Why The Neutralist? The term Isolationist implies a narrow Fortress America outlook and is used as an epithet. The term Neutralist does not indicate someone hiding out from the world. No one calls the Swiss isolationists. The Wilsonian world view is old, tired and wrong. Our interventions have been less and less successful and now the failure can no longer be covered up.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What's it all about,Gaza?

So our pres in Thailand is standing up for right and justice, There’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself.”  Are those crazy Palestinians lobbing missiles because they are a nation of nut jobs?

Justin Raimondo disagrees.  The current contretemps is the result of an Israeli desire to stop a push for peace.  Those Hamas missiles seem to have no accuracy and do almost no damage, what really set them off?

Raimondo posits that the Hamas military honcho, Ahmed al-Jabari, was about to push a peace deal and thus had to be eliminated.  As to the peace deal, he cites  Gershon Baskin, initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Shalit, that the deal was in the works.

Justin writes that the aggression was the result of the Israeli PM's desire to avoid peace in the quest for a greater Israel.  To read Justin's article go to antiwar.com.  

The Neutralist cannot vouch for what Justin writes.  Obviously we do believe it is not in our country's interest to be involved on either side of the conflict.  President Obama's statement about poor Israel having to defend itself against the joke rockets is, in itself, a joke.

Antiwar.com is having another fundraiser.  We wish them luck, and unless you have some spare millions to donate to us, here is their link.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Over at Sic Semper Tyrannis

I have been reading Col. Lang's Sic Semper Tyrannis blog for some time now.  A writer at another website said his info was reliable.  I am not the person to judge, but what he writes always seems to have the ring of truth.

Not that I always agree.  For example, there is nothing kind I can say about his support for the Libyan uprising.

It is with some joy that I read what he wrote at the end of a post on November 8th.

We can't afford this Defense Department.  Change the foreign policy, kill the acquisition contracts, pension people off after shrinking the ground forces and come home. 

I would guess Col. Lang takes some pride in his career and has done his best to serve his country.  Still, as our situation reduces to its absurd, some conclusions are inevitable to the sane mind.  

Read Sic Semper Tyrannis.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

George McGovern, RIP

George McGovern has died and the deification has taken place in the media.  For his stature, it is strangely muted.  It does not seem to have reached Tim Russert level.  Needless to say, as he was most known for the foreign policy aspect of his failed presidential campaign, it is incumbent on the Neutralist to comment.

 As to his redistributionist economics and his dietary regulations, the Neutralist does not comment other than to express doubt.  On his "Come Home America" slogan, he was profoundly right.

When he said that, the Neutralist was on active duty and had drunk the Kool Aid by the gallon.  The bogeyman would be at the gates if we did not stay the course.  All this while the Nixon-Kissinger team was looking for a face saving bug out.

We did bug out and it was better for us that we did (see America's greatest 20th century victory).

Unfortunately, we never got the message.  I was just listening to a debate reprise where Romney was talking about being able to fight two major wars.  Heck, we couldn't even handle both Iraq and Afghanistan and they were hardly the Wehrmacht or the Imperial Navy.

In honor of George, the Neutralist says proudly, "Come Home America."  We hope the late senator has found peace.  Unlike his country which is no where near it.

Monday, October 08, 2012

World reaction to Turkey's retaliation does not pass the smell test

Pretend you're the president of a country embroiled in a civil war.  Let us also pretend that you are not completely insane.  In our what if scenario, let's also speculate that you have a neighbor to the north with a large and highly professional military.  Would you call up your troops on the border and say, "Okay lads, lob some mortar shells over the line and see if we can get those SOBs to retaliate.

So the western press is talking up how the Turks are righteously resisting those dirty Syrians.  The plot continues.  It continues....predictably.  One has to be naive beyond imagination not to suspect that this is contrived in the manner of, oh, maybe you want to look at the last post, "Since 5:45 a. m. we have been returning the fire..."

The fix is in, maybe.  Maybe Russia and China and Iran and Shiite Lebanon can hold things together for awhile.  If Saudi money and influence proves decisive, their will be a lot of dead Alawites and Christians and some Druze as well as a Kurd or two.

Then again, as a Neutralist, I don't see it as our problem.

For a more polished view of the situation, Eric is the man to read.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Since 5:45 a. m. we have been returning the fire..." was it a Patrick Clawson moment?

The words of the title are the words of Adolph Hitler before the Reichstag.  His operatives had contrived a fake Polish attack and he used it as the immediate cause of the war.  His words:

I will provide a propagandistic casus belli. Its credibility doesn't matter. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth.
Are the sentiments of an aggressive foreign policy.  No decent person would agree that they express a moral sentiment, but some people have assimilated the message.  In fact, one man on Planet Think Tank has been so bold as to, in a way, channel it.

Of course, no one would ever say something like "I follow the Hitler method" because Dolph didn't invent it.  Any one who has ever wanted war and did not want to appear to be the aggressor had to at least make it appear that they had been attacked.  Der Fuhrer took it all the way by dressing his men and having them feign an attack on German border positions.  We would not do that.

Except  maybe Patrick Clawson thinks we should,

One can combine other means of pressure with sanctions. I mentioned that explosion on August 17th. We could step up the pressure. I mean look people, Iranian submarines periodically go down, some day one of them might not come up, who would know why? We can do a variety of things if we wish to increase the pressure... We are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians. We could get nastier.
Left out of the quote, he did say he was not advocating that, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

It's pretty obvious that there is a desire for war on the part of neocons though they usually don't say that.  Thus it is refreshing to see some honesty even on the part of a chickenhawk wonk.  There is no hypocrisy in the sense of Rochefoucauld's aphorism.  Not a pretense at all to any virtue.

His sinecure is safe.  He will be able to continue to perform his duties as deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).  No one will cross the street to avoid being associated with a war mongering nut case.

The Neutralist Institute is thinking of starting a subsidiary think tank inspired by the need to keep watch on Clawson types.  So far the only name we have come up with is Boyish looking clowns who want wars someone else will fight Watch.  It is overlong and needs work.  We are open to suggestions.

Hat tip to Sic Semper Tyrannis.  Also see Zerohedge,  Quote above from Business Insider.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Seance

The year is 2112 and a seance is in progress.  A medium and several attendees are holding hands and the medium feels the spirit of a deceased person is trying to contact them.

"Oh spirit, we do not ask your name, but do tell us about yourself."

"I was the prime minister of a middle-eastern nation a hundred years ago."

"Oh spirit, why do you speak to us?"

"I come to warn you."

"Warn us of what?"

"Iran is within months of have weapons grade fissile material."

The Persians are close to getting nukes and always will be according to some.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Whole Truth

Was it the movie by that Copt?  Was it pre-planned?

Who knows?

Who really cares?

Let's just cut to what we do know.

I was about to read an article on one of the cutting edge web sites (aren't we all?) when it hit me that no one was bringing up one fact.

If Gadhafi were still in power the ambassador and the other victims would be alive today.

Without US Intervention, He would still be in power.

You are permitted to draw your own conclusions about the mindless foreign policy of the Bush-Obama administration without interference from the Neutralist.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ringing endorsement of the Neutralist at LRC Blog

Okay, they did not mention The Neutralist at the LRC Blog, but c'mon folks, read between the lines,

Title of post by Laurence Vance:

The Answer to Libya (and Everywhere Else)

The post itself:

Simple: neutrality and nonintervention.

We grant  Mr. Vance our not-coveted Neutralist of the Week award.

Keep up the good work LV.

Come back Muammar

All is forgiven.

American foreign policy will always be dopey.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Empty Pantsuit

how could this happen?  How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?  This question reflects just how complicated and, at times, how confounding the world can be.
Lassie, if you are just finding out how complex the world is, maybe you should be back teaching chick studies at Wellesley.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0912/81108_Page2.html#ixzz26J7lI9Bk

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Put a band-aid on it. Nobody really cares about the troops in Afghanistan

The adventure in Afghanistan is coming apart, but no worries.  There is always a band-aid available.  Rather than ask if, oh, maybe there is no point to trying to secure a landlocked place that more and more resembles Stalingrad, let’s pretend there is only a glitch.

July saw 38 troops take their own life.  This is the highest monthly amount yet.  Is there evidence that anyone is taking this as a signal there is a grave and deep problem?

Not by the proposed answer.  The pharmaceutical solution has been suggested.  Let’s not consider that depression is a sane response to an unwinnable war and that maybe the troops are on to something?  Or maybe they need nasal spray.

Per CNN, Dr. Michael Kubek of Indiana University will get an Army grant to “to dig deeper into whether a nasal spray could be a safe and effective way to administer a specific antidepressive neurochemical to the brain and help calm suicidal thoughts.”

The US is not the first country to try to keep a war going with a medical fix.  Not to overdo the Stalingrad analogy, but didn’t the Germans use amphetamines so their troops could fight longer between rests?  Better living through chemistry?  Maybe Les Allemandes should have realized that when you have to resort to such tricks the game is up.  No they didn’t according to Der Spiegel when there go to drug, Pervitin, was not enough, they looked to a super drug to keep the overextended servicemen fighting,

“Toward the end of the war, the Nazis were even working on a miracle pill for their troops. In the northern German seaport of Kiel, on March 16, 1944, then Vice-Admiral Hellmuth Heye, who later became a member of parliament with the conservative Christian Democratic party and head of the German parliament's defense committee, requested a drug "that can keep soldiers ready for battle when they are asked to continue fighting beyond a period considered normal, while at the same time boosting their self-esteem."

How barbaric.  We know meth should only be given to school kids to calm them down if not “boost self-esteem.”

There is another signal we might be missing.  With some regularity, our troops die, not at the hands of the enemy, but the ally.  It’s a new twist on “friendly fire.  Badly aimed rounds that go astray and strike the home team happen.  The perfectly sighted bullet from our protégés should tell us not all hearts and minds have been won.  Do we get the message that maybe we are subtly being told we have worn out whatever welcome there was?  No, not at all.

All we have to do is take a few precautions and all better.  The proposal is for a “Guardian Angels” option.  No, it will not be some red-hatted self-promoter going to the war zone.  Rather it will be one guy “who stands to the side so that he can watch people’s backs and hopefully identify people that would be involved in those attacks,” according to Sec/Def Panetta.  The other lads might want to keep a clip in their rifles to show trust.  Oh and the Afghans will do a little better at vetting recruits.

Ah well, maybe that will do the trick, General Allen the commander in Afghanistan according to NPR has no ready explanation for the attacks.  Hmmm.  When your top guy is clueless, you ain’t winning.  That no clue thing bespeaks a vast Intel failure. 

Does anyone think that a US sympathizer opens fire at a Taliban confab?

Today, just as this is being posted, antiwar.com reports another two dead by a fraternal ally.

But it’s all good, cue an American Soldier by chickenhawk Toby Keith and just keep saying support our troops.

If we really loved the soldiers, we'd bring them home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Forget October, we need an August Surprise!

It seems that daily there is an announcement that Mitt Romney has committed some peccadillo.  NPR and mainline radio snootily tell us about the deformed soul of the man. 
Of course there is Seumas the dog that got to ride on the top of the family car during  vacation.   To your average public radio lover, this is a crime deserving a warrant for a trip to the Hague.  As they fervently pet the dogs they rescued from the shelter, they think about the charge of a Crime against Dogmanity.  As the clincher in the Mittser’s Satanic canonization it was a fizzle.
We do love dogs in this country.  Heck, I have a shelter dog too.   So the caninineites not enamored of Mitt had some right to think this might be the kiss of death.  Surprisingly, outside of the NPR crowd, it had little traction.  Could it be that everyone is bored by Romney and fail to register an awake state the minute his name is mentioned?  Alternatively, non bien-pensants realize the cool people would be less upset if la famille Mitt had strapped a kid topside.
He has not made many of his tax returns public and the nation is yawning.  Should this be a story?  After all that went on to get Obama to share his papers with the “Birthers” and zzzzzzzs.  Besides, if the “Tax Returners” keep it up, Romney could say, “sure, let’s see your man’s SATs.”  Not going far, that.
It’s not a scandal that he wants to increase military spending to behemoth levels that would bankrupt the country.  After all, military spending is at behemoth levels and bankrupting the country.
Also not a contretemps that, while governor, he let the innocent Tookey Amirault rot in jail because pedophilia is horrible.  He could probably spin it to a plus on the campaign trail.
Maybe he doesn’t put the cap back on the tube?  Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Supposedly, there is an effective Opposition research team in Obama’s corner.  Sort of a vast left wing conspiracy (VLWC).  Yeah, they find a lot.  All of it is probably true.  Yet nothing hits the mark.  It is so constant that if Mitt shoots the Pope, the scandal fatigue will render it meaningless.
It is with this in mind, I’ve decided to write in these pages to the people who could do something to save the Republic as much as they don’t mean to.
Dear VLWC,
This is an open letter because I do not know if there is an official opposition research group, but I am sure an entity to get the dirt exists.  Now, normally I view dirt mongers as not people I like to be associated with.  Still, we need you.  Desperate times you know. 
Mitt Romney is in danger of being president through no fault of his own.  Yes, he spent oodles of cash and all that, but his opponents dropped like the seasonal fruit flies they were.  The party leaders would rather gargle razor blades than see his only real opposition get the nomination.  So, he was the last (acceptable) man standing.
Most in your camp feel a Romney presidency would be a disaster.  Moi, I agree.  Certainly, our reasons for this differ.  You doubtless believe the former governor would bring about a fascist regime with even such atrocities as daily sexual assaults at airports, or something.
I do not believe the Romney administration would be a disaster compared with your beloved incumbent.  Worse in degree, but what he promises, a bigger military, carte blanche for the mongers of a Persian war is what we might get in the second Obama take.  No one believes a re-elected Obama would reign in the banks or the Fed.
It appears that you are not doing the muck job very well.  Of course, what do I know?  You may be holding the trump that will be thrown a few days before the election.  You probably have to have something close to the vest for any hope of winning.  Your guy as things stand, has no chance even if there is not that much difference between him and the Romnster.
Don’t think so.  Remember “It’s the economy, stupid.”  Well, they can’t vote against Bush, but they can cast ballots against an incumbent.  The saying, “nothing wrong with the Republican Party that 20% inflation couldn’t cure” has been attributed to Ben Wattenberg, among others.  We are not talking about the price index, but the unemployment rate will do.  Romney could do worse, but the electorate will feel he would have to work hard at it.
So how can you help me and why should you?
First question first.  You must redouble your efforts and understand the goal.  It is not some fact about the presumed nominee that might bump up poll standing.  We need the hole that a truck can drive through.  More specifically, a thing that if made public, would cause him to drop out of the race.  Bane sending jobs overseas hasn’t done it and won’t.  There are no affairs and the Edwin Edwards “live boy, dead girl” may no longer matter.
That’s why I am appealing to your professional expertise.  If there is anyone who can get me a magic bullet, it is mad dog democrat operatives., no offense.  This is got to be a problem, but also an opportunity.  After all, if both Obama and Bush had their innings with coke that doesn’t come in a bottle, well there is a new departure as to what disqualifies. 
It has to be beyond political correctness.  Romney is for traditional marriage and you don’t like that.  Unfortunately, other than your crowd, the country is okay with that, and he is not about to eat at chick-fil-a.
So creativity is the order of the day.  I’m pulling for you.
Now why should you help me.  In truth, it is not moi you would be serving, but your country.  I know that class holds more sway with you. 
Yet there may something a bit more primal in the team and one hopes that stirs your heart.  Yes, we have to go all the way back to George McGovern and “Come Home America.”  Les hommes et dames a la gauche used to be the base of bringing the troops home.
Your leader even called the Iraq war a dumb war until he waged it unsuccessfully, proving the original point.
Before the Iraq invasion, an upstate NY public radio station was anti-war all day.  Now, with Obama in office, it feels as if they are on the war team.
C’mon lads, lasses, all we are saying is give peace a chance.  Now, there is only one peace candidate.  If ever you truly believed in it, now is your chance. 
The Republican Convention starts August 27th.  If there is something that causes the withdrawl of Mitt, Ron Paul is the last man standing.  Granted, the party moms and dads would rather call on Herman Cain, but it will have moved beyond them.  The Paul campaign is still alive and organized.  You can make that happen.
Again, why should you?  You can make Obama a better candidate.  He may not win, but he is losing now.  If Paul is his opponent, he can be more of a peace candidate.  If Mitt is his opponent, he will try to be a bigger war monger.  Do you really want that?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

From Antiwar.com, US Claims ‘Al-Qaeda Number Two’ Killed Yet Again

Headline says it all.  We keep getting more of these guys and yet it leads to nothing.  It's like the drug seizure headlines of record haul.  How close are we to winning the War on Drugs?  Despite the success, not at all.  How close are we to winning the so called War on Terror?  It has already been lost.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Russia is ahead on points

Stratfor has an article, Russia's Strategy that gives the devil his due.  Russia is no longer on the ropes.  They are not where they want to be, but their strategy is sound.  That strategy is to keep the US distracted.  It seems to be working.  Well, maybe.

We seem to be pretty good at keeping ourselves distracted.  Okay, we left Iraq in a huff because they wouldn’t give us a status of forces agreement that treated us as gods.  Still, we found a way to get involved in Libya and are trying to get into the Syrian mix.

Stratfor sees that it is the Russian goal to keep us tied up so we can’t un-distract ourselves.  With all due respect, to the very well informed fellows at Stratfor, the Russkies have several years, if ever before we de-distract.  Oh, maybe sanity could attack and a sensible rapprochement between us and Iran could occur, but that will take awhile.  Then again, Romney has promised to up any Obama ante so that’s a problemo there.

An interesting point made by Stratfor is that the Russians, either as empire or union was economically always a loser, but imperially, more often than not, a winner.  

The last paragraph recaps well enough.

Russia has come far from where Yeltsin took it. The security forces are again the heart of the state. Moscow dominates Russia. Russia is moving to dominate the former Soviet Union. Its main adversary, the United States, is distracted, and Europe is weak and divided. Of course, Russia is economically dysfunctional, but that has been the case for centuries and does not mean it will always be weak. For the moment, Russia is content to be strong in what it calls the near abroad, or the former Soviet Union. Having come this far, it is not trying to solve insoluble problems.

Even if we don’t do stupid on Iran, as long as we are bugging China, we are distracted from Russia.  The Russkies may not have forever, but they do have time.

Russia is the most successful loser ever.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Iraq; The final scorecard-A seven year enema

The Neutralist was moved to write today because of John Glaser's post on Antiwar.com's blog, ‘Lasting Pride’ For the Hell We Left in Iraq.  If you remember, we were going to bring democracy and good government of Mesopotamia.  Last year, our troops pulled out not with bands playing and applauding locals lining the streets in gratitude, but in the dead of night without telling the Iraqis.  This is not accounted as the recognition that we had lost something, but as Glaser quoted,

“We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” – President Barack Obama, Fort Bragg, N.C., December 2011
“You will leave with great pride – lasting pride.” – Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to U.S. troops, December 2011
Mr. Glaser than states the obvious,
I’ve written repeatedly about the terrible dictatorship and lasting sectarian violenceWashington left in Iraq after the troop withdrawal of December 2011. Contrary to the lies of these indecent politicians, the enduring effects of the illegal U.S. war in Iraq are still causing havoc and bloodshed throughout the country. Iraq is neither secure, nor is it a democracy as was promised by warmongers in Washington.
I have an open question for anyone.  It would be nice if someone in government would make the effort, but if anyone would take the time to tell the Neutralist how the Iraq War was not a mindless mistake, there would be unending gratitude on my part.
There is, of course, a larger question.  How could anyone think that intervention in Syria or Iran could be anything less than loserville.  We have the recent example of Libya being a non success.  An even larger question is not why are the people running foreign policy allowed to run amuck, but why are such people considered sane.  
I remember when the Iraq war was new.  chickenhawks Michael Graham on Boston radio was exclaiming how he had Steffens like seen the future and it worked.  How anyone could not see as he had was mindlessness.  Wisely, he has moved on.  Would really like to hear from him how it was all not a mistake.
Now the right wing mantra is not that it was not winnable, but it's Obama's fault.  It's alvays Ludnendorff und ze stab in ze back, but never our fault.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Why are there NGOs?

There is a good article on the meddling of NGOs in The National Interest by its editor, Robert W. Merry.  It is titled Unmasking the Democracy Promoters and is Posted today.  It led us to think about foreign policy and why a country would fund NGOs.

When I was very young, we were in the thick of the Cold War.  The American, and I would think, the Soviet goverments felt themselves to be in a mortal struggle.  Large military establishments were maintained in readiness in case cold turned to hot.

The war was not just tank armies staring at each other across the Fulda Gap.  Proxies engaged us in Viet Nam and the Soviets in Afghanistan.  there were other peripheral side shows with varying degress of heat.

Another front was one side or the other setting up and/or funding groups not ostensibly connected with either government.  The Soviets had front groups such as the   The World Peace Council and others.     Supposedly, the CIA funded hi-brow publications like Partisan Review.  The reader is asked to do his own research.  It was such that Jay Ward, the man behind Rocky and Bullwinkle held a dinner with themed tables such as one for “All those who believe the Diners Club is a Commie Front.”

So the Cold War ended and as one historian put it, history ended.   Maybe not.  The Neutralist would have wanted our nation to bring home the fleets and armies and the air force, but it was not to be.  We found a bogeyman in Iraq, or, depending on viewpoint, he found us.  

That is not to say we left Europe.  The end of the Soviets still sees divisions billeted in Germany and our continued activity in the leftovers of the two multinational entities, the USSR and Yugoslavia.  One would think just getting the Russkies to leave would be enough.  We had promised not to run NATO up to Russia’s border, but so what.  Poland had to be Poland, even though that meant having secret rendition prisons.

But, we are the good guys.  Everyone should be good guys.  That’s where NGOs come in.  People helping people be nice.

So the US is funding lots of nice people around the world guiding people of other countries toward the light of free, open elections with governments that are run honestly.  Now I live in a state where the last three house speakers are convicted felons, so at the Neutralist, we are not sure we are uniformly the example.

To believe that we just love the world and that’s why this is going on is silly.  In fact, the Neutralist, with our characteristic lack of effort have come up with a self evident law;  No one sends lots of bucks and folks overseas without thought to the benefits accruing to the giver.  Even in such beloved organizations as the Peace Corps, we would posit that is so.  A bit murky there.  Certainly, when it started in the Cold War there was some sense of countering the Evil Empire.  Whether it still serves a geopolitical purpose, who knows, but at least it serves as kind of a continuation of summer camp for college grads who did well in Post Modern lit and can’t get a job.

So money is being thrown around to “to support what we like to call ‘universal values’—not American values, not Western values, universal values.”  according to Michael McFaul, once the NDI representative in Russia.  Don’t know about you, but Mike’s sentiments make me wanna sing Kumbayah.

The NDI is National Democratic Institute, a nonprofit U.S. agency whose mission is to promote democracy around the globe.  Now according to the TNI article, NDI gets oodles of lucre from the Uncle Sam’s coffers.  If he who pays the piper calls the tune, a doctrine we think self-evident, then why are these called non governmental organization.  Well, TNI gives out the doctrine how that is so.  “But Wikipedia helpfully explains: “In cases in which NGOs are funded totally or partially by governments, the NGO maintains its non-governmental status by excluding governmental representatives from membership in the organization.””  Call me cynical, but isn’t that just a tad of a distinction without a difference.

I’m not the only one who feels that way.  Mr. Merry begins the piece by noting that the United Arab Emirates have shut down the NDI in the UAE.  the nerve!  Why Hilary exclaimed, “we very much regret” the UAE action and adding that NDI plays “a key role in supporting NGOs and civil society across the region, and I expect our discussion on this issue to continue.”  That last part, after the conjunction, “I expect our discussion on this issue to continue.”  sounds a bit ominous.  Was it slightly threatening?  Why would the sheikhs not want something so helpful in their midst?

Mr. Merry has a reasonable suggestion, “But perhaps there’s merit in stepping back just a bit and seeking to look at it from the perspective of the receiving country.”  Novel that.  someone might have a different perspective than Foggy Bottom.

The truth is, NGOs are great meddlers. No one likes a meddler (unless, maybe they are on the take from said meddler).

Mr. Merry has it nailed, “For anyone trying to understand why this anger is welling up in those countries, it might be helpful to contemplate how Americans would feel if similar organizations from China or Russia or India were to pop up in Washington, with hundreds of millions of dollars given to them by those governments, bent on influencing our politics. One supposes it would generate substantial anger among Americans if these groups tried to tilt our elections toward one party or another. But suppose they were trying to upend our very system of government, as U.S.-financed NGOs are trying to do these days in various countries—and have done in recent years in numerous locations.”

One would think the push back long overdue and should not be surprised if the various targets compare notes and work together on dealing with all the little sinecuristas in their midsts.

Mr. Merry ends the article by writing, “crusades on behalf of presumed “universal values” have a way of going awry.”  Didn’t we just “celebrate” the 95 anniversary into the “War to end all wars?”

*Mr. McFaul is now ambassador to Russia where one hopes he is behaving himself.

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
Source URL (retrieved on Apr 5, 2012): http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/ngos-not-beyond-reproach-6719

Source URL (retrieved on Apr 5, 2012): http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/ngos-not-beyond-reproach-6719

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Great Man-History may not be bunk as Henry Ford said, but historians are

Toward the end of his presidency, Bill Clinton was looking to his legacy, or so it was reported in the press.  According to Larry Kudlow, Clinton had governed as a supply sider on the economic front.  That is not a record to warm the cockles of the hearts of his party faithful.  By many, he is remembered as the goatish fellow serviced by an intern.  What does a guy have to do to go down in history?

Bill knew what a man needed to be considered great, war.  Outside of killing a few Serbs with bombing, Clinton never had one.  Too bad for him.  His claims about balancing the budget are not going to get him on a top ten list, cause that’s the way it is.

Yup, according to historians, to be considered a great president, you have to have a war.  To really hit the big time, you need deaths.  Death and war are go together for great pres. rankings.  Not just any death, but deaths of American soldiers really gets you noticed.  According to Patton no one won a war by dying for his country.  It was making the other poor bastard die for his that did the trick.  Not if you want to build a rep as a towering figure.  First in war, is better than first in peace.

Two economists, David Henderson of the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate School and Zachary Gochenour of the Department of Economics at George Mason University have studied how presidential scholars do the rankings.  Of course, everyone already instinctively knows how it works.  Remember the movie, Young Millard Fillmore? Poor sap didn’t have a war.

Henderson and Gochenour’s work is valuable as it studies the positive correlation between war and US servicemen’s death.  Now on the face of it, this might seem perverse.  The historian might answer that the rankings are deserved because the great man successfully overcame a challenge.  It is a difficult argument, and in truth, if a war is foisted on a president and he brings it to a successful conclusion, even with a high kill rate, is that not greatness?  But what if the war could have been avoided without harm to the nation.  A president who could have kept us out of war and still needlessly got us into war is the opposite of great.

The Neutralist has in other places stated that Wilson was a villain for getting us into World War I.  I’ve heard the new Hoover book makes the case that Roosevelt did us no favors by sparking our entry into World War II.  

People say, what about Lincoln?  Well, he might have made the South the offer of reducing the tariff to the level that they could have lived with.  Instead he increased it.  It may not have averted the war, but he never made it.

That is the point.  A war president could only be a truly great man if war was unavoidable.  In truth, most of our wars were wars of choice.  It says much about historians as a class that there is so much worship of men who were by a valid measure failures.

You’ll have to excuse the Neutralist, I’m working on setting up a War of 1812 re-enactor group.

Link to the Henderson paper here.

Hat tip to John Glaser at Antiwar.com.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Myth of Grand Strategy-Fabius Maximus 2006

The Fabius Maximus website is indispensable for anyone considering the problems America faces today.  The article, The Myth of Grand Strategy, was pubished in 2006.  It is just as timely today.  In fact is is of more resonance than almost anything you will see at Stratfor or similar sites.  It will be so a hundred years from now, but today its relevance comes from the fact that we are flailing about in a so called War on Terror with no resolution in sight.  Whatever our strategy is, It does not seem to grand.

After the introduction, there is a discussion of what is Grand Strategy.  We quote the following:

As one of Boyd’s closest associates, Chuck Spinney, summarized Boyd’s concept:
… grand strategy is the art of pursuing national goals in a way that improves our nation’s fitness to shape and cope with the conditions of an ever-changing international environment. A nation’s grand strategy is about its organic vitality and growth … or in Sun Tzu’s words, it is the “road to survival or ruin” over the long term.

This is not bad.  so if we were to issue a report card on our Grand Strategy since 911, what would it be graded on the standard set above.  The bogeyman OBL is gone, Al Qaeda is puported to be near gone, but the fighting them over there strategy has worked so well that Americans have to be felt up at airports.

The next section discusses Primal Grand Strategies:

We often see something like a grand strategy in the early years of some societies, when the people have a single-minded commitment to a goal, often just a drive to grow. A primal strategy is an expression of this people’s core beliefs. It is non-intellectual, with no need for theories and plans.

This could be expressed simply in terms such as Romulus did not lay out a system by which Rome would conquer the world.  It was just get these hills and go from there.  That primal drive took off, but it was not intellectualized.

The next section, Ambitious Grand Strategies – a Chimera for a Global Power discusses how, after the primal is over, a nation continues.  The attempt to recapture the primal is impossible and the result is a system that cannot succeed.  The words below summarize the problems a grand strategist faces.

It is hubris to believe that any person or small group has sufficient information to develop a plan on a global scale. There are too many complex, unknowable factors. Social factors, such as ethic and religious dynamics. Plus economic, military, and political factors. We lack the understanding to process the data into accurate patterns — a plan. That requires a science of sociology developed to the degree of modern chemistry, so that we could reliably predict results of our actions. Unfortunately sociology is at the stage of chemistry in the Middle Ages, when it was called alchemy. In fact, the yearning for a grand strategy is the equivalent to the search for the Philosopher’s Stone.

The next session discusses Barnett’s Grand Strategy.  Thomas P. M. Barnett wrote and article for Esquire an age ago in  March of 2003 outlining an ambitious grand strategy.  The article, The Pentagon’s New Map   begins,

LET ME TELL YOU why military engagement with Saddam Hussein’s regime in Baghdad is not only necessary and inevitable, but good. When the United States finally goes to war again in the Persian Gulf, it will not constitute a settling of old scores, or just an enforced disarmament of illegal weapons, or a distraction in the war on terror. Our next war in the Gulf will mark a historical tipping point — the moment when Washington takes real ownership of strategic security in the age of globalization.

Barnet outlined a plan as to how US power would change a lot of countries.  The two we have gone into have not heralded success for his vision.  One only a fool would want to stay in and the other we snuck out of in the dead of night.

In the last two paragraphs of the section, Fabius Maximus has a good critique of the Barnett thesis.

Barnett’s vision failed in Iraq in many ways, but perhaps mostly in his assumption that they wanted to be like us. Liberating them from Saddam was good, but the recent elections demonstrate that most of the Iraqi people(s) reject our economic and cultural systems.

Is there a plan to conquer the world? Yes, of course. You could conquer the world with 150,000 men. Provided, the rest of the world wanted to be conquered. Hah. You see, it takes the cooperation of the losers. A brilliant plan that was impossible. Generals like those sort of thing.
— Death Check, page 510.

After ages of nations and empires, one would think an educated man would be incapable of writing Barnett’s article.   One wonders if Mr. Barnett has changed his mind.  That would be a sanity test.  We learn from a quick perusal of a wikipedia page about him, he still appears to be desirous of managing the world and is making a living out with a sinecure or two, if not actually doing it.

The next section, Why do Grand Strategies Fail? has a lot of common sense stuff as to why the grand vision does not work.  It is best summed up by quoting two parts,  

No single person or small group has the necessary knowledge necessary to do more than a cartoon sketch of our complex and changing world; and even that will be riddled with errors.

We all have biases, prejudices, and parochial views. These limit our ability to see and think broadly enough to shape a global grand strategy.

So, if you’re thinking about running the world, that’s what you’re up against.

The Seventh Section is worth quoting in its entirety.

(7)  America’s Need for a Humble Grand Strategy
The point of this essay is not to compare our performance with an impossible perfect ideal, but to suggest that humility is appropriate when conceiving a grand strategy. Because, of course, we always have a grand strategy — our collective policy with respect to the external world — either by design or default. Perhaps we should consider building our grand strategy on lower, more solid ground. Consider these four principles as the foundation for our grand strategy.
1.             Respect for other peoples, their values and beliefs. We speak of multiculturalism, but often act to impose our “universal values” (aka human rights).
2.            Reluctance to use our power and awareness of our limited wisdom.
3.            Defense in preference to offense.
4.            Defense is inherently the stronger posture, and more appropriate for a hegemonic state like America. A kinetic and unpredictable hegemon disturbs other States — both friends and foes — exacerbating the natural tendency for other States to ally together against a it.
5.            Firmness in response to clear threats.
Game theory shows “tit for tat” to be the most effective strategy in many games. Our system of international law, going back to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, justifies military action only in response to an attack by another state — not preemptively. The Iraq War is another lesson in the wisdom of that policy.
As William Lind said, “So long as we are on the grand strategic offensive, threatening to impose our ways on every one else through military force, we will be defeated regardless of how many battles we win. Like Germany in both World Wars, we will generate new enemies faster than we can defeat old ones” (“Election Day“, 29 October 2004)

When I first read the article title, The Myth of Grand Strategy, I thought the author was suggesting that Grand Strategy does not exist.  In the sense that most ideas of Grand Strategy are not so grand, it would seem so.  At best the attempt would be better called, Big Ideas About Strategy That May Work For Awhile, But End In Failure Usually, or BIASTMWFABEIFU for short.

But, Fabius does believe in Grand Strategy, we always have a grand strategy — our collective policy with respect to the external world — either by design or default. Perhaps we should consider building our grand strategy on lower, more solid ground.

I disagree in calling what he suggests a “Grand Strategy.”  As he is suggesting, a humble policy, not a mange the world concept, it would be better called “National Strategy.”

Stretch it out a bit and one can see it fits in with a Neutralist foreign policy.  If you aren’t out there looking like a drunk in a bar and soberly are aware of your weaknesses as well as your strengths, you cut down the need to get in a fight by more than orders of magnitude.  Not a bad policy for the individual as well as the country.

In the odd case where someone is coming at us absolutely unprovoked, the policy of firmness (part 5) works as well.

Harry Browne said America has a strong offense, but no defense.  That is as true today as when hes said it.  Harry said it before 911 and the event proved his point.  A Neutralist grand strategy may not mean we never have an enemy, but it will mean we would have a lot less of them.  After a number of years of not trying to be the indispensable jerk nation, maybe we can do away with some of our overwrought security theater.  Maybe do away with the department of Homeland Paranoia.  In all honesty, the Neutralist is not optimistic, but lives ever in hope.

I just wish Fabius could say the other N word.