Posted tagged ‘Pakistan’

Something More To Worry About

November 23, 2014

There is no doubt that ISIS represents one the worst movements in the world today.  The only question is whether ISIS is more or less diabolical than Muarmar Kadaffi or Saddam Hussein were? Or, are the people who have died at the hands of ISIS any more dead than those who died as a consequence of some stupid Sunni or Shiite blowing up themselves (and anyone nearby)?

Is the pursuit of martyrdom the catalyst for all this inhumanity?  Maybe but there is a more basic cause.

Poor and uneducated people all over the world (and throughout history) are the pawns of those seeking power and wealth. In the Middle East and through out the Muslim world, the common person is the potential target of others who seek to improve their personal position.

  • First rule, blame everything that is wrong on someone or something else.
  • Second rule, emphasize that a supernatural being (god or allah) is on their side and will reward the loyal follower.

Simple rules and universally applicable.

Al Qaeda stressed the Paradise awaiting its warriors, especially the 7 virgins due each suicide bomber. Now ISIS has moved up scale. They are operating more similarly to a normal government (not out of some cave) with a traditional military branch and field fighting.

ISIS has also found that marketing (symbols like their black flag) can extend their reach. Most experts, however, predict ISIS will be defeated if they choose to engage in traditional armed conflicts. Hmmm.

So why is there something more to worry about.

There are reports that the ISIS black flags (like the Under Armor logo) are showing up in Pakistan. Why is this a worry?

Pakistan has most of the ingredients an insurgency needs,like wide differences between the rich and the poor. Most Pakistanis are dirt poor and uneducated. Government officials, on top of that, are prone to graft and corruption and seem to be indifferent to providing basic public services. Hmmm.

So what is the worry?

Pakistan also has the bomb. Were a ISIS like insurgency take hold, the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could be put in jeopardy. From an ISIS perspective, their efforts toward power and wealth could take a big jump forward. With the bomb, the West could no longer kick sand in their eyes and lesser powers like Afghanistan or Iraq would be hard pressed to defend themselves from Pakistani inspired uprisings.

What does this mean?

Currently the focus is upon defeating and dismantling a group that calls itself ISIS. The playground is Syria and Iraq. The rhetoric captures ISIS as a group of people as opposed to a business model. The West would do well to see ISIS is fundamentally a business model and not a collection of people.  A business model could suddenly jump to another land like Pakistan.

What if the Taliban rebranded themselves as ISIS?

Framing ISIS as a group of people, however, makes it easier to explain and convince other Americans that their government is protecting the homeland. Regrettably, ISIS is much more than a group of people. It is a business model which at its core seeks to change who is wealthy and powerful.    And, best of all, a business model is far more portable.

Business models can be beaten with other models which work better. The West’s efforts towards defeating ISIS with guns needs to augmented. When ISIS or any other look alike group’s approach can be shown as more costly to the people it is trying to win over, then progress can be made on eliminating the extremist groups to seek to pray upon dirt poor and uneducated.   Hmmm.

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Troubled Times

August 7, 2013

It’s August.  This is the time for summer’s last flings.  Time for picnics and the beach.  And it’s so pleasant in Washington with Congress on break.  But, as the news reports indicate, all is not good around the world.  In fact in some spots life is down right miserable.

From Pakistan to Tunisia (including Sudan, Somalia, and other middle African countries) life is down right tenuous.  Why there and not here?

In these lands there is much killing.  Guns are plentiful.  Explosives, however, are used to boost the numbers. Bombs are so effective since others can be caught by surprise.  Suicide bombers are the method of choice.  Apparently there is a limitless number of eager volunteers.  You might say these life enders are just dying to make a point.  But what point?

Suicide is not unique to the Islamic world.  The US actually records higher numbers of suicides each year than any country in the Islamic world.  What seems to be the difference is that Americans (and Westerners in general) commit suicide for personal reasons.  They choose to end their own lives and do not choose to disturb anyone around them.  Only in the Islamic world do we find people who willingly self destruct at the behest of someone else.  And unlike many Buddhists who self immolate in recognition of some cause, these Islamic suiciders seems sure that taking as many other lives as possible is a worthy idea and will bring them accolades when they enter paradise.  Hmmm.

So what advice should the US be giving countries like Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan?  Should the US be sharing Thomas Paine’s writings?  How about explaining the US Constitution and how it is constructed?  Or, possibly the “Western Cannon” might find fertile ground.

Hmmm.

I feel comfortable that Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain (who visited Egypt yesterday) thought that (1)after first helping Senator Graham’s upcoming Senate election campaign that (2) they could explain how the US would resolve a situation like the current Egyptian military take over.  Hmmm.

It is just striking that those who backed (and still back) the Iraq invasion and occupation are firmly convinced that Egypt will be different.

My guess is that they are correct, but just not now.  Maybe in 50 or 100 years.  Until Arabs clearly confine their chosen religion to their private lives and restrict the exercise of its ideology amongst themselves and do not interfere with others, communications will be limited to who holds the biggest stick.

Disclaimer.  Not all Muslims would choose to be a suicide bomber.  Not all Imams would teach or ask their followers to act this way.  And, for sure there is a thin line between some military actions where soldiers are sent into action where death is almost certain.

 

We Still Have A Ways To Go

May 4, 2013

Congress has justly earned a single, or at best, low double digit approval rating.  Americans scratch their heads and wring their hands.  How can an elected body vote against “universal background checks when over 80% of Americans support the new legislation”?  Hmmm.

There many explanations.  Some say it is their firm belief in the Constitution (Second Amendment) and want to protect it.  Others say it is the pressure of a primary challenge threatened by right wing conservatives.  The NRA is often fingered as main culprit since they have a track record of spending lots of money against candidates who do not toe their line.

And the more cynical observers, point to a more fundamental explanation.

Our elected representatives see their elected jobs as simply an extension of a wealth accumulation process.  Our elected officials make the leap from serving those who elected them, to just another path to create wealth (as they see their constituents doing).

In other words, Congress’ low approval rating stems from a dysfunctional legislative process, which in turn stems from legislators voting first for what’s in their personal best interest and second for what may be in their constituent’s.

Hmmm. Pretty low?

The good news is it is not as low as it can go.  Take a look at Pakistan as a model of dysfunction along side apparent democracy.  Yesterday a leading prosecutor was gunned down in broad daylight.  Surprise, surprise the Prosecutor was investigating  former President Pervez Musharraf over possible links to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

The point here is not whether there is a connection between Musharraf and Bhutto but the coincident that both Musharraf and Bhutto had gained moderate to extreme wealth through politics.

Pakistan differs from the US in many respects but the relative large number of poor/low income citizens and the few “super rich” drives the government officials behavior.  Like most all third world countries, being a government official is a route to personal wealth accumulation.  Pakistan is no different.  When someone else tries to increase their wealth, it might come at the expense of someone else in power, and those are fighting words.

Hmmm.

I guess as sad as our current Congressional performance, it still has a ways to go to catch up with Pakistan, and, and, and.

 

 

Foreign Entanglements

April 3, 2013

George Washington, in his farewell address, advised the Country “to avoid foreign entanglements”.  He lived in a time when what happened in Europe was the example to learn by.  And Europe’s history of conflict after conflict with no apparent long term winners was his proof.  Today the world is much different but Washington’s advice seems still worthwhile.

President Obama has been criticized for “leading from behind”.  The President would say he was trying to avoid entanglements.  Actually, he should have been complemented since the “rear” has been very crowded with the likes of Germany, France, the UK, Russia, and China.  Despite what any of these countries says publicly, they all appreciate the US taking up the “world’s policeman” role.  Let the US do it.

The US’ decision not to sign a Status of Forces with Iraq is looking wiser everyday.   The Middle East appears incapable of self governing unless it is based upon force and absolute control.  While oil still drives the world’s economy and a Middle East disruption would hurt all economies including the US, oil has seen its peak and alternative energy sources will rule tomorrow.  And with that, so goes the importance of the Middle East.

Afghanistan is next on the list.  It has most all the characteristics of the Middle East.  Modernity lies in the distant future for Afghans due to its immense poverty and its middle ages religious beliefs.  President Obama will prove even wiser if he gets all the troops out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

But the world is not a happy and peaceful place either.  Countries such as Iran, North Korea, and potentially Pakistan pose risks to their neighbors which in turn pose risks to destabilizing the world’s balance of power.

Europe, the US, Russia and China have together found methods to live together even though their national interests are not necessarily aligned.  What will happen when North Korea or Iran freely spread nuclear know-how to other countries or asymmetrical non-state groups?

The “John Wayne Cowboy” instinct argues we should take a proactive stance.  Assume the responsibility to free the world of these bad actors.  Unfortunately as we are seeing in Syria, removing a despotic leadership may not appear to Russia, China or Iran as a good idea.  If the US were to pursue such a role, the price of poker would rise suddenly as secret supplies of arms (and insurgents) flowed in.

China has made absolutely ridiculous claims over total control of the South China Sea.  China looks to its history as justification but these claims are more easily understood in the context of the mineral wealth lying at the bottom of the South China Sea.  Countries such as Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines all have borders much close to parts of the South China Sea than China.  (Japan has made similar far fetched claims and of course has drawn strong reaction from China.)

So, how does one think that “leading from the front” would fare in this world of irrational government postures?  Hmmm.

If we would wish for common sense to rule, the big four (US, Europe, Russia, and China) must find a way see these unruly governments as a threat to each of their economic lives.  Islamic radicals are not what Russia is looking for.  If China’s export markets dried up, it is difficult to see how the Chinese government could maintain internal control.  And clearly both the US and Europe do best when the world’s economy is running smoothly.

What to do about Iran, North Korea, and probably Pakistan is not clear.  What is clear is that if any one of the big four thinks they see an advantage by helping one of these bad actors, then everyone will lose.  Leading from the rear should enable the US to more freely collaborate with Europe, Russia, and China when the US is not in a regional conflict.

 

Afghanistan and 2024

May 2, 2012

President Obama just bought a used car.  He signed up for US Afghan presence until 2024 where presumably the agreement could be extended.  I wonder what type of warranties he got?

The agreement, termed “historic”, by Administration officials makes Afghanistan President Obama’s war.  George W Bush owns Iraq and all its consequences, and could easily have been the Afghan owner too.  With this agreement, President Obama doubles down and says “it’s mine”.

This is a big decision and should not be made light of.  It offers something for most everyone and may in fact be viewed in the future as tragic or possibly historic.  Here’s some thoughts.

Politically brilliant.  The agreement, which has been longed for by the Congressional hawks, takes the “weak on defense” issue off the 2012 election table.  It also quietly says that President Obama has accomplished the reasons for entering Afghanistan in the first place, and Republicans did not.  It allows plenty of wiggle room so that NATO countries can gracefully back out if they wish and the US can change the tenor (read troop strength) of the military conflict to anti-terrorist interdiction.

Defense Industry friendly.  With the US in Afghanistan, arguments to drastically slash the defense budget will be difficult to make.  “How can we cut off support for all those men and women fighting in Afghanistan?”  Congress members will high five behind closed doors thinking about how they can preserve their district’s corporate welfare when the budget deficit battles are fought.

Strategic presence.  Keeping US forces in Afghanistan will allow for any number of clandestine operations (read drones and Seals) to continue to operate in neighboring lands if necessary.  With the current unrest in the Middle East and the long standing concerns about Pakistan’s stability, it could prove to be strategically valuable to have presence.

Attendant risks.  There is a long list of what might go wrong.  The Karzai government might fall.  Civil war might break out and encircle US troops.  Or, war in some adjacent region might require the US to use its Afghan assets and supposedly that is prohibited by this agreement.

Political risks.  The bottom line concerning this new agreement is just exactly what US national interest does committing US presence for another 12 years serve?  Our country cannot seem to resolve a fairly straight forward budget deficit, so why are we committing to another foreign presence and all the costs entailed?

And does anyone think that Afghanistan is suddenly going to morph into a modern, human rights loving, democracy in the next 50 years?  As time wears on, rather than having troops in a Japan, Germany, or South Korea, where economic growth and the embrace of democratic principles took root, Afghanistan is more likely to remain a tribal society that sucks the worst out of Islam.

Future Administrations may want to change this agreement to one where the US is a nation builder again, or where our view of “right” should be forced upon the Afghan’s, or  where more is better than less.  The American public may come to detest our presence in the far away country and force a withdrawal.  This will undoubtably create a vacuum into which the worst of the worst could rush.

One thing that will be remember, however, is that Afghanistan was President Obama’s war.

To Iran or Not To Iran

December 31, 2011

It is that time of the year.  Specifically, it is not just any year, but an election year.  Politicians proudly stand and say what ever they think their base would like to year.  Talking tough sells very well.  Leaders, I am told, are suppose to act tough.

The GOP Presidential candidates have thrown their dice on the subject of what to do about Iran’s potential nuclear capability.  All but one has come down squarely on the side of tough action, like bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.  That’s politics.

There is one notable exception.  Ron Paul.   His libertarian message of “imminent” threat is a wise and prudent position for US foreign policy.  It just does not sell on the campaign trail as well these days.

Think back to 2002 when George W Bush told us Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and could pose a threat to America.  He order Iraq to renounce WMD, open their boarders to inspectors, and destroy their current weapons and programs.  This was a difficult order to follow since Iraq did not have either WMD weapons or programs to develop.  Iraq simply saying “no, we have no WMD” was not enough to change the minds of the Chaney-ites.

A trillion dollars and over 4000 US dead later, one might think Ron Paul’s words would receive a fuller review.  They are just not tough enough.  But they are Presidential because the world is not as simple as the other GOP candidates suggest.

After bombing Iran, would the US move onto North Korea and then maybe Pakistan?

Thankfully not on Ron Paul’s watch.

Why, Why, Why?

August 7, 2011

The news reported today that a US Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.  There were 38 dead US service men reports indicated.  The night raid apparently did not catch the Taliban sleeping.

In quality training, there is a technique called the “5 whys”.  When something does not go as planned, you are suppose to ask questions beginning with “why” until you get to the root cause.  When someone tries to spin the answer, asking enough “whys” will usually get the inquiry back on track.

So,

1. Why were 38 service members killed?  They were on an aircraft that was shot down.

2. Why were the 38 on the aircraft?  They were on a night time raid against suspected Taliban locations.

3. Why was the raid necessary?  The raid was part of on-going military operations.

4. Why are there on-going military operations of this type?  The Taliban are fighting an insurgent war and the US must strike in order to show other Afghans that there can be peace and security once the Taliban is broken.

5. Why are we still fighting after 10 years, hasn’t the Taliban been broken by now?  The US is close to winning.

6. Why are we only close to winning after 10 years?  The Taliban is receiving help from Pakistan and Iran.  This allows the Taliban time to rest and rearm.

7. Why does the US allow this help to take place?  Diplomatic measures have been unsuccessful in eliminating this aid, but efforts continue to stop Pakistan and Iran’s involvement.

8. Why do we continue in Afghanistan when our military tactics do not eliminate the Taliban and do not restore peace and security?   It is a complicated world and our Government’s policy is to stabilize the region.  (Read here, the US worries about an over throw of the Pakistani government and their nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands, and we are worried that Iran may become overtly active in the region as their nuclear program matures and produces nuclear weapons.)

9. Why is sending out 38 US service members on a night raid the best way to stabilize the region?  Pause, there is no suitable answer other than to repeat what has been said. 

Conclusion.  The US lost 38 service members for no fundamentally necessary reason.  The overall US Afghan operation has no clear finish line.  More dangerous, the Afghan operations may have morphed from  “get al Qaeda” to “nation building” to “regional stabilization”.  Troops in Afghanistan means they are on the ready for deployment into Pakistan or Iran if necessary.

Is this what we want?