Things May Be Getting Nasty in Washington …

They need to be out run, embarrassed, exhausted, pushed out of the room, or crushed.

Unsustainable …

Global imbalances were projected to stabilize in 2007 and 2008, but were still very large, he said. The United States deficit had increased to $860 billion at the end of 2006, and was expected to fall to $800 billion in 2007. That deficit was basically being financed by surpluses in the developing and oil exporting countries, as well as some major developed countries, in particular Japan and Germany. The European Union,at large, was projected to continue to have a slight deficit on its current account. United States debt, which had now deepened to well over $3 trillion, might turn out to be unsustainable in the rest of 2007 or next, putting further downward pressure on the United States dollar, he said. Since its peak in 2002, the dollar had depreciated vis-à-vis the major currencies by some 35 per cent and by 25 per cent against a broader range of other currencies.
With that increased debt the risk of a sharp depreciation of the dollar continued, he said. If countries willing to invest in United States dollar assets expected further depreciation, they might be less willing to hold dollar assets, triggering a much sharper fall in the United States dollar. The risk of disorderly adjustment and the steep fall of the dollar existed. The policy challenge was how to prevent a hard landing of the United States dollar and forge a benign adjustment of the global imbalance.

Yawn …

It seems someone woke me up from my nap with news from New York. Why do they do that? Be a dear and close the door on your way out … Thanks … zzzz ….

For Any Paranoid Types Like Myself …

Let me offer the following.

For now, I take the USM airlift to be largely a symbolic act, but make no mistake this is all about Hizbullah such that support for the GOL (and M14) is merely functional toward other ends. It is not difficult to get small arms into Lebanon, so don’t lose your breath over the ammo shipment, because there are easier ways. That being said, this will be a real test for Hizbullah’s intelligence operations both within the LAF and at the points of entry, especially if the care package from the US includes unenumerated goodies.

I am still of the position that the US, the Saudis and their Lebanese allies do not intend to go for broke, but REAL danger lurks where their interests diverge. So expect some amount of the military aid to be diverted to the most obvious sources. That being said, Hizbullah (and its allies) would be wise not to make fuss over that, as they would only be playing the Americans’ game of baiting them. For now, this is a just pyschological operation (a kind of trial balloon) and should be treated as such.

I believe the Americans are aware that Hizbullah cannot be defeated in any military sense, so they will be attempting the lesser strategy of boxing them in, while at the same time trying to keep Lebanon from slipping into the abyss. Most likely, this strategy will target HA’s strengths (the national legitimacy of its weapons) through its weaknesses (the security, political and financial needs of its current domestic allies). Here, I would add that the Israeli bombing pattern last summer may be worth a rethink — it was senseless in terms of military objectives, but if viewed in light of certain political objectives, it might have been all too clever (how do they just always know how to whet the appetites of Lebanon’s cannibals?).

As it is impossible to know American intentions toward Iran, it is equally impossible to know how hard the Americans will push, i.e. they may well let developments on the ground determine their course of action and a political defeat that neuters their military threat may be enough (keep your eyes on Geagea and Aoun, as there once again will be the rub).

Regardless, it is a highly dangerous course of action due to the schizophrenic nature of Lebanon’s dueling coalitions, the country’s worsening economic miseries and the very serious policy battles occuring in Washington. All should hope for the best.

Self-Doubt …

Sometimes I wonder if I am completely wrong, but then I come across something like this and I remember that things could be worse. Such work suggests that it is indeed possible to become completely detached from reality (of course, having motivation$ for such is another matter). And so for my threadbare tethers, I am eternally grateful, compassionate for the further lost, and confident in final victory, by which I mean something other than the total defeat of unannounced dispatch into oblivion.

Enter the Jackals, Stage Right …

“Khaddam hired the good offices of Sandra Charles to lobby for him and obtain access for a high profile visit he’d like to make to Washington.
Sandra Charles is on a substantial retainer with the Hariri family (from father to son) Her group has one of the more potent rollodexes in Washington, and she was amongst Brent Scowcroft’s most able advisers (she sat on G W Bush’s NSC) She also does limited work for Bandar .She is friends with Amal Mudallali, a Hariri, who is Saad’s point woman in Washington, having served his late father.
If our government (US) chooses to work with this slug, I believe that we have slipped to a level I did not think possible. Perhaps we should grant citizenship to the assassins of Ambassador Francis Meloy and Economic Counselor Robert O. Waring!”

From the Friday-Lunch-Club, an “interesting” little blog.

The Americans … And Other Mysteries …

Readers of this blog know that I have serious doubts about the US ability to maintain its position in the Middle East and across the globe. While I usually explain this “management crisis” in the context of the “collapse” of the Soviet Union, it is important to remember that when it comes to public affairs, resource allocation is almost never logical or rational because it is largely reactive (e.g, the Pentagon is the largest band-aid dispenser in the world and US immigration policy is largely a response to what happened 11 years ago). In truth, the private business world is most often the same (boo hoo to any free market know-nothings out there), but I want to pause here and let you consider a particular manifestation of this problem.

Critics of the US administration, especially US Democrats, like to argue that the Bush White House has prized loyalty over competence (see: the continuing Alberto Gonzales saga). This, to my mind, is wishful thinking in the extreme. The simple fact of the matter is that nature and structure of US politics (both at the elite and mass levels) lack sufficient incentives to identify and pursue quote, unquote national interests. See this:

Patrick Lang told a hilarious story the other night, for example, about a job interview he had with Douglas Feith, a key architect of the invasion of Iraq.
It was at the beginning of the first Bush term. Lang had been in charge of the Middle East, South Asia and terrorism for the Defense Intelligence Agency in the 1990s. Later he ran the Pentagon’s worldwide spying operations.
In early 2001, his name was put forward as somebody who would be good at running the Pentagon’s office of special operations and low-intensity warfare, i.e., counterinsurgency. Lang had also been a Green Beret, with three tours in South Vietnam.
One of the people he had to impress was Feith, the Defense Department’s number three official and a leading player in the clique of neoconservatives who had taken over the government’s national security apparatus.
Lang went to see him, he recalled during a May 7 panel discussion at the University of the District of Columbia.
“He was sitting there munching a sandwich while he was talking to me,” Lang recalled, “ which I thought was remarkable in itself, but he also had these briefing papers — they always had briefing papers, you know — about me.
“He’s looking at this stuff, and he says, ‘I’ve heard of you. I heard of you.’
“He says, ‘Is it really true that you really know the Arabs this well, and that you speak Arabic this well? Is that really true? Is that really true?’
“And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s really true.’
‘That’s too bad,” Feith said. The audience howled.
“That was the end of the interview,” Lang said. “I’m not quite sure what he meant, but you can work it out.”

For the record, I disagree with many things Colonel Lang has to say about “Arabs,” but it is impossible to imagine the US military producing someone more astute or informed as to the issues of the region (disagree with him at your own peril). So yes, it is true that guys like Lang do seem, at times, to suffer from a small Lawrence of Arabia complex, but this says less about their intelligence than it does about the mental dexterity of the dimwitted troglodytes they have to deal with back at home. I should pause here, however, and offer a small caveat. However, idiotic Feith may be (Tommy Franks thought him to be “the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth,”), it is not for nothing that he reached to No. 3 spot at the Pentagon, whose annual spending tops “the combined GDP of all 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa and oil giants Nigeria and Angola, in 2005, according to the World Bank.” One might very much to say that the current neoconservatives in the US represent the classic spoiled child syndome, in which ease at home breeds difficulties further afield.
Now, of course, the Americans are a particular concern for Lebanon watchers, but explaining the American role poses signficant analytical difficulties. There is perhaps no better illustration of these difficulties than the work of Sy Hersh. The national security state, established at the end of WWII, poses real challenges for any journalist seeking to elucidate some of its more hidden operations. Hersh and others and the quality of their work are almost entirely dependent on the reliability of their sources, because they simply do not have access to the information required to verify what their sources tell them. I would add here that even the sources, especially the more honest ones, will admit to a similar information deficit. Anyone who knows how governments process information and the role of bureaucratic boundaries in the flow of information would accept this as nothing less than a truism. And when we are talking about issues and policies that cross national boundaries, things only get messier.
Having laid out some of the basic difficulties, let me turn to the eternal question: what is to be done? Well, I would argue that Hersh is to be read, but read carefully. His work is positively invaluable, but not because I agree with his particular narratives on international events or believe that he captures the full reality of any particular situation. No, instead, I believe it is invaluable because it speaks directly to some portion of the policy and political debates over a particular issue. [To be continued … ]

Carribean Conspiracy …

It seems the forces of darkness are gathering in the Bahamas. I wonder if a certain Lebanese blogger has gotten his swimsuit yet.

Chou …?

Just saw Seymour Hersh on television. Syria is logical, but the US is not? Syria does not play double games, but the US does? What? Seriously, that made no sense. I hope the forthcoming article is better than the last, but I cannot watch him on television anymore. His grasp of the ME is just not sufficient for me to feel comfortable hearing him speak off the cuff. It is a bad sign when Hala Gorani (cute as she is — can i say that?) is the one making more sense.

Action Plans …

Understanding the implications of the document, Jordanian government officials ordered that the publisher’s printing house stop the presses while that edition’s plates were confiscated.

Do you think they used the same document template for Lebanon?

Spreading Democracy … One No-Bid Dollar at A Time.

The value of federal contracts awarded without competitive bidding has soared since President Bush took office in 2000, according to a new study to be released Monday by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
Federal contracting grew from $203 billion in fiscal 2000 to $377 billion by fiscal 2005. During the same period, the value of federal contracts awarded without competitive bidding more than doubled, from $67 billion to $145 billion, the study found. At the same time, government oversight of contracting has weakened, according to the study’s author, Scott Lilly, a senior fellow at the center and a former House Democratic aide.

The War on Terror continue$ …

Bech, Abort Mission, Repeat, Abort Mission …

American officials, citing the number of terror plots in Britain involving Britons with ties to Pakistan, expressed concern over the visa loophole. In recent months, the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, has opened talks with the government here on how to curb the access of British citizens of Pakistani origin to the United States.

Among the options that have been put on the table, according to British officials, was the most onerous option to Britain, that of canceling the entire visa waiver program that allows all Britons entry to the United States without a visa. Another option, politically fraught as it is, would be to single out Britons of Pakistani origin, requiring them to make visa applications for the United States.

Ya bech, proceed to Plan B: Operation Male Nurse. Instructions to follow …

Til Death Do Us Part …

“The relationship between the United States and the Arab regimes is like a Catholic marriage where you can have no divorce.”

Meanwhile, Back at the Faculty Lounge …

Mr. Tenet also directs scorn at the Pentagon intelligence analyses by Douglas J. Feith, then undersecretary of defense for policy. He describes his fury in August 2002 as he watched a slide show by Mr. Feith’s staff at C.I.A. headquarters suggesting “a mature, symbiotic relationship” between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
He said C.I.A. officers came to call such reports, in a play on words, “Feith-based analysis.” In an interview on Friday, Mr. Feith said Mr. Tenet’s account distorts the facts of the Pentagon effort and obscures Mr. Tenet’s own public statements before the war. Mr. Feith noted that Mr. Tenet, in October 2002, sent the Senate intelligence committee a letter that said, “We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade.”

Abstinence is for Africans …

Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias submitted his resignation Friday, one day after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of a Washington, D.C. escort service whose owner has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a prostitution operation.
Tobias, 65, director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), had previously served as the ambassador for the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief.
As the Bush administration’s so-called “AIDS czar,” Tobias was criticized for emphasizing faithfulness and abstinence over condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS.

These guys are beyond disgusting. The only question is how deep the rot.

Crack Kills …

A traveler who moves between Baghdad and Washington is struck by the gloomy despair in Washington and the cautious sense of optimism in Baghdad.

The prosecution rests.

The Wild West …

I want to kill somebody today,” Washbourne said, according to the three other men in the vehicle, who later recalled it as an offhand remark.

The Politics of Intelligence …

A special group at the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, very similar to the group that tracked the activity of al-Qaeda through the 1990s, has been working on the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah over the past three years. In the wake of the failed Israeli incursion into Lebanon last summer, the White House asked these Hezbollah analysts to provide a comprehensive assessment of the organization, its tactics, and its leaders. A team of analysts headed by an experienced senior officer completed the report over a month ago and concluded, surprisingly, that Hezbollah is actually a collection of diverse interest groups, and its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, far from being a fanatic controlled by Tehran, is a fairly nuanced and astute politician who has maintained his independence from the Mullahs. It also indicated that Hezbollah’s threat to American interests has been seriously overstated. The report recommended that the U.S. government make an effort to establish a dialogue with Nasrallah in an attempt to moderate his organization’s more extreme policies; it suggested strongly that Nasrallah would likely be receptive to such an approach. The more politically sensitized senior managers of the CIA analytical division took one look at the report, were shocked by its conclusions, and sent it back to the Counter Terrorism Center for reconsideration and redrafting in a form that would be more politically acceptable to the White House.

The CIA knows, but the White House does not care …

Wobble On …

In a special statement of clarification, the bureau stressed that Olmert had told Pelosi that Israel continued to regard Syria as “part of the axis of evil and a party encouraging terrorism in the entire Middle East.”

It’s hard to believe how shaky Ehud Olmert’s standing must be that he must declare immediate and total fidelity to Bush Administration policy vis-a-vis Syria. Protecting his right flank to be sure, but it is fun to watch the Israelis and certain Lebanese parties try and out-Bush Bush. I guess they don’t get US polling data in the Levant. Either that, or they get their reports on Iraq from John McCain.

Alternative Measures …

Well, it seems the Lebanon First crowd is not so hung up on that whole national sovereignty thing. Big surprise, I know. What’s puzzling is that I had thought that many of their leaders were intimately familiar with the pratfalls of relying on American and French support to secure their respective suzerainties. I guess they have “gotten over” those wartime memories.

Pushing a Chapter Seven UNSC res. is absolute insanity and can only be explained by the desperate position in which the anti-Syrian coalition finds itself. With Iraq imploding a bit more every day and Iran nearing situation critical, it is foolish to think that the Americans and French will be willing to spend the diplomatic cash a Chapter 7 resolution will require.

Don’t these guys follow the news? Actually, I would argue that they do and appreciate how quickly their window is closing. Make no mistake: this is a last-ditch gambit of troubled coalition. If the UNSC does not respond favorably, they will have either lost or severely weakened their position on the domestic level. As they say, desperate times call for alternative measures, or something like that …

And a Cherry on Top …

Ahmadinejad today in fact asked Blair not to punish the sailors for their remarks on Iranian television in which he said they told the “truth” about intruding into Iranian waters.

Whether in diplomacy or dodge ball, there is no beating strategic depth …

The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel …

I was misread.

Friends of Israel …?

“Our commitment to Israel defines us as a nation,” said Republican Norm Coleman of Minnesota, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, adding that the AIPAC lobbyists “help make sure that we don’t forget.”

What’s funny is that AIPAC’s leadership has clearly decided not to push publicly for a military solution to the Iranian nuclear standoff. Is there such a thing as being too successful? Clearly, the attack on Iran is to be framed as an American interest, but I am not sure AIPAC can keep this under control. If you need evidence of a growing Frankenstein problem, I offer:

“The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awoken!” Hagee proclaimed, taking the microphone at the opening dinner reception on Sunday. The electrified crowd — most of it Jewish — roared in support, pounding on the tables. Hagee went on to declare the United Nations a “political brothel” and asserted that Israel must never give up land. He agreed with Israeli writer Dore Gold that granting part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians would be “tantamount to turning it over to the Taliban.” And, after rebuking Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he led the crowd in a chant of “Israel lives!” urging them to “shout it from the mountaintops!”

Unspeakable …

Several Jewish conferencegoers said they were concerned by Mr. Obama’s remark Sunday in Iowa where, in a reference to the Middle East, he said, “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”

What hath AIPAC wrought …

Proceed to Nearest Shelter!

“I want to have my conscience clear with Him. Then it doesn’t matter so much what others think.”

Greenwald, the author of linked piece, is a crank, but the quotes are priceless or terrifying or whatever …

Fun Facts About Arabs …

  • The Arabs are a proud and sensitive people …
  • Arab behavior has a propensity for conflict …
  • Reasons for Arab conflict may lie again with the family where competitiveness is instilled at an early age, and life generally exists under various forms of intense pressure …
  • In the Arab world there is little stigma placed on the loss of self control and what westerners would consider hysterical public outbursts of emotion …An Arab crowd is high strung emotionally …
  • There can even be less serious reasons, for example in Lebanon the author witnessed a severe riot in 1978 over the unpopular outcome of a beauty contest.

Bech, thank God you are not one of these people, but how ever do you live amongst them? FYI: Check the author’s credentials and be afraid, be very, very afraid … Also, would not it be fun to hear what Bush whispers in Hadley’s ear after meeting with Jumblatt (must read on Jumblatt) and Hamadeh? Those crazy Ay-rabs … Although to be fair, I would bet that he whispers something similar after meeting with Avigdor Liebermann.

Dahlan and the Mecca Agreement …

Dahlan was the darling of the Western intelligence services, and was being tutored in English in London, where he could be found at Claridge’s Hotel. In the evenings, he would sometimes be spotted at some of London’s most fashionable nightclubs … The speculation in Washington is that the White House will make sure Fatah gets the money one way or another – even if that means taking responsibility for its disbursement out of the hands of the State Department and putting it back into the hands of the Central Intelligence Agency. “They’ll just take this white program and make it black,” a government consultant with ties to the agency said. “They’ll make the program covert, like it once was” in February 2006.

Abu Ghraib: The Movie …

Watch the HBO documentary. It is well-done and has a very “banality of evil” feel to it.

Lost in Translation …

The new force was a low priority to Rumsfeld, he says; it was called “the New Iraqi Corps,” or NIC, until a linguist on Eaton’s staff noted that nic meant “fuck” in Arabic.

Lessons Unlearned …

The French and the Russians, for example, won asymmetrical wars in Algeria and Chechnya in the 19th century, but lost asymmetrical wars in those same places in the 20th century. “In the 19th century, there was not a literacy for nationalism. You look at a lot of these colonial wars. The great powers could play off tribes against each other. By the 1960s, you cannot do that anymore.”

I would aver that “nationalism” is only one of now available technologies that doom such adventures.