Americans are once again surprised to learn that the rest of humanity doesn’t always share their hopes and dreams — or even their basic set of values. Hence, in the aftermath of the massacre in Afghanistan of 16 people in the hands of an American soldier, some pundits have been trying to resolve what they consider to be a paradox of sorts.
While the accidental burning of Qurans by U.S. government employees in Afghanistan last month triggered violent protests outside NATO that took at least 29 lives, the intentional mass murder of Afghan civilians, including nine children in Kandahar on March 11, have led to a few mostly peaceful anti-American demonstrations.
That most Afghans seemed to have supported the February 2006 decision by a judge to execute an Afghan aid worker for converting to Christianity or that many Pakistanis refused to condemn the assassination of leading politician Salman Taseer by his own security guard who disagreed with Mr Taseer’s opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy law, are two other examples of incidents that have dramatised the wide gap between what we tend to regard as the American secular tradition and the continuing powerful role that religion tends to play in the lives of Afghans, Pakistanis and other people who, on paper at least, are considered to be America’s allies in the war against terrorism. Read More…
As a life-long hypochondriac, I was laughing out loud when reading the tragic-comic inscription on the tombstone located in the cemetery in Key West, Florida: “I Told You I Was Sick!”
I could imagine the poor guy confronting family and friends and insisting to no avail that what he had was more than just the common cold or the seasonal flu.
“You are not sick” is the kind of reassuring message that Robert Kagan is sending to the nation’s foreign policy hypochondriacs aka “declinists” in his new nonfiction book The World America Made, contending that America is in tip-top military and economic health and ready to take care of the rest of the world. He recalls that the same kind of hypochondriacs had complained that America was really, really in decline in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
But, as the sad case of our late Key Westerner demonstrates, even hypochondriacs do get sick. In the same way, great powers do decline, both in relative and absolute terms. Hence American global economic power started to decline relative to rising economic players like Japan and Germany in the post-1945 era, and relative to China and India more recently. Read More…
Notwithstanding the neverending stream of all those based-on-reliable-intelligence-sources analyses, it is doubtful whether these same analysts would be willing to bet whatever is left of their 401K retirement accounts on their predictions that Israel will — or will not — attack Iranian nuclear sites this year.
And while research institutions have conducted interesting exercises to try to figure out the military, diplomatic and economic repercussions of a confrontation between Israel and Iran, the dictum that no military plan survives the contact with the enemy applies also here — in addition to the unintended consequences, blowbacks and the proverbial ‘black swans’ that are bound to show up even in the unlikely scenario under which Israel achieves all or most of its military goals.
If I can put my ten cents worth of strategic thinking, it seems to me that the ousting of Saddam Hussein and the American fiasco in Iraq helped tip the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and the Levant in the direction of Iran and its allies. And that made it more likely that Israel and other Sunni Arab players that regard the Islamic Republic as a threat to their core national interests would use all their available resources to deprive Iran from having access to a military instrument that would allow it to formalize the new regional balance of power.
In his magisterial study of the 1812-1814 military campaigns in Europe, Russia Against Napoleon, historian Dominic Lieven suggests that while Tsar Alexander recognized that France would never be able to control Europe, he also concluded that the price of adhering to Napoleon’s Continental System would have undermined Russia’s position as a great power and that the Russians had no choice but to use the full power of their military to prevent that from happening.
My guess is that Israel, as well the Saudis and their Arab-Sunni allies, know that it would be possible to contain a nuclear Iran — in the same way that Russia could have embraced a cost-effective strategy to contain Napoleon’s France. But as long as Israeli leaders believe that they have a realistic option of blocking Iran’s nuclear program — and by extension, of setting major constraints on its ability to assert its position as a regional power — they will probably use their military capacity. The Saudis and their Gulf partners would probably cheer them behind close doors while publicly condemning them.
But as quite a few Israeli and American military experts have warned, a military strike on Iranian facilities would not achieve the declared Israeli goal of ending Iran’s alleged nuclear military program and the expected costs in terms of Israeli casualties could be very high.
Moreover, if Iran gives the green light to its Shiite Hezbollah allies in Lebanon to attack Israel and mobilize the Shiites in Iraq and the Persian Gulf to retaliate against American and Saudi targets, Tehran would be in a position to strengthen its regional power. The ayatollahs would also be able to exploit an Israeli attack to ignite Iranian nationalism and win support even from those Iranians who actually oppose the ruling clerics and would like to see them removed from power.
And while the Obama administration insists that it wants to apply peaceful means to get Iran to freeze its nuclear enrichment program, it is not clear that Washington and its Europeans allies would succeed in coming up with a diplomatic formula that would be acceptable to Iran and to Israel (and its supporters in Washington) or that the Americans would be able to prevent Israel from taking military action against Iran. Those of us who believe that an Israeli military attack would not serve American and Israeli interests and may actually help consolidate the power of Iran in the Middle East and that of the clerics in Teheran should also recognize that President Barack Obama — who probably agrees with these assumptions — is not in a position for a diplomatic confrontation with Israel during a presidential election year. Read More…
Imagine if Ohio Representative and anti-war activist Dennis Kucinich had come in second place and won 23 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire Democratic primary in 2008 — after taking a close third place in the Iowa caucuses. The New York Times‘ headlines would be proclaiming “A Huge Victory for Anti-War Democrats,” and Fox News pundits would be warning that the Democratic Party was being taken over by “anti-American appeasers” and “secret Muslims.”
But Kucinich ended up winning only 1.35 percent of the New Hampshire primary vote in 2008. Chicago Senator Barack Obama who was a critic of the Iraq War did get 36.45 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary in the Granite State that year. But his foreign policy views had never amounted to a coherent anti-interventionist agenda.
If anything, when it comes to foreign policy, it is former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and this year’s Republican presidential candidate who is calling for a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that sounds today like candidate Obama did in 2008 when he was urging an end to the war in Iraq.
You can describe both Huntsman and Obama as “realist internationalists” in the tradition of Republican President George H. W. Bush and Democratic President Bill Clinton. They have never pretended they that they were waving the anti-war flag; but still, they were critical of the neoconservative let’s-invade-the-world agenda. Read More…
Reports that members of the European Union (EU) were planning to impose an embargo on Iranian oil as part of a U.S.-led strategy to force Teheran to end its alleged nuclear military program should not have come as a major surprise. Iran has been developing surface-to-surface missiles with a maximum range of 2,000km, that equipped with nuclear weapons could put France and its European partners — as well as Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East — within its range.
Or to put it differently, if Iran with nukes is indeed a strategic threat, it is the Europeans more than the Americans who should be worried about it.
Some Europeans were hoping to pursue once again their all-too-familiar approach of free riding on U.S. military power — counting on the United States and/or Israel to attack Iranian nuclear facilities (Win I for Europe) while allowing European nations that depend heavily on Iranian oil to continue doing business with the Islamic Republic (Win II for Europe). They could have then distanced themselves from the American and/or Israeli action while facing no disruption in the flow of Iranian oil into their economies (Win III for Europe).
But as the Obama administration has already demonstrated in Libya, with the U.S. military overstretched (hence, the plans to shrink it) and the American fiscal house in a mess (while the Europeans continue to maintain their expensive welfare programmes), the Americans were not going to allow the Europeans to do more free riding on their military power in the Middle East — which is (and that includes Iran) in Europe’s strategic backyard. Read More…
He will probably not be elected as the next Republican presidential nomination. But Representative Ron Paul from Texas has a good chance of winning next month’s Republican primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire and could emerge as a leading power broker in the presidential nomination process next year while continuing to exert influence on his party’s agenda.
That will probably come bad news to some Republican Jewish activists and to neoconservative pundits that have been accusing the most influential libertarian lawmaker on Capitol Hill of being an “anti-Israeli.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition, which hosted a presidential-candidates forum in December, decided not to invite Paul to the event, explaining that Paul was “a virulent and harsh critic of Israel during his tenure in Congress.”
I had the opportunity to serve as one of Paul’s foreign-policy advisers during the presidential campaign of 2008 and recall the 76-year-old former physician and Christian Baptist who has been representing the 22nd district from Texas in Congress since 1979 as someone with deep knowledge of Jewish history and an admirer of Israel who follows with great interest the political and economic developments there. Read More…
It seems to me that we both agree on the need for those of us who want to reduce the role of government in the economic and social spheres — and who take action to achieve that goal — to apply the same libertarian principles when dealing with government political-military intervention abroad. But we may be addressing different target audiences.
One problem in any discussion about “libertarians” is coming up with a definition of who these guys are anyway. Free-market conservatives? Republican free marketers? Anarchists on the political right and left? Civil libertarians? Members of the libertarian parties? Social-cultural liberals? Randians? And the list can go on and on.
I admit that my focus has been on what could be referred to as Washington-centric libertarians, those politicians, officials, activists, pundits, journalists, academics, think tankers, etc. who proclaim their commitment to free-market principles and are trying to influence the policies that are being made in Washington and those who make them.
In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to argue that decisions on foreign policy/national security are made by small political and policy elite in Washington, unlike, say, education and the environmental policies that are affected by a wider public debate. That explains why a small group of neoconservative intellectuals and operators could play such a critical role in forcing the U.S. into a long and costly military intervention in the Middle East.
And my arguments is that for many reasons Washington-centric libertarians have not played a role as countervailing non-interventionist force in this debate. Or worst, some of them have been applying their libertarian principles to help mobilize support for U.S. political-military interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Policy oriented libertarians have been quite successful in shaping some aspects of U.S. regulatory, tax, environmental, and immigration policies — as practitioners in government agencies and Congressional staffs or as analysts, columnists and television pundits. But they have been missing in action when it comes to the foreign policy and national security arenas. So when Republican officials and lawmakers searhc for foreign policy experts or when the media search for foreign policy pundits they take a look at a list that includes neo-conservatives of various persuasions.
Like Justin Raimondo I hope that Dr. Ron Paul becomes the next U.S.president and that more libertarians get elected to public office and I applaud all those who are trying to make that possible. But until that happens there is no reason why libertarians should not form alliances with other policy oriented types or infiltrate congressional staffs as part of an effort to try to influence the foreign policy debate in Washington instead of agreeing to the current informal division of labor under which they are being tasked to do economic and trade policies and the neo-conservatives are in charge of foreign policy/national security.
There are mounting concerns over a possible pre-emptive Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, and growing speculation that the Israelis could take such an action without receiving a green light from the Obama Administration.
Well, if you believe that, I’ve got a nuclear reactor in Dimona to sell you.
Even before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report last week concluding that “Iran worked to re-design and miniaturize a Pakistani nuclear-weapon design” and conducted “some activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” which “may still be ongoing,” the Israeli media was speculating that the nation’s political leaders were debating whether or not to bomb Iran’s nuclear research centers. And that a decision on that issue would come sooner than later.
Moreover, Israeli journalists reported that both Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak favored a military strike against Iran while other members of the Israeli cabinet, intelligence officials, and the military chiefs as well as the Obama Administration were opposed to the idea, arguing that the costs of a military confrontation with Iran would outweigh any likely benefits.
Indeed, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last week that a military strike would have “unintended consequences” and “could have a serious impact in the region, and it could have a serious impact on U.S. forces in the region.” His comments were the latest in series of similar remarks by U.S. officials, including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressing strong reservations about the wisdom of a military option as a way of preventing the development of Iranian nuclear military capability. Read More…
The New York Times carried a report on the UK riots, “London Riots Put Spotlight on Troubled, Unemployed Youths in Britain,” which included an interview with one of the “rioters,” Louis James, 19, who lives in a government-subsidized apartment in northern London and received $125 jobless benefits every two weeks.
Poor Louis “never had a proper job” and learned to read only three years ago. “His mother can barely support herself and his stepbrothers and sisters.” And his father, who was a heroin addict, is dead.
“No one has ever given me a chance; I am just angry at how the whole system works,” “Mr. James” told the Times, whose reporters seemed to be ISO the “root causes” of what is basically nothing more than a form of old-fashioned hooliganism made easier thanks to iPhone and Facebook, the twitter hooligans. Louis spends most days watching television because, he explains, that “is the way they want it.” They give him enough money so that “I can eat and watch TV all day.” So it was they who made him steal (or “taking” as The New York Times put it) a $195 sweater.
According to a report in The Washington Post, Representative Joe Pitts, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and other U.S lawmakers received financial contributions from pro-Pakistan lobbyists who were being funded by the Pakistani military, including by its infamous Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). In return, Pitts and other Pak-paid congressman, including Dan Burton, Republican from Indiana, and Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio were being asked by the ISI men in Washington to promote the Pakistani position on Kashmir, the border region claimed by Pakistan and India.
It seems that Pitts and the other lawmakers ended up delivering the goods to their paymasters. Hence, a few days after he had received $2,000 campaign contribution from the Pakistani lobbyists, Pitts introduced a resolution in 2004 which, reflecting Islamabad’s stance, called for a more activist U.S. role in resolving the dispute over Kashmir.
The FBI has charged that two U.S. citizens of Pakistani descent, who used a nonprofit Washington group known as the Kashmiri American Council to carry their lobbying efforts, were unregistered agents of the government of Pakistan. The Post reported that the FBI estimated that the ISI poured at least $4 million into the campaign contributions and the other public relations and lobbying handled by the two agents for Pakistan. Read More…