Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: Truthdig (10-29-10)
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, according to a New York Times report last week, admittedly accepts large cash payments from the Iranian government. The political and religious dynamics of the region are complex. Iran obviously has an interest in keeping the Taliban at a distance and at the same time countering Pakistan’s influence in the area. In this caldron of intrigue we have a huge American expenditure in treasure and blood aimed at keeping Afghanistan in our camp, so to speak....
Think of the American experience in then-South Vietnam. The country did not survive, let alone its leaders. Is it déjà vu all over again? In 1954, we created a classic state where there had been none. In a whirlwind of publicity, we anointed Ngo Dinh Diem as president of South Vietnam. The old “China lobby” saw him as a savior who would rescue East Asia from the clutches of Red China and immediately hailed him as the “George Washington of Asia.” (How we trifle with the reputations of our great leaders!) Diem was a Catholic in a Buddhist country and with little indigenous following, perhaps except for his Catholic brethren, then refugees from the Vietminh state in the north.
In nine years of rule, Diem managed to alienate large segments of his country’s populace, amid what was to become a familiar pattern of authoritarianism and nepotism involving his relatives, most notably his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, an opium addict attracted to the Gestapo practices of the Nazi regime. Corruption was rife within Diem’s family, involved as it was in drug dealings, rice contracts with the U.S. government, and coerced contributions to the Catholic Church—headed in South Vietnam by Ngo Dình Thuc, archbishop of Hue, who happened to be Diem’s older brother. Madame Nhu labored mightily to install her version of morality upon the Vietnamese....
Posted on: Saturday, October 30, 2010 - 22:49
SOURCE: Salon (10-29-10)
If you think President Obama has problems going into the midterm election, consider what Abraham Lincoln faced. In fall 1862, the nation was 18 months into Civil War. Eleven states had left the Union and four slave states still within -- Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri -- continued to cause Lincoln political problems. The elections were held at different times, with voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana going to the polls in October, and Illinois, Missouri, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey in November.
Entering the fall, few voters were happy with Lincoln. On Sept. 22, just prior to the elections, he issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that pledged to free the slaves in rebel states on Jan. 1 if they did not return to the Union by then. Two days after issuing that decree, he suspended habeas corpus, which allowed wide discretion in detaining Northerners who interfered with the prosecution of the war -- a war that had bogged down, leading to additional criticism of the administration.
Radicals denounced Lincoln as hesitant and slow, viewed the Emancipation Proclamation as weak, partial and ineffective, and demanded a more aggressive prosecution of the war. Conservatives vilified Lincoln as a tyrant, a dictator who was using the engine of government to squash the constitutional rights of citizens. And so there was good reason for the administration to be anxious going into the elections....
Posted on: Friday, October 29, 2010 - 10:02
SOURCE: Dissent (10-29-10)
THE LEGACY of colonialism still casts a long shadow over the world. In the United States, the right-wing Tea Party takes its name from an anticolonial revolt against British taxation on a chilly December day in Boston in 1773. Beginning in 2001, American soldiers occupied Afghanistan, and two years later Iraq, using “hearts and minds” and counterinsurgency strategies adapted from those tried by imperial powers in colonies like Kenya and Algeria. In Kenya, citizens went to the ballot box in August to demand a new constitution, rejecting a political system handed down by the British that strangled democracy and nurtured ethnic violence.
Nations like America and Kenya share the scars of colonialism. They also share a man named Barack Obama—president to one, distant kinsmen to the other. Since Obama became president, a lot of noise has been made regarding his global connections. We all know the story by now: born to a white American from Kansas and a black Luo from Kenya, raised in Hawaii, traveled to Indonesia for four years at the age of six, and schooled at Columbia and Harvard. It is an exceptional biography, but one used by critics to label him a secret Muslim, an unabashed socialist, and worst of all, a global citizen. But recently, it’s Obama’s heritage in Kenya, a place he has only visited three times, that has provided fodder for disgraceful distortions about his colonial past and present politics.
In September, Newt Gingrich wondered aloud to the National Review Online whether Obama might be “so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” His comments ignited a mini media firestorm. The Los Angeles Times op-ed staff described his comments as “factually insane.” Conservative David Frum was less subtle, calling it “a brazen outburst of race-baiting in the service of partisan politics.” The ensuing hullaballoo certainly gave Gingrich some street-cred among the far Right of the Republican Party and its appendage, the Tea Party. But his comments were part of a broader effort to paint the president as exotic, non-American, and Other. In fact, Gingrich’s comments were drawn from and in hearty support of an article written days earlier by Dinesh D’Souza for Forbes....
Posted on: Friday, October 29, 2010 - 09:53
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (10-28-10)
America's universities are being grossly under-utilized by the Armed Forces of the United States in the persistent irregular war we are currently fighting in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world.
In this persistent, prolonged irregular war (IW), it is now well understood that traditional approaches to generating combat power are not enough. The combat power needed in irregular warfare cannot be generated by military forces alone. As a consequence we now talk about the "Whole of Government Approach." The services understand that a more holistic approach on the part of all government agencies is necessary. Agencies such as the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Agriculture, and other such agencies have to be integrated into strategic and operational plans and into the execution of those plans to achieve IW objectives and improve operational effectiveness. These agencies have the education, talent, skills, and abilities that are not found in our Armed Forces, but are greatly needed in many developing regions....
Posted on: Thursday, October 28, 2010 - 17:10
SOURCE: National Review (10-28-10)
Juan Williams was just fired from NPR. His sin? He confessed to occasional anxiety when people in Muslim garb board airplanes, and then went on to explain why stereotyping is wrong.
The fate of Williams reminds us that Americans have developed two personas — one public and politically correct, the other private. Mix the two and big trouble ensues.
Here are some reminders about what to keep quiet about.
Don’t discuss the deficit. Instead, call borrowing “stimulus.” Trillions are not much different from billions. Debt can be paid back with more borrowing and someone else’s higher taxes. Ignore the lessons of Greece and California. To appear noble, call for more unemployment benefits, free medical care, and more entitlements. To sound cruel, complain about borrowing to pay for them....
Posted on: Thursday, October 28, 2010 - 16:55
SOURCE: TPM (10-25-10)
[Jim Sleeper is a lecturer in political science at Yale.]
They're ba-a-ack! Now that America's wealth"is more concentrated in fewer hands than it's been in 80 years" and"the top one-tenth of one percent of Americans... earn as much as the bottom 120 million" (as Bob Reich put it here below) conservative opinionators are doing just what they did about it twenty years ago.
They're giving Americans a"new elite" of Ivy League liberals to resent and to blame.
The tactic is evergreen, and not just because Bell Curve co-author Charles Murray enjoys recycling Bobos in Paradise author David Brooks' two-decade-long obsession with the Ivy League. (Murray did it again yesterday in the Washington Post, citing Brooks right alongside Glenn Beck.)
"What sets the Tea Party apart from other observers of the New Elite," Murray announces,"is its hostility, rooted in the charge that elites are isolated from mainstream America.... Let me propose that those allegations have merit."
Let me propose that what sets the Tea Party's hostility apart is its funding by an elite Murray doesn't mention, the one that's cannibalizing"mainstream America." And let me point out that with even as conservative a writer as David Frum making a similar observation, the Post's judgment in publishing Murray on this is more than a little suspect here -- indeed,"embarrassing," as Frum puts it.
Conservatives have been stoking Ivy-envy since before Joe McCarthy attacked Dean Acheson. It's so easy - and, sadly, so often justified -- that you forget how irrelevant it is to the real new elite that's channeling Tea Partiers' and other populists' resentments against anyone and anything that might actually relieve their distress.
The only thing"Ivy" about this resentment-stoking elite -- much of it drawn from that wealthiest one-tenth of one percent -- is that an all-Ivy Supreme Court majority last spring enabled its unrestricted and, increasingly, undisclosed mis-direction of resentment. I skewered the Court here and in the Boston Globe last spring, but this is one Ivy elite Murray and Glenn Beck didn't mention.
Posted on: Thursday, October 28, 2010 - 09:58
SOURCE: WSJ (10-27-10)
'They do give us bags of money—yes, yes, it is done, we are grateful to the Iranians for this." This is the East, and baksheesh is the way of the world, Hamid Karzai brazenly let it be known this week. The big aid that maintains his regime, and keeps his country together, comes from the democracies. It is much cheaper for the Iranians. They are of the neighborhood, they know the ways of the bazaar.
The remarkable thing about Mr. Karzai has been his perverse honesty. This is not a Third World client who has given us sweet talk about democracy coming to the Hindu Kush. He has been brazen to the point of vulgarity. We are there, but on his and his family's terms. Bags of cash, the reports tell us, are hauled out of Kabul to Dubai; there are eight flights a day. We distrust the man. He reciprocates that distrust, and then some....
The idealism has drained out of this project. Say what you will about the Iraq war—and there was disappointment and heartbreak aplenty—there always ran through that war the promise of a decent outcome: deliverance for the Kurds, an Iraqi democratic example in the heart of a despotic Arab world, the promise of a decent Shiite alternative in the holy city of Najaf that would compete with the influence of Qom. No such nobility, no such illusions now attend our war in Afghanistan. By latest cruel count, more than 1,300 American service members have fallen in Afghanistan. For these sacrifices, Mr. Karzai shows little, if any, regard....
Posted on: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - 09:06
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (10-26-10)
History will be kinder to the first two years of Barack Obama’s administration than the electorate next Tuesday. (That’s because history mostly gets written by gutless liberals, you can hear conservatives snort.) But history loves lists and the record of the 44th president and the universally despised 111th Congress boasts an array of legislative accomplishments unrivalled since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society years of the 1960s and the momentous opening charge of the New Deal in 1933. Facing his own midterm debacle in 1994, Bill Clinton, (now by a long way the most popular politician in America), had nothing remotely comparable to run on. Between Mr Obama’s twin peaks of regulatory reform of the financial industry and healthcare, are unsung acts of excellence that speak to the gross inequities of American society: the delivery of medical insurance to 11m children hitherto deprived of it; legislation enabling women to bring legal action against employers who fail to offer equal pay for equal work; prohibitions against credit card companies jacking up interest rates without warning to extortionate levels.
History loves this kind of meaty record. But politics yawns at it. And on one critical matter, history will not cut the beleaguered president a break: the inability to protect his own power. That fatal flaw has come about through the one defect no one watching his ascent to the White House, punctuated as it was with so many exercises in eloquence, could have predicted: a failure to connect with the American people. But then Mr Obama has always inclined to the magnificent oration over the truck-stop rap. To keep the sympathy of the people you need your high mind to get down and dirty, and there is something about simplification to which this most intellectually complex of presidents is constitutionally allergic.
Which is not to say that, over the long haul, he will be remembered as a loser. Though he himself has said he would prefer to be a one-term president who did the right things rather than re-elected on expedient compromise; it is too soon to be writing the obituaries for his administration. For one thing, the expectations for the Democrats on election day have been so apocalyptic that any results belying them will be treated on the left with hysterical elation. Lately there has been some movement in the polls and not towards the right, nothing to get in the way of Republicans recapturing the House of Representatives but perhaps enough to thwart their control of the Senate.
Sarah Palin-anointed stars of the Tea Party such as Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, whose professed devotion to the Constitution was not helped by her failure to recognise in its First Amendment the separation of church and state, are now more entertainment than threat. Liberal icons such as Barney Frank in Massachusetts, co-author of the momentous reform of financial regulation, pounced on by the gleeful rightwing media as in Deep and Deserved Trouble, and obliged to put a hefty chunk of his own change into the campaign, now looks to be in the clear. The Senate race in Colorado, in which another Tea Party darling Ken Buck should have been streets ahead, is a toss-up. In California, Barbara Boxer should scrape by against the ex-CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina. Republican control of the Senate is then likely to come down to whether Joe Manchin in West Virginia, enough of a local to be endorsed by the National Rifle Association and a foe of cap and trade in a state where coal mining is the heart of the economy, can fend off his businessman opponent, John Raese.
Crumbs of comfort from the table of ruin?..
Posted on: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - 08:28
SOURCE: End is Coming (Blog) (10-22-10)
Prime minister of Israel from 2001 to 2006, Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke while in office and has since been in a vegetative state. The comatose Prime Minister remains a vivid character for the Middle East, having been the defence minister that orchestrated the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon that killed hundreds of Palestinian refugees. Furthermore, as Prime Minister, he initiated the building of the wall that now isolates the Palestinian West Bank. To never forget the man and to use him as a symbol of Israeli vitality, artist Noam Braslavsky sculpted a life-size Sharon in pyjamas, connected to an intravenous drip and lying in a hospital bed in a comatose state. The sculpture even has animation and appears to breathe.
Exhibited at the Kishon Art Gallery, the sculpture will undoubtedly be visited by thousands of well-wishers, less-than-well-wishers and journalists. Some have criticized the piece as “very unique” while others question the exhibition of a man in the weakest, frailest and perhaps most undignified period of his life. Unfortunately, once Mr. Sharon chose to be a public figure, he took the chance that he would become a symbol. As such, his image is now on display (presumably) without his knowledge and history has some pointers for what might happen to his body once the 82-year-old passes away.
Ghosts of Communists Past
Vladimir Lenin is one of the XXth century’s most well-known and influential figures. Mastermind and leader of Russia’s Communist Revolution in 1917, Lenin advocated a worldwide overthrow of capitalism and elimination of class-based society with his famous speech “Workers of the world, Unite!”. After a short period at the head of a shining new Soviet Union, Lenin died in 1924 but the symbol of Lenin was to become immortal. More than a picture and much more than his writings, Lenin was to be a literal symbol of undying Soviet and communist ideologies. Visionary architects and engineers were hired and given one mission, to immortalize the body of Lenin.
Primitive yet ingenious, Soviet scientists rediscovered the ancient process of embalming and perfected it to maintain fresh-looking skin on a long-dead leader. Precise humidity control, daily injections of preservatives and periodic chemical baths have permitted the body of Lenin to remain on display in his Red Square tomb for over eight decades now. The Communist symbol lost some of its importance and prestige with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and indeed government funding for his upkeep dried up (so to speak). Private investments now maintain the body and tomb that have become more historical and tourism oriented than anything else in the XXIst century. A serious debate in Moscow now questions the dignity of such a tourist attraction and the people are considering a burial for the immortal-looking shell.
(As an interesting side note, Josef Stalin was embalmed and placed beside Lenin in 1953. This symbol of communism however was also a symbol of ambitious tyranny and the subsequent Soviet governments had him removed and buried elsewhere.)
With the technology going further east and into the communist partners of Soviet Russia, Vietnam was to recycle the idea to immortalize their leader. President Ho Chi Minh had read the declaration of Independence of his people (From the French) in 1945. The following decades of war, first against the colonist French and second against the anti-communist Americans, saw Ho Chi Minh become the hero of the Vietnamese republic and a symbol of both communism and nationalism. As such, with his death in 1969, Moscow provided the technology and the Vietnamese built a sumptuous mausoleum to their president that displays his embalmed corpse to this day. Built from materials and adorned with plant life from all corners of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh has become inseparable from the Republic of Vietnam and retains his importance while encased in a crystal tomb.
A few years later, a similar nationalist and communist symbol, Chairman Mao Zedong, passed away in neighbouring China. The race to embalm and display him however was far from easy. With Mao’s death in 1976, communist China did not have many allies and had even made an enemy of the Soviet Union due to conflicting interpretations of communist dogma. As such, the complicated process of preserving a world leader was only known in Beijing through Chinese ambassadors to Moscow and limited Vietnamese knowledge on the matter. After almost a year of testing, the proper quartz-crystal coffin, Xenon gas illumination, humidity and pressure control systems and housing structure were finally completed and the body of the chairman was put on display in Tiananmen Square where once stood the main gates of the Forbidden City. Half a century later, Mao’s body still retains importance but has mostly been relegated to the state of tourist attraction as can be seen in the “Souvenir Shop” of his mausoleum.
Finally on to the most difficult of these communist leaders to visit, the tomb of “Great leader” and “Eternal President of North Korea” Kim Il-sung. Displayed in a crystal sarcophagus and draped in the communist workers’ flag of his country, the corpse is, strangely enough, still the head of this secretive communist country. His son Kim Jong-il is technically second-in command. As such, the President has an official guard and is rarely accessible to tourists. Kumsusan Memorial Palace in downtown Pyongyang is even protected by a moat (?) and everything about this resting place, including the various ceremonies surrounding it scream MOURN NOW! Obligatory mourning periods even brought about suicides in past years, as North Koreans are not necessarily allowed to forget their nation, their communist ideology and their deceased president whom they can visit.
In the end, it is a little strange that the practice of embalming and displaying great leaders has become an exclusively communist tradition. Furthermore, each one of these displays clearly exists for the preservation of memory and the diffusion of a symbol yet none of them permit photography of any kind. Perhaps even the Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and North Korean governments see a touch of the morbid in these displays. In the end, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is still alive and I would suggest that he was never radical enough to be embalmed and exposed (just enough to be recreated as an animated piece of “unique” art).
Posted on: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - 14:43
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (10-24-10)
[Juan Cole, the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, maintains the blog Informed Comment. His most recent book, just out in paperback, is Engaging the Muslim World.]
The wikileaks document dump from the Iraq War may well derail the formation of a government by implicating caretaker prime minister Nuri al-Maliki in running death squads. We are in our seventh month since the March 7 elections, but no new prime minister has been named because no party or coalition has the 163 seats needed for a majority in Parliament.
In recent weeks caretaker prime minister Nuri al-Maliki has finally put together some 138 seats, needing only 25 to form a government.
But the Wikileak allegations about the government running Shiite death squads during al-Maliki’s term as prime minister may have derailed that process.
Al-Maliki’s rival, the largely secular Iraqiya List of Iyad Allawi, has slammed him in the aftermath of the leaks and has demanded an investigation of him. He says he is suspicious of the timing of the leaks. (Likely he means that it is odd that this information surfaced just as he closed in on nailing down a second term as prime minister, a development not welcome to Washington because it was fostered by Iran.) But it is silly to allege that Julian Assange is secretly working for the US government.
Posted on: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - 13:36
SOURCE: CNN.com (10-26-10)
With the midterm elections just a week away, many Democrats are scratching their heads and wondering what went wrong.
After Barack Obama's election in 2008, many in the party thought that they were on the cusp of a new era in American politics. Republicans, and the conservative philosophy that had shaped their party for several decades, seemed to be in retreat.
Yet less than years later, Republicans are on the verge of recapturing control of the House of Representatives and maybe the Senate. President Obama's approval ratings have slid since his first year, while Republicans are now looking forward to the election of 2012.
The most conventional argument about what went wrong for Democrats is that Obama moved too far to the left in a country that is center-right. But this argument is not supported by a recent study by The Washington Post, Henry Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University....
Posted on: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - 12:34
SOURCE: National Review (10-26-10)
There has never been anything quite like WikiLeaks in American military history. We are engaged in a great experiment to see whether the U.S. military can still persist in a conflict when it knows that any and all of its private communications can become public — and will be selectively aired and hyped by people with a preconceived bias against it. Had the public known in real time from periodic media leaks about operational disasters surrounding the planning for the D-Day landings, intelligence failures at the Bulge or Okinawa, or G.I. treatment of some German and Japanese prisoners, the story of World War II might have been somewhat different. But then, in those paleolithic days FDR and Winston Churchill did not have to be flawless to be perceived as being far better than Adolf Hitler.
So we now have a war within a war — one to defeat the enemy, and quite another, to preemptively backtrack, footnote, and explain the context of one’s actions for future armchair judges and jurors who will adjudicate battle behavior from the library carrel. Note here that no other government bureau or private entity functions under quite such rules of engagement — the communications of Mr. Obama’s staff are not public; we don’t read the internal memos of Warren Buffett or Bill Gates; the minutes of New York Times editorial meetings remain private; we don’t even get to read the private communications and discussions that the often petulant Julian Assange conducts with his own WikiLeaks team and learn whether there is dissent among his staff over his own ethics and methods. Surely a leaker of any and all things should not demand privacy for himself?...
Posted on: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - 12:10
SOURCE: TomDispatch (10-26-10)
[Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book is The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books).]
You can’t turn on the TV news or pick up a paper these days without stumbling across the latest political poll and the pros explaining how to parse it, or some set of commentators, pundits, and reporters placing their bets on the midterm elections. The media, of course, loves a political horse race and, as those 2010 midterms grow ever closer, you can easily feel like you’re not catching the news but visiting an Off-Track Betting parlor.
Fortified by rounds of new polls and all those talking heads calibrating and recalibrating prospective winners and losers, seats “leaning Democratic” and “leaning Republican,” the election season has essentially become an endless handicapping session. This is how American politics is now framed -- as a months or years-long serial election for which November 2nd is a kind of hangover. Then, only weeks after the results are in, the next set of polls will be out and election 2012, the Big Show, will be on the agenda with all the regular handicappers starting to gather at all the usual places.
Doesn’t it strike you as odd, though, that this mania for handicapping remains so parochially electoral? After all, it could be applied to so many things, including the state of the world at large as seen from Washington. So consider this my one-man tip sheet on what you could think of as the global midterms, focused on prospective winners and losers, as well as those “on the cusp,” including crucial countries and key personalities.
Osama bin Laden: Who woulda thunk it? More than nine years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden and his number two compadre, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are believed to be alive, well, and living comfortably in the Pakistani borderlands with not a cave in sight, according to the best guesstimate of a “NATO official who has day-to-day responsibility for the war in Afghanistan.” With the globe’s “sole superpower” eternally on his trail -- admittedly, the Bush administration took a few years off from the “hunt” to crash and burn in Iraq -- he’s a prospective global winner just for staying alive. But before we close the books on him, he gets extra points for a singular accomplishment: with modest funds and a few thousand ragtag masked recruits, swinging on monkey bars and clambering over obstacles in “camps” in Afghanistan, he managed to lure the United States into two financially disastrous, inconclusive wars, one in its eighth year, the other in its tenth. To give credit where it’s due, he had help from the Bush administration with its dominatrix-like global fantasies. Still, it’s not often that someone can make his dreams your nightmares on such a scale.
The Taliban: Here’s another crew heading toward the winner’s circle after yet another typically fraud-wracked Afghan parliamentary election conferring even less legitimacy on President Hamid Karzai’s toothless government in Kabul. Think of the Taliban as the miracle story of the global backlands, the phoenix of extreme Islamic fundamentalist movements. After all, in November 2001, when the Taliban were swept out of Kabul, the movement couldn’t have been more thoroughly discredited. Afghans were generally sick of their harsh rule and abusive ways and, if reports can be believed, relieved, even overjoyed, to be rid of them (whatever Afghans thought about their country being invaded). But when night fell in perhaps 2005-2006, they were back, retooled and remarkably effective.
And it’s only gotten worse (or, from the Taliban point of view, better) ever since. Yes, they are now getting pounded by a heightened American bombing campaign, a Special Operations night-raids-and-assassination campaign, and pressure from newly surging U.S. forces in the southern part of the country. Nonetheless, as the Wall Street Journalreported recently, they are achieving some remarkable successes in northern Afghanistan. After all, the Taliban had always been considered a Pashtun tribal movement and while there are Pashtuns in the north, they are a distinct minority. The Journal nonetheless reports: “[T]he insurgency is now drawing ethnic Uzbeks, Tajiks, and other minorities previously seen as unsympathetic to the rebel cause.”
If, more than nine years later, the Taliban -- the Taliban! -- is attracting groups that theoretically loath it, have few cultural affinities with it, and long fought or opposed it, then you know that the American campaign in Afghanistan has hit its nadir. Thanks to us and our man in Kabul, the Taliban is increasingly the fallback position, the lesser of two disasters, for Afghan nationalists. This helps explain why more than $27 billion dollars in American training funds hasn’t produced an Afghan military or police force capable of or willing to fight, while Taliban guerrillas, lacking such aid, fight fiercely anyway.
Iran (in Iraq): Remember that old witticism of the neocons of the ascendant Bush moment back in 2003: “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran”? Well, it’s turned out to be truer than they ever imagined. Just recently, for instance, Iraqi caretaker prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, went to Tehran to try to hammer out a deal to keep his position (see Sadr, Muqtada al-, below). It’s undeniable that Iran, a moderate-sized regional power the Bush administration expected to crush and instead found itself struggling with by proxy in Iraq for years, now has a preponderant position of influence there. Despite so many billions of dollars and American lives, not to speak of years of covert destabilization campaigns aimed at Iran, Tehran seems to have outmaneuvered Washington in Baghdad (and perhaps in Lebanon as well). Call that an on-going win against the odds.
China: Here’s the bad news when it comes to China -- a weak third quarter dropped the growth rate of its gross domestic product to 9.6%. Yep, you read that right: only 9.6% (down from 10.3% in the second quarter). For comparison, the U.S rate of growth leaped from 1.7% in the second quarter to 2.3% in the third quarter, with some experts predicting no growth or even shrinkage by year’s end. Make no mistake, China has its lurking problems, including an overheating urban real-estate market verging on bubbledom (which, post-2008, should cause any leadership to shudder) and tens of millions of peasants left in dismal poverty in the long decades when “to get rich” was “glorious.” Still, the country has managed to pass Japan for number-two-global-economic-power status, to corner a startling range of future global energy reserves so that its economy can drink deep for decades to come, and to forge a front-runningposition in various renewable-energy fields. Its leaders have accomplished all this thanks to economic muscle, diplomacy, and cash (think: bribes) without sending its soldiers abroad or fighting a war (or even a skirmish) overseas. They have even learned how to be thoroughly belligerent while relying only on economic power. Check out, for instance, the over-the-top way they crushed Japan in a recent stand-off over a Chinese trawler captain in Japanese custody, wielding only the threat to withhold rare earth metals (necessary to various advanced industrial processes), 95%-97% of which are, at the moment, produced by China. We’re definitely talking global winner here.
Drone Makers: If America’s wars are eternal field laboratories for new weaponry, then the grand winners of the latest round of wars are the drone makers. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the jewel in the crown of Southern California’s drone industry, now employs 10,000 workers and runs double shifts in, as W.J. Hennigan of the Los Angeles Timeswrites, a “fast-growing business… fueled by Pentagon spending -- at least $20 billion since 2001 -- and billions more chipped in by the CIA and Congress.” Washington has been plunking down more than $5 billion a year for its drone purchases, the development of future drone technology, and the carrying out of 24/7 robot assassination campaigns as well as a full-scale Terminator war in the Pakistani borderlands. These “precision” weapons are capable of taking out people, including civilians in the vicinity, from thousands of miles away. The drones themselves -- termed by CIA Director Leon Panetta “the only game in town” when it comes to stopping al-Qaeda -- turn out to be capable of settling nothing. For every bad guy they kill, they kill civilians as well, seeding new enemies in what is essentially a war to create future terrorists. But that hardly matters. Terminator wars are hot and the drone, as a product, is definitely a global winner. Not only are American companies starting to export the craft to allies willing to pay in global hotspots, but other countries are lining up to create drone industries of their own. Expect the friendly skies to continue to fill.
Muqtada al-Sadr: Here’s a heartwarming winner’s circle story about a highly experienced political operator, still known in the U.S. press as the “anti-American cleric,” who just couldn’t be kept down. Sadr led an armed Shiite movement of the poor in Iraq that, in 2004, actively fought U.S. forces to a draw in the old city of Najaf. He himself was hunted by the U.S. military and, at one point during the years when Washington ruled in Baghdad, warrants were even put out for his arrest in a murder case. Still, the guy survived, as did his movement, armed and then un- (or less) armed. In 2007, he packed his bags and moved to the safety of neighboring Iran to “study” and move up in Shia clerical ranks. In the most recent Iraqi elections, now seven months past, for a parliament that has yet to meet, his movement won more than 10% of the vote and with that he was declared a “kingmaker.” He has always unwaveringly called for a full American withdrawal from his country. Now, with the potential power to return Nouri al-Maliki (for whom he has no love) to the prime ministership, he is evidently insisting that Washington retain not a single future base in Iraq -- and the Obama administration is twitching with discomfort.
General Stanley McChrystal: And here’s another heartwarming winner’s circle story. Once upon a time, McChrystal was essentially the U.S. military’s assassin-in-chief. For five years he commanded the Pentagon's super-secret Joint Special Operations Command which, among other things, ran what Seymour Hersh called an "executive assassination wing" out of Vice President Dick Cheney's office. Then, the general was appointed Afghan War commander by Barack Obama and, under the worst of circumstances, tried to implement his boss’s textbook version of counterinsurgency doctrine (see COIN and Petraeus, General David, below). He actually cut back radically on the U.S. air war in Afghanistan in an attempt to kill far less of the civilians he was supposed to “protect” and have a better shot at winning “hearts and minds.”
The result: utter frustration. The Taliban grew, Afghans remained miserably unhappy, and American troops hated his new war-fighting policy which meant they couldn’t call in air support when they wanted it. He and his circle of former Special Ops types flew to Paris to greet NATO allies (for whom, it seems, he had nothing but contempt), drank hard, and vented their feelings toward the Obama administration, all in the presence of a Rolling Stone reporter. Next thing you know, the president has canned his war commander, putting him momentarily in the loser’s circle -- and that was his good fortune. He was shown the door out of Afghanistan before the going got worse. He is now in the process of retooling himself via a teaching position at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University as a budding leadership guru and inspirational speaker. (“Few people can speak about leadership, teamwork, and international affairs with as much insight as General Stanley McChrystal...”)
If you’re a typical American of a certain age laid off in today’s bad times, the likelihood of getting a half-decent job is next to nil (and retraining isn’t going to help much either). On the other hand, if you begin high enough and, say, the president of the United States axes you, all’s well with the world.
On the Cusp
General David Petraeus: The Great Surgifier of Baghdad and the Seer of Kabul is now, it seems, in something of a rush. For one thing, his fabulous 2006-2008 surge in Iraq turns out to have been for the benefit of Iran, not Washington (see Iran in Iraq above). In addition, as members of the Sunni Awakening Movement reportedly peel off in disillusionment or disgust with the present largely Shiite government and rejoin the insurgency in significant numbers, his modest success is threatening to unravel behind him -- and so is American support for the Afghan War he now commands, according to the opinion polls.
As a result, according to Washington pundit (and Petraeus-lover) David Ignatius, he’s making a “strategic pivot” -- a decorous phrase -- in Afghanistan. Give him credit for daring -- or desperation. He may be known as the progenitor of the Army’s present counterinsurgency strategy, or COIN, the man who dusted off that failed, long discarded doctrine from the Vietnam era, made it thrillingly sexy, complete with new manual, and elevated it to a central position in Army planning for years to come, but he’s not a man to let consistency stand in his way. Seeing the need for quick signs of “progress” in Afghanistan (where the war has been going desperately badly), both for a December Obama administration policy review and to keep any U.S. troop drawdowns to a minimum in 2011, he has countermanded former war commander McChrystal’s COIN-ish attempt to radically scale back U.S. air strikes. Instead, he’s loosed the U.S. Air Force on the Taliban, opted to try to pound them with anything available, pushed for escalation in the form of “hot pursuit” across the Pakistani border, upped Special Operations" capture or kill" raids, and generally left COIN in a ditch. Think of his new tactics as BKJ for bomb-kill-jaw -- the jawing being about “peace talks” and aimed at influential sectors of the U.S. media, among others, part of a rising drumbeat of “progress” propaganda from the general’s headquarters.
Well-connected, savvy, and willing to shift tactics on a moment’s notice, Petraeus is a figure to contend with in Washington, our most political general since I don’t know when. Like Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, he may be playing a cagey hand to extend matters through 2012, when a president ready to fight on till hell freezes over could take office. He’s a man on the cusp, destined for success, but only a few hops, skips, and jumps ahead of failure.
(By the way, keep an eye on another Bush-era holdover, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, if you want to gauge what Washington thinks of the war’s “progress.” Just a month ago, he was publicly muttering about retirement early next year. He’s not a man who will want to preside over disaster in Afghanistan. If he does leave early in 2011, just assume that the war is headed for the toilet and, having supported his war commanders in their surge strategy through 2009 and 2010, he’s getting out while the going is still good and his reputation intact.)
Pakistan: Only recently 20% underwater, Pakistan is in a protracted military, intelligence, and policy dance with the U.S., the Afghans, the Taliban, India, and god knows who else so intricate that only a contortionist could appreciate it. For Washington, Pakistan is an enigma curled in a conundrum wrapped in a roti and sprinkled with hot pepper. With the Obama administration schizophrenically poised between partnership and poison -- policies of “hot pursuit” across the Pakistani border and placation, showering the Pakistani military with yet more weaponry and cutting off some units from any aid at all -- anything is possible. Armed to the teeth, clobbered by nature, beset by fundamentalist guerrillas, surrounded by potential enemies, and unraveling, democratic and ever at the edge of military rule, Pakistan is the greatest unknown of the Greater Middle East (even if it is in South Asia). If it’s on the cusp of hell, then, like it or not, Washington will be, too.
Israel: The question here is straightforward enough: Just how badly can Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and his government treat the Obama administration (and the president himself) and get away with it? Right now, the answer seems to be, as badly as it wants. After all, Washington put almost all its global diplomatic apples in one ill-woven negotiating basket, named it making progress on a two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine problem, started talks, and then offered Israel a package of goodies of a sort that would normally only be given away deep into negotiations, if at all, for nothing more than a two-month extension of the Israeli settlement-construction freeze. The result: Israeli settlers are again building up a storm on the West Bank while the Netanyahu government plays even harder to get. If the Obama administration can’t do better than this, then at the next TomDispatch handicapping session Israel has a reasonable shot at being elevated into the winner’s circle. If Obama and his team ever get tired of being kicked around by Netanyahu & Co., especially with the U.S. midterms behind them, life could get tougher for Bibi. The real question is: Can the prime minister play out this version of the game until 2012 in hopes that Obama will lose out and a new U.S. president will be ready to give away the store?
Iran (not in Iraq): Nasty government, shaky economy beset by international sanctions, poor choices and poor planning, irritated population, enemies with malice aforethought, and an embattled peaceful nuclear program that could be headed for “breakout” capacity versus fabulous reserves of oil and natural gas and integration into the great Eurasian energy grid as well as into the energy-eager plans of China, Russia, Pakistan, and India. It’s anybody’s bet.
The Global Economy: I wouldn’t even think about handicapping this one or guessing what it might be on the cusp of. After all, Asian economies (minus Japan) are heating up, as are a number of developing ones like Brazil’s (with capital flowing to such places in problematic amounts); meanwhile, the American economy is cold as a tomb, and Europe is teetering at the edge of who knows what. If this isn’t the definition of a jerry-built Rube-Goldberg-version of a global system, what is? Put your money down if you want, but you’ll get no odds here.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine or COIN: It was Petraeus’s baby and later the belle of the military ball as well as the talk of the militarized intelligentsia at every Washington think-tank that mattered. It took the U.S. Army by storm and, when it comes to laying out the latest plans for the U.S. Army’s future fighting doctrine, it’s still counterinsurgency all the way to the horizon (and 2028). But how long does any fad last? Who remembers hula hoops, bell bottoms, or the Whiskey a Go Go? In the same way, in Afghanistan, COIN, the military doctrine of “protecting the people” in order to win “hearts and minds,” just lost out to smashing the enemy -- and whoever else happens to be around (see Petraeus, General David, above). Okay, COIN is still there, and you’ll hear the carnies in and out of the war-making tent talking a great COIN game for some time to come, but that was the case in Vietnam, too, even after B-52s were carpet-bombing the South Vietnamese countryside and CIA-sponsored teams were roaming the provinces murdering locals by the score. Hearts and minds? COIN’s a loser, and even General Petraeus now seems to know it (though he’ll never admit it).
Great Britain: The British lion just got a haircut and -- who could be surprised -- most of the hair that got cut was shorn from women and children, always first to disembark from the HMS Economy. One other casualty of government slashing, however, is the British defense establishment, suffering an 8% budget cut over the next four years -- which means losing lots of jets, 17,000 bodies, and even the fleet’s flagship aircraft carrier, which will be “decommissioned,” leaving the British unable to launch a plane at sea until at least 2019. As the Washington Post politely put the matter: “[T]he [government’s] moves amount to a tactical scaling down of military ambition by the one European ally consistently willing to back the United States with firepower in international conflicts.” Put more bluntly, as the British in their imperial days used native recruits to help police their colonies and fight their wars, so in recent years, the Brits have been America’s Gurkhas. No longer, however, will Britain be, militarily speaking, the mouse that roared. Despite pathetic pledges to remain at the American side in Afghanistan forever and a day, the sun is now setting on the British military, which means that the U.S. has lost its key sidekick in any future “coalition of the willing.” (Note for the Pentagon: Carpe diem. The Brits are the canary in the mine on this. Sooner or later, it will be your turn, too. By then, of course, women and children in the U.S. will already be well shorn.)
Iraqis, Afghans, and Americans: We’re talking peoples here. Afghans and Iraqis have spent these last years, if not decades, in hell. Lives ripped apartand destroyed, exiles created in vast numbers, basic services debilitated. The numbers of dead and wounded, while contested, are vast enough to stagger the imagination. Just the other day, thanks to the Wikileaks Iraq document dump, Iraq Body Count was able to identify approximately 15,000 previously unknown Iraqi civilian deaths between 2004 and 2009. As that organization’s John Sloboda commented, the new cache of 400,000 U.S. military documents from 2004-2009 shows"the relentless grind of daily killings in almost every town or village in every province." The Iraqis, like the Afghans, deserved better and yet, when it comes to misery and death, there’s still no end in sight. Both peoples were supposedly “liberated” by American invasions. Both are the true losers of the last decade and the saddest of stories, planetarily speaking. And let’s not forget the American people either, pounded in their own way. Just imagine what kind of winners they might have been if, instead of building vast, useless base complexes in Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere across the Greater Middle East) and fighting trillion-dollar wars, the U.S. had chosen to build almost anything at home. But why go down that road? It’s such a sorry what-if journey to nowhere (see Economy, the American, below).
Barack Obama & Company: He had the numbers (in the polls and in Congress) and the popularity in early 2009. He could have done almost anything. But first, in the key areas of foreign and economic policy, he surrounded himself with the old crew, the deadest of heads, and the stalest Washington thinking around. While this was presented as an Ivy League fest of the best and the brightest, so far their track record shows them to be politically dumb and dumber. They missed out on jobs (about as simple and basic as you can get), and took a dismal year of review to double down twice on a war from hell. Now, the president stands a reasonable chance in 2012 of turning over to a new (possibly far more dismal) administration an even more disastrous Afghan War, an unfinished Iraq crisis, a Guantanamo still unclosed, “don’t ask, don’t tell” still in place (who says the coming Congress will care to do Obama’s bidding on this one, now that he’s bypassed the courts), and a jobless nonrecovery or worse -- and that’s just to start down the path of DisObamapointment.
The American Economy: Don’t even get me started. Just kiss this one goodbye for a while.
Check back in a month. With the global (and American) midterms over and the Big Show of 2012 ahead, rest assured that our hardy gang of pollsters and pundits will soon be gearing up again. You can sort through the odds and place your next set of bets in late November.
Posted on: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - 10:25
SOURCE: Slate (10-22-10)
Of all the eccentricities of today's resurgent right, one of the strangest has to be the virulent, obsessive hatred of Woodrow Wilson. For a long time, conservatives have talked about turning back the clock to a period before America veered off course. Typically, though, they have wanted to repudiate the 1960s—politically, to repeal the Great Society; culturally, to beat back the sexual, civil, and women's rights revolutions. Occasionally, as when policymakers debated a New Deal-style response to the 2008 recession, conservative polemicists have reached back further, blaming our woes on FDR and Keynesian economics....
The debunking of crackpot history is necessary, and ridicule fully deserves its place. But it's also important to recognize the nub of truth amid the distortion in the right's Wilson-bashing. After all, Wilson, along with Theodore Roosevelt—who, perhaps because he was a Republican, draws considerably less vituperation from Beck and his ilk—unquestionably bolstered the powers of the presidency and the state in early 20th-century America. While nothing at all like the tyrants of the Tea Party's fever-dreams, these presidents looked upon their predecessors (excepting a few, like Lincoln) as captive to an outmoded view of the presidency. Facing a rapidly industrializing economy, a swelling and diverse populace, and unstoppably powerful corporations, they sought to introduce public accountability and regulation to enhance individual freedom and opportunity....
Posted on: Monday, October 25, 2010 - 16:38
SOURCE: Truthdig (10-24-10)
We are witnessing, we are told, a groundswell of anger from a spontaneous, grass-roots movement against the president, Congress, Democrats, socialists (are commies extinct?), the debt, higher taxes, the “takeover” of the health system, and on and on. But the tea party appears to be as bothered by the policies of Franklin Roosevelt as those of Barack Obama.
Disenchantment on the left, meanwhile, is muted and hardly reported. Liberals have been disappointed by President Obama’s initial appointments, his compromised health measure, financial system regulation that offered no remedies to prevent a recurrence of our financial distress, retention of Bush-era policies on detainees and failure to shut down Guantanamo.
The media repeatedly invoke grass roots and other code words to describe the tea party. Tell a lie often enough and it is believed. Our media wizards must realize that with the revelations of high-powered funding and the involvement of Republican operatives, the characterization of the tea party as a spontaneous, ground-up movement does not fit; nagging facts nevertheless must bow to pursuing the “colorful.”...
The political operatives and financial angels of this angry movement have capitalized on that most fragile and forgettable of human traits: memory. Memories and backbones fail us in harsh times. The political strategists and their financiers who conjured up the tea party are clever. But will electoral success bring us smaller government, freedom from foreign-held debt or new jobs for Americans?
David and Charles Koch are the most prominent bankrollers of the tea party. They fit the mold of late 19th century “robber barons” and reject government oversight, corporate taxes and social welfare programs—except welfare that benefits private enterprise. They want no government regulation of the pollution caused by their oil refineries. Simple political bribes served their predecessors, whereas the Kochs and others provide bountiful campaign contributions—our legalized bribery—under the constitutional cover of free speech....
Posted on: Monday, October 25, 2010 - 15:33
SOURCE: LA Times (10-22-10)
The emergence of the so-called tea party as a political force in American politics has shed light on some of the paradigm-shifting ideas of the political right. One proposal heavily touted by some tea partyers but receiving far less media coverage than others is the repeal of the 17th Amendment, which The Times wrote about in an Oct. 21 editorial. That 1913 constitutional provision displaced state legislatures in the selection of U.S. senators and gave citizens the right to directly elect their representatives in the upper house of Congress. Tea party-backed Senate candidates have embraced the idea of repeal to varying degrees. For example, Ken Buck of Colorado has called for eventual repeal, while Mike Lee of Utah doubts the viability of repeal efforts but laments the harm that the direct election of senators has inflicted on states' rights.
That an ostensibly populist movement like the tea party would so openly disdain a populist constitutional amendment is itself a noteworthy contradiction. But the repeal idea also reflects a common misconception of the Senate as a representative of the states as well as a misunderstanding of the true reason for the 17th Amendment's existence.
The legislative appointment of senators that preceded the 17th Amendment was not uniformly or even primarily viewed as a means of protecting states' rights in the national government. First, as framers such as James Madison pointed out at the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention of 1787, it was the undue solicitude of state legislatures to popular will that precipitated the effort to form the national government. The appointment of senators by these same legislatures would likewise reflect the sovereignty of the people, not abstract states' rights....
Posted on: Monday, October 25, 2010 - 11:03
SOURCE: CHE (10-24-10)
This year is the 60th anniversary of the publication of The Authoritarian Personality. Once this was the most famous of Theodor Adorno's works. Today it's largely forgotten. With one exception: its indelible portrait of the "pseudo-conservative." Although Richard Hofstadter is often credited with the term—his essay "The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt" appeared in 1955—it was Adorno and his three co-authors who first identified the type: that vengeful and violent citizen who avows his faith in calm and restraint while agitating for policies that "would abolish the very institutions with which he appears to identify himself." The pseudo-conservative, in other words, is no conservative at all. Prone to "violence, anarchic impulses, and chaotic destructiveness," he loves war and longs for bedlam in the streets. He has "little in common," in Hofstadter's words, "with the temperate and compromising spirit of true conservatism."...
While the contrast between the true conservative and the pseudo-conservative has been drawn in different ways—the first reads Burke, the second doesn't read; the first defends ancient liberties, the second derides them; the first seeks to limit government, the second to strengthen it—the distinction often comes down to the question of violence. Where the pseudo-conservative is captivated by war, Sullivan claims that the true conservative "wants peace and is content only with peace." The true conservative's endorsements of war, such as they are, are the weariest of concessions to reality. He knows that we live and love in the midst of great evil. That evil must be resisted, sometimes by violent means. All things being equal, he would like to see a world without violence. But all things are not equal, and he is not in the business of seeing the world as he'd like it to be.
The historical record suggests otherwise. Far from being saddened, burdened, or vexed by violence, conservatives have been enlivened by it. Not necessarily in a personal sense, though it's true that many a conservative has expressed an unanticipated enthusiasm for violence. "I enjoy wars," said Harold Macmillan, wounded three times in World War I. "Any adventure's better than sitting in an office." The conservative's commitment to violence is more than psychological, however: It's philosophical. Violence, the conservative maintains, is one of the experiences in life that makes us most feel alive, and violence, particularly warfare, is an activity that makes life, well, lively....
Posted on: Monday, October 25, 2010 - 10:50
SOURCE: New Republic (10-25-10)
“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea—something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to....”
—Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Julian Assange and his obnoxious Wiki-leakers just don’t get it: As far as Americans are concerned, the Iraq war is over, done, finished. We’ve turned the page, changed the channel, tied up the odd loose end, inserted the last punctuation mark, and moved on. And not a minute too soon: With Bush’s War barely ended, Obama’s War demands our undivided attention.
Assange is deluding himself if he thinks his dump of various and sundry classified documents relating to the war is going to distract us. He obviously hasn’t gotten the word: Now that Saddam Hussein’s no longer around, the world is an infinitely better place. ‘Nuf said.
Whether Iraq itself is a better place now that more than 100,000 Iraqis are no longer around—all of them killed in the mayhem unleashed by the U.S. invasion—is not a question that Americans are prepared to entertain. As to whether America itself is a better place given the loss of some 4,287 American war dead along with the physical and psychological suffering sustained by thousands of other soldiers and their families, not to mention the expenditure of at least a trillion dollars—well, let’s not go there...
Posted on: Monday, October 25, 2010 - 07:47
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (10-24-10)
Some of us have long warned that the Royal Navy was setting a course towards self-immolation by insisting upon purchasing two giant aircraft carriers. So it now appears. Following last week’s defence and security review, announcing 8 per cent cuts in the defence budget, the government said the armed forces would “remain fully capable of making their contribution towards global security”. But what can that contribution be?
There is no money to buy a credible force of fast jets to fly off the aircraft carriers: just 10-12 US-built F-35s will be deployed afloat, and only one carrier is likely to see service. Most strategists believe such behemoths will prove shockingly vulnerable in any future major conflict. Britain will lack the small, handy frigates it needs for such real tasks as anti-piracy operations in the Red Sea.
The navy’s plight has been brought about by the refusal of several generations of its senior officers to think convincingly about future threats, budgetary limitations and plausible roles for warships. Successive governments and weak chiefs of defence staff have failed to make them do so. Labour behaved with ruthless cynicism in approving the carriers chiefly because they meant thousands of jobs in its northern constituencies.
The army faces a future in which it can field only a single brigade of 7,000-8,000 men including support elements for sustained operations abroad. Contrast this with the 33,000 British troops on the streets of Northern Ireland during the worst of The Troubles 35 years ago. Planners are debating the doctrinal implications of a new world in which they lack mass.
Even the US Army lacks numbers to dominate a big battlefield. What does that mean?..
Posted on: Monday, October 25, 2010 - 07:05
SOURCE: Albany Times-Union (10-20-10)
A few years ago, at a Virginia college at which I then taught, a colleague asked a student from New York, "Why, if you could have attended college in the finest state system of higher education in the country, did you come all the way to Virginia for your degree?" The student had his reasons, and my colleague understood that one can get a good education outside the SUNY system. He himself had only rarely even visited our state. But what struck me was the excellent reputation of SUNY far beyond the borders of New York.
A second story involving SUNY has unfolded more recently at the University at Albany. President George M. Phillip announced that catastrophic cuts in state aid had led him to propose measures that would eliminate five academic programs: French, Italian, Russian, classics and theater. All five are humanities disciplines, and the loss of the first four would leave only Spanish, Chinese and Japanese as options for students wishing to major in a foreign language....
Posted on: Friday, October 22, 2010 - 11:50