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Saturday, December 31

Is Pakistan on the verge of a coup? Plus, do Bruce Riedel and State Department know which side they're on in the Afghan War?

From U.K. Telegraph report, US senators urge 'full review' of Pakistan funding, December 6, 2011:
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who led an inter-agency review of US policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan in early 2009, on Monday said the United States should give greater weight to containing the Pakistani army.

Speaking at a panel discussion in the US capital, he said that for now, Washington was "not doing enough on the containment part. We're slipping and sliding into it, but I think without a coherent framework."

According to Riedel, the Pakistani army is gradually installing a new military dictatorship, without even needing to resort to a coup.

"The new military dictatorship that is emerging in Pakistan will be very different from its predecessors," he said.

"The facade of civilian government is likely to continue to go on ... with very little real power. The media will continue to be very active and alive, except when they criticise the military."
From B. Raman's analysis, Pakistan Army: Back from the Barracks -- Need for alert in India, December 24, 2011:
1. Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), who had taken the Army back into the barracks after succeeding Gen.Pervez Musharraf as the COAS and announced that the Army would no longer dabble in politics, has reversed his past stand and re-asserted the role of the Army as one among equals -- along with the Executive, legislature and the judiciary -- in matters concerning national security.
[...]
12. What we are seeing in Pakistan is not a de jure military coup that would require ex-post facto validation by the court, but a de facto coup that would not require any such validation.
There is a great deal of background between paragraphs 1 and 12, including information on "Memogate," which raised the latest round of questions in Washington about the coup issue, but I wanted to highlight just the conclusion because it jibes with Riedel's.

So here we have two very different people with different credentials, sources and levels of experience with analyzing Pakistan and both coming to pretty much the same conclusion.

If Messrs. Raman and Riedel are correct it means that the vast majority of Pakistan watchers in Washington have once again missed the boat. They've had their eyes peeled for a classic coup and believe this scenario is very unlikely. Righto, but there are coups and de facto coups.

Some thoughts about Bruce Riedel and the U.S. Department of State's way of promoting democracy before I close. Over the years I've quoted Riedel's views on Pakistan very sparingly because in my view he has the irritating habit of ignoring the implications of the data he pulls together on Pakistan's military/ISI when he arrives at drawing a conclusion.

And he can be naive; specifically, no matter how many correct observations he makes about the Pakistani military, he seems to draw a thick line between the military and Pakistan's civil society whereas none actually exists.

As with Egypt's military (and Iran's IRGC and several other militaries around the world), Pakistani's officers have extensive land and business holdings in the country, which employ a great many Pakistanis.

I think Riedel is reflecting the view of the U.S. Department of State/USAID, which has bought into the approach that through aid and technical assistance to a country's private industry and civil institutions it can weaken a military's hold on the country. (State has sold the White House on the approach for Pakistan.) Here's a sample of Riedel's reasoning in that regard, from an analyis he wrote for the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution in June of this year ( Three Ways to Help Pakistan):
For decades these [democracy-supporting] Pakistanis have asked America to do one thing: open our markets to trade from their country. Every Pakistani ambassador to Washington since 1991 has told me the same thing; trade not aid will help us build a modern civil society, empower women, strengthen the entrepreneurs who want to build Pakistan, and encourage peace not terror.

Instead, Washington places tariffs on Pakistani textiles that are three times the rate applied to most countries. A level playing field for Pakistani products is a national security imperative for America, even if our own textile industry hates it.
I hasten to add that Riedel is not the only opinion expert pushing the "trade not aid" approach to Pakistan; there's a coterie of 'em in Think-tankistan and the ones who belong tend to sound the same. From a September 2011 op-ed for the Los Angeles Times by Carnegie Endowment's George Perkovich (Changing the direction of U.S.-Pakistan relations):
Washington could foster Pakistan's economic development, self-regard and confidence in American intentions by removing barriers to Pakistani textile and apparel exports to the United States. Americans often profess that trade is better than aid. But to protect the tiny and unviable remaining textile and apparel sector in the United States, Congress blocks efforts to lower tariffs on Pakistani imports of these goods. By removing these protectionist tariffs, Washington would help spur Pakistan's economic growth without the psychological baggage often attached to aid when it is perceived as charity.
The State Department approach of buttressing the civilian sector hasn't worked out well in Egypt so far, despite all the aid and technical assistance it's channeled to building up the country's civil institutions. But sidestepping the argument about the merits of the approach, applying it to Pakistan is counterproductive. That's because the United States is up against a covert proxy war being fought by Pakistan's military in Afghanistan.

Aside from business holdings Pakistan's military has myriad ways to siphon the lion's share of aid/loan money for private sector/civilian government projects and is notorious for doing so. And what is not controlled by the military is controlled by the powerful 'landed' class, which works hand in glove with the military.

Thus, the only way the U.S. government can be assured that the military doesn't channel aid into helping terrorist outfits that attack American troops is to suspend all aid, all loans -- everything, including trade concessions. Sad but necessary until Pakistan's military shuts down its covert war in Afghanistan.

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Friday, December 30

Washington's 40 percent solution to Pakistan's proxy war against NATO in Afghanistan or Pundita's solution. Take your pick.

I begin with thanking Madhu at Chicago Boyz and Zenpundit's Mark Safranski for highlighting my December 17 post, Would the U.S. pay Pakistan's military to help murder American troops if the U.S. had military conscription?. Mark included a helpful history lesson in his comments on the post:
Militaries come in several forms, historically speaking. There are military castes like the Samurai, Spartans or the Janissaries; there are armies of citizen volunteers as with ancient Athens, ancient Rome or Washington’s Continental Army; there are armies built by conscription and finally there are professional mercenaries. Each kind of military has a different relationship with the political community from which it emerged and when a political community changes its form of military, this signals a change in the political community.

The Roman legions annihilated at Cannae by Hannibal were of a different character than the Roman legions lost by Emperor Valens under the hooves of Gothic heavy cavalry at Adrianople (note which set of Romans had the systemic capability to recover and win).

Richard Nixon is the father of our AVF [all volunteer force] and he initiated the transformation at the time for shrewd, self-interested, political reasons. One of those reasons was that a republican (small “r”) military composed of conscripts representing the broad population of American citizens was a politically difficult army to employ ruthlessly for reasons of state compared to a military with the ethos of professional soldiers.

Herein lies the root of the much remarked distance between the American public and the small fraction who are soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines fighting wars on our behalf.
Yet the history Mark summarizes provides no precedent for the situation I discussed in the Conscription post. So while societies with AVFs are historically not as engaged with their militaries as ones where there is conscription, this doesn't explain the relationship between Washington and Pakistan, whereby one government has been in effect paying another to murder its own troops, and doing so on the thinnest rationalizations -- some of which I shot down in yesterday's post; others I've dealt with in several essays going back years.

There is no viable rationale, and the American public is fast running out of excuses for not knowing the score on Afghanistan, which is that counterinsurgency doctrine never got a fair test in the country because there was never any insurgency to speak of; there was and remains a covert proxy war waged by Pakistan's military -- a war funded in no small part by the U.S. taxpayer. A war that needlessly kills and maims many Americans because even the most basic, common-sense actions have never been taken by the American civilian leaders and military commands to discourage Pakistan's military from waging war on Afghanistan.

And despite all the publicity in the USA since the Abbottabad raid about Pakistan's support for terrorism and the public criticism of Pakistan from members of Congress, a host of media figures and high-ranking officials, there has been no real change in Washington's stance on Pakistan. If that's hard to believe, consider:

The 40 Percent Solution

A December 17 Reuters report (updated on December 19) on the foreign aid section of the U.S. spending bill for fiscal 2012 summarizes the stipulations attached by Congress to U.S. aid to Pakistan:
The legislation allocates $850 million for a fund to help Pakistan's military develop counterinsurgency capabilities to fight Islamist militants within its borders. This is actually a slight increase from last year's $800 million but less than the $1.1 billion President Obama requested for the fund in 2012.

However, a massive defense bill Congress passed on Thursday freezes 60 percent of this amount, or $510 billion, until the U.S. defense secretary provides lawmakers with assurances that Pakistan is working to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
So Congress is betting that 40 percent of the aid -- the part that is being given without strings attached -- will not be used by the Pakistani military to help train and supply terrorists who attack U.S. troops and civilian workers in Afghanistan and U.S./NATO supply convoys in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

And as to why the American taxpayer should pay for U.S. forces to further train Pakistan's military in counterinsurgency tactics, which repeated history tells it passes to terrorist groups fighting Americans and other NATO troops, the Reuters report doesn't say. To return to the report:
[...] No number was included for economic aid to Pakistan, leaving the Obama administration to specify the amount in consultation with Congress. This is a comedown for Pakistan; in each of the past three years, about $1 billion or more in economic aid for Pakistan was written into spending bills, in part to meet pledges made under 2009 legislation sponsored by Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar.

Economic as well as security aid was made conditional on Pakistan's cooperation in fighting militants such as the Haqqani network.
The large political rally held on December 25, 2011 in Karachi for Imran Khan was Rawalpindi's answer to all the conditions that Washington has attached to its aid, conditions that were telegraphed many weeks prior to the aid bill's passage. Not long before he was murdered the Pakistan bureau chief for Asia Times Online, Saleem Shahzad, reported that the strongly anti-American Khan was being groomed by Pakistani military leaders as Pakistan's next likely (figurehead) civilian leader. As I noted in my April 22. 2011 comments on Shahzad's report:
With some understatement Khan is not U.S.- or NATO-friendly. At the time Shahzad filed his report Khan was leading a two day sit-in outside Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, "planned for Saturday and Sunday to block supply convoys ferrying goods to North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in Afghanistan."
So this is something Washington could see coming: any attempt to tie sticks to U.S. aid to Pakistan would be met with countermoves from Rawalpindi, such as promoting Khan -- whose entire political platform at this time is fighting corruption and standing up to the United States.

The Washington workaround has been a 40 percent solution: no strings on monies always intended to be disbursed to Pakistan, and attach the strings to the phantom 60 percent.

This, despite the fact that even Fareed Zakaria bluntly told Pakistan's foreign minister (in an interview aired on CNN October 2, 2011) that it's been open knowledge for years in American journalistic and diplomatic circles that Pakistan is aiding and abetting the Haqqani Network.

Hina Rabbani Khar didn't bother to keep the contempt out of her voice when she replied to Zakaria's grilling. I'd say she knew she was dealing with people in Washington who make the monsters in her own government look like saints, for even the worst in Pakistan's military wouldn't pay another military to kill its own troops.

On November 13, 2009 The Atlantic Council's New Atlanticist blog published an essay by Donald M. Snow, Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama and author of over 40 books on foreign policy, international relations and national security, which dealt with the implications of an all-volunteer force in the United States. Little more than a week after the Snow essay appeared at NA I published Why General Stanley McChrystal is going straight to hell, the first of what must be more than a hundred essays by now on the U.S. government's attempts to placate Pakistan even though it knew that Pakistan's military/ISI was complicit in the murder and maiming of U.S. troops.

I've half a mind to republish the Snow essay and mine right here and now, but will content myself with providing the links to the essays and asking you to read (or re-read) both. Then you tell me what you think should be done about a situation that has no precedent in recorded history.

If your answer is that the United States should immediately withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan: if you and I hadn't egged on Pakistan's military to create a monster that was turned loose on Afghanis I'd say it's the right answer. However, that we weren't really aware of how our tax money was being used, or that some of us weren't even born at the time President Ronald Reagan hailed the Taliban as freedom fighters, doesn't let us off the hook.

If you tell me that we don't dare add another shooting war to our list: there is more than one way to stop Pakistan's proxy war and without the U.S. firing a shot at Pakistan. I've detailed such ways on my blog at least twice, but they depend on something Americans have in short supply, which is patience. There is fast way, however:

The Pundita Solution

The U.S. ambassador to every major NATO country should be instructed to convey to his or her counterpart that President Obama wants to call a special session of Congress to recommend that the United States withdraw from NATO, and to kindly pass this along to the country's leadership.

When the American ambassadors are asked why, they should reply that the President finds himself in a real pickle: he can't order that the United States immediately withdraw from Afghanistan but neither can he continue to tolerate that his government and the governments of other NATO countries are encouraging Pakistan to continue its proxy war against NATO troops and Afghanistan's government.

The ambassadors should also convey that President Obama would be all ears if NATO country leaders had suggestions that would allow him to refrain from calling the special session, particularly because he would have to go into considerable detail in front of Congress to explain why he wants to withdraw from NATO.

That would be a better way of accomplishing the objective than Obama snarling into the phone at NATO country leaders that unless every one of their governments immediately suspended all loans and every kind of aid to Pakistan, including technical assistance, the United States would immediately withdraw from NATO.

There are other tactics along similar lines that can be launched, but it all starts with the U.S. halting every kind of loan, aid and TA to Pakistan, and bringing pressure on the World Bank to the same and nudging Brussels to do the same at the IMF.

The halting should be done without a word of explanation, criticism or threat to Pakistan's leaders. As I've explained before the Pakistanis in charge are adults; they don't need to be told what they already know. They've just been waiting to see whether Washington will ever get serious about having them stop their proxy war. So far, they've had every indication that the answer is no.

A fast withdrawal from NATO would be a drastic step for the United States but there is no use bringing any lessor threat to bear. These other NATO countries want to do business with Pakistan just as the United States does, so Pakistan would continue to play one country off another if there wasn't a coordinated approach.

A coordinated approach would also be helpful in persuading China to hear its phone ringing when Pakistan began whining that the USA was being really mean this time. China has a big interest in seeing peace in Afghanistan. Ditto for Iran. Sooner there is peace, the sooner U.S. combat forces can withdraw.

As to whether Obama would go for the plan -- I think he would, but if he is up against a powerful faction in Washington that does not want peace in Afghanistan on the theory that peace would mean a speedy exit for U.S. combat troops, he would have his work cut out for him.

I honestly don't know whether such a faction exists, although surely there are some in Washington who would like to keep combat troops near Russia and Iran and possibly Pakistan. But when you weigh that desire against what Pakistan's proxy war is doing to Americans, only those Americans with no conscience whatsoever -- real fiends -- would consider the maiming and murder of Americans to be justifiable collateral damage. Such people should have no place in the United States; they shouldn't deserve citizenship here.

In any event the only way such a crime against humanity can happen is in the shadows of the American public's inattention and in the silence of the Pentagon and the U.S. Department of State. So it's time for everyone to step up.

I'll close with a quote from Professor Snow's essay on the AVF:
Veterans’ Day reminds us that military commitment and sacrifice has historically been a national burden, not one borne by those we hire to perform our duty for us (we have, of course, also done that, as in the provision for draftees to hire replacements on the Union side of the Civil War).

Philosophically, the danger is that we become so disconnected from the military obligation that we forget that sacrifice is a national, not a minority, responsibility. I do not want to saddle the military with an unruly force, but I would like a force that is more representative of us all and which cannot be activated without a conscious recognition that we and those we all hold dear may be very personally affected.

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Thursday, December 29

If most Afghans don't like Taliban why is NATO trying to ram Taliban down their throats?

"And most Pashtuns don't like Taliban. They want the Taliban out because their whole tribal system has been destroyed. More than 90 percent don't want the Taliban to be ruling them."-- Former Pakistani intelligence official quoted by Pakistan-based L.A. Times journalist Alex Rodriguez in December 28, 2011 report, Pakistani death squads go after informants to U.S. drone program

December 26, 2011, Khaama Press (Afghanistan):
Former Afghan Intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh insists [on consideration for] the views of the Afghan people during the peace talks process as majority of the Afghans both in northern regions and southern regions have negative views regarding the Taliban group.

While speaking during the inauguration ceremony of the Dawat-e-Islami foundation Mr. Saleh said the Afghan government and the United States of America cannot represent the anti-Taliban Afghan civilians to initiate peace talks.

He also warned that there will no significant achievements if the demands of the Afghans who are against the Taliban group are [not] considered.

The recent objections by the opposition parties of the Afghan government come amid growing efforts by the United States of America to start peace dialogues with the Taliban group.
[...]
The Pakistani ex-intelligence official spoke to Rodriguez on condition of anonymity, of course, but there you have it: a tacit admission from a knowledgeable Pakistani source that Amrullah Saleh has been speaking the truth all along. The Taliban are simply a "group" as the Khamaa report terms them, a group that does not enjoy support among any of Afghanistan's non-Pasthun ethnic groups and finds support from only about 10 percent of Pashtuns. (Note that the Pakistani source didn't distinguish between Afghan and Pakistani Pashtuns when he claimed that 90 percent didn't support the Taliban.)

And one could argue that the 10 percent is largely a creation of Pakistan's ISI/military -- at least that's the perception of what is probably a majority of Afghans and it's certainly Amrullah's perception based on information he obtained while head of Afghanistan's intelligence service.

So what is the justification for the United States and its NATO partners to claim that Taliban must be included in formal peace negotiations and that only a political settlement will bring peace to Afghanistan? What is the justification for claiming that only a 'political' solution can work to end the fighting in Afghanistan?

The justification can't be that Hamid Karzai wants Taliban included in negotiations. That's because it's open knowledge Karzai made the assertion only under the most extreme pressure from the U.S. administration, which caused him to fear for his life. He was afraid that the U.S. government would order his assassination if he didn't agree to negotiate with Taliban; indeed, it was this fear that led to Amrullah Saleh's resignation from the NDS and Karzai accepting the resignation. Karzai refused to believe evidence that Amrullah brought him that a terrorist attack on a national peace assembly, which Karzai had been attending at the time of the attack, was the work of Taliban; he told Saleh it was the CIA in an attempt to kill him.

Not to make light of Karzai's plight and his fear, which I think came to border on the paranoid, but he grew some spine only when he was caught in a pincer movement -- caught between the Obama administration's demand that he 'talk' with the Taliban and strident demands from powerful opposition factions in Afghanistan that he make no concessions to the Taliban.

If anyone trys to claim that Karzai wasn't being pushed by the Obama administration to make concessions: just an agreement to talk with the Taliban before the group's terrorist rampage in Afghanistan halted was in itself forcing him into a huge concession to the Taliban.

The concession has backfired at every turn and contributed to deaths of American, British and other NATO military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan, not to mention deaths of Afghan troops and civilians. Yet this situation was rationalized by General David Petraeus while he headed the NATO effort in Afghanistan on the argument that many times in the history of warfare one side has had to negotiate with forces that are inflicting severe casualties on them.

Petraeus must have known at the time he was called before Congress to explain the U.S. decision to negotiate with Taliban that it was Pakistan's military, not any Taliban leaders, which had power to make a negotiated agreement stick. However, it's only within the past few months that anyone in official Washington has been willing to publicly acknowledge the true situation with Pakistan. That's because telling the truth would be in effect an admission that the U.S. counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan was absurd from the start. I repeat, absurd, in the manner of the man who searched on the street for keys he knew he'd lost in his house because the light for searching was better outdoors. It's absurd because there never was an insurgency to speak of in Afghanistan and there isn't one to this day; there's a proxy war being fought by Pakistan's military against NATO forces and the Afghan government. I do not believe there has been a time when the NATO command and the civilian leaders it reports to have not known this.

And while it's true that governments have had to negotiate with insurgents that are killing a government's troops, Petraeus's attempt to Vietnamize the situation in Afghanistan was sophistry because the two situations were completely different. Only a very small number of Afghans support the Taliban and their terrorism, and only those Afghans who work for Pakistan's interests support Pakistan making proxy war on Afghanistan.

Petraeus's explanation fell apart when it became public knowledge that Osama bin Laden had been living in Pakistan under circumstances that as much clinched he was there as a guest of Pakistan's military. So the new, improved rationalization floated in Washington was that Pakistan had to be given a seat at the negotiating table, which caused Amrullah Saleh and many other Afghans to put their foot down.

If State or the Pentagon or anyone in the Obama Administration wants to defend their tactics by arguing that the U.S. still needs Pakistan's cooperation in killing al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, I'll return to Alex Rodriguez's report:
Current and former U.S. officials say the CIA has decided to temporarily suspend so-called signature [drone] strikes — missile attacks against fighters and others whose actions suggest support for the Taliban and other insurgent groups — in an effort to mend relations with Pakistan.
I doubt the Central Intelligence Agency decides anything on its own in this very delicate matter; it's surely acting on orders from the White House. But so much for a key feature of Obama's "War on al Qaeda," as the most recent National Intelligence Estimate terms the War on Terror. I've noted before that I think the drone war in Pakistani territory is a bad idea and that there's a better way to bag al Qaeda in Pakistan, but the point is that at the first stiff breeze coming from Rawalpindi the Obama administration has suspended its major tactic against al Qaeda fighters holed up in Pakistan. And Rawalpindi knows what this means.

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Monday, December 26

Pepe Escobar bats one out of the park, but do pipeline politics really run the world?

There are a few people in this world who can be hilarious when they get really angry -- John Batchelor, George Monbiot, Pepe Escobar, Mark Steyn come immediately to mind as examples. When sufficiently provoked they can fashion humor into a weapon so pointed it would kill if it were made of less amorphous stuff.

I credit Batchelor's "A Goose Had to Die" monologue, aired in all America's major radio markets, as a factor in John Kerry's loss in the 2004 presidential election. The monologue was side-splitting funny, but Batchelor was nearly beside himself with fury that Kerry had attempted to overcome his East Coast Liberal Effete image by tramping through woods in hunting gear and taking pot shots at innocent wildlife for the benefit of a press gaggle.

For this wonderful way of expressing outrage I'm sometimes willing to overlook whatever lapses in logic I perceive when people with such a gift for expressing their feelings discuss foreign policy matters -- and I have overlooked much over the years regarding Pepe Escobar's logic. But for his Christmas Day offering (Playing Chess in Eurasia) Escobar has written up his latest take on pipeline politics, which he sees as the keystone of foreign policy/defense issues, and which spits out so many truths it's priceless. The hilarity is that his version of what's really going on in the world makes the mainstream media reports on current events seem written by Baghdad Bob.

I hesitate to quote from Escobar's writing because every passage is interlocked so reading it is really an all-or-nothing proposition, but to get you in the swing I'll quote from the part subtitled All Hail the Gas Czar:
[Vladimir] Putin's plan is deceptively simple; Gazprom "takes over" Western Europe and thus neutralizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Exhibit 1 is the Nord Stream, a $12 billion, twin 1224-km pipeline, respecting extraordinary complex environmental guidelines, launched last September. That's gas from Siberia delivered under the Baltic Sea, bypassing problematic Ukraine, straight to Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Denmark and the Czech republic (10% of the entire EU annual gas consumption, or one third of China's entire current gas consumption). Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder heads the Nord Stream consortium.

Exhibit 2 is the South Stream (the shareholder agreement is already signed between Russia, Germany, France and Italy). That's Russian gas delivered under the Black Sea to the southern part of the EU, through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia. Instrumental in the deal was the quality time Putin spent with his close pal, former Italian prime minister Silvio "bunga bunga" Berlusconi.

Nord Stream drove Washington nuts. Not only did it redesign Europe's energy configuration; it forged an unbreakable German-Russian strategic link. Putin, better than anyone, knows how pipelines hard-wire governments. South Stream is driving Washington nuts because it beats Nabucco hands down, and it's way cheaper. Talk about a geopolitical -- and geoeconomic -- battle.

Washington -- alarmed at what the Germans deliciously dubbed the "modernization partnership" with Russia -- is left to promote European "resistance" to Gazprom's onslaught, as if Germany was Zucotti Park and Russia was the NYPD. Again here's Pipelineistan infused with political reverberations. For instance, Germany and Italy are totally against NATO expansion. The reason? Nord and South Stream. The formidable German export machine is fueled by Russian energy; the motto might be "Put a Gazprom in my Audi."

As William Engdahl, author of the seminal A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics in the New World Order, has observed, the "Nord Stream and South Stream are poised to leap out of the world of energy security and choreograph an altogether new power dynamic in the heart of Europe." (18)

Putin's road map is his paper, "A new integration project for Eurasia: The future in the making," published by Izvestia in early October (19). It may be dismissed as megalomania, but it may also be read as an ippon -- Putin loves judo -- against NATO, the International Monetary Fund and neo-liberalism.

True, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of "snow leopard" Kazakhstan was already talking about a Eurasian Union way back in 1994. Putin, though, makes it clear this wouldn't be back In The USSR territory, but a "modern economic and currency union" stretching all across Central Asia.

For Putin, Syria is just a detail; the real thing is Eurasian integration. No wonder Atlanticists started freaking out with this suggestion of "a powerful supranational union that can become one of the poles of today's world while being an efficient connecting link between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific Region." Compare it with US President Barack Obama and Hillary's Pacific doctrine (20).
[...]
The question is the extent to which the reality Escobar conveys is accurate. Do pipeline politics really rule the world, or at least the decision-making of the biggest players on the world stage?

Well, in 2008 Monbiot penned a column for the Guardian titled, The US missile defence system is the magic pudding that will never run out: "Poland is just the latest fall guy for an American foreign policy dictated by military-industrial lobbyists in Washington."

Monboit launched by arguing that the missile shield idea was nutty to begin with and that putting it in Poland was even nuttier:
The American government insists that the interceptors, which will be stationed on the Baltic coast, have nothing to do with Russia: their purpose is to defend Europe and the US against the intercontinental ballistic missiles Iran and North Korea don't possess. This is why they are being placed in Poland, which, as every geography student in Texas knows, shares a border with both rogue states.

They permit us to look forward to a glowing future, in which missile defence, according to the Pentagon, will "protect our homeland ... and our friends and allies from ballistic missile attack"; as long as the Russians wait until it's working before they nuke us. The good news is that, at the present rate of progress, reliable missile defence is only 50 years away. The bad news is that it has been 50 years away for the past six decades.
[...]
The situation with Poland was even weirder than Monbiot might have known at the time; at any rate he didn't mention that the U.S. got the Polish government to bail on a fighter-jet contract with France by promising to build part of the missile shield in Poland. That's why the Poles were hopping mad when President Obama pulled back from the plan after he endured a two-hour breakfast lecture from Putin on the way the world really works.

The point is that by building on Monbiot's observations one could make out a case that defense contractors, not gas and oil companies, run the world. And the more one knows about the Bank for International Settlements the easier it is to assert that central reserve banks run the world.

I myself learned in 2007 that the world is actually run by about five guys who work above a grocery store in Geneva. So these aren't the famous Gnomes of Zurich; these are statisticians who piece together the only data on OPEC oil production that does not come from the OPEC cartel. In other words, they're the radar for the entire global economic system, which operates in a complete fog without reasonably accurate information on OPEC output: all the major decisions by the major governments, central and commercial banks, defense contractors, energy companies -- all of it, hanging on the brain sweat and investigative prowess of a virtual handful of men who spend their working lives playing cat-and-mouse with OPEC spin doctors.

The catch is that all the above is complete nonsense, which one can readily see by noting that the financial crisis of 2008, which brought much of the Western world to the brink of economic collapse, had nothing to do with OPEC, Eurasian pipeline politics, defense contractors or the decisions of central bankers.

Who, then really runs the world? You and I do. Any doubts on this score, consider what actually led to the financial crisis: We knew nobody gets anything for nothing, but even when we saw that our wages stayed stagnant for years we didn't exert ourselves; this was because we could buy whatever we needed dirt cheap from China and buy it on credit. When we saw that Wall Street had turned into a casino we still stayed in there and played. And we turned a blind eye to what pension funds were doing with our money on Wall Street. When we could get a mortgage for almost nothing down we knew there was something seriously out of whack with the banking system but we kept buying and flipping houses, like a game of musical chairs we gambled would never end.

So if you want to drill down to bedrock, what really runs the world, what's always run human affairs, is the idea that if it ain't broke don't fix it. Sure there are some among us with their eyes always on the horizon or looking over the shoulders for what's creeping up from behind. These people are very smart but think what would happen if they were in the majority; it would be chaos because few would be focusing on the here and now. So there's a sound reason why most of us have it hardwired into our brains that taking each day as it comes is the best course in the long run. This said, the shorter runs can be hell for the short-sighted.

How, then, to get by in a world where focusing on the business at hand can produce a dangerous blindness to lengthening shadows? Save for a rainy day. Help your neighbor on the theory that someday he'll return the favor. Don't go looking for trouble. Eat your vegetables. In short follow all the practical survival advice your parents gave you and their parents gave them and their parents before them.

By such means we uphold the sacred tradition to respect the wisdom of our elders even if many of them were idiots, and hope this will attract the compassion of a higher power when our playing ostrich has gotten us in a real jam.

As for the pipeline politics, remember those guys above the grocery store the next time you hear an American politician talking about an emerging threat to the USA. The biggest threat to America is the one that's been making no end of trouble for us ever since Nixon had to shut the gold window. The source of the trouble is our dependence on the Saudis, not for their oil but for their support of the U.S. dollar. If that wasn't the case Washington would be pinning a medal on Putin instead of cursing him because every pipeline deal that shakes OPEC's rafters should be a cause for Americans to rejoice.

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Thursday, December 22

New York Times on US military's investigation of Nov. 25 NATO-Pakistan border shooting incident

"In an important detail that was not disclosed at the Pentagon briefing but is likely to further aggravate relations with Islamabad, an American officer in Afghanistan said the joint patrol of 120 Afghan and American Special Operations forces, operating along the often poorly demarcated frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan, had come under Pakistani fire as it was entering an Afghan village, endangering Afghan civilians as well as the soldiers. The American officer said he believed that the Pakistanis had used night-vision technology because their shooting was unusually accurate, even though there were no casualties."

Here is the link to the full transcript of the Pentagon press briefing under discussion in the Times report (see below). The details provided by the report raise many questions; for instance:

> Why did the Pentagon offer to make "bereavement payments" to families of the dead Pakistani soldiers? Who advised them to do this? A NATO 'partner?' Someone at State, Pentagon, NSC? A U.S. commander in Afghanistan?

> Given the U.S. military's certain knowledge that it would be folly to share specific information on U.S. troop locations with Pakistan's military, why did the Pentagon characterize U.S. actions leading up the shooting incident as "mistakes?" See Michael Waltz's December 6, 2011 report for Foreign Policy's AFPAK Channel on Pakistan's Double Game on the Durand Line:
[...] Indeed, it is important to understand that incidents such as the [Nov. 25] exchange in Mohmand are not isolated occurrences, though only the most serious make headlines. Second, as our policy community is finally coming to fully realize, Pakistani forces are not only turning a blind eye, but actively aiding and abetting the insurgency in attacks on not only the Afghans but U.S. and coalition forces as well. That said, it's equally important to realize the painstaking, almost paralyzing, lengths to which the coalition goes to attempt to coordinate with the Pakistani Army and to avoid accidental attacks on their posts.
[...]
Rather than questioning the [NATO] coalition procedures, we should be questioning why the Taliban are so confident in their own safety in proximity to the Pakistani military.[...]
> Regarding the speculation that the Pakistani troops were using night-vision goggles when they fired into Afghanistan -- where did they obtain such equipment? One place would be the markets in Pakistan that specialize in selling military equipment stolen from NATO supply convoys trucking through Pakistan and Afghanistan. (See Shahan Mufti's detailed Dec. 15 report on the thefts.) But has the U.S. provided the Pak military with night-vision goggles?

The above questions are just for starters but for now here's the report, which I'm featuring in its entirety because every sentence is important -- right down to the last sentence. Or I should say especially the last sentence is important because it's a reminder that the Pakistanis didn't initiate shooting at the U.S.-Afghan patrol for no reason:
U.S. Concedes Error, but Says Pakistan Fired First at Border
By ERIC SCHMITT and MATTHEW ROSENBERG
December 22, 2011

Eric Schmitt reported from Washington, and Matthew Rosenberg from Kabul, Afghanistan. Salman Masood contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.

WASHINGTON — A United States military investigation has concluded that a series of checks and balances designed to prevent deadly cross-border mishaps with Pakistan failed to avert a NATO airstrike last month that killed 26 Pakistani troops in part because American officials did not trust Pakistan enough to give it detailed information about American troop locations in Afghanistan.

A report by the inquiry concluded that mistakes by both American and Pakistani troops led to airstrikes against two Pakistani posts on the Afghanistan border. But two crucial findings — that the Pakistanis fired first at a joint Afghan-American patrol and that American aircraft fired back after repeatedly warning the Pakistanis that they were shooting at allied troops — were likely to further anger Pakistan, and plunge the already tattered relationship between the United States and Pakistan to new depths.

In a statement and later at a news conference here on Thursday, the Defense Department said that “inadequate coordination by U.S. and Pakistani military officers” and “incorrect mapping information” that NATO had provided to the Pakistani authorities capped a chain of errors that caused the debacle.

“This, coupled with other gaps in information about the activities and placement of units from both sides contributed to the tragic results,” George Little, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters.

The incident, the worst in nearly a decade riddled with fatal cross-border blunders, underscored gaping flaws in a system established in recent years to avoid such mistakes. In this case, American officials acknowledged that the American policy of not divulging to Pakistan the precise location of allied ground troops patrolling in Afghanistan — for fear Pakistan might jeopardize their operations — contributed to the accident and underscored what the chief investigator called an “overarching lack of trust between the two sides.”

On Nov. 25, the same day the incident began, Gen. John Allen, the allied commander in Afghanistan, met in Islamabad with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani Army chief, to try to improve border coordination procedures.

In an important detail that was not disclosed at the Pentagon briefing but is likely to further aggravate relations with Islamabad, an American officer in Afghanistan said the joint patrol of 120 Afghan and American Special Operations forces, operating along the often poorly demarcated frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan, had come under Pakistani fire as it was entering an Afghan village, endangering Afghan civilians as well as the soldiers. The American officer said he believed that the Pakistanis had used night-vision technology because their shooting was unusually accurate, even though there were no casualties.

Pakistan has insisted that its forces did nothing wrong, and that they did not fire the first shots. Rather, senior Pakistani military and civilian officials have openly accused the United States of intentionally striking the border posts, even after Pakistani officers called their counterparts to complain their outposts were under allied attack.

The Defense Department statement included an expression of regret, though it did not appear to go as far as the apology Pakistani officials have demanded. “For the loss of life — and for the lack of proper coordination between U.S. and Pakistani forces that contributed to those losses — we express our deepest regret,” it said.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the Pakistani military spokesman, said in a text message on Thursday: “The Pak Army does not agree with the findings of the US NATO inquiry as being reported in the media.”

Pentagon officials said that on Wednesday, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. James N. Mattis, head of the military’s Central Command, called General Kayani to tell him the inquiry was complete and to offer a briefing. It is unclear when that briefing will happen, American officials said.

A Pentagon spokesman, Capt. John Kirby, said the United States was prepared to make bereavement payments to families of the Pakistani soldiers killed. But a senior Pakistan security official in Islamabad said last week that Pakistan would refuse any “blood money.”

In a telephone briefing with reporters here, Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Clark of the Air Force, who conducted the inquiry, said that both sides erred after the allied patrol.

According to a chronology by General Clark and other American military officials, the patrol planned to raid the village of Maya, about one mile inside the Afghan province of Kunar, near the Pakistani tribal area of Mohmand. Hiking up steep “goat trails” on a moonless night, the patrol came under heavy machine-gun fire from the ridge above at 11:09 p.m. on Nov. 25.

General Clark said the first allied mistake was that NATO did not inform Pakistan about the allied patrol that night, so the Pakistani soldiers would not have known to expect allied forces near their posts. NATO and Pakistani forces are supposed to inform each other about operations on the border precisely to avoid this kind of mistake.

After the allied ground force came under fire, the Pakistanis continued their attack despite flares fired from an AC-130 gunship and deafening, 600-mile-an-hour, low-level passes by two F-15E fighter jets — neither of which the Taliban would have been able to do — intended to warn to the Pakistanis.

The second American error came at 11:24 p.m. when, with the Pakistani firing continuing, the AC-130 gunship opened fire for six minutes. That strike was set in motion when ground commanders believed they had been told no Pakistani troops were in the area. In reality, NATO was still checking.

Moreover, before calling in the airstrikes, the Americans tried to verify whether Pakistani troops were in the area, but gave the Pakistani Army only a general location of the potential airstrike targets, and a wrong one at that. That error was compounded when a NATO liaison incorrectly configured his digital map.

“This goes back to the opening part of an overarching lack of trust between the two sides as far as giving out specifics, but it’s also a very specific failure that occurred now that we have a firefight on our hands,” General Clark said.

The Pakistanis made mistakes, too, he said. Pakistan never told NATO that it had established the border posts, which had been up for about three months and which a senior American military official called “a bunch of rocks.” Pakistan has said it did tell NATO. Each side is supposed to inform the other when setting up new border positions.

Why the Pakistanis were firing remains unclear. Pakistan did not participate in the inquiry, but General Clark acknowledged that he did not take into consideration news media reports on several detailed public briefings held by the Pakistani military in recent days.

From 11:44 p.m. until midnight, the AC-130 and Apache helicopter gunships resumed firing on “rudimentary bunkers.”

A third engagement took place starting at 12:40 a.m., when a heavy machine gun began firing from the Pakistani side “a little further north” of the first Pakistani shooting. About 1 a.m., American officials finally confirmed the Pakistan presence at the posts, and firing ceased.

The joint patrol resumed its mission in the village, the American officer said, and seized one of the largest caches of weapons in Kunar Province this year along with a bomb-making facility.

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Saturday, December 17

Would the U.S. pay Pakistan's military to help murder American troops if the U.S. had military conscription?

Through it all -- throughout all the deceptions, denials, evasions, rationalizations and insultingly useless advice given over the years by Americans in civilian government, the military and academia -- there is one question relating to U.S. tolerance for Pakistan's proxy war against NATO and Afghanistan that towers above all others. And yet it's the one question that has never been asked of a public figure. So in the title of this post I've put the question to the public.

I'd say the answer to the question is "Very unlikely."

By this I don't mean to shift blame to Americans at large, nor am I arguing to restore conscription. I'm simply pointing out that if service in the U.S. military was compulsory, there would have been such a large number of Americans personally involved in the outcome of the Afghan War that there would have been no 'dark' or 'lost' years in the war while the U.S. was fighting in Iraq.

Combine this with the instant era in global communications, and I think the outcome would have been that factions in Washington that managed for the better part of a decade to hide Pakistan's proxy war from the American public would have found their machinations quickly overwhelmed by the volume of complaints from conscripted Americans and their parents -- many of those parents veterans of the Vietnam War, I might add.

This would have forced the U.S. news media to dig deeper and faster into the conditions that kept Pakistanis pouring across the Afghan-Pakistan border to kill Afghans and Americans and troops from other NATO countries. This would have quickly destroyed the rationalizations voiced by factions in Washington and Brussels that wanted to hand off Afghanistan to Pakistan's junta, or which preferred to see American troops die as a tradeoff for what they term "geostrategic" reasons; e.g., keeping Russia off balance, placating Saudi Arabia, etc.

Again, I'm not arguing for conscription but I am asking whether it's possible for the United States to field an all-volunteer fighting force that's not treated as a mercenary army. The question needs to be answered. Unless you want to subscribe to the thesis I floated several weeks ago, which is that card-carrying fiends attached themselves to the U.S.-NATO prosecution of the Afghan War. By the way, my thesis does carry some weight. Let's face it: even history's most sadistic tyrants wouldn't have paid a military to murder and maim the tyrant's own troops. Even Vlad the Impaler wouldn't have thought of that one.

So we have very little wiggle room when it comes to explaining why the U.S. regime did pay Pakistan's junta to murder and maim American troops, then spent years lying to cover up this practice, then more years attempting to rationalize the practice when it finally came to public light -- a cycle of betrayal, deception and denial that continues to this day.

If you want to run with the fiend thesis, it's possible the entire problem of the U.S. approach to Pakistan could be solved by deploying a contingent of exorcists around various civilian government and military buildings, lobbying firms and academic institutions in Washington and Brussels.

But if you pooh-pooh the idea that Hell somehow got loose in those two seats of power you might want to opt for the only other proposition I can see that covers all the bases. This is that U.S. soldiers wouldn't be treated with such contempt if they weren't considered disposable; i.e., as mercenary hirelings. And as corollary that this treatment wouldn't occur if U.S. military service was compulsory.

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Monday, December 12

Note

Tomorrow I have a surgical procedure that while minor will pretty much put me out of commission until the end of the week. So I'm looking at Saturday morning for the next post I put up. Until then,

Best regards to all,
Pundita

Wednesday, December 7

Zenpundit's "Do Oligarchies Create Insurgencies?" and Steve Cohen's report on Russia's parliamentary election

Do Oligarchies Create Insurgencies?

Readers who aren't interested in counterinsurgency warfare shouldn't be put off by the title of Mark Safranski's November 29 essay for his Zenpundit blog; the writing goes to the heart of many matters relating to U.S. foreign policy formulation, brings into focus a little-examined downside of democracies, and at the same time challenges a bedrock assumption of "population-centric" counterinsurgency advocates, whose views came to shape the U.S. prosecution of the Afghan War:
Of democracies that have not or have never needed to fight an insurgency, the supposition would be that liberal democracy represents the best vehicle for satisfying popular demands and defusing grievances. Further, there is an implicit assumption that democracies are functionally better at solving social and political problems and are less aggressive than dictatorships or traditional regimes. Therefore, a a key tenet of pop-centric COIN theory, the need for good governance, tends in practice to become conflated with implementing democratic and liberal reforms of regressive and repressive states, as was successfully done in El Salvador, to win over the loyalty of the population for the state.

I would like to believe that this theory is correct for intuitive and anecdotal reasons – it seems like common sense because our experience is that citizens of liberal democracies lead more prosperous, freer and more peaceful lives and are therefore unlikely to pick up arms against their government. Unfortunately, this reasonable assumption may be shakier than it appears and have little relation to success or failure of a COIN campaign
The essay also brings out a disturbing blip in democratic societies. As Mark notes during the course of his conclusions:
Democracies are janus-faced in terms of insurgency. On the one hand, excepting the French Fourth Republic, advanced liberal democracies in the last century have rarely faced a serious rebellion at home (the 1970′s wave of upper-class Marxist terrorism never exceeded a handful of terrorists). On the other hand, these same democracies have an extensive historical record of provoking insurrection in overseas colonial possessions, fighting insurgencies on behalf of client states or even sponsoring insurgents as proxies against unfriendly states. This uneasily complicated relationship between democratic governance and insurgency mitigates any unstated assumptions regarding promotion of democracy as a natural adjunct of COIN; democracy can be highly subversive of traditional mores or it can manifest itself as intolerant and illiberal majoritarianism.
All in all, the writing is a tour de force; I hope it'll eventually prompt a re-thinking in U.S. military and civilian academic circles and at agencies such as the U.S. Department of State about the long-held U.S. policy of viewing democracy promotion as a panacea. Too often the policy has resulted in American values being twisted to install in other countries U.S.-friendly regimes that only give lip service to democracy and are oligarchical if not downright tyrannical in nature, which always blows back on the USA. The U.S./EU-backed Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which switched out one oligarchical clan for another that was less friendly to Russia to run the country, is a prime example.

The current arguments in policy circles about democracy promotion tend to revolve around realism vs. idealism. (See George Friedman's November 6 analysis for STRAFOR, Egypt and the Idealist-Realist Debate in U.S. Foreign Policy, for a thoughtful discussion of the debate.) Mark's discussion goes much deeper than the debate and yet, with the help of a handy chart he devised, is easy for the less wonkishly-inclined to follow.

On a personal note, pondering Mark's arguments gave me a respite from digesting the unrelenting bad news about the U.S. relationship with Pakistan and the ongoing refusal in Washington to fully confront the fact that NATO has been fighting what is chiefly a proxy war in Afghanistan mounted and managed by Pakistan's junta, not an insurgency. After being immersed day after day, year in and year out, in following Washington's attempts to play ostrich, my frustration has worn me down to the point that I don't know whether I can continue blogging because I'm simply making the same points in essay after essay, year after year.

So to transcend if only for a few minutes a situation I consider so vexing and mull over ideas on 'great' themes was good medicine for me. I was feeling so chipper after reading the essay that I wrote a rather extensive commentary on it for the Zenpundit comment section -- Comment #13, for any Pundita readers who're interested.

Russia

In a not entirely unrelated matter, last night John Batchelor sat down with Steve Cohen, my favorite Russia analyst, to discuss the country's recent parliamentary election. I was in such a terrible mood about the Pakistan-Washington situation that I didn't listen to the show although I'll catch up by listening to the podcast. But John's notes on the discussion, posted at his show's blog in the Schedule section, bring out a very important point that relates to the habit of democracies meddling in the affairs of other nations and for purely self-serving reasons. John wrote:
Tuesday 1035P (735P Pacific Time): Stephen Cohen, NYU & [latest book] Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives, in re: Russian elections:

Russian police still quashing protests; 300 arrests, then 250, including important bloggers who called Putin's United Russia, "the party of swindlers." Who's more surprised, Putin or the West? The West: it portrayed the political system as wholly under Putin's control, which it isn't. Putin's supermajority, 64%, enough to change the constitution, is down in the 50's. Communist Party now doubles to 20%. Yeltsin used tanks vs the Parliament in 1993; now, it's partly liberated for the first time. Also, first time ever that ruling party has lost so thoroughly. On a human level, people start to think that their vote counts.

[John Batchelor comment]: "Putin fixed an election and lost it -- deeply ironical."

A powerful Communist faction wants to transform the CP into a European Social democratic party. Now encouraged. Just (Fair) Russia [party] was formed by the Kremlin to take away votes but now goes its own way; got 35%(?).

Putin's St Petersburg crew? Three groups. 1. 2. Oligarchs. 3. Neolibs, technologist, linked with the West, have acquired power; Alexei Kudrin was the finance minister.

The Kremlin decided to be less heavy-handed than usual; still kept oppo off natl TV. [Kremlin] Worried about developments in other countries: bad elections lead to riots, lead to real opposition. Even Occupy Wall Street has generated nervousness, barred doors and high fences; fear of unseemly protest, demos on ramps that lead up to Kremlin.

Today, John McCain tweeted, "Soon, the Arab Spring will come to Russia."

Russia has jillions of nuclear weapons, so the last thing we want is Russia to be destabilized. Who do these cheerleaders think will come to power -- Thomas Jefferson?
Yes indeed the West and in particular the USA was caught off guard by Russia's healthy opposition movement. Americans were caught off guard because it's almost impossible to get objective news analysis from US sources on Russia unless one follows Steve Cohen's reports on the John Batchelor Show -- and unfortunately, Steve's reports for the show are not on a regular basis.

Instead of news analysis on Russia, Americans get propaganda that's painted Russia's government as a tyranny. So Americans are blindsided again and again by a cadre in Washington, a kind of shadow government, that's oriented not to American interests but NATO/EU interests. Mr McCain is part of that cadre, I might add.

To give you some idea of how it works against American interests to be in the dark about matters Russian, consider how long it took for a route for NATO and particularly U.S. supplies for the Afghan War to be developed that was external to Pakistan. There was tremendous resistance among the 'Get Russia' crowd in Washington to the idea of seeking Russian help, resistance that set back by years the development of the 'Northern Distribution Network' NATO supply routes through Russia and Russia-friendly Central Asian countries.

So billions of dollars worth of military supplies were destroyed or stolen from the Pakistan supply routes, and Pakistan's junta leveraged its control of the route in Pakistan to tamp down U.S. protests against its proxy war in Afghanistan. Exactly how many NATO soldiers and Afghans had to die because of this, God only knows.

But there goes my good mood out the window. The upside is that I am now in just the right frame of mind to finish writing a post I've titled, "Alden Pyle in Pakistan, Part 3."

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Monday, December 5

Hillary Clinton has serious concerns about Russia's parliamentary election vote. I have serious concerns about State.

In a sickening irony U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose to announce while she was attending a conference on Afghanistan's future that she had "serious concerns" about Russia's election process.

So Mrs Clinton is concerned that there were voting irregularities in a Russian election, is she? Here are some of my concerns about the U.S. Department of State:

1. I am concerned that State fully supported the U.S. military's COIN/nation building approach in Afghanistan even while knowing that the majority of attacks on U.S. troops in the country were not an insurgency but a proxy war mounted and overseen by Pakistan's junta -- a proxy war unwittingly paid for, over the course of a decade, by the American public.

2. I am concerned that State supported what it knew was a fundamentally flawed U.S. war plan in Afghanistan and did so because the COIN/nation building approach meant a greater role for the State Department in the Afghan War and thus, a bigger congressionally-mandated budget.

3. I am concerned that State supported initiatives mounted by NGOs and GONGOs in this country and Europe meant to destabilize Russia's government, and that State continued the support even after it was clear that (a) Pakistan was leveraging its transport route for NATO supplies in order to block NATO military action against Taliban and other Pakistan-based terrorist groups, and (b) the best countermeasure was to seek cooperation from Russia's government in using a transport route that didn't go through Pakistan.

4. I am concerned that it took years longer than should have been necessary for the U.S. to secure Russian permission and influence in former Soviet republics to set up a transport route for delivering NATO supplies to Afghanistan that avoided Pakistan.

5. I am concerned that State continues to support the British project, launched at least as early 2004, to cut power-sharing deals with Taliban that are under the control of Pakistan's junta and thus give Pakistan de facto control of Afghanistan.

6. I'm concerned about State's motives for supporting the British project, which has wreaked utter havoc on Afghanistan, caused an unconscionable loss of life among British and American troops serving there, and made the Afghan War virtually unwinnable for NATO.

That's just the short list and it conveys only my most pressing concerns about the conduct of the U.S. Department of State.

If State argues it can't be held responsible because it doesn't write U.S. foreign policy and military strategy -- what kind of policy is it, what kind of strategy can it be called, when you're aware that your government knowingly pays another to murder and maim the very troops sworn to protect your life and your nation? This is not a policy or strategy issue. This is about demonstrating baseline human decency, as did the British military officers who resigned their commands to protest their government's betrayal of British troops in Afghanistan.

So I'd say that at this juncture the Secretary of State should be less concerned about human rights abuses in Russia and more concerned about the conduct of the agency she heads. The conduct has helped make a mockery of human rights in Afghanistan and the United States and specifically in the treatment of Americans serving tours of duty in Afghanistan and the Afghans serving in their country's military. And that's not even mentioning the mayhem that State has helped unleash on Pakistan.

Given all that, how dare Mrs Clinton lecture foreign governments about human rights abuses? First lecture Washington on its disregard for the lives of American troops, but only after State has straightened out its own priorities.

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Thursday, December 1

For God's sake Amb. Munter, don't Go Native on us now

In yet another sign that the U.S. Department of State should relocate to Brussels U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter advised White House officials that President Obama should deliver a "formal video statement," according to White House officials interviewed by the New York Times, regarding the NATO air strike inside Pakistan on November 26.

The Times report, published late last night, didn't specify the exact nature of the statement that Munter wanted from Obama, but the Global Post's report today on the same incident (which references the Times report) did:
[Munter] told White House officials that a formal video apology from Obama could help prevent relations between the two countries from deteriorating. Munter, who was speaking from Islamabad, warned that the anger in Pakistan had reached a fever pitch, and that the US needed to defuse it as quickly as possible, The [New York] Times reported.
As to how Munter's highly sensitive discussion with White House officials came to be made public, I'd say that the U.S. Department of State is the prime suspect. Fuel for my suspicion comes from the Global Post's blunt statement:
State Department officials believe that a show of remorse could help salvage America's relationship with Pakistan.
As to how State arrived at the idea that any advice they could give on Pakistan would be helpful to the United States is beyond me. State's track record on Pakistan since the Afghan War heated up has been awful unless one thinks of State as representing British interests in Afghanistan first, the European Union's interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan second, NATO's interests third and Wal-Mart's fourth -- oh but that's right I forgot to publish my essay, "Yes we have no mangos," written back in August I think it was,so I suppose the Wal-Mart reference might be obscure to many.

Moving along, Munter's advice was given on the 28th, just two days after the NATO air strike, when the U.S. Department of Defense was still trying untangle how the strike came about and exactly what had happened during the strike. So it's almost beyond belief that a career diplomat of Munter's experience would ask the President of the United States for a formal apology before the strike had been properly investigated.

Yet when it comes to State not much is beyond belief anymore. State officials have come to think of themselves as 'policymakers' even though State is only supposed to advise the White House on policy.

The good news is that President Obama has asserted his authority in the matter. From the Times report:
The White House has decided that President Obama will not offer formal condolences —- at least for now -— to Pakistan for the deaths of two dozen soldiers in NATO air strikes last week, overruling State Department officials who argued for such a show of remorse to help salvage America’s relationship with Pakistan, administration officials said.
[...]
On Wednesday, White House officials said Mr. Obama was unlikely to say anything further on the matter in the coming days.

“The U.S. government has offered its deepest condolences for the loss of life, from the White House and from Secretary Clinton and Secretary Panetta,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, referring to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, “and we are conducting an investigation into the incident. We cannot offer additional comment on the circumstances of the incident until we have the results.”
[...]
That is what State should have announced at the start. That is what NATO should have announced. And the European Union, which finds large representation in NATO, should have kept its collective mouth shut. Instead, they fell over themselves to offer condolences that sounded like apologies about a shooting incident that might not require any apology whatsoever from NATO or the United States.

The bad news is that because Munter and others at State jumped the gun they've placed the President in an embarrassing position -- one that's made headlines in Pakistan.

This is no way to run foreign policy; this is no way to conduct any kind of policy and certainly not the way to run a war. This is headless horseman thinking, which means there is no real thinking at all; there is just a bureaucracy's obsession with expanding its turf by attempting to please scores of competing factions.

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