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    A bunch of random comments….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 6th November 2011 (All posts by )

    1. I have just spent the past hour leaving various comments on favorite blogs. I have a self-imposed moratorium on ChicagoBoyz commenting because I tend to get sucked into the “time loss” vortex around here.

    2. With regard to my internet commenting, it appears that I am an internet know-it-all. Note to self: humility is a fine quality. And stay away from Twitter.

    3. Whit Stillman has a new movie out*, Damsels in Distress. Joy and happiness.

    4. Say, how do you minimize open windows on a Mac so that I can go back and forth between windows quickly and do the command-C and command-V thing? What’s that? But I don’t wanna go to the Apple Store (Macphobia/Mac-for-Dummies didn’t work for me). The Apple Store is so crowded and I don’t fit in with the “must have latest gadgets” crowd. No disrespect intended but the frantic and excited look in many an eye reminds me of the Nordstrom shoe department on sale day.

    5. I love that shoe department.

    6. Here are a list of books in a random corner of my home:

    Neal Stephenson’s latest (I was at his recent book reading here in ChicagoLand), a book about the Soviets in Afghanistan, True Grit by Charles Portis, Mildred Pierce (yes, there is a book and not just a movie), a book of Salman Rushdie essays, Reagan In His Own Hand, The Long Walk, and a chicklit book called The Vintage Affair.

    What are you reading?

    PS: I figured out the Mac thing. Never mind.

    *PPS: I guess the movie has been filmed but is yet to be released?

    Posted in Diversions, Human Behavior, Humor, Personal Narrative | 10 Comments »

    The Obama economy really is the pits

    Posted by onparkstreet on 18th October 2011 (All posts by )

    I’ve been in a mild funk lately because of all of the changes to one of my favorite little corners of Chicago Land. Closed and vacant shops mixed in with lightly populated high-end condo buildings turned rental. Halted construction and empty lots from development projects that fell through after the 2008 “crash”. Noisy restaurants where once stood second hand mom-and-pop shops, stationers and book stores. Closed, closed and closed. And yet, the local government persists in its grand 20-year economic development plans (I am not making that up) so that citizens are paying good money to brick streets, put up complicated and fashionable street lights, or have closed door meetings between developers and governmental officials. Welcome to Chicago and its suburbs. Lots of this-FEST and that-FEST sponsored by local officials in order to bring in business traffic, although many residents are inconvenienced by the crowds, noise and garbage. Some months ago while walking through the hospital, I overheard a conversation about this very neighborhood. It wasn’t very reassuring. I heard the words “scary” and “changes”. Urban blight. The beginnings of urban blight. People are so in denial.

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Obama, Personal Narrative | 10 Comments »

    I can’t believe you said that, Secretary Clinton.

    Posted by onparkstreet on 3rd October 2011 (All posts by )

    Now, I also think it’s important to take a little historical review. If you go on YouTube, you can see Sirajuddin Haqqani with President Reagan at the White House, because during the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the United States Government, through the CIA, funded jihadis, funded groups like the Haqqanis to cross the border or to, within Afghanistan, be part of the fight to drive the Soviets out and bring down the Soviet Union.
    So when I meet for many hours, as I do, with Pakistani officials, they rightly say, “You’re the ones who told us to cooperate with these people. You’re the one who funded them. You’re the ones who equipped them. You’re the ones who used them to bring down the Soviet Union by driving them out of Afghanistan. And we are now both in a situation that is highly complex and difficult to extricate ourselves from.” That is how they see it.

    Remarks at the Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series: Audience Question and Answer Segment (Secretary Hillary Clinton)

    Uh huh. Well they “see it” wrong and you very well know that, Madam Secretary. Zia directed the monies and toward the end, we attempted to work around the Pakistanis. You know the history. And you’ve seen the intelligence. Didn’t your own State Department sign off on the certification for Kerry-Lugar-Berman after the bin Laden raid? What’s worse? Supporting an insurgency during the Cold War when officials couldn’t see into the future with a crystal ball, or signing off on an aid package after this?

    This New York Times report on the murder of a US soldier on May 14, 2007 by Pakistani troops in Teri Mangal is an absolute must read if you are interested in understanding the frustration and contempt for Pakistan that exists among those who have been warning of that nation’s duplicity and complicity in the murder of US, NATO, and Afghan troops.

    Long War Journal

    Let’s review some more, shall we?

    Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, Le Nouvel Observateur (France), Jan 15-21, 1998, p. 76:
    Q: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs [“From the Shadows”], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?
    Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
    Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?
    Brzezinski: It isn’t quite that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

    excerpt via this Pundita blog post. Emphasis mine.

    In order to have a relationship with Pakistan during the Cold War – and subsequently the War on Terror – various American officials and institutions had to, er, well, invest themselves in particular narratives. Nice to see Secretary Clinton continuing the tradition:

    Back in January 2009, Secretary Clinton vowed to make development once again one of the pillars of America’s engagement as she said it would be an “equal partner” with diplomacy and defense. The so-called “3-Ds” would need AID to be “strengthened”, “adequately funded”, and ultimately given leadership after a decade of neglect and intentional weakening under the previous Secretary.

    Small Wars Journal

    I don’t know what to think anymore. (I originally had something harsher here and then deleted it. I remain flabbergasted at her comments. Particularly given the history of the Clinton Administration during the ’90s. Everyone got it wrong on this one. Darn near everyone. The Americans weren’t the only ones to get it wrong, either. The Pakistanis were the main supporters of the jihadists – and for their own purposes. It’s simply not true that the Generals and others were passive observers. Neither were any of the neighbors. Everyone’s always “played” in that neighborhood. The poor Afghans. The poor mothers and fathers of young people in Afghanistan just learning how far the foreign policy establishment in Washington is willing to go in order to preserve cherished ideological myths – and self-importance or institutional funding, a skeptic might say.)

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Big Government, History, India, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security | 7 Comments »

    Same as it ever was: Afghanistan edition

    Posted by onparkstreet on 20th September 2011 (All posts by )

    Sept. 20, 2011:

    The Taliban have claimed credit for today’s suicide attack in Kabul that killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chief of the Afghan High Peace Council and former president of Afghanistan. The suicide bomber killed Rabbani in his home and seriously wounded Masoom Stanekzai, the peace council’s secretary, after detonating an explosive device that was hidden in his turban.

    Long War Journal

    The ’80s:

    The CIA’s leadership continued to regard Pakistani intelligence as the jihad’s main implementing agency, even as more and more American trainers arrived in Pakistan to teach new weapons and techniques. All this ensured that ISI’s Muslim Brotherhood-inspired clients – mainly Hekmatyar but also Sayyaf, Rabbani, and radical commanders who operated along the Pakistan border, such as Jallaladin Haqqanni – won the greatest share of support.
    The rebels fashioned booby trapped bombs from gooey black contact explosives, supplied to Pakistani intelligence by the CIA, that could be molded into ordinary shapes or poured into innocent utensils. Russian soldiers began to find bombs made from pens, watches, cigarette lighters, and tape recorders.

    – Steve Coll, Ghost Wars

    Given our long and complicated history in that region, it is unclear to me why the American foreign policy establishment continues to believe that it can play “footsie” with favored groups and emerge entirely unscathed. It’s one thing to work with others toward immediate goals (where we have no good choice – such as the United States and the Pakistan Army working together on groups such as TTP) but quite another to fundamentally alter reality via just the correct mix of carrot and stick:

    STEP 7 – RESOLVE either to remain engaged with Afghanistan, Pakistan and India for a lengthy and challenging diplomatic-military process (including some level of non-trivial economic and military aid to both Afghanistan and Pakistan for some time); or, SUCCUMB to the personal frustrations of it all and quit the field, making room for the next nouveau American to start the process at STEP 1.

    – Tom Lynch is a research fellow for South Asia & Near East at NDU. A retired Army Colonel, he was a special assistant focused on South Asian security for the CENTCOM Commander and later the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during 2004-2010. (guest blogging at Tom Rick’s Best Defense).

    But maybe I misunderstood the point being made. The post at Best Defense is a good one and I encourage you to read it.

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Book Notes, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Terrorism | 4 Comments »

    A New Doctrine?

    Posted by onparkstreet on 18th September 2011 (All posts by )

    Carter Doctrine:”The Carter Doctrine was a policy proclaimed by President of the United States Jimmy Carter in his State of the Union Address on January 23, 1980, which stated that the United States would use military force if necessary to defend its national interests in the Persian Gulf region. The doctrine was a response to the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, and was intended to deter the Soviet Union—the Cold War adversary of the United States—from seeking hegemony in the Gulf. After stating that Soviet troops in Afghanistan posed “a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil,” Carter proclaimed:….”

    On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, as we remember the fallen and the many members of the armed services of the United States who have served for ten years of war, heroically, at great sacrifice and seldom with complaint, we also need to recall that we should not move through history as sleepwalkers. We owe it to our veterans and to ourselves not to continue to blindly walk the path of the trajectory of 9/11, but to pause and reflect on what changes in the last ten years have been for the good and which require reassessment. Or repeal. To reassert ourselves, as Americans, as masters of our own destiny rather than reacting blindly to events while carelessly ceding more and more control over our lives and our livelihoods to the whims of others and a theatric quest for perfect security. America needs to regain the initiative, remember our strengths and do a much better job of minding the store at home.

    Zenpundit, The Nine-Eleven Century

    1. Canada and oil sands: “Bituminous sands, colloquially known as oil sands or tar sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The sands contain naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, water, and a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially “tar” due to its similar appearance, odour, and colour). Oil sands are found in large amounts in many countries throughout the world, but are found in extremely large quantities in Canada and Venezuela.[1]”

    2. Israel and Natural Gas: “In recent years, Israel has found and begun developing massive natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea. There is much more wealth underwater– the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the Levant Basin contains as much as 122 trillion cubic meters of recoverable gas — and all countries around the basin want a piece of the action.”

    3. Russian state oil and American oil companies: “America’s largest oil company last week reached an historic agreement with Russia’s state oil company, Rosneft. ExxonMobil now will take the place of BP (British Petroleum), whose dealings with Rosneft collapsed earlier this year.”

    4. Dakotas and oil reserves: “America is sitting on top of a super massive 200 billion barrel Oil Field that could potentially make America Energy Independent and until now has largely gone unnoticed. Thanks to new technology the Bakken Formation in North Dakota could boost America’s Oil reserves by an incredible 10 times, giving western economies the trump card against OPEC’s short squeeze on oil supply and making Iranian and Venezuelan threats of disrupted supply irrelevant.”

    5. Bloom boxes: “One example to illustrate why the future is proving elusive in the USA: There is a stand-alone electricity providing unit called the Bloom Energy Server or “Bloom Box” — small, simple to use — which can power any home or commercial building. The wondrous box has already been test-driven; Google, eBay and a number of other Fortune 500 companies have a few Bloom Boxes and they’re saving fortunes in electrical bills.

    In other words, the Bloom Box can make America’s electricity grid obsolete. There are only two things holding the box back from being installed in every residential, commercial and government space in the USA:

    a) Bloom Energy, the company that makes the box, doesn’t have large manufacturing capacity.

    b) The U.S. energy industry doesn’t want to be shoved around by a box. (The same for much of the ‘Green Jobs’ sector that the federal government has been pushing hard. The Bloom Box technology makes windmill and solar panel technologies obsolete.”

    The GOP debates have been intellectually vapid and the fault does not lie entirely with our lightweight media moderators. Ladies and gentlemen, you are “auditioning” for the toughest job in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, you are genuinely interesting and accomplished people. Be leaders. Hire some decent speech coaches, do a little background wonky reading and show us your vision for the future.

    Update: I made a few edits for clarity. Thanks for the comments, everyone. I don’t know squat about this topic. Carl from Chicago is definitely the “go to” guy on energy topics around here but I’ve been bored with the debates and wanted to blog about that for some time now. Also, I don’t know what the whole “ladies and gentlemen” thing is about. It’s kinda affected. Incorrect, too. Only one lady has been involved in the formal debates….so far….

    Posted in Americas, Big Government, Business, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, International Affairs, Israel, Middle East, North America, Russia, Science, Society, Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    “Americans, who are you?”

    Posted by onparkstreet on 28th August 2011 (All posts by )

    I left the following comment at zenpundit :

    Kabir says,

    “I don’t touch ink or paper
    This hand never grasped a pen
    The greatness of four ages
    Kabir tells with his mouth alone”

    Tom Tom Club (Wordy Rappinghood) says,

    “Words in paper, words in books
    Words on TV, words for crooks
    Words of comfort, words of peace
    Words to make the fighting cease”

    And Asia Times writes,

    The channel broadcasts in Pashto language from 12 pm to 3 pm in the afternoon and 6 pm to 8 pm in the evening. The programs include jihadi taranay (jihadi motivational songs….

    And drones the size of bees, some day

    And mobiles crossing the Kush; they play

    Tribal songs for jihadi alms, a call-to-arms

    On 11/11 our cell phones say:

    And Americans can talk endlessly about the importance of democracy, but they never thought to explain to the chiefs why they came back to Afghanistan. They arrived with suitcases full of cash to buy help – but they never told the chiefs that they were there because the way al Qaeda attacked the US on 9/11 meant that many Americans couldn’t find so much as a fingernail of their massacred relatives to bury because the bodies were ground to dust.
    Not to be able to bury one’s dead or even a piece of one’s dead — knowing THAT would have meant a great deal to the chiefs and those in their tribes. But the Americans never explained, never even cried, never showed emotion. THEY NEVER ACTED HUMAN; they never interacted with the Afghans in ways that are the same for all — not only all humans but all mammalian creatures. In other words, they displayed not a whit of common sense.
    What do you talk about when you first sit down with a man whose life has been circumscribed by war and who knows nothing about you and your tribe? The answer is you tell me of your battles, I’ll tell you of mine and in this way we establish a commonality of experience.
    You transform the rug or patch of sand you’re sitting on into the terrain of the battle, and you use sticks and stones or teacups as place markers for the troops to show how the battle was fought. In this way, you demonstrate that the battle is truly in your heart, that it means enough to you that you can bring it alive for another.
    If you don’t show what’s in your heart, then you haven’t established a basis for developing a mutual understanding, so then there is no way to move off the dime. Only when you’ve demonstrated by your stories of war that your tribe also shed much blood for independence, can you move on to explaining stuff about government. You can explain that you were losing too many of your sons in battle so you devised a type of government that would help defend your freedoms and with less bloodshed. And so on.

    Pundita, “Americans, who are you?

    Contra Pundita, I bet this has been done sporadically between some who are working together as NATO attempts to build an Afghan Army – one able to protect its borders and serve as an irritant to transnational groups in the region. Many stories have yet to be told….

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Americas, Anglosphere, Blogging, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, Poetry, USA | 6 Comments »

    “My Mistakes,” Eleanor Friedberger

    Posted by onparkstreet on 24th August 2011 (All posts by )

    Brooklyn based currently, but with roots in the Chicago area (Oak Park) says the WXRT DJ….

    Posted in Music, Video | 3 Comments »

    Energy, oil supply disruptions, and terrorism. The whole of it….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 13th August 2011 (All posts by )

    AQ has enjoyed mixed success with maritime terror plots, with a notable exception being the October 2000 attack on USS Cole in Aden Harbor which killed seventeen US Navy Sailors. The desire of AQ’s senior leadership to disrupt global oil movement persists though, as revealed in the documents and media recovered from the assault on UBL’s compound. But does AQ have a more coherent maritime strategy? Some historical perspective is helpful in understanding the role of seapower in AQ’s planning and operations.

    Al Qaeda’s Seapower Strategy by Chris Rawley, Small Wars Journal

    Despite its oil wealth, Saudi Arabia faces severe, long-term domestic energy shortages that it plans to address through the development of nuclear power. President George W. Bush agreed in 2008 to help the Saudis do this, and in the past two years the kingdom has reached nuclear consulting agreements with several countries. Now news reports that Saudi Arabia is preparing to begin negotiations with the United States on a formal nuclear cooperation treaty have predictably touched off speculation about the Kingdom’s true intentions and about whether commercial nuclear energy could become a pathway to the development of nuclear weapons. It is widely believed among policymakers and strategic analysts in Washington and in many Middle Eastern capitals that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia will feel compelled to do the same — a belief that was reinforced when King Abdullah, in a WikiLeaks cable, was reported to have told American officials this outcome would be inevitable.

    Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Policy by Thomas W. Lippman, Saudi-US Relations Information Service

    The following C-SPAN simulation is fascinating:

    Former White House officials, senior retired military officers, and a former oil executive participated in a simulated disruption of the global oil supply. They portrayed members of the president’s cabinet, giving recommendations about how to deal with an attack on a major Saudi oil field.

    Global Oil Disruption Simulation, C-SPAN

    Update: “How Merkel Decided to End Nuclear Power,” Judy Dempsey (New York Times) via SWJ Twitter feed. “Another factor is the likelihood that Germany, which already gets more than one third of its natural gas from Russia, will grow more dependent.”

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Terrorism | 4 Comments »

    An excellent method for wholesale job creation (please note the slight sarcasm)

    Posted by onparkstreet on 9th August 2011 (All posts by )

    Instapundit linked to this Walter Russell Mead blog post, leading me to stumble across the following item (from the Chicago Journal):

    The project has had a tumultuous ride to get to this point, Fioretti said. Lease negotiations between Costco and the Illinois Medical District (a state-controlled body that owns the Costco site) were rocky, but a deal was reached earlier this year.
    “When negotiations began in earnest, the medical district wanted to make 982 changes to the lease — and I called the governor to intervene on it,” Fioretti said. “The governor’s office was very eager to assist. They understood what it meant to have almost 250 permanent jobs.”

    Yes, you read that correctly. Go ahead: rub your eyes, read it again, do a Looney Tunes or Bugs Bunny-like double take, and then read it a third time. THIS is why some of us were so deeply skeptical about transporting greater Chicagoland and Illinoisian, er, “political concepts” to DC, however well-meaning….

    Posted in Big Government, Chicagoania, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, Tea Party | Comments Off on An excellent method for wholesale job creation (please note the slight sarcasm)

    As long as we are talking about energy issues….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 31st July 2011 (All posts by )

    The US plans to hold what State Department officials are calling “exploratory talks” in Riyadh next week to gauge Saudi objectives behind their interest in a civilian nuclear deal. The US also wants to explore whether the Saudi government would accept restrictions to ensure its nuclear fuel is used purely for civilian purposes, according to congressional sources.
    The US has recently concluded civilian nuclear trade deals – or so-called “123” agreements – with India and the United Arab Emirates and is in advanced discussions with countries including Jordan, Vietnam, and South Korea.

    Christian Science Monitor

    Top exporter Saudi Arabia approved sales of 3 million barrels of extra crude to India for August to make up for a loss of shipments from Iran due to a payment dispute, sources with direct knowledge of the sale said on Tuesday.
    Iran cut sales for August to pressure Indian refiners into settling $5 billion in debts for oil supplied, after New Delhi failed to find a way around US and UN sanctions that make financing deals with Tehran difficult.


    After the talks by Kaplan and Lynch at the sponsors’ breakfast, Francis “Bing” West, who was sitting near me, said he found them wildly over optimistic about the next several decades, which he thinks will be dominated by the proliferation of nuclear weaponry. But let him tell it his own way: “That was insane. The lesson of Libya is, Get a nuclear weapon and tell everyone to go fuck themselves. Qaddafi got rid of his nukes and we said, ‘OK, you’re out of there.'”

    Tom Ricks, Best Defense

    Pakistan is currently facing a major energy crisis, which some analysts believe may be the worst in its history. It desperately needs Iranian gas and is not shy to say it. “Our dependence on the Iran pipeline is very high. There is no other substitute at present to meet our growing demand for energy” stated Pakistani minister for petroleum, Asim Hussain recently.

    the Atlantic

    Supposedly, the Bush administration attempted to use Musharraf to convince the Iranians not to go nuclear, which is one of several reasons the administration went so easy on his regime. Yeah, yeah, I know, but someone in the big-time thought it might work. Before you blow a gasket, remember that the world is complicated. There are so many complicated international relationships that Washington has no idea how to handle them in concert. Action A makes issue B better but issue C worse. That’s what happens when you have too many fingers in too many pies.

    Why is “drill here, drill now” not a national security imperative?

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Energy & Power Generation, International Affairs, Iran, Miscellaneous, National Security, Politics | 18 Comments »

    “The authoritative magazine for VIPs, delegates and diplomats”

    Posted by onparkstreet on 31st July 2011 (All posts by )

    Wandering around a soon-to-be-closed Borders bookstore, I run across a glossy magazine dedicated to the G8 summit in Deauville-France (May 2011). The above is a cell phone photo of the cover. I have no idea who publishes the magazine. There are ads inside for airlines, hotels, cars, public policy institutes and various international businesses and governmental agencies. The US Chamber of Commerce and Eurochambers/The Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry are two such examples. Turns out that some of the articles are pretty interesting.

    The cover makes me laugh, though. It’s an illustration of various national leaders and their relative small size contrasts with the large conference table. Individual nations, suboordinate yourselves to the glory of the international collective of business and governmental interests!

    Maybe I’m getting a tiny bit carried away here. I’ve always had an active imagination thanks to the reading of novels and, well, an inherently busy mind. Yoga, music, meditation, book reading: all of it calms me down. Modern urban – or semi-urban – life is filled with irritating sounds and sirens and sitting in traffic and noisy trains with vaguely scary looking passengers….

    So I am going to miss browsing Borders, getting a coffee, and shaking my head at the variety of periodicals. A magazine for everyone and everything. A Special Forces magazine sits right up front along with Mother Jones, Foreign Policy and the Hudson Review. Wait a minute, shouldn’t that one be in the back row?

    What do you suppose the existence of a G8 magazine says about our society? Nothing remotely reassuring, I imagine. If debt ceiling drama seems incomprehensible, it’s likely because a certain percentage (not all, to be fair) of our politicos spend considerable amounts of time skimming vapid briefs and dopey position papers while flipping through G8 Magazines as they jet between constituent meetings, summits, conferences and hearings. And that’s their body of knowledge on a given subject.


    Posted in Advertising, Big Government, Business, Civil Society, Diversions, Economics & Finance, Europe, France, International Affairs, Personal Narrative | 2 Comments »

    On the ideas that follow us, one decade to the next….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 11th July 2011 (All posts by )

    Detente’s greatest achievement was the opening of consistent contact between the United States and the USSR in the early 1970s—a gradually intensifying engagement on many levels and in many areas that, as it grew over the years, would slowly but widely open the Soviet Union to information, contacts, and ideas from the West and would facilitate an ongoing East-West dialogue that would influence the thinking of many Soviet officials and citizens.

    From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War by Robert M. Gates. (I am currently reading this book).

    Indeed Washington’s on-again off-again attention to the region, driven by relatively short term developments like the Soviet-Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the war against terror, makes Iranian and Chinese overtures appealing to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

    A Sino-Persian grab for the Indian Ocean? by Jamsheed K. Choksy (Small Wars Journal)

    Earlier this month the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, twisted his mouth into the shape of a pretzel to explain why it was okay for the U.S. to support Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal but not okay to support North Korea’s arsenal and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He also saw no problem with the United States as much declaring war on India when he sympathized with Pakistan’s need to use nuclear weapons against India in order to feel safe.
    Then Americans wonder why Pyongyang and Tehran laugh at Washington’s lectures on nuclear proliferation. The leaders of both regimes have been doing clandestine nuke business with Pakistan for decades. They know Pakistan is the biggest nuclear weapons proliferator on the planet — and so does Mullen, who is the highest ranking military officer in the USA and as such is the principal military advisor to the President of the United States, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense.
    That’s not the half of the double standard America has practiced with regard to Pakistan. Barely a day goes by that the American news media doesn’t warn of the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran because of the regime’s end-of-time religious views, which American news analyst John Batchelor has termed “hallucinatory.”
    It doesn’t get more hallucinatory than the views of Pakistani media mogul, Majeed Nizami, the owner of the Nawa-i-Waqt, The Nation, and Waqt TV channel. During a recent speech at a function given in his honor he declared that Pakistan’s missiles and nuclear bombs were superior to “India’s ghosts,” and that unleashing nuclear war against India was imperative. “Don’t worry if a couple of our cities are also destroyed in the process.”
    That would be the same Nation newspaper that cites the United States government as being behind every terrorist incident in the world, including the Times Square attack.
    If you think Nizami is an isolated nut case, you don’t know much about him, or Pakistan. He is the true face of the most powerful factions in Pakistan including its military leaders.
    But in the view of the U.S. government and news media it’s okay for Pakistan’s military to hold hallucinatory views whereas it’s not okay for Iran’s leaders because, well, because.
    It’s the same for anti-Semitic views that abound in Pakistan. In the same article that discussed Nizami’s view that nuclear Armageddon was the ticket to peace in South Asia, Pakistani journalist Shakil Chaudhary reported on a June 18 column in Nizami’s Nawa-i-Waqt paper in which Lt. Gen. Abdul Qayyum (ret), former chairman of Pakistan Steel Mills, approvingly quoted Adolph Hitler as saying: “I could have annihilated all the Jews in the world, but I left some of them so that you can know why I was killing them.”

    He ain’t heavy, he’s my genocidal, hallucinatory, two-faced ‘ally’ by blogger Pundita.

    Why do you suppose certain factions in DC appear so adamant on retaining Pakistan as a “strategic asset” post 9-11 and post Abbottabad? CBz blogger Joseph Fouche recently posted a nice piece about the tendency for some to see patterns and intrigues when mere muddle may well explain reality. Sadly, I am prone to this….

    So what exactly is our muddle? Is what I’ve posted above overstated and alarmist? State and USAID want to keep its various lucrative aid programs? The Pentagon/DOD want to keep its favorite “proxy” Army for future use against any kind of “sino-islamic” alliance – or Russia or Iran? Tons of money (supposedly….take all of this with a grain of salt) sloshing around DC from various foreign entities, such as the Saudis or the Pak Mil/ISI? Plain old strategic “incompetence” typical of a big, energetic and free-wheeling democracy?

    What other rationales might be keeping warring DC factions up at night? Placating the Saudis and keeping the oil flowing? Monitoring Pakistani nukes? (Okay, this one for sure). Preventing even more proliferation via Pakistani-Saudi transfers?

    The world is three dimensional and complicated with various currents pulling our policy makers in different directions. I’d be delighted to hear creative thinking on any of these topics by one of the Republican presidential candidates. Your thoughts? Opinions? Relevent anecdotes, articles, films, or books?

    Help a gal out, people.

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050, Afghanistan/Pakistan, China, Economics & Finance, History, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Military Affairs, Russia, Terrorism | 7 Comments »

    On Memorial Day

    Posted by onparkstreet on 30th May 2011 (All posts by )

    The following is a Memorial Day post that I wrote last year for my old blog:

    And so it rained two years in a row on Memorial Day, but this year the rain was less gentle and something more fierce. Hard silvery lines bouncing off the black pavement. Asphalt covered in puddles and rivulets and running water everywhere. The thunder and lightning were violent: windows shuddered, they shaked and rattled and car alarms went off. Everything just a little bit mad, a little bit wild, a little bit out-of-control. As the day went on the rain eased and slowed and stopped and the sun came out, a soggy late afternoon sun peering through a humid and blurry mist.

    No parade for me today. I worked at home and waited for the on-call pager to go off, the cell to ring, the hospital to beckon, but it only rained and thundered and “lightning-ed”.

    And how many years has it been now?

    In 2003, I got an email message in my inbox. An ordinary work day for me, filled with trays and trays of biopsies and phone calls from aggrieved physicians. “The patient is calling. Is the biopsy result ready yet?”

    There it was: the photo of a young man in uniform with a flag displayed behind him and a message written below the photograph:

    “Our beloved….”

    A woman that I’d met a few times – once while we both served as bridesmaids at the Los Angeles wedding of a mutual friend – had sent me an email, one in a long line of messages to everyone in an email list. He looked so young.

    He was young.

    It’s curious how often during the course of a normal day that I think of you, and of your sister, and of that small stylish wedding before the war where your sister and I helped our friend Kimberly with all the final little wedding details.

    RIP, Joe. People that never even met you – never even knew you – miss you.

    Posted in Iraq | 6 Comments »

    Zip it about the OBL raid already….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 14th May 2011 (All posts by )

    From the Weekly Standard:

    We are very concerned about the security of our families – of your families and our troops, and also these elite units that are engaged in things like that. And without getting into any details … I would tell you that when I met with the team last Thursday, they expressed a concern about that, and particularly with respect to their families,’ Gates told the audience.
    ‘Frankly, a week ago Sunday, in the Situation Room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden. That all fell apart on Monday, the next day.

    The above item reminded me of the widely-linked Walter Russell Mead blog essay (which I found via Instapundit):

    The leadership class of a country like ours needs to exemplify and to teach smart patriotism: a deep love of country that expresses itself in a concern for the well being of our fellow Americans, a sense of personal dignity and economic restraint, a willingness to set the example of sacrifice for the common good.

    I am not making a strictly partisan point. I’m channeling a popular mood. Call it a malaise of sorts. Twitter comes at exactly the wrong time for our Codevilla-elite populist moment. Twittering, “tweeping” glibness and DC chumminess on display for all to see, hand-in-hand with Hollywood celebrities and think tank favorites testifying on Capital Hill, “nerd proms,” and the rest of it. Or maybe it is EXACTLY the right moment because it allows the little people – that’s you and me, folks – to see elements of the sausage making.

    A good for society in the long term, but nausea-inducing in the immediate term as we work our way back to some semblance of decent, practical governance.

    Update: Hmmm….am I being too “elliptical” in my commentary? It is odd for a blogger – and a blogger that loves to share, at that – to make this point, but make it I will: we have a tendency to overshare these days and use all kinds of tools (Twitter, reporters) to do it. Mr. Personal Memoir President, loose lips in DC, and a culture of blabbing every little thing that enters into our heads. I’m as guilty as the rest. Except, classified information is a bit different than telling people what you had for lunch. So I guess I’m not as guilty as the rest.

    Second Update: Thanks for the link, Instapundit! I sort of wish I hadn’t included the President in this particular post because I really did want to make a larger point about American culture as a whole and not just our largely feckless political class. (I’m still impressed that the President gave the “go ahead” for the raid. Somehow, I didn’t think he had it in him but I suppose all Presidents would have done the same).

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Human Behavior, International Affairs | 8 Comments »

    What should our “Afpak” policy be and how should we think about Afghanistan….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 4th May 2011 (All posts by )

    ….now that calls to leave will likely increase exponentially?

    (Update: I don’t think I was very clear in this post when I wrote, “there is a state vision and a state plan to carry out that vision.” I did not mean complicity or duplicity or anything like that. The point I am trying to make is that the regular use of non-state actors as an instrument of internal power-politics or foreign policy is dangerous and should not be excused).

    Security analyst Rory Medcalf from the Lowy Institute says parts of Pakistan’s security establishment were either aware of his location or were harbouring him.
    Mr Medcalf says in continuing to support Pakistan, the international community risks more of the same treatment.
    He says Australia should consider withdrawing support for Pakistan’s military and instead build up its police force and civil society institutions.

    – from the news article, “Australia urged to rethink Pakistan military aid.”

    I don’t know about Australia, but the United States has had every possible type of diplomatic and military relationship with Pakistan – we’ve developed and trained parts of its military (and this from the beginning. The UK, too.), stuffed it to the gills with military aid, provided money intended for education of its civilian population which was then squandered and looted, prevented India from retaliating against terror attacks emanating from the region, attempted to cut aid during the time of the Pressler Amendment, and “walked away” from Pakistan during the 90s:

    Of course, Pakistan’s complaints are not entirely unfounded: the United States did abandon the region once the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Pakistanis, however, never acknowledge the enormous benefits that the country derived from its partnership with the Americans during the 1980s. Between 1979 and 1989 Pakistan received $5.6 billion (in constant 2009 dollars) in total aid, of which $3.5 billion was military assistance.) During this period, Pakistan developed its nuclear weapons program without penalty until 1990 while receiving enormous financial and military support from the U.S., which allowed Pakistan to improve its capabilities to fight India.
    Most frustrating is Pakistan’s refusal to acknowledge its own role in undermining its security by backing various Islamist militant groups in Afghanistan throughout the 1990s, including the Taliban. (Pakistanis often claim erroneously that the CIA created the Taliban.)

    C. Christine Fair in Foreign Policy

    So engagement hasn’t worked and disengagement hasn’t worked, either.

    My initial read is that the American political and policy community is utterly confused – and a bit terrified. Over the years it has lied to itself and to the American people over the true nature of the regime running Pakistan. There are no rogue elements, unless you want to count the true democracy activists and human rights activists. It is a state expressly set up for the benefit of the feudals and the military and to allow non-state actors to develop so-called asymmetric capabilities. And the West provided intellectual cover for many years, initially because of its existential war with the Soviets. This initial engagement morphed and mission-creeped in various ways: poking back at the Soviet-friendly Indians, opening up relations with China, attempting to leverage Pakistan within the context of the Saudis and Iran (and now, again, a “different” China), “help” with Afghanistan, and so on and so forth. One of the reasons solving Kashmir became a US State department hobby-horse – and a standard of the DC think tank community – is because we were trying to placate a NATO member (the UK) that has its own problems with radicalization and a large immigrant population from Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

    The United States won’t cut aid even though aid has been misused and propped up the most corrupt elements of the state. Aid is fungible and it has traditionally made things worse, not better. Money spent on the civil sector (or to train the police) means more money for the military and ISI. We are afraid, however, of the very nuclear weapons that the West’s money – and Chinese and Saudi aid – has helped to purchase ending up in terrorist hands or being gifted to the Saudis. And we still need to hunt down more people in that region and will pay almost any bribe to do it.

    So here we are: “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” – Sun Tzu.

    A theory: Our foreign policy community is confused within the context of “Afpak” because our traditional DC foreign policy mandarins never came to terms with the repercussions of fighting tyranny in one part of the globe by explicitly ignoring versions of it in another. I mean, in terms of what this does to your own institutions long-term, what it does to your military and State department bureaucracies, and to think tanks and a generation of South Asia analysts. In this, our attempts to nation-build in Afghanistan are highly laudable but unworkable (witness the recent furor over the allegations regarding Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea” charity). Yes, yes, I know that sometimes you have to hold your nose and work with people you don’t want to for a greater good and that greater good is continuing some version of our counterterrorism or counterinsurgency work within the region. But you shouldn’t lie to yourself or lie to the people you are meant to serve. It’s time for Washington to face facts. There are no rogue elements. There is a state vision and a state plan to carry out that vision.

    To those who say, “well, we never really supported the civil sector in Pakistan in the past”: How do you do that effectively when the military colonizes the economy? When it owns large tracts of land and businesses? Once again, aid is fungible and the State department and its Western development theories (building civilian governmental capacities; in other words, social engineering abroad) has a rocky track record, at best. So now what?

    What say you?

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Britain, History, Human Behavior, India, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Political Philosophy, Politics, Terrorism | 7 Comments »

    “The Contemporary Art Of The Novella”

    Posted by onparkstreet on 24th April 2011 (All posts by )

    Browsing a bookstore on a rainy and strangely November-like day for April, I came across a display of novellas from Melville House Publishing. Slim, neat volumes with the book titles printed on each stark white cover page in primary colors and black. Irresistible to the book lover who is busy at work, a bit tired of blogging and blog commenting (and yet, I’ve left over ten comments here and elsewhere over the course of the entire weekend. Physician, heal thyself!), and who misses reading fiction.

    And so, the novella. After the fantastic comments about postmodernism left at my last blog post, “A Lazy Sunday’s Blogging,” the following blurb seemed especially intriguing:

    Part murder mystery and all jet-black satire, and based on a real life scandal, this edgy novella tells the story of Leopold Sfax, world-renowned as the creator of “The Theory” – a bizarre literary theory that grew from an intellectual folly to a dominant school of criticism that enslaved college campuses across the country.

    To make the satire even blacker, Leopold Sfax, the world-renowned theorist, is hiding his past as a Nazi collaborator. No wonder he is a proponent of words and text divorced from the author….

    ….and all of this is in Gilbert Adair’s novella The Death of the Author. It is a very good book and I don’t agree with the tepid mini-review at Amazon by Publishers Weekly. Why are the Publishers Weekly mini-reviews at Amazon so generally off-base? To whomever at PW wrote “a narrative weighted down by the narrator’s unceasingly haughty academic rhetoric,” all I have to say is this: the book and its language is a satire of academics, academia, and postmodern language. That’s the reason for the haughty academic rhetoric. It’s part of the fun:

    I proposed that, again in every text, there would fatally arrive what I called an aporia, a terminal impasse, a blank brick wall of impenetrability, an ultimatum of indetermination when its self-contradictory meanings could no longer be permitted to coexist in harmony and its fundamental “undecidability” would undermine for ever the reader’s most fundamental presuppositions.
    It was, as it happens, at that last proposition that the long-suffering scoffers at the Theory were determined to draw the line – rather, it was by the window of opportunity offered by its theoretical incontinence and by the enormity of its affront to sheer common sense that they sought to infiltrate and invade the rest of the fortress. What? they squealed from Berkeley to Brown, and from Wesleyan to Columbia, is nothing to mean anything anymore? Hamlet, Faust, Moby-Dick, The Divine Comedy – that these possess not one meaning, fair enough, but are they then to possess so very many that it becomes meaningless for the reader to explore any of them? To which the screw-turners, nostrils twitching at the whiff of sulphur, would add: And Auschwitz? Dresden? Hiroshima? My Lai? All of them meaningless, indecipherable texts, saying the opposite of what we had always imagined they said? Wars as texts – go tell that, they protested, to the Marines, go tell that to the maimed, gassed, blinded, disfigured victims of civil texts and guerilla texts and one day, doubtless, the great nuclear text.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Book Notes, Education | 2 Comments »

    A Lazy Sunday’s Blogging

    Posted by onparkstreet on 10th April 2011 (All posts by )

    From a comment that I left here:

    Human behavior has too many complex variables to be plotted out neatly in graphs and charts and equations, and besides, humans beings lie. To themselves and to each other.

    So the data points you may enter into any equation will always be colored by human fallibility.

    What we want is to predict human behavior. We may be able to predict certain behaviors in very narrow circumstances but even that is fraught with difficulty. Why do people tend to buy a certain type of toothpaste or why do IEDs tend to be placed at certain times of day, etc? But even if we plot a graph and it fits a set of variables, we still don’t really know how or why we got the graph and whether it is related or a statistical fluke. For example, we may predict what toothpaste a category of persons likes to buy, but it’s a lot harder to predict why person A bought toothpaste B in country C at noon on a Sunday. Even if person A buys toothpaste in the same way every single time we have studied that person, maybe one day an old friend calls up out of the blue and says, “meet me for coffee.” No shopping that day.

    Did your linear progression have the variable for a friend calling up out of the blue in it? Adam Smith’s “the invisible hand” and all of that.

    Take for instance, historical examples of good and bad campaigns: sometimes two leaders within an organization just didn’t get along and that affected decision making. How does an equation explain such a human intangible?

    That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and predict behavior, it just means that we must understand the limitations of the tools that we use and be willing to reexamine the tools as experience dictates.

    Good discussion!

    *I posted this previously, but in the late 90s the Sokol hoax was a push back from the scientific community (in this case, a physicist) against the use of post-modern literary theory to understand science.

    There were several criticisms:

    1. The post modern theorists didn’t really understand the scientific terms that they were using and were simply decorating their prose with scientific terminology in order to sound more impressive.

    2. An analogy is simply an analogy. When you say something in human behavior is like fluid dynamics, it doesn’t mean that the equations for fluid dynamics can be used on human behavior. An analogy is not the same thing as, well, the same thing.

    I believe the misuse of scientific analogies is discussed in the following:

    Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science

    By the way, all of this is not against using narratives or constructs to understand the world but against the misuse of science. That was the real center of the discussion.

    Tell me what I’ve got wrong in the comments. Tell me a little something about human fallibility….

    Posted in Blogging, Book Notes, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Predictions | 11 Comments »

    Kate Winslet in “Mildred Pierce”

    Posted by onparkstreet on 6th April 2011 (All posts by )

    I’ve been watching the HBO mini-series based on the novel by James M. Cain. The filming is really interesting: houses, cars, clothes, dishes, and locations recreated to channel the 1920s-30s era.

    Take a look at the production design slideshow at the HBO website. Glendale, California of the 1920s comes alive. Searching for reviews, I find the following:

    Like Winslet’s films, Haynes’ projects tend to focus on women who are trapped in suffocating domestic situations, whether in self-help-obsessed Southern California (“Safe”) or the 1950s suburbs (“Far From Heaven”). In “Mildred Pierce,” he often makes those trappings literal by framing Winslet through a kitchen window or a half-closed door, as if challenging her to break out of her house.

    Well, okay. People do feel trapped inside their own lives sometimes and art is meant to show us a little something about the human condition. But suburban domestic suffocation is not exactly ground-breaking stuff these days, is it? It’s pretty much the only way Hollywood depicts suburbia. It’s either stupid, comical and mindless, or heartbreakingly drone-like.

    What I find most interesting about this particular mini-series is how it shows Mildred building up her restaurant business. Hard work, creativity, luck, a loan, and the right property all figure into the journey. Our creative class – or their reviewers – seem awfully reactionary in a way, don’t they?

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Diversions, Film, History | Comments Off on Kate Winslet in “Mildred Pierce”

    “What Bono doesn’t say about Africa”

    Posted by onparkstreet on 6th April 2011 (All posts by )

    Celebrities like to portray it as a basket case, but they ignore very real progress.

    William Easterly in the LA Times (Op-Ed from 2007.)

    The real Africa needs increased trade from the West more than it needs more aid handouts. A respected Ugandan journalist, Andrew Mwenda, made this point at a recent African conference despite the fact that the world’s most famous celebrity activist — Bono — was attempting to shout him down. Mwenda was suffering from too much reality for Bono’s taste: “What man or nation has ever become rich by holding out a begging bowl?” asked Mwenda.
    Perhaps Bono was grouchy because his celebrity-laden “Red” campaign to promote Western brands to finance begging bowls for Africa has spent $100 million on marketing and generated sales of only $18 million, according to a recent report. But the fact remains that the West shows a lot more interest in begging bowls than in, say, letting African cotton growers compete fairly in Western markets (see the recent collapse of world trade talks).
    Today, as I sip my Rwandan gourmet coffee and wear my Nigerian shirt here in New York, and as European men eat fresh Ghanaian pineapple for breakfast and bring Kenyan flowers home to their wives, I wonder what it will take for Western consumers to learn even more about the products of self-sufficient, hardworking, dignified Africans. Perhaps they should spend less time consuming Africa disaster stereotypes from television and Vanity Fair.

    The excerpt came up (I brought it up) in this comments thread at Small Wars Journal.

    Another commenter, Jason Thomas, made the following interesting comment in the same thread:

    ….A locally driven solution is so important. However, we have created a national government that reflects the deep seated nepotism and corruption endemic at the local level. But the local people dont feel like they are being led by example. How many local Afghas know who their national Member of Parliament is compared to their unelected Governor and District Governor. [sic]
    Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., astutely pointed out in his 1977 biography of Robert Kennedy, the notion that reforms can be carried out in a wartime situation by a beleaguered regime is “the fatal fallacy in the liberal theory of counterinsurgency, with the United States so often obliged to work through repressive local leadership, the reform component dwindled into ineffectual exhortation.”

    Posted in Book Notes, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Markets and Trading, Quotations | 4 Comments »

    It would be nice if our politicians paid attention to the strategies of other nations.

    Posted by onparkstreet on 31st March 2011 (All posts by )

    More than nice, actually. Call it due diligence.

    Ali K. Chishti: ISI is widely misunderstood. It’s not rogue.

    In fact, it’s a fit unit who has learned the art of maneuvering. It’s obviously run by its separate directorates but acts on the policy guidelines of the Pakistan Military Chief. If you need to understand the working of ISI, I will give you one example — a section of the ISI is deputed to protect Mullah Omar and another is working with the US to catch him.

    That is ISI for you.

    Pakistan, since its inception, has been a security state governed by fear of India. The 1971 partition of its Eastern bloc — Bangladesh — forever tarnished the ideology of Pakistan. Because of this, the Pakistani security establishment (military) started creating various proxies from Kashmir to Afghanistan to Nepal and, of course, they made the atomic bomb to forever protect national integrity at the cost of food, education and basic facilities.

    The whole security establishment of Pakistan is India-specific. And with the increasing influence of China on Pakistan and on its military, the Pakistanis have started relying on China more than the U.S.

    U.S. and Pakistan’s strategic, economic and military interests cannot be one in this region. It’s not the “coalition of the willing.” It’s a forced marriage bound to break anytime. Pakistan would never want stability in Afghanistan.

    A former ISI chief told me, “Son, we need to keep Yank interests alive to get dollars rolling in.” And that has, unfortunately, been the psyche of Pakistanis.

    – from an interview at Carl Prine’s Line of Departure blog. I got carried away in the comments section over there. Oops.

    I’ve covered this particular example of “rent-seeking” as national strategy (or part of a national strategy) before at ChicagoBoyz:

    “America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America,” was Jinnah’s reply. “Pakistan is the pivot of the world, as we are placed” — he revolved his long forefinger in bony circles — “the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves.”

    He leaned toward me, dropping his voice to a confidential note. “Russia,” confided Mr. Jinnah, “is not so very far away.”

    Want another one? This one is a doozy:

    The clearest evidence of the Iran link came in January 1990, when Pakistan’s army chief of staff conveyed his threat to arm Iran to a top Pentagon official. Henry S. Rowen, at the time an assistant defense secretary, said Pakistani Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg issued the warning in a face-to-face meeting in Pakistan. “Beg said something like, ‘If we don’t get adequate support from the U.S., then we may be forced to share nuclear technology with Iran,'” said Rowen, now a professor at Stanford University. Rowen said former President Bush’s administration did little to follow up on Beg’s warning. “In hindsight, maybe before or after that they did make some transfers,” Rowen said. Rowen said he told Beg that Pakistan would be “in deep trouble” if it gave nuclear weapons to Iran. Rowen said he was surprised by the threat because at the time Americans thought Pakistan’s secular government dominated by Sunni Muslims wouldn’t aid Iran’s Shiite Muslim theocracy. “There was no particular reason to think it was a bluff, but on the other hand, we didn’t know,” Rowen said.

    Emphasis mine. But you know what? I’m sick of this topic. The foreign policy establishment in Washington – right and left, both – is a little bit in love with its supposed awesomeness. As a group, they are incapable of sense. And all that aid money we gave Pakistan after 2001? The generals went and made more nukes with it. Brilliant, Republican and Democratic foreign policy mandarins of the DC establishment. You guys are stone cold geniuses.

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Economics & Finance, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics | 2 Comments »

    “AfPak 2020: A Symposium”

    Posted by onparkstreet on 14th March 2011 (All posts by )

    We asked four experts what US policy in the AfPak theater would yield in the next ten years—and what, if anything, Washington might do differently. Military historian Victor Davis Hanson begins by offering a contemporary context for American efforts; New York Times Magazine writer James Traub envisions what a partition might look like; Ann Marlowe, returning from her latest trip to the region, suggests that demography will play a more important role than we might think; and Matthieu Aikins reports from Kandahar on the need to spend less, talk more, and shed the illusion of “victory.”

    World Affairs Journal

    I haven’t had a chance to do more than quickly skim the above article, so I’m not sure how to compare the entries to the ChicagoBoyz Afghanistan 2050 Roundtable. I do have one quick comment on Victor Davis Hanson’s interesting contribution to the World Affairs Journal Symposium: Afghanistan is not Iraq, and some critics of the current counterinsurgency doctrine (we provide development aid, the population turns on the Taliban) don’t want to leave full-stop – and never have. We want a plan more tailored to the Afghanistan environment. But the good Dr. Hanson has forgotten more about things military than I’ll ever know, so we shall see how our current efforts are faring in the spring, summer, and fall. Bing West did say in his talk at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that the Obama Administration will declare victory this summer. “You can count on it.”


    Anyone who has been watching the war in Afghanistan for the past two years knows that ISAF, having focused on southern Afghanistan for the past 18 months, now aspires to shift its focus to Afghanistan’s east, where the war has been underresourced and where, in contrast to southern Afghanistan, the Taliban has been gaining momentum. Speak to any commanders on the ground, and they will tell you that if they have their way (and on account of its complexity), eastern Afghanistan will be the last place from which conventional western forces will withdraw in 2013 and 2014.

    Abu Muqawama

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050, Afghanistan/Pakistan, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security | 3 Comments »

    An Update and Other Links

    Posted by onparkstreet on 12th March 2011 (All posts by )

    This past Wednesday, I heard Bing West give a talk about Afghanistan and his new book The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan, at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. When I get a chance, I will write up a post. He is a very good public speaker: energetic, lively, clear.’s The Big Picture has some truly horrifying photos of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake. Here is the American Red Cross link. If our readers and commenters have additional links or sites they think important, please leave them in the comments section.

    I think the following two articles might be of interest for our readers:

    Bryson has pulled off a marvelous feat. He devotes almost every chapter to a room in his Victorian house in England. He then considers why the room is the way it is and what preceded it. In doing so he produces an important economic history, only some of which will be familiar to economic historians and almost all of which will be unfamiliar to pretty much everyone else. A large percentage of it is important, for two reasons: One, you get to pinch yourself, realizing just how wealthy you are; and two, you get a better understanding than you’ll get from almost any high school or college history textbook of the economic progress that made you wealthy. Not surprisingly, given that I’m an economist and Bryson isn’t, I have a few criticisms of places where he misleads by commission or omission. But At Home’s net effect on readers is likely to be a huge increase in understanding and appreciation of how we got to where we are.

    David R. Henderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

    The disturbing truth that modern Western COIN theory is built on a handful of books based upon practitioner experiences in a handful of 20th-century conflicts is not mitigated by the less famous but broader COIN works. Country studies by lesser known writers are similarly restricted. The core texts cover Vietnam (French Indochina), Algeria, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, and Malaya. The less-well-known writers will go on to discuss Mozambique, Angola, El Salvador, or Afghanistan under the Soviets. Only the most adventurous writers and theorists braved traveling as far as Kashmir or India to look at what could be learned there. Subsequently, the modern study of counterinsurgency and the doctrine it gave birth to are limited to less than two dozen conflicts in a century that witnessed more than 150 wars and lesser conflicts, domestic and interstate (see table 1).

    Sebastian L.v. Gorka and David Kilcullen, Joint Force Quarterly (JFQ)

    Posted in Academia, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Economics & Finance, History, International Affairs, Japan, Medicine, National Security | Comments Off on An Update and Other Links

    Bing West at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs March 9

    Posted by onparkstreet on 8th March 2011 (All posts by )

    On the Afghan frontlines, soldiers are feeling the strain of General Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy as it has forced them to become nation-builders as well as warriors. Bing West argues that the American military’s three current objectives in Afghanistan – protect the population, provide money and projects to stimulate patriotism, and link the population with the central government – have weakened the warrior ethos of the troops and prevented the U.S. from developing a winning approach. With the imminent withdrawal of NATO troops by 2014 and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s call to negotiate with the Taliban, is winning even possible for the Allied forces? Join The Chicago Council as Bing West discusses his perspective on a U.S. exit strategy and why Americans cannot afford to lose in Afghanistan.

    I just bought Bing West’s The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan. So far it’s very good, if disconcerting. He will be giving a talk this Wednesday at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and I plan to attend. Bing West is appearing earlier the same day at the Chicago Pritzker Military Library (which has moved to 104 S. Michigan Ave., across the street from Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago.)

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Nothing Is Inevitable

    Posted by onparkstreet on 27th February 2011 (All posts by )

    Neither rise nor decline. Pay attention, American-declinist intelligentsia of various stripes:

    Is 2011 the year that the India story—carefully buffed for the better part of a decade by boosters and dispassionate observers alike—begins to lose its sheen? If foreign investors are a bellwether, then the answer may well be yes.
    In January, foreign institutional investors, driven in part by high inflation and the sluggish pace of economic reforms, pulled $900 million out of India’s stock markets. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, foreign direct investment in India plunged 32% last year to $24 billion, making it Asia’s only large economy to suffer a decline in that period. (China attracted more than four times as much FDI as India in 2010.) A recent survey of 89 fund managers by Morgan Stanley showed that only a quarter of buy-side investors believe that India will beat other emerging markets this year, the glummest outlook in two years.

    Sadanand Dhume, WSJ-Asia (via the AEI Enterprise blog.)

    America wastes no talent
    Conventional wisdom holds that America’s global competitiveness is driven by geniuses flocking to its shores and producing breathtaking inventions. But America’s real genius lies not in tapping just genius — but every scrap of talent up and down the scale.

    Shikha Dalmia, the Daily (via HotAir.)

    My father likes to make the same point (“America finds a way to use everybody.”) Some immigrants pay attention, you know. Sometimes better than certain intelligentsia.

    Some time back Lexington Green asked, musingly, what exactly drew us all to this corner of the blogosphere known as ChicagoBoyz?

    One underlying theme, in my opinion, is how hard it is to create and sustain a prosperous, safe society. Rule of law, a sound moral grounding, a good quality educational system, scientific study, a well-trained and funded military, proper planning and understanding of various logistics, a keen sense of what is possible and what is not, and so on. Wealth, beauty, comfort, kindness, and, well, “goodnesses” of all sorts don’t just happen. It takes effort. It takes thought. It takes understanding.

    It takes a lot of hard work. Nothing is inevitable. Neither rise nor decline. We Americans have many advantages. We should cultivate them.

    Posted in Americas, Anglosphere, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, Human Behavior | 5 Comments »

    Assorted Links

    Posted by onparkstreet on 23rd February 2011 (All posts by )

    Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be making a trans-continental trip to India in March to speak at the India Today 2011 conclave in New Delhi, Palin aide Rebecca Mansour tweeted Wednesday.

    The Daily Caller

    I first saw the news of Sarah Palin planning to visit India “tweeted” at an Indian think tank website – the Takshashila Institution.

    AMERICA’S MACROSTRATEGIC environment is chockablock with assets unavailable to any other country. If nothing else, the United States has an often-overlooked and oft-neglected bulwark of allies: the Anglosphere. This is Washington’s inner circle of defense ties, and it finds no equivalent in its competitor nations’ strategic arsenals. The Anglosphere is perennially—and incorrectly—declared dead or in decline by the media and politicians. Nevertheless, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and the United States remain extremely close in their military and intelligence relations and exchange vast volumes of sensitive information daily, as they have for decades. On terrorism, virtually anything and everything is shared. The National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters have been nearly inextricable since World War II. The same is largely true of the CIA and Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. The various English-speaking nations, in practical terms, even assign individual parts of the world to each other, and each worries about the others’ security equities.

    Robert D. Kaplan, Stephen S. Kaplan – The National Interest (via CNAS)

    Posted in Anglosphere, India | 4 Comments »