Have y’all noticed the emerging liberal media spin on the opposition to US military intervention in Syria where the mediots insinuate or outright say that the reason most Americans aren’t behind us taking direct action there is due to the “deception over Iraq” – translation: Blame Bush? Of course, liberal politicos like Nancy Pelosi have repeated this talking point over and over again, and even former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, our staunchest ally during the Iraq war, has said more or less the same. But the media picking up with it and running with it as if its an unassailable assertion is a prime example of much of what is wrong with the US media today.
Is America war-weary? Absolutely. Between Afghanistan and Iraq, the American people are tired of seeing their sons and daughters come home with life-altering injuries, or in body bags, are tired of hearing about how the murders of innocents by jihadis are continuing in both Iraq and Afghanistan, NOT exactly what we signed on for when we went to war in both countries. Are some Americans understandably skeptical about the rationale given by the administration and their allies to date on why we “must” intervene in Syria, considering the massive stockpiles of WMD we thought were in Iraq that were never found there? Yes. Are these the only considerations the American people are taking when it comes to determining whether or not to support action in Syria? No.
The real issue here is not weariness and skepticism due to Iraq. It’s the fact that our celebrity President, the supposed “greatest speech-giver evahh!!!!” hasn’t made a convincing case to date on Syria action, nor have the doves-turned-hawks in his party, nor have his adoring press. Why do you think he’s going before the American people next week? Because the communications/PR effort on this issue has been a disaster from the get-go, and this administration knows it. And they also know the more information that comes out about the Christian-hating jihadi “rebel forces” who oppose Assad, the likelihood that the opposition to using force in Syria will continue to grow.
By Ryan McMaken Thursday, September 5th, 2013
As Rothbard pointed out, war and militarism are socialism writ large, and not surprisingly, war is very expensive to the taxpayers, and especially to those who are the targets of military intervention.
There is presently a debate in Congress and in the media about how expensive the war in Syria will be. In the American policy debate The expenses are only calculated in estimated monetary terms, and so we know that the debate will of course ignore all damage done to the Syrians themselves and to global markets, which are always damaged and stunted by wars.
Nevertheless, even the very tame and limited argument over the costs to the U.S. treasury will be based mostly on conjecture and dishonest assessments of the true cost.
We might get some glimpses of some of the honest estimates as the debate rages between the bureaucrats and the politicians, although even those are still nothing more than estimates. The bureaucrats (i.e. the Pentagon) will use the drive to war in Syria as an opportunity to demand that more taxpayer money flow into their coffers. We have seen this already with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s claim that the tiny cuts imposed by sequestration “are weakening the United States’ ability to respond effectively to a major crisis in the world.” It will be in the Defense Department’s interest to high-ball the costs of the war.
Nevertheless, even the Defense’ Department’s claims of costs for the Syria war will likely be well below the true cost by the time the public hears them, for the Department will be restrained by the Obama Administration’s competing interest to make the war appear as cheap as possible. Fearing resistance from some taxpayers, the Administration will naturally wish to have the war appear cheap, easy, and no big deal, as regards to cost.
Indeed, John Kerry was claiming yesterday that unnamed “Arab countries” have offered to pay for the war. This claim by the Obama Administration should be seen as being on more or less the same levels as the Bush Administration’s claim in 2003 that the Iraq war and the reconstruction of the country would be paid out of Iraqi oil revenues.
Those who remember the debate of Iraq War costs a decade ago will also recall the Bush Administration’s outrage over General Eric Shinseki’s (correct) estimate that hundreds of thousands of troops would be necessary to restore peace to Iraq in a reasonable amount of time. The Administration claimed only a fraction of that number, and thus, only a fraction of the funds, would be necessary.
So, politicians want a war to appear cheap, at least up front, while the bureaucrats want bigger budgets. Once the war starts, though, all bets are off, and any political or legal authorization given to the administration to wage war will be a de facto blank check for future unlimited outlays for occupation and conflict on an unlimited timeline. We’ve already seen this in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and while the two countries descended into chaos, the claim was made that since the U.S. regime had “broken” Iraq and Afghanistan, the taxpayers were now on the hook to finance the “fixing” of the broken countries.
The regime knows that all it needs to do is start a war, and the money will begin to flow indefinitely. Thanks to Robert Higgs’s Crisis and Leviathan, we know that war is generally a winning proposition for states, for it leads to greater revenues and more control of the domestic population, continually ratcheted up by new wars. Rothbard noted in his essay “War, Peace, and the State” that while wars can lead to the downfall of states, they upside is often enormous for them, as wars secure vast new powers for the regime both domestically and internationally. And since Syria poses no threat to the U.S. military or to U.S. territory, the prospects are all excellent for the politicians, bureaucrats, government contractors and intellectuals who all stand to get rich off the latest conflict.
The taxpayers will of course fare less well, whether in the form of a far greater tax burden or by their misfortune in holding a currency ever more de-valued by the need to deficit-finance endless war.
For the government class though, times are good, as long as enough of the population can be neutralized or even convinced to support the latest conflict. Thanks to what Hans-Hermann Hoppe calls “the myth of national defense,” wars are among the easiest big government programs to sell to the citizenry, for so few are willing to entertain possibilities outside the status quo of state monopolies for the provision of defense.
And in those cases where convincing the voters might prove more challenging, the state can always goad foreign nations into making an aggressive move than can lead to war, or the state may rely on a small army of intellectuals to provide the propaganda necessary to sweep all opposition aside.
The cost to Americans in the form of higher energy prices, lost trade opportunities, and other hidden costs will be immense, but even the cost in dollars to the taxpayers when calculated in terms of the true costs of empire, cannot be predicted.
By Sanjeev Miglani KABUL – Sun Jun 3, 2012 3:38am EDT
(Reuters) – China and Afghanistan will sign an agreement in the coming days that strategically deepens their ties, Afghan officials say, the strongest signal yet that Beijing wants a role beyond economic partnership as Western forces prepare to leave the country.
China has kept a low political profile through much of the decade-long international effort to stabilize Afghanistan, choosing instead to pursue an economic agenda, including locking in future supply from Afghanistan’s untapped mineral resources.
As the U.S.-led coalition winds up military engagement and hands over security to local forces, Beijing, along with regional powers, is gradually stepping up involvement in an area that remains at risk from being overrun by Islamist insurgents.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai will hold talks on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Beijing this week, where they will seal a wide-ranging pact governing their ties, including security cooperation.
Afghanistan has signed a series of strategic partnership agreements including with the United States, India and Britain among others in recent months, described by one Afghan official as taking out “insurance cover” for the period after the end of 2014 when foreign troops leave.
“The president of Afghanistan will be meeting the president of China in Beijing and what will happen is the elevation of our existing, solid relationship to a new level, to a strategic level,” Janan Musazai, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry, told Reuters.
“It would certainly cover a broad spectrum which includes cooperation in the security sector, a very significant involvement in the economic sector, and the cultural field.”
He declined to give details about security cooperation, but Andrew Small, an expert on China at the European Marshall Fund who has tracked its ties with South Asia, said the training of security forces was one possibility.
China has signaled it will not contribute to a multilateral fund to sustain the Afghan national security forces – estimated to cost $4.1 billion per year after 2014 – but it could directly train Afghan soldiers, Small said.
“They’re concerned that there is going to be a security vacuum and they’re concerned about how the neighbors will behave,” he said.
Beijing has been running a small program with Afghan law enforcement officials, focused on counter-narcotics and involving visits to China’s restive Xinjiang province, whose western tip touches the Afghan border.
Training of Afghan forces is expected to be modest, and nowhere near the scale of the Western effort to bring them up to speed, or even India’s role in which small groups of officers are trained at military institutions in India.
China wants to play a more active role, but it will weigh the sensitivities of neighboring nations in a troubled corner of the world, said Zhang Li, a professor of South Asian studies at Sichuan University who has been studying the future of Sino-Afghan ties.
“I don’t think that the U.S. withdrawal also means a Chinese withdrawal, but especially in security affairs in Afghanistan, China will remain low-key and cautious,” he said. “China wants to play more of a role there, but each option in doing that will be assessed carefully before any steps are taken.”
JOSTLING FOR INFLUENCE
Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors Iran and Pakistan, but also nearby India and Russia, have all jostled for influence in the country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia, and many expect the competition to heat up after 2014.
India has poured aid into Afghanistan and like China has invested in its mineral sector, committing billions of dollars to develop iron ore deposits, as well as build a steel plant and other infrastructure.
Pakistan, which is accused of having close ties with the Taliban, has repeatedly complained about India’s expanding role in Afghanistan, seeing Indian moves as a plot to encircle it.
“India-Pakistan proxy fighting is one of the main worries,” said Small.
In February, China hosted a trilateral dialogue involving officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss efforts to seek reconciliation with the Taliban.
It was first time Beijing involved itself directly and openly in efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Musazai said Kabul supported any effort to bring peace in the country. “China has close ties with Afghanistan. It also has very close ties with Pakistan and if it can help advance the vision of peace and stability in Afghanistan we welcome it.”
(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley in BEIJING; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)
- The TAPI Scam – Why Is India Boldly Taking Responsibility for the Pipeline That Will Never Be Built? (therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com)
May 8, 2012 @ 9:22 am by Malou Innocent
Less than a week after President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan and proclaimed, “We broke the Taliban’s momentum,” the chairs of the Senate and House intelligence committees offered a candid assessment of the U.S. mission. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), alongside Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI), said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” “I think we’d both say that what we found is that the Taliban is stronger.” Their observations are the type of unvarnished truth that our military and civilian leaders typically avoid. U.S. and NATO officials meeting in Chicago later this month should take heed, especially since American taxpayer dollars are helping to fund the insurgents we’re fighting.
In a not-much publicized report last August from the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, researchers found that after the illegal opium trade, the largest source of funding for the insurgency was U.S. contracting dollars. It found that Afghan companies under the Host Nation Trucking program use private security contractors who then turn around and pay insurgents and warlords who control the roads we must use. Although the Commission on Wartime Contracting report did not mention how much was funneled to the insurgency, a similar protection racket was also uncovered a couple of years ago.
Task Force 2010, assembled by General David Petraeus, examined the connections between insurgents and criminal networks on the one hand and Afghan companies and their subcontractors for transportation, construction, and other services on the other. The task force estimated that $360 million in U.S. tax dollars ended up in the hands of insurgents and other “malign actors,” including criminals, warlords, and power-brokers.
The $360 million “represents a fraction of the $31 billion in active U.S. contracts that the task force reviewed,” Associated Press reporters Deb Riechmann and Richard Lardner explained. As Brussels-based International Crisis Group observed in a depressingly frank June 2011 report:
Insecurity and the inflow of billions of dollars in international assistance has failed to significantly strengthen the state’s capacity to provide security or basic services and has instead, by progressively fusing the interests of political gatekeepers and insurgent commanders, provided new opportunities for criminals and insurgents to expand their influence inside the government. The economy as a result is increasingly dominated by a criminal oligarchy of politically connected businessmen.
Is it any wonder why pouring massive piles of cash into a broken and war-ravaged system resulted in failure? Those who follow the news from Afghanistan will see how rent-seeking inadvertently strengthens that country’s twin evils: corruption and insecurity. As journalist Douglas A. Wissing writes in his eye-opening new book, Funding the Enemy: How U.S. Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban, in addition to foreign development advisers preoccupied with their own career advancement, development money itself was not countering the insurgency but rather paying for it. Combined with an enemy whose strategy was always about exhaustion, the result has been catastrophic.
Wissing writes, “I learned that the linkage between third-world development and US national security that foreign-aid lobbyists peddled to American policymakers was a faith-based doctrine with almost no foundation in research.” Year after year, the American public was spoon-fed government reports that lacked honesty about why our top-down security and development programs were constantly failing. Buildings were poorly constructed. Projects were bereft of proper oversight. Schools were built without teachers to staff them. Road construction contracts financed insurgent racketeering operations.
The undistorted evidence of a European-based think tank, a bipartisan congressional commission, and a report from military experts, assembled by the war’s former commander, leads to one conclusion: the war is inadvertently throwing American taxpayer dollars at insurgents killing American troops. What about this self-aggrandizing system is making Americans safer? Moreover, what about the safety of the Afghans whom planners in Washington swore to protect from the Taliban? In spite of the tripling of U.S. troops since 2008, a recent report by the U.N. mission concluded that 2011 was the fifth straight year in which civilian casualties rose.
As Feinstein said to CNN on Sunday, “The Taliban has a shadow system of governors in many provinces. They’ve gone up north. They’ve gone to the east. Attacks are up.” After over a decade of inadvertently funding the enemy and alienating the local people, Americans should not be surprised with such a dire outcome. If anything, they should be surprised that their elected leaders are finally telling the truth.
- U.S. Taxpayers Subsidize Afghan Insurgents (nationalinterest.org)
For leaders of smaller nations, a meeting and a photo op with the American President in the White House is always a huge thrill. And so Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt was no exception when she received the presidential treatment on February 24, basking in the glow of President Obama’s approval. The President (rightly) praised Denmark’s military contribution in Afghanistan and Libya, saying that the small Nordic country of 4.5 million people ”punches above its weight.”
As sweet as this praise must have been to the ears of the Danish prime minister, it was soon tempered by revelations that President Obama is very free with the use of this phrase. Danish television clipped together a montage showing Obama complimenting the leaders of Norway, Ireland, and the Philippines in exactly the same words, all for ”punching above their weight.” President Obama apparently has not used the expression about the British, despite the fact that he borrowed it from British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd.
The conservative Danish newspaper Jyllands–Posten noted that Obama must really be pleased with the Danes, as he said the same thing to the previous Danish prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, during his state visit last year, sitting in the very same armchairs under the same picture of George Washington. Meanwhile, an editorial in the left-of-center newspaper Politiken grumbled that it was the unfortunate Danish desire to ”punch above their weight” that had gotten the Danes involved in the Iraq war and other American affairs. The newspaper advocated that Danes stick to their own bantam weight class in the future.
The real question might be, however, whether the United States under President Obama is punching below its weight, making the contributions of others seem all the greater. From premature military withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan to selling out U.S. missile defense to the Russians and mouthing mechanical blandishments to U.S. allies like the Danes, President Obama is squandering a great foreign policy legacy.
Helle C. Dale is Senior Fellow in Public Diplomacy at The Heritage Foundation—and a native of Denmark.
Posted in American Leadership
- The Danish Jon Stewart Schools Obama on Using the Same ‘Punch’ Lines with Every Ally (newsbusters.org)
- Punch Drunk: Danish Television Captures the President Delivering The Same Back-Handed Compliment To A Series Of “Little Countries” (jonathanturley.org)
- Danish TV Host Mocks Obama for His Rhetoric “Maybe the copy key got stuck on the presidential speechwriter’s keyboard.” (blogginghounds.wordpress.com)