March 19, 2011

America's New Strategic Allies


34 comments:

Grayson L said...

Makes about as much sense as most of the things that have come out of the current administration....

Podsnap said...

I can't work it out from the picture which allies are these ? Libyan revolutionaries or French citizens protesting in the banlieus.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

You're not looking closely enough Steve. Those are all petrochemical engineers demonstrating how eager they are to sell Americans cheap oil to use in their cars.

bigbigidiot said...

I haven't been paying much attention to this. Who has the West even got lined up to replace Gaddafi?

Anonymous said...

The word Barbary (as in Barbary Coast) comes from "barbarians". You can look it up.

Alexandra Wallace with epiphany said...

What could be more American that a tail gate BBQ before the big game?

It's already working. We're obviously helping free the trapped American in every third world personage. Needs a little fine tuning sure: like not using the care itself for the BBQ grill.

If this were a New Yorker captioning contest:

"Aww dude, way too much lighter fluid! Do you realize what the carbon footprint is for that stuff?"

Whiskey said...

And of course Eastern Libya sent the most per-capita Jihadis to Iraq to kill Americans.

So what? If the entire Libyan population and Khadaffi killed each other ... that would be an unqualified victory for America. But back on Planet Earth, America faces a choice between bad and worse, not better and chocolate cake and ice cream.

The rebels (being a stupid rabble) are weak. Concessions can be extracted. Examples made. Most important of all, oil flowing again and the place be put under, say Egyptian rule, so it does not turn into Somalia plus.

This mess (and the US being generally AWOL when it counted, and the cost would have been much less) points out the folly to Europe's public of relying on other folks security protection.

Kylie said...

"If this were a New Yorker captioning contest:"

"Just think, if we were in France, we could do this every night!"

Bantam said...

Let's hope those nice soon-to-be Libyan refugees, when dispatched here, will contribute to the shift extolled by the NYT.

Grumpy Old Man said...

Ain't that Tommy Trojan in the back?

Dutch Boy said...

Barbary comes from the Berbers who inhabitat the area.

Anonymous said...

"Barbary comes from the Berbers who inhabitat the area."

Yes, and the Berbers get their name from the word "barbarians". All non-Romanized populations of the Roman Empire were called barbarian, but for some reason this name stuck through the Dark and Middle Ages and into modernity for North African natives.

Anonymous said...

Well, there's always gonna be thugs among the mix. When Americans liberated France from Nazi occupiers, there were plenty of French thugs who went on orgy of lynching. Many innocent people got killed.
Every revolution has its share of anarchy, chaos, and mayhem. But that's history. Once the dust settles, if Gadfly is gone and the people gain power in Libya, things might improve in North Africa.

Anonymous said...

"...if Gadfly is gone and the people gain power in Libya..."

WHICH people? They're split into tribes. The top guy's tribe gets most of the government jobs and the oil money. "The people" don't exist. They have peoples instead. A victory for one of those is necessarily a loss for all the others. Unless you have deep knowledge of and some sort of a weird attachment to one of their many tribes, why would it matter to you which one of them held power?

Anonymous said...

Three things:

1) What if one of Ghadaffi's warplanes manages to hit one of our ships with a missle, and

2) What if friendly Libyans accidentally shoot down one of our planes?

3) What part of "Stay out of muslim clan clusterfucks, unless you're there to wipe them out" are we unable to understand?

Anonymous said...

"Once the dust settles, if Gadfly is gone and the people gain power in Libya, things might improve in North Africa."

Your liberal reasoning is so perfect, my eyes are bleeding.

Anonymous said...

"Once the dust settles, if Gadfly is gone and the people gain power in Libya, things might improve in North Africa."

"Your liberal reasoning is so perfect, my eyes are bleeding."

I said 'might improve', not 'will improve'. I neither believe in universal-democratic-idealism nor in cultural-determinism.
I'll bet Romans at one time thought Germanic barbarians weren't good for anything but acting stupid or serving as slaves or mercenaries of Rome. But Northern Europeans achieved great things.
In the 19th century, many thought Orientals wouldn't amount to a plate of beans. But then came the alarming rise of modern Japan.
If all of Korea had come under Kim-Il-Sungian communism in the Korean War, we might today be saying Koreans, by the nature of their history and culture, are only capable of living under oriential despotism. Rise of South Korea as a modern democracy disproved that.
Many experts said Russians cannot handle freedom because of centuries of Czarism; as such, communism was natural to Russians since they need iron-fisted rule. Though authoritarianism is alive and well in Russia, who can deny that most Russians today also value freedom?
North Africa has been a basketcase for a long time, and I don't have high hopes for the region. Nevertheless, experimentation and change are part of history. I see it as a positive that the people in that region are finally standing up to status quo and demanding change. It may succeed a little or fail a lot, but why not try new things? And if the West can play it smart, why not nudge things here and there on the side of freedom?
If things improve, we'll have played a part. If things get worse, we'll have learned a lesson that Muslims are indeed hopeless.
But I have my fingers crossed.

Imagine two scenarios for Iraqs 20 yrs from now. Iraq #1 has been liberated from Hussein. Iraq #2 is ruled by sons of Hussein. Which would be doing better? I would say #1. Yes, Bush messed up royally, but there have been great gains in Iraq as well, the foundation for a better country in the future. If Iraqis are smart enough to avoid a civil war, I see gradual improvement and something like a decent nation in the MIddle East. Was it worth all the bloodshed? For people who have suffered, no. But for new generations of Iraq in yrs to come, maybe yes.
But then, the American Revolutionary War was bloody too. And American Union was preserved through a bloody war. And the West was won through war between whites and Indians. History is bloody. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Anonymous said...

"WHICH people? They're split into tribes. The top guy's tribe gets most of the government jobs and the oil money. "The people" don't exist. They have peoples instead."

Is that necessarily bad? Many nations in that region were 'invented' by Western powers. Maybe those nations should split into more natural entities. Suppose Chinese had invaded Europe and created an ersatz-nation out of parts of Italy, France, Germany. Suppose this nation is called Chino-Europe. Would it wrong for Italians, Germans, and French of Chino-Europe to go separate ways and rejoin with their natural-tribal brethren?

Personally, I think the best thing that can happen to Afghanistan is to split up into 3 or 4 nations. Afghanistan is less a nation than a multi-ethno-empire without a center.

Sub-Saharan 'nation-states' are even a bigger joke. One reason why Congo can never get its act together is the mind-boggling tribal diversity. Congo is bigger than 1/4 of the US and is really a nation-state in name only. In actual political and economic practice, it is several countries divided along tribal lines.

I say let secession take its course in Africa and the Middle East.

Kylie said...

"Once the dust settles, if Gadfly is gone and the people gain power in Libya, things might improve in North Africa."

Right. Because that worked so well in Iraq.

"Gadfly" is cute, though.

mansizedtarget said...

I think I can spot the Libyan George Washington there underneath one of the turbans.

Anonymous said...

"Once the dust settles, if Gadfly is gone and the people gain power in Libya, things might improve in North Africa."

"Right. Because that worked so well in Iraq."

Dust didn't settle in Iraq until recently. 20 yrs hence, it could be a much better place than under Hussein.

Democracy didn't work for Germany in the interwar yrs. Instead, it led to the rise of Hitler and WWII. So, are we to assume that Germans are forever incapable of freedom, and for that reason live under kings forever since rise of people power among Germans can only lead to rule by totalitarian madmen like Hitler? Or how about the Morgenthau plan of permanently de-industrializing Germany on the vengeful belief that Germans are warlike Teutons by nature. But post-WWII era showed Germans could be good with democracy. There is no single law in history that says a people or nation must always be like 'this' or 'that'.

I doubt if North Africans could achieve as much as the West, but they may be able to do better than so far under scum-leaders like Gadfly and Mubarack. And we shall see how Iraqis do in the coming decades.

This isn't to say American interventionism is a good idea; it is merely to point out that some people who oppose interventionism knee-jerkedly insist that every instance of American foreign action only made things worse.

In truth, even generally unwise policies may lead to some good while generally wise policies may miss out on a golden opportunity. In politics, one should be 80%principled and ideological. 20% should be open for to flexibiity and improvisation. Same goes for evolution. What works for most times may not be right for all times. Reagan understood this, which is why he deviated from hawkish Cold War stance and made a deal with Gorbachev.

Anonymous said...

As much as I dislike and loathe Obama, I must say he's played the Middle East and North Africa card pretty well. He knows US plays or has to play a key role in world affairs, but he knows that the president has to remain aloof and somewhat removed from the ever-shifting events of the day. The president has to be like a boxer with a long reach, who hits with jabs while keeping his head back; he also has to be nimble on his feet. Bush was a punch-drunk raging bull/fool of a boxer who went head-in to the Middle East. Also, he spoke tough and rough, like a fratparty brat, alienating many allies. At other times, especially when dealing with blacks, he was wimpy and wussy as can be, a puddle of sappy emotions.

Obama keeps his emotions in check. He'd rather manipulate the emotions of people around him than gush and rush himself. Also, Obama's good with ambiguity, which can be taken in many ways. His Cairo speech could be taken as a call for reform by American allies--dictators--or a call for democracy. Depending on how events play out, Obama could take credit for either. Also, Obama is not quick to claim credit. He waits and sees how things play out. If Obama claims credit for current events prematurely, and if things turn out badly, he'll end up with egg on his face. So, he plays it cool and watches and waits for the outcome. Idiot Bush, on the other hand, made a big deal of MISSION ACCOMPLISHED even before things stabilized in Iraq.
In this sense, Obama is channeling Reagan. Reagan, though a hardline anti-communist, knew well enough to maintaina certain aloofness, to remain above events instead of getting involved too intimately--politically and emotionally--and getting chewed out like Carter and Bush II.

So, Obama keeps the distance and mostly throws jabs, but when the time is right and he sees a clean shot, he goes for the right across. He may be shallow as a human being but he has good gangster instincts for politics. Buchanan was right to support Obama's detached stance on Iran's 'green revolution' few yrs back. Obama came out better from it than Bush did with his premature support of the coup in Venezuela. Also, how stupid was it for Bush to include Iran and North Korea in the 'Axis of Evil'? The instant US invaded Iraq, Iran did everything to destablize American effort and North Korea rushed to obtain the bomb. If Bush had played it smarter and made overtures to Iran, Iranians, in their loathing for Hussein and Alqaeda, might have been more helpful.

And all those neocons who decry Obama for his lack of 'decisive leadership' on foreign affairs sound really stupid and hypocritical. Palin yammers on and on about supporting democracy, but didn't her kind also yammer on and on about how US should support its allies--long time dictators--in the region? One should not EMOTIONALLY get involved in foreign policy. It's a game that requires cool minds and ambiguous grandiloquence, something Obama is good at.

Anonymous said...

Could it be that the main reason for Bush's decision to take out Hussein was to win over the Jews--or more Jews--to the GOP? We all know that Jews are the most powerful, most wealthy, most influential, most brilliant, and most awesome people in America. They also have the 'spiritual' aura of Holocaust sanctimony about them. Whichever side that has the Jews has the moral edge. Democrats have blacks with their 'slave narrative' mythology and also the Jews, with the Holocaust sanctimony. GOP has 'racist' whites--especially white males(uncool)--, Christian 'bigots', and 'old farts'. Since GOP cannot win over Jews with social policies, the only hope was to win over Jews by low taxes and 'free trade'--Wall Street 'rich get richer' sharks--and Middle East policy(what is good for Israel). By taking out Hussein and leading the War on Terror--essentially hostile Muslims--, Bush, Cheney, and Rumself sought to win over the Jews. There was an understanding between GOP wasp cowboys and neocon Jews: If Bush succeeds in stabilzing the MIddle East and making things better for Israel, neocons will do everything in their power to convince fellow Jews that GOP is the friend of the Jews. Indeed, I recall even Ted Koppel of ABC news was all ecstatic about the Iraq War. New York Times supported the war. US media, controlled mostly by liberal Jews, wink-winked and gave their blessing to the invasion. Bush got the green light and blank check to do whatever he pleased to please the Jews. For a while, even New Republic was writing profusely good stuff about Bush. But then Bush messed things up royally. And he was so openly slavish to Israel that people in the Middle East--and around the world--were saying 'Bush is a Zionist puppet'. Bush made Jews look even worse. It was during the Bush era that certain Jew taboos were broken. A mainstream publishing house even came out with a book called the ISRAELI LOBBY. OTOH, suppose the Iraq War had been planned better. Suppose Iraq stabilized quickly and inspired democratic movements in other parts of the Middle East. Could more Jews have come to the GOP side?

Of course, the other great hope of the GOP under Bush was to win over the Hispanics. In a way, this may not have been as foolish as some on the Right think. Winning over more Hispanics may be doable--though it will take time--,but the way Bush and Rove went about it--easy cash for McMansions--was really boneheaded.

Anonymous said...

"I'll bet Romans at one time thought Germanic barbarians weren't good for anything but acting stupid or serving as slaves or mercenaries of Rome. But Northern Europeans achieved great things.
In the 19th century, many thought Orientals wouldn't amount to a plate of beans. But then came the alarming rise of modern Japan.
If all of Korea had come under Kim-Il-Sungian communism in the Korean War, we might today be saying Koreans, by the nature of their history and culture, are only capable of living under oriential despotism. Rise of South Korea as a modern democracy disproved that. "

The rise of South Korea should have been expected when looking at their IQ test results. The same cannot be said about North Africans.

Anonymous said...

"Every revolution has its share of anarchy, chaos, and mayhem. But that's history. Once the dust settles, if Gadfly is gone and the people gain power in Libya, things might improve in North Africa."

No. The risk of another long term, failed, warlord state (along the lines of Somalia) is too great.
Gilbert Pinfold.

ATBOTL said...

"Imagine two scenarios for Iraqs 20 yrs from now. Iraq #1 has been liberated from Hussein. Iraq #2 is ruled by sons of Hussein. Which would be doing better? I would say #1. Yes, Bush messed up royally, but there have been great gains in Iraq as well, the foundation for a better country in the future. If Iraqis are smart enough to avoid a civil war, I see gradual improvement and something like a decent nation in the MIddle East. Was it worth all the bloodshed? For people who have suffered, no. But for new generations of Iraq in yrs to come, maybe yes.
But then, the American Revolutionary War was bloody too. And American Union was preserved through a bloody war. And the West was won through war between whites and Indians. History is bloody. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

But all those things were done for OUR interests. Why is the difference so hard for neocons to understand?

Daybreaker said...

ATBOTL: "But all those things were done for OUR interests. Why is the difference so hard for neocons to understand?"

Pronoun trouble.

none of the above said...

Anonymous:

The available experts do not appear to be able to predict the future five years from now, or even to reliably tell us what's happening right now, in various Middle Eastern countries. So when someone starts justifying their planned interventions on the basis of some imagined brighter future 20 years from now, my skepticism meter gets pegged.

Unless the State Department has Hari Seldon working for them, nobody can predict what Iraq will look like, or would have looked like, 20 years from now. (Or even 5 years from now, in truth.) At best, you can make very broad demographic predictions that are plausible extrapolations of current trends. Iraq will still be mostly Arab and Muslim, the poorer and more religious people will probably have more kids than the secular educated people, etc.

So your two alternative scenarios are an utterly goofy way to try to think about our plans. We're not smart enough to plan that far in advance in most areas, certainly not in terms of military intervenions. (Note that we keep getting predictions wrong for a year in advance in Afghanistan, when the thing to be predicted is something like "can the best army on earth beat a bunch of semiliterate peasants in mud huts with rifles and handmade bombs?")

The truth is, our state department and spy agencies have sold the public a bill of goods, with the connivance of the gullible, ideologically-captured media and self-serving politicians. The Great Game isn't really about playing chess with the enemies of the empire, because nobody's actually smart enough to do that very well. It's really about lots of would-be Kimball O'Haras wanting to go play spy or spymaster, lots of people who fancy themselves chess masters and love the sense of power that comes with playing with real lives. We get sold Hari Seldon, but the reality is Paul Bremmer.

Difference Maker said...

A masterful sophist is on the loose. On this bleary eyed morning, I observe in awe

Svigor said...

Democracy didn't work for Germany in the interwar yrs. Instead, it led to the rise of Hitler and WWII. So, are we to assume that Germans are forever incapable of freedom, and for that reason live under kings forever since rise of people power among Germans can only lead to rule by totalitarian madmen like Hitler?

How many crappy comparisons are you going to make?

Svigor said...

Since GOP cannot win over Jews with social policies, the only hope was to win over Jews by low taxes and 'free trade'--Wall Street 'rich get richer' sharks--and Middle East policy(what is good for Israel).

Are low taxes anything approaching a winning strategy here? The only Ashkenazi-Americans politicians really want to win over are the kind that write big checks to pols, or stories in the media. Do those people really want smaller taxes, smaller government, etc? They might say they do, when you ask them a simple question, but in practice I don't think they do.

At such high levels of wealth, it becomes a question of math. E.g., corporations seem happy to jump into bed with the government; they cut the government in on the action in return for protection and a monopoly. In fact, this seems to be the dream of every big corporation - get big enough to jump into bed with the government and use it to strangle competition.

Normal folks don't have much hope of ever needing this kind of math; they want their taxes cut because they know they'll never have the ear of the king. But big shots? I don't think it's at all as simple as "lower taxes good" for big shots. At that level, "low taxes good" seems to be more about the math, or ideology, or both.

As for pandering on Israel, it's not like the Dems are giving Israel the cold shoulder.

Svigor said...

Of course, the other great hope of the GOP under Bush was to win over the Hispanics. In a way, this may not have been as foolish as some on the Right think. Winning over more Hispanics may be doable--though it will take time--,but the way Bush and Rove went about it--easy cash for McMansions--was really boneheaded.

How? Mestizos are always going to be lagging behind Euros and Asians, their natural wealth levels are not "middle class," and they're always going to respond to someone promising to "level the playing field." Cased closed, AFAICT.

Svigor said...

Though I suppose with a substantial black population lagging behind Mestizos, there's some room for persuasion.

Kylie said...

"There is no single law in history that says a people or nation must always be like 'this' or 'that'."

And I didn't say otherwise.

"I doubt if North Africans could achieve as much as the West, but they may be able to do better than so far under scum-leaders like Gadfly and Mubarack. And we shall see how Iraqis do in the coming decades."

You could have cut to the chase and said simply, "Apparently I'm much more optimistic than you are."

"This isn't to say American interventionism is a good idea; it is merely to point out that some people who oppose interventionism knee-jerkedly insist that every instance of American foreign action only made things worse."

Maybe so, but I didn't say that. Not sure why you opened your comment by quoting mine and then addressing points I never made.

Let me be blunter. I don't think comparisons between Europe and the Middle East are valid in this instance. I don't think ejecting one crappy leader from a ME or Near East country is going to do anything other than create an opening for the next crappy leader who will, thanks to the general unrest, have a perfect excuse to clamp down--as if he (or they) needed one.

My comment had nothing to do with American interventionism. I was referring to the mindset in that part of the world that seems unreceptive to representative democracy.