Politics - US FP Archives
March 22, 2010
Interesting if confirmed: Obama to visiting Morocco
Front page news in the Moroccan daily Le Soir, normally a decent paper. Apparently that was the word of the US Amb. Moroccan gov't must be doing back flips.
December 27, 2009
The Madness of USofA Security Overreaction
While understanding that Americans are sensitive creatures unused to risk, and sympathising with being rattled by the incompetent Nigerian cretin who failed in his terror attempt (but seems to have done a fine job in burning his inner thighs, I hope with the proper results to his privates as well insofar as reports suggest the materials were in his undies areas):
What kind of lunacy is this: New American flight rules, no getting up from seat during last hour of flight and no electronics.
No more than one carry on, including handbags. The reports from others flying into the US of A seem to confirm this hysteric over-reaction in now in place.
What the logic of this is escapes me insofar as no reports indicate any electronics were involved, the explosives (same failed method as that Jamaican sneaker-non-bomber cretin) were power sewed into his pants.... and the mere fact he did it in the past minutes of the flight seems to have fuck-all to do with methodology.
Well. I for one am cancelling my plans for a business meeting in New York. Let the fuckers come out here, damned if I am going to spend 9 hours on a flight without my laptop.
And for the US TSA: get some fucking ball you cowardly gits. All the Al Qaeda people need to do now to send America into a hysteric tizzy is to yell boo for fuck's sake.
August 31, 2009
An interesting little post by Andrew Sullivan re some rather nasty comments received on commentary he made relative to Cheney and Cheney's neo-fascist mindset:
This is the America Cheney loves. It exists, though thankfully, I believe, in a minority. It believes in no laws or treaties restricting the power of government to pursue, torture, mutilate and murder those deemed "the other," or simply "those we all agree are just not worthy." One wonders what classes of people qualify as those "we all agree are just not worthy." One remembers the antecedents to this mindset in slavery and lynching and internment (the latter defended by the woman who know stands atop the New York Times bestseller list).
It is a form of fascism, designating some human beings as sub-human and empowering the state to torture them in any way that can satisfy the need for revenge. And it is the end of the rule of law, and the inverse of any serious form of Christianity. This impulse, the impulse for vengeful, sadistic violence against the other, is what now motivates large swathes of what's left of the GOP.
It is indeed fascism.
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August 20, 2009
US: Privatisation of anti Al Qaeda black ops?
This is outside my normal brief, but frankly this is a staggering item:
C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help in Plan to Kill Jihadists - NYTimes.com
The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.
The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.
The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting
in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said. It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.
Privatising counter-insurgency and anti-terror work, including ... ahem black ops ... is a very bad idea. In particular given the nature of the Blackwater firm.
April 07, 2009
Transparent Donor whankery - Iraq microfinance
More on this later, but this quote is transparent donor whankery. Small US loans are catalyst for Iraqi business
“I have increased my earnings and improved my family’s quality of life,”
Odd every donor story always has "increased my earnings and improved my family's quality of life. Queer, this coincidence.
More tomorrow, must piss off
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June 08, 2008
Iran, US Sanctions & Finance
American Footprint's China Hand has a fine note on the strange idiocies of American policy in re Iran and financial sanctions. An idiocy only exceeded by Iran's horrible domestic economic policy.
March 22, 2008
US, Iraq & Bullying...
There is not much to say on this, other than the account seems about right and rather unsurprising in many ways given the demonstrated incompetence and public behaviour.
Echoing Obama to MENA
An interesting comment in The Wasington Post, whose main thesis is an approach like Obama's to race, to MENA would help. Of course I also think of race within MENA at the same time. But worthy of a think.
December 29, 2007
American Idiocies & Reasons to Fear Left Bollocks
While I await with impatience the end of the current American administration, as its gross incompetence and sheer idiocy are in themselves reasons to see them off, this bit of blogging nonsense and the coverage from the Financial Times reminded me that the American left has its share of incompetent posturing morons, and not merely in blogging land. Leaving aside the blog partisan, whose silly ranting on about Mr Guilani's having done business with Qatar, and oh horrors a "Qataran" [the same author mocked 'poofed' up hair as an expression...] or rather Qatari minister of the responsible ministry having supposed connexions to al Qaeda. Insofar as the fellow is the Interior Minister of Qatar, and member of the Royal family which runs Qatar (a close US ally), the posturing is idiotic.
Or more directly, the harmlessness of the supposed measure which pretends to allow private American citizens to attempt to sue Sovereigns they pretend are state sponsors of terror [presumably defined by Americans] (never mind the potential of it having been overlooked, which does not strike one as impossible) is clearly false proposition.
The Iraqi government was quite right to object, and the US Presidency was right to veto this idiocy.
November 04, 2007
MENA Idiocies overheard
Actually - I do bloody swear - at my hotel lobby this evening:
Group of Americans (I presume given where I am business or American development assistance people) talking:
"You know there has never been a war between two countries with Mc Donalds"
[blithering on about McDo]
"We should work harder to get McDonalds in these [presumably MENA] countries, and the culture of getting along will improve [or grow, frankly I forget the precise wording]"
Ensued was a long, statistically illiterate discussion on the impact of FDI and peace, politics, pro Americanness, etc. which provoked a deep desire to jump and shot "Black Swan, Nassim Taleb" and obscenities.
As I have to suspect the American government subsidized or otherwise promoted this illiteracy, I give my condolences to those who tax payments are subsidizing sheer idiocy... (although frankly the understanding of the limited applicability of certain kinds of observations or stat analysis is not politically driven so I have to limit my ranting)
October 27, 2007
Bang, bang goes petrol
I don't know that I could put it better than Stephens: "the White House once again seems hell-bent on being outwitted in the court of global opinion; and, maybe, on making a strategic miscalculation that could make the war in Iraq look like a sideshow."
Regardless, while dealing with big international money center banks has its efficiencies, there is other non-transparent sources of financing, and while perhaps less skilled, their equally non-transparent friends in Dubai's 2nd to 3rd tier operators can get by.
I am merely happy to have a new found interest in likely benefiting parties.
October 04, 2007
Stalin, America's Mouallim in Torture
We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us:
With virtually no experience in interrogations, the C.I.A. had constructed its program in a few harried months by consulting Egyptian and Saudi intelligence officials and copying Soviet interrogation methods long used in training American servicemen to withstand capture.
So, the US decided to copy the Sons of Stalin in their approach to winning over the Islamic world and fighting terror. It is grotesque what the current American administration has done to the Americans' reputation, and more grotesque that the Right Bolsheviks turned to the Left Bolsheviks for lessons. Afghanistan of the Soviets and Algeria of the French evidently taught no lessons.
October 01, 2007
The Face of American Diplomacy
Ladies, Gentlemen: I give you the modern face of American diplomacy. And no, this is in fact actual, not a joke.
Or as the Daily Mail (yes, yes, I know...) put it:
"She seemed more keen on saying she didn't like Iranians than that the US had no plans to attack Iran," said one MP. "She did say there were no plans for an attack but the tone did not fit the words."
Another MP said: "I formed the impression that some in America are looking for an excuse to attack Iran. It was very alarming."
Tory Stuart Graham, who was on the ten-day trip, would not discuss Ms Cagan but said: "It was very sobering to hear from the horse's mouth how the US sees the situation."
I submit to you that no person willingly photographed in such an outfit at a diplo reception should be allowed anywhere near policy making or indeed out of the festering provincial suburb from which they crawled. A clear case of demonstrable bad judgment capacity.
And the Walrus enters into the action: John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, told Tory delegates today that efforts by the UK and the EU to negotiate with Iran had failed and that he saw no alternative to a pre-emptive strike on suspected nuclear facilities in the country.
These people, they are actually mad. Truly, literally mad.
August 27, 2007
Developing Private Markets, Promoting Growth etc: US & Iraq, how to fail miserably all around
In reading this article from the Washington Post entitled most charmingly, "U.S. Falters In Bid to Boost Iraqi Business, Few Products Sold To American Firms" I confess to having been a bit taken aback.
Just when I think the Americans can show no greater depth of utter incompetence in Iraq, along comes something new. What possessed the idiots in Baghdad to think they could get Iraq exporting directly to the United States when functioning emerging market economies have trouble penetrating with companies run by people actually skilled in... well commerce, well it utterly escapes me. The sheer incredible unrealism involved in these efforts is truly stunning.
Now, as context, I would like to share some rants (of many) on Iraq and economic development from 2003, a period I would remind readers where I was actively still working on a major equity investment in Iraq that thankfully never went ahead. I can thank the American occupation authority, the infelicitously named "CPA," for having saved me the losses that would have followed had they been competent enough to respond in a timely fashion to our various efforts. They were not, so no investment, and now four years later all involved thank their lucky stars.
But regardless, the historical review:
1) Encore Ideology over practicality, 5 August 2003;
2) Bring on the Clowns - CPA as circus, 24 August 2003;
3) Iraq and Responsibility 1 September 2003;
4) On Iraq & the Privatization "Rules" 29 September 2003;
5) Iraq Reconstruction: Stunning Political Idiocy, Stunning Miserliness and Stupidity;
6) Iraq: Economic Reforms Analysis 2 October 2003;
(7) Iraq: an analytical piece of interest
March 15, 2007
A Whiff of Idiocy, A Whiff of Bigotry, A Whiff of Cankerous Fear in his Dotage (Lewis, Bernard)
Unlike many of my fellow authors, I rather like the works of Bernard Lewis, or rather, the classic works of Bernard Lewis when he was a historian rather than a political dabbler.
As such FT columnist & Slate editor Jacob Weisberg's report on the recent American Frothing Right Bolshy Lunatics Masquerading as Free Enterprise Promoters Institute (Am. Enterprise Institute) meeting saddened me.
Pity to see an old historian stretch himself into idiocy.
March 07, 2007
Imperial America: Iran & Sanctions on 3rd Party Hydrocarbon Sector Investment
The Financial Times has an interesting, if infuriating (from its content, not writing) article on the Imperial American pretension to regulate other's investment in Iran. What irritates here especially is that I know from experience the slightest hint of similar actions by EU or similar parties touching on American interests provokes paroxysms of incoherent rage on the part of Americans. I confess readily knowledge of this, as well as my conviction that the US efforts here are posturing and will end up merely alienating without any real achievement, adds to my deep sense of irritation.
Now, mind you, the concept of the effort does not offend, and my snide swipe at Imperial America is most explicitly not from your usual Lefty whinging "evil capitalist America" tripe sort of point of view. No, It's about over-reaching, and clumsy over-reaching. I am a strong believer in avoiding too much obvious hypocrisy. One reason the overdone language the Americans and the French tends to engage in in their precious self-fellating rhetoric over their respective civilisations irritates.
Operationally, for many of the same reasons I predict that it will be the Chinese and similar parties that will reap the Iraqi hydrocarbons windfall, I strongly believe the US sanctions are an example of cutting off your nose to spite your face, which for some reason the current American administration seems to find to be a queerly enjoyable activity.
March 06, 2007
I just had an amusing, even hilarious for me, lunch with my attorney who was ranting on about how his local clients have to be brow-beaten (and we're talking corporates, name brand even) into conveying timely information, to him, their attorney, for work they've demanded.
I actually have the exact same experience. It's amazing, really, what it takes to get the simplest fucking things done in this region. Efficiency. What's most irritating and yet in some ways puzzling (in others not when you think about internal organisational structures and incentives) is the foot dragging raises their costs as much as mine (or the attorney's). Of course the constant whinging on about costs etc when they sit down with a bill makes this even more infuriating.
But there are clear organisation incentives to non-performance in the typical MENA company, nothing shocking that doesn't exist in the West of course - see Dilbert. But as always, these things are a question of degree, and indeed the weakness of countervailing incentives.
In some ways it's a good way to look at the failures of Iraq, since the American decision makers innocently assumed the exact same incentive structures, decisional processes and worst yet, reactivity. And being arrogantly blinded to the sometimes (indeed often) subtle differences - any one of which may be individually trivial, but cumulatively is fatal - were unable to react, to adjust and change at once tactics and conceptual strategy in ways that actually responded to the real incentive structures.
I've noted in places like our fool Andrew Sullivan (and even more egregiously chez the Moustache of Understanding) comments tending to indicate that Arabs (or Muslims, en grosso modo) don't value / want / desire Liberty, etc. etc. That's bollocks - but the operational incentives for making changes to achieve those things require different approaches, and realisation that the near term incentive structure is weighted towards avoidance of decisions etc. - nails get pounded down - unless one has a means to control - as in guns.
February 21, 2007
The Carib Gulag Archipelago
I am not frequently moved to comment on issues American domestic in large part, however this news item caught my eye for its meaning to the MENA region and US image there.
I have no expertise in US constitutional law and shall not remotely pretend to comment on the legality or constitutionality. I am sure others will.
Rather, I am moved by the sheer idiocy of what the US continues to do. If this is indeed legal and constitutional, well, I have to say that the Americans have carved out a vast gaping whole in the tradition of Habeus Corpus, one that is at once revolting for its Neo-Bolshevik logic and disturbing given the increasingly imperial pretensions and reach of US law. Worse than these essentially moral, but also pragmatic issues, given that these acts might be justified if the cost-benefit was positive (it is not), is the massive self-inflicted damage (for no real gain at all) the US is doing to itself in creating what is, in effect, an off-shored version of the Gulag Archipelago. Yes, rather more humane if still involving torture, than the Soviet version, but in many ways less honest, for the tortured logic that Guantanamo is somehow in some tortured legal fiction, not under US sovereignty.
I am particularly moved to comment on this because of an interesting anecdote from a friend yesterday, who had to do some neurological tests - involving electroshocks to test reaction. The joke on the part of the Arab doctors, all quite Westernized and Western leaning, based on his citizenship, was "not going to be any worse than the torture at Guantanamo."
The US has fallen to a low level when even its friends make jokes in this manner. Reminds me of the jokes I used to hear from Sov lands....
Regardless, then of the legality, the US has stepped up to a precipice. It must come back.
January 20, 2007
The Talabani Al Hayat Interview
The article Cole worked off referred to an accompanying article of the interview w al-Hayat (what appears to be a partial transcript of the interview).
In that interview he responds to a question w respect to Iran and Syria:
January 16, 2007
American MENA Public Diplo profile
A serviceable article from The Financial Times on Karen Hughes.
January 13, 2007
Isolated or Changing Dynamics: Iraq, Sunni Arab, Sunni Shia and the Americans
An interesting article from The Guardian, which focuses on the journo's interviews with some Sunni insurgents, highlighting the nastiness of the evolving civil war, and the queer evolution of interests, such that some of the insurgents interviewed were looking to the Americans for potential support and protection agains the Shia death squads. This is surely a real evolution as other reporting has indicated that in Iraq it is the Sunni community in and around Baghdad that is most favourable to an American "surge."
It rather bodes ill for the bizarre American taste to take on Iranian interests in Iraq - which given the militias on the Shia side are relatively synonymous with Shia militias in Iraq. It is not hard to forsee the Americans having no friends (where friend means "not enemy") in Iraq at all - and worse, the US government not realising nor understanding.
January 12, 2007
Further image problems notes
Where to start?
In the full basket of bad news, it is hard to know where to start.
It strikes me that this editiorial from the bland Gulf News rather captures what has become a universal frustration in the region, in response to the reports the US is scheming to use the Siniora government to tackle Hezbullah, likely of course but most unwelcome leaking for said recipient. Or the terrible optics of Somalia with the idiocy of air strikes in the midst of villages and the like neither have the tactical nor the strategic effect presumably intended, although they do achieve a brilliant effect of making the al-Qaeda and other opponents of America look spot-on correct in their claims that the US prefers chaos and death for Muslims.
Nor does the raid on Iranian quasi-consular sites, sites duly organized with Iraqi entities help attenuate the image of the US as a blundering, incompetent bull in a chinashop, lashing out withour regard to friendly interests.
It is no wonder the sober Financial Times calls the latest American ... well policy seems to be granting the idiocy too much dignity, reaction then, the latest reaction Surge towards debacle in Iraq and MidEast.
January 10, 2007
Naivete, oh so naive these Americans who are unloved...
I had lunch today with a US diplo who likes to talk to me for financial sector intelligence in MENA (I presume said diplo gets to write blisteringly interesting cables back to Washington about such things).
I sometimes even get snippets of intel for meself (good to know if a certain firm has been in town with US Emb. assistance prospecting etc), and at least a lunch (although most tediously they can't buy alcohol, bloody puritans).
I was amused, in my convo, to get a reaction of shock - actual genuine shock - when I declined to intro to some local financiers because I felt they'd react badly to a US Gov contact.
(The image supra is from the online edition today of a Maghrebine business daily - I use it here to illustrate merely the image problem the US faces. The topic was business, but the imagery, Sadaam.... Unfair, but there it is.)
December 08, 2006
Poodle Bis: Servile Foolishness
I see the Poodle is still humping Bush ibn Bush, the Cretin hereafter's leg. Pity.
I await with impatience a Conservative government, but it is a pity the avalanche of realism has not jerked either the Cretin or the Poodle into reality.
December 04, 2006
Bolton Pisses Off - Good Bloody News
Good news, although as usual the Bush ibn Bush manages to undertake the clean up in a clumsy, ungraceful manner that neither looks credible nor even leverages the moment.
Sadly the US President's comportment underlines his personal incompetence and inability to live up to the historic situation his own incompetence created. Worse than a mediocrity, an incompetent mediocrity who believes himself Theodore Roosevelt or Churchill.
November 22, 2006
Coercion & Land: Israel
There has been much commentary online on this article in the NY Times on Israeli land seizures in the Occupied Territories.
I find the debates rather tedious and...well idiotic. I suppose for those without operational knowledge of how things work in emerging markets or in coercive environments (and that includes prissy Americo-Israelis who rarely experience the business end of the occupation) that theoretical niceties such as "tittle transfers legally registered" mean something.
October 14, 2006
We don't trust you but we want to invest in you...
Some thoughts on a conference call I just participated in with respect to an American group with some kind of US Gov backing (to be frank not sure the nature, but apparently some US G capital went into the Fund) and some MENA region investors.
The best moment in the call came when the American group came out with the phrase, "you realise if we put our capital in, you have to personally engage to be subject to the US Patriot Act." What that means in an effective legal sense to a bunch of MENA investors who are off-shore is unclear to me, although given the increasingly imperial ambitions of American law enforcement (The brit banker thing still sticks in the craw of us people off-shore, for example) it might have real impact. The silence that followed spoke volumes. Now, mind you the MENA investors side are all clean people (well most of them I know to be clean, I have confidence in the remainders). But who the fuck wants to sign on to being subject to the highly political vagaries of American "anti-terror" legislation. Especially if one has the handicap of being Muslim in an increasingly hysterical anti-Muslim atmosphere in "Patriot" circles?
But what was queerest is (i) it is the Americans who are making the approach - I presume under official pressure to put US Gov capital to work in the MENA region, but (ii) all the riders and attachments to their efforts (using those terms metaphorically) say "We don't trust dirty Muslims and Arabs, goddamned terrorists..." Any one measure doesn't seem inherently unreasonable, but the overall package - non-negotiable - smells. I am no longer surprised by an opinion I recently heard from an American investment banker based in the Gulf who said to me, in talking about investment opportunities "I no longer want to touch anything with US government association, bad for my business."
There are real concerns for the Americans to address, but if they want to engage in the MENA region, their approach at present is counter-productive to their real aims. But in an atomosphere of magical thinking, what can I expect. Need to find a Sterling paid job, however.
October 12, 2006
Madness, Maps & Dickey
Without any comment, I share this fine arty by veteran journo Chris Dickey, Bordering on Insanity: Does the Middle East need to be destroyed in order to save it?.
October 08, 2006
Al Hurra and Market Driven Advice
Related to Tom's recent note on the TV in the Middle East, our old Aqoul amigo Abu Aardvark has some Advice for al-Hurra which I found quite on point, being at once driven by a good understanding of American interests and the media market in region.
I am sure longer term readers will recall some commentary back in the old livejournal days regarding the supposed al Jazeerah privatisation and related Arab Media Policy. Some simple minded commentators cheered without understanding the media market.
The Father of Aardvarks has what I consider rather savvy market-oriented advice, which I am sure this current American Administration will not heed, despite their faux-Conservatism with their magical Right Bolshy inclination to unrealistic Bolshy type transformationalism. Real, honest market driven evaluations and pragmatic market driven policy utterly escapes them.
October 03, 2006
On Nation Building & American Magicalism
Prompted by an somewhat typical George Will column, The Leaders [Americans] Have
Aside from this amusing closing (whose connexion with the remainder of the opinion piece is a bit obscure)
"Where's the leader?" Bush, according to Woodward, has exclaimed in dismay about the Iraqi government's dithering. "Where's George Washington? Where's Thomas Jefferson? Where's John Adams, for crying out loud?" For a president to ask that question about Iraq, that tribal stew, is enough to cause one to ask it about the United States.there is Will's foolish comment:
October 02, 2006
Iraq Despair, Bis: The American Revelations
Following up on my personal note regarding Iraq Despair as noted with respect to despair among specialists, I have been intrigued to see the explosion of materials documenting the Bush Adminstration's gross incomptence in Iraq and the Middle East. Quite an array of articles, from the BBC, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph (which for my money in covering a reported Saudi massive security fence to wall out Iraq speaks for itself with respect to the Americans utterly delusional happy talk) although their article on Americans considering cutting off funding to Iraqi (Shia) police operating as death squads is almost as good in highlighting the swamp in which the Americans have blundered into, a swamp of their own making.
Perhaps at some point Americans will realise that to win their goals, they need to grapple with the world as it is, not as they would wish it to be. Of course that means getting rid of the Right Bolsheviks.
Tariq Ramadan has an interesting Op Ed on his effective banning from the United States. The Right Bolsheviks seem to be like the old Left Bolsheviks.
September 25, 2006
Decisions, not faux decisions. Alternatives, not faux alternatives
Normally the blog, the atrociously named but nevertheless readable Glittering Eye does not irritate me sufficiently to post something on it. However, today it did. Plus I have Ramadan insomnia.
US Air Travel
Have to fly shortly to the US of A for some business. Would rather not, but there it is.
Can anyone direct me to a current summary of the idiotic American regs designed to give pants wetters a false sense of security while inconveniencing the maximum number of persons possible?
August 24, 2006
Real Challenges - Competing With Hezbullah
I had another convo with the American group on the US Gov propo regarding Lebanon reconstruction.
The thinking is going in the right direction, they realise on reflection that rushing in to compete with Hezbullah is a great way to do CPA bis, but now the question is "How do you compete with Hezbullah to mitigate its wins?"
Regardless of American stupidity in regards to its FP, the question is a real one.
How indeed does the US compete with Hezbullah?
August 23, 2006
Pimping Giddiness: MENA Private Sector & New America Foundation
In reading the first paragraphs of a Washington Post Op Ed by a fellow at the New America Foundation, entitled The Real 'New Middle East' I thought I was going to be pleased, sadly though the author took real observations and mixed them in with simple-minded swallowing of corporate and governmental PR spin to produce absurd tripe typical of the wide-eyed neophyte or the paid propagandist.
A pity as the author's main thesis in a less over-done and gullible form has merit.
August 18, 2006
Hezbullah's Victory: Roy - Clearheaded as Usual
It is worth drawing attention to Olivier Roy's commentary piece in The Financial Times, entitled Hizbollah has redrawn the Middle East
The perceived victory of Hizbollah in Lebanon may be short term but has highlighted some new and important developments. For the first time, the Israel Defence Forces were unable to prevail in an all-out war. More significant, the winner this time is a Shia Muslim, non-state, armed movement supported by Syria and Iran. In Israel’s previous wars, from 1948 to 1982, the challengers were Sunni Arabs.
Again, returning to punching above their weight.
But the most important issue is who is going to grapple with this issue realistically - rather than throw tantrums that US "largesse" is not "appreciated" as the cretin in power in the US has done.
August 17, 2006
MENA Trade, Business Culture & Americans
While I confess this note is in part motivated by my desire to have an excuse to share this cartoon from the Moroccan business daily, l'Economiste from yesterday's - 16 Aug edition. This was emailed to me yesterday, and is worthy of a good laugh, I thought it also worthwhile to undertake some reflexions on both the subject matter and some generalisations about practical issues.
The text, by the way, reads roughly, "Let's go, don't be so timid." I presume everyone gets the allusion.
The subject matter is the fairly substantial non-impact of the much ballyhooed - in US circles - and much feared -in Maghrebine circles- Free Trade Agreement with the United States.
Utterly unsurprising, I may add, despite the rather overdone expectations on the American side (based on painful conversations with earnest American officials I have had from time to time) and fears on the Maghrebine side (who delusionally feared the US was going to come in and buy everything. If only.)
August 16, 2006
The Lebanon Debacle First Lessons
Lessons may be to big a word, perhaps "preliminary observations approaching lessons" would be better.
The most remarkable item from this fiasco is the manner in which the current American administration unerringly executes near-perfect bicycle-kick own-goals. It's breathtaking in its consistency, and the sheer deluded pig-headedness of it all. Only a year or two I passed over in polite silence or sneered at American Left whinging on that the Bush Administration is the worst in living memory; I confess I am sliding towards a similar opinion now in light of the simply extraordinary incompetence on display and the bizarre inability to learn from its own goals. The "Neo-Con" block is truly Bolshevik in its elevation of its ideological precepts over all fact and ample evidence of failure of its most radical precepts.
The night before last in particular in watching on one of the arab sats the Bush speech with my partner and friends I was Almost taken aback by the depth and intensity of the reaction to his speech, and this among, as I noted at Lounsbury, a crowd tending to the liberal (free market) and not typically anti-American (my JV partner being the sole person who I might characterise as "pro-American" at some level) but certainly typically pro-West. Bankers and the like.
August 13, 2006
And a short echo on cluelessness and navel-gazing
While were I not obliged to spend my time this weekend working on investment performance whanking (obliged meaning, choosing to as the said performance is not in any way related to me Titanic), I would have some amplifications on this note by Billmon with respect to a fine Op Ed in The Washington wondering why US military can't achieve the same street cred as Hezbullah on the ground.
End Game or maybe not
As our very own Tom Scud has summarised, the UN 1701 fig leaves and the online world of whankers reaction, I have little to add at the moment, having spent part of this weekend trying to rebrown myself (as camoflage) and internalise the new recommends GIPS guidelines as I write a profile for a fund. However, I do have a question for the more asture observers out there. The Sixth War is one of the monickers on the Arab Sats (at the moment I can't recall if it's al Jazeerah or al Arabiyah, things tending to blend at the moment). Anyone want to breakout the war accounting there for me as I can't get Six wars - depending on how I break it up I get one more or less. Oddly this irritates me.
August 06, 2006
A Comment on The Bolshy Right: The intellectuals have taken over the asylum
I am not normally given to quoting entire op eds at length, but I found FT's America's editor-at-large, Jurek Martin brilliant on Friday: capturing as he did the special type of idiocy when theoreticians, aka intellectuals of a certain kind - or better, ideologues - run things, in "The intellectuals have taken over the asylum" The Financial Times, 4 Aug. 06.
A note of warning for the humourless and those prone to the same, Jurek oft writes tongue in cheek, so no, not everything stands to close scrutiny. However, it is an amusing and close comment on the matter:
July 30, 2006
Sadly Predictable: Transforming Leb Land by Bombing Backfires
The campaign against Hezbullah turns on itself, and American "diplomatic efforts" continue to exist in some strange, delusional world of wishful thinking, where by some magical intervention from on high Hezbullah caves, and again somehow military force magically re-arranges inconvenient political realities. A queer belief system, to be sure, given it is so clearly divorced from reality, but it is the operating one for the US government as it blunders from one PR disaster to another.
July 26, 2006
Despairing of sense: MENA and an increasingly unmoored America
I am increasingly despairing of the completely unmoored US position in the Middle East. Between utterly magical thinking regarding breaking Hezbullah militarily and equally bizarely unmoored and ungrounded policy in Iraq (where, per this NYT arty, after 3 years of major effort, the American military is working to "reclaim control of the Iraqi capital"), I am beginning to think, after some hope that Rice was actually rather more competent than I had given credit in the past, that I am facing roughly two odd years of truly complete, ham-handed incompetence of the most dangerous kind.
July 14, 2006
Leb Land and Israeli bloody mindedness
Some thoughts on this escalating madness.
First, it really is painful to watch CNN fellating the Israeli point of view. Really bloody hell, a bit of critical analysis, not soft-ball questions to Netanyahu. I expect American media to be pro-Israeli, but critically so.
Second, the escalation is begining to worry me. Yesterday I was inclined to think this would blow over, but now the number of (American and Israeli) security types out pimping the line that Israel has to move into southern Leb Land to insure its security strikes me as a worrisome indicator of both American and Israeli thinking in the decision making circles. Of course, the last time they ran this, it was decades long disaster that made Hizbullah what it is today.
Third, Israeli actions while not unjustified are Pyrrhic. They are going to drive a rally-round-the-flag effect and doubtful they are going to generate what is wanted.
Lebanon - Israel: US Media
As I count down the US exile, the Leb Land crisis with the Israeli over-reaction is an interesting occasion to observe the sheer incompetence, laziness and pandering that is the US media (mass and blog-loonistan).
Watching CNN in particular I was bemused by a truly stupid waste of broadcast time in reading the inanely ignorant blithering of viewers (which was as predictable as it was unenlightening, such as Avi from LI -not an actual name- ranting on about the evil UN, etc.); hardly news unless one had some analysis of the reactions.
The segement on "knowing our enemy" (our? Has Israel become a US state? Bloody hell, a bit of objectivty mates) re Hizbullah was typically shallow, ill-informed and security focused. Domestic US news really is atrocious. Not a new comment but bloody hell.
June 28, 2006
NYT & US SWIFT 'spying' prog bis
I noted that Kevin Drum has linked to an intriguing but I think rather wrong-headed discussion at Crooked Timber with respect to the SWIFT program. How the author at Crooked concludes that the Central Banks were not the proper authorities for SWIFT to communicate with truly escapes me, as in most jurisdictions they are precisely the authorities that most jurisdictions have regulating payment systems, and for most GAFI compliant countries, have dedicated staff for these kinds of issues...
June 27, 2006
NY Times & SWIFT
I understand from a perusal of The Washington Post and some reporting on outgoing US Secretary of Treasury Snow's comments that much is being made on the more irrational or emotional side of the American Right of the NYT revealing that American authorities have been tapping SWIFT's database fishing for information.
While the sentiments are in some way understandable, I have to say, chill mates, everyone who had the slightest clue about international wires etc. assumed this was happening anyway. This is only "news" in the political sense. Bloody hell, you can't fucking go to an American government function without some US rep or another whanking on about wires.....
May 27, 2006
Whanking Ignorance on Dubai
In writing a little bit on some idiotic whanking about "progressive" economics and conservative Islamists, I reminded myself to return to something I spotted via GrapeShisha
A truly stupid article on Dubai which only deserves comment on these excerpts
Dubai sounds like a fake country. Or an exotic place only vacationing al-Qaida cellmates and CIA spooks know how to find. ..... Dubai's connections to al-Qaida terrorism apparently were accidental, not government-countenanced. But Islam is the state religion ..... So beneath the glitz and gleaming skyline Dubai is a theocratic Islamic state that no American would want to be a citizen of for more than an hour. But it's spectacular proof that the Middle East is not monolithically backward, hopeless or anti-Western. And it shows that relatively good things can evolve in the Muslim world without the United States having to use force to create them.
I honestly am impressed the author could pack quite so many stereotypes, just plain idiotic mischaracterisations (hint having a state religion does not a theocracy make you semi literate git, else England would be a theocracy (and in terms of enforcing 'uniformity would not have been far off Dubai if one rewinds not so far, but no one would think of writing seriously that Elisabeth I was a 'theocrat' ).
I honestly wonder at the literacy and rationality of American commentators on Islam, the Islamic world and... well just the outside bloody world in general. Theocracy....
The Agency - Clandestine Operations, MENA and Amusement
Via our friend Zenpundit, and a post on A New Clandestine Service: The Case for Creative Destruction by Reuel Marc Gerecht which is a PDF article on Gerecht's observations on the American clandestine service and its supposed short comings, I was quite entertained and intrigued.
I have zero idea if Gerecht is right (although the article reads in a generally non-ideological fashion, which is a pleasant change of pace from Left and Right axe grinding in this area - in this sense Gerecht may be wrong about what he is writing about, but I at least came away with a sensation he would be honestly wrong, and not due to ideological whanking), but a number of his observations on field practices rang some bells. And entertained. As I have known a number of Agency people over the years (doubtless more than I know I knew), it was interesting.
May 22, 2006
The Wisdom of the Egyptians: US & Egypt
While many 'Aqoul readers likely are aware that Egypt is passing through some rather severe political tensions at present, as disgust with the vampiric Mubarek regime seems to be bubbling up like a half-suppressed urge to vomit, I thought I would depart from my normal Egypt aversion and comment on The Financial Times's piece on PM Ahmed Nazif's Wisdom, Egypt ‘not under US pressure’ over political freedom (reporting by Mr Wallis paired with the esteemed Roula Khalaf who hopefully can impart some street smarts to the man so my precious FT space for MENA is not taken up with announcements that Egypt supports "Arab Unity").
May 11, 2006
In the futility department: Iraq Investment
Running across this note in the FT, US urges investment in Iraq and finding the same idiotic promo agitprop re investing in Iraq that I was hearing back in 2003.
Longtime readers of course know that I was involved in various investment projects focused on Iraq then. Including a heartbreakingly beautiful steel project that dripped away into the sand thanks to the CPA-Iraq incompetence. I should be thankful of that on some level, I would have lost money.... Although on the other hand, I strongly feel that had CPA-Iraq not been so painfully incompetent and corrupt (in an incompetent way), Iraq might have turned out far better. Not the Bush Administration's utterly unrealistic vision, but not the utter disaster that it is now.
But let me share the part that really irritated me:
May 07, 2006
On the CIA and Goss
While not typically something I would comment on, David Ignatius of The Washington Post had a few interesting comments on the surprise resignation of the Director of the US intelligence service (well one of them) that provoked some reflexion on my part on the few friends I have had in this area over my years in MENA and the fiasco that appears to be the US' redoing of its foreign intel service(s).
May 02, 2006
I have to say, this is completely retarded. An American congressman, "Chris Smith, Republican chair of the House of Representatives committee on human rights, ... called on the Bush administration to categorise Germany as a “tier three” country that would make it eligible for US sanctions under anti-trafficking legislation" tied to German preparations for the World Cup including dealing with entirely legal prostitution.
April 25, 2006
On Iraq and funny little investments.
Since the deal fell through and now is pushing up the daisies, I thought I might take a moment to illustrate and reflect on some recent news out of Iraq, notably the move of Shia militias into Kirkouk and the overall rise in tensions with the Kurds.
As longer term readers knew, I grew tired of commenting on the Iraq war after it reached the stage of what I named "no escape from the Lebanese logic."
I should say that my calling the development just about two years was not particularly prescient, all one had to do was be familiar with Lebanese style civil wars and the perverse incentives that drive factions towards escalating violence, as well as assess the ability of the security forces to stop the evolution. In terms of Iraq, if one was not being willfully blind, it was painfully clear as of early to mid 2004.
March 29, 2006
At least theatrical
Well, it strikes me as unfair, but but calling the US Ambassador 'a chiseling little crook' and a 'used car salesmen' is pretty funny. Unfair and likely uncalled for, but it's pretty funny.
Livingston is of course a nut as well.
March 28, 2006
Chimpanzees & Foreign Documents
The slide of America into chimpanzee like worship of mob-rule via internet whinging on and whanking dressed up as popular check on, ... well I guess the evil of actual knowledge and considered thought, contininues. The dear Abu Aardvark has been noting on his blog the idiocy that is the real to the barely educated masses a trove of captured Iraqi documents apparently in translation.
This is possibly the stupidest waste of resources I have seen in at least a week. According to the links I read, the howling semi-educated chimps have already siezed on various random pieces of paper to "prove" all kinds of inanities and irrational obsessions.
Well, it is a brilliant move to keep the intellectually impoverished obsessional whankers in the "blogosphere" whooping and hollering over nothing at all, as well as a fine way to keep weak-minded conspiracy theories alive (as in e.g. the Iraqi Nuclear-Biological-Chemical weapons program being magically transported to Syria).
Sad and pitiful spectable, otherwise.
February 26, 2006
US-Arab Cham of Comm Statement on DPW
Afraid still fighting some illness at present, stupid white cells. Regardless, sharing the statement by Nat US Cham of Comm on the Dubai Ports World, in part, as I liked it.
February 20, 2006
Ports & Soft Bigotry: A Commentary I Wish I Had Written
Pity I have real work to shoe horn into my moments of lucidity (stupid pain meds), as I would have loved to have written this comment (ex some of the US domestic politics).
I like it so much, a bit of a commentary on the comment Playing The Muslim Card: Dubai Ports World at the blog Dennis the Peasant, a reference which pleases me immensely having had the online signature referring to cheese makers.
January 17, 2006
The TV show.
With my dear familial hosts I watched a good portion of this show, which they seem to be madly fond of.
An amusing show, I suppose, but my take away was this: "magical thinking." Fun, and all that, but strikes me as the sort of thing that leads Americans to support cowboyish actions like firing off missiles willy nilly and the simple minded idea you can resolve stuff in "24 hours."
Yes, entertainment, I know, but I nevertheless have the niggling sensation that these kinds of shows (and movies) help reinforce magical thinking among the public (and even others) about terrorism, resolution of the problems and the like.
Or maybe I am simply an arrogant elitist snob with little respect for the masses (well we should not engage in false dichotomies, as of course this is not a binary choice).
December 14, 2005
On Torture, New Bolshies and Image
Over the past week, in between my occasional funks over these bloody lungs, and my paranoia regarding my work and the orgy of backstabbing going on, I have had the sad occasion to become reaquianted with US media and in particular news.
Well, it is called news although as far as I can tell, nothing remotely ressembles proper news.
This aside, I have followed with some bemusement the 'debates' over torture in the US media.
December 12, 2005
Having just seen this film, I thought I might make a comment or two.
Overall, a very interesting film, I rather liked it. Somewhat on the dramatic side, as relatively large budget film has to be, but very nicely done overall. I shall not pretend to review the film as a film reviewer, but some thoughts on its MENA subject matter and small details that pleased me (as well as displeased), from someone who operates in this kind of world.
What follows will have direct reference to the film’s events, “spoilers” to use that silly precious little phrase. Don’t want to read them, don’t read on. For those who may want to see the film, my summary is I found the film to be a very nice rendition of affaires here in my region, although to be sure dramatised.
November 24, 2005
Al Jazeerah & Bombing, Odd Backdrafts
I've noted some odd backdrafts from the UK threat to papers publishing detials, etc. of the (frankly silly) Al Jazeerah Bombing threat from Bush. That is to say, suddenly the story is being talked about and considered seriously around here.
Foolish move by UK, unless the transcript is truly horrifying (which I suppose one can not exclude, given the dimwittedness of Ibn Bush), it would have been far better to merely let it out.
October 16, 2005
On American Diplos & Arabic
The key point to attract attention to is the issue of real incentives rather than theoretical policy - in this case highlighted in the instance of the way language designation and training is handled.
I had some conversations with Zenpundit and others I believe with respect to the issue of US diplo training and operatinos and real incentives. While I had no idea as to these detials, this is precisely what I was thinking, and why I have contempt for the idiotic 'big picture' know nothing ideological attacks on the US diplos by right and left - the real problems undoubtedly in very large part are found among these odd detials, unintended consequences....
October 12, 2005
Some observations on socialisation, expattedness, plumbers and afternoon apartment sex, videos and US foreign policy in MENA, from a personal perspective
Well, pratike is proving a good soucre of items to comment on in the past week, and since I do enjoy myself in this respect, let me present some comments on his comment, Why do they hate us? in my typically useful manner.
Our dear Man in Le Caire focuses on a snippet from a commentary in Foreign Affaires that I can not be bothered to read as of yet, but the snippet is quite good: "Forty-six percent of Egyptians polled identified U.S. policy as the source of their feelings, compared with 43 percent who stressed American values."
Well as the Man says, it is rather highish. The icky American values part that is. Leaving aside substantive questions as to the poll and the article, I prefer for the moment to entertain myself with pratike and commentators. More sporting, besides, I'm feeling ill.
October 09, 2005
On Arabic II: Training, Translation & Intelligence
I nipped by "Liberals Against Terrorism" (an atrocious name I may add that never ceases to irritate me) and found Pratike commenting on Arabic again, on indeed financing of Arabic studies by the United States.
That incited me to comment.
First on the financing issues, given what I saw when learning Arabic in the dark ages there certainly could be (and here I refer to the Anglo world not being in any way conversant with actual teaching materials elsewhere - except in terms of in MENA region, which are regardless of language (including Arabic), risible) better finaning of efforts to develop better pedagogical materials - preprepared texts, targetted vocabularies and all the sorts of things I recall from German (although this was wasted on me, after I decided I loathed German) and French (although in this case I was young and impressionable).
August 26, 2005
Bou Aradvrak, MEPI, and Floundering
Our dear and agile Father of Ardvaarks has noted some oddness in the idea of the US Gov's spanky new (well not so new, actually a bit aged now come to think of it, as political initiatives go) Middle East Partnership Initiative being headquartered (I presume this is correct) in Tunis, Tunisia (aka Ben Ali Park).
As I noted in comments, when I first started seeing the Middle East Partnership Initiative diplos out and about, they were all about economic development and policy. In which case Tunis makes sense.
Now the US Gov seems to be obsessed (although surely this will only last for as long as Madame Cheney's attention does) with Democratisation. That does make Tunisia something of a... peculiar choice, given I understand from the diplos that Democracy and Governance are the new obsessions above all else.
Waste of money over all, the entire Democracy promotion effort in my opinion, but there it is.
So, in keeping with US Gov's general incompetence in the MENA region, it occurs to me that actually Tunis is a brilliantly symbolic choice of shambolic misconceptions, clumsy off-base symbolism and general floundering about.
August 25, 2005
Structuring Private Equity in MENA for Development
Structuring Private Equity in MENA for Development
A few weeks ago I raised the subject of emerging markets private equity in particular in the context of US Gov efforts to utilize the vehicle to further its political / development goals in the Middle East – North Africa region. One of our online world colleagues if you will posed a question to me as to what the “The Lounsbury” approach would be, in the context of my expressed skepticism in regards to the investment vehicle / definition chosen by The Overseas Private Equity Corporation.
Ironically (well not really) at present I am working on materials closely related to just this question, although not really in regards to development – but as much of the private equity activity in region has been international development institution driven there is a clearly overlap. Now, having sent drafts of my materials off for comment I can take a moment to sketch out some preliminary thoughts on the issue that will be the basis for future comment.
First, my assumptions, based on personal experience in the region and in the “sector” if we can call it that. Again, these are my a priori assumptions and principes.
August 19, 2005
Aqaba: New source of amusement, play the fire at US ships game
Repeating my comment on 'Aqoul, a small observation or two in re this:
Well, this news in the AM bemused me:
It reports two missiles (in fact, it appears mortars, not quite the same thing, Mr. Halaby, or perhaps Katyusha rockets..... well something explosive in any case) were fired at US warships at Aqaba harbor.
August 16, 2005
Right Bolshies, Magical Thinking, US Diplo "Reform"
Following from my comment here at On Diplo Services and Reform a further observation in regards to the prospect of United States diplo service reform, primarily motivated by this stunningly ignorant (and/or dishonest, hypocritical) comment claiming that CPA was a State Department Shop that failed for lack (yes, lack! This moron claims lack!) of political appointees.
August 15, 2005
On Diplo Services and Reform
I thought I might be lazy and refer to some comments I made on the site of the dear Zenpundit regarding a perceived need to reform the United States' diplomatic service, at A State Department Worth Creating largely for further discussion here if there was an interest.
August 11, 2005
Market Madness or Brilliance? US Gov Private Equity for MENA Announced (cross from Aqoul main)
At the risk of descending into flackery or something approaching it, I thought a brief comment here might be fun.
Certainly this plays into my personal interests. (and in this cross post I indulge in them)
July 18, 2005
I had dinner with some senior finance and US officials this evening, and discussed with them a concept that is being batted about among US Gov re a equity fund for the region. I was in love with this until this evening. As I listened I went from being voluble to silence. It is so stunningly badly conceived as to take my breath away. Among the key snippets I share is the argument from the main US Gov mover on this, that they could use the proposed fund to lobby and force political change.
July 12, 2005
Lebanon: The Lebanon II Scenario
No substantive commentary, but I draw attention to this:
Lebanon Deputy Premier Wounded in Blast
The target, a pro-Syrian politician.
I opined months back that I did not like the US supporting a maximalist approach to opposition politics because of the chances of playing into returned inter (and intra) communal violence.
The overall analysis behind this is that while, yes, a majority of Lebanese do not want a return to civil war, as in Iraq, and as in Lebanon - it is not the majority that makes these things happen. One simply needs enough hard men on either side who can make a profit in some manner, via power or money, to push it, and enough weakness on public authority side to be unable to choke the trend off.
Lebanon probably can choke the trend off, but the state is just weak enough that this can't be dismissed.
I also note the potential for a currency crisis which could help precipitate serious tensions.
February 18, 2004
An Entreprise Fund
Informed sources tell me that influential staff in the MEPI are going to opt for an entreprise fund, over a regional private equity fund model. This is a stupid decision. A large pot of USG money, admined from Washington to do 'entreprise grants' in a region they are not well-connected with, do not have on the ground business intelligence, and for which the bureaucrats in charge really do not have a direct risk involved. Risk is discipline.
This is a perfect way to piss away a rather large number of millions. Morons.