Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
I am impressed by the continuing trend toward common sense and rationality among a growing number of public figures in the U.S. who look at Syria and Iran and remember the lessons and legacy of the American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In spite of the warriors among the Republican presidential candidates who are roaring for war, more frequently these days we are hearing words of caution and restraint from Americans who actually take the time to study realities in the Middle East and ask some hard questions. This did not happen to any serious extent when in 2003 the U.S. led the Iraq invasion, the consequences of which continue to plague the region, the U.S. itself and the world.
Khouri goes on to ask some important questions that aren't getting enough attention.
- Does the U.S. have the moral authority or credible political mandate to initiate wars such as the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, and and still may do in Syria and Iran?
- By what authority does the U.S. decide to go to war in the Middle East?
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Monday, March 19, 2012
- Ensure flow of petroleum from the Persian Gulf.
- Obtain U.S. access to Iraqi oil fields, rather than boycotting them.
- Prevent regional powers (China, India, etc.) from locking in long term contracts in Iraq.
- Prevent Iraq from "emerging as a regional dominant power".
- Preserve the leading position of Israel and Saudi Arabia in the region.
Friday, March 16, 2012
As I previously mentioned, village elders distributed blood money to families of the victims of the massacre perpetrated by an American soldier earlier this week. However, read what one of the victim's relatives said to Afghan President Hamid Karzai: "I don't want any compensation. I don't want money, I don't want a trip to Hajj [pilgrimage], I don't want a house. I want nothing but the punishment of the Americans. This is my demand, my demand, my demand and my demand."*
What does this demonstrate? We can dismiss the relative's comment as atypical of "the people" of Afghanistan, but that would be disingenuous. My feeling is that Afghanis have, as Karzai puts it, "reached the end of the rope". Soldiers urinating on dead bodies, a massacre of civilians, and most importantly to the Afghanis, the Quran burning, shows that it is time to leave Afghanistan.
(Read Juan Cole's post about Afghanistan Senate Chanting Against the US.)
I support an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan, as Karzai calls for. The sooner the better.
What is there left to do?
1. Continue propping up Karzai? Can't happen. He needs to rule on his own, or (preferably) the Afghani Constitution has to change.
2. Talks with the Taliban? Collapsed. At least for now.
3. Keep an eye on Pakistan? The US doesn't need soldiers in Afghanistan to do that.
4. Oil? No oil here!
5. Fight Al-Qaeda? All signs point to very few Al-Qaeda fighters are actually in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda has no allegiance to the country (outside of, probably, some nostalgia). They're probably in Yemen or Somalia instead. Those two are much more accommodating failed states at the moment. Pakistan is also a comfy haven.
The best option now is to withdraw combat troops and encourage a national dialogue -- covertly, if necessary. The US should set Karzai up to talk to the Taliban without a US presence at the meeting. If the US can get Karzai and the Taliban to come to an agreement, it would be in the interest of all involved. After that, focus on development.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Correction: March 14, 2012
A news alert and a headline on an earlier version of this article mischaracterized the initial reports of the incident at the base in Afghanistan. The Pentagon officials did not refer to the stolen car igniting; they described a flaming man emerging from the stolen car.
Monday, March 12, 2012
- I am certain that this sergeant will get a much quicker trial than Private Manning. That makes me uncomfortable.
- The sergeant should be tried in Afghanistan. No, he should not be tried by an Afghan court under Afghan laws. He should be tried by an American military court, but it should be held in Afghanistan. It seems only appropriate. And the trial should be transparent. If he is secreted away to an undisclosed location and never heard of again, it would be a grave injustice and an insult to the families of those killed.
- An insanity plea would be insane. The man killed children. He cannot be acquitted based on a plea.
- The U.S. should consult Afghan elders as to the next appropriate actions. If the Quran burning incident has taught us anything, I hope it is that the U.S. military should be sensitive to the cultural setting in which they are operating. If "blood money" is appropriate (I don't know Afghan custom), then that's how it should be handled.
Friday, March 9, 2012
- A majority describe themselves as religious, but they mostly don't support the interference of religious authorities in citizens' political choices.