Friday, May 27, 2011

Bibi Go Home - and Stay There

I'm into predictions lately - usually a big mistake for anyone, regardless (or perhaps because) of historical data backing up a prediction thereby invoking both a confirmation bias and selectively picking facts to fit ones own misconceptions.   Nevertheless, reading and listening to the clips of both Obama's speach on the Middle East and a solution to the Palestinian homeland issue, I can only conclude that Bibi will do anything to maintain the status quo.  He again has the arrogance to put himself on the same level as an American president, feels comfortable in lecturing and embarrasing the president of a one of the only countries to support Israel.  Bibi and his party must go - and should never be invited to the US again except, perhaps as a tourist.

In September Palestine will unilateraly declare itself a nation. There will be a flood of recognition - particulalry where it counts the most, Europe.  Bibi and his "greater Israel" party had better learn how to negotiate, give up stolen lands and make peace or get out of the way unless they want Israel to become a pariah.

The installation of the Netanyahu regime has been the worst possible outcome for Israel. They have provided neither peace nor security.  They have never let go of the dream of a greater Israel which is resulting in a borderless Israel doomed by demographics. If  this government continues to remain in power, then it's last friend will be in Washington - and that ever so tenuous because US interests are NOT Israels.

Rtako Mladic - Another Murderer Found (finally)

Here's an idea.  Give  former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic to the widows and mothers in Srebrenica.  Invite the people of Sarejevo to participate in whatever they all deem appropriate for this unrepentant, facsistic, bigoted murderer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Belarus Does the Cheshire Cat

President of Belarus Alexander LukashenkoImage via Wikipedia
President Lukashenko of Belarus has always wanted to be part of Russia. To run it, actually.  Well, 50% of that dream may come true.  Well, he won't be running it. 

Since, as one foreign diplomat put it last week, Belarus is heading into Zimbabwe territory, Belarus won't need to merge with Russia. Russia will simply buy it at the bargain price of a $3 billion bailout.  Belarus and the Cheshire Cat (without the wit).

Good night, Mr. Lukashenko.  You'll love the CIS presidency. 
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Saleh the Indespensable

Dictator in Chief Saleh after 32 years in power in Yemen certainly knows how to shoot himself in the foot.  There can be no doubt that his second about-face, refusing to sign the deal brokered by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, United States and the EU in which he would step down, did not improve anyone’s mood in Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Washington, London or Brussels – not to mention the opposition on the streets.  But, then, arranging for his armed supporters to surround the foreign delegation resulting in the UAE ambassador to fly home in a rage was monumentally stupid.

What is it about these petty little rulers who believe that their position is an entitlement?  This is like Africa – Uganda, Zimbabwe and Cote d”Ivoire come immediately to mind.  In the case of Yemen, Saleh is now saying that if he steps down then al Qaeda will fill his shoes.  Does he think his powerful friends are blind?  Yemen has several tribal conflicts going on some of which al Qaeda finds advantageous to promote.  However, estimates are that there are about 300 al Qaeda operatives in the country out of a population of 23 million.  That’s hardly a takeover threshold and the number of supporters he ordered out into the streets yesterday could easily handle the miserable gang of terrorists hiding out in the mountains.
Just as the GCC under Saudi command entered Bahrain to crush the (quite legitimate) rebellion in that kingdom, perhaps they can balance the scales and just remove Saleh now that he has shown that he is incapable of rational behavior and is a destabilizing influence in the region.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

France, Conspiracy, DSK and Heads in the Sand

I find the fact that 57% of France believes that DSK was a victim of a conspiracy really odd.  But, I am astonished that 70% of the self-styled Socialists believe it to be true. 

This must, somehow, be good for the Eurozone.

Rapturus Interuptus

I looked at my watch on the 21st. It was past 6PM (PST) and I thought: “Hey. How come I didn’t get any good stuff from Rapturite Central?  Damn.” 

Armageddon by time zone. Maybe next year or, better, whatever century the Mariners come close to winning a World Series.  Forever is a long time ,though. 

I bet the "Saved" all vote Republican anyway. Fits with their science and general IQ.

Khartoum and South Sudan - War?

I have to admit I was surprised by the relative peaceful separation between North and South Sudan.  South Sudan officially begins its history as a new country in July and my earlier fears that this would be the “surprise war” of the year seemed unjustified (I am happy to say).  That may be changing.

The BBC reported yesterday that the Northern Sudanese army had seized the valuable Abyei region claimed by South Sudan, allegedly in response to an attack.  Let’s be clear what this is about. Oil.  The Abyei area is where the oil is located for what was once Sudan.  Taking the disputed territory prior to the official date of independence is an attempt to impose a fait accomplis.  The river forming the southern border of Abyei is the northern demarcation line – but Khartoum is likely looking for an excuse to cross over and take the entire oil producing region.  The conflict could escalate rapidly, particularly if the South Kordofan state decides it has had enough of Sharia law and the imposition of Arab culture on what is an African area. 
And this is the crux of the matter next to the oil.  The war between the south and the north has been going on since the late 1970s or earlier.  It is one of an Arab, Islamic system trying to destroy the African culture.  In the south they are black, in the north they are not.  This is an ancient clash beginning with the Muslim conquests of North Africa in the 8th century and although its manifestations have modulated historically, that too may change as the 10,000 or so troops making up part of the South Sudan army come from South Kordofan.  President Bashir needs to moderate his views. 
The only real solution – at least with the current attitudes and government resident in Khartoum – is another split.  Otherwise, the cost in blood in Darfur will look like a minor disturbance compared to what is to come.  The West is clearly involved in both Sudan and South Sudan as is China, whose involvement in the oil regions is their primary concern. President Bashir has been indicted by the ICC and an arrest warrant remains outstanding.  Like Gadhafi, if he sees his grip on another region of Sudan loosen, his reaction and actions will be very unpleasant. 
A remote possibility exists that the Arab population in Sudan will have had enough of Bashir – but unlike the Egyptian army, any “Arab Spring” in Khartoum will be bloody.  And despite the handwringing sure to follow, removal of the current regime and its system of law may be the necessary future of Sudan.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Israel Says No - Again

The negative reaction to President Obama's speach by Benjamin Netenyahu - specifically the suggestion that the borders revert to pre-1967 with some adjustments,  indicates that Israel under the current adminstration has no intention ever of recognizing the Palestinian right to a homeland.  The excuse this time is that those borders were "indefensible".  The justification for rejection is new and is based on the optics. It makes the Israeli position of holding on to illegal communities in the West Bank a non-issue. Or it attempts to do so.  It is, on the surface, an eminently reasonable position.

It is not.  Israel has no problem defending the pre-1967 border.  It had successfully defended the border and then went on the offensive.  This justification is meant to muddy the waters. The IDF is the most powerful military in the region and, furthemore, does not need to contend with either the Jordian or Egyptian military.  Syria is contrained for two reasons. The first is that its angle of attack is extraordinarily poor. The second is that its military is a joke.

No.  This Israeli government is unwilling to discuss a Palestinian state.  And one will be coming by September.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn defended by Bernard Henri-Levy

OK.  This post is not about international affairs per se, but about Dominique Strauss-Kahn the former head of the IMF, or DSK since the world seems to have degenerated to abbreviations of everything (OBL comes immediately to mind – whatever).  I suspect that the widely reported French reaction to his arrest did not dig very far into the French population, but picked what passes today as an intellectual to get their superficial views.  Affairs are one thing. But, my feeling is that many in France find attempted rape and sexual assault by anyone to be repulsive.  They just weren’t asked.
Let’s get something straight. All too often the powerful and wealthy don’t get the same treatment that is inflicted on those less strategically placed. That applies in the US as well as France. It not have been news if the alleged assault and attempted rape of the maid in New York were perpetrated by a non-white. He would still be arrested, handcuffed and dumped in NYC jail system – if not Riker’s.  The networks would not have given the incident 30 seconds. So, the pure, unadulterated crap that the fake French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy let drip from his lips is – or should be – an embarrassment to the French.  But he has been embarrassing for some time now and a substantial sector in France thinks he is a philosophical genius.
BHL is a thundering bore, at times a moron and certainly a liar.  His writings are that of a simpleton’s thoughts wrapped in flowery and obscure language to make him sound more intellectual than a Parisian taxi driver but with less grounding in truth .  His reporting from Georgia during the Russian invasion, for example – flying in just in time for lunch – was an exercise in mendacity and fabrication. In a trip meant to visit Gori he reported he saw hundreds of Russian armoured and other military vehicles near the city when, in fact, there were 30; he saw Gori burning, when it was not. He was never in Gori.  When his vehicle was stopped on the second attempt to reach the city he described the roadblock as manned by Russians when, in fact, they were Georgian.  His trip and writings were a publicity stunt and did nothing to help the Georgians by, well, indulging in multiple lies.  But I guess that’s what pseudo philosophers do and it is only one example.
Now BHL is defending his friend, DSK who is charged with a serious crime.  But his defence is close to saying that “she had it coming” and that DSK is simply too important to be treated like a common criminal. OK.  So his argument is essentially that the rich  and powerful can do whatever they like and if they are caught and accused then we must treat them differently because  they are…above everyone else.  This is common, by the way, in France. He says that "nothing in the world can justify" Strauss-Kahn's treatment.  Really?  Seriously?  Nothing? Well, how about murder? Would that justify the treatment?  I guess the allegation of sexual assault is not bad enough – even though this is not the first time that DSK forced his attentions on a woman.  Perhaps if one of his previous victims in France had not been bullied by her mother not to go to the authorities, subsequent incidents with DSK would not have happened.
So, BHL – take your self-aggrandizing attempts at philosophy and stuff it.  You are a monumental fraud.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Black Swan is Greece

Here's a prediction - Greece is going to default on its Euro debt because no one believes it will. Greece will depart the Eurozone and start printing money because no one thinks it is possible. This will be followed - accompanied by denials from all the right places - by the collapse of the Euro experiment.  Germans will celebrate.

Sell short.

Unwinding Europe

Largely unnoticed and unremarked, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, otherwise known as the Visegrad Group, have decided to develop an independent military force, or battle group, under the command of Poland.  The fact that this event passed unnoticed last week is perhaps the result of the Libyan intervention by NATO and upheavals in Syria and the riots in and around Israel by Palestinians with the usual over the top reaction of the IDF. Oh, yes, there was this little OBL thing as well.

The timing  for the creation of the battle group could not be better for flying under the radar (although probably not lost on certain people to the north and east).   This small event may be more significant than the lack of news coverage it has generated.
I’ve previously noted that the Russian invasion of Georgia and its aggressive remarks regarding the Baltics shortly thereafter would ring the alarm bells in Warsaw, as well as in Bucharest, Prague, Riga and Tallin among others. Those alarms have become real now that it is abundantly clear that the Germans have adopted the somewhat incoherent foreign policy of abandoning Europe and the United States for mother Russia and openly challenging the stability of the Eurozone with intemperate remarks by, among others, its na├»ve and inexperienced Foreign Minister.  The French, for reasons still murky, sold a close support vessel - useful for invading countries by sea – to the Russians and the US has been so pre-occupied with winding down its ill-conceived Iraq adventure and continuing involvement in unappreciative Afghanistan that Eastern Europe has all but vanished from the foreign policy agenda. Further, given the financial woes in Europe, rumblings about when to join the Eurozone by the Visegrad Group have turned to questions of whether.
HIstorically, when Germany and Russia get close, bad things happen to those sandwiched between.  Clearly, a repetition of 1914 and 1939 is remote, to say the least.  However, Poland and the other Visegrad members have long memories of Russian dictatorship and the Kremlin’s proclivity for bullying it’s near abroad – not to mention what happened to Georgia.  The abandonment of the idea of “Europe” by the Germans while embracing Russian offers of investment possibilities and, lately, taking Russia’s side regarding the no-fly zone vote in the UN imposed on Libya, has now resulted in the first steps of a defensive coalition mirroring the similar organization to Poland’s north. 

There is no European defense force and NATO is increasingly irrelevant as it searches for a reason to be.  Furthermore, NATO depends on unanimity – something the Poles are well aware of as a member.  They are unsure as to what Europe’s response would be if Poland called for aid in the event the Russian empire seeks to become ever more aggressive. 
So, slight as it appears, the creation of this new military force may be the tipping point for European political unity, much less integration.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

How to Win a Donor Contract

Here's a development test question (hypothetical):
Step 1 - An RFP is issued by a major donor organization for roll-out of an existing project.
Step 2 - Bidder A has been on the ground for over one year, working with a large local field team to implement a pilot designed to bring more people in a very poor country into the economy.
Step 3 - Bidder B has never been in the country before and has no experienced local staff.
Step 4 - Bidder B sends a senior executive to the bidder's conference.
Step 5 - Bidder B's senior executive has a private lunch with the director of the beneficiary entity of the project results just prior to the bidder's conference. It so happens that the director of the beneficiary had worked for Bidder B in the past and that said director's contract expires at the end of the roll-out period.
Step 6 - The beneficiary has shown active hostility toward Bidder A.
Step 7 - Bidder A is made aware of the private meeting.
Step 8 - The supervising project implementation unit is made aware of the private luncheon.
Step 9 - Bidder A submits its proposal according to the parameters of the RFP.
Step 10 - Bidder B submits its proposal outside of the parameters of the RFP resulting in a considerable cost reduction.
Step 11 - Bidder B is awarded the contract.

Question: What position would you take in determining if the award was tainted.

Supplementary Question:  Find the word derived from Middle English (1250 - 1300) that best describes the result. (Hint - it is the past participle of corrumpare - latin)

Prize: A cookie

Qatar Walks Away from Yemen

Map of the modern state of Yemen. Map of Yemen...Image via Wikipedia
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the US have been trying to find a way for President Saleh to gracefully step down in Yemen.  Apparently no longer as Qatar abandoned the effort while pointing the finger at Saleh.

There are two possible scenarios now - Saleh becomes more isolated and is forced to leave or Saleh becomes more isolated and reacts with more violance.

In the end, the military units (now divided) will decide this.
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Medvedev's Shot Across the Bow of the SS Putin

Al Jazeera is reporting as I sit here that President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia could face civil war or stagnation if too much power was concentrated in the hands of one man, an apparent jibe at the prime minister, Vladimir Putin.
Keep in mind that there is a presidential vote in March 2012.  Neither has announced, but it is beginning to look like a showdown.
Here's the money quote in response to a question about parliamentary democracy:

"An excessive concentration of power is indeed a dangerous thing: it has happened in this country many times and as a rule it has either led to stagnation or civil war.
We must not allow that. Attempts to build up power to fit a certain individual are dangerous. If they do not cause trouble today, you must not doubt that they will cause great problems for the country and for the individual in the not-too-distant future. We must think about this and remember the lessons of history."

This is the second veiled attack. The first came earlier this year, when Mr Medvedev slapped down Mr Putin for criticising western military intervention in Libya and then ordered Putin allies to leave the boards of state companies such as Rosneft.

Is Russia becoming interesting again?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Maverick McCain Slams the Republicans

John McCain official photo portrait.Image via Wikipedia
Congratulations to Senator John McCain (R - Ariz).  It is about time, because Republican foreign policy includes torture as a tool and it is time the media called them on it.  And yes, Cheney & Daughter, waterboarding is torture and someone should do it to you both.
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OBL and the Handwringers

The fatuous complaints by Osama bin Laden’s son, Omar, in the Paper of Record regarding the well-deserved killing of his father who not only admitted, but took pride in the murder of thousands in New York and thousands elsewhere deserve only derision and contempt.  As a New Yorker, Omar, I can only applaud what happened.  He was not executed and this was not an assassination and further, none of the action violated international law.  It’s bullet point time (pun intended) for Omar and  all the hand-wringers and New Germans out there as well as the amateur international law pundits and legal eagles at various human rights’ groups:
·         Assassination is defined as murder for political purposes. OBL was not a political figure. He was head of an organization that had been systematically killing thousands of people. 

·         OBL was head of a command and control apparatus of a paramilitary organization which was at war with a sovereign state. The killing of enemy military personnel in time of armed conflict is not assassination.

·         Over and above the fact that he got exactly what he deserved and the vast majority is happy he is dead (even in Pakistan), he was a lawful target under international law. The United Nations Charter firmly recognizes the right of a state to defend itself from attack. Bin Laden had demonstrated that he could and would attack the United States. He was also directing attacks against US troops in Afghanistan, who are there with UN sanction. He was doing this every day. Furthermore, Pakistani troops routinely invaded Afghanistan for purposes less urgent than self-defense in the 1990s.

·         The ICC has no jurisdiction. Period

·         The ICJ has no jurisdiction. Period

·         The UN would need a Security Council resolution to bring this to the attention of the ICC, which otherwise has no jurisdiction.  That’s about as likely as the Republican Party in the US doing something about oil companies and banksters.
So, Omar, crawl back under your luxury rock with your wealthy family in Riyadh or wherever in Saudi Arabia you live part time and allow us to forget you and your family name.
And while I’m on a roll – to everyone out there second and third guessing how the operation into Pakistan was planned and implemented and are now indulging in safely ludicrous discussions on international law, human rights’ issues and whether Pakistan’s sovereignty should have been breached, know this: You – all of you – know nothing about what went on in the back rooms or between the ISI, US military, GoP and CIA.  New reports in The Guardian firmly indicate that not only did the GoP know about what was happening, but had been approving incursions for the past decade. And that’s only the scratching the surface.
You also know nothing about the operation itself except what is being released because  it is none of your damn business and if you think there will ever be transparency in this type of operation then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. Idiots.

System Down

No system, no posts.  Not my fault.  Blogger hit a wall and crashed.

Monday, May 9, 2011

In Other News...

In what undoubtedly is a massive understatement, at Victory Day celebrations President Lukashenko of Belarus announced that “the West” was the prime enemy of Belarus.  Well, he’s probably right.  But perhaps he should look over his shoulder back to the east where his government is in negotiations with Moscow for an economic bailout. Yet again. It is probably too much for the last dictator in Europe to swallow that the Russian Federation is only a reluctant friend of his government and probably wishes he would just go away.

Luki has been in a snit ever since the EU basically slammed the doors closed around him, his family and supporters with very effective economic sanctions.  On April 25, he refused to travel to Ukraine for the 10th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, which heavily impacted large chunks of Belarusian territory in and around the Pripyat and Gomel regions.  Why refuse? Well, as part of the EU boycott, the current EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso had asked President Yanukovich not to invite him to a conference in Kiev on the consequences of the disaster. Ukraine complied with the EU demand, hoping he would still show up to the Chernobyl anniversary, but Luki had taken umbrage.  It seems he is angry with Ukraine as well.
Considering he has vowed never to give up power, has jailed or exiled all opposition leaders and appears to be grooming his son for succession (remind you of Egypt?), perhaps he is losing sight of the fact that Moscow is not an ardent supporter, but treats him more as a useful clown; and, that Ukraine still has a saying that the reason Belarus was invented was to make Ukraine look good; and, that the EU simply wants him gone. When you’re a leader of a country with a bankrupt economy, surrounded by people who either don’t like you, actively seek your removal or, in the case of Russia, find you barely tolerable, perhaps an attitude improvement would be in order. 
Will it happen?  No. The former collective farm manager has dug in his heels and gone into hedghog mode.  Everyone is stuck with him until the youth in the country explodes or Medvedev’s tolerance for fools thins sufficiently to arrange a long vacation – or both.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Making Up Facts

Why is it that Republicans in the US find it necessary to make up facts?  OK.  That was rhetorical. We all know why.

But, from Condi Rice the statement (on MSNBC) that Canada took part in or even supported the invasion of Iraq is just another example, this time from the worst Secretary of State ever, of the type of flexible truth and memories of Republicans.

I suppose that for a person thrown into a world without the Soviet Union - when one's entire life of study was devoted to a defunct empire - this type of remark is acceptable and would not be subject to an embarrassing challenge by the media.

Academics and Practical Foreign Policy

When I was in law school about a century ago, litigation tactics were a required area of study. Although I never liked litigation, I thought some of the anecdotes on opening and closing statements to a jury were instructive for daily use in almost any setting. One such story involved a pair of joint defendants accused of theft, each with his own counsel. One goal for the attorney representing one defendant is to create a reasonable doubt that his client had nothing to do with the actions of the other. To shorten, considerably, the story, it turns out that the co-defendant who committed the theft had lied while testifying about once stealing his father’s wallet (the details of which I’ve left out - sorry). In the closing statement the other attorney addressed the jury and told a story which, again shortened, goes like this. He and his entire family always went to the same restaurant on Sunday with his grandfather who always, without exception, ordered beef stew. This time he hesitated, but ended up ordering it again. He took a piece and immediately made a face as a piece of meat seemed to be off. Now, asked the attorney to the jury, what should he have done? Should he have rummaged through the stew, eating only the good parts or should he send the whole plate back? The answer was obvious. His client was acquitted.

So, what to about this. Paul Herrichs has his facts wrong, and I suspect deliberately. Washington, was not the driver behind the intervention in Libya. It was Europe or more precisely the French government. Washington was dragged into this “mess”. Furthermore, and again likely due to his particular academic shading, Germany was not smart in its position against intervention. It was stupid as it clearly shows its inability to work with other European members, not to mention NATO; this is the same sort of German cowardice/arrogance exhibited during the monetary crises in Europe. Germany is no longer a reliable ally to anyone – except to Russia.

His assertion that no one has a vital interest in Libya except its immediate neighbors is simply stupid. The Arab uprisings have an immediate impact on European security, economy and immigration policy. Libya is a European problem and is, indeed, of vital interest.

He dismisses the R2D issue by drawing a false comparison between Libya and Sudan. Libya and Rwanda. Libya and….Wake up or grow up Paul and come out of your academic shelter. This operation – started by France and the UK – was always about regime change once the chance was given through the entirely credible threats against the civilians of Benghazi and has been true in Misrata and other rebel held cities.

You don’t like Western intervention without a threat of a vital interest being threatened? Your definition of vital for France and Italy is obviously not theirs. And while we are at it – what about Australian intervention in East Timor?

He finally claims that the Libyan intervention fails on all counts. Really? When the author sets up the criteria, does the term “straw man” come to mind? The fact is, like the closing argument to the jury, when one piece of the puzzle is tainted, why should we accept the conclusion?

Paul should stay in his ivory tower and read a little history of the region and get his facts straight. If anyone is the rookie, it is he.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Death of bin Laden

If you’ve noticed a dearth of postings it’s because I’m busy with my day job. I’ll be posting more often once the frenetic pace abates a bit.

Now that OBL & Son are defunct, several items of a more important practical nature need to be reviewed. At the top of the list are Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The elimination of OBL is an opportunity for the US to declare victory in Afghanistan, saddle-up and move out. As I have always maintained, the surge advocated by General Petraeus and largely implemented by the US, was the wrong way to go. It has not been a success and since the original objective of the mission was to destroy al Qaida and take Afghanistan off the table as a safe base for jihadist training, the US and NATO have succeeded, it is time to leave. The mission was never to nation-build.

Furthermore, the mission to kill OBL deep inside Pakistan was undertaken by a small, elite team – not 35,000 or so boots on the ground. The justification for the surge appears to be based on the experience learned in Iraq. That was never a good idea considering the results in that ill-advised war. However, rather than indulging in the surge method of warfare (which always struck me as something you do when you’re on the ropes) or even COIN in Afghanistan the US should have focused on tracking and killing terrorists in Afghanistan with discrete and rapid missions, including from the air. That was V.P. Biden’s advice but because Petraeus was equivalent to Zeus by the Very Serious People in the Beltway, his advice absolutely had to be followed otherwise the world would end. So, the opportunity to agree with Karzai is sitting there like low hanging fruit. Pull out – and do it before the current target of 2014.

A rapid draw down in Afghanistan has a bag full of advantages, not the least of which is that it would save lives. And then there is the money. The budget deficit in the US would get some relief, particularly in combination with the withdrawal from Iraq. It would free-up the US military to actually pay attention to other areas of the world – or better yet – take a rest from patrolling the borders of the empire. It would swiftly cut short the messianic tinged nation-building endeavor into which the conflict has morphed. Not least, none of us would need to listen to the ungrateful whining of the corrupt Mayor of Kabul, Karzai.

Pakistan is a different issue. It is inconceivable that someone very high on the food chain in the Pakistan military or the ISI did not know that OBL was sipping Coke and Pepsi in a huge, multi-million dollar compound with 6 meter walls, close to the West Point of the country and the most fashionable golf course in the north - all 150 kilometers from the capital. How Pakistan is approached, however, will depend on the draw down in Afghanistan and what the US wants to accomplish in the region.

Pakistan is paranoid about India and Indian activities in Afghanistan. The generals see it as an encirclement campaign and will look to China and Iran for help. Pakistan is also beset by its local Taliban while opposing the Taliban in Afghanistan – for now. That may change as the US withdraws and Pakistan’s secret service decides the Afghan Taliban are useful. However, Iran loathes the Afghan Taliban for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is their particular brand of Islam. However, Pakistan’s military is still very reliant on US largess. Even as it becomes an economic and political basket case and becomes overall weaker compared to its heavy hitting neighbor India, the military will want their toys.

However, US foreign policy may be able to disenthrall itself regarding the perceived need to be nice to Pakistan and Afghanistan based on their fear mongering about al Qaeda. Given the swift insertion, action and withdrawal of a tightly organized team to kill OBL the US should wake up to the notion that it does not need Pakistan and Afghanistan as much as they led the US to believe – with significant help from the Republicans. The leverage this produces is huge. Back in the good old days (that’s a joke) when Kissinger and Nixon were around making trouble, Turkey’s generals were snubbing their collective noses at the US regarding missile deployment in Turkey. Kissinger, with considerable risk, basically said that the US clearly saw no reason to indulge the Turkish government if they did not want the help of the US. The same should be said of Pakistan and Afghanistan. What is more important in the region – India or Pakistan? In all of eastern and central Asia, does US foreign policy need to pander to the whims and blackmail of Islamabad, Kabul or, for that matter, Dushanbe and Bishkek?

The death of OBL, and the means of its accomplishment should provide US foreign policy with far more flexibility and allow it to focus on more important issues than the threats from some 3rd rate terrorists who have managed – again with the help of the Republicans – to get American citizens give up basic Constitutional liberties with every little radio and tape broadcast of meaningless threats. If anything, the al Qaeda central command (long gone and now decapitated) and all the little franchises have managed to show that many Americans are, quite simply, cowards and willing to give up all their democratic rights for security regardless of how remote the threat. As Benjamin Franklin said: They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

So the killing of OBL opens up a range of opportunities for US foreign policy and withdrawal from Afghanistan will put Pakistan and Afghanistan on notice so they may adjust to a new world of interaction with their neighbors.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden and Son are Dead

As a New Yorker, all I can say is very well done Seal Team Six.