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Total number of comments: 31 (since 2013-11-28 15:55:15)

Shannon White

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  • Turkey allows Kurdish Peshmerga to Cross to Kobane
    • "Meanwhile, on Tuesday the US subjected ISIL tanks and armored vehicles to aerial bombardment outside Kobane"

      Ramblings. It's odd that there are any ISIL vehicles remaining given US aerial assault capabilities. Possibilities:

      1 the US is allocating a relatively small amount of its air power to the Syrian theatre; or
      2 US aerial assault capabilities are greatly exaggerated; or
      3 ISIL is particularly skilled at concealing armoured vehicles; or
      4 the US is lying about attacking tanks and armoured vehicles, actually attacking infantry forces, because attacking armoured vehicles makes a better press release; or
      5 the US is lying about attacking at all, providing cover for aerial assaults by Persian Gulf countries who would otherwise want to remain anonymous.

      Useless ramblings, of course, but I want to know what's really going on down there.

  • Iraq: Is the Sunni-Shiite Slaughter at Jurf al-Sakhr really a US Victory?
    • Don't get me wrong. The American leadership should be at the ICC charged with crimes against humanity for their wars of aggression, torture regime, state terrorism, grand larceny, etc.

      That being said, if the Americans want to preserve or extend their influence over Middle East oil production, they're definitely taking the correct steps. In the grand scheme, the Americans want compliant controllers of Iraqi oil fields. In the near term it looks like Kurds and Shiites, with American assistance, will be able to capture the oil producing areas. As long as Sunnis remain a threat, the Kurdish and Shiite leadership will continue to rely on American assistance, and remain mostly compliant.

      It seems reasonable to assume that appearing to take the side of Shiites and Kurds will strengthen ISIL in Syria and Sunni Arab parts of Iraq. But, as long as those parts are denied oil revenue, it should be considered a success. It is true that this could result in a long drawn out war killing millions, it could result in expensive terrorist attacks on US mainland. However, those must be balanced against the plus to American credibility when it comes to ensuring compliant controllers of oil production.

      True, in the best of worlds, the US would like to have compliant governments in a stable Syria and Iraq. However, it should still be considered a success if Iraq and Syria are wracked by civil war as long as oil production is under compliant actor control.

  • The end of National Sovereignty in the Middle East? Iraqi Kurdistan sends troops into Syria
    • Sorry, but I think you misunderstood. There was never a question of the UN going into the African War and somehow taking a side. Once the sides wore themselves out, the UN was welcomed. The parties involved agreed to have the UN monitor the withdrawal of foreign troops. Subsequently, UN troops were used to monitor human rights, militias etc. The UN has been relatively successful in protecting civilians from militias and sometimes even taking on militias. They were able to do all this despite having limited air support, less than 25,000 soldiers drawn from a multitude of nations, without heavy equipment. It has been estimated 3,000,000 civilians (!) died in the Great African War.

      Fighting ISIS is a Western obsession. Again, using the lesson of the African War, trying to classify one side as the "bad guys" is naive. Although some parties in the African War were more vicious than others, viciousness knew no side. And MILLIONS died with barely a mention on your nightly news.

      The Syrian and Iraqi conflicts are civil wars. Civil wars are routinely vicious, with civilians being the major victims. There is little new in this conflict. In the last 25 years, there were vicious civil wars in Turkey, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied territories all claiming 10s of thousands of lives.

      There was an article in the Dec 2013 Current History called "Can Iraq Avoid a Civil War?" ISIS may have surprised the US admin and press, but it did not surprise experts on the region. ISIS is the culmination of Sunni resentment over being ruled by non-Sunnis. They are vicious, but the vicious tend to do well during civil conflicts.

      Remember the Khmer Rouge? Their viciousness was legendary, and their path to power was paved by foreign (US and Vietnamese) interference.

    • Sorry, hit "Post Comment" a bit early. Just wanted to add that a small UN force successfully oversaw the withdrawal of foreign troops from Congo, and to this day, the UN force has been relatively successful in bringing security to Eastern Congo. Maybe someday the UN can bring peace to the Middle East.

    • I agree. It reminds me of the so-called "Great African War" involving Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Angola, etc and various militias in said countries.

      It would be interesting in using the progress and aftermath of that war as a possible future for the middle east. Congo is still weakly governed, and its resources were widely looted by militias and foreign soldiers.

  • $22 Billion to Fight ISIL in same Year Congress cut $8.7 bn in Food Stamps
    • The United States effectively has no limit on the amount of money that can be given to a congressperson or executive. Essentially, this legalized bribery gives the briber the privilege to demand a piece of the US treasury. In Egypt under Mubarak, it was friends and family of Mubarak that had the loot privileges. In the US, though, loot privileges are spread much wider to whatever corporation or oligarch is willing to spend the money,

      I read an article in Current History a while back which discussed corruption in China. It indicated that, in the absence of bureaucratic transparency, corruption was actually a way to introduce a degree of efficiency into government service delivery. In effect, it allowed those who most demonstrated a need (by spending the most on bribes) to get access to a limited service. I think this has a resonance with the American situation. Although legalized corruption hurts transparency and hurts efficiency via parasitic rent seekers, the market can establish prices to corruption, and more or less function as normal.

      On the other hand, those without the cash to demand a piece of the treasury, like food stamp recipients, will steadily lose access. At a certain point it will be like Egypt under Mubarak where only enough money will be spent on the poor to keep them from revolting. And as Mubarak demonstrated, knowing how much to spend can prove to be a bit problematic.

  • The Arab Political Crisis: It isn't a Matter of Civilization and it isn't Unique
    • Finland was a democracy before and after the war. I'm somewhat familiar with Mannerheim, and as far as I remember, his "dictatorship" was strictly during the war.

      I'm not sure what you mean by "moral equivalence" wrt Hungary and Czech. Equivalence to what?

      I'm not sure what about my statements you dispute either. And as for rascism, well maybe, but the US support of authoritarian regimes seemed to be cross-racial.

    • "What we think of democratic practices were imposed on Western Europe by the US." That's a bit of US boosterism. For 30 years after WWII the only democracies in Western Europe were those that were democracies BEFORE WWII, except for West Germany and Italy. i.e. the democracies of Norway, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, France, Austria and Luxembourg were not imposed by the US. In fact, countries like Finland and Austria went forward with their democracies under the influence of the Soviet Union (not with Soviet encouragement, however). And, of course, Spain, Portugal and sometimes Greece were authoritarian AND allies of the US. And let's not forget that US allies during that period were far more likely to be authoritarian than democratic. From South Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Latin America, Iran, and Egypt, the US was hardly ever a friend of democracy. And one wonders, if Italy or West Germany had fallen to authoritarian governments in let's say 1965, what action would the US have taken?

  • Coalition Of One: Iran Leads Own Fight Against Islamic State
    • Hmmm, maybe it's not nice to question the qualifications of the guest author. I noticed he's with Radio Free Europe an organization overseen by the US government. Other than that, what are his qualifications?

      I only ask, because his analysis could be taken as a cover for propaganda.

      For example, he calls the US lead anti-ISIL an "alliance", and calls it "40-strong". Alliance is a too strong term to use for this coalition, and implies reciprocal promises, a formal declaration, and a defined purpose, none of which I have seen. And although Kerry has used the number 40, I've only seen 8 mentioned. And the link he included to support his assertion demonstrates that those 8 support the US only to varying degrees. So why does the author make such dubious claims in what is otherwise an informative article?

      Also, to imply that Iran is a coalition of one is a bit strange. At the very least they are in a coalition of 3, including Syria and most importantly IRAQ. If his article was propaganda I might think that his categorization was an attempt to make it look like Iran was isolated.

      And also inline with a propaganda piece, you seek to differentiate between us and them. In this article it's the US and its "alliance" on one side while on the other its Iran and its Iraqi militias. Any mention of Iraqi government members? al-Abadi? Sadr (a powerful but complicated figure due to his independence - neither an ally of Iran or al-Arabi)? Iraqi people's feelings on the matter?

      I know its a fallacy, but I might change my mind about the propaganda nature of this article if I find Recknagel has other credentials beyond RFE.

  • Shiite Militias of Iraq Reject US Return, Threaten to Attack US Forces
    • Surprise? All during the US occupation of Iraq, the Badr brigades (heavily backed by Iran) tacitly backed the Americans, and now just a day or two after Iran was excluded from ISIL talks, Badr is coming out opposed to US interference and opposed to Iranian exclusion.

      On the other hand, I'm surprised it took the Mahdi army this long to express their opposition to US interference.

      The US is using the new civil war in Iraq as an opportunity to expand US military influence in the region. Unless the US can mollify the Iraqi militias, what choices will the US have? Much of that comes down to al-Abadi's government.

      I'm assuming al-Abadi is receiving a lot of pressure from the US to give legitimacy to US involvement. I'm assuming the US is using the carrot of money and military success with the stick of instability and lack of money. If he attempts to say no to the US, though, the US has few recourses to force him to comply. Unless the US has been grooming Iraqi military officers its unlikely they could mount a coup. Would the US encourage Kurdish independence? No, that would lead to a split with important ally Turkey. What about funding a Shiite militia to oppose al-Abadi? I do not know of any militia the US could hope subvert is such a way. What about a Sunni militia, ex the Awakening militias? Possible, but they'd be nothing but spoilers, along the lines of the Nicaraguan contras, with no hope of seizing power. So really, al-Abadi, is currently in a powerful negotiating position with respect to American involvement.

      Given that al-Abadi is in a powerful situation vis-a-vis the Americans, the only question is what kind of danger does he face from the militias? Historically, the Mahdi militia is the only militia that actively opposed US involvement. But it looks like now across the board militias are rejecting a new occupation, i.e. the so-called boots on the ground. Hence, as long as al-Abadi can hide the US face on the conflict, he can likely keep the militias from opposition. And he has a carrot, too. The militias have been getting good press from their successes against ISIL. By fighting alongside US special forces and air force they can continue to get good press.

      But long term, al-Abadi or any other Iraqi leader faces the usual danger of cooperating with American interests. The US is only fighting in Iraq because of oil. As much a possible they want their dependents to be in control of the oil. So, in Iraq, the Americans will seek to instigate government changes, subvert the Iraqi military and militias along the 20th century Latin American lines, and expand their military presence. It will become increasingly difficult for al-Abadi to hide the US face on the conflict. And the US really has no reason to resolve the conflict. At some point al-Abadi will either have to accept the US face and use authoritarian techniques to control the people, or he will have to oppose American involvement and face replacement.

      If I had to make a prediction, I believe the Obama admin can maintain the low profile required to stay involved. But come Spring of 2017, with the change of president the balance will be lost. By Spring 2018, Iraq will be run by an authoritarian.

  • Obama & Cameron find little Enthusiasm at NATO for new Iraq War
    • Hah hah! After American aggressive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and ongoing American aggressive acts of war via drones and special forces around the globe and the world is expected to welcome American "assistance" against whomever they please in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria. That the American press "misses" the irony is a triumph of propaganda.

      That being said, the foreign policy goal of any American administration is to maintain or increase hegemony over valuable regions. Syria, like Vietnam before it, is not a valuable region, but it lies in an important region. And intervening establishes the precedent that the US gets a say in any change of government in that valuable region. On the other hand, intervening on any large scale in Syria seems pointless since Iraq IS valuable and also provides the US an opportunity to establish the same precedent. Hence, it would be better for the US to limit Syrian intervention to running guns and drone strikes against whomever they please.

      As I said, Iraq IS valuable, and American intervention on a large scale is necessary to prevent any force in Iraq to gain the upper hand. Until, that is, a ruthless faction pledges itself to American puppetdom. Towards that goal, do their best to prevent the Iraqi government to get airplanes, arm the Peshmerga etc.

      As for international support, the US should look towards the GWB admin, and form a coalition of the willing to give them the fig leaf of legitimacy. American client regimes like Honduras, Columbia and Paraguay, insecure Eastern European countries like Ukraine, Poland and Estonia, and white English speaking nations should do the trick. Japan and the Phillipines should round it out.

  • Obama's budding Cambodia Policy in Syria
    • I remember another Cambodian hypocrisy: The Reagan admin diplomatically supported the unity government that included the genocidal Khmer Rouge in opposition to the Cambodian government installed by Vietnam. They supplied military materials to the OTHER opposition members with the caveat that they could not give their supplies to the Khmer Rouge. We know how that typically works in practice.

      In the long run, the cold war ended, the US, China, and Vietnam lost interest in Cambodia, and the UN stepped in to broker a peace process. The end result is a democracy-in-name-only with a government, the provenance of which is that originally installed by Vietnam.

      If the US took the Reagan approach to Syria, the US would construct a unity government that included ISIL in opposition to the Baath government. They would arm the opposition with the caveat that ISIL not get any, but, in practice, ISIL would get US weaponry. The hope being that the Assad government would be pushed into negotiations with the opposition that would eventually be a unity government that excludes ISIL. Then the US can fund this new democracy-in-name-only to go after ISIL.

      It would be a disaster for the Syrian people, radicalize many and perhaps lead to a 911-type disaster in the US. On the other hand, if successful would lead to an increase in US influence in the region.

      I'm not saying that's a great approach, I'm just saying it's an approach if the goal is an increase in US influence.

      Another solution may be a grand bargain with Russia, where Ukraine is pressured into giving autonomy to the Russian speaking Eastern regions, and Russia cuts off aid to the Baath regime. They could hand over Snowden, as well. That, too, could force Assad into negotiations. This solution has the downside that US influence is not necessarily increased as Russia gets a hand in the settlement, and countries become wary of looking to get their interests underwritten by US support. But getting Snowden would be a feather-in-the-cap for the current US admin.

      Neither solution is moral or ethical. 'Nuff said.

  • Stop Saying 'If X fired Rockets at U.S.': It's Racist, & assumes we're Colonial
    • What if LA was daily taking rocket fire from Tijuana? A Tijuana separated off from Mexico by US occupied territory. A Tijuana where any resident could be picked up at any time and taken away and put in prison without trial indefinitely at the whim of US authorities. A Tijuana, where US colonists have been settling on land confiscated from native Tijuanans, colonists living with the protection of the US military, not subject to Tijuanan law. A Tijuana, where leaving or arriving by boat is prevented by US authorities. A Tijuana, surrounded by barbed wire, where only subsistence supplies are allowed across by the US authorities, except for those brought in via secret tunnels to Mexico. A Tijuana where US air strikes are used to kill leaders, and suspected militants. And finally, a US where politicians/media pontificate about how deserving Tijuanans are of further depredations because of their rocket attacks.

  • Who are Iraq's Sunni Arabs and What did we Do to them?
  • Second Libyan Upheaval, this Time Against Political Islam, Extremist Militias
    • "The Libyans have an open rather than a closed future now... an open future is generally better than a closed one."

      That's a great statement. I always opposed the US invasion of Iraq, but invasion advocates could throw that statement at me. Iraq has an open future now. I'll have to think on that.

  • Bill Nye Science Guy to Debate GOP Rep Gohmert on Gravity
    • On a side thought, I have wondered why religious literalists have not come out against probability. After all, probability does not take into account the Will of god. The reliability of probability is contrary to the existence of an interventionist god.

  • The American Genocide Against Iraq: 4% of Population Dead as result of US sanctions, wars
    • Note that the authors indicated that the excess deaths is between 48,000 and 751,000 with 95% confidence. Also note that that does not mean that actual deaths is just as likely 400,000 as 48,000. It's a "bell curve" distribution, not a uniform distribution.

      I noticed that both their pre-war and wartime death rates were both significantly less than that calculated by the Lancet study.

  • US Protected Iraq at UN from Iranian Charges of Chemical Weapons Use
    • To quote Cenk Uyger, "it gets worse". Not only did the US do all that, but the CIA and State Department also saught to blame Iran for the Halabja attacks that killed upwards of 5,000 Kurdish civilians: link to en.wikipedia.org. Presumably, again, this was done to protect their "ally" Iraq from international censure.

  • Kerry signals US Intervention in Syria, but to What End?
    • It could be that the weak and contradictory reactions to previous gas attacks emboldened the regime to use gas again. Likely the regime was not looking to kill as many civilians as the did.

      That being said, I dread US involvement. For every Kosovo there's an Iraq, an Afghanistan, a Haiti, a Somalia, a Palestine, a Nicaragua, an El Salvador.

  • It's not about Democracy: Top Ten Reasons Washington is Reluctant to cut off Egypt Aid
  • Top 10 Reasons Americans should Dismiss Israel's Netanyahu on Attacking Iran
    • Western media always repeats the same mantra "The Israeli government has never confirmed nor denied that they possess nuclear weapons and will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Except that's not true. PM Olmert, while PM, did, in fact, confirm that Israel possessed nuclear weapons. He later retracted it, but, unless he's stupid or a liar (and he was a bit of both :), what's said is said.

  • Obama should Resist the Clintons & Europe on Syria
    • Hmmm, I didn't even mention the USA, so I'm not sure why you are bringing them into the picture. I guess maybe my oblique "They" may have confused you. And Mr. Cole's article was around the topic of American arming of rebels.

      That being said, I'm advocating that the international community learn from the Latin American successful conflict resolutions and try to apply them to Syria. Latin America is much more peaceful than it was in the 1980s, and I think it would be foolish to ignore how the transition was made.

    • Maybe they could adopt a model from Latin America. In 1992, after a 10 year civil war, the UN brokered a ceasefire in El Salvador. Neither side "won". Part of the peace agreement was a huge reduction in the size of the military, a general disarming of militias and rebels, and UN monitoring of free and fair elections. The UN monitored the agreement for years, and the country never re-entered civil war.

      Around the same time, a similar agreement was brokered successfully in Nicaragua.

      And today, ongoing talks between the Colombian government and rebels focuses on a political settlement rather than on one side destroying the other.

      And think back to 1992. The FMLN and military were fighting dirty up to the day of the ceasefire. It looked impossible. It looked bleak. But it worked.

  • In Race against Carbon Catastrophe, Solar Power is Making Strides
    • If the cost of renewables can be pushed below that of the fossil fuels, then that will create a disincentive to use fossils. At that point, expensive fossil fuel production will cease and cheaper coal and oil production will likely be requiring huge subsidies to stay profitable. At that time, renewable energy funded lobby groups can be relied upon to push for the end to those subsidies as it will be a form of unfair competition that cuts into their profits. Also, at that time, environmental lobby groups will be able to get laws pushed through banning dirty forms of fossil fuel production, as there will be less entrenched political interests backing those forms. Even if those forms of production later become profitable, laws will act as a brake on their use.

      But the key is that renewables need to become cheap and profitable.

  • Are Egyptians voting Ideologically?
    • I always figured the reason they went with the Muslim Brotherhood is to reward the MB for the years of effort they made trying to confront the Mubarak regime, which they did mostly peacefully since the mid-80s. They played the Mubarak election game, putting up with thousands of arrests, and unfair electoral rules. One could argue that it was the complete exclusion of the MB from parliament in 2010 that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

  • Syrian Civil War Kills 160, Spills over onto Lebanon, Turkey; Will US Intervene?
    • I suppose I won't be the first to suggest this, but if the US wanted to intervene, the infringement of the Turkish border would be a good casus belli. Turkey is a NATO member, and NATO members must defend any member state under attack by a non-NATO force. Granted, Turkey must ask for help.

  • Perry talks Crazy about Turkey, but is Par for GOP Course
    • From what I understand, the American system has changed recently to allow unlimited money to support candidates and political positions.

      Sorry to sound apocalyptic, but, in my opinion, allowing unlimited money will fundamentally alter the political landscape of the United States. Discourse will be narrowed to the interests of billionaires. The only MSM public debate will be trivial topics not of interest to billionaires, or debates between billionaires.

      On the bright side, I see real business opportunities in election consulting. With the large amount of money available to influence elections, there are needs for professional campaigners and propagandists to ensure that money is efficiently spent. I predict that by 2015, electioneering companies will be the rising stars of the corporate world, and the last of any independent-minded politicians will be gone.

  • Map of countries US/Israel have bombed or in which US has bases
  • Million-Person Marches and the Army Backs Off
    • Here's a youtube video from Fox:

      link to youtube.com

      My only point with the video is that the anchor calls the demonstrators, demonstrators, seems to be thoroughly reasonable, and the middle east expert guest seems to be fairly knowledgeable.

      Typically, the "news" part of Fox News is passable. It's the shows hosted by pundits where Fox News gets its reputation for bias.

  • Egypt: Israel's Nukes Destabilizing to Region (Wikileaks)

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