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Thread: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

  1. #91
    Headless Senior Member Pannonian's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    The starting point has to be enforceable pan-national regulatory floors alongside shared governmental subsidies to private investment abroad (with high priority to oversight mechanisms). Rich countries should supply capital, technology, education, and expertise, while poor countries have to find democratic buy-in and independently generate domestic institutions capable of guiding the distribution of resources and investment toward broad benefit. The difficult part is achieving shared political will and operational stability; I don't think the details on paper would be hard to figure out for expert commissions, who would ultimately be laying a framework for millions of private actors.

    These aspirations would have to be realized over decades, but the US could, for example, multiply this agency by 10 and expand its scope without breaking a sweat.
    https://www.dfc.gov/



    It's a rhetorical device. In principle, if a government project cannot avoid 99% waste as to its formal objectives, it should not exist and should never have existed. Yet most government projects are not quite that wasteful somehow.
    Afghanistan does not have an industrial capacity, so anything remotely modern has to be brought in from outside. The US does not speak Afghan languages, most Afghans do not speak the Americans' language, so intermediaries have to be used. The US wanted to encourage independence and autonomy, so accounting was lax.

    If you don't want wastage, don't do nation building. If you want to reduce wastage, there are ways of doing so. Either you let them work their way up from a low level, thus working with their own resources supplemented by yours. Or you go full on neocolonialism a la China, where you supply materials and workers, and end up with modern infrastructure. If you're more altruistic than China, then you might go the Soviet route and train up a class that runs the infrastructure. But you have to accept that the most efficient way of avoiding wastage is to retain control of the process. Which goes against liberal democratic ideals.

  2. #92
    Darkside Medic Senior Member rory_20_uk's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Quote Originally Posted by Pannonian View Post
    Afghanistan does not have an industrial capacity, so anything remotely modern has to be brought in from outside. The US does not speak Afghan languages, most Afghans do not speak the Americans' language, so intermediaries have to be used. The US wanted to encourage independence and autonomy, so accounting was lax.

    If you don't want wastage, don't do nation building. If you want to reduce wastage, there are ways of doing so. Either you let them work their way up from a low level, thus working with their own resources supplemented by yours. Or you go full on neocolonialism a la China, where you supply materials and workers, and end up with modern infrastructure. If you're more altruistic than China, then you might go the Soviet route and train up a class that runs the infrastructure. But you have to accept that the most efficient way of avoiding wastage is to retain control of the process. Which goes against liberal democratic ideals.
    I don't think that nation building requires wastage. Massive cost with no direct returns on investment yes - but that isn't wastage if the goal is a functioning country. For example, building useful infrastructure is expensive and will only provide future utility. But it isn't wastage. Perhaps knowing that the locals will destroy it before it was built makes it wastage?

    I'm not sure that encouraging independence and autonomy requires or benefits from lax accounting when the end result was massive theft and a complete dislocation of the "functioning" of the state from what the actual country can provide. Even directly giving the money to the local warlords would have been better. And when that is the case, the concept is so deeply flawed it should be stopped at that point.

    One of the reasons that Afghanistan has reached its current state was the USSR providing training / indoctrination that deposed a society that was slowly modernising in a relatively positive and inclusive way to a Communist state that then proceeded to wreck the place, leading to a take over by religious zealots. I'd not call that "altruistic". Blinkered, perhaps.

    I do agree that realistically, if you want something to happen then one has to keep control. That is as true when repainting a house as it is rebuilding a country. Liberal democratic ideals forget that the very liberal democratic ideals are built on a vast number of other structures such as a (mostly) working system of laws and can't just be beamed in - and the fantasy that it is self evidently is the "best" is one of the most corrosive concepts that go around.

    An enemy that wishes to die for their country is the best sort to face - you both have the same aim in mind.
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  3. #93
    Headless Senior Member Pannonian's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Quote Originally Posted by rory_20_uk View Post
    I don't think that nation building requires wastage. Massive cost with no direct returns on investment yes - but that isn't wastage if the goal is a functioning country. For example, building useful infrastructure is expensive and will only provide future utility. But it isn't wastage. Perhaps knowing that the locals will destroy it before it was built makes it wastage?

    I'm not sure that encouraging independence and autonomy requires or benefits from lax accounting when the end result was massive theft and a complete dislocation of the "functioning" of the state from what the actual country can provide. Even directly giving the money to the local warlords would have been better. And when that is the case, the concept is so deeply flawed it should be stopped at that point.

    One of the reasons that Afghanistan has reached its current state was the USSR providing training / indoctrination that deposed a society that was slowly modernising in a relatively positive and inclusive way to a Communist state that then proceeded to wreck the place, leading to a take over by religious zealots. I'd not call that "altruistic". Blinkered, perhaps.

    I do agree that realistically, if you want something to happen then one has to keep control. That is as true when repainting a house as it is rebuilding a country. Liberal democratic ideals forget that the very liberal democratic ideals are built on a vast number of other structures such as a (mostly) working system of laws and can't just be beamed in - and the fantasy that it is self evidently is the "best" is one of the most corrosive concepts that go around.

    The Soviet way was more altruistic than the current Chinese way, which doesn't even train a class to run said infrastructure, but instead does the old colonialist thing of importing its own officers and engineers, so the host country is left with physical infrastructure but is reliant on the colonising country to keep it running.

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  4. #94

    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Quote Originally Posted by Pannonian View Post
    Afghanistan does not have an industrial capacity, so anything remotely modern has to be brought in from outside. The US does not speak Afghan languages, most Afghans do not speak the Americans' language, so intermediaries have to be used. The US wanted to encourage independence and autonomy, so accounting was lax.

    If you don't want wastage, don't do nation building. If you want to reduce wastage, there are ways of doing so. Either you let them work their way up from a low level, thus working with their own resources supplemented by yours. Or you go full on neocolonialism a la China, where you supply materials and workers, and end up with modern infrastructure. If you're more altruistic than China, then you might go the Soviet route and train up a class that runs the infrastructure. But you have to accept that the most efficient way of avoiding wastage is to retain control of the process. Which goes against liberal democratic ideals.
    To be clear, I am not proposing that rich countries send social workers to active war zones. Better to send them out before their destinations become active war zones. Lebanon is not Afghanistan. Partner states have to be able to pull their weight in the process even as we build their capacity to pull weight. We can't do anything for Afghanistan along these lines until the political environment there becomes much stabler, notwithstanding that Afghanistan is a truly advanced case best left until we've proven we can master the basics elsewhere. For god's sake, most of the Afghans are unlettered and uneducated, i.e. where decolonized Africa was 50 years ago (more now that the most educated and skilled are tending to flight).



    But the wastage in Afghanistan was never following a lack of control - just the opposite, we held maximal control over where money went. We just didn't apply oversight, nor did we prioritize civil planning or social infrastructure. Our priority was always proximate warfighting or its support, which is where money and organization went. What money did go to reconstruction, tended to be managed by other Americans and not Afghans (other than friendly elites).

    That's why the Afghan people got next to nothing.

    For more information, this recent Congressional Research Service summary estimated that Congress, over 20 years, budgeted $60 billion to governance, development, civilian operations, and humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. That's 3% of total direct expenditures of $2 trillion, or 6% if you believe the government's estimate of $1 trillion (granted that this estimate does not include interest on debt). Disbursement was generally managed by the Department of State or USAID. Some of the most recent disbursements were conditioned on the GIROA's progress in peace talks with the Taliban. Undoubtedly some of this money went to NGOs and to private Afghans with good motives and results, but whatever the micro-results, most of the money seems to have funded American contractors' salaries or government officials's corruption. Evidently this situation is not a mere product of mismanagement by the Afghan state or people that the US government failed to take over.

    How many times do I have to point out that we export corruption?

    Thus the ephemeral results:

    Afghanistan’s gross domestic product (GDP) has grown an average of 7% per year since 2003,
    but growth rates averaged between 2% and 3% in recent years and decades of war have stunted
    the development of most domestic industries. President Ghani said in July 2020 that 90% of
    Afghans live below the government-determined poverty level of two dollars a day.
    The
    withdrawal of a U.S. force much smaller than that of a decade ago would seem to have less
    dramatic second-order economic effects for Afghanistan than did the post-2012 drawdown, which
    helped spur a “drastic economic decline.”
    We have to actually care about what happens with money. See here for an extensive SIGAR report from this July on failures of monitoring and evaluating in US government contracting. A huge problem was that, as I mentioned previously, our strategic goals through which individual grants and contracts were filtered proved to be incoherent or implausible from the beginning. Without a proper roadmap, it is even "possible to do the wrong thing perfectly." In a systematic program of wealth transfer the dynamic framework needs to be established and reviewed before the first grant or loan or subsidy is issued, and there need to be interlocking systems of M&E flowing from each state party and participating organization.

    Quote Originally Posted by rory_20_uk View Post
    I don't think that nation building requires wastage. Massive cost with no direct returns on investment yes - but that isn't wastage if the goal is a functioning country. For example, building useful infrastructure is expensive and will only provide future utility. But it isn't wastage. Perhaps knowing that the locals will destroy it before it was built makes it wastage?

    I'm not sure that encouraging independence and autonomy requires or benefits from lax accounting when the end result was massive theft and a complete dislocation of the "functioning" of the state from what the actual country can provide. Even directly giving the money to the local warlords would have been better. And when that is the case, the concept is so deeply flawed it should be stopped at that point.

    One of the reasons that Afghanistan has reached its current state was the USSR providing training / indoctrination that deposed a society that was slowly modernising in a relatively positive and inclusive way to a Communist state that then proceeded to wreck the place, leading to a take over by religious zealots. I'd not call that "altruistic". Blinkered, perhaps.

    I do agree that realistically, if you want something to happen then one has to keep control. That is as true when repainting a house as it is rebuilding a country. Liberal democratic ideals forget that the very liberal democratic ideals are built on a vast number of other structures such as a (mostly) working system of laws and can't just be beamed in - and the fantasy that it is self evidently is the "best" is one of the most corrosive concepts that go around.
    I'm speaking of a mutualist system with the core goal of building the target country's state, economic, and social capacity. It's not something done sub silentio in the good old boys' club or the international airport hotel's lounge room, but one of the most significant and publicized programs in the history of countries on both ends.
    Last edited by Montmorency; 09-04-2021 at 00:20.
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  5. #95
    Coffee farmer extraordinaire Member spmetla's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    To be clear, I am not proposing that rich countries send social workers to active war zones. Better to send them out before their destinations become active war zones. Lebanon is not Afghanistan. Partner states have to be able to pull their weight in the process even as we build their capacity to pull weight. We can't do anything for Afghanistan along these lines until the political environment there becomes much stabler, notwithstanding that Afghanistan is a truly advanced case best left until we've proven we can master the basics elsewhere. For god's sake, most of the Afghans are unlettered and uneducated, i.e. where decolonized Africa was 50 years ago (more now that the most educated and skilled are tending to flight).
    While that does make sense the problem is that before they collapse it's usually hard to get domestic support to take action, it just looks like bankrolling another country. That scene at the end of Charlie Wilson War with the line of pretty much of "you're not the congressmen of Afghanistan."

    Egypt would be a good country to look at, they haven't had unemployment rates below 8% since the 90s and a third of the country is considered in poverty, the Northern Sinai has been violent and unstable ever since Israel left Gaza in 2005 when Hamas groups extended their ties into the Sinai. Egypt is a vital pillar to security in the Middle East, North Africa and thanks to the Suez world trade in general. We maintain ties with the current dictatorship because after seeing that democracy there produced Morsi which while saying the necessary things about Israel for stability did otherwise through the Muslim Brotherhood ties with other extremists and terrorists (it is considered a terrorist organization by several countries around the world).
    Egypt needs engagement and needs ground up help for its people but what can realisitically be done there? Making the agriculture more efficient would mean mega-corporations instead of the millions of poor farmers they currently have. They are generally resource poor so heavy industry is not a natural direction. The current reliance on tourism is okay but that depends on other countries being rich enough to visit and deterring enough terrorists that people actually want to visit (having been there I'd highly recommend Luxor, amazing!).

    The Afghan literacy is a huge problem and that was actually one of the brights spots in the ANA and ANP is that both had literacy programs that did work as their paperbacked admin and logistics required literate soldiers. Illiterate ones literally just made tea and did manual labor like cleaning so advancement to even corporal required literacy.

    But the wastage in Afghanistan was never following a lack of control - just the opposite, we held maximal control over where money went. We just didn't apply oversight, nor did we prioritize civil planning or social infrastructure. Our priority was always proximate warfighting or its support, which is where money and organization went. What money did go to reconstruction, tended to be managed by other Americans and not Afghans (other than friendly elites).

    That's why the Afghan people got next to nothing.
    It didn't help that the locals kinda ruined infrastructure too. In Kandahar province there were miles of solar power street lighting systems put out to reduce crime and people planting IEDs at night so the Taliban encouraged people to knock down the lights and steal the solar panels which went to everyone's rooftops.
    We build cellphone towers, the Taliban blow them up. We build schools the kids get coerced not to go, or blown up, the infrastructure is necessary but without security it'd be equally pointless. That's why the focus was on security.
    As for the warfighting, it does make sense that we tried to pump money into Afghan security forces as there's no way foreign troops would have the cultural or even linguistic ability to bring security through patrolling and checkpoints. We can fight Taliban and patrol for IEDs and deter their ability to patrol but it would take Afghan security forces to actually do the counter-insurgency. As we've seen though the soldiers didn't trust their leaders or the government and the people certainly didn't trust the soldiers. Apparently they were there for a pay check.
    The focus on security should have also focused on corruption (US/NATO and Afghan) as that in the end undermined security more than anything else.

    Think the only real examples of successful nation-building have been the handful of countries that were colonized and had peaceful transfers of power (excluding settler nations like the Australia, Canada and NZ). The US got close to nation building success with the Philippines which after colonization was on the path to full independence in 1948 but WW2 destroyed a lot of the good the US had built in infrastructure and governence.

    "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?"
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  6. #96

    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    In Afghanistan I suspect the loss ratio was far from total for what productive infrastructure was created, making it a better long-term bet for investment than Afghanized security forces (even assuming less congenital dysfunction of design). But you're reiterating the primary operational obstacles I mentioned.

    Egypt's military dictatorship - is probably unwilling and unable to nurture democratic buy-in. I don't know how kleptocratic its ruling class is, but I'm going to assume they're pretty kleptocratic. They won't build institutions that offer common Egyptians a stake.

    A minimum level of security is required to sustain a burst in business and development activity. A hundred thousand American, German, Australian, etc. youths and professionals won't 'deploy' for a 'tour of duty', especially beyond any metropoles, if they get targeted on a monthly basis or more (even if we can never expect perfect safety). Last I checked a few years ago, even Egypt's military repression couldn't keep militance and terrorism from spiraling out of control.

    So Egypt's not a great candidate either. Lebanon is a better option because it's small in size and population, poor but fairly educated and acculturated, and any major agreement demands Hezbollah's integration anyway, which should substantially repress the risk of violence.

    For the sake of thought exercise, I'm interested in what y'all can come up with. Assume the problem of Western political will is overcome: what's the best scope and target country for a model program along the lines I've described? (The best answer is still Eastern Europe, maybe the Balkans, but let's see some creativity.)
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  7. #97
    Headless Senior Member Pannonian's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    In Afghanistan I suspect the loss ratio was far from total for what productive infrastructure was created, making it a better long-term bet for investment than Afghanized security forces (even assuming less congenital dysfunction of design). But you're reiterating the primary operational obstacles I mentioned.

    Egypt's military dictatorship - is probably unwilling and unable to nurture democratic buy-in. I don't know how kleptocratic its ruling class is, but I'm going to assume they're pretty kleptocratic. They won't build institutions that offer common Egyptians a stake.

    A minimum level of security is required to sustain a burst in business and development activity. A hundred thousand American, German, Australian, etc. youths and professionals won't 'deploy' for a 'tour of duty', especially beyond any metropoles, if they get targeted on a monthly basis or more (even if we can never expect perfect safety). Last I checked a few years ago, even Egypt's military repression couldn't keep militance and terrorism from spiraling out of control.

    So Egypt's not a great candidate either. Lebanon is a better option because it's small in size and population, poor but fairly educated and acculturated, and any major agreement demands Hezbollah's integration anyway, which should substantially repress the risk of violence.

    For the sake of thought exercise, I'm interested in what y'all can come up with. Assume the problem of Western political will is overcome: what's the best scope and target country for a model program along the lines I've described? (The best answer is still Eastern Europe, maybe the Balkans, but let's see some creativity.)
    Start from the other direction. If a group in these countries can gain and retain power using methods antithetical to our ideals, why would they measure society using our metrics? If a patriarchy that their society is already predisposed to being can cement their power using religion, why would they start using your metrics to improve society? You can see elements of this in the US and UK as well, with differing groups using their own culture wars to solidify their power in their targeted populace.

  8. #98
    Coffee farmer extraordinaire Member spmetla's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Egypt's military dictatorship - is probably unwilling and unable to nurture democratic buy-in. I don't know how kleptocratic its ruling class is, but I'm going to assume they're pretty kleptocratic. They won't build institutions that offer common Egyptians a stake.
    That's why I pointed Egypt out, we talk about influencing other countries to do things that benefit their people and the region but what if they're not receptive?

    So Egypt's not a great candidate either. Lebanon is a better option because it's small in size and population, poor but fairly educated and acculturated, and any major agreement demands Hezbollah's integration anyway, which should substantially repress the risk of violence.
    I'd say Lebanon is actually more difficult, there's no true 'majority' population making the government weak and divided on any important actions, Syria/Iran have an interest in a weak Lebanon that allows Hezbollah's military to threaten Israel and conduct actions when Syria/Iran/Lebanon dare not openly. The Palestinian refugee camps are numerous and large and need to be dealt with too.
    Any Western action in a large way in Lebanon would also draw in a Russian counter-action as they and Syria see Lebanon as vital to their security and port of Tartus.

    For the sake of thought exercise, I'm interested in what y'all can come up with. Assume the problem of Western political will is overcome: what's the best scope and target country for a model program along the lines I've described? (The best answer is still Eastern Europe, maybe the Balkans, but let's see some creativity.)
    I'm game for this thought exercise, but perhaps it'd deserve a thread of it's own. The questions would also have to be who is doing what action. EU actions in Ukraine don't get quite they counter-action from Russia as US/NATO actions do even though there's some gray area between the organizations.
    I could see the following countries of topics of discussion in sort of the following groups.
    Functioning countries that need reform, human rights help, modernization, corruption help: Egypt, Ukraine, Turkey, Romania.
    Countries in recovery or being destabilized that could collapse: Lebanon, Tunisia, Sri Lanka.
    Countries straight up opposed but causing regional problems through domestic actions: Belarus, Myanmar, Philippines.
    Failed states or recovering from civil war: Somalia, Libya, Syria, Iraq.

    Even with hypothetical capability through more western will the myth of the Western World has faded with a lot of other countries. The 2008 Banking Crisis/Euro-zone austerity problems destroyed the West's credibility as the best way to have wealth and stability. This combined with the ability in capitalism to straight up buy your opponents companies and infrastructure instead of developing it themselves makes the West look like on the decline. The lack of quick and effective action (military or otherwise) in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria have eroded confidence in Western resolve for any buffer states. The ongoing hyper-individualism together pro-LGBT as priorities for human rights seem to threaten tribal/conservative societies which then support reactionaries that might 'save them' from genderless futures without a religion or traditional culture. When from the outside we look like a sex addicted culture but can't even sustain our population growth and need immigration for sustainable growth then it makes people question whether what we do is good for them.
    Most of the world wants a western standard of living and perhaps some of our liberties. Our social values, cultural attitudes, and the balance of community versus individual are much harder sells.

    Like I've said, the west seems to lack a vision of itself in the future. We're good at imagining dystopian futures, what's the future the west wants for itself that's worth fighting for (figuratively and perhaps literally).
    Last edited by spmetla; 09-05-2021 at 04:01.

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  9. #99

    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Quote Originally Posted by Pannonian View Post
    Start from the other direction. If a group in these countries can gain and retain power using methods antithetical to our ideals, why would they measure society using our metrics? If a patriarchy that their society is already predisposed to being can cement their power using religion, why would they start using your metrics to improve society? You can see elements of this in the US and UK as well, with differing groups using their own culture wars to solidify their power in their targeted populace.
    The last sentence is an all-important fact, the prerequisite hurdle for bare survival, but most countries aren't dominated by religious or other groups with worldviews antithetical to any level of rigorous international cooperation (even when that cooperation stands to benefit their own societies most). You're just repeating the argument that we can't expect more than limited engagement with countries like Afghanistan, which I already agree with you on. Let's concede that Taliban Afghanistan, Juche North Korea, and Putinate Russia, and all the like, are off limits for grand projects of socioeconomic engineering. Now what?

    Quote Originally Posted by spmetla View Post
    That's why I pointed Egypt out, we talk about influencing other countries to do things that benefit their people and the region but what if they're not receptive?
    What I'm talking about, essentially this but with less partisan framing, would be a mobilization of resources unprecedented in history for its aim and scope. There are plenty of other ways countries can and do influence each other, existing methods. Some of these aren't great, such as military/security aid and cooperation that tends to just prop up authoritarian governments for nothing (e.g. Egypt using it to detain tens of thousands of political prisoners), but there are others, such as international mediation between Egypt and Sudan's water disputes or Egypt-EFTA agreements.

    Just to be straight on what we're talking about. There is a whole spectrum of engagement and intervention and one can't conflate one point with another. The UN may be sending peacekeepers to Afghanistan to pretend to oversee whatever aid it chooses to direct there, and whether or not that will help the situation, it is one tool that is available and feasible in the short term.

    To say that not everything is possible between everyone is not to say that countries have no mechanisms at all for influencing each other. If all we can do with Egypt currently is threaten the structure of their military aid or economic relations, then we should explore the available options based on our goals and principles.

    I'd say Lebanon is actually more difficult, there's no true 'majority' population making the government weak and divided on any important actions, Syria/Iran have an interest in a weak Lebanon that allows Hezbollah's military to threaten Israel and conduct actions when Syria/Iran/Lebanon dare not openly. The Palestinian refugee camps are numerous and large and need to be dealt with too.
    Any Western action in a large way in Lebanon would also draw in a Russian counter-action as they and Syria see Lebanon as vital to their security and port of Tartus.
    That's why the democratic buy-in is important. Theoretically right now would be the best time to pursue a comprehensive international program of investment in Lebanon, since it has basically had no government for a year (since the Beirut incident), the majority of people are living in poverty, and the economy is undergoing one of the very worst contractions in modern global history. Does one doubt that the Lebanese people as explicit counterparty would reject a credible offer of a rigorous influx of foreign resources and personnel alongside political reformation? Incidentally, the fractured and desperate environment could even allow for a field test of the theory of government by sortition, to weaken the lingering grip of Lebanese elites on future development, though I doubt this experiment would ever be included in proposals. Stacking the Lebanese legislature and executive with random commoners probably wouldn't even produce worse results than Lebanon has seen tbh.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    But that is exactly what we are living today in Lebanon. The end of an entire way of life. I read the headlines about us, and they are a list of facts and numbers. The currency has lost over 90 percent of its value since 2019; 78 percent of the population is estimated to be living in poverty; there are severe shortages of fuel and diesel; society is on the verge of total implosion. But what does all this mean? It means days entirely occupied with the scramble for basic necessities. A life reduced to the logistics of survival and a population that is physically, mentally and emotionally depleted.
    [...]
    It is nearly impossible to sit down to work. My laptop battery lasts only so long anyway. In my neighborhood, government-provided power comes on for just an hour a day. The UPS battery that keeps the internet router working runs out of juice by noon. I’m behind on every deadline; I’ve written countless shamefaced emails of apology. What am I even supposed to say? “My country is falling apart and there’s not a single moment of my day that isn’t beholden to its collapse”? Nights are sleepless in the choking summer heat. Building generators operate for only four hours before going off around midnight to save diesel — if they are turned on at all.

    Every few days there’s a new low to get used to. One recent morning I needed to exchange some dollars to buy groceries, chiefly bread. At the exchange shop there was a long line of people because the dollar rate was slightly down. There had been rumors that the new prime minister was close to forming a government. At this point such news is like a joke — we’ve been without a government since the cataclysmic port blast on Aug. 4, 2020, and the three prime ministers delegated by Parliament to form a government since then have failed to do so because of infighting between political parties, the same ones who’ve brought this country to ruin. Still, all markets are susceptible to rumor, and whenever the dollar rate goes down, people flock to convert their useless Lebanese lira into dollars.

    Once I had my money, I headed to the supermarket, and on my way I encountered a tiny old woman sitting on the pavement. I wanted to give her some money and a bottle of cold water. I went to four shops before I found one. This was how I first learned that we are now also facing a shortage of bottled water. The week before, I’d discovered that there was a shortage of cooking gas after our canister ran out and I had to make a dozen calls — and pay five times what it once cost — to replace it. While cooking gas is vital, the shortage of bottled water is an even bigger disaster in a country where most Lebanese believe the tap water isn’t even safe enough to cook with. (Tap water, too, is at risk of being shut down.) I read about it later: There isn’t enough fuel to power the machines forming the plastic bottles or the pumps that fill them. No fuel for the trucks making deliveries.
    [...]
    At every turn I must remind you: I am one of the lucky few. For every hardship I’m living through, there are those who have it worse. I have four hours of generator power a day; many have none. I am able-bodied enough to climb up and down the stairs every time I need to leave my apartment; the elderly and disabled are imprisoned indoors. I work from home; I don’t have to forgo work altogether to spend entire days lining up for fuel. The monthly minimum wage is now worth less than $50, while the price of food alone has risen by more than 500 percent over the past year.
    [...]
    There’s no break from this kind of economic warfare. Because that’s exactly what this is. Fuel and medicine, though scarce, are not entirely unavailable. They are unattainable, hoarded by politically connected individuals and organizations, likely to be exported or sold on the black market. In a world where the maximalist pursuit of profit is supreme, such behavior is simply the way the system was built to work. Lebanon is not an exception. It is a preview of what happens when people run out of resources they believe are infinite. This is how fast a society can collapse. This is what it looks like when the world as we know it ends.


    Even with hypothetical capability through more western will the myth of the Western World has faded with a lot of other countries. The 2008 Banking Crisis/Euro-zone austerity problems destroyed the West's credibility as the best way to have wealth and stability. This combined with the ability in capitalism to straight up buy your opponents companies and infrastructure instead of developing it themselves makes the West look like on the decline. The lack of quick and effective action (military or otherwise) in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria have eroded confidence in Western resolve for any buffer states. The ongoing hyper-individualism together pro-LGBT as priorities for human rights seem to threaten tribal/conservative societies which then support reactionaries that might 'save them' from genderless futures without a religion or traditional culture. When from the outside we look like a sex addicted culture but can't even sustain our population growth and need immigration for sustainable growth then it makes people question whether what we do is good for them.
    Most of the world wants a western standard of living and perhaps some of our liberties. Our social values, cultural attitudes, and the balance of community versus individual are much harder sells.
    I've said, no one has any reason to trust our promises, promises from actively failing societies whom not even their own citizens should respect, yet what I would promise is - as of NOW - too good to be true for anyone but aspirational leftist intellectuals. Since no country has the capacity to go it alone, on what terms can rich countries be brought to organize collectively and build their own capacity to act domestically? As previously mentioned, halting efforts to negotiate a minimum corporate tax for the OECD are a generation too little, too late, but it's some of the little hope we do have for collective action.

    One thing the US and other rich countries could do unilaterally and immediately, however, is to apply existing regulatory powers. The Biden admin, for example, has banned imports of solar panels or supply chain components sourced from Xinjiang (use of slave labor); many environmental abuses around the world could be attacked without new legislation just by manipulating our market power as large consumers.

    Another thing is to allow aggressive use by foreign nationals of the Alien Tort Claims Act. You know how Texas is banning abortion by outsourcing enforcement to private informants? We have the more constitutional and moral option of outsourcing policing of multinational companies to those affected by their operations abroad.

    Like I've said, the west seems to lack a vision of itself in the future. We're good at imagining dystopian futures, what's the future the west wants for itself that's worth fighting for (figuratively and perhaps literally).
    As always, the great paradox of history in the 21st century. In all honesty it probably rides on who can arrogate power to themselves at the height of the crisis in the next generation - which is more likely to be a coterie of turbo-Hitlers than Omega FDRs.


    Nevertheless, we must keep our eyes on the prize: Standing up a wealthy, cooperative, and more equal international society that can offer mutual support against the trials of the age. Intervention not to center some securitized construction of US or EU economic or foreign policy interests, but to center the civic interest* of the people at the destination, which in the long-term is in our best interest as well.

    *Despite the ongoing cultural wars, most people alive today can commit to a consensus of not wanting to live in shit
    Last edited by Montmorency; 09-06-2021 at 04:58.
    Vitiate Man.

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  10. #100
    Senior Member Senior Member ReluctantSamurai's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Thought this was an interesting discussion on what the money spent on anti-terrorism since 2001 would have purchased here at home. I don't have the time to dig into the correctness of the numbers, but if even half of this is accurate.....

    https://theintercept.com/2021/09/03/...e-health-care/

    According to a latest version of a long-running study from Brown University, the U.S. federal government has to date spent $5.84 trillion in current dollars on the so-called war on terror. This is over $16,000 for every single American, or $64,000 for a family of four. Brown’s estimate is the most conservative way possible of measuring the costs of our wars. It does not include the most important price: the death, dismemberment, and emotional devastation of 20 years of ultraviolence. It does not include the additional $2.2 trillion that the study concludes the U.S. is committed to spending on care for veterans of the wars in the future. It does not include spending by U.S. allies, nor the costs incurred by American state and local governments.

    It’s excruciating to look at these facts and face the reality that we chose death over life 20 years ago, and have been choosing it ever since. The good news is that U.S. is so rich that even the stupendous cost of the war on terror did not force many changes to daily life for most Americans. That means that while it will be significantly harder now to change course, it is still possible and perhaps easier than we imagine. As inspirational wall posters say, the best time to plant a tree, literally and figuratively, is 20 years ago, and the second-best time is now.
    After all the lives expended, both here and abroad, after all the billions that lined the pockets of defense contractors, after taking a pass on protecting the lives of our children (here and abroad via climate change), here's what lawmakers here in the US have decided to do:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/02/u...get-biden.html

    “The bipartisan adoption of my amendment sends a clear signal: The president’s budget submission was wholly inadequate to keep pace with a rising China and a re-emerging Russia,” Mr. Rogers said. “I hope this bipartisan, and now bicameral, move is understood by the Biden-Harris administration.”
    So there you have it. America vs China & Russia. Not entirely inaccurate, but wholly mis-guided. More Navy ships, aircraft, and military equipment will not be of use (except to defense contractors) in the coming struggle with both of those countries, because a conventional war of any kind is suicide for the planet. The war is going to be in the cyber-sphere and in the economic sectors.

    I keep saying it...but jeezus we are so screwed here stateside.....
    High Plains Drifter

  11. #101
    Coffee farmer extraordinaire Member spmetla's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Thought this was an interesting discussion on what the money spent on anti-terrorism since 2001 would have purchased here at home. I don't have the time to dig into the correctness of the numbers, but if even half of this is accurate.....
    The big blank check of the last twenty years has been hugely wasteful. It's a shame we went from a budget surplus at the end of Clinton's term to the present day rash of spending. Fiscal responsibility is only something the opposition party cares about whenever their opponents are in power. The Republicans spend frivolously on defense and the border, the Democrats on tertiary social programs.

    So there you have it. America vs China & Russia. Not entirely inaccurate, but wholly mis-guided. More Navy ships, aircraft, and military equipment will not be of use (except to defense contractors) in the coming struggle with both of those countries, because a conventional war of any kind is suicide for the planet. The war is going to be in the cyber-sphere and in the economic sectors.
    Actually, with China and Russia both certain that the US won't use nuclear force in response to conventional attacks on the peripheries of their spheres it's very necessary to maintain the conventional deterrent. Would the US and rest of the Quad go to war over Taiwan, most likely. Would the US use nuclear weapons to defend Taiwan, very unlikely. Just as China would likely not use its nuclear arsenal unless the US began doing strikes in mainland China beyond the areas of influence around Taiwan. The fact that the US Army just released and made public the manual ATP 7-100.3 Chinese Tactics is definitely an indicator that war with China is expected in the near future. The Chinese hope to have a Tsushima Straits type victory over the US that kicks us out of the region and forces our current allies to either make a deal with China or at least break with the US.
    Russia is banking on the same in the Ukraine and Baltics. Would the US go nuclear to defend Finland, the Baltics, or Ukraine, probably not. The cyber-sphere and economic sectors are ongoing parts of the same war that also need to be used.

    Your base gripe of the defense budget going up though, I whole heartedly agree with. The US defense budget is huge already and being inefficiently spent. We need to get more bang out of the many many bucks we're spending, not spend even more.

    "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?"
    -Abraham Lincoln

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  12. #102
    Senior Member Senior Member ReluctantSamurai's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    I do not disagree with having to have a "big stick" to swing when necessary. Otherwise, just hand the keys to the government over to our rivals.

    Having said that, what's most galling is all the bullshit talk about fiscal responsibility when considering spending money on the American people (ie. the $3.5 trillion Reconciliation Bill), but no hesitation what-so-ever in handing $24 billion in increased spending to defense contractors. Both sides of the isle are complicit, and yes, I know this sort of rubbish has been going on here in the US for decades. The American people like to bluster about their rights and freedoms, but don't realize they'd be far better off if they voted these corrupt legislators out of office. We get what we deserve, I suppose....

    I saw the remarks earlier about a 10/20/30/50 year planning reach. Well, all this political BS, and pretty much all social issues are going to become subservient to what climate changes are going to inflict on all societies. What are you going to do when millions upon millions get displaced inland due to rising sea levels? What are you going to do when there is widespread crop failures (already happening) due to drought? Are there very many US planners thinking on what to about this:

    https://www.nbcnews.com/science/envi...c-low-rcna1620

    Let the Water Wars begin...

    Nah....we're like the hapless earthlings in The Day the Earth Stood Still...we won't do a damn thing until we push things to the absolute brink.

    But god forbid the Defense Department doesn't get its' new toys.....
    Last edited by ReluctantSamurai; 09-08-2021 at 03:06.
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  13. #103
    Headless Senior Member Pannonian's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Quote Originally Posted by spmetla View Post
    The big blank check of the last twenty years has been hugely wasteful. It's a shame we went from a budget surplus at the end of Clinton's term to the present day rash of spending. Fiscal responsibility is only something the opposition party cares about whenever their opponents are in power. The Republicans spend frivolously on defense and the border, the Democrats on tertiary social programs.



    Actually, with China and Russia both certain that the US won't use nuclear force in response to conventional attacks on the peripheries of their spheres it's very necessary to maintain the conventional deterrent. Would the US and rest of the Quad go to war over Taiwan, most likely. Would the US use nuclear weapons to defend Taiwan, very unlikely. Just as China would likely not use its nuclear arsenal unless the US began doing strikes in mainland China beyond the areas of influence around Taiwan. The fact that the US Army just released and made public the manual ATP 7-100.3 Chinese Tactics is definitely an indicator that war with China is expected in the near future. The Chinese hope to have a Tsushima Straits type victory over the US that kicks us out of the region and forces our current allies to either make a deal with China or at least break with the US.
    Russia is banking on the same in the Ukraine and Baltics. Would the US go nuclear to defend Finland, the Baltics, or Ukraine, probably not. The cyber-sphere and economic sectors are ongoing parts of the same war that also need to be used.

    Your base gripe of the defense budget going up though, I whole heartedly agree with. The US defense budget is huge already and being inefficiently spent. We need to get more bang out of the many many bucks we're spending, not spend even more.
    Building a nation from scratch in a region where most of the people hate you is probably the most inefficient use of funds possible.

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  14. #104
    Coffee farmer extraordinaire Member spmetla's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Having said that, what's most galling is all the bullshit talk about fiscal responsibility when considering spending money on the American people (ie. the $3.5 trillion Reconciliation Bill), but no hesitation what-so-ever in handing $24 billion in increased spending to defense contractors. Both sides of the isle are complicit,
    The lack of hesitation and the absence of talk about a peace dividend or even sequestration makes me suspect that the threat from China is so clear cut it goes beyond party divide. As a national guardsman I don't have access to intel unless deployed but looking at the language the Chinese have used against the US in the last two years together with the diplomatic actions by Blinken in the region seem to me signs that there is a major historical point coming up in the near future.
    It isn't just new 'toys' though and money to line the pocket of defense contractors. Being geared for counter-insurgency and low-intensity area security doesn't set us up for peer-peer fights. The programs that Rumsfeld cut like the Crusader SPA and Comanche helicopter are certainly things we'd be better off with now. The GWOT besides being hugely expensive has not been good for military readiness against Russia or China. The Navy's boondoggle waste on the littoral combat ship instead of a proper frigate is one example.

    I do absolutely HATE the talk about fiscal responsibility for the same reasons you mentioned, either the budget matters or it doesn't. I think it matters but think the way forward is through better stewardship of our resources, not throwing more money at problems. I'm sure the DoD has places it can cut to buy new ships and hardware. The problem though with an electorate that no longer serves in the military is that people have zero clue what's important or not and this is reflected in our elected leaders. Very few have the knowledge to actually question our flag officers when they're before the armed services committees outside of a few well rehearsed subjects.

    Building a nation from scratch in a region where most of the people hate you is probably the most inefficient use of funds possible.
    Especially when we've got no track record for successful nation building. Though, looking at the protests in Kabul is heartening, we seem to at least have gotten through to some Afghans, they might not love us but they don't all hate us either. Depending on how Taliban rule goes or if there's warlord infighting and civil war in the future, the US military effort might be looked back on fondly as nostalgia erases our many efforts.

    Though considering the cost, no not an efficient use of funds at all.

    "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?"
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  15. #105
    Darkside Medic Senior Member rory_20_uk's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    If the West wants to have a go at nation building there are some obvious choices. For the USA I would recommend starting with the USA. Terrorism, erosion of democracy, voter disenfranchisement, abuse of minorities and women. Oh, and a crumbling infrastructure.

    For Europe, I would recommend Hungry, Poland for starters (since they're even in the EU), then perhaps Italy and Greece (in the EU, not as bad but pretty bad). The Balklands and the Ukraine would be next. The British Isles would have their work cut out sorting out the British isles.

    If the West can't even do these what possible chance does it stand elsewhere? Equally, lessons might be learned - I live in hope - that masked people in uniform randomly shooting "less lethal" weaponry at the locals doesn't work and that other methods are better. Yes the USA has repeatedly tried the shooting and arresting approach to its own but they might learn if they move to trying to improve things as to put down an uprising by uppity slaves. Europe would have to develop more of a backbone and stand for something beyond existence - and platinum plated pensions and salaries for all bureaucrats.

    Last edited by rory_20_uk; 09-08-2021 at 12:08.
    An enemy that wishes to die for their country is the best sort to face - you both have the same aim in mind.
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  16. #106

    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Article on the Afghan women (and other villagers) pushed into the Taliban's arms by constant Coalition killing of civilians (especially children), and the general atmosphere of terror this sometimes instilled. I'm not even going to quote from the first half of the article, there's a lot. One of the women interviewed, appearing throughout the story, became a local hero after she snapped in rage and fired a Coalition armored car with diesel. Coalition forces had left it idling by her house to stir up a shootout with Taliban a couple miles away.

    But she had difficulty mustering any pride, only relief. “I was thinking that they would not come here anymore,” she said. “And we would have peace.”

    Both sides of the war did make efforts to avoid civilian deaths. In addition to issuing warnings to evacuate, the Taliban kept villagers informed about which areas were seeded with improvised explosive devices, and closed roads to civilian traffic when targeting convoys. The coalition deployed laser-guided bombs, used loudspeakers to warn villagers of fighting, and dispatched helicopters ahead of battle. “They would drop leaflets saying, ‘Stay in your homes! Save yourselves!’ ” Shakira recalled. In a war waged in mud-walled warrens teeming with life, however, nowhere was truly safe, and an extraordinary number of civilians died. Sometimes, such casualties sparked widespread condemnation, as when a nato rocket struck a crowd of villagers in Sangin in 2010, killing fifty-two. But the vast majority of incidents involved one or two deaths—anonymous lives that were never reported on, never recorded by official organizations, and therefore never counted as part of the war’s civilian toll.
    Entire branches of Shakira’s family tree, from the uncles who used to tell her stories to the cousins who played with her in the caves, vanished. In all, she lost sixteen family members. I wondered if it was the same for other families in Pan Killay. I sampled a dozen households at random in the village, and made similar inquiries in other villages, to insure that Pan Killay was no outlier. For each family, I documented the names of the dead, cross-checking cases with death certificates and eyewitness testimony. On average, I found, each family lost ten to twelve civilians in what locals call the American War. This scale of suffering was unknown in a bustling metropolis like Kabul, where citizens enjoyed relative security. But in countryside enclaves like Sangin the ceaseless killings of civilians led many Afghans to gravitate toward the Taliban. By 2010, many households in Ishaqzai villages had sons in the Taliban, most of whom had joined simply to protect themselves or to take revenge; the movement was more thoroughly integrated into Sangin life than it had been in the nineties. Now, when Shakira and her friends discussed the Taliban, they were discussing their own friends, neighbors, and loved ones.
    With the hearts-and-minds approach floundering, some nato officials tried to persuade Taliban commanders to flip. In 2010, a group of Sangin Taliban commanders, liaising with the British, promised to switch sides in return for assistance to local communities. But, when the Taliban leaders met to hammer out their end of the deal, U.S. Special Operations Forces—acting independently—bombed the gathering, killing the top Taliban figure behind the peace overture.
    On the strength of a seemingly endless supply of recruits, the Taliban had no difficulty outlasting the coalition. But, though the insurgency has finally brought peace to the Afghan countryside, it is a peace of desolation: many villages are in ruins. Reconstruction will be a challenge, but a bigger trial will be to exorcise memories of the past two decades. “My daughter wakes up screaming that the Americans are coming,” Pazaro said. “We have to keep talking to her softly, and tell her, ‘No, no, they won’t come back.’ ”
    The most striking difference between Taliban country and the world we’d left behind was the dearth of gunmen. In Afghanistan, I’d grown accustomed to kohl-eyed policemen in baggy trousers, militiamen in balaclavas, intelligence agents inspecting cars. Yet we rarely crossed a Taliban checkpoint, and when we did the fighters desultorily examined the car. “Everyone is afraid of the Taliban,” my driver said, laughing. “The checkpoints are in our hearts.” If people feared their new rulers, they also fraternized with them.
    It was clear that the Taliban are divided about what happens next. During my visit, dozens of members from different parts of Afghanistan offered strikingly contrasting visions for their Emirate. Politically minded Talibs who have lived abroad and maintain homes in Doha or Pakistan told me—perhaps with calculation—that they had a more cosmopolitan outlook than before. A scholar who’d spent much of the past two decades shuttling between Helmand and Pakistan said, “There were many mistakes we made in the nineties. Back then, we didn’t know about human rights, education, politics—we just took everything by power. But now we understand.” In the scholar’s rosy scenario, the Taliban will share ministries with former enemies, girls will attend school, and women will work “shoulder to shoulder” with men.

    Yet in Helmand it was hard to find this kind of Talib. More typical was Hamdullah, a narrow-faced commander who lost a dozen family members in the American War, and has measured his life by weddings, funerals, and battles. He said that his community had suffered too grievously to ever share power, and that the maelstrom of the previous twenty years offered only one solution: the status quo ante. He told me, with pride, that he planned to join the Taliban’s march to Kabul, a city he’d never seen. He guessed that he’d arrive there in mid-August.
    [...]
    I asked a leading Helmandi Taliban scholar where in Islam was it stipulated that women cannot go to the market or attend school. He admitted, somewhat chagrined, that this was not an actual Islamic injunction. “It’s the culture in the village, not Islam,” he said. “The people there have these beliefs about women, and we follow them.”
    [...]
    Shakira has a knack for finding humor in pathos, and in the sheer absurdity of the men in her life: in the nineties, the Taliban had offered to supply electricity to the village, and the local graybeards had initially refused, fearing black magic. “Of course, we women knew electricity was fine,” she said, chuckling.
    Abdul Rahman, a farmer, was rooting through the refuse with his young son when an Afghan Army gunship appeared on the horizon. It was flying so low, he recalled, that “even Kalashnikovs could fire on it.” But there were no Taliban around, only civilians. The gunship fired, and villagers began falling right and left. It then looped back, continuing to attack. “There were many bodies on the ground, bleeding and moaning,” another witness said. “Many small children.” According to villagers, at least fifty civilians were killed.

    Later, I spoke on the phone with an Afghan Army helicopter pilot who had just relieved the one who attacked the outpost. He told me, “I asked the crew why they did this, and they said, ‘We knew they were civilians, but Camp Bastion’ ”—a former British base that had been handed over to the Afghans—“ ‘gave orders to kill them all.’ ” As we spoke, Afghan Army helicopters were firing upon the crowded central market in Gereshk, killing scores of civilians. An official with an international organization based in Helmand said, “When the government forces lose an area, they are taking revenge on the civilians.” The helicopter pilot acknowledged this, adding, “We are doing it on the order of Sami Sadat.”
    I showed the interview to Mohammed Wali, a pushcart vender in a village near Lashkar Gah. A few days after the Yakh Chal massacre, government militias in his area surrendered to the Taliban. General Sadat’s Blackhawks began attacking houses, seemingly at random. They fired on Wali’s house, and his daughter was struck in the head by shrapnel and died. His brother rushed into the yard, holding the girl’s limp body up at the helicopters, shouting, “We’re civilians!” The choppers killed him and Wali’s son. His wife lost her leg, and another daughter is in a coma. As Wali watched the CNN clip, he sobbed. “Why are they doing this?” he asked. “Are they mocking us?”

    In the course of a few hours in 2006, the Taliban killed thirty-two friends and relatives of Amir Dado, including his son. Three years later, they killed the warlord himself—who by then had joined parliament—in a roadside blast. The orchestrator of the assassination hailed from Pan Killay. In one light, the attack is the mark of a fundamentalist insurgency battling an internationally recognized government; in another, a campaign of revenge by impoverished villagers against their former tormentor; or a salvo in a long-simmering tribal war; or a hit by a drug cartel against a rival enterprise. All these readings are probably true, simultaneously. What’s clear is that the U.S. did not attempt to settle such divides and build durable, inclusive institutions; instead, it intervened in a civil war, supporting one side against the other. As a result, like the Soviets, the Americans effectively created two Afghanistans: one mired in endless conflict, the other prosperous and hopeful.
    The Taliban takeover has restored order to the conservative countryside while plunging the comparatively liberal streets of Kabul into fear and hopelessness. This reversal of fates brings to light the unspoken premise of the past two decades: if U.S. troops kept battling the Taliban in the countryside, then life in the cities could blossom. This may have been a sustainable project—the Taliban were unable to capture cities in the face of U.S. airpower. But was it just? Can the rights of one community depend, in perpetuity, on the deprivation of rights in another? In Sangin, whenever I brought up the question of gender, village women reacted with derision. “They are giving rights to Kabul women, and they are killing women here,” Pazaro said. “Is this justice?” Marzia, from Pan Killay, told me, “This is not ‘women’s rights’ when you are killing us, killing our brothers, killing our fathers.” Khalida, from a nearby village, said, “The Americans did not bring us any rights. They just came, fought, killed, and left.”... All the women I met in Sangin, though, seemed to agree that their rights, whatever they might entail, cannot flow from the barrel of a gun—and that Afghan communities themselves must improve the conditions of women.
    It was as if the movement had won only by default, through the abject failures of its opponents. To locals, life under the coalition forces and their Afghan allies was pure hazard; even drinking tea in a sunlit field, or driving to your sister’s wedding, was a potentially deadly gamble. What the Taliban offered over their rivals was a simple bargain: Obey us, and we will not kill you.

    As much as some Western bro-dudes have vehemently scapegoated Islam for whatever they've pleased, let's recall that Afghanistan in 2001 arguably comprised the most primitive agricultural societies on the planet (and the cities had been disinvested from since the 80s).
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  17. #107

    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Fake balance in the news media [VIDEO]:

    Quite gross from @BBCNews: our "impartiality" doctrine was used to basically shut down @CChristineFair when she explained #Pakistan's jihad policy in #Afghanistan that has brought us all to this catastrophe — an issue on which there is no "balance" or "other side", factually.

    Quote Originally Posted by spmetla View Post
    The big blank check of the last twenty years has been hugely wasteful. It's a shame we went from a budget surplus at the end of Clinton's term to the present day rash of spending. Fiscal responsibility is only something the opposition party cares about whenever their opponents are in power. The Republicans spend frivolously on defense and the border, the Democrats on tertiary social programs.
    Teasing the implication that America has a third-tier social welfare system, or that Democrats' offerings have been historically inadequate for too long? But without getting into the wastefulness of failure to invest in one's own success - cutting the defense budget in half and holding it there for 10 years would, alone, pay for the entirety of Biden's infrastructure/labor rights agenda! - there's another fact that springs worthy of notice. Namely that the Democratic Party has never, to my knowledge, enacted a permanent expansion of the welfare state with deficit spending.

    That many people seemingly credit narratives of Democratic profligacy by default is testament to the success of conservative manipulation of lazy and biased media institutions.

    Never mind, diving in - this is no longer a question of haggling priorities. A massive and rapid expansion of state outlays, interventions, and economic planning is the inexorable and necessary artifact of unallayed modern economic and ecological pressure (which, fittingly, could have been averted with some modest, timely investment). Who wants to be reduced to crying budget discipline in the matter of the level of citizens' daily carbohydrate rations, having discounted the lifestyle of 2075 for the sake of 2020's balance sheets (for that matter 2075's too)? The ultimate relevant consideration in this century is what level of resources, raw materials, goods, and persons the total economy is capable of circulating sustainably, and how much attrition is going to be inflicted by climate and geopolitical disruption.

    Actually, with China and Russia both certain that the US won't use nuclear force in response to conventional attacks on the peripheries of their spheres it's very necessary to maintain the conventional deterrent. Would the US and rest of the Quad go to war over Taiwan, most likely. Would the US use nuclear weapons to defend Taiwan, very unlikely. Just as China would likely not use its nuclear arsenal unless the US began doing strikes in mainland China beyond the areas of influence around Taiwan. The fact that the US Army just released and made public the manual ATP 7-100.3 Chinese Tactics is definitely an indicator that war with China is expected in the near future. The Chinese hope to have a Tsushima Straits type victory over the US that kicks us out of the region and forces our current allies to either make a deal with China or at least break with the US.
    Russia is banking on the same in the Ukraine and Baltics. Would the US go nuclear to defend Finland, the Baltics, or Ukraine, probably not. The cyber-sphere and economic sectors are ongoing parts of the same war that also need to be used.

    Your base gripe of the defense budget going up though, I whole heartedly agree with. The US defense budget is huge already and being inefficiently spent. We need to get more bang out of the many many bucks we're spending, not spend even more.
    Russia and China, since 9/11, and not just in proportion with economic growth, have exponentially increased their defense spending and military research investment - keeping up with the Joneses (i.e. US). It's a vicious cycle, a prisoner's dilemma that has kind of locked the great powers into an arms race. We ought to be thinking about how we can deescalate with the two countries, and one way would be to tone down our runaway military spending! At the same time, by prisoner's dilemma logic the cycle is so far gone that unilateral action on our part might just be viewed as a defection opportunity to further narrow the gap. The defense budget should then be made an explicit factor in transactional diplomacy to ensure the desired leverage ratio.

    But we really should game out and pursue ways to avert the headlong rush into the exact kind of paranoid militarization that beset the Belle Epoque, prior to prioritizing feverish scenarios of forward deployment to far-off lands. Despite our longstanding geostrategic "1-4-2-1" doctrine, I suspect the US will never be strong enough (or is no longer strong enough) to repel, by conventional means, simultaneous attacks on Taiwan and the Baltics, anyway. By way of those strategic constraints, exposing the operational limits of any American commitment to Taiwan. Lobbying an upgrade of the Filipino navy is not the force multiplier you're looking for. The old alliance systems aren't what they used to be; war on behalf of Taiwan will be a harder sell to states more interested in finding accommodations for business than in obeying the dictates of "honor" in decisively resolving a superpowers' power struggle.

    I naturally reject the typical staff officer recommendation in the face of these concerns of a massive new expansion of the military.

    (All that said, the CCP by all appearances prioritizes its irredentism higher than Putin does his. I'm glad I'm out of Selective Service age.)

    Quote Originally Posted by ReluctantSamurai View Post
    I saw the remarks earlier about a 10/20/30/50 year planning reach. Well, all this political BS, and pretty much all social issues are going to become subservient to what climate changes are going to inflict on all societies. What are you going to do when millions upon millions get displaced inland due to rising sea levels? What are you going to do when there is widespread crop failures (already happening) due to drought? Are there very many US planners thinking on what to about this:
    Sometimes the DoD puts out white papers discussing climate change as national security concern, but I can't say if any go beyond discussing operational hazards and mitigation.

    Quote Originally Posted by spmetla View Post
    Especially when we've got no track record for successful nation building. Though, looking at the protests in Kabul is heartening, we seem to at least have gotten through to some Afghans, they might not love us but they don't all hate us either. Depending on how Taliban rule goes or if there's warlord infighting and civil war in the future, the US military effort might be looked back on fondly as nostalgia erases our many efforts.
    See previous post. New Orleans is not Wallace, Louisiana, so to speak.

    If the Taliban leadership are very smart, and their organization disciplined, they will tailor their policies city-by-city and village-by-village along populist lines. Put women in the cities back in schools and technical fields, leave the common clay of the valleys to their traditions.
    Last edited by Montmorency; 09-10-2021 at 23:55.
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  18. #108

    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    What an era. spmetla, do you have any insight on the drone strike aimed at eliminating an 'imminent ISIK-K threat" shortly before the final exfiltration? News reports indicate this attack, whose target seems to have been engineer Zemarai Ahmadi, also killed 8 children and a former ANA/interpreter from the same family. If the target was appropriate, a suicide bomber as claimed, that's still an, um, incredible ratio.
    Quote Originally Posted by rory_20_uk View Post
    Yes - its "self defence" to fire a missile from a drone in someone else's country inside their capital city if you think they might be approaching the airport you've currently occupying. And you can even then say you take civilian deaths seriously after killing loads of civilians.

    The mess due to the abrupt withdrawal is a mess and although was never going to be clean this was worse than it could have been; this was - if not done by the USA - state sponsored killing.

    Seems pretty conclusive: We killed an innocent man, an actual model citizen who was trying to flee to the United States, along with a bunch of bystanders, despite minimal cited intelligence. Hip hooray for America, the terrorists won when we came and they won as we left.





    Oh, and by the way, remember this?

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    The more reserved frustrations of an Afghan general.
    I Commanded Afghan Troops This Year. We Were Betrayed.
    Aug. 25, 2021
    By Sami Sadat
    General Sadat is a commander in the Afghan National Army.
    Well...

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    Later, I spoke on the phone with an Afghan Army helicopter pilot who had just relieved the one who attacked the outpost. He told me, “I asked the crew why they did this, and they said, ‘We knew they were civilians, but Camp Bastion’ ”—a former British base that had been handed over to the Afghans—“ ‘gave orders to kill them all.’ ” As we spoke, Afghan Army helicopters were firing upon the crowded central market in Gereshk, killing scores of civilians. An official with an international organization based in Helmand said, “When the government forces lose an area, they are taking revenge on the civilians.” The helicopter pilot acknowledged this, adding, “We are doing it on the order of Sami Sadat.”
    I showed the interview to Mohammed Wali, a pushcart vender in a village near Lashkar Gah. A few days after the Yakh Chal massacre, government militias in his area surrendered to the Taliban. General Sadat’s Blackhawks began attacking houses, seemingly at random. They fired on Wali’s house, and his daughter was struck in the head by shrapnel and died. His brother rushed into the yard, holding the girl’s limp body up at the helicopters, shouting, “We’re civilians!” The choppers killed him and Wali’s son. His wife lost her leg, and another daughter is in a coma. As Wali watched the CNN clip, he sobbed. “Why are they doing this?” he asked. “Are they mocking us?”
    This was all up to days before the fall of the government.

    General Sami Sadat headed one of the seven corps of the Afghan Army. Unlike the Amir Dado generation of strongmen, who were provincial and illiterate, Sadat obtained a master’s degree in strategic management and leadership from a school in the U.K. and studied at the NATO Military Academy, in Munich. He held his military position while also being the C.E.O. of Blue Sea Logistics, a Kabul-based corporation that supplied anti-Taliban forces with everything from helicopter parts to armored tactical vehicles. During my visit to Helmand, Blackhawks under his command were committing massacres almost daily: twelve Afghans were killed while scavenging scrap metal at a former base outside Sangin; forty were killed in an almost identical incident at the Army’s abandoned Camp Walid; twenty people, most of them women and children, were killed by air strikes on the Gereshk bazaar; Afghan soldiers who were being held prisoner by the Taliban at a power station were targeted and killed by their own comrades in an air strike.
    Thanks for all the war crimes. At least we can examine them in glorious HD these days.
    Last edited by Montmorency; 09-12-2021 at 01:43.
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  19. #109
    Headless Senior Member Pannonian's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    Seems pretty conclusive: We killed an innocent man, an actual model citizen who was trying to flee to the United States, along with a bunch of bystanders, despite minimal cited intelligence. Hip hooray for America, the terrorists won when we came and they won as we left.





    Oh, and by the way, remember this?





    Well...



    This was all up to days before the fall of the government.



    Thanks for all the war crimes. At least we can examine them in glorious HD these days.
    Mistakes are going to happen when you have to make decisions. You don't get to both accuse the US of leaving and betraying the Afghans, and blame them for making mistaken decisions. You don't want the US to commit what you call war crimes? Fine, you can have the Afghans commit them instead. Far, far more of them.

  20. #110
    Senior Member Senior Member ReluctantSamurai's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Mistakes are going to happen when you have to make decisions. You don't get to both accuse the US of leaving and betraying the Afghans, and blame them for making mistaken decisions.
    How many times do you get to repeat the highlighted portion, before you say enough? A dozen? 20? 50? Where's the line you cross where you have to cease & desist, and take a long, hard look at your policy? You know why it's so GD easy to use that flawed justification to kill people? Because the killing is more often than not done by someone pushing buttons on a console thousands of miles away. The on-the-ground devastation to human life is never seen in terms of body parts strewn around the target site, the shattered lives of innocent people, and the ensuing hateful look in the eyes of survivors.

    Again, is it any wonder why the US is so hated in many places around the world?

    How about the mistake this weasel is suggesting:

    https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-58456953

    US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has told the BBC that he believes American troops "will be going back into Afghanistan" in the future. Speaking on HARDtalk, he said: "We'll have to because the [terror] threat will be so large."
    The money given to Graham by defense contractors miiiiight have a wee bit to do with that BS take:

    https://theintercept.com/2015/07/30/...e-contractors/

    Calling Sen Graham a weasel is doing a gross dis-service to weasels everywhere...
    Last edited by ReluctantSamurai; 09-12-2021 at 16:37.
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  21. #111
    Coffee farmer extraordinaire Member spmetla's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Teasing the implication that America has a third-tier social welfare system, or that Democrats' offerings have been historically inadequate for too long? But without getting into the wastefulness of failure to invest in one's own success - cutting the defense budget in half and holding it there for 10 years would, alone, pay for the entirety of Biden's infrastructure/labor rights agenda! - there's another fact that springs worthy of notice. Namely that the Democratic Party has never, to my knowledge, enacted a permanent expansion of the welfare state with deficit spending.

    That many people seemingly credit narratives of Democratic profligacy by default is testament to the success of conservative manipulation of lazy and biased media institutions.
    This isn't really the thread for this but what I was implying was that our social spending is wholly ineffective and inefficient as is defense spending. We spend far more per-capita with the result of a much shittier system than our European counterparts. This is healthcare and other things like unemployment. Both need huge overhauls before throwing more money at them too (just like defense spending). I'm an advocate for socialized health care, I prefer a federalized system and think your coverage and access to healthcare should not change depending on the state or district apart from purely geographic considerations for concentration of resources. Each state should not have completely separate laws regarding individual rights for healthcare as it's made the legal considerations too troublesome for efficiency.
    Same with unemployment, it's a great idea and helps a lot of people. That people choose to remain on it because they make more money doing that than working shows it also needs to be reworked (and you can't really fault people for choosing the fiscal sound option for themselves). There should be a decrease in benefits over many weeks/months so that there is incentive for people to economize their personal expenses or decide to take a lower paying job if necessary. If they do take a lower paying job sooner than later I think unemployment should make up the income difference for a short period as they'd likely have to adjust their living situation and many other things.

    Education is one of the most valuable investments we can make and before simply spending more on it or teasing the idea of paying off student loans there needs to be reform of the higher educations systems. School loans, changing textbooks every year, and so on need to be tackled too so these companies preying on naïve youth's desire for an education and wanting to get a good job doesn't land them in serious debt in the first place. Hell, technical schools for the shortage of skilled industrial labor is a better option for many Americans that's too often ignored or poo-pooed because it doesn't give a degree.

    This isn't me ragging on 'the Dems' because of conservative bias, the above systems are in dire need of reform before simply pumping in more money. The Dems just like the Reps love going to their electorate and demonstrating how much money they've essentially given them. The DoD needs serious reform in how it spends, defense contractors getting cozy deals from flag officers that pick their products while in uniform and then giving them jobs once out of uniform needs serious regulation too.
    I want government spending as a whole to be more efficient. Cutting the DoD budget in half without first seeing why so much money isn't getting more bang for the buck first will just mean fewer servicemembers and platforms. The contractor leaches and overspending on items will probably continue on if that's not investigated and regulated first. Same goes for the healthcare industry in which the pharmaceuticals rob us blind in the name of research while actually giving themselves pay rises and spending far more on advertising and lobbyists than research.

    As for the current infrastructure bill, I'm all for it actually, reinvestment by the government is absolutely essentially during economic downturns like right now.

    US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has told the BBC that he believes American troops "will be going back into Afghanistan" in the future. Speaking on HARDtalk, he said: "We'll have to because the [terror] threat will be so large."
    I can't realistically see how US troops would operate again in Afghanistan in a major way. I could see CIA and SOF operations on occasion, no doubt air and drone strikes from carriers task groups but after twenty years culminating in defeat I doubt any US president would re-invade the country short of them pulling off another 9/11 event.
    Last edited by spmetla; 09-12-2021 at 17:07.

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  22. #112
    Headless Senior Member Pannonian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ReluctantSamurai View Post
    How many times do you get to repeat the highlighted portion, before you say enough? A dozen? 20? 50? Where's the line you cross where you have to cease & desist, and take a long, hard look at your policy? You know why it's so GD easy to use that flawed justification to kill people? Because the killing is more often than not done by someone pushing buttons on a console thousands of miles away. The on-the-ground devastation to human life is never seen in terms of body parts strewn around the target site, the shattered lives of innocent people, and the ensuing hateful look in the eyes of survivors.

    Again, is it any wonder why the US is so hated in many places around the world?

    How about the mistake this weasel is suggesting:

    https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-58456953



    The money given to Graham by defense contractors miiiiight have a wee bit to do with that BS take:

    https://theintercept.com/2015/07/30/...e-contractors/

    Calling Sen Graham a weasel is doing a gross dis-service to weasels everywhere...
    Not long before, terrorists had killed 100+ at Kabul airport.

    And policy has changed. The US government decided there were no good courses, and that it was thus leaving the Afghans to themselves. Is this not a radical enough policy change for you? And at the bottom of Monty's post, he posts an accusation at the US government that it was betraying the Afghans by leaving them. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    That's why I'm against all foreign intervention, unless the hosts are in favour of your being there. You'll still be damned, but at least it'll be cheaper.

  23. #113

    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Quote Originally Posted by Pannonian View Post
    Mistakes are going to happen when you have to make decisions. You don't get to both accuse the US of leaving and betraying the Afghans, and blame them for making mistaken decisions. You don't want the US to commit what you call war crimes? Fine, you can have the Afghans commit them instead. Far, far more of them.
    None of that holds water.

    The fatal premise is of course that I have never in this thread characterized the fact of departure from Afghanistan as a betrayal of the Afghans - more the opposite.

    The tendentious premise is that mistaken decisions cannot be criticized if one supports the framework of action in which they manifest (which, to repeat, I did not). This premise is usually wrong in any domain of human affairs one could think of. After all, how many hundreds of posts have you made probing Brexit supporters? By your premise this would have been an incoherent strategy as they, being Brexit supporters, would have no recourse but to object to any fault-finding in the process of Brexit.

    You are right, however, that Afghans commit more war crimes than Americans. Our Afghan allies at least. AFAIK most violent civilian deaths over the 20 years of conflict were caused by Republican forces. This is in contrast to the 1980s war, when the Soviet patron of the DRA (itself at least as criminal as the RoA) also targeted civilian populations for reprisal and intimidation as a matter of real doctrine. This made the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan much deadlier than the American one. It is little comfort to be less inhumane than the Soviet Union however. (We can criticize the Soviet Union, right?)

    Not long before, terrorists had killed 100+ at Kabul airport.

    And policy has changed. The US government decided there were no good courses, and that it was thus leaving the Afghans to themselves. Is this not a radical enough policy change for you?
    Is it very radical to refrain from killing people in the absence of a strong security justification? The evidence we have now renders the action as essentially vengeful ass-covering by the command.

    And at the bottom of Monty's post, he posts an accusation at the US government that it was betraying the Afghans by leaving them.
    Again, I did not say that. Maybe you're confusing it with the places in which I said the US has an obligation to take refugees?

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
    There is such a thing as "less damned." Otherwise, no one would ever have to make any decisions at all surely - the status quo could last forever to universal satisfaction. The saying is "don't let 'perfect' be the enemy of 'good'", not "screw lesser evil, full evil is where it's at baby!"

    Quote Originally Posted by spmetla View Post
    Cutting the DoD budget in half without first seeing why so much money isn't getting more bang for the buck first will just mean fewer servicemembers and platforms.
    It's not a concrete pay-for proposal, just a common illustration of how even modest government investments or programs are challenged in mainstream discourse in a way that runaway defense and security spending of comparable scale never is.

    A couple remarks, with receipts if you like. The evidence so far is that unemployment insurance expansion did not affect job-seeking behaviors in the sense of keeping recipients out of the labor force. Of the lines of evidence, the strongest is the fact that UI repeal in Republican states in late spring and early summer evinced no difference with Democratic states that did not repeal (the federally-expanded benefits expired legally this Labor Day). UI should definitely be federalized regardless though, as the hallmark of its inefficiency is the reduplication of complex bureaucracy. It was never federalized in its New Deal inception as one of the many compromises made at the time. I do think the baseline of UI should be generous however, and if need be we can sweeten the deal somewhat for employers by detaching UI tax from the number of employees claiming benefits (also a factor in the nefarious trend of wrongly classifying employees as contractors, who broadly speaking now make up 1/3 of the workforce!!!).

    It's been long known that there is effectively no longer any "wage premium" for graduating college. That doesn't make college education itself a scam, more the entire structure and incentives of the American higher educational system (ballooning administrative and hedge fund salaries alongside shrinking salaries and job security for instructors); the bachelors degree offers no surplus of mere financial advantage in an age when a degree is the bare minimum for all but the most menial service and production jobs and so should never be advertised to children as offering any such advantage. Indeed, if it's the contemporary bare minimum (and I would estimate a majority of American Gen X and Millennials have at least some college education) it should probably not be sold at an accelerating premium to American families.

    However, there is no prospect for comprehensive reform of American higher education in the short term. Holding tens of millions of debt holders hostage right now to ephemera of structural reform is a moral hazard in my opinion. At any rate, when the federal government holds so much non-performing debt it actually loses money in the long run! In other words, for graduates to hold debt that they will realistically never repay to the federal government is not only a drain on federal finances, it is a drain on the economy, micro and macro, as those debt-bound young people cannot participate fully in socially-desirable consumption and investment. Some measure of debt relief is necessary; it doesn't have to be 100% immediately.

    The shortage of skilled (more precisely "specialized") labor in certain industries has long been overblown by stingy employers who want their depressed wages to be subsidized by the government, either through special visa programs or through picking up the tab for training more directly. Companies don't want to invest their own resources on training and retaining talent anymore, and I think it's time they put more skin in the game again.
    Last edited by Montmorency; 09-12-2021 at 22:38.
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  24. #114

    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Relevant cartoon from 2015:



    Speaking of cartoons, here's a collection of post-9/11 political cartoons. It's honestly hard to believe they're from the same century.


    Spmetla, the US could legitimately be a little too obsessed with unlimited thalassocracy.

    Military leaders have grown increasingly vocal with an “America vs. China” narrative that is now a blueprint for the Air Force’s spending choices, its strategic planning and its training curriculum.

    “We’re the dominant military power until you get within about 1,000 miles of China, and then it starts to change,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told Air Force Times Aug. 13. “China has been very careful and strategic about fielding capabilities designed to keep us out of their part of the world.
    “The question that keeps me up at night is, what happens when our diplomats no longer have the might of the U.S. military or our economy as their backstop?” Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown said Aug. 6. “This is the world that none of us want to live in.”
    A relentless drive to insert our martial will in every corner of the planet, or have the potential to do so, has historically (as of now) not served our country very well. We need to rethink our meta before we scramble to do something (else) quite stupid and reckless. If it must involve weapons, at least take a page from China's book and help its neighbors box its navy in with area denial platforms. The impulse to aggressively secure direct control is counterproductive here, unless someone can argue for the alternative of more missiles, more carrier fleets and subs, and more patrols into Chinese-claimed waters is supportive of national and global interests or defusing of Chinese imperatives.

    That competition is increasingly on display in U.S. Southern Command, said Maj. Gen. Barry Cornish, head of 12th Air Force, which supplies air assets to U.S. operations in SOUTHCOM.

    Income, food and health insecurity in the region, coupled with further instability from social unrest, crime, frequent natural disasters and COVID-19, make the area an attractive target for predatory countries looking to drive a wedge between locals and the United States.

    “Our big priority here is focusing on transnational crime and how to counter that, but also the nexus of that with malign state activity by China,” Cornish told Air Force Times Aug. 10. They most often rely on air mobility assets and reconnaissance planes, plus aircraft that fly humanitarian aid missions after events like hurricanes and earthquakes.
    We spent like a page talking about this stuff here, and the military doesn't have much role to play. It's up to American industrial policy and civil society to crowd out Chinese offers with our own. The Air Force has nothing to offer to the countries of SOUTHCOM. I mean, note that the article has pivoted from even the West Pacific: SOUTHCOM refers to Latin America. A Monroe Doctrine mindset won't help us, and indeed has already allowed China to make dramatic openings into Latin America.

    China’s trade with Latin America and the Caribbean grew 26-fold between 2000 and 2020. LAC-China trade is expected to more than double by 2035, to more than $700 billion.
    He argues the military hasn’t spent enough time analyzing how China’s presence could affect the Southern Hemisphere.

    Foreign offers of professional military education, infrastructure support and more are chipping away at U.S. partnerships, he said.
    “We need more [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] to continue to characterize what Chinese malign influence looks like,” Cornish said. “It’s very expansive, between the Belt and Road Initiative, a lot of activities in illegal mining and logging and fishing, extracting resources from our partner nations when they can least afford it.
    Pathetic out-of-touch hypocrisy, really. This is why our country is going to fail.





    Alongside them, I find myself wondering: What are America’s “vital national interests” — at least as Washington defines them?

    International terrorism, it seems, still. U.S. officials still seem to think that a splashy attack is of a greater threat to the American people than systemic corruption abroad or at home.

    Is that analysis correct? Is a shadowy “ISIS-K” more dangerous to U.S. citizens than, for example, private equity partners or real estate speculators, who nearly brought down the world economy in 2008, then presided over an eviction frenzy that continues today? Or who take over struggling corporations and pay themselves generous “management” fees out of the pension fund, bankrupting it? Is ISIS truly more dangerous to humans and the irreplaceable air and forests and the creatures in them than the fossil fuel companies that, not content to tear down mountains, are now shattering the very bedrock under our feet, to extract ever more natural gas?

    What about drug trafficking? Is that a vital U.S. interest? It has not been explicitly mentioned in statements on Afghanistan, but judging from Washington’s approach to Latin America, the Afghan opium industry seems a likely candidate.

    In May — just when our Kandahar-based cooperative needed to hire extra people to harvest wild herbs so we could distill their essential oils — I would watch men boarding busses headed west, to fields dense with lovely, tulip-like poppies. There the workers would labor for a few well-paid weeks scratching the stalks with needle-tipped tools, then scraping away the sap that oozed out. That sap is what is turned into opium.

    I get it: Afghanistan — no matter who its rulers are — is a major source of dangerous drugs.

    And yet, what organizations manufactured and distributed the opium derivatives that have killed more than 750,000 Americans since 1999? Narcotics trafficking networks? Surely. And what about U.S. pharmaceutical companies, like Purdue and Cardinal Health and McKesson — some of which received preferential contracts during the COVID pandemic?

    As my Afghan friends have been considering statements like Blinken’s about “vital national interests,” here are some comments I’ve heard:

    “The Taliban will be better puppets for the Americans. They’ll put a few faces in their government, in unimportant positions, to make it look ‘inclusive.’ They’ll fight against ISIS-K. They’ll control poppy, like they did before — for a year so the prices would go up. And the U.S. will ‘engage.’ And then the heads of the Taliban can profiteer from this and torture their own citizens…” “I won’t be surprised if the U.S. is the first country to recognize them.”


    I remember how often, over the years, friends and neighbors would insist: “The U.S. must be supporting the Taliban.” In the early days, I would scoff. But as time went on, such remarks got harder to rebut. It got harder to convince people that the U.S. government could actually be so stupid. Finally it became impossible, and I stopped trying. How do you explain — to Afghans and to Americans — that U.S. officials are sending servicemen and women to fight and die at the hands of an “enemy” that we are simultaneously financing to the tune of $1 billion per year, via its sponsor, the Pakistani military? How do you explain such contempt for those our civilian leaders called heroes?
    As strange as my Afghan friends’ comments might sound to Americans, it is impossible for me now to make the case that the U.S. wasn’t in fact supporting the Taliban from the start.

    “The U.S. isn’t interested in democracy for Afghans.” Another comment slams into my ears. “It never was. Just look Mubarak in Egypt, and how you helped him all those years.” That one got me. I traveled to Egypt during the 2011 revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East. I remember the intoxicating breath of possibility that impregnated the air those early days. Then I watched Washington swivel to “engage” with the Islamist regime of Muhammad Morsi, which had capitalized on the explosion of indignation at a corrupt and vicious Mubarak regime. Just as quickly, Washington pivoted again to engage with the dictatorship of Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, after he sent the police to mow down Morsi’s supporters in the streets of downtown Cairo, killing more than a thousand. I was back in town in time to see the blood congealing on the pavement. The Sisi regime today is more repressive than Mubarak’s ever was.
    What are U.S. “vital national interests” anyway? Can anyone spell them out? Does allying with repressive autocracies and investing in corrupt political economies around the world further them? Is lurching back and forth between proclaiming the virtues of democracy and bending to the whims of strongmen an effective strategy for defending them?

    How do we decide how we behave, as a nation, towards whom? What kind of countries and peoples should we treat with respect and consideration? From which governments and individuals should we protect ourselves? Towards which ones should we be crafty, unpredictable, even cynical? Real statecraft — our very future, perhaps — depends on getting these choices right.
    Last edited by Montmorency; 09-14-2021 at 02:10.
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  25. #115
    Coffee farmer extraordinaire Member spmetla's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    A relentless drive to insert our martial will in every corner of the planet, or have the potential to do so, has historically (as of now) not served our country very well.
    A relentless drive to insert our martial will everywhere? Really? If you look at the history of the US doing so it's only been since WW2 and primarily to counter communism and when that collapsed to counter global islamic terrorism and that's really only post 9/11, beforehand it was Great Britain and France that preserved the 'western world' while the US got to reap the economic benefits of relatively stable global trade and access to markets.

    The US wasn't too concerned about China until it started conducting border skirmishes in some or another with all it's neighbors except NK and Russia (at least in the last 30 years).
    The US wasn't too concerned about post-soviet Russia (apart from the danger of collapse) until Ukraine invasion. Even the Georgia-Russian war wasn't taken as too much of a concern outside arresting too rapid an expansion of NATO.
    The US doesn't militarily interfere in most of South Asia, Africa, or South America. There's no shortage of small wars that the US more or less ignores outside of sanctions against the actors.


    We need to rethink our meta before we scramble to do something (else) quite stupid and reckless.
    Like what? Defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion together with our regional allies (Japan, Australia, and perhaps in limited role South Korea). You really think the US would start a war with China or Russia? The current actions by both those nations is because they push the envelope to see what the US considers worth fighting for.
    Taiwan isn't a part of the PRC and never has been, the current generation have seen what's happened in Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau, and the mainland and don't want a part of it.
    Should we only defend allies that are major power? Should we have let Saddam keep Kuwait? Should we just let Russia do what it wants in Ukraine? Should we tell the Baltic States that they just aren't worth our effort?
    Unfortunately our allies don't spend near enough on defense that would enable the US to ease off a global role. That US disagreements with the other NATO allies about pulling out of Afghanistan didn't lead to any other countries taking up the mantle to support GiROA is just a sign of how weak and limited the reach of our best NATO allies is. Even for things like Libya or Mali both those efforts required substantial US logistical and intelligence support to France as even they can't go it alone anymore even a stone's throw over the water if the action requires more than a battalion of legionnaires.


    If it must involve weapons, at least take a page from China's book and help its neighbors box its navy in with area denial platforms. The impulse to aggressively secure direct control is counterproductive here, unless someone can argue for the alternative of more missiles, more carrier fleets and subs, and more patrols into Chinese-claimed waters is supportive of national and global interests or defusing of Chinese imperatives.
    Secure direct control? Boxing in China with Anti-Ship missiles would require lots of troops on the ground in the whole South China Seas, if those countries were willing, giving away radars and advanced missiles, and the advanced aircraft though would essentially be giving away any US tech advantage that'd be far more of 'direct control' than flexible global assets like Carrier Strike Groups. That'd also be on the assumption that any of those smaller countries would be willing to confront China without explicit US support which usually comes in the flexible form of Carriers or the USAF, both of which have worldwide commitments, repair time, training time etc...
    Also, can you "box in china"? Their navy isn't just patrol boats, they're (three advanced ships) currently sailing along the Aleutians in US waters and being shadowed by our Coast Guard. They've got a naval and marine corps base in Dijbouti and lots of paramilitary assets in the various ports and harbors they've bought and built up and 'staffed' with their nationals. Area denial weapons and systems can also be targeted, if a first strike by China against US 'gifted' area denial weapons in Taiwan knocks them out then what do we do? Give up on Taiwan? Or back our allies and challenge them even it it means breaking a naval blockade of Taiwan with our Navy.
    Conducting freedom of navigation in waters that haven't been Chinese since the Ming dynasty in support of our own trade as well as that of Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, and Korea is worth while. I'd rather we don't shrink away from challenging authoritarian regimes that seek to replace us on the world stage and rule it through client/tributary states. The UK and France aren't superpowers any more, the EU is too divided and weak to military challenge any regional power outside of Europe and the Med. It'd be great if it wasn't only the US needing to be the 'arsenal of democracy' or at least of liberal governence but sadly that's the way it is.

    We spent like a page talking about this stuff here, and the military doesn't have much role to play. It's up to American industrial policy and civil society to crowd out Chinese offers with our own. The Air Force has nothing to offer to the countries of SOUTHCOM. I mean, note that the article has pivoted from even the West Pacific: SOUTHCOM refers to Latin America. A Monroe Doctrine mindset won't help us, and indeed has already allowed China to make dramatic openings into Latin America.
    Chinese openings are essentially predatory lending to whoever will take their loans. US industrial policy may help but SOUTHCOM countries have always been wary of US industry since the outright mercantilistism of the 1930s with the US Marines sent in to prop up banana republics.
    US industry and loans usually come with human rights issues and other pesky things that those countries would rather ignore. Better to take cash from China without having to make reforms than US money that might get frozen if it comes to light the mine workers handle raw mercury in slave like conditions.
    The Air Force might not have anything to offer them but the USCG and USN could assist in preserving their EEZs. Chinese fishing fleets crowding out the locals happens throughout the whole Southern Hemisphere where no local nations dare challenge them.

    Pathetic out-of-touch hypocrisy, really. This is why our country is going to fail.
    What are U.S. “vital national interests” anyway?
    Generally it seems to consist of not upsetting the status quo in the international market place, disrupting trade routes, threatening/invading allied/partner nations as well as not supporting terrorism that targets Americans specifically. Saddam fighting Iran wasn't a threat to our interest, invading Kuwait and threatening Saudi Arabia was. Osama bin Laden blowing up embassies in East Africa was a regional threat but not one that required hunting him down via invading other countries until he brought the war to the US. Russia has been free to do what it wants in Caucaus region, annexing Crimea while the US has a treaty that pledged to support Ukraine's territorial integrity in exchange for nuclear disarmament was a threat to our national interest. China deciding that the entire south china sea is theirs is a threat to our interests.

    Can anyone spell them out? Does allying with repressive autocracies and investing in corrupt political economies around the world further them? Is lurching back and forth between proclaiming the virtues of democracy and bending to the whims of strongmen an effective strategy for defending them?

    How do we decide how we behave, as a nation, towards whom? What kind of countries and peoples should we treat with respect and consideration? From which governments and individuals should we protect ourselves? Towards which ones should we be crafty, unpredictable, even cynical? Real statecraft — our very future, perhaps — depends on getting these choices right.
    Should we only ally with countries that are models of democracy? Now that the Taliban rule should we just recognize them as the legitimate government and open up all finances and so on? Should we stand by trying to have some assurances for woman's rights, free press? Lurching back and forth though is the major problem I've complained about many times here, our foreign policy is not consistent. You seem to lurch back and forth too, you seem to want us to invest everywhere while keeping our hands clean somehow. Should we keep engaged in Afghanistan's future in the now purely diplomatic role we now have? Should we pretend that massive economic aid there is really a matter of just changing who's skimming the money flowing in with now Taliban pockets getting lined.
    Besides, our lurching back and forth policies are because we are a democracy and subject to the very whims of the electorate. That electorate tends to want the US to remain the premier superpower but not be the global police anymore, the public opinion seems to be that we should defend our allies and preserve our 'honor' but expect those we defend to take their own defense seriously too. The public opinion also doesn't seem too concerned about drone strikes killing people somewhere far way so long as it doesn't happen to them.

    Our future absolutely depends on getting these choices right. Making the wrong decisions is costly in smaller countries like Iraq or Afghanistan where the effects aren't world changing. Screwing up decisions that affect our major alliances, global economics etc.. are problematic. The US screwed up in a major way the last twenty years. Iraq was a pointless war though thankfully that has sort of wrapped itself up now with only limited US engagement now. Afghanistan is a debacle of tremendous importance to the region. It's still to be seen what this Taliban Emirate will do with its new power, I'm still on the pessimistic side and think that it's inevitable that Taliban will become hosts to more Al Queda type groups though far less blatantly.
    Nation building is definitely something the US needs to stop doing though if it does find itself occupying another country in the future I'd prefer we at least attempt to try some liberalism injects instead of just installing a dictator like we did too often and to bad results in the Cold War. GiROA was a failure and as it stands right now does not look like worth the effort of having to try. Like I said pages ago, perhaps a 'great raid' into Afghanistan and Pakistan to hunt down Bin Laden should have been the extend of the our GWOT. Seeking regime change for no real reason like in Iraq though was pointless though the Shia majority is probably glad he's gone though probably not at the cost of our invasion.
    If the major decision of the future need to be sacrificing Taiwan or the Ukraine for "peace in our time" lets hope that the peace and length of time last longer than the last time that was tried with authoritarian states seeking regional hegemony or seeking to restore 'historic borders.'
    Last edited by spmetla; 09-14-2021 at 08:48.

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  26. #116
    Headless Senior Member Pannonian's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    Relevant cartoon from 2015:



    Speaking of cartoons, here's a collection of post-9/11 political cartoons. It's honestly hard to believe they're from the same century.


    Spmetla, the US could legitimately be a little too obsessed with unlimited thalassocracy.





    A relentless drive to insert our martial will in every corner of the planet, or have the potential to do so, has historically (as of now) not served our country very well. We need to rethink our meta before we scramble to do something (else) quite stupid and reckless. If it must involve weapons, at least take a page from China's book and help its neighbors box its navy in with area denial platforms. The impulse to aggressively secure direct control is counterproductive here, unless someone can argue for the alternative of more missiles, more carrier fleets and subs, and more patrols into Chinese-claimed waters is supportive of national and global interests or defusing of Chinese imperatives.



    We spent like a page talking about this stuff here, and the military doesn't have much role to play. It's up to American industrial policy and civil society to crowd out Chinese offers with our own. The Air Force has nothing to offer to the countries of SOUTHCOM. I mean, note that the article has pivoted from even the West Pacific: SOUTHCOM refers to Latin America. A Monroe Doctrine mindset won't help us, and indeed has already allowed China to make dramatic openings into Latin America.







    Pathetic out-of-touch hypocrisy, really. This is why our country is going to fail.

    Before accusing the US of allsorts, note that these neighbours of China who have historically had dealings with imperial China are not at all fans of China. Even Vietnam would much rather have friendly links with the US than with China. China are very, very pushy. I've said that I'd rather not indulge in foreign interventions unless the hosts want us (if I were American instead of an insignificant Briton). These areas that the US continues to have a presence in do very much want an American presence. The alternative is a Chinese presence, and that's something they do not want.

  27. #117
    Member Member Crandar's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Well Vietnam and China fought a rather bloody war even more recently than the American intervention, so I don't think they are a very suitable example. Cambodia, on the other hand, who has been bullied by Vietnam, welcomes Chinese protection. Overall, as neither China nor the US interfere in the domestic affairs of their satellites, alliances depend on immediate geopolitical concerns or economic opportunities. The US used to have a clear advantage on the latter regard, but that will be no longer the case, as Chinese economy expands. The situation has already begun to reverse in south-east Asia.

  28. #118

    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    Some more musings on Afghanistan:

    Though U.S. officials have been calling the conflict in Afghanistan an “insurgency” for years, they have not been fighting the war that way. This is the principle criticism I reserve for the officers I’ve worked for. They are supposed to know something about warfare.

    Afghans are competent fighters — they drove out the Soviets, after all. So why was it so important that we spend so much effort teaching them to fight? Why do we keep hearing about the air support we were supplying, supposedly so critical to the Afghan war effort? Has any reporter asked why the Afghan military needed air cover when the Taliban didn’t?
    Our own military, descended from the Minutemen of the American Revolution, has come to resemble the Redcoats those 18th century insurgents fought. What an irony. As special advisor to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, I found myself — a rank civilian — begging him not to send a Stryker brigade into the densely cultivated orchards of Arghandab District, north of Kandahar. The lanes between those walled orchards are just too narrow for oversized, high-tech Stryker vehicles. That’s OK, McChrystal assured me, the troops could always be dismounted.

    What an absurd proposition: You’d strip a brigade of the very asset it was built and trained and conditioned to use? How physically fit are soldiers accustomed to sitting in vehicles all day? Are they even in shape to patrol difficult terrain on foot?

    The result was catastrophic. More than a dozen frustrated and out-of-control officers were court-martialed or otherwise disciplined for their behavior in the field, including the notorious homicide of several villagers, "for sport." The brigade's casualty rate was disturbingly high. After an investigation, the commander was barred from future combat deployments.
    Or they put a half dozen guys up in an unfinished building in downtown Kabul with a couple of rusty mortar-launchers. This is 2011. The guys shoot at the U.S. embassy and ISAF headquarters across the street. They shut down the whole strategic complex for more than nineteen hours.

    If those fighters had wanted to kill people, they would have. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to demonstrate to the whole of Afghanistan that they could. It was to demonstrate U.S. vulnerability — to Afghans and to Americans.
    When you haven’t lost -- when calamity somehow hasn’t yet struck -- it’s easy to assume you’ll “muddle through.” That’s how many officials put it at the time: The Afghan government will muddle through. We'll muddle through.

    Now, Afghanistan is waving a mirror in our faces. Calamity hasn’t struck -- not real calamity. Not yet. But let’s not assume our democracy will “muddle through.”
    What I would have done differently. That is a long-answer question. A taste is available in the “Afghanistan Action Plan” I distributed to top U.S. civilian and military officials in January 2009. I continued to provide equally detailed, though sometimes more tailored, planning documents to my superiors through 2011. A truly inclusive peace process would have involved bringing together people whom ordinary Afghans recognized as representing them, not just the officials of the two entities most held in equal contempt: their own government and the Taliban.
    And were we really trying to bring democracy to Afghanistan, anyway? Were we nation-building? That’s what some of you have been poignantly wondering.

    If we were, why were there so few mentors for Afghan government officials, and so many for Afghan army officers? Is it easier to run a city than to command an infantry company? [Shots fired, spmetla!]
    [...]
    And if it was democracy we were peddling, what kind of democracy? What is the condition of our democracy? That is the question this fiasco poses.


    Quote Originally Posted by spmetla View Post
    A relentless drive to insert our martial will everywhere? Really? If you look at the history of the US doing so it's only been since WW2 and primarily to counter communism and when that collapsed to counter global islamic terrorism and that's really only post 9/11, beforehand it was Great Britain and France that preserved the 'western world' while the US got to reap the economic benefits of relatively stable global trade and access to markets.
    The post-(world)war history is what's relevant.

    The US wasn't too concerned about China until it started conducting border skirmishes in some or another with all it's neighbors except NK and Russia (at least in the last 30 years).
    The US wasn't too concerned about post-soviet Russia (apart from the danger of collapse) until Ukraine invasion. Even the Georgia-Russian war wasn't taken as too much of a concern outside arresting too rapid an expansion of NATO.
    The US doesn't militarily interfere in most of South Asia, Africa, or South America. There's no shortage of small wars that the US more or less ignores outside of sanctions against the actors.
    It is US doctrine to have the capability to subdue any competitor, or pursue any designated group/actor in existence, and we have applied this capability ceaselessly since WW2, as you know. In most cases we have overstepped, though Vietnam and the War on Terror are just the biggest items in that respect.

    Like what? Defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion together with our regional allies (Japan, Australia, and perhaps in limited role South Korea). You really think the US would start a war with China or Russia? The current actions by both those nations is because they push the envelope to see what the US considers worth fighting for.
    For clarity, a reminder of what (from the linked article) I was responding to.

    Military leaders have grown increasingly vocal with an “America vs. China” narrative that is now a blueprint for the Air Force’s spending choices, its strategic planning and its training curriculum. “We’re the dominant military power until you get within about 1,000 miles of China, and then it starts to change,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told Air Force Times Aug. 13. “China has been very careful and strategic about fielding capabilities designed to keep us out of their part of the world.”
    [...]
    “The question that keeps me up at night is, what happens when our diplomats no longer have the might of the U.S. military or our economy as their backstop?” Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown said Aug. 6. “This is the world that none of us want to live in.”
    The premise stated by a representative of our active services' brain trust - the general staff - is that the US military not being hegemonic along an asymptote to the Chinese mainland is a frightening prospect that shatters the diplomatic capacity of the US government. If this premise were taken at face value, it would naturally entail rapid armament and militarization into Chinese-adjacent or Chinese-claimed territory. If it is not taken at face value, it is just a general whining that the US doesn't have unlimited power. But it should be taken at face value, because as I said, it has for generations been formal doctrine that the US military be able to project decisive power against anyone, anywhere.

    The obvious problem, besides being very costly, is that it is rarely considered whether the implied escalation would actually deter China, or would rather further aggravate an arms race that China is increasingly prepared to pursue. It's a very risky strategy that assumes the inevitability of military conflict without involving a reorganization of American society along what that actually requires. Worst case, we foment a self-fulfilling prophecy that we find ourselves unprepared to play a strong role in.

    Like the scientists in Jurassic Park, the US milsec establishment's greatest or second-greatest defect is that 'Our leaders are so preoccupied with whether or not they can, they don’t stop to think if they should.'

    Should we only defend allies that are major power? Should we have let Saddam keep Kuwait? Should we just let Russia do what it wants in Ukraine? Should we tell the Baltic States that they just aren't worth our effort?
    The flaw here is that the wars with Hussein's Iraq, regardless of moral valence, were no more than a reprisal of Wehrmacht & friends vs. Kingdom of Yugoslavia (in more ways than one). Obviously all military and foreign policy calculations should incorporate the scale and difficulty and plausible ramifications of the scenario. But I'm not opposed to a full-spectrum cordon around Taiwan. Let us remember that one of the major factors in Hussein's decision to invade was Ambassador Glaspie's constructive ambiguity on the American position on the matter.

    Unfortunately our allies don't spend near enough on defense that would enable the US to ease off a global role.
    What do you think our allies should be accomplishing with inefficient, economically-unproductive, military spending?

    Secure direct control? Boxing in China with Anti-Ship missiles would require lots of troops on the ground in the whole South China Seas, if those countries were willing, giving away radars and advanced missiles, and the advanced aircraft though would essentially be giving away any US tech advantage that'd be far more of 'direct control' than flexible global assets like Carrier Strike Groups. That'd also be on the assumption that any of those smaller countries would be willing to confront China without explicit US support which usually comes in the flexible form of Carriers or the USAF, both of which have worldwide commitments, repair time, training time etc...
    For example. If it were the case that merely parking a couple carrier fleets by Taiwan on permanent rotation would be enough to credibly prevent any Chinese amphibious campaign, that would be one thing. That would hardly entail any extra costs or risks above what we currently maintain. But it's not enough, is it? Whereas the US is limited by its long logistics train, its maintenance schedules, and its need to maintain a significant 'out of theater' reserve against Russia, China could bring virtually its entire navy, air force, and marine and airborne elements, to bear against Taiwan. It could launch hundreds of cruise missiles and devastate Taiwan's infrastructure with strike packages of hundreds of craft. Listen, even a gradual, year-long encroachment onto Taiwan's shore, in the absence of US resistance, would cost China tens of thousands killed. If the CCP wants to invade, by definition they will be pricing in losses of personnel and materiel that no great power has sustained since perhaps the 1970s, or earlier. They will be pricing in public support or acquiescence in the adventure. If that is all the case, they're going to want to move as fast as possible to secure a beachhead on the main island, whether that means breaking through local American assets or preempting American entry; American entry would make invasion of the main island impossible and would mark a pointless and embarrassing setback for China. Fait accompli regardless of casualties will be the strategy, I guess to secure a stable beachhead on the west coast of Formosa within 3 months. Nothing in the past 75 years could compare to the blow to American clout for Taiwan to fall despite and alongside American fleets. But also note, by the same token if the PLA can't achieve these conditions on paper or doesn't believe it can, there won't be any annexation campaign.

    It's not going to be like, "lololol we shell Kinmen Islands, next week we ferry Y-class aircraft to Fujian airfields, what say you America? Oh no, sanctions and cruise missiles on Woody Island 500 miles from Taiwan, we hereby forswear all territorial ambitions." If China is roused to the offense, and we meet to contest, it's going to be the Real Shit.

    What are we to do with that prospect? In military terms, the limited option is, to whatever extent possible, to invest in hardened antiship capabilities for Taiwan that could cripple any fleet of Chinese landing craft fleet even if Taiwan were reduced to a pit of smoking rubble (a depleted sealift intrinsically forecloses offensive operations, even with largely-intact air transport fleet). The maximalist option is to go all in for the arms race, cordon Taiwan with half our (growing) navy, impress whatever regional allies are willing into the fight (hope we don't need Australia's help anytime in the next 20 years), be prepared to match casualties with the Taiwanese defenders themselves, and hope to hell this all doesn't trigger World War Three among nuclear powers as China reciprocates our priorities. Then again, maybe a simultaneous Russian invasion of Eastern Europe, Turkish invasion of Syria and Iraq, nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, North Korean kamikaze invasion of South Korea, and brinksmanship over a Strait of Taiwan littered with hundreds of seacraft and over a thousand aircraft is too good a way out for our benighted species.

    Or, in diplomatic terms, it means finding any and all means to keep the CCP's interests exclusive of bloody anschluss. (Our best case should be Taiwan as a counterpart to North Korea, but geopolitically Taiwan is not and has not been North Korea. Note that gifting Taiwan nuclear first strike capability would make 1962 look like...)

    I'm just recommending a more levelheaded analysis of our own capabilities, as well as opposition capabilities and intentions. Stop treating the situation as though one scenario is inevitable rather than encompassing a set of prospects that may grow or diminish in attractiveness. Now do you see why I fear our time-tested reckless arrogance?

    I'd rather we don't shrink away from challenging authoritarian regimes that seek to replace us on the world stage and rule it through client/tributary states... It'd be great if it wasn't only the US needing to be the 'arsenal of democracy' or at least of liberal governence but sadly that's the way it is.
    Throughout the thread it's been established that it has indeed been available to us to rise to the challenge of authoritarian regimes - we just tend to to choose to empower them (and that includes our "adversaries"). We and the liberal international community would genuinely be in a much stronger position if America showed leadership as a maternity to democracy. What will really make us safer? If conventional capabilities were the means to deterrence that allowed the American-nurtured project to advance unperturbed, rather than an aimless, pecuni-addled end unto itself, think how much less vulnerable we and our partners would be.

    Chinese openings are essentially predatory lending to whoever will take their loans. US industrial policy may help but SOUTHCOM countries have always been wary of US industry since the outright mercantilistism of the 1930s with the US Marines sent in to prop up banana republics.
    US industry and loans usually come with human rights issues and other pesky things that those countries would rather ignore. Better to take cash from China without having to make reforms than US money that might get frozen if it comes to light the mine workers handle raw mercury in slave like conditions.
    You're forgetting the straightforward massive exports that Latin America delivers to China - but hey're happy to take our equipment, training, and security financial aid. It's worked out very poorly for all of us. We have the unilateral option, to start, of forcing our own companies to abide by appropriate labor standards. Believe me, Latin American citizens can figure this one out if we prove there's a choice - they've launched revolutions against the exploitative option before. Two-for-one in mitigating the displacement and refugee crises in the region. (It will also, sadly, entail strained relations with any conservative governments that resist.)

    Should we only ally with countries that are models of democracy?
    Negotiating with the terrorists is not the same as allying with them! We can have relations with the likes of Russia and Saudi Arabia without excessive violence, as we pursue a principled policy set that aims to maximize human welfare. But exporting corruption and chaos throughout the world is clearly contradictory with the aim of maintaining American primacy, or even security and prosperity.

    You seem to lurch back and forth too, you seem to want us to invest everywhere while keeping our hands clean somehow. Should we keep engaged in Afghanistan's future in the now purely diplomatic role we now have? Should we pretend that massive economic aid there is really a matter of just changing who's skimming the money flowing in with now Taliban pockets getting lined.
    We don't have to be an instant paragon in the history of countries to do better.

    With the Taliban specifically, for example - and I pointed out that Afghanistan is one of the most advanced possible sites for my proposals - the priority is to determine how we can contribute to the best interests of the Afghan people.

    That involves participating in international efforts to deliver short-term relief and contribute to a less unstable and chaotic environment. Since regardless of however far the Taliban go in moderating, the number one harm to women, children, and men in Afghanistan is ongoing violence and economic devastation. If United Nations observers will help, negotiate for international observers. If (as they often do) sanctions against the regime do more to damage the economic viability of the citizenry, relax sanctions. If sanctions have little influence over the Taliban rulers in the context of Russian, Iranian, Pakistani, Saudi, and Chinese state and business support, there's no use in hanging them over their heads indefinitely. There are a number of concrete steps our government can take to perform its duties to Afghanistan within the international system. And have I mentioned sharing the refugees?

    whims of the electorate.
    The incoherent and unconsidered whims of even the more decent half of the electorate, in all honesty, would condemn our country alone, even without the other half driving to inflict apocalypse. In all practical terms all high-minded ideals or granularly-calibrated schemes must either dash upon or flow from the fate of American society. Not that the world will offer anyone opportunities for sequential troubleshooting. But it's important to have an understanding of what we're missing out on.

    Making the wrong decisions is costly in smaller countries like Iraq or Afghanistan where the effects aren't world changing.
    Heh, if the War on Terror can't be called world-changing then only a proper World War could be.

    If the major decision of the future need to be sacrificing Taiwan or the Ukraine for "peace in our time" lets hope that the peace and length of time last longer than the last time that was tried with authoritarian states seeking regional hegemony or seeking to restore 'historic borders.'
    I can own that in a setting where China can absorb Taiwan with relatively-little cost, its appetite for projection would increase considerably; more importantly, any lingering taboo against revanchist wars that yet constrains state actors would vanish completely, with... interesting butterfly effects throughout the World Continent. Let's play to competencies here. Game it out starting with publicly-revealed intelligence (at some indeterminate future date) of the large-scale mobilization of men and ships needed for China to begin any campaign. What are the US government's options, and what is the Chinese reaction in turn?

    Our future absolutely depends on getting these choices right.
    Above all, I still believe that the primary threats to the US, to its hegemony, to its interests, to world civilization, whatever, are (in both national and global manifestations):

    1. Grassroots fascism and its elite patrons
    2. Non-state actors such as corporations and transnational plutocrats (not "globalists") and criminal networks (but I repeat myself) that have gained the capacity to overwhelm and subvert state actors
    3. Climate change and the hindering of mitigation and adaptation following from (1) and (2)

    If we can't meet those three challenges, then not only will widespread conventional conflict between great powers be inevitable, but we won't even give a shit by the time we lurch into it, so degraded will our existence be.

    "Now, Afghanistan is waving a mirror in our faces. Calamity hasn’t struck -- not real calamity. Not yet. But let’s not assume our democracy will “muddle through.”"

    Eyes on the prize.



    Quote Originally Posted by Pannonian View Post
    Before accusing the US of allsorts, note that these neighbours of China who have historically had dealings with imperial China are not at all fans of China. Even Vietnam would much rather have friendly links with the US than with China. China are very, very pushy. I've said that I'd rather not indulge in foreign interventions unless the hosts want us (if I were American instead of an insignificant Briton). These areas that the US continues to have a presence in do very much want an American presence. The alternative is a Chinese presence, and that's something they do not want.
    This is a dangerous mischaracterization.

    Approximately every country in the Pacific Rim - including the rich ones - would prefer to have close relations with both China and the US. To the extent this is not, or is no longer, possible, the US had best be prepared to offer much more value than it currently does.
    Last edited by Montmorency; 09-16-2021 at 04:56.
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  29. #119
    Coffee farmer extraordinaire Member spmetla's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    The premise stated by a representative of our active services' brain trust - the general staff - is that the US military not being hegemonic along an asymptote to the Chinese mainland is a frightening prospect that shatters the diplomatic capacity of the US government. If this premise were taken at face value, it would naturally entail rapid armament and militarization into Chinese-adjacent or Chinese-claimed territory. If it is not taken at face value, it is just a general whining that the US doesn't have unlimited power. But it should be taken at face value, because as I said, it has for generations been formal doctrine that the US military be able to project decisive power against anyone, anywhere.

    The obvious problem, besides being very costly, is that it is rarely considered whether the implied escalation would actually deter China, or would rather further aggravate an arms race that China is increasingly prepared to pursue. It's a very risky strategy that assumes the inevitability of military conflict without involving a reorganization of American society along what that actually requires. Worst case, we foment a self-fulfilling prophecy that we find ourselves unprepared to play a strong role in.
    I don't think it assumes the inevitability of a military conflict, it's about ensuring that our conventional forces are enough of a deterrence to outright military conflict. Think the Berlin blockade or the Cuban-missile crisis, both could have led to WW3 but due to the presence of will and capability both led to de-escalation.

    What do you think our allies should be accomplishing with inefficient, economically-unproductive, military spending?
    Well quite clearly allowing us to not be the sole lynch pin of our Allies' deterrence. Shouldn't the rest of NATO the EU be capable of deterring Russia? Obama pulled out the last armored units from Europe in 2014, that same year Russia took back the Crimea and the US has now had the more expensive task of rotating armored brigades to Europe to reassure our Baltic allies. It's not that the rest of NATO don't contribute, they certainly do but not enough to deter Russia.
    Just like we were able to economically ride the coat-tails of the pax britannia our allies do that now with our sorta pax americana. You point out all the reasons why they don't, it is unproductive, expensive and inefficent. If they care to defend their own sealanes, borders, and airspace and not just be coerced by their regional rivals then perhaps they should be capable of defending themselves. A credible deterrence does work to keep your country your own, Iran has done just that since the end of the Iran-Iraq war and have been the largest exporters of terrorism in the region and never been invaded because the costs are too high.
    WWI Germany assumed Britain wouldn't fight over Belgium. WWII Germany assumed France and the UK wouldn't fight over Danzig. In both cases they underestimated the will of their enemy to fight and it led to two world wars. Russia guessed correctly that Obama and Merkel wouldn't be able to stop his taking Crimea. WW3 has been avoided by the US capability and will to fight. Let's not have us left with the will but not the capability in this era of great-power rivalry and conflict again.

    The flaw here is that the wars with Hussein's Iraq, regardless of moral valence, were no more than a reprisal of Wehrmacht & friends vs. Kingdom of Yugoslavia (in more ways than one). Obviously all military and foreign policy calculations should incorporate the scale and difficulty and plausible ramifications of the scenario. But I'm not opposed to a full-spectrum cordon around Taiwan. Let us remember that one of the major factors in Hussein's decision to invade was Ambassador Glaspie's constructive ambiguity on the American position on the matter.
    That's why I'd prefer outright recognition of Taiwan sooner than later, the ambiguity is part of what leads to the tensions.

    It is US doctrine to have the capability to subdue any competitor, or pursue any designated group/actor in existence, and we have applied this capability ceaselessly since WW2, as you know. In most cases we have overstepped, though Vietnam and the War on Terror are just the biggest items in that respect.
    The US doctrine has never been to subdue any competitor in existence. At no point in the Cold War did the US have a conventional edge over the Soviets except perhaps in the late '80s when we finally had such a qualitative advantage that made up for their quantitative advantage. Same in regards to China, at no point in WW2 or since did the US (except that idiot General MacArthur) try to have superiority over China. The US barely held on to South Korea and when we pushed to the Yalu River were defeated all the way to the South again and locked in years of meat-grinding pointless warfare.
    US Doctrine has been to deter major war by having the CAPABILITY to fight a multifront war and so far it's worked. We've fought Soviet and Chi-Com forces in other theaters but never has either side dared to push farther.
    The danger now is that since mutually assured destruction in nuclear holocaust is no longer a keeper of peace that the PRC will seek to risk defeating us in a limited war or stacking the cards in such a way that's it's a fait accompli and we essentially become irrelevant in the region.

    It's not going to be like, "lololol we shell Kinmen Islands, next week we ferry Y-class aircraft to Fujian airfields, what say you America? Oh no, sanctions and cruise missiles on Woody Island 500 miles from Taiwan, we hereby forswear all territorial ambitions." If China is roused to the offense, and we meet to contest, it's going to be the Real Shit.

    What are we to do with that prospect? In military terms, the limited option is, to whatever extent possible, to invest in hardened antiship capabilities for Taiwan that could cripple any fleet of Chinese landing craft fleet even if Taiwan were reduced to a pit of smoking rubble (a depleted sealift intrinsically forecloses offensive operations, even with largely-intact air transport fleet). The maximalist option is to go all in for the arms race, cordon Taiwan with half our (growing) navy, impress whatever regional allies are willing into the fight (hope we don't need Australia's help anytime in the next 20 years), be prepared to match casualties with the Taiwanese defenders themselves, and hope to hell this all doesn't trigger World War Three among nuclear powers as China reciprocates our priorities. Then again, maybe a simultaneous Russian invasion of Eastern Europe, Turkish invasion of Syria and Iraq, nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, North Korean kamikaze invasion of South Korea, and brinksmanship over a Strait of Taiwan littered with hundreds of seacraft and over a thousand aircraft is too good a way out for our benighted species.

    Or, in diplomatic terms, it means finding any and all means to keep the CCP's interests exclusive of bloody anschluss. (Our best case should be Taiwan as a counterpart to North Korea, but geopolitically Taiwan is not and has not been North Korea. Note that gifting Taiwan nuclear first strike capability would make 1962 look like...)
    I actually agree with you here for the most part but the major thing is we need to be able to maintain that conventional deterrent. I highly doubt that China would do anything blatant and stupid like Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, that'd be too easy to call out and unit against. It will be a gradual approach, perhaps take the Kinmen islands to test our resolve, begin boarding or seizing Taiwan bound ships for inspections, and something similar for civil aviation. All the while they'll likely try and convince the Taiwan people that they'll be left all alone by the US and friends so better to stop silly ideas of independence and join now in peace or suffer from being conquered.
    I'm all for arming Taiwan but it's not just a matter of one weapon systems. Modern anti-ship missiles are over the horizon weapons, that requires radars, intel, target sharing, safe launch sites, alternate launch sites and so on. That's assuming that China would even do a blatant invasion. I could see much more easily a Crimea type scenario once the above long term approaches have shaped the strategic environment.
    The US needs the capability and strength to break a blockade and intervene on behalf of Taiwan in order to deter it.

    Heh, if the War on Terror can't be called world-changing then only a proper World War could be.
    No major balances of power changed, just a lot of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't think Arab-spring is caused by GWOT. Didn't result in any unified muslim opposition to the US or NATO, just a more open war that had previously been primarily against Israel.
    The Suez Crisis and collapse of the Soviet Union both had world wide effects in every continent and massively changed the attitudes and balances of power throughout the world. The GWOT was just a hugely expensive and in the long run pointless waste time and resources as terrorism is just as prolific as it was beforehand.

    And were we really trying to bring democracy to Afghanistan, anyway? Were we nation-building? That’s what some of you have been poignantly wondering.

    If we were, why were there so few mentors for Afghan government officials, and so many for Afghan army officers? Is it easier to run a city than to command an infantry company? [Shots fired, spmetla!]
    [...]
    And if it was democracy we were peddling, what kind of democracy? What is the condition of our democracy? That is the question this fiasco poses.
    This I think is the crux of the problem, there really was no plan. Step one invade and kick out Al Queda and the Taliban, Step two........ Step three.... we leave and it's a bastion of ...... something not Taliban.

    We certainly didn't invade to bring democracy but ended up trying to do so. I think the overall intent by Bush '43 admin was to not just destroy Al Queda but bring Afghanistan out of the cycle of war through security and investment. None of that unfortunately happened.

    As for why so few mentors for Afghan officials? I'd say probably because governance of Afghans was probably not something we could effectively advise on outside of purely technical things like planning and engineering. All the more reason why I think in hindsight we shouldn't have been shoveling so much money in, it flooded it with cash with bred rampant corruption with no corrective action on our part.
    There's also the part that if we had mentors telling them how to govern it would look exactly like a puppet state. Perhaps that'd have been more effective though, quasi-colonialism to restore order and good governance and then transition to full Afghan independence. The soviet puppet government at least didn't just give up a few weeks after soviet troops left.

    We (US and NATO) do know how to fight and could mentor Afghans to do so. Their special forces were fairly competent, their aviation was generally aggressive though too few in quantity to be effective, and they had access to mortars and artillery though these were primarily situated in FOBs, not really for conventional warfare but for supporting checkpoints and firing flares to light up the roads when needed. At the end of the day though despite any competencies and advantages they had over the Taliban in a conventional fight in which they'd likely beat the Taliban they just had zero moral and surrendered the country without losing a major battle anywhere. Technical competency and equipment advantage just can't compensate for piss-poor leadership, rampant corruption, and evidently zero morale. Sorta like the well equipped Nationalist Armies being defeated by Mao's PLA in '48.
    Last edited by spmetla; 09-16-2021 at 08:47.

    "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?"
    -Abraham Lincoln

  30. #120

    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    The US government formally renounced the Kabul strike as a mistake that was made.

    We now know that there was no connection between Mr. Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan, that his activities on that day were completely harmless and not at all related to the imminent threat we believed we faced, and that Mr. Ahmadi was just as innocent a victim as were the others tragically killed.

    We apologize, and we will endeavor to learn from this horrible mistake.


    Quote Originally Posted by spmetla View Post
    I don't think it assumes the inevitability of a military conflict, it's about ensuring that our conventional forces are enough of a deterrence to outright military conflict. Think the Berlin blockade or the Cuban-missile crisis, both could have led to WW3 but due to the presence of will and capability both led to de-escalation.
    Important to note that there was no ethnic or territorial conflict at stake in those incidents, which implies different pathways to resolution. There were no circumstances in which the USSR could come to perceive an existential imperative to secure all of Berlin for East Germany, or to maintain a nuclear presence on Cuba. Bottom line: Is it very easy or very difficult to deter China on Taiwan, and if it's very difficult would adopting the most aggressive posture not ironically encourage China to be both more willing and more able to impose its will (this is known as "tragic drama")

    If it's very easy, just make the commitment, station a fleet or two, and call it a day - no discussion needed.

    Shouldn't the rest of NATO the EU be capable of deterring Russia?
    Deterring from what and in what capacity needs to be delineated. We already have a NATO commitment to mutual defense, which is the most important step.

    It's not that the rest of NATO don't contribute, they certainly do but not enough to deter Russia.
    I don't see why the UK and France and Germany need to be militarizing for offensive operations into Eastern Europe. Today we know that Russia's strategic position in its near-abroad is weak, and not getting any stronger, as the (to some surprising) failure to check Ukrainian post-Russian ambitions demonstrated. Putin has a hard time trudging through his priorities for even Belarus. A massive armament campaign for NATO to achieve the capability to credibly strike against a hypothetical Russian occupation of Ukraine or Estonia would be socially corrosive and horrendously costly both before and during (any) deployment, in the latter case in terms of lives and materiel. It would also, naturally, incentivize further hostility from the Russian regime (if you think Europe can recommit to an arms race, Putin certainly can too - to hell with the domestic economy - in order to negate European augmentation).

    No, that doesn't constitute a viable strategy. Vis-a-vis Russia the European priority will remain a sanitary cordon along the frontline countries, particularly Poland. Russia's government will always fail to survive a general offensive into Europe, and while it has the Baltics hostage to some extent - no one can prevent their occupation outright - so does the EU, on the other hand, in the form of Kaliningrad. So European deterrence doesn't look like adding striking power to the Narva River, it entails modernizing their existing assets and ensuring there's a coherent plan to assemble them for common defense. But let's reiterate that Russian geopolitics are not the same as Chinese geopolitics.

    If they care to defend their own sealanes, borders, and airspace and not just be coerced by their regional rivals then perhaps they should be capable of defending themselves.
    Core European sealanes, borders, and airspace are secure from foreign powers as far as I know (not that there's a contender other than Russia here). If you mean that the EU needs more ships to shoot at Ivory Coast pirates or Mediterranean migrants, I don't see why. It might be more helpful to get a handle on what role Turkey is going to play in the region.

    Iran has done just that since the end of the Iran-Iraq war and have been the largest exporters of terrorism in the region and never been invaded because the costs are too high.
    Iran, as far as I can tell, doesn't spend much more on its defense relative to its economy than many EU countries. It would spend less if it could (hint hint). It's ultimate deterrence is not a massive army or sophisticated equipment but its geography and its large, loyal population. Investments into transnational criminal and militant groups are a political card that any reasonably-powerful country can/does cultivate, but otherwise its deterrence is purely defensive and contained within its borders. North Korea is the better example here, and of course that's an impoverished pariah state with no (or subterranean) integration into the international system and market economy. Opportunity costs, huh?

    Let's not have us left with the will but not the capability in this era of great-power rivalry and conflict again.
    Frankly, the reverse has been and continues to be the more plausible condition. Unless you mean the '2' in the 1-4-2-1 doctrine, that's irretrievable in my opinion and a source of ongoing problems.

    US Doctrine has been to deter major war by having the CAPABILITY to fight a multifront war and so far it's worked. We've fought Soviet and Chi-Com forces in other theaters but never has either side dared to push farther.
    That's a fair summation of Cold War doctrine wrt the Soviet Union itself, but when I say subdue I don't mean militarily conquer and occupy. The US had a very broad conception of its key interests and pursued that conception with military or other coercive means everywhere. Since the Cold War ended we got even more invested, too invested, in that raw capability, at the cost of overreach (to put it mildly). For any other country, existing or fictional, it would be an eyebrow-raising statement that the degradation of ability to have dominance up to the border of any other country constitutes a grave threat to national interests. It's important to restrain these impulses. If we can delineate a concrete grand strategy, fine, but entitlement to and pursuit of unlimited power and impunity (note the phrasing "entitlement" and "pursuit," unlimited power is never practically achieved or achievable) is always going to produce harmful cases, self-harming too. This mindset is what I'm criticizing in our generals above. It will only promote reckless belligerence on its own terms, and America has plenty of precedent of reckless belligerence to concern us going forward. As you say, Hitler overestimated Nazi Germany and underestimated its opposition...

    That's why I'd prefer outright recognition of Taiwan sooner than later, the ambiguity is part of what leads to the tensions.
    To take this step one would better have coordinated military readiness among partners of course, because a formal Taiwanese claim to independence would be the single likeliest trigger to war. If we believe China's military readiness only improves with time, then I can see the case for biting this bullet without delay.

    m all for arming Taiwan but it's not just a matter of one weapon systems. Modern anti-ship missiles are over the horizon weapons, that requires radars, intel, target sharing, safe launch sites, alternate launch sites and so on.
    Do you mean cruise missiles? My knowledge of the relevant systems is limited, but I recall that a modern navy will have strong countermeasures against any such systems, as best demonstrated by the Coalition naval forces during the Gulf War. Wouldn't the best practicable option be quantity rather than superior technical sophistication? Dozens to hundreds of missiles against landing craft close to shore (with the caveat that the entire Chinese sealift would never all be exposed at a single moment) seems like the only option.

    I could see much more easily a Crimea type scenario once the above long term approaches have shaped the strategic environment.
    The US needs the capability and strength to break a blockade and intervene on behalf of Taiwan in order to deter it.
    It's also possible - I don't know enough to say - that the CCP is laughing all the way to the bank as it pursues a long-term policy of diplomatic isolation of Taiwan, alongside fifth-column disruption of native political resistance, while the rest of us cry about missiles and carriers. But if it comes down to it, China can't play political games at this level that it isn't sure it will win; either the hypothetical blockade is successful at dissuading Taiwan's allies and there is no need for an invasion, or it fails due to US resistance and any prospect of actually assembling an invasion force is lost for years at least (since any mobilization can now easily be countered and hindered in its incipience, short of total war). That latter outcome is too high a risk for the CCP, as it would lose enormous quantities of domestic legitimacy, international standing, economic stability, military readiness, and so on, all for the sake of empty posturing; Taiwan would be further out of reach than ever. Since the CCP has demonstrated its rationality many times, assuming it retains that rationality we keep returning to the principle that any overt measure to reduce Taiwan's independence has to be projected to be rapid and decisive from the Chinese point of view.

    No major balances of power changed, just a lot of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    The degradation of the state system in the Middle East has set up some social and humanitarian consequences that will reach throughout the century, which go without elaboration, and has in fact altered strategic relationships: see the drift of Turkey and Pakistan, the comparative loss of Influence of Saudi Arabia, Arab-Israeli rapprochement, the permanentish alienation of Iran from the West, Russian reentry to the region, indeed the continuing (I would say accelerated) spread and escalation of terrorism to full-blown internal conflict around the Islamic world...

    Back to the issue of deterrence, the War on Terror made China and Russia intrinsically much less friendly to the American order ("And when the band plays "Hail to the chief", Ooh, they point the cannon at you"). This is almost as profound as it gets in the contemporary period. Whaddaya want for to call it world change, the collapse of the EU and a return to armed territorial conflict between Continental states, the reemergence of a true Caliphate, the final disappearance of American primacy - uh?

    There's also the part that if we had mentors telling them how to govern it would look exactly like a puppet state.
    I think the source was in advisers referring more to the basic technical aspects of how civil bureaucracy and government officials exercise and manage modern states, infrastructure and systems, not so much granular policy sets.

    At the end of the day though despite any competencies and advantages they had over the Taliban in a conventional fight in which they'd likely beat the Taliban they just had zero moral and surrendered the country without losing a major battle anywhere.
    The deciding factor is that our decisions on the basic form of the Afghan government we would recognize - a unitary, centralized republic - restricted plausible forms for the Afghan milsec establishment to what we would recognize as a conventional, centralized, milsec establishment. But the point that the Taliban had no need for air support is a suggestive one; could different governmental and social forms for our endorsement have produced more resilient native anti-Taliban operations under a less complex and costly organization? And I don't mean fomenting a permanent war of all militias and ethnicities against all. But that requires creativity, cultural sensitivity and responsiveness to local conditions, and a willingness to supercede path dependence that the US - more fairly states in general - has shown little aptitude for.
    Last edited by Montmorency; 09-18-2021 at 07:10.
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