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September 30, 2007 § Leave a comment

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Naomi Kline review reviewed

September 29, 2007 § Leave a comment

 

An annotated review of the review

Doug Carmichael. My comments in Italics

 

September 29, 2007

Books of the Times

It’s All a Grand Capitalist Conspiracy

By TOM REDBURN

THE SHOCK DOCTRINE

The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

By Naomi Klein

558 pages. Metropolitan Books. $28.

 

When Milton Friedman died last year, the acclaim for his work was nearly universal. Even his ideological opponents, like Paul Krugman and Lawrence Summers, treated this Nobel Prize-winning economist — who taught for decades at the University of Chicago — with respect.

 

Dc: incomplete. Friedman wrote in the NYRB Feb15.

 

While Friedman’s theoretical work is universally admired by professional economists, there’s much more ambivalence about his policy pronouncements and especially his popularizing. And it must be said that there were some serious questions about his intellectual honesty when he was speaking to the mass public.”

 

Pasted from <http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2007/01/krugman-on-friedman.html>

 

Naomi Klein will have none of it.

 

Dc: so he is setting her up as being opposed to  the heavies. Unfair if not correct. If Krugman is *also* critical of Friedman, then she is in good company rather than in opposition to standard (progressive) opinion. To Add Summers only compounds the error because she has a critique of Summers’-  like economics. Summers article in the NYT was a eulogy to a just dead colleague. Would you expect a critique?

 

Summers, in that article, says ” While much of his academic work was directed at monetary policy, Mr. Friedman’s great popular contribution lay elsewhere: in convincing people of the importance of allowing free markets to operate.

 

Pasted from <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/19/opinion/19summers.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin>

 

Note the direct contradiction to Friedman’s approach. But Redburn stars by putting Naomi against the two as if they were of a common attitude: respect for Friedman..

 

In her new book, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” she essentially accuses Friedman of being the godfather of a Mafia-like gang, the Chicago Boys, who have exploited the public disorientation associated with catastrophes and political crises to impose an unwanted free-market ideology on much of the world.

 

Dc: free market ideology is a cover for corporate control. Free markets are just that – free. But corporations seek control . See for example the article on Ethanol in today’s NYT (the same issue carrying Redburn’s review). “essentially” is a slippery word. What she does is draw conclusions about the impact of the influence of Friedman’s ideas in justifying a certain kind of politics and business climate. He doesn’t deal with her logic. The “Chicago boys” and those who did the exploitation are not the same people.

 

 

Ms. Klein’s touchstone is Latin America, where authoritarian governments long ruled in the interests of wealthy landowners and the elites in charge of economic cartels, but she doesn’t stop there.

 

Dc: by passing over this so quickly he again does not engage her analysis.

 

Everything from the collapse of the Soviet bloc to the invasion of Iraq, from the flooding of New Orleans to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in her view, have been opportunities for a particularly ruthless form of capitalism to succeed where it otherwise would never take hold.

 

Dc: again quick summary without engagement.

 

And when free-market advocacy alone hasn’t worked, military force and brutal repression are always at hand to cow the public, all in the interest of promoting the privatization of public resources, the shredding of the social safety net and opening up new markets for foreign investors.

There’s a measure of truth about the dark side of globalization in all this, but that’s a lot to lay on poor Milton.

 

Dc: He dismisses the argument (the “measure of truth” is made to sound hollow) by saying she has like a bad prosecutor accusing the wrong person, attributes the whole to Friedman, rather than just seeing Friedman as the source of ideas that others exploited.

 

Ms. Klein pins the blame for much of the misery in the world squarely on what she views as Friedman’s misguided philosophy and the many people in its thrall.

 

Dc: the reader of the review can be counted on, Redburn seems to hope, in assuming philosophy can’t have any impact, impotent to the core as philosophy, in the common mind, he assumes,  is.

 

Dc: “thrall” is a loaded word, implying hypnotic slavery. But how could such people as she then names possibly be such slavish sycophants? Not likely.

 

And here she includes not only a litany of expected conservatives like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and George W. Bush, but what others might think of as conventional liberals, people like Bill Clinton and Jeffrey D. Sachs, the Columbia University economist who advocated economic “shock therapy” in post-socialist countries like Bolivia and Poland and now is one of the leading proponents in the effort to increase sharply aid to the world’s poor.

 

Dc: Not likely, I say, because these people had their own class based reasons to want to act consist to Friedman’s philosophy. Redburn’s  list is to make you think Klien must be an idiot to be opposed to all these good people. But her critique is that those like Clinton and Sachs were part of the establishment that made the rich richer and the poor poorer by enacting legislation and policy that helped those who already had the wealth.

 

“Since the fall of Communism, free markets and free people have been packaged as a single ideology that claims to be humanity’s best and only defense against repeating a history filled with mass graves, killing fields and torture chambers,” Ms. Klein writes. “Yet in the Southern Cone, the first place where the contemporary religion of unfettered free markets escaped from the basement workshops of the University of Chicago and was applied in the real world, it did not bring democracy; it was predicated on the overthrow of democracy in country after country. And it did not bring peace but required the systematic murder of tens of thousands and the torture of between 100,000 and 150,000 people.”

 

 

Friedman’s association with Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator, was indeed the worst stain on his career. His defense that his economic advice to Pinochet was no different from what a doctor might give a government on how to deal with an outbreak of AIDS is not very persuasive.

 

Dc: so was she right, that Friedman himself took his own ideas to support a dictator who imposed pain on Chile? Redburn seems to say so, without yielding her any credit.

Tis kind of writing is what is usually called “snide”. (“

derogatory in a nasty, insinuating manner:

 

Pasted from <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/snide> )

 

Moreover, it is no secret that capitalism does not require a democratic political system to thrive: China is proof of that. Ms. Klein is not alone, either, in pointing out that many governments serve to protect the interests of the rich, and that as inequality grows, the threat rises that the establishment will turn to undemocratic means to thwart the will of the majority.

 

DC: this is pretty serious stuff, but  Redburn seems to treat the fact of it rather lightly, and hence treating Kline as also a lightweight. Moreover she is just a copycat (not alone).

 

Ms. Klein exposes the hypocrisy behind those who promote free enterprise but accept autocratic regimes to carry it out, which makes her book a useful corrective to some of the uncritical celebrations of the spread of globalization since the collapse of the Soviet empire.

 

Dc: that is, it is a footnote to other people’s thinking, especially those who “uncritically celebrate” globalization. What about those who seriously and thoughtfully promote globalization? Which is where her argument actually comes alive..

 

 

But her argument constantly overreaches, because her goal is not really to tame capitalism so much as to taunt it.

 

Dc: those are the alternatives? Tame capitalism? Does he mean take the rough edges off so exploitation can proceed beneath the radar? Taunt capitalism? Like a bull fighter, or a kid at the zoo making faces at the tigers? She is asking for deep reform. Which he gets to in the next paragraph after disposing of her thiking as “nods”.

While Ms. Klein occasionally nods to Scandinavian-style social democracy as an alternative to the “neo-liberal” American-style model she condemns, it turns out that nothing short of a socialist utopia — an economy of worker collectives running environmentally benign enterprises with nationalized banks to direct investment — will actually do.

 

Dc: hm, interesting idea, given the seriousness of the critique, which Redburn acknowledges as fact but dismisses as inconsequential – because one suspects of where she is going, and sinnce that is suspect to Redburn, he can set her up all along the way therem and then immediately dismissed with “blind”. Worse, “most blind” meaning the other palces she is blind don’t even have to be dealt with.

 

 

What she is most blind to is the necessary role of entrepreneurial capitalism in overcoming the inherent tendency of any established social system to lapse into stagnation, as all too many socialist countries — and some nonsocialist ones, too — have shown.

 

Dc; this is ideology. The question is, what kind of entreprenurial capitalism? Corporate monopoly tending aided by state collusion (as in the Ethanol case). Sure, society needs enterprise and development to provide for its people, but the current form of entrepreneurial capitalism (as though it is a one brand monopoly) is not doing it well. Hence the seriousness of her critique.

 

Like it or not, without strong economic growth and its inevitable disruptions , there is little hope for creating the healthy middle classes necessary to sustain democracies,

 

Dc: what we have are not democracies but media mediating oligarchies. Strong middle classes were a product of industrial needs for managers, made irrelevant by computing and telecommunications. Moreover those middle classes are not replicable because of the environmental costs. Redburn avoids all these issues and treats capitalism and growth as a one kind fits all Friedmanesque (the other friedman) dystopia whose nly alternative is starvation.  Redburn’s arument is just like Friedman’s in The Lotus and the Olive Tree. “gett on the train or get out of the way.”

 

 

much less an improvement in the lot of the poor and dispossessed Ms. Klein seeks to represent.

 

Dc: part of her critique is that the current model is in fact not helping the poor. A fact now widely acknowledged, as for example at the just finished Clinton Initiative, where it was the common assumption that this is a real problem.

 

And yes, that means some people will become rich and powerful.

 

Dc; he sees this as an event without implications for the res. But the rich and powerful then control the political process and dive up prices.

 

 

In the end, I suspect that Ms. Klein’s goal in writing “The Shock Doctrine” is not so much to persuade others to join her anti-globalization, anti-corporatist cause as it is to reinforce the dreams of those already convinced of its righteousness.

 

Dc; one doesn’t work that ahrd and that couraeously just to sing to the choir.

 

“We did not lose the battles of ideas,” she said in a recent speech to the American Sociological Association. “We were not outsmarted and we were not out-argued. We lost because we were crushed. Sometimes we were crushed by army tanks, and sometimes we were crushed by think tanks. And by think tanks I mean the people who are paid to think by the makers of tanks.”

 

Dc: she has a point.

 

That must be a comforting thought. If only it were that simple.

 

Dc: oh, then if not that simple, give us a clue as to what how it is complex. Actually his whole review is aimed at trivializing her critique and reducing its complexity through sarcasm.

 

Inserted from <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/29/books/29redb.html?pagewanted=print>

Balance of issues

September 6, 2007 § Leave a comment

We are all distracted by Iraq/Iran and the presidential election.

It is plausible that the strategy of the administration is

  • 1. Make the economy safe for its friends. Solidify the plutocracy.
  • 2. invest in a risky but not essential investment in a war to get control of the ME. This is good because it supports the Military Industrial complex that our friends own,  loss is not really significant but we can bankrupt the welfare economy by the justification of a security  But is distracts press and people from the underlying financial strategy.
  • 3. Make the Republican party the vehicle for this politics
  • 4. Keep the Democrats hobbled by new deal issues the voting public no longer cares about, and make it so there is not enough money to keep new deal policies in place.

Note that in real terms, the war in Iraq is small scale compared to wars in the past. Bush himself is a part of the strategy because he is not affected by the claims of those outside the narrow circle. The shift in economic power towards the few under the rule of corporate law is the key movement of our time.

James Baker article

September 5, 2007 § Leave a comment

The case for pragmatic idealism By James A Baker

This is a serious attempt to lay out a future that fits the needs of leaderships and the led. Worth some detailed analysis. If its purpose is to pressure Bush to be more realistic, fine and good. But if it is a program for the US going forward with the next generation of leaders, it requires deeper analysis. My comments will follow each of his indented paragraphs.

The principles that guide American foreign policy during the coming years will determine how successful the United States will be as it addresses the complex global challenges that confront us.

Note that foreign policy leads the way. I do not think so. It is important and not far behind. But domestic achievements – economic, justice, cultural – “life liberty and the Pursuit of happiness” set the tone for how we are perceived by others and affect how we act – from fear or confidence.

A foreign policy simply rooted in values without a reasonable rationale of concrete interests will not succeed. But our foreign policy will also fail if it too narrowly focuses on the national interest and disregards the role that democratic ideals and human rights play in establishing a more secure world.

Much mixed here. What are “concrete interests?” do they include having ME oil, in keeping others from having it? “Democratic Ideals” is suspect after Bush has made “Democracy and Freedom” equal to media dominated democracy and money dominated freedom. Is Baker just coming up with the best story to preserve current patterns of wealth? Or is there some real equity and Justice being offered?

These truths will confront the next president regardless of his or her political party. He or she will face an international environment in which the use or misuse of American power in all its manifestations – military, diplomatic and economic – will bear decisively on our national security and on global stability. The United States will likely remain the pre-eminent global power for some time. But how we wield that unparalleled capability will determine exactly how long we remain at the front of the international pack.

“How we wield” – weapons are wielded. “Pack”, implies hungry dogs.

Despite setbacks and doubts associated with the ongoing Iraq war, the most significant phenomenon shaping global affairs today remains the uniquely pre-eminent position of the United States. Compared with earlier superpowers – ancient Rome, Napoleonic France and Britain just prior to World War I – we possess far greater advantages over potential rivals.

This does not feel to me well grounded. We are dispersing power into ambiguity and vagueness so rapidly and the rise of others moving along a steady pace (China, Iran, India, Brazil, Venezuela..

The United States is the world’s economic powerhouse. Our output represents almost a quarter of the global gross domestic product (GDP). Moreover, our performance over the past two decades has significantly outpaced that of our traditional competitors such as Japan and the countries of western Europe. And, despite the scandals that rocked corporate America earlier in this decade, we remain at the forefront of economic efficiency, innovation and entrepreneurship. In the past decade, American companies have created trillions of dollars in new wealth by spearheading products that are driving the information-technology revolution.

But what of balances of payments, loss of manufacturing? Housing Bubble?

No other advanced industrial power – and no rising power – can match us in the military arena. The defeat of the Taliban and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein clearly demonstrate our unparalleled ability to project decisive force across vast distances.

But we are losing both Taliban is resurgent and Iran is a mess. We lack the skills for a full military policy of entrance and management in other places.

No other countries even begin to approach this capability today, nor will they for years – if not decades – to come. China’s defense buildup, for instance, is significant and bears close watching. But Beijing is still far from being able to challenge us in East Asia, much less other critical regions like the Persian Gulf.

This leaves out that small numbers of determined people can bring own large empires.

Moreover, despite concerns about America “being alone”, we still continue to exert immense diplomatic influence in the global arena. The United States enjoys strong and durable bilateral relationships with a host of friendly countries – including key European states, Japan and, more recently, India. And we also play a leadership role in international organizations such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In each of these countries the perception of the US is not attractive. The leadership’s’ attitudes may be a question (see http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/IH08Aa03.html on Germany) based on the felt need to remain aligned because of power, despite perceptions.

Last but not least, we represent an ideology – free-market democracy – without a serious global rival. Communism, our old international adversary, has been swept into the dustbin of history. No other ideology with a universal reach has risen to take its place. Yes, Islamic fundamentalism is a potent force. But, by definition, its appeal is limited to countries with significant Muslim populations.

This is just wrong. Free market democracy is really corporate-media control of markets and democracy. Let me be blunt. And having an ideology replaces beliefs? Erich Fromm wrote that ideology is belief that has lost its conviction.

Free market democracy is the opposite of free market democracy – because free market means corporate control of markets using national states, and democracy is a dollars controlling the media reality.

It is true that the model of free-market democracy is clearly not triumphant everywhere. But the trend over recent decades has unmistakably been in the direction of democracy and free markets – even in states that are still far from achieving these goals. Today’s China, however authoritarian, is a far cry from the China of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. We need only compare regions like eastern Europe and Latin America with what they were a quarter century ago to appreciate the broad, if imperfect and incomplete, trend toward market democracy. This is true even with the recent backsliding that we have witnessed, say, in parts of South America.

The Latin America back-sliding is because economics were so bad and deterioratig for most people, that some reform was needed.

In short, today there is no country or group of countries that can challenge our international pre-eminence in economic, military or political terms. This may change as countries like China and India acquire a greater share of world GDP and loom larger on the world stage. But for now and for decades to come, the United States is and will be the major global power.

I do think this is shallow. Things can change rapidly. Any serious terrorism in the US, San Francisco earthquake, breakdown in the agricultural supply lines through energy cost increse – all could rapidly shake the US. Also, power without respect does not go far. baker may be right – and he may be wrong. We have entered a zone of real uncertainty.

American might, however, is not limitless. The history of empires and great powers from Rome onward provides an important lesson. Power must be husbanded carefully. It is precious and finite. Spreading it too thin can lead to disaster. Choices still matter. We must be able to differentiate between our preferences and our priorities, between what is essential to preserve US national security and what is only desirable.

He fails to see that being in tune with desire is what the world will judge us on. Our separation of priorities from desire is going to cost us, internally and externally. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” requires aligned priorities, not divergent ones. Note that he seems to respond to his own story with one similar to mine, but only after the big bluster. Give the devil his due and then be reasonable?

Let me make myself clear: I am anything but a “declinist” when it comes to the United States. I reject gloomy predictions about our national eclipse and am absolutely convinced that our country’s future is a bright one. But while the United States may be the most powerful state in history, we are not omnipotent.
So the challenge confronting policymakers is how best to use our power in ways that advance both our interests and values while avoiding strategic overreach.

This past February, I delivered the fifth annual Kissinger Lecture on Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Library of Congress. I outlined 10 maxims for policymakers in that address, and I would like to repeat them here.

My first maxim is that the United States must be comfortable with using its power. Isolationism and disengagement are simply not options. We are too integrated into the world, in economic and security terms, to walk away from it. If the United States does not exercise power, others will.

But this requires diplomatic skills we have lost. We have a state department that is de-skilled. Not outsourced, just lacking in area knowledge and language.

Other countries continue to depend on our leadership. This is most obvious when we consider our allies in Western Europe, East Asia and elsewhere. We need only think of our critical role in facilitating NATO expansion and the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. Even countries that are sometimes anything but friendly often seek our engagement. This is especially true as we combat the scourges of international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

But we must recognize that even US power is limited – my second maxim. The United States cannot be the policeman for the world. After all, the exercise of American power is constrained not least by the ability of our leaders to generate and sustain domestic political support.And powerful as we are, we cannot solve every problem in the world. Iraq, for instance, has shown a limit to the capability of our military. I yield to no one in my admiration for the magnificent performance of our men and women in uniform.But it is plain that our military services – which crushed the

conventional Iraqi Army within weeks in 2003 – face altogether more intractable foes in insurgent groups and sectarian militias. Our task is complicated by divisions within the Iraqi government and growing frustration among many Iraqis with the lack of basic security and services.

We did not crush the Iraqi army. It strategically – aided by some bribes to Iraqi generals – melted into the population to fight another day – that is, now.

Our power is limited in other areas as well. As strong as our economy may be, we still need the cooperation of others in such areas as expanding trade and investment, and coordinating macroeconomic policy. The same is true in the diplomatic arena, where our influence can be constrained when we are unable to persuade others. Securing the support of China and Russia, for instance, will be critical in crafting a tough response to Iran’s nuclear program.

This is an argument not just for US hegemony, but the hegemony of US financial interests.

There is an ongoing debate as to whether the United States should act alone or in concert with other powers. In the real world, we must be prepared to do both. Some might argue that my third and fourth maxims (“Be prepared to act unilaterally when the situation requires it” and “Appreciate the importance of allies”) are contradictory. Not at all.

It is self-evident that it is almost always preferable to act in concert with others. But when our vital interests are at stake we must be prepared, if necessary, to go it alone – although we should never undertake such action lightly.

It is no coincidence that the three great global conflicts of the 20th century – World War I, World War II and the Cold War – were won by coalitions. When we have allies, we have partners who allow us to spread the human and financial costs of any action. We can create what could be called an “efficient division of international labor”. Allies also help to create a sense of legitimacy for our actions

This is a good argument.

In the Gulf War of 1990-91, for instance, a military coalition of the United States, Britain, France, many Arab nations and others was bolstered by financial support from Gulf Arabs, the Japanese, Germans and a number of other western Europeans. Many forget that the Gulf War cost the United States hardly a nickel because at our request our allies provided critical financial support. Moreover, the UN Security Council’s authorization of force promoted support for action against Saddam Hussein in both the international community and, just as important, here at home.

This leads to the fifth maxim: we need to use all the means at our disposal to achieve our objectives. One size does not fit all when it comes to foreign policy. This is especially true today, as we confront the threats posed by international terrorism and the proliferation of WMD.

Bush would hear this as legitimating, arguing for, the use of nuclear weapons..

An effective foreign policy embodies a continuum of action from private demarches to military intervention. We saw this in the campaign to eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1990-91. Military action was a key part of it – but was not the sole solution. The United States deployed other tools – including moral suasion, bilateral talks and multiculturalism. Action took place both through formal institutions such as the UN and more informal coalitions.

Is he also hinting at mercenary armies? the rise of private armies is a bad sign. I think it was in about 2002 that the number of private police (includes guards) in the US surpassed the number of regular police.

A similar range of tools was used in the effort to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan – including cooperation with both Russia and Iran. In recent years, we have also seen good coordination with other countries of intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement assets to combat both al-Qaeda and terrorism in general.

Note that he does not claim success with the Taliban. The complexity of that region, drugs for one, and our own history in using the people as pawns in the Cold War make decent policy there hard to arrive at.

But when a particular course of action is not producing results, we should be prepared to change direction if necessary (the sixth maxim). As the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote: “Great nations are too strong to be destroyed by their foes. But they can easily be overcome by their own pride.”

Here is he is arguing with Bush.

Consistency, of course, is an important element of foreign policy. It permits us to move beyond crisis management and facilitates the development of long-term strategies. Consistency can also foster stability by reassuring allies and setting down clear markers for potential adversaries.

But when events change, we must be prepared to change with them. The rise of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, for instance, marked a dramatic shift in the world view of the Soviet leadership. It was therefore only right that Washington reach out to Moscow in ways unimaginable just a few short years before. We rightly changed course. And we are doing just that now in our Iraq policy.

I wonder what he knows? Yes there is a consensus hat we need to alter the path, but no agreement as to how – or why.

My seventh piece of advice is that we need to recognize and accept that the United States will sometimes have to deal with authoritarian regimes.

In a perfect world, we could perhaps work only with other democracies. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world, and there is no sign that it will become one any time soon. While freedom may be on the march, some of the most critical states in the world for US interests – in terms of their military or economic power, resource endowments or geostrategic location – are far from being Jeffersonian democracies.

To be blunt, sometimes we have no choice but to work with governments that fall short when it comes to democratic practices and protection of human rights. The most striking example of this was our World War II alliance with Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union, one of the most murderous regimes in history. (Given the immediate and deadly threat posed by Nazi Germany, we had no alternative.) During the Cold War, we made common cause with authoritarian regimes in South America, Asia and elsewhere. We understood that sometimes policymakers must choose from a range of less-than-desirable options.

Today, our allies in the war on terror include countries in the Middle East and Central Asia that bear scant resemblance to the free societies we hold out as the ideal. I cannot pretend that this is a satisfying state of affairs. But there is simply no realistic alternative.

The question in much of the world’s mind, especially in Europe and Japan, is, is the US becoming an authoritarian regime?

This brings me to the eighth maxim: We must be prepared to talk with our enemies. I don’t say this because talking per se is a good thing. I do not hold to the belief that talking solves all difficulties between nations – although there is something to be said for maintaining a bilateral dialogue, if only to avoid misunderstanding and missteps.

No, the fundamental reason we should be prepared to speak to our enemies is that it is in our interest to do so. This is why we maintained an embassy in Moscow throughout the Cold War. And this is why even so staunch an anti-communist as president Ronald Reagan was prepared to negotiate with the Soviets. His motto – “Trust but verify” – remains an irreplaceable injunction for any negotiations. Talking to a hostile government, whether it was Moscow during the Cold War or Damascus today, is not appeasement.It was and still is good foreign policy.The previous two maxims can sometimes be difficult for some Americans to accept. And so my ninth maxim is that we should be mindful that values are important – but that they aren’t the only thing that should guide our policy.

Sadly, we cannot formulate or implement American foreign policy according to the principles of Mother Teresa. Foreign policy is not social work. Americans are often motivated by the most altruistic of humanitarian impulses. But when the body bags start coming home, it is extremely difficult to rally public support if there is no overriding national interest.

This sounds like a straw man. Those who are about equity are being written out of he conversation.

Promoting democracy and free markets around the world is rightly central to US foreign policy. A freer, more prosperous world is a better world for our own citizens and people everywhere. Our productive (if not always perfect) relationships with the mature market democracies of western Europe and Japan can serve as a model in this regard.But we must remember that progress toward democracy and free markets is neither inevitable nor without its own strains.

Both democracy and free markets can be decidedly mixed blessings in the short run. Economic reforms can lead to strains that prompt populist backlashes, and elections cannot be counted upon to produce stable, responsible regimes. The popular success of Hamas among Palestinians and Hezbollah in Lebanon are cases in point.

“Responsible” is being defined here as “acting consistent with market democracy, that is, corporate media globalization. “populist backlashes” are not legitimate, just something to manage.

– So should we support free markets and democracy? Of course we should. But we should be especially careful not to underestimate the difficulties countries can face as they embark on the path to democracy.

“Path to democracy” means democracy that supports the hegemonic US economy and its aligned elites. The real question is, can an evolution toward a better world happen under such a program, or will the underlying inequalities, environmental and climate problems, and energy use wreck this approach – which means we should be trying for something different.

Above all, we should always remember that in foreign policy, “stability” is not a dirty word. It can serve as the foundation for economic and political reform. Its alternative is frequently internal chaos and external conflict. Sometimes destruction can be “creative”. More often it is just destructive.

The word “reform” is also part of the program. Creating ownership of water for example.

The example of World War I is sobering. It followed immediately on the heels of a period of unparalleled economic integration that some have called the “first golden age of globalization”. One of the most influential books of the prewar period, Norman Angell’s The Great Illusion, argued that general war had become impossible because of the economic advantages of peace. Yet we know what followed – one of the bloodiest periods in human history. So we should be very wary when talk turns to “inevitability”. What man creates, man can destroy.

Note how this does not lead to any analysis of the difference between a paths forward within his brand of market democracy, between one that could avoid that destruction and one that will lead to it

A last, but by no means least, important guiding principle: domestic support is vital to any successful foreign policy.

The will of the American people is the final arbiter of foreign policy in our democracy. Generating and sustaining domestic support for foreign policy is in every way as important as the policy itself. Without that support, specific policies risk repudiation at the polls or, worse, public disenchantment with foreign engagement in general.

The polling on Americans’ views of foreign policy represents a mixed bag. Some surveys suggest a rise in isolationism. More clear is a turn against the use of force as an instrument of US foreign policy. The Iraq war has contributed to both. Whatever one’s views of the war and its conduct, it is incumbent on all who believe in US engagement on the world stage to contest any retreat to isolationism.

How might that “contesting” be done? I we look at his language throughout, “wield”, Pack” and “contest” it sounds to me like a control scenario he is building toward. A person who has spent his life fighting – aw or military – is likely to always define the present in terms of the next fight. other perspectives and vocabularies do not easily enter into the discussion.

So how do we best apply these 10 maxims in the context of an overall approach to conducting US foreign policy? The approach I suggest does not fall easily into the traditional categories of foreign policy – “realism” or “idealism”. It contains the best elements of both.

What I suggest might be called “pragmatic idealism”. While firmly grounded in values, it appreciates the complexity of the real world – a world of hard choices and painful trade-offs. This is the real world in which we must live, decide and act.

It is a world that Ronald Reagan understood. He was, famously, a man of deeply held convictions. But he was also pragmatic. When I was his chief of staff, he often told me, “Jim, I’d rather get 80% of what I want than to go over the cliff with my flag flying.” The Gipper, of course, was right.

Seems again to be arguing with Bush. I wonder what his conversations are behind the scenes. Is there a move against bush in the works?

I am not proposing a dogmatic list that must be checked off for each foreign-policy challenge we confront. On the contrary, these maxims embody a mindset marked by a realistic assessment of events and a practical response to them. They represent anything but elements of a rigid ideology that forces events into preconceived notions and creates “either/or” choices that are both false and dangerous. This approach embodies one of our most distinctive national characteristics: we Americans are a practical people less interested in ideological purity than in solving problems. Our pragmatism should inform our foreign policy.

Such a balanced approach can help us avoid both the cynicism of “realism” and the impracticality of “idealism”. It is based on an optimistic view of man but is tempered by our knowledge of human imperfection. It promises no easy answers or quick fixes. But neither did the containment policy pursued by US administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, during the Cold War. Yet that policy ultimately triumphed.

It was based, much like the approach I have sketched, on a unique melding of idealism and realism. It eschewed the temptations of both isolationism on the one hand, and rollback of communism through direct conflict with the Soviet Union on the other. And it reflected, at an important level, a confidence about the future that we need to recapture.

Such an approach does, I am convinced, offer our surest guide and best hope for navigating our great country safely though this precarious period of unparalleled opportunity and risk in world affairs.

James A Baker III was the 67th secretary of the US Treasury and the 61st secretary of state. Last year, he co-chaired the Iraq Study Group with Lee Hamilton. Currently, he is co-chairing the National War Powers Commission with former secretary of state Warren Christopher and is the author of the recently published Work Hard, Study … and Keep Out of Politics! Adventures and Lessons from an Unexpected Public Life (Putnam, 2006).

(Used by permission the

National Interest Online.)(For the original article, click here)

Iran sept 4

September 4, 2007 § Leave a comment

I am still working to bring together the raw sources for a start on Iran. I had emailed TPM that such an effort was needed, along the lines of what they did with social security. Must have been in the air as TPM is doing a lot of bringing threads together. So this is a fishnet approach to what may be relevant. I’ll start being more focused tomorrow, but needed these for reference.

Political Animal: Comment on Reports of Rumors

And almost all of them are coming from hysterical leftists, not the White House or the Pentagon. “Bad Rabbit” impugns White House diplomacy on this issue, when it’s White House opponents who are fanning all the flames.

Am I the only one who thinks this entire issue is somewhat circular in nature, with the Left screaming about a plot they invented themselves?

Political Animal: Comment on Reports of Rumors

To Harry,

Actually, Harry, there are plenty of articles:

Dec 2005 – Is Washington Planning a Military Strike? (Spiegel Online)

Feb 2006 – Thousands would die in Iran Strike (AllBusiness.com)

April 2006 – US planning for Iran strike (smh.com.ua)

May 2006 – US military, intelligence officials raise concern about possible preparations for Iran strike (Raw Story)

June 2006 – Former CIA Analyst says Iran strike set for June or July (prisonplanet.com)

Feb 2007 – Target Iran: US able to strike in spring (Globalresearch.ca)

Mar 2007 – Air strikes against Iran would accelerate nuclear weapon development (Think Progress)

April 2007 – US ready to strike Iran on Good Friday (Jerusalem Post)

May 2007 – Iran’s air defense can repel US air strikes (en.rian.ru)

June 2007 – Lieberman urges Iran Air Strike (commondreams.org)

Sept 2007 – The Iran Plans (The New Yorker)

StopIranWar.com

StopIranWar.com

All Americans want to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons and interfering on the ground inside Iraq. Yet President Bush’s saber rattling gives the US little additional leverage to engage and dissuade Iran, and, more than likely, simply accelerates a dangerous slide into war. The United States can do better than this.

Daily Kos: State of the Nation

They predicted that Iraq would be a war that would last “six days, maybe six weeks, definitely not six months.” Obviously the cycle has been delayed by the quagmire of the Iraq conflict.

The next war? — The Washington Times, America’s Newspaper

After a brief interruption of his New Hampshire vacation to meet President Bush in the family compound at Kenebunkport, Maine, French President Nicolas Sarkozy came away convinced his U.S. counterpart is serious about bombing Iran’s secret nuclear facilities. That’s the reading as it filtered back to Europe’s foreign ministries:

Addressing the annual meeting of France’s ambassadors to 188 countries, Mr. Sarkozy said either Iran lives up to its international obligations and relinquishes its nuclear ambitions — or it will be bombed into compliance. Mr. Sarkozy also made it clear he did not agree with the Iranian-bomb-or-bombing-of-Iran position, which reflects the pledge of Mr. Bush to his loyalists, endorsed by Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Independent. But Mr. Sarkozy recognized unless Iran’s theocrats stop enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels under inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), we will all be “faced with an alternative that I call catastrophic.”

A ranking Swiss official privately said, “Anyone with a modicum of experience in the Middle East knows that any bombing of Iran would touch off at the very least regional instability and what could be an unmitigated disaster for Western interests.”

Talking Points Memo

Nuts Enough

de Borchgrave: Sarkozy came away from Kenebunkport convinced that Bush is nuts enough to attack Iran.

–Josh Marshall

09.04.07 — 5:12PM // link

The Likely Trigger

You may have noticed the Iran boomlet over the last few days, the pitter-patter of rumors and hints that either a major military action or an Iraq-style PR/agitprop roll-out is set to start this week. Spencer Ackerman is looking into this over at TPMmuckraker.com. And his reporting suggests that the ‘source’ of all this chatter is an order Dick Cheney has sent out to his proxies at the right-wing thinktanks to start laying the ground work for war with Iran. In the short run, the aim is to open up a new front in his struggle with Bob Gates and the Joint Chiefs (who think two wars are enough for now). In the medium term, the goal is getting the war started well ahead of the end of Bush’s term.

For the moment, however, my attention is fixed on one of those ‘hints’, Reuel Marc Gerecht’s piece in the current Newsweek, in which he argues that war with Iran is most likely to come not because of Bush-Cheney warmongering or a breakdown in negotiations but rather “an Iranian provocation.”

It is worth stepping back for a moment to savor this claim in its full flavor. Clearly, this must be the kind of ‘provocation’ comparatively weak states again and again through history seem to make against extremely powerful states — just before the latter provides a thorough beating to the former. One can of course think of various examples over the decades and centuries.

As the agitprop engines start churning again, it is worth stepping back and considering an undeniable fact. Iran is not a rival power to the United States. The idea that Iran is a threat to the United States in conventional military terms is laughable. A terrorist threat? Sure. But that’s a very different kind of threat.

Another point: Iranian meddling in Iraq. Some points are so obvious that to state them seems almost redundant. But what exactly are we doing? This isn’t to put our efforts in Iraq and Iran’s on equal terms. The mullah’s regime in Iran is brutish, illiberal and thuggish (though the comparison was a bit more helpful before Dick Cheney was our poster-boy of the rule-of-law, western civilization and democratic values). Like most people I put intervention based on my ideals on a different footing with that of those whose ideals I don’t agree with. But to say that Iran — which has deep historical and religious ties to Iraq and is … well, right there — is meddling while we’ve been occupying and running the country for four years is just silly. You may say that these are just aggressive ways of phrasing the issue and these fact are all known. So what’s the difference? But the slow build up of lies and misdirections, over time, affects our thinking and our ability to reason at all coherently.

Whatever else we decide about Iran, we would do ourselves a big favor by wiping away the cobwebs of lies, distortions and various ways of up being down. We’re running Iraq. We want it to model itself after us and suit our interests. The Iranians don’t want that and they’re trying to throw sand in our gears. And we’re going to threaten them to try to make them back down. And since they are a revisionist power we don’t want them to exist anyway so we may just attack them regardless. These are all terms and explanations that at least have some bare relation to the situation at hand. They might be too cynical about our national aspirations and ideals if it weren’t for the fact that the people controlling the US government today don’t believe in our national ideals. So it’s the same difference anyway.

–Josh Marshall

Talking Points Memo

There is no question of our policy to Iran. That is to say, no question of the issue in the abstract or the issue if conducted in the hands of sane and/or experienced foreign policy practitioners. There is only our policy over the next eighteen months as conducted by George Bush and Dick Cheney. For that reason, even hypotheticals or abstract discussions about threats of force to prevent the progress of the Iranian nuclear program are profoundly misguided and dangerous.

Given the track record, who would trust these incompetents to expand our military involvement in the Middle East for almost any reason whatsoever? And relatedly, who would trust that a ‘threat of force’ as a leverage to diplomacy is not what it has usually been with the Bush White House: a feint toward diplomacy to leverage the use of force?

White House Watch — News on President George W Bush and the Bush Administration – washingtonpost.co
“[Bush] said he saw his unpopularity as a natural result of his decision to pursue a strategy in which he believed. ‘I made a decision to lead,’ he said, ‘One, it makes you unpopular; two, it makes people accuse you of unilateral arrogance, and that may be true. But the fundamental question is, is the world better off as a result of your leadership?'”

White House Watch — News on President George W Bush and the Bush Administration – washingtonpost.co
This time, Bush visited Al-Asad Air Base — an enormous, heavily fortified American outpost for 10,000 troops that while technically in Anbar Province in fact has a 13-mile perimeter keeping Iraq — and Iraqis — at bay. Bush never left the confines of the base, known as ” Camp Cupcake,” for its relatively luxurious facilities, but nevertheless announced: “When you stand on the ground here in Anbar and hear from the people who live here, you can see what the future of Iraq can look like.”

Interesting Times: George Packer: Online Only: The New Yorker

Iraq with an N? Anatomy of a Rumor That Has to be Taken Seriously | TPMCafe

Reference a comment from early 2007 from military analyst William Lind: link

Incurious George has offered no new strategy, nor new course, nor even a plateau on the downward course of our two lost wars and failed grand strategy. He has chosen instead to escalate failure, speed our decline and expand the scope of our defeat. Headed toward the cliff, his course correction is to stomp on the gas.

The Coffee House | TPMCafe

The debate about what to do next in Iraq is framed as if Iraq was an island. Should the US troops leave now or later? Only if the Iraqis meet certain conditions? Stay there until “we win”? Roundly ignored is that the effects of the way the US presence in Iraq is called down depend greatly on a closely related decision: what the US and its allies plan to do about Iran.

Iraq with an N? Anatomy of a Rumor That Has to be Taken Seriously | TPMCafe

I don’t see any point to contributing to a cycle of useless panic, but if Victor Davis Hanson is worried about war with Teheran, I’m worried and then some. “Don’t Bomb, Don’t Bomb Iran,” wrote one of conservativedom’s most interesting war analysts on Friday at National Review Online.

The Coffee House | TPMCafe
According to Rosen who has lived in Iraq, has spent months in the war zone and is fluent in Iraqi Arabic, arguing over whether the war is lost or about the merits of the surge is moronic. Iraq no longer exists as a country. We essentially finished off Iraq as a nation.

Iran Sept 2 2007 # 2

September 2, 2007 § Leave a comment

I am starting with a series of articles from Asian Times, which I think sets the stage for good analysis. It needs to checked with other sources, established and emerging But To me the absence of serious analysis from say the NYT is a problem to be understood, and the Iraq parallel is disturbing.

Asia Times Online :: Asian news hub providing the latest news and analysis from Asia
A small break for Iran
The latest International Atomic Energy Agency report on Tehran’s nuclear program dampens the momentum for another round of United Nations sanctions. This may well be unwelcome news to the hawks in Washington, but it does go some way to breaking down the “wall of mistrust” between the US and Iran. – Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Asia Times Online :: Asian news hub providing the latest news and analysis from Asia
A hidden menace in Bush’s words on Iran
President George W Bush this week raised the temperature further with Iran by declaring his intent to “confront Tehran’s murderous activities” in Iraq. But what on the surface may appear as business as usual in the war of words between Tehran and Washington may in reality repeat an earlier pattern widely suspected to have been aimed at provoking war with Iran. – Trita Parsi

Asia Times Online :: Asian news hub providing the latest news and analysis from Asia
Armed and ready for Iran
The US$20 billion in military aid the United States is giving to Sunni Arab states indicates a regional strategy that looks beyond the fighting in Iraq to consider the entire region as an interlinked theater of war. And the “enemy” is clearly Iran. – William Hawkins (Aug 30, ’07)

Asia Times Online :: Asian news hub providing the latest news and analysis from Asia
Israel urged US to attack Iran – not Iraq
Once US intentions to invade Iraq became clear, alarmed Israeli officials made it abundantly clear to the Bush administration that Iraq was not the enemy – Iran was. The neo-conservatives would not hear of it, despite also being warned of severe destabilization of the region should Iraq be attacked. – Gareth Porter (Aug 29, ’07)

Asia Times Online :: Asian news hub providing the latest news and analysis from Asia
THE ROVING EYE
Bush’s brand-new poodle
With former British prime minister Tony Blair put out to new pastures, US President George W Bush has a newer, leaner, meaner, adrenaline-packed “Made in France” version of his favorite ally in all things “war on terror”. President Nicolas Sarkozy has wasted no time in joining the demonize-Iran campaign, and is taking trans-Atlantic entente to new levels. – Pepe Escobar

When the London Time starts saying that an attack on Iran is the horror of an Iraq deja vu is too horrendous to not require some mobilzed protest.

Pentagon ‘three-day blitz’ plan for Iran – Times Online

From The Sunday Times
September 2, 2007

aug 29 2007

September 2, 2007 § Leave a comment

Iran sept 2, #2

I am starting with a series of articles from Asian Times, which I think sets the stage for good analysis. It needs to checked with other sources, established and emerging But To me the absence of serious analysis from say the NYT is a problem to be understood, and the Iraq parallel is disturbing.

Asia Times Online :: Asian news hub providing the latest news and analysis from Asia
A small break for Iran
The latest International Atomic Energy Agency report on Tehran’s nuclear program dampens the momentum for another round of United Nations sanctions. This may well be unwelcome news to the hawks in Washington, but it does go some way to breaking down the “wall of mistrust” between the US and Iran. – Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Asia Times Online :: Asian news hub providing the latest news and analysis from Asia
A hidden menace in Bush’s words on Iran
President George W Bush this week raised the temperature further with Iran by declaring his intent to “confront Tehran’s murderous activities” in Iraq. But what on the surface may appear as business as usual in the war of words between Tehran and Washington may in reality repeat an earlier pattern widely suspected to have been aimed at provoking war with Iran. – Trita Parsi

Asia Times Online :: Asian news hub providing the latest news and analysis from Asia
Armed and ready for Iran
The US$20 billion in military aid the United States is giving to Sunni Arab states indicates a regional strategy that looks beyond the fighting in Iraq to consider the entire region as an interlinked theater of war. And the “enemy” is clearly Iran. – William Hawkins (Aug 30, ’07)

Asia Times Online :: Asian news hub providing the latest news and analysis from Asia
Israel urged US to attack Iran – not Iraq
Once US intentions to invade Iraq became clear, alarmed Israeli officials made it abundantly clear to the Bush administration that Iraq was not the enemy – Iran was. The neo-conservatives would not hear of it, despite also being warned of severe destabilization of the region should Iraq be attacked. – Gareth Porter (Aug 29, ’07)

Asia Times Online :: Asian news hub providing the latest news and analysis from Asia
THE ROVING EYE
Bush’s brand-new poodle
With former British prime minister Tony Blair put out to new pastures, US President George W Bush has a newer, leaner, meaner, adrenaline-packed “Made in France” version of his favorite ally in all things “war on terror”. President Nicolas Sarkozy has wasted no time in joining the demonize-Iran campaign, and is taking trans-Atlantic entente to new levels. – Pepe Escobar

When the London Time starts saying that an attack on Iran is the horror of an Iraq deja vu is too horrendous to not require some mobilzed protest.

Pentagon ‘three-day blitz’ plan for Iran – Times Online

From The Sunday Times
September 2, 2007

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for September, 2007 at Reflections on GardenWorld Politics Douglass Carmichael.