Saturday, March 17, 2012

Time to Go - Afghan Edition

The Fat Lady has risen and is now limbering up her vocal cords for a rendition of “Impossible”.  Afghanistan is over and the distrust and dislike are fully out in the open.  Since the entire COIN theory rests basically on trust, there is nothing left to salvage from a war that was won on the ground almost a decade ago and the goal of which died in a lightning raid in Pakistan last year.  The US indulged in nation building after 2003 and no one remembers why.  Nation building in a place like Afghanistan, where local villagers do not even know why foreign troops were everywhere because they never heard of 9/11, is building on foundation of sand.  The coalition has lost the hearts and minds battle. 

Let’s understand one thing – there is no trust on either side.  The latest killing spree by a veteran US sergeant where 16 people – 9 of them children – died is only a degree of difference from the death of civilians around the country by accidental fire and collateral damage.  The accidental burning of the Quran – considered the literal word of God – and videos of US soldiers urinating on the bodies of Taliban are only the most obvious of the incidents that have made the coalition presence problematic.

Three weeks ago an Afghan gunman killed two senior US officers inside the Interior Ministry’s headquarters.  This was on the heels of the Quran burning. A couple of days before the incident inside the Interior Ministry coalition helicopters flying in eastern Afghanistan fired on a group of civilians, killing four and injuring three.
And guess what.  Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall and Karzai can’t put him back together again.  Why? Because he is not respected and is aptly called the Mayor of Kabul.  And even if he could, he cannot because he cannot be seen to be supporting a coalition that has lost all trust.
Finally, all those foreign aid workers might soon find themselves protected by Afghan security because the Afghan government looks like it is going to enforce the banning of private security firms.  It is hard enough for various international aid agencies to get qualified people to go to Afghanistan.  Being protected by those in whom you have no trust will make it impossible.
The fact is that at this point any possible gains made in Afghanistan by the coalition are now gone.  President Obama has assured Karzai that NATO will “stay the course”.  There is no course.  It is time to cut the losses and go – because frankly, what purports to be a country but in reality is just a loose combination of regions that sometimes fight each other is not worth it.  Afghanistan is irrelevant and can be dealt with from a distance.
Withdrawal will likely make Pakistan more peaceful and stable. Donor funds, Russian and US security efforts and other aid interventions are pouring into neighboring Tajikistan.  Afghanistan is not bordered by friends and internally is divided.  Take away the foreign troops and it is not hard to envision the results.  We should not care.   It is not worth another 18 months of further bloodshed.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Romney's Iran - Different Fact Galaxy

This op-ed by Mitt Romney is simply so bad, it is impossible to know where to begin.  But I'll try.

First - he offers no evidence of any of his conclusions.  Iran has a “nuclear-bomb program”?  There is absolutely no evidence of that and both the CIA and IAEA have stated as much.
Second - what evidence exists that the Islamic Republic is “racing to build a nuclear bomb.”?  None.
 He wants to permanently station aircraft carrier groups in the the Eastern Med and Gulf?  To do what? And one is already stationed in the Gulf with periodic visits by another or two into the Med.
He wants the US to increase naval shipbuilding to 15 ships a year so that it is unchallenged?  It already is unchallenged, in case he hadn't noticed. There is no navy on the planet that the US navy could not push aside with ease.
Romney is making matters worse by ignoring facts and pandering to those who want to strike out at Iran regardless of the adverse consequences to the US, its allies in the region and the spike in oil prices every time he opens his mouth with calls for yet another war in the Middle East and Iran responds to those threats with its own.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What is Wrong with Germany

The Russian elections are over with no surprises.  Everything proceeded as planned.  Russia will now concentrate on further intimidation of its former colonies - a natural geopolitical reality which is in its interests.  Despite the fact that even if Russia permitted a free media and truly competitive elections which allows for opposition candidates that have not been hand-picked by the Kremlin, Putin would have won. But not by much.

But it is telling that the energy ties-that- bind running from Moscow to Berlin are firm and colours the question of Germany's dependability as a Western ally and member of NATO.  The majority of European countries were silent about the elections and the results.  Putin received few congratulatory phone calls from any European country, with France remaining significantly quiet.

But, Angela Merkel immediately called Putin to congratulate him and amazingly offered a "strategic partnership".  The Foreign Minister of Poland, Radoslaw Sikorski, provided the proper response by calling the elections undemocratic. Poland has seen the results of a strategic partnership between Moscow and Berlin before.

German ties with Russia are understandable given the prostrate energy position of Berlin.  At the same time, coupled with German positions on Libya, it's attitude toward Greece and the southern tier of EU member states and its positioning to control the EU at the expense of everyone else, Germany must be looked on differently and its foreign policy with suspicion.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lies and the Liars Who Tell Them - AIPAC

First question of the day:  Why is not AIPAC a registered foreign agent in the US?

Second question of the day (or maybe decade):  Why is it that US foreign policy in the Middle East must comply with someone elses so-called vital interests (see question one) instead of its own?

Related to the second question: Under what insane scheme does an apartheid government which openly steals land from another people get the right to push an entire region into a war with Iran based on no evidence whatsoever of nuclear weapon development?  And please note, the religious authorities in Iran have said that they consider nuclear weapons a sin - but that statement was never broadcast or printed in the US media whether once chooses to believe it or not.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Time for Change in Ukraine - Revolution redux?

I have not written about Ukraine in a long while, precisely because any semblance of democracy is being systematically dismantled by Victor Yanukovich and his mafia thugs.  But perhaps it is time for people in Ukraine to start thinking about an alternative to getting rid of the current government which is making sure it effectively rigs the next election.
This week, Yuriy Lutsenko, the Interior Minister under Yulia Tymoshenko, was sentenced to four years in jail and a three year ban from public office.  Since Yulia Tymoshenko is already there for seven years, Yanukovich and his oligarchs are effectively destroying any attempt by the opposition to contest the next election in 2015. This latest outrage has brought the usual "serious concern" response from the diplomats in the EU and the US.
This is not enough.  A little of the pictured spirit would do fine.

Let's get something straight.  Yanukovich is destroying the political freedom of Ukraine and doing so by blatantly charging opponents with his version of crimes.  Tymoshenko was condemned for negotiating a bad deal on gas with the Russians - something even Putin could not understand.  Lutsenko was convicted of giving an apartment to his attorney and other financial atrocities - like increasing his driver's pension.

So - when push comes to shove and Yanukovich (with a popularity of 15%)  is hopefully dragged out into the street by an angry mob - what should his punishment be (if he survives)?  For betraying the nascent democracy.  For handing Ukraine to the Kremlin. For putting table lamps in his new office that each cost $10,000 and fittings in his bathroom for 300,000 Euro while Ukraine's economy shrinks.  For jailing his opposition.

It is possible to kill a country in other ways than the methods now being undertaken by Assad of Syria.  The punishment , however, should be the same. And it should not wait until 2015.  Sometimes, talking is not enough.
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