The Intercept, 8 September 2014
What kind of country goes around bombing people with no strategic purpose and with little motive other than to “flex muscles” and “show toughness”? This answer also seems clear: one that is deeply insecure about its ongoing ability to project strength (and one whose elites benefit in terms of power and profit from endless war). … Is it even possible to imagine more potent evidence of systemic media failure than that (or systemic success, depending on what you think the media’s goal is)? But in terms of crazed irrationality, how far away from that false belief is the current fear on the part of Americans that there are ISIS sleeper cells “living in the United States”? … For those who keep running around beating their chests talking about the imperative to “destroy ISIS”: will that take more or less time than it’s taken to “destroy the Taliban”?
Foreign Policy, 9 September 2014
“You’re still a superpower,” a top diplomat from one of America’s most dependable Middle Eastern allies said to me in July of this year, “but you no longer know how to act like one.” He was reflecting on America’s position in the world almost halfway into President Barack Obama’s second term. Fresh in his mind was the extraordinary string of errors (schizophrenic Egypt policy, bipolar Syria policy), missteps (zero Libya post-intervention strategy, alienation of allies in the Middle East and elsewhere), scandals (spying on Americans, spying on friends), halfway measures (pinprick sanctions against Russia, lecture series to Central Americans on the border crisis), unfulfilled promises (Cairo speech, pivot to Asia), and outright policy failures (the double-down then get-out approach in Afghanistan, the shortsighted Iraq exit strategy).
CHUCK SPINNEY: Who Won the Gaza War? I am pleased to announce Part II of William R. Polk’s three part series, “The Struggle for Palestine.” (Part 1 with my introduction can be on the web here). Be advised, this Part II long (almost 14,000 words including endnotes) but it is well worth the investment of your time.
Polk’s work is timely for several reasons:
The 2014 Gaza War just ended in a truce, with both sides declaring victory. But as Israel’s leading peace activist, a former Knesset member, and a hero of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Uri Avnery has concluded here: Israel may have have won at the physical level of the conflict in the sense that Israel inflicted the more punishing damage, but Hamas seems to won at the mental and moral levels of conflict. In his words, “the delegitimization of Israel throughout the world is accelerating.”
Indeed, I think the 2014 Gaza War may prove to a watershed, because as the American Strategist Colonel John R. Boyd showed in his theory of conflict, the moral level of conflict is by far the most important level of conflict. In any conflict, its physical, mental and moral effects should reinforce each other, but this was not the case in the Gaza Siege.
The massive physical effects of Israeli attacks were offset by the mental and moral effects of the resistance by Hamas.
My previous post, Photoshopping the Gaza War, and Gareth Porter’s followup report reveal how Israel’s efforts to manipulate mental effects are still backfiring at the moral level of conflict. Further evidence of this backfiring can be seen the asymmetry of approval ratings: In Gaza, notwithstanding its horrendous material destruction, a recent poll indicated the approval rating of Hamas is at an all time high, whereas Netanyahu’s approval rating has tanked. Moreover, according to Israel’s defense minister, the cost of less than 55 days of fighting was $9 billion. This amounts to almost three years of U.S. military aid to Israel and to over half of Israel’s $14 billion annual defense budget.
To be sure, these and other physical, mental, and moral asymmetries flowing out of the Gaza War are lost on most of the members of Congress, who will no doubt will accede to Israel’s demands for additional military aide to make up for all or part of Israel’s material consumption. These asymmetries are also lost on the mainstream media. Nevertheless, I think something big happened in Gaza.
Once you lose at the moral level of conflict, it becomes almost impossible to recover your previous position of moral legitimacy or even respect — and that slippery slope becomes a prescription for turning into a grand strategic disaster over the long term.
Regardless of whether you think any of the above is correct, it is quite clear that the the latest round of the Gaza Siege did not end on terms that do not sow the seeds for future conflict.
The struggle for Palestine will continue and is likely to escalate and become uglier.
Therefore, given the shifting sands made visible in 2014 Gaza Siege, and particularly the disinformation and propaganda surrounding this conflict, it behooves us all to learn about the Arab-Israeli question, particularly its history and understand why it continues without an end in sight.
Understanding the Arab-Israeli conflict is important for another reason: The U.S. approach to its own war on terror — an pure attrition strategy whose measure of success is based on targeted killing — is very similar to the Israeli approach to solving its Palestinian Question. Like the Israeli style of war, the U.S. style of fighting its war on terror appears to be a losing proposition that is escalating without end, at ever increasing cost. Like Israel, the U.S. is not addressing the root causes of its conflict.
And like the wars of Israel, the cost of the GWOT is going thru the roof: After removing the effects of inflation, the GWOT is now the second most expensive war in U.S. history, exceeding the far larger Civil War, WWI, the Korean War, and Vietnam. Only WWII cost more. An yet as this post is being written, President Obama is about to announce yet another escalation of the GWOT and the defense budget.
Bill Polk’s three-part series on the Struggle for Palestine is a good place to start learning about the Israeli problem, and by extension, about much of what lies underneath our own problems in the Middle East. Part III will be posted when it becomes available. Phi Beta Iota: Polk’s piece follows Spinney’s commentary here.
PATRICK COCKBURN: Why US Middle East Policy is Fraught with Danger
CounterPunch, 10 September 2014
Most importantly, the new government may not convince Iraq’s six million-strong Sunni community that they have any choice but to stick with Isis which has seized the Sunni provinces. Aside from minorities in these areas, such as the Shia, Yazidi, Turkoman, Kurds and Christians, the Sunni are more terrified of the return of vengeful Iraqi government forces than they are of Isis.
. . . . . .
Isis will be difficult to defeat in Iraq because of Sunni sectarian solidarity. But the reach of Isis in Iraq is limited by the fact that Sunni Arabs are only 20 per cent of the 33 million population. In Syria, by way of contrast, Sunni Arabs make up at least 60 per cent of Syrians, so Isis’s natural constituency is larger than in Iraq.
Phi Beta Iota: Not fully explained to the President by a US Intelligence Community that is Deaf, Dumb, and Blind on the ground, are the roles being played by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and UAE on the one hand, and Israel on the other….all of them totally antithetical to any legitimate — we stress that word — US interests in the region.
An Evaluation of the Wales Summit: NATO builds coalitions for conflict on multiple fronts (NATO Watch, 10 September 2014)
ROBERT STEELE: I want to do the commentary here in part to reiterate the abject failure of the US secret intelligence world — Jim Clapper and Mike Vickers I particularly indict for betraying the President and the Secretaries of Defense and State every day — and in part to point out the obvious: we are our own worst enemies for as long as we combine ham-fisted kinetic incursions into what I have been calling the “swath of destruction” with blind funding and allegiance to dictatorial and neo-fascist governments that abuse their publics as badly as we abuse our 99% now. We have lost and we are certain to continue losing.
The US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia have all lost their moral balance and their moral standing. Furthermore, this is not a replay of South Africa, where Mandela can cut a deal that protects the white wealth while continuing the disenfranchisement of the larger black public — we are now playing for the whole enchilada and I am quite certain that the greatest threat to the internal stability of the USA is not ISIS, but rather a combination of seriously pissed-off veterans, soccer moms, unemployed old white guys, and unemployed recent college graduates. If the US Government does not get its shit together very soon, Obama could be last of the servant mandarins. In the Middle East and North Africa, similar combinations will prevail eventually.
The war on the world that our elites have been waging — predatory capitalism backed up by unilateral militarism and virtual colonialism — is over. When the City of London and E. L. Rothschilds sponsor a conference on “Inclusive Capitalism” you have a primal scream. The pitchforks are indeed coming BUT — and this is the part that frustrates me most — for 1% of the money they have under management it would be so easy to freeze the pitchforks and create a prosperous world a peace, a world that works for all. These people are all cut off from reality and I blame this on US intelligence “leaders” going back to George Tenet who have been too willing to prostitute themselves and in so doing, committed treason against the Republic. Colin Powell’s making the same choice — forgetting his Oath of office — sealed our fate. 935 lies, all known to be lies by the likes of Tenet and Powell — have led us to today’s deepening tragedy.
What Is To Be Done? Obama has been a prisoner of state — as Chuck Hagel and John Kerry are prisoners of their own bureaucracies — since he took office. Much of what he claims to have accomplished — the death of a fake Bin Laden for example — has been rooted in lies. In my view, what Obama needs most desperately is a functional intelligence community, one able to present him with the whole truth, across whole of government, all of the time. I am Hispanic (rumor has it only women and Hispanics will get the White House nod for the rest of his term) and I know how to fix this, but the chances of his or Hagel or Kerry ever seeing the possibilities are next to nil. They are literally prisoners whose communications are controlled. Taking Hagel as a case in point, the below communications, delivered three times including once to his home, were intercepted. General Abrams, senior military assistant to Hagel, evidently chose to betray the Secretary rather than properly inform him of options. The bottom line: unless Obama figures out that he does have options rooted in restoring the integrity of the US intelligence community and hence of how he governs, he is going to preside over a collapsing economy with unemployement actually around 22%, an imploding military, and a public that is getting closer and closer to a general strike and a ten million man, woman, and child march not just on Washington, but on state capitols. All we lack is a “precipitant,” our Tunesian fruit seller. I continue to believe in the Constitution and the Republic but I have lost faith in the ability or our political class to govern responsibly. Where Obama has an edge — an opening — is that the financial class has also realized that they need a responsible political class if they are to survive their past predatory practices and find a new way forward that protects existing concentrated wealth while creating a sufficiency of wealth for the 99% as a buffer. Again, I know how to do that, but I have been so successfully marginalized that I am as impotent as Jim Clapper and Mike Vickers are ineffective.