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An insight on US strategic thinking - why so much cowering fear?

by Jerome a Paris Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 12:55:50 PM EST

A follow-up on What the west means and what roles NATO plays therein, using another article on the same topic, this time by a graduate of the US Naval War College, Tony Corn (The Revolution in Transatlantic Affairs) linked to by Loefing in the earlier thread.

First posted on DocuDharma


Earlier last week, I wrote a diary (What the west means and what roles NATO plays therein) that used a recent Financial Times editorial as a springboard for a discussion on what the "West" was, and what the use of NATO was - questions that left-of-center Europeans tend to see quite differently from most Americans, including left-of-center ones.

The editorial, by a well-respected British pundit, was insightful and interesting, and led me to conclude what many here on the European Tribune have long suspected: that NATO is simply an instrument for Europe to support US strategic priorities, and that the "West" exists only when Europe (and in particular France) aligns itself unconditionally on US positions. The UK, as per that senior British commentator, has as its main role that of disrupting and dividing Europe when it is insufficiently respectful of US interests.

Since I'm French, you may be tempted to conclude that this is just sour grapes by a citizen of a supposedly declining country; however, what I found more interesting in that article was the dominant tone of fear - about the west being under siege, and needing security against various threats - in the form of coordinated military power and little else. It was a narrow, downcast, closed vision of the world, with little about values, progress or hope.

The comment thread is worth reading too, and one of the last comments, by Loefing, pointed me to another article on the same topic, this time by a graduate of the US Naval War College, Tony Corn. The article, (The Revolution in Transatlantic Affairs, has the same dominant tone of fear, but a much more detailed examination of the world. Given the credentials of its author, it is likely to have serious influence on the thinking of the strategists in the Pentagon, and it is thus worth deconstructing.


The return of both China and Islam in world history after a three-century-long eclipse has been the defining feature of the international stage since 1979.

(...)

Throughout the 1990s, this infatuation with globalization and a "time-space compression" in the virtual world led most Westerners to ignore the twofold epochal change taking place in the real world: the transfer of the center of gravity of the world economy from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with "three billion new capitalists" poised to put an end to three centuries of Euro-Atlantic economic primacy; and the rise of a "second nuclear age" in Asia and with it, the concomitant end of three centuries of Western military superiority.

The central theme, again, is that of fear from others - mostly China and Islam, which are described in terrifying terms further in the article - and the incredible naivety of our leaders in the meantime, thinking that 'the end of history' had arrived. Think "Clinton is from Venus, real leaders are from Mars" (although Clinton's name is never mentioned, and the real leaders are wished for, not actually there yet)


At the NATO summit in Riga in November 2006, a little-noticed transatlantic revolution of sorts finally occurred when the Atlantic Alliance acknowledged that it would have to "go global" in order to remain relevant. Divided, America and Europe will fall; united, they can retain the lead.

This is not stated in this particular sentence, but permeates through the whole article, but it is clear that the only way to remain "relevant" is through military force and the accompanying strategic thinking. More obvious in that paragraph is that the only way to be "relevant" is to be in "the lead." The goal is very obviously and explicitly world dominance.

Tony Corn is the inventor, as far as I can tell, of the concept of the Long War (see his article in policy review in March 2006: World War IV As Fourth-Generation Warfare) - a long, assymetric struggle against insurgent Islam; he additionally sees today a new Great Game with China for the resources of the world, and it is in the context of these twin existential threats that we must think strategically.


The Long War promises to be a thinking man's war. As a full-fledged Alliance, NATO possesses the kind of staying power that mere ad hoc coalitions cannot deliver; but NATO still has to come to terms with the fact that thinking power will matter more than fighting power.

(...)

Ever since the 1999 intervention in Kosovo, NATO has been eager to prove that it stands for more than "No Action, Talk Only." But the adoption by the Alliance of the Marge Simpson doctrine ("Are we gonna just stand there like the French, or are we gonna do something?") has proved to be no substitute for a new strategic concept.

(...)

Europeans (...) have serious difficulties remembering something equally basic that they used to perform with undeniable virtuosity: coercive diplomacy. Be it with Iraq yesterday or Iran today, an astounding percentage of the allegedly sophisticated EU elites have the hardest time grasping what any American redneck knows intuitively: namely, that the collective threat to use force is still the best way to avoid having recourse to actual force.

(...)

Forget the "Americans are from Mars, Europeans from Venus" mantra that gave the Brussels Eurocracy the vapors in the summer of 2002. (...) The truth is, for the past 15 years, and on both sides of the Atlantic, there have been two major attempts underway to get rid of the strategy problematique altogether.

The contempt for the wimps in Europe permeates much of this article - as it permeates most of the thoughts of the neocons, as well as the common wisdom of Washington (thus the success of Robert Kagan's Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, which very explicitly stated the notion that Europe was free-riding on America's dime, pontificating about democracy and rules and diplomacy while the US did the hard work of actually battling threats around the world and protecting the West alone). What is somewhat new is the notion that we are facing new existential threats right now, so the accusation of naivety is extended to a large portion of the Washington establishment as well, which has not yet understood the dire straits we are in.

That critique applies to 'the past 15 years', but it's pretty clear in the rest of the article that it's during the 90s that the most egregious mistakes were made, thus my reference above to Clinton being from Venus. The dismissive comment about that expression by Corn suggests that those that thought were from Mars back then are too weak for today. And if he sounds like a military pundit looking for a war to put his name on the grand strategic analysis thereof, that might just be because he is...

Of course, the idea that Iraq or even Iran can be used as successful examples of avoiding the recourse to force is so stunning that it might be hard to take anything else in that article seriously. But again, given how such an article can be expected to influence decision-makers in Washington, it is worth continuing to plod through.

Let's now go into naming names:


In the past hundred years, the instrumentalization of Islam has been a recurrent temptation on the part of every rising power, be it Wilhemine Germany or Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, not to mention America itself. As the latest rising power, China itself would not be immune to that temptation even if it were energy self-sufficient. The fact that China's energy needs are huge guarantees that the constitution of a Sino-Islamic axis is for Beijing not just a tactical option, but a strategic necessity.

While the pivotal states of this strategy appear to be Pakistan, Iran, and (more recently) Saudi Arabia, the geopolitical situation of Iran puts it in a class by itself, as the most precious proxy in China's "indirect approach" against American primacy. It is therefore no surprise to learn that China is using Iran as a conduit for the delivery of arms to both Iraqi and Afghan insurgents, and providing Iran itself the kind of small boats needed to conduct attacks against commercial shipping or the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf.

So now it's not just Iran arming Iraqi insurgents, it's China using Iran to arm Iraqi insurgents. Beyond trying to turn Iraq into a strategic battlefield in a desperate attempt to justify its invasion somehow, this neatly ties together the two enemies that have been identified, and btings under the same roof the Long War and the Great Game (making it the Great Long WarGame, maybe? - enough stuff there to give work to at least two generations of Pentagon pundits and armchair generals).

And China is using an "artful combination of space power, sea power, and soft power", but Corn has such a ludicrous interpretation of "soft power" that it is worth quoting in full:


Last but not least, soft power. On the military side, China is focusing on developing security cooperation within the ASEAN Regional Forum framework with the intent of marginalizing America. On the civilian side, China is peddling "Asian values" from Africa to Eurasia and from Latin America to Southeast Asia. For the past six years, China has been promoting autocracy through soft power while America has been promoting democracy through hard power, and the verdict is in: China today has a more positive image worldwide than America.

So, in his mind, soft power is essentially bribery. While it is true that it is a lot more efficient than bombing the shit out of countries to make them cooperative towards you, it is quite a restrictive definition of soft power... No wonder he is so dismissive of the idea of promoting values and democracy - they are a strategic hindrance to building relationships with other countries around the world.

But the lack of understanding of what the soft power of the USA used to be is shocking - the model others aspired to imitate, the successful, rich economy, the great power that, to some extent, restrained itself to gain support from others, and valued convincing others above imposing its rules (or at least the appearance thereof) - all gone and disappeared. This is in line with the fearful, hobbesian vision of the world propagated by the whole article - but it is all the more ironic that a good part of the article is about the need for new clear-headed strategic thinking from the West and NATO, and the notion that the Long War is a "thinking man's war" - or is it simply that this is the first 'war' to be run wholly by armchair warriors?

Regarding what soft power means, there is a revealing sentence much later in the article, where the author writes about the potential geopolitical consequences of climate change on low lying coastal areas, by saying:


As a security organization, NATO's reasons for caring should be based on a recent report produced by the Center for Naval Analyses entitled "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change," describing a number of not exactly rosy scenarios regarding the political-military consequences of rising sea levels in the next 30 years. The hard security consequences of soft-power issues: This is the kind of outside-the-box thinking that NATO should itself promote

Climate change as a "soft power issue." Basically, soft power is anything not done by military forces - even if it can kill you! The mind boggles.

And yet there are some real nuggest of insight in this article, such as, for instance, a mostly refreshing vision of Russia:


But while the SCO constitutes the core of China's Islamic strategy, it is for Russia a tactical option to both manage the rise of China in Eurasia and to gain leverage over the West.

(...) In a nutshell: While Yelstin's choice of an alleged Polish model of transition in 1992 resulted, by 1999, in 38 percent of the population living below the poverty line, Putin's reorientation toward a Chinese model has since created an annual growth rate of 6 percent for Russia -- and a 70 percent approval rating for Putin. Having taken considerable domestic risks by siding with America after 9/11, Putin, for the past 5 years, has received nothing in return -- other than a seemingly endless enlargement of NATO in his own backyard.

Now that Russia is rich with oil money and has paid its debts to the West, what Russia wants from the West is respect. Russia's nuisance capacity should not be underestimated, even though threats to withdraw from the CFE Treaty, or to turn the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) into a "natural gas OPEC," are intended primarily for domestic consumption and to signal that NATO has enlarged far enough.

Unlike China, Russia is not a rising power. Russian hearts and mind are still up for grabs, though, and there are three reasons why it would be grossly irresponsible to alienate Russia gratuitously. In the short term, Russia's support is critical to solve (militarily or not) the Iranian question; in the middle-term, Russia has considerable leverage over Europe, with much bigger sticks and carrots than America's, and the risk of a creeping Finlandization of Europe is real were America to indulge in brinkmanship; in the long term, the West would have nothing to gain were Russia, against its best interest, to upgrade its relations to the SCO from the tactical to the strategic level.

The current demonization of Russia in some American quarters is thus incomprehensible.

While one may disagree with the notion that Russia's leverage over Europe is one-sided, or with the idea that the Finlandization of Europe would be a bad thing, it is at least refreshing to see a more realistic vision of Russia. Of course, one should remember that, for the author's America, this is just a tactical consideration in the new grand fight against the enemies of the moment (the Grand Long WarGame), of which Russia is not one, so it is easy to be clear-eyed. But still, a surprising moment of non-zero-sum-game thinking... Or maybe just contempt for the vainquished and weakened former enemy...


Simply put: when all is said and done, there is a difference in kind between totalitarianism and authoritarianism. If Islamist totalitarianism is the main enemy, as the neocons rightly claim, then it follows logically that Russian authoritarianism, however unpalatable to democratic sensibilities, is something we can live with.

But back to the grand visions:


One thing is certain: the Great Game and the Long War will be the two global and generational challenges confronting the West in the next 30 years. While the two challenges at times overlap, they remain analytically distinct. Attempts to conflate the two challenges with a new geopolitical concept like "Greater Middle East" risk confusing the issues. The Great Game? While the West remains fixated on the continental dimension, the East shows more lucidity in giving as much importance to the maritime dimension (more on that later). The Long War? Due to mass migration, the sociopolitical umma no longer coincides with the geopolitical Dar al-Islam.

(...)

In the West itself, the current fixation of America on Central Asia and of Europe on the Middle East -- the closest thing to a "Western" geopolitical vision -- is based on two flawed premises. To put it crudely: Americans believe that Caspian Sea oil is the key to success in the Great Game; Europeans are convinced that the resolution of the Palestinian question holds the key to victory in the Long War.

The "East", the "Long War" - pretty big concepts that are taken as givens by the author. He's promoting them, so I understand him using them and providing an analysis accordingly, but considering that Europeans are on board for the Long War is maybe presuming too much. In so far as they push for a resolution of the Palestinian question (or, more precisely, of the Israeli-Palestinian question...), it is to eliminate one of the most evident - if, of course, instrumentalised in many ways - sources of tension in the region, not to "win a war". Europeans are, for the most part, trying to avoid the idea that there is war. Saying there is one, just like talking about crusades or about a "clash of civilisations", is already taking sides. But that's the point, isn't it? Creating sides, and labelling enemies.

There's a long part about navy issues, which is, again, focused on threats (how a terrorist attack on or with tankers or container ships would be both easy and devastating), and on the need to rebuild a strong navy in the face of China's own build up, but, hey, this is a Naval War College graduate writing after all. I won't comment other than to note that the article is focused on threats, once more. the irony is that the danger is made ominous by pulling up big numbers, corresponding to potential economic damage from a well placed attack on a major port or on important navigation straits - but these numbers are never compared to the cost year in and year out of the forces that would supposedly be used to prevent them...

So, more fearmongering and request for Military-Industrial Complex work. Pretty unsurprising stuff.
What follows is a lot more unexpected - a criticism of the UN, which sounds banal, given how the institution is hated in many circles in Washington, but is not given the angle of attack:


Once the embodiment of Western ideals, the UN has turned into a lean, mean anti-West machine. Though European publics no longer have any illusion today about a Europe-puissance, they still retain a surprisingly boy-scoutish view of the UN, one that no longer corresponds to reality. European public opinion saw nothing wrong, for instance, in the recent establishment of an International Criminal Court that would give its prosecutor the power of a grand inquisitor, in part because they are not aware of the politicization of the UN (and of the potential use of the ICC as an anti-Western weapon), but also in part because, over the years, they have resigned themselves to the creeping judicial and technocratic imperialism pursued at home by the EU Court of Justice and the EU Commission.

(...)

At the same time that it was becoming a major player in the propaganda game, the UN inside was gradually turning into a "lawfare" machine against the West.

(...)

In this ongoing weaponization of the UN against the West, China has not remained passive: beyond the OIC [Organisation of the Islamic Conference] and NAM [NonAligned Movement] proper, the largest group in the UN happens to be the "G-77 + China," i.e., 132 countries representing 69 percent of UN members. China's UN dues may be 2 percent of the UN budget, but Chinese activism in the past decade has spectacularly increased in recent years.36 It is reportedly under Chinese pressure that the US was evicted from the Human Rights Commission in 2001 to make room for Arab dictatorships.

(...)

The Western-inspired international legal order is today under assault at the UN; at the same time, an obsolete Law of Armed Conflict is preventing the West from defending itself on the ground. As a military organization, NATO should today articulate a "Counter-Lawfare" doctrine for the sake of intellectual interoperability. As a security organization, NATO should not wait until it has become a full-fledged UN of Democracies to start elaborating a New Law of Armed Conflict adapted to the realities of post-modern warfare.

This is worth quoting at length, because it brigns up back to the dismissal of soft power mentioned earlier. The new armchair warriors like Corn are going further, and effectively stating that they have lost the "soft war" - thus wanting to bring things exclusively on a military plane, where the US and NATO still rule.

Again, Iraq might be mentioned here as a proof that military strength is not necessarily the best tool for all problems (of course - don't tell a hammer you're not a nail, it might piss it off, with nasty consequences for you...). But the casual dismissal of international law - created by Americans, and nurtured for decades by the West, in one of the endeavors that were perhaps most worthy of the grand discourse on values that we are so fond of - is such a fundamental strategic mistake that it must be pounded on.

International law is turning against the USA because it has, in recent times (not starting on 9/11, but accelerating since then) decided that it would not be bound by such common rules, while trying to impose them on others, as was made possible by its global dominance and the lack of enforcement capabilities. The one thing that made it possible for international law to start having any effect was the decision by the USA, for a number of decades, to abide by it, despite its ability not to (thanks to its global power), followed by Europe in that. International laws were boosted precisely because the dominant power of the day decided to be constrained by such rules even when it could have ignored them. That provided legitimacy for demands that others follow the same rules, and created a lot of good will. That was real soft power - and very effective one at that. where that power ebbed is when the USA decided that such rules were becoming too burdensome and started opting out. Before 9/11, it could be argued that it was not a trend, but that some issues were more sensitive than others, and that overall, progress was being made. Since 9/11, the reversal has been complete. Contempt for the Geneva Conventions, for the UN Security Council, and for numbers of other international treaties has been absolute and open, and the double standard of nevertheless still requiring others to follow these rules simply breathtaking. what that signified was that the USA decided to rely solely on raw power, and it should not be surprised that others are doing the same, in a race to the "bottom" which can only be damaging to US pretensions at being the sole military superpower on the globe. Among other things, when you attack countries without nukes and bluster and bluff with countries with nukes, you cannot be surprised that a number of countries get the message that nukes will make them safer. And when you pontificate about human rights while explicitly promoting torture, renditions and unlimited detentions as official policy, you cannot expect not to have the same thrown as you, with Chavez's diatribes, Ahmedinejad's taunts and Putin's jibes - and their ensuing popularity - the inevitable result.

Drop the soft power, lose the soft power. Thus the need to use evil words to describe the adversary one has created:


The return of China alone would be enough to make the West "live in interesting times." To make things even more interesting, Islam too is back, this time in the form of a totalitarianism which manages to combine an ideological comprehensiveness (Salafism) unseen since Communism and an existential nihilism (jihadism) worthy of Nazism.

It's Stalin and Hitler combined! And brown and yellow people too!

Of course, this grand strategic vision that claims to replace the blindness of the current Washington deciders has a few blinkers of its own, notably the role of the West in general, and the US in particular, in antagonising the populations of the Arab countries we now seem to fear. For some reason, they associate corruption and authoritarianism with the West, and islam with social progress and democracy (hmm... let's see ... could our support for local regimes in the hope that oil will flow have anything to do with it?). And emergin Asia, which has seen the results of two centuries of industrialization for the sole benefit of the West, is now told that resources are scarce and pollution should be avoided, even at the expense of growth (and industrialisation) for them?

Of course, for me as a European, the saddest thing is to see our own leaders acquiese to this small, fearful, destructive vision of the world, and be willing to go along with such tripe, and to denigrate the EU as an institution that has done its time and should just become a big free trade area, and let NATO become the entity representing Europe - a subversient provider of military subcontracting and cheap legitimacy to the Pentagon.

What a sad, sad world we are living in when these are the thoughts of our foremost strategists.


... unless one keeps in mind the particular conceit of democracies at war that Kennan, following Tocqueville, pointed out long ago: "There is nothing in nature more egocentrical than the embattled democracy. It soon becomes the victim of its own propaganda. It then tends to attach to its own cause an absolute value which distorts its own vision of everything else. . . . People who have got themselves into this frame of mind have little understanding for the issues of any contest other than the one in which they are involved."

That was also in that article. But not about itself, even though it should have been...

Display:
also has an article out on the same topic:


End of Dreams, Return of History

By Robert Kagan
International rivalry and American leadership

The world has become normal again. The years immediately following the end of the Cold War offered a tantalizing glimpse at a new kind of international order, with nations growing together or disappearing altogether, ideological conflicts melting away, cultures intermingling through increasingly free commerce and communications. But that was a mirage, the hopeful anticipation of a liberal, democratic world that wanted to believe the end of the Cold War did not end just one strategic and ideological conflict but all strategic and ideological conflict. People and their leaders longed for "a world transformed."

Today the nations of the West still cling to that vision. Evidence to the contrary -- the turn toward autocracy in Russia or the growing military ambitions of China -- is either dismissed as a temporary aberration or denied entirely.

The world has not been transformed, however. Nations remain as strong as ever, and so too the nationalist ambitions, the passions, and the competition among nations that have shaped history. The world is still "unipolar," with the United States remaining the only superpower. But international competition among great powers has returned, with the United States, Russia, China, Europe, Japan, India, Iran, and others vying for regional predominance. Struggles for honor and status and influence in the world have once again become key features of the international scene. Ideologically, it is a time not of convergence but of divergence. The competition between liberalism and absolutism has reemerged, with the nations of the world increasingly lining up, as in the past, along ideological lines. Finally, there is the fault line between modernity and tradition, the violent struggle of Islamic fundamentalists against the modern powers and the secular cultures that, in their view, have penetrated and polluted their Islamic world.

I have not read the whole thing yet, but similar themes are present, notably the return to Hobbesian rules ('there are no rules!'), and the struggle we, the good guys, find ourselves against the bad guys.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 12:52:41 PM EST
But this is a Hobbesian world with nuclear weapons.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 01:55:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary, Jérôme! And a scary paper! What I would like to know is how it is representative of the US strategic thinking and in which circles it might have an audience.

Do you plan to post it on dKos?

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 01:57:50 PM EST
It's just on the FP of DocuDharma right now, and I want to give them just a bit of exclusivity...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 02:13:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So we have a Sino-Islamic axis, now. Amazing!

...and I love the concept of "intellectual interoperability"!

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 02:00:27 PM EST
The Sino-Islamic axis may be best explained through the Chinese strategic imperative of energy security through access to Middle Eastern oil.

Chinese "soft power" consists not so much of bribery as in the veto power of dollar dumping, and should be recognisable to the US, since they used it at Suez and thereby definitively ended the last delusion of British empire.

What goes around, comes around.

In my view this Chinese veto has probably already been quietly exercised: I do not think the Iraqi's could ever have been permitted by the US to reinstate Saddam-era contracts with the Chinese,

Iraq revives Saddam deal with China

if this were not the case.

It follows that I think that all of the current US posturing re Iran is a colossal bluff.

"...a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,signifying nothing".

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

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 04:07:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...and I love the concept of "intellectual interoperability"!

Yes, and it ties into his concept I keep riffing on, that of:
The Long War promises to be a thinking man's war.

I can just see this guy wishing for a table full of thinking men like Torquamada, Richelieu, a couple of Caesars, and it would go without saying who the inspirational characters of the 20th Century would be...people who will act when a threat is identified, eh?

As a full-fledged Alliance, NATO possesses the kind of staying power that mere ad hoc coalitions cannot deliver; but NATO still has to come to terms with the fact that thinking power will matter more than fighting power.

Really, this guy is an idiot who can throw clever phrases together. A thinking man's war - possessive man's, men possessing war while thinking. Unless it is a bunch of Strangeloves sitting around, he is saying that this epoch of his is a place for clever people from a lot of places getting together and figuring this out. In other words, doing the work of the United Nations, except in a more manly way.

My feeling is that NATO will be gone long before the UN is gone. My feeling is that the US will have to collapse into itself and NATO will be one of the places to go. The thinking men will be thinking men and women and they will realize all the talent that is wasted in the military industrial complex, all the potential assets and intellectual property locked away instead of helping to burgeon the nation. It is really the only hope for the US. I just can't imagine the steps to get there.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 05:11:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I may be cynical, I'm amazed he didn't use the word "inscrutable."

-----
sapere aude
by Number 6 on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 05:58:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How do you manage to write so prolifically, read so widely, hold down a job, and whatever else?  It must be a super-drug of some kind.

Corn is trying to get beyond the critique of the military that they "always prepare to fight the last war". He is intelligent, and he has ample resources of information. And he is fully invested in realpolitik. The good news is that Bush and Cheney are incapable (due to events, not lack of capability of understanding) of making more than token moves in any other direction than their current path.

The bad news is the Iraq occupation, and that they may still strike Iran, as this is part of Cheney's path. As I asked in your recent related post, how do China or Russia react?

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 02:37:07 PM EST
I expect, are the only ones that can prevent an attack on Iran, by playing harball the old fashioned way - Russia by delivering modern defensive weapon systems (in ways that the US knows about), and China by threatening the US of major retaliation (like a dollar dump) if war should take place - à la MAD.

I also expect that Russia is complicit in European efforts to play the clock, trying to alternate periods of diplomatic progress and crisis, to outlast the Bush administration.

In effect, the word is containing ... the Bush administration.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 04:47:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
China exhibited the ability to obliterate one of its own satellites, last year, as I recall.

Taking out a US satellite or two would be a durable setback to US plans.

 

by Loefing on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 06:28:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In effect, the word is containing ... the Bush administration.  

A reversal of America's old Soviet-containment policy.

Heh.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 10:19:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. Except that it has to be done stealthily, while pretending that those you are containing really are your best friends. It makes for pretty schizophrenic diplomacy - and punditry.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 04:00:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd like to think that's what is going on, but I'm not so sure. Sarko's speech to the foreign service was sort of worrying in this regard - a bit over the top for my taste. Of course, maybe that's part of the game.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 08:29:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I were you, Jerry, I wouldn't rely on Russia, at least (dunno about China) because:

  1. Selling to Iran modern weapon staff will inevitably lead to some harsh economic, political, cultural and God knows what else sanctions against Russia from the US and its followers (you'll find the most of the EU contries in the list, if not all). And who's gonna compensate tha loss of our money (underpaid workers, pensioners, cut of money spending on the national health, educational, cultural etc programmes)? Pennyless european lefties? We are not enough pro-homosexual, pro-NGO, pro-human rights for them.

  2. What's more, I suspect quite a huge chink of our money from our Stabilisation Fund (money we got from selling oil and gas) may be sitting happily now in the US banks and shares - see point 1 about the sanctions. On the other hand, I haven't heard that we have anything valuable in Iran (that nuclear power station doesn't count, I think we wouldn't even start messing with it now, in the more fat times).

  3. While we don't like US that much, after Nord-Ost and, especially, Beslan's massacre, any fundamentalist Islamic (or, I am afraid any Islamic) country can't be seen as a friendly one we'd want to defend in any way by the majority of Russian people.

So, both countries, US and Iran are rather evil. Doesn't it ring a bell if I say that the US looks to some extent like Hitler's Germany  (striving for economic and political world  superiority and starting wars) and Iran (and before it Iraq) a bit resembles Stalin's Russia
- communist/islamic fundamentalist ideologies - helping poor, working class, moslem brothers etc? If so, I am afraid that we are over here may become not be quite immune of playing that little lovely cynical part which the US (or even Swiss folks) played during the WW2 - to watch how two bastards murdering each other, make a lot of noise - would you please stop it and the like  for as long as our territory is untouched?

The only real enemy you, EU people, have is your unsatiable greed. So why not help yourself and start playing hardball with the US? Where are all your left MPs from your oh so fucking democratic european parlaments with the threats of the full economic blocade of the US from the EU if the stupid and mad yanks start a military op against Iran? You prefer trying to egg Russia on doing  another dangerous and silly act (remember Afganistan? Well, there was some  even if a tiny part of afgani people who did not want to strenghen American influence in the region) while yourself aren't ready to lose anything?

If you aren't ready to sacrifice anything to keep the world safe do shit up and don't give us your silly advice. We are over here quite able to give even better advice.
Er... even me, even on here... :)
Just read Helen's gonna buy some property in Bulgaria. If you manage to find one of the older diaries where she asked ETers about where's better to buy and you lot talked about France and Spain, 'twas me <smiles modestly> who mentioned Bulgaria.

by lana on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 06:49:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
chink=chunk
by lana on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 06:50:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and shit up=shut up
by lana on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 06:52:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure who you're talking to.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Oct 2nd, 2007 at 01:51:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
of their decline is being accentuated with each passing month. Decline of hard power, decline of soft power, increasing diplomatic and economic isolation, the deliquescence of the political institutions which are fundamentally corrupt and outdated.

This is a long-range decline, 911 didn't start it, accelerated it. Wallerstein last year had a good article on the dynamic in NLR, which I quoted back then.

I would suggest this strategic thinking you are citing is  a logical extension of conciousness of that decline. Necessarily, the elites producing it are not willing to accept what this all means, in particular for them. For the piper is soon coming to be paid, and there isn't a whole lot they can do, for much longer; soon they will no longer be able to shape events as in the past, but will be shaped by them.

The first impulse, a properly bougeois one, in view of this, is to cast about for scapegoats and new enemies. Fortunately, the elites in the US are still looking for external enemies, for when they start looking at internal ones in earnest, I'm not sure we want to see the result.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 02:40:20 PM EST
Exactly.

The US is loosing the supreme position in world politics it once gained through european countries military adventures for the enslavement of the rest of the world, ending with the same european countries blasting each other to small bits, leaving the US at the top of the hill, holding the chains. Now that the rest of the world has gained some independence and is on its way to diversify who holds what chains, the US as supreme world power is comparatively falling. Nobody likes to fall, and flailing is common. Corns article is a bit of intellectual flailing.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 01:52:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Inculcating a climate of fear and doubt in a population implies a trend towards the population emotionally investing in its existing and dominate institutions.  One result is the Social Dominates (per Altemeyer) maintain their dominance and even gain greater control over the population.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 02:57:22 PM EST

My god, what a lot of epiphenomenal froth is needed for these "strategists" and pundits to justify their jobs.

Just go bomb China, if that's what you're gonna do.  Jesus Christ.  Don't engage in this bad-faith bullshit about Games and Wars.  It's boring and transparent.

Via LithiumCola (RadiumSoda when he posts over here)

Just go bomb China, if that's what you're gonna do is a fitting epitaph.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 03:07:29 PM EST
The Long War promises to be a thinking man's war. As a full-fledged Alliance, NATO possesses the kind of staying power that mere ad hoc coalitions cannot deliver; but NATO still has to come to terms with the fact that thinking power will matter more than fighting power.

What kind of thinking man's country goes into enormous debt, both internal and external, and gives the power to China to tank the economy of the U.S. without firing a single shot, by dumping the U.S. bonds that it holds. do they think China is going to finance its own destruction?
These fuckers are crazy!

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!

by LEP on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 03:18:09 PM EST
This makes me once again to wonder how it comes about that such a considerable number of intelligent, highly educated people can turn out so much overblown, paranoid crap -- here are Corn and Kagan, and there's a whole list of neocons who are not giving up and going away in spite of the public evidence of their wrongness over Iraq, who are not backing down but are raising the stakes with ever-wilder and more global prophecies of war. Is it possible (American friends, don't take this for a generalised slur or an imputation on the American people) that the long isolation of American culture produced an educational and intellectual environment conducive to the view of the outside world as threatening?

In terms of power, I know what the function of this type of theorising is : it's to create and maintain the notion of a common enemy. And the personal motives of the "analysts" may have something to do with the ease with which extremely conservative institutes and think-tanks facilitate their careers.

But still: it's so flabbergasting, this stuff, that one wonders where it comes from, and why it persists. There is something lacking in the world-view. Fanaticism could explain it. Is it enough to say that a fair number of American intellectuals are fanatics? Is there nothing more to say?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 03:40:26 PM EST
Is there nothing more to say?

Well...

These fuckers are crazy! (LEP)

Just go bomb China, if that's what you're gonna do (Lithium Cola/Radium Soda)

They've got me beat -- but, as we know, Americans are from Mars (Europeans are from Milky Way).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 03:47:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it enough to say that a fair number of American intellectuals are fanatics? Is there nothing more to say?

i'd be more inclined to use the word 'absolutists'....same difference, maybe.

it's most reflected in the barble belt mentality, with undertones of waco and jim jones' koolaide thrown in.

we are the best, godammit!

and i'm ready to die to prove that true!

send my son and daughter to war, let military spending pauperise my infrastructure, it's always their fault, but it's not their fault, they're not americans, so they don't get it, and they need a lot of firepower until they roll over and play nice...

if i were a cartoonist i'd draw a mexican standoff, with america on one side holding a quiver of ibcm's, and the chinese holding a bunch of treasury bills...

captioned: 'wtf are you going to do about it?'

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 03:09:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This kind of thinking is absolutely fundamental to American foreign policy and it has been since at least 1637.

Here's how it works. The US sees itself as the paragon of Western - usually "white," "European," or "Anglo-Saxon" society. But it is constantly beset by enemies. These enemies are those that the US and its colonial antecedents had victimized in its effort to build a wealthy society. English didn't just land in virgin wilderness in Massachusetts; they arrived at a place thickly settled for centuries by other people. To build settlements, they had to steal resources from those native populations. When the Puritans settled a river valley, or raised pigs, or enclosed lands, they deprived natives of the basic resources they needed to survive.

In 1636 one such group, the Pequots, fought back, burning down the town of Mystic, Connecticut. What that did was merely validate the Puritan view that nonwhites inherently wanted to destroy their society. And so in response, they raised an army, and in 1637 nearly wiped out the Pequots. "We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings," one of the Puritan commanders succinctly explained.

Ever since, this pattern repeated itself as the United States of America was created not out of empty land but in a constant, centuries-long battle with nonwhites whose resources we coveted. Susan Faludi, in a new book The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post 9/11 America (link is to an LA Times review), explains this in great detail, though it's something we academic historians have long known. Faludi summarized her findings in this NYT column from a few weeks back.

Her point is mine: that Americans have always felt insecure about both their racial position and their economic status. And they often express that in the language of victimhood. "Those Indians want to kill all of us." "Black men want to rape our women." "Japanese are a fifth column." "Islamofascists want to blow us up."

How does this relate to the topic at hand? In the US strategic thinkers' view, America must dominate the world, or be dominated by those who are essentially barbarians: not white, not Christian, not democratic, and not interested in cutting the US elite a slice.

Virtually the entire US foreign policy set was convinced that the 1990s offered not an opportunity for a liberal democratic order, but instead for US dominance. Democrats and Republicans both felt this way. Clinton envisioned a post-Cold War world in which the US would lead, mostly benevolently but with military force when needed, and quasi-legal force in implementing the neoliberal Washington Consensus. The Cold War was not a victory for the UN or for multilateralism, it was a victory for the US itself and its vision of "the West" that Jerome described - a West built around the concept of American leadership.

Neocons are simply a wing that wanted American dominance to be asserted more militantly and more quickly (but their ideas have ALWAYS been widely accepted by that foreign policy establishment, and those ideas sprang from their common intellectual wellspring). This is partly because they saw the world not just in the stark dominator/dominated view, but in an inherently racialized view. It was in the '90s that Samuel Huntington published The Clash of Civilizations, a seminal work that argued "the West" was going to face off against China and Islam, in an inherently hostile and competitive encounter that the US HAD to win if it were not to be at the mercy of foreign, nonwhite peoples.

I also have to suspect that some neocons, more than others at the time, understood the looming resource problems, especially peak oil. Once again this was fodder for their Hobbesian view, that America had to take full advantage of its 1990s status as the sole superpower or else it would quickly be caught, and surpassed by, barbarians.

September 11 was merely an occasion by which their views could be given a widespread airing. The rapid adoption of their views by the entire US foreign policy establishment suggests how close the neocon view always was to the overall thrust of US policy, and how willing many in that establishment were to accept those ideas.

Now that their crisis has come - the crisis they both envisioned and then brought about - it simply serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy and grist for even further fear and conflict. The US, they can say, really IS facing a fundamental crisis, and that it's the fault of these barbarians who now control our resources and our wealth. It allows the US to yet again be painted as innocent victims of hateful nonwhites who hate us, hate everything about us, and want to see us destroyed.

It's never difficult for those in power to play upon that for their own ends. As long as Americans buy into the notion that American = dominant, America = #1, America = white and America = rich, US strategic thinking will continue to be dominated by fear.

NB: See also this comment of mine at DocuDharma about the inherent anti-democratic views of Huntington et al.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 04:37:21 PM EST
Great post.

Hard to swallow for some, I suspect though.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 05:32:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]


We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 05:36:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a slice"  

Not to put too fine a point on it!  

But as you say, the psychology goes hand in hand with the cupidity:  Americans cannot imagine relationships between equals, only masters and slaves, dominator and subjects.  And this is based on the original lie that a foundation of murder and rapine was rather just the proper utilizing of untapped resources.  

The whole of US policy follows from this.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 10:32:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This ought to be a diary with wide distribution, and is precisely why I come here.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 10:44:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How much has the "relevance-through-force" DNA code progressed...

Clash-of-civilizations fantasies are primitive viral memes - more primitive and viral than religion, slightly more advanced than the viruses of "mere" violence and greed. Evolutions have to overcome these viruses from time to time. If the clash views form the most advanced politics of this world, we must be somewhere in the Cambrian period.

There is so much projection of yourself into the others in this Western concern of "relevance" or "existence". The Islamic (rather than Arabic) threat is just a son of Western imperialism and monotheism. The world dominance ideas are probably not that common in world cultures - but we will hardly know that, since most of the cultures have been shocked into the Western frame long enough ago.

How much will Western enlightenment and values be remembered?

by das monde on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 11:57:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/9/30/163825/653

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 04:42:08 PM EST
The Western-inspired international legal order is today under assault at the UN; at the same time, an obsolete Law of Armed Conflict is preventing the West from defending itself on the ground. As a military organization, NATO should today articulate a "Counter-Lawfare" doctrine for the sake of intellectual interoperability. As a security organization, NATO should not wait until it has become a full-fledged UN of Democracies to start elaborating a New Law of Armed Conflict adapted to the realities of post-modern warfare.

Isn't this the Gonzales approach to the laws of war? The laws of war were established to place civilians in a position of relative safety during periods of warfare. this change in the laws of war will free politicians and the military from even paying lipservice to the conventions laid down as a result of the Nuremberg trials.

Are we who live in the west the good guys? We can only prove that by our actions. In films is John Wayne the good guy because he wears the white hat or is it because of his actions? This idea seems to be saying that the mere wearing of the correct coloured hat makes you the good guy, no matter the actions, along the lines of the my country right or wrong theme.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 05:14:36 PM EST
The Western-inspired international legal order is today under assault at the UN
by the US, mostly
at the same time, an obsolete Law of Armed Conflict is preventing the West from defending itself on the ground
False: the US started an illegal war of aggression in Iraq and was already fighting in Afghanistan.
As a military organization, NATO should today articulate a "Counter-Lawfare" doctrine for the sake of intellectual interoperability
WTF is "Counter-Lawfare"?
As a security organization, NATO should not wait until it has become a full-fledged UN of Democracies to start elaborating a New Law of Armed Conflict adapted to the realities of post-modern warfare.
So NATO's goal is to usurp the place of the UN, and to replace the Geneva conventions with a legal system allowing "unrestricted counter-insurgency", that is, total war against civilian populations.

Right.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 05:27:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This diary, and many of the comments, are a powerful deconstruction of a meme growing in ascendancy amongst political shapers of the west.  Such a world view must be taken from its blind context and shaken to the core.  But in the end game, we have to find and enunciate a counter-analysis, a vision which enables a more holistic real-politik to emerge.

For example, what does the current (and more importantly, potential) EU offer to the Chinese or Russia that they must incorporate in their thinking as indispensable, that we can sit down at the table with them as equal negotiators?  How do we engage that part of amurka which already, though simplistically, believes another possible future than the view Jerome so heroically deconstructs?

Deconstruction is only step one.  

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 05:38:04 PM EST
in the Onion?
Americans are going to fight a long war against China- don't make me laugh. Americans can't see the day after tomorrow; that's why their car industry is down the tubes. They're still building and buying cars getting 22 miles/gallon when gas is going to $5.
Americans were buying houses costing $300,000 with $310,000 mortgages and saw no problems with that.
If there really was a long war I'd be studying Chinese right now. Let's see-a war between the U.S. and China; 300million Chinese get killed- there's still a billion left. 300 million Americans get killed there's still........whoops.
I think these guys need a new theory.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 06:19:33 PM EST
... what kinds of cars to build and buy and the Americans who decide that more than half the Federal budget should be on one form or another of "Defense" spending, year in, year out, decade in, decade out?

The latter seem to be able to pursue and achieve the next rationale for the care and feeding the military-industrial complex, on an ongoing and very long term basis.

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 Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 06:24:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What you've described is theft, not efficient long term thinking; except for the thieves it's been very efficient.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 06:33:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... to do with my argument. Effective would be more like it ... it takes effective long term planning to steal and keep stealing for in excess of half a century.

I don't think anyone can read what Jerome has excerpted and accuse the author and others of his ilk of an excess of sanity, but they are not wont of looking ahead, beyond the next crisis to the ongoing, forward looking effort to secure a reliable crisis supply.


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 Sun Sep 30th, 2007 at 06:37:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I've had a night's sleep since my last comment. I see what you mean. The military industrial political complex has been very effective in its ability to steal our national treasure over the long term, but it has not built a military, efficient enough to defeat an insurgency in a small country like Iraq. What Mr. Corn has given us is a long term plan for continuing the theft; a plan that can only lead to eventual collapse as the U.S. strangles itself.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 01:32:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But, upon further reflection, the   planning has existed  in this one area only, the theft of the national treasure. There has been no plan, at all, long term or short term regarding the well being of the nation or its people; "life liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and all that.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 01:46:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... is antithetical to the well-being of your nation, you can either admit it to yourself, or find Orwellian ways to re-define the well-being of the nation. It seems to me that the Tony Corn's of this world are inheritors of the second path.

Their gain in peace of mind, of course, comes at a price in terms of the biases and blind spots created by the double-speak.


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 Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 05:48:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reminds me of Sven's image of a spider's brain growing bigger only to squeeze its own esophagus

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 07:17:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Theft is what the US economy has been built upon for the last decade or two.

And the world will live as one
by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 12:58:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Certainly not entirely ... there is also the need by groups of nations pursuing mercantalist policies to have a nation that can run a deficit, to avoid a liquidity crunch in international money.

In the mercantalist age after 1500, that nation was Spain, with its mountains of silver. Recently, for China, Southeast Asia and others, that nation has been the US.

However, its looking increasingly like someone is going to have to come up with a new trick, because that particular trick seems to be wearing thin.


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 Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 05:52:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the function of the US and Japan as source and sink of global money over the past 15 years, see Chris Cook's diary Debt Requires Growth: or Vice Versa?.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 05:57:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, more fearmongering and request for Military-Industrial Complex work. Pretty unsurprising stuff.

Indeed, western interests desperately need military supremacy to control the flow of resources along approved trade routes since they are about to lose economic hegemony because of rapidly emerging nations.

The surprisingly meatheaded, US=Mars and Europe=Venus facilited fearmongering is to entertain the appropriate gallery, although I wouldn't be entirely surprised if he believed it himself, and of course to enable the continued control of the US nation state and its military power; however, the last 30 years have seen profound changes in how corporations bought the peace at home and we will get to the point where they'll have to compromise on the domestic front to keep control of the apparatus of the state.

Thanks for putting together this diary, although I have to say that it is painful to read Corn's nonsense. If this is all they have to offer, we will keep being in a lot of trouble.

by Fete des fous on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 03:16:13 AM EST


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