Sunday, April 12, 2015

Reject the NeoCon War Party’s Effort to Warp Your Mind

Listen, It’s Still Their F**king Fault: Bush, Cheney, Neo-Con Drivel, and the Truth About Iraq and ISIS

By Paul Rosenberg

Salon via alternet

April 10, 2015 - Foreign policy is already looming much larger in the 2016 election than it did in 2012. When Obama ran for re-election, the inescapable fact that Osama bin Laden had been killed on his watch (after Bush had admittedly lost interest in him) essentially foreclosed any serious foreign policy challenge from the Republicans. Hence the profound silliness of their Benghazi obsession, and Obama’s cool, detached debate invitation to “Please proceed…”

But the trajectory of resurgent international conflict during Obama’s second term—epitomized by ISIS, though not limited to it—has already infused the 2016 election with much higher levels of foreign policy concern. If 2012 was all about trying to blame Obama for not adequately fixing Bush’s spectacular domestic economic catastrophe, then 2016 is shaping up—at least in part—to be about blaming him for not adequately fixing Bush’s spectacular foreign policy catastrophe, either. It will only be further complicated by the fact that Obama himself won’t be on the ballot—the more hawkish Hillary Clinton almost certainly will.

At the moment, Obama’s historic nuclear deal with Iran is center stage, but the much more widespread geopolitical problem typified by (though not limited to) ISIS has a much more pervasive political influence. Case in point: the emergence of ISIS, with its provocative spectacles of violence have unexpectedly renewed American’s willingness to send troops to fight overseas [3], completely forgetting that this was precisely bin Laden’s reason for 9/11 in the first place: to lure the U.S. into a “holy war” with Islam. Election year dynamics being what they are, there’s no telling how badly this could turn out. So before we go off and blow several trillion dollars [4] recruiting the next wave of terrorists, perhaps it would be a good idea to reconsider what we did the last time around.

First, though, an observation about framing arguments. Republicans, naturally, want to blame the rise of ISIS on Obama, which is absurd. Three extremely foolish actions undertaken by Bush were absolutely crucial for the emergence of ISIS: First, by responding to 9/11 as an act of war, rather than a crime, Bush gave al Qaeda and its future ISIS off-shoots the holy war and the status of holy warriors they so desperately craved, but could never attain on their own. Second, by invading Iraq—which had nothing to do with 9/11, and was actually a counter-weight both to al Qaeda(ideologically) and to Iran (both theologically and geo-strategically)—Bush destabilized the entire region, creating a tinder-box of multifaceted incentives for sectarian violence.  Third, by disbanding Iraq’s Sunni- and Bath-Party-dominated army, Bush both ensured an intense power struggle and civil war in Iraq (with vastly more power in Iran-friendly Shiite hands) and provided Sunni terrorist ideologues with hardened, experienced military command personnel. (The government Iraq ended up with, and the subsequent U.S. withdrawal, were also results of Bush policy which Republicans have tried to blame on Obama, but they were relatively late-stage decisions, severely constrained by these earlier disastrous decisions.)

The combined effect of all three Bush actions was to turn Iraq into a virtual hell—along with various portions of several other countries as well.  America had one 9/11, one massive loss of 3,000 innocent civilian lives, and that was enough for us to lose all sense of proportion, restraint, and good judgment. Why should the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan respond any better? How many Middle East civilians have died in America’s “war on terror” as a result? How many 9/11s worth? And what difference does that number make?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Great Game in Afghanistan: The US Is Losing China

Afghani President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. In the new foreign policy that Ghani recently outlined, the United States finds itself consigned to the third of the five

Afghani President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. In the new foreign policy that Ghani recently outlined, the United States finds itself consigned to the third of the five "circles" of importance. (Photo: US Institute of Peace)

By Dilip Hiro

Tom Dispatch

April 1, 2015 - Call it an irony, if you will, but as the Obama administration struggles to slow down or halt its scheduled withdrawal from Afghanistan, newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is performing a withdrawal operation of his own. He seems to be in the process of trying to sideline the country’s major patron of the last 13 years -- and as happened in Iraq after the American invasion and occupation there, Chinese resource companies are again picking up the pieces.

In the nineteenth century, Afghanistan was the focus of “the Great Game” between the imperial powers of that era, Britain and Czarist Russia, and so it is again.  Washington, the planet’s “sole superpower,” having spent an estimated $1 trillion and sacrificed the lives of 2,150 soldiers fighting the Taliban in the longest overseas war in its history, finds itself increasingly and embarrassingly consigned to observer status in the region, even while its soldiers and contractors still occupy Afghan bases, train Afghan forces, and organize night raids against the Taliban.

In the new foreign policy that Ghani recently outlined, the United States finds itself consigned to the third of the five circles of importance.  The first circle contains neighboring countries, including China with its common border with Afghanistan, and the second is restricted to the countries of the Islamic world.

In the new politics of Afghanistan under Ghani, as the chances for peace talks between his government and the unbeaten Taliban brighten, the Obama administration finds itself gradually but unmistakably being reduced to the status of bystander. Meanwhile, credit for those potential peace talks goes to the Chinese leadership, which has received a Taliban delegation in Beijing twice in recent months, and to Ghani, who has dulled the hostility of the rabidly anti-Indian Taliban by reversing the pro-India, anti-Pakistan policies of his predecessor, Hamid Karzai.

How to Influence Afghans

Within a month of taking office in late September, Ghani flew not to Washington -- he made his obligatory trip there only last week -- but to Beijing. There he declared China “a strategic partner in the short term, medium term, long term, and very long term.” In response, Chinese President Xi Jinping called his Afghan counterpart “an old friend of the Chinese people,” whom he hailed for being prepared to work toward “a new era of cooperation” and for planning to take economic development “to a new depth.” (Continued)