Middle East

  • Climate Change,  Global Guerillas,  Inventions,  Middle East,  Oil,  Weirdness

    Saturday reading

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  • Iran,  Israel,  Middle East

    The Israel lobby complex

    A question to my many readers

    I recently watched Hillary Clinton basically state that her administration would treat an attack on Israel as an attack on the United States. Charles Krauthammer makes a similar proposal in a column here. He is kind enough to give some reason as to why the US should assume this burden, specifically

    it will be said, because Israel could retaliate on its own. The problem is that Israel is a very small country with a small nuclear arsenal that could be destroyed in a first strike. During the Cold War, both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. created vast and invulnerable submarine fleets to ensure a retaliatory strike and, thus, deterrence. The invulnerability and unimaginably massive size of this American nuclear arsenal would make a U.S. deterrent far more potent and reliable than any Israeli facsimile — and thus far more likely to keep the peace.

    If I remember correctly, Israel has nuclear missile submarines, which would make a successful Iranian first strike unlikely.

    The question is, does anyone seriously expect that Iran would be willing to gamble on a sixty percent change of annihilation, but not a 100% chance? Realistically that would be more like a 90% chance due to American political wavering, but let’s call it 100% for arguments sake.

    The obvious answer to this is “The Iranians are irrational” which is a claim not borne out be history. They’ve been quite skillful players of brinkmanship for years now. Evil and harmful yes, irrational and stupid, definitely not. Is there really that much value to pandering to the American fans of Israel?

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  • Middle East

    Saudi Israelia

    In response to, You’re right. Both Tel Aviv and Riyadh play us like violins by Tom Barnett, Dan TDaxp responds with this post, where he points out that Israel and Saudi Arabia are our two closest allies in the region.

    What a depressing thought. Our two closest allies anywhere are a tyrannical monarchy which breeds terrorists at an alarming clip, and an ethnically based democracy with socialist leanings who doesn’t even have the common decency not to spy on us, even though we give them billions outright every year, and far more in support.

    It’s sad.

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  • Iraq,  Middle East

    Thoughts on the surge and ethnic cleansing

    While it’s common now to hear reports of the surge working, I’m curious to know how much the drop in violence correlates to the ethnic cleansing that’s been happening in Iraq for the past few years. All of the Iraqi on Iraqi violence is purposeful, i.e. designed to drive the Sunni out of Shia neighborhoods and vice versa. What if the militias and insurgents are just wrapping up the ethnic cleansing and there’s no one handy to kill?

    I imagine it’s hard to find mixed neighborhoods these days, which would make the murders and bombings more difficult to commit. A good way to test the theory would be to see if inter-ethnic violence increases as extra-ethnic violence decreases. The recent tribal push against AQ is some evidence of that as without readily available Shia AQ has nothing to offer the Sunni tribes.

    So many questions, so little data. I guess another way of putting it is “what if Iraq completed it’s civil war while everyone was debating the meaning of “Civil War”? (note, I still dislike the term to refer to the conflict, Gang war is the better term.).

  • Israel,  Kurdistan,  Middle East

    A second Israel

    I’ve been in favor of moving American troops to Kuwait and Kurdistan and letting the various Iraqi factions settle itself, with American troops playing Spoiler for our own interests. Upon further thought I’m not so sure.

    Kuwait isn’t really a factor, but Kurdistan is. Assuming that the Kurds do secede (which seems likely) we would be the guarantor of last resort for an ethnically homogeneous enclave, much like we are with Israel. While supporting the Israelis is perhaps the right thing to do, it’s doubtful that the relationship is worthwhile on a cost benefit basis. That raises the question, do we really need another exposed ally with little to offer surrounded by hostile countries? Supporting the Kurds would alienate the surrounding countries and be a considerable financial and troop expense.

    Then again, it does put another outpost of democracy and freedom (for the region) in the area and the second Israel isn’t the same as the first.

    Decisions, decisions.

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  • Adages,  America,  Middle East,  Military,  Politics,  Public Choice,  Quotes,  Russia

    Wars in the Middle East are officially a vested interest

    I read this article on CNN.com

    White House taps general for ‘war czar’ post
    President Bush has chosen Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the Pentagon’s director of operations, to oversee the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as a “war czar” after a long search for new leadership, administration officials said Tuesday.

    In the newly created position, Lute would serve as an assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser, and would also maintain his military status and rank as a three-star general, according to a Pentagon official.

    and was reminded of this Albert Jay Nock quote:

    Experience has made it clear beyond doubt or peradventure that prohibition in the United States is not a moral issue; it is not essentially, even, a political issue; it is a vested interest.

    and this H.L. Mencken quote:

    The New Deal began, like the Salvation Army, by promising to save humanity. It ended, again like the Salvation Army, by running flop-houses and disturbing the peace.

    We have this horrible tendency in our culture to see the means (a big new bureaucracy) as an end in itself, nay, an achievement. What endeavor has failed because there are too few managers? The right managers, sure, lots of failures due to a lack of them. But too few?

    Plus an additional bureaucracy just creates it’s own principal-agent and knowledge problems.

    Functionally Lute will probably serve as a dedicated adviser, but why the title Czar? All of the Russian Czars were an odd combination of stagnant, incompetent and murderous. Why is that some role model.


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  • Biz,  Entreuperneur,  Evolution,  Iraq,  Links,  Middle East,  Patrick Lang,  Robots,  Tech

    Monday link roundup

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  • BigThink,  Israel,  Middle East,  Predictions

    Funny and strange quotes

    From this rather odd article about the future of Israel

    As Peter O’Toole said as Lawrence of Arabia in the movie of that title, “Nothing is written.” However, it seems clear how to bet. As so often in history, bet on the horrible outcome.

    I think the post is flawed as it assumes that the current Israeli situation will not change by several orders of magnitude in qualitative ways as the decades roll by. Of course, there is no reason for the changes to be good, but current trends seldom hold before Bit Rot settles in. Worth reading

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