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Postby Armanen on Wed Jul 25, 2007 8:19 pm

Please post all articles about the u.s. here.


More Troops for What?

By Benjamin H. Friedman

Hoping to sound tough on terror, U.S politicians and pundits of all political stripes are calling for a massive expansion of the U.S. military. But adding more troops has nothing to do with fighting terrorism, and would merely serve the same failed strategy that gave us Iraq.


Washington is in the grips of a new arms race. But this time, the United States and the Soviet Union aren’t vying to overwhelm one another in the military arena. It’s Washington politicians and pundits who are competing to see who can add the most ground troops to the U.S. Armed Forces.

Last January, U.S. President George W. Bush proposed adding 27,000 marines and 65,000 Army soldiers to the ranks over five years. The draft defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2008 contains initial funding for the expansion, and it will likely be part of the final bill that Bush signs into law later this year. The editorial pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post back Bush’s plan. So do John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani support an even bigger increase.

Everyone who matters, it seems, favors more troops. Yet nobody has stopped to ask an obvious question: more troops for what? Expansion of the U.S. armed services feeds the misplaced hope that military occupations and state-building can defeat terrorism and strengthen the national security of the United States. Wiser leaders would avoid these doomed missions and the troop expansion altogether and focus on what works.

Although it may make for good rhetoric on the campaign trail, expanding the ground forces is foolish. First, it is wildly expensive—$108 billion from 2007 to 2013 and $15 billion a year thereafter, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. Second, it would degrade force quality. Because the Army is already having trouble recruiting, expansion requires lowering induction standards. Third, the expansion comes too late for Iraq. Recruiting and training the new troops would not be finished until 2012. None would even be available before 2009. By then the United States will likely have left Iraq or at least have drastically reduced force levels there.

Without Iraq, the United States will have enough ground forces to fight the war in Afghanistan and defend its allies. Together, the active-duty Army, reserves, National Guard, and Marines make up about 1.2 million troops, about 500,000 of them combat troops. Even if the U.S. military still has 25,000 troops in Afghanistan in five years and a similar amount preparing to rotate there, plus 75,000 troops in Europe and Asia, ample forces would be available to defend against the unlikely prospect of Iranian or North Korean aggression. Russia’s recent behavior is troubling, but the days of worrying about Red Army tanks streaming through the Fulda Gap are gone. And whatever one’s fears about China and Taiwan, a battle for the Taiwan Strait would be won by air and sea power, not ground forces.

So what are the new troops for? The usual answer is “to fix failed states.” The basic logic is as follows: Terrorists organize in countries that lack functioning governments. These failed states also lead to civil wars and humanitarian disasters that offend our consciences and threaten regional stability. To prevent these outcomes, the United States must prop up authority abroad or create order from chaos. That requires boots on the ground. Defense analysts at think tanks like the Rand Corporation even use past occupations to tell us how many troops are needed to keep order: at least one for every 50 people in the occupied area. Apply this formula to Pakistan, a country of 169 million people (which came in at number 12 in this magazine’s Failed States Index), and you’ll quickly see that the United States and its Western allies lack the forces to pacify the world’s potential failed states. Occupying Pakistan alone would take 3.4 million troops, according to this formula, an amount greater than all the troops in NATO.

The conventional wisdom about failed states conflates counterterrorism with state-building, an error that relies on two myths. The first is that the United States can become proficient at quelling civil wars and rebuilding failed states. The second is that U.S. national security demands that it should.

Failed states are political problems at bottom. They are solved by adroit use of power, not force ratios. Occupiers far from home, unfamiliar with local customs, language, and political structures, are unlikely to govern skillfully—no matter how many cups of tea they drink with tribal sheikhs. That is why the track record of foreign powers pacifying insurgencies is abysmal. Just look at Iraq.

Afghanistan shows that less can be more. Rhetoric notwithstanding, U.S. policy there has been to avoid a large state-building mission. The military presence is minuscule compared with Iraq, but more successful, despite the lack of governance from the capital.

The goods news is that counterterrorism does not demand that Americans master the art of running foreign countries. Modern Sunni terrorism stems principally from an ideology, jihadism, not a political condition. History is rife with ungoverned states. Only one, Afghanistan, created serious danger for Americans. Even there, the problem was more that the government allied with al Qaeda than that there was no government.

True, certain civil wars have attracted terrorists, but it hardly follows that the United States should participate in these conflicts. Doing so costs blood and treasure and merely serves the narrative of jihadism, slowing its defeat by more moderate ideologies. The notion that fighting terrorism requires that we fix foreign disorder leads to an empire far more costly than the problem it is meant to solve. What the United States needs is not more troops, but more restraint in using the ones it already has.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article stated that John Edwards endorsed the troop increase. He does not. FP regrets the error.



Benjamin H. Friedman is a doctoral candidate in political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It's a custom of the human condition for the masses to remain ignorant. It's what they do. In fact, that IS how "the peace" is kept. Whatever democracy we have here is a spectator's sport.
Armanen
 
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Postby Armanen on Sun Jul 29, 2007 6:23 am

Bush to Urge Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia, Gulf States (Update4)

By Holly Rosenkrantz

July 28 (Bloomberg) -- The Bush administration will ask Congress next week to approve an arms-sale package to Saudi Arabia and five other Persian Gulf countries that may total more than $20 billion, Rebecca Goodrich-Hinton, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said.

Included in the package are advanced satellite-guided bombs, fighter-aircraft upgrades and new naval vessels. The administration also plans to announce a new 10-year military aid package to Israel and Egypt. The steps are part of an effort by the Bush administration to counter Iran's rising influence.

The administration of President George W. Bush has been seeking help from Iraq's neighbors to quell sectarian violence and keep it from spreading in the region. It's also seeking support in containing Iran's nuclear ambitions and for its new push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.

While there will likely be congressional opposition to the arms sale, ``This deal will go through,'' said Samer Shehata, a Middle East political analyst at Washington-based Georgetown University. ``This is great business for the U.S., and this is a huge amount of money that benefits American corporations.''

Shehata said the potential dissent in Congress will likely come from ``the anti-Saudi group that feels Saudi Arabia is a source of terrorism, and the pro-Israel group who see any arms sales to friendly or moderate Arab regimes as a potential threat to Israel.''

Interests in Region

``These arms deals are a key mechanism for supporting our interests in the region,'' said Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based policy analysis group. ``The basic element, which is to reassure Israel by providing an assured compensation package, has been taken care of.''

The $20 billion price tag on the package is more than double what officials originally estimated this past spring, and would be one of the largest arms deals negotiated by the Bush administration. It would likely include air-to-air missiles and Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which guide bombs to their target.

The military assistance agreements would provide $30 billion in new U.S. aid to Israel and $13 billion to Egypt over a decade, Goodrich-Hinton said.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, the countries to receive the arms would be the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

Iran and Iraq

``The U.S. thinks this will serve as a balance to Iran and Iraq, but the kind of threat that these countries pose is not the kind of threat these weapons will fight,'' Muqtedar Khan, an international relations professor at the University of Delaware, said in a telephone interview.

It might take as long as 10 years for the new weaponry to reach the intended countries because U.S. companies are still trying to meet demand for military equipment needed for the conflict in Iraq, Khan said.

``While there is a certain logic to strengthening Saudi Arabia at a time when Iran is rising,'' an arms sale of this size ``sends too strong a signal of closeness'' with the largely Sunni Muslim Saudis, Brookings Institution analyst Michael O'Hanlon said in an e-mail. The sale ``should be contingent on greater Saudi support for the government in Iraq,'' which is dominated by Shiite Muslims, he said.

``It is okay that they watch out for Sunni Iraqi interests, but not to the point of hoping that Prime Minister al-Maliki will fail or fall,'' O'Hanlon said.

Iraq's Maliki

Saudi officials have suggested Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is an agent of majority Shiite Iran and have offered financial support to Sunni groups and opponents of Maliki in Iraq, the New York Times reported yesterday, citing Bush administration officials. Half of the foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month are from Saudi Arabia, the newspaper said, citing U.S. military and intelligence officials.

Plans for the arms sale will be announced Monday ahead of a trip to the Middle East by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

News of the proposed sale was first reported in today's Washington Post and New York Times.

To contact the reporter on this story: Holly Rosenkrantz in Washington hrosenkrantz@bloomberg.net .

Last Updated: July 28, 2007 16:57 EDT
It's a custom of the human condition for the masses to remain ignorant. It's what they do. In fact, that IS how "the peace" is kept. Whatever democracy we have here is a spectator's sport.
Armanen
 
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Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:13 am
Location: Arnor

Postby Armanen on Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:57 pm

Will Bush cancel the 2008 election?
by Harvey Wasserman | Jul 31 2007 - 9:01am

by Harvey Wasserman & Bob Fitrakis

It is time to think about the "unthinkable."

The Bush Administration has both the inclination and the power to cancel the 2008 election.

The GOP strategy for another electoral theft in 2008 has taken clear shape, though we must assume there is much more we don't know.

But we must also assume that if it appears to Team Bush/Cheney/Rove that the GOP will lose the 2008 election anyway (as it lost in Ohio 2006) we cannot ignore the possibility that they would simply cancel the election. Those who think this crew will quietly walk away from power are simply not paying attention.

The real question is not how or when they might do it. It's how, realistically, we can stop them.

In Florida 2000, Team Bush had a game plan involving a handful of tactics. With Jeb Bush in the governor's mansion, the GOP used a combination of disenfranchisement, intimidation, faulty ballots, electronic voting fraud, a rigged vote count and an aborted recount, courtesy of the US Supreme Court.

A compliant Democrat (Al Gore) allowed the coup to be completed.

In Ohio 2004, the arsenal of dirty tricks exploded. Based in Columbus, we have documented more than a hundred different tactics used to steal the 20 electoral votes that gave Bush a second term. More are still surfacing. As a result of the King-Lincoln- Bronzeville federal lawsuit (in which we are plaintiff and attorney) we have now been informed that 56 of the 88 counties in Ohio violated federal law by destroying election records, thus preventing a definitive historical recount.

As in 2000, a compliant Democrat (John Kerry) allowed the coup to proceed.

For 2008 we expect the list of vote theft maneuvers to escalate yet again. We are already witnessing a coordinated nationwide drive to destroy voter registration organizations and to disenfranchise millions of minority, poor and young voters.

This carefully choreographed campaign is complemented by the widespread use of electronic voting machines. As reported by the Government Accountability Office, Princeton University, the Brennan Center, the Carter-Baker Commission, US Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and others, these machines can be easily used to flip an election. They were integral to stealing both the 2000 and 2004 elections. Efforts to make their source codes transparent, or to require a usable paper trail on a federal level, have thus far failed. A discriminatory Voter ID requirement may also serve as the gateway to a national identification card.

Overall, the GOP will have at its command even more weapons of election theft in 2008 than it did in Ohio 2004, which jumped exponentially from Florida 2000. The Rovian GOP is nothing if not tightly organized to do this with ruthless efficiency. Expect everything that was used these past two presidential elections to surface again in 2008 in far more states, with far more efficiency, and many new dirty tricks added in.

But in Ohio 2006, the GOP learned a hard lesson. Its candidate for governor was J. Kenneth Blackwell. The Secretary of State was the essential on-the-ground operative in the theft of Ohio 2004.

When he announced for governor, many Ohioans joked that "Ken Blackwell will never lose an election where he counts the votes."

But lose he did….along with the GOP candidates for Secretary of State, Attorney-General and US Senate.

By our calculations, despite massive grassroots scrutiny, the Republicans stole in excess of 6% of the Ohio vote in 2006. But they still lost.

Why? Because they were so massively unpopular that even a 6% bump couldn't save them. Outgoing Governor Bob Taft, who pled guilty to four misdemeanors while in office, left town with a 7% approval rating (that's not a typo). Blackwell entered the last week of the campaign down 30% in some polls.

So while the GOP still had control of the electoral machinery here in 2006, the public tide against them was simply too great to hold back, even through the advanced art and science of modern Rovian election theft.

In traditional electoral terms, that may also be the case in 2008. Should things proceed as they are now, it's hard to imagine any Republican candidate going into the election within striking distance. The potential variations are many, but the graffiti on the wall is clear.

What's also clear is that this administration has a deep, profound and uncompromised contempt for democracy, for the rule of law, and for the US Constitution. When George W. Bush went on the record (twice) as saying he has nothing against dictatorship, as long as he can be dictator, it was a clear and present policy statement.

Who really believes this crew will walk quietly away from power? They have the motivation, the money and the method for doing away with the electoral process altogether. So why wouldn't they?

The groundwork for dismissal of both the legislative and judicial branch has been carefully laid. The litany is well-known, but worth a very partial listing:

The continuation of the drug war, and the Patriot Act, Homeland Security Act and other dictatorial laws prompted by the 9/11/2001 terror attacks, have decimated the Bill of Rights, and shredded the traditional American right to due process of law, freedom from official surveillance, arbitrary violence, and far more.

The current Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzales, has not backed away from his announcement to Congress that the Constitution does not guarantee habeas corpus. The administration continues to act on the assumption that it can arrest anyone at any time and hold them without notification or trial for as long as it wants.

The establishment of the Homeland Security Agency has given it additional hardware to decimate the basic human rights of our citizenry. Under the guise of dealing with the "immigration problem," large concentration camps are under construction around the US.

The administration has endorsed and is exercising its "right" to employ torture, contrary to the Eighth Amendment and to a wide range of international treaties, which Gonzales has labeled "quaint."

With more than 200 "signing statements" the administration acts on its belief that the "unitary executive" trumps the power of the legislative branch in any instance it chooses. This belief has been further enforced with the administration's use of a wide range of precedent-setting arguments to keep its functionaries from testifying before Congress.

There is much more. In all instances, the 109th Congress---and the public---have rolled over without significant resistance.

Most crucial now are Presidential Directive #51, Executive Orders #13303, #13315, #13350, #13364, #13422, #13438, and more, by which Bush has granted himself an immense arsenal of powers for which the term "dictatorial" is a modest understatement.

The Founders established our government with checks and balances. But executive orders have accumulated important precedent. The Emancipation Proclamation by which Lincoln declared an end to slavery in the South, was issued under the "military necessity" of adding blacks to the Union Army, a step without which the North might not have won the Civil War. Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order #8802 established the Fair Employment Practices Commission. Harry Truman's Executive Order #9981 desegregated the military.

Most to the point, FDR's Executive Order #9066 ordered the forcible internment of 100,000 people of Japanese descent into the now infamous concentration camps of World War II.

There is also precedent for a president overriding the Supreme Court. In the 1830s Chief Justice John Marshall enshrined the right of the Cherokee Nation to sovereignty over its ancestral land in the Appalachian Mountains. But President Andrew Jackson scorned the decision. Some 14,000 native Americans were moved at gunpoint to Oklahoma. More than 3,000 died along the way.

All this will be relevant should Team Bush envision a defeat in the 2008 election and decide to call it off. It's well established that Richard Nixon---mentor to Karl Rove and Dick Cheney---commissioned the H[o]uston Plan, which detailed how to cancel the 1972 election.

Today we must ask: who would stop this administration from taking dictatorial power in the instance of a "national emergency" such as a terror attack at a nuclear power plant or something similar?

Nothing in the behavior of this Congress indicates that it is capable of significant resistance. Impeachment seems beyond it. Nor does it seem Congress would actually remove Bush if it did put him on trial.

Short of that, Bush clearly does not view anything Congress might do as a meaningful impediment. After all, how many divisions does the Congress command?

The Supreme Court, as currently constituted, would almost certainly rubber stamp a Bush coup. If not, like Jackson, he could ignore it as easily as he would ignore Congress.

What does that leave? There is much idle speculation now about what the armed forces would do. We also hear loose talk about "90 million gun owners."

From the public side, the only conceivable counter-force might be a national strike or an effective long-term campaign of general non- cooperation.

But we can certainly assume the mainstream media will give lock-step support to whatever the regime says and does. It's also a given that those likely to lead the resistance will immediately land in those new prisons being built by Halliburton et. al.

So how do we cope with the harsh realities of such a Bush/Cheney/Rove dictatorial coup?

We may have about a year to prepare. Every possible scenario needs to be discussed in excruciating detail.

For only one thing is certain: denial will do nothing.


About author Harvey Wasserman is co-author, with Bob Fitrakis and Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO?, just published by the New Press. He is author of SOLARTOPIA! and HARVEY WASSERMAN'S HISTORY OF THE U.S., available at www.harveywasserman.com.
It's a custom of the human condition for the masses to remain ignorant. It's what they do. In fact, that IS how "the peace" is kept. Whatever democracy we have here is a spectator's sport.
Armanen
 
Posts: 179
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:13 am
Location: Arnor

Postby Armanen on Sat Aug 04, 2007 11:07 pm

Arming its friends and talking peace

Aug 2nd 2007 | CAIRO AND JERUSALEM
From The Economist print edition

In short, a new sort of cold war stalks the region


WITH America determined to thwart Iran's possibly nuclear-tipped ambitions, and the Islamic Republic set on blocking the superpower's regional sway, some are calling the contest between Iran and the United States a new cold war. As in the last one, the adversaries have mostly shied from hitting each other directly, preferring propaganda, proxy fighters and subtler pressures. In contrast to the last one, America has so far fared badly. Its burden in Iraq refuses to lighten, and its strategy of pacifying the region by (vainly) encouraging the Arabs to democratise has alienated allies almost as much as its support for Israel. Meanwhile, Iran is enriching uranium in defiance of the UN Security Council and basking in the reflected glory of its clients, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and Shia militias in Iraq.

The beleaguered Bush administration, looking for a comeback strategy, has now reverted to more traditional ways of rallying its friends. What appears to be a charm offensive began with President Bush's call, in mid-July, for a regional peace meeting to address the Arab-Israeli conflict. Arab leaders had long demanded such an event, both to placate their restless publics and to undercut Iran, which is working hard to exploit the Palestinian cause to bolster its image as a protector of Muslim rights. Whether the meeting, expected late this year, can achieve a real breakthrough in the peace process remains to be seen. But at least the Bush administration is showing signs of engagement.

This week America's secretaries of state and defence kicked off an unusual joint tour of the region with a still more concrete show of commitment to American allies. Over the coming decade, officials announced, America would be supplying them with some $63 billion worth of arms. The package included a 25% increase in military aid to Israel, raising its value from $2.4 billion a year to $3 billion, and a ten-year pledge to continue bolstering Egypt's military with an annual $1.3 billion in aid. More controversially, at least in the American Congress, the deal also included a planned $20 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the five smaller monarchies that face Iran across the Persian Gulf.

The planned arms transfers, say analysts, are intended to signal that America expects to maintain its role as a guarantor of regional stability, even in the event of a withdrawal from Iraq. Yet, with the exception of the sharp rise in aid to Israel, the big numbers do not amount to much that is really new. America has maintained the same level of military aid to Egypt since 1979, when Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David peace accords with Israel. In fact, the new commitment marks the end of an unwritten rule that divided American military aid to the peace partners by a 2:3 ratio in Israel's favour. Egypt's share will now shrink to two-fifths of Israel's, leaving aside what the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, describes as a “detailed and explicit” promise to maintain the qualitative edge in military technology that Israel has traditionally held over Arab neighbours. And in any case, Congress has moved to condition a slice of aid to Egypt this year on improvements in the country's human-rights record.

As for the Gulf, the announcement of $20 billion in promised arms sales over ten years is plainly intended to scare, or deter, Iran. The sum falls far short of what the Gulf monarchies would likely have spent anyway. From 1990-2000, for instance, Saudi Arabia bought some $40 billion-worth of American military gear. Last year alone, the six Gulf Co-operation Council countries signed defence contracts worth more than $20 billion, half of them with American suppliers.

Even so, and despite the fact that Israeli officials say they do not oppose the sale, objections have been raised in the American Congress. Some legislators accuse Saudi Arabia, in particular, of “tacit approval” for Islamist terrorism. But American qualms about the kingdom go beyond point-scoring local politics. Zalmay Khalilzad, America's representative to the United Nations, recently hinted that Saudi support for some Sunni political parties in Iraq has weakened the Shia-dominated, American-backed government. American press reports assert that Saudi nationals make up the single largest group of suicide bombers in Iraq.

In fact, America's relations with its Arab allies have been increasingly strained. In March King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia raised eyebrows by describing America's occupation of Iraq as illegal, and later refused to meet the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. Despite American prompting to take a more forceful stance, Gulf leaders have kept their serious worries about Iran's ambitions mostly quiet. Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, once a frequent visitor, has avoided Washington in recent years. He has also ignored American protests over human-rights abuses. On the day he met with Robert Gates, America's defence secretary, and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, an Egyptian court rejected an appeal to release Ayman Nour, a politician who challenged Mr Mubarak in the 2005 elections, from prison on medical grounds.

One thing that could transform America's standing in the region would be real progress towards George Bush's newly re-iterated “vision” of a Palestinian state. Hoping that getting talks started will increase support for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, against the Islamists of Hamas who now run the Gaza Strip, the Bush administration is calling for an international “meeting” in the autumn.

American officials have been avoiding the weightier word “conference” used by their Arab allies, leading observers to suspect that this will end up merely as a high-profile session of the regular confab for the Palestinians' international donors. But an announcement this week that Saudi Arabia might attend could spur something more serious. The Saudi-brokered coalition between Hamas and Mr Abbas's Fatah party earlier this year, though short-lived, went against the preference in America and Israel (and sections of Fatah) for squeezing Hamas out of power. If the Saudis are now readier to co-operate with the American game, it may be a sign that those arms sales are doing their work. And it would serve the interests of both countries by helping to spoil Iran's pose as a defender of the Palestinians.

Diplomacy in slow motion
Mr Olmert has not said that Israel will attend, only that he hopes many other Arab countries do. That could be seen as kicking the ball back in the Arabs' court. Israel has so far refused to accept the Arab League's peace initiative, which calls for full normalisation only if Israel withdraws completely from the West Bank and recognises the right Palestinian refugees claim to return to homes now in Israel. But in recent weeks Israeli officials have once again been talking about removing settlements from large parts of the West Bank, the proposal on which Mr Olmert was elected, but which has been a political taboo since last summer's war in Lebanon.

Things seem to be moving—but glacially. So it is perhaps small wonder that Iran and its allies appear unshaken by America's latest moves. Syria's foreign minister, Walid Muallem, said of the proposed arms transfers that supplying weapons was an odd way to achieve peace. One Tehran daily, Jomhuri Islami, dismissed America's diplomacy as being as “useless as a chocolate teapot”.
It's a custom of the human condition for the masses to remain ignorant. It's what they do. In fact, that IS how "the peace" is kept. Whatever democracy we have here is a spectator's sport.
Armanen
 
Posts: 179
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:13 am
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Postby Armanen on Mon Aug 06, 2007 5:31 am

Defense chief: U.S. to keep troop presence in Iraq for extended time


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. forces will probably be in Iraq for a "protracted period" to support the country's year-old government, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday.

"We anticipate trying to work out with the Iraqi government an arrangement whereby there would be a residual presence of U.S. forces at some fraction of the current level that would be a stabilizing and supporting force in Iraq for some protracted period of time," he told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

"I think that that's generally the view of almost anybody who is looking at this, that some kind of residual force for some period of time will be required beyond when we begin a drawdown."

Last Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commanding general of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, predicted that U.S. forces would be needed in Iraq "for a few more years."

Gates did not dispute that characterization Sunday.

Asked when a drawdown of the 160,000 U.S. troops might begin, Gates said he would await a report due next month from Gen. David Petraeus, the top military officer in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq. U.S. forces represent the vast majority of Iraq coalition members.

Gates said the so-called surge of U.S. forces in Baghdad and other areas, which began in February, appears to be paying dividends militarily.

"I think the effort under way to dampen the violence, particularly caused by the Baathists and by al Qaeda, is working as well as we would have hoped, both in Anbar province and now in the belts around Baghdad," he said.

But politically, he acknowledged, "the picture is quite mixed."

Though some local officials are cooperating by helping U.S. military forces find roadside bombs and battle al Qaeda, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government has failed to make progress in passing constitutional reforms or de-Baathification laws, disarming militias, putting in place an oil-sharing agreement or planning provincial elections, Gates said. Watch Gates describe the mixed results in Iraq »

The defense secretary predicted the government ultimately would accomplish those goals, but added, "The question is how long it will take them to do it."

Though the Iraqi government has expressed "misgivings" about Petraeus' strategy of working with Sunni leaders, that doesn't mean al-Maliki wants U.S. troops out of Iraq, Gates said.

"I think the prime minister, a few weeks ago, had talked about wanting to get rid of all U.S. troops," he said, "and then I guess, in the last day or two, has had another press conference where he says, 'Well, really, we don't want that to happen.' "

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he does not need to wait until September to be able to conclude with confidence that the surge is not working.

"Since the whole purpose of the surge was to give the Iraqi political leaders the breathing space to reach a political settlement, the surge has not succeeded in its purpose, even if there are advances militarily," he told CNN.

"It seems to me that the chances of political progress by mid-September are just about nil, and that's what the administration is going to have to finally recognize," he said.

The only way to make progress is for the Iraqis to be pressured to solve their own problems, said the Michigan Democrat, who has pushed for a timetable for withdrawal.

"They won't do it with an open-ended military commitment on the part of the Americans."
It's a custom of the human condition for the masses to remain ignorant. It's what they do. In fact, that IS how "the peace" is kept. Whatever democracy we have here is a spectator's sport.
Armanen
 
Posts: 179
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:13 am
Location: Arnor

Postby Armanen on Sat Aug 11, 2007 5:43 pm

August 12, 2007
How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad
By DAVID ROHDE and DAVID E. SANGER
A year after the Taliban fell to an American-led coalition, a group of NATO ambassadors landed in Kabul, Afghanistan, to survey what appeared to be a triumph — a fresh start for a country ripped apart by years of war with the Soviets and brutal repression by religious extremists.

With a senior American diplomat, R. Nicholas Burns, leading the way, they thundered around the country in Black Hawk helicopters, with little fear for their safety. They strolled quiet streets in Kandahar and sipped tea with tribal leaders. At a briefing from the United States Central Command, they were told that the Taliban were now a “spent force.”

“Some of us were saying, ‘Not so fast,’ ” Mr. Burns, now the under secretary of state for political affairs, recalled. “A number of us assumed that the Taliban was too enmeshed in Afghan society to just disappear as a political and military force.”

But that skepticism never took hold in Washington. Assessments by the Central Intelligence Agency circulating at the same time reported that the Taliban were so decimated they no longer posed a threat, according to two senior intelligence officials who reviewed the reports. The American sense of victory was so robust that the top C.I.A. specialists and elite Special Forces units who had helped liberate Afghanistan were packing their guns and preparing for the next war, in Iraq.

Those sweeping miscalculations were part of a pattern of assessments and decisions that helped send what many in the American military call “the good war” off course.

Like Osama bin Laden and his deputies, the Taliban had found refuge in Pakistan and regrouped as the American focus wavered. Taliban fighters seeped back over the border, driving up the suicide attacks and roadside bombings by as much as 25 percent this spring, and forcing NATO and American troops into battles to retake previously liberated villages in southern Afghanistan.

They have scored some successes recently, and since the 2001 invasion, there have been improvements in health care and education, as well as the quality of life in the cities. But Afghanistan’s embattled president, Hamid Karzai, said in Washington last week that security in his country had “definitely deteriorated.” One former national security official called that “a very diplomatic understatement.”

President Bush’s critics have long contended that the Iraq war has diminished America’s effort in Afghanistan, which the administration has denied, but an examination of how the policy unfolded within the administration reveals a deep divide over how to proceed in Afghanistan and a series of decisions that at times seemed to relegate it to an afterthought as Iraq unraveled.

Statements from the White House, including from the president, in support of Afghanistan were resolute, but behind them was a halting, sometimes reluctant commitment to solving Afghanistan’s myriad problems, according to dozens of interviews in the United States, at NATO headquarters in Brussels and in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

At critical moments in the fight for Afghanistan, the Bush administration diverted scarce intelligence and reconstruction resources to Iraq, including elite C.I.A. teams and Special Forces units involved in the search for terrorists. As sophisticated Predator drone spy planes rolled off assembly lines in the United States, they were shipped to Iraq, undercutting the search for Taliban and terrorist leaders, according to senior military and intelligence officials.

As defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld claimed credit for toppling the Taliban with light, fast forces. But in a move that foreshadowed America’s trouble in Iraq, he failed to anticipate the need for more forces after the old government was gone, and blocked an early proposal from Colin L. Powell, then the secretary of state, and Mr. Karzai, the administration’s handpicked president, for a large international force. As the situation deteriorated, Mr. Rumsfeld and other administration officials reversed course and cajoled European allies into sending troops.

When it came to reconstruction, big goals were announced, big projects identified. Yet in the year Mr. Bush promised a “Marshall Plan” for Afghanistan, the country received less assistance per capita than did postconflict Bosnia and Kosovo, or even desperately poor Haiti, according to a RAND Corporation study.

By late last year, when the United States began increasing troop levels in Afghanistan to the current level of 23,500, a senior American military commander in the country said he was surprised to discover that “I could count on the fingers of one or two hands the number of U.S. government agricultural experts” in Afghanistan, where 80 percent of the economy is agricultural. A $300 million project approved by Congress for small businesses in Afghanistan was never financed by the administration.

Underlying many of the decisions, officials say, was a misapprehension about what Americans would find on the ground in Afghanistan. “The perception was that Afghans hated foreigners and that the Iraqis would welcome us,” said James Dobbins, the administration’s former special envoy for Afghanistan. “The reverse turned out to be the case.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the administration’s policy, saying, “I don’t buy the argument that Afghanistan was starved of resources.” Yet she said: “I don’t think the U.S. government had what it needed for reconstructing a country. We did it ad hoc in the Balkans, and then in Afghanistan, and then in Iraq.”


In interviews, three former American ambassadors to Afghanistan were more critical of Washington’s record.

“I said from the get-go that we didn’t have enough money and we didn’t have enough soldiers,” said Robert P. Finn, who was the ambassador in 2002 and 2003. “I’m saying the same thing six years later.”

Zalmay Khalilzad, who was the next ambassador and is now the United Nations ambassador, said, “I do think that state-building and nation-building, we came to that reluctantly,” adding that “I think more could have been done earlier on these issues.”

And Ronald E. Neumann, who replaced Mr. Khalilzad in Kabul, said, “The idea that we could just hunt terrorists and we didn’t have to do nation- building, and we could just leave it alone, that was a large mistake.”

A Big Promise, Unfulfilled

After months of arguing unsuccessfully for a far larger effort in Afghanistan, Mr. Dobbins received an unexpected call in April 2002. Mr. Bush, he was told, was planning to proclaim America’s commitment to rebuild Afghanistan.

“I got a call from the White House speech writers saying they were writing a speech and did I see any reason not to cite the Marshall Plan,” Mr. Dobbins recalled, referring to the American rebuilding of postwar Europe. “I said, ‘No, I saw no objections’, so they put it in the speech.”

On April 17, Mr. Bush traveled to the Virginia Military Institute, where Gen. George C. Marshall trained a century ago. “Marshall knew that our military victory against enemies in World War II had to be followed by a moral victory that resulted in better lives for individual human beings,” Mr. Bush said, calling Marshall’s work “a beacon to light the path that we, too, must follow.”

Mr. Bush had belittled “nation building” while campaigning for president 18 months earlier. But aware that Afghans had felt abandoned before, including by his father’s administration after the Soviets left in 1989, he vowed to avoid the syndrome of “initial success, followed by long years of floundering and ultimate failure.”

“We’re not going to repeat that mistake,” he said. “We’re tough, we’re determined, we’re relentless. We will stay until the mission is done.”

The speech, which received faint notice in the United States, fueled expectations in Afghanistan and bolstered Mr. Karzai’s stature before an Afghan grand council meeting in June 2002 at which Mr. Karzai was formally chosen to lead the government.

Yet privately, some senior officials, including Mr. Rumsfeld, were concerned that Afghanistan was a morass where the United States could achieve little, according to administration officials involved in the debate.

Within hours of the president’s speech, Mr. Rumsfeld announced his own tough-love approach at a Pentagon news conference.

“The last thing you’re going to hear from this podium is someone thinking they know how Afghanistan ought to organize itself,” he said. “They’re going to have to figure it out. They’re going to have to grab ahold of that thing and do something. And we’re there to help.”

But the help was slow in coming. Despite the president’s promise in Virginia, in the months that followed his April speech, no detailed reconstruction plan emerged from the Bush administration.

Former officials now say the stagnation reflected tension within the administration over how large a role the United States should play in stabilizing a country after toppling a hostile government.

After the fall of the Taliban in December 2001, Mr. Powell and Ms. Rice, then the national security adviser, argued in confidential sessions that if the United States now lost Afghanistan, it would damage America’s image, officials said. In a February 2002 meeting in the White House Situation Room, Mr. Powell proposed that American troops join the small international peacekeeping force patrolling Kabul and help Mr. Karzai extend his influence beyond the capital.

Mr. Powell said in an interview that his model was the 1989 invasion of Panama, where American troops spread out across the country after ousting the Noriega government. “The strategy has to be to take charge of the whole country by military force, police or other means,” he said.

Richard N. Haass, the former director of policy planning at the State Department, said informal conversations with European officials had led him to believe that the United States could recruit a force of 20,000 to 40,000 peacekeepers, half from Europe, half from the United States.

But Mr. Rumsfeld contended that European countries were unwilling to contribute additional troops, according to Douglas J. Feith, then the Pentagon’s under secretary for policy. He said Mr. Rumsfeld felt that sending American troops would reduce pressure on Europeans to contribute, and could provoke Afghans’ historic resistance to invaders and divert American forces from hunting terrorists. Mr. Rumsfeld declined to comment.

Some officials said they feared confusion if European forces viewed the task as peacekeeping while the American military saw their job as fighting terrorists. Ms. Rice, despite having argued for fully backing the new Karzai government, took a middle position, leaving the issue unresolved. “I felt that we needed more forces, but there was a real problem, which you continue to see to this day, with the dual role,” she said.

Ultimately, Mr. Powell’s proposal died. “The president, the vice president, the secretary of defense, the national security staff, all of them were skeptical of an ambitious project in Afghanistan,” Mr. Haass said. “I didn’t see support.”

Mr. Dobbins, the former special envoy, said Mr. Powell “seemed resigned.”

“I said this wasn’t going to be fully satisfactory,” Mr. Dobbins recalled. “And he said, ‘Well, it’s the best we could do.’ ”In the end, the United States deployed 8,000 troops to Afghanistan in 2002, with orders to hunt Taliban and Qaeda members, and not to engage in peacekeeping or reconstruction. The 4,000-member international peacekeeping force did not venture beyond Kabul.

As an alternative, officials hatched a loosely organized plan for Afghans to secure the country themselves. The United States would train a 70,000-member army. Japan would disarm some 100,000 militia fighters. Britain would mount an antinarcotics program. Italy would carry out changes in the judiciary. And Germany would train a 62,000-member police force.

But that meant no one was in overall command, officials now say. Many holes emerged in the American effort.

There were so few State Department or Pentagon civil affairs officials that 13 teams of C.I.A. operatives, whose main job was to hunt terrorists and the Taliban, were asked to stay in remote corners of Afghanistan to coordinate political efforts, said John E. McLaughlin, who was deputy director and then acting director of the agency. “It took us quite awhile to get them regrouped in the southeast for counterterrorism,” he said of the C.I.A. teams.

Sixteen months after the president’s 2002 speech, the United States Agency for International Development, the government’s main foreign development arm, had seven full-time staffers and 35 full-time contract staff members in Afghanistan, most of them Afghans, according to a government audit. Sixty-one agency positions were vacant.

“It was state building on the cheap, it was a duct tape approach,” recalled Said T. Jawad, Mr. Karzai’s chief of staff at the time and Afghanistan’s current ambassador to Washington. “It was fixing things that were broken, not a strategic approach.”

A Shift of Resources to Iraq

In October 2002, Robert Grenier, a former director of the C.I.A.’s counterintelligence center, visited the new Kuwait City headquarters of Lt. Gen David McKiernan, who was already planning the Iraq invasion. Meeting in a sheet metal warehouse, Mr. Grenier asked General McKiernan what his intelligence needs would be in Iraq.

The answer was simple. “They wanted as much as they could get,” Mr. Grenier said.

Throughout late 2002 and early 2003, Mr. Grenier said in an interview, “the best experienced, most qualified people who we had been using in Afghanistan shifted over to Iraq,” including the agency’s most skilled counterterrorism specialists and Middle East and paramilitary operatives.

That reduced the United States’ influence over powerful Afghan warlords who were refusing to turn over to the central government tens of millions of dollars they had collected as customs payments at border crossings.

While the C.I.A. replaced officers shifted to Iraq, Mr. Grenier said, it did so with younger agents, who lacked the knowledge and influence of the veterans. “I think we could have done a lot more on the Afghan side if we had more experienced folks,” he said.

A former senior official of the Pentagon’s Central Command, which was running both wars, said that as the Iraq planning sped up, the military’s covert Special Mission Units, like Delta Force and Navy Seals Team Six, shifted to Iraq from Afghanistan.

So did aerial surveillance “platforms” like the Predator, a remotely piloted drone armed with Hellfire missiles that had been effective at identifying targets in the sparsely populated mountains of Afghanistan. Predators were not shifted directly from Afghanistan to Iraq, according to the former official, but as new Predators were produced, they went to Iraq.

“We were economizing in Afghanistan,” said the former official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly. “The marginal return for one more platform in Afghanistan is so much greater than for one more in Iraq.”

The shift in priorities became apparent to Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon’s former comptroller, when Mr. Rumsfeld called him into his office in the fall of 2002, as planning for the Iraq war was in high gear, and asked him to serve as the Pentagon’s reconstruction coordinator in Afghanistan. It was an odd role for the comptroller, whose primary task is managing the Defense Department’s $400 billion a year budget.

“The fact that they went to the comptroller to do something like that was in part a function of their growing preoccupation with Iraq,” said Mr. Zakheim, who left the administration in 2004. “They needed somebody, given that the top tier was covering Iraq.”

In an interview, President Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, insisted that there was no diversion of resources from Afghanistan, and he cited recently declassified statistics to show that troop levels in Afghanistan rose at crucial moments — like the 2004 Afghan election — even after the Iraq war began.

But the former Central Command official said: “If we were not in Iraq, we would have double or triple the number of Predators across Afghanistan, looking for Taliban and peering into the tribal areas. We’d have the ‘black’ Special Forces you most need to conduct precision operations. We’d have more C.I.A.”

“We’re simply in a world of limited resources, and those resources are in Iraq,” the former official added. “Anyone who tells you differently is blowing smoke.”

A Piecemeal Operation

As White House officials put together plans in the spring of 2003 for President Bush to land on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and declare the end of major combat operations in Iraq, the Pentagon decided to make a similar, if less dramatic, announcement for Afghanistan.

On May 1, hours before Mr. Bush stood beneath a “Mission Accomplished” banner, Mr. Rumsfeld appeared at a news conference with Mr. Karzai in Kabul’s threadbare 19th-century presidential palace. “We clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities,” he said. “The bulk of the country today is permissive, it’s secure.”

The Afghanistan announcement was largely lost in the spectacle of Mr. Bush’s speech. But it proved no less detached from events on the ground.

Three weeks later, Afghan government workers who had not been paid for months held street demonstrations in Kabul. An exasperated Mr. Karzai publicly threatened to resign and announced that his government had run out of money because warlords were hording the customs revenues. “There is no money in the government treasury,” Mr. Karzai said.

At the same time, the American-led training of a new Afghan Army was proving far more difficult than officials in Washington had expected. The new force, plagued by high desertion rates, had only 2,000 soldiers. The Germans’ effort to train police officers was off to an even slower start, and the British-led counternarcotics effort was dwarfed by an explosion in the poppy crop. Already small groups of Taliban fighters had slipped back over the border from Pakistan and killed aid workers, stalling reconstruction in the south.

A senior White House official said in a recent interview that in retrospect, putting different countries in charge of different operations was a mistake. “We piecemealed it,” he said. “One of the problems is when everybody has a piece, everybody’s piece is made third and fourth priority. Nobody’s piece is first priority. Stuff didn’t get done.”

A month after his announcement in Kabul, Mr. Rumsfeld presented a new strategy to the White House aimed at weakening warlords and engaging in “state building” in Afghanistan. In some ways, it was the approach Mr. Rumsfeld had rejected right after the invasion.

Defense Department officials said that Mr. Rumsfeld’s views began to shift after a December 2002 briefing by Marin Strmecki, an Afghanistan expert at the Smith Richardson Foundation, who argued that Afghanistan was not ungovernable and that the United States could turn it into a moderate, Muslim force in the region.

He said that the United States needed to help Afghans create credible national institutions and that Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group and historically the Taliban’s base of support, needed a more prominent role in the government. Mr. Rumsfeld, according to aides, was impressed by Mr. Strmecki’s emphasis on training Afghans to run their own government and hired him.

Then another personnel change helped alter Afghanistan policy. Mr. Khalilzad, an Afghan-American who was a senior National Security Council official and a special envoy to Iraq exiles, was appointed ambassador to Afghanistan.

Mr. Khalilzad said he accepted the job after Mr. Bush promised that the effort in Afghanistan would be vastly expanded. “We had gotten the president to a significant increase,” Mr. Khalilzad recalled in an interview.

A leading neo-conservative, Mr. Khalilzad could get Ms. Rice or — if need be — Mr. Bush on the phone. He had been a counselor to Mr. Rumsfeld and had worked for Dick Cheney when Mr. Cheney was the first President Bush’s defense secretary. “Zal could get things done,” said Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, a former American military commander in Afghanistan.

When Mr. Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Thanksgiving 2003, he was carrying nearly $2 billion — twice the amount of the previous year — as well as a new military strategy and private experts to intensifying rebuilding.

They started a reconstruction plan dubbed “accelerating success” that involved the kind of nation-building once dismissed by the administration. General Barno expanded the military’s “Provincial Reconstruction Teams” to build schools, roads and wells and to win the “hearts and minds” of Afghans. The teams amounted to a smaller version of the force Mr. Powell had proposed 18 months earlier.

By January 2004, Afghanistan had reached a compromise on a new Afghan Constitution. With American backing, Mr. Karzai weakened several warlords. In October 2004, Mr. Karzai, who had been appointed president, was elected. At the same time, NATO countries steadily sent more troops to Afghanistan, and soon Mr. Rumsfeld — pressed for troops for Iraq — proposed that NATO take over security for all of Afghanistan. By the spring of 2005, Afghanistan appeared to be moving toward the success Mr. Bush had promised. But then, fearing that Iraq was spinning out of control, the White House asked Mr. Khalilzad to become ambassador to Baghdad.

A Lingering Threat

Before departing Afghanistan, Mr. Khalilzad fought a final battle within the administration. It was a fight that revealed divisions within the American government over Pakistan’s role in aiding the Taliban, a delicate subject as the Bush administration tried to coax cooperation out of Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

In an interview with on Afghan television, Mr. Khalilzad noted that Pakistani journalists had recently interviewed a senior Taliban commander in Pakistan. He questioned Pakistan’s claim that it did not know the whereabouts of senior Taliban commanders — a form of skepticism discouraged in Washington, where the administration’s line had always been that General Musharraf was doing everything he could.

“If a TV station can get in touch with them, how can the intelligence service of a country, which has nuclear bombs, and a lot of security and military forces, not find them?” Mr. Khalilzad asked.

Pakistani officials publicly denounced Mr. Khalilzad’s comments and denied that they were harboring Taliban leaders. But Mr. Khalilzad had also exposed the growing rift between American officials in Kabul and those in Islamabad.

Mr. Grenier said that when he was the C.I.A. station chief in Islamabad the issue of fugitive Taliban leaders was repeatedly raised with senior Pakistani intelligence officials in 2002. “The results were just not there,” Mr. Grenier recalled. “And it was quite clear to me that it wasn’t just bad luck.”

Pakistani had backed the Taliban throughout the 1990s as a counterweight to an alliance of northern Afghan commanders backed by India, Pakistan’s bitter rival. Pakistani officials also distrusted Mr. Karzai.

Deciding that the Pakistanis would not act on the Taliban, Mr. Grenier said he urged them to concentrate on arresting Qaeda members, who he said were far more of a threat.

“From our perspective at the time, the Taliban was a spent force,” he said, adding that “we were very much focused on Al Qaeda and didn’t want to distract the Pakistanis from that.”

But Mr. Khalilzad, American military officials and others in the administration argued that the Taliban were crossing from Pakistan into Afghanistan and killing American troops and aid workers. “Colleagues in Washington at various levels did not recognize that there was the problem of sanctuary and that this was important,” Mr. Khalilzad said.

But it was not until 2006, after ordering a study on Afghanistan’s future, that Mr. Bush pressed General Musharraf on the Taliban. Later, Mr. Bush told his aides he worried that “old school ties” between Pakistani intelligence and the Taliban had not been broken, despite General Musharraf’s assurances.

The Pakistanis, said one senior American commander, were “hedging their bets.”

“They’re not sure that we are staying,” he added. “And if we are gone, the Taliban is their next best option” to remain influential in Afghanistan.

As 2005 ended, the Taliban leaders remained in hiding in Pakistan, waiting for an opportunity to cross the border. Soon, they would find one.

To Afghans, a Fickle Effort

In September 2005, NATO defense ministers gathered in Berlin to complete plans for NATO troops to take over security in Afghanistan’s volatile south. It was the most ambitious “out of area” operations in NATO history, and across Europe, leaders worried about getting support from their countries. Then, American military officials dropped a bombshell.

The Pentagon, they said, was considering withdrawing up to 3,000 troops from Afghanistan, roughly 20 percent of total American forces.

NATO’s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said he protested to Mr. Rumsfeld that a partial American withdrawal would discourage others from sending troops.

In the end the planned troop reduction was abandoned, but chiefly because the American ground commander at the time, Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, concluded that the Taliban were returning and that he needed to shift troops to the east to try to stop them. But the announcement had sent a signal of a wavering American commitment.

"The Afghan people still doubt our staying power,” General Eikenberry said. “They have seen the world walk away from them before.”

To sell their new missions at home, British, Dutch and Canadian officials portrayed deployments to Afghanistan as safe, and better than sending troops to Iraq. Germany and Italy prevented their forces from being sent on combat missions in volatile areas. Those regions were to be left to the Americans, Canadians, British and Dutch.

Three months after announcing the proposed troop withdrawal, the White House Office of Management and Budget cut aid to Afghanistan by a third.

A senior administration official said all of the money allocated to Afghanistan the previous year had not been spent. “There was an absorption problem,” Ms. Rice said.

Mr. Neumann, then the ambassador, said he argued against the decision.

But even so, American assistance to Afghanistan dropped by 38 percent, from $4.3 billion in fiscal 2005 to $3.1 billion in fiscal 2006, according to a study by the Congressional Research Service.

By February 2006, Mr. Neumann had come to the conclusion that the Taliban were planning a spring offensive, and he sent a cable to his superiors.

“I had a feeling that the view was too rosy in Washington,” recalled Mr. Neumann, who retired from the State Department in June. “I was concerned.”

Mr. Neumann’s cable proved prophetic. In the spring of 2006, the Taliban carried out their largest offensive since 2001, attacking British, Canadian and Dutch troops in southern Afghanistan.

Hundreds of Taliban swarmed into the south, setting up checkpoints, assassinating officials and burning schools. Suicide bombings quintupled to 136. Roadside bombings doubled. All told, 191 American and NATO troops died in 2006, a 20 percent increase over 2005. For the first time, it became nearly as dangerous, statistically, to serve as an American in Afghanistan as in Iraq.

Mr. Neumann said that while suicide bombers came from Pakistan, most Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan were Afghans. Captured insurgents said they took up arms because a local governor favored a rival tribe, corrupt officials provided no services or their families needed money.

After cutting assistance in 2006, the United States plans to provide $9 billion in aid to Afghanistan in 2007, twice the amount of any year since 2001.

Despite warnings about the Taliban’s resurgence from Mr. Neumann, Mr. Khalilzad and military officials, Ms. Rice said, “there was no doubt that people were surprised that the Taliban was able to regroup and come back in a large, well-organized force.”

Divisions Over Strategy

In July 2006, NATO formally took responsibility for security throughout Afghanistan. To Americans and Europeans, NATO is the vaunted alliance that won the cold war. To Afghans it is little more than a strange, new acronym. And NATO and the Americans are divided over strategy.

The disagreement is evident on the wall of the office of Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the commander of the 35,000 NATO forces in Afghanistan, where he keeps a chart that is a sea of yellow and red blocks. Each block shows the restrictions that national governments have placed on their forces under his command. Red blocks represent tasks a country will not do, like hunting Taliban or Qaeda leaders. Yellow blocks indicate missions they are willing to consider after asking their capitals for approval.

In Washington, officials lament that NATO nations are unwilling to take the kinds of risks and casualties necessary to confront the Taliban. Across Europe, officials complain the United States never focused on reconstruction, and they blame American forces for mounting air attacks on the Taliban that cause large civilian casualties, turning Afghans against the West.

The debate over how the 2001 victory in Afghanistan turned into the current struggle is well under way.

“Destroying the Al Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan was an extraordinary strategic accomplishment,” said Robert D. Blackwill, who was in charge of both Afghanistan and Iraq policy at the National Security Council, “but where we find ourselves now may have been close to inevitable, whether the U.S. went into Iraq or not. We were going to face this long war in Afghanistan as long as we and the Afghan government couldn’t bring serious economic reconstruction to the countryside, and eliminate the Taliban’s safe havens in Pakistan.”



But Henry A. Crumpton, a former C.I.A. officer who played a key role in ousting the Taliban and became the State Department’s counterterrorism chief, said winning a war like the one in Afghanistan required American personnel to “get in at a local level and respond to people’s needs so that enemy forces cannot come in and take advantage.”

“These are the fundamentals of counterinsurgency, and somehow we forgot them or never learned them,” he added. He noted that “the United States has 11 carrier battle groups, but we still don’t have expeditionary nonmilitary forces of the kind you need to win this sort of war.”

“We’re living in the past,” he said.

Among many current and former officials, a consensus is emerging that a more consistent commitment by the United States may have improved the situation in Afghanistan.

Gen. James L. Jones, a retired American officer and a former NATO supreme commander, said Iraq caused the United States to “take its eye off the ball” in Afghanistan. He warned that the consequences of failure “are just as serious in Afghanistan as they are in Iraq.”

“Symbolically, it’s more the epicenter of terrorism than Iraq,” he said. “If we don’t succeed in Afghanistan, you’re sending a very clear message to the terrorist organizations that the U.S., the U.N. and the 37 countries with troops on the ground can be defeated.”
It's a custom of the human condition for the masses to remain ignorant. It's what they do. In fact, that IS how "the peace" is kept. Whatever democracy we have here is a spectator's sport.
Armanen
 
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Postby Armanen on Sun Aug 12, 2007 5:49 am

Under the weather

Aug 9th 2007 | WASHINGTON, DC
From The Economist print edition


The conservative movement that for a generation has been the source of the Republican Party's strength is in the dumps


THIRTY years ago Eric Hobsbawm, the dean of Marxist historians, chose as his subject, for the Marx memorial lecture, “The forward march of labour halted?” Things turned out even worse, for his side, than he had expected, thanks in part to the rise of a very American brand of conservatism. But are we now witnessing Mr Hobsbawm's revenge: the forward march of American conservatism halted?

The right has dominated American politics since at least 1980. The Republicans' electoral successes have been striking: five out of seven presidential elections since 1980 and a dramatic seizure of the House in 1994 after 40 years of Democratic rule. Even more striking has been the right's success in making the political weather.


The Republican Party is only the most visible part of the American right. The right's hidden strength lies in its conservative base. America is almost unique in possessing a vibrant conservative movement. Every state boasts organisations fighting in favour of guns and against taxes and abortion. The Christian right can call upon megachurches and Evangelical colleges. Conservatives have also created a formidable counter-establishment of think-tanks and pressure groups.

And many Americans who are not members of the movement happily embrace the label “conservative”. They think of themselves as God-fearing patriots who dislike big government and are tough on crime and national security. In 2004 roughly a third of the voters identified themselves as conservatives; just over 20% identified themselves as “liberal” (as American left-wingers are somewhat strangely called). Conservatives have driven the policy debate on everything from crime to welfare to foreign policy.

Yet today this mighty movement is in deep trouble. Veteran activists are sunk in gloom (“I've never seen conservatives so downright fed up,” says Richard Viguerie, a conservative stalwart). And the other side is cock-a-hoop. Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, describes the shift from conservatism as “breathtaking”.

The Democrats are well positioned to retake the White House in 2008. True, the Republican front-runner, Rudy Giuliani, a “big tent” Republican who combines liberal views on abortion and gay marriage with stellar credentials as “America's mayor”, is a strong candidate. The Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, suffers from high negatives and a scandal-prone husband. But the Clinton operation looks far more professional than Mr Giuliani's—and he has plenty of scandals of his own.

Overall, the Democrats are much more confident: 40% of Republicans believe that the Democrats will win, but just 12% of Democrats believe that the Republicans will win. They are more motivated: in the second quarter the two leading Democrats raised $60m, against just $32m for the two leading Republicans. And 61% of Democratic primary voters are happy with their choice of candidates, compared with only 36% of Republicans. Generic polls show voters expressing a preference for a Democratic president by a 24-point margin, a gap unheard of since the Watergate era.

The Democrats are also likely to keep Congress. The tide that enabled the party to pick up 31 House seats and six Senate seats in 2006, along with six governorships and 321 state-legislature seats, is still swelling. The Republicans will be defending more vulnerable Senate seats than the Democrats in 2008, and they are losing the race for cash. The public favours Democratic control of Congress by a margin of 10-15 points. Off the record, Republicans use words like “catastrophe” and “Armageddon” to refer to 2008.

The issues that people care about are also tipping the Democrats' way. A Pew Research poll in March discovered growing worry about income inequality combined with growing support for the social safety net. The proportion of Americans who believe that “the government should help the needy even if it means greater debt” has risen from 41% in 1994, at the height of the Republican revolution, to 54% today. The poll also revealed a decline in support for the things that drove the Republican resurgence in the mid-1990s, such as traditional moral values.

In 2002 the electorate was equally divided between Democrats and Democratic-leaners (43%) and Republicans and Republican-leaners (43%). Today only 35% align themselves with Republicans, and 50% with Democrats. The Republicans are doing particularly badly among independents (the fastest-growing group in the electorate) and younger voters. The proportion of 18-25-year-olds who identify with the Republican Party has declined from 55% in 1991 to 35% in 2006, according to Pew. Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster, notes that the share of Republican voters aged 55 and over has increased from 28% in 1997 to 41% today, whereas the share aged 18-34 has fallen from 25% to 17%. No wonder Ken Mehlman, a former Republican Party chairman who oversaw George Bush's 2004 victory, is now advising hedge funds on how to deal with a Democratic-leaning America.

The Republicans have alienated America's fastest-growing electoral block—Hispanics—with their visceral opposition to immigration reform. Nearly 70% of Hispanics voted Democratic in House races in 2006, up from 55% in 2004. That trend is sure to have been solidified by the Republicans' recent scuppering of the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, in a revolt sodden with xenophobia. Lyndon Johnson once noted that the Democrats' support for civil rights had cost them the South for a generation; the Republican Party's opposition to immigration reform may well have cost it the Hispanic vote for a generation.

Republicans have also whipped up a storm of opposition among middle-of-the-road voters on social issues. The religious right's opposition to abortion has always been an electoral liability: only 30% of voters favour overturning Roe v Wade. But in the past few years social conservatives tested people's patience still further over a federal marriage amendment and Terri Schiavo. Fully 72% of Republican voters opposed the Republicans' attempt to use the might of the federal government to keep the severely brain-damaged woman alive. The voters got their revenge in the 2006 mid-term elections—“bloody Tuesday” in the words of Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group. Rick Santorum, once the religious right's most prominent champion in the Senate, barely scraped 41% of the vote in Pennsylvania. Ken Blackwell, social conservatism's most prominent black champion, went down to a humiliating defeat in the race for the Ohio governorship. Social conservatives lost ballot initiatives on everything from abortion to gay marriage.

Why the conservative crack-up?
The obvious cause of the right's implosion is the implosion of the Bush presidency. Mr Bush has the worst approval ratings since Jimmy Carter—29% according to Newsweek and 31% according to NBC News. Only 19% of Americans think that America is headed in the right direction under Mr Bush. An astonishing 45% of Americans, including 13% of Republicans, support impeaching Mr Bush, according to the American Research Group.

The most obvious cause of the implosion of the Bush presidency is the disaster in Iraq. The Republican Party's biggest advantage over the Democrats has long been on foreign and defence policy. You voted Democratic if you cared about schools and hospitals. But you voted Republican if you cared more about keeping America safe in a dangerous world. September 11th 2001 turbo-charged that advantage. The Republicans used the “war on terror” to roll over the Democrats in elections in 2002 and again in 2004.

But the war in Iraq has buried this vital advantage under a mound of discredited hype (“mission accomplished”) and mind-boggling incompetence. A CBS News/New York Times poll found that only 25% of people approved of Mr Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq. An ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 63% of respondents did not trust the Bush administration to report honestly about possible threats from other countries. The damage is not limited to the Bush administration: a Rasmussen poll on July 25th-26th found that Mrs Clinton outscores Mr Giuliani as the candidate voters trust most on national security.

Mr Bush has also presided over the biggest expansion in government spending since his fellow Texan, Lyndon Johnson, provoking fury on the right. His prescription-drug benefit was the largest expansion of government entitlements in 40 years. He has increased federal education spending by about 60% and added some 7,000 pages of new federal regulations. Pat Toomey, the head of the Club for Growth, says the conservative base feels “disgust with what appears to be a complete abandonment of limited government.”

Many conservative activists would like to pin the blame on Mr Bush alone—either because he pursued foolish policies (the paleo-conservative version) or because he pursued sensible policies in a cack-handed manner (the neoconservative version). William Buckley, the conservative movement's pope, says that, if Mr Bush were the leader of a parliamentary system, “it would be expected that he would retire or resign.” Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan-administration economist, accuses him of “betraying” the conservative movement. Other conservatives would like to pin the blame on the Republican Party. “We have to recognise that this was a defeat for Republicans, not for conservatives,” Newt Gingrich, a former Speaker of the House, argued after the 2006 mid-term elections.

In fact, the Republican Party in Congress is just as responsible as Mr Bush for most of the recent troubles. The Republican majority routinely appropriated more spending than the president asked for. It also larded spending bills with as much extra pork as possible. The number of congressional “earmarks” for projects in members' districts increased from 1,300 in 1994, when the Republicans took over Congress, to 14,000 in 2005.

The Republican majority also cheered Mr Bush all the way to Baghdad. Add to this the corruption of congressmen like Tom DeLay, a conservative hero, and the semi-corrupt institutional relationship that the Republicans formed with lobbyists, and you see that Mr Bush was only part of a much bigger problem.

Nor can conservatives claim that Mr Bush is a country-club Republican like his father. He has devoted his energies to giving “the movement” what it wants: the invasion of Iraq for the neoconservatives (who had championed it long before September 11th); tax cuts for business and the small-government conservatives; restricting federal funding for stem-cell research for the social conservatives; and conservative judges to please every faction.

This desire to pander to the conservative movement is partly to blame for the administration's practical incompetence. Mr Bush outdid previous Republican presidents in recruiting his personnel from the conservative counter-establishment. But this often meant choosing people for their ideological purity rather than their competence or intelligence. Some 150 Bush administration officials were graduates of Pat Robertson's Regent University, including Monica Goodling, who put on such a lamentable performance before a House inquiry into the firing of nine US attorneys. A more pragmatic president would surely have sacked many of the neoconservative ideologues who have made a hash of American foreign policy

The Republicans' problems are creating a civil war on the right about how to dig themselves out of their hole. This is producing some spectacular intellectual fireworks—fireworks that prove there is still a lot of intellectual life in the right. But such internal strife tends to put off the voters. And this civil war has the added problem that, from the point of view of broadening the Republican coalition, the wrong side has won too many important battles, not least on immigration.

One fight is over the size and scope of government. Small-government conservatives accuse Mr Bush of betraying conservatism's core principle: that government is the problem rather than the solution. Big-government conservatives retort that there is only a limited constituency for small government. The general public strongly opposes cutting entitlements. “Anti-government conservatism turns out to be a strange kind of idealism,” argues Michael Gerson, Mr Bush's former speechwriter, “an idealism that strangles mercy.”

A second fight is over social conservatism. Libertarians argue that the Republican Party is too much in the pocket of ageing social conservatives such as James Dobson of Focus on the Family, activists who do not represent the views of common-or-garden Evangelicals let alone middle-of-the-road Americans. Social conservatives retort that they are the people who deliver the votes: if the Republican Party relies only on business conservatives and libertarians, it will be reduced to a rump.

A third fight concerns Mr Bush's foreign policy, particularly his stubborn defence of the Iraq war. Some conservatives predicted that the “war on terror” might take the place of the “war on communism”, both as a glue holding conservatism together and a guarantee of long-term Republican advantage over the Democrats. That happened for a while. But the sustained unrest in Iraq has opened deep divisions on the right—not least between Mr Bush (who rides off into the sunset in January 2009) and politicians who would like to hang around for a bit longer. Senate Republicans are on the verge of a full-scale revolt against the White House.



Dead right?
It is always tempting to read too much into this or that crisis. David Frum predicted doom for his fellow travellers in “Dead Right” just as Mr Gingrich was about to seize control of Congress. Emmett Tyrell described a conservative crack-up only to see the movement come back together.

The Democrats' good fortune is much more the result of a Republican collapse than a Democratic revival. The March Pew poll shows that the proportion of people who express a positive view of the Democratic Party has actually declined by six points since January 2001. It's just that the proportion of people who express a positive view of the Republican Party has declined by 15 points. The Democratic-controlled Congress is even more unpopular than the Bush White House, with the lowest approval rating in 35 years.

Americans remain sceptical about the Democrats' favourite tool for improving the world—government action. A Democracy Corps poll found that Americans believe by a majority of 57% to 29% that government makes it harder for people to get ahead in life. The same poll found that 83% of people believe that, if the government had more money, it would probably waste it, the highest level of anti-government sentiment in a decade. America is not entering into a new era of liberal activism.

The Democrats have ceded a lot of ground to the conservatives. The party has sidelined liberal groups who oppose the death penalty or want to restrict gun-ownership. The big three Democratic presidential candidates compete with each other to prove how religious they are: Mrs Clinton repeatedly claims that she is a “praying person” who once considered becoming a Methodist minister. The Party put forward anti-abortion candidates in both Colorado and Pennsylvania.

And the conservative movement is at its most deadly as an insurgency. The movement was born during the 1964 Goldwater campaign as a revolt against the liberal establishment. It enjoyed its glory days when it was battling Hillarycare and trying to impeach Bill Clinton. A Clinton presidential nomination would undoubtedly reunite and re-energise the movement. Deeply rooted in gun clubs, anti-tax groups, right-to-life groups and Evangelical churches, American conservatives will never be reduced to the feeble status of their British cousins.

But even when you enter all the qualifications the right's situation is dire. It is a sign of weakness that the conservatives are retreating to their old posture as insurgents, and need a bogeywoman like Mrs Clinton to hold them together.

The Republicans have failed the most important test of any political movement—wielding power successfully. They have botched a war. They have splurged on spending. And they have alienated a huge section of the population. It is now the Democrats' game to win or lose.
It's a custom of the human condition for the masses to remain ignorant. It's what they do. In fact, that IS how "the peace" is kept. Whatever democracy we have here is a spectator's sport.
Armanen
 
Posts: 179
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:13 am
Location: Arnor

Postby Armanen on Sun Aug 19, 2007 12:29 am

It's a custom of the human condition for the masses to remain ignorant. It's what they do. In fact, that IS how "the peace" is kept. Whatever democracy we have here is a spectator's sport.
Armanen
 
Posts: 179
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:13 am
Location: Arnor


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