November 2009 Archives

November 18, 2009

‘We Must Redefine What it Means to be Pro-Israel’

Former U.S. Federal Trade Commission Attorney Ralph E. Stone, who writes regularly on international affairs, asserts in a November 15, 2009, post in the Californian Chronicle, which was also published at  Fog City Journal.com, says, “Now is the time for a long overdue debate on our current Israeli foreign policy.” He adds:

The fallout from Israel´s 2006 war with Lebanon and its 2009 invasion of the Gaza strip has made many Americans view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a new light. It was David (Israel) versus Goliath (the Arab ring states). For many, Israel is now seen as the neighborhood bully.
According to Mr. Stone, “It is unrealistic for the U.S. to suddenly become neutral in all things Middle East, but we must end our lockstep support of Israel with little or no public debate. Instead, we must redefine what it means to be pro-Israel.”

If you want to read more, please see “Redefining U.S. – Israel Foreign Policy.”

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November 17, 2009

Is U.S.’ AfPak Policy a Mistake?

Shahid Javed Burki, an writer at the Pakistani publication Dawn.Com, states emphatically in a November 17, 2009, post that, “Pakistan is not Afghanistan. See “AfPak policy a mistake.” He contends:

By coupling the two countries together and calling it ‘AfPak,’ the United States’ intention was to make policymaking simpler. It may have had the opposite effect.

Mr. Burki said, “The idea was that by lumping Afghanistan and Pakistan into one analytical framework, Washington and its allies would be able to focus on one geographic entity and would be able to use the same strategy to counter the threat posed to the West by the rise of Islamic extremism.”

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November 14, 2009

Recommended: ‘Fort Hood & the Perversion of Language…’

Jason Adams, a resident of Hudson, Wisconsin, USA, posted the best analysis I’ve read to date on the news coverage surrounding Major Nidal Malik Hassan’s alleged killing and wounding of U.S. soldiers and civilians at Forth Hood Texas, USA, on November 5, 2009. See Mr. Adam’s November 12, 2009, Dissident Voice post headlined Fort Hood & the Perversion of Language: “The Shooter Was a Soldier.”

Even if you don’t like what the Dissident Voice represents – it’s described as “a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice” -- read Mr. Adams’ post anyway. Don’t just read it, reflect on what he has to say.

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November 12, 2009

Is Turkey Disillusioned With Europe?

Daniel Steinvorth, writing from Istanbul, Turkey for the German magazine Der Spiegel, says in an article translated from German and posted November 13, 2009 at the English language Spiegel International Online: “As European opposition to EU membership for Turkey grows, Ankara is looking to forge closer ties to its neighbors.”

“Turkey wants to once again become a leading power in the Middle East -- but its relationship with Israel may suffer as a result,” he asserts.

I highly recommend “Disillusioned with Europe, Turkey Looks East.”

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November 11, 2009

Is Rahm Emanuel ‘Trying to Isolate Israel From America’?

Steve Clemon’s informative and influential blog The Washington Note has a November 6, 2009, post by Nahum Barnea, a correspondent for Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth, that I highly recommend. It’s headlined “Does Netanyahu Believe Rahm Emanuel is Trying to Isolate Israel from America?

If Mr. Barnea’s analysis of the relationship between the Obama Administration and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is accurate, is he suggesting that President Barack Obama is trying to forge an even-handed Middle East policy while others in his administration wants him to continue the Israel-is- my-friend at all cost policy that has been the cornerstone of U.S. Middle East policy for 60-years? Just asking.

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Dawn.com Describes ‘Sri Lanka’s Post-War Scenario’

The Pakistani publication Dawn.com reported November 11, 2009, that, “Having won [34-year old] war [in Sri Lanka], the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa is now struggling to win the peace.” Reporter Irfan Husain writes:

image  After the fighting ended in May, over a quarter of a million Tamils found themselves in enclosed camps, living in appalling conditions. But gradually, the situation has improved, and according to the UN, nearly a hundred thousand internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been released. But whether they have much to return to is questionable.
Mr. Husain said, “Years of fighting have devastated their villages and farms, apart from wrecking the infrastructure in the north and the east.”

Mr. Irfan’s post, which I highly recommend, is headlined “Sri Lanka’s post-war scenario.”

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November 10, 2009

Why Isn’t There Debate on Ending U.S. Role in the Afghan War?

“While [U.S] President Barack Obama reviews his strategy on Afghanistan, a perfect moment to send a strong unified message to end the war is slipping through our fingers,” wrote Sonali Kolhatkar, a Foreign Policy In Focus contributor and co-director of the Afghan Women's Mission and co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence, in a November 2, 2009, post in Foreign Policy in Focus. She adds:

 image Whether it's because we seem to have bought into the lies about the goals of this war or because we mistakenly feel that a Democratic president is going to come to the right conclusion on his own, one thing is clear: There's no debate within the Democratic Party or in the White House about whether to end the war. The only thing being debated is how to continue the war.

Ms. Kolhatkar says, “Similarly, there's little debate among progressives about how this is a bad war, and at the very least we need an exit strategy. Paralysis has set in on the particular manner of ending the war: whether to wait for some sort of "peace process," to pull out troops now versus later, to preserve troop levels until Afghanistan's women are safe, or some variation of these questions,” she asserts. “We're in a bizarre situation: As Obama waffles on how to continue the war in Afghanistan, progressives are waffling on how to end the war.”

If you want to read the entire post, please see “A Call for Clarity on the Afghanistan War.”

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Foreign Policy: ‘Afghanistan is Neither Vietnam nor Iraq’

William Tobey, a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center, notes in a November 10, 2009 post at Foreign Policy’s informative AfPak blog that, “As President Obama contemplates a new strategy in Afghanistan, Washington is obsessed with whether the best analogy to the conflict lies in Vietnam or Iraq, with attendant and obvious implications for policy. Of course,” he adds, “Afghanistan has little in common with either Vietnam or Iraq in terms of history, geography, culture, or politics. There is, however, a more apt analogy, and it involves the very area in dispute.”

For analysis and a brief history of the area referred to, please see Mr. Tobey’s post headlined “Afghanistan is neither Vietnam nor Iraq.”

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November 9, 2009

The Political Fallout From Britain’s Afghanistan Adventure

“Ever since Alexander the Great was wounded by a Pashtun archer’s arrow in 327BC Afghanistan has been known as the graveyard of empires,” writes the Times Online’s Rachel Sylvester in a November 10, 2009 post. “It is now becoming increasingly clear that it could be the cemetery of political careers [in Britain] as well — although that is perhaps an inappropriate metaphor given that more than 230 real bodies have so far been buried during the current campaign,”  she asserts. See “Graveyard of empires could claim more careers.”

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Will Americans Accept More Troops Being Sent to Afghanistan?

Frank C. Schell III, Dean’s International Council of the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago, in the United States, contends in a November 10, 2009 article in the Far Eastern Economic Review that, “The idea of deploying additional American forces can be sold to the American people if certain criteria are met.”

To read about that criteria, please see “The U.S. Needs a New Af-Pak Strategy.”

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November 8, 2009

The Left and Right’s Errors in Reporting Fort Hood Killings

I highly recommend New York University professor Jonathan Zimmerman’s post at The Christian Science Monitor online headlined “Fort Hood: What the right and the left have gotten wrong about Hasan.”

Hasan is Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who on November 5, 2009, reportedly killed 13 people and injured 30 or more.

Also see “After Fort Hood shooting: attention on Muslims in US military.” I hope a situation doesn’t develop where Muslims and Christians in the military start shooting at each other or eye each other suspiciously on the battlefield. Such and unfortunate occurrence will spill over into civilian life.

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China’s $10 Billion Promise to Africa

Daniel Williams and Mahmoud Kassem of Bloomberg.com reports in an article dated November 9, 2009, that, “China promised $10 billion in cheap loans to Africa, pledged to cut customs duties and distributed a newspaper with photos of Chinese leaders among beaming Africans, as part of an effort to fight claims it is exploiting the continent’s minerals.”

To read more, please see “China Gives Africa $10 Billion as It Fights Exploitation Charge.”

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Africa’s Resources Still a Draw for World’s Big Powers

Marcia Klein of Times Live of South Africa reported November 8, 2009, that “Recent high-level visits to Africa by both the US and China point to an increasing interest in further investment in the continent by both countries.”

According to Times Live, “Resources are still the attraction, but other potential is being eyed.” For more, please see “Africa Draws Big Powers.”

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Is Pakistan Creating Another Enemy? If so, Why?

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, a co-founder of Pulse Media, “a collaborative political weblog featuring work by a variety of writers, activists and academics based in five continents,” has an insightful analysis in Le Monde Diplomatique of Pakistan’s war against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan. See “Pakistan creates its own enemy.” According to Mr. Ahmad:

The recent entry of 28,000 Pakistani troops into South Waziristan has precipitated yet another mass exodus; a third of the population has been displaced. Though the Pakistani Taliban have few supporters left, Associated Press (AP) found refugees venting their anger at the government with chants of “Long live the Taliban”. Instead of winning hearts and minds, the government is delivering them to the enemy.
Mr. Ahmad added: “If the Pakistani Taliban are disliked, the government is disliked more. Despite the best efforts of the elite to take ownership of the war, the notion persists that Pakistan is fighting an American war, a view that will be harder to dispute following reports that the attack on Waziristan is being assisted by US drone surveillance.”

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U.S. Army chief of staff: ‘We Need Additional Forces in Afghanistan…’

General George Casey, the U.S. Army chief of staff, stated November 8, 2009, on the NBC program Meet the Press that, he believes “we need to put additional forces into Afghanistan to give General [Stanley] McChrystal the ability to both dampen the successes of the Taliban while we train the Afghan security forces.” Below is the excerpt from the Meet the Press Transcript pertaining to Afghanistan. The questions are from Meet the Press host David Gregory.

GREGORY: Before you go this morning, there are reports about the president narrowing down a choice, image about 34,000 additional troops for Afghanistan. Can you say if he's moving in that direction?

CASEY: I -- I can't. Those -- we'll have some discussions with him I think over the course of the next weeks, and he'll make his decision, and then I'll give him my best professional advice.

GREGORY: Are you a proponent of additional forces?

CASEY: I -- I believe that we need to put additional forces into Afghanistan to give General McChrystal the ability to both dampen the successes of the Taliban while we train the Afghan security forces.

GREGORY: And the 40,000 you think is appropriate, that level?

CASEY: I'm not going to comment on any specific number.

U.S. President Barack Obama is reviewing his options on Afghanistan and is expected to soon announce a new strategy. I hope he says no to additional troops and order those there home. If the Afghans don’t want to be ruled by the Taliban and are tired of their warlords let them fight to get rid of them. Here is great argument why U.S. troops should leave Afghanistan.

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November 7, 2009

Is President Obama Responsible for Abbas’ Political Decisions?

The Nation’s Robert Dreyfus contends in a November 6, 2009 column in The Dreyfus Report that “The announcement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he will not run for reelection is the exclamation point on the utter collapse of the Obama administration's Middle East policy.” He adds:
Launched to great expectations -- the appointment of George Mitchell, Obama's Cairo declaration that the plight of the Palestinians is intolerable -- it is now in complete disarray.
Mr. Dreyfus said, “It is, without doubt, the first major defeat for Obama's hope-and-change foreign policy.”
imageDoes this mean that Mr. Obama is responsible for what Mr. Abbas does politically? I don’t think so. Besides, it’s good to see an  Arab leader who doesn’t think he should be President for life.

Secondly, if President Obama and President Abbas really want a lasting, Israeli-Palestinian peace solution they will have to use coercive power against the U.S. Congress, which runs interference in the United States for Israel. Mr. Abbas and other Palestinian leaders don’t have coercive power that could influence congress. Consequently, they will not be able to make headway where it counts.

As for Mr. Obama, his domestic agenda currently has precedence over his Middle East agenda. In the long run, however, I think his Middle East policy will be more successful than any other U.S. President.  Why? his activist citizens political organization can run interference for him when the pressure to maintain the status quo mounts.

If you want to read Mr. Dreyfus’ entire article, please see “Obama Fails in Middle East.”

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‘The Pakistan-Iran border is On the Boil Again’

On November 2, 2009, Nasim Zehra, an Islamabad, Pakistan-based security analyst, noted in The International News of Pakistan that, “The Pakistan-Iran border is on the boil again.” According to the analyst, “the current problem” is one “of the depleting trust and absence of sustained and structured cooperation between South-West Asia’s two historically close neighbours.” See “Beyond the Jundullah attacks.”

The problems are serious. As Mr. Zehra notes:

On Oct 26 [2009] the Iranian state media reported that 11 Iranian Revolutionary Guards arrested by Pakistan’s security forces had accidentally strayed into Pakistan territory. They were reportedly pursuing suspected fuel smugglers. The unofficial Pakistani version is that the Revolutionary Guards, one of Iran’s most powerful and politically strong fighting force, entered Pakistan territory in two jeeps probably in hot pursuit. Its having taken place within a week of the deadly Oct 18 [2009] Jundullah attack in Iran, this hot pursuit most likely involved suspected Jundullah men. Significantly, immediately after the Oct 18 attack a senior Revolutionary Guards commander had publicly demanded that his force be given permission to confront terrorists inside Pakistan. This was a demand raised with Pakistani officials during the recent visit of the Iranian minister of interior.
The analyst said, “Within hours of the Oct 18 attack, in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province, a string of well-coordinated public statements criticising Pakistan came from senior Iranian officials, both civil and military. Some, like the Revolutionary Guards, directly blamed Pakistani agencies, others blamed the United States. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that Pakistani territory was used for the attack. Pakistan acted fast to prevent the situation from getting worse, and this effort included President Asif Ali Zardari’s call to his Iranian counterpart.”

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November 6, 2009

Asian Times Writer Foresees an Entity Called Pashtunistan

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The U.S. House of Representatives for Israel

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Is Turkey’s Erdogan a Model for Middle East Leaders?

Aijaz Zaka Syed, opinion editor of The Khaleej Times of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has an article in the November 5-11, 2009 edition of Egypt’s Al-Ahram Weekly Online in which he asserts that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan exhibits the political courage and candor all Middle East leaders should exude.

Turkey's Ottoman Empire died a quiet death nearly a century ago,” Aijaz Zaka Syed writes. “But the country continues to enjoy a unique eminence of leadership across the Middle East and in much of the Muslim world. And Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly justified this love and respect for Turkey with his political courage and candour.”

To read why the writer makes this argument, please see “We need more Erdogans.”

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Asia Times Online’s Pepe Escobar’s Foresees an Entity Called Pashtunistan

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Is Kashmir the ‘Forgotten Front’?

Kashmir is a void in U.S. foreign policy, all the more noticeable for its absence in our diplomats' discourse,” writes Joshua Gross, a former “director of media relations for the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington,” D.C, USA, in a November 6, 2009, post at Foreign Policy’s AfPak blog. Adds Mr. Gross:

Ashley Tellis, a former political adviser in the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, told journalist Steve Coll earlier this year that the best advice for the Obama administration was to "keep hands off." The conventional wisdom image holds that prospects for peace are too fragile for a ham-fisted American mediation that pushes India and Pakistan too hard, too fast. In a region where capitulating to the Americans is political suicide, our good intentions would surely backfire.

However, the "hands off" approach ensures the prolongation of a perilous status quo.  A perpetually unstable South Asia flooded with jihadi groups, with two combustible nuclear powers, undermines U.S. national security. In the interim, American troops are caught in the web of a conflict dynamic that extends far beyond the borders of Afghanistan.

Mr. Gross thinks “The Obama Administration must finalize the next steps for America's strategy in Afghanistan with a regional perspective. In the quest to stabilize Afghanistan, breaking the diplomatic impasse over Kashmir is a necessity, not a luxury."

If you want to read more, please see “The forgotten front."

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Condolences to Fort Hood Families

I  extend my condolences to the families of the 13 U.S. soldiers and civilians killed at Fort Hood, Texas, USA, on November 5, 2009, reportedly by a fellow solider. I pray they find at least a moment peace as they absorb the shock of the death of their loved ones and our fellow citizens.

I wished the injured a speedy recovery and the perpetrator a speedy trial.

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November 5, 2009

The Growing Debate and Frustration Over Afghanistan

On March 27, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama, who is under immense pressure from the right and the left in the U.S. as he contemplates whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, told the nation and the world:

As President, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people…We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States, our friends and allies, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists. So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future…To achieve our goals, we need a stronger, smarter and comprehensive strategy.
image He is still reviewing his strategy amid growing American and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) deaths in Afghanistan. Andrew Grice, political editor of The Independent of London asserts in a November 6, 2009 post that Mr. Obama  is coming under mounting international pressure to make an early decision on his strategy in Afghanistan amid fears of a dangerous drift as he agonises over his next moves.” See “Frustration mounts over Obama's fatal indecision.”

The Daily Telegraph of London claims it “has learned that there is growing frustration in Whitehall at the US president’s prolonged deliberations over Afghanistan.” See “Barack Obama's 'dithering' hurts Afghan mission, British sources say.” Writes Political Correspondent James  Kirkup:

Since early September, Mr Obama has been considering a review of Afghan strategy by General Stanley McChrystal, who has advised the president to send an extra 40,000 US troops to Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Tom Gjelten at National Public Radio in the United States says: “Before American commanders and policymakers settle on what to do next in Afghanistan, they need to agree on whom they are fighting. Is the enemy the Taliban, al-Qaida or some other force?” See “Defining 'The Enemy' In Afghanistan.”

I think he may have a point here. Just who is the U.S. fighting and why? Former US Foreign Service Officer Matthew P. Hoh provides one of the best arguments for not sending more troops to Afghanistan and bringing home those already there.

For more on the Afghanistan War debate, please see:

Obama's Partisan Balancing Act on AfghanistanU.S. News & World Report

Recognizing the Limits of American Power in AfghanistanThe Huffington Post

Anti-American rumors gain traction in AfghanistanThe Baltimore Sun

Matthew Hoh resigns to stir debate on Afghanistan. Mission accomplishedThe Christian Science Monitor

Getting lost in AfghanistanGuardian.co.uk

Karzai as Diem – Antiwar.com

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