Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hideously kinky: the establishment's wars

Interesting duel in the Sunday NYT book section. On the one side is that indefatigable fluffer of all things Petraeus, Dexter Filkins, who gets to tell his favorite surge fairy tale all over again in his review of John A, Nagl's book. I think of Filkins as an exemplary figure, failing ever upwards in an establishment that has been astonishingly unmarked by 13 years of American foreign policy failure, which has mired the US in unwinnable and even incomprehensible wars all over the Middle East and Central Asia. The Filkins style of indirectly acknowledging this - which is the establishment style of tiptoing the graveyards that its criminality has filled - comes in the fourth graf: "The last Americans didn’t leave Iraq until 2011, after about 4,500 of them had been killed and more than 30,000 wounded. At least a hundred thousand Iraqis died, too." Notice the Iraqi casualty addendum, which is as true as saying, about the Holocaust, that "at least a million Jews died too." The establishment, especially the NYT,loves big data and columns that make statistical points using a well established science of sampling. But it appears that in the world of sampling, Iraq forms a strange exception. The lancet's sampling, which long ago showed six hundred thousand deaths, has been supplanted by the latest survey, showing nearly a million. The Filkins half truth maneuver is the answer to this persnickety question of the extent of the establishment's catastrophic policy of "humanitarian intervention." On the other corner, you have the review of Daniel Bolger's Why We Lost, which dares to deride st. Petraeus. This is reviewed by Andrew Bacevich, who is on his best behavior. One feels that he actually agrees with Bolger that Petraeus was a jerk, a showboat, and a man whose surge was designed to disguise the inevitable: the retreat of the US from Iraq. But he doesn't outright say that Bolger has an excellent argument here - he shifts the focus to the politics of the war. Here, of course, Bacevich is right. The Generals didn't lose the war - the war was pre-lost in 2001, when the Americans rallied around the dangerously negligent government that had allowed 9.11 to happen as though the incompetence had never happened, and allowed them to expand the terrain of their incompetence, which of course they happily did. 
Eventually, Bolger concludes that America's enemies in the two wars are "everybody" - of which there is no more absolute condemnation. It is Kurz at the end of his tether.  But the establishment doesn't want to swallow that. Hence, our current swollen Pentagon, our Patriot act, our eliminationist rhetoric against ISIS. It is all a very bloody farce, and will go on until we don't have that extra trillion dollars to pay for all the fun.

Biden's foreign policy: let's bet everything on authoritarianism!

  And watch it all slip away (Por fin se va acabar) Or leave a garden for your kids to play (Jamás van a alcanzar)  --- The Black Angels, El...