Tag Archives: matthew yglesias

More about Iran, things you know that might not be so

Some things you might find of interest about Iran, as drift towards war.


  1. I have here a statement by an obvious ally of Iran working at the highest level of the US government!
  2. Quote of the Day from Jack A Smith, “A Manufactured Crisis“, Asia Times, 30 September 2009
  3. Top Things you Think You Know about Iran that are not True“, Juan Cole, Informed Consent, 1 October 2009
  4. Our war-loving Foreign Policy Community hasn’t gone anywhere“, Glen Greenwald, Salon, 21 September 2009
  5. Comments from the peanut gallery about the Iranian Nuke Crisis
  6. Background Information about Iran
  7. Afterword and More Information on the FM Site


(1)  I have here a statement by an obvious ally of Iran working at the highest level of the US government!  Will the hawks, lusting for war with Iran, denounce this appeaser for his remarks about Iran?

Iran, of course, being, you know, in such proximity to Afghanistan and having significant influence inside Afghanistan, is a big player. They, in my view, they have a lot of very positive influence inside Afghanistan, some of it cultural, some of it financial, just things that any neighbor would have to try to build the stability. I think that if Iran takes a very mature look at a stable Afghanistan and support the government of Afghanistan, then we’ll be — we’ll be in good shape. If they were to choose not to do that, and they were to choose to support insurgents, I think that would be a significant miscalculation.

The culprit is General Stanley McChrystal.  He said this when asked about “Iran’s significance for the Afghanistan equation” after his speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London (see the text of the speech and video of the Q&A at their website here.  This is from Spencer Ackerman’s column The Washington Independent, 1 October 2009.  The parody of Joseph McCarthy is mine.

(2)  Quote of the Day from Jack A Smith, “A Manufactured Crisis“, Asia Times, 30 September 2009 — Excerpt (red emphasis added):

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A General explains how the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics will bring us victory in Afganistan

More exhortations to continue the course in “Losing the War of Exhaustion” by Mark T. Kimmitt (Brigadier General, US Army, retired), Foreign Policy, 21 September 2009 — “It’s not low troop levels that stand to defeat the United States in Afghanistan. It’s plain old public fatigue.”  Hat tip to Bernard Finel, who has some interesting comments about this article.  Excerpt:

As Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, awaits a response from the White House on his assessment of the war effort, some would suggest that doubt is growing on Capitol Hill and in towns and cities across the United States about whether America can win this fight.

This doubt is misplaced. The truth is that there are more than enough troops, civilians, money, and operational capability available between the United States, NATO forces, and our Afghan allies to defeat the Taliban and assist in rebuilding Afghan society. There is no reason to fear losing a war of attrition. The major danger in Afghanistan is losing a war of exhaustion.

… If this war is to be won, it will certainly require more capability: more troops, more civilians, more funding, and a coherent strategy. For that, we can depend on the Department of Defense to find the troops, on the Department of State and other cabinet agencies to find the civilians, and on Congress to find the money.

But capability is insufficient. Achieving success in Afghanistan will also require domestic will, popular support, and strategic patience. These are the most important weapons in a war of exhaustion. Congress, DOD, and State can help out, but only the president can achieve a popular mandate for Afghanistan. Only the president can ask Americans to endure years of sacrifice. Only the president can build support for a protracted struggle that, in his words, is a “war of necessity.” And, only the president can harness domestic will, popular support, and strategic patience — the indispensible elements for success — without which our efforts in Afghanistan cannot succeed.

The General never explains why the war is important, only that the war is important — and our willpower can ensure victory.  Perhaps he believes in the The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics (Matthew Yglesias, TPM Cafe, 10 July 2006):

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Ignatius proposes “A New Deal for The CIA” – perhaps they should sometimes obey our laws

I doubt that proposals for partial reform of the CIA make sense.  Not after reading the major histories of the CIA (e.g., Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes).  Even so, this specimen looks unusually daft:  “A New Deal for The CIA“, David Ignatius, op-ed in the Washington Post, 17 September 2009.

It opens with the usual romantic tales of daring spys.  The actual history is far more sordid, the actual results too often bad for both America and the nations subject to the CIA’s manipulation.  The second half returns to the real world.


What’s required is a new approach to intelligence based on the need for political sustainability. This, in turn, will require a degree of transparency with Congress and the public that may make the intelligence community uncomfortable. But frankly, after the torture debate, there’s no other way.

… When we read about waterboarding and other techniques that shock the conscience, it’s easy to lose sight of what intelligence agents like my friend Jeannie do most of the time — and their importance in protecting the country. The interrogation policies may have been directed by the George W. Bush administration, but it is the CIA and its people who have paid the price.

The question is how to put the pieces back together — how to restore public trust in intelligence. I heard powerful presentations on that subject last Saturday in Geneva by Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA director, and Sir David Omand, former coordinator of British intelligence. They were speaking at a meeting of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. (Full disclosure: I am a member of that group’s advisory council.)

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Another attempt to justify our Af-Pak war, and show the path to victory

This morning’s recommended reading:  “How to Lose in Afghanistan“, Anthony H. Cordesman (Center for Strategic and International Studies), op-ed in the Washington Post, 31 August 2009.

Nothing illustrates the essential irrationality of our Af-pak war better than the illogic of the war’s advocates.  They must exist in a self-referential bubble to believe this nonsense.  {This post was expaned on 31 August}

I was going to write about this latest example, but others have done so  faster and better: 

  1. Afghanistan Mission Creep Watch – The Cordesman Version“, Michael Cohen (New America Foundation), Democracy Arsenal, 31 August 2009
  2. Defining ‘Victory’ in Afghanistan“, Matthew Yglesias, ThinkProgress, 31 August 2009
  3. And Still No Definition of What ‘Winning’ Means“, Bernard Finel (American Security Project), 31 August 2009


Cohen’s rebuttal is brilliant and complex. I recommend reading it in full. It’s brillant and brief, so I will quote it in full below. Yglesias has a few pithy observations, which appear in the following excerpt.

(2)  Defining ‘Victory’ in Afghanistan“, Matthew Yglesias, ThinkProgress, 31 August 2009 — Excerpt:

Another note I would offer on the Cordesman piece is that he defines the problems we need to confront in the region as including not only the Taliban, but also the government of Afghanistan … and the government of Pakistan … This of course raises the question of on whose behalf this fighting is happening? The stability of Pakistan is often offered as the reason we need to be fighting the Taliban, but if it’s folly to be treating Pakistan as an ally then how much sense does this make? And if Karzai is part of the problem, too, then who’s side are we on?

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The decay of our government, visible for all to see

Some headlines require no story, as they tell the story.  Today we see confirmed the fear that the Obama Administration would be staffed with inexperienced liberals, whose only qualification are diplomas from elite schools, fine connections in the power structure, and sound ideology.

Of course, it does not matter.  We’re sheep, and will accept this unqualified new addition to our shepherds without protest.  Get into the spirit of our nation:  while reading this say “baa baa baa“.

Are we capable of self-government?  Are we worthy of the privilege of self-government?  If you believe the answer is yes, I suggesting getting angry soon.  The situation is sliding downhill fast, and we cannot count on the Blue Fairy to fix things.

Today’s example:  “The 31-Year-Old in Charge of Dismantling G.M.“, New York Times, 1 June 2009 — Opening:

It is not every 31-year-old who, in a first government job, finds himself dismantling General Motors and rewriting the rules of American capitalism.  But that, in short, is the job description for Brian Deese, a not-quite graduate of Yale Law School who had never set foot in an automotive assembly plant until he took on his nearly unseen role in remaking the American automotive industry.

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