Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wild time in the North Atlantic

Hurricane Danielle (top center), Hurricane Earl (bottom center) and "97L" (bottom right). The image reminds me of those from the Hubble Space Telescope showing galaxy clusters.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Goldberg’s Bogus ‘Ticking Clock’ on Iran

The following response to Jeffrey Goldberg's Atlantic Monthly campaign to stoke anxiety over Iran's "nuclear aspirations" is posted at Rootless Cosmopolitan.

By Tony Karon

America’s march to a disastrous war in Iraq began in the media, where an unprovoked U.S. invasion of an Arab country was introduced as a legitimate policy option, then debated as a prudent and necessary one. Now, a similarly flawed media conversation on Iran is gaining momentum.

Last month, TIME’s Joe Klein warned that Obama administration sources had told him bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities was “back on the table.” In an interview with CNN, former CIA director Admiral Mike Hayden next spoke of an “inexorable” dynamic toward confrontation, claiming that bombing was a more viable option for the Obama administration than it had been for George W. Bush. The pièce de résistance in the most recent drum roll of bomb-Iran alerts, however, came from Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic Monthly. A journalist influential in U.S. pro-Israeli circles, he also has access to Israel’s corridors of power. Because sanctions were unlikely to force Iran to back down on its uranium enrichment project, Goldberg invited readers to believe that there was a more than even chance Israel would launch a military strike on the country by next summer.

His piece, which sparked considerable debate in both the blogosphere and the traditional media, was certainly an odd one. After all, despite the dramatics he deployed, including vivid descriptions of the Israeli battle plan, and his tendency to paint Iran as a new Auschwitz, he also made clear that many of his top Israeli sources simply didn’t believe Iran would launch nuclear weapons against Israel, even if it acquired them.

Nonetheless, Goldberg warned, absent an Iranian white flag soon, Israel would indeed launch that war in summer 2011, and it, in turn, was guaranteed to plunge the region into chaos. The message: the Obama administration better do more to confront Iran or Israel will act crazy.

Continue reading at Rootless Cosmopolitan.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Washington Rules

The following excerpt comes from TomDispatch.com

The Unmaking of a Company Man
An Education Begun in the Shadow of the Brandenburg Gate

By Andrew Bacevich

Worldly ambition inhibits true learning. Ask me. I know. A young man in a hurry is nearly uneducable: He knows what he wants and where he’s headed; when it comes to looking back or entertaining heretical thoughts, he has neither the time nor the inclination. All that counts is that he is going somewhere. Only as ambition wanes does education become a possibility.

My own education did not commence until I had reached middle age. I can fix its start date with precision: for me, education began in Berlin, on a winter’s evening, at the Brandenburg Gate, not long after the Berlin Wall had fallen.

As an officer in the U.S. Army I had spent considerable time in Germany. Until that moment, however, my family and I had never had occasion to visit this most famous of German cities, still littered with artifacts of a deeply repellent history. At the end of a long day of exploration, we found ourselves in what had, until just months before, been the communist East. It was late and we were hungry, but I insisted on walking the length of the Unter den Linden, from the River Spree to the gate itself. A cold rain was falling and the pavement glistened. The buildings lining the avenue, dating from the era of Prussian kings, were dark, dirty, and pitted. Few people were about. It was hardly a night for sightseeing.

For as long as I could remember, the Brandenburg Gate had been the preeminent symbol of the age and Berlin the epicenter of contemporary history. Yet by the time I made it to the once and future German capital, history was already moving on. The Cold War had abruptly ended. A divided city and a divided nation had reunited.

For Americans who had known Berlin only from a distance, the city existed primarily as a metaphor. Pick a date -- 1933, 1942, 1945, 1948, 1961, 1989 -- and Berlin becomes an instructive symbol of power, depravity, tragedy, defiance, endurance, or vindication. For those inclined to view the past as a chronicle of parables, the modern history of Berlin offered an abundance of material. The greatest of those parables emerged from the events of 1933 to 1945, an epic tale of evil ascendant, belatedly confronted, then heroically overthrown. A second narrative, woven from events during the intense period immediately following World War II, saw hopes for peace dashed, yielding bitter antagonism but also great resolve. The ensuing stand-off -- the “long twilight struggle,” in John Kennedy’s memorable phrase -- formed the centerpiece of the third parable, its central theme stubborn courage in the face of looming peril. Finally came the exhilarating events of 1989, with freedom ultimately prevailing, not only in Berlin, but throughout Eastern Europe.

What exactly was I looking for at the Brandenburg Gate? Perhaps confirmation that those parables, which I had absorbed and accepted as true, were just that. Whatever I expected, what I actually found was a cluster of shabby-looking young men, not German, hawking badges, medallions, hats, bits of uniforms, and other artifacts of the mighty Red Army. It was all junk, cheaply made and shoddy. For a handful of deutsche marks, I bought a wristwatch emblazoned with the symbol of the Soviet armored corps. Within days, it ceased to work.

Huddling among the scarred columns, those peddlers -- almost certainly off-duty Russian soldiers awaiting redeployment home -- constituted a subversive presence. They were loose ends of a story that was supposed to have ended neatly when the Berlin Wall came down. As we hurried off to find warmth and a meal, this disconcerting encounter stuck with me, and I began to entertain this possibility: that the truths I had accumulated over the previous twenty years as a professional soldier -- especially truths about the Cold War and U.S. foreign policy -- might not be entirely true.

By temperament and upbringing, I had always taken comfort in orthodoxy. In a life spent subject to authority, deference had become a deeply ingrained habit. I found assurance in conventional wisdom. Now, I started, however hesitantly, to suspect that orthodoxy might be a sham. I began to appreciate that authentic truth is never simple and that any version of truth handed down from on high -- whether by presidents, prime ministers, or archbishops -- is inherently suspect. The powerful, I came to see, reveal truth only to the extent that it suits them. Even then, the truths to which they testify come wrapped in a nearly invisible filament of dissembling, deception, and duplicity. The exercise of power necessarily involves manipulation and is antithetical to candor.

I came to these obvious points embarrassingly late in life. “Nothing is so astonishing in education,” the historian Henry Adams once wrote, “as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts.” Until that moment I had too often confused education with accumulating and cataloging facts. In Berlin, at the foot of the Brandenburg Gate, I began to realize that I had been a naïf. And so, at age 41, I set out, in a halting and haphazard fashion, to acquire a genuine education.

Twenty years later I’ve made only modest progress. What follows is an accounting of what I have learned thus far.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sinful

I checked out Newt Gingrich's latest book To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine from the library. I had heard about it earlier in the year and put in a request.

It takes a lot for me to pick up a book and read it: irresistible reviews, an inspiring author, a favored subject. Or, in this case, an outlandish title.

I have to say, this book is tough to understand. More precisely, it is tough to understand how a person whom I regard as a seasoned representative, scholar, educator (and a Christian!) could write something so painfully deceitful and cynical. This book appears to be directed at an audience that Gingrich must judge as having absolutely no capacity for critical thought.

It is the worst, most self-serving book I can recall. (Of course I know there's an endless supply of such trash. I just won't touch the stuff.) But I certainly didn't expect this from Mr. Gingrich (even though I never really forgave him for the pall his "Contract on America" cast over this country.)

From the first words, I was astounded that virtually every paragraph could be challenged on it's bias, assumptions, incompleteness, veracity, or faulty logic. This result would be really difficult to accomplish - even if it you had set out to do so!

I'll have to offer some examples here (where to begin!), but I suggest you get your hands on a copy, just randomly open to any page and read. I think you'll see my point.

(And last night, it was a bit unnerving when I heard a couple conservatives speaking after winning in yesterday's primaries, channeling "The Newt". I'd swear they were pulling quotes right out of the book.)

Selected quotations:

P. 2

America as we know it is now facing a mortal threat.
The Left have expanded their power through their control of academia, the elite news media, union leaders, trial lawyers, the bureaucracy, the courts, and lobbyists at the state and federal levels. They share a vision of a secular, socialist America run for the interests of the members of the political machine that keeps them in power. It will be an America where government dominates the people rather than represents them. In short, they want to use government power to change who we are and how we think.

This danger to America is greater than anything I dreamed possible after we won the Cold War and the Soviet Union disappeared in December 1991. We stand at a crossroads: either we will save our country or we will lose it.

P. 2

Traditional America values hard work, entrepreneurship, innovation, and merit-based upward mobility. But the secular-socialist machine rewards its members, punishes "overachievers," kills jobs by over-taxing small businesses, and even exploits your death to tax the savings you hope to pass on to your children and grandchildren.

P. 3

For many in the secular-socialist Left, however, the only thing exceptional about America is our supposed viciousness. They believe America is an exploitive (sic), imperialist aggressor, and that the U.S. military is a nefarious tool of corporate interests. Some on the Left even hope for America's wartime defeat as a means to stop us from promoting American values across the world.

...secular socialists believe the only reliable institution is a bureaucratic, centralized, supremely powerful government....They don't believe Americans can be trusted to make the "right" decisions.

P. 4

The America in which we grew up is vastly different from the America the secular-socialist Left want to create. And that's why saving America is the fundamental challenge of our time. The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did. (Emphasis added.)

This diagnosis may strike some readers as alarmist. But this book will show just how radical, how corrupt, and how ruthless the Left have become. You will see also why the term "secular-socialist machine" is the only honest way to describe the Left's ideology and the way they operate today.

Time has not run out, but it is running short. It's up to those of us who love our country to save America from the destructive, irreversible transformation that the Left have in store for us.

This is just the opening salvo, a taste of what Mr. Gingrich has in store for the reader. Note that I did not search out passages that use the term "secular-socialist machine". The label appears profusely - a useful device in brainwashing, but not in rational discourse.

If one were to replace Gingrich's use of "secular-socialist Left" with "blacks", "Hispanics" or "Muslims", it would become clear that he attacks this perceived threat in the same way racists irrationally attack the perceived threat from those "who are different".

More from the Newt:

P. 35 (Here, Newt gives a history lesson. A clear explanation why Obama is a radical.)
The "Left" is a term stemming from the seating of political parties in the National Assembly during the French Revolution. The radicals were seated on the left and the conservatives on the right. Today, the Left comprise a range of opinion favoring various levels of state control over society and over the economy. So the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda is indeed leftist...

P. 37

A purely secular outlook does not acknowledge God. It does not consider the implications of one's actions beyond the impact they make within one's own life. It does not recognize any higher moral order beyond that which human beings have rationally developed.

P. 37

For example, the Declaration of Independence, America's founding political document, boldly proclaims, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

This extraordinary sentence makes some key assumptions: that God is sovereign over the affairs of the universe; that God created man; an that man must obey an order of justice God Himself has instituted.

How then can a purely secular worldview account for the original American understanding of our rights and freedoms?

It cannot.

P. 46 (Gingrich rails against radical tactics, which he himself commonly employs in his own "personal" revolution)

Perhaps nobody has been more clear about the Left's need for dishonesty than Saul Alinsky.

One of the twentieth century's most influential radicals, Alinsky is considered the godfather of community organizing...

Many of his "rules" are guideline for engaging in immoral, dangerous, political dishonesty. Echoing the maxims of Vladimir Lenin, the architect of Soviet Communism, Alinsky justifies almost any immoral act, especially outright dishonesty and hypocrisy, if it's done while pursuing revolution.

David Horowitz, in his small book Barack Obama's Rules of Revolution: The Alinsky Model, cogently explains the significance of Alinsky's teaching to the modern Left.

For Alinsky, a radical's primary goals must be acquiring power and destroying the current system. What replaces it is of secondary concern. He teaches that you amass power by organizing people based on their naked self-interest, not on any idealism or common vision of the future.

P. 62-63

President Obama hides his duplicity behind secrecy, clever language, and legalisms. Like President Reagan, Obama possesses captivating, eloquent rhetorical gifts. While Reagan used rhetoric to clarify and educate, however, Obama uses his skills to confuse and deflect. These are profoundly different models of leadership. But then, clarity was Reagan's ally, since he was a conservative who articulated the values of the American people. In contrast, as an apologist for the secular-socialist Left, Obama knows clarity is his opponent; the less the American people understand about what he is doing, the better.

P. 71-72 (As a historian, Gingrich's memory seems to fail him. Does the name Nixon ring a bell?)

Contrary to their promises to clean up Washington, the president, House speaker, and Senate majority leader have governed with a political machine mentality that is more corrupt and secretive than anything we have seen in modern American politics.

P. 129 (Another of the conservatives' arch-enemies is attacked. This one is particularly hilarious, as Gingrich attacks its one country-one vote system. Membership is even granted to despotic nations, such as Saudi Arabia! Of course, no mention is made of where most "Western democracies" sourced much of their wealth.)

In some ways, the UN machine is even worse than the machine of the American Left; first, since even the most despotic governments are entitled to UN membership, the UN is not limited by elections or the need to keep up democratic appearances. And second, lacking America's legal framework for government transparency, the organization is even more prone to corruption than is the American Left.

Despite the fact that a handful of Western democracies pay the vast majority of the UN's annual budget (the United States alone pays 22 percent), the UN's most influential voting block is a group of 130 undeveloped countries called the G-77. Using the UN's one country-one vote system, the G-77 has hijacked the UN to turn it into a mechanism for redistributing wealth from the developed to developing countries.

P. 137 (Here Newt basically expresses his outrage that the UN has the gall to criticize and obstruct some of our self-serving pursuits. In other words, that other nations have a say in the matter.)

The UN could make an immense contribution to world peace, human rights, and the spread of democracy. But it is not doing that - and that's a tragedy. Having proven impervious to all attempts at reform, we need to sideline this dysfunctional, self-perpetuating, bureaucratic machine until it stops acting as a vehicle for the world's most oppressive states to exert their will over the world's free democracies.

P. 150-151 (Newt attacks other conservation enemies - the czars and EPA. Though I guess the EPA was doing just fine under G.W., as it overturned decades of environmental protections. Gingrich loves the use of labels designed to incite and inflame.)

Consider the White House czar system. It is an unconstitutional centralization of power in the hands of the appointed, unaccountable bureaucrats. It is guaranteed to increase corruption, lead to political cronyism, and give the president unprecedented - and un-American - power to manipulate, coerce, and bribe people.

The solution is to eliminate the White House czar system, not to reform it.

The EPA has become an engine of undemocratic bureaucracy filled with people who seek to impose their fanatical views on an unwilling American population. The EPA and its entire regulation-litigation, Washington-centered, command-and-control bureacracy needs to be replaced.

That's enough. The book numbers roughly 350 pages, full of gems such as these.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No South Afghanistan Handover for a 'Few Years': US

Allowing policy decisions to be driven by "conditions on the ground", gives military leaders undo influence over our foreign policy debate. This effect is magnified when Generals Conway, Petraeus and McChrystal (with or without their Commander-in-Chief's consent) take their "wag the dog" pitch directly to the American people.

Virtually all mainstream media (and their imbedded reporters) compliantly join the choir of voices cautioning against hasty decisions in the face of "conditions on the ground". (It has been especially sad to witness NPR move into the war booster camp whenever the government pulls their chain.) Had we yielded to such blind optimism we'd still be in Vietnam.

Foreign occupation is THE condition on the ground that is at the root of this conflict.

Published on Tuesday, August 24, 2010 by Agence France Presse
WASHINGTON - General James Conway, head of the US Marine Corps, told reporters Tuesday that Afghan forces would not be ready to take over security from US troops in key southern provinces for at least "a few years."

"I honestly think it will be a few years before conditions on the ground are such that turnover will be possible for us," General James Conway told reporters, referring to Marines deployed in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

Conway, who just returned from visiting Marines in Afghanistan, said some Afghan units "somewhere" might be able to assume the lead for security in 2011 but not in the south, which he called the "birthplace" of the Taliban insurgency.

His comments were the latest sign from US military leaders that a major troop withdrawal remained a long way off, despite a July 2011 deadline set by President Barack Obama for the start of a drawdown.

Conway acknowledged that public support for the US mission was declining but appealed for patience, warning of the risks of any early withdrawal.

"I sense our country is increasingly growing tired of the war," he said.

But Conway cited a fellow commander's assessment that "we can either lose fast or win slow."

The general added that the administration needed to do a better job of explaining the mission in Afghanistan and the importance of preventing Al-Qaeda and its allies from securing safe havens in the country.
© 2010 Agence France Presse

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Circle Jerk Continues

The same Neocons and their friends in AIPAC, who brought America (and the World) the "No-End-In-Sight Iraq War" are salivating at the prospect that the U.S. and Israel may soon kick ass in Iran. These are people who get off on war - of course, in the name of their God and defense of their tribe. They defend a nation that has surreptitiously developed between one and two hundred nuclear weapons and condemn those who seek to develop nuclear power (and quite possibly a nuclear weapon) as "madmen". American taxpayers finance this insanity and American companies profit. In deals such as the purchase of F-35 strike fighters announced yesterday, tax payer dollars are bestowed upon Israel and come back as profits for the American weapons industry. Here are some examples of the "Chicken Hawks" in action:

The Point of No Return
Published in The Atlantic
By Jeffrey Goldberg
For the Obama administration, the prospect of a nuclearized Iran is dismal to contemplate— it would create major new national-security challenges and crush the president’s dream of ending nuclear proliferation. But the view from Jerusalem is still more dire: a nuclearized Iran represents, among other things, a threat to Israel’s very existence. In the gap between Washington’s and Jerusalem’s views of Iran lies the question: who, if anyone, will stop Iran before it goes nuclear, and how? As Washington and Jerusalem study each other intensely, here’s an inside look at the strategic calculations on both sides—and at how, if things remain on the current course, an Israeli air strike will unfold.
Continue reading at theatlantic.com.

In a related story, John Bolton states Israel has 8 days to hit Iranian nuclear reactor.

And, batting clean-up, we have PNAC booster Elliott Abrams: Obama Bombing Iran? Don't Be Surprised.

Finally, one of the rare voices of sanity out there: Kucinich Urges Colleagues to End 'Longest War in U.S. History'

A New Way Forward: Rethinking U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan

SUMMARY
At nine years and counting, the U.S. war in Afghanistan is the longest in our history, surpassing even the Vietnam War, and it will shortly surpass the Soviet Union’s own extended military campaign there. With the surge, it will cost the U.S. taxpayers nearly $100 billion per year, a sum roughly seven times larger than Afghanistan’s annual gross national product (GNP) of $14 billion and greater than the total annual cost of the new U.S. health insurance program.1 Thousands of American and allied personnel have been killed or gravely wounded.

The U.S. interests at stake in Afghanistan do not warrant this level of sacrifice. President Obama justified expanding our commitment by saying the goal was eradicating Al Qaeda. Yet Al Qaeda is no longer a significant presence in Afghanistan, and there are only some 400 hard-core Al Qaeda members remaining in the entire Af/Pak theater, most of them hiding in Pakistan’s northwest provinces.

America’s armed forces have fought bravely and well, and their dedication is unquestioned. But we should not ask them to make sacrifices unnecessary to our core national interests, particularly when doing so threatens long-term needs and priorities both at home and abroad.

Instead of toppling terrorists, America’s Afghan war has become an ambitious and fruitless effort at “nation-building.” We are mired in a civil war in Afghanistan and are struggling to establish an effective central government in a country that has long been fragmented and decentralized.

No matter how desirable this objective might be in the abstract, it is not essential to U.S. security and it is not a goal for which the U.S. military is well suited. There is no clear definition of what would comprise “success” in this endeavor. Creating a unified Afghan state would require committing many more American lives and hundreds of billions of additional U.S. dollars for many years to come.

As the WikiLeaks war diary comprised of more than 91,000 secret reports on the Afghanistan War makes clear, any sense of American and allied progress in the conflict has been undermined by revelations that many more civilian deaths have occurred than have been officially acknowledged as the result of U.S. and allied strike accidents. The Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence continued to provide logistics and financial support to the Afghan Taliban even as U.S. soldiers were fighting these units. It is clear that Karzai government affiliates and appointees in rural Afghanistan have often proven to be more corrupt and ruthless than the Taliban.

Prospects for success are dim. As former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recently warned, “Afghanistan has never been pacified by foreign forces.”2 The 2010 spring offensive in Marjah was inconclusive, and a supposedly “decisive” summer offensive in Kandahar has been delayed and the expectations downgraded. U.S. and allied casualties reached an all-time high in July, and several NATO allies have announced plans to withdraw their own forces.

The conflict in Afghanistan is commonly perceived as a struggle between the Karzai government and an insurgent Taliban movement, allied with international terrorists, that is seeking to overthrow that government. In fact, the conflict is a civil war about power-sharing with lines of contention that are 1) partly ethnic, chiefly, but not exclusively, between Pashtuns who dominate the south and other ethnicities such as Tajiks and Uzbeks who are more prevalent in the north, 2) partly rural vs. urban, particularly within the Pashtun community, and 3) partly sectarian.

The Afghanistan conflict also includes the influence of surrounding nations with a desire to advance their own interests – including India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others. And with the U.S. intervention in force, the conflict includes resistance to what is seen as foreign military occupation.

Resolving the conflict in Afghanistan has primarily to do with resolving the distribution of power among these factions and between the central government and the provinces, and with appropriately decentralizing authority.

Negotiated resolution of these conflicts will reduce the influence of extremists more readily than military action will. The Taliban itself is not a unified movement but instead a label that is applied to many armed groups and individuals that are only loosely aligned and do not necessarily have a fondness for the fundamentalist ideology of the most prominent Taliban leaders.

The Study Group believes the war in Afghanistan has reached a critical crossroads. Our current path promises to have limited impact on the civil war while taking more American lives and contributing to skyrocketing taxpayer debt. We conclude that a fundamentally new direction is needed, one that recognizes the United States’ legitimate interests in Central Asia and is fashioned to advance them. Far from admitting “defeat,” the new way forward acknowledges the manifold limitations of a military solution in a region where our interests lie in political stability. Our recommended policy shifts our resources to focus on U.S. foreign policy strengths in concert with the international community to promote reconciliation among the warring parties, advance economic development, and encourage region-wide diplomatic engagement.

We base these conclusions on the following key points raised in the Study Group’s research and discussions:

* The United States has only two vital interests in the Af/Pak region: 1) preventing Afghanistan from being a “safe haven” from which Al Qaeda or other extremists can organize more effective attacks on the U.S. homeland; and 2) ensuring that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal does not fall into hostile hands.

* Protecting our interests does not require a U.S. military victory over the Taliban. A Taliban takeover is unlikely even if the United States reduces its military commitment. The Taliban is a rural insurgency rooted primarily in Afghanistan’s Pashtun population, and succeeded due in some part to the disenfranchisement of rural Pashtuns. The Taliban’s seizure of power in the 1990s was due to an unusual set of circumstances that no longer exist and are unlikely to be repeated.

* There is no significant Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan today, and the risk of a new “safe haven”there under more “friendly” Taliban rule is overstated. Should an Al Qaeda cell regroup in Afghanistan, the U.S. would have residual military capability in the region sufficient to track and destroy it.

* Al Qaeda sympathizers are now present in many locations globally, and defeating the Taliban will have little effect on Al Qaeda’s global reach. The ongoing threat from Al Qaeda is better met via specific counter-terrorism measures, a reduced U.S. military “footprint” in the Islamic world, and diplomatic efforts to improve America’s overall image and undermine international support for militant extremism.

* Given our present economic circumstances, reducing the staggering costs of the Afghan war is an urgent priority. Maintaining the long-term health of the U.S. economy is just as important to American strength and security as protecting U.S. soil from enemy (including terrorist) attacks.

* The continuation of an ambitious U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan will likely work against U.S. interests. A large U.S. presence fosters local (especially Pashtun) resentment and aids Taliban recruiting. It also fosters dependence on the part of our Afghan partners and encourages closer cooperation among a disparate array of extremist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan alike.
* Past efforts to centralize power in Afghanistan have provoked the same sort of local resistance that is convulsing Afghanistan today. There is ample evidence that this effort will join others in a long line of failed incursions.

* Although the United States should support democratic rule, human rights and economic development, its capacity to mold other societies is inherently limited. The costs of trying should be weighed against our need to counter global terrorist threats directly, reduce America’s $1.4 trillion budget deficit, repair eroding U.S. infrastructure, and other critical national purposes. Our support of these issues will be better achieved as part of a coordinated international group with which expenses and burdens can be shared.

The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them.

On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems.

The more promising path for the U.S. in the Af/Pak region would reverse the recent escalation and move away from a counterinsurgency effort that is neither necessary nor likely to succeed. Instead, the U.S. should:

1. Emphasize power-sharing and political inclusion. The U.S. should fast-track a peace process designed to decentralize power within Afghanistan and encourage a power-sharing balance among the principal parties.

2. Downsize and eventually end military operations in southern Afghanistan, and reduce the U.S. military footprint. The U.S. should draw down its military presence, which radicalizes many Pashtuns and is an important aid to Taliban recruitment.

3. Focus security efforts on Al Qaeda and Domestic Security. Special forces, intelligence assets, and other U.S. capabilities should continue to seek out and target known Al Qaeda cells in the region. They can be ready to go after Al Qaeda should they attempt to relocate elsewhere or build new training facilities. In addition, part of the savings from our drawdown should be reallocated to bolster U.S. domestic security efforts and to track nuclear weapons globally.

4. Encourage economic development. Because destitute states can become incubators for terrorism, drug and human trafficking, and other illicit activities, efforts at reconciliation should be paired with an internationally-led effort to develop Afghanistan’s economy.

5. Engage regional and global stakeholders in a diplomatic effort designed to guarantee Afghan neutrality and foster regional stability. Despite their considerable differences, neighboring states such as India, Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia share a common interest in preventing Afghanistan from being dominated by any single power or being a permanently failed state that exports instability to others.

We believe this strategy will best serve the interests of women in Afghanistan as well. The worst thing for women is for Afghanistan to remain paralyzed in a civil war in which there evolves no organically rooted support for their social advancement.

The remainder of this report elaborates the logic behind these recommendations. It begins by summarizing U.S. vital interests, including our limited interests in Afghanistan itself and in the region more broadly. It then considers why the current strategy is failing and why the situation is unlikely to improve even under a new commander. The final section outlines “A New Way Forward” and explains how a radically different approach can achieve core U.S. goals at an acceptable cost.

Continue reading at the Afghanistan Study Group's website.

"Progress" and "Success": code words for "we really don't have a clue"



A related story: Why Petraeus Can't Make the Sale

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Economics: the dismal and schizophrenic science

Reading economist Robert Reich's column today (The Truth About China As #2), followed by Joe McDonald's piece "China's Slowdown Sends A Chill Through Trade Partners," one gets a sense of the schizophrenic nature of economics.

McDonald leads off with the statement
China's abrupt growth slowdown is sending a chill through Asian economies and as far away as Australia and Africa as its voracious demand for imports fades.

Beijing is cooling its economy with lending and investment curbs after explosive 11.9 percent first-quarter growth fed fears of overheating. Growth is slowing more sharply than expected, cutting demand for American and European factory machinery, industrial components from Asia and iron ore and other raw materials from Australia and Africa.

Then Reich tells us
Think of China as a giant production machine that's growing 10 percent a year (this year, somewhat less). The machine sucks in more and more raw materials and components from rest of world -- it's now the world's #1 buyer of iron ore and copper, and close to the #1 importer of crude oil -- and spews out a growing mountain of stuff, along with huge environmental problems.

But because the Chinese consume a smaller and smaller proportion of this stuff, it has to be exported to consumers elsewhere (Europe, North America, Japan) to keep the Chinese working. Much of the money China earns by selling it around the world is reinvested in factories, roads, trains, and power plants that enlarge China's capacity to produce far more. Another big portion is lent to or invested in the rest of the world (helping to finance America's budget deficit at very low cost).

But this can't go on. China's workers won't allow it. Workers in other nations who are losing their jobs won't allow it, either.

The answer is not simply more labor agitation in China or an upward revaluation of China's currency relative to the dollar. The problem is bigger. All over the world, we're witnessing a growing gap between production and consumption, while the environment continues to degrade. The Chinese machine is fast heading for a breakdown only because it's growing fastest.
Economics routinely uses the term "growth" without qualification. But we all know there are many kinds of growth, and all aren't necessarily good (take cancer, for example.) That growth is good is an unchallenged principle of American Capitalism.

Most of us fail to question that principle. Is all growth good? Obviously not. Then what kind of growth is good? In our capitalist system, the concept of "steady state" or balance seems to be inconceivable. what would that even look like?

Yet environmentalists such as Herman Daly have for decades argued that our present growth-for-growth's sake economic model is unsustainable and that we must re-engineer our economic models to reflect the "closed system" that Planet Earth represents.

I am convinced that there is no going back to the economic model that prevailed in the United States since World War II, that "irrationally exuberant" model of endless economic growth, the "rising tide that lifts all boats". These days, only luxury yachts are riding that tide, their skippers oblivious to the masses desperately flailing in the flood. Choose your metaphor, but America must come to grips with an economic perspective that actually encourages contraction of our out-of-control consumption and financial discipline, while re-inventing an economy based upon conservation, maximum utility of limited resources, full life-cycle accountability; and environmental, economic and social justice.

That may sound socialistic or communistic or whatever. Let's not get hung up on labels. This is what it means to live in a community where everyone takes responsibility.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

America's Biggest Jobs Program -- the U.S. Military

By Robert Reich

Former Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley

America's biggest -- and only major -- jobs program is the U.S. military.

Over 1,400,000 Americans are now on active duty; another 833,000 are in the reserves, many full time. Another 1,600,000 Americans work in companies that supply the military with everything from weapons to utensils. (I'm not even including all the foreign contractors employing non-US citizens.)

If we didn't have this giant military jobs program, the U.S. unemployment rate would be over 11.5 percent today instead of 9.5 percent.

And without our military jobs program personal incomes would be dropping faster. The Commerce Department reported Monday the only major metro areas where both net earnings and personal incomes rose last year were San Antonio, Texas, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. -- because all three have high concentrations of military and federal jobs.

This isn't an argument for more military spending. Just the opposite. Having a giant undercover military jobs program is an insane way to keep Americans employed. It creates jobs we don't need but we keep anyway because there's no honest alternative. We don't have an overt jobs program based on what's really needed.

For example, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Monday his plan to cut spending on military contractors by more than a quarter over three years, congressional leaders balked. Military contractors are major sources of jobs back in members' states and districts. California's Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, demanded that the move "not weaken the nation's defense." That's congress-speak for "over my dead body."

Gates simultaneously announced closing the Joint Force Command in Norfolk, Virginia, that employees 6,324 people and relies on 3,300 private contractors. This prompted Virginia Democratic Senator Jim Webb, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to warn that the closure "would be a step backward." Translated: "No chance in hell."

Gates can't even end useless weapons programs. That's because they're covert jobs programs that employ thousands.

He wants to stop production of the C-17 cargo jet he says is no longer needed. But it keeps 4,000 people working at Boeing's Long Beach assembly plant and 30,000 others at Boeing suppliers strategically located in 40 states. So despite Gates's protests the Senate has approved ten new orders.

That's still not enough to keep all those C-17 workers employed, so the Pentagon and Boeing have been hunting for foreign purchasers. The Indian Air Force is now negotiating to buy ten, and talks are underway with several other nations, including Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Ever wonder why military equipment is one of America's biggest exports? It's our giant military jobs program in action.

Gates has also been trying to stop production of a duplicate engine for the F-25 joint Strike Fighter jet. He says it isn't needed and doesn't justify the $2.9 billion slated merely to develop it.

But the unnecessary duplicate engine would bring thousands of jobs to Indiana and Ohio. Cunningly, its potential manufacturers Rolls-Royce and General Electric created a media blitz (mostly aimed at Washington, D.C. where lawmakers wold see it) featuring an engine worker wearing a "Support Our Troops" T-shirt and arguing the duplicate engine will create 4,000 American jobs. Presto. Despite a veto threat from the White House, a House panel has just approved funding the duplicate.

By the way, Gates isn't trying to cut the overall Pentagon budget. He just wants to trim certain programs to make room for more military spending with a higher priority.

The Pentagon's budget -- and its giant undercover jobs program -- keeps expanding. The President has asked Congress to hike total defense spending next year 2.2 percent, to $708 billion. That's 6.1 percent higher than peak defense spending during the Bush administration.

This sum doesn't even include Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, nuclear weapons management, and intelligence. Add these, and next year's national security budget totals about $950 billion.

That's a major chunk of the entire federal budget. But most deficit hawks don't dare cut it. National security is sacrosanct.

Yet what's really sacrosanct is the giant jobs program that's justified by national security. National security is a cover for job security.

This is nuts.

Wouldn't it be better to have a jobs program that created things we really need -- like light-rail trains, better school facilities, public parks, water and sewer systems, and non-carbon energy sources -- than things we don't, like obsolete weapons systems?

Historically some of America's biggest jobs programs that were critical to the nation's future have been justified by national defense, although they've borne almost no relation to it. The National Defense Education Act of the late 1950s trained a generation of math and science teachers. The National Defense Highway Act created millions of construction jobs turning the nation's two-lane highways into four- and six-lane Interstates.

Maybe this is the way to convince Republicans and blue-dog Democrats to spend more federal dollars putting Americans back, and working on things we genuinely need: Call it the National Defense Full Employment Act.

This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Andrew Bacevich on Afghanistan War: "The President Lacks the Guts to Get Out"

Democracy Now broadcast.
Retired US Army colonel and historian Andrew Bacevich joins us for his first interview about his new book, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. “The question demands to be asked: Who is more deserving of contempt?” Bacevich asks. “The commander-in-chief who sends young Americans to die for a cause, however misguided, in which he sincerely believes? Or the commander-in-chief who sends young Americans to die for a cause in which he manifestly does not believe and yet refuses to forsake?” [includes rush transcript]
Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today with news from Afghanistan. On Sunday, the Netherlands became the first NATO country to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan, ending a four-year military presence that brought down a Dutch government. Canada and Poland have also pledged to pull all their troops out of Afghanistan in the next two years. There were less than 2,000 Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan. Canada and Poland have just over 2,500 troops in the country.

Meanwhile, American forces in Afghanistan are expected to reach 100,000 by next month. Although President Obama has pledged to begin withdrawing US troops in July 2011, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told ABC’s This Week broadcast Sunday that only a small number of troops would leave next year.

DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: I think we need to reemphasize the message that we are not leaving Afghanistan in July of 2011. We are beginning a transition process and a thinning of our ranks that will — and this pace will depend on the conditions on the ground. The President has been very clear about that. Again, July 2011 is not the end. It is the beginning of a transition.

AMY GOODMAN: July was the deadliest month for the US military in Afghanistan with sixty-six deaths. But it was also a devastating month for many Afghans, with more than 270 civilians killed and some 600 wounded. Two hundred people marched through Kabul Sunday to protest the deaths of some forty-five civilians in a NATO rocket attack on Helmand province the previous week.

PROTESTER 1: [translated] We gathered here to condemn the brutal action of America. Tens of Afghan civilians get killed by Americans every day, mostly women. Without recognizing whether they are Taliban or not, they get killed.

PROTESTER 2: [translated] Our demands are for NATO and the Americans to leave our country as soon as possible. We Afghans must come together to choose our path and make the destiny of Afghanistan. We must end this deadlock.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, as American military operations in Afghanistan continue to escalate, I’m joined here in New York by retired US Army colonel, historian and bestselling author Andrew Bacevich. He’s a professor of international relations and history at Boston University and the author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. His latest book, just out this week, is called Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.

Andrew Bacevich, welcome to Democracy Now!

ANDREW BACEVICH: Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you’ve heard a series of stunning and horrifying figures, because any civilian killed is a horrifying situation. What do you think needs to happen in Afghanistan right now?

ANDREW BACEVICH: In a sense, I think, although that’s the question that everybody focuses on, I’ve come to believe it’s really the wrong question. And it’s the wrong question in the sense that it’s important step back and try to take in a larger view. And the larger question, I think, is, what exactly is the threat that the United States faces from these radical, violent Islamists, and what strategy should the United States pursue in order to deal with that threat? The strategy that the Bush administration set out on in the immediate wake of 9/11 was based on the assumption that American military power was so overpowering that we would be able to invade and occupy and transform societies, thereby, they thought, removing the conditions that produces anti-American violence. Well, we’ve given that effort roughly a nine-year experiment now, and it hasn’t worked, despite the fact that we have invested probably trillions of dollars in our efforts to transform Iraq and Afghanistan. So the prior question is not so much what to do about Afghanistan as what ought to be the basis for a sound American strategy. And then, once we have conceived of that strategy, then you ask the question, well, then how does Afghanistan fit within that strategy?

AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you think that strategy should look like?

ANDREW BACEVICH: I think that the — I do believe there is a threat to the United States. Nine-eleven happened. There are people who want to launch attacks against the United States. I don’t believe it’s an existential threat. This notion that we face something called Islamofascism, this notion that al-Qaeda has the capacity to establish some new caliphate extending across the Islamic world, it’s absurd. The threat is real; the threat is limited. And I think that we should see the threat as akin to an international criminal conspiracy. And the best way to deal with an international criminal conspiracy is through an international police effort, collaborating with allies who have an interest in preventing terrorist attacks, and address the problem that way, much as — much as I think the international community attempts to address the problem of the Mafia. And that doesn’t involve occupying, invading countries, believing that you can somehow transform them.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to a speech of President Obama. He gave it last December, when he announced the United States would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. This is a part of his justification for escalating the war. He gave this speech at West Point on December 1st.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: More than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades, a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down and markets open and billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty. For, unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for, what we continue to fight for, is a better future for our children and grandchildren. And we believe that their lives will be better if other people’s children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama justifying the escalation of war. Professor Bacevich, your response?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, it’s a very sanitized version of American history that I imagine many Americans find agreeable, but it does tremendous violence to the actual facts of our post-World War II history. I mean, we are not an imperial nation in the sense that Great Britain or France, nations like that, were once imperial nations, but we are imperial. We wish to dominate. We wish to ensure that norms that work to the advantage, or perceive to work to the advantage, of the United States prevail across the world. And we are, I think, uniquely, in this moment, determined to rely on military power to enforce those norms.

And the most important thing, I think, to realize about that notion that I just described is it’s not working. I mean, we’re bankrupt in the country. We are headed towards, I think, ever greater, more difficult economic times that will result in us failing in our most fundamental obligation, laid out in the Preamble of the Constitution, which is to provide the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. The path on which we have embarked and on which we continue to pursue is very much at odds with what the founding purpose of this republic was supposed to be.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, retired colonel, Vietnam War vet, author of, well, the book that’s coming out this week, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. We’ll be back with him in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest today is Andrew Bacevich. This is his first interview on his book that’s coming out tomorrow, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. I wanted to read a quote from a piece you just recently wrote, where you’re saying, “The question demands to be asked: Who is more deserving of contempt? The commander-in-chief who sends young Americans to die for a cause, however misguided, in which he sincerely believes? Or the commander-in-chief who sends young Americans to die for a cause in which he manifestly does not believe and yet refuses to forsake?”

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I’m referring to President Obama here. I voted for President Obama. I admire President Obama. And I want to see him make good on his promise to us to change the way Washington works. In particular, I want to see him address the Washington rules, this pattern of behavior in the realm of national security policy that I think is so wrongheaded. And I’m deeply disappointed that he has chosen not to do that.

You showed the clip from the West Point speech in December 2009, when he made the decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan and to make it Obama’s war. I think that was a tragic error. The Afghanistan decision was his opportunity to begin to chart a new course on national security policy, to begin to break away from this pattern of behavior that we’ve adhered to for the past sixty or so years. And he blew it. I can’t pretend to look into his heart and understand what factors caused him to make the decision he did. I suspect that a political calculation may have weighed more heavily than a strategic calculation or a moral calculation. And I find that deeply upsetting, because I, and I think many of us, felt that here, finally, was a public figure who — whose decisions would not be influenced primarily by political calculations.

AMY GOODMAN: Who is putting pressure on him? What is he responding to? I mean, the polls, if this is a political calculation, are not bearing up for him.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, no. I think — I mean, my guess is the President probably right now has a case of buyer’s remorse and is wishing that he hadn’t actually made the decision that he did, but it has become Obama’s war. I mean, he finds himself in a circumstance now where, having bought the war, it’s going worse now than it was last year. And he’s basically facing a reelection campaign right around the corner. Unless David Petraeus, our new commander, truly pulls a rabbit out of the hat, then President Obama will run for reelection in 2012 with this war still very much ongoing and, in all likelihood, with no end in sight.

But you asked the question, where does the pressure come from? And the pressure comes from what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex. The pressure comes from the national security apparatus. There are people in institutions who are deeply invested in maintaining the status quo. There are budgets, there are prerogatives, there are ambitions, that ostensibly get satisfied by maintaining this drive for American globalism, again, backed by an emphasis on military power. So I don’t discount for a second that the President would have had to, you know, shove aside some fairly stubborn resistance to make that course change on Afghanistan, and he chose not to do it.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel you’ve made a radical transformation? Talk about your own trajectory in life, fighting in Vietnam, and how you came to the point you have.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I don’t know that it’s a radical transformation. I mean, I think there are many of us for whom life is a journey, and mine has been a journey. When I was a serving officer for twenty-three years, I think trying to do my best as a serving officer, I was not particularly — I did not engage in serious critical thinking. To some degree, serious critical thinking is inconsistent, perhaps, with being a professional officer.

When I got out of the Army in 1992, this was in the immediate aftermath of the end of the Cold War. I vaguely, very vaguely, expected that — since the Cold War, this long-term national security emergency, ostensibly provided the rationale for a global military presence and global interventionism and huge defense budgets, I vaguely expected that the end of the Cold War would see us becoming more of a normal nation. And when that didn’t happen, I began to ask myself why that was the case.

And the conclusion I came up with is — I mean, in the essence of the conclusion, is that we do what we do in the world, to include in places like Afghanistan, not because we are threatened, not because we are obliged to respond to something over there; we do what we do in the world largely as a result of domestic imperatives, perceived domestic imperatives. And I think that if you evaluate US foreign policy and national security policy from that perspective, then it becomes rather obvious that we are an imperial nation, we are a hegemonic nation, we are a nation that has embraced a militarized approach to policy that sets us apart from every other liberal democracy, perhaps with the exception of Israel. And again, it doesn’t work. It’s not making us safer and more prosperous and enabling us to enjoy and pursue liberty. On the contrary, I think it generates enemies, it’s undercutting our economy, and in many respects, it’s contributing to the growth of a national security state that is at odds with the exercise of individual freedom.

AMY GOODMAN: You wrote a piece called “The End of Military History?” comparing the United States, Israel and the failure of the Western way of war, paralleling the failures of Israel and US military involvement in the last two decades.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, the point of the piece, I think, is to argue that Western nations, democratic nations, generally, took from the whole experience of the twentieth century. They concluded that war really doesn’t work very well. War is something to be avoided if at all possible. Israel and the United States, I think, took a different conclusion from the twentieth century. And the conclusion that both Israel and the United States drew was that war can work, victory is feasible, and that victory achieved can translate into political advantage. And from, I think, our present perspective, both looking at the dilemmas that Israel faces and the dilemmas that we face, the evidence is pretty clear: victory is almost impossible to achieve in a really meaningful way. And even when you think you’ve achieved a great victory, somehow the political benefits turn out to be very ephemeral.

I mean, in many respects, the Six-Day War of 1967 is viewed as one of the great military triumphs of the contemporary era, when David defeated Goliath. But if we look at the problems that beset Israel today, in many respects I think they grow directly from that ostensibly great victory, because out of victory came the conviction that a greater Israel was a feasible project. Out of greater Israel — that out of that comes the settlement movement. Out of that becomes Israel having shackled itself to the Palestinian people, whose birth rate is so much higher than that of Israeli Jews. So, you know, what exactly did they get out of the 1967 war? What did we get out of a comparably great triumph — was perceived at the time — in Operation Desert Storm back in 1991? All we did was find ourselves more deeply embedded in the greater Middle East.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you believe, Andrew Bacevich, that the US is fighting terrorism?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think — of course, “terrorism” is one of these words — you know, what exactly do you mean? I believe that a portion of — that part of the rationale for our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, part of the rationale, is to — is a wrongheaded, misguided effort to eliminate movements like al-Qaeda. It’s not working, and it won’t work. But that certainly is not a complete and adequate explanation of why we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are in that part of the world because of oil. We are in that part of the world because Washington is insistent on its — that it will demonstrate that America’s will shall not be defied, you know, that we cannot afford to back down in Afghanistan, many people in Washington believe, because that would call into question American global leadership. I think American global leadership, in many respects, is an illusion, and it’s a self-defeating illusion. But there are a variety of — if it were only one reason why we were fighting these wars, in a sense, it might be easier to turn them off. But they are perceived to serve multiple interests.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about their — what would be more effective in dealing with, for example, what happened on September 11th, is more a police action.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what force deals with a police action?

ANDREW BACEVICH: The CIA, the FBI, to some degree Special Operations Forces. I’m not — I’m, by no means, trying to suggest that we would, you know, throw flowers in the direction of al-Qaeda and expect them to like us. We are engaged in what is a serious — again, not existential — struggle with these forces.

But I think, more broadly, again, the conversation shouldn’t be simply about what do we do about the terrorists; I think the conversation has to be, what do we do about the Islamic world? And I phrase it that way — it’s kind of an inflammatory way of phrasing it, because many people in Washington think we’re supposed to do something about the Islamic world, that somehow either we have an obligation or certainly we have the ability to do something about the Islamic world. And I think that’s absurd. It’s nonsense. There are problems in the Islamic world, and the people who need to address those problems, in the first instance, are the people in the Islamic world. I mean, I have written, “Let Islam be Islam.” Let the people of the Islamic world find their own way to reconcile religious belief with the demands of modernity. That’s what we in the West have struggled to do, and have done it with some success, albeit incomplete success. We owe it to the people of the Islamic world to allow them to do the same thing. What’s our role? Our role, I think, is to demonstrate that liberal values can be compatible with religious belief. And how do we do that? Well, we do that by keeping faith with liberal values here at home and providing an example that may, in a very small way, be useful for people who live in other parts of the world.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Andrew Bacevich. His book is Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. You were in Vietnam. I wanted to talk about the — what many are calling the equivalent of the Pentagon Papers. It’s WikiLeaks, the release of some 91,000 classified military documents relating to the war in Afghanistan by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. It remains a major concern of the Pentagon. This is Admiral Mike Mullen on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN: The leaks themselves don’t look clearly at the war that we’re in. There is an ability to put this kind of information together in the world that we’re living in. And the potential for costing us lives, I think, is significant. I said, when it first occurred, I was appalled — I remain appalled — and that the potential for the loss of lives of American soldiers or coalition soldiers or Afghan citizens is clearly there.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is Defense Secretary Robert Gates on ABC’s This Week.

DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: My attitude on this is that there are two — two areas of culpability. One is legal culpability, and that’s up to the Justice Department and others; that’s not my arena. But there’s also a moral culpability. And that’s where I think the verdict is guilty on WikiLeaks. They have put this out without any regard whatsoever for the consequences.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Andrew Bacevich, your response?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I mean, there are competing imperatives here. I mean, in many respects, I think I’m a First Amendment — I don’t know if “radical” is the correct term, but I mean, I — there are — the government lies to us. The government conceals. And anything that can help to reveal information to the public that is of relevance to our understanding of ongoing affairs, that information — people who release it, I think, in some senses, are serving the public interest.

The other issue, though, is we want to have — if we’re going to have a military, we need to have a military in which there is good order and discipline. And we want to have a military in which civilian authorities are the ones who make decisions. In that regard, having a PFC who’s leaking 90,000 classified documents, I do think —-

AMY GOODMAN: If, in fact, Manning is the one who did it.

ANDREW BACEVICH: If he’s the one -— I do think is a reprehensible action. But it’s also reprehensible when, in the summer of 2009, before President Obama had made his Afghanistan decision, that the McChrystal recommendation was leaked to the Washington Post, which effectively hijacked the debate over what the Obama administration should do about the Afghanistan war. And I don’t remember Admiral Mullen or Secretary Gates or these other people deciding that they were going to go find out who leaked the McChrystal recommendations, because I believe that that is as reprehensible as this leak of the 90,000 documents. That was a direct assault on civilian control of the military. So if you’re going to get upset about one, you ought to get upset about the other, too.

AMY GOODMAN: But the amount of information that’s coming out in these 90,000 documents, what Julian Assange calls the evidence of war crimes at every level — a few months ago, we released the document — the video from July 12th, 2007, of the US military bombing New Baghdad. They killed two Reuters employees in that one attack. And you’re seeing document after document, KIA, KIA, civilian, civilian, civilian.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, first of all, war is ugly. War is messy. You know, the notion that in an age of high technology those aspects of war are swept aside is simply not the case. I, myself, did not — I didn’t read the 90,000 documents; I read the press reports of the documents. I didn’t learn anything. I mean, yes, of course, we are killing civilians. And yes, of course, the killing of civilians in Afghanistan, even setting aside moral considerations, which I don’t think should be set aside, the killing of civilians in Afghanistan flies in the face of our supposed claim that we’re there to win the hearts and minds of the people. I’m simply saying that that didn’t come as news to me. There wasn’t a lot of news in the leaks in terms of at least changing my own sense of the nature of this conflict and how it was going.

AMY GOODMAN: But war is made up of many different actions. And, for example, we know, for example, Vietnam, My Lai was extremely significant, and there may have been many of them. But to know it, well, helps to end the war, because people, when they hear about particular cases and names and places, that’s what makes people respond.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, that’s a fair comment, although, you know, we are about what? A week into this story, and we’ll see how it unfolds. My own sense is that it’s — the WikiLeak story is not likely to have the same legs that My Lai did. But we’ll see.

AMY GOODMAN: Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War — what was your greatest revelation, do you think? Or what were you most surprised by in doing your research as you pulled this book together?

ANDREW BACEVICH: I think it was the way that people devoted to the Washington rules in the wake of Vietnam exerted themselves very effectively to ensure that the Vietnam experience would not matter. I mean, again, you mention I’m a Vietnam veteran, and I tend probably to put more emphasis on Vietnam, in a sense, than it deserves, in terms of my own worldview. But as we sit here in 2010 and reflect on the Vietnam War, what becomes increasingly apparent to me is that its policy significance turned out to be actually trivial. I mean, within five years after the fall of Saigon, we are — we’ve elected Ronald Reagan. Within fifteen years after the end of — after the fall of Saigon, we are intervening in the first Iraq war. And it is astonishing to me, in retrospect, how little this event, the Vietnam War, which tore the country apart and seemed to discredit the Washington rules, seemed to discredit our approach to national security policy and globalism — what’s astonishing is how little and how ephemeral its effect turned out to be.

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Bacevich, I want to thank you for being with us, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, retired colonel, Vietnam War vet. His most recent book is coming out tomorrow. It’s called Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. Thanks so much for being with us.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Thank you.