19 September, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Yeah, about that Surge leading to a downturn in violence and stuff... oops, maybe not:

A new study released today by the University of California, Los Angeles concludes that ethnic violence — not the Bush administration’s surge — was the primary factor in reducing violence in Iraq. As FP Passport notes, researchers used satellite imagery from the Pentagon to track “electricity use in Iraq before, during, and after the surge took place”:

If the surge had truly ‘worked,’ we would expect to see a steady increase in night-light output over time,” says Thomas Gillespie, one of the co-authors, in a press release. “Instead, we found that the night-light signature diminished in only certain neighborhoods, and the pattern appears to be associated with ethno-sectarian violence and neighborhood ethnic cleansing.”

In other words, the various factions in Iraq were nearly done killing and expelling the folks they wanted despised when we came charging in with our Surge and claimed that the reduction in violence that followed was all due to our intervention. Looks like certain United States dumbfuck pols - I'm looking at you, McSurge - are going to need lessons in how correlation doesn't prove causation.

They also need lessons in the realities of fighting terrorism. Namely, the more you piss off people by invading their countries, sending in commandos to shoot indiscriminately, allowing your bestest bidness buddies to gang rape them economically, and strut around talking about how awesome you are, the more people might begin to look at strap-on bombs as the fashion accessory of the year:

The Washington Post confirms that yesterday’s terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Sanaa was the work of an Al Qaeda affiliate, using tactics developed in Iraq:

The use of two vehicle bombs — one to breach the perimeter of a compound, a second to drive inside and explode — is a tactic used by the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. […]

He said a new, less-compromising generation of al-Qaeda leaders emerged, many of them moving into action after escaping from a Yemeni prison that year, he said.[…]

The new leaders have found followers among al-Qaeda fighters returning from Iraq
. “The quieter it is in Iraq, the more inflamed it is here,” as Yemeni fighters travel back and forth, said Nabil al-Sofee, a former spokesman for a Yemeni Islamist political party who is now an analyst.

Those who have been following the Iraq debate might remember “flypaper theory,” which was one of the earliest exponents of the “incoherent post hoc justifications for the Iraq war” genre. The idea was that there was some limited number of terrorists in the Middle East, and the presence of an occupying U.S. army would lure them to Iraq, whereupon they could all be conveniently killed, presumably as soon as they stepped off the bus.

This plan was prevented from working only by the fact that it was staggeringly dumb. The U.S. occupation radicalized scores of young Muslims, many of whom traveled to Iraq, where they learned terror warfare and were galvanized in the global jihad. And now they’ve begun returning home, to share the tactics and technology developed in a laboratory we provided for them by invading Iraq. The violence in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon in May 2007 was one instance of this. Yesterday’s attack in Yemen is another.

What other "staggeringly dumb" policies have unleashed a whirlwind we're now forced to reap? Oh, yeah - going to play Macho Invaders in Iraq before we'd finished beating the stuffing out of extremeists and putting an effective government in place in Afghanistan:

I know nobody cares, what with the global financial system collapsing around our ears, but things aren't going too well in Afghanistan these days. Laura King reports:

A summer of heavy fighting during which Western military leaders had hoped to seize the initiative from Islamic militants has instead revealed an insurgency capable of employing complex new tactics and fighting across a broad swath of Afghanistan.

...."In all, we feel that things are going very, very well for us," said a Taliban field commander in Kandahar province whose men fought hit-and-run battles with Canadian and British forces during the summer, the season when fighting is most intense. "And what is more, time is on our side."

....In large swaths of the countryside, insurgents have been able to intimidate local officials into cooperating, in part because President Hamid Karzai's government is perceived to be corrupt and inefficient. "Once, people would look to the government for justice," said Abdul Qadoos, a businessman and tribal leader in Kandahar province. "Now they go to the Taliban."

You know what? Even I knew that was going to happen if we just kicked the crap out of the Taliban and then ran off after shiny oil in Iraq without filling the power vacuum - and that was back in 2003, before I'd started studying politics, international relations, war, and insurgencies. Do you know how fucking apalling it is to be more savvy than your own fucking government?

Here's another thing I saw coming: the fact that a lot of countries with disgusting human rights records would respond with glee to the Bush regime's decision to use the Constitution as toilet paper and legalize torture. It didn't take a genius to know they'd point to us and crow, "See? America does it, too!" whenever someone called them out on their abuses. Well, sho 'nuff (h/t Tristero):

Such efforts have provided China's rulers with something even more valuable than surveillance technology from Western democracies: the ability to claim that they are just like us. Liu Zhengrong, a senior official dealing with China's Internet policy, has defended Golden Shield and other repressive measures by invoking the Patriot Act and the FBI's massive e-mail-mining operations. "It is clear that any country's legal authorities closely monitor the spread of illegal information," he said. "We have noted that the U.S. is doing a good job on this front." Lin Jiang Huai, the head of China Information Security Technology, credits America for giving him the idea to sell biometric IDs and other surveillance tools to the Chinese police. "Bush helped me get my vision," he has said. Similarly, when challenged on the fact that dome cameras are appearing three to a block in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, Chinese companies respond that their model is not the East German Stasi but modern-day London.

Human-rights activists are quick to point out that while the tools are the same, the political contexts are radically different. China has a government that uses its high-tech web to imprison and torture peaceful protesters, Tibetan monks and independent-minded journalists. Yet even here, the lines are getting awfully blurry. The U.S. currently has more people behind bars than China, despite a population less than a quarter of its size. And Sharon Hom, executive director of the advocacy group Human Rights in China, says that when she talks about China's horrific human-rights record at international gatherings, "There are two words that I hear in response again and again: Guantánamo Bay."

That burbling sound you hear is America's moral authority being sucked down the sewers, my darlings.

Somehow, I don't think Mr. "No, Really, I Meant to Malign Spain!" McCain is the one to reestablish our credibility. For fuck's sake, he can only come up with one response to the financial crisis: Obama didit!

In an odd turn, John McCain this morning blamed Barack Obama for the crisis on Wall Street, saying it was Obama's judgment that "contribut[ed] to these problems," and it was Obama who was "busy gaming the system," whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.

Soon after, Obama delivered a speech in Miami where I think he struck the right note: he accused McCain of feeling "a little panicked."

"This morning Senator McCain gave a speech in which his big solution to this worldwide economic crisis was to blame me for it," Obama said.

"This is a guy who's spent nearly three decades in Washington, and after spending the entire campaign saying I haven't been in Washington long enough, he apparently now is willing to assign me responsibility for all of Washington's failures.

"Now, I think it's a pretty clear that Senator McCain is a little panicked right now. At this point he seems to be willing to say anything or do anything or change any position or violate any principle to try and win this election, and I've got to say it's kind of sad to see. That's not the politics we need.

"It's also been disappointing to see my opponent's reaction to this economic crisis. His first reaction on Monday was to stand up and repeat the line he's said over and over again throughout this campaign -- 'the fundamentals of the economy are strong' -- the comment was so out of touch that even George Bush's White House couldn't agree with it."

We've already seen that the Bush White House couldn't agree with McLame on foreign policy. Something tells me that angry foreign governments, potential terrorists, and pissed-off civillian victims of war aren't going to be terribly impressed with the "Blame Obama!" schtick, either. Try telling the rest of the world it's all Obama's fault when the world financial markets get dragged down by American corporate greed, fed by the lack of regulations McCain and his economic gurus advocated, and I think we'll hear howls of derision from one pole to the other.

I think this could be why my own dear Seattle Times had this to say when they endorsed Obama today:

Obama should be the next president of the United States because he is the most qualified change agent. Obama is a little young, but also brilliant. If he sometimes seems brainy and professorial, that's OK. We need the leader of the free world to think things through, carefully. We have seen the sorry results of shooting from the hip.

Shot from the hip right into our feet, we did. If this keeps up, we won't have a leg to stand on.

1 comment:

george.w said...

"We have seen the sorry results of shooting from the hip"

Wow, if there was a better description of the McCain campaign...

Even The Economist, though congenitally unable to endorse a Democrat even if it would save the world, calls the Bush administration "calamitous". How bad to things have to get before people who are just uncomfortable with the idea of change decide it's time for some?