How the world works: musings of a pessimistic hawk

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Re: How the world works: musings of a pessimistic hawk

Postby hamlet » Tue Feb 16, 2016 1:20 pm

I will say that I find your concept of "self-interest" a bit parochial. Short sighted perhaps.

At the very least, it's not something to be measured in the concept of immediate physical gains. What a voter from Kansas "gains" from the war in Iraq is something wildly intangible. A good argument could be made that, despite how it was sold, prosecuted, or otherwise billed, the ouster of Mr. Hussein and the installation of an at least vaguely representative government in Iraq will have, hopefully, long lasting regional benefits if they make good which will, in turn, provide benefits to the US down the road politically. The "we went there for oil" meme is so idiotic that it beggars belief that rational humans could seriously believe it: if cheap oil were the goal, there are a hundred better, more effective ways of doing that and leaving Hussein exactly where he was and cozying up to him would have been one of the better ways to go about it. Or, simply drilling for and refining and utilizing our own oil in the US and cutting off Middle East oil entirely.

Folks don't measure self-interest or gains as if they were weighing the benefits of a stock market trade.

On top of that, I would suspect that the US is better at integrating immigrants at least because, for the most part, there's not really any concept of what "American Culture" is that folks are expected to integrate into short of "the law of the land is the highest law and otherwise you can do as you like." Not to mention that the US is actually working at integrating immigrants whereas Germany, the UK, and France at least seem to be closing their eyes to the very real problems caused by expecting these refugees to simply "become German" or British or French. "Becoming American" is a significantly lower cultural hurdle in a lot of ways than other nations.
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Re: How the world works: musings of a pessimistic hawk

Postby Jnyusa » Wed Feb 17, 2016 4:01 pm

hamlet wrote:I will say that I find your concept of "self-interest" a bit parochial.


Well, yes, I think so too. The parochial self-interest is what I was expressing.

A good argument could be made that, despite how it was sold, prosecuted, or otherwise billed, the ouster of Mr. Hussein and the installation of an at least vaguely representative government in Iraq will have, hopefully, long lasting regional benefits if they make good which will, in turn, provide benefits to the US down the road politically.

But don't you think we have a right to have that explained to our satisfaction? Why should I accept the assertion that it is in my self-interest if the decision-makers will not share with me their reasons for saying that it is? Particularly when some of the people whom I would include within my own self-interest are being asked to give up their life for this adventure.

"They have weapons of mass destruction," was a lie, and "We went there for the oil," makes no sense, as you point out. So what self-interest was being served, exactly? Apparently NOT mine, nor that of the guy in Kansas, nor my daughters nor my ROTC students. Some other unspoken self-interest was served; some other reason was the real reason for the event. That's the point I was trying to make, that the rationales that are being provided for these events are so goofy that I can no longer believe or accept them.

Folks don't measure self-interest or gains as if they were weighing the benefits of a stock market trade.

Oh but they do! Surely you've heard the expression, "What's in it for me?"

Of course, depending on the situation we may define the 'self' more broadly or more narrowly. I always include my children's interest in my definition of self-interest and I think most people do. For some issues I include my community (my township, say), and for others my fellow Americans, and for others I would include the entire species. But when an administration says things like, "We're fighting them over there so that we don't have to fight them here," they are appealing pointedly to my concern for my own personal safety and the safety of my immediate family, not just the safety of the nation and for sure not the safety of the species. So I have the right to demand the logic of their parochialism, I think.

On top of that, I would suspect that the US is better at integrating immigrants ...

Yes, I think that's probably true.

Although Germany has a lot of recent experience - last 40 years approximately - assimilating their guest workers from Turkey and Eastern Europe. That was not a comfortable transition ... at least, it was quite a provocative and prejudicial issue when I was living there in the 1980s and I don't know to what extent it has been resolved since then, whether those who arrived in the 1980s have since assimilated successfully. Thing is, 40 years is not much time in the life of a nation, so even if that group of people is still isolated it doesn't tell us very much about the long-run prognosis.

There was a sense then that crime was higher among the guest workers than among native Germans, though that perception could be biased. But whatever crime rate those migrants brought with them, it was nothing compared to what's going on right now. You read the news about the attacks on New Year's Day, I presume, when about a thousand refugees traveled to Koln from around Germany and carried out a crime spree in that city. I believe it was 121 women who were assaulted and robbed. Two (I see from the the most recent news) were raped, and one of the rapes was actually broadcast on youtube. If was hadn't seen it on film we wouldn't be able to believe it. Koln cried to the Federal govt for more police to handle the riots and they were refused. 'Not necessary' they were told, and what I'm reading since then is that the Koln police are basically on a wildcat strike. They refuse to patrol Moslem areas in the city. As of the last time I looked at the news reports, only 10 people had been arrested, out of approx. 1,000.

This is systematic crime and systematic lack of enforcement and it's not tenable. Which is why I felt moved to retract my earlier confidence with regard to Germany's ability to absorb and eventually assimilate the refugees ... those of them who wish to stay.

But it's very hard to figure out what is really going on, because for all the facile and prejudicial reasons one might think up to explain why Moslem refugees behave like thugs, none of those explanations come anywhere near explaining the refusal of the Federal governments to deal with the problem forthrightly. Hence my point that it is the self-interest being served by our own western governments that deserves our inspection. Very close inspection, imo.
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Re: How the world works: musings of a pessimistic hawk

Postby Storyteller » Thu Feb 18, 2016 2:00 am

Jnyusa wrote:Storyteller,

Watching events in Europe over the past six months I have to admit that my pessimism has been increasing and might soon be on a par with yours. However, this particular article felt pretty opaque to me. I think that we might be missing the point in a lot of our analysis, which is that "western interest" may not be at all what we think it is, and that the foreign policy of the west makes no sense because it has nothing to do with the self-interest of the people living in the west.

In the US, for example, in what scheme of things could we say that the invasion of Iraq was in the self-interest of a person living in Kansas? The one thing that might be in the self-interest of the person living in Kansas is getting rid of a ruler who is developing and intending to use weapons of mass destruction, but we know now (and government policy makers knew then) that this was not true of Saddam Hussein. That being the only thing of possible self-interest to Kansas, that story had to be invented, which tells me (in retrospect) that that war was not in the self-interest of US citizens and that those who waged the war knew it. They knew they needed a cover story, so they knew that the true story wouldn't sell.

So what was the true story? Well, I'm not sure. Beyond, "we wanted their oil," I have not heard this question asked or answered coherently. Or, let's say, I haven't heard it pursued comprehensively, to the point where a complete answer that rings true would emerge.

Drop the Leftist ideological blinders and the picture gets very clear very fast.

Self-interest is multifaceted and it's not all about economics, although it all eventually factors into economics just like economics eventually intersect with other things that have little to do with money. People's self-interest as individuals can - and frequently does - conflict with their self-interest as part of a population group, economic self-interest can -and frequently does - contradict one's interest in retaining and /or remaining faithful to one's identity, etc. If you don't understand the way a particular group of people sees themselves, you don't know what they see as their self-interest. Simple as that.

Observations that I've made so far are as follows:

1- We are currently living through the crisis of statehood as a form of social organization. Most of the major conflicts and challenges of our time have their roots in the dramatic weakening of state authority and credibility.

2 - The weakening of statehood in the West is a direct result of the rejection and suppression of nationalism, and of policies that facilitated breaking down unifying national identities into a mosaic of competing sub-groups pursuing their narrowly defined self-interests at the expense of social cohesion.

3 - In much of the Third World, European-model statehood never really took hold. Statehood structures left in place by outsiders failed to create genuine unifying identities that would supersede pre-nationalist tribal and religious identities, which are now breaking out and attempting to re-establish dominance. ISIS and various other strands of Islamic extremism are so resilient and have such attraction to Muslims because they are decolonization in all its glory, rejecting the Western models of governance and seeking to re-establish the pre-colonial reality. (In case anyone forgot, that's what pre-colonial Middle Eastern reality actually looked like).

4- Nationalism is the real foundation of democracy, and democracy is rendered dysfunctional without it. "We the people" is not a statement of inclusion but of exclusion - we the people within these borders as opposed to the rest of the people outside of these borders. The Western states undermined their ability to represent their peoples when they chose to reject and suppress nationalism and outsource increasing amount of decisions to transnational institutions such as the EU and various UN bodies, as well as undertake burdensome one-sided obligations towards the rest of the world as a kind of penance for assorted historical guilts, real and otherwise. It is quite evident that almost all rising powers right now are strong nationalists, and those in quickest decline are the ones most eager to shed national interests in favor of supposedly universal interests of "humanity". (No cookies for guessing where the Obama administration belongs in that picture).

I'm looking at Angela Merkel's astonishingly generous offer to empty half of Syria into Germany, not into refugee camps which might make some kind of sense as temporary relief, but to simply adopt these people as if they were a lost tribe of Huns. The news reels on youtube are horrific. Crime is skyrocketing and the police force is being cut. This is so obviously not going to have a happy ending that one really has to ask whose interest Angela Merkel thinks she is serving as she persists with this decision, and what the heck are they blackmailing her with?

Backing up to a few of my own early posts in a related thread, I used assimilation within the United States as an example of the ebb and flow of conflict when a large number of immigrants are absorbed at one time, which has happened several times in US history but never destroyed us. The Irish, for example, for decades they used US resources to support a foreign war, to the point where Irish Catholics in the US were selectively 'persecuted' by the FBI because the role of US Irish Catholics in prolonging the war in Northern Ireland could be considered an international problem. However, we never had a situation where Irish Catholics in the US were saying that Protestantism had to be abolished in the US, that all Protestants had to be removed from our government, that our constitution had to be changed to make Protestantism illegal. They were never committing crimes against Protestants for being Protestants here, setting up Catholic militia in Irish neighborhoods and not allowing Protestants to enter. We never had something like that ... although one could argue I suppose that we came close to that in effect in the gang warfare that has always accompanied masses of immigration, whether you're talking about the Irish Catholics or the Tong or the Korean drug dealers, whatever. But,these events were self-limiting in that gangs tend to be pitted against one another and not against the entirety of the population, even within the urban areas where they proliferated. Irish Catholic is a good example because we've had one Irish Catholic president in our history and his potentially dual loyalty was an issue in that election. But there was never any real danger that our constitution would be changed to include loyalty to the Pope because there weren't masses of Catholics out in the country who wanted that. There were paranoids who were afraid of it but no real danger of it happening.

That does not appear to be what is evolving in Germany, however, Or in England, for that matter. The rate of criminal behavior and the nature of the behavior that is following in the wake of this immigration suggests an invading force more than it suggests a flight of refugees. Maybe that's in the nature of Islam, as those who follow Sam Harris believe. Maybe it's purely economic frustration coming to a head (in England it could be this). And maybe the US is in a better position to dilute the negative influences of immigration because of our size, so that comparisons don't really hold. But this immigration looks very different after its first six months from the immigration that the US has succeeded to absorb during its history, And I will add that even though we have huge immigration from Mexico on a continuous basis, and there is a lot of Republican angst over this, even that onslaught of ethnic, religious, and linguistic different-ness does not look anything like what Europe seems to be experiencing.

I think the USA being better than other states at absorbing immigration is largely due to it having been a one-way trip to a harsh swim-or-drown land in the past. I think the historical experiences of the past are less and less applicable in the age of routine air travel, Internet and demands for more social support.

But what is truly amazing about it, much more amazing than the fact that it is happening at all, is that the government(s) do not seem to perceive there to be a problem. Germany and England both refuse to increase their police forces, refuse in some cases to police at all in the troubled neighborhoods. They seem to have reconciled themselves to enduring whatever damage is to be endured; and that damage is of course being endured by ordinary people and not by government representatives of the people. This is what interests me about it most of all. Because that too is necessarily a self-limiting phenomenon, and we are now seeing in elections throughout Europe the predictable fascist backlash. That's not an evolution I anticipate with joy because whenever a Christian nation decides to hate some group of foreigners, the foreigners they always end up killing are the Jews.

Gee, and what would you have these governments do? Drop the ideological underpinnings of their entire governing system?

In current political conditions of Germany or Britain, dealing head-on with the immigration crisis would incur a catastrophic political cost for whoever tries. Having spent decades purging the last remains of nationalism from their societies, they would now have to rise up and say that they were wrong all along. Say hurtful, unpopular things. Assert superiority where they trained people for decades through the education system to not judge at best, prioritize the Other at worst. Admit that Germany and Portugal cannot be EU members on equal terms just because they are on the same continent. They would need to expose the full costs of their generous welfare systems and liberal laws. It's guaranteed political suicide and will remain so for at least a decade.

Sort of anticipating your take on all of this, Storyteller, from your comments in another thread, I would guess that you are not surprised that Islamic immigration would proceed this way, whereas I do remain mildly surprised by it. And I also guess that you attribute it to liberal misunderstanding, or liberals refusing to face up to the threats we are confronting, whether from Russia or from Islam. Whereas I don't think it has to do with liberal softness, or goofy definitions of tolerance, or liberal altruism, or anything along those lines. I think it has to do with systematic misdirection by these governments. I don't think Margaret Thatcher or Helmut Kohl would have behaved differently, in other words, if they were facing whatever decision array Merkel and Cameron seem to be facing. There is an unvoiced objective being given priority over the good of the nation represented, and I wonder seriously what that objective might be. How are they evaluating the choices available to them on the world chessboard such that internal chaos is the least-worst choice?

Thatcher would've had no qualms sealing the borders shut. Cameron is more limited, but he nonchalantly invoked various EU exemptions that he reserves the right to use eventually. Merkel cannot close the borders because, like I said, it's political suicide.

As for me not being surprised... I wonder why anyone would be. Where did you, or portia, or Frau Merkel think it was all heading? How hard was it to predict that admitting a million-per-year strong migrant wave made up disproportionally of young males would lead to an explosion of sexual assaults Cologne-style? How hard was it to foresee that Germany would not be able to find jobs for even a fraction of these people, not least because many of them have no skills, all of them know no language, some of them can't read and write in any language including their native one, and an overwhelming majority of them crossed several safe countries with decent levels of prosperity in order to get to Germany specifically BECAUSE they knew that in Germany they could live off welfare and not work? Flood a country with young foreign men unfit and / or unwilling to work, give them just enough money to get by (5 Euros a day right now, I believe) and there will be trouble before you know it. There will be crime out of sheer boredom. And there will be ISIS recruiters having the time of their lives picking up cannon fodder that's got nothing better to do.

Back to Putin or a moment. He's a special case, I think, because it's not clear that the self-interest of the Russian people was ever being maximized by the rulers of Russia, no matter how far back you go.That's not true, or not as true, for Europe and the US. We experienced a revolution in political/economic thought following the era of Adam Smith that caused us to think of the strength of the nation in terms of the wealth and well-being of its citizens. A revolution of that nature never really touched Russia. But one can argue coherently, I think, that if Europe had drawn a boundary for the expansion of the EU, the EMU, and NATO, it would be harder for Putin to march forward under a defensive aegis. Maybe it would not have changed anything; maybe Putin just wants to rebuild the USSR. But it's still true that if we are determined to intrude on eastern Europe, then Putin has the excuse he needs to intrude right back.

Yep, that's the kind of thoughtful analysis that's meant to make sense of things without acknowledging that the founding assumptions of one's worldview have nothing to do with observable reality. If only "we" didn't give "them" that one talking point that makes such sense to "us"...

It's up there with John Kerry being unable to understand why ISIS terrorists would shoot up a concert in Paris but seeing the rationale for why they would shoot up Charlie Hebdo.

And it would be a mistake, I think, to conflate our relationship to Putin with our relationship to Islamic immigration. The immigrants to Germany are not coming from Chechnya.

Who's conflating? There are commonalities in how the Western government handle both Putin and Islamic immigration, because the same thought flaws are evident in both cases. But they are not one and the same problem, obviously.

So when I look across the Middle East I do see a couple winners in this scenario. Short term winners, anyway. The monarchies are winners. Particularly Saudi Arabia. As far right as they are, their enemy is even further to the right. The cost of battling ISIS is on us, and on Russia let's say, and not on Saudi. The cost of Syrian agony is on Europe, absorbing the Syrian people to move them out of the way of the battle. And it's a battle between two parties where one really hopes that both of them will lose! So ... in a sense, why do WE care at all?

Is our government, and Germany's government and England's government and the mega-government in Brussels doing all this to serve the self-interest of Saudi Arabia? What blinking logic would that be? Unless all those guys in the government are playing a completely different game from the rest of us. And ... I mean, at some level that's always been true, and we've always known it, but to see 2/3 of the trilaterals thrown into disarray so the the House of Saud can remain in power a little longer? ... that's a disconnect that would be positively Strangelovian.

And then ... for those of us who are old enough to have really long memories ... where the heck is Jordan in all of this? Back in 1970, Jordan covered its eyes and said, "look, Uncle Sam, I'm invisible." And they've been invisible ever since. Apropos of nothing ... it's just another piece of the puzzle that puzzles the heck out of me - how Jordan succeeds to remain invisible.

Well, that was my rant. Doesn't really address your question in the thread, I suppose. Because although I'm increasingly pessimistic I am not increasingly hawkish. On the contrary, it seems to me that every time we use a military solution we make things worse. There's something in between militancy and throwing open the doors of the larder as Europe has done, and it is clearly NOT on the table for any of them.

I don't have enough time to answer that today. Some time over the weekend.
Last edited by Storyteller on Fri Feb 19, 2016 12:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How the world works: musings of a pessimistic hawk

Postby hamlet » Thu Feb 18, 2016 8:29 am

Jnyusa wrote:But don't you think we have a right to have that explained to our satisfaction? Why should I accept the assertion that it is in my self-interest if the decision-makers will not share with me their reasons for saying that it is? Particularly when some of the people whom I would include within my own self-interest are being asked to give up their life for this adventure.


Of course I do. I have maintained for a long time that the Iraqi war was the right war, right place, right time, for all the wrong reasons. At least publicly. But they could never EVER have sold the war on the right reasons. Ask Storyteller why. No Western nation, except maybe Russia, would have gotten behind the idea of attempting to sculpt the region's politics that way. So, they sold us something that would appear to the idiotic and infantile nature of US media consumption: they're pointing a gun at us and we have to get them first!

On top of that, the "WMD's was a lie!" bit is not wholly true. Hussein, at the very least, wanted the US and his neighbors especially to think that he did have such weapons. They were a political tool for him just as much as his defiance of the US, the Great Satan. He was trying to make political hay right up until the point when tanks rolled through Baghdadi streets. I suspect that he himself truly wanted to restart his weapons programs as soon as he reasonably could and was out of the limelight. The man wanted more than anything to be a regional power, the reincarnation of Saladin himself.

Of course, that doesn't mean he had such weapons at the time or change the fact that the administration, at best, fudged the truth in order to sell the war to the US population, which is essentially largely populated with mouth breathing non-thinkers (as is much of the world).


Oh but they do! Surely you've heard the expression, "What's in it for me?"

Of course, depending on the situation we may define the 'self' more broadly or more narrowly. I always include my children's interest in my definition of self-interest and I think most people do. For some issues I include my community (my township, say), and for others my fellow Americans, and for others I would include the entire species. But when an administration says things like, "We're fighting them over there so that we don't have to fight them here," they are appealing pointedly to my concern for my own personal safety and the safety of my immediate family, not just the safety of the nation and for sure not the safety of the species. So I have the right to demand the logic of their parochialism, I think.


Of course folks almost always ask "What's in it for me?". That's actually a major problem we have today in a liberal Western democracy. Folks are centered on self rather than on the whole group at times. NIMBY is the other side of that problem. "Sounds like a great idea, boss, but NOT IN MY BACKYARD YOU WON'T!!!"

The problem is that you're thinking too narrowly. Storyteller did a better job at explaining it than I could, but essentially, people are measuring their interest in ways that flat out don't make sense to you, or you can only explain in ways that vilify and demonize those who disagree with you. Why would somebody want to ban abortion? You can see no reason except that they hate women and want to control their bodies. Why would a major corporation offshore it's labor force? Must be evil profit mongering at the expense of US workers.

You're not understanding because you're not trying to understand things on the terms of the people who assert them and experience them.



Although Germany has a lot of recent experience - last 40 years approximately - assimilating their guest workers from Turkey and Eastern Europe. That was not a comfortable transition ... at least, it was quite a provocative and prejudicial issue when I was living there in the 1980s and I don't know to what extent it has been resolved since then, whether those who arrived in the 1980s have since assimilated successfully. Thing is, 40 years is not much time in the life of a nation, so even if that group of people is still isolated it doesn't tell us very much about the long-run prognosis.

There was a sense then that crime was higher among the guest workers than among native Germans, though that perception could be biased. But whatever crime rate those migrants brought with them, it was nothing compared to what's going on right now. You read the news about the attacks on New Year's Day, I presume, when about a thousand refugees traveled to Koln from around Germany and carried out a crime spree in that city. I believe it was 121 women who were assaulted and robbed. Two (I see from the the most recent news) were raped, and one of the rapes was actually broadcast on youtube. If was hadn't seen it on film we wouldn't be able to believe it. Koln cried to the Federal govt for more police to handle the riots and they were refused. 'Not necessary' they were told, and what I'm reading since then is that the Koln police are basically on a wildcat strike. They refuse to patrol Moslem areas in the city. As of the last time I looked at the news reports, only 10 people had been arrested, out of approx. 1,000.

This is systematic crime and systematic lack of enforcement and it's not tenable. Which is why I felt moved to retract my earlier confidence with regard to Germany's ability to absorb and eventually assimilate the refugees ... those of them who wish to stay.

But it's very hard to figure out what is really going on, because for all the facile and prejudicial reasons one might think up to explain why Moslem refugees behave like thugs, none of those explanations come anywhere near explaining the refusal of the Federal governments to deal with the problem forthrightly. Hence my point that it is the self-interest being served by our own western governments that deserves our inspection. Very close inspection, imo.


It's been shown, actually, at least over on fact check that the refugees (I HATE the term "migrants," it's the wrong word) are not actually majoritively young males but an even mix of ages and genders as one would generally expect from refugees and that the horrible rape crimes are, at least in some cases, dramatically overstated and over focused upon.

The real problem is that Germany, much to their credit, agreed to try and help these people, but are wholly and categorically against doing what it really takes to help them. The German system essentially is a handout as Story has said. The Germans won't increase their policing and handle the issue. They're covering their eyes, sticking fingers in their ears, and humming real loud and trusting that their perfectly idealistic State will save them. That's not how you integrate immigrants. That's how you create a refugee camp without any fences or walls.




The Middle East has a major problem. It doesn't really have to do with "The West" ex-colonial powers, horrible autocrats, theocracies, or any of that. It has everything to do with an entire region suffering an identity crisis even more profound than the one the US is undergoing now. The region is trying to operate a modern society in terms of technology on top of a 19th century governmental format while 8th century personal and tribal identifications are striving quite successfully for dominance, and they can do it because they're sitting on top of a substance that the world needs like an addict needs his drug and because the 1st world is too terrified to do anything much more than wring their hands over it, even when it spills over into their yards.
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Re: How the world works: musings of a pessimistic hawk

Postby Storyteller » Fri Feb 19, 2016 1:40 pm

So I have a bit more time now, thought I'd finish replying.

Jnyusa wrote:So when I look across the Middle East I do see a couple winners in this scenario. Short term winners, anyway. The monarchies are winners. Particularly Saudi Arabia. As far right as they are, their enemy is even further to the right. The cost of battling ISIS is on us, and on Russia let's say, and not on Saudi. The cost of Syrian agony is on Europe, absorbing the Syrian people to move them out of the way of the battle. And it's a battle between two parties where one really hopes that both of them will lose! So ... in a sense, why do WE care at all?

How did you ever manage to arrive to that conclusion? Surely not by following the events.

The Saudis are not the winners of this mess, in any sense. The rising Islamist tide threatens them every bit as much as it threatens other governments in the region. They were forced to actively interfere on several fronts - Bahrain, Yemen - to prevent the emergence of Iranian power bases, and they are about to send troops into Syria as well. The refugee flood into Europe does little to benefit the Saudis, in the short term anyway.

Here's the picture the way I see it. Western retreat from the Middle East and Obama's attempts to pacify the radical Islamists by helping their "political wings" into power created a power vacuum, and everyone who's anyone is scrambling to fill it. The Sunni Islamists are rebelling against Arab states, unbalancing them and attempting to overthrow the governing structures to establish a Caliphate. ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nusra and the rest of them. Iran, assisted in great measure by Obama even before the deal, is arming and multiplying its proxy armies to assault the Sunni nations. The monarchies are trying to counteract Iran by financing their own Sunni proxies. It's a non-linear, kaleidoscope war with blurred frontlines and ever-shifting alliances and enmities. Therefore it isn't something a Western economist ever-so-fond of his or her rational thinking can hope to make sense of in terms of "self-interest" of this or that side.

And then ... for those of us who are old enough to have really long memories ... where the heck is Jordan in all of this? Back in 1970, Jordan covered its eyes and said, "look, Uncle Sam, I'm invisible." And they've been invisible ever since. Apropos of nothing ... it's just another piece of the puzzle that puzzles the heck out of me - how Jordan succeeds to remain invisible.

Jordan is sitting on a powder keg and knows it, so it doesn't make sudden moves. The Hashemites have always been good at walking the tightrope.

Well, that was my rant. Doesn't really address your question in the thread, I suppose. Because although I'm increasingly pessimistic I am not increasingly hawkish. On the contrary, it seems to me that every time we use a military solution we make things worse. There's something in between militancy and throwing open the doors of the larder as Europe has done, and it is clearly NOT on the table for any of them.

As per the BBC article, it's not that there is no military solution, it just isn't YOUR military solution. Putin can go in and show everyone how it's done, but the USA interventions make things worse. There are fairly obvious reasons for that - the West forgot how to fight. You don't go to war and set a deadline for getting out. You don't go to war and do half a job on the battlefield because the Commander in Chief wants zero civilian casualties. You don't go to war and then shower your adversary with humanitarian aid and money. You don't go to war if you don't mean it.
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Re: How the world works: musings of a pessimistic hawk

Postby hamlet » Mon Feb 22, 2016 11:27 am

Storyteller wrote:

As per the BBC article, it's not that there is no military solution, it just isn't YOUR military solution. Putin can go in and show everyone how it's done, but the USA interventions make things worse. There are fairly obvious reasons for that - the West forgot how to fight. You don't go to war and set a deadline for getting out. You don't go to war and do half a job on the battlefield because the Commander in Chief wants zero civilian casualties. You don't go to war and then shower your adversary with humanitarian aid and money. You don't go to war if you don't mean it.[/quote]

Minor quibble, but I think it's less that "The West" (as nebulous a distinction as "Europe" or "The Middle East" really) has forgotten how to fight so much as it is terrified of the consequences of fighting. Between the end of WWII, through Korea and Vietnam, the US mindset as regards armed conflict has changed a bit. It's not just a matter of looking for a bad guy to fight and filling the good guy role, it's being trigger shy of actually using the biggest military in the world as a solution in the first place gussied up six ways from Sunday as various versions that essentially boils down to "killing makes lots of folks really uncomfortable now."

Europe, maybe because of having a front row seat to one of the most destructive and widespread wars in history.

The US for various reasons, not least because there are a lot of folks "trying to live up to Europe's more enlightened example" and because of common sense memory that "we lost in Vietnam."

The value systems have shifted away from being willing and ready to use deadly force until operational goals are achieved. At the risk of sounding a little stereotypical, we've become shy about actually prosecuting our will unilaterally and overtly. We're trying to learn to "play nice" I suppose is the only way to describe it.
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Re: How the world works: musings of a pessimistic hawk

Postby Storyteller » Mon Feb 22, 2016 12:50 pm

hamlet wrote:Minor quibble, but I think it's less that "The West" (as nebulous a distinction as "Europe" or "The Middle East" really) has forgotten how to fight so much as it is terrified of the consequences of fighting.

Six of one, half dozen of the other...

And it's not just the loss of will to do it. It's the endless broadcasting of intentions, in exhausting detail, months and years ahead of actually doing something. It's the obsessive war on government secrecy. Sun Tzu would've had a thing or two to say about that. It's the infatuation with diplomacy for diplomacy's sake, not as a way of gaining strategic advantage but as group therapy of sorts, talking for talking's sake because there is supposedly no harm in talking. It's a lot of other things that have more to do with the general mindset of our times than with the fear of fighting specifically.
"...Their aim in war with Germany is nothing more, nothing less than extermination of Hitlerism... There is absolutely no justification for this kind of war. The ideology of Hitlerism, just like any other ideological system, can be accepted or rejected, this is a matter of political views. But everyone grasps, that an ideology can not be exterminated by force, must not be finished off with a war.” - Vyacheslav Molotov, ""On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union", 31 October 1939
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Re: How the world works: musings of a pessimistic hawk

Postby hamlet » Mon Feb 22, 2016 1:12 pm

Storyteller wrote:
hamlet wrote:Minor quibble, but I think it's less that "The West" (as nebulous a distinction as "Europe" or "The Middle East" really) has forgotten how to fight so much as it is terrified of the consequences of fighting.

Six of one, half dozen of the other...

And it's not just the loss of will to do it. It's the endless broadcasting of intentions, in exhausting detail, months and years ahead of actually doing something. It's the obsessive war on government secrecy. Sun Tzu would've had a thing or two to say about that. It's the infatuation with diplomacy for diplomacy's sake, not as a way of gaining strategic advantage but as group therapy of sorts, talking for talking's sake because there is supposedly no harm in talking. It's a lot of other things that have more to do with the general mindset of our times than with the fear of fighting specifically.


I'm not disagreeing with you.

And, I will say, I like the image of diplomacy as a sort of group therapy. It's the only thing today that's made me laugh. Thanks for that.
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Re: How the world works: musings of a pessimistic hawk

Postby Storyteller » Mon Feb 22, 2016 1:17 pm

hamlet wrote:And, I will say, I like the image of diplomacy as a sort of group therapy. It's the only thing today that's made me laugh. Thanks for that.

If you want the full mental image that was in my head when I wrote it, watch "Jessica Jones" on Netflix and pay attention to the therapy group of Kilgrave's victims. If there ever was an appropriate analogy, that one's it.
"...Their aim in war with Germany is nothing more, nothing less than extermination of Hitlerism... There is absolutely no justification for this kind of war. The ideology of Hitlerism, just like any other ideological system, can be accepted or rejected, this is a matter of political views. But everyone grasps, that an ideology can not be exterminated by force, must not be finished off with a war.” - Vyacheslav Molotov, ""On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union", 31 October 1939
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