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Tilting at Windmills

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July 15, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

PAKISTAN....There are all sorts of terrorism-related issues to be worried about, but if al-Qaeda is at the top of your list then that means that Pakistan is also at the top of your list. Here's what Barack Obama had to say about Pakistan in his big national security speech today:

The greatest threat to [the shared security of Afghanistan and the United States] lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train and insurgents strike into Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as President, I won't. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.

Make no mistake: we can't succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people. It's time to strengthen stability by standing up for the aspirations of the Pakistani people. That's why I'm cosponsoring a bill with Joe Biden and Richard Lugar to triple non-military aid to the Pakistani people and to sustain it for a decade, while ensuring that the military assistance we do provide is used to take the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda. We must move beyond a purely military alliance built on convenience, or face mounting popular opposition in a nuclear-armed nation at the nexus of terror and radical Islam.

"We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region." This is where the rubber hits the road, and it really ought to be a key campaign issue. But it probably won't be, for the same reason that Medicare usually takes a back seat to Social Security in arguments over entitlement growth: It's too hard. It's relatively easy to talk about Iraq (let's leave vs. let's stay) or even Afghanistan (more troops vs. lots more troops), but al-Qaeda is in Pakistan right now and nobody has a good answer about what we should do about that. The Bush administration has bobbled back and forth over the past seven years, accomplishing little, and frankly, liberal analysts haven't done much better.

Not that I really blame them. I sure don't know what to do. I'm not convinced that more helicopters and more predator drones are going to help much — though I'm open to argument on this score — but I'm also not convinced that tripling non-military aid to Pakistan is going to make a big difference either.

In any case, when we talk about Afghanistan we're really mostly talking about Pakistan — and that means that Pakistan really deserves more than an occasional brief mention from the two candidates. It's the biggest, most intractable problem we face in the region, and we don't know what to do about it.

Kevin Drum 2:29 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (79)

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Comments

It's so nice to finally be sitting at the grown-ups table.

Posted by: House Whisperer on July 15, 2008 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

We have to make it worthwhile for the non-tribal (well, less tribal, anyway) regions of Pakistan to expend the political (and military) capital necessary to tame the tribal regions, so that it's a real country and stuff. Right now, the country is run according to a fairly explicit understanding that the NW region is autonomous.

Posted by: dj moonbat on July 15, 2008 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Greg Mortenson, Three Cups of Tea, shows one way to go.

Posted by: Bill Harshaw on July 15, 2008 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

We all know the cure to fixing Pakistan is by attacking Iran.

*snark*

Posted by: Jet on July 15, 2008 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has been pretty hawkish on Pakistan since I started paying attention to the primary. It has surprised me that this point -- which is likely more appealing to the right than to the left -- hasn't gotten more attention.

Soon, liberals will be complaining about Obama moving to the center on this issue, though he's been there all along and made no secret of it.

Posted by: tom on July 15, 2008 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "It's the biggest, most intractable problem we face in the region ..."

The reason that the USA faces so many "problems" in so many "regions" is our insatiable, gluttonous appetite for devouring the world's natural resources and exploiting cheap labor, and our penchant for overthrowing popular elected governments, and installing and supporting dictatorships and state terrorism to enable us to do so.

When US foreign policy is no longer premised on the use of the half-trillion-dollar-plus per year US military as a mercenary army to protect the interests of giant corporations that are plundering the planet, many of "our" problems in many "regions" will miraculously disappear.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 15, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

"...and frankly, liberal analysts haven't done much better."

Liberal analysts, in 2002 & 2003, opposed invading Iraq in part precisely so that we would not diffuse or neglect our actions in Afghanistan. Since the invasion of Iraq, the liberal analysts urged a definite end date to the invasion so that the US could better deal with Afghanistan, while many urged the non-responsive Bush administration to refocus on the Afghan deployment.

Liberal analysts have been unsuccessful since the invasion of Iraq in large part due to obtuse "progressive" bloggers like Kevin Drum, who supported the invasion, subsequently sang their mea culpas, and afterward,spent much their time lambasting "liberal" analysts for not solving the problem that they were in favor of creating.

Anything to move up to the big leagues, eh Kevin?

Posted by: dick tuck on July 15, 2008 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

The biggest, most intractable problem in the region is the US military. Sen. Obama is pandering to the American belief that our hard power can somehow solve foreign hostility to US hegemony. The more the US intervenes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the more popular the Taliban and the Pakistani fundamentalists become.

Since the invasion of Afghanistan, the Northwest Frontier territories of Pakistan have become more unstable and more aligned with the religious fundamentalism of the Taliban. This instability was not caused by religious fundamentalism, it was caused by the escalation of violence that occurred after the US invasion of Afghanistan and the infusion of billions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan. Enforcing American will on these peoples creates a destabilizing pushback in the region, which would seem to be the opposite of the stated purpose for using American power. Sadly Sen. Obama probably knows this, but cannot state it if he wants to be elected president.

Posted by: Brojo on July 15, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

tom wrote: "Obama has been pretty hawkish on Pakistan since I started paying attention to the primary."

Based on the excerpt that Kevin quoted, the only really "hawkish" comment from Obama is the one endorsing a unilateral US strike against Al Qaeda in Pakistan, should such a strike ever be possible (e.g. if Bin Laden were located and targeted there).

Obama's comments criticizing Bush's support of the notorious dictator Musharraf, proposing to support the Pakistani people instead, and proposing a tripling of non-military aid to Pakistan over an extended period, don't seem particularly "hawkish" to me.

What I would most like to hear Obama talk about, which he has not, is what steps he would take either short term or long term, to persuade both Pakistan and India to relinquish and abandon their nuclear weapons.

One of the most important things an Obama administration should address, second only to global warming, is to reverse the CheneyBush administration policy of promoting and rewarding nuclear weapons proliferation, and to work towards the global abolition of all nuclear weapons, including the US nuclear arsenal, which the USA is and has long been obligated to do under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 15, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

We need to be careful about jumping from the frying pan into the fire, or rather, from one quagmire to another (i.e. Iraq to Afghanistan).

Very careful

Posted by: airron on July 15, 2008 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

More satellites??? That's going to take a few years, at least, and a whole lot of money.

More drones??? That's going to take a few years, at least, and a whole lot of money.

Frankly wouldn't it be better if Obama first visited the region and talked to the local pols directly, as he is so fond of saying that that is what he will do. Also it probably wouldn't hurt if he used his role as chairman of the foreign relations subcommittee covering european matter to talk with the NATO folks and see what they felt was necessary.

Posted by: optical weenie on July 15, 2008 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Pakistan is not going to give up it's nuclear weapons unless India does. India is not going to give up it's nuclear weapons unless China does. China is not going to give up it's nuclear weapons, period.

Posted by: Will Allen on July 15, 2008 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

GET A FUCKING MOPED AND FOLLOW HIM, that's how OSAMA BIN LADEN got past US. (120 mpg) Since NO ONE is out chaseing BIN LADEN then, in reality, no one is REALLY after AQ. FACE FACTS, he got away and he's safe and sound in the bosom of OUR ally. OUR ally is nuclear armed so WE won't be going into Pakistan after him. Give them a lot of MONEY and MAYBE they will tire of their friend and give him to US, or maybe not.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 15, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

To be more clear, China isn't going to abandon nuclear weapons if Russia has them, and there is absolutely no way, even if the U.S. gave up nuclear weapons that Russia, in it's current demographic state, would expose it's Siberian flank to the Chinese Army while giving up nuclear weapons.

Posted by: Will Allen on July 15, 2008 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

IMPEACH THE LOSER IN CHIEF, call Nan @1-202-225-0100 DEMAND IMPEACHMENT.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 15, 2008 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

OUR ally is nuclear armed so WE won't be going into Pakistan after him. Posted by: Mike Meyer

Our "ally" may be nuclear armed, but they don't do you much good if you have to drop them on your own people to get at the American's and NATO troops chasing the Taliban and AQ into the NW Territories. Otherwise, Pakistan's nuclear arms are of no concern to us. Pakistan armed itself thusly strictly to intimidate India.

Posted by: Jeff II on July 15, 2008 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK
We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border

Except the European members of NATO do not even slightly agree. They think our intervention in Afghanistan is idiotic. Some little suck-up countries will make token efforts; but the rest will let NATO die before they'll send soldiers to die in Afghanistan. Too many PMs have already been voted out of office for trying to cooperate with American lunacy in the Middle East.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on July 15, 2008 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Secular Animist and Brojo have it about right. Pakistan is a big complex country, but our policy -as seen by Pakistanis is single track (make the Pakistanis track down US enemies, and live in fear of predator missile attacks). This is obviously a really effective way to win friends and influence people. And aside from internal problems with Islamic radicals, and restive tribal areas, Pakistan is falling apart. With our totally local vision (but global military reach), we only see our own problems, and give nary a thought for how others feel. We think we are the only country in the world facing financial and energy challenges. The Pakistani financial and energy systems are falling apart. The people are near to rioting. If we don't want a nuclear armed failed state, we had better get our act together.

Of course on our current trajectory, the US is likely to follow Pakistan as the worlds second nuclear armed failed state.

Posted by: bigTom on July 15, 2008 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Bush and McCain tend to speak in codes when they talk about Al Qaeda or "Islamic terrorism." They actually mean a variety of things such as a protracted US military presence in the Gulf region to insure ready access to oil, bolstering Israel, denying Iran access to nuclear technology, and finally, containing Al Qaeda. Because of all these considerations, except the last, the war in Iraq is much more important to them than confronting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The challenge for Obama is to make clear the contradictions between Bush and McCain's stated purpose and the actions taken and contemplated by them,and force McCain to acknowledge and justify the true purpose of his stand.

Posted by: Independent on July 15, 2008 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

We have to get over our obsession with AQ. It clouds our thinking, and simply gives decision making to the worst elements in our political system. And, guess what, the rest of the world does not have an obligation to share our follisg national obsession. (That also goes with our anti-Iranian obsession -its time to get over 1979 folks). Look at what the past seven years of obsessional thinking have brought us. Two disastrous wars, a religiouslike worship of all things military, turned us into the worlds bully, let us ignore our ruinous borrowing, and dependence on oil, which is now skyrocketing in price. Now we are on the brink of one heck of a big economic recession/depression, and millions of our countrymen will soon be unable to afford to heat their homes, or drive to work. If we don't clear our minds, and start thinking clearly, we are going to be in for some really tough sledding ahead.

Posted by: bigTom on July 15, 2008 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

There's so much history in all these areas that no one will ever find an actual, workable solution. At least, not in terms of aid or the military.

All we've done is stir up long-seated hatred, given an excuse for extremists, and allowed tribal leaders to take revenge and corrupt every corner of society.

So unless we're ready to flood the region with half a million troops or more, fight a war like ... well, a war (i.e. not worry about civilians and fight back with extreme prejudice), and follow all that up with billions and billions of dollars in aid and reconstruction, there is no way to win.

Well, all religions could go away, since that's about 98% of the problem. But that ain't gonna happen.

So all we keep getting is stuff that sounds good, but really won't do anything.

I know that sounds pessimistic/fatalistic, but until someone can show me how a few more satellites and several thousand more of our troops is going to work, it seems like the right way to view the situation.

Posted by: Mark D on July 15, 2008 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

The great thing about making strategy against al-Qaeda in Pakistan an issue is that every mention is a chance to remind Americans that Bush let Osama bin Laden get away.

We need to take actions A, B, C because the Republicans haven't gotten Osama bin Laden.

Obama's policy against al-Qaeda is necessary because Republicans let Osama bin Laden escape.

The Republicans haven't captured Osama bin Laden, so why take their complains about Barack Obama's proposals seriously?

Posted by: jim Lund on July 15, 2008 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

If ur fitin Islamic nuts, then first you shoot some Paks, then some Arabs, then some Paks, getting ur occasional Afghan in the mix.

Posted by: MattY on July 15, 2008 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is absolutely on the mark here. Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world and we have been molly-coddling an unelected dictator there too long, not to mention selling them advanced weaponry (F-15s, etc.) We funded Pakistan's spooks (ISI) for years, and they are in cahoots with bin Laden. I say, (1) Stop all funding and arms shipments to Pakistan immediately. (2) Give Musharraf 48 hours to step down and leave the country. (3) Give his successor and ultimatum - the U.S. surrounds the tribal areas and slowly tightens the noose, disarming every last human being in that area or they are toast. (4) Make it clear that we want their nuclear arsenal dismantled immediately. Enough screwing around - we have allowed this viper's nest to fester for too many years.

Posted by: Fred Flintrock on July 15, 2008 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

when we talk about Afghanistan we're really mostly talking about Pakistan

We're also talking about the graveyard of empires.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc on July 15, 2008 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Airron is on the money with this comment...


We need to be careful about jumping from the frying pan into the fire, or rather, from one quagmire to another (i.e. Iraq to Afghanistan).

Very careful

Posted by: airron

Posted by: antiquelt on July 15, 2008 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

But if I don't jump out of the frying pan into the fire, how am I going to burn all this peanut oil off my feet?

Posted by: thersites on July 15, 2008 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Historically the ISI has had strong ties with both Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Both were nurtured by the ISI with US dollars. So, send all the troops, helicopters, satellites, and Predator drones into the region you want, but it won't mean a thing till we do something about ISI.

I don't know what can be done about ISI (it would be nice to do to ISI what we did to Saddam's army, but we all know how well that turned out, eh?), but something has to be done. Otherwise the candidates can bloviate all they want, it won't mean a damn thing.

Posted by: majun on July 15, 2008 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not convinced that more helicopters and more predator drones are going to help much — though I'm open to argument on this score — but I'm also not convinced that tripling non-military aid to Pakistan is going to make a big difference either.

Agree. But it might provide some needed leverage. Pakistan and India (and China) need to settle their differences in the North. An agreement is needed on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border that the Pashtun will support. (Of course that may make the Kurds more aggressive in seeking a similar give, which would upset everyone in the area.)

A Grand Bargain might be a bridge too far. However, there is dire need for a broader and more coherent strategy that goes beyond what we have seen, and Pakistan will remain a key player for the foreseeable future. Obama hints at that, but the "get Osama" focus troubles me. While I'm as much for getting Osama as anyone, that alone is an insufficient basis on which to base our strategy.

Posted by: has407 on July 15, 2008 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

There's a Realpolitik answer — partition Afghanistan.

Give the south to Pakistan, the Shi'a-dominated west to Iran and let the Northern Alliance either be an independent state or else join Turkmenistan or Tajikstan.

Again, per Juan Cole, do NOT put more troops if Afghanistan if nothing is going to change in Pakistan. This is an effing no-brainer.

Kevin: Some left-liberal pundits said, in 2002, don't even get involved in Afghanistan, or at least not unless you were going address the Pakistani root cause from the start.

Ted Rall said that, for example.

Too bad nobody Democratic or Republican listened. For the rest of the bitchfest on this, I ditto Dick Tuck.

BigTom at 4:22 has it right. OBL has become a "tar baby" for us.

There's a Realpolitik answer — partition Afghanistan.

Give the south to Pakistan, the Shi'a-dominated west to Iran and let the Northern Alliance either be an independent state or else join Turkmenistan or Tajikstan.

Secular Animist: A unilateral strike against Pakistan would be nutbar, whether proposed by Obama or McCain.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 15, 2008 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Did anyone see Richard Clarke on either Matthews or Countdown last night, on MSNBC? He was very well explaining how Obama has been right about where the "real war" is, how Iraq diverted precious resources from the fight in Afghanistan/Pakistan border, how Obama has been both right and essentially consistent about Iraq, etc. If you can get the transcript, it's basic and short yet so well parsed and phrased. A good piece to paste up anywhere you need to defend Obama against McAncient (the ilbiterate one), to dump on Shrub, etc.

PS: Countdown also had a hilarious comparison of that SC governor "Mark" Sanford, Jr. bumbling and stumbling about if he could think of even one difference between McSame's (!) and Bush's economic plans/policies, intershot with that gorgeous but pitiful Miss SC blithering incoherently about Iraq, jobs, South Africa, and you know, such as that ... Heh, what Sanford finally came up with (NAFTA) was shown to be no real difference anyway. Pitiful.

Posted by: Neil B. ♪ ♪ ♪ on July 15, 2008 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

SocraticGadfly at 5:52: There's a Realpolitik answer — partition Afghanistan.

In what reality is that a viable solution?

Partitioning India worked so well, didn't it? Certainly the West did an excellent job of paritioning the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. We haven't had any trouble from that part of the world at all.
In fact whenever the Western powers go to some other part of the world and draw national borders on behalf of the poor benighted natives, the outcome is always excellent for all concerned.


Posted by: thersites on July 15, 2008 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

SocraticGadfly wrote: "Secular Animist: A unilateral strike against Pakistan would be nutbar, whether proposed by Obama or McCain."

Actually, I wrote that based on Kevin's excerpt, Obama was endorsing "endorsing a unilateral US strike against Al Qaeda in Pakistan" -- not a unilateral strike "against Pakistan".

What I was referring to was Obama's assertion in that quote that "if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights."

Whatever one may think of that, it is not the same thing as a "unilateral strike against Pakistan".

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 15, 2008 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

"We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region."

Yeah, we don't want to scare off the Military Industrial Complex because we all know what happens when you don't accommodate monolithic mega corps like AT&T and Verizon.

Posted by: Me_again on July 15, 2008 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't we build a fence about 12 feet high and we can get a bunch of old farts to guard it. That should solve the problem because it will certainly discourage any thinking individual.

Posted by: Milt on July 15, 2008 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

Well, since Obama has some connection to Pakistan policy, let me reiterate something from the "New Yorker" thread:

I think it's curious that no one yet (as of 7/15, 6:08 PM) mentioned the title of the cover art in that thread. It was given just inside as "The politics of fear." That pretty well explains the point, even though much criticism is well-enough founded. Not only that, there were good serious articles inside about Obama which in effect countered the silly cover. But it's still a bit teeth gritting even though I can't help snickering at it.

PS: Newsweek has some great pieces about Obama this week, including his faith. Maybe it's a sort of scheme, to stir up interest in "the real thing." I hope it works like that.

Posted by: Neil B. ♪ ♪ ♪ on July 15, 2008 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

theresites wrote: "Certainly the West did an excellent job of partitioning the remnants of the Ottoman Empire."

They knew what they were doing. A British diplomat at the time called it "the peace to end all peace". It was a deliberate strategy to create unstable countries ruled by minority elites who would be totally dependent on the West to remain in power.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 15, 2008 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kamiya says get over the New Yorker cover

I agree with Gary Kamiya’s assessment of the brouhaha behind The New Yorker’s Obama cover.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 15, 2008 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Fred Flintlock can explain precisely how he intends to make Pakistan's government "toast", also explaining how whomever, with varying degrees of devotion to theocratic/manichean views of the world, subsequently gains control of their nuclear weapons, may respond to being made into "toast".

The United States will not be making any government of Pakistan into "toast" unless it becomes convinced that their nuclear weapons are already in play.

Posted by: Will Allen on July 15, 2008 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII: They can always drop it on Afghanistan, WE STILL will have bases there to cook.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 15, 2008 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps, SecularAnimist. But it still hasn't really worked to our (the West's) long-term advantage, has it?

Posted by: thersites on July 15, 2008 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I wrote that based on Kevin's excerpt, Obama was endorsing "endorsing a unilateral US strike against Al Qaeda in Pakistan" -- not a unilateral strike "against Pakistan".

Ahh, I wouldn't worry to much, instead of offering a blank check to President Musharraf, we're going to give a ONLY a blank check to Pakistan citizenry.

We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people. It's time to strengthen stability by standing up for the aspirations of the Pakistani people.

Of course, we've already been offering cash for bin Laden however one has ever come forward for the huge cash rewards, so how effective could be? I don't know.

Posted by: Me_again on July 15, 2008 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Secular Animist: Since AQ in Pakistan is, er, in Pakistan, I humbly suggest the Pakistani government would consider that a unilateral strike against AQ-P would be a unilateral strike against. Whether your proposal would be a big enough strike to unilaterally ruffle Pakistani feathers remains to be seen (or hopefully, does not remain to be seen).

Thersites... I don't know if you favored partition of Iraq or not, but I don't see the difference, either in terms of Realpolitik. As for viability, I don't think it would be any less viable. "Afghanistan" has certainly not always had today's borders. Nor has it always been independent. Ask Genghis Khan or Tamerlane about that.

As for partitioning India, that was an "inside job" by Jinnah, ultimately. Don't blame that one on the West.

Posted by: SocraticGdafly on July 15, 2008 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Just more proof that obama is just going to fuel the military-industrial complex and answer to the same criminal cabal.

He is a con - a scam - doesn't deserve our support.

Wait 'til he picks up where chimpy left off with the Social Security bamboozle - he will be the "leader" that dismantles the most effective federal program of all-time.

He has already started "catapulting the propaganda" about the same fake "crisis" that chimpy tried to scam us with.

Don't kid yourself - obama is just as bad as anyone because he actually represents the same interests but with slicker rhetoric.

Posted by: on July 15, 2008 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Gadfly: Don't blame that one on the West.

Of course not. I can read a map. Britain is east of here.

Posted by: thersites on July 15, 2008 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

We either need: (1) some really good intelligence operations involving many Pakistani nationals working as covert agents, (2) some really unconventional intelligence techniques, or (3) to be able to just surprise and surround specific areas (like whole towns) in Pakistan where we think Osama may be hiding, arrest all the people there and sort through them somehow, and search all the structures, etc., in those areas once the people are moved.

Of course, all this has probably been thought of before and I don't know what the military objections to each approach might be, but option 3 obviously would be a dramatic surrender of sovereignty from Pakistan to us even for a temporary operation. Considering that we basically have given them loads of money and got swindled in return, it's also hard to imagine what kind of leverage it would take to get them to meekly submit to this.

Posted by: Swan on July 15, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

or (3) to be able to just surprise and surround specific areas (like whole towns) in Pakistan where we think Osama may be hiding, arrest all the people there and sort through them somehow, and search all the structures, etc., in those areas once the people are moved.

Even this may not be so simple, if you consider that the Pakistanis might think of putting Osama in some place like a little home located in the wilderness in a rural area a few miles off from a town. Osama's existence would be supported by garnering supplies from (and possibly communicating through) the town, but trying to get him by capturing the town would really require knowledge of many such satellite cabins that are connected only by foot/donkey paths way off the beaten track.

Located in such a place, it seems like it would be all too easy for Osama to be tipped off about the intended operation and slip out so long as we hadn't located the cabins and watched each of them as well.

The upshot is: Osama could be anywhere. He and other Al Qaeda honchos could be spending half their time living in the back of a truck.

Posted by: Swan on July 15, 2008 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Swan: arrest all the people there and sort through them somehow, and search all the structures, etc., in those areas once the people are moved.

This procedure is guaranteed to not arouse any more anti_American sentiment.

we basically have given them loads of money and got swindled in return

I don't know much but here is one guaranteed fact. The people we'll be arresting and "sorting through" will not have seen a dime of those "loads of money."

Posted by: thersites on July 15, 2008 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Bin Laden attacked us; we should get him. All this other stuff is a waste of trillions of dollars. The Taliban is not our enemy, except as we occupy their country. The idea that their culture is inferior and we should "liberate" the savages and their women is racist.

Posted by: Luther on July 15, 2008 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Would Nurse Ratched like to come and adjust Swan's meds? Also, it looks like his bedpan might need changing.

Posted by: optical weenie on July 15, 2008 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Swan's meds fell off the back of a truck.
Entropy at work.

Posted by: nurse ratched on July 15, 2008 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

Our great President built us the Pervez Musharraf memorial statue. It provides great shade in July!

How dare you infidel dogs slander the name of Pervez Musharraf! He came to the dedication of the statue! He threw candy from his vehicle! He fired bullets at Bhutto relatives!

President Musharraf has passed many American dollars on to us!

Posted by: Ahmed Abdel-Rahman on July 15, 2008 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

For the waggish Thersites — OK, don’t blame Great Britain for India’s partition. Or Churchill. Or Halifax.

On a more serious note, at Amazon, I recommend “Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age,” five-starred by yours truly.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 15, 2008 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Considering hiser (my "his or her", XOR should I say "his XOR her" unless I am including hermaphrodites - my apologies to any among us) previous usually intelligent comments, I think Swan is being a bit sarcastic or doing the thing of, "In order to do X we'd need to ________" as a sort of showcase of how much trouble it really is. I don't think hiser really would approve of arresting all the villagers etc. Maybe ditto for some floats up there by various, re partition Pakistan (done by ______ ?) etc.

Ref. to meds, Nurse Ratched etc. is funny to me since I was a psychiatric aide back in the day.

Posted by: Neil B. ♪ ♪ ♪ on July 15, 2008 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Would Nurse Ratched like to come and adjust Swan's meds? Also, it looks like his bedpan might need changing. Posted by: optical weenie

On that Cuckoo's Nest reference . . .

http://www.mynorthwest.com/?nid=15&sid=73567

Posted by: Jeff II on July 15, 2008 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

There are no comments for the Nader post but general speaking has anyone listen or watched Nader lately? He sounds like he suffers with the same problem that McCain has - The AGE problem. He loses his train of thought very easily now and it's pretty sad because he has been general right about great many things. Dennis Kucinich is usually right too on same level as Nader, but nobody will ever vote for elf of man, and that is really a pretty sad statement about the world.

HOWEVER sad fact is that we have some Supreme Court Justices that badly need retirement - so if were not for that, I'd want to send that little snot noised Obama right back to IL where he came from just to spite him. Oh, well, and if Obama gets too Repugish, we can let the Repuges impeachment - the way Bush should be impreach right now.

Anyways, this in news: By Craig Torres and Scott Lanman July 15 (Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke abandoned his June assessment that the threat of an economic downturn had diminished, By Craig Torres and Scott Lanman July 15 (Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke abandoned his June assessment that the threat of an economic downturn had diminished, telling lawmakers that growth and inflation risks are increasing.
.

It sounds kind of weird, Bernanke telling lawmakers that growth and inflation risks are increasing.

So our growth is increasing? In what area? Is it just Big Oil's growth, or unless Bernanke is talking about the growth of despair among US citizenry.

Posted by: Me_again on July 15, 2008 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

The idea that their (the Taliban's) culture is inferior and we should "liberate" the savages and their women is racist. Posted by: Luther

Not all cultures are equal. The Taliban are monsters and their culture is inferior (though they hardly represent all of Afghanistan, such as it is as a country).

Anyone that spend weeks and countless artillery rounds destroying Buddhist hill carvings that pre-date Islam by several hundred years deserve to be "set straight."

However, we do have better things to do than worry about every backward culture in the world. They made their own beds, though, harboring bin Laden.

Posted by: Jeff II on July 15, 2008 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Luther: Bin Laden attacked us; we should get him.

Ok. Assume we get him. Then what?

Posted by: has407 on July 15, 2008 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

there is no al kinda[qaeda?]

only al fresco, al dente.

A-Q is a creation of imperialist,mossadist public relations flaks[i.e, latter day ed bernays]. all trying to create the monster that would stampede the populace to trade liberty for tyranny.

give up this evil empire. bring all the troops home from everywhere. stop bleeding your pocketbooks. enjoy a world that would be mostly peaceful...after all, it has been the usa over the last 60 years that has been the most energetic purveyor of global violence, death and destruction.

oh, and ubl. has been at room temperature for well over a decade. and all the world's intell services know it, have known it.


Posted by: albertchampion on July 15, 2008 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

I am among those who opposed invading Afghanistan. I don't believe that huge army military solutions work in the situations we (and the Arabs/Iranis) face in the Middle East. The Russians didn't succeed in approx. 10 years and Afghanistan is right in their backyard. What gives us the hubris to believe that we will succeed where they didn't. (Oh yeah, American exceptionalism. Anyone who believes in that is automatically going to do the wrong thing.)

Here's a question: would capturing Osama REALLY make any difference? I'm all for using the Bush Maladministration's inability or disinterest in doing so, as a campaign club. But how much difference would it really make? I submit little, if any. The root causes behind why someone like Osama would rise and gain devoted followers, are not being addressed AT ALL by invading Iraq (obviously), or Afghanistan (less obviously).

We need to sit down with all sorts of people from the various Middle Eastern countries and ask them how they view the messes over there and what they would suggest. This means not only people like Maliki, but various leaders in various communities all over the area. These folks have a LOT of legitimate beefs with us. We need to hear what they really are and what they suggest. True conflict resolution always needs to have the problems presented. That doesn't mean that we have to agree with everything said, and obviously we will hear different stories, but I think there will be common threads. Then it's possible to find common ground on some issues and begin to work on those.

We need to take some of the gay translators fired from the military and have them read history books written by the Arabs/Iranis/Turks, as well as current news and commentaries. I have a close friend who is a professor of history, specialty Ottoman Empire, who has spent many summers in Turkey and who reads and speaks the language. She would be an invaluable resource, and there are other people like her. We need to vastly beef up our Middle Eastern studies programs nationwide, and offer full tuition scholarships to those willing to study Arabic/Farsi/Turkish. Some of this is being done already, I believe.

I would have no problem with a crack international force of special ops people, trained in languages and cultures of the region, who could be given the mission of taking out very carefully selected troublemakers, but that's about as far as I think military solutions are workable. I would think poeple would realize by now that massive military invasions, like those which succeeded in WWII, are SO 20th Century!

There are NO short-term solutions, only long-term ones, and we Americans, unfortunately, don't do long-term very well. Finally, energy independence, relying on renewables! DUH!!!! How long do we have to wait for sensible leaders to spearhead this?

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on July 15, 2008 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

I'm also not convinced that tripling non-military aid to Pakistan is going to make a big difference either.

Then, Kevin, you might want to flip to p.19 of the May/June/July issue of the Washington Monthly, and read Kenneth Ballen's piece on "Bin Laden's Soft Support" which gives what appears to be pretty strong evidence that such aid, combined with ceasing to support Musharraf, would indeed make a big difference.

Posted by: on July 15, 2008 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

albertchampion: bring all the troops home from everywhere.

You seriously suggest withdrawing from our Ganymede, Antares and Andromeda outposts? And what about our early warning stations in the Paleozoic and Mesozoic? You would leave them undefended against that-which-cannot-be-named?

If this is an attempt at humor, it is ill-put. We of the Faaar'Touk-Uuuu*Bzzzt*Innna!Urrr-Butttt!!! find your comments inflammatory and offensive in the extreme. You leave us no recourse but to require the surrender of your Alcoa™ headgear at the next clan meeting.

Posted by: has407 on July 15, 2008 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

did you know that the Soviet Archives are indeed open today, and that in those archives, and your local Borders, there exist numerous volumes of tales of how the Soviets ##$$-ed up in Afghanistan?

Posted by: george on July 15, 2008 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

Luther: Bin Laden attacked us; we should get him.
has407 Ok. Assume we get him. Then what?

Flightsuits for everyone!

Posted by: thersites on July 15, 2008 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

I don't claim superior insight to our world affairs, but I do know that the Saudis and the Bushes are very tight.

Me thinks a major con is being waged against the planet by the House of Saud and the House of Bush.

Prove me wrong.

What the f88k are we waging so many wars for?

Oh yeah... The oily bird gets the worm!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on July 15, 2008 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

The British were bloodied three times before they decided to let Afghanistan be and the Russians were similarly bloodied a hundred years later. Its been that way since Alexander the Great was a lad. Afghanistan is a sinkhole for military fortunes.

The solution to Afghanistan, if indeed there is one, is not a military one and winning militarily there is not really on the cards. The solution is to find a way that leaves Afghanistan to itself with the least possible collateral damage to everyone else.

This might sound defeatist to some and realistic to others. Winning in Afghanistan means turning a whole society and culture on its head and changing the way they do things completely, across the board, everyone. Winning is not shooting all the bad guys until there are none left because in this scenario there will always more and more "bad" guys, i.e. people who simply do not accept your premise of necessary change.

Before you start throwing more helicopters and regiments at the problem of Afghanistan you really do have to define what you want to achieve there. And when.

Posted by: Lightflyer on July 15, 2008 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

Flightsuits for everyone!

Can my parachute be golden? I'm mean, if we even get parachutes...

Posted by: elmo on July 15, 2008 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Sure we would all love to get our hands on OBL, and do unspeakable things to him. But does revenge accomplish anything other than momentarily satisfaction? Our quest for revenge is gonna do us in, we are already well down the road to perdition. And we have no one to blame but ourselves. Get over our AQ obsession, before it destroys us.

Interestingly, last week nasty attack of the Indian embassy in Afghanistan. My Indian colleague firmly believes it was the work of the ISI. I wouldn't be surprised if ISI, is helping OBL. But then it has always been a question of who controls who. Does Pakistan government control ISI, or is it the other way around?

Posted by: bigTom on July 15, 2008 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

elmo: ...if we even get parachutes...

Parachutes? You think you need a parachute? Why do you hate America?

Posted by: thersites on July 15, 2008 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

CAPTURE BIN LADEN= NO IRAQ INVASION that's why GEORGE BUSH FAILED to capture him, and still will not make ANY attempt to do so. (YOUR MONEY is just too sweet to pass up and YOU are too green to stop him from taking it ALL)

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 15, 2008 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

Me_again ... Nader is almost two years older than Schmuck Talk, so no doubt he looks tired.

Yet another reason to remember to Go Cynthia!

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 16, 2008 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

We financed, armed and trained the best guerilla force in modern times. One which beat the mighty Soviet Army by bleeding them to death with a thousand cuts. The Afghans are battle tested veterans that never give up (except to deceive their enemy). They will trade numbers at a level that would be near impossible to match. 100:1 losses…No problem, it’s Jihad. These guys make the VC look like fragging amateur hour.

And we wonder why we can’t defeat them handily. Sanctuary, opium financing, etc, is all there. Sound familiar???

Does anyone pay attention to history any more?

Posted by: MLuther on July 16, 2008 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

MLuther: Does anyone pay attention to history any more?

I would direct your attention to Gadfly's comment immediately above. Yeah, the Dem candidate isn't perfect, so we'll vote third party. That'll show them.

Speaking of Houseflies and History, I won't argue historical facts. He's the Father of Philosophy, and I'm a minor character in a myth. But whether the British caused partition or merely acquiesced in it, the outcome was the same, was it not?

Posted by: thersites on July 16, 2008 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Yet another reason to remember to Go Cynthia!
Posted by: SocraticGadfly

You're joking, right? Yes, Go Cynthia! Go away. Far, far away. The U.S. government already has enough nut cases.

Posted by: Jeff II on July 16, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

"I would direct your attention to Gadfly's comment immediately above. Yeah, the Dem candidate isn't perfect, so we'll vote third party. That'll show them."

I think I've already seen that movie. No thanks.

Despite his flaws, Obama is our last hope.

Posted by: MLuther on July 16, 2008 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

"We need to take actions A, B, C because the Republicans haven't gotten Osama bin Laden."
___________________

Convenient,perhaps, from a partisan viewpoint, but not very useful as basis for an actual strategy. There is no guarantee that finding Osama bin Laden would have ended the Al Qaeda and/or Taliban threat in Afghanistan. For that matter, there's no guarantee it would do much now. Al Qaeda had already been fully integrated into the Taliban tribal system by the time of our intervention. We're arrayed against an entire social framework, not one man.

Posted by: trashhauler on July 16, 2008 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK
The greatest threat to [the shared security of Afghanistan and the United States]

I am unconvinced that there is any coherent "shared security of Afghanistan and the United States" against which there can be a threat.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 16, 2008 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

"I am unconvinced that there is any coherent "shared security of Afghanistan and the United States" against which there can be a threat."
______________________

I agree, except for a couple of things. It is presumably in our best interests that Pakistan and India don't nuke each other. And our land line of communications for Afghanistan is through Pakistan.

Barring the building of that semi-mythical oil pipeline across the Afghan plains, I can't think of anything of much interest to us in Pakistan.

Posted by: trashhauler on July 16, 2008 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

Convenient,perhaps, from a partisan viewpoint, but not very useful as basis for an actual strategy [e.g. retrieving bin Laden].

Yes, except for 100% of the time when we pursue every other high-level Al Qaeda member and for some reason it is a useful basis for a strategy.

Except when we use the the need to pursue the lowest level "Al Qaeda" members [who are, in actuality, homegrown Islamists] as an excuse to keep over a hundred thousand troops in Iraq.

Except when killing Zarqawi is vital to crippling "Al Qaeda" in Iraq.

In other words: finding even low level Al Qaeda members is ALWAYS vitally important to every other thing under the sun and a rationale to do the most outlandish things -- except when not finding one makes the Republican party look bad.

There is no guarantee that finding Osama bin Laden would have ended the Al Qaeda and/or Taliban threat in Afghanistan.

We don't work in guarantees, we work on probabilities. There's no guarantee keeping troops in Iraq will change anything and yet you insist it's important.

The likelihood is that bringing bin Laden to justice would have been a major blow to the radical Islamist movement, a huge victory both symbolic and strategic. Instead, failing to even pursue him while invading a middle eastern country that was no threat to us so we could position ourselves near oilfields has been instead a boon to that movement.

Nice fucking job.

Al Qaeda had already been fully integrated into the Taliban tribal system by the time of our intervention.

The Taliban were no threat to the U.S. Period. WTF are you talking about???? We were not enemies, we supplied them with funds, they helped destroy the poppy crop.

You are either a terrible student of current events or just a poor liar.

Alos, given that the Taliban were originally students who formed a militant government and not a "tribe" in this universe, Al Qaeda had not been folded into their social framework. Different languages, different cultures, different religious interpretations. Al Qaeda supplied troops to fight against the Northern Alliance -- whoops, there goes the social framework theory! -- as rent in exchange for a safe haven. That's it.

Barring the building of that semi-mythical oil pipeline across the Afghan plains, I can't think of anything of much interest to us in Pakistan.

Funny that you would think an oil pipeline in a foreign, sovereign country is any of your damn business. Guess my thinking isn't imperialistic enough.

Posted by: trex on July 16, 2008 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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