Archive for the ‘South Asia’ Category

Nations have grievances.  Look at the Balkans, always fighting over some mid-fourteenth century slight.  But most leaders have the good sense to recognize that the rest of the world might find their problems slightly ridiculous.  Asif Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto and possessor of big enough balls to become famously corrupt in Pakistan – reflect, for a moment, on how corrupt you have to be in Pakistan for it even to be noticed – decides to take his issues to the Times.

But consider the history as seen by Pakistanis.  Twice in recent history America abandoned its democratic values to support dictators and manipulate and exploit us. In the 1980s, the United States supported Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq’s iron rule against the Pakistani people while using Pakistan as a surrogate in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. That decade turned our peaceful nation into a “Kalashnikov and heroin” society — a nation defined by guns and drugs.

Did he say “peaceful”? (more…)

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For the first seventeen years of the Peloponnesian War, Athens and Sparta fought to something of a draw.  Sparta dominated the land, but could not breach Athens’ walls.  Athens dominated the sea, but could not march inland with enough force to defeat Sparta.


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Still trying to process all of my objections to the current Afghan strategy into something moderately coherent, so I’ll start with a very different story: Fritz Henderson was rather suddenly and unceremoniously dismissed as CEO of GM.

General Motors Co. Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson resigned after eight months on the job as directors concluded he hadn’t done enough to fix GM’s finances and culture, people familiar with the matter said…Henderson’s exit caps a tenure that included aborted deals to sell the Saturn, Saab and Opel units, a struggle to replace top managers such as Chief Financial Officer Ray Young, and U.S. market-share losses. (more…)

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Eight years.


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And then the riots were in China:

This shouldn’t be surprising.  It just is.


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Seems Pakistan wants money, well, just because:

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told two top U.S. envoys that his country needs “unconditional support” in a range of areas to defeat the al-Qaida and Taliban fighters threatening its survival.

The sentiments reflect Pakistani dissatisfaction with American pledges to tack conditions onto billions in expected aid funds designed to help Pakistan end militancy in its borders.

Those conditions are just plain annoying, since all Pakistan wants to do with the money is put it in offshore banks and jihadi training camps.


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House arrest?  Wow, way to crack down.  They must be really mad.

Extraditing him would show serious cooperation.  Killing him would show practicality – in an Indian prison, LeT’s long history of working with the Pakistani government in Kashmir is going to come out – but still show some amount of course correction.  But telling the guy he can’t leave his house for a little while?

This moment, by the way, is why Pakistan protects Osama so carefully, and why we will never catch him until we accept offending them.  If Osama were dead and gone, we would not be trying to hunt for terrorists in western Pakistan (there would still be terrorists, we just wouldn’t be looking for them).  If we were not looking for Osama, we wouldn’t really care whether Pakistan’s army was on its eastern or western frontier.  If we didn’t care where Pakistan deployed its army, there would be no one to object to India mobilizing its forces along the Line of Control/Radcliffe Line.  As the significantly larger force, India could always mobilize and wait, forcing Pakistan to either mobilize in return, exhausting its economy, or stand down and risk India picking off Pakistani Kashmir or whatever else it wanted…

Our government seems to miss the nuance that Pakistan wants the religious nutters, because they provide a force multiplier in Kashmir and keep us petrified that the Pakistani government will fall and they will rule the show.  At some point, then, we need to ask ourselves what we would do if Al Qaeda had a state.  Because it does.

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Something has baffled me during the coverage of the missile attack that hit no one of consequence…why just a missile?
As far as I can gather from the news coverage, large sections of what is nominally Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan are effectively outside of any central authority – something they have in common with Afghanistan, I suppose.  So you get these articles talking about Osama & Co. running around in this generally lawless region.
I’m not entirely sure why Osama would hang out in a cave when he could chill in Karachi and probably get much better take-out, or go to Indonesia or Florida or some place the air is more pleasant and missile strikes less likely.  But let’s assume for argument’s sake that this is where intelligence has him.
Why wouldn’t you just send a massive force – say, the Tenth Mountain Division – running through the Pakistani hills?  If the place has been abandoned by the Pakistani army, it’s not as if we would provoke a war with the standing army of Pakistan; any resistance would either come from random warlords or the Taliban themselves.  Plus, that many boots on the ground would make it awfully compelling for someone hiding out in a cave on dialysis to move to escape capture, or to talk on the phone to change his supply situation, or generally do something to get on our radar.  Deny early reports that we are involved, and when footage comes on Al Jazeera insist that’s file footage from Afghanistan.  If ordnanace gets left behind say the guys got lost up in the hills.  This isn’t the Dukes of Hazzard; why stop chasing at the county line?
Launching a missile was almost certain not to work.  Launching a missile and giving Pakistan advance warning (check out the quote from Evan Bayh) was completely certain not to work; I doubt strongly there is a Pakistani official senior enough to be worth calling who wouldn’t immediately get word to Al Qaeda of what was incoming.  Even if everything about the plan had worked – the dinner happened on time, the guests showed up, no one stepped out to use an outhouse – you’re still left with one small missile in the sky.  These aren’t ICBMs; when you see pictures from Serbia or Iraq, you notice that many buildings survive being hit.  Throw in a bit of error, even with GPS, and the missile might not even have done the job if the intel had been accurate.  If you really thought you had caught the guy why wouldn’t you send everyone you could rustle together?

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The weird thing about this fight is that it really is, and has been, purely a question of our own will.  There was a serious chance of defeat at Normandy, no matter how hard we tried (in fact, had Rommel’s forward defense plan not been rejected, we almost assuredly would have suffered the worst one-day losses in American history).  With better carriers the Japanese might have been impossible to dislodge from the western Pacific.

But here…here’s it’s just a matter of how badly we want it.  Stalin had Trotsky hunted to Mexico, but he got him, and he had to be somewhat covert.
Israel hunted Eichmann to Argentina, and Argentina was a hostile country. We have no such limitations.  We don’t have to use agents; we can use a division if need be.  But it is imperative that we annihilate Al Qaeda. It’s really terrifying that our government does not seem to have any sense of urgency in dealing with this.


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Unless the military expects an odd run of good luck, why on earth are they bombing tunnels?  That’s like firing a rifle shot into a crowd and expecting the bullet to find the bad guy.

It will be far easier to get to bin Laden when the Northern Alliance controls the territory around the tunnels.  And right now we aren’t doing a damn thing to help those guys break through.

Saw John Simpson, the BBC’s man on the front, yesterday on TV.  The US was bombing.  Not much happened.  You could see the breastworks WWI style across a no-man’s land, and then the Taliban forts.  And a couple of times, high in the sky, you could make out an Amerian fighter/bomber dropping a bomb.

There might have been five or six bombs dropped over the course of the day.

As Simpson pointed out, no doubt tomorrow (today) the newspapers would say that the US focused on the front lines.  And for the guys directly under the bombs, life sucks.  But within the field of vision there were other forts and other bunkers unhurt, and for those guys it was as if there was no war at all.

Hopefully if the Soviet Union launched a conventional war in Europe we had a plan.  Hopefully this plan did not consist solely of F-18s straining to carry a couple of bombs.  Presumably had the Red Army come crashing across the border our B-52s would have flown 24/7 raids carpet bombing their supply lines and any fixed positions they might have had.  The Soviets would have had fighter planes and good surface to air missiles, but still the big planes would have flown, and where they had been would be a moonscape.

Where are the big guys now?  The Taliban have nothing larger than Stingers, which can’t fly high enough to challenge B-52s.  Why aren’t we levelling the Taliban positions, just grinding them under with weeks of bombing runs?  Maybe we don’t want to hit the city centers so we don’t send Pakistan over the edge.  But in the name of bringing this somewhere near progress, why aren’t we eliminating the Taliban ability to mass?


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