Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Doing big things takes big money

So now the US is talking with the Sadrists in Iraq. You know, the guy who the US has tried to kill more than once, and proclaimed a threat to the Iraqi government as well. Actually, the US has been negotiating with the Sadrists since 2006. On the one hand, this is probably the least-bad option for the US at this point. On the other, this means that between the Kurds, the Sunni, and now the Shia you've got the US arming or funding or training all three sides in the looming Iraqi civil war. That's gonna be one hell of a party, but the outcome's not really in doubt: the Shia get power, the Sunni get subdued, and the Kurds (probably) get screwed, again.

Meanwhile, CBC radio ran an interview tonight with Asadullah Khalid saying -- and he's following the lead of Hamid Karzai, here -- that we need to negotiate with the Taliban. Which we might as well do, because the Taliban are retaking all the places we supposedly just cleared out. You know, like they always do.

You know, I've been thinking about the Russo-Japanese war recently. A relatively small war, the Japanese and Russians fought over who would control the Korean peninsula. I say "relatively" because despite the relatively low importance other great powers saw in the conflict, it totally destroyed the Russian Navy and gave Japan the toehold on the Asian mainland it needed to begin it's empire. And the Japanese recognized it's importance: during the war, Japan in fact spent nearly 25% of it's GDP on military spending, according to some estimates. (This number would translate to 250 billion dollars in Canada's money.) The Japanese in fact didn't spend a larger portion of their wealth on military spending until 1942, when they'd managed to blunder in to a global war.

The point, pardon the digression, is this: foreign policy (even in "small" theaters) is expensive. You cannot, in fact, do it on the cheap. You can especially not wage war on the cheap with small armies under-equipped to do their jobs. If you try it, you might as well just accept that you're not going to "win" in the way westerners are used to winning. Negotiations usually follow this bleak realization. Not because it's at all complicated, but because our egos and preconceptions get in the way.

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