Thursday, September 11, 2008

India, Pakistan, and the War in the Middle East

Let's examine the structure of some key international relationships for a moment. China, long an enemy of India, has a cozy alliance with Pakistan, India's mortal enemy. The two together threaten the third on two fronts. This is a dangerous situation for India.

We all know that the USA has shaky alliance with Pakistan as well. Americans need Pakistani support against Iran, the Taliban and Pakistani extremists. To a lesser extent, the USA need Pakistani support in Iraq and other parts of the region.

This is system of alliances isn't all that stable. China is the single biggest geopolitcal threat to the USA today. India and the USA are the biggest threats to China. Our alliance with Pakistan puts us in the awkward position of propping up China's containment of India, therby making China's position more secure.

A better solution for the USA might be this: Abandon the Pakistani alliance in favor of an Indian alliance. Make it very clear to Pakistan that it needs to allow American forces into its Western regions, or else face military action from both the USA and India, now mutually supporting. The Pakistanis would have no choice but to assent. China will not go to war with the USA and India to save Pakistan. China's encirclement of India would be effectively broken, the USA has an even more reliable ally on Iran's doorstep, and American forces will operate in the tribal regions of Western Pakistan with impunity.

I can forsee only one problem (though there are likely others). It might be important to the US strategy to maintian alliances with Muslim nations. Abandoning the alliance with Pakistan would be a serious blow to that strategy. We have options, though. Indonesia seems to me to be an excellent candidate for an ally. It certainly has a large enough population to contribute troops to peacekeeping in Iraq and Afganistan. I dare say that Syria might also be an excellent ally, as that would draw it out of Iran's orbit. This, of course, could only happen if raproachment with Israel could be acheived. Whether or not that is possible remains to be seen. So we have options in this regard.

This, or something like it, should be the policy of the next US president.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bundeswher to create a new medal?

According to the Financial Times, Germany's Bundeswehr might create a decoration for bravery. This medal would be comparable to the Victoria Cross or the Medal of Honor. Of course, Germany once had a very famous decoration for bravery: the Iron Cross. After WWII, though, this medal was abandoned as part of the general turn towards pacifism in Germany.

One would think that, as an admirer of the German military culture, I would be pleased. Unfortunately, I am outraged. Not only will the new decoration not be the Iron Cross, it will not be the iron cross because that medal is "tainted" by the National Socialists.

This is a typical reaction from today's Germans. If it's associated with the Nazi's it is abhorred and/or ignored. This is part of a general pattern of forgetfulness and shame. There are no war memorials for the brave German dead. There is no honor for the sacrifices made by millions. There is no pride in the outstanding accomplishments of the German Armed forces.

We all know why: the Nazi's were evil, Hitler was evil, and the Soldaten were evil and even foolish. The old pride in the Fatherland was responsible for all this, and so everything connected with that pride should be rejected.

I admit that I share this disgust with the Nazi's and Hitler. Especially Hitler: he was a foolish and eccentric man, completely unconcerned with the murder of millions and the destruction of Europe. What I don't share is this assinine opinion that Nazism has tainted everything associated with it. Take the Wehrmacht for example. The German armed forces were indeed commanded by the Nazi's and many soldiers committed atrocities. My disgust with this is tempered by the fact that all army's commit atrocities (and they committed an especially large number in WWII), and all (or most) armies take orders from the legitimate government of their nation. I just can't hold those brave and professional soldiers accountable for the buffonary of some uneducated politicians.

The German soldiers fought exceptionally well during the war. Not only was the kill ratio something like 10 to 1 on the eastern front, and not much lower in the west, but acts of courage in defense of the fatherland were alsmot commonplace. Many of these brave men despised the Nazi's and would have gladly seen them ousted. These people deserve to be honored, not forgotten and insulted.

I see the situation with the Iron Cross in similar way. It has a long and glorious history. It representes all that is great and admirable about the German Armed forces. Who cares if Hitler earned it twice? Instead of taking that as a reason to despise the Iron Cross, I am inclined to see it as a reason to despise Hitler just a bit less (let me emphasize a very little bit less). For all his faults and immorality, at least he was brave.

If only the Germans would stop behaving like such fools about their past! They should be ambarrassed when this is appropriate, but they should be proud where pride is appropriate. The Iron Cross stands for everything that they should be proud about. Bring back the Iron Cross! Rehabilitate the Wehrmacht!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why we must win in Iraq: a better reason

I want to briefly consider the most common arguments that the United States "can and must win in Iraq." I take it for granted that the "can win" part is right, so let me focus on the "must win" part.

My least favorite is what I think of as the neocon argument. It goes something like this: America should spread its superior democratic values to as many corners of the globe as possible. The middle east, Iraq in particular, is a place sorely needing our kind of democratic values. We must win in Iraq so that we can establish a democracy in the middle east, and thus enable the spread of our values to other nations in that region.

There are a lot of variations on this argument. We should bring freedom to the middle east, we should oppose autocracy in all its forms around the world, and so on. The key is that we appeal to some moral principle that implies that we should help the less fortunate (like the Iraqis).

Now I reject this reasoning for a simple and straightforward reason: I despise the values to which my neocon friends typically appeal. Democracy, liberty, and so on. I have no desire to see them spread to other nations when I want to eradicate them here!

(My position on democracy and liberty is a bit more complicated than this makes it sound. I'll post a blog on this soon.)

Another argument I reject is one that I think of as the "Pearl Harbor Argument," though I think this one isn't as bad as the neocon argument. It goes something like this: Iraq is the central front of the War on Terror. If we lose in Iraq, we lose the War on Terror. We must win the War on Terror because (insert reason here). Therefore ... Of course, this one has many variants too, but are substantially similar to this version.

I reject this reasoning because I think its a bit silly. This is because I think the idea of the War on Terror is a bit silly, but that is a topic for another blog.

There is one argument that does impress me, and I think its the obvious argument. I think more than a few people would agree with this, but no one has the courage to say so in public. Let me be among the first. I'll call this one the Hegemony argument. The reasoning goes like this:

(1) We need to maintain the U.S.'s position as the sole Superpower.
(2) China and Russia (our real enemies) are using their vast energy reserves as leverage to challenge the U.S.'s status as the world's sole Superpower.
(3) The more energy resources the U.S. and its allies control, the better its ability to maintain its lead over China and Russia.
(4) The Middle East contains vast energy resources, relatively easily controlled by a Superpower and/or its allies.


(5) The U.S. and its allies should try to win control of those energy resources in Iraq and the middle east in general.

People's first reaction will be to accuse me of being an imperialist. Of course, they would be right about that, but that's irrelevant. I think every American, no matter his/her political position, should endorse this argument.

A right-winger who endorses (1) might challenge my claim that (5) follows in something like the following way: America gives up its moral superiority by taking control of Iraq by force. Without that superiority, America has no business as a Superpower. In other words, if we do as (5) suggests, then (1) is false. If you think that, fine. Don't think of it as the U.S. taking control of the Iraqi oil reserves. Think of us as helping the Iraqi's take control of it themselves. We just ensure that they remain our allies. So if you accept (1), (5) still follows.

So the real challenge to this argument would be to (1). I think, though, that everyone should endorse (1). Now there are a huge number of reasons to oppose it, so I can't address them all. Let me address what I take to be the most common reason: some commitment to peace, liberty, justice, and so on. If you have such a commitment, though, you should still endorse (1). I refer you to history. Recall phrases like "Pax Romana" and "Pax Britannia," These phrases describe the unprecedented peace that exists when one nation far outstrips it's rivals in power. No large wars take place when this is the case because no groups have the power to oppose the dominant group. This phenomenon is, I think, well documented in history.

My favorite example of how this ends badly is the end of the Pax Britannia. The nineteenth century was an unprecedented era of peace in Europe. This was most likely the result of Great Britain's overwhelming power. The Pax Britannia ended when Germany became strong enough to challenge the Great Britain's power. And we all know (or should know) about the kind of bloodshed that followed.

Don't fool yourself. The situation is much the same today, with Russia and China standing in for Germany, and the U.S. for Britain.

So if you want peace, or liberty, or any of that nonsense, your best bet (ironically, I admit) is to see the U.S. maintain it's dominance. If China and Russia (or even the E.U.!) manage to challenge the U.S., then we will see the kind of wars that we usually see in history: bloody, destructive, expensive, and wasteful. These are the kinds of wars that we haven't seen in six decades. Most people who want to reject (1) will not want to see wars like this. So those people should accept America's world dominance as the lesser of two evils (and lesser by far, I might add).

Let me make one more comment to avoid a likely confusion. Left-leaning people often accuse the Bush Administration of cooking up the war with Iraq and trying to control its oil reserves for money. That is, personal enrichment was the motivation. Notice that that is NOT my motivation. Personal enrichment is all well and good, but there are more important things. My argument that we should control the middle east's energy reserves is not so that we can become richer. It is only so that we can become stronger. Don't confuse me with the greedy.