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Total number of comments: 110 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:50)


Showing comments 110 - 101

  • Extremists Kill 235 at Mosque in Egypt's Sinai
    • It seems that any Egyptian military response to events in Sinai would be limited by the terms of the peace treaty with Israel, i.e. the Israelis have to agree to any change of deployments in that region.

      If that is the case, then a possible terrorist agenda would be to commit atrocities on a sufficient scale to prompt a large military response, thereby increasing friction between Egypt and Israel.

      On the other hand, if the Israelis and Egyptian gov't have too easy a time coordinating, then the latter can be accused of toadying to the Israelis...

  • Trump to al-Sisi: Syria's al-Assad is a Brave, steadfast Man (Beirut Report)
    • Regardless of whether Trump made the statement or not, the description of Bashar as "steadfast" is true enough in itself.

      Bashar has proven to be an effective leader under very adverse circumstances. The government side in the civil war could never have stood without him. At any number of times it would have been easy for him to go into exile, or to be overthrown by his own generals. Neither of those things happened. The Syrian government side went through some crises at several points during the war. I've always been surprised by how few defections took place after the initial batch in 2011-12, even when it looked like the government side was losing.

      His critics and opponents have too often underestimated him, all the way to the time of his first ascent to power.

      I remember when Bashar took over, people were saying that he couldn't control the old hands. A few years later, they were saying that Bashar's gov't was going to fall because of the withdrawal from Lebanon.

      When the uprisings began, doesn't everybody recall that there were daily predictions of Bashar's ouster in the Western media?

      While Russian help was critical to government side gaining the upper hand in the civil war, nevertheless Bashar held on for three years before Russia intervened. It seems to me that Bashar put as much backbone into Putin, as the other way around.

      Short form: give the s.o.b. his due.

  • Monsters to Destroy: Top 7 Reasons the US could not have forestalled Syrian Civil War
    • TG could not be more mistaken about Syrian demographics under the Ba'ath.

      In 1980, the total fertility rate (ave. children born to each woman over her reproductive lifetime) in Syria was over 7.

      On the eve of the civil war, Syria's TFR stood at about 3.

      Syrian women have reduced their childbearing by more than half, within the space of a single generation, and all under the Ba'athist gov't which TG claims was fostering natality.

      Westerners need to understand that TFR's in many parts the Arab and Muslim world today (not just in Syria), have been dropping more rapidly than was in the case in many European countries, when they going through their demographic transitions.

      For instance, how many people here are aware that Iran's fertility rates, after a generation of theocracy, have dropped below replacement level (Iran's TFR is 1.75 !).

      The bigger surprise is Saudi Arabia. Fertility rates in the arch-conservative kingdom have plummeted dramatically since 1980, from over 7 to less than 3. Again, that's faster than most European countries during their demographic transitions.

      I find it fascinating that the big demographic trend is taking place indifferently across all sorts of racial, religious, and politico-economic boundaries.

  • Russian & Iranian Press deplore Hillary Clinton Hawkishness; Israelis complain she's Dove
    • Well, who needs to pay any attention to what the press says about Clinton in Russia or Iran?

      You could take just one look for yourself, at the dozens of generals and admirals who gathered together to endorse Clinton's nomination, and draw your own conclusions.

  • Russia open to "Federal" Syria, but opposition worries about Partition
    • Bashar's gov't in Syria is stronger and more legitimate than Najibullah's in Afghanistan.

      The military strength and political legitimacy of all the major participants in the Syrian War (that even goes for ISIS, really) have made the conflict so prolonged and so tragic.

      If the Syrian government had lacked legitimacy, it would have toppled as easily as the one in Tunisia. If the rebels were just a few agitators, they would have soon been crushed. But in today's Syria, all the fighting factions seem to have a basis of legitimate political support among sections of the Syrian population.

  • Arabs Caught between Trump and ISIL: Casino Capitalism driving backward Identity Politics Worldwide
    • Post-Cold War, the globalist bourgeoisie went out of control.

      Much of the reactionary populism happening around the world today is a reaction to our elites' lopsided, anti-national, anti-religious, pseudo-cosmopolitan version of globalization.

      Even where this is not the cause, it is always and aggravating factor.

  • Avenging its Christians, Egypt Bombs Libya in first formal Campaign since 1991
    • Westphalianism is looking better and better all the time. There's something to be said for a functioning government in a territorially defined state.

      R2P'ers are falling back upon the "omelette chef" type of argument. With so many eggs broken, what else can they do?

      There is no point in a UN "full court press" against ISIS. Bear in mind that a decade of "full court press" against Al-Qaeda was so successful that now we got ISIS instead.

  • Syria: Dear Bashar al-Assad: Barrel Bombs Are No Laughing Matter
    • Well, if the West provided the Syrian government forces with an ample supply of modern precision-guided munitions, there would of course be a significant reduction in collateral damage.

  • Over 100 ISIL/Daesh Fighters Killed in US Airstrikes in Iraq; Attack on Syria Base Repelled
    • ISIS has already made an important politico-military point, regardless of what happens next on the battlefield.

      The point is this: none of the Kurdish factions can stand up to ISIS without being heavily dependent on foreign forces. ISIS can wage a three-front war more easily than the once-vaunted Peshmerga can fight on one front.

      ISIS has therefore pretty much demolished the notion of a sovereign Kurdistan. If there is ever going to be an independent Kurdistan, the independence will be no more than nominal.

  • Top 5 Ways Daesh/ ISIL is Losing, as it lashes out like a Cornered Rat
    • Cornered rats. Dead enders. What is going to be the next epithet used to dismiss Iraq's astonishingly resilient guerrilla movements?

      Dr. Cole, it was only a few years ago that you considered Iraq's Sunni guerrillas already to be politically irrelevant.

      link to

      You may notice that I left a sceptical comment then, as I again do now.

      ISIS controlled little or no territory a year ago. Let's suppose that a year from now, they again control little or no territory. Would that mean that ISIS is defeated? Maybe, maybe not. Do people fight for ISIS because they want to own some land? I don't know, but I suspect not.

      Perhaps ISIS is mostly about the fightingness, and outcomes are merely token things which lie wrapped in the bloody shrouds of the future.

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  • The Last Days of Kobani Loom as ISIL Closes in on Syrian Kurds with Murder on its Mind
    • If IS armour is a problem, why not equip the Kurdish defenders with good ATGW ?

    • It should be pretty apparent by now, after more than two years of civil war, that the Syrian government can draw upon support from more than just Alawites.

      The hypothesis that Assad represents only an Alawite elite has been put to a severe test, and disproven by events.

  • The Syrian Maelstrom: How Repression, Drought & Climate Change Drove the Civil War
    • This is a disappointing and unsophisticated article.

      Not one mention is made of the how the the war in Iraq caused a massive refugee crisis which had a major economic impact upon Syria (e.g. inflation in housing and food costs, strain upon infrastructure and services).

      Not one mention is made of how Bashar's efforts to open and liberalize Syria's economy, to conform to Western prescriptions, contributed to the rural crisis.

  • 3 Years War? Obama to Bomb Syria in fight against ISIL
    • The Western-approvable rebels have already been defeated both politically and militarily in Syria. First, their revolution failed to topple the government, and then they lost on the battlefields of the civil war which ensued.

      That's why they're so weak now. The moderates who really wanted to fight are mostly dead, maimed or jailed.

      The ones who are left don't want to fight much. Instead, they want somebody else to fight and win their war for them, then ride in with the baggage. As a result, they are now either disregarded or despised by the other Syrian rebel factions.

      The "moderate" Syrian rebels never really lacked support. The Iraqi guerrilla factions who fought unaided for years against the USA would have loved to have had bases in Turkey and Jordan in which to recuperate between operations.

  • Top 5 Reasons US Aid to "Moderate" Syrian Fighters is Quixotic
    • There are enormous moral and practical differences between the FIS in Algeria and the Syrian rebels.

      In 1991-92 the FIS-led opposition in Algeria won sweeping electorial victories in elections which were held under the existing regime's own auspices. There could be no doubt whatsoever that the FIS would have been the legitimate democractically elected government of Algeria.

      The Algerian Civil War began only after the FLN regime repudiated its own constitutional and electoral process, banned the victorious opposition parties, and arrested their leaders.

      Western support for the FLN regime, under those circumstances, was completely unjustifiable. There was not even a lousy geopolitical excuse for subsidizing the FLN, since the Cold War was over and world oil prices were low at that time.

  • Is Fall of Homs a turning point in Regime's Quest to Retake Syria?
    • The no. 1 reason Bashar is still around is shrewd politics. He was able to rally the government's supporters, and those supporters stuck by him even when things were going badly.

      An example of shrewd politics can be seen in the generous terms granted to the defeated rebels at Homs. They were accorded the old-fashioned "honours of war," i.e. they left bearing their personal weapons.

      After all, if the government side is ever going to favourably conclude the civil war, at some point they will have to obtain the willing compliance of many who once bore arms against it. It was therefore wise on the part of the Syrian government not to seek the complete elimination or humiliation of the rebel troops at Homs.

      Another thing: it is interesting to wonder many leaders in the world could be engaged in a serious war for several years while exhibiting as few false heroics and as little melodrama as Bashar?

      BTW a major contrast between Algeria and Syria is that the rebels in Algeria received no significant aid from outside, while the Algerian government suffered from no sanctions of any kind.

  • Egyptian Constitution: Army Strengthened, Religious Parties Banned, Freedom of Belief, Speech Enshrined
    • The constitution matters little when a country is perenially governed under emergency laws and decrees.

      The role of the service chiefs in appointing the defense minister reminds me more of the Second Reich than of the Fifth Republic. Wilhemine Germany was undeniably secular, Kuturkampf and all, which I imagine would satisfy the kind of "secular liberals" one finds among the pro-Western Egyptian elites.

    • The constitution matters little when a country is perenially governed under emergency laws and decrees.

      The role of the service chiefs in appointing the defense minister reminds me more of the Second Reich than of the Fifth Republic. Wilhemine Germany was undeniably secular, Kuturkampf and all, which I imagine would satisfy the kind of "secular liberals" one finds among the pro-Western Egyptian elites.

  • Egypt's Counter-Revolution: 21 Women and Girls Harshly Sentenced, Liberal Bloggers to be Arrested
    • The MB's proposed law is not really comparable:

      1. That gov't was elected, the current regime is not.

      2. Unlike the current regime, the MB gov't didn't massacre hundreds of people in the streets.

      3. Unlike the current regime, the MB hadn't banned opposition political parties, seize all their assets, and hold their leaders incommunicado.

      It sure didn't take long for Egypt's new military dictatorship to betray the "secularist" protesters who helped them seize power.

  • US-Iran War Averted by Agreement to Negotiate on Nuclear Enrichment
    • "Jaw-jaw is always better than war-war." Let's hope this lasts.

      I'm never keen to credit Obama, but he has done right this time.

  • Does Syria Stalemate Benefit Baath Regime?
    • The government side does enjoy a legitimate and fairly strong basis of support in certain regions and among certain segments of the population. That support has tended to consolidate during the past year or so. You don't hear of many defections from the army or bureaucracy any more. Anybody who was going to jump, has jumped. The remainder are now more sure of one another.

      It is equally obvious that the various rebel factions also enjoys a legitimate and fairly strong basis of support in certain regions and among certain segments of the population.

      That's why the civil war has lasted this long already. Every faction involved in the fighting is politically legitimate.

      Given that all participants currently fighting have one or more foreign sponsors who are willing to provide money, arms, and other succour, we can expect the civil war to last indefinitely.

      That's why any effort to end the war requires a round table attended by all participants, whether internal or external. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, USA, Russia, Iraq, Qatar etc. etc.--everybody has got to take a seat and do a whole bunch of jaw-jaw.

      Nobody is benefiting from this in the great sense. As is always the case in war, no doubt there are some individuals here and there who have found a way to profiteer.

    • The foreign volunteers do a disproportionate share of the fighting, and are always fighting in the most important battles. Wherever you see the rebels winning, you find the foreign volunteers in prominence.

      The Iraqi, Afghan and Chechen fighters all possess valuable experience of fighting at long odds against well-equipped conventional ground and air forces--experience hard-won in many years of combat against NATO and/or Russia.

      As it were, they have been trained and perfected by those who have warred upon them, and now they share their instruction and inspiration. The foreign volunteers possess the sort of prestige and indomitable morale which bolster all friendly forces with whom they come in contact.

      Their importance belies their numbers.

  • Is the Arab World turning back to Russia? Egyptian Delegation heads for Moscow
    • Re: Egypt.

      In an effort to give a veneer of populism to his military dictatorship, Sisi is playing the anti-American card.

      After all, it's not like he can point to election results!

      I suspect that Sisi's USA-bashing will be mostly for show.

    • When Yeltsin's regime laid waste to Grozny, I don't recall many complaints coming from the West. Maybe the people in the West were too enamoured of Yeltsin's brand of "progress."

      How could any good little modern Western secular rationalist consider Putin less "progressive" than the shock therapy and carpet bombing under his predecessor? Is Pussy Riot really more important than thousands of Chechens buried in rubble, or tens of thousands of pensioners dying in the streets?

  • Saudi Arabia in Unprecedented Withdrawal from UN Security Council over Syria, Palestine
    • Saudi Arabia has become more active, even aggressive in the foreign policy domain during recent years. Just off the top of my head:

      --Direct military interventions in Yemen and Bahrain.

      --Heavy proxy involvement in the Syrian Civil War.

      --Increased arming of radical Sunni factions in Lebanon.

      --Role in recent change of gov't in Qatar.

      --Big expenditures in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya.

      Of course, they just point their finger at Iran the whole time...

  • Libyan Prime Minister Abducted, released by Armed Group
  • Day of Division in Middle East: Bloody Clashes in Egypt, Iraq
    • I'm sure they struck a mortal blow at Terrorism. No more terrorism will ever happen again. The world expresses its unending gratitude.

      And oh yes. Did they remember to dump the bodies in the ocean, per SOP?

  • Militant Secularism in the Middle East?
    • Militant secularists are what gave Egypt a new military dictatorship which has already slain over a thousand people and banned political parties which represented a large plurality of Egyptian voters.

      A fine start, full of promise. Onward militant secularists!

  • UN Report Conclusive Sarin used on wide Scale, Points to Syrian Regime
    • The radicals comprise the most effective offensive fighting force on the rebel side. Wherever the rebels gain victories, you find Al-Nusra or other hardline fundamentalist elements in the vanguard.

      The radicals usually provide the shock troops on the attack and suffer heavy losses. However, their prestige ensures that they seldom lack recruits. After all, nobody ever joins an elite fighting force for the sake of a longer life expectancy or better portfolio returns.

      If the radicals are the cream of the rebel fighting forces, then the foreign volunteers, especially the Chechens and Afghans, have been the creme de la creme. Hezbollah (itself a battle-hardened foreign force participating in the war) considers some of the Chechens to be the best enemy infantry they have yet faced (i.e. man-for-man better than the Israelis).

      The significance of the foreign volunteers for the rebel cause belies their numbers. Without Al-Nusra, without AQI, without the Chechens and the Afghans, the rebellion would probably have been suppressed by now.

      Also, foreign-recruited fundamentalist elements were critical to getting the civil war heated up. These men desired a war much more than most of the protesters in the Syrian streets. They made sure they got that war.

  • The World after the Kerry-Lavrov accord on Syria
    • I.L.

      It's not collective security, if someone is acting unilaterally.

      What good is a "world order" if all it means is that single power is free to wage whatever wars it wants?

      Putin pointed the way: international action legitimised through the UN Security Council.

      My prediction is that the USA's ruling class will be unable to accept a peer relationship with Russia, China, or India. Their 20-year experience of unchecked power, and the unprecedented wealth that accrued to the USA's ruling class during that time, will drive them to wage war instead.

      After all, it's not every day that some people find themselves with even a slender chance to rule the world. The temptation to "go for it" is almost irresistable. The concepts were outlined in the 2002 Defense Doctrine ("allow no peer competitor", "full-spectrum dominance")--concepts never since repudiated.

      So we'll eventually find out how well ballistic missile defense systems work, under realistic conditions. My prediction there is that such systems will work well if they are employed in conjunction with a first-strike counterforce nuclear strategy, i.e. the BMD only has to deal with the residual retaliation of an enemy who has already lost most of its forces.

      Therefore, for a true restoration of multipolarity, Russia and especially China need to deploy a much larger number of warheads than they do now. Otherwise they are too vulnerable to a US first strike.

      Long term, hopefully nuclear proliferation will render infeasible the establishment of any kind of hegemonies in our world. A world with thirty or forty nuclear-armed countries would permit the widest possible variety of laws and governments.

      Liberalism needs such multipolarity. A global hegemonic monoculture will destroy liberalism, even if that culture were liberal in its origin.

    • The chemical weapons were only useful to Syria in the event of a major war with a neighbouring country, i.e. Iraq when the two countries were hostile, or Israel.

      In a war against a major world power, Syria's chemical weapons wouldn't make much difference, since their arsenal is relatively small, and their delivery systems are inadequate.

      Giving up the chemical weapons is a loss to Syria, but not a severe one. Resolving the civil war is the government's top priority. Besides, the presence of a multinational inspection team will also inhibit the rebel's use of the chemical weapons they captured earlier during the civil war.

      Obama has shown flexibility. Putin has shown principle. Bashar, however, is the statesman who has really exhibited calm resolve.

  • Arguing with President Putin
    • Putin is 100% correct to insist that a consensus of major powers is necessary to justify war in cases other than self-defense.

      Different countries have different laws, different governments, and different histories.

      The whole point of having a separate country is to have one's own stupid laws. In Saudi Arabia, women can't drive. In Russia, pussies can't riot. In the USA and many other countries, the hemp plant can get you thrown in jail for years on end. In Egypt, if your political party won a landslide at the polls, the police will beat you up. In Canada, there are regions where one cannot put up a sign in English. In Singapore, you get flogged for the crime of walking while chewing gum.

      There are hundreds of reasons to intervene in the affairs of dozens of countries. If we allow some countries to unilaterally and peremptorily intervene in the internal affairs of others, we will inevitably witness a cycle of wars.

      The incoherent policy of liberal interventionism could be feasible only while the USA and its allies were the only powers capable of acting around the world. If multiple countries begin to intervene around the world on various pretexts, it will mean the rising possibility of general war--to say nothing of arms races or rampant nuclear proliferation.

      Less Bosnia, less Libya, more Switzerland.

  • Top Ten things Americans need to Know about Syria if they're going to Threaten to Bomb It
    • To elaborate on your #4, it is worth pointing out that Bashar's efforts to liberalize the economy (bowing to Western pressure), during the years immediately preceding the civil war, had the usual effect of all neo-liberal reforms: a rapid widening of the gap between rich and poor. As is usually the case in developing countries pursuing a neoliberal programme, well-connected insiders in Syria were the first to benefit from the changes.

      The economic liberalization drive in Syria under Bashar was substantial. Foreign direct investment rose dramatically. A free trade agreement was made with Turkey. A stock exchange was opened. Private banking was permitted, and restrictions on foreign exchange were relaxed. Plans were made to privatize a wide range of state-owned concerns.

      Most importantly, there was the slashing of subsidies on food and fuel. The reduction of these subsidies was the priming-charge for the explosion of unrest.

      One thing is missing from your commentary. I think one ought, in all honesty, to mention that Syria under Bashar permitted entry to about a million refugees from Iraq following the Anglo-American invasion of that country. Considering that, as you state, Syria's population and economy are not very large, it is not difficult to imagine the impact of a huge influx of refugees.

      The inflationary effect on food and housing costs caused by the refugee crisis was substantial, and when combined with the hardships of drought and a neoliberal structural adjustment, the development of a serious political crisis seems an obvious result.

  • Obama Isolated at G20 on Syria, No 'Coalition of the Willing'
    • Joe,

      The countries verbally backing Obama on Syria are all acting like cowards.

      Canada's Harper and Baird are the biggest cowards of the lot. They have point-blank refused to participate in a Syrian War, but they are paying lip service to Obama.

      Not hard to understand what such supposed allies of yours are doing. They really disapprove of joining the war, but for various reasons do not want to appear opposed to the USA.

      Let us be clear: these men are cowards. Poltroons. Sycophants. Useless! Those are Obama's friends on the Syrian issue.

      Don't delude yourself that Harper is merely waiting for US leadership on the issue. Canada is out, regardless of what the USA decides to do.

      Harper and Baird's cheerleading act has a lot more to do with US energy and environmental policies than anything else.

  • Obama goes to Congress on Syria as his International Support Collapses
    • I'm sceptical of the notion of nerve agents being mixed with irritant crowd control gases.

      Given the stakes involved, I would be inclined to believe that authorization to use lethal gases would be limited to the high command, if not cabinet-level.

      Without specific reference to any particular alleged instance of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Civil War, I would like to draw attention to the general incidence of poisoning or asphyxiation casualties during ordinary bombardments by explosive or incendiary weapons.

      Intense bombardment, and the fires which often result, can use up so much oxygen in a locality that people taking shelter in crowded, ill-ventilated places can be asphyxiated. During the many bombardments of cities during the Second World War, thousands of people died with scarcely a mark upon their bodies.

      Also, certain kinds of high explosive generate toxic gases as a byproduct of their detonation. Many of these casualties occurred during the First World War. Even before chemical weapons use began in that war, both sides accused the other of using toxic gases, when in fact soldiers had been poisoned by the by-products of high explosives.

  • Obama's Limited Options: Bombing Syria unlikely to be Effective
    • Your premise is quite illogical.

      Regardless of which faction may have employed them, chemical weapons are certainly not being used with "impunity."

      Think for just a single moment. All participants in the Syrian Civil War are suffering badly, and all sides face grave danger at the hands of the others. Every faction in the Syrian Civil War is being severely punished by the others, every day.

      The use of any particular weapon system cannot be separated from the war as a whole. And war is politics.

      If a proposed intervention by the Western Bloc does not provide a clear and direct remedy for the political issues which underpin the Syrian Civil War, the that proposal can only be wrong--politically and morally.

      On the positive side, I would suggest the following, as a superior policy for the USA and its Western Bloc allies:

      1. Ceasefire without any preconditions.

      2. Roundtable talks, to include all domestic and foreign participants in the war.

      3. General Amnesty proclaimed immediately, with the credible promise of generous and honourable treatment for all Syrians, regardless of their allegiance or of the part they may have played during the war.

  • Syria: Will Killing of Hundreds with Sarin Gas force Obama's Hand?
    • Small chemical attack makes no sense tactically. Nothing that couldn't be just as easily achieved by explosive or incendiary weapons, without incurring int'l odium.

      One possibility, though, is that a conventional air strike by the gov't forces happened to hit a small rebel cache of chemical weapons.

  • Fourth of July Comes a Day Early to Cairo after Fundamentalist President is Removed (video)
    • Today was not revolution; today was counter-revolution.

      Have "secular" and "liberal" Egyptians altogether lost their minds? Why did they even bother in 2011, since they have merely traded Mubarak for Sisi!

      Sisi is inferior to Mubarak in all respects: less intelligent, less honest and less courageous.

      Morsi won a free and fair election by a wide margin. Given the almost insuperable problems he faced in office, his popularity would have declined and in all probability he would have lost the next election. All Morsi's so-called "secular" and "liberal" opponents needed to do was to watch and wait.

      Instead, they put the lie to their own supposed "secularism," by clinging in superstitious awe to a military junta. Indeed, these "secular" people are more gullible and naive than any of the fundamentalists whom they scorn!

      They put the lie to their "liberalism," too. Where is the "rule of law" these "liberals" so often claim for themselves? What self-respecting liberal would cheer a dictator?

      But perhaps, seeing what strange authoritarian diseases have infected "secular liberalism" in the Western countries, one should not be surprised by the manifestation of like symptoms among Western-influenced people elsewhere.

  • Snowden Fall-out: European Denial of Overflight to Bolivian President Angers South America
    • It is appalling to see that decades after the end of the Cold War, that the Western countries have almost as little effective independence in their affairs, whether external or internal, as did the nations behind the Iron Curtain.

      During the Cold War, the Western countries had all sorts of open disagreements, which never prevented them from cooperating on important matter of mutual interest.

      But where is the "Free World" now? Never have I seen Western "free" countries so frightened of taking even one step out of line with the others.

      Unsurprisingly, the Western countries, with their emphasis on integration and harmonization, show many signs of the sort of malaise and torpor which characterized the bound nations of the Warsaw Pact.

  • Obama should Resist the Clintons & Europe on Syria
    • In Algeria, interventionists could at least have had fair reason to believe that they would be acting on behalf of the majority of Algerians.

      That's because Algeria did hold internationally observed open elections at the municipal and regional levels in 1991-92--in which a coalition of opposition parties won a series of landslide victories over the FLN government.

      The civil war in Algeria did not begin until after the government cancelled the elections, banned the victorious political parties, and arrested their leaders.

      But the West couldn't even impose a few garden-variety trade sanctions on the Algerian government. Instead, the world was treated to the sickening irony of the FLN hiring French counter-insurgency specialists.

  • Nice Speech on Closing Gitmo, Mr. President; but It's still Open (Schanzer)
    • I think that one reason why they can't free any of the prisoners is that there are too many among them who successfully resisted every form of torture or persuasion.

      A few of them, indeed, broke their torturers rather than the other way around.

      Those men are possessed of a great moral superiority over their American captors, such as would inspire people around the world, should they ever be freed. The American leadership, while heedless of the world's accusations of inhumanity, cannot bear to face the humiliation that would come of the world learning that a few helpless captives, using spirit and intellect alone, defeated an Empire in a decade-long struggle.

  • Is Egypt on the Verge of Civil War? Morsi backs off Emergency Decree
    • Morsi doesn't face an Algerian-style problem, because altogether unlike the hidebound 1990's FLN regime in Algeria, Morsi's government obtained solid electoral support.

      The FIS in Algeria had won overwhelming victories in municipal and regional elections before the violent crackdown by the FLN. The same cannot be said of those currently opposing Morsi in Egypt.

  • Afghanistan 2014: How the US will Lose Yet another fruitless War (Jones)
    • "Defeat" is much too strong a word.

      US losses in personnel and equipment have been small. The overwhelming majority of people killed or maimed in Afghanistan have been Afghani.

      The financial expense has also been small. People might find such a statement surprising, but it's true. The US gov't has been able to finance the entire cost of all of its 21st century warmaking at almost zero per cent interest and with a very long amortization. The US central bank has been able to rapidly and massively expand the money supply in order to accomodate the scale of borrowing involved. Contrary to economic theory, this massive credit expansion has neither created much inflation in the USA, nor has it significantly damaged the creditworthiness of the US gov't.

      In other words, the USA has been unsuccessful in its Afghan war, but the failure has come at negligable military or economic expense.

      Therefore, we should not be surprised to see a continuing series of similar ventures undertaken by the USA or other Western countries. Experimenting with warfare has seldom been so cheap, easy, or safe as it for the peoples of today's West.

  • Top Ten Ways President Obama has Expanded our Rights, in Rev. King's Footsteps
    • Obama could have gotten a public option by playing some political hardball with filibustering Senators.

      Obama could have said, "I might not have enough votes to overcome your filibuster, but you don't have enough votes to overcome my veto. Forget about passing a budget until I get my public option on healthcare. I can show you gridlock like you ain't never seen gridlock."

      Do you think Congress could have impeached Obama in 2009, when he was in the full flush of his recent victory? Blue Dogs might not have wanted a public option, but they would have wanted a failed Democrat Presidency even less.

      Obama was in a superb position to employ all the leverage of the Executive Branch on the health care issue. He chose not to use it.

      Barack Obama's failure to do his duty to those who elected him is the Number One Reason why the American people don't have a public option for their healthcare, and why their tax dollars are being used for a mandatory subsidy to huge insurance companies instead.

  • Algerian Military Retakes Gas Plant: 16 Hostages, 32 terrorists Dead
    • It is nevertheless quite fair to remark that the US is "objectively pro-Salafist" in Syria.

      1. There are many radical fundamentalists who are not Al-Nusra. Radicals are found throughout the rebel spectrum in Syria.

      2. The USA may not supply al-Nusra, but they encourage their allies in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf autocracies, and in Turkey to give all manner of support to radicals in Syria. One could accuse the US gov't of playing the role of Bart Simpson, but gone global: "I didn't do it, nobody saw me do it, you can't prove anything!"

  • Syrian Kurds Battle Extremist Fundamentalists
    • Doesn't anybody realize that the Turks are in a position to pressure their Syrian rebel dependents to do things that are more in the Turkish interest than in Syrian interest?

      Or do you think the Turkish gov't has been operating purely out of altruism, without any power-political agenda?

      Can't anybody see the carrots and the sticks? The Turkish gov't offers oil and gas deals to the Iraqi Kurds, while sponsoring Syrian rebels to attack Syrian Kurds.

      If the Syrian Kurds are forced to play the "strange bedfellow" with Assad, from the Turkish perspective that's all good:

      a) a tougher fight makes the Syrian rebels more dependent than ever on Turkish aid. Good.

      b) the eventual downfall of Assad will drag down teh Syrian Kurds with him. Better still!

      c) raging fights involving Kurds near the Turkish border, or even across in Turkey, might move Turkish public opinion to support open Turkish intervention in parts of Syria. If the Syrian gov't tries to retaliate, then NATO is forced to support Turkey. Better and better!

    • This sort of incident is at least partly a consequence of Turkish support for the rebels. The Turks want to have a free hand to resolve the Kurdish Question.

      Since the Iraqi state had now been weakened, the Kurds are no longer necessary to the Western Bloc. Therefore they have been sold to the Turks in exchange for Turkish help in weakening Syria and eventually Iran.

      If ever the West desires to weaken Turkey, the Kurds will no doubt come crawling back for whatever help they can get. There are no consequences to the West for their betrayal of the Kurds. The Kurds can be picked up, dropped, then picked up again, whenever they might prove useful.

  • 237 Dead in Syria day of Horrors, 87 killed at Aleppo U
    • The bombing at the university fits the pattern of some of the more extreme incidents during the Iraq War. Since some factions within the rebel coalition have ties with some of the Sunni Iraqi guerrillas, the adoption of their methods should surprise no one.

      The desire on the part of rebels to disrupt whatever institutions may be still functioning in the government-controlled areas of Aleppo is quite possible to understand, especially given that the rebel offensive has recently stagnated in that sector.

      Such an attack is no less "rational" than many other tactical decisions made during a war.

  • Israel's Turn to the Far Right: The Point of No Return? (Beattie)
    • 1. This is a lesson to the world in the problems of proportional representation. It is too easy for extremist or splinter parties to gain a few seats, and then hold the critical balance in the never-ending series of weak coalition governments. If Israel had a "first-past-the post" electoral system, many of these evils could have been averted, because a simple plurality system favours the formation a few "big tent" parties, in which extremists usually get marginalized.

      2. Can anyone tell me whether Israel has ever formally declared its final territorial demands? It seems to me that a number of Israeli parties' platforms (including some parties in the current governing coalition) suggest a desire for territories even beyond those of '67.

      3. While Beitenu is a crude ethnic-cleansing party, is the concept of some sort of a population exchange really unthinkable?

  • Morsi's Second Coup Provokes Mass Protest in Egypt
    • You don't need that whole laundry list to have a democracy.

      First comes sovereignty. Then come the internal politics. The economics can come later.

      Dont' write off Egypt. Notwithstanding its poverty, the country and its people are a lot more modern than most Westerners seem able to understand.

      Also bear in mind that the courts picked this fight with Morsi and his party, not the other way around.

  • Morsi Emerges as Key Power Broker in Gaza Conflict
    • Morsi moved fast to take advantage of his Gaza truce momentum.

      link to

      I remember that I was astonished how quickly and easily Morsi got rid of Tantawi. The man has a keen sense of timing and a strong "killer instinct."

      Re: Egypt's Gaza border. Israel has never relinquished control of Gaza's borders. That's the way they maintain the blockade. The Israelis do appreciate Egyptian cooperation. This cooperation comes both in officially helping to enforce the blockade and, ironically, in unofficially supervising the smuggling which makes the blockade physically bearable for Gazans (and thus more maintainable for Israel in the eyes of the world).

      Egypt is constrained in how much force it can deploy in the Sinai, by the terms of its peace treaty with Israel, which restricts its security options regarding a more open border with Gaza. During the Mubarak era

  • The Arab Reading of the Petraeus/Allen Affair: Jill Kelley is Gilberte Khawam, a Lebanese
    • But note that the biggest Maronite political party today is Aoun's FPM, which has been in coalition with Hezbollah.

  • Can Afghan Troops Hold the Line as US Withdraws, and Will US Seek to Stay in Central Asia?
    • In Iraq, you got Maliki, who is pretty smart and really brave.

      In Afghanistan, you got Karzai.

      Draw your own conclusions.

  • Syrian Regime flies 60 bombing Raids against Rebel City Quarters
    • Syrian infantry don't have the body armour and secure wireless communications enjoyed by troops from richer countries. Syrian tanks are mostly obsolescent. Even those upgraded with reactive armour are vulnerable to most RPG's.

      It is logical, then, that Syrian forces would not engage in close urban combat unless a particular objective was important enough to justify the casualties they would suffer.

      Western militaries usually employ the euphemism, "force protection," to describe such tactics.

      Perhaps NATO should donate to Assad's army a few thousand kits of Type IV body armour, in order to reduce civilian suffering?

  • Some blame Syria's al-Assad for Bombing in Christian Beirut that Kills Top Lebanese Security Official
    • Can anyone take seriously the word of Walid Jumblatt? That man is nothing but a weather-vane. His politics are understandable, given his circumstances, but his effrontery and shamelessness are remarkable even in the annals of Lebanese affairs.

      As for the murder of Hariri pere, the Syrian gov't was officially cleared by one of the heads of that UN tribunal (I forget which chief investigator it was. There have been so many, they rotate them faster than ISAF commanders in Afghanistan. Maybe it was Mehlis?)

  • Turkey Slams UN on Syria, Implies NATO should Act; Syria bans Turkish Airlines
    • I don't see how that would make much difference, since the Turkish government has already openly committed itself to one of the sides in the Syrian Civil War. The Turkish government helps to fund, arm, train, and organize guerrillas who operate against the Syrian government. Turkey's involvement in the Syrian Civil War is the principal factor behind the rising tensions on the Turkish/Syrian border.

  • Extreme Oil: Costly, Dirty and Dangerous (Klare)
    • Unconventional oil and gas is expensive, lousy stuff, and unlikely to last long.

      But it only has to last long enough to get the USA and its allies through the next war to disrupt the Middle East.

      From a Canadian perspective, if fracking gets the USA just five to ten years of quasi-affordable energy, that's enough to send the entire Canadian economy into a depression, since about a third of Canada's economy depends on exports of energy, most of which goes to the USA, and most of which now comes from unconventional, high-cost sources. Moreover, PM Harper's key political power base is the Alberta energy sector. That explains why Canada has become the loudest cheerleader for war among the Western countries.

  • Top Seven Errors President Obama has made on the Middle East
    • Interestingly, among the Western countries it is Canada that wants war with Iran most of all. Canada is worried about the recent rise in US domestic energy production, and needs a major world energy crisis, such as that caused by a Middle Eastern war, to maintain demand for Canada's high-cost tar sand output. Canada's economy has never been so dependent upon energy exports, and a peaceful Middle East in which Iraq and Iran could return to peak production would cause a severe recession in Canada.

  • Did Bashar al-Assad Betray Qaddafi?
    • It is rather far-fetched to suggest that NATO signals intelligence needed Syrian help to track a mere Iridium satellite phone.

      Also, the source lacks credibility.

      Responsibility for the disgraceful handling of a captured former head of state in Libya lies with the rebels and their foreign sponsors.

      Finally, denunciation of foreign involvement in any given country's civil war has little to do with left/right politics. Is respect for sovreignty and autonomy a left/right issue?

  • Romney Jumps the Shark: Libya, Egypt and the Butterfly Effect
    • While the Libyan civil war was raging, I don't remember Benghazi being characterized as a mere "provincial" city. Benghazi is the second-largest city in Libya, and it was the heart of the rebellion.

  • The West Will Have to Compromise on Syria (Schmidt)
    • "In Libya, Gaddafi was so isolated in his own country that the Libyans were able to defeat him militarily with a little help from the West."

      This statement is quite inaccurate.

      After some initial rebel success, the Qaddafi regime was driving back the rebels and closing in on Benghazi. Without the foreign intervention, the rebels might very well have lost the civil war, or at least have been pushed into a marginal insurgency.

      In fact, the quoted statement makes nonsense of the entire supposed logic of the intervention, which was ostensibly to prevent the possible imminent massacre of the rebels at the hands of a victorious and vengeful government.

  • In Switch, Egypt's Civilian President Makes Coup against Generals
    • This development took me quite by surprise. Morsi is forcing the pace, daring Tantawi and the rest of the high command to launch a counter-coup.

      The president's demarche seems to me premature and dangerous within the context of Egyptian internal politics. However, Morsi might have determined his timing in a broader international context, considering:

      1. A military coup could only succeed with Western--especially American--support.

      2. The Western regimes have all invested themselves in the Syrian affair. To abet an Egyptian coup while clamouring for action against Assad would be too obvious an hypocrisy even for their own tame publics to accept, let alone world opinion at large. What sort of thing could better prove Putin's argument?

      3. The USA is heavily engaged in its own internal electoral process. For either of their presidential candidates to express support for Egyptian generals during this autumn would be embarrassing.

      In other words, while Morsi's dismissal of Tantawi is probably premature within a wholly domestic context, his strategy might be superb in terms of the international power-political context. Morsi might have found a good moment to better advance the cause of Egypt's self-determination, and Hillary Clinton might just have to stand aside and smile, while her country's Egyptian clients get humiliated.

  • Free Syrian Army Controls Border Areas
  • Top Ten Implications of the Damascus Bombing
    • The incumbent Algerian regime never faced any foreign trade or financial sanctions after they started a civil war against the parties that had beat them at the polls in 1992. To the contrary, the regime actually received considerable loans and military aid, especially from the secular West, after they repressed the emergent democracy.

      So there is no point in comparing Algeria and Syria. The overall circumstances are far too different.

  • Will Houla be al-Assad's My Lai? Artillery Massacre of Children in Syria
    • The massacre is awful.

      But R2P is indeed a stalking horse for imperialism. There is no important difference between R2P and "regime change." They both mean that rich powerful countries attack poorer weaker countries (because of course the R2P'ers never have any stomach to oppose people who could shoot back at them).

      The world has seen quite enough of rich powerful nations deciding to doodle over the history books of the people who live in poorer weaker countries.

      Juan, the Libyan situation has been messier than you like to admit. There have been nasty executions and ethnic cleansings after the fall of the Qaddafi gov't, as well as a spillover effect to the Sahel. It's true that the NATO attacks targeted heavy weapons, but so what? NATO's allies on the ground spilled plenty of innocent blood, and their victory, as we all know, was unlikely without foreign air support. Maybe the NATO apologists are comfortable to retain some plausible deniability, but their ongoing self-congratulation is a bit thick, especially as they appear keen to keep trying their luck elsewhere.

      Hands off Syria.

  • Congress Wants the Department of Defense to Propagandize Americans
    • Relax, everyone. Obama will veto!

      Even if he doesn't, then you should still relax. After all, how can your Bodhisattva President advance the cause of gay marriage if he doesn't help Congress contribute towards two or three more wars? Don't you liberals/"retards" understand what sacrifices must be made by Serious People in the real world?

      Tactics, comrades, tactics!

  • Rubio Calls for War on Iran, Syria-- as Israeli Army Rejects Strike
    • I don't think Israel would directly take on Iran. Instead, they would prefer the USA to attack Iran, while the Israelis would attack Lebanon and avenge their 2006 repulse.

      Therefore, when Israeli brass demur from attacking Iran, that doesn't mean they don't want a war with Iran to happen. It just means that they're too lazy or too timid to fight it themselves.

      But really, why should Iranians ever be in a situation in which they have to worry about whom Americans elect? Better by far if the Iranians could simply rest assured in the potency of their retaliatory forces.

      Nuclear proliferation is the only way to make the warmongers shut up. In a well-proliferated future, the world could regard the antics of an American coronation with bland detachment, as they should.

  • Egypt's Saturday Night Massacre and the Presidential Race
    • The barring of El-Shater was a total farce.

      He was disqualified on account of a prior criminal conviction--he was a political prisoner under the Mubarak regime.

      The courts should step back and let the voters elect their president. Nothing else will do.

  • Syrian Civil War Kills 160, Spills over onto Lebanon, Turkey; Will US Intervene?
    • Erdogan got along fine with Bashar until recently.

      I suspect that the quid pro quo for the Turks, in taking their new harder line vs. Syria, is that the USA will shop the Kurds. With the Iraq War wound down and the Iraqi state weakened for a long time to come, the Kurds are no longer important to the USA.

  • Polish PM Reveals that US Tortured at Black Sites in his Country
    • The real underlying problem is that Poland depends too much upon an outside power for its own defense. Poland's weakness meant that it was easily pressured to participate in aggression and against Iraq, and in other serious war crimes, by its major power protector.

      This was also true of the Baltic members of the so-called "Coalition of the Willing." Weak countries can be herded into wars of aggression at the bidding of the power upon whom they depend. The protector, for its part, has little interest in promoting the real defense capability of its satellite.

      The Poles have often been naive, now as in the past, about the sincerity of Western countries in their defense. But whether it's been Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill, or George W. Bush, no Western leader has ever done anything except use the Poles, then sell them down the river, and usually at a discount.

      You'd think the Poles would have learned a thing or two by now, from their own history.

      Poland is good example of how nuclear proliferation could be a good thing. Poland cannot defend itself in conventional military terms. But if Poland possessed even a modest intermediate range nuclear counter-value capability, the Poles could be quite well defended--indeed they could become the very Bulwark of Europe, at an affordable economic cost, and without soiling themselves in the schemes of foreign powers.

      A nuclear-armed Poland could have impolitely told George W. Bush exactly what to do with himself--and could then turn around and tell Putin the same.

      Instead, the Poles have become aggressors, they have become torturers, and they are still kept dangling today by Obama for some miserable tidbit of a missile shield. This is all because they won't take their country's defense into their own hands, using affordable, reliable, technology that could negate their historic conventional military disadvantages.

  • Top 5 Dangers that the Syria Conflict could Destabilize its Neighbors
    • Well, it seems like Hillary's little Coalition of the Friendly are pretty willing to see the consequences of the Syrian civil war extend as widely as possible.

      What else but a mess could result from their intended low-level flow of inadequate arms, supplies and "communication equipment"?

      They want the mess. They are planning a mess. They will make a mess. Just another entry in the ongoing Black Budget Jobs Stimulus Plan.

    • There is no such thing as a civil war that is improved by foreign intervention. Even if the civil war affects other countries, foreign intervention won't stop those effects--outside intervention will instead compound those outside effects.

      Compared to other recent wars in the Middle East, and especially when compared to the refugee impact on Syria from the Iraq War, the refugee problem from Syria's civil war has actually been pretty mild. It's easily within the economic, social, and political capacity of Turkey to withstand.

      Also, there is indeed a causal relationship of the Libyan Civil War and the resumption of the Saharan uprisings.

      Qaddafi had helped to broker a ceasefire in the previous Touareg uprising--perhaps the only decent thing to come out of all his meddling in Sahelian affairs. Touareg exiles and refugees were living in Libya.

      The Touaregs got kicked out of Libya by the victorious rebels. This was just one of several instances of ethnic cleansing that has marred the post-Qaddafi Libya.

      The chain of events is pretty clear.

      The further events are not hard to predict. With the usual consistency of Western analysis the Touaregs, having been condemned for supporting the defeated side in the Libyan Civil War, are already now also condemned for being in league with Al-Qaeda!

      Expect the USA's "Africom" to show up in Mali with more drones and "special" forces soon. Tom Engelhardt can then add a few more overseas US bases to his next list.

  • Why don't we have better Reporting on the Afghanistan Army? It is our Best Hope for Getting Out
    • If the Taliban aren't afraid to fight NATO, they sure won't be scared to fight the ANA after NATO's taken a powder.

      If the ANA wanted to fight and beat the Taliban, then what's been stopping them during the past five years or so? What is going to make them better at fighting the Taliban after NATO departs, then they are now when they have NATO support?

      Do the Taliban need tanks or helicopters to fight the ANA? Then why would more tanks or helicopters be necessary for the ANA to fight the Taliban?

      This is not an equipment issue. This is a morale issue. It's a question of will-to-battle. The Taliban got it. The ANA don't. And that is that.

  • Save Homs with Humanitarian Airdrops by Drones
  • US Interventions in the World since WW II
    • Another couple to add.

      I believe special forces and drones have been operating in the Malian and Nigerien parts of the Sahara, since the mid-2000's.

      No Cold War necessary, I'm afraid. If anything, the US is getting more active, interventionist, and aggressive now that they are no longer offset by other Great Powers.

  • Defections, US Withdrawal Point to Political Solution in Libya
    • A few logic problems here:

      1. "NATO says it is against fomenting a civil war."

      Too late about the civil war. It's been going on now for weeks, in case you haven't noticed! The Western Bloc is already intervening in that war.

      2. It's amazing how much more accurate NATO bombing gets when the writer approves of it!

      3. Kosovo as an example: UN intervention creates a mafia-run, ethnic-cleansing, slave-trading, organ smuggling narco-state.

      4. But the closer example, especially if the Western Bloc succeeds in pressuring some Arab countries to send significant forces, would be the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. Regional troops in action, punctuated by the occasional US air strike.

      5. Cole ignores the human angle of Qaddafi's side of the civil war. Despite the risings, despite the civil war, despite the intervention of the Western Bloc and its pet ICC, despite every threat or inducement to defect, Qaddafi & fils can still retain formidable contingents to fight for him. You would have to be wilfully blind not to see a lengthy conflict resulting from this.

  • How the No Fly Zone Can Succeed
    • Canada would definitely not be involved without the USA.

      I doubt that the other Western Bloc countries would engage in a war without open US support.

      I know that the Obama gov't in the US wants to showcase the Euros as being in some sort of lead, contra Bush, but there is no reason for anyone else to accept that sort of propaganda, clever as it is.

  • The UN to the Rescue in Libya: Is it too Late?
    • This is a completely different situation from Iraq's invasion of a separate sovereign Kuwait.

      This is another instance of foreign powers meddling in a civil war, moreover a civil with few security implications for the rest of the world.

      All of the worst massacres in Yugoslavia happened where UN troops prevented the Bosnians from fighting, and offered a false sense of security to civilians.

      If foreign powers had simply provided the Bosnians with better anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, the Bosnians could have fought the Serbs and Croats to a standstill.

      Instead, hapless Libya will get hit with American airstrikes, prowled by drones, and eventually infested with blue helmets. It seems that Western leaders now look at Bosnia or Iraq as models. Incredible.

      Two things for sure: NGO's will have plenty of business and funding opportunities, while the mercenaeries usually hired to guard them will obtain a lot of fat contracts.

      How long now, before the other usual corporate suspects are placing bids to guard and maintain or rebuild Libyan oil facilities?

      Meanwhile, Qaddafi is vindicated. This civil war will be one about foreign interference, exactly as he claimed. He lies will effectively have become the truth. Strategy is simple:

      1. Continue to aggressively attack the rebels. If the UN fails to intervene on the ground, Qaddafi still wins the civil war.

      2. If the UN intervenes, cache weapons and lie low. If the blue helmets stick around too long, then launch a patriotic insurgency to rid Libya of the foreign occupiers.

      All that the Libyan rebels needed was a few thousand anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. Instead, they get foreign intervention and a regional conflict which could last for years.

  • Qaddafi threatens to Join al-Qaeda as his Forces advance on Rebel Strongholds
    • Steve, I think you forget that the armed rebellion didn't break out until AFTER the government used open military force against the protestors.

      The people did not take up arms against the government, but the other way around. Like in the English revolution, it was the ruler, not the rebels, who started the civil war.

    • 1. Does Libya have conscription? If so, wouldn't there be many men in the country with a modicum of military training and discipline?

      2. Even a distant observer can tell that there has at least so far been little AQ influence among the Libyan rebels. Just look at the tactics. When AQ is involved, there are almost always some suicidal fighters in action. But I've yet to hear of any such among the Libyan rebels. Goodness knows that the rebels are in desperate need of some shock troops who would be willing to press home the attack at any cost.

      3. It took Qaddafi a couple of weeks to mobilize the army, confirm which units and commanders were loyal, and consolidate control of his capital. Having secured their base, they proceeded to the offensive. Qaddafi's rhetoric may be wild, but his actions have been methodical.

      4. I regret to say that Qaddafi's sons are proving their mettle. These men seem to be competent, they don't need daddy looking over their shoulder, and they can keep their head in a crisis. Nor are they frivolous creatures like Gamal Mubarak or Saad Hariri.

      Relationships between Qaddafi's sons and the officer corps of the army might be forged in this civil war that will prove valuable to them in the future, after the old man has passed. Therefore, there would be little achieved in assassinating Qaddafi pere.

  • Rebels Hold out in Zawiya, Eastern Ra's Lanuf as Libyan Civil War Unfolds
  • Qaddafi's Scorched Earth Policy, at Home and Abroad
    • Looks like Qadafi's forces at Zawiya are being careful, trying to avoid incurring losses. Libya's 1970's-vintage armoured vehicles are vulnerable to RPG's, as the Russians learned to their cost using similar tanks in urban fighting at Grozny.

      The Libyans themselves had a bad experience with their armour in the "Toyota War" in northern Chad, although their Chadian enemies used heavier, guided, anti-tank missiles mounted on vehicles.

      If they're smart, they're probably also trying to avoid an all-out pitched battle for the city. Instead, it seems that they want to gradually disrupt and disperse the rebel forces, exploiting their lack of formal organization and communication systems. Intimidation and persistence, not wanton destruction, would be their best tactics.

      The 3News site also mentioned that talks of some sort might be underway in Zawiya.

      Much more useful than a "no-fly zone" would be the provision of shoulder-launched anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels. Such weapons need not be state-of-the-art, since Qadafi's armoured and air forces are all obsolescent anyhow. Since older types of RPG's and light SAM's pose no great danger to modern Western tanks and aircraft, there is little risk of harm, even if the donated weapons later fell into the wrong hands. A few hundred million dollars' worth of shoulder-launched rockets could tip the balance in the war.

  • The Battle of Brega: Qaddafi Compared to Netanyahu in Arab Press
    • Since the Libyan air force is weak, where is the justification for a so-called "no-fly zone" ?

      I would say that the present situation is actually better, in terms of getting rid of Qadafi's supporters. The fact that they have a fighting chance encourages them to risk open battle, where they are easier to defeat. An evenly-matched, hard-fought civil war has a better chance of proving decisive and leading to a clear political conclusion.

      A Western intervention would only succeed in driving the pro-Qadafi forces underground. It is not very difficult to imagine what their strategy might be.

      They would cache arms, organize a cell network, and then await events. Either the foreigners eventually leave, or they hang around. If they leave, then the civil war can be resumed at leisure, albeit with a narrower margin of relative advantage over their opponents.

      If the foreigners stay (and knowing Western interventionists, that's what they tend to do), then after a few months, an insurgency can be mounted, vindicated by patriotism.

      Every time the stupid foreigners kill Libyans, it would be a moral victory for Qadafi and his cohorts. Every Libyan who openly collaborates with the foreigners will end up tainted by them. It is only necessary to goad the foreigners into excess, which is not terribly difficult to do.

      Schisms would open among Qadafi's enemies because of the issues caused by the stupid foreign interventionists. It is likely that volunteers would arrive from elsewhere in the Maghreb and around the Arab world.

      Western interventionism would probably accomplish nothing but a long-simmering, indecisive civil and regional conflict. The NGO types would be thrilled; more contracts for them, more "studies" to make, etc.

  • Kusha: Iran vs. Egypt: Qualitative Differences in Capabilities
    • The author misunderstands Iran's strategic position. Iran is weak. Its military, especially the air force, is underdeveloped even relative to some of its regional neighbours, let alone to outside great powers. The country's economy is heavily dependent on commodity exports. The demographic profile is rapidly aging, such that in 30 years Iran will be quite a "grey" country.

      Ironically, it is this strategic weakness and lack of security that makes it easier for the regime to keep power. Its claims of being under foreign threat are quite valid claims. After all, scarcely a few weeks go by without some Israeli or US official publicly discussing an attack on Iran.

      Iran's strategic weakness has made it easier for Iran to gain and keep the trust of its regional Arab allies. The respective allies know that Iran needs friends as much as they do. Their collective weakness and pressing mutual need helps keep them together.

      Iran's international beleauguerment helps to justify and vindicate the regime. They can play the nationalist card, and accuse their opponents of being either traitors or stooges.

      e.g. The great powers' refusal to acknowledge Iran's legitimate right to enrich nuclear material, a right possessed by all signatories to the NPT, has a decidely negative impact on the possibility of internal political reform.

  • The World Oil Politics of the Libyan Revolt
    • I agree with Ron. These Arab peoples are doing all right. They needed nobody's prompting to start their revolutions, and they no patronage now from all the blue-helmet types out there.

      Arabs need beg nobody's pardon, nor do they owe anyone thanks. Today others around the world should study and follow the world's real leaders, the genuine examples of great character and moral strength, who can be found in the streets of Tunis, Cairo, Benghazi, or Manama.

      NATO would be all wrong to engage itself in Libya's revolution. Libya, its oil, and its history, all belong to Libyans--not to Libya's customers.

      Qadafi's last possible shred of legitimacy would be a fight against a foreign intervention. It would vindicate much of his propaganda.

      The Libyan rebels now have heavy weapons of their own, and they can win, as long as they keep on fighting.

  • Alimagham: What Egypt & Tunisia Tell us About Iran
    • Don't forget that a foreign invasion helped the mullahs consolidate their regime in Iran. The same process by which foreign intervention makes a revolution more radical was also seen in France and Russia.

      The mob that stormed the Bastille was not Jacobin. The women who began the rising in Petrograd were not Bolsheviks. A lot of the people who helped overthrow the Shah were not Islamists.

      But all it takes is some bunch of imbecile foreigners to try to intervene in a revolution, and then all bets are off!

  • The Great Arab Revolt: Cole in the Nation
    • Of course, the neoliberal privatization and deregulation measures in the developed Western countries, have been scarcely less characterized by cronyism and corruption.

      It's the nature of neoliberlism to be cronyist and corrupt.

  • Wael Ghonim vs. Barack Obama: Change we Can Believe in, Yes we Can
    • "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

      --Rahm Emmanuel.

      An epitaph/punchline for the whole Obama administration.

  • Mubarak Defies a Humiliated America, Emulating Netanyahu
    • As for alternatives for the USA, the best of them would be to do nothing but call for free and open elections ASAP, and announce that the USA desires to maintain friendly relations with any future government of Egypt.

      There's no need to cut ties with the Egyptian military, orslash subsidies, etc. If necessary, renegotiate with the next government.

      Egyptians' government is not something for Americans, or anyone else, to be "managing" one way or another. The Egyptians are NOT for there for other people to "manage." Looking at what they have done on their own prompting and on their own resources, Egyptians are quite capable of managing themselves.

      As for Israel, again less is more. Why provoke that ghastly coalition of religious parties and right-wingers who govern that country? (take a glance at the current composition of the Israeli Knesset, in case you don't know what I mean).

      Again, the Israelis can vote for who they want. Their government is not for Americans to "manage."

      Simply freeze the amount of Israel's subsidies. Let inflation do the job of reducing the real value of the subsidy over the coming years.

      This story isn't about the current US president. Obama's whole career could not "solve" the worst remaining legacy of the Great War. Each fresh round of foreign interference has merely tended to compound that legacy.

  • Saad's Revolution: Cole at Truthdig
  • Egypt's Class Conflict
    • Re: population & price inflation

      Some Western countries' demographic transition, especially that in France, also predated modern medicine (i.e. vaccines, antibiotics, chlorinated water supplies, etc.).

      Egypt seems to be roughly following the French style of demographic transition: mortality rates drop while birth rates remain high, then a gradual tapering of fertility rates.

      I think Egypt's fertility rate has dropped by at least half since the 1970's. But the number of women of reproductive age is large so the population is still growing fairly rapidly despite the big drop in the number of babies per woman.


      One of the overlooked consequences of the very loose, very stimulative monetary policies in the developed world during the past decade has been mounting inflationary pressure in the developing world. Stimulus which was intended to boost economic output in the originating countries has instead overheated developing economies, causing serious price inflation in food, energy and housing.

  • Zewail's 4 point Plan for Egypt
    • Add to the other four:

      #5: No more Nobel laureates living abroad are to give political lectures to the Egyptian people, by whose efforts alone will freedom be won in their country. The Egyptian people are now the professors, and all who value freedom are their pupils.

  • Another US Quagmire? Lebanon Government Falls
    • The Tribunal is a sad joke. It's already on its third chief prosecutor. Hariri Jr. has already publicly cleared Syria of any involvement in his father's assassination--contradicting all of his earlier claims.

  • 24 Dead in Tunisia Clashes; US Ambassador Called In
    • Just a few years ago some fools were praising Tunisia's brand of secularism and economic liberalization. Don't hear any of those people now, but of course they were always hypocrites to begin with.

      Everything one needed to know about the Western world and democracy was learned in 1992, when every single Western government approved the suppression of the internationally observed elections in Algeria.

  • Seven Billion Human Beings: National Geographic
    • The world population story should really be regarded as good news.

      It looks like world population should top out at around 9 billion, which is actually the LOW estimate from 25 years ago (at that time 12 billion was seen as the most likely peak).

      Fertility rates worldwide have been declining faster than anyone ever dared assume back in the 1970's or 80's.

      The real problem coming up is the impending greydom of some large developing countries. Many of them are going grow old faster than they grow rich, e.g. Mexico, Iran, China.

      To date, most of our experience with demographic transition has come from highly developed countries.

      See an article in Foreign Affairs from 2004, "The Global Baby Bust." I disagree with Longman's pro-natalist conclusions, but nevertheless many of his observations are valid.

      link to

  • Al-Khoei: Why We Shouldn't Be Celebrating Iraq's New Government: Power-Sharing Means Nothing without Reconciliation
    • One disagreement:

      Sadrists have already participated in coalition gov'ts in post-invasion Iraq.

      In the current coalition, it looks like Maliki was able to avoid giving key ministries to Sadr's party.

      I think the real story in this coalition is Maliki. Not only did he beat out Allawi, but he's gotten the Sadrists' support without apparently making any major concessions to them.

      And most importantly of all, Maliki has kept two of the most important ministries, Defense and Interior, under his own personal control, for an indefinite period.

      I'm not sure Maliki is a puppet--time will tell. The Americans aren't very keen on him. I'm not sure he would be the Iranians' first choice, either.

  • Iraq has a Government: Can we Please Come Home Now?
    • Well, somebody should have told him that NE Asia, Europe, the Persian Gulf, and many other parts of the world are already dominated by a single power: the USA.

      There's no limit to imperial logic, once the assumption of one's hegemony is made. The passage above quoted could be used to justify preventive war against any country that was capable of defending its sovereignty and interests.

      Unfortunately, while multipolarity exists in economic terms, it does not yet properly exist in power-political terms. What the world needs is a coalition of other powers to check and break up the current US hegemony.

    • Maliki's got the ministries of Defense and Interior in his own hands (supposedly in an "acting" capacity), so he in fact retains close personal control of both the army and the secret police.

      What more could an Iraqi PM want?

      That should make Mubarak happy, at any rate, although no doubt he would prefer a Sunni dictator in Baghdad. Interesting that so far Maliki is in at least one sense imitating Mubarak, in trying to avoid the creation of a personality cult.

      I suppose Sadr's going to wait and see if the USA is serious about pulling its garrisons out of Iraq at the end of 2011. Sadr has usually tried to avoid fighting if there is a chance to free Iraq from occupation through other means.

  • Iraq's al-Maliki Rebuffed on Incomplete Cabinet
    • According to latest from Al-Jazeera,

      link to

      Maliki's got his interim cabinet approved.

      I think I see a nice power-grab by Maliki. His "temporary" possession of key posts Defense and Interior could last awhile, given how long it took to decide on a cabinet in the first place. Maliki can play a waiting game for some time.

      Nevertheless, it also seems to me that the series of terror attacks by Sunni militants has pressured Maliki--a little "tap on the shoulder"--into giving Allawi & Co. more of a share than Maliki originally intended.

  • Karzai Wishes he had Joined Taliban
  • Why our Afghanistan War Dead don't Seem to be News
    • One major factor should be added: the war doesn't cost enough, the enemy isn't dangerous enough to merit much notice.

      When NATO strategy fails in Afghanistan, the negativities are all still "externalized," to use an economic term. When NATO blunders, it is mostly Afghans who die. When negativities are external, it's hard to get rational and responsible decision making from the actor concerned.

      NATO casualties have been quite low, for a war that has gone on for a decade. The financial cost is a very small share of GDP.

      Put it this way: Ben Bernanke creates more new money in a few weeks, than the Afghan War costs in a year. As long as the Chinese and the Saudis continue to accept USD, why reduce the amount spent on war? Meanwhile, Congress passes more tax cuts!

      As long as the dying soldiers are recruited mostly from an uncomplaining underclass, then who cares about the losses, which are light in any case?

      Even that underclass gets the consolation that they are working as part of a greater and more glorious Empire. That's more consolation than they'll ever get from their own domestic economy. Hence the overclass will again and again be able to get the loyalty and devotion of the underclass.

      If the Taliban, like the NVA, could kill or wound tens of thousands of Western troops, then you might see the war brought into question.

      But let's face it: from a Western perspective, occupying and pulverizing Afghanistan is easily affordable, in both human and financial terms.

      Only a strong moral opposition, that ranks Afghan lives and the Afghan future as important as our own, could stop the war. Not likely! Isn't that why a Balance of Power has always been so important for freedom in history?

      My own country, Canada, has the same lack of attention and debate about the Afghan War.

      In Canada, too, there is bipartisan agreement about waging the war. For example, even though PM Harper only has a minority government, a three-year extension of the Canadian expeditionary force sailed through Parliament without a murmur.

      There was a Wikileaks cable from Berlin that suggests that all the so-called "training missions" in Afghanistan are nothing but a sham used to gain public acquiescence in NATO countries to an extension of the war.

      link to

      In the cable, even the US official uses scare-quotes around the "training battalions" !

  • 17 Bombings of Shiite Districts Kill 113; Fears of Sectarian Reprisals
    • Of course the occupiers were trying to divide-and-rule. That's Imperialism 101.

      The only surprising thing in the Iraq War is that it took the Americans over two years to get a civil war going between Iraqi factions. That's more time than it took the Germans and Italians to get the Greeks into a civil war.

      BTW the Iraqi Sunni resistance groups were not finished. They made a deal with the Americans in 2007 to stop fighting, and retained most of their arms.

  • Ted Nugent vs. Jon Stewart: Fumigating the Democrat Rats vs. Can't we all Get Along?
    • Why on earth is Jon Stewart calling for sweet reason at a time like this?

      The top 1% isn't listening to reason. Why should they? They got what they want. They like it this way. Unless someone makes them stop, they'll just keep on going.

      You could make a logically foolproof, superbly researched, cogently argued case for a more equitable wealth distribution, as maximizing long-term utility for everyone. But so what? Mr. or Ms. 1% would pretend to listen, nod a bit, and then reply, "Fine. Whatever. See ya."

      Sweet Reason only works when the interlocutors have some level of mutual respect. The top 1% currently has no respect whatsoever for the bottom 80%.

      According to the ethical values of the top 1%, success is what makes you respectable. If you're not successful, you're just a loser, and simply not worth taking seriously.

      If you're not taken seriously, how can you employ Sweet Reason when discussing affairs with the top 1%? Answer: you can't.

      It's a great pity, but that's the situation in the USA, and to only a slightly lesser degree, the entire Western world. Welcome back to most of history. It's happening to you, in your time, in your land. It's for real.

      The top 1% needs to get rationalized A strong and rapid correction is needed in your political marketplace.

  • The Rumors of Multiculturalism's death Are Exaggerated (Against Merkel)
    • Post-WWII Europeans put themselves in a bind. They didn't have many children, but they still wanted to keep labour costs down. So they imported large quantities of non-European labour.

      Labour might be treated as a commodity. But labour comes from people. People are not commodities. People come with languages, religions and cultures.

      When you import large numbers of people to live and work among you, you are modifying your culture, whether you are aware of it or not, whether you want it or not, and whether you like it or not.

      But Europeans never really had an above-board public discussion about the demographic and cultural ramifications of the mass importation of non-European labour. Focusing too much on the cost of the labour commodity, they forgot to consider whether or not a more ethnically homogeneous state was valuable to them.

      In Canada, ethnic homogeneity is not considered to be very valuable. But I can understand why in some of the long-established states in Europe, that it may be valued differently.

      The problem is that Europeans, belatedly coming to understand that they did not want to permanently and rapidly modify the ethnic and cultural composition of their countries, react with plain stupidity, ignorance, and bigotry against the people whose labur they have imported.

      The migrants have nothing to deserve this reaction. They have wronged no one. They did not invade, they were invited. It is perfectly normal for first-generation migrants to not assimilate. It is perfectly normal for migrants to form enclaves in their new country. These are routine features of peaceful mass migration. These migrants are doing nothing wrong.

      The whole notion of "guest" status for those who live and work for many years in one's midst is completely wrongheaded. True citizenship is more than anything else about working and participating in the community. The migrants are in this true sense citizens. Imposing any other subordinate status is absurd and immoral.

      If you don't want new citizens, and cannot accept that new citizens change a country, then don't import labour.

      Since it's now too late, Europeans will have to accept the reality which their leaders have created for them. If there is anger, let it be directed at those who orchestrated major demographic changes simply to avoid a rise in labour costs.

      There are other choices. Japan has chosen, whether deliberately or simply through inertia, to cope with an aging population while only accepting limited numbers of migrants. Whether they will continue this way is unclear.

      But the spectacle of childless early-retiring Euros sneering at those migrants whose work helps to make their retirement possible, is more than any intelligent person can stomach.

      Pabelmont made a good point. Unless population rises without end, many countries will have to learn to cope with an aging population as a transition to a more columnar population "pyramid." There will be a period of several decades with an unavoidably high dependency ratio. That transition is painful and inefficient. It cannot be helped. Bite the bullet.

  • Redd: What About Jerusalem?
    • The world doesn't need weaker sovereignties.

      North Korea and Iran are examples of countries whose sovereignty is under threat.

      The Iraq and Afghan wars are what happen when a country's sovereignty is extinguished.

      Palestine needs strong sovereignty. Lebanon needs strong sovereignty. They need governments with adequate force to resist and deter attack and encroachment.

      Sovereingty is not obsolete. Rather, some very rich and powerful Western countries want the poorer and weaker countries to submit to an integration under the dominance of those rich and powerful countries.

      Even rich countries like mine, Canada, need stronger sovereignty. Unfortunately the Quislings among our investor class have sold out their fellow citizens in order to get a little piece of the global capitalist adventure.

  • Hellegers: American Income Inequality is the Cause of our Crisis
    • Dr. Cole gets right to the political heart of the matter: inequality kills republics. Unfortunately, what usually results afterwards is a principate.

      @Curt Freed,

      The USA, and most of the developed world, needs redistribution rather than mere stimulus. What's the point of massive fiscal stimulus, when the tax structure heavily favours the rich, and therefore the debt incurred falls upon those least able to repay it? What's the point of loose monetary policy, for instance, if it just leads to an explosion of housing costs?

      Without aggressive redistribution, "stimulus" is pointless in the current situation. The Western economies have had all kinds of stimulus thrown at them in the past decade: the lowest interest rates seen in a lifetime, government deficits every year, tax reductions. This has happened not only in the USA, but almost throughout the developed world. From France to Japan, we all followed more or less the same recipe, merely seasoned to local tastes.

      But almost everywhere, there is a crisis. In the USA, social security is about to get the chop. In Canada, healthcare is being rampantly privatized. In Europe, pensions are getting retrenched. The post-WWII welfare states, briefly put, are getting slaughtered. Why? Maldistribution!

      Right now some of the Democrats in the USA are urging "stimulus," because they're too timid to face the fact that what is really needed is a big social shift in the ownership and control of capital.

      The other way the debt-financed stimulus proposals are disingenuous is that they wish to eventually inflate away the value of the US debt held by foreigners--in effect to make the already ill-paid Chinese worker bear the brunt of stimulating the US economy (the Chinese of course have their own distribution and control problems).

  • Dems Reluctant to Allow Taxes on Rich to Rise
    • While I agree with you here, Dr. Cole, nevertheless that chart is quite misleading.

      1. The economic downturn, TARP, and "recovery measures" are really all of one piece. To make them separate is propagandistic (i.e. to make the Bush cuts the widest band on the chart), while to imagine the deficit "without these factors" is absurd even as an exercise.

      2. The chart doesn't show any band for the large additional stimulus package that the Krugmanites have been advocating. So what, then, does the chart contribute to current policy debates?

      3. More years from the recent past should have shown, rather than pointlessly speculating about 2016-2019. It would have been very telling if it had shown developments since the last time there was a balanced US federal budget.

  • 59 Dead, 120 Wounded in Iraqi Suicide Bombing;
    Iraqi Parties reject US Power Sharing Proposal
    • Now Cole revives the Cheneyite notion of Ba'athist "dead-enders."

      Maybe they are, maybe they aren't.

      Guerrillas are always irrelevant, until they're not. If you're a guerrilla, all you can do is keep on killing your enemies, and let others worry about the relevance.

      For guerrillas, it's about the fightingness. Even if a war is lost, battles can still be won. A war does not necessarily end, even when its outcome has been determined.

  • An Israeli Attack on Iran would reduce Barack Obama to a One-Term President
    • The notion of an Iran as some sort of "dominant regional power" is quite absurd, even if they did succeed in building a small nuclear arsenal.

      For one thing, Saudi Arabia alone has ample money and manpower to offset Iranian strength, even without the benefit of direct US help. And if KSA built its own small nukeforce, that would certainly put paid to any Iranian pretensions to regional dominance.

      Israel has its own nuclear deterrent and can look after itself without any problems. Israel's safety is actually not very relevant to the Iran issue, despite their over-protesting. What Iranian nukes would mean, of course, is that Israel wouldn't be able to romp around very much, esp. in places like Lebanon, because they would no longer enjoy clear-cut escalation dominance.

      So there is plenty of strength to curb Iran even by other countries there, without any need for outside help.

      As for the USA, it's in the happy position that it doesn't need an empire to remain very rich and powerful--in this regard the USA is rather unlike many empires of the past.

    • If Israel could attack Iran solo, they would have already done so.

      The Israelis have never been hesitant to take the offensive, all by themselves, whenever and wherever they may see fit. The Israelis usually keep quiet about their intentions, and then attack without any warning, like they did a short time ago in Syria.

      So these recent years of nonstop whingeing about Iran are rather uncharacteristic of Israel.

      It suggests to me that there might be significant military difficulties about an attack on Iran that makes a solo offensive too costly or too dangerous for Israel.

      For one thing, the Israelis might lack the sort of detailed intelligence necessary to make an effective attack quickly with limited means. e.g. In the Osirak raid, the Israelis had prior access to the site plans, and spies in situ to assist targeting and confirm success.

      But without good intelligence in Iran, aerial attack cannot be so efficient. Instead, a long series of bombardments using a much larger air force would be necessary--a slow and highly destructive strategy, with considerable slaughter.

      In the world today, only the Americans can make war like that. Only Americans can print enough dollars to fund a war like that. Only Americans can easily escape punishment for making war like that.

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