FM newswire for May 22, interesting articles about geopolitics

Today’s links to interesting news and analysis. If you find this useful, please pass it to a friend or colleague. 

  1. BP must use less toxic dispersant“, EPA, 20 May 2010  For more on the effect of dispersants see About the invisible oil spill – and the chemicals that made it disappear
  2. Afghanistan’s Poppy Blight Could Mean Trouble for War Effort“, Matthew C. DuPee, World Politics Review, 21 May 2010
  3. Recommended:  “Crying Fire! Fire! In Noah’s Flood“, Paul Krugman, blog of the New York Times, 21 May 2010
  4. Burn their poppy crops, give them poptarts, win their hearts:  “Kandahar Cluster**** Watch – The Lessons of Marjah Version“, Michael Cohen, Democracy Arsenal, 21 May 2009 — To keep his chops as a serious geopolitical analyst, even Cohen pretends to believe that we could win given enough time.  The truth is unspeakable:  that foreign infidels  become less welcome if they stay a long time and run your nation.
  5. Recommended (whispering a secret truth):  “Afghanistan: Six Questions for Thomas Barfield“, Scott Horton, blog of Harper’s, 21 May 2010
  6. This was written by a man who has lived a safe, secure life — with no ideas of the demons outside the walls:  “Why do voters hate incumbents“, Glenn Greenwald, 19 May 2010


(5)  Recommended (whispering a secret truth):  “Afghanistan: Six Questions for Thomas Barfield“, Scott Horton, blog of Harper’s, 21 May 2010 — Excerpt: 

No Afghan ruler of any political persuasion has avoided exile or assassination since 1901. 

… The U.S. victory over the Taliban in 2001 was facilitated by large cash payments to win over Afghan allies and air attacks against Taliban positions. This high-tech/low-tech combination proved deadly to Taliban forces and led to their rapid disintegration. Each side congratulated itself on having used the other to achieve its own ends. The anti-Taliban Afghans did the deals and fought the fights using American money and firepower without having to surrender the country’s sovereignty. The Americans expelled al Qaeda from Afghanistan and crushed the Taliban without deploying any of its regular ground troops. This strategy was an excellent way to win a war with minimal involvement since there were fewer than 400 Americans in Afghanistan in late 2001. 

… For the past 150 years, successive Afghan rulers have been dependent on foreign economic and military aid to maintain their governments’ stability. This created a policy dilemma in a country that was never colonized and had a prickly sense of its own independence. To be successful an Afghan leader needed both to curry favor with his foreign backers while appearing fully independent. A true master of this strategy played a double game. He persuaded foreign powers that only he could control the unruly Afghans. He convinced the Afghans that only he had the capacity to manipulate foreign powers on their behalf to preserve the country’s autonomy. This strategy was most difficult to apply when foreign troops were in the country, because a ruler’s enemies could always attack him as a puppet controlled by his foreign backers. 

Karzai’s attacks on the United States and the coalition are a response to this threat, but not a credible one. No Afghan believes his government could survive without direct U.S. support. He thus wins no domestic credibility for biting the hand that feeds him and loses the confidence of his international backers who now doubt his reliability. Karzai’s overtures to the Taliban are viewed as a sign of personal weakness, not strength. In Afghanistan, the perception of being a winner (or loser) often plays a decisive role in turning that perception into reality. 

About the author:  Boston University anthropology professor Thomas Barfield is one of America’s foremost authorities on Afghanistan, a country he first visited over 40 years ago as a student. 

(6)  This was written by a man who has lived a safe, secure life — with no ideas of the demons outside the walls:  “Why do voters hate incumbents“, Glenn Greenwald, 19 May 2010 — Excerpt: 

After last night’s election results, there’s no doubt that the electorate has contempt for Washington incumbents and the political establishment.  Virtually every media account dutifully recites the same storyline — that these results reflect an “anti-incumbent” mood — but virtually none of these stories examines the reasons for that “mood.”  Why do Americans, seemingly regardless of party affiliation or geographic location, despise the political establishment? 

… It makes perfect sense that the country loathes the political establishment.  Just look at its rancid fruits over the past decade 

… Still, it’s hard not to be encouraged by the disgust which the citizenry clearly has for the political establishment regardless of party, as well as the resulting (and increasing) fear and confusion on the part of the political class. This sort of citizenry anger can re-arrange political alignments and explode political orthodoxies in fundamental and unpredictable ways. There is, to be sure, a risk in that, but there is a far greater risk in simply allowing the destructive political status quo to linger in unchanged form for much longer. 

I frequently hear such sentiments.  Not dissimilar to the yearns for for in the antebellum South, 1914 Europe, or late Weimar Germany.   Let chaos reign, a common sentiment for the bourgeoisie.  Let’s hope they do not get their wish, and so learn their folly.


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