Balkinization  

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Murderous Thugs We are Supporting in Afghanistan--and Why a Heroine Wants Us Out

Brian Tamanaha

Malalai Joya is an incredibly courageous Afghan woman, only 30 years old, living under the constant threat of being killed because she dares to speak the truth. The people who want to kill her are the people we put into power in Afghanistan.

Ms. Joya lived in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan during Taliban rule. She loved to read and wished to share this gift with other Afghan women. With the support of a charity, Ms. Joya snuck back into Afghanistan and opened a secret school to teach young girls to read. This was at great risk to her personal safety, for the Taliban would have punished her severely if they found her out, which nearly occurred on a number of occasions.

One would think, given this history, that she would be pleased about the ejection of the Taliban and its aftermath. Not so:

Dust has been thrown into the eyes of the world by your governments [speaking to a British reporter]. You have not been told the truth. The situation now is as catastrophic as it was under the Taliban for women. Your governments have replaced the fundamentalist rule of the Taliban with another fundamentalist regime of warlords. [That is] what your soldiers are dying for. (quote from this piece in The Independent, October 21, 2009, which provides the material about Joya for this post).
The warlords of whom she speaks—our allies—are the ones who have openly threatened to kill her. She expects that they may well succeed.

We “won” the initial war against the Taliban by relying upon fighters supplied by warlords, supported by our special forces soldiers and backed by our heavy equipment and bombing capacity. CIA operatives were also on the ground distributing piles of money. Following the quick collapse of the Taliban government, we put into place a replacement government that was stocked at the highest levels with these very warlords. The Karzai government is as weak as the warlords are strong—and we have increased their power by funneling millions of dollars to them.

It’s natural for a military power to reward its allies in battle with plunder and power after victory, and that’s what we did. The problem is that we claimed to be bringing democracy and saving the Afghan people from tyranny, but the warlords have a long record of terrible behavior that predates the Taliban. Before the Taliban took over control of the government, the warlords were fighting one another for territory and control, destroying parts of the cities, killing many civilians, and raping women. Ms. Joya reminds us of this recent past:
Most people in the West have been led to believe that the intolerance and brutality toward women in Afghanistan began with the Taliban regime. But this is a lie. Many of the worst atrocities were committed by the fundamentalist mujahedin during the civil war between 1992 and 1996. They introduced the laws oppressing women followed by the Taliban—and now they were marching back to power, supported by the United States. They immediately went back to their old habit of using rape to punish their enemies and reward their fighters.
Malalai Joya lives under a death threat because she publicly scorns the warlords and insists that they should not be allowed to hold high government positions. “They should instead be prosecuted in national and international courts,” she declares. (Details about the warlords that lend strong support to her assessment, and confirm her courageous opposition, are provided here.)

Although Afghan and US officials urged her to tone down her opposition to the warlords, the Afghan people praised her courage and feared for her life. She was elected to a seat in the Afghan parliament. In the parliament, Ms. Joya objected to a proposed law that would grant amnesty for all war crimes committed in Afghanistan in the past three decades, stating: “You criminals are simply giving yourselves a get-out-of-jail free card.” The members of parliament promptly voted to kick her out of parliament (with no objection from President Karzai).

Now you know more about the folks we are supporting in Afghanistan.

Ordinary Afghan people, according to Joya, feel “trapped between two enemies”: one enemy are the occupation forces dropping bombs on them (that’s us), and the other enemy are “the fundamentalist warlords and the Taliban.”

Although we enjoyed significant support in the population during the first few years of our presence, a recent poll indicates that 60% of Afghan people want NATO to immediately withdraw. Ms. Joya wants us to leave. Why would that be the case, you might wonder, since that would leave the Afghan people vulnerable to two repugnant forces, each worse than the other in different ways. They want us out of there, apparently, because we have failed to make things much better (dashing their initial hopes) and our presence feeds the violence. "Today, people are being killed [including by our bombs]--many, many war crimes," she observes. "The longer the foreign troops stay in Afghanistan doing what they are doing, the worse the eventual civil war will be for the Afghan people."

And they want us out of there because we are outsiders: heavy-handed, self-interested, poorly-informed interventionists in their tragic domestic struggle. The warlords and the Taliban are their own bad guys.




Comments:

Before the inevitable comments about how this woman knows nothing, how our military leaders and the CIA know what they are doing, and on an on, I have to say how saddening this is.

And, yet, it echoes our experience and that of other powerful nations throughout history: we blunder in somewhere and take up with whomever first seems likely to aid us, only to find out that we do not understand what is going on.
 

"we are outsiders"

If we were fully empathic, which is always hard since that is a lot of empathy, this would be a no brainer.

It's a constant and fairly widespread theme in film where "outsiders" are looked upon with suspicion and doubt. And, this is just a matter of a stranger in town or to the family. Not a representative of a foreign nation that bombs.

Joya also has a problem about not looking backward, only forward. Some find her sentiment appropriate, others not so much. See, e.g., here.
 

Our policy in Afghanistan should be based on US interests, not on emotional appeals regarding women’s rights. If that is Professor Tamanaha’s point, then I agree with him. But I must note that a sentence like “Although Afghan and US officials urged her to tone down her opposition to the warlords, the Afghan people praised her courage and feared for her life” sounds as if he is angling for a journalism position in North Korea or Cuba.
 

This is an intriguing article. Just because Joya says this does not mean she is correct as to the facts, or as to the consequences should we leave. But it does mean we should treat this opinion seriously. And we should consider whether our presence is (a) actually helpful to the various people in Afghanistan, and (b) essential to prevent more terrorist attacks, in South Asia, or Europe, or the United States.

I cannot say she is not correct, and I am willing to consider that her prescription will lead to the most desirable outcome for (a) and (b).
 

mis,

You failed to note the follow-up observation to the passage you quoted--that she was elected to parliament by the Afghan people. That should tell you something.

As for your snide suggestion that I am angling for a journalist position in North Korea, no response is necessary. Your lack of grace speaks for itself. You would contribute more to a useful exchange if you made substantive points rather than indulged in absurd insults.
 

Professor Tamanaha- you are right. My remark was uncalled for. I apologize.
 

US involvement with the warlords of the "Northern Alliance" actually goes back to George Bush Snr who in 1989 appointed a US chargé d’affaires for the Northern Alliance, at the same time as withdrawing the US chargé d’affaires for Afghanistan and closing the US embassy in Kabul.

I'm not sure that the Clinton Administration's policies were any more enlightened and the Bush II Administration of course gave us warlords and Karzai as a part of "Enduring Freedom".

This report in the Washington Post Militia Commander Campaigns for Karzai treats of the "unholy alliance" between President Karzai and Abdurrashid Dostum. See also this Guardian Report on the disquiet among the western allies about Karzai's choice of running mate: Afghan president Hamid Karzai picks ex-warlord as election running mate
and one might also look at another Karzai ally Meet Your Afghan Warlords, Part Two: Haji Mohammed Mohaqiq

This was the major fracture line between the USA and its allies in ISAF. The Bush Administration supported the idea of using the warlords and the ISAF contributing states were unhappy about this - one of the reasons behind the continued organisational separation betweeen the US Operation Enduring Freedom and the UN-NATO-ISAF effort.

For a critical appraisal of Enduring Freedom see this 2002 evaluation by Carl Conetta Strange Victory and a quite authoritative 2008 appraisal from Professor Anthony Cordesmann of the Center for Stratedgic & International Studies is at Losing The Afghan-Pakistan War? The Rising Threat

It should be remembered that a key figure in the Reagan-Bush Administration's Afghan policies was the noted Afghan-American Neocon Zalmay Khalilzad, known in Afghanistan as "the Viceroy" and very much the power behind the Bush Administration's choice of Karzai for President. See this Seattle Times account of the background Obama, Karzai: Not so chummy.

Should we therefore be surprised that Khalilzad has been in Afghanistan over the last few days meddling behind the scenes:

(1) See this Boston Globe Report while Senator Kerry was pushing for run-off elections: "In addition to Kerry, Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan, has been meeting with Afghan leaders to try to negotiate a settlement, which officials said could involve Abdullah Abdullah conceding defeat in exchange for a senior post in Karzai’s government."

(2) See also this terse exchange in a State Department Daily Press Briefing

"Q: What about Khalilzad? He’s also in Kabul. Did anyone ask him to go? Is he coordinating with you at all? A: No, not that I’m aware of. Mr. Khalilzad is a private citizen.
Q: He has not been coordinating? A: Not that I’m aware of.
Q: Do you know if he asked? A: I – not that I’m aware of. I don’t think so, but I’m not --
Q: Can you take – can we take that question and find out? A: I’m not sure. I’m not sure we’ll be able to give you any more information. If we – if there is information contradicting what I just said, we’ll let you know, but assume that it’s – he’s not --
Q: So assume that he did not ask the U.S. Government how they felt about him going to Kabul -- A: Not in any coordinated fashion."

 

Malalai Joya was elected to the Afghan parliament by virtue of the American liberation routing the Taliban and bringing a democracy which permitted women to run for office. However, Joya still appears lack understanding about democracy.

The tribal chiefs (Joya's warlords) were running their little fiefdoms long before the Liberation. We did not put them in power. When democracy arrived, the tribes voted their chiefs to power in the new government.

It is up to Afghans like Joya to vote the chiefs out of power. Joya is essentially calling for the Americans to act like warlords and use force to remove the tribal chiefs when they are not warring on us. Sorry, I'll pass on that one.

I agree with Joya, however, that bombing the enemy while they are surrounded with civilian human shields as Gen. Joe Biden desires is both counterproductive and wrong. To win, we need troops to provide security for folks like Joya and her schools.

As for those of you who are misusing Joya's complaints as cover to surrender Afghanistan to the Taliban, I assure you that if the Taliban returns, Joya will be murdered or be compelled to flee to America or the EU. Please do not claim that you wish to surrender to help folks like Joya. They will be the victims of your preferred course of inaction.
 

Straight from the Backpacker:

"As for those of you who are misusing Joya's complaints as cover to surrender Afghanistan to the Taliban, I assure you that if the Taliban returns, Joya will be murdered or be compelled to flee to America or the EU."

Can our Backpacker assure us that Joya will not be murdered or be compelled to flee to America or the EU if there is no "surrender"? Even if our Backpacker can provide such assurance, what about the deaths, destruction and devastation that might result from no "surrender"?
 

Shag:

It is possible that the Taliban or one of their allied Pushtun tribal chiefs will kill Joya during the war. All the more reason not to dither and to instead get about the business of defeating these murderers and winning the war.
 

Bart De Palma writes:-

"The tribal chiefs (Joya's warlords) were running their little fiefdoms long before the Liberation. We did not put them in power. When democracy arrived, the tribes voted their chiefs to power in the new government."

That must qualify of one of the stupidest remarks poor dear Bart has ever made on this site.

Afghanistan is still essentially a feudal society. I would refer those with an interest in the issues to this op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor Democracy in Afghanistan is wishful thinking which points out:-

The father of modern sociology, Max Weber, pointed out that governments draw their legitimacy from three basic sources: traditional, religious, and legal.

The first two are self-explanatory; by "legal," Weber meant Western-style democracies based on popular representation and the rule of law. And in this sense, political failure in Afghanistan was baked into the cake in the 2001 Bonn Process.

In its rush to stand up an overnight democratic success story, the Bush administration overlooked Afghan history. Indeed, it was willfully ahistorical. That's tragic, because Afghan history demonstrates conclusively and beyond dispute that legitimacy of governance there is derived exclusively from Weber's first two sources: traditional (in the form of the monarchy and tribal patriarchies) and religious. Either there has been a king, or religious leadership, or a leader validated by the caliphate (or afterwards by indigenous religious polities).

The tragic mistake, which we warned against, was in eliminating the Afghan monarchy from a ceremonial role in the new Afghan Constitution. Nearly two thirds of the delegates to the loya jirga in 2002 signed a petition to make the aging King Zaher Shah the interim head of state, and only massive US interference behind the scenes in the form of bribes, secret deals, and arm twisting got the US-backed candidate for the job, Hamid Karzai, installed instead.

The same US and UN policymakers then rode shotgun over a constitutional process that eliminated the monarchy entirely. This was the Afghan equivalent of the 1964 Diem Coup in Vietnam: afterward, there was no possibility of creating a stable secular government. While an Afghan king could have conferred legitimacy on an elected leader in Afghanistan, without one, an elected president is on a one-legged stool.


An American cannot declare himself king and be seen as legitimate: monarchy is not a source of legitimacy of governance in America. Similarly, a man cannot be voted president in Afghanistan and be perceived as legitimate. Systems of government normally grow from existing traditions, as they did in the US after the Revolutionary War, for example. In Afghanistan, they were imposed externally. Representative democracy is simply not a source of legitimacy in Afghanistan at this point in its development.

This explains in no small measure why a religious source of legitimacy in the form of the hated Taliban is making such a powerful comeback."


Guess who dreamed up that idiotic constitution? None other than the Neocon in the woodpile, Zalmay Khalilzad who is widely rumoured to have presidential ambitions of his own - see Ex-U.S. Envoy May Take Key Role in Afghan Government and who essentially regarded Karzai as a placeholder.

It is hoped that the penny has now dropped with President Obama and that his officials will now steer well clear of this dreadful man.

Zahir Shah was fobbed off with the title "Father of the Nation" in the present Afghan Constitution. He died in Kabul in 2007 - but he does have six sons and it may not be too late to remedy the mistake and amend the constitution to provide for a constitutional monarchy.
 

Our Backpacker seems to concede my point:

"It is possible that the Taliban or one of their allied Pushtun tribal chiefs will kill Joya during the war."

but then callously concludes:

" All the more reason not to dither and to instead get about the business of defeating these murderers and winning the war."

suggesting that Joya's lot is not significant and perhaps she should be sacrificed without a dither.
 

Bart,

You are not quite right about the warlords already being in power before we came. They were near defeat at the hands of the Taliban immediately before we arrived and completely changed their fortunes.

What you fail to appreciate, furthermore, is that some of the most powerful warlords were appointed to top offices by Karzai (not elected).

Contrary to your assertion that Ms. Joya does not understand democracy--it seems to me that she understands it all to well. We Americans are the ones who naively equate "elections" with "democracy" and with "freedom."

It's easy for you to put Ms. Joya down as foolish, and to make the tough guy suggestion that she will be killed by the Taliban if they return in power. She undoubtedly knows this better than you do, and still takes the position she does, so that ought to tell you something.

I think we are better off not fooling ourselves with our own rhetoric that are there to do good for the Afghan people. We are there for our own reasons--wholly self-interested. The other justifications we provide are just blowing smoke.

Our alliance with the warlords was one of convenience--to save us from bringing in more troops--and it was well understood at the time that these are very very bad people and that enhancing their power would not be good for the Afghan people (and indeed would not be good for the institutional development of the nascent Afghan government). But WE did it anyway for our own reasons.

Mourad responds well to your other observations.

Brian
 

Bart,

You are not quite right about the warlords already being in power before we came. They were near defeat at the hands of the Taliban immediately before we arrived and completely changed their fortunes.

What you fail to appreciate, furthermore, is that some of the most powerful warlords were appointed to top offices by Karzai (not elected).

Contrary to your assertion that Ms. Joya does not understand democracy--it seems to me that she understands it all to well. We Americans are the ones who naively equate "elections" with "democracy" and with "freedom."

It's easy for you to put Ms. Joya down as foolish, and to make the tough guy suggestion that she will be killed by the Taliban if they return in power. She undoubtedly knows this better than you do, and still takes the position she does, so that ought to tell you something.

I think we are better off not fooling ourselves with our own rhetoric that are there to do good for the Afghan people. We are there for our own reasons--wholly self-interested. The other justifications we provide are just blowing smoke.

Our alliance with the warlords was one of convenience--to save us from bringing in more troops--and it was well understood at the time that these are very very bad people and that enhancing their power would not be good for the Afghan people (and indeed would not be good for the institutional development of the nascent Afghan government). But WE did it anyway for our own reasons.

Mourad responds well to your other observations.

Brian
 

"This explains in no small measure why a religious source of legitimacy in the form of the hated Taliban is making such a powerful comeback."

Not good enough. Facts before ideas and at the very least (please) Marx before Weber.
Most insurgents in Afghanistan not religiously motivated

And the veil was made voluntary 1959
 

Mourad:

It is fascinating that you repeatedly note that Muslims blame the United States for their corrupt dictatorships and then argue that these same Muslims are incapable of ruling themselves and require a king to run their government.

Call me old fashioned, but I still adhere to these principles expounded in our Declaration of Independence when the Brits told us that we could not live without their king:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
 

Call me old fashioned...

Bart, your ignorance is exceeded only by your vanity.

We don't call you old fashioned, we call you delusional.
 

Brian Tamanaha said...

You are not quite right about the warlords already being in power before we came. They were near defeat at the hands of the Taliban immediately before we arrived and completely changed their fortunes.

Joya was elected from Farah province in the Pushtun south. The "fundamentalist warlords" to which she refers are Pushtun and supported the Taliban.

The Pustun Taliban were at war with the Northern Alliance, consisting of Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek tribes far to the north of Joya's home in Farah province. The Northern Alliance were not warlords. They were fighting for their freedom from one of the worst totalitarian dictatorships in the world.

What you fail to appreciate, furthermore, is that some of the most powerful warlords were appointed to top offices by Karzai (not elected).

Karzai is attempting to assemble a national coalition to be elected President. How is this our fault?

It's easy for you to put Ms. Joya down as foolish...

I never even implied Joya is a fool. Her service to the women and children of Afghanistan is wonderful and should serve as a model for other Afghans. However, I do not want to go to war with Pustun Afghanistan to remove the tribal chiefs she opposes unless they war on us. Do you?

...and to make the tough guy suggestion that she will be killed by the Taliban if they return in power.

Brian, do you have any doubt at all that the Taliban would murder Joya if they took power and she remained in Afghanistan campaigning for the basic human rights of women? Good heavens man, on a videotape which inflamed Pakistan, the Taliban recently whipped a young woman for merely being in the vicinity of of an unrelated man. The imam who ordered the flogging claimed to be merciful and said she deserved to be stoned to death.

Wishing to spare Joya and other women from this fate is hardly a "tough guy suggestion." It is basic humanity.

Brian, if you saw your neighbor stoning his wife to death in his front yard would you personally stop him or turn your back on her and leave it to the police to deal with?

I think we are better off not fooling ourselves with our own rhetoric that [we] are there to do good for the Afghan people.

Rhetoric! I am going to do my best to hold my temper here.

Professor, our soldiers and marines - a number of which are former brothers in arms and my friends - are fighting and dying to provide security so Afghans can do things that you take for granted like go to work, go to school, vote and even appear in public with a male acquaintance without being beaten or murdered. The fact that the United States shares the same enemy as the Afghan people hardly diminishes the heroic service of our men and women under arms to the Afghan people.
 

Our Backpacker closes with this:

"The fact that the United States shares the same enemy as the Afghan people hardly diminishes the heroic service of our men and women under arms to the Afghan people."

Who at this Blog in posts or comments has in any way diminished the heroic service of our men and women under arms to the Afghan people?
 

I'm curious as to whether or not the various commenters here would agree with Allen Buchanan's argument [in the book cited below] that "the international legal community should construct a morally defensible and practicable international legal practice regarding intervention [usually termed 'humanitarian intervention'] for the sake of protecting basic human rights, one that does not require Security Council authorization in every instance (under the current arrangement in which each permanent member of the Council has a veto)"?

1. Buchanan provides us with a list of what he contends are "basic human rights" in his pellucid discussion of human rights in general in his book, Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-Determination: Moral Foundations for International Law (2004): 118-190.

2. Humanitarian intervention is defined as "the use of force across state borders by a state (or group of states) aimed at ending widespread and grave violations of the the human rights of persons other than its own citizens without the permission of the government of the state within whose territory force is applied."

3. Keep in mind that, currently, "interventions to stop horrific, large-scale violations of the most basic human rights are prohibited under international law, unless they qualify as collective self-defense or are authorized by the UN Security Council."

For the details of Buchanan's argument regarding humanitarian intervention and international law, see pp. 440-472 of his book (cited above).
 

Buchanan's argument as described by Patrick S. O'Donnell seems ideal. But the big issue is overcoming issues of sovereignty in a manner that provides acceptable due process promptly. Perhaps this should be on a regional basis. I'm thinking primarily what has happened too often over the years in Africa.

But I am also thinking of Europe regarding the US's intervention in the former Yugoslavia after European nations failed to act. Why didn't the nations of Europe act on a matter in their own backyards? Germany had its interests in one of the ethnic/religious groups as did the Russians in another ethnic/religious group. Then there were the Muslims who apparently had no support from any particular European nation. The UN failed to act on a timely basis. Europe failed to act on a timely basis. While US intervention has been criticized, what might have happened if it hadn't, keeping in mind that the geography of the former Yugoslavia was involved with the beginnings of both WW I and WW II?

If there had been similar early intervention in Africa years ago, might many millions of lives have been saved? The US cannot go it alone. But it is difficult in this day and age of the search for strategic materials separating what is humanitarian from what some may consider economic warfare or neocolonialism.

Patrick raises a difficult subject. If globalization is worthwhile, Buchanan's argument makes sense. But this doesn't mean that nation states will be sensible.
 

Bart De Palma makes a typically facile comment:-

It is fascinating that you repeatedly note that Muslims blame the United States for their corrupt dictatorships and then argue that these same Muslims are incapable of ruling themselves and
require a king to run their government.


I have the following observations:

As with (for example) Roman Catholics, one cannot generalise about the beliefs of Muslims.

There were (and may still be) strong factions within the RC Church who believed that the way to salvation was not necessarily via democracy and who supported fascist dicatorships in Germany, Italy, Spain and post WW2 in Latin America.

They did so because concordats with fascist governments gave the bishops a privileged place in public life, state funding for the clergy and control or at least influence over policies such as education and divorce etc.

Other factions, such as the movements which supported "worker priests" or "liberation theology", took a very different approach.

There are also different strands of thought within Islam. In fact the beliefs of the salafists who spawn the terrorists are much influenced by fascist ideology.

It is true that there are many Muslims who blame the United States for supporting (or installing)corrupt dictatorships, but substantial numbers of adherents of other faiths (within and without the affected countries and including many of the faithful within the USA.. So do many who do not have the gift of faith but who are agnostic or atheist.

Bart needs to learn that not every one takes the view that foreign policy should be devoid of moral considerations and dominated either by purported "national security" or "energy need" considerations.

Ability to live under the rule of law in a representative democracy has nothing to do with faith, but a great deal to do with development and political evolution. It took the English over 750 years to evolve from a feudal society to a reasonably functioning representative democracy. So far as the USA is concerned, had your founding fathers not been in large numbers English gentlemen, products of the European enlightenment and steeped in the traditions of the Anglo-Norman common law, it might have taken you much longer to get where you are.

How many of the fundamental principles of your system derive from Magna Carta and our Bill of Rights (much of the language of yours was simply lifted from ours)? The writ of Habeas Corpus remains the same even if the Monarch's name has been substituted by that of some other functionary.

A constitutional monarch does not "run the government" The ministers do. There are inherent problems about having a political head of state who is also the chief executive as the US experience shows.

While Afghanistan has produced a small elite of well educated persons, the fact remains that their society and mores are essentially feudal. That is not the fault of religion. As an example Bart might care to reflect upon is that under Islam, women had far greater rights than they had in England until the passing of the first Married Women's Property Acts in the 19th Century.

Bitter experience has shown that "instant democracy" can often be as nasty as "instant comestibles" are in the culinary field.

The problem is that, like Bart, too many American politicians do not have enough respect for the lessons of history and have not learned that democracy cannot be produced on a "just add an egg and water" basis.
 

Patrick O'Donnell and Shag raise a very relevant issue.

The UN Charter was a tremendous step forward but it did leave unresolved the issue of what to do about about regimes which commit outrages within their own borders. There was no chance of the Soviets signing up to an international covenant that provided for international intervention in its own or satellite territories, Britain and France had concerns about the situation in their colonies. Even the USA might have had some concerns - - although the idea of a post WW2 foreign state invading the Southern USA to enforce the human rights of the black population in those benighted times was hardly a realistic possibility.

International Human rights law is moving on and in Europe at least there is now general legal acceptance, spurred by events in former Yugoslavia, that there is a collective right of intervention
to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and that this may be accomplished via regional transnational institutions rather than the UN. The EU has developed military structures and capability for such interventions where a UN resolution may be unobtainable for the usual veto reasons.

To that extent I would disagree with Mr O'Donnell's (or perhaps Buchanan's) proposition that "interventions to stop horrific, large-scale violations of the most basic human rights are prohibited under international law, unless they qualify as collective self-defense or are authorized by the UN Security Council."

But as with so many human rights issues (the death penalty, proportionate criminal justice, GLBT marriage and civil rights, the rights of children, the right to health care, employment rights,
sovereign immunity in domestic administrative law), the USA is lagging where it should really be leading.

In some respects this is because there are genuine domestic difficulties in constitutional terms. In others, it is perhaps because politicians are in so much fear of the continual election cycle that they regard it as safer to be subservient to public prejudices rather than regarding it as their duty to lead public opinion. In yet others, it may be because there is much more suspicion in the USA than there is in Europe of "Judge-made law" and, of course, the rise of the "originalist heresy" has not helped there (fortunately the virus has not spread to the UK).

Even with our greater constitutional, legislative and judicial flexibility we in the UK have similar problems. Take the problem of gays in the military. It took a Judgment of the ECHR to finally spur the politicians into action. It happened. The doom and gloom of prognostications of the right did not happen (gay sex has not yet been made compulsory for our armed forces). The skies have not fallen in, there have been few problems. There are gay couples living in married quarters in peace and harmony with their neighbours and openly gay soldiers of both sexes serving in Afghanistan.

But what may be a real (if often unspoken) fear is that once an administration espouses the possibility of collective action outside the UN framework, the US veto might not be effective to stope intervention of other states in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
 

Mourad,

The quote is Buchanan's stating a fact about existing international law with regard to intervention. Buchanan then offers what would amount to a moral justification that can trump existing international law. This amounts to civil disobedience of a sort at the international level by a state or states with the aim of fashioning international legal criteria that sanction humanitarian intervention of a military sort when needed to stop widespread, persistent and egregious human rights violations by a regime (or those actors within a nation the government is unable or unwilling to stop from committing such violations). In such cases, armed intervention would of course be considered a last resort. In Buchanan's words, "the question of whether international law regarding (armed) intervention needs overhauling has already arisen...because of the international community's failure to stop the recent genocide in Rwanda and its long delay in responding to ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Bosnia." According to Buchanan,

"the NATO intervention in Kosovo (1999) is only the most recent of a series of illegal interventions for which cogent moral justifications COULD have been given. Others include India's intervention in East Pakistan in response to Pakistan's massive human rights violations there (1971), Vietnam's war against Pol Pot's regime of mass killings in Cambodia (1978), and Tanzania's overthrow of Idi Amin's murderous rule in Uganda (1979). Without commenting on what the dominant motives of the intervenors were, it is accurate to say that in each case military action could have been justified on the grounds that it was needed to stop massive human rights violations. In all four instances the intervention was, according to the preponderance of international legal opinion, a violation of international law. None was a case of self-defense and none enjoyed UN Security Council authorization [cf. UN Charter, Art. 2(4) and 2(7)]. [....] There is a growing consensus, then, that the requirement of Security Council authorization is an obstacle to the protection of basic human rights in internal conflicts. Since the majority of violent conflicts are now within states rather than between them, the time is ripe to consider modifying or abandoning a rule of humanitarian intervention that was created for a different world [e.g., one in which sovereignty was sacrosanct (to be sure, in the interest of peaceful relations among states)]."

Well, enough of me quoting and summarizing Buchanan: one should read his book for the full argument (on this as well as other topics).
 

Since I'm more familiar with his work, did Philippe Sands write anything speaking to the proposal Patrick cites?
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Mourad said...

Bart De Palma makes a typically facile comment:-

It is fascinating that you repeatedly note that Muslims blame the United States for their corrupt dictatorships and then argue that these same Muslims are incapable of ruling themselves and
require a king to run their government.

I have the following observations...


Which again confirm your internal contradiction I noted above. I guess we will have to agree to disagree over whether the Afghans must wait another 750 years before they are "evolved" enough to live in freedom.
 

In response to Joe: I don't think Sands has addressed this topic in a systematic way; at least his name does not appear in the literature I'm aware of.

For excellent discussions of humanitarian intervention, one should consult at least the following four volumes (several of which Buchanan contributed to):

Chatterjee, Deen K. and Don E. Scheid, eds. Ethics and Foreign Intervention (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Chesterman, Simon. Just War or Just Peace? Humanitarian Intervention and International Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

Holzgrefe, J.L. and Robert O. Keohane, eds. Humanitarian Intervention: Ethical, Legal, and Political Dilemmas (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Jokic, Aleksandar, ed. Humanitarian Intervention: Moral and Philosophical Issues (Peterborough, ON [Canada]: 2003).
 

Patrick:

What is the suggested scope of the human rights justification for waging war? Does it begin and end with genocide or go further?

Thanks from someone who does not currently have time to read the literature.
 

Thanks Patrick.
 

I should first point out that Buchanan makes clear that an expanded conception of justified intervention "creates a correspondingly broadened opportunity for coercive diplomacy--for making credible threats of coercion to make states behave better, both by deterring them from acting badly and by compelling them to act well. [....] Other things being equal, a threat of intervention will be more credible if invervention is legally permissible."

Secondly, armed intervention is not NRCESSARILY equivalent to "just war" or tantamount to war (although the state whose territorial sovereignty is breached will no doubt label it an act of aggrssion or war), if only because the criteria are not exactly the same in each case (i.e., the principles are not equivalent to those found in the jus ad bellum branch of just war theory). However, in his latest book Larry May, who has thought long and deeply about such matters, does appear to think of such humanitarian intervention as on the order of "humanitarian war" and thus simply the latest instance of "morally justified war" (see his Aggression and Crimes Against Peace, 2008; May himself does make a 'limited defense of humanitarian wars').

Buchanan appears to have in mind what in international criminal justice and law is understood as genocide AND "crimes against humanity," typically said to include such things as slavery or slave trade; murder or disappearance of individuals; torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; prolonged arbitrary detention; systematic racial discrimination; and “the principles of the United Nations Charter prohibiting the use of force" (hence SYSTEMATIC and WIDESPREAD violations of jus cogens norms). Buchanan most often cites cases of genocide but he doesn't spell out (as far as I recall) in detail the crimes against humanity (bear in mind that some have seen the elements of and criteria for genocide as currently understood in international criminal law as too stringent).
 

the Afghans must wait another 750 years before they are "evolved" enough to live in freedom.

Is living in a constitutional monarchy incompatible wiht freedom? Por Brits! (And, Dutch, and Spaniards, and..)
 

CTS said...

BD: the Afghans must wait another 750 years before they are "evolved" enough to live in freedom.

Is living in a constitutional monarchy incompatible wiht freedom?


We thought so during the Revolution.

I still do.
 

We thought so during the Revolution.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 3:49 PM


Actually, only about 1/3 of "us" thought so. About 1/3 didn't care. The other 1/3 were happy living under British rule. The 1/3 that fought the hardest (and convinced the French to help out) were the winners. It's pretty obvious who wants to win in Afghanistan, and it's not our puppets.
 

As noted here, Malalai Joya will take part in a NYC event, and be a guest on Grit TV (Laura Flanders' show). Vids of her shows also are found on the Free Speech TV website.
 

Patrick:

I think Buchanan was giving his opinion as to the state of international law at the time he was writing in 2004 and I agree that at that time this was the view of the majority of scholars and, for what it is worth also the view of the UN Secretariat ever since the 1986 Judgment of the International Court of Justice in the case Nicaragua v. United States in which the ICJ had held:

"The Court cannot contemplate the creation of a new rule opening up a right of intervention by one State against another on the ground that the latter has opted for some particular ideology or political system. Furthermore the Respondent [the USA] has not advanced a legal argument based on an alleged new principle of "ideological intervention". With regard more specifically to alleged violations of human rights relied on by the United States, the Court considers that the use of force by the United States could not be the appropriate method to monitor or ensure respect for such rights, normally provided for in the applicable conventions".

So far as the UN Secretariat and its lawyers were concerned, that was that.

The UNSC authorised humanitarian interventions in Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia and the UN view was that there was a legal foundation for mandating regional organisations to undertake enforcement actions under Art. 53 of the UN Charter. However, the UN considered that Art. 53 precluded regional organisations from acting without the authorisation of the Security Council.

But the UN Charter is not the only source of international law and a minority of jurists championed the case that customary international law ("CIL") permitted "Humanitarian Intervention" - armed intervention in a state for the purpose of ending or reducing the suffering of the population arising out of civil war, humanitarian crisis, or ius cogens crimes committed by the state against its population and that while the ICJ case had ruled out the use of force to ensure the implementation of human rights principles, that was not the same case as that of a pressing need to bring to an end massive human rights violations so the US-v- Nicaragua holding could be distinguished.

In 1999 the UN Security Council did not condemn the NATO intervention in Kosovo which was not authorised under Art 53 and that gave further impetus to the CIL camp.

[more]
 

The GW Bush Administration was anti-UN. A foretaste of what was to come was given by one of the nastier Bush Neocons, John Bolton, in a speech delivered in February 1994, at the Global Structures Convocation, in Washington:

"There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States, when it suits our interest and we can get others to go along… When the United States leads, the United Nations will follow. When it suits our interest to do so, we will do so. When it does not suit our interests we will not"

Then came George W. Bush's unilateral decision to invade Afghanistan without an authorising UN Security Council resolution announced in a Speech to the Nation on Oct. 7, 2001 which ended with the words "Peace and freedom will prevail"

In the case of the Bush Presidency, of Neoconservatives (and BTW of poor dear Bart), the word "Freedom" should be followed by a trademark symbol because the word is not used in the generally accepted sense.

Freedom™ is to be understood as (i) at best an ersatz shadow of the real thing and (ii) at worst to be at the mercy of ill-planned and badly executed military adventures and egregious human rights violations as the present agony of the civilian population of Afghanistan demonstrates.

Unsurprisingly, there was dismay at the UN. Here was a Founder Nation, a Permanent Member of the Security Council justifying its invasion in CIL terms and not seeking a Security Council Resolution under Chapter VII for Operation Enduring Freedom™.

Enduring the operation certainly has been - far longer than WW2 - and the Afghans have understandably had their fill of Bush-style ersatz Freedom™.

[more]
 

Secretary-General Kofi Annan set in course a process to make provision for humanitarian intervention in UN practice posing the question:

"if humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica - to gross and systematic violations of human rights that affect every precept of our common humanity?"

That led to the December 2001 Responsibility to Protect Report which advocated a re-branding of the "Right to Intervene" as "Responsibility to Protect". Given the blue-ribbon membership of the Commission Members, the report is cogent and makes a very good case.

The Report was endorsed by the UN 2005 World Summit:-

138. Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means. We accept that responsibility and will act in accordance with it. The international community should, as appropriate, encourage and help States to exercise this responsibility and support the United Nations in establishing an early warning capability.

139. The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. We stress the need for the General Assembly to continue consideration of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and its implications, bearing in mind the principles of the Charter and international law. We also intend to commit ourselves, as necessary and appropriate, to helping States build capacity to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and to assisting those which are under stress before crises and conflicts break out.


In 2006 the UNSC by Resolution 1674 - "Reaffirm[ed] the provisions of paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document regarding the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity" and commits the Security Council to action to protect civilians in armed conflict.

According to the ICISS Report (above), any form of a military intervention initiated under the premise of responsibility to protect must fulfill the following six criteria in order to be justified as an extraordinary measure of intervention:
Just Cause - Right Intention - Final Resort - Legitimate Authority - Proportional Means - Reasonable Prospect of Success.

But the Report, the Summit endorsement and the UNSC resolution all begged the question about what could be done when there is a rogue administration in charge of one or other of the UNSC Permanent Member seats able to veto UNSC action or endorsement.

[more]
 

Bart:
The complaint of the American colonials was against an abuse of their rights as British citizens. Most were not, originally, anti-monarchy. Furthermore, at that time Great Britain was not a constitutional monarchy.


But, you knew this.
 

Joe:

Thanks for the info and link.
 

CTS:

The concept of the British constitutional monarchy where the monarch reigns, but does not rule, originated with the Restoration over a century before the Revolution.

Perhaps, Mourad would like to provide us 2-3 posts on the subject.
 

Mourad:

"There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States, when it suits our interest and we can get others to go along… When the United States leads, the United Nations will follow. When it suits our interest to do so, we will do so. When it does not suit our interests we will not"

- John Bolton


Bolton always had an impolitic habit of stating inconvenient truths.
 

Our Backpacker's exaltation of John Bolton - which rhymes with "revoltin'" - should inspire a limerick with another rhyme.

Query: Wasn't Bolton the US Ambassador to something (the UN) that did not exist?
 

CTS wrote:-

"The complaint of the American colonials was against an abuse of their rights as British citizens. Most were not, originally, anti-monarchy."

Indeed. And many espoused Bentham's view of the "Social Contract" between monarch and people - as appears from the Declaration of Independence which, in effect, pleads breaches of that contract to justify its recission:

"...That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world... [There then follows a list of the particular breaches on which reliance is placed.]

This was a time when citizens took an Oath seriously and the colonists needed a rationale to absolve them of the Oath of Allegiance which all holders of public office would have taken.

Bart wrote:-

"The concept of the British constitutional monarchy where the monarch reigns, but does not rule, originated with the Restoration over a century before the Revolution. Perhaps, Mourad would like to provide us 2-3 posts on the subject."

2-3 posts seem hardly necessary. This is "every English schooboy knows" history. Charles II was the last truly absolute monarch. One might put the start point for constitutional monarchy at the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which made Parliament the supreme authority or perhaps better with the advent of cabinet government - George I could not preside over cabinet meetings because he did not speak English - and the Cabinet under the Prime Minister (rather than the King in Council) thus became the real executive power.

King George III was not a despot but a constitutional Monarch and thus the citizens of British North America did not truly have problems with the King, but with his ministers.

Had those same British citizens of North America been alive to the dangers of re-vesting executive power in the person of the head of state (rather than in an executive removable at the behest of the people by a simple majority of elected representatives), they might not have gone on to devise a constitution which enabled the recent US Head of State, George Walker Bush, to claim and abuse prerogative powers which British Monarchs had not claimed since 1688.

It is well worth re-reading Al Gore's hard-hitting speech given on Martin Luther King Day 2006 On the Limits of Presidential Power.

I assume that when poor Bart briefly joined the US Army that he took the Oath prescribed by the US Code to "... support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

I confess that I do sometimes wonder how Bart squares his Oath with his incessant support for the Bush Administration's acts and policies directed to the establishment of an essentially neofascist concept of Freedom™ at odds with the duties of a president subject to both the constitution and the law.
 

Mourad's recent comments, including references to John Bolton, reminded me of George W. Bush's National Security Strategy (Sept/Oct 2002) that I have shortened in comments at this Blog and elsewhere as follows:

"We're #1 militarily, #1 economically and #1 politically; and we'll do whatever it takes to maintain these positions."

TomDispatch offers (10/26/09) Michael T. Klare's "Welcome to 2025 American Preeminence Is Disappearing Fifteen Years Early" with interesting observations, including the situation in Afghanistan, and limitations upon the US worldwide.

John Bolton is Rambo in the scenario of this "Strategy" (and some might say our Backpacker is a junior-Rambo). What did this "Strategy" accomplish over the 8 years of Bush/Cheney? Empirical evidence of declines of empire is vast. Hopefully Obama will continue to move in the direction of realism so that the US can lead with examples of democracy and reason rather than the sword and continue #1 to be influential globally.
 

Mourad:

I confess that I do sometimes wonder how Bart squares his Oath with his incessant support for the Bush Administration's acts and policies directed to the establishment of an essentially neofascist concept of Freedom™ at odds with the duties of a president subject to both the constitution and the law.

You might recall that I am the one who incessantly cites to our Constitution both in support of Mr. Bush's rather traditional pre-Vietnam view of executive power and in opposition to your incessant desire to subsume our Constitution to foreign law.
 

Our Backpacker's response to Mourad would be more accurate with:

"You might recall that I am the one who incessantly MIS-cites to our Constitution ...."
 

Bolton always had an impolitic habit of stating inconvenient truths.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 11:14 PM


That's pretty funny, Baghdad. Bolton is one of the few people on the planet less credible than you.
 

Charles II was the last truly absolute monarch. One might put the start point for constitutional monarchy at the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which made Parliament the supreme authority or perhaps better with the advent of cabinet government - George I could not preside over cabinet meetings because he did not speak English - and the Cabinet under the Prime Minister (rather than the King in Council) thus became the real executive power.

Wow, Mourad. Did you just write the Magna Carta right out of the history books? The British Constitution is largely unwritten, but its start date is hardly 1688.

On a completely separate note, I support the idea of the UN, and I understand the sentiment that there ought to be some overarching institution that can say when it's okay to use force in order to protect human rights. But there will never be such a body. There are no philosopher-kings available. This is a planet of nations, and those nations have governments, and even the most enlightened governments are going to lean heavily on the concept of self-interest. It is impossible to create an entity that would stand apart from the nations of the world and give some sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval to proposed military actions without taking the self-interest of any nation into account. Where would we find the stateless people to man this entity? Not gonna happen.

All we can do as a nation is try our best to do the right thing according to our own conceptions of human rights and morality. As John Kerry argued in 2004 with typical inelegance, we can certainly look to the opinions of nations that we respect and that share our values to get some kind of confirmation that our heart is in the right place, but that's as good as it gets. There is never going to be some kind of disinterested ubergovernment to give us its blessing.
 

My apologies to George III. :-)

I realize that 'constitutional monarchy' is an inexact phrase. I meant that the reign of Geo III was not constrained as the colonials believed it should be with respect to them as British citizens.

At any rate, Bart's antipathy to any form of monarchy is silly. But then, I don't think he meant it. He was just latching on to whatever he could to effect some rhetorical advantage.
 

Steve M wrote:-

Wow, Mourad. Did you just write the Magna Carta right out of the history books? The British Constitution is largely unwritten, but its start date is hardly 1688

I certainly hope not. But was at issue between CTS and Bart was the point at which became a constitutional monarchy in which "the King reigns but does not rule"

It is in fact extraordinarily difficult to determine what the British Constitution is today, or was at any given time. In part this is because there is no single written document to which one can refer, in part because there is so much reliance on "constitutional conventions" - understandings about how things are done which are not reduced to writing.

An example is that a bill introduced into parliament and passed by both houses only becomes law when it receives the royal assent. This is still given in Norman French and there are ritual formulas which are:-

"le Roi [la Reine] le veult" (the King [Queen] so wishes) for an ordinary bill, but for a bill imposing taxation;
"le Roi [La Reine] remercie ses bons sujets de leur bénévolence et ansi le veult" (the King [Queen] thanks his [her] good subjects for their generosity and accordingly so wishes);

Already we see that this is a throwback to the times when a monarch was expected to "live off his own", i.e. from the income of royal lands, taxes were only exceptionally levied - usually for some emergency such as a war and it was accepted in terms expressing the idea that it was exceptional assistance.

Then there is a third formula:

"le Roi [la Reine 's'avvisera" (the King [Queen] will think about it).

This is the formula for delicately refusing the Royal Assent and it simply means the bill does not become law. The power is still there, but there is a "constitutional convention" that the monarch will not refuse assent to a bill - and in fact the last monarch to do so was Queen Anne in 1707.

Then there is the matter in the words of Walter Bagheot that our constitution contains "dignified" and "efficient" parts.

The Privy Council is not always what it seems. It meets to deal with some kinds of subordinate legislation: proclamations, the granting of charters, orders in council and the like. A few ministers who are Privy Councillors troop in, they remain standing, the Queen comes in. The title of each instrument is read out and the Queen signifies her assent. All over in a few minutes. That's a "dignified" part of our constitution.

An efficient part is that Privy Councillors take a fairly robust Oath Privy Councillors' Oath This requires the Members of the Privy Council to keep their deliberations secret. Since there are alway Councillors from the different parties and they are appointed for life, discussions across party lines can take place "on Privy Council terms" - which means that the discussions will never be disclosed. This quite often takes place on issues of national security or other grave issues which require cross party consensus. That's an efficient part of our constitution.
 

The Laura Flanders interview of Malalai Joya and the previous panel discussion that provided contrasting views on the value of our military presence was worthwhile.

http://lauraflanders.firedoglake.com/category/episodes/ [Tuesday]
 

Revenons-en à nos moutons

In earlier posts, I expressed disquiet about the role which the Neocon Afghan-American, Zalmay Khalilzad aka "the Viceroy", has played in successive US administration policies for the land of his birth.

He first of all worked with Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Carter Administration's architect of the policy supporting the mujahideen resistance to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.

On this previous Afghanistan thread I pointed out that Brzezinski was the wonderful person who in a 1998 interview said:-

"Question: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?


As the Wikipedia entry points out:

"From 1985 to 1989, Khalilzad served in President Ronald Reagan's Administration as a senior State Department official advising on the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the Iran–Iraq War.

During this time he was the State Department's Special Advisor on Afghanistan to Undersecretary of State Michael H. Armacost. In this role he developed and guided the international program to promote the merits of a Mujahideen-led Afghanistan to oust the Soviet occupation. From 1990-1992, Khalilzad served under President George H. W. Bush in the Defense Department as Deputy Undersecretary for Policy Planning."
and his involvement in Afghanistan continued during the Clinton Administration. He played a major role in developing the GW Bush Administration's Enduring Freedom™

And the drug trade has featured prominently throughout.

A major factor in the defeat of the Soviet forces in Afghanistan was a calculated policy of getting them hooked on opium and heroin - in 1987 the Boston Globe reported DEA and State Department Officials as saying that increased heroin addiction was causing morale problems in the Soviet army.

The problem has been a continuing one:-
Independent: Drugs for guns: how the Afghan heroin trade is fuelling the Taliban insurgency

[more]
 

Revenons-en à nos moutons - 2

This 2008 Victor Thorn article: CIA, Heroin Still Rule Day in Afghanistan sets out much of the history and in particular the role of another Reagan-Bush Neocon, Richard Armitage:-

"But the real operator in Afghanistan was Richard Armitage, a man whose legend includes being the biggest heroin trafficker in Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War; director of the State Department’s Foreign Narcotics Control Office (a front for CIA drug dealing); head of the Far East Company (used to funnel drug money out of the Golden Triangle); a close liaison with Oliver North during the Iran-Contra cocaine-for-guns scandal; a primary Pentagon official in the terror and covert ops field under George Bush the Elder; one of the original signatories of the infamous PNAC document; and the man who helped CIA Director William Casey run weapons to the mujahideen during their war against the Soviet Union. Armitage was also stationed in Iran during the mid-1970s right before Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew the shah. Armitage may well be the greatest covert operator in U.S. history."

Thorn points out the continuing problems:-

"The line between friend and foe gets even murkier. Afghan President Hamid Karzai not only collaborated with the Taliban, but he was also on Unocal’s payroll in the mid-1990s. He is also described by Saudi Arabia’s Al-Watan newspaper as being “a Central Intelligence Agency covert operator since the 1980s that collaborated with the CIA in funding U.S. aid to the Taliban.”

Capturing a new, abundant source for heroin was an integral part of the U.S. “war on terror.” Hamid Karzai is a puppet ruler of the CIA; Afghanistan is a full-fledged narco-state; and the poppies that flourish there have yet to be eradicated, as was proven in 2003 when the Bush administration refused to destroy the crops, despite having the chance to do so. Major drug dealers are rarely arrested, smugglers enjoy carte blanche immunity..."


The problem continues:-

BBC: Russian anger over Afghan drugs
Kyiv Post: Russia: U.S. fight against Afghan drugs insufficient

[more]
 

Revenons-en à nos moutons - 3

In my previous posts on this thread, I suggested the Obama administration might do very well to keep very clear of Khalilzad (who played a prominent role in the Neocon Project for the New American Century and who co-signed the infamous PNAC letter to President Clinton - which alone ought to be reason enough to quarantine him from any involvement in US Foreign Policy.

I pointed out that Khalilzad's links with Kharzai are suspect and that the constitution he devised for Afghanistan was perhaps devised for his own ultimate benefit.

Today's New York Times carries this article: Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll:-

"Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials...

The ties to Mr. Karzai have created deep divisions within the Obama administration. The critics say the ties complicate America’s increasingly tense relationship with President Hamid Karzai, who has struggled to build sustained popularity among Afghans and has long been portrayed by the Taliban as an American puppet. The C.I.A.’s practices also suggest that the United States is not doing everything in its power to stamp out the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a major source of revenue for the Taliban.

More broadly, some American officials argue that the reliance on Ahmed Wali Karzai, the most powerful figure in a large area of southern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgency is strongest, undermines the American push to develop an effective central government that can maintain law and order and eventually allow the United States to withdraw.

“If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves,” said Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the senior American military intelligence official in Afghanistan....“The only way to clean up Chicago is to get rid of Capone,” General Flynn said.


That is a figure of speech which might resonate with a President from Chicago.

[more]
 

Revenons-en à nos moutons - 4

Your country's Public Broadcasting Service ran an interesting 1988 documentary Guns, Drugs and the CIA. The programme carried part of a Senate sub-committee hearing in which Senator John Kerry said of the Reagan CIA:-

It seems as though stopping drug trafficking in the United States has been a secondary U.S. foreign policy objective, sacrificed repeatedly for other political and institutional goals such as changing the government of Nicaragua, supporting the government of Panama, using drug-running organizations as intelligence assets, and protecting military and intelligence sources from possible compromise through involvement in drug trafficking."

That CIA involvement with drugs has been a continuing phenomenon ever since then and that may be part of the explanation why Senator Kerry was noticeably cool to Kharzai during his recent visit to Afghanistan.

It might be time to cleanse the CIA's Augean Stables.

A start could perhaps be made by calling home each and every CIA agent in Afghanistan and Pakistan and closing down all their field offices and all their networks. There is nothing covert about them - they stick out like sore thumbs. Perhaps they could all be assigned to those soon to be be empty cell blocks in Guantanamo Bay where they could be patiently "debriefed" by the FBI under the supervision of a good Federal Prosecutor about international drug trafficking.

I can think of some European states - not to mention Russia - who might be interested in the information thus gleaned and who might then be interested in making some extradition requests.

More generally, it may be worth perusing Ahmed Rashid's essay on National Interest On-Line: Trotsky in Baluchistan from which some brief quotations:-

"The disastrous legacy that Obama inherited in Afghanistan is primarily the fault of former-President George W. Bush and his failure to deliver sufficient political, military and economic resources to both the country and the region writ large. But lest we think revisiting the past is an unnecessary detour into mistakes no longer relevant, it is fixing these missteps that is key to preventing a complete radicalization of the region.

The descent of Afghanistan to the brink of anarchy was solidified last year. It was the result of eight years of blunders, miscalculations and wanton neglect. It is in these areas that Obama must now course correct....


Rashid points out that there have already been Obama policy failures - principally an unwillingness to get to grips with the Karzai problem - and he sets out the consequences in terms of the ISAF effort.

This is a disaster in the making. As Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s new secretary-general, categorically warned those looking to leave, the public debate about Afghanistan “has started to go in the wrong direction. . . . Let no one think that a run for the exits is an option. It is not.

[more]
 

A sequel to the 1975 "Three Days of the Condor" might be appropriate. (Oh, Oh, who's that knocking at my door at this hour as I type?) Maybe, just maybe, oil and drugs might mix.
 

Revenons-en à nos moutons - 5

Ahmed Rashid's essay on National Interest On-Line referenced in the previous thread makes a powerful case on the expansion of salafist extremism in the region and the possible consequences in neighbouring states - and he is in an excellent position to know the perils for Pakistan in particular. Rashid also sets out the problems in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan- just about all the nations with names ending in "...stan".

As some regular readers may know, as a British Muslim committed to secular democratic ideals and the rule of law, I have a special interest in this area and now I am semi-retired I spend a fair amount of time trying to promote an understanding of the history and future implications of salafist extremism (which may irritate some on this blog).

I happen to share Ahmed Rashid's analyis of the dangers which is why I cannot subscribe to the idea that the West can simply "declare victory and leave" Afghanistan and its neighbours to their fate.

However unpopular, the international efforts do do what is right in Afghanistan and the neighbouring states must be reformed, internationalised, enhanced - and financed.

Political leaders in democracies are often sorely tempted to do a Pilate and simply "wash one's hands" of a problem thought to be too big or or opt for a minimalist approach. They are not assisted by the need to have regard to the popular mood. Then one has need of a statesman rather than a politician.

I would add this: In my nearly 40 years in the law I have come across all too many Judges who have sought to duck the difficult decisions - the minimalist approach of the Roberts Court - and thereby perpetuated injustice. This is not the time for that approach to the law, to legislation or to executive decision making.

In Afghanistan there is an urgent need to establish (i) order (ii) law and (iii) development and (iv) democracy.

In that order because the rule of law cannot take hold until there is first order, development aid leads only to corruption unless the rule of law is quickly established and democracy cannot flourish until order and law and a developed society enables people to spend time thinking rather than wondering how the children are to be fed.

That above all why I have been so critical of the Neocon version of Freedom™ which as poor dear Bart makes plain was essentially premised on selfish perceived national self-interest. What is important for the rest of the world may seem unimportant from the foothills of the Rockies in Colorado. But if Bart wants to look at US self-interest, let him look at a map of the oil and gas pipelines in the region. If they go down the heat and lights go out across Europe and the EU economy is bigger than that of the USA. More than half of US trade in goods and services is with the EU and if our economy collapses the US ecomomy will follow suit. We are all in this together - for the long term or until Armageddon supervenes.

[end - for now]
 

Mourad closes [for now]:

"That above all why I have been so critical of the Neocon version of Freedom™ which as poor dear Bart makes plain was essentially premised on selfish perceived national self-interest. What is important for the rest of the world may seem unimportant from the foothills of the Rockies in Colorado. But if Bart wants to look at US self-interest, let him look at a map of the oil and gas pipelines in the region. If they go down the heat and lights go out across Europe and the EU economy is bigger than that of the USA. More than half of US trade in goods and services is with the EU and if our economy collapses the US ecomomy will follow suit. We are all in this together - for the long term or until Armageddon supervenes."

With regard to "the foothills of the Rockies in Colorado," I think of our Backpacker being "high" in that locale.

With respect to the oil and gas pipelines in the area (Central Asia), a nuclear power seems to be in charge. Add to these pipelines the drug pipelines. While NATO nation states have national interests in Central Asia, so do China, India, Japan, etc, in addition to the former Soviet "Stan" republics and those in the traditional Middle East. At some point these other nation states have to consider their national interests that might not be identical to the US and other NATO nation states.

Meantime, it seems that oil and gas are fueling drugs. If we can't trust a man who wears a cape, how can we trust his brother? While it may be difficult abandoning Afghanistan and declaring victory, it may be even more difficult staying with whatever strategy is decided upon. Yes, there are humanitarian issues, but there remains the nagging concern of neocolonization with competing national interests of nation states in dealing with Central Asia as part of the Greater Middle East. Maybe we all need a Rocky Mountain High as we face the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" dilemma that is Afghanistan in this reversal of Genghis Khan.
 

Since Prof. Balkin has decided not to have comments ...

Congrats on his correction and defense of blogs regarding the Scalia matter. Scalia and Thomas can be disputed without partaking in erroneous expressions of their views. Ditto the Thomas as Scalia clone business, when the two have repeatedly split (e.g. on medicinal marijuana).

The law review articles he cites spelling his views also are interesting if a bit long and tedious to promote the basic principle he promotes. I again would recommend "Keeping Faith With The Constitution" by Liu, Karlan and Schroeder that can be downloaded for free at the American Constitution Society website.

As to Scalia in general: he has not been as tied to originalism as Thomas. He often cites tradition and long held precedent though somewhat selectively (the right to privacy is secured by precedents as far back as let's say regulatory takings, but he only feels to be bound to one).

Also, if he is a fan of Harlan, Harlan did think the feds were bound to not discriminate by race, in part thinking the reverse often was a "badge of slavery." More so, however, Harlan defenders are selective.

Why is his dissent in the Civil Rights Cases not similarly honored? That is, federal power over public accommodations to bar discrimination is not limited to the commerce power? Or, his general support of substantive due process? He dissented in Lochner, but only to the degree he felt the government had a legitimate interest to abridge an unenumerated freedom of contract. A freedom that was there all the same.

Such is the problem: there is a lot of selective application going on with this originalism. As Justice Souter noted recently, it's a fine thing, if we don't expect too much out of it.
 

Permit me to follow in Joe's footsteps by directing those interested in originalism to Mark S. Stein's "Originalism and Original Exclusions" available via SSRN at:

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1488997

Stein throws down the gauntlet to originalists, including Jack Balkin. I don't know if any of them will respond but Stein takes no prisoners. This article is a serious piece of work. (The "Original Exclusions" relate to slavery, property holding males, etc, in the ante-bellum Constitution.)

Stein had regaled some of us with his earlier article "The Domestic Violence Clause in 'New Originalist Theory'" also available via SSRN (but I don't have the link readily available at this moment). This earlier article may have been somewhat tongue in check (he displayed a great sense of humor), but the newer article can be biting at times. I look forward to more of his article.
 

Per, Glenn Greenwald, here is a Russian p.o.v. related to the original post.
 

Mourad@4:56

I am always amused by people like Mourad when they opine on the subject of military officers and their oath to defend the Constitution. Almost to a man those on the left display their hipprocracy on this subject, demonstrating anew the validity of the old truism about gored oxen.

When Truman and MacArthur had their famous dispute MacArthur held that he, no less than Truman, took an oath to defend the Constitution, and that he had been at it far longer than Truman, who, he observed, was but a temporary occupant of the office, and that he, MacArthur was just as good a judge as the Pres.--if not better--to determine how the Constitution and America was to be defended.
In this MacArthur was roundly criticized by almost the entirety of academia, the media, the "intellectual" left, the political left, and registered Donkey Party voters, who held virtually en mass that military officers best served the defense of the Constitution by obeying their duly Constitutionally elected Commander in Chief--else there would be as many disparate definitions of authorized Constitutional actions as there were serving officers. It also didn't hurt that in this case the left was supporting a Democrat President against a conservative Gen. who had GOP leanings.

There the matter pretty much sat as the consensus last word on Civil-Military duties regarding the Constitution until along came the Iran-Contra hearings and a certain USMC LTC Ollie North serving a Republican CinC. FLIP-FLOP! The same group who once believed in the President as the single font of transmission of Constitutional duties to the military did a 180--a different oxen had hove on the scene.

LTC North, testifying before Congress, claimed he acted as he did either a) at the direct orders of the President, b) at the orders of his immediate superiors, or, c) when in the field in an emergency situation and communications were
out (this was prior to the days of cell and satellite phone comm) he acted in a manner he thought to be congruent with the Presidents beliefs.

Well..all the previous champions of Presidential authority went Ape-S**t. What about your oath to defend the Constitution, they exclaimed? (anticipating Mourad) Take orders from a single man? A "mere" politician? What about Ollie's *greater* duties to the Constitution, etc.?

Of course the conscience of the left in ratting out their predecessors (most of whom were still alive) was salved by the knowledge that it was a right-wing Republican President they were throwing under the Constitutional bus this time.

Fast forward to the election of Democrat W. J. Clinton as President. Given that he was on written record as saying that he "loathed" the military, many pundits could be forgiven if they wondered aloud as to whether the uniformed military would respect their new CinC., and the extent to which they would unhesitatingly follow his orders, as their oath was not to him, but to the Constitution. Immediately the left rose en mass to the attack in defense of Clinton. The military would obey they said; Clinton was the single civilian Constitutional head of the armed services. The officers had no choice but to obey the orders of their duly elected civilian head. (Sounds of Churchillian "re-ratting" in the background) And of course it didn't hurt that in this the left was defending a Democrat CinC and attacking a military officer corps overwhelmingly conservative who voted Republican at approx. a 70%. rate.

Now we come to Mr. Mourad, who would "re-re-rat" from the original "ratting"" by taking us back to the views the left held during the Iran contra hearings--conveniently skipping over the lefts' Clinton Presidential supremacy holdings and stopping just before he gets to the view of Truman as Gods-last-word on the Constitution his side once held--helped along by the fact he is here criticizing an ex-officers' views of the legitimacy of a Republican President.

The moans of gored oxen are loud indeed.
 

Joe:

Thanks for the link you have just posted. We should note especially the last paragraph of Mr Lanine's piece:-

If, in willful or blind ignorance, we do not challenge our government to change the role of our troops from aggression to genuine peacekeeping and reconstruction, we are all responsible for the Afghan and Canadian lives about to be lost.

Subject to one qualification, I agree. The qualification is that before there can be "peacekeeping" there has to be "peace enforcement". That is a task which often involves very great restraint and the taking of casualties without retaliation.

That is not the instinctive reaction of a trained soldier and that is why peace enforcement requires intensive training at all levels.
 

Mourad's last comment reminds me of the book The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America's Military by Dana Priest on the mission creep of the military and the complications involved.

As to Shag's citation, again, I think Souter has the right idea. More power to Prof. Balkin for his attempts, but not sure how useful they are at the end of the day.
 

Virgil Xenophon ("VX") wrote:-

"I am always amused by people like Mourad when they opine on the subject of military officers and their oath to defend the Constitution. Almost to a man those on the left display their
hippocracy on this subject, demonstrating anew the validity of the old truism about gored oxen.


Our contributer blogs under a pseudonym composed of the two names of a Roman poet and of a Greek warrior scholar who wrote the "Anabasis"- an account of the expedition of Cyrus against the Shah Artaxerxes II of Persia in 410 BC essentially along the south coast of Modern Turkey, down the Euphrates and back up the Tigris into modern Iraq, ending up at Trabazon on the Black Sea (aka "The March of the 10,000).

I take it therefore that VX has a modicum of Greek and knows well that "hippocracy" is a word coined from the Greek by Johanthan Swift who used the term in Gulliver's Travels.

The word means "rule by horses" and in Swift's satire it describes Houyhnhnms where horses are indeed the rulers and base humans (the "Yahoos") are the ruled.

So let me assure him (i) I am not a horse and (ii) I have never been ruled by horses since I was in an infantry regiment rather than the cavalry.

I do have a fairly dim view of most 2nd Lieutenants since I spent some of my service time as a NCO Instructor training young officers (aka Chinless Wonders") how not to get themselves or their men needlessly killed in the course of peace-keeping and peace enforcement operations of which HM Forces have by now acquired some modest experience.

It seems to me from his post that VX is living in Νεφελοκοκκυγία - which must not be that far from the residence of dear Bart.
 

Well, it appears that President Obama is about to order the worst possible course of action in Afghanistan. Rather than reinforcing to win the war as I propose or cutting our losses and withdrawing from Afghanistan as most here propose, King Solomon Obama is reportedly ready to cut the baby in half by refusing to either reinforce or withdraw from Afghanistan and instead ordering our current forces to fall back to ten major cities and ceding the countryside to the Taliban as a safe haven to be patrolled by only by drones.

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the operations of the Boers, Castro and Mao knows that holding the cities while ceding the countryside to the guerillas will simply result in our soldiers dying for years before an inevitable defeat.

If Obama actually gives this order, he should be impeached for incompetence and killing our soldiers for no good reason whatsoever.
 

Our Backpacker misspells once again:

"Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the operations of the Boers, ...."

Once again Backpacker "Bores" us with his military operations expertise.

Where were our Backpacker's calls for impeachment of Bush/Cheney for their ineptness over a period of 8 years? How many American soldiers were killed during those 8 years "for no good reason whatsoever"?
 

Shag:

Since you want to turn Obama's decision into a gratuitous shot at Bush, Obama is reportedly leaning towards the losing Iraq strategy Bush employed prior to switching to the winning Petreaus counter insurgency Surge.
 

I have not read all the literature on humanitarian intervention. What I have read fails to consider the problem of misinformation. Scholars theorize based on facts that often, due to military propaganda, biased press coverage, and use of public relations firms like Ruder Finn, are false. Human rights groups thoughtlessly endorse allegations, such as Racak and the Kuwaiti incubator babies, in situations where they should know that the allegations will be used as justification for war. Any informed and honest observer knows that fundamental questions remain about 9/11.

Some kind of fact-finding mechanism is required.
 

When I say "honest," I include the need to be honest with oneself. Cognitive dissonance is hard to fight.
 

Virgil Xenophon,

I'm no expert in 20th century American history but your post makes no sense whatever to me.

As I understand it, the dispute between Truman and McArthur concerned the chain-of-command alone. The Constitution says Truman is McArthur's boss. OTOH, the Iran-Contra affair concerned the president's Constitutional obligation to faithfully execute the laws, which laws are written by the Congress.

Given that you don't seem competent to see the difference in the two cited examples perhaps it isn't any surprise that your comments about Clinton and Mourad are similarly incoherent.

Have a nice day.
 

Well, it appears that President Obama is about to order the worst possible course of action in Afghanistan.

Bart, while intelligent and judicious people at the highest levels of our government and military are grappling with an exceedingly difficult and intractable problem it would be best if unbalanced lunatics like you kept your idiot opinions to yourselves.

You're welcome.

***If Jack Balkin would take the modest step of banning Bart DePalma I think it highly probable that this blog would undergo a vibrant resurgence.
 

Mattski wrote suggesting that poor dear Bart be banned from this site.

Professor Balkin, whose blog this is, sets the rules and think we must take advantage of his hospitality on his terms.

Might I suggest that poor dear Bart's posts do have their utility. One's reactions to them can range from incredulity (how can anyone be that ill informed or stupid) all the way to real anger (how can anyone be that dishonest or amoral), but they do mirror (even parrot) the views of a certain minority.

Surely it is better to seek to challenge Bart's assertions with an attempt to formulate a rational response - not in the expectation of converting or persuading Bart himself - he is probably immunised against rational debate - but in order to seek to persuade other readers.
 

If this Blog did not have Backpacker, we would have to invent him. Recall Brian's earlier post of 10/12/09 and the string of comments that finally included this comment by me:

*****
OIL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

Some may recall this Three Stooges episode featuring Larry, Moe and Joe Besser. But this title serves as an expose of our Backpaper who is in reality an extreme liberal working undercover as a neocon nudge at this Blog, self described as a DUI legal specialist minoring in economics and with extensive military expertise, to incite liberals to respond to his neocon rants in detail, with facts. There is no Backpacker. Finally, with his recent " ... our oil ... our oil ... " screed he has achieved the heights of his undercover assignment, his true goal, truly exposing that the National Interests of both the U.S. and the U.K. in the Greater Middle East are for " ... our oil ... our oil ...." We've been well duped, we liberals who have responded to our Backpacker's neocon rants over the past several years, but like the Three Stooges episode:

"OIL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL"

A round of applause to our Backpacker, "Well played." But one question: Was Mourad pulling our Backpacker's strings? If so, Mourad deserves a "Well done" as well.
# posted by Shag from Brookline : 8:23 AM

*****

Sometimes a troll is a convenient foil.
 

It appears that Backpacker's source for "splitting the baby" may have been Doyle McManus' column in yesterday's (10/28/09) LATimes titled and subtitled:

"Troop level in Afghanistan is the east part. Obama can find middle ground in how many soldiers to send. How he deals with what happens afterward is the big question."

McManus closes his column with this:

"'In 1971, I asked the [Senate] Foreign Relations Committee, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" ' Thirty-eight years later, chairing the committee, Kerry said, 'I keep that question very much in mind.' "

There is a photo of Pres. Obama at Dover, Del. saluting as the casket of an American soldier passes by to remind us what is happening in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

And our Backpacker talks about impeaching Pres. Obama. Where was America's newest motivational speaker George W. Bush from 1/19/01 - 1/19/09?

By the Bybee (bye, bye soon?), our newest motivational speaker expressed his regrets for his uniformed (uninformed?) flight deck "Mission Accomplished" speech in 2003.
 

Surely it is better to seek to challenge Bart's assertions with an attempt to formulate a rational response - not in the expectation of converting or persuading Bart himself - he is probably immunised against rational debate - but in order to seek to persuade other readers.

Mourad, you are a great treasure and I'm deeply grateful for your contributions here. And I don't disagree with your general view of Bart. The only problem is that the extremity and tenacity of certain voices tends to suck up most of the oxygen in the room, so to speak. A lot of thoughtful, well-informed people decline to participate in the discussion on account of the strident ignorance of some.

I think few regular readers of this blog have much doubt about why JB has backed off from enabling comments.
 

Faux Outrage - 1

Bart De Palma wrote:-

"Well, it appears that President Obama is about to order the worst possible course of action in Afghanistan....If Obama actually gives this order, he should be impeached for incompetence and killing our soldiers for no good reason whatsoever."

While casting about for an authoritative account of precisely what motivated this intemperate outburst, I came across this interesting graphic America's Longest Wars.

As will be seen, the Gulf War lasted just lasted just one month with total US casualties of just 382. Bart revealed on Professor Tamanaha's most recent previous Afghanistan post, that his only active duty military experience was a brief period as a platoon leader in the Gulf War but only in the aftermath of the actual shooting war.

Other than that, he has no special expertise in matters military. I do not think Bart has ever actually been to Afghanistan or to any other country actually in the throes of the kind of problems now confronting the US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan.

With that preface, what has prompted Bart may be this NYT report U.S. to Protect Populous Afghan Areas, Officials Say.

A tactic of the terrorists is to intimidate the civil population. of the cities and towns. That can be accomplished with devastating effectiveness by very small numbers of terrorists.

The proper and correct response to such attacks is significantly to increase the visible presence on the streets of the major conurbations (i) to give reassurance to the civil population (ii) to attempt to prevent attacks and spot suspicious activity which requires further investigation; (iii) to man checkpoints and road blocks (iv) to give point defence to centers of vital activities - key utilities, government offices which must be kept working; key foreign visitors and workers on aid and development projects.

Does one doubt that this is necessary? See UN staff killed in Kabul attack, or just across the Afghan-Pak border Pakistan bomb kills 105 as Clinton visits

[more]
 

Faux Outrage - 2

On the previous thread, I pointed out that the Algerians probably know more about dealing with this type of threat than anyone else.

They combine massive urban security with very mobile troops for the rural areas (and the formation and training of village self-defence groups) which sounds very much like what is being envisaged:-

"A senior military officer said the developing strategy adopted General McChrystal’s central tenet.

“We are no longer thinking about just destroying the enemy in a conventional way,” the officer said. “We must remove the main pressure that civilians live under, which is the constant intimidation and corruption and direct threat from the insurgency.”

The officer said General McChrystal wanted the most expansive definition of population centers to include fertile valleys, economic belts and major roadways, in particular the national ring road central for commerce, as well as four or five roadways linking Afghanistan eastward to Pakistan and westward to Iran.

Officials said no exact statistics were available for the percentage of the Afghan population that would fall under a new population-centered policy.

Elements of the strategy are already being carried out. Over the past month, General McChrystal has closed half a dozen isolated military outposts in towns like Wanat, where nine Americans were killed in a vicious firefight in July 2008. The decision to close these bases has allowed the general to shift nearly 1,000 troops to other missions. Historical analogies are imperfect, but the strategy being put in place can be viewed as a rejection of arguments that individual villages have a strategic importance — a Vietnam-era mistake — instead building on the lessons of the Iraq troop increase, when large population areas received the most reinforcements.


The fact is that any other strategy requires manning levels which the West simply could not muster without conscription. See Grim Reality for German Forces in Kunduz:-

"According to the German military, the regional command north, which they head, has just 6,000 NATO soldiers, 8,000 members of the Afghan National Army and 12,000 members of the Afghan National Police, trying to control an area of more than 60,000 square miles, or roughly half the size of Germany, with 11 million inhabitants. By contrast, New York City’s 305 square miles and 8 million residents, (where, incidentally, there is no insurgency and no mountain range) has roughly 34,000 officers keeping the peace."

[more]
 

If Obama actually gives this order, he should be impeached for incompetence and killing our soldiers for no good reason whatsoever.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 3:43 PM


Why didn't you demand that Bush be impeached for following the same strategy?
 

Faux Outrage - 3

I visited Algeria a number of times at the height of the GIA threat. I am no-one special, but on my first such visit I was intercepted by immigration and asked to wait until a 2 man Gendarmerie escort in plain clothes with an unmarked vehicle was assigned. They drove to my hotel set in extensive grounds with good perimeter security, commando forces on the roof and armed police on every internal floor.

Wherever I went, my Gendarmes came with me. When I went out for a meal with a retired general at a beachfront restaurant a bodyguard of about 15 commando troops in plain clothes assured perimeter security.

My host told me there were 15,000 armed police protecting the capital together with 25,000 military and paramilitary units. There were checkpoints on every point of access to the conurbation and fixed and mobile checkpoints throughout the city. There was a night-time curfew. Yet the operational unit of bombers was thought to be no more than a maximum of 5-10 individuals.

That level of protection extended to all major conurbations.

The non sequitur in Bart's post is that reinforcing urban and communications security does not mean withdrawing from the rural areas. But it does mean that not every village can be manned by troops. Rural populations have to be persuaded to come in to defensible villages and be largely self-defended.

Either that or one is looking at a troop requirement far in excess of that which the West can possibly provide.

That is why on this and the previous post I called for further internationalisation and reform of the mission and, thus far that seems to be what the Administration has in mind.

It does seem to me that despite his much vaunted perusal of what he refers to as 'milblogs', Bart is not very au fait with counter-insurgency work. Unsurprising really.

Of course there will be those who want the Obama Administration to fail. They well know what foreign wars can do to polling numbers.

But thus far the Administration seems to be moving with appropriate deliberation and that of itself seems to me to be a better approach than that of its predecessor with its ersatz Freedom™

Bart ought to look again at the costs in blood and treasure thus far expended in both Iraq and Afghanistan and the dubious results and wish his President and the allies of the USA well, rather than explode in faux outrage about grave matters on which he appears to know rather little.
 

Folks:

I saw the trial balloon for the Obama plan to retreat to urban areas in the NYT, NPR and Fox News, which had a lengthy analysis with a former general. The story should not have been hard to find.

I appreciate Mlourad's attempt to actually offer a response my criticism rather then engage in the usual shag name calling or mattski kill the messenger reaction.

Mourad:

1) What is NATO's war objective in Afghanistan if not to deny sanctuary to and defeat the allied Taliban and al Qaeda forces? The only way to accomplish this objective is to occupy the countryside to deny the enemy sanctuary.

2) No one is arguing that security should not be established in the urban areas. However, ceding the countryside to the Taliban grants them a sanctuary which they can train, conscript fighters, as well as tax the locals and grow poppy to support their operations. With such a sanctuary, they can never be defeated and can launch attacks into the cities with impunity. See the NVA in Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam; the Boers in the countryside until the Brits cleaned them out; Castro operating in the jungle and attacking the towns and cities; and Mao doing the same thing.

3) The United States does not need to renew the draft to come up with the troops to employ the Petreaus/McChrystal counter insurgency. These troops can be rotated out or Iraq to the US and US troops rotated into Afghanistan.

4) The Pakistanis already employed the Obama strategy against the Taliban and al Qaeda by ceding the tribal areas to the enemy and providing security in the cities, until the assassination of Butto and escalating violence in the cities showed the folly of this plan and Pakistan finally sent in their troops to clear out the Pakistani sanctuaries. Are we now going to refuse our own military's advice and allow Pakistan's Taliban and al Qaeda to find sanctuary in Afghanistan?

This is pure madness and a recipe for NATO and Afghan deaths without victory and an assured Saigon style eventual withdrawal and defeat.

If folks here disagree, show me one example in history where such a strategy succeeded to counter the multiple examples of failure I offered.

Indeed, I would think the majority here who favor withdrawal now would be as infuriated at this news as I am. Or does party loyalty trump everything?
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

I appreciate Mlourad's attempt to actually offer a response my criticism rather then engage in the usual shag name calling or mattski kill the messenger reaction

# posted by Bart DePalma : 9:47 AM



When the message is so blatantly hypocritical, it's very difficult to suppress the urge to kill the messenger.

As an 8 year defender of the Bush strategy, you're not really in a position to be critical of Obama.
 

BB:

You are perhaps the lead cheerleader for withdrawal from Afghanistan. What is your opinion of the Obama plan leaving our troops in Afghanistan on the defensive in the cities as targets for Taliban attacks?

I would support withdrawal long before the Obama plan. How about you?
 

You are perhaps the lead cheerleader for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 11:09 AM


No, I'm the lead cheerleader for getting them out of Iraq.

I think it's a waste of time to keep fighting in Afghanistan, but I don't feel nearly as strongly as I do about Iraq.

In Afghanistan Obama should be given some time to clean up the mess that Bush left for him. If we can't get the Afghans to take over for us, we should get out.

In any case, I think that your criticism of Obama is laughable.
 

I would support withdrawal long before the Obama plan. How about you?

By the way, this is a pretty blatant lie. You supported the Obama plan when it was called the Bush plan.
 

BB:

In short, party trumps all. You do not really give a damn about the lives lost and the treasure spent in Afghanistan or Iraq, but rather only that Iraq was Bush's war and now Afghanistan is Obama's war.

Any other supporters of withdrawal from Afghanistan have an opinion on the Obama plan to retreat to the Afghan cities and hunker down for who knows how many years?
 

Glenn ... Once again thank you for your comments.
I want to dedicate my life to being free and letting others be free. Because one can't exist without the other. Any other approach is anti-life.

Thanks for being poz-life.
 

In short, party trumps all.

Coming from someone who supported the plan until it became Obama's plan, this is a pretty obvious example of projection.
 

Yesterday's defense bill signing had various interesting components. One was covered by the last post on the military commissions process. I'm somewhat curious about what some thought of HG's final comment.

Another provision was a hate crimes amendment that was in part discussed by a guest blogger back here. The symbolic value is clear but coverage does not seem to carefully spell out what exactly it does, including probably the relatively narrow area where the feds would actually prosecute.

Rep. Holt successfully added an amendment that required videotaping of those in DOD custody with various exceptions of unclear breadth ("tactical questioning" etc.)

Other components, including assistance of overseas voting, also touch upon subjects addressed in this blog.
 

I see there is a new post on the hate crimes amendment with a link to a legal opinion by Marty Lederman.

It underlines that federal hate crime prosecutions involving sexual orientation generally would need some interstate commerce hook. A run of the mill hate crime (such as a serious beating in my city recently) very well might not fit.

The law might still be valuable in such cases for the symbolic message sent, the funding it provides, and the national statistical reporting features.
 

Bart De Palma wrote:-

"Mourad: ...What is NATO's war objective in Afghanistan if not to deny sanctuary to and defeat the allied Taliban and al Qaeda forces?

I would have thought that before offering opinions, dear Bart might actually have troubled to find out the terms of the mandate. It is not that hard a task. The NATO-ISAF Home Page has links to the 9 relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

Perhaps the very first thing to note is that NATO/ISAF does not have a "war objective" - it has a "peace objective".

That is the essential difference between the role of the NATO/ISAF forces and the US forces which invaded under the terms of the Bush Administration's Operation Enduring Freedom™.

Incidentally, I should dearly like to know the identity of the individual who thought up that name for the US operation: his name should be put forward for the George Orwell Memorial Prize for the best use of Newspeak.

The difference in the objectives is important. The United States considered itself at war. The NATO/ISAF forces are not at war.

The NATO/ISAF tasks are as set out on its home page:-

- conducting stability and security operations in coordination with the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF);

- assisting in the development of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and structures, including training the new Afghan National Army (ANA) and National Police (ANP);

- identify reconstruction needs, such as the rehabilitation of schools and medical facilities, restoring water supplies and providing support for other civil-military projects;

- support the Afghan government to Disarm Illegally Armed Groups (DIAG);

- provide support to the Afghan government and internationally-sanctioned counter-narcotics efforts through intelligence-sharing and the conduct of an efficient public information campaign, as well as support to the Afghan National Army Forces conducting counter-narcotics operations. [ISAF, however, is not directly involved in the poppy eradication or destruction of processing facilities, or in taking military action against narcotic producers]; and

- support humanitarian assistance operations.

General McChrystal is dual-hatted as COMISAF - Commander of ISAF Forces - answerable to NATO - and as COM USFOR-A - Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan - answerable up the purely domestic US chain of command.
 

Mourad said...

Bart De Palma wrote: "Mourad: ...What is NATO's war objective in Afghanistan if not to deny sanctuary to and defeat the allied Taliban and al Qaeda forces?

I would have thought that before offering opinions, dear Bart might actually have troubled to find out the terms of the mandate. It is not that hard a task. The NATO-ISAF Home Page has links to the 9 relevant UN Security Council Resolutions...

The difference in the objectives is important. The United States considered itself at war. The NATO/ISAF forces are not at war.


That might be news to the NATO forces engaged in fighting with the Taliban and to the families of the KIA and WIA.

The NATO/ISAF tasks are as set out on its home page:-

- conducting stability and security operations in coordination with the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)...

- support the Afghan government to Disarm Illegally Armed Groups (DIAG)...


Sounds like war objectives to me. How precisely does NATO secure Afghanistan and disarm the Taliban by "waging peace?"

Furthermore, these two objectives appear to to coincide with my query:

Bart De Palma wrote: "Mourad: ...What is NATO's war objective in Afghanistan if not to deny sanctuary to and defeat the allied Taliban and al Qaeda forces?

It would appear that Obama's plan to withdraw US and presumably NATO forces into the cities makes it impossible to achieve the foregoing NATO war objectives.
 

holy hilarity, I thought Bart DePalma had retired from making a fool of himself by posting huge analytic mistakes in an arrogant tone and haughty tenor.

way to stick with it, Bart. don't let any of those mistakes ever become a reason to expand your horizons. safer to stick with the mistakes you know.
 

PS to Bart -- please don't mistake me for an Obama supporter. I don't think that your support of Bush is what makes your analysis wrong. what makes your analysis wrong is that you rely on things that aren't true, and you reach poor conclusions as a result.

this thing happens to many Obama supporters too. the ones who are defending Obama by criticizing you for supporting Bush, they are the most hilarious of all. so you could be doing worse.
 

the ones who are defending Obama by criticizing you for supporting Bush, they are the most hilarious of all. so you could be doing worse.

# posted by Charles F. Oxtrot : 11:51 PM


No one is defending Obama by criticizing Baghdad for supporting Bush. We're criticizing Baghdad because he's a lying scumbag.
 

Bart makes a number of comments on the distinction between Operation Enduring Freedom™ and the NATO/ISAF mandate. It is, perhaps, necessary to explain why that happened.

There was a great distinction between the GH Bush approach as regards the Gulf War and the GW Bush approach as regards Afghanistan/Iraq. In the former case, very great care was taken to get the international law basis for action covered well in advance. In the latter case, there was the attitude typified by the John Bolton comment cited above:-

"There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States, when it suits our interest and we can get others to go along… When the United States leads, the United Nations will follow. When it suits our interest to do so, we will do so. When it does not suit our interests we will not"

A very large numbers of the governments of the countries which have provided resources for NATO/ISAF could not support the policy behind Enduring Freedom™ since it was in very clear breach of the consensus view of international law.

Although I have no source to cite for this, I have been told by persons in a position to know that there was deep concern that participation in any continuation of Enduring Freedom™ might make commanders liable to criminal prosecution and that there were also deep concern that US rules of engagement and US detention policies were outwith both international and the domestic laws of the countries considering making contributions of funding and personnel in support of the new government.

Therefore the NATO/ISAF mandate was put together after the Bonn Conference and is specifically based on UN Chapter VII resolutions which, in effect, take account of the fait accompli of the invasion and look forwards towards restoring proper government and law and order in Afghanistan.

That was, of course, to some extent a fudge as a consequence of the disregard of international law and human rights obligations by the Bush Administration for which many blame the Bush Administration's lawyers for giving the President bad advice on what could and could not be done.

As a side note, I am pleased to see that it looks as if "Poodle" Blair is not going to be offered the EU Presidency for the same reason: see Blow to Blair's hopes of EU job which reports the Austrian Chancellor, (one of the triumvirate which will propose candidates) as saying:-

"My personal opinion is that the candidate ... should have an especially good relationship with (President Barack) Obama and not stand for a good working relationship with Bush."

a statement which exemplifies the long term damage to US international standing brought about by the GW Bush presidency.
 

This opinion piece by Robert Frost Obama has days not weeks to decide on Afghanistan makes some points worth pondering:-

"The team from the US is headed by General Stanley McChrystal, a thoughtful Special Forces veteran, and his boss, David Petraeus, the thinking operational commander of the age. Britain's new Army chief General Sir David Richards, who commanded international forces in Afghanistan for a year in 2005-06, is credited with a great deal of input to the thinking of both Petraeus and McChrystal. He is backed by Lt General Sir Nick Parker, the new British Commander Afghanistan, and Lt General Sir Graeme Lamb, who on retirement from the Army this year became McChrystal's chief consultant on reconciliation with tribal chiefs and former Taliban. Lamb caught Petraeus's eye when he played a similar role in winning round Sunni tribal chiefs in Iraq."

Note that the British Generals mentioned have considerable experience of peace enforcement operations: Sir David Richards: 3 tours in Northern Ireland, 1 in East Timor and 2 in Sierra Leone as well as Afghanistan; Sir Nick Parker: Bosnia, Iraq, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan (and his son lost a leg serving in Afghanistan); Sir Graeme Lamb: Northern Ireland, Gulf War, Bosnia, Iraq (where he had a programme to persuade insurgents to lay down their arms - and he was awared the US Legion of Merit for his service).

"In Afghanistan itself McChrystal believes the accent should be on defending centres of population as much as attacking the Taliban. This means that the international and Afghan forces may not be able to secure the whole country, and some parts with little or no population abandoned to the Taliban. Above all he recognises the terrible damage of 30 years of almost continuous war on a desperately poor and largely illiterate people with little prospect of jobs and wealth beyond drugs and joining the Taliban."

Thus - precisely the policy Bart questions.

"Allied soldiers must now live, work, train and fight with new Afghan army and police units."

I said that on the previous thread - it's elementary.

"General Richards wants to establish secure Afghan Development Zones, around main towns and villages. To aid the process, and the army training, he wants to establish a "bridging force" to stabilise development zones - and it is for this that he asked Gordon Brown for more troops."

Again, this is elementary "nation building" - in order to succeed you have to offer the population a vision of a better life and seek to offer work to those who might otherwise be tempted to join the insurgency as well as re-integrating those who lay down arms.
 

Yet another opinion piece supporting the McChrystal approach - this time from the Guardian Obama must listen to Gen McChrystal.

The problem for the Obama Administration appears to me the extent to which the domestic unpopularity of continued long-term "nation building" efforts will weigh in the decision process - the Lyndon B. Johnson nightmare.

That public unhappiness is a consequence of the wasted years of Enduring Freedom™ and the lack of tangible progress. One can only hope that this Administration will not sacrifice the Afghan people on the altar of public opinion.
 

Here's an alternative to Gen. McChrystal's ball:

Ivan Eland's "Obama Still Doesn't Quite Get It," 10/28/09 at Independent Commentary:

http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=2643

And take a look at Chuckie Krauthammer's screed at the WaPo today that seems to be the neocon talking point that our Backpacker pulls out of his Backpack of Lies when some of us remind our Backpacker of the "Trick" that Bush/Cheney left on Pres. Obama's doorstep.
 

With Iran located between Afghanistan and Iraq, consider the sobering thoughts at TomDispatch today (10/29/09) in Dilip Hiro's "Why Obama's Iran Policy Will Fail. Stuck in Bush Mode in a Changed World." The penultimate paragraph:

" During George W. Bush's eight-year presidency, the U.S. position in the world underwent a sea change. From the Clinton administration, Bush had inherited a legacy of 92 months of continuous economic prosperity, a budget in surplus, and the transformation of the U.N. Security Council into a handmaiden of the State Department. What he passed on to Barack Obama was the Great Recession in a world where America's popularity had hit rock bottom and its economic strength was visibly ebbing. All this paved the way for the economic and political rise of China, as well as the strengthening of Russia as an energy giant capable of extending its influence in Europe and challenging American dominance in the Middle East. "

Iran may be between "the rock [Iraq] and the [current] hard place [Afghanistan]," requiring the US to improve its juggling act in the Greater Middle East as China and Russia wait in the wings ready to go on with their acts. If it weren't so serious, this might be considered diplomatic burlesque: "Send in the Clowns."
 

"will not sacrifice the Afghan people on the altar of public opinion"

Since the public elects those who will fund this thing and will send their men and women to do it, a bit of kneeling down and sipping of the cup of public opinion will be warranted all the same.

And, the public is getting legitimately wary of the whole thing, particularly because (1) "fool me once" ... (2) as this post noted (if one remembers it any more) many over in Afghanistan don't trust us either.

It is unclear just what sacrificing means in this context, but public opinion will matter in the end and it should in a republican democracy. No trump, sure, but it matters.
 

Mourad:

You misrepresent the McChrystal plan. From your linked article:

McChrystal believes you cannot choose to do either a counter-insurgency operation against the Taliban inside Afghanistan or a counter-terrorist campaign confined to the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan. You have to do both, because al-Qaeda and its allies and the Taliban are so closely interlinked. Hence the need for more troops.

In Afghanistan itself McChrystal believes the accent should be on defending centres of population as much as attacking the Taliban. This means that the international and Afghan forces may not be able to secure the whole country, and some parts with little or no population abandoned to the Taliban.


The McChrystal plan is a redux of the Petreus Iraq surge plan - protect the population and then hunt down the guerillas now stripped of their sanctuary amongst the population. There is no need to defend territory without population. It is the population and not the land which is key.

In sharp contrast, the reported Obama plan is to fall back to only ten cities and cede the rest of the country and its population to the Taliban.

The author of you article is completely correct - Obama should rely upon the expertise of his generals and give McChrystal the troops he needs to win the war.

The problem for the Obama Administration appears to me the extent to which the domestic unpopularity of continued long-term "nation building" efforts will weigh in the decision process - the Lyndon B. Johnson nightmare.

Leaders lead, polls be damned. Those who conform their policy to polls are followers and not leaders.
 

Leaders lead, polls be damned. Those who conform their policy to polls are followers and not leaders.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 11:50 PM


That didn't work very well for Cheney/Bush. They led the Dems into power.
 

Actually, Shrub and the Shrub people followed polls closely. They just didn't admit it.

The Shrub public pretense that he was above the changing whims of popularity always made a nice contrast with the reality: no administration ever cared more or did more to push up the numbers.

When that failed, he pretended that bad numbers were a sign of leadership. Also entertaining were the Shrub utterances to that effect.

Less entertaining were media reporting that passed along those utterances uncritically. E.g ween Shrub or the Shrub people would imply that the numbers were variable ("this week's numbers" etc.) stories seldom informed readers or viewers that the numbers had been in the toilet for years, so weeks weren't at issue.
 

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