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Total number of comments: 2636 (since 2013-11-28 14:21:48)

joe from Lowell

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  • Kabul on the Potomac: How America became the most Corrupt Society in the West
    • joe from Lowell 11/27/2015 at 10:39 am

      Ah. Never mind then.

    • This is what drives me batty about TomDispatch: they just can't be straight with their readers. Write a column about corruption in the United States and our 17th ranking not being good enough? Awesome! But are we supposed to read "most corrupt country in the west" and then not notice that we're ahead of France, Portugal, Chile, Austria, etc?

      What is the purpose of this behavior? It's constant from this source. Every truthful statement just has to be dressed up with some transparent falsehood. Why would someone do that? Is he trying to discredit himself?

  • Dick Cheney Broke US Military, now blames Obama for Cuts
    • joe from Lowell 02/28/2014 at 8:46 pm

      Indeed, Rumsfeld was constantly talking, in both public and private (according to documents that have come out) about getting out quickly. Remember, it was Rumsefeld who said "Security is the Iraqis' responsibility." He had no intention of conducting an occupation.

    • joe from Lowell 02/28/2014 at 3:21 pm

      You're right on the essentials, Bill. They threw now-Secretary of Veterans Affairs Shinseki right under the bus.

      One minor edit, though: they didn't actually fire Shinseki. His term in office ended on its scheduled time. They just dissed him in public and made him persona-non-grata for the last months of his service.

      When you think about it, the administration's treatment of Eric Shinseki makes him the perfect person to be in charge of taking care of the veterans they created.

    • joe from Lowell 02/28/2014 at 3:19 pm

      ...and then we can get rid of awful name "Department of Homeland Security," and call that the Department of Defense.

    • "Not to mention that when Cheney was Secretary of Defense from 1988 to 1992, he cut the army troop levels by a whopping 25% and cut the military budget annually as much as Congress is doing this year:"

      A trend of cuts that continued under President Clinton. In real dollars, the DoD budget was cut by about 30% between 1989 and 2000. While this was happening, Republicans like Dick Cheney were howling that Bill Clinton had "hollowed out the military."

      Of course, it was that "hollowed out" military that rolled so effortlessly through Iraq in March-April 2003. Later, of course, during the occupation, it turned out that there weren't enough troops for that mission - not for the invasion, but for the occupation - resulting in multiple extended tours and stop-loss orders for the soldiers tasked with that mission.

      A military sized as it will be under Hagel's budget will still be able to go anywhere and kick anyone's ass; what it will not be able to do is occupy countries and pacify them into docile client states. That is what Dick Cheney is complaining about.

    • Setting aside the (very profound) moral arguments against Dick Cheney, what kind of a fool would take advice about national security policy from this man? He is an utter failure. Sure, he was a capable SecDef, but that was when he was implementing policies laid down by a President who took a very strong hand in foreign and military affairs. Left to his own devices, Dick Cheney was a miserable failure at protecting America's security.

      I know, let's ask Christopher Cox what he thinks about financial regulation, or Michael Brown what he thinks about emergency management.

  • Obama Plans for complete US Withdrawal from Afghanistan in December
    • The United States invaded Afghanistan for oil?

    • joe from Lowell 03/01/2014 at 3:17 pm

      Anyway, Jack, you seem to have agreed that Obama has not "moved on" from his policy, but has been consistent in implementing the policy he laid out in 2009.

    • joe from Lowell 03/01/2014 at 3:15 pm


      Al Qaeda has “safe havens” in many different parts of the Middle East and in Africa.

      Yes, indeed - they have hiding places out in the boonies, where the local governments can't get at them. This is considerably different than what they enjoyed in Afghanistan before October 2001 - bases operated openly in cooperation with the national government. I can't help but notice that they considered that set-up (and before Afghanistan, Sudan) highly preferable to hiding out in the boonies of countries where they had no government support.

      The Taliban did not attack us and has not been defeated.

      Who said they had? Who said their defeat by American forces was the goal? The line I quoted from President Obama reads "We must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny the ability to overthrow the government." That is a much more modest objective than defeating them, and one that has been accomplished.

      All they have to do is wait for the United States to leave.

      Which brings us to the third objective laid out in the President's speech: And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future.

      If the United States had left in 2009, the Taliban would have been able to defeat the central government in the field. That is no longer the case, your rather repellent wishful thinking about the United States losing this war aside.

    • joe from Lowell 03/01/2014 at 11:32 am

      I did not realize that "take over the country" was a concept limited to the Cold War era. If you do a little reading, you'll discover that countries were being taken over for a quite a long time before 1946.

      If I answer the actual question buried in the gibberish - How did the policy reduce the chance of the Taliban taking power by force - are you just going to go into a generic tap dance, or are you actually up for a discussion of American policy and the political/military situation in Afghanistan? I'm getting pretty sick of making a good-faith attempts to answer you, only to see you whip out off-topic note cards and bloody shirts in response.

    • joe from Lowell 02/28/2014 at 9:05 pm

      How about, "Good job. The Taliban didn't take over the country, al Qaeda didn't reestablish a base of operations, and the Afghan National Army stands a good chance of being able to keep the government from falling."

      I do like the theory that actual security goals and national interests - even wrong ones! - didn't actually play a role in the President's Afghan policy. Nope, the guy who ended the F-22 program, the missile defense bases, and the Future Combat System just plain wanted to test weapons and fund military contractors.

      It must be awfully nice to be able to hold forth on foreign policy without having to think about foreign policy.

    • joe from Lowell 02/28/2014 at 8:55 pm

      It's not clear to me how anything in that article is relevant, because spending outside the DoD budget exists both before and after the DoD cuts.

      In fact, if we were to take into account spending on the Iraq and Afghan Wars, then the cut would be even more significant, because all of the Iraq spending has ended, and the Afghanistan spending is ending in December. (Or "plummeting to a minute fraction of what it has been," depending on what happens).

      What have reported numbers from 1987 and 1998, from a “budget” that inarguably has not been audited or auditable right up to the present, got to do with CURRENT war spending and trends, your claim that “the overall budget is being cut”??

      Well, JT, you made the argument up above that the budget wasn't really going to be cut, because (misdirection/confusion/vagueness). I was pointing out that the Pentagon budget had certainly been cut before.

      Also, the bad accounting in the Pentagon was there in 1987, and it was there in 1993, and it was there in 1998. You don't have to find the absolute values to be reliable in order to spot a trend, if the same bias is present in all of the data.

    • joe from Lowell 02/28/2014 at 3:35 pm

      From President Obama's December 2009 speech announcing his policy: To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan. We must deny al Qaeda a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's security forces and government so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan's future.

      link to

      People forget that middle one, forget that, when Obama took office, the Taliban was rolling, and might have been in a position to take over the country if things had continued the way they had over the last couple of years of the Bush administration.

    • I did not realize math was a "sound bite."

      The thing about the actual “war” spending,

      I don't know what "the actual 'war' spending" is supposed to mean; I'm talking about the DoD budget.

      Here's a link: link to

      DoD spending was $428 billion in 1987, and it was $297 billion in 1998.


    • "to finally call an end to this particular parade"

      Actually, he called this end five years ago.

      But yes, of course the President of the United States isn't actually hamstrung and incapable of keeping forces in other countries; I was being sarcastic, and assuming the absurdity of the claim would be apparent. Of course Obama could keep the troops in Afghanistan if he wanted to. If he does not, then, it means that he chose not to, not that he's been forced to.

    • Keep in mind that this withdrawal and its schedule was announced at exactly the same time as the escalation.

      He isn't moving on from his policy; he's following through with what has been the policy all along.

    • joe from Lowell 02/27/2014 at 7:39 pm

      Apparently, my sarcasm didn't translate well.

      Yes, of course, there are all sorts of things the US could do to get Karzai (or poor, departed Karzais' successor) to assent to our presence, if we were really determined to stay there.

      Which is to say, if the Obama administration leaves Afghanistan using the excuse that their hands were tied, it would be silly to take them at their word about why they left.

    • Actually, the overall budget is being cut.

    • joe from Lowell 02/26/2014 at 3:02 pm

      Just my impression: I don't think everyone in the Pakistani government is playing on the same side.

    • If there's one thing I've learned from American history, it's that there's just no way for the American President to coerce and compel foreign leaders into assenting to an American military agenda.

      Really, Obama is helpless here. There's just nothing an American President can do to keep American troops in a country if the locals won't cooperate. He's "forced" and "has no choice."

      Look, he asked Karzai to agree to some conditions, Karzai said no, and that's it. Game over. Check and mate. That's the American way.

    • joe from Lowell 02/26/2014 at 9:35 am

      "Another is, if Afghans still can’t stand up to the Taliban after a decade of US aid, when exactly would the billions poured into the country finally bear fruit?"

      As we saw in Iraq between 2007 and 2009, the internal politics of the country are more important than the presence of US forces in making the government secure, and the promise and reality of a US withdrawal changes those internal politics.

  • As Ukraine's President Flees in Overthrow, Lessons for Kyiv from the Arab Upheavals
    • joe from Lowell 02/24/2014 at 4:36 pm

      Sadly predictable that, in both cases, it is merely assumed, without any shred of evidence, that the eeeeeeeeeevil United States is behind the uprisings.

    • joe from Lowell 02/24/2014 at 4:34 pm

      Professor Cole did no such thing.

      It does not make him a proponent of Russian control of Ukraine that he chose not to push the opposition's spin.

    • joe from Lowell 02/24/2014 at 4:32 pm

      While I, too, am skeptical of the extent of the NATO expansion project, let's not work too hard casting about to explain why the right-wing nationalist in the Kremlin wants to maintain the client-status of the countries that were traditionally part of the Russian empire.

      Hans Morganthau had the right of it in the early Cold War era: this is what Russia does. Russia is Russia, whether it's a monarchy, a communist state, or a nominal electoral republic.

      Russia wants Ukraine in 2014 for the same reasons they wanted it in the previous century, and the one before that, and the one before that.

    • joe from Lowell 02/24/2014 at 4:22 pm

      I agree, Nick, that "aggression" is a wrong, even risible, word choice.

      Nonetheless, it's not as if NATO has merely sat back and watched these former Soviet-bloc nations come to us. We've actively courted them, and pushed for NATO expansion right up to Russia's borders. Perhaps it would have been wiser to work for a demilitarized zone of neutrality.

    • joe from Lowell 02/24/2014 at 4:18 pm

      "It turns out that it is easier to get rid of a government you don’t like than to actively acquire a government you do like."

      Say what you will about the old Soviet system, but it created effective, strong, even independent (in the sense of not being based on personality) institutions that could be reoriented and repurposed by new regimes. Former Soviet client states and "republics" didn't have to build the institutions of state from the ground up, the way the poor Libyans are struggling to do in the aftermath of the fall of the Gadhaffi kook-ocracy.

      The Ukrainian military has declared neutrality, which is good. When the dust settles, that neutral military will swear its allegiance to whatever government takes over, and will effectively keep the peace.

  • The Iran Breakthrough TV News is Ignoring: Uranium Stockpile falls below amount Needed for Bomb
    • joe from Lowell 02/22/2014 at 1:16 pm

      Odd, then, that the President of the US has worked out a deal with the Iranian regime on the nuclear weapons.

    • joe from Lowell 02/22/2014 at 1:15 pm

      If we use that definition, then Iran has given up breakout capacity, because they won't be anywhere near 9 months away from a bomb under this deal.

    • It's like a koan: how long does "a longer period to break out" have to be for it to no longer count as breakout capacity?

    • Breakout capacity: the ability to produce a bomb in short order if they decide to do so.

      The breakthrough is Iran's agreement not to achieve breakout capacity.

    • joe from Lowell 02/21/2014 at 12:56 pm

      The American media is also ignoring the accomplishment of the destruction in Syria's chemical weapons.

      If it bleeds, it leads. "Deal working out as planned" just isn't a story in the American media.

  • Racializing Politics: We don't say "Slav" Democracy troubled in Ukraine, why Talk about "Arab" Failures?
    • joe from Lowell 02/22/2014 at 12:19 pm

      You're going to pretend that the Balkan crisis of 1913 has nothing to do with World War One?

      Are you trying to make some kind of point, or just playing the I Was Right On The Internet game?

      I'm going to ask you again: why, when we have the examples of World Wars One and Two, do we not hear the same tropes about "those people have been killing each other for centuries" applied to the Germans and French?

    • joe from Lowell 02/21/2014 at 3:22 pm

      "Racism" is used to describe prejudice based on race, ethnicity, nationality, skin color, and plenty of other group identities.

      For pointless and not even particularly accurate pedantry, your complaint fails.

    • joe from Lowell 02/21/2014 at 1:02 pm

      I'd like to be able to say that's a terrible thing to say about John McCain, but then again, remember Georgia.

      That guy is just nuts.

    • "Actually, the Slavic World is much larger than the components of the former Yugoslavia. What people were referring to in the 1990s regarding a history of “killing each other” was specifically the Balkans."

      Nonetheless, the quasi-racist assumption that "those people" are just eternally violent was applied to Slavic peoples just a few years ago, and is not something unique to how we discuss Arabs.

      In fact, ethnic and religious strife, killing, and cleansing does have a long history in the Balkans

      Bill, ethnic and religious strife, killing, and cleansing has a long history everywhere. You bring up World Wars I and II as examples...okay, so why don't we hear that old trope applied to France and Germany, who did a great deal more killing than anyone in the Balkans in both of those wars?

    • Page: 26
    • The reduction of the Syrian conflict into a narrative of eternal Shiite/Sunni warfare is another example of this tendency.

      But I'm old enough remember, back in the 1990s, that the argument "Those people have been killing each other for centuries" was very popular among Americans who opposed intervention in the ugly break-up of Yugoslavia. The ethnic hatred, so conveniently and suddenly whipped up by Milosevic and his Croatian counterpart when it served a political-strategic purpose, was just assumed to be "what those people do."

      Perhaps it's the experience of two decades of democracy in the Slavic world that changed American perceptions.

  • The other Face of Putin's Olympics: Pussy Riot Whipped, Beaten for Protest Song at Sochi
    • joe from Lowell 02/22/2014 at 3:19 pm

      Oh, certainly. Where would Russian-government security forces learn suppression of political dissidents, except from the NYPD?

    • About on par?

      Remind me, what was the death toll from the OWS crackdowns?

  • A Bridge to Nowhere: Up to 75% more Deadly Methane emitted by Natural Gas Drilling than Estimated
    • joe from Lowell 02/19/2014 at 1:16 pm

      Reading what the authors of the Science study actually say creates some serious whiplash after reading the headline.

      "In order for that to be a greenhouse gas-beneficial switch of fuels, these methane leaks must be curbed, the study says."

      Not "the use of natural gas must end," but "the leaks must be curbed." The authors agree with President Obama that switching to natural gas represents a greenhouse-gas beneficial change.

      "Still, generating electricity from gas instead of coal is better for climate change, the researchers note..."

      I'll note that they don't even "conclude" this. They merely have to note it, like one would note that the sky is blue or the wind blowing.

      "Fortunately, it costs little, or even pays, to stop these methane leaks and doing so is critical to meeting the President's publicly-stated pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020. Therefore, we are urging this Administration to tightly regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas industry."

      Hear hear! We need tighter regulation of the drilling industry. The EPA should make this a top priority.

      The coal industry needs to die, and natural gas is what is killing is. As the EPA study demonstrates, natural gas can be accessed in a way that doesn't cause large releases; the problem is to make sure that it is being accessed in such a manner. As the scientists who published this study conclude, the answer is to regulate drilling practices.

      Our side always tells global warming deniers to listen to the scientists, and stop ignoring or distorting their findings. That's a good rule of thumb for us to follow as well.

  • Three Years Later: Can the Libyan Revolution Succeed?
    • joe from Lowell 02/19/2014 at 1:27 pm

      It takes a certain type of mind to look at the history of the CIA's propaganda in the 1960s and draw the conclusion "Therefore, anything goes!"

      Do you actually disapprove of agitprop, JT? Or only when it's not being used to attack the United States?

    • Oddly enough, Bill, the Libyan people don't seem to agree with you that they were better off under the vicious oil dictator. But as your next observation shows, it's not really their well-being that's driving your calculus, is it?

      There is a notable difference between Libya and post-Saddam Iraq: Gadhaffi was the one who demolished the state institutions in Libya, so there was nothing left that could be repurposed when he fell, while it was the Bush administration that made the decision to abolish, rather than reform or repurpose, Iraq's institutions. Libya always would have had build the institutions of a state from the ground up, while that didn't have to be the case in Iraq.

  • Kerry Blasts Climate Denialists, equates Climate Change with Terrorism, WMDs
    • joe from Lowell 02/20/2014 at 1:35 pm

      That was Hillary Clinton's State Department.

      We've yet to see where John Kerry's State Department comes down on this.

    • joe from Lowell 02/19/2014 at 1:31 pm

      Giving up is a lot easier when it's not your fight.

    • joe from Lowell 02/19/2014 at 1:30 pm

      Comments like these are a lead-pipe lock that you're dealing with a climate change denier.

      If the carbon emissions from John Kerry's trip cause policies to change so that even 1/1000th of 1% of global GHG emissions are reduced, it will represent a huge gain for global well-being.

    • joe from Lowell 02/18/2014 at 9:48 am

      John Kerry has been on this beat for a long time. He was one of the prime movers at the Rio Conference, and was the biggest booster of the abortive climate change bill in the Senate in 2009. Al Gore called him "the best environmentalist in the Senate."

  • The Day the 5th Amendment was Droned to Death
  • How Iraq Vets against War & Peace Groups stopped Senate bid to derail Iran Talks
    • joe from Lowell 02/20/2014 at 1:39 pm

      I think I'll have "Building his edifice of personal condescending credibility" carved on my tomb stone.

      I have no idea what it's supposed to mean, but it certainly sounds impressive.

      I'm pretty sure that's the point.

    • "and even increased the vicious assault on people throughout that area."'

      Wait wait wait. You "acknowledge" that the Obama administration has "increased" - that is, above and beyond the Iraq War - the "assault" on the area?

      "It is anti American for any country to want to use the resources of their country for the good of it’s people."

      Odd, then, that the Obama administration is negotiating a deal that will enshrine Iran's right to an peaceful nuclear energy program.

    • While the work of IVAW-Chicago is quite admirable, the claim that the unraveling of the new sanctions bill was caused by their two-dozen man protest doesn't seem very realistic. One thing happened after the other, so it must be cause and effect, seems to be the reasoning.

      It's important to understand how political change happens, in a rigorous and realistic way, if you hope of replicate political successes.

    • joe from Lowell 02/17/2014 at 9:55 am

      "The ENTIRE PURPOSE of the sanctions program is to keep Iran down. The Iranian nuclear program is just the peg from which the sanctions are hung."

      This is clearly true of people like Lindsey Graham and Bob Menendez and AIPAC, but doesn't the administration's eagerness to work out a deal, suspend sanctions, and otherwise warm up relations with Iran demonstrate a split among sanctions supporters?

      From loose nuclear material in Chile to the Syria crisis to the NEW START accords, the administration has consistently made efforts to contain unconventional weapons proliferation and use a top foreign policy priority. Their actions in both sanctioning Iran, and negotiating an end to those sanctions, are consistent with that interest.

  • More Solar Workers in US than Coal Miners, and Solar doesn't Poison Drinking Water
    • joe from Lowell 02/17/2014 at 11:05 am

      Arizona? I'm surprised.

      Arizona stands out for being particularly slow in developing commercial solar installations, compared to neighbors like Texas and California. Apparently, though, they are going great guns on rooftop solar.

      I wonder how this situation came about.

  • Putinism in Cairo? The Rise of the Russian Model
    • joe from Lowell 02/17/2014 at 10:04 am

      Apparently, your understanding of history ends in 1992. Pretty please, Bill, may we learn from the history of September 2001?

      You like to go on about national interests; I defy you to name a national interest more important than the prevention of mass-casualty terror attacks on our homeland.

      All else being equal, of course I'd rather have a friendly Egypt than a pro-Russian Egypt, but all else isn't equal.

    • joe from Lowell 02/17/2014 at 10:02 am

      Oh, are those the only two options?

      That's funny, I don't recall the 2011 demonstrators calling for an Islamist authoritarian government, and I don't recall the 2013 protestors calling for a secular, authoritarian government. I recall them both calling for democracy.

    • I cannot believe that the millions who rose up against dictatorship in Egypt only three years ago will be content to put up with another military dictatorship for long.

      Professor Cole was very insightful in 2011 in attributing the Arab Spring uprisings (or, at least, their spread to a large portion of the population) to economic pain.

      If the Egyptian economy starts humming along nicely, who's going to look back on the Morsi years with nostalgia?

      (In case it isn't clear, I'm not saying I would support or agree with such a response, just that it is easy to predict.)

    • "If he turns to the Soviets"

      The who?

      The Cold War is over. If Obama's efforts to promote democracy "lose Egypt" to what? Are we playing Risk?

      What good did close relationships with Mubarak and the House of Saud do for us on 9/11? There may have been a time when "our son of a bitch" alliances were useful in advancing important American interests, but these days, they're more trouble than their worth.

      If Putin and Sissi want to snuggle up, fine. The next airplanes can hit the Kremlin.

    • joe from Lowell 02/14/2014 at 2:35 pm

      Russia, Shmussia: that is one fantastic internet handle!

    • joe from Lowell 02/14/2014 at 11:36 am

      So much for the oft-seen argument that the overthrow of Morsi was an expression of the United States reasserting its influence in Egypt.

  • UN: Civilian drone deaths triple in Afghanistan
    • joe from Lowell 02/17/2014 at 11:07 am

      Actual Joe: drone deaths matter exactly as much as other deaths.

      Why don't 98.5% of the civilian deaths matter to you, JT? Why are you insisting that only a subset of a subset of the civilian deaths in Afghanistan get greater media coverage than the rest?

    • "The report, by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), found that drone strikes accounted for at least a third of all civilian deaths in air strikes last year. Unama notes that it is sometimes difficult to establish which type of aircraft carried out a strike, so the true total could be higher."

      I'm left to wonder why this matters - why drone strikes are worth more attention than other air strikes.

      For that matter, there were, according to the UN, 2959 civilian deaths in Afghanistan in 2013. I'm left to wonder why we see so many reports focusing on 1.5% of those deaths, and so few focusing on those from other causes.

      link to

      Could this be the reason: "Presenting the report at a news conference in the capital, Kabul, he added that the “overwhelming majority” of civilian deaths are due to actions of anti-Government elements, including, but not limited to, the Taliban."

  • Did Religious Extremism drive 2 Million Egyptian youth to Unbelief?
    • Where does the idea that "mutual respect" should triumph come from, if not doctrine?

      Look at the beginning of the Jefferson's Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." How is that not doctrine, a statement that we believe in these principles because these are the principles we believe in, and believing in them is what defines who are?

      None of this is to disparage those beliefs, but really, do you think it was "self-evident" in the 1770s that a 100th generation peasant farmer or a Native American was born equal to an English nobleman expertly playing his harpsichord in his study?

      The vision of equality and human rights that came out of the Enlightenment was just as much of a contingent, culturally-bound doctrine as the vision of divine right and innate 'place in the world' that it succeeded.

  • We're all Living in the World Dick Cheney Made
    • joe from Lowell 02/13/2014 at 2:57 pm

      "There is ample evidence that torture does work. It does not work all the time, and it does not work on all people."

      If Chrysler builds an automobile that does not work all the time, and does not work on all roads, that car does not work, and you'd be an idiot to buy one.

    • joe from Lowell 02/13/2014 at 2:55 pm

      "I suspect he knows that"

      I suspect you're right. Remember when the CIA memos came out, one of them reported to Cheney that Khalid Sheik Mohammed was cooperating and providing useful information about al Qaeda, and confirming that there was no cooperation between al Qaeda and the Saddam government, including on WMDs.

      Vice President Cheney responded to that memo by ordering that KSM be subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques.

      The guy set out to get false confessions. Torture certainly does work for that.

    • "But the difference between successfully invading Iraq in the early 90s and in the 2003 failure isn’t hard to see. In the Gulf War, Bush sr. used half a million troops. In 2003, Donald Rumsfeld was convinced ONLY 150,000 would be enough."

      In 1991, we didn't try to occupy the country, administer it, and install a puppet state.

      If the US had set out to destroy the Iraqi military, topple the government, and go home, those 150,000 troops probably would have been sufficient to do that job.

    • joe from Lowell 02/12/2014 at 10:03 am

      "The pinnacle of power had been attained not in Baghdad but long before, when the leaders decided to set out on this ill-starred military adventure. By invading Iraq Bush administration policymakers — and at their head, Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld — had managed to demonstrate to the world not the grand extent of American power but its limits."

      Exactly. Imagine if, instead of using that power and status to actually invade Iraq, the Bush administration had very publicly prepared for war while pursuing a diplomatic track to compel the return of the UN teams to Iraq (that is, something similar to what the Obama administration did towards Syria in 2013).

      But that would have required an administration that actually took WMD nonproliferation/non-use seriously, as opposed to merely using it as an excuse for a war they always wanted.

  • Can Obama make a grand bargain with Iran over Syria?
    • Iran's isolation predates the sanctions by several decades.

    • joe from Lowell 02/14/2014 at 11:56 am

      It is because of Iran's efforts to boost the Assad regime, in order to bolster its regional power, that Iran's cooperation in necessary to get to a peace deal. Iran needs to knock that off, and work to push the Syrian government to deal, in order for there to be any chance of success.

      We always make peace with our enemies. That's why it's called "making peace."

    • Since the diplomatic effort to "allow the Russians to take the lead" in disarming their client state at our behest predated Kerry's statement by several weeks, it seems fairly unlikely that Kerry's statement making our demands public was a gaffe, or that it was a response to something (going to Congress) that happened after the effort began.

      I do like the notion of "face-saving," though. Yes, the accomplishment of one's primary foreign policy goal during the crisis, above and beyond even the most optimistic scenarios, would tend to "save face."

      But there's still a piece you're missing, Bill. In the midst of a diplomatic process that needed time to come to fruition, the administration suddenly delays things and sends the issue to Congress - a Congress renowned for wasting time and accomplishing nothing - even while declaring that it wouldn't be bound by Congress's decision. The last time the administration sent something like this to Congress, during the Libya operation, Congress responded by wasting time and taking no action. This time, they wasted some time and didn't get around to taking action, as the diplomatic track wound its way to success.

      And so, in short, going to Congress was an incomprehensible blunder.

    • "It is hard to know if this was a thought-through proposition or an impromptu thought-bubble. Kerry is gaining a reputation for the latter, ala the destruction of Assad’s chemical weapons to avert US military action."


      It has long since been made public that negotiations for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian chemical warfare crisis had been going on for weeks when Kerry floated the idea publicly.

      When a Secretary of State or Foreign Minister of a major world power floats a proposal to the press, it's probably not a good idea to assume that he's shooting his mouth off and that no spade work is being done on the proposal.

  • Obama & Hollande stress Hope for Iran Breakthrough
    • joe from Lowell 02/12/2014 at 9:52 am

      “we’ll continue to strengthen the moderate opposition, and we call on the international community to stem the flow of foreign fighters into Syria.”
      Alas, I don’t think these steps amount to anything practical. There are a lot of porous borders in Syria and stemming the flow of foreign fighters is not practical– nor are the foreign fighters the only problem in Syria. “Calling on” Syria to do things is likewise just a waste of breath.

      Isn't the subject of this statement more likely the Gulf states, who have been backing those foreign fighters?

  • Assassination by Leak: US floats Trial Balloon of Droning an American to Death
    • joe from Lowell 02/12/2014 at 10:12 am

      "If this is an Administration attempt at “transparency,” it is sadly mistaken. Those who oppose drone strikes will not be swayed."

      They will, however, have their bluff called and a talking point taken away from them.

      As with al Qaeda, Bill, the target of public messaging is not the committed opponents, but the reachable people in the middle.

    • joe from Lowell 02/11/2014 at 10:40 am

      "And the least it could do is follow the rules without carrying on in public, trying to conjure up some sort of sympathy for the difficult decisions it faces."

      So much for the virtue of transparency, I guess.

  • 8 Unsustainable Delusions of the American Way of Life
    • joe from Lowell 02/10/2014 at 12:46 pm

      "We are a peaceful nation" was part of the American way of life, the American self-conception, in the 20th century?

      When was that?

  • Brokers of Deceit: Massive US Aid to Israel has Enabled a Colonial Project
    • joe from Lowell 02/10/2014 at 12:44 pm

      By all means, though, I invite you to educate us about the positive contributions the Egyptian military made towards Palestinian self-determination during the period before the Camp David Accords. It must have been massive, if it outweighs the end of actual, open warfare between Egypt and Israel when weighing the consequences of Camp David.

    • joe from Lowell 02/10/2014 at 12:39 pm

      I see, so now the line is "The US doesn't actually promote peace deals, and also, peace deals are a bad thing."

    • Of course, if your thesis is that American involvement in negotiations between Israel and its neighbors can only be destructive, you probably don't want to bring up the Camp David Accords.

    • The author managed to write an entire piece about American foreign aid to Israel, even asking the reason for that aid, without mentioning the Camp David Accords.

      That is not a good sign.

  • Top 10 Reasons Rand Paul's Lewinsky Gambit Can't Obscure GOP War on Women
    • joe from Lowell 02/10/2014 at 10:35 am

      "2. The public never cared about that scandal in the first place; Bill Clinton remained popular, and everyone understood he was railroaded by the Republicans in a mean-spirited power play."

      This even understates the situation. Clinton's numbers took a serious hit initially when the scandal broke. It was the Republicans' attacks on him that brought them back up. The public didn't just ignore attacks; they actively backlashed against them.

  • "The Iranians are Coming!" Derangement Syndrome over 1 Destroyer in Atlantic
    • joe from Lowell 02/09/2014 at 4:43 pm

      "not meant to be satirical"

      Honestly, I'm more impressed by those flying boats and speed boats than by the destroyer tour. Put a thousand of those things on an American task force and now we're talking.

      The awesome destroyer that can almost steam to the United States as long as it has a supply boat? Not so much.

    • joe from Lowell 02/09/2014 at 1:47 pm

      If it's any consolation, I literally cannot find this story on any of the news feeds without searching for it specifically.

  • McKibben: Crunch Time for Obama on Keystone XL
    • joe from Lowell 02/09/2014 at 1:59 pm

      "He wants to wait because he knows that he will be excoriated by the protesters."

      Have you ever looked at any polling on the Keystone pipeline? It is ridiculously popular, like 2:1 in favor. Approving it would be a huge political boon for Obama.

      If he was basing his decision on political considerations, the excoriation by environmental activists who are on the wrong side of the American public's opinion would be last on the list of his concerns. Approving the project just before the 2012 elections would have helped him, and it would have helped his party in Congress. I can think of a quite a few Democrats in the mountain states who would have been thrilled to include footage of environmental activists excoriating the President in their 2012 campaign ads.

      And so, I find that explanation of his behavior fairly unlikely.

  • Turkey's Ruling Party enacts "Orwellian" Web Censorship
    • joe from Lowell 02/09/2014 at 3:02 pm

      But would the Turkish Parliament have approved such a law if Turkey had been allowed to join the EU, and made subject to its mandates?

  • Congress to CIA: Provide US Drone Victim Count
    • "The United States has no compelling national interest in Syria to intervene with drones, Tomahawks, or the provision of weapons to the rebels either."

      No, it does not - hence, the absence of any American military intervention. Sure, we'll drop a few million dollars on hardware and try to see what our diplomacy can accomplish, but we're certainly not going to stick our necks out.

      Compare that to the chemical weapons issue, which did have a direct implication for American interests. The erosion of the global chemical warfare ban, the potential for proliferation in the region, the potential for chemical weapons to fall into the hands of al Qaeda - the US has a meaningful interest in preventing those things. Hence, the "red line" speech, in which President Obama made it clear that we wouldn't be intervening on behalf of the rebels, but that a chemical weapons threat would cross a red line. And hence, the administration's willingness to use force in response to the chemical attack, and its willingness to abandon such force when the chemical issue was solved.

    • joe from Lowell 02/09/2014 at 2:24 pm

      As to “losing hearts and minds,” that term has always been pretty much a myth propagated by both the Right and the Left in the American commentariat. Their “hearts and minds” were never ours to “win” or “lose” in the first place.

      Very true. In the current context, it also assumes that al Qaeda and the movement they represent occupy a place in the minds of Muslims or Middle Eastern residents comparable to that of Ho Chi Minh in the minds of the Vietnamese in the 1960s, which is anything but the truth. The Viet Minh/Viet Cong/North Vietnamese government was not a small cult, despised and hunted within their own nation.

      The Vietnam War is to leftists what Munich is to neoconservatives.

    • joe from Lowell 02/09/2014 at 2:19 pm

      "But Hersh brought the My Lai massacre to the American public during the Vietnam War. So he may be on to something."

      He also got duped back in the 1990s into reporting a bogus story about chemical weapons usage by American special forces in Vietnam, and was publicly humiliated and forced to apologize. Seymour Hersch is a little hit-or-miss, especially on chemical weapons stories.

      "I think both the rebel forces and al Assad have committed war crimes using sarin gas on civilians. But I have no real proof to back up my contention. It’s more of a gut feeling."

      Didn't the Bush administration teach us the value of the gut check as a way of understanding events?

    • joe from Lowell 02/09/2014 at 2:16 pm

      "That says a great deal about the war on terror right there, doesn’t it?
      He knew how war weary the nation was even before American voiced their opposition to an intervention in the Syrian civil war."

      Actually, the time period in which he ratcheted up the drone strikes is the same one in which he approved the surge into Afghanistan, which throws a bit of a kink into this theory.

      How about this for a theory that's so crazy it just might be true: he withdrew from Iraq, surged in Afghanistan, ramped up the drone strikes, backed the Libyan revolution, threatened force over Syria's chemical war crime, and supported the effort to get Syria's chemical weapons destroyed without firing a shot because he thought that each of those policies was right?

  • Islamic State of Iraq & Levant too Extreme for al-Qaeda (Not the Onion)
    • Just right, right down to the exception you make for AQAP.

      What about al Qaeda in the Maghreb? Do you consider them to be more like AQAP, or more like ISIS?

  • Israeli Pols attack Sec. Kerry over Boycott Remarks: "Can't negotiate with a gun to our Heads"
    • joe from Lowell 02/04/2014 at 12:26 pm

      I love it when the Obama administration plays coy. Who, us? (Shocked face.)

      Kerry, she said, had demonstrated steadfast support of Israel for over 30 years, "including staunch opposition to boycotts" and his remarks in Munich had merely "described some well-known and previously stated facts about what is at stake for both sides if this process fails, including the consequences for the Palestinians."

      "His only reference to a boycott was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has always opposed," she said.

      Ha ha ha. "Hey, man, my partner gets crazy sometimes; I can't control him! Look, I'm trying to help you out, but there's only so much I can do unless you meed me half way."

  • Obama as Unreliable Narrator on Climate Action: from SOTU to NSA spying at Copenhagen
    • He certainly isn't pro-coal.

      I think he's been culling Big Coal from the energy industry herd so the oil and gas industries won't defend coal as he kills it.

    • joe from Lowell 01/31/2014 at 1:58 pm

      Absolute numbers, by nation.

    • His praising of the advances of solar energy in the US was also disingenuous, since the US is way behind on solar installations compared to other advanced countries

      The United States is third in the world in solar PV, and second in the world in solar thermal. This is in addition to being second in wind, first in geothermal, and third in hydropower.

      That makes the United States the only country to be on the leaderboard in every renewable energy category.

  • Don't Break up Syria: WW I-Style Imperial Divide & Rule is a Failure
    • joe from Lowell 01/31/2014 at 12:16 pm

      Europeans are driving it more than Americans. Gulf states on the one side, and Iran and Russia on the other (why leave them out?) fighting a proxy war are driving it more than Europeans. I'd put non-state actors like Islamic State of Iraq and Hezbollah right up there with the regional state actors, too.

      But driving it more than anyone is Syrians themselves. Let's not write them out of their own history.

    • joe from Lowell 01/29/2014 at 1:45 pm

      Pan-Arabism, expressed as an opposition to borders.

      Appeals to anti-colonialism

      Bashing of Salafists

      Not a harsh word for the Assad government

      Find me a better description of the Baathist viewpoint.

    • joe from Lowell 01/29/2014 at 12:57 pm

      "Those who promote balkanization as a solution either have insidious motives for the region or are completely ignorant of the Levant’s rich history of coexistence."

      I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that "Dekki" is not a Kurdish name.

  • Dovish SOTU: Obama will Veto AIPAC Iran Sanctions, Pledges Afghanistan Wind-Down
    • joe from Lowell 01/31/2014 at 12:23 pm

      I would be a lot more comfortable dismissing Karzai as merely crazy if any of the crazy things he has said or done could not be explained by his domestic political situation.

    • Conversely, Franklin Roosevelt was an extremely wealthy New York aristocrat with close ties to Wall Street.

    • joe from Lowell 01/30/2014 at 8:01 pm

      The article I linked to from stripes dot com goes into the current state of the debate within the administration.

    • joe from Lowell 01/30/2014 at 8:00 pm

      "It is not off the table at all.":

      See below. General Dunford's request is off the table.

    • Story on the state of residual force talks: link to

      Vice President Joe Biden has resumed a push to withdraw virtually all U.S. troops from Afghanistan at year’s end, arguing for a far-smaller presence than many military officers would like to see, officials briefed on the discussions told The Wall Street Journal...Biden’s arguments for a smaller force, likely of 2,000 to 3,000 troops, have gained traction within an administration

      There, right of return, now you know what my sources are.

    • He highlighted a badly-wounded veteran as a way to make people forget about the war and assuage guilt?

      Either you, or the Obama administration's PR team, are not thinking clearly, because that doesn't make any sense.

    • joe from Lowell 01/30/2014 at 10:12 am

      Here are a couple of stories about those 2012 election predictions:

      link to

      link to

      Note that the relationship between economic conditions, incumbency, and election outcomes is, rather than being "laughed out of town," so well understood by political scientists that they incorporate it into highly-successful mathematical models.

    • "US wanted to keep up to 10, 000 forces in Afghanistan not few hundreds. I don’t know where your sources are."

      That's been off the table for some time.

      "The schedule to withdraw Iraq was drawn under Bush."

      And it couldn't be changed? Virtually the entire 2008 campaign was fought over whether the US should stay in Iraq, or leave. Throughout 2009-2011, this site was full of confidence assurances that the United States would never leave those "permanent bases." It was only after the fact that the narrative changed to asserting the inevitability of what had previously been called an impossibility.

      "Do you remember several trips that Biden took and our ambassodors begging Iraqis to let a residual force stay?"

      You don't have your facts correct. The proposal to extend the SOFA was made by Malaki, who wanted American back-up. The American response was to insist on legal immunity as a pre-condition for even beginning negotiations for extending the SOFA.

      "Your analysis of change of government may cause you to be laughed out of town."

      Wow. Have you never taken a political science class, even at the undergrad level? "My analysis" that bad economic conditions harm incumbents in elections would "laughed out of town?" What town is that, exactly? BTW, economic conditions in 2012 were sufficiently good that political prediction formulas based on the economy predicted an Obama victory.

      "Your last statement “can he not see hte dangers?…” implies that if he is a little better than Bush we should jump up and down."

      I have no idea how you managed to read that into my comment, beyond what is obviously a passionate desire on your part to do so. The section you quoted was a challenge to Professor Cole's assertion, not agreement with it. The word "or" is commonly used to separate to contrary points between which one must choose.


    • joe from Lowell 01/29/2014 at 11:50 am

      He cannot see the dangers of his undeclared drone wars, however.

      Except that earlier, you pointed out his statement, "Obama later said that he had “limited” drone strikes because of this danger."

      Can he not see the dangers? Or can you not see the other side of the scale, and that he is involved in balancing competing concerns?

    • joe from Lowell 01/29/2014 at 11:40 am

      "President Obama has never seemed to me all that interested in foreign affairs."

      Virtually all of his 2008 campaign was based around foreign affairs - primarily the Iraq War, and Afghanistan/Al Qaeda.

      "His withdrawal from Iraq was provoked by the refusal of the Iraqi parliament to let US troops remain there."

      His withdrawal from Iraq began in January 2009, and continued uninterrupted until the last troops left in December 2011. Here, look at this chart:

      link to

      Was the decline between January 2009 and the fall of 2011 caused by the Iraqi Parliament, too?

      "He was briefly willing to bomb Syria but also seems very happy the Russians offered him a way out."

      Any by "way out," you mean "allowed him to achieve his core foreign policy goal." How does threatening war, preparing for it, pursuing a diplomatic track to achieve that goal, and succeeding amount to a lack of interest in foreign policy?

      "He intervened in Libya but has done almost nothing for the elected Libyan government to help it strengthen its capacities."

      The first part would seem to indicate a level of interest in foreign policy, no? The second part is mainly a consequence of the Libyan government not wanting such help for reasons of domestic politics, no? It seems that the point above about the Iraqi parliament would be more appropriate here.

      "He praised Tunisia’s democratic transition but had little to do with it."

      And that, Professor Cole, is a Bid Deal. What would any president between FDR and Obama have done when faced with a situation in which an American-allied dictator was being challenged by a populist domestic protest movement or rebellion?

      "Hands off" is a policy, too, and in the context of the history of American foreign policy, standing by and doing nothing while allied dictatorships fall is a major policy change.

    • joe from Lowell 01/29/2014 at 11:29 am

      "The US military will have to assume it is not staying, and initiate a vast movement of human beings and materiel out of the country."

      The US military is initiating a vast movement of human beings and material out of the country anyway, with the withdrawal of the combat forces. What would be left would be a few hundred individuals, not engaged in war fighting. The difference between the withdrawal that would happen without a SOFA, and one that would happen with a SOFA, is minimal, in terms of the scale of the withdrawal operation.

      "The US ambassador wondered if Karzai was using the allegations to keep the US off balance. But no, I think he is just as looney as the day is long and quite paranoid."

      I can never figure out if Karzai is crazy, or crazy like a fox.

      "Obama acknowledged what many of his critics have been asserting"

      Huh? Far from the splintering of al Qaeda in response to defeat being a point of his critics, it's been the core reality his counter-terrorism policy has been built around for the past 2-3 years.

      Obama later said that he had “limited” drone strikes because of this danger. But it isn’t clear what the limitation is.

      I'd say the figures posted in on this site about the fifth year of Obama's drone war made the recent changes pretty obvious.

      It isn’t actually clear, that Obama is right the severe US sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table. It seems to have rather been that pragmatist Hasan Rouhani won a power struggle with his rivals.

      Why the false dilemma? As we saw in 2008 and 2010, a bad economy leads the voters to "throw the bums out," and vote against the incumbent party or faction. The hawkish faction, embodied in Ahmedinejad, were the incumbents, and they lost in an election carried out during a bad economy.

      "I actually can’t think of anything Obama did for Tunisia after its 2011 revolution."

      The US was one of the first countries in the world to recognize the new Tunisian government. That must have had an effect on the French, who were the old regime's big ally.

  • The Future of Cool: Electric Muscle Cars at the Detroit Auto Show
    • joe from Lowell 01/27/2014 at 1:08 pm

      Whenever I read something like this, I'm reminded that George Will writing as recently as 2009 that hybrid engine technology was an expensive failure for Toyota.

  • Despite Reform Pledges, Rouhani's Iran remains Human Rights Nightmare
    • joe from Lowell 01/29/2014 at 11:47 am

      "No substantive political liberalization whatsoever has been implemented by the Mollah Regime during its 35 years."

      This is very true. Tell me, over that same 35 year period, how many agreements did Iran enter into with the United States involving restrictions on its military capacity?

      The insistence that nothing new could be happening that hasn't already happened runs up rather dramatically against the quite novel diplomatic breakthroughs of the past few months.

    • joe from Lowell 01/28/2014 at 3:50 pm

      "None of these cliques can be described as liberal or democratic-minded in any meaningful sense of those words."

      There is only one meaningful sense of those words: in comparison to the status quo. Do they support or oppose movement in the right direction?

      I'd never vote for Rouhani in an American election, but that doesn't mean the implementation of his agenda in Iran would be meaningless.

      "The differences between them have more to do with jockeying for influence within the system and access to wealth."

      I don't particularly care about the inner lives and motivations of politicians, but the actions they take, and would take, in power. If the next President of the United States devotes himself to progressive economic policies, it doesn't matter to me whether he's a devout progressive, or doing it to impress Jodie Foster.

      If the internal politics of Iran cause Rouhani and his clique to pursue a dovish foreign policy, back off the nuke program, liberalize domestic policy, and otherwise do a whole lot of things I want them to do, I don't care very much if they're only doing to to gain power for themselves.

    • joe from Lowell 01/28/2014 at 10:35 am

      BTW, given that the "Green Revolution" was led by a Mullah and old comrade of Khomeini, perhaps this insistence that neither Mullahs nor "Khomeinists" could support political liberalization isn't necessarily true.

    • joe from Lowell 01/28/2014 at 10:32 am

      If Rouhani's foreign policy stance is to pre-determined, so detached from his own political orientation, then why isn't it universal among the Iranian political elite? Ahmedinejad and the hardliners in the Guards faced the same "sanctions, regime cronies’ theft, and mismanagement taking a toll on the Mollah Regime’s treasury," but they're still strongly opposed to Rouhani's foreign policy.

      Do they not want to see $100 billion unfrozen? Or could it be that jamming every political figure in Iran into the same round hole doesn't actually capture the reality of Iranian politics?

    • I suppose I do not actually know with any certainty that he does wish to see political liberalization, and I'm assuming that the same connection between foreign policy dovishness and liberalism that exists (and on the other side, between hawkishness and political authoritarianism) that one finds in American and other western nations' politics is also present in Iran.

      We'll see.

    • I was unaware that the United States had "heavy censorship."

    • Rouhani is sticking his neck way out in engaging in talks with the United States. It is doubtful that he has the latitude to stick it out much further right now.

      However, should the talks succeed, he will emerge with a great deal of political capital - especially if he gets to go home with some nice goodies to spread around, and the Iranian public sees a meaningful improvement in their material standard of living. Then, he will be in a position to push domestic liberalization.

  • 54 Dead in an Egypt Polarized between pro-Military, anti-Coup on Revolution Anniversary
    • joe from Lowell 01/27/2014 at 12:17 pm

      Were you thinking of this?

      link to

      "Egypt FM: Delay of U.S. aid to Egypt wrong, unacceptable"

    • joe from Lowell 01/27/2014 at 12:13 pm

      "Not so long ago, one of our pundits insisted that Obama was cutting off aid to Egypt"

      Who was that? I don't recall ever reading about an aid cutoff, just some delays. Do you have a link?

  • China Installed More Solar Power in 2013 than the US has in its Whole History
    • joe from Lowell 01/27/2014 at 12:33 pm

      "Solar Thermal" in a generic sense has a history going back to the first time a humanoid ancestor laid out something to dry in in the sun, but what we're talking about is solar-thermal electrical generation, a fairly new technology - considerably newer than PV.

      There is no question that the sudden and unforeseen low cost of silicon PV has changed the solar game for all non-silicon players.

      "This may not remain the case forever. Solar thermal power may come into its own again."

      Solar thermal never went away, even during this period of big declines in PV pricing, because it has a major advantage of PV: storing heat is much easier than storing electricity, and the molten salt used in new solar thermal plants means they can continue to produce electricity after sunset.

      link to

    • joe from Lowell 01/26/2014 at 3:41 pm

      "Solar thermal has been unable to compete with solar PV."

      That's a little behind the times. The technology of thermal has made great strides in cost, comparable to those made by PV.

      Ask the Spanish: link to

      Solar thermal electrical production is actually a newer, less-established technology than PV. It's odd to see it described as "legacy."

    • List of largest solar-thermal plants in the world:

      link to

      China has exactly one facility on the list, a one-megawatt plant. The first American entry on the, the world's largest solar-thermal plant, produces 354 times as much. The second entry on the list, also American: 280x as much.

      I wonder why China is slacking in solar thermal power? Because the whole solar enterprise there is run by the state, and the state settled on one technology?

    • Actually, China has installed more commercial-scale photovoltaics in the last year than the US has in its history.

      That figure leaves out rooftop solar, and leaves out solar thermal. In both categories, the US leads China by a very wide margin - which is why you won't see those figures in a Juan Cole post.

  • On eve of Revolution Anniversary, Cairo Shaken by deadly Bombings
    • Professor, where are the Salafists these days?

      The last time you wrote about them, those extremist religious-right parties, to the right of the MB itself, had, somewhat oddly, joined the anti-MB protests, along with the pro-military nationalists and the Arab Spring protesters.

    • joe from Lowell 01/25/2014 at 2:43 pm

      "The FSA's military campaign" and "violence in Egypt" are not quite apples-to-apples.

      And, in fact, the behavior of rebel factions in Syria has driven down support for the FSA.

  • Perennial US Rush to War: Syrian Chem issue was too Foggy to Justify Bombing
    • joe from Lowell 01/26/2014 at 3:52 pm

      Neither Russia nor Iran are suicidal enough to take an action likely to lead to an American military response against them.

    • joe from Lowell 01/26/2014 at 3:51 pm

      It's clear that this is the frame you wish to push.

      It's less clear why anyone would believe it, given the facts.

      Yes, indeed, going to Congress and slow-walking the lead-up to the strikes was necessary to allow the diplomatic solution to succeed. Why anyone would believe that pursuing such a direction was "naive," given the outcome and the existence of the talks, is not entirely clear.

      "Notwithstanding" the fact that the administration was pursuing exactly this diplomatic solution, it was naive to handle the crisis in a manner that allowed that solution to succeed?

      That really doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I hope Obama gives as many countries as he can as many "openings" to give up what we want without our needing to fire a shot as he possibly can before his term is over.

    • joe from Lowell 01/25/2014 at 1:07 pm

      link to

      "Moscow: US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the idea of placing Syrian chemical weapons under international control at last week's G20 summit in Saint Petersburg, MR Putin's spokesman said today."

    • "Putin’s and the Russians’ plan was presented after Obama called off the immediate attack"

      Presented publicly. As we all now realize, the diplomatic track that resulted in the Russian offer to destroy their client state's arsenal was being discussed at both the Foreign Minister and Presidential throughout the crisis, including at the G8 summit.

    • Nobody, inside or out of the administration, thinks that the Obama administration planned the outcome.

      It demonstrates a certain mindset to think that everything is part of a grand plan, as opposed to a set of actors responding and managing as events evolve.

    • joe from Lowell 01/25/2014 at 12:59 pm

      Eric Prince left the United States almost a decade ago, after being banned from doing any work for the government, and took up with the Gulf states.

      The world has changed. The Gulf states are pursuing their own course. They aren't like Soviet-era puppet states anymore.

      The Cold War mindset is decades out of date. We live in a multipolar world. Simply invoking the name Eric Prince doesn't get you where you so clearly hope to go.

    • I suspect its bait.

      I encourage anyone who feels moved to express their opinion that the rebels conducted the gas attack to use this opportunity to stand up and be counted.

    • "At the eleventh hour, President Putin offered a way out, getting President Assad to agree to destroy the Syrian governments store of chemical weapons."

      Gee, why would he do that?

      "And on August 31 in an abrupt about-face President Obama called off the attack."

      If I stop shoveling my driveway when all the snow is gone, have I performed am abrupt about-face? Why is it so baffling that the Obama administration would cease its operations after achieving success beyond their most optimistic hopes?

      "in various ways the US had been trying to “regime change” Syria for years. Why the change?"

      A couple of points here: The United States ceased trying to "regime change" Syria in January 2009, when Obama came to office, and started pursuing a peace deal with Assad. This policy only came to an end after they were compelled to react to the Arab Spring protests. After that, they began pursing "regime change" by supporting the Arab Spring protesters-turned-rebels.

      Second, the US continues that policy, even after the chemical weapons deal. The Russian/Syrian capitulation on chemical weapons didn't end American support for the FSA faction of the rebellion, any more than it ended Russian support for the Assad regime The chemical war crime, and the civil war itself, were treated as two separate issues.

  • Iran Breakthrough a Triumph For Pragmatists and a Defeat For the Warmongers (Cole @ Truthdig)
    • joe from Lowell 01/23/2014 at 10:33 am

      The question we're left with, after years of commentary comparing the likely effects of the Iranian sanctions to the history of sanctions on Cuba, is why they had such different consequences. The sanctions on Cuba have accomplished nothing; in fact, they're strengthened the position of hardliners within the Cuban government, and given the government a ready-made boogeyman on which to blame their troubles. Many were predicting that sanctions on Iran would be similarly counter-productive.

      Instead, the Iranian political system responded by bringing to power President Rouhani, one of the pro-diplomacy reformers whose success was supposed to be impossible under the sanctions regime. Why the difference?

      The best place to look for the answer is in the difference between the Cuban and Iranian political systems. Cuba is a top-down dictatorship, with all power emanating from one central political leadership. Iran is, if not exactly a democracy, at least a pluralistic system in which different factions, though circumscribed, have to compete for power, and do so in the field of electoral politics.

      When the economy is bad, the voters Throw The Bums Out when given a chance. Ahmedinejad's faction governed over a time to economic pain, and the political system gave the voters an option.

    • joe from Lowell 01/23/2014 at 10:24 am

      Iran has some unpleasant friends, but they are not a military aggressor.

      The danger posed by Iranian nuclear capability is the threat of nuclear proliferation throughout the region and beyond, not nuclear aggression by the Iranian government.

      Tehran politicians may like to play the loose cannon rhetorically when it suits them, but the government has always operated as a rational actor in world affairs, and nuclear aggression would be suicidal for them.

  • Syria Conference Roiled by Shouting Matches, Insults
    • ...right up until they work.

    • joe from Lowell 01/23/2014 at 11:21 am

      If a foreign power has achieved what it set out to do, why would it engage in negotiations, instead of just enjoying its victory? It seems that negotiations happen when foreign powers feel that they cannot achieve what they set out to do without a negotiated settlement.

      "Even if the uprising in Syria started as part of the “Arab Spring”, it is clear that right from the start both Saudi Arabia and the United States tried to use it to bring down the government of Bashar Asad to cut off the link between Iran and the Hezbollah."

      Actually, the United States was pursuing a peace initiative with the Assad regime between early 2009 and the middle of 2011, and even took domestic political hits from the Republicans for being slow to abandon it and side with the protesters/rebels.

      I can't speak to Saudi Arabia, but it's pretty obvious at this point that American and Saudi policy in the region has been going in different directions for some time.

    • joe from Lowell 01/23/2014 at 11:16 am

      Meh. Public posturing when the cameras are on. Let's see what happens behind closed doors.

  • Gates worries Pakistan Violence blocks Polio Eradication, But is CIA Partly to Blame?
    • Since the news of the "trick" reached the Taliban because of the Wikileaks documents, and would have otherwise never have set off the spate of - I can't believe I have to come up with a term for this - vaccine-provider-murders, does that mean Wikileaks bears responsibility for these deaths as well?

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