Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
afghanistan, and pakistan.
whatever aspersions have been cast on him over here for his politicization, witting or un-, it is undoubtedly a good thing that david petraeus is ascending to command of centcom. he's a smart, capable guy, and we need that, because, despite the enduring popularity of iraq so far as media attention and public outcry go, afghanistan and pakistan is actually a much more dangerous and potentially catastrophic situation than iraq could ever hope to be. the taliban is, at least to some extent, a cat's paw for the pakistani intelligence service, which exists as an independent power/player in that less-than-ideally-stable country's political ecosphere.
they are also getting strong enough to mount direct attacks on our military outposts, which is horrifically scary. that they don't have to skulk about in hiding and constrain themselves to guerrilla tactics means they have men and materiel to spare, which means that we're creating insurgents/terrorists/taliban fighters faster than we can kill them. the most probable explanation is that, because we lack sufficient boots on the ground to guarantee order and stability we are constrained to fight more of the conflict from the air. when we do that, we end up killing civilians in large numbers.
think about it from the locals' perspective: assholes from the other side of the world drop a satellite-guided bomb on top of somebody's wedding, killing dozens on what should be a joyous day. how do you think you would feel about people that did that, whether they acknowedged their error or not? what if that was your cousin getting married? or the kid you grew up with?
this kind of stuff happens all the time over there. and one of the main reasons it happens is because all of the available combat brigades that the army and the marines can muster are deployed in iraq, which when you take an objective look at it is really a second-order concern, so far as the national security interests of the united states are concerned (yes, we need that oil, but we need it less once we commit to a domestic green energy revolution, which we have to do anyway, but more on that some other time).
and yes, barack obama is right that we will need to redeploy a significant number of the troops that are freed up when we draw down forces in iraq directly to afghanistan, but even if we were able to redeploy the entire force there, which is absolutely ridiculous to even speculate could happen, we would still be far from the threshhold established back when it might have mattered by soon-t0-be-outgoing chairman of the joint chiefs of staff eric shinseki in terms of the ratio of soldiers to civilians necessary to ensure the stability and good order which would be necessary (though not sufficient) to establish some kind of viable self-sustaining political order that would be able to take over eventually. to wit, we do not have the military (or, at this point, economic) resources, or the national will, to occupy afghanistan in sufficient depth to ensure a good outcome politically.
which brings me back to david petraeus, the guy who turned iraq around when most people had concluded that it couldn't be done.
the conventional wisdom is that the additional deployment of combat troops, the surge, as it were, was the primary change-engine. that the nobility and professionalism of american soldiers and marines was of such great magnitude that the simple addition of a few extra combat brigades was enough to turn the tide.
that such nobility and professionalism exist i do not doubt. to attribute the anbar awakening and the standing down of the mahdi army to the presence of a few extra troops is magical thinking at best, and not even the good kind. the end of the shiite intra-fighting (between the mahdi army and the iraqi army) was brokered by the iranians, for one thing. and the sunni awakening had a lot to do with a) them realizing what assholes the al qaeda guys were (al qaeda in iraq did mostly bomb iraqis, remember) and b) us giving them lots and lots of money and guns.
the reason capitalism always wins is that everybody likes money. and the more they have, the less interested they are in unrest. once we started paying the sunnis to police themselves and turn on the foreign fighters in their midst, things mellowed out quite a bit. so long as they get their piece of the pie they'll be invested in the general good, which removes a major destabilizing factor from the overall political equation.
which brings me back to david petraeus, the guy whose idea most of this was, and what a good thing it is that he's moving on to the afghanistan theatre.
when first we fought the afghan war, and chased the taliban in the mountains of waziristan, we were playing right into bin laden's trap. his avowed strategy (and it wasn't a half-bad one, really) was to punch us in the nose, which he did, then draw us into a long, drawn-out land war in afghanistan, bleeding us like they bled the soviets back in the eighties until we decided to leave them alone and let them establish their caliphate or something. the reason we stomped them so definitively was because we bribed the other warlords in afghanistan, who knew the terrain and the people, and who'd coexisted uneasily with the taliban and were glad enough to be rid of them if they could, to fight with and for us.
all we had to do was finish the job ourselves, which we didn't. we had the fuckers holed up in caves, for fuck's sake, but we'd had such a clean war i guess nobody wanted any americans to die, even to get bin laden. it's the only reason i can think of that isn't too horrible to contemplate. i treasure american servicemen and -women as much as the next red-blooded american, but part of what they are for is to die so we can kill fuckers like bin laden.
and because we didn't, the taliban was able to retreat to a safe haven (in nuclear-armed pakistan, which is totally awesome. they shoot at us when we chase the taliban back to the border now) and regrow their forces to the point that they can now mount traditional military offensives on american positions in broad daylight.
but we won't have enough soldiers to deploy the forces necessary to do what has to be done ourselves, and our nato allies aren't going to pony up enough either, since none of their populations have the stomach for ongoing military casualties that we do, and even we're kind of shaky these days. which means we're going to have to figure out who to bribe and how much to get some local help. and i'm glad david petraeus is in charge there now, because he seems to understand this kind of thing pretty well.
and yes, he's going to need some more soldiers. but hopefully he'll be smarter about using them, and hopefully, when barack obama is president, this theater of operations will get the attention it deserves, because it is far and away the number one threat to world stability and american national security.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
i actually think that's a pretty good idea, and brought up something similar in a discussion with some friends that can be found at schadenfreude666.wordpress.com. i think the money ought to come out of the bailout (ahem, i mean rescue) bill that was just passed (instead of being new spending), but i think it's a solid idea, and addresses at least part of the core problems of what wall street did to the american economy. if the mortgage market is stabilized, and the foreclosures slowed or stopped, it seems to me that those toxic collateralized debt obligations whose monetary obligations are freezing up the credit markets become less toxic, easier to value, and that once that value was established and everybody knows or at least has a better idea what's on the balance sheet, then maybe the credit markets thaw up some since banks will know what kind of cash on hand they'll need and can lend out the rest to other banks and businesses short-term, which is a major underpinning of american capitalism.
shit, even the state of california was running day-to-day operations on short-term loans. schwarzenegger just asked treasury for $7bn, after all.
i should also mention, fwiw, that i think that movement conservatives are going to eat john mccain alive for such a liberal, progressive policy proposal. i mean, i think it's a great idea, and might actually help some people that need help, but it definitely goes against everything the republican party stands for.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Monday, October 06, 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
the really awful thing is that bin laden pretty much said this was the plan from the get-go. it was supposed to be afghanistan where it happened; bin laden figured he could do to us what he and the mujahideen did to the soviets and bog us down in afghanistan for a decade or two, bleeding our military and our national will slowly but surely by drawing us into a land war in asia (which, as anyone who has seen the princess bride knows, is the only blunder, historically speaking, greater than going in against a sicilian when death in on the line). that we were smart enough to buy off the warlords that were going to help him bleed us redounds to our credit as a nation. that we didn't finish the job ourselves more or less completely erases that credit, but for a while it looked like we were actually smart and savvy enough to out-strategize some spoiled rich asshole whose worldview is stuck in the middle ages.On 9/11, Al Qaeda had no expectation of a traditional military victory against the United States. The point of the attack was economic -- to draw the U.S. into expensive and protracted foreign wars that would deplete our resources and destabilize our government. By invading Iraq, George Bush became the happy idiot to assist Al Qaeda in this goal. Now, Sarah Palin and John McCain take the leaders of Al Qaeda at their word when they say Iraq is the major front in the war on terror.
Neither consider the possibility that Al Qaeda wants Iraq to be the major front because it furthers their goal of weakening the U.S. while inflicting minimal damage on their operations.
Seven years after 9/11, we are seeing Al Qaeda's long-term goal being realized: the destabilization and economic collapse of the United States. Even as it's happening, the people who supported it all along want to continue facilitating our own long-term disintegration by clinging to simplistic concepts of traditional military victory and defeat. In this sense, they are possibly the most myopic, least strategic thinkers in the history of this nation.
As Gary Shandling said, with this approach, our only hope of killing Osama Bin Laden is that he'll laugh himself to death.
lucky for him, we've got our own spoiled rich asshole, who didn't like the gift-wrapped war he got for christmas and so he decided he was gonna get the one he wanted that santa didn't bring him, and show his daddy up to boot, come hell or high water (pace new orleans).
and now here we are, half a decade later, our much-vaunted military near-broken, our economy swirling down the toilet (thanks to the aforementioned spoiled rich asshole's aversion to economic oversight), trillions of dollars in debt to the people who brought us lead-painted toys and milk with industrial additives to boost the apparent protein content, and, bless their li'l hearts, one major party's presidential ticket thinks we should keep on down the road we've been travellin'.
it's like the manchurian candidate, except i'm convinced that nobody in bin laden's organization is that smart. it's just that these fucking people really are that fucking dumb.
after all, one of the definitions of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. i guess when you create your own reality, maybe that works. unfortunately, it only works in the make-believe reality inside your head, which doesn't really overlap with the world you share with the rest of us.
clap all you want, kids. tinkerbell's dead.
i knew he was a jerk when i first heard the story of how he dumped his first wife after she got in a car crash and wasn't beautiful anymore, going on to marry an heiress twenty years his junior, who was.
but it wasn't until i read this in rolling stone that i began to understand just what an unbelievably gigantic fucking opportunistic jerk he really is.
In its broad strokes, McCain's life story is oddly similar to that of the current occupant of the White House. John Sidney McCain III and George Walker Bush both represent the third generation of American dynasties. Both were born into positions of privilege against which they rebelled into mediocrity. Both developed an uncanny social intelligence that allowed them to skate by with a minimum of mental exertion. Both struggled with booze and loutish behavior. At each step, with the aid of their fathers' powerful friends, both failed upward. And both shed their skins as Episcopalian members of the Washington elite to build political careers as self-styled, ranch-inhabiting Westerners who pray to Jesus in their wives' evangelical churches.
In one vital respect, however, the comparison is deeply unfair to the current president: George W. Bush was a much better pilot.
she read it off the side of her starbucks mocha cup.
she does know that a mocha is just a latte with chocolate syrup in it, right? isn't that supposed to be one of them elite coffe drinks that them damn coastal elites drink while they talk about what rubes and hicks everybody who doesn't live on the coast is?
guess that's just sarah being sarah.
Friday, October 03, 2008
i think he pretty clearly won, at least by any objective standards, and i also think that there was no way he was ever going to lose, at least by any standards that ought to matter to serious-minded people.
i think sarah palin did as well as she was ever going to, and i felt for her as i watched. she was clearly nervous from the get-go (she actually seemed to be gushing when she greeted biden as they walked onstage and shook hands), and it was also obvious that, despite the many cogent talking point sentences that had been drill-baby-drilled into her mind, she had very little idea about the answers to many of the questions that gwen ifill asked, and knew it. she was clearly most comfortable when speaking in vacuous folksy-isms, blessing hearts and six-packing with joe, and clearly uncomfortable when expected to answer any questions about almost anything substantive. according to politico, on at least ten occasions she dodged, evaded, or outright ignored the question put to her, to the point where she even acknowledged herself that she was going to skip one of the questions put to her in order to go on the attack against biden and obama. and, like many people of less-than-sparkling intellect, she wasn't half bad at sticking the knife.
that she managed to fill all of her time with words (cogent and on-topic or not), and neither fainted nor farted into the microphone, has apparently re-energized the twenty-odd percent of america that thinks she's just the bee's knees and would be a great commander-in-chief-in-waiting.
i can only assume that these are the same sorts of people who think their children should get sports trophies just for showing up.
in fact, what the debate reminded me of most of all was the parent-child scrimmage i do for last practice of the season for the kids' soccer team i coach. the kids are ten or thereabouts, and even the ones who've picked up on the basic skills and introductory understanding of the game that i've managed to instill in them aren't playing the same game that the grownups (many of us players, both active and retired) are. and hey, noone expects them to. the whole point is to get them out there, have some fun, build some skills, some self-respect, a little character maybe. and hey, if they win their games, or lose them, it doesn't really matter. they're kids. it's fun. and if their parents want to buy them trophies at the end of the season so they feel better about the whole endeavor, then i will gladly keep my mouth shut and smile as i call their names one by one.
but you wouldn't let one of the ten-year-olds coach the team, even at the extremely non-serious level at which these kids play. letting sarah palin anywhere near national office, at least at her present level of understanding of the many serious issues that we face as a nation and a people, would be just like that, only with nucular weapons.
makes me shiver just thinking about it.