Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bush-Obama Doctrine, Yachtmen Set Adrift by Iran, Pakistani Drones Come to Roost

Maureen Dowd
David Ignatius
Dan Balz
Scott Peterson

"Democrats will be angry that the president is escalating a costly war at a time when the struggling economy should be his top priority. Republicans will protest that by setting a short, 18-month deadline to begin withdrawing those forces, he's signaling to the Taliban that they can win if they just are patient." - David Ignatius
"I am painfully clear that this is politically unpopular, not only is this not popular, but it's least popular in my own party. But that's not how I make decisions." - Barack Obama
"Liberal Democrats expressed opposition to any escalation, while Democratic leaders signaled their reservations by saying they will take time to study the plan. Republicans applauded the troop increase but almost uniformly warned about sending mixed messages with talk of leaving." - Dan Balz

I was going to write about President Obama's speech last night but I found that people like David Ignatius and Dan Balz summed it up pretty well. The ball is now in the military's court, the 30,000 troops are coming six months earlier than General McChrystal had asked for, and now he must provide results. The pressure is also on Hamid Karzai to create a government that will last after we leave and can provide an honest alternative for Afghanis. A viable alternative to fighting has to appear for the Pashtun Taliban, perhaps their own officially recognized state where they can govern. Then they would learn there is more responsibility involved by providing services and infrastructure for their people than can be earned at the end of a gun. Hamas is learning this in Gaza, and they have toned down their rhetoric for the sake of negotiating, and I'm sure that in time the Talibans will too.
"It is true they [al-Qaeda] can excute attacks in a variety of locations but what makes Afghanistan and Pakistan a uniquely different part is that it this part of the world represents the epicentre of jihadist extremism" - Robert Gates

The difference from when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan before, is they were never held accountable, there were no elections, and there was no peer pressure to perform responsibly from other governments. Our world has grown too small, and once teenage kids find the Internet, they will not be satisfied with strict sharia law. This problem is taking place throughout every country that trys to remain insular and cling to old traditions. It becomes magnified when the governments can't find a balance between folk traditions, religious tradition, human rights, and the secular concept of freedom and democracy. And democracy has many meanings, the US version being just one. More governments copy the British form of representation than the American one when they form their more perfect unions...

Ironically, Russia has been telling NATO and the US that just fighting terrorists is making the same mistakes that they had done in Afghanistan in the 1970's, when the US helped to create the Taliban. They are ready now to come in and help with economic development and getting rid of the opium trade because most of the opium ends up in Russia. They are currently having an epidemic drug problem, much worse than any other time in history. Russia also claims that they will not commit themselves militarily in Afghanistan ever again.

sail away, oh sail away...

The five British sailors of the yacht King of Bahrain have been released by Iran and the boat is being towed out to international waters. A statement from the Iranian government said: "“We reached the conclusion that they entered Iran’s territorial waters by mistake.”

The British foreign secretary all along insisted that they boys had made an innocent mistake, they hadn't noticed when the water had turned Revolutionary Guard black: "This is a human story of five young yachtsmen,” the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, said Tuesday. “It’s got nothing to do with politics. It’s got nothing to do with the nuclear enrichment program."

The incident offered a marked contrast with events in March 2007, when the Revolutionary Guards arrested 15 members of the British Navy and marines, accusing them of entering Iranian territorial waters. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered their release two weeks later, characterizing the gesture as a gift to the British." If you are keeping score, this makes Britain 2, USA 1. We have the means to even the score, if we can get Iran to release our danger-seeking young hikers, who are considered threatening to the regime because they consider themselves to be self-styled journalists.

Every other news out of Iran is schizophrenic. Women are banned from wearing make-up on television, Ahmadinejad proclaims that the international ruling against their nuclear program is illegal and they are going to continue enriching until they can make a nuclear bomb, and when a meeting was called for unity in the Iranian government, both Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad didn't show up, making one wonder just who called the meeting and what might have been discussed. Photo op anyone?

creating art in a war zone...

There was a story in this morning's NY Times that was just a joy to read, it gives testimony that the creative spirit can survive everywhere, even in the  recently bombed-out ruins of the Iraqi Justice Ministry: "Baghdad’s first outdoor movie screening, an attempt by filmmakers to show that no matter how much blood the militants may spill they cannot kill the artistic imagination. “We wanted to create life in a dead place,” said Bashir al-Majid, one of the lead actors in the movie “Ahlam,” which means “Dreams” and was screened on Tuesday night."

The award winning movie has been shown in over 60 countries, including here in the US, though I don't think you can rent it on Netflicks: "To shoot the movie, the producers borrowed a 35-millimeter camera from the director of Iraq’s first postwar feature film, who had fixed the camera himself to make his movie. “Ahlam” was shot on the run in the streets of Baghdad, with the crew and actors on more than one occasion finding themselves caught in the cross-fire of warring groups. At one point, four members of the crew were kidnapped by a Sunni insurgent group known as Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, then released after a few hours, only to be kidnapped later by a Shiite militia, which in turn handed them over to the American military. The Americans held them in prison for two weeks.

“We could not make them understand why Al Qaeda would let us go,” said Yahya al-Allaq, an assistant director on the movie who was one of the people held in custody." In a real sense, with showings of movies like this, the return of a cafe scene, vibrant shops, and people allowed to show their art in public are signs that Iraqi society is determined to succeed and thrive even in the face of fear and very real threats of terrorism.
“This is meant to be a challenge to the terrorists, this is meant to show them there is life. The cinema is life.”

drone independence... 

Our Pakistani friends aren't taking the US's denial of drones by laying on the ground. No, they must have unmanned flight of their own, and are teaming up with Italy, Turkey, and China to back engineer drones that can carry misiles: "Having already gained experience and guidance from the United States on the effective use of drones, Pakistan is working on its own Predator-like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which have helped revolutionize warfare. The growth of Pakistan's indigenous UAV industry is of great importance for the country's defense, as the nation is on the front line of the "war on terror."

... China has helped Pakistan in strengthening its defenses, particularly the aviation industry. Beijing extended support in designing a fighter aircraft, the JF-17 Thunder, to meet Pakistan's specific defense needs, besides helping to set up aircraft production facilities in the country"

Now we know what ultra-secret mission that Blackwater has been doing in Pakistan: training Pakistani teenagers how to control the drones from their computers. OK, maybe not teenagers, but most drones are typically controlled by soldiers based in Florida once they are launched into the air. The Pakistani drones won't have the flight capacity as the US ones do, but are good enough to bomb the hell out of South Waziristan. Remember, no US private contractors were ever there... besides, even France has their own drones, so what's the big deal?

Finally, how about electing Imelda Marcos again for President again in the Philippines? She would have plenty of shoes to throw around...

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