Saturday, May 16, 2009

McKinney Keeps at it

More on McKinney and her insanity, this time at UC Irvine’s “Anti-Apartheid Week.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More on America’s Afghan/Pakistan Strategy

Following up my previous post about America’s future strategy in Afghanistan, two contrasting arguments from folks at Foreign Policy Magazine.

The first is from Dov Zakheim, who believes the United States should stop pussyfooting around, and ruthlessly crush the Taliban by supporting the Pakistani military.
Instead of trying to play politics in Islamabad, the United States should employ its forces to support those of Pakistan's military. Only in this manner can there be some assurance that Pakistani morale will not collapse, and that the Taliban insurrection can be crushed. The Pakistani military can be ruthless, and nothing else will do in dealing with the Taliban. American tactics and firepower can back up that ruthlessness.

Now is not the time for squeamishness or political correctness. Do-gooders no doubt will howl at the sight of the collateral damage that would inevitably result if American units enable Pakistani forces to pulverize Taliban strongholds. The Zardari government may howl that America has sidestepped it by going directly to the military.

Let them all howl. A nuclear armed Pakistan, or even worse, a fragmented country whose nuclear weapons are up for grabs, would result in far more cries of anguish by far more people than anything that might result from the elimination of the Taliban threat. Time is running out. The United States must act now
.”
His argument is not without merit: the fight against the Taliban in Pakistan is going to get more violent before an acceptable peace can be accepted. But based on Zakheim’s piece, I find that he is putting too much confidence in both the Pakistani military, as well as the ability for America to win this struggle with technology alone. Those who have argued this line or reasoning can be described as supporters of the Military Transformational Thesis (MTT) advocated by some prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stephen Biddle describes the MTT as a theory which sees the changes in warfare technology altering the way we fight wars entirely. Its supporters believe technological superiority, and the ability for the United States to strike and destroy its enemy from afar, has made traditional close combat a thing of the past. Biddle writes, “The increasing power of networked information, many claimed, was erasing the need for massed conventional ground forces, substituting stand-off precision strike for the close combat of the past and replacing the breakthrough battle with the struggle for information supremacy as the decisive issue for success.” (Biddle, “Iraq, Afghanistan, and American Military Transformation.”) What Zakheim is pushing is for at the heart of his argument, is for the U.S. to assist the Pakistani military with our superior technology. But unless we have complete faith in the Pakistani military to carry out close combat operations effectively, this strategy is doomed to fail. American troops need to be on the ground as well, as beligerence from the Pakistani military may only deepen the Taliban's resolve and influence.

The reason MTT has failed to make traditional close combat a thing of the past, is because the enemy we are fighting continues to adapt to our strikes. Biddle references the way al-Qaeda were initially susceptible to long range air strikes but changed their tactics to avoid being noticed.
Among the most important changes was increasing difficulty in finding targets for precision attack. At Bai Ceche on 2-5 Novemeber, for example, a mostly Al-Qaeda defensive force occupied an old, formerly Soviet system of deliberate entrenchments. With proper cover and concealment, the defenders were able to prevent US commandos from locating the entirety of the individual fighting positions, many of which could not be singled out for precision attacks.

By December fighting along Highway 4 south of Kandahar, even less information was available. In fact, concealed al-Qaeda defences among a series of culverts and in burnt-out vehicle hulks along the roadside remained wholly undetected until their fire drove back an allied advance
.”
The Taliban has been adapting to American military superiority as well. Lutfullah Mashal, a former spokesperson for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said:
“"During the past 4 1/2 years, there have always been changes in Taliban fighting tactics. But this latest change is unique," Mashal says. "They have never [concentrated their forces] like this before, and they were never so effective in the past. The Taliban have never caused such high numbers of casualties to [Afghan] government forces before. Now, their attacks are more organized and they have started to fight using [more conventional methods] -- concentrating their forces together. And they have started creating battle lines."
Believing that America can win this war from the sky alone is incorrect. It will require troops on the ground creating security in regions dealing with Taliban insurgents. Western forces will need to confront insurgent forces in ways air strikes can not, and since the Afghan and Pakistani military can yet take on the responsibility alone, America will need to continue its physical presence in the region.

From the peanut gallery comes advice from my good old buddy Stephen Walt, who cites recommendations by Graham Fuller, the former CIA station chief in Kabul. He writes:
His advice: "let non-military and neutral international organizations, free of geopolitical taint, take over the binding of Aghan wounds and the building of state structures." If Fuller is right, then our entire approach to the region—which basically consists of using various heavy-handed instruments to force these societies to accept our political values and institutions—is fundamentally misguided. I wonder if anyone in the Obama administration has talked to him.”
Few are arguing that international aid organizations should not be involved in the Afghan/Pakistani crisis: the obvious end goal (stable and democratic states) can not be achieved by raw force alone. But to believe that Taliban insurgents will melt away because the Red Cross is delivering goods is a fallacy; the insurgents will entrench and gain greater ground in the region. Afghanistan and Pakistan have their share of history’s wounds, but those wounds will be increased if the American government step back from its military commitment now and allows thugs and theocrats to re-establish control over the region. If we are forced to re-intervene in the region to combat terrorist groups targeting Americans or to deal with a growing regional conflict, it will be far costlier in resources and blood than if we were to stay invested at this current moment in time.

The Green Party is Dead

I worked as a regional campaign manager for the Green Party during the 2000 election, and it disappoints me to see how far the Party has fallen into extremism and paranoia since then. Making the repulsive Cynthia McKinney their presidential pick was the final nail in the coffin, and they seem unable to back away from this woman and her nutty ideas. She continues to write her Alex Jones worthy diatribes on the Green Party's official website, making her words indistinguishable from the organization as a whole.

I can only imagine what some old comrades of mine who happened to stay with the party after 9/11 think of it now.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Real Reason for the War in Iraq


Why did America go to war in Iraq in 2003? Was it for Oil? Democracy? Hell no. Clearly, it was for control of alien technology.
It is necessary to analyze the global implications of the failed diplomatic efforts…. and the subsequent military incursion from an 'exo-political perspective'………… since Iraq holds special significance as a nation that once hosted an advanced race of extraterrestrials whose legacy has not been disclosed to the general public or elected government representatives.

In 1976, a scholar translating ancient Sumerian cuneiform texts published the first of his books, The 12th Planet .

In his groundbreaking translations, Sitchin described with great scholarly precision, the technological wonders and knowledge of the ancient civilization of Sumeria.

What made his work controversial was that he claimed that the Sumerians were aided in starting their civilization by an advanced race of beings called the Anunnaki (Sumerian for 'those who came from Heaven to Earth').

He described technological wonders possessed by the Anunnaki, and described a factional war between the Anunnaki who finally departed the planet around 1700 BC. Furthermore, Sitchin described the home world of these beings as a mysterious planet that periodically returns to the vicinity of the solar system every 3,600 years
.”
Makes perfect sense.

The End of the Liberal Hawks?

Abe Greenwald has an interesting article in this month’s issue of Commentary Magazine, titled “Liberal Hawks, RIP” (you need a subscription to view the entire article). It is a contemptuous look at a few liberal hawks who Abe claims abandoned the principles behind interventionism because of their distaste for George W. Bush and the failure of America’s policy in the first few years of the Iraq War. In return, Greenwald argues that the liberal hawks are dead politically, and their failure to get behind the Neocon’s foreign policy has discredited interventionism as a whole for the foreseeable future. Abe writes:
Beinart, Signer, and their fellow liberal hawks found themselves unable to commit fully to the war effort they supported because of their distaste for Bush. They nonetheless found themselves far out on a limb with their friends and allies when the war went bad. Finally, by the time they had composed their recantations, the war was being won.”
I can’t defend Beinart or Singer; they can stand up for themselves if they feel slandered by Greenwald’s assessment of their position. However, a comment made by George Packer in the NY Times does warrant attention (and was criticized in Abe’s piece). Packer wrote:
What makes the agony over Iraq particularly intense is the new role of conservatives. Members of the Bush administration who had nothing but contempt for human rights talk until the day before yesterday have grabbed the banner of democracy and are waving it on behalf of the long-suffering Iraqi people. For liberal hawks, this is painful to watch.”
Skepticism about the Bush administration’s intentions in Iraq, and its willingness to commit American foreign policy to humanitarian intervention that democracy promotion is not devoid of merit. Bush’s foreign policy direction changed significantly after 9/11, with most of his foreign policy team coming to the conclusion that the United States must play a forceful and proactive role in the international system. But every President who sends the U.S. to war claims it is for the good of democracy and liberty overseas. History has taught us this is noticeably not the case. Liberals who supported democracy promotion and the removal of Saddam Hussein’s government had good reason to question whether Bush’s transformation into a proponent of world democracy was genuine.

I had those very reservations during the build up to the war in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I opposed both at the offset, and then came to support them when I found the Bush administration did intend to follow through with the nation building and social transformation necessary in those countries to make the liberations advisable.

Abe’s criticism of those liberal’s who turned on the Bush administration’s conduct during the early years of the war requires examination as well. He writes:
The attempt to distance themselves from the war they had basically supported did not go smoothly. Liberals and leftists who had opposed the war were hot on their trails and hungry to excommunicate. In an article in the Nation published in September 2004, the foreign-policy analyst Anatol Lieven wrote,

In the place of Baathist Iraq the Bush Administration and its supporters have created a brutal anarchy that is the ideal breeding ground for terrorists who really do pose a dreadful threat to the United States. . . . At present, the liberal hawks’ legs are still sticking out of the neoconservatives’ collective mouth, kicking faintly, but in a few years, at this rate, only a pathetic, muffled squeaking will remain, protesting that if only they had been in charge, all the disasters of the coming years would not have happened.”
The initial years of the war were unmitigated disasters. It is not surprising (and even justified) that many turned against the operation after the dismal outcome the initial Bush policy produced. In the preliminary years, the Bush administration appeared to be unable or unwilling to recognize Iraq was falling apart and that a hand over of authority to the Iraqi authorities was not happening anytime soon. The Surge corrected the previous strategy that took American troops out of Iraqi neighborhoods, and helped bring the necessary security required to actually build a stable, democratic state. But it took too long, and with too many lives lost, for the Bush administration to correct their position and take on one that reflects a nation building based operation.

However, Greenwald does make a point that I have made continuously over the last few years, which is that liberals and leftists who believe the West should act to help democrats and liberals elsewhere, failed their morals when they abandoned Iraq and pushed for an American withdrawal from “Bush’s War.” Abe writes:
Had their turn toward despair been mirrored by the administration—the administration whose predilections so displeased them that they could not ally fully with it in pursuit of an aim they believed was just and necessary—the United States would have lost the war from which the liberal hawks found it so convenient to separate themselves when the going got tough. That loss would have ended even the mere consideration of American humanitarian intervention for a generation or longer.”
Whatever one thought of the reasoning for the war in Iraq, or one’s views on Bush and his government, I do believe all those who claim to stand by liberals, democrats, and workers should do so even when the strategy that backs them is unpopular. Once the liberation was executed, anyone who claimed to stand behind these people should have stood with those fighting against theocracy and reaction, even if it meant you made similar statements to that of a conservative like George Bush.

The war for democracy in Iraq is far from won; I believe we will still be talking about American policy in the country for the next decade at least. Liberal Hawks however, should be careful not to turn too far from the Bush administration’s interventionist policies. It is easy to ridicule the administration for its follies and missteps, but liberal hawks are fools to think they can divorce themselves entirely from the Neocon foreign policy, and do so at the peril of the very policy they claim to be proponents of.

Foreign Policy Practitioners and Scholars

A good talk between Joseph Nye and Daniel Drezner about the role of academia in the international relations field.

The Future American Strategy in Afghanistan

Dexter Filkins of the New Republic has a good piece about the Surge in Iraq, Tom Rick’s new book “The Gamble,” and the lessons we should apply from it to Afghanistan. He writes:
The chief reason for the new strategy's success was that all the American troops, not just the new ones, were deployed in a new and riskier way: directly into Iraqi neighborhoods, in small outposts. This put American soldiers among the Iraqis, who for years had been reluctant to cooperate with the Americans for fear of being killed by insurgents after the Americans went back to their bases. But this time the American soldiers were not pulling out. "You never give it up," Colonel Sean MacFarland, one of the most exceptional field commanders of the war, told Ricks.”

As for ending the Iraq War, Filkins aggress with Ricks that recent successes in the country do not mean an end for American power in the nation, but an extension of it.
This is not, in other words, something we can walk away from. That is Ricks's powerful point. What Petraeus and the other generals have ensured, by staving off defeat, is a longer war. How long? I do not know, but surely a lot longer than the debate in Washington would have you believe. "While there was an exit strategy," Ricks observes, "the exit was years away, in fact so far into the future that it is hard to discern."

President Obama's pronouncements on the war must therefore be read carefully. He has never said that America will leave Iraq by 2010. He has said only that American combat troops will leave. What is a combat troop? Well, you can bet it is not a military adviser, or a trainer, or a police mentor, or a special forces soldier, or a CIA paramilitary
.”

As for Afghanistan and pulling comparisons between the Iraqi Surge and applying it to the region, Filkins believes applying the same strategy may not be as realistic.
It may have taken six years and $1 trillion, but in Iraq the Americans built a state. Iraqi police, soldiers, and security forces number about 600,000: a sure sign of a state. That is a mass--something that the insurgents could join.

In Afghanistan, there is nothing like this. After eight years of neglect, the Afghan state is a weak and pathetic thing. It is not for nothing that President Karzai's nickname is "the mayor of Kabul." At the city limits, his writ ends. Across the border, in FATA, there is almost nothing at all. To this end, the Obama administration plans massively to boost economic development aid in Pakistan, and it is planning on doing the same in Afghanistan. Most significantly, the new administration has promised to increase the size of the Afghan army from its current level of 90,000 to some yet-to-be-determined number--probably in the neighbourhood of 240,000
.”

I believe the Obama administration is on the correct track with their Afghanistan/Pakistan approach. Not because I have access to secret information not available to the rest of the public, but because complete failure in Afghanistan (i.e. a collapse of the state, and a victory for theocrats and insurgents) is unacceptable and dangerous. We simply must try a new approach, because disengaging would be disasters for America’s security, but especially for the citizens of those countries who will suffer under the insurgent’s government. Will the Afghan “Surge” be successful? At this point, it is impossible to say, but America must alter its strategy and expect a long nation building operation if we are to have anything resembling success in the region. There is no silver bullet solution to the problems this part of the world faces; the “realists” who believe we can simply cut our losses and abandon the region are fooling themselves (for reasons I have made clear previously). Allowing the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to establish control in Afghanistan and Pakistan will not make America safer, and will only deter the inevitably conflict America will be drawn into if we surrender to them.