“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Can We Change Afghanistan?

On his way to Jeffersonian Democracy.

I have argued against the long war concept for pragmatic reasons. Simply stated and IMO, the US temperament and political system will not sustain a long war. It has never happened. We pretend in the US that diversity and multi-culturism is a sign of strength. In countries such as Afghanistan, they know that tribalism means survival. The tribes in Afghansitan barely understand the concept of nationalism. For us to believe that we can convert them to our beliefs is hubris, dangerously unhinged.

The Democrats (and McCain) are arguing that Afghanistan is the war we should be focused on. They do not give a credible explanation for a reasonable achievable outcome. They are also not being challenged. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda should have been punished after 911. The punishment should have been violent, ugly and short. It should have been cold blooded revenge, nothing more, nothing less.

From The Sunday Times
Simon Jenkins
June 22, 2008

Stop killing the Taliban – they offer the best hope of beating Al-Qaeda

The British expedition to Afghanistan is on the brink of something worse than defeat: a long, low-intensity war from which no government will dare to extricate itself. With the death toll mounting, battle is reportedly joined with the Taliban at the very gates of the second city, Kandahar. There is no justification for ministerial bombast that “we are winning the war, really”.

What is to be done? In 2001 the West waged a punitive retaliatory strike against the hosts of the perpetrators of 9/11. The strike has since followed every law of mission creep, now reduced in London to a great war of despair, in which the cabinet can do nothing but send even more men to their deaths.

In seven years in Afghanistan, America, Britain and their Nato allies have made every mistake in the intervention book. They sent too few troops to assert an emphatic presence. They failed to “hit hard and get out”, as advocated by Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary. They tried to destroy the staple crop, poppies, and then let it go to warlords who now use it to finance suicide bombers, among others.

They allowed a corrupt regime to establish itself in the capital, Kabul, while failing to promote honest administration in the provinces.

They pretended that an international coalition (Nato) would be better than a unitary command (America), which it is not. They killed civilians and alienated tribes with crude air power. Finally, they disobeyed the iron law of postimperial intervention: don’t stay too long. The British ambassador threatens “to stay for 30 years”, rallying every nationalist to the insurgents’ cause.

The catalogue of western folly in Afghanistan is breathtaking.

Britain went into Helmand two years ago on the basis of gung-ho, and gung-ho still censors public debate. Yet behind the scenes all is despair. A meeting of Afghan observers in London last week, at the launch of James Fergusson’s book on the errors of Helmand, A Million Bullets, was an echo chamber of gloom.

All hope was buried in a cascade of hypotheticals. Victory would be at hand “if only” the Afghan army were better, if the poppy crop were suppressed, the Pakistan border sealed, the Taliban leadership assassinated, corruption eradicated, hearts and minds won over. None of this is going to happen. The generals know it but the politicians dare not admit it.

Those who still support the “good” Afghan war reply to any criticism by attempting to foreclose debate. They assert that we cannot be seen to surrender to the Taliban and we have gone in so far and must “finish the job”.

This is policy in denial. Nothing will improve without the support of the Afghan government, yet that support is waning by the month. Nothing will improve without the commitment of Pakistan. Yet two weeks ago Nato bombed Pakistani troops inside their own country, losing what lingering sympathy there is for America in an enraged Islamabad. Whoever ordered the attack ought to be court-martialled, except it was probably a computer.

We forget that the objective of the Afghanistan incursion was not to build a new and democratic Afghanistan. It was to punish the Taliban for harbouring Osama Bin Laden and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for Al-Qaeda training camps. The former objective was achieved on day one; the latter would never be achieved by military occupation.

A moment’s thought would show that any invasion that replaced the Taliban with a western puppet in Kabul would merely restore the Taliban as champions of Afghan sovereignty. The Americans sponsored them to be just such a puppet in the 1980s, funding some 60,000 foreign mercenaries to join them against the Russians. Intervention reaps what it sows.

Two things were known about the Taliban at the time and they are probably still true. First, under outside pressure their leaders were moving from the manic extremism of their “student” origins, even responding to demands to curb the poppy harvest. The present Nato policy of killing the older leaders and thus leaving young hotheads in charge is daft.

Second, the Pashtun Taliban are not natural friends of the Arab Al-Qaeda, despite Bin Laden being given sanctuary by the Taliban’s Mullah Omar. Bin Laden helped the Taliban by murdering Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Tajik leader, but that put a Tajik price on his head, which no man wants. Then the 9/11 coup made the Taliban pariahs even within the region.

I have yet to find reason to doubt the Afghan experts who predicted in the aftermath of 9/11 that Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda had become “unwelcome guests” in 2001 and that his days in Afghanistan, and probably on earth, were numbered.

Seven recent books on relations between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban discussed in the current edition of The New York Review of Books scream one policy message: do not drive Al-Qaeda, set on crazy world domination, into the arms of the Taliban, set only on Pashtun nationalism. Do everything to separate them. Western strategy has done the precise opposite.

The only policy that meets the original objective is one that supports anyone in the insurgent areas with sufficient authority to deny sanctuary to international terrorists. There is now plainly no way that Nato can do this.

There is much murmuring among realists that “we” should talk to the Taliban, as if we were Her Majesty’s Government dealing with the IRA. The parallel is absurd. American special forces and Anglo-Canadian units in Afghanistan are, as they jokingly admit, rather like Taliban mercenaries, who snatch and hold towns for a while but are unable to command local loyalty. They cannot hope to garrison every settlement.

Hamid Karzai, the outgoing Afghan president, is the only one who can talk. He is no fool and has been attempting to do what Kabul rulers have always done: cut deals with whichever provincial commanders appear to control territory and can forge alliances with local Taliban or whoever. That may not be the grand strategy beloved of western think tanks, but it is the realpolitik of Afghanistan.

The same realpolitik applies to the other player in the game, Pakistan, whose civilian rulers are trying to contain an army of doubtful loyalty and seek peace in tribal areas way beyond their control. Here Al-Qaeda has again forged a lethal alliance with the Taliban, drawing on an inexhaustible supply of young militants from Pakistan and abroad, as in the 1980s. The best policy would be to hurl money at Pakistan’s impoverished non-madrasah schools, rather than starve them and pour 80% of aid into a corrupt Pakistan army.

The Taliban’s chief objective is not world domination but a share of power in Afghanistan. While they cannot defeat western troops, they can defeat Nato’s war aim by continuing to build on their marriage of convenience with Al-Qaeda, which supplies them with a devastating arsenal of suicide bombers.

What is sure is that Al-Qaeda, as a (grossly overrated) “threat to the West”, will not be suppressed without Taliban cooperation. This means reversing a policy that naively equates “defeating” the Taliban with “winning” the war on terror. Fighting in Afghanistan is as senseless as trying to suppress the poppy crop. It just costs lives and money.

While it is implausible for the West to withdraw from Kabul at present, the attempt to establish military control over provincial Afghanistan is merely jeopardising the war aim. Security within the country now depends on fashioning the patchwork of alliances sought, however corruptly, by Karzai. It means dealing with reality, not trying to change it with guns and bombs.

It therefore makes sense to withdraw soldiers from the provinces and forget “nation-building” in the hope that Karzai can exert some leverage over local commanders to separate the Taliban from the Al-Qaeda cells in Pakistan. This is a race against the most appalling strategic catastrophe, a political collapse in Pakistan that may open a new and horrific front involving Al-Qaeda.

It is madness to prolong an Afghan war that can only undermine the most unstable nuclear power in the world, Pakistan. The war is visiting misery on millions and destroying western interests across central Asia. As for the claim made in parliament last week that the war is about safety on Britain’s streets, that is ludicrous.


  1. I recently heard the ubiquitous Blowhard Hitchens, debating a Brit Colonel about Afghanistan. Like Simon Jenkins, he (the blowhard) was all "heat and no light." I'm not saying that Jenkins and Hitchens are all wrong, but when I need to form an opinion or make a decision, the histrionics are a turn off.

  2. The situation with Pakistan is getting interesting.

    Last week, after the Kandahar jailbreak, the escaped thugs holed-up in the nearby province of Arghandab where true to form, they pissed off the locals who fled the scene and ratted-out the ragheads. Nato then rode into town and ran off or killed off the bad guys.

    Here's the interesting part; The news reports noted dead bodies everywhere but Nato seeks to downplay the number of Taliban fatalities. Why?

    Al Jazeera reports that hundreds of Taliban were killed or wounded. Many were Pakistanis and "If this is confirmed, it could further strain relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    So, what are we supposed to do? Kiss Paki ass? I'm sure that can be arranged.

  3. The Taliban "did choose not to fight" and there had been only minor clashes, said a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Kabul on Thursday.

    General Carlos Branco, the Isaf spokesman, said: "During the first 24 hours of operations, only small pockets of insurgents were encountered so only minor incidents occurred and some of them are still going on."

    He said the incidents were "mainly exchanges of small arms fire and skirmishes."

    Branco played down reports about the number of Taliban killed, adding they had "not engaged decisively, limiting their activity to small disruptive attacks".

    "Our assessment is that if the insurgents are there they have not the numbers and the foothold that they previously claimed and, obviously, they did choose not to fight," Branco said.

  4. General Branco:

    "There's nothing to see here. Keep moving. Move along."

  5. Talk of cross-border action by Afghanistan 'not wise': Rice

    WASHINGTON (AFP) — US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview that threats by Afghanistan to pursue Taliban insurgents across the border into Pakistan were "not wise."
    Rice instead called for cooperation between the two nations after Afghan President Hamid Karzai had angered Pakistan when he threatened cross-border action as a right of "self-defense" against Taliban forces.
    "I think it's probably not wise to talk about Afghan cross-border operations," Rice said in the interview with CNN on Sunday.
    "I think it's better that Pakistan and Afghanistan cooperate on their respective sides of the border," she said.
    "There are Taliban operating in Afghanistan who have to be defeated. And there are Taliban who are operating in Pakistan, and they have to be defeated, too.
    "But I think it's probably better that the respective governments deal with their own problems."
    Karzai sent relations between the two allies in the US-led "war on terror" plummeting to a new low a week ago when he said that his war-torn country would be justified in striking Taliban rebels based on Pakistani soil.
    Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi condemned Karzai's "irresponsible, threatening" comments and said Pakistan would "defend its territorial sovereignty."
    The volatile situation on the porous 1,500-mile (2,500-kilometer) border was highlighted last week when Pakistan accused "cowardly" US-led coalition forces of killing 11 Pakistani soldiers in an airstrike.

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  7. The US could not defeat the Tribes of Iraq, a much more "modern" society.

    In Anbar we discarded that Goal, paid offf the Tribes and declared success.

    Afghanistan is larger than Anbar, larger than Iraq. Where just 20% of the population wore out the US.
    Causing Team43 to admit errors and a public change of course.

    We went to Afghanistan to get Osama, we failed. Then we moved the goal posts.

    Define a militarily achievable goal, or leave. As Mr Dheney told US all, back in '91.
    In regards the Bosnia intervention.

    Osama is in Pakistan, likely as not. They should give him up, or face destruction.
    Or we should "move on"

    It is interesting that when poppy production fell, the US intervened.
    Now poppy production is at an all time high. Now we may stay "for thirty years".

  8. At least Poppies are a renewable resource, constituting the bedrock foundation of the deep ecosystem of the region.

    Trish hates Rummy, but he could outthink ten
    "Stay the Course"
    Bush's and Blairs.

  9. Iraq done right could have defined Afghanistan clearly for what it is:

    The throwback shithole of the region.

    Tony told us what it was 6 years ago, but then, unlike our stay the course boy, he actually had lived there for a while.

  10. The US could not defeat the Tribes of Iraq, a much more "modern" society.

    It seems we've got them to the point of letting the Chevron oil rigs in, this has got to say something.

    It is interesting that when poppy production fell, the US intervened.

    Nay, the cause of us going in was 9/11, as I recall. We didn't give a shit about Afghanistan except they hosted some really bad guys who attacked us. It was off our radar screen, until they made the first move.

    Can we change Afghanistan?

    Probably yes in the long run. But the change starts here, where we change our minds to the extent that we decide to stick with it, in the long run. We're up against ourselves, as much as the

    Should we change Afghanistan? That's a good question. We can't let it be a place where plots are hatched to attack the US with planes flying into buildings, or something worse.

    And, though the Afghans don't know it, many of them, change would be good for them, they might slowly begin to see things differently, slowly begin to wake up.

    The King of Afghanistan said to John Kennedy, "It's a great place for the shooting", meaning the bird hunting. Given enough time, we can make it something better, though we'll probably not stick with it, there being little there to attract our attention over the long run.

  11. We cab change Afghanistan if we stick with it. It's the definition of the long, hard slog though, and we probably won't.

  12. The Clock Ticks For The President

    Mushie, that is.

    There’s A New Sharif In Town

    This is now the changing face of our once-reluctant ally, which by most estimations – including Pakistani – will likely soon shed the ‘ally’ and simply become ‘reluctant.’ Just this Monday, former Pakistani prime minister and head of the PML-N party (Pakistani Muslim League – Nawaz) of the power-sharing parliamentary majority, Nawaz Sharif, was within earshot of the parliament and Musharraf’s presidential offices whipping an angry crowd of about 20,000 into chants of “Hang Musharraf!”

    Of course, Sharif has a significant axe to grind – it was he and his government that Musharraf overthrew in a bloodless coup in 1999. He will exact his revenge at any cost. For Sharif, revenge is not best served cold, it is simply best served, period.

    It should thus come as no surprise that Sharif leads his party – and the new Pakistani government - away from confrontation with the terrorists of al-Qaeda and the Taliban and headlong into talks and unenforceable agreements. They share common ambitions, including the violent death of Pervez Musharraf.

    Michael Scheuer noted in his seminal book on al-Qaeda, Through Our Enemies’ Eyes, that when Nawaz Sharif made his first failed run at becoming prime minister of Pakistan, Pakistani news reports said that he had accepted campaign donations from Usama bin Laden to the tune of 3 billion rupees.

    This is the same Nawaz Sharif who was said to be a part of a bin Laden-funded (reportedly $10 million) plot to assassinate then-PM Benazir Bhutto, orchestrated by then-ISI director Hamid Gul. In fact, a former ISI official by the name of Khalid Khawaja who claims to have been a close personal friend of bin Laden, said that Sharif and bin Laden have known each other and that their “connection goes all the way back to the late 1980s when, he says, Sharif and bin Laden met face-to-face.”
    Purely from an operational perspective, keep in mind what it means to have an al-Qaeda fully re-established beyond its pre-9/11 levels within Pakistan.

    Inside North Waziristan and South Waziristan alone there are at least 29 known training camps established, with less than a handful used for training Taliban cannon fodder thrust across the border into Afghanistan. The rest are core al-Qaeda terrorist training camps.

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  14. While women make up 14 percent of Army personnel, 46 percent of those discharged under the [Don't Ask Don't Tell] policy last year were women. And while 20 percent of Air Force personnel are women, 49 percent of its discharges under the policy last year were women.

    I can think of at least one scenario to explain it. Senior Chief Bubba asks Petty Officer Sue for a date. She says no thanks. He says she must be a dyke, holds a locker inspection, finds a purfumed love letter to Sue from Barbara. End of Sue's career. And Senator McCain backs this policy.

  15. The King of Afghanistan said to John Kennedy, "It's a great place for the shooting", meaning the bird hunting.

    Especially when the birds in question were Soviet helicopters. They'll never forgive us for that, but it was Cold War stuff, let's move along.

  16. Lilith,

    For what it's worth, I think lesbians are hot. I actually see Lesbianism as quite natural. It's the male fagots that turn my skin. There's something extremely perverse in their psychological makeup that is extremely disturbing to me.

  17. Metuselah: For what it's worth, I think lesbians are hot. I actually see Lesbianism as quite natural. It's the male fagots that turn my skin. There's something extremely perverse in their psychological makeup that is extremely disturbing to me.

    Let me guess. You told a gay man, "Just don't try to hit on me and we'll get along," and he replied, "We-HULL! You're NOT all that attractive anyway!"

  18. Bob, I somewhat agree with your observation. Pakistan is part of the problem. Other than retribution for the support of the 911 attack, I do not see need to try and change them.

    Afghanistan was supposed to have been our pay-back to the Soviets for their support of the VC and NVA in Viet Nam. Afghanistan was substantially better off under the Soviets than the Taliban. Now we are back in it and the Chinese and Russians could not be more pleased.

    I doubt that we will change afghanistan that much.

  19. "Let me guess.."

    Nope. I just think Lesbian action is hot. :D

  20. Natural Disaster:

  21. Paki Supreme Court rules Sharif, "a convicted felon," cannot run for Parliament.

    Mayor of Gloucester, Mass says there is no evidence of a pact amongst the 17 pregnant high schoolers. Says George Bush is responsible.

  22. Mayor of Gloucester, Mass says there is no evidence of a pact amongst the 17 pregnant high schoolers. Says George Bush is responsible.

    Now that's what I call a pro-life President. And Mat, the heat problem is handled with forced-air cooling.

  23. Mat, for what's it worth, Hemingway said almost the same thing. The lesbos seem clean, attractive to most of us, the others, dirty.

    Lil, we're all after ya:)

    Now, about that itch on your back...

  24. a contemporary business man who can combine beach and office with ease.

    Barry In Milan

    I'm looking for a President who can casually mix JD cap, coveralls, conference room, and combine cab.

    An agrisexual, so to say.

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  26. The Big Club:

  27. There's too much concentrated wealth in the country, but George takes his analysis too far. It really isn't like that at all. Some big corporations fail, some little ones rise, people die, wealth get passed on, what we got is one big mix, with too much at the top, admitedly, in my view.

  28. Mat, maybe you can buy some stock in that Pearls Rainbow, get your nose under the tent, so to speak:)

  29. where true to form, they pissed off the locals who fled the scene and ratted-out the ragheads.

    :) well said

  30. Pearl’s offers guesthouse ambience

    That 'ambience', I'm always looking for that at Motel 6, and never seem to find it. They always leave the light on tho, which they shouldn't be doing these days.

  31. Has there ever been a nation that just gave up islam? Just said the hell with it?

  32. "Has there ever been a nation that just gave up islam?"

    Has there been a nation that gave up on imperialism? Because that's what Islam is. Really, that's what's at the core of the religious meme.

  33. "..get your nose under the tent, so to speak.."

    What you saying, Bob, I might find some truffles?

  34. But the Roman Emperors were a lot nicer.

  35. Lil would have loved it. No competition with boys.

  36. Mat, I think the US is such a nation. I think it is fair to say we were in a kind of an imperial mode back after the war with Spain for awhile, but certainly not now. It always pisses me when people say we are an empire. Like my pastor. I say how so? to him, and mention Germany, Japan, the Philippines and on and on and his comeback is to change the definition of imperialism. Starts talking about 'economic imperialism' or some such thing, forgetting for the moment about how much it cost last week to fill up the new church van.

    If Ash wasn't off helping the poor there on his yacht, I'd have mentioned This Piece By Fred Thompson To Him

    But Trish is probably right, it's a trap.

    'Man Arrested, Claims Seeking Truffles', headline reads. :)

  37. Hey, both them Empires had an affection spot in their "hearts" for lil boys

  38. Probly wrote
    "I Heart lil Johnny"
    on the chariot's bumper sticker.
    But in Latin, of course.

  39. truf·fle (trfl)
    1. Any of various fleshy, ascomycetous, edible fungi, chiefly of the genus Tuber, that grow underground on or near the roots of trees and are valued as a delicacy.

    The soft dark damp moist wet warm underparts of creation.

  40. Ok, what's the definition of imperialism?

  41. "The soft dark damp moist wet warm underparts of creation."

    And no love poetry in that definition. :)

  42. Hey, al-Bob,
    do they have any of those penis mushrooms up there?

    (smell worse than a goat's dick)

    From a distance, of course, for the goat, at least.

  43. We had em in CA.
    Probly cultivated in SF.

  44. Here's what I get, Bob:

    empire |ˈemˌpī(ə)r|
    1 an extensive group of states or countries under a single supreme authority, formerly esp. an emperor or empress

    empire (adj.)
    : [in names ] the Roman Empire.
    • a government in which the head of state is an emperor or empress.
    • a large commercial organization owned or controlled by one person or group : her business empire grew.
    • an extensive operation or sphere of activity controlled by one person or group : the kitchen had once been the ladies' empire.
    • supreme political power over several countries when exercised by a single authority : he encouraged the Greeks in their dream of empire in Asia Minor.

  45. I don't think there are any real empires left, in the old sense anyway.

    Empire--where one group exploits another through force or the real threat thereof via an occupation or a subserviant ruling class in said area, or somethin like that.

    The Soviet Union was an empire. It's gone. We're not. Europeans no longer have empires. It's hard to think of a real empire around. Habu used to say some empires were better than some alternatives, and I agree.

    Umpire--the guy in blue thats calls the balls and strikes in a baseball game.

  46. We have the Martha Stewart empire, but she can't go to Europe.

  47. Here we have the "Inland Empire" but it's really just a bunch of farmers.

  48. That King whathisname in Hawaii had an empire, cause he whupped the other islanders.

  49. Ate some of 'em too, I hear.

  50. Bobal, an empire is a monarchy which is greater in power and scale than a kingdom. Imperator Augustus restored the Republic in name, but in practice he returned Rome to a monarchy and it was too large to be considered the kingdom of its origins. When Japan occupied China and later most of east Asia, it was an Empire. Britain occupied 1/4 of the world's land area, and became an Empire. The only potential empire in existence today is China.

  51. Penis mushrooms? :)

    What the hell is that? Erect or soft? I suppose they stand up at night or something.

    I'm not a mushroom hunter, though there are some here who do, and you got to know what you're doing.

    We have the camus root on the farm. There too you got to know. Only the blue flower. The white flower is 'death camus', a real bummer.

  52. Lilith has the good sense to agree with Bob.

  53. Doug, what's that flower over there in Hawaii, that my mom pointed out to me one time, that looks like a cock and ball unit?

  54. " group exploits another through force or the real threat thereof via an occupation or a subserviant ruling class.."

    I think the key to your argument is the use of "force" or threat thereof. But force can be subtle, and it can be applied thru many means. I think the more useful definition is that of a monopoly of influence, because that automatically implies a monopoly on coercion, whether it be psychological, economic, cultural, political, military, etc.

  55. Lilith has the good sense to agree with Bob.

    Except that an empire isn't necessarily a monarchy.

  56. Guess I missed the cock and ball.

  57. Mat, right, that's the tack my pastor takes, kind of watering down the definition. There's some truth in that, for sure. Except that, behind the velvet glove is the iron fist, or the influence evaporates, or can. Often does. We had all sorts of 'influence' in
    Cuba, right next door, but, lacking the will to back it up, it hasn't meant much, then or now, not for a long while.

  58. It's got a large long dick like structure hanging out the flower. Can't remember what it's called, only remembering laughing when she pointed it out. The ball part of the unit may have been the petals.

  59. Damned women, always seeing stuff in nature. One track minds.

  60. Good name for an English pub, 'The Cock and Ball'.

    symbol a rooster and bowling game

  61. "Cuba, right next door, but, lacking the will to back it up, it hasn't meant much, then or now, not for a long while."

    So why the military base there?

  62. I've kind of followed that Vallejo story. Running a city, you got to keep the costs down. Dad was city attorney for thirteen years. You got to keep the costs down. In Moscow now, the salaries are way way too high, but, we elected some conservative fellows, so I think we'll be ok.

    The fire chief gets a bunch, but there's never a fire, for instance. His salary could be cut in half, he'd still live well, and things would go on the same.

  63. An old leasehold. One of the terms is it can't be abrogated unless both sides agree.

    Didn't do us much good, lacking the will to intervene. No iron fist in the velvet glove.

  64. Leftover from the days of the cold war. Was a good place for captured jihadis. If I was King, I'd keep it for that reason alone. The Supreme Court has ruled otherwise. I wouldn't be surprised to see Obama give it back to Raul.

  65. Bob,

    The cold war ended over a decade ago, yet the number of US military bases has only increased.

  66. In eastern Europe, right? And Iraq and Afghanistan too, of course. Poland, which is practically our 51st state--we only have 50 tho Obama thinks it's 57 or 58--we probably have a 'base' there now, whatever a base is. If the eastern europeans know a good thing when they have the chance, more power to them. When able to do so, they all opted for the west, uncoerced, which says a lot for us, Ash notwithstanding. I see no problem in it.

    Outposts of civilization, Mat, outposts of civilization. If asked, I'd be happy to see a US Air Force base out in the Israeli desert somewhere, if I were King, if I were King...

  67. "Outposts of civilization, Mat, outposts of civilization."

    What if China or Russia had all these military bases all over the globe, how would you look at it then? What would you call such behavior?

  68. Afghanistan was substantially better off under the Soviets than the Taliban.

    I think that's true too. It's odd isn't it, how things go. I remember my attitude then, thinking it was a good thing to send the Stingers to the holy mujahadeen. And it may have been in a way, if it contributed to the breaking up of the Soviet Union, which I believe it did.

    I quess it's saying how bad the Taliban are, to think it was better under the Russians. It was too.

    Government by blood lusted illiterates, not a good thing. Government by a Soviet stooge, one step up the scale.

    I hope, as my dad use to predict, we end up best buds with the Russians one of these days. It's in their best interests, and in our interest too.

  69. What if China or Russia had all these military bases all over the globe, how would you look at it then? What would you call such behavior?

    I'd call it outposts of barbarism, and barbaric behavior, of course. They not following the enlightened principles of the USA and the EU and Israel.

    The Russians had a chance to do so, and so far they've blown it.

    The Chinamen have a real problem. How do you bring human rights to 1.3 billion coolies? Much less democracy. After their history? Only our Supreme Court could say for sure.

  70. outposts of barbarism
    outposts of civilization

    empire (adj.)

    • a large commercial organization owned or controlled by one person or group
    • an extensive operation or sphere of activity controlled by one person or group
    • supreme political power over several countries when exercised by a single authority

  71. outposts of barbarism
    outposts of civilization

    Which to the Greeks
    Which to the Persians
    Which to the Romans
    Which to the Aramaics


  72. The Aramaeans (also Arameans) were a Semitic (West Semitic language group), semi-nomadic and pastoralist people who lived in upper Mesopotamia and Syria. Aramaeans never had a unified empire; they were divided into independent kingdoms all across the Near East. Yet to these Aramaeans befell the privilege of imposing their language and culture upon the entire Near East and beyond, fostered in part by the mass relocations enacted by successive empires, including the Assyrians and Babylonians. Scholars even have used the term "Aramaization" for the process by which Assyro-Babylonian peoples became Aramaic-speaking.[1]

    Aramaeans are mostly defined by their use of the Aramaic language, first written using the Phoenician alphabet slightly modified. Their language, namely Aramaic, belongs—like Hebrew, Ammonite and others—to the north-western group of Semitic dialects. As early as the 8th century BC, Aramaic language and writing competed with the Akkadian language and script (cuneiform) in Assyria, and thereafter it spread throughout the Orient. Around 500 BC, when the Achaemenid monarchs looked for a language that could be understood by all their subjects, they chose Aramaic, which became the lingua franca of their vast empire. It was not until Greek emerged several centuries later that Aramaic lost its prestige as the most sophisticated language; it remained unchallenged as the common dialect of all peoples of the Near East and was to remain so until the Arab invasion (7th century AD).

    According to the linguist Klaus Beyer, the history of the Aramaic language is broken down into three broad periods:

    * Old Aramaic (1100 BC–AD 200), including:
    o The Biblical Aramaic of the Hebrew Bible.
    o The Aramaic of Jesus.
    o The Aramaic of the Targums.

    The turning point of Old Aramaic was about 500 BC when it shifted to Imperial Aramaic, the lingua franca of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian Empires.

  73. • a large commercial organization owned or controlled by one person or group
    • an extensive operation or sphere of activity controlled by one person or group
    • supreme political power over several countries when exercised by a single authority

    Nay, Mat, we're not any of that. I repeat, all those eastern European countries jumped at it, when finally, finally, given the chance, to join up voluntarily with the general 'west' and the EU, in particular, and NATO too. Israel should be part of NATO, in my view.

    Rather than talking about bringing Turkey into the EU, I think they should be talking about bringing Israel, which shares many values, into the EU. Ain't gonna happen though.

  74. Then disband NATO. Russia spends less than a 1/10th on its military as compared to the US. What is the purpose of NATO today if not to maintain Empire? (However benevolent that empire might seem to you).

  75. Mat, I have been reading this book about the Albigensian Crudade, when Innocent III and the Catholic Church cracked down on 'heresy' in southern France. I've only started, but he is a good historian, and was talking about how difficult it is to reconstruct the past, "an expired reality" in his words. I thought that was a wonderful phrase.

    But what 'empire' is NATO maintaining, Mat? Point to the 'empire' NATO is maintaining on the map. Is it in Africa? Asia? The Middle East? India? South America? Just where is it, this empire? It is a mutual self defense pact, that is all it is.

  76. And NATO is practically disbanded, they don't amount to a shit, really. They can field a few, mostly noncombatants, in Afghanistan, is all. Even the Canadians are doing better, there, and we should give them a good salute, Ash notwithstanding.

  77. "But what 'empire' is NATO maintaining, Mat?"

    That of Anglo-centric linguistic influence and dominance. That of Anglo-centric cultural influence and dominance. That of Anglo-centric commercial influence and dominance. That of Anglo-centric political and diplomatic dominance. That of general Anglo-centric homogenization and destruction of variety.

  78. Buying out electric trolleys manufactures and replacing their infrastructure with that of automobiles and highways is not an act of benevolence.

  79. Bob,

    Is the cultural WalMartization of the Globe what we want? Do you not see how destructive this is?

  80. I am not so sure the world is ready for benevolence.

    My conversion came in late 1990’s early 2000 when I read about the Asian currency crisis of 1997-98 and the complicity of the IMF through their poor performance in implementing the distribution of trillions of dollars in aid packages to help developing nations. The subsequent revelations about UN Oil for Food scandals were not that much of a surprise.

    Benevolence and money don’t belong in the same sentence.

    This country has produced a GDP that has been generously redistributed back into third world countries through international agencies that have squandered it.

    Benevolence requires a vehicle that hasn’t been invented yet.

    The automobile industry made a lot of people rich.

    The benevolence of the IMF made a few people very rich.

  81. "The automobile industry made a lot of people rich."

    It also has made people much poorer. Like WalMart, it destroys much more than it creates.

  82. cultural WalMartization of the Globe

    It starts by supporting nation-states, which is very unpopular in this country.

    Neither is it on the transnational liberal agenda.

    Internal trend lines towards cultural homogeneity - issues in the desert SW - cannot be dictated, one way or the other, but there are structural solutions, such as border security and processing the illegals so they pay taxes and speak the language. Aside from that, the importance of maintaining a cultural heritage is decided at the family and individual level.

    We have spent a lot of time dissecting Obama’s relationship with a church that emphasizes cultural and racial identity over national identity. Can’t have it both ways.

  83. It also has made people much poorer. Like WalMart, it destroys much more than it creates.

    Are you playing the dilettante - drawing up sides between free market capitalism and centrally planned bureaucracies? Do you have your own personal third rail?

    This destruction you speak of - should be the province of the individual, should it not? Since when is it the responsibility of government to create conditions - presumably economic conditions - that ensure the survival of non-marketable “equities” such as cultural and racial identity? Is that not properly the responsibility of the individual?

  84. "Neither is it on the transnational liberal agenda."

    Why would it be, when the same corporate transnationals own the political system.

  85. "This destruction you speak of - should be the province of the individual, should it not?"

    Right. Then why the fsck am I holding this or that passport?

  86. "Do you have your own personal third rail?"

    Yes, I do.

    1/ I'm a national citizen, and not a soulless nationless consumer.
    2/ Corporations and their products are there to serve me and my interests, and not the other way round.
    3/ Corporate entities are NOT citizens. They should NOT be allowed any participation or any kind of influence in the political system.

  87. That of Anglo-centric linguistic influence and dominance.

    Good grief Mat, at this point we'll have to agree to disagree.

    1. I don't know what the hell that means.

    2. I don't want to live in a medieval third world third turd world village.

    3. I'll drive, you walk, we part in peace.

    Mat, can't I at least talk you into a scooter? :)

  88. I don’t know. Your beanie cap is on too tight?

    I understand what you are saying. Short of revolution, what do you suggest?

    I am not a native of the SW - only been here going on four years but I now understand the border issue much better. What is striking about it, is that the security fix is relatively straight-forward - a structural wall. Presumably we can do that. But it isn’t getting done.

    So the issue reduces to one of collective action. How we get things done. The Founding Fathers of this country left us the best framework they could develop. It has worked more than not for the people of this country. Did you read a few of Wretchard’s last posts before he migrated to PJ? Very moving writing.

    One thing I got from Iraq and all the other developments, is that it might not be enough to “work” on a global scale which is why I am maintaining that globalization was premature - at least until we can do some basic financial accounting.

    Like the old country western song says “stop the world and let me off.”

    Optimism being the triumph of hope over experience.

    P.S. I would rather hold a passport in my own two hands than drink the kool-aid of the many.

  89. OK, the corruption is an area of confluence. I am not a purist on this subject. A little bit of corruption keeps the lawyers occupied and off the streets. But compare the bad handshakes between business and government with the breath-taking loss of trillions of dollars through the IMF to Asian countries - lost to currency speculators that may or may not include Soros. The financial markets require serious drop-dead regulation. It looks like some of it is coming - I see 400 Wall Street traders are facing real jail time. Cry me a river.

  90. I'm a national citizen, and not a soulless nationless consumer.

    Mat, you've been drinking today. And you are providing all the needs of your life without taking part in the system, not buying stuff?

    Wizard, I call ya.

  91. Which reminds me, how are you talking here, without being part of the grid? You built your own energy system, and your own computor, and hacked in? Or you run it on your own bio-energy, which you get from eating God's good green grass?

  92. Optimism being the triumph of hope over experience.

    The definition of a second marriage, or third or fourth, and the Obama Campaign.

  93. Mat, can't I at least talk you into a scooter? :)



    You know I love America and Americans. The American people have much a noble instinct in them. But I don't want rampart uncontrolled Anglo-centric corporate transnationalism opening shop in my country. I see what these corporate entities have done to the American civic landscape, and frankly I think they are step backwards in the project of civilization as far as I'm concerned.

  94. We may have a lot to answer for in the area of aesthetics and so forth, no doubt.
    But honestly Mat, tho I've never been to Tel-Aviv, I imagine over all it's not so much different than, say, Portland or Seattle. The needs of the human race are constant, we could do better expressing them, I agree. Since it's become my policy not to argue with folks, particularily the ones I like, like you, I drop the subject. :)

  95. "Which reminds me, how are you talking here, without being part of the grid?"

    That's the wrong question to ask, Bob.

    The right question to ask is why am I here being part of the "grid". Why is it that life is deliberately channeled to revolve around and in the service of the "grid". We're becoming slaves to the machine and the machinations of the machine. Can you not see that?

  96. Since it's become my policy not to argue with folks, particularily the ones I like, like you, I drop the subject. :)

    No, please don't.

  97. Them scooters, Bob, you got them in red. :D

  98. Tel-Aviv, Bob, used to be called the of white. I now call it the city of soot.


  100. We're becoming slaves to the machine and the machinations of the machine

    Slaves, slaves we all are, to the electric company, to the food market!

    That sounds like a rock song, Mat.

    Even Thoreau wanted to get the hell away from Walden Pond, and all that chopping wood. There are plenty of National Forests about, if you want to go that route. A court even ruled here, your tent is your castle, in the National
    Forest, you are not giving up your Constitutional Rights by hanging out in the forest.

    Good Luck to you.

    Because people are lazy, like to have an electric light, like to take a shower, rather than wash in the river, if one is availbable, and so forth. People like to eat. Mat, I quit, and I go in peace! :)

    I got a green scooter, $700. Not for sale though.

    Hell, Mat I can't stand big cities. I'd got nuts. Some people like them. There are many other options. Like chosing not to live in a big city.

  101. "I don't want to live in a medieval third world third turd world village."

    Amen, bob.

  102. That's interesting about Tel-Aviv. There must have been living there in the old old days, though, right? as Tel means hill or old construction site?

    Trish has plenty of villages you can try in Colombia, Mat.

  103. Bob,

    Does it really have to be one extreme or the other?

  104. No, not at all, but, I can tell you this from my own personal experience. I have some land right in the city here, which I am slowly developing. I asked my realtor once, why not get the U of I Department of Architecture to make up a good plan for us? He said, good idea, but not really, as I've done that before. They will come up with a great plan, but you'll lose money, carrying it out. The market will not sustain all the stuff they will throw in. If it is possible to figure out a way to make it work within a realistic budget, that's the trick. No develper wants to go broke creating magic land.

  105. Yes, Tel-Aviv literally means Hill of Spring.

    Some pics:

  106. They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot
    With a pink hotel, a boutique
    And a swinging hot SPOT
    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you’ve got
    ‘Til it's gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    They took all the trees
    And put them in a tree museum
    Then they charged the people
    A dollar and a half just to see 'em
    Don't it always seem to go,
    That you don't know what you’ve got
    ‘Til it’s gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    Hey farmer, farmer
    Put away that DDT now
    Give me spots on my apples
    But LEAVE me the birds and the bees
    Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you’ve got
    ‘Til its gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

  107. Do read:

  108. Yeah, that's nice, Mat. The good parts of Miami come to mind. When I get rich....I have a lot of places I'd like to go, Israel being right up there at the top of a long list.

  109. But, Mat, that old song, could be applied to Tel-Aviv too, no? They ruined God's good desert, the beautiful desert straight from the hand of God, rather than live in a tent, and get heat from camel dung.

  110. Pink Hotels, I can go for that. :)

    Bob, you know I'd be more than happy to subsidize your stay at my flat in that shitty little country.

  111. Mat, it might happen and I'll take you up. It depends on what happens here. I'm not, it seems, in total control of my life. I was going to Ohio this summer for instance, and here I am waiting on a Zoning hearing. But, I'd love to, and, I may well be able to. Thank you so much for the offer. I hope you live to regret it:)

  112. Heheh,

    You better practice riding that scooter. :)

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