help themselves. This, by the way is backed up by over a 100 years of Afghan history. This is what we are getting today, it is what we would have gotten 10 years from now-it will pretty much always be that way as long as the country is saddled with albatross of Islam.

Want to know the day we "lost" Afghanistan? March 19,  2003. That's the day the United States in one of the most stupid moves in its history, foolishly invaded a land that had not attacked it, and in the process metastized what was a essentially a localized disturbance into the world's blood stream. One could even make the point that we could look further back-to the point where a man like George Bush, under the advice of some pretty questionable characters, decided that the United States could somehow accomplish the impossible and eliminate terrorism from the earth. Rather than pursue the vengeance that our public opinion required in the aftermath of 9-11, the grey hair allowed himself to be diverted into what has now quite well been proven, to be a worthless, damn fool ideological crusade.

And what do we have to show for it? Nothing of substance.

Oh sure, Bin Laden is dead, but as it turned out, that had nothing to do with clear, hold, and build. And Al Queda has been disrupted-but again, that happened with out years of counterinsurgency. We have lost over 6000 fine Americans dead and almost 50,000 wounded for the "right" to stay in a backward nation from over a decade, however. What did they suffer for?

Nothing of value Phib. Nothing of value. And that was true in 2009, as assuredly as it is today. Put the blame where it belongs and leave it there-on the Afghan people.

Now that is what I will drink more over. The  tendency on the part of policy makers — and probably a tendency in the part of some Americans — to think that the problems we face are problems that are out there somewhere beyond our borders, and that if we can fix those problems, then we'll be able to continue the American way of life as it has long existed. I think it's fundamentally wrong. Our major problems are at home in the US.

Starting with the idea that we can somehow "fix" people who are unfixable.

 

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Jan 05 2014

Countdown to catastrophe-January 5th, 1914

Back in 1914:

Henry Ford, unlike his current day counterparts, recognized that a well paid work force made for a better workforce-and more consumers. So wages were doubled from $2.40/9-hr day to $5.00/8-hr day.

George Reeves, the actor who would play Superman in the 1950's was born. So too was  Nicolas de Staël, a French-Russian painter.

In France, in 1914, the leadership of France rested with President Raymond Poincare , and Prime Minister Rene Viviani.  In 1914 she was the second largest colonial power in the World and the largest in Africa. She had, on paper anyway, the largest Army in Europe. France was allied with Britain and Russia  as part of the Triple Entente. In January 1914 the French Army had 47 divisions (777,000 French and 46,000 colonial troops) in 21 regional corps, with attached cavalry and field-artillery units. Most these troops were deployed inside France with the bulk along the eastern frontier as part of Plan 17. France also had the ability to muster a further 2.9 million men during a crisis-and did so in the summer of 1914. France was itching to get back Alsace and Lorraine, territories they lost in 1870-and regarded as "French".

 

 

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Jan 03 2014

Countdown to Catastrophe-3 January 1914

Today on the path to war:

The musical "Sari" opened in New York City.

Jean Louvel, Flemish pianist/conductor/composer was born today. ( As an aside J.R.R. Tolkien was born this day in 1892).

 Stephane Raoul Pugno, composer, dies at 62

In Britain, at this time, King George the V was the King of Great Britain and Emperor of India. HH Asquith, a liberal,  was the Prime Minister. The major issues of the day were Home Rule for Ireland, increasing labor strife, demands by women to vote, and the management of the Britain's vast world wide empire.

And finally-as a matter of background-in an event that was to have lasting implications all the way up to World War I, in 1521, Martin Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X from the Roman Catholic Church. 

 

 

 


 

HH Asquith, a liberal was the Prime Minister

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Jan 02 2014

Countdown to Catastrophe-January 2, 1914

Back in 1914:

The Philips corporation installs its research department at Eindhoven, in the Netherlands.

9 years prior to this day in 1914, on Jan 2, 1905, Japanese Gen. Nogi received from Russian Gen. Stoessel at 9 o'clock P.M. a letter formally offering to surrender, ending the Russo-Japanese War. The aftermath of this war-coupled with the 1905 revolution shaped Russia's view towards its neighbors and was one of the factors that drove it to the alliances it entered into prior to the First World War.

On the day prior, New Years Day,  Klaas ter Laan becomes Netherlands 1st socialist mayor. Of the town of Zaandam.

Northern & Southern Nigeria united into the British colony of Nigeria.

 


 

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Jan 02 2014

Countdown to Catastrophe…….

2014 will mark 100 years since the start of World War I. I recently finished a book entitled 1913: The Eve of War  by Paul Ham.

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The book recounts the year before the beginning of the World War and how the powers were anticipating even then the idea of going to war with each other-but also had no idea of how horrendous the war would be when it came. I am also about to start two other books on the year trying to get a sense of what it was like in Europe, particularly Germany, before all hell broke loose.

So I thought, with this being the year that it is, I would start a new feature here at Far East Cynic HQ, short daily ( or as close to that schedule as I can keep) lists of events that occurred in 1914 highlighting events in Europe and the UK as they stumbled down the road to a great catastrophe that destroyed 50 years of relative peace. And made the current world dawn, of too many nations with not enough structure.

We'll see how it goes. I hope you like it.

 

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Nov 24 2013

The chance of precipitation just went up.

Not rain falling, but bombs. Dropped from Israeli planes.

The western powers signed an interim agreement with Iran last night. As expected a certain, rather stubborn group of folks is not happy about that one bit:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu characterized the agreement signed with Iran early Sunday morning as a historic mistake.

Directly contrasting US President Barack Obama who praised the agreement as opening a "new path toward a world that is more secure,"  Netanyahu – speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting — said the world has become more dangerous as a result.

"What was agreed last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake," he said. "Today the world has become much more dangerous because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step to getting the most dangerous weapon in the world."

For the first time, he said, the leading powers of the world agreed to uranium enrichment in Iran, while removing sanctions that it has taken years to build up in exchange for "cosmetic Iranian concession that are possible to do away with in a matter of weeks."

Netanyahu said the consequences of this deal threaten many countries, including Israel. He reiterated what he has said in the past, that Israel is not obligated by the agreement.(emphasis mine)

That last sentence is the key one. The whole last week I was on travel, the Israeli press was having kittens over the idea that the west might do anything less than bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran. Which never made much sense to me. For one thing-Iran is the size of Europe, its a big country, and the chances that the Israeli Air Force can get all the things it needs to in one strike ( which is all they would realistically get) are low indeed. Secondly the idea of getting us to do the dirty work for them is full of traps and problems for the US.  Not to mention that starting a 4TH war in over a decade is just plain stupid. Thanks GWB, Thanks a lot. Because of your stupid wars-we are in this mess to begin with.

The interests of the US and Israel do not always align. This is going to be one of those times. And Israel will just have to accept that fact.

But I am convinced they won't. They will continue to push and prod to get their way. That's how they do business.

"And by the way, we still expect our over 4 Billion dollars in US aid next year. Got that?"

The apocalyptic rhetoric started in Israel almost immediately:

The deputy speaker of parliament, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, said on Saturday the interim agreement signed between Iran and the Western powers was tantamount to the Munich Agreement of the late 1930s.

“Like Czechoslovakia at that time, which was not party to the discussions that effectively sentenced it to death, Israel today watches from the sidelines how its existential interest is being sacrificed by the Western powers,” Feiglin said.

“Any rational person understands that we are in the midst of a process leads to a nuclear-armed Iran,” he said. “For years I have warned about the dangers of the strategy adopted by Israel towards the Iranian nuclear threat.”

Feiglin said that entrusting foreign powers to secure Israel’s defense interests is “disastrous” and “much worse than that which led to the Yom Kippur War.”

The lawmaker called on the Israeli government to declare an immediate end to all contacts with the West over the Iranian question and to make clear that it would not be bound by the agreement signed.

I can't wait to see what our group of AIPAC funded  whores Congressional stooges has to say about it on Monday.

Some problems are just tough-and there are no easy solutions, especially military ones-and its even tougher when over 60 years of stupidity has gone into the problem of relations with Iran, who are not Arabs.

I will say this again, two things actually. First, one can admire and respect Israel and its citizens-and give them support-without agreeing with everything they ask for. And that leads to my second point, most Americans do not understand Israel at all. They think they do-and they think its a transplanted version of America in the Levant. Trust me,  its not-its a different society. They use language and view their situation in a very different way than we do. And they always will. Furthermore-Israel is indeed a melting pot of cultures-and not all of those cultural traditions are ones we would like if we knew the details. That still does not stop us from being supportive-but supportive does not mean, contrary to what Rev Hagee and the members of AIPAC believe, a blank check.

So buckle up boys and girls, 2014 is going to be an up and down ride.

"The Lord is our Shepherd says the psalm, but just in case, its Iran we gotta bomb!"

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Aug 01 2013

And we’re back.

Published by under Too many countries,Travel

Ireland was really great. I really enjoyed it and have made up my mind that I need to go back. With the exception of the fact that the Union Jack was not in its rightful place flying over the buildings of Dublin-its a great place to visit. 

As an aside-I have never understood the whole division of Ireland and Britain. From a logical standpoint, it would make better sense if all the British Isles were under one government. I do understand the 1000 years of history and the way the British slighted the Irish and all that, but the thing is,  the Irish seem to have more in common with the British than they realize. Then again-they seem to have reached an accomodation of sorts now-and actively trade with one another. And on a positive note-Ireland has been able to avoid getting sucked into the overseas adventures that the British have-so maybe they are on to something.

I'll post a more detailed travelog this weekend. I'm pressed for time this evening.

Here are a few pictures though. We spent two nights in Dublin, and two in Galway-where, as it turns out, was having its Race Week. Wish I had known that before we left, I would have considered staying longer.

For you Quiet Man fans ( of which I am one) here is the stone bridge from the opening scenes of the film:

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The library above the Book of Kells-Trinity College.

 

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At the Cliffs of Moher

 

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Downtown Dublin on O'Connel street:

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The Benedictine Abbey in Conomara.

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More to follow!

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Mar 24 2013

What a week!

Published by under Iraq,Too many countries

Well, things have slowly returned to normal after dispatching our Israeli guests back to the land of milk and honey-in order to allow them to celebrate Pesach. 

You know it as Passover.

And Holy Week.

Nonetheless it was a productive week if at the same time a very frustrating one. Israelis can be very difficult especially when you have to tell them no-several times.

Like spoiled children, however, you still have to love them-even if you don't always like them.

We got a lot done-and now I am in the middle of "meeting cleanup"-producing notes, sending out PPT's and wishing I was on a plane to Israel. ( Or anywhere else for that matter). Damn you sequester!

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While I was out, Britain passed a new press law. This, in reaction to the clear cut crossing of the line that the Rupert Murdoch controlled print media accomplished through the phone hacking scandal. One of the most interesting phenomena was the complete over-reaction to the news by uber conservatives and their designated propaganda outlets.Particularly telling was the depth of the over reaction by those who are the worst offenders when it comes to media responsibility and their supporters in the blogosphere. To say that kind of reaction is overwrought, is slightly something of an understatement..

For starters, there are limits beyond which a responsible media should not go. The principle enforcers of that are supposed to be libel laws that demand irresponsible media players ( such as Murdoch and his clone Fox News) pay a pecuniary price for their irresponsibility. That is what Britain is trying to accomplish- with a media that is far less constrained than American media ( although the Americans are doing their best to be just like their British counterparts). The paranoid amongst us-decided to maintain that it was threat to freedom of the press and freedom of speech. In reality neither was the case -and British media coverage ( which I get through my satellite coverage) was much less hysterical. When it was pointed out that there was a large number of folks in the UK who had decided that enough was enough-and that it was time to put a halt to London's being the libel capitol of the world-the responses in general represented the basic level of American stupidity. The "Oh yea! What about MSNBC?" line of thinking gets really tiresome and old. And validates for me, again, the basic stupidity of a large segment of the US population.

For one thing-it ignores the fundamental illogic of Phibians argument. When someone tries to defend the British government and point out that something, somewhere has to be done about the increasing inability of the news media to police themselves-the contrarian arguments come out. "What about Dan Rather?" " What about Andrea Mitchell?" "MSNBC is liberal"…and so on and so forth. "Its impinging on free speech". They completely miss the point. Which is, that they are in effect arguing in favor of those shameful media practices-for the sole purpose of avoiding detailed scrutiny of equally egregious conduct by their darlings: Fox News and the right wing blogosphere.  That's crazy.

There is no impingement of free speech. There is a recognition however, when you just tell out right lies, or publish recklessly-there is a price to be paid. I have been following most of the British coverage of the debate leading up to this law-and the previous 18 months that led up to it. The simple truth is that the Murdoch organizations crossed a line-going into an area they had no business going into, and ruined a lot of good people in the process. There is a difference between printing a dissenting opinion, and publishing an blatant lie with malice aforethought. All they are trying to do is put teeth into their libel laws-something that used to be present in the United States. If we enforced our libel laws it would put slime like Hinderaker and Malkin out of business. Besides, it may not survive a court challenge in the UK, something that "fair and balanced" news outlets in the US neglected to report.

It is always interesting the things our Galtian overlords get bent out of shape about. They are perfectly OK with strangling rights to live one's life in peace, have access to decent health care, the right to have sex as much as they want-and not be told what to do with their own bodies vis a vis reproduction. But take away the non existent right of the Breitbart children or Michelle Malkin or Hindrocket to lie with impunity? That gets their panties in a bunch.

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And finally I think its important to recognize the anniversary that occurred this week, the 10 th anniversary of the worst foreign policy decision made by the United States in the last 40 years. No Phib, on this issue you are completely wrong again. You can cling to your flawed beliefs and be a surgeaholic-but the war was not worth it, it created more problems for the United States than it solved and most importantly-needlessly sacrificed thousands of American lives.

Lets turn it over to some more objective observers shall we?

 

This, obviously, was all a fever dream. There were no biological or nuclear weapons; there may have been a few rusty chemical shells lying around, just as there had been for decades. Iraq was not an important sponsor of Islamicist terrorism. Islamicist terrorism was fueled not by fascist dictatorships such as Iraq, but by non-state actors in failed states such as Afghanistan and Somalia; and our invasion of Iraq promptly turned it into precisely the sort of failed-state sectarian war zone that does fuel terrorism. Thousands of American soldiers died in a war in Iraq that only exacerbated the danger of anti-American terrorism. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers died as well, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians died in the resulting civil war, most killed by the Iraqi militias who emerged in the power vacuum the US invasion created, but many killed by US armed forces themselves. In the name of pre-empting a non-existent threat, America killed tens of thousands of people and turned Iraq into a breeding ground for terrorism. And we spent a trillion dollars to do it.

How did America's policymaking community ever commit itself to such a catastrophic delusion? I don't truly understand it now, and I didn't understand it then.  ( SS note-emphasis added).  I found the developing consensus for an unprovoked attack on Iraq in late 2002 absurd. But I had an advantage: I wasn't living in America at the time. Viewed from the defamiliarising distance of West Africa, the American polity's effort to talk itself into invading a country that hadn't attacked it was baffling and disturbing. That reaction was widely shared in the country where I was living among locals and expats, Americans included.

My opposition to the war began the day I was shown plans for the deployment of five carriers to the Gulf in 2002. Among many others we asked two specific questions: "Why do we need 5 CV's especially since it will force you to keep 2 of them on cruise for over 9 months?" ( The Lincoln was kept on Cruise for 11 months-all to ensure the F-18 E's and F's she carried did not miss the conflict). That was an irresponsible decision then-and I remain so convinced today. And the second question was, "Why now?" Why not finish one war before starting a second one?" That too,  is still a pertinent question to ask.

Being still in the Navy at the time-I got a first hand view of the cascading effects of that one mistake over and over again. I have written about my disdain for the war, and the American military's pursuit of it a lot since I started this blog in 2005. It was NOT "the right war, fought imperfectly through three of four phases. No one can see alternative presents, but my bet is that both we and Iraq are better because of it. ". No-it was a colossal mistake, a huge waste of time , resources and lives and it was built on a foundation of lies and deception.. To paraphrase Herman Wouk, victory only has meaning in its effects on the politics that occur after the war-and more importantly should be waged with an eye towards what is solely in the national interest. US interests-not those of Arabs living in Iraq.  

There is a new book out, by Toby Dodge called "Iraq: From War to a New Authoritarianism".  

Iraq was Chinatown, an unknowable entity where it was unwise to linger. As a result, contemporary Iraq, a very different creation from what America’s occupation had intended, has been poorly chronicled. The best recent books in English have been military histories, aimed at showing how America’s generals performed. Few have explained what happened to Iraq itself.

Toby Dodge, who teaches at the London School of Economics, does much to fill that gap in his new book, published under the auspices of the nearby International Institute for Strategic Studies. It is a short academic work and makes no effort to present the human side of a generally bleak picture. But Mr Dodge is clear, concise and unsparing about the country’s ongoing agony. For anyone who wants to know how Iraq arrived at its current state, and wonders what might happen next, this is an excellent place to begin.

Mr.  Dodge helps set to rest this myth that neo-conservatives continue to believe that we "won the war"-and all it took was new leadership. The facts simply do not support that assertion-and the surge in both foresight and hindsight was as much of a mistake as starting the war was. By its own benchmarks the surge failed-because whatever time it bought the Iraqis to solve its political differences, the Iraqis simply screwed away.

When people say it was worth it, they have to force themselves to dance around some annoying facts. There will of course, be some inconvenient truths that will need to be danced around:

Annoying fact #1: The Iraqi government is still worthless.

Annoying fact #2: Violence in all of Iraq is not reduced as it is supposed to be. 

What is clear to any objective observer is that the only winners were the Chinese and the Iranians. By any objective standard-from the standpoint of advancing US interests in the world-Iraq was a complete and total failure.

Just about all of the current economic troubles-particularly the size of the deficit can be laid at the feet of the war. The inability of the US to influence events in other lands-e.g., get Europeans to pay more for their own defense-due to the war. The rise of the Chinese in Africa-due to the war. Higher energy prices-due to the war.

It was all a colossal waste.

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Mar 12 2013

Don’t cry for Britain, Argentina.

What is Spanish for, " Suck on this you Latin bastards?"

 

Of 1,517 votes cast in the two-day referendum – on a turnout of more than 90% – 1,513 were in favour, while just three votes were against.

It follows pressure from Argentina over its claims to the islands, 31 years after the Falklands War with the UK.

The UK government welcomed the result and urged "all countries" to accept it and respect the islanders' wishes.

The referendum had asked: "Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?"


Cristina Fernández de Kirchner , here's a little music to cry yourself to sleep by:

Can we put that Las Malvinas bullshit to bed forever now?

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Nov 14 2012

The real Petreaus problem.

"The issue at Tailhook is not that we took a few liberties with our female party guests. We did."

Just have to do one more Petraeus post.

And its not to condemn him for slicing off what appears to be a fine hunk of tuna. I don't condemn him for that at all. Actually applaud him for getting laid. And laid well-by all appearances. If American sexual mores were not all screwed up-he'd be getting a pat on the back instead of a kick in the ass.

As my Canadian Counterpart points out:

But there's one important fact that I think everyone is overlooking in this tawdry tale. Paula Broadwell is pretty fucking hot, especially for a 40-year-old Army chick. I'd most assuredly hit it, and I think that's really the most important thing to remember here.

Except…………..

The real problem with Petreaus is not his sexual proclivities. I think I have made it clear that I think there are two sides to every story and until I know the other side I will reserve any judgment on that. However-and long time followers of this blog will know this-I am no fan of King David. The real crimes of General Petreaus happened long before he joined the CIA.

What I’d like to propose, I guess, is that none of these perspectives quite captures reality. That’s the thing about Petraeus. He isn’t some sort of paragon of virtue as people on the right want to claim, nor is he just business as usual in his abuse of power and position as some on the left seem to believe. There is something unique about him and what he’s done, and I just wish people would look at the situation essentially sui generis rather than as confirmation of one worldview or another.

Let me make one more note on the seksytime issue. There is a perception, I think, that general officers are  swinging dick, alpha-males, screwing, boozing, and brawling their way through life. And sure, there are some like that, but in my experience, general officers are about as far from that stereotype as possible. They are usually driven, hard-working, introspective, and bookish. Whether they went to the service academies or ROTC, they rarely had time to party even as undergrads. They often marry young, have kids young, and spend much of their time either deployed or struggling to pay attention to their families when they are home.  They are, in short, often nerds (in a good way), and they are not always well-equipped emotionally to deal with the kind of attention they begin to attract as they rise in rank, and particularly as they pin on stars. General Allen, for instance, has a reputation as a serious, bookish guy. Now maybe he’s a serial cheater, and Jill Kelley was just another actual or potential conquest, but more likely, in my estimation, is that he just didn’t quite know how to handle her attention. I dunno, but I think it worth keeping in mind that possibility.

A good point and it reinforces my current opinion of Navy flags too. The daring do-the guys who led from the front in the cockpit and the bar-those guys have been thrown on the scrap heap a long time ago. What's left is not so great.

But that's not what makes the story of Petreaus so sad. Not at all. What the real problem is with Petreaus started in 2004 if not sooner:

But the warning signs about Petraeus’ core dishonesty have been around for years. Here's a brief summary: We can start with the persistent questions critics have raised about his Bronze Star for Valor. Or that, in 2004, during the middle of a presidential election, Petraeus wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post supporting President Bush and saying that the Iraq policy was working. The policy wasn’t working, but Bush repaid the general’s political advocacy by giving him the top job in the war three years later.

There’s his war record in Iraq, starting when he headed up the Iraqi security force training program in 2004. He’s more or less skated on that, including all the weapons he lost, the insane corruption, and the fact that he essentially armed and trained what later became known as “Iraqi death squads.” On his final Iraq tour, during the so-called "surge," he pulled off what is perhaps the most impressive con job in recent American history. He convinced the entire Washington establishment that we won the war.

He did it by papering over what the surge actually was: We took the Shiites' side in a civil war, armed them to the teeth, and suckered the Sunnis into thinking we’d help them out too. It was a brutal enterprise — over 800 Americans died during the surge, while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives during a sectarian conflict that Petraeus’ policies fueled. Then he popped smoke and left the members of the Sunni Awakening to fend for themselves. A journalist friend told me a story of an Awakening member, exiled in Amman, whom Petraeus personally assured he would never abandon. The former insurgent had a picture of Petraeus on his wall, but was a little hurt that the general no longer returned his calls.

MoveOn may have been ill-advised to attack the general as "Betray Us" in Washington, but there was little doubt that many in the Awakening felt betrayed.

Petraeus was so convincing on Baghdad that he manipulated President Obama into trying the same thing in Kabul. In Afghanistan, he first underhandedly pushed the White House into escalating the war in September 2009 (calling up columnists to “box” the president in) and waged a full-on leak campaign to undermine the White House policy process. Petraeus famously warned his staff that the White House was “fucking” with the wrong guy.

The doomed Afghanistan surge would come back to bite him in the ass, however. A year after getting the war he wanted, P4 got stuck having to fight it himself. After Petraeus frenemy General Stanley McChrystal got fired for trashing the White House in a story I published in Rolling Stone, the warrior-scholar had to deploy yet again.

The Afghan war was a loser, always was, and always would be — Petraeus made horrible deals with guys like Abdul Razzik and the other Afghan gangsters and killed a bunch of people who didn’t need to be killed. And none of it mattered, or made a dent in his reputation. This was the tour where Broadwell joined him at headquarters, and it’s not so shocking that he’d need to find some solace, somewhere, to get that daily horror show out of his mind.

Basically, a 21'st century version of MacArthur. A General who also became a political force. He became the icon of the surge-a holics in 2007, leading the country into an even greater butcher's bill and accomplishing very little for the United States in the long run-except for prolonging our agony in Iraq by almost 5 years.

But Petraeus’ crash is more significant than the latest nonsense sex scandal. As President Obama says, our decade of war is coming to an end. The reputations of the men who were intimately involved in these years of foreign misadventure, where we tortured and supported torture, armed death squads, conducted nightly assassinations, killed innocents, and enabled corruption on an unbelievable scale, lie in tatters. McChrystal, Caldwell, and now Petraeus — the era of the celebrity general is over. Everyone is paying for their sins. (And before we should shed too many tears for the plight of King David and his men, remember, they’ll be taken care of with speaking fees and corporate board memberships, rewarded as instant millionaires by the same defense establishment they served so well.)

 Before Dave fell for Paula, we fell for Dave. He tried to convince us that heroes aren’t human. They are human, like us, and sometimes worse.

An end to the celebrity general? Who can talk an entire nation into a pointless conflict based on a concept that has been adequately discredited? That may be the best service David Petreaus performed for his country.  That we might be able to return to the more normal civil military relationship-along with a long overdue acknowledgement that wars without end are no way to run a foreign policy-the United States might actually start down a long road to recovery.

4 responses so far

Sep 24 2012

Don’t think they are getting the point here.

 I want write about the abomination that is the Romney campaign-and the failed dirt digging that is the Liars Club and their reaction to a reasonable statement. John Cole framed it well when he voiced the same sentiment I have:

 

What a crazy position for an American President to take- to actually focus on American security concerns and American foreign policy goals. It’s almost like Obama understands we are not an Israeli client state.

Call me an anti-Semite, but I guess I just have no problem with my President looking out for US foreign policy goals. Crazy, that.

 

Five trips to Israel in the last year have convinced me of a couple of things: 1) Israel is a vital ally of the United States and will remain so, and nothing this President has done has effectively denied that fact. In fact he's worked steadily and privately to strengthen the United States support for Israel. 2) Israelis are among the most obstinate and unreasonable people on the earth. I know that will offend some people-but its the truth. Yes there is a historical background for it-but time has marched on, and despite what the religious right believes, Jerusalem is not at the center of the world vortex right now.  Americans, as a whole, do not understand what Israel is really like-rather they have a preconceived idea of what they think it is like.

Finally, Israel's interests and ours are not in complete alignment. No nations is-but particularly the interest of a nation that is founded, rightly or wrongly, as a religious state. Or the secular representation of a particular religion. It is natural, that in the course of events-Israel and the US will disagree.  That does not make the US any less of a friend nor does it make the Israeli whining about certain matters nothing more than noise on particular issues. The President was right to say that and the folks over at the Weekly Standard can just go suck eggs. There is more to foreign policy than the views of AIPAC.

William Kristol and Benjamin Netenyahu should both realize that.

There! I feel better for having gotten that off of my chest. There are others who agree with me.

And here we see the perils of believing your own hype — apparently Bibi and friends actuallybelieved the idea of the all-powerful Israel Lobby. Whether through Romney's bald-faced pandering to that perceived lobby with his ugly comments about the cultural inferiority of Palestinians or, more shockingly, through Netanyahu's decision to take sides in the 2012 presidential campaign, they seem to think that if they can portray Obama as "weak on Israel" they will materially advance their own causes. It's worth noting, of course, that those interests are different. For Romney, the approach only works if it undermines Obama in key states, notably Florida. For Netanyahu, it would work if the fear of losing Jewish support pushed Obama to get visibly tougher on Iran, to accept, for example, the Israeli leader's call for clearly demarked and more aggressive "red lines" with Iran.

3 responses so far

May 24 2011

Unrequired hysteria.

I have been watching with considerable interest, the generally unhinged reaction of many prominent mil-blogs and other commentaries about President Obama’s speech last Thursday regarding Israel and the Palestinians. It would be funny, if the consequences were not so serious.

The most unhinged reactions I have read to date-have come from several sources, retired military officers ( many of whom ought to know their history better), hysterical Fox News commentators,  and today’s outraged column in the Wall Street Journal. Obama hates Israel. Obama is picking on poor little beleaguered Israel. The Palestinians are thugs and terrorists and have no right to settle in the holy land of Zion. Why can’t Obama just leave Israel alone?

This of course leads, in the American context, to the not so subtle innuendo’s from all of the usual suspects. Obama must be a Muslim not to support America’s best buddy in the whole world, he’s obviously arrogant, and he’s throwing Israel under the bus.  Israel, in their eyes, has done nothing wrong. Those settlements in the West Bank?  Just good business-not colonization of in support of the goal of Yeretz Israel. Don’t even think about calling it an occupation! Bibi says so.  Israeli-and more specifically Likud obstructionism to any settlement with the Palestinians? Just plain good faith diplomacy.

Now I will put my cards on the table-if I had my way, a third party along the lines of the British (preferably Britain) and their mandate would administer Palestine-just as was done in the years prior to World War II. I base that wish on the fact that for the long term I: 1) Do not believe a Palestinian state is viable along the West Bank and 2) I don’t think that Israel wants or can, come to a long term settlement with Palestinian authority.

Of course that is just nostalgic and wishful thinking on my part. It’s not going to happen-nor is it representative of what the current situation on the ground,  its sheer historical fantasy on my part.

And fantasy is what it seems Americans love to indulge in when it comes to Israel. Commentators over at OPFOR-when they are not attacking anyone who supports Obama’s speech as a raging anti-semite, are indulging in some historical fantasies of their own.

Fantasy #1.

Obama’s statements differ from previous US presidents. Flash traffic sports fans-they don’t.

But on substance, what did we learn yesterday? Certainly not that a Palestinian state must be “based on” the 1967 borders. Why this has been described as some kind of radical betrayal of Israel (“thrown under the bus”, in Mitt Romney’s words), is utterly beyond me. When Bill Clinton pushed the same thing, Aaron David Miller said America was acting as “Israel’s lawyer”. George W. Bush, whom Israelis saw as a staunch supporter, said the same. According to my colleague in Jerusalem, the innovation seems to have been the invocation of “1967″ in so many words. Why this is substantial is a mystery to me.

As the same colleague also mentions, there was an innovation, one not of substance but of sequencing—always close to the heart of these negotiations, since everyone knows what the substance must be. Mr Obama talked about settling borders and security first, and refugees and Jerusalem later. The more intransigent Israelis and their American supporters dislike this; they want a comprehensive settlement or nothing. But it’s not clear to me why this is the best option, even from their point of view. Israel is going to give up most of the West Bank in any settlement, and will and must only do so with security guarantees, as Mr Obama reiterated today. Land-for-peace would be most of what Israel wants. Meanwhile the status quo on refugees and Jerusalem favour Israel, which has its way on both at the moment.

Fantasy#2

The 1967 borders are indefensible. First of all-this statement presumes that Israel will actually end up back at the 67 borders. The odds of that happening are slim to none. For one thing-there is no way on God’s green earth that Israel will ever give up East Jerusalem, and there is no opposing Army that would even have the gumption to try. What part of “mutually agreed land swaps” did you not understand? ( or care to listen to). Since most folks are learning impaired when it comes to Israel, let me show you a visual aid that will show you why the 67 borders have to be the starting point for a final settlement:

If you have ever been to Israel and to the West Bank, as I have, you will know right away why Israel has the land to the East in the West Bank-that’s where the flat farmland is. The territory rises in elevation as you head west towards Jerusalem. Furthermore, the big takeaway from that graphic is that “Palestinian living space”, such as it is-is an archipelago of distinct ghettos. I guess I am the only person who appreciates the irony of a state that was formed as a result of outrage about rounding people up into ghettos and placing movement restrictions on them-doing the same thing to other people 40+ years later. The reason the territory is so chopped up? Jewish settlements that Israel was never supposed to allow in the first place, but did as a way to appease its orthodox population.”The settler movement could put down settlements in much of the sparsely populated south of Israel proper with no problem. Instead, they insist on taking Palestinian land. They are not colonizing the West Bank only to make it more ‘secure’ (they are making it less so), but rather out of greed, ambition, and expansionism. It is not about defense, it is about offense.”  (and water availability).

Those orange spots are not a way to create a viable state-and Netanyahu knows it. And that’s perfectly fine with him. But it shouldn’t be for any thinking American. The 1967 lines dividing Israel from the West Bank and from Gaza have always  been Washington’s point of departure for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But now, for the first time, the four digits have become formal American policy.

Now that position has a pretty firm basis in international law-but this is where the irrational factor comes into play with American supporters of Israel. They don’t care-they just want the Palestinians to go away and die. After all, in the eyes of some wild eyed conservatives-they are all terrorist savages anyway.

There are only a couple of problems I can think of with this line of thinking. 1) They are not going away and dying-they are breeding like rabbits. and 2) they have no place to go. Any chance for them to go someplace else evaporated in 1988 when Jordan ceded its claim to the West Bank to the PLO.  The Oslo accords formalize that by paving the way to a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. That peace treaty recognized the Mandate border between Palestine and Jordan, but specifically makes note that the treaty does no prejudice the status of the territories occupied( there is that pesky word again) by the Israeli military. Don’t forget too, that in 1987, Jordan and Israel actually tried to negotiate giving the West Bank ( but not East Jerusalem) back to Jordan, but the deal was nixed by Yitzak Shamir. So like it or not-Jordan is not a part of this picture anymore.

Fantasy #3

‘Jordan is Palestine’. Good luck with that. King Abdullah is not that stupid-and it also ignores the reason Britain broke Jordan away from the Palestine to begin with.  See Fantasy 2 above.

Fantasy #4

Israel is ringed by enemies on all sides, so it has to take drastic action to defend itself. Oh really? Those peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt don’t mean anything? And last time I checked-the Syrian military is a little busy right now trying to keep Al Asad in power. A better way to describe the situation is “Israel is ringing a lot of really pissed off people with no place to go“. And why not? Half of Palestinians in Gaza are unemployed and Israel will not allow them to export what they produce  and deeply restricts imports.  Restrictions within the West Bank make it difficult for Palestinians to commute to their places of employment and for goods to be transported to where they are needed. This has increased the costs of transportation and has thus led to lower profits for companies operating in the territories. Any wonder they are all pissed off?

It’s probably also a great time to point out that Israel is the only nation in the Levant with nuclear weapons and a military that outclasses any military,  with the sole exception of the United States.

However-Israel’s security rests on achieving a deal with the Palestinians. Because right now they are facing two ticking time bombs they can’t control. One is the “Arab Spring”:

Netanyahu ignored a very important historical reality on Friday in Washington, that Israel’s intractable enemies are always replaced with something worse. The PLO was replaced with Hezbollah in Lebanon and supplanted by Hamas in Gaza. There is a very real possibility that Hamas could be overtaken by an al-Qaeda inspired or affiliated group in the near future. Waiting for a more agreeable negotiating partner is an exercise in folly, if only because one has never appeared before.
On the other hand, I could be wrong. Problematically, that could be even worse for Israel. That would be widespread blooming of democracy in the Arab world. There is no reason to believe that democratic Arab governments would demand anything less than their autocratic ones do now. But they would have a great deal more credibility with the international community generally, and the United States in particular.
It should be remembered that America’s great democratic ally, Iraq, does not recognize Israel, nor does it denounce Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations. There is no reason to believe that any other democratic Arab government would behave any differently, but their positions might seem a tad more reasonable when unattached to names like Bashir Assad or Saddam Hussein.
Add to that the possibility that the Palestinians might have learned from their mistakes and come to understand that violent resistance isn’t going to get them anywhere. A peaceful intifada might be an irresistible force in the international community and could very well isolate Israel, especially an Israel with a hardline Likud government. There’s no way of knowing how even Israeli public opinion would react to demonstrations like the ones in Tahrir square, but it’s virtually certain that the American consensus in support of Israel would fracture.
 
 
 

 

The other is, the fact that for a population that hates sex-Palestinians sure seem to f*ck a lot:

The most likely outcome of Israel’s present course is a one state solution, achieved over decades, with much heartbreak and violence and ruined lives in the meantime. The Jews of Israel will likely end up like the Maronite Christians of Lebanon. France created Lebanon in 1920 for a then Christian majority, but Christian out-migration and rapid Muslim population growth reduced the Maronites to only about 22 percent of the population today if we count children. Likewise, Israeli Jews have already lost their majority among first-graders in what was Mandate Palestine in favor of Palestinians and Palestinian-Israelis. Current demographic trends will likely produce an Israel that is a third Arab by 2030 and that is not even counting the Occupied Territories. The instability in the Arab world and the Greater Middle East, which is growing, could well over time increase Jewish out-migration (out of sheer nervousness) so that it outstrips in-migration of Jews. I can’t see a way for Israel to escape this demographic and geopolitical fate and remain viable as a nation-state. Plans on the Israeli right to denaturalize and expel the 1.5 million Palestinian-Israelis are unrealistic and do not reckon with the likely backlash from the Arab world, which won’t remain weak and abject forever.

In summary-a whole lot of Americans would do well to look at Israel as it really is-not as they think it is. It’s not a Jewish version of America. It is a complicated society with some very unique things foisted upon because its foundation based on a religious basis and not a national one. More importantly, Israeli and American interests are not always aligned. None of this is to suggest that Washington should turn its back on the Jewish state. But this is also a time when a more evenhanded position on the conflict is desperately needed. That’s what Obama is trying to do-and if he has to kick Bibi in the nuts to do it-well I won’t cry salt tears. You know who told me that? David Petreaus:

“Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples [in the region].” His statement provoked controversy in Washington, but ask any seasoned Middle East observer and you’d be hard-pressed to find one who disagrees with the general’s assessment. It is not Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya which is the greatest source of anti-American attitudes in the Arab world — it is the continued lack of resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the view of many in the region that the United States has its thumb on the scale in favor of Israel.

At some point, you have to ask yourself the legitimate question of who is looking out not for Israel’s interests, but America’s. It certainly wasn’t the slobbering idiots on the floor of the US Congress today.

6 responses so far

Feb 28 2011

The unintended consequences.

When you make changes in haste-they seldom turn out to be good ones. What I am about to chronicle in this post is an example of a change made by these guys-that is 100% at odds with what they supposedly want from those they inflicted it on.

In their haste to show their rotund and ill-informed followers how manly they could be about cutting the federal budget, several really stupid cuts were made-that will end up costing the government more in the long run. The Reed Amendment to HR1 would do away with compatibility pay matches for Foreign Service officers serving overseas. Reed , an asshole Congressmen from New York’s 29th district proposed this as stopping “an automatic pay raise” to FSO’s when they leave DC and move to their posts overseas. Besides the obvious grandstanding of a cut that is in fact not a cut-it is a bad idea and counterproductive to getting the kind of people America wants in its foreign service.

The Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990 was adopted as a way to reduce the government-wide disparity between the public and private sectors and is a basic component of salary for all civilian Federal employees, based on annual survey data collected by the Department of Labor. As a result of this law, every federal government employee working in the United States received “locality pay” as part of their salary. Until 2009, the only United States government civilian employees who did not receive this part of their salary were entry-level and mid-level Foreign Service personnel serving their country overseas. All others, including senior level State Department officers, and other agencies represented overseas, such as CIA officers under State Department cover, DOJ and DHS, have locality pay factored into their base salary.

Locality pay for Foreign Service personnel and other federal employees serving in Washington, D.C. is now approximately 25%.  Under the law prior to 2009, Foreign Service personnel serving abroad sacrificed this part of their salaries and took large pay cuts to their base salaries.  Those posted in Washington earned more money than colleagues posted in Pakistan, Yemen, and Beirut to name a few.  As a result, because retirement packages are based upon base pay (including “locality pay”), Foreign Service officers representing their country abroad received smaller retirement packages than their colleagues who stayed in Washington. This was not sustainable and in 2009 a bi-partisan solution was found to correct this policy problem. Closing the pay gap is not a pay raise — it is a correction of a 17- year-old unintended inequity in the worldwide Foreign Service pay schedule—an inequity that grew every year.

Today thousands of Foreign Service employees serve in hardship assignments around the globe, which now constitute nearly 60% of all posts thanks to: the fact that there are too many nations and a lot of them are basket cases and because that was what was stated as a goal for the state department. One of the persistent raps against the state department is that they are doing enough to support the War on Terror.  As business model-handing someone a 24% percent pay cut when they complete FSO training is a bad way to encourage that behavior. There has been strong bipartisan recognition that it is time to invest in diplomacy and development.  Penalizing Foreign Service employees – specifically those of us at the junior and mid-level – whose mission is to serve overseas to advance and protect our national interests by cutting their base pay undervalues the importance of the Foreign Service.

Now I have personal experience with folks who work with and in US Embassies. As a part of my stint in Romania last year-I was embedded in the Embassy splitting my time between it and the Romanian Ministry of Defense. The State Department personnel I worked with were very professional-put in some pretty decent hours and were always courteous and helpful to the things that I needed to get done.

I also have another kind of experience with Foreign Service Officers-the kind I think guys like Reed just don’t appreciate.

When my sister was killed in Panama back in 1997-it was a Consular Officer, working in American Citizen services in the Panamanian Embassy who helped our family get through a very rough time. He went above and beyond what he was required to do-to make sure all of the logistical arrangements and the other ancillary things that happen in an incident of that kind were handled with grace and dignity. As result-I did not have to get on a plane and fly down there, such was the totality of the work that he did. He has our undying gratitude-and he certainly earned every penny of his salary that month.

And in the end -it really does not save a whole lot of money, especially when you hold it up to the amount we are wasting supporting three wars in places we have no business being.

I have written my Senators and asked them to ensure this gets deleted from the continuing resolution. You should too.  America gets talented people to apply for the Foreign Service, the selection process is long and competitive, and contrary to popular belief-they do not all start out as fresh college graduates. Some actually transition from other careers later in life-usually taking a pay cut to do so because they want to serve their country. The country should incentivize the service-and enjoy the results. You get what you pay for.

4 responses so far

Feb 07 2011

The King’s Speech

The S.O. and I went to see this movie this past weekend. Believe it or not we had a hard time getting two seats together-so crowded was the theater.

We both loved the movie-even if it did take more than a couple of liberties with history. Me, because I like any movie that talks about that time when the world was as its should be- with the British Empire ruling  25% of the world’s population. ( India of course,  being as it should be with the Union Jack flying over Dehli and Gandhi just an annoying fakir). I sometimes wonder if that was the age I was meant to live in. Of course it would have been a dicey thing-in that I would have to be coming of age in 1919 so as to be old enough not to get sucked into World War II downstream. ( Impossible-no matter how many times I think it out, since being in the Royal Navy is always a part of these scenarios-I would have been in the thick of the second conflict. ) And of course, then there’s the need to be rich enough to be of the right class……….

But I digress.

Nonetheless, the movie is good story telling-and very well done. Edward VIII comes out like a real louse and Wallis Simpson gets a thorough going over , being portrayed as a real shrew. Afterwards I went back and researched a bit-it would seem they may have gotten this bit right. I’ve often wondered if later on in life, Edward did not sit out on the veranda in France and wonder what might have been…………….

Sometimes, I think I know how he must have felt.

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