May 27, 2010 by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould www.boilingfrogspost.com
The upcoming campaign for the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar will be the crucial test for the United States’ military and the Obama administration’s AfPak strategy. It will clearly be an epic military battle and a test of the intellectual movement for counterinsurgency within the military known as COIN. But, like the battle for Marja in February, will the battle for Kandahar be more about the “perceptions” of American victory than about real success? That battle featured what General Stanley McChrystal described as “government in a box,” a kind of franchisable, political “happy meal” for Afghanistan with a pre-selected government administration, mayor and police force, ready to go the minute the shooting stopped.
In the end, General McChrystal’s government in a box turned out to be more like a government in a coffin. Dead on arrival. Authors Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason likened U.S. policy in Afghanistan to nothing less than British literature’s most famous pipe dream, Alice in Wonderland. “Lewis Carroll’s ironically opium-inspired tale of a rational person caught up inside a mad world with its own bizarre but consistent internal (il)logic has now surpassed Vietnam as the best paradigm to understand the war in Afghanistan.”
Johnson and Mason described Marja as nothing more than a massive exercise in public relations, with one intention only; “to shore up dwindling domestic support for the war by creating the illusion of progress,” while the media gulped down the bottle labeled “drink me,” and shrank into insignificance.
But what can the world expect of American policy in the aftermath of what promises to be an even larger opium-inspired tea party in Kandahar? And what happens if the U.S. achieves a military victory, but fails to address the gaping political vacuum necessary to keep the Taliban from returning?
It remains unclear exactly what the U.S. is trying to accomplish politically in Afghanistan with a Karzai government that neither Washington nor the Afghan population appears to want. According to experts, Washington remains divided over whether to engage with the Taliban leadership or follow the Pentagon’s line of fighting while talking. The Obama administration has narrowed its military objective down to ridding Pakistan and Afghanistan of Al Qaeda and finding Osama bin Laden. But that leaves a dozen affiliated radical groups like the Tehrik-i-Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani network to organize, train and expand their networks under the ponderous assumption that they can be cut from the influence of Al Qaeda and kept from them.
And what about NATO? Will a public relations victory be enough to convince an increasingly reluctant NATO to hang in for the long term? Absent from much of the public discussion is the growing schism between Washington and European capitals, with cold war hawks like Zbigniew Brzezinski and Madeleine Albright trying desperately to breath new life into what the U.S. military’s own thinkers describe as “a discredited Cold War rule set.”
Europe and the U.S. remain deeply divided over American policy toward Afghanistan and their role in it. In September 2009, former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski issued a somber admonition at a gathering of military and foreign policy experts in Geneva warning that the U.S. was running the risk of replicating the fate of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and that if Europe left the U.S. on its own there, “that would spell the end of the alliance.”
According to its latest mission statement, written by a team headed by former U.S. secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, “NATO must win the war in Afghanistan, expand ties with Russia and even China, counter the threat posed by Iran’s missiles, and assure the security of its 28 members.”
But not everyone sees NATO’s demand for a European rededication to a cold-war-global-security-order ruled over by a diminished United States, as a desirable policy for what may lie ahead. Neither do they see a commitment to winning in Afghanistan as necessary to European security, as the political consensus for NATO’s expanded mission cracks apart.
Foreign policy commentator William Pfaff wrote on May 18, from Paris, “The United States has, since the end of the Cold War, wanted NATO to become an American military auxiliary, largely under the sway of the Pentagon, and on the whole this has happened,.. At the NATO experts’ meeting Monday, which considered proposals for what NATO should become by 2020, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asked why the Europeans should pay twice for their defense. I can think of one unspeakable but not unthinkable reason why European countries might wish to defend themselves. What if it should prove one day that the threat the Europeans need to defend themselves against is of American and Israeli origin?”
Pfaff admitted that his speculation of a European vs. American/Israeli conflict is an “Hysterical geopolitical fantasy.” Yet, the very idea that Pfaff should find such a development thinkable, is something Americans must open their minds to. In fact, the U.S. military’s own thinkers are preparing for a new world in which the U.S.’s containment policy folds in upon itself.
Nathan Freier of the Army’s Strategic Studies Institute writes, “Imagine, ‘a new era of containment with the United States as the nation to be contained,’ where the principle tools and methods of war involve everything but those associated with traditional military conflict. Imagine that the sources of this ‘new era of containment’ are widespread; predicated on nonmilitary forms of political, economic, and violent action; in the main, sustainable over time; and finally, largely invulnerable to effective reversal through traditional U.S. advantages.”
Following World War II, the U.S. built a cold war containment policy that straightjacketed its communist enemies as well as American thinking. Today, the word on the street is, if the U.S. can’t find a way to rethink this policy at a major turning point in its empire, it will soon find itself contained by a straightjacket of its own making.
Paul Joseph Watson
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
At a recent Council on Foreign Relations speech in Montreal, co-founder with David Rockefeller of the Trilateral Commission and regular Bilderberg attendee Zbigniew Brzezinski warned that a “global political awakening,” in combination with infighting amongst the elite, was threatening to derail the move towards a one world government.
Brzezinski explained that global political leadership had become “much more diversified unlike what it was until relatively recently,” noting the rise of China as a geopolitical power, and that global leadership in the context of the G20 was “lacking internal unity with many of its members in bilateral antagonisms.”
Brzezinski then explained another significant factor in that, “For the first time in all of human history mankind is politically awakened – that’s a total new reality – it has not been so for most of human history.” Read more
“Darth Radar” by Paul Jamiol
A Bad Omen for America
By Elizabeth Gould & Paul Fitzgerald
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of the law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast. Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of the law, for my own safety’s sake! A Man For All Seasons
With the U.S. already having cut down every law in the forest when it comes to terrorism in the last 9 years, there was nothing left for Barack Obama’s war cabinet to do but risk a hazardous new escalation of its AfPak war following the attempted bombing in Times Square by Pakistani Taliban-trained Faisal Shahzad.
The administration sold its own version of the Afghan war originally by narrowing it to hunting Al Qaeda in Pakistan regardless of the moral, ethical, legal or even political consequences. It continues to claim success in its greatly expanded use of Predator drone assassinations. But as the administration scrambles to counter something that was apparently beyond what it thought possible, it must now face the grim reality that warfare, no matter how high tech or expensive, is and will continue to be a two way street. It must also finally face up to the fact that its glaring lack of sophistication in its dealings with Afghanistan and Pakistan have made the U.S. more vulnerable to attack and not less.
The entire strategy for a draw-down of U.S. forces in 2011 rests on the blindly unrealistic assumptions that a NATO-trained Afghan Army and police force can somehow magically replace American “boots on the ground,” while the drone campaign will deter the enemy’s leadership from acting effectively and frighten away potential recruits. Up to now, the administration’s policy has rested on the claimed effectiveness of these strikes to weaken the Taliban and make them more receptive to a peace agreement that would bring them into the Afghan government. But in a gaping breach of logic, the possibility that they might actually retaliate on U.S. soil, was never even factored into the equation.
The efficacy of assassinating Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects with such weapons challenges at least two major assumptions. The first is that the weapons themselves are not a technically suitable replacement for human counterinsurgency forces (which in and of themselves are beset by problems). The second and perhaps more important, is whether high tech warfare – with all its imperial-death-from-above implications – isn’t actually self-defeating, given the negative political impact it has on the local population. Critics of the Predator attacks have warned of the potential blowback for years.
In 2004, Robert A. Pape, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago warned of the negative consequences of an over reliance on drone technology in a Foreign Affairs commentary. “Decapitating the enemy has a seductive logic. It exploits the United States’ advantage in precision air power; it promises to win wars in just days, with few casualties among friendly forces and enemy civilians; and it delays committing large numbers of ground troops until they can be welcomed as liberators rather than conquerors. But decapitation strategies have never been effective, and the advent of precision weaponry has not made them any more so.”
According to counterinsurgency experts David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, the strategy of predator drone strikes in Pakistan fails on all counts by creating a siege mentality among Pakistan’s civilian population, “exciting visceral opposition across a broad spectrum of Pakistani opinion,” while actually being only a “tactic,” masquerading as a “strategy,” which only “encourages people in the tribal areas to see the drone attacks as a continuation of [British] colonial-era policies.”
Kilcullen and Exum explain the ill-logic of the U.S. Predator campaign. “Imagine, for example, that burglars move into a neighborhood. If the police were to start blowing up people’s houses from the air, would this convince homeowners to rise up against the burglars? Wouldn’t it be more likely to turn the whole population against the police? And if their neighbors wanted to turn the burglars in, how would they do that exactly? Yet this is the same basic logic underlying the drone war.”
Drone attacks and targeted assassinations have already opened a Pandora’s box of legal demons for the United States that will someday have to be faced. On February 14, 2010 the Washington Post reported on the gory details of how the administration had come to deal with the inflammatory legal issue of jailing terror suspects by choosing to kill, rather than capture those it deemed terrorists. But, in the ten days following the failed terror attack in New York, instead of pausing to reconsider the consequences of such draconian tactics, the U.S. responded by threatening Pakistan with a direct U.S. military “boots-on-the-ground” expansion while accelerating pilotless attacks in the tribal area of North Waziristan even further, firing 18 missiles on May 10, alone.
That the Obama administration continues to believe its response to the “almost” Taliban attack in New York will “soften up” Pakistan’s Taliban after 9 years of softening, is a bad omen for America. Having already discarded the “benefit of the law,” for our own safety’s sake, it will only be a matter of time before the devil comes knocking again.
Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire will be published February, 2011.
The Vanishing Point for the American Empire
by Elizabeth Gould & Paul Fitzgerald
The region today delineated as both Afghanistan and Pakistan has known many borders over the millennia, yet none have been more artificial or contentious than the one today separating Pakistan from Afghanistan known as the Durand line but referred to by the military and intelligence community as Zero line. A funny thing happened to the United States when the Obama administration decided to cross Zero line and bring the Afghan war into Pakistan. Instead of resolution, after nearly two years into the administration’s AfPak strategy, it would seem the gap between reality and the Washington beltway has only widened.
Instead of moving into a new future that defused India and Pakistan’s nuclear rivalry and promised “a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people,” the U.S. is falling back on its old cold war relationships that created the problem in the first place. But as the costs of maintaining an archaic cold war posture mount, the world’s economy crumbles and the contradictions tear the war’s flimsy logic to shreds, it’s clear that, the U.S. is facing a bigger enemy than it ever imagined.
Before the Obama administration even set foot in office it promised to shift its attention, time, money and energy away from Iraq towards Afghanistan. The president’s AfPak policy was intended to correct the mistakes of the past while addressing the war in a more realistic fashion that focused as much on the actions of Pakistan’s military as it did the actions of the Afghan government.
The Obama administration’s decision to actively address Pakistan’s behavior emerged only after Washington’s military/intelligence community reluctantly accepted proof that Pakistan’s ISI was aiding Taliban actors such as Malawi Jalaluddin Haqqani. It also emerged after solid evidence suggested that Pakistan itself was on the verge of caving in to their own Taliban extremists, known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan or TTP .
Despite being the single largest focus of the American military, much of what the United States does in Afghanistan and Pakistan remains a military secret. A report issued by the Center For Strategic and International Studies by Anthony H. Cordesman in September 2008, declared alarmingly. “No country or international organization provides useful unclassified overview data on the developments in the fighting [in Afghanistan] in anything like the depth that the US Department of Defense provides in its quarterly reports on the Iraq war. The [limited] reporting that is available also decouples the fighting in Afghanistan from that in Pakistan. Accordingly, public official reporting on the growing intensity of the war since 2006 ignores one of the most critical aspects of the conflict.”
Evidence of the strain facing America’s cold war-trained bureaucrats now appears regularly as the contradictions deepen. Defense Secretary Robert Gates crossed his own personal zero line in an address to the National Defense University in February when he criticized Europe’s growing anti-war sentiment as a dangerous threat to peace. The Obama administration rails at the Karzai government’s corruption but denies it the guidance and expertise necessary to make it effective at governance. The U.S. then diverts power and money to regional tribal leaders whom many fear (including U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry) will simply become a new class of warlord, once the U.S. departs.
Since January 2009, U.S. Predator Drone strikes are reported to have killed at least 529 people in the tribal areas of Pakistan of whom 20 percent may have been civilians. Considered to be a clear violation of international law by American legal scholars, the cross border strikes inflame Pakistani opinion against the U.S. Yet, the Pentagon praises their new anti-terror weapon while at the same time continuing to deny that the program even exists.
As the Obama administration struggles to reconcile Washington’s special interests with those posed by Iran, Pakistan, India, China and Russia, it should be remembered that the Soviet Union faced a similar challenge in Afghanistan. But in the end the biggest enemy the Soviets faced was not the Stinger missiles or the disunited Mujahideen Jihadis. The Soviet Union’s biggest enemy was the archaic cold war structure of the Soviet system itself, and that is a lesson that Washington refuses to accept.
The United States has fought on both the Pakistani and Afghan sides of the Durand line. In the 1980s it fought on the side of extremist-political Islam. Since September 11, 2001 it has fought against it. But the border separating the two seemingly incompatible behaviors remains largely a dark mystery. It is therefore appropriate to think of Zero line as the vanishing point for the American empire, the point beyond which its power and influence disappears; the line where 60 year’s worth of American policy in Eurasia confronts itself and ceases to exist. The Durand line separating the two countries is visible on a map. Zero line is not.
Crossing ZeroThe AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire will be published February, 2011.
Published on www.boilingfrogspost.com
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