Drumbeats category archive
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).
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.
- Myth #1: America has to act.
- Myth #2: America’s actions are benevolent.
- Myth #3: America can win wars.
. . . .
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.
Thoreau points out the words have meanings and may not mean what you think they mean.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In an article about Sunday’s stupid op-ed in the New York Times, Steven M. buries this nugget.
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.
Dan Simpson hears the grumblings about yet another war and hopes that we learn from the Great and Glorious Patriotic War for a Lie in Iraq. He lists those who monger for war. A nugget:
The first is the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War and the role of the George W. Bush administration in scamming the American people so it could invade and occupy that country. For the most part, American media were complicit in the fraud, not providing the critical analysis that might have headed it off.
The second is that the Department of Defense, like the rest of the government, is facing budget cuts, due in part to sequestration but also because Americans will want their peace dividend now that the Iraq War is over and the Afghanistan War soon will be.
The third is that the world is always full of what the American military-industrial complex, first identified as a danger by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, can portray as lively candidates for U.S. military intervention.
The Iraq War was a success for no one other than Mr. Bush, who was reelected as a war president in 2004. It is hard to imagine that he would have been reelected without the war. America lost more than 4,000 citizens in Iraq and many thousands more were disabled. An estimated 110,000 Iraqis died. The financial costs are estimated at up to $2 trillion.
He hopes we have learned something.
I fear we have not.
A continuing production:
Thus, the first 100 US military “advisers” are being sent to Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Togo and Ghana – the six member-nations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that will compose an African army tasked (by the United Nations) to reconquer (invade?) the parts of Mali under the Islamist sway of AQIM, its splinter group MUJAO and the Ansar ed-Dine militia. This African mini-army, of course, is paid for by the West.
Students of the Vietnam War will be the first to note that sending “advisers” was the first step of the subsequent quagmire. And on a definitely un-Pentagonese ironic aside, the US over these past few years did train Malian troops. A lot of them duly deserted.
It’s the martial version of “firings will continue until morale improves.”
Read the rest at Asia Times.
Asia Times looks at civilian losses in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Viet Nam.
It’s not pretty. It is, indeed, rather an indictment of the heedlessness of America’s shoot-first foreign policy.
It should be required reading for the gunslinging crowd whose preferred solution for any international kerfuffle is to shoot.
No one will ever know just how many Iraqis died in the wake of the US invasion of 2003. In a country with an estimated population of about 25 million at the time, a much-debated survey – the results of which were published in the British medical journal The Lancet – suggested more than 601,000 violent “excess deaths” had occurred by 2006. Another survey indicated that more than 1.2 million Iraqi civilians had died because of the war (and the various internal conflicts that flowed from it) as of 2007. The Associated Press tallied up records of 110,600 deaths by early 2009. An Iraqi family health survey fixed the number at 151,000 violent deaths by June 2006. Official documents made public by Wikileaks counted 109,000 deaths, including 66,081 civilian deaths, between 2004 and 2009. Iraq Body Count has tallied as many as 121,220 documented cases of violent civilian deaths alone.
Then there are those 3.2 million Iraqis who were internally displaced or fled the violence to other lands, only to find uncertainty and deprivation in places like Jordan, Iran, and now war-torn Syria. By 2011, 9% or more of Iraq’s women, as many as 1 million, were widows (a number that skyrocketed in the years after the US invasion). A recent survey found that 800,000 to 1 million Iraqi children had lost one or both parents, a figure that only grows with the continuing violence that the US unleashed but never stamped out.
Follow the link for more and more depressing numbers.