Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Those Who Can't Deliver Victory Can't Whine About a Timeline for Withdrawal

Beggars can't be choosers and losers can't be whiners.   Unfortunately that bit of wisdom doesn't seem to have reached America's whiner in chief, General David Petraeus.  Obama's Afghanistan commander made that clear on the weekend when he downplayed his president's plan to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from that country next year by telling reporters, "That’s a date when a process begins, nothing more, nothing less. It’s not the date when the American forces begin an exodus and look for the exit and the light to turn off on the way out of the room."

In his remarks, Petraeus reveals what critics like Andrew Bacevich contend is the hallmark of America's evolving hyper-militarism - military leaders pronouncing policy decisions that, in a democracy, are intended to be the exclusive preserve of their civilian masters, in this case Petraeus' constitutional Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama.   The president (and Congress) get to decide when and how American forces are to leave Afghanistan, not some general no matter how many stars he sports on his tunic.

American generals, going back at least as far as Patton and MacArthur, have had a disturbing tendency to give democracy a short shrift when they felt particularly emboldened.  The Bush II era, unfortunately, brought out this worst trait in America's top brass.   Not only did the upper ranks come to believe it their place to weigh in on political policy they also found themselves immune to accountability for mediocre to positively awful generalship in the field.

The most powerful military force in the world spent seven years in combat in Iraq and is well into their ninth year in Afghanistan with virtually nothing to show for it but masses of dead littering their wake.  In Iraq, the country doesn't even have a government a half-year after elections were held.  The Sunni fighters once tamed by U.S. funds have returned to the Islamist-led resistance.  al-Qaeda is back in business. The Shiite are split and waiting to duel it out between themselves.   The Kurds are preparing to take on the southern Arab Iraqis over their claim to Kirkuk.   American generals have come and gone, usually into comfortable retirement, and nothing meaningful or lasting has been accomplished save for hanging a tyrant.

In Afghanistan it's probably even worse.   The Afghans have a government, what Chatham House calls a "criminal enterprise," and their country has been transformed into the world's greatest narco-state.   These most warlike of peoples - Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara, Turkmen, Baloch and so on haven't been able in nine-years to form an army capable of defending the government much less the country at large.  The Taliban, once routed, have returned first as an insurgency that  has now morphed into a classic rebel force waging a civil war.  If you're looking for success in Afghanistan you have to look at the steady progress made by the Taliban to find any.

Petraeus says that 2011 is not the year that American forces in Afghanistan will begin looking for the exit.   The truth is, Petraeus and all those in high command, should have had their eye on the exit from Afghanistan before they went in back in 2001.   It was their job to define the path to that exit before they went in  and how they were going to go about reaching that exit and when.   The problem is that these characters never want to set any metrics to define victory lest their own performance be judged.   If you don't define victory and don't define how you intend to get there and by when, you wind up with what we have today - a losing war without end that we've been at for nine years and counting.  Generals who think like Petraeus are not the solution, they're a big part of the problem.

Dead and For What?

How many more?  I asked myself that yesterday on reading about the latest Canadian soldier to die of wounds sustained in Afghanistan.

Three more?  A dozen, two dozen, perhaps four dozen, even more?  I expect that's up to the Taliban, them and the rotting, putrid carcass of a central government in Kabul.   Each of them - our enemy and our supposed ally - play a direct role in every Canadian or British or American combat death in Afghanistan.

The Karzai government is instrumental in the killings of Canadian soldiers.  Its rank corruption and its police and security agencies that prey upon the Afghan public increase sympathy and support for the rebels.   Karzai & Company ensure there'll never be a viable Afghan National Army capable of defending that country and allowing our forces to leave on our terms.

What for?  My second question.  It rests with our generals to lead our soldiers into battle but it's the direct responsibility of our political leadership to guarantee that they're fighting - and dying - for something meaningful, worthwhile.

For the past four years, during which the overwhelming majority of Canadian losses have been suffered, it has been Stephen Harper's responsibility to ensure that there was lasting meaning and true worth to each dead soldier's life.   Just killing Taliban wasn't enough, it never was.

But Steve didn't hold up his end.   He didn't even try.  Worse yet, he exploited those deaths and sought to use them to his political advantage and to undermine his already hapless opposition.  Steve used those dead and wounded and he gave nothing back.

Layton and Ignatieff have nothing to crow about either.    Jack did say that we should talk to the Taliban (as though the Talibs are remotely interested in talking to us) but that was just Jack passing wind through his mouth.   Bad as Jack is, Iggy is far worse.  His Liberals are now demanding that Canadian troops stay on after 2011 in Afghanistan but just in a "training" role instead of a combat role.  Every role in Afghanistan is a combat role.   We don't get to decided that.   The Taliban decide that because they bring the fight to us.  Most of our people are killed by IEDs, by booby-traps, only they're not concealed on jungle trails like in Vietnam, they're laid right out on the roadsides where our troops have to pass whether they're on a training mission or a combat patrol.

I don't want any more Canadian lives squandered on Afghanistan, not one more.   Their deaths are not heroic, they're simply tragic and entirely unjustifiable.   That we keep asking our soldiers to go bravely to such meaningless deaths is beyond tragic, it's criminal.  And for that, we're all accountable.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A 13-Year Old Girl - Shot 17 Times - Of Course He's Not Guilty, She Was Palestinian, The Shooter an Israeli Army Captain

But, then again, we're only talking about an unarmed, 13-year old Palestinian girl, riddled with 17-rounds fired by an Israeli Army captain.   The girl was carrying a school bag and she did stray within 100-yards of the well-protected Israeli military post.

It didn't matter much that a tape recording of the incident showed that the captain was warned she was just a child who was "scared to death" just before he emptied his clip into her body.  From The Guardian:

The soldier, who has only been identified as "Captain R", was charged with relatively minor offences for the killing of Iman al-Hams who was shot 17 times as she ventured near an Israeli army post near Rafah refugee camp in Gaza a year ago.

The military court cleared the soldier of illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and perverting the course of justice by asking soldiers under his command to alter their accounts of the incident.

Capt R's lawyers argued that the "confirmation of the kill" after a suspect is shot was a standard Israeli military practice to eliminate terrorist threats.

Following the verdict, Capt R burst into tears, turned to the public benches and said: "I told you I was innocent."

A recording of radio exchanges between Capt R and his troops obtained by Israeli television revealed that from the beginning soldiers identified Iman as a child.

In the recording, a soldier in a watchtower radioed a colleague in the army post's operations room and describes Iman as "a little girl" who was "scared to death". After soldiers first opened fire, she dropped her schoolbag which was then hit by several bullets establishing that it did not contain explosive. At that point she was no longer carrying the bag and, the tape revealed, was heading away from the army post when she was shot.

On the tape, Capt R then "clarifies" to the soldiers under his command why he killed Iman: "This is commander. Anything that's mobile, that moves in the [security] zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed."

At no point did the Israeli troops come under attack.

After the unarmed girl was shot to the ground, the Israeli Army captain, backed up by another soldier, approached her to inflict the "confirmation of the kill" execution shots.  Are these the monsters that Ignatieff Liberals now support?

Ex-CIA Officer Defends WikiLeaks, Says Get Out of Afghanistan Now!

Former CIA Middle East field officer Robert Baer says WikiLeaks has shown that it's time to get the hell out of Afghanistan.

Speaking in Sydney yesterday, Baer urged the Australian government to question the Obama administration about the dodgy intelligence it has been relying on to run its military campaign in Afghanistan.  From the Sydney Morning Herald:

"[Baer] said WikiLeaks was playing a crucial role in the world because it was laying out for everyone to see "the pretensions and the lies" that are being told about the war in Afghanistan.

"There is nothing like seeing the documents to see how much trouble we are in in Afghanistan," he said.

[He] said the release of the secret reports has uncovered major flaws in the US military campaign, including that the information being used to justify deadly raids is fragmented, and largely coming from secondary sources. He has said much of the information appears to be from intelligence peddlers who are looking for a reward for passing on gossip.

"You cannot conduct special operations like that. You can't win a war that way,'' he said.

He believes the US and its allies should pull out of Afghanistan as fast as possible."

"Pretensions and lies," that about sums up the story of the West's disastrous misadventure in Afghanistan.  It's been a war waged by third-rate generals and fourth-rate politicians, and not just American, from the outset.   Afghanistan proves, yet again, that all the King's horses and all the King's men can't win all the King's wars when they're hobbled by lousy leadership.  And yes, Big Cod, I mean you.

Once Again Reality Clashes with Harper's Rancid Ideology - Insite Defended

Insite, Vancouver's medically-supervised safe injection site for drug addicts, has been a thorn in Harper's paw since, well, forever.  It offends Furious Leader's rancid ideology and therefore it must be destroyed.  Armed with a pack of lies Harper bobblehead Tony Clement has waged a fierce battle to shut down Insite only to be sent packing by the BC Supreme Court and BC Court of Appeal.

The government is appealing the British Columbia decisions to the Supreme Court of Canada but now the Canadian Medical Association is weighing in with a study that even further repudiates the Harper-Clement lies.   The research paper, by Peel Associate Medical Officer Dr. Kathleen Dooling and University of Toronto professor Dr. Michael Rachlis, came out today in the CMA Journal.  The researchers found that Insite indeed reduces needle sharing, cuts overdose deaths and allows for addiction treatment.

Dooling and Rachlis debunk a lot of the nonsense the ever-disingenuous Clement has been tossing out including that miscreant's claim that Insite costs equal $14 per injection.   The report finds that Insite also delivers needed counselling and wound treatment.   The authors urge the Harper regime to abandon its appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.   As if.

Too Bad the Athabasca Flows North

It's too bad the Athabasca River doesn't feed Calgary's water system.   If it did, you could be damned sure there wouldn't be any Tar Sands, the filthiest fossil fuel on the planet, bar none.

Mercury, Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium - despite the Alberta government's rank denials, these toxic contaminants are all winding up in the Athabasca due to the Tar Sands development.  A research study released today shows that, even without a tailings pond spill (as of yet), Tar Sands effluent is reaching the Athabasca river and watershed in levels that render the fish stocks dangerous.   The report was prepared by University of Alberta scientists, hydrologist Dr. David Schindler and Erin Kelly.

The Alberta government funds its own agency, the greatest environmental hoax ever.  Alberta's Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program gives the Athabasca a clean bill of health.  Schindler said the RAMP monitoring and findings "violate every rule" of long-term study and his research showed the opposite.

The spineless TarHeads of Parliament Hill, including Ignatieff and Layton, will probably give the report a pass lest they get dragged in to the myriad environmental calamities posed by the Tar Sands.

Prime Minister, NORAD Called. They Said You're Full of Shit.

Stephen Harper, like all Fear'n Smear pervs, might like to scare his gullible supporters with ominous allusions to threatening Russian bombers but the outfit charged with dealing with those same bombers is having none of it.

Steve keeps trying to imply that these Russian patrols try to, in some cases have, sneak into Canadian airspace to do god knows what although it probably entails deflowering our daughters.   The prime minister, of course, is simply doing what he does best - lying through his teeth.

As Michael Byers points out in the Toronto Star, NORAD was as quick to shoot down Harper's hot air balloon as it was to scramble Canadian fighters to meet and greet the Russian bear:

His efforts at sensationalism were quickly short-circuited by a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command. “Both Russia and NORAD routinely exercise their capability to operate in the North,” Lt. Desmond James explained. “These exercises are important to both NORAD and Russia and are not cause for alarm.”

...Yet the Harper government continues to mislead Canadians about the threat from Russian planes.

In February 2009, Peter MacKay waited nine days before revealing that two TU-95s had come within about 192 kilometres of Canada’s Arctic coastline. He carefully pointed out that the incident had occurred just one day before U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ottawa, and said: “I am not going to stand here and accuse the Russians of having deliberately done this during the presidential visit, but it was a strong coincidence.”

Later, when the Prime Minister was asked about the matter, he suggested that the Russian planes had actually entered Canadian airspace. “This is a real concern to us,” he said. “I have expressed at various times the deep concern our government has with increasingly aggressive Russian actions around the globe and Russian intrusions into our airspace.”

Then, as now, the inaccurate accusations were clearly not appreciated by the United States. NORAD commander Gene Renuart took the unusual step of publicly correcting the Canadian ministers. The four-star U.S. general told journalists: “The Russians have conducted themselves professionally; they have maintained compliance with the international rules of airspace sovereignty and have not entered the internal airspace of either of the countries.”

Well Steve, now that NORAD has pronounced you a shameless liar, what's next?   Oh yeah, how about UFOs penetrating Canadian sovereign airspace?

Best of Friends

Yeah, I know this is sucky but it's still pretty neat.  Labrador Retriever meets dolphin

Living In The World's Greatest Carbon Sink

The satellites have spoken.   The world's tallest forests and, hence, the world's largest carbon sinks, are those along the Pacific Northwest from California straight through British Columbia.  From McClatchey Newspapers:

The temperate forests of Douglas fir, Western hemlock, redwoods and sequoias that stretch from northern California into British Columbia easily reach an average height of more than 131 feet. That's taller than the boreal forests of northern Canada and Eurasia, tropical rainforests and the broadleaf forests common in much of the United States and Europe. The only forests that come close are in Southeast Asia, along the southern rim of the Himalayas and in Indonesia, Malaysia and Laos. 

Scientists suspect that the forests with the biggest trees store the most carbon, and the Northwest forests are probably among the largest carbon sinks in the world. However, they also say that while slower-growing older trees store more carbon, younger trees also absorb more carbon as they grow rapidly.

That sets up a debate about how forests should be managed, particularly whether older trees should be cut to make way for younger ones or whether they should be protected to store the carbon they contain.

Carbon absorption by trees in the Northwest tapers off as they reach from 30 to 70-years of age which is about the time it takes to grow commercial softwood.   This study will probably help the pro-logging lobby but those of us wanting to preserve the remaining old growth forests will just push back that much harder.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Memo to BeckerHeads

Those who can make you believe absurdities
can make you commit atrocities

- Voltaire

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.
~Elmer Davis

I didn't read or watch much of the coverage of Glenn Beck's rally in Washington yesterday.  It wasn't necessary.  We've seen it all before, countless times - during Obama's election campaign, at Tea Party gatherings, at Sarah Palin appearances and on FOX broadcasts.  It's a crawly underside of America that was once confined to Klan rallies.

It was America at its very worst, America both fearful and angry.   The American Right have become masters at using the toxic brew of fear and anger to manipulate their supporters.  It speaks volumes that the Uber-Right use fear against their own.   They make them embrace fear and helplessness to fan their anger.   Once in that state they can be told and expected to believe just about anything - Obama was born in Kenya, Obama is a Muslim, Obama bailed out the banks with the TARP programme, Obama is plotting to institute "death panel" healthcare, Obama is weak on terrorism, Obama is plotting to impose socialism on America, even that they need people like Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly, Limbaugh and Palin (now the self-styled, "Defending Fathers") to save them.
How can so very many people be so profoundly stupid?

It's easy.   Their fear and anger have been harnessed by miscreants like Beck to transform them into sheep who will drive hundreds, even thousands of miles, to honour the master who has enslaved their feeble minds.   They somehow believe Glenn Beck has empowered them even as he has lashed them to his rancid, fictitious ideology.   He has so fettered their minds that he can feed them pretty much anything he likes.

This is powerful stuff.   Taken far enough it can be very dangerous.  At its extreme lies North Korea where villagers have been known to sacrifice their lives running into a burning town hall to "rescue" the mandatory photograph of Kim Jung Il.  That is the pinnacle of fear and anger used to pry loose any vestige of critical thinking.  It is something that, for now, people like Beck can only admire from a distance.

The message is seductive to those oppressed by their own fears and anger - a restoration of a "better time."  After decades of a giant, debt-driven bacchanal, America's good times are on the wane.  Ever since the days of the foolishly adored Ronald Reagan, America has been living well beyond its means.  The notion that this bygone madness can somehow be restored by a return to religious and political fundamentalism isn't really all that far off from the logic that besets so many North Koreans, is it?  That's infantile thinking, a fantasy that actually discourages introspection.

The Beckerheads haven't figured out that, especially in challenging times, the way ahead isn't open to the cowed and the bitter.   The last door that sheep pass through is the entrance to the abbatoir.  Guess who's waiting for them on the other side?   Why that would be those same Defending Fathers and those they serve.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Obama Frets Over Omar Khadr

The stench emitting from the military kangaroo court convened to try Omar Khadr has reached the White House and, according to The New York Times, has Obama & Company deeply troubled about the way the world sees America.

Mr. Khadr’s trial at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay started earlier in August but was put on a monthlong hiatus because a lawyer got sick and collapsed in court. The pause has allowed the administration to consider the negative images the trial has already generated.

Chief among them are persistent questions about the propriety of prosecuting a child soldier. Moreover, in a blow to establishing an image of openness, the Pentagon sought to ban journalists who wrote about publicly known information that it decreed should be treated as secret.

The judge declined to suppress statements Mr. Khadr made after an Army interrogator sought to frighten him with a fabricated story about an Afghan youth who disappointed interrogators and was sent to an American prison where he died after a gang rape. In a pretrial hearing, the interrogator confirmed making that implicit threat, but the judge ruled it did not taint Mr. Khadr’s later confessions.

And prosecutors disqualified an officer from the jury because he said he agreed with President Obama that Guantánamo had compromised America’s values and international reputation.

No matter how you feel about Omar Khadr, there's no justice for him to be had from this rigged, military tribunal that brings the United States the distinction of being the first Western nation to try a child soldier since America and most other nations signed a protocol expressly prohibiting child soldier prosecutions.

So, yes, Obama should be worried about the consequences to America from this travesty.  The world will not judge America kindly.

Why Do We Trust In Those Who Fail Us?

This one is directed to you Libs but it might just as well be you Dippers too.   Why, with the climatic devastation that's already impacting our world, our one and only biosphere, do we support leaders intent on steering Canada into runaway global warming?   Why do we support people who, for their own political advancement, would condemn our grandkids to live in a Canada far worse than anything we have ever known?

In case you're in any doubt, I'm referring to Michael Ignatieff and, yes, Jack Layton too.   In fact the reference sticks to any of the gaggle of Fossil Fuelers, the inveterate Tar Sanders of Parliament Hill.

Canada is not alone.   Most Western pols talk up their committment to environmentalism while pimping for Big Carbon.   In a recent opinion piece in The Guardian, NOAA's James Hansen relates his lamentable exchange with that most enviro-friendly nation of them all, Norway:

"I hoped that Norway, because of its history of environmentalism, might be able to take real action to address climate change, drawing attention to the hypocrisy in the words and pseudo-actions of other nations.

So I wrote a letter to the prime minister suggesting that Norway, as majority owner of Statoil, should intervene in its plans to develop the tar sands of Canada. I received a polite response, by letter, from the deputy minister of petroleum and energy. The government position is that the tar sands investment is "a commercial decision", that the government should not interfere, and that a "vast majority in the Norwegian parliament" agree that this constitutes "good corporate governance". The deputy minister concluded his letter: "I can however assure you that we will continue our offensive stance on climate change issues both at home and abroad."

A Norwegian grandfather, upon reading the deputy minister's letter, quoted Saint Augustine: "Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue."

The Norwegian position is a staggering reaffirmation of the global situation: even the greenest governments find it too inconvenient to address the implication of scientific facts.

Hansen makes clear that we have to act and time is running out:

"...our planet is close to climate tipping points. Ice is melting in the Arctic, Greenland and Antarctica, and on mountain glaciers worldwide. Many species are stressed by environmental destruction and climate change. Continuing fossil fuel emissions, if unabated, will cause sea levels to rise and species to become extinct beyond our control. Increasing atmospheric water vapour is already magnifying climate extremes, increasing overall precipitation, causing greater floods and stronger storms.

Stabilising climate requires restoring our planet's energy balance. The physics is straightforward. The effect of increasing carbon dioxide on Earth's energy imbalance is confirmed by precise measurements of ocean heat gain. The principal implication is defined by the geophysics, by the size of fossil fuel reservoirs. Simply put, there is a limit on how much carbon dioxide we can pour into the atmosphere. We cannot burn all fossil fuels. Specifically, we must (1) phase out coal use rapidly, (2) leave tar sands in the ground, and (3) not go after the last drops of oil.

On this point, the Athabasca Tar Sands, Hansen is emphatic.  That bitumen sludge must be left in the ground.  It is the planet's filthiest fossil fuel and promises of new, clean technologies - the same nonsense we've heard for about two decades now - are greenwash.  Likewise, when the Liberal leader makes passing, vague references to dealing with Athabasca's CO2 and water issues, it's more of the same - greenwash, enviro-bullshit.

"...fossil fuel addiction can be solved only when we recognise an economic law as certain as the law of gravity: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy they will be used. Solution therefore requires a rising fee on oil, gas and coal – a carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies at the domestic mine or port of entry. All funds collected should be distributed to the public on a per capita basis to allow lifestyle adjustments and spur clean energy innovations. As the fee rises, fossil fuels will be phased out, replaced by carbon-free energy and efficiency.

A carbon fee is the only realistic path to global action. China and India will not accept caps, but they need a carbon fee to spur clean energy and avoid fossil fuel addiction.

Governments today, instead, talk of "cap-and-trade with offsets", a system rigged by big banks and fossil fuel interests. Cap-and-trade invites corruption. Worse, it is ineffectual, assuring continued fossil fuel addiction to the last drop and environmental catastrophe.

 I believe Hansen is right.   The only way we'll tackle global warming is to levy a carbon tax on the fossil fuel companies - oil, bitumen, coal and gas - at the point of production.  Better yet, we should make the fossil fuel companies, Tar Sands included, financially responsible for every environmental impact including non-carbon air pollution and groundwater contamination.  Of course that would reveal the truth about all the Fossil Fuelers - the Athabasca Tar Sands are completely unviable without the very real and immense subsidy realized from government complicity in looking the other way.
Hansen is also right when he warns that we're wasting our time trusting hypocritical politicians who deliberately mislead the public by claiming they're serious about the gathering environmental calamity while, in the same breath, praising Athabasca as Canada's path to fossil fuel superpowerdom.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fearmongers, Smearmongers - The Perverts Among Us

I think a lot of us instinctively sensed they were, well, pretty bent but it's become clear to me at least that today's uber-right are more than merely bent, they're perverts.

These dodgy lowlife advance their rancid ideologies and fundamentalist fantasies with fear and smear.   They shamelessly use fear to panic and herd their supporters and smear to hobble their opponents.

But does that make them perverts?   Well, consider a few definitions of the verb "pervert" -  to lead into mental error or false judgment; to misconstrue or misinterpret, especially deliberately; to turn away from the right course.

Or how about these synonyms:  2. seduce, corrupt, demoralize. 3. divert. 4. mislead, misguide. 7. pollute, defile; impair, degrade.

That pretty much sums up the perverts of today's far right, including Canada's prime pervert, Slimin' Stephen Harper.   This perv couldn't help himself yesterday when he was in the north on the same day two aged Russkie bombers made a patrol pass well outside Canadian airspace.  Steve got up on his hind legs before the dutifully assembled and robotic reporters and bellowed how fortunate we were that Canadian fighters had intercepted the Russian Bears and turned them away before they could penetrate Canadian airspace.

Now that's a fine example of the prime ministerial perv at his fearmongering best.   He insinuated the Russians were an actual threat somehow intent on violating Canadian airspace had they not been forced to turn away by our fighters.   To the gullible idiots who happily feast on Steve's droppings this must have made perfect sense and allowed them to indulge in both fear and joy.   And, of course, that was Steve's target audience - anyone ignorant or gullible or idiotic enough to believe a word he said.    In other words, a lot of Tory supporters.

To anyone who actually swallowed Steve's fear mongering bullshit, here are a few questions you should really try to answer:

1.   If the Russians were remotely interested in violating Canadian airspace, why would they make their approach at a spot where they could most readily be intercepted by Canadian fighters?

2.   If the Russians were remotely interested in violating Canadian airspace, why would they try it with a 1950's vintage, lumbering, eight-prop driven Tupolev Bear bomber with the radar signature of a battleship and flying at high altitude where it would be most readily detectable by our radars and most easily intercepted by our fighters?

You see, nothing Steve said made sense.  He was deliberately misconstruing or misinterpreting the events to pervert reality, to lead the gullible into mental error and false judgment.   He wants the voting public to conclude that stationing a handful of F-35 fighters in Cold Lake or Bagotville could somehow defend Canada against swarms of long-range, high-speed, ground hugging cruise missiles which is what those Bear bombers would be using from far outside Canadian airspace if the Russians ever did want to attack.   Rank fearmongering by our Pervert in Chief.

But the Pervert of the Day Award goes not to the dank denizen of 24 Sussex Drive but to Britain's Sunday Telegraph and its two hacks, Christopher Booker and Richard North, for their smear job on IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri.

These two pervs and their rightwing rag slimed Pachauri in December in a piece entitled, Questions over business deals of UN climate change guru Dr Rajendra Pachauri.   The article accused Pachauri of "making a fortune from his links with 'carbon trading' companies" and speculated the money Pachauri made on the side, "must run into millions of dollars".

As George Monbiot details in The Guardian, the smears caused the charity Pachauri actually works for to call in KPMG to review his financial affairs.

The audit found that, beyond Pachauri's 45,000 sterling salary, his extra income was a total two thousand pounds, more than half of it royalties from his books.   The income he did earn from outside organizations went entirely to the charity that employs him, The Energy and Resources Institute.  As for his chairmanship of the IPCC, Pachauri earns a big, fat nothing.

Read Monbiot's article for it reveals how freely the rightwing media deliberately slime those whose views they oppose.  They don't even make a pretense of fairness much less honesty.   They too are the perverts among us.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bear Bomber Bullshit

You have to be pretty weak-minded to buy Harper's nonsense about Canadian jets intercepting patrolling Russian Bear bombers outside Canadian airspace.  F-18, F-35, Sopwith Camel it doesn't matter a bit.

The issue isn't intercepting Russian bombers.   It's that, if those bombers were going to attack North America, they would have launched their attacks long before our fighters arrived on the scene.  The Russian bomber fleet no longer bombs.   They launch long-range cruise missiles.   Some of the latest Russian weapons are estimated to have ranges in excess of 5,000 km.   Like the old Ban Deodorant ads, "it takes the worry out of being close."

Rather than running tail chases on empty bombers, we'd need our small force of fighters to locate and destroy masses of incoming cruise missiles.   When it comes to the uber-pricey F-35, how well would it do at that job?  Not very well at all.

Lockheed Martin gives the F-35's radius of action at about 730 nautical miles.    Since we don't have a lot of northern airfields, that gives the Russians some enormously wide missile corridors beyond the effective reach of the fighters.   Worse yet, that 730-nautical mile radius is based on the F-35 at cruising speed and cruising altitude.   Put it wide open, down in the weeds hunting ground-hugging cruise missiles and that 730 nautical mile figure becomes enormously degraded.

Put simply, the F-35 can do a lot of things, many of them much better than the current CF-18s.   However as a means to defend North America against a Russian air-launched cruise missile attack, it's essentially useless.

Talibs Emboldened by American Pullout from Afghanistan

Afghan officials and a top U.S. Marine general are squawking warnings that Barack Obama's scheduled deadline of July 2011 to begin withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan is giving the Taliban hope they can prevail.

If loud mouth generals could win America's wars, Afghanistan and Iraq would have been wrapped up during Bush's first term in office.   One thing these wars without end have taught us is that military outspokeness tends to run in inverse proportion to military competence.

Marine General James Conway is a true loudmouth and, hence, probably a military moron.   The Taliban, Jimbo, already expect to prevail.   They've been prevailing steadily since 2003 or haven't you been paying attention?   Whether the Americans begin pulling out in 2011 or 2021 doesn't matter much to the Talibs, they have nowhere else to go and all the time in the world.

Yes, Afghanistan is almost certain to descend into tribal warfare akin to civil war when the Americans eventually leave but that's simply a return to business as usual for a territory masquerading as a nation and beset by tribalism and warlordism.   It's not so much the Taliban as the complete lack of a viable, functioning, competent and honest central government that assures a resumption of the unresolved civil war we disrupted in 2001. 

When the house is burning to the ground, it's not helpful arguing about what colour to paint the kitchen.   General Conway is shooting off his mouth knowing he'll be safely retired well before Afghanistan collapses.   For all the talking they do isn't it curious that not one of these weasels can or will explain why they've accomplished less than nothing over the past five or six years?  Isn't it curious that not one of these buffoons can lay out a clear strategy for defeating the Taliban?  It's more than curious that not one of these comedians has ever laid out a timeline and stuck to it.  It's completely beyond them to even define "victory" over the Taliban much less predict when that will be achieved.  If they're just in it to mark time, might as well bring them home and put them on a parade square.

McCain Sells Soul, Saves Ass in Arizona

One-time hero and cranky old man John McCain has shown that it's possible to save your political career in American politics if you're willing to ditch all the principles you once championed.

When he sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 in a failing campaign against a total dud, George W. Bush, McCain preached tolerance and moderation, denouncing extremism.  Bush hammered McCain with truly sleazy campaign dirty tricks.   For years afterward the Arizona senator worked across the aisle to promote immigration reform, campaign finance reform and measures to combat climate change.

And then an open-mouth radio nutjob, JD Hayworth, did what Vietnamese torturers couldn't - he got McCain to grovel and abandon everything he once stood for.   Out with immigration reform, ditch campaign finance reform, nix that nonsense about global warming.   Out with all those principles, in with Lee Atwater-style campaigning.

Once McCain jettisoned his integrity he managed to float up to meet his Tea Party challenger and even pass the guy entirely.   Arizona voters went to McCain by a handy margin.   After all it was a no-lose proposition - Hayworth values in a McCain skin.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

America's Cancerous Militarism - Part 3

Why should Americans or anyone else not directly in their boresights care about U.S. hyper-militarism?  Well, American or not, there are plenty of reasons.

One is the health of the United States itself.   For a long time America has been writing militaristic cheques counting on its foreign creditors to make them good.  When you're in hock to everybody and still running in the red in every way imaginable you can't afford to spend more than every other nation combined on militarism.   Why fix Afghanistan instead of fixing Detroit?   At the federal, state, municipal, corporate and individual levels, America is awash in debt.  When your military budget runs to $700-billion a year plus tens of billions more off the books that can really clog your fiscal arteries.

It's not as though Washington has reaped any great financial recovery from its wars in Afghanistan or Iraq.   It thought it would but it also thought those wars would be won decisively and very quickly.  America isn't even remotely safer due to those adventures.   If anything the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have degraded America's security.   They showed that all the King's horses and all the King's men can't always win all the King's wars.  They showed there are ways around America's technical and firepower superiority.   They showed that America's generals are, at best, mediocre especially when saddled with ideologically-bound political leadership.

Another reason is that America has become used to leaning on its "allies" to join in its military misadventures.   Being allied for some purposes doesn't mean being allied for all.  Being allied doesn't mean signing on to become another country's Foreign Legion.   Heads of allied countries are going to have a tougher time with their voters in future in selling protracted military campaigns in support of the United States.

Yet another reason is that American values are less compatible with other nations' these days.   Not everybody sees affluence as the equivalent of liberty, not everyone looks to its military to anchor its prosperity.  Christian fundamentalism hasn't taken hold elsewhere as it has in America and a lot of outsiders are leery at its impact on America's agenda.  Neoconservatism may be trying to stage a comeback in the United States but it's a movement that's alien to other cultures.   America is coming to look less and less like a liberal democracy with each passing year and, in the process, is distancing itself from its traditional allies.  It is by no means clear that Obama will manage to reverse that before Movement Conservative Republicans reclaim control of Congress.

American militarism has facilitated American bellicosity and that undermines global security and stability.    American forces conquered small countries at either end of Iran but that did nothing to contain or weaken Iran.   Instead it transformed Iran into the major player in its corner of the Middle East/South Asia.

Another reason is that the great problems confronting us in the 21st century simply cannot be resolved by military force.   You can't address global warming with superior firepower.   Airpower cannot overcome spreading desertification.  Artillery and tanks won't arrest deforestation or the collapse of global fish stocks.  The world's most powerful blue water navy cannot fix the world's freshwater crisis. If we're going to find global answers to these global threats, it won't be through the coercive powers of militarism.   The only role militarism can play in these dilemmas is if and when we utterly fail to find effective global solutions in time.   If anything, American militarism will distract the United States from confronting these potentially existential challenges perhaps until it's too late.

It is morally reprehensible to resort to military force to bolster a nation's prosperity and economic dominance.   America cannot parlay its position as the dominant global beggar into global economic hegemon by relying on militarism to sustain an unsustainable economic advantage.   America's emerging rivals won't have that.  Neither will America's friends.   That can only lead to a state of perpetual warfare that none of us can continue to bear.

The charade is over.  Anybody who ever was willing to believe in a benign, much less benevolent, American foreign policy anchored in coercive force has seen the light.   America is at risk of acquiring the legitimacy in its foreign policy once reserved for the Soviet Union.   America does not go to war to defend ideals but to advance American interests.  We get it.

The Project for the New American Century, once put in practice, became the project for the fizzled American decade.   American exceptionalism is a spent force, at least beyond America's borders where it once mattered.

If, as Bascevich claims, militarism took hold in the United States at least in part due to its perceived utility, it's difficult to imagine how that motive could survive into the 21st century.   What possible utility remains in militarism post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan?   America's potential rivals will not be thwarted by U.S. militarism from claiming their share of the pie, that is global resources.   American militarism may in fact drive smaller, resource-rich countries away from the United States and directly into the arms of ascendant countries like China.

Today China is making deep inroads into resource-rich Africa.   America, by contrast, was rebuffed by African states when it sought to establish its own military command for their continent, Africa Command or AfriCom.  They weren't interested in American assurances that AfriCom would not meddle in their affairs.   American aid has been immensely popular in Africa but American militarism remains unwelcome and who could be surprised at that?

During the Cold War it was much easier for the major powers to impose their will over small states.  Nations were aligned ideologically - Western (capitalist), Soviet (communist), or simply non-aligned.  Today small states are more apt to be aligned on regional or economic groupings in which ties to major powers are looser and more transferable.   South America, long the preserve of the United States, has broken free to forge an independent, regional alliance.   Africa, once almost entirely colonized by the West, today finds itself drawn elsewhere to Asia and the Middle East.  The Caucasus, once under the heel of Soviet masters now finds itself courted by rivals Russia and the United States.  Spheres of influence, once tidily arranged, are today vague and shifting, diminishing the importance of coercive militarism.

In a multi-polar world America may pay dearly for choosing coercion over persuasion as its foreign policy.   But if the benefits are dwindling as the risks climb ever higher, why would America not simply abrogate militarism entirely?   Probably because it's a habit not easily shed.    In fact, Bacevich argues that dislodging today's embedded militarism will require fundamental change in the way the United States is governed:

Heed the Intentions of the Founders

...Although politicians make a pretense of revering [the Constitution], when it comes to military policy they have long since fallen into the habit of treating it as a dead letter.

...Nothing in that compact ...commits or even encourages the United States to employ military power to save the rest of humankind or remake the world in its own image...  To the contrary the Preamble of the Constitution expressly situates military power at the center of the brief litany of purpose enumerating the collective aspirations of "we the people.  It was 'to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense,  promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

...Only if citizens remind themselves and remind those exercising political authority why this nation exists will it be possible to restore the proper relationship between military power and that purpose..,.

Revitalize the Concept of Separation of Powers

...An essential step toward curbing the new American militarism is to... call upon Congress to reclaim its constitutionally mandated prerogatives.   Indeed, legislators should insist upon a strict constructionist definition of war such that any use of force other than in direct and immediate defense of the United States should require prior congressional approval.

The Cold War is history.  The United States no longer stands eyeball-to-eyeball with a hostile superpower.   Ensuring our survival today does not require, if it ever did, granting to a single individual the authority to unleash the American military arsenal however the perception of threats, calculations of interest, or flights of whimsy might seem to dictate.

View Force as a Last Resort

This requires an explicit renunciation of the Bush doctrine of preventive war, which in arrogating to the United States prerogatives allowed to no other nation subverts international stability and in the long run can only make Americans less secure.  In its place, the United States should return to a declaratory policy more consistent with its own established moral and religious traditions, with international law, and with common sense.

Enhance U.S. Strategic Self-Sufficiency

With globalization a fact of life, autarky [a policy of self-sufficiency and non-reliance on imports or foreign aid] is more than ever a chimera.   The argument here calls for something more modest:  taking prudent steps to limit the extent of U.S. dependence on foreign resources, thereby reducing the pressures to intervene abroad on behalf of ostensibly 'vital' material interests.

Ever since the onset of the Cold War, Americans have persuaded themselves that their well-being requires the guarantee of unencumbered access to the world's resources...  For decades, this notion has provided an infinitely elastic rationale for sticking America's nose in other people's business.

Organize U.S. Forces explicitly for National Defense

Focusing on defense rather than on power projection implies jettisoning the concept of 'national security,' an artifact of the Cold War employed as a device to justify everything from overthrowing foreign governments to armed intervention in places that most Americans could not locate on a map.

Devise an Appropriate Gauge for Determining U.S. Defense Spending

...Militarists and those who dream of global empire have proposed their own answer.   Their requirement is quite simple:  they want more next year than last, and more still the year beyond that, regardless of the situation prevailing beyond U.S. borders.

A better approach, one more likely to limit adventurism abroad while still meeting essential U.S. security requirements, would be to peg U.S. expenditures in relation to what others are spending.  To stipulate, for example, that the United States should match the next ten most lavishly spending powers combined would assure U.S. military capabilities not only far in excess of any potential adversary but also in excess of any remotely plausible combination of adversaries.

Enhance Alternative Instruments of Statecraft

The natural accompaniment to a doctrine that views hard power as a last resort is to increase the attention given to so-called soft power, the ability to influence rather than merely coerce and to build rather than merely demolish.

The rest of Bacevich's recommendations deal with reforming the American military itself.  He advocates the return of the "citizen soldier" concept to connect the American public directly to their military.  He endorses restoring the traditional role of the National Guard and Reserve forces who are intended to be actual "reserves" rather than bodies available to incorporate into an imperial army.   Finally he wants to reconcile the American military profession to American society.   This is his most radical recommendation.   The former West Point professor recommends that the officer corps be drawn solely from candidates who have obtained their bachelor's degree at a civilian university.

Bacevich urges Americans to heed the warnings of their Founding Fathers:

...George Washington pointedly advised his fellow citizens to be wary of 'those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.

...of this Washington was certain: to cultivate military power for its own sake and to indulge in the ambitions to which large armies gave rise was alien to the entire conception of the New World.  To seek safety in an overgrown military establishment was to replicate the errors of the Old World, home to kings an d sepulchres and empires but not to freedom and republican virtue.

Bacevich warns that his countrymen have fallen into the trap of delusion:

...Misremembering both bad wars and good, Americans fostered a fresh set of illusions.  These illusions - not only or even in particular our outsized martial pretensions - constitute the heart of the problem that is present-day American militarism.   For from these illusions come expectations that George Washington would find astonishing: that through the determined exercise of its unquestioned military dominance the United States can perpetuate American global primacy and impress its values on the world at large.

If it persists in these expectations, then America will surely share the fate of all those who in ages past have looked to war and military power to fulfill their destiny.   We will rob future generations of their rightful inheritance.  We will wreak havoc abroad.  We will endanger our security at home.  We will risk the forfeiture of all that we prize.


In preparing this three-part examination of Bacevich's The New American Militarism, I was wary of coming across as another anti-American Canadian.   Yet what I have done is to simply restate the wisdom of an intensely patriotic American, a career U.S. Army officer who served from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf; an academic who lost a son, himself a U.S. Army lieutenant, to an IED in Iraq.

I am not remotely anti-American nor have I been at least since I did my undergrad in the U.S. back when the Vietnam war was raging.    Canada needs the United States and, in so many ways, we will be affected by the health and wisdom of that country as we meet the many challenges that confront mankind in this 21st century.   As I noted above, the path American is on, this hyper-militarism, will not help our continent meet the environmental, social and security calamities coming our way.  If anything it will distract, perhaps even destabilize, America when we'll need it most.

Friday, August 20, 2010

America's Cancerous Militarism - Part 2

America has been gradually overtaken by a type of hyper-militarism that, unless checked, could threaten its future as a democratic republic.   That is the warning of Andrew J. Bacevich in his book, The New American Militarism.   This former career US Army officer turned academic sees a confluence of forces that arose from the Reagan era through the administrations of Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and, now, Obama to ensnare his country in a militarism that now dominates American policy, foreign and domestic.

Yesterday, in part one, we looked at Ronald Reagan as the Founding Father of Americn Militarism and the role played by the marriage of fundamentalist Christianity and the US military.   This part will deal with Bacevich's exploration of the roles played by right wing ideologues, the neoconservatives, and the far right academics who spawned them together with the role they have played in boosting America's hyper-militarism.

Several years ago Lewis Lapham wrote that the end of his beloved America was foretold in the Nixon years when, as he put it, Americans came to "equate wealth with virtue."  It's an interesting premise and one that's fairly easily made out.   Bacevich carries it one step further.   In dealing with the "blood for oil" argument, he contends that today's American militarism came about when his countrymen came to view affluence as liberty itself.

The marriage of Extremist Ideology and Far Right Intellectualism with American Militarism.

It's pretty standard for modern governments to rely on intellectuals to assist in formulating policy.   This is particularly true in matters of foreign affairs, a truly multi-disciplinary pursuit.   In the United States, however, academics ventured far beyond matters of diplomacy to reach deeply into the very guts of military strategy.   In doing so, Bacevich argues, academics formed the High Priestdom of American Militarism.   They became the alchemists of modern warfare charged with solving the age-old dilemma:

"Since the beginning of the industrial age, war has time and again proven itself to be all but ungovernable.  The shattered reputations of generals and statesman who presumed to bring it under their control litter the twentieth century."

The end of WWII and the advent of the nuclear age triggered great changes in America's concept of warfighting.  Before then matters of tactics and strategy had been the near exclusive preserve of top generals and their political masters.   Think Guderian, think Rommel, think Patton.   But even the best generals suffered occasional defeats, something that had greater significance in the context of a nuclear exchange.

Bacevich chronicles how, in the wake of WWII, academics reformulated warfare.   No longer would the chief purpose of the military establishment be to win wars.   Instead the prime function of a modern military would be to avoid war.  At least that was the thinking in the 1950's.

The University of Chicago-trained Bernard Brodie advanced the notion of deterrence, "threatening force in order to persuade would be adversaries to forego misbehavior, with success making the actual use of force unnecessary."

"Brodie ...formed the basis of a new profession, its members known as defense intellectuals.  It gave birth to new institutions such as the RAND Corporation, the federally funded research facility...   The defense intellectuals produced a vast literature, most of it highly classified and bristling with jargon - 'not incredible counterforce first strike' and 'Doomsday Machine,' 'overkill' and 'mutual annihilation,' 'MAD' and "N=1.' "

But Brodie was wrong.   "Hiroshima had not, in fact, robbed violence of its political utility.  It had certainly not made war obsolete."  The Pentagon, notes Bacevich, really wasn't interested in high-minded ways to prevent another Hiroshima.   Instead it wanted answers on how to, "perpetuate the advantages that had accrued to the United States as a consequence of Hiroshima..  ..without triggering WWIII.   This was the challenge that imbued nuclear strategy with excitement and allure."

",,,the really interesting arguments were not with the hopelessly naive One Worlders or the hopelessly simple-minded generals but with the economists, mathematicians and political scientists across the corridor or down the hall, whether at RAND or any of the other institutions such as Harvard, MIT, and the University of Chicago where members of the priesthood congregated."

Foremost among these was Albert Wohlstetter, a mathematical logician, who went on to mentor the likes of Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz.   Wohlstetter, claims Bacevich, dislodged America from the perch of deterrence to more activist militarism, "...to enhance the ability of the United States to fight, whether all-out wars or limited ones, whether brief or protracted, whether employing nuclear or conventional weapons.   A wider range of robust military capabilities (necessarily requiring increases in defense spending), more options available to decision makers and a blunt willingness to go to the mat; these alone could keep the Red menace at bay."

"...Thus at the end of the 1950s did Wohlstetter's fallacious (even fraudulent) case for vulnerability nudge the strategic priesthood around a corner and down a path ending some four decades later in a fully developed argument for preventive war as the cornerstone of U.S. strategy."

The academics restored the concept of limited war, offering, "...the prospect of enhancing the direct political relevance of American military power.  Intelligently employed, force could enable the United States to dispose of garden-variety irritants, thereby reducing the likelihood of having to confront the big problem of an all-out nuclear showdown with the Soviet bloc."

Wohlstetter's influence continued for decades.  He was a forceful champion of the development of precision-guided munitions, not for minimizing civilian casualties or other humane advantages, but to enhance, "...the efficacy of American striking power.   ...Wohlstetter posited that a 'tenfold improvement in accuracy is roughly equal in effectiveness to a thousand-fold increase in the explosive energy released by a weapon.'  ...This prospect in turned opened up whole new vistas for the application of force.  At a minimum it promised to make war more readily available as an instrument of advancing U.S. security objectives.

Wohlstetter's crowning achievement in his decades-long effort to reconceptualize warfare came when he cochaired the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy.  "Under the guise of reinforcing deterrence, this panel candidly advanced the case for a national security strategy incorporating the anticipatory use of force, eliminating threats before they could mature."  Bacevich refers to this as an "important milestone on the road to the Bush Doctrine."

Much of Wohlstetter's thinking was proven out in Operation Desert Storm when Saddam Hussein's armies were swept out of Kuwait.   But Wohlstetter saw the campaign as a failure in that it ended with Hussein still in power. 

Bacevich credits this as the final step in the 'evolving logic' leading to a strategy of preventive war.  "By their very existence dictatorships constituted an unacceptable threat.  The only sure remedy to the problem of vulnerability..  ..was to bring despotic regimes into full compliance with American norms, using force if necessary to do so."

Thus Wohlstetter and his successors ushered in the reality of military force supplanting diplomacy in America's foreign affairs.

Wholstetter's evolving wisdom was readily embraced by his ideological kin, the neoconservatives.   During the Cold War their focus was on maintaining an adequate force to defeat the threat of communism.   When the Soviet Union imploded, the second generation of neoconservatives looked for a new purpose and found it in pressing for America's unipolar military superiority to be employed to maintain their country's military and economic supremacy into perpetuity.

During the Clinton years, the Latter-Day Neo-Cons, massed themselves into an outfit they called The Project for the New American Century.  Above all else they wanted Saddam gone and the Arab Middle East reformed to comply with American values.  Clinton gave them the brush off but Cheney brought them straight into the White House when Bush II came to power.

Bacevich labels the neoconservative movement an "insurgency," an ideological counter-revolution.

"The conception of politics to which neoconservatives paid allegiance owed more to the ethos of the Left than to the orthodoxies of the Right.  Their ultimate ideological objective was not to preserve but to transform.  They viewed state power not as a necessary evil but as a positive good to be cultivated and then deployed in pursuit of large objectives."

As argued by one of the founders of first-generation neoconservatism, Norman Podhoretz, "...America had a mission and must never 'come home.'  ...Alternatives to or substitutes for American global leadership simply did not exist.   ...History had singled out the United States to play a unique role as the chief instrument for securing the advance of freedom, which founded its highest expression in democratic capitalism."

In the wake of the Cold War, neoconservatives grew fearful of being rendered irrelevant and cast about for a new mission.

"The neoconservative writer George Weigel put his finger on the problem in 1992:  to leave the post-Cold War foreign policy debate to the newly ascendant realists ...meant that isolationism would ultimately prevail.  ...all that the neoconservatives had struggled for would be lost.  Hence, wrote Weigel, the imperative or reenergizing the cause of 'democratic internationalism' - an approach to U.S. foreign policy based on the old neoconservative precepts of global engagement, assertiveness, and activism backed by military power."

The second-generation neocons, according to Bacevich, organized themselves on several precepts:

 1.  "...the certainty that American global dominion is, in fact, benign and that other nations see it as such."

2.  "Failure of the United States to sustain its imperium would inevitably result in global disorder, bloody, bitter and protracted."

3.  "Employing ...military might with sufficient wisdom and determination would bring within reach peace, prosperity, democracy, respect for human rights, and American global primacy extending to the end of time."

4.  "Military strength alone will not avail unless used actively to maintain a world order which both support and rests upon American hegemony."

5.  "Military conquest has often proved to be an effective means of implanting democracy.  Michael Ledeen went even further, declaring that, 'the best democracy program ever invented is the U.S. Army.  Peace in this world only follows victory in  war."

And so the neoconservatives laid the basis for what would become lifted straight out of their playbook to be enshrined as American policy in the Bush Doctrine.   Obama has notionally repudiated the Bush Doctrine but, as Bacevich reveals, that's infinitely easier said than done.

Blood for Oil, Affluence as Liberty and Militarism to Preserve American Prosperity.

Bacevich contends that, while  the Cold War could be considered WWIII, America has, as far back as the Carter Administration, been waging WWIV, the war to secure American access to cheap Middle East oil against all rivals and threats.

Since 1945 when Franklin Roosevelt met with then Saudi King Ibn Saud, there existed an understanding that Saudi Arabia could rely on America to guarantee its security and the U.S. could count on Saudi Arabia for preferential treatment (access) to the kingdom's vast reserves of oil.  U.S. power, however, was to remain low-key and whenever possible out of sight.   That came to an end in 1979 due to the Iranian Revolution and the rise of an Islamist regime hostile to the United States and the Soviet military excursion into Afghanistan.   That led to the pronouncement of the Carter Doctrine, "An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary."

"...each of President Carter's successors has expanded the level of U.S. military involvement and operations in the region.  Even today (pre-Obama) American political leaders cling to their belief that the skillful application of military power will enable the United States to decide the fate ...of the entire Greater Middle East.

"...What was true of the other three presidents who had committed the U.S. to world wars - Wilson, FDR, and Truman - remained true in the case of President Carter and World War IV as well.  The overarching motive for action was the preservation of the American way of life.

":...What Americans wanted for themselves and demanded from their government was freedom, defined as more choice, more opportunity, and above all greater abundance measured in material terms.  That meant ...assured access to cheap oil and lots of it."

"On the surface the exchange might entail blood-for-oil, but beneath the surface the aim was to guarantee the ever-increasing affluence that underwrites the modern American conception of liberty."

A fascinating concept - ever-increasing affluence as the foundation of liberty.   An interpretation that begets the use of constant military force to ensure access to the lifeblood of liberty, oil.

"Only by enjoying unquestioned primacy in the region - initially defined as "Southwest Asia" but eventually to encompass all of the Persian Gulf, the Caucasus, and Central Asia - could the government of the United States guarantee American prosperity and therefore American freedom.

From the outset, that is, dominance was the aim.  What Winston Churchill had said with regard to European maneuvering in the Persian Gulf at the beginning of the twentieth century remained true as the century drew to a close, 'mastery itself was the price of the venture.'"

Here lay the driving force behind U.S. actions in what became World War IV; not preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction; not stemming the spread of terror' certainly not liberating oppressed peoples or advancing the cause of women's rights.   The prize was mastery of a region that leading members of the American foreign policy elite, of whatever political persuasion, had concluded to be critically important to the well-being of the United States.

"...the problem was one that demanded a military solution; this, at least, was the initial presumption, never thereafter subjected to serious scrutiny.  ...This is where Reagan made his most lasting contribution.

"Those who view World War IV as either sinister in its motivation or misguided in its conception will include Reagan in their bill of indictment.   From their perspective, it was Reagan who seduced his fellow citizens with promises of material abundance without limit.  It was Reagan who made the fusion of military strength with American Exceptionalism the centerpiece of his efforts to revive national self-confidence.  It was Reagan's enthusiastic support of Afghan 'freedom fighters' - eminently defensible in the context of World War III - that produced not freedom but a Central Asian power vacuum, Afghanistan becoming a cesspool of Islamic radicalism and safe haven for America's chief adversary in World War IV.   Finally, it was Reagan's inconclusive forays in and around the Persian Gulf that paved the way for still larger if equally inconclusive interventions to come"

From Bacevich's viewpoint, World War IV, has progressed in three distinct phases.   Phase One spanned the Islamist takeover of Iran and the Soviet entry into Afghanistan up to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.   Phase Two covered the Iraqi conquest of Kuwait, Saddam's ouster and the decade of containment.    Phase Three began with the attacks of 9/11, leading to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the sorry aftermath of that folly.

Bacevich warns that the outcome of World War IV remains dangerously hanging in the balance:

"...American shortsightedness played a large role in creating this war.  American hubris has complicated it unnecessarily, emboldening the enemy, alienating old allies, and bringing U.S. forces close to exhaustion.  Yet like it or not, Americans are now stuck with their misbegotten crusade.

"...Still, even if the United States ultimately prevails - thereby reinvigorating the several conceits informing the new American militarism - the prospects for the future will be hardly less discouraging.  On the far side of World War IV, a time which we are not presently given to see, there await others who will not readily concede to the United States the prerogatives and the dominion hat Americans have come to expect as their due.  The ensuing collision between American requirements and a noncompliant world will provide the impetus for more crusades.  Each in turn will be justified in terms of ideals rather than interests, but together they may well doom the United States to fight perpetual wars in a vain effort to satisfy our craving for freedom without limit and without end."

What seems to be missing from this book is any mention of a particularly powerful force in American hyper-militarism, the military-industrial complex and its recent hellspawn the industrial warfighting complex exemplified in corporations such as Blackwater, Halliburton, Kellog Root & Brown and so many others.  The private sector no longer provides just the instruments of war but now rakes in massive profits from actually participating in America's wars, even from warfighting itself.  In effect this influential private sector has everything to gain and nothing to lose from war without end and its voice is well heard in America's "bought and paid for" Congress.

Tomorrow:  Bacevich's formula for undoing America's hyper-militarism; the parallels between American militarism and the British experience toward the end of the British empire; and the role Canada and NATO should play in the future of American militarism. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

America's Cancerous Militarism

Ever so steadily America has fallen into the clutches of militarism, a crippling disease that could doom the republic and one that is going to be extremely difficult to reverse.

The state of 21st century American militarism is chronicled and dissected by career soldier turned academic Andrew Bacevich in his book, The New American Militarism.   The author explores how militarism took hold during the Reagan administration, how it came to be embraced by the American public and how it has been employed by every president since Reagan, Clinton no exception.

Bacevich examines how America's hyper-militarism has been bolstered and nurtured by neo-conservatism, evangelism and one branch of academia.   He lays bare the powerfully addictive nature of militarism once it evolves from a means of defence into an instrument of foreign policy and a vehicle to assure the affluence of the American people.   Finally he warns what lies in store if America's militarism continues unchecked and the many difficult measures his country must take to break its hold on the nation.

Reagan, the Founding Father of American Militarism

How did a bumbling fool like Ronald Reagan ever become so immensely popular with the American people?   Easy.   Like many successful charlatans, Reagan won the hearts and minds of his public by making them feel good about themselves.   Reagan prevailed by being the anti-Carter.

Bacevich points out that Carter's Calvinist realism, embodied in his "Crisis of Confidence" speech of July, 1979, was tailor-made for a shyster like Reagan:

"In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption.   Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.  But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning.  We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose."

Carter went on to urge his countrymen to break their addiction to oil, calling on them as "an act of patriotism" to lower thermostats, observe the speed limit and use carpools.

Bacevich, who plainly considers Carter a bungler, says that Carter foretold America's greater problem:

"To the extent that "foreign oil" refers implicitly to the Persian Gulf - as it did then and does today - Carter was in essence proposing to arrest the growing strategic importance attributed to that region.  He sensed intuitively that a failure to reverse the nation's energy dependence was sure to draw the United States every more deeply into the vortex of Persian Gulf politics..."

"This is, of course precisely what has come to pass, with massive and problematic implications for the nation's security and for U.S. military posture and priorities.  [Since Carter's 1979 speech] the energy-rich regions of the world - the Caucasus and Central Asia in addition to the Persian Gulf - have absorbed an ever increasing amount of attention by the American military.   ...Today, increasingly, the profile of the American military presence abroad corresponds to the location of large oil and natural gas reserves."

That speech, while prescient, was fodder for Carter's political adversaries:

"...Ronald Reagan first and foremost - offered a different message, not of a need to cut back but of abundance without end.   [He] assured Americans not only that compromising their lifestyle was unnecessary but that the prospects for economic expansion were limitless and could be had without moral complications or great cost.  This, rather than nagging about shallow materialism, was what Americans wanted to hear."

The final nail in Carter's presidential coffin was the botched rescue mission to free American hostages held in Iran.  Reagan pounced:

"...As [neo-conservative founder] Norman Podhoretz has noted, Reagan 'made free and frequent use of patriotic language and engaged in an unembarrassed manipulation of patriotic symbols; he lost no opportunity to praise the armed forces, to heighten their morale, to restore their popular prestige.'  As a result, 'he also helped restore confidence ...in the utility of military force as an instrument worthy of political purposes.'"

Once in power, Reagan became the Founding Father of American militarism.  Reagan transformed America's all volunteer force.   The Pentagon's budget doubled during the Reagan years, the quality of recruits vastly improved, and the mythologizing of American military prowess was exploited at every opportunity.  America was once again "standing tall" thanks to its embrace of militarism:

"To substantiate Reagan's claim that 'as a nation, we've closed the books on a long, dark period of failure and self doubt and set a new course,' one needed to look no further than the freshly minted fighter jets, tanks and helicopters entering the force and the eager young men and women who crewed them.

Thus did military might - rather than, say, the trade balance, income distribution, voter turnout, or the percentage of children being raised in two-parent families - become the preferred measure for gauging the nation's strength."

Bacevich contends that Reagan's conjuring act became standard fare for his successors:

"Reagan showed that in post-Vietnam America, genuflecting before soldiers and playing to the pro-military instincts of the electorate wins votes.

Given their pronounced political utility, neither the myths that Regan conjured up - about past American wars, about the purposes of American military power, and about those who served in uniform - nor the techniques he devised to exploit those myths disappeared with Reagan himself retired from office.   Rather they became enshrined as permanent aspects of American political theatre."

The Marriage of Militarism and Evangelism and the Birth of Evango-Militarism

While America has always been a profoundly Christian nation, the relationship between religion and the military was, until recently, somewhat distanced.   Those barriers, however, came crashing down with the ascendancy of Christian evangelism and the Christian right.

"Certain in their understanding of right and wrong, growing in numbers, affluence, and sophistication, and determined to reverse the nation's perceived decline, conservative evangelicals after the 1960s assume the role of church militant.  Abandoning their own previously well established skepticism about the morality of force and inspired in no small measure by their devotion to Israel, they articulated a highly permissive interpretation of the "just war" doctrine, the cornerstone of Christian thinking about warfare.   And they developed a considerable appetite for wielding armed might on behalf of righteousness, more often that not indistinguishable from America's own interests.

...evangelicals looked to soldiers to model the personal qualities that citizens at large needed to rediscover if America were to reverse the tide of godlessness and social decay to which the 1960s had given impetus.

Militant evangelicals imparted religious sanction to the militarization of U.S. policy and helped imbue the resulting military activism with an aura of moral legitimacy."

Bacevich contends the role of evangelism in the rise of 21st century American militarism is profound:

"Conservative Christians have conferred a presumptive moral palatability on any occasion on which the United States resorts to force.  They have fostered among the legions of believing Americans a predisposition to see U.S. military power as inherently good, perhaps even a necessary adjunct to the accomplishment of Christ's saving mission.   In doing so they have nurtured the preconditions have have enabled the American infatuation with military power to flourish.

Put another way, were it not for the support offered by several tens of millions of evangelicals, militarism in this deeply and genuinely religious country becomes inconceivable."

Tomorrow - the High Priesthood of Militarism, America's Intellectual Right; Militarism as a Substitute for Diplomacy; Affluence Equated to Liberty and Militarism as Guardian of American Prosperity.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Scary Time To Be A Leader

These are scary times to be a political leader which probably explains why today's leadership is so damned timid.

We've now logged 30-years of climate research, enough that dissent is now yielding to powerful consensus.  Even those who want to believe that climate change is a hoax can't keep their eyes closed forever.

The past three decades, each warmer than that before it.   The 10-hottest years on record, all but one (1998) coming during this decade.  2010 set to be the hottest yet.  Record floods in Pakistan, massive forest fires and crop failures in Russia, droughts and floods around the planet - weather to be sure but entirely consistent with climate models based on the changes observed over the past 30-years.  Then you've got a seemingly endless list of associated issues - ice caps melting and sea level rise, oceans acidifying, the global freshwater crisis, species extinction, resource depletion, air/water/land pollution, deforestation, species and disease migration, on and on and on.

What's a leader to do with all this dropped on his/her plate?   Some climate scientists, the key folks who are now pretty much vindicated, warn we've got just five years to cap carbon emissions if we're not to trigger runaway global warming.   Five years, that's barely one electoral cycle.   Five years in which to assess, plan and implement solutions.  2015.

Do you see any sign of urgency in Steve Harper, Mike Ignatieff or Jack Layton?  I don't.   They don't even want to talk about it.   What's with that?   Aren't these the very people we've entrusted with our welfare, the welfare of our grandkids and the future of our country?  Why on earth are they squabbling over the census and whether we need to top up funding for the arts?

I'm convinced the very magnitude of the global warming problem is too much for any of them to handle.  Maybe it's just too much vision to expect from any mortal wedded to existing economic, political and social models.  Indeed, global warming and the host of associated troubles cannot be solved with Industrial Revolution economics or the political and social systems that has spawned.    These threats are indeed global and demand truly global solutions based on strong, global consensus in which the voice of the Western nations is just that - one voice.

Take one example, the atmosphere, that onion-skin layer that supports all life on earth.   We now have a pretty good idea of the carbon carrying capacity of our atmosphere, how much of that has been used up by industrialism and carbon-based societies, and how little remains before we reach a tipping point triggering runaway global warming.   One thing is clear, there's not nearly enough capacity remaining for us to carry on as we have over the last century.   Another thing that's clear is that we now have newcomers, the emerging economic superpowers, demanding their place at the carbon banquet table.   And the Third Worlders aren't content to sit by quietly and observe the festivities from the wings any longer either.  They want what they see as their due.

The real problem for us is that continuation of our lifestyle depends on perpetuating our near monopoly on the atmospheric carbon dumping ground.   If, as the Third World demands, we divvy up the remaining atmospheric capacity on a per capita basis, then the industrialized major emitters (particularly the U.S., Canada and Australia) would have to decarbonize our economies and decarbonize our societies in very short order, something that Big Carbon (Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Gas) won't tolerate from its paid political stooges.

These issues are just too horrible to discuss.   After all, if we did accept the argument that the atmosphere belongs to all mankind, equally, not just to those who can get at it first, then we stand the existing global order on its head.   What's next, the water?   Exactly.   Who gets access to the ocean's fish stocks, those that have the far-ranging, high-tech fishing fleets to get at them first, or are these too a commons, an asset that ought to belong to all mankind?  Let's face it, it's not some guy paddling about in a canoe tossing a net into the water who's collapsing global fish stocks.  Yet he and his family and his village are far more dependent on his catch for survival than anyone aboard those factory ships and trawler fleets.

All of these issues demand truly equitable solutions which defeat supply and demand, free market economics.   These solutions are rooted in rationing whether that be limiting toxic emissions or ensuring fair access to dwindling resources.   At the heart of these solutions lie two factors utterly repugnant to free market capitalism - sacrifice and sharing - in which the powerful accommodate the vulnerable.  With Harper in the driver's seat, Ignatieff and Layton must see even mentioning that as political suicide.

We get the government we deserve and this illustrates the point perfectly.   Our self-interest, no matter how short-sighted and unsustainable, rules the day - for now at least.   Our supposed leaders don't have the courage to stand up to us, to lead.  They have no vision and that's just the way we like it.