You gotta love it when the War Party reveals its desperation to come up with yet another soundbyte to justify continuing the long Afghan War — a war becoming known to cynics in the Hall of Mirrors that is Versailles on the Potomac as the Great Afghan Cash Cow, because it is a golden cornucopia for so many, including, inter alia, the Pentagon, defense contractors, USAID, NGOs, Warlords, the family Karzai, and even the Taliban, which is helping to fund its anti-US operations by running a protection racket paid for by the US-funded trucking companies running supplies to the US forces in Afghanistan.
To wit: The Pentagon just entertained the booboisie with recycled old Russian reports of Afghanistan’s supposed mineral wealth (the Saudi Arabia of lithium, for example), which the New York Times and Fox dutifully amplified as new news. Now, if the attached essay by Steve Levine is correct, we are about to be subjected to another recycling as well as a grand synthesis of old theories about turning Afghanistan in a “superhighway of roads, railroads, electricity lines, and energy pipelines for the entire Eurasian landmass.” And lying in echelon behind this assault on our senses is the romantic magnetism of a new Great Game, perhaps devolving ultimately into a never-ending competition between the US and Russia on the high ground of Eurasian Continent.
It is easy to poke fun at such grand strategic nonsense, and Levine does a good job of dissing the latest. But when these delusions are coupled with domestic politics, like …
the hysterical hype surrounding the FBI’s allegations of a keystone-cops spy scandal where incompetent sleepers infiltrated the PTA meetings that fewer and fewer parents attend,
the now likely scuppering by Congress of a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia,
the likely torpedoing of the Obama-Medvedev rapprochement,
the increasing possibility of a congressional election debacle for the Democrats in 2010,
… it begins to look like the building blocks are falling into place for a return to political-economic normalcy in the Military – Industrial – Congressional Complex — a normalcy taking the form of a permanent new Cold War with Russia.
Blaming Obama for losing the un-winnable Afghan war and for either ineffectually attacking or being afraid to attack Iran should ice the cake in 2012, thus paving the way for a new burst of defense spending in the second decade of the 21st Century, accompanied by its handmaiden, the politics of fear, and funded by greater debt as well as a renewed assault on Social Security and Medicare.
So, don’t be surprised by the sound champagne corks popping in the Hall of Mirrors.
The U.S. military is studying a plan to solve Afghanistan’s problems by turning it into a superhighway of roads, railroads, electricity lines and energy pipelines connected to the entire Eurasian landmass. According to a piece in the National Journal by Sydney Freedberg, the proposal has the ear of Gen. David Petraeus, whose confirmation hearings to be the new U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan start today in the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Pakistan-Afghan: Expressing dissatisfaction about the deteriorating Afghan situation, Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi said that talks are the only solution to the Afghan problem and no military means can bring peace. Qureshi spoke in a joint press conference with his Afghan counterpart Dr. Zalmai Rasoul.
Qureshi said they discussed the security situation, especially the efforts of the Afghan government to ensure stability through reconciliation. The countries agreed to enhance bilateral relations in politics, trade and economic among other fields.
The foreign minister said peace and security in Afghanistan is important for Pakistan therefore, Pakistan has sincerely offered assistance, cooperation and training facilities to Afghanistan in all the fields, including training Afghan military so that a well trained Afghan Army can take over the responsibility of the security in their country.
NIGHTWATCH Comment: The meeting is significant as a sign of shifting relationships. An Afghan official tilt towards Pakistan is being reciprocated by Pakistani moves towards Afghanistan, as described in the New York Times. Since last year’s presidential elections, President Karzai’s relations with the US have become strained. The emergence of strain in the US relationship appears to be the precursor to a warming trend with Pakistan.
The shifting ties have mixed implications. Pakistan invested heavily in the Taliban regime in Kabul before 2001, as part of a strategy to provide depth against India. The Pashtuns were the primary beneficiaries of Pakistani support against the northerners who eventually sided with the US in overthrowing the Taliban.
Nevertheless, Pakistani behavior and continuing reports indicate the national security leaders in Islamabad have not, probably cannot, abandon that strategy. They only can de-emphasize it temporarily as a matter of expediency. The Times article and Qureshi’s remarks both point in the direction of power sharing, starting with the ex-royalists, the Haqqanis.
Pakistan also is in a position to do much more, provided it has a key role in arranging the power sharing. Pakistan’s tactics are more nuanced, but the policy of using Afghanistan to gain strategic depth against India appears to be still in place. Afghanistan’s handling of Indian relations, aid and infrastructure construction companies will be a good indirect measure of rising Pakistani influence in Kabul. If Indian Border Roads Organization units are invited to leave Afghanistan, for example, the tilt to Pakistan
Four actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated and none improved in May 2010, according to the new issue of the International Crisis Group’s monthly bulletin CrisisWatch, released today.
Israeli commandos killed at least nine people when they raided a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza on 31 May. Full details are not yet clear but the incident has already thrown into question recently launched proximity talks between the Palestinians and Israel. The international community has been swift to condemn Israel’s actions and the UN Security Council has called for an impartial investigation. However, the event has underscored the failure of a much broader policy for which Israel is not solely responsible. Many in the international community have been complicit in isolating Gaza in the hope of weakening Hamas, an approach that has ultimately harmed the people of Gaza without loosening Hamas’s control.
May also saw renewed violence in the streets of Bangkok. Clashes between anti-government Red Shirt protesters and security forces that resulted in scores of deaths in April escalated this month, leaving at least 54 people dead. Soldiers removed the Red Shirts from the capital on 19 May and the government has since lifted a curfew imposed on Bangkok and 28 other provinces. But a state of emergency remains and divisions between the Thai establishment and the protesters, many of whom support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have widened. The government has so far failed to address the underlying causes of the protests, which are likely to have long-term implications for Thailand’s stability.
Tensions continued to mount on the Korean Peninsula after investigators announced that a South Korean ship that sunk in March had been hit by a North Korean torpedo. Pyongyang continues to deny responsibility for the sinking which killed 46 people. With Seoul now threatening to take the case to the UN Security Council, recent events have highlighted the challenges facing South Korea – as well as China and the international community more broadly – in dealing with its volatile northern neighbour.
Security also deteriorated in India, where suspected Maoist rebels derailed a train on 28 May leaving at least 147 civilians dead. The Maoists have denied responsibility, but the incident has once again underlined the government’s failure to curb escalating insurgent violence that has become increasingly deadly in recent months.
Phi Beta Iota: We don’t make this stuff up. The Pentagon has no strategy because the U.S. Government has no strategy. The National Security Council is managed by a General who emphasized getting along with the Chief of Naval Operation, never-mind leaving Marines wounded on the battlefield for lack of Naval Gunfire Support (NFS).
Join us in savoring what passes for a strategist and nominal policy making savant with the below headlines.
Below item is full text to avoid inconvenience. It is followed by several linked headlines that make quite clear the shallowness of the Pentagon strategy-policy pool.
Executive Summary: The gentle lady has no idea what the ten high-level threats to humanity are, nor does she care. She’s a place-holder for the disappointed John Hamre, and a token female at the top who goes with the flow. She has neither any grasp nor any conceptual framework for actually creating grand strategy, harmonizing Whole of Government policies nor even–this really did surprise us–how many failed states there are in the world.
PBS March 27, 2010
Interview With Michele Flournoy, Under Secretary Of Defense For Policy
Charlie Rose (PBS), 1:00 A.M.
CHARLIE ROSE: The United States military is engaged around the world. It is withdrawing combat troops from Iraq as it builds up troops in Afghanistan. It is partnering with Pakistan in an aggressive counterterrorism campaign including drone attacks in the tribal areas. It’s working with the Yemeni government to counter a resurgent al Qaeda there. And U.S. troops are still in Haiti for the humanitarian relief efforts.
But the military has to do more than respond to the conflicts of the day. It must prepare for future wars, adoptive enemies and a shifting security environment.
The person at the Pentagon who spends the most time working on these issues is Michèle Flournoy. She is under secretary of defense for policy and the highest ranking female official in the Defense Department. I am very pleased to have her with me in the night studio at the Newseum in Washington.
Tell me what it is that you do at the Pentagon, how do you define this responsibility?
Panels and keynotes program schedule I was told via email from someone involved in the event that a video will be posted online.I will be posting this over a the Earth Institute blog (especially since it has zero comments for the March 25 event) as a challenge to improve the overall framework of the “State of the Planet 2012”.
State of the Planet 2010 Event Report: Intro I attended this bi-annual event in 2008. At that time there was not a global webcast that included panelists located in other countries. At the 2010 event, there was a V.I.P. section closer to the ‘stage’ that I was not notified about. The V.I.P. section had about 3 times more people than the non V.I.P. section which was odd. Despite it being a V.I.P. section, there was never enough time given to them to ask all the questions via microphone. This is a Jeffrey Sachs event, it’s his show. He’s the main advisor to Ban Ki-Moon, and friends with the president of Mexico (who keynoted this event), so it seems to be more from his perspective and his friends. Therefore, it was a very narrow-visioned event that should not be entitled “State of the Planet”. People involved with the publication “State of the Future” for over a decade (www.stateofthefuture.org) were never mentioned, invited, or asked to contribute. Yet, these people have worked with the United Nations for over a decade. Collective intelligence has been written and software is being developed by those involved in the “State of the Future” (Millennium Project), yet Jeffrey Sachs was attributed to the idea of “worldwide brainstorming” for “collective invention”. And unfortunately, there was an obsession at this event on ‘climate change’ and carbon. “Industrialization footprint” involves a broader range of hazards and toxins that needs more air time. More ‘fluid’ thinking was lacking while an excess of a kind of cloned groupthink was prevalent (or ‘carbon copying’ if you will, pun intended). The forum has great potential but as of 2008 & 2010, is too insulated and will not be respected as highly intelligent and strategically effective by a broad range of people (outside of Ivy League Columbia) concerned about serious global issues. On an interesting note, Zbigniew Brzezinski was once a Columbia professor (see Obama video on his Brezinski recognition). Continue reading “EVENT REPORT: State of the Planet 2010, Columbia Univ, New York City”
The mounting crisis in the country only attracted notice when a Nigerian student is revealed to have been “trained” in Yemen by al-Qa’ida to detonate explosives in his underpants on plane heading for Detroit. But this botched attack has led to the US and Britain starting to become entangled in one of the more violent countries in the world. The problems of Yemen are social, economic and political, and stretch back to the civil war in Yemen in the 1960s, but Gordon Brown believes solutions can be found by holding a one day summit on Yemen to “tackle extremism.”
Al-Qa’ida in Yemen is small, its active members numbering only 200-300 lightly armed militants in a country of 22 million people who are estimated to own no less than 60 million weapons. Al-Qa’ida has room to operate because central government authority barely extends outside the cities and because it can ally itself with the many opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in office since the 1970s.
The real motives behind the increasing US involvement in Yemen are obscure, to put it charitably. M.K. Bhadrakuma, retired Indian diplomat, presents a complex and fascinating — and no doubt controversial — hypothesis in this regard. Bhadrakuma, a prolific writer, is an astute observer of the Central and South Asia, and judged by his writings, he is by no means a toady of the Indian government.
UPDATED to add critique of the below article by a colleague of Chuck Spinney’s (below the fold).
Obama’s Yemeni odyssey targets China
By M K Bhadrakumar Asia Times 9 January 2010
It’s all about China
Most important, however, for US global strategies will be the massive gain of control of the port of Aden in Yemen. Britain can vouchsafe that Aden is the gateway to Asia. Control of Aden and the Malacca Strait will put the US in an unassailable position in the “great game” of the Indian Ocean. The sea lanes of the Indian Ocean are literally the jugular veins of China’s economy. By controlling them, Washington sends a strong message to Beijing that any notions by the latter that the US is a declining power in Asia would be nothing more than an extravagant indulgence in fantasy.
Phi Beta Iota: Chuck Spinney’s flagging of the below piece supports the point we were making with the post on dynamic planning. For fifty years the USA has been throwing its weight around on the basis of partisan, ideological, and often illegimiate purposes, and it has been able to get a way with it because in an Industrial Era, might does make right. We are no longer in an Industrial Era. We’ve entered an era in which information asymmetries are being extinguished, while power asymmetries are emergent–demographic power trumps everything else when you get right down to it. This entire web site makes that point in the aggregate. On a sidenote, Kashmir is about water but no one seems to acknowledge that. Water is one of the things we are going to have to figure out how to do in a non-zero fashion. Hence, for the USA to dig itself a grave in Central Asia without giving any thought to the ten high-level threats to humanity as a whole, and the twelve policies, and the eigth demographic challengers, and to calculate a non-zero course through this maze, is nothing more than idiocy on steriods.
The Afghan Triangle: Kashmir, India, Pakistan
Graham Usher is a writer and journalist based in Pakistan and a contributing editor of Middle East Report.
For the last 61 years the fight has been fought, mostly, in and for Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK): the territory Delhi and Islamabad have contested since the 1947 partition cleaved them into two states—and Kashmir into “Pakistani” and “Indian” parts. Sometimes (1947, 1965, 1971, 1999) the war has been hot. More often it has been waged via Pakistani proxies against a standing Indian military. Since 1989, it has been channeled through a low-intensity, Pakistan-backed separatist-Islamist insurgency that has killed 50,000 people and incurred an Indian military occupation three times the size of America’s in Iraq and three times as lethal.
Will Iraqi democracy be 2010’s big success story? Visiting Anbar province several weeks ago and listening to the governor of Ramadi talk about his big development plans, I found myself wondering if maybe the cruel Iraq story might have a happy ending after all. This was the province where al-Qaeda declared its first emirate, just a few years ago, and now the governor is handing out a special Financial Times report on business opportunities there.
When I meet Iraqis these days, they all want to talk politics: Which party is ahead in the March parliamentary elections? Can Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani or Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi unseat the incumbent prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki? It’s the kind of freewheeling political debate you can’t find anywhere else in the Arab world. I want to believe it’s real, even as the terrorist bombs continue to explode in Baghdad and other cities.
Phi Beta Iota: Although pedestrian and myopic in the extreme, courtier Ignatius provides one nugget on Iraq that is repeated above. Despite huge mistakes at home (elective war based on 935 lies to the public, Congress believing Wolfowitz instead of Shinseki) and major opposition in theater (Syria, Iran), Iraq is on the verge of being a success story. Here are the three things NOT happening in Iraq that need to be ramped up from January 2010:
1) Information Operations (IO) getting every success story into the news. Right now all we see in a thin stream of US Army press releases and US military base newspapers. This is not just pathetic, it is a self-inflicted wound.
2) US Whole of Government Operations that are finely calibrated to deliver the maximum amount of peace goods in the shortest possible time. March-July should see us FLOOD Iraq with all the stuff that should have been done during the Golden Hour. Ideally 80% of the money should be spent LOCALLY, not on fat-cat beltway bandit perks.
3) Multinational Engagement with a special focus on Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey providing “neutral” Muslim engineers, while Saudi Arabia pays the bill but is not allowed to send any of its demonizers into the country. Using the Strategic Analytic Model and approaching all of Iraq as a test-bed for a new form of multinational effort guided by a Global Range of Needs Table down to the household level, with every gift (cause and effect) visible online, could create a new Gold Standard for multinational harmonized peaceful preventive and stabilziation measures.
Detroit jet terrorist attack was staged – journalist
The recent failed attack on a US passenger jet traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit was a set-up provocation controlled by US intelligence, author and journalist Webster Tarpley stated to RT.
“[The terrorist’s] father, a rich Nigerian banker, went to the US embassy in Nigeria on November 19 and said ‘my son is in Yemen in a terrorist camp, do something about this.’ Nevertheless, the son is allowed to buy a ticket in Ghana, paying cash, $2,800, for a one-way ticket,” Tarpley said.
After that, a mentally deficient young man who doubtfully could make it from one gate to another managed to illegally enter Nigeria and get on a plane to Amsterdam.
“There was a well-dressed Indian man who brought him to the gate and said, ‘my friend does not have a passport, get him on, he is Sudanese, we do this all the time – that is impossible!” said Tarpley.
Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) — Brazil won the World Trade Organization’s approval to start retaliating against the U.S. because of subsidies paid to American cotton farmers.
The WTO gave Brazil permission in August to impose $294.7 million in sanctions against U.S. goods — the second-highest amount ever permitted by the Geneva-based trade arbiter — and Brazil’s government earlier this month released a list of 222 products that may be subject to increased duties. The list includes cotton and other agricultural and textile products as well as U.S. exports such as electronics, cosmetics, ketchup, cars, chewing gum, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals.
WTO judges found in September 2004 that as much as $4 billion in annual U.S. payments to cotton farmers violated global trade rules by encouraging excess production and driving down world prices. In June 2008, they upheld a finding that the U.S., the world’s largest exporter of the fiber, hadn’t done enough to scrap aid to its cotton producers.
Phi Beta Iota: We are NOT making this up. People from around the world are starting to send us this stuff, and we love it–this clearly demonstrates the power of public intelligence in the aggregate, and the importance of multiniational information-sharing and multinational sense-making, the bulk of which is not now and never will be “secret.” We would not be at all surprised to start seeing Goldman Sachs and Bank of New York executives dying like flies, with former Secretaries of the Treasury and Chairs (and NY Governors) of the Federal Reserve having pride of place on the hit list. The Russians and Chinese (and soon the Indians) all have a right to take “extreme exception” to the state-sponsored crimes the above document discusses.
BullionVault says: Accredited custodians only take in bars from other accredited vaults, and metal only enters the system from accredited refiners. Even when they bear the correct bar stamps, large gold bars are not usually accepted from people outside the Good Delivery circuit, which is why taking a Good Delivery bar into private possession seriously dents its value.
Phi Beta Iota: Hubris cannot be discounted, and since the Federal Reserve is part of the Good Delivery Circuit and its integrity has been severely impugned, this issue must join the matter of pre-9-11 gold evacuation from the World Trade Center as requiring further investigation.