Monday, September 15, 2014

What cost-benefit analysis?

So some six hundred or more heavily armed militants are heading off to Iraq, and who knows what will be the state of things when they return.

Will it be the ripping success of the 2003 adventure?

What restrained, insightful coverage can be expected from the local media? Urging restraint and caution, as you might expect of a modern secular democratic society, unaccustomed to talking about evil and death cults like we're in a medieval Catholic monastery:

Yes, and as you'd expect, there's Greg "bromance" Sheridan still deeply mired in his bromance:

Now there's a bear with very little brain. Once you get past the genuflecting, and the forelock tugging, and the knob polishing, you're left with a billabong as shallow as a baby's bath.

So what's the point of the mission? When will it be deemed accomplished? How will the outcomes be measured? Where's the - dare one ask - cost-benefit analysis?

Does the cost-benefit analysis get any crueller than the one offered by David Rowe this morning (and more Rowe here)?

There have been the odd mutterings. There's Laura Tingle, currently outside the AFR paywall, wringing hands and wondering, in Destiny with the unknown in another Iraq foray:

For now, the involvement remains one based on humanitarian considerations but the assumption has to be – despite all the insistence that Australia will not commit ground troops – that there could be a further escalation of our involvement and even more unknown consequences. 
The unknown nature of a further escalation is a still deeply troubling question, not just because of the risks to Australian personnel, but because of the risk we end up being forced to support the still-uncertain new regime in Iraq and/or an awful one in Syria. 
Polling suggests voters supported the first stage of the humanitarian mission. But the rapidly changing and complex nature of the conflict is likely to leave many voters concerned and uncertain about exactly what Australia has committed to and where, and who it is fighting. The interaction of the conflict in the Middle East with the debate about national security at home only further complicates the issue.

Uh huh. But this is loon pond. Is there a loon out there, someone, anyone, who will use the occasion to generate a truly loony headline?

There, that's better.

Now there's a reliable fuckwit, all the more so since War in Iraq, Syria won't inflame terrorist threat: Morrison, also recycles the story that sent the Murdoch press into a frothing, foaming frenzy, with verbal abuse of Australian diggers in the streets only one step away a public beheading at Circular Quay, sure to follow in the next week, or possibly the next month ...

It seems "heightened tensions" is a one way street in Morrison's myopic world ...

Alarmingly, what this means is that Morrison apparently doesn't have the first clue about why the government heightened the terror alert ...

And where's the fearless leader?

Tony Abbott's attention may be a little divided during his week in Arnhem Land ...

Yes, no doubt he'll be extra busy explaining how he needed to make cuts to indigenous funding to help finance yet another foray ...

Meanwhile, the reptiles are at their finest in this finest hour. Could anyone imagine seeing a march to war as a brawl amongst commentators?

Why do you ask? Of course the reptiles could:

Despite comments by the Greens and some Guardian commentators, it would be shortsighted for Australia to back away from participation in the coalition against Islamic State out of fear that our involvement will make us an even greater terrorist target. Australia, as a modern, secular democracy that values the rule of law and freedom, is already a target, along with other Western nations. So are Arab nations and Israel as well as Christian and Yazidi minorities in Iraq, Shia Muslims and others who do not share Islamic State’s gruesome outlook. After a slow start confronting the extremist menace, one of the most encouraging features of the coalition put together by the US is the inclusion of 10 Arab states — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and the UAE. In conjunction with such a broad coalition, it is in Australia’s interests and morally right that we should play our part as a middle-ranking power in confronting Islamic State terror. The commitment announced yesterday is significant, and deserves to be matched proportionately by others. (Australia's strong response in confronting pure evil)

Uh huh. So if Australia is a modern secular democracy, why the fuck is all the talk of "pure evil", a concept which has all the under- and overtones of fundamentalist Catholic medievalism?

What the fuck's pure evil? Does it include staging a war based on a tissue of lies, mis- and dis-information about WMD?

And right at the moment, none of the local participants in the so-called 'coalition' have offered to put military boots on the ground.

As a result, the pond will have to commit the ultimate reptile crime, and turn to Paul McGeough's Fools rush in: Tony Abbott joins a war without definition.

First let's get Scott "Tongues" Morrison out of the way:

Because they are on the ground in the UAE doing logistics and maintenance or in Baghdad and Irbil as military advisers certainly would not absolve any of them from being a target if IS fighters contrived to get access to them. The deployment is an escalation from the other side of the world that likely will put the IS madmen on the lookout for Australian targets. 

Now let's tackle the reptiles at the Oz blathering about the grand alliance:

Even as Abbott made his announcement in Darwin, the US Secretary of State was trailing his coat-tails in Cairo, making little headway with pleas for assistance from a murderous military regime that will shoot its own people, but seemingly dares not volunteer to face the so-called Islamic State on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq. 

Either collectively in Jeddah or in one-on-one meetings with Kerry as in Cairo, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Lebanon all have baulked at making explicit military commitments to confront a force that they all see as a direct threat to their thrones, bunkers and, in one or two cases, tissue-thin democracies. With the exception of Iraq, which has no option because it is under attack at home, none has publicly committed military support.


The grand coalition of the baulkers.

Now let's contemplate Abbott's decision:
Abbott must have had his hands over his ears last week as Obama spoke to the US nation and analysts around the globe distilled his words to mean a conflict that will last for years. 

Oddly, the Prime Minister warned Australians to prepare for a fight that might last "months rather than weeks, perhaps many, many months indeed…" Seems he's in as much of a hurry to get into this war, as he seemingly thinks he will get out of it. 
It's not clear why. This "we must do something right now" response is likely to create a bigger mess than already exists in the region. Consider: the death of 200,000 locals in Syria failed to rouse much of a reaction in the West; but the deaths of two Americans – and now a Briton – has raised a crescendo for international war when it might have made more sense to tackle regional politicking and feuding first. 

Now here's the final McGeough rub:

The Iraqi army, trained and equipped by Washington at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, is erratic and more likely to cut and run than to stand and fight. Next door in Syria, Obama is banking of the ranks of the Free Syrian Army – which for years he has complained could not be counted on, and which Washington now tries to convince us can be taken to Saudi Arabia, retrained and sent home to win the war. 
More than a decade trying to wave a magic wand over the security forces of Iraq and Afghanistan should have convinced the White House that relying on these newly trained forces qualifies for dismissal under the Obama dictum of "don't do stupid stuff!"

It reminded the pond of previous politicians providing endless statistics about how much money had been spent on making Iraq secure and safe.

Here's where it stood back in 2006:

Blown away in a puff of wind by a bunch of crazed fundamentalists, fundies generated by the very policies of the rabidly one-sided, ideological and theological government that was supposed to eradicate theological wars ... and right now continuing in Iraq as a government too new to reveal whether the old tensions, strains, hostilities and hatreds will continue ... not to mention the fundies cultivated in Syria, at a time when the west shied away from doing anything about Syria because it was all too hard.

So what's likely to be accomplished by this new adventure, which is, despite Sheridan, a form of tokenism as into the valley ride 600 with jets, but totally reliant on the capacity of others to make any significant difference ...

Here's a few likely outcomes, admittedly done at the same level as the cost-benefit analysis done by Abbott's government:

Increase in the domestic threat level in Australia
Increase in the international threat level for Australians
Definition of what will be a successful mission: opaque
Definition of when it might be finished: obscure
Moral for jihadists: head off to the middle east for a really good stoush. It's good enough for western governments, it's good enough for you ...

As usual, the pond turns to cartoonists for the final word - give the pond a cartoon up against the cartoon thought bubbles delivered by Greg Sheridan - and there's more political cartooning at Fairfax here:


  1. Curiously, CNN failed to recognise how eager Team Australia was to assist BO:

    Barack Obama has a plan to take out ISIS -- but who's with him?

    From The Atlantic:

    What Obama didn't quite foresee [when he spoke] at National Defense University in 2013 was a group like ISIS, which had yet to split with al-Qaeda and seize vast tracts of territory. Instead, his vision of terrorism's future included "lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates; threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad; [and] homegrown extremists." The United States, he said, could not combat these actors with force alone:

    We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the wellspring of extremism, a perpetual war—through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments—will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.

    Obama also called for the repeal of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against "those responsible" for the 9/11 attacks—language often interpreted as referring to al-Qaeda and its "associated forces." If America had adopted a perpetual war footing, he argued, the AUMF was the foundation on which it stood.

    This week, however, perpetual war appeared to get the best of Obama. Administration officials are reportedly invoking the AUMF as a legal justification for the U.S. campaign against ISIS. As The Daily Beast's Eli Lake explains, that means, incredibly, that a resolution designed to justify attacks on al Qaeda-linked groups "would also apply to a terrorist organization that is itself at war with al Qaeda." The definition of "those responsible" for 9/11 expands and explodes. The perpetual war continues. What Obama might have called "war footing" in 2013, he described Wednesday as a "comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy."

    What is it with 'conservative' PMs? Menzies, Howard and now their acolyte, the Fugly Thug?


  2. Sykes-Picot Agreement
    May 1916

    From Greg Hunt's source.

    "Britain was allocated control of areas roughly comprising the coastal strip between the sea and River Jordan, Jordan, southern Iraq, and a small area including the ports of Haifa and Acre, to allow access to the Mediterranean.
    France was allocated control of south-eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
    Russia was to get Istanbul, the Turkish Straits and the Ottoman Armenian vilayets.
    The controlling powers were left free to decide on state boundaries within these areas.[6] Further negotiation was expected to determine international administration pending consultations with Russia and other powers, including the Sharif of Mecca."


  3. Erm, there's only invaluable upside to protecting our way of life: business as usual simply must go on. Besides, al arms received, but not yet delivered, and otherwise d-dayed for decisive degradation and destruction of death cults, are an absolutely vital part of the en(ter)t(r)ainment.

  4. Hi Dorothy,

    "Shit... charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500." - Captain Benjamin L Willard.

    There was a joke doing the rounds during the first Gulf War. What is the most popular song in Saudi Arabia? "Onward Christian Soldiers."

    I don't think we will see much military support given from Saudi and the other Sunni states to a predominately Shia Iraq government.

    We are being given the casus belli for this armed involvement as being solely humanitarian, in light of the atrocities being carried out by IS.

    It will therefore be interesting to see what happens when our air strikes and drone attacks push back the IS militants. The Kurdish peshmerga, Iraq Army and Shia Militias that will sweep in, will very likely carry out bloody reprisals on the Sunni communities in the newly reclaimed areas of central Iraq, independent of if they were involved with IS or not.

    What will then be our response to further massacres and ethnic cleansing, this time carried out by our recent allies? Trying to police a sectarian conflict is insanity.


  5. Can you please do a loonpond on this crap from the g.

    1. Anon, one wonders how many 'extra layers of expectation' can be put on Abbott's actions before the realisation sinks in that we can 'expect' till the cows come home and he won't deliver.

  6. DP, you may read Brigadier Greg to get your bile flowing, I'm blessed by hearing Chris Uhlmann asking his bosom buddy Tony the reeeeaaally tough ones on 774. Look, Abbott will be in his element in the North. He will be working to his strength as miracle-worker. He has already raised the putrefying corpses of Dames & Sirs, that was easy. Somewhat harder was calling up a valley-full of dry bones to put together a mighty army to smite Evil. But, he will be put to the test in Yolgnu country. If they only receive his wisdom they will all be transformed. He will start with the kiddies, but what will be his divine standard? Simple, it will be Britishness. After a mere week-long sojourn he will be able to plant the seeds of learning if the soil is receptive . He will be able to return in a year or so and hear Year 9 kids reciting Shakespeare, Cicero and Homer at length. They will be devouring Dickens and the great poets. They will be publishing their own newspaper in English. However, if they have not received the blessing, Abbott will be able to dust off his sandals and turn away, in full conscience and not a single promise broken.

  7. This is horrific. The women were targetted because they were Asian. I believe this is the result of the racist vitriol spewed out daily by the shock jocks and Murdoch lackeys. The more their hate is exposed and denounced the better.

  8. On this ever so handy issue Soapy the bigot is back on the airwaves, and his mate recently down for a count, Smoky, is back after weeks of silence to be now heard ranting about evil and tentacles. Meta-data and evil tentacles (count 'em)?

  9. "What the fuck's pure evil?". I reckon killing kids playing on the beach would come pretty close. Oh wait, our "friends" did that.

  10. "Australia, as a modern, secular democracy that values the rule of law and freedom, is already a target, along with other Western nations." Oh good, I see we're still going with the old "they hate us for our freedoms" analysis. And here I was thinking it had something to do with the centuries of political and military interventionism. Thank goodness the Lizards of Oz were here to set me straight.

  11. The problem is we bombed Iraq too much the first time! But we have to be careful not to bomb them too little like we did in Syria or Libya that just leads to perpetual civil war!

    Fortunately Tony and Barrack have divined the appropriate formula of western munitions to deliver peace for our time.


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