Weekend reading


  1. The Surge — Is It Soup Yet?“, Gary Brecher (aka The War Nerd), Taki’s Mgazine, 18 March 2008
  2. Why Cheney Won’t Take Down Iran“, Tom Engelhardt, 8 July 2008 — “Reality Bites Back; Why the U.S. Won’t Attack Iran”
  3. Myths in Al Qaeda’s ‘home’“, By Joshua Foust and Jeb Koogler, Christian Science Monitor, 10 July 2008 — “Policymakers need to grasp cultural realities in Pakistan’s tribal area.”


1.  The Surge — Is It Soup Yet?“, Gary Brecher (aka The War Nerd), Taki’s Mgazine, 18 March 2008 — Excerpt:

Many people seem to enjoy repeating “the is Surge working, the Surge is working…” over and over again on television. So just before we pop the Champaign at the fifth-year anniversary party for the invasion of Iraq, and celebrate the completion of the freshman year of our ballyhooed “new strategy,” perhaps we should ask, “is the Surge working-really?

… That’s the best answer I can give on the Surge: if you’re willing to go on throwing away men and money – about $3 trillion according to that Nobel Prize hotshot Stiglitz – to prop up a lost cause, then yeah, it’s working great! … Stiglitz argues that the real reason why the dollar has tanked and credit has crunched and all the mortgages are going bust is because we broke the bank in Iraq, pouring all those billions in to persuade the local gangbangers not to shoot at us.

That’s the Surge.

The only reason people think “it’s working” is that our strategy, pre-Surge, was so bad that pretty much anything would be a step up. The easiest way to win “Most Improved” is to have a lousy start to your season. And it doesn’t get much lousier than our counterinsurgency performance from 2003-2006.

… You may have heard about successful counterinsurgency wars. Fact is, there aren’t many of them and they usually involve a tiny, easily-identified minority. Nagl talks a lot about Malaya in his book, but the fact is that in Malaya the British could simply isolate and wipe out the Chinese militants because the ethnic Malay majority hated the ethnic Chinese from way back.

… Iran owns Iraq now; we’re just housesitting. The Mullahs are so cocky that Ahmadinejad strolled into Baghdad a few weeks back, taunting the US, and got a big hug from our man Maliki. The real shocker is that Ahmadinejad drove downtown from the airport.

2.  Why Cheney Won’t Take Down Iran“, Tom Engelhardt, 8 July 2008 — “Reality Bites Back; Why the U.S. Won’t Attack Iran”  Excerpt:

Let’s take a moment to imagine just what some of the responses to any air assault might be. The list of possibilities is nearly endless and many of them would be hard even for the planet’s preeminent military power to prevent. They might include, as a start, the mining of the Strait of Hormuz, through which a significant portion of the world’s oil passes, as well as other disruptions of shipping in the region. (Don’t even think about what would happen to insurance rates for oil tankers!)

In addition, American troops on their mega-bases in Iraq, rather than being a powerful force in any attack — Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has already cautioned President Bush that Iraqi territory cannot be used to attack Iran — would instantly become so many hostages to Iranian actions, including the possible targeting of those bases by missiles. Similarly, U.S. supply lines for those troops, running from Kuwait past the southern oil port of Basra might well become hostages of a different sort, given the outrage that, in Shiite regions of Iraq, would surely follow an attack. Those lines would assumedly not be impossible to disrupt.

Imagine, as well, what possible disruptions of the modest Iraqi oil supply might mean in the chaos of the moment, with Iranian oil already off the market. Then consider what the targeting of even small numbers of Iranian missiles on the Saudi and Kuwaiti oil fields could do to global oil markets. (It might not even matter whether they actually hit anything.) And that, of course, just scratches the surface of the range of retaliatory possibilities available to Iranian leaders.

… And that’s without even taking into consideration what spreading chaos in the oil heartlands of the planet might mean, or what might happen if Hezbollah or Hamas took action of any sort against Israel, and Israel responded. Mohamed ElBaradei, the sober-minded head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, considering the situation, said the following: “A military strike, in my opinion, would be worse than anything possible. It would turn the region into a fireball…”

… Here’s the point: Yes, there is a powerful faction in this administration, headed by the Vice President, which has, it seems, saved its last rounds of ammunition for a strike against Iran. The question, of course, is: Are they still capable of creating “their own reality” and imposing it, however briefly, on the planet? Every tick upwards in the price of oil says no. Every day that passes makes an attack on Iran harder to pull off.

… They would have to act, after all, against the unfettered opposition of the American people; against leading military commanders who, even if obliged to follow a direct order from the President, have other ways to make their wills known; against key figures in the administration; and, above all, against reality which bears down on them with a weight that is already staggering — and still growing.

3.  Myths in Al Qaeda’s ‘home’“, By Joshua Foust and Jeb Koogler, Christian Science Monitor, 10 July 2008 — “Policymakers need to grasp cultural realities in Pakistan’s tribal area.”

With continuous cross-border attacks from Pakistan fueling a resilient insurgency, Afghan President Hamid Karzai finally snapped. If Islamabad did not move more forcefully against Islamic militants in the country’s tribal region, he declared recently, Afghan forces would enter Pakistan and do it themselves.

While the remark shocked Pakistani authorities and sparked a brief diplomatic row, it is not just President Karzai who is concerned about militancy in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Policymakers in London, New Delhi, and Washington are also worried about a territory increasingly referred to as Al Qaeda’s new home.

 Please share your comments by posting below, brief and relevant, please.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

1 thought on “Weekend reading”

  1. All three are good articles, thanks for sharing.

    I need to disagree with Gary Bretcher on the economics of the Surge. While the Surge has been expensive and the value of the dollar is sinking, it is sinking primarily because of run-away domestic spending (the butter to reduce the political cost of the guns in Iraq, a reversal of the Johnson’s goals in the 1960’s).

    The cost of the war in Iraq might very well add up to $3 trillion over the next 75 years. Medicare Part D, by itself, will have cost this country over $3 trillion dollars by 2012. Then it starts getting REALLY expensive.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Agreed. In the next few years I suspect we will wish we still had the money blown on the expeditions to Iraq and Afghanistan — but it is too small an amount to have substantially affected the US dollar.

    The US dollar is weak after decades of accellerating national spending above our national income — resulting in a trade deficit and large loans from foreign creditors.

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