Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The Obama Administration’s Middle East policy is a puzzle, probably because there is no plan, only reaction to crises. Which is a good thing, according to some.

“But amid the confusion, some experts said that there cannot be an overarching American policy in the Middle East at the moment. The best the White House can do, they said, is tailor policies according to individual crises as they flare up. “I would be more concerned if we had some sort of overly rigid policy,” said Barbara Bodine, another former American ambassador to Yemen who is now the director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. “It is messy. It is contradictory. That’s foreign policy.”

Can you imagine being the next guy:

“Hello, Mr. Prime Minister? Hi, I’m the new President of the United States. I’m calling to invite your country to be allies with mine. What’s that you say — lied to and back-stabbed last time? Well, things will be different under my leadership. How long? The next two years for sure. After that, of course, I’ll have to start campaigning for re-election so certain compromises might have to be made, but . . . hello? Hello?”

Joe Doakes

We’re going to be paying for this presidency for generations.

73 thoughts on “Devalued

  1. Say, Joe & Mingo, how do you guys get the Emery off the bottom of your shoes?

    Every time I step on him, scrape though I might, I end up smelling that fetid rot for days.

  2. Yossarian: I chose that particular avatar to use on this site for a reason. Peter Sellers was once in a film titled “A Shot in the dark”. Dr. Strangelove is another character which Sellers portrayed. I find it has a certain symmetry. ;^)

  3. MBerg: I always look forward to reading your historical pieces. Although I’m not certain I understand your point regarding my referencing that part of history.

    The Romans guarded their frontiers to safeguard against Germanic tribe incursions but pretty much left them alone to butcher one another. Granted, the Romans were excellent strategists and much better soldiers than Americans. But unlike the America of the 21st century they did not enjoy the enormous material asymmetry to their opponents that we do.

    Rome had to devise a long–term strategy that was cost effective, militarily feasible and efficient in the use of resources and manpower. It is what we now call containment. If containment worked for a Roman Empire with fewer material advantages than today’s U. S. armed forces then there is probably a lesson here to be learned about how to deal with the crazies in the ISIS.

    For the past thirteen years America’s phenomenally expensive, over equipped and vastly too kinetic approach has failed in two different wars with two different sets of circumstances. Overly heavy forces do not fatally damage lightly armed and dispersed insurgents when the latter can utilize the factors of space and time to neutralize our power. They also discovered, as did the Vietnamese that our military and public morale is very fragile in comparison to their own.

    It is time to begin to think imaginatively about how to go about protecting our interests in such environments more effectively. The military is probably the last place to look for new ideas since they are seemingly obsessed with issues of procurement, material, careers, and bureaucracy.

  4. Imagine, Emery, that both the German tribes and the Romans had nukes. Who would have the advantage?
    No one is talking about invading anyone. The Iranian nuke question is a matter of diplomacy, for now. If the Israelis take action, a la Osirak (and thank God they did, eh, Emery?) the Obama administration will bear a great deal of the responsibility for the bloodshed. Obama is green-lighting Iranian nuke development at the same time that he is hinting that the Israelis are on their own.

  5. The Israeli’s have the capability to turn the Middle East into a sea of glass.
    Would one suspect that the purpose of the Israel nuclear arsenal that ‘does exist’ was nuclear deterrence? It seems they do not think that deterrence is a viable strategy in regards to Iran so whats the point of having such an arsenal?

  6. “Would one suspect that the purpose of the Israel nuclear arsenal that ‘does exist’ was nuclear deterrence?”
    What is the history of the Israeli nuclear force? At the time it was developed (late 1960s) there was some threat of a massed tank assault that would cut Israel in half. There is also the possibility that a nuclear response threat will deter non-nuclear WMD attacks (gas, for example). Recall that in the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam launched scuds at Israel in an attempt to ignite a general Mideast war.
    FAS is informative (though you can’t trust everything they write):

  7. Yes, Israel could turn a large portion of the Middle East into a sea of glass (thanks Barack for making that official, a**hole!), but the point of Israel’s nuclear force vis-a-via Iran is not deterrence per se. As the rhetoric of the mullahs make clear, they’re almost hoping for such a confrontation. The point of Israel’s nukes vis-a-vis Iran as it now stands (and may it change soon) is to destroy things like the Iranian nuke program before MAD becomes a reality there.

    Regarding fighting terrorists, it’s worth noting that Rome used the cross a LOT–some estimate hundreds of thousands of times. It’s a brute force approach that makes ours pale in comparison, really. Every significant Roman city had an arena that was in effect “Club Gitmo”, but with death the inevitable end for the terrorists. And the Pax Romana did last for a while, really until the Germanic tribes attained a certain critical mass and Rome got lazy.

  8. Bikebubba-
    Can’t remember where I read this, but the Roman governors in foreign cities would decree that certain avenues be a certain width so centurions could pass without breaking formation. This being Ye Olden Times, the Avenues would narrow over time as people built shopping stalls, etc., along their verge. When the governor thought things were getting out of hand, he would simply have a team of horses drag a wooden pole of regulation length down the avenue, knocking everything down. Supposedly the governor would do this without warning to discourage rebuilding.

  9. kel, ” you are correct to point out that Obama lacks the leadership, courage, political will… EmeryTheAntisemiticSoci@list started off in this thread as a supporter of 0bumbler. He stipulated 0bumbler has a strategery of disentanglement – What some see as absence of strategy, others now understand as a slow disentanglement of the US from Middle East chaos. Dude, don’t feed the troll. Just like a cow weatherwane – EmeryTheAntesimitcSoci@list changes his direction at whim and flings manure all over the place.

  10. Imagine, Emery, that both the German tribes and the Romans had nukes. Who would have the advantage?

    Why go so far in history? How about Germans and Italians during WWII? Oh what a wonderful world that would be! One that would certainly make EmeryTheAntisemiticSoci@list weep with joy.

  11. With Mitch’s indulgence, I will go on a mini-rant here.
    I understand the urge to become a neo-isolationist nation. I really do. I’d love it if we could return to an era when our borders meant something, when illegal immigration was discouraged, when we had an industrial policy that protected US jobs, and especially when we had a military that consumed 2% of GDP. Our internationalist stance empowers the federal government at the expense of local and state governments, and the federal government is the least democratic, least accountable level of government.
    But there will be a high price to pay.
    Historically, countries that tried to isolate themselves have fallen behind. There are myriad examples. China, Japan, and Spain all tried to draw a “cordon sanitaire” around themselves at various times. It has never ended well for them.
    There are nations that will be happy to fill in the vacuum if we vow to, say, never send troops abroad again. Most Americans don’t know it, but China is an aggressive colonial power. They have signed long term agreements with less developed nations (mostly in Africa) that give them the rights to mineral mining as well as ag use of millions of acres of land. This is called ‘neo-colonialism’ because the agreements are signed with legitimate governments of these nations.
    But the legitimate governments are not very stable. China will inevitably involve itself in local politics in these countries. All they need is an agreement with a local caudillo to support his regime militarily and neo-colonialism will become paleo-colonialism.
    There is a neo-isolationist strain on both the left and the right that thinks that the US would continue to prosper in a global economy without a strong military that can be deployed abroad. Some of them think that the chaos we see in many areas of the world is the fault of US internationalism.
    They are wrong.
    After WW2 an international consensus grew around the idea of national territory and sovereignty guaranteed by international institutions. This hasn’t worked out. The US is the only actor that can guarantee peace. Without a US willing to use overwhelming force, the order that has held since the end of WW2 will break down, and despite what you may see in the headlines, it can be a lot worse. Nightmarishly worse.
    Best case we would remain at peace but see GDP growth lowered, or even negative GDP growth, for a long time. The 1950s may seem like prosperous times, but Americans were much poorer than then they are now. They lived in smaller houses, and they paid more for food and clothing. Only upper middle class families owned two cars, had air-conditioned homes, televisions, and could afford to send their kids to college (GI bill notwithstanding).

  12. JPA-
    I meant that Germans would have had a much greater incentive to use nukes than the Romans. The Germans had no large population centers, no integrated economy, and were not dependent on geographically small administrative centers where the literate could be gathered to run an empire.
    I have noticed that Emery makes use of an interesting (though not uncommon) debating tactic. When your specific arguments fail, you retreat to making more general statements.

  13. Yeah Mingo. Your thoughtful comments haven’t provided anything Emery can’t easily Google up a cut and paste rebuke for.

    He probably didn’t have to go beyond his own comment archives for his answers.

    We’re dealing with the presence of a massive intellect here, but we’re too obtuse to realize it.

  14. Pow…
    There are myriad examples. China, Japan, and Spain all tried to draw a “cordon sanitaire”
    …you forgot to site USSR. We all know (except EmeryTheAntisemiticSoci@list) how well THAT turned out.

    Most Americans don’t know it, but China is an aggressive colonial power.
    …my friend just got back from a 2 week trip to Northern India, very close to Kashmir. You would think Indians would be wary of Pakistan in that area, but alas it is Chinese. Chinese redraw their border to gobble up Indian territory every year, and not by inches. And India cannot do anything about it.

  15. Cute. Trust me, the bar is not that high on this thread.

    Since EmeryTheAntisemiticSoci@list is a slug that slithers below the surface of enlightnment, no bar is ever too low for him to spew his ignorant and insolent pap that he passes for indpendent thought.

  16. Regarding the possibility of withdrawal, another issue with China is in the South China Sea, where Beijing is drawing its area of influence more or less like a hernia to take all of the Sea except for a few miles off the coasts of Vietnam, Phillipines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

    In an effort to establish their influence, they’ve started to build a new island in the Spratly Islands by dumping sand on top of a coral reef. The trouble with this is that the SCS is mostly good for oil rigs and fishing, and they just killed the (*&)(*& reef where fish could ordinarily be had.

    So we’ve got to deal with a world where major players are neither rational nor smart. Same thing with JPA’s example–they’re risking a war over mountains where no one lives? Why?

  17. This is typical of reporting on the Iran issue:

    It tells you nothing important. It casts Obama as a brave, risk-taking peacemaker, but does not say just what risks he is taking, or what the consequences of failed or successful talks will be. It does not mention Iran’s plans to build a nuke, other than to mention centrifuges — but only in the context of how sharp Obama is because he knows all about them!
    Sometimes it is useful to turn a news article into a precis. To do that you rewrite it as just one or two paragraphs with a proper thesis and conclusion, and supporting points from within the article. I would defy anyone to do that with this puff piece.
    Sad to say, this can be considered “in depth” reporting on the subject. WaPo has something of a reputation for having a hawkish military stance (probably the result of Fred Hiatt’s stewardship of the editorial section). It would probably come as a great surprise to 99% of Americans to learn that Iran had missiles capable of reaching central Europe. You won’t learn about that from this article, though!
    It is written by Greg Jaffe “with input from Juliet Eilperin.” If the name Juliet Eilperin sounds familiar, it may be because Eilperin — and “objective” journalist — got dinged by the powerline boys a few months ago for apparently turning a press release by the DNC about the Koch bros. into a WaPo news “story”:

  18. The corollary is that China should be willing to humble itself, making polite noises, offering concessions, eschewing military adventures, however it must to close regional deals. It will dominate any regional grouping as soon as the ink dries, enhancing its power and isolating outsiders. Bullying smaller neighbors, in contrast, simply drives them into the arms of those outsiders. A deal to ‘share’ any wealth of the South China Sea, for instance, would surely see most of the benefits go to China, as the neighbors would gladly seize on any halfway reasonable deal. Continued bullying and conflict will just scare away investment. By compromising and agreeing to come to the table, China will always win, as it plays with the strongest cards.

  19. Emery, since when do nations “humble themselves” without a **** good reason to do so? Honestly, sometimes it seems as if you’re living on a different planet. Nations humble themselves and temper their expectations because the alternative is worse The trick is to make that worse alternative a reasonable moral response to the behavior.

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