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Recommended Reading & Viewing

Top Billing! C. Christine Fair – State of Terror 

I am zen and I approve of this message!

….There can be no doubt that Pakistan’s unrelenting support for the Afghan Taliban and allied militant organizations, of which the Haqqani network is just one of many, has made any kind of victory — however defined — elusive if not unobtainable for the United States and its allies. The crux of the matter: The United States and Pakistan have fundamentally divergent strategic interests in Afghanistan. America’s allies, such as India, are Pakistan’s enemies, while Pakistan’s allies, such as the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban, are America’s enemies. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s ongoing support for these groups has become an altogether easy hook on which the Americans and their allies have hung their failures in Afghanistan.

But even if Pakistan were not actively undermining U.S. and allied efforts in Afghanistan, would the country be any more stable than it was on Sept. 10, 2001? The United States and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan have stumbled from one strategic disaster to another. The delusional belief in population-centric counterinsurgency is simply the latest chimera that plagued international efforts to bring Afghans a modicum of peace and security. The various national missions strewn across Afghanistan under the ISAF banner have been a disjointed disaster; more like a militarized version of Epcot Center than a cohesive effort. Some of the best development projects these national partners have undertaken have been restricted to their own bases and provisional reconstruction teams (PRTs). One of my most memorable moments during a 2009 visit to Afghanistan occurred at a German PRT, notable for its perfectly paved and LED-lit sidewalks, sleeping quarters equipped with duvets and duvet covers and individually heated commodes.

Adam Elkus – Observations on Embassy Attacks 

….We have already condemned Jones’ actions to little effect. Anger instead should be directed at the criminals who violated diplomatic norms by assaulting the American embassy in Cairo and the consulate in Benghazi. Anger should also be reserved for the foreign governments that shirked their sovereign obligations to protect US diplomatic property and personnel. This is not say that we should toss out the entire idea of information operations, public diplomacy, or military information support. Any tool the United States can employ to realize its interests should be used, and IO, PD and MISO all have valuable roles to play as instruments of national power. But we should be realistic about what they can achieve.

And if we are talking about sending the wrong message, the image at the beginning of this post sends one that certainly damages the United States brand in ways that many often underrate. From 1979 to tonight, we have a troublesome habit of allowing rent-a-mobs of armed “students” and “protestors” to gain access and control over US diplomatic facilities. Perhaps the consistent failure to secure these facilities, prevent entry. and exact costs on governments that fail to protect them plays a role in their continued seizure? 

Thomas P.M. Barnett – Wikistrat’s latest sim: “Syria’s Turmoil Explored 

I co-wrote with Nick Ottens, a Wikistrat supervisor and Dutch journalist who specializes in globalization reportage.

This crowdsourced simulation, conducted in real time on Wikistrat’s online platform during the course of three weeks, discussed the sustainability of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and forecasted dozens of scenarios for its collapse or survival. In addition, analysts explored and evaluated a range of policy options for the United States, Russia, Iran, Israel, Turkey, France and other actors. The simulation saw the participation and collaboration of over 120 Wikistrat analysts from all around the world. The following is an excerpt from the simulation’s executive summary, available for download here.

SWJ Blog (Audrey Cronin) –Politics, Strategy and the Haqqani Network 

Dart Throwing Chimp – Why Dictatorships Build Stuff that Crumbles and Democracy and Development Revisited…Again

Pundita – Arrest of Indian political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi: Is India’s government turning Stalinist?

Greg Palast – The Worst Teacher in Chicago 

Wilson QuarterlyIdeal Education 

Defining Ideas – Technology & the Future of Violence 


8 Responses to “Recommended Reading & Viewing”

  1. omar Says:

    And from the other end of the spectrum, i offer you this: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/story/2012-09-12/Sam-Bacile-Anthea-Butler/57769732/1
    But then again, this IS our culture too. If we dont defend her right to write drivel, what do we defend?

  2. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Hi Omar,
    I find the purveyors of tolerance are are often the most intolerant.

  3. Madhu Says:

    Dr. Fair’s an interesting one. For years, IMO, she was the standard Washington water carrier for the Generals, even if inadvertently (I personally think she meant well), even if only representing the DC status quo, built on the anti-Iran crowd, the anti-Russia crowd, the arms sellers, the NATOists, State and BAE and DOD and the international aid wallahs (clueless but well-meaning souls believing in international development aid like a religion. Never works, but hey, we BELIEVE!)
    The Indians and the Afghans and many Pakistanis and certain Kashmiris know all about this nonsense. And now Americans, too, some of our finest, some of our bravest, who likely never imagined that their lives would be secondary to grand strategic “interests.” I once interviewed a marvelously bright young man from Pakistan whose parents died in a bombing in a market while out doing the weekly shopping. What can one say to such pain? For those who think I’m anti-this group or anti-that group, I suggested he get an interview. I know a lot of Pakistanis in the West that are too afraid to say anything, too frightened to speak up in their own communities even, because they are afraid for their families back home, and afraid of fellow diaspora that contributed to the mess back home, even when they meant well, because they couldn’t handle criticism of the government and military. It’s like the Indians I know that carry water for the Indian Babus and Modi. It’s possible to dislike two things, you know, you don’t have to automatically support one group because you dislike the other group.
    Back to water carrying: what I mean is forwarding certain arguments for the badly educated and naive, like, “why, they only do what they do because of strategic depth,” and so on and so on. Now, how much money does one control in the current set up? Because it’s a lot of money. Serious buy-your-own-country money. Serious black-market black-globalization money….
    And our partners, the enlightened British and enlightened Europeans and NATOists! Nothing will happen to anyone that supported mayhem in that part of the world while sitting comfortably in the West. Curious, isn’t it? The people that dislike drones (and I’m one of them) often make excuses for the “human drones”, human bombs, as it were, that terrorized many. But no one cared because the targets weren’t the minorities or immigrants that mattered, even the supposedly neutral Western human rights campaigners have a hierarchy of who matters, and who doesn’t. To the DC types, add some well-to-do Pakistani-Americans and British Pakistanis, many of whom watched the place slip into the abyss while they excused every form of mismanagement back home, because they didn’t like Western foreign policy. I don’t like much of it either, but it seems counterproductive to support a different mayhem abroad because you don’t like the first kind.
    I’ve grown to really dislike British–their cold and cruel “spheres of influence”–foreign policy over the years. What is shocking is that their own people and soldiers suffer THE MOST. Ruthless, the Anglo-American alliance can be, and ruthless the British can be, too….
    But the Indians and Afghans and many Pakistanis and many Kashmiris know all about the British and NATO and the water carrying to ensure a certain vision of foreign policy. You know, after serving as “greeks” to clueless Americans, of course. And where has it got them? They have slid steadily in influence and GDP over the years. But I’m angriest at us, the US, so no one get too mad at me for this mini “rant.” The people at the top are supposed to care about the American people and serve us and protect us first and foremost, not their fantasies of global governance and national “strategy” and national “interests”.

    I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Nothing will change. I can see why people tune out, frankly. Just take care of your own life, be a good person, work hard, be kind. What else can a person do?

  4. Pundita Says:

    Zen – Again, thanks for your mention of the Trivedi post — but yikes! I just noticed the Kors video. Must add it to my second post about Trivedi — the one that also mentions Berkowitz’s discussion of the death of free speech on California campuses.  Unless I miss my guess, the reaction to the anti-Islam video will be used to further clamp down on speech.
    Madhu — You said a mouthful.  This report should make your evening:
    “At a press conference in Cairo, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague invites President Morsi to London, announces upcoming UK trade ministry delegation, and welcomes Morsi’s hardline stance on Syria.” Ahram Online, Tuesday 11 Sep 2012
    We. Cannot. Get. Anything. Done. With. The British Foreign Office. Stuck to us. Like glue.
    Haven’t read the Fair opinion piece yet. Agree with Zen that her message, the part of it he linked to, is spot on. But unless she’s turned over a new lea, there’s always the fine print at the very end of a Christine Fair paper/op-ed on Pakistan.  Will read and report back.



  5. Madhu Says:

    Yeah, I don’t know. As soon as I posted the above, I felt immediately contrite, as if I’d given in to something vaguely conspiratorial. What a mess!
    What is said in public and what is actually done are two different things, so that I always feel as if I’m chasing after phantoms, trying to figure out what is really going on….

  6. Madhu Says:

    From my comment above:
    “And our partners, the enlightened British and enlightened Europeans and NATOists! Nothing will happen to anyone that supported mayhem in that part of the world while sitting comfortably in the West. Curious, isn’t it? The people that dislike drones (and I’m one of them) often make excuses for the “human drones”, human bombs, as it were, that terrorized many. But no one cared because the targets weren’t the minorities or immigrants that mattered, even the supposedly neutral Western human rights campaigners have a hierarchy of who matters, and who doesn’t. ” 
    And, now, making my point in The National Interest, a one Tom Parker, Amnesty International,  “former office in the British Security Service (MI5):

    “The escalating use of unmanned aerial vehicles to strike terrorist suspects in an increasing number of operational environments from the Arabian Peninsula to Southeast Asia, coupled with the continued use of military commissions and indefinite detention, is driving a wedge between the United States and its allies.” 
    Well, I have no problem with that, but do you think the same hard questions will be asked of some of NATO’s European partners and the aid and comfort given some of the Pakistani establishment in its war on its neighbors and some of its own peoples?
    Nope. That will never happen. Human Rights Groups are supposed to be neutral, but they rarely are. Always a heirarchy of who matters, and who doesn’t.
    See, I’m not making this stuff up. I can make a good case, I think, except, who am I kidding? I lack the “enlightenment gene” of some of our dear friends in NATO,  so enlightened, they have one standard for themselves, and another standard for everyone else. Evolved, that continent, I tell you. Evolved, all right….

  7. Madhu Says:

    One “raises concerns.” One doesn’t look into funds, where they go, what they might support, and what they might underwrite. One “raises concerns.” Eh, it’s probably somewhere on the site, but I can’t find it at the moment….
    By the way, I am this pissy about aid to almost any country, it’s not toward one group of people. Name the country, I’ll complain about the aid there, too.

  8. Madhu Says:

    Well, while I’m awaiting my one comment in moderation: I have nothing against the British people or their military, I’m just whining about people at the top. In fact, the members of their military seem very brave, very fine, and actually, I feel a bit sorry for the young ones. That goes for all of our NATO partners. They really have deserved better. If they pull their troops out, you know what? I think that might be for the best, maybe. It will hurt us, I know, but maybe it would have been for the best if it had not been a NATO mission quite so quickly.

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