Sunday, March 9, 2014

I'm Not Saying I Agree...But I Understand

 Chris Rock once did a stand-up routine where he talked about the OJ Simpson case, and his theme was, "I'm not saying it's right-but I understand."

This is kind of how I feel about Ukraine: I'm not defending Putin, and I'm not saying taking the Crimea in violation of treaty was right-but I DO understand. Here's why: I had forgotten about Zbigniew Brzezsinski's famous quote: "without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire." This kind of fanatical bipolar myopia isn't really funny anymore, given that the Cold War ended a generation ago, but it seems to be the core of much US thinking toward the current crisis in Ukraine, much to the detriment of our understanding why Russia is doing what it is doing. With communism defeated, there was  little ideological reason to continue fighting, beyond the entrenched corporate interests of  surviving Cold War-era institutions and the knee-jerk opposition of the Grand Chessboard-type thinking that thought it was a good idea to, say, march NATO up to Russia's border. The idea that Russia, and any Russian leader, has a legitimate interest in Ukraine complicates this simplistic Good Guy/Bad Guy  narrative, so attempts to undermine Russian influence in Ukraine are left out of the mainstream conversation, as are the activities of Western intelligence agencies in fanning the unrest, and the uncomfortable presence of a significant fraction of neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian resistance.

 This reactionary impulse may have something to do with US motivation in aiding the anti-Russian Ukrainians, and maybe some of the Ukrainians are simply US aid sponges,  but there is a long history of antipathy between Ukraine and Russia, even before Stalin starved somewhere around 3.5 million Ukrainians to death in the Thirties. This was repaid, of course, by many Ukrainians welcoming the Nazi invaders of 1941. After the war, a Ukrainian independence movement largely controlled by unreconstructed fascists fought on, until finally crushed by the Soviets.

 Fast forward. During de-Stalinization, Crimea is transferred to Ukraine from Russia, though the Russian Black Sea Fleet is headquartered there.

 Fast forward. When the USSR collapses, Ukraine has the world's third-largest nuclear arsenal on its territory. In return for giving them up, Russia signs a treaty guaranteeing Ukraine's territorial integrity; this is the one broken-maybe-by Russia's incursion into the Crimea. We'll return to that momentarily. Also, US Secretary of State James Baker promises Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO will refrain from moving East if the USSR stands down. After the USSR dissolves, NATO, of course, immediately adds most the old Warsaw Pact nations of Eastern Europe to NATO, which is why it so infuriated the Russians when Ukrainian President Yushchenko started talking about Ukraine, on Russia's border, joining NATO, and expelling the Black Sea fleet from Crimea.

 So, when Putin outbid the EU for favorable trade terms with Ukraine, he was operating within the accepted rules of the game. Meanwhile, the US is funding the Ukrainian resistance, and is wiretappedamong other things, picking the next leader of the resistance. Then, after Yanukovich's "turn" toward Russia backfired, and the demonstrations got out of hand-the Russians brokered a deal to end the protests, and Yanukovich agreed to step down and transfer power to the Parliament. That should have been the end of it; instead, the Ukrainian resistance reneges on the deal, essentially staging a coup d'tat even though they had already won. Furthermore, to complete the circle, there is a significant, visible presence of Ukrainian neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian nationalist movement.

 And that's why Putin is pissed. In his mind, he was playing a clean game, while Russia was being undercut by a covert op; he brokered a deal in good faith, only to see the Ukrainians immediately renege; and finally, the symbols of the hated fascists who killed at least 30 million Russians in the defining event of Soviet history are being prominently displayed, on Russia's border. There is simply no way in hell that any Russian leader is going to allow a hostile government with operational ties to Western intelligence to thrive in Ukraine-period. Especially one that reneges on its agreements, and is working hand in glove with both the US and NATO, who have lied to Russia at every step. Especially one that insists on rubbing its identification with the Nazis in Russia's face. And, since temporal distance seems to have fogged people's memories, Russia is a major strategic nuclear power and need have no fear of a conventional military threat, since attacking Russia is a prescription for national suicide. Also, Russia is allowed to keep 25,000 troops in Crimea, although they are supposed to stay in their restricted area. That's the treaty violation. There are no dragnets, roundups, or mass executions underway. Putin is walking a fine line here, asserting Russian hegemony in Ukraine without taking the irrevocable plunge of massive bloodletting. So far, he can still back out, and there are some signals that he may be looking for a way out. If he is, we should let him, since the alternative is for Russia to go all the way forward, and just take Ukraine, install the government it wants, and then withdraw to avoid a bloody counterinsurgency campaign. The closest analog in recent US history is probably either the invasion of Panama in 1988, or the attack on Grenada.

 So, I'm not saying it's right, or saying I approve-but I understand.
(Cross-posted at Everblog).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why War?

It is a common for one to look around and wonder just how things came to be the way they are; it is the curse of the historian to not be able to shrug and go on to other things. So it is, then, that we will consider war, its’ roots, and why it plays such a large part in our lives today.

The roots of war predate civilization; they can be found in the division of labor of pre-civilization hunter-gatherer societies, and the effect of this division on the development of early civilization. While there are certainly exceptions, this division was along gender lines; females largely specialized in gathering, while males similarly specialized in hunting. These tasks almost certainly led to the invention by women of the first basis for civilization, agriculture: it may have been something as simple as the realization that concentrating a preferred vegetable in a close-by area would reduce the need to walk, though it is also likely that being able to stay close to camp to care for children and allow pregnant women to work more are factors, along with others; the issue is still being studied and debated.

What is not debatable is that by concentrating valuable plants into a specific area, the value of that piece of land was greatly increased. It became precious-and thus made a tempting target for those gatherers or raiders of another group or tribe. It became necessary to defend this piece of land, and thus was born the second basis for early civilization: warfare. Warfare was almost certainly the invention of men, who brought the tools and weapons of hunting and killing animals to bear against other humans. The first battles probably consisted of no more than a few dozen combatants, and it is likely that the first massacres of humans by humans followed shortly thereafter. The foundations of modern civilization, then, are simple: adequate population; the ability to produce a surplus of food-organized agriculture-and the ability to defend one’s resources and take the resources of others-organized warfare.

An important point to note here is that as civilization has spread across the globe, and population-human capital-mining, trade, natural resources, and manufacturing have also created methods of making land valuable, they-along with agriculture-have also created foundations of civilizations, in addition to warfare. The one constant has been war.

This early militarization of human society paid dividends: attackers succeeded often and profitably enough to spur a major reaction-the walled city. Walled cities appear as early as Jericho, 7000 BCE, and the presence of this fortification implies much: the ability to mobilize a huge population into non-food-producing labor, and thus highly developed agriculture, as well as a competent army that could both defend the agricultural areas and prevent the sack of the city while the wall was being built. Likewise, no ruler diverts wealth-producing laborers into non-productive wall-building without some pressing need, which further implies the existence of other similarly-capable societies (and armies). The walled city, of course, became the city-state.

It is not too early to begin to develop some conclusions, the largest being the strong implication that warfare is socially, not biologically, determined. The almost complete absence of large-scale slaughter of people in pre-civilization societies is a strong indicator of this-most “warfare” in pre-civilized societies were status displays or small skirmishes by young males seeking status, which, while dangerous, were not often lethal, and almost never led to mass slaughter. We fight wars because our civilization-our system of working together in a complementary way to enable large numbers of humans to live together and better is founded on war. War is a feature of our culture, not our DNA. It is in our cultural operating system-which can be reprogrammed.

It is easy to draw a thread between the complementary evolution of war and the State-more effective methods of warfare sped the evolution of the state, which continually developed more effective methods of warfare. They are conjoined concepts and institutions-the state and war. Indeed, until recently, they were completely indivisible; for most of the history of civilization, most of a ruler’s time was spent preparing for and fighting wars, often with the ruler himself leading at the front. The idea of the state and the army as separate entities is a novel concept, and while in theory the army is subordinate to the state, this is obviously often untrue, as a million military coup d’├ętats demonstrate: for the state, the military is the most treacherous of weapons, that weapon with a mind and interests of its own. Yet the state and the military continue their relationship of necessity, as only the state can provide the resources that modern war fighting demands, and only sufficient military power can provide the state the security it demands. In other words, the dynamics of the relationships between large groups of people, whether tribes or nations, have not changed, since those hunter-gatherers fought off that raiding party trying to strip their field.

So, then, is the problem insoluble? Are we doomed to a short, brutal future of heavily-armed nation-states fighting endless wars, until the big one finally brings the curtain down? All organisms must adapt or die, and adaptation is often violent, even deadly, but a law of systems is that there are no static conditions- all systems are evolving or devolving, rising or falling (although entropy is always maximized in the end-all systems break down). If one applies this to the evolution of states, one sees a steady progression from city, to city-state, to nation-state, to superstate, to….world state. This must be the ultimate goal if the threat of war, and especially total nuclear war, is to be functionally eliminated, but the birth of an evolving world state would require the willful diminution of the sovereignty of individual nation states along with the effective elimination of individual national control over the arsenals of power projection-those weapon systems that can be used to attack other lands. The world is even now busily forming superstates, such as the EU, and similar efforts are underway in both Americas and Asia. Simultaneously, all nations vociferously defend their sovereign right to use military force, even as the trends strongly favor cooperative alliance, in which military force, especially nuclear, has no role. Nations resist this, seeking to maintain the status quo-this can be seen in the relentless attempt to undermine and discredit even a faltering step like the UN. Both institutions-the nation and the military-are expressing the will to survive, in accordance with the idea that sufficiently complex systems, even intangible, will mimic the behavior of living organisms, and if cornered, will certainly fight-and the cycle will continue, at least temporarily. There will be a world state-or there will be a catastrophic crash of the nation state as an entity. The role of the corporate state in the resulting vacuum is unclear…

To say war is uncivilized could not be more wrong-war is a fundamental feature of civilization, as it has developed so far.

(The author would like to acknowledge the work of, and thank, Dr. Gwynne Dyer, whose excellent study War was publlished in 1985, and re-edited and re-issued in 2005.)

Crossposted at The Seminal

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Some Thoughts on the Beijing Olympics

I have a problem with China, I must admit upfront-and it has nothing to do with the fact that this blog has been blocked by the great firewall of China since June '07. in response to my posting of pictures from the Tianenmen Square Uprising. My basic problem with the People's Republic, and in particular, the Chinese Communist Party, is one of definitions: in a nominally communist system, the means of production are owned collectively, by all, through the State. This is clearly not the case in China. Likewise, in a capitalist economy, the means of production are privately owned, and decisions about location, production, and finance are the exclusive province of the owners-also, clearly, not the case in China. However, there is a third system-we have seen it before-that allows capital to operate privately, but exercises strict governmental control.
That, Street, is called fascism, in it's original, purest, sense.
So, can we stop calling China a communist country? They are not. They are a fascist nation, with all that implies.
It is without doubt that the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics was a spectacle of overwhelming proportions. The sheer scale, the coordination, the beauty...the sight of that field of cubes rising and falling, creating waves, shapes, and that recurring Chinese character for "Harmony".
Simply stunning.
The telling moment for me was at the end of the Cubes display, when first flowers, and then the people under the cubes emerged. That's right-that entire performance, executed with computer-like precision-was operated by people.
Like the Pharoahs with their Pyramids, it's quite amazing what can be accomplished with inexhaustible quantities of slave labor.
Then there was that symbol for harmony. Who could be opposed to harmony? Everyone on the same page, working together for the common good, no conflict, no dissent...
It's that last part that bothers me. Harmony implies a lack of dissent. Whereas, as one who believes deeply in democracy and personal freedom, I believe dissent, debate, and the free exchange of ideas to be absolutely necessary in a free society. I don't care if it is messy or "undignified". I like all the messiness that comes with the engagement of free peoples in the democratic process. I could do without the indignity of character assassination campaigns or government-sponsored propaganda-but if those are the price, distasteful as it may be, then it is a price I am willing to pay.
I, for one, am not willing to sacrifice democracy for harmony. Especially a harmony under the fascist dictatorship of China.
Many people have commented that this Olympiad represents a "coming out" party for China, and I agree, but I think it goes further than that. I think what we are seeing is the first flush of a new, rising superpower, moving on to the world stage. I would be willing to wager large coin that the leaders of China see it that way too; I am reminded of nothing so much as Berlin in 1936, when another rising, fascist, would-be superpower used the Olympics to make a statement about their self-image, and a larger statement about the role they intend to play in the world beyond the present.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The FISA Disaster

So, as pointed out below, the Bush Administration with the acquiescent Senate of Harry Reid, has effectively turned the Fourth Amendment (already tottering from 20- odd years of the Drug War) into a relic of what once was. For those who are interested in the what, how, why, and when questions, we are blessed witth the superb work of Selise and emptywheel. If you want to know, and not avert your eyes or seek solace in ignorance, then start here:

Looking Back on FISA's Year in the House.

The FISA Loss: Recommendations for the Future.

I truly begin to question how much of this police-state-ness is reversible, even with leadership that has the best intensions. With substandard leadership...

The Class War?

The Class War is over, and you lost.
Now comes the occupation.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How Liberty Dies...

(h/t to Daniel)

And that is just how it happened today, July 9th, 2008, the day the Fourth Amendment died, by a 69-28 vote in the US Senate.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Malignant Reaganoma

Ringing speech, isn't it?

"Government is not the solution to the problem-government is the problem."

This is the ethic that forms the cornerstone of the current Republican party in the US, in several ways, and it comes directly from the mouth of Ronald Reagan. While I consider the Reagan Administration a disaster for this country, based on the decline in race relation that characterized the times, the S&L debacle, the terrorist wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador, creating the mujahedin that became al-Queda, trillions in debt, the Iran-Contra affair, CIA drug smuggling, the creation of the secret-police infrastructure, selling chemical and biological weapons to Saddam Hussein, ignoring the AIDS crisis, dismantling the clean-energy initiatives put in place in the late '70's, and the dismantling of the middle class, all of that may not include the worst of it. I believe the previous well makes the case for "disaster" status...but I would like to discuss what may turn out to be his most toxic and long-lived influence: his philosophical legacy, best expressed by the "government is the problem" bumper-sticker soundbite. It is the philosophical foundation behind the disturbing symbolism of Reagan ally and lobbyist Grover Norquist : "I...want to reduce it [the government]to the size where I can...drown it in the bathtub."

Creepy. And the funny thing is, nobody treats this guy like someone who has just said, "I want to destroy the U.S. Government, but I'll settle for torturing it to death." Let us note something else-no political theorist in their right mind can truly argue that this is a conservative position. Conservatism acknowledges government as a necessary evil, some thing to be kept carefully in check, while serving to defend the coasts, deliver the mail, and provide a level playing field for business. The reason the Reagan/Norquist ideal cannot be defended as a conservative position is because it is not. It is a radical position, espoused by radicals, as surely as the stated plans of those radicals in the SDS, Weatherman, and SLA thirty-five or so years ago were radical. The biggest difference between the two in my eyes is, unlike those wild-eyed New Leftists who thought the Soviet System was IT, the children of Reagan and Norquist want to replace the elected, publicly accountable government as regulator with an unelected, unaccountable, unregulated, government-by-corporation, where the "invisible hand of the market" will decide who gets what services.

So, if this is your position, how do you create this reality? I don't mean, how do you seize power, steal elections, stack the courts, or exempt yourself from the law-although all that certainly helps. How do you generate privatization? How do you prove yourself right? Two methods- "starve the beast", which dries up the resources and leaves little alternative to privatization; and sabotage the operations of the recipients, to undermine public confidence in the institution and weaken public resistance. This is accomplished either by overtly bringing in people dedicated to dismantling the government's regulatory authority, or by turning operations over to incompetent political appointees.

People like, oh, Michael Brown.

You remember him, right?

Brown was a commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association, a position he was forced to resign. He landed on his feet, though-he had people. After the election of 2000, remember, Bush essentially gave FEMA to his 2000 campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh, as a political payoff. Allbaugh then had his old college roommate, "Brownie", installed into first the general counsel position at FEMA, and then the Deputy Director position, the number-two job at FEMA.

A horse show commissioner. A stellar background for a career in emergency management.

Anyway, Allbaugh resigned shortly after Brownie's confirmation, to become a blood-sucking war profiteer in Iraq, selling access to the CPA-and Brownie was installed as the director of FEMA.
We all know what happened next-Katrina came to New Orleans, and the hundreds who died there from lack of an adequate response from FEMA cry out for justice before the Altar of Judgment.

Why is this kind of thing acceptable, even desirable, for a "drown-it-in-the-bathtub" radic-con?

Because it makes the point. The ghost of Ronald Reagan can now stand over the GOP and wail, "See? Government doesn't work! Government was obviously the problem in New Orleans, not the solution! All those people died because they had been made dependent by the welfare state! Government has no business in emergency management-it should be the domain of the private sector. States or cities could contract for services, and companies could compete! It would create jobs, lower costs, and be more efficient...". And so on-that it's mostly bullshit hasn't stopped it from becoming standard-one can see the model all over the place, if one goes looking. Blackwater is a good place to start, before moving on to the privatization of our intelligence agencies.

So it comes full circle. The Republican Party, recreated in the supposed image of Ronald Reagan, has become something truly unique. It has become, in essence, a party with a vested interest in governing badly, in order to prove their point that government doesn't work and is the problem.
A political party that governs badly, on purpose, in order to further feed its power bases-the very corporate entities with which government functions are being merged.

Hmmm. Interesting historical echo: Benito Mussolini once said "fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism, because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

Mussolini would be proud.

The Republican Party, and its enablers and allies in the Democratic Party, has become a cancer. A malignant Reaganoma, growing on the body politic, eating our freedom and excreting fascism.

I blame Reagan.

P.S.: This post is dedicated to my friends Mike, Ashley, and Mary, (who helped me through a difficult time), and James, who asked the question.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Secret History of the Gulf War

Greetings all...Wow. I don't really have a lot to add to this, other than to encourage all to check it out immediately. Just a staggeringly comprehensive history, with much info rarely mentioned elsewhere (and aren't we all suckers for that?). Courtesy of those wonderful subversives at The Memory Hole.

The Gulf War: Secret History by William Arkin

P.S.: I would like to welcome the Armchair Admiral from Information Dissemination to the blogroll. This is an excellent, informative site dedicated to the activities of the US Navy, and, for hard information and analysis, I encourage all to check it out.

P.P.S: Check out Man in the Street's new feature, up near the top left of the page, called Where are the Carriers? This page keeps a continually-updated list of all US carrier deployments, for those who like to play RISK (or read tea leaves). Enjoy!

Friday, April 18, 2008

On Taking It to the Streets

     Man, have I been having fun with this report from the Navy.

     Okay, "fun" is probably not the right word...not when a careful reading of how diplomacy should be conducted (if one wishes to avoid war) leads to the strong implication that the US wants war with Iran (and is probably going to get it), as I explore here. No, fun is not the right's just so strange to come across something that seems so intellectually honest. It's comforting to know that somewhere, someone is crunching the data who isn't "fixing the facts around the policy". Sad, too-that the simple act of an analyst trying to do his job should be so noteworthy.
     Anyway...the report I am referencing comes from the US Navy's Center for Contemporary Conflict, and the primary focus of it is to consider all the factors that led to the end of the Cold War (as opposed to the knee-jerk Reagan-worship that characterizes so much of US history of the era). The section I will be focusing on here is about the role of peace and human-rights campaigns, and their effectiveness.

     As an activist, it can be very difficult to maintain one's sense of hope. Activists in this nation for the last forty years have been blamed for every variety of pathology that has afflicted the American body politic-from the widely-accepted talking point that says American protesters, fueled by the media, undermined US troops in Vietnam and "lost" the Vietnam War. Protesters are blamed (or credited) for freezing the US nuclear power industry. Protest movements against environmental destruction are blamed for the lack of newly-constructed oil refineries in the US, and thus blamed for high gas prices today. Protesters against apartheid in South Africa were routinely mocked and ridiculed, even as the US government was calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist. And the protests against the atrocities carried out during the covert war in Central America, by the pro-government death squads in El Salvador, and by the anti-Sandinista Contra terrorist army in Nicaragua-those were like nothing I had seen in this country since Vietnam, and they were treated the same way: with mockery and derision in the State Media, with surveillance and infiltration by the FBI, and with tear gas and rubber bullets in the streets.

So why protest? Why put oneself through it?...
Because it works. From the Navy:
In response to the development of new nuclear weapon systems... and statements by Reagan...suggesting the United States could... win a nuclear war, massive protest movements arose in both Western Europe and the United States. These movements sought an end to... the nuclear arms race. Reflecting this focus, in the United States the campaign emphasized the call for a bilateral "freeze" in nuclear weapons development. It may sound strange to give some credit for ending the Cold War to both Reagan and his most vociferous opponents, but there is good reason to do so. The peace movements of the 1980's did not succeed in getting their explicit policy demands adopted...However, they did succeed in moderating Western policy. In response to the peace movement's success in appealing to public opinion..Reagan...ceased all rhetoric suggesting the idea of a winnable nuclear war; instead, President Reagan began speaking regularly about his own concerns regarding the dangers of nuclear weapons. In addition, the United States entered new nuclear arms talks earlier than the Reagan administration had originally intended, and, after talks broke down in fall 1983, the administration worked to ensure talks would resume again as soon as possible. 
You mean...protest movements DID help end the Cold War?
Another, even more important strand of grassroots activity was centered in Eastern Europe... The efforts of groups like Solidarity in Poland and Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia paved the way for the revolutions of 1989 that swept away the existing Communist rulers across Eastern Europe. The most decisive events in ending the Cold War...took place on the ground in Eastern Europe. The citizens of these countries who organized and participated in these events have the most obvious, direct links to the crumbling of the Soviet bloc, so their contribution to the end of the Cold War should not be underestimated...Gorbachev's response to these events was also critically important. In the past, most notably in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Soviet Union had responded to stirrings of independence in its satellites with military intervention. In 1989, Gorbachev made it clear that the Soviet Union would not use its military to assist the Communist governments in these countries in suppressing the opposition movements. This decision had nothing to do, at least directly, with U.S. strength...  In fact, many of the ideas and proposals embraced by Gorbachev had their origins in liberal-leaning Western NGOs and research institutes and were transmitted to the Soviet leader through transnational channels rather than through government-to-government communication...
     So...protests DO work. Activism works. All that marching, protesting, demanding accountability...WORKS. Not only does it work to end unjust policies, it works to encourage just policy. So to all of you working to end the occupation of Iraq and the tide of "friendly fascism" here at home, be of good cheer. It will work. Know that you are doing the right thing, and in a way that will actually accomplish something good.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Diplomacy, and the Coming War with Iran


And now, events begin to accelerate...

I've been reading some interesting analysis from the US Navy, in particular this. While the document itself is a look at the Reagan-era Cold War, the part I'm excerpting is a general look at diplomatic theory, that, to me, seems particulary relelvant to our ongoing war of nerves with Iran:

This research suggests that a purely hard-line strategy aimed at forcing the other state out of existence is unlikely to be successful...Coercive diplomacy is a strategy that employs threats, especially military threats, to pressure a target state to change its behavior. Research...finds that the strategy fails much more often than it succeeds...Coercion is especially unlikely to succeed when the other side would threaten its survival by giving in to the demands placed on it...

In contrast to coercive diplomacy, which seeks to stop or change a course of action already underway, deterrence seeks to prevent an action from being initiated by threatening to impose costs on the target state if it takes that action...the most powerful threat the deterrer can issue is the threat to eliminate the ruling regime in the other state.

So...coercive diplomacy is threatening them to change their behavior, and deterrence is threatening them if they change their behavior.

For this deterrent... to work, the target state must have assurance that, as long as it does not take the action being deterred, it will not suffer the threatened punishment...If the deterrer announces plans to try to change the regime in the other state whether or not it acts aggressively, then the other side has no incentive to be deterred. Without the assurance that the regime will be permitted to survive if it behaves itself, the target state might as well take a chance on obtaining the benefits of aggression... an expressed intent of forcing the other side's collapse undermines the chances that coercive diplomacy will lead to behavior modification. Without an assurance that a change in behavior will result in the lifting of the coercive pressure, why would any state give in? In contrast, coercive diplomacy is more likely to succeed when it is accompanied by positive incentives...The net benefits of changing its behavior are made greater if, in addition to the lifting of coercive pressure, the target state can also obtain new, positive rewards. This also provides a degree of face saving for the other side, which can claim it accepted a bargain and did not simply cave in to outside pressure. Coercion is most likely to be effective, therefore, if it seeks to change the other side's behavior without seeking to cause the other side's collapse and it includes the promise of positive benefits...

So. A stick and a carrot. The classic tools of conditioning. Let's look at this a little more closely. And any effort to coerce is more likely to succeed if accompanied by an opportunity.

For this deterrent threat to work, the target state must have assurance that, as long as it does not take the action being deterred, it will not suffer the threatened punishment.

Therefore, if we were truly trying to change Iran's behavior, we would be offering some positive re-inforcement, negotiations, perhaps the groundwork for some sort of diplomatic reconciliation, or something else-but something. We are not. Not only thing the invasion of Iraq and the hanging of Saddam Hussein proves is that neither nations nor individuals must always be guilty, or if guilty, not of the stated charges.

If the deterrer announces plans to try to change the regime in the other state whether or not it acts aggressively, then the other side has no incentive to be deterred.

This was the whole point of Iran's inclusion on the "Axis of Evil" target list, and is considered policy by no less than General William Odom, in his testimony to the Senate..."If the president merely renounced his threat of regime change by force... " Another thing the Iraqi tragedy demonstrates is the willingness of the US to use a pretext to effect a regime change, which in Saddam's case has been sought since 1991. Iran and the US have been engaged in hostilities since 1979. Hence, Iran would be wise to assume that any excuse would do for the US, and they thus have very little to gain by cooperating.

Without the assurance that the regime will be permitted to survive if it behaves itself, the target state might as well take a chance on obtaining the benefits of aggression.
Therefore, the motive exists for an Iranian first-strike, possibly in southern Iraq, possibly in the Gulf or Straits of Hormuz, probably through its assymetrical surrogates like Hezbollah and Hamas. It seems that a goal of diplomacy, any diplomacy, should be toward reducing incentives for a first-strike, instead of provoking one. Therefore...what would a policy designed to be provocative towards Iran look like? It would threaten military action, and therefore demand a ready Iranian hair-trigger response; and it would have a covert-action component, gathering intelligence, marking targets, and probably running operations inside Iran, trying to provoke that response. It makes me wonder about this.

Research...on...attempted coercive diplomacy finds that the strategy fails much more often than it succeeds.

Simply stated, the likelihood of "success" in this impending misadventure is small. Why pursue it? Who benefits?

So. The whole point of the campaign against Iran is regime change, just as it has been since 1979 (except when Reagan was selling them weapons). There are frequent comparisons of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad to Adolf Hitler in the US media. US naval forces are massing in the region.

And then there are those bitterly cynical political questions re attacking Iran: benefits? risks? opportunities?
Americans will simultaneously rally around the flag and denounce the attack, splitting the country into a bitter division that politically benefits reactionary conservatives by disillusioning and demoralizing the young and newly-idealistic. The Straits of Hormuz may be closed, sending oil into a price spike, with the resultant unemployment and inflation echoing through the economy. Spiking prices means spiking profits. Hmmm. The opportunity to further extend military control over the oil resources of the Middle East, although this would require declaring victory in Iraq and sending that Army into Iran.
I think I am somewhat measured in my take of most things. However, I believe that a cold reading of the theory, juxtaposed, with the reality of our actions, lead to a conclusion: our intentions are either to start a war with Iran, provoke Iran into starting one with us, or create the climate where a mistake or accident that can be claimed as just cause will occur. I am not an alarmist...but it sure looks to me, for the first time, like Bush might really do it. If so, my current prediction is: new moon, first week of August. Knock the Democratic Convention right off the TV. Secondary prediction: new moon, 29th October. An "October Surprise" to help elect John McCain, make all of the Democrats Iraq arguments irrelevant, and put opponents neatly back into that "support the troops" trap, which no tactician has yet learned how to effectively counter. A divided and disillusioned electorate stays home in November, further helping McCain...
I reserve the right to change my mind, and I pray to the powers that I am wrong, but as I write this, I really think Bush may go for it.

God help us all. I'd like to wake up now, please.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

In Case You Missed These, Part 3...

Hi everyone.
Well, it's that time again. Time to make sure some things don't get lost in the shuffle...first of all, If you are new to the site, welcome and thank you, and I hope you consider the time well spent. To you regulars, as always, thank you more...
Anyway, here are some earlier posts you may have missed...

Dien Bien Phu, Iraq
How to Start a Nuclear War by Accident
An Iran-Contra Reflection
What's a Little Espionage Between Friends?
Wrong Then, Wrong Now
First the Surrender, Then the Alliance
The Shape of the Beast
A Surge of Misunderstanding
An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton
In Case You Missed These, Part 2...

Thanks again all, and enjoy!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008: A Star Extinguished

I will keep this short, but I cannot really relate how I feel about the passing of famed author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke, without a brief explanation. 
The year was 1975, and I had just discovered a book in my school library: The Lost Worlds of 2001, by Arthur C. Clarke. It was a memoir of the writing and filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and included the short story The Sentinel, which had provided the initial root that would later grow into 2001 they say, that was all she wrote. I devoured Lost Worlds, then moved to Odyssey, and Childhood's End, Rendezvous with Rama...and on, and on, through the catalog, alternately spellbound by the visions of possible futures glimpsed as well as by the towering intellect of the author and the sheer audacity with which he would apply that intellect to problems and situations both futuristic and universal.
And it didn't stop at his fiction. The more I read, the more I learned of his early work on radar, the communication satellite, and the real-world science and engineering that undergirded all of his work, and lent both his fiction and non-fiction their credibility and air of authority. My world would never be quite the same after reading Clarke's work, and of people I never met personally, none have exerted as much  influence on my life as he. 
In the end, what Clarke did was nothing less than offer humanity one possible immortality. An immortality based on leaving Earth and spreading outward, to the planets, then the stars, beyond the reach of any single catastrophe that might depopulate a single planet. He did not offer a hope of salvation based on magic, but a solid future based on science, intellect, and the embrace of all as one human family. Should humanity find a way to survive, and escape this planetary cradle, no one will deserve more of the credit than he.

Fare thee well, Sir Arthur. May you sail beyond the sunset, and fall between the stars, like dust.