Archive for the ‘War and Peace’ Category

Vladimir Putin’s ambitions and Ukraine’s future

October 29, 2014

I don’t know Vladimir Putin’s intentions in Ukraine, but I don’t see anything that threatens the United States or is worth risking war over.

_77307916_ukraine_voters_regions_624mapUkraine held elections Sunday which evidently were won by anti-Russian, pro-European parties.  But the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Lugansk districts did not take part, and will hold their own elections this coming Sunday.

The government in Kiev objects to the Donetsk-Lugansk vote, but spokesmen for the Russian government say they’ll honor its results.

A smart Ukrainian-American friend of mine said Putin’s policy to Ukraine is the same as Hitler’s policy toward Czechoslovakia.  Hitler’s demand was to annex the Sudetenland border region, where Germans were in the majority.  But Hitler went on to annex the whole of the country and then to attack Poland, launching the Second World War.

In the same way, he said, Putin’s aim is to first annex Donetsk and Lugansk, then take over the whole of Ukraine and then move against Poland and the Baltic states.

worldaccordingtoputinAnother friend, who speaks Russian and watches Russian television, agrees with this assessment.  She said Putin is an extreme Russian nationalist and imperialist.  Russians despise other nationalities, and especially look down on Americans as naive and weak, she said; it is important to stop Russia in Ukraine and nip Putin’s ambitions in the bud.

My impression of Vladimir Putin is that he is a tough and ruthless, but realistic.  He may lie, but he doesn’t deceive himself.  As a Russian nationalist, he no doubt regards himself as the protector of Russians wherever they are, including Russians in Ukraine and northern Kazakhstan.  Putin is trying to organize something called the Eurasian Union, an economic bloc consisting of the republics of the former Soviet Union, as a rival to the European Union.  No doubt, like all Russian statesmen before him, he thinks it essential that Russia have access to the Baltic and Black seas.

I don’t see anything in this that threatens the interests of the United States or the European Union, and certainly not anything worth risking war over.

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Why the Iraqi army won’t fight

October 21, 2014

The Iraqi army is retreating, often without firing a shot, from the forces of the Islamic State (ISIS), which they vastly outnumber.

This comes after a decade in which the U.S. government spent $25 billion to train and equip the Iraqi troops.

It is not necessary to know a lot about the Middle East to understand why.  Troops won’t put their lives in danger for someone to whom they feel no loyalty.  They will feel no loyalty to a government that is completely corrupt.  Any government that is set up to serve the interests of a foreign power (the USA) is almost inherently corrupt.

These are not problems that could have been solved by keeping a token American force in Iraq for a few years longer.   They might possibly have been solved if the existing Iraqi army had not been dissolved right after the U.S.-led invasion.

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Investing in Junk Armies: Why American Efforts to Create Foreign Armies Fail by William J. Astore for TomDispatch (via The Unz Review).   Highly recommended.

The Iraqi Army That Never Was by Kelly Vlahos for The American Conservative.

Fear of showing weakness is itself a weakness

October 17, 2014

armingsyrianrebels

Why is President Obama arming proxy armies in Syria to fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Assad government, despite warnings from his advisers that such policies have not worked in the past?

I think he is following in the footsteps of American presidents for the past 50 years, who have waged war and sponsored covert operations not to protect the American people and not in all cases to further the interests of U.S.-based corporations, but to avoid the appearance of seeming week.

Take the Vietnam Conflict.  Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson are now known to have had misgivings about military intervention in Vietnam.  What they feared was the effect on American prestige of suffering a defeat, and the effect on their own popularity of having “lost” a country to Communism.

When Richard M. Nixon was became President in 1969, he inherited the Vietnam War, he was not responsible for the hopeless situation, yet he kept on fighting nevertheless.  What was wanted, according to Henry Kissinger, was to save the USA and the Nixon administration from humiliation by having a “decent interval” between the withdrawal of the last American troops and the triumph of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese.

Our country would have been better off if Presidents Kennedy and Johnson had never committed the United States to defending South Vietnam, or if President Nixon had wound up the war quickly.  Our nation would not have been so divided, our military would not have been demoralized and our leaders would not have been preoccupied for the next 40 years with wiping out the humiliation of that defeat.

Or take the 35-year cold war waged by the United States against Iran.  I see no inherent conflict of interest between the governments of Iran and the United States.  In fact, Iran and the USA share common enemies in Al Qaeda and its successor, the Islamic State (ISIS).  But for the United States to reconcile with Iran would seem weak, after the humiliation suffered by the taking of U.S. embassy personnel as hostages by Iranian radicals in 1979.  It is that, more than any public interest or business interest, that prevents the United States from seeking peace with Iran.

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Going to war for oil doesn’t make any sense

October 9, 2014

infographic.ime.oil.gas

One of the justifications for going to war in the Middle East is to make sure we Americans have access to oil.

During the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War, Secretary of State James Baker said the issue was “jobs, jobs, jobs.”  He didn’t explain, but what I and other Americans took him to mean that if Saddam Hussein cut us off from the oil of Kuwait, our industrial machine would falter.

But there was no danger of that happening.  Saddam Hussein was perfectly happy to sell Iraq’s oil, and would have been perfectly happy to sell Kuwait’s oil.

oilcorridorThe oil-producing nations have just as much need to sell their oil as the oil-consuming nations have to buy it.

U.S. interventions in the Middle East have reduced American access to oil, not secured it.  The sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s, the continuing sanctions against Iran and the new sanctions against Russia have been intended to prevent these nations from selling their oil and natural gas.  The invasion of Iraq destroyed much of that nation’s oil-producing capability, which is only now recovering.

All this made oil and gas prices higher, not lower.

The only time U.S. access to Middle East oil was cut off was during the OPEC oil embargo of 1973.  But the embargo was broken without military action.  It was broken by the international oil companies who sold the oil to whoever wanted to buy it.  [1]

Since then there has never been another threat to U.S. oil imports.  The most strongly anti-American leaders, Libya’s Qaddafi and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, never refused to do business with the United States.  Politics was one thing; business, another.

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Decades of war haven’t made the USA safer

October 8, 2014

American intervention in the Middle East is not a reaction to anti-American Muslim terrorism.  Anti-American terrorism is a response to American intervention in the Middle East, which goes back long before Al Qaeda or ISIS.

The Reagan administration’s naval bombardment of Lebanon and aerial bombing of Libya were acts of war, and created a precedent for further acts of war.

_78096355_iraq_syria_air_strikes_20140810_976_v2Such acts have become so common that we Americans have come to think of them as normal, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the opinion the relatives and loved ones of the civilians killed in those bombings.

Al Qaeda’s original complaint against the United States, remember, was that American troops didn’t belong on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia.   U.S. troops came to Saudi Arabia as part of the war to drive Saddam Hussein’s troops out of Kuwait, and remained there as part of the low-level war against Iraq through the 1990s.

I’m not trying to justify Al Qaeda, or ISIS, either.  To the contrary!  I’m just recalling known historical facts.

Andrew Bacevich, writing in the Washington Post, counts 13 majority-Muslim countries that the United states has invaded, occupied or bombed since 1980, without either bringing stability to the region or making Americans more secure.

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John Oliver: Drones aren’t all that funny

October 7, 2014

Hat tip to Mike Connelly.

Bill O’Reilly wants anti-terror mercenary army

September 25, 2014

oreilly-mercenaries

The above is from Bill O’Reilly’s Monday evening appearance on Fox News. Source: Media Matters.

CBS_This_Morning_-Oreilly

The above is from O’Reilly’s Tuesday morning appearance on CBS News.  Source: Daily Kos.

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For what it’s worth, the United States government already has an elite force for fighting terrorists.  It is called the Joint Special Operations Command.  Whatever can be accomplished through valor, training and military professionalism, they can do.

The problem is that if the U.S. government does not have a clear purpose in waging war, American troops can not accomplish that vague purpose, no matter how dedicated they are nor how skilled in use of deadly force.

The “global war on terror” does not have a clear purpose.  The U.S. government fights against certain terrorists under certain circumstances in the interest of advancing U.S. geopolitical power, while supporting other terrorists (and sometimes the same terrorists) when this fits the U.S. purpose.

Outsourcing U.S. military operations to mercenaries—and the dictionary definition of “mercenary” is “serving merely for pay or sordid advantage”—is intended to solve a political and Constitutional problem, not a military problem.

The political problem is that we the American people are not interested in fighting wars of geopolitical advantage.  We are only willing to fight when we think our own country is threatened.

Terrorism is not such a threat.  We Americans (and the world) are more in danger from the Ebola virus than we are from the Islamic States and its predecessors.  That is why our government has had to lie and exaggerate our perils in order to talk us into war.  Each time, the lies and exaggerations become less believable.

With a mercenary army, the political problem goes away.  Mercenaries would fight whomever they are paid to fight, no questions asked.  The drawback is that they wouldn’t necessarily be American citizens or have any loyalty to the United States.

We would face the historical problem of countries that depend on mercenary fighters, which is how to prevent mercenaries from turning against their employers when that is the more profitable option.

LINK [added later]

10 Frightening Facts About Private Military Companies by Pauli Poisuo for ListVerse.   Hat tip to djgarcia94.

The practicality of nonviolent civil resistance

September 21, 2014

Erica Chenoweth in this TED talk says that in the past 50 or so years, nonviolent civil resistance (or, as I prefer to call it, mass defiance) has a better track record of success than violent struggle for overthrowing oppressive governments and resisting conquest.

I am not a pacifist, but in recent years I have gotten out of the mindset that says that war is the baseline answer to oppression and aggression, and it is only the alternatives to war that must justify themselves.

The aim of your oppressor is to compel you to obey him.  The oppressor is defeated when he comes to realize that your obedience cannot be compelled.  The effective way to do that is to join with others in mass defiance.  To me, violence or the lack of violence are not the most important things.  The most important thing is a population that shows it cannot be compelled to submit.

What I have learned from reading the writings of Gene Sharp is that nonviolent struggle requires as much strategy and tactics as violent struggle.  Just going out and letting yourself be hit over the head doesn’t necessarily accomplish anything.  What counts, as he has pointed out, is to find ways to destroy the enemy’s legitimacy and fearsomeness.

Now there are circumstances in which this does not apply.  If the aim of your enemy is not to rule over you, but to destroy you or to drive you off your land, your only choices are to flee or fight.   Nonviolence resistance would not have worked for the Jews or gypsies against the Nazis.   But not every enemy is a Hitler.

I thank Mike Connelly for e-mailing me the link to the video.

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Afghans unaware U.S. invasion sparked by 9/11

September 15, 2014

When the United States invaded Afghanistan, I thought that at least the invasion would be an object lesson to any government who thought of harboring terrorists who attacked the United States.

But Ted Rall, a writer and cartoonist who has visited and toured Afghanistan twice without protection of the U.S. military, said no such lesson was ever learned.   In an interview with Salon about his new book, After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan, Rall said this:

I’ve never met a single Afghan who had any understanding of the relationship between 9/11 and the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. 

In fact, I’ve never met a single Afghan who even understood what happened on 9/11, understood the scale of it.

SONY DSCI was repeatedly having to explain it to people, having to explain these buildings and how big they were and how many people were in them and how it affected the American psyche and so on.

Whenever you asked [Afghans], regardless of their age or their politics or their tribal affiliation, they’d all say the same thing: The only reason the U.S. was in Afghanistan was because the U.S. was the dominant superpower in the world; and from their point of view, whoever is the dominant superpower in the world at any given time invades Afghanistan.

So we’re just there because we could — they all think that.

If Americans think Afghans understand that whatever suffering they’re going through is somehow tied to 9/11, no; they should be disabused of that, because Afghans just don’t think that.  That’s just universally true.

They think we’re there because we hate Islam or because we want to steal Afghanistan’s natural resources or because it’s strategically important or “I don’t know, but they’re here, and I just have to deal with them!”

… … They always call us “the foreigners,” which just refers to the inevitable foreign presence that’s always there, whether it’s Soviet advisers in the 1960s and ’70s or the Red Army in the ’80s or whatever it is.

“There’s always foreigners here. We’re a weak country. We can’t defend our borders.  The foreigners come and go; we shoot a lot of them, and then they leave.”

Black humor is absolutely a huge survival tool for people who live in stressful circumstances — and Afghans are very, very funny people.

via Ted Rall’s “uncomfortable truths” – Salon.com.

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Obama and peace: Links & comments 9/12/14

September 12, 2014

NO, NO, NO – THIS DIDN’T HAPPEN – I WAS TAKEN IN BY AN INTERNET HOAX.

See What was fake on the Internet this week! .

Nobel Committee Regrets Obama Peace Prize: official statement.

Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 before he had an opportunity as President to do much of anything either for or against world peace.

Their thinking arose out of a relief that George W. Bush was no longer President, and a hope that the Peace Prize award would motivate him to be a peacemaker.

His response, when receiving the prize, was to lecture the Norwegian Nobel Institute on the evils of pacifism and the responsibility of the United States to use military force for good objectives.

The Nobel Committee stated that awarding the Peace Prize seemed at the time like a good way of advancing peace, but now this is no longer the case.

Does anybody know of any precedent for the Nobel Committee expressing regret at the awarding of any previous prize?  I can’t think of any.

Obama just announced he wants to help the guys who kidnaped Steven Sotloff by Joseph Cannon for Cannonfire (via Naked Capitalism).

President Obama’s policy is to help the Free Syrian Army as an alternative to both Bashar al-Assad’s government and the Islamic State (ISIS) forces in Syria.  But evident it was the FSA to kidnapped the American reporter, Steven Sotloff and sold him to ISIS so they could make a video of him being beheaded.

The various militias fighting the Assad government are more alike than they are different.  For one thing, they all want to wipe out Syria’s ancient Christian community.

Could Jim Webb Mount a Credible Challenge to Clinton? by Albert R. Hunt for BloombergView.

I admire Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts for her willingness to take on Wall Street financiers, but she is a down-the-line supporter of the Obama administration’s war policies.  Former Senator James Webb of Virginia is not only anti-Wall Street, but anti-interventionist and opposed to the drug laws that have resulted in mass incarceration of young black people.

Webb is a former Marine, a decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, a novelist and former Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration.  He broke with the Republican Party because he opposed the George W. Bush administration’s war policies and its captivity to Wall Street.   Unfortunately the Obama administration was no improvement, and Hillary Clinton would be even worse.

Webb is an opponent of gun control, has reservations about feminism (especially as applied to the military) and differs with many Democrats on social issues that are dear to their hearts.  I don’t think any of these things matter so much as peace, economic justice and fundamental civil liberties.


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