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Tilting at Windmills

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August 1, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

PAKISTAN UPDATE....I'm not absolutely certain who my choice for scariest group in the world is, but if push came to shove it probably wouldn't be al-Qaeda. It would be the ISI, Pakistan's main intelligence service. Here's the latest:

American intelligence agencies have concluded that members of Pakistan's powerful spy service helped plan the deadly July 7 bombing of India's embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, according to United States government officials.

....The American officials also said there was new information showing that members of the Pakistani intelligence service were increasingly providing militants with details about the American campaign against them, in some cases allowing militants to avoid American missile strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas.

If World War III ever breaks out, I will not be surprised to learn that it was somehow started by the ISI. More here.

Kevin Drum 1:22 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Comments

"A fool lies here who tried to hustle the East".....Kipling

Posted by: R.L. on August 1, 2008 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised it took 5 ****ing years since 9/11 for folks to start talking about the ISI. Anyone with some exposure to geo-politics of the Indian subcontintent knows that ISI had a hand in Taliban and Al Qaeda. You would think that the bozos at teh CIA and the DIA would have a clue and would have pressed Musharraf on cleaning up his ISI act. This is a truly sad country that throws billions of dollars to feed and fatten a lazy intelligence agency, hundreds of billions of dollars to find targets in the wrong country.

It would have been good for a laugh except that this shit happened with my tax money and affects my security and my childrens' security.

Posted by: rational on August 1, 2008 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

rationa, you're being irrational.

The U.S. intelligence services are perfectly aware of the role of the ISI in matters both Taliban and al-Qaeda. You are conflating the lie: spreading democracy in the ME; with the truth: gaining access to Iraq's oil while plonking down our forces in the middle of the real estate for as long as we want.

The ISI is helping in achieving the true aim of the occupation of Iraq, and as such is invaluable.
The U.S. is pissed with Pakistan and the ISI because they haven't been able to secure the pipelines that were supposed to run through Afghanistan - and Russia is now providing an alternative conduit for those hydrocarbons. That's why we're getting the anti-Pakistan stories now.

But the ISI remains valuable as they are also assisting with the occasional "passing of technology to evildoers", providing further rationale for U.S. posturing.

The ISI is simply priceless from Cheney's POV, to speak Mastercard.

Posted by: SteinL on August 1, 2008 at 4:22 AM | PERMALINK

The ISI gave birth to al-Qaeda. They are corrupt and bloodthirsty to the core, proving once again that the so-called "intelligence services" of various nations are the greatest threat to democracy and world peace there is - including our own CIA. Read Steve Coll's excellent book Ghost Wars for more evidence.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on August 1, 2008 at 6:41 AM | PERMALINK

Mossad is the most out of control.

Posted by: Intelvet on August 1, 2008 at 7:54 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not absolutely certain who my choice for scariest group in the world is, but if push came to shove it probably wouldn't be al-Qaeda. It would be the ISI, Pakistan's main intelligence service.

This statement presumes there's a difference.

Posted by: Gregory on August 1, 2008 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Fortunately, Pakistan doesn't have any nukes, so the ISI can't smuggle one to Al Qaida for some dramatic Rove-inspired October Surprise thwarted by ignoring constitutional protections.

Oh, wait...

Posted by: RepubAnon on August 1, 2008 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

mossad or us intelligence 17 agencies alphabet soup ( cia / dia / nro / nsa / etc etc ) are my choices for "scariest group in the world".

Posted by: wtf over on August 1, 2008 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Eh, the ISI has nothing on the CIA in terms of the most awful and destructive organization in the world. If World War III starts out, I wouldn't be surprised if the CIA was behind it.

Posted by: Dan on August 1, 2008 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

If we have to take a few nukes, as long as Israel is OK it'll be worth it.

Posted by: Luther on August 1, 2008 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

"If World War III starts out, I wouldn't be surprised if the CIA was behind it." -Dan

Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if the CIA was on both *sides* of it.

Posted by: Chris on August 1, 2008 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Notice all those conservatives talking about how Obama was wrong to threaten Pakistan, "They're a strong US ally in the GWOT" blah blah?

Posted by: Neil B on August 1, 2008 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

SteinL nails it

All the rest is simply commentary.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw

Posted by: daCascadian on August 1, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Usually weak countries do not start wars against strong countries. Wars are almost always started by strong countries against weaker ones. Pakistan might be stronger than Afghanistan, but is much weaker than India and the US, so it would be rather incredible for it to start a world war. The ISI might be able to accomplish terrorist acts against India and the ruling Afghan regime, like the CIA does in Iran, but it hardly has the capacity to start conflicts between the US and Russia or China.

Posted by: Brojo on August 1, 2008 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo, WWI was started by Serbia, but ended up being all about Britain, Germany, Russia, and France. I think that is what he means by starting WWIII.

As to the ISI being bad guys, yep. I'm surprised we came out and said it in the open, directly accusing them of supporting the op. But also glad.

Posted by: SJRSM on August 1, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Serbia did not start WW I. The assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo is often cited as the act that led to the beginning of the war, but if England and France thought they could not defeat Germany, or if Germany though it could not defeat England and France, there would have been no world war.

Posted by: Brojo on August 1, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

I don't doubt the ISI is a shadowy organization, with fingers in many pots (linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda). But the source for this article is "American intelligence" and it's reported by the NYT - both are proven liars, with agendas.

Those complaining that Mr. Drum fails to consider other, more domestic threats to world peace and security must understand that our generous host writes for a mainstream outlet, and wants to be taken seriously by the serious-minded Foreign Policy Community - this requires sober, clear-eyed consideration of the threat from Arabs and Muslims. Not Israel or the US. Them, not us.

Posted by: flubber on August 1, 2008 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK
The assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo is often cited as the act that led to the beginning of the war, but if England and France thought they could not defeat Germany, or if Germany though it could not defeat England and France, there would have been no world war.

Or, heck, if Germany hadn't had mobilization plans that involved invading the low countries just to get into position to invade France, there might not have been a world war. Heck, if Germany hadn't decided the best way to prepare for apparently imminent war with Russia was to launch a war with France in the first place, there might not have been a world war. If it hadn't been for the belief in the primacy of offense that forced almost everyone on the continent to mobilize (Russia, Germany, etc.) as soon as either any of their potential opponents appeared to be doing so or even likely to be doing so, there might not have been a world war. The list of "if not for this, WWI might have been avoided" is quite long.

Posted by: cmdicely on August 1, 2008 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

"If World War III ever breaks out, I will not be surprised to learn that it was somehow started by Richard B. " Dick " Cheney."

there. fixed that last sentence for you.

Posted by: The Spin We're In on August 1, 2008 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

if not for this

Few countries have started wars without thinking they had military superiority and would easily win.

Posted by: Brojo on August 1, 2008 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo, WWI was started by Serbia, but ended up being all about Britain, Germany, Russia, and France. I think that is what he means by starting WWIII.

Actually, while the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand by a Serbian anarchist was the trigger, Serbia itself didn't "start" WWI. In fact the first major offensive action was the invasion of Serbia by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Posted by: Stefan on August 1, 2008 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, while the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand by a Serbian anarchist was the trigger...

Exactly

Posted by: SJRSM on August 1, 2008 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK
Few countries have started wars without thinking they had military superiority and would easily win.

Most of what I've seen on WWI suggests that, while that may be true in general, its pretty much the opposite of the case in that war, where essentially every belligerent was mobilizing under the myth that there was such a dominant advantage to offense that if they weren't ready to seize the offensive at the outset of a conflict (including against nations that weren't even directly involved in the crisis but were perceived as likely to join in later), they were doomed to defeat.

WWI is what happens when everyone thinks "we better get them, or they might get us".

Posted by: cmdicely on August 1, 2008 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

MAD (mutually assured destruction) was actually one of the human race's more rational moments. It countered the "we better get them, or they might get us" meme.

I've been reading Choice and Consequence by Thomas Schelling, one of the original thinkers in this area. Good read.

Posted by: SJRSM on August 1, 2008 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

The network of interlocking treaties and "balance of power" was the early 20th century version of MAD. The idea was the if nobody could start a major war without drawing in all the other actors and if neither side could have a clear advantage, nobody would dare to start a war. A couple countries specifically changed sides because they thought the side they had been on was getting an edge.

It worked for a while, but when a provocation finally started the ball rolling, all the actors felt they had no choice but to join in.

Particularly in a world where multiple actors have nuclear weapons and there aren't two clear sides, I wouldn't count on MAD to keep things under control.

Posted by: tanstaafl on August 2, 2008 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin is not saying the ISI is going to invade America or whatever. But the idea that it might somehow or other provide a spark for a larger war is perfectly rational.

The assassination of the Archduke in 1914 was the result of a large conspiracy by the Black Hand, a group run by the head of Serbian military intelligence, apparently without the authorization or knowledge of the prime minister. Kevin's analogy to the ISI seems quite reasonable.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on August 2, 2008 at 3:15 AM | PERMALINK

That ISI has been playing this game has been known for at least a decade. There were accusations that ISI tipped off Bin Laden to the cruise missile strike in 1998. This is one more example of Bush avoiding taking on the important problems in counterrorism, and kicking the can down the road to his successor.

Posted by: bob h on August 2, 2008 at 7:39 AM | PERMALINK

How easy for you Americans to say that ISI was the creator of Taliban and AL-qaeda and forget CIA's role and American assistance in forming an ISLAMIC INSURGENCY in Afghanistan to detroy Soviet Union. Pakistan is turning into a scapegoat for failure in Afghanistan like Combodia turned into for failure in Vietnam. While Combodia saw the worst genocides of the last century where a large part of total population was butchered, Pakistan is on a road to become one. I can give you proofs or you can find yourselves on the internet where
1- Jalal-ud-din Haqqani was termed as a legend in Washington
2- Usama bin Laden clean shaved photographed with Elder Bush
3-Pakistan Army has double the number of casulaties in war on terror as compared to Nato armies in Afghanistan

3- casualties in pakistan since 9/11 because of 911 supercede casualties in 911 attacks

5-Suicide blasts last year in Pakistan outnumber suicide balsts in rest of the world togather.

6- What do you want, why is our blood cheaper?

With best wishes
We are not your enemies , we just want our space

Ahmed

Posted by: Ahmet on August 2, 2008 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

Ahmed, which "we" are you with?

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