March 2009 Archives

March 29, 2009

President Obama: I Think Afghan War is ‘America’s War’

U.S. President Barack Obama expounded on his Afghan war strategy, which was announced March 27, 2009, in a March 29, 2009, appearance on the American television program Face the Nation, hosted by CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer. See “Transcript: Obama On "Face The Nation."

Observers such as GlobalPost correspondent C.M. Sennott suggest that the Afghan war, initiated by President George W. Bush after al-Qaeda’s September 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S,  has become “Obama’s War.” However, Mr. Obama told Mr. Schieffer: “I think it’s America’s War." Here’s the exchange:

CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer: Mr. President, thank you for joining us. This economic crisis has been so severe that it has literally pushed all the other issues off the television, out of the newspapers. But as - when you outlined your program for Afghanistan and the new strategy, it really underlined in the starkest terms that we may not be talking about these serious issues, but there are some very serious things going on out there. So I'd like to start there -

President Obama: Please.

Schieffer: - if I could. This is a hugely ambitious plan. 22,000 more troops. You're gonna increase spending by 60 percent. You said in your announcement we must defeat

al Qaeda.

President Obama: Right.

Schieffer: This has really now become your war, hasn't it?

President Obama: I think it's America's war. And it's the same war that we initiated after 9/11 as a consequence of those attacks on 3,000 Americans who were just going about their daily round. And the focus over the last seven years I think has been lost.

What we want to do is to refocus attention on al Qaeda. We are going to root out their networks, their bases. We are gonna make sure that they cannot attack U.S. citizens, U.S. soil, U.S. interests, and our allies' interests around the world.

Mr. Obama said, “In order for us to do that, we have to ensure that neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan can serve as a safe haven for al Qaeda. And, unfortunately, over the last several years what we've seen is, essentially, al Qaeda moving several miles from Afghanistan to Pakistan but effectively still able to project their violence and, and hateful ideologies out into the world

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March 28, 2009

‘Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network’

“Tracking ‘GhostNet’: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network,” a research project conducted by the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto, in Canada, has exposed a massive, electronic spy operation in which the spies have “infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York,” The New York Times reported in a March 28, 2009 article headlined “''Vast Spy System Loots Computers in 103 Countries.”

The article, written by John Markoff, notes:

Although the Canadian researchers said that most of the computers behind the spying were in China, they cautioned against concluding that the Chinese government was involved. The spying could be a nonstate, for-profit operation, for example, or one run by private citizens in China known as “patriotic hackers.

I highly recommend the article. If true, it reveals a spy world most Americans probably couldn’t imagine. And while you are reading it, keep in mind that China is not the only nation that engages in this type of spying. The United States, Russia and other nations also engage in it. This is far beyond our fathers and grandfathers' spy games.

By the way, I can see a young wanna be producer or director salivating over “Tracking GhostNet.”

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Mr. Obama’s War

I like the way C.M. Sennott of GlobalPost framed President Barack Obama’s newly minted Afghanistan strategy, which was announced March 26, 26, 2009. Writes Mr. Sennott in “Obama’s War”:

Afghanistan just became Obama’s war.image

He owns it now.

The same way Johnson came to own Vietnam and Bush will always own Iraq.

Mr. Sennott added: “Obama put his presidential signature on the war in Afghanistan Friday with his announcement of a fundamental shift in strategy, a surge of more than 21,000 troops and a widening of the theater to include Pakistan.”

I think my fellow Hyde Parker will eventually regret committing so much to a hopeless cause. Only the Afghans can fix Afghanistan. Everyone else involving in the country will eventually end up in an Afghan grave, return home, go crazy and go on to the next hotspot.

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March 26, 2009

Human Rights Watch's Letter to President Obama on U.S. Afghan Policy

On March 26, 2009, Human Rights Watch published a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama “regarding the new US policy towards Afghanistan, which we understand you are announcing tomorrow [March 27, 2009]. The U.S. has been war in Afghanistan since October 7, 2001.

Human Rights Watch, which “has worked on Afghanistan for many years” and has published “many reports on the human rights situation” in the country, said it

welcomes the clear commitment to Afghanistan that has already been demonstrated by the Obama administration through public statements, the appointment of a special representative, and the initiation of several policy reviews. We do not underestimate the scale of the challenges presented by ground realities in Afghanistan.
“But,” Human Rights Watch added, “we expect that in implementing your new strategy, your administration will address the failures and weaknesses of the past seven years, while building on areas that have been more successful.”

If you want to read the entire letter, please see “Human Rights Watch Letter to President Barack Obama on Afghanistan.”

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March 23, 2009

Wanted: A Consistent U.S. Position on Mexico

Denise Dresser, a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times' Opinion section and a columnist for the Mexico City-based newspaper Reforma, offers an insightful analysis of the often prickly relationship between Mexico and the United States as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton prepares to hold talks with Mexican officials March 26-28, 2009.

Ms. Dresser, a professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, writing in a March 23, 2009, opinion piece in the The Times headlined "The U.S. needs to unmix the message in Mexico," said as Secretary Clinton "prepares for her trip this week to Mexico, she needs to pack not only goodwill but a consistent U.S. position."

So, what should Ms. Clinton do? According to Ms. Dresser:

Clinton needs to set the record straight and tell both the Mexican government and the Mexican people what the U.S. wants, what it is prepared to do and what it expects in return.

She said, "The current void is being filled in a way that doesn't bode well for joint solutions to shared problems. July's midterm elections in Mexico are pushing Calderon to adopt knee-jerk nationalistic stances, because nothing unites Mexicans more than a good dose of anti-Americanism," Ms. Dresser added. "And in the U.S., the message vis-a-vis Mexico is often dominated by Republican hard-liners who would like to turn the border into the next political battleground."

I recommend Ms. Dresser's analysis to anyone interested in U.S.-Mexico diplomatic relations.

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March 22, 2009

Is Global Economic Crisis Too Complex for World's Elected Leaders?

Robert Dujarric,  director of the Institute of Contemporary Japanese Studies at Temple University Japan in Tokyo, and Andy Zelleke, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University’s esteemed John F. Kennedy School of Government and co-director of Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, makes timely observation about world politicians’ limited international focus and how it hampers their efforts to cope with the current, global economic crisis. They analyze the reasons for this myopia in an informative analysis in the March 23, 2009, edition of The Christian Science Monitor headlined Wanted: elected leaders with international experience: For example, they assert:

As the world's leaders prepare for the G-20 meeting [in London starting April 2, 2009] to discuss the economic meltdown, international cooperation is key if we are to find the road to recovery. Analysts get that. Unfortunately, many of the world's politicians don't seem to.


Part of the reason is that politicians are used to working for votes; noncitizens don't vote. Therefore, unlike corporate executives with customers, suppliers, and shareholders from the four corners of the world, politicians tend to focus narrowly.

The authors contend that, “Another factor is that while global companies are free to recruit executives from many nationalities, national governments and bureaucracies limit themselves to citizens of their own country. They're just not built to think globally.

So, what should be done about it? How can the problem be dealt with in the short-term? Mr. Dujarric and Mr. Zelleke offer some suggestions, which you may or may not agree with. Read their article and join the debate.

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March 8, 2009

Where is President Obama’s Afghan Policy?

Russ Hoyle at The Daily Beast asserts in a March 7, 2009, post headlined “Obama’s All Action, No Strategy in Afghanistan”:

The Obama administration announced last week it will lead a conference on Afghanistan and has even invited Iran, its western neighbor, to the table. Obama has also opened the door to reaching out to the Taliban. But the diplomacy is running ahead of the policy, which so far is unknown.

imageWhile I support Mr. Obama’s proposed diplomatic effort in Afghanistan, I think his plan to send more troops to Afghanistan is misguided and will be disastrous. While I wish he hadn’t approved any, I’m pleased that he approved “only 17,000 of the 30,000 troops requested by General David McKiernan, the top commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, and Gen. David Petraeus, the CENTCOM commander, after McKiernan was unable to tell him how they would be used.” See investigative historian and journalist Gareth Porter’s February 20, 2009, Inter-Press Service article headlined “US-Afghanistan: Obama Nixed Full Surge After Quizzing Brass.”

Frankly, too many U.S. and NATO lives have been lost and too much money wasted in the U.S.-NATO war in Afghanistan, which began on October 7, 2001, and, from a historical perspective, is unwinnable militarily. Even some U.S. and British military officials have conceded as much although Mr. Obama told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in a February 17, 2009, interview broadcast from the Map Room of the White House:

Afghanistan is still winnable, in the sense of our ability to ensure that it is not a launching pad for attacks against North America.

"I think it's still possible for us to stamp out al Qaeda to make sure that extremism is not expanding but rather is contracting.''

"I think all those goals are still possible, but I think that as a consequence to the war on Iraq, we took our eye off the ball. We have not been as focused as we need to be on all the various steps that are needed in order to deal with Afghanistan.

Regardless, Its time to bring U.S. troops home. The greater cost of not doing so will be falling into the trap that befell the Soviet Union when it invaded Afghanistan in 1979 thinking it could win a war in the landlocked nation and impose its Communist vision on a tribal-based society. In the end, the Soviet Union’s superior weaponry was no match for Afghan  guerillas.

Of course the U.S. and some  Arab nations helped the Afghan Mujahideen with military resources. Also, Arab and Muslim fighters from all over the world fought on the side of the Mujahideen. However, most of the actual fighting was done by the Afghans. If the U.S. keeps killing civilians in Afghanistan, the world’s only superpower could face a war of liberation carried out by the people it thinks it’s helping.

Hopefully, the Obama’s Administration’s review of the Afghan situation will convince the president to cut U.S. loses and let Afghanistan settle its own political problems. Don’t send anymore troops.

Sure, the West will need to help them economically, if it wants to replace the country’s lucrative opium crop, which ends up consumed in the West. But instead of just giving Afghanistan money, buy rights to run a pipeline line through the country to the Pakistani port city of Karachi so Caspian Sea oil and gas can reach the West without going through Iran.

Finally, if Al-Qaeda is in Pakistan, as has been stated by various U.S. officials, how are U.S. troops in Afghanistan going to solve that problem? The drones used to attack al-Qaeda are based in Pakistan. The fight should not be with the Taliban, who did not attack the U.S. although it gave Al-Qaeda sanctuary. This parochial band of fighters probably can be dealt with through diplomatic efforts launched in conjunction with Pakistan. Since Pakistan sponsors the Taliban, let Pakistan diffuse them.

Give it a try, Mr. President. Take the $11 billion a month you’ve earmarked for war in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2010 and spend it at home.

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Why U.S. Supported ICC on Arrest Warrant For Sudan's Omar al-Bashir

What is the Obama Administration's official position on the International Criminal Court's March 4, 2009, issuance of an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir? According to Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations:

The United States supports the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) actions to hold accountable those imageresponsible for the heinous crimes in Darfur. We remain determined in our pursuit of both peace and justice in Sudan. The people of Sudan have suffered too much for too long, and an end to their anguish will not come easily. Those who committed atrocities in Sudan, including genocide, should be brought to justice.  U.N. Security Council Resolution 1593, which referred the crimes in Darfur to the ICC, requires the Government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict to cooperate fully with the ICC and its prosecutor and urges all states and concerned regional organizations to cooperate fully.
The United States expects restraint from all involved – the Government of Sudan, armed rebel groups, and others. No one should use the ICC’s decision as a pretext to incite or launch violence against civilians or international personnel. The safety and security of all civilians, international personnel, and UN and African Union peacekeepers in Sudan must be respected. We will continue to work with all parties for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to bring an end to the conflict between North and South Sudan. The U.S. urges all parties to engage seriously with the Joint Chief Mediator of the UN and the African Union, Djibril Bassole, as he works to halt the hostilities in Darfur and to forge a political settlement that will bring lasting peace, justice, and security to the people of Darfur.

The U.S. has not ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It has also withdrawn its original signature. However, when he was a U.S. Senator, Barack Obama, the U.S. President, said the U.S. should be a signatory to the treaty and abide by it.

Meanwhile, according to Gerald Warner of the London Daily Telegraph, "America helped defeat a proposal that the warrant for Bashir should be suspended for 12 months - which would have been a welcome respite for the soup kitchens of Darfur. This is a policy change of considerable significance." See "Barack Obama may subject US troops to International Criminal Court."

For more information on the ICC, see the "Basic Legal Texts" that governs rules of evidence and other legal procedures. It's quite comprehensive.

Note: This article was first posted at The U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor & Review, a blog dealing specifically with U.S. foreign policy.

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The U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor & Review Update

As you can tell, I haven't posted at The Diplomatic Times Review in a while despite many significant diplomatic and international events worthy of attention. Instead, I've spent considerable attention at The U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor & Review, trying to get it up and running. I intend to post several pieces here this week.

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