Edward Luce, the FT’s Washington columnist and commentator, reviews and summarises the book.
How long does it take for the US military to admit defeat? The answer is forever, according to Harlan Ullman.
Today there are US soldiers deployed in Afghanistan who were one-year-olds when the war began. Yet the Taliban is no closer to being banished than it was in 2001. Indeed, it occupies considerably more of the country today than it did two years ago.
Donald Trump campaigned against America’s endless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. He won the mandate to say “no” to the Pentagon. Yet, in power, he has given the Pentagon everything it has requested.
Ullman’s three explanations for this record of failure:
- First, the US keeps electing poorly qualified presidents.
- Second, they keep making strategic mistakes.
- Third, American forces lack cultural knowledge of the enemy
“Two exceptions were Dwight Eisenhower, who had been commander of US forces in Europe, and George H W Bush, who had been head of the CIA. Bush Senior wisely stopped the 1991 invasion of Iraq long before it reached Baghdad. Bush Junior was clearly not paying attention.”
He recommends a “brains-based” approach: Eisenhower combined brain and heart:
James Carden, a contributing writer at The Nation and executive editor for the American Committee for East-West Accord, points out that USA has “a national voter population that is largely skeptical of the practicality or benefits of military intervention overseas, including both the physical involvement of the US military and also extending to military aid in the form of funds or equipment as well – to quote a new survey” according to a new survey last November by J. Wallin Opinion Research. He records:
- 86.4% of those surveyed feel the American military should be used only as a last resort,
- 57% feel that US military aid to foreign countries is counterproductive and.
- 63.9% say that military aid—including money and weapons—should not be provided to countries like Saudi Arabia
- and 70.8% percent of those polled said that Congress should pass legislation that would restrain military action overseas.
But “There’s too much oligarch money in the arms and contracts to the military for Congress to ever listen to what the people want”: Sheila Smith indicates the serious problem endemic in both countries.
Brawn and brain have failed; the best option would be to heed the thinking of former general Eisenhower and the late Harry Patch – the true ‘bottom line’.
Media 37: the most misrepresented major story of 2014 – the gathering crisis between Russia and the West
On August 7th, J Oksana Boyko interviewed former Australian prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, known for his opposition to apartheid in South Africa, his humanitarian commitment to the resettlement of refugees and legislation to give indigenous Australians control of their traditional lands. More recently he has criticised the growing infringements of human rights, the basing of U.S. military forces in Australia, the concept of American exceptionalism and US foreign policy in general.
The nub of the problem according to Fraser – and others: the Ukraine was a traditional area of Russian interest preceding communism and Stalin; however, the United States decided it was going to become an area of western influence, of NATO influence.
Fraser recalls: “President Gorbachev believed that the first Bush administration had agreed that NATO would not move east. NATO had, after all, done its job”.From the website of Pietro Shakarian, an MA graduate student at the University of Michigan: “George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev in Malta in December 1989 (ITAR-TASS). The Bush administration informally promised Gorbachev that NATO would not expand “one inch” beyond East Germany. The promise was never fulfilled. To defuse the Ukraine crisis, a formal, written promise not to expand NATO by Washington to Moscow would do much to build mutual trust and confidence between both countries”. .
Fraser continues: “But then it pushed ahead to the borders of Russia, and I can understand Russians believing that’s a provocative move. There would have been other ways, less provocative ways, of ensuring the security and independence of eastern European states. I think the West then lost an opportunity to really begin to make Russia a collaborative partner . . . I can understand Russia being greatly disturbed about this . . . when (the Soviet Union) disintegrated, the West should have done everything it could to build a collaborative world . . . pushing NATO to the boundaries of Russia, in my view, was bound to do the opposite . . .”
Christopher Booker breaks the silence on evidence that the West has been pouring billions of dollars and euros into Ukraine: not just to prop up its bankrupt government and banking system, but to fund scores of bogus “pro-European” groups making up what the EU calls “civil society”. He cites Richard North’s report on his EU Referendum blog that the true figure, shown on the commission’s own “Financial Transparency” website, approaches €496 million:
“The 200 front organisations receiving this colossal sum have such names as “Center for European Co-operation” or the “Donetsk Regional Public Organisation with Hope for the Future”. The first page found shows how many are in eastern Ukraine or Crimea, with their largely Russian populations – the snapshot below shows 6 of the 30 donations on that page alone.
Booker believes that the West has brought about this crisis, rousing fears that its only warm-water ports in Crimea might soon be taken over by Nato – “a crisis . . . more reminiscent of that fateful mood in the summer of 1914 than we should find it comfortable to contemplate”.
Fraser is constructive: “Great powers very often, too often, interpret international law as what is in their particular interest at the time. Now, we need to try to make rules that everyone will support.
“If the United Nations is ever to work, great powers and lesser powers are all going to have to abide by the rules of the organisation. But it’s the great powers that tend to push the rules aside when it suits their national interests. And therefore, when the United States says that what Russia has done is in defiance of international law, well, that can’t be taken as gospel. The government and the change of power in Ukraine itself was surely in defiance of democratic principles.
“The Ukraine should be told that it can never join NATO, that other means will be found to make sure that the Ukraine remains secure. The West should be persuading those who are now in government in the Ukraine that within Ukraine they must learn the art of compromise. And those who are more inclined to Russia in the Ukraine, should also be persuaded by Russia – you must also learn the art of compromise”.
Will the voices of reason prevail?