barack obama, politics

Comment On: Matthew Hoh Interviewed By Zakaria: 60,000 Troops In Afghanistan Won’t Defeat Al Qaida (VIDEO)

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How can the President exit Afghanistan and not be seen as caving in on the war on terror?

First, the notion that he will not decide this is wrong. His taking of time has nothing to do with the elections in this country and everything to do with the mode of operation he always follows. He gets done what is possible to do. That is what politics is about. He is a good politician because most often he achieves what he says he wants to achieve.

I think every moment of delay is a victory for those who believe that we need to leave Afghanistan. The question is how. I think this is what he will eventually tell the Ameriican people with a step by step indication of how he intends to proceed.

The elements of such steps might well be 1. A gradual effort to provide support for development in areas where this is feasible; 2. outreach to the elements of the insurgency that are amenable to negotiation; 3. continued direct attacks on the actual centers of terror export ; 4. more and more emphasis on challenging the root political assumptions of religious fundamentalism about total domination of nations and regions; 5. and a frank calculation that our ultimate global interest lies in achieving a real recovery here, a work that has barely begun.

The President has proven a master at achieving wins where they are least expected. Don’t write him off yet.

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COMMENT ON: What Would Be the Result of Quitting AfPak?

I am sorry this post got buried as we should have had a discussion of this. I wish HP had a better way of dealing with new posts — like posting their presence for a full 20 hours and at the top rather than at the bottom where they fall off the page.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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What Would Be The Result of Quitting AfPak?

I do not really agree with my question — assuming it is meant seriously. I think most of us feel we need to be operating in AfPak.

But something is telling me to ask it. Here are my answers:

1. We would take a potential 50,000 US troops and others out of harm’s way. If we use 9/11 as a measure (moral calculus), we would be saving the lives of perhaps as many (or more) as were killed back then.

2. We could say we are not in the business of extending democracy to nations that prove incapable of maintaining it. We might be aware that, even in the US, it is not an easy thing to maintain a democracy.

3. We could say that our intention is to protect our own citizens at home and abroad and that our response to any terrorist acts will be swift and proportional. In other words if someone pulled something off in the US or killed Americans abroad, we would be prepared to make an immediate response, limited by moral calculus.

4. We could argue that it simply has not worked — even with the best will in the world — to try to change a country that has not been able to change itself. And that henceforth we would contribute heavily to create a greater UN capability to assist any country that wishes to grow democratic institutions, have elections, etc.

5. We could argue that the present course in AfPak is so reminiscent of other military failures in the past, that even though we mean well, we have no confidence that this helps.

6. We could suspend drone attacks and use them for proportional responses in the event of further acts of international terrorism. We could internationalize this process to share both costs and responsibility.

In essence we would be doing what I believe we should have done after 9/11. We didn’t and look what happened. Nothing says that eight years from now we might not be saying the same thing about a costly and failed AfPak strategy.

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Who Says Obama Is Weak on Foreign Policy?

Russian Opening of Airspace Suggests Support for US Afghanistan Effort http://bit.ly/knE1n

The rap on the President is that he is weak and vacillating on foreigh matters. Au contraire. As this NYT piece shows, he is achieving smart results.


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We Cannot Lose Pakistan

CAN PAKISTAN BE GOVERNED NYTIMES MAGAZINE

To lose Pakistan would be to make it more likely than now to be the terminal for distributing nuclear materials to renegade groups and rogue states.

To lose Pakistan would be to allow a continual, in-your-face, Taliban presence to insult, beat, maim and kill with impunity.

To gain Pakistan would be the Obama dream. The dream not of a perfect outcome, but of reasonable safety from the above.

The New York Times Magazine article referenced above concludes:

Underneath all of Pakistan’s problems is the failure to provide decent governance. Extremism flourishes in the absence of legitimate state authority. This is patent in the self-governing tribal areas along the Afghan border, but the most striking current example is the Swat Valley, once a honeymooners’ paradise and now a militant statelet within Pakistan’s formal jurisdiction. The army actually succeeded in pushing militants out of the area in 2006 and 2007. But the government of the North-West Frontier Province, which Musharraf had given as a sort of prize to his more moderate Islamist allies, made little attempt to field a police presence, or to provide the services, above all functioning courts, that residents of the area demanded. These are the same demands Pakistanis elsewhere have made; the difference was that in Swat the extremists offered themselves as an alternative.

The new provincial government elected in 2008 promised to negotiate with the extremists rather than fight them. And that is precisely what has happened. The forces of Sufi Muhammad, the militant leader, have laid down their arms in exchange for a pledge to create Shariah courts. But other militants have an agenda of their own, including closing down girls’ schools. Most analysts were appalled by the deal. “It was an act of capitulation,” says Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States. “And there’s no assurance that this will be the final domino.” Zardari, to his credit, has so far refused to sign off on the deal. But there’s little he can do to affect the outcome.

This is a struggle that, on a scale of 1-10, is a 10, whereas Vietnam never hit 5 and Iraq never hit 3. The Taliban and Al Qaeda are up there with Hitler in the damage they would do if they could.

I believe Obama is equal to this task. His gut is somewhere back in WW2 territory, and WW2 is the only war within memory that has hobbled the arguments of pacifists and impelled a fight to the finish with victory to the forces of right.

The title We Cannot Lose Pakistan is does not mean we could not do so. It means that under no circumstances can we allow Pakistan to fall into the hands of the Taliban and others in the terror axis.

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Jeff Huber on the Bananistans — Ouch

Ht to My Left Wing for pointing to this salient weigh-in on the situation betwixt our military and the options that exist in Afghanistan and Pakistan. You will need several minutes to savor this text and see whether you agree or not. Huber has a way of talking/writing that is both appealing and abrasive. Dig it.

HUBER ON OUR MILITARY CONUNDRUM

Excerpt:

The closest thing we have to legitimate security concerns in the Bananastans is that evildoers might get control of Pakistan’s nukes and the oil pipeline that runs through Afghanistan. There’s a very simple military solution to both of those problems: blow up the nukes and blow up the pipeline. Blowing stuff up is the one thing Obama’s generals know how to do.

In a March 6 interview with the New York Times, Mr. Obama said he is considering a plan to “reach out” to moderate elements of the Taliban. That’s a fantastic idea, and the best possible way to reach out would be to have our troops line up and shake the hand of each and every one of those mother’s sons and then climb on a plane for home.

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Kennan Containment > Obama Foreign Policy 6

Continuing a series of posts based on the famous missive that helped define the United States position in the world following the Second World War. I am taking relevant sections of George Kennan’s “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” (1947) and transposing them to suggest that the policy of containment he proposed then, in relation to the Soviet Union, can and perhaps should, be applied to current conflicts, even though there are radical differences between the Cold War era and now.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL KENNAN DOCUMENT

CLICK HERE FOR THE SERIES TO DATE

This means we are going to continue for long time to find the Russians difficult to deal with. It does not mean that they should be considered as embarked upon a do-or-die program to overthrow our society by a given date. The theory of the inevitability of the eventual fall of capitalism has the fortunate connotation that there is no hurry about it. The forces of progress can take their time in preparing the final coup de gr?ce. meanwhile, what is vital is that the “Socialist fatherland” — that oasis of power which has already been won for Socialism in the person of the Soviet Union — should be cherished and defended by all good Communists at home and abroad, its fortunes promoted, its enemies badgered and confounded. The promotion of premature, “adventuristic” revolutionary projects abroad which might embarrass Soviet power in any way would be an inexcusable, even a counter-revolutionary act. The cause of Socialism is the support and promotion of Soviet power, as defined in Moscow.

This brings us to the second of the concepts important to contemporary Soviet outlook. That is the infallibility of the Kremlin. The Soviet concept of power, which permits no focal points of organization outside the Party itself, requires that the Party leadership remain in theory the sole repository of truth. For if truth were to be found elsewhere, there would be justification for its expression in organized activity. But it is precisely that which the Kremlin cannot and will not permit.

The leadership of the Communist Party is therefore always right, and has been always right ever since in 1929 Stalin formalized his personal power by announcing that decisions of the Politburo were being taken unanimously.

On the principle of infallibility there rests the iron discipline of the Communist Party. In fact, the two concepts are mutually self-supporting. Perfect discipline requires recognition of infallibility. Infallibility requires the observance of discipline. And the two go far to determine the behaviorism of the entire Soviet apparatus of power. But their effect cannot be understood unless a third factor be taken into account: namely, the fact that the leadership is at liberty to put forward for tactical purposes any particular thesis which it finds useful to the cause at any particular moment and to require the faithful and unquestioning acceptance of that thesis by the members of the movement as a whole. This means that truth is not a constant but is actually created, for all intents and purposes, by the Soviet leaders themselves. It may vary from week to week, from month to month. It is nothing absolute and immutable — nothing which flows from objective reality. It is only the most recent manifestation of the wisdom of those in whom the ultimate wisdom is supposed to reside, because they represent the logic of history. The accumulative effect of these factors is to give to the whole subordinate apparatus of Soviet power an unshakable stubbornness and steadfastness in its orientation. This orientation can be changed at will by the Kremlin but by no other power. Once a given party line has been laid down on a given issue of current policy, the whole Soviet governmental machine, including the mechanism of diplomacy, moves inexorably along the prescribed path, like a persistent toy automobile wound up and headed in a given direction, stopping only when it meets with some unanswerable force. The individuals who are the components of this machine are unamenable to argument or reason, which comes to them from outside sources. Their whole training has taught them to mistrust and discount the glib persuasiveness of the outside world. Like the white dog before the phonograph, they hear only the “master’s voice.” And if they are to be called off from the purposes last dictated to them, it is the master who must call them off. Thus the foreign representative cannot hope that his words will make any impression on them. The most that he can hope is that they will be transmitted to those at the top, who are capable of changing the party line. But even those are not likely to be swayed by any normal logic in the words of the bourgeois representative. Since there can be no appeal to common purposes, there can be no appeal to common mental approaches. For this reason, facts speak louder than words to the ears of the Kremlin; and words carry the greatest weight when they have the ring of reflecting, or being backed up by, facts of unchallengeable validity.

Transposition:

This means we are going to continue for long time to find the terror movement difficult to deal with. It does not mean that they should be considered as embarked upon a do-or-die program to overthrow our society by a given date. The theory of the inevitability of the eventual fall of the secularizing West and the restoration of the Islamic world has the fortunate connotation that there is no hurry about it. The forces of terror can take their time in preparing the final coup de grace. meanwhile, what is vital is that the notion of jihad — that oasis of power which has already been won for the movement in the person of Bin Laden — should be cherished and defended by all good Muslims at home and abroad, its fortunes promoted, its enemies badgered and confounded. The promotion of premature, “adventuristic” revolutionary projects abroad which might embarrass this effortin any way would be inexcusable.

This brings us to the second of the concepts … the infallibility of the terror movement …. which permits no focal points of organization outside its own amorphous but focused network of cells and training facilities. The movement demands that its leadership bee seen as the sole repository of truth. For if truth were to be found elsewhere, there would be justification for its expression in organized activity.

The leadership of the terror effort is therefore always right, and has been always right.

On the principle of infallibility there rests the iron discipline of the movement. In fact, the two concepts are mutually self-supporting. Perfect discipline requires recognition of infallibility. Infallibility requires the observance of discipline. And the two go far to determine the behaviorism of the entire apparatus of power.

But their effect cannot be understood unless a third factor be taken into account: namely, the fact that the leadership is at liberty to put forward for tactical purposes any particular thesis which it finds useful to the cause at any particular moment and to require the faithful and unquestioning acceptance of that thesis by the members of the movement as a whole. This means that truth is not a constant but is actually created, for all intents and purposes, by the terror movement’s leaders themselves. It may vary from week to week, from month to month. It is nothing absolute and immutable — nothing which flows from objective reality. It is only the most recent manifestation of the wisdom of those in whom the ultimate wisdom is supposed to reside, because they represent the logic of history.

The accumulative effect of these factors is to give to the whole subordinate apparatus an unshakable stubbornness and steadfastness in its orientation. This orientation can be changed at will by the terror leadership but by no other power. Once a given line has been laid down on a given issue of current policy, the whole movement moves inexorably along the prescribed path, like a persistent toy automobile wound up and headed in a given direction, stopping only when it meets with some unanswerable force.

The individuals who are the components of this machine are not amenable to argument or reason, which comes to them from outside sources. Their whole training has taught them to mistrust and discount the glib persuasiveness of the outside world. Like the white dog before the phonograph, they hear only the “master’s voice.” And if they are to be called off from the purposes last dictated to them, it is the master who must call them off.

Thus we cannot hope that words will make any impression on them. The most that we can hope is that they will be transmitted to those at the top, who are capable of changing the party line. But even those are not likely to be swayed by any normal logic in our words. Since there can be no appeal to common purposes, there can be no appeal to common mental approaches. For this reason, facts speak louder than words to the ears of the terror movement; and words carry the greatest weight when they have the ring of reflecting, or being backed up by, facts of unchallengeable validity.

Addendum: I take the meaning of this to be that we do not waste words explaining how wrong the terror effort is or skewering its warped morality. Rather we act in a way that is clearly in contrast to and whose results are clearly preferable to the purposes of the terror movement.

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