Links 6/16/08

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: The world’s first climate change “refugees” Irin Asia

Ebb and flow of the sea drives world’s big extinction events PhysOrg

Why We Can’t See America’s Ziggurats in Iraq Tom Englehardt. On US mega-bases in Iraq, which are well covered in the military press but hardly mentioned in the popular media.

Bush pledges on Iraq bases a ruse Asia Times

Insolvency creeps towards dot-com crash level Times Online

Deflation rather than inflation could soon be our big worry Roger Bootle, Telegraph

WP Tries To Tell Housing Bubble Story Culture of Life News. The writing tends towards the overwrought, but points our errors in the WaPo article on housing and has some great cartoons.

Unreported Loan Delinquencies The Nattering Naybob

Minimum Wage and the Supply Curve Spencer, Angry Bear

Europe’s plan B for the Lisbon treaty Wolfgang Munchau, Financial Times. Munchau argues that the EU will let Ireland exit, if it comes to that, and suffer the consequences. Willem Buiter disagrees.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Legal Sodium

    it’s one thing to hate bush, but i can’t abide englehardt’s anti-americanism and hatred for the u.s. military. i don’t know how you can stand it.

  2. Yves Smith

    Legal sodium,

    I read Englehardt’s piece, and I don’t see it as anti-American or anti-military. I do see it as very anti-Bush.

    I don’t see the unending occupation of a country, which is what these bases represent (the Iraqi populace is very much opposed to them) as “American”, nor do I see it as proper behavior of a country which claims to be interested in supporting democratic principles. Why is it so hard to imagine how you’d react if the Chinese invaded us to throw out Bush on dubious charges, refused to leave quickly, and then started building massive military compounds that they clearly intended to keep using? Is this what the US and the US military is supposed to stand for? I don’t think so.

    It’s the fact set that is ugly, not Englehardt’s presentation.

  3. MikeInOregon

    re: Papua New Guinea: Climate Refugees.

    Supposedly the ocean rose 10cm = 4″ and the photo shows several feet of of inundation. Sure! it is possible that this is the result of global warming.

    It could also be islander dynamiting their protective coral reef.

    It could also be tectonics.

    It could also be:
    “Last but not least, it should be noted, that the Carteret islands are built entirely on a base of coral that sits atop of an extinct volcanic mount. In the usual course of events, such islands eventually subside simply due to the underlying volcanic rock being worn away and not replenished. The Carteret islands are a classic example of such coral islands in their final stage of existence. Interestingly, Charles Darwin was the first to propose such a system of creation and submergence.”

    Not mentioned in this article is that Mangrove destruction could also have have caused this…. and that mangrove re-planting was too little too late.

    Global warming is a possible cause of the island disappearing, but the least plausible.

  4. Lune

    Englehardt’s presentation is quite slanted. Not necessarily in its facts (there’s no denying the building of these massive bases, their intended use, nor the Iraqi outrage over them), but in the way it uses those facts to imply things and stir up emotions.

    For example, while there’s certainly been a pathetic lack of coverage of these bases, to make an analogy between these bases and the secret prisons that have also been built is a stretch. Prisons for torture are truly heinous and unprecedented. Permanent bases, hardly.

    Secondly, the types of rights that the Pentagon has been negotiating for its bases is nothing new. After all, we have permanent bases all over Europe and Asia. Most overseas military personnel explicitly fall under U.S. uniform code of military justice and cannot be tried under local courts (e.g. the visiting forces agreement with the Philippines that allowed the U.S. to prevent 4 marines in Subic Bay accused of raping a local woman from being tried in local courts). And if you ever fly into Okinawa (although nominally a Japanese island, it’s basically one big American base), your flight will be directed by U.S. military air traffic controllers once you descend below 6,000m.

    Thus, the type of rights the American military is negotiating for are hardly unique compared to what they have for their overseas bases all over the world. Of course, one can certainly argue that seeking such rights (or even permanent bases themselves) is counterproductive to our goals in the Middle East. But Englehardt’s implication that seeking such bases or rights are prima facie evidence of a warped and uniquely malignant military policy is wrong.

    In other words, it’s not the bases that’s the problem, it’s the crappy foreign and military policy of the current administration that has made such bases so problematic. After all, bases in Europe and Asia helped stabilize and protect those regions for decades (not to mention project power across the globe in a way that’s been highly beneficial for us), and most — certainly not all — bases are highly popular with the local population for the economic revenue they bring in. When done right, permanent bases can be very valuable.

  5. Yves Smith


    I have to disagree with you here. First, Engelhardt points out that the size and number of the bases is without precedent. And he mentions to the size of the US embassy complex, which has garnered disapproving commentary elsewhere.

    But more important, you brush by the key point, that these bases have been installed in an occupied territory against the will of the people, when we claim that we want a democracy. Iraqis by all accounts are not happy with the US presence (I saw evidence of that Australia in 2003, when interviews of Iraqis who were pro-American made it clear that their attitude would change if the US did not depart fairly soon. Most mentioned a timeframe of months. But that sort of thing never gets reported here. And remember, Australia was an ally).

    Similarly, the Iraqi government has distanced itself from US hostile moves towards Iran. They have made it clear that they do not want to participate in an attack.

    You mention Okinawa. The Japanese deeply resent the US presence, particularly after a 1995 rape of a 12 year old that sparked huge protests against the bases. The Japanese are clearly unhappy with the military justice system; a Marine recently accused of raping a 14 year old was held by Japanese prosecutors, a clear shot across the US bow, and was released only when the girl decided not to press charges.

    What right do we have to build and maintain bases in a country when the populace is opposed? This is imperialism, pure and simple.

    And the fact is we can no longer afford this imperial overreach.

  6. Anonymous

    I am appalled at these knee-jerk ad hominem attacks of Englehardt as “anti-American.” Frederick Douglas had it right:

    “A true patriot is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins”.

  7. Legal Sodium

    agree with lune about the value of bases worldwide. yes the locals like the economic input, and yes the locals hate the “ugly americans.” you can’t toss out an important strategic assest just because of a few criminals. in any large population there will be murderers and rapists.

    in iraq, if anything, our problem was that we went in “too soft and cuddly.” if we had gone in with a haf a million troops like shinseki had wanted, and then ruled with an iron fist for the first two years, and had someone competent from the state dept as procosul, there’d be relative peace and prosperity there and we’d have several large air force bases in country but a very small army footprint.

    as it is, read the good news:

    btw, i do love your blog,am learning much every day.

  8. Lune


    I’m not so sure the size of these bases are without precedent. Again, if you look at Okinawa, according to Wikipedia, there are 14 US bases occupying 90sq mi of space. And that’s just Okinawa prefecture, to say nothing of the rest of the country.

    WRT the embassy, I do agree that it’s unfortunate that it’s more like a secure military post than an embassy. Indeed, this has been a concern with U.S. embassies around the world, especially after 9/11, where a paranoia about security creates fortress-like buildings that do little to promote the soft skills of diplomacy like cultural exchanges and openness. Indeed, when I was living in Washington, DC, it was instructive to compare foreign embassies there, with their unassuming facades, frequent receptions for locals, sponsorship of arts festivals and the like, with U.S. embassies abroad. You can always spot the American presence due to the thick, high concrete walls, barbed wire fences, and imposing security teams. The image of America these embassies project to the locals is certainly not the one we wish.

    But that said, again, this is a symptom of the policy debacles in Iraq, not the cause. Such a huge, heavily fortified embassy is required because it’s essentially located in a war zone.

    WRT the larger point. In the context of the current level of antagonism toward the U.S. presence, and the lack of any meaningful plan for the future, I do agree that the bases will worsen the situation. The current administration has shown that it is incapable of making good use of permanent bases, both by its past actions and its current inability to articulate a plan more detailed than “putting more boots on the ground” (yes, Mr. President, but what do you want to do with those boots besides have them walk around and get blown up by IEDs?). So in this specific country (Iraq), at this specific time, with this specific administration, yes, the bases are stupid and will worsen the situation.

    But in my reading of Engelhardt, I get the sense he believes these bases are intrinsically wrong, in and of themselves, and it is that contention with which I strongly disagree.

    Much of our ability to project power in Europe and Asia comes from our bases there. And much of the security that we provide our allies is provided through those bases (half the reason for Okinawa is to defend Taiwan from China, for example).

    As the cold war ended and new alliances arose, it’s natural that some host countries feel our presence is no longer worth the costs. And shameful incidents such as the crimes you cite only serve to (justifiably) inflame local resentment. And we are adjusting as a result too (witness the closure of Subic Bay, and the renegotiation of rights and land at Okinawa). Again, in the hands of rational, experienced policymakers (on both sides), permanent bases can be beneficial to both parties.

    If that sounds incredibly paternalistic and naive, witness South Korea’s attempts to prevent U.S. troop reductions in the DMZ. We wanted to leave (foolishly, IMHO), but S. Korea desperately wanted us to stay. And anytime the Pentagon wants to close and consolidate bases in Europe, many of them howl in protest as much as local American communities over the loss of local economic activity.

    Is this empire? Of course it is. But for the past 50 years, we were actually pretty good at empire. The rebuilding and protection of European democracies, the creation of a pacifist Japan and Germany, and the defeat of Soviet communism are accomplishments every American should be proud of, and well worth the cost. And much of our ongoing efforts in those arenas are immeasurably helped by permanent bases.

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