07 April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Bloomberg’s Pankaj Mishra, published in the Japan Times, questions the relevance of Cold War thinking–and Cold War thinkers–now that the Cold War has been over for almost a generation. He suggests that recent domestic drumbeating about Crimea is, at least in part, an attempt by Cold Warriors to regain their think-tank mojo (and their think-tank gigs).

The Cold War credentialed a kind of “thinker” who cannot think without the help of violently opposed abstractions: good vs. evil, freedom vs. slavery, liberal democracy vs. totalitarianism, and that sort of thing.

Forced into premature retirement by the unexpected collapse of communism in 1989, this thinker re-emerged after Sept. 11, 2001, convinced there was another worthy enemy in the crosshairs: Islamic totalitarianism.

Unchastened by a decade of expensive, counterproductive and widely despised wars, these laptop generals have been trying to reboot their dated software yet again as Russian President Vladimir Putin formalizes his annexation of Crimea.

He goes on to suggest that confrontational Cold War thinking led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, as the USSR reacted to its perceptions of American intentions. (We experience the long-term effects of that whenever we stand in a security line at an airport, for that nurtured the Taliban and other forms of Islamic political radicalism, including Al Qaeda).

Follow the link to his article for his arguments. Follow the second link to learn more about the common origins of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

15 March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Der Spiegel points out that, no, it’s not 1914 all over again once more. A snippet:

But in fact the alignments implicated in the Ukrainian emergency bear little relation to the geopolitical constellations of 1914. At that time, two central powers faced a trio of world empires on Europe’s eastern and western peripheries. Today, a broad coalition of Western and Central European states is united in protesting Russia’s interventions in Ukraine. And the restless, ambitious German Kaiserreich of 1914 scarcely resembles the European Union, a multi-state peace framework that finds it difficult to project power or to formulate external policy.

17 January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Jon Stewart marvels at those who would snatch war from the jaws of peace.

Meanwhile, Chauncey Devega dissects the compulsion of old men to send young men and women to their deaths, using Bill Kristol, leading drum-beater for the Great and Glorious Patriotic War for a Lie in Iraq, as an example. A nugget (do read the rest):

Kristol leads men into battle from the rear. He is so far in the rear that words and newspaper columns are his ammunition. Kristol’s heroism consists of war mongering pithy in print and on TV; he quite literally has no skin in the game. Such sacrifice is for “those people”–the poor, working classes, and professional soldiers who are offered up for death so that others can feel masculine, tough, and strong.

Jon Stewart via AMERICAblog.

15 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

The Face of Battle is a book that attempted to recreate for the reader the front-line soldier’s view of battle at Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme. It does not paint the pretty, romantic picture portrayed in your average movie or television show.

I have read it. You should too.

Here, Thom speaks of the face of battle. His words are directed to President Obama, as they were in the context of Syria, but they apply to everyone who casually advocates blowing stuff up (something, it should be noted, that President Obama does and did not do).

10 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Noz’s post title says it all.

09 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Eric Garland explores three American myths about America and war.

Here is his list of myths and a nugget from the discussion. Follow the link for a discussion of each myth and of how they have led us into misadventure.

. . . .

An uncritical acceptance of mid-20th century mythology is what led to such catastrophic strategic errors in America’s wars of adventure. The United States led a cadre of allies into what is historically known as the “Graveyard of Empires,” Afghanistan. While removing the Taliban from the failed state was an imperative, supported by moral justifictions and realpolitik, we should have known that the task of securing the country would require total focus and dedication. After all, President Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski suckered the Soviets into doing the exact same thing as a way to ruin them.

09 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Thoreau points out the words have meanings and may not mean what you think they mean.

08 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Rajan Menon thinks that blowing up stuff in Syria is not relevant to America’s international “credibility.”

The foundational assumption of many arguments for hitting Assad is that America’s reputation is on the line. It’s said that bad things will happen if Obama folds: Friends and allies will doubt America’s pledges to protect them; adversaries (Iran, North Korea, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and others), smelling weakness, will act with impunity.

“Credibility” has great power in national security debates.


In reality, the credibility gambit often combines sleight of hand with lazy thinking (historical parallels tend to be asserted, not demonstrated) and is a variation on the discredited domino theory. This becomes apparent if one examines how it is being deployed in the debate on Syria.

Making a futile and pointless gesture, one that is agreed will ultimately accomplish nothing, though, will most certainly undermine “credibility”; such is politics a la Animal House.

08 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Follow the link.

This is just one episode in the long and bloody saga of a Muslim world in transformation, and at the same time torn between acceptance and denial of the world. This episode is also another trap for the West, which is only bound to lose money, influence and its cohesion to the glee of fanatics, Russians, Chinese and assorted satraps all over the world.

This trap opened with the Iranian Revolution and continued with the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. That historical event contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union but created a psychological trap for the West, that of invincibility. That led to the first Gulf War and insidiously and cumulatively developed into a direct threat to the West slowly dragging us into a vortex of barbarity, self-deception and degradation of political life.

And the answer to the question is

More »

06 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Below the fold because it autoplays.

More »

05 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

I write mail in response to this news report:

The Honorable Tim Kaine
United States Senate
388 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Mr. Kaine:

I see in today’s Virginian-Pilot that you voted for intervention in Syria because, to paraphrase your statement as quoted in the story, “Somebody should do something.”

As it appears that “doing something” will not end the civil war in Syria, will not bring peace in any form, will not, in fact, accomplish anything other than to blow up more stuff and people, I submit, sir, that “Somebody should do something” is not a sound basis for policy formation.

Copied to my other elected representatives incongruously assembled.

Consider it cc-sa.

04 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

The resident curmudgeon at my local rag takes the temperature of this area, home of the largest complex of military bases in the world, and finds no sign of war fever.

In fact, quite the opposite.


The Complete Idiots Guide to Understanding the Middle East:  A confusing diagram.

Judging from the headlines at the news sites I frequent, the Very Serious People seem to have decided that the crucial question regarding Syria is whether or not Syria used gas warfare. Framing the question in that way implies that, if the answer is yes, some sort of attack is ipso facto justified.

Ignoring that there is no such thing as a “surgical strike” except in the fantasies of warmongers, the actual question is lost in the frame:

What would an attack accomplish, other than killing some folks?

  • Would it end the civil war in Syria?
  • Would it topple the bad guys and elevate the good guys (ignoring, again, that there don’t seem to be any good guys on either side of the fighting, just innocents in the middle)?
  • Would it protect the innocents?
  • Is there anything outsiders can do to end the carnage?

No one argues that any of these can be answered with a “yes.”

The argument instead seems to be that, by raining remote-controlled death, our disapproval would be made manifest, as a God rains lightning from the sky.

In other words, it is the “diplomatic” equivalent of punching a hole in a wall out of frustration.

The frustration still exists, and now your hand is injured and you have to repair a hole.

This is not diplomacy.

This is the impotent masturbating with missiles.

Image via BartCop.

01 September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

29 August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats, Endless War

Reg Henry is concerned about a rush to war.

Egged on by criticism at home that he had appeared weak — forever the fear of America’s leaders — President Obama in June approved some arms shipments to the Syrian rebels, although it’s not clear if any were delivered.

That had the makings of a mistake anyway. A moderate rebel in Syria might be someone who allows you a blindfold before he chops your head off. If amnesia did not have such a national hold, we might remember that arming the Mujahideen when the Russians occupied Afghanistan seemed like a good idea at the time, but the blowback gave us Osama bin Laden and his pals.


The same critics who urge Mr. Obama to war now will be urging him to more war later.

It appears that we can’t learn from history.

Hell, we can’t even learn from the present.

Addendum, Later That Same Morning:

PoliticalProf talks sense.

14 May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

This is just stupid.

04 May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

Dick Polman reports on the drummers of the war drums. A nugget:

Most predictably of all, neocon talking-head Bill Kristol is manning up on Fox News: “(Obama) is not a president who wants to start another war, that’s the way he sees it. I think it’s totally irresponsible for the American president to have that.” Sometimes, “you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

This is the same guy who declared on the eve of war 10 years ago that Iraq would be a breeze, that the Bush invasion would pacify a warring people: “There is a certain amount of pop psychology in America that the Shia can’t get along with the Sunni….There’s almost no evidence of that at all.” Ten years later, in Iraq, the Shiites and the Sunnis are still blowing each other up; for most of those 10 years, American soldiers died in the crossfire. But in Washington, there’s no shame and no penalty for being dead wrong, which is why Kristol still reigns on Sunday morning TV.

As Driftglass often points out, in the punditocracy, there is no penalty for being wrong all the time.

29 April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

It’s always the same crowd beating the drums.

15 April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Drumbeats

In an article about Sunday’s stupid op-ed in the New York Times, Steven M. buries this nugget.

The ultimate aim of all that Republican militarism is always the same: domestic political gain. But they can’t take advantage in this presidency, so there’s no reason to try.

He’s quite correct, you know.


At Psychology Today Blogs, Fathali Moghaddam attempts to understand why North Korea is throwing a temper tantrum. He thinks it might be one of those Games People Play*:

As a psychologist, Kim Jong Eun (probably in his later 20s when he came to power) believes strongly in the power of displacement. He knows that the North Korean people are living in terrible poverty and deprivation, while he and the rest of the ruling elite enjoy just about every luxury. Ordinary North Koreans have a lot to be unhappy about and they could easily turn their anger at the ruling North Korean elite. The solution found by the ‘psychologist’ Kim Jong Eun is to use displacement and turn the anger of the people against external targets. This explains the daily threats of war against the United States and South Korea, and dire warnings to the people of North Korea that ‘the Americans are going to attack soon…all eyes on America!’. Anyone who questions the idea that ‘the Americans are about to attack’ is immediately branded an ‘American spy’ and punished, sometimes with death.

The ‘crazy’ threats made by the ‘Great Successor’ will continue until he and his supporters feel that the succession has been completed, and there is no threat of rivals rising up and grabbing power.


*Great book, by the way.