politics

What Would Be The Result of Quitting AfPak?

I do not really agree with my question — assuming it is meant seriously. I think most of us feel we need to be operating in AfPak.

But something is telling me to ask it. Here are my answers:

1. We would take a potential 50,000 US troops and others out of harm’s way. If we use 9/11 as a measure (moral calculus), we would be saving the lives of perhaps as many (or more) as were killed back then.

2. We could say we are not in the business of extending democracy to nations that prove incapable of maintaining it. We might be aware that, even in the US, it is not an easy thing to maintain a democracy.

3. We could say that our intention is to protect our own citizens at home and abroad and that our response to any terrorist acts will be swift and proportional. In other words if someone pulled something off in the US or killed Americans abroad, we would be prepared to make an immediate response, limited by moral calculus.

4. We could argue that it simply has not worked — even with the best will in the world — to try to change a country that has not been able to change itself. And that henceforth we would contribute heavily to create a greater UN capability to assist any country that wishes to grow democratic institutions, have elections, etc.

5. We could argue that the present course in AfPak is so reminiscent of other military failures in the past, that even though we mean well, we have no confidence that this helps.

6. We could suspend drone attacks and use them for proportional responses in the event of further acts of international terrorism. We could internationalize this process to share both costs and responsibility.

In essence we would be doing what I believe we should have done after 9/11. We didn’t and look what happened. Nothing says that eight years from now we might not be saying the same thing about a costly and failed AfPak strategy.

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politics

Taliban Bluster Downward Slope

TALIBAN BLUSTER

The “leader” of the Taliban in Pakistan is an Osama wannabe named Baitullah Mehsud and he has just subtracted one digit from my personal Success Meter for the Obama Strategy for Afpak.

The scale goes from 10 — serious — to 1 — manageable. In other words our juvenile delinquent enemy has just signaled some serious weakness. Subtract one point.

Though we had credible 9/11 warning, we never had anything as brazen as BM’s scare effort. It speaks to me less of a capable operation poised to do real damage and more of bravado in an environment of substantial disorganization and drift.

I have no taste for conflict of any sort, as if that made any difference, but I am warming to watch our “enemy” try to pick apart a target range when we are moving in the right direction and they are more and more marginalized by their own behavior and their apparent allegiance to the priestly superstitions that underlie terrorism of all stripes.

The Success Meter can go the other way in the event of a mistake by the Obama forces. Today, while the MSM is crying scary, I am feeling a tad safer.

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Kennan Containment > Obama Foreign Policy 6

Continuing a series of posts based on the famous missive that helped define the United States position in the world following the Second World War. I am taking relevant sections of George Kennan’s “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” (1947) and transposing them to suggest that the policy of containment he proposed then, in relation to the Soviet Union, can and perhaps should, be applied to current conflicts, even though there are radical differences between the Cold War era and now.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL KENNAN DOCUMENT

CLICK HERE FOR THE SERIES TO DATE

This means we are going to continue for long time to find the Russians difficult to deal with. It does not mean that they should be considered as embarked upon a do-or-die program to overthrow our society by a given date. The theory of the inevitability of the eventual fall of capitalism has the fortunate connotation that there is no hurry about it. The forces of progress can take their time in preparing the final coup de gr?ce. meanwhile, what is vital is that the “Socialist fatherland” — that oasis of power which has already been won for Socialism in the person of the Soviet Union — should be cherished and defended by all good Communists at home and abroad, its fortunes promoted, its enemies badgered and confounded. The promotion of premature, “adventuristic” revolutionary projects abroad which might embarrass Soviet power in any way would be an inexcusable, even a counter-revolutionary act. The cause of Socialism is the support and promotion of Soviet power, as defined in Moscow.

This brings us to the second of the concepts important to contemporary Soviet outlook. That is the infallibility of the Kremlin. The Soviet concept of power, which permits no focal points of organization outside the Party itself, requires that the Party leadership remain in theory the sole repository of truth. For if truth were to be found elsewhere, there would be justification for its expression in organized activity. But it is precisely that which the Kremlin cannot and will not permit.

The leadership of the Communist Party is therefore always right, and has been always right ever since in 1929 Stalin formalized his personal power by announcing that decisions of the Politburo were being taken unanimously.

On the principle of infallibility there rests the iron discipline of the Communist Party. In fact, the two concepts are mutually self-supporting. Perfect discipline requires recognition of infallibility. Infallibility requires the observance of discipline. And the two go far to determine the behaviorism of the entire Soviet apparatus of power. But their effect cannot be understood unless a third factor be taken into account: namely, the fact that the leadership is at liberty to put forward for tactical purposes any particular thesis which it finds useful to the cause at any particular moment and to require the faithful and unquestioning acceptance of that thesis by the members of the movement as a whole. This means that truth is not a constant but is actually created, for all intents and purposes, by the Soviet leaders themselves. It may vary from week to week, from month to month. It is nothing absolute and immutable — nothing which flows from objective reality. It is only the most recent manifestation of the wisdom of those in whom the ultimate wisdom is supposed to reside, because they represent the logic of history. The accumulative effect of these factors is to give to the whole subordinate apparatus of Soviet power an unshakable stubbornness and steadfastness in its orientation. This orientation can be changed at will by the Kremlin but by no other power. Once a given party line has been laid down on a given issue of current policy, the whole Soviet governmental machine, including the mechanism of diplomacy, moves inexorably along the prescribed path, like a persistent toy automobile wound up and headed in a given direction, stopping only when it meets with some unanswerable force. The individuals who are the components of this machine are unamenable to argument or reason, which comes to them from outside sources. Their whole training has taught them to mistrust and discount the glib persuasiveness of the outside world. Like the white dog before the phonograph, they hear only the “master’s voice.” And if they are to be called off from the purposes last dictated to them, it is the master who must call them off. Thus the foreign representative cannot hope that his words will make any impression on them. The most that he can hope is that they will be transmitted to those at the top, who are capable of changing the party line. But even those are not likely to be swayed by any normal logic in the words of the bourgeois representative. Since there can be no appeal to common purposes, there can be no appeal to common mental approaches. For this reason, facts speak louder than words to the ears of the Kremlin; and words carry the greatest weight when they have the ring of reflecting, or being backed up by, facts of unchallengeable validity.

Transposition:

This means we are going to continue for long time to find the terror movement difficult to deal with. It does not mean that they should be considered as embarked upon a do-or-die program to overthrow our society by a given date. The theory of the inevitability of the eventual fall of the secularizing West and the restoration of the Islamic world has the fortunate connotation that there is no hurry about it. The forces of terror can take their time in preparing the final coup de grace. meanwhile, what is vital is that the notion of jihad — that oasis of power which has already been won for the movement in the person of Bin Laden — should be cherished and defended by all good Muslims at home and abroad, its fortunes promoted, its enemies badgered and confounded. The promotion of premature, “adventuristic” revolutionary projects abroad which might embarrass this effortin any way would be inexcusable.

This brings us to the second of the concepts … the infallibility of the terror movement …. which permits no focal points of organization outside its own amorphous but focused network of cells and training facilities. The movement demands that its leadership bee seen as the sole repository of truth. For if truth were to be found elsewhere, there would be justification for its expression in organized activity.

The leadership of the terror effort is therefore always right, and has been always right.

On the principle of infallibility there rests the iron discipline of the movement. In fact, the two concepts are mutually self-supporting. Perfect discipline requires recognition of infallibility. Infallibility requires the observance of discipline. And the two go far to determine the behaviorism of the entire apparatus of power.

But their effect cannot be understood unless a third factor be taken into account: namely, the fact that the leadership is at liberty to put forward for tactical purposes any particular thesis which it finds useful to the cause at any particular moment and to require the faithful and unquestioning acceptance of that thesis by the members of the movement as a whole. This means that truth is not a constant but is actually created, for all intents and purposes, by the terror movement’s leaders themselves. It may vary from week to week, from month to month. It is nothing absolute and immutable — nothing which flows from objective reality. It is only the most recent manifestation of the wisdom of those in whom the ultimate wisdom is supposed to reside, because they represent the logic of history.

The accumulative effect of these factors is to give to the whole subordinate apparatus an unshakable stubbornness and steadfastness in its orientation. This orientation can be changed at will by the terror leadership but by no other power. Once a given line has been laid down on a given issue of current policy, the whole movement moves inexorably along the prescribed path, like a persistent toy automobile wound up and headed in a given direction, stopping only when it meets with some unanswerable force.

The individuals who are the components of this machine are not amenable to argument or reason, which comes to them from outside sources. Their whole training has taught them to mistrust and discount the glib persuasiveness of the outside world. Like the white dog before the phonograph, they hear only the “master’s voice.” And if they are to be called off from the purposes last dictated to them, it is the master who must call them off.

Thus we cannot hope that words will make any impression on them. The most that we can hope is that they will be transmitted to those at the top, who are capable of changing the party line. But even those are not likely to be swayed by any normal logic in our words. Since there can be no appeal to common purposes, there can be no appeal to common mental approaches. For this reason, facts speak louder than words to the ears of the terror movement; and words carry the greatest weight when they have the ring of reflecting, or being backed up by, facts of unchallengeable validity.

Addendum: I take the meaning of this to be that we do not waste words explaining how wrong the terror effort is or skewering its warped morality. Rather we act in a way that is clearly in contrast to and whose results are clearly preferable to the purposes of the terror movement.

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politics

Kennan Containment > Obama Foreign Policy 5

Continuing a series of posts based on the famous missive that helped define the United States position in the world following the Second World War. I am taking relevant sections of George Kennan’s “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” (1947) and transposing them to suggest that the policy of containment he proposed then, in relation to the Soviet Union, can and perhaps should, be applied to current conflicts, even though there are radical differences between the Cold War era and now.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL KENNAN DOCUMENT

CLICK HERE FOR THE SERIES TO DATE

Original:

So much for the historical background. What does it spell in terms of the political personality of Soviet power as we know it today?

Of the original ideology, nothing has been officially junked. Belief is maintained in the basic badness of capitalism, in the inevitability of its destruction, in the obligation of the proletariat to assist in that destruction and to take power into its own hands. But stress has come to be laid primarily on those concepts which relate most specifically to the Soviet regime itself: to its position as the sole truly Socialist regime in a dark and misguided world, and to the relationships of power within it.

The first of these concepts is that of the innate antagonism between capitalism and Socialism. We have seen how deeply that concept has become imbedded in foundations of Soviet power. It has profound implications for Russia’s conduct as a member of international society. It means that there can never be on Moscow’s side an sincere assumption of a community of aims between the Soviet Union and powers which are regarded as capitalist. It must inevitably be assumed in Moscow that the aims of the capitalist world are antagonistic to the Soviet regime, and therefore to the interests of the peoples it controls. If the Soviet government occasionally sets it signature to documents which would indicate the contrary, this is to regarded as a tactical maneuver permissible in dealing with the enemy (who is without honor) and should be taken in the spirit of caveat emptor. Basically, the antagonism remains. It is postulated. And from it flow many of the phenomena which we find disturbing in the Kremlin’s conduct of foreign policy: the secretiveness, the lack of frankness, the duplicity, the wary suspiciousness, and the basic unfriendliness of purpose. These phenomena are there to stay, for the foreseeable future. There can be variations of degree and of emphasis. When there is something the Russians want from us, one or the other of these features of their policy may be thrust temporarily into the background; and when that happens there will always be Americans who will leap forward with gleeful announcements that “the Russians have changed,” and some who will even try to take credit for having brought about such “changes.” But we should not be misled by tactical maneuvers. These characteristics of Soviet policy, like the postulate from which they flow, are basic to the internal nature of Soviet power, and will be with us, whether in the foreground or the background, until the internal nature of Soviet power is changed.

Transposition:

So much for the historical background. What does it spell in terms of the political personality of the terror movement as we know it today?

Of the original ideology, nothing has been officially junked. Belief is maintained in the basic badness of the secular West, in the inevitability of its destruction, in the obligation of good Muslims to assist in that destruction and to take power into its own hands.

Importantly, the issue today is not an innate antagonism between capitalism and Socialism. What dominated the Cold War is no longer pertinent in a globalized world where, to use a passing dialectic, capitalism and socialism may be said to have experienced a synthesis, From the viewpoint of the terror movement what is noxious is not the profit motive but its results, particularly in the domination of the territory (the Peninsula) which they regard as their sacred turf.

The result is that there can never be a sincere assumption of a community of aims between the terror movement and its adherents and powers which are regarded as relativist, secularized antagonists, along with leaders in the Peninsula nation who veer in the direction of this globalizing stance. It must inevitably be assumed by the terror movemen that the aims of the globalizing world are antagonistic to the entire community whose interests it claims to represent and foster.

The clear wedge that exists in the current situation is between a spectrum understanding which allows for flexibility in the globalizing “enemy” and the minority status of the terror movement and the hostility to it within its own constituency. Both of these factors create a vast opportunity for the globalizing world,

But as I shall argue, this opportunity is given up every time it is assumed that the terror movement can be overcome by frontal military incursion, particularly into the territory which it regards as sacred.

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politics

Kennan Containment > Obama Foreign Policy 4

Continuing a series of posts based on the famous missive that helped define the United States position in the world following the Second World War. I am taking relevant sections of George Kennan’s “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” (1947) and transposing them to suggest that the policy of containment he proposed then, in relation to the Soviet Union, can and perhaps should, be applied to current conflicts, even though there are radical differences between the Cold War era and now.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL KENNAN DOCUMENT

CLICK HERE FOR THE SERIES TO DATE

Original:

Now the outstanding circumstance concerning the Soviet regime is that down to the present day this process of political consolidation has never been completed and the men in the Kremlin have continued to be predominantly absorbed with the struggle to secure and make absolute the power which they seized in November 1917. They have endeavored to secure it primarily against forces at home, within Soviet society itself. But they have also endeavored to secure it against the outside world. For ideology, as we have seen, taught them that the outside world was hostile and that it was their duty eventually to overthrow the political forces beyond their borders. Then powerful hands of Russian history and tradition reached up to sustain them in this feeling. Finally, their own aggressive intransigence with respect to the outside world began to find its own reaction; and they were soon forced, to use another Gibbonesque phrase, “to chastise the contumacy” which they themselves had provoked. It is an undeniable privilege of every man to prove himself right in the thesis that the world is his enemy; for if he reiterates it frequently enough and makes it the background of his conduct he is bound eventually to be right.

Let it be stressed again that subjectively these men probably did not seek absolutism for its own sake. They doubtless believed — and found it easy to believe — that they alone knew what was good for society and that they would accomplish that good once their power was secure and unchallengeable. But in seeking that security of their own rule they were prepared to recognize no restrictions, either of God or man, on the character of their methods. And until such time as that security might be achieved, they placed far down on their scale of operational priorities the comforts and happiness of the peoples entrusted to their care.

Transposition:

Now the outstanding circumstance concerning the terror movement is that down to the present day this process of political consolidation has never been completed and the men (sic) who lead it have continued to be predominantly absorbed with the struggle to secure and make absolute their power. Within their own organizations and within the wider societies where they operate they have also endeavored to secure and extend their power against. For ideology, as we have seen, taught them that the outside world was hostile and that it was their duty eventually to overthrow the political forces beyond their borders. Then powerful hands of Islamic history and tradition reached up to sustain them in this feeling. Finally, their own aggressive intransigence with respect to the outside world began to find its own reaction; and they were soon forced, to use another Gibbonesque phrase, “to chastise the contumacy” which they themselves had provoked. It is an undeniable privilege of every man to prove himself right in the thesis that the world is his enemy; for if he reiterates it frequently enough and makes it the background of his conduct he is bound eventually to be right.

Let it be stressed again that subjectively these men probably did not seek absolutism for its own sake. They doubtless believed — and found it easy to believe — that they alone knew what was good for society and that they would accomplish that good once their power was secure and unchallengeable. But in seeking that security of their own rule they were prepared to recognize no restrictions, either of God or man, on the character of their methods. And until such time as that security might be achieved, they placed far down on their scale of operational priorities the comforts and happiness of the peoples entrusted to their care.

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Kennan Containment > Obama Foreign Policy 3

Continuing a series of posts based on the famous missive that helped define the United States position in the world following the Second World War. I am taking relevant sections of George Kennan’s “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” (1947) and transposing them to suggest that the policy of containment he proposed then, in relation to the Soviet Union, can and perhaps should, be applied to current conflicts, even though there are radical differences between the Cold War era and now.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL KENNAN DOCUMENT

CLICK HERE FOR THE SERIES TO DATE

Original:

Now it must be noted that through all the years of preparation for revolution, the attention of these men, as indeed of Marx himself, had been centered less on the future form which Socialism would take than on the necessary overthrow of rival power which, in their view, had to precede the introduction of Socialism. Their views, therefore, on the positive program to be put into effect, once power was attained, were for the most part nebulous, visionary and impractical. beyond the nationalization of industry and the expropriation of large private capital holdings there was no agreed program. The treatment of the peasantry, which, according to the Marxist formulation was not of the proletariat, had always been a vague spot in the pattern of Communist thought: and it remained an object of controversy and vacillation for the first ten years of Communist power.

The circumstances of the immediate post-revolution period — the existence in Russia of civil war and foreign intervention, together with the obvious fact that the Communists represented only a tiny minority of the Russian people — made the establishment of dictatorial power a necessity. The experiment with war Communism” and the abrupt attempt to eliminate private production and trade had unfortunate economic consequences and caused further bitterness against the new revolutionary regime. While the temporary relaxation of the effort to communize Russia, represented by the New Economic Policy, alleviated some of this economic distress and thereby served its purpose, it also made it evident that the “capitalistic sector of society” was still prepared to profit at once from any relaxation of governmental pressure, and would, if permitted to continue to exist, always constitute a powerful opposing element to the Soviet regime and a serious rival for influence in the country. Somewhat the same situation prevailed with respect to the individual peasant who, in his own small way, was also a private producer.

Transposition:

Now it must be noted that through all the years of preparation for their attacks, the attention of these men (sic), as indeed of Bin Laden himself, had been centered less on the future form which the reclamation of the “peninsula” would take than on the necessary overthrow of rival power which, in their view, had to precede the takeover. Their views, therefore, on the positive program to be put into effect, once power was attained, were for the most part nebulous, visionary and impractical. There was no agreed program. There was most generally a fissure between activists like Bin Laden and the clerics who from place to place led or dictated to movements that embraced terrorism.

The circumstances of the the period leading up to 9/11 helped to solidify the resolve of the movement by achieving advances without suffering major setbacks. 9/11 marked a serious advance and served mainly to galvanize both sides in the conflict, while reducing the Western response almost to a childish war mentality with virtually no appreciation for the nature of the opposition or understanding of its basic aims. The leverage of 9/11 and the aftermath probably was as seismic as the forces that created the Soviet Revolution. The financial jolt to the “West” more than likely amazed the attackers as much as it surprised Americans.

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Kennan Containment > Obama Foreign Policy — 2

Continuing a series of posts based on the famous missive that helped define the United States position in the world following the Second World War. I am taking relevant sections of George Kennan’s “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” (1947) and transposing them to suggest that the policy of containment he proposed then, in relation to the Soviet Union, can and perhaps should, be applied to current conflicts, even though there are radical differences between the Cold War era and now.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL KENNAN DOCUMENT

CLICK HERE FOR THE SERIES TO DATE

Original:

The rest may be outlined in Lenin’s own words: “Unevenness of economic and political development is the inflexible law of capitalism. It follows from this that the victory of Socialism may come originally in a few capitalist countries or even in a single capitalist country. The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and having organized Socialist production at home, would rise against the remaining capitalist world, drawing to itself in the process the oppressed classes of other countries.” It must be noted that there was no assumption that capitalism would perish without proletarian revolution. A final push was needed from a revolutionary proletariat movement in order to tip over the tottering structure. But it was regarded as inevitable that sooner of later that push be given.

For 50 years prior to the outbreak of the Revolution, this pattern of thought had exercised great fascination for the members of the Russian revolutionary movement. Frustrated, discontented, hopeless of finding self-expression — or too impatient to seek it — in the confining limits of the Tsarist political system, yet lacking wide popular support or their choice of bloody revolution as a means of social betterment, these revolutionists found in Marxist theory a highly convenient rationalization for their own instinctive desires. It afforded pseudo-scientific justification for their impatience, for their categoric denial of all value in the Tsarist system, for their yearning for power and revenge and for their inclination to cut corners in the pursuit of it. It is therefore no wonder that they had come to believe implicitly in the truth and soundness of the Marxist-Leninist teachings, so congenial to their own impulses and emotions. Their sincerity need not be impugned. This is a phenomenon as old as human nature itself. It is has never been more aptly described than by Edward Gibbon, who wrote in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: “From enthusiasm to imposture the step is perilous and slippery; the demon of Socrates affords a memorable instance of how a wise man may deceive himself, how a good man may deceive others, how the conscience may slumber in a mixed and middle state between self-illusion and voluntary fraud.” And it was with this set of conceptions that the members of the Bolshevik Party entered into power.

Transposition:

The rest may be outlined in Osama Bin Laden’s own words: “Every Muslim must rise to defend his religion. The wind of faith is blowing and the wind of change is blowing to remove evil from the Peninsula of Mohammad, peace be upon him.

“As to America, I say to it and its people a few words: I swear to God that America will not live in peace before peace reigns in Palestine, and before all the army of infidels depart the land of Mohammad, peace be upon him.

God is the Greatest and glory be to Islam.” SOURCE It must be noted that there was no assumption that America and other enemies would perish without a growing, essentially religion-based movement. A final push is needed to reclaim the territory related to Islam.

For more than 50 years, this pattern of thought has exercised great fascination for those in militant movements, including non-Islamic movements that have sought to achieve their objectives by means of terror. Frustrated, discontented, hopeless of finding self-expression — or too impatient to seek it — in the confining limits of their political systems, yet lacking wide popular support or their choice of bloody and suicidal terror as a means of social betterment, many found in the simple aims of Bin Laden a highly convenient rationalization for their own instinctive desires. It afforded pseudo-theological justification for their impatience, for their categoric denial of all value in the secularized Western system, for their yearning for power and revenge and for their inclination to cut corners in the pursuit of it. It is therefore no wonder that they had come to believe implicitly in the truth and soundness of Bin Laden and related teachings, so congenial to their own impulses and emotions. Their sincerity need not be impugned. This is a phenomenon as old as human nature itself. It is has never been more aptly described than by Edward Gibbon, who wrote in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: “From enthusiasm to imposture the step is perilous and slippery; the demon of Socrates affords a memorable instance of how a wise man may deceive himself, how a good man may deceive others, how the conscience may slumber in a mixed and middle state between self-illusion and voluntary fraud.” And it was with this set of conceptions that the various terror-based movements have sought to achieve power.

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