How I Met Your Moammar

by matttbastard

PhotoBlog:

State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland called the photo book of Condoleezza Rice found in Gadhafi’s compound “bizarre” and “creepy” even though she hasn’t seen pictures of it. “I think I don’t need to see the photos, but bizarre and creepy are good adjectives to describe much of Gadhafi’s behavior,” Nuland said and went on to say, “It doesn’t surprise me.  It’s deeply bizarre and deeply creepy, though, if it is as you described.”

Resolved:  Moammar Gadhafi is the Barney Stinson of post-colonial despots.

The Doctrine in Action

by matttbastard

Hooray for shock therapy in Afghanistan:

Senior British, US and local aid workers have described a number of problems [with reconstruction in Afghanistan] including bribery, profiteering, poor planning and incompetence. The overall effect has been to cripple the development effort structured under the Bush administration’s insistence on an unregulated and profit-driven approach to reconstruction.

“The major donor agencies operate on the mistaken assumption that it’s more efficient and profitable to do things through market mechanisms,” a senior American contractor working in Afghanistan told the Guardian on condition of anonymity. “The notion of big government is a spectre for American conservatives and this [the reconstruction process] is an American conservative project.”

The contractor said the “original plan was to get in, prop up Karzai, kill al-Qaida, privatise all government-owned enterprises and get out. It wasn’t a development project, that wasn’t a concern. Development was an afterthought.

The Graun calls this “poor planning and incompetence.”  Sorry, but “an unregulated and profit-driven approach to reconstruction” may be indeed reflect willful indifference and a shoddy understanding of what proper reconstruction of a failed state actually entails.   But it goes well beyond ‘poor planning and incompetence;’  This is outright criminal negligence on the part of pathologically obsessive free-market ideologues who didn’t give a good goddamn about cleaning up the mess they made.

In other words, textbook disaster capitalism.

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When ‘Soft Power’ Isn’t So Soft

by matttbastard

I hope you’ll excuse me if I refrain from opining at length or in explicit detail about this amusing little nugget currently smoldering in the slow holiday news cycle. Am loath to trigger the unwelcome attention of relentless sp@mbots. Instead, a quote from The Matrix (just make sure to invert the colour scheme so that it makes more sense in context):

You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

Now, I know that the US is apparently bound and determined to import the Anbar Model to Afghanistan at any cost, but is this really the *cough* tribal awakening that Gen. Petraeus had in mind–“pharmaceutical enhancements for aging patriarchs with slumping libidos”?

Gotta second Jesse Walker:

I look forward to the dueling Reichian and Foucauldian interpretations of this approach.

Related: Megan Carpentier and Spencer Ackerman analyze the CIA’s novel chemical inducement strategy from a feminist perspective and whip out the expected cock jokes. What? C’mon, it’s Jezebel. Dick-and-fart feminism is their bread and butter. Although I suppose one could argue that even for a Gawker Media affiliate going below the belt like that is merely plucking *ahem* low hanging fruit to increase page views (see what I did there? Eh? Eh? Ok, I’ve had more than enough broad penis humour for one day.)

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Quote of the Day: The Rhetoric of Confrontation and Confusion

by matttbastard

There’s a moral problem with all the pro-Georgia cheerleading, which has gotten lost in the op-ed blasts against Putin’s neo-imperialism. A recurring phenomenon of the early Cold War was that America encouraged oppressed peoples to rise up and fight for freedom — and then, when things got rough, abandoned them to their fate. The CIA did that egregiously in the early 1950s, broadcasting to the Soviet republics and the nations of Eastern Europe that America would back their liberation from Soviet tyranny. After the brutal suppression of the Hungarian revolution in 1956, responsible U.S. leaders learned to be more cautious, and more honest about the limits of American power.

Now, after the Georgia war, McCain should learn that lesson: American leaders shouldn’t make threats the country can’t deliver or promises it isn’t prepared to keep. The rhetoric of confrontation may make us feel good, but other people end up getting killed.

- David Ignatius, The Risk of the Zinger

h/t Clive Crook

Related: Ivan Krastev on the ‘great power trap’:

The politics of mixed – and confused – signals emanating from Washington continued throughout the five days of the Russia-Georgia conflict. The outcome is doubly revealing: of the fact that the US does not have leverage over Moscow, and that Bush’s rhetorical commitment to guarantee the territorial integrity of Georgia is indeed just rhetoric. In short, the Bush administration’s crisis-management was the worst of both worlds: it had no sense of direction, and it lost credibility.

Moscow too made a grave strategic miscalculation. The decision to follow the crushing of the Georgian assault on Tskhinvali by invasion of Georgia proper – though with no political plan, no local political allies to help remove Saakashvili, and no principle on which to build a Caucasus settlement after the war – meant that Russia’s actions were guaranteed to invite stinging international criticism. Russia has not offered anything, articulated any larger and inclusive project to make sense of its military campaign or enable it to reach out to neighbouring states and international partners. Russia has, in narrow terms, won; but it could yet turn out to be the biggest loser of the Georgian war.

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Quote of the Day: Imperial Nostalgia

by matttbastard

…Even after the fiasco in Iraq, the bloody failure in Lebanon, the downward spiral in Afghanistan and, now, the futile posturing in Georgia, there’s absolutely no evidence the US foreign policy elite is inclined to moderate its ambition to re-organize the world along American lines. Nor is there any sign the political class (including, unfortunately, Barack Obama) is rethinking its lockstep support for that agenda. The voters, meanwhile, don’t seem to care much one way or another – as long as gas doesn’t get too expensive and the military casualties aren’t too high (or can be kept off the TV). If anything, it looks like bashing the Russians is still good politics, if only for the nostalgia value.If you caught Andrew Bacevich on Bill Moyer’s show the other night, you may have noticed that his biggest complaint was not that US foreign policy is misguided and destructive (although he clearly thinks it’s both) but that it is being conducted in a democratic vacuum — despite all the florid rhetoric about promoting democracy. We may still go through the motions of a republican form of government, Bacevich says, but the fabric has gotten pretty thin: or, in the case of our national revival of the Great Game in the Caucasus, damned near invisible.

How long before it tears completely?

- Billmon, Anatomy of A(nother) Fiasco

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Conflict in the Caucasus: Four Perspectives

by matttbastard

Greg Djerejian:

What’s needed now, rather critically, is rather a large dose of humble pie by Mr. Saakashvili (let Solana visit him to hand-hold some, and perhaps then send our own Condi-the-Great too, as face-saver, if she’s not too busy showcasing our incompetence elsewhere), with an understanding that the main objective is an immediate cease-fire with the goal of returning to the status quo ante, which is to say, de facto Russian control of the provinces in question. We could do far worse (indeed Putin may be minded to just have them go ahead and declare their independence under Russian control, or simply annex them), and bloviating about the death of the Rose Revolution in far-flung Abkhazia and Ossetia, while doubtless fun cocktail chit-chat among the grandees of our favorite editorial pages, well, Putin might have an idea or two where to put such talk, and it won’t save any lives at this urgent juncture either. Put differently, let’s stop our fanciful reverie from points removed (and where the ramifications don’t include rampant lost of life, say) in favor of trying to dampen back a bloodbath that is looming today in the Caucasus, especially should Saakashvili delude himself some quasi-cavalry might be in the offing, and push back on the Russians even harder. For there is no cavalry coming, save if cavalry can be construed as ‘we must respect Georgian sovereignty’ soundbites that will blanket around clueless anchors striving mightily to pose intelligible questions on the cable news circuit that might be overheard at the Tbilisi Marriott.

Yulia Latynina (h/t Joshua Rouse Foust):

{A}ll the recent actions of Eduard Kokoity, the leader of the breakaway South Ossetian government, have run counter to the interests of Russia in the Caucasus — beginning with his embarrassing Russia in the eyes of the international community and ending with his ratcheting up the tensions in the very region where Russia might begin to come undone. South Ossetia is not a territory, not a country, not a regime. It is a joint venture of siloviki generals and Ossetian bandits for making money in a conflict with Georgia. For me, the most surprising thing in this entire story is the complete lack of any strategic goals on the part of the South Ossetians.

As soon as Russia tamped down the war in Abkhazia, tensions in South Ossetia started rising. South Ossetian forces start shelling Georgian villages, and as soon as Georgia returns fire, the airwaves are filled with accusations of “Georgian aggression.” No one pays attention to the fact that when this happens, Kokoity is not on the front lines or visiting the injured in a hospital — he’s 1,000 kilometers away in Abkhazia, apparently offering the Russian siloviki his people as hostages, as another card to be played to inflame the situation and make a few more dollars.

Again — nothing that is going on in South Ossetia makes any sense from the point of view of strategy. It only makes sense as a means of making money. And we aren’t talking about small sums. Running a gas pipeline through the mountains from Russia — a precaution in case Georgia decides to cut off the 70,000 residents — cost $570 million. And then there is the secret budget Russia has allotted for the struggle — estimated at somewhere around $800 million. And don’t forget the pensions and wages for state-sector workers, who officially number some 80,000 but whose actual numbers are not more than 30,000.

James Sherr (h/t The Parasite):

Unlike Georgia, Ukraine has no territorial conflicts, but it has a potential territorial dispute, Crimea. What is more, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet – and along with it, its intelligence services – is authorised to remain there until 2017. In 1997, Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea was recognised by a treaty signed by Presidents Yeltsin and Kuchma. Yet after Nato’s summit in Bucharest last April, President Putin let it be known that Crimea and other questions long regarded as settled could be reopened if Ukraine ceased to be a “friendly” (ie, non-Nato) state. After the events of last week, Ukraine is even more concerned about Russia’s wish to destabilise it.

Russia’s regional objectives are therefore straightforward. It aims to show its neighbours, by means of the Georgian example, that Russia is “glavniy”: that its contentment is the key to “stability and security”, and that if Russia expresses its discontent, Nato will be unwilling and unable to help. It aims to show Nato that its newest aspirant members are divided, divisible and, in the case of Georgia, reckless. It aims to show both sets of actors that Russia has (in Putin’s words) “earned a right to be self-interested” and that in its own “zone”, it will defend these interests irrespective of what others think about them. For Russia, the broader implications are also becoming straightforward. To its political establishment, to the heads of Gazprom and Rosneft, to its armed forces and security services and to their advisors and “ideologists”, the key point is that the era of Western dominance is over.

Far from rejecting “globalisation”, as Westerners might suppose, their view, in Foreign Minister Lavrov’s words, is that the West is “losing its monopoly over the globalisation process”.

Natalia Antonova:

Ultimately, the nations who have encouraged Georgia to join Nato will wash their hands of this conflict. When it comes to what matters more, Tbilisi or Moscow, Moscow will win out. It’s expedient to kick smaller nations to the curb in favour of the big guys, and I say this as someone who has a hell of a lot in common with the Russian Federation and its interests.

Who knows? Perhaps this entire conflict will serve to benefit Russian-American relations. On Air Force One, high above the toils of ordinary life and death, people who will benefit from this disaster can toast each other while the dead are being buried.

It’s not fair. It’s politics. And the only thing left for those not directly involved may be simply to turn away. As one of my Russian friends put it: “I don’t give a s—. It’s summer. Beautiful women in light dresses and sandals are about. I am young enough to pay attention to beautiful women, and old enough to not be interested in f—– up political games.”

More links at my Delicious.

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PSA: Re-instate Malalai Joya — May 21st Day of Action

by matttbastard

Via The Canadian Peace Alliance:

Reinstate Malalai Joya!

On May 21 there will be an international day of action in support of suspended Afghan MP Malalai Joya. Joya was suspended for speaking out about the record of human rights abuses by members of the warlord dominated Afghan Parliament.

The Canadian Peace Alliance is calling on members and supporters to organize events or to send letters demanding that that Joya be re-instated to the Afghan Parliament. We are also calling on the government of Canada to immediately call for her to be re-instated to the parliament to which she was duly elected.

The case of Malalai Joya speaks volumes about the nature of the new Afghan government, currently being supported by more than 2500 Canadian soldiers. She is a tireless defender of women’s rights and has organized a grassroots movement for peace and democracy in Afghanistan. That movement which can lay the foundation for real democratic development is being silenced by the Afghan state.

Please take the time to fax or e-mail a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier, the Afghan ambassador to Canada, Omar Samad, and the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and demand that they re-instate Malalai Joya.

Step 1
Cut and paste the following e-mails into the address line: pm@pm.gc.ca , maxime.bernier@international.gc.cacontact@afghanemb-canada.net , president@afghanistangov.org

Prime Minister Stephen Harper:
pm@pm.gc.ca
Fax: 613-941-6900

Foreign Minister, Maxime Bernier:
maxime.bernier@international.gc.ca
Fax: (613) 996 3443

Afghan Ambassador Omar Samad:
contact@afghanemb-canada.net
Fax: 613-563-4962

Afghan President Hamid Karzai:
president@afghanistangov.org

Step 2
Include some background information in your letter or refer to the articles listed below.

Background Information:

Joya has been a thorn in the side of the NATO-supported government by being an outspoken critic of the human rights abuses of the warlords that dominate  the parliament of Afghanistan. In the elections of May 2005, more than 60 per cent of those elected to parliament were from known warlord groups, many of whom are responsible for war crimes committed during the civil war from 1992 to 1996. An international campaign to have the warlords held to account  failed when the parliament decided to offer immunity for all past war crimes.

Joya has been threatened and attacked for her stance. In 2006, President  Hamid Karzai cut her security funding, proving that women’s rights are not a concern for his government despite assertions to the contrary from the  Government of Canada.

In an interview with the Guardian, Joya said: “When I speak in parliament they threaten me. In May they beat me by throwing bottles of water at me and they shouted, ‘Take her and rape her.’ These men who are in power, never have they apologized for their crimes that they committed in the wars, and now, with the support of the US, they continue with their crimes in a different way. That is why there is no fundamental change in the situation of women.”

Even before her suspension, Malalai Joya faced censorship, abuse and constant threats including assassination attempts because she spoke the truth about the situation in her country. She denounced the overwhelming control of warlords, drug lords and war criminals in the Afghan government backed by the US and NATO. She spoke up for real democracy and women’s rights, for disarmament, for the warlords to be brought to justice, and for peace in her country. For this, she has been silenced, and the governments of the NATO countries currently occupying Afghanistan have maintained a shameful silence.

For more information on Malalai Joya: http://malalaijoya.com

Read the Human Rights Watch statement about Malalai Joya’s suspension
http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2007/05/23/afghan15995.htm

Recent Headlines:

‘Corruption eats away at Afghan government’
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080502.afghan03/BNStory/International/home

‘Ousted female Afghan lawmaker fighting to return to parliament
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/04/05/asia/AS-GEN-Afghan-Lawmaker-Ousted.php

‘Despite Taliban’s fall, Afghanistan faces familiar troubles’
http://www.projo.com/education/content/AFGHAN_SPEAKER_03-19-08_QG9E9TJ_v98.372f652.html

‘Canada should change its policy on Afghanistan’
http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2008/03/03/malalai-joya-canada-should-change-its-policy-on-afghanistan.html

Step 3
Send your e-mail or fax.

Step 4
Sign the on-line petition for Malalai Joya: http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/ReinstateMalalaiJoya

Please take video and photos of your event and send them to Malalai Joya’s defense committee at mj[at]malalaijoya.com.

To have your May 21 action listed, email Friends of Malalai Joya – Canada at malalai.joya[at]yahoo.ca.

Please let us know about your efforts by cc’ing the Canadian Peace Alliance cpa@web.ca

Canadian Peace Alliance- www.acp-cpa.cacpa@web.ca – 416-588-5555

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