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Brookings: Is armed conflict with russia a real possibility?

More from the think tank corner, on a subject that I am not concentrating on any more, but still relevant and interesting:


[1.5 hour video]

comment: The speaker phrases his answers with care, which is good. His host/interlocutor’s body language is fun to watch too as the clock drags on in this longish Q&A session. My overall impression after watching approx. half of this video is that armed conflict with Russia is NOT considered a real possibility. That’s both good and bad. It can happen by accident, but at least it’s not an overt goal. Aside from the usual denunciations required to signal one’s seriousness in Russia-related discourse, the overall tone appears significantly less rabid than was the case during the Ukraine crisis ~2 years ago. Speaking of that, the speaker says early on is that there was much support for “providing lethal support” within the US government, but Obama was saying no to that, and he remarks that Obama will be gone in 3 months, so we may expect that policy detail to change. Later in response to a question he seems well aware of the many downsides surrounding providing lethal support in Ukraine, and mentions Kiev’s “need for reform” several times, which is an angle to investigate for anyone still interested in Ukraine. He dismisses talk of direct US/NATO intervention in Syria as unrealistic because it would be an act of war. He seems to say sanctions are the tool of choice.


somewhat more boilerplate-ish than the previous, but shows what I assume are brookings potitions in written form.


notes dump on brookings, from circa late 2014/early 2015 (?):

history going back to the 20's
	connected to establishment
	used to write federal govt budget
    associated with both parties
   fannie mae? housing?
thoroughly neocon, connected to clintons
   strobe talbott
   robert kagan
   kenneth pollack, "cakewalk theory" in 2002
     ... still pushing ideas
recent articles
   recognize the middle east dilemmas... sectarianism vs nationalism
   can't say certain things (failure in iraq, for instance)
      as in, their public writings have blank spaces where most
      others would articulate these things 
   believe democracy in the middle east would result in 
      islamist government.
   beginning to synthesize a solution: support the "moderates" vs 
     "extremists". support national stability. meaning, nurture 
     an ideologically neutral leader.... a secular, or at least
     religious moderate, and non-nationalist. train, supply, advise, 
     and militarily back up an army on the ground, and provide air 
   ukraine -- all about sanctions, and pushing for 
     "international resolve", it seems. moving from containment to
     isolation. at no point were connections made to middle east or 
   israel -- supports israel, they are engaged in a battle 
     externally-rooted terrorism, and are justified in using
     whatever means they see fit. resolution would require 
     basically complete disarmament of palestinians.


Is disclosure of Podesta’s emails a step too far? [Naomi Klein & Glenn Greenwald / Intercept]


[ interview format, includes both audio and transcript ]

The above is a discussion of the ethics of the release of the Podesta emails by WikiLeaks.

Some reactions: (not edited/organized too well…):

I touched on it in this post, but Greenwald and Klein bring up additional concerns, some of which I will try to comment on. Specifically:

  • violation of private/personal or private/organizational communications
  • indiscriminate dumping vs considerately curated release when justified
  • the tit-for-tat / vendetta aspect, the apparent specific targeting of Clinton, in light of the animosity Secretary Clinton and parts of the US government have towards Julian Assange and vice versa, and generalizing from that, how to deal with cases where the leaker/hacker/publicizer has an ulterior motive

As I said before, the key common denominator is that to be justified, leaks/hacks must have a significant “whistleblower” aspect. This involves disclosure of wrongdoing or significant corruption.

The first item, violation of private/personal or private/organizational communications. The line is blurry, since organizations function as a series of “personal” contacts. But what I mean by personal here is something like family or romantic or non-work relationships. Using this criterion, everything I’ve seen highlighted from the Podesta archive falls squarely into private/organizational. That doesn’t mean that organizations aren’t entitled to privacy, not at all! But in this case we have some context which lowers the bar. Specifically, Secretary Clinton’s de-facto evasion of FOIA records by using private comms vs state comms, and her intentional intermixing of her governmental, political, and charity activities, so she could then make the not-entirely-honest claim that materials that should’ve been subject to public record were private/personal. And last but not least, concerns, borne out by the released materials, about the excessive role of money in politics, pay-to-play, or whatever we are calling it – that is the classic whistleblower/muckraking/investigative-reporting aspect of the story.

The second item, indiscriminate dumping vs considerately curated release – I’m a little bit on the fence about this one. In general, considerately curated release is to be preferred maybe even should be required. Here the best I can say in defense of Wikileaks is that circumstances may not make that practical – crowdsourcing may be the most realistic way to process the material in time. Also, unlike with Snowden, in the case of the Podesta archives, it isn’t national security secrets that are being released. The collateral damage from leaked items which do NOT reveal wrongdoing is limited to embarrassment.

Lastly, for ulterior motives and timing. I think ulterior motives are going to be the case more often than not, whenever one party reports on the wrongdoing of another. Assange managed to pick a fight with a good chunk of the US government by embarrassing them with the torture expose and so much more, and managed to get himself stuck locked in an embassy for years. He is paying an unfair price for his valuable and positive service to the world, and Clinton, being one of the primary figureheads for the Democratic wing of the NeoCon’s in US government, is taking the brunt of his attempts to expose their repressive tendencies. Regarding timing – obviously this is intended to affect the election. I guess I’m not sure how that’s unethical, unless you think that people running for office should be immune to having their wrongdoing revealed.

Given that one of the issues being exposed is Clinton’s manipulation of the Democratic party’s internals, which I think are contrary to the interests of the vast majority fo D party voters, and should she become president, to the entire US and really the world, and further given that Trump’s shortcomings are already pretty adequately covered, I think Clinton is an entirely appropriate target for aggressive reporting.

Also mentioned was the release format, in small bits. Given I think it is legitimate to try to achieve maximum electoral impact, I think this is a sensible tactic. To ensure that the people who participate in the crowdsourced review of the material don’t choke on one big batch of it, but have a chance to steadily digest it.

Greenwald and Klein also say something along the lines that the Podesta leaks didn’t reveal anything we didn’t already know. Well that’s true for those of us who have been paying attention, but there are 2 other groups that matter. For the general public who have been less well informed, the emails provide valuable insight and real examples of how the interplay between money, politics, journalism twist our political campaigns. And maybe even more importantly, for those who were able to perceive this without having it spelled out in really obvious form, but willingly turned a blind eye- that group now has to confront an important truth.

So ends justifying the means? Certainly not if you’re hurting people. However in this case, the harm the leaks cause is not private-personal, but private-organizational. Trying to cut this up nearly has been a bit of a tortured process, and I don’t like that – it’s often a sign that you’re trying too hard to justify something. But in the end, I want to remind myself, what is being exposed is the way in which public news-discussion of election issues is manipulated by those (i.e., Clinton/NeoCon’s) who do in fact have a record of hurting lots of people. And not just hurting their feelings, or violating their privacy, i’m talking about physically, as in what happens when you bomb parts of the world into rubble and subsequent chaos, using justifications known at the time to be false.

A tiny amount of guilt is maybe suggested, out of the Greenwald/Klein piece, knowing that by opposing Clinton in any way, they may they may be helping Trump. It’s a crappy thing. You have to either make the call that a warmonger who brings about non-trivial amounts of death and destruction is worse than a mysogynist/racist (an unpopular interpretation, similar to the way most people think torturing someone is more scandalous than killing someone), or make the call that they’re both categorically unacceptable, and refuse to accept the choice, which I think is for practical purposes the only defensible position.


Leak: how one MSNBC interview was really a scripted infomercial

video, 1.5 minutes. Full-Screen it to read the text overlay.

Another scene from how-the-sausage-is-made. By the way, if Sec. Clinton is elected, she better do everything she promised in that script, and her mega corporate financiers better not object.

link: wikileaks Podesta archive item 4274 in the above video

[via Digital Empire]

Jill Stein 2016!

comment: Trump vs Gore-2000

Skipped the debate again, but Trump’s “keep you in suspense” line about the election outcome seems to be focus (see screenshot of headlines below). So there’s a republican talking point, in response, about comparing to Gore in 2000. I think it is not without some merit, although is not an entirely apples-to-apples comparison, either.

One of the things that did disappoint me much about Gore in 2000 was that after all the Florida shenanigans, he actually didn’t fight hard enough.

Gore’s concession came in the second week of December, after the recount mandated by FL law, and with further hand counting which Gore had every right to request. With the recount results slow in coming,  and subsequent litigation going to the Supreme Court, Gore did not make his concession until more than a month after the vote. Even so the full range of counting methods were never implemented, and the net results were famously dependent on counting methodology (hanging chads etc). There were also some other irregularities including media reporting results before the polls closed (erroneously sending the message that polls already closed when they were still open in some parts of the state), the less-than-clearly designed butterfly ballot, Republican control of localities and their election process, and accusations of disenfranchisement. See the wikipedia.

So applying this to Trump’s line about “keeping you in suspense” about accepting the results? Well, as usual his brash and nonspecific delivery brings out the worst. However, does it make any sense to be up in arms about this – after everything else, is this the best they got? Looks pretty weak.

Now in reality, based on Trump’s other statements, the impression is that he is really referring to the alleged bias in the media against him, rather than his stance on how he would react to voting irregularities. But again, the headlines don’t do anything at all to counter that view. And of course there is not a whiff of any substance or issues visible in that screenshot.


My position continues to be that every piece of evidence we have says we can expect both Clinton and Trump to be step backwards for the US. Trump unquestionably the more offensive of the two, but Clinton probably the more belligerent and thus dangerous internationally. And if she comes into power she would also be the greater impediment to progress within the Democratic party. Better candidates were available all along ; the fact is Trump and Clinton need each other as their opponent, just to have a chance.

To vote for either one would be a mistake.

Jill Stein 2016!

Selling arms won’t improve security [Stephanie Dornschneider / Informed Comment]


Short article on a pattern of violently repressive states inspiring violence and extremism, and how shipping weapons into such situations is counterproductive.

US, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, official concerns about legal blowback [Reuters]

Just for variety. Published Oct. 10th at Reuters, I landed on it via – you’ll never guess – CFR. Yes, the prominent top-3 US think tank contributing to US foreign policy, with its many… early attempts at success, as captain Jack Sparrow might say. Of course when you’re playing pin the 1000-lb bomb on the donkey it is a little less funny, but leave that aside for a moment.

The article is a pretty sincere criticism of the policy of sending boatloads of weapons over to various pals in the middle east. In years past these have included leading lights such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, but today our network of allies in that part of the world centers around Saudi Arabia. And by “pals” that is pretty much literal – the relationship with the ruling Bush and Clinton families has been close.

So the budding recognition of this being a problem is very refreshing. It represents a pretty reasonable way out, for US policy planners, and here’s how. To admit the error of decades of inciting and materially supporting conflict under various ends-justifying-the-means excuses… Not realistic. But to focus the blame on someone else? That we can do. This was Saddam’s job, he fit the role magnificently. Maybe it will be SA’s turn? If you think about it, they’re the diametrical opposite of everything the US stands for, on an ideological level. Although in reality that probably isn’t entirely fair to the Saudi royal family and a little too kind to the decision makers behind US policy.

I just hope the strategists behind this don’t get too carried away and decide to do some kind of benevolent regime change. Stopping the flow of weapons would be entirely sufficient – nothing else that the US can do is really needed.

Also, realistically, with a Clinton presidency we’ll probably forget the need to blame it all on a third party, so SA will probably be receiving more billion $ shipments of planes and bombs and all will be back to normal. This episode is probably little more than a quick shakedown, so the various sides can sort out who’s boss. Regardless, it is an interesting diversion for the time being.

Tariq Ali: Trump or Hillary?

Fantastic video. [30 mins.]

[via Dandelion Salad]

Jill Stein 2016!