Archive for May, 2013

In view of the latest attacks by Islamist fanatics in the USA, Britain and France, I’m republishing the following debate that occurred on September 2010.

American says,

For those who think we need to redouble our efforts to “win” the war in Afghanistan, I take it they mean we need to do whatever it takes, militarily and financially, to build a stable Afghan state run and headed by a secure and US-friendly government. I have two problems with this idea. First, I tend to doubt that the US has the wherewithal to accomplish such a goal in such a rugged, decentralized and forbidding country – no matter how much our surge surges. The whole idea seems fantastical.

Second, I don’t see how even achieving this fantastical aim would really help with the Al Qaeda issue, since I find it hard to believe that any Afghan government that we can realistically imagine taking shape will have the capacity to prevent Al Qaeda elements from gathering in remote locations and forming bases. As a basis for comparison, can we realistically imagine an Afghan government with even half the capacity of a state like Pakistan? Hardly. And yet Pakistan itself is not in control of large swaths of its country. Pursuing the quixotic state-building plans of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists is a distraction from the methods that actually work.

My understanding is that we have been engaged in a global campaign against jihadist terrorism for several years now, and the main practical method is to rely on intelligence to stay one step ahead of the folks who actually pose a threat, and then disrupt their efforts, kill their leaders and interdict their operations. We’re probably going to have to keep doing that sort of thing for quite some time, just as the effort against organized crime in the US never really ends. If Al Qaeda cadres build some kind of training base in Afghanistan, we go in and blow it up. If they build another one, we blow that one up too. We use predators and covert methods. The same is true of al Qaeda redoubts in Pakistan or Somalia or Yemen, right? We are going to have to do this no matter what kind of government we get in Kabul.

I can’t believe that at this late date American political leaders and opinion leaders are still deluded by the theory that the chief enabling cause of terrorism is “state sponsorship”, and so that our aim is to manufacture strong states where none exist now. This seems wrong-headed to me. I’ve used this analogy before, but the militant jihadist movement seems something like the anarchist movement of a century ago. Parts of that movement were violent. Was the solution some sort of state-building process in Europe and the United States? No. There were already strong states in Europe and the US. But it is of the nature of terrorist groups to slip between the cracks in the sovereign power of states.

Anarchist terrorism was basically a law and order problem. The idea was just to stay ahead of the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, and outlast the movement as its ideological fervor gradually dissipated and it burned itself out.

We should never have gotten involved in state building in Afghanistan. Now we have a generation of American leaders who are invested in that project, and see their personal honor and the national honor as riding on its very unlikely success. They need to get real.

Australian says,

Ben Katcher’s intellectually malodorous, and disingenuous, argument has reached the other shores of the Pacific. While he claims that “pouring more troops…into Afghanistan means fewer resources to pursue our other national security objectives across the globe,” he does not mention any of them by name other than the economic crisis mentioned by Dennis Blair. Hence his statement that “strategy is about priorities and trade-offs,” while true in general, is a contrived fiction when he applies it to international terrorism since these other priorities remain nameless. The reason why he does not name them is that if he had identified these priorities and contrasted them with the priority of global terror he would embarrass himself for being ludicrous.

Dan Kervick’s paragraph that contains “we use predators and covert methods,” which incidentally is an idea that I suggested myself too eight years ago, is very interesting although he contradicts himself further down on his post when he contrasts present terror with anarchist terror in the past and says for the latter that it “was basically a law and order problem,” which he first ventilated in a riposte to me on TWN three years ago. Surely, Kervick, who has learnt his logic by sitting in the spacious intellectual laps of Hume and Russel, could not cogently argue that “predators and covert methods” fall in the ambience of “law and order.”

American says,

Kotzabasis says:

“Surely, Kervick, who has learnt his logic by sitting in the spacious intellectual laps of Hume and Russel, could not cogently argue that “predators and covert methods” fall within the ambience of “law and order.””

I do. When I say that terrorism is a law and order problem, I don’t mean that the only tools to be used are the methods of the criminal justice system. Those latter tools have proven effective in many cases, including operations interdicted in the UK and Canada. But given the limits of applying these tools across borders and inside rugged countries, sometimes more aggressive means must be employed. What I mean is that terrorism is fundamentally a problem of a limited number of militant “outlaws”, and that the strategy for addressing it should focus on that fact, rather than be distracted by extravagant projects for state improvement and state overhaul.

What I am most skeptical of is the idea that the problem of terrorism is a conventional military problem that calls for the use of conventional military operations – in the form of armies, invasions and occupations – against either states or sub-national “armies”. And I am especially skeptical of the idea that the way to address the problem of terrorism is to launch massive – and generally very unrealistic – state-building operations in the hope that some day the dangerous backward parts of the world will be filled with well-functioning and capable states that will be able to suppress all of the militants operating inside their territories.

There are other means that need to be used as well, including denying the terrorists the ideological foothold that multiplies their influence and capability. That means not doing so many things that provide evidence of the very charges the terrorists make. To counter jihadist charges that the United States is hostile to the interests of Arabs and Muslims across the world the United States should stop behaving as if it is indeed universally hostile to the interests of Arabs and Muslims.

Australian says,

Kervick says:

“When I say that terrorism is a law and order problem, I don’t mean that the only tools to be used are the methods of the criminal justice system.”

Your quote states the obvious. Of course one does not fight terrorism only with police methods but the question is out of all the methods which are the most effective by which one can defeat the jihadists. And while your paragraph in your previous post that mentions “predators” and all the other ‘hard things’ that one has perforce to do against the jihadists is full of strategic clarity, by reverting back to your old argument of three years ago that the present terrorists are similar to the anarchist terrorists of the past and can be interdicted by ‘police’ methods, you unconsciously downgrade the seriousness of your ‘hard things’ position.

Moreover, you are locked in the fallacy of a rational person who premises his actions that his enemies that ‘round’ him up are also rational and if he shows by his actions, in our case America, that he is not against Arabs and Muslims this will bring a definitive change in the attitudes of the jihadists. This is a ‘straightjacket’ delusion that has lost all contact with reality. Islamic fanaticism will not be influenced, soothed, abated, or defeated by moral examples or olive branches but only in the field of battle and that is why a military deployment against it is a prerequisite. In short, it’s just another but more effective method in defeating the jihadists in a shorter span of time.

American says,

C-G Kotzabasis,

I’m talking about the hearts and minds issue. There is a hard core of dyed-in-the-wool militant jihadists with an uncompromising Salafist ideology. They are not going to be swayed by US public diplomacy, or by forseeable changes in US policy. They can only be dealt with forcibly. They must either be captured or killed, and their plans must be disrupted.

But the hard core is surrounded by concentric circles of people who are associated with the hard core by various degrees of fellow-travelling or sympathizing or onlooking. The extent to which the jihadists are able to expand their movement to get material or moral assistance from people in the out rings depends on how well their message resonates.

In my view, the jihadists have been the beneficiaries in recent years of a number of wrong-headed US policies that help their message resonate strongly. If hundreds of innocent people in Gaza have their lives snuffed out in an over-the-top Israeli attack, some as a result of deliberate crimes, with nary a peep from the US Congress, then when your friendly neighborhood jihadist says, “Muslims lives mean nothing to the Americans,” that message is going to get much more play on the street than it would if the US Congress had stepped up and condemned the excessive use of force.

Australian says,

Dan Kervick,

Certainly the “hearts and minds issue” is a core issue. But the “concentric circles of people,” will not be influenced by US Congress pronouncements and condemnations, in this case of Israeli actions, if they perceive, which they will, that this change of American policy arises from the weakness of the latter and from the strength of the “hard core” “militant jihadists” in their war with the US. The concentric circles of support for the militants will only disappear by depriving the latter of the ‘aura’ of being seen as the victors (The ethos of Arab pride trumps all.) against the American hegemon. And that entails the imminent and decisive defeat of the militants in the field of battle, as it happened in Iraq to the Sadrist militias and al Qaeda.

Furthermore, your concentrated reasoning loses its force if your policy contains these two incongruous parts: The first one will destroy by predators and covert operations (Which will be seen in the Muslim world as American excesses) the incubators of “Salafist ideology”, which are the madrassas, while the second, will denounce American and Israeli excesses. Do you seriously believe that such denunciation will have greater influence upon fellow-travellers and sympathisers, than the destruction of the madrassas in which many civilians will be killed, and will win their hearts and minds?

Join the debate

A reply to Professor Varoufakis on his proposal of a recycling mechanism from countries with surpluses in his talk to the OECD.

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The working of a recycling mechanism from countries that are in surplus would primarily need the physical stature of Professor Varoufakis, that is, lean efficient competitive economies with no wastage baggage and lean governmental apparatuses. Most economies, however, of southern Europe are in a state of pathological obesity in both regards and thus are being unfavourable turfs for surplus countries to plough their money into them. For the wheels of the recycling mechanism to start therefore, it would be necessary to fundamentally restructure the economies and governments in the former case, on the ethos of a competitive market economy, and on the latter, by removing the destructive policies of government intervention and excessive regulation in the sphere of private enterprise.  Only countries free from the deleterious effects of un-competitiveness and government dirigisme and replete with entrepreneurial dynamism acting within a private enterprise system can be favoured to be the recipients of the manna of the recycling mechanism.

The above argument is reinforced by the two historical examples in Professor Varoufakis’ presentation where he shows that the Americans at the end of the Second World War recycled the major part of their surplus to Germany and Japan, the two countries that were renowned for their economic efficiency and technological feats and operating within the private enterprise system, and the second, when China and the oil producing countries of the Arab peninsula recycled their surpluses to America on the basis of the same principle, that is, of economic prowess and competitiveness. In neither case were these surpluses recycled to “Africanized” economies. Likewise, why European countries, such as Germany, that are in surplus, should recycle the latter to the economically sclerotic countries of the south unless the latter engaged in a radical restructuring of their economies that initially would be followed with a lot of pain as Greece presently shows with the radical changes that are taking place in its economy under the robust and imaginative Samaras government? It is easy to talk about the misanthropy of the elites but what about the misanthropy of those politicians of the left, such as Andreas Papandreou, who for years created a false prosperity for their peoples without telling them of the heavy price and suffering they would have to pay for it and the great crisis that they would be engulfed in?

Can Professor Varoufakis envisage that the great foundational changes that are required, so the recycling river of funds will inundate those countries that are at the bottom pit, can occur without pain? Is the Heracletian profound maxim that out of “great discord rises the greatest harmony” to be negated by the votaries of the “dismal science”?

Guest (Xenos) says,

Incorrect, in every way and on every level.

Per capita, Greece received more than any other country from the Mashall Plan and other forms of financial assistance from the USA. Germany andJapan received the most because (a) they were the largest countries lined up to receive funds, and (b) because they had been decimated by the war. It had nothing to do with your homespun nonsense about “Africanised countries” — whatever you think those might be.

Your speech is nothing more than empty rhetoric and has no relation to historical reality or economic analysis.

Kotzabasis says,

Greece was a special case due to the civil war and the threat of a communist take-over and the fact that America replaced Britain as the plenipotentiary of Greece and its protector from communism. And it goes without saying that part of the reason why funds flowed to Germany and Japan was their devastation. But the major reason was that the Americans wanted to create a locomotive of economic development in these two regions and that is why they chose Germany and Japan renowned for their past economic prowess. Professor Varoufakis himself in his presentation makes it quite explicit that China invested its surplus in the United States precisely because of the latter’s high competitiveness (M.E).


I’m republishing this paper written in 2007  as the intellectual prattling know-all elite continue to disparage and malign George Bush for his decision to invade Iraq.

A response by Con George-Kotzabasis to:

 All the President’s Enablers by Paul Krugman

The New York Times July 20, 2007

The fundamental principle of power and of any political activity is that these should never be any appearance of weakness. Niccolo Machiavelli

The eminent professor of economics Paul Krugman who ditched his solid professorial chair for the ephemeral glitter and celebrity status that accrues from being a peer pundit of The New York Times, ridicules George Bush, in his latest article, of a misplaced confidence that verges to a “lost touch with reality”. Confident to bring in Osama dead or alive, confident toward the insurgents “to bring it on”, confident that the war will be won, when the latest report of the National Intelligence Estimate is so gloomy about the prospects in Iraq and the war against al Qaeda that would make even the most optimistic of Presidents to have second thoughts about his policy, but not George Bush. Krugman states, “thanks to Mr. Bush’s poor leadership America is losing the struggle with al Qaeda. Yet Mr. Bush remains confident”. Such a stand “doesn’t demonstrate Mr. Bush’s strength of character” but his stubbornness to prove himself right despite the grim reality.

But Krugman saves his main grapeshot to fire it against the Republican doyen Senator Richard Luger and General Petraeus both of whom he considers to be the “smart sensible” enablers of the President. He argues that while Senator Luger knows, and indeed, acknowledges, that Bush’s policy in Iraq is wrong, he nonetheless is not prepared to take a strong stand against it. And he cleverly in anticipation of the September report of General Petraeus that might be favourable to the situation on the ground as an outcome of the surge, he launches a pre-emptive strike on the credibility of the general by quoting extensively from an article the latter wrote in the Washington Post on Sept. 26, 2004, whose assessment about Iraq at the time was overly optimistic if not completely wrong. In the article the general wrote, “that Iraqi leaders are stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously” and “are displaying courage and resilience” and “momentum has gathered in recent months”. It’s by such implied non sequiturs that our former professor attempts to discredit General Petraeus. Just because he might have been “wrong” in the past it does not follow that he would be wrong also in the future. And Krugman caps his argument by saying that because of these “enablers” of the President, “Mr. Bush keeps doing damage because many people who understand how his folly is endangering the nation’s security still refuse, out of political caution and careerism, to do anything about it”.

But how serious are these strictures of Krugman against the President and his so called enablers? Let us first deal with the optimism of Bush and his confident statements about the war in Iraq and the struggle against al Qaeda. Krugman is lamentably forgetful that when the President committed the U.S. to take the fight to the terrorists he stated clearly and unambiguously that this would be a generational struggle. And in this long war against al Qaeda and its affiliates and those states that support them, he was confident that America would prevail. Hence all the confident statements of Bush were made in the context of a long span and not of a short one as Krugman with unusual cerebral myopia made them to be. His argument therefore against the President’s optimism and confidence, which he ridicules with the pleasure of one “twisting the knife”, is premised on a misperception. Moreover, did Krugman expect that the Commander-In-Chief of the sole superpower not to have expressed his hopefulness and confidence to the American people, when they were attacked so brutally on 9/11, that the U.S. in this long war would prevail? And is it possible that our pundit to be so unread in history and not to have realized that in all critical moments of a nation’s existence it’s of the utmost importance that its leaders rally their people against a mortal threat with statements of hope and confidence, as Winston Churchill did in the Second World War, that the nation would be victorious against its enemies? Would Krugman have the President of the United States adopt the gloom and doom of the so called realists as a strategy against al Qaeda, its numerous franchises, and the rogue states that support them by sinister and covert means?

Indeed, the liberal’s and The New York Times’  “Bush derangement syndrome…has spread” not only “to former loyal Bushies”, to quote Krugman , but to more than two thirds of the American people thanks to this ignominious coterie of  all the President’s disablers of the liberal establishment, and its pundits, like Paul Krugman. The paramount duty and responsibility of the media, being the Fourth Estate in the political structure of a democratic society, at a time when a nation faces and confronts a great danger from a remorseless and determined enemy, is to morally mobilize and rally its people behind their government and their armed forces that are engaged in war. In the present defensive pre-emptive war–the latter as a result of the nature of the enemy and his potential to acquire nuclear weapons–that has issued from the aftermath of 9/11 and the cogent convincing concerns of the Bush administration of a possible nexus in the near future between al Qaeda and its sundry affiliates with rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction and nuclear ones, and the portentous and abysmal danger this would pose not only to the U.S. but to the world at large, the media has a “sacred” obligation to unite the American people behind its government of whatever political hue. No errors of judgment or mishandling the planning of the war by the Bush administration can excuse the media from abdicating from this historical responsibility.

There is no fogless war and no one can see and perceive and measure correctly all its dimensions. And the frailty of human nature further exacerbates this inability. But no Churchillian confidence in one’s actions and strategic acumen throws the towel because of mistakes. One corrects one’s errors and keeps intact his resolution to defeat the enemy with a new strategy. (And one has to be reminded that the greatest scientific discoveries have been built on a pile of mistakes.)  It would be an indelible obloquy to one’s amour propre to even consider that these uncivilized obtuse fanatics, and seventy-two virgin pursuers, could come close to conceiving a strategy that would defeat the know-how and scientific mastery of Western civilization and its epitome the United States of America. Only a lack of resolve of its politicians and its opinion-makers, as a result of their fatal embrace with supine populism, appeasement, and pacifism, could lead to such shameful and historic defeat.

America at this critical juncture of its historical and Herculean task to defeat Islamofascism in a long, far from free of heavy casualties, painstaking arduous war  needs a wise, imaginative, and resolute political and military leadership that will overcome all the difficulties and imponderables of war and will strike a decisive lethal blow to this determined suicidal enemy. The new “Surge” strategy of the resolute Bush administration implemented by that “superb commander”, according to his troops, General Petraeus, seems to be accomplishing its objectives. Two prominent and vehement critics of Bush Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of  The Brookings Institution who had accused the President of mishandling the war, after an eight-day visit in Iraq talking to high officials now believe that we are fighting in “a war we just might win”. And Petraeus, like a stronger Atlas, is pushing the rise of the sun of victory in the up till now dark sky of Iraq. Hence, the courageous actions and sacrifices of U.S soldiers in Iraq are not wasted and will be written with adamantine letters in the military annals. At this momentous noteworthy victory all the President’s and the nation’s disablers will be cast into the pit of ignominy by history. 

I rest on my oars:your turn now