Michael Vlahos writes:
The Spain of Quixote was in 1568 a world empire — and the king’s holdings covered the globe. Its fleets and armies seemed to be everywhere. So, too, is the United States today. With 700 overseas bases, its military personnel are equally omnipresent.
Spanish world authority in the 16th century and that of the United States today are at the core challenged not by “peer competitors” — but by marginal non-state communities at the very rim of civilization itself. How did this happen?
Spain for its part faced insurgents in a place that had only recently become part of its realm, such as the northern provinces of the Netherlands. Areas like Friesland had always been fractious, and no big state had ever succeeded in taming them. Sound familiar?
The Netherlands had for so long been a menagerie of principalities with only the loosest governance. Spain took over and began to make something new — the essence of nation building. In addition, the Spanish effort was determinedly focused on a “whole of government” solution, with their Catholic Church franchise prefiguring the U.S. State Department’s heavy involvement in Afghanistan today. [Continue reading…]
Vlahos writes (at end of Part I):
“Are not Saudi princes today still funding Al Qaeda in Yemen and Somalia?”
Of course. (And they probably continue to support “rogue elements”
in Pakistan’s ISI, to counter-balance Iranian influence in Afghanistan.)
This funding stream reflects both the diversity of views within the vast
Saudi royal family, and U.S. acquiescence to the same “Pressure-Relief Valve”
strategy that sucked anti-royalist Jihadis out of Saudi Arabia
and into the Iraq War.
U.S. “grand strategy” remains the same: Protect the U.S. Homeland
by drawing globally-mobile jihadis into overseas Free-Fire Zones
(where destruction of civilian Infrastructure and lives is “tolerable”),
and simultaneously defend “friendly” Saudi royal family control
of its Oil Infrastructure, by relieving pressures for internal revolt.
The Saudis are paying “Protection Money” to Al Qaeda,
just as Petraeus is paying it to Taliban “moderate warlords”
in Afghanistan. The Surge, is a surge in corruption and complicity.
And it will work … for a while. See “Extend & Pretend” below.
Vlahos writes (in Part II, Point #5):
“With logistical, political and financial pressures closing in,
[Spain’s General] staked out symbolic contests … to renew
Spain’s reputation at home and abroad.”
“Here [Spain’s General] too is akin to Petraeus, as both recognize
true political genius in war is about shaping both narrative and its
essential spin. Spain’s strategy, like ours, is all about saving face.”
But saving face is only a Means to an End. The goal here is to
MANAGE THE PERCEPTION of (relatively) undiminished American power.
Why? Because so long as, “The Emperor Has Clothes”, nobody
wants to be the first to try to de-legitimize and de-STABILIZE
the Imperial Order … under whose sheltering Security Umbrella
many global elites can maintain their own power niches.
(Even transnational *criminal* organizations maintain their power,
in part, because the Empire acts as an “Entry Barrier” to competitors!)
Petraeus’ Afghan PERCEPTION MANAGEMENT strategy functions in much
the same manner as the U.S. domestic financial TARP (et al) “bailout”.
Analysing this strategy, the phrase “EXTEND AND PRETEND”
perfectly captures the dynamic interactions between
Perceptions of value (power) and Reality. See ===>
*Perceptions* — positive or negative — *can* change Reality.
Vlahos writes (in Part II, Point #6: Tankers on the Khyber):
“There was now another wrinkle, a logistics nightmare that was
quickly becoming Spain’s main strategic vulnerability”
Vlahos correctly notes the “striking resemblance” between
Spain’s military logistic-supply problem, and ours in Afghanistan.
But he overlooks the perhaps more important parallel of PIRACY.
Although this seems a minor factor in the demise of Spain’s empire,
Piracy — in conjunction with higher (“Peak”?) Oil prices,
risks causing a “TIPPING POINT” for globalized economic supply lines.
As predicted, modern pirates are adept and “early adopters”
of innovative new dual-use Technologies:
#### “Somali pirates have stepped up their attacks …
#### to range the entire width of the Indian Ocean using
#### hijacked gas and chemical tankers as ‘Mother Ships’.”
#### “The dramatic expansion of their operations comes in the face
#### of a campaign against them by European Union and NATO navies
#### [*and* the U.S. Navy] and is now costing the world’s economy
#### $12 [Billion U.S.D.] a year.”
#### [Also, Piracy in Indonesian waters is increasing the threat
#### to the global supply lines that maintain economic stability
#### of a globalized Imperial Order.]
#### “The result — according to a consortium of experts from 18 nations —
#### is ‘a CRITICAL TIPPING POINT’ which could permanently
#### shift ‘maritime trade patterns’.”