"The United States ambassador in Baghdad said he and his Iranian counterpart agreed broadly on policy toward Iraq during four-hour groundbreaking talks on Monday, but insisted that Iran end its support for militants.
During a meeting that U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker described as businesslike and focused solely on Iraq, the American said Iran proposed setting up a ”trilateral security mechanism” that would include the U.S., Iraq and Iran. Crocker said the proposal would need study in Washington." AP
This is the way out of Iraq. It should be clear by now that Iraq’s problems are beyond our ability to solve. The disparate nature of the population carries within it enmities and rivalries that we have exacerbated by "kicking over the ant-hill" of their fears and hopes. George Carlin likes to talk about "ancient hatreds and modern weapons" as the formula for much of what is happening in the world today. In Iraq, the weapons in the hands of the insurgents and Shia militias are not very modern, but there is no need for them to be.
In my article "Toward a Concert of the Middle East" (posted below somewhere) I suggested that the road out of our situation in Iraq would be found in a sustained "campaign" of diplomacy (backed by force) designed to resolve internal Iraqi issues and regional tensions sufficiently to re-stabilize the Middle East.
Such talks must be conducted by hard headed, practical people like Ryan Crocker. pl
I think you’re wrong here. In any tri-lateral setup, it’d be us against the Iranians and their surrogate, the Iraqi government. Where do the Iraqis come in? How would us and the Iranians settling their future appease the Iraqi insurgents, who are as anti-Iran as they are anti-the-United States.
Seems positive; late AP wire:
“The Iranians laid out their policy toward Iraq, Crocker said, describing it as “very similar to our own policy and what the Iraqi government have set out as their own guiding principles.””
Good to hear from you. Did you read the article that I mentioned? my approach favors us and deals with everyone else as they deserve and our interests require. pat
How to win a broad sunni-shia truce?
We have botched the situation so badly, even intelligent negotiation may not work.
Of course I believe, yes, negotiations immediately – everything on the table, but in the face of so much violence it will be a tricky road.
(consider your blog essential reading – thanks.)
Is giving the south to Iran worth it to exterminate Al QUaeda? Very interesting article over at Just World News on Irans policy towards Al QUaida. Quoting:
“Unreported in the west, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad replied with a full-bore blast aimed at al-Zawahiri:
“Why do you, who want to kill Americans, kill innocent people and place bombs in the [Iraqi] market place?… On behalf of all the women and children in Asia, Europe and America, who have been victims of al-Qaida terrorists, I wish for you and your terrorist group hellfire, and would gladly sacrifice my life to annihilate you.”
There might be quite a lot to talk about at operational levels, if the realists finally have been allowed into the room. I hope the AIPAC loonies havent been given Lebanon as a recompensation.
Small sigh: Perhaps Bush has finally understood that he does not have magic powers and does not have the ability to fundamentally change Persia and Sumeria with a wee little wave of his magic military wand. That whole Magic Christian foreignpolicy doctrine will go down in history as one of the most naive and curious ideological gambits ever.
Admiral Fallon has likewise been stirring the pot again by saying something sensible:
There is no logical reason I can see for not accepting Iranian assistance if it is offered in a positive and useful matter.
I believe however that the offer will be sabotaged in Washington since it is not in Israel’s interests for there to be any possibility of accomodation with a potentially nuclear Iran.
Maybe that meeting between Bush and fellow Republicans a few Sundays ago helped lead to this? There are also rumblings of Bush reviewing the Baker-Hamilton recs again.
Col, at the end of the day, what is US really willing to concede to the iranians ?
Pl. you are grasping at straws here. State have made a coup here (congrats Rice) but darker forces will eliminate this initiative BIG TIME.
Why is it I can’t help thinking that American foreign policy is all about keeping a few military superbases in Iraq (and maybe Lebanon), without coming out and admitting it to the American people and the players in the ME (except Israel)?
And that is why the US can’t “just withdraw” from Iraq. Gotta have some guarantees, after all…
Though I’m not a student of the military (I’m only a humble English prof and a lawyer who had a high draft no. in 1970) I always appreciate your most informative posts on our political, military, and diplomatic concerns in the Middle East.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, jaw-jaw beats war-war every time. I agree with any and all attemts to resolve this colossal unforced error in American foreign policy through diplomatic overtures of any kind imaginable. Key word here: “imagination.” Some creativity, for a change, COULD work wonders.
I also agree with those who point out that Israel’s right-wing Likudnik operators in America — working every lever they possess in the Vice President’s office and in Congress — will have Senators Mad Dog John McCain, Holy Joe Lieberman, and You-Know-Her from New York out on the campaign trail and Sunday talk shows every week screaming at Iran and offering to bomb it as “an existential threat” to Israel. Since America has no treaty or alliance with that transient foreign entity, however, it still requires explanation why these three belligerent bozos and many like them equate expansionist Zionism with America’s national interest. I don’t see the two as in any way connected. So making an unnecessary enemy out of Iran (if not the entire Muslim world) over such nonsense needs to cease — in America’s national interest. Israel can take care of itself. Or perhaps not. I don’t care either way.
I only disagree with the euphemistic “backed by force” reasoning. America’s use of vaguely-alluded-to “force” (why don’t we just call it “unpleasantness”?) in both Iraq and Afghanistan has proven the greatest of America’s woes since we last applied similar “force” in Southeast Asia to save villages by destroying them. Since Americans in general can’t even bring themselves to call “war” by its proper name or address and debate its issues — let alone openly “declare” it and its objectives, mobilize, and pay for it — I see no purpose in allowing Americans and their Lunatic Leviathan government to further dabble in it to the ruination of all concerned. If, as the old saying goes, “War is too serious a business to leave it to the generals,” it certainly seems far too serious for a people whose “commander-in-chief” easily lied and manipulated them into unnecessary war by exhorting them to go shopping.
Helena Cobban’s take is positive:
Michael Murray: I am not an HC supporter at all, but didn’t she recently get booed at some AIPAC of AJC meeting for saying we needed to engage in diplomacy with Iran? And, link above says Admiral Fallon is publicly advocating negotiation. I think attacking Iran has become such an obviously very bad idea that even the most powerful and influential warmongers are losing ground (thank goodness). If the talks are as limited as public reports indicate, however, I wonder if they can accomplish much.
Today I heard Rep Tom Lantos, who some accuse of being overly AIPAC obedient (and who I think has had a very negative and almost Likudnik influence regarding Palestinian issue in Congress), strongly assert need for Iranian and Syrian diplomacy -and he went on that infamous trip to Syria with the Speaker Pelosi.
I disagree with the Likudniks’ positions, but I don’t think they run everything or have bought everyone off. They, along with the neocon and imperialist crazies have produced a string of abject, dangerous, heavy-duty and obvious failures, and they are losing some of their influence because of that. They can give a candidate all the money in the world, but sometimes very foolish and unpopular positions that might get a politician unelected will trump money.
I think we can realistically hope that the neocon and neo-imperialist “Give War a Chance” factions in the administration are losing influence. Have any policy groups ever been more catastrophically wrong about everything they said?
People of goodwill everywhere want this madness in Iraq to end. But as a Chinese businessman in Beijing admonished me once back in 1994: “Good people are good people everywhere. It’s the bad people you have to watch out for!” To which timeless wisdom he then added: “And never trust your interpreter. He’s the one selling your secrets to the competition.” So, about those bad people and untrustworthy interpreters — especially in the present context — we should bear a few things in mind, if only in our own intellectual self-defense.
First off, as Helena Cobban emphasizes on her blog “Just World News” (which helpfully links to this site), we all applaud diplomacy and wish it great success. However, we must also recognize — as many in this forum have — that Iran (not to mention Russia and China) has no interest in helping America out of its own unforced, self-instigated quagmire in Iraq as long as America and Israel keep threatening to do to Iran (if not to Russia and China) what they have, respectively, already done to Iraq, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza. So, playing devil’s advocate and asking “cui bono?” (who benefits?) consider this:
(1) What makes anyone think that the American government — or that “elite” pack of knaves and fools who infest it — WANT to get out of Iraq? I see no evidence to support any such thesis. The pathological perps do want something, of course: they want the American people to stop nagging them about things that they consider none of the people’s business — like militaristic imperial foreign policy as a means of grasping even more domestic political power and the keys to the nation’s treasury for the benefit of themselves and their crony camp-followers. (President Eisenhower quaintly called this cancerous phenomenon “the Military-Industrial Complex.” I call it Warfare Welfare and Makework Militarism.) Prolonging the American military occupation of Iraq advances the purposes of this self-serving political/economic/military “elite.” Getting out of Iraq doesn’t. So, again, what would lead anyone to suppose that the American regime in fact wants to get out of Iraq?
(2) Given that The Worst and the Dullest (i.e., America’s corrupt and inept political “elite”) want to stay in Iraq and that Iran wants this also (at least until it can safely develop its civilian and defense nuclear power programs), then what do the two ostensible antagonists have to discuss except how to make America’s occupation of Iraq last at least long enough so that a new American administration gets the “who lost Iraq? (hint, hint)” hook placed in its throat before it can gain any independent traction for a true reversal of policy?
(3) As with the Lunatic Leviathan in its former Southeast Asian incarnation, the current schizophrenic rendition only seeks to defuse anti-war domestic opposition by ever-nebulous “hints” and “intimations” of “troop withdrawals” and “new beginnings” “sometime soon” (like at least a year from now before the next year from now) that in fact only result in mission-creeping escalation, or “surges” that look more like trickles and dribbles. How many times can one stupid people fall for the same transparent tripe, over and over and over again?
(4) Some will argue that the unpopularity of America’s War on Iraq (unpopular among the American and Iraqi people) will somehow force the political powers in those two countries to come to their senses and end the destructive, counter-productive stupidity. Especially in America, some deluded souls imagine that a change in political parties occupying the White House will somehow prompt sanity to break out in Washinton, D.C. Yet, as someone (Scott Ritter?) recently and accurately observed: the “Democrat” Bill Clinton proved a much more effective (if not simply lucky) imperialist than the Republican Deputy Dubya Bush.
As well, Richard Nixon swore in 1968: “I’m going to end that war (in Vietnam) because if I haven’t ended it in six months, it will become MY war.” He didn’t end it in six months, though, so it did become his war. He therefore became its prisoner, as had his predecessor Lyndon Johnson. “His” war then destroyed Nixon, just as “Johnsons’s War” destroyed America’s preceeding presidential “owner.” I see the same future for any Democratic Party president who “inherits” (i.e., covets) the opportunity to see this “war” through to a “victorious” conclusion (which the opposition Republicans will loudly demand but never allow to happen as long as any Democrat could justly claim credit for such a “win.”)
Just see all the Napoleonic pretenders — of both right wings of our one corporate party — standing before their bedroom mirrors pathetically practicing their best “commander-in-briefs” salute — with both of their left hands. This awful, monkey-on-a-stick militarism does not bode well for the Great Republic.
(5) If America truly wanted out of Iraq we would simply betray the Iraqi Shiites (we’ve done it before) and re-install the Sunni Baathists in power. (“Re-install,” here means to greatly give ourselves credit for simply getting out of the way and letting nature take its course.) In any event, those “dead enders” always “in their last throes” whom “the world’s greatest military power” hasn’t managed to defeat in over four fruitless years (of throwing everything including the kitchen sink at them) will emerge with all the nationalist credentials upon unceremoniously expelling us. So just recognizing this reality and switching expedient alliances to come out on the same side as the eventual “winners” would make the most sense — IF America really wanted to leave Iraq.
So, where do the eventual Sunni/Baathist “victors” enter into this diplomatic conversation between Americans and Iranians who say that neither of them wishes for the marginal “Al Qaeda” to “win” in Iraq?
In light of all the above, then, I still see only political posturing for the home domesic audiences (in both America AND Iran.) Nonetheless, I hope that this diplomatic process, once begun, may eventually lead to some good for America, Iraq, and Iran. Furthermore, if Israel and its belligerent AIPAC lobby in America don’t like that, well, too bad for them.
Still, as Colonel Lang and others have pointed out repeatedly: the various groups contending for power in Iraq do so for long-standing reasons of their own, not because of any interests (much less competencies) put forward by the American government. As Barbara Tuchman said at the end of her book Stillwell and the American Experience in China: “In the end [after four years of failed American intervention], China went her own way, as if the Americans had never come.” The same sort of comment applied to the desultory end of America’s much-longer, but just as futile, intervention in Vietnam. And I think the same sort of comment will apply to the upcoming end of America’s spastic, a-historical, anachronistic attempt to re-introduce Western colonialism into post-colonial Middle Eastern affairs. American imperialism comes and goes not because of events that happen in the larger world outside America, but rather because of what H. L. Menken called “the strife of the parties at Washington,” or what Barbara Tuchman called “intimidation by the rabid right at home.” Whatever one calls the reactionary struggle for power and dominance in America, the long-standing reasons why peoples fight and die (sometimes against America) until they achieve national independence and self-determination endure and always prove dispositive in the end, “as if the Americans had never come.”
Not sure all the optimistic reports are all that accurate – I think the media reporting on this brought their various pre-conceived biases to the table before reports are filed.
Actions speak louder than words – I am sure the Iranians noted the flotilla steaming around the Persian Gulf today. Wasn’t it the French President or Foreign Minister who stated a few years ago “America is the last nation that practises gunboat diplomacy.” It seems little has changed since the late 19th century.
I would say it is some reason for very cautious optimism – but given the power of domestic extremist lobbies in both countries, whether any long-term positive effect will be realised is still very much in doubt.
Disclaimer: I did not read the NYT article referenced above, as I will not deal with websites that require time wasting “free registration” ( and yes, I use http://www.bugmenot.com/)- media dinosaurs like the NYT/WSJ are doomed to oblivion because of policies like these, I will not buy or read or view anything they produce until/unless they drop the firewall. If they want to limit the access to paying subscribers, I don’t have a problem with that. But I digress, sorry.
As the German soldier on Laugh-In used to say…verrrry intrestink:
“U.S.-Iran Talks: Much To-Do About Nothing
On Monday, May 28, 2007, the United States and Iran engaged in a rare face-to-face discussion regarding the security of Iraq. Both sides described the event — the first official meeting between the two foes in over 27 years — as “positive,” but the two nations did not accomplish much.”
Yes, consider the source.
Some of the ‘analysis’ of the talks I have heard on national media show disturbing signs of bias. A guy on CBS news (O’Hanlan is the name?) has been simply blasting the pissing on the whole idea of talks. I’ve heard others like it, but this is only name I remember. It would be just as bad if some person claiming to be an analysist just praised the talks as the greatest thing since sliced bread and a miracle cure. But I have heard several talking heads just blasting, almost as if they were venting. This kind of biased venting disquised as expert analysis is a very dispiriting thing to hear on major media outlets. Is it outright bias, or a marketing idea that current events has to be jazzed up like the old Crossfire program, mixed with a little pro wrestling bad ‘tude to attract an audience?
Correct term is ‘baditude’, I think. So, will we soon have the ‘hawk analyst’ in a black turtleneck and mask: “Last time you won, Lang, because the host fixed the match. NEXT TIME, I’m taken you down to the mat and your sissy analytics wtih you!”
Re the Fox News article. The author is:
“Alireza Jafarzadeh (born 1957) is an expert on the Middle East, an author, a media commentator, and an active dissident figure to the Iranian government who is best known for revealing the existence of clandestine nuclear facilities in Iran in 2002. He has been associated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran and Mujahedin-e Khalq, the terrorist organization on the U.S. foreign agency black list.” –Wikipedia
His main point in the article, not surprisingly, was to say nice things about the Mujahedin-e Khalq and urge us to attack Iran. Interestingly ironic for Fox. The MKO were Saddam’s allies. According to Wikipedia, we bombed, captured, and disarmed those great freedom fighters after the invasion.
Michael Murry is right when he says that the US has no intention of getting out of Iraq. This is graphically supported by Tom Engelhardt’s piece today on the building of the Imperial Colossus in Baghdad at : http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?emx=x&pid=199798.
However, I do not think that Iran also wants the US to stay in Iraq. The Iranians probably believe that they can handle the Sunni Baathists and jihadis on their own, with the help of the Iraqi Shia. It is the latter who generally want the US military to continue fighting the Sunnis, since they do not want to be too dependent on their Iranian brethren (of course, different factions within the Shia have their own agendas, and these colour their views on this subject).
Murry refers to the military-industrial complex, which he also calls “warfare welfare” and “makework militarism”. There is a more familiar name for this entity : capitalism. The argument made by Lewis Mumford, summarized rather crudely, was : to flourish, capitalism needs consumption; the ideal consumer is war; hence capitalism tends to lead to unending warfare. Since governments make war, capitalists began to control them. Where democracy functioned, the corporate complex (replacing the old capitalists, the “robber barons”) needed to control this process, including political parties and the media. This is what is happening in the US today.
How fares, then, the imperium? In Rome’s case, when citizens became too comfortable to serve in the legions, the underclasses were recruited instead. When they, too, preferred bread and circuses (today’s equivalent would be beer and TV), mercenaries were hired (Blackwater et al). When mercenaries from the “civilized world” became scarce, barbarians were inducted. Unfortunately, most of them came from the same warlike tribes that were threatening the empire, encroaching on its frontiers, and which, finally, overwhelmed Rome itself. Even though the US is spending billions on the “mercenary” armies of Pakistan, Egypt etc, the check for the US is not likely to come from the “barbarians”, but from the “resolve of peoples to reject foreign rule and take charge of their own destinies” (Jonathan Schell; as he lays out in his book The Unconquerable World).
Murry will see no good in anything the US does. he lives in self-imposed exile. I can sympathize with that.
You, on the other hand, are not distinguishing between the citizens of the United States and the government of the moment. Surely, you do not believe all this marxist twaddle about oligopolistic business interests having the country in thrall.
The American people are a little slow, but not that slow. pl
I do not think the corporate complex “has the country in thrall”. But it certainly exerts a huge influence on US politics, government policies (irrespective of the party in power), the media and many other key institutions.
I believe in the attachment of the American people to the ideals upon which their country was founded. What is troubling is that many of the means which enable people to exert their will on governments – the media, public discourse, political diversity and choice, the sanctity of the vote – are being compromised, even as the populace is being subjected to the mindless distractions of TV, talk radio, the entertainment media, etc.
I hope that the idealism of the people, and the institutions created by the founders of the republic and their successors, will prove strong enough to overcome these attempts to distort them.
“George Carlin likes to talk about “ancient hatreds and modern weapons” as the formula for much of what is happening in the world today. ”
Is it that Iraq has hatreds that are particularly intense or ancient? Or is it the normal state of tribal peoples to fight with each other?
In other words, maybe the problem is not the presence of tribal hatreds, but the absence of the next step in social evolution, a real nation.
Europe was riven by “ancient hatreds”. Right up to the rising of modern states. The 30 Years War of 1618-1648 was worse than anything the Middle East has seen since the Mongol invasion in the 1200s.
The reason why Iraq is in pieces and Northern Ireland is at peace is not the difference in their ancient hatreds, but that Northern Ireland now has a well-functioning economy that gives people (esp. young men) something better to do than kill each other.
If you had a nation full of young men with nothing constructive to do, even if they had no “ancient hatreds”, they would just make up new ones, as China did during the Cultural Revolution.
Off topic, I admit, but I’d welcome comments.
Last Wednesday troops of the American Mercenary Company Blackwater became involved in a furious firefight with troops from the Iraqi Interior Ministry after they had shot an Interior Ministry driver. Anger within the Interior Ministry is reported to have been particularly high. The fight, in the middle of Baghdad, was only broken up by the arrival of American Army helicopters.
Yesterday 4 British mercenaries were brazenly kidnapped from the Iraqi Finance Ministry by a highly professional-looking outfit of Iraqi police. “The Finance Minister is a prominent Shi’ite, Bayan Jabr Solagh. What is more, he’s the former Interior Minister under whose watch the Iraqi police was thoroughly infiltrated by Shi’ite militias.”
Is the second incident payback for the first?
(It is also rumoured there are ongoing stand-offs between Blackwater and the Iraqi government, specifically the Interior Ministry, over Blackwater’s refusal to apply for a licence from the Iraqis to operate. Two British mercenary firms have received licences).
Gen. Odom’s take:
“Iran might settle for a security guarantee against an Israeli nuclear strike, but its fears of Pakistani nuclear capability are probably more acute – especially as Al Qaeda, hiding in Pakistan, is dedicated to the destruction of Iran’s Shiite-controlled regime and openly calls on the US to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Once this is understood, the makings of a deal are straightforward. The matter of Israel and Hezbollah can probably be sublimated if Washington preemptively drops the nuclear issue, along with its threat to change the regime in Iran.
The old “double-straddle” strategy may once more be feasible, and most parties in the region will be the beneficiaries, allowing the US to begin the long road back to restoring its credibility as a regional balancer. The US has no better way out of the cul-de-sac in Iraq. And even then, the US needs European and Asian allies to help.”
FB Ali, I agree. In 1980 Bertram Gross wrote a book on this, “Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America.” Gross wasn’t arguing that Friendly Fascism had already arrived, but was alerting us to a trend toward Friendly Fascism, in which Democracy becomes only a hollow shell that hides the true mechanisms of power.
A recent article on the Russian economy revealed that both Middle Class and Lower Class Russians no longer see any point in voting, since the election will have no tangible effect upon their lives. More and more Americans feel the same way.
The old jingoistic slogan, “If you want war, vote for peace,” is true in another sense as well–as Connecticutt voters recently discovered. Kicking out Lieberman in the Democratic primary only resulted in giving him the power to threaten the “Nuclear Option” of caucussing with the Republicans. Heads, I win–tails, you lose.
The insurgents continue to surge:
“Guerrillas Ambush, Kill 10 US GIs ”
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
“As best I can piece it together, Sunni Arab guerrillas in Iraq ran a sophisticated sting on US troops in Diyala province on Memorial Day, killing 8 GIs. First, they shot down a helicopter with small arms fire. Two servicemen died in the crash. The guerrillas knew that a rescue team would come out to the site. So they planted a roadside bomb that killed the rescuers. And, they knew that yet another rescue team would come out to see what happened to the first. So they planted roadside bombs and destroyed the second team, as well. Altogether 6 rescuers were blown up in this way. The guerrillas run this routine on Iraqi police and troops in the capital all the time. As US troops increasingly take on policing duties, they become vulnerable to the same operations that have wrought such mayhem on Iraqi security forces.”
Last total I saw was 122 GI’s dead in May, and the month is not over yet. Some analysts are saying the security situation in Iraq is worse now than before the Bush “surge”. The Iraqi police and army look farther away than ever from imposing any order on the streets – the entire nation is in perpetual chaos except for the few patches of ground directly under the guns of American troops. The British have withdrawn to Basra airport, where they face daily attacks, and the Mahdi Army seems poised to take over southern Iraq completely.
If GWB thinks he can hold on till after his term expires so as to hand off the “defeat”, he is as delusional as ever. Events on the ground appear likely to overtake whatever plans are cooked up in Washington.
On my speculation about who abducted the British mercenaries in Baghdad, Patrick Cockburn was on the Beeb earlier today saying his money was on the Mehdi Army – so that probably knocks my theory on the head.
The Gen. Odom article Clifford Kiracofe links is highly enlightening, but I question the title: ‘Exit From Iraq Should Be Through Iran’. Isn’t it more likely that part of the ‘Iranian Compromise’ will include the US maintaining a presence in Iraq at the ‘permanent bases’ and at the magnificent embassy? Can’t help but imagine Israel will be mad as a wet hen, as will the Neocon fringe who fell for the Axis of Evil propaganda, hook, line, and sinker.
Here’s an article describing the bases and embassy:
I see that ur neocon Norman Podhoretz has published a full-page cri-de couer in the WSJ thoughtfully entitled “The Case for Bombing Iran“. This while we’re involved in negotiations with the Iranian government. I thought we didn’t do things like that – isn’t that one reason we vilified the Japanese so much?
Are the neocons starting to panic? Is this a movement from the Cheney side to undercut Bush in the middle of these negotiations? All seems a bit bizarre and downright unseemly.
I disagree slightly and think the American people can be incredibly, unbelievably, almost moronically slow – partly because they’re raised to accept American exceptionalism as an unquestioned fact (we all still believe in it despite massive evidence to the contrary), partly because the mainstream media long ago ceased to function as any sort of a meaningful counterweight to power, and partly because the average American is in fact woefully ill-informed (for the two reasons mentioned above as well as an unbelievable naive view on how the rest of the world views us and functions). We’ve probably arrived at the stage predicted many years ago by HL Mencken wherein the American people finally got their wish and elected one of their own, a complete moron as president.
The public had turned pretty completely against the Vietnam War by 1969 or 1970 (one could argue by the Spring of ’68 when Johnson announced he wouldn’t run again) and yet we couldn’t extricate ourselves from there until 1973. I think this one will take even longer (sigh…..).
As for the efforts of reasonable and qualified people such as Ambassador Crocker, Condi will cave to the OVP and the Likudniks as always. If a SecState as strong and credentialed as Colin Powell couldn’t successfully stand up to these (expletive deleted) she never will.
Sorry to be so negative – probaly the reason I’ve posted so little lately. Great thread, as always…
Podhoretz link: http://www.opinionjournal.com/federation/feature/?id=110010139
I have to sadly agree with McGee.
The American public have almost no idea what goes on in the rest of the world and no interest in finding out.
The party political/campaign funding system basically requires that elected politicians are beholden to their donors – I was told two years ago that if I wanted “access” to Edwards, it would cost me $100,000.
We now have a potentialy explosive situation where there is a huge disconnect between interests of ordinary Americans and the interests of elected leaders. The result are vacuous and lethal decisions such as the Ethanol subsidy.
I’m not sure America can survive for long this way. In my darker moments I see a break-up and a balkanisation of the U.S. along North South/East West divides.
The only concept that seems workable to me is what PL articulated in his “concert” paper. Although I would be more humble. Gen. Odom is stating something similar.
Iran has to be part of a deal. They need recognition for who they are and the fact they have not initiated any direct expansionist activities for several decades. They also need security guarantees from us that we would not initiate any regime change activities. The Iranian people mostly young seem to be the most pro-US people in the Middle East. We need to harness that affinity despite our mutual history from Mossadegh to the hostages.If we can strike a bargain with Iran which is very plausible then many good things can happen – a legitimate partner to dampen the violence in Iraq as a first step. Then of course to tackle the issues in Lebanon where they have tremendous influence.
Of course the next actor we need a new paradigm with is Israel. They need to understand that we cannot provide them with a blanket amnesty to continue their failed policy of dominating by force their political adversaries – Hamas and Hezbollah. We also need a bargain with Israel – in return for a security guarantee they need to enter into a truce with Hamas and HA on an equivalent basis, meaning they would have to compromise. Such a truce IMO would provide the space for a longer term settlement.
Over time we would have to deal with Saudi Arabia and get them to recognize that Iran is a legitimate power player in the region and they need to work an arrangement with them to share influence.
I am hopeful that out of the current disaster created by idealogues in the US and the ME that sanity would return to compromise based on national interests of all parties on an equal footing.
Can any Lang-ISG style politco-diplomatico-economic effort survive Bush’s announcement that he sees South Korea as the model? Even if that effort includes serious outreach to Sunnis, solving regional disputes, involvement of all neighboring countries, and inticement of more reconstruction $ from rich allies? Bush publicly signaled the intention to stay a very long time, with a big force, requiring alliance with a very allied government (which may or may not be democratic at all!, if we take the South Korean analogy to heart).
Who likes this? And not only in ME. Everyone should tune into Blair’s next question time to see if Bush’s statement pops up there. I wonder what this will do for cooperation with the US only significant coalition partner, which seems important since we will be relying on them in Afghanistan for some time, and I guess hoping they will stay in Basra if things do not go as planned there.
Anyway, now we know why no one could pry a statement about our intentions for the super bases out of the administration.
“In my darker moments I see a break-up and a balkanisation of the U.S. along North South/East West divides.”
That seems a bit much.
Anent the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project and implications with useful graphic:
“But Washington says it can’t afford to let the pipeline succeed, as the revenues would further Iran’s alleged nuclear- weapons program. Analysts say this stance could backfire if it undermines Pakistan’s key strategic function: fighting terrorism.”
Other than his admirable and challenging climb up the ladder to get to the seat of power; once there what makes you think Powell ever acted with strength when confronted by higher ups who disagreed with him?
I can see how politicians who have no respect for the institutions of the military might create such a fiasco as our Iraq war policy, as those who are not schooled in the arts of war cannot be depended upon to utilize the resources of the military effectively.
But what I cannot fathom is the absolute-zero-tolerance U.S. policy towards Iranian nuclear weapons programs.
Pakistan has many fission weapons (and has both supported terrorism and exported nuclear technology in the recent past), Israel has a large arsenal of what are likely high-yield thermonuclear weapons (as well as reliable delivery systems), yet according to the neoconmen, our world will somehow end if the Iranians ever manage to construct one fission bomb.
Our nation was strong enough to prevail in the cold war against a Soviet enemy that built nearly twenty-thousand nuclear weapons, yet we are deathly afraid of Iran possessing any. How can this be?
patrick coburn reports that the finance ministry raid “The most obvious explanation for the abductions is that they werein retaliation for the killing of Abu Qader, also known as Wissam Wiali, the Mehdi Army commander in Basra, by a British-backed operation last week. It may be designed to send a message that any British action will be met with retaliation.”
“The other militia units capable of conducting a raid like this are police and police commandos under the control of that Badr Organisation, the military wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), whose men still largely run the Interior Ministry. Although it is the Mehdi Army that is invariably singled out for criticism by US and British leaders, the Badr Organisation played a central role in carrying out sectarian killings of Sunnis in 2005 and 2006.
The third suspects in mass abductions against US and British personnel in Iraq are the Iranian-run units that certainly exist. Iranian-inspired retaliatory operations in Iraq appear to have increased since five of their officials were abducted in a US helicopter raid on 11 January on the Kurdish capital of Arbil.
The abductions at the Finance Ministry underline another truth about Iraq. In Arab Iraq, the US and Britain have no allies. For four years the Sunni community has been in rebellion. But the Iraqi Shia only supported the US-led occupation as a means to an end, by which they would legally take power through elections. The Shia do not, at the end of the day, intend to share power with foreign occupiers.
One reason why so many foreign security contractors are employed in Iraq, at vast expense, is that the US, Britain and the Iraqi governments recognise they dare not rely on Iraqis to protect them.”
We are on the same wavelength on this. Pat’s emphasis on a regional solution is certainly on the mark and Genral Odom makes good points.
On some thread here somewhere a while back I indicated my sense that the solution had to be regional but also include the major/great power level and the UN level. In a sense, we need also a concert of the major/great powers on this as the interests of Russia, China, EU/Euros, Japan, etc. are affected directly and they are players overt and covert.
While this is complex diplomacy, we have the professionals at State (the career FSO’s not the political appointees) and in the other relevant institutions to effect this.
The policy decisions, however, depend on the White House and Congress. And here is where the “domestic” political problem comes into play. It may be that the extent of the disaster will force some realistic thinking “in the American grain.” I hope so.
We have been out there for over two centuries and we, I trust, will be out there for the next two centuries. We have to think this through carefully and make the appropriate adjustments in policy sooner rather than later. I do not exclude the likelihood that Egypt, for example, could shift towards China and distance itself from the US. I am also concerned about our relationship with Turkey, an old friend and NATO ally. Israel has to move out of the deceitful rotting albatross category into that of a constructive friend.
What has happened to our country? What patholgies have entered our foreign policy process?…In our 1797 Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Tunis the text contains “God is infinite” as the first three words?
[Treaties and Conventions concluded between the United States of America and other Powers since July 4, 1776 (Washington, DC: GPO 1873), p. 846].
I imagine Tehran, or any Islamic state, would not object to including such language in any Treaty revisions with them down the road.
I just discovered your website with great interest and I wondered if I could point you to two short pieces on my blog:
I would be very interested in what a person with your expertise and experience would have to say about my scenario for a US attack on Iran.
Good point – cunning might have been a better choice of words. Say what you will about the man, those who have worked with Powell will tell you he is a skilled political infighter. He knew we were heading for possible disaster in Iraq, a disaster that might do long-term damage to our Armed Services, which he does truly love. This I think says more about the political skills of Cheney than anything else. If Powell was overmatched against him, as he undoubtedly was, then Rice hasn’t a prayer. And the chances of Cheney’s wings ever getting truly clipped with Bush still in office are slim and none….
I’d like to think that our country has survived worse, but the history student in me is not so sure….this combination of arrogance, entitlement and ideological certitude combined with ignorance (and topped off by staggering incompetence – think Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith here) hasn’t been seen since the last days of the Roman Empire.
Great comments above, especially walrus and McGee (barring the wacky East-West Civil War thing).
Now taking a stab at Cieran’s question:
Because we tended to characterize the Soviet Union as a repressive, monolithic, super superveillance government, and we tend to characterize the peoples of the Middle East as lawless tent-dwellers who are obessed with murder and suicide. Nuclear attack by the Soviet Union was always conceived as executively commanded by the Leader of the Party himself, with the nation united behind him. The fact that Iran is a police state with a very watchful eye, in addition to the notion that it would be jealous of its nuclear technology after going through all this shit to get it, do not jibe well with a popular concept – widely held and perhaps even influencing the Decider himself – that the Middle East is a porous, lawless, incestuous land, and no place for an ICBM.
One such assumption is that the Iranian government would wink and hand it the Bomb off to a terrorist group or individual, perhaps in a paper bag. This prospect multiplies the number of potential nuclear advesaries exponentially, since it can be applied to million and millions of people.
Which is not to say I like the idea of Iran having a nuclear bomb. I don’t like that anyone has it at all, and think we should all give it back at once.
Thanks to Dustin for his suggestion:
One such assumption is that the Iranian government would wink and hand it the Bomb off to a terrorist group or individual, perhaps in a paper bag. This prospect multiplies the number of potential nuclear advesaries exponentially, since it can be applied to million and millions of people.
This certainly seems to be the possible scenario that the neocons claim we should worry about, but it is also the actual current situation with Pakistan, a country that has not only provided suport for the Taliban, but that has a long history of exporting nuclear weapons technology to rogue states (including Iran!).
So the question still remains why we should be worried about Iran’s potentially troublesome future actions but need not concern ourselves about Pakistan actual misbehavior right here and now.
Is it oil? Israeli fears? History? Who knows? It certainly can’t be any well-placed faith in the long-term stability of the current Pakistani government!
Definitely “cunning”. Definitely. But I’m still not sure about vaunted ‘political infighting skills’. Though you are correct, most people that have worked with him swear he has them. I’m not sold….I’ve never been sold on the guy. And further, I don’t know about the legendary political skills of Cheney either. I do however know, or believe, anyway, he has legendary political and economic power behind him. Cheney has never struck me as a bright guy. Or even a relatively competent guy. He strikes me as an extremely well connected, and well financed guy. In fact, the entire bunch seem to be mediocre, at best. Wolfie, Feith, Libby, Yoo, Pace, et al. My take is, puppet masters all through out history have coveted mediorce, but ambitious, men and women. They found them in abundance in this admin. Rice, being the poster child for what I am trying to get at.
And then there is the Pres. Who, if Georgia Geyer’s sources are to be believed, seems poised to ‘lose it’. See http://tinyurl.com/2ybx5f Shades of Haig, “i’m in control here’.
Cieran said: “So the question still remains why we should be worried about Iran’s potentially troublesome future actions but need not concern ourselves about Pakistan actual misbehavior right here and now.”
It’s mind-boggling that we feed the instability in the region. Any sane administration would be overjoyed at the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline which would tend to salve Pakistan-India tensions. But we only wish to add to the instability by such actions as encouraging Pakistani border groups to stir up ethnic and sectarian tensions in Iran. The same Iran that at the beginning of the Afghanistan War agreed to the safe return of any pilots downed in Iran. It’s my take that the Persian Muslims are a culturally a cut above the Arabs, and yet we feed the rabid Sunni extremists.
Sounds exactly like “peace with honor” that Kissenger declared before he sold out the South Vietnamese. Its odd that we had no trouble solving the infinitely more complicated problems in Germany and Japan in WWII when we set our minds to it. But then again we lack a Churchill but do have a parliament of knaves and cowards with candidates who resemble Blum and Chamberlain more than slightly.
The cookie pushers never fail to snatch defeat from victory. Why should this be any different.