William R Polk
Queen Noor of Jordan
"Eighteen months from now, Obama will have to answer the core question: is a stable and well-functioning Afghanistan worth a large and continuing American ground presence, or can American interests be secured at much lower cost?" - Fareed Zakaria
"This growing military influence on the civilian economy and government has been accelerating since the Vietnam War. Today, when the Pentagon asks for money to fund its war effort, Congress rushes to meet or even exceed its demands. Well over half all the disposable funds of the federal government are passed to the Defense Department" - William R Polk
There is an interesting article by the Pakistan Bureau Chief for the Asia Times, Syed Saleem Shazad. He interviewed one of the intermediaries that Richard Holbrooke is using to communicate between some of the Afghan tribal chiefs, Doudi Abede. Mr Abede was raised in Kandahar and now lives in Los Angeles, and stated his opinions on what the US proposes to accomplish within the next two years: "Abedi said that for the US, losing or winning the war in Afghanistan is immaterial - its real fight is against al-Qaeda, and therefore in the next phase of the war, the real fight, will be against al-Qaeda.
"I think the US knows that they have lost the war in Afghanistan, but they have not finished the work in the tribal area near the Durand Line [that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan]. Don't you think that the US might use the 30,000 fresh soldiers as a wall to prevent al-Qaeda members from entering into Afghanistan while they [US] and the Pakistani army attack from all sides to these above-mentioned areas for a final push to do the last and most damage to al-Qaeda, claim victory, and then start leaving gradually to save their face?
"Don't you think that is the reason they are cornering [Pakistani President Asif Ali] Zardari to deal with the military directly so the military can implement enough pressure on the so-called Pakistani Taliban to let al-Qaeda go from their grip so they [US] can hunt them down," said Abedi.
Abedi said this was the most suitable way for the US to direct the war only towards al-Qaeda so that deals could be set up with the Afghans. Abedi is convinced that the US should not prolong the war as it is already lost. (Obama admitted in his speech on Tuesday that vast tracts of Afghanistan are under Taliban control).
For Abedi, a 24-month package - withdrawal after 18 month and six months to set up a transitional government - is the best answer for Afghanistan as it offers opportunities for all of the parties involved.
Abede also states that Hamid Karzai is the war president, and that a more represented transitional government will be voted into place, one that satisfies all parties, excluding Karzai and Mullah Omar...
If we limit ourselves to fighting al Qaeda, will we be following them into Africa, Indonesia, and the Philippines? Critics are already labeling this as Obama's War, and it is a sticky mess that we may never be able to get off of our shoes. Maybe that's why so many shoes have been thrown lately, asking our leaders to please scrape the mess from our soles, you dogs!
Anyway, Obama is taking a pragmatic way towards ending the war, ending the neo-con influence of trying to shove democracy down other nation's throats. Instead, we can set a higher bar for ourselves to live up to, and let others follow our example.
It already seems to be taking root in other nations. Dimitry Medvedev gave his state of the union speech for Russia, and pledged to change their corrupt practices. It will be interesting to see who the Russian public chooses during their next election, Medvedev or Putin, who just announced that yes, he will run for president... Of course, if Putin gets re-elected again, it will be blatant cronyism taking over, not even the lip service that Medvedev is promising.
India is trying to take on the fraudulent accounting practices used by over 1,200 of its top companies, and the anti-corruption binge may spill over to political parties, which resemble the old American television show, Dynasty, where families rule over a party's policies for generations.
Even China is undergoing an anti-graft revolution, though done in their own creepy way: "The Supreme People's Procuratorate is considering the use of "modern scientific and technological means", or secret investigative methods, to collect evidence against suspected corrupt officials, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported last week. The methods include wiretapping, hypnotism, monitoring personal mail and the use of global satellite positioning systems.
Authorities in Shenzhen have also unveiled a new regulation which stipulates that officials whose spouses or children hold foreign passports or permanent residency (including in Hong Kong or Macau) must be barred from being appointed to any "responsible" posts." It wouldn't surprise me if the next step is to recruit the men who stare at goats to root out the canny opposition.
With a more honest world that may leave Africa to spoil in its tropical heart of darkness, along with Central America, Texas, and South Carolina as places to focus for re-grooving. Maybe that's what the Mayan Calendar signifies, the death of the old. corrupt ways of doing things, and the beginning of a Brave New World Order based on honesty and respect. No wonder why there is also a surge of right-wing fear mongering right now, it's the ultimate battle for oyur soul, played out on the world's stage. I hope that you have memorized your lines...