February 20th, 2009

Age of Obama:
Full steam ahead in Pakghanistan
Why and whither?

Ed Note: This thread covers August 2008 through Obama’s inauguration, during which time the Americans commenced their Strike-from-Afar war in/on Pakistan.

Then follow the comments below to follow events into April, when Prez Obama, trying to sell the Gates-Mullen Surge to his NATO partners, found Strasbourg on fire about his ears — thru August, when the Paki government finally said Yankees Go Home and Afghans went to the polls — into September, when the new American ground commander said the strategy was not attuned to the problems and the President told the Sunday talk shows that, before sending more troops, “The first question is, are we doing the right thing?”

One wishes he had taken this tack during the campaign with McCain. But was it possible to do so and be elected? However that may be … When in a hole, stop digging?



We’ve been following the American attacks in/on Pakistan since they started in late August — 2008 — in four threads:

1.  To begin near the beginning, recall former CIAist Robert Baer’s stormcrow piece about the National Security Apparat’s intentions. Then  follow updates through the comments to the post.

2.  That thread of comments ends with a link to September 20 — when we find Paki terrorists blowing up the Islamabad Marriott during a nearby reception for the new Paki president an hour after he’d endorsed Uncle Sam’s War on Terror in his first speech to parliament. Negative feedback. Bad press. Not the best start.

3.  Those comments then lead up to to September 25 — when we find G.I. Joes in a fire fight with Paki Army troops — our  allies, scorecard sez — at the Afghan-Paki border, which the Americans had thought to cross on foot instead of merely by sky.

Comments in this thread record the developing, mass murderous American missile campaign, the Brit Commander in Afghanistan telling the world the western forces cannot win, Obama’s election and his bloody interregnum. Clearly the new prez will inherit a chaotic mess.

4. With the Strike-from-Afar terror war well underway, reasons arose to think about why both Obama and McCain from the outset of the presidential campaign were on the same page so perfectly about Surging in Afghanistan and making war on/in Pakistan.  Apparently they’d been briefed and signed off on the new Surge — disagreeing in debates only as to how much one should say about such things in public.

Tenured brains seized the question:  Afghanization or Escalation? I.e., pull out of Afghanistan after decent efforts to set the government (who? where?) on its feet — or Surge?

Several comments in this thread focused on CIA director Michael Hayden’s rare, shocking and belligerent speech of December, in which he succinctly declared war on Pakistan. Must read. Then they stumbled upon an epiphany:

May the otherwise inexplicable (qua US national interest) Afghan escalation be the staging for a more dangerous ground war in Pakistan, the root — if DCI Hayden wasn’t fibbing — of all islamic terrorism?

Assume we launch such a war and enjoy some initial success, cleaning out the Pashtun insurgents  and their foreign guests (angry Arabs). Mission Accomplished.  Would Russia, China and Iran tolerate such advances and the permanent bases the Pentagon trails wherever it goes?

Thus, small-time declared victory in the War on Terror here may set off a geopolitical bomb — one of the things worried about here on behalf of our new president soon after his election.

(The worry in brief:  The Bay of Pigs raid was an attempt by its CIA and Pentagon planners not to conquer Castro’s Cuba, but to provoke President Kennedy (less than three months in office) into doing so with Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.  He was sharp enough to refuse the gambit.

Then again:  JFK inherited a Pentagon intent upon provoking China (first in Laos, then Vietnam) back into the war that Eisenhower had stalled in Korea; memos to the new President laid out the scenario that would lead from provocation to first strikes with nukes on Chinese cities.  The President concluded the brassy authors were “nuts,” stopped inviting them to meetings and for three and a half tense years evaded their Vietnam gambit. The Pentagon didn’t make it to Vietnam until 1965.

One hopes the new President is apprised of the Kennedy lessons and on his toes, especially during his early months, when most vulnerable to manipulation by the briefers of the Apparat.)

5. Finally, a fifth post noted with surprise soon into the transition that Obama’s foreign policy team, the SoS aside, would consist entirely of Pentagon brass — the most heavily weighted that way since Dubya Dubya Two.

PS: However, it turned out that Hayden (a career Pentagonian despite his tour at Langley) would not be staying on at CIA.  So among the guys running Obama’s world with scrambled eggs on their shoulders will be Hillary and one other civilian. Assuming Leon Panetta (the CIA nominee) pays his taxes.



All threads now lead here, where we will watch and continue to wonder what in Blazes the new President thinks we can win in the wastes of Pakghanistan. Where no one has ever won anything.

That all our allies Over There are packing it in and moving out seems not to dissuade the american Apparat’s leaders.

General David Petraeus, supposed Savior of the Surge in Iraq and the new regional commander (CENTCOM) for Pakghanistan, deigned the day after Obama’s inauguration to sit in on the President’s first meeting with the brass.

Our leaders seem to think the community policing that Petraeus applied with some success, so far, in Iraq’s cities (but what’s going to happen when we retreat?) will work with the widespread nations and tribes of Afghanistan, for whom skirmishing with each other is a way of life rooted in centuries.

I.e., our leaders seem nuts — or at least as nuttily dangerous as OSS-CIAist (and when colors suited “General”) Edward Geary Lansdale was about Vietnam, where he inspired our march into the quagmire spouting culturally sensitive but backfiring schemes.

Petraeus, one might hazard, is shaping up as the geopoliticosophical son of Lansdale — whose image one finds in The Ugly American‘s earnest Colonel Hillendale and The Quiet American‘s earnest CIAist Pyle. Both characters wind up doing no good.

In particular, Petraeus’s plans for Afghanistan evoke eerily the Stategic Hamlet program, which used carrots and covert sticks (mass murderous false flag provocations) to engage the apolitical farmers of South Vietnam but failed to win their hearts and minds to the puppet government’s cause; instead they were provoked by the turmoil and violence into becoming active allies of the Viet Cong and the North’s government.

(Farmers were herded, sometimes with false flag machine gun fire, from their lands into artificial villages — reminiscent of early Soviet programs to collect independent farmers and, in some cases, convert them into industrial proles …)

Lesson of Vietnam No. 35.6167/FART/7:  Attempting to dispose people en masse in one’s favor by redesigning their socioeconomic life tends to beget not cooperation but disdain and hatred.  Petraeus seems to think he can herd the many tribes of the Pashtun — 40 million people all told! — into ranks and files loyal to the government in Kabul, which might as well (for the targeted hearts and minds) be in Iowa. And the Pashtun comprise only one slice of Afghanistan’s diverse demographic pie.

In short: There is no sociological basis for a centrally-governed state over there.  Decentralized tribalism is the way the land enclosed by Afghanistan’s border works.


What are the Pentagon’s war aims over there?  I see no one in Congress or the press bothering to ask.

Eradicate the Taliban?   This recent mind-boggling heart-breaking Guardian piece roots high and low, reporting along the way as certainly given that G.I. Joe will be fighting in Pakghanistan in 2017 (when Obama if lucky will leave the White House) — but reports not  a whiff as to why.

The reporter is good to report however that the Taliban hardly exists as an organization capable of being dismantled by Pentagon machinery, but is rather  “a shifting alliance of insurgents.”

Meaning tribesmen. Unallied (as always) to the distant central government. Shifting as always like sand and dunes with the wind.  Shall you destroy even the sand, Sahib, you who strike from afar?

Win the War on Terror?With mass-murderous missiles falling on huts from the blue?  But that’s … terrorism.

The world learned in dozens of 20th century wars that when you kill people indiscriminately pursuing an oblique cause you create more resistance than you remove. Terrorism cannot be defeated with guns and bombs.

It defeats itself, typically, running out of steam and foot soldiers. Or, as in the Holy Lands, 1948 to the present, it steadily endures with its provacateurs, as a means of war against a technologically advanced foe.

Terrorism lives and can be fought effectively between people’s ears. In Palestine, a real settlement with Israel would deprive dyed-in-the-wool jihadists of most of their constituency and foot soldiers — a basic change that constitutes Israel’s best chance for peace.

But in Afghanistan … I see no action or structure that would reconcile the diverse tribal so-called warlords to the Kabul government. And we see this in the coded chit-chat of the american political advisors over there (prominent among them since Obama’s election, Steve Cohen, Likud Lobbyist) — who are now saying in public that their plans under Bush-Cheney for democratization have proven inapt.

But Terence this is all old hat. What’s news?


Today the Pentagon acknowledged that an American attack earlier this week killed without intending to 13 Afghan civilians:

The civilians killed included three children, six women and four men in the Gozara district of Herat Province, in addition to three people suspected of being Taliban fighters, according to an aide to the provincial governor.

“We expressed our deepest condolences to the survivors of the noncombatants who were killed during this operation,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Ryan, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

And today’s Times has a feature piece arguing that the targets of the attacks in Pakistan executed under the aegis of Obama indicate that the campaign has broadened. Right on schedule. Toot toot. All aboard.

Perhaps in a safe somewhere inside the Beltway sits a sleeve of secrets that substantiate beyond reasonable doubt the national interests and strategic plan that justify escalating our desultory but minor Afghan war.  In public view there is nothing at all.

Maybe Peking will put its foot down and stop footing the bill, ruining what’s left of the US economy in the process.

Until then, the December speech by General Hayden is the American map and manifesto.  It seems not to matter what the new president may think.  The Apparat is in charge here.


Dr Strangelove, I presume?

Who’s the gadfly?

Further developments.

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  1. ed says:

    THe Sunday Times has a feature plainly sketching Russia’s reasonable antagonism for escalating American war in the region.

    February 22nd, 2009 at 10:19 pm

  2. ed says:

    Having spoken (in main post above) of Lansdale, and having placed President Kennedy’s head on a platter, one should note:

    Colonel Fletcher Prouty, who worked closely with Lansdale in the Pentagon, believed that:

    (i) He had a photo of Lansdale in Dealy Plaza taken minutes after JFK’s murder. (Click the “Photos” link here.)

    (ii) Lansdale ordered him (Prouty) to fly VIP tourists to Antartica shortly before the murder so that Prouty would not know of or interfere with the odd things the Air Force was doing that day. E.g., flying troops from Germany to Washington D.C.

    Both men were high on the Air Force staff in the Pentagon at the time. But for Lansdale that was cover story and a meal ticket. Lansdale was a career spook.

    Prouty as an Army pilot flew OSS missions during the war and in the mid 50s founded, at the behest of Allen Dulles, the Pentagon office that helped the CIA when it needed things like air transports and bombs.

    Lansdale, with a background in advertising, spent his wartime with the OSS in the Pacific theater, focused on the Philippines, and by the time Kennedy became president was regarded by many as America’s great wise man on Vietnam.  (That’s him directly above Nixon in the War Room.)

    Official story is Lansdale first went to Vietnam to open our first CIA station there in 1954, after the French embarrassment at Dien Bien Phu. He then became the close advisor and kingmaker of Ngo Dihn Diem, who eventually was made president of South Vietnam (the state itself a rather American creation).

    But Lansdale or similar may have been in Vietnam much earlier. In the late 40s many OSSers — whom Dulles (at Sullivan & Cromwell in NY) and Frank Wisner (at State in DC) had kept busy and in funds despite Truman’s dissolution of the agency in September ’45 — were reactivated as the CIA was born (’47). During the same period (as Prouty reports firsthand), the vast horde of weaponry on Okinawa, stockpiled to float the invasion of Japan, was being quietly distributed by the Yanks to various clients, including Ho Chi Minh.

    We had, of course, armed the Vietnamese nationalists as they fought the Japanese. But it would embarrass both Paris and Washington to allow that we were supplying Ho as he then turned upon the French.

    But the Cowboy half of the National Security Apparat was intent upon continuing our Westward expansion, into Asia, and, having saved France’s ass in Europe, had no intention of allowing the Frogs to hold onto their Asian empire.

    (And so it’s quite possible that Graham Greene during his early 50s sojourn in Vietnam bumped into Lansdale in Saigon. John Simkin, indeed, reports a rude encounter in a Vietnamese restaurant, and that Lansdale was certain he was the model for Greene’s true believer Pyle.

    It seems, then, that Greene’s several published responses to questions about Lansdale — simply pointing to date conflicts, rather than denying Lansdale per se — may have been carefully and slyly done. In any case The Quiet American (1955) certainly portrays Lansdale-ism at play in Vietnam as it forecasts our desultory strategy and war. )

    During Kennedy’s first week in office, Lansdale was put forward by elements of the National Security Apparat as the natural choice to be the new US ambassador to Vietnam.

    Kennedy was impressed at their first interview.  But then his people asked around and heard the guy was a little nutty, and had pissed off the State Department and some Pentagon brass.  Kennedy rejected Lansdale’s application.

    Months later Lansdale was made one of the top managers of Operation Mongoose, the post Bay of Pigs CIA operation intended to pick up the pieces and re-establish some sort of “front” against Castro’s Cuba.  Eventually Mongoose encompassed the much-discussed CIA program to assassinate Castro.

    Somewhere along the line (late 50s, it seems) Lansdale had been given an Air Force general’s uniform to wear and a Pentagon chair atop the Air Force staff — where he met Prouty. They worked closely on the so-called intelligence side of Defense issues until Prouty resigned in early 1964 — having concluded that Lansdale and company were complicit in JFK’s murder.

    In the 50s Lansdale had been the closest American advisor and then kingmaker of Ngo Dihn Diem, who with that guidance became president of South Vietnam (the state itself something of a CIA creation).

    On November 2, 1963 Diem was killed by rivals in a coup that the Kennedy administration in a confused way had (or at least seemed to the rivals to have had) condoned — by going back and forth on the general idea, as contrary voices within the administration pressed their views, and then okaying a plan that would remove Diem and his family to Paris.

    Some believe Diem’s murder was nevertheless green-lighted by the US ambassador in Saigon, Henry Cabot Lodge, who represented old Boston Brahim power within the administration and vocally disagreed with the Irish mafia in the White House on more than one occasion. If Lodge did okay Diem’s murder, the State Dept cables, at least, are clear that he was acting as a rogue.

    (It was these cables that in 1971 Chuck Colson, supposedly at Nixon’s request, hired Howard Hunt to cut and paste and re-forge, to create the impression that Washington had explicitly ordered Diem killed.)

    Twenty days after Diem, Kennedy himself was murdered, in another coup.

    Many have guessed (including Bobby Kennedy) that the conspiracy grew out of Lansdale’s Mongoose anti-Castro operation, where the foot soldiers were mostly ex-pat Cubans, many of whom were paid by Howard Hunt, whom they knew and revered as “Eduardo.” Hunt spent the final decades of his life among them in Miami. That’s him in the shades, between Allen Dulles and President Obama’s skull, in the War Room.

    Lansdale was repeatedly fingered by Fletcher Prouty for JFK’s murder, and is the only person Prouty fingered, although his writings are clear that other names were rattling around between his ears but might not be voiced. In one prolonged interview he seems to imply that he believed Kennedy’s National Security Advisor, McGeorge Bundy, was involved … 

    And he reports that the commander of an Army Intel unit in Texas — routinely responsible for street security along presidential parade routes — was called by somebody potent in Washington the day before Dallas and told his unit would not be needed. Prouty never supplied the name of the voice in Washington, but the picture he paints suggests the call came from atop the Secret Service.

    Prouty’s books are necessary, but of course not sufficient, to understanding American history since the war.

    February 22nd, 2009 at 10:34 pm

  3. ed says:

    This Times piece today — “Afghan Civilian Deaths Show Limits of Air Power” — at first glance seemed an argument for getting out:

    “To win the insurgency, we’re not going to bomb our way out of this,” said Col. Harry A. Foster, the chief of the strategy division of the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Southwest Asia, the command headquarters for the air wars over Iraq and Afghanistan.

    But on second glance the Times story seems a sly and thus despicable bit in support of the Afghan Surge: To win the insurgency we need boots on the ground! Lots and lots of boots.  And tanks, lots of tanks. And more helicopters ..

    February 23rd, 2009 at 11:01 pm

  4. ed says:

    Times editorial expressing great concern that “Pakistan’s democracy” is on the eve of destruction.

    But nothing more than that. I guess nobody really has an idea what to do.

    February 28th, 2009 at 6:12 pm

  5. ed says:

    Here’s Wajahat Ali at the Guardian outlining a history of how the CIA and Paki intel organ (ISI) across 20 years brought Pakistan to where it sits today, ready to explode.

    The ubiquitous Steve Cohen (Likud Lobbyist) gets quoted to the effect that the big problem is lack of “sovereign control” (by the Paki gov’t in Islamabad) over the FATA areas along the Afghan border.

    But these Pashtun folk have never been under such control. I guess that Cohen’s statement is in support of the ground war there that I have been guessing the Pentagon in its madness is preparing.

    March 6th, 2009 at 10:21 am

  6. ed says:

    An expert quoted by the Times today sought to support current notions of battling “insurgents” in Pakistan’s anarchic Tribal Areas by noting:

    “The Taliban are entrenched and move quickly from one area to another.”

    Entrenched … yet moving quickly. Those Taliban are amazing!

    March 7th, 2009 at 11:46 am

  7. ed says:

    A big Obama interview with the Times

    When asked if we are winning the war in Afghanistan, the new President says flatly “no.” And (my reading of) his comments on the Petraeus plan and the Taliban support the argument against Surging over there.

    That is: He seems to realize that the Taliban doesn’t really exist. What exists, and what have existed for centuries, are tribes in the habit of banding together then squabbling with each other.

    Yet the prez seems to remain solid behind the Surge.

    But what then (to repeat myself) is — what can possibly be — the war aim?

    Note he does go out of his way to tip his hat to former CIA head Hayden (who in December declared Pakistan the epicenter of islamic terrorism). Perhaps ground war there is indeed (as surmised here since December) in the cards …? It would seem to be the only reason for escalating across the border in Afghanistan.

    The prez also confirmed this past week, sure kid sure, that between 35-50,000 US troops will remain in Iraq after all “combat troops” are pulled in August 2010.

    Surely the MyObamists are wondering WTF?

    The only thing certain is that our Afghan status quo makes no sense. Whether that means withdrawal or escalation for ground war in Pakistan remains to be seen.  The Pentagon seems to want the latter, and this interview does nothing to dilute the impression that the Pentagon is in charge of foreign affairs.

    The president seems to be observing. Ironically Detached. Bemused.

    Not himself a technocrat — he seems above that, personally. But seems to conceive it his new job to give technocrats conference rooms and press support while they do that voodoo they do so well.

    The Audacity of Nope.

    No Change We Need.

    No change at all.

    March 8th, 2009 at 1:50 pm

  8. ed says:

    The recent redux of so-called insurgent violence in Iraq is good only in that it puts a point on the question: What happens when the Americans down-size Over There?

    Until then, declarations of “Surge — Mission Accomplished!” are premature.

    “What then to do?” one cries in exasperation.

    Muddle thru, indeed. There are no other choices. This was the vulgar genius of the Likud Lobby leadership that made the invasion happen. Pottery Barn rules would indeed apply.

    But begin the best possible muddling by speaking honestly in public about how and why we went to Iraq — discourse concerning Israel that remains banned by the mainstream media and poison near the lips of Beltway politicians.

    Instead we have had the Redemption Discourse of the Petraeus Surge, with which both presidential candidates saturated the airwaves last year. And now Obama has broken the news that 35-50,000 pairs of boots will remain in Iraq after — as promised — all “combat troops” are removed in August 2010.

    The Pentagon is regularly said to have built 13 so-called Permanent Bases in Iraq. The Pentagon like Bartleby has arrived Over There. No president seems to have the will(and/or)power to boot them out.  Must read: Chalmer Johnson’s Sorrows of Empire.

    Perhaps, then, the only policy options remaining concern the lands on the other side of Iran — concerning which the renewed Iraqi violence might suggest that the Hillendalesque annointment of General Petraeus as Sage Lord and Viceroy of Pakghanistan, too, is premature.

    March 10th, 2009 at 1:45 pm

  9. ed says:

    Zardari’s government cracks down on demo march led by his chief antagonist, a rather middle of the road man named Sharif, who some reports say is now under house arrest. Zardari is the closest thing in Islamabad to a US supporter. Sharif is less enthused.

    March 11th, 2009 at 6:14 pm

  10. ed says:

    Hillary says that Iran should be at the table at the upcoming conference on Afghanistan.

    Good idea. Let’s see if Obama allows it to stick.

    March 11th, 2009 at 9:08 pm

  11. ed says:

    As the political crisis in Islamabad threatens to put Zardari’s government on the ropes, the Americans kill another 21 people From Afar in the north:  Things getting rough.

    March 13th, 2009 at 3:51 pm

  12. ed says:

    A bit more about Lansdale can be found in the Weiner piece linked here while chatting en passant about the privatization of American so-called intelligence operations.

    March 13th, 2009 at 12:27 pm

  13. ed says:

    The demonstrations in Pakistan are getting bigger and bolder.  From the Times:


    LAHORE, Pakistan — A crackdown by the Pakistani government to prevent a national demonstration and detain the country’s leading opposition figure collapsed on Sunday, and what had been a clash between the police and protesters transformed into a huge antigovernment rally.

    In what analysts here called an unprecedented reversal by security forces, phalanxes of riot policemen here in Lahore melted away rather than continue to confront protesters who had rallied around the opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, when he defied a house arrest order early Sunday.

    By early evening, the sight of exuberant anti-government crowds in Lahore — a mix of Mr. Sharif’s loyalists, supporters of smaller opposition parties and ordinary people with their young children — encouraged people in other cities in the Punjab Province to come out on the streets.


    People (like Fareed Zakaria, if memory serves) who visit Pakistan and tour the nuclear facilities come away with confidence that those weapons are in secure responsible hands regardless of what might be going on in the political theater.

    I suppose India must always be hoping so.

    March 15th, 2009 at 2:33 pm

  14. ed says:

    Here is an excellent overview of what seems to be going on in Pakghanistan and what seems to be the US mind under Obama.

    March 14th, 2009 at 10:25 am

  15. ed says:

    The popular resistance in Pakistan has secured the reinstatement of the supreme court chief justice.

    March 16th, 2009 at 2:41 pm

  16. ed says:

    Two bits of insight into what’s wrong with militarism.

    1. Hillary Clinton asserted upon taking office as Secretary of State that diplomacy will lead the Obama foreign policy.  The Pentagon and its familiar flacks beg to differ, sounding a lot like Rumsfeld as they call for a New Pentagon with “a multiwar, multioperation, multifront, walk-and-chew-gum construct.”
    Obama-Gates-Mullen:  Me too.

    2. They Who Strike From Afar.

    A Times story about drone warfare.

    With the word “drone” one must always recall the German V1s  sputtering and falling out of the sky on London in the early 40s. One wonders why the National Security Apparat permits the press to continue using the word.

    (And “insurgents” and “insurgency”, for dog’s sake! Straight out of the Pentagon’s Vietnam How To manual.)

    In ancient times, of course, those who Strike From Afar — with arrows — were reviled for their cowardice, the shining god of science Apollo among them. The inability of aerial bombing campaigns to affect the outcome of wars is well argued. Could it be that they replace despair with the kind of laughter reserved for those we despise?

    March 17th, 2009 at 9:27 am

  17. ed says:

    An overview of the restoration of the supreme court and the correlate political compromise between President Asif Ali Zardari (B.Bhutto’s widower) and centrist opposition leader Nawaz Sharif.

    March 17th, 2009 at 10:48 am

  18. ed says:

    For more on the Bay of Pigs tangent, and how it may be a useful precedent for Obama to beware, click here.

    March 18th, 2009 at 7:29 pm

  19. ed says:

    Brookings Institute uts out a thumbnail statistical sketch of the American wars, with comparisons to 2005 and 2007.

    March 20th, 2009 at 10:47 am

  20. ed says:

    Pretty wild.

    Uncle Sam will not replace Karzai’s government, but appoint a Prime Minister to go around him.

    To what end, one wonders? A new Pax enforced by the non-afghan tribes of the Norther Alliance. (Tried that before …) The invasion of Pakistan?

    We shall see.

    March 22nd, 2009 at 9:22 pm

  21. ed says:

    Well. Obama’s big speech about Pakghanistan has been delivered, delivering very little new and, grossly speaking, no Change at all, let alone Change We Need.

    He is dedicated to the perpetual War on Terror. Believes the Taliban and Al Qaeda exist as corporate organs capable of being destroyed by tanks and bombs. Until he or his successor Changes his mind, the US will be at war in far flung places where it has little national interest.

    The text. The Times lead story. The Times editorial in support, braying Hosannahs in praise of Change.

    Biden is said to have led the Naysayers. Good for him.

    This is the policy that Gates-Mullen began implementing under Bush-Cheney. No change at all, as an anonymous NATO official here insists gritting teeth. Obama is making things worse by deeply rooting the policy, not only by escalating boots but by investing the policy with an ornate round of public decisionmaking.

    McCain would have been no different.

    Surely there are some My Obamists who are beginning to realize they’ve been had? How long before Charisma wears off, and vision is restored? However that may be, the technicians at the campaign web op keep sending emails begging me to support President Obama’s … Potemkin revolution.

    I feel like the guy who went out last Monday, March 16, and waited for hours along Fifth Avenue, quietly getting drunk, for the St Patrick’s Day parade.

    March 28th, 2009 at 9:10 am

  22. ed says:

    March 27:  Obama follows up with a thunderously silly speech, explaining that the aim of the American escalation is to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    Not possible by force of arms.

    But take notice — no mention of “the Taliban” (which doesn’t quite exist, as argued so well in the Guardian piece linked some comments above). Is the “Taliban” no longer the enemy?

    Shades of 1984. We are at war with East Asia and have always been at war with East Asia. Then, two weeks later: We are at war with Eurasia and have always been at war with Eurasia.

    And does Al Qaeda exist as something that can be “dismantled” with bombs? Isn’t Al Qaeda mostly a state of mind — a spiritual alliance that once had access to Osama‘s bank account?

    Here’s two Obama shadow-advisors trying to explain the policy to the press a day later.

    Note the question about going after Osama bin Laden.  Ailly robotic response that talks about going after “high-level targets” but doesn’t even imply that Osama is alive.

    Late in the transcript Richard Holbrooke pops in, terribly enthusiastic about the policy.  Strange. I’ve talked with him a few times over the years, about Yugoslavia.  Latest … three or four years ago in NY.  Didn’t seem a dufus.  But now he bubbles about wiping out “corruption” in Afghanistan.

    Is corruption now the enemy?

    Here’s people in Cleveland unhappy with the speech.

    Next day: Viceroy Petraeus addresses the senate.  Saying he wants another 10,000 pairs of boots — beyond the Surging 21,000 Obama has already put on boats — before Christmas.  But awaits the President’s decision on that in the fall.

    April 1st, 2009 at 11:54 pm

  23. ed says:

    Parading from the G20 meeting to the NATO summit, Obama finds people burning buildings in Strasbourg, pissed about his push for more NATO troops for Overseas Contingency Operations in Pakghanistan.

    Upside of the meeting is that France, Germany and Britain despite lip service will contribute very few new boots to the Gates-Mullen-Petraeus escalation.

    QUOTE British officials pledged “up to 1,000″ extra troops this year, mainly to provide security for the national elections this summer.

    But German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy, whose countries had offered the best hope for strong troop increases, both made clear in remarks today that they expect the training of Afghan National Army troops to take the new burden, and would not immediately be offering new troops. END QUOTE

    So reported Canada’s Globe and Mail.

    For fun note how London’s Daily Telegraph, however, reports the same facts — “hundreds” of new troops committed by each of Britain and a small posse of minor leaguers — for the effort with a most ludicrous headline.

    And here’s even the Guardian, with a roughly accurate headline, straining to hold up Britain’s end in the doublespeak derby.  I suppose it’s the love of Obama doing this.  But the facts


    Barack Obama today won agreement for substantial NATO troop reinforcements in Afghanistan, when at least seven European nations, including Britain, said they would send up to 5,000 troops and logistical help ahead of the presidential elections there in August.

    The decision, made at a Nato summit in Strasbourg, will be a profound political relief for the US president, who badly needed to be able to show his domestic audience that his offer of a new style of partnership with Europe could reap tangible results. …

    America and Britain have become increasingly frustrated at the 28 Nato countries’s unwillingness to commit troops to serious fighting against the Taliban in southern and eastern Afghanistan. …The countries agreeing to contribute further help, according to European diplomats, include Poland — which is to send as many as 600 troops — Spain, Croatia, Greece and the Netherlands.

    Germany is expected to confirm that it will be sending extra troops to the largely peaceful north of Afghanistan for the election on 22 August.

    France is sending a further 150 military police to help train Afghan civilian police, arguing that last year it announced a large extra deployment.

    The commitments gave Gordon Brown enough political cover to confirm an offer to send up to 1,000 extra troops on a temporary basis of a few months.


    Ludicrous writing from London.

    Gordon Brown seems smitten with the Cousins and their new headpiece.

    But cleary the Continent doesn’t want war of any sort with China or Russia over whatever it is the Gates-Mullen policy is fighting for.  A pipeline?  Seems disproportionate.   To “dismantle” Al Qaeda, as Obama put it?  Seems not possible by force of arms. Maybe General Petraeus knows …


    … and someday will tell us.

    Henceforth it’s less important to follow the blow by blow.  For the Interegnum is over: Obama at Strasbourg has dedicated himself to Gates-Mullen-Petraeus and whatever/whoever it is they’re trying to fight for.

    April 4th, 2009 at 9:26 am

  24. ed says:

    Obama loses legal move to maintain Bush-Cheney military prison at Bagram — Guantanamo East — beyond all legal reach.

    April 4th, 2009 at 9:17 am

  25. ed says:

    Writing the script cleanly week by week.

    Now it seems “four or five hundred” Talibanos may float the US invasion of Pakistan.


    April 24th, 2009 at 12:33 am

  26. ed says:

    The plan to send 20,000 marines into the Afghan heartland to stifle the poppy crop is perfectly Lansdalian.

    I can’t muster the spirit to encode the link:

    Obama is destroying his second term with this supine acquiescence.

    Enter Romney and the Palindrones.

    April 28th, 2009 at 10:44 pm

  27. ed says:

    The NY Times is out there round the clock selling the big war in Pakghanistan.

    This morning: Front page photos of a circle of Afghan children snorting opium dust. GI Joe to the rescue!

    The Americans seem out of their bloody minds.

    May 5th, 2009 at 11:23 pm

  28. ed says:

    Fast forward to July 20, when Pakistan tells the Pentagon to buzz off:


    July 22nd, 2009 at 12:13 am

  29. ed says:

    A big NY Times Magazine piece on Afghan president Karzai.

    Gates-Mullen at the Pentagon have had him on their blacklist since the winter. It’s hard not to think the CIA et al will be active in force Over There thru the elections of August 20 to make sure Karzai does not remain in office.

    This Times piece will make it easier for the world not to care if he’s removed — in favor of A Man the Pentagon Can Work With — with less than due process and proper decorum.

    August 9th, 2009 at 11:03 am

  30. Ilidas says:

    Good God, you’ve been updating this post since its original February posting. Anyway, someone sent me this, some now project a ten-year commitment to the Afghan conflict:


    August 10th, 2009 at 7:05 pm

  31. Ed says:

    Major speech by Obama defending his greenlighting the Gates-Mullen-Petraeus Surge in Pakghanistan.

    August 17th, 2009 at 4:35 pm

  32. ed says:

    September. Everybody’s jumping on Karzai, trying to overthrow the election.

    The American commander has said the strategy of attacking the so-called Taliban is no good and wants more troops for community policing in the shrinking areas (now roughly 20 percent) of the country not controlled by anti-Kabul warlord types (which the press call “taliban”).

    But President Obama — for the first time in my ears — says wait a second on the Sunday talk shows:


    The president also said that he had no deadline for withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan. He said before he decided whether to send more troops, he needed to determine whether the United States was pursuing the proper military strategy.

    “The first question is, are we doing the right thing?” Mr. Obama said on CNN’s State of the Union. “Are we pursuing the right strategy?”

    Mr. Obama did not say whether he would send more troops to Afghanistan, but he added that the strategy had become “somewhat adrift,” and said he needed to remind Americans the war was a necessary front in the fight against terrorism.

    “We’re there because al Qaeda killed 3,000 Americans and we cannot allow extremists who want to do violence to the United States to be able to operate with impunity,” Mr. Obama said. “We lost that focus for a while and you started seeing a classic case of mission creep where we’re just there and we start taking on a whole bunch of different missions.”


    Perhaps, then, the beginning of the end of the blanket endorsement both Obama and McCain gave sixteen months ago to the Pentagon policy is upon us.

    Would getting out require the resignations of Gates and Mullen?

    September 20th, 2009 at 3:33 pm

  33. ed says:

    Aha. And here — the day after Obama’s first public expression (see prior comment) of basic doubt and suggestion that no more troops will be forthcoming — we have McChrystal leakage saying more are needed “to avoid failure”.

    Shades of Westmoreland, 1965.

    I guess it’s time to start a new thread for this mess. As things seem to be coming to a head, at least on the chalkboard.

    September 21st, 2009 at 12:30 pm

  34. Conversation » Obamarama: Pakghanistan policy coming to a head? says:

    [...] February I’ve been filing news bits and meditations on our mess in Pakghanistan here (in the comments). That thread’s discussion reaches back a full year, to late August 2008 — when the [...]

    June 28th, 2010 at 10:13 am

  35. Conversation » Did Martians cause the Cold War? says:

    [...] And, between Dulles and his deputy: Strange OSS and CIA agent Ed Lansdale, flying Air Force colors at the [...]

    June 29th, 2010 at 1:00 am

  36. Conversation » Pakistan closes Khyber Pass to US war machine as September to Remember closes says:

    [...] years of steady drone missile attacks from their American ally. Which in past weeks have increased while being supplemented (as noted) with large-scale helicopter [...]

    September 30th, 2010 at 9:40 am

  37. Adrian kaidhaas says:

    Strangely that it seems, I see that perhaps Mr. Obama is trying to be like A. Hitler, but he is missing the boat by a mile, he does not have the people in his hands like Adolf did, and the people are aware of things much more so than back in those days, he however has surrounded himself by numerous groups of people that agree with him, and he has built up a wall of protection from those who intend to overthrow him. But the truth will soon come to light, When the Republican dominated congress exposes his true Birth certificateto the public, he is in a loose ,loose situation, so what will happen next?

    January 15th, 2011 at 11:51 am

  38. Conversation » A Dirty Vacation — Greenland melts says:

    [...] of the northwest by US troops out of Afghanistan (in sync with Paki troops from the south) that seemed on the books now seems passe. The Pakis seem more united — in anti-Americanism — than Gates-Mullen [...]

    January 19th, 2011 at 11:19 am

  39. Conversation » Privatized so-called Intelligence: Legacy of Ashes as Prelude to Terror says:

    [...] across this Times magazine piece by Tim Weiner while musing about Petraeus and Lansdale in Pakghanistan and Vietnam. Adapted from Weiner’s excellent CIA book of 1995, Legacy of [...]

    January 22nd, 2011 at 3:46 pm

  40. Ilidas says:

    The comment that I meant to append here back in 2009: We’re living through the military-industrial complex’s wettest dream — U.S. bases ringing the world and, after years of Iraq, a decade (??) being forecast for Afghanistan.

    If we’d left the commies alone there they might have modernized the country somewhat — instead the CIA funded the jihadis and now . . . endless war.

    Also, btw, that looks like a bit of Texan spam above.

    February 23rd, 2012 at 7:42 am

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