BadBob of Planned Obsolescence very kindly pointed me in the direction of a fascinating Michael Ignatieff piece in the NYT in 2003, just before the outbreak of the Iraq war, which suggests that America needs to accept and embrace its role as the driving force of a new, more benevolent, but necessarily imperial agenda.
Ignatieff’s article presages some of the key points of our neo-liberal discussion, seeing it through the prism of Bush’s – then nascent – conversion to neo-conservative thinking, in the wake of 9/11 and the run-up to his disastrous war in Iraq. More to come on this.
It was a reminder of the bad old days. But it was today in Baghdad. Big suicide bomb, coordinated attacks on rescuers, dozens dead and wounded, and the customary “bears all the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda operation designed to ferment sectarian strife”. It’s doubtful whether it had any effect on the tone of Robert Gates‘ interview on NPR this evening, but I’m sure the bombing was on the Secretary’s mind.
We’re not sure whether his boss is on board with this, although it seems likely, but Gates might have given us a little glimpse of reality during the interview. In response to a question about differences between him and the President on a final departure date for our troops from Iraq, Gates was less than convincing about the finality of that. From the NPR report. (My italics)
With regard to Iraq, Gates noted that under the Status of Forces agreement, all U.S. troops will be out by the end of 2011. Gates says he’s on the same page as Obama with the withdrawal and, barring a new agreement with the Iraqis, there will be zero troops in Iraq by that time. But he also speculates that the Iraqis could ask for logistical and intelligence support.
“The president’s statement is absolutely clear and it conforms to our current commitments, that is, according to the agreements we have signed, we will have everyone out of Iraq by the end of 2011,” Gates said. “And unless something changes, that is exactly what will happen. …[A change] would have to be at the Iraqis’ initiative. And the president will have to determine whether or not he wants to do that.”
“Logistical and Intelligence” support might well be a good cover-phrase for something a little more, shall we say, effective. In other words a new agreement ‘at the Iraqis initiative’ to guarantee some “we need your firepower because we’re getting our asses kicked” type support. Obama suspects that Al Qaeda is just waiting for us to shut the door after us before going all out again, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the President could make a judgment that keeping a few brigades on base for selective “logistical and intelligence support” might just be the insurance policy we need.
There’s been an awful lot of talk about the President’s philosophy. Nobody seems to know what it is. The reason is simple. His philosophy is the absence of a philosophy. Pragmatism.
Let’s start with a little history of something totally unrelated. Cigarettes.
and global warming have very little in common, except this. They both show that are not too great at getting a message. It was in the early sixties that a definitive link was made between smoking and . And yet here we are forty-five years later with people dying in their droves the world over. Sure, communication is better than ever, as are the , let alone the evidence, but cigarettes are still a very profitable business.
There’s only one reason for that, and it can be summed up in a few very simple words. “It ain’t gonna happen to me”. Humans are eternal optimists. Half a million people a year are dying of smoking-related diseases each year. But it ain’t gonna happen to little old me. Right.
Now let’s take global warming. For years a vast preponderance of experts have been telling us that global warming is coming. Only a few days ago, the Intergovernmental Panel and Climate Change (Read the rest of this entry ») said that they’d got it wrong in their earlier reports which they pretty much said were politically watered-down to make their recommendations even remotely workable. Turns out that they’d figured we’d be more by now, and stop with our addiction. But efficiencies flattened out and coal is now the du jour for and . Their forecasts for serious global warming just got way more dire.
Two headlines side by side on the same day. Sometime in the next two years, we’ll stop seeing versions of the first headline. Will the second headline be gone too? I doubt it. Because it’s highly likely that not long after the troops are gone, we’ll be reporting on the new and endless rash of daily carnage.
And then what will we do? Send the boys back to Iraq?
Talking to moderate elements of the Taliban in order to undermine its unity is a great second prong of attack – to be combined with a more money-driven attack on Taliban control of Afghan opium. Obama was wise to caution that the complexities of Afghan tribal culture made the mapping of such talks much harder than even in Iraq. There are a number of interesting points embedded in the concept and Obama’s response.
Firstly, the Taliban rose to prominence precisely because they were able to bridge tribal divisions. Clearly they are suscepible to a divide and rule strategy, but we have to get a far better of idea of how to create it. Asking Americans on the ground to accurately understand and act on the landscape of highly complex tribal rivalries might be asking a little too much. And then there’s the question of the time it will take to build this system, and whether picking off local Taliban leaders piecemeal approach is the best way (after all, from then on they will have to be protected). The best means may be to short-circuit that with standard procedure bribery. After all, the Sons of Iraq turned on the more extreme (Al Qaeda) elements of the Sunni insurgency because they were paid to do so. Read the rest of this entry »