May 3, 2007

Do we have to play the "Great Game" quite so much?

The 9/11 slaughter was a byproduct of the "Great Game," a phrase Kipling popularized in his classic novel Kim to describe the rivalry in Asia between the British Empire in India and the Russian Empire, which was subduing the Muslim "Stans" of Central Asia and pushing, vaguely, in the direction of India. From roughly 1813 onward, Britain and Russia jockeyed for power and influence over the buffer zone of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union inherited the Czarist empire and the U.S. inherited many British Empire strategic concerns. Thus, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and the U.S. encouraged Saudis to play a role in the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan, which eventually helped bring down the Soviet Union. But an unwanted side effect was that Osama bin Laden sharpened his taste for trouble in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Now, in the apocalyptic calculus of the Cold War, the 9/11 blowback was eminently a price worth paying. If in 1980 you asked me if I would trade 3,000 U.S. civilians' lives to eliminate permanently all possibility of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear war or even of just a U.S.-Soviet tank war in the Fulda Gap, I would have agreed instantly.

But the Cold War is over. We won.

In Kipling's novel, the "Great Game" sounds like tremendous fun, but, when you stop and think about it, Christ Almighty, it's only Afghanistan they are squabbling over, after all, not the Monterey Peninsula.

And that raises a more general issue. The "Great Game" is only a specific version of the "Game of Nations" (which was the title of a 1969 book by CIA agent Miles Copeland, father of Stewart Copeland, drummer of The Police).

For example, the U.S., apparently, recently encouraged Ethiopia to invade Somalia, as part of our revival of the Grand Strategy of the Crusaders, which was to make contact with the Christian King Prester John on the far side of the Islamic World and encourage him to open a two-front attack on the insolent Musselmen.

When I was younger and more testosterone-driven, this kind of thing seemed very exciting. Why, yes, of course America must assert its national interests in the strategically vital Horn of Africa!

But now, just thinking about it makes me very, very tired. I have no faith any longer that the U.S. government officials who are playing the Game of Nations in the Horn know what they are doing. I suspect they are men who, being extremely competitive by nature, should instead cultivate an obsession with college sports. America is full of successful used car dealers who find fulfillment in life by bribing 7-foot teenagers to play hoops for good old State U. It's all a pointless arms race, but it sops up a lot of male competitiveness and nobody gets killed. America's foreign policy elite, in contrast, are far above such tasteless antics, but, on the other hand, they get people killed.

I'd imagine that our machinations in, say, the Horn will get people killed, and that only some of them will deserve killing. Further, I presume that some of the killees will have loved ones who will swear colorful desert nomad vows to wreak vengeance on Americans in return, and when some of them eventually carry out their promises, that will just encourage future American government officials to believe that we simply have to play the Game of Nations even harder. Rinse and repeat.

It strikes me that America has some straightforward national interests that are in line with at least some of the interests of other powerful countries, who would be happy to follow American leadership if we mostly restricted ourselves to:

- Defending existing national borders from wars of territorial conquest

- Discouraging the further cartelization of oil exporting capacity (you'll note that our globally popular leadership of Desert Storm in 1990-91 combined these two interests)

- Defending freedom of the seas and the like

- Encouraging good government (most importantly in Mexico, a country that our foreign policies elites pay remarkably little attention to, relative to farther off lands).

On the other hand, maybe America has to play the Game of Nations to the fullest extent possible. Perhaps if we don't do it, somebody else will, and they'll be so good at it that our way of life is irreparably harmed.

On the other other hand, we have the example of the late, unlamented Soviet Union, which enthusiastically played the Game of Nations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Cuba, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and other strategically vibrant hellholes. How's that working out for them?

I outlined my one-word Grand Strategy to replace the Bush Administration's Invade-the-World-Invite-the-World here in VDARE.com. But perhaps I'm being naive ...

In summary, please let me know your views. Can America cut back on playing the Game of Nations, or are we fated to play it to the maximum?


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

56 comments:

Alex said...

>If in 1980 you asked me if I would trade 3,000 U.S. >civilians' lives to eliminate permanently

Anyway, the trade, the byproduct/blowback, wasn't even necessary. The hijackers' visas never should have been stamped.

tommy said...

Unfortunately, until we can extirpate ourselves from the need for Mideast oil we are stuck playing this game to a large extent. Even our covert intervention in Afghanistan was predicated in large part upon Cold War theory about Soviet intentions regarding oil and warm water ports. When we manage to free ourselves from Arab oil, we can decide whether we might be better off just ignoring that part of the world largely or entirely.

That is why I have so much hope for technologies like plankton petro. We really need a modern Manhattan Project investigating and developing any and all possible petroleum alternatives.

tggp said...

The Afghan jihad was happening with or without us, and the Saudis spent as much on it as we did if not more. What caused Osama to declare the Saudi royal family and the U.S to be his enemies was the stationing of troops in his country that occurred before the Gulf War. So I'd say Bush Sr deserves more blame than Jimmy Carter (who began the assistance to the mujahideen).

People make it sound as if it's impossible to stop terrorists so we need to make them not hate us, but that sounds a hell of a lot more difficult (they are goofballs and have long, distorted memories) than preventing them attacking us. Anti-american terrorists are not uniformly distributed among the different nations of the world, the 9/11 hijackers were basically all Saudis or Egyptians. Al Qaeda has a much smaller pool to choose from among more common ethnicities, so they end up with losers (Richard Reid, Jose Padilla) who can't accomplish anything. If we prohibited all immigration from countries that produce a lot of anti-american terrorists, it would be much less costly than all the Department of Homeland Security bullshit we dick around with. It's so amazingly simple I can't understand why I've never heard any politician propose it. We still don't have a "homegrown terrorist" problem like England does, why not ensure that we won't when we have the chance?

Anonymous said...

I think you underestimate the temptation that people in power have to exercise that power for sheer personal self-aggrandizement. It's obvious to me that George W. Bush relishes his role as Messiah to the Third World, bringing the light of democracy to downtrodden Arabs and bringing downtrodden Mexicans into the promised land of America. I despise him for it and I think he is a very small man. But how many in his situation wouldn't get seduced by the same power that has seduced him? If we had his power at our fingertips, can we say for certain we woudln't exercise it?

Sideways said...

Weak argument. Areas that we haven't killed anyone in have been quite fruitful in their growth of violent anti-Americanism in recent years. People from Somalia are a lot less likely to get visas to come here than certain countries with established histories of trying to kill us over here. Combines for a rather minor worry, plus it's not horribly expensive.

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts:

1) My biggest dream is to one day tell the pampered, lazy "citizens" of the Gulf States: so long, thanks for the oil, go fuck yourselves. We need alternate forms of energy almost as much as we need foreigners with loyalty elsewhere out.

2) Nuclear weapons change everything. What is stopping India from being friendly with Iran? They both hate Pakistan, and Iran wants to be top regional dog very badly. We will soon be living in interesting times - you can bet that Egypt and Saudi Arabia will pay top dollar for the technology in response to Iran.

Anonymous said...

"If we had his power at our fingertips, can we say for certain we woudln't exercise it?"

You are correct. As much as I hate Bush I/Bush II/Clinton post-nationalist foreign policy, I must concede that I would be tempted to play Otto von Bismarck if I had their power even for a year.

As long as the US is a hegemon, we are doomed to be ruled by Presidents who act like the loonier Roman Emperors.

The only way to get back the American Republic is to either destroy or rein in the US Overseas Empire either by an economic collapse or the emergence of a rival power.

Perhaps this is why Bill KKKristol and his goons seem to have Russia in their crosshairs right now? ie, they are worried about Russia emerging under Putin as a rival power in Europe and Central Asia that will threaten our hegemony over those regions?

Kevin said...

Here's my plan to keep the west safe:


1. End third world immigration, especially muslims.

What to do with the ones already here is a difficult question. I commend Steve for taking up this issue; however, I don't think his citizenship buy back plan would work. The ones born here would be leaving for a country with a much lower standard of living, they may not speak the language very well, and may not fit in culturally (a stuck between two worlds thing).

Deportation is an option but I don't think the west has the fortitude to do that. The other option is what the Israelis do with their 15% or so muslim population: They're not allwoed to work in sensitive positions and are subjected to extra scrutiny. I get the feeling that the Israelis would deport their muslim population if they started committing terrorist acts. This attitude keeps a large and hostile internal population in line.


2. Infrastructure raids when necessary to keep muslim coutntries from getting nuclear weapons.

None of this utopian nation building foolishness; simple and limited wars of destruction against the physical capital and leadership of regiems who may be developing nukes.

If the U.S. had been in and out of Iraq in a year, Iran would would be behaving much more conciliatory right now. Eventually hostile regimes will get the message like Lybia did.

We have to be involved with the internal political scene in Pakistan to keep their nukes from falling into the hands of the islamists. We should be prepared to strike first if there is an unfriendly change of government - I don't think they are rational enough for MAD to work.


3. As was said previously, a program to develop alternative energy sources to weaken the influence and economies of hostile muslim countries.

tommy said...

People make it sound as if it's impossible to stop terrorists so we need to make them not hate us, but that sounds a hell of a lot more difficult

That reminds of Dinesh D'Souza. Recently, D'Souza came out looking like a real fool when he attempted to wrestle with Robert Spencer on matters of Islamic theology. He is clearly way over his head in that game. Like it or not, Spencer knows what he is talking about when it comes to Islamic doctrine. D'Souza attempted to make a ridiculous argument that amounted to saying essentially that since not every Muslim engages in jihad, that Islam must not advocate jihad. He also argued that our real problem with the Ummah is the western world's rampant immorality and that if we just cleaned up our act a bit, our potential fundamentalist friends overseas would fall madly in love with us.

Well, I recently read a book that was published in either the late 50s or the very early 60s describing communist movements in various Asian countries. When discussing Iran, the book noted in passing that religious Iranians hated America and viewed it as a land of gross immorality and corruption. If the United States couldn't convey a positive image of domestic morality to fundamentalist Muslims during the era of "Leave it to Beaver," what hope do we have now? Not only is D'Souza wrong about doctrinal matters in Islam, but he doesn't seem to have grasped the practical difficulties of implementing his ideas. He seems be under the delusion that if we just banned abortion and strip bars (including those, I assume, that the 9/11 hijackers availed themselves of), everything would be okay. He just cannot comprehend that for serious Islamic fundamentalists the line between rejecting Islam and being considered morally abominable is either thin or nonexistent.

Anonymous said...

Steve --

On some things you are quite insightful. On this you are just monumentally stupid.

9/11 was merely a continuation of the 1993 WTC bombing done by Ramzi Yusef and the various tribes etc. The same people were involved (KSM, etc.) and the same objective: kill as many Americans as possible to make the entire American system collapse. This isn't blowback. It's the long struggle against Islam that predates America itself. Muslim pirates were our first enemies at Independence.

Over and over again, Muslims like Hezbollah's leader say, "we are not fighting to get anything from you, we are fighting to KILL you." Islam cannot and will not coexist with the modern world. Bin Laden and Khomeni both argued that America is weak and can be attacked with impunity.

Here's the Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker (PA's Nancy Pelosi):

Ahmad Bahr began: "You will be victorious" on the face of this planet. You are the masters of the world on the face of this planet. Yes, [the Koran says that] "you will be victorious," but only "if you are believers." Allah willing, "you will be victorious," while America and Israel will be annihilated. I guarantee you that the power of belief and faith is greater than the power of America and Israel. They are cowards, who are eager for life, while we are eager for death for the sake of Allah. That is why America's nose was rubbed in the mud in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Somalia, and everywhere.

Bahr continued and said that America will be annihilated, while Islam will remain. The Muslims "will be victorious, if you are believers." Oh Muslims, I guarantee you that the power of Allah is greater than America, by whom many are blinded today. Some people are blinded by the power of America. We say to them that with the might of Allah, with the might of His Messenger, and with the power of Allah, we are stronger than America and Israel.

The Hamas spokesperson concluded with a prayer, saying: "Oh Allah, vanquish the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them all, down to the very last one. Oh Allah, show them a day of darkness. Oh Allah, who sent down His Book, the mover of the clouds, who defeated the enemies of the Prophet defeat the Jews and the Americans, and bring us victory over them."
-----------------

Somalia and Mogadishu were HQ in Africa for Al Qaeda. Remember that? African embassy bombings? Osama? Ring any bells? Ethiopa had a common interest in not being absorbed by the Islamic Courts Union, hard core Islamists. The US wanted no more safe havens for another Embassy bombing or worse.

The Ethiopians don't care about the Press moaning about human rights. If the ICU stages a comeback in Mogadishu they are in the process of leveling it. Think of it as an experiment between "hearts and minds" in Iraq and outsourcing with Soviet style action and "I don't care about Amnesty International or NBC" in Mogadishu.

There are evil people in the word. Most Muslims want a world-wide Caliphate with Sharia Law. You can either Steve submit to Islam or fight. That's your choice. If you want to fight you can either nuke half of all Muslims into radioactive cinders after our provocative and enticing weakness leads to nuked American cities, or you can fight before hand to prevent that.

Somalia itself won't address the fundamentals, jihadists hiding behind dysfunctional states they partly control. This includes Saudi, Kuwait, Pakistan, Iran at a minimum. However keeping Somalia out of the ICU is like preventing the Japanese from taking Midway. At least we stop losing. The idea that fighting people will only make them mad so we should just surrender is not a serious thought and deserves contempt.

By your logic arresting rapists and murderers would only make them mad. Best not to do anything. No police. They might get mad.

I think this post speaks to a fundamentally unserious desire to return to 1992. That isn't going to happen. We will have to spend more on our military than the pitiful 3.4% of GDP. More like 5 or 6%. Engage in shows of force to deter collaboration on things like 9/11. Particularly since nuke proliferation is unstoppable (too many willing sellers). No end of History. Sorry to destroy your fantasy of the entire world looking like Woodland Hills.

This is entirely separate from Iraq being a good idea or not. But NOT to fight anywhere against Islamic Aggression just makes America enticingly weak.

Bart Calhoun said...

I think the best thing that could happen would be nuke proliferation. A bunch of Arabs might, make that would, kill each other.

And losing Manhattan and Tel Aviv? Like these would be the tragedies of all tragedies. Not to me.

A nuclear armed Arab world would force us to get serious. We'd park six boomers off their coasts and build a new manned bomber. We would have to have a guaranteed obliteration policy.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if we recruited 12yos who actually speak the language and are familiar with the customs of the country, and raised them up to have loyalty to the right side, we wouldn't suck so hard at the Great Game.

And Steve, before air travel the Khyber Pass was kind of a big deal. Just kinda.

Anonymous said...

Can America cut back on playing the Game of Nations...?

Well, you are talking about asserting control over the levers of power and steering a coherent new course. What is the evidence that New America is interested in doing that?

I think it has occurred to you, iSteve, how few great men our society has produced lately. In spite of the teeming millions. Today's raw numbers dwarf the early Republic and yet that tiny community's leadership makes our best look like midgets. Also, your recent posting on that astonishing group of achievers from period England tells us quite a lot. Indeed.

You have been examining modern America's Mystic Chords of Memory on this website for years. And you have shown us evidence of a lobotomy of the national consciousness. In fact it's more like near total brain replacement, isn't it? Or like memory chip replacement. Or at the very least national memory chip editing.

So, as to the question of a "direction" for the modern US government, I argue that it is not for the people to say.

Anonymous said...

War without settlement is extremely wasteful. The idea of spending gajillions of dollars and then leaving so the locals can get back to living idyllic "It's a Small World" lives is a joke. You need population replacement, or at least supplement. Put some butt-kickers on the ground, and marry in with the local important so-and-so's. And bring some culture.

At least the Muslims figured out that part.

daveg said...

Come on all you neocon wannabes, they don't "hate us for our freedom."

Best example - Jews and Christians lived in Muslim countries for hundreds of years. They were not “hated” as a general class – sure they had some problems, but back in those days that was true on all sides for minority populations.

Then something changed. What was that change - Israel.

Since Israel’s formation both Jews and Christians have slowly been pushed out of Muslim nations. This has largely been in response to "street" violence and small group action, rather than organized government, but it has still happened.

See this and understand that the same exodus has happened to the Christian community as well, except that it has also happened to the Christian community in Israel.

Now, there have been a lot of other sources of "blowback" as well, as we have propped up numerous oppressive governments including those of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and Iraq. We have done this both covertly and overtly, but to a large extent it goes unnoticed and unappreciated by the American republic.

Because the public doesn’t have a full understanding of US activities abroad when violence erupts we wonder "why do they hate us?" They hate us because our government is taking aggressive action against their “community” interests in many different ways.

As far as hate coming from countries in which that we have not taken action, a) this type of anger spreads beyond its original borders, and b) if I do enough research I can typically find source of blowback in those countries as well.

In the short term we need to stop immigration and substantially reduce our foreign activities. In some countries it will get more ugly before it gets better, but in the long run things will improve.

Look at Viet Nam. By doing nothing, Viet Nam is now starting to trade with us and the government is reforming. Contrast this with N. Korea or Cuba, where we have taken a "hard line" - very little reform.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dave. This particular comments section needed a bit of rational thought.

Martin said...

Mr. Sailer,

You and E.M. Forster are exactly right. We should not be there, and they should not be here. I don't buy the argument that we have to be involved in the middle-east because we need oil. Iran and the Arab oil-producing states have nothing of any value to the world other than oil, and there are other suppliers besides. Consequently, they need to sell it to us, far more than we need to buy it from them. I say we just back the tanker up to the depot, and buy the oil at the market rate from whatever despot is governing their miserable little country that week.

I think the evidence is by now quite compelling that empire is a losing proposition. In the long run, it only makes your nation poor, or even just makes it disappear. I see no reason why we shouldn't aspire to just being a large nuclear-armed Switzerland. If necessary we could adopt as our new national flag the old Yankee standard "Don't Tread on Me", suitably updated for our modern age as "Don't F**K With Me"

And it is not just the middle-east I would withdraw from, but also Central Asia (as our involvement there only needlessly angers Russia), Africa (as it's a hopeless basket-case), Latin America (who cares, really), and South Korea (the only reason they aren't eating tree bark and venerating Kim Jong Il is because of the U.S. Army, and they still hate us - screw 'em).

Everytime we get militarily involved somewhere the result is a new stream of refugees arriving on our shores from that place - Vietnam, El Salvador, Somalia, and now Iraq. Often times, these refugee streams consist of people who passionately hate us.

And by withdraw, I mean in many cases actually shutting down our embassies and consulates. Why do we need an embassy in Burkina Fasso? If we have embassies in a given country, the embassy personel will just issue visas to people whom we'll ultimately never be rid of.

We should of course also withdraw from the U.N., and encourage it's collapse. It may have been a useful puppet back in the 50's, but its current, expanded, and obstreperous membership doesn't work for us anymore. We should derail that gravy train.

President Bush recently stated that we cannot survive in a world where other nations are enslaved by tyrants (or words to that effect). In a word, this is nonsense. In two words, this is ridiculous nonsense. How free from tyranny was the world in the 19th century, or for that matter when our nation was founded? Not very. And we got along just fine.

Steve Sailer said...

The Onion says it better than I can:

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/middle_east_conflict_intensifies

Shantanu Thakur said...

I usually agree with Mr. Sailer, but I'm not sure I agree with his latest posting.

Does anyone really think America would have gone to war with the USSR over Afghanistan, let alone a nuclear war? Not in 100 years. There wouldn't have been a war even if the Soviets had later invaded East to Pakistan and West to Iran/Iraq. I'll tell you what did start a war in Afghanistan that America became involved in: Osama bin Laden (an associate of the American backed Muslim rebels in the 1980's) deciding to fly planes into the WTC and Pentagon.

I think this incident was the first time in a long time that America really had to think long and hard about the various dictators and rebel groups it had backed around the world, for its short term interests. And what of Saddam Hussein?

I hate to say this, but America is seen as a fairly devious country around the world, that gets what it wants with money and millitary power. That's not to say people don't want America on their side; it's just that this country doesn't have any real allies other than the UK and perhaps Australia.

A lot of people still see the USSR through the prism of Cold War politics. But try to look at it from the point of view of other countries around the world. The USSR was a lot more principled than the unpredictable USA during the Cold War, and would typically leave you alone (think India, Austria, Finland) if you at least professed some belief in socialism. You could stay at arm's length away from the American Eagle, without getting too close to the Russian Bear (to borrow a Sailerism), and I think that saved a lot of people's lives.

Shantanu Thakur said...

One more thing:

I think it's great that the Russians/Soviets conquered and ruled the Central Asian "Stans" for much of the past 200 years. They did the world a big favor, as those are some messed up places that make Saudi Arabia look civilized. I wish the Russians still controlled those places, and even Afghanistan.

SFG said...

You know, I just came by and saw both this post and the one on books for boys, and can't help but wonder if Rumsfeld and Co. read a few too many of those books and haven't quite grown up yet.

Yeah, I'm a neo-isolationist, I guess. Though you could be cynical and say I'm afraid of being drafted. In any event I don't know what we're going to do unless we do something about our oil addiction and quit giving the Arabs money to kill us with. I do wonder if being a bit less one-sided on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict would help. I honestly don't know; it does piss them off but so does our backing all the secular tyrants who give us our oil.

SFG said...

Whoops, mentioned Jews. Now this whole thing is going to spin out of control.

Alex(ei) said...

Britain had major advantages in the Great Game -- they knew how to act by proxy, how to stoke local conflicts to the empire's advantage, and how to build coalitions without committing too much to them. Russia was more straightforward and as a result, wasted more resources on the wars it had to fight to keep up with Britain. It doesn't look the US is good at playing it British style, so it may end up wasting resource on local conflicts like Czarist Russia did. Granted, the US is one of the most developed economies in the world while Russia was one of the most backward in Europe... Yet, Russia had nearly unlimited human and natural resources in the late 19th century.

Russian and Soviet dominance eventually got Central Asia westernized in a way in the 20th century, but at a massive cost to Russia proper.

Another byproduct of the Great Game was the prolonged, unnatural existence of the Ottoman Empire.

Gary said...

Shantanu -

I think the view of America as devious is a fairly recent development. Sure, there have been incidents now and then going back 100 years or more, but the widely held view I think goes back primarily to the days of the LBJ and Nixon administrations. And many would consider those two to be our most dishonest presidents.

And you are correct that we don't have any allies (or friends if you prefer) other than the UK, Australia, perhaps Japan and Canada. That is why I think it is so silly when George Bush starts blathering about how Mexico is our friend. Has he forgotten how ready the Mexican government was in the mid 1980s to stab us in the back when it looked as though all of Central America could become Societ client states?

Anonymous said...

Anon. 8:04, worked up into a World Nut Daily lather, shrieked:

"9/11 was merely a continuation of the 1993 WTC bombing done by Ramzi Yusef and the various tribes etc. The same people were involved (KSM, etc.) and the same objective: kill as many Americans as possible to make the entire American system collapse. This isn't blowback."

Right. In 1993 there was not yet any reason for blowback from "the various tribes."

Read a book, Anon.

If a fool pokes a stick into a hornets nest, hornets will swarm out. "These various swarms of hornets are attacking and they have an ingrained instinct to sting us all - they must be bombed!" cries the fool. If the hornets' communications could be translated, they might well read "Sting and kill, kill all the big attacking devils! Kill them for our holy hornet cause!" The fool, reading the translation, might well opine, "See? These various swarms of hornets only want to kill us. Us or them!"

And so it goes. An old Polish proverbs says, "The jew cries out in pain as he strikes you."

tommy said...

Best example - Jews and Christians lived in Muslim countries for hundreds of years. They were not “hated” as a general class – sure they had some problems,

They lived as dhimmis. They were certainly despised by the general population. Dhimmitude is an institutionalized feature of the Islamic religion based off rules outlined in the primary sources of Islam itself: the Qur'an and the Hadiths. The treatment of Jews during the Middle Ages was never an essential part of Christianity. Christianity's primary source, the Bible, has nothing to say about how Jews ought to be treated in a predominantly Christian society. That made ending mistreatment of minorities much easier. Do see the problem?

but back in those days that was true on all sides for minority populations.

Back in the day? Have you tried being a Christian in the Palestinian territories or Pakistan lately? How about Saudi Arabia?

tommy said...

The USSR was a lot more principled than the unpredictable USA during the Cold War, and would typically leave you alone (think India, Austria, Finland) if you at least professed some belief in socialism.

Don't confuse the inability to foster communist revolution, and the co-opting of socialist principles by moderate forces, with the USSR's lack of desire to bring such revolution about. The USSR tried very hard to nurture communism in India after World War II, for example. Unfortunately for them, there just weren't many takers. They were more successful in Korea and Vietnam. The Soviet role in bringing about Chinese Communism was largely unimportant.

Matt said...

First - WTC bombing and 9/11 weren't about "blowback".

This is "Bin Laden's War"; his plan being to unite the Muslim world behind him with the US (as proxy for the Western world) as an opponent. The result of that jihad (in his twisted mind) would be the renewal of the Caliphate with himself as Caliph presumably.

The immediate response to 9/11 (war in Afghanistan) didn't work out very well for Bin Laden and al Qaeda, obviously. He thought that the US would overreact, and he could get the US bogged down in Afghanistan, so that the US was occupying a Muslim country, killing Muslims, and being weakened/unsuccessful doing so. Such a situation would weaken the US in real power, would encourage its opponents, and would unite the Muslim world against the US. (And of course Bin Laden would be at the head of such opposition). After all, just that very thing happened to the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Obviously Bin Laden's Afghanistan war (#2) didn't work out very well. But just when things were looking very bleak for him and al Qaeda, the US saved his bacon by bringing about his dream situation in Iraq (still as a reaction to 9/11).

So, at the moment, we're not playing the "Great Game"; we're being played by a lanky Arab in a cave somewhere.

Now Bin Laden cannot establish a Caliphate ("him and what army?") but he can cause a good deal of trouble in the meantime, especially if we cooperate with his designs.

Svigor said...

Perhaps this is why Bill KKKristol and his goons seem to have Russia in their crosshairs right now? ie, they are worried about Russia emerging under Putin as a rival power in Europe and Central Asia that will threaten our hegemony over those regions?

The other way 'round. Putin pulled the Usual Suspects off of Russia, picked her up and pulled up her skirts. Rapists don't like that sort of thing.

Svigor said...

The treatment of Jews during the Middle Ages was never an essential part of Christianity. Christianity's primary source, the Bible, has nothing to say about how Jews ought to be treated in a predominantly Christian society. That made ending mistreatment of minorities much easier. Do see the problem?

What's interesting to me about this is that AFAICT, under the Muslim approach Jew-Gentile conflict approaced zero. Giving Jews room to maneuver only resulted in conflict between the two groups. Orthodox history presents the relationship as intermittent senseless Christian violence against Jews, but the reality was two-sided, and was closer to long stretches of Jewish dominance punctuated by outbursts of violent Christian resistance.

I wish there was some race-realist source material on the history of Muslim-Jew relations. Seems the current stuff all implies the lack of conflict was due to Muslim enlightenment, which I find laughable. That seems to happen a lot when you let racial liberals write your history.

daveg said...

Back in the day? Have you tried being a Christian in the Palestinian territories or Pakistan lately? How about Saudi Arabia?

Do you understand English? Do you understand the difference between the past and the present?

Coptic Christians has lived in Egypt for hundreds of years without too many problems. There was a reasonably happy Christian community in Iraq. Christians were a majority in Lebanon before Israel was created.

And, as Jews point out so often, Jews lived in the territory that is now Israel for quite some time as a minority. So did Christians.

These are just facts.

Slowly, over time these communities are being eliminated due to anger over Israel in the Muslim communities. Jewish Israel has been far worse for Christians than Muslim "Israel" was, in terms of population.

And you can argue that Muslims had a harder time in Europe, with the expulsion from Spain etc. I am not saying I completely agree with that argument, but you can make it.

Yeah, they had the dhminni thing, but how much that was enforced is not clear, and they were allowed to stay and live in peace, for the most part.

I am not saying Muslims were "better" but there was less conflict when the US was not the policeman for the world and guardian of Israel.

Anonymous said...

it's only Afghanistan they are squabbling over

The British didn't care about Afghanistan -- they cared about Russia getting into a position from which they could strike at the economically viable bits of India. Historically, you invade India from Afghanistan. Alexander did. The Mughal Shah Babar did it. The Persians and Afghans did it in the early 18th century, before Britain took over all the old Mughal dominions. And Britain didn't want to lose their establishment in India. Makes perfect sense -- they needed to keep a buffer zone (Persia, Afghanistan, and then the Northwest Frontier Province).

Re: Alexei:

Britain had major advantages in the Great Game -- they knew how to act by proxy, how to stoke local conflicts to the empire's advantage, and how to build coalitions without committing too much to them.

And one reason they could act by proxy and stoke local conflicts and so forth is that they had a substantial pool of educated men who had spent most of their lives in the colonies, spoke and read courtly Persian and Arabic and Sanskrit, and had a command of the local tongue. Even somewhat further up the line, at least under the advent of more modern, professional politicians, they had learned men who had travelled, like Lord Curzon or Lord Salisbury, and could at least work out the geography they were dealing with, and tell a Sunni from a Shiite, or a Hindu from a Jain, even if they weren't particularly knowledgeable on specifics.

They had, in other words, a pool of administrative and political talent that we just haven't got. We don't have enough Arabic speakers. We certainly haven't got enough Pashtun or Farsi speakers. None of the people we have in policy-making positions -- apparently anywhere up or down the line -- have any significant experience interacting with the people we're dealing with here. And our elected government officials -- not just the President here, but both houses of Congress across both parties, and probably -- have only the shakiest grasp of the social and physical geography of the region.

tommy said...

Do you understand English? Do you understand the difference between the past and the present?

I might ask you the same question.

Coptic Christians has lived in Egypt for hundreds of years without too many problems. There was a reasonably happy Christian community in Iraq. Christians were a majority in Lebanon before Israel was created.

You haven't met too many Copts have you? Among many other things, Mubarak's Egypt is still enforcing Ottoman-era dhimmi laws that make it very difficult for Copts to even build new churches!

And, as Jews point out so often, Jews lived in the territory that is now Israel for quite some time as a minority. So did Christians.

As reviled dhimmi minorities for most of their history. Apparently, you don't know much about either the Copts or Ottoman Palestine.

Slowly, over time these communities are being eliminated due to anger over Israel in the Muslim communities. Jewish Israel has been far worse for Christians than Muslim "Israel" was, in terms of population.

Yeah, I'm sure "anger over Israel" explains Muslim insurgencies against Christians in Indonesia and the Philippines and against Buddhists in southern Thailand, not to mention the never-ending internecine conflict between the Sunni and the Shia. Almost everywhere you find Muslims in quantity, you find trouble with Muslim fundamentalists.

daveg said...

This is "Bin Laden's War"; his plan being to unite the Muslim world behind him with the US (as proxy for the Western world) as an opponent. The result of that jihad (in his twisted mind) would be the renewal of the Caliphate with himself as Caliph presumably.

Now, you are half way there Matt, but you don't follow through with your thinking. Why are Bin Laden, and so many other Muslim terrorists focusing on the US, which is so remote from their region of interest? Why do China and other nations go unmolested?

We (the United States) are being asked to keep peace in the world at huge cost but with little benefit. You - the United States -are being used. You need to figure out who is pushing that agenda.

tommy said...

A measure the Arab world can take to help itself: end cousin marriage. It is time to say to the Arab world "You guys aren't Bedouins any longer. You're mostly city-dwellers. It's time to start acting like city-dwellers. City folk don't marry their cousins." If they cannot abolish it outright, they should offer serious incentives to individuals and families who avoid it.

David Davenport said...

The Soviet Union inherited the Czarist empire and the U.S. inherited many British Empire strategic concerns. Thus, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and the U.S. encouraged Saudis to play a role in the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan, which eventually helped bring down the Soviet Union.

No, the USA did not oppose the CCCP in Afghanistan because the U.S. "inherited many British Empire strategic concerns," if by "strategic concerns" you mena mere imperialism.

The USA sent aid to the Muslim mujies in the late 1980's because the USA was fighting the Soviets all around the globe, because it was necessary to oppose the Soviets, 'cuz they wished to bury us. That wasn't an imperialist Great Game, no sir.

This is not the same as saying it's clever for the US to try to fight its enemies by getting large numbers of American soldiers bogged down in a big guerrilla wars.

It's Guardian.co.uk leader rhetoric to sniffishly say the United States is involved in Afghanistan in now or back in the 1980's because America has taken to "playing the Great game," meaning that America is playing the white man's outdated game of imperialism.

Fighting Muhammedans overseas ain’t the same as neocolonialism.
Steve, you and Pat B. are so isolationist that you sound like Lefties sometimes.

… To repeat my attitude re Iraq: getting stuck there was and is a bad blunder, but it’s part of a long, necessary war against the enemies of Christian patriotic America.

... George Bush the true-est believer in Woodrow Wilsonism? perhaps. Again, Woodrow Wilsonism isn't the same as colonialism.

Shantanu Thakur said...

At this point Afghanistan is another quagmire that America is involved. After 6 years, no Osama bin Ladin, no Mullah Omar. Pathetic. Meh, they're not even in Afghanistan.

I'm thinking we should apologize to the Russkies and convince them to invade it again. "Oh it'll work this time. FORGIVENESS, PLEASE! Seriously, take Kabul! Take it all, we'll help you."

Anonymous said...

"The other way 'round. Putin pulled the Usual Suspects off of Russia, picked her up and pulled up her skirts. Rapists don't like that sort of thing."

Putin did a whole heck more than just getting Russia back on its feet.

Russia could well be the most powerful European state in the next decade, just as US power starts to wane.

Ukraine will move back into Russia's orbit once Yushchenko falls and is replaced in the next presidential election by Yanukovich, further enhancing Russia's power.

There is also a decent chance Ukraine would reunify with Russia in a referendum.

Belarus would almost certainly vote to reunify with Russia in a fair vote, but Lukaschenko is not interested in that for now.

The booming gas sector is allowing Russia to diversify its economy.

The demographic project Putin established last year is working as births in Russia are up 8.5% in the first two months of this year and deaths are down 9.5%.

Russia's turn around has been very dramatic, and its future probably looks better than India's which is too stratified along ethnic lines to be a world power IMO.

A Russian superstate is a problem for the NeoTrots' plans because a Russian world power would offer Europe a hardcore nationalist alternative to the brittle EU post-nationalist monstrosity.

That is a model that the NeoCONS are terrified of, as they are all Post-National Democratic Communists.

aceflyer said...

David Davenport said...

The USA sent aid to the Muslim mujies in the late 1980's because the USA was fighting the Soviets all around the globe, because it was necessary to oppose the Soviets, 'cuz they wished to bury us.


Actually, we attempted to bury the Soviets, and their reactions were in self-defense. It's elementary history, but don't worry, your igorance puts you in the vast majority.

aceflyer said...

tggp said...

The Afghan jihad was happening with or without us, and the Saudis spent as much on it as we did if not more.


It speaks volumes about the right-wing bias of the American media (on foreign policy issues) that you can say such a thing without being ridiculed.

Of course, it is well documented (but almost never discussed) that the Saudis were VERY RELUCTANT to create the Afghan Jihad. America twisted Saudi arms to get that accomplished.

Matthew Dunnyveg said...

No, we don't have to play the Great Game. While it is true that ICBM's and other high tech weapons can reach our shores, physical distances between our enemies and ourselves haven't changed since Washington gave his Farewell Address. Does anybody seriously believe that Muslims, or any other group for that matter, could launch an amphibious assault on American shores that would threaten our nation? Contrary to Bush's oft-repeated line that he'd rather fight them there than here, I find it laughable trying to imagine Al Qaeda launching an amphibious assault on our shores that would have to dwarf the Normandy Invasion.

I think it is also the case that playing the Great Game gains a country enemies it would not have if it minded its own business. All we have to do is witness our current immigration debate to realize that our government is run by transnational corporations. These same transnational corporations run American foreign policy to their benefit, and the detriment of the locals. The foreigners don't want their lives run by corporations anymore than Americans do. So, limiting the power of the federal government would serve to limit the power of the transnational corporations to make mischief.

Until recently, the Swiss made minding their own business a national priority. When was the last time Switzerland was attacked? Who would want to attack Switzerland?

No, we need to deport non-citizens and seal our borders. Instead of minding the world's business, we need to mind our own for a change.

daveg said...

Yeah, I'm sure "anger over Israel" explains Muslim insurgencies against Christians in Indonesia and the Philippines and against Buddhists in southern Thailand, not to mention the never-ending internecine conflict between the Sunni and the Shia. Almost everywhere you find Muslims in quantity, you find trouble with Muslim fundamentalists.

You are confusing conflicts with Islam in the same country (like Indonesia) with international conflicts. Indonesia has a Muslim problem because it has Muslims. For this reason we need to prevent further Muslim immigration, something the neocon wannabes such as yourself don't seem so concerned about, but I would be happy to be wrong on that count.

The question for the US is why are Muslims going to the extreme effort of attacking the US from afar. For the most part, Muslims don't do this. Most other countries don't fear remotely generated Muslim terrorism the way we do in the US.

Why is the US such a frequent target of anger from Muslim societies, much more so than other countries? They don't complain about the treatment of Muslims within the US, do they, so it must be something else.

It is our ACTIONs, including the way we prop up dictators in the middle east and our support for Israel, that make us the target. The question then becomes is the benefit (if any) of these ACTIONS worth the cost. I say no, they are not worth the cost. I see very little benefit, frankly, particularly. We are not going to deracinate the entire Muslim world by force. It will probably happened slowly over time, and I am perfectly willing to save my dollars and lives while watching it take place naturally.

daveg said...

Of course, it is well documented (but almost never discussed) that the Saudis were VERY RELUCTANT to create the Afghan Jihad. America twisted Saudi arms to get that accomplished.

This is WELL documented in a book I will get the title of tomorrow. The book is one big "brag" about Afghanistan written by the congressman (I believe) who pushed everything from the background and probably broke a lot of laws doing so.

Throughout the whole book you are thinking "this idiot is helping the people who will fly a plane into the WTC in about 15 years and cause us to lose 6000 lives and spend 500 billion dollars for nothing."

tommy said...

For this reason we need to prevent further Muslim immigration, something the neocon wannabes such as yourself don't seem so concerned about, but I would be happy to be wrong on that count.

I didn't support the war on Iraq and I don't support nation-building exercises in the Third World generally. I do support prohibiting virtually all Third World immigration, Muslim or not, to the West. While I'm not as confident about Iran as Steve, I would probably lean toward saying nay to a strike on Iran also, especially since most reports I've heard suggest that, at best, Iran will only be briefly delayed by such strikes and at worst, will be almost totally unaffected. I guess I'm a real "neocon wannabe" with that sort of stance.

tommy said...

matthew dunneyveg,

Until recently, the Swiss made minding their own business a national priority. When was the last time Switzerland was attacked? Who would want to attack Switzerland?

I don't disagree with much of what you are saying, but I think you are stretching it a bit on this point. Part of the reason nobody cares about Switzerland is that it is a small country with few resources. Who would have wanted to drag an isolationist America into World War II? Japan, apparently. Who would have wanted to drag an isolationist America into World War I? Germany, apparently.

Of course, the availability of nukes does change things quite a bit, doesn't it? Maybe we can get back to being a lot more isolationist once we get a petroleum alternative out there. $500 billion spent on that, rather than the Iraq war, would have taken us a long way in that direction. I've got my fingers crossed for that plankton petro they are working on in Spain, but I would prefer our country was working a lot harder on stuff like this ourselves.

Darth Nerf said...

I believe it's the fate of the top dog to play the Great Game, or no longer be the top dog. I don't think the United States can survive as one united republic in any other position. We will probably break into several small parts.

Iraq would lose a lot of its energy of insurgency if we just went over there and shot about a hundred specific key people.

Darth Nerf said...

All this talk of alternative energy ignores two things. First, it isn't about energy: it's about who has the cheapest source of energy, which gives competitive dominance. As long as the oil is there, the major powers are fated to fight over it because it's very far and away the cheapest source. It costs a dollar a barrel to lift a barrel of Saudi crude and desulfurize it. If we pull out, China is going to get it, and we can't have that.

The other issue is Israel. Jews and fundies constitute, when allied, a formidable power bloc: the Jews have the media resources and talent and the manipulative skills and the fundies have the sheer numbers and media backchannel to make opposing them a losing proposition politically. And nothing else besides Israel unites them. As long as they wield this power, anything and everything in the Middle East is going to revolve around it-until the United States disappears as a global power.

David Davenport said...

Actually, we attempted to bury the Soviets, and their reactions were in self-defense. It's elementary history, but don't worry, your igorance puts you in the vast majority.

Nope, ignorant Commie boot licker, it was Nikita K. who said, “We will bury you.” The Soviets got what they deserved—defeat.

SFG said...

I believe it's the fate of the top dog to play the Great Game, or no longer be the top dog. I don't think the United States can survive as one united republic in any other position. We will probably break into several small parts.
Naaah, we don't have major social divisions like slavery. The red-state blue-state thing is really a city-country divide, which every country has.

Iraq would lose a lot of its energy of insurgency if we just went over there and shot about a hundred specific key people.
Ahhh, but that's the hard part...how do you get to them? And which hundred people? Our human intel sucks, because we have nobody who speaks the language and we don't look like Iraqis.

Come on, imagine if the Iraqis marched down here and started blowing us up. There's a story during the Civil War about a Northern soldier who asked a Southerner, "Why are you supporting the war? You don't have any slaves."
The Reb answered, "I'm fighting because you're down here."

Seems reasonable enough to me.

Anonymous said...

"Putin did a whole heck more than just getting Russia back on its feet."

The only semi-smart thing Putin did was re-nationalize Russia's energy companies (something first suggested by the "neocon" WSJ's columnist Holman Jenkins several years ago). The downside about the way he did it was that it weakened any faith in Russia's rule of law. I certainly wouldn't buy stock in any Russian company, knowing that it could be nationalized at any time at Putin's whim.

The current boom in the Russian economy is solely do to the recent run-up in oil and natural gas prices; Russia's economy is far from diversified. Energy prices are cyclical, and today's high prices give producers incentive to find new sources of energy. Eventually supplies will overtake demand again, and energy prices will fall. When that happens, Russia will go back to being the same hollowed-out, junk bond-issuing debtor country it was in the early '90's.

daveg said...

The book I mention above is "Charlie Wilson’s War."

Alex(ei) said...

To Anonymous: It seems that Britain once produced a surplus of young, ambitious, educated men whose only career choice was service abroad. I suppose American schools are capable of training decent Arabists and Iranists but there will be no incentive for young people to take these career paths unless opportunities at home dwindle -- which may happen as the US gets overcrowded. (From letters of Russian diplomats of the 18th and 19th centuries, I get the impression that diplomats of that time had a better understanding of what was going on around them and less susceptible to abstract theories.)

To paraphrase a British historian, Britain had an overseas empire while Russia was a continental empire. As such, it was vulnerable to peripheral conficts such as the war in the Northern Caucasus that lasted for most of the 19th century. Throughout the war, Britain supported the Caucasian tribes that opposed Russian dominance. The US, unlike Russia, has no imperial possessions bordering on its core territory -- and that's an enormous advantage. Russia couldn't afford to cut and run from the Caucasus, having no natural barrier that would protect it from the South. The US can pull out of any country it invades. Its exodus from Iraq won't be any more shameful than Britain's hasty retreat from India or Palestine. But, on the other hand, the US, like Russia, is wasting its own human resources on its wars, not someone else's.

daveg said...

Here is a link to the book.

Charlie Wilson's War

daveg said...

This one seems to work:

Link

Matthew Dunnyveg said...

Dear Tommy,

You're right, Switzerland is a lot smaller, though I'd have to disagree with the resources part. Because human resources are the ultimate resources, Switzerland is a very wealthy country.

Japan actually didn't want to drag us into WWII; FDR did. Because Japan was absolutely dependent on foreign trade, and because Japan drank the free trade Kool Aid, it was in dire straits during the Great Depression when international trade slowed to a trickle. So, Japan started taking over large parts of east Asia. FDR gave the Japanese an ultimatum: either give up its conquests in Asia, or face an oil embargo. Humiliated, the Japanese complied with FDR's demands, FDR still refused to restore Japan's oil supplies, and the relatively peaceful Japanese government was replaced with a government of hardliners that wanted war.

Nor did Germany want us involved in WWI; Britain and France desperately wanted us involved. It's a bit of a stretch to say that Germany would have won the war had the US not gotten involved, but it probably would've closed as a stalemate vaguely in German's favor. If this had been the case, the vindictive Treaty of Versailles never would have been, and hence, WWII probably never would have been--another good reason to mind our own affairs.

I like your point on nukes, as it fits nicely into my position. Since our current globalization regimen is allowing rapid dissemination of this technology, it only makes sense to me not to be unnecessarily antagonizing other nations and groups.

I also agree that our dependence on petroleum presents serious impediments to prudent foreign policy goals. But in keeping with my position, high tariffs on imported oil would serve to mitigate this problem. High prices would encourage serious exploration of feasible alternatives, and if the prices start slowing the economy too much, the taxes can always be adjusted. With the current system, when high prices come, there isn't a thing we can do about the situation.

aceflyer said...

David Davenport said...

Nope, ignorant Commie boot licker, it was Nikita K. who said, “We will bury you.”


America publicly committed to burying the Soviet Union in 1917. You are citing a 1950s Soviet comment as evidence that they started it?

The depth of anti-communist brainwashing in America is truly stunning. It's quite a tribute to the right-wing bias in our media.