Today’s broadsheet from the FM website pressroom with three sections of hot news.
- Links to interesting news and analysis
- Quote of the day: Louis Napoleon is an example for us
- Feature article: “Circular reasoning Afghanistan” by Yglesias
- Plus, an Afterword
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(1) Today’s links
- “Girl Crazy: Women Who Suffer from Gender Disappointment”, Ruth Shalit Barrett, Elle, 9 October 2009 — More evidence that girls are the preferred gender in 21st America. See the text here.
- An example of American justice at its best: “Hero of the Day: Jeffrey Spinner“, blog of the Financial Times, 25 November 2009 — Also see the subscription-only Newsday article.
- “How some retired military officers became well-paid consultants“, USA Today, 17 November 2009 — Paid by us (twice) and the defense industry; how sweet life is!
- “Extreme Risks“, Watson Wyatt (global consultancy on HR and financial matters), 23 November 2009 — “we identify and rank 15 extreme risks that would have a high impact on global economic growth and asset returns if they occurred.”
Today’s power graphic: Federal Tax Dollars, Visual Economics, 12 November 2009 – A colorful look at federal tax payments versus allotments by State.
(2) Quote of the day: Louis Napoleon is an example for us
Feckless foreign policy is a commonplace in history, adopted by incompetents at many times and places. Like that player at the game of Empires, Louis Napoleon. History repeats itself, differently every time.
Louis Napoleon’s Roman policy, throughout his reign, showed his methods at their worst — a revolutionary aim, in this case, the satisfying of Italian feeling over Rome, without the use of revolutionary means, that is without a breach with the pope.
When one state is completely dependent on another, it is the weaker which can call the tune: it can threaten to collapse unless supported, and its protector has no answering threat in return.
— A. J. P. Taylor, Chapter II – The Diplomacy of reaction in The Struggle for Mastery in Europe: 1848-1918 (1954)
This obvious fact surprises America’s geopolitical experts again and again, as our client states flout our will.
(3) Feature article: “Circular reasoning Afghanistan” by Yglesias
As America’s foreign policy experts devise increasingly bizarre justifications for the Af-Pak War, their efforts resemble little more than auditions for Rodeo Clown School. Note: these are professionals at work; do not try these things at home!
In the center ring, our courtiers warm the audience up for Obama’s expansion of the war — an event as predictable and ritualistic a King’s coronation. None do this better than the New York Times: “Afghan Strategy Will Contain Messages to Several Audiences“, 24 November 2009 — Excerpt:
But for years, throughout the Bush administration and into the Obama administration, American officials have been making trips to Pakistan to reassure its government that the United States has no intention of pulling out of Afghanistan as it did 20 years ago, after the Soviets retreated from the country. Inside the Pakistani Army and the intelligence service, which is known as the ISI, it is an article of faith among some officers that the United States is deceiving them, and that it will replay 1989.
If that happens, some Pakistanis argue, India will fill the void in southern Afghanistan, leaving Pakistan surrounded by its longtime enemy. So any talk of exit strategies is bound to reaffirm the belief of some Pakistani officials that they have to maintain their contacts with the Taliban — their hedge against Indian encroachment.
Today’s exegesis of the Palace news is by Matthew Yglesias of Think Progress: “Circular Reasoning in Afghanistan“, 25 November 2009 — Excerpt:
This was definitely a popular line of thought inside the Bush administration and seems to have some continuing sway in the Obama administration (especially because a lot of the personnel — Gates, Luti, Petraeus — is the same) but it seems in tension with the other popular theory that we need to stay in Afghanistan because a Taliban takeover would destabilize Pakistan.
Or perhaps it’s better to say that the reasoning is circular. To win in Afghanistan we need to convince the Pakistanis that we’re staying forever, since otherwise they’ll back the Taliban and we won’t be able to beat the Taliban which we need to do as a favor to the Pakistanis.
There are other perspectives, of course. Such as in this comment by Omega Centauri:
Some very circular optics needed here: To win in Afghanistan we need to convince the Pakistanis that we will never leave. But also to win in Afghanistan we need to convince the Afghanistan is that we are going to leave, otherwise they will feel they have to fight us as an occupying power. There is no win-win, here, only win-lose or lose-win. But, I am confident that we are talented enough to convert it into a lose-lose.
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