Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 17, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

PAKISTAN UPDATE....Adm. William Fallon, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters yesterday that U.S. troops might start taking a more active role in Pakistan:

Pakistan is taking a more welcoming view of U.S. suggestions for using American troops to train and advise its own forces in the fight against anti-government extremists, the commander of U.S. forces in that region said Wednesday.

....Although Pakistan has been a close U.S. ally in the war against terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001, the extent of U.S. military involvement inside Pakistan is a highly sensitive subject among Pakistanis.

"My sense is there is an increased willingness to address these problems, and we're going to try to help them," Fallon said. He said U.S. assistance would be "more robust," but he offered few details.

This comes via William Arkin, who notes that although no one is talking about U.S. troops operating unilaterally, "there is a sense of urgency here that suggests that very possibility."

I'm not sure what to think of that. And speaking of things I don't quite know what to think of, France has announced its intention to build a major military base in Abu Dhabi. Marc Lynch comments: "Early spin has suggested that this will allow France to better cooperate with the US against Iran, but this seems shortsighted. A long-term French strategic position in the Gulf challenges American exclusivity, and potentially undermines the fundamental architecture of the hegemonic American position in the Gulf." You can offer your own spin on this in comments.

Kevin Drum 10:16 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (57)

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Comments

Having US troops in Saudi Arabi and Iraq hasn't worked out too well, and we seem to have accomplished nothing much in Afghanistan, either. Maybe the fourth time will be the charm.

Posted by: Martin Gale on January 17, 2008 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

Building the chaos outward. Afghanistan is collapsing, Iraq is in an anarchical cul-de-sac, and so we're moving on to larger and more dangerous countries to fubar.

Posted by: lampwick on January 17, 2008 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

This is welcome news. US troops operating unilaterally in Pakistan will allow us to root out the terrorists and subdue the wild Northwest terrortories like Waziristan. The COIN tactics we've learned in Iraq will serve us in good stead there. In addition, I'm sure the sight of US troops patrolling the streets will quell some of the recent political unrest and give the government some breathing room to set up democratic elections.

On the French side, while I think Sarkozy is the only real man in French, I think the base in the Middle East sets a dangerous precipice and could lead to greater instability. We certainly don't need the EU gettng embroiled in the Middle East.

Posted by: egbert on January 17, 2008 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

Re French base in the Gulf, I don't get what Lynch thinks is going to happen. France certainly doesn't have the resources to police the Gulf on its own. I don't even think Europe as a whole does (although it could develop them if it had to). And this is coming from the most pro-American government in Paris since 1776. I don't see how it can be anything other than a help to us and we should welcome it.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on January 17, 2008 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Egbert, you're so fricking funny...

Oh, I'm sorry, were you being serious?

Kevin: Since Pakistan's own military either can't or won't, now, defend its own forts in the North West Frontier, I'm sure the USofA will do a bang-up job.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on January 17, 2008 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

A long-term French strategic position in the Gulf challenges American exclusivity, and potentially undermines the fundamental architecture of the hegemonic American position in the Gulf.

Utter nonsense. America should run away from the Gulf as fast as it can, and instead focus on conservation at home LIKE WE SHOULD HAVE 28 YEARS AGO. Effing-A, can we finally learn this lesson? Please?

Also, if France wants to tie up resources there, we should let them.

Posted by: F. Frederson on January 17, 2008 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't get too excited. The Arabian peninsula is the birthplace of a variety of unusual cheeses. Halloumi, a sheep cheese a little less salty then feta and great in kebabs; Jamiid cheese, a dry long lasting camel cheese that's great in soup, and don't get me started on goat yogurts. The french are only protecting their interests.

Posted by: B on January 17, 2008 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

When hegemons like the US begin to decline, other powers will naturally step in to take their place. The EU, China, India, Russia, etc. All are former powers in the world, and all are now rising regional powers; any one of them could become a global power. There's no way to say for sure if/when that would happen, but I think China's oil contracts around the world, India's military expansion, everything Putin has done in Russia, and the EU's expansion of its military potential are all examples of where these entities could become more important players in the world.

Posted by: Tim on January 17, 2008 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

Barack Obama looks more right every day. It was not long ago he was ridiculed for suggesting engagement within Pakistan, either with their support or without, to get Osama.

Posted by: Elliott on January 17, 2008 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Amazing!

The participants in the independence movements of the last century must all be rolling in their graves.

I now have a better appreciation for the Department of History at Yale, given the geniosity of the President it has given us.

Posted by: gregor on January 17, 2008 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

Egbert:
"I think the base in the Middle East sets a dangerous precipice and could lead to greater instability. We certainly don't need the EU gettng embroiled in the Middle East."
--
The only 'precipice' I see is the one Bush has taken the US over...

Al=Egbert=29% (What clowns!)

Posted by: Jay in Oregon on January 17, 2008 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

The presence of French military in Abu Dhabi is not something one should be overly concerned about. Camp Lemonier in Djibouti is a French base and the Gauls have many garrisons throughout the whole of Africa.

Posted by: Brian on January 17, 2008 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

France has long had an interest in the Middle East, at least since Napoleon invaded Egypt. It is not at all surprising that they should want to keep us from having an exclusive franchise there.

Posted by: anandine on January 17, 2008 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

B... Goat's milk butter, now that's the ticket. Every once in a while, I splurge and buy some.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on January 17, 2008 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

Uh ... what?

And where will we get these American troops to use in Pakistan? Will we outsource our Army to India?

I thought our military was stretched to the limit. What has changed?

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on January 17, 2008 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent. The U.S. goes into the Middle East for a few years, kills a buncha people, riles up the locals, and then we get the French to take over the whole mess. Call it the Reverse Indo-China Gambit. They'll be stuck there for a decade or so, at least. Payback's a bitch, etc. etc.

Good luck with that, eh?

Posted by: josef on January 17, 2008 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

and then we get the French to take over the whole mess...

450 french sailors and soldiers does not a takeover make.

We use the French base in Djibouti (Camp Lemonier?) for our troops. I see it as a good thing.

Posted by: SJRSM on January 18, 2008 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

And where will we get these American troops to use in Pakistan? Will we outsource our Army to India?
Posted by: BombIranForChrist

Yhe ones alredy in Afghanistan have been peering across the border waiting for permission to cross. They'll be the ones to go (if they go).

Posted by: SJRSM on January 18, 2008 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

Pakistan is taking a more welcoming view of U.S. suggestions for using American troops to train and advise its own forces in the fight against anti-government extremists, the commander of U.S. forces in that region said Wednesday.

Bah. A scam to keep the aid flowing. Maybe the Pakis will kick a little back.

Posted by: Horatio Parker on January 18, 2008 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

Utter nonsense. America should run away from the Gulf as fast as it can, and instead focus on conservation at home LIKE WE SHOULD HAVE 28 YEARS AGO. -F. Frederson

Absolutely fucking godamned right!

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 18, 2008 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

I respect Marc a lot, but on the French basing he's missed something. The French are being up-front - the base is mainly a force-projection toehold to make sure their oil interests in the region (Total and others) are safeguarded. The Brits have long trained the Emirates' armed forces and have a permanent base (in all bar name) there for the SAS for exactly the same reason. Neither really challenges the American footprint. There's also the small matter of a $6 billion nuclear reactor deal between France and the UAE, for which a military base is probably implicitly part of the payment. It helps assure the West that the UAE won't go rogue-state with a nuclear plant on hand by providing on-site insurance against coups etc.

Fear of Iran was probably incited, but only to help clinch the deal.

Regards, C

Posted by: Cernig on January 18, 2008 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

"Pakistan is taking a more welcoming view ..."

Isn't it somewhat problematic saying "Pakistan" is taking any particular view on anything right now?

I assume that means Musharraf, but between assassinations, coups, and pending elections, whose to say "Pakistan's" views might be changing in, oh let's say, the next twelve hours.

Posted by: Robert Earle on January 18, 2008 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

Will we outsource our Army to India?

(thick Indian accent)
Durjaya : “Hello, and thank you very much for calling Karachi Central Command. I am here to give you the very best of service, my name is…Steve”

Lieutenant: “We are cut off and getting slammed by a shit load of four deuces 10 miles northeast of Kalu on the Hyderabad Highway – we need air cover, and we need it now!”

Durjaya : “That is not a problem. I will be able to help you straight at once. First would you please tell me what is your first name, and your last name, and a telephone number that I can call you in the unlikely event that our phone connection is terminated?”

Posted by: someyoungguy on January 18, 2008 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

On the French side, while I think Sarkozy is the only real man in French

The real man among all you've frenched, is what I think you're trying to say here, Egbert.

If you meant the only real man in all of France, a reader has to ask him/herself how you would know that. Doing a lot of field work lately, egbert?

Posted by: chuck on January 18, 2008 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK

Cernig nails it.

Petroleum interests today and nuclear control tomorrow.

See how simple all that great powers stuff is ?

Learn people, learn from the masters.

"History can save your ass." - William Gibson

Posted by: daCascadian on January 18, 2008 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

The French President can deploy the Foreign Legion to a military conflict without permission of the French Parliament.

The Legion has literally centuries of experience in desert climates and desert operations. This will prove very useful if France intervenes in the Persian Gulf region.

It's all about protecting France's oil supply, and securing its share in the lucrative arms and construction markets in the region.

They can sense the growing American weakness (from a position of total supremacy) and are putting their cards down.

Posted by: Valuethinker on January 18, 2008 at 3:38 AM | PERMALINK

If Pakistan falls into the hands of terrorists and then in turn the nukes fall into their hands as well, America's going to need an awfully tough leader to handle the situation. Hillary Clinton has shown time and time again that's she's ready for just such an occurence.

The foreign policy experience that she acquired as First Lady and her term as junior Senator have prepared her for catastrophes like these. Right now Bush is playing hands-off and the terrorists skate. Hillary wouldn't let that happen.

She's tough enough to impose order on that country so that America can be sure those arms will remain safe. Along those same lines, she'll push for democracy as she will throughout the region.

Posted by: KStone on January 18, 2008 at 5:01 AM | PERMALINK

Nixon and Kissinger would not have hesitated here; the area would be raked by B-52s.

Posted by: bob h on January 18, 2008 at 7:33 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is what happened to the Shah of Iran. His overthrow brought a nationalist anti-foreigner regime to power. This regime has been as resilient as it has been noncompliant. The genius solution offered by the neocons was to replace the realpolitik dictators with limited democracy. The people can vote and watch Baywatch, but their parliament cannot nationalize oil or order the closing of American military bases. The dictatorship of a status quo would be hidden behind the window dressing. The dream of limited democracy promotion died with Bhutto; she was supposed to be Pakistan’s Cory Aquino. Probably a stupid choice but she worked hard to promote herself in the halls of imperial power. Now they have to go to the other plan, which was run in South America during the 1970’s. They have to protect the dictatorship from the people.

The elites in France believe the US is on its way out as a global hegemonic power. They are pretty clear minded about peak oil. The instability in the Middle East, since the US cannot control it, nearly necessitates their presence if they are to act in their own interest.

Posted by: bellumregio on January 18, 2008 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

Before the denizens of this board get too enthused about taking on the ungoverned tribes, all should read John Masters' Bugles and a Tiger. The fate of Western powers on that frontier doesn't seem to have changed much since 1936, including IEDs.

Posted by: flintyeyedindependent on January 18, 2008 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

KStone: Hillary! Hillary!

It sure be nice if campaign crap didn't infect threads it has nought to do with.

Agree with Cernig. The EU may be an economic superpower but geopolitically it is still its national parts and France is but a middle power. This is no challenge of the American footprint but a positioning for the future.

I remain cynical about how much American troops could accomplish in Pakistan. I suspect the army's Balochi or Urdu speakers are even more scarce than its Arabic speakers. Some 'progress' can certainly be gained by throwing money around. There will be lots of symbolism all around. There are still strong elements within the Pakistan military that see the Taliban as a useful proxy for Pakistan power projection within Afghanistan. I would expect a lot of fine dancing with the U.S. and any allies not really understanding what they're involved in.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 18, 2008 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Two of my great uncles were in Pakistan and Afghanistan as soldiers during the great days of empire. One in the cavalry at that valley of blood known as the Khyber Pass. Indeed little has changed. I find it endlessly fascinating how the United States is filling the role of the British Empire, in the same locales for the same reasons and as unable to grasp control. The difference is that the American public cannot come to grips with the nature of their empire. No doubt this is because it is incompatible with republican democracy. I am sure Dick Cheney has the guts to face the facts.

Posted by: bellumregio on January 18, 2008 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Re: French base in Abu Dhabi.

How could this be anything but good news. It addresses one of key sources of tension between the US and the EU -- "buck-passing" of security responsibilities on the part of EU countries.

Posted by: kaplan37 on January 18, 2008 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

The USA needs to station troops in every country in the world.

We should be building billion dollar embassies in countries that have pockets of extremism.

90% of our Army National Guard is available to join in this International Crusade.

Into Pakistan = the next phase of Perpetuawar.

God bless America.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 18, 2008 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

the EU -- "buck-passing" of security responsibilities on the part of EU countries.

Um... when it comes to the decision making part of 'security responsibilities', 'buck-passing' by the Europeans and others is highly encouraged, couldn't be more highly encouraged -- by both of your major parties. You really, really don't like having us play a part in these decisions.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 18, 2008 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Some folks here seem to have forgotten (or neglected to think, quelle surprise) that France is one of 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, and was among the first nuclear armed states post WWII.
They've got a strong aerospace industry(with an integral military component -Dassault anyone?) and as was mentioned above, the French Foreign Legion.
And cheese.
Mmmmmmmmmmmm. Cheese ...
/Homer drooling sounds

Posted by: kenga on January 18, 2008 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

BombIranForChrist: And where will we get these American troops to use in Pakistan? Will we outsource our Army to India?

SRJRM: Yhe ones alredy in Afghanistan have been peering across the border waiting for permission to cross. They'll be the ones to go (if they go).

Yes, all 25,000 of them, who already aren't enough to control Afghanistan....And once we send them, then who'll be left in Afghanistan?

Posted by: Stefan on January 18, 2008 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Had the Reagan Administration not funded the mujahedeen in Afghanistan and looked the other way as A.Q. Khan and Pakistan were developing nuclear weapons in the 1980s, we wouldn't be in the horrible predicament that we are in now. Criminal foreign policy by Republican presidents has pushed this great country to the edge of irreversible and catastrophic decline due to military overspending. We need war trials and criminal retribution against Bush I, Reagan and Bush II adminstration officials, including the entire Bush cabinet, immediately!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 18, 2008 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, all 25,000 of them, who already aren't enough to control Afghanistan....And once we send them, then who'll be left in Afghanistan?
Posted by: Stefan

No need to send them, they're already there on the border. They'll just be allowed to follow them across and interdict, vice current ROE which allows the bad guys to have a sanctuary in sight of Afghanistan.

Posted by: SJRSM on January 18, 2008 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Had the Reagan Administration not funded the mujahedeen in Afghanistan and looked the other way as A.Q. Khan and Pakistan were developing nuclear weapons in the 1980s, we wouldn't be in the horrible predicament that we are in now.
Posted by: The Conservative Deflator

Yea, we'd be in some other horrible predicament, like the USSR would still be around prepping for WWIII, not having ground itself to a pulp in Afghanistan.

If Carter had had a sack, we wouldn't be in the predicament we are now either. Or if Clinton had gone in and done away with Bin Laden, we wouldn't be in the mess we are in now. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Posted by: SJRSM on January 18, 2008 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

SJRSM:

You obviously know shit about history. Carter reaped the bitter fruit of Eisenhower's complicity in overthrowing Prime Minister Mossadegh of Iran in 1953 and installing the cruel, dictatorial Shah of Iran. This action led directly to the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that destroyed Carter's presidency. That and the October Surprise, the criminal act of treason engineered by Bush I to have the American hostages held longer to make it look like Retard Reagan actually did something besides soil his diapers.

Bill Clinton also did far more than any other president in trying to get Osama bin Laden, firing cruise missiles into his compound at Tanak Farms. If only Dumbya had done something-anything after being explicitly warned that bin Laden was going to attack the United States. Instead, he hid in a cornfield in Nebraska on 9-11-01 and plotted how to kill Saddam Hussein and take his oil. Some hero. What a criminal worm.

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 18, 2008 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Bill Clinton also did far more than any other president in trying to get Osama bin Laden, firing cruise missiles into his compound at Tanak Farms.
Posted by: The Conservative Deflator

Great. Let's give him a ribbon for trying. The Special Olympics of politics. And I'm sure Eisenhower was reaping the bitter fruit of someone else's policies, who was reaping the bitter fruit of someone else's policies before him, etc. Turtles all the way down.

The liberal policy of governance is to pout and complain it is always someone else's fault...sad.

Posted by: SJRSM on January 18, 2008 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

This is hardly a partisan issue. The history of imperial crimes stretches back to at least the Mexican-American War and if you include what happened to native Americans it has been a condition of Europeans in North America. In this context you can impugn anyone you like.


Backlash, rebellion, ruinously costly wars is what happens when you try to remake the world to serve your interests. You could make trade and commerce without this kind of interventionism, but the people in power in Washington want their hands in every pot and they see threats to the stability of the status quo everywhere.

Although this is not a partisan issue in the broad sense the Bush administration does deserve special repudiation because of the incompetence, their dictatorial approach to American government at home and their frankly brutal and unrepentant approach to America's interests abroad. Guantanamo and the renditions are an abomination.

Posted by: bellumregio on January 18, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

I see the new French base as a plus. I've been hoping for a new re-make of Beau Geste.

Posted by: biggerbox on January 18, 2008 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

At least Democrats are not mass-murdering war criminals....

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 18, 2008 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

At least Democrats are not mass-murdering war criminals....
Posted by: The Conservative Deflator

They do, however, like to stand to sit on the sidelines and watch.

Posted by: SJRSM on January 18, 2008 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

sjrsm: The liberal policy of governance is to pout and complain it is always someone else's fault...sad.

"If Carter had had a sack..." - sjrsm

.."if Clinton had gone in and done away with Bin Laden.." - sjrsm

lol....

meanwhile...

2-invasions...30000 dead and wounded usa troops and 600-billion spent...over the last 6-years

how's that working out?

oh right...

Posted by: mr. irony on January 18, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

The liberal policy of governance is to pout and complain it is always someone else's fault...sad.

Can't....stop...laughing....

Seriously, this is an especially risible case of projection, especially considering its coming from Mike of all people, our very own pouter extraordinaire....

Posted by: Stefan on January 18, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

bellumregio >"...the Bush administration does deserve special repudiation because of the incompetence, their dictatorial approach to American government at home and their frankly brutal and unrepentant approach to America's interests abroad..."

Which is EXACTLY why they were managed into those positions of administrative power. The human population needed to be taught a lesson and what better way than to have "the beacon of democracy" be shown as the hollow propaganda machine that it is.

Time to prepare for the next group of ruling thugs.

"For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill" - Sun Tzu

Posted by: daCascadian on January 18, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

The liberal policy of governance is to pout and complain it is always someone else's fault...sad.

Bullshit. You know it's bullshit, but you just bought into that whole "Republicans Good! Democrats Bad! Republicans Smash!" idiocy, even though you know that's pure, unadulterated bullshit. If you look at recent history there is a long line of Democrats cleaning up elephant shit.

They do, however, like to stand to sit on the sidelines and watch.

Double bullshit. I didn't sit on the sidelines and watch. Neither did my husband. Neither did a whole hell of a lot of Democrats I know.

It's a handy little meme - but it's absolutely false.

Max Blumenthal didn't make Generation Chickenhawk about the college Democrats, after all.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on January 18, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Double bullshit. I didn't sit on the sidelines and watch. Neither did my husband. Neither did a whole hell of a lot of Democrats I know.
Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.)

You were sent to Rwanda by President Clinton to help break up the genocide? I missed that one in the papers. What did he apologize for, then?

Posted by: SJRSM on January 18, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

No, I was sent to Haiti.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on January 18, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

No, I was sent to Haiti.
Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.)

We did good work there.

Posted by: SJRSM on January 18, 2008 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

And I'm late to the thread - but when did that goalpost pick up its skirts and flounce over to Rwanda?

Flounce it over to Kosovo and look for a Major in a SIGINT unit. He'll be wearing blue, and he'll have close-cropped blond curls. That would be my hubby.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on January 18, 2008 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you. We certainly did do good work there. And some of it haunts me still.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on January 18, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

There is no power like the U.S. Stop confusing other countries (like France) with the U.S.

Posted by: mike s. on January 18, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

well, whatever we do, we better do it fast: the Taliban just took two forts over.

Hundreds of militants have overrun a paramilitary fort in north-west Pakistan, killing or kidnapping many troops, the military says.

At least eight soldiers died in the raid and 15 escaped, the army says. The whereabouts of another 25 are unknown.

A Taleban spokesman told BBC Urdu that 16 troops had been killed and another 12 captured during the fighting. Two Taleban died in the fighting, he said.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7191200.stm


Pakistani troops have abandoned a fort in a remote tribal area, a day after another was overrun by pro-Taleban militants, officials and witnesses say.

They say that paramilitary personnel at Sipla Toi military post in South Waziristan left their positions fearing an attack by the militants.

But an army spokesman told the BBC he had received no such reports.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7193281.stm

Posted by: jim on January 18, 2008 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK
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