A nice way to stay in touch with loved ones, and a convenient way to share my opinions without having everyone just walk away...wait a minute, where are you going? I wasn't finished..

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Why America is Losing

Re the article posted yesterday. I don't know how someone can write so dispassionately about the Israeli death machine. GI's returning from America's wars suffer from emotional or psychological problems arising from the suffering they've observed or inflicted. Three generations of Israelis have been guilty of such atrocities, the place has to be a nut house. But enough about them, let's talk about us for awhile.

When did this "asymmetric" term come into vogue? I guess it's an antiseptic way of saying we'll kill a lot of innocent people in the hopes of getting a few combatants, or maybe just out of frustration that we can't even find a few combatants to kill.
But the article makes an interesting point about non-state belligerents. Israel can overrun the Palestinian Authority or Lebanon in a matter of days or weeks just as the US did in Afghanistan and Iraq. As the author points out, that's just the beginning. The conqueror now has to bear the expense of occupation, and "low-level" belligerence. Cost, oh say 100 billion dollars a year. Stupefying, aint it. What catalogue of social ills couldn't be cured. And when we declare victory and go home
the costs will continue. Depleted uranium poisoning will afflict the veterans, as will the psychological problems. For sure the government will not be willing to acknowlege these afflictions but they will ensue and they will be costly. And what will we have conceivably gained?

Do you remember the Morgenthau Plan? Roosevelt's Treasury Secretary advanced the idea as the way to deal with post war Germany. Break it into pieces. Allow neighboring states to annex the regions with the greatest economic resources, and dismantle the remaining infrastructure. Marshall had the sense to propose an alternative which has been enshrined as the masterpiece of US diplomacy in the twentieth century. But the Morgenthau plan has new life, Senator Charles Schumer has dusted it off and proposed the same solution for post-war Iraq.

Iranian influence will certainly prevail in the south, the Kurds will secede with the Mozul and Kirkuk oil fields. But who will the Kurds look to for protection from Turkey and Iran, two neighbors with Kurdish minorities of their own? Ooops; look who's back. It's our Israeli friends.

From Jane's Middle East/Africa News 18 April 2006

"Israel stands to benefit greatly from the US led war on Iraq, primarily by getting rid of an implacable foe in President Saddam Hussein and the threat from the weapons of mass destruction he was alleged to possess. But it seems the Israelis have other things in mind.

An intriguing pointer to one potentially significant benefit was a report by Haaretz on 31 March that minister for national infrastructures Joseph Paritzky was considering the possibility of reopening the long-defunct oil pipeline from Mosul to the Mediterranean port of Haifa. With Israel lacking energy resources of its own and depending on highly expensive oil from Russia, reopening the pipeline would transform its economy.

To resume supplies from Mosul to Haifa would require the approval of whatever Iraqi government emerges and presumably the Jordanian government, through whose territory it would be likely to run. Paritzky's ministry was reported to have said on 9 April that it would hold discussions with Jordanian authorities on resuming oil supplies from Mosul, with one source saying the Jordanians were "optimistic". Jordan, aware of the deep political sensitivities involved, immediately denied there were any such talks."

Now I'm back to my world weary state, but at least I'm not stupid.

PS - seeking perspective, I searched all blogs for Israel and Kurds. Came up with very little, not even this post. Does blog-spot filter out unworthy posts?

Monday, July 24, 2006

My comments on this article tomorrow

From Counterpunch

Why Israel is Losing


The world is witnessing what could be a critical turning point in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel is now engaged in a war that could permanently undermine the efficacy of its much-vaunted military apparatus.

Ironically, there are several reasons for believing that Israel’s destruction of southern Lebanon and southern Beirut will weaken its bargaining position relative to its adversaries, and will strengthen its adversaries’ hands.

First, Israel has no clearly defined tactical or strategic objective, and so the Israeli offensive fails the first test of military logic: there is no way that Israel's actions can improve its position relative to Hamas or Hizballah, much less Syria or Iran.

The logic of power politics also implies that a no-win situation for Israel is a definite loss, because Israel is the stronger party and thus has the most to lose. In an asymmetric war, the stronger party always has the most to lose, in terms of reputation and in terms of its ability to project its will through the instruments of force.

The lack of any clearly defined objective is a major miscalculation by Israel and its American patron.

Second, Israel cannot eliminate Hizballah, since Hizballah is a grassroots organization that represents a plurality of Lebanese society. Neither can Hamas be eliminated for the same reason. By targeting Hizballah however, Israel is strengthening Hizballah's hand against its domestic rivals, such as the Maronite Christians, because any open Christian opposition makes them look like traitors and Israeli collaborators.

Consequently, while Hizballah will obviously pay a short-term tactical cost that is very high, in the long run, this conflict demonstrates that it is Hizballah, and not the Lebanese government, that has the most power in Lebanon.

The Shia represent an estimated 35-40 per cent of Lebanese society, while Lebanese Christians are thought to constitute no more than 25-30per cent of the entire population. Furthermore, the Shia community’s fertility rate is thought to be far higher than that of the other religious components within Lebanon.

Thus, the current confessional division of power in Lebanon, which grants Christians a political position that goes far beyond their minority status, is ultimately unsustainable, which means that the Maronite Christians will lose even more power, and the Shia and Hizballah will inevitably gain more power.

Third, Israel's failure to achieve anything at all greatly enhances Syria's influence over Lebanon and its bargaining position relative to the U.S. and Israel itself. No solution in Lebanon can exclude Syria, and so now the U.S. and Israelis need Syria's approval, which certainly weakens both the U.S. and Israel.

And even Israel's accusations against Iran, although largely baseless, greatly enhance Iran's prestige in the region, and may bring about exactly what the Israelis are trying to prevent. While the Arab states look like traitors, Iran looks like a champion of the most celebrated of all Muslim causes.

Fourth, Bush's impotence is a clear demonstration that America has lost a great deal of global power over the last three years. If Bush cannot control Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, or Israel, then what real power does the world's "hyper-power" possess? America’s inability to influence any of the actors that are relevant to the current crisis is yet more evidence that America's foreign policy is a form of global suicide.

Fifth, the age of great power warfare has been replaced by a world in which great powers must live and compete with non-state actors who possess considerable military capabilities. William Lind calls this transformation “4th generation warfare.”

Consequently, the age of Bismarckian warfare, or what William Lind refers to as "3rd generation warfare,” is effectively over. “Bismarckian warfare” is a term that describes large-scale wars fought by large-scale armies, which require national systems of military conscription, a significant population base, and enormous military budgets.

Bismarckian warfare seems to have become ineffective in the Arab-Israeli context, because Israel no longer poses the threat that it once did to the Arab regimes, and the Arab regimes much prefer Israel to the rising non-state actors growing within their own borders.

William Lind has also argued that non-state actors such as Hamas and Hizballah can checkmate the Israelis as long as these Muslim parties never formally assume power. If Muslim parties were to assume the power of states, then they would immediately become targets for traditional Bismarckian warfare. However, as long as Muslim movements retain theirnon-state identity, they are strategically unconquerable.

Sixth, we must more carefully study the reasons why Bismarckian warfare is no longer effective.

The global diffusion of the news outlets is obviously important for understanding why Bismarckian warfare has become so ineffective. For instance, Hizballah has its own media network, and can draw upon the global satellite network to get its message out, and can also use the global media to take advantage of Israel's targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Further, the competition between Arab and Muslim satellite channels is also important, because each station wants to demonstrate its sincerity by spreading news that is not only critical of Israel and the U.S., but ultimately undermines people's trust in the Arab regimes and thereby lends legitimacy to non-state actors.

And although the American media largely supports Israel, the information about the Americans stranded in Lebanon limits Israel's freedom of action, and makes Israel look like it cares nothing for the lives of American citizens.

At an even deeper level, the rate and density of global information transfer, and lack of any centralized control over the global distribution of information, is causing the fabric of space and time to contract, and so Israel's crimes can much more quickly create a global backlash.

Time and space, as we experience them, are contracting because the global diffusion of technical and scientific knowledge is permitting events in one part of the world to increasingly influence events in other parts of the world, and events that once took years or even decades to unfold can now occur within mere months or weeks.

As a consequence, the disenfranchised peoples of the world are developing the ability to affect the lives of the more privileged members of humanity, which means that anything that Israel does to the Palestinians or Lebanese will have effects upon Israel that are more direct and more negative than ever before, and that further, these effects will occur in an accelerated time scale.

Thus, as it becomes self evident that Israeli military power is no longer as effective as it once was, this will surely accelerate the flow of Jewish settlers out of Israel. Information regarding emigration of Jews out of Israel is a closely guarded secret, but using Israeli government statistics, we can infer that immigration to Israel has rapidly declined over the last several years, and that Israel may even be experiencing a net outflow of Jewish migrants. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of Jewish immigrants to Israel declined to 21,000 in 2004, which is a 15-year low. In 2005, the number of immigrants rose slightly to 23,000, which is still dramatically lower than the 60,000 that immigrated in 2000. Furthermore, Israel became a net exporter of its citizens in 2003, when9,000 more Israelis left the country than entered, and in the first two months of 2004, this figure rose to 13,000.

The global micro-diffusion of military technology is also critical, and so military innovation and its global diffusion will only strengthen grassroots rebellions and allow them to more effectively resist the instruments of Bismarckian control, as well as the depredations of the military hippopotami that are the ultimate guarantors of statism and statist regimes.

For all of these reasons, Israeli attempts to impose terms on Lebanon, or to redraw the political map of Lebanon, or even to impose a NATO force upon Southern Lebanon, are not militarily feasible nor politically achievable, and if attempted, will prove ultimately unsustainable.

As will soon be demonstrated by events on the ground, Israel will not be able to destroy or even disarm Hizballah. Neither will Hamas, Hizballah, Lebanon, or Syria permit Israel or America to dictate terms to them. Consequently, if Israel lingers too long in Southern Lebanon, its presence will be paid for at such a high cost, that it will be forced to withdraw in ignominy, as it has so many times in the past.

In the end however, Israel's loss of power will make it even more dangerous, because the more threatened the Israelis feel, the more likely they will launch destructive wars against the Palestinians and Israel's other adversaries.

Finally, the same can be said of the U.S., with respect to its loss of global power. Instead of becoming more careful with its use of force, the erosion of America’s global dominance will likely make the U.S. government more aggressive, as it attempts to re-assert its former position relative to its adversaries and competitors.

And it is precisely because America and Israel are losing influence over global events, that an American attack upon Iran in 2007 becomes more likely.

God help us all.

Ashraf Isma’il is an academic whose interests range from international relations, international economics and international finance, to global history and mathematical models of geo-strategy.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Friday, July 14, 2006

I feel better

Maybe its because I'm making money on gold again.

Maybe its because I can only worry about so many things so often, then some circuit breaker flips in my brain and I switch to the positive side.

I'm really lucky, I can always celebrate my beautiful family, although that makes me miss Noah.

Tomorrow, I'm going to give up cigarettes - Janett and I have been spending more on cigarettes than we do on groceries.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

How many days till the Irish kick off?

I'm listening to the TV news on the PBS. Have you ever heard the phrase "Whistling past the graveyard?" That's the way I feel when I hear contemporary journalists recount the day's events.

I caught a little bit of a show about Woodie Guthrie tonight. It made me nostalgiac for an America I barely remember. You know he wrote that song This Land is Your Land at the height of the depression, and told the people "This land belongs to you and me." I hope people still feel this land belongs to them, but I doubt it.

So I went to read some H L Mencken. His cynicism can make me feel positively Pollyanna-ish. Unfortunately this is the quote I came across.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

Saints Preserve Us

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Rather than continue my discourse on revolution, which might have led me to take extreme positions pertaining to the corrupted state of our government and the possible impending crisis, I thought I'd share with everyone a poem my father used to recite.
My father had a delightful intellect, and a great respect for G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton, most read now for the Father Brown mysteries, was a staunch defender of Christianity against the rise of intellectual atheism at the onset of the last century. He participated in a journalistic debate with Aldous Huxley which demonstrated that the intellect wasn't all on the atheist's side.

Heres the poem. An annotated copy might be helpful for references unfamiliar to the reader, but if your curiosity is provoked you can Google things

G. K. Chesterton


"White founts falling in the Courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard;
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips;
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young.
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled, Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain--hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.
Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri's knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunsets and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees;
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From the temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be,
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,--
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, "Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done. But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces--four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not 'Kismet'; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey at the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth."
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still--hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

St. Michaels on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes,
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,--
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.

King Philip's in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John's hunting, and his hounds have bayed--
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man's house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumed lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings' horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign--
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate's sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for libertyVivat Hispania!

Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!
Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight for ever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)"

Nafpaktos.com "LLC" NY USA Copyright: 1999-2000 Last Update:March 26, 2003

Sunday, July 02, 2006

‘Après Nous, le Déluge’

What I've noticed is that governments have been discarded when they've outlived their usefulness. Sometimes cataclysmic events precede the upheaval, but it is not the event, rather it is the institutions' inability to respond effectively that seals their fate.

In the case of the American Revolution I don't recall such a cataclysmic event. The colonials simply no longer needed the British to protect them from the French, or provide essentials for their continuing existence. They resented being required to meet the expenses of the empire disproportionate to the benefits they felt they would enjoy. Given the common history and shared traditions of the English-speaking peoples, accommodations could have been arrived at, but a change in the relationship would have been necessary. Pitt understood that, North didn't. Exacerbating the different appreciation of their respective positions was their geographic separation. If it took five or six weeks for a message to cross the Atlantic, two weeks for a response to be devised, then five or six weeks for the response to be conveyed back to the colonies, the crown's response was three months after the fact. As the crisis developed and committees of correspondence spread throughout the colonies, the pace of radicalization far outpaced the crown's ability to respond.

The French Revolution may have been precipitated by the bread riots that resulted from increases in the price of bread beyond the means of the masses to afford. But as is often pointed out, the peasants and the Paris mob sought to have their protests reach the ears of the king who they hoped would address their needs. The king had other concerns. The feudal organization of the regime had bestowed privileges upon the nobility and the church including exemption from taxes. The monarchy was bankrupt and the government's deficit could not be funded. The king was endeavoring to find new sources of revenue. His preoccupation prevented him from perceiving that the rise of a literate urban population enabled his subjects to visualize a different order than the divinely ordained absolutism of the monarchy. It was on this growing urban class that the burden of taxation fell most heavily. The distance that separated him from his people was not geographic but social. Reportedly on July 14, the day of the fall of the Bastille, in his diary under significant events of the day he entered. "None."

The third revolution that comes readily to mind, the Russian Revolution, except for its tragic consequences could be described as black comedy. The last of the Romanov rulers appeared entirely at the mercy of circumstances over which he had no control. Given that the Russian army had been soundly defeated by the upstart Japanese 10 years earlier, it should have surprised no one that they would be slaughtered by the Germans. And during the earlier war there had been labor strikes and demonstrations by starving workers and mutinies amongst the military, all foreshadowing the events of 1917-18. Compounding the tragedy was a history of political assassinations and repression that forewarned that when the end came it wouldn't be pretty. And when the end did come in Ekaterinburg, before they and their children were murdered, Nicholas and Alexandra probably hugged and commiserated, "We knew this job was too big for us, but we did our best." Too much suffering preceded and followed their demise for them to be exonerated. But they too were crushed in the collapse of a system which had evolved hundreds of years earlier, and hadn't the ability to deal with the challenges it faced.

While in retrospect, the autocrats can be seen as having been inept, badly informed, or ill served, it must be remembered that they promoted and rewarded the ministers and courtiers who told then what they wanted to hear. They then turned a blind eye as these administrators and deputies enriched themselves, their friends and their families, while the population was driven to poverty and despair.