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Isolationism vis-a-vis Afghanistan and Pakistan

San Diego – There is a huge difference between being an “Isolationist” and someone who believes that it is not in our best or lasting interests to keep poking around in business or affairs of other countries.  In this one thing, at least, i tend to agree with the words in King Barrack’s speech yesterday.  That distinction appears to be lost on the media and also on the public for whom labels, especially simplistic ones, are needed to define their views of the world in the face of an utter lack of knowledge sufficient to make an informed and meaningful analysis.

The true isolationist wants to essentially build a wall around the country and become utterly self sufficient and apart from the rest of the world.  Perhaps there was a time when that was possible, whether or not it was wise.  Not even Switzerland, famed for its neutrality and avoidance of foreign entanglements, attempts that sort of isolation.  But to be a good neighbor often means staying out of others’ business even when that business is confusing or abhorrent to you.  Somewhere between true isolationism and wanting to be the policeman of the world is a wiser more sustainable approach.

Whether we like it or not, we are part of a larger world in which global economies and State politics have an impact on our lives and fortunes for good or for ill.  So, inconvenient as it may be for us, we simply cannot pull out of the world as if we all lived on another planet and could simply watch and snicker at the interplay of ego and idiocy happening before us.  Treading that extremely fine line between protecting true national interests and trying to impose our will on others, tracking wisely between an understanding of the needs and sensitivities of other states not as lucky as ours in terms of defense capabilities, and a complete dismissal of those other views seeing them as enemies or potential enemies when they do something we think is counter to our own interests, requires serious leadership and wisdom… neither of which seems to be available to us at the moment.

A major case in point is Pakistan and Afghanistan. One-dimensional pundits on both left and right want us to just get the heck out if we are not willing to fight to win.  Well, to be fair, those in the left want us out period.  And i have argued that we should never engage militarily ANYwhere unless we are willing to go all out to win.  But the bottom line is the same.  And further, many on the right want to somehow punish Pakistan for seeming to work against us in the war against the islamists and the Taliban.  Once again, small minds see only the small picture and can get their minds around only the simplistic answers.  If only the world were that simple and straight forward.

Below are several paragraphs excerpted from an Intel Report from Stratfor on the situation that explains the bind we and the Pakistanis have created for ourselves. (This was presented before the President’s speech on the drawdown.)

“Sept. 11, 2001, posed a profound threat to Pakistan. On one side, Pakistan faced a United States in a state of crisis, demanding Pakistani support against both al Qaeda and the Taliban. On the other side Pakistan had a massive Islamist movement hostile to the United States and intelligence services that had, for a generation, been intimately linked to Afghan Islamists, first with whole-hearted U.S. support, then with its benign indifference. The American demands involved shredding close relationships in Afghanistan, supporting an American occupation in Afghanistan and therefore facing internal resistance and threats in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The Pakistani solution was the only one it could come up with to placate both the United States and the forces in Pakistan that did not want to cooperate with the United States. The Pakistanis lied. To be more precise and fair, they did as much as they could for the United States without completely destabilizing Pakistan while making it appear that they were being far more cooperative with the Americans and far less cooperative with their public. As in any such strategy, the ISI and Islamabad found themselves engaged in a massive balancing act.

“U.S. and Pakistani national interests widely diverged. The United States wanted to disrupt al Qaeda regardless of the cost. The Pakistanis wanted to avoid the collapse of their regime at any cost. These were not compatible goals. At the same time, the United States and Pakistan needed each other. The United States could not possibly operate in Afghanistan without some Pakistani support, ranging from the use of Karachi and the Karachi-Khyber and Karachi-Chaman lines of supply to at least some collaboration on intelligence sharing, at least on al Qaeda. The Pakistanis badly needed American support against India. If the United States simply became pro-Indian, the Pakistani position would be in severe jeopardy.

“The United States was always aware of the limits of Pakistani assistance. The United States accepted this publicly because it made Pakistan appear to be an ally at a time when the United States was under attack for unilateralism. It accepted it privately as well because it did not want to see Pakistan destabilize. The Pakistanis were aware of the limits of American tolerance, so a game was played out.

“That game is now breaking down, not because the United States raided Pakistan and killed bin Laden but because it is becoming apparent to Pakistan that the United States will, sooner or later, be dramatically drawing down its forces in Afghanistan. This drawdown creates three facts. First, Pakistan will be facing the future on its western border with Afghanistan without an American force to support it. Pakistan does not want to alienate the Taliban, and not just for ideological reasons. It also expects the Taliban to govern Afghanistan in due course. India aside, Pakistan needs to maintain its ties to the Taliban in order to maintain its influence in Afghanistan and guard its western flank. Being cooperative with the United States is less important. Second, Pakistan is aware that as the United States draws down, it will need Pakistan to cover its withdrawal strategically. Afghanistan is not Iraq, and as the U.S. force draws down, it will be in greater danger. The U.S. needs Pakistani influence. Finally, there will be a negotiation with the Taliban, and elements of Pakistan, particularly the ISI, will be the intermediary.

“The Pakistanis are preparing for the American drawdown. Publicly, it is important for them to appears independent and even hostile to the /united States in order to maintain their domestic credibility. Up to now, they have appeared to various factions in Pakistan as American lackeys. If the United States is leaving, the Pakistanis can’t afford to appear that way anymore. There are genuine issues separating the two countries, but in the end, the show is as important as the issues. U.S. accusations that the government has not cooperated with the United States in fighting Islamists are exactly what the Pakistani establishment needs in order to move to the next phase.”

Into this quagmire steps our benighted leader.  True, he did not creat it, the hated Bush Demon created it by allowing the mission to creep beyond simply stopping Afghanistan from allowing Al Qaida and other islamist/jihadists a training ground and base from which to attack us and into a full blown campaign to stabilize a nation ruled by systemic corruption that would make the Mexican Authorities look like choir boys. He leads from a position of experiential ignorance and in opposition to the military’s assessment of what is needed. (The military wanted to at least complete the 2012 fighting season before drawing down but that extends into September and did not give the political impact needed by the President for his campaign.)

The pull out period, due to both the timing and the advanced notice to the enemy will be an extremely dangerous period for our troops and very much unlike Iraq where an agreement was reached with the Sunni insurgents.  Unfortunately no such agreement currently exists with the Taliban.  And without it, Pakistan is an incredibly important piece in the puzzle as the quickest routes of retreat for all of the heavy metal that cannot easily be airlifted out is over the Khyber Pass region and into their country.

This administration has continued and expanded the Bush Demon’s initial goals into ones clearly impossible and now added to the military problems by announcing when we were leaving so the enemy can simply prepare for it and as our force dwindles to some critical mass, pounce and show the world clearly an important symbolic message that (a) the U.S. once again ran with its tail between its legs when the going got touch, (b) they could deliver major blows to this paper tiger, and (c) send a message that no one in history has STILL managed to defeat and control that region.

Just as with our economic problems, the polarized factions in our own government have so muddied the water as to make any clean end-game impossible.  Preferring going to the wall to maintain their own ideological views and seat at the table, no matter how shortsighted or counterproductive, they have been willing to sacrifice the well being of the country. There are no innocent parties here and no good sides to take anymore.  Our dear leaders have sidestepped plans that might, at one point, have solved things with some but minimal pain and reached a point where there are no good solutions left only extremely painful ones for us all, and even the tentative steps being suggested are too often proposed for all the wrong reasons and to make sure it is “them” who suffers and not “us.”  .

In a previous post asking whose side we were on, I provided the math to show what the real impact of this pull out will be on our economy if ALL military budgets now requested for the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan were eliminated.  Bottom line; it will not make even a small dent in the deficit, much less the debt.

We are no longer a country of Chess Players.  indeed we are no longer a country of Checkers Players.  In fact it would seem as if our “brilliant” leaders could not predictably win a game of Old Maid against the nearest potted plant.  The only strategic game our dear leader seems competent at is national Russian Roulette.  Thus far, Stratfor’s assessments have been spot on.  in this instance if they are even close (I encourage you to read it all from the link below) then the speech our Dear Leader gave yesterday was simply delusional especially since his own intel people are telling pretty much the same story as Stratfor.

Here again, ideology trumps reality.  And once again it adds fuel to my ugly conclusions that we are being slowly brought to our knees from within so we can be rebuilt in the Dear One’s image.  He even said as much when he said we should not be Nation Building” elsewhere but needed to do “Nation Building” here.  But we have a nation… oh wait, this is not the worker’s paradise of a nation into which King Barrack openly wishes to transform us.  For that, we must build a NEW nation, right after we effectively destroy this one.  Meantime, does that not run counter to Libya?

John Quincy Adams wrote that,

“… our task is to be the advocate for liberty everywhere, but the defender of ours alone.

Jim Webb, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy and now a Democrat Senator said, relative to the attack against Libya,

“Was our country under attack, or under the threat of imminent attack? Was a clearly vital national interest at stake? Were we invoking the inherent right of self-defense as outlined in the United Nations charter? Were we called upon by treaty commitments to come to the aid of an ally? Were we responding in kind to an attack on our forces elsewhere, as we did in the 1986 raids in Libya after American soldiers had been killed in a disco in Berlin? Were we rescuing Americans in distress, as we did in Grenada in 1983? No, we were not.”

i increasingly think we are under sttack.  But it is not from the middle east!

Here is the link to the complete Stratfor intel report i quoted from above.

U.S. and Pakistan: Afghan Strategies is republished with permission of STRATFOR

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Posted by on June 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Second Week of Spring Semester is History

San Diego –Quite a few things to chat about from events of this week.  From school to my hot car to Egypt to Reagan’s birthday, topics come leaping out so lets get this underway.

Well, we made it through the second week of the Spring Semester without major angst.  Unfortunately i had to turn down an amazing number of second week requests to crash some of my classes as they were simply full and there was no room.  I was able to let a few into some classes that were nearly full but not yet to overflowing and the early attrition did open up a couple of seats here and there.  Now that period is over and the crush for seats in class is over.  I was chastised for not showing proper respect to our IT team but in truth i have none to show nor will I facilitate their incompetence by pretending they are good at it.  As I keep saying over and over, you cannot fix a problem you will not admit exists.

Field Trip/Workshop Dates:  In the Landscape Class i finally got back information on availability for lodging for our field trips and those are now set.  The three day trip to Lone Pine and Alabama Hills will be March 11-13 and the four day trip to Yosemite will be April 28-May 1.  i gave out data on where i was able to arrange discounts in class this week so people can start to get their reservations in early.  We will also be doing a Saturday afternoon workshop for students interested in printing on Canvas on Feb  19th at 1 pm – 4pm +/-.   Sign up is through the Check Out room.  If the canvas workshop is successful then we may do more during the semester.

Jag Progress: This has been a time of trying to “beta test” the Jag’s engine work.  I have had very little time and in any case it is necessary to work carefully since I’ve not been able to get into DMV for the temp permit to go to a California Smog referee for a new ID/Compliance sticker.  My old one is in the engine compartment and consequently it has faded over the years.  You can still read the numbers but cannot scan the bar code with a reader and the law is that it must be scanned.  That has to have been in order to sell more scanners; some legislature cleaned up big time when they got that law passed.  It showed me one problem from the first drive back from the shop.  The tuner had set it up for serious competition driving not for daily freeway stuff.  The shift points were placed high at the top of the “power band” so the car simply would not shift into High (and then overdrive).  I ran it to 90 mph quickly but still it did not shift.  The Tach was right in the power band at that point at about 3,000 RPM… but it was in third gear.  OK, Note one for tweaking…

Anyway, yesterday I drove to Barrett Junction for lunch because the old Highway 94 road can be a fun one to drive.     There was too much local traffic to really play with it seriously but it was obviously now a much stronger car especially in the mid range.  However as I was returning, the engine cut out.  It then returned to fire and then cut out again.  It did this on and off a few time  until I was almost back to campus but just past the Highway 125 interchange it cut out and… did NOT come back.  I drifted over to the side and checked the engine for anything that seems to have become unplugged.  it was obviously an electrical problem because when it cut out all gauges and lights died with it.  But the battery was connected, coil was connected, at the junction box for ignition all was connected yet it was still dead as the proverbial doorknob.  (Note: does anyone know a live doorknob? They must have very short life spans…)  i called Lawton at Top Flight Corvette/Racing where it had been worked on and he went through a series of checks on the phone with me, none of which led anywhere so he called a tow truck for me.

Once back at the shop they were stumped until one of the mechanics noticed there was no wire running into the alternator.  In fact there was no connector post on the alternator AT ALL.  And there, dangling down was the post, still connected to the wire that had come completely out of the alternator.  In fact it had arced and spot welded itself to the engine and almost looked like it belonged there.  The guys jumped on it and quickly swapped it for an alternator they had on the shelf, charged the battery and the car was fine.  None of them had ever seen anything quite like it so even though it was an irritation I at least kept my reputation for not bringing them anything normal.

I would be remiss in not including a plug here.  That shop is wonderful and it has one of those rarities I have come to find in very short supply: an honest and skilled mechanic.  Alan Curtis who first built the car was one of them but he retired.  Now Lawton at Top flight has taken over care of the car and he is like Alan (without the British accent): skilled to the point of being creative and artistic and scrupulously honest.  As a race driver of long standing and experience himself, and as head of a racing team he does understand high performance cars and loves them.  His shop is always filled — and I mean FILLED — with wonderful and powerful cars.  And his son is following in his hard to fill footsteps.  I’m telling you, if you have any form of muscle car or other high performance American iron trust me on this; here is where you need to take it.  Let me know and I’ll put you in contact.

Geopolitics: The unrest in Egypt continues.  As has become typical, our would-be erstwhile leadership has responded based not on facts or history or even the country’s best interests, but on the basis of what their own party’s leaders have done in the past vis-a-vis connections with various foreign governments.  Those from the parties that supported and still funnel money to Mubarak  see nothing positive in the protests as they focus only on what they see as the inevitable disaster to flow from this.    Meantime those who hated the leaders that supported Mubarak see the protestors as the new voices of democracy to be backed.  In doing so they show the same lack of knowledge about the players and regional issues as they did in the first Iranian revolution when they dumped the Shaw and lately in the unrest over the past elections.

When the Shah was overthrown in a coup by a “democratic” revolution that democratic ideal, as much as there was of it in a land that knew nothing about Jeffersonian Democracy and only about the far less messy (if far more painful) monarchies, autocracies and tyrannies, was short lived and soon taken over by the Islamic extremists to bring about a complete Theocracy — something we helped to facilitate and then got our hand bitten by way of thanks. When the protestors then took to the streets in the last election to defeat the current Iranian President, a person clearly in need of defeating, our own political idiocracy saw the opposition as potential allies of the U.S. but never bothered, apparently, to study the make up of them.  The argument in Iran was not over pro or anti U.S. policy, that was but a convenient and handy bone to the political dogs slobbering at their feet tossed out to try to lure us into their court.  The truth was the only real argument was theologically dogmatic and the protestors saw a different role and status in government authority vested in the clergy and Ayatollahs.  That was utterly meaningless and not even remoptely understandable to and by us, but was a critical distinction to them, worthy of risky protest.  But the protestors were not ever or remotely about regaining a secular society much less a democracy.

Now in regards to Egypt the same reaction is taking place in the hallowed halls of our government and the spewings of the mainstream press and its pundits.  And it is seen through the same willful blinders as before.  The regime of the current President is remarkable mainly for its corruption and ill treatment of the Egyptians themselves; of that there is no doubt.  We stupidly pour tons of money into their economy and then say nothing when it is skimmed off by the elite but rarely makes its way back to the streets where we pretend it is intended.  We spend  a statistically important part of our taxes to support the extravagances of foreign despots.  In some cases, and this was one of them, they did some of our bidding and helped a little with the current issues of terrorists even though that was mostly in their own self interests.  So some supported him without question and other opposed him without context.

Sadly Egypt is hardly a stand out case for this idiocy, virtually every tin hat dictator we readily support does the same thing.  And so certainly the ranks of the protestors contain those who would like to make of Egypt a more democratic society dedicated to serving the needs of its people and also to maintain their status as a secular government, not wanting to return to Taliban-like suppression of human rights and especially women’s rights.  But behind the scenes, just as there was in Iran when their pro-democrativ movement was taken over and subverted by Islamic extremists, funneling money into the movement and waiting in the wings is another extreme Islamic group, the Islamic Brotherhood.  Though not listed as a terrorist group themselves it is generally agreed that they exist to support and funnel money to groups that ARE terrorists from Al Qaeda to Hamas to Hezbollah.  Their own charter and surrogates make it impossible to ignore their real goals and purposes and it is open for anyone to read if they will take the time.

History in the region has given us several examples of Middle Eastern/Arabic and North African protests that turned into revolutions and overthrew the existing regime:  Iran,  Yeman, Oman as a few examples.  There are exceptions as there always are, but the trend has been that the ‘democratic’ movement, or just the movement crying for change and better treatment by the people, initially succeeded but was so poorly led, funded, and/or organized that once the major power was eliminated and it was safe for them to emerge,  the extremists moved in to set up their end goal from the start: an Islamic Theocracy.  This situation in Egypt is far more complex and has far more potential dangers than either side of our aisle of entrenched political morons seems willing to admit or address.

On one hand that is none of our business.  If that is what the people want then let them live with it.  That is what democracy is supposed to mean.  But when a newly formed government threatens the stability of the area and, by extension, the world, then it unfortunately becomes our business.  This is why it is SO important for us, in the short term as we look for workable affordable alternatives, to make use of our own fossil fuel resources so that those savages over there can be free to hack each other to pieces, burn wells, close canals, and force $10/gallon gas to their black heart’s content… but not on us.

Except for politicians with money to be made, no one in the energy business questions that oil, especially middle eastern oil is running out.  The easy and cheap to get “sweet” oil has already run out over most of the middle east and only so-called “sour” crude which is very expensive to extract and refine, remains.  We can ignore it all we want but there is no getting around the fact that it was oil and oil alone that allowed our planet to double its population and more in the years since it was discovered and turned to our use.  It was oil and oil alone that allowed our incredible growth in a standard of living.

Not just gasoline, but most of our lives and life styles are dependent utterly on by-products of oil.  And even for gasoline and vehicle fuel, it is oil and oil alone that allows for relatively cheap transportation and flow of goods around the country and the world.  North America has vast reserves that are untapped.  Bringing them online takes time.  If we continue to delay then the loss of oil from other sources may happen in a time span shorter than what it would take to start replacing it with domestic oil and if that happens we will see an impact on our lives like none other that has happened before in history.  The sad truth remains that we could bring our own oil reserves online faster than we can start from where we are now and fully augment alternative energy technologies for direct use in heating and fuel.  But even if we could, there is no other product that can yield, things like the plastics and other compounds that while generally ignored, actually make our lives livable as they are now.  imagine a world without oil-based plastic and I will show you the 18th and early 19th century.

Yes, of course,  we should start an earnest program to explore the alternatives and find substitutes as quickly as we can.   But we also need to address and prepare for the shorter term in which oil, not just for us, but for the world starts to either run out or be so tightly controlled by antagonistic regimes as to functionally cease to be available.  We get most of our oil from Canada and Mexico now but what if pretty much all of the industrial world started knocking on their doors because their supply of middle east oil was no longer available for whatever reason?  Governments and their people are, in unfortunate fact, so utterly dependent on the products that flow, at the moment, only from oil, that if the supplies are shut down there will be major world wide upheaval, and countries will. in fact, go to war over access to it.  They may not want to, but they will have to in order to maintain some semblance of their former standards of living.  We need to make sure we are not in such a vulnerable position and now is the time to start to work on ALL fronts.

Of course we will not do that…  and to make matters worse, as money is cut from education the individuals who could become the future scientists to find our solutions will be missing in action here because they were never created int he first place or supported when they were; but not in places overseas that realize how important education is.  Think about where that will place us in terms of world leverage in influence… or standards of living costs.

Reagan’s Birthday:  Much political hay has been made over the birthdate of Ronald Reagan this past week. He has become the icon for one side and the bogeyman for the other.  And one of the main cores of the arguments swirling around him and his accomplishments is the issue of tax cuts.  One side says he had the largest tax cuts in history and the other that he has the largest tax increases in history.  Good grief… so who is right?  The answer is they both are.  Early in his presidency he put through an enormous tax cut that was, in fact, the largest since we started imposing a “temporary and voluntary” income tax in the first place to pay for war.  But in his own autobiography, he admits that given the times and other issues he went too far and too fast.  So he started putting into place a series of tax hikes that also constituted the largest set of tax hikes ever done.  But what is missing from both sides of the argument is that his tax hikes only replaced about HALF of the tax cuts he had made in the first place.  And that was enough to get the rest of his agenda through including bankrupting the Soviet Union and still bring some enormous productivity to the home shores.  His cuts in government spending were also significant.  They actually negatively effected me directly when money was lost for an NEA grant.  But it was the right thing to do and I never regreted the policy even though I bemoaned the loss of our own grant money.

So, yeah, interesting week…

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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