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padraig (u.s.)
25-09-2009, 03:03 PM
I know the War In Pakistan thread was kind of a default AfPak thing but since they are after all, despite the contiguous Pashtun belt on both sides of the border, different countries...and since there's been a big push going on (USMC!) for a while now and since it's effectively Obama's war and I highly suspect we're stuck there until at least the next American election cycle and since McChrystal's been in front of Congress and since it's a hot-button issue on American roundtable news shows where jerks in suits jabber at each other under the vacuous gaze of Wolf Blitzer and since the recent elections were a big steaming pile of shit, etc etc

I'll start us off
Steve Coll - Legitimacy & The Afghan Army (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/stevecoll/2009/09/legitimacy-and-the-afghan-army.html)

There are several plausible scenarios, which range from bad-but-not-disastrous to holy-crap.
hey-o.

my own personal take (amateur, of course, as always), is that the U.S. (& our allies, esp. you guys & the Canadians, tho w/all due respect it's an American thing innit) could "win" if we were willing to put in enormous amts of $$$, time & most importantly manpower. but clearly we're not & I think for good reason in this case. also, perhaps more cogently, I cannot fathom how the benefits of "winning" - sure to be a hollow victory - would even begin to approach, let alone outweigh the costs. and the Afghans (meaning Kabul & the ANA) sure as hell aren't going to win it themselves. so, yeah. that Michael Howard essay Vim linked to in the Lib Dems thread was, I thought, pretty crap, but he nailed one bit dead on, that this whole deal would've been far better off as a police action/emergency/etc instead of decade-long occupation of the most unconquerable place on Earth. but, oh well...

Mr. Tea
25-09-2009, 06:05 PM
(& our allies, esp. you guys & the Canadians, tho w/all due respect it's an American thing innit)

Saw in the paper (can't remember which one) the other day that that British death rates are about three times higher than the Americans' - whether our boys are taking the most dangerous missions or are just less well equipped (a more-or-less constant whinge from UK soldiers on active duty), I couldn't say.

Not trying to 'out-do' you or anything, just thought it seemed germane.

On another topic, did you hear about the recent 'election' results from one of the provinces? Something like 150 votes in total, and it resulted in the passing of a law that allowed men to starve their wives for refusing sex, thus effectively legalising rape within marriage. This is the democracy soldiers are dying for? I mean, well, fuck.

padraig (u.s.)
25-09-2009, 07:39 PM
Saw in the paper (can't remember which one) the other that that British death rates are about three times higher than the Americans'

I don't know about this either way but, irregardless, I meant that politically, strategically it is an American-driven thing. if non-American forces withdrew, while it certainly wouldn't help matters any, the war could go on, but it's impossible to imagine that happening the other way round. it's not unlike Vietnam, where Australia & esp. South Korea both made significant manpower contributions. certainly I didn't mean to denigrate any British or other soldiers.

and yes, most of the news is dismal. it's a rather dismal war.

Mr. Tea
25-09-2009, 07:57 PM
Sure, agreed on all points, and I didn't think you were denigrating anyone. Out of interest, do you have any idea of the % of non-US allied servicemen in Afghanistan vs. Iraq? Just thought it might be interesting to compare.

The whole situation is demented - no matter how well-trained and well-equipped a soldier is, how can he possibly fight (and expect to win) against an enemy who's on home territory, fighting on his own terms and is convinced he's going to heaven when he dies? Fighting for money, and perhaps some vague notion that you're upholding freedom, vs. fighting for God...

It's funny you mention 'Nam, I'm reminded of Brando's speech in Apocalypse Now about the VC soldiers for whom "R'n'R means an hours' sleep and a bowl of cold rice", and the "genius" of chopping off the arms of all the kids who'd been immunised by a Western aid agency - while American soldiers kick back with hotdogs, booze and cigarettes and a dance show by some Playboy models. You can bomb and bomb and bomb, but that doesn't mean you're going to win.

[/Mr. Tea's Military Theory 101 - did I mention I taught Vim everything he knows? ;)]

padraig (u.s.)
26-09-2009, 01:18 AM
man like scottdisco beats me to the punch (http://somedisco.blogspot.com/), about halfway down the page.

doing the math real quick in my head it comes to just under 1/4 non-American forces, call it ~24%, w/roughly corresponding fatality rates. the Brits do seem to have an abnormally high casualty rate (while the French/German/Italian ones are, not surprisingly proportionally low).

the Vietnam bits, I dunno, clearly parallels can be drawn but there are plenty of differences as well & I'm always reluctant to make too deep a comparison. the similarities lie mostly, I'd think, in general counterinsurgency principles. I think it's pretty clear that upper echelons of American command have become pretty well attuned to COIN in the last 3-4 years (to the pt where there's an ongoing debate in military/defense circles over whether the swing to COIN has in fact been too sharp), which is an enormous difference from Vietnam where that kind of thinking never made it to the high command. now, having the right strategy doesn't guarantee winning, esp when you've shot yourself in the foot by mucking about for 8-odd years and letting the people you're fighting control most of the country.

scottdisco
26-09-2009, 11:34 AM
cheers for the hat-tip P!

basically, as Tea was asking, yes, out of ISAF troops in Afghanistan, UK troops endure a fairly high casualty ratio, one of the highest of individual nations attached to the mission. the likes of the Dutch suffer a lot too, whilst it is the Canadians and the Danish that suffer the highest rates.
but definitely agree w P wrt American troop numbers and implications for the Afghanistan Compact if, say hypothetically, the US just left tomorrow and just ended up lobbing drones at people on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border instead of sticking around on the ground in places.

incidentally, my main blog (that P kindly links to) has often banged on at tedious length - from the pov of ISAF forces, not getting into the most important people here, obv the Afghans esp civilians (sorry to sound so obv, but just, tbc) - about my minor annoyance wrt the British media which - in many outlets - has long appeared to think that the only international forces that are in Afghanistan are, basically, the USA and the Brits. w even the likes of the Daily Express (fucking shit, repellant, paleo-conservative, isolationist, shabby parochial tabloid, for the non-Brits reading this screed) recently noting there are countries like the Netherlands doing spade work, things are changing slightly for the better on that front.


it resulted in the passing of a law that allowed men to starve their wives for refusing sex, thus effectively legalising rape within marriage.

re this repugnant piece of politicking, which fortunately met w opposition to the extent it was at first frozen (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/taylor-marsh/rape-law-in-afghanistan-g_b_187997.html), and, then, modified (http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/663752) so that the despicable has been replaced w the - in context, about best you might hope for, alas -


The new version no longer requires a woman submit to sex with her husband, only that she do certain household chores.

(incidentally my second link contains the thoughts of Shukria Barakzai, who noted "We need a change in customs, and this is just on paper. What is being practised every day, in Kabul even, is worse than the laws" - chimes w something tough guy Joshua Foust, in his rather robust-sounding way, had been noting back in the spring (http://www.registan.net/index.php/2009/04/05/just-how-much-do-we-not-get-it/#more-8356))

one interesting aspect of it all that i think deserves much wider attention is the fact that the, er, slightly seedy sounding Iranian-funded man in Kabul, cleric Asif Mohseni * (http://www.e-ariana.com/ariana/eariana.nsf/allDocs/3C7A99417D5E1C758725759E0003EF93?OpenDocument) (my description is generous), was taking his cues from elsewhere when he started the whole shebang


The Afghan "rape law" was written in Tehran. It drew directly from the "Law Supporting the Family," which stalled in the Iranian parliament in 2008 following an open revolt led by Iranian women. The law was brought to Afghanistan by its Afghan proxy, the hated Afghan cleric Mohammed Asif Mosehni. In Kabul, Mosehni does Tehran's dirty work from his own opulent mosque, with his own madrassa, television station and radio station. He even runs an Afghan version of Iran's "morality police" to harass and terrorize Afghanistan's Shia minority. (http://thetyee.ca/Views/2009/06/29/WhoseSideIran/)

speaking of ISAF, Vim and i on another thread once had some posts re differing standards of rules of engagement of different national forces.

* apologies to the bloke that i have posted links w two different English spellings of his name

also i just want to add at Padraig's blog recently i think there's a good (perhaps provocative for some!) quote from a British COIN adviser, which - as P quotes (http://tirnnanog.blogspot.com/2009/07/i-recently-saw-ithe-hurt-lockeri-which.html) - goes

"the U.S. military is better than the country it serves".

Mr. Tea
26-09-2009, 07:41 PM
Excellent post, Scott. Interesting that this Mohseni/Mosehni guy is funded by Tehran but is in charge of oppressing Shi'ites...I guess consistency is probably too much to ask for from characters like these.

Some good stuff in that piece by Joshua Froust, especially this:


But anyway, Rothkopf’s complaint, and seemingly everyone’s, about that odius law seems to be that it does not match with our idea of what constitutes human rights—right down to quoting opposition politicians who claim, without merit, that it is “worse than during the Taliban” (the Taliban’s women and religious laws were still far far far worse). What’s more, this petty outrage seems born of layers of misunderstanding of what contemporary Afghanistan actually is—the law, for example, is directed primarily at Shiites (think of the 15 year old Hazara girl who was raped and had her baby forcibly aborted by her mother and brother), and is not materially different than the normal experience of rural women anyway. The crime here is not that a law is being passed to normalize a routine practice; it is that this was a routine practice and we chose not to care about it in the first place.

and


Because our primary goal in the region—and we should be absolutely honest about this—is to destroy al-Qaeda. Now, I happen to believe that we can best do this by helping to create a stable, progressive-for-Afghanistan government. These things take time—you cannot reverse three decades of shock and fracture overnight, or even over a few years. Changing a society takes time, especially when large segments don’t want to change. Rather than hectoring them about how backward they are, we could maybe try relating to why this law seemed like a good idea in the first place—and then using persuasion, rather than petty moralistic finger-wagging, to convince them otherwise. As long as we act like the pursed-lip governess of the country, we’re not going to get many places.

Exactly: barging in guns a-blaze and yelling "Stop being barbarians!" isn't going to help change barbaric, and very deep-seated, cultural practices. It's like taking a tearaway teenager who's come from some horrific background of abuse and neglect and thinking you can 'beat the Devil out of him', or simply punish him until he starts acting like a 'civilised' person. Totally deluded and counter-productive.

scottdisco
27-09-2009, 03:46 PM
cheers for the props!


Exactly: barging in guns a-blaze and yelling "Stop being barbarians!" isn't going to help change barbaric, and very deep-seated, cultural practices. It's like taking a tearaway teenager who's come from some horrific background of abuse and neglect and thinking you can 'beat the Devil out of him', or simply punish him until he starts acting like a 'civilised' person. Totally deluded and counter-productive.

OT of me but what you say here kinda takes me back a couple years to the partisan politics of the US when Congress had set benchmarks to assess Iraqi govt 'progress' w.

in a heated domestic climate, w Dems (some near hysterically, and, imo, disgracefully) questioning the independence of David Petraeus, you felt like wondering aloud how good - on a progressive scale - the USA would look wrt race relations in, say, 1866...

scottdisco
27-09-2009, 04:44 PM
taken from Auntie earlier


Three French soldiers have been killed in a violent storm in north-eastern Afghanistan, the French military says.
The soldiers, serving with a parachute regiment, "died accidentally" at night in Kapisa province, officials said.
Army spokesman Christophe Prazuck said one of the soldiers was hit by lightning and the other two were swept away by a fast flowing river.
Earlier, Afghan Energy Minister Ismail Khan survived a roadside bomb attack in the western city of Herat.
At least four people were killed.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the blast in a telephone call to news agencies.

padraig (u.s.)
27-09-2009, 08:28 PM
cheers for the hat-tip P!

no problem man, fully deserved. the only problem is that when you cite my fake blog I then feel compelled to post something there.

that quote, for those what don't know, is from Emma Sky, Odierno's (pacifist, liberal, self-described tree-hugger) COIN advisor par excellence, and I agree with it 100%.


just ended up lobbing drones at people on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border

a bit OT, but the end of the fighter pilot (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/aug/22/us-air-force-drones-pilots-afghanistan) is a story that's been in the news the last month or two. gradual end, but still, first time ever that more drone operators than pilots are being trained.

padraig (u.s.)
27-09-2009, 08:43 PM
Exactly: barging in guns a-blaze and yelling "Stop being barbarians!" isn't going to help change barbaric, and very deep-seated, cultural practices. It's like taking a tearaway teenager who's come from some horrific background of abuse and neglect and thinking you can 'beat the Devil out of him', or simply punish him until he starts acting like a 'civilised' person. Totally deluded and counter-productive.

the question really is, what are your goals? and, once you've decided that, what is the best way to attain them? was it ever a strategic goal of the United States to improve the lot of women in rural Afghanistan? (tbc, I'm not saying that it's not an extremely worthy cause, or that individuals or NGOs don't work towards it - just talking about policy here)

I don't think the issue is so much misguided paternalism as Western politicians trying to score cheap points over an issue that makes everyone feel good but has no structural backing, i.e. resources. it's all very well for Mike Mullen to go on about how proud he is of a school for Afghan girls but, listen - that stuff only counts if you can make it stick. what you absolutely cannot have in a counterinsurgency is the classic situation where you rule by day & the insurgent rules by night, b/c then you have nothing. so I while I'd agree that reform - education (esp. for women), jobs, anti-corruption - is probably -our- most effective weapon against the Taliban, the question remains - is there the will to expend sufficient blood & treasure? b/c if not you are, in fact, exposing the population to more danger, as anyone who dealt with you will be first on the Taliban's hit list when you leave. it's very dangerous to turn into an idealist in the middle of a COIN campaign (like, we've been there for 8 years & only now all this stuff is a problem? give me a f**king break...)

padraig (u.s.)
27-09-2009, 09:45 PM
from the always good Jihadica:

Al-Qaida & the German Elections (http://www.jihadica.com/al-qaida-and-the-german-elections/)


Germany is a pivotal player in the coalition; her withdrawal could initiate a vicious (or virtuous, depending on one’s preferences) circle of European withdrawals from the Afghanistan enterprise. Al Qaida is focusing the weakest link in the coalition

Spain 2004, etc

scottdisco
27-09-2009, 10:21 PM
I don't think the issue is so much misguided paternalism as Western politicians trying to score cheap points over an issue that makes everyone feel good but has no structural backing, i.e. resources.

i do wish all interventions were cost-free, and that the US army really was the armed wing of Amnesty (so to speak, if we had a magic wand that meant interventions could be waged perfectly), but, yes, the US didn't go in to Afghanistan to improve upon the Taliban's (admittedly disastrous) health and social models, it was to kill Islamists and to deny them a space to operate and to keep them holed up on the back-foot there so they couldn't constitute a sovereign govt that would let radical Islamists prep on their land for launching attacks.

now the border lands have a lot of dubious sorts there, and a lot of powerful men of various stripes in Afghanistan are dubious sorts (deliberately writing w understatement; forgive me), and, yes, idealists like Ban Ki-moon (http://www.un.org/sg/print_article_afghanistan.htm) and the Canadian writer Terry Glavin (http://transmontanus.blogspot.com/2009/09/peter-paul-and-mary-and-salutin-and.html) are maybe all for international assistance to Afghanistan for slightly different reasons to, maybe, some military bods, but it is the Afghans and the international humanitarians and the international militaries that are on the line as i pontificate from my arm-chair so i do have to say that cheap point-scoring over the issues P rightly brings up is pretty pathetic, to say the least... ...i'm thinking of those cartoons you see in radical presses in the wealthy democracies that show a pre-invasion Afghanistan woman in a room in a niqab and a post-invasion woman in a room in a niqab w maybe a TV in the corner this time around, and so on and so forth...sorry, nothing coherent to add, i'm just mouthing off really.

just, in terms of weighing things up, i think of something like (from April 2008, so will be obsolete by now)

“The purpose of the ceremony today is not about words,” said Maj. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, outgoing commander of RC East and commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. “It is about better opportunities for the future of the Afghan people and it is about the Coalition’s enduring commitment to this nation.”

Since the Taliban era, there are 8,000 more schools and 140,000 more teachers, he added.

About 70 percent of the girls and 97 percent of the boys in RC-East now have access to a state-sponsored education, as well as access to basic healthcare that has increased to nearly 80 percent, resulting in a 25 percent reduction in infant mortality, adding up to about 90,000 lives, Maj. Gen. Rodriguez said. “All of that is a large investment in a prosperous future for Afghanistan.”

(here) (http://www.nato.int/isaf/docu/pressreleases/2008/04-april/pr080411-136.html)

p.s.
to be fair, i am a sycophant for empire.

scottdisco
27-09-2009, 10:31 PM
b/c if not you are, in fact, exposing the population to more danger, as anyone who dealt with you will be first on the Taliban's hit list when you leave.

crucial point.

scottdisco
27-09-2009, 10:56 PM
Michael Yon - who had been embedded w British forces - throws down a fascinating and combative piece about 'Bullshit' Bob Ainsworth, British defence minister


Bob Ainsworth is covered in British blood and painfully deceptive. Henceforth, he will always be known as “Bullshit Bob” to me.

My relationship with the British military is not diminished and I would go into combat with their soldiers anytime. My respect for British soldiers is immense and undying. But I’m ready to throw down with Media Ops if they even glance in my direction. I refuse to work with the crew at Camp Bastion. (http://www.michaelyon-online.com/bullshit-bob.htm)

padraig (u.s.)
27-09-2009, 11:20 PM
don't get me wrong man, I am 110% all for schools for Afghan boys & girls & reducing infant mortality & digging irrigation systems. I have zero sympathy for medieval fundamentalists (of all religions) and I would like nothing more than for Afghans to be free of them. I'm just saying, you can't leave people twisting in the wind. which we very likely will.

one thing about the United States - we're always about war on the cheap, despite the fact there is no such thing, as proven again & again & again. no one, I'm sure, hates this more than military guys.

the problem with the "denying save havens" argument - as played out on Abu M a few months back, if I recall - is, where does it end? are we going to get initiate wars & decade-long occupations in Yemen, Somalia, etc.? none of which would get at the real sources of ideology & funding (Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.) anyway. I mean, I dunno, I really don't.


to be fair, i am a sycophant for empire.

aren't we all tho. unfortunately not all of us can be seekers of truth like 3 Body.

(that will never stop being hilarious)

scottdisco
28-09-2009, 09:50 AM
don't get me wrong man, I am 110% all for schools for Afghan boys & girls & reducing infant mortality & digging irrigation systems. I have zero sympathy for medieval fundamentalists (of all religions) and I would like nothing more than for Afghans to be free of them. I'm just saying, you can't leave people twisting in the wind. which we very likely will.

oh yes i can quite see this and didn't want to imply otherwise. Terry Glavin mentions quite a bit the impending sense that, as international forces (and the military component is necessary to institution building and that other good stuff, obv) may draw down from Afghanistan, there may be a "looming betrayal" (of the Afghan people).


one thing about the United States - we're always about war on the cheap, despite the fact there is no such thing, as proven again & again & again. no one, I'm sure, hates this more than military guys.

agreed, in a tragically obvious way. definitely the biggest single observation of the last several years of American projections and entanglements.


the problem with the "denying save havens" argument - as played out on Abu M a few months back, if I recall - is, where does it end? are we going to get initiate wars & decade-long occupations in Yemen, Somalia, etc.? none of which would get at the real sources of ideology & funding (Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.) anyway. I mean, I dunno, I really don't.

again, tbc, some good points. (silver bullets look cleaner on paper, i realise.)

the only thing i know in relation to the Abu M argument, really, is to echo your final sentence i've quoted there...

vimothy
28-09-2009, 11:44 AM
basically, as Tea was asking, yes, out of ISAF troops in Afghanistan, UK troops endure a fairly high casualty ratio, one of the highest of individual nations attached to the mission. the likes of the Dutch suffer a lot too, whilst it is the Canadians and the Danish that suffer the highest rates.

I think that Pakistan has suffered the highest absolute level of casualities of any allied force in Aghanistan.

scottdisco
28-09-2009, 11:59 AM
a startling omission from my posts which were ISAF-specific-centric
:o

cheers Vim. i also have no idea of ANA losses :slanted:

incidentally on the 16th June this year David Miliband said that, up to then, in Pakistan this year, insurgents had killed 1,000 civilians and 300 soldiers.

vimothy
28-09-2009, 12:01 PM
that Michael Howard essay Vim linked to in the Lib Dems thread was, I thought, pretty crap, but he nailed one bit dead on, that this whole deal would've been far better off as a police action/emergency/etc instead of decade-long occupation of the most unconquerable place on Earth.

For some reason, FP is not letting me access that article at the moment, so I can't double check it to make sure that it really isn't pretty crap, but regardless, I'm kinda baffled that you could describe it as such whilst simultaneously agreeing with Howard's substantive point*...?

*Which I think I disagree with, for the record.

vimothy
28-09-2009, 12:15 PM
cheers Vim. i also have no idea of ANA losses :slanted:

See page 13 of this (http://csis.org/files/publication/burke/090803_DevelopmentsInAfghanForces.pdf).

Dial
28-09-2009, 01:12 PM
TomDispatch has had some interesting articles on Afghanistan lately. Here's one on the disconnect between fantasies of what the Afghan army is, or might be, and reality. The size difference, and its consequences, between the soldiery of the two nations is fascinating in itself.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175116/ann_jones_us_or_them_in_afghanistan_

And here the US military playing Obama into a lose lose situation. (Helped by Obama's desire to appear 'tough') With Petraeus in the background angling toward a 2012 Presidential bid.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175118/a_military_that_wants_its_way

scottdisco
28-09-2009, 01:37 PM
See page 13 of this (http://csis.org/files/publication/burke/090803_DevelopmentsInAfghanForces.pdf).

cheers.

i see past that page there's figures about wounded and killed in action members of the police forces.
1,764 ANP killed in action between 2007 and June 22nd of this year.

scottdisco
28-09-2009, 01:42 PM
from Dial's second piece (hi Dial!)


The question is: will an already heavily militarized foreign policy geared to endless global war be surrendered to the generals?

heh. like a self-fulfilling prophecy maybe, going forward, eating itself to stay alive?!

vimothy
28-09-2009, 01:57 PM
The question is: will an already heavily militarized foreign policy geared to endless global war be surrendered to the generals?

Really though, this is a bit cheesy. I didn't think anyone thought like that any more. (What, is this the Profane Existance forum now)? I'm sure that significant numbers of the US High Command hate the fiddly shit that the US military is doing at the moment and can't wait to get back to planning for the conventional stuff. To say nothing of the vested interests in the industrial military complex. Even if you think in terms of conspiracies, you can't discount the possibility that some military experts and leaders actually do think that, in order to win the war -- if that's what civilian leaders want them to do -- they will need more troops. Just imagine that's the case. To pull off what's being demanded operationally, you need more troops. But getting more troops is a political issue, and the politicians don't want to leave or stay, so the war will just get lost inch by miserable inch. How's that for a bit of speculation?

scottdisco
28-09-2009, 02:01 PM
i must admit the line in the Ann Jones piece where she wrote


The Taliban fight for something they believe -- that their country should be freed from foreign occupation.

set my teeth on edge

vimothy
28-09-2009, 02:05 PM
Nice one for that Yon piece, BTW. Madness.

padraig (u.s.)
28-09-2009, 02:21 PM
I'm kinda baffled that you could describe it as such whilst simultaneously agreeing with Howard's substantive point*...?

oh yes, I was waiting for this.

in the how, not the what, just rubs me the wrong way really. mostly in that he uses "terrorists" and, even worse, "criminals" for all Arab/Jewish fighters under the British occupation of Palestine, as well as for the Irish (c'mon that one should resonate with you!). as well as for Malaya, which also seems inaccurate, I dunno enough about Cyprus. right after he - correctly - demarcates terrorism as a tactic, not something you can fight a war against, it seems a bit off to toss around those words loosely, esp. the latter.

also his substantive point is pretty bleeding obvious isn't it. it took me a long time, when I was a kid, to realize that "War on Terrorism" was really supposed to mean "War on a particular ideology that often uses terrorism as a tactic". but tbf I think he's right that that euphemism has gotten us into a whole bunch of dodgy business, for example kinda halfway, dubiously supporting Russia in Chechnya.

curious to hear why you disagree as well...

vimothy
28-09-2009, 02:24 PM
oh yes, I was waiting for this.

Ha!

padraig (u.s.)
28-09-2009, 02:25 PM
And here the US military playing Obama into a lose lose situation. (Helped by Obama's desire to appear 'tough') With Petraeus in the background angling toward a 2012 Presidential bid.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175118/a_military_that_wants_its_way

I think this is nonsense, to be frank. the bit about Obama & the Dems & toughness, alright. but for the 100th time, the military doesn't set policy. the politicians do. mission creep, alright, but not the policy in the first place.

suggesting that it has something nefarious to do w/a Petraeus presidential bid is esp. ridiculous, but hey.

scottdisco
28-09-2009, 02:28 PM
very little of reprimanding consequence was said to Russia by her wealthy trading partners pre-9/11, tbf

vimothy
28-09-2009, 02:34 PM
in the how, not the what, just rubs me the wrong way really. mostly in that he uses "terrorists" and, even worse, "criminals" for all Arab/Jewish fighters under the British occupation of Palestine, as well as for the Irish (c'mon that one should resonate with you!). as well as for Malaya, which also seems inaccurate, I dunno enough about Cyprus. right after he - correctly - demarcates terrorism as a tactic, not something you can fight a war against, it seems a bit off to toss around those words loosely, esp. the latter.

Well, that's just fair, isn't it? If terrorism is a tactic then it doesn't really speak to the rightness or wrongness of the cause in question. And "criminal" just follows directly from his argument. I don't see anything to disagree with there, personally.


also his substantive point is pretty bleeding obvious isn't it.

Perhaps yes, perhaps no... And "obvious" is not necessarily better / correct.

padraig (u.s.)
28-09-2009, 06:40 PM
Well, that's just fair, isn't it? If terrorism is a tactic then it doesn't really speak to the rightness or wrongness of the cause in question. And "criminal" just follows directly from his argument. I don't see anything to disagree with there, personally.

yeah, you caught me, I just don't like the idea of some crusty old British guy going on about Irish Republicans (or Jews or Palestinians) being criminals. even if some of them were/are criminals.

seriously tho, criminals does seem inaccurate. I'm reminded of Chiang Kai-Shek referring to the Communists as bandits. it's fine if it's accurate, a bad mistake if it's not.


(What, is this the Profane Existance forum now)

as it happens I am wearing an old Profane Existence t-shirt right now so you can get stuffed innit. Making punk a threat "again" = greatest slogan ever (esp. if by threat you mean spending most of your time hunting down obscure Dbeat 7"s on Ebay and making sure the studs on your jacket are perfectly spaced)


very little of reprimanding consequence was said to Russia by her wealthy trading partners pre-9/11, tbf

yeah, it's true. I just mean that as soon as the "War on Terrorism" was announced pretty much every f**ker who's a petty dictator saw that he could get into our good graces by claiming to be fighting "terrorism" while they stamped out dissidents (admittedly the 2 could & do sometimes go hand in hand). Egypt, Pakistan, etc etc and not that the U.S. doesn't have a long history of propping up petty dictators for dubious reasons, but that doesn't make me feel better about any of it.

Dial
29-09-2009, 09:00 AM
Even if you think in terms of conspiracies, you can't discount the possibility that some military experts and leaders actually do think that, in order to win the war -- if that's what civilian leaders want them to do -- they will need more troops. Just imagine that's the case. To pull off what's being demanded operationally, you need more troops. But getting more troops is a political issue, and the politicians don't want to leave or stay, so the war will just get lost inch by miserable inch. How's that for a bit of speculation?

Well I won't argue that's it's not cheesy/a little strained. But look at it from the other side: Let's imagine that Obama isn't the virtual Bush clone he seems to be, and wants to get out of the war. Are the generals/military establishment going to support him in that aim? While Engelhardt's depiction might be cheesy your responses seem credulous in regard to the military establishment and its own self interest and imperatives.


I think this is nonsense, to be frank. the bit about Obama & the Dems & toughness, alright. but for the 100th time, the military doesn't set policy. the politicians do. mission creep, alright, but not the policy in the first place.

And the military have no power/influence in this equation, right? Mere handmaidens to the awesomeness of the politicians and the binding beauty of the constitution.

Talk about 'sycophants for empire' ;)

btw, cheers Scott.

vimothy
29-09-2009, 10:57 AM
seriously tho, criminals does seem inaccurate. I'm reminded of Chiang Kai-Shek referring to the Communists as bandits. it's fine if it's accurate, a bad mistake if it's not.

Hmm -- but you can't have it both ways: if banditry is illegal, then bandits are criminals, just as if terrorism is illegal, then terrorists are criminals. (Obviously, I'm not claiming that all Irish Republicans, e.g., were/are terrorists). Unless it's a war, in which case they are enemy combatants.


as it happens I am wearing an old Profane Existence t-shirt right now so you can get stuffed innit. Making punk a threat "again" = greatest slogan ever (esp. if by threat you mean spending most of your time hunting down obscure Dbeat 7"s on Ebay and making sure the studs on your jacket are perfectly spaced)

Speaking of D-beat, I am listening to this awesomeness right now:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Gp5g_1tmyS8/SogV4Rbx1fI/AAAAAAAABS8/fpCz1q7UytI/s400/sekt.jpg

It's deranged discore black metal with some of the Skitsystem dudes playing guitars...

vimothy
29-09-2009, 12:07 PM
Well I won't argue that's it's not cheesy/a little strained. But look at it from the other side: Let's imagine that Obama isn't the virtual Bush clone he seems to be, and wants to get out of the war. Are the generals/military establishment going to support him in that aim?

They don't have any choice, of course. Does the military have influence? At the theatre level, it's all the military (at least, one hopes). In terms of (national security) strategy, yes, it has influence to the extent that it can say "we can achieve x with y". Politicians can run with that, or not, but they make the decision. Can you really imagine the military refusing to draw down operations in Af/Pak if that's what the CiC ordered? I guess Congress would keep sending them funding regardless, eh? This is through the looking glass stuff -- there's no way it could happen.

There are real questions about whether operations are driving strategy in Afghanistan, about whether we should be in Afghanistan, about what we should be in Afghanistan for, and the military is part of this debate, but it's not the final arbiter.

Reading your description of Obama as a "virtual Bush clone" made me think -- the hard right think Obama is a leftist Islamic terrorist, while the hard left think Obama is a neocon right wing terrorist. Too jokes, I'm sure you'll agree. But anyway, I was wondering, a Bush clone, ok, but which term?


While Engelhardt's depiction might be cheesy your responses seem credulous in regard to the military establishment and its own self interest and imperatives.

Not implausible. But I want to problematise your representation of "the military", "the generals". Given that "it's monads, all the way down", given that even individuals are societies, I don't think you can talk about the desires of "the military" (even of "the generals") as one simple unidirectional urge. Do the people on the ground want to be fighting and dying? No and occasionally yes, surely. They get paid anyway, right? So what level of commissioned officer do you have to be before you acquire the urge to stay in Afghanistan (but not Iraq -- what's that all about?) indefinitely? You only have to read some of the volumes of books that have been written about or by soldiers involved in the war on terror to know that their views are pretty diverse.

"The generals" are no easier to caricature. Which generals? Does the Navy really want to be fighting COIN campaigns in landlocked central Asian states? And not getting any funding? I thought this was about self-interest and imperatives. The AF? They have the same problem. And the US army itself is pretty conflicted. There is lots of debate about the wisdom of re-tooling the US army so it is good at fighting counterinsurgency wars, and about fighting these counterinsurgency wars in particular. (Debate sadly lacking in the UK, for the most part). Since you are familiar with the US military, you'll know that the vast majority of it doesn't want to be fighting this war in this way, from the "generals" on down to the grunts. It wants to fight proper wars.

scottdisco
29-09-2009, 12:41 PM
Afghan FM in NY (http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/09/29/un.afghanistan/index.html)


Ahead of a United Nations Security Council briefing Tuesday on Afghanistan, the country's foreign minister urged patience from the international community in dealing with his struggling homeland.

Rangin Dadfar Spanta said abandoning Afghanistan now will only "embolden extremists in the region and beyond."

"What the Afghan nation expects and deserves from a renewed partnership with the international community is the reassurance of long-term commitment and solidarity," Spanta told the U.N. General Assembly on Monday.

The Security Council will be briefed on Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's report on Afghanistan which describes the violence as the single greatest impediment to the nation's progress. Ban also wrote that recent elections were challenging and that serious electoral fraud occurred primarily due to the lack of access to parts of Afghanistan mired in conflict.

[...]

"As with any emerging democracy, undoubtedly, there were irregularities," Spanta said. "But one should not assess a young terrorist-inflicted democracy with the criteria of stable, prosperous and centuries-old democracies. This is not a call to condone fraud and irregularities. But in passing judgment, we should be conscious of the context."

padraig (u.s.)
29-09-2009, 02:16 PM
Let's imagine that Obama isn't the virtual Bush clone he seems to be, and wants to get out of the war.

this, firstly, is absurd. whether or not one is an Obama supporter (or a Bush supporter, for that matter). how exactly is he a "virtual Bush clone"? be specific, please, no empty platitudes.

(I'm sure Bush was just getting around to canceling that missile defense shield for Europe, to trying to put health care reform through, to demanding that Israel halt settlements in the West Bank - yes, peas in a pod those two - I swear to god sometimes you just have to through up your hands at this stuff...)


And the military have no power/influence in this equation, right? Mere handmaidens to the awesomeness of the politicians and the binding beauty of the constitution

ouch, that stings. rapier wit & all that. of course they influence policy. I'd certainly hope the President would consult his senior military leaders before making important decisions about getting into or continuing wars. it being, yunno, their job to offer him advice on military matters.

& of course the military has power. but barring a military coup, yeah, they're still subservient to the decisions the civilians make. a lot of dudes were very unhappy about Iraq in 2003, if you'll recall (Shinseki, most prominently) - that was Bush's decision, no one else's. reckon a lot of dudes are pretty unhappy about Afghanistan too, for a variety of reasons. Vimothy already hit most of the main points so I won't rehash them.

Dial
29-09-2009, 02:25 PM
Vim:

I'l grant, and give a bow to your more nuanced and detailed view of the situation. I guess in reading the thread I fail to get much sense of any powerful or impassioned framework for discussion and/or critique. Indeed, it all seems dangerously like geek cocktail chatter.

This assessment might be my ignorance, or it might be fair assessment. I guess that in my simplistic, earnest, fashion I want to say its terribly fucked up and corrupt and point a finger at someone, or something, as I tremble with delicious, righteous anger. Some powerful villains/principles to refer to.

As for those monads, I'd also go for Latour's black boxes, wherein we consolidate those monads into stable entities, and then take them for granted so as to continue on and make further progress. We can talk about the military - and others - as a stable entity/force within certain contexts. We needn't constantly qualify.

This is not irrelevant, although it refers more to 'a political class' than the military. From Glenn Greenwald :


In an excellent new article in The*New York Review of Books this week, Gary Wills examines the underlying systemic and cultural reasons why, in the areas of civil liberties and national security, "the Obama administration quickly came to resemble Bush's." *Wills makes the point I've been emphasizing for some time:**as long as we remain a nation in a permanent state of war, devoted to imperial ends, maintaining our National Security State ensures that the*core assaults on civil liberties will never end; at best, we can tinker with them on the margins with the types of pretty words that the*Obama administration adores, but it will persist and grow on its own accord:

But the momentum of accumulating powers in the executive is not easily reversed, checked, or even slowed. It was not created by the Bush administration. The whole history of America since World War II caused an inertial transfer of power toward the executive branch. The monopoly on use of nuclear weaponry, the cult of the commander in chief, the worldwide network of military bases to maintain nuclear alert and supremacy, the secret intelligence agencies, the entire national security state, the classification and clearance systems, the expansion of state secrets, the withholding of evidence and information, the permanent emergency that has melded World War II with the cold war and the cold war with the "war on terror"—all these make a vast and intricate structure that may not yield to effort at dismantling it. Sixty-eight straight years of war emergency powers (1941–2009) have made the abnormal normal, and constitutional diminishment the settled order. . . .

Some were dismayed to see how quickly the Obama people grabbed at the powers, the secrecy, the unaccountability that had led Bush into such opprobrium. . . . .*
Now a new president quickly becomes aware of the vast empire that is largely invisible to the citizenry. The United States maintains an estimated one thousand military bases in other countries. . . .

That is just one of the hundreds of holdings in the empire created by the National Security State. A president is greatly pressured to keep all the empire's secrets. He feels he must avoid embarrassing the hordes of agents, military personnel, and diplomatic instruments whose loyalty he must command. Keeping up morale in this vast, shady enterprise is something impressed on him by all manner of commitments. He becomes the prisoner of his own power. As President Truman could not not use the bomb, a modern president cannot not use the huge powers at his disposal. It has all been given him as the legacy of Bomb Power, the thing that makes him not only Commander in Chief but Leader of the Free World. He is a self-entangling giant.

Wills' whole essay is highly worth reading.**None of it excuses "how quickly the Obama people grabbed at the powers, the secrecy, the unaccountability that had led Bush into such opprobrium."**But it does explain it and put it into context.* Even if*Obama were committed to undoing these policies -- just assume hypothetically that this were true -- the nature of*America's imperial and militarized political culture would make that, as Wills says, "a hard, perhaps impossible, task."**The*President is powerful, but there are many other factions that wield great power as well -- the permanent Washington political class, both public and private -- and they are firmly entrenched against any type of "change" in these areas as one can imagine, as it's from those policies that their power and purpose (and profits)*are derived

That's why I keep quoting the 1790 warning of James Madison about what happens -- inevitably -- to a country when it chooses to be a permanent war-fighting state devoted to maintaining imperial power:

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied : and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals, engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Shouldn't we think about what that means?**All of these subsidiary, discrete battles are shaped by this larger truth.* We're a country that has been continuously at war for decades, insists it is currently at war now, and vows that it will wage war for years if not decades to come*(Obama:**we'll be waging this war "a year from now, five years from now, and -- in all probability -- ten years from now").**Exactly as Madison said*(and as Wills this week emphasized), as long as we're choosing to be that kind of a nation, then the crux of the Bush/Cheney approach will remain in place.* We can sand-paper away some of the harshest edges*("we're no longer going to drown people in order to extract confessions"); prettify some of what we're doing*("we're going to detain people with no charges based on implied statutory power rather than theories of inherent power"); and avoid making things worse ("we won't seek a new preventive detention law because we don't need one since we already can do that").**But no matter who we elect, the pervasive secrecy, essentially authoritarian character of the Executive, and rapid erosion of core liberties will continue as long as we remain committed to what Wills calls "the empire created by the National Security State."

I should go back and read the thread that birthed this one....

Dial
29-09-2009, 02:42 PM
this, firstly, is absurd. whether or not one is an Obama supporter (or a Bush supporter, for that matter). how exactly is he a "virtual Bush clone"? be specific, please, no empty platitudes.

Ok Padraig, I'm going to be a lazy fucker and post a link. Forgive me:

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175109/david_swanson_the_more_things_change


ouch, that stings. rapier wit & all that. of course they influence policy. I'd certainly hope the President would consult his senior military leaders before making important decisions about getting into or continuing wars. it being, yunno, their job to offer him advice on military matters.

& of course the military has power. but barring a military coup, yeah, they're still subservient to the decisions the civilians make. a lot of dudes were very unhappy about Iraq in 2003, if you'll recall (Shinseki, most prominently) - that was Bush's decision, no one else's. reckon a lot of dudes are pretty unhappy about Afghanistan too, for a variety of reasons. Vimothy already hit most of the main points so I won't rehash them.

Shit, mate, sorry, I didn't mean to wound! You sound like your really smarting ;) Anyhow, between you and Vim, and a more mindful read of the Greenwald posted above, I think you're right in the sense that the military do take their orders from civilians. That said, do you really believe in a rock solid demarcation between the 'civilians' and military. Surely that third term 'money and influence' binds them in numerous ways? And, of course the not unrelated systemic woes they/we are all caught up in. Again, I refer to the above Greenwald on Wills.

padraig (u.s.)
29-09-2009, 02:46 PM
it all seems dangerously like geek cocktail chatter.

ha! well that's a new one, anyway. as opposed to indignant, self-righteous, finger pointing, of course, which is tried & true.

so, let's rehash. McChrystal issues a devastatingly pessimistic report on Afghanistan and the military is trying to ramp the war up for their own benefit, while Obama initiates a large drawdown (not fast enough for some people, it seems) in Iraq almost immediately after being elected and he's a "Bush clone". alright, then.

I do like your boy's use of "diplomats" in scare quotes.

padraig (u.s.)
29-09-2009, 03:03 PM
That said, do you really believe in a rock solid demarcation between the 'civilians' and military.

rock solid, no - there's too much back & forth between the military, DoD, think tanks etc - but clear cut, yes.

the thing about the military is this; once you let them get their foot in the door, that's it. that's when it becomes self-perpetuating in the way you're talking about. as a civilian leader you have the most power before you decide to deploy the military. but, crucially that decision to deploy them is yours. as is the decision to bring them home.

clearly there is a military-industrial complex. but again, it is not a monolith. after all, the Sec Def can get into the news for forcing Congress to cut funding to obsolete, expensive weapons systems the military doesn't actually want.

anyway, I'm on the record numerous times as saying we should get out of Afghanistan. I just think - this is the key really - that if you're going to fight a war you have to fight it to win. that is, go big or go home, to borrow a phrase. this kind of half-in, half-out we've got in Afghan right now is the worst of all possible worlds.

Dial
29-09-2009, 03:19 PM
ha! well that's a new one, anyway. as opposed to indignant, self-righteous, finger pointing, of course, which is tried & true.

A little bit of self-awareness never goes amiss, wouldn't you agree?


so, let's rehash. McChrystal issues a devastatingly pessimistic report on Afghanistan and the military is trying to ramp the war up for their own benefit, while Obama initiates a large drawdown (not fast enough for some people, it seems) in Iraq almost immediately after being elected and he's a "Bush clone". alright, then.

Fragments upon fragments amount to.......?

C'mon Padraig you can do better than that. We both know that Obama has been a massive disappointment whose major drive - alongside Rahm Emmanuel - has been to retain Democratic party power. The result has not been particularly brave and principled. If you can explain this to me as a good thing I'd be glad to love the man again. Really.

Dial
29-09-2009, 03:27 PM
@Padraig

"anyway, I'm on the record numerous times as saying we should get out of Afghanistan. I just think - this is the key really - that if you're going to fight a war you have to fight it to win. that is, go big or go home, to borrow a phrase. this kind of half-in, half-out we've got in Afghan right now is the worst of all possible worlds."

Ah, I'm feeling a bit prickish about the whole thing. On another day I'd agree with you completely, if only so as to fuck up so terribly terribly badly that everyone learns some real lessons. Which certainly won't happen in this painfully, neither really in nor out position.

Granted...

I'm off to bed mate. Different time zone. I trust my 'witticisms' have been water off a ducks back.

vimothy
29-09-2009, 03:39 PM
Dial: I hope I'm not coming across as a complete cnut. A bit of a pretentious dilettante (http://www.dissensus.com/showthread.php?t=8701&highlight=pretentious+crap) / geek -- that's probably fair.

Now, on monads and black boxes, I agree that we needn't constantly qualify, and that we need to be able to "zoom out" to the aggregate or composite level. But we should also be careful with our isomorphism. "The possibility of metaphor is disappearing in every sphere," as dem man say. So perhaps it can help to be able to say "the military wants perpetual war". I don't doubt that you can say it. From one perspective Baudelaire is wholly mistaken. The possibility of metaphor is increasing, the potential returns to metaphor are increasing (he says...) -- however, this may not be helpful in the long run.

But I think that we probably agree here. The military is lots of machines plugged into lots of other machines, plugged into lots of other machines... and on and on.

Given that, it may be more fruitful to discuss Greenwald's article, or at least, the somewhat generic point that Greenwald is making. Let me then link to a couple of germane pieces. The first is "The Cheney Fallacy (http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/the-cheney-fallacy)", by Jack Goldsmith. (Goldsmith, a conservative legal scholar, worked for the Bush administration and battled with them over detention / torture laws). Goldsmith basically makes a similar argument to Greenwald, minus the histrionic tone and the evil empire angle. The second is a comment to a related post at Opinio Juris, a well respected liberal international law blog -- scroll down this page (http://opiniojuris.org/2009/05/19/jack-goldsmith-on-similarities-and-differences-in-national-security-between-obama-and-bush/) to the first comment, by Charlie Martel.

OT, but: I'm a big fan of Latour, BTW. And Callon, and MacKenzie. I've actually just read this (http://go2.wordpress.com/?id=725X1342&site=socfinance.wordpress.com&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bruno-latour.fr%2Farticles%2Farticle%2F116-TARDE-CANDEA.pdf), which is excellent, and am currently reading this (http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a913977344), which is also very interesting. That's your required sociology for the day. As you were, folks...

vimothy
29-09-2009, 03:44 PM
And this debate is coming back to Tilly and Noth and the question of how society (global society, that is) solves the problem of violence...

scottdisco
29-09-2009, 04:04 PM
i admit i'm way below the bar on the theory side of things here so my detour is really rather under the radar, but, nonetheless, on i go in my idiosyncratic way


Some powerful villains/principles to refer to.

1. The Taliban.

2.= Other insurgent groups.
2.= in some cases though not always and not to slur an entire body, the ANP, for some severe reported abuses


3.= Pervasive corruption (as pervasive as that other Afghan vulture, hunger)
3.= NATO/ISAF etc attacks that go tragically, monstrously wrong (which will get worse if a certain sort of American right-winger gets their suggested strategy way, which is to leave the Compact & Afghanistan, and any bothersome radical Islamist sorts around, say, the border region Uncle Sam doesn't care for can be taken out via an accurate drone fired by some bod on Diego Garcia etc.)

4. International actors in general, up to you to place these how you think fit (e.g., ISI foremost? etc - Christian Aid workers and Canadian well-drillers clearly less malign than the ISI, for instance)

P.S.
i'm afraid i'm w Tea in the real ale corner: not sure how this impacts the cocktail water cooler convo mind
:p

Vim drinks BRAINS of course

http://www.specialistmodels.co.uk/pics/brainsbrewerymobilebar-1.jpeg

P.P.S.
Vim: great Charlie Martel comment

scottdisco
29-09-2009, 04:22 PM
Foust: An Artificial Bifurcation (http://www.registan.net/index.php/2009/09/28/an-artificial-bifurcation/)


The reality is, across vast tracts of the country, the vast majority of U.S. troops are not being utilized effectively—with so must waste built into the system, it would be silly to advocate sending thousands more troops for a marginal increase in troops actually doing counterinsurgency.

So in that sense, I agree with Chandrasekaran—maintaining the status quo is a really bad idea. The challenge is, going all in—sending thousands more troops—is also repeating the status quo, only more so. The troops we have now need to be used differently before we think about sending more.

scottdisco
29-09-2009, 04:32 PM
to add a (probably unnecessary, but you never know) clarification to my list of earlier, awry NATO attacks leave people as dead as a calculated insurgent attack (duh), so, same list is obviously a very loose framework, some sort of inchoate moral league table (as arguably offensive to one's sense of ethics as that may sound)

padraig (u.s.)
29-09-2009, 10:21 PM
We both know that Obama has been a massive disappointment whose major drive - alongside Rahm Emmanuel - has been to retain Democratic party power. The result has not been particularly brave and principled. If you can explain this to me as a good thing I'd be glad to love the man again. Really.

he hasn't been disappointing to me, mainly cos I wasn't expecting all that much in the first place, certainly not anything "brave & principled". not sure what other people were expecting, exactly. this is electoral politics, and American electoral politics at that. I'm not defending him, just saying that he & Bush have enormous differences between them to go along with their similarities, and I think it's rather asinine - & self-defeating, if you are a disillusioned leftist - to pretend otherwise.

JFK sold the left wing of his party down the river even faster, after using them to get elected. word to the wise - the Democratic Party is not, as a general rule, something to get excited about. and once in power it will always be shifted to the center, rather than shifting the terms of the debate to the left (the Republicans are, for all their blundering, much better at that part of the game).

as regards Afghanistan I'm not a big fan of his work but not for any particular moral reasons. rather because it just seems like bad policy, this vacillating halfway business which seems very likely to prolong the war without actually producing any positive results. make a decision. I also suspect he's sticking with it largely for domestic political concerns, which is a terrible reason to fight a war.

no need to apologize. my back is broad enough to shrug off a few message board jabs, I should think.

also in re: villains - I'm with Scott, they are many & diverse. those jerks from Blackwater - sorry, Xe - who shoot at Iraqi civilians for kicks. feckless AQ types who travel the globe terrorizing local Muslim populaces. Donald f**king Rumsfeld. the assholes who run the Iranian security state. there are so, so many w/out having to resort to jumping at military-industrial shadows (tho, there's numerous villains in there as well, no war being immune to the disgusting practice of war profiteering) or shouting j'accuse at the JSOC or whoever.

Dial
30-09-2009, 02:05 PM
1. The Taliban.

2.= Other insurgent groups.
2.= in some cases though not always and not to slur an entire body, the ANP, for some severe reported abuses


3.= Pervasive corruption (as pervasive as that other Afghan vulture, hunger)
3.= NATO/ISAF etc attacks that go tragically, monstrously wrong (which will get worse if a certain sort of American right-winger gets their suggested strategy way, which is to leave the Compact & Afghanistan, and any bothersome radical Islamist sorts around, say, the border region Uncle Sam doesn't care for can be taken out via an accurate drone fired by some bod on Diego Garcia etc.)

4. International actors in general, up to you to place these how you think fit (e.g., ISI foremost? etc - Christian Aid workers and Canadian well-drillers clearly less malign than the ISI, for instance)

This is a fine list of villains, that somehow leaves me unsatisfied. Perhaps I ache for that so called 'generic' critique that in the very first instance is suspicious of any actual US presence in Afghanistan. I feel the details pale in comparison. It's not the discussion taking place here, however, which all involved seem to be enjoying.


i admit i'm way below the bar on the theory side of things here so my detour is really rather under the radar, but, nonetheless, on i go in my idiosyncratic way

Don't worry mate, me, too. A couple more exchanges with Vim would/will soon call my bluff.


he hasn't been disappointing to me, mainly cos I wasn't expecting all that much in the first place, certainly not anything "brave & principled". not sure what other people were expecting, exactly. this is electoral politics, and American electoral politics at that. I'm not defending him, just saying that he & Bush have enormous differences between them to go along with their similarities, and I think it's rather asinine - & self-defeating, if you are a disillusioned leftist - to pretend otherwise.

'Disillusioned leftist'? Na, not really. I would say, again with Greenwald, that Obama should be praised when he commits actions that are praiseworthy, and condemned/criticized when he acts in ways that deserve criticism. He's acted in numerous ways that deserve criticism - simple as that. Is he better than Bush? I think he is, for sure. Is he better within the context as set forth by Wills in his NYTR article? I'm not really convinced to be frank.

He's a middle, tending right, technocrat of great charm, personal charisma, and intelligence, who gives a damn fine speech. That's sort of special as far as it goes I suppose. What else do you want me to say?

Dial
30-09-2009, 02:22 PM
But I think that we probably agree here. The military is lots of machines plugged into lots of other machines, plugged into lots of other machines... and on and on. Yes, and all the more need of metaphors to make sense of it all.


Given that, it may be more fruitful to discuss Greenwald's article, or at least, the somewhat generic point that Greenwald is making. Let me then link to a couple of germane pieces. The first is "The Cheney Fallacy", by Jack Goldsmith. (Goldsmith, a conservative legal scholar, worked for the Bush administration and battled with them over detention / torture laws). Goldsmith basically makes a similar argument to Greenwald, minus the histrionic tone and the evil empire angle. The second is a comment to a related post at Opinio Juris, a well respected liberal international law blog -- scroll down this page to the first comment, by Charlie Martel.

Thanks for this. But Goldsmith and Greenwald making the same argument? Ha. Sure, save that one - Greenwald is filled with righteous fury at the situation thus described, while the other - Goldsmith - seems to think its all on a good roll.; I wouldn't call it the same argument, but rather the same fundamental depiction of the situation, with a very different set of values at work.

Still, enjoyed reading the Goldsmith. And, I'm intrigued by your Tilly and Noth teaser. Any links you'd like to suggest?

vimothy
30-09-2009, 02:27 PM
Dial -- why don't you give us a tentaive outline of a general critique of US presence in Afghanistan...? Not from the perspective of Obama being like Bush (i.e., a critique rooted in "liberal" readings of international law, and Obama's perceived failure to updhold it), but a critique of the logic of the intervention itself. Then move to Obama's role, options and choices -- including if you like his international treaty obligations, but I think that stuff is less interesting, in the sense that almost everyone agrees (or says they agree) that everyone should uphold international law.

vimothy
30-09-2009, 02:39 PM
Yes, and all the more need of metaphors to make sense of it all.

Heh, well I was trying to be slightly ironic ("return" on metaphors, etc). Metaphors can help or harm in equal amounts, I'd say.


Thanks for this. But Goldsmith and Greenwald making the same argument? Ha. Sure, save that one - Greenwald is filled with righteous fury at the situation thus described, while the other - Goldsmith - seems to think its all on a good roll.; I wouldn't call it the same argument, but rather the same fundamental depiction of the situation, with a very different set of values at work.

I'm not sure I agree that their values are so very different. You are of course correct that Greenwald is rather self-righteous (appropriately so, at times), but I tend to think that two people can share very similar value systems while recommending very divergent policies, because they conceive of those policies and their outcomes in different ways. N'est ce-pas?

And I suppose this is semantics, but it does appear to me to be the same argument (that the "Cheney fallacy" is, in fact, a fallacy), except that Greenwald doesn't like the implications and Goldsmith isn't sure.


I'm intrigued by your Tilly and Noth teaser. Any links you'd like to suggest?

These two (classics) in particular:

http://www.international.ucla.edu/cms/files/PERG.North.pdf

https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/rohloff/www/war%20making%20and%20state%20making.pdf

scottdisco
30-09-2009, 05:19 PM
This is a fine list of villains, that somehow leaves me unsatisfied. Perhaps I ache for that so called 'generic' critique that in the very first instance is suspicious of any actual US presence in Afghanistan. I feel the details pale in comparison. It's not the discussion taking place here, however, which all involved seem to be enjoying.


i'm certainly enjoying your contributions, though admit your even bringing up theory (never mind this modesty that Vimothy will unmask you!) puts you in a different league to my - in the specific case of Afghanistan - reluctant left-wing interventionism * ;)

give us a 'generic' critique then, do, as i know i would enjoy reading it. i know some objections to the general Yank presence, yes, from some quarters, but always eager to read up.

changing subject from generic American empire into the particular of Afghanistan, wrt Ahmed Rashid's Descent into Chaos (June 2008), this overview (off the Amazon editor page discussing same at time) clearly seems fair


The author blames the unwillingness of American policymakers to shoulder the burden of nation building. According to Rashid, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and subsequently refused to commit the forces and money needed to rebuild it; instead the U.S. government made corrupt alliances with warlords to impose a superficial calm, while continuing to ignore the Pakistani government's support of the Taliban and the other Islamic extremists who have virtually taken over Pakistan's western provinces.

unless i'm mistaken i believe Rashid criticised the US for ignoring Afghanistan's agony pre-9/11, incidentally

* for the record, those are my specific views here, and i know that other contributors are coming at it from other angles

scottdisco
30-09-2009, 07:04 PM
He's a middle, tending right, technocrat of great charm, personal charisma, and intelligence, who gives a damn fine speech. That's sort of special as far as it goes I suppose. What else do you want me to say?

to be fair, that's how anyone worth taking seriously would have described him before he was President (one might quibble on which part of the central axis to place him and say - in context, context being all - he tends a little left, but relatively small potatoes in the scheme of things)

padraig (u.s.)
30-09-2009, 09:32 PM
He's a middle, tending right, technocrat of great charm, personal charisma, and intelligence, who gives a damn fine speech.

sure, as Scott said all that stuff was on the table well before he was elected. which, again, makes you wonder what people were expecting. you says tends right, others might say left, the real point being that in American politics there isn't that much distance between those terms. everyone's enthralled to lobbyists anyway (health care reform has been a particularly embarrassing episode in that regard).

I'm not very interested in discussing Obama's various merits/flaws anyway. I just wanted tbc that it was silly to call him a "virtual Bush clone".


a critique of the logic of the intervention itself.

exactly. you can shake your finger and rage until you're blue in the face but it's not going to do anything. the audience you're going to reach with that is just preaching to the choir isn't it. also, the fact that it so much more complicated than finger shakers make it out to be strips that righteous anger of most if its power. of course it may just make you feel better, which is far from the worst reason to do something.

the thing about international law & so on is that it only matters if you can't get away with breaking it. that's just the reality, no use in pretending otherwise.


'generic' critique...the details pale

my biggest problem with the generic critique is that reduces many complex, different situations to one common denominator and in doing so blurs out nearly everything important. the details, in these situations, are exactly what does matter.

vimothy
01-10-2009, 01:09 PM
Special issue of the Chicago Journal of International Law (http://cjil.uchicago.edu/current.html) on great power politics and international law.

Dial
01-10-2009, 02:18 PM
Dial -- why don't you give us a tentaive outline of a general critique of US presence in Afghanistan...? Not from the perspective of Obama being like Bush (i.e., a critique rooted in "liberal" readings of international law, and Obama's perceived failure to updhold it), but a critique of the logic of the intervention itself. Then move to Obama's role, options and choices -- including if you like his international treaty obligations, but I think that stuff is less interesting, in the sense that almost everyone agrees (or says they agree) that everyone should uphold international law.

That's a nicely outlined challenge Vim. My first fumbled attempt would be to refer back, yet again, to Greenwald. This won't satisfy you in the slightest, I realize. Take it as a vague promissory note; one likely to be defaulted on, I might add ;)

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/09/03/afghanistan/index.html


The question of whether the initial decision to invade Afghanistan was justifiable is completely distinct from whether it should have been made and, even more so, whether the occupation and war should continue.....

And a word or two about Greenwald being histrionic at times. Yes, absolutely. Still, I've witnessed so many run-ins he's had with those claiming to be 'sober and serious' in contrast to his so called 'shrillness'. He simply runs them over by dint of intelligence and marshaling of actual facts. The sober and serious invariably turn out to be heavily compromised by careerism, or money, or some other common tawdry crap.

GG's histrionics may not take fully into account the complexities of the way the world really works, but is it careful measured analysis within the bounds of reason that makes for real change ( I won't say progress), or the sort of passion/happening that surpasses reason? - The evental et al. (sorry, couldn't resist - ha)

I'm a bit of a Glenn Greenwald fanboy, myself. Nothing wrong with fierce moral outrage coupled with a brilliant intelligence. Fucking beautiful, in fact. Why should he be cool in the face of it all? Why should anyone?

Anyway, let me dwell a little upon the 'logic of intevention'

Dial
01-10-2009, 02:27 PM
my biggest problem with the generic critique is that reduces many complex, different situations to one common denominator and in doing so blurs out nearly everything important. the details, in these situations, are exactly what does matter.

I'm down with detail. Somewhere along the line ,tho detail/s needs to be framed. I'm guilty of jumping into the middle of a conversation thinking that framing hadn't been made. On reflection I'm guessing it had, implicitly, at least. I still might have made comment about the drift of it all.

scottdisco
01-10-2009, 09:33 PM
Nothing wrong with fierce moral outrage coupled with a brilliant intelligence. Fucking beautiful, in fact.

damn straight :cool:


Anyway, let me dwell a little upon the 'logic of intevention'

let me pre-empt you (excuse the pun!)


Intervention is always questionable but not always wrong...My central objection to intervention has always been that it won’t work—and what we cannot do, we should obligate ourselves to try to do.

- Alex de Waal

seems fair to me.

(full disclosure: i'm a de Waal fan.)

Dial
02-10-2009, 05:50 AM
damn straight:cool: :D


Intervention is always questionable but not always wrong...My central objection to intervention has always been that it won’t work—and what we cannot do, we should obligate ourselves to try to do.

A riddle designed to entice me to further reading? It's working. Cheers.

scottdisco
02-10-2009, 01:53 PM
yeah, it's true. I just mean that as soon as the "War on Terrorism" was announced pretty much every f**ker who's a petty dictator saw that he could get into our good graces by claiming to be fighting "terrorism" while they stamped out dissidents (admittedly the 2 could & do sometimes go hand in hand). Egypt, Pakistan, etc etc and not that the U.S. doesn't have a long history of propping up petty dictators for dubious reasons, but that doesn't make me feel better about any of it.

all true.

i agree w you wrt the US and her often hypocritical, hard-headed, indeed sometimes appalling way of conducting her friendships.
(Condi Rice would sometimes grumble a little bit in the direction of Mubarak and his police state, but it didn't do much good. i mention her as i have not followed Clinton at all well enough to know if she has remarked on Egypt yet. not picking on Egypt, just one example.)

but it's just given the sorts of govt you mention one extra layer of excuse - there's plenty of things to beat you Yanks up about in the first instance, not in a second-hand way, so i wouldn't cast too long another glance in that direction, tbf ;)

tbc, i know that every govt committing serious misdeeds - whether they are a US ally that the US cannot afford to say nothing reprimanding to (or little) due to the US needing their airbases etc - or countries the US doesn't need to court so much, regardless, i know these countries will point to the WoT brand and say 'lookit!'

and they would be right to, obv. (they would still be persecuting opponents tomorrow if the US turned inwards in a spectacularly real fashion as of noon today Eastern time and never did anyone any more harm ever again, but hey.)

Uzbekistan was a shit place to be an opposition activist pre-9/11.
it is a shit place to be an opposition activist today.

etc. etc. etc.

scottdisco
02-10-2009, 01:58 PM
also, tbc, i realise the hypocritical conduct of the WoT, all the objections, the discredited and repugnant practices, the things that diminish the moral authority of those claiming to be wanting to uphold the rule of law whilst they action their WoT, that some people think it is a war on Muslims, that you can't fight a war against a noun, and so on, yes, i know all that, i trust i don't sound overly flip, i'm just saying, despots would have been persecuting dissidents w out the inspirational leadership of the Dubya clique regardless (and were up to no good when Bush was an isolationist Texan governor) just as surely as they're getting persecuted w or w out anything coming from the mouth or deeds of the Obama regime... ...all very obv of me i know but just saying, like.

scottdisco
02-10-2009, 02:04 PM
also tbc (god i'm a windbag :D ) i hope it doesn't sound like i'm making light of the whole 'despots throwing words back in your face' angle here, it's just that, the semantics of the war on terror are not something i have ever got too worked up about tbh (just the semantics angle of the phrase 'war on terrorism', i know some people can't abide it, but, just, tbh, not something that bugs me that much)

obv the phrase axis of evil was fucking stupid: Dubya should never have uttered it.
(even allowing for the fact that Saddamite Iraq and NK today were/are two of the most nefarious and hellish govts of the modern age, but if you were going to go down that route, part of me mischievously thinks let's just go the whole hog, let's name-check, you know, Turkmenistan, Myanmar, Eq Guinea, etc)

vimothy
02-10-2009, 02:11 PM
There are implications, though, that are more than merely semantic: the legal regime, the policy responses, the agencies that are deployed... I think that the institutional framework that the response is embedded in is conditional on those very semantic, almost hair-splitting, distinctions. FWIW.

scottdisco
02-10-2009, 02:29 PM
yes that's a fair point

c.f. the words of BobFromBrockley in point 3 of that Lucozade plot post (http://brockley.blogspot.com/2009/09/lessons-of-lucozade-plot.html) i mentioned elsewhere:


There seem to have been two approaches to the investigation and foiling of the plot. British intelligence and security services, reporting regularly to Tony Blair on the case, carefully infiltrated and watched the plotters, building up a slowly expanding picture of their networks, and gathering robust trial evidence. They let it run its course, confident they would know when they needed to act. American intelligence and security services, reporting regularly to George W Bush, seemed to want to make quick arrests to shut the network down...In this instance, the American approach was mistaken, and the culture around the war on terror under Bush – conceived as a military war rather than as a strategy of investigation and prevention, and staged as a high profile public spectacle – proved counterproductive.

clearly the American approach above was/is inferior.

but for whatever reason - and i know this conflicts w my impulses of shock and dismay at American abuses in the WoT such as the limbo horrors of black sites - yes, it's weird, the semantic thing, i just have no problem w the metaphor itself. that is a different kettle of fish from the can of worms you have rightly opened, of course, although it starts out on that same path.

i should probably have made it clearer i was just geeing up Padraig re the metaphor itself (a serviceable metaphor i think, FWIW, even when the people who coined it therefore conceived of all the initial policy planks which came to symbolise it, and to darken the term) and not shouted my mouth off quite so much..

vimothy
02-10-2009, 02:46 PM
I agree with you: it's a servicable metaphor. And I don't think it's unreasonable to want to employ a war-orientated response to 21st C. terrrorism.

padraig (u.s.)
02-10-2009, 02:51 PM
despots would have been persecuting dissidents w out the inspirational leadership of the Dubya clique regardless (and were up to no good when Bush was an isolationist Texan governor) just as surely as they're getting persecuted w or w out anything coming from the mouth or deeds of the Obama regime

yes, again, it's all true. I'm not saying it's a causal relationship, like the WoT was announced & then all these grisly dudes were like "yeah! let's crack down on dissidents!". but 2 things.

1 - as Vim says, all that stuff, those differences, do in fact matter, because of their real world repercussions. I reckon we are quite beholden to semantics; how laws are written, tax loopholes, the wording of public statements, jargon ("kinetic" meaning killing people always gets me), euphemisms, legal definitions, memos and emails, bad translations. the tone of the Bush admin - moralistic, messianic, triumphalist - lends itself to justifications to all manner of grotesquery in a way that the Dems, in all their bland mediocrity, never could (which isn't a h/t to them so much as an indication of their inability to incite enthusiasm in anyone over anything).

2 - it still legitimizes these dudes, and I still hate having to be associated with it. it's embarrassing, this endless history of propping up banana republic dictators and anti-Communist strongmen and oil princes (not nearly as embarrassing as y'all's imperial past, but still).

scottdisco
02-10-2009, 03:52 PM
yeah fair play P, though i note that Obama hasn't ditched the metaphor's ramifications entirely, or in some cases the metaphor at all (following Obama quotes all since he took office)


The insurgency in Afghanistan didn't just happen overnight and we won't defeat it overnight. This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must never forget: This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is a - this is fundamental to the defense of our people.

- Obama

and again -

Now, in addition to securing the world's most dangerous weapons, a second area where America has a critical national interest is in isolating and defeating violent extremists.

For years, al Qaeda and its affiliates have defiled a great religion of peace and justice, and ruthlessly murdered men, women and children of all nationalities and faiths. Indeed, above all, they have murdered Muslims. And these extremists have killed in Amman and Bali; Islamabad and Kabul; and they have the blood of Americans and Russians on their hands. They're plotting to kill more of our people, and they benefit from safe havens that allow them to train and operate - particularly along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

And that's why America has a clear goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

and again -

We know that al Qaeda is actively planning to attack us again. We know that this threat will be with us for a long time, and that we must use all elements of our power to defeat it.
.....
We are... at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates.
.....
Now this generation faces a great test in the specter of terrorism. And unlike the Civil War or World War II, we can't count on a surrender ceremony to bring this journey to an end.

and again -

It's not acceptable for Pakistan or for us to have folks who, with impunity, will kill innocent men, women and children... Well, Mr. Holbrooke is there, and that's exactly why he's being sent there, because I think that we have to make sure that Pakistan is a stalwart ally with us in battling this terrorist threat

and -

I think it is very important for us to recognize that we have a battle or a war against some terrorist organizations... But that those organizations aren't representative of a broader Arab community, Muslim community.

John O. Brennan, Obama's senior counter-terrorism adviser

Terrorism needs to be fought against and certainly delegitimized or attacked

VP Biden

There is a war on terror. Terror is a legitimate threat. It is a threat that comes from al Qaeda and those organizations that have morphed off of al Qaeda

Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell, 26th March 2009

We are still actively engaged in a global war against terror

Eric Holder, Obama's Attorney General

Some have compared the Cold War - which President Kennedy called "our long twilight struggle" - to our current struggle against terrorism. In many ways, this is an apt comparison. The Cold War did not end on a traditional battlefield, and neither will our fight against terrorism. But the comparison is even more compelling because both struggles are ones in which values - ideals and morals - are as important as military strength. As the President has made clear, winning the war on terrorism requires winning the hearts and minds of people around the world. Engaging those hearts and minds is dependent upon our ability to show the world that the United States will once again be a force for positive change in the lives of people across the globe. We must accomplish that goal by setting an example with our ideals, and by rebuilding our partnerships with our allies. We cannot ask other nations to stand by us in a pursuit of justice if we are not viewed as being in pursuit of that ideal ourselves.

yes apologies, serviceable metaphor is what i should've stuck w at the start, that was rather a lot of waffle up above!
Obama's people are clearly speaking more smartly than Bush, and there are real differences, and it's good to know that:- (from the same Brennan quote above, from an interview this August w the WaPo)

However, Washington must couple the military strikes that have depleted al-Qaeda's middle ranks with more sustained use of economic, diplomatic and cultural levers to diminish Islamist radicalization, he said, exercising "soft power" in ways that President George W. Bush came to embrace but had trouble carrying out.
but i just meant i think it can be an unremarkable term (certainly in the right hands).

'war on crime', etc etc etc.

and i totally appreciate your being embarrassed/ashamed by linkages P, of course

padraig (u.s.)
04-10-2009, 01:50 PM
so, in the NYT's week in review: 10 Steps to Victory in Afghanistan (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/opinion/04afghanistan.html)

including both David Kilcullen & Andrew Exum (aka COIN blog overlord Abu M - coming up in the world innit). oh and one of the Kagan brothers.

Kilcullen on reform - "Counterinsurgency is only as good as the government it supports" particularly good. Kagan & his wife OTOH, get the gas face for their "don't believe we can afford to lose".

padraig (u.s.)
04-10-2009, 02:02 PM
Obama hasn't ditched the metaphor's ramifications entirely, or in some cases the metaphor at all

yes, that is one of the few things about the Big O & Co. that has disappointed me. if only cause I expected they'd be smart enough (isn't that the selling point of technocrats?) to realize that it's counterproductive.

for the record I think terms like "war on crime" & "war on drugs" are equally stupid. certain militarizing the latter hasn't helped any - has if anything made it worse I'd think - and I don't the think the WoT has been much different.

scottdisco
04-10-2009, 02:23 PM
for the record I think terms like "war on crime" & "war on drugs" are equally stupid. certain militarizing the latter hasn't helped any - has if anything made it worse I'd think - and I don't the think the WoT has been much different.

totally agree w your final point here wrt the war on drugs, i must say. it's certainly welcome when they stress all the soft power-type aspects of this 'war' and not just the military component; of course even classic inter-state war throughout history has relied on more than just the fighting angle, there's propaganda and so on. though admittedly the war on drugs in, say, the UK, is a bit different from the war on drugs in, say, the USA.

i like the idea of a war on poverty though - granted, that's more common in Yurp than your side of the pond, perhaps ;)

cheers P, BTW, for the NYT link!

certainly agreed w the kick out corruption one, and the wisdom of Paul R. Pillar's observation re Pakistani patronage. Gretchen Peters, money ends up where it belongs, is a nice thought, of course.
re Exum on taking a risk; Foust consistently says similar on his own page.

the Kagans, oh dead, head-desk. international troops need to be deployed better, not necessarily in more numbers.

incidentally, i'm watching Robert Dallek - the respected historian - on C-SPAN. clearly a very smart, indeed warm, guy, and the programme had the idea to invite him on and discuss Vietnam analogies: which he has over-egged at times, though he is respectful and measured toward all callers, even the tin-foil hat ones.
(also he briefly mentioned older British and Soviet experiences in Afghanistan, and one of his sentences contained, frankly a hint of a sort of generic anti-Afghan aside, which i didn't care for in the slightest.)

all the above airy observations coming from my non-American armchair, of course. smite at will if you want.

BTW, that bit at the start, the below quote is my italics


If we see no genuine progress on such steps toward government responsibility, the United States should “Afghanize,” draw down troops and prepare to mitigate the inevitable humanitarian disaster that will come when the Kabul government falls to the Taliban — which, in the absence of reform, it eventually and deservedly will.

— DAVID KILCULLEN,

clearly reformation needs to happen in certain areas (slow and steady wins it), but i couldn't bring myself to write that word, especially if i'd just honestly acknowledged an "inevitable humanitarian disaster" half a sentence earlier... ...but i am not going to lots of service funerals every month, what do i know... ...also i appreciate Kilcullen says "prepare to mitigate".

sorry, a typically muddle-headed scott post :slanted:

scottdisco
04-10-2009, 03:00 PM
incidentally Dial might be interested to hear that i'm watching Scott Ritter on C-SPAN (he no apologist for expansionist, war-mongering American impulses) and Ritter has just made a point of saying the very great credit he would like to give to Obama for the real differences to his predecessor wrt some of his approaches to dealing w Iran

padraig (u.s.)
04-10-2009, 04:03 PM
yes, credit due so far on his more nuanced approach to Iran (still waiting to see if it bears fruit, but hey). and for his more balanced take on Isr/Pal - which is also, incidentally, better for Israelis even if some of them don't realize it. various other things, not so much.

as far as "more troops" vs. "better deployed" I don't think the 2 are mutually exclusive tho it's of utmost importance to have the latter worked out beforehand so you're not just throwing good after bad. sorry, I'm out the door don't have time to be more thorough...


i like the idea of a war on poverty though - granted, that's more common in Yurp than your side of the pond, perhaps ;)

my man Lyndon Baines Johnson might have a thing or two to say about that. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Poverty)

scottdisco
04-10-2009, 04:09 PM
as far as "more troops" vs. "better deployed" I don't think the 2 are mutually exclusive tho it's of utmost importance to have the latter worked out beforehand so you're not just throwing good after bad.

yeah sorry i meant that too, should have been clearer on that point. but to those people who are very sceptical about boosting numbers and who can rightly quibble re deployments, an acknowledgment of their grievances is a start



my man Lyndon Baines Johnson might have a thing or two to say about that. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Poverty)

admirable riposte!
:p

note to self
if you are attempting to make a half-assed, tongue-in-cheek, throwaway point about the relative superiority of some nominally social-democratic European govts to try and ameliorate poverty compared to the more laissez-faire bill-of-fare in the States, don't - WHATEVER YOU DO - forget that the term "war on poverty" was in fact brought into the lexicon initially alongside a leonine attempt to do same across the pond...

Dial
05-10-2009, 06:14 AM
incidentally Dial might be interested to hear that i'm watching Scott Ritter on C-SPAN (he no apologist for expansionist, war-mongering American impulses) and Ritter has just made a point of saying the very great credit he would like to give to Obama for the real differences to his predecessor wrt some of his approaches to dealing w Iran


Hang on. Rhetorical flourishes aside, I would never claim no difference between Obama and Bush. The degree and significance of that difference and how it plays out is another matter. To borrow a line: "All of these subsidiary, discrete battles are shaped by larger truths". I'm merely of the suspicion that 'larger truths' result in putative differences between players being washed out to very similar outcomes. That larger truth being money, militarization, oligarchy etc etc. But let's not rehash an argument we've sort of already had, which only ends up in me being accused of generic criticism. I don't entirely disagree. And, of course, I still have to answer the challenge; you know, the one that no one else alive on the planet seems to be able to ;)

I've been reading back through that Afpak thread btw. There's quite a lot of interest there. Too much. Still I'm being provoked to some follow up. I'm not sure, yet, that my initial assessment of 'amusement' is going to change.


Speaking of Iran, I just watched Fareed Zakaria in discussion with Timothy Garton Ash, Reuel Marc Gerecht, and another man from the NYT whose name escapes me. RMG dominated the discussion with the others largely agreeing. Aspects that caught my interest: RMG was quite adamant that Iran will not give up its identity as Islamic warriors. The West is naive/hopeful to think that Ahmadinejad is not a holy warrior. He defines himself as such. His - and like minded Iranians - religiosity is not calculated in a cynical sense but in a pragmatic sense. Russia and China are not challenged by Iran for their misdeeds against Moslems (Chechnya/Uighurs) for various reasons, among them economic ties and the simple fact that Iran couldn't take on all three. Moreover, the US is seen as Satan, not in metaphorical, but actual terms. And it is the duty and role of Iran to challenge this Satan. It is foolish, says RMG, to imagine this aim will be abandoned as it goes to the very core of of Iranian identity. And so on.

..... Yet, the Revolutionary Guard is not monolithic, both they and the clerics face internal challenges/pressures, particularly from their own educated offspring. The West should be aiming at moving the Clerics towards a position somewhere along the lines of constitutional monarchy. ie emphasize the 'republican' aspirations of Iran, rather than the 'Islamic'.

Interesting.

scottdisco
05-10-2009, 10:41 AM
Hang on. Rhetorical flourishes aside, I would never claim no difference between Obama and Bush. The degree and significance of that difference and how it plays out is another matter. To borrow a line: "All of these subsidiary, discrete battles are shaped by larger truths". I'm merely of the suspicion that 'larger truths' result in putative differences between players being washed out to very similar outcomes.

this seems fair. i think it's reasonable to say i enjoyed tee-ing that up given your prior playfulness ;)


The West should be aiming at moving the Clerics towards a position somewhere along the lines of constitutional monarchy. ie emphasize the 'republican' aspirations of Iran, rather than the 'Islamic'.

the last link i posted on the Iranian democracy thread has a discussion at the Utopian magazine, one contributor being a Columbia prof. he mentions the same constitutional thing as your man here.

scottdisco
05-10-2009, 12:11 PM
Foust, quoting Richard Strand in parts, posts (http://www.registan.net/index.php/2009/10/04/higs-are-pigs-2/) on that bloody Kamdesh battle over the weekend between ANA and US troops and ANP forces against Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin forces.

elsewhere, it's all over the British news that (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8289541.stm)


A front-line UK soldier in Afghanistan has told the defence secretary "more troops on the ground" are needed...He added: "If you give us more troops, we can form a counter-IED taskforce to train ground troops better."

padraig (u.s.)
05-10-2009, 01:28 PM
but to those people who are very sceptical about boosting numbers and who can rightly quibble re deployments, an acknowledgment of their grievances is a start

of course. there are many legitimate grievances, a number of which I share. what I'm saying is this - if you decide on a new strategy you must give it both the time and the resources to have a shot at working before you abandon it. and once you do decide on a strategy, you can't deviate from it after a few months for political reasons. running a war based on concerns in Washington is just begging for disaster. these things take time - 2007 looked terrible in Iraq, until it didn't. there's been a spike in CF casualities recently in Afghanistan; that's what happens in a counteroffensive.

now, there is no guarantee that a more vigorous pursuit of the war, and of counterinsurgency, will work. I don't know if there's even a good chance that it will work. and tbh I'm still not clear what "working" would look like. but you pick a course, you stick with it, or you're very clear about reversing it and following a different course.

my issue is really with people (many of them w/o relevant military experience) trying to use some ambiguous "better deployment" as a prerequisite for more troops. better use of resources should always be a major goal. also, it's unclear, or at least people don't agree, what would be "better". how to deploy troops is a field commander's decision, whether or not to send troops is a President's decision. let's not get them confused.

scottdisco
05-10-2009, 01:29 PM
The relationship between President Barack Obama and the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan has been put under severe strain (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/6259582/Barack-Obama-furious-at-General-Stanley-McChrystal-speech-on-Afghanistan.html) by Gen Stanley McChrystal's comments on strategy for the war...An adviser to the administration said: "People aren't sure whether McChrystal is being naïve or an upstart. To my mind he doesn't seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly."
In London, Gen McChrystal, who heads the 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan as well as the 100,000 Nato forces, flatly rejected proposals to switch to a strategy more reliant on drone missile strikes and special forces operations against al-Qaeda.
He told the Institute of International and Strategic Studies that the formula, which is favoured by Vice-President Joe Biden, would lead to "Chaos-istan".
When asked whether he would support it, he said: "The short answer is: No."
He went on to say: "Waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome. This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely, and nor will public support."
The remarks have been seen by some in the Obama administration as a barbed reference to the slow pace of debate within the White House.

oh round-up from the CSM re the attack mentioned earlier here (http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/1004/p99s01-duts.html)

scottdisco
05-10-2009, 01:31 PM
what I'm saying is this - if you decide on a new strategy you must give it both the time and the resources to have a shot at working before you abandon it. and once you do decide on a strategy, you can't deviate from it after a few months for political reasons. running a war based on concerns in Washington is just begging for disaster.

couldn't agree more w this in particular, but w everything you say just now. think my phrasing must just be a bit foggy sometimes as i always end up re-posting to say 'agreed'!

padraig (u.s.)
05-10-2009, 01:45 PM
Speaking of Iran

refer you back to the Iranian democracy (or Iranian elections, can't remember the name) thread where most of that was hashed out ad nauseam.

Ahmadinejad is a figurehead. I expect he's also a convient tool to use, stirring up the Americans & Israelis with Holocaust denial (whether or not he personally believes that stuff - he may - he/his handlers know the reaction it will inevitably provoke), ambiguous statements about nukes, etc.

Iran is run by the IRGC. they control the bio/chem weapons (& I think, tho I'm not sure, the nuke program), Quds Force, the Basij, etc. they have enormous economic power as well. I don't think the picture of them as religious warriors is inaccurate but clearly it's tempered by a strong desire to maintain their own power. the country is, again, a security state.

do some Iranians believe that the U.S. is, literally, Satan? sure. do most of them? I seriously doubt it. it's the same in the United States, where a noticeable minority of people literally believe in the Bible as the unadulterated word of God (& see Islam as devil worship or similar).

this is all in the Iran thread but - the country has an enormous drug problem (something like 4%, if I recall, of it's adult population on heroin), awful economy, a rapidly falling birth rate, a surplus of young people in their teens-20s from the post-revolution baby boom. another important thing is that their conventional military capabilites are not strong, leading to the focus on irregular warfare & the NBC weapons.

I have a hard time believing the answer is "constitutional monarchy", whatever that's supposed to mean, but alright, I guess. one thing is true - the Iranian regime is cagey, it's very wrong cast it as a bloc of wild-eyed fanatics. I think it's not unlikely that the security state will eventually consume itself - that's what security states do - with potentially disastrous consequences regionally & globally. but what do I know?

vimothy
08-10-2009, 12:29 PM
*taps table, impatiently*

Dial
10-10-2009, 10:42 AM
Iran is run by the IRGC. they control the bio/chem weapons (& I think, tho I'm not sure, the nuke program), Quds Force, the Basij, etc. they have enormous economic power as well. I don't think the picture of them as religious warriors is inaccurate but clearly it's tempered by a strong desire to maintain their own power. the country is, again, a security state. We meet in the middle, no? Neither holy warriors or cynical opportunists but something in between; which to describe fairly would require more of that detail (and nuance, I presume) that you've spoken of.


do some Iranians believe that the U.S. is, literally, Satan? sure. do most of them? I seriously doubt it. it's the same in the United States, where a noticeable minority of people literally believe in the Bible as the unadulterated word of God (& see Islam as devil worship or similar).
But we're not talking about the 'Iranians' are we. We're talking about the view that some in the West hold about those in power: that the Revolutionary Guard - 'IRGC' - and clerics are merely engaged in cynical posturing. RMG claims that misreads a quite genuine and substantial Iranian sense of identity and mission. Like you, 'what would I know' but I would have to say that I find his reading far more plausible than your easy comparison with the US.


this is all in the Iran thread but - the country has an enormous drug problem (something like 4%, if I recall, of it's adult population on heroin), awful economy, a rapidly falling birth rate, a surplus of young people in their teens-20s from the post-revolution baby boom. another important thing is that their conventional military capabilites are not strong, leading to the focus on irregular warfare & the NBC weapons.
And this all amounts to what exactly? I think you either need to join the dots for me, or refer me to something that does. Sorry mate, I'm not trying to be rude here, but the significance of these 'facts' is not self-apparent, beyond that Iran has serious issues to contend with.


I have a hard time believing the answer is "constitutional monarchy", whatever that's supposed to mean, but alright, I guess. one thing is true - the Iranian regime is cagey, it's very wrong cast it as a bloc of wild-eyed fanatics. I think it's not unlikely that the security state will eventually consume itself - that's what security states do - with potentially disastrous consequences regionally & globally. but what do I know? Well I guess that's the central point of disagreement, then isn't it. RMG says that a sense of mission is central to Iranian self-identity and that it is naive to believe they will cast it aside. He was very emphatic on these matters. You see it otherwise. He wasn't suggesting a literal constitutional monarchy but short handing the idea that there are two strains of idealism in Iran, and that, those in the West engaged in Iran, should be thinking about encouraging and emphasizing the Republican aspect of Iran's title, rather than the Islamic.

vimothy
14-10-2009, 01:17 PM
C'mon Dial--I'm still waiting to read your thoughts on the Afghan intervention! You don't need to write and essay, just a few sentences that stake out your position.

vimothy
14-10-2009, 01:39 PM
Interesting post (http://www.snappingturtle.net/flit/archives/2009_09_30.html), re the recent Canadian allegations about the ANSF:


It is no lie to say that homosexual behaviour is extensive and pervasive among members of the Afghan security forces. For a Western mentor it is literally an unavoidable part of life, found in all organizations and at all rank levels. And it should also be no surprise that Afghans' sexual preferences in this regard often incline towards youth and beauty. At times this approaches, and even descends into, outright pederasty. No question.

Pervasive, yes; rapacious, not necessarily. We're not talking in the main about police trucks kidnapping and driving off with young schoolboys here. THAT we'd know what to do about. It's the grayer shades of the issue that frustrate mentors. Local police are wealthy by community standards, when they're paid, at least; they have guns. They have power. Young men and teenagers gravitate to that, in any culture. We encourage the police to interact with their community, to cultivate friends and informants. Other young men work in their kitchen areas, and as cleaners. Others are constantly being recruited from the locals into the police organization itself. So young men and teenagers do hang around the police, constantly.

The question is how to discreetly determine when that's become inappropriate. You see a beardless boy you don't recognize spending a lot of time around the police station, or in a uniform two sizes too big for him. He's not unhappy or bearing any signs of abuse... no one's beating him, or treating him as obvious chattel. If you ask him how old he is, he likely couldn't tell you. So is he a sexual object for one of the officers, or does he have a legitimate right to be there? Or a little of both? And how do you investigate that fully in a combat environment without causing unnecessary offense to your comrades? Among mentors in Afghanistan, this constitutes a common dilemma... sometimes handled well, sometimes not well at all. But I've never seen the larger issue wilfully ignored, covered up or waved away....

vimothy
14-10-2009, 03:56 PM
America cannot and will not succeed in Afghanistan/Pakistan
(http://intelligencesquaredus.org/wp-content/uploads/AfPak-100609.pdf)
For: Ralph Peters (!), Pat Lang, Steven Clemens

Against: James Shinn, Steve Coll, John Nagl

EDIT: This was on NPR, so I assume that there is a recording of it somewhere...

scottdisco
14-10-2009, 04:24 PM
C'mon Dial--I'm still waiting to read your thoughts on the Afghan intervention! You don't need to write and essay, just a few sentences that stake out your position.

yeah seconded!
;)

padraig (u.s.)
14-10-2009, 05:06 PM
watched a Frontline special on Afghan last night, "Obama's War". really good, I thought. all the big guns; Pro-COIN Nagl, Kilcullen & Exum, Anti- Bacevich (eloquent as always) & some woman I didn't recognize from the State Dept. plus the inevitable bits w/Mullen & McChrystal, as well as a whole slew of Pakistani & Afghan generals, ministers, intelligence officials & so on. spends about 2/3 of the time out in the field w/a Marine company in Helmand Valley & the rest in Kabul, Peshawar, etc.

the stuff w/the Marines is, unsurprisingly, much more interesting (at least to me, partially b/c it's personally relevant of course) - watching junior officers/senior NCOs & the local Afghan (presumably Pashtun) men interact & struggle to communicate, seeing the Marines carrying out the drudgery of patrolling interspersed with ambushes, hearing the views & fears (most of which seem quite valid) of locals about the Taliban, etc.

anyway, the whole thing is available to watch for free here (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/obamaswar/view/), if anyone's interested.

Exum on the Frontline piece (http://www.cnas.org/blogs/abumuqawama/2009/10/frontline-afghanistan.html-0)

vimothy
15-10-2009, 11:37 AM
All kicking off in Pakistan then.

And see this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/markurban/2009/10/why_gordon_thinks_hes_on_a_pro.html


The word is, from usually impeccable sources, that President Obama has decided to increase US forces in Afghanistan substantially. There was a further White House meeting on the subject today, but nothing has yet been announced officially in Washington. Meanwhile Britain has said it will send 500 more troops, and in the run up to this announcement, Whitehall has received reassurances from the president that the UK will not be left out on a limb.

According to some of those in the know, the US reinforcement could be as large as 45,000.

polystyle desu
18-10-2009, 03:49 PM
That Frontline program was pretty good,
calling it "Obama's War" is an interesting turn of phrase , pretty quickly tagged !

Well just thought you guys would enjoy this long piece on "McChrystal's Long War" on a rainy Sunday > http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/magazine/18Afghanistan-t.html

scottdisco
18-10-2009, 06:27 PM
calling it "Obama's War" is an interesting turn of phrase , pretty quickly tagged

cheers for the link, and, yes, good point you make here, i think so too, quickly tagged indeed

polystyle desu
18-10-2009, 08:31 PM
now this balloon just put out there on a Sunday ..
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/19/us/politics/19talkshows.html?hp

Further , will there be a run off in Afghanistan ?
and if so, can it happen by this late fall before the snow ...
Not so good at all if they have to wait till next spring for a run off.

scottdisco
19-10-2009, 12:01 AM
now this balloon just put out there on a Sunday ..
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/19/us/politics/19talkshows.html?hp

good that Senator Kerry mentions the Afghan civilian population in his opening remarks.

and yes, re the tagging of Obama's war, i mean, heck, if some quarters are going to throw out a glib one-liner you may as well call it Mullah Omar's war, or Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's war, or Osama bin Laden's war..

cheers for the Frontline doc P

padraig (u.s.)
19-10-2009, 01:04 AM
and yes, re the tagging of Obama's war

I think this is in direct response to the stance he came into office with, namely that we will focus more on Astan, esp. as we pull back in IQ, and prosecute the war/politics (inseparable w/r/t COIN) there more vigorously*. I don't think it's a political jab, esp. coming from PBS which is non-political & liberal if anything (or at least it regularly gets attacked for being such by conservative politicos). Frontline has pretty serious credibility. this isn't CNN docudrama nonsense we're talking here.

*this doesn't necessarily mean shooting more people or being more aggro so much as committing more resources in a better fashion, applying more effort, etc.

I was quite glad to hear Sen. Kerry's comments, not b/c he's arguing in favor of more troops but b/c they were the kind of thing you don't often hear out of the mouth of a Senator, that is, sensible. it doesn't surprise me that Kerry tacitly grasps some things about COIN seeing as he, unlike many prominent hawks (most prominently the last POTUS & VP), served in Vietnam. I esp. liked that he tied in more troops to strategic review, reassessment of goals, i.e.


I think General McChrystal is asking the questions about the underlying assumptions

this to me has been the crucial point of the whole thing. McChrystal hasn't just been blindly demanding more troops - this is not Vietnam w/Westmoreland & the JSOC trying to bully more soldiers out of the civilians - he's been saying "look, for the mission you gave me, I need these resources. you can either give me the resources, or change the mission you assigned me." that is, change the political aims of the war. what's frustrating is that the civilians should be the ones doing reassessment of political goals, but if it takes a field commander to initiate it then so be it.

everything with the elections has been an embarrassment. Karzai is unreliable & doesn't have a political base, he's allied with all kinds of dubious drug/warlords, etc. I dunno if Abdullahx2 would be any better. the thing about COIN is that its a competition of ideas as much as anything - the insurgents by definition have a cause to offer, you have to have something to counter with. and we just don't.

oh, also re: the Frontline doc, one of my favorite parts was watching the Pakistani officials pulling looks of wide-eyed innocence. Haqqanis? in Pakistan? well, I never. and Amrullah Saleh's (who is, I believe, Tajik), frustration with the whole thing.

scottdisco
19-10-2009, 01:16 AM
and yes, re the tagging of Obama's war


I think this is in direct response to the stance he came into office with, namely that we will focus more on Astan, esp. as we pull back in IQ, and prosecute the war/politics (inseparable w/r/t COIN) there more vigorously*. I don't think it's a political jab, esp. coming from PBS which is non-political & liberal if anything (or at least it regularly gets attacked for being such by conservative politicos). Frontline has pretty serious credibility. this isn't CNN docudrama nonsense we're talking here.

tbc i must admit me ^ re tagging was a generic punt toward anti-war types (in the specific case of Afghanistan) who have sometimes gleefully seized on this term "Obama's war" and use it in i think a slightly sneering, unbecoming way.

i didn't even read into PBS using it, my bad, i should pay more attention to linked articles and what Polystyle initially said!
very fair point and Frontline is a fine, fine programme.

padraig (u.s.)
19-10-2009, 02:04 AM
tbc i must admit me ^ re tagging was a generic punt toward anti-war types (in the specific case of Afghanistan) who have sometimes gleefully seized on this term "Obama's war" and use it in i think a slightly sneering, unbecoming way.

ah, I see - I actually haven't seen the phrase in such a manner/context, but if it is being used with that emphasis then yes, by all means punt away.

thing is that I don't think Big O even has the political juice to stay the course over the long haul, let alone get into a greater commitment.

I wish all these people who are recently so fervently against the war & making facile, inaccurate comparisons to Vietnam (seriously, you can't move for hitting some talking head doing this these days) had been giving a shit about all this back in, you know, 2005 or whatever. it's only been going on for nearly a f**king decade, after all, and going badly for most of that. what also bugs me is hearing talk shifting to emphasize more training of Afghan forces. we've been training them for 8 years, they ain't gonna get much better. it sounds like a recipe for American soldiers to traipse around getting shot at only to have whoever's POTUS come Inauguration Day, 2013 decide that oh yeah, we're finally getting out.

scottdisco
19-10-2009, 11:39 AM
as usual P concisely identifies the main thrusts, and your prediction has a prescient air to it for me.

my fear is that when ISAF nations start to draw down - this seems inevitable, w Canada for instance having their initial round terminate in 2011 i believe, although i don't know if they will then re-negotiate anything else - they will leave Afghanistan in clearly a better position than when the Taliban were in charge, but nascent Afghan institutions will not be robust enough. (tbc, i don't know anything about the status of ISAF contributing nations going forward in terms of which ones have publicly thought ahead long enough to be able to say 'we'll be in X district through 2013, have no fear' or not. so i could well be chatting out of my arse ;) )

i think it's unlikely the (admittedly re-energised) Taliban - w allies such as a different-from-their-pre-9/11-vintage HiG & perhaps other nasty misogynists - will be able to again exercise national control but we know from their attitudes to medicine and education etc, that in districts where they could take over again, the implications of this for Afghan civilians are clearly monstrously, disastrously catastrophic.

(tbc, just because i am not acknowledging above the pervasive issues of contemporary corruption, the killing of civilians in Nato strikes, contemporary allegations of rights abuses by the ANP, age-old hunger and age-old social conservatism in the country doesn't mean i am some starry-eyed armchair warmonger, just that a costs and benefits analysis - plus the Afghans themselves, in countless polls - has demonstrated irrefutably that the worst elements of this insurgency remain a far, far worse proposition than Karzai and some of his shady hoop-jumping w unpleasant bods.)

also w respect to P and Vim and Polystyle in particular - the COIN/military specialists on this thread AFAICT (i pay far less attention to, say, the boards at Abu M than i do to the aid worker reports at the Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee) - i am aware the main international driver in Afghanistan, and her individual ISAF allies, have military objectives there, and although it would be nice if the USA's main purpose in Afghanistan was to improve the lot of Afghan schoolgirls, there are military missions to be had there, i know that.
denying jihadis time and space in the borderlands, and unseating their Islamist landlords has clearly had positive benefits for Afghanistan (to understate massively), granted, but, yes, i am aware, that my pov on the Afghan intervention is a little bit different from, say, P's, which is going to be different again from Dial's, which is etc etc etc.

i don't want to imply i have a reckless attitude toward the lives of armed forces and authority figures in Afghanistan and are only concerned for improvements in the lives of Afghan civilians in total (though that is my main concern tbh).
nor am i advocating some endless 'safe havens' kite-flying mission, where the USA sends her boys off on endless occupations in, say, the next Yemen (http://www.bitterlemons-international.org/inside.php?id=1187), far from it.

BTW P, i have a car-crash rubber necking attitude to some seriously dubious sites sometimes. the "Obama's war" asides i meant in the contexts i'd alluded to were from dicks like Counterpunch, that sort of shower. you probably dislike anti-semitism as much as me, so trust me when i say: don't bother visiting them.

polystyle desu
19-10-2009, 03:32 PM
'Kidnapped by Taliban' , interesting story on the situation in Helmand, the idea of creating - they already have a de facto - Emirate' for those who believe as they do. Held for 7 months ...
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/world/asia/18hostage.html

This just in , an understanding' reached weeks ago ...
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/10/19/world/AP-AS-Pakistan.html

polystyle desu
20-10-2009, 03:22 PM
OK, so Karzai did finally agree to the run off,
got to do it in Nov.,
The Pakistani armed forces are into their third attempt pushing into those deeper tribal areas -where it appears the Taliban have their own society set up.
Those recent articles and the Frontline program really shown how deep and in their own thing these cats are - with Pakistani forces half helping , half fighting them.

Now today a suicide bomber blows up in a Muslim University ?
It may come to me , coffee has to kick in here - but why kill, maim, alienate even more people in your own country ?
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/21/world/asia/21pstan.html?hp

They have two arms and a head there in the 'lost and found' ...

Edit: ok, now I see- it is the 'International' Islamic School that got two suicide bombers today ...
I guess the ' Int.' in their title explains it ...

scottdisco
20-10-2009, 08:38 PM
'Kidnapped by Taliban' was an interesting one, as you said,

cheers

was struck by


"During our time as hostages, I tried to reason with our captors. I told them we were journalists who had come to hear the Taliban’s side of the story. I told them that I had recently married and that Tahir and Asad had nine young children between them. I wept, hoping it would create sympathy, and begged them to release us. All of my efforts proved pointless.

"Over those months, I came to a simple realization. After seven years of reporting in the region, I did not fully understand how extreme many of the Taliban had become. Before the kidnapping, I viewed the organization as a form of “Al Qaeda lite,” a religiously motivated movement primarily focused on controlling Afghanistan.

"Living side by side with the Haqqanis’ followers, I learned that the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world."

then i remembered something Joshua Foust wrote (http://www.registan.net/index.php/2009/10/04/higs-are-pigs-2/) about Nuristan Province (following quote my italics)


On a personal note, I am sad to see the area being abandoned. Nuristan is one of the most interesting, beautiful places in the world, with a mixture of peoples and cultures totally unique in Central Asia. These are the people who fought off Timur, Babur, and Alexander (literally, not just in the mythography of Afghanistan), and until a century ago had the most unique religion in the world. It is a shame to leave them at the hands of such people, but the costs of remaining there simply do not justify the slim benefits.

polystyle desu
20-10-2009, 09:42 PM
Scott , you picked out exactly the same quote as I would have .
Thought that was a kind of amazing point made about their 'emirate'.

polystyle desu
21-10-2009, 04:30 PM
That 'Kidnapped' series continues ...
Drone strike ... next door !
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/21/world/asia/21hostage.html?_r=1&hp

padraig (u.s.)
28-10-2009, 12:55 PM
when it pains it roars

Karzai's brother is said to be on CIA payroll (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33500863)

druglord, paramilitary forces, it's got everything. CIA denies it, obv. this is a $ quote from "an American official"


There’s no proof of Ahmed Wali Karzai’s involvement in drug trafficking, certainly nothing that would stand up in court"

oh yes, he's also supposed to have been deeply involved in election fraud. I don't like facile Vietnam comparisons but it's hard in this case not to think of Diem & the awful Nhus.

in other news, 53 Americans have died in Afghanistan this month, making it the bloodiest month of the war for us (of course casualties go up when you go on a counteroffensive but that doesn't make it any easier to hear).

polystyle desu
28-10-2009, 03:03 PM
CIA seems to have a hand in - everywhere and anywhere and with anyone !

scottdisco
29-10-2009, 12:22 AM
OT in this is about a personality and nothing substantive (without sounding flip, i mean wrt the issues ^ of troops, planning, troop deaths etc), but interesting nonetheless


Peter Galbraith has an op-ed in today’s New York Times in which he rightly points out that the Afghan elections were tainted by fraud, something which several election monitors have also reported...Masud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, is likely guilty of the same fraud and abuse in the recent Kurdish election. Galbraith is intimately involved in Kurdistan and has never uttered a peep about the human-rights abuses and corruption ongoing there. He has never spoken about Barzani family members on the CIA payroll, or Barzani family members involved in drug and weapons smuggling. Why not? Since I posted on the issue last, Galbraith has confirmed to the Norwegian business daily Dagens Naeringsliv what he denied to the U.S. Senate: that he took money from Barzani (and Talabani) in addition to the oil interests which he also has sought to keep secret...Galbraith is doing good work in Afghanistan right now and I’m never upset to see the U.N.’s feet held to the fire for its ineffectiveness. It is too bad that Galbraith ignores the many others fighting against corruption for far longer in Afghanistan and instead makes the episode too much about Galbraith, but that's been Peter's style since he was a Senate staffer. Still, so long as Karzai doesn’t offer Galbraith a consulting or business relationship, Galbraith's pressure will continue, which is good.

The larger point isn’t to pick on Galbraith. He has done great work over the years, and isn’t alone in cashing in on connections.

Rubin at NRO (http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=OWFjMGQ4NzliZjVlMTNmYzc1ODc1MjNlNTU3NzE0ZjU=)

polystyle desu
29-10-2009, 03:26 AM
Karzai's http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/weekinreview/25filkins.html?hpw

polystyle desu
30-10-2009, 02:00 AM
related to 9/11
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/10/29/world/AP-AS-Pakistan-Inside-Waziristan.html?_r=1

polystyle desu
02-11-2009, 05:28 PM
That 'weak partner's' the one left to deal with
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/02/world/asia/02assess.html?hp
:(

mms
02-11-2009, 07:53 PM
just watched the news to see a lad i was friends with at junior school who's a sergeant in the bomb disposal unit being interviewed, that was quite a shock, hadn't seen him in years, but it turned out he's the latest casualty in Afghanistan which is pretty depressing.

polystyle desu
02-11-2009, 10:07 PM
That's tough and sorry to hear that mms.
Here today , sometimes gone today too

mms
02-11-2009, 10:16 PM
That's tough and sorry to hear that mms.
Here today , sometimes gone today too

just a bit depressing really, i'd not seen him for years, but i was quite pleasantly surprised to see him on the telly only to find out he'd just been killed. oh well.

padraig (u.s.)
02-11-2009, 11:33 PM
very sorry to hear that. my condolences. bomb techs have a goddamn tough job.

scottdisco
04-11-2009, 08:09 AM
i am very sorry, mms.

condolences.

was reading about him in the paper yday, a genuine "legend" and incredibly brave, his CO said. he was due to see his five yo lad and partner next week.

in other British soldier news, five were killed in Helmand yday. not via blast but gunshot wounds apparently, which is quite a notable detail imo.

ah


Five British soldiers have been shot dead after a rogue Afghan policeman opened fire inside a check point,

The soldiers, three from the Grenadier Guards and two from the Royal Military Police, died in the Nad-e’Ali district of Helmand Province yesterday afternoon.

It is thought a further three Afghan police officers were also killed and up to six men injured.

i initially assumed a firefight in theatre i admit (hence my notable shout)

polystyle desu
04-11-2009, 10:21 AM
'Rogue' killer ... Bad situations in Helmand.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/05/world/asia/05afghan.html?hp

polystyle desu
10-11-2009, 08:40 PM
materials found http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/11/world/asia/11afghan.html?hp

vimothy
17-11-2009, 12:44 PM
just watched the news to see a lad i was friends with at junior school who's a sergeant in the bomb disposal unit being interviewed, that was quite a shock, hadn't seen him in years, but it turned out he's the latest casualty in Afghanistan which is pretty depressing.

This guy?

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6907794.ece

vimothy
17-11-2009, 02:35 PM
Hegghammer on the "small footprints" fallacy: http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/11/11/the_big_impact_of_small_footprints

polystyle desu
30-12-2009, 03:50 PM
Paying to play in former strongholds
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/30/world/asia/30mine.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

polystyle desu
05-01-2010, 08:27 PM
Story of the double agent that really burned them ...
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/05/world/asia/05cia.html?ref=world

sufi
06-01-2010, 12:32 AM
see yr double agent and raise you
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/04/afghanistan-cia-bomber-triple-agent

vimothy
26-01-2010, 03:59 PM
Two recent pieces from Peter Bergen:

The Front: The Taliban-Al Qaeda merger (http://www.tnr.com/article/world/the-front)

The Battle for Tora Bora--How Osama bin Laden slipped from our grasp: The definitive account (http://www.tnr.com/article/the-battle-tora-bora).

polystyle desu
27-01-2010, 04:35 PM
Two recent pieces from Peter Bergen:

The Front: The Taliban-Al Qaeda merger (http://www.tnr.com/article/world/the-front)

The Battle for Tora Bora--How Osama bin Laden slipped from our grasp: The definitive account (http://www.tnr.com/article/the-battle-tora-bora).

Thanks Vim, Bergen is usually otm .
And this account just shows how military past is almost always prelude - or direct guide to the present and future.
Boo ! Those cats were that close ...
Somewhere there is a 'great escape' movie brewing.

polystyle desu
23-02-2010, 04:19 PM
Racking them up up in Quetta, the Pakistan side of things.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/world/asia/23islamabad.html?hp

padraig (u.s.)
27-04-2010, 05:58 PM
We Have Me the Enemy and He Is Powerpoint (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/world/27powerpoint.html)

yup. I can sympathize. doing research I've quickly found out that, science, like war (apparently), is governed by the necessity of producing powerpoints for a neverending stream of presentations.

or: just another way for Microsoft to screw everyone.

Mr. Tea
27-04-2010, 06:18 PM
Ha, how long before we have commanders saying such-and-such an offensive has encountered difficulties because their detachment was supplied with the wrong calibre of bullet(-point)s?

IME powerpoint per se isn't the problem, it's people who don't know how to use it. The two worst kinds of offender are people who think it's acceptable to produce slides that are nothing but wall-to-wall text, usually in black Times New Roman on plain white, which is then typically read out loud to you for extra 'impact'; and dicks who are apparently convinced the way to use a laser pointer is to keep it on the whole fucking time and wave it around in a lazy circle on every slide while addressing the audience. Edit: and then there are the clip-art junkies, God help us...

People should be made to take a basic profficiency course in PP before being allowed to use it. And no-one who hasn't passed at least Intermediate should be allowed within arm's reach of a laser pointer. Gah.

padraig (u.s.)
27-04-2010, 07:21 PM
IME powerpoint per se isn't the problem, it's people who don't know how to use it.

well, you know what they say: power corrupts, powerpoint corrupts absolutely.

massrock
18-06-2010, 12:13 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/14/world/asia/14minerals.html


So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the American officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact.

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources.