27 April 2016

Is Money a Critical Strategic Node in the War on Terror?

One of the more bizarre strategies in the Global War on Terror is the bombing of ISIS money depots in Syria in conjunction with using the “soft" power of the international financial system to interdict the money flowing to terrorists around the world.  
As Andrew Cockburn notes below, Colin Powell summed up what has become a whacky strategic obsession by saying, “money is the oxygen of terrorism."  In airpower lexicon, money is a critical strategic node for the terrorists, just as airpower theorists believed that the ball bearing works in Schweinfurt were a strategic critical node sustaining Germany’s war effort in WWII.  The ball bearing bombing theory of collapsing German military power turned out to be flawed in practice for a variety of reasons, but at least the ball bearing factories, if not the stockpiles, could be located.  
Where are the money nodes and what happens if you block or stifle the flow of the oxygen?
As the Panama banking caper points out, money is the most easily hidden, easily moved, and most fungible commodity ever invented.  Ascertaining the strategic effects of bombing money depots is about as reliable as a swami’s predictions from a ouija board.  Moreover, in the real world, interdicting money flows, as Cockburn explains below, is a blunt unfocused weapon of mass punishment that blindly impoverishes innocent people, thereby blowing back to create more fertile conditions for the breeding of new terrorists.  
Moreover, as Mike Lofgren — the author of the important book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government — pointed out to me, the idea of precision financial attack on ISIS’s money depots and money flows is simply subset of policy that has been occurring mainly since 9/11. The larger policy of financially sanctioning countries’ governments goes back at least 60 years (against North Korea), and it has never worked. Cuba is a poster child for this policy: if a resource poor island immediately adjacent to the US could not be “defeated” in over 50 years by sanctions, how will they work against Middle Eastern terrorists, especially those who specialize in living off the enemy?

The real oxygen of terrorism lies in the breeding ground of impoverished political, economic and unfair social conditions, as the Lebanese author Rami Koury, among others, have repeatedly argued.
I urge you to read Cockburn’s important and well-researched report “A Policy of Hypocrisy,” attached herewith.

HEART OF EMPIRE — April 26, 2016, 5:07 pm
A Policy of Hypocrisy
Trump wants to cut off Mexicans’ money? That’s what the Obama Administration already does to Somalis.
By Andrew Cockburn, Harpers
In April, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump revealed to voters his plan to compel Mexico to pay for the construction of a wall on the southern border of the United States: he’d regulate wire transfers so that people living in America couldn’t send money to their Mexican relatives—a practice, Trump argued, that costs the country’s economy $24 billion every year. Upon hearing this plan, Barack Obama was poised and ready to set Trump right. “The notion that we’re going to track every Western Union bit of money that’s being sent to Mexico—good luck with that,” he told reporters at the White House this month. Such a sage observation certainly highlights the intellectual gulf between the crass billionaire and our professorial chief executive; but were Trump better informed, he could point out that the Obama Administration is itself already in the remittance-blocking business.
Trump could point to Somalis in the United States who are restricted from sending money to relatives and friends in desperate need. “Somalia is still recovering from the 2011 drought yet is currently experiencing another catastrophe,” Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, thousands of whose constituents send money home, told me. “Current restrictions have capped the amount of money Somali-Americans can send and have made remitting money more expensive. Oftentimes these funds are the sole source of income for their families in Somalia. I’d say it’s a pretty big issue. In fact, it can be life or death.”
Two-fifths of Somalis depend on money from the vast diaspora scattered across the globe by decades of war and famine—money that accounts for as much as 45 percent of the country’s GDP. Despite ongoing civic disruption, Somalia has a remarkably efficient communications system that should make it easy for expatriates to send money to relatives. Thanks to mostly Somali-owned Money Transfer Offices, which move funds through banks in the United States and the Gulf, even remote areas of the country have speedy access to financial support. This becomes especially important in times of famine, when those who can normally sustain themselves are in urgent need.
None of this is to the taste of the vast U.S. government apparatus erected since 9/11 to detect and choke off the movement of any money that might benefit terrorists. … continued.

26 April 2016

Pentagon Gong Show

Popinjay Military

It should be clear that the Global War on Terror (GWOT) launched by George W. Bush and perpetuated by Barack Obama is a bust.  It is now the longest war in US history; it is now the second most expensive war in US history; and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.  
Yet despite the GWOT’s astronomical cost, forces deployed and combat tempos are minuscule when compared the those of the far lower cost Viet Nam War.  Nevertheless, the top uniformed and civilian officials in the Pentagon are whining to Congress that these tepid tempos have created a looming readiness crisis. They assert the relatively small cutbacks in the future growth implied by the budget caps of Budget Control Act of 2011 to what is by far the largest defense budget in the world is now the “gravest strategic danger” facing the United States!
A logical person, living in a sane world, would think that the GWOT, its high cost, its clearly broken nature, and the huge size of the defense budget would be major issues in the 2016 Presidential election.  But the presidential candidates and the mainstream media, like the Pentagon, are silent on this surreal travesty.  Indeed, the pathologies of the Military - Industrial - Congressional Complex (MICC) are as much off limits in contemporary political discourse as is foul language is at holy communion. 
In part, that is due to the fact that lots of people and a substantial part of our nation’s economy are benefitting — i.e., the are becoming rich and powerful — from living off the MICC’s degenerating status quo. One metric of this obscene transfer wealth can be seen in the proliferation of MICC-related “McMansions” in and around Versailles on the Potomac.  Sustaining the money flow through the MICC requires ornaments of success to compensate for and distract attention from its glittering if depressing reality.  The proliferation of American flags in politicians lapels and on car bumpers, suggesting uncritical patriotism and triumphalism, is one example.  Fantasies dressed up in powerpoint briefings about ever emerging technical revolutions, implying the future will be different from the past, are yet other examples of how ornaments prop up a dysfunctional reality in contemporary discourse.  
My long time friend and partner in crime, James P. Stevenson, has just written an essay analyzing yet another, little examined set of visual aids propping up the surrealism of the MICC.  His subject is the proliferation of glittering “been there, done that” decorations now adorning the chests our senior military officers.  
Jim proves his point (1) by making an elegantly simple comparison of the gongs adorning the chests of today’s generals to those that adorned the chests of the World War II generals — a war which historians may remember as our last “successful” war (thanks in large part to the enormous contributions of the Soviet Union) and (2) by showing how today’s gong show highlights individual careerism and vanity while degrading the recognition of heroism and self sacrifice.  
To be sure, as Jim is at pains to point out, gong proliferation did not begin with the GWOT, but it has grown over time.  But I would add, like the MICC (and the MICC’s McMansions), which also evolved slowly and insensibly over time, gong proliferation, especially in the highest ranks, metastasized during the GWOT. 
Attached herewith is Stevenson’s handiwork — think of it as yet another metaphor for the Defense Death Spiral and yet another canary in the coal mine warning us of decay within.

It’s Hard to Tell War Heroes From Paper-Pushers When Everybody Gets So Many Dumb Ribbons
Time to reform the Pentagon’s award system
by JAMES PERRY STEVENSON, War is Boring, 25 April 2016
There has been a jarring addition to U.S. military uniforms since the end of World War II. Seventy years ago, high-ranking officers wore relatively few ribbons or medalsand awards for valor were rare. Go back farther to the Civil War, and it was common for officers to not wear military decorations at all.
But for the modern officer, it’s now possible to perform one’s duties without being a hero and still have a chest full of ribbons that are indecipherable to all but the most dedicated students of phaleristics.
Most of all, the typical 21st-century American general is a walking wall of multi-colored “great job” ribbons, none of which are awards for valor.
The ribbons have spread so widely that it has become difficult to differentiate heroes from bedecked bureaucrats, assignment-junkies and dedicated self-improvement typeswhich, I suppose, is partly the point.
U.S. Army photos
The bureaucrats who added the great-job ribbons have ensured that some of these ribbons rank higher than do most medals for actual, individual acts of heroism.
That obviously reflects misplaced priorities within the U.S. military’s value-system. But that isn’t to say we should take away the officers’ ribbons.
No, there’s a better wayone that would visually differentiate awards for valor and heroism from the clutter of ribbons for “great job,” “been there” and “done that.”
The American military acknowledges the commendable and selfless efforts of its soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen in two distinct wayspromotions and medals.
The difference between a ribbon and a medal is merely technical. A ribbon is worn on the everyday uniform, while medals are reserved for formal occasions. They both refer to the same award.
Traditionally, the military rewards jobs-well-done with better or faster promotions. For officers, the addition of gold braid on their sleeves or a change in silver insignia represents an easy-to-discern promotion in rank.
In cases where no promotion takes place, a new, more responsible assignmentsuch as becoming a commanding officer of a ship or aircraft squadronis a clear indication of an officer’s continuous good work.
Acts of valor, on the other hand, are usually brief eventssometimes instantaneousbut of course are still worthy of note. Awarding ribbons are the usual way the military offers this notice.
The military also assigns precedence among various ribbons by placing them in an order of importance, with the most important residing at the top of a uniform’s area for ribbons, and the least important living at the bottom.
A full chest of ribbons usually contains the four typesone each for for valor, for a job well-done, for stating where and when the wearer served, andfinallyribbons representing an individual’s professional self-improvement.
It gets more complicated. The military also awards “dual-use” ribbons that can indicate heroism with a quarter-inch “V” attachment. The Army and Air Force call the “V” the “V Device” and the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard call it the “Combat V.”
Without the V, the ribbon stands for “extraordinary” or “meritorious” conduct. And this varies between service branches. The same medal can mean different things depending on the service that issues it.
Yes, this is complicated. Thanks for bearing with me.
At the beginning of World War II, the big three awards for valor and heroismthe Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Starwere known to most military personnel and even to many civilians.
But with the growth of military bureaucracy, manned by more and more careerists whose fingers have pulled more paper than triggers, the military developed a mindset that these silent warriors, working behind the lines, needed some recognition. The rear-echelon types began issuing themselves ribbons simply for being good administrators.
As a result, it’s gotten really hard to discern a hero from a bureaucrat. Plus there’s the visual pollution of dozens of ribbons adorning one uniform. Furthermore, ribbon-proliferation dilutes the importance of any particular award. Any one medal doesn’t mean a whole lot when everyone’s got lots and lots of them.
The following series, depicting four sets of ribbons, shows the evolution of medals for heroism competing with great-job ribbons.
The top seven ribbons the U.S. Army awarded at the beginning of World War IIfive ribbons for heroism, one for a great job, and one for being woundedare depicted here in priority order. The Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal (a great-job medal), the Silver Star Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Soldier’s Medal for non-combat heroism and the Purple Heart.
The only addition for heroism in the U.S. Army by the end of 1945 was the Bronze Star Medal with the V Device.
The medals the Army added for heroism after the 1950s are the Air Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Army Commendation Medal, all of which offer the opportunity to attach the V Device, converting the ribbon from great-job award to an award for heroism.
Heroism medals have to compete visually with great-job medals as well as ones for “been there” and “done that.” If we were to limit visual clutter to only the addition of great-job ribbons, you begin to see the problem.

Hero medals now compete with great-job ribbons added since the end of World War II (in red) and great-job ribbons added before and during World War II (in green). In both cases, hero ribbons compete for precedence.
In some cases, great-job ribbons outrank awards for heroism. Furthermore, the qualifications are such that only those at the top of the military hierarchy are in a position to receive them.
Take the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, which outranks the Silver Star, the third-highest medal for heroism. According to the Defense Department, the DDSM is only awarded to “members whose direct and individual contribution to national security or national defense are recognized as being so exceptional in scope and value as to be equivalent to contribution associated with positions encompassing broader responsibilities.”
But isn’t that what high-ranking generals and admirals are supposed to do? Awarding generals and admirals a medal for “encompassing broader responsibilities” after also giving them four stars is the functional equivalent of a participation award.
Not that many service members would even recognize the great-job ribbons. The author’s recent unscientific survey of a group of U.S. Air Force enlisted airmen illustrates the effect of ribbon-clutter. None of the five airmen could name or recognize any valor-based ribbon aside from the Medal of Honor.
“We have trouble keeping up with the ribbons they keep awarding us, so when we see someone else’s medals, we usually try to see what ribbons we might have in common,” one airman said.
That airman has been in the Air Force for just under four years and yet he had been awarded seven ribbons. For a comparison, Army generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Henry “Hap” Arnold each received only 10 American ribbons during their entire military careersculminating, of course, with World War II.

The ribbons received by an Air Force airman after four years is close to reaching the number of American ribbons two American generals, Eisenhower and Arnold, received after over 30 or 40 years respectively in the U.S. Army.
American ribbons awarded to Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, Chief of Staff of the Army Air Forces and fourth in seniority behind Gens. George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower
Now contrast the number of ribbons Army general Omar Bradley received by the end of World War II to the ribbons awarded to Gen. David Petraeus after his 37-year career in the U.S. Army that ended in 2011.
Gen. David Petraeus’ medals.
Seven of Petraeus’s 11 personal decorations were created after 1970, so if he wore only those medals available during World War II, he would have just four medals and only one for heroismthe Bronze Star Medal with V Device.
Gen. Omar Bradley’s medals.
The others are part of the visual pollution problem. Bradley’s medals were all awarded by the end of World War II, including the Silver Star, the third-highest medal for heroism.
The addition of been-there and done-that ribbons added to Petraeus’s personal decorations, resulting in a display not unlike that of a Latin American potentate. Petraeus’ look differs from Bradley’s more conservative appearance.
This is not to diminish the importance of great-job medals. Indeed, they are an important function of personal military decorations. Rewarding great work is an appropriate application of military medals, particularly for younger service members.
It’s possible that great work can have an even greater benefit to the military and the country than an individual’s heroic acts. An excellent example is illustrated by the efforts of the late Air Force colonel John R. Boyd.
Five years after Boyd received his first Legion of Merit as a 32-year old Air Force captaina virtually unheard-of feat, as the Legion of Merit is often referred to as a “colonel’s medal”he received another Legion of Merit because he “developed the energy-maneuverability concept,” which helps pilots and designers to compare one airplane against another in a quantitative way.
In layman’s terms, his methods permitted pilots to see where an enemy airplane has advantages and disadvantages in the air.
Boyd took his energy-maneuverability concepts to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and briefed pilots on how to use the concepts to avoid getting hit by surface-to-air missiles.
While waiting for a friend at the Miramar Naval Air Station Officer’s Club, I struck up a conversation with an officer sitting next to me at the bar. Noticing his gold wings and ribbons, indicating he’d been to Vietnam, I asked him if he’d ever heard of John Boyd.
“You bet,” he said.
“What do you know about him?” I asked.
“He came over to ’Nam to brief us on how to use his energy-maneuverability to evade SAMs.”
“What did you think of his briefing?”
“My wingman thought he was full of crap. I didn’t. Only one of us is here talking to you.”
Boyd ultimately was awarded four Legions of Merit. The cumulative effect of his efforts most likely saved more lives than any singular heroic act. However, if Boyd were alive today, I believe he would agree that individual acts of heroism should be at the head of the line.
U.S. Army master sergeant Leroy Petry receives a Medal of Honor from Pres. Barack Obama in 2011. Petry saved the lives of several fellow soldiers in Afghanistan in 2008, losing a hand in the process. U.S. Army photo
Here then is a better way to make valorous awards stand outand in such a way that even civilians will know they’re looking at a warrior who has risked his or her life to save others.
Currently, the regulations call for unit citationsribbons awarded to a group rather than to an individualto be displayed on the right side of the uniform from the wearer’s perspective, the side opposite of where ribbons are normally worn. Although unit citations are important, deference should be given to the individual hero.
Looking at the picture of Petraeus, it’s not immediately obvious that he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with a V Device, a medal for heroism. But if it were on the right side where unit citations currently reside all alone, it would be clear to anyone that he’d been awarded a ribbon for heroism.
Ranking great-job medals higher in precedence than those for heroism also indicates a misunderstanding of human natureand a miscalculation of valueon the part of the military bureaucracy
It is often less-expensive enlisted personnel who find themselves in hazardous conditions and who are likely to encounterto put it obliquelythe opportunity to demonstrate valor. Awarding a two-star general at the Pentagon the third-highest military ribbon for creativity with his pen and ranking such action greater than, say, a combat soldier saving someone during a firefight, is plain wrong.
Becoming a one-star general or admiral should be reward in and of itself. And rising from one star to four should require no further adulation.
As Napoleon famously observed, humans are motivated by the possibility of being acknowledged for having done more than was expected of them. Our own Medal of Honor, awarded for acts “above and beyond the call of duty,” acknowledges this. Congress was concerned enough about the dilution of the Medal of Honor that, over the decades, lawmakers have passed several laws making it a crime to falsely wear the United States’ highest award … or even claim to have won it.
A U.S. court of appeals effectively endorsed those laws in early 2016. “We conclude that the government … has a ‘substantial countervailing objective’ of avoiding dilution of ‘the country’s recognition of [the award recipient’s] sacrifice in the form of military honors,’” the court wrote.
But an unintentional dilution of medals for valor, honor and sacrifice is exactly what has happened due to the proliferation of ribbons. To honor our true heroes, we should isolate their ribbons for the sake of visual clarity. Put ’em on the wearer’s right.

That won’t totally solve the ribbon-clutter problem. But it’s a start.

19 April 2016

The Palestinian Question: Why the Two-State Solution is Kaput.

Water and the Creeping Annexation of the West Bank
Chuck Spinney

To exploit the principles of war for our purpose and base ourselves upon (the) strategic indirect approach, so as to determine the issue of the fighting even before fighting has begun, it is necessary to achieve the three following aims:
a. to cut the enemy’s lines of communications, thus paralyzing his physical build-up;
b. to seal him off from his lines of retreat, thus undermining the enemy’s will and destroying his morale;
c. to hit his centers of administration and disrupt his communications, thus severing the link between his brain and limbs.
Reflection on these three aims proves the truth of Napoleon’s saying: ‘The whole secret of the art of war lies in the ability to become the master of the lines of communication.’”
General Yigael Yadin
Chief of the General Staff, 
Israeli Forces Journal, September 1949⁠1
1 B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy, Signet 1974, page 387.

The radical Israeli settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron present what is certainly a candidate for being the ugliest face of Israel’s creeping annexation of the West Bank.   The expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has reached a point that renders the so-called Two State Solution an impossibility.  General Yadin's comments on the strategy of the indirect approach may have been made in the context of the 1948 Arab Israeli War, but they go a long way toward understanding Israel's strategy for solving its Palestinian Question in the Occupied Territories. 
Of course, in Israel’s eyes, the two state solution was never a serious consideration — not even during the heady days of the Oslo Peace Process in the early 1990s.  On 5 October 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Rabin laid out his case for ratifying the Oslo II Accord in a speech to the Knesset.  Rabin described Israel’s goals for the agreement.  He explicitly rejected the idea of a binational state and stated clearly that Israel wanted a permanent solution that would include: (1) a “Palestinian entity” that would be “less than a state,” (2) a “united Jerusalem” as the Israel’s capital, and (3) “blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria.” 
Figure 1 shows that Rabin’s vision is now in place, or as Israeli’s like to say, it is a reality established by ‘facts on the ground.’
The graphic on the left side of Figure 1 depicts the buildup of settlers in the Occupied Territories since the 1967 War. The black line represents the total while the blue line represents the buildup in the West Bank.  The difference between them represents primarily the buildup in East Jerusalem, but it also also includes the twenty thousand or so settlers in the Golan Heights and the settlers in Gaza (before Israel evacuated all 7,800 settlers from Gaza in 2005).  
Figure 1
West Bank Settlements: Population Growth and Pattern of Settlement

Note of clarification on Figure 1: The number of settlers in East Jerusalem has long been disputed.  On 5 January 2015, Ahuva Balofsky reported in Breaking Israeli News that the Israeli Interior Ministry released data showing that 389,250 Jews living in the West Bank and another 375,000 live in East Jerusalem. These numbers are plotted for 2014 in Figure 1 and they suggest a substantial acceleration in East Jerusalem settlements.  The total numbers for 2014 are roughly consistent with the total released In May 2014 by the Israel’s Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who said the Jewish population in East Jerusalem was somewhere between 300,000 and 350,0000 and the number of settlers in the West Bank was about 400,000.  Ariel went on to predict that in five years that latter number would increase to as much as 600,000.   So, while there is no doubt that the rate of settlement is accelerating, Figure 1 may exaggerate the appearance of the recent acceleration, because earlier levels for East Jerusalem may have been understated.
The red areas in the map on the right side of Figure 1 depict the settlement locations in the West Bank.  The three areas delineated in the Oslo accords are distinguished by color: 
  • Area A - brown: the Palestinian Authority (PA) is assigned control of security and administration (except with Israel makes periodic incursions to fight people it deems to be terrorists).
  • Area B - tan: Israeli control of security; PA control of administration
  • Area C - blue: Complete Israeli control. Area C comprises 60% of the land area of the West Bank and 80% of the water in the aquifers under the West Bank (more below).
At least seven points are worth noting with regard to Figure 1:  (1) The rate of settlement growth accelerated after the 1979 US-brokered Camp David Agreement.  Camp David not only removed Egypt from the Arab-Israeli Conflict but also resulted in Egypt’s complicity in the maintenance of the Gaza blockade. (2) The US brokered Oslo Accords (triggered by the 1st Intifada) and its US-brokered successors (e.g., the now-forgotten roadmap for peace, triggered by the 2nd Intifada) had no effect on the rate of settler growth in the Occupied Territories. (3) Notwithstanding soaring rhetoric of President Obama’s Cairo speech and his tepid criticisms of Israel’s settlement program, the rate of settler growth accelerated again after President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu took office, especially in East Jerusalem, but also in the Area C. 
Turning to the right side of the figure: (4) The vast majority of Palestinians now live in Areas A & B (many having migrated into these areas from Area C) and are divided up into separated cantons surrounded by Area C. (5) Israeli settlements, a network of Israeli-only access roads connecting the settlements (not shown) and a system of Palestinian check points controlling entry and exit at the canton boundaries carve up the cantons into disconnected bits and pieces.  (7) Moreover, with the exception of isolated Jericho canton just north of the Dead Sea, all the Palestinian areas are well west of the Jordan border with a network of settlements and the Israeli only access roads as well the Dead Sea separating the Palestinians from the Jordan, the nearest Arab state.  In short, the Palestinian "entity" is cut up into fragments, with each fragment surrounded by Israel.  And that central fact, dear reader, is why Figure 1 is an exemplar how the Yadin strategy fits the occupation like a hand fits a glove. 

While the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008 raised the world’s hopes for a more balanced approach to the Palestinian Question, Figure 1 shows Israeli settlements actually accelerated during his Presidency, making a formal Israeli annexation of Area C a likely possibility (as Israel has already done with the Golan Heights of Syria and Jerusalem).  Not only have the Palestinian controlled areas been reduced to an irrational disconnected patchwork that defies any logic for integration into a coherent governable entity, Figure 2 below shows how the pattern of settlements and the Israeli-only roads connecting them have established Israeli control of the West Bank’s water resources.   

Figure 2 

West Bank Settlements vs. Water

The blue arrows in left side of Figure 2 show the underground flows of water as winter rains are collected in the aquifers under the West Bank and relates this to the pattern of Israeli settlements as the Palestinian areas.  The right side overlays the underground aquifers on this data.  The dark blue regions (labeled 1, 2, and 3) depict the highest quality fresh-water pumping areas.  The light blue areas depict areas of lower quality but viable pumping. The redish-orange areas portray areas of poor pumping.  Israel controls how these different areas are pumped.  This report (also referenced above), describes how this control is exercised. Today, over one-third of Israel’s fresh water budget comes from the aquifers under the West Bank’s highlands. In so doing, Israel (including its settlements) consumes more than 80% of the annual recharge of these aquifers, leaving only 20% for the Palestinians.  (Readers interested in the water question will find a more detailed analysis at this link.)
The United States has been culpable in Israel’s colonization of the West Bank — not only by acquiescing to the creeping annexation depicted in Figures 1 and 2, but also in the financing of Israel's efforts.  This brings us back to Hebron.  The report, Why is Goldman Sachs funding the violent, racist Jewish settlers in Hebron, in one of Israel’s most prestigious newspapers, Ha’aretz, is the tip of a funding iceberg of American funding of illegal settlements — e.g., see Ha’aretz’s  7 December 2015 special report here.
Ha’aretz just reported that President Obama is proposing to prop up Israel with a $40 billion military aid package over the next 10 years, including $3.7 billion this first year, then increasing steadily over the 10 years of the plan.  Israel is not happy with this offer, because President Obama has added a condition to this offer: Israel must promise not to lobby Congress for any additional aid during the decade that the deal is in force.  The Ha’aretz report is silent on any condition to roll back or restrict the rate of growth of settlement activity. 

With the possible exception of Bernie Sanders, American complicity in Israel’s solution Palestinian question is not at issue in current presidential election.  This can be seen in the obsequious speeches to the recent AIPAC conference made by all the other candidates.  [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Clinton/Trump AIPAC ‘Pander-Off’” and “Groveling Before AIPAC.”]
So Israel’s creeping annexation of the West Bank and its lock of the West Bank’s water resources will continue unabated, in part financed by tax deductible donations from the US, and propped up by increased military aid.

Reposted by Consortium News under the title of How Israel Killed the 'Two-State Solution'.
Reposted by Counterpunch under the title of The Palestinian Question: Why the Two-State Solution is Kaput.

04 April 2016

Announcement: New Blog Page

Readers of this blog may have noticed a series of postings with the subtitle: Flush With Cash, Running on Empty.  

My goal in these postings is to provide a series of occasional essays, which taken together, describe how the behavioral pathologies in the Military - Industrial - Congressional Complex (MICC) result in a boom and bust pattern of defense spending.  This pattern produces a  long-term death spiral of shrinking forces, equipped with aging weapons, and continual pressure to reduce readiness.  

Understanding how MICC's behaviour creates this crisis is particularly important in this election year (2016), because President Obama is bequeathing bow wave of new programs in the FY17-21 budget plan that embodies costs that will explode early in the next decade.  While bow waves are always present the Pentagon's budget plans, they wax and wane.   This budget time bomb, which will be the third waxing since the end of the Viet Nam War, will have a spending tail out to 2030 or beyond, and this spending bomb will require a militarized foreign policy to rationalize it -- in effect the MICC's spending tail will continue wag the foreign policy dog of the United States.  

For ease of access, the links to these occasional essays will be collected and posted on a new page on the left hand column of the home page of this blog entitled: Flush With Cash, Running on Empty: A Series of Posts on the Defense Budget.

26 March 2016

Grand Strategic Blowback for Neo-Imperial Wars

Last September 11, I posted an essay that argued the refugee flows triggered by the aftermath of our interventions in the Middle East were mutating, whether by design or by accident, into grand strategic weapon of mass destruction.  My argument was limited to the flows within the Middle East, but as I implied, they were also putting pressure on our allies in the European Union.  
Attached herewith is essay by Jonathan Marshall that expands on this latter issue.  Indeed, this is the best analysis of the E.U.’s grand strategic problem that I have yet read.  
 I am using the term “grand strategy" quite precisely.  New readers can go to Criteria for a Sensible Grand Strategy to see what I mean when I use this term.
Robert Parry, editor/publisher of Consortium News has graciously given me permission to repost Marshall’s piece on the Blaster website.
Chuck Spinney

Deadly Blowback from Neo-Imperial Wars
Exclusive: The E.U.’s crisis – with the post-World War II project to unify Europe spinning apart amid economic stress, refugees and terrorism – can be traced back to E.U./U.S. neo-imperial wars in the Arab world, says Jonathan Marshall.
By Jonathan Marshall, Consortium News, March 25, 2016
[Reposted with permission of the editor/publisher of Consortium News]
In what may be the most dramatic blowback yet from Western military intervention in the Middle East, terrorism and the mass influx of foreign migrants are now putting the very existence of the European Union at risk. Foreign wars fanned by European and American interventionists in the name of democracy and humanitarianism now threaten those same values in Europe as never before since the end of World War II.
This threat comes at a time of popular discontent over the region’s chronic economic weakness, caused by Germany’s austerity policies and the straightjacket of the euro monetary union. The region has been further buffeted by the rise of right-wing parties, confrontations with Russia over Ukraine and NATO expansion, and the potential withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the E.U. In short, Europe faces a perfect storm.
Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, warns, “We are threatened as never before.” The European Union’s chief executive, Jean-Claude Juncker, declared that Europe may be facing “the beginning of the end.” International financier and private statesman George Soros says, “The EU is on the verge of collapse.”
Frans Timmermans, the first vice president of the European Commission, said, “The challenge to the European project today is existential. The refugee crisis has brought that to light. What was unimaginable before now becomes imaginable, namely the disintegration of the European project.”
This is also a nightmare that keeps Secretary of State John Kerry up at night. If turmoil gets any worse in the Middle East, he told reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, “You could have a massive migration into Europe that destroys Europe, leads to the pure destruction of Europe, ends the European project, and everyone runs for cover and you’ve got the 1930s all over again, with nationalism and fascism and other things breaking out. Of course we have an interest in this, a huge interest in this.”
Yet remarkably few voices are stating the obvious: The crisis isn’t simply caused by foreign extremists bent on destroying Western values. Like Br’er Rabbit, Europe punched the Middle Eastern tar baby repeatedly, only to become hopelessly stuck. Whether Europe will prove as wise as its folkloric counterpart and find a way to get free remains to be seen.
Ganging Up on Syria
The crisis in the E.U. has many self-inflicted causes. One was President George W. Bush’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003, which was opposed by France and Germany but supported most notably by the British government. That war gave birth to ISIS, whose bloodthirsty tactics now bring terror to millions in Europe as well as the Middle East. The Iraq War also drove 1.2 million refugees into Syria, ravaging its fragile economy and helping to trigger the outbreak of war in 2011.
Another contributor to E.U.’s crisis was the equally catastrophic NATO intervention in Libya in the spring of 2011. It was demanded most adamantly by the French government, with support from London and Washington. The intervention opened a major arms pipeline into Syria and propelled hundreds of thousands of North African refugeesincluding jihadists — into Europe.
The continued anarchy in Libya poses an ongoing threat of terrorism, drug smuggling, and human trafficking to the European Union. The E.U.’s foreign policy chief warned recently that nearly half a million displaced people in Libya “could be potential candidates for migration to Europe.”
Perhaps the single biggest cause of the Europe’s current crisis was the fateful decision of U.S. and European leaders to demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “step aside” in the face of escalating attacks by rebels, many of them extreme Islamists.
Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany joined Obama in making that demand in August 2011, just a few months after violence erupted between Syrian security forces and protesters.
That Western demand was based on wishful thinking and hubris, not a well-informed estimate of Assad’s political support within Syria. Longtime United Nations diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi called the overconfident assessment of some Western intelligence agencies and politicians that Assad would quickly fall “utterly condemnable.”
Senior State Department officials said the joint statement was prepared in a rush to appease humanitarian critics and especially the French government, “based on a faulty and thoroughly unsupported, unsubstantiated assumption that this guy was going to be gone in 20 minutes.”
The alliance of Washington and major European capitals did not topple Assad but it severely weakened his regime, creating space for the rapid rise of disciplined Islamic insurgents — as experts warned from the beginning. The European Union contributed to this outcome by imposing tough economic sanctions on Assad’s government — while approving purchases from Syrian oil fields controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra, the powerful Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
Some E.U. nations also joined Washington in covertly arming radical rebel groups to overthrow Assad. Leading them was Syria’s former colonial master, France.
In 2012, just one year after the joint call for Assad to step down, the Guardian reported that “France has emerged as the most prominent backer of Syria’s armed opposition and is now directly funding rebel groups around Aleppo as part of a new push to oust the embattled Assad regime. . . . The money has been used to buy weapons inside Syria and to fund armed operations against loyalist forces.”
Despite CIA attempts to vet which opposition fighters received the arms, the paper reported that “Some of the French cash has reached Islamist groups who were desperately short of ammunition and who had increasingly turned for help towards al-Qaida aligned jihadist groups in and around Aleppo.”
Already, the Guardian noted, much of the rebellion against Assad was being led by “implacable jihadi organisations, such as Jabhat al-Nusra.” (That assessment was confirmed by a classified Defense Intelligence Agency report in August 2012.)
Last year, President Fran├žois Hollande himself finally admitted that France began delivering weapons to Syrian rebels in 2012 — in violation of international embargoes and contrary to the French government’s public claims. The weapons included machine guns, rocket launchers, anti-tank guns and artillery, helping to turn Syria into a giant killing field.
The United Kingdom reportedly also provided covert military aid to rebel forces as early as November 2011, when British special forces allegedly met with Syrian guerrillas to assess their training needs. British intelligence services based in Cyprus provided timely news on Syrian government troops movements to help opposition fighters win tactical victories.
In 2013, the Independent reported that the British government had sent more than $12 million in “non-lethal” aid to Syrian fighters, including armed vehicles, body armor, trucks and SUVs, and satellite communications systems.
Last but not least, in 2015 France and the UK joined the United States in bombing Islamic State targets inside Syria — without permission from Syria’s legally constituted government. France had earlier demanded Western military action following a use of chemical weapons near Damascus in August 2013, which Western governments widely blamed on the Assad regime. However, President Obama balked when U.S. intelligence failed to confirm the culprit and Britain’s Parliament defeated a motion to approve military action.
By mid-2015, the fighting in Syria supported by these Western governments had generated more than four million external refugees — a record from any single conflict in the past generation, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Including internal refugees, half of Syria’s population was uprooted by the violence.
Blowback from Intervention
Rather than concede any responsibility for this tragedy, however, liberal interventionists in Europe blamed the humanitarian crisis on the West’s alleged failure to intervene.
As the Guardian newspaper editorialized in September 2015, “What appears on our TV screens as a sudden emergency is really the culmination of years of failure to confront Syria’s bloody collapse. . . The refusal to intervene against Bashar al-Assad gave the Syrian president permission to continue murdering his people . . . To begin restoring . . . hope will inevitably mean international intervention of some kind.”
This popular narrative — echoed at home by liberal and neoconservative critics of President Obama — makes Europe out to be the innocent victim both of the refugee crisis and of ISIS-directed terrorism. Make no mistake — ordinary Europeans are innocent victims, and nothing excuses terrorist violence against them or civilians in the Middle East. But key European governments do share blame for triggering the devastating blowback from Syria.
The terrorism inflicted on the people of Paris and Brussels is despicable but not random. The message of ISIS’s attacks, concedes French political scientist Dominique Moisi, is “You attack us, so we will kill you.”
University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape, a leading authority on suicide attacks, says they almost always represent a violent response to “a military occupation of territory that the terrorists view as their homeland or prize greatly. From Lebanon and the West Bank in the 80s and 90s, to Iraq and Afghanistan, and up through the Paris suicide attacks . . . that’s what prompts suicide terrorism more than anything else.”
A recently released police report on last November’s terror attacks in Paris quotes one gunman as threatening to kill his hostages unless France stopped its military strikes in Syria: “I want you to leave the country. I want you to remove your military. I want a piece of paper signed that proves it!”
ISIS had a sophisticated appreciation of what its terrorist attacks in Europe could accomplish. An ISIS newsletter, published shortly after the Paris attacks, predicted that they would create “a state of instability in European countries which will have long-term effects,” including “the weakening of European cohesion” and “demands to repeal the Schengen Agreement … which permits free traveling in Europe without checkpoints.”
Europe’s Refugee Crisis
The Schengen Agreement on open borders lies at the very heart of the European experiment and is a precondition for the common currency, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted in January. But free movement is threatened not only by fear of terrorism, but by popular opposition to the huge influx of foreign refugees.
The mass movement of more than half a million refugees into the E.U. through Greece and the Balkans last year “precipitat[ed] a refugee crisis on a scale unprecedented since the end of World War II,” writes Kemal Kiri?ci, director of the Turkey Project at the Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe.
As a result, he explains, millions of people now “sense that Europe has lost control of its borders, which has in turn fueled xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments. This has strengthened the hand of right-wing politicians with little regard for the EU’s hard-won liberal values.”
Illiberal and far-right parties have made gains across Europe, from Denmark to Greece, and control the governments of Hungary and Poland.
Secondly, Kiri?ci adds, “the crisis sent shockwaves across Europe and tested the EU’s solidarity at a time when the EU was barely recovering from the shock of the euro crisis. . . This breakdown of unity is forcing a number of member states to introduce border controls, effectively suspending the Schengen regime as well as restricting the free movement of both people and goods within the EU — two main pillars of European integration.”
Ironically, in its desperation to prevent the refugee crisis from tearing apart Europe’s liberal regime, the E.U. recently struck an agreement with the notoriously authoritarian regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to return migrants to Turkey — including promises to accelerate talks on making Turkey a member of the E.U.
“First morally, then politically, and finally structurally, the European Union is unraveling before our eyes, destroyed by its own contradictions and failures of solidarity,” writes Maria Margaronis, The Nation magazine’s London correspondent. “The discussion is now not even nominally about how to protect the refugees, but about how to keep them out. . . . Cutting that deal with Turkey means that the EU has to hold its delicate nose and turn a blind eye to President Erdogan’s increasingly blatant human-rights violations.”
Most discussions of how to save Europe focus on short-term remedies, ranging from better intelligence sharing to beefed up border enforcement. But Europe will never overcome its crisis until it faces up to the root causes, including blowback from its neo-imperialist ventures in Africa and the Middle East.
Back in March 2011, when France spearheaded NATO’s attacks in Libya, the pro-interventionist political scientist Dominique Moisi remarked that “the French, according to early polls, are proud again to be French.”
Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shortly before he was murdered on Oct. 20, 2011.
Moisi shared that pride: In Libya, he maintained, “the West is defending common values, such as freedom, respect for human life and the rule of law. . . France, together with Great Britain, and with the more distant support of the US, is undeniably risking much, for it is easier to start a war than it is to end one. But it is a worthwhile risk.”
Moisi was wrong on all counts. The French government chose to intervene not for noble ends but for crude economic and opportunistic political motives, as Hillary Clinton well understood. And the result, as everyone knows, was anarchy in Libya, the unleashing of jihadists and arms across northern Africa and the Middle East, and the start of Europe’s refugee crisis.
Western intervention in Syria was sold under equally fraudulent pretenses, with even more dire results. Now Europe must begin a serious debate — akin to America’s ongoing discussion of the Iraq debacle — over what price it is willing to pay for continuing to fuel wars and social upheaval in former colonial lands.

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012). Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews were “Risky Blowback from Russian Sanctions”; “Neocons Want Regime Change in Iran”; “Saudi Cash Wins France’s Favor”; “The Saudis’ Hurt Feelings”; “Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Bluster”; “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess”; and “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.” ]