The Army’s 2016 Study of the Iraq War: Still Unrealeased

The Army stymied its own study of the Iraq War. Gen. Ray Odierno, then Army chief of staff, ordered an unvarnished history in 2013, seeking to record the lessons of the conflict before memories faded. A draft was finished in 2016. It has yet to be published.

From reporter Michael R. Gordon:

Two big problems with many official Army histories are that they avoid controversy and are published so many years after a conflict they are little use to anybody other than professional historians.

A history of the Iraq War by an Army study team avoided those pitfalls. In a letter last year to the Army leadership, Conrad Crane of the Army War College praised its “almost brutal candor.”

But those very strengths made it a hot potato for Army officials. A plan to distance the service from the study was dropped after The Wall Street Journal started asking about its status. It will be published by the end of the year with forewords by Gen. Odierno and current chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley.

How Corruption and Cronyism in Banking Fueled Iran’s Protests

Before long though, Caspian stopped allowing withdrawals. After three months, it stopped paying interest. Finally, in May, it shut its doors for good — becoming one of the largest in a long series of failures of Iranian financial institutions in recent years.

.. The outpouring of anger was directed not only at President Hassan Rouhani, who won re-election promising to revitalize the economy, but also the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

.. The cascade of defaults, economists say, was not just the result of risky banking practices, but also a case study in official corruption — a major reason Iranians found their losses so infuriating. Adding to their outrage, Iranian officials made a series of statements blaming the victims for not being more careful with their money.

.. Many of the institutions, including those that merged in 2016 to form Caspian, were allowed to gamble with deposits or run Ponzi schemes with impunity for years, in part because they were owned by well-connected elites:

in the Iranian state.

.. as many as hundreds of thousands of people lost money because of the collapsing financial institutions. Iranians have a term for the growing class of victims: “property losers,” or “mal-baakhtegan” in Persian.

.. regulators have quietly steered many of the companies into mergers with larger banks to try to absorb their losses, but that has created a worsening problem of bad loans and overvalued assets throughout the banking system.

.. Economists say that as many as 40 percent of the loans carried on the books of Iranian banks may be delinquent.

.. Even Iran’s supreme leader, Mr. Khamenei, has acknowledged responsibility for the growing number of victims of “problematic financial institutions.”

“These appeals must be dealt with and heard out,” he said this month. “I myself am responsible; all of us must follow this approach.”

.. The corruption underlying the bank failures has long been an open secret

.. The loans totaled $1.9 billion, and almost all appeared to be held by well-known insiders.

.. Among them was Hossein Hedayati, a business tycoon and former member of the Revolutionary Guards, whose swift rise was so conspicuous that websites speculated about the sources of his sudden wealth. The document released by the lawmaker showed that Mr. Hedayati owed $285 million, and in a television program discussing the loan, another lawmaker, Mohammad Hassannejad, accused Mr. Hedayati of using a series of front companies to swing the loans and hide his role.

Mr. Hedayati dialed in to the program, sputtering with rage; he denied borrowing from Sarmayeh and threated to “sue everyone,” but has yet to follow through on the threat.

.. Clerics controlled religious foundations, called bonyads, that acquired commercial businesses. The largest of these, under the supreme leader, now makes up “15 to 20 percent” of the Iranian economy

.. All the semiofficial holding companies have major advantages over private businesses in favorable access to capital, tax exemptions and political connections.

.. But under a conservative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who came to power in 2005, semiofficial bodies controlled by clerics, the Revolutionary Guards or their allies dominated the newly private financial sector.

.. the Revolutionary Guards controlled at least two, while the army, the police, the municipality of Tehran and a giant religious foundation close to the Guards controlled the others.

.. the largest were usually run by individuals close to the same ruling elite

.. They say that made it almost impossible for even the best-intentioned regulators to police the banks.

.. The outsize returns promised by the banks and financial institutions lured capital that might better have gone to more productive uses

.. leaks about the high salaries of executives at state-run companies

.. The government has since tried to block the use of Telegram in Iran

Did post-Marxist theories destroy Communist regimes?

But the Soviet Empire gave way almost entirely peacefully and without a fight. How did that happened?

.. The key conclusion of Suraska, enounced in italics in the last chapter, is that the break up is due to “the general failure of communist regimes–their inability to build a modern state” (p. 134). It is “the state weakness, rather than its omnipotence [that] stalled communist project of modernization and, most notably, Gorbachev’s perestroika”

.. the arbitrary nature of Communist state, overseen by the Communist party, prevented it from ever developing a responsible and impersonal machinery of Weberian bureaucracy. Such a machinery that follows well-known and rational rules cannot be established if the power is arbitrary. And without such a machinery, the project of modernization is doomed.

.. When Gorbachev tried to recentralize decision-making in order to promote his reforms, he was obstructed at all levels and eventually figured out that without the republican support he could accomplish nothing. This is why, as Suraska writes, at the last Party congress in 1991, he outbid his competitors (Yegor Ligachev) by formally bringing all  regional party bosses into the Politburo and thus effectively confederalizing the Party and the country. But even that proved too little too late as the largest unit, Russia under Yeltsin, became, together with the Baltic republics, the most secessionist.

.. Suraska rightly adds to this vertical de-concentration of power the ever-present wariness and competition between the Party, the secret services (KGB) and the Army. The triangular relationship where two actors try to weaken and control the third contributed to the collapse.

.. Andropov’s positon (according to the transcripts of the Politburo meetings) that “even if Poland falls under the control of “Solidarity” …[non-intervention] will be” (p. 70) was grounded in the belief that every Soviet foreign intervention (Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968) reinforced the power of the Army and thus, if KGB were ever come on top, Army must not be in the driver’s seat.

.. In perhaps the most original insight, Suraska deals with the ideology of Gorbachev and the first entirely Soviet-raised and bred generation that came to power in the mid-1980s. They were influenced by post-Marxist thinking where democracy or its absence were simple external (or non-essential) features: democracy was a sham since the “real power” resides elsewhere. “Armed” with this belief and the 1970 ideas of convergence of the two systems plus (in my opinion) millenarian Marxist view that Communism represents the future of mankind, they began to see no significant contradictions between the two systems and trusted that even the introduction of democracy would not affect their positions. Thus, in an ironic twist, Suraska, who is thoroughly critical of both Marxist and post-Marxist theories,  credits the latter (p. 147) for bringing to an end the Marxist-based regimes.

.. Suraska discusses Communist rejection of the state and its rules-bound procedures (which make Communists ideological brethrens of anarchists) and compellingly argues for the complementarity of  “council (“soviet”) democracy and central planning.  Both eviscerate the state, take over its functions, impose arbitrary decision-making, and do away with the division of powers. Anarchic and despotic features are thus shown to go together, moreover to be in need of each other.