Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cultural Anthropology and Counter Insurgency...The Vietnam War and The Iraqi/Afghani Wars

Gerald Hickey was a anthropology graduate student from the University of Chicago visiting Vietnam during the war. Hired by the RAND corporation and The U.S. military to study the Vietnamese and help them win the war.

Hickey wrote programs that the military rejected because they didn't like the results. Hickey found in his research that the villagers just wanted physical & economic security from the government, he found that overwhelming force [the military's favorite tactic] was counterproductive in this type of battle. Force creates martyrs, shows the enemy your overly brutal, and all that leads to increased recruitment for insurgent forces.

He stated that "Vietnam is a political war, and should be fought in the political arena." He found people [Montagnards or "highlanders"] who were willing to assist the U.S. in the war [despite their opposition the S. Vietnamese government]. He stated the Vietnamese custom of "accommodation" should be used to negotiate...the military said no they believed it "giving in or surrendering".

In the end the U.S. lost anyway, Hickey was ejected from the RAND Corporation and from the academia due to ethical conflicts. The military has a history of considering cultural anthropology as a "nuts n' huts" ideology and useless in real life battle. Ethnocentrism made a fool of this nation before, and from the looks of things it will again.

In 1984 Capsar Weinberger [Secretary of Defense under Pres. Reagan] created the 6 principles to avoid another Vietnam and those principles are:
(1) The United States should not commit forces to combat overseas unless the particular engagement or occasion is deemed vital to our national interest or that of our allies.
(2) If we decide it is necessary to put combat troops into a given situation, we should do so wholeheartedly, and with the clear intention of winning. If we are unwilling to commit the forces or resources necessary to achieve our objectives, we should not commit them at all. 
(3) If we do decide to commit forces to combat overseas, we should have clearly defined political and military objectives.
(4) The relationship between our objectives and the forces we have committed—their size, composition and disposition—must be continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary.
(5) Before the U.S. commits forces abroad, there must be some reasonable assurance we will have the support of the American people and their elected representatives in Congress.
(6) The commitment of U.S. forces to combat should be a last resort.

Those plans were resurrected by Colin Powell in 1994 but abandoned by the end of Clinton's presidency.

There is and seeming always have been a severe lack of cultural understanding in the National. Security establishment. It puts us all in danger, but it puts those that fight these wars in the most danger because they are the ones fighting an ideology they don't understand and have no information on. They are being used much like pawns to be sacrificed for some "greater good", they are not the only ones though.

Because so are the insurgents. An insurgent is a person looking to topple a government, some call them revolutionaries. These people are not backed by an existing government, they are renegades fueled by nationalism and an ironclad agenda. In Vietnam it was the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese who worked in paramilitary units (small armed groups/militias) with the agenda of uniting Vietnam under a communist regime. In Afghanistan its the Taliban, an organization consisting of multiple paramilitary units and intelligence cells hell bent on filling the void left by Saddam Hussein when he was dethroned in Iraq. The Taliban already have control over Afghanistan, so getting Iraq would be a huge coup.

The Taliban's genesis goes back to when the, then Soviet Union, invaded Afghanistan in 1979, looking to take over their oil and other national resources.
At the time, the Soviets were America's #1 enemy and so they sent the CIA (unofficially I'm sure) to arm and train small cells of Afghanis (these cells were called The Mujihadeen) to fight the Soviets off. The Soviets where in Afghanistan for 10 years before they surrendered and finally left.

While the U.S. helped Afghanis fight the Soviets. They had problems of their own...in Iran. 1979 was the launch pad for the Islamic Revolution. The Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers had ran the U.S.-backed Iranian king Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Shah) out of Iran. The U.S. Launched an overthrow of a popular Iranian leader named Mossadegh during the 1950s, and replaced him with the Shah. The Ayatollah began openly rebelling against the Shah and his western benefactors (American, Britian, Israel). The Ayatollah and his followers wanted to have Iran's government work under Islamic Law (Sharia Law) and to have Iran ran for the benefit of Iranians without Western influences, influences that they believed to be contrary to Islamic teachings.

After some time the Ayatollah gained enough popularity (despite being in exile in France) that he was able to drive the Shah from his throne into exile. This was the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

The Islamic Revolution's main purpose was to protect Islam in Iran, but not just there but wherever it may be in the world so because the U.S. never listened to the grumbling of Arab nations over the treatment of Palestinians in Israel (since the 1950s), because the U.S. tried to take out Iran (by helping Saddam attack them) in the mid-1980s, and because Bush Sr. wrecked Saddam and Iraq (early 90s) the cup ranneth over to say the least.

Radicalized by the teachings of Iran's charismatic Ayatollah, cells of Muslims became staunchly anti-American, anti-British, and most definitely anti-Israeli. This lead to the terrorist attacks of modern history and the birth of many terrorist networks most notably The Taliban (formerly the Mujihadeen).

So what does all this have to do with cultural anthropology? Well its simple, Islam has its own culture. A culture that has been shunned for years, you see it today where Muslims are called "cave dwellers", "sand niggers", "camel jockeys" etc by people who have no idea about their culture. Islam is seen as evil by a lot of people (they don't really help their argument of Islam being peaceful with terrorist attacks). But they fail to see that the Muslims just wanted to be left alone. Its crazy that, it all boils down to leaving them to their own devices.

So, just like when the Vietnamese democratically voted for communism, and America decided to involved itself to stop the spread of communism led to the most wasteful and unpopular war in U.S. history. America inadvertently (and sometimes overtly) stepped in to interfere with Islamic culture which is leading to TWO wasteful and unpopular wars...and they are happening simultaneously!

The government not understanding this is why the wars are not over, not understanding this is why Iraq and Afghanistan have become the new Vietnams. Because you have the elites filling everyone's heads up with thoughts of victory and superiority that they haven't noticed that the wars are 8-9 years old and are probably nowhere near over.

You have the elites who tell you that the insurgents have no chance of winning because the U.S. has better technology, more troops, better training etc forget to tell you that the insurgents have more heart, better battle strategy, and a full understanding of the American war machine's might.

Insurgents are regular people, this is what it boils down to,
whether everyone wants to admit it or not they are. Some of them have had family members killed, they believe in their agenda and are willing to die (and become a martyr) for it. You can't scare these people!

The U.S. has done all that it could short of the A-Bomb. They tortured them in places like Guantanamo Bay in Cuba or in Poland and other places where they keep their secret prisons. They have targeted drones hunting their leadership down one at a time, and that's not working. They lead the public into believing they have killed or captured a "high ranking" Taliban officer just to find him replaced within hours. They have burned Korans, flushed Korans down the toilet, raped Iraqi women, bombed hospitals, schools, homes etc and wonder why recruitment never ceases (they want revenge dumbasses) or why they can't really get solid intelligence on their leadership (why should they help you when your killing children?). Like I said they are regular folks, this battle can be won but only if the U.S. gives up their brute force agenda its not working because it will not work. In fact its working against them.

Sun Tzu said: "If you know yourself and your enemy, you need not worry over the result of 100 battles. If you know yourself but not your enemy, for every victory you have you will also suffer a defeat." and believe me when I tell you, they don't really know the enemy.

Abortion and Crime

Recently I came upon a video from an economist named Steven Levitt. In the video he discusses a book he wrote which suggests the legalization of abortion led to lower crime rates in the future.

He and his partner believed that since low income kids are more likely to be aborted and those same low income kids tend commit more crime, then ultimately more low income abortion led to lower crime rates.

They believe that since the 70s when abortion was legalized that the crime rates dropped in the 90s because those "at-risk" children were not born and thus did not grow up to become criminals in their late teens or early twenties [which are the years some people believe people tend to commit crimes].

To summarize the concept, it is structured thusly:
1-underprivileged people are more likely to commit crimes,
2-underprivileged people are more likely to have abortions,
Therefore, the more abortions in low income areas the less potential criminals born in the world.

This idea looks promising and I'm sure they have many, many mountains of evidence to back their claim, I still call shenanigans on this and here's why...

"Underprivileged" youths and families are usually minorities. Abortion rates especially among blacks is exceptionally high and yet crime is still prevalent in underprivileged communities. So even if the data shows that crime dropped in high risk areas during the 90s it didn't stay that way. Besides and I believe they address this, the 90s had a better economy than the 70s and 80s which would lead to lower crime in itself.

Another thing not mentioned by Levitt but mentioned by me, is the racial make up of this study. I mentioned before that minorities make up the majority of the underprivileged communities, so by definition he's saying that if blacks and latinos aborted themselves at higher rates then crime would drop at higher rates (already proven false).

Eugenics also comes into play here. Eugenics is defined as: "the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, esp. by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics)". Looking at that definition and combining it with their study, you can see that they are saying that "underprivileged" youths (blacks and latinos) are a criminal culture, meaning that they are born to or predetermined by their nature to be criminals and thus their high abortion rates is good and benefit society as a whole.

Of course Levitt and Donahue didn't say all that. In the video eugenics isn't mentioned at all. So its safe to say they might not have even meant to co-sign eugenics but it can't be helped that eugenics is what they are proposing. They never mentioned race because a major point is that the poor are more likely to commit crime. Meaning that poor whites are included. So maybe then instead of eugenics, its a very creative stab at promoting class warfare. The rich wanting the poor to thin themselves out (for what reason I would not know, they need the poor).

Levitt & Donahue's study was a popular one when it was released (I believe the original book; Freakanomics, was released in 1999). There were many debunking papers written to challenge their assertions and eventually it fizzled out. I'm sure if someone wanted read them they would see more solid evidence using crime rate figures and other things to debunk their ideas and maybe some that feature the eugenics argument. Regardless of whether its been debunked to death or not I wanted to discuss it here because as a man that was born in an underprivileged home, and was born during the 80s when abortion was legal and had friends who fell into crime, I take offense to the argument even being made. Especially by so-called "intellectuals", men with degrees, professors at American colleges where I am a student, where my brothers and friends from similar backgrounds are students that these people got acclaim for an argument that had shades of applauding genocide on the underprivileged class, and destruction of the minority family structure.

In closing, this correlation is one that promotes eugenics and genocide. Whether inadvertently or overtly it does, and its sad to see people putting so much stock into this. Historically people have been looking for ways and reasons to get others to believe in a superiority/inferiority concept, this is just one more thrown on the heap. We've seen things like this before (the Bell Curve) and they always hang around in the minds of people that are believers in their data. But like all the others this one could not handle the rigorous testing that comes with theory and thus it is dead...and rightfully so.

People You Should Know: Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius ascended to the crown of Emperor of the Roman Empire in 161 A.D as a co-emperor. When his co-emperor died in 168 be became sole emperor of Rome. Now us Americans hate terms like "king" or "emperor" we instantly think of bloodthirsty tyrants. But many considered Aurelius "the last good emperor of Rome".

Aurelius is historically known as a man of the people. The people, specifically the poor of Rome greatly benefitted from his reign. He built more schools, hospitals, orphanages than any other emperor (from my understanding). He also saw to bring fairness in slavery.

Looking to force slaveholders to treat their slaves better by creating laws and other regulations to ensure the human treatment of slaves. It is assumed that Aurelius was an emperor to be proud of during that time. While under his watch Rome fell into a recession due to the Roman love of war. These long wars cost a ton of money (just as they do today) and Aurelius needed to bring forth funds to pay his soldiers. Instead of doing what our gov would do (tax the hell out of us) it was said Aurelius sold his personal belongings! When Rome achieved victory he used money gained from victory to buy back what he sold. Some people preferred to keep the emperors things and he was fine with that. This is incredible considering he could have just ordered his belongings returned to him by force.

Aurelius was known as an emperor for the people but the thing Aurelius is known for most is his fantastic writing. Specifically his master work "The Meditations" where the Emperor shared his philosophy on life.

The Meditations is considered classic text and a building block in creating "stoic philosophy". Aurelius philosophy championed such virtues as: wisdom, justice, fortitude and moderation. He believe that "morality leads to tranquility" and being tranquil and moral should be mans ultimate goal in life (I will share some quotes from this text later).

Like almost all Romans of the time it is said Aurelius greatly disliked Christianity. But unlike other emperors Aurelius never hunted for Christians in order to persecute them. Sad to say people found practicing Christianity were punished by death and more Christians were executed during his reign than any other but on the other side of the story it was also said Aurelius never initiated the martyrdom of Christian practitioners.

Marcus Aurelius died 180 A.D of a mysterious disease some believe he caught the plague. Although completely Roman is his love for expanding Roman imperialism, killing Christians, and subjugation of peoples after his conquest of them. Aurelius was considered kind, morally upright, and a lover of justice.

Marcus Aurelius Emperor of The Roman Empire from 161-180 is a person you need to know. But why? What makes Aurelius relevant to today? I would say the idea of having an intellectual leader is one foreign to our contemporary society, nay our modern world. In a world where men are driven by agenda and not justice, where leaders treat their followers like expendable trash an emperor, a term, a title we are taught to hate still created a following by not only expanding his empire, not only by expanding his own purse, but also by expanding his mind and the hearts of the citizens.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dead Aid...Africa and Monetary Aid

Recently, upon some downtime in between finals I came across a video. In that video was an African woman named Dambisa Moyo. She is from the African country of Zambia. Moyo was very educated she had gone to Harvard, gotten her Ph.D in something I don't remember from Oxford and had written a book entitled Dead Aid.

In the book she says that the Western world, specifically the U.S. should stop sending aid money to Africa. Well of course dissonance kicked in and I at this point was pretty flustered at the idea of an African not wanting Africans to be aided financially. However being the fair person I am I continued to listen and understand her theories and came to the conclusion...that perhaps she's right.

You see to Moyo, all the financial [government to government] aid that the West sends to Africa is squandered by the state governments.
She differentiates medical aid [which is necessary] and this government to government aid. She states that the original purpose of this government to government aid was to help African governments invest in African citizens for economic growth. In other words to fight poverty and to her the financial aid to fight poverty in Africa has failed, for numerous reasons, but the top reason is that the African governments see this aid as INCOME.

What does this mean? Well the way she puts it: that African governments have been receiving financial aid [usually in the upper millions to billions of dollars] regularly for 50-60 years with no improvement to the population at large and no dent in African poverty. In fact those impoverished populations are poorer than before [the same can be said for America]. Therefore she says those African governments have decided not to pursue their own country's economic growth because they will continue to receive money under the pretense that they are poor. She believes cutting African nations off will force the governments to invest in their own nations and create jobs and wealth etc, in their own respective countries.

She also mentions the widespread corruption of African governments. It is fairly well known that many in African governments just pocket the money given to them for their people and never distribute it, or they distribute very little of it.

She also tells of how little Africans know of banking and markets. Now I won't bore you with the economics or statistics but the amount of banks in Africa are minimal. She says Africans have what economists call "dead money" [keeping money in places where it doesn't earn interest, i.e under the mattress] and thus all of Africa's wealth and her people's wealth die out over time.

She believes that by cutting aid, African governments would be forced to encourage economic growth within their own states and then those governments can start to look into making their citizens more economically intelligent with the money they have earned. All of this combined should spur more economic growth and pull Africa out of widespread poverty, or at least that is Moyo's theory.

Strangely enough I had never thought of it before. I had heard about corruption in Nigeria, Malawi, etc but I assumed all of that was corporate bribery which is something she oddly left out in the video [not to say it isn't mentioned in the book, I haven't read it]. Corruption in Africa is almost always followed by a corporate name: Haliburton, Exxon. I never thought about government to government bribery, or that these governments don't distribute wealth but rather see it as their paycheck to do with it whatever they wish.

Moyo's beliefs are not farfetched and in fact in these hard economic times in this country, these ideas should be considered even more. With the massive debt the U.S is in do we really want to keep funneling funds, we don't have, into Africa? Well no, but I would say in these harsh times we need to cut off all financial government to government aid, not only to Africa but to other countries as well.

Then it struck me...think for a second about the wealth of natural resources that sit in Africa...diamonds, gold, rubber, oil..do you really think Western capitalist governments and their corporations want to educate those people on the wealth they sit on? Imagine if they had to pay the governments and people what those commodities were really worth. How much more would we, here in America, pay for goods? Scary to think how much we benefit from African ignorance and yet some of us strive to see them awakened. Kwame Nkrumah's plan for Pan-African socialism would thrive and Africa would truly prosper, possibly beyond the Western world.

With that said, I fear Moyo's ideals will fall on deaf ears. They will continue to support corruption in African governments because it keeps the prices on African natural resources low and their corporate bottom lines fat. But also because we, the American public and Westerners in general, greatly benefit from Africa's ignorance with cheap goods.

Jono's Viewpoints