Open Thread

The Big Trifecta

In geopolitical terms – the big trifecta is Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India (that’s the yellow, dark-yellow, and the grey band just to the right of Iran).

While the occasional geopolitical manoeuvres in the dark make for a great Bond movie, we have an obligation to dig a little deeper. First step on our adventure is to zoom in on the Afghan/Pakistan border where that orange band in the middle (see illustration below) is Taliban territory.

Things get more interesting when we throw in details of the ethnic, cultural, family, history, loyalty thing – and in the following map we should be cognisant of the fact that geopolitical boundaries don’t take centre stage (after all – the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan was nothing more than an arbitrary 19th century British colonial construct).

Just for reference – that big brown blob in the previous illustration is the Pashtun ethnic population. The following map drills down and identifies the principal regions at ground zero.

But lets zoom out again and factor into this equation that discussion about the relationship (and/or conflict) between Afghanistan and Pakistan that is of direct interest to their neighbour Iran (the big bugger over on the left). After all, Iran has many of the same tribal problems that face the fledgling Afghanistan administration (and an outbreak of secular testosterone in Afghanistan is a potential problem in the making for Iran). Let’s also take into account that big chunks of Afghanistan could be argued to be more properly part and parcel of Pakistan (which would go a long way towards explaining some of the accusations of Pakistan/Taliban loyalty). Equally, when we talk about Pakistan and India (the big bugger over on the right) there is the inevitable engagement of China (the really big bugger over on the far far right) as a player with more than a passing interest. And let’s not even get into the parallel universe of the Kashmir equation.

Thing is, a failed Afghanistan state creates stress for Pakistan and stress for Pakistan creates opportunity for India, an India/Pakistan conflict plays into the hands of China, and at the end of the day a bunch of nation states (US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Australia) just aren’t ready for that reality just yet. But what ties this all together is that none of the players want to see a united secular solution.

And for better or worse – what if this conflict may be our best hope for peace in our time? Why? Simply because an alignment of common interests between the principal players in this equation. That the simple thing of an alignment just may be a greater good than the atrocities that have and will be committed in the sustainment of this transient moment.

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Recommended Reading

Agonizing over Afghanistan
David Shribman, 31 October, 2009

Pakistan is swiftly drifting towards an all out civil war
Abdus Sattar Ghazali, 28 October, 2009

613 replies on “The Big Trifecta”

DG: “From your comments, I am assuming that you applaud the US for bringing former warlords, drug runners, and corrupt officials into the current Afghanistan government. Am I correct in that assumption?”

David, Karzai and his cronies run the show. Other factions are window-dressing under the present set up. The “democatically elected” representarives have very little or no say in important decision making. If they don’t do the Karzai shimmy they remain wall-flowers. Not sure, but I don’t think that the large areas of rural Afghanistan under Taliban control are represented adequately in Kabul either. It’s not a smart move not to exclude them because in the end, “terrorists” are usually negtotiated with. The genesis of the modern State of Israel is a case in point.

DG, “I honestly do not know how to respond to your position. It would seem that we have completely opposite ways of viewing everything to do with this particular topic.”

Yep, not unlike a pragmatist and a poet, political phenomenology of a sort.
Two people see a valley splendid. The first is transfixed with beauty beholden, the second reckons it’d be a great place for an ambush. 🙂

100 Yes, the premise is quite bizarre DG, when you actually read the articles I’ve noted in the NY Times, look at the ones he claims to find this overwhelming evidence in. I conclude he’s a bit ‘out there’, to put it politely.

But I’d reckon the general audience of HuffPo would all be nodding agreement into their decaf latte! LOL

Which is, of course, my point in finding what the NY Times has actually put forth of late. And I’ll say that on the whole, it’s pretty balanced, and if anything, more inclined to be both critical of Obama and negative about the Afghan war.

Certainly nothing like what Mr Bromwich fantasizes, that’s for sure.

I’d say Ecky, that you have a fixed point of view, and it’s from one position only.

I’m inclined to move my perspective when things actually change, especially when the facts just don’t support the rhetoric.

Love your rhetoric Ecky, but it’s getting threadbare in the reality department old son.

There were more factors at play in the creation of Israel than simply terrorism, I would suggest, but that is a digression. 😉

And who’s the pragmatist and who’s the poet? 🙂


That’s me: the voice of reason. 😉 (Well, I like to imagine so, at any rate. But just get me started on Iran and … )

Alan Ramsay on the 7.30 Report…download if you missed it, it’s the old curmudgeon telling it like it was, and how it now is.

Classic stuff.

Just saw it. He is so right about the press gallery and about Rudd’s control of the media.

Gee Kirri, I’d say your the one who’s been doing the defaming this afternoon, but such is life. There’s nothing wrong with playing the contrarian, let’s just hope you’re better at it than Gouldie has been. 🙂

HSW, ‘defaming’?

Have you any idea what words actually mean, or do you, like some here, just use them to mean whatever you want them to mean?

Oh, if you mean present the facts to sustain an argument that a claim is pure tosh, then yep, I’ve been ‘defaming’! LOL

Buy a dictionary HSW, you could do with one.

good to see you in fine intellectual form but why do you find it necessary to put down decent people you disagree with?
As one of your supporters during the past hoo-ha over the fence, I feel most uncomfortable with the way you increasingly play the man.
Have bitten my tongue, hoping you were ‘having a bad day’, but the snide tone certainly spoils it for me.

I used to love Ramsey on a Saturday arvo, especially during the final years of Howard when most the MSM were fawning all over him like he was some political saint, and there was Alan Ramsey dishing it out all over the little rodent with style, wit, and of course the facts. His memory was prodigious and his anecdotes always immensely telling.

God I miss him.

megan, I detest humbug, and if you look carefully, the ‘snide’ comments are always there the moment I question the facts.

Funny, but no one seems to mind when I’m being ridiculed, but get oh so ‘touchy’ feely when I respond.

Don’t worry, I’ll get bored with it all again, very soon, I’d guess.

Megan, I hope I haven’t just ‘defamed’ you! LOL

If you see what I mean.

And I don’t recall saying anyone belonged with Andrew Bolt, or was a neocon nutter (or it’s equivalent)

[paragraph redacted under editorial discretion]

Irate and Independent.

A poll of opinion polls shows Americans’ attitudes are changing rapidly.

They are less and less thrilled about the country’s direction and Congress, according to Tom Bevan, executive editor of national polling aggregator RealClearPolitics. He says independent voters are shifting away from the polices of the Obama administration and Democrats.

“Independents have flipped negative,” warns Bevan. “That’s not a good thing for any party.”

The first gubernatorial races since Democrats took control of Washington, in New Jersey and Virginia, show voter angst and ire. Those races appear to be heading in different directions but are two sides of the same coin.
In Virginia — which swung Democrat first in 2006 to Jim Webb in his Senate race, then further to Obama in 2008 — Republican Bob McDonnell leads Democrat Creigh Deeds by widening margins.

What are they actually trying to say? It’s a mish, mash of stuff we already new. But it doesn’t actually say anything in particular. Like, oh the Democrats are getting thrashed. Or the Repugs are getting thrashed. But nothing we didn’t already know.

Schumer Says Democrats Close to 60 Votes

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) was asked about the prospect of health care reform on Meet the Press this morning.

GREGORY: Where– where are the votes? Conservative Democrats, Olympia Snow, are they gonna sign up for this?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Okay. Leader Reid, and there’s nobody better at counting the votes than he is, he’s a wizard at it, and– people don’t give him enough credit for it. And I and others have been talking to Liberal Democrats, Moderate Democrats, Conservative Democrats. The liberals, they’d like it stronger, but they’re willing to live with a level playing field, opt out. The more moderate Democrats, there are some who actually like it. As long as its a level playing field, they’re comfortable with it. There are others who say– that– “I’m not sure I like it, but I won’t hold up passage of the bill.” I think we’re very close to getting the 60 votes we need to move forward. And my guess is– that the public option, level playing field, with the state opt out will be in the bill, but Leader Reid will make that decision after he talks to everybody several times.
Now that would be handy to be announced just before the state and other elections. Might not save Virginia, but may sew up some others.

Well Kirri, you’ve failed to sustain this assertion about Bromwich with facts.

“For, if you bother, you’ll find this guy has made it his ’second job’ for some time, to ‘prove’ the NY Times is either running the US government, or Israel’s or both, or something similar! LOL

He’s hardly credible after 5 minutes ‘research’. ”

I’m still waiting.


I draw your attention to this:

“Is the Times trying once again to commandeer public opinion for U.S. or Israeli military action against a large country in the Middle East? Improbable as it may sound, it is becoming hard to escape that conclusion.”

Read more at:

This came up as the top hit in a google search for “bromwich and israel and times”. This was a piece Bromwich wrote in May.

116 Chris B Here is what they left out when they cherry picked their article:

Poll: GOP’s Favorability At Its Worst In A Decade.
A new CNN poll has some really bad news for the Republican Party, with their favorability number reaching its lowest in a decade.

Only 36% of people view the GOP favorably, with an outright majority of 54% viewing them unfavorably. By comparison, the Democratic Party is at 53% favorable to 41% unfavorable — hardly a good omen for the Republicans if they want to make significant gains in 2010.

I have already covered this previously.

DG, that Bromwich would do well on this blog, I’d reckon! LOL

Lot’s of mad claims, no evidence, mostly larded heavily with conspiracy theory, and ALL so very PC Left-over.

Meanwhile, Media Watch is trashing the rightwing nutbags on the MSM for spewing misinformation, lousy data, and straight fantasy for the purpose of scaring people into believing what they want them too.

[paragraph redacted under editorial discretion]

Intellectual dishonesty is still intellectual dishonesty, from the right, or from the left.

Thank you, DG. That’s two articles in 6 months that we can look at. And you criticism of this article is?

Great Scott, David, The Gould Manifesto! Sounds a tad Libertarian to me. Downright Catallaxian. Chris will be disappointed though; he had you pegged as a neocon from way back. 🙂

‘Ere, wot’s your game ven?!

When discussing a winning strategy in Afghanistan, the elephant in the room we have minimal control over and cleverly ignore, is unquestionably neighboring Pakistan. In the case of Iraq, the discussion about ending the war skillfully ignores the history of large and sustained U.S. troop levels in countries America has invaded.

President Obama’s era of engagement is welcomed in the Middle East; the Cairo speech was humble, nuanced, and emblematic of a fresh wave of politicking with the region. However, a militarized foreign policy dating back decades has more relevance now than ever before in a time of re-branding America’s standing in the region, for the mere presence of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have arguably inflamed anti-American sentiment around the Muslim world to new heights. Does ending the war really mean ending the war? With the largest and most expensive embassy in the world–the size of Vatican City–built in the heart of Baghdad, one wonders whether withdrawing from Iraq was ever considered an option.

does it really matter who “wins” or “loses” the argument du jour?
“Hey check me out! According to my criteria I just blitzed some suckah five-zip. Cock-a-doodle-do!”


Apart from remaining untainted by corporate sponsorship (insert smiling emoticon signifying humourous intent), we don’t keep a score-keeper on as such. We are, however, blessed to have an “adjudicator” who is wise beyond her years. :mrgreen:

Displays of androgen-fueled Intense Alpha are no longer my metier. (Christ, I had a vasectomy twenty years ago!)

Floating ideas, having a bit of fun and learning from each other in a place we can be ourselves is far more important. That’s how we all got together here in the first place after vile opporbrium and sordid aspersion was heaped upon a couple of us in particular prior to our launch, remember? Thick as thieves we were. Call it a weakness, but have always felt it’s better to err on the side of banter than personal vituperation in the company of fellows, although in this regard, am often inconsistent. The devil, it seems works in mysterious ways.

Clearly, we, that’s you and me pal, were made for each other and as long as we remain this side of turning full-on feral, are destined to box-on for as long as we can both tap a keyboard. That’s a big-time known known. Always appreciate your terrier-like and Seppophilic de-fense of the facts as you interpret them, your measured didacticism and your well-considered literary and rhetorical appraisals of my comments.

Your Blog Buddy,


* Emoh Ruo, 101 Ticster Street, Cyberspace, Earth*

KR, you make the assertion, you provide the evidence. That’s how the game is played.

“The Burns essay and the Iraq symposium are part of a consistent effort by the
Times — the Pollack-O’Hanlon puff for the surge and the double endorsement of
McCain and Clinton were part of the same effort — to shift legitimate opinion
toward acceptance of a large and permanent American force in the Middle East.
Among lawmakers, only Russell Feingold, Chuck Hagel, and Ron Paul have drawn
sustained attention to the commitments we are entering into. For a major paper
to do the same would be an act of candor. The New York Times, by its elaborate
contrivance of a sham debate, and by the transparent omissions of its analysis,
has done a conspicuous disservice to public discussion.”

Read more at:

He certainly seems to be a persistent critic of the New York Times, and thinks that they have a plan to shape US public opinion such that the hawks are supported.

My criticism is: its conspiracy theory nuttery. What motive could the New York Times have for such a policy? The people who write the editorials might have the genuine belief that this is the best thing to do, and are making their case. As can be seen by the inclusion of dissenting viewpoints, it is hard to see how there can be such a conspiracy. And it seems as though he thinks that this is the policy of the ages from the New York Times, in that he says:

“Is the Times trying *once again* to commandeer public opinion for U.S. or Israeli military action against a large country in the Middle East?”

Seriously, he thinks that the NYT is a mouthpiece for neoconservative thought?

HusseinStWorm says:
26 October, 2009 at 8:45 pm

KR, you make the assertion, you provide the evidence. That’s how the game is played.

…..I have.

You just can’t read.

G’day, megan, was two-finger tapping out my two bob’s worth while you had posted. Guess this some kind of of a “technical snap”. Thought long and hard before sending my previous post. Glad I’m not Robinson Crusoe.
Grand to see you back! With two biggies, Public Option and escalation in Afghanistan about to decided too.


No idea. He has certainly gone on radio – AntiWar is the one that I have glanced at – pressing home the attack on the NYT. And his detestation of them obviously stretches back at least as far as the election, given that he is talking about the NYT supporting Clinton and McCain. And that is a little misleading, as while they endorsed McCain over Guiliani, they endorsed Obama over McCain. So they can hardly be all that right wing and gung ho for the bombing of Iran … or maybe it was some kind of double bluff?

Re my ‘manifesto’, I am a Greens voter who preferences Labor. But I certainly have neoconservative views on the spreading of democracy, and I have some libertarian beliefs.

Well DG, I do believe the OZ endorsed Labor in 2007, if i recall correctly. That doesn’t mean that they weren’t a bunch of Howard huggers.

Something intended to deceive; a hoax or fraud.

Kirribilli Removals says:
25 October, 2009 at 9:58 pm

They ARE NOT THERE FOR OIL, never were, and no matter how much crap you sprout, you cannot find any evidence that makes in sense.

“They ARE NOT THERE FOR OIL.” Without a crystal ball i won’t agree or disagree with that. Only time will tell. You know, never say never.

“never were”. These two words are in complete contradiction of your posts at 28, 33 and 34 where you clearly indicate that UNOCAL were there (I guess it was before the 9/11 invasion because you say 10 years ago in post 34) and gave up negotiating.

DO the two words “never were” fall in to the category of humbug?

Just askin’ ?

War Is a Hate Crime:

““What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, ‘Which part of this sentence don’t you understand?’ ” Friedman said. “ ‘You don’t think, you know we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we’re just gonna let it grow? Well, suck on this.’ That, Charlie, is what this war is about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.”
~Thomas Friedman (frontline booster, armchair general)

The brutality of Matthew Shepard’s killers, who beat him to death for being gay, is a product of a culture that glorifies violence and sadism. It is the product of a militarized culture. We have more police, prisons, inmates, spies, mercenaries, weapons and troops than any other nation on Earth. Our military, which swallows half of the federal budget, is enormously popular—as if it is not part of government. The military values of hyper-masculinity, blind obedience and violence are an electric current that run through reality television and trash-talk programs where contestants endure pain while they betray and manipulate those around them in a ruthless world of competition. Friendship and compassion are banished.

This hyper-masculinity is at the core of pornography with its fusion of violence and eroticism, as well as its physical and emotional degradation of women. It is an expression of the corporate state where human beings are reduced to commodities and companies have become proto-fascist enclaves devoted to maximziing profit. Militarism crushes the capacity for moral autonomy and difference. It isolates us from each other. It has its logical fruition in Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with our lack of compassion for our homeless, our poor, our mentally ill, our unemployed, our sick, and yes, our gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual citizens.

Anyway, no-one on here has said boo about Clive Hamilton. Should we have a ticster pool on his primary vote percentage to 1 decimal place?

From The Shorter Ticster Dictionary……….

conspiracy: plan to commit an illegal action by more than one person.

theory: a supposition or system of ideas explaining something.

conspiracy theory: alternative viewpoint
Righto Hussey: without an ALP cadidate, Clive will pull 40.0% of 2PP.

Gaffy, a consortium including UNOCAL proposed a pipeline which was never built, which as the only US company involved, gave up as a poor idea in 1998, and you still want to say, or imply, that this was, maybe, possibly the reason why the USA invaded Afghanistan after 9/11.

yeah, and the tooth fairy is real, too.

What is wrong with people? So attached, glued onto, an idea so whacky and disproven, yet like the aspartame cult, has a cliche of proponents and a following of uncritical thinkers who will NEVER, despite the facts, give up believing nonsense.

Yep, George Bush went to war in Afghanistan for the profits of a company that actually put it’s money into the pipeline through Turkey!

What are you smoking, dude?

Good one Ecky, tipping an almost total shift from Labor to Greens. I’ll say 31.5.

I think it’s good that the Greens picked a candidate who has a few definite views about issues. I don’t agree with much of those views, particularly the net filter stuff, but parliament would be much better if there were a few Clive Hamiltons in it.

[paragraph redacted under editorial discretion]

When you actually use facts and logic, I’ll call it a ‘theory’! Re-hashing Left-overs hardly qualifies old chap.

“Alternative”…yep, if you mean devoid of facts and immune to reason.

‘cliche’ should be ‘clique’ back there, but really, in this context, they are almost interchangeable.

“Oil, US, Imperialism” is the cliche ridden clique of this thread so far, and the last one, and the one before that….

See a pattern?

Kirribilli Removals at 143

See a pattern?

Thing is – when someone posts something stupid or twisted or plain farcical – what I want is to see the argument destroyed based on facts. What I don’t want is scars on characters, yours, mine, or anyone else. I can hear some ice cracking. That puts me on edge. I don’t like being on edge. And to answer the question – Yes, I can see a pattern.

Yes, but before we can even discuss your thread’s header, we were ambushed by the old chestnut “pipeline” and throwing up the facts, the history, the eventual pipeline, the economics…no, that’s just ‘another opinion’, while the fact-bereft statements of righteousness must be given the status of hallowed truth, because, well, just because! Oh, yeah, I forgot, because they use the “oil, USA, imperialism” mantra, and that is sacred, cannot be challenged, and hey, only neocon nutjobs would say that, eh?


Stale, meaningless, self-congratulatory and tedious.

Kirribilli Removals at 146:

Yes, but before we can even discuss your thread’s header, we were ambushed by the old chestnut “pipeline” and throwing up the facts, the history, the eventual pipeline, the economics…no, that’s just ‘another opinion’, while the fact-bereft statements of righteousness must be given the status of hallowed truth, because, well, just because! Oh, yeah, I forgot, because they use the “oil, USA, imperialism” mantra, and that is sacred, cannot be challenged, and hey, only neocon nutjobs would say that, eh?

Hardly an ambush. As things stand I’d say that the pipeline conspiracy theory has taken a beating along with your political capital. Thing is – I’m guessing that a project to rebuild your political capital will be a lot less expensive than that pipeline. Wouldn’t you agree?

P.S. If anyone wants to change the subject away from the current post (aside from our normal chatter on evolving events) – they are welcome to write up a new post.

But, if you like ersatz Gonzo journalism done by someone who has done it for decades, smelled the napalm in the morning, and is still alive to distill all those years into a ripper yarn with a purpose, then you cannot go past Fred.

Fred Reed, and his blog, Fred on Everything never fails to be about something, written with a fresh zippyness that stings your eyes when you read it, clever, funny, absolutely anti-PC and as clever as anything you’ll read anywhere.

His latest offering is a clanger:

October 25, 2009

In re Afghanistan, why, you might ask, is the world’s hugest, expensivest, most begadgeted military unable to defeat a few thousand angry tribesmen armed with AKs and RPGs?

Easy: Character. The men running the war are mentally the wrong ones to do it.

Think about this for a moment. Suppose that your boss at the lab or law firm or newsroom demanded that, when he entered the room, you leapt spasmodically to your feet, stood rigidly erect with your feet at a forty-five degree angle like a congenitally deformed duck, and stared straight ahead until he gave you permission to relax. You would think, correctly, that he was crazy as a bedbug. If he then required reporters to stand in a square so he could inspect their belt buckles, you would either figure he was a gay blade or call for a struggle buggy and some big orderlies. This weird posturing is not normal, nor are those it appeals to.

Suppose you showed up for freshman orientation at Princeton and your professors bellowed at the tops of their voices, three inches from your face, “Your shoes ain’t shined good, puke. Get down and give me fifty.” (Pushups, that is, which in the military doesn’t mean the better sort of bra.) You would decide that the loon had lost whatever mind he had ever had, and call Domino’s for a cheese pizza, double Haldol.

Should you be so unwary as to suggest the foregoing in print, the response will usually be that militaries need discipline. True, and so do newspapers. However, there is a distinction between discipline and ritualized lunacy. At every publication for which I have worked, the editor was clearly and absolutely in charge. Yet I, seldom senior, could say, “Yeah, Wes, but if we do that, won’t thus-and-so bad thing happen?” His decision was law, but he was happy to hear from subordinates, who might know something he didn’t. Editors do not require vaguely sadomasochistic submissiveness.

This hoopla is not of use in combat. The Taliban seem to be doing rather well. Do you suppose their commanders check their beds to be sure that a quarter will bounce from their blankets?

Now, what kind of kid wants to go for robot training at West Point or boat school at Annapolis? Statistically these kids are bright, gregarious, “motivated” (a favorite military word), athletic, perhaps Eagle Scouts. Psychologically they want (need?) to live under a regime of rigid conformity and obedience that would appear as absurd as it is if we were not accustomed seeing it among soldiers. That is, they are autoselected not to think for themselves or question decisions from above. They are exactly what universities exist not to produce.

The service academies reinforce these unfortunate characteristics. Their schooling consists of four years of learning what to think, not how to think. There are hours of running in formation (“If I die on the Russian front….”), close-order drill, manual of arms (“Hen-spection…harms!”). Why? There is no military value in being able to shift your rifle from shoulder to shoulder crisply. Like the endless inspections of everything, all of this participation in the hive inculcates groupishness and a curious sense of safety in conformity.

The effects are remarkable and, from a standpoint of civilization, undesirable. Large authoritarian organizations make easier the compartmentalization of morality. A colonel typically will be a good neighbor, civic-minded, responsible, unlikely to steal your silverware or kick your dog. If the Pentagon tells him to bomb a city he has never heard of and has no reason to bomb, killing people who pose no threat to him, he will. He feels no individual responsibility for atrocious behavior ordered from above. “I vas only followink orders,” the Nuremberg defense, is the bedrock of military ethics, if any.

Men trained in conformist obedience can work marvels. They just don’t care whether the marvel is good or evil. If you need to handle some vast natural disaster, call on the military. They have the manpower, the aircraft, the medics, the co-operation to get things done now. They will stay on their feet for forty-eight hours without sleep. They take the “mission” (another favorite military word) seriously.

What they do not do particularly well is wage war. Why? Because they have in their minds a view of war that is partly that of offensive linemen—you close with the enemy and destroy him—and partly martial romanticism. They speak of duty, honor, country, bravery, fallen comrades, proving oneself. Military history is rife with silly pageantry, nobility of spirit, glorious charges, and impracticality. Having been trained to think rigidly, they do.

Before Agincourt, there were things the French might profitably have learned about long bows, but didn’t bother because chivalry didn’t concern itself with peasants. It was the glory of the thing, not whether they were committing suicide. English generals killed 20,000 young Brits in one day at the Somme; they hadn’t compared the ideas in their heads with then-current military reality (such as that infantry charges over long distances against massed machine guns, artillery, and barbed wire are not especially productive, unless you manufacture embalming fluid.) Authoritarian group-think, love of ritual, romanticism, inattention: not a happy brew.

Further, military service encourages an often-catastrophic sense of masculine potency. Running in formation with fifty other men (“lef-rye-lef-rye-lef-rye-layeff….”) or watching a fighter cat-shot from a carrier deck—the thrill is gonadal, appealing to something deep in the male psyche, a challenge flung at life. It is wonderful, but not a sound basis for judgement.

A consequence is a tendency for militaries of the First World to gravely overestimate themselves, and thus underestimate their enemies. This is why they usually expect wars to be far shorter and cheaper than they turn out to be. As recent examples, the French did not expect those slanty-eyed little zipperheads (les jaunes) to win in Viet Nam, nor did the Pentagon have any idea they the US could possibly lose 60,000 dead and the war in that country, Iraq would be a cakewalk, and those louse-infested towel-heads in Afghanistan had no hope against American swoosh-kerpows. The US military in particular has a compulsory can-do attitude, with slogans like “The difficult we can do today, the impossible takes a bit longer.” This substitution of morale for comprehension is regularly disastrous.

Having no idea what they are getting into is almost doctrine among professional officers. A major does not become a colonel by saying, “General, the French didn’t do all that well at Dien Bien Phu. Maybe we ought to, you know, do something else. We could invade Vanuatu.”

America’s problem is not that its generals prepare for the last war, but that they don’t prepare for it, and then fight it again the same way.



Dems push for benefits to start by 2010.

Democrats are pushing Senate leaders and the White House to speed up key benefits in the health reform bill to 2010, eager to give the party something to show taxpayers for their $900 billion investment in an election year.

The most significant changes to the health care system wouldn’t kick in until 2013 – two election cycles away. With Republicans expected to make next year a referendum on health care reform, Democrats are quietly lobbying to push up the effective dates on popular programs, so they’ll have something to run on in the congressional midterms.

Democrats are anxious to mix the good with the bad since some of the pain would be phased in early, including more than $100 billion in industry fees that critics say could be passed on to consumers.

“We want to be able, within the cost framework and the implementation framework, to have as much start as early as possible, even though we know all of it can’t,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), a Finance Committee member who is working with other senators on the effort. “And the White House wants to have as much as possible to start.”

Under the Democratic wish-list, senior citizens would receive discounts on brand-name drugs next year. Small businesses that provide insurance would see tax credits. And a $5 billion high-risk pool would cover people with preexisting conditions.

Democratic strategists expect the 2010 election to present a stark contrast between the parties, particularly if the health care bill receives minimal Republicans support. The front-load strategy could help blunt GOP attacks on the bill as a toxic mix of higher taxes, rising premiums and cuts to Medicare.

The strategy also could ease some of the disappointment among voters who expect more immediate reforms than the bill can deliver, including on the much-debated public insurance option. Democrats in both the House and Senate are closing in on finding the votes to include some form of a public option in the bill, but a government-run insurance plan would likely be one of the last pieces to kick in fully, if it passes.

Now that is what I call TIMING!

lots more of that article here……

Judging by that information the Health Bill is going to play a much bigger role in the 2010 and the 2012 elections than I had imagined. The Republicans are rat shit. The Republicans are stuffed. The Republicans are history. Only a miracle sorry disaster will save them.
Catrina can you put a permalink/bookmark on this, so we can find what I said exactly. Later on?

Chris B at 152

Catrina can you put a permalink/bookmark on this, so we can find what I said exactly. Later on?

Yes – about a year and a half ago.
Hover over the data/time stamp for any comment and you have an immortal link.


Perry-Hutchison fight may cause major fallout in GOP.

Texas Democrats watching the state’s top two Republicans fight for their party’s gubernatorial nomination are glad that Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison have apparently abandoned the Republicans’ 11th Commandment, established during Ronald Reagan’s run for California governor in 1966: Thou shall not speak ill of another Republican.

And they hope that the GOP gubernatorial battle creates enough division within the party to help Democrats in the general election and for years to come.

“There probably will be so many bad feelings . . . that it will benefit the Democratic Party,” said Steve Maxwell, chairman of the Tarrant County Democratic Party. “For now, we’ll sit back and watch. It’s only going to get better.”

Republicans say Democrats shouldn’t get too comfortable, because this gubernatorial race — pitting Perry, governor since 2000, against Hutchison, senator since 1993 — will energize, not divide, their party.

“It’s a spirited race, and sometimes that’s good,” said Stephanie Klick, who heads the Tarrant County Republican Party. “One of the things that’s fair game in any campaign are issues.”

Some point to last year’s Democratic presidential primary battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, noting that, despite the attacks, it didn’t keep Democrats from winning in November. And the same may well happen in Texas with the fight for the GOP’s gubernatorial nomination.

But there could be big fallout, said Harvey Kronberg, publisher of the Quorum Report, an online political newsletter.

“There’s a civil war that’s happening right now, and it has long implications,” Kronberg said. “Nothing good for Republicans can come out of this. Everyone who is an active Republican understands that the losing side is going into exile.

“Neither side will forgive and forget.”

Well maybe I’ll change my mind on Texas again. If you missed it, I gave up on Texas. This might rekindle the “maybe it’s possible to get the Texas senate seat” again.

Kirribilli Removals at 149

It seemed to me that your comment at #149 touched on the subject of the standing editorial policy of this site. As such, I have moved the comment to the ‘Editorial Policy‘ page under which I have included a ‘reply‘.

Speaking of groupthink, it appears that the HuffyPuffy is on a roll against Obama and the Afghan war:

A confused American public, and an ever credulous press, are buying this fairy tale. Obviously, simple logic tells us that the story doesn’t hold together. Either Obama already has made up his mind to back at least the essence of the McChrystal plan or he is being boxed in a corner by his general who acts as if he is the commander in chief with Gates’ tacit support. Both interpretations are dismaying.

Read more at:—-really-the-afgha_b_332655.html

…as breathless and conspiracy laden a piece of “opinion” as you’ll find anywhere.

So my conclusion is that the HuffPo is an exercise in groupthink, publishes pieces that only conform with ‘editorial policy’ and unlike the NY Times does not offer balanced points of view.

Bromwich and this guy makes two in two days. Anyone find a post in HuffPo that actually argues for staying in Afghanistan?


I’d love you to prove me wrong, but I doubt I’ll any takers.—-really-the-afgha_b_332655.html

HusseinStWorm says:
27 October, 2009 at 12:21 am

“In the interest of fairness and balance 🙂 this is a pretty strong editorial from thr NY Times on Obama’s cover-up of Bush era war crimes.”

And now you’ve found it on COmmondreams!

Yesterday’s news old chap.

…yes, isn’t it funny HSW, but I actually quoted that NY Times article YESTERDAY!

Reid: Public Option Is IN
Majority Leader Says Senate Bill Will Include ‘Opt-Out’ Public Option… White House Official Says It’s “Dangerous”… Sen. Durbin: Progressives Forced Our Hand… Sen. Snowe: “Deeply Disappointed”… Insurance Lobby Pans Decision… Health Care Activists: “Huge Victory”

Reid has been pushing the so-called opt-out public option for the last several days and has spoken to nearly all 60 members of the Democratic caucus. He needs 60 votes to end an expected Republican filibuster and move the bill to the floor.
“We’ve spent countless hours over the last few days in consultation with senators who’ve shown a genuine desire to reform the health care system. And I believe there’s a strong consensus to move forward in this direction,” Reid said.
Yes! Yes! Yes! 😆

Read more at:

Well, it’s not exactly arguing for more troops or staying to secure the country against the fascists, but this piece in Huffpo at least puts the question:

This brings us to Afghanistan where the battle is now fought. America’s intervention into central Asia’s cockpit begs the question: Would a U.S. retreat mark merely a battle lost or the first domino to fall to Osama bin Laden’s vision? In the latter case, do the possible consequences – increased regional radicalization and global terrorism – compare with the 20th century’s unrealized negative watersheds that the success of fascism or communism posed? Or can Afghanistan’s neighbors resist on their own coupled with offshore American support and prevent metastasis?

The answer will turn on the ability of surrounding regimes to immunize themselves from infection. Pakistan, Iran and the former Soviet republics to the north have demonstrated a brutal capacity to suppress political violence to ensure survival. This suggests that even were Afghanistan to become a terrorist haven, the neighborhood can adapt and resist as Pakistan’s military defeat of the Taliban in the Swat Valley demonstrated.

That said, the United States can retreat from the region. This would leave the Afghans to their own devices — as Washington left Southeast Asia, Somalia, Lebanon to theirs — to resolve affairs America cannot. The White House then can rebuild its strategic dikes on friendlier soil in neighboring nations and elsewhere and intervene in Afghanistan, if necessary, in limited targeted missions to strike terrorists and their havens as it repeatedly has done in Somalia. In that event, the United States may look back at Afghanistan — like Vietnam — as one battle lost but clearly not a watershed event.

Still, the pity of a failed American undertaking lies in the opportunity lost. Had Washington mustered a competent occupation, had it concentrated precious military and nation building resources early in the occupation when Afghan society was most malleable, the events begun in 2001 would not only have marked the positive transformation of a country, but, quite possibly, a positive regional and global watershed as well.

…it’s saying they fucked it up badly, should not have but did, and he thinks they can leave and consolidate in the neighbouring Pakistan for example, to whack terrorist training camps at will etc etc.

It’s basically the ‘no fly zones’ translated from Iraq to this region, and I seriously doubt it’s conclusions on a number of levels:

1. US bases in Pakistan flying over Afghanistan will elicit the same response as the ones in the Gulf and Saudi (which the US put in place after the Kuwait invasion). These became focal points for reaction and jihadis. And the whole ‘no fly’ strategy ended up a failure in most repects ie Australia sold wheat with a hefty kickback to Saddam while these ‘no fly’ and sanctions were in place. It punished the population mostly, but maybe had the only good effect of keeping Saddam from sending in the army to the Marsh Arabs in the SOuth and the Kurds in the north. He had done so before, with disastrous effect. This cannot be done in Afghanistan in anything like so effective a way, and the Northern Tajiks will be on their own against the fascists for example. Likewise the Hazara.

2. The inference is: “the domino effect”, much touted as reason to stay in Vietnam, was a chimera, and so in this case, the Taliban will not be ‘expansionary’.

This is a false comparison. The Taliban and it’s colleagues are on record: they want to expand their notion of a Caliphate, they want strict Islamic rule and Sharia Law over ALL Muslim countries.

Which means they will be gunning for Pakistan, (as we can already see), and they will be ‘gunning’ for Iran in the other sense, ie the Shia are considered, in this extreme version of Sunni fundamentalism, as apostate dogs.

So the argument comparing Vietnam with this conflict is utterly wrong in this department. It sounds neat, but it’s misleading.

I think it’s dangerously misleading because it’s meant to appeal to the those for whom the Vietnam war was unjustifiable. It was. But to claim this is the same type of scenario is disingenuous, at best.

Finally, what ARE the consequences of letting Afghanistan fall to the fascists?

It isn’t going to make this region stable, that’s for sure. And it’s wedged between a nuclear armed state and one that soon will be.

How does that compare with Vietnam?

It doesn’t.

Oh, that makes three articles against staying in HuffPo in two days.

Still haven’t seen one that argues the other side of the issue.

Fair and balanced it most certainly appears NOT to be.

Ironic, then, isn’t it, that Mr Bromwich writes tosh about the NY Times from a rag that’s actually doing exactly what he falsely accuses the NY TImes of doing.
Isn’t it? LOL


The differences between Rudd and Howard were in some respects (but by no means all) superficial. The differences between Obama and McCain on many issues were … wide, shall we say?

The NYT, along with the Washington Post, has always had a reputation as a left-leaning, Democrat supporting newspaper. The New York *Post* is the New York newspaper that is right wing. Thus, the attacks on the NYT can only be seen – at least be me – as far left bizarreness.

By the way, I know that this discussion has been more heated than usual for this blog. However, it should be realised that these kinds of issues – war – stir up deep passions(which is the reason why I will not discuss Iran on this blog). I am obviously on KR’s side on this issue: conspiracy theory thinking is (along with postmodernism ;)) something that I detest. I also understand that many if not most people have deeply held views in support of particular conspiracy theories. If we understand one another’s positions on this, I am sure that we can accept a few sharp words flung in the heat of battle as simply the other party expressing frustration. We can handle it, if we look at it in the right way.


My step-daughter, who is in year 9, yesterday had a sex ed class. And what did they learn in their publicly funded lesson on something that is crucially important for adolescent social development, self esteem and physical health? That you can become gay by watching gay porn, become sexually attracted to animals by watching bestiality (thus making a link in the minds of these children between homosexuality and bestiality) and that female virginity is ‘precious’ and that it should not be given away or stolen.

Formal complaint time? You betcha. That this dangerous religious claptrap is being taught to anyone in the world is terrible. That it is being taught in the heart of one of the most socially progressive cities in Australia is a wake-up call for those who think that we are close to moving on from homophobia, right-wing religious propaganda and outright lies regarding sexuality being taught to our children.

end rant

Chris B @ 161
It’s pleasing to see there’s a real chance of health reform in the US. Still has a way to go, but just a matter of weeks ago seemed most of the mainstream media were concluding there would never be a public option.

From what I’ve read, the opt out will be practically meaningless – ie it’s thought that no state would opt out.

HusseinStWorm says:
27 October, 2009 at 9:40 am

Nice one, KR. I see you’re all roided up and ready for the day’s combat.

……………..quite the contrary HSW. I am just presenting YOU with the fact, as I said yesterday, that you were ‘shooting from the lip’ and had NOT in fact EVEN READ the articles I was quoting.

Today, you have proven EXACTLY that!

I thank you.

[paragraph redacted under editorial discretion]

I don’t think so. Just pointing out the facts! LOL

[paragraph redacted under editorial discretion]

Should make you cringe.

DG, that is utterly appalling.(your daughter’s ‘instruction’ ie)

Go get ’em, and more strength to your arm.

Gotta go now, so have fun in the sandpit today!

DG @ 166, I think we’ve covered this ground before but as I see it the fundamental point of difference is that you view left and right through the spectrum of the major parties. Being a public servant working in the parliament, I can see how that group-think can be engendered in you. I wouldn’t consider the NYT or the Democrats or Obama left-leaning in a universal context.


Okay: comparatively, the NYT and the Washington Post are way to left of the New York Post. Huffington Post is to the left of the NYT. And Obama is in many ways to the left of Rudd; however, Rudd is situated in a country that is further to the left than the country that Obama is situated in. That means Obama’s options are constrained to a very large extent.

For me, the evidence is pretty clear that Bromwich is a conspiracy theorist who believes that the New York Times is at the heart of some evil but unspecified plan involving Israel, the military industrial complex, the oil companies and covert ops generals from the Pentagon. Left-wing silliness.

David Gould at 168
It would be interesting to know if the content is based on a state/fed sanctioned curriculum or if it is aligned with a specific school, or individual.


I have just spoken to the school principal. The program is supposed to be a federal government *drug* education program – nothing to do with sexual education at all. It looks as though the presenter injected the sex misinformatio component of his own accord. However, there were supposed to be teachers present.

My suspicions are raised that the school’s priest – you know, that wonderful program of having priests as school councillors in government schools introduced by Howard and continued by Rudd – arranged the program and possibly had the teachers present handpicked so as not to cause trouble.

The principal is looking into it and is going to get back to me this afternoon.

Baucus Supports Reid’s Move

In announcing a health care bill with a public option, it sounds like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has already lined up the support of Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT).

Said Baucus: “It is time to make our system work better for patients and providers, for small business owners and for our economy. It is time for health care reform. For more than a year, we’ve been working to meet the goals of reducing the growth of health care costs, improving quality and efficiency and expanding coverage. There are a tremendous number of complicated issues that go into reform and the public option is certainly one of them. I included a public option in the health reform blueprint I released nearly one year ago, and continue to support any provision, including a public option, that will ensure choice and competition and get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. Success should be our threshold and I am going to fight hard for the 60 votes we need to meet that goal this year.”

The bill that emerged from the Senate Finance Committee did not have a public option provision.

Of course, I realise that that is a conspiracy theory 🙂

Thinking more rationally, t is more likely that the guy introduced the topic and the teachers were not really paying attention or did not feel confident enough to interrupt if they had a problem – after all, they had been told that the program was government approved.

Chris B,

It will be very interesting to see if any Republican state legislatures are brave enough to opt out of the public health system …

I think that effectively the public option is going to be secured by this.


Agree with your rant at 168. It sounds very claptrappery:smile:

Formal complaint time. You betcha.

Would be interested to hear how you go.

David Gould

Flying visit from me!

DG, it took you how long to discover Bromwich is hardly reliable as a source on this topic?

And yet HSW still is trying to say he needed me to ‘prove’ it for him! LOL

Now, more importantly, that episode at school is really unsavoury, and I’m keen to hear how the principal handles it…and I’ll watch out for our school.

Gotta go (again)

Hopefully…Hopefully…our next PM can be less inclined to pander to religious idealogues than Rudd or Howard.

The electorate is not that way inclined.

Go Julia 🙂

HarryH at 183

Hopefully…Hopefully…our next PM can be less inclined to pander to religious idealogues than Rudd or Howard.

I was wondering how significant a block this is here in Australia. I have experienced evidence of this over in the USA, but here in Australia I’m wondering how significant it is and to what extent it impacts on policy.

An interesting article over on The Washington Independent in which Spencer Ackerman outlines John Kerry’s take on things on the Afghanistan situation.

Kerry Backs Counterinsurgency Strategy in Afghanistan

Fresh from a trip last week to Afghanistan, where he scored a diplomatic coup by securing Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s acquiescence to a runoff election, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) urged President Obama to endorse a counterinsurgency campaign targeted at the Pashtun areas of south and eastern Afghanistan, provided that the United States could also boost civilian governance and development projects to consolidated military success.

Interesting. I certainly like the notion of luring away the footsoldiers. They generally fight because they have no options. Given them options, and they will be less willing to risk their lives for a goal that they probably do not even really believe in (at least, that will be the profile of those vulnerable to this kind of tactic).

David Gould at 186
It’s also interesting that Kerry’s position is actually aligned with McCrystal’s in that both focus on counterinsurgency but the talking point is focus, order-of-magnitude, and timescales – which I could suggest is about the establishment of expectations in the minds of the public.

I would imagine that the decisions have (mostly) already been made and that it is a question of how they sell those decisions at this point.

Off topic, I just bought Dreams of My Father as an audio book. I think hearing Obama read it will be a fascinating experience.

Did a little digging around on the subject of religion in Australia and in the process I came across a little gem – the Jedi census phenomenon. I wasn’t living in an English speaking country at the time and have to confess that this is the first time I’ve come across this! Where it gets interesting is the comparison of the reaction of respective governments around the world to the wave of Jedi Knights.

Reading the article – it seems that the Australia government can’t take a joke.

It seems that the British census office can take a joke, however: “390,000 Jedis there are” 🙂

DG at 196

Three political facts on Jediism ..

In 2005, a draft of the “racial and religious hatred bill” in the UK specifically excluded Jedi Knights from any protection, alongside Satanists, Scientologists, sexists, racists, and believers in animal or human sacrifice.

In November of 2006, two self-proclaimed Jedi wearing Star Wars robes and a third person disguised as a Wookiee demanded that the UN change the “International Day of Tolerance” to “Interstellar Day of Tolerance”.

On September 18, 2009 a Jedi Knight in the UK was asked to leave a grocery store for wearing his Jedi robes in violation of the store’s “no hoodie” policy.

KatieLou at 197

In that link, I love the bit about pirates and global warming …

According to the Pastafarian belief system, pirates are “absolute divine beings” and the original Pastafarians.[5] Their image as “thieves and outcasts” is misinformation spread by Christian theologians in the Middle Ages and by Hare Krishnas.

In 2008, Henderson interpreted the growing pirate activities at the Gulf of Aden as additional support, pointing out that Somalia has “the highest number of Pirates AND the lowest Carbon emissions of any country.”


“The Jedi Knights at the end was put in as a bit of a joke, but we have to face up to the fact that Jedi Knights seemed to feature in the census return as being the belief of rather a large number of people. I shall read through the list that I have produced: Satanists; believers in human sacrifice to propitiate a deity; believers in animal sacrifice to propitiate a deity; believers in female genital mutilation to live in accordance with the rules of a religion; believers in violence as a means of proselytising a belief; believers in the supremacy or superiority of one race over another; believers in the supremacy or superiority of one gender over another; and Jedi Knights.”

Much of the discussion regarding Jedi Knights in the committee’s consideration was humorous in nature, including some about light sabres being placed by members of the committee in the usual place for umbrellas. 😉

“Chris Bryant: I hate to say this, but it is also true that several hon. Members have placed light sabres in the Cloakroom in the place where they could be hanging their swords. I do not think that that means that anyone believes genuinely in the power of the force in the sense of a religion.”

Not umbrellas, but swords.

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