Tuesday, July 31

Charles Cameron embarks on a new adventure!

The prodigiously creative Charles Cameron (born 1943 in England; Scottish in name and heart; BA in theology and MA from Oxford University; professional freelance writer, poet, teacher and game designer) has graced the pages of Zenpundit for years with his visually-oriented meditations on the interplay between the religious and warring impulses, and many other profound themes. Now Charles has announced he has a new job as a brainstormer and writer for a solutions-oriented outfit called Urb.Im:
The network is a global community working for just and inclusive cities. It connects practitioners in six cities and throughout the world to establish an international community of practice and learning, sharing ideas and experiences in order to innovate, replicate, and scale working solutions to the problem of urban poverty. is a project of Dallant Networks and the Ford Foundation.
Here, from the Urb.Im website, are the major categories of issues that the network is engaged with:


Charles mentions that the six cities the network focuses on are Mumbai, Rio, Lagos, Mexico DF, Nairobi and Jakarta. He's asking for input, via his Twitter page hipbonegamer:
One of my ambitions is to get some significant cross-website conversations going, so that the widest array of bright minds and good hearts gets together to spark new ideas and possibilities, and put existing resources on the map for all interested parties.
It will be fun to see how he chews on the problems of mega-cities from his fascinating perspective.

All the best of luck, Charles, in your new venture, and thank you for enriching my life with your contemplations on society and your staunchly positive outlook.

System failure as the new normal: India's massive power blackout, Beijing's massive floods, Washington's massive electrical failure

From the New York Times report on India's massive blackout:
[...] India suffered the largest electrical blackout in history on Tuesday, affecting an area encompassing about 670 million people, or roughly 10 percent of the world’s population. Three of the country’s interconnected northern power grids collapsed for several hours, as blackouts extended almost 2,000 miles, from India’s eastern border with Myanmar to its western border with Pakistan.

For a country considered a rising economic power, Blackout Tuesday — which came only a day after another major power failure — was an embarrassing reminder of the intractable problems still plaguing India: inadequate infrastructure, a crippling power shortage and, many critics say, a yawning absence of governmental action and leadership.

India’s coalition government, already battered for its stewardship of a wobbling economy, again found itself on the defensive, as top ministers could not definitively explain what had caused the grid failure or why it had happened on consecutive days. Theories for the extraordinarily extensive blackout across much of northern India included excessive demands placed on the grid from certain regions, due in part to low monsoon rains that forced farmers to pump more water to their fields, and the less plausible possibility that large solar flares had set off a failure.

By Tuesday evening, power had been restored in most regions, and many people in major cities barely noticed the disruption, because localized blackouts are so common that many businesses, hospitals, offices and middle-class homes are equipped with backup diesel fuel generators.

But that did not prevent people from being furious, especially after the government chose Tuesday to announce a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle — in which the power minister was promoted to take over the home ministry, one of the country’s most important positions.

“This is a huge failure,” said Prakash Javadekar, a spokesman for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. “It is a management failure as well as a failure of policy. It is policy paralysis in the power sector.”
Welcome to the modern era, Sri Javadekar.  He should have heard the excuses from the public utility Pepco (Potomac Electric Power Company) to Washington and Maryland residents who broiled for days without power during one of Washington's worst heat waves in memory:

July 30, The Washington Post:
[...] Pepco vigorously defended itself Monday in its first self-assessments since last month’s derecho storm, saying it responded aggressively and effectively to restore power to nearly half a million customers left sweltering in the dark.

The electric company accepted limited responsibility for software glitches that affected tens of thousands of calls for service and for its inability to give customers a better sense of when their power would be restored. But it asserted in the reports, required by Maryland and District regulators, that those issues are common in utilities across the country.
The reports offered a look inside the company’s response to what it said was the most destructive storm for its network of power lines since Hurricane Isabel in 2003. But they also ignited a new round of criticism that the utility is tone-deaf to complaints from customers and politicians.

"It’s more excuse-making. They are like the failing student that blames the teacher, the course and the books — everyone but themselves,” said Del. Tom Hucker (D-Montgomery). “The problem is not the system or the expectations of customers. The problem is Pepco.”
As a survivor of the widespread electrical power failure that occurred in Washington, DC on the night of June 29 after a brief but severe freak storm tore through the Greater Washington, DC area (we were almost four days without power at our house and many didn't get their power restored for 5 or 6 days), I took special interest in Pepco's attempts to soothe furious customers. But over in China, officials had a more creative approach to deflecting criticism of the government's slow-footed response to historic flooding in Beijing. From AFP, July 24:
Beijing's propaganda chief has ordered Chinese media to stick to good-news about weekend floods, according to a report, after the death of at least 37 people sparked fierce criticism of the government.

Lu Wei told media outlets to stick to stories of "achievements worthy of praise and tears", the Beijing Times daily reported Monday, as authorities tried to stem the tide of accusations that they failed to do enough.

Residents of China's rapidly modernising capital have said some of the deaths could have been prevented if better warnings had been issued and the city's ancient drainage systems modernised.

Many took to China's popular microblogs, known as weibos, to question the official death toll of 37 issued on Sunday, although by Tuesday, censors had begun deleting critical posts from the Internet.

Residents of the worst-hit area of Fangshan, on the mountainous southwestern outskirts of China's sprawling capital, told AFP the government was doing little to help find their missing loved-ones.

"The government doesn't help at all; every family is responsible for searching for their own family members," said Wang Baoxiang, whose 30-year-old nephew had been missing since going out in Saturday's rains.

The China Daily, a state-run English-language newspaper with a predominantly foreign readership, ran an editorial on Tuesday urging Beijing authorities to improve the drainage system, which it said "leaves much to be desired".
Check: Much room for improvement.  Yet the top quote to emerge from all these mass calamities comes from India. To return to the New York Times report, which by the way is excellent:
Ramachandra Guha, an Indian historian, said that the blackout was only the latest evidence of government dysfunction in India. On Monday, he noted, 32 people died in a train fire in the state of Tamil Nadu — a reminder that the nation’s railway system, like the electrical system, is underfinanced and in dire need of upgrading.

“India needs to stop strutting on the world stage like it’s a great power, Mr. Guha said, “and focus on its deep problems within.”
Sound advice, not only for India but also for all nations, including China and the United States, because they've all been caught flat-footed by the challenges that governments have been handed in the age of megapopulations.


Russophobes for hire, to detriment of USA

From Zenpundit Mark Safranski's comments about three posts at the Russia Blog:
Look, neither Russia nor Putin merit any special favors from the USG, but there are large factions of Beltway political activists on the Hill who are on retainer for the government of Georgia (including the Podesta Group of Democratic Party bigwig John Podesta) or from their domestic opposition, as registered foreign agents, who would like to poison relations with Moscow as much as possible in the interest of their clients with little regard to American interests.
I think Mark is completely right when he observes that the influence agents for hire are not representing the best interests of Americans. So I'm very glad he mentioned the situation, which is not limited to Georgia. Now I suggest you read the rest of his commentary then look at the posts he recommends.

Monday, July 30

Your masters are not in Brussels, Gen. Dempsey

“The ministers get together and provide [the defense chiefs] with political guidance, and we discuss how we turn that into military advice and planning,” the chairman explained.

The chairman, in this case, is Army General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the United States of America, and the chief military advisor to the President of the United States.

From the American Forces Press Service, published at the U.S. Department of Defense website:
KABUL, Afghanistan, April 22, 2012 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will focus on progress in Afghanistan’s national security forces during a visit here.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey arrived this evening, and after a private dinner with a small group of field grade officers, met for about an hour with Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force.

Discussions here also will center on Allen’s plan to draw down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan to 68,000 troops by the end of September, the chairman told American Forces Press Service during the flight here from Amman, Jordan.

Dempsey’s visit to Afghanistan comes between last week’s meetings in Belgium among NATO foreign and defense ministers and the alliance’s summit in Chicago next month.

“The ministers get together and provide [the defense chiefs] with political guidance, and we discuss how we turn that into military advice and planning,” the chairman explained.[...]
I found myself in a difficult position when I first read the above report because I'd already suggested that Gen. Dempsey was barking mad after I heard his comments in March on the Charlie Rose show about Pakistan. If you think a person is crazy, what use is it to attempt to reason with him?  However, I don't know whether the chairman is actually crazy, or just doing a good imitation whenever he discusses Pakistan -- a mental blip that seems to manifest in all ranking members of the U.S. military who hold forth on Pakistan whenever they get in front of a microphone.

But despite my discomfort I should like to point out that while the U.S. military is under civilian control, this doesn't mean it's supposed to be under the control of civilians in foreign nations, even NATO ones.

To put this another way,  I can't find a sound rationale for U.S. commanders basing their war planning on the geopolitical machinations and business concerns of European, Turkish and Canadian governments. This, in my view, is taking the 'You gotta have a gang' mentality too far.

I confess I've been particularly concerned about the gang mentality since February 2010, when AFP reported that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasumssen had floated the idea of NATO becoming "the hub of a network of security partnerships and a centre for consultation on international security issues -- even issues on which the alliance might never take action."
Rasmussen underlined that he did not seek to replace the work of the United Nations, and his stance was backed by German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

"We don't want to enter into any competition with the United Nations," the minister said. "We don't want to turn NATO into a global security agency."
So I've been a little nervous since reading those words because you know how it is, when people seek to assure you about something that hadn't even occurred to you before. Not to be unkind, but NATO demonstrated in Afghanistan that it can't fight its way out of a paper bag. All that NATO seems to excel at in the military sphere is carpet bombing. So I certainly hope it's not entertaining the idea of becoming a global constabulary -- one that takes its political guidance from Brussels, no less.

If Gen. Dempsey gets my drift.

Sunday, July 29

Catching Up, Part 2: Solving Siachen

So here it is, 2:25 AM in Washington, DC and I am trying to type while stopping every few seconds to stuff the edge of my sleeve in my mouth so my guffaws won't awaken the neighborhood. From the Major's April 17 post, You Too Can Give Suggestions To Solve Siachen:
Do you feel like doing a strategic analysis of Siachen issue but cannot figure out where it is on the map? Do you feel like calling for solutions to Siachen but do not know the difference between Karakoram highway, Karakoram pass and Karakoram mountain range? Fikar not. Here is a map yours sachly made for you (click on it for a bigger map and opportunities for bigger strategic analysis)
No I'm not going to show you the map because if I look at it again I'm going to lose the battle to muffle my laughter.

Friday, July 27

Because it's Friday

Gemma the Seer

The Moscow Times
July 27, 2012

A prophetic raccoon from a Tula zoo is set to become an unlikely star of the London Olympic Games beginning Friday, predicting the outcomes of major events from the safety of her enclosure.

According to her handlers, Gemma the Raccoon will release regular Twitter updates over the course of this year's Olympics, which run till Aug. 12, offering handy tips for punters and interested spectators alike.

Tatyana Rodchenko, a spokeswoman for the Tula zoo, told Interfax that the move to Twitter was the result of the high stress levels Gemma had suffered during the Euro 2012 football championships, when she made her predictions live.

Gemma, who correctly guessed that Spain and Italy would play in the Euro 2012 final in Ukraine on July 1, already has a live feed on the social-networking site, although she is yet to publish any predictions.
Gemma was given to the Tula zoo in 2000 and began predicting sports results with the help of handlers in 2006, Interfax reported. She lives in the zoo's exotic animals department along with monkeys, iguanas, crocodiles and snakes, according to the zoo's website.

Thursday, July 26

Steady On

There is so much bad news on so many fronts that to follow the major foreign or domestic issues is to be mired in negativity.  But when it's bad news everywhere you look, that's a sure sign that an entire system is collapsing.  So then the question is whether the collapse is masking the emergence of a new system or paradigm that represents a leap forward for humanity.

There is certainly one earth-shaking revolution going on that's been slowly building since the early 1970s, when New Agers discovered Adelle Davis's Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit (first published in 1954).  Davis, a biochemist, was among the early pioneers in post-WW2 America of the nutritional approach to curing disease and using food and nutritional supplements to ward off chronic diseases.

At the time, the medical profession considered Adelle and her approach to curing illness to be crazy. By the late 1980s, the tenets Adelle laid down in her books were considered by the medical profession to be self-evident.

Today, 'whole foods' and nutritional supplements are large industries backed by huge research projects, and these have merged with mainstream medicine, gerontology (the study of aging) and cutting-edge biochemical research into life-extension. 

The entire paradigm has evolved into a wide-ranging discipline that was first called preventive medicine and is now called functional medicine.  Functional medicine integrates hormone replacement therapy, organic food/farming, scientifically-developed nutritional supplements, scientifically-developed optimum diets and exercise routines, ancient Indian and Chinese 'herbal' medicine, and non-invasive or minimally invasive surgical techniques.  .

The paradigm has been driven forward -- nay, flogged forward -- by aging Baby Boomers, who refuse to go into their Golden Years with diabetes, heart disease, memory loss, cancer, and all the creaking joints and brittle bones that have traditionally accompanied old age. 

While a contingent of the Boomers believe that death itself has a cure, I think the majority simply want to live into their 80s or 90s in good health and without being rendered dependent by advancing old age.  In the present era, the demand to live in good health during old age became more than a lifestyle desire; it converged with an economic crisis that meant many Boomers couldn't afford to retire, or had to come out of retirement and return to the workforce. 

And this converged with the skyrocketing cost of medical insurance, hospitalization, nursing home care, and mainstream pharmaceuticals and surgery.  The healthcare system, fragile for decades, finally broke under the onslaught of retirement-age Boomers. 

And despite high current unemployment in the United States, the retirement of so many Americans around the same time has meant that many jobs requiring highly specialized skills and management experience can't be filled -- not by Americans. 

In short, if there was ever a time when many Americans can't afford to spend their old age as invalids, now is that time.  They have to be able to function at least as well as a healthy person in his or her 50s.  That's a tall order; can functional medicine really fill it?

I'll put the answer this way:  Adelle never mentioned the term "inflammation"-- at least, not in the sense it's used in functional medicine.  But she detailed a simple formula that is at the heart of functional medicine:  provide the body with the right nutrients in the right ratios and proportions at the right times of the day, and the vast majority of chronic diseases are cured or prevented from occurring.

While advances in nutritional research since Adelle's day have challenged or overturned some of her  recommendations regarding specific nutrients and added laboratory-created preparations that boost food-based nutrition, her formula has held.

Functional medicine is moving toward the consensus that the vast majority of about 12,000 chronic diseases have the same root:  an inflammatory condition of the body that can be cured and prevented or at least greatly mitigated by optimum nutrition.  This includes many diseases that are considered genetic.  And all the research on the subject is supporting the hypothesis.

What's more, many 'mental' afflictions, such as ADD and chronic depression, have been cured through the optimum diet approach, either alone or supplemented with megadoses of specific nutritional supplements and/or herbs.

What's more -- and this is one of the most exciting developments -- the line between mainstream medicine/medical and pharmacological research and the approach of the nutritionists to curing and preventing chronic disease is being erased.

If this is the first time you've come across the topic of functional medicine, it can take a while for the implications of the new paradigm to sink in.  The implications are mind-boggling.  Yet there are downsides to the emergence of any new paradigm, and the rise of functional medicine is no exception.  The current health care system, which supports many millions of workers in thousands of capacities, will cease to exist as we know it today. A new health care system, which is already in its nascent form, will replace it. But the transition will mean the end of many types of jobs, a retrenching for millions of workers, and a completely new approach to medical training.

And it's likely that the status quo in medicine and pharmacology will resist any mass migration to functional medicine; the status quo will probably spend years blocking health insurance for functional medicine cures.  This, and the likelihood that we're still decades away from a technology that 'reads' the individual's daily nutritional needs and supplies formulas meant to correct the daily imbalances, means that applying the functional medicine approach is still very much a do-it-yourself affair.

And, depending on how far you want to take the concept of optimum health, it can be an expensive affair, particularly if you want to be very aggressive with offsetting the aging process. Yet the expense and do-it-yourself nature of using functional medicine is creating a sense of community that cuts across political lines and is integrating thousands of human endeavors in new ways around two old ideas:  that you are what you eat, and that food is medicine.

I could write pages more on the topic, and I'll probably return to it, but I brought it up now because many things about society are very unsettled at this time and so there's a lot of worry about the future.

The American motivational speaker Les Brown once observed that just as an airplane can run into turbulence when it climbs to a higher altitude, people who're making positive changes in their lives can run into considerable turbulence.  This turbulence is something that has be worked through and endured; it can't be evaded. This is because it's made of situations you've put off dealing with, and which are actually blocking your advance. 

That was the only time I heard Brown speak; that was almost 20 years ago, and yet I've never forgotten his explanation about turbulence because it struck me as so very true, not only for individuals but also for societies.   

Steady on. 

Wednesday, July 25

Oops! China feeling encircled

After spending years doing it all it could to encircle India, China's defense establishment is complaining that it's feeling encircled by a "pack" of Asian countries. Guess who China is blaming for the pack's increasing boldness.

The irony is that for years, there's been growing and increasingly unified opposition in East Asia/Pacific to China's muscle-flexing in the region. But President Barack Obama's "Asia pivot," which seems to have bipartisan support in Washington, has given China's leaders the perfect excuse to shift blame to the United States, and more importantly to downplay the fact that China's "Peaceful Rising" has increasingly been seen by its neighbors as a sneaky strategy to grab territory and bully them.

So my question is whether the widely advertised Asia pivot has been premature. It's just a question at this point because I've been so focused on the Afghan War that I haven't been closely following the ASEAN region. But I remember thinking when I first heard of the Asia pivot, 'Whatever happened to Mr Obama's "Leading from Behind" policy?'

Perhaps that policy is selectively applied according to some arcane formula -- granted, one of the privileges of a superpower. Yet as a general rule, when several countries are working up a head of steam about a country in their region that's trying to impose its will on them, it's wise for a superpower to wait until there's no way it can be blamed for the situation before talking about a pivot.  The rule applies in particular when the superpower is all too happy to see the bullying country come down a peg or two.

To apply the rule in this instance: if the United States is wading too soon into the South China Sea disagreement, this threatens to put countries in the region that are standing up to China in the counter-productive position of being seen as American lackeys. 

Reuters India, July 26 (IST)
China's hawks gaining sway in S. China sea dispute
By David Lague in Hong Kong
Additional reporting by Paul Eckert in Washington

China has adopted a more aggressive stance in recent weeks on territorial disputes in the South China Sea as hard-line officials and commentators call on Beijing to take a tougher line with rival claimants.

China's supreme policymaking body, the Politburo Standing Committee, is made up entirely of civilians, but outspoken People's Liberation Army (PLA) officers, intelligence advisers and maritime agency chiefs are arguing that Beijing should be more forceful in asserting its sovereignty over the sea and the oil and natural gas believed to lie under the sea-bed.

Most of them blame the United States' so-called strategic "pivot" to Asia for emboldening neighbouring countries, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam, to challenge China's claims.

"China now faces a whole pack of aggressive neighbours headed by Vietnam and the Philippines and also a set of menacing challengers headed by the United States, forming their encirclement from outside the region," wrote Xu Zhirong, a deputy chief captain with China Marine Surveillance, in the June edition of China Eye, a publication of the Hong Kong-based China Energy Fund Committee.

"And, such a band of eager lackeys is exactly what the U.S. needs for its strategic return to Asia," he wrote.

Most Chinese and foreign security policy analysts believe China wants to avoid military conflict across sea lanes that carry an annual $5 trillion in ship-borne trade, particularly if it raises the prospect of U.S. intervention.

However, they say Beijing is increasingly determined to block any unified effort from rival claimants to negotiate over disputes, preferring instead to isolate much smaller and weaker states in direct talks.

There was evidence of this harder line at an annual foreign ministers' meeting of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc earlier this month where diplomats said China's influence behind the scenes led to an unprecedented breakdown in the grouping's traditional preference for maintaining an appearance of harmony and unity.

The meeting in Phnom Penh ended in disarray without progress on a proposed code of conduct that was aimed at minimizing the risk of conflict in the South China Sea or issuing a concluding communique.

China's close ally Cambodia, the meeting's host, blocked every attempt to include tensions in the South China Sea on the agenda, said the diplomats from other member nations.
Later in the analysis it's brought out that American wonks who watch China disagree on whether the hardliners on the S. China Sea issue are limited to China's defense establishment; some believe this is the case, others think the hardening stance is also reflected in China's civilian government.

One thing is clear at this point: China's leaders, both civilian and military, see the need to mount a strong response to the Obama administration's strategic pivot to Asia.

For a background summary on China's maritime policy, including an explanation of the "Nine-Dash Line," see the July 17 report for Stratfor by Rodger Baker and Zhixing Zhang, The Paradox of China's Naval Strategy.

Monday, July 23

Catching up

July 16: Afghan President Karzai bestows award on Ambassador Crocker

1. In the rush and tumble of my return to blogging I don't want to neglect to thank U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker for his work to get the post-2014 U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement signed in spite of virtually insurmountable obstacles, and to wish him the very best as he once again retires from the foreign service, or tries to retire again.

Thanks also to General John Allen, not only for his part in getting the agreement signed but also for holding the NATO-ISAF mission together in Afghanistan during the worst February I can remember. Starting February 1, it was as if the darkest forces rose up together in the attempt to destroy the mission and block the signing of the agreement, and March and April gave little respite.  By the time the agreement was signed, on May 1, Pundita was a nervous wreck.

Through it all, General Allen and Ambassador Crocker never lost their cool.

2. Recently John Batchelor put in a few appearances on The Kudlow Report on the financial cable channel CNBC to comment, mostly on foreign/defense affairs. I hope the appearances can become a regular feature on the show because American television is bereft of in-depth informed analysis on foreign affairs from the American defense viewpoint. Until John's radio show is extended to TV, the situation is not going to change.

Thanks to Larry Kudlow for battling the headwinds at CNBC to bring John onto the show.

Here's the video from John's July 19 appearance on the show, during which he discusses the Syria situation.

And here is John's latest written analysis on Syria and other defense issues: (The Enemy of My Enemy, July 19).

My favorite quote:  "US wants stability for region with Islamist strongmen in place."

3. Using recent speeches on Syria by Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as examples, Zenpundit's Mark Safranski analyzes the stark differences between Russia's approach to foreign relations and America's, and concludes that the USA comes up short. (Putin’s Geopolitical Realism on Syria , July 16, posted in full at IVN.)

My favorite quote:  "We play at tactical geopolitics while the Russians do strategy."

Sunday, July 22

Upcoming 'make or break' meeting between CIA and ISI chiefs

From PTI (India) via Hindustan Times (India), July 22:
(Islamabad) ISI chief Lt Gen Zahir-ul-Islam will meet his American counterpart, CIA head Gen David Petraeus, in Washington on August 2, the first meeting between the spy chiefs of Pakistan and the US amidst persisting tensions between the two countries. Islam had called off a visit to the US two months ago when bilateral relations plunged to an all-time low. The ISI chief's visit to the US will be a one-day affair, the [Pakistani online newspaper, The News International] quoted its sources as saying.

The meeting between Islam and Petraeus would be a “make or break” affair since it could determine future relations between various organisations in Pakistan and the US, including the General Headquarters and the Pentagon, the daily quoted sources as saying.

The spy chiefs will focus on several defence and security-related issues, including intelligence-sharing and Pakistan's call for an end to US drone strikes in the lawless ribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

Islamabad has described the attacks by CIA-operated drones as counterproductive and a violation of the country's sovereignty. Islam is expected to ask the US to provide drone technology to Pakistan, the sources were quoted as saying.

Circumstances surrounding the unilateral US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad last year will also figure in the talks.

The “unguarded activities” of US agencies and agents on Pak soil will also be taken up by the ISI chief, the report said.
So it seems Washington's ball on Pakistan is now in Gen. Petraeus's court; after consistently flubbing, it looks as if State, Defense, and the White House want to make him responsible for persuading the Pakistani military/ISI that they shouldn't keep fighting a proxy war against NATO in Afghanistan.

As to the request for drone technology, I think that has been floated every time a ranking member of the Pak military/ISI has met with an American counterpart. The Pakistanis have their own drone technology but they want weaponized drones from the USA. What they want most of all, however, is for the U.S. to share all its intelligence on terrorist activity with the Pakistani military.

Friday, July 20

John McCain: "There are layers of the Muslim Brotherhood we can work with." Michele Bachmann, Huma Abedin, and America's tangled defense policy

"Misguided Pentagon officials, including Mr. Islam and Mr. England, have initiated an aggressive 'outreach' program to U.S. Muslim groups that critics say is lending credibility to what has been identified as a budding support network for Islamist extremists, including front groups for the radical Muslim Brotherhood."
-- The Washington Times, January 4, 2008

Initially I was reluctant to use the quote I featured in the title of this post because I couldn't adequately source it. Senator McCain made the remark about a month ago, during a period when it seemed he was appearing on a different news show almost every day to promote strong U.S. military intervention in Syria. My best guess is that I heard him make the statement on BBC World News America, but don't hold me to that.

In any case Mr McCain's words about the Muslim Brotherhood were almost an echo of what he'd told a weekend anchor on a FNC show when he was promoting strong U.S. intervention in Libya: "We can work with these people," meaning rebels who were trying to topple Muammar Gaddafi. He added that one of the rebel leaders had even attended university in the USA, as if this was proper vetting.

Despite the inadequate sourcing for his remark about the Muslim Brotherhood, I decided to mention it when I heard him publicly defend Huma Abedin, who is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's closest aide. I don't recall that he mentioned U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann by name but Mr McCain's defense was clearly a response to a question that Ms Bachmann had raised about ties that Ms Abedin's family is rumored to have to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr McCain's defense omitted the fact that Ms. Bachmann's question was raised in the context of a much broader issue: the U.S. government's practice of employing Muslim advisors without more carefully investigating the advisors' ties to Islamist and jihadist causes, and without setting a high bar for such ties when it comes to security clearances.

Unfortunately Ms Bachmann has a scattered style of exposition, which made it easy for Mr McCain and other critics of her remark to divert public attention from her main points. Yesterday on his radio show Glenn Beck gave Ms Bachmann the opportunity to attempt to clarify her points, with mixed results. But with patience the reader can discern that she indeed has valid points. From the show's transcript:
GLENN: Okay. So tell me what happened. You and who else wrote a letter to the inspectors general’s office and said, “There are some questions here that need to be addressed.”

CONGRESSWOMAN BACHMANN: That’s right. It was three members of the intelligence committee: Myself, Lynn Westmoreland from Georgia, Tom Rooney from Florida. And two members of the judiciary committee: Trent Franks of Arizona and Louie Gohmert of Texas. All signed onto a letter.

We asked numerous questions of the federal government because a letter was sent ‑‑ well, let me just back up. After the Fort Hood tragedy, a report was issued that said the real problem in our government is that we are not teaching FBI agents or our military to recognize radical Islam. So that’s what we need to do. We need to teach about it.

Well, in response to that, 50 ‑‑ over 50 Muslim organizations wrote a letter requesting that the White House start a task force to stop that [inquiry] from happening. Five days after the White House got this letter, this October 19 letter ‑‑ and people can see it on my website, or maybe you have it on The Blaze ‑‑ five days after the White House got this letter from the 50 Muslim groups, they started the purge of the federal government.

Let me tell you, the federal government doesn’t do anything in five days. But [presumably within five days] they started the purge of the FBI. So now the FBI, who are supposed to be trained in [the knowledge of] radical Islam -- elements [of the agency] have been purged of their training materials. So they are no longer being taught about what radical Islam is in order to be able to truly identify it ahead of time. This is serious. This is also happening throughout our United States military, Department of Justice, and Homeland Security.

And the word “purge” isn’t my word. That’s the word used by the 50 Muslim organizations. They demanded that the president purge the training materials and the trainers. And so already people have been fired who formerly were teaching what radical Islam is. They’ve been fired or they’ve been reassigned. And [the Muslim organizations] ask that the library be purged. Americans don’t purge libraries, but they demanded that the FBI’s library be purged.

All of this was happening, and so we wrote a letter to the inspectors general asking the question: Don’t you think you should look into the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and what it is they’re seeking to do?
Ms. Bachmann had a great deal more to get off her chest about the attempt to quash the kind of inquiry that she and other members of Congress were proposing. But to move to her defense of her remark about Huma Abedin. Again, from the Beck show transcript:
CONGRESSWOMAN BACHMANN: [Abedin] is the chief aide for the ‑‑ to the Secretary of State, and we quoted from a document, and this has been well reported all across Arab media, that her father ‑‑ her late father who’s now deceased was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Her brother was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and her mother was a part of what’s called the Muslim Sisterhood.

It would be, we have requirements to get a high level security clearance. One thing that the government looks at are your associations, and in particular your family associations. And this applies to everyone. It would be the same that is true with me. If my family members were associated with Hamas, a terrorist organization, that alone could be sufficient to disqualify me from getting a security clearance.

So all we did is ask, Did the federal government look into her family associations before she got a high level security clearance?[...]
As you can see from the quote I featured from the Washington Times, complaints about the U.S. government's use of advisors with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood predate the Obama administration. So Ms Bachmann isn't talking through her hat.

However, she and colleagues are raising questions that should have been raised as early as the 1970s, when the American government became dependent on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to prop up the U.S. dollar. The greatest downside of the dependence was that Washington studiously ignored the fact that the Saudi government was sowing the world with the most radical form of Islamic teachings and with anti-American propaganda. The blindness came back to bite the American people even before 9/11, and left the USA wide open to al Qaeda's 9/11 attack. So while I sympathize with Rep. Bachmann's concerns and outrage, they've arrived far too late in the day.

As for Senator McCain, his habit of wanting the U.S. defense establishment to work with people with questionable motives toward the United States represents a systemic problem in Washington.  During the Cold War, the U.S. government leaned heavily on a strategy of supporting strongmen who would resist the Soviet Union or at least put on a show of doing so.

The strategy was based on the theory that 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.' Yet somehow over the course of the Cold War the theory got garbled. The idea is to befriend enemies of your enemy -- not to befriend enemies, in the wild hope that they want to destroy other of their enemies before they try destroy you.

Washington's failure to untangle the theory has brought Americans to where we are today, which is that U.S. defense policy is America's greatest security threat.

Tuesday, July 17

1 husband, 2 wives, 20 kids: Pakistan's population problem

There's an aspect of the following report from CNN that I find grimly amusing. The two reporters who filed the story are clearly earnest, intelligent and well-educated.  Yet they're blind to the way Pakistan's rulers see the world.  It's a blindness found throughout the American diplo/defense establishments, a blindness that has led the United States into one blunder after another in its dealings with Pakistan. 

 The earnest reporters and the earnest Pakistan health workers they interview are critical of Pakistan's government for not being proactive about dealing with the country's  onrushing overpopulation disaster -- and by proactive they mean modern approaches to population control: public education programs, making contraceptives available, family planning clinics, and so on.

But actually Pakistan's government has been very proactive. Why else do the reporters think Pakistan's military is trying to get control of Afghanistan?  If the masses are breeding like rabbits and straining natural resources to the point of disaster, expand. Grab more territory.  This is family planning, Mogul style.

Family's 20 kids highlight Pakistan's population explosion
By Paul Armstrong and Reza Sayah, CNN
Updated 11:39 PM EDT, Thu June 14, 2012

(CNN) -- Islam Mohmand and his two wives have so many children that he sometimes gets confused and needs help to remember all of their names. They have 20 kids in all but would be happy to bring even more into their small family house.

But population experts in Pakistan, where the Mohmands are from, say families like theirs are fueling a population explosion that is fast becoming the country's most dangerous crisis.

Pakistan's population has grown from around 33 million in 1947 to more than 180 million people in 2012, making it the sixth most populous country in the world. It is also one of the world's poorest, with 60% of Pakistanis living on just $2 per day, according to the World Bank. The majority of the population -- 70%, according to the United Nations -- is largely illiterate and resides in rural areas lacking the most basic services.

With only one in five Pakistani women using modern birth control, the United Nations estimates Pakistan will become the world's third most populous country after China and India by 2050.

"I consider the population problem the biggest problem of this country," said Akbar Laghari of Pakistan's Department of Population Welfare. "The future is bleak because of this."

He admitted the government has to share the blame as not enough is done to offer effective family planning services and teach people about birth control.

"We don't have that much mobility, we don't have the resources," he said.

"Because of the political upheavals in the country and frequent changes in government ... they [the government] are not giving it top priority."

With widespread poverty, an energy crisis, woeful public services, and a bloody, resource-draining insurgency, Pakistan can ill afford to see this rapid growth continue.

"Naturally there will be epidemics, there will be wars -- there will be fights for food, water and everything," Laghari warned.

"It's a huge concern that we're growing at one of the fastest rates in Asia," said Zeba Sathar, Pakistan country director for the Population Council, a non-profit organization that specializes in public health research in developing countries.

"I think it's an ignored problem. We're brushing it away and I'm afraid we're losing time."

Sathar says many people are unable to make informed decisions because support services such as family planning are lacking. "The poor end up with many children because they don't have access to right kind of information," she said.

"We're doing a lot of research where women say 'we didn't want that many children,' or they wanted to have them later but they just didn't find the services.

"The philosophy is we're not into controlling the number of children. If you can bring up a healthy family with 20 children, kudos to you. It's a question of running out of resources. It's when the 15th one suffers."
But the Mohmand children are already paying the price -- the family can only afford to send four of their offspring to school, the rest have to work to support the family.

A lack of education is not the only challenge. Pakistan is a deeply conservative country, where some view birth control as un-Islamic.

"None of these methods is allowed in Islam," said Maulana Tanveer Alvi, a Muslim cleric. "Whatever is born in the world -- animals, humans, anything living -- God is responsible for their care.

"The process of reproduction will go on until God stops it. Why should a Muslim worry about the increase in population when God has taken responsibility for everyone's care?"

Culturally, many women are often confined to the marital home and deprived of the right to make important decisions such as whether to have a child.

omen don't always get to choose ... they require permission from their husband or even their mother-in-law," said Laghari.

However, other Muslim countries with similar problems to Pakistan, including Bangladesh and Iran, have introduced measures to curb their growing populations.

Experts say those countries started with the political will to do something and spent a lot of time and resources on family planning efforts.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says government field workers and satellite clinics are the two crucial elements in the campaign in Bangladesh -- which saw its population grow from 75 million when it gained independence in 1971, to more than 142 million currently.

It said thousands of Health and Family Welfare centers have been upgraded nationwide, while Family Welfare Assistants provide door-to-door visits giving millions of couples family planning support and sexual health education.

Less sympathy for Pakistan's military, Senator McCain; more sympathy for U.S. troops

I could have picked from any number of U.S. Members of Congress to question but I'm singling out Senator John McCain because he's proved himself over the course of decades to be a good friend to the U.S. soldier, and because he has a demonstrated knowledge about U.S. defense matters. Yet the statements I quote below would alert anyone who's well informed on Pakistan that he's either poorly informed or dissembling on the matter of Pakistan's military.

So, given that American soldiers are being injured and killed by militant groups supported or controlled by Pakistan's military, I think Mr McCain's statements about Pakistan merit particular attention. Take, for example, the quotes from this April 19, 2012 report from the [Pakistan] Express Tribune:
Former US presidential hopeful, Republican Senator John McCain says it is reprehensible that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence maintains a close relationship with the Haqqani Network that is responsible for American deaths. Addressing a packed hall at the think tank the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC, Senator McCain said that he had sympathy for Pakistan's military since the Pakistani government is dysfunctional, but said that it remained a "source of never-ending frustration" that the ISI had a continuous relationship with the Haqqani Network, when [Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani] is responsible for appointing the head of the ISI.[...]
Senator McCain was poorly informed or deliberately misleading the public if he intended to imply that the Haqqanis were the only terrorist group that had a "continuous relationship" with the ISI. Or did he assume that he didn't have to mention the other groups if he was laboring under the belief that the others had a "continuous relationship" only with the Pakistani military, rather than the ISI?  Whatever he believed, here's a  handy list from the same July 11 Long War Journal report I linked to yesterday:
Pakistan has resisted, and continues to resist, US calls for a crackdown on the militant haven of North Waziristan, which is home base for al Qaeda, Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and a host of other jihadist groups that conduct attacks in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Nor will Pakistan heed US requests to move against the so-called "good Taliban" groups based in both North and South Waziristan, including Mullah Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, and the notorious Haqqani family. Additionally, Pakistan will not address the problem of its plethora of home-grown terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-Jhangvi, Hizbul Mujahideen, and a host of others. In fact, these groups openly fundraise and recruit for jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir without repercussions to this day.
There is a veritable alphabet soup of terrorist groups either controlled or closely associated with Pakistan's defense/ISI, or openly tolerated by these establishments -- groups that kill and maim American and other NATO troops in Afghanistan, rob NATO supply convoys, and kill Afghan troops and civilians.

As to the division he implied that exists between Pakistan's military and the country's "dysfunctional" civilian government -- was Mr McCain receiving his intelligence on Pakistan from the back of a cereal box? Or was he trying to mislead the Carnegie Endowment audience?

If he was misleading, why? If he was poorly informed, why? He sits on two defense-related Senate committees -- the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Armed Services. The committees are not necessarily the best source for intelligence on Pakistan. But given that Mr McCain has spoken in public several times in the past few years as an authority on Pakistan and the Afghan War, I would assume that his participation in the committees gives him at least some accurate background on Pakistan's military. And accurate background on the military is widely available through open sources.

Monday, July 16

Thank you, Riehl World View

Dan Riehl at Riehl World View linked to my post today (I don't care that Egyptians threw tomatoes at Hillary Clinton) and delivered this on-target introduction:
What's a few tomatoes, when Americans are being killed?

Unlike our mainstream media, Pundita seems a bit more upset over Americans being killed, than a couple tomatoes hitting a car. Is that so wrong?
Dan is the kind of person I'd want at my side in a trench. What am I saying? Going up against Washington on the matter of its support for Pakistan's military is already a form of trench warfare. Thanks, Dan.

I don't care that Egyptians threw tomatoes at Hillary Clinton

I have not been happy with Hillary Clinton's conduct as U.S. Secretary of State, but even two years ago I would've been outraged at the insult to the office of the Secretary that was represented by the tomato (and shoe) throwing incident. These days I spend all my outrage on an issue I consider far more pressing than a show of disrespect for the U.S. government. 

What I care about is that Americans are being murdered and maimed by proxies for a military that the United States government is helping to prop up.  So I would like to see something called 'prioritizing.'  I want Hillary Clinton to stop running around the world like a chicken with its head cut off, while all time she avoids the key issue for America.

The key issue is that the American government, including the Congress and the U.S. Department of State, continues to aid and abet the murder and maiming of American troops in Afghanistan by proxies for Pakistan's military. That's the number one priority.  Everything else is a distant second until the first priority is dealt with.

I also want Mrs Clinton to stop pushing the straw man argument that strengthening Pakistan's civilian sector will translate into a less dangerous Pakistan.  Mrs Clinton, if the World Bank and IMF couldn't 'solve' Pakistan, what makes you think that USAID helping The Gap import jeans made in Pakistan or a Wal-Mart subsidiary in England import Pakistani mangoes can solve it?

Solving Pakistan is not the key issue at this time; again, the issue is to stop the U.S. from actions that encourage Pakistan's military to use proxy militias in Afghanistan against American troops. 
I also want John Bolton and Barack Obama to cease telling the American public that Pakistan is too nuclear to be allowed to fail. Given the history of Pak military-instigated terrorism, where is the evidence that piling more aid on Pakistan's military will secure the country's nukes against terrorists?  

Messrs. Bolton and Obama and a long line of other American politicians and so-called defense experts have created a false dilemma to rationalize continued U.S. military and civilian aid to Pakistan. This, even though they know full well that by continuing aid, they're encouraging Pakistan's military to continue its proxy war against the United States in Afghanistan.

As to the argument that the U.S. Congress had to release military aid in order to get NATO supply routes reopened in Pakistan because European countries couldn't pay the higher fees to use the northern supply routes -- this is just more verbal Three Card Monte. The Europeans and the Congress know that by NATO continuing to use Pakistan as a supply route, this means revenue not only for Pakistan's military but also for the terrorists who rob the supply trucks. So if the Europeans find it less cost effective to use the northern supply route, can the U.S. Congress tell me how much an American life is worth in euros?  

And if Senator John McCain and his cohorts in the Get Russia crowd in Washington and European capitals don't want to use the northern supply routes because it means the U.S. government has to remain on civil terms with Russia -- what are they implying?  That a highly adversarial relationship with Russia has to be paid for with the blood of American troops in Afghanistan?

On July 11, Long War Journal summarized its report on the U.S. deal with Pakistan to reopen NATO supply routes by noting::
The bottom line is that Pakistan has manipulated the supply route issue -- which even the Taliban have called a "drama" orchestrated by the Pakistani government -- to continue to siphon billions of US dollars while at the same time maintaining Pakistan's jihadist proxies in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

While the administration considers the reopening of NATO's supply lines a major success in US-Pakistan relations, the reality is that Pakistan continues to shelter and support the same groups that kill US and NATO soldiers, and Afghan security forces and civilians across the border. Nothing to see here, please move along.
To my knowledge Long War Journal is the only news publication that addresses the NATO supply line deal from the viewpoint of the key issue for the United States. If I'm correct, that would be an indictment of the American news media. And without question what LWJ says about the details of the deal is an indictment of the White House, Pentagon, State, and Congress -- and NATO.

Sunday, July 15

WARNING: All batshit crazy on this planet so KEEP OUT

Swing away, Merrill

Recently I saw Signs again.  I didn't find it scary the first time I saw it because I don't believe there's intelligent life anywhere in the universe except on Earth. But maybe because I saw the movie the second time at three in the morning, when I was half asleep, it occurred to me that it never hurts to hedge one's bets.

In H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds humanity is saved from destruction when an invading force of Martians falls prey to pathogens native to Earth, and for which the aliens have no antibodies. Now just in case aliens from further afield than Mars are smart enough to inject themselves with antibodies before they invade, my fertile brain has hatched a plan for keeping them away from Earth altogether.

I once read that radio signals travel forever in space, which means that every Amos 'n Andy Show that ever aired on radio is still broadcasting somewhere in the universe.  So my plan is the essence of simplicity:  Read out on a radio broadcast the entire history of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan.

Trust me, this will work. When it picks up that broadcast, any race that's smart enough to figure out intergalactic travel wouldn't need to be told twice to give this planet a wide berth.

When I told the plan to a Pundita reader, he replied that if I wanted to be sure to scare away the aliens, the announcer should also read the history of U.S. relations with China since the Nixon era.

That would be a bad idea for two reasons.  First off, it's gilding the lily.  The aliens would probably say, 'Nobody's that crazy.'  The trick is to scare them away without making it seem you're trying to scare them.

The other reason is that any aliens who actually believed the history of U.S.-China relations would likely say, 'Then we'll just stay away from the United States.'  The idea is to ward off an invasion of Earth, not just the American part of it.

I wrote all the above about a year ago but I was stopped from publishing it by the most awful thought: What if we've already been invaded by aliens? It struck me this might finally explain why the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is so very strange, even unearthly.

Before you laugh, consider that prior to U.S. actions since around 2006, when the Pakistani military's proxy war against NATO in Afghanistan went into full tilt, there was  no precedent in human history for a government paying another government to murder its troops.  As I've pointed out before, not even fiends such as Mao and Stalin, who were so very cruel to their own people, would have thought of that one; not even history's most primitive savages did that.

There was no precedent because everybody knows that the one thing you don't do is pay another government to murder the very people whose job is to defend you. But then one wouldn't be 'everybody' if one was actually from another planet and posing as a human. It might not occur to such aliens that there was something truly inhuman about paying another government to murder one's soldiers.

Having scared myself silly in the fashion I've described, I returned to my normal self after I determined to never again watch an M. Night Shyamalan film at three in the morning.  However, if one discounts a covert alien invasion as the explanation, this leaves unanswered the vexing question of why the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is so very strange. It's a strangeness that's been to destructive to many innocents -- countless innocents -- almost since Pakistan's inception.

And, if one considers the tacit encouragement the U.S. government gave to Pakistan's clandestine nuclear proliferation, an encouragement it continues to provide in tacit fashion, the relationship between the two governments poses the greatest threat to the human race and indeed to all life on the planet. 

While some American defense analysts have, in recent years, claimed that Pakistan is the world's most dangerous country, the claim is preposterous.  Pakistan's military was thrashed every time it started a war with India and couldn't even hold onto East Pakistan once India intervened to stop the Pak military's massacre of civilians. 

Pakistan's only demonstrable danger is what it's been able to accomplish by the sneakiest means -- by fostering terrorism in clandestine fashion. But it's gotten away with this kind of murder for decades with the support of the American government -- and, one might argue, the British one, at least until very recently.  Even during the years that the U.S. government ostensibly punished Pakistan for its WMD  program,  the U.S. found ways to divert money to Pakistan's military through the use of proxies such as the World Bank.

The covert support from the United States, even while it publicly condemned Pakistan persuaded Pakistan's leaders that the Americans weren't seriously outraged by their behavior -- and what's more, taught the Pakistanis that the American leaders were as two-faced and sneaky as they were, a sneakiness shared by the powers in the American orbit.  This gave the Pakistanis no impetus to abandon terrorism as a policy tool and nuclear proliferation as a revenue stream. 

The American support has continued to translate into support for Pakistan from many quarters -- from international institutions to Western companies that have agreed to import clothing goods and other textiles from Pakistan. This, despite the fact that Pakistan's military continues to foster terrorism and use 'lashkars' to mount proxy wars against Afghans and the U.S.-led NATO mission there.

So it's closer to the truth to say that it's the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, not the country of Pakistan, which poses the greatest danger in the world.

Since 2010, when the lid blew off Pakistan's U.S.-sponsored murder and maiming of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, every American defense expert and his uncle has offered explanations as to why the U.S. government had engaged in such self-destructive and one might even say fiendish behavior.  And a chorus line of American military and civilian government officials have done the same.

Each set of explanations, proffered at every phase of the unfolding scandal and right up to this day, sounded reasonable -- until one noted that the history of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been characterized by the U.S. government coming up with one explanation after another, no matter what the situation, for the U.S. aiding Pakistan's military.  In other words, when seen against the big picture of the historical relationship, the reasonable explanations are exposed  for what they are: rationalizations.

As I explained in considerable detail in June 2011, this kind of rationalizing is well known to psychologists who specialize in working with substance abusers and people who refuse to leave or change a relationship that's destructive to both parties -- and often to anyone who's closely involved with the parties.   

Many such relationships are 'co-dependent' -- a psychological term that's easily misunderstood, as I learned when an editorialist in the American media picked up on my observations and proceeded to give advice about dealing with what he termed the "co-dependent" American-Pakistani relationship that was itself a textbook example of co-dependent thinking, and even enabling.

Enabling, as I've also explained before, is associated with co-dependence, although not all co-dependent relationships are supported by a party to the relationship that's acting to enable the other party's destructive behavior. The term, as it's used in the negative sense, is also easily misunderstood, as witness a recent PSA that intones at  parents who're lenient with boozing and pill-popping teenage offspring, "Enabling is a drug. Get help."

Enabling isn't a drug, it's not addictive behavior; it's a coping tactic that can be quite innocent at one end of the relationship spectrum and deliberately manipulative at the other.  In short, it's a minefield for anyone but a psychologist to analyze personal human relationships in formal psychological terms. And  to apply psychological terms to government-to-government relationships skates close to pop psychology, which is why I quickly backed away from the discussion I raised about co-dependence and enabling.

Both terms relate to individuals, not systems. And even though systems of government are managed by individuals, I think no matter how tempting it is to apply the concepts of co-dependence and enabling to the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, it's taking things too far to apply them to American government administrations that have spanned decades.

Unless one wants to speculate that individuals with co-dependent tendencies are attracted to foreign relations and defense occupations in the American government -- a very shaky speculation, I would think.

Perhaps one would be on more solid ground by speculating that there's something about the system of American government, or how it's been administered since the Cold War, which institutionalized tactics that resemble co-dependence and enabling behavior when applied to government-to-government relations. 

I was struck by a 2007 op-ed I came across in my files the other day which spoke approvingly of Bush abandoning unilateralism and embracing multilateralism in the effort to rescue the situation in Iraq. Bush was never a unilateralist; recall the 'Coalition of the Willing' he put together for the Iraq invasion and the team of Italian, Spanish, British and Japanese heads of state that he forged after 9/11.  He even tried to bring Vladimir Putin onto the team -- a short-lived attempt when hardliners in the U.S. and Russia set up a howl.

The United States has been a coalition builder even before World War Two and after the war ended, it established the multilateral institutions of the United Nations, World Bank and IMF, and several regional coalitions, and of course NATO. And all the throughout the Cold War and since, American leadership in the world largely translated into building and maintaining coalitions and encouraging nations friendly to the USA to do the same. 

So it's possible that at some point the U.S. government institutionalized a view of leadership that actually had more to do with maintaining coalitions than with leadership. That could explain why the United States has gotten itself into the damnedest situations -- with China, with Pakistan, with Saudi Arabia, and even with NATO.

Perhaps the strangest aspect of this century so far has been the U.S. government wringing its hands over Saudi-financed terrorism. But who raised up the Saudis?  Who taught them the oil business and built a nation for them?  Who built their air force and army?  Who aided and abetted them at every turn?  The United States.  This patten of behavior has been repeated many times, including with Pakistan and China.

In fact, it's hard to find a government working against the United States today that has not been helped at every turn by the USA, or by institutions and alliances that the USA created or encouraged.  So while this might be considered leadership on another planet, down here on Earth we would call this mission drift.

Unless one subscribes to the idea that all the truly strange aspects of U.S. foreign/defense policy can be blamed on aliens among us.  I myself scoff at the idea but in the manner of hedging bets, pardon me while I go and place several glasses of water around the house.