Saturday, July 14, 2007

Iraq @ New Ruskin College

Lecture Notes: 7-15-07

Not everyone likes Iraq. It is too hot for some. Too dusty for others. Then there is the politics of the place. Really civil strife. A government teetering on the edge.

One thing that puts some off is the fact that the average age is 18. It is a young, really adolescent society. People drive too fast. And then there are the guns. And bombs. All driven by youthful idealism or at least youthful conviction.

Have you noticed that the houses don’t have house numbers displayed at their entrances? For one thing how do they get their mail? Do they have mailmen? And how do you develop a data base for the population? How do you know where everyone is living? What do you put on their identity papers?

No, not everyone likes Iraq. I think our President has soured on the place. He wanted them to be more like us. Older, for one thing. Yes, and more temperate. I think their Parliament mystifies him. Everything is subject to negotiations.

The Constitution, for example, which they have only just finished writing, was to be changed because Mr. Bush felt that the federal system needed to include the Sunnis’ view. (Why didn’t he provide a constitution for them which included a stronger central government? He did not think he had the right to “impose” on them.)

The oil distribution law also is being negotiated. And again this law was not originally established when the government was being set up because he did not want to impose a fair pro rata distribution for all the people of Iraq. Some imposition. Our young people are permitted to stay out on point while these negotiations go on. He can impose on our young people just not on the Iraqi.

The negotiations on the Constitution are so deep it is hard to tell where they stand. Months pass in complete silence but we are told that the negotiations are continuing. As outsiders it is hard to tell. Then too whole Iraqi Army units show up at 50% of strength because privates have negotiated leaves for themselves. (Which they need we are told because there is no such thing as direct deposit.)

It is a place where everything depends on who you know. Which explains why the mail delivery may be a bit spotty and why the government appears to be constantly teetering.
So these are some reasons why people, including our President, don’t like Iraq.

But your perspective changes if you start out accepting that it is a country which is facing 9 years of civil war. Things look different if you assume a government that is constantly negotiating its way. Then its gyrations don’t look so wild. Accept that it will always appear to be teetering. If you accept that it is a hot dusty place, accept it for what it is, things don’t look so alien.

I think our President needs to change his perspective. He tends to be a little up tight. He always dresses nattily. He went on the wagon completely. No half way for him. He jogged until he damaged his knees. He is very particular about how he sees things. ‘Stubborn,’ is a word which is often used about him.

But he may just be one of those people who don’t like Iraq very much. Not his cup of tea. He can not accept it for what it is. A country at war, that will be at war for years to come. A people with their own ways of solving their own problems. A society where everything is subject to negotiations of a highly personal nature.

Does he understand, for example, that our troops, our young people, are seen by the Iraqi as just another aspect of what is to be negotiated? If the Iraqi is told ‘We will stay in Iraq as long as the Iraqis need us’, as he did tell them, then is it so unreasonable for the Iraqi to assume that this has been settled? As long as needed.

Did the President mean for that to be our negotiating position? Did he even understand that he was negotiating? Senator Carl Levin told the President that this was just the wrong thing to tell the Iraqis. The President seemed to admit his mistake when he told the Senator in reply, “That’s a good point.”

Does the President propose his policies for Iraq because he likes Iraq so much? Or because he doesn’t like Iraq so much? Doesn’t like Iraq the way it really is?

Rather than changing Iraq perhaps the President should change his attitude about the place and accept it for what it is.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Mr. Bush @ New Ruskin College

Lecture Notes: 7-9-07
I told you so Part II

Dear Mr. President;

So now after much delay and many casualties you are considering pulling our troops back to military reservations from which they can assist the Iraqi Army with logistics and training, and striking high value targets, instead of trying to do everything ourselves. Good.

You could have followed this policy years ago when I first proposed it, and avoided many casualties. But better late than never. Unfortunately now there is a question of whether Congress will allow you to keep the troops in Iraq even in this deployment.

Instead of allowing the Iraqi Army to take the lead as I advised, you disbanded it, and put our troops out on point patrolling the dusty streets of Iraq. The resulting casualties have so eroded support that you may not now be allowed to keep them in Iraq.

And what is possibly even worse you allowed the enemy to define success as his ability to carry out tactical operations. As long as he can set off a car bomb somewhere in Iraq he wins for you have allowed this to serve as the definition of our “winning.” You confused tactical success with our strategic goals.

In other words during the intervening years, and intervening casualties, you allowed our strategic goal, of having our troops deployed in Iraq were they could serve as a backstop for the Iraqi Army, (and a counter weight to prevent the odd coup), to be undermined by casualties taken for short term tactical goals. Tactics over strategy. A classic example of winning every battle and losing the war.

From a larger philosophical perspective we can agree with Alan Watts when he said that “the goody goodies are the thieves of virtue.” By doing everything for the Iraqis you have prevented virtuous Iraqis from coming forward. Or as I put it several years ago: There is a reason the cavalry only comes to the rescue in the third reel . . . if they came to the rescue in the first reel there wouldn’t be a picture.

Your officers are all type ‘A’ personalities. Their aggressiveness and controlling personalities have their advantage in most military problems yet what was required here was more subtlety. From a systems point of view the Iraqi political social system was too complex for an outsider, even one trained at West Point, to master.

For example, the question of which militias to incorporate into the Iraqi Army and which to disarm and disband, is one best left to those whose lives depend on the outcome of the question. Nothing would focus the attention of the Iraqi Parliament so much as knowing that their security is being provided not by the American Army but by their own officers that they have themselves promoted to office.

Hopefully it is still not too late to salvage our strategic goal of having a force situated in Iraq to guarantee the newly won independence of the Iraqi people.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Iran Zimbabwe and Nazi Germany at NRC


Lecture Notes 7-4-07

Iran and Zimbabwe push forward with price controls.

New York Times reports Zimbabwe is trying to implement the same price control policies Iran is attempting according to the Gulf Daily News. Professor Gotz Aly reports in his recent book, Hitler’s Beneficiaries, that Hitler was forced to war by the logic of his own mismanagement of the German economy. He needed to plunder neighboring states in order to get at their gold reserves and other resources, manipulate their currency, and seize the property of the Jews.

Hitler had used credit to purchase his arms race and in January 1939 the strains on the economy had become so great that the Reichsbank felt compelled to send him a letter which read in part:

“The unlimited expansion of state expenditures flouts every attempt to draw up an orderly budget. It has brought state finances, despite the drastic tightening of tax legislation, to the brink of collapse and threatens now to destabilize both the national bank and the currency. No financial recipes or systems --- no matter how ingenious or well thought out --- and no institutions or set of fiscal mechanisms can suffice to rein in the disastrous consequences of unbridled deficit spending on the currency. No national bank is capable of propping up the currency against the inflationary spending policies of the state.” (39)

This may be regarded as the letter that caused World War II. Hitler used WWII to cover up his phony bookkeeping. He was a simple opportunist with no idea how to run a national economy. Now today Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe carry out the same policies of state control.

Will Mugabe or Ahmadinejad turn to war in an attempt to conceal their economic mismanagement? Their policies are not sustainable. Disaster must follow their “price control” legislation. In the case of Iran will that disaster be nuclear?

The second Holocaust proceeds like the first.