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Monday, September 03, 2007

Blogging On: Looking Back and Seeing the Future

End of An Era

I write this post recollecting on the year I've spent blogging here. The writing has been a challenge. Like physical exertion, the task of returning to write can require considerable arm-twisting of oneself. Yet like a good workout, the effort made in the task once completed is quickly forgotten, replaced with basking in a sense of completion. The sweat, feared by so many, dries quite quickly while the exertion can impart benefits for quite a while, lasting far beyond memory of the sacrifice made.

Periodically, looking back at the culmination of writing gives me perspective on the passage of time. Last August was an apogee of sorts in the geopolitical climate, a point when the control of international events began to slide out of US control. The US had been hyper-power; American unity was unravelling as Iraq worsened. Israel launched a war with Lebanon. Rather than show the effectiveness of military superiority, it showed the folly of throwing 40-something reservists against hardened Hizbollah positions in South Lebanon.

Not to be outdone, Israel in the end dropped more than a million cluster bombs, a noxious weapon that kills and maims indiscriminately, as something like 40% of these rounds fail to detonate and lie waiting to be picked up by children or come into contact with olive pickers or farmers' plows. Like so much of the carnage in the Middle East, the cluster bombs came from America, and were meant to give our close ally Israel an edge.

In the end the war showed that the US and Israel can really only terrorize, in ways that differ from terrorists only in methodology and the choice of target.

As a dove, I see military aggression in the end as ineffective. Combat results in huge civilian collateral damage, a price that may have been accepted as necessary in an age of war between States, but in the present situation really just increases support for the real targets: the people our Government calls terrorists.

Defining an amorphous enemy broadly also destroys the mission of the military, which must be narrow to succeed. While I may be pacifist, I am also quite familiar with military strategy, as I'm an active online strategy gamer and student of military tactics. I've also been drawn to military matters since my days as a child climbing on the ruins of European castles and Roman walls. I don't envy war, but I respect the efforts of those who fight and lead men in battle.

Yet perhaps the age of military conflict between large States is drawing to a close. The amount of collateral damage is too high. And states that offer competitive military resources tend to have nuclear weapons, which is the ultimate force leveller. So sustained combat operations devolve into conflict between a strong state and a weaker one, or an organization called a non-state actor.

In physics, any action will invoke a countervailing action; war is no different. Lacking the means to oppose the US military, the weaker state or non-state actor resorts to guerrilla tactics. Recognizing that unrestrained collateral damage will build sympathy for the resistance, the entity shelters itself among civilians. Using bunker-busters and other weapons of extreme destruction designed to destroy Soviet-era military forces, the US tries to kill ants with a hammer and in the process engenders more hatred of itself, creating always more ants or ant supporters.

It was my hope that by writing this blog I could explain the limitations of military force before they became so self-evident, but the resistance appears to have done more to make those limits apparent to the American public than I could have. As more and more evidence of the inability of our armed forces--the recipients of more military spending than the rest of the world combined--to squash a ragtag insurgency emerges, the more clear these limits are. The rhetoric of how great are armed forces are really doesn't address the shortage of troops and supplies, which really plays to the insurgents' favor.

While wars seem good for political incumbents early on, they can produce blowback in the longer term. We are now seeing virtually all the politics in the US emerge from the backdrop that we are losing in Iraq. Therefore it's become apparent to all but the most hardcore Republicans that our military can only do so much, given the mission it has.

Foggy Goals; Leadership Failures

To define the mission so late after the initiation of hostilities is symptomatic of questionable motives--likely political ones--for launching the war in the first place.

Even now, only 3 of the 18 Congressionally mandated conditions imposed upon the Iraqi government for a continuation of funding have been met. Meanwhile our President hedges on defining victory conditions, accusing Congress of legislating failure, like we did in Vietnam, by "getting out." I've long said this leadership cop-out is not only to prevent the scrutiny that can emerge from and failure to achieve results, but also a means of extending the occupation which is I believe a goal of Bush's and the Big Oil and War Profiteering industrial complexes that he represents.

Failures of this scale cannot come from bad leadership alone--they require co-conspirators that compound the initial erros of judgment. Americans were content to settle for whatever explanation the government gave them for the war in Iraq, whether it was Saddam's purchase of yellowcake--the evidence for which has been proved to be forged--or Iraq's terror link.

I still drive at the inherent evil of starting a war on false premises. The retaliation against Joe Wilson for his revealing the administration's lies on Niger was the opening chapter in a saga which saw the perversion of justice at the federal level for political purposes. The willingness to out Plame should have been a red flag that partisanship ruled the White House and that our country would be led in a direction that would protect the incumbent political party, away from accountability on its justifications for war. The unrestrained partisanship has opened up a dangerous precedent for future administrations.

One year ago, this blog focused on the mainstream media as a major factor limiting resistance to the war. The mainstream media's constant ducking began to fade as Americans began to see more and more of the results coming out of Iraq. As I've said, the move away from unconditional prowar reporting may have resulted from the war's unpopularity, or the more objective reporting may have led more Americans to question the war. Either way, American have woken up; poll numbers put Presidential approval at 25%, a little bit higher than approval for the can't-stop-the-war Congress at 18% or so.

With General electric being the world's #1 military contractor, it comes as no surprise that its NBC networks would fire Phil Donahue in the war's run-up. I heard Donahue talk about the political environment at GE and other multimedia conglomerates at the University of Illinois in May, 2005. My article on the conference is here.

As a result of that conference, I came to believe that what Americans think is a function of the accuracy and objectivity of the news that they get. Now if media consolidation means that the news is constrained to a small handful of conglomerates, it follows that corporations will dictate what is good for Americans to know. These newsrooms-turned-profit-centers omit critical information unfavorable to any corporate cause on the grounds that it could jeopardize ad revenues.

I've followed up on the massive amount of war profiteering that makes war so lucrative to large conglomerates like GE. Wars provide a nationalistic cloak that companies like FOX can use to drum up support for war as they pander to a Christian Zionist crowd, which a year ago appeared in control of the White House and Congress.

Since then we've had Marc Foley, Ted Haggart, and Larry Craig to remind us of the far worse sin of repressed desires, hidden under a mask of hate-filled homophobic rhetoric. Can the Faith-based community really trust its leaders? It would seem that many of those who prattle on about the evils of homosexuality are those who've fallen prey to its temptations, or at least can't hold back their object of their lust indefinitely. Rather than suffer the sin of immorality, I believe these men suffered from the stigma assigned to homosexuals by segment of society which they claimed to lead. Now perhaps they are freed and will be better men for it, whether they seek treatment for their "afflicition" or accept themselves as who they really are.

The easy part of being on the left is that we are labelled as immoral "libruls". In a Red State environment, we are seen as corrupted beyond all repair, products of a society given over to its hedonistic ways. There's no need to hide our transgressions, as we are thought to be people of diminished moral character. Out in the light, our indiscretions are easily revealed to be the harmless if immoral things they are.

People on the Right are expected to be beyond sin, their leaders conquerors over temptation and thus stronger than the rest of us--shining examples of righteous victory over their Inner Nature. It's really quite humourous to see these people are if anything more tempted by sin, not less. Perhaps its the pressure of the presumption that they're morally upright that tempts them to scratch their itch; their homophobia masks deeply seeded homosexual desires, making the unscratchable itch itch all the more.

Well, back to reality. The side issues that are flung at the American television-viewing public are distractions from the geopolitical realities that our dumbed-down, militarized foreign policy and inept leadership has brought. Ignoring history, Bush tromped into Iraq then declared mission over. He failed to understand that what Americans consider an eternity--a year or so--is barely a flicker in the perception of ancient Middle Eastern civilizations that measure out revenge teaspoon by teaspoon, century after century.

The ignorance of our leadership cemented our foreign policy into the reckless, fully predictable circumstances we now find ourselves. When I set out a year ago to prove the folly of our course, I believed that Americans hadn't seen the truth from their media. As a student of international relations and globalism (not strictly the internationalization of business), I could see into the future and recognize that what we saw as so natural a course as beating up on Saddam would lead to dangerous consequences.

I also couldn't help but want to expose the Israel connection. Israel influences America like no other small country has ever influenced a larger. The American Israeli Political Action Committe really does formulate American foreign policy in the Middle East. With so many sympathizers of Israel in the press, it comes as no surprise that negative coverage of Israel never appears in our media. So strong is pro-Israel political influence that few dare to acknowledge it, or confront it, for fear of being ostracized and called anti-semitic.

I think the "we Jews have to stick together" philosophy has really damaged both US and Israeli interests. By going along with the invasion of Iraq, American Jews in positions of influence may have placated the aggressive militarism of the Right, both here and in Israel, but they also severely restricted debate on how the invasion of Iraq would help in the long term.

The unwillingness of the Jewish community to open the Iraq war to external debate came essentially out of the belief that a US military action against Israel's enemies would help the Jewish state. Well it hasn't. Israel has become even more hated and the possibility of productive dialogue with the enemy--the real fear of the prowar Right--has become untenable. So essentially, the media blackout on criticism of Israel and absence of any debate has forced Israel to depend almost exclusively on its military power as a deterrent and instrument of protection. Meanwhile evidence from the '06 war showed that Israel's Muslim neighbors have become powerful indeed, and that the non-nuclear balance of military power has most definitely shifted away from Israel and even the US, judging from the impotency of its Iraq occupation.

With the crack in the door quite apparent, Israel's enemies have been strengthened. European states have been so turned off by American hubris that there is little chance for help in resolving the plight of Palestinians from that end. Like Arab moderates (the real ones), they will simply wait out Bush and no progress on Middle Eastern issues will be made, at least while the militarists are in charge.

Moving On

To see the roots of American foreign policy for the Middle East, one must understand Israeli doctrine like David Wurmser's Clean Break strategy, as well as the positions of key influencers of Bush policy in Middle East. Many strategists are ardent (pro-military, expansionistic) Zionists who've been up-moted (Wolfowitz) or moved on (Perle).

Unfortunately, the influence of these people remains, as Bush stubbornly refuses to accept the possibility that these doctrines have failed and cannot work. Nowhere is this more clear than in the bellicosity directed against Iran. Now if Iran really were a threat--to the US--we've made a terrible mistake by expending our military capacity on the clear non-threat the Iraq posed. From an Israeli perspective, attacking Iraq did seem to make more sense, at least according to Clean Break, which aims to destabilize Iran as well.

If what's happened so far in the Middle East is an indicator of the influence exerted by Zionist on our policies, we could be in for more trouble despite the clear military limitations we've encountered by over-extending ourselves in Iraq and Afghanistan. By hitting a home-run, the architects of Iraq--who are by no coincidence fervent Zionist supports of Clean Break--perhaps the Lobby has become a victim of its own effectiveness, succeeding beyond all expectations and beyond the ability even of the world's strongest military.

Self-delusion is a hubristic hallmark of empires and the mortals running those empires, whose ego inflate to the scale of emperors as they contemplate the glory of State and the crushing under boot of its enemies. The belief in the superiority of their rule and the State they control is what dooms that State to the dust bin of history. Lacking self-criticism, these emperors--Hitler, Napoleon, countless others--cannot contemplate the possibility of failure thus when things inevitably unravel they spiral utterly out of control.

Is the US an empire, led by the principles of faith, not reason (as Chris Hedges points out)? Perhaps we Americans are no less vulnerable to the delusional cravings for empire held by our our leaders than other nations have been through history.

Bush and his circle of sycophants have failed to accept even the possibility of failure and we're therefore collectively at risk of facing total disaster. Would a nuclear-armed Iran represent disaster? Perhaps not for the US, but most likely for Israel, whose small size makes it vulnerable. If US foreign policy in the Middle East is a function of Israeli influence, formulated in Tel Aviv by Zionist right-wingers, then our foreign policies reflects Israel interests not American.

The symptoms of uncontained Israeli influence are therefore wars and other malfeasance which run counter to US interests. Iraq appears to be such a war. The US had little to gain and the results are proving to be wholly unacceptable and counterproductive in the medium term and longer.

The benefits to Israel of US military involvement may have appeared wholly positive as they were spun in neoconservative think tanks, but put to test they're now proving counterproductive and injurious to Israeli long-term security. An environment of endless retaliation may be viewed as a political adavantage for the militaristic Right, at least in the short-term. Eventually limitations on military effectiveness kick in; these are a function of human ingenuity and the capacity to wage war unconventionally against a stronger foe.

Hillary Clinton recently acknowledged the fact that a terrorist strike in the US would help Republicans. This controversial statement is indicative of a historical trend to support the political Right during times of war. Still, as Iraq has dragged on, war fatigue is becoming a major political factor and is contributing to a new political equilibrium very much opposed to any new wars, justified or not.

Other Sources

See this article by Anrew Stephen in the New Statesman on how Bush might be imploding.

Rodrique Tremblay writes on the roots of the current anti-Iranian hysteria being formented in the media.

See James Petras' "US Empire and the Middle East: Zionism, Puppet Regimes, and Political Allies" for more on the US-Israeli nexus. Here is another article on the topic by Petras.

For a harsh take on AIPAC and Israeli influence, read Ted Lang's wakeupfromyourslumber article.

Uri Avnery discusses the large increases in military aid to Israel and Saudi Arabia in his article White Elephants written for Gus Shalom.



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