"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Aug 25, 2011

...with the acuity of an eagle's eye turned in on itself...

Robert Farley loves you.

He loves you with such great passion, and depth of feeling, that he wants you to sleep well tonight. You - you sweet, gentle souls - you matter to him. And he wants to salve your troubled spirit.

Unlike the naive and misguided complainants against the institutional order of things, Farley wants you to rest assured. Especially if you are a good liberal. He doesn't ask you to risk your mortal soul in challenge against the rightness of our betters. He's a good man, this Robert Farley.  When bombs are falling on foreign soil, Farley reminds you, you must remember that they are international.

A consensus sends them.

Can you really oppose a consensus of loving governments? I mean, c'mon now...

Sure, sure, it's okay to wonder if our benevolent leaders have sufficient foresight. Farley worries. He wants the best. It's a reasonable concern. Our leaders are only human after all. Though, one mustn't reach from their mortality, towards a dangerous assumption that betters might not be betters. They are, we must remind ourselves, leaders because they lead us. Some might fail, but that is no reason to doubt leadership.

So, when discussing the invasion of one of the most abused, destitute, war ridden countries on the face of the only planet we know with certainty sports any life, Farley also has concerns. But, they are the right questions. Nary a Marxist or silly anarchist in sight would ever voice them. They are, we've heard, unreasonable folk. Where an anti-statist might wonder at minutia, like corpsified children and the tendency for freedom bombs to fall astray of their righteous targets, Farley hones in on the really important stuff:

"...To recap, the "Afghan Model" involves the combination of special forces, indigenous proxy fighting forces and heavy precision airpower. Proxies screen the special operators from attack, fix enemy positions and exploit tactical victories by seizing ground. Special forces operators identify targets and coordinate proxy ground assaults with precision strikes. Precision air attacks either destroy enemy formations or suppress them enough to allow proxy forces to overrun their positions. This model worked very well in the first several months of the Afghanistan War, but it worked rather less well at the start of the Libyan Civil War. Although airstrikes were able to freeze loyalist forces, rebel offensives in the east initially failed, and for a time it looked as if the besieged city of Misrata would fall.

With what looks like a rebel victory in the offing, the specifically military aspect of the Afghan Model seems to have been vindicated, albeit in slow motion. Compared to the war in Afghanistan, the pace of the rebel advance in Libya was glacial. To date, the NATO intervention in Libya has lasted five months and four days. In Afghanistan, the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar fell on December 9, 2001, just two months and two days after the beginning of U.S. airstrikes. Of course, there are also important differences. The pace of airstrikes over Afghanistan was more intense than those over Libya -- by roughly a factor of three -- and the strikes themselves were heavier. While we may never know the precise composition of special forces in either the Afghan or the Libyan campaigns, the contingents were likely larger and more active in the former conflict. The organized military forces on both sides of the Afghanistan War were more experienced than their counterparts in Libya, a fact that may have made it easier to undertake the offensive that eventually seized Kandahar, as offensive infantry tactics generally take longer to master than defensive tactics. The geography of Libya, which forced most military operations into a relatively narrow corridor along the coast, also favored the use of airpower.

However, the Afghan Model is as much a political as a military concept. Politically, the model is supposed to minimize domestic opposition in the intervening country, minimize nationalist reactions in the target country and minimize international upheaval. In Libya, the grade is mixed on all three. The leaders of the primary NATO countries -- Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron -- clearly did not expect the war to last this long. Obama was forced to manufacture a questionable legal justification for the war after it exceeded the limits of the War Powers Resolution. Cameron and Sarkozy also came under domestic pressure, and other NATO countries grew steadily more critical over the course of the campaign. However, the relatively low cost of the campaign in both Western lives and Western money undoubtedly blunted domestic criticism. In Libya, the overall political impact of the air offensive remains unclear. The broader international community remained relatively quiet, although the violence in Syria and the ongoing collapse of the global economy may have drawn their attention away from Libya.

The other political aspect of the Afghan Model involves post-conflict stability. Because that model eschews use of large-scale ground forces, it assigns de facto responsibility for post-conflict management to the rebel forces. This has the upside of being cheaper for the intervening power and ideally avoids the nationalist backlash typically associated with a large-scale occupation. However, it also puts tremendous stress on the rebel coalition. The rebels, who may not have previously worked extensively with each other for any purpose other than winning the war, suddenly need to assemble a working government coalition. The rebels also have to decide what to do with the surviving elements of the defeated government. All of these obstacles represent potentially disastrous pitfalls inherent to the Afghan Model. If Libya crumbles back into civil war in the wake of Gadhafi's fall, it will not reflect well on a strategic concept that promises large returns at minimal risk. On the other hand, if the experience of working together against Gadhafi's forces helped build relationships between the rebels that can serve as the foundation for a representative government, the slow course of the war in Libya may have had hidden benefits..."

See from how deep springs Robert Farley's human love? Witness what exercises his loving and compassionate soul. The model, kind readers. The model, itself! The model might be in doubt if our benevolent leaders apply it improperly. Oh, how we must shudder.

I mean, can you believe the horror should that occur?

Our leaders, our institutions, their very structural selves, might lose a method, might stumble upon an instant of doubt, and in doubting, discover a traitorous self-reproach.

This must not happen.

This must not happen, most especially, in Libya. Afghanistan is Bush's Folly. Good Obama, that transformational and transitional man - he's got a peace prize. We ought not lose sight of that.

Farley's meaning is clear, and it almost takes the form of a confession: the state must step rightly, and publicly, in order to preserve its ability to step in and into the future.

A "stable, democratic regime" must follow upon the path blasted into the earth, a path forward made ready by freedom bombs and superior force projection, a road towards stability begat by just and democratic war. We must not waver. We must work and labor for this hopeful tomorrow, extending it into the bright future of a world where air power cannot be in doubt, and where good doctrine prevents the resurgence of those who would not be so casually upended by death from the sky, or even - gasp! - ruled at all.


If Farley's point reminds a honest reader of a Rumsfeldian argument, circa Autumn 2003 through Spring 2004, the reader should not doubt her impressions. Farley is exactly arguing, with the acuity of an eagle's eye turned in on itself, that the Western powers foray into Libya was and is "a genuinely multinational effort."

He is, no doubt, joined by august company. I imagine they'll also take great pains to remind goat faced doubters that out of a thousand French armed and British coordinated smugglers, drug runners, former Qadaffi staffers and royalists, aided by American, Norwegian and French air strikes, a revolution makes itself.

But, you know, when discussing the six thousand seven hundred forty five separate air sorties against a country of six and a half million people, what matters most is that the French bombed more people and land than the pilots of the half billion dollar flying American death machines.

All things being temporarily equal, I wonder what the six and half million or so citizens of the State of Washington would think if China, India and Russia, in an attempt to liberate them from the pernicious regimes of Gregoire and Obama, dropped thousands of tons of ordnance over a period of five months, during six thousand seven hundred forty five separate bombing runs...

It should also be noted, that Farley had his doubts about intervention back in March. Not condemnation of American interventionism. Doubts. And not even about intervention, or freedom and democracy bombing. Farley's laser of concern was focused on what sort of regime the US could get something out of the venture.  Farley is a good liberal:

 "We can’t throw open the gates of Libya, then “let the Libyans decide for themselves;” the very act of throwing open the gates requires intervention that will work to the benefit of certain actors, thus necessitating the question 'Who shall we install in Tripoli?' ”

* - with roughly the area of the Pacific Northwest including British Columbia

[I originally wrote a crowvian snark attack upon this Lawyers, Guns and Money piece by LGM founder Robert Farley, mocking and ridiculing the institutional liberal perspective which allows an ostensibly intelligent man to treat with air war with the posed objectivity of an announcer at a mid-week summer Little League game.

It didn't work, mostly because announcers at mid-week summer Little League games are almost always thirteen or fourteen year old boys and girls, and their delivery runs from excited self-involvement to comedic boredom. Even the poses they take are endearing, what with their youth making up for their failure to yet become serious.

So, it didn't work, and then Farley made it easy by doubling down.]


fish said...

I couldn't keep my breakfast down after the un-ironic use of "the Afghan Model."

The guy needs something else to take the tension out of his loins.

Jack Crow said...


You cost me a mouthful of cheap coffee. And I just finished cleaning my keyboard yesterday, damn it.

"..tensions out of his loins," indeed.

Justin said...

If you play the lottery and win, that does not make playing the lottery a good decision.

If you throw a ball into triple coverage, and the receiver manages to catch it and score a touchdown, that does not make throwing the ball a good decision.

I hate to use such crass illustrations of the point, but this is America.

The moral logic of Farley amounts to little more than the ends always justify the means. Never mind that in this instance, as well as in the so-called Afghan model, which as he describes it, is nothing more than a rehash of typical colonialist militarism but that is beside the point, the outcomes are not settled. I would even go so far as to say that there are never any outcomes. I mean, was the overthrow of Mossadegh a successful outcome given the chain of events it helped play a part in, leading to our current military empire and various wars in the Middle East? There are no outcomes, just circumstances and future circumstances dictated by the present.

If bombing kids and making war 'illegally' over the objections of a nominal democratic body of government representing citizen interests is wrong on Tuesday, it is still wrong on Thursday no matter what happens on Wednesday.

Jack Crow said...


Big fan of Boutique Revolution. Especially this one.

Walter Wit Man said...

This sounds exactly like the argument Howard Dean was making on MSNBC when he appeared with Jeremy Scahill: that covert war and propaganda is a much better tool than more overt power grabs. Notice the timing that these neo-liberal hawks like Juan Cole or Farley are making this argument--right at the moment NATO declared victory and the Western press is crowing about it (they've already declared a couple of cautious victories before but this stage managed victory lap seems to be sticking and in influencing events in itself). The neo-liberal hawks are on top of the World now.

Obama and the elite are using the exact same playbook domestically. Both parties engage in obfuscation and propaganda in an effort to make the citizens think they have a real democracy with real debates. They act as if our foreign policy is up for debate yet the people have no real say. And as they do internationally, both parties squeeze out alternative narratives and simply pretend they don't exist and the media spreads that message. This is how it comes to be that the will of the majority of citizens is ignored when it comes to huge policy issues like taxing the rich, expanding health care for the people, or ending our wars.

The only problem (from the point of view of the neo-liberals) is that the rest of the world isn't as beaten down as U.S. citizens and they may not be as susceptible to these games. Look at how popular Obama was when he gave his Cairo speech, filled with hope (and of course lies). Now look at the plummeting views toward Obama and the U.S. It didn't last long and it looks like the U.S. and Obama will suffer the outflow of trust that comes when people realize they've been lied to.

Unfortunately, the American liberals are so fucked up that they no longer have the tools to defend themselves from the psychological assaults that people like Farley recommend. And that may be the weakness of Farley's recommendation--he's projecting. He thinks the rest of the World we be as easy to propagandize as American liberals and if public opinion is simply managed through psychological warfare then only good things can happen. He's not reckoning with the fact that healthy humans defend themselves from attack, both physical and psychological. If a friend betrays me and uses psychological warfare to trick me, he then becomes my enemy. It actually makes me madder. With liberals, the more you lie to them the more faithful they become.

Jack Crow said...


Your comment ought to be a stand alone post and argument.

Walter Wit Man said...

Thanks Jack for the forum to make my argument.

They psychological aspect does interest me a lot . . . but I'm afraid I haven't thought of it as much as someone like Silber who is in a much better place to expand on it.

Maybe power has always worked this way--using subterfuge, lies, and psychological trickery to hold onto its power. Maybe the bully on the block has always told his victims that he was trying to help them. But, I can't help but suspect that psychological warfare and propaganda only took on this form in the last 100 years or so along with the science of mass communication/marketing. In fact, my impression is that power in the past asserted itself more directly. Maybe I'm nostalgic for a past that didn't exist, but if I were a poor Irish worker in the late 1800s, for instance, I don't think I would have the same delusions about power that exist with many of the powerless now.

Although, to question my own argument, there is a lot of discontent with power right now in America. It's just that it hasn't really cracked the consciousness of our common culture--because the media and mass communication are run by the powerful.

Richard said...

" . . . the specifically military aspect of the Afghan model . . . "

where's Peter Sellars when you really need him?

as for Walter Wit Man, excellent, except that liberals have never "had the tools to defend themselves" as they have always been, with rare exceptions, collaborationists

Jack Crow said...


The pleasure was mine. You are welcome to the forum whenever you want it.

For all that I'm a firebrand, though, I tend towards the cautious, when it comes to searching for prospects for North American disobedience. It's unlikely, for a host of reasons.


A keen observation. When discussing nation building, they've no problem with a melange of the political and the military. But, when faced with the failure of the military to produce sufficient political support, they're inclined to separate 'em...

Justin said...

Jack, thanks!

Anyway, I wish I had found this article before I wrote it

I've had the book on my list to read, and came across his interview at naked capitalism.s

If I am reading it right, the cycle is credit, money, debt (with slavery), barter, back to credit. Thought you might find it

Jack Crow said...


Ce n'est pas un problem.

I misplaced a file (I think it was originally linked by Archive Fire or Db0) which discussed the martial origins of coinage as salary/salt wages, that would have been a great compliment to the Graeber piece, which is really eye opening.