July 1, 2010 by Ted Rall
June 29, 2010 by Ted Rall
Why the U.S. Can’t Talk to the Taliban
Like all Afghans, Hamid Karzai knows history. Which is why he’s talking to the neo-Taliban. The postmodern heirs to the Islamist government Bush deposed in 2001, the generation of madrassah graduates who replaced the mujahadeen vets of the anti-Soviet jihad are gaining strength. Obama, preparing for his 2012 reelection campaign by distancing himself from an unpopular war, plans to start pulling out U.S. troops next year.
Men like Karzai, puppets of foreign occupiers, rarely die peaceful deaths in Afghanistan. Mohammad Najibullah, the former Soviet-appointed head of the secret police who became president under the occupation, was extracted from a U.N. compound where he had taken refuge when Kabul fell in 1996. The Taliban dragged him from the back of a jeep, disemboweled him, cut off his penis and forced him to eat it before hanging him from a lamppost.
Cutting a power-sharing deal with the Taliban may not be possible. But Karzai has to try.
But his American overseers are against dialogue. “With regards to reconciliation,” CIA director Leon Panetta told ABC’s “This Week,” “unless [the neo-Taliban is] convinced that the United States is going to win and that they’re going to be defeated, I think it’s very difficult to proceed with a reconciliation that’s going to be meaningful.”
We Americans have heard this line of policy so often that we don’t think to question it. Never negotiate from a position of weakness. First thrash your adversary. Negotiate afterward.
Insisting upon “peace with honor,” Nixon took Kissinger’s advice to bomb the hell out of North Vietnam before the Paris peace talks. There’s a certain logic to this approach, but no common sense. Three years later, the U.S. lost the same as if it had never dropped a single bomb.
John McCain echoed Nixon at a Senate hearing this week: “If the president would say that success in Afghanistan is our only withdrawal plan—whether we reach it before July 2011, or afterward—he would make the war more winnable and hasten the day when our troops can come home with honor, which is what we all want.”
Win. Then withdraw.
The best time to talk to your opponent—assuming that he’s willing to take your calls—is when you’re losing. Any concession you gain will be more than you’ll otherwise end up with.
If you’re going to win a war, on the other hand, why talk? When the U.S. is winning, it refuses to negotiate. Certain of victory, it insisted upon the unconditional surrender of Japan and Germany in 1945.
Panetta’s statement provides two insights to those who seek to understand U.S. foreign policy.
On a basic level, it parrots Kissinger: The U.S. knows that it will lose in Afghanistan. Withdrawal is inevitable; indeed, it has been announced. America’s next step is a massively violent final offensive—in order to prove to the neo-Taliban that it could win if it really wanted to. So they’d better cut us some slack: oil, gas and mineral concessions, etc. Of course, this reflects a radical misreading of the neo-Taliban as well as of human nature. They understand the simple truth: they live there, and we don’t. Time is on their side. The oppressor’s greatest weakness is his inability to see things from a different point of view.
Moreover, bomb-first-then-talk is a (partly delusional) lie. If by some miracle the upcoming anti-Afghan offensive were to work, the U.S. would never open talks with the neo-Taliban. Whenever the U.S. thinks it holds the upper hand—Cuba since 1962, Iran since 1980, Iraq before the 2003 invasion—it refuses to engage. Only when something tips the balance in favor of a U.S. adversary—North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons, for example—is it willing to chat.
More broadly and interestingly, the Panetta Doctrine helps us resolve the big mystery of U.S. actions abroad after 1945.
The United States hasn’t won a war since World War II. More curiously, it doesn’t seem to want to. When the U.S. invades, it often fails to occupy, much less annex. When it occupies, it does so with fewer soldiers than necessary to control its newly acquired territory. (Note that General Colin Powell, a rare proponent among the military elite of “flooding the zone” with hundreds of thousands of troops to ensure total domination of occupied countries, was quickly replaced as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. His “Powell Doctrine,” though romanticized by some members of the press, is now forgotten.)
The U.S. has been described as an “empire without empire.” It’s clearer to call it the Great Disrupter. It’s fairly safe to conclude that U.S.’s primary foreign policy objective is to disrupt potentially emerging regional rivals. Iran, for example, is the nation that should logically dominate the Middle East politically and economically. It possesses immense wealth, enviable geography, 5,000 years of civilization, modern infrastructure, and a big, highly educated workforce. The U.S. uses sanctions to prevent Iran’s rise to regional superpower.
You didn’t really think we were still holding a grudge over the hostages, did you?
From a geopolitical standpoint, U.S. policymakers are far more concerned about India’s potential role as the leader of South Asia than the threat that North Korea will nuke Seattle. Which is why the Bush Administration sent billions of dollars in military hardware and cash subsidies to the violently anti-Indian government of General Pervez Musharraf after 9/11. Now Musharraf is out and the current Pakistani government has reduced its pressure on India via, for example, its support for Muslim fighters in Kashmir. So Obama continues to finance Pakistan—but not as much.
Naturally, we can’t talk to the neo-Taliban. (Nor can we let Karzai do so.) An Afghanistan that resumes its 1996-to-2001 role as the global capital of Islamist government and Sharia law could represent a new kind of influence—simultaneously religious, political and military—that the U.S. fears as much as Iran, India, or any other country big enough to suck away American market share.
(Ted Rall’s “The Anti-American Manifesto” will be published in September. He will return to Afghanistan in August.)
COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL
June 24, 2010 by Brooke Allen
Oh and P.S. there will be Pins and other goodies up for grabs too:
HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!!!
THREE CHEERS FOR COMICS!
xox- Brooke Allen!
June 24, 2010 by Ted Rall
In 1967 animal researchers conducted an interesting experiment. Two sets of dogs were strapped into harnesses and subjected to a series of shocks. The dogs were placed in the same room.
The first set of dogs was allowed to perform a task—pushing a panel with their snouts—in order to avoid the shocks. As soon as one dog mastered the shock-avoidance technique, his comrades followed suit.
The second group, on the other hand, was placed out of reach from the panel. They couldn’t stop the pain. But they watched the actions of the first set.
Then both groups of dogs were subjected to a second experiment. If they jumped over a barrier, the dogs quickly learned, the shocks would stop. The dogs belonging to the first set all did it.
But the second-set dogs were too psychologically scarred to help themselves. “When shocked, many of them ran around in great distress but then lay on the floor and whimpered,” wrote Russell A. Powell, Diane G. Symbaluk and P. Lynne Honey in Introduction to Learning and Behavior. “They made no effort to escape the shock. Even stranger, the few dogs that did by chance jump over the barrier, successfully escaping the shock, seemed unable to learn from this experience and failed to repeat it on the next trial. In summary, the prior exposure to inescapable shock seemed to impair the dogs’ ability to learn to escape shock when escape became possible.”
The decrease in learning ability caused by unavoidable punishment leads to a condition called “learned helplessness.”
Which brings us to the midterm elections.
Battered and bruised, with no apparent way out, the American electorate has plunged into a political state of learned helplessness. They’ve voted Democratic to punish rapacious Republicans. They’ve voted Republican to get rid of do-nothing Democrats. They’ve tried staying home on Election Day. Nothing they do helps their condition. They’re flailing.
The great mass of Americans works longer hours for less pay. Until, inevitably, they get “laid off.” Is there a working- or middle-class American who hasn’t lost his job or been close to someone who got fired during the last few years? Even in 2009, when global capitalism entered its final crisis and millions of Americans were losing their homes to the same banks their taxes were paying to bail out, the world’s richest people—those with disposable wealth over $30 million—saw their assets soar by 21.5 percent.
Go ahead, little leftie: smash the windows at Starbucks in Seattle. It won’t stop transnational corporations from raping the planet and exploiting you. Enjoy your Tea Party, little rightie. It sure is cute, listening to you talk about the wee Constitution. “Your” government and the companies that own “your” leaders have your number. And they’re listening to your phone calls.
The public is now in full-fledged flailing mode. Just two years ago, you will recall, Obama and the Democrats swept into power on a platform of hope and change: hope that things might improve, by changing away from the Bushian Republicanism of the previous eight years.
Now, depending who you listen to, people have either turned against the hope and the change, or against the failure of ObamaCo to deliver it. “The voters, I think, are just looking for change, and that means bad news for incumbents and in particular for the Democrats,” says Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster.
Change from change we can’t believe in. Again.
According to the latest NBC News/Washington Post poll, this is the same electorate that “shows grave and growing concerns about the Gulf oil spill, with overwhelming majorities of adults favoring stronger regulation of the oil industry and believing that the spill will affect the nation’s economy and environment.” Because you know the Republicans are all about more regulation of Big Oil. And care so much about the environment.
Does your head hurt yet?
There is some good news: Three major polls find that most Americans don’t believe Obama has a plan to fix the economy. Yes, this is good news; it proves that the public isn’t totally crazy.
Like the poor Set B dogs in that 1967 experiment, Americans are running around aimlessly, veering between two parties that differ only in their degree of harm. Republicans are evil; Democrats enable it.
Next: lying on the ground and whimpering.
The way out is obvious. If a two-party corpocracy beholden to gangster capitalism is ruining your life, get rid of it.
Don’t whimper. Bite.
(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto,” to be published in September by Seven Stories Press. His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL
June 22, 2010 by Eric Hobbs
So Wednesday is new comic day. If you’re like me you’ll be making the trip early in the afternoon to check out what’s made it into your pull folder and what new books hit the shelf that you might be interested.
Well, don’t make the trip without this…
This week comic retailers will be making their final decisions on what to stock their shelves with come August. If you’ve decided you want to pick up THE BROADCAST you HAVE to let your local shop know. Things are tight these days, and stores aren’t ordering a lot from publishers outside of the big two. In fact, some aren’t ordering anything at all. I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t pre-order there is a very strong chance it won’t show up on the shelf on a Wednesday come August.
Of course, if you don’t have a local shop available to you then you can always pre-order it through the NBM Store.
And, don’t forget, there is a huge 21-page preview over on my site for those who haven’t had the chance to give it a look.
June 22, 2010 by NBM
“One of the funniest volumes of the series yet! Has all the hooks that make Dungeon such a fun series: high adventure, lots of action, and a broad and rambling sense of humor. ”
June 22, 2010 by NBM
“lively and sharply observed. a very nice effort that rewards the reader with more than a few chuckles.”
June 22, 2010 by Ted Rall
The beard is now entering its third glorious week. The itching has stopped, mostly, and I’ve just learned about the need to trim the lower mustache to avoid an uncomfortable feeling on my lip. All in all, not a bad first effort. I leave for Asia on August 1 and enter Afghanistan August 13.
June 20, 2010 by Eric Hobbs
I’m asked where I get my story ideas from all the time. All writers are, I suppose. The truth is, I see stories everywhere. But I’ll never forget the first time I heard the Orson Welles’ WAR OF THE WORLDS radio broadcast. It sparked my imagination almost immediately. Of course, it did for more than one million Americans that night too. Enjoy…
See the forthcoming The Boradcast graphic novel.
June 18, 2010 by NBM
“Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim, two of the world’s wittiest and creative cartoonists, continue to script. They stuff each tale chock full of insane twists and wild ideas, including the various ways people survive on a floating, rotating island. Meanwhile, their dialogue crackles with an uncanny balance of humor and compassion, providing the readers with dozens of amusing moments and still just enough heart to care what happens to the characters.”
Michael Lorah at Newsarama on the latest Dungeon Twilight vol.3, don’t miss coming up in September to comics shops the next Dungeon Monstres with guest artists Carlos Nine (another mad genius who deserves much more exposure here) and Patrice Killoffer.