July 22, 2008

Obama wants to escalate in Afghanistan

In September 2001, I advocated overthrowing the Afghan government in punishment but not trying to transform the country as well (arguing my case in the guise of a review of "The Man Who Would Be King"). Remind me again, though, what exactly are we doing there seven years later that we've now got to do more of it, according to Senator Obama?

From the Washington Post:

Sen. Barack Obama, on his first and likely only overseas trip as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has remade the campaign's foreign policy playing field, neatly sidestepping Republican charges that he has been naive and wrong on Iraq and moving to a broader, post-Iraq focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan. ... Chief among them, he said, are the "need to refocus attention on Afghanistan and to go after the Taliban, including putting more troops on the ground, and to put more pressure on Pakistan to deal with the safe havens of terrorists."

Do we have any sort of offer on the table to the Taliban (e.g., hand over Osama and Mullah Omar and change your name to something else, and we'll go home and let you locals duke it out in your time-honored manner)? Or is it our national grand strategy to be screwing around in Afghanistan until the whole place finally calms down, which will be the day after the sun explodes in 5,000,000,000 AD? (Your Lying Eyes argues the case for Afghan Ennui here.)

And do we really have any clue what to do with Pakistan? The last thing I remember was everyone in the U.S. media announcing, right after Benazir Bhutto's assassination, that the whole place was about to explode in chaos. But then it more or less didn't, at least compared to how chaotic it normally is. So, does Obama have some special insight into how Pakistan works (perhaps from spending a couple of weeks there 25 years ago?), or is he as clueless as, apparently, everybody else in America is about the place?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

20 comments:

Born Again Democrat said...

Right now I'd say Obama is saying whatever he feels is best calculated to cause the least amount of political trouble in his contest with McCain. What he will actually do, when the time comes, may be completely different, and probably even he doesn't know. Hopefully it will be good.

Anonymous said...

Outsourcing our Middle East policy to pro-Israeli Jews has been a smashing success (results: 9/11, $4/gallon gas), so how about we give the reins of our South Asia policy to our burgeoning Indian-American community. I'm sure they will come up with a perfectly rational policy which doesn't conflate India's interests with America's interests.

wren said...

I read somewhere recently that Obama will probably make the most warlike president in recent history because if anyone attacks America, it won't be an attack on America -- it will be an attack on Obama.

True or not, it makes a certain kind of sense.

Anonymous said...

so how about we give the reins of our South Asia policy to our burgeoning Indian-American community.

Or how about we leave that in the hands of the Ashkenazim, too? Not like we have much of a choice in the matter of course.

Glaivester said...

It's not 5,000,000,000 A.D. It's A.D. 5,000,000,000

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"Outsourcing our Middle East policy to pro-Israeli Jews has been a smashing success (results: 9/11, $4/gallon gas), so how about we give the reins of our South Asia policy to our burgeoning Indian-American community. I'm sure they will come up with a perfectly rational policy which doesn't conflate India's interests with America's interests."

what are you talking about? we already did. just read up on the Nuclear deal with India that bush and associates signed, to give our best friend India(the latest poster boy for democracy in 3rd world, a view promoted by people who have no clue about the 3rd world or India) American nuclear tech. Apparently you have to be weak and powerless to be a threat and therefore prevented from using nuclear tech for whatever purpose. But if you are big and powerful and virtually own your regional neighbors you can expect American nuclear tech to land on your lap for virtually free. What a concept.

My folks are from Bangladesh (which explains my interest in this topic), and apparently being poor and religiously relaxed(for muslim country) are good reasons for India to consistently treat Bangladesh as a threat and as a terrorist nation while their own border guards repeatedly infiltrate and ambush Bengal border guards, turning off water supply with dams, or supporting secessionist movements, all the while having military budget that are 50 or 60 times that of Bangladesh.

Tscottme said...

Bring back punitive war. It's emotionally satisfying and a heck of a lot cheaper than the current fad of decades long, asymptotically approaching an outcome type of war. It's all the fun of shock and awe with none of the hangover from rebuilding and occupying. You impose the pain of rebuilding on the people you decided needed punishment in the first place.

Once the locals sue for peace then you can use plain old civilians to help the locals rebuild and reevaluate their crazy ideology. You aren't faced with the absurd situation of trying to build schools and hositals from within an armored bulldozer while being shot and and dodging IEDs.

http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2006-winter/no-substitute-for-victory.asp

headache said...

What's the deal with America's constant desire to remake other countries? Pre WWI Japan, post WWII Germany, Rhodesia, South Africa, now Iraq/Afghanistan?

Anonymous said...

What's the deal with America's constant desire to remake other countries? Pre WWI Japan, post WWII Germany, Rhodesia, South Africa, now Iraq/Afghanistan?

I'm sure the response would be, "To make sure this doesn't happen again." My own cynical take is that it's to justify the military's continued deployment at wartime levels.

-Senor Doug

David Davenport said...

What's the deal with America's constant desire to remake other countries? Pre WWI Japan, post WWII Germany, Rhodesia, South Africa, now Iraq/Afghanistan?

You're mixing up at several different motives:

Pre WWI Japan -- markets

post WWII Germany-- de-Nazification, markets, and defensive line against CCCP


South Africa-- important minerals, such as chromium and titanium, also to deny same to CCCP

now Iraq/Afghanistan? -- markets plus defeat of Islam, the latter motive being un-peecee to say out loud.

Anonymous said...

"so how about we give the reins of our South Asia policy to our burgeoning Indian-American community."

"Or how about we leave that in the hands of the Ashkenazim, too? Not like we have much of a choice in the matter of course."

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice... all Ashkenazim. Who knew?

Josh said...

Steve,what a wonderful thought on Afghanistan: Let us take all the Arabs who infest your country,and you can go back to whatever sick twisted crap gets you off! But what will Jay Leno's wife and her friends say about that? Dont we have to save the afghan woman? Being blown up,mutilated,cut open,terrorized--thats fine. But having to wear a veil and obey their husbands,thems fightin' words!! Note to the guy from Bangla Desh: Did any of that George Harrison money make it out there?

testing99 said...

Why remake other countries? I'm shocked anyone would make that comment about Germany and Japan.

It was to prevent internal aspects of those cultures from restarting German/Japanese militarism and re-arming against America.

However, Steve you fail to appreciate how technology has changed both the threats to America and how America responds to them.

First, look at a map. Afghanistan can only be supplied through Pakistan, which being unstable and partly our ally, partly our enemy, partly "neutral" puts a cap on how many people we can put in to Afghanistan.

We can't do much in Afghanistan than "not lose" which would mean AQ/Taliban controlling the nation. Allowing them to take control of the country would enable any and every terrorist group to plot and TRAIN (which is often the mark of success) and organize in a safe haven.

Plus, retreating from Afghanistan (or Iraq) would mean encouragement of the nexus which frankly you don't understand. That of tribe-kin-clan networks that straddle the "government" such as it is in most Muslim nations and the various jihadi movements that seek to supplant them. As long as America is credibly scary and viewed as being willing to inflict massive pain, deterrence in a proliferating nuclear world is maintained. When America is seen as "weak" and easily intimidated into defeat or withdrawal, attacks escalate as in the 1990's in response to the Clinton adoption of the Powell Doctrine.

Next, Pakistan is a nuclear nation. Clinton decided he would not go to war against it in the late 1990's, when the CIA (wrongly) assured him it would take decades for Pakistan to get nukes.

America's #1 objective in Pakistan is a combination of threats and bribes to keep Pakistan's nukes out of the hands of cousins and brothers of the nuclear guardians. This severely limits our action there -- Bush got dealt a bad hand and played it about as good as he could. Obama's posturing is just that, posturing.

He can't put in any troops because they won't get supplied. At best, "Choison Reservoir" plus is what he's looking at. He can't press Pakistan very far because he NEEDS them not to "allow" a few nukes into the hands of bin Laden, and note that Pakistan has a weak government that is divided on tribal/ethnic/clan/family lines.

Much of what has happened in Pakistan has been a surrender of wholesale areas (the North West Frontier, the so-called "tribal areas") by the political parties to the Taliban, which has been the creation of the ISI and is viewed as the "defense in depth" against India as well as an extension of "Pashtunistan."

Playing India off Pakistan (and perhaps also China) can buy time. But America's security goals must be avoidance of a catastrophic loss of a US city.

Reality: nuclear proliferation, deniable cutouts, loss of fear of America's response, equals a massive but different security threat to America.

We don't face (as you rightly point out) massive Japanese or German bomber fleets, air craft carriers, and the like. However, one nuclear bomb in a shipping container has about 1.5 times the entire destructive power of the Imperial Japanese Navy at it's height.

Hence our "not lose" policy in Afghanistan-Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

Uh... I thought "the man who would be king" took place in what is now called Uzbekistan?

I don't think I'm wrong on this, despite what wikipedia says. Anyone else care to seriously double-check?

Martin said...

"Tscottme said...

Bring back punitive war. It's emotionally satisfying and a heck of a lot cheaper than the current fad of decades long, asymptotically approaching an outcome type of war."

Here. Here. I concur completely. It would be cheaper to invade Afghanistan every 5 to 10 years (should that even be necessary) than to stay there continuously and indefinitely

I noticed that Testing99, or EvilNeocon, or Junior Birdman, or whatever the hell he now calls himself, fired off his usual verbose defence of perpetual war. He is a brave blog-warrior, and generous with the lives and fortunes of other people.

He has given scant notice to what long term effects f**king around in central asia will have on our relations with Russia. The russians may be paranoid (not entirely without reason), but even paranoids have interests. And Russia, Testing99, has LOTS of nuclear weapons - and the means of delivering them. China too.

Anonymous said...

First, look at a map. Afghanistan can only be supplied through Pakistan, which being unstable and partly our ally, partly our enemy, partly "neutral" puts a cap on how many people we can put in to Afghanistan.

Incorrect. We could supply our troops in Afghanistan the same way the USSR did, through the central asian republics, now independent nations. They seem to be pretty stable places as far as I can tell and that is Russia's backyard. Those nations seem pretty free of jihadi lunatics that Pakistan has a surplus of. I'm sure railways, airfields and roads exist that we could use to move supplies. God forbid we do this as the US seems intent on making enemies with Russia these days.
If anyone in this administration used their heads, we could to to Putin and the leaders of the "stans" and request that the US use their facilities and pay top dollar. A business agreement. They provide the facilities, we pay for it. If/when Pakistan descends into muslim insanity, we can keep our people supplied. But as I said, that is probably asking too much.

John Maszka said...

Senator Obama is turning out to be a real disappointment and a very dangerous man. Moving the war on terror to Pakistan could have disastrous consequences on both the political stability in the region, and in the broader balance of power. Scholars such as Richard Betts accurately point out that beyond Iran or North Korea, “Pakistan may harbor the greatest potential danger of all.” With the current instability in Pakistan, Betts points to the danger that a pro-Taliban government would pose in a nuclear Pakistan. This is no minor point to be made. While the Shi’a in Iran are highly unlikely to proliferate WMD to their Sunni enemies, the Pakistanis harbor no such enmity toward Sunni terrorist organizations. Should a pro-Taliban or other similar type of government come to power in Pakistan, Al-Qaeda’s chances of gaining access to nuclear weapons would dramatically increase overnight.

There are, of course, two sides to every argument; and this argument is no exception. On the one hand, some insist that American forces are needed in order to maintain political stability and to prevent such a government from rising to power. On the other hand, there are those who believe that a deliberate attack against Pakistan’s state sovereignty will only further enrage its radical population, and serve to radicalize its moderates. I offer the following in support of this latter argument:

Pakistan has approximately 160 million people; better than half of the population of the entire Arab world. Pakistan also has some of the deepest underlying ethnic fissures in the region, which could lead to long-term disintegration of the state if exacerbated. Even with an impressive growth in GDP (second only to China in all of Asia), it could be decades before wide-spread poverty is alleviated and a stable middle class is established in Pakistan.

Furthermore, the absence of a deeply embedded democratic system in Pakistan presents perhaps the greatest danger to stability. In this country, upon which the facade of democracy has been thrust by outside forces and the current regime came to power by coup, the army fulfills the role of “referee within the political boxing ring.” However, this referee demonstrates a “strong personal interest in the outcome of many of the fights and a strong tendency to make up the rules as he goes along.” The Pakistani army “also has a long record of either joining in the fight on one side or the other, or clubbing both boxers to the ground and taking the prize himself” (Lieven, 2006:43).

Pakistan’s army is also unusually large. Thathiah Ravi (2006:119, 121) observes that the army has “outgrown its watchdog role to become the master of this nation state.” Ravi attributes America’s less than dependable alliance with Pakistan to the nature of its army. “Occasionally, it perceives the Pakistan Army as an inescapable ally and at other times as a threat to regional peace and [a] non-proliferation regime.” According to Ravi, India and Afghanistan blame the conflict in Kashmir and the Durand line on the Pakistan Army, accusing it of “inciting, abetting and encouraging terrorism from its soil.” Ravi also blames the “flagrant violations in nuclear proliferation by Pakistan, both as an originator and as a conduit for China and North Korea” on the Pakistan Army, because of its support for terrorists.

The point to be made is that the stability of Pakistan depends upon maintaining the delicate balance of power both within the state of Pakistan, and in the broader region. Pakistan is not an island, it has alliances and enemies. Moving American troops into Pakistan will no doubt not only serve to radicalize its population and fuel the popular call for Jihad, it could also spark a proxy war with China that could have long-lasting economic repercussions. Focusing on the more immediate impact American troops would have on the Pakistani population; let’s consider a few past encounters:

On January 13, 2006, the United States launched a missile strike on the village of Damadola, Pakistan. Rather than kill the targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, the strike instead slaughtered 17 locals. This only served to further weaken the Musharraf government and further destabilize the entire area. In a nuclear state like Pakistan, this was not only unfortunate, it was outright stupid.

On October 30, 2006, the Pakistani military, under pressure from the US, attacked a madrassah in the Northwest Frontier province in Pakistan. Immediately following the attack, local residents, convinced that the US military was behind the attack, burned American flags and effigies of President Bush, and shouted “Death to America!” Outraged over an attack on school children, the local residents viewed the attack as an assault against Islam.
On November 7, 2006, a suicide bomber retaliated. Further outrage ensued when President Bush extended his condolences to the families of the victims of the suicide attack, and President Musharraf did the same, adding that terrorism will be eliminated “with an iron hand.” The point to be driven home is that the attack on the madrassah was kept as quiet as possible, while the suicide bombing was publicized as a tragedy, and one more reason to maintain the war on terror.

Last year trouble escalated when the Pakistani government laid siege to the Red Mosque and more than 100 people were killed. “Even before his soldiers had overrun the Lal Masjid ... the retaliations began.” Suicide attacks originating from both Afghan Taliban and Pakistani tribal militants targeted military convoys and a police recruiting center. Guerrilla attacks that demonstrated a shocking degree of organization and speed-not to mention strategic cunning revealed that they were orchestrated by none other than al-Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman Al-Zawahiri; a fact confirmed by Pakistani and Taliban officials. One such attack occurred on July 15, 2007, when a suicide bomber killed 24 Pakistani troops and injured some 30 others in the village of Daznaray (20 miles to the north of Miran Shah, in North Waziristan). Musharraf ordered thousands of troops into the region to attempt to restore order. But radical groups swore to retaliate against the government for its siege of the mosque and its cooperation with the United States.

A July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concludes that “al Qaeda is resurgent in Pakistan- and more centrally organized than it has been at any time since 9/11.” The NIE reports that al-Qaeda now enjoys sanctuary in Bajaur and North Waziristan, from which they operate “a complex command, control, training and recruitment base” with an “intact hierarchy of top leadership and operational lieutenants.”

In September 2006 Musharraf signed a peace deal with Pashtun tribal elders in North Waziristan. The deal gave pro-Taliban militants full control of security in the area. Al Qaeda provides funding, training and ideological inspiration, while Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Tribal leaders supply the manpower. These forces are so strong that last year Musharraf sent well over 100,000 trained Pakistani soldiers against them, but they were not able to prevail against them.

The question remains, what does America do when Pakistan no longer has a Musharraf to bridge the gap? While Musharraf claims that President Bush has assured him of Pakistan’s sovereignty, Senator Obama obviously has no intention of honoring such an assurance. As it is, the Pakistanis do just enough to avoid jeopardizing U.S. support. Musharraf, who is caught between Pakistan’s dependence on American aid and loyalty to the Pakistani people, denies being George Bush’s hand-puppet. Musharraf insists that he is “200 percent certain” that the United States will not unilaterally decide to attack terrorists on Pakistani soil. What happens when we begin to do just that?

David Davenport said...

We don't face (as you rightly point out) massive Japanese or German bomber fleets, air craft carriers, and the like. However, one nuclear bomb in a shipping container has about 1.5 times the entire destructive power of the Imperial Japanese Navy at it's height.

Therefore, America must make its borders and harbors secure.

Right, T99?

Re America's opening of Japan in the 1840's: was that such a bad thing for the Japanese?

grandtrunkroad said...

Anonymous 7/24:
If you think that the Central Asian Republics are stable and free of jihad movements you should do a quick wikipedia search for the terorrist groups IMU which was mainly active in the 90s and the more recently formed IJU. There is a very strong Uzbek influence in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Baitullah Mehsud, specifically, is backed by and harbours Uzbek militants which is part of the reason why rival factions of the Pakistani Taliban like Maulvi Nazir and Gul Bahadur (the grandson of the Fakir of Ippi who fought against the British) have turned against Mehsud in recent months.

David said...

Exactly how easy is it for some raghead to put a thermonuclear device in a bus station locker or suitcase and get it to work?

I mean in real life. Not movies, and not the fevered imagination of Evil Neocon.

Related question: How does one launch a warhead from a cave?