Links 5/7/11

Posted on by

Outside Edge: Barking about the dogs of war Jurek Martin, Financial Times

Ignoring Science, Obama Ends Protection for Gray Wolf Rolling Stone (hat tip reader Emiliano Z)

Scientists afflict computers with schizophrenia to better understand the human brain Science Daily (hat tip reader furzy mouse). This is a little too close to creating SkyNet for my taste.

Prostate Exam Deaths From Superbugs Spur Cancer-Test Inquiry Bloomberg (hat tip reader Sock Puppet)

Google execs, tech experts focus on future of Postal Service Washington Post (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

A Volcano of Lies Alexdander Cockburn, CounterPunch (hat tip reader May S). I also thought the dress was overrated.

Al-Qaeda warns US of ‘curse’ Financial Times

Ministers Meet to Study Fixes on Greek Debt New York Times

Here’s How Much German Banks Are on the Hook To The Periphery For Ed Harrison. Note the exposure numbers for Greece are lower than for other periphery countries, but the expected loss levels are a lot higher.

Ways of Treading Water I: Eupdate Portugal Anna Gelpern, Credit Slips

Could Sarrazin Be Right about Integration in Germany? Der Spiegel (hat tip reader Paul S)

The illusion of bank capital Raihan Zamil VoxEU

The Fateful Choice Middle East Research and Information Project (hat tip reader Thomas R). Today’s must read.

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-05-07 at 3.38.05 AM

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. ambrit

    Absolutely right, a definite must read. Ever since I saw Bacevitch on Bill Moyers I’ve had that eerie ‘we’re repeating the same old mistakes’ feeling. Nothing less then the soul of America is at stake.

    1. DownSouth

      Ambrit said: “Nothing less then the soul of America is at stake.”

      The use of torture and the summary execution of Bin Laden are indications of just how far along the road to becoming a criminal state we’ve traveled. They serve as signposts along the road to perdition.

      Just look at the moral abyss we’ve fallen into. Fifty years ago Hannah Arendt asked in her epilogue to Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil:

      Hence, to the question most commonly asked about the Eichmann trial: What good does it do?, there is but one possible answer: It will do justice.

      In sheer numbers, Eichmann’s crime dwarfed that of Bin Laden by a thousand fold. And, as Arendt points out, instead of capturing Eichmann and flying him to Israel, “the Israeli agents could have killed him right then and there, in the streets of Buenos Aires.” “This course of action was frequently mentioned,” she continues, “but those who proposed it forgot that he who takes the law into his own hands will render a service to justice only if he is willing to transform the situation in such a way that the law can again operate.”

      The unpleasantness of a public trial includes the fact that the victims of a crime are frequently put on trial along beside the perpetrator. As Arendt put it:

      It…is not longer a particular human being, a single distinct individual in the dock, but rather the German people in general, or anti-Semitism in all its forms, or the whole of modern history, or the nature of man and original sin—-so ultimately the entire human race sits invisibly beside the defendant in the dock. All this has often been argued, and especially by those who will not rest until they have discovered an “Eichmann in every one of us.”

      The Eichmann trial took an unusually ugly turn when it revealed the extent to which elitist Jews had cooperated with the Nazis in the extermination of the Jewish masses in the belief this would buy their own salvation. And Arendt did not stray away from reporting this. (“Even before its publication,” she noted, “this book became both the center of a controversy and the object of an organized campaign. It is only natural that the campaign, conducted with all the well-known means of image-making and opinion-manipulation, got much more attention than the controversy, so that the latter was somehow swallowed up and drowned in the artificial noise of the former.”) The instances of collaboration of elitist Jews with the Nazis were manifold, but perhaps the words of a former inmate of Theresienstadt summed it up best: “The Jewish people as a whole behaved magnificently. Only the leadership failed.”

      I have little doubt the leadership of the United States failed too. Too many unpleasant facts would come out if Bin Laden were to be brought to justice. That is why Bin Laden was executed and justice sidestepped.

      1. Leviathan

        Do you have a shrine to Arendt somewhere in your home, with burning incense and devotional figurines? No offense, but the world doesn’t rise and set on Old Hannah. I’d say you mention her every other day in your posts. At least this one is kind of apt.

        But not really. What you don’t want to take into account is that Nazism was a spent force in 1946, at least outside of Germany. Communism was the rising ism of the day elsewhere. So, the Nazi trials were a wonderful purgative to Germany’s lingering angst. What was the price paid for bringing Eichmann to trial? A little self-restraint on the part of the Nazi hunters (which also stood well in public opinion, given the bloodshed taking place in Palestine at the time).

        Our problem is not in showing self-restraint. We have shown far too much of it in respect to Pakistan. Forget about Bin Laden for a minute. This was a stiff warning to Pakistan, Obama’s very own “you’re either with us or you’re against us” moment. Through three administrations they cashed our checks and played us. This was a threat: crack down on the militants or we’re through with you. And we won’t let them keep their nukes either. The Seals’ mission was to punctuate that. We can come and go as we please. They must be spitting blood right now, all across the political spectrum.

        What would you have us do DownSouth? Turn the other cheek? Not on this one. I’ll back Obama all the way. The Muslim world is at a turning point. I’m embarrassed that we have not done more to help with the Arab spring. But on the other hand, they are taking action themselves and the chips will ultimately fall where they place them. I think what we are saying to Pakistan (and Afghanistan) is that we’re not your suckers anymore. No more Powell doctrine. We more than covered the cost of what we broke, thanks very much. Now we’ll take what we want from amongst the rubble.

        I have no problem with this.

        1. DownSouth

          Leviathan said: “What you don’t want to take into account is that Nazism was a spent force in 1946, at least outside of Germany. Communism was the rising ism of the day elsewhere.”

          And in your post-1945 universe, capitalism and neo-imperialism weren’t “rising isms”?

          Funny how you use your rather blinkered view of history, to put it lightly, to launch into a justification for the deployment of more U.S. military might in the region.

        2. DownSouth

          Leviathan said: “Now we’ll take what we want from amongst the rubble.”

          Yea! Just like we did in Viet Nam and Iraq!

      2. die letzten Schreibmaschinen

        Bin Laden are indications of just how far along the road to becoming a criminal state


        To be concerned about this you must first assume that Ben Louden existed before 11 Sept 001. I for one had never heard of the mekcufrehtor until after watching the explosions on TV that morning on the financial program. Could fabrication of his existence have been born from that explosion? For answer to that you need to read Nineteen Eighty Four, the book. Emmanuel Goldstein was the book’s analog to the Ben L myth. As I remember the read, he was a mid-easterner with a long nose. Sound like B L? Read the bit about cities under continual bombing. Sound familiar? Was 1984 a prophecy of 001? Does the Orwellian Ministry of Truth look like the Administration’s Propaganda Machine? Who knows. One thing for sure, “I never heard of the Goldstein-look-alike until after the explosions.”!

  2. gonzomarx

    Please excuse the ad but I love his work an think and should be seen as widely as possible

    New Adam Curtis series on the way. Trailer and interview
    Have computers taken away our power?

  3. attempter

    Re prostate exams and superbugs:

    Whenever we read anything like this, we should always think immediately of how Big Agriculture’s factory farms are unregulated bioweapons factories, intentionally developing all kinds of superbugs through their promiscuous slathering of antibiotics, the only way to keep the animals alive in such a toxic environment. There are often strict regulations for antibiotic use in humans; for factory farm animals, almost none. So why bother with any regulation at all? Here the massive antibiotic doses aren’t to cure illness, but are a constantly applied maintenance regimen, in order to keep the animals functional at all.

    This is a lethal pandemic and a mass murder being prepared in plain sight, with the full complicity and support of the government, and we simply sit and do nothing. This dereliction is far worse than the way we’ve rolled over for the banks, since here we’re proposing to physically commit suicide.

    That’ll probably happen sooner than Skynet or the gray goo. But there too we see the psychopathy of our scientists, another malevolent force run amok.

    1. wunsacon

      Wow, attempter. “Grey goo”…
      ~~Must be..50 ways to kill our mother~~

      One of them will probably get us, judging by the fact we can’t even develop the political consensus to stop AGW.

      1. KFritz

        1) Yes, but how much?

        2) Do you work in any branch of the agricultural industry/enterprise?

      2. Stelios Theoharidis

        Drink Brawndo the thirst mutilator it has electrolytes, its got what plants crave. Thats why should drink Brawndo not water, because water comes from toilets, have you ever seen plants grow in a toilet.

  4. RebelEconomist

    I did not think much of that VoxEU post. The author neglects to mention that increasing banks’ capital (or Tier 1 capital at least) increases the exposure of the people who supposedly control the bank, which ought to incentivise them to ensure that the things he wants the authorities to enforce are done voluntarily. I do agree about the importance of valuation standards though. Where there is any doubt, the most conservative valuation method should have to be used. I suspect that that would work wonders for the simplicity and transparency of the assets that banks hold.

    1. reslez

      “Supposedly control” and “ought to incentivise” are the operative phrases here. Ought to is well and good but as we’ve seen throughout the financial crisis, the people who in practice run the banks (as opposed to whatever your philosophy says should happen in theory) have zero incentive to do anything but pad their own pockets, damn the consequences.

      Relying on banks to police themselves out of some hypothetical need to preserve their “good reputation” or minimize risk is the modern day equivalent of tilting at windmills. How many Depressions do they have to inflict on the world before humanity learns this lesson?

  5. dearieme

    I despair at the stupidity of objecting to the lying about the intelligence for the Osama raid. It is their duty to tell lies about that.

    The lying about the raid itself – or, to be precise, the particular lies told – was, by contrast, dereliction of duty.

  6. Foppe

    Re: “The Fateful choice”
    The author writes, among other things:

    Not only had 19 men with box cutters destroyed iconic buildings and sown panic in the two most strategic US cities, they had breached the walls of the mightiest military power the world has ever known, catching its watchmen unawares. The hijackers hailed, moreover, from the region of the globe where US interests most require the projection of invincibility. To secure its guardianship
    But it seems to me that this is mostly wrong. Yes, this was important on the ‘international’ side of things, but the far more important thing was making use of this event that could be turned into a crisis in order to distract from, and ram through, legislation favorable to (republican) party donors. 9/11 provided a fantastic opportunity for first outsourcing a lot of government functions, and then awarding contracts with no oversight “because we’re at war” etc. And because the national media were trained on the iraq/afghanistan “scandals” (yes they were, but for different reasons than usually given), there was also much less airtime available to talk about developing problems such as the housing bubble, skyrocketing medical costs leading to a strong increase in bankruptcies, etc.. I do not know which goal was more important to the people surrounding Bush (securing oil or securing domestic policies and preventing public debate about domestic problems), but it seems to me quite wrong to only focus on the international/moral dimension of the US casus belli.

    1. DownSouth

      Yep. That’s the way I see it too.

      Geopolitics or realpolitik, or “to secure its guardianship of Persian oil reserves” as the aurthors put it, may have been a reason for the decision to go to war. But the far more important reason was the politics of fear.

      For much more on this theme see gonzomarx’s link above and Adam Curtis’ film The Power of Nightmares.

  7. Foppe

    Re: “The Fateful choice”
    The author writes, among other things:

    Not only had 19 men with box cutters destroyed iconic buildings and sown panic in the two most strategic US cities, they had breached the walls of the mightiest military power the world has ever known, catching its watchmen unawares. The hijackers hailed, moreover, from the region of the globe where US interests most require the projection of invincibility. To secure its guardianship

    But it seems to me that this is mostly wrong. Yes, this was important on the ‘international’ side of things, but the far more important thing was making use of this event that could be turned into a crisis in order to distract from, and ram through, legislation favorable to (republican) party donors. 9/11 provided a fantastic opportunity for first outsourcing a lot of government functions, and then awarding contracts with no oversight “because we’re at war” etc. And because the national media were trained on the iraq/afghanistan “scandals” (yes they were, but for different reasons than usually given), there was also much less airtime available to talk about developing problems such as the housing bubble, skyrocketing medical costs leading to a strong increase in bankruptcies, etc.. I do not know which goal was more important to the people surrounding Bush (securing oil or securing domestic policies and preventing public debate about domestic problems), but it seems to me quite wrong to only focus on the international/moral dimension of the US casus belli.

    1. BDBlue

      I would suggest changing “(republican) party donors” to “corporate party donors”. There is a reason why it was a Democratically controlled Congress that passed the FISA immunity bill. Just as it’s a Democratic Administration that rushes out now and assures us all that while the killing of OBL was a huge victory, it doesn’t change anything. Must keep the security apparatus going, especially when there’s no plans on doing anything for the shrinking middle class and the ever-growing pool of the foreclosed and unemployed (other than making the middle class smaller and the other pools larger). Obama is expected to be able to raise a billion dollars for 2012, he can’t do that without largely keeping the same corporate donors happy that the GOP needs to.

      Personally, I think the reason the GOP field is so weak – and was so weak in 2008 – is that big money is by and large perfectly happy with Obama. They don’t need a good GOP candidate, they can get just as much and perhaps more done with Obama since he largely neuters the left.

  8. Richard Kline

    Regarding the Middle East Research and Information Project piece . . . *sigh* I have no factual quarrel with what is presented, it’s the absent context which leaves a throbbing sensation at the base of my brain. Like so very (too) many discussions of the American ‘War on Terror [sic],’ it starts a narrative on a morning in September in 2001, with all that happens next framed as following somehow from that single event. That is simply a false reading, but one so pervasive (because gratifyingly Ameri-centric) that it is difficult to even see the picture in the Near East for the smog of misperception.

    The US has had a consistently anti-Arab and latently anti-Muslim foreign policy since at least 1973 when we intervented in a war there to make plain that no Arabs would ever be allowed to win anything without us. An explicit basing strategy since the late 1970s. Uninvited occupation (failed) in Lebanon in the early 80s. Uninticted co-participant in the Iraqi war on Iran for eight years. A war to Show Who’s Boss in 1991. A continuous anti-insurgent fumbling through the 1990s. Etc., etc., I don’t even attempt to cover it all, but the point is _nothing_ BEGAN in September, 2001. The only thing any different was that Americans got killed at home in consequence of all the folks we were busy killing or making miserable in the Near East. Because, well, those ‘horrible little people’ were some concern to despotisms diverse to whom we chose to ally ourselves there and so a problem we decided to ‘manage.’

    Why did Bush the Lesser ‘forget about al-Qaida’ and go off to [anywhere]? Because al-Qaida was effectively destroyed by mid-2002, and anyway strictly minor league. Jihadis in the Near East are numerically equivalent to, say, white supremacists in the US, as a similarly tiny faction of the small share in the far right corner of the social spectrum represented by Salafis and Christian Identity types respectively. The survival or demise of anyone within the jihadi movement matters to only two groups. A certain slice of the American public may have cared for reasons of revenge, or more accurately to restore a smudged sense of superiority of the ‘we can do them but they can’t do us’ sort. The others who had legitimate reason to care were all the despots in the Near East busy immiserating their own domestic populations which might sympathize with the resistance if not the mentality of the jihadis. It was for reason of the US funding, massaging, and shooting up, so to speak, with those despots that the jihadis became engaged with Americans at all; otherwise we were far down their black list. The War on the Fuzzy Ghazis or whatever has simply been an extension of what the US was doing long before, and has continued to do _specifically to maintain our power relationships with the despots of the Near East_. There are domestic American political reasons why ‘finding Those Guys’ has been a perceived imperative, but that’s only a perception; practically, the jihadis were, are, and will be a trivial faction with respect to American physical security and foreign policy.

    The US has had a consistent policy for the Near East for at least forty years. It did not change when blowback hit some heavily occupied buildings in 2001. Nor will the Assassination of Osama bin Laden (let’s cut the bullshit and just call it what it was) change US policy by itself. That policy has been to velco every despot in the Near East to our coattails, voluntarily or otherwise, and to blockade or crush and despot or popular faction who refuses that directive. Now to be clear, this has been to a degree a forced choice since most of hodge podge of sovereignties which the British and French stitched together in the region before leaving generated despotisms of various stripes quite on their own initiative; I mean even when the despotisms Westerners tried to implant didn’t ‘take.’ Crushing more than a few of them for ‘softer, weaker despotisms’ was just not on, so working on, with, through, over, and out those ‘native despotisms’ was the practicable choice. [I grossly oversimplify here, we don’t have to argue the fine points friends.] I’m not attempting to descrbe what is good, right, just, or even effective, but rather simply what is and isn’t in prospect, to be clear.

    But things _have_ changed in the Near East, radically so, in the last few months. The actions or expiry of a few bankrupt extremists had exactly nothing to do with that change, anymore than will the fumblings or continuance of a few more. Massive popular action in the largest countries of the region have completely changed the complexion of possibility. Nothing is settled. Counter-revolutions are always possible, and even revolutions ongoing are not yet won with the probable cost in lives likely to jump multiple orders of magnitude in more than one of them from here on out. But actual popular governments are now a possibility, so that the possibility of dealing with non-despots presents itself. If the US or any other country were to support popular actions to expell despots, many more revolutionary eruptions would succeed, of course. I don’t say ‘should’ or even ‘could’ in considering potential American policy action here. Change will proceed and take hold there because those there struggle for it. Some will fail as things stand because the despots in place have the guns and the jails, and most of those holding absolute power are prepared to use those tools maximally such that only outside support will allow revolt and revolution to succeed in this generation. The point is that the US has a major policy decision to make. In the hands of that mopsy rabbit B. Obama no less, such are the jokes of historical circumstance.

    There are essentially three choices before present US policymakers with regard to the Near East. 1) We can consolidate out money and tolerance around a Zionist-monarchist core controlling most of the oil in the Near East, and look to ‘manage’ at best or destabilize at worst emerging popular governments in the larger states as they change (and more of them will change in that direction). 2) We can ‘refuse to take sides’ and/or ‘admit the error or our ways,’ and in doing so do nothing else to aide any vector of change, with the result that the surviving despots will see us as faithless [we are, but still!] and the emergent popular states will know us as no friend. 3) We can throw our lot and weight behind emerging popular governments and make lasting friends of some of the _peoples_ rather than the Mephistophelean individuals of the region. The last course, however, will certainly require us to repudiate the House of Saud who are standing violently in the way of popular change, and that is a very significant policy decision to undertake. The US could certainly win any contest, military or policy, with the princes of Saud but would have to go all in, all win.

    Well vector 2) just isn’t going to happen. The US is too deeply engaged in the Near East, or perceives itself to be, to sit on its hands; our decisionmakers will act, and have. What we have in the US, then, is an emergent struggle between policy proponents of vectors 1) and 3). I would say that 3) is far more to the country’s long-term advantage, quite aside from being the more just outcome. Popular governments there are likely to be less ‘friendly’ then the despots. We might make better friends with them if we so chose, with a more stable relationship as the outcome. Vector 1) is much more in keeping with the last 40 years of US policy, and indeed the last 140 years of US policy. It has the serious downside of placing us ultimately, squarely against the popular movement for change in the Near East since continuing to back the shrinking circle of despotisms will inevitibaly, in defending them as we have to this point, put us in conflict those who are changing themselves. Those arguing for vector 1) made some progress in the crisis but garnered no public support, indeed the reverse. Those behind vector 3) are far more numerous and entrenched. Step right up, place yer bets—but let’s talk about the real issues, shall we?

    This, to me, is the real context of events for decisions as of May, 2011. You’ll note that the ‘Flail at Terror’ doesn’t even make it into the picture. (Now if only they’d named it the War for Terrior it would almost make sense.) My larger and final point is that it is the forward choice of whether to align with popular change in the Near East or to retrench around the despotism which truly matters, not the messy Punch and Judy showtime down east of Eden. The assassination of one fanatic more or less is absolutely no turning point, or even a re-evaluation moment, for anything that really matters because those fanatics have NEVER really mattered to our long-term policy, nor even impacted that long-term policy other than to augment it on the hurry-up.

    1. Ignim Brites

      Very clear analysis Mr. Kline. Thank you. I think though that our policy decisions will be more along the lines of vector 2 in regards to Syria, Egypt, Iran, and, let us not forget, Algeria. The stomach of the American people for intervention in this part of the world is pretty sensitive now. While the leadership, Dem or Rep, may act; it will not act in a way that is decisive. Support for the Saudi monarchy and Israel will remain about the same. The model of our support for Solidarity in Poland in the 80s is probably the path that will be taken in terms of supporting popular movements. Except that there is as yet no clear popular movement to support. So a muddle for the time being and perhaps decades.

      What do you make of recent developments in Iran?

    2. Externality

      The US has had a consistently anti-Arab and latently anti-Muslim foreign policy since at least 1973 when we intervented in a war there to make plain that no Arabs would ever be allowed to win anything without us.

      American intervention in the 1973 Yom Kippur War was the idea of Henry Kissinger, and was implemented by Richard Nixon over the objections of the State and Defense Departments and energy-intensive American businesses. (The latter were concerned about OPEC threats to impose an oil embargo if the US helped Israel. They feared, correctly, that an oil embargo would cause mass unemployment among Americans employed in energy-intensive industries, gasoline rationing, inflation, and nationalization of American property in OPEC countries. ) General George Brown, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was nearly forced to resign when he objected to intervening. To characterize the decision to intervene as a broad-based American policy is misleading, at best.

      American policy in the Middle East was and is far more pro-Israel than anti-Arab. Without the influence of the Israeli lobby, and their supporters in Washington, America would have a very different policy in the Middle East. Prior to America’s intervention in 1973, America was viewed favorably in the Middle East. It was seen by Arab countries as both a trading partner and as an anti-colonialist power that helped stop, for example, the joint British/French/Israeli invasion of the Suez in 1953.

      From Wikipedia:

      On October 6, Secretary of State Kissinger convened the National Security Council’s official crisis management group, the Washington Special Actions Group, which debated whether the U.S. should supply additional arms to Israel. High-ranking representatives of the Defense and State Departments opposed such a move. Kissinger was the sole dissenter; he said that if the US refused aid, Israel would have little incentive to conform to American views in postwar diplomacy. Kissinger argued the sending of U.S. aid might cause Israel to moderate its territorial claims, but this thesis raised a protracted debate whether U.S. aid was likely to make it more accommodating or more intransigent toward the Arab world.[195]

      (emphasis added)

      From Wikipedia:

      Another effect of the operation was the near-resignation of then United States chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) General George Brown. Brown was reportedly livid that American weapons and munitions were being sent to a foreign country at the same time that the American command in Vietnam was protesting a lack of supplies in its theater of operations.[17]

        1. Richard Kline

          So Externality, US policy has not been, in the main, anti-Arab by design, but it became anti-Arab by derivation, and remained so. You are certainly correct in recalling that the view of Arabs towards the US was generally favorable before the 1970s. That view was significantly misinformed on their part, we were not benign, but had a basis in reality. We were _not_ the British or the French, had specifically intervened against the interveners in 1956, and spread our money and backing around on a comparatively non-partisan basis. It was certainly possible that the US could have developed a working relationship with popular factions there that might have been productive.

          The downfall our our policy in the Near East was a reflexive anti-Soviet interventionism: our Cold War Great Gaming forced our policy vectors into simple minded hostility. The relationship between the US and Israel is sufficiently complicated I’m not going to dissect that corpus in a brief comment, but I will say that the consistent anti-Soviet stance of Israel was decisive in our throwing in our lot with them initially. Once in with them, though, our relationships with the non-monarchies of the region was driven to zero inherently. So our policy became ‘anti-Arab’ since nationalist or popular Arab governments were perceived as ‘on the other side’ in our policy matrix. It is my view also that a profound cultural disrespect developed on the part of Americans also, a large component of which was undoubtedly the pervasive military inefficacy and political incoherence of the newly independent nationalist Arab polities. They looked like patzers, we often intervened to push along coups there, and we held their populations in contempt for putting up with such medal-decked mooks holding power over them.

          Our policy certainly _has been_ more pro-Israeli than anything else. But always being on the other side of popular agitation there made popular factions anti-‘us,’ and so we acted in response in a way that could only have anti-‘them’ results. There isn’t a single thing the US has done in the last 40 years that was helpful AT ALL to any popular faction in the Near East—until this Spring, when US policy makers belatedly backed popular transitions in Tunisia and Egypt. US moves in Yemen and Libya are more complex, but they certainly have not been anti-popular in result, regardless of our mixed aims. What we see now, after there’s been time for policy factions to line up their respective responses, is the US falling back into giving gestures of support toward ‘uprisings’ against despots who were previously not on ‘our side’ while looking the other way from identical uprisings against those who were or whom we would prefer to remain on ‘our side.’ This is not a policy of muddling through, per Ignim Brites, but an explicit choice of sides which if pursued with any conviction will inevitably slide toward vector 3 I suggest above.

          As I said above, I think vector 2 has better long term outcomes for the US, but it is hugely risky. We would have to come down firmly against the House of Saud, and likely also temper our support for Israel progressively as well at the least. In short, a complete change in policy to back entirely unfamiliar, indeed in many cases inchohate, popular factions. Most decision makers are risk-averse, and that’s a lot of risk.

          Now, our existing over-dependence on the Zionist-monarchist axis is entirely dysfunctional, true. They use us. They don’t follow our interests. They are hated by EVERYBODY ELSE including their own subjected populations. Their inflexibility and repression drag us time and again into repressive actions that are infamous and undermine our own interests at home and abroad. In short, the Zionist-monarchist side are toxic tarbabies whose costs to us are extremely high. But there are two problems. One is a nuclear-armed and fearful apartheid state, and the keystone of the others pumps the Big Gout of the world’s oil supply. Removing the Saudis would not be a difficult enterprise, but any interruption in the flows from their of even a few weeks duration would give ups a global depression from the systemic shock. (I don’t mention that as an endorsement of the action but as an observation of the probable outcome.) Russia and China of course wouldn’t like any despots being ejected, not that they would do anything more about it than they did about the Iraq Adventure. But all that is a lot of risk, and I don’t see US policy makers going there unless the sand shifts under the feet of those tottering despotisms.

          We in the US could get a big pay off in the selfish sense by having functional relations going forward with popular Arab and mixed governments in the Near East, but I don’t see us having the cojones to choose for the new. So the New will have to choose for itself and force our hand. Sooo the New had better get on with it before we put enough fingers on the bunker-up-and-contain side of vector 3 to make us irretreivably committed to that course.

          1. Externality

            Thank you for an thoughtful, substantive response to my post. Just one thought:

            It is my view also that a profound cultural disrespect developed on the part of Americans also, a large component of which was undoubtedly the pervasive military inefficacy and political incoherence of the newly independent nationalist Arab polities.

            Anti-Arab sentiment in US has also been greatly amplified by the media, especially Hollywood. For decades, Arabs and Muslims have been portrayed as terrorists, buffoons, perverts, religious fanatics, and/or anti-Semites in movies and on network television.

            * The 1984 movie, “Protocol,” featured wealthy, lecherous Arabs lusting after a blond woman (played by Goldie Hawn). The Arab sheik and the State Department eventually arrange for her to be sent to his country to become, without her knowledge, his wife. In exchange, the US is allowed to build a military base in his oil rich, strategically located country. She eventually rescued by the Navy and brought back to the US.

            * The long running CBS series NCIS (2003-present) had the US Navy and a Magen David-wearing Mossad agent collaborating to stop Arab and Muslim terrorists who hate Americans and Israelis. The message: the US and Israel are on the same side in the War on Terror against those ‘evil Muslims.’

            * Season 4 of the Fox series “24” portrayed Muslims as terrorists who used political correctness and their religious customs as a covers for terrorism.

            Changing American views of Arabs will ultimately require reversing the decades of media stereotypes.

    3. Richard Kline

      Heavens, I’m mixing my own vectors! This above should read: “Those arguing for vector 3) made some progress in the crisis but garnered no public support, indeed the reverse. Those behind vector 1) are far more numerous and entrenched.”

    4. Charlie

      We need to go back further then 1973…further back then the CIA deposing Irans democratically elected leader to be replaced with the Shah on behalf of the oil companies. Further back then the invasion of Palestinian lands by the Jews. Every last bit of our involvement in the middle east is overshowded and influenced by Israel and oil, America will support any despotic scumbag as long as they help us obtain oil or play nice with Israel. America will not change its policy in the middle east as long as we have our leadership controlled by oil companies and those who support Israel based on race or religious belief.

  9. Jeff Lee

    The Postal Service is going to die an unmissed death if they continue to rely on direct mail advertising revenues. In this digital age, mail is now many people’s biggest source of paper trash.

  10. Philip Pilkington

    On the Schizophrenia study — which is fascinating:

    “Computer networks that can’t forget fast enough can show symptoms of a kind of virtual schizophrenia, giving researchers further clues to the inner workings of schizophrenic brains, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Yale University have found.”

    It looks like — as in most other recent experiments, although you wouldn’t know it from reading the media — the post-Freudians have been vindicated.

    They claimed that a central feature of the severe psychoses — schizophrenia being the major one of these — was a lack of repression… that is, a lack of ability to forget about negative experiences. They postulated that this lack of repression then caused a sort of ‘psychic overload’ that led to an outbreak of psychosis.

    I always thought this was the right approach. If you consider someone who has gone weeks without REM sleep — like some of the Guantanamo torture victims — they also develop psychotic symptoms. This seems to have something to do with being unable to work through repressed memories and experiences by dreaming.

    Anyway, fascinating stuff.

    1. Smirnovka

      In Russia there is song “I rather have bottle in front of me, than have frontal lobotomy.” Forget is good.

      1. Philip Pilkington

        Hehehe… in Russia they used to lock up people diagnosed as ‘schizophrenic’ who were, in fact, just dissidents. They still do this in China — or so I hear.

        But, to provide some balance — the Soviet Union were the first country to abolish the barbaric practice of lobotomisation. The Soviets were outlawing lobotomies at almost exactly the same time as JFK’s poor sister was having her frontal lobes scrambled.

  11. TiWeisEk5

    Re: “A Volcano of Lies” by Alexander Cockburn

    Excerpt followed by a comment:

    “There was scarcely a sentence in the President’s Sunday night address, or in the subsequent briefing by John Brennan, his chief counter-terrorism coordinator, that has not been subsequently retracted by CIA director Leon Panetta or the White House press spokesman, Jay Carney, or by various documentary records.”

    “Had it not been for cloud cover over Abbottabad, the raid on Osama’s compound could have come on Friday, April 29, the same day as the royal wedding.

    Saturday, April 30 was reserved for the attempted assassination of Colonel Gaddafi, with the dropping of precision-guided bombs on the house of his son Saif, who died along with three grandchildren…”

    “But Gaddafi survived. So Obama only had one bloodied feather in his cap when he gave one of the most morally repellent speeches I have ever heard delivered from the White House. Bush at least had the crude brio of a semi-literate jock when he vaunted America’s prowess. Obama’s “we nailed him” paragraphs of mendacity concluded with Dickensian Heepishness: “Tonight we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history.”

    “Alas, the actual story of the “our history” is an unrelenting ability to lie about everything, while simultaneously claiming America’s superior moral worth.”

    Comment: All together now, you brain-dead Obama cultists, let’s see you do the Funky Chicken while chanting: USA USA USA USA

    1. zephyrum

      Your excerpt provides a stronger and more compelling piece than does Cockburn’s original. A pity you were not his editor.

      1. Philip Pilkington

        You’re far too cruel. Cockburn is a joy to read. To move from anecdotes about bin Laden to fashion criticism — I’ll take that any day over some sort of ‘ticker’ news readout…

        Although I respect your point. I’ve been an editor before — but I’ve found that, quite often, killing this kind of thing is killing a little bit of yourself.

  12. Ignim Brites

    The MERIP piece presents the possibility that following 9/11/2001 an international manhunt for the top Al Qaeda operatives was a real option. Perhaps. Maybe if the US was a real monarchy. People tend to forget that just prior to 9/11 the 2001 recession was just picking up steam. The stock market was in the grip of a devastating bear market. Unemployment was rising at an uncomfortable rate. I credit Osama and Ayman with intending to collapse the US economy that day and nearly succeeding. People forget too that the US stock market was closed for nearly a week. How many big money players duly noted that fact?

    A manhunt for Bin Laden and other top operatives would have implied the right to act unilaterally within the borders of a state over which the Taliban had sovereignty. While that might have been uncontroversial in the world community, it assumes that the Taliban would have acquiesced to a considerable autonomous foreign police presence in their country. Maybe that acquiescence would have been forthcoming. Maybe we would have ended up deposing the Taliban anyway.

    It is worth remembering that there was but 1 vote in the House and none in the Senate against the Afghanistan operation. Criticism of this decision, and to a lesser extent the Iraq war decision (also supported decisively by the US Congress) distracts from examination of the political strategy after the main military objectives were achieved. Was it really ordained that we would have to confront an insurgency? Could an occupation been instituted that would have been more effective in bring peace and stability to these lands? Did an excessive fear of being perceived as colonialists prevent and exploration of other options? Did an overly ambitious political military strategy which looked forward to regime change in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt dictate minimal US troop deployments? This is not exactly irrelevant at this point. A similar circumstance and set of questions is developing in Libya.

    1. DownSouth


      That dog just don’t hunt.

      The Israeli secret service agents faced all the same hurdles when they located, kidnapped and smuggled Eichmann out of Argentina, where it was state policy to protect Nazi war criminals.

      Also the thing about “there was but 1 vote in the House and none in the Senate against the Afghanistan operation” is a copout too, to which Arendt gives a devastating response:

      What you meant to say was that where all, or almost all, are guilty, nobody is. This is an indeed quite common conclusion, but one we are not willing to grant you…. [G]uilt and innocence before the law are of an objective nature, and even if eighty million Germans had done as you did, this would not have been an excuse for you.

      In other words, the “mendacity” that had “become an integral part of the German national character,” “the lie most effective with the whole of German people” that the war was not started by Germany and “that it was a matter of life and death for the Germans, who must annihilate their enemies or be annihilated,” the fact that “conscience…got lost in Germany,” that “the overwhelming majority of the German people believed in Hitler—-even after the attack on Russian and the feared war on two fronts, even after the United States entered the war, indeed even after Stalingrad, the defection of Italy, and the landings in France,” the “moral collapse of respectable Jewish society,” the “role of the Jewish leaders in the destruction of their own people,” indeed the “moral debacle of a whole nation,” none of this was a defense for what Eichmann did.

      1. Ignim Brites

        You are right DownSouth. Following the crowd or the leader is no defense of immoral actions. But in a democracy, the citizenry have a right to hold the leadership accountable for the actions they take or fail to take. My point is that the actions taken, invading Afghanistan and toppling the Taliban, would have been demanded by the people if the leadership, both the executive and legislative, had not taken them.

        So what? If the actions were wrong it was the duty of citizens to oppose the leadership. Was the invasion of Afghanistan and the toppling of the Taliban clearly immoral? The point of recollecting the context of the Sep 11 event is to explain and justify the conclusion of the American people that we had been attacked. Though the parallels with the attack on Pearl Harbor are ridiculous; certainly, the United States was attacked by Al Qaeda in a way that was intended to signal the costs of continuing certain policies and intended to damage our ability to respond. It was not simply propaganda of the deed but as perceived by millions, including NATO, an act of war. Now if the attack had been carried out by the government of Afghanistan most people would have no problem with war. But the existent of a dangerous non state actor within the borders poses a different issue admittedly. Still, the Taliban government could have signaled its full and unreserved willingness to cooperative with the United States government in tracking down the Al Qaeda leadership and preventing the re-establishment of Al Qaeda bases. Such offers of cooperation were not forthcoming. It is difficult therefore to conclude anything other than the war in Afghanistan was at least initially legitimate.

        In fairness, MERIP piece does not argue that the war was illegitimate. It argues only that it was the wrong strategic course to take. And my point in my initial response was not to defend the legitimacy of the war in Afghanistan but simply illuminate why in a democratic context the decision of the leadership of the US, executive and legislative, is quite understandable. Tactical cunning is not what one expects of a democracy especially in times of substantial duress.

        1. DownSouth

          Ingrim Bites said: “My point is that the actions taken, invading Afghanistan and toppling the Taliban, would have been demanded by the people if the leadership, both the executive and legislative, had not taken them.”

          Yea, and donkeys fly too.

          I’ll just use this as an opportunity to plug Adam Curtis’ documentary film The Power of Nightmares one more time.

    2. Foppe

      While you are narrowly correct to note that the US was experiencing a bear market at the time, you (and i don’t know whether this is purposefully or accidentally) fail to make the larger point, even while you implicitly seem to be suggesting that the problem was ‘solved’ by the US response: that declaring war on the one hand allowed the US govt to distract from these domestic issues by providing media and ‘liberals’ with lots of stuff that was happening overseas (which was extra salient because it was morally dubious, especially once they invaded iraq), while at the same time it probably helped to create atmosphere in which Greenspan’s (effectively) 0% interest rate would be acceptable, thus allowing for the next bubble to be blown. That is, it is very important not to forget that the economic problems that led to the dot-com bubble and its aftermath were never solved; rather, they were exacerbated further by increasing the rate at which the outsourcing of private — and public! see the failure of ‘FEMA’, and specifically see who FEMA subcontracted to to clean up NOLA: you’ll recognize all of the names from their earlier failures in Iraq — demand for labor either overseas or to a far smaller and more highly paid private sector. And once the housing bubble (which probably strictly predates the blowup of the Nasdaq) had started blowing, it could serve as further (to the extent that this was necessary at all, given the state of US media, and the entire public sphere) support for the Bush tax cuts, which came slightly later.

      1. Ignim Brites

        I don’t think the response to 9/11 solved the problems of the recession and the bear market. If anything these problems were exacerbated by attacks and subsequent wars. But, as you do indicate, 9/11 and the two wars did allow Greenspan to maintain ultra low interest rates without the kind of controversy that Bernanke has encountered. Consequently, the dotcom bubble was not as widely recognized as the source of the problem as might have been case. The analysis of FED induced bubbles was thus deferred nearly until 2009.

  13. Philip Pilkington

    Thought this was pretty interesting — Orville Schell on how the Chinese view US debt (hint: they’re not buying gold):

    P.S. Note that Schell talks about how the Chinese don’t have a welfare system. This is very important from the point-of-view of macroeconomic stability. If China are to undergo a severe recession — which, as we saw from Marshall Auerback’s excellent post the other day, is quite likely in the short to medium term — they will NOT have an adequate ‘automatic stabalisation’ system in place to prevent the downturn from reinforcing itself.

    In plain English: if China’s unemployment rate goes up, there won’t be enough dole checks being printed to prop up aggregate demand. So, China’s domestic economy could well go into meltdown, Great Depression style…

    1. zephyrum

      With all respect I didn’t find this video terribly compelling, though you do transcribe one of the most important points.

      Schell’s key thesis, revealed in the last minute of the 13+ minute video, is that the US and China must work together economically. (But let me point out there are many “musts” in history that didn’t happen–at least not before a tremendous amount of pain and waste.) He also says that China has no place to invest a substantial portion of their foreign reserves besides the US (as in businesses in the US), and yet the US is problematic for political reasons. In what way does their difficulty in finding business investments mean they are not buying gold?

      1. Philip Pilkington

        The gold thing was a terrible attempt at an ‘in joke’ because we were discussing gold purchases yesterday. I maintain that the gold hysteria started because people are afraid of the dollar at the moment — one of the main reasons is that they say China are going to stop holding dollars. This is nonsense and the interview shows why.

  14. Jackrabbit

    Re: A Fateful Choice (MERIP)

    I think there’s distinction to be made regarding State-sponsored terrorism. That would complicate the decision making somewhat.

    The US demanded that the Taliban hand over OBL. They refused. And the US was well aware that the Taliban had/has strong ties to Pakistan/ISI.

    From that standpoint, the civil justice vs. “War on Terror” seems to be a strawman as it doesn’t fully account for the complexities.

    Note: Don’t read more into this that what is written. Just because I take issue with a point or points of one side doesn’t mean I buy all the arguements of the other. (Its just that the anti-US side seems to be well represented.)


    IMO the strongest _indirect_ evidence for ISI support for OBL (arising from the raid) is OBL’s apparent complete lack of planning for an attack against his compound. Given how he was “hunted” and that he was operating in what was supposed to be a country hostile to him and his organization it is remarkable that he didn’t plan for a quick destruction of the documents and computers that were there.

    Does this indicate a lapse of judgment on the part of this seasoned and otherwise careful leader or high confidence that he was protected?

    1. Jackrabbit

      “… anti-US side seems to be well represented.”

      I don’t meant to imply that there is a bias at work here. I respect that the vast majority here is trying to get at the truth and an understanding of what is real, whether in economics, politics or international relations.

    2. Foppe

      While the dichotomy presented is of course strictly false, it would help if you could indicate why you think this is problematic.
      Having said that, I didn’t much care for that paragraph (as well as a few others near the conclusion) in the article either, as the author’s is very heavy-handedly moralizing there, and none too subtle in presenting his idea of what would’ve been the only “moral” choice. Sadly, his suggestions are — imho — rather limited.
      In 2003 or so, Borradori has published a book containing a number of interviews with Derrida & Habermas (shortly after 9/11). In one of these interviews Derrida asks the question “What is a proportional response to this attack”? Now, I won’t pretend to know the definitive answer to that question, but it seems to me that I liked the Spanish response to their government’s response to the Madrid bombings a lot better than I like the US response. However, I fear the author of the MERIP piece would not understand that question, as he is far too concerned with pointless questions (such as whether a democratic president would’ve acted differently) to be able to look at what has been happening in the US under republicans and democrats alike.

      1. Philip Pilkington

        “What is a proportional response to this attack?” — Derrida

        Isn’t that classic Derrida, though? Or any philosopher, for that matter. To try to put Reason as a stopping block in front of human emotion and nationalistic passion; to treat people as if they wholly rational beings.

        Far more astute to ask: how do we minimise the backlash on our foreign policy…

        Uh… I feel like Kissinger… but it’s true… you can’t deny that!

        1. Foppe

          No, it’s not “just an example of (pointless) philosophizing”. Again, consider the different responses to terrorist attacks in the US and Madrid: in one country, the people allow their leaders to talk them into fearing everyone, accepting patriot acts, invade two countries, etc., while in the other country the people took to the streets specifically because they didn’t want their own government to pull the exact same trick. Sure, it may be that they only knew to do this because it had by that time become clear what it had done to the US social sphere, but it is interesting to note that there is still no widespread opposition to the mindset that comes with “being at war” in the US.
          Which of these two responses do you think is more effective, do you think, if one of the goals you are trying to attain is removing the feeding ground for further attacks?

  15. Pat

    Check out this article from Forbes, reposted here:
    “Pakistan Military Knew About Bin Laden Raid Well In Advance Of Attack”

    May 06, 2011 “Forbes” – – Evidence is now emerging that the Pakistani government and military not only knew of America’s plans to launch an attack on Osama bin Laden’s compound far in advance, but assisted the United States in the effort.

    According to GlobalPost, the Pakistan government’s willingness to continue the narrative that they were caught totally by surprise is in response to their fear of a popular backlash among the Pakistani people were they to know that their government and military had helped the Americans execute the raid.

    One senior military official, who asked not to be named because he is not permitted to speak to the press, said that Pakistani army troops were in fact providing backup support when the United States began its operations inside the compound where bin Laden had been staying, including sealing off the neighborhood where the compound was located.”

    Via Global Post

    Adding further support to the notion that Pakistan was in on the mission, a number of local residents have confirmed to the BBC that they were visited by Pakistani army personnel two hours before the attack commenced, ordering them to switch off the lights inside and outside their homes and instructing them to stay indoors until they were informed it was safe to come out.

    The report goes on to add-

    Gen. David Petraeus paid an extraordinary visit to Islamabad on April 25,” said a senior military official said. The official said Petraeus held a one-on-one meeting with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief of staff, in which they discussed the details of the operation.”

    This is shocking. Or it would be shocking if you were gullible enough to swallow the official story.

    This means that the US was lying when it said that the Pakistanis were not informed ahead of time. It also means that the US haste in carrying out the attack was just cheap theatrics, as also the blowing up of one of the helicopters.
    Since Pakistan is now complicit in the lie, they will no doubt cover up what they know, including evidence inside the compound and who had been living there. Further, the supposed residents of the compound were handed over to the Pakistanis for interrogation – so the residents will never say anything about what really happened.
    Really, you can’t do much else other than laugh at the whole sorry affair. All these news agencies trying to chase down details of the raid, and all the people all over the world naively swallowing the entire narrative, as if it really happened.

  16. Jimbo

    Question regarding Euro Deposits. In a thread below, I assert,

    “By doing so, even if Spain were to withdraw from the Euro and convert all Euro deposits in Spanish banks at a government-decreed exchange rate, the Euro deposits in German banks would still be Euros.”

    and xct responds,

    “Not true. The German bank with branches in Spain will obey the Spanish and convert the deposits.”

    I thought that each country must guarantee the deposits of banks incorporated within their borders. Therefore, German bank deposits, regardless where the branch is located, are guaranteed by the German government. Germany can’t argue that it will guarantee deposits of Germans in Germany, but not of Spaniards who have deposits in Spanish branches of German banks.

    Am I not correct in thinking so?

    1. Lurker

      If you can answer that definitively, you can solve the Icelandic financial crisis. Good luck!

Comments are closed.