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July 28, 2009 1:12 PM   Subscribe

Tariq Ali writes in the LRB: - This is now Obama’s war. He campaigned to send more troops into Afghanistan and to extend the war, if necessary, into Pakistan. These pledges are now being fulfilled. On the day he publicly expressed his sadness at the death of a young Iranian woman caught up in the repression in Tehran, US drones killed 60 people in Pakistan.
Tariq Ali discusses the views of Graham Fuller an ex CIA Kabul station chief who thinks Obama's Policies are Making the Situation Worse in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The further view from Asia is that Pakistan wields a double-edged sword and that although the Pakistan-US plan are falling into place the militants, too, have their mechanisms in place, and they don't plan to deviate. A mighty collision is inevitable.
Meanwhile Kalashnikov demand soars.
posted by adamvasco (91 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Persons who were in control of the government of Afghanistan supported and were fully aware of the persons who trained and planned a terrorist operation which killed thousands of innocent Americans. In what must be the only good act of his presidency, George W. Bush ordered U.S. troops to assist local elements in overthrowing said government of Afghanistan. Those persons then took to the hills. They must not be allowed to gain power in Afghanistan again--because those who attacked the U.S. would likely be invited back in and could again begin to plan attacks on the United States.

Perhaps Mr. Fuller thinks that we can trust Pakistan to do right by us while allowing them to maintain the very structures that allowed the attacks of 9/11 to happen in the first place. I lack trust in their good faith on this matter.

It is Pakistan which must give up terrorism as a device against its rival India. Letting the situation be will do no good for the United States, India, Afghanistan, or indeed, Pakistan. The short-sighted policy of looking the other way while Pakistan allows these structures to build in the region will fail. I hope that troops are not long needed, but if they are, I support President Obama in their continued use.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:22 PM on July 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


So an entire country has to suffer because Americans are afraid of brown dudes? There are like two and a half million internally displaced people in Pakistan now. Think about that number for a second. How many people have American's killed over there. Over react much? How long has the US been blowing shit up in that country. How well has that been going?

Fuck America.
posted by chunking express at 1:35 PM on July 28, 2009


There are like two and a half million internally displaced people in Pakistan now.

The Majority of which were displace by the Taliban when they took over the Swat valley and the Northwest Frontier Province in May.

But. Hey. Don't let the facts stop your rabid knee jerking.
posted by tkchrist at 1:45 PM on July 28, 2009 [13 favorites]


There's no way this ends well. For anyone.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:57 PM on July 28, 2009


those who attacked the U.S. would likely be invited back in and could again begin to plan attacks on the United States

Why can't they plan attacks in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region, or in Pakistan, or in Germany, or the US?

George W. Bush ordered U.S. troops to assist local elements in overthrowing said government of Afghanistan. Those persons then took to the hills.

Bin Laden got away because Bush didn't secure the border.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:58 PM on July 28, 2009


As I recall it went like this:
Al Qaeda attacked us 9/11. We knew they used training bases in Afghanistan. We demanded that OBL be turned over to us. The Taliban--running Afghanistan--refused. We attacked them and routed Taliban. Now. We can, if we want, say we accomplished what we wanted. If the Afghanistan people want Taliban back, then so be it. But if Taliban allow bases to be set up again to train terrorists, we will bomb their camps from the sky (without invasion). Then we leave.

Why? We are fighting what I see as a losing war while at the same time doing nothing to wipe out the opium crops, which fund the Taliban. How can we have a "war on drugs" at home and allow Afghanistan farmers to grtow 90 percent of the heroin that comes into out country?
posted by Postroad at 2:08 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, We Can lose a land war in Asia.
posted by paisley henosis at 2:10 PM on July 28, 2009


An excellent collection of links; if you have time for only one, read the first one—Tariq Ali absolutely knows what he's talking about and writes well.

> Fuck America.

Go play in traffic, or just troll somewhere else.
posted by languagehat at 2:10 PM on July 28, 2009


How can we have a "war on drugs" at home and allow Afghanistan farmers to grtow 90 percent of the heroin that comes into out country?

So you're advocating a tougher drug war in Afghanistan? I don't think exporting failed domestic policies is the way to go here. Opium eradication has existed in Afghanistan on a large-scale since the U.S. invasion, and more, not less, opium was harvested. All the while we managed to alienate large portions of the population. This is not an effective counter-insurgency strategy, and that's why the U.S. is trying to change it, you cannot effectively fight an insurgency without the people behind you.

Yes, We Can lose a land war in Asia.

"Anyone wanting to commit American ground forces to the mainland of Asia should have his head examined" ~Douglas MacArthur
posted by IvoShandor at 2:14 PM on July 28, 2009


How can we have a "war on drugs" at home and allow Afghanistan farmers to grtow 90 percent of the heroin that comes into out country?

Because Colombia and Mexico provide most of our heroin. Afghanistan mainly supplies Europe.
posted by electroboy at 2:21 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


So an entire country has to suffer because Americans are afraid of brown dudes?

Perhaps a less flippant answer to the actually documented problems existing there might be a better idea. Suggestions as to how to actually solve the problems?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:24 PM on July 28, 2009


Bin Laden got away because Bush didn't secure the border.

Yes.

However, I was referring to the Taliban, not Mr. bin Laden. It is their willingness to support terrorists which caused the problem and creates the danger to the U.S. which President Obama is attempting to respond to.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:27 PM on July 28, 2009


"We were on the way to school when two men on motorbikes stopped next to us. One of them threw acid on my sister's face. I tried to help her and then they threw acid on me too," said Latefa, a 16-year-old student.

...

Al Jazeera's David Chater, reporting from Kandahar, said that Shamsia was in shock.

"She is shaking, and in extreme pain, and was not able to describe the event," he said.

"But Latefa, her sister, said that she is determined to continue her education, and she will not let this attack stop her from learning."


Fuck the Taliban.
posted by Anything at 2:28 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why can't they plan attacks in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region, or in Pakistan, or in Germany, or the US?

I believe because the U.S. government and its allies are attempting to deny these people the ability to plan attacks anywhere. That would, of course, be the point. But Afghanistan is the least developed of the countries you are discussing (thus the least accessible to U.S. and Allied pressure) and was giving state support to terrorists that attacked the U.S. directly. Thus, it, along with the Pakistani ISI and Army, who support the Taliban and terrorism are the biggest long-term danger.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:30 PM on July 28, 2009


We're not 'scared of brown people' The majority of us elected one such as our leader, remember? We are scared of brown people who have demonstrated the necessary ability and will to kill thousands of innocent Americans. Should we just shrug that off, bygones be bygones, all in a day's work, and let them rebuild so they can do something similar again? I think Obama's on the right track, helping Afghanistan create a semi-civilized and stable society, THEN leave. I just hope we can afford to do that, because it's way easier and cheaper to blow shit up than it is to build stuff, and now we're doing quite a bit of both.
posted by jamstigator at 2:31 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


So an entire country has to suffer because Americans are afraid of brown dudes?

So afraid, we elected one.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:36 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The majority of us elected one such as our leader, remember?

Chungking Express is from Canada. Whitey's still in charge up there.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:37 PM on July 28, 2009


Look. This is not a simple situation to fix. Bush indeed did royally fuck-up mounting a half-assed proxy invasion of Afghanistan and then essentially abandoned the country to fend for itself while he went on an idiotic crusade to occupy Iraq for no good reason.

The roots of the Taliban themselves are a joint creation of Pakistani and CIA involvement in the Mujaheddin movements to oust the Soviet Union from occupying Afghanistan, but through out the 1990's the Taliban were a rogue pawn of Pakistani intelligence. The Taliban turned on Pakistan and have had their eye on those yummy nukes of Pakistan for quite some time. Pervez Musharif had been using the Taliban and a proxy force of his own and and political took to garner aid from the US. And it was his own people that voluntarily gave the Taliban refuge in the tribal areas of Pakistan becuase the Taliban were giving them drug trafficking money.

The fact is the Taliban are a dangerous force who INVADED— full scale invaded— Pakistan in March/April/May of this year in force and are not going to cede their interests voluntarily. The 2.4 million people displaced there were not displaced by Predator Drones. They were driven from their homes, their homes burned and looted, by the Taliban, and then later by Pakistani forces who drove the Taliban back int the mountains.

Obama is in an impossible position. There are no good ways to deal with it.

He can leave, attempt "diplomacy" by relying on the notoriously corrupt Pakistani internal law enforcement to deal with the Taliban and let Pakistan destabilize and nukes possibly fall into the hands of dangerous radicals. Meanwhile at home he accused of being a pussy.

Or. Violate Pakistani sovereignty completely and send in troops into a god forsaken geography resulting in massive US causalities and hunt down the Taliban one on one — taking years. Meanwhile at home he accused of being a war monger.

Or. Send in drones, which can kill the innocent people and inflames anti-us sentiment, and hope you get lucky to either kill the right guys or ratchet up the pressure on Pakistan internally to go in there and get them. Maybe this destabilizes the government and you have nukes falling into fanatical hands. Maybe not.

Basically the Pakistanis are fed up with the Taliban more than they hate the US. But the problem is as much their own fucking fault as it is ours. If not more so. So I'm not sure what all the "Fuck America" sentiment is supposed do. Unlike Iraq, where we were clearly the aggressors, the situation in Pakistan is far more complicated — and DANGEROUS— than that. Saying "fuck America" in this situation is lazy knee jerk bullshit.
posted by tkchrist at 2:40 PM on July 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


Chungking Express is from Canada. Whitey's still in charge up there.

Damn whitey, always trying to keep the brown man down.
posted by electroboy at 2:44 PM on July 28, 2009


The interesting thing is watching the reactions of countries which Bush looked the other way on. Israel is pissed because he isn't caving in to them, and Pakistan would like to have the Taliban just sit nicely on Afghanistan's side of the border to be conveniently available should an opportunity to thwart India come into play.

Both countries are sending out proxies to put out their point of view.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:44 PM on July 28, 2009


It is their willingness to support terrorists which caused the problem

The Taliban are terrorists. They used to be our terrorists. Then they found god, got another sugar daddy, and stole a country. Now becuase we kicked them out out of their toy country they're back to being terrorists. Heroin dealing terrorists.

Frankly the only real solution is to convince Pakistan to get rid of their nukes so then we don't see the region as such a threat. But. Yeah. That ain't happening.
posted by tkchrist at 2:48 PM on July 28, 2009


Suggestions as to how to actually solve the problems?

I haven't a clue. Is there anything that suggests more war is the way forward? It's almost 10 years on and things don't seem that much more awesome. Afghanistan is still a mess.

And yeah, Canada is still run by scary White people. It's one big suck.
posted by chunking express at 3:08 PM on July 28, 2009


From the Graham Fuller link: -- Pakistan is indeed now beginning to crack under the relentless pressure directly exerted by the U.S. Anti-American impulses in Pakistan are at high pitch, strengthening Islamic radicalism and forcing reluctant acquiescence to it even by non-Islamists.

This seems like a very strange thing to say, given that the piece was published at a time when Pakistani public opinion had just shifted massively against the Taliban and the army had begun their Swat offensive. What gives?
posted by Anything at 3:11 PM on July 28, 2009


One of the fun things about the US invading all of these far-away and exotic places is that we all get to pretend we are experts on foreign cultures and history on the internet... which is apparently how the US government operates as well given the number of US personnel who actually speak Arabic or Pashto or Urdu...

Also, from what I remember, the 9/11 attacks were largely planned in Munich... which is why the US aided armed Polish groups (commonly thought of as being gangsters and criminals to ethnic Bavarians) in overthrowing the German government whereupon defeated German forces (largely Bavarian) were able to retreat into the mountains of Austria thanks to the sudden shift of US attention. However, now that a government built on the power of Polish gangsters has proven corrupt and unpopular with Germans, Bavarian insurgent forces have again started harrassing US and ethnic Polish forces inside germany proper. Meanwhile, in Austria the the influx of refugees and armed militants has destabilized the government in Vienna.
posted by geos at 3:11 PM on July 28, 2009


Obama's policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan are going to lead us into the same problems that plagued the Iraqi conflict. The drone attacks on Pakistani soil are killing innocent people and leading to embittered anti-American sentiment. Not to mention the attacks are virtually an undeclared war on their country. Drone attacks are a direct incursion on the territorial integrity of Pakistan, but the Pakistani government is letting it slide under the condition of the 1.5 billion dollar annual aid that they receive from the US. This tactic of buying the right to strike is a further infringement on the country's political sovereignty. Construction is already underway for a superfortress within Islamabad that rivals the "embassy" in Baghdad. These embassies are larger than Vatican City -- we're talking 80 football fields large.

I am simply not convinced that these drone strikes will defuse the conflict. Such drone attacks keep the number of American's KIA down, but only in exchange for a disproportionate amount of innocent Pakistani's harmed or killed as "collateral damage". That is simply unjust. We should be protecting the lives of innocents even if it means risking more American deaths. That's how just wars are fought. I'm all for putting an end to the terrorist threads of the insurgency, but not through these drone attacks. They are a cowardly way to fight.

Ramping up for a war with an increasing number of PMCs funded by our tax dollars might not be the best option when we're looking for jobs, homes, and healthcare. Everyone wants to see these wars end as soon as possible, and I'm sure there's a lot to be done over in Asia in order to prevent another 9/11, but heavy-handed tactics as well as reckless and excessive force will only increase the number of people with a grudge against us. War is rarely the only path to peace.
posted by ageispolis at 3:12 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


“All the while we managed to alienate large portions of the population. This is not an effective counter-insurgency strategy, and that's why the U.S. is trying to change it, you cannot effectively fight an insurgency without the people behind you.”

Well, I agree with the latter part of that. We do need to create an infrastructure and way the farmers there can support themselves without relying on narcotic crops. As to counterinsurgency, no, for the most part counterinsurgencies last far longer when they have clandestine funding (from illicit substances or whatever they may be). So it’s excellent strategy. Having nothing to fill the void for the civilians though, yeah, that would be poor policy.

Frankly, I think the only legitimate role a superpower has, and so, the U.S. as essentially the last superpower, is to make sure the world doesn't tear itself to pieces. As it sits, Obama's navigating pretty well. But y'know, a fully involved house fire looks pretty bad even when firefighters are shooting water all over it. Doesn't mean the water isn't helping.

Unfortunately, I think tactically we'd have to accept more casualties to do greater good. That is, not use drones and commit more forces and so exposing more troops to enemy fire.
But that's a whole other big ball of wax.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:15 PM on July 28, 2009


“This seems like a very strange thing to say, given that the piece was published at a time when Pakistani public opinion had just shifted massively against the Taliban and the army had begun their Swat offensive. What gives?”

It’s tough when Adnan Khashoggi isn’t there to give you the inside scoop.
(ah, I'm being a dick)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:19 PM on July 28, 2009


Also, from what I remember, the 9/11 attacks were largely planned in Munich... which is why the US aided armed Polish groups (commonly thought of as being gangsters and criminals to ethnic Bavarians) in overthrowing the German government whereupon defeated German forces (largely Bavarian) were able to retreat into the mountains of Austria thanks to the sudden shift of US attention. However, now that a government built on the power of Polish gangsters has proven corrupt and unpopular with Germans, Bavarian insurgent forces have again started harrassing US and ethnic Polish forces inside germany

The orders, and more importantly, the funds, were directed from Afghanistan. No Taliban in Afghanistan, no 9/11. You can suppose there might have been another attack planned elsewhere, but these is the facts.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:21 PM on July 28, 2009


Ramping up for a war with an increasing number of PMCs funded by our tax dollars might not be the best option when we're looking for jobs, homes, and healthcare. Everyone wants to see these wars end as soon as possible, and I'm sure there's a lot to be done over in Asia in order to prevent another 9/11, but heavy-handed tactics as well as reckless and excessive force will only increase the number of people with a grudge against us. War is rarely the only path to peace.

In principle I agree. But on the ground stern lectures and peace-pot lucks don't stop militants from invading the Swat and slaughtering thousands of people.

What would you have Obama do?
posted by tkchrist at 3:22 PM on July 28, 2009


15 October 2001: Bush rejects [2nd] Taliban offer to surrender Osama Bin Laden

"When I said no negotiations I meant no negotiations," Mr Bush said. "We know he's guilty. Turn him over. There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt."

Was the war really necessary in the first place?
posted by knapah at 3:22 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why? We are fighting what I see as a losing war while at the same time doing nothing to wipe out the opium crops, which fund the Taliban. How can we have a "war on drugs" at home and allow Afghanistan farmers to grtow 90 percent of the heroin that comes into out country?

I don't know enough about the ins and outs of this to know if it would work, but I've always been intrigued by the argument that says that the US should allow Afghanistan to sell its opium crop on the legal drug market (i.e., for morphine etc.). Apparently only a very few places in the world are currently allowed to participate in that market.

Perhaps it's not economically viable (maybe the legitimate market is just too small?), but if it would work it seems like a brilliant end run around the Taliban; the farmers get to produce their crops and sell them in a legitimate market; they don't need Taliban "protection," there's some possibility of collecting revenue for the state etc. etc.

Anyone know enough about this to comment on its feasability? From a quick Google, here's one article advocating the idea.
posted by yoink at 3:23 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


The fact is the Taliban are a dangerous force who INVADED— full scale invaded— Pakistan in March/April/May of this year in force and are not going to cede their interests voluntarily.
Is this referring the the Taliban in the Swat Valley? I was under the impression they were by-and-large locals (posted a series of articles on them a while back which subsequent events show to have been prescient). Or is it something else I've missed?
posted by Abiezer at 3:25 PM on July 28, 2009


15 October 2001: Bush rejects [2nd] Taliban offer to surrender Osama Bin Laden

"When I said no negotiations I meant no negotiations," Mr Bush said. "We know he's guilty. Turn him over. There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt."

Was the war really necessary in the first place?


They didn't offer to surrender bin Laden, they offered to send him to another country. And it ignores the Taliban's complicity with terrorism to begin with.
posted by spaltavian at 3:30 PM on July 28, 2009


I was under the impression they were by-and-large locals

Invasion was apoor choice of words. but. In that region what does "local" mean? Some were from Waziristan. Some were from other provinces.

Do you mean guys like Maulana Fazlullah "Mullah Radio?" I think he was from Swat.

However. Many of the Taliban that took over Afghanistan were Pakistani. So yeah. It's a "domestic" movement in a place with tenuous border in the first place.
posted by tkchrist at 3:34 PM on July 28, 2009


We should be protecting the lives of innocents even if it means risking more American deaths.

It is the terrorists who should be taking action to prevent innocents' deaths. Your analysis reverses the cause. The cause is terrorists hiding from US firepower amongst the populace. If they would set up camp in a forest or mountain region, this problem would not exist. They are no different than a hostage taker in a bank robbery.

The tactic is deliberate and the US must find a way to get around it. But the US cannot be held hostage to it, for that does nothing to solve the terrorist problem.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:34 PM on July 28, 2009


And it ignores the Taliban's complicity with terrorism to begin with.

And it ignore OUR complicity with Terrorism to begin with.
posted by tkchrist at 3:35 PM on July 28, 2009


They didn't offer to surrender bin Laden, they offered to send him to another country. And it ignores the Taliban's complicity with terrorism to begin with.

Mr Kabir said: "If America were to step back from the current policy, then we could negotiate." Mr bin Laden could be handed over to a third country for trial, he said. "We could discuss which third country."


The invasion was, regrettably necessary.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:37 PM on July 28, 2009


Invasion was a poor choice of words. but. In that region what does "local" mean? Some were from Waziristan. Some were from other provinces.

Do you mean guys like Maulana Fazlullah "Mullah Radio?" I think he was from Swat.

However. Many of the Taliban that took over Afghanistan were Pakistani. So yeah. It's a "domestic" movement in a place with tenuous border in the first place.

Ah right, fair enough. The Haji Muslim Khan interviewed in the last of the series of articles at my link says he's a local from a quick refresher skim (and a follower of Mullah Radio), but elsewhere they touched on the whole cross-border cross-pollination.
posted by Abiezer at 3:42 PM on July 28, 2009


The cause is terrorists hiding from US firepower amongst the populace.

The US should probably hold itself to a higher standard than terrorists in the way it wages war.

The invasion was, regrettably necessary.

Clearly it wasn't. They were willing to hand him over to a 3rd party. What's so horrible about that?
posted by chunking express at 3:44 PM on July 28, 2009


Abiezer: After the Taliban had gotten the peace deal that gave them control over the Swat valley, they began taking over the neighboring Buner district, which presumably was not in the contract, since the Pakistani army then proceeded to drive them back out of both areas.
posted by Anything at 3:51 PM on July 28, 2009


Thanks Anything, that part I had missed (not the army actions but the reasons you give - thought it was all contained in Swat).
posted by Abiezer at 4:02 PM on July 28, 2009


I'm not sure exactly what the right way to deal with the Taliban and Bin Laden would have been. Probably some kind of surgical strikes at the Al Qaeda camps, without a full-scale war.

Just because Obama continues it doesn't make it right. Just because the Taliban were a shitty government doesn't make it right. By that logic we should be bombing about 2/3rds of the world right now, including Russia and China. Or are oppressive governments only offensive when they're also militarily weak?

Even if we do finally catch Bin Laden, we will have created ten more Bin Ladens by bombing and shooting innocent civilians.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:02 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is the terrorists who should be taking action to prevent innocents' deaths. Your analysis reverses the cause. The cause is terrorists hiding from US firepower amongst the populace. If they would set up camp in a forest or mountain region, this problem would not exist. They are no different than a hostage taker in a bank robbery.

The tactic is deliberate and the US must find a way to get around it. But the US cannot be held hostage to it, for that does nothing to solve the terrorist problem.


I realize the difficulty in discriminating between noncombatants and combatants in the areas where the drone attacks are taking place, but that's just more reason to stop drone attacks. And I am not reversing the cause -- the cause of death of the almost 800 dead Pakistani civilians that I am talking about are a direct result of the drone attacks. They are unjust because of their inadequacy in discriminating legitimate targets. Using actual real people to fight your battles is more just prosecution because it allows a degree of due care to be exercised towards civilians. Drone attacks are imprecise and indiscriminate. In WWII, the Free French Air Force flew dangerously low in order to precision bomb targets in Paris. It was no doubt a disadvantage for them to do so, many planes were shot down because of their low-altitude bombing strategy, but it saved many innocent lives as a result. While I am not suggesting that the US Air Force should be flying unnecessarily low in order to keep Pakistani civilians out of harms way, they could at the very least have a human being dropping the bombs.

The Predator is primitive relatively speaking. Soon it's effectiveness and accuracy will be improved, but I don't think that's necessarily a good thing. Despite what or who is doing the fighting, the target is always humans. I don't like the idea of remote-controlled robots waging war against others.

Fighting a just war is a balance between achieving your tactical objectives while maintaining moral standards. Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, the Blackwater shootings, and these drone attacks are inexcusable injustices on our behalf. Just because the terrorists fight with no rules doesn't mean that we should follow suit. If we do not take the moral high road, then we look just as bad in their eyes as they look in ours.
posted by ageispolis at 4:08 PM on July 28, 2009


Nobody was "handing" Bin Laden over to anybody. It wasn't like Bin Laden was in a Taliban holding cell. He was in a fortified miles away from Mullah Omar in his own remote compound surrounded by heavily armed loyalists. The guy wasn't gonna surrender to our coalition what makes anybody think he would to the Taliban. Even if they would hand him over. Which I guarantee was delaying tactic and nothing more.
posted by tkchrist at 4:17 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Grrr. Should read: He was miles away from Mullah Omar in his own fortified remote compound surrounded by heavily armed loyalists.
posted by tkchrist at 4:18 PM on July 28, 2009


ageispolis: If there is a degree of precision that you consider sufficient, why is it any difference to you if the aircraft is piloted directly or remotely? Furthermore, wouldn't you expect a remote pilot to be able to take more care in assessing the situation since his own life is not at risk, given properly designed and enforced rules of engagement?
posted by Anything at 4:26 PM on July 28, 2009


What would you have Obama do?

Hmm... tough question. Maybe find out how our money that is going to Pakistan is being spent. Hopefully some is being using to improve the quality of life of displaced peoples. Use effective humanitarianism to fight extremism instead of bombs.

As for the drone attacks, I think with the embassy going up and contractors heading into Islamabad, ground forces will soon be fighting in Pakistan anyways, so maybe just cut to the chase?
posted by ageispolis at 4:26 PM on July 28, 2009


ageispolis but what else can they do? Every other military option could easily inflame the populace more and lead to even greater casualties. Even the lightest foot print is going to cuase casualties.

The meat of counter insurgency work means boots on the ground kicking in doors in the middle of the night. It means going into villages in force, without warning, and arresting people brothers, fathers, and children. It means close ground support air cover. It means fire fights. And people, innocent people, will get killed. AND foreigners will be on their soil doing this killing.

When you look at it through the eyes of the Pentagon planner and the diplomatic constraints and mission parameters they have, drones look like a great option. Not that I agree that they really are. (though I think they do have their place).

I don't think you or most people are truly prepared to do the MOST effective and humane option. Which is US soldiers in the Kush for ten years or more.
posted by tkchrist at 4:32 PM on July 28, 2009


Use effective humanitarianism to fight extremism instead of bombs.

that is certain one thing you can do. But it's only part of the equation when your dealing with fanatical murders who abduct people —women and children —and behead them. People who obstruct and hijack humanitarian shipments. People who bomb markets where food aid is being distributed. At some point the judicious and prudent use of force is required. And people will die.
posted by tkchrist at 4:36 PM on July 28, 2009




The meat of counter insurgency work means boots on the ground kicking in doors in the middle of the night. It means going into villages in force, without warning, and arresting people brothers, fathers, and children. It means close ground support air cover. It means fire fights. And people, innocent people, will get killed. AND foreigners will be on their soil doing this killing.

WOLVERINES!
posted by geos at 4:50 PM on July 28, 2009




World must do more to assist Pakistan’s Swat reconstruction effort:
"The U.S., he said, is leading the effort to assist more than two million displaced Pakistanis and has provided over $ 164 million in assistance for the displaced populations."


164 million? That's it? The former CEOs of CitiGroup, who ran it into the ground and took a sixth of the US economy with it, got more than that as a severance package. Good god, our priorities are fucked up.
posted by tkchrist at 4:52 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


“But on the ground stern lectures and peace-pot lucks don't stop militants from invading the Swat and slaughtering thousands of people.”
Oh….
*stows Turkey Casserole*

No, that’s fine. Took me three hours…no, no, it’s ok. Go buy a Kalashnikov. It’s fine. Doesn’t matter. I just want you to be happy. Go shoot your gun. I’ll take this home. Maybe your grandmother will eat it. You go have your war with the kids. That’s fine.

“Probably some kind of surgical strikes at the Al Qaeda camps, without a full-scale war.”
Sure. Worked so well for Bill Clinton. Really, it's not like that anymore. They've soaked in. You need troops.

“Was the war really necessary in the first place?”

How far back do you want to go?
U.S. objectives remain pretty much unchanged, non-proliferation, regional instability and support for extremists (plenty of people been saying that for a very long time). That Bush decided to chuck the advice of everyone and his brother and do next to nothing about what has been brewing in Pakistan for a long time (while jerking off over Iraq saying "I'm a wartime prezdent!") doesn’t mean nothing was going on there.
As fun as it might be to guilt folks into not killing people and maybe eating a nice casserole, very often they make it necessary.

We can talk blame all we like. War is never good, but it is sometimes necessary. And at the end of the day, either you leave the place alone and let them sort it all out and we can have another genocide on our hands perhaps, with people who are religious fanatics with no qualms about killing innocents who could get their hands on nuclear weapons and/or plunge one of the largest countries in the world in one of the most volatile regions of the world with a host of resources and so allies and economic interests into a far larger war, or go there now and try to undo some of the damage before they grow too large, entrenched and strong in power to remove without killing far more innocents yourself.

I’d rather not have a family-style service war with Russia, Pakistan, India, China, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

But I agree with the drone thing being bad. Not that it’s cowardly, because a there’s no such thing as a cowardly tactic (outside of propaganda, and given it’s not running away screaming at the first hint of trouble), only what works and what doesn’t. But it’s a very poor tactic for war among the people and this is most certainly that.
Don’t know if the iron-ass hats in the pentagon get that yet. Too many defense department contracts I’d wager.

Hell, I’d almost be happy if they just targeted some desolate mountain range and pretended there were bad guys there and expended ordinance on it. At least it wouldn’t sabotage the efforts of the guys on the ground building stuff, getting to know people and trying to create order.

I don't have a real problem with Fuller's analysis. I think Fuller is off-base on is: "Pakistan is experienced in governance and is well able to deal with its own Islamists and tribalists under normal circumstances..."

Well, what's 'normal circumstances'? He's pretty much taking Musharraf's position that it's the U.S.'s fault.
Oh really? We started the Deobandi? Huh. Thought that'd be the reformists fighting the British in India. Was I sleeping in history class when the idea of Pakistan was to create an Islamic state from India? Did I not see the freaking movie "Ghandi" where those people had a problem with each other and were all about playing hardball? So we put the Pakistani Army, the ISI and the extremists in bed together?
Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq's regime and the Jamaat-e-Islami slaughtering 3 million Bengalis because they wanted to stop secular nationalism in 1971, oh, that's an example of 'normal circumstances'? Pakistani intelligence supported the taliban and formed the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen

Or was 'normal circumstances' five months ago where they tell us to fuck off while they reimpose Shariah law and sign deals with the Taliban who behead people and kill young girls and burn their schools?
Far as I remember, their history since their independence has been pretty much coup after assassination after bloody coup after coup after assassination. Except for a brief period when Benazir Bhutto was in charge in the late 80's.
...say, whatever happened to her anyway? I heard she won a U.N. Human Rights prize.
Oh, right, the base claimed responsibility for assassinating her and were likely aided by sympathizers in the Pakistani military and the ISI.
Yeah, fuck America.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:56 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The meat of counter insurgency work means boots on the ground kicking in doors in the middle of the night."

I disagree. Mostly it's creating order and security so the other guys can't kick in doors in the middle of the night. Although there is that element. Ah, I don't want to write another primer.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:01 PM on July 28, 2009


tkchrist: It's slightly better than that. Later in the article it says:
The Obama Administration recently also got Congressional approval for another $ 220 million in relief assistance for the displaced people.
posted by Anything at 5:03 PM on July 28, 2009


Tariq - please?
posted by hooptycritter at 5:05 PM on July 28, 2009


Oh, and Karzai makes Nancy Pelosi look like Einstein.
posted by hooptycritter at 5:06 PM on July 28, 2009


It is the terrorists who should be taking action to prevent innocents' deaths. Your analysis reverses the cause. The cause is terrorists hiding from US firepower amongst the populace. If they would set up camp in a forest or mountain region, this problem would not exist.

We'll keep that in mind the next time there are terrorists hiding among your population. Want to bet there are some?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:13 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Related:
Almost eight years after the Taliban regime was toppled, our hopes for a truly democratic and independent Afghanistan have been betrayed by the continued domination of fundamentalists and by a brutal occupation that ultimately serves only American strategic interests in the region.
The big lie of Afghanistan by Malalai Joya (former member of Afghan parliament)
posted by gompa at 5:32 PM on July 28, 2009


I see the big issue as: our enemy is Al Qaeda in Pakistan but we cant fight them, so we fight the Taliban in Afghanistan. This strategy seems sub-optimal on its face.
posted by shothotbot at 7:00 PM on July 28, 2009


Does anyone here think that the United States can ever bring about a"peeance freeance secure" Afghanistan? After the overthrow of the Taliban, the Bush-Cheney cabal blew whatever "golden hour" there may have been to shape a better Afghanistan, a country ravaged by 25 years of American-backed proxy wars. Now, some eight years on, we have a puppet government led by the "Mayor of Kabul" supported by a legislature with no legislative power. This situation makes the Soviet-backed Najibullah regime seem like Frederick the Great's Prussia. Has Obama--and all of us, collectively-- forgotten how well the Soviets did against the mujihideen they called "dushki" or "ghosts?" How well the British did?

What in hell makes anyone think that the baddest fighters in the world are now going to start agreeing to foreign domination? Does General McChrystal think the "dushki" will stand and fight the Marines just because we're the good ol' 'Murcans? USA! USA!

The road to the Vietnamese quagmire began with the best of intentions. We backed a corrupt regime without real popular support. We're doing the same thing now. History does not repeat itself, as Mark Twain famously said, but it rhymes. We are making martyrs everyday, and it is only a matter of time before a charismatic Afghan "freedom fighter" arises to lead the resistance against foreign domination. And only a matter of time before Afghanistan's next door neighbors--our traditional friends like Iran and Russia--take covert pleasure in supporting the movement. Then--Good Morning, Vietnam™, all over again.

I take no pleasure whatsoever in suggesting that the United States holds a losing hand in Afghanistan. But unless the USA is prepared to send 500,000 troops and kill half the population, including all of the Pushtuns, the practical chances of salvaging a "Taliban-free" country hospitable to America's interests are minimal.
posted by rdone at 7:14 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


One blog worth reading about Afghanistan, Pakistan and counterinsurgency strategy is abu muqawama. (A former US Army Captain, now researcher). He blogs out of the Center for a New American Security, which was liberally (heh) pillaged for Obama national security staffers and he was on General McCrystal's Afgan strategy review (the latest of five reviews Obama has ordered.
posted by shothotbot at 8:36 PM on July 28, 2009


The war-on-drugs approach we take towards heroin and cocaine source countries (and the resulting system of warlords that protect and buy the crop) is a major source of political instability around the world. I cannot imagine a better system for destroying the legitimacy of a central government.

We demand that the government try to eradicate the crops, but it is profitable enough that eradication is impossible over the whole country. In areas where the crops are destroyed, the farmers are devastated. The bribes flowing to government officials (and the bullets flying to the un-bribed) destroy the competence and professionalism of the government. Meanwhile, warlords / guerrilla groups arise to secure the crop by any means necessary. The cash-flow and ready supplies of guns and gun-men are irresistible to black-ops types both local and foreign.

I think that a system of decriminalizing and regulating drug markets is the best single move we could make to Afghanistan (and many other places) more politically stable. Failing that, we could buy the whole poppy crop at market rates each year and destroy it for a fraction of what we are spending now.

It won't remove the religious zealots from the scene. It won't stop the meddling of foreign intelligence services. It won't fix the fact that we installed a bunch of stooges as a puppet government. Guerrillas who are suddenly without income are a problem of their own. But at least the government will not be fighting a war with its farmers.
posted by Thalience at 8:57 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, what's 'normal circumstances'? He's pretty much taking Musharraf's position that it's the U.S.'s fault.
Oh really? We started the Deobandi? Huh. Thought that'd be the reformists fighting the British in India. Was I sleeping in history class when the idea of Pakistan was to create an Islamic state from India? Did I not see the freaking movie "Ghandi" where those people had a problem with each other and were all about playing hardball? So we put the Pakistani Army, the ISI and the extremists in bed together?
Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq's regime and the Jamaat-e-Islami slaughtering 3 million Bengalis because they wanted to stop secular nationalism in 1971, oh, that's an example of 'normal circumstances'? Pakistani intelligence supported the taliban and formed the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen

Or was 'normal circumstances' five months ago where they tell us to fuck off while they reimpose Shariah law and sign deals with the Taliban who behead people and kill young girls and burn their schools?
Far as I remember, their history since their independence has been pretty much coup after assassination after bloody coup after coup after assassination. Except for a brief period when Benazir Bhutto was in charge in the late 80's.
...say, whatever happened to her anyway? I heard she won a U.N. Human Rights prize.
Oh, right, the base claimed responsibility for assassinating her and were likely aided by sympathizers in the Pakistani military and the ISI.
Yeah, fuck America.


Oh? Poisoning the well already? And a false dichotomy on the side? You shouldn't have!

No matter how shitty things were it doesn't give the US a free pass to indiscriminately slaughter civilians because they want to blow up the bad guys from the relative safety of 40,000 feet.
posted by Talez at 9:01 PM on July 28, 2009


electroboy: Because Colombia and Mexico provide most of our heroin. Afghanistan mainly supplies Europe.

Take official statements with a grain of smacksalt. According to this book,
The estimates of production, seizures, and regional consumption in Latin America show exports much lower than estimates of U.S. consumption and seizures for the years 2001 and 2002. Thus, it is likely that the United States imports a substantial share of its heroin from Asia, contrary to official statements.
posted by daksya at 10:37 PM on July 28, 2009


Tariq - please?

I don't understand this comment.
posted by pompomtom at 11:33 PM on July 28, 2009


What would you have Obama do?

For what it's worth, the Brits have I think indicated what the strategy is over there: the current violence is about bringing the non total-spoiler Talibs ("the second order warlords") who may be temporarily bought, to the table. Before the summer offensive, there was no reason for doing that, they were just too good. At the same time, the US is trying to shut off some of their other sources of money.

This draws on the wider British theory of state-building (which also mirrors international development good practice), which sees creating a political settlement as the starting point.

This strategy leads to a possible outcome of a mixed ethnicity government, probably with the Pashtun back in charge, including Islamist elements and backed by declining international presence. It gives short-term stability, through a raft of people who stand to gain more than they lose by participating in the state (it only works if the state ignores the opium crop). At the moment, Karzai is reconstructing his raft again, like stepping back to 2004. He's cutting deals with Mohaqeq, with Dostum and with Fahim to split the minority vote. He's playing a savvy game as he always has. If the Talibs do sit down, he will probably renege on these promises. Still, I think this is by far the best case scenario, and that the strategy being adopted in Afghanistan is the most sensible that we can adopt.
posted by YouRebelScum at 12:30 AM on July 29, 2009


Ahem. "in too good a position".
posted by YouRebelScum at 12:31 AM on July 29, 2009


It's because I fucked up the spelling in the FPP. Maybe vacapinta will hope me.
Waziristan and the tribal areas are not primarily opium producing areas to any great extent. Things are hotting up there. Part of the problem is history. The Durand Line an arbitary line scratched on a map straight through traditional tribal lands; to the west Afghanistan, to the East British India. The people in the middle were and are tribal and had never been ruled by anybody. Any foreigner was and still is the common enemy. The greater problem as pointed out by Tariq Ali is that the longer the war continues, the greater the possibility of serious cracks within the [Pakistan] army. Not at the level of the high command, but among majors and captains, as well as among the soldiers they command, who are far from happy with the tasks assigned to them. Then a further disintegration of an already disintegrating state will accelerate.
posted by adamvasco at 12:35 AM on July 29, 2009


Until the regular folks in Pakistan realize what their Army has been doing all this time (they STILL describe the Taliban as their "strategic asset" against India!) and actually DO something about it, none of this is going to change. The US just handed the Pakistani military another $700 mil with few strings attached to fight their own "strategic asset." This is just looks like it will reinforce the behaviour. From what I gather, even now there is a fierce internal debate going on in Pakistan whether or not India is more of an immediate threat than the fuckers who are beating up schoolgirls miles from Islamabad.

Unfortunately, Pakistan seems to have run out of statesmen to lead their civilian governments. The army doesn't even need help sidelining and ousting these career kleptocrats; they're imploding all by themselves.

* disclosure: Indian, and well within Pakistan ICBM range. It means I'm biased, but I also have a dog in this fight.
posted by vanar sena at 12:44 AM on July 29, 2009


Talez: Do you think the U.S. military were aware of the civilians that would be killed in, say, the Farah airstrikes in May?
posted by Anything at 3:06 AM on July 29, 2009


They didn't offer to surrender bin Laden, they offered to send him to another country. And it ignores the Taliban's complicity with terrorism to begin with.
posted by spaltavian


I've been too busy to comment in this thread as much as I would have liked, but I have to respond to this.

1) Perhaps they didn't think OBL would get a fair trial from the US given that the US President said: "We know he's guilty. ... There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt." The US also didn't provide evidence of his guilt, just said, hand him over or else.

2) The third country could have been the Netherlands, he could have been tried in the International Criminal Court, for example. Maybe he wouldn't have been, but I think that if the US had attempted to get OBL out of Afghanistan in that way then tens of thousands of deaths might have been avoided.

3) The Taliban's complicity in terrorism.... perhaps the stuff against the Soviets funded by the CIA? You reap what you sow.

Bit of a lazy post, but I don't care at the minute.
posted by knapah at 5:53 AM on July 29, 2009


And it ignore OUR complicity with Terrorism to begin with.

The Taliban's complicity in terrorism.... perhaps the stuff against the Soviets funded by the CIA? You reap what you sow.



I never have and never will deny America's involvement in state sponsored terrorism, whether it's in Asia, Latin America or elsewhere. That doesn't mean bin Laden or the Taliban gets a free pass for 9/11.

Perhaps they didn't think OBL would get a fair trial from the US given that the US President said: "We know he's guilty. ... There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt." The US also didn't provide evidence of his guilt, just said, hand him over or else.

Bin Laden would have actually gotten the fairest trial ever; otherwise the United States would not have the crushing propaganda victory it was hoping for. Stalin insisted that the Nuremburg trials were legit, for the same reason.
posted by spaltavian at 6:21 AM on July 29, 2009


Thus, it is likely that the United States imports a substantial share of its heroin from Asia, contrary to official statements.

Yeah, I think from what I've read (and actually contained in that link) is that it's Burma, rather than Afghanistan that's a larger supplier to the US, although their market share appears to be decreasing.

Also, I think the claim they're making is a little dicey, since there was a massive interruption of the Afghani supply in 2001, for obvious reasons, and dealers are known to stockpile as a contingency and to control prices.
posted by electroboy at 7:28 AM on July 29, 2009


Talez: Do you think the U.S. military were aware of the civilians that would be killed in, say, the Farah airstrikes in May?

Let's drop things that explode onto populated villages from an aircraft flying at a few hundred miles an hour from 2500 feet.

What could possibly go wrong in this scenario? I wonder.

This really sounds like a job for the Mythbusters. Let's take 200 Taliban militants, stick 100 of them in podunk USA, stick the other 100 in the Upper West Side and then tell the marines. That way we can see whether the military still thinks that blowing the shit out of populated civilian areas is still a good idea.
posted by Talez at 7:47 AM on July 29, 2009


electroboy: I think the claim they're making is a little dicey, since there was a massive interruption of the Afghani supply in 2001

The Afghan suppression actually helps their claim. Their inference is simply based on the observation that there is a huge mismatch between South American supply and US consumption (and in any case, the Afghan 2001 crop's effect was delayed due to stockpiling by the traffickers)
posted by daksya at 8:29 AM on July 29, 2009


The fact is the Taliban are a dangerous force who INVADED--

The Taliban in Pakistan are a combination of Afghans and locals. That border has been porous since the beginning of civilization. As far as the Pashtun are concerned, the western border is historically part of Afghanistan. It is linked ethnically, tribally, linguistically and by close familial ties.

Pakistani public opinion has shifted against the Taliban

This is definitely the case. But control of the tribal lands should lie in the hands of the people who live there. Forcing issues at the barrel of a gun only serves to alienate your potential allies and create more insurgents. As Ali notes, the Pashtuns unite only against a foreign invader. More indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians is playing into the hands of the Talib and other groups with similar beliefs.

But unless the USA is prepared to send 500,000 troops and kill half the population, including all of the Pushtuns

Are you serious? We're not a crazy, homogeneous, Wahhabi mass. While the Taliban is composed primarily of Pashtuns, not all Pashtuns are Taliban or remotely sympathetic to them.
posted by nikitabot at 8:55 AM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Afghan suppression actually helps their claim.

Eh, I dunno. Like I said, all indications point to Burma as being the larger supplier, and it depends on who's doing the stockpiling. Afghani shortfalls can be made up for by Burmese stockpiles, etc. I admit, I haven't read the book, but there'd need to be more evidence than a mismatch in numbers over two years to make that claim clearly.
posted by electroboy at 10:21 AM on July 29, 2009


98 % of all Afghanistan's opium is grown in the seven provinces in the southwest where there are permanent Taliban settlements. This is (2007 figures) 93 % of the global opiates market.
posted by adamvasco at 10:49 AM on July 29, 2009


> Let's take 200 Taliban militants, stick 100 of them in podunk USA, stick the other 100 in the Upper West Side and then tell the marines.

That's not a fair test; the Marines would be happy to take out the Upper West Side even without Taliban presence.
posted by languagehat at 11:29 AM on July 29, 2009


electroboy: there'd need to be more evidence than a mismatch in numbers over two years to make that claim clearly.

Have a look.
posted by daksya at 11:38 AM on July 29, 2009


I'm looking.... and I don't see anything about Afghanistan ... or anything beyond two highlighted years. I'm not saying you're wrong, just that there hasn't been a source that addresses the whole picture. For example, this shows radically different numbers for Latin American production, but is purportedly based on the same data.
posted by electroboy at 12:02 PM on July 29, 2009


electroboy: The "radically different numbers" is simply an amusing case of mislabeling. My table says "opiate production..." but refers to heroin; your graph talks of 'Heroin Production' but refers to opium. Rule of thumb, 10kg of opium yields roughly 1kg of heroin.

My table, does not, indeed, talk of Afghanistan or Burma, only that the majority of American heroin does not source from South America contra your original point. But the authors make clear that Burma seems to have really cracked down on opium - Whatever the reasons behind the bans, they prompted a sharp decline in Burmese opium cultivation and production. According to UN data, the area under cultivation fell from 163,000 hectares in 1996 to 21,500 hectares in 2006—a reduction of 87%*. The take-home message being that, prima facie, majority US heroin supply is likely from Asia, and given Burma's lowered output, it must be Afghan-sourced. It's an inference, not an empirical observation. Having said that, these authors are respected, and typically taken as the academic authority on these matters, if you check the testimonials at the Amazon link.

*although there was some rebounding in 2007.
posted by daksya at 12:37 PM on July 29, 2009


My table says "opiate production..." but refers to heroin; your graph talks of 'Heroin Production' but refers to opium.

Yep, you're right. Interpol needs to do a better job labelling their powerpoint and I need to read more critically.

The take-home message being that, prima facie, majority US heroin supply is likely from Asia, and given Burma's lowered output, it must be Afghan-sourced.

That inference doesn't necessarily follow though. The UNODC 2008 report shows pretty clearly that while Afghanistan may produce a very large amount of opium, it vastly exceeded the amount of actual worldwide use. I think this may be the source of the X% of the worldwide opium supply. They can certainly produce it, but it doesn't necessarily mean they sell all of it and it's certainly not evenly distributed.

Further, North America is a relatively small user of the worldwide supply. Europe and Asia make up the vast majority of world opium and heroin use (about 80%). Burma still produced 460 tons of opium in 2007, more than enough to cover the recent shortfall in Latin America. In the referenced years, Burma produced a little over 1000 tons each year. Considering that the United States possibly imported 13-17 tons (130-170 tons of opium), that's a relatively small portion of the Burmese output.

I'll certainly concede my original point that Mexico and Colombia are the primary producers. That may be a historical trend that's changing, but it's not clear that Afghani heroin is a significant part of the US supply yet, especially given the explosion in use in the countries surrounding Afghanistan.

This is the most relevant quote from the report concerning trafficking:

Although the availability of heroin from Afghanistan remains very low in North America, there are some indications that opiates from Afghanistan are beginning to make their way to the USA and Canada, both directly from Afghanistan and via Pakistan and India. Canada reports 83% of the heroin seized on its market in 2006 originated in South-West Asia.
posted by electroboy at 1:33 PM on July 29, 2009


"No matter how shitty things were it doesn't give the US a free pass to indiscriminately slaughter civilians because they want to blow up the bad guys from the relative safety of 40,000 feet."

Because I've consistently argued that is an optimal COIN strategy for years. Yeah.

See if you can follow this - yes the U.S. played with Pakistan vs. the Soviets. Otherwise, no, we didn't play too many games in that region whatever other shitty stuff we've done around the world. The U.S. is not responsible for every terrorist act around the world. I myself, dislike terrorist action so I oppose any U.S. policy related to that so I am not defending the U.S. on all things. I am defending U.S. policy as it pertains to Pakistan right now.
As far as I'm concerned the history of that region comes in to play only insofar as this 'blame the U.S.' shit inhibits rational examination of strategy.
Leaving and ignoring the situation is not a strategy. And it's not an option, neither is bombing or attacking with drones. Although it is policy. And I have criticized it.

Taking action in this region of the world at this time is absolutely necessary. I'd invite any other country in the world with an interest in stopping the spread of terrorism and increasing world security to be involved. And many are, unlike Iraq.
We can argue about 'how.' I agree war among the people is not fought with drones.
That said, it is a political reality that I recognize. I don't condone it. It's merely a factor. And it should be ended.
The fact remains however - things were shitty before we were at all involved. Things were shitty when we were involved in the wrong way. And things were shitty when we stopped being involved because it wasn't politically expedient.

Now this "baddest fighters in the world" stuff is horseshit. What were the Boers? Pushovers? This is not to say they're not formidable. Certainly they're dedicated and battle hardened. But it's precisely because the nature of war has changed that winning there is possible.
And again with the caveat that the old methods only serve the old goals which have, I fully agree, failed.
But each situation must be viewed in the round rather than in the specific through the lens of the past - the tactics employed might be those of COIN or guerrilla warfare but the context could be different. One has to distinguish between the tactics and the geostrategic setting and the political and strategic goals of the combatants.

If you've read Clausewitz on partisan warfare weakening the will of the stronger opponent - colonialism worked because for the most part their opponents (early on) didn't think they could affect the will of the population of a distant country - where Britain failed in Afghanistan, their will was changed. It wasn't because they were just so bad ass the Brits had to walk - the terrain, the distance from the sea (England was ever a sea power) and so the logistics plus the coherence of the tribes (brought on by foreign invasion, granted, but again - for colonial purposes and oppression) is exactly what Clausewitz was talking about.
The British tactical gains - and they did make them, so again - bad ass? - could not be turned into political capital (to borrow a phrase).
This engagement is different.
Now I'll fully grant, and hell, agree and augment the fact that we haven't pulled our heads out and squared away the theater for the counter-terrorist campaign and defined what is strategic and what is operational. Hence the fall back on the old rotes of bombing stuff. But folks at the top always like to look like they're 'doing' something.
I prefer collecting information and assessing it first and determining dissemination, etc. and determining priority of goals (counter-narcotics first?) because first and foremost this should be an intelligence and information operation and not a war of attrition (as we had in Vietnam) and/or the old industrial war patterns.
One can succeed tactically and still fail operationally.
But again - that doesn't mean we can't succeed operationally. Though given the tactics we're using if we do succeed it would be in spite of collateral damage and hurting innocent folks.

But y'know, my opinion is the same as some fucking forklift driver. "Say, you know, in brain surgery you have to..." "Yeah, blah blah blah, U.S. health care sux dood."
posted by Smedleyman at 1:55 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


And again, if we don't get involved in this now, we're doing an even greater injustice. But I do agree we have to do it properly.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:56 PM on July 29, 2009


Bloody hell Smedleyman, you read just like a more stream-of-consciousness version of my insurgency lecturer. Clausewitz and everything. You accept the problems with the current execution of the 'overseas contingency operations' in Afghanistan, but provide no ideas for the future.

Most of the insurgents in Afghanistan are not fighting against the USA because they are American, but because they are occupying Afghanistan. We can all imagine how the radical right (militiamen etc.) would react to an occupation of the US, or even a single state...or county!! As has been mentioned up thread, the Pashtun react rather strongly to foreign occupation. The COIN strategy being applied now seems to be, "kill those people we identify as AQ", and involves ignoring "collateral damage" concerns. This is a significant problem and severely damages the likelihood of developing a progressive consensus amongst the people of Afghanistan.

Of course, the US and its allies can "win" in Afghanistan. How? By stopping caring about the number of military deaths. That may sound evil, or just unpleasant, but the problem is that democracies have trouble accepting war deaths. Soldiers die, that's simply a fact, and we need to stop thinking that death is something that doesn't happen to "us". If the 'Coalition' start prosecuting this war such that deaths are an accepted part of achieving the war aims, then 'victory' is achievable. If nobody is allowed to die, then the war aim is fucked. Simple as.

We need to realise that achieving "our" goals is effectively impossible using military means, and that we must apply radically different methods to achieve something remotely approaching 'victory' in Afghanistan. I sincerely hope that something can be organised that will result in a relatively stable, remotely democratic regime emerging in that country in spite of the appalling strategy applied by the invading states.

I am a little drunk, and may consequently not be terribly cogent, but this issue pisses me off.
posted by knapah at 7:25 PM on July 29, 2009


Meanwhile Pakistan is planning a deal of $1 billion to buy submarines from Germany or France. The stench of corruption is strong. This is so wrong and so fucked up in so many ways. A disfunctional state which can't provide clean running water or electricity to half its population many of whom are living below the poverty line gets a $1 billion guarantee from NATO partners. WTF does Pakistan want subs for? The answer is it doesn't but the politicians and corrupt armed forces like the moola.
posted by adamvasco at 12:46 AM on July 30, 2009


"the appalling strategy applied by the invading states"

I think the current strategy is the best one to adopt, given the fuck-ups we've made since 2001. Hike up military presence to bring some of the Pashtun to the table; be careful not to disrupt the war economies; try to stitch together an uneasy coalition of powerholders in Kabul, be they never-so-nasty, and largely leave them alone to govern (or misgovern the country); lean on them enought to make sure that they understand that there are some minimum conditions on continued US/international support, which are specifically an absence of training camps on their territory and no open civil war between ethnicities. Perhaps, perhaps, another condition might be some mouthed respect for the constitution (and perhaps a renegotiation of the constitution and Bonn somewhere down the line).
posted by YouRebelScum at 3:19 AM on July 30, 2009


“…you read just like a more stream-of-consciousness version of my insurgency lecturer.”

He sounds like a brilliant man. Me, I'm just working on the brevity. Some of this stuff is standard, regular knowledge that many folks have absolutely no clue about. I don’t know dick about engineering, so I wouldn’t argue about how to construct a hydroelectric dam. Doesn’t seem to stop folks who have zero knowledge of elementary strategy and warfighting to make broad pronouncements on them.* So I’m trying to cover all the bases through short allusion. Failing obviously.

(*to, again, be clear, not to say someone who isn't a veteran or hasn't had military experience or studied any of this stuff can't have an opinion on the why's and wherefores. Hey, someone wants to build a dam in my backyard I'm going to bitch about it being the wrong place, doing environmental damage, foisted on me because of corruption and what not, I'm not going to tell the engineer that steel can't reinforce concrete or some such thing)

“You accept the problems with the current execution of the 'overseas contingency operations' in Afghanistan, but provide no ideas for the future.”

I’ve outlined a great deal of options for the future. Not here because I dislike reiterating the same thing over and over and over. But what’s under discussion is Tariq Ali’s work, Fuller’s commentary, etc. etc. plus the comments here. That’s all I’ve addressed. As it sits, I think the U.S. does need to examine exactly what it wants to achieve operationally and strategically and understand how before stomping all over the countryside waiting for the situation and theater tempo to evolve on its own. Waste of time, IMHO. So as far as I’m concerned, there are no ideas for the future beyond application of force in an attempt to control terrain. My response in the short version: we shouldn’t be doing that. We should think, gather intel, be present, and focus more on mobility and troops than ordinance. Determine what’s possible before dictating ‘the future.’
But then, I like actually achieving goals and ending things (mostly because that's my mindset, but in part because I'm not heavily invested in the defense industry which depends on ongoing warfare).

“Most of the insurgents in Afghanistan are not fighting against the USA because they are American”

Most? I’m not sure what it is your focus is on. As far as I know a terrorist outfit did most certainly attack us on 9/11 because we are American. And the British. And the French. And there have been ongoing attacks worldwide on American interests specifically and western interests in general.

From a local theater perspective, I agree. But that goes back to goals. What is it we’re fighting against? For? And what is it we want to achieve? I like the idea of not having broad sponsorship possible for international terrorist organizations. As far as Joe Guy in that region goes, yeah, I think it’d be far easier to work with him instead of shoot at him. And I’ve pretty consistently said that here and elsewhere.

“The COIN strategy being applied now seems to be, "kill those people we identify as AQ", and involves ignoring "collateral damage" concerns”

Which is why I disagree with it. As I’ve said.
“Of course, the US and its allies can "win" in Afghanistan. How? By stopping caring about the number of military deaths.”
I don’t know about your word choice in ‘stopping caring’ but I agree with the general sentiment. Political expediency is getting in the way of effective troop usage.
And I’ve said so myself. Here, even.

“but the problem is that democracies have trouble accepting war deaths.”

And I’m the one not offering solutions? How, oh great and wise Oz, do we get democracies, and ours in particular, to accept war deaths?

I’m being facetious there. There are some methods, I don’t know that they would work. But the problem with war dead in a democracy affecting the will of the people to fight is a big factor. I won’t say it is a problem because it’s better as a feature than a bug. I like the fact people don’t like their soldiers dying. On the flip side, I’d be happier if they didn’t so easily boil that down to a beer commercial and flag waving and were able to so readily forget the whole thing when stupid and useless engagements are fought.

“We need to realise that achieving "our" goals is effectively impossible using military means, and that we must apply radically different methods to achieve something remotely approaching 'victory' in Afghanistan.”

Pretty much my thesis there. A general I served under has made that point for years. Wrote a book on it. And I agree (even if I didn’t like him, I’d agree). Old-style warfare is over. As I said, pretty explicitly above – “first and foremost this should be an intelligence and information operation” I’d have thought that would imply “not a military operation” but maybe I’m writing too short.
I’ve had criticisms to the contrary however.
That doesn’t mean force isn’t necessary or even useful. Just the matter of application is wrong. Actually, worse – arbitrary, since it’s based on old warfare patterns. (Oh, there’s the enemy! Bomb!)

I disagree that this means we have to take casualties though. A hell of a lot more could be accomplished by focusing on mobility rather than wide spectrum firepower.
I think a lot of commanders mindsets are that they don’t want to be outgunned.
Well, you can bring more beef to the whole table and achieve that in that way. Or you can focus on mobility more than overwhelming firepower everywhere and have your beef where you need it, and more of it than the enemy.

Right now we’re not doing that. In fact I just heard a general on the radio say that Joe Infantryman needs coverage by mortars and artillery and drones and letters from his mom and fast movers and blah de blah.
Kind of silly because you’re definitely going to wind up with innocent folks hurt. You won’t be outgunned though.
But too much of the high brass thinks being outgunned is a cardinal sin. I’ve been outgunned. Know what we did? We left. Then, later, we came back with more guys. Found where the guys who outgunned us were and outgunned them.

Eh, generals don’t think that way. I always thought Red and we were always a little suspect. Lateral thinking isn’t a big part of normal military operations (but again, what’s normal?). But they’re all going to have to learn to think like guerillas sooner or later because even if it’s not how they have to fight, it’s going to be who they’re fighting. No one is going to stand up in the field anymore and do combat.
So many factors – nukes, oil, resources, concentration of population in urban centers, etc. etc. etc. Hell, Kennedy knew it back in 1960. Eisenhower knew it too, and he saw how strategic decisions were being influenced by the defense industry infrastructure (M.I. Complex) and how even dumber certain kinds of wars are going to be if we didn’t pull our heads out of our asses.

As far as I’m concerned, while healthcare is a serious issue, taking the profit out of fighting wars would do immense good for the U.S. and foreign policy decisions as well as strategic thought. But that’s my .02 on a tangent.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:25 PM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]




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