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Why is the "West" so bad at strategy?

by Jerome a Paris Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 09:55:53 AM EST

In a hard-hitting Op-Ed in this morning's Financial Times, Singapore's Kishore Mahbubani writes that The West is strategically wrong on Georgia

... most of the world is bemused by western moralising on Georgia. America would not tolerate Russia intruding into its geopolitical sphere in Latin America. Hence Latin Americans see American double standards clearly. So do all the Muslim commentaries that note that the US invaded Iraq illegally, too. Neither India nor China is moved to protest against Russia. It shows how isolated is the western view on Georgia: that the world should support the underdog, Georgia, against Russia. In reality, most support Russia against the bullying west. The gap between the western narrative and the rest of the world could not be greater.

He extends that diagnosis to our overall approach to the world (as quoted below the fold) and makes a convincing case that the West has an incoherent strategy towards the rest of the world. I would like to suggest, however, that the current 'strategy' has a narrow rationality intimately linked to our current dysfunctional politics.


Western thinkers must decide where the real long-term challenge is. If it is the Islamic world, the US should stop intruding into Russia’s geopolitical space and work out a long-term engagement with China. If it is China, the US must win over Russia and the Islamic world and resolve the Israel-Palestine issue. This will enable Islamic governments to work more closely with the west in the battle against al-Qaeda.

The biggest paradox facing the west is that it is at last possible to create a safer world order. The number of countries wanting to become “responsible stakeholders” has never been higher. Most, including China and India, want to work with the US and the west. But the absence of a long-term coherent western strategy towards the world and the inability to make geopolitical compromises are the biggest obstacles to a stable world order. Western leaders say the world is becoming a more dangerous place, yet few admit that their flawed thinking is bringing this about.

Mahbubani's main theme is that of the emergence of competing powers outside the West (in particular in Asia) that cannot be simply dominated by the West as they used to be. While he suggests that there is actually room for a lot of cooperation between new and existing powers, he acknowledges that the situation creates rivalries and that those might be seen - and deserve to be treated - as strategic enmities. His point is then to note that, in that perspective, it is stupid, and counterproductive, to treal all other powers as hostile and dangerous at the same time. His realpolitik suggestion is therefore simple: pick an enemy, and stick to it, and try to bring others on your side. Try to neutralise them or, at the very least, not to antagonize them.

The West, led by Bush & Cheney's White House, but idiotically, complacently, undoubtedly supported by European leaders, has indeed taken a belligerant approach to the world, treating all as enemies or potential dangers. Iraq and Afghanistan have been invaded, Islam as a whole is crusade-worthy, Russia is being encircled and demonised, and China is still seen as a threat both in the short term (for jobs) and in the long term (for political and economic influence around the world). When facts on the gorund prevent actual action, bluster and aggressive rhetoric fills the columns of a manifestly compliant and/or uncritical media (this FT Op-Ed and a few others notwithstanding).

Is it simply hubris? Or is something else at play?

One thing that our long list of enemies have in common is energy. They are either significant providers of energy for us (a good chunk of the Islamic world, Russia, Venezuela) or rival importers of the stuff (China). A sane strategy, rather than focusing on countries or geopolitical groupings, would simply look at energy policies. Given that we have a US administration largely coming from the energy sector, we are faced, once again, by the same quandary - manifest incompetence, or something else at play?

Now, a simple "something" would simply be to say that they don't come form the energy world, but from the oil world, and from the perspective of oil companies, things are going well, thank you. But this is not really the case. Despite their huge profits, oil companies are actually dying animals, without a clear future. Their production has been going down over the past several years, their reserve base is shrinking, and their prospects are rather dismal. Oh sure, they will make a bundle from their remaining assets as prices keep on increasing, but they are increasingly irrelevant on the global stage - they are not needed for most of the world's production to happen, and their political influence, other than in their increasingly dysfunctional home polities/markets, is becoming rather feeble. Sure, some will say that their "home polities" (the US and the UK) are all that matter, but I don't think they need a bellicose foreign policy to dominate that - well paid lobbyists will do just fine.

No, the harsh secret is that this energy-savvy administration is persuaded - and, to be honest, I see very little to convince me that they are wrong - that a sane energy policy is a political loser, and thus that they must continue with the increasingly chaotic international policies of the past to ensure that plentiful spice keeps on flowing. That policy has, for them, the additional advantage of helping on the domestic political front by creating plentiful external enemies that just beg for a party STRONG ON NATIONAL SECURITY, and by indulging the pro-military exceptionalism inherent in a large chunk of the US population - but I don't think that's the main goal.

No, the fact is, it's easier to convince voters to support a "war on terror" than it is to tell them that we need to start using energy differently because energy is not, in fact, cheap as it has long appeared to be in purely monetary terms.

Call our politicians cowards, call them pragmatists, but that's the reality. We won't have an energy policy until we are forced by reality to have one, and by then it will be a lot more painful to deal with that reality, but at least we'll have plenty of enemies to deflect the blame.

:: ::

The other thing that comes on top of that to promote aggressive internationalist policies is the "winner-take-all" nature of our current ideological paradigm. The Thatcher-Reagan revolution - all the neo-gangs thatt have come to the fore - has not just promoted greed and profit creed, they have explicitly called for the destruction of all social links ("society doesn't exist," Thatcher said famously) and for a morality that specifically states that we have what we deserve and we deserve what we have. There is an unsaid addendum: as long as you don't get caught (and everything will be done to weaken the organs that could catch you), anything goes and you can keep what you grabbed, plundered or swindled. Success is defined by how much you can accumulate, and, with increasing few restrictions along the way, that has meant an increasingly brutal arms race at the top, with everybody else as collateral damage of the plunder.

That logic also applies to countries - see how we love our rankings, whether of companies, medals, GDP or billionaires, and "we" have to win that race too. "We" is really our elites, but too many of the rest of us are too easily suckered into these jingoistic games. And what "we" want is total dominance across all measurable fields. Thus China needs to be cut down to size. Same with Russia or, occasionally, when their more favorable numbers get too obvious, Germany or Europe.

It is of course ironic that it is the plunderers' policies to outsource activity to pollution-welcoming and labor rights- indifferent China et al. that has made them into the economic powerhouses they are now, their policies to replace wage-driven consumption at home by the debt-driven kind (stagnant wages make for bigger profits) that have given huge financial clout to Asian and other countries and simultaneously destroyed our banks, as they sink under the weight or increasingly bad debt. But hey, we lived above our means, and "we" made gigantic profits, and headline growth, along the way.

After all, all "we" care about is to win in the billionaires' rankings, and if it takes bluster, arrogance and hubris on the world stage to hide that reality from the rest of us, that's what will happen.

In short, we have no strategy about china, Islam, energy or anything else,, but "we" have found a great way to get rich and keep friendlies in power.

Display:
the international angle of the Anglo Disease

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 10:00:32 AM EST
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/8/21/95553/4108/836/571737

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 10:03:55 AM EST
You're energy obsessed.

The basic problem is the second one: the ruling value system is one of hard power, hard negotiation, "winner takes all" and other macho values. Sitting down and talking, assessing common interests and finding ways of making everyone gain from an agreement are sad, girly and pinko. Our society, and our politics is out of balance: more so in some places than others.

Hard power is for stopping other people using hard power, not a tool with which to achieve any lasting ends.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 10:13:31 AM EST
Actually there are lasting ends you can achieve with hard power, but they're pretty much all crimes against humanity.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 10:15:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My point being that you have it backwards: we're idiots about energy because our ruling value system is fucked up. Cause and effect.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 10:22:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I did note that there were two distinct strands there: energy and "winner-take-all."

I'm genuinely uncertain as to which one drives the other, if at all.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 10:39:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Winner take all" is a primal power motivator that has been around for thousands of years.  Energy is just a more recent focus for the application of that motivation.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 12:24:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Winner take all" is a strategy, really appropriate only to circumstances where you won't have to deal with the loser again.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 01:02:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Its a dynamic system ... its not self-reproducing unless the different drivers reproduce each other.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 02:31:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're assuming that energy policy is as important a driver as the underlying ideology, which does not seem true: a sane energy policy is not possible in the current environment, so we have an insane one.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 05:49:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I'm not assuming that. I'm saying that the pursuit of their perceived interests by powerful actors reinforces the set of institutions which serve to reproduce what you reify as "the underlying ideology", that that set of institutions reinforces the power of those actors, and that under those institutions, their self interest leads them to demand government actions which appear incoherent as a policy response to a problem.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 10:28:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"... our ruling value system is fucked up."

Interesting phrase.  I wonder how the ET citizens would respond to the question, "Please describe THE GOOD LIFE as you see it, not that you are necessarily currently living it.  Or, please describe THE HEALTHY HUMAN PSYCHOLOGY or PERSONALITY."  Answers to either could prove enlightening.

The reason I post this is because the people who ascribe to "our ruling value system" are those that run things and, I suspect, in their opinion, anyone NOT buying into their definition of WINNING are simply disgruntled losers.  In their mind, anyone not like them are the fucked up ones.  So who's right?

The good news ... it's only a life sentence. You eventually leave this planet of idiots.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 09:41:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
Hard power is for stopping other people using hard power

Not even that - hard power is an end in itself, with little or no interest in strategic outcomes.

Hence the missile waving and the random blowing up of shit for the sake of it.

Energy is non-military power, so it's entirely consistent to try to have a monopoly on both, and to be more interested in forms of energy generation which are explosive, dangerous and can be monopolised and leveraged, than caring sharing girly-man DFH sustainables.

Our leaders are teenagers. Especially the older ones.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 10:54:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant that the only correct use of hard power is for stopping other hard power.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 10:56:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thirty years ago I called PLAYBOY the apotheosis of arrested adolescence.  A more appropriate use for the term would be the GOP since Reagan.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 12:21:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This might be amusing... if it didn't have such a deleterious impact.

Crises cast doubt on Bush's strategy
He's emphasized personal relationships with leaders such as Putin and Musharraf.
By Peter Grier, The Christian Science Monitor

President Bush has long prided himself on his close personal relationships with foreign leaders. But over the last several weeks some of those relationships appear to have gone disastrously awry.

At their first meeting in 2001, Bush famously said of Russia's then-President Vladimir Putin that he'd looked into his eyes and found him "trustworthy." Now prime minister, Mr. Putin defends Russia's invasion of Georgia, which has sent US-Russian relations to their lowest point in years.

Mr. Bush has long been a staunch supporter of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Mr. Musharraf has now resigned, and the US faces the tough task of trying to persuade Pakistan's elected leaders to focus on the strengthening Taliban insurgency.

All recent US presidents have forged bonds with fellow heads of state. The question is, did the Bush administration depend too much on personal interaction and miss the broader geopolitical forces at work in Russia and Pakistan? Some critics charge that is exactly what happened.

"I found it striking that Bush has talked about [looking into Musharraf's eyes]. It's the same metaphor he used with Putin," says Rand Beers, who was a top national security adviser to the Democratic presidential campaign of John Kerry in 2004.

A great deal of US policy toward Russia flowed out of Bush's initial encounter with Putin, according to Mr. Beers, now president of the National Security Network, a foreign-policy research group based in Washington, D.C.

Similarly, Bush cultivated a close relationship with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been a staunch US ally in Iraq.

by Magnifico on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 11:25:06 AM EST
These people subscribe to Louis XIV's L'état, c'est moi school of politics.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 11:39:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Aye, M'Lord.  The King can do no wrong.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 12:27:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.

- Lord Palmerson

:: ::

Apparently not.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 12:45:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... does as being in dispute of that. Its more in the nature of, "Duty? I was born rich, I get privileges, duty is for you poor slobs who weren't born rich."

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 10:31:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're giving the "West" too much credit. It's more than energy policy. In the US, foreign policy is driven by various and competing forces. We have nothing like Russia's Foreign Policy Concept (as vague a document as that is, but above all, Russia wants to be flexible in its international relations), which leaves us with two or three major themes:

  • keep America strong in the world

  • build democracies abroad (with the idea that they'll more moral and be friendly to the US)

  • enhance the opportunities for US trade abroad

  • and lastly, US foreign policy is driven by the whims of internal politics of the US

The result is a US foreign policy that tends to be chaotic, changing with administrations (as we've seen with the current one, most tragically).

The last point is huge. The ignorance of the American public about the world, the vapid coverage we see about events unfolding around the world hinders everything else. The total lack of qualified discussion, leadership, and direction at home in defining what our real national interests and goals are, as well as the strategies we should choose to achieve those goals have elevated US Foreign Policy to the Theater of the Absurd we see today (Condi Rice lecturing Russia on invading sovereign nations.  Does she think pulling that off with a straight face makes her a diplomat?).

Kissinger broadly defines the rift in American foreign policy divided between Teddy Roosevelt's realpolitik (the "realists") and Wilsonian morality in foreign affairs. In Kissinger's view, the moralists control the meme in public discussions on foreign affairs and broadly speaking, he has a point. The US has never come to a general concensus about the goals of foreign policy, pure and simple.

As we've seen, this in itself is a danger to the rest of the world.

For all that, there are signs of hope. If you look around, you'll find some excellent research being done by an unsung handful of "Westerners" (try checking out The Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, and there are others, of varying quality). In the long term, the goal should be to elevate the public understanding of what goes on beyond our borders. More immediately, I say leave the conduct of foreign policy to the professionals. And as Nicholas Kristof points out, with our entire diplomatic corps outmanned by the personnel in our military bands (for chrissakes!), we need to spend more, expand, and support a qualified, competent body of foreign service officers.

And listen to them!

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 12:34:07 PM EST
build democracies abroad (with the idea that they'll more moral and be friendly to the US)

You forgot the scare quotes around the word "democracies." The neocon/neolib version of democracy is barely recognisable to civilised people. We really need to stop pretending that these people care about democracy, at least for any definition of democracy that most people would accept as valid.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Aug 24th, 2008 at 05:46:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it is first important to establish what is the over-arching theme of the Bush Presidency. And I think we first have to understand that this theme comes from Dick Cheney and he has been consistent since his days in the Nixon administration in believing in and planning for the "Unitary Executive", also known as the "Imperial Presidency".

In order to estalblish this it has always been important to first establish the national security state, remember NSA data mining irregularities in breach of the 4th amendment date from before 9-11. But to justify it as an ongoing project you need enemies. Right from February 2001 Cheney was storming around trying to start fires in the US' relationships with other major powers. China and russia were considered possibles, and then they had the gift of a real enemy after 9-11. Fear stalked the land and they were able to push through a whole raft of policies and behaviours that completely co-opted entire branches of the Government into wholly-owned creatures of the Rove-Cheney fear machine.

The entire "Axis of Evil" scam was used to justify eternal war. Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, N Korea...the list of countries they had lined up for "persuasion" was impressive and by no means correlated with energy imperatives. they were just chosen as credible "bad guys" Americans could be persauded to take out.

Hermann goerring remains instructive on this point;-

"Naturally the common people don't want war; [...]but it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

And that is what they did with the never-ending war on terror. Of course it was handled ineptly, but in many ways that served their purpose. A war that ends tidily and quickly isn't as useful to their purposes. And that purpose is the creation of the national security state with the civilian population in a permanent state of militarised emergency.

But the "War on Terra" began to flag in the public imagination. So a new enemy was needed. So Sakashvilli was "activated", ie persuaded that all he needed to do to get a nationalistic push was to sort out the natives in breakaway regions, don't worry about the ruskies, we've got your back etc etc.

And the russkies dutifully obliged Cheney stirring up in the west, courtesy of the compliant corporate media whores, images of Soviet union, prague '68. Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt.

And what do frightened populations do when they feel fear. They run to the right. To the guy who promises military mayhem on their behalf. Vote John McCain.

Oh, look he's gone up 2 points in a week. It works. Expect more of this before november.

It's not about energy. It's about the Imperial Presidency and Cheney's wet dream of the last 35 years to trample the Constitution under a hundred thousand marching jackboots for a 1000 years.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 02:00:56 PM EST
I have never seen Cheney's strategy as Nationalist or Imperialist.

I see it as a "US Inc" strategy purely for private "Big Oil" and "Big Money" profit, with Bush as Non-Executive Chairman.

Iraq was a hostile takeover, purely for its oil resources. Unfortunately, US Inc fucked up the merger, so Iran did not follow.

Cheney's corporate strategy has failed, big time. He rolled the dice, and lost.  I think that the crucial shift came in the middle of last year, and I see Iraq as the US's Suez. ie the moment when the US's creditors called a halt to US adventurism, and in particularly vetoed any hare-brained scheme to attack Iran.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Aug 21st, 2008 at 06:31:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not nationalist or imperialist in the classic sense, which is why the neutral phrase "Unitary Executive" is used simply because it avoids confusions related to the use of words like king and empire. It is however a belief in the Presidency as Head of State in the quasi-regal status of being above the law. Where Nixon's phrase "it's legal if the President does it" becomes true. However illegal under any reasonable reading of the Constitution, it is the absolute bottom line of Cheney's understanding of the role of the President. Which is presumably why the USSC has been stuffed full of people with entrely perverse readings of the Constitution.

All of Bush' behaviour has been about testing the limits of what can be done and about setting precedents. Starting a war in contravention of international law, the jailing of a US citizen without trial or recourse to legal advice (Joseph Padilla). Declaring a region where the rule of law is entirely absent for the purposes of torture. Spying on Americans in breach of the 4th amendment, passing a Patriot Act which pretty much shreds the Bill of rights.

All in pursuit of the National Security state which is a necessary precusor of the Imperial Presidency.

As for the "US Inc" corporate state you fault, they are one and the same, as discussed here in ATimes a while back

a an almost-regal function. This is not my belief but one I have seen written and documented on various sites from dKos through FireDoglake to The Sideshow. He has a long history of wanting a "Unitary Executive

As contradictory as it may seem, fascist dictatorship was made possible because of the flawed notion of freedom which held sway during the era of laissez-faire capitalism in the early twentieth century. It was the liberals of that era that clamored for unfettered personal and economic freedom, no matter what the cost to society. Such untrammeled freedom is not suitable to civilized humans. It is the freedom of the jungle. In other words, the strong have more of it than the weak. It is a notion of freedom which is inherently violent, because it is enjoyed at the expense of others. Such a notion of freedom legitimizes each and every increase in the wealth and power of those who are already powerful, regardless of the misery that will be suffered by others as a result. The use of the state to limit such "freedom" was denounced by the laissez-faire liberals of the early twentieth century. The use of the state to protect such "freedom" was fascism. Just as monopoly is the ruin of the free market, fascism is the ultimate degradation of liberal capitalism.
[...]

Consider the words of Thurman Arnold, head of the antitrust division of the US Department of Justice in 1939: "Germany, of course, has developed within 15 years from an industrial autocracy into a dictatorship. Most people are under the impression that the power of Hitler was the result of his demagogic blandishments and appeals to the mob ... Actually, Hitler holds his power through the final and inevitable development of the uncontrolled tendency to combine in restraint of trade."

Arnold made his point even more clearly in a 1939 address to the American Bar Association: "Germany presents the logical end of the process of cartelization. From 1923 to 1935 cartelization grew in Germany until finally that nation was so organized that everyone had to belong either to a squad, a regiment or a brigade in order to survive. The names given to these squads, regiments or brigades were cartels, trade associations, unions and trusts. Such a distribution system could not adjust its prices. It needed a general with quasi-military authority who could order the workers to work and the mills to produce. Hitler named himself that general. Had it not been Hitler it would have been someone else.



keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 05:28:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, but in focussing on energy alone, you miss the greater point about the "Axis of Evil", which is that they were merely cardboard cut-out baddies to raise fear and anger in the US population to enable the domestic changes required. After all, Syria and N Korean haven't got any energy resource worth shit.

Cheney was part of that group that Bush I labelled as "the crazies in the basement" who were gung-ho to take Baghdad in "Desert Storm". He always wants war as emergencies pre-dispose legislatures towards the directions he wants to go.

That war is profitable for the sort of corporations where Cheney rests his investments is merely a secondary benefit. It's largely beside the point. He wants Presidents who become King Emperor, where he is always the preferred advisor to the Royal line. A dictatorship, miltarised and fascistic, so that he doesn't have to endure anything other than abased compliance to his whims.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 05:44:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I read this over at Kos and at the time (40 comments) wasn't one response worth a shit.  I however especially like Helen's comment here on ET.

Long-term strategy is inherently nonsensical to people who literally have to constantly get elected.  The "strategy" is whatever works in the short-term to get RE-elected.

If you look at all the historical "long players", they're never people facing re-election.  Jared Diamond has an excellent piece on how Trujillo being a dictator allowed him to be such an awesome pro-environmentalist guy.

I'm also no fan of the Chinese government but you do have to admit they engage in a TREMENDOUS amount of long-term thinking and strategizing.

Britain under Queen Victoria = same thing, her long reign allowed for that kind of thinking.

In democratic nations however, there are always the "long ballers", such as Cheney and the neocons, which we know about, eager to "right the wrongs" since the Nixon/Ford administration.

But there were also long ballers like Zbigniew Brzezeinski who had pre-1979 plans on stirring up the Muslims populations in Central Asia, etc.

The "problem" in the USA is there are two competing camps of long-term strategists, who pingpong in and out of being in positions to IMPLEMENT those strategies.  

Pax

Night and day you can find me Flogging the Simian

by soj on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 02:40:38 AM EST
Long-term planning takes place in the bureaucratic apparatus of the state. The elected executive is mostly there to manage crises and set the apparatus off in new directions.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 06:18:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Both regimes, in Washington and Moscow, benefit from high oil prices.
by redstar on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 05:42:19 AM EST
<sigh>
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 05:46:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not obvious to me how the US government benefits from high oil prices. Recycled petro-dollars? Well, up to a point. As long as oil is priced all and only in dollars.
by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 09:39:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not the US government, just the clique currently in power and their cronies.
by redstar on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 10:14:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why is the West so bad?  Because we've never gotten past a colonial mindset.  When colonies do not submit, they must be compelled to, which has brought us to the current "West Against the World Wrestlemania Smackdown."  We need a new approach.

Simply selecting an enemy and sticking to it qualifies as neither a new approach nor as Realpolitik, though.  No two countries will ever agree on everything, but neither will they ever disagree on everything.  A country's array of supporters and opponents is therefore constantly shifting and issue specific.  Until we acknowledge this reality and base policy on it, we are doomed to idiotic behavior.

by rifek on Wed Aug 27th, 2008 at 02:53:39 PM EST


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