Backtalk, May 19, 2008

Senator Rambo

Dear Mr. Reese:

Being taken as a POW does not make one a hero. Please note that is not a shameful thing and is frequently unavoidable. But your having been a POW usually means that you had some bad luck with a SAM or a torpedo or something. Period. A soldier’s duty is to avoid capture if at all possible.

In the British military, they stop your pay when you are taken POW. That may sound cruel but, as they figure it, you are being paid to fight, not sit in a POW camp.

Yes, the Hanoi Hilton was a nasty place – and I do not doubt that those men suffered. And I despise the then and present Vietnamese Communists. But now let me pose another question: an American Navy officer or Air Force officer takes an oath to defend the Constitution. Was anything about the Vietnam War in harmony with the Constitution? It seems to me that they put promotions, PX privileges, and VA benefits above nation, Constitution, and honor. In other words, they saluted and obeyed LBJ and MacNamara when the proper action would have been resignation of commission under protest. …

~ Matt Erickson

Whither the Price of Oil?

Permit me to comment on a few things Charles Peña said in his article “Whither the Price of Oil?”

“So the price and supply of oil is dictated by the market.”

This is partially true at best. OPEC can influence the price of oil by increasing or decreasing the amount of oil it sells. When supplies are tight, adding or subtracting as little as two hundred thousand barrels a day will have a significant impact on prices.

“OPEC members themselves have an incentive to cheat by increasing production…”

This is only true of certain OPEC countries under certain conditions. Those members with small populations and large current account surpluses have little incentive to cheat. Most other OPEC nations are currently producing as much as their fields can sustain.

“[N]on-OPEC countries have an incentive to increase supply to increase their revenues.”

In the short term it is virtually impossible for non-OPEC producers to make significant increases in production. New fields take a long time to bring on line. Non-OPEC producers never withhold supply in anticipation of higher prices. The time value of money dictates that, in economic terms, if a barrel of oil is not produced today, it will never be produced. Here’s why: Assume an average oil field has a life of 20 years, employing a discount rate of 15 percent p.a. the present value of a barrel of oil held off the market today and produced 20 years from now is virtually nil.

~ Susan Dakss

Douglas Feith’s War and Decision: Life in a Neocon’s Parallel Universe

Alexander was a failure in Afghanistan? I doubt it. It was a Hellenized nation called Bactria for another 200+ years after Alexander.

~ Robert Somerville

Michael Scheuer replies:

Mr. Somerville,

You’re right, of course, but Alexander never conquered Afghanistan militarily and had to resort to transplanting Greeks from Greece to Bactria. I don’t think America intends to do that – and in the end it didn’t work anyway. My point was that Alexander faced the same problems we face in Afghanistan and could not solve them even with a settlement colony. A very interesting book on this reality is Frank L. Holt’s Into the Land of Bones, which is in Borders in paperback. I should have been clearer, and I appreciate your comment.

Franklin’s Choice

Nebojsa Malic,

You mentioned the economic policies of G17 (Serbian G17). What exact economic policies have they implemented and have they been successful at all? Are the policies that they have implemented similar to those “pro-Western reforms” implemented in Russia during the 1990s with disastrous results? Similar to Jeffrey Sachs’ economic policies? Policies that resulted in the impoverishment of millions of Russians and perhaps the premature deaths of approximately one million? Can you send me some good info or links on the Serbian government’s economic policy?

~ Nicholas Stabinski

Nebojsa Malic replies:

Actually, yes – the G17 runs the same sort of racket as Sachs and his crew ran in Russia. Only exception is that Sachs at least tried to set up local tycoons, whereas G17 is mostly selling Serbia off to foreigners directly.

Most of the detailed criticism of G17 and its policies can be found on the Left (Counterpunch, Emperor’s Clothes, etc.). Mike Bozinovich of also has a lot of economic analysis on his blog there. I’m not an economist – but one doesn’t have to be in order to realize that selling of government property (which was seized from individuals at some point or another; Serbia still hasn’t given restitution to victims of Communist confiscation from 1944 onward!) to foreigners for pennies on the dollar, then “investing” those pennies into welfare payments, isn’t a winning strategy.

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