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Old 02-04-2007   #1
SWJED
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Default US policy with an ally like the Saudis...

20 Face Lash for Dancing in Saudi Arabia - AP.

Quote:
Saudi Arabia - A Saudi Arabian judge sentenced 20 foreigners to receive lashes and spend several months in prison after convicting them of attending a party where alcohol was served and men and women danced, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The defendants were among 433 foreigners, including some 240 women, arrested by the kingdom's religious police for attending the party in Jiddah, the state-guided newspaper Okaz said. It did not identify the foreigners, give their nationalities or say when the party took place. Judge Saud al-Boushi sentenced the 20 to prison terms of three to four months and ordered them to receive an unspecified number of lashes, the newspaper said. They have the right to appeal, it added.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam under which it bans alcohol and meetings between unrelated men and women.

The religious police, a force resented by many Saudis for interfering in personal lives, enjoys wide powers. Its officers roam malls, markets, universities and other public places looking for such infractions as unrelated men and women mingling, men skipping Islam's five daily prayers and women with strands of hair showing from under their veil...
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Old 02-05-2007   #2
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Default Re:

I love the title to this post.... With allies like Pakistan and them how can we go wrong?
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Old 02-05-2007   #3
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Default Rappin' In Riyahd

Some of our Rock and Rap groups would be beheaded for performing, huh? It's enough to make a man want to use biodiesel and electricity as the main means of powering vehicles.
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Old 07-17-2007   #4
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Default LBR Review by Tari Ali on the Saudi Monarchy and Aramco

Another LBR essay, this one looking at the Saudi monarchy and oil.

Best

Tom

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In Princes’ Pockets
Tariq Ali
America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier by Robert Vitalis · Stanford, 353 pp, £19.50

Contesting the Saudi State: Islamic Voices from a New Generation by Madawi Al-Rasheed · Cambridge, 308 pp, £19.99

The day after the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, a Saudi woman resident in London, a member of a wealthy family, rang her sister in Riyadh to discuss the crisis affecting the kingdom. Her niece answered the phone.

‘Where’s your mother?’

‘She’s here, dearest aunt, and I’ll get her in a minute, but is that all you have to say to me? No congratulations for yesterday?’

The dearest aunt, out of the country for far too long, was taken aback. She should not have been. The fervour that didn’t dare show itself in public was strong even at the upper levels of Saudi society. US intelligence agencies engaged in routine surveillance were, to their immense surprise, picking up unguarded cellphone talk in which excited Saudi princelings were heard revelling in bin Laden’s latest caper. Like the CIA, they had not thought it possible for him to reach such heights.
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Old 10-06-2009   #5
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Default US policy toward Saudi Arabia: does it need to change, and if so how?

This issue has come up on a number of threads where it was peripheral; I though it deserved its own discussion.

One view that’s been proposed is that Saudi Arabia is a central front in the GWOT. According to this view, decades of bad governance in Saudi Arabia combined with the perception of Western support for the Saudi government has generated an insurgent situation which expresses itself primarily externally, in the form of terrorist attacks and support for insurgents and anti-Western forces in other countries. This view holds as well that popular resentment toward the Saudi government fuels and enables insurgencies in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and others.

According to this view, the US badly needs to revise its policy toward Saudi Arabia, acting as a mediator between the Saudi Government and its own populace and visibly pressing for reforms, thereby appropriating the al Qaeda agenda.

I could describe this argument in more detail and quote from previous posts, but those who support it are more than able to speak for themselves.

My own view is somewhat different. First, I would question the assumption that the Saudi populace is in a state of insurgency or near-insurgency. There’s no doubt that radical Islamic political beliefs have some quite fanatical adherents in Saudi Arabia, but I see no evidence that the populace at large is on the verge of insurgency.

It seems to me that much of our thinking on Saudi Arabia remains mired in the 1990s, when the oil glut was driving severe economic stress and the US military presence, which continued long after it was necessary, provided a convenient scapegoat. This was the environment that drove the preaching of the “three sheiks”, the radical preachers that provided much of the AQ narrative.

Today’s situation in Saudi Arabia is very different. The massive influx of cash from 5 years of high oil prices has been largely invested domestically, with very visible results. The substance of what one might call the “three sheiks narrative” has collapsed. The sheiks, and AQ, claimed that the US would never leave Saudi Arabia, that Americans would convert Saudis to Christianity, corrupt the women, violate the holy places. They claimed that the US would never allow a fair price for oil, would end up taking control of the oil, would never allow Arabs to prosper, would never treat Arabs with respect. All of these claims are now obviously false and completely useless.

This change is reflected in the content of AQ communications. The 1990s communiqués, most notably Osama’s declaration of jihad, revolve almost entirely around Saudi Arabia; issues such as Palestine are barely mentioned. In the recent releases Palestine takes center stage; the most recent tape does not even mention Saudi Arabia. The implication is that AQ has already lost Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and they know it.

The great irony here is that the rise of China and the surge in oil prices have severely trimmed US power, but they have also given AQ a groin chop from which they may not recover. The surge in oil prices does not seem likely to abate any time soon; prosperity is not conducive to rebellion and the AQ narrative is not very appealing while Gulf Arabs are rolling in cash and receiving deferential (sometimes groveling) treatment from Western leaders.

I do not believe that AQ enables the Iraqi and Afghan insurgencies; I would suggest that AQ is enabled by these insurgencies. Very few Iraqis or Afghans fight because of what’s happening in Saudi Arabia, they fight because of what’s happening in their own countries. The Saudi situation may motivate some foreign fighters, but foreign fighters are hardly the core problem. AQ thrives on the “resistance to foreign intervention” narrative, which provides it credibility that it’s anti-Saudi narrative never gained.

Even if it were desirable for us to promote reform in Saudi Arabia, our ability to do so is quite limited. The Saudis do not depend on us, and we have neither carrots nor sticks to guide their behaviour. On the contrary, they have quite a significant capacity to guide ours: they have oil, and their investments in our economy provide a badly needed support. They certainly don’t need our money, and they face no immediate military threat. If they were threatened – say by Iran – we would come to their aid in any event, simply because it would be in our interest to do so.

I also doubt that our intervention is sought or desired by the Saudi populace, which would probably see any attempt to intervene as further evidence of inappropriate influence, and would likely assume that we were pursuing our own interests rather than theirs.

A good deal more could be said, and probably will be. All other views welcome...
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Old 10-06-2009   #6
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Default What the General said

Dayuhan,

I suppose what General Petraeus says is indicative, in a speech in London on the 18th September 2009:

Quote:
Meanwhile, in the Arabian Peninsula, we have seen important signs of progress against Al-Qaida and extremist organisations, with the exception of Yemen that is. The progress in this arena is especially significant to the United States and Europe because of the extensive political and commercial connections we have with the Gulf states and because of the concerns we’ve had over the years about the growth of extremism on the Peninsula and its transnational nature. It is hugely significant, therefore, that Saudi Arabia has virtually eliminated Al-Qaida from its territories, though the attack on Deputy Minister of Interior Mohammed Bin-Naif was unsettling, to be sure. That notwithstanding, the kingdom has implemented an impressive and effective comprehensive counter-extremist programme.
From: http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/news/news.cgi?id=749

The other issue that few seem to raise publically is the external role of Saudi agencies in promoting their version of Islam and the number of scholars studying there. Other threads may have touched upon this and IIRC reference was made to Saudi funding appearing in parts of Nigeria.

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Old 10-06-2009   #7
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This, I think, will be of concern in the next few years.

Quote:
...

In July, Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the Taliban was reaping the bulk of its revenue from donors abroad, especially from the Persian Gulf.

Other U.S. officials have noted that the Taliban received substantial financial help from Gulf countries during the 1990s, when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- along with Pakistan -- were the only nations that gave diplomatic recognition to the Taliban government ...
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Old 10-06-2009   #8
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Default UAE state's stance is

Tequila,

It is worthy of note that the UAE contributes to ISAF. IIRC Special Forces at one point. ISAF's webpage shows 25 troops: http://www.nato.int/isaf/docu/epub/pdf/placemat.pdf

As always there are different aspects to their role: a 2007 report of a defector: http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2...138362757.html and a 2008 BBC report: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7318731.stm

There are no Saudi troops in ISAF.

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Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-06-2009 at 07:31 PM. Reason: Add links
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Old 07-31-2011   #9
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It has long been my contention here on SWJ that the nature of the relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America is the Center of Gravity of the decade long War on Terrorism.

Today on a thread regarding Iran and a possible AQ link.
http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/201...-alqa/#c022781

Dayuhan posed a fair observation and question:

Quote:
I understand your concern with Saudi Arabia, but I think, as always, that you vastly overestimate AQ's reliance on Saudi resentment toward their own government, and even more vastly overestimate the ability of the US to do anything about the way Saudi Arabia is governed. We can rethink that relationship all we want; how we think isn't likely to change anything. They are not a vassal or a client state, and they are not going to change their way of governing because we want them to. I really don't know what, in any specific sense, you want the US to do about the Saudi situation.
What indeed does one do with an Ally such as Saudi Arabia? The home of bin Laden. The home of the vast majority of the 9/11 attackers. The home of the vast majority of foreign fighters in Iraq. The home of one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet. The home of the largest proven oil reserves on the planet. What in deed does one do.

I will explore that question, and invite others to join in that exploration as well.

Bob
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Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-31-2011 at 09:26 AM.
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Old 07-31-2011   #10
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Alliance isn't only a function of common values. Common interests come into it as well, and those with whom we have interests in common aren't necessarily progressive. Those alliances - like all alliances - are not absolute, and we obviously have to consider the extent of our commitment at any given point... but common interests do exist.

I've often heard it said that the US "supported the Saudis" when they were threatened by Saddam. This is to some extent true, but it's a highly distorted view. We did not act to protect the Saudis, we acted to protect ourselves. The US can't allow the Gulf oil supplies to be controlled or dominated by a hostile power that would use oil as a weapon. We would fight again if Iran threatened to control those oil supplies. Again, that has absolutely nothing to do with how we feel about the way the Saudis govern, or how progressive they are, or whether we like them. It's purely a matter of common interest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
What indeed does one do with an Ally such as Saudi Arabia? The home of bin Laden. The home of the vast majority of the 9/11 attackers. The home of the vast majority of foreign fighters in Iraq. The home of one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet. The home of the largest proven oil reserves on the planet. What in deed does one do.
Is our problem the way Saudi Arabia is governed, or is our problem our own addiction to oil? Both, obviously, but we might want to consider which of those is within our ability to control.

It's easy to make assumptions, and altogether too easy to act on them, but there are a few here that we need to avoid.

We're conditioned by our cold war history to see our dictatorial allies as dependents, over whom we have significant influence. We should not overestimate our influence over the Saudis and the other Gulf states.

We easily fall into the trap of oversimplifying the political dynamics of other countries. We see an autocratic government, we assume a populace uniformly seeking freedom and a "government vs populace" dynamic. It's often a great deal more complicated than that. Trying to intervene in situations we don't fully understand, or that we misinterpret by assuming that our values apply universally, can quickly bounce back and bite us no the backside.

It's also all too easy to assume that because many people in Saudi Arabia (or any number of other places) dislike their governments and resent our perceived (accurately or not) support for those governments, we can counter that resentment by openly pushing those governments to change, or by trying to somehow intervene as champion of the populace. That I think is a very dangerous delusion. Even people who detest their own governments often don't want the US trying to lecture those governments or dictate to them, or to act as the instigator of change. Our actions are typically seen as conspiratorial attempts to advance our own interests, and our active support can actually discredit a reform agenda. We do not want reformers to be seen as tools of the US.

If we're asking the old "what can we do" question, we have to ask whether we have to do anything. Supporting those who seek change is often a good thing, if we can do it subtly and without seeming to direct or take over the reform agenda (subtlety, alas, has never been one of our strong suits). Trying to initiate, direct, or control political change in other countries... for me that's kind of a reverse Nike slogan: just don't do it.

We should remember that what fuels support for AQ is not simply US support for repressive regimes, it's western interference in the Muslim world in general. We may say that we're interfering on behalf of the people, but who will believe us? Very even for even well intentioned interference to backfire on us.

Not saying we should abandon all thought of intervention... but we need to think very, very carefully before trying to initiate political change in any other country, most especially those in the Middle East.

Our default position in managing the internal affairs of other countries, IMO, should be to stay out of it. If that default seems unsustainable, three quick questions before taking any action:

Must we?
Can we?
Should we?

All three have to be very carefully reviewed before we go sticking ourselves into other people's business.
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Old 07-31-2011   #11
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R.C. Jones, you bet I'll join in. You want believe what has just recently come to light, well on second thought you probably want be surprised at all.
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Old 07-31-2011   #12
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Default Sigh. Once more onto the beach...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
What indeed does one do with an Ally such as Saudi Arabia?
Are they a real ally -- or just a nation with whom we do business, have some common interests and many disconnects? I'd say the latter.
Quote:
The home of bin Laden.
Well, yeah. Though I'm totally unsure what that has to do with your topic.
Quote:
The home of the vast majority of the 9/11 attackers.
Yep. Others from various places. Other attackers at other times in total outnumber the Saudis. Though, again, I'm not sure what that has to do with anything...
Quote:
The home of the vast majority of foreign fighters in Iraq.
Way wrong, I suspect. No way to get really accurate numbers but generally, the Egyptians, Syrians and Sudanese were captured and killed in greater quantities than Saudis -- the foreign fighters in Iraq literally came from all over. As do those in Afghanistan, where Pakistanis and North African Arabs seem to be the most numerous. I think the problem is one of Islamic distaste for the US versus Saudi implacable hatred for us.
Quote:
The home of one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet.
Yep, oppressive, one of the most so. Shame. Not our concern. We can express distaste but really have no right to do more. None.
Quote:
The home of the largest proven oil reserves on the planet.
Proven (conservatively). Go to 2 P or 3 P and they drop well down in the tables IIRC. Canada and Russia (plus the US...) might hop out there... .
Quote:
What in deed does one do.
Depends. Some say:

- Subject them to intense pressures to change their ways, to include military action.

- Buy no oil from them.

- Work with them to achieve change using carrots and sticks.

- Do nothing, they are a business associate, no more.

- Support the Kingdom totally, get more involved with and supportive of Islam.

And ten or so variations between each of those. IOW, there are numerous 'positions' on what should be done. Your problem is that those varied positions are held by and within the Congress of the United States and the current Administration (as well as almost any likely future Administration). i.e. No consensus, ergo, nothing will be done other than incremental nudges. As Martha Stewart, Federal felon says, "this is a good thing..."

It is not our job to interfere with sovereign States and we darn sure do not do it very well. See Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq.

I was reading a new book yesterday, ran across this line: "He (Lyndon Johnson, POTUS) was unable to make hard decisions -- to mobilize the reserves, to force the South Vietnamese government to reform, to commit fully to the war, or to explain his policy clearly to the American people."

I agree the first, third and fourth were in the President's scope for decisions -- but I cackled at that second item. No US President has ever had the power to make such a decision and if he made it he couldn't enforce it. Yet that attitude -- we want if 'fixed' so it must be fixed is pervasive in US strategic and policy circles. It's foolish hubris. Thinking it's ones job to fix others is as dangerous and wrong as any Cold War missteps.

Dayuhan has it right:

""Our actions are typically seen as conspiratorial attempts to advance our own interests, and our active support can actually discredit a reform agenda. We do not want reformers to be seen as tools of the US.

If we're asking the old "what can we do" question, we have to ask whether we have to do anything. Supporting those who seek change is often a good thing, if we can do it subtly and without seeming to direct or take over the reform agenda (subtlety, alas, has never been one of our strong suits). Trying to initiate, direct, or control political change in other countries... for me that's kind of a reverse Nike slogan: just don't do it."
"
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Old 07-31-2011   #13
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Experts don't consider the Saudi oil reserves claims reliable. The figures are pretty much made-up - no foreigner really knows how much oil they have.

About "ally"; I remarked years ago that Americans tend to use that word inflationary. That is dangerous, for at times people really believe that a nation with which you had some agreements and which was called an "ally" is really allied - with obligations and all. See Georgia and the nutty idea that they were an ally and the U.S. should somehow intervene...
The inflationary use of the word "ally" also leads to delusions in the "allied" country (again; Georgia!).


Btw; the German government proved its lack of taste, judgement and class in regard to Saudi Arabia just a few weeks ago.
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Old 07-31-2011   #14
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Good comments so far.

First, when I suggest we need to "do something" I always direct that finger primarily in the direction of what do we change about ourselves, about our end of the equation, first. We need to evolve from defining our problems as being something we solve in foreign lands while we seek to go about business as usual at home.

Second, the energy driving transnational terrorism is, IMO, primarily coming from a large number of long suppressed nationalist insurgencies that AQ and others tap into to leverage in support of their own agendas of power and control. This is important, because a global effort to leverage many distinct insurgencies does not make a "global insurgency" when done today by NSAs any more than it did in the Cold War when done by the Soviets and the US. Each is unique and must be addressed individually. Also the grievances and issues that create the conditions of insurgency among a populace are much more about perception than fact. More on that last one

Dayuhan relies heavily on "fact;" and Ken raises some challenges to some of the "facts" I quickly laid out to help frame the discussion (I can provide cites), but the important thing to remember is that if the aggrieved populace believes something to be true or significant, then it is. Historically governments challenged by insurgency have tended to grossly discount the grievances of the populace as the conditions of insurgency were growing to noticeable levels, but still very manageable through simple civil adjustments on key points. Even when the insurgency explodes into violent, illegal action the governments tend to cling to their "rightness" on the issues, and to write off the insurgency as the actions of a few misguided malcontents, or on some radicalizing ideology, or some foreign actor, or any combination of the three. Rarely do they recognize that a long series of governmental disconnects have produced a widespread condition of insurgency among the populace from which such movements spring and are sustained.

What are the perceptions of the Saudi people about their government?

what are the perceptions of the Saudi people about the US?

What are the perceptions of the Saudi people about the nature of the relationship between the Saudi Royals and the US?

What aspect of these perceptions are in turn targeted and exploited by NSAs such as AQ?

What small, reasonable changes could the US make on our end to help mitigate these perceptions?

what small, reasonable changes could the Saudis make (beyond the enhanced bribes and security efforts being employed now in response to fears driven by Arab Spring)?
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Last edited by Bob's World; 07-31-2011 at 11:26 AM.
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Old 07-31-2011   #15
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Default Fyi...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
...Ken raises some challenges to some of the "facts" I quickly laid out to help frame the discussion (I can provide cites)...
Nope. Incorrect. I didn't challenge your facts, I agree with all except the oil and the Saudis being the largest supplier of Furrin Fighters -- I too can provide cites on that -- what I did 'challenge' was the relevancy of any of those facts to your premise.

That's the subject FYI. Then, on other aspects of your comment...
Quote:
...but the important thing to remember is that if the aggrieved populace believes something to be true or significant, then it is.
Ah, the silver tongued attorney person himself subtly points out that, as I said, those 'facts' don't count for much...

He then asks questions about Saudis perceptions which neither he nor we can answer though we could speculate until the cows RON at the barn.

This OTOH:
Quote:
What small, reasonable changes could the US make on our end to help mitigate these perceptions?
Seems perfectly reasonable. Except that it asks us to define a policy based on the above speculation.

While this:
Quote:
what small, reasonable changes could the Saudis make (beyond the enhanced bribes and security efforts being employed now in response to fears driven by Arab Spring)?
is really none of our business.

It is good to advocate dismissal and recasting of Cold War values and practices. It is IMO however rather unwise, perhaps even a bit conflicted, to advocate continued interference in and with other nations just done a bit differently. To me, that seems to be a continuation of the cold war by other means...
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Old 07-31-2011   #16
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Actually I believe that such perceptions are easily derived if one simply listens for them. Too often we are so focused on ourselves and what we think is either important or legal, that we do not hear, or rather listen, to the perspectives that are most important to the matter at hand.

As to the internal stability of Saudi Arabia, if it is "none of our business" (IE, we have no vital national interests there), then great, let it burn, because left unchecked, it will indeed burn sooner than later.

The problem is that we do have a vital interest in the stability of that region. For the past 60+ years our approach to that stability has been in the the form of supporting the government while turning a blind eye to growing problems between that government and their populace. Historically such approaches have worked well. "Friendly Dictators" are a proven tool of securing interests in foreign lands.

My contention is that in the current information environment such relationships are obsolete, in that the Cost now exceeds the Benefit. Markets change, and business models must change as well or grow obsolete. We are working to force an obsolete "business model" to work; and the populaces affected by our actions are more than willing to attack us for our troubles.

We need a new "business model."

This in not unlike what Great Britain encountered with their empire. As populaces connected and empowered by the very network of telegraphs, steam ships and railroads built by the British to manage and exploit their empire, employed those same tools to stand up and resist that foreign presence and the illegitimate governments they formed and protected. The Cost of empire came to exceed the Benefit of empire, so the Brits were forced to adopt a new business model (the Commonwealth) and contract the degree of control they sought to exercise over others.

So too the US today with our Containment strategy that is also rooted in exercising controlling influence over others (not to the degree of colonialism, but control-based all the same). We too need a new business model.

Like the Brits we are currently attacking the points of friction in an attempt to force the failing model to work. Like the Brits we are learning the hard way that such efforts are futile.

Instead of nicking away at the edges with efforts to sustain an unsustainable status quo, I recommend that we focus on the heart of the matter with an effort to design and implement a new, more sustainable business model.

Preaching "universal values" won't get us there.

Blindly supporting despots who oversee vital interests for us won't get us there.

Sending the Military from hot spot to hot spot to help suppress those who dare to act out against the current system will not get us there.

We must get in front of the situation and focus on this new system. One that is less controlling. One in which the affected populaces have a greater say. One that by definition must be different than the one that exists today.

Or we can just keep expanding the lists of organizations we deem to be "terrorist" and just keep sending the military out to conduct CT against those organizations, while we continue to spend an ever increasing amount to prop up failing allied governments with development, security force capacity designed for internal threats, etc. If we do this, we will fall and fall hard. This is not inevitable, it is in fact very avoidable. But first we must get to step one, and that is to admit we have a problem internal to ourselves. Currently we dwell in denial. This is like any other form of addiction to self-destructive behavior.
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 07-31-2011   #17
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Default Those wacky Royals.

Gleaning from that information which is publicly available (well, that portion of it which is written in English, at least!) my take is that the U.S. Government seems to have unrealistic expectations of the House of Saud. They—and I use the pronoun with the recognition that it encompasses within its scope plenty of factions at cross-purposes—seem to be either unwilling or unable to aid our (ever “evolving”) counter-terrorism strategy.

As to whether the House of Saud is a good bet to provide stability, my reading of the publicly available stuff is that they are not. The social welfare carrot they have so lavishly funded does not appear to be sustainable and one would suspect that that is going to lead to eventual tensions emanating from the non-Royal Saudi citizenry. But just as serious a threat would seem to be internal to the House, as the members of the family are often portrayed as conniving, petty, back-stabbing simpletons. Not the first time such a charge has been leveled at a ruling family of aristocrats, of course. Nor does a political system even need to be non-democratic to evidence those qualities, as demonstrated by the last few weeks in DC.

A question and two follow-up questions to it for those with a good knowledge of such things—am I correct in assuming that stability in Riyadh is an absolute prerequisite for the continued operation of NSA Bahrain? Are there any plausible alternative locations for a comparable base? And is such a base an unquestionable necessity for U.S. military and political strategy as it now stands?
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If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)
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Old 07-31-2011   #18
Ken White
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Default Quoth Mark Twain:

"It is just like man's vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions."

Perceptions abound -- and they are often wrong, sometimes dangerously so.
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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
Actually I believe that such perceptions are easily derived if one simply listens for them...
So it is your perception that is so? Perhaps true, they do in fact seem to be easily so derived -- perhaps too easily -- and those derivations are historically often terribly wrong.

Hopefully you will recall that we Americans historically do quite poorly on assessments of the perceptions held by those in other lands -- and the more different the language and / or culture, the more likelihood of terribly flawed ideas being adopted.

Perceptions are important; they are not reality. People in general are indeed prone to act on their perceptions but it seems to me to be incumbent upon planners and strategists to not fall into that trap themselves...
Quote:
The problem is that we do have a vital interest in the stability of that region. For the past 60+ years our approach to that stability has been in the the form of supporting the government while turning a blind eye to growing problems between that government and their populace. Historically such approaches have worked well. "Friendly Dictators" are a proven tool of securing interests in foreign lands.
No, they have not worked well, not at all. They merely succeeded in forestalling the inevitable (see Spring, Arab...), generally for the benefit of the supporters of that terribly flawed policy. Your belief and that of many in the policy establishments that they have worked is a very significant contributor to our current and recent past imbroglios -- and even as modified by you, does not bode well for the future which appears to be doing the same thing (define insanity...) with minor tweaks and being (slightly) less controlling in the process...

Controlling is controlling, no matter how sweetly it's couched.

It is interesting to speculate how things might be different if there was not almost a need in our political system as currently modified for the benefit of the political parties and incumbents, the shakers and movers in the policy establishments (plural -- and that's another issue...) to move from crisis to crisis -- or at least event to event...

Might I suggest that we do not really have vital interests there but that we have simply assumed we must have some since we elected to foster oil dependency worldwide? We did that for short term gain and because it was seemingly easy. As many are fond of saying, it's all about choices -- and the US polity is very fond of seemingly easy choices that punt problems a yard or two at a time. We do not have a US foreign policy nor do we have many national interests outside our shores, we have US domestic politics that drive foreign efforts -- and adventures (most of which do not work out that well in this era of 'Super Size Me').
Quote:
My contention is that in the current information environment such relationships are obsolete, in that the Cost now exceeds the Benefit. Markets change, and business models must change as well or grow obsolete. We are working to force an obsolete "business model" to work; and the populaces affected by our actions are more than willing to attack us for our troubles.

We need a new "business model."
We agree on that and this:
Quote:
So too the US today with our Containment strategy that is also rooted in exercising controlling influence over others (not to the degree of colonialism, but control-based all the same). We too need a new business model.
...
...while we continue to spend an ever increasing amount to prop up failing allied governments with development, security force capacity designed for internal threats, etc. If we do this, we will fall and fall hard. This is not inevitable, it is in fact very avoidable. But first we must get to step one, and that is to admit we have a problem internal to ourselves. Currently we dwell in denial. This is like any other form of addiction to self-destructive behavior.
Absolutely agree.

We disagree on two points, one you elide and one in which IMO you are a victim of misperception...

You never mention the fact that US domestic politics drive the train of our foreign activities and you never offer solutions or recommendations to fix that major problem. It may be that you believe that is not a correct assessment or that you think that may be correct but is unimportant. I think history proves that it is both correct and quite important (I can provide cites).

You believe we should intrude on other nations when we perceive (there's that word again...) our interests require it. IOW you want to do the same thing but with more finesse (something of which, as I have to keep reminding you, the US government is totally incapable ). A belief or policy based on perceptions can be and likely will be just as flawed as one based on invalid assumptions -- or is that redundant???
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Old 07-31-2011   #19
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Default

Link to former Senator Bob Graham's new novel. I am trying to find the TV interview he did. It goes all the way back to the end of WW2.


http://www.thedailybeast.com/article...ob-graham.html

Last edited by slapout9; 07-31-2011 at 05:39 PM. Reason: stuff
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Old 07-31-2011   #20
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Default Perception and Reality

This is not aimed primarily at Bob, but at the loose usage of language (unfortunately a too-common usage) in his message:

Quote:
from BW
... but the important thing to remember is that if the aggrieved populace believes something to be true or significant, then it is.
....then it (the perception) is exactly what - true or significant ?

What is "true", for most of us mortals, is not a brooding omnipresence in the sky, or a neat package (a Holy Grail) that we can find if we only search enough. As Pilate asked (with question not answered): "What is Truth ?"

I will take "an important thing to remember" as this: if a substantial population group believes something to be "true", that perception is "significant" to that group; and that perception may or may not be "significant" to third parties. That it is or may be "significant" does not make it "true".

For example, we can find a number of historical examples where a population group believed its magico-religious rite were sufficient to prevent death in war (e.g., the Sudanese Mahdists and Plains Indian Ghost Dancers). Those perceptions were obviously not "true" (certainly not to the lead bullets that were not impressed by magico-religion).

BLAE: I agree with Ken: "Perceptions abound -- and they are often wrong, sometimes dangerously so."

Regards

Mike

As to lawyers, legal strategy and what is "true", see this post and the article "A Theory of Legal Strategy".
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