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Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

American Strategy in Pakistan: How Should America Perceive Pakistan’s Overlapping Proliferation and Terrorism Dangers?

Posted by K.E. White on May 23, 2007

Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state currently seething with unrest, presents a profound challenge to American and global security. Pakistan is a terrorist hotbed, possibly offering international terrorists a new homebase. And Pakistan comes with a nuclear punch: What happens if one of these groups acquires a nuclear weapon?

But before crafting solutions, U.S. policy must prioritize its strategic goals toward Pakistan.

Is stabilizing the Musharraf regime to be gained at all costs? Should concerns over nuclear weapon leakage outweigh combating terrorist operations in the state? Naturally all these goals should be accomplished: But what goal should set American policy towards Pakistan?

Two recent publications point to the ‘Pakistan divide’ among the non-proliferation community.

Alex Stolar argues that fear of nuclear leakage obscures the greater problem facing Pakistan: Musharraf failing to consolidate the state. Even the most likely WMD-related threat facing Pakistan—a radiological device detonated in Pakistan—demands the state authority be strengthened.

Here is a portion of Stolar’s Stimson Center article:

…Today, the military’s Strategic Plans Division devotes over 8,000 men, mostly undercover, to protecting Pakistan’s weapons and fissile material. The Pakistani military is a highly capable and professional force. It is highly improbable that it would hand over its crown jewels to individuals or organizations that it cannot control during this period of unrest.

It is equally unlikely that terrorist would be able to steal Pakistani nuclear weapons or fissile material. It is true that the fiat of the Pakistani state is being challenged throughout Pakistan, and especially in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. In the most troubled regions, police and military forces are struggling to maintain order. However, the installations that house Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and fissile material, as would be expected, are heavily guarded and among the most secure facilities in all of Pakistan.

Similarly, fears that the current unrest could lead to a takeover of the Pakistani government by extremists are also misplaced. Religious parties are an important element of Pakistani society, but their political clout remains limited. It is unlikely that religious parties could engineer a takeover of the Pakistani government, as they lack both the popular support and the military power that would be required. The political power of religious parties would be further diminished if General Pervez Musharraf would remove the shackles from the two major political parties in Pakistan that do not define themselves in religious terms.

Unfortunately, unfounded fears about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have obscured more pressing threats. Radiological terrorism in Pakistan, as elsewhere, is possible. To conduct an act of radiological terrorism, extremists would need to fashion a radiological dispersal device (RDD) which consists of little more than conventional explosives and radiological materials that can be found in laboratories and hospitals. Though an RDD would cause few deaths, it could contaminate a large swath of land and stretch Pakistan’s emergency response capabilities.

The implications Stolar’s argument are two-fold:

1) Push Musharraf to make the political accommodations necessary to stabilize Pakistan (i.e. presumably have open/contested elections and relinquish his grasp over military control).

2) Push aside concerns of an illusory nuclear leakage threat and put American efforts into ensuring a stable state apparatus

But Daniel Byman offers a different take in his PSQ article:

The country that deserves the greatest attention today is Pakistan. Pakistan hosts of large domestic jihadist presence and significant numbers of foreign jihadists while possessing a nuclear weapons program that it has demonstrated it does not, or will not, control. The possibility of leakage is more than plausible, and the results could be catastrophic for the region and for the United States. Unfortunately, the United States will have to make trade-offs between working with Pakistan to fight terrorism and its efforts to stop proliferation.

In Pakistan, several assassination attempts on Pervez Musharraf appear to have involved military officials linked to jihadists. Each component, by itself, is important, but together they present an exceptionally dangerous combination.

…Pakistan stands out as an exceptionally dangerous combination of high levels of corruption and a high risk of terrorist penetration, with at best a medium-level security force. Other countries that are corrupt and do not have highly competent security forces do not have a grave risk of terrorist penetration.

America’s first priority, according to Byman, should help Pakistan secure its nuclear supplies directly—even if this hurts general non-proliferation efforts.

Should American energies first go to pushing Musharraf or securing nuclear arms? While a tactical (and somewhat overlapping) discussion, it rests of two very different views of Pakistan and the challenges it poses.

And when the possibly catastrophic costs of choosing the wrong policy, this discussion is one of the most urgent in the crosscutting nonproliferation and American foreign policy establishments.

Posted in Alex Stolar, Daniel Byman, Musharraf, Nonproliferation, Nuclear, Pakistan, Political Science Quarterly, Stimson Center, Terrorism | 6 Comments »

So Over “Overblown”: J.P. Crowley Reponds to John Mueller’s Latest Book

Posted by K.E. White on January 26, 2007

I recently sat down with Philip J. Crowley, Director of National Defense and Homeland Security at the Center for American Progress, and chatted about John Mueller’s recent book Overblown.P.J. Crowley

Crowley, President Bill Clinton’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, was not bowled over by Overblown, as his responses to my questions make clear.

While finding value in Mueller’s contention that America may have already overreacted to the threat of terrorism, Crowley finds Mueller’s policy prescriptions lacking substance, evidence questionable, worldview dangerously isolationist, and perception of American foreign policy after WWII “idealistic and naive.”

Among his many critiques, Crowley highlights the danger of using past state-on-state diplomacy to understand the threat posed today by international terrorism. This leads him to consider Mueller guilty of the same fallacy—albeit in the opposite direction—of the Bush administration: forcing a statist paradigm onto terrorism.

Question: What do you make of Mueller’s view of America caught in a terror iron-triangle: with an irrationally concerned public egging on elected representative to feed funds to an insatiable terrorism industry?

 

Philip J. Crowley: It’s a clever formulation, but it’s a secondary consideration. The fundamental consideration is, is there a residual threat of terrorism to the United States? There is.

Certainly Mr. Mueller is likely right in thinking that we have overestimated its severity and have portrayed terrorists as an omniscient threat. And certain actions that the United States has taken since 9-11, most specifically the diversion into Iraq, have actually been counterproductive.

Much of his analysis is fair, but the board theme in terms of what the country should do in response is to basically to ignore the threat.

In the construct in the current threat of terrorism, he may be partially right that to some extent our overreaction actually makes terrorists more emboldened than they may otherwise be.

But his historical analysis of the manner in which the United States has handled what it perceived to be major threats in the past, is deeply, deeply, deeply flawed.

To suggest that on Dec. 8, 1941, in the face of the most significant military attack [Pearl Harbor] against the United States in our history, the proper course of action for President Roosevelt was to ignore and contain it is naive.

Certainly his portray of the McCarthy psyche that gripped the country in the 1950s is fair. On the over hand, many of the steps that we did take militarily, economically and diplomatically throughout the Cold War were directly responsible for the eventual demise of the Soviet Union.

What I found disappointing in the book was Mueller’s attempt to use history to justify an under reaction to the current situation. The ultimate right answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

While we are at risk of overreacting to the threat of terrorism because of 9-11, we are at risk of under reacting by not taking the proper steps to mitigate the residual risk that does exist, and is going to exist for some time.

 

Is Mueller’s provocative example of Pearl Harbor useful in adding depth to how America responded to security threat in the past and how we should respond to the threat of international terrorism today?

 

[Mueller’s view of Pearl Harbor] is historically inaccurate.

Mueller bases his analysis on almost purely on mathematical formulas.

He sees our response to Japan as such: The United States lost 2,500 citizens at Pearl Harbor, and in response the United States lost 100,000 or more troops in the Pacific theater.

So, in his mind, [since America’s response lead to greater human losses] the cost of the war did not justify a declaration of the war.

He ignores the fact that through World War II the role of the United States changed. He ignores the positive impact that the United States gained in terms of its impact on the world as a consequence of the war.

There is a just war theory, and it’s very controversial. But I find very few people who believe, as Mr. Muller seems to believe, that World War II was not a just war.

 

What is the goal of Muller’s book? What is the book’s view of America’s role in the world?

Mueller espouses an isolationist view. In his mind, we should never react to a provocation. You know, I keep using the word naive, and I think it is.

While there is a gain of truth and a seductive logic behind that view, there are simply times you have to respond.

The intervention in Bosnia, for example, was expressly not because the United States was threatened. In fact while the intervention cost American treasure, it cost not a single American life. In that intervention the United States was making a broader statement to Europe and to the world that it would not tolerate ethnic cleansing that threatened our significant national interests.

Now one could argue not that America should not do less, but more. Most people who look at the places the United States has interceded and the places the United States has failed to intercede, say America has not done enough—Darfur being the latest example, and rightfully so.

Mueller is trying to shift history in the opposite direction. And to suggest that it is not worth the United States making, what in my mind, the very important moral and political statement that the United States would hold leaders like Milosevic to account for policies that kill or displace hundreds of thousands of people, is wrong.

And because of the Serbian intervention—it was not perfect, it was not pretty at times—we now have European continent that is more united and is highly unlikely to experience any kind of major conflict in the foreseeable future.

Given where the world was in 1914, where a world war started owing to a series of overlapping alliances, to be at the point today where you’d probably think major war in Europe is no longer possible is an enormous achievement. And that would arguably not happen in the logic that John Mueller applies to the world.

 

The book’s theoretical perspective relies on lumping together America’s foreign policies towards other nation-states in the past, such as Germany and Japan during World War II or the Soviet Union, with America’s policy towards international terrorism today. Is this a useful approach to understanding American security policy after 9-11?

Mueller ends up, to some extent, contradicting his own argument, conflating the threat [of international terrorism] in ways the Bush administration has.

The Bush administration came into office in 2001, and then came 9-11. The Bush administration could not envision that Al Qaeda could do what it did without formal state sponsorship. And it was that logic that ultimately moved us from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Notwithstanding the existence of a safe heaven in Afghanistan and the shelter the Taliban, as the ruling government in Afghanistan, provided to Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda primarily pulled off 9-11 without meaningful state support.

And the Bush administration could not bring itself to accept that fact. So it started to look around for rogue states that are involved in terrorism and had been in the past. The shift then happened from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Mr. Mueller seems to tread that same path in reverse. In order to try to buttress his argument that we have overreacted to the threat of Al Qaeda, which by itself may be true, he then goes back and to use as justification the United States and how it has dealt with various state-related challenges in the second half of the twentieth century. I think he ends up mixing up apples and oranges.

There is logic to what he says about the risk of overreacting to what is not an existential threat. But you cannot confuse how the United States deals with a transnational non-state actor with how the United States deals with state-to-state relations—whether it be Japan after Pearle Harbor, or the Soviet Union during the Cold War, or a European state like Serbia that was responsible for the worst ethnic cleansing of modern time.

Now if one accepts there is a danger of politically overreacting to the threat of terrorism, he does give some rhetorical support to things we have to do—but little substance. I think that is what is missing in the book.

 

What does Mueller accomplish in this book? And what substance is missing in particular?

He sets up a straw man effectively: There is a fundamental risk that America can and perhaps has overreacted to a threat. But, by the same token, he does not go into any depth of where the right balance is.

He mentions in many parts in the book that while it is hard to envision that Al Qaeda could successfully build or explode a nuclear weapon, he nonetheless accepts the idea that we should do everything possible to keep fissionable material off the market. Okay, how do you do that?

He believes that we should primarily attack terrorism through law enforcement means. Okay, how do you do that?

To the extent that we have a residual threat of terrorism, and there are systems that are valuable to us that could be attacked, whether transit systems or port system, to what extent do you protect them?

His solution is largely just to tell the American people, “Don’t worry be happy.”

He misses the opportunity to find the pragmatic middle ground that would help those who want to know how to effectively govern.

 

Let’s say someone plans to read this book, or already has. What book would you tell them to read next that would fill in the deficits you have pointed out in Mueller’s work?

 

It hasn’t been written yet—which is exactly a problem. We’ll get there eventually. I think that is a very good point at which to critique here.

Mueller offers a useful admonition that there is a serious risk that America will overreact if it hasn’t already. The next piece is—if we are able to maintain perspective that his is a serious issue but not an existential threat, and that the adversary is capable but not omniscient—what should we do? Where is the right balance?

That is missing from Mueller’s book and really is the logical next step in the development of our concept of homeland security. What are the enduring things we can do so that we can protect what is important to us, without stoking fears in the population?

Posted in Bush administration, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Homeland Security, Iraq, J.P. Crowley, John Mueller, Proliferation News, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »

The Hawks Mourn: AEI’s Annual “Pre-Briefing” on President Bush’s Sixth State of the Union

Posted by K.E. White on January 24, 2007

The mood was sullen today at the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) annual State of the Union “pre-briefing.” 

Six foreign policy analysts at AEI spoke on what the President will—or should—discuss latter tonight, all reiterating a similar theme: never has the President been so weak, and never has he had so much to prove. 

Danielle Pletka, making clear that foreign policy would not be lost to domestic issues in Bush’s upcoming, ably moderated the discussion, guiding the five AEI analysts ably and pulling their wonkish talks into a coherent and compelling—if one-sided—narrative. 

Michael Rubin argued, “while some might criticize Bush’s remarks five years ago as being unhelpful in diplomacy, in reality they were prescient,” emphasizing the growing danger Iran and North Korea pose to international stability. 

While side-stepping the issue of what role those remarks had in creating these sources of international crisis, made the case for tough U.S. diplomacy on Iran and North Korea. 

Rubin recommended President Bush “recognize that there are commonalities among the reformers, the pragmatists, the reformers,” continuing by claiming that “[t]he difference between these factions is one of style, not one of substance.” 

But he conceded a more general failure of America’s approach to Iran: “What I am saying is that the United States isn’t good at playing this Iran game. Of trying to be puppeteer, of trying to engage one faction verses the other.” 

Leon Aron, AEI’s Russia expert, bemoaned “the shrinking of the common commitmentsLeon Aron of every one of the four mainstay areas of the U.S.-Russia strategic dialogue: the war on terror, non-proliferation, Russia’s reliability as a global energy supplier, and its move towards democracy.” 

These common interests will “shrink even further…in the next two years,” Aron stated. 

“[T]he State of the Union speech will matter very little,” Gary Schmitt posed, going against the conventional wisdom of the news media and anchoring the theme of the discussion. 

Gary Schmitt“[P]resident’s can make very fine speeches,” Schmitt told the audience, “but after a time it was a coin that got spent too readily. People began to hear great speeches, but if you don’t see the follow through—the actions—people begin to dismiss the speeches. 

He continued by pointing to the dual-pronged source of the public’s dissatisfaction with President Bush: the botched response to Hurricane Katrina at home and a war effort abroad perceived as failing. 

“The reality in Iraq is what determines public perception. The reality in Katrina, the results of the Hurricane there, are what determined perceptions. And those perceptions are that we have a President that may have very fine policy ideas but is very ineffective in carrying them out.” 

Dan Blumenthal, AEI’s Asia analyst, saw any improvement on the North Korean nuclear dilemma ““only happen[ing] if we start to see some success in Iraq.” 

But Blumenthal seemed pessimistic, finding the Bush administration’s bureaucracy favoring compromise with North Korea, similar to the position of China—not tightening the screws to China by letting Japan out of the nuclear box, or making the de-nuclearization of North Korea the “litmus test” for Sino-American relations. 

But he hoped for some action, lest we have President Bush hand to the next administration “a North Korea that is irreversibly nuclear at this point.” 

Thomas Donnelly, AEI’s Iraq speaker, saw the escalation as a workable strategy: but pointed to the many obstacles Bush must overcome for success in Iraq. 

Donnelly argued that the Bush administration must still show there is a unity of commandThomas Donnelly in Iraq—with Petraeus in the top role; clarify the troop numbers and stages of the proposed surge; and, finally, have ready a reconstruction that works in Iraq. 

Donnelly was well aware of the new political landscape, telling the audience that newly empowered Democrats will point “both barrels to the President on Iraq.” 

He also saw General David Petraeus’s testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee as more important to Congressional support for Iraq than the State of the Union, conceding the extreme weakness of President Bush to rally the nation behind his foreign policy in Iraq. 

The outlook looked gloomy for all the speakers. 

Success in Iraq, while still seen as achievable, was by no means guaranteed—these speakers blamed domestic politics rather than conditions in Iraq.

And the real threat for many in the room, a nuclear Iran and a further nuclearized North Korea, seemed ever more illusive to contain with Iraq’s attention-stealing and resource-draining present condition. 

Though what seemed most clear to all these speakers was the realization that the aggressive neo-conservative foreign policy was a mere step away from extinction. Unless the compromised Bush administration shows success in Iraq soon, not only will the Bush legacy be tarnished but so too neo-conservative approach to America’s foreign policy.

Posted in Afghanistan, American Enterprise Institute, Bush administration, China, Congress, Dan Blumenthal, Danielle Pletka, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Gary Schmitt, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Leon Aron, Michael Rubin, neoconservatism, North Korea, Terrorism, Think Tank, Thomas Donnelly | Leave a Comment »

America’s Responsibility? Egyptian Blogger Starts His Sedition Trial Today

Posted by K.E. White on January 19, 2007

Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman, the first blogger charged for dissent in Egypt, started hisAbdelkareem Nabil Soliman trial today.

insulting the president” owing from his Egyptian blog, in which he was critical of Soliman is facing charges of “inciting sedition, insulting Islam, harming national unity and government policies.

Look here for more information Soliman’s case, the Bush administration’s silence on the matter, a video describing his plight, and the efforts to free him.

The story, given the backdrop of a failed neo-conservative paradigm in Iraq, has opened questions about the usefulness of a “realist” approach in American diplomacy.

I. The Question that Plagues American Foreign Policy

Boiled down, the question comes to this:

Does American support for Egypt in this instance–a “stable” country with strong ties to America–show us violating fundamental American values in the name of stability.

Democracy Arsenal’s Shadi Hamid weighs in, opting to table the fundamental question for a (perhaps justified) jab at the Bush Administration and “realists” of any party:Shadi Hamid

 

As Zvika points out in his latest post, there’s been some renewed talk about (maybe) putting pressure on the Egyptian government. Unfortunately, such talk is not coming from the “end-tyranny-now” Bush administration, which continues to show that it isn’t – and never was – serious about democracy in the Middle East. For those such as Flynt Leverett, who think that “realism has become the truly progressive position on foreign policy,” this may be a welcome development. No more messianism, mission, and – for millions of Arabs – not so much to hope for.

I hope someone can tell me how “progressive” this video is. Be forewarned that this is a clip of Egyptian authorities sodomizing a man with some kind of rod. It’s one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen in awhile. Democracy Arsenal readers will, of course, know that the US gives the Egyptian government upwards of $2 billion of aid each year. But will Democrats have anything to say about our “friends” in Egypt using our American dollars to sodomize political opponents? Don’t hold your breath. It would also be nice if one of the prospective Democratic nominees for 2008 calls out Bush/Condi on their hypocrisy.

 

II. Answering the Question–Clearing Up Our Terms

Here Hamid confuses the realist approach with a realist world view–by which I guess he means favoring short-term stability over fundamental human rights or liberal values.

 

Michael Lind—author or The American Way of Strategy – reminds us that realism is an approach, one that can be led in many directions. When Hamid assails “realists,” he assails though that use certain methods that allow Egypt the right to detain Soliman:

Michael Lind

Properly understood, realism consists merely of a set of methods [hegemony, concert of power, balance of power] used in power politics. The tools of realism can be used to promote a world based on freedom or one based on tyranny. Realism is like a knife, which can be used by a criminal to torture or kill or by a surgeon to save a life. Statesmen with radically different goals and visions of world order may be realists, in the sense that they follow the logic of realism for tactical or strategic reasons…

Properly defined, realism should not be confused with nineteenth-century German school of Machtpolitik (power politics), which held that an untrammeled state should maximize its power at all costs….American realism is a strategic doctrine that has as its purpose the preservation of the republican liberal way of life of the American people, not the maximization of the relative power of the United States. (37-38)

But this semantic reification doesn’t really answer the question at hand: does this news event show American foreign policy failing and being immoral?

Lind reminds us to add two dimensions when answering the question: time and resources.

Most would agree that America should push for a liberal democratic world, but timing can be everything.

Does allowing or feeding pro-democracy protests in Egypt help Egypt? I don’t know–but clearly, as is the case in Pakistan, the results could power to Islamic radicals or start a civil war.

III. Finding America’s Role in the World:

Should America’s limited resources be spent in this case?

Again I go to Lind for guidance:

Liberal internationalism can protect American’s republican way of life even if all sovereign states are not liberal states, much less liberal states that, like the United States, are also democratic republics. Americans have always believed that liberal states are superior in the abstract to illiberal states, and that among liberal states those with democratic republican constitutions are the best. But wise American statesmen have recognized that a liberal society requires the achievement of certain social conditions, and that the preconditions for a democratic republican liberal state are even more difficult to achieve. In the meantime time, the priority of the United States is the preservation of the post-imperial society of sovereign states, not crusades for liberalism or democracy. (253)

Of all the problems in the Middle East–the Iraq War, the Israel-Palestinian crisis, and Lebanon–would intervening in this case be a purely cosmetic move?

Conclusions

Big Picture, Please: Looking at one event cannot tell us whether American foreign policy is moral or immoral, let alone effective or ineffective.

Nuanced Strategy: Put liberalism–respect for individual rights within the state–before democracy–a form of government that may or may not be liberal.

And as to the Soliman dilemma: America should exert all reasonable pressure to alleviate the wrongs committed to this individual. But we must recognize that this evident is the result of many processes–not all of which America can be expected to control (Egypt’s domestic political situation, the threat of Islamic radicalism, and a over-stretched and largely undesired–by those in the region and now at home–American presence in the Middle East).

But should anyone who cares about this case learn more, urge Congressmen to act, let alone write the White House?

Yes.

But let’s hope that these same people will also think about the complicated issues at hand, form their arguments soundly and rationally vote for our leaders in future elections.

Forging any foreign policy, let a lone a “progressive” one, is a tall order–requiring time, energy, and hard work on some of the world’s most troubling and thorny dilemmas.

Posted in Conservativism, Iran, Iraq, Republican Party, Soliman, Terrorism, Wartime Powers | Leave a Comment »

Blog-on-Blog: Response to the Reliant on Bush’s Troop “Surge”

Posted by K.E. White on January 13, 2007

The Reliant offers a good take on Bush’s plan to deploy more troops in Iraq.

Below are comments from K.E. White, who using the (unfair) advantage of endless comments to respond to the post. They also appear directly on the site.

“As Charles Krauthammer puts it…”

Charles Krauthammer? Okay, okay I might be a bit biased: but Krauthammer as a rational authority on this? He’s the extreme of the extreme, though he has been the most consistent (or irrational depending on your point of view) of the neo-cons.

This article of mine is a bit slanted
, but it does paint the problems of using this guy as a lone support.

“As for the increase in troops – the primary focus of Bush’s address – that recommendation may be a valuable one, but one can’t help but feel that the ideal moment for it has already passed. The increase, indeed, seems like a belated action…”

I completely agree, the “ideal moment” has passed. But I think its valuable to point out why: the American public has flipped flopped on its opinion of the war. Whereas earlier and throughout the 2004 election is supported remaining in Iraq and ignored troublesome signs there, it has now become extremely embittered: with 40% of voters strongly against the venture, an amount that upticks to 60-70% when relaxed to disagree.

“Thus far, policymakers on both sides of the aisle have supported the effort to keep force levels as low as possible in Iraq – which, thus far, has proved counterproductive in the bloody and complex milieu of Iraqi insurgency and counterinsurgency.”

When you evoke “policymakers on both sides” I become a bit suspicious. Weren’t these policy makers simply following the cue of President Bush? John McCain has consistently supported more troops, but was Congress really going to tell the President the proper level of troops, or pull for an increase? Doubtful: that is without the recent foreign policy maelstrom–increasing sectarian violence in Iraq brining about a highly critical Iraq Study Group Report and a sweeping ’06 election cycle.

When it came to troop levels it was Bush’s call: until the ’06 elections there was not the public pull for Congress to weigh in, as it now is (yes, albeit too late for rational policy making, a common weakness of Congressional warpowers).

But I would lay blame squarely on Bush, not “policymakers on both sides of the aisle.”

But if you are endorsing smarter and more active Congressional oversight (lacks for decades), we find ourselves in total agreement.

“If these additional troops are deployed – in the right places, for the right reasons, and with the right attention to reconciliation efforts within Iraq – there is reason to hope that they will prove a key part of securing democracy for the Iraqi people.”

Perhaps, perhaps not. General Petraeus (have you or could you do a bio on this guy?), from all reports, seems to be the right guy for the job. But does he have the proper tools? What I find interesting is that Bush did not take Frederick Kagan’s advice on troops numbers–same or virtually same brigade number, but far less troops.

Bush should have done this earlier: having lost public support, even if this policy is effective it will not survive any short term difficulties.

But on the main point, we both seem to share the same sentiment: solidifying the Iraqi government would be better than all-out civil war (or, depending on your point of view, terrorist feed sectarian violence) in Iraq.

I hope for success, but have little faith in the strategic judgement of this administration.

Posted in Bush administration, Congress, Diplomacy, Iran, Iraq, Iraq Study Group, John McCain, Reliant, Syria, Terrorism, Wartime Powers, WMD | 4 Comments »

Blog on Blog: Negroponte’s Move

Posted by K.E. White on January 5, 2007

Soon-to-be Deputy NegroponteHeather Hurlburt, over at Democracy Arsenal, lays out some intriguing and entertaining thoughts on now-Intel Chief Negroponte’s move to the State Department.

Hurlburt 1) stresses the failure of the Intel Chief to coordinate our nation’s intelligence gathering, 2) sees it as more proof that–big shock–we’re staying the course in Iraq, 3) and offers some good conspiracy theories.

To me, her first point bares repeating: Negroponte, while seen as doing a credible job as Intel Chief, could not overcome the structural limitations of the position.

I find the Bush administration’s “game of musical chairs” (borrowed from WaPo’s Walter Pincus) shocking. Rice has operated without a deputy, just as Negroponte has operated throughout his tenure.

Shouldn’t there be a bi-partisan push to smooth this bureaucratic terrain, since this detail work– a) assembling and linking small data points,  b) building databases, and c) coordinating our nation’s 16 intelligence agencies–is critical to America’s homeland security?

Pinus told NPR that the position has not “gelled quite as quickly” as Congress would like with a undesired bureaucratic size (approx. 15,000 employees).

Clearly we won’t know the answer to the Negroponte puzzle for years—i.e. when the administration is relegated to the cottage industry of memoir-writing.

But this remains true: Politicians of both parties must pay more attention to the infrastructure of our nation’s intelligence gathering—and keep political posturing to a minimum.

Let’s hope that day isn’t scheduled with flying pigs.

Posted in Bush administration, Homeland Security, Intelligence, Security Studies, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »

The Fence Is Going Up! ( No, not the Mexican one–the fence between Pakistan and Afghanistan)

Posted by K.E. White on January 4, 2007

Pakistan is going ahead with plans to construct a fence along its Afghan border. The policy was confirmed publicly during a joint press conference with Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, and Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan.


VOA’s Benajmin Sand gives this brief recap of the tension between the two countries:

U.S. and Afghan officials claim pro-Taleban insurgents have established several bases in Pakistan that are used to mount raids in Afghanistan. Pakistan insists it is doing everything it can to help improve regional security.

It didn’t help much when Pakistan made “peace” last September with pro-Taliban forces settled along the Pakastani-Afghan border.

WaPo’s coverage:

Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 5 — The government of Pakistan signed a peace accord Tuesday with pro-Taliban forces in the volatile tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, agreeing to withdraw its troops in return for the fighter’s pledge to stop attacks inside Pakistan and across the border.

Under the pact, foreign fighters would leave North Waziristan or live peaceable lives if they remained. The militias would not set up a “parallel” government administration.


Radio Free Europe
and American Thinker’s Rick Moran offer up some good reporting on the deal.
The BBC gives a good strategic view of Pakistan–making it clear why America and Pakistan’s fate are tied, when it comes to the fight against Islamic extermism.

The government says everything is on schedule for the re-election of President Pervez Musharraf and general elections by the end of 2007.

Yet Pakistanis are still gripped with severe bouts of uncertainty and few believe the government’s assurances….Musharraf's headache

After his recent outbursts against extremism and the need for people to vote for moderates, rather than religious extremists, the long-running speculation that the army has struck a deal with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its leader in self-imposed exile, Benazir Bhutto, are rife.

Both sides deny any deal, despite the political buzz.

However Gen Musharraf has made it clear that the return of Benazir Bhutto is out of the question. So too, he says, is the return of the prime minister he deposed, Nawaz Sharif, the exiled leader of another faction of the PML…

If there is a compromise and a deal with the PPP, it would mean the military breaking of its alliance with the Islamic parties that presently rule the provinces of Balochistan and the North West Frontier.

It is something that many in the US and western Europe are desperate to see happen and would clearly applaud…

After seven years of Gen Musharraf and the military, people are tired of the army and looking for change.

Moreover only a genuine civilian government could begin the attempt to start a reconciliation process with all the alienated, angry elements of society such as the Baloch nationalists and the Pashtun extremists in the tribal agencies bordering Afghanistan.

Is such a transformative election likely?

Not really.

But on a lighter note, Pakistan now allows kite-flying.

drafted by kwhite

Posted in Afghanistan, Diplomacy, Pakistan, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »

The Sky Isn’t Falling! Mueller Goes “Overblown” at Cato: Why Terrorism Isn’t Our Greatest Danger—We Are

Posted by K.E. White on December 13, 2006

John Mueller tells us all—politicians and citizens alike—to stop acting dumb when it comes to terrorism. Proliferation Press covers John Mueller’s book-party at Cato, documenting his witty and engaging plug for Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats and Why We Believe Them. Will we heed his warning to stop expecting the sky to fall? Former Governor James Gilmore is also thrown in for kicks.

 

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Posted in Diplomacy, Homeland Security, James Gilmore, John Mueller, Terrorism, WMD | 1 Comment »