Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cheney's Hosts

It's interesting to contrast the failed Taliban attack on Dick Cheney with the nearly successful mortaring of a whole delegation of Western ambassadors in Sri Lanka on a UN-sponsored trip, which is presented as a triumph for Turtle Bay's prestige. Der Spiegel depicts a suicide attempt on Bagram airbase as an assassination attempt on Dick Cheney and suggests the Talibanization is now getting the upper hand in Afghanistan.  While nothing actually happened to Cheney the reportage suggests that the media, now sure that America will leave Iraq,  have turned their sights on what was formerly the "good war" in Afghanistan. One down, another to go.


Cheney reported he heard a "loud bang" at about 10 a.m., adding that Secret Service agents briefly took him to a bunker before he continued working. ...  Despite countless checkpoints on the road to Bagram, the attacker managed to drive his carload of explosives all the way to the base's outermost security perimeter. The bomb in his car caused a tremendous explosion that could be seen from kilometers away. In addition to the attacker himself, the bomb killed at least 12 Afghans -- and possibly more -- in addition to two international soldiers, though casualty reports varied widely.

Although Der Spiegel isn't sure the Taliban was responsible it pretty much gives them the credit.

Not even an hour had passed before the radical Islamists from the Taliban had proudly taken credit for the attack. Their myriad press spokesmen went into action, contacting wire services by sat-phone make sure credit was given where credit was due. "We knew Cheney had remained at the base overnight," said Kari Yousef Ahmadi, adding that "our man wanted to get through to him and kill him." As if to prove his words, Ahmadi also cited the identity of the attacker. It is still unclear, however, whether the identity given is correct. But even if the Taliban's claims don't prove 100 percent accurate, the incident on Tuesday morning is disconcerting news for the troops in Afghanistan. ... It was clearly "a planned attack," the [NATO] officer said, since the planners knew "that Cheney was still in the base" -- and even if the goal was not achieved, the message was understood.

And News 24, largely on subcontinental sources goes on to conclude that the Islamists had penetrated the highest circles in the host countries.

"This shows how much the militants have penetrated the intelligence of the Afghan security forces. It is a most shocking attack," retired Pakistani general turned analyst Talat Masood told AFP. Cheney's visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan were unannounced and shrouded in even tighter secrecy than when US President George W Bush travelled to the two countries in March 2006. Author Ahmed Rashid, who has written a book on the Taliban, said the bombing was a "very provocative" move by the Taliban. "They were waiting for a high-level visit to carry out an attack. This visit, although highly secretive, was known in circles in Kabul and Islamabad," he said.

Which wouldn't surprise anyone and why, perhaps, Cheney kept his travel plans close and stayed at Bagram Air Base rather than a host-provided guest house. The hosts themselves are divided. Coalition operations in Afghanistan takes place amidst a low-level civil war within both societies. And just as America could not avoid becoming embroiled in the rivalries between Sunni and Shi'a by its mere presence in Iraq, it is probably unlikely to expect the US to stay completely aloof from the internal squabbles of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It will always be a factor, however indirectly.

Pakistan in particular is both enemy and friend. Bill Roggio, in an online exchange with Kathy Gannon of the AP at the Council for Foreign Relations doubts Pakistan is doing all it can to secure the borders. Gannon agrees, but seems to advocate changing sides in the internal conflicts in both countries as the key to mission success. It is ludicrous to attempt military operations in such a vast region, she says. "The much bigger issue is Washington’s choice of partners in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. The institutional and political changes that will bring stability to both sides of the Durand line that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan depends on who is running those countries." Ergo, change who's running the show on both sides of the border.

"In Pakistan, Washington has partnered with the military, having learned nothing from history. The last time it partnered with the military was with [former dictator] Zia-ul Haq, who embraced and nurtured Islamic extremists. President Pervez Musharraf might not want Islamic extremists to dictate governance but he wants the military in power, and in Pakistan that means a partnership with the country’s Islamic right wing. That’s a fact of life in Pakistan."

Actually, Washington has learned contradictory things from history. Not very long ago in the Middle East, America was constantly criticized for "partnering" with despots like Saddam Hussein which supposedly generated the resentments against the US which culminated in 9/11. So it toppled the despot and has spent the last four years trying to build a democratic society in Iraq, complete with elections. Gannon never spells out just which democrats and civilians in Pakistan or tribal leaders in Afghanistan should be the right American partners to replace the wrong ones. Or how they are to be replaced.  The other notion which is apparently respectable with Gannon in Southwest Asia is the idea of taking sides. One reason given for evacuating Iraq immediately is that any further stay will force America to "take sides" and yet Gannon, in critiquing the Southwest Asian theater of operations, chastises the US for taking the wrong side in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The tension between dealing with strongmen in power and subverting them is a longstanding dilemma in American foreign policy. The first has been called "realism" but the second, Gannon may be surprised to discover, once went by the name colonialism not so long ago. It was common in the 19th century for His Majesty's Government to change a local leader when he proved too inefficient, corrupt or intractable to "bring stability". Today the United States may still have to do both. On most occasions, it should deal with existing governments, however unsavory because they are the result of the actual political processes within that country. Whatever their Constitutions say on paper, the people of Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan may employ larger quantities of ammunition and explosive in the leadership selection process than the West is commonly accustomed. However, as both Roggio and Gannon note, there will be times when America will be sore tempted to act more intrusively. After all, if some elements in the "host" countries fail to seal the border, provide sanctuary for al-Qaeda or collaborate in assassination attempts on the American Vice President then even "realism" requires one to recognize the fact. In the 21st century must be both a "normal" country and hegemon; depending on the situation. The key foreign policy choice is know when to be one or the other and where on the continuum to lie.

BTW, for styalistic contrast, the Guardian describes a mortar attack on a diplomatic helicopter landing in Sri Lanka as a triumph of prestige for the United Nations, which organized the ambassador's trip to an area torn apart by fighting with the Tamil Tigers. It really illustrates how the small and medium sized powers can do no better than America. By any standard, the Congo, Sudan and Sri Lanka must rank as among the worst fiascos in international "peacemaking". Perhaps the reason many people continue to think so highly of the UN is that we never trust them with anything important. And this last failure in Sri Lanka can be dismissed with an amused shrug. But American involvements are of an existential nature. And in both cases, the struggle goes on to find a formula for success.

 Italy's ambassador to Sri Lanka was treated for shrapnel injuries to the head today after three aircraft ferrying members of a high-level delegation came under artillery and mortar attack from Tamil Tiger rebels. ... Besides the Italian envoy, Pio Mariani, the delegation included ambassadors from the US, Germany, France, the EU and Japan, as well as the Canadian high commissioner and UN officials. ...

The rebels began firing minutes after the first helicopter had landed. Shortly after the diplomats had disembarked, a mortar shell exploded close to the helicopter, causing some damage to the aircraft. "It would have been a catastrophic blunder by the Tamil Tigers if they had scored a direct hit while the western envoys were inside the helicopter," said Jehan Perera, the director of the Colombo-based National Peace Council. "It was a very lucky escape." ...

While owning up to the mortar attack, the rebels blamed the Sri Lankan government for not informing them that a high-level international delegation was being flown to Batticalao. "We are shocked by the grave negligence of the security arrangements for the diplomats by the Sri Lankan government," the Tamil Tiger's military spokesman, Irasiah Ilanthirayan, said on the rebel's website. "We immediately ceased fire as soon as we were notified of the presence of foreign diplomats by a UN official." The UN announced later that the assistance mission had been cancelled and the envoys flown back to Colombo.

14 Comments:

Blogger Tarnsman said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/27/2007 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

The deafening silence of the MSM on the attempted assassination of the Vice President is surreal. Maybe it's because they know they couldn't wipe the smirk off their faces when reporting the news.

2/27/2007 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Cruiser said...

I would not be suprised if the suicide attack on Cheney was the ISI's response to Cheney's demand that Pakistan crack down on the Taliban and AQ elements in its tribal areas. Talk about hardball.

Seems like it would be a good time for some madrassa's to go boom. Perhaps a few ranking members of the ISI can suffer an accident - like a helo crash.

2/27/2007 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Cruiser said...

It would be a shame if something should happen to your intelligence services, Mr. Musharraf.

This reminds me of one of my favorite Monty Python skits:

Sergeant Two civilian gentlemen to see you ... sir!

Colonel Show them in please, sergeant.

Sergeant Mr Dino Vercotti and Mr Luigi Vercotti.
The Vercotti brothers enter. They wear Mafia suits and dark glasses.

Dino Good morning, colonel.

Colonel Good morning gentlemen.
Now what can I do for you.

Luigi (looking round office casually)You've ... you've got a nice army base here, colonel.

Colonel Yes.

Luigi We wouldn't want anything to happen to it.

Colonel What?

Dino No, what my brother means is it would be a shame if... (he knocks something off mantel)

Colonel Oh.

Dino Oh sorry, colonel.

Colonel Well don't worry about that. But please do sit down.

Luigi No, we prefer to stand, thank you, colonel.

Colonel All right. All right. But what do you want?

Dino What do we want, ha ha ha.

Luigi Ha ha ha, very good, colonel.

Dino The colonel's a joker, Luigi.

Luigi Explain it to the colonel, Dino.

Dino How many tanks you got, colonel?

Colonel About five hundred altogether.

Luigi Five hundred! Hey!

Dino You ought to be careful, colonel.

Colonel We are careful, extremely careful.

Dino 'Cos things break, don't they?

Colonel Break?

Luigi Well everything breaks, don't it colonel. (he breaks something on desk) Oh dear.

Dino Oh see my brother's clumsy colonel, and when he gets unhappy he breaks things. Like say, he don't feel the army's playing fair by him, he may start breaking things, colonel.

Colonel What is all this about?

Luigi How many men you got here, colonel?

Colonel Oh, er ... seven thousand infantry, six hundred artillery, and er, two divisions of paratroops.

Luigi Paratroops, Dino.

Dino Be a shame if someone was to set fire to them.

Colonel Set fire to them?

Luigi Fires happen, colonel.

Dino Things burn.

Colonel Look, what is all this about?

Dino My brother and I have got a little proposition for you colonel.

Luigi Could save you a lot of bother.

Dino I mean you're doing all right here aren't you, colonel.

Luigi Well suppose some of your tanks was to get broken and troops started getting lost, er, fights started breaking out during general inspection, like.

Dino It wouldn't be good for business would it, colonel?

Colonel Are you threatening me?

Dino Oh, no, no, no.

Luigi Whatever made you think that, colonel?

Dino The colonel doesn't think we're nice people, Luigi.

Luigi We're your buddies, colonel.

Dino We want to look after you.
Colonel Look after me?

Luigi We can guarantee you that not a single armoured division will get done over for fifteen bob a week.


Sorry for the long post Wretchard.

2/27/2007 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Wretchard said . . .
The tension between dealing with strongmen in power and subverting them is a longstanding dilemma in American foreign policy. The first has been called "realism" but the second, Gannon may be surprised to discover, once went by the name colonialism not so long ago. It was common in the 19th century for His Majesty's Government to change a local leader when he proved too inefficient, corrupt or intractable to "bring stability". Today the United States may still have to do both.

Well, well, well! Realism . . . back on the menu? And at the Belmont Club no less? Only took a couple of years. It's interesting to note all the problems and blunders laid at the feet of realism by the neocons after 9/11, and yet, the alternative, which Wretchard labels colonialism hasn't exactly calmed down the excitable Arab world has it?

After all, if some elements in the "host" countries fail to seal the border, provide sanctuary for al-Qaeda or collaborate in assassination attempts on the American Vice President then even "realism" requires one to recognize the fact. In the 21st century must be both a "normal" country and hegemon; depending on the situation. The key foreign policy choice is know when to be one or the other and where on the continuum to lie.

True, perhaps, but it begs the question: what other domestic options are available for US partnership in Pakistan and Iraq? The fundamental hubris behind the latest formulation of American colonialism was that it could socially engineer allies through big government liberalism. That sad, thin faith has almost entirely been lost, which leaves the US dealing with the social forces in the Muslim World as they are, not as we see them in our globalized dreams. So, if not Musharaff, then who else?

2/27/2007 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Wretchard:

You end you comments with the following statement.

...the struggle goes on to find a formula for success.


Excuse me, but if we were "successful", how would the media ever let us know? When "success" in a war means an absence of news while any defeat is automatically newsworthy, the news media will necessarily gravitate to news of our defeat whether it is true or not.

It is very easy to condemn colonialism, yet were it not for that very colonialism, sati would still be a standard practice in Asia, the thugee would have expanded their reach, and the trans-Atlantic slave trade would still be going strong. For that matter, if it weren't for colonialism, the United States would still be sending massive tribute to Muslim states just like we did in the 1790's!

It is unfortunate that cowardice wrapped in the rhetoric of reptilian self-interest is called "realism", never mind how unrealistic realism has often shown itself to be. It may be "realism" to "deal with" institutionalized atrocities like Congo Free State, but has not furthered the long term interests of the United States to have been the first nation to recognize that satrapy.

2/27/2007 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

Ignorance! Complete Ignorance!! If you believe that a guy in a dynamite belt out at the checkpoint at the perimeter of the base was an "attack on Cheney", you are ignorant. Gobble up the genocidal Egyptian pygmy doc's neopostStalinist images if you must, BUT understand that it means you are ignorant.

2/27/2007 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Our problem in Pakistan is not simple. The alternative to muslim rule is not having Al Gore run the country, it is letting Jihadists run the county and have access to its nuclear weapons. Musharraf seemed to be more useful when he looked like he was actually in charge of something. Now he seems to be hanging on with just enough power to avoid the ax. I was kind of surprised when he returned to Pakistan after his last foreign trip.

2/27/2007 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger Bloodstomper Barbie said...

I heard the suicide bomber was a lesbian.

Does Nancy Pelosi have any gay sons or daughters? I know that Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter, but I don''t think Nancy Pelosi does.

I know that Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter is going to have a baby or something and I want to know is she going to bring the baby up as a lesbian or as a homosexual?

Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are full of lesbians.

2/27/2007 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger Blanknoone said...

"all the way to the base's outermost security perimeter"

2/28/2007 06:00:00 AM  
Blogger Joe Buzz said...

"Success" in this case may be described as delivering a high level message to an "ally" and returning from the mission in one piece. Will the "allies" head or act on the message? Who knows? allah, Gore supercomputing from home?

2/28/2007 06:16:00 AM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Alexis said...

It is very easy to condemn colonialism, yet were it not for that very colonialism, sati would still be a standard practice in Asia, the thugee would have expanded their reach, and the trans-Atlantic slave trade would still be going strong. . . .
It is unfortunate that cowardice wrapped in the rhetoric of reptilian self-interest is called "realism", never mind how unrealistic realism has often shown itself to be. It may be "realism" to "deal with" institutionalized atrocities like Congo Free State, but has not furthered the long term interests of the United States to have been the first nation to recognize that satrapy.


Well then Alexis, let us apply this to the present problem with Pakistan. If colonialism is the solution then by all means we should invade Pakistan, overthrow Musharaff, snuff out all the Taliban and AQ cells in Waziristan . . . and institute democracy. After all, we're not going to stay there forever right? And after Islamists win elections, just as they have in Palestine and Iraq, well then, ummm, well, err, yeah. What again is the use of colonialism when it comes to dealing with Middle East.

I wonder if the wide spread availability of high explosives, plastique in particular, hasn't put an end to colonialism once and for all. Perhaps the beginning of that end started in Algiers.

2/28/2007 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

reocon:

It may interest you that some Democratic senators have been advocating an invasion of Pakistan!

As for the "Battle of Algiers", has it ever really ended? If one is "dealing with the social forces in the Muslim World as they are", wouldn't the logical conclusion for Europe to be the mass expulsion of Muslims from the continent? The war in Bosnia could be seen in this light as a continuation of the "Battle of Algiers" where the United States took the side of the Muslims! Is the Karadzic option an improvement over America's present strategy...?

I don't think the principal problem concerning any invasion of Waziristan would be al-Qaeda or even destabilization of Pakistan. I think al-Qaeda can be defeated and Pakistan can be kept from being further destabilized. The essential problem we face is that the American public has simply not been informed about what it would take to actually defeat al-Qaeda.

Imagine the worst fighting in Fallujah but in bitter cold, thin air, and hostile natives. Imagine again a one million man army in Waziristan (consisting of professional soldiers, draftees, and foreign mercenaries), pounding the population with an iron fist with such overwhelming power that they will either submit or die. It's not inconceivable that this would happen in the next few years, but it is inconceivable that the United States under present political conditions would consider such a thing. Despite Democratic bravado vis a vis Pakistan now, I don't think the Democratic Party or anybody on the Left was willing to advocate sending in a full invasion of Waziristan back in 2002 when there would have been more popular support for such an endeavor.

You may talk of "dealing with the social forces in the Muslim World as they are", but it is at least as important to talk of dealing with the social forces in America as they are. And most Americans in modern day simply don't want to believe that an entire portion of humanity consists of a bunch of monsters to be destroyed. To expect Americans to stop dreaming and use foreign policy as social engineering is to effectively attempt social engineering on the American people as fundamental as any social engineering the Bush administration may be attempting.

Please consider how Americans can change sufficiently to win this war while staying fundamentally American when this war is over.

2/28/2007 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

reocon:

Oh, one more thing.

And after Islamists win elections, just as they have in Palestine and Iraq...

Democratic elections in Palestine have been a blessing in disguise for the United States. Now that pro-Qaeda Hamas (that handed out candy to celebrate the September 11 attacks) has won the elections and taken power in Palestine, we now have target coordinates if al-Qaeda were to ever attack us with nuclear weapons or even civilian airliners.

Al-Qaeda may not be deterred by nuclear weapons, but many Muslims may be deterred from voting for al-Qaeda if voting the wrong way ensures their nuclear annihilation. So, promoting democratic elections in the Islamic world has its advantages.

2/28/2007 02:35:00 PM  

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