FM newswire for 3 December, hot articles for your morning reading

Today’s broadsheet from the FM website pressroom, with 7 sections of hot news.  Lot’s happening in the world today, mostly either overlooked or misinterpreted by the mainstream media.

  1. Links to interesting news and analysis
  2. Ignore the b.s. commentary; here’s all you need to know about Obama’s Af-Pak War speech
  3. A story about big news, compared to which all of the rest is trivia
  4. Feature article:  Nightwatch in Afghanistan, by John McCreary
  5. Update:  we’re in Afghanistan to protect its women!
  6. Experts’ corrective to the nonsense about tribes in Afghanistan
  7. Update: will the European Union survive?
  8. Plus an Afterword

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(1)  Today’s links

  1. Occupied Paris: The Sweet and the Cruel“, Ian Buruma, New York Review of Books, 17 december 2009 — A corrective to the romantic myths about occupied Europe.
  2. The Big Muslim Problem!“, Malise Ruthven, New York Review of Books, 17 December 2009 — Important and powerful discussion about Islam, and its abilty to integrate into western societies. A nice complement to the amateur analysis that dominates geopolitical websites.
  3. The great trade collapse: Causes, Consequences and Prspects“, editor Richard Baldwin, Centre for Economic Policy Research, 27 November 2009 — Long report, powerful analysis.
  4. CRUdGate – Why this can’t be swept under the carpet“, Devil’s Kitchen, 27 November 2009 — Nice non-technical and visual explanation of the climate science debate.
  5. GIStemp – A Human View“, E.M.Smith, 9 November 2009 — A clear non-technical explanation of why the US surface temperature data (perhaps the world’s best) is unreliable. It’s nothing that cannot be fixed with money, which would be well-spent. But many climate scientists would instead prefer to be the legislatures of mankind, rather than do the boring work of gathering vital data.
  6. Dilemmas for Doctors“, Jerome E. Groopman, New York Review of Books, 17 December 2009 — A doctor talks about his craft, the financial pressures, and health care reform.
  7. Global Warming And Glacier Melt-Down Debate: A Tempest In A Teapot?”, Madhav L. Khandekar, 1 December 2009

(2)  Ignore the b.s. commentary; here’s all you need to know about Obama’s Af-Pak War speech

Most of the commentary about Obama’s speech makes the absurd assumption that the President sets US strategy.  History clearly proves this false, as seen in the long-term continuity of US foreign policy.  Note the expansionistic period from the Civil War through WWII. And the Cold War.

Assuming that our policy results from personal decision gives geopolitical experts much to write about — all easily forgotten froth — and fodder for endless newsper headlines.  All nonsense.  The policy for a great nation, a hegemonic power, like the US results from decisions of its ruling elites.  Powerful interst groups.  Once set, it’s changed only slowly and with difficulty.

For example, US policy towards “Red China” was obviously insane for the decade before Nixon’s trip to China (as the Vulcan’s said, “Only Nixon could go to China”).

Our policy of expandingt the Af-Pak War was set in concret years ago, as described in this post:

(3)  A story about big news, compared to which all of the rest is trivia

Excerpt from “The war on terror is the real women’s issue – Feminists whine about life in the West but they won’t fight the bigger battle“, Mark Steyn, Macleans, 9 January 2006:

… the defining image of contemporary Canadian maleness is not M Lepine/Gharbi but the professors and the men in that classroom, who, ordered to leave by the lone gunman, meekly did so, and abandoned their female classmates to their fate — an act of abdication that would have been unthinkable in almost any other culture throughout human history. The “men” stood outside in the corridor and, even as they heard the first shots, they did nothing. And, when it was over and Gharbi walked out of the room and past them, they still did nothing. Whatever its other defects, Canadian manhood does not suffer from an excess of testosterone.

For more about this, see the Wikipedia entry on École Polytechnique massacre.  He killed 14 women and injured 10 more.  For more on the changing roles of women and men, see

(4)  Feature article: Nightwatch in Afghanistan, by John McCreary

October in Afghanistan“, John McCreary, Nighwatch, AFCEA International, 27 November 2009 — One of the best reports I’ve seen on the Af-Pak War.  Excerpt:

The number of clashes in October in the NightWatch sample, as reported in open sources, has doubled, compared to October 2008. In October 2009, the sample recorded 626 clashes, compared to 314 in October 2008.

The number of provinces experiencing clashes in October 2009 was 30 of 34, the lowest number since last December, in the NightWatch data base. Nevertheless, the number of provinces that experienced daily clashes rose to 14, whereas it had been 12 for all of 2008.

… After more than a year of effort, Taliban and anti-government Pashtuns succeeded in creating and supporting a persistent threat in two northern provinces, most notably in Konduz. The fighting data does not suggest a large and capable force, such as those that operate in districts adjacent to Pakistan and in the Pashtun heartland in the south.

… Overall NightWatch continues to assess that the reach of the Taliban is coextensive with the Pashtun population. In that sense, they appear to have peaked, or culminated, relative to the number of districts they can control.

They can increase the violence, but that does not equate to enlarged geographic control. Most of the fighting remains centered in the Pashtun heartland, as it was a year ago. They do not look like they can win, but nor can they be defeated in any military sense in the now fourteen core provinces.

… The Killed-Wounded-Captured Casualty Ratio of Taliban to Allied forces moved in favor of the Taliban in October 2009, rising to 1:1. In October 2008, the ratio was 6:1, sharply favoring Allied forces. The ratio means that for every Allied soldier killed, wounded or kidnapped, the Allies killed, wounded or captured a single Taliban.

This means the Taliban gave as good as they got and almost certainly reflects the reduction in direct air support to NATO soldiers in combat.

… Based on the patterns in the district-level fighting data, NightWatch continues to assess that the Taliban movement is co-extensive with Pashtun settlement patterns. Taliban have failed to expand their appeal beyond their core ethnic group.

About the author, by Major General Glen Shaffer, USAF (Ret.)

John McCreary is an unsung hero of U.S. Intelligence. He spent 38 years serving the Department of Defense Intelligence as a strategic analyst, most of that time in the Directorate of Intelligence (J2) office of the Joint Staff serving the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the Secretary of Defense. This is where I got to know John. I retired as the J2 in 2003 and John was the senior analyst on the staff. John was, quite simply, the very best intelligence analyst I ever worked with in my 33 year career.

NightWatch was John’s informal daily all-source intelligence email commentary on national security affairs for the J2, sent before John left the office, in the wee hours of the morning. It recapped the key developments during the prior 24 hours and was accompanied by John’s assessment and forecast of what to expect. He would also include his views on the strengths and weaknesses of assessments by fellow intelligence organizations. John had done NightWatch for many years and for many J2s before me, and the result was many courtesy copies that were disseminated well beyond the sitting J2, literally to every major U.S. military command around the world.

About the author:  source

(5)  Update:  we’re in Afghanistan to protect its women!

No matter how foolish the logic, there are those enerst voices using it as an excuse for our foreign wars.  The “invade and bomb to protect Afghanistan’s women” meme will not die.  Despite the absurdity of condeming America to thankless endless foreign wars in the far corners of the world, ernest voices uge us to onwards to our doom.  Such as these articles by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, posted at The Daily Beast.  She lays paving stones on the road to Hell…

(a)  Don’t Abandon Us, Obama“, 11 November 2009 — “One group in Afghanistan is particularly on edge as Obama makes his final call on the troop surge—women. Gayle Lemmon talks to female leaders about their fears of a Taliban resurgence.”

(b)  What the Surge Means for Women“, 1 December 2009 — “In Afghanistan, where domestic violence is epidemic, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon speaks to young mothers who’ve survived abuse and want women’s rights to top the military’s agenda.

(6)  Experts’ corrective to the nonsense about tribes in Afghanistan

(a)  “My Cousin’s Enemy is My Friend: A Study of Pashtun ‘Tribes’ in Afghanistan“, Afghanistan Research Reachback Center White Paper, Human Terrain System, United States Army September 2009

(b)  Army Researchers Warn Against Tribal War in Afghanistan“, Noah Shachtman, Wired, 30 November 2009 — Nice brief discussion of the above report.

(7)  Update:  will the European Union survive?

Economists and journalists tend to assume that political institutions are like mountains — enduring forever.  History shows that is not so.  Among today’s institutions, which will not survive the turmoil of this this downturn?

Can Euroland Survive?“, Stephanie A. Kelton and L. Randall Wray, Levy Institute, November 2009 — Abstract:

Social unrest across Europe is growing as Euroland’s economy collapses faster than the United States’, the result of falling exports and a weaker fiscal response. The controversial title of this brief is based on a belief that the nature of the euro itself limits Euroland’s fiscal policy space. The nations that have adopted the euro face “market-imposed” fiscal constraints on borrowing because they are not sovereign countries. Research Associate Stephanie A. Kelton and Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray foresee a real danger that these nations will be unable to prevent an accelerating slide toward depression that will threaten the existence of the European Union.

For more about this see:

 (8)  Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below. Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

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8 thoughts on “FM newswire for 3 December, hot articles for your morning reading

  1. You really should stop making excuses for Obama, Fabius. He’s commander in chief now, or community organizer in chief, or whatever. He made the decision, after months of dithering, to send more troops, while announcing a pullout date that falls well short of the other side’s likely staying power. This was not foisted on him by some shadowy ruling elite.

    And by the way, the President does make strategy. In this case, his decision reflects a carefully calibrated domestic political strategy – the only kind he understands or cares about.
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    FM reply: That’s one viewpoint. But it fails to explain the long periods of continuity in US foreign policy. You appear to regard this as a coincidence, that a series of Presidents (ofter from both parties) just happened to agree on the exact same strategy. Then the strategy changed, with the same result. And then again.

    “You really should stop making excuses for Obama”

    I cannot imagine how you consider this an “excuse.” Esp as the political effects might be disasterous, destroying much of Obama’s remaining political capital. The right has convinced its followers that Obama is the AntiChrist. The left may be realizing he’s quite similar to Bush (no action on gays, drug-and-insurance-corp-friendly health care action, continued bailouts and subsidies (with no reforms) for Wall Street — and continuation of Bush’s foreign policy. Toast before he completes his first year in office, largely a result of gross inexperience.

    Early evidence of the coming Obama crash:
    * “Afghanistan: The Betrayal“, Garry Wills, blog of the New York Review of Books, 2 December 2009.

  2. We really should have listened to President Washington. Beware a standing army.
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    FM reply: Far more importantly, we should have taken to heart President Eisenhower’s warning about the power of the military-industrial complex — in his Farwell Address on 16 January 1961. The text and audio are here.

  3. The Wills piece is silly. This isn’t a betrayal. It may be mistake, but it’s not a betrayal. Obama said during the campaign that he was going to do this. Apparently his base wants to be lied to.
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    FM reply: You’re writing from a God-like view, which is irrelevant here. “Betrayal” is an emotional or psychic condition, not a matter of objective fact. My point was that Obama’s core is abandoning him, and this is a sliver of evidence.

  4. From Item 4:

    The Killed-Wounded-Captured Casualty Ratio of Taliban to Allied forces moved in favor of the Taliban in October 2009, rising to 1:1. In October 2008, the ratio was 6:1, sharply favoring Allied forces. The ratio means that for every Allied soldier killed, wounded or kidnapped, the Allies killed, wounded or captured a single Taliban.

    This means the Taliban gave as good as they got and almost certainly reflects the reduction in direct air support to NATO soldiers in combat.

    This is astounding for a guerrilla force against a 1st-world opponent. Better even than the ratio Hezbollah achieved in 2006 with far better equipment and prepared defenses (of course they were facing extensive air support). Certainly supports Lind’s contention that the Army / Marines are still locked into a 2nd-generation mindset of bumping into targets and calling for fire support. It appears that without the big fires, light infantry with home court advantage in rough terrain can draw even the best trained, best-gadgetized heavy infantry. And for an infinitesimal fraction of the cost.

    FM: “Far more importantly, we should have taken to heart President Eisenhower’s warning about the power of the military-industrial complex — in his Farwell Address on 16 January 1961.

    Absolutely. And before being changed in the final draft for political reasons, it was the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex

    FM: “You’re writing from a God-like view, which is irrelevant here.

    I wouldn’t say it’s from a God-like point of view, merely a person not subject to willful self-delusion and magical thinking, of which there was a huge amount among the left during the campaign — the meme that Obama “only says those things to get elected” and after inauguration he’d pull off the disguise and reveal himself to be the lovey-dovey secret leftist reformer of their dreams. One has to be really good at doublethink to convince oneself that when Obama says he will escalate the war, it’s really a secret code for “end the war” . . .
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    FM reply: By ‘Godllike” I mean judgemental, which is totally irrelevant to the operational importance of these feelings — crashing Obama’s political support. When you get to Heaven you can debate with God who is “right”. But the answer means little down here. The reality is that Obama has not fulfilled the desires of his supporters, and they’re on the edge of abandoning him.

  5. FM: Sorry, I had meant to clarify that I agree that the delusional nature of Obama’s support is irrelevant to the operational significance of its decline. Just concurring with drmoloch that they are obviously delusional (significant IMO as a further symptom of our broken OODA loop), and disagreeing that one needed a “God-like viewpoint” to see it. Quibbles. Back to our regularly scheduled programming . . .

  6. I wouldn’t be surprised over the death of the Eurozone or some rather big adjustments in membership. Looking at past failed currency unions between sovereign nations like the Latin & Scandinavian Unions, it’s clear that tensions build up.

    Two other currency unions held together with stronger glue than the aforementioned show the negative side effects of an unbalanced currency union.

    East German industry have never recovered from the strong revaluation of their currency which took place as part of the reunification. The loss of competitiveness was too great. And for an even worse case, Italy. The same effect could be seen in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies after the unification of Italy in the mid-1800’s. Even today Southern Italy has very little industry.

    Germany & Italy are held together with sense of nation which I doubt is there in Greece, Spain & Italy today when it comes to a common European nationality. I find it very like that these nations would tempted to regain their monetary freedom at some point.

  7. FM” “You’re writing from a God-like view, which is irrelevant here. “Betrayal” is an emotional or psychic condition, not a matter of objective fact. My point was that Obama’s core is abandoning him, and this is a sliver of evidence.

    Actually, I’m writing from the perspective of someone who knew that electing this guy wasn’t a good idea, and was never going to work out. I never believed in him, therefore I am not betrayed. You feel betrayed, therefore you are betrayed? That sounds very…emo. I don’t claim to be “God-like”, but I try to keep a better grip on my emotions than that, especially when considering matters of strategy or statecraft.
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    FM reply: This shifting the discussion from the original point. But now we’re on common ground. My forecast, clearly stated in over a dozen posts, was that Obama lacked the experience to effectively govern. Events have shown that to be correct. See the reference page Obama, his administration and policies.

    “You feel betrayed, therefore you are betrayed? That sounds very…emo.”

    That’s how things work on Planet Earth. No doubt it’s different on Vulcan.

  8. Let us hope that the social conservatives do not feel betrayed by their Grand Old Philanderers.

    Baucus Nominated Melodee Hanes, His Girlfriend, For U.S. Attorney, By THOMAS PEIPERT, Associated Press Writer, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/04/baucus-nominated-melodee-_n_381062.html

    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus was romantically involved with a former staffer when he recommended her earlier this year to become the next U.S. attorney for Montana, a spokesman said.

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