Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 17, 2012

The "Nightmare" Withdrawal From Afghanistan

In its weekly analysis the well plugged in Swoop says about U.S. plans in Afghanistan:

Top US policy makers are coming to grips with the realization that the assumptions on which the ISAF's exit from Afghanistan were based are unlikely to be fulfilled. Pentagon contacts tell us that behind Defense Secretary Panetta’s hurried visit to the country following the killings of 16 Afghan civilians by a US soldier lies a deep debate in Washington about the timelines of the mission. Officials had hoped that at the forthcoming May 20-21 NATO summit in Chicago it would be possible to announce a credible strategy for the Afghan endgame. They are now increasingly gloomy that this and that, instead, an accelerated withdrawal will take place, with few guarantees of continuing stability inside Afghanistan. One senior Pentagon officer put it to us this way: “We are revisiting the Soviet nightmare.” For President Obama, the Afghanistan confusion seems unlikely to damage him politically. With the Republican presidential candidates also calling for expedited withdrawal, Afghanistan does not appear likely to feature as a controversial election issue – at least at this juncture.

The analysis is likely correct. But the "revisiting the Soviet nightmare" the senior Pentagon officer says is serious historic misjudgement.

For the Soviets the exit from Afghanistan was no nightmare at all. It withdrew its forces from the country in a well planned, over five years prepared and orderly manner. A rather stable regime was in place and a quite capable Afghan military with even its own full fledged air-force and missile artillery. Treaties with other countries were arranged and, even as the U.S. immediately broke its part and continued to finance the Mujahideen, there was a much better formalized pull out the U.S. is likely to manage.

Consider that the U.S. is currently on hostile terms with two of Afghanistan's biggest neighbors Iran and Pakistan and the other relevant neighbors in the north are Russian client state. Talks with the Taliban were broken off before they started because the U.S. could not even deliver on the agreed upon the confidence building prisoner exchange. Karzai can not be re-elected and it is completely unclear what the results of a new election in 2014 will be. It could be civil war within the current regime or a military coup.

The Soviet backed regime in Kabul was able to stay in its place for more than three years after the complete Soviet withdrawal. It only fell apart when the disintegrating Soviet Union cut off the money flow.

It seems unlikely to me that the current graft regime in Kabul, no matter how much finance it will get, will continue to function after the major U.S. forces leave.

The reasons for that are plentiful but the major one is, compared to the centralized top-down Soviet Union approach, a seriously dysfunctional foreign policy process in Washington with too many stakeholders, the president and his NSC, the state department, congress, the military and various other forces having a say on each and every tiny issue.

Posted by b on March 17, 2012 at 18:52 UTC | Permalink


Very good comparison. US policy is about as stable as the drift of a leaf in a hurricane wind, while everything they do just increases the force of the wind. Could be another roof-top rescue withdrawal as in Vietnam.

Posted by: JohnE | Mar 17 2012 19:08 utc | 1

As for stability, there are two things to consider; Karzai and Taliban. When the ISAF forces leave, Taliban will maybe target the former US collaborators, but generally things will become much quieter.

Already now, we can see violence have been drastically reduced in areas ISAF have left.

The problem Karzai faces at home is his collaboration with the US, but as these relations have largely been severed, he probably will have a boost in popularity. I don't think it is a given that he won't be re-elected.

Posted by: Alexander | Mar 17 2012 19:35 utc | 2

maybe, according to the game theorists, we've established conditions that will ensure "operation enduring turmoil" continues after the US departure.

looks to me like karzai may be able to keep himself in business fighting the taliban using his heroin revenue and whatever subsidies he gets from the US... if he's inclined to fight the taliban.

the main thing, though,is, there's got to be enough commotion to prevent pipelines...

failing at that, the neocon fallback position will be "humanitarian intervention" in balochistan, sponsored by the neocons... the deal would be, "you guys get your own country if you keep the chinese out of gwadar and block iran pipelines".

About 19,600 google results from: "operation enduring turmoil"

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 17 2012 19:40 utc | 3

Hamid Karzai has already made his fortune in bribes. I suspect once the US forces leave, Karzai will be following right behind them (after all his final term ends in 2014 anyway). Best to take his money and move to London like the Oligarchs. Why would he stay when the last 4 Presidents in Afghanistan have all been killed. Dead men can't spend money.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Mar 17 2012 19:50 utc | 4

Nah, the Iran - Afghanistan - Pakistan pipeline will be made, The US have delayed it for so long only.

Posted by: Alexander | Mar 17 2012 20:00 utc | 5

detail, neocon ralph peters "blood borders" map, redrawn with notes.

imageshack seems to have gone over to the dark side, and it's iffy whether or not you can get through the imageshack baloney to the orgiginal image... the url above is the original raw url, and maybe it will work.

peters' original map, which appeared in armed forces journal until it was pulled for what i assume were PR and propaganda reasons... peters' article, "blood borders", in which the map appeared, remains.

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 17 2012 20:00 utc | 6

alexander says, @5...

"Nah, the Iran - Afghanistan - Pakistan pipeline will be made"

well, there's an "iran/pakistan/india" pipleline possible... and the big boogyman, the "iran, pakistan, china" pipeline that's possible, and there's the "iran/pakistan" pipeline that's possible, with a spur to the chinese port at gwadar---another boogyman...

finally, there's the so-called "afghan pipeline" from turkmenistan through pakistan to india, eventually winding up at kennyboy lay's dabhol natural gas-fueled electric genrating plant...

but there's no iran/afghanistan/pakistan pipeline planned... look at a map.

the "afghan pipeline", from turkmenistan through afghanistan has always been kinda suspect, because the turkmen are inclined to exaggerate their reserves... there's enough gas there to fight over, but in the last ten years, putin has pressured turkmenstan to pipe its gas through russia, and the chinese have opened a pipeline from turkmenistan to china... so whatever gas is there is spoken for, and the "aghan pipeline" is a gone goslin', which may have something to do with our withdrawal from afghanistan.

yossi maiman, the mossad guy that was lobbying the US congress for a trans-caspian pipeline from turkmenistan to azerbaijan, was apparently banished from turkmenistan before the turkmenbashi croaked... this was before 9/11, and apparently maiman and turkmenistan gas were originally part of the PNAC project...

looks like they've given up on that ploy, at least for the time being.

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 17 2012 20:18 utc | 7

that sentence about maiman being banished... "yossi maiman, the mossad guy that was lobbying the US congress for a trans-caspian pipeline from turkmenistan to azerbaijan, was apparently banished from turkmenistan before the turkmenbashi croaked... this was before 9/11"... is misleading...

at the time of 9/11, yossi maiman was still quite the fair-haired boy, including in turkmenistan, but the turkmenbashi must have been a shrewd old codger, and by the time he died in 2006, maiman wad more-or-less dumped.

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 17 2012 20:33 utc | 8

colm says @4...

"I suspect once the US forces leave, Karzai will be following right behind them."

maybe so.

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 17 2012 20:36 utc | 9

"GOPAL: Well, that's right. And adding to that is a proxy war. I mean, they're training and—the U.S. has been training, for the last couple of years, militias essentially to act on their behalf, especially on the day when conventional troops start getting pulled back. And so there are hundreds of militias running around, especially in northern Afghanistan, who are either armed or trained or funded by the U.S. And a lot of these people are really grave human rights abusers, and I suspect that we're going to see a lot more of them and hear a lot more bad things about them as sort of the U.S. presence, the conventional U.S. presence, winds down"

Posted by: somebody | Mar 17 2012 20:40 utc | 10

somebody quote @10...

"...the U.S. has been training, for the last couple of years, militias essentially to act on their behalf..."

well, assuming that after ten years, the heroin trade has become organized, stabilized, and plugged into the global financial system, and drug revenue can be used as an "off the books" source of money to finance malcontents worldwide, maybe that explains the militias.

if the karzais are sufficiently plugged into this system, maybe they'd want to stay in afghanistan after the US leaves... because the US really wont leave as long as they control the drug trade.

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 17 2012 20:59 utc | 11

The Soviets didn't lose in Afghanistan; they morphed into Russians, and then switched sides.

Posted by: Watson | Mar 17 2012 21:21 utc | 12

The TAPI pipeline will never be built or operated but the IPI will be. The more the US stupidly pressures Pakistan and India against IPI, plus all these money blocks and sanctions, the more the BRICS block will consolidate their coordination. The IPI will branch off up into China, but probably as the "IPCI" pipeline.

Posted by: JohnE | Mar 17 2012 21:48 utc | 13

what you got to wonder about is... was the russian war in afghanistan part of some master plan to dismantle the USSR?

it's hard to know how paranoid to be, because, just when i've thought i've thought the worst, something worse yet comes along.

so we got the russians in afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, and in 1986, we get chernobyl.

then we get the disintegration of the USSR, and gang wars in russia to decide who gets to pick the bones and pick up the pieces afterwards... israeli russians seemed to be coming out on top, and it seems that PNAC expected this new russia to guarantee oil supplies to PNAC as PNAC rearranged the middle east to israeli spec.

then along comes putin, who chases the israeli russians out of russia (many of whom flee to israel), and the PNAC plan gets its first serious setback.

now, it could be that the destruction of the USSR is being replayed, only this time it's the destruction of the US, by the same methods.

can we expect a catastrophic nuke incident in the US? ...will it be a nuke generating plant meltdown, or mabye a nuke false flag? ...who knows.

the thing that keeps sticking in my head, though, is this: this is the last chance for... whoever... to establish their global dominance before oil shortages start making global dominance impossible.

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 17 2012 21:49 utc | 14

The US has absolutely lost, since the massacre. It was, as they say, a tipping point.

When you say, b,

For the Soviets the exit from Afghanistan was no nightmare at all. It withdrew its forces from the country in a well planned, over five years prepared and orderly manner.

you exaggerate. The Soviets had to withdraw under difficult conditions. It will be the same for the US, harried all the way.

Posted by: alexno | Mar 17 2012 22:14 utc | 15

The trick to staging a good puppet show is the ability to maintain control of the strings. If nothing else, the Iraq and Afghanistan adventures have taught us that our "leaders" are piss poor puppeteers.

These sacks of shit in DC seem incompetent to even choose and install faithful and loyal lap dogs when they engage in these costly and deadly misadventures and clusterfucks. We give fortunes to these people such as Karzai, thinking they will faithfully suck American cock indefinitely, when in reality, they take the money, then bite the dick that feeds them. They expose the leadership in DC as assholes and patsies, incompetent boobs that are consistently made to look like jackasses. Karzai, the Bush Administration's darling, always intended to say "fuck you" eventually. Meanwhile, this cowardly little monkey's rectum, George Walker Bush, hides in Texas, unaccountable and silent. Fuck these people. The Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Mar 17 2012 22:39 utc | 16

retreatingbladestall @ 7
I was thinking about the Iran - Pakistan bit, you're right.

@ 14
This might be a far fetch, but, humor me on this, and assume earthquake frequency can be approximated;
Possibly someone has seen the USSR-pattern you saw, and tries to apply that to USA.. I have been fearing a earthquake in USA is due soon, and that some nuclear powerplant will croke because of deliberate lack of maintenance.

Posted by: Alexander | Mar 17 2012 22:56 utc | 17

whatever happens, it'll probably be a surprise... or maybe not much of a surprise...

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 17 2012 23:22 utc | 18

"....and that some nuclear powerplant will croke because of deliberate lack of maintenance"

Even if faithfully maintained, (which they are not), it seems that would be no guarantee against catastrophic failure. Note the current shutdown at San Onofre, where recently installed, (at great cost), alloy steam tubes have inexplicably began to fail. Whereas big industry is primarily driven by the greed of our 1%, how can we expect them to adhere to the high cost of quality workmanship and materials? To the lowest bidder goes the contract, invariably. Who can doubt that these failing tubes are a result of some contractor or material supplier engaging in some cost cutting??? I can almost guarantee it. I see it on a daily basis in the trades.

Substandard materials and workmanship are becoming the hallmark of American industry. If we don't build shit, we import it. Either way, shit it is. Home Depot, Lowes, all narrowing our choices down to the CRAP they choose to sell us, at a price WE HAVE TO PAY, because they have trampled and bulldozed the competition out of the market place.

Today's American work force, building or retrofitting nuclear power plants, with chinese materials???? Oh dear. If that doesn't scare the shit outta ya, nuthin' will.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Mar 17 2012 23:34 utc | 19

One senior Pentagon officer put it to us this way: “We are revisiting the Soviet nightmare.”

reminds me of :

The lawmaker said the Wolesi Jirga would not sit silent until the killers were prosecuted in Afghanistan. "If the international community does not play its role in punishing the perpetrators, the Wolesi Jirga would declare foreign troops as occupying forces, like the Russians," Lali warned.

Posted by: annie | Mar 18 2012 0:15 utc | 20

It was obvious the moment the Kandahar massacre happened, that something had changed - sorry I didn't have time to post at that time.

At that time it seemed like a tipping point, but now it seems like an onrushing tide. The US is going to be out of Afghanistan in very short order. A real defeat. Not yet a Saigon.

I wonder what the consequences are going to be. Perhaps not a lot. How is the US affected by any of their wars? But the end of physical intervention on the ground.

Posted by: alexno | Mar 18 2012 0:33 utc | 21

@15 - read this account (pdf) from the US military to see support for b's claim.

There is a literature and a common perception that the Soviets were defeated and driven from Afghanistan. This is not true. When the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, they did so in a coordinated, deliberate, professional manner, leaving behind a functioning government, an improved military and an advisory and economic effort insuring the continued viability of the government. The withdrawal was based on a coordinated diplomatic, economic and military plan permitting Soviet forces to withdraw in good order and the Afghan government to survive. The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) managed to hold on despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Only then, with the loss of Soviet support and the increased efforts by the Mujahideen (holy warriors) and Pakistan, did the DRA slide toward defeat in April 1992. The Soviet effort to withdraw in good order was well executed and can serve as a model for other disengagements from similar nations.
The withdrawal agreement eventually ended up as a bilateral pact between Pakistan and the DRA, with the United States and the Soviet Union as guarantors. In addition, the US and Pakistan agreed not to interfere with the DRA government. Under the terms of the final agreement, signed on 14 April 1988, the United States and other nations would cease providing armaments and training to the Mujahideen, and Pakistan would deny the Mujahideen sanctuary and camps, but the Soviet Union was permitted to continue providing economic and military aid to the DRA.

Perhaps the United States should learn to abide by it's treaty obligations in future - it might prevent another f***up like Afghanistan, but I doubt it will while "Washington" is populated by morons who think they can put one over on their opponents.

Posted by: blowback | Mar 18 2012 1:07 utc | 22

retreatingbladestall @ 14.

what you got to wonder about is... was the russian war in afghanistan part of some master plan to dismantle the USSR?

That's a question on many lips at present. saw fit to re-publish an old (2007) perspective by M D Mazemroaya a few days ago.
5 years on, it's probably more relevant now than when he wrote it.

The Sino-Russian Alliance: Challenging USA's Ambitions in Eurasia

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Mar 18 2012 4:50 utc | 23

@22 blowback, the noteworthy point in that document is that the Soviet Union did not involve all stakeholders in negotiations and that Iran then was allied to the muhajedeen and by proxy to the US (as it is allied by proxy to the US in Iraq).

The Soviet Union was colonialist in Asia (comparable to China in Tibet) in the sense that their - Russian - culture was incompatible to local culture. Sure, the US fought their influence sphere before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan by supporting Muhajedeen. And sure any uprising in Afghanistan would spill over into Soviet republics, so Soviet leaders were extremely nervous about that and tried to fight it in Afghanistan.

US policy had been defined by fighting against the Soviet Union in the cold war, capitalism against communism, and they supported whoever would guarantee to kill the communists. After Gorbachev removed the Soviet Union from this fight, the US had to find a new formulation of what their foreign policy would try to achieve.
They are very bad at it: basically they make up the ideology as they go along ...

But yes the weapons industry always wins and the heroin trade ...

Posted by: somebody | Mar 18 2012 6:56 utc | 24

25 uncle sam, they are bluffing. Iran has mountains there along the coast.

a missile on a US-tanker blocks the strait of Hormuz just like any mining ...

Posted by: somebody | Mar 18 2012 9:29 utc | 26

10 guys with shoulder-mounted missile-launchers could probably hold those straits

might not even need that, mortars might do it at a pinch

Posted by: Hu Bris | Mar 18 2012 10:12 utc | 27

'If nothing else, the Iraq and Afghanistan adventures have taught us that our "leaders" are piss poor puppeteers.'

Perhaps it's because puppets make poor puppeteers.

Posted by: Sultanist | Mar 18 2012 11:41 utc | 28


The Soviet Union was colonialist in Asia (comparable to China in Tibet) in the sense that their - Russian - culture was incompatible to local culture

Tibetan Buddhism spread all over China, and is a fundamental part of Chinese culture and identity, together for example with Confucianism and Taoism

Posted by: claudio | Mar 18 2012 12:32 utc | 29

29 Claudio, with that logic Germanic tribes would still be in Rome and occupy Jerusamlem

but if you do not like Tibet for an example, take

Yes, of course, as a rule in colonial enterprise, outside powers try to exploit the differences ...

Posted by: somebody | Mar 18 2012 13:34 utc | 30

we obviously need to stir up enough trouble in xinjiang so we can do a "humanitarian intervention" there...

it's not as if they have any oil, or anything.

"The oil fields in the Tarim Basin and Taklimakan desert in Xinjiang Province are large but are also among the most remote in the world and expensive to develop.

By some estimates they contain at least 74 billion barrels of oil—three times the proven reserves of the U.S. and one third of the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia."

kinda hard to sustain your "clash of civilizations" against muslims when the Uighurs in xinjiang province are muslims and have so much oil, isnt it?

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 18 2012 13:54 utc | 31


with that logic Germanic tribes would still be in Rome and occupy Jerusamlem :-))

indeed they would, if Germany had been richer, industrially more advanced than Italy, and culturally more autonomous;

on the other hand China is more developed than Tibet, and its rulers aren't crowned by the Dalai Lama

Posted by: claudio | Mar 18 2012 15:13 utc | 32

'the thing that keeps sticking in my head, though, is this: this is the last chance for... whoever... to establish their global dominance before oil shortages start making global dominance impossible.'

This is precisely why I believe purposeful depopulation is in the near future. Global domination will not be relinquished by the global plutocracy and oil is essential to maintaining it. Considering oil is most likely past its peak and on the downside something has to give and that something is going to be the masses. Populations must be significantly scaled back to servile manageability so that global domination can be assured.

Posted by: Sultanist | Mar 18 2012 15:43 utc | 33

Sultanist says, @33...

"Populations must be significantly scaled back to servile manageability so that global domination can be assured."

thank goodness the neocons have come up with the answer... lie to everyone about peak oil and global warmning, then cook up some excuse to use our nuclear primacy to rid the world of a couple billion useless eaters in china and russia... the indidans better watch their step, too.

in the meantime, we have to grab the remaining oil to prolong business as usual for as long as possible, to prolong our looting opportunities, because the project might fail, and we might have to buy refuge.

god forbid anyone tells the truth, so people might be able to make up their own minds about reducing their birthrate.

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 18 2012 16:06 utc | 34

The US will probably have as hard a time as the the Soviets did, when their empire collapsed. That's Dmitri Orlov's theory. Except the US empire's fall will probably be a much harder one, that lands the nation in an abject state of irrelevance and medieval blight. I don't like to think of the suffering because it will effect everyone I love and know, the people I grew up with and see on the street. But the Kandahar massacre was the turning point (and probably the high water mark of empire) especially if the Jirga decides to brand all foreign troops as occupiers.

Of course Karzai is a puppet, but the forbearance of Afghani people, where occupiers are concerned, has about run out. And most everyone knows what that means.

Posted by: Copeland | Mar 18 2012 17:18 utc | 35

And Obama is a puppet. I shouldn't fail to mention that.

Posted by: Copeland | Mar 18 2012 17:26 utc | 36

Sultanist @ 33 -- And, under Obama, with the Republicans striving to make even deeper cuts, energy assistance for the poor has been cut about in half.... States with budget problems exacerbated by high unemployment are already unable to fund such programs. With the Feds cutting back, the states have to develop actual "death panels" of their own to decide which among the poor will get any assistance for heating, in the temperate areas, and air conditioning, in the warm to hot areas. It's either first apply/first served or some kind of decision making guidelines to decide who gets any help.

So, yes, depopulation will begin, with the deaths of small numbers initially, with the next round of weather extremes.

And people are seriously wondering how hot the coming summer will be, given the high early temperatures in the US. Given the uncertainty of weather changes in a changing climate, who can tell. But the severity of tornadoes so far and this early in the season is making some climatologists very concerned.

As noted above, people we see and some we know will suffer. Not just in Third World countries, but in the declining "developed" nations as well.

Also, Sultanist @ 28, not only do "puppets make poor puppeteers," they make piss poor leaders in times of change and possible looming catastrophe. Leaders who do not suffer as their populations do tend to ignore those problems until they are too big to manage. As Jared Diamond noted in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed>

Posted by: jawbone | Mar 18 2012 17:49 utc | 37

32, hey Claudio, that is what I mean by colonialism ... :-))

The dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme is nothing more than a convenient excuse for the US to use threats to protect the 'reserve currency’ status of the dollar,” the newspaper, which calls itself the voice of the Islamic Revolution, said.
“Recall that Saddam [Hussein] announced Iraq would no longer accept dollars for oil purchases in November 2000 and the US-Anglo invasion occurred in March 2003,” the Times continued. “Similarly, Iran opened its oil bourse in 2008, so it is a credit to Iranian negotiating ability that the 'crisis’ has not come to a head long before now.”

Posted by: somebody | Mar 18 2012 18:10 utc | 38

Jawbone @ 37

I think it is prudent of USA to bring home troops, and wrap up any wars, as soon as possible, so they can stand by FEMA. I've seen this kind of tendencies in the weather before, 24 and 12 years ago there was mild winter and spring, scorching summer and massive hurricanes the following fall. And the pattern has become more enhanced, hotter and windier. I live on the other side of the planet, but I bet the same apply in the US.
Maybe it would be healthy with a rude awakening, to motivate properly to find some alternative fuel, and stop waring for oil. Maybe even let Iran use nuclear power instead of fossil fuel..

Posted by: Alexander | Mar 18 2012 18:33 utc | 39

@AlexNo The Soviets had to withdraw under difficult conditions.

No, not really. Read the relevant books about this by Lester Grau on Operation Magistral. It was a well planned and well executed withdrawal, not a retreat under fire. A really good example of disengagement.

Posted by: b | Mar 18 2012 19:29 utc | 40

President Obama signs executive order for control over all US resources.


On March 16th (2012) President Obama signed a new Executive Order which expands upon a prior order issued in 1950 for Disaster Preparedness, and gives the office of the President complete control over all the resources in the United States in times of war or emergency.

The National Defense Resources Preparedness order gives the Executive Branch the power to control and allocate energy, production, transportation, food, and even water resources by decree under the auspices of national defense and national security.  The order is not limited to wartime implementation, as one of the order's functions includes the command and control of resources in peacetime determinations.


Posted by: Noirette | Mar 18 2012 19:30 utc | 41

it is true. let them bury themselves.

Posted by: somebody | Mar 18 2012 20:10 utc | 42

I wonder if the ideas of the Classic Liberals will ever make a comeback. The idea of free trade with all and leaving other people alone as long as they leave you alone would be major step forward in bringing the world to peace and prosperity.

I bet that I will not live to see it.

Posted by: Mark Stoval | Mar 18 2012 21:08 utc | 43

somebody #38, China accepted Tibetan Buddhism, only wasn't awed by its feudal landlord monks; colonialism implies racism and some imposition of culture; but maybe that's only my personal vocabulary

look, I largely agree with what you said originally @24, except that I don't think it's helpful to frame Ussr's intervention in Afghanistan and China's annexation of Tibet in terms of "colonialism" and "incompatible cultures"; I's say more they are "identities" excited, against "classical" imperial constructions, by western money and propaganda; there is a long history of this sort, beginning with the famous Greek revival (1821 onwards) against the Ottoman empire;

maybe a common vocabulary, at least for such important terms as Empire, imperialism, Colonialism, etc would help fight the dominating ideology ...

Posted by: claudio | Mar 18 2012 21:42 utc | 44

Noirette @ 41 and somebody @ 42

Mh.. that was pretty striking, I haven't seen that before..
I'm not saying the Obama administration prepares for a weather- or climate-related crisis, but It definitely is a preparation for exceptional challenges. Maybe it's some 2012 apocalypse thingy... or maybe it is the 11-/12-year cycle climate-pattern I pointed at.

Posted by: Alexander | Mar 18 2012 21:51 utc | 45

Claudio, I agree, colonialism implies racism and some imposition of culture;
what do you think "not being awed by feudal landlord monks" translates into?
China and old Russia were classical empires ... same as India and Persia ...
and imposition of culture comes down to such practical issues as what type of calendar is taught at school, as an empire has to enforce people to agree on what day it is at least ...

Posted by: somebody | Mar 18 2012 22:12 utc | 46

at 43, to hell with the "free". I think people hear this word and they start to drool and fall to their knees. The world is filled up; we're pooping into each other's water; belching into each other's air. Fisherman, who consider themselves "free", are vacuuming the seas. The automobile manufacs think every man/woman is "free" to have his/her own car. Think of those billions of air hogging cylinders: you couldn't stay in the same room with just one of them.
Their are no new lands ripe for the plow for the first time in the history of Our Fair Sister.

Posted by: yes_but | Mar 18 2012 23:52 utc | 47

somebody, point taken; but I was thinking of the highly respected Tibetan temples in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities; you don't have native American totems in central New York (aside of museums);

Posted by: claudio | Mar 19 2012 0:03 utc | 48

somebody@38: Thanks for the link. The reserve currency issue is more than a passing concern. It would cripple the economic leverage exerted by the US around the globe if the trade in petro dollars switched currencies. The US would attack Iran if they started to trade oil in other than dollars. So maybe the March 20 date, referred to in your link, is more important than people think. Or maybe they'll get Israel to do the deed. We'll see.

Posted by: ben | Mar 19 2012 3:02 utc | 49

I do not think they can attack Iran in any meaningful way, Ben. Look at that mountain range. It would block the Strait of Hormuz for sure.

They thought they could economically isolate Iran. They shot themselves in the foot. If China and India trade directly with Iran not via the Dollar, and this catches on (and it will), it spells the end of cheap consumer goods and services for the US, whilst the US is stuck with a huge trade deficit/ dollar devaluation, that makes it more expensive for the US to buy Iranian oil but not the rest of the world. A fully integrated India, Iran, Pakistan trade zone would be a real (nuclear) power.

So maybe the US will prefer to make oil expensive for everybody by getting the strait of Hormuz blocked. That however would not reverse the Iran/India trade agreement, just postpone it. It would also endanger US troups in Afghanistan and what remains of them in Iraq. I am not sure what Pakistan would do, the Taliban probably would join into the mayhem. It certainly would endanger Israel.

It is lose, lose, really. The surprising thing is, they did not see this coming.

Posted by: somebody | Mar 19 2012 4:42 utc | 50

just for a perspective who is isolating whom

Posted by: somebody | Mar 19 2012 5:07 utc | 51

somebody says @50...

"The surprising thing is, they did not see this coming."

didnt see what coming?

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 19 2012 8:15 utc | 52

@somebody | Mar 19, 2012 12:42:19 AM | 50

A fully integrated India, Iran, Pakistan trade zone would be a real (nuclear) power.

This is exactly what Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, Syria's Grand Mufti also says.
A very objective analysis here about current crisis in Syria how it will affect AfPak etc.

Posted by: hans | Mar 19 2012 8:18 utc | 53

@ben, comment 49

So maybe the March 20 date, referred to in your link, is more important than people think

Fwiw, March 20 is the beginning of the Persian new year (Nowruz) this year. It makes quite a bit of sense to choose that date for changes referred to in that article.

And another fwiw, I relatively recently read an interview with an adviser to the Chinese government on the subject of the USDolar as reserve currency. His estimate: it will take about 30years for that monopoly position to be quashed (can't link to it though, it was one of the Jpn news sites behind a paywall).

@hans, comment 53. Interesting article, thanks for that link.

Posted by: Philippe | Mar 19 2012 9:34 utc | 54

it's always seemed that this "dollar reserve currency" argument was mostly a red herring, designed to take attention away from the real cause of PNAC's new pearl harbor and the "war on terror"... the real cause being, peak oil.

whatever, to summarize...

assuming that one of the main goals of the PNAC 9/11 project was to thwart chinese access to central asian/persian gulf oil and gas, the afghanistan war has kinda outlived its usefulness... the opium growing ahs been reestablished (success), turkmenistan gas is going to china (failure), the caspian pipeline no longer seems to be a possibility (failure), turkmenistan gas is going to iran (failure), and chinese apparently have abandondoned their plans for a tanker port at gwadar (success).

turkmenistan gas, going to russia, china and iran, is spoken for, there's no longer any danger of it being piped, via afghanistan, to the chinese port at gwadar.

local militias have been established to protect the opium growers, the opium trade has been rationalized, the karzai government is invested in the opium growing and will likely resist taliban efforts to eradicate opium growing.

so we can pull the troops out of afghanistan.

if the indians quit their pathetic groveling towards israel and israeli america, and start pushing for the IPI (iran/pakistan/india pipeline), we can use our hillbilly malcontents in baluchistan to stir up enough trouble to prevent the pipeline, or maybe enough trouble to give us a pretext for "humanitarian intervention"... the deal being, "you guys get your own country if you keep the chinese out of gwadar and resist attempts to build pipelines from iran through your territory to india".

the baluchis are caught... they get their own contry without pipeline revenues if they knuckle under to israeli american demands, but they probably wont get their own country without assistance from israeli america.

why are we abandoning turkmenistan gas? ...after all, we've got troops in afghanistan, just a stone's throw away from turkmenistan's biggest gas field... putin (and the chinese?) must have put his foot down, again, and liberating turkmenistan's gas will have to wait for the next level of escalation.

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 19 2012 10:09 utc | 55

I think the proper analogy here is not the Soviet withdrawl, but the British retreat from Kabul in 1842...

Posted by: ralphieboy | Mar 19 2012 10:25 utc | 56

It's got nothing to do with the reserve currency discussion, it means a tie between countries for imports and exports. It is basically the end of free markets (which were never really completely free)

India and Iran trading with Dollars means India has to get Dollars ie sell to the US or other countries paying in Dollars ie sell globally and Iran can buy globally with the Dollars they receive (forget about the sanctions, or remember the sanction as Iran can no longer work this system).

India and Iran trading on rupees means India can pay with the currency they print and Iran has to buy goods from India or find somebody else who accepts rupees ie intends to buy from India.

So India insures their exports with the oil they buy. It also insures their exports against rising oil prices - as the rupee guarantees a correlation.

It will be hard to compete with that.

Posted by: somebody | Mar 19 2012 12:17 utc | 57

They thought they could economically isolate Iran. somebody wrote.

From an article in Le Temps. 17 march 2012, pay wall, no back door.

Article: Iran is to be cut off from SWIFT, international payment system, 80% of its intl. trades are thru it. SWIFT submits to a decree / decision of the Council of Europe.

Me: Iraq never faced similar, and such a move is unprecedented. In short, guff about banking sanctions has in the case of Iran taken on a new face, a tremendous escalation. Usually, global commerce in energy is not much affected, though it may proceed, thru alternative channels, e.g. oil for food, Iraq, and cheating under that program. So far, imho, threats to cut off and isolate Iran have been the ‘usual’ - with much fuss made about minor things, etc.

Article: Washington is asking India to reduce imports from Iran... Iran will have to go back to FAX and set up shadow Cos / banks, to sell and get paid. Or trade directly with India, like in oil for food, or accept rupees to spend in India. Iran has been buying extravagant amounts of wheat - from the Midwest in the US, paying over market price, and getting cut out of SWIFT will affect that trade, to the detriment of the US wheat biz. (It is also buying wheat from others.)

The article goes on to say that the EU will, after its ban, go on immediately to make ...exceptions!

one article on this topic from gulf times:

Posted by: Noirette | Mar 19 2012 14:24 utc | 58

Thanks to Noirette for pinpointing a very interesting situation. Presumably being
blocked with respect to the SWIFT network will be very troublesome for Iran and Iranian
industries. The interesting question, it seems to me, will be whether or not this boycott provieds a sufficient stimulus to midwife the birth of a global (or Asiatic) rival to the SWIFT network. Presumably there's money to be made in conducting the clearing operations for intercurrency financial transactions, and each of China, India,
Russia, and Iran itself certainly have classes of "oligarchs" who might be willing to
take on such a formidable challenge to the status quo, with its Euro-American domination
of this "financial chokepoint". It is also reasonable to conjecture that some or all of the governments of these countries might be quite happy to back (discreetly?) their national oligarchs in this endeavour. If this challenge does indeed emerge over the next few months, the Iran sanctions campaign may well be yet another example of Western
powers shooting themselves in the foot (or in this case, in their wallets) in pursuit
of a financial version of "full spectrum dominance". In the past it has been pointed out that bringing such alternative schemes or markets into existence is more easily said than done, but perhaps this is a case in which "financial inertia" will be offset by the combined forces of oligarchic greed and perceived national interest on the part
of the above mentioned states, as well as some other mavericks (Venezuela comes to mind).
Needless to say, all of this is mere conjecture, perhaps even fantasy finance, so I would love to see the pro and counter arguments regarding the feasibility of such an evolution in the international financial system. Certainly, the major stake holders in the current SWIFT system can be expected to fight any such movement tooth and nail. Furthermore, I would imagine (but don't know) that member banks of the SWIFT system sign contracts with exclusionary clauses of some sort in joining the system, such clauses being inserted in the contracts in order to make it difficult to set up a rival network. Since it is by now amply clear that I know nothing about the issue at hand, I close here, awaiting better informed comment.

Posted by: Hannah K. O'Luthon | Mar 19 2012 15:37 utc | 59

seems to me that economists are on a par with old time astrologers and fortune tellers... they are hired by the establishment to tell the establishment what it wants to hear, they're hired to rig the system so the bigwigs profit, and maybe most important, they're hired to confuse the public with incomprehensible economic theories that only seem to make sense while obscuring the truth.

so, here's a non-econnomist's assessment of what's happening...

oil production is flat, demand is growing, we need to grab oil, and to grab the oil, we have to print money to pay for the wars.

this money-printing ploy sort of works ---at least emporarily, but it also creates conditions in which looters flourish, and the looters are really the only rational people in the financial racket... they'll stack up enough hard assets to buy refuge when the system can no longer maintain the illusion of competence and the shit hits the fan.

seems a certainty that the big wheels had peak oil figured out by the early 80s, when, after massive oil exploration efforts in the US, we didnt find much oil... not nearly enough to compensate for american production peaking in 1970... and that's when certain factions started working on the endgame strategy, because they knew that the US, once the world's biggest oil producer, was a preview of what was gonna happen to oil production globally.

in the endgame, the bigwigs could have told us the truth and maybe we could have figured out a rational plan, but instead, they chose to print money until the dollar becomes worthless, grab oil until they cant afford to grab any more, keep people so befuddled with their bullshit economic theories that the system was gridlocked in the status quo,

above all, the endgame strategy is loot, loot, loot.

if you're a zionist, well, that's just too goddamned bad... you can commit nuke suicide, or you can reform yourself and hope palestinians have heart enough to forgive you.

it remains to be seen if the rest of the world will forgive you.

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 19 2012 16:58 utc | 60

Re: Noirette @ 58 -- An NPR Morning Edition segment today on sanctions on Iran claims that sanctions are working, that the earlier sanctions on doing business with Iran's oil industry has led to lower production due to no new investment and difficulty in obtaining parts, etc.

Europe will soon no longer accept Iranian oil, and thus Iran will lose even more revenue. (And those EU countries...what will happen to their energy costs? Not addressed.)

It goes on to say SWIFT is working more quickly, and working well, in that small businesses in Iran are unable to import clothing, grocery items, any number of consumer goods or business needs. This is considered part of the objective of cutting Iran off from SWIFT: Hurt the people of Iran to the point they will decide to overthrow the existing "regime*."

It's fookin' magic, how well that's going to work!

All this is making Iran's government "nervous," and thus they will finally bend to the will and demands of the West.

Electoral politics from the current US administration? Wishful thinking? Realism? To be determined....

Audio at link; transcript to come.

*Note than all governments of whch the US disapproves are called "regimes"; "regimes" are bad. Governments of which the US approves, even those which drive their citizens into proverty and misery through austerity are good. The US government is, of course, good in all ways possible.

Posted by: jawbone | Mar 19 2012 18:06 utc | 61

Hannah K. O'Luthon @ 58 -- I've been wondering how difficult it would be for nations wishing to do business with Iran to set up some sort of alternative SWIFT.

I keep thinking that the US may someday wish it had not opened up this kind of industrial, financial war on Iran.

I guess when the Big Banksters are running a lot of the current administration, they think they can control just about everything. And if things go cow pie, they'll get themselves bailed out again, eh?

Posted by: jawbone | Mar 19 2012 18:16 utc | 62

@14 - what you got to wonder about is... was the russian war in afghanistan part of some master plan to dismantle the USSR?

i thought maybe this was common knowledge, but so much gets suppressed. and, iirc, Brzezinski has since denied it. originally appeared in a french journal i think.

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Posted by: Proton Soup | Mar 19 2012 19:31 utc | 63

Proton Soup @63...

"i thought maybe this was common knowledge..."

what i was driving at was: whose master plan was it?

a combination of the afghan war and chernobyl paved the way for the israeli russians to take over the remains of the USSR... does that have anything to do with anything?

and lots of people think chernobyl was sabotage...

how paranoid is too paranoid, looking back at the way things have turned out? ...looking at where we seem to be headed?

if we assume that peak oil and its implications wereknown and understood by the late 70s...

i dont know

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 19 2012 19:55 utc | 64

the timeline is pretty interesting...

the aghan war runs from 1979 to 1989...

chernobyl happens in 1986, and exxon dumps its nuke power division

the USSR dissolves, takes a few years, from 1985 to 1991

exxon overtly signs on with the neocons of the AEI in 1998...

AEI's PNAC says it needs a "new pearl harbor" in 2000

the AEI/PNAC new pearl harbor happens a few months after AEI/PNAC people assume some of the highest positions in the US government

exxon signs big deals with russia shortly after 9/11

CEO of exxon, lee raymond, becomes co-chairman of the AEI's board of trustees in 2002

in 2003, khodorkovsky, the yukos CEO already in hot water with putin, attempts to sell yukos to exxon...

by 2004, israeli russians were purged, many of them fleeing to israel... khodorkovsky's jailed

then there's the neocons' vilification of putin after he clamped down on the chechens, who were supposed to detach the black sea region from russia, thus depriving russia of its only access to the mediterranean.

just looks like a pattern to me

Posted by: retreatingbladestall | Mar 19 2012 20:33 utc | 65

sure, Iran sanctions are working :-))

Business people will make deals any way they can, that is why they became business people in the first place ...

this from the heart of the US empire, it will be the tip of the iceberg:


Internal company records show that Koch Industries used its foreign subsidiary to sidestep a U.S. trade ban barring American companies from selling materials to Iran. Koch-Glitsch offices in Germany and Italy continued selling to Iran until as recently as 2007, the records show.
The company’s products helped build a methanol plant for Zagros Petrochemical Co., a unit of Iran’s state-owned National Iranian Petrochemical Co., the documents show. The facility, in the coastal city of Bandar Assaluyeh, is now the largest methanol plant in the world, according to IHS Inc., an Englewood, Colorado-based provider of chemicals, energy and economic data.
Engineer Challenged Sales
“Every single chance they had to do business with Iran, or anyone else, they did,” Bentu, 46, says."

do you really expect the West to admit, that sanctions are not working, or Iran to boast about that they are not working ...

Iran is not sanctioned by Iraq, by China, by Russia, by Azerbajan, they share their language with Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and deep cultural roots with India

Sanctions presumably saved them from the spillover of the US financial crisis.

Posted by: somebody | Mar 20 2012 7:06 utc | 66

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