Thought for the Day – August 22, 2021

Excerpting and adapting some text from an opinion piece in the Washington Post:

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan reflects a sound realignment of our national interest.  It puts us on better footing to deal with the new challenges of the 21st century and clarify to allies and adversaries what we are and are not willing to expend resources on.  Ending the long and futile war in Afghanistan will allow us to focus more attention on bigger priorities.


Lessons learned?

By his own admission, President “I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars” made the same mistake in Libya that President “Mission Accomplished” made in Iraq. It’s almost as if that Best and the Brightest thing doesn’t always work out.

Obama’s admission that his failure to plan for a post-reconstruction Libya was his greatest mistake—and his concomitant refusal to say that the intervention was a mistake—makes me wonder how many times a government gets to make the same “mistake” before we get to say that the mistake is no mistake but how the policy works.

I mean when you have a former University of Chicago Law School professor/former Harvard Law Review editor doing the exact same thing that his alleged ignoramus of a predecessor did in Iraq, when you see that the failure to plan for a post-intervention reconstruction is not a contingency but a bipartisan practice, don’t you start wondering about the ideology of intervention itself?

Corey Robin

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The other day Paul Krugman wrote,

“If you didn’t see something heroic about [Hillary Clinton’s] performance in the Benghazi hearing, you’re missing something essential.”

There was nothing heroic about Clinton’s performance at those hearings. She demonstrated she’s tough as nails and I’m glad she stood up to the panel of reactionary mouth breathers* who grilled her, but it was not a heroic act. Why not? Because she had nothing to lose by standing up to them.  You want an example of heroism in the face of Congressional inquisitors? Look at the people who got called before HUAC and told them to go pound sand rather than smear friends and former colleagues who’d done nothing wrong. People who told HUAC to go pound sand lost their livelihoods. In order to qualify as a hero you need to put your neck on the line. Clinton did right but she risked nothing doing what she did.

* Their buffoonery is actually beside the point.   They disgust me because they put on a show trial.  I don’t believe for an instant that any of Clinton’s inquisitors gave a shit about preventing another Benghazi-like incident.

In the event you were under the impression that Russia gives a rat’s ass about Syrians

From today’s New York Times:

Some Russian analysts say the Kremlin is using the conflict in Syria to test a new generation of weaponry from a major procurement program that military officials began in 2010 after years of oil-boom profits.

“There are radars and all sorts of new control systems, and of course we need a firing range,” Konstantin V. Remchukov, the editor of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, told the Echo of Moscow radio station this week.

“We carried out a lot of exercises,” Mr. Remchukov said. “But a firing range like that opening before us in Syria, with these bombing sorties, with drones and other objects of the new generation, this is, of course, a favorable place for fine-tuning all our new weaponry.”


Last updated 7/6/2015.

Paul Krugman’s commentaries on Greece have been consistently sensible.   From his latest, Ending Greece’s Bleeding:

Imagine, for a moment, that Greece had never adopted the euro, that it had merely fixed the value of the drachma in terms of euros. What would basic economic analysis say it should do now? The answer, overwhelmingly, would be that it should devalue — let the drachma’s value drop, both to encourage exports and to break out of the cycle of deflation.

Yup. It worked for Iceland in 2008-9.  It might have worked for Greece too but, as they don’t control their own currency, going the devaluation route wasn’t an option for them.

It makes no sense to be locked in to a currency if you lack political authority to control it, e.g., to print more when the situation demands it, issue bonds when appropriate, etc.  It makes no sense to agree to debt payment terms if there is no rational basis for believing they can be met.  Given those things, “No.” was the right choice in Greece’s referendum today.  Vote to reject the raw deal.

Joseph Stiglitz called out the anti-democratic nature of the “troika’s” demands the other day in Europe’s Attack on Greek Democracy.

In an interview on NPR Brown Univ. economist Mark Blyth calls bullshit on the suggestion that the Greeks have profligate spenders or are just lazy, The (Perceived) Tragedy of Greece.

(If you’re only going to read or listen to one piece, listen to Blyth.)

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Dishonest mistakes

The understanding is supposed to be that the troops serve on whatever mission is ordered, and the government doesn’t order them to risk their lives for a political folly.

– Unknown

On May 11 Paul Waldman had a piece in The American Prospect, Should We Relitigate the Iraq War in the 2016 Campaign? You Bet We Should.   In it he offered a list of questions for 2016 presidential candidates.  I noted it at the time.  Waldman’s questions force the issue of how the candidate would act on what they do know and how they would deal with uncertainty.   His questions are forward-looking – and that should be a good thing.  Unfortunately, we don’t appear to be ready for it.  If we were then statements to the effect of “knowing what we know now…” re Iraq would be immediately called out as bullshit by everyone within earshot.  They are not.  Today James Fallows summed up concisely why saying “knowing what we know now…” is bullshit:

  • The “knowing what we know” question presumes that the Bush Administration and the U.S. public were in the role of impartial jurors, or good-faith strategic decision-makers, who while carefully weighing the evidence were (unfortunately) pushed toward a decision to invade, because the best-available information at the time indicated that there was an imminent WMD threat.
  • That view is entirely false.
  • The war was going to happen. The WMD claims were the result of the need to find a case for the war, rather than the other way around.

He then gets into the details at length.

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