Sean LaFreniere

Independent News And Political Commentary
Welcome to Sean's Blog blog | home | contact
The Blogger
Blogger Bio 
The Archives
Search This Site

Site search Web search

powered by FreeFind

Support This Site
Favorite Links
World Trade Center Attacks
Bali Nightclub Attacks
Beslan School Attack
London Underground Attacks
Raddison Hotel Bombing
Katrina Hits New Orleans
Defend Denmark's Free Speach
The Anglosphere
Support Democracy In Iraq
Democracy Whisky Sexy
Chief Wiggles
Anderson Cooper's 360
The Command Post, making CNN look like the school newspaper.
Andrew Sullivan Dot Com
The Argus, Central Asian news.
Winds Of Change Dot Net
Free The Chief's Iraqi Generals
Michael J Totten
Blog Iran
Moderate Risk
Roger L Simon
free iran petition
victor davis hansen
Save Angel
Oregon Trip Check
iraq's election news
The Hitch
Game Of Life
Sponsored Links
Find info on VA loans and watch this video on the VA loan process.
News Links
Arab News Portal
Belfast Telegraph
BBC News
Dublin News
Edinburgh News
French News
German News
Iran Daily
Iran News
Iraq News
Irish Abroad
Irish Emigrant News
Irish News
Irish Quarterly
Israeli News
Jerusalem Post
London Local
London Times
Los Angeles Times
New York Times
Pakistan News
Persian News
Roman News
Scottish News
Translated News
World Wire
Magazine Links
The Atlantic Monthly
The American Prospect
The Economist
Foreign Affairs
Front Page Magazine
Mother Jones
The National Review
New Republic
New Yorker
NY Review Of Books
Policy Review
Tech Central Station
Washington Monthly
Weekly Standard
Movie Links
Film Jerk
McMenamins Theatres
Movie News - Trailers
Rotten Tomatoes
Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:



Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.



Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.


Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.



Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.



Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.


The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.


The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.


Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income



Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market



Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.



Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.


Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.



Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.



Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.


Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President



Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

Blogging Resources
Technocrati Link Cosmos
This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by
Site Meter
Blogroll This Site
(Copy image and hyperlink)
Sean LaFreniere
Support This Site

Monday, February 08, 2010

Afghanistan’s Imperial Lessons

On January 7th the Middle East Policy Council held a panel discussion on Afghanistan in Washington. Former CIA Near East Division Chief Frank Anderson, Brookings Institute Middle East expert Bruce Reidel, German terrorism author Marc Sageman, and New America Foundation terrorism expert Peter Bergen gave presentations and took audience questions.

Inevitably, the comparisons to the British and Russian (Soviet) experiences in Afghanistan were made and of course Rudyard Kipling was quoted. These allusions are usually the prelude to arguing for American (and European) withdrawal. However, after finishing Peter Hopkirk’s "The Great Game" I am left with a very different conclusion… and with some surprise, so was Anderson.

The British invaded Afghanistan twice, in the First Anglo-Afghan War of 1838-1842 and again in the Second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878-1880, with 20,000 and then 40,000 men respectively. In both cases famous acts of treachery and murder resulted in the massacre of some British soldiers. Rudyard Kipling’s "Arithmetic on the Frontier", published in 1886, warns us that hundreds of pounds of British education and class can be cut down with ease by Afghanistan’s much "cheaper man".

A more modern example would be the Soviet invasion of 1979. The Soviets committed more than 100,000 soldiers – eventually over 600,000 would rotate through the theater. Meanwhile the US sent in Stinger missiles to help the Afghans down Soviet helicopters and by 1989 they had withdrawn in shame over the "friendship bridge". The Soviets were given their Vietnam - as Kissinger is supposed to have quipped.

The easy lesson to take from these summaries is that Afghanistan is the "graveyard of empires" and cannot be won. We are expected then to conclude that no good can come from our own "empires" being involved with the region. We are usually urged to make some limited show of force and get out, damn the consequences to world peace and our own security.

However, in both of the British examples the result was certainly not defeat. In each case the goal of the British incursions was to fend off Russian advances and to secure India’s northern frontier. In each case the British military quickly defeated Afghan forces, and aside from famous acts of treachery and rebellion, they succeeded in installing rulers to their liking and Afghanistan remained a British protectorate until 1919.

The Soviet goals were not limited to strategic advantage such as those of the British Empire. The Soviets invaded to support a friendly Communist government and to extend their cultural sphere of influence. However, the Soviets were not fighting the Afghans, but the rest of the world. With nations from Iran and Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the USA arming and funding the Mujaheddin, early military success inevitably turned to exhaustion and collapse.

Today the West seems to be following both tracks. Like the Soviets before us we are trying to support a friendly regime and to extend our cultural, or at least political, values on the region. We are also trying to capture or defang a global terrorist network that is using the country as a forward base, much as the British worried the Russians would do.

It might seem reasonable to assume that only the limited goal of helping to secure the nation is possible. However, if the coalition forces can secure world cooperation, instead of intrigue and upset, it might also be possible to secure the larger goal of transforming and developing Afghanistan.

In Kipling’s time the "cheaper man" of Afghanistan used a long range sniper rifle, the Jezail, to pick off gentile and educated English officers. In the Soviet era the mujaheddin were similarly armed with shoulder fired missiles, Stingers, that could bring down millions of dollars of Soviet helicopters and their crews.

The lesson here was that poorly armed guerrillas with simple goals, keeping invaders out, could defeat professional soldiers with more complicated geopolitical aspirations. Perhaps the way to upset this model is to invest in the Afghans themselves? If the coalition would pour millions into building up Afghan agriculture, villages, and cities then could they simply better arm the Afghans to defend themselves (much like the Anbar Awakening) from the Pakistani supported Taliban and the Arab backed Al Queda invaders?

As the former CIA chief recognized; the cost of pulling out without achieving either the simple or the more complicated goals is simply too great. The larger region itself, Pakistan and Iran included, could devolve into nuclear armed civil wars. Meanwhile, as Peter Bergen noted, all evidence from recent polls suggests that the Afghans themselves do not want to be abandoned.

The imperial lesson that I see is to stop treating Afghanistan as a pawn in the "Great Game" of international politics and to start treating it as a worthy subject of its own. With little economic or agricultural activity the Afghans have turned to the Taliban and the drug trade to support themselves. Without either something to fight for or with, what other choice does the "cheaper man" have?

Hat Tip to David Zincavage who also picked up on the Kipling meme at his blog Neveryetmelted.

Sean: Monday, February 08, 2010 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere