Cromagnum, in response to my post on Chesterton, has posted a useful and informative comment here. It reads, in part (an excerpt from Eugenics and Other Evils follows):

The Socialist system, in a more special sense than any other, is founded not on optimism but on original sin. It proposes that the State, as the conscience of the community, should possess all primary forms of property; and that obviously on the ground that men cannot be trusted to own or barter or combine or compete without injury to themselves. Just as a State might own all the guns lest people should shoot each other, so this State would own all the gold and land lest they should cheat or rackrent or exploit each other. It seems extraordinarily simple and even obvious; and so it is. It is too obvious to be true. But while it is obvious, it seems almost incredible that anybody ever thought it optimistic.

Pundita has written a tour de force response to my post on Senator Richard Lugar: “Wikileaks plus first disbursements from 2009 US aid bill for Pakistan already under scrutiny for graft. Senator Richard Lugar please take note.”

In a wide ranging post, she makes note of three key issues:

1. Congressional oversight: If you’re having a hard time wrapping your mind around the concept that vital information would be withheld from key congressional defense/intelligence committees — which can’t make informed recommendations without such data — while thousands of low-level civilian government and military employees had access to the data, you should listen to the interview; it’s enough to make your blood boil if you’re an American.

2. Allegations of corruption in the distribution of aid monies: Two months after his remarks came the news that even the first small disbursements were already in trouble due to charges of corruption. Because aid monies disbursed to the Pakistani government become the sovereign property of the government and thus immune to oversight the 2009 aid bill aimed to get around the problem by disbursing the money to NGOs. The workaround simply opened another avenue for graft:

3. The sometimes head-scratching priorities and decision-making of American officials: Yet the revelation doesn’t fully explain why the U.S. military and executive and congressional branches have consistently made bad calls on Pakistan because this has been going on for more than a half century — ever since the U.S. first became involved with Pakistan. Yet these bad calls weren’t seen as such until NATO floundered in Afghanistan. That finally put a crimp in the style of Washington’s anti-Russia crowd but over decades the crowd and its counterpart in Europe looked the other way while Pakistan ran riot because they saw the country as a weapon first against the Soviet Union then against Russia.

No matter who wins the presidential election in 2012, I wager that many of the structural problems that have plagued our foreign policy in recent years will remain. One of the most appealing aspects of the Tea Party movement is its “pay attention!” ethos. Complain about elites all you want, they can’t cause so many problems if we citizens are performing our own oversight functions.

Update: Thanks for the link, Professor Reynolds!

There are some very good comments in the comments section. I will try and respond more fully at a later date.

10 thoughts on “Responses”

  1. This Assange fellow has such a high opinion of himself, every time I see him on the TV I want to gag.

    But . . .

    Unless I am missing something, far from showing the United States to be the Big Bad Bastion of the Neocolonialism, it seems to show a bunch of other people in the world to be sniveling whiners. Yes, the U.S. seems to be treating a lot of people in the wider world as children, but a lot of people out there don’t see to be trying very hard to be taken seriously as adults.

    So maybe the “transparency” brought about by Wikileaks isn’t that bad afterall. The truth is out there, as they say, and it isn’t as cut-and-dried as some of the America haters think.

    Or am I missing something and seeing this through my own prejudices?

  2. No, you’re right and I had mixed emotions about it all too.

    My first reaction was anger that diplomacy was compromised, that it might make diplomacy harder in the future, and that innocent people might be inadvertently hurt.

    But then I thought: “Well, it’s hard to know what all of the consequences will be, for good or for ill.”

    (Conspiracists won’t let any of this change their mind. They will ignore the reasonable tone of the diplomatic cables and accuse the Americans of all sorts of terrible things. As we have seen. Sad, but predictable, I think. Where we see reasonableness, others will see malign actions. It’s all a Rorschach test of some sort.)

    – Madhu

    PS: Did you mention on a previous thread that you were starting a journal on logistics, or am I imagining that? That’s my next topic to post about….

  3. “Pakistan ran riot because they saw the country as a weapon first against the Soviet Union”

    It is OK. The Cold War was a far greater struggle than GWoT. The Soviet Union was a formidable opponent, that had a mighty technological and industrial base, as well as key support from traitorous elites in the US and Europe. Doing what it took to win that war was of world historical importance. I won’t second guess it. We won and the world is a better place for it, even if Vladimir Putin and the faculty of Harvard University still pine for the Soviet Union.

  4. Robert Scwartz said, “The Soviet Union was a formidable opponent, that had a mighty technological and industrial base, as well as key support from traitorous elites in the US and Europe.”

    I agree except for the part about the mighty technological and industrial base. One of the shocks that I had in 1992 was reading an account of two Americans who bicycled across Russia that year. Other than St.Petersberg, Moscow and a few other cities, they found a third world country. The story of the Soviet Union as an industrial powerhouse was much overblown. Reading the book, “MIG Pilot,” confirms that the Soviets were having problems even maintaining their fighters. Their reputation for industrial might was fed by some of the traitorous elites you mention that wanted it to be true. I saw their Naval Base on the Baltic in 2006. It was a rusting derelict, barely operational.

    We’re all happy they collapsed. But, had we known the real truth about the condition of the country, the policy of detente would never have been pursued and the collapse could have come earlier. Why didn’t the CIA know the truth? Or did they tell our leaders the truth, but were ignored?

  5. @Robert Schwartz,
    Now that the Soviet Union has been dismantled for two decades, why is it that to quote the post, “US military and executive and congressional branches” continue to let Pakistan run riot?

    One 9/11 planned by a Pakistani Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and the infinite occasions on which the perfidious ISI and Paki military helped kill US soldiers in Afghanistan does not seem to be enough of a lesson for the military civilian knuckleheads who are sucking up to Pakistan, no matter what.

    I am just curious as to what exactly the US military would have allowed Obama to do if the Time Square bomb attack plot by Pakistani jihadi Shahzad Faisal had succeeded ? One can only guess.

  6. But, had we known the real truth about the condition of the country, the policy of detente would never have been pursued and the collapse could have come earlier. Why didn’t the CIA know the truth? Or did they tell our leaders the truth, but were ignored?

    There was no question that the Soviet Union was seen as a miltary threat to the US and this alone was enough to scare every one in the American establishment to death. How could the Soviets possibly be so powerful militarily if you dont have a good industrial baseOf course this provided the ultimate excuse for the military industrial complex (that President Eisenhower warned) about to flourish. There is no question that there were a lot of people in the US defense establishment who stood to gain because of the Cold War.

    Please do not mistake me, i am not trying to question the integrity of the defense establishment – i am just saying that they had enough of an incentive to play up the threat posed by the Soviet Union. This is exactly why the US rushed headlong into alliances with noxious countries like China, Pakistan et al.

    It is also clear that people like Bob Gates, Mike Mullen, David Petraeus still view Russia as a threat and will go to any lengths to appease Pakistan so that it can be a …ahem.. “counter” to the Russians.

    The US Defense establishment is now caught in a quandry given how Pakistan is now clearly the epicenter of Islamic global jihad and Russia is no longer the bogeyman that it used to be.

    Obama is no different from Bush and clearly has limited influence over the US Defense establishment. The Kerry Lugar bill was bound to fail as the Paki military knew that the US Defense establishment would allow it to get away with anything – you see a strong Paki military is still needed to counter those…those… SCARY Russians !

  7. The Defense Department’s primary motivation for giving Pakistan a pass is logisitics. The large majority of the supplies for our forces in Afghanistan comes through Pakistan, including all of the fuel.

    Despite years of work developing a Northern Distribution Network through Eastern Europe, Russia, and the ‘Stans,” the northern route into Afghanistan remains difficult and expensive. And forget airlift. There literally aren’t enough large airfields to support the effort, even if there was another source of fuel aside from what comes through the Pakistan G-LOC.

    One of the reasons President Bush went slow on the Afghanistan campaign is that once the Taliban had been routed the effort to radically improve Afghanistan was almost entirely dependent on a weak logistics base.

  8. Thanks to Madhu for the comments about my “Disbursements” post and for promoting it at Chicago Boyz blog, and thanks to the Chicago Boyz readers who commented on it. I’d like to reply to a couple of the comments:

    To Trashhauler:

    Re your points:

    #1: Pakistan’s regime is so greatly dependent on Western-government (Natoist) controlled institutions such as the IMF and World Bank and on direct US aid ($18 billion since 9/11) that logistics has no significant bearing on the DoD’s motivation (and the NATO command’s) for giving Pakistan a pass.

    It’s just because of the country’s dependence, the United States and Western Europe have always held the high cards in their dealings with Pakistan’s military and the civilian government. They have held an even greater number of cards since the economic downtown crashed the dream that Karachi’s banking sector (with massive help from British international banks and the World Bank) would become London Lite; i.e., an international center of banking.

    #2: The work on developing the NDS was severely hampered by extremely bad relations between the USA/UK and Russia up until this past year because Russia had great influence in a number of the NDS countries. However, this is a moot observation given the situation I outlined in my answer to your first point.

    #3: Reference my reply to #1. The logistics argument has meaning only because the U.S. and the other most powerful NATO nations supporting ISAF refused to grapple with the real issues they had regarding Pakistan. If you omit all those issues then I suppose it could be fairly stated that logistics issues hampered Bush. But such a claim completely avoids the situation on the ground in Pakistan since the start of the Afghan War.

    As to where this massive exercise in reality avoidance has led the United States — setting aside trillions of USD and Euros wasted and thousands of Afghans and NATO forces unnecessarily maimed or killed — Asley Trellis, senior associate at the South Asia program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, neatly summed it in the closing paragraph in a recent opinion piece for Foreign Policy ( Change the Rules of the Game in Pakistan):

    “The most important problem is that suddenly challenging Pakistan after a decade of acquiescence to its mendacity is tantamount to abruptly changing the rules of a game that Washington and Islamabad have gotten used to: It could result in even greater Pakistani obduracy and further support for its jihadi proxies. Although that is certainly an unpalatable possibility, the bitter truth is that the current state of affairs — in which Washington indefinitely subsidizes Islamabad’s sustenance of U.S. enemies — poses far greater dangers to the United States. The Obama administration must make the difficult choice now and show Islamabad that the rules of the game have changed.”

    You would need to read Trellis’s entire piece and know something about Carnegie Endowment to appreciate the sea change that the opinion reflects. But in brief, when an opinion expert connected with Carnegie starts talking very tough, that is one measure that Western Europe, at least, has recognized their policy toward Pakistan has been a disaster.

    To Robert Schwartz

    Re your comment that the Cold War was a far greater struggle than GWoT; this in reply to my observation that Pakistan ran riot during the Cold War because the USA looked the other way.

    My essay was not to argue whether the compromises and unsavory deals the USA made during the Cold War were worth it. I was making a simple statement of well-documented fact in my comment about the U.S. relationship with Pakistan during the Cold War.

    However, over the years on my blog, my opinion on the US prosecution of the Cold War has mirrored yours.

    It’s for just that reason that I did not rake up the slaughter in East Pakistan, which the U.S. government heartily endorsed, until the situation with Pakistan was getting so many Afghans and ISAF troops killed and maimed that I was prompted to give the starkest possible warning.

    So it was not until December 7, 2010 — almost a year ago to the day — that I published Alden Pyle in Pakistan, Part 1, in which I addressed the East Pakistan genocide, and even then I pulled my punches because of Cold War realities.

    But it has been U.S. actions regarding Pakistan once the Cold War ended, and specifically since 9/11, which this generation of Americans must deal with. The public can’t do this until they squarely face the extent of U.S.-NATO complicity with Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism.

    As to whether Ashley Trellis’s advice is sound — yes. However, it’s with an eye to the consequences Trellis alludes to, if the USA gets really tough with Pakistan’s military, that I propose a different approach.

    I have sketched the approach several times during the past two years, and most recently in the “Stay out of the Bazaar” essay and the one Madhu linked to.

    The problem with the approach I suggest is that the American political and defense establishments understand so little about Pakistan that it’s been met with skepticism. It seems people don’t believe the solution can be that simple.

    I have made one more try, although I’ve been dragging my feet about getting it ready for publication and now it looks as if it won’t be ready until Monday or Tuesday.

    I see that my reply here has already been quite lengthy so I will post closing thoughts in the next post at my blog.

    With thanks for your attention to my observations,


  9. Pundita,

    I would suggest that Trellis’ article rather supports my points about the importance of logistical concerns for the DOD. Development of a robust NDN would seem to be a logical precaution before playing hardball with Pakistan. After all, monetary leverage notwithstanding, there are a dozen ways for our G-LOC through Pakistan to be squeezed without definitive proof of involvement on the part of the Pakistani government.

    Without comment as to Russian actions regarding the NDN, it is clear that our many difficulties – great distances, multiple transfers between modes and borders, sometimes near extortionary rates, and endless bureaucratic bumph – are complicated by the same phenomenon that troubled Kipling’s empire:

    “For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles
    and he weareth the Christian down.”

    That observation may be insufficiently erudite, but it remains true nonetheless.

  10. Pundita – thanks for stopping by. I agree (no surprise) with much of what you say. Post the fall of the Soviet Union we have struggled to find our way in South Asia. We continue to struggle and, again, as stated, I wager some of it is institutional memory and bad habits.

    Trash Hauler – thank you for the comments on logistics! I plan to include it in a future post.

    – Madhu

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