Thursday, December 3, 2009


10:52 PM EST 1 December 2009:
Wind from the N (010 degrees), at 18mph, Gusting to 28mph,
Visibility .5 miles,
Sky conditions 100% cloud cover,
Ceiling 250 ft.,
Temperature -7F,
Dew Point -7F,
Relative Humidity 100%,
Precipitation Heavy Sleet, Mixed with Snow,
Pressure 29.23 Hg.

I don't know about you, but I'm getting off at the next exit. It's time to get off the road of death and destruction. Like a sprinter in the darkness, we are headed full speed into a brick wall. I don't know how this will end, other than to know we are a contaminated nation. Sick with our own poison, we poison others. Our future options in South Asia restricted by our failure to see how stuck we are, we have committed ourselves to inscrutability. We don't know where we are going and like the great empires before us, we have hung ourselves out to dry, destroying ourselves from within.

The sub-text of Obama's speech was that we cannot do anything of value in the geographic areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Who would have thought that in the detritus of the Russians, the British, and the Soviet Union, we would create a worse situation than was left in the wake of the brutal ten-year long Soviet war against the Afghanis?

Obama's speech was a strange, strained explication of why we are escalating our war in Afghanistan. He was fully detached from the reality of the ground, the topography, mountains, and the valleys of the rarified air of the Hindu Kush. No matter what he read from first hand reports, from all the intelligence we could gather, reams of briefing papers, think tank analyses, trusted and not so trusted advisors, he had surrendered to The Great Bubble.

It took all of nine months for him to lose attachment to a universe that he must recall as if it were a dream from his childhood. His speech provided no understandable way forward for almost 100,000 troops, no way out and no way back. He fell into the trap of something for everyone: the generals, the private contractors, the ambiguous American public who have conflated the Taliban of 9/11 with the Taliban of today, and added nothing but confusion in helping Americans understand who the Al-Qaeda are today, and how they can be defanged. Perhaps a decision not to pursue the military option may have hurt the president politically, but I believe the escalation option will be the most counter-productive, only serve to weaken us further, and energize those Islamic moderates who will be pushed to become more and more radical. We continue to strengthen those who see us as mortal enemies.

His speech summed up a broad American strategy through the backdoor, as if he were embarrassed by what he had decided. For Obama to think that an expansion of the war in Afghanistan will weaken the Afghanistan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban, ignores history and the facts. This widened war will further break the Pakistani Army and ISI, worsen the complex nature of the Indian and Pakistani conflict, will exacerbate the destabilization South Asia, and is a hard blow to both our national security, and the region's. South Asia is a Gordian Knot to be sure, but to reduce our on/off over-arching strategy as essentially determined by the grand caveat of "conditions on the ground," is no more than "we'll see what happens when we get there." It's the off-ramp position that lets almost everyone off the hook. With one important exception: it leaves our young men and women dead on a field of battle, where the "conditions" just weren't right. In the American War in Viet Nam, those dead were called "wasted." A young life 'wasted' for no purpose, and for no worthy cause. We can call the now living, soon to be dead, "heroes," but the truth is their lives will be wasted for an ill-defined, contradictory, and ambiguous purpose that accomplishes nothing.

The cost of the two wars thus far is one trillion dollars. It will cost another incomprehensible amount of money to carry out the expanded war in Afghanistan with about 100,000 troops. On 30 September 2009 we still had 124,000 troops in Iraq, plus an additional 180,000 civilian contractors employed in direct support of US troops. There are no troops from any other nation remaining in Iraq. I cannot determine how many additional civilian contractors will be employed by us in Afghanistan. I have no evidence to believe that a 1:1 ratio of troops to civilian contractors is not a reasonable assumption. In passing, the one trillion dollar figure does not include: ships, submarines, and unanticipated needs, such as medical, transport to and from Afghanistan, mechanical repair, fuel, (which is problematic as Afghanistan is a landlocked country, and we have to work from the 'stans along the northern border, and our shaky friends in Pakistan).

The Taliban operating both in Afghanistan and Pakistan still have an exceedingly close relationship. It is not at all clear what the Pakistani reaction to having 100,000 American troops near their border will be. The Taliban are still well funded by Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt. If all the poppy crop of Afghanistan were sprayed with Agent Orange today, the Taliban would remain as well funded as they are today.

Al-Qaeda and its pathological embrace of religious fundamentalism, rage, purity of cause, and the righteous warriors of the dream of an Islamic Caliphate still exists. The problem is that they are geographically scattered, and understand us well. They are tenacious and will survive in either a more benign form or rise from their apparent defensive posture and promote jihad against our increased presence in Afghanistan. If the Pakistani Army and ISI appear to be fragmenting, the Americans, Russians, Chinese, Indians will be in a doomsday race to take possession of the nuclear weapons currently under Pakistani control. If there is only one reason for so many US troops to be along the Pakistani border it would be that. However, it is increasingly evident that American intelligence agencies have been tracking the nuclear delivery systems, the warheads themselves, and the triggering devices. It is believed that all three of these components are not co-located with each other for security purposes. But in the complex cross-currents of this most dangerous part of the world, it would be wise not to leave anything to chance.

That leaves us with a strategy and set of tactics to isolate and degrade Al-Qaeda. The first question is how do we go about destroying 'state of mind' that has metastasized into a hydra-headed terrorist organization that will use any tactic to advance its goals? We focus on killing the leadership at every possible opportunity. Just as Iraq caused us to marginalize Afghanistan and the re-emergence of the Taliban, the expanded war in Afghanistan will cause us to marginalize Al-Qaeda. It will be far more effective to form an effective alliance with Western Europe, Russia, China, India, and Kenya to create a comprehensive, coordinated, highly sophisticated intelligence and international police operation to locate and destroy the leadership of Al-Qaeda. The Russians are concerned about links with Al-Qaeda in Chechnya, the Chinese with Al-Qaeda among the Uyghurs in central and western China, the Indians and attacks emanating from Pakistan, Western Europe, and Africa, where the murder of large numbers of innocents in London, Madrid, Ankara, and Nairobi reminds each country of the mortal threat of Al-Qaeda.

No matter how frequently the familiar mantra of the "Global War On Terror" is repeated, it is not. A war requires an articulation of "victory" as an endgame. If we continue to be at war with the Taliban or Al-Qaeda we are committing ourselves to endless, bloody strife. Terrorism has always been with us and will continue to be. Our goal must be to police it as we do any murder, except Al-Qaeda and their accomplices are international murderers.

We do not have to go down this path, with all of its weaknesses, of blood spilled, of new enemies made, of the potential nuclear destabilization of South Asia, and the inevitable weakening of our commonwealth through the most expensive of all human endeavors: war. Sphere: Related Content