As the province's largest power user it is anticipated that the forest industry will use forest biofibre to replace fossil fuels to reduce the costs of heat and electricity for their manufacturing processes and at the same time offset significant electrical demand on Ontario's power system," says the draft.
But the envisioned biofibre industry would accomplish much more, including the creation of new business opportunities. "Resources such as forest biofibre will be used to replace non-renewable inputs for the production of biomaterials, bioenergy, biopharmaceuticals and other bioproducts."
Indeed, the draft continues, "the demand for forest biofibre is anticipated to increase and become more diversified."
Emerging technologies will make forest biofibre increasingly useful. New enzymes and bacteria can be used to help turn the material into ethanol fuel, and some companies considering this approach are already looking at towns like Hearst as possible sites for cellulosic ethanol plants.
Pyrolysis machines will be able to convert the biofibre into bio-oil and synthetic gas used for heating and power generation, or char for agriculture enhancement and carbon storage.
The oils extracted from forest biofibres can even be broken down or mixed into various chemicals used to produce everything from plastics to foods. On a more basic level, the material can just be burned directly for heat or electricity.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
It's simple. It'd work. But of course since drugs are EVIL, such a common sense solution will never be adopted. It's interesting to ask why - are Americans, and indeed Europeans, really so inflexible, so indoctrinated with hatred of "drugs", that they can't do what it takes to win? In so many things we see this inflexibility - this decision to keep doing things the way they have always been done, rather than to adapt to the terrain, the people and the enemy.
Our enemies, ironically, despite coming from "traditional" societies, have no such hangups. Not convinced of their own military superiority, knowing that they can lose, having to make do without half the military budget of the entire world behind them, they are able to adapt to what we do, and by refusing to play our game by our rules they are beating us. In Iraq we lose. In Afghanistan we lose. In Lebanon a militia defeated what was supposed to be one of the most elite of all Western-style militaries.
We win the open-field battles, but we are losing the wars. And it is because we can no longer see clearly; and seeing clearly we can no longer adapt. The western military, heir of the greatest military tradition in the world, a Goliath standing astride the world, is being defeated not by David with a sling, but by a swarm of ants who refuse to sit still and be smashed by our mighty club.
And the Afghan opium problem is just another example of how we insist, in the face of failure, on doing the same thing that already failed, over and over again.
-- US/UK catfighting over Iraq! Y'see, the British realize that Iraq is going to be an ungodly disaster no matter what they do, so they're leaving. Clearly, they don't understand how this means they hate freedom.
-- And yes, Iraq is an ungodly disaster. Let's try this:
What the NIE is saying is that, more than four years after the war began, the strategic goal has not been achieved -- and there is little evidence that it will be achieved. Security has not increased significantly in Iraq, despite some localized improvement. In other words, the NIE is saying that the United States has failed and there is no strong evidence that it will succeed in the future.It's clear, at this point, that US troops are going to be kept in Iraq until Bush's term ends, simply to make it look like someone else "lost" the war. The immorality of it all disgusts me.
-- Or there's this: "Iraq does not exist anymore".
-- But this is interesting: despite the oft-heard claim that Iraq is an "artificial" country, that it was merely created by the Brits post-WWI, at least one historian argues that in fact, Iraq has been a single political unit for much longer than westerners realize -- 19th-century documents regularly refer to the Arabs of Iraq, and even occasionally refer to the Kurds of Iraq as well. The exact borders may have been different, but the binding of Baghdad, Basra, and occasionally Mosul as a historical community is pretty old:
Galbraith’s “Iraq was just cobbled together” thesis is similarly trite and equally misleading: it is true that for some thirty years between the 1880s and 1914 there was administrative separation between Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, but before that there had been frequent intervals of administrative unity between some or all of these areas (especially Basra and Baghdad) – as was the case under the Ottomans and Georgian mamluk rule in the early nineteenth and eighteenth century as well as during long periods of the classical Islamic age (and even under a succession of Mongol rulers after 1258, if more flimsily so).It gives me some hope that Iraqi nationalism might put the country back together again.
-- Switching gears, slightly: 1 in 4 Canadians is facing medical costs from environmental pollution. They clearly don't understand that we can't afford not to pollute -- it would hurt the economy! See also: Pollution causes 40% of deaths, worldwide.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
In all likelihood, then, Western Europe could have pulled through without the Marshall Plan. But it certainly could not have pulled through without the United States.This part is almost certainly untrue, despite the well-trodden view that it represents. After the end of the war, Stalin was absolutely petrified of the possibility of another war, and it's kind of bizarre to argue that Europe's economic recovery would have happened anyway without also acknowledging that Western Europe's military recovery would also have happened. The turmoil of the post-war years didn't stop the French from sending troops to Indochina or the British to Africa, or later both countries to the Suez, did it? The most likely outcome, America-free, is a less generous European social contract, not Soviet domination of every state east of the Pyrenees.
At the time that Marshall made his speech in Harvard Yard, no one could be sure that all would turn out for the best in postwar Western Europe. No one could even be sure that the United States would deliver on Marshall’s pledge. All people could remember was the sad sequence of events that had followed the previous World War, when Western Europe was swept by general strikes and galloping inflation, while the United States Senate reneged on Woodrow Wilson’s “plan” for a new order based on collective security. The Marshall Plan was not the only difference between the two postwar eras, but, to West Europeans struggling to make ends meet, it was the most visible manifestation of American good will—and a mirror image of the Soviet policy of mulcting Eastern Europe. This, more than its macroeconomic impact, explains its endurance in the popular imagination. At a time when, according to the Pew Research Center, only thirty-nine per cent of Frenchmen and thirty per cent of Germans have a positive view of the United States, that is something worth remembering, and pondering.For authors like Ferguson, who seem to basically have an intractably sycophantic view of American power, it will always be just before the dawn of a new Marshall Plan. There's always some new bold international initiative that America could spearhead that would change the world for the better and sail past what we thought were the horizons of the possible. And yet, America never delivers. Or at least, not since the Marshall Plan has America delivered the kind of immense, nearly-unconditional aid that Europe got after the war.
Does that make America bad? No, of course not -- we don't have any claim on their money. But you'd think it would make people like Ferguson more circumspect about how central America's role is in the world. Ferguson whines about how modern Europeans just don't appreciate how good America was to their grandparents, which is probably true but also couldn't matter less. So (also via Ezra, you should really just read him instead) I find that this article on Nicholas Sarkozy has by far the more important statement about Continental views of America:
Now, for the first time, it’s possible to imagine modernization as something independent of Americanization: when people in Paris talk about ambitious kids going to study abroad, they talk about London. (Americans have little idea of the damage done by the ordeal that a routine run through immigration at J.F.K. has become for Europeans, or by the suspicion and hostility that greet the most anodyne foreigners who come to study or teach at our scientific and educational institutions.) When people in Paris talk about manufacturing might, they talk about China; when they talk about tall buildings, they talk about Dubai; when they talk about troubling foreign takeovers, they talk about Gazprom. The Sarkozy-Gordon Brown-Merkel generation is not unsympathetic to America, but America is not so much the primary issue for them, as it was for Blair and Chirac, in the nineties, when America was powerful beyond words. To a new leadership class, it sometimes seems that America is no longer the human bomb you have to defuse but the nut you walk away from.America's fall in the world (relatively speaking) is a self-inflicted wound, like they always are. After Vietnam, America's allies still believed they needed Americas protection -- now they almost certainly won't. That's going to be a radically different landscape than the late 1970s, early 1980s. Especially so if the NATO mission in Afghanistan collapses as I suspect it will.
What Brown, Merkel, and Sarkozy all have in common is that they do not want to be defined by their response to America—either unduly faithful, as with Blair, or unduly hostile, as Chirac became. Instead, as Levitte says, they all want to normalize relations with a great power that is no longer the only power. Its military weakness has been exposed in Iraq, its economic weakness by the rise of the euro, and its once great cultural magnetism has been diminished by post-9/11 paranoia and insularity. America has recovered from worse before, and may do so again. But it is also possible that the election of Nicolas Sarkozy may be seen not as the start of a new pro-American moment in Europe but as a marker of the beginning of the post-American era.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Matt says that even when Generals do raise their voices (citing Gen. Eric Shinseki) they're ignored, and not just by the President. He's right, and this is the broader argument that McMaster makes, but also Tim Weiner in Legacy of Ashes, his new history of the CIA. The President policy goals inevitable shape the advice he's given, not the other way around. In DoD, McMaster notes repeatedly how Generals couched their advice to Johnson and McNamara to fit the overall plan (escalation in Vietnam) while hoping, sometime in the vague future, to get the war they wanted. Weiner notes a number of occasions where the CIA provided the intelligence the White House wanted, not the intelligence that the evidence supported, and yes this goes back well before Iraq II.
Secondly, there's the problem of the advice that Generals actually provide. In DoD, McMaster makes it clear that the advice the General staff were witholding from their President was that they believed the Vietnam War could only be won with a land invasion of North Vietnam and unrestricted bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. They weren't saying this because they were trying to scare LBJ away from his policy goal -- they sincerely wanted a land invasion of North Vietnam, and hoped Johnson would call up sufficient forces and economic measures to make that possible. This was also an insane idea, and would only have added to the body count without "winning" America anything in the process. So when Matt says that Rick Shinseki was trying to warn us away from Iraq by talking about an occupation force of hundreds of thousands, I'm not so sure. It's equally plausible that Shinseki, in the tradition of the Army, simply expected Bush to make those forces available. Shinseki hasn't talked publicly about Iraq since leaving from the Army, but I think the "scaring us sensible" explanation for Sinseki's remarks is problematic.
Finally, we don't only need to listen to Generals. The biggest problem with the run up to the war in Iraq was not that we weren't warned about the consequences of invading a hostile Arab country. Plenty of voices -- all over the world -- accurately predicted the situation America now finds itself in. But in America, the only voices (apparently) that are allowed to be skeptical of military force are those currently wearing a uniform and in active duty. It's ridiculous how narrow this is, but look back and even prominent war skeptics who were "merely" ex-military were sidelined. Scott Ritter, (USMC, ret.) and former weapons inspector, was proven right but slimed and then ignored at the time. Hell, Lt. Gen Brent Scowcroft (USAF, ret.) came as close as possible to delivering poppa Bush's own spanking to his son, and was acknowledged but had zero impact. The war critics who didn't have the advantage of having killed people in America's name might as well have not existed in the American media.
Worrying about whether or not "the Generals" will speak up next time misses the point -- we shouldn't be relying on the Generals to speak about foreign policy ex cathedra in the first place. Rather, we need a media that allows war skeptics to be seen as legitimate and co-equal to the Generals. Until we fix that, pinning our hopes on whether or not we have competent officers at the Pentagon is a waste of time.
One thing that struck me is that CNN actually brought up the thing that Gonzales should have been fired for -- his authorship of Bush's torture memo: the one where Gonzales called the protections of the Geneva Convetions "quaint" and obsolete. But whatever it takes -- I'll be happy to see the last of this bunch, even if we do have to endure the boss for another 15 months or so.
Friday, August 24, 2007
"Doesn't he realize that if the U.S. had stayed in Vietnam longer, they would have killed more people?" said Vu Huy Trieu of Hanoi, a veteran of the communist forces that fought American troops in Vietnam. "Nobody regrets that the Vietnam War wasn't prolonged except Bush."Meanwhile, Bush also compared Iraq to the occupation of Japan, saying:
“An interesting observation, one historian put it, ‘Had these erstwhile experts’ — he was talking about people criticizing the efforts to help Japan realize the blessings of a free society — he said, ‘Had these erstwhile experts had their way, the very notion of inducing a democratic revolution would have died of ridicule at an early stage.’The response by the historian in question?
“They [war supporters] keep on doing this,” said MIT professor John Dower. “They keep on hitting it and hitting it and hitting it and it’s always more and more implausible, strange and in a fantasy world. They’re desperately groping for a historical analogy, and their uses of history are really perverse.”Read that link in particular -- Dower has a long record of opposing the war in Iraq specifically because it bears no relation to the successful occupation of Japan. But hey, when you start using Alden Pyle as a referent to support your war, you've pretty much lost any grip on appropriate comparisons...
Thursday, August 23, 2007
It's difficult to know exactly which part is most offensive. There's this part:
``One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like `boat people,' `re-education camps,' and `killing fields,''' Bush said in Kansas City in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the largest U.S. veterans' group.Of course, the killing fields were in Cambodia, not Vietnam, and it was the work of America's allies the Khmer Rouge. Meanwhile, there were plenty of killing fields in Vietnam with the US there, except they were called "free-fire zones". And Vietnam had immense waves of internal refugees before the Americans left, not to mention the nearly 2 million dead by the end of the American involvement in the war.
Then there's the near-hysterical point that Bush specifically brought up the Alden Pyle character in The Quiet American. It's insane, but he actually seems to think that this reinforces his arguments, not undermines them. It's kind of like saying that the message of Star Wars is how you can always trust your dad, that's how crazy this is.
The other obvious point is, as Matthew Yglesias points out, that the worst predictions about Vietnam were in fact proven wrong by events. Yes, the war ended badly there. But the end of the war was, all things considered, preferable to continuing the oceans of blood flowing out of the Mekong.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Too lazy to hunt it down, but awhile back I predicted that there was an X% chance September's new FU would be rebooted with Maliki being replaced. We must give the new prime minister a chance to succeed, blah blah. With any luck it'll be Iyad Allawi! Yay! I think X was a fairly low number, though now I'd certainly put the chance of it happening on the higher side.So now we're back to talking about a coup. But the problem isn't that the Iraqi government is led by a bad man. The problem is that the Iraqi government, as we usually understand such things, doesn't exist. Meaning that a coup, if it were started, would not be the end of things -- it would be the beginning of something new. In Vietnam, when the Americans orchestrated the coup against their picked man, Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam went through 7 successive governments in two years, and the end process was that collapse of the Vietnamese war effort and their replacement by hundreds of thousands of US forces.
So what happens if the Iraqi government collapses entirely? Well, there's no troops to send, so that ain't happening. But the odds of the American soldiers suddenly finding themselves in a much, much worse place are pretty good.
Which brings me to this -- if you haven't seen this yet, you really need to read this piece by soldiers from the 82nd Airborne:
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.It's nice to see the troops on the ground are facing the possibility that nobody in Washington seems to want to talk about: it's always possible that if the US doesn't leave Iraq by choice, it could be forced out, with a lot more dead bodies on both sides.
Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.
We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The Taliban, under the command of Mullah Mansoor (brother of the legendary Mullah Dadullah, who was killed in battle this year), are in Satellite town, Quetta, to talk of teega. The next rounds are scheduled for Peshawar, the provincial capital of North-West Frontier Province, and in the Waziristan tribal areas with Taliban commanders of the southeastern provinces.So after swearing up and down that we wouldn't negotiate with the Taliban -- and calling Jack Layton and the NDP naive, traitorous simps for even suggesting it -- we're finally following a rational course that we could have taken years ago, when we held a much stronger position in Afghanistan.
Specifically, the deals aim to stop violence in selected areas and give the Taliban limited control of government pending the conclusion of a broader peace deal for the country and the Taliban's inclusion in some form of national administration....
In other news, PM Harper has apparently informed Bush that he doesn't expect to get Parliamentary approval for an extension of Canada's mission in Afghanistan. We can, I think, deduce two things from this: First, Harper doesn't expect to have a majority by 2009, certainly not if people think he's going to keep soldiers in Afghanistan. Second, he doesn't believe that the current status quo, if it endures that long, allows him to keep troops beyond 2009.
I don't think that's necessarily true. If the rumours of Ignatieff's attempts to unseat Dion are true, I think Harper can reasonably expect the Liberal party to roll over for an extended tour in Afghanistan until, oh, 2070 or so. And btw, if the rumours of Ignatieff's attempts to unseat Dion come true, you can expect a hearty "I told you so" from this corner.
Saperstein mentioned that John Edwards had already apologized about voting to authorize the Iraq war. "Why shouldn't every Democrat who voted for the war -- including presumably Hillary Clinton -- do the same thing? How were Democrats supposed to have any credibility if they wouldn't admit when they had been so calamitously wrong."I wouldn't normally judge a woman by her husband's words, except that in this case Bill is clearly speaking on behalf of his wife. And it's all garbage -- neither of the Clintons has any scruple beyond getting other Clintons elected, and neither of them has had the sense to advocate a sensible policy in Iraq. On the contrary, Bill is too wrapped up in the memory of his office and the comity of tradition (plus, he's buds with Dubya's daddy) while Hillary, I think, sincerely thinks the war was the right thing to do. (Else, why not apologize?) I was sick of Bill by 2000, and I really, really hope Hillary doesn't win in 2008.
Clinton quickly went ballistic: "He leaned forward belligerently and pointed a finger at Saperstein. 'You're wrong,' he said. 'Everything you just said is totally wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.'" He went on to explain away Hillary's vote on the war and tell Saperstein he wasn't productive. "Only in this party do we eat our own. You can go on misrepresenting and bashing our own people, but I am sick and tired of it."
Clinton later apologized and realized he had made an error, but it was too late for many of the people in Austin.
Friday, August 17, 2007
It seems that 20-year career Foreign Service officer Patrick Syring wasn't cut out for bringing America's message of tolerance, peace and democracy to the Middle East.Amazing to think that they weren't greeted with flowers and chocolates.
Last summer, while the bloody but inconclusive war between Israel and Hezbollah raged over the skies of Israel and Lebanon, Syring reached out to James Zogby, the highly-respected head of the Arab-American Institute to let him know that "The only good Lebanese is a dead Lebanese. The only good Arab is a dead Arab."
That was in a phone message left on Mr. Zogby's voice mail.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Hypocrisy it is then! In my defense, the Saturn V was one of the few rockets at the time not originally intended for nuclear weapons delivery. Apollo was one of the few occasions where a large number of engineers in the US got paid well to develop systems that were never intended to kill people. The engineers a companies like Grumman, North American, and others jumped at the opportunity, just for once in the Cold War, to do something for their country that wouldn't mean a smoking crater somewhere in Asia. For an excellent read on the engineers who sent men to the moon, take a look at Angle of Attack by Mike Gray.
The B2 is almost the perfect example of the post-WWII dynamic of our weapons getting rapidly more expensive, without a proportional increase in capability. That's not to say the B2 isn't capable, it's just that it isn't as capable as it is expensive. This is especially true when you think about the actual work it's doing, which is destroying targets in Afghanistan.
As I said, the B2 costs about US $2 billion (estimates, of course, vary.) Is there any possible target in Afghanistan that the B2 could hit that would be worth even 1% of it's value? (US $20 million?) How about 1/10 of 1%? Clearly, the B2 isn't going to get shot down by the non-existent Taliban air defenses, but every time they wheel the Spirit out of it's hangar and it takes off it's incurring maintenance and operating expenses. God forbid the thing hit a bird on takeoff! Almost by definition, using the B2 in any capacity whatsoever against the Taliban costs the US more in absolute terms than it costs the enemy. In financial terms, it's a self-inflicted wound.
This isn't surprising -- the B2 was originally designed to hit targets in a large, Asian industrial power, the USSR. The dollar-to-ruble tradeoff was supposed to be a lot more favourable, though the B2 would have also been delivering nuclear weapons at that point. The Soviets had the poor taste to disintegrate of their own accord without allowing the USAF the good time of blowing their shit up, but hope still burns -- which brings us back to Kaplan, who's also a big fan of writing pieces like "How We Would Fight China" for the Atlantic.
So it's not just sloppy puppy love for hardware that gets Kaplan's pixels flowing. The point of this gear is to be used, after all.
I would be looking for personnel changes in the Department of Defense for the next few months or so if I were you. We've been told before that the Army and Marines are vehemently opposed to any action against Iran, so if we see a resignation or two I wouldn't be surprised. Bush reportedly believes only he can save the US -- or Iran, it's not clear his delusions can be separated -- from the threat of, um, Iran. In this he's got a close ally in Cheney, who clearly never saw a Muslim nation that coudln't use a few more kilotons of high explosive.
We also know that the US government had, in secret, begun bombing the Iraqi military 6 months before the war "began" in March of 2003 -- US Air Force and Royal Air Force planes had been bombing Iraq regularly since 1991, but more than doubled the rate of bombings beginning in September of 2002, before Congress had voted to give him any such authority.
There's a real chance, therefore, that the war with Iran has already begun in some form. Secret bombings, secret ops, something like OPLAN 34A from Vietnam. We'll be told "they shot first", but it will in all likelihood be a lie. And then the US will be at war with more than 100 million Muslims, on a battlefield stretching from the western border of Iraq to the Afghan-Pakistan frontier.
Does that sound like a good time to anybody else?
When Congress returns in September the Intelligence committees and leaders in both parties will need to complete work on the comprehensive reforms requested by Director McConnell, including the important issue of providing meaningful liability protection to those who are alleged to have assisted our Nation following the attacks of September 11, 2001."alleged to have assisted our Nation". Priceless. Note this well: you only need "liability protection" from "allegations" if there's a good chance you've committed a crime. If you've assisted the government in committing a crime, well, the government protects it's own. But still, the Bush Administration has come as close as it can to saying, yup, they're a bunch of criminals.
Why, they ask, should we sacrifice in order to help future generations, who will have all the benefits of technical progress and economic growth yet to come? Because, as the Stern Review makes clear, if CO2 isn't stabilized soon, then catastrophe is certain. And extinctions and sea-level changes cannot be reversed by the wealth that might be created in the next 50 years. Facing the judgment of history, no ethical standard entitles us to condemn the future to a hot, dry, famished, and flooded world. For this reason, we must treat the costs and burdens of climate change as if they are already falling on us.(link via Gristmill.)
And that's the rub: They aren't. The market's real failure is that it allows for no signal from the future to the present, either from the conditions that will exist 30 years hence or from the people who will be alive and working then. The question becomes: Can we really create a market in which those far-off voices are effectively heard?...
"Planning" is a word that too many in this debate are trying to avoid, fearful, perhaps, of its Soviet overtones. But the reality of climate change is that central planning is essential, and on a grand scale. It would start with tens of billions of dollars in research to determine what is feasible, what is socially tolerable, and at what cost. A National Institute for Climate Engineering would be a good start. Departments of climate engineering at major universities would follow. Presidential candidates should take the lead by proposing a cabinet department of climate planning.
I think Galbraith is being too kind. We have a plan, in fact: it's for millions and millions of people to die preventable deaths. That's our plan, and it's going swimmingly so far.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
That said, I'm sympathetic because of the role played in American writing about NAFTA and deep integration by Jerome Corsi. This is the guy who helped make the word "swiftboat" a verb with regards to John Kerry, so I was already predisposed to write him off. Then, before I read about his involvement with anti-SPP activism, I saw he'd written a book about how we're not running out of oil at all, but rather there's a massive reservoir of oil at the center of the Earth, and the Russians have already tapped it so we should too. This is insanely wrong on so many levels, so I now knew the Corsi wasn't just a right-wing liar, but incredibly stupid as well. So when he started agitating about this so-called "NAFTA superhighway" I pretty much wrote it off, something I'm glad to see I was right to do.
This is an old story though: American progressives were never as agitated about NAFTA as Canadians or Mexicans were, because whatever else happens, American progressives remain American, and so it's nearly impossible to convince them (with reason) that an agreement with Canada and Mexico, those titans of the world, will threaten them. Still, it's funny that Hayes' article ran in the Nation. This is the same magazine that regularly publishes pieces about how the IMF, WTO, NAFTA, and other forms of global governance are a threat to American progressives. But none of that got in the way of publishing a piece about how much the right wing in Texas politics sure is fun to laugh at.
I don't know if there's a way for Canadians to convince American progressives that the SPP is genuinely a concern. That well's already been poisoned, and the Democratic party still belongs to the centrist wonkosphere when it comes to domestic issues -- meaning, in this case, an uncritical assumption in favour of anything labelled "free-trade".
Simple democratic process: American blundering leads to popular ill will towards America. This leads to the electorate opposing pro-American candidates (or those perceived to be) and implicitly favouring anti-American candidates. Elections, therefore, lead to more anti-American governments, not fewer. The Bush Doctrine inverted: spreading democracy is harming America's foreign policy.
This is why I say the biggest failure in the post-9/11 world has been our inability to come to terms with political Islam. Of course we should have negotiated with Hamas when they won the elections in Palestine. The alternative isn't waiting for a more moderate faction to come to power -- the alternative is further radicalization, and convincing the Palestinians that we cannot be trusted in any case.
Two historical examples, which you can read however you like: In 1895, after their crushing victory over China, the Japanese were forced to give up their gains in Korea and Manchuria by European powers. No small amount of racism was at work here -- Germany, France, and Russia all refused to see Japan as an equal power with a claim to the spoils of a disintegrating China. European morality wasn't at work here* -- after forcing the Japanese out of Korea and Manchuria, the Russians went right in and gobbled up whatever they wanted. This was the first of many unequal slights the Japanese faced at the hands of the west -- including the obstinate refusal of the Europeans to agree to a racial equality clause in the Versailles Treaty after WWI. By the 1920s, the Japanese had been convinced that, no matter what Japan did, the Americans and Europeans would never allow Japan an equal position in the world unless the Japanese took it themselves by force. The Japanese feeling that the west simply couldn't be trusted led directly to the invasion of China, then later the broader Pacific War.
*Clearly, I don't want to seem like I think Japan had a right to conquer huge swaths of China. The point is that European racism and hypocrisy left a bad impression.
Example 2: After the French lost at Dien Bien Phu, Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh believed that they would soon be recognized as the legitimate post-colonial rulers of all of Vietnam. The west insisted, at Geneva, that Ho be legitimized by national elections in both the north and south of the country. The Viet Minh agreed, knowing that any elections would easily bring the Communists to power -- there was no national alternative to the Communists. But the South Vietnamese eventually refused to hold elections (at American urging) for exactly that reason. This duplicity left a lasting mark on the Communists, who would basically refuse to negotiate for anything less than total American withdrawal from Vietnam for the rest of the war -- a position to which the Americans were eventually forced to accede.
So yes, our actions actually matter. And our hypocrisy matters a great deal. The problem is, the western electorate (and in particular the US and Canada, I fear) have a deep and abiding amnesia about foreign policy. Worse still are the aspects of foreign policy that are conducted totally in secret. In the case of the Muslim world, our only real option -- if we're serious about democracy being a good thing -- is to negotiate with the elected governments of the Muslim world, including Hamas. Hell, forget democracy for a moment -- the Iranian government isn't wildly democratic, but it's the legitimate government of Iran, recognized as such by all sane countries.
In Palestine, we've instead gone through this bizarre Kabuki where we said the Palestinians had lived under Fatah corruption and autocracy for too long, so they had to hold an election. The election held, we declared that Hamas was illegitimate, and began working day and night to reinstitute... Fatah corruption and autocracy. Go us. Nobody seriously thinks this isn't going to bite us in the ass again, soon, right?
--Cheap(er) electric cars! From China! And also from Norway! If I were Tesla, I'd feel nervous about my $100,000 sports cars... There's actually an interesting subsidiary point here: Norwegian and Chinese manufacturers are both aiming for an electric car of roughly the same price range. Clearly, China's low-wage manufacturing isn't determinative in where a company starts building. Put it another way: If Canadian governments were serious about the environment, we could certainly lure one of those companies here, and incidentally help Canada's manufacturing sector.
--But we don't have a serious environmental policy, or if we did we would already have built a national electrical grid by now. It's absurd that this might be torpedoed by Charest -- but I'm told he's the most federalist premier in a generation, right?
--Universal Music slowly walks away from DRM technologies. They join EMI in having embraced rational thought only after all else failed them.
--Oh yeah, and some guy named Karl quit his job.
Monday, August 13, 2007
These were the two cases. They existed -- both of them -- before the conflict. They had, as Packer details, high profile adherents. The anti-war case was internally coherent, rigorous, and in the final analysis, utterly correct. Not accidentally correct, but accurate in its particulars and predictions. No wonder those who got it wrong are so anxious to argue that nobody truly got it right.In a related topic, Atrios has been taking Shadi Hamid to task for basically being a pro-war voice. When someone writes approvingly about the members of the Democratic Party who were most explicitly rejected in the last election -- the faux-bipartisan, "serious people" who supported the war -- you've written yourself a ticket for a blogosphere-style smackdown. If Atrios hadn't done it, somebody else would have.
The larger point for the Democrats would be: could we please, please think up some foreign policy that doesn't amount to Republican-lite, "the US should slap around small countries when necessary"? It's alarming how at ease the nominal "left" of the foreign policy consensus is with the idea of America maintaining a unilateral foreign policy based on some nebulous idea that global security is dependent on America being able to smack the Iraq of the 2010s.
Years of economic policy mistakes after the fall of Saddam Hussein left unemployed young Iraqis easy targets for recruitment by al Qaeda and other insurgents, a U.S. Defense Department official said on Sunday....I dunno, I think that comes awfully close to editorializing in the news -- the article's language, to me, obscures whether it's Lindsey or the writer who thinks it's "understandable" that American policymakers drank so deeply of the free-market kool-aid. (The sentence just reads wrong to me, your mileage may vary.) I don't expect Marxism from a wire service, but if "kleptocracy" was given quotation marks, understandable merited them.
Brinkley said early economic planners had made the understandable mistake of assuming that a free market would rapidly emerge to replace what he described as Saddam's "kleptocracy", and create full employment.
As for the larger point, this was clearly one of the many mistakes made during Paul Bremer's year in Baghdad -- the market fundamentalist "shock therapy" administered in Iraq was a deliberate policy of destroying the existing economy with the express purpose of making Iraq a more compliant market for international capital. That it failed totally is just another example of your average Bush administration competence.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
If you haven't read the NYT piece on Afghanistan today, you really owe it to yourself to. Rob Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money has some thoughts on whether this retroactively de-legitimizes the invasion of Afghanistan in the first place.
I don't really know the answer to that question in my own head, but my suspicion that Afghanistan is going to end very badly for NATO makes me think it's time for us to leave. (The short version of my argument these days is that nobody has seriously considered enduring the costs that an actual success in Afghanistan would entail, so the forseeable future is bloody back-and-forths between us and the Taliban. Add martial and political incompetence to the mix, and, well...)
That said, I think there's two points I'd like to make in response to Rob's argument: one response to a specific point, and another more general argument.
First, the specific point. Rob writes:
It's certainly reasonable to argue that the Bush administration was too inept to successfully reconstruct Afghanistan, but that argument goes only so far. First, I was confidant at the time... that the US would receive significant international support during and after the invasion. No matter how badly the Bush administration performed, it was reasonable to believe that other countries would pick up much of the slack. This expectation has not been disappointed...
This, I think, underestimates the quantity and kind of incompetence the Bush administration has delivered in Afghanistan. The US troops under the ultimate command of George W. Bush make up most of the ISAF (NATO) forces in Afghanistan. Incompetent leadership of 17,000 (of 35,000 give-or-take) has an obvious determinative effect on the success of the international mission. No matter how competent 6,000 British are, they simply cannot undo the damage that the US Air Force is doing. Then you've got the reliance on high-technology weaponry as a substitute for manpower (vintage Rumsfeld, as if he'd never left) which is actively harmful to securing the loyalty of the Afghan people, or even the British army, as Matthew Yglesias pointed out recently.
Then there's the broader point which I think needs to be made: Rob writes that "Afghanistan isn't Iraq", in the context of arguing that the war hasn't failed. In the words of the Vietnamese officer, that's true, but it's also irrelevant. I fear that Iraq has become such a freakish horror-show that lesser, but still incredibly bad defeats seem somehow pleasant by comparison. But for those keeping track, the government of Afghanistan doesn't seem inherently more stable than that of Iraq, it's internal security is challenged by more quiet but far better organized threats, the Taliban and AQ can still set off explosives and kidnappings more or less at will throughout the country, and worst of all, Al Qaeda have gone from being protected by a barely-medieval failed state in 2001 to being protected by an industrially-armed nuclear power, nominally an ally, in 2007. And the self-inflicted stupidity that NATO's dealing with doesn't seem likely to stop any time soon -- NATO has agreed to use smaller bombs in its air strikes, a kind of comical gesture that totally fails to understand the real harm these things do to the war effort.
Whether this makes the invasion of Afghanistan retroactively a bad idea, I don't know. I supported the invasion in 2001 and for a long time after (declaring my bias, not appealing to seriousness) but the news from Afghanistan was worse in 2003 than 2002, worse in 2004 than in 2003, worse in 2005 than 2004, etc etc until today. There's some wishful thinking that the US could leave Iraq and transfer the freed troops to Afghanistan. I think the political impulse to remove troops from Iraq is likely to have a similar effect in Afghanistan -- "welcome home from Baghdad, now get on the plane to Kabul" doesn't seem like it would play well in Peoria.
Fundamentally, I don't think any western capital, including D.C., is really convinced anymore that Afghanistan's fate is a matter of vital importance. If we were, we'd have changed our policies a long time ago. But even the nominally pro-war party in Canada doesn't think the situation is serious enough to merit postponing precious, precious tax cuts.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
-- Yes, you really should wear a bike helmet. If the first bounce of my head off the pavement didn't convince me of this, the second one most certainly did. (EDIT: Just to be clear, my head was helmeted when said bouncing occurred.)
-- In mean old nasty Toronto, within a few seconds of my fall I had not one but two people helping me to my feet and asking if I was okay. The crazy thing? They both headed off in separate directions as I was leaving -- two total strangers, to myself and to each other, stopped to help me. People who think Toronto people are rude or uncaring haven't lived here.
-- There's a moment in a fall like this that seems to occur exactly after you've stopped worrying about the immediate past ("I guess I won't make that green light after all...") and before you've started worrying about the immediate future ("So, about my eyeglasses...") where you're left with nothing to do but contemplate the onrushing concrete. For just a second, I think I understood seriously self-destructive behaviors: there really is a moment of exhilaration there. (Don't worry, I'm not about to throw myself in to oncoming traffic.)
Anyway, how was your evening?
Friday, August 10, 2007
War as a Monty Python sketch, I swear.
This has real consequences -- the American reliance on airpower has been so disastrous that the British (who are describing the fighting in Helmand province as the worst they've seen in Afghanistan since 2001) have asked the US to leave the area of operations entirely. To put it another way, the American way of war has proven so bad that it totally outweighs any advantages the British might have perceived.
Commenter Technetium took me to task for describing our progress in Afghanistan as "jack shit" last week, and sent me a few links to, I imagine, change my thinking -- or at least add to my thinking. (Please, nobody should ever hesitate to do this.) But I'm not about to take back those words, largely because of stories like this. We're proceeding from the (probably correct) view that, if we leave Afghanistan, the Taliban and others will reemerge and challenge the Karzai government for control of the country. At the same time, we're using methods that a) guarantee more popular support for our enemies and b) do nothing to actually win the war. (Air strikes are always, always, always ineffective against rural, low-tech insurgencies.) Our current posture, therefore, is nothing but a holding action. We refuse to commit sufficient resources to actually conclude this war in a meaningful sense. So the war goes on. So we have to stay longer. So the costs, in lives and dollars, continues to go up.
This is what I meant when I used those words, and I still mean it. The only meaningful definition of "progress" when it comes to foreign wars is "getting closer to the day when our soldiers can successfully come home." And I don't believe we're heading in the right direction. I'm not even sure that's a possibility anymore.
The next time the Canadian government tells you it has secrets it needs to keep to protect national security, feel free to laugh out loud....Me, on an unrelated matter, January 2007:
Mr. Arar is an Everyman who in the name of national security was made to endure some of the worst that the state can do to a human being. It was the United States that deported him. But important people in the RCMP and Canada's Foreign Affairs Department helped ensure that he stayed a good long time in his Syrian cell. Afterward, when Judge O'Connor tried to get the truth out, the Canadian government fought him in court for a year to keep the lid on 1,500 words.
We now know that the public had a right to see those words. They remind us of how fragile our civil liberties can be in a dangerous time.
So, very slowly children: If the government says it knows something you don't, and refuses to tell you what it is, the government is lying.I suppose it's too much to ask that the Canadian people consider not electing either of the parties who spent the last few years lying to us about Maher Arar, right?
An unexpected build up of algae on a lake-water intake system used for cooling has forced Ontario Power Generation to temporarily shut down one of its Pickering nuclear reactors until the fast-growing green muck is cleaned up.Any nuclear reactors built in Canada are, more than likely, going to be built along the great lakes (whose water levels are dropping and becoming warmer with climate change) or possibly along the Athabasca (which is similarly threatened.)
Experts say bad-smelling blooms of Cladophora algae are linked to warmer water temperatures and are likely to get worse as a result of global warming and high phosphorous levels caused by lawn fertilizers, agricultural runoff and detergents entering the lake.
People don't think of the number of inputs nuclear power takes -- daily use of fossil fuels to mine uranium being just one, but also vast amounts of cold water for cooling. If the available water is too little, or too warm, the reactor has to shut down.
Solar and wind do not face similar constraints.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Walking to the store might be worse for the planet than driving?
Although this one seems obvious to me:
The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.
Well, yeah. When we all die from lethargy-induced diabetes or heart failure, the sheer fact of fewer humans would benefit the planet rather nicely, I suppose. Maybe that explains America's high obesity rates: a secret plan to combat global warming!
More seriously, the point of the article is how awful our food-production system in the west really is: food is so energy-intense (read: petroleum-intense) that you're better off putting the gas straight in to your gas tank for basic mobility.
Friday, August 03, 2007
The crazy thing is how non-crazy his actual argument is. (Basically, if poor people need health care in the muslim world, they get it from Hizbullah and Hamas, when the US could provide it better and win friends in the process.) But if Barack Obama had said it, can anyone imagine it not being played on Fox News for 72 hours straight?
Bizarre. Here we've got one of the front-runners for the Presidential nomination, saying something eminently rational, and the right-wingers are already calling for his head on a stick.
Here's the problem for the US, and any other occupying army, anywhere: foreign countries have no legitimate claim to nationalism. It's kind of obvious, and it shouldn't even need to be said, but we will never, ever be able to tell the Iraqis what's good for their country, especially as long as our "advice" comes at the business end of an Abrams tank.
But suppose we succeeded in creating, from the ether, a truly national Iraqi army. What would it's first order of business be? To ask the US to leave. Because they don't intend to do so, the second order of business would be to force the issue. Ergo, America can never succeed in creating an effective, national army in Iraq.
The problems go deeper. The most nationalistic people in Iraq will not, in any possible future, volunteer in large numbers to serve in the collaborating regime propped up by the great Satan. If drafted, they will betray their units to other forces -- such as the Sadr JAM. The most nationalistic Iraqis, if they exist in the sense that we mean that word, are already fighting the occupation (and have been for years) in the hopes that their sectarian force will come out on top once the Americans leave. National unity through victory.
So this leaves the Americans with all the problems of the occupation still, but unable to put a native face on it. Worse still, because the Americans still have military objectives in Iraq, they need to arm various factions -- Sunni, Shia, Kurd -- as auxiliaries. But of course, all this does is arm the three sides of Iraq's eventual civil war.
"The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president," Ignatieff writes in a reference to U.S. President George Bush.There's also this bit:
"But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion."
In it, he is harshly critical of Bush. Ignatieff says that, unlike intellectuals who bat about ideas, political leaders can ruin millions of lives if they fail to understand realities.So should we be reassured or not that Ignatieff gave up the more intellectually competitive life of academia for the drooling insipidity of politics?
"Good judgment in politics, it turns out, depends on being a critical judge of yourself," Ignatieff writes. "It was not merely that the president did not take the care to understand Iraq. He also did not take care to understand himself." That's why Bush did not hear "warning bells" inside himself about Iraq, Ignatieff writes.
And why oh why is Michael Ignatieff, MP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, still seem more at home in the pages of the New York Times? Couldn't he have found a way to speak to people who might actually vote for him?
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
While one has sympathy for anyone in Taliban (or al-Qaida) hands, one also cannot escape the conclusion that it is largely the fault of captives that they are in such a precarious and frightening situation.Yeah, I mean, when you dress like that you're just asking for it, right?
On the other hand, the fact that peaceful, decent people like the Korean Christians are captured and killed by such as the Taliban, is more evidence why Canadian and NATO troops are needed in that country -- not for the sake of hostages, but to help bring peace, security and a modicum of freedom to the Afghan people.So: almost five years of war, and Afghanistan is still too dangerous and chaotic for civilian groups to do their work without fear of abduction and execution. So those civilian groups should all leave, and spare the military the need to rescue them -- but also, presumably, hurting or halting many promising development projects.
But -- and this is what's left me reeling and cranky this morning -- the fact that, after 5 years of this, we've still accomplished jack shit is a sign that we need to stay longer, accomplishing further jack shit but without having to worry about pesky civilians.
How many more years, exactly, of accomplishing jack shit are we supposed to sign up for again?