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We Give Up - A Festival of Lies
Old 03-25-2012, 19:13   #1
Richard
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We Give Up - A Festival of Lies

Worthwhile reading.

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We Give Up
VDHanson, 8 mAR 2012

Americans — left, right, Democrats, and Republicans — are all sick of thankless nation-building in the Middle East. Yet democratization was not our first choice, but rather a last resort after other methods failed.

The United States long ago supplied Afghan insurgents, who expelled the Soviets after a decade of fighting. Then we left. The country descended into even worse medievalism under the Taliban. So after removing the Taliban, who had hosted the perpetrators of 9/11, we promised in 2001 to stay on.

We won the first Gulf War in 1991. Then most of our forces left the region. The result was the mass murder of the Iraqi Kurds and Shiites, twelve years of no-fly zones, and a failed oil-for-food embargo of Saddam’s Iraq. So after removing Saddam in 2003, we tried to leave behind something better.

In the last ten years, the United States has spent more than $1 trillion, and thousands of American lives have been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both places seem far better off than they were before American intervention — at least for a while longer.

Yet the Iraqis now bear Americans little good will. They seem friendlier to Iran and Syria than to their liberators. In Afghanistan, riots continue over the mistaken burning of some defaced Korans, despite serial American apologies.

How about the option of bombing the bad guys and then just staying clear? We just did that to the terrorist-friendly Gaddafi dictatorship in Libya. But now that Gaddafi is gone, there is chaos. Islamic gangs torture and execute black Africans who supported the deposed regime, according to press reports. British World War II cemeteries that were honored during 70 years of Libyan kings and dictators could not survive six months of a “free” Libya. In Benghazi, gangs just ransacked and defaced the monuments of the British war dead.

Not having boots on the ground may ensure that endless chaos will consume the hope of a calm post-Gaddafi Libya. That was also true of Somalia and Lebanon after American troops were attacked and abruptly left.

How about another option: aid and words of encouragement only? We have urged Egyptian reform, under both George W. Bush and now Barack Obama. When protesters forced the removal of dictator Hosni Mubarak, the United States approved. It even appears likely that we will keep sending Egypt annual subsidies of more than $1.5 billion — as we have for more than 30 years. Yet anti-American Islamists are now the dominant force in Egyptian politics. American aid workers were recently arrested and threatened with trial by new Egyptian reformers.

Still another American choice would be not to nation-build, bomb, or even to get near a Middle Eastern country — as we seem to be doing with Iran and Syria. The United States has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since the shah left in 1979. Until the Obama administration desperately tried to reestablish contacts with the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria by appointing a new ambassador, there had been nearly six years of estrangement.

Yet Iran is nearing its goal of obtaining a nuclear weapon both to threaten Israel and to bully other oil-exporting regimes of the Persian Gulf. The Syrian government is now butchering thousands of its own citizens with impunity.

A final option would be to return to the old policy of reestablishing friendly relationships with Middle East dictatorships regardless of their internal politics — and then keeping mum about their excesses. We did that with Pakistan, which has both received billions in U.S. aid and produced a nuclear bomb. Yet it is hard to imagine a more anti-American country than nuclear Pakistan, without which the Taliban could not kill Americans so easily in Afghanistan.

The United States once saved the Kuwaiti regime after it was swallowed up by Saddam Hussein. We have enjoyed strong ties with the Saudi monarchy as well. Neither country seems especially friendly to the U.S. It is still a crime to publicly practice Christianity in Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the 19 mass-murdering hijackers of 9/11 were Saudis. Oil in the Middle East costs less than $5 a barrel to produce; it now sells for over $100, largely because of the policies of our allies and OPEC members.

Let us review the various American policy options for the Middle East over the last few decades. Military assistance or punitive intervention without follow-up mostly failed. The verdict on far more costly nation-building is still out. Trying to help popular insurgents topple unpopular dictators does not guarantee anything better. Propping up dictators with military aid is both odious and counterproductive. Keeping clear of maniacal regimes leads to either nuclear acquisition or genocide — or 16 acres of rubble in Manhattan.

What have we learned? Tribalism, oil, and Islamic fundamentalism are a bad mix that leaves Americans sick and tired of the Middle East — both when they get in it and when they try to stay out of it.


http://www.nationalreview.com/articl...is-hanson?pg=1
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Old 03-25-2012, 19:13   #2
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More worthwhile reading.

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A Festival of Lies
TLFriedman, 24 Mar 2012

The historian Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote a brutally clear-eyed piece in The National Review, looking back at America’s different approaches to Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan and how, sadly, none of them could be said to have worked yet.

“Let us review the various American policy options for the Middle East over the last few decades,” Hanson wrote. “Military assistance or punitive intervention without follow-up mostly failed. The verdict on far more costly nation-building is still out. Trying to help popular insurgents topple unpopular dictators does not guarantee anything better. Propping up dictators with military aid is both odious and counterproductive. Keeping clear of maniacal regimes leads to either nuclear acquisition or genocide — or 16 acres of rubble in Manhattan. What have we learned? Tribalism, oil, and Islamic fundamentalism are a bad mix that leaves Americans sick and tired of the Middle East — both when they get in it and when they try to stay out of it.”

And that is why it’s time to rethink everything we’re doing out there. What the Middle East needs most from America today are modern schools and hard truths, and we haven’t found a way to offer either. Because Hanson is right: What ails the Middle East today truly is a toxic mix of tribalism, Shiite-Sunni sectarianism, fundamentalism and oil — oil that constantly tempts us to intervene or to prop up dictators.

This cocktail erodes all the requirements of a forward-looking society — which are institutions that deliver decent government, consensual politics that provide for rotations in power, women’s rights and an ethic of pluralism that protects minorities and allows for modern education. The United Nations Arab Human Development Report published in 2002 by some brave Arab social scientists also said something similar: What ails the Arab world is a deficit of freedom, a deficit of modern education and a deficit of women’s empowerment.

So helping to overcome those deficits should be what U.S. policy is about, yet we seem unable to sustain that. Look at Egypt: More than half of its women and a quarter of its men can’t read. The young Egyptians who drove the revolution are desperate for the educational tools and freedom to succeed in the modern world. Our response should have been to shift our aid money from military equipment to building science-and-technology high schools and community colleges across Egypt.

Yet, instead, a year later, we’re in the crazy situation of paying $5 million in bail to an Egyptian junta to get U.S. democracy workers out of jail there, while likely certifying that this junta is liberalizing and merits another $1.3 billion in arms aid. We’re going to give $1.3 billion more in guns to a country whose only predators are illiteracy and poverty.

In Afghanistan, I laugh out loud whenever I hear Obama administration officials explaining that we just need to train more Afghan soldiers to fight and then we can leave. Is there anything funnier? Afghan men need to be trained to fight? They defeated the British and the Soviets!

The problem is that we turned a blind eye as President Hamid Karzai stole the election and operated a corrupt regime. Then President Obama declared that our policy was to surge U.S. troops to clear out the Taliban so “good” Afghan government could come in and take our place. There is no such government. Our problem is not that Afghans don’t know the way to fight. It is that not enough have the will to fight for the government they have. How many would fight for Karzai if we didn’t pay them?

And so it goes. In Pakistan, we pay the Pakistani Army to be two-faced, otherwise it would be only one-faced and totally against us. In Bahrain, we looked the other way while ruling Sunni hard-liners crushed a Shiite-led movement for more power-sharing, and we silently watch our ally Israel build more settlements in the West Bank that we know are a disaster for its Jewish democracy.

But we don’t tell Pakistan the truth because it has nukes. We don’t tell the Saudis the truth because we’re addicted to their oil. We don’t tell Bahrain the truth because we need its naval base. We don’t tell Egypt the truth because we’re afraid it will walk from Camp David. We don’t tell Israel the truth because it has votes. And we don’t tell Karzai the truth because Obama is afraid John McCain will call him a wimp.

Sorry, but nothing good can be built on a soil so rich with lies on our side and so rich with sectarianism, tribalism and oil-fueled fundamentalism on their side. Don’t get me wrong. I believe change is possible and am ready to invest in it. But it has got to start with them wanting it. I’ll support anyone in that region who truly shares our values — and the agenda of the Arab Human Development Report — and is ready to fight for them. But I am fed up with supporting people just because they look less awful than the other guys and eventually turn out to be just as bad.

Where people don’t share our values, we should insulate ourselves by reducing our dependence on oil. But we must stop wanting good government more than they do, looking the other way at bad behavior, telling ourselves that next year will be different, sticking with a bad war for fear of being called wimps and selling more tanks to people who can’t read.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/op...lies.html?_r=1
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Old 03-25-2012, 19:53   #3
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How 'bout we extricate ourselves from the madness, entirely...work through diplomatic policy to guarantee a steady flow of ME oil at an affordable price...and tell the bad guys that no matter where they hide; we will find you, we will kill you - and if your family happens to be in the way then they will die beside you; even if you are not home at the time our drone shows up. It's your choice and it's your governments choice to allow you to take refuge in their country - they will pay a financial toll in economic aid and relations, but we retain the global right as a superpower and trading partner to lay waste to anyone who dares to attack the United States or its people. If the attack is sanctioned by the governing body then count your days of life because they are numbered.

We can go low tech, or high tech. We may send in the police to arrest you or we may send in the military to destroy you, but be assured we will find you and we will prosecute you with extreme prejudice day or night.

Anyway, that's just my take...all this Nation Building crap is something you do for people who will thank you when it's all over with, not spit in your face and swear to some God that you be destroyed at some later date.
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Old 03-25-2012, 21:26   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard View Post
More worthwhile reading.

Richard

The problem is that we turned a blind eye as President Hamid Karzai stole the election and operated a corrupt regime. Then President Obama declared that our policy was to surge U.S. troops to clear out the Taliban so “good” Afghan government could come in and take our place. There is no such government. Our problem is not that Afghans don’t know the way to fight. It is that not enough have the will to fight for the government they have. How many would fight for Karzai if we didn’t pay them?
Got that right.
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Old 03-25-2012, 22:06   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Dog New Trick View Post
How 'bout we extricate ourselves from the madness, entirely...work through diplomatic policy to guarantee a steady flow of ME oil at an affordable price...and tell the bad guys that no matter where they hide; we will find you, we will kill you - and if your family happens to be in the way then they will die beside you; even if you are not home at the time our drone shows up. It's your choice and it's your governments choice to allow you to take refuge in their country - they will pay a financial toll in economic aid and relations, but we retain the global right as a superpower and trading partner to lay waste to anyone who dares to attack the United States or its people. If the attack is sanctioned by the governing body then count your days of life because they are numbered.

We can go low tech, or high tech. We may send in the police to arrest you or we may send in the military to destroy you, but be assured we will find you and we will prosecute you with extreme prejudice day or night.

Anyway, that's just my take...all this Nation Building crap is something you do for people who will thank you when it's all over with, not spit in your face and swear to some God that you be destroyed at some later date.
Trying to force ones values on another has a low probability of success, especially if for the most part, they don't know and don't want to know otherwise. A very wise man once told me that you can only control yourself, (though, obviously, many cannot).

Training the ones whom want a better life may help them to keep the emotionally unbalanced ones (ie. broken) from regaining power in country or hurting innocents, maybe.

My unfeeling and objective view is to use what works when doing anything, when it appears it may not work or it doesn't, change what you're doing. Another wise man once pointed out his version of insanity...repeating the exact same thing and expecting different results. (kinda like what FDR did during the depression, same thing the current potus did...Research shows FDR actions extended the depression. Look what the potus did during the looming 1920's depression, he averted one.) It ain't rocket science man...it used to be called common sense, which definitely isn't very common now.

The means and methods that toppled a country in a few months worked. Sending in one the biggest armies in the world did not...ussr camel bomb story anyone?

In short, what he said


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Old 03-25-2012, 23:53   #6
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Wise man once told me, if you are digging a hole and realize at some point you are digging your own grave it's time to stop, climb out and walk away.

We are already using the biggest shovel available and the hole right now is very deep. Both in the cost of lives, money spent, and noble ideology to fix something that has forever been broken (according to Western ((Imperial)) standards).

At some point you have to stop digging. Lest we find that we too have become a victim to the "Land where Empires go to die."

One man in 2000-years "conquered" the Afghan people and he (Alexander) had no intention of staying there.
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Old 03-26-2012, 00:16   #7
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Trying to help popular insurgents topple unpopular dictators does not guarantee anything better.
I remember a line like that from the Q course, and that was over 30 years ago:

"The motto of Special Forces is 'De Oppresso Liber,' meaning
'We Liberate the Oppressed.'

But many of the oppressed don't want to be liberated. They just want to change places with the oppressors."
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We are what we are
Old 03-26-2012, 01:38   #8
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We are what we are

I enjoy VDH's books, other than a good rant what is his message here? We are what we are, and that is currently the world's greatest empire. America is the world's only global military power and our economic might produces 25% of the world's wealth on an annual basis. Our impact on the world is disproportionate to our population and a function of our balanced economic, and military strength, we need to accept this. It has been this way since the Soviets collapsed.

The world will not hate or envy us less if we go isolationist, in fact it could easily become more dangerous. We have no allies only shared interests. We nation build only for our own safety and should not expect gratitude, neither Japan or Germany has been a threat since 1945, that was mission accomplished. America was not the world superpower when Thomas Jefferson and Washington were warning about foreign entanglement, yes we need a cohesive foreign strategy, but isolationism would fit US interests right now as well as a grown man trying on shoes from his childhood.

We act as a spoiling state, we defend the status quo, and we will have setbacks. The Arab Spring for all of it's hype was basically to date a non-event, a changing of the guard in Egypt, and Libya only from NATO military intervention. Other than Turkey the Islamic world doesn't seem to care much for Democracy. AQ was trying to reform an Islamic Caliphate by demonstrating the weakness of the US who supported existing Muslim regimes. We went in to Iraq and showed the world, despots beware, you can chirp, but we are willing and able to replace you if you get out of line, so choose the status quo over this new Caliphate, which they are doing. We needed to get UBL in Afghanistan, and ensure the country is no longer a safe haven for attacks on our soil, if building schools there makes us safer, nation build away. Nothing less is worth the blood and sacrifice of so many young American troops.

With the exception of nuclear proliferation, which is unnaceptable, we have to come to terms with what we are, these are the costs of being the world's empire. Our greatest threat is internal, historically at some point empires often cease to be republics, and in the process lose their justice and balance, until someone is powerful enough to get past the US Navy, this is the greatest threat to America.
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Old 03-26-2012, 02:28   #9
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Who said anything about "isolationism", that would be the farthest from where we go from here (Afghanistan) and the ME in general.

There are many countries in the world that would benefit from a fraction of the money being spent (wasted) in Afghanistan/Pakistan right now. Remember Sumatra, that place that got washed into the ocean along with half the Indian Ocean in 2004? Yeah, they are Muslims (87%) and they could desperately use our help to rebuild their infrastructure. The list of countries that would actually benefit from our goodwill is long, and the long term affects of reaching out expecting nothing in return would do wonders to our own credibility. I don't even put Japan off the table, they are a huge trading partner and we are a big consumer of Japanese products. To let them go it alone after last years tsunami is a big mistake.

I'm not saying we can't or shouldn't provide assistance to Afghanistan, but it doesn't need to be an all or nothing solution. There are areas (provinces) that we may never establish control of or rid the Taliban of control of these areas and that should be part of the strategy that is overlooked by both the civilian and military leadership. There are parts of the United States that the government willfully neglects as a domestic policy so why is it that we have to convert all of Afghanistan to meet our objectives?

The idea is not to isolate ourselves, but to isolate our enemies so they do not have the ability or resources to cause harm. That should be easy enough!
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Old 03-26-2012, 14:16   #10
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if we go isolationist
Yeah, that confused me.

What we/I were commenting on was doing the right thing...the right thing is always what works in the long run (ie. results measured a few or more years down the road). The right thing in many circumstances is also not the easiest thing to do, at least in this context, emotionally.

Helping those whom want to help themselves is the right thing to do, so is making sure bad guys can't hurt our country or our family, while still being realistic and unemotional.

You can bring a mule (horse) to water...but sometimes you end up having mule steaks for dinner...not the best result for transport nor the mule, but realistic based on the circumstances.

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Old 07-09-2012, 04:43   #11
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So helping to overcome those deficits should be what U.S. policy is about, yet we seem unable to sustain that. Look at Egypt: More than half of its women and a quarter of its men can’t read. The young Egyptians who drove the revolution are desperate for the educational tools and freedom to succeed in the modern world. Our response should have been to shift our aid money from military equipment to building science-and-technology high schools and community colleges across Egypt.
One thing I don't get here is that funding the construction of science-and-technology high schools and community colleges isn't going to do anything if the extremists in the country burn them down. Which means you will need full-time security for such places, which then means you are basically doing a version in Egypt of what the U.S. was doing in Iraq.
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