US Foreign Policy in a NUTshell

This partial screen capture from the “World” section of today’s New York Times really needs no further explanation of the incompetence of US diplomats and military strategists:

What could go wrong.

There simply are no words to adequately describe the insanity at work here. Even as each misadventure winds down in disastrous fashion, the new ones follow the same perverted script.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
52 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    Just when was the last war that the US millitary “won”? Other than those dippy ones like Grenada and Panama and Kuwait. WWII?

    • P J Evans says:

      I get the impression that most of them have been wins-by-default. Looking back, they’ve been ended by a peace treaty or by a surrender. (We didn’t ‘win’ either of the WWs; we were on the wining side and just one part of it.)

  2. bloopie2 says:

    The Wire: “Days after Islamist militants swarmed the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, about 500,000 residents — including Iraqi troops — are exiting the city.”

    Well done, USA!

  3. Adam Colligan says:

    I’m not convinced this is the right way of thinking about this. The loss of materiel to the enemies is a serious risk that has to be assumed whenever there is a discussion about arming one side in a close-run or fluid conflict. And close-run or fluid conflicts are the ones that spur discussions about arming one side.

    And so this is certainly a stark reminder as the Syria conversation ramps up again about how supplying a side that loses can make the impact of the loss worse. But it does not follow that it then becomes “insane” to advocate doing it anyway. It means that policymakers need to be especially careful to weigh this factor when understanding the potential consequences of a move. It doesn’t mean that all other factors and outcome possibilities suddenly cease to have meaning.

    • Jim White says:

      Hah hah hah hah.

      .

      (breathes)
      .
      Hah hah hah hah.
      .

      Thanks for playing anyway.
      .
      I’m sure there’s a nice cubicle with your name on it somewhere in DC someday.

      • Adam Colligan says:

        I don’t quite see what part of that you found so laughable. Maybe you could explain when you catch your breath. Also, I would appreciate your clarifying whether you think I fit in a DC cubicle because you see me as dumb or because you see me as a shill. It would help me understand your perspective.

        • Jim White says:

          I know that you actually believe what you wrote at comment 3 because of your previous history here. But honestly, if I hadn’t known that, I would have thought that the comment was a perfect send-up of a Thomas Friedman “the next six months in Iraq are critical” after which he proceeds to parrot the latest smooth bullshit talking points from the Kagans. All of which has absolutely no meaning or any chance of actually working out, as we have seen endlessly.
          .
          The whole point of my post is that policy makers in DC, whether at the State Department or the Pentagon, react to any crisis with only one thought: “Which group do we arm now?” And that approach directly gave us Osama bin Laden before it gave us the current meltdowns in Iraq and Syria, which also are being responded to with….”Which group do we arm now?”
          .
          You’ve captured the thought process and the language of these folks completely, so it seemed to me that you are destined to join them.

          • Don Bacon says:

            Jim, regarding your “current meltdowns in Iraq and Syria” which you see as a US problem, with some insanity, some of us see it as a conscious US policy which is basically pro-instability and anti-Iran.
            .
            Every US action in the area can be placed in this context, including especially the US-Saudi alliance.

          • ess emm says:

            The whole point of my post is that policy makers in DC, whether at the State Department or the Pentagon, react to any crisis with only one thought: “Which group do we arm now?”

            That’s a terrific point.

            And I would suggest to Don Bacon that the US policy of “pro-instability and anti-Iran” should be translated as “pro-Israel” because it seeks to achieve the goals of their foreign policy, which is to have no organized state in opposition to it. The Yinon plan. I’m sure its simply a coincidence that these ISIS and al-Nusra gangs never do anything to hurt Israel or Saudi Arabia.

    • bloopie2 says:

      You note the potential for a “loss”. Can you tell us when was the last time we “won”?

      • Adam Colligan says:

        By a “loss” being aggravated, I was referring to a supplied side being overrun in such a way that its externally-provided weapons and other materials become a significant gain for the suppliers’ enemy. Of course, there is a whole spectrum between total victory and total disaster. There are circumstances where a supplier might think it worthwhile if the likely return on investment is something short of total victory: gaining the upper hand, bogging the enemy down, stalemating, delaying defeat long enough to accomplish some goal, etc.
        .
        You asked which time “we” won, but I’m not sure what you mean by “we”. There are plenty of occasions on which actors have achieved important goals (or mitigated significant losses) by arming a force — even an underdog force — in a foreign conflict. I assume you don’t mean to imply that there is some rule that the United States is exempt from this reality because it is somehow fundamentally cursed, which wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Further, it isn’t usually realistic to define “winning”, especially in an unstable conflict area, in terms that are permanent (as in, it’s only winning if it never falls apart later).
        .
        A significant investment in arming one side of a conflict will make a supplier a part of events and therefore tie them causally to whatever happens from then until the end of time. However, it does not necessarily follow that future bad events should automatically be described in terms of “but for past action X, nothing as bad as present event Y would have taken place.” Unfortunately, it will always be extremely difficult, even in hindsight, to compare ugly outcomes against what would have happened “but for X”.

    • please says:

      Really? Really???

      You need ANOTHER exampler afte Afghanistan, Iraq, Lybia, and many others to understand that it is indeed insane ????

      • Adam Colligan says:

        The decision about how to act (or not act) in such a complex and chaotic situation has to come down to more than just analysis of outcomes in other complex situations that seem the most similar or are the most recent. And even in that population of examples, any smart person could talk themselves into a preferred mode of action by cherry-picking examples and ignoring the thorny problem of what may have happened had the intervention decision in those situations gone the other way.
        .
        As I noted in an earlier reply, there are instances where supplying a side, even an underdog, has been integral to advancing a suppliers’ goals. Examples here run the gamut from early-stage French and Dutch support to American patriots through to more contemporary events, such as Lend-Lease, the formation of Israel, the arming of Taiwan, and Russian machinations in Ukraine.
        .
        Even just restricting the conversation to the realm of direct, recent United States armament of a foreign allied force in an internecine civil conflict and not seeing a disaster later that swamps the benefits of the supplies, there are plenty to pick from and argue about: Colombia/FARC, the Philippines, Bosnia, Kosovo, etc. And of course one could pull plenty of examples where terrible things happened in the absence of Western weaponry making its way to a preferred group: Rwanda, Sudan, Lebanon, etc.
        .
        Mostly, the examples are just murky, and they are made even more murky by the gravity of what the (direct or indirect) intervention was concerned with preventing. You mentioned Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya as examples.
        .
        With Afghanistan, I’m not sure if you are referring to the 1980s armament of anti-Soviet fighters or to the recent arming of the ANA and ANP. Taking the recent one as the example, we don’t know yet if — or the extent to which — the weapons and training provided to Afghan forces will be a net positive. The ANA/ANP certainly seem to be much less effective at this point than their backers had hoped. On the other hand, a full Taliban re-takeover of the country is a horrifying scenario, and it isn’t insane to argue that stalemating or whack-a-mole is preferable and is enabled by external supply. Further, given the scale of investment in Afghan government forces, the amount of materiel that has actually become enemy equipment isn’t all that huge. Even in the event things continue to go very badly, the Taliban are unlikely to end up in a hugely better position than they would have been without the US supplying their enemies.
        .
        With Iraq, there’s obviously a can of worms to be opened over what the eventual, non-US-invasion collapse of the Ba’ath regime would have looked like. But I assume that you’re talking about starting from a more recent point — the continuing US investment in supplying materiel to the Iraqi government, a chunk of which it just lost in the North to ISIS, which may be a boon to ISIS. This debacle is a debacle and needs to be understood as such, although it also cuts both ways. ISIS is just about the worst collection of human beings that you can imagine controlling any piece of territory. Iraq’s ability to fight them is very important to a large number of people. Now that we have seen Iraqi forces melt at a major city, there is the added risk that has to be factored in about about equipment becoming part of the ISIS arsenal. But that’s not the same thing as saying that it’s insane materially assist Iraq in fighting ISIS, given that conceding any conflict wholesale to ISIS is just about the most insane thing that any actor can do this year. It’s possible that a point may come when the judgment is made that a cause — even an important one — is so lost that investing in it actually does more harm than good, since the enemy quickly absorbs the stuff. But it’s not “insane” to look at the current situation in Iraq and have differing points of view about where that point is.
        .
        With regard to Libya, it is certainly the case that rebel supplies have become a problematic contribution to further conflict, not only in Libya itself but in Mali and northern Nigeria. At the time the serious investment and intervention began, there was (at least ostensibly) a grave fear that there was about to be a massacre in Benghazi on a scale that may have been much greater than the violence that has subsequently been committed by the outflow of old rebel arms. It’s hard to say now what would have happened, if anything, but it certainly wouldn’t be “insane” for anyone to argue that more death was averted by the supplies and airstrikes than caused by them. This is especially true in the context of the stalemate that ensued for a time in the Libyan Civil War. Just like Assad, Gaddhafi went from doomed to permanent, and it looked like supplying rebels could just end up resulting in perpetual government-v-rebel fighting and a big churn of regional instability. Except that, unlike in Syria, the tide turned again, and the regime fell, and good riddance. Now, of course, things in Libya are again unstable, and the regional instability has been exacerbated by the old rebel weapons. There’s a good case to be made that maybe it wasn’t worth it after all, and there are cautionary lessons about the flow of arms that give pause in other situations, like Syria. But given where Libya was a few years ago, and also given the manifest differences between Libya and Syria in how the war itself has played out, it certainly wouldn’t be “nuts” if someone came up and argued that the investment in Libyan rebels was a net positive and/or that the risks and rewards in Libya do not translate well directly into decision-making about Syria.

          • Adam Colligan says:

            Well, my very first post expressed the idea fairly plainly while omitting all that supporting detail. What was the response?
            .
            From White: rude and empty taunting. From bloopie2: a request for more detail. From please: exasperation based on the belief that every available example leads to the same conclusion.
            .
            So, fine, why not lay out a bunch of detail? Illustrate that the right thing to do is not obvious in the face of all the right considerations, that available comparisons to other situations do not provide clear-cut answers, and that there is plenty of disagreement here within the realm of reason.
            .
            This isn’t a case of sane versus nuts: in part because, as you say, a lot of history falls into the “shit happens” category. The known history of Shit Happening isn’t a solid-enough basis for rejecting all military support in foreign conflicts as “nuts” or “insane”. And that statement holds up both on its own or in a more detailed discussion.
            .
            Well, I guess the answer to “why not” is “because then someone will just come along and make fun of you for being too verbose”.

            • please says:

              Thanks for responding. While the right course of action is not always evident, pursing what is in my opinion, unambiguously the wrong and most destabilizing option, is not the fallback. A lack of obviousness is not the go ahead to attempt yet the same strategy that has in my opinion not recently yielded positive results.

              I might have gotten you wrong, but Libya is by no means a success story. It was a catastrophic decision. The campaign not only extensively destroyed one of the best, let me repeat that, the best, infrastructure that Africa has to offer. It has turned Libya into effectively a failed state, with a recent coup that Washington has turned a blind eye to. Or more likely supports. It has fueled unrest in surrounding nations…Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, etc.

              Putting that all aside. It is singularly in my view, that the United States simply has to envision something other that military action when it fancies trying to “help”. The lack of creativity is stunning for its lack of foresight and wisdom.

              No one imagined 9/11, I can’t imagine what awaits now. Especially as nothing has been won. Unless as people keep saying the end game really is Iran.

              Simply put, this is not a long term solution or even a solution that cares about the long term. It doesn’t even take into context as mentioned above, looming crises that are ahead that a divided world could not face.

              • Adam Colligan says:

                Thank you in turn for disagreeing without flinging insults.
                .
                On Libya specifically, I think the point you make sort of muddles three things that ought to be distinct from each other. One is whether the situation right now is good or bad: whether it’s a “success story.” Another is whether the intervention was a good thing: whether it made things better or worse than they would have been otherwise. Thirdly, there’s whether the intervention decision was reasonable based on what was known at the time.
                .
                The situation in and around Libya is obviously not a positive one, for reasons both of us have mentioned. But that really only answers the first question, not the other two.
                .
                It isn’t right to compare the losses and instability after the intervention to zero. It can only be compared against a world in which the intervention hadn’t happened. That’s a world we can’t see, and so speculating about it is tough. But the damage to infrastructure, weapons and fighters flowing around the region, civilian deaths, and social fracturing: those are all things that could well have been as bad or worse in a more protracted civil war and/or an eventual Gaddhafi victory.
                .
                And even if you can do that analysis well, and you determine that the intervention made things worse, that doesn’t by itself make the decision unreasonable based on what was known at the time. When there are so many unpredictable factors and close calls, a lot of “right” decisions will backfire, just like a lot of people lose their money when two dice are thrown and they guess “7”. “7” is still the right thing to guess. And while each mistake provides new lessons, each new decision still has to draw on a huge number of considerations, with the “latest lessons” just being a small part.
                .
                You also mention the need for creativity, but I’m not sure specifically what you have in mind. When all the known options are bad, it doesn’t seem reasonable for the demand to be, “discover a better option”.

                I see very fierce criticism for Western actors no matter where they come down on the spectrum of action. Doing nothing is abandoning people because they’re brown or failing to own the consequences of past mistakes. Doing business is profiteering from tyranny and war. Backing liberal/secular underdogs is imperialist and invites resources to fall into worse hands. Backing less savory actors is viciously trading human rights and long-term destruction for short-term stability and lower oil prices. Intervening directly from the air is indiscriminate carnage. Intervening directly on the ground is neo-colonial occupation.

  4. shuck says:

    President Obama flat-out needs a new team. it’s easy to drill down to the facts on the ground, from the inflated numbers of al-Sisi supporters and vote counts, the real nature of the Syrian Rebels, the reality of the facist politics in the Crimean/Ukraine debacle. Ex: Turkey spent a billion dollars on keeping the Syrian Rebel bunch (under other names earlier) at bay previously, how’s the US aiding the Syrian Rebels supposed to work for them? Iran needs to be invited to be a truly vested humanitarian partner in Syria providing aid relief, ad infinitum, but Obama’s advisors can’t much seem to think outside the kill box. Often, all they are doing at this point is helping congeal stiff and universal opposition to US foreign policy across the board. it’s a merchant’s bubble similar to the one that led to the recent economic collapse. Or close enough.

  5. Don Bacon says:

    Regarding the Iraq troops who walked of the job and left their heavy weapons, a blast from the past from the New York Times, back in 2005 (excerpts):
    .
    Half a year later, the story has barely changed. A report to Congress by Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concludes that only “a small number” of Iraqi forces are capable of “taking on the insurgents and terrorists by themselves.”
    .
    claims by Democratic critics—most notably Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Carl Levin of Michigan—that training was moving too slowly.
    .
    Lieut. Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. officer in charge of training the Iraqi forces, was transferred this month . . .It’s not yet clear whether the transfer stems from Petraeus’ frustration with the job or from Rumsfeld’s dissatisfaction with his handling of it.*
    .
    Either way, some of Petraeus’ aides, if not the general himself, have recently learned of rumors that Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari doesn’t want his army to be well-trained. A leading Shiite, Jaafari reportedly fears that if the U.S. troops leave Iraq, the insurgents will crush all resistance and hoist the Sunnis back to power.
    .
    Since the Americans have said they will leave once the Iraqi security forces are self-sufficient, Jaafari figures it’s best to keep that day at bay.
    (end NYT)
    .
    And of course one of Petraeus’s most-repeated comments was that Iraq is “fragile and reversible.”

    • Shan Madabushi says:

      Yep, wonder why NATO has not declared war….and Obama not announced sanctions yet? What’s the difference between what ISIS taking over Turkish consulate in Mosul and Libyan militants taking over US Embassy in Benghazi? A month ago a Syrian aircraft was shot down by Turkey for straying into its airspace. Why isn’t Turkey now rolling tanks into Mosul?

      Nobody… not even wimpy Ukraine… is scared of sabre rattling against Putin or Bashar Assad. Why is everyone in the US, WEST and NATO so scared of ISIS?

  6. Don Bacon says:

    It is obviously current US policy to weaken not only Syria but also Iraq because they are Iran allies, and it is all about Iran. The US is allied with Saudi Arabia to accomplish this objective. It’s working.
    .
    So there is happiness in Washington and no need to change anything for the ‘Instability ‘R Us’ team.
    .
    The next step in the US plan against Iran will be the failure of the Iran talks, which really wasn’t a US idea anyhow, but a necessary charade forced upon them. They can use it to proclaim: “Well we tried; it’s not our fault.”

  7. coloradoblue says:

    amerika circa 2014. Watching our country play Russian roulette with all six chambers loaded.

    The crash is going to be spectacular, and not in a good way.

  8. Les says:

    The El Salvador Option means the country will be kept destabilized for decades so the US military can maintain a presence there. There was also a recent PBS Frontline program on the US special forces training the Syrian ‘rebels’ in Qatar near the Saudi border. It’s sad to see the El Salvador model going global.

  9. der says:

    Here’s another good headline:

    – “White House calls on Iraq government to ‘step up to the plate’ over Mosul

    US pressed Maliki to do more to address political concerns across Iraq after the fall of second-largest city to Isis extremists”
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/10/us-iraq-maliki-government-action-mosul-isis?CMP=ema_565

    *Where do these “insurgents” get the money?
    http://www.pogo.org/blog/2013/03/20130308-sigir-says-at-least-8-billion-dollars-lost-in-Iraq.html

    Where else? Whew, at least it wasn’t wasted on summer school nutrition programs for the lazy unemployed. Led by idiots.

  10. Don Bacon says:

    “The US pressed Maliki to do more to address political concerns.” That’s classic.
    .
    Going back in history, which is the best thing to go back in, the basic purpose of the Petraeus surge, which has been generally referred to as an unqualified success, was to provide the security necessary for Maliki to reach a political reconciliation with opponents, to reconcile Shia and Sunni. A report by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, given to Congress in 2008 stated that the Iraqi government had met 15 of the 18 political benchmarks set out for them. So thousand or so coalition deaths in this period was a great investment, they claimed.
    .
    The facts were different. There was no reconciliation. If areas became more quiet it was because they had been overrun with one faction of the other. Maliki didn’t do much of anything.
    .
    Gee, I guess the US should have stuck with Hussein, and also Gaddafi and Assad, and Yanukovych and the Taliban for that matter, because it’s all for nought.

  11. bevin says:

    “…, it certainly wouldn’t be “nuts” if someone came up and argued that the investment in Libyan rebels was a net positive ..”

    No, the “positive” outcome desired was to replace a nationalist regime, with ideas above its lowly station, with any alternative that offered itself up for the role of puppet/ally.

    It might be argued by sticklers for international law and realists that, using the laughably implausible excuse that Benghazi was about to be bombed, the perfectionists in DC, who will not rest until every government on earth suits their fancies, moved heaven and earth, at enormous expense, to replace one ruler with another for no discernible reason, beyond a passing political-in the lowest sense of the term- whim.

    They did the same in Afghanistan and Iraq and in Syria too: sowing the wind for a harvest the young are destined to bring in. And not in the best of seasons either, in all likelihood, when climate change will produce enough challenges to be going on with, without being burdened with the need to address Obama’s legacy of irresponsible adventures.

  12. Ronald says:

    First of all, the US is not only arming the moderate rebels. There’s evidence that most of their resources 9or the resources they oversee) go to the Jihadis — to ensure that the moderates don’t win; and to ensure that the war continues indefinitely.
    There’s reason to their madness.

  13. nomolos says:

    On the bright side it does mean that the American arms manufacturers have to make more guns which means American JOBS, a real benefit to the American ecomomy and a good thing for the administration in the mid-term elections.

    Frankly I was worried about the economic effect of ending the Afghanistan invasion what with all those unemployed soldiers hitting the streets but now I am hopeful that we can shift all the troops and war machinery over to Iraq.

    As for “terrorists” having tons of guns not to fear. The two major terrorist organizations, America and Israel, have plenty more guns and lots and lots of bombs.

  14. galljdaj says:

    First off, I’m an old timer, and have the luxury of a labor organizer grandparent that was honest, dedicated to true and all peoples, that also received the bads from wealthy foes for her efforts.

    I have made some changes in my lifestyle in the past couple months that have startled me. ‘Truth’ seems so much easier to recognize, and thereby false, lies, and misdirections stand out so much clearer.

    And questions just seem to pop up all over even when least expected. Questions, like this morning after I turned on NPR, for the first time in months, ‘HOW DID NPR GET SO CORRUPTED THAT IT OPENLY LIES?'(by framing a story with a falsehood to direct the truth away from the limited facts). I know why I hadn’t listened to the NPR IN MONTHS!

    Questions like ‘do I/you trust your Govt?’ ; is there anything this Govt won’t do, no matter how wrong?’ ; has our Govt entered into manipulating our foods as a means of mass population control?'(dumbing down).

    Our media has been on that project since the PNAC got the nyt to help elect lil bush by dropping ABUZZ. Followed by the mass propaganda program the lil bush gang fed Citizens via the ‘new media’!

    Questions like, where has all the money gone? How is it possible that Citizens accept ‘billionaires’ while loosing health education welfare privacy and future ‘common goods’? Why should the USA be entering a New Dark Ages?

  15. Jay says:

    I think that to properly interpret the juxtaposition of those headlines, you have to see it from the perspective of weapons manufacturers. Arming rebels? More sales. Iraqi army loses weapons? More sales. More conflict in Iraq? More sales.

    From where I stand, interest groups are running our foreign policy for their benefit, just like other interest groups are running our domestic policy for *their* benefit. It literally makes no difference how many Iraqis or Americans die, whether through conflict, impoverishment, or deprivation.

    In this case you can see why our Defense Department budget is half a trillion dollars a year, while squalid Detroit goes begging.

  16. ASVAB waivers in action says:

    Hang on guys, I’m sure any minute this pompous whiny Adam persona is going to succinctly explain how his beltway Juche complies with the universal-jurisdiction law summarized in Rome Statute Articles 8.2.a.i, 8.2.a.ii, 8.2.a.iv, 8.2.b.ii, 8.2.b.iv, 8.2.b.ix, 8.2.b.x, 8.2.b.xiv, 8.2.b.xviii, 8.2.b.xxi, and 8.2.b.xxii.

    Because when the USG gets its tit caught in the international criminal wringer and has to make an example of a few bad apples it’s the GS-5s like poor Adam that are going to get railroaded.

  17. Joanne Leon says:

    In all of this, I don’t see much talk about the proxy war between Saudis (and us and Israel) and Iran.

    This is one way to get your war with Iran, isn’t it?

    And there’s a lot of talk about map redrawing. Has been for more than a year now.

    I don’t know. I think everybody is forgetting that we’ve moved on from big land wars. We’re all about the covert wars now. How is it not in the best interest of the US, Israel and the Saudis to slice up Iraq and Syria into small, mostly compliant, but weak countries again? And to force Iran into a long, messy war? How does that not serve our interests?

    Crazy or crazy like a fox? Or whatever that phrase is.

  18. Les says:

    Another pipeline war. Iraq and Syria wouldn’t allow a gas pipeline running from Saudi Arabia and Qatar through Syria and Turkey to supply the EU, thereby providing the EU with an alternative to Russia and Iran.

  19. lew says:

    Hubris beyond hubris, to even suggest that there may be a solution that could benefit the average citizen of the USofA.

    Viewed as a game like chess or go, multi-lateral international diplomacy with war is so complex that chess is closer in its complexity to tic-tac-toe than to diplomacy. There is no known technology that allows groups of players to do better than individual players, as shown by Departments of State around the world daily.

    Also, there is no way of measuring possible benefits to any given policy for individuals : my many different interests in investments, family and friends around the world and my associated weights are entirely dependent upon the context : Chernobyl could be good for nuclear investments, depending on the investments, what nations are mad at what other nations, etc. As I cannot predict the future, I cannot assign weights. If I can’t assign weights, I cannot evaluate proposed foreign policies, even if I thought they could predict the outcomes of said foreign policies.

    If I can’t assign weights for me, we certainly can’t aggregate everyone’s weights to decide on a foreign policy, even if they could predict the outcomes of said foreign policies.

    If my gov can’t do me any good because it a) can’t play that game and b) couldn’t evaluate the voter’s interests, why do we have a foreign policy at all?

    To play that game is to lose it, a fact beyond dispute as ALL military empires have gone broke from military spending and the shit economies that produces.

    And every commenter above assumes the gov can possibly know what it is doing and also do it and also predict the outcome. What is the evidence for that assumption?

    You guys need to take an epistemology course and read a few books on computational complexity and complex, evolving, open systems. You don’t have any basis for understanding the world you actually live within.

  20. ArizonaBumblebee says:

    It would be difficult to overstate the potentially disastrous implications of what is taking place at the present time in North Africa and the Middle East. America’s adventure in Libya has come a cropper with several factions (the latest of which is led by former general Haftar) fighting for control of what is essentially a failed state. Meanwhile, General al-Sisi has become the new president of Egypt in a low-turnout, rigged election he reportedly won by 97 percent. One of the first congratulatory telephone calls he received after being elected came from President Putin of Russia, who wants to reestablish the close ties the two countries once had. The Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran, Amir Abdallahian, was invited to Cairo for President al-Sisi’s inauguration. While there, he had a lengthy private meeting with the Saudi crown prince. (Rumors abound that Saudi Arabia and Iran are trying to reach a rapprochement.)

    While all of this was going on, ISIS ( an Islamic extremist group) was consolidating its control over Anbar Province and the city of Mosul in Iraq and is now threatening the Kirkuk oil fields and the nearby Balji refinery and Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline – and maybe Baghdad itself. Incredibly, while this was happening, the American government, I kid you not, made plans to double down on its support for the rebels trying to topple the Syrian government (even though some of these rebel groups reportedly have ties to, or work with, ISIS). If American policymakers are not careful, their insane policies in the region could result in an ISIS controlled state spanning from Anbar Province in Iraq through northern Syria and a rump, Iranian-controlled puppet state in southern Iraq. Another possibility is an independent Krudistan, which is every Turks’ nightmare.

    So who benefits from this other than the obvious one: al Qaeda and its supporters? Russia is bound to benefit from the crisis. The chaos is spiking oil prices, which will help Russia withstand any sanctions America and Western Europe keep threatening to impose over Ukraine.

    Question: Is Monty Python conducting our foreign policy?

  21. Don Bacon says:

    Two blasts from the past
    .
    AP, May 12, 2006:

    WASHINGTON — The senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee proposed Monday that Iraq be divided into three separate regions — Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni — with a central government in Baghdad.
    .
    In an op-ed essay in Monday’s edition of The New York Times, Sen. Joseph Biden. D-Del., wrote that the idea “is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group … room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests.”

    .
    CNN, Aug 27, 2007:

    BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Faced with walkouts by members of his government and increasing criticism from U.S. officials, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told U.S. senators Sunday to butt out of his country’s domestic politics.
    .
    “There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin,” al-Maliki told reporters in Baghdad. “This is severe interference in our domestic affairs.”
    .
    Clinton, the early Democratic front-runner in the 2008 presidential contest, and Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said last week that Iraq’s parliament should replace al-Maliki when it reconvenes next month.

    • ess emm says:

      Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel….Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi’ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north.

      —The Zionist Plan for the Middle East, Translated and edited by Israel Shahak, from Oded Yinon’s “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties” (1982)

        • ess emm says:

          Ay yi yi. Just pointing out that some Zionist was calling for a three-state partition of Iraq in 1982—Biden didnt invent the idea.

          Would a split of Iraq be compatible with Netanyahu’s foreign policy objectives, Don?

  22. Don Bacon says:

    Hey, how about that NSA coming through on predicting this Iraq thing.
    .
    See? All those intercepts paid off, big time. The administration was then able to formulate an effective policy and head ’em off at the pass. Those tens of billions of dollars spent on intelligence paid off. I told you it would. Go DiFi.
    .
    In other news, The Obama administration’s apparent miscalculation of the threat posed by Al Qaeda-aligned militants in Iraq drew severe criticism Thursday from top Republican lawmakers. “What’s the president doing? Taking a nap,” House Speaker John Boehner snapped.

  23. Les says:

    I notice some of the media/punditry are rewriting the bio for Islamic States in Iraq & Syria to where it’s identical with that of Al Qaeda in Mesopotomia (AQIM). I recall AQIM and Al-Zarqawi were later exposed as a US military psyop intended to portray the insurgency as a foreign force to the Iraqis and a major Al Qaeda franchise to the US public. Less than one month after the expose’ in the WaPO, Zarqawi was killed by the US.

  24. Don Bacon says:

    Mark Thompson from Time put this up by twitter this morning. It’s a FedBizOpps contract solicitation from the NUThouse, which has now been extended to June 23.

    Iraq Course Facilitator
    Solicitation Number: SFSAIQ14Q4005
    Agency: Department of State
    Office: Foreign Service Institute
    Location: U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Institute

    Synopsis:
    Added: May 21, 2014 2:52 pm
    The Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI) provides training and professional development to civilian personnel of the Department of State and the foreign affairs community. The Stability Operations (SO) Division of the School of Professional and Area Studies (SPAS) at FSI provides members of the foreign affairs community with the knowledge, skills, and tools they require to serve fragile states and complex environments and to work effectively in high-threat posts worldwide.
    The Iraq Familiarization course is a mandatory course for all U.S. government personnel who will be serving in Iraq under Chief of Mission authority. The course provides essential knowledge about Iraqi history, culture, politics, government, economy and U.S. strategy as well as other topics, so that students may advance the foreign policy objectives of the United States. . . .

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