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December 01, 2014

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"Why do you hate America?"

Jon, you nailed it! I'm tempted to count and see how few words you needed. If we can't understand the Middle East, or refuse even to try, we should come home and, as you say, let it all play out. Any solution is (for us) impossibly complex. We won't like it, but Turkey, Iran and probably Russia are parts of any “solution.” It's sad that we can't even protect the Kurds, the Yazidis, the Assyrian Christians, or the little Afghan girls who would just like to go to school. But our continued involvement just means that more will suffer, and their suffering will be longer. And if we keep hanging around, our Israeli allies may talk us into another dubious adventure.

Writing in The New Yorker, George Packer analyzes the character of Angela Merkel and comes up with this interesting point about Obama:

During the Ukraine crisis, the two have consulted frequently on the timing of announcements and been careful to keep the American and the European positions close. Obama is the antithesis of the swaggering leaders whom Merkel specializes in eating for breakfast. On a trip to Washington, she met with a number of senators, including the Republicans John McCain, of Arizona, and Jeff Sessions, of Alabama. She found them more preoccupied with the need to display toughness against America’s former Cold War adversary than with events in Ukraine themselves. (McCain called Merkel’s approach “milquetoast.”) To Merkel, Ukraine was a practical problem to be solved. This mirrored Obama’s view.


After the various debacles engineered by Real Americans (read: white) leaders, I would think the public is probably in a mood for less swagger and more caution. Other people might live or die for the sake of some politicians self-image in a flight suit, so it's probably not a good idea to let our emotions guide foreign policy, contra John McCain.

You don't unshit the turds of Iraq and Afghanistan so Obama is a disappointment for those who see a president as possessing superhero qualities including that of time travel. For myself, I wish we had a citizenry mature enough to debate the trade-offs between empire and democracy, nation-building abroad vs nation-building at home. But there is no debate because it's more important to fixate on issue like Ebola, black thugs scaring white police officers, and whether cold weather means scientists are poopy-heads about climate change.

The most depressing news I read last week was that a Michelle Fournoy, who is the head of hawkish think tank funded by defense contractors, was a possible replacement for Chuck Hagel. She took herself out of the running because, according to some reports, she thinks she would have a better hand to play as DOD chief under a President Clinton.

I know we're supposed to think Joe Biden is a joke because of his verbal gaffes (none of which will ever rise to George W Bush's level of buffoonery), but if he ran for president, we might at least have a chance to debate whether we want another Neocon fantasist as president. Republicans loathe Clinton more for her cankles than her policy positions, so it's only going to be Democrats who can hold those cankles to the fire, as it were.

Please, Joe, run.

Krazy Bill, what's your point!
How did U arrive at a HATE conclusion?
Would you like to send the US Marines to Ukraine?
Or maybe we could continue the 3000 year war in Afghanistan? You probably know we now have federal and military in Mexico. A War closer to home!

Cal; i was just mocking those who always ask Jon Talton "Why do you hate Arizona?"

Depending on what's in and what's not, the US defense budget is around $800 billion per year, and, like most other government programs, it does not accrue for future unfunded liabilities. So, really- who knows???

In either relative or absolute terms, it dwarfs any other country.

Indeed- we cannot continue to be the policemen for the rest of the world. The EU needs to pull it's weight against Putin and the Middle East, which seems to define the word quagmire. The third rails of Middle East policy have always been oil and Israel. Maybe the oil situation will continue to get better. Who knows with Israel.

Never kid yourself. The military industrial complex exists primarily to sustain it's existence (like most other bureaucracies). It is bloated, inefficient, and staked with cronyism that would embarrass even the Teamsters. And put me down as cynical when a General testifies in front of Congress that they need more. Because, of, well, some terrorist threat from 10,000 miles away.

The horrors of 9/11 did change everything. But chest thumping for chest thumping's sake is not foreign policy.

President Obama does not own the stinking logs laid down by presidents Bush and Clinton in Iraq or Afghanistan, but he shat a brick in the Ukraine (what was he thinking to back Fascists?). Club Orlov has some good takes on the recent developments. One cold winter will change the EUs opinion of who to work with.

This is worth a read:

http://orwell.ru/library/articles/nose/english/e_nose

Let's start with Iraq. It's often said (and not just on FOX News) that Obama is responsible for the rise of ISIS in Iraq because he failed to keep troops there. If only we had kept a few tens of thousands of troops in Iraq, ISIS would never have been able to take over the Anbar province. Obama refused to keep troops there because he wanted to please his political base and has no geopolitical vision.

That's the claim, anyway. President George W. Bush signed a status of forces agreement with Iraq on November 17, 2008.

Article 24, Paragraphs 1 and 2 read:

1. All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.

2. United States combat forces shall withdraw from Iraqi cities, villages, and localities no later than the time at which Iraqi Security Forces assume full responsibility for security in an Iraqi province, provided that such withdrawal is completed no later than June 30, 2009.

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Status_of_Forces_Agreement,_2008#Article_24.E2.80.94Withdrawal_of_the_United_States_Forces_from_Iraq

That's clear enough. Now, the agreement was valid for three years, so it expired on November 17, 2011, roughly six weeks before the final withdrawal deadline.

Technically, the U.S. and Iraq could have signed a new agreement prior to the withdrawal of all forces deadline, to allow any number of U.S. forces to stay. There was also some question of loopholes under the old agreement. For example, Article 4 Paragraph 4 reads:

4.The Parties shall continue their efforts to cooperate to strengthen Iraq’s security capabilities including, as may be mutually agreed, on training, equipping, supporting, supplying, and establishing and upgrading logistical systems, including transportation, housing, and supplies for Iraqi Security Forces.

There was some talk at the time about "redefining" combat troops as security advisers/trainers.

Now, first of all, the Iraqis in charge of the government (and a lot of others) wanted U.S. troops out.

But beyond this, both renegotiation and the use of loopholes were rejected, not because Obama was a feckless politician playing to his peacenik political base, but because, as noted in this contemporaneous news story:

"Throughout the discussions, Iraqi leaders have adamantly refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the Americans have refused to stay without it. . . Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has told U.S. military officials that he does not have the votes in parliament to provide immunity to the American trainers, the U.S. military official said. A western diplomatic official in Iraq said al-Maliki told international diplomats he will not bring the immunity issue to parliament because lawmakers will not approve it."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/15/iraq-withdrawal-us-troops_n_1012661.html

This refusal to put American troops at risk of Iraqi justice (whether for real crimes or in Shia controlled kangaroo courts) was not a whim of Obama; it was an integral part of U.S. foreign policy and came straight from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The agreement signed by President Bush had also made U.S. contractors working for the Defense Department subject to Iraqi criminal prosecution. Given the amount of combat and related field work which had been outsourced to private contractors in Iraq, that was another deal breaker.

The other criticism is that if only Obama would agree to send more U.S. ground troops to Iraq, the ISIS problem would be solved.

Even war hawks like John McCain, however, do not advocate the reintroduction of regular U.S. combat troops to Iraq. What he advocates is an expanded use of U.S. personnel (notably special operations squads) embedded with Iraqi forces in the field as ground advisors, spotters, and intelligence collectors. The number suggested is in the low thousands.

The notion that this would constitute an effective strategy against ISIS is belied by U.S. experience during the Iraq War.

During that conflict, we were primarily fighting insurgents in the same area (the Sunni Triangle), and against the same groups: Al Qaida In Iraq (the organization which subsequently became ISIS), its collaborators among Saddam Hussein's deposed army who formed an insurgent/terrorist organization called the JRTN (who are also collaborating with ISIS), and Sunni tribes aligned with, or at least not actively opposed to, Al Qaeda In Iraq (most of whom passively or actively support ISIS today).

At the time of the invasion in 2003, the U.S. deployed 150,000 troops to Iraq, and Great Britain another 46,000 troops, along with thousands more by numerous coalition countries. As we all know, this wasn't enough: the war ground on for years and didn't begin to turn until the Anbar Awakening of 2006-2007 when Sunni tribes were armed, bribed, cajoled, and coerced into acting as American anti-insurgency forces in local villages and towns.

Sunni tribal leaders had the intelligence to know who was Al Qaeda, where they lived, where safe-houses were located and where and arms were hidden, and had the ability to stage the kind of light-infantry attacks based on stealth, flanking, and trickery that were needed to surprise and undermine them. Also, by depriving the insurgents of their civilian support base (those who were loyal to Sunni chiefs flush with American money) the insurgency lost the hiding and recouperation places, food and other supplies, urban camouflage and counterintelligence support, and other requirements for a flourishing insurgency.

If 200,000 coalition troops weren't enough without local Sunni tribes helping, what good will a few thousand embedded special forces advisers be? Remember, these are not special forces acting independently in the effective way they have been trained, in direct combat roles, but chained to an incompetent and often disloyal or untrustworthy Iraqi army. It's like chaining a panther to an elephant and hoping for stealth.

Can Sunni tribes be the solution today, as they were in the Iraq War? Maybe not. From a Defense One article earlier this year:

Robert Baer, a former Middle East case officer for the CIA, has recently been in touch with a number of the Sunni tribal sheikhs. "There is a revolt going on in the Anbar desert, led by a younger generation of Sunni tribal leaders, who are pissed off and reject the older generation’s failed outreach to Maliki, and they see only a future of repression in a Shiite-led Iraq," he said. "They just want to cut all ties to Baghdad and break the country apart, which is what is happening before our eyes."

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2014/02/can-another-anbar-awakening-save-iraq/78053/

The other big suggestion heard on FOX News is to bomb the crap out of ISIS. They want ten times or more the number of airstrikes. Well, we had quite a bit of that during the Iraq War, didn't we? Anybody remember the phrase "shock and awe"? How did that work out?

ISIS is imbedded in civilian areas, villages and towns. You can't carpet bomb without causing massive civilian casualties. The big problem currently is that fighters flying sorties are having a hard time finding the kind of (comparatively) unambiguous targets such as convoys and above-ground warehouses. ISIS has adapted its tactics.

You can't bomb effectively without targets. Insurgents don't organize like regular army, they don't move and infiltrate like regular army, and they don't house troops and weapons like regular army. And finally, you have to know where to bomb, and when. That takes accurate and up to date intelligence in a fast changing environment, and the U.S. doesn't have that in Iraq.

Why do you suppose we didn't just use air power in fighting WW II, when the German's had well defined military barracks, military camps, military columns, armored and troop formations, airfields, factories, and so forth? Were we just dumb not to sit back, from across the pond, and lob tons of bombs in until we destroyed the Nazi menace?

I saw a retired U.S. military officer on FOX News the other day. One thing I'll say about that venue is that they speak more openly sometimes. Well, this guy not only talked like a war criminal, he talked like a STUPID war criminal. He said that we should basically bomb the hell out of any place where ISIS was, and though this would cause large civilian casualties, "So what?" because "It would be over in six or eight months."

He clearly has no concept of how insurgencies are fought, or fought against; how bombing must have targets to be effective; how insurgencies depend on civilian support (and why killing them en masse plays into the hands of insurgents); of the rules of war to which the United States is signatory (including the Geneva Convention); of the tactical limitations of bombing; of the need for ground troops capable and willing to take and hold ground positions, including the very difficult urban positions ISIS relies on; and of the very nature of insurgent tactics against occupying ground troops (whether U.S. or Iraqi).

Urban-based insurgents are a little bit like cockroach infestations in the sense of being imbedded in a wider environment. You can't bomb them out of existence. They have hiding places underground, both literally and figuratively.

I'm out of time today except on the 15 minutes computers (with long waits between sessions). So the other topics (Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria) will have to wait.

Good stuff, Emil.

Momentarily OT. Talking Stick Resort Arena. That pretty much says it all about Phoenix's inability to be a big city.

Rogue, Talking Stick Resort Arena made me groan. I wish I could say it surprised me.

Afghanistan. Well, first of all, note that Obama did not come into office fulfilling his campaign promises to his base: not only did he not whisk troops higgledy piggledy out of Afghanistan, he nearly tripled the number of U.S. troops.

When he came into office, there were 36,000 U.S. troops there. Starting in mid-February 2009, just a month after being sworn into office, he announced a 50 percent increase with 17,000 additional troops being sent.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/washington/18web-troops.html?_r=0

He then quickly announced a series of additional U.S. troop deployments to Afghanistan, so that by December, 2009 there were roughly 70,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan with an additional 30,000 announced, bringing the total nearly to 100,000, with all due to arrive by May 2010, actually hastening the deployment schedule by six months.

Now, note this closely: at the time of the invasion, total coalition forces (ISAF) totaled about 34,000 troops. At the height of the surge in Afghanistan under Bush, the U.S. had about 45,000 troops there. By the time Bush left office, there were 36,000 U.S. troops there. President Obama increased the number of U.S. troops to 98,000. Does that sound like a dove? Does it sound like someone removing troops higgledy-piggledy to please his lefty political base?

At the time that the final 30,000 deployment was announced in December, 2009, Gen. McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, gave a public assessment stating that the war would be won or lost within the next 18 months. The first U.S. troop withdrawal did not occur until July, 2011, about 18 months later. So, Obama gave the joint commander of U.S. and NATO forces the timetable he specified.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/01/AR2009120101231.html

According to Veteran NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell, citing an independent source, General McChrystal's classified assessment of the war in Afghanistan concluded that a successful counterinsurgency campaign would take 500,000 troops and last at least five more years.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-andrews/classified-mcchrystal-rep_b_298528.html

Contrast this with American opinion, as revealed in a CBS News / New York Times poll conducted between June 24-28 2011, at the height of the U.S. troop presence (98,000 troops): "Americans overwhelmingly expressed their approval of Mr. Obama's announcement last week that he intends to withdraw about a third of the 100,000 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan by the fall of 2012. According to the poll, 79 percent of Americans - including a majority of Republicans, Democrats, and independents - approved, while just 17 percent disapproved. In fact, most Americans do not think Mr. Obama's proposed troop withdrawal goes far enough. Fifty-nine percent of Americans think even more than the proposed one-third of U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be withdrawn."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/events/public_opinion_about_the_afghan_war_changes

So there was no public support for an expansion or even a continuation of the war. A majority of Republicans approved of Obama's drawdown plans! There was obviously no support in Congress, either, given these poll numbers. And most Americans felt that the job was done once Osama Bin Laden was killed in early May, 2011.

The war in Afghanistan was doomed from the start. The Taliban got most of its fighters from Pakistani madrasas (religious schools) and elsewhere. The very name Taliban means "the students". Some of these were Afghans orphaned during the anti-Soviet jihad who had never lived in Afghanistan; many were Pakistanis. Beyond this, there was a very large number of foreign fighters drawn from other regions including the Middle East.

As long as the Taliban could maintain bases and supply lines in Pakistan, there was no way to eliminate them. Anybody remember Vietnam? Hello!! The U.S. was not going to invade Pakistan, which besides being a U.S. ally has a nuclear arsenal. All the Taliban had to do was what insurgent groups everywhere do: use ambushes and other hit and run tactics and roadside bombs to obtain the maximum number of U.S. casualties while minimizing their own, until Congress and the American people got tired of the expense and/or the endless stream of amputees and other casualties.

Meanwhile, by bloodying the nose of the elephant every time it tried to take the fight to the Taliban, they conditioned U.S. troops to retreat behind the triple-barbed wire fences of ever larger and more consolidated bases, from whence they sallied forth less and less often, so as to keep American casualties manageable. This ceded control of large sections of countryside to the Taliban, where they could melt away into the local population, as well as crossing into the safety of Pakistan as necessary to rest and recouperate while fresh insurgent forces replaced them.

Well, first of all, note that Obama did not come into office fulfilling his campaign promises to his base: not only did he not whisk troops higgledy piggledy out of Afghanistan, he nearly tripled the number of U.S. troops.

Urp.
That is exactly what he promised in his campaign to do:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/11/26/808280/-Obama-s-Afghan-Position-2007-2008-A-Reminder#

Oath Keepers to the rescue.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/12/01/the-oath-keepers-the-militant-militia-now-roaming-the-streets-of-ferguson/

and I repeat: A pessimistic note from an old man: If you believe that the democrats are going to take the country back, HA. My prediction is that there is a revolution that ends with the
Neo-Cons in charge of the US and Mexico.

cal, revolutions are usually not started by old angry men of privilege. It will not end well for them.

cal...

It would be well to remind you that some on the right were absolutely convinced they would end up consigned to a Gitmo cell by Che Obama.

In this and other recent posts you are making the same error of extremism as those right-wing boobs.

Best to take a step back from that extreme edge, or you'll end up looking as foolish as those tin-foiled, rightwing asshats.

Real revolutions never happen in the most wretched places ruled by the worst tyrants.

They almost always explode when an out-of-touch and "corrupt" government meets a motivated and aggrieved middle- and upper-middle class (usually including members of the elite), with charismatic leaders, rising expectations and a compelling ideology.

You can track it from the American Founders to the French Revolution to the Bolsheviks and the Iranians. There's even elements of this in "Tupac Amaru II's" rebellion in Peru and certainly in the independence wars of Latin America.

There is a revolution going on in the US, Canada and Mexico. The Oligarchists and Neo Cons are fomenting the internal revolution and committing Social Limpieza.

"No Country for Old Men" Nice title, good movie but not accurate. I fear old men mostly because they are willing to kill, to win and use young people as cannon fodder. Dick Cheney and John McCain are very dangerous old men. And the old Neo Cons are breeding young Neo Cons and recruiting armies of idiots to carry on their wars.
There will continue to be many repulsive acts by these profiteers here and in Mexico.
Winners are the Neo Cons
Modern day Attila the Huns
with space age Krupp weaponry
and many great White fodder idiots to carry out their take over of the planet.
Some of the players.
http://www.vice.com/read/evil-llc-0000524-v21n12

More on the Internal war in US, Canada and Mexico.
https://nacla.org/blog/2014/12/01/how-canada-and-mexico-have-become-part-us-policing-regime

A different kind of warrior
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/04/us/politics/roy-h-beck-quietly-leads-a-grass-roots-army.html?emc=eta1&_r=1

Mr. Talton wrote:

"...Although Germany was forced to accept blame for starting the Great War, Russia was actually the one most responsible..."

I don't know what kind of fish you keep trying to catch with this lure, but I'll bite.

Perhaps if you were to explain what specific actions Russia took to start WW I: What country did it invade? Who did it unilaterally declare war against? What troop movements beyond its own borders did it undertake as provocation?

The first official act was the declaration of war by Austro-Hungary against Serbia. Then came the German declaration of war against Russia; only then did Russia respond in kind. After Germany invaded Luxembourg it then declared war on France and invaded Belgium, which drew in Great Britain because of treaty obligations; these acts transformed the conflict from one of regional powers to a European conflict engulfing the continent and eventually drawing in the United States (which sided against the Central Powers, not Russia).

Add to this the well documented fact that Austro-Hungary had recently lost a humiliating and economically as well as politically damaging trade conflict with its Serbian economic satellite (the Pig War of 1906-08 in which Serbian independence set a bad example for the many would-be breakaway republics and nationalist movements struggling against the Empire), as well as the German High Command's longstanding war plans to attack Russia before its military modernization and expansion program could be completed, and the finger points pretty firmly in one direction.

While you're pondering Russian perfidy, I'll finish readying my comment about Obama and Syria.

You are correct again, Emil; for a VERY readable and accurate account of how the Great War began, read "The World of Yesterday", Stephan Zweig; 1942.

Syria. Let's work backwards from the present. Calls by war hawks to overthrow the Assad regime by force are baffling from the perspective of U.S. foreign policy goals.

Senator McCain's reasoning seems to be that Syrian rebels want Assad removed more than they want to fight ISIS, and in any case cannot fight ISIS and the Syrian government at the same time; also that regional American allies like Saudi Arabia and Turkey would like to see Assad removed, while America's nemesis Iran is trying to prop him up.

The problem is that removing the central government in Syria would not allow a democratic, pluralistic, popular, or even U.S. friendly movement to take power; it would not even create a power vacuum which the U.S. could then exploit to its own ends.

The military opposition in Syria consists overwhelmingly of Islamic jihadists dominated by Al Qaeda affiliates like Al Nusra, and by ISIS itself. In the absence of the Assad government's central authority they might fight each other for power; or they might enter into a power-sharing coalition; or they might fragment into separate areas of the country dominated by each.

That Saudi Arabia and other autocracies organized on Sunni fundamentalist religious principles support Islamic rebels in Syria is not surprising: they also supported the Taliban, at least until its leader insulted the Saudi royal family. They support these jihadists because they are Sunni Islamic fundamentalists fighting an Alawite (Shia) controlled government. Nor is it surprising that Iran, the only other Shia power in the region, supports the Assad regime, however odd the Alawite version of Shia Islam and despite the comparatively secular character of the Assad regime.

Likewise, support of Sunni rebels by the democratic but increasingly Islamic dominated Turkish government is no reason to jump on the bandwagon. Turkey also allows extensive fundraising and recruitment within its borders by agents working on behalf of ISIS, as well as essentially free movement for those wishing to cross the Turkish border in support of ISIS, as long as they are reasonably discrete and behave themselves while in Turkey itself.

If the goal of U.S. foreign policy in the region is to consolidate the control of radical Sunni Islamic fundamentalists in Syria, then by all means kick the legs out from under the Assad regime. I fail to understand how this will undermine groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria and Iraq, or groups affiliated with, sympathetic to, or not actively opposed to them (which pretty much accounts for the militant rebels in Syria and Iraq, marginal moderate elements not withstanding).

Obama, resisting calls from various quarters to do precisely this, used threats of U.S. military intervention (within a framework of international law) against the Assad regime to accomplish the surprisingly well crafted and successful destruction of Syria's stockpiles of nerve agents and most other chemical weapons, under the supervision of United Nations weapons inspectors, in an astonishingly short period of time in the middle of Syria's bloody civil war: an accomplishment which not only prevented certain war crimes against civilians by the Assad regime, but which also kept such weapons out of the hands of militant Islamic insurgents and terrorists as they expanded their influence and control and overran military bases and other Syrian government installations.

To accomplish this, Obama obtained the active cooperation of Russia, a major patron of the Assad regime and a U.N. Security Council member whose solitary veto vote could have scotched the whole plan. To say that this was a coup of foreign diplomacy and domestic political leadership is no exaggeration.

Going back three years or so in Syria's civil war, McCain's complaint is that Obama failed to arm moderate Syrian rebels at a time when they had not yet been eclipsed by extremists like Al Qaeda and ISIS and their affiliates and admirers. There may be something to this; then again there may not.

To see why, consider why these moderates were eclipsed by extremists. The three primary reasons are: (1) defections by members of the Free Syrian Army and similar groups, some of whose members changed their allegiance or entered into agreements with extremist organizations who were better armed, better funded, or more militarily effective in fighting the Assad regime; (2) higher casualty rates among moderates due to lack of military training and experience in urban guerrilla warfare; (3) less success in recruiting replacements and new members than extremist groups, whether due to a more splintered, less coherent and effective organizational structure, or to inferior prowess at propaganda, or to less of an ideological appeal among potential candidates for anti-government jihad. (Remember, even the moderates are mostly Islamicists, just less radical.)

To those who say that mercenary defections might not have occurred had the U.S. better funded and armed the moderates, it must be pointed out that those willing to ally themselves with extremists for mercenary reasons cannot be regarded as moderates, much less reliably so. The Free Syrian Army was always an umbrella group, a name around which a motley patchwork of loosely affiliated, smaller groups rallied. These groups had varying ideologies, goals, and tendencies, except for a common desire to overthrow the Assad regime. Groups defecting also take their weapons with them. Groups given the choice by stronger groups (like ISIS) to disband or swear allegiance also take their weapons with them, or else lose them to seizure.

As for military attrition, it should be obvious that inexperienced civilians taking up arms against the well-funded and well-armed military machine and police state that is the Assad regime, tend to have a lower survival rate and experience less military success than seasoned veterans of guerrilla wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, and elsewhere, who have not only evolved effective tactics and training methods as well as a core of well-tested fighters, but also possess the experienced, centralized command structures capable of effective organized resistance, to say nothing of possessing developed supply and logistical networks and robust fundraising sources.

Finally, to the extent that an advantage in ideological appeal (or propaganda prowess) in recruitment lies with extremist organizations, at least among candidates of anti-government jihad, what does this, too, say about the staying power of ragtag moderate rebel groups, who often cannot even agree on exactly what they are fighting for (aside from overthrowing Assad), or on who their leaders are, or on the extent of the authority and powers of those leaders to command and control them?

All in all it isn't a convincing argument for the McCain thesis that early arming of moderate rebel factions (actual or so-called) would have resulted in the overthrow of the Assad regime while ushering in a stable, U.S.-friendly government offering tolerance and democratic freedom to its citizens.

A really vigorous, all fronts, intervention by U.S. forces against the Assad regime early in the Syrian civil war, including an extensive (but risky) air campaign against the regime's defensive and offensive military capabilities, might have given popular forces a chance to organize some sort of quick regime change that didn't give sectarianism time to fester and extremism time to take root; but that isn't clear, and results from the Arab Spring are mixed.

I'll agree that the middle to upper classes begin revolutions (e.g. American, French, 1848s, and Russian revolutions were all begun by the economically squeezed bourgeois). However, in most cases they quickly spiral out of control when the masses object to being kept away from the pie. (Marx really was onto something with this line of historic and economic thought.) The exceptional country, the USA, avoided this due to lots of land to give/sell to the rubes who fought the revolution, and quick violent action against Shays' and the Whiskey rebellions.

Thanks for the book tip, Terry. I took a look at the entries for Zweig and The World of Yesterday (in Wikipedia) and it looks great. I have a certain fondness for aspects of the Edwardian period; Vienna was highly cultured and refined (in certain ways) during this time; and Zweig seems to have met a number of seminal individuals of varying backgrounds.

I am always on the lookout for first person historical narratives of important places, periods and events of interest to me, and the fact that the book is autobiography rather than historical essay promises great variety and interest and actually appeals more than a narrow treatise on the subject of the origins and development of WW I. Of course, Zweig is one writer with a particular perspective and context, but since that perspective is one of cosmopolitan internationalism it has something to recommend it.

My main problem is that for various practical reasons I don't order books off the Internet or through retail outlets. Coming across a book like that is hit or miss using my methods. Nevertheless, I've managed to come across some interesting books that way.

and it goes on in Mexico
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/11/26/why_america_is_to_blame_for_mexico_carnage_and_corruption_pena_nieto_obama_ayotzinapa_disappeared

I highly recommend "The Sleepwalkers." The best Great War book I have read.

McMeekin argues, however, that it was Russia, rather than Germany, that used the crisis to deliberately launch a war with Austria-Hungary and Germany.
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/books/the-russian-origins-of-the-first-world-war/419160.article

McKeekin's revisionist thesis is unconvincing. Russia did not force Germany to invade Luxembourg, declare war on France, and invade Belgium; and it is these acts which drew in Britain under the terms of established and widely known treaties and precipitated world war.

That Russia "secretly" began partial mobilization six days earlier than it officially announced this, is scarcely surprising. Austria-Hungary issued its July Ultimatum to Serbia, on July 23, 1914, "a series of ten demands that were intentionally made unacceptable to provoke a war with Serbia". Russia began partial mobilization the next day: an act which is neither inherently aggressive nor unwarranted given the history and designs of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its ally Germany.

Emil - if you have a library card, the book should be available there. I read a library copy first, and then went out and bought second-hand.

Re cal lash's FP Mexico article link:

"And the Wall Street Journal has just revealed that U.S. agents dress up in Mexican military uniforms to participate directly in special missions."

It says a lot about Mexico that in 2014 the mayor of the third largest city in Guerrero state felt comfortable in ordering the police to kidnap 43 leftist college students as they traveled by bus to protest the mayor, with instructions to hand them over to a violent drug gang, and that the police duly executed such orders.

I might consider that, Terry: but I like to own books I enjoy and be able to refer to them later; and I like to mark them up with extensive notes and outlines while reading them. If I could find the book second hand for an attractive price I would get it in lieu of a first reading using a library copy.

Furthermore, within the City of Phoenix public library system, the only copy showing in the catalog is in the rare book vault at the main branch and is for in-library use only. Which library did you find a circulating copy in?

Interesting point about land, Jerry McKenzie. Note also that about 60,000 British loyalists left during the American Revolution and that their land was often seized by rebels.

Emil - for the first read, the Pima County Library system. FYI, I had a tough time locating a second-hand copy, and finally used Amazon's used copy service. I'm satisfied.

Let’s see. Blame for the current political situation can be laid to the actions of political journalist (RC), Chuck Hagel (RC), inner circle of White House (RC), ignorant Americans (RC), defense contractors (RC), EU nations (RC),American hubris (RC), George Bush (RC), Dick Cheney (RC), neo-cons(RC), duhs and inos (RC), venal elite (RC), Israel (Darwin), John McCain (Sol), US citizenry (Sol), Neocon Fantasists (Sol), Bush (Jerry) and Clinton (Jerry). I don’t want to get into a big blame game. God knows, there’s enough of it to go around. The only point I do want to make is that President Obama has been in office for six years. Yes, he walked into an unpopular war: but so did Eisenhower and Nixon. He walked into an economy was sucking; but so did FDR and Reagan. You have to play the hand your dealt.

Here’s the good news. He has two more years to salvage what he can of his legacy. If I were advising him, this is what I would suggest:

1. You’ve got to rebuild the Democratic Party. In vast swaths of the country it verges on irrelevant. Your policies have alienated blocks of voters that were firmly in our camp.
2. Do the doable - and do it the right way. You ran as a “uniter”. Act that way. I think there are many areas where an agreeable consensus can be reached.
3. Lay off the automatic veto and executive orders. It makes you look petty and vindictive. Remember, actions attained via exec order can be nullified by later exec orders.
4. I think the consensus is that extraction of forces from the Middle East and Afghanistan is there. Do it. I’d even ask why we have as many troops based in Europe, Korea or Japan as we do. These places are perfectly capable of fending for themselves or at least long enough for us to ship in forces if any reasonable national interest of US is threatened.
5. As chief executive, you run the executive branch of the Federal Government. You are the boss. You can – in deed must – delegate vast amounts of authority. When bad behavior is detected, it must be addressed forcefully. You’ve made a start at the VA. Keep it up. No stonewalling, no cover ups, no “voluntary” resignations. The punishment for bad behavior must reflect the degree of trust betrayed. A good hard look at the IRS and DEA are needed. Indeed, I’d ask why the DEA shouldn’t be disbanded altogether.

Koreyel, Look around the world and tell me its not a war.
We may not be beheaded folks in the US but they are in Mexico. And I am an old pessimistic man and a registered republican. Do you not think that a few wealthy folks and corporations are not waging a war on the middle class and below?

WKG not many republicans on this blog, maybe just you and I but I agree with most of what you posted particularly doing away with DEA. Obama can still leave and environmental legacy but it appears his Secretary of the Interior is for the pipeline and for fracking.

Suzanne I think we need to find a way to send McCain and Rio Tinto into exile. And here is another reason to outlaw mining. Recently just down the road a few miles from the Rio Tinto mining operation.
http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/12-news/2014/11/13/arizona-copper-mine-explosion/18955191/

Phxsunsfan: great stuff, and I agree with you on most and its always great to have your positive input and outlook. I just never personally had an interest in team sports and got away from pro sports in 64. However until about 1990 I did watch college track running and wrestling events. This narrow inking is probably what led me to choose between the fire department and the police department. I liked walking and riding in the community and acting and talking like the Mayberry town Marsahall.

WKG: thanks for making me look up the word "Purist." Yep you got that right. And the industrial revolution was the beginning of the end or was it the advent of agriculture.
"the quilting purist doesn't want to hear the words "sewing machine".

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