A war with Iran would be “disastrous on a number of levels,” according to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
In an article appearing in the latest issue of Parameters, the U.S. Army War College quarterly, Gates wrote that with the army already bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, “another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need” – despite the fact that Iran “supports terrorism,” is “a destabilizing force throughout the Middle East and Southwest Asia and, in my judgment, is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.”
Editor’s Comment — Haaretz also notes that in another document, the Pentagon’s 2008 National Defense Strategy, Gates does not include Israel among the US’s “closest allies” — those being the “U.K., Australia, and Canada.”
This might be newsworthy but it shouldn’t be surprising. It’s easy enough to see why the US is an ally of Israel — “one in helpful association with another” — but not vice versa. Does Israel help the United States? Not in any ways that I’m aware of — but I welcome suggestions to the contrary.
In order to try to create an exclusively Jewish state in what had been the culturally diverse land of Palestine, Israel’s founders expelled or drove into flight half of Palestine’s Muslim and Christian population and seized their land, their houses, and their property (furniture, clothing, books, personal effects, family heirlooms), in what Palestinians call the nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948.
Even while demanding – rightly – that no one should forget the Jewish people’s history of suffering, and above all the Holocaust, Israel has insisted ever since 1948 not merely that the Palestinians must forget their own history, but that what it calls peace must be premised on that forgetting, and hence on the Palestinians’ renunciation of their rights. As Israel’s foreign minister has said, if the Palestinians want peace, they must learn to strike the word “nakba” from their lexicon.
Some must never forget, while others, clearly, must not be allowed to remember. Far from mere hypocrisy, this attitude perfectly expresses the Israeli people’s mistaken belief that they can find the security they need at the expense of the Palestinians, or that one people’s right can be secured at the cost of another’s.
The two events, half a world apart, went largely unheralded.
Early this month, Valero Energy in Texas got the unwelcome news that Mexico would be cutting supplies to one of the company’s Gulf Coast refineries by up to 15 percent. Mexico’s state-owned oil enterprise is one of Valero’s main sources of crude, but oil output from Mexican fields, including the giant Cantarell field, is drying up. Mexican sales of crude oil to the United States have plunged to their lowest level in more than a dozen years.
The same week, India’s Tata Motors announced it was expanding its plans to begin producing a new $2,500 “people’s car” called the Nano in the fall. The company hopes that by making automobiles affordable for people in India and elsewhere, it could eventually sell 1 million of them a year.
Although neither development made headlines, together they were emblematic of the larger forces of supply and demand that have sent world oil prices bursting through one record level after another. And while the cost of crude has surged before, this oil shock is different. There is little prospect that drivers will ever again see gas prices retreat to the levels they enjoyed for much of the last generation.
The departure this month of the last of the 28,500 extra troops sent in a U.S. military buildup leaves Iraq in a rickety calm, an in-between space that is not quite war and not quite peace where ethnic and sectarian tensions bubble beneath the surface.
Politicians and U.S. officials hail the remarkable turnaround from open civil war that left 3,700 Iraqis dead during the worst month in the fall of 2006, compared with June’s toll of 490, according to Pentagon estimates.
Signs abound that normal life is starting to return. Revelers can idle away the hours at several neighborhood joints in Baghdad where the tables are buried in beers and a man can bring a girlfriend dolled up in a nice dress.
Despite the gains, the political horizon is clouded: Shiite Muslim parties are locked in dangerous rivalries across central and southern Iraq. Kurds and Arabs in the north compete for land with no resolution in sight. U.S.-backed Sunni Arab fighters who turned on the group Al Qaeda in Iraq could return to the insurgency if the government does not deliver jobs and a chance to join the political process.
A US military officer quoted in the excellent report by the International Crisis Group into Taliban propaganda operations released a few days ago says, “unfortunately, we tend to view information operations as supplementing kinetic [fighting] operations. For the Taliban, however, information objectives tend to drive kinetic operations … virtually every kinetic operation they undertake is specifically designed to influence attitudes or perceptions”.
This is strategic thought of extreme novelty, and in no small way helps explain the relative success of the Taliban so far in Afghanistan. In terms of a communication strategy it certainly goes well beyond the clumsy international coalition efforts which have remained largely focused on the international audience. Western press officers’ ability to talk to the Afghan public is hindered by their minimal language skills and the cultural gaps that separate them, and remains very limited.
Equally, the idea that military operations should be decided primarily according to their effect on populations and thus should be determined to a significant degree by the exigencies of modern media technology and by journalists is anathema to most western soldiers, most of whom see the press as a necessary evil at best.
The Taliban by contrast are quite happy to shape their military strikes according to the media demand. They know that spectacular attacks such as that on Kabul’s Serena hotel or the repeated attempts on President Karzai’s life are effective.
Most Americans have a rough idea what the term “military-industrial complex” means when they come across it in a newspaper or hear a politician mention it. President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the idea to the public in his farewell address of January 17, 1961. “Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime,” he said, “or indeed by the fighting men of World War II and Korea… We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions… We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications… We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
Although Eisenhower’s reference to the military-industrial complex is, by now, well-known, his warning against its “unwarranted influence” has, I believe, largely been ignored. Since 1961, there has been too little serious study of, or discussion of, the origins of the military-industrial complex, how it has changed over time, how governmental secrecy has hidden it from oversight by members of Congress or attentive citizens, and how it degrades our Constitutional structure of checks and balances.
From its origins in the early 1940s, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was building up his “arsenal of democracy,” down to the present moment, public opinion has usually assumed that it involved more or less equitable relations — often termed a “partnership” — between the high command and civilian overlords of the United States military and privately-owned, for-profit manufacturing and service enterprises. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that, from the time they first emerged, these relations were never equitable.