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07 May 2009


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Serving Patriot


I surely wish there was this kind of clarity and vision inside our senior government planners and decision-makers.

My impression is that there is not. Most are trapped within the existing paradigms and/or refuse to act for the greater good that exists beyond their own narrow self interests.

I wonder if any of them have ever read Tariq Ali? I'm currently working through his latest (The Duel). From what I've finished thusfar, it will be miraculous if Pakistan can continue to exist as a whole nation-state entity -- with or without the current Taliban effort in Swat and Buner.


PS - I think I will break my TV if I see one more map graphic of Pakistan that confuses Swat and the entirety of the NWFP and Western Punjab!


I find the reports of Chinese involvement in Pakistan to be credible but surprising. Why have I not heard anything about this before? Surely this Administration knows about it if it's true, and hopefully they have a regional strategy to have the Chinese help us out somehow. Emphasis on "out."

But Chinese involvement in Afghanistan? Plausible, I suppose, but very surprising indeed. How could that not be rather well-known and -reported by now, given NATO involvement for the last eight years?

I can believe that the Chinese have interests there -- far more compelling than our own -- but how could there be significant Chinese presence without us (lay consumers of infotainment) having the slightest inkling of it?



Great post and an as always illuminating discussion. I'm a great fan of Andy Bacevich and have even audited a few of his courses at Boston University when I've had the time. He's a very careful, very conservative thinker, and I've seen his views on this topic evolve over the past three years to where they are today. I think he is spot on re AfPak and the very real limits of what we can afford and/or achieve there. His views are pretty much in alignment with what you have written here in the past. Thanks as always for this forum and the chance to join in and share in the discussion.

Can the Pakistani military be counted on to prevail and continue to control the nukes? Folks I've spoken with who have experience in this part of the world generally do not speak highly of the military leadership there: either the quality, the integrity or for that matter, the ability of their officer corps. The NCO's do receive better marks, though. Your thoughts?


Has the Presidency become a resting place for spineless, photogenic glad-handers capable only of following orders from deranged "insiders"?


Think how thrilling it must be to tell the President what to do and know that he is too timid and resourceless to protest.


Eagle in the Mountains:

China has worries about Xinjiang, and I don't think it wants an Islamic fundamentalist regime either in Pakistan or Afghanistan.


"But Chinese involvement in Afghanistan? Plausible, I suppose, but very surprising indeed. How could that not be rather well-known and -reported by now, given NATO involvement for the last eight years?"


William P. Fitzgerald III

Eagle in the Mountains,

Your problem in posting may be the same as mine. Several of my most brilliant posts disappeared into never-never land, much to my chagrin, before my daughter came up with a solution. My problem was that, when I clicked post,
a dialog box appeared saying that windows will not accept the message (not the exact words). The solution was to: 1. click Preview, 2. copy the message 3. click a different subject, which empties the post a comment box 4. Paste the message into the box 5. Type anything ( use one letter) which reactivates the post button. Good luck.


A couple of the previous posters have touched on these, but they are so important I have to hit them again.

The problems of Afghanistan are that the U.S. aims are negated by the realities on the ground.

It doesn't matter whether you want to do CT, COIN or full-blown colonialism. For any or all of the above you HAVE to have some sort of viable local social, political and military structures in place. The European colonial powers usually didn't import and entire Western government or military. They typically just knocked off the local leaders in critical positions, filled them with European viceroys and commanders-in-chief, and used the remaining local structures to rule. I understand that even by the late 19th Century there were villagers in India who saw an Englishman once a year or so. The bulk of the troops who did the Imperial policing were native. So were many of the lower civil servants.

So when you admit that "the ANA isn't up to the job", or that the Karzai government is a corrupt, incompetent kleptocracy that "rules" little more than its own offices in Kabul, you pretty much have declared that nothing but an extraordinary, budget-breaking effort will have even a hope of making Afghanistan anything but a chaotic, destroyed tribal chaos.

And I would add that the notion of full-on colonialism is an exercise in imperial romanticism. The modern proliferation of automatic weaponry and cheap, simple explosives (for manufacturing bombs, mines and booby-traps) has made colonialism too expensive a proposition for the 21st Century's low-birthrate, risk-averse Western societies. It's a mug's game, which is why the Western Europeans got out of it post-WW2 and the Russians post-Soviet. If you can find a reliable local proxy, great. If not, you're shovelling water.

Eventually the Afghans themselves will throw up a Baibur or a Gul Shah or a Tamurlane who will impose as much order as possible on the "country" and drag it a little further into the 21st Century, or as close as the natives of the place want to be.

But to pretend that the U.S. can do this, whether it's thru CT, COIN or magic fairy dust?

Vizzini would have two bits of advice for you: "Inconceivable!" and "Never get involved in a land war in Asia".

Bob in New York

If we dropped a trillion on the failed policy in Iraq (in 18 months there will be hot wars in Kurdistan and Baghdad), given that Pakistan has a population of 170 million (and is majority illiterate).....

Well, what do you think we'd get for dropping $5 trillion?

Pakistan is a wart attached to India - the people are not indigenous to that area; the majority of the pop translplanted from India.

The idea that recycled baggage handlers and insurance agents (US reserves) are going to wander into that swamp and change it is laughable.

We should make very clear where our red lines are and then tell the heroin mafia that runs Pakistan (excuse me, the government) that when the lines are crossed, we are going to confer with India about the modalities for wiping Pakistan off the map


i don't claim to have any idea what the u.s. should do in asia. but, col. lang, isn't there a clear contradiction between f.b. ali's long and fascinating post, and your agreement with bacevich a few days ago?
i assume you agree with ali -- at least mostly, because you give him so much space. he says the u.s.should provide "backing and support" for a thoroughgoing pakistani campaign to reform the country's whole political system. that, ali says should be a prerequisite for the u.s. "to prop up, and later rebuild, the country." fair enough, if you agree. but a few days ago you agreed with bacevich's position that maintains just about the opposite. you dismiss any american policy "to act as a sort of cosmic neighborhood organizer for the 'uplift'" of Pakistanis (and Afghans, too)-- which sounds to me just like what ali is advocating. you add that "bacevich is right. it is beyond our capacity to do that at any price that we can or should want to pay." i think these positions are contradictory.

Patrick Lang


I have a lot of respect for Brigadier FB Ali but I do not agree with him in this matter. I agree with Colonel Bacevich.

Sorry, you will have to find something else for a "gotcha" try. pl

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