A photo of the Kaisando of Kofukuji Temple taken by Beato around 1864, and the street in Kojiyamachi. The road is paved for rickshaws. The stone steps at the rear were later made into a slope. Taken at the end of the Edo Era, this is one of the oldest pictures of the streets of Nagasaki.
The economy and the wars are being driven by that elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about: the military. They are out of control and the US, like Israel, is a military with a country attached. Not for long.
Like much of the rest of the world, Americans know that the U.S. automotive industry is in the grips of what may be a fatal decline. Unless it receives emergency financing and undergoes significant reform, it is undoubtedly headed for the graveyard in which many American industries are already buried, including those that made televisions and other consumer electronics, many types of scientific and medical equipment, machine tools, textiles, and much earth-moving equipment -- and that's to name only the most obvious candidates. They all lost their competitiveness to newly emerging economies that were able to outpace them in innovative design, price, quality, service, and fuel economy, among other things.
A similar, if far less well known, crisis exists when it comes to the military-industrial complex. That crisis has its roots in the corrupt and deceitful practices that have long characterized the high command of the Armed Forces, civilian executives of the armaments industries, and Congressional opportunists and criminals looking for pork-barrel projects, defense installations for their districts, or even bribes for votes.
Given our economic crisis, the estimated trillion dollars we spend each year on the military and its weaponry is simply unsustainable. Even if present fiscal constraints no longer existed, we would still have misspent too much of our tax revenues on too few, overly expensive, overly complex weapons systems that leave us ill-prepared to defend the country in a real military emergency. We face a double crisis at the Pentagon: we can no longer afford the pretense of being the Earth's sole superpower, and we cannot afford to perpetuate a system in which the military-industrial complex makes its fortune off inferior, poorly designed weapons.
CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, supported by Defence Secretary Robert Gates, tried to convince President Barack Obama that he had to back down from his campaign pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 18 months at an Oval Office meeting Jan. 21.
But Obama informed Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that he wasn't convinced and that he wanted Gates and the military leaders to come back quickly with a detailed 16-month plan, according to two sources who have talked with participants in the meeting.
Obama's decision to override Petraeus's recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.
A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilising public opinion against Obama's decision.
Petraeus was visibly unhappy when he left the Oval Office, according to one of the sources. A White House staffer present at the meeting was quoted by the source as saying, "Petraeus made the mistake of thinking he was still dealing with George Bush instead of with Barack Obama."
As it fights two wars, the Pentagon is steadily and dramatically increasing the money it spends to win what it calls "the human terrain" of world public opinion. In the process, it is raising concerns of spreading propaganda at home in violation of federal law.
Presidential candidate Barack Obama promised during his campaign that his administration will take a new approach to the crises in the Middle East and, in particular, to the long-standing confrontation with Iran. He promised that his administration would negotiate with Iran without any preconditions. Most recently, President Obama told the al-Arabiya TV, "If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us."
Like all of his predecessors, however, Obama is not explaining to the American public why Iran's fist is clenched in the first place. If the reason for this were understood and put in the proper context, it would represent a quantum leap toward resolving most, if not all, of the important issues between Iran and the United States, which would then contribute greatly to stability and peace in the Middle East. It all comes down to Iran's historical sense of insecurity, and U.S. policy toward Iran since 1979.
A glance at history tells us why Iranians have a long-lasting sense of national insecurity. Iran is in one of the most strategic areas of world. This was as true 2,000 years ago as it is today. Because of its location, as well as its natural resources, Iran has been invaded and occupied many times by foreign powers, from Alexander the Great and his army to the Arabs, Moguls, Turks, Russians, and British. Over the last 200 years alone, Russia, Britain, and the U.S. have tried to control Iran.
Permit me to make my proposal for Afghanistan: Get out. Now. No handwringing and no delays. President Obama should issue an immediate order that all U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan and return to the United States at once.
Look, they’ve had seven years to kill the terrorists. That’s longer than World War II. Longtime supporters of The Future of Freedom Foundation know that when George W. Bush declared his “war on terrorism” seven years ago, we warned that such a war would prove to be much like the drug war — that is, one that has no end. Who can now doubt that we were right? U.S. officials tell us that the war on terrorism in Afghanistan is just now getting a good start — after seven years of killing the terrorists!
How many terrorists have they killed in Afghanistan since they first invaded the country? How many terrorists did they start with? What percentage have they killed of that total? How many terrorists are left?
My hunch is that no one knows the answers to any of these questions. In fact, from the way they’re making things sound, there are more terrorists than ever in Afghanistan. Why else would President Obama be sending a large number of additional U.S. troops there?
Heck, I’ll bet they can’t even come up with a good definition of a terrorist in Afghanistan! Does it include, for example, people who are angry at the U.S. over the killing of friends and relatives by U.S. bombs dropped on Afghan wedding parties?
While the attention of the US public and the news media here has been consumed (understandably enough) by the congressional debate over the economic stimulus plan, America's war in Afghanistan has nearly collapsed because of logistical problems.
over which NATO trucks traveled to the Khyber Pass and into Afghanistan. 75% of US and NATO supplies for the war effort in Afghanistan are offloaded at the Pakistani port of Karachi and sent by truck through the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan. Then the Taliban burned 10 trucks carrying such materiel, to demonstrate their control over the supply route of their enemy. The Taliban can accomplish these breathtaking operations against NATO in Pakistan in large part because Pakistani police and military forces are unwilling to risk much to help distant foreign America beat up their cousins. That reluctance is unlikely to change with any rapidity.
Well, you might say, there are other ways to get supplies to Afghanistan. But remember it is a landlocked country. Its neighbors with borders on the state are Pakistan, China, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan; Kyrgyzstan is close enough to offer an air route. Pakistan is the most convenient route, and it may be at an end. China's short border is up in the Himalayas and not useful for transport. Tajikistan is more remote than Afghanistan. The US does not have the kind of good relations with Iran that would allow use of that route for military purposes. A Turkmenistan route would depend on an Iran route, so that is out, too.
So what is left? Uzbekistan and (by air) Kyrgyzstan, that's what.
US further use of the Manas military base, from which the US brought 500 tons of materiel into Afghanistan every month. It is charged that Russia used its new oil and gas wealth to bribe Kyrgyzstan to exclude the US, returning the area to its former status as a Russian sphere of influence. (Presumably this would also be payback for US and NATO expansion on Russia's European and Caucasian borders).
It is now a commonplace -- as a lead article in the New York Times's Week in Review pointed out recently -- that Afghanistan is "the graveyard of empires." Given Barack Obama's call for a greater focus on the Afghan War ("we took our eye off the ball when we invaded Iraq..."), and given indications that a "surge" of U.S. troops is about to get underway there, Afghanistan's dangers have been much in the news lately. Some of the writing on this subject, including recent essays by Juan Cole at Salon.com, Robert Dreyfuss at the Nation, and John Robertson at the War in Context website, has been incisive on just how the new administration's policy initiatives might transform Afghanistan and the increasingly unhinged Pakistani tribal borderlands into "Obama's War."
In other words, "the graveyard" has been getting its due. Far less attention has been paid to the "empire" part of the equation. And there's a good reason for that -- at least in Washington. Despite escalating worries about the deteriorating situation, no one in our nation's capital is ready to believe that Afghanistan could actually be the "graveyard" for the American role as the dominant hegemon on this planet.
It must be the Afghans who need Afghanistan, or do they?
The various Pushtun, Uzbek, Hazara, Tajik, Turkman, Persian (in the west), Baluch and Arab (southwest) peoples of the state of Afghanistan have little in common other than an adherence to a wide variety of forms of Islam. Their main languages are mutually incomprehensible and even within the main ethno-linguistic groups like the Pushtun they are deeply divided into confederations, political factions and among local leaders. The state of Afghanistan is a 19th Century creation of the Russian and Indian (British) empires as a convenient way of creating a buffer zone between them. Serendipitously, that buffer zone contained many fractious and ungovernable peoples who were far too much trouble for permanent occupation and "la mission civilizatrice." The name, "Afghanistan" was rather arbitrarily adopted from the name of one of the larger Pushtun factions whose Khan had pretensions to royalty and who had a fair amount of power in the area of Kabul.
This is a country? This is certainly not a nation, not in the sense that any self respecting political scientist would recognize the term. There really is not such a thing as the Afghan People. One thing that all these kinds of "Afghans" have in common is a deep seated xenophobia, especially against non-Muslims.
President Obama's policy and strategy review seems to have as a "given" that the US and NATO should "make something" of Afghanistan, that we should fully commit ourselves to a program of building an Afghan Nation.
Why should we do that? As an act of "Christian Charity?"
There has never been such a thing as the kind of Afghanistan that President Obama and the newly converted COIN generals envision. It is not a question of re-building anything. It is a question of building something that has never existed. Why should we do that? Will the "Afghans" love us for it, and should we care about that?
Today has been a day of recovery. The last several weeks have been more than full. January was my best month for camera strap sales. Then sales took an even bigger jump at the beginning of February. It's been a struggle to keep up. Sales have dropped the past few days allowing me to catch up. Not that I'm complaining! Not many businesses have sales that are going up.
Then my daughter Katie called at the beginning of the week very upset. Not to go into much detail but my grandson Mike was born 9 1/2 years ago. About a week after he was born his father was murdered. There were three involved in the murder. One of them had gone to school with Katie. He is in prison now and his younger brother is a graffiti artist who opened up a show at a local gallery. Unfortunately some of the paintings were done by his older brother who does his art in prison. The paintings of the older brother obviously were related to his crime. This is what upset Katie. Zoe and I went down and talked to the gallery owner. She has only been on the Island for 4 years and didn't know the story behind why the older brother was in prison or that local people were affected. She was touched by our story and, after talking it over with the younger brother and his family and agonizing over it, decided to take the paintings down. They were only a small part of the show and she had other pieces to fill in but it took her two days to make the changes. She finished today. It was a relief but before she made her decision it did open up old wounds and upset me more than I thought it would.