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Old 06-05-2010   #41
Ken White
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Default No question thast the execution was flawed.

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Originally Posted by tequila View Post
It made for very poor intimidation if your target was the wider Middle Eastern populace.
It was not. The "ME Street" is no more monolithic than is ours. The target was the coterie of shakers and movers that rule the various nations in the ME.
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With regards to state actors, I doubt it made much of a difference.
It did, all have taken steps to clean up internally at least a bit in ways that show they received the message.
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Iran certainly did not intimidate well - it was not long before they were killing Americans with far greater success and frequency than even the worst years in Lebanon.
I spent two years in Iran; they're a trip. They had a large empire -- several of them in fact -- before many others appeared. They are masters of bluff and bluster and are very aware of just how far they can push; they've been pushing to the limit (which has changed from time to time) since 1979. They simply took advantage of the fact we were busy with an 'insurgency' that was mostly our fault due to that flawed execution. I'd have expected no less from them. Still, there will be no Iaqi - Irani conflation and the Sunni Arabs and Turks in the ME are not about to let a bunch of Persians achieve any sort of hegemony; lot of long term antipathy there.
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Syria's ties with Iran are tighter than ever, and Turkey as well. No worries IMO.
Syria isn't a problem -- Turkey will be a significant problem in a few years but that was going to happen with or without our Iraq adventure. It's been building since the early '50s. The real flipping issue there was the Turkish Armed forces getting cozy with and buying from the Israelis -- the religious Turks couldn't stand that so they won the vote in '03 -- been down hill ever since and going to get worse before it gets better and Iraq had and has little to do with it...
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Certainly anti-Americanism in the region is as strong or stronger than ever before.
That's true and was, I believe, anticipated by us and a decision was made to accept it. Anti-Americanism has been prevalent around the world since I started traveling abroad in 1946 as a teen age military dependent. It waxes and wanes dependent upon many variables -- across the world, it's far less severe now than it wan at the height of Viet Nam.
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As for the invisible effects, I suppose it's a bit difficult to ever argue that point. Perhaps great benefits are accruing out of sight. I suppose you could say that about any policy.
Except as those invisible efforts -- not effects -- become visible their effect can be ascertained and are generally visible for all to see. The greatness of benefit is in the of the beneficiary...

Not sure about policies -- I thought we were talking about actions...
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Old 06-05-2010   #42
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Default The medium is the message...

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Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
I don't see that disproportionate response carries much deterrent force if it isn't applied to those who did whatever it is we are responding to.
Who would we respond to in this case? All those probes and provocations were nominally and officially performed by non-state actors from throughout the ME. No one nation was responsible, it was an area attitude that was to be deterred (actually, disrupted is a better word in the near term; the deterrent aspect rolls around to about that 2033 date I mentioned...). Iraq was chosen because it was a pariah state that had a leader even fellow Arab despots could not stand, it had little to no involvement, no Iraqi nationals had been in the attacks to that time, it was geographically central and should have been a military pushover. We were going to topple and leave.
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The message we communicate is that you can attack the US and get away with it, and benefit from it, because the response is going to be applied to somebody else, leaving you with a propaganda bonanza.
That's true in western terms. It is not true in the ME. They understood that we were saying "you folks need to stop allowing your citizens to attack us or this could happen to you." Recall it was preceded by the Bush speech that announced preemptive attacks were on the table (June 2002). I'd also submit that propaganda bonanzas are fleeting.

news cycles and all that...
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I think the people who attacked us did get what they needed, and far more of it than they expected. Fortunately for us, they were unable to exploit the opportunity we gave them to the fullest possible extent. It's useful to have incompetent enemies, but it's not something we want to rely on.
In reverse order; we have been benefiting from that incompetence since 1775 but I agree it's not a good idea to rely on it. The fact that they were unable to fully exploit the situation is not totally their responsibility; we aided by striking where we did and by several other actions -- and, most of all, by the hard work of an Army that went in unprepared but turned it around the hard way. We can disagree that they achieved all their aims; they didn't and we didn't. Wars are like that.
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Our strategic weakness lies in long-term political will.
I agree in general. There are occasional exceptions.
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Our vulnerability is the war of attrition. This is no secret: we know it, our allies know it, our enemies know it.
I think there are several misperceptions there but acknowledge they are the common wisdom. The American people are a lot tougher than many think. They are not casualty averse as many believe; they simply want payback for bodies lost in the form of results. They also do a pretty good cost benefit analysis -- thus we are still in Iraq in spite of seven years of screaming to get out...
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They can't defeat us, but if they can maneuver us into the right position, they might be able to outlast us and achieve the same effect. We know they will try to maneuver us into long-term static occupation of Muslim nations: that's where they want us to be.
I think they are beginning to discover that wasn't quite as smart as you think and they thought.
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It is in our interest not to permit them to place us in this position. Seems to me we haven't exactly achieved that.
I agree with the first thought, obviously the second is true but I think it's a bit more complex than that. Why did we stay in both Iraq and Afghanistan; the plan in each was to topple and leave. What changed that? I believe it was a different cause for each nation but both changes hit at about the same time, May of 2003...
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Old 06-05-2010   #43
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Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
Personally, I think it's too early to tell, but here are some factors to consider:

- The apparent success of the Iraqi government may very well be transitory. I don't think it's too far-fetch to consider that it could all fall apart and go back to civil war.

.

indeed... the lesson in Zimbabwe...

"One man, one vote!"

became

"One man, one vote, once!"

Democracy is only interesting where a nation can make it work for a longer period of time.

I was once in a mountain top village in the mountains in Peru. We were in a small shop, not a lot for sale. In one corner there were 4 or 5 large cartons gathering dust... marked outside was the info that the contents were a certain feminen hygiene product that amongst hill people and Llamas had zero value. Sanitary pads for women wearing string Tangas. (I swear, that is true).

Somehow the shop keeper had ordered wrong.... and probably invested a lot of his capital in a product that noone in the area needed....

He probably should have burned them and cut his losses.... but pride and a desire not to loose his investment made him keep them, taking up space and gathering dust...

IMHO trying to bring democracy to certain regions is the same as importing string tanga sanitary pads to that village...

:-)
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Old 06-05-2010   #44
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Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
Who would we respond to in this case? All those probes and provocations were nominally and officially performed by non-state actors from throughout the ME.
Then we respond to the non-state actors, or - to the extent that they had them - their state sponsors.

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Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
No one nation was responsible, it was an area attitude that was to be deterred (actually, disrupted is a better word in the near term; the deterrent aspect rolls around to about that 2033 date I mentioned...). Iraq was chosen because it was a pariah state that had a leader even fellow Arab despots could not stand, it had little to no involvement, no Iraqi nationals had been in the attacks to that time, it was geographically central and should have been a military pushover.
"Area attitude" seems to me too vague a focus for blame, and far too vague a focus for retaliation, disruption, or deterrence. We were not attacked by a nation or an area, we were attacked by a specific group of individuals. Of course our response removed any immediate incentive for further attacks: once the desired goal of US military engagement in Muslim territory was accomplished, there was nothing to be gained from further attacks. I can't really see that as an outcome of disruption or deterrence, and I can't see how the invasion of Iraq was meant to disrupt or deter AQ.

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Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
That's true in western terms. It is not true in the ME. They understood that we were saying "you folks need to stop allowing your citizens to attack us or this could happen to you." Recall it was preceded by the Bush speech that announced preemptive attacks were on the table
That would have made the Iraq operation a shot across the bow of the Saudis, which would be as hollow a threat as anyone ever made. The US is not going to invade Saudi Arabia, even if more Saudi citizens have a go at the US. We know that, the Saudis know it, and AQ knows it. I'm sure OBL regrets it bitterly - a US invasion of Saudi Arabia would be AQ's wettest dream - but it's not going to happen. Of course in the remote recesses of the neocon ivory tower a few woolly-headed souls clung vaguely to the notion that the emergence of a stable, prosperous democracy would force reform in Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc, but that was fantasy from the start, and I doubt that any of the autocrats in Riyadh or Tehran lost any sleep over the prospect.

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Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
We can disagree that they achieved all their aims; they didn't and we didn't. Wars are like that.
They achieved their immediate aim: US engagement in Muslim territory. The goal was to draw the US into Afghanistan; that was achieved. Iraq was a bonus that AQ was unable to exploit fully for a number of reasons, not least their own ineptness. Whether or not they will achieve their long-term goals in Afghanistan remains to be seen, but they aren't doing badly.

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Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
The American people are a lot tougher than many think. They are not casualty averse as many believe; they simply want payback for bodies lost in the form of results. They also do a pretty good cost benefit analysis -- thus we are still in Iraq in spite of seven years of screaming to get out
Absolutely. I didn't say or mean that the American deficit of long-term political will or the American vulnerability to wars of attrition were absolute. They aren't. They remain the most vulnerable point in our edifice, and the point that our opponents, especially those with little conventional military force at their disposal, will try to exploit. Whether or not they succeed remains to be seen. Every gambit is a gamble. Osama needed a jihad; without one he and his group would have faded into oblivion. The US was the only available candidate. AQ sucked us in, they got that far successfully. Whether they can chew what they bit off - or whether we can - is still being settled.
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Old 06-05-2010   #45
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Ken, I think I understand that political system dysfunction, and it needs to be cleaned up sometime.

Again; attention, national energy, time was wasted by looking outward at a distant and pretty marginal (yet inflated) problem instead of bundling that for a domestic breakthrough effort.

No amount of foreign political success (if there was any to speak of) would weigh heavier than the domestic imbalances that look like they're going to capsize the ship.
The whole attitude to economic affairs needs to change, several dear myths (such as "we should improve our economy by buying more") need to be shattered, special interests groups be defeated (and not granted the right to make political donations) and the whole system of talking points and idiot pundits needs to be exposed and replaced.

The nation will never do this as long as much of its attention is bound by scaremongering and violent conflicts and its reasoning restricted by jingoism.
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Old 06-05-2010   #46
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Again; attention, national energy, time was wasted by looking outward at a distant and pretty marginal (yet inflated) problem instead of bundling that for a domestic breakthrough effort.
It was difficult to argue in Sept 2001 that the problem was marginal or inflated. It looked more like what it was: a serious problem that had been swept under the rug for too long. Possibly the reaction was excessive and misdirected, but there's little doubt that the problem tself had been ignored for way too long.

The same can be said of the economic issues, many of which were stretched to near breaking in the dysfunctional economic policy environment of the 1990s, a time relatively free of jingoism and external entanglements. By the time Bush took office the economy was in such a marginal state that it's difficult to see how a "domestic breakthrough effort" could have been managed. Bush's economic and foreign policies were dominated by attempts to deal with a horde of chickens coming home to roost. Those problems were undoubtedly mismanaged in many ways, but there was little opportunity for proactive policy, and it's hard to say what that administration would have done if given the opportunity for proactive rather than reactive policies.
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Old 06-05-2010   #47
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Iraq didn't look like a serious problem to me ever after Desert Storm, and even in late '90 I considered it to be little more than a nuisance.

It takes a quite distorted view on what's serious and what not to rate such a distant, largely disarmed state as a serious problem while the own economy is turning to illusions and losing substance.

It was also obvious by basic statistics that the PRC deserved much more attention already in the early 2000's than the whole ME.

A proper reaction would have reduced the oil addiction to a ME-oil-independent level and a focus on increasing the industrial output instead of outsourcing it (alternatively, reducing consumption to a sustainable level).
Great power gaming in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Mid East and Far East did not offer any solution for the real national domestic problems. They were at best opium for the people, helping the government in an election or two.

I'm quite sure that historians in 50 years will call the 2000's a lost decade for the whole West (Europe had its parallel follies) and won't find much if any good policy. I'm also quite sure that they won't be amazed by some disruption grand strategy or whatever Ken thinks about.
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Old 06-05-2010   #48
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W is a gambler...
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Then we respond to the non-state actors, or - to the extent that they had them - their state sponsors.
I totally agree as do many in the government -- unfortunately, there are others who do not agree and the result is we have no mechanism to do that and the previously used mechanisms are no longer politically acceptable. Would you be among the first to condemn such quasi legal operations?
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"Area attitude" seems to me too vague a focus for blame, and far too vague a focus for retaliation, disruption, or deterrence. We were not attacked by a nation or an area, we were attacked by a specific group of individuals.
Those individuals came from a specific area of the globe and from a specific subset of persons from that area. Don't know how much time you've spent in the ME but if you've been there, you should have picked up on the fact that they are clannish, xenophobic, anti-western in cultural orientation and consider the US the most evil batch of Kuffars around. That attitude is endemic. They understood what we were doing and why. Didn't appreciate it, either -- but they had to and did respect it, no matter how reluctantly and no matter what they said in public for consumption in the west. They had to and do respect it in spite of the errors in execution which certainly adversely impacted the 'lesson' value. While adversely impacted and extended in time, it still conveyed the message that we are capable of dismantling your country and will do so if you provoke us beyond the point of your safety. That BTW is also one reason the current administration is continuing many earlier policies and is tougher than its base likes; a little unwanted but forced sense of continuity and will there...
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Of course our response removed any immediate incentive for further attacks: once the desired goal of US military engagement in Muslim territory was accomplished, there was nothing to be gained from further attacks. I can't really see that as an outcome of disruption or deterrence, and I can't see how the invasion of Iraq was meant to disrupt or deter AQ.
Do not conflate AQ with Islamist fundamentalism in totality. There have been further attacks, they were themselves disrupted. The intent was not to disrupt AQ -- how do you disrupt a Starfish? How do you deter an aggregation with no population or infrastructure to protect? -- it was to disrupt the ability of wealthy persons in the ME to fund and foster anti western fomentation and terrorism and even more specifically, to disrupt and deter tacit support by some governments in the ME and south Asia (which do have populations and infrastructure...) to and for such actions and of which we were very much aware but which previous administrations had been reluctant to address.

Iraq was to divert attention and to send a message, the rest of the strategy was long term and designed to be out of sight to most while Iraq was sucking the news streams -- as Afghanistan is now doing. And, yes, that is an expensive diversion as was expected. The slow success of shutting of the money and turning governments that do not wish to turn is proceeding glacially -- but pretty much unstoppably in the background.
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That would have made the Iraq operation a shot across the bow of the Saudis, which would be as hollow a threat as anyone ever made. The US is not going to invade Saudi Arabia, even if more Saudi citizens have a go at the US. We know that, the Saudis know it, and AQ knows it. I'm sure OBL regrets it bitterly - a US invasion of Saudi Arabia would be AQ's wettest dream - but it's not going to happen.
True but perhaps not for the reasons that many believe. What the Iraqi operation did with respect to Saudi Arabia was allow us to remove the US forces based in there which in turn allowed the Saudis to dismantle their own AQ. It also will eventually allow Iraqi oil to assist in diluting the Kingdom's net clout.
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Of course in the remote recesses of the neocon ivory tower a few woolly-headed souls clung vaguely to the notion that the emergence of a stable, prosperous democracy would force reform in Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc, but that was fantasy from the start, and I doubt that any of the autocrats in Riyadh or Tehran lost any sleep over the prospect.
I also do not think Bush bought into the neocon stupidity, he simply used them to further his own agenda.
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They achieved their immediate aim: US engagement in Muslim territory. The goal was to draw the US into Afghanistan; that was achieved. Iraq was a bonus that AQ was unable to exploit fully for a number of reasons, not least their own ineptness. Whether or not they will achieve their long-term goals in Afghanistan remains to be seen, but they aren't doing badly.
In order; not in the form they expected or wanted;it wasn't so much their own ineptenss as it was a matter of scale in a venue where they had no presence. They got outflanked. It was far from a bonus, really,it was a diversion with which they were unable to cope due to that scale. They're not doing nearly as well in Afghanistan or Pakistan (the latter nation is why we're still in Afghanistan...) as many think. We'll see.
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AQ sucked us in, they got that far successfully. Whether they can chew what they bit off - or whether we can - is still being settled.
Did we get sucked in or did we willingly take the bait for several less obvious reasons?

As for still being settled, true. But the goat entrails are reading well...
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Old 06-05-2010   #49
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Default Jingoism is one of several inheritances

from the British and the rest of Europe that have not done the US any great favor. We were and are a bit different. British and European attitudes are fine and they work over there, many do not transfer here at all well...
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Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
Ken, I think I understand that political system dysfunction, and it needs to be cleaned up sometime.
Totally agree; I keep telling everyone who'll listen to vote out all incumbents until Congress gets the message and reforms itself -- they're the problem and they're pretty much untouchable -- except at the ballot box.
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Again; attention, national energy, time was wasted by looking outward at a distant and pretty marginal (yet inflated) problem instead of bundling that for a domestic breakthrough effort.
True but there were valid domestic political reasons for that inflation and though distant and marginal, it could have later been a major problem. We don't like threats, even vague ones...
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The nation will never do this as long as much of its attention is bound by scaremongering and violent conflicts and its reasoning restricted by jingoism.
Probably correct in many senses but I doubt we'll see any significant change in the near term. We'll keep muddling along. Most Americans can and will live with that...
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Old 06-05-2010   #50
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I'm quite sure that historians in 50 years will call the 2000's a lost decade for the whole West (Europe had its parallel follies) and won't find much if any good policy.
Not on that, I agree with that...
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I'm also quite sure that they won't be amazed by some disruption grand strategy or whatever Ken thinks about.
That. You're wrong about that. I'll be long gone but you can send down a note with the apology for your error...
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Old 06-06-2010   #51
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It takes a quite distorted view on what's serious and what not to rate such a distant, largely disarmed state as a serious problem while the own economy is turning to illusions and losing substance.
9/11 distorted lots of views; that's what it was meant to do, and it succeeded. As I've said before, I wasn't in favor of the Iraq operation; it was justified but it wasn't smart. However, assuming that if it hadn't happened the US could, or far more remotely would, have managed some sort of burst of economic enlightenment is beyond far fetched. Certainly the Iraq war ran parallel to a run of bad economic policy, but there's lettle meaningful evidence to suggest a causative link. Economic policy was no better in the relatively peaceful 90s.

I do suspect that if 9/11 hadn't happened, the Bush administration's handlling of the 2000/2001 recession might have been much better, and much trouble down the line might have been prevented. That, however, is pure conjecture.

Again, on both the economic and foreign policy levels the Bush administration was defined by the need to deal with problems that the Clinton administration had declined to manage. These problems were poorly managed in both cases, but there was in either event little opportunity for major reforms in the reactive mode that was imposed by prior neglect.

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It was also obvious by basic statistics that the PRC deserved much more attention already in the early 2000's than the whole ME.
China's emergence received plenty of attention, but it's not something that required action on the part of the US or anyone else. Again, assuming that relations with China would have been managed better if the ME had not been an issue is conjecture. What would you have done with respect to China that was not done?

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A proper reaction would have reduced the oil addiction to a ME-oil-independent level and a focus on increasing the industrial output instead of outsourcing it (alternatively, reducing consumption to a sustainable level).
And how would you propose to do that? You ascribe to government powers that government does not have.

First the notion of being independent of "ME oil" is a farce. Everyone who depends on oil depends on ME oil, whether or not they actually import any. Oil is globally priced and the removal of any major ME producer imposes the same price penalty on all consumers.

The US is about as likely to become independent of ME oil as Europe is to become independent of Russian gas. For the forseeable future we simply have to accept and manage the reality that our energy supplies are controlled by powers that are unreliable and potentially hostile. I'd actually rather depend on the Saudis than on the Russians, who seem more inclined to manipulate energy supplies for political gain.

Oil dependence was deeply entrenched by the extended glut, and as long as oil remained cheap any action taken by government to reduce dependence was going to be insignificant, short of imposing a massive tax on energy, which no American administration will do as long as democracy is in place. In the last few years we've entered what appears likely to be an extended period of high oil prices, which opens a real opportunity to reduce dependence. The oil-dependent powers of the world may or may not make use of that opportunity.

American manufacturing has been hampered by half a century of a seriously overvalued dollar, which imposed a massive disincentive to any American entrepreneur or corporation entering a line of business that required it to export or to compete with imports. That reality has shaped the US economy to a degree that will require decades to reverse. Again, as long as the dollar was overvalued any policy government adopted to promote manufacturing was equivalent to spitting into a typhoon. That problem has now been alleviated to some extent, though ideally the dollar would fall more. Again, that opens an opportunity, but it's an opportunity that didn't exist for most of the 00s.

Certainly the last decade has seen an abundance of bad decisions in both economic and foreign policy, but claiming a causative relationship between the latter and the former is conjecture, I suspect with a bit of wishful thinking mixed in. An absence of foreign entanglement is no assurance of good economic policy, as we saw in the 90s.

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I'm quite sure that historians in 50 years will call the 2000's a lost decade for the whole West (Europe had its parallel follies) and won't find much if any good policy.
I suspect that historians in 50 years will see the 2000s as a desperately needed wake-up call to the West, on a variety of levels. How the West responds to that call is still being defined. Easy to say the response has been unimpressive (not just from the US), but we were very deep in our rut and it's still the early going.

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Old 06-06-2010   #52
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I disagree on several points.

...the usual disagreement about justification of OIF.

PRC's economic growth: An active economic policy could have changed a lot. Much of the U.S. trade balance deficit is from trade with the PRC. Such simple things as increasing the savings rate and discouraging private debt would have reduced the imbalance and slowed down China's economic growth a lot. The West could also at least have talked about whether to prohibit the export of investment goods to China.
There were hundreds of policy options.

A government has the power to break the oil addiction. Imagine the effect of a gasoline tax of European proportions beginning in 2000, for example. U.S. cars would consume about 10-25% less fuel on average now.
Other sectors would have had similar fuel savings.

The global pricing of crude oil is a farce. Much of the oil trade is not on the market, but arranged in long-term treaties or simply transferred inside of multinational corporations. The oil price from the TV news is merely applicable to the oil that's still being traded freely.
So yes, it's possible to become independent from both ME oil and the global crude oil market price.
CTL is also competitive, it's been competitive since the oil price exceeded about 50 USD/barrel.

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Certainly the last decade has seen an abundance of bad decisions in both economic and foreign policy, but claiming a causative relationship between the latter and the former is conjecture, I suspect with a bit of wishful thinking mixed in. An absence of foreign entanglement is no assurance of good economic policy, as we saw in the 90s.
I didn't mean to assert such a mechanism. Nevertheless, a country has a limited attention span and cannot cope with many great projects at once. There's little hope for domestic reforms of grand scale as long as much of the attention span is being wasted on (inflated) external threats.



Besides; I don't share the attitude that Iraq was a problem that had to be dealt with and was wrongly not dealt with by Clinton.
Post-'96 Iraq was no problem at all. There was merely a crazy illusion of a problem. This illusion was based on irrational behaviour (asking another power to prove the non-existence of non-existing items) and crazy scaremongering.
The only real issue was the question how the Kurds could be protected against Saddam's revenge, especially considering Turkey's stance. A guaranteed autonomy for the Kurds, reinforced with a UNSC threat of renewed sanctions might have worked.
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Old 06-06-2010   #53
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Besides; I don't share the attitude that Iraq was a problem that had to be dealt with and was wrongly not dealt with by Clinton.
Post-'96 Iraq was no problem at all. There was merely a crazy illusion of a problem. This illusion was based on irrational behaviour (asking another power to prove the non-existence of non-existing items) and crazy scaremongering...
that Iraq was a 'problem.' Most seem to realize it was not a threat but was posed as one for some reason or other, the discussion is over what was the 'other.'. US domestic politics were a large part of that. As they are for the reason there is no healthy, sensible petroleum tax in the US.

While Iraq was not a problem -- it was really a target of opportunity -- the Clinton Administration's failures in responding to provocations from the ME and those of Carter, Reagan and Bush 41 before that all added their own synergies to why we are where we are.
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The only real issue was the question how the Kurds could be protected against Saddam's revenge, especially considering Turkey's stance. A guaranteed autonomy for the Kurds, reinforced with a UNSC threat of renewed sanctions might have worked.
That and Southern Watch which had problems of its own and which impacted Saudi Arabia. I doubt the UNSC would've acted -- China, France and Russia would all have been opposed.
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Old 06-06-2010   #54
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Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
PRC's economic growth: An active economic policy could have changed a lot. Much of the U.S. trade balance deficit is from trade with the PRC. Such simple things as increasing the savings rate and discouraging private debt would have reduced the imbalance and slowed down China's economic growth a lot. The West could also at least have talked about whether to prohibit the export of investment goods to China.
Why would you want to slow down China's growth? And why in any vestigially sane world would you want to prohibit the export of investment goods to China? Even if the US government had the capacity to compel citizens to save (it doesn't), I can't see how that would have had any impact on US trade with hina. Certainly the US could have used higher interest rates to discourage borrowing, but that goes back to the mismanagement of the 2000/2001 recession, which is intimately tied to the economic and political impact of 9/11.

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Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
A government has the power to break the oil addiction. Imagine the effect of a gasoline tax of European proportions beginning in 2000, for example. U.S. cars would consume about 10-25% less fuel on average now.
The US government doesn't have that power. Maybe in theory it does, but in practice it does not. For better or for worse the US remains a democracy, and the citizenry wouldn't stand for it. Reform isn't just about leadership, needs some followership as well.

Oil consumption patterns worldwide are inextricably linked to the incentive to consume created by the oil glut and consequent low prices that prevalied from 1985-2005. High prices will change that, but it will take time. Trying to oppose an overwhelming macroeconomic incentive with policy is generally pretty futile.

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Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
The global pricing of crude oil is a farce. Much of the oil trade is not on the market, but arranged in long-term treaties or simply transferred inside of multinational corporations. The oil price from the TV news is merely applicable to the oil that's still being traded freely.
So yes, it's possible to become independent from both ME oil and the global crude oil market price.
Unrealistic, I fear. I don't think there's a supplier on the planet that would commit to supply oil to the US at significantly below market price. Certainly the Saudis, Venezuelans, and Nigerians won't, and I very much doubt that the Canadians would.

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Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
CTL is also competitive, it's been competitive since the oil price exceeded about 50 USD/barrel.
Lots of alternatives are competitive if prices stay high. It will take at least a decade of high prices for those alternatives to draw the needed investment and develop into meaningful contributors... and when they do, it will be a response to high prices, not to government policy.

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Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
Besides; I don't share the attitude that Iraq was a problem that had to be dealt with and was wrongly not dealt with by Clinton.
Post-'96 Iraq was no problem at all. There was merely a crazy illusion of a problem. This illusion was based on irrational behaviour (asking another power to prove the non-existence of non-existing items) and crazy scaremongering.
The only real issue was the question how the Kurds could be protected against Saddam's revenge, especially considering Turkey's stance. A guaranteed autonomy for the Kurds, reinforced with a UNSC threat of renewed sanctions might have worked.
Lots of things might have worked. Nothing will work if it's not tried, and nothing was tried. The problem was simply allowed to fester. Of course it was only an irritant, but an irritant that isn't dealt with ultimately provides an incentive to overaction.

It was actually rather complicated. Realistically, no alternative that left Saddam in power would have been suitable or acceptable. Saddam's side deals with France and Russia had the UNSC effectively bottled. The status quo was almost universally perceived as unacceptable.

The Clinton administration made no attempt at all to resolve the festering sore that the Iraq situation had become. They made no attempt beyond a few cursory high tech drive-by shootings to deal with the clearly emerging problem of AQ. They sat by and watched while an enormous equity bubble blew beyond all reasonable proportions, with a devastating impact on the S economy. These situations might not have been completely solved, but some attempt might have been made to manage them. None was. All the chickens came home to roost on poor George's lap, and while the Bushies managed those problems badly, we'd do well to recall how and when those problems cane to be.
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Old 06-06-2010   #55
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While Iraq was not a problem -- it was really a target of opportunity -- the Clinton Administration's failures in responding to provocations from the ME and those of Carter, Reagan and Bush 41 before that all added their own synergies to why we are where we are.
Strange. Why didn't you add Reagan, who ran away from Lebanon in response to a few car bombs, yielding to the threat of 'terrorists'?
It would be funny to see how republicans would think about that if someone convinced them for a day that Reagan was a democrat while he made the decision to run away.
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Old 06-06-2010   #56
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Default What's really strange is that you didn't seem to notice that Reagan is in the list.

Read your own quote of my comment, he's in the list for the very reason you cite...

Selective attention -- or neglect -- on your part to make a point?

Just FYI, I'm not a Republican -- or a Democrat; I despise both parties for their fostering of incompetence and their venality and corruption.
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Old 06-06-2010   #57
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Dunno, but I won't ask a psychologist.
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Old 01-03-2012   #58
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From my nave standpoint, I see a dictatorship replaced with a democracy, many foreign debts to Iraq forgiven, the likelihood of increased oil production benefiting all Iraqis rather than just the ruling regime, a dramatic improvement in quality of life for the Kurds, removal of sanctions on all of Iraq, a government that has established friendly relations with its neighbors, creation of security forces that are far less abusive or corrupt, and a military unlikely to attack neighbors or its own government. What am I missing?
I understand this post originated a few years ago. However, it is interesting to note that the original post asks the question "How was Iraq a strategic blunder" and then proceeds to discuss the positive outcomes for Iraq without once mentioning any benefits for the United States. The continued low-level violence in Iraq is not an indicator of failure in my opinion; nor is the unfolding political drama in Iraq's government. The concern is what enduring economic or political advantage has the United States gained from the war. The failure therefore is not in the haphazard execution of the war or even its outcome but the purpose for it in the first place.
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