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Archive for October, 2008

The Republican nominee for President, John McCain has asserted that he “would rather lose an election than lose a war.” He may lose an election, in part, because he helped win a war. McCain staked his presidential prospects on a major change in Iraq policy: more troops implementing the Petraeus counterinsurgency strategy. The American public was not happy with constantly hearing news updates of American casualties in the region. That’s just the “Fog of War” you cant be sure who lives or dies. But what you can do it make sure that the mission that was issued to these men is completed and those when that died in battle, that their memory will not go in vein. America’s best are currently serving overseas.

 

But after early challenges, the positive results have become undeniable, as violence in Iraq has plummeted, normality has returned to markets, and neighbors and political accommodations have moved forward. McCain, it turns out, was tragically and gloriously right — as right as Winston Churchill during his wilderness years.

 

“And McCain’s come-from-behind nomination victory would have been inconceivable without this prophetic achievement. This raises the question: If McCain benefited politically from being correct about the surge, why has Barack Obama not been punished for opposing it?” (Council on Foreign Relations)

 

It seems that the American public takes for granted the freedoms that they have and they neglect to thank those that are willing to the job that others might not be up for. We are currently engaged with an enemy that does not play by the rules and sometimes we tend to lose track of being able to fight back the right way. Regardless of the fact, it seems that McCain earlier statement might come true. As a former Officer Candidate for the U.S. Marine Corps, it is prudent that we do not give in and make sure we alter our “tactics” and create a “comprehensive strategy” that will ultimately help us prevail and have a clear victory both military and politically in conflicts we are currently in. I will leave it up to the policy makers to decide how to counter the problem and I will be more that willing to execute the orders.

http://www.cfr.org/publication/17613/casualty_of_the_surge.html?breadcrumb=%2Fissue%2F

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The current situation is Afghanistan requires higher levels of troop deployments there. Meanwhile, U.S. military leaders are looking to leverage Afghan tribal leaders to help drive out Taliban elements, similar to the uprising that pacified Anbar province in Iraq. Violence around the country has been on the rise. U.S. and NATO forces have been engaged in bitter battles with Taliban fighters in order to pacify the country. But its proving to be dificult primarily based on the situation not only in the garrison portions of the country but within the local municipal goverments. Corruption is on the rise and is proving to be difficult for ordinary Afghans to get their lives together.

 

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld rejected the idea of engaging in talks with Taliban leaders in order to gain some leverage in order to help the country move forward. Currently, it has been reported that a military victory in Afghanistan is neither feasible nor supportable, a leaked diplomatic cable from Britain’s ambassador to Kabul predicted that the NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan would fail. According to the CFR,

 

“Negotiating with elements of the Taliban “would be a very good thing” if it brought them into the political process. Yet there are questions on who these talks would be with-experts say the Taliban is exceedingly fractious-and whether the sides could find common ground. Barnett E. Rubin and Ahmed Rashid, meanwhile, writing in Foreign Affairs, argue only “a major diplomatic initiative involving all the regional stakeholders” including Pakistan and Iran-will stabilize the country.” (Council on Foreign Relations)

 

The Bush Administration has been dealt a hard blow now that President Bush has only has about 2 more weeks in office. The problem that might occur if you were to engage the Taliban would be being able to appease the warlords demands for the reconstruction of the country. Iraq is facing the same issue steadily and so far political integration has proven to be difficult and painfully slow. Zamir N. Kabulov-warns of history repeating itself in Afghanistan. Kabulov, “The Kremlin’s top spy during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, says the United States is committing the same mistakes his government made two decades ago-like focusing too much on the cities and underestimating the resistance to foreign occupation.”

 

It is up to the new President-Elect to be able to handle this new issue that will ultimately define whether victory can be reached in Afghanistan. Diplomacy with the Taliban seems like a plausable solution to the conflict. Like my grandfather use to tell me, “trust people just don’t trust the devil inside them.” But it always depends whether they will be willing to keep their end of the bargain and only time will tell.

 

http://www.cfr.org/publication/17581/unthinkable_in_afghanistan.html?breadcrumb=%2F

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Crash Comparison

This isn’t really a post… more like a 1/2-post, I suppose. I was reading up on the current market situation when I stumbled across a chart from CalculatedRisk describing the current market situation in comparison to other crashes in the past. Wow.

Comparing Stock Market Crashes

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Uncle Obama?!

It appears that children halfway across the world are living on a completely different planet than the children in our backyards. Through an article by Khalid Kheshgi from Today’s The News (International) which was cited by Blake Hounshell on FP Passport, I found out that children between the ages of 10-13 in Pakistan were raising money for the Obama campaign.

These children, exposed to the terrors of war and violence at a young age, protested and denounced the violence which they “were told [was due to] the ‘flawed policies’ of the United States,” according to one boy. Seeing this need for improvement in US policy and their own country, the children “decided to collect fund for Obama’s election campaign to help give practical shape to his electioneering slogan of change [they] need.” (Khalid Keshgi, 10/29/08) The children asked for “books and pens,” not “bombs and missiles,” while carrying signs saying, “Uncle Obama we expect peace from you.”

It is interesting to see how active these children are working hard for their $261 for Obama which Blake Hounshell thinks may be illegal for Obama to accept. Meanwhile Obama’s own 10-year-old daughter was relieved that her regular television shows weren’t going to be interrupted by her father’s informercial (when “[Obama] said we didn’t buy time on Disney and Nick, and [Malia] said ‘Oh, good,’ and she got up and walked away,” Michelle Obama said. (Joal Ryan, 10/29/08)) She was also more excited about the Jonas Brothers than her dad running for president.

Such interesting dynamics and differences, no?

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On my usual topic…

The last time I checked in on our Somali pirate friends, they were threatening to blow up the tank-laden ship they’ve been holding hostage (link). So, whats the news on that situation? Well, the pirates decided not to sink the ship after their demands apparently prompted the owners of the ship to enter into negotiations with the pirates. However, the ship is still in the posession of the pirates, who show no signs of wearing down.

However, their actions have certainly been noticed by the international community, and there will be quite a few new ships around Somalia and the Gulf of Aden in coming days…

India has sent a frigate to the region, to protect its significant interests in the region:

The ministry of defence in New Delhi said that the frigate, equipped with a helicopter carrying marine commandos, would safeguard India’s sea-borne trade as vessels move through the vital trade route.

A spokesman said the deployment was intedned to “instill confidence in our sea faring community as well as function as a deterrent for pirates”.

It said that a warship in the area would be “significant” as the Gulf of Aden was a major strategic “choke point” in the Indian Ocean region and provided access to the Suez Canal, through which the sizeable portion of India’s trade flows.

Over 90 per cent of India’s foreign trade by volume and 77 per cent by value is shipped through the region, largely through the Suez Canal.

source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/3215953/India-launches-first-navy-mission-against-pirates.html

But India was only the beginning. A major push to thwart Somali pirates is being led by farther-off states, notably the United States and Europe, with France playing a significant role. After the pirates began to attack French yachts (which led to me first noticing this story weeks ago), France went to the United Nations and successfully won “one U.N. Security Council resolution allowing foreign powers to enter Somali waters and another allowing nations to send warships and military aircraft free to use ‘the necessary (military) means’ to stop piracy” (source). Coming on the heels of the UN resolution, a flotilla of NATO ships is set to enter the region through the Suez Canal and monitor the region.

The NATO force will join the US ships already patrolling the region. The NATO force will be composed of six member states, including “destroyers from Italy and the United States, frigates from Germany, Greece, Turkey and Britain, and a German auxiliary vessel” (source).

“There will be a number of very competent and very effective military ships … to provide presence, deterrence and, where necessary and possible, to intervene to prevent acts of piracy and to escort ships,” [alliance spokesperson James] Appathurai said.

Details of which tasks each ship will take on, and the rules for how they will handle the pirates, are still being worked out.

Experts predict the Nato crews will find it difficult to distinguish between normal Somali fishing boats and pirate vessels on the prowl.
source: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2008-10-23-nato-flotilla-set-for-somalia-antipiracy-operations

The NATO force does not yet have specific rules of engagement, although the article quotes Appathurai as saying that “They will have the rules of engagement that they need,” which likely indicates a relatively pro-active approach to stopping piracy in the region. The primary goal of the force will be to “escort cargo ships carrying United Nations food aid to Somalia,” which have long been targeted by the pirates.

As if thwarting piracy wasn’t a struggle enough, the incoming forces will also have to deal with the tense political situation in Somalia. There has been no real government since the 90s, as other regions are governed variously by either an Ethiopian puppet government, are under autonomous self-rule, or are controlled by the system of Islamist courts, which are turning out to be rather unwelcoming:

But the newly arriving warships will face the wrath of Somalia’s Islamic Courts, the party that governed Somalia until an Ethiopian incursion installed a transitional government in late 2006. That governing body, now operating largely underground, has declared war on the incoming vessels.

source: http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/10067

In any case, the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden are quaranteed to become important hotspots in the months and years to come. The pirates, through their hijacking of high-profile targets, have gauaranteed international attention for some time to come, and have forced many throughout the world to focus more on the tragically failed state of Somalia. As one article points out, these acts of piracy are far more than occasional “just-for-fun” news stories; there are serious ramifications:

“A large ship sunk in the approach to the Suez Canal would have a devastating impact on international trade,” Middleton said in a paper published by Chatham House, a London think tank.

Already some ransom piracy proceeds are believed to go to al-Shabab, a Somali militia that the U.S. accuses of harboring the terrorists who attacked U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

source: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5g4gtQaz0lW8sez1OirAHvPwJfo2gD93RS1V80 

The existing US and NATO forces are to be joined by a third European Union force in December, according to another article, which was secured by a push from France. However, not everyone is as excited as France about pursuing the pirates:

 

British Conservatives in the European Parliament criticised a French push to deploy the EU force, saying it would draw on the same naval assets of NATO and was politically motivated to press a French drive for a stronger EU military role.

“The EU regularly turns a crisis into an opportunity to extend its own role,” their defence spokesman Geoffrey Van Orden said in the statement.

“This latest naval operation is another example of unnecessary duplication of effort,” he said, adding that a decision should have been taken to coordinate all naval operations under NATO authority.

source: http://africa.reuters.com/top/news/usnJOE49E0PA.html

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US Invades Syria?

According to Sana, a Syrian news agency claims that four United States helicopters entered a small Syrian town near the Iraqi border and carried out a raid which left eight people dead, including four children.

According to the article, the US is ‘investigating’ to determine if such an attack was indeed carried out.

A US military spokesman was unable to confirm or deny the reports, saying it was a “developing situation”.

But later the Associated Press news agency quoted an unnamed US military official in Washington as saying that American special forces had attacked foreign fighters linked to al-Qaeda.

The article quotes from the Syrian report, giving the following details about the alleged raid:

“Four American helicopters violated Syrian airspace around 1645 local time [1345 GMT] on Sunday,” Sana said.

“The helicopters then left Syrian territory towards Iraqi territory,” Sana said.

“American soldiers” emerged from helicopters and “attacked a civilian building under construction and opened fire on workers inside – including the wife of the building guard – leading to [the deaths] of eight civilians”, it added.

If confirmed, this would be the first United States attack inside of Syria.

source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7692153.stm

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Iraq Cabinet on US Pact

Iraqi officials in the cabinet have been delaying in giving a final decision on the US Pact which is the agreement currently keeping the continuity of US troop operations in Iraq. On Tuesday, much to the Bush administration’s dismay, the cabinet announced that they wanted changes made to the draft agreement. It appears that the decision that changes were necessary was the only decision that the Iraqi Cabinet could agree upon.

“The cabinet unanimously sought amendments to the text of the pact so it can be acceptable nationally,” Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement after the meeting, which was also attended by US representatives. “The cabinet called on the ministers to submit their suggestions to be included in the negotiations with the US,” he added. The demand for changes, which were not specified, is expected to delay significantly the signing of the deal, which still has to be approved by the Iraqi Parliament after endorsement by the cabinet. (Iraq Updates, 10/22/08)

According to an earlier article written by Robert H. Reid and Qassim Abdul-Zahra, “critics maintain the draft falls short of Iraqi demands for full control of their own country after nearly six years of U.S. occupation. Supporters insist Iraq still needs U.S. military and political support as it builds its security forces and governmental institutions. Opposition, however, is divided, with different parties objecting to different parts of the agreement, which could make it difficult to win broad support for the entire document before the year end deadline.” (Philly.com, 10/21/08)

It appears that, like many other decisions in the political world (including the recent Californian budget), the best method or way to solve current issues cannot be agreed upon, driving the governing-process towards a standstill. Within the Iraqi Cabinet, the divisions amongst party lines and groups maintain different views. For example, many Sunnis want to see Americans to stay as a buffer against a Shiite-dominant government. Others want to show appropriate resistance to American demands as much as possible by delaying and resisting. It seems only the Kurdish members support the drafted agreement, unfortunately, they are in no way a part of the majority.

So, how is it affected by the US, and how does this affect US policy and action? As of today (Sunday), an agreement is still in the process, leading some to believe that the Iraqis want to wait for the November 4 elections to take place before submitting a final decision on the pact. As one Kurdish lawmaker, Mahmoud Othman, said, “We cannot rule out the possibility that there are some groups that want to delay the issue until after the U.S. elections. They think that it is better to deal or to reach a better understanding with the new administration and they are not in a hurry.” (Robert H. Reid, 10/26/08) As mentioned before, the Bush administration is not particularly excited about this because they had hoped for a quick decision which could then be approved by the parliament and before the UN mandate expiry at the year’s end. “Without an agreement, or an extension of the mandate, the U.S. military would probably suspend operations because there would be no legal basis for the mission.” (Robert H. Reid, 10/26/08) It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming days, or if certain predictions are true, after the presidential elections.

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