War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

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War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Sat May 25, 2013 10:14 am

(Tolstoy's original working title--little known fact!)

My reading of history has made me used to the fact that people forget. Living through this small slice of history has not yet made me used to how quickly people forget what should be obvious lessons of just a few decades (Vietnam, Algeria, USSR era in Afghanistan) much less those of just a few years ago (Iraq, Afghanistan).

Stay Out of Syria!
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Rams Fanny » Sat May 25, 2013 11:13 am

howard wrote:(Tolstoy's original working title--little known fact!)

My reading of history has made me used to the fact that people forget. Living through this small slice of history has not yet made me used to how quickly people forget what should be obvious lessons of just a few decades (Vietnam, Algeria, USSR era in Afghanistan) much less those of just a few years ago (Iraq, Afghanistan).

Stay Out of Syria!
I don't think it is that people forget, it's that people don't pay attention. Our Government has gotten very good at repackaging the same military operation as a new, unique, noble cause. We jumped in late to two World Wars, tipped the scales on both supplies and manpower, and decided we were the baddest, most noble protection against the 'bad guys'. With the Germans no longer around to kick around, we decided the Commies were who we had to 'defeat'. But Korea and Vietnam showed us we could no longer just land some tanks and overwhelming firepower and 'win'. It took us two decades before the Government dared repackage our military to 'save' someone else. No longer could it be a general cause, we had to save individual countries. Papa Bush made sure to stop the total destruction of Iraq so we could send the message that 'while we could crush you, we are the good noble people just here to save Kuwait'. We could debate the level of success Clinton had in Bosnia and Somalia but once again we had to 'save' peoples. Noble causes for the people to unite behind. New, unique challenges for the people (or at least the people's politicians) to attempt to claim the glory of their forefathers. The Bush/Obama wars have been nuanced once again. We've sold Iraq as 'saving' the people from their own Government (how noble!). The naked aggression in Afghanistan has been sold (the momentum of anger over 9/11 could only last so long) as 'saving' the people from the Taliban (look, girls now go to school). Noble cause, that. Short point long is that I think Americans remember our military exploits and lessons just fine but are convinced (not smart enough to see the BS of) each new action is a unique challenge so they don't see the obvious parallels.

Of course we're going into Syria. We MUST stop a Government from using chemical weapons on their own people. This is a unique outrage we must stop (well, there was the Iraq thing but since we did nothing let's not talk about that. Keep the narrative on point). After spending a few years in that mess establishing a gov't friendly to us and Israel, it will finally be time to save everyone from Iran. Never mind the outrages on the African continent. That would detract from the noble cause of constantly reminding the Saudis of our military might so they keep selling us oil on the relative cheap.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Sat May 25, 2013 11:15 am

Rams Fanny wrote: I don't think it is that people forget, it's that people don't pay attention.
Excellent point. There is that.

In part, I am talking about the leaders, who should know better. From Cheney/Rummy to Hillary/Kerry/Obama. Hubris a big ingredient to the mix.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Steve of phpBB » Sat May 25, 2013 11:50 am

Unfortunately, I don't think it's really hubris, at least not in the case of Syria.

(Iraq, yes.)

It's a feeling of watching the brutality and believing that it is possible to stop.

Which it might be - or getting involved might make things worse.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Rams Fanny » Sat May 25, 2013 12:34 pm

Steve of phpBB wrote:Unfortunately, I don't think it's really hubris, at least not in the case of Syria.

(Iraq, yes.)

It's a feeling of watching the brutality and believing that it is possible to stop.

Which it might be - or getting involved might make things worse.
But that is exactly my point....they are the same thing. Our Government telling us We need to save a people from their dictatorship. Stop the dictatorship but then what? We can stop most of the violence but Iraq has shown us that nation-building is far beyond the scope of our military (which it should be). The same warring factions which were previously held together by the threat of Saddam are now being held together (though increasingly loosely) by the threat of our 'advisors' and renewed military action if things fall apart. If we ever do get our folks out of Iraq it will simply fall apart. Syria is the exact same scenario. The repackaging I was referring to is the Dictator is using chemical weapons on his own people (which as far as I know still has not been conclusively proven the government used. Chemical agents have but we can't prove who set them off). WMDs? Chemical Weapons? Planned attack on Israel? They'll keep trying excuses until they hit one that provokes enough support to send the troops in. Same shit, different 'unique' mission.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Steve of phpBB » Sat May 25, 2013 1:15 pm

Rams Fanny wrote:
Steve of phpBB wrote:Unfortunately, I don't think it's really hubris, at least not in the case of Syria.

(Iraq, yes.)

It's a feeling of watching the brutality and believing that it is possible to stop.

Which it might be - or getting involved might make things worse.
But that is exactly my point....they are the same thing. Our Government telling us We need to save a people from their dictatorship. Stop the dictatorship but then what? We can stop most of the violence but Iraq has shown us that nation-building is far beyond the scope of our military (which it should be). The same warring factions which were previously held together by the threat of Saddam are now being held together (though increasingly loosely) by the threat of our 'advisors' and renewed military action if things fall apart. If we ever do get our folks out of Iraq it will simply fall apart. Syria is the exact same scenario. The repackaging I was referring to is the Dictator is using chemical weapons on his own people (which as far as I know still has not been conclusively proven the government used. Chemical agents have but we can't prove who set them off). WMDs? Chemical Weapons? Planned attack on Israel? They'll keep trying excuses until they hit one that provokes enough support to send the troops in. Same shit, different 'unique' mission.

I don't see this at all. Are you saying that Obama is looking for an excuse to get us involved militarily in Syria?

I think it's more the opposite - he is trying not to let us get involved. I believe (and please forgive me if I'm wrong, Howard) that Howard was even mocking Obama for not doing anything when it looked like the Syrian government had crossed the "red line" of chemical weapons. If Obama wanted to get us into war, he could have done it at many points over the past year or two.

Anyway, I am not as pessimistic about whether military force actually can stop a slaughter. It seems to have worked in Bosnia and Kosovo, once the right commitment was made.

Didn't an international military presence finally bring calm to Beirut after decades of violence? Even if it didn't work out so great for the Marines in that barracks? Or was that just a matter of the Syrian-backed forces finally just winning?
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Rams Fanny » Sat May 25, 2013 2:04 pm

They'll keep floating trial balloons until they hit on something which gives them widespread support. I suspect the administration was dismayed the chemical weapons idea didn't spark more outrage. They'll try something else. Attack on Israel? 'Known' AQ cell? Who knows. Do I think the Obama administration wants us in Syria? Absolutely. They just haven't found a good polling excuse yet.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by degenerasian » Sat May 25, 2013 4:20 pm

Problem is these new governments after the dictatorship are so fragile and unmotivated.

If you were the new president of Testicistan with American support, would you do a good job so that the Americans leave? The chances of you getting assassinated the day after the Americans leave goes up 100 fold. I would just remain useless so the Americans stay.

I find the same parallels with African aid. Why would an African nation bother to be competent so that the world cuts aid?

At some point, America has to say 'fuck it you're on your own' and live with the consequences even if 1 million people die.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Sat May 25, 2013 5:10 pm

Steve, you characterized my posts on this correctly. I was mocking Obama for the corner he painted himself into rhetorically. I applaud any action, or inaction, that avoids American involvement in war. Because not only is there a chance well-intentioned efforts will make things worse; the record of history makes this the odds-on favorite. Libya the most recent example, as this article makes the argument (and he didn't even mention Mali).

Hubris generally causes decision makers to discount the chances of action making things worse. Hillary and Obama discounted the possibility in Libya (based on their words--I know, they bullshit constantly, I understand the limits of my analysis, and as the memoirs come out I keep an open mind).

Ironic that the man who famously spoke publicly of the 'unknown unknowns', as well as live through the Vietnam era as a military veteran and as a public official, ignored the 'unknown unkonwns' risk as badly as anyone since Custer. I blame hubris, but that is just an opinion. Hubris is quite commonplace in history, back to the guys who coined the term. I'm playing the odds, not pretending to know what was in Barry's and Hillary's head when they invaded Libya for regime change. (Yeah, I said it!)
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Sat May 25, 2013 5:14 pm

degenerasian wrote:If you were the new president of Testicistan with American support, would you do a good job so that the Americans leave?
I say, "nut up"!
At some point, America has to say 'fuck it you're on your own' and live with the consequences even if 1 million people die.
Ah. Like Cambodia.

Something I've said repeatedly that I will say again. Fuck if I know if and when the US should've intervened in Libya. Or in Syria. Or in Bosnia, and later in Kosovo. Or Rwanda.

All I know is the record; and the role of Oil and Israel in such decisions (just sayin'--you all know how I love me my Israel).
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by degenerasian » Sat May 25, 2013 6:08 pm

What could the Americans have done in Cambodia? They had just withdrawn from Vietnam.

Could they have prevented 1 million deaths? Maybe. But at what cost? More American lives from the already 50000 lost in Vietnam? More money and more protests back home? And for what purpose, for a new puppet Cambodian government that would be attacked by Communist sympathizers anyways?

Just doesn't seem worth it. Wherever America sets up governments, those governments become purposely inept. From an American point of view, is the new Libyan government better than the last one? Would a new Syrian government be better than this one. It's like a dog chasing his own tail.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Sat May 25, 2013 6:14 pm

degenerasian wrote:What could the Americans have done in Cambodia? They had just withdrawn from Vietnam.
Not invaded Cambodia in the first place. Incredibly destabilizing. Even cost deaths at home--Kent State and Jackson State. A bad idea all around.

ETA: Of course, I'm playing the what if game--what if Sianook is not weakened by the effects of the Americanbombing campaign a year before the invasion? What if the coup against him doesn't take place (assuming it wasn't a CIA job in the first place, specifically to clear the way for two American divisions to invade). What if in the wake of the coup, the NVA doesn't invade? Does the chain of events that led to the successful Khmer rebellion not unfold?

I am just alluding to the possibility that had Nixon stayed out, perhaps the Khmer Rouge never take power, and they don't kill a couple million helpless citizens.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by degenerasian » Sat May 25, 2013 6:23 pm

howard wrote:
degenerasian wrote:What could the Americans have done in Cambodia? They had just withdrawn from Vietnam.
Not invaded in the first place. Incredibly destabilizing. Even cost deaths at home--Kent State and Jackson State. A bad idea all around.

I disagree. I would argue it was a different time where war was more prevalent and preventing the spread of Communism (Domino Effect) of the USSR made more ideological sense because they were a real threat. If you enter a war to stop Nazism, you should enter a war to stop Communism as well. Defending Vietnam is no different than defending England. They just fought that war strategically entirely wrong.

But today, 45 years later the world is different. There isn't one country enemy, it's a series of people who hate America. Why? As you said it's because of oil and Israel. If the Americans totally left the area, do Muslim fundamentalists still hate them? Does Israel get invaded immediately? Does Saudi Arabia's and other oil friendly nations government fall and oil stops being sold to America? Questions Questions!
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by degenerasian » Sat May 25, 2013 6:26 pm

Edit: If Nixon doesn't intervene, the Khmer Rogue take over even sooner. Just advance everything 10 years. Saigon falls in 1965.

Either way, Sihanouk is toast.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Sat May 25, 2013 6:29 pm

Sorry man, I was editing and adding while you replied.

It is entirely reasonable to argue the converse; that had Nixon not sent two divisions to fight the NVA in Cambodia, the Khmer take power sooner. No right answer, by 1970, as Nixon discovered. Thank goodness he was so concerned about re-election in '72; otherwise he might have kept escalating, stayed in Cambodia, spread to Laos, and prolonged the war even further. He was in a tough spot.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Sat May 25, 2013 6:29 pm

Clearly on the same page here.

See, Sianook gets a bad rap from history, because he 'switched sides'. He was one of those master politicians who in the process of threading the middle, prevented the popular support for the Khmer that swelled once Sianook was out and the American puppet military government took over.

I think.

I am far from familiar with all the details and subtleties. I haven't read about this stuff in a long time. At the time I was a teenybopper protesting against the War, regardless of Johnson or Nixon fighting it.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by degenerasian » Sat May 25, 2013 7:04 pm

howard wrote:Clearly on the same page here.

See, Sianook gets a bad rap from history, because he 'switched sides'. He was one of those master politicians who in the process of threading the middle, prevented the popular support for the Khmer that swelled once Sianook was out and the American puppet military government took over.

I think.

I am far from familiar with all the details and subtleties. I haven't read about this stuff in a long time. At the time I was a teenybopper protesting against the War, regardless of Johnson or Nixon fighting it.
But since he was treading the middle, either side could have backstabbed him. I do agree that if Ho Chi Minh led a Vietnamese government in 65, Sihanouk would have been his friend and the Khmer never exist. I can see that. scenario.

But if we are the play the game of what if, you have to go all the way back to 1945. Roosevelt had a plan at Potsdam to have international supervision of post-war Korea, China, Vietnam and other Asian countries. But then Roosevelt died, Truman bombed Japan twice and then he totally abandoned Asia (fuck it, we're done here). The only country in Asia that the Americans covered after the war were the Philippines.

China fell to the communists, Korea almost fell to the communists. MacArthur, as we know, chased North Korea right to the border but was stopped by Truman once the Chinese started firing. And then Vietnam fell. The Americans coming into a bad situation they could have prevented in 1945. In 1945 Vietnamese emperor Bao Dai wrote a letter to the international community asking for international aid and supervision of a new Vietnamese republic, it was ignored. In fact at this time, the US support the Viet Minh (who were secretly Communist)

Maybe if Roosevelt was alive a few more years, he insists on 'international supervision'. China remains a republic, Korea and Vietnam become new republics. Communists can't gain any power in these regions. The French don't bring their useless bayonettes back to Indochina.

So the Americans are always caught. If they say fuck it and leave, the whole area could collapse. If they stay in the region then they get shot at and they themselves kill people because they have to. Damned if you do, damned if you don;t.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Johnnie » Sat May 25, 2013 7:12 pm

I'll let you guys know how this shakes out when I get to Germany next month.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Sat May 25, 2013 7:24 pm

One of my favorite what if's is if Roosevelt had hung on a few months longer. And I'm not even talking Hiroshima/Nakasaki. The French reassuming their colonies was completely absurd; I like to think FDR would've slapped that shit back from whence it came.

I haven't thought about Cambodia in a long time. There was this dude who was a chef for the Sihanook family. He split in '70, and some time later opened a restaurant in SF. I enjoyed some of the best meals of my life there, and he threw in history lessons for no extra charge.

The best leaders of that region (and lots of the lesser ones) wanted nothing more than freedom from outsiders for their lands. Nationalism in the very best sense. Ho of course was the greatest. He sure left a vacuum when he passed from the scene. But these guys took risks when they formed alliances to further their ambitions of freedom. When you mess with the big boys (USA, Mao's China and the USSR), events have a way of rolling over you. And your little army and country.

Fascinating recent history of that part of the world. Great fucking food too. (See, the French aren't completely worthless.)
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by degenerasian » Sat May 25, 2013 7:32 pm

I believe Mao and Ho never happen if Roosevelt is there.

It's really difficult. If your premise is that the French reclaiming their colonies is absurd then there has to be US influence/interference in the region, the very thing you're arguing against today.

Who knows, I could have been a Vietnamese nationalist/anti-American fundamentalist bombing NYC in the name of Confucius.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Sat May 25, 2013 7:38 pm

Well, not exactly what I am arguing against today. Although us fighting against the French at Diem Bien Phu is an intriguing thought. Influence and interference is more (and less) than sending in the 101st Airborne. And isolationism may have been a good idea in the 18th century when General Washington advised it, but not so much in a world when no one else, most notably Stalin/USSR are not going to mind their own business. (Or Putin/Iran/Qatar/Saudi Arabia/Israel who are all fighting in Syria, directly or indirectly.)

It's a ball of confusion.

But I see you as more of a Buddhist, doing this on the White House Lawn:

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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Scottie » Sun May 26, 2013 1:01 pm

We're always at war with someone; it never stops. It's as much of an industry as the automotive industry or the food and beverage industry. The average Joe is just plain tired of it. We've been in Iraq so long that your average university student wasn't even born when the Gulf War began.

The fact that there is no sign of peace on the horizon suggests that peace is not in the best interests of that industry.

Ask yourself this . . . who was the last US President that wasn't involved in some conflict? Ford, maybe? That's just a guess. Technically we've been involved in the Korean War since 1948. And while that's been going on, how many armed conflicts has the United States participated in throughout that time?
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by degenerasian » Sun May 26, 2013 2:40 pm

Would the last time the US wasn't in a conflict be the Great Depression?
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Rush2112 » Mon May 27, 2013 12:18 pm

1934-1940 We weren't really involved.

'33 involved in a Cuban revolution. '34 landing in China to protect "interests."

'40 was sending troops to help with lend lease bases.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Shirley » Mon May 27, 2013 12:24 pm

Weren't we war-free during the Carter years?

And Reagan too, unless you count Grenada. We aren't counting proxy wars either, are we?
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by degenerasian » Mon May 27, 2013 12:29 pm

Wasn't the Cold War a continual thing with the arms race and everything?
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Scottie » Mon May 27, 2013 12:41 pm

Reagan and Carter were both involved in Lebanon. And Reagan was involved in Nicaragua. And bombed Libya.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Mon May 27, 2013 2:41 pm

I consider the Cold War a continuous conflict. It certainly led to us shooting in many of those years.

Carter was responsible for more death because of the proxy war in Afghanistan (and I am not counting blowback decades later--only the proximate warfare) than either of his military actions (Lebanon and Iran; Beirut was a true peace-keeping mission, iirc.)

ETA: A quick lookup, Carter deserves some credit for pressuring the Israelis to end their Lebanese action earlier than they may have preferred. I'm sure Yassir Arafat appreciated it. Then again, I am a bit biased.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Johnnie » Mon May 27, 2013 10:46 pm

So when McCain meets with the rebels in Syria, that's a bad thing, right?

I just can't help my drive my cynicism to thinking that if Obama did that he'd get skewered all over Fox News et al.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by govmentchedda » Tue May 28, 2013 6:06 am

Absolutely nothing.



Say it again.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Tue May 28, 2013 6:42 am

govmentchedda wrote:Absolutely nothing.



Say it again.
It's got one friend.

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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Rams Fanny » Thu Jun 13, 2013 6:40 pm

Steve of phpBB wrote:Are you saying that Obama is looking for an excuse to get us involved militarily in Syria?
Yes, yes I do.
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Johnnie » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:54 pm

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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Sat Sep 28, 2013 12:51 pm

Bumped, as I happened to re-read this during halftime of Swansea-Arse.

Fun discussion, SE Asia counterfactual cases for the mid-20th century. And other gems.
Who knows? Maybe, you were kidnapped, tied up, taken away and held for ransom.

Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago
Oh yeah…

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degenerasian
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by degenerasian » Sat Sep 28, 2013 2:38 pm

Swansea-Arsenal was that bad eh?
Kung Fu movies are like porn. There's 1 on 1, then 2 on 1, then a group scene..

howard
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Sat Sep 28, 2013 5:00 pm

Halftime. Not a bad scrap. Swansea played damn well. Tight, well-played scoreless first half, I took a break and read this.
Who knows? Maybe, you were kidnapped, tied up, taken away and held for ransom.

Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago
Oh yeah…

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degenerasian
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by degenerasian » Sat Sep 28, 2013 5:14 pm

you should do another swampcast summarizing this issue.
Kung Fu movies are like porn. There's 1 on 1, then 2 on 1, then a group scene..

howard
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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by howard » Sat Sep 28, 2013 5:38 pm

I'd bore myself to sleep
Who knows? Maybe, you were kidnapped, tied up, taken away and held for ransom.

Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago
Oh yeah…

howard
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And We're In Another One

Post by howard » Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:59 pm

Three guesses what the major export of South Sudan might be. Only ~30k barrels a day, none in the last two years. May be as much as 5 billion barrels still in the ground.

OTOH a few dozen troops for legit peacekeeping/evacuation may not be the worst thing in the world. As long as President Legacy cuts bait if full-scale civil war breaks out. We will see. Halliburton needs to eat too.

Obama may 'take further action' to protect Americans in South Sudan
Obama said in a letter that 46 U.S. military personnel were sent to Bor on Saturday in the evacuation effort.
Who knows? Maybe, you were kidnapped, tied up, taken away and held for ransom.

Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago
Oh yeah…

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Re: War (uunh!) What is it Good For?

Post by Gunpowder » Mon Dec 23, 2013 12:39 pm

degenerasian wrote:you should do another swampcast summarizing this issue.

Been forever since the last 'cast!
"Enjoyed this one," Gunpowder told the Burlington Observer. "But it's back to work tomorrow."

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