Recasting “The Great Game” – TTG


Some Iranian news agencies have reported that a message from Obama was carried to Iran last month by Oman’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, whose country was a mediator before — when Iran released three Americans convicted of espionage despite claims they innocently crossed the border while hiking in Iraq in 2009. The Obama administration has indicated interest in possible groundbreaking one-on-one nuclear talks with Iran after nearly 35 years of diplomatic estrangement. Envoys from Iran and the U.S. have previously held meetings on Iraq mediated by Baghdad officials. 

The push for possible Iran-U.S. dialogue received a boost by the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, which the U.S. and allies have blamed on Assad’s forces. Obama has suggested Iran — a strong opponent of chemical weapons — could help pressure ally Assad into accepting a Russian-brokered plan to surrender stockpiles of lethal gas to international control. Iran suffered chemical attacks from Saddam Hussein’s forces — then backed by Washington — in the 1980-88 war with Iraq. (Washington Post)


The Obama administration on Tuesday eased longstanding restraints on humanitarian and good-will activities between Iran and the United States, including athletic exchanges. It was at least the second American government relaxation of Iranian sanctions this year and came as Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, has signaled his desire to improve relations. 

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees the sanctions on Iran, said in a statement that it had cut the bureaucracy for obtaining exemptions in order to expedite the provision of health services, disaster relief, wildlife conservation and human rights projects in the country. Also authorized are “activities related to sports matches and events, the sponsorship of sports players, coaching, refereeing and training, in addition to other activities.” The Treasury statement said the action, which eliminates requirements for special exemption licenses on a case-by-case basis, reflected what it called “this administration’s commitment to reinforcing ties between the Iranian and American people.”  (New York Times)


I found it interesting and refreshing that the USG was offering this small olive branch on humanitarian and good-will activities to Iran at the same time we were strenuously pushing for striking Syria. Obama's message expressing interest in one on one talks with Iran is even more interesting and refreshing. Perhaps AIPAC is losing its grip. I think its more likely that the citizenry is starting to find its voice. Don't mess with our guns. Stop spying on us and keep us out of these damned Mideast wars. 

Rouhani appears intent on pursuing serious talks over his country's nuclear program.  He is looking for direct talks with the U.S which may begin during his impending visit to the UN. He is also holding separate talks with Russia and China, which began last week with the Kyrgyzstan summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. He invited Putin to visit Tehran while he was there and Putin accepted. I'm sure Iran will also play an important part in the dismantling of Syria's CW program. That part will be instrumental in establishing "muscle memory" for all parties seeing each other as serious negotiating partners. 

Russia is not an ally of Iran, nor is it really an ally of Syria. However, it is in Russia's interest that the Salafist jihadists do not prevail in Syria or anywhere else. That's what drives their actions in Syria, not any lingering cold war enmity with the U.S. I believe Russia's more muscular involvement in any negotiations with Iran will modify the shrill cries for punishing military strikes and non-negotiable demands that have characterized the debate thus far. Who knows, perhaps compromise among statesmen will become fashionable.      

And how does Netanyahu view all this?


You knew it was coming. After several weeks of prudent and calculated silence; after numerous clarifications that Israel in neither involved nor has a stake in the Syrian civil war; after consenting to a request to assist President Obama in his efforts to muster support in Congress and all that time knowing that a U.S. strike on Syria may not necessarily benefit Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu just had to say something. 

And in the best tradition of such statements, both the substance and the timing were off, unhelpful and meaningless. Evoking just the first half of the sage Hillel’s ancient maxim: “If I am not for myself, who will be?” Netanyahu essentially criticized the U.S., implying that in the case of Iran, Israel will have to rely only on itself since the U.S. approach to Syria can and should be projected into the future in respect to Iran policy. (Haaretz)


Those who were pushing for a punishing series of strikes on Syria didn't give a damn about the dead in Ghouta or the 100,000 other dead in that civil war. It was all about Iran. Even at the cost of enabling the Salafist jihadists in Syria, they saw a golden opportunity to drive Iran further from the world community and away from a peacefully negotiated settlement. I'm pretty sure Netanyahu, AIPAC and their other "fellow travellers" in the U.S. are sorely disappointed at the present turn of events. They will try to derail both the Syrian CW talks and any new Iranian nuclear talks. The last thing they want is the U.S. seeing Iran as a viable negotiating partner rather than as an existential threat.  

Where will this all lead? Well, that's for this committee to discuss.

The Haaretz editorial is now behind a paywall/registration wall. I wouldn't register without going through an anonymous shell account with ssh and a bogus name, but that's just me.

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53 Responses to Recasting “The Great Game” – TTG

  1. confusedponderer says:

    I have a hunch that thy will try something like getting deadlines or ‘red lines’ into the CW deal that they can accuse Syria of not meeting or violating. They would then also make the claim, pointing at some on ambiguity or lack of documentation, that the Syrians are hiding CW. After that, it will be the old “Prove to us that you are not hiding something”.
    To most American’s Assad is a “thug” anyway, and whatever he says will not be credible as a matter of course.

  2. The beaver says:

    Christiane Amanpour will explode again on TV 🙂 after the deal and the news posted in your thread.

  3. mbrenner says:

    The least one can say is that Obama did not send a cake in the shape of a key – accompanied by a BIBLE.
    The open question is whether the White House assumption is that they can get what they’ve been after all along from a more accommodating, more needy Iranian leadership OR now realize that they too must be more accommodating as what terms of a nuclear deal they will accept and a change the overall tenor of relations with IRI, i.e. accepting its legitimacy and legitimate interests.

  4. The beaver says:

    Along the same line:
    “As in the case of the Russian plan on Syria’s chemical weapons, there is a two- to three-year-old Russian blueprint already lying for a starter – an incremental approach of Iran responding to the international community’s concerns and the US step-by-step dismantling the sanctions regime and allowing Iran’s full integration as a regional power.
    The US and Iran are warily probing each other’s intentions, and any keen observer of the three-decade old stand-off would sense that the diplomatic idiom is changing. The US no longer opposes Iran’s inclusion in any Geneva 2 talks on Syria.”

  5. TTG,
    A most trenchant analysis.
    It ‘meshes’ with two long-standing beliefs of mine.
    One is that, if one forgets democratic messianism, the United States and Russia, while they have conflicting interests in some areas, have congruent interests in others. Crucially, it seems to me that in relation to Syria and Iran, the least worst outcome for them both is essentially similar.
    Another is that AIPAC and the Israeli lobby may be much more of a ‘colossus with feet of clay’ than people generally realise.
    When Cameron and Hague tried to embroil us in another Middle East conflict — after the British Army had come out of Iraq with its tail between its legs, and the corpses had gone on coming from Afghanistan in a war nobody has believed for a long time is winnable — there was a kind of ‘peasants’ revolt’.
    A corollary of this is that there is a very large volume of anti-Israeli feeling here, some of which morphs into anti-Semitism.
    The situation is obviously different in the United States, not least because you are a settler society — while we, with the exception of Northern Ireland, are not.
    But the possibility of a backlash is still clearly present in the United States, as well as the United Kingdom.
    Ever since I had Richard Perle on a television programme I produced, back in 1986, I have thought he was a complete idiot. Also, a civilian militarist of quite the worst kind. Having known German and Czech Jewish refugees, who were loyal patriots of their respective countries who could only express that loyalty by serving in the British Army and the RAF, he seemed to me an abominable monstrosity.
    If I was Perle, or Wolfowitz, or Martin Indyk, or Dennis Ross, I would be very cautious about sending people like Tyler to fight unwinnable wars in foreign lands.
    But — these people are seriously stupid!

  6. JohnH says:

    It’s amazing to me that it has taken this long for the US to realize that the more it punishes Iran the more it risks driving them into the arms of the Chinese and Russians. This is certainly not something Iran wants. Nor should the United States. Perhaps the US has finally come to realize that, if it can’t get suzerainty over Iran, then an unaligned Iran is the best option.
    Also, it’s amazing to me how long the US has put up with Saudi shenanigans. Given half an opportunity, the Iranians might prove to be better partners, much less prone to promoting religious fundamentalism and terrorism than the Saudis.

  7. Ursa Maior says:

    Hm. Has the AIPAC lost its claws? Or at east some of them?

  8. VietnamVet says:

    My blood pressure soars whenever the pundits on “Inside Washington” mention Syria or Iran and enemy in the same sentence. They are not; if the USA can reach a diplomatic understanding with them to keep out of each others way, and avoid being drawn into a Sunni Shiite Jihad being pushed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
    Israel can take care of itself. Oil will keep flowing. As the supply diminishes, America will have to switch to alternative sources of energy anyway; especially, if Duluth, Nashville, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, central New York or the Colorado Front Range Floods are symptoms of climate change.

  9. Walrus says:

    Thank you very much TTG. Is it too much to hope for, this apparent outbreak of common sense?
    If I were a jihadist in Syria right now, I imagine I would be extremely worried because if a Syrian CW agreement holds and Iran – U.S. relations experience a thaw, then I would expect that American and European support for the rebels would vanish overnight.
    Would I be right in thinking that this would leave Assad with a mopping up operation? The next question is how do America, Russia, Turkey, Jordan, etc. neutralise the salafists currently in Syria to prevent them slipping away into neighbouring states? I wouldn’t have thought that KSA would want them either.

  10. CTuttle says:

    Col. Lang, FM Lavrov cited VIPS letter to Obama recently…
    “At this point there is plenty of evidence made by independent experts, including on-site, in particular provided by a nun from the nearby convent, there are other witnesses, Western correspondents have been there. Besides, experts in Europe and the US, including twelve retired employees of the Pentagon and the CIA, as you know sent, an open letter to President Obama, explaining how it was all fabricated,” explained Lavrov.

  11. different clue says:

    Would KSA, Quatar, Turkey and the Lesser Gulfies
    press for continued European/American support to their rebels and jihadis regardless? Would Ergogan even be interested in stopping jihadis trying to escape through Turkey? Would the Turkish and Iraqi borders be hardest to seal and police against such jihadi escape?

  12. Alba Etie says:

    Mr Habakkuk ,
    I have a working hypothesis- that so far based on actions taken by the BHO administration ,that in at least regarding Iranian policy – hence Syria as well , that a peaceful solution is sought. I also believe that the AIPAC/ neocon cabal is on the wane – at least for now. I also believe that the Realist re Gen Dempsey & Sec of Defense Hagel are winning the day over the Interventionist. We are witness in my view of a course correction in foreign policy that would have us not intervene anymore in the Middle East or elsewhere. Lord knows what might have happened if there had been a President Romney – who is very close to Netanyahu . We shall see.

  13. r whitman says:

    There is a good chance that the Iranians have already reached their nuclear weapons goals in secret and this is why they have made overtures to the west thru their new president. Western intelligence agencies have been wrong about ME countries before.

  14. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You are reading too much into this; no substantive deal between US and Iran is possible anytime soon; certainly not during the remainder Obama’s term in office.
    The best that one can surmise is that US would not attack Iran to please Israel (progress?).

  15. MRW says:

    David Habakkuk,
    I agree with you. Tribal people, groups, or small nations—and who insist on staying so–are good in hand-to-hand combat, or backstreet subterfuge, deception, or cunning, but not in geopolitical smarts with the big boys where the timing may be achingly slower, but the blowback greater, more all-consuming, and finally lethal.
    That doesn’t make much sense. Let me set it up this way. It was said of John Huston that he was one of a rare number of film directors who could make a $3-5 million film as successfully as he could a $100 million film. As it was explained to me by an insider, if you’re a successful $10 million budget filmmaker, it is no guarantee that you can handle a $100 million budget. The skill sets are completely different on every level. This insider said it is one of the biggest problems that the money people have: you can’t give a consistently successful low-budget guy a big-budget film and maintain the hope he can pull it off. Apparently, John Huston could.
    OK. That out of way. This is a metaphor for Israel. It thinks it can declare itself a nation and play with the big boys, but continue to act as if it’s running the Bloods and the Crips [LA gangs] invoking the ‘You tryin’ to disrespect [delegitimize] me’ line as a reason for war, or fight turf wars over buffer stock like drugs or settlers. It accepts ancient history as a viable excuse to do what it does today, so it laughingly uses techniques honed in Bialystock—the hometown of most of its past leaders–three centuries ago as if still applicable. It tells itself we’re the chosen and smart. ‘Natch it doesn’t like its neighbors, which it considers all rival gangs it can continually be at war with. It has ham-fisted representatives like Perle, Wolfowitz, Martin Indyk, and Dennis Ross, who think that the mere declaration of nationhood gave them the cajones to show up and make demands the big boys seem willing to listen to, so they continue to make them misunderstanding the long silence.
    But Israel isn’t on Mars. It’s in a geopolitical neighborhood (the world) it didn’t have the smarts to figure out 47 years ago when it was planning its gangland 1967 War. Its ‘capos’ didn’t have the intelligence to listen to General Peled about the consequences of the results of Palestine in the future. Geopolitical timing is achingly slower than the quick fixes it thinks it won, which is why the blowback against it is already set in motion—Iraq started it, recent Syria cemented it and made it apparent–and we can watch it play out until 2020. Israelis hate being called freiers, or suckers. They’re going to discover they’ve been suckered by their own delusions, and no amount of their vaunted chosenness is going to help them now. They spent it.

  16. Charles I says:

    Or, if you’re Canadian FM John Baird, attack dog of True Believer PM Steven Harper, just lob this turd, and scoff your way to Iran:
    “Syria crisis: Foreign Minister John Baird scoffs at giving Bashar Assad time to hand over chemical weapons
    By: The Canadian Press, Published on Sat Sep 14
    ISTANBUL—Canada’s foreign minister, John Baird, is calling Syria’s offer to begin providing information on its chemical arsenal 30 days after it signs an international convention banning such weapons “ridiculous and absurd.”
    Baird said Syrian President Bashar Assad could not be given extra time. Baird said: “This is a man who, up until a week ago, denied that they had any such weapons.”
    Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who joined Baird at a news conference Saturday in Istanbul, also expressed skepticism, saying Assad was playing for time while continuing to commit atrocities.”

  17. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Canada is welcome to go to war with Syria as well as with Iran.
    I would hope that Baird and Davutoghlu will have the decency to parachute into Syria with the first paratrooper brigades.

  18. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You are again cutting him too much slack; in the past he was about to start a war with Iran – when be reversed course – and more recently he was about to start another with Syria – when, again, he reversed course.
    I suppose when a person chooses not to pursue a self-destructive course of action one has to be grateful for that.
    But there is vast chasm between overcoming one’s worst tendencies and actually doing something positive.
    Precipitating0 near-war with Iran and Syria in less than 18 months of each other does not give one much room for optimism now, does it?

  19. The beaver says:

    Baird speaks as if Canada is a top dog country when all he cares about is Israel because his second “mommy” is Jewish and , if he was not a Canadian politico, he would love to live in a Kibbutz.
    What will BooBoo do, go bomb Syria?

  20. Bandolero says:

    “Russia is not an ally of Iran, nor is it really an ally of Syria. However, it is in Russia’s interest that the Salafist jihadists do not prevail in Syria or anywhere else. That’s what drives their actions in Syria, not any lingering cold war enmity with the U.S.”
    I think that statement grossly misreading the Russian perspective. Listen what the Russians said all over again and again and Putin also just wrote in the NYTimes again:
    “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.”
    Of course, these words are sugar coat for the very serious motivation embedded in these words. From diplo-speak into common language I’ld translate these words into: Russia is fed up with a long string of US-led regime change operations in foreign countries, and especially in such countries which are independent and Russias friends.
    Read Putins article in the NYTimes, half the article is one this theme: doing regime changes in foreign countries is a grave violation of international law and Russia wants this behaviour to be stopped. This is the very serious interest that makes Russia so serious in Syria.
    Russia and all the SCO states oppose Salafi jihadism, that’s true, because it’s extremism, one the three evils they defined. But what Putin is really up against is world wide US-military jihadism, or as he named it in his NYTimes article when he said it was extremely dangerous: American exceptionalism.
    Reuters today wrote:
    “There’s no diminution of options,” Kerry said, noting Obama’s right under U.S. law to order military action, with or without support from Congress or any international body.
    As a German I’m too polite to say whom I think of when I read of a claimed right by someone to wage any war of aggression at will. And that’s what Russia is against and the sugar coat phrase for it is: “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.”
    Pity that so few people in the US seem to understand this. The worldwide above-the-law wars of the “exceptional American jihadi crowd” do great harm to the people in the US, too.

  21. Fred says:

    “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.”
    This is crystal clear in the US as well. Reuters may report, as does the BBC and other media outlets, that President Obama can order a military strike without Congressional approval. They can continue to quote Kerry and even Obama as saying so; however it is not legal under US law nor the UN charter. The later being Putin’s point.
    The US was not attacked and the Obama administration continues to refuse to release the ‘evidence’ of who was responsible for using chemical weapons. The US Congress is likely to impeach Obama if he were to order any attack without consent, which he will not receive. What the JCS would do is also unclear. It is pretty clear that Obama would create a Constitutional crisis trying to unilaterally attack Syria at this point in time.

  22. Will Putin and Snowden be sharing a Nobel Prize?
    Check out Fallows and Kaplan in September 12th Atlantic on role of emotions instead of reason in FP! Rings accurate to me!
    Although I supported the 2003 Iraq invasion on the “Facts” as known through open source.

  23. Charles I says:

    Mr. Baird is not just some Johnny Boy here, he speaks for Mr. Harper, a True Believer in the Evilness of the Iranian regime, the Justness of Zionism’s present manifestations, with tremendous Faith that there is no, and there is to be no Palestine, no Palestinians.

  24. Bobo says:

    Over the past 200 plus years a President has sent our military forces into foreign lands in defense of this countries interests over 100 times while Congress has only declared War 5 times during that period. The few cases where the War Powers were before the courts they dodged the issue. After the loss of 50,000+ good souls in SE Asia Congress enacted the War Powers Resolution which allows a President to send his forces into foreign lands with reporting requirements to Congress.
    The last thing we should be doing is attempting to limit a recognized power of a President even while we agree to disagree.
    TTG Thank you for taking up the baton.

  25. turcopolier says:

    IMO there is a fundamental difference between a minor action in the Caribbean or China in the era of gunboat diplomacy and launching air attacks on a foreign country for the thinly disguised purpose of bringing down the government. This distinction becomes even greater when the possibility of engagment with a major power like russis is involved. The presidency has grown too strong. pl

  26. MRW,
    I clicked on the link to a ‘Counterpunch’ piece in a comment by ‘Charles I’ later in this thread.
    In the piece, there was a quotation from a letter from a former Senator called James Abourezk which made interesting claims about the actual attitudes of people in Congress. Checking with Google, it appears that Abourezk is of Lebanese Christian background, so doubtless he has his own axes to grind. However, a central claim he made seems to me at least worth examination.
    The opening of the letter, sent to Jeff Blankfort, reads as follows:
    “I just finished reading your critique of Noam Chomsky’s positions in an e mail sent to me by Tony Saidy.
    “I had never paid much attention to Chomsky’s writings, as I had all along assumed that he was correct and proper in his position on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
    “But now, upon learning that his first assumption is that Israel is simply doing what the imperial leaders in the U.S. wants them to do, I concur with you that this assumption is completely wrong.
    “I can tell you from personal experience that, at least in the Congress, the support Israel has in that body is based completely on political fear–fear of defeat by anyone who does not do what Israel wants done. I can also tell you that very few members of Congress–at least when I served there–have any affection for Israel or for its Lobby. What they have is contempt, but it is silenced by fear of being found out exactly how they feel. I’ve heard too many cloakroom conversations in which members of the Senate will voice their bitter feelings about how they’re pushed around by the Lobby to think otherwise. In private one hears the dislike of Israel and the tactics of the Lobby, but not one of them is willing to risk the Lobby’s animosity by making their feelings public.”
    If this claim has any significant measure of truth in it, then hubris may well be on the way to being followed by nemesis. But I am not in a position to know whether Abourezk is or is not giving an accurate picture of the situation.
    (The full text of the letter is at )

  27. The beaver says:

    The evidence is the videos analysed by some unemployed brit and spread across the net like wild fires because he managed to crack the British telephone hacking a couple of yrs ago.
    No military experience let alone weaponry or having been at the front or see war, period.
    A couch potato who knows about weapons from Arnie or Rambo. Google HRW and Eliot Higgins or Brown Moses. He has managed to con the British authorities as well as those guys ar Quai D’Orsay ( yep AQ rebels don’t have savoir faire) and those fellows have influenced this side of the pond.When the decision of some so-called advisers of the POTUS are so determined to strike, guess common sense is thrown out the window.
    Heck we can all be experts in something these days, just by browsing the net and watching YouTube.

  28. Fred says:

    “After the loss of 50,000+ good souls in SE Asia Congress… ”
    Congress authorized action in Vietnam. They have not authorized action in Syria
    “The last thing we should be doing is attempting to limit a recognized power of a President even while we agree to disagree.”
    Are you kidding me? Just because prior Presidents got away with gun boat diplomacy doesn’t make this a lawful act, nor does it make many of those prior actions ‘in defense of this countries interests…’. I’ve read (and lived through some of) the history. Syria isn’t like that member of the British Commonwealth of Nations – Grenada. Putin isn’t going to respond like Thatcher did to Reagan.

  29. walrus says:

    Unashamedly copied from Zerohedge, they probably got it from the Wapo or NYT:
    “A War Against The Moon.
    For years, the moon has been causing ocean levels to rise and fall without authorization from government officials.
    Some of this repeated rising causes flooding within homeland borders, which the administration has expressly forbidden
    Secretary Kerry has informed the moon that further rises in water level are subject to interdiction
    The penalty will be a full assault on the moon itself, with “all conceivable sanctions and weapon systems on the table”
    The moon faces forfeiture of any and all of its properties owned in the U.S. and other assets held in U.S. banks
    The moon will be prohibited from engaging in commerce or traveling across us borders, and faces civil fines for each infraction of the water-level code”

  30. Alba Etie says:

    Mr Makkinejad
    I would respectfully disagree with your about to start a war with Iran assertion . And I have said from the get go that President Obama has been trying to course correct in Syria , and my own belief is that the treat of use of force was a gambit to find some sort of deal regarding the ‘red line ‘ on CW use.

  31. Charles I says:

    Thanks David, I meant to post the quote, saw a beaver, forgot.

  32. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Yes, and Petin was playing a very deep game while running Vichy.
    Some times a duck is just a duck.

  33. Charles I says:

    Not to mention that one is already arming the opponents – intervening in a civil war – of the proposed attack – itself an act of war – in manner calculated to fall below the threshold of review by anything but the Intelligence Committee.

  34. robt willmann says:

    “The Great Game” is the problem.
    The most powerful force operating on relations between persons and groups of people is not money or the police power or a large military. It is peer pressure, which affects adults as it does adolescents. Peer pressure and its effects are a product of cultural norms and the psychology of the people in which it exists. A government is an organization of people and is subject to this same “law of nature”.
    A tiny glimmer of this emerged just this past week or so regarding Syria, the current, unfortunate subject of The Great Game. The unquantifiable peer pressure suddenly appeared, like a coastal thunderstorm, and the carefully stage-managed process to overtly and with fanfare attack Syria collapsed; the psychology shifted.
    The Game on Syria will return, as the players have not been ejected and no one knows if the peer pressure will remain and cover new tactics by the Game players.
    Twelve years of intense propaganda and PsyOps directed at the people of the U.S. have affected attitudes to the extent that it is now difficult for domestic peer pressure to coalesce, much less become a cultural norm, against The Great Game.
    Surprisingly and thankfully, the capacity for peer pressure to develop here is not dead yet.

  35. confusedponderer says:

    Hmm. Just twelve years of intense propaganda? You sure?
    Two decades ago a Russian told me the following joke, stereotypically over (Polish, hah) Vodka:
    In Russia, he said, the government was always telling us, ‘Russia is the greatest place on earth!’, but then they added ‘You must not travel abroad to see for yourself, for there is nothing to see there anyway except for Western elbow mentality and injustice!” We didn’t buy that.
    In America the government tells their people that the US are the greatest country on earth and Americans can* freely travel to wherever they want to, though there is nothing to see there anyway since every other place sucks. And Americans don’t want to. Look how few of them have passports!
    The man had a point IMO. I think that to a considerable extent US domestic propaganda is perpetuated cold war machinery and cold war ideology.
    IMO stuff like the neo-liberal agenda hatched at Chicago was primarily a combat ideology – conceived as a polar opposite – to fight communism, and I think that the US, and the US economy, is largely unaware of that, to its detriment. Much of this continues on auto-pilot.
    There was no reassessment of any of that after the Cold War ended and these institutions (and indeed people) have preserved itself.
    It’s probably not an accident to see personal continuity also, since cold war stalwarts and their scions to have taken the lead on spreading (the Pipes come to mind, or the Kaganses and so forth) ‘Freedom ™ under Bush. These folks also had their cold war liberal counterparts.
    Institutions like NED, that the US use today to “spread democracy (or ‘Freedom ™’) since Bush) abroad”, to give it the most flattering spin, were created during the Cold War with a purpose – to fight communism.
    To what extent are institutions like NED (and are) privatised offshoots of the state department or American intelligence services (with ‘plausible deniability’)? How much of that democracy promotion was actually outright subversion? That are all interesting questions, because the lines between the two are blurry.
    With policy goals like ‘regime change’ firmly established, who can with a straight face blame foreign governments at the receiving end of such attention for being weary of subversion by outlets like NED, or watch with distrust US ambassadors inviting heads of opposition, or ‘US activists’ handing out smart phones to the opposition or street protest tactics?
    Is there any oversight over what supposedly private players do in ‘Freedom ™’ promotion? Or does being part of the DC consensus suffice for a mandate to make foreign policy?
    * Americans can travel anywhere, with the exception of Cuba, another item perpetuated from the Cold War.

  36. MRW says:

    I remember Abourezk’s letter at the time. If I recall correctly, Blankfort thought Abourezk was explaining the lay of the land correctly. BTW, Chomsky and Blankfort used to be friends. Then Blankfort cut Chomsky loose for the reasons cited, among many.
    The reaction of the American people to Syria marks a watershed, IMO. People were pissed, and the first job of a congressman is to get reelected. The last time AIPAC surfaced and fought in the open was for the first US free trade agreement with Israel in 1984, signed in 1985. Israel played dirty, the FBI and other agencies didn’t protect the US businesses involved and we lost some industries to Israel (Grant Smith has the full story with official docs at IRMEP), and AIPAC won.
    This time it didn’t, although I think we only win with the congressional vote saying no war, which has the effect of law. Israel wants war with Iran and thought this would be a stepping stone. IMO, without that vote, AIPAC can bamboozle or strong-arm a future President. Nonetheless, AIPAC has been exposed as anti-American.
    Then there is the public sentiment. Anti-Israel feeling is prevalent here but you only talk about it in friendly groups. Susan Rice and Samantha I’ve-Got-The-Power, as a member of the National Security Council and as US Ambassador to the UN, didn’t help the President any by publicly swearing eternal fealty to Israel as their main–and first–concern in their putsch to bomb Syria. i think they helped increase the calls to Congress. Sometimes these coffin dwellers in DC haven’t got the sense they were born with; they couldn’t read a bingo card correctly if it was flashing in front of them. And they arrogantly assume they know how the rest of the country is thinking.
    This country is seething, David. Iraq (lies). The Financial Crisis (corruption at the CEO level). The economic mess (Congress helping Israel for five years but not Americans). No one being held to account except a lower-down mascot or two, or a slap on the wrist of a $450 million fine (what Richard Fuld of bankrupt Lehman’s was paid as he left in 2008). There are consequences to all this, but none of the genius coffin dwellers have an effing clue.

  37. MRW says:

    Two- or four-legged variety?

  38. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think travel outside of the United States is rather expensive and dangerous.
    Europe is too far away and is very expensive; Mexico is close and dangerous – which leaves Canada and a few Central American countries for their beaches.
    The geography of the United States enforces isolation, in my opinion.

  39. Castellio says:

    Why don’t we, first, initiate a limited strike to see if its paying attention?

  40. confusedponderer says:

    Probably right, even though I’d say that travelling in europe is rather safe and no longer all that expensive. But cost is a factor to travelling, quite clearly.
    And America IS vast and diverse. I met folks from Colorado in Cancun, and they told me, beaming, thay have everything in the US – desert, mountains, forrests, ocean, beaches etc – and for a second I felt tempted to add ‘but Cancun’ but that would have been petty, and also they were right.
    American geographical isolation grants a measure of safety, probably one of America’s greatest strategic assets in any war setting short of intercontinental thermonuclear war.
    To say how Saddam directly threatened the safety of the US they had to think up a scheme as implausible and bizarre as ‘he could take a freighter, and from there start drones to spray deadly germs over American soil, or start scud missiles’.
    But the point that Russian made really is that the US were and are infinitely better at propaganda than the Russians were. In America propaganda worked, and works – because the audience is given the illusion of diversity and choice. Now, if you flipped through tv in 2003 you did see the same nonsense on Saddam’s WMD everywhere anyway. For critical info you had to go to McClatchy or BBS and the Guardian – 9off the mainstream or abroad.
    In Russia the propaganda didn’t work because people knew they were being propagandised.

  41. Alba Etie says:

    Well I guess we all need to look out for” Quackerry” ..

  42. Charles I says:

    4, the 2 legged have left Muskoka for the season, peace has returned.

  43. Charles I says:

    Imagine if the letter, or just these last paragraphs were posted in the NYT as an op-ed.
    “I think in the heart of hearts of both members of congress and of the administrations they would prefer not to have Israel fouling things up for U.S. foreign policy, which is to keep oil flowing to the Western world to prevent an economic depression. But what our policy makers do is to juggle the Lobby’s pressure on them to support Israel with keeping the oil countries from cutting off oil to the western nations. So far they’ve been able to do that. With the exception of King Feisal and his oil embargo, there hasn’t been a Saudi leader able to stand up to U.S. policy.
    So I believe that divestment, and especially cutting off U.S. aid to Israel would immediately result in Israel’s giving up the West Bank and leaving the Gaza to the Palestinians. Such pressure would work, I think, because the Israeli public would be able to determine what is causing their misery and would demand that an immediate peace agreement be made with the Palestinians. It would work because of the democracy there, unlike sanctions against a dictatorship where the public could do little about changing their leaders’ minds. One need only look at the objectives of the Israeli Lobby to determine how to best change their minds. The Lobby’s principal objectives are to keep money flowing from the U.S. treasury to Israel, requiring a docile congress and a compliant administration. As Willie Sutton once said, “That’s where the money is.”
    Jim Abourezk”

  44. Charles 1, MRW,
    Much to my surprise, the NYT has just published a genuinely iconoclastic article on the future of Israel/Palestine by Ian Lustick, entitled ‘Two-State Illusion.’
    His argument is not simply that the two-state solution is no longer conceivable. Clinging to the fiction that it is, he suggests, actually prevents people from engaging in the kind of imaginative thinking about alternatives that might, just conceivably, open the way to a non-catastrophic outcome of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
    I admit to having great difficulty imagining how a non-catastrophic outcome to this conflict can be averted, but I have no claim to expertise on the Arab-Israeli confict, while Professor Lustick is both a genuine expert and a decent and humane man. An extract from his article:
    ‘The assumptions necessary to preserve the two-state slogan have blinded us to more likely scenarios. With a status but no role, what remains of the Palestinian Authority will disappear. Israel will face the stark challenge of controlling economic and political activity and all land and water resources from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. The stage will be set for ruthless oppression, mass mobilization, riots, brutality, terror, Jewish and Arab emigration and rising tides of international condemnation of Israel. And faced with growing outrage, America will no longer be able to offer unconditional support for Israel. Once the illusion of a neat and palatable solution to the conflict disappears, Israeli leaders may then begin to see, as South Africa’s white leaders saw in the late 1980s, that their behavior is producing isolation, emigration and hopelessness.
    ‘Fresh thinking could then begin about Israel’s place in a rapidly changing region. There could be generous compensation for lost property. Negotiating with Arabs and Palestinians based on satisfying their key political requirements, rather than on maximizing Israeli prerogatives, might yield more security and legitimacy. Perhaps publicly acknowledging Israeli mistakes and responsibility for the suffering of Palestinians would enable the Arab side to accept less than what it imagines as full justice. And perhaps Israel’s potent but essentially unusable nuclear weapons arsenal could be sacrificed for a verified and strictly enforced W.M.D.-free zone in the Middle East.
    ‘Such ideas cannot even be entertained as long as the chimera of a negotiated two-state solution monopolizes all attention. But once the two-state-fantasy blindfolds are off, politics could make strange bedfellows.’
    (See )
    Without wanting to succumb to excessive optimism, it seems to me just conceivable that the publication of Lustick’s article is a small straw in the wind, which could herald a greater willingness in American elites to abandon a whole series of ‘blindfolds’ through which the Middle East has commonly been seen.

  45. Charles 1, MRW,
    Apologies for failure to check the comment properly, before I posted it. What I meant to say was not that I had great difficulty imagining how a a non-catastrophic outcome to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians could be averted, but rather how a catastrophic — and potentially apocalyptically catastrophic — outcome could be averted.

  46. Charles I says:

    One can hope and be encouraged. Still, its a psychically painful Rubicon to cross for all parties.
    There are reality checks coming up: the expiration of the 9 month current peace talks deadline; Palestinian status at the U.N in an election year; Israeli intransigence as it senses opportunistic fantasy morphing into realities that must be dealt with. Particularly if Iranian – and Palestinian – diplomacy cannot simply be wormed, assassinated or bombed away.
    The utter impossibility of an actual completely sovereign two state solution in current conditions is cause for a lot of despair, naive in retrospect, and further opportunistic Israeli attacks on the concepts of Palestine and Palestinians. The only ends seem endless oppression and nascent pariah-hood or eventual political accommodation in one state. One could imagine Israel should be doing some serious strategic thinking that encompasses both loss of U.S. support and increase of regional Iranian influence – especially the more we weaken other local players. If Iran is to be accommodated rather than obediently attacked, Israeli strategic rationality may perforce become more palatable, though without the explicit withdrawal of US. support I really doubt it.
    Its just not clear to me where the Israelis think, in the real world, the Palestinians and the Iranians are going? Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt? It does seem clear there is tremendous confidence in the Lobby, if not Congress. And Congress is subject to changes if that confidence is a reliable function and predictor of U.S. behaviour.
    In any event, the CW deal will not resolve the Syrian civil war which in fact has just been begun to be, er, revitalized, with
    American arms. In which the CIA. is a now, what, a party, a dealer, a player, an unlawful combatant?
    Look at the latest press video with Bibi and Kerry from the weekend. I just about puked as Kerry, from the nuclear cyclops of ME and under the stern glare of a clearly frustrated Bibi admonished the region, and Iran in particular, not to get into a regional nuclear arms race. Whatever will they come up with if Iran negotiates and it is reported in the MSM?
    Even exchanging blindfolds or horse[‘s ass’s] blinkers, we’re still told where to look, and where to look away.

  47. Charles I says:

    Understood David, you seem a thoughtful, if not often-gratified optimist to me from what I know of you .
    The non-catastrophic potential outcomes are as near as many as imaginable. The limited variations of a catastrophic outcome seem fairly discernible today, if only with lunar rather than solar lambency at this point. Moving the discussion from The Cave to the Sunlight is a glaringly obvious and encouraging initial step toward avoiding the latter, but it will evoke glares and jeremiads.
    Still, we’re here. Thanks again.

  48. Charles I says:

    Its been trickling down to this since the Berlin Airlift. Reagan resold it with the help of PACs and Thinktanks and Institutes like my Gramps smiling and offering a me strawberry Nestle’s Quick as he subverted my parents’ authority.

  49. Medicine Man says:

    A dirty secret of the lobbying game is that money only dominates when the electorate doesn’t care (that much) about the outcome. Even the dumbest congress critter isn’t going to commit electoral suicide in exchange for campaign contributions.

  50. MRW says:

    Oh man, you’re in Muskoka? God’s Country.

  51. Charles I says:

    I like to live close to my Gods

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