Pakistan soldierNot so long ago, the United States looked at Pakistan as a “valuable ally in the war against terror” and relied upon Pakistan’s military and security forces for intelligence and aid in capturing Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects.  Prior to the Twin Towers Massacre, Pakistan, like Afghanistan, was not much on U.S. diplomatic radar.  Recently, Daniel Markey wrote an article in Foreign Affairs (see reference below) that essentially says we need a broader approach–and not reproach–when talking to Pakistan.

College of Family MedicineMr. Markey notes that many U.S. officials, legislators, (and Presidential candidates) have become disenchanted with Pakistan’s contribution to Afghanistan’s security.  They have questioned Pakistan’s commitment to counter-terrorism in the wake of rising trouble in Afghanistan, the near-anarchic rule in the Pakistan’s northwest territories, and incidents such as the Red Mosque confrontation, which, from our vantage point, never should have been allowed as long as it had been.  Wedding Guests, PakistanIn essence, U.S. observers see Pakistan as a beneficiary of U.S. aid and trade ties, but with no effect on terrorism.  Over at Registan.net, Dr. Azari writes that Afghanistan’s delegates to the Peace Jirga seemed to feel that Taliban depredations were either permitted or aided in some way by the military. Most recently, on August 21, the NYT reported that Pakistan had released an al-Qaeda suspect that it had held in detention for the past three years.  The release was determined by the Supreme Court, who said that his detention without trial was unlawful.  

Pakistan missileLeaving U.S. negligence and mistakes aside, as these arguments surely do, Markey notes first that Pakistan left U.S. diplomatic orbit in much the same way and at the same time that Afghanistan did: when the Soviets left Afghanistan.  Post 9/11, Bush II’s U.S. diplomacy has not extended past the military and security apparatus in Pakistan.  Civil society, poverty reduction, the rule of law and democratization have not been on the U.S. agenda for Pakistan, which gives its diplomacy a one-note character.

 Pakistan's Agosta-3 SubsIn the intervening years between Soviet pull-out and U.S. entry,  Markey says that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) retains ties to militant groups and recruits personnel from them.  This was not in support of terrorism, but in support of Pakistan’s claims to Kashmir.  To me, this is somewhat of a stretch, but it does serve to remind policymakers that Pakistan has more than one issue as part of its foreign policy.  Just this week, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Mr. Khursid Mehmood Kasuri stated in Parliament (during debates occasioned by disparaging remarks from the U.S.) that Pakistan could not afford to be isolated, that it desired good relations with the U.S., with the EU, China, Russia, Japan, Germany, and Asian states in general. 

Pakistan WinsU.S. arguments against Pakistan’s commitment also ignore the risks that Mr. Musharraf has undertaken, with several assassination attempts against his life.  (The third attempt was in September of 2002; another in December 2003; another this year).   Furthermore, numerous terrorist suspects apprehended in Pakistan.

The rest of Mr. Markey’s article suggests ways to broaden U.S. diplomacy.  He cautions that engagement in Pakistan’s civil society cannot be at the expense of the military diplomacy, but that ensuring Pakistan’s good will has to extend to the people.  Elections, for instance, are widely expected this fall in Pakistan, and giving fodder for isolationist candidates would be foolish and without utility for U.S. interests.

Karachi Golf CourseThe rest of his solutions also recommend a balanced approach, remembering that Pakistan is diverse and complex.  The illustrations throughout this post are intended to convey that diversity.  Mr. Markey’s article can be found at:

Daniel Markey’s  A False Choice in Pakistan.  Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007, pp. 85-102; or at the Council of Foreign Affairs Web site

Photos: Defenselink of USDOD; Global Family Doctor.com; Graham Hays of Australia; The Hindu; Warships IFR.com; Tribune India; Answers.com. 

Africa:
♦ I don’t usually cover Africa in the RI, but this article about Darfur cannot be passed by.  As usual, Dan Graeber hits the essentials in this brutal, piteous world.

Asia-Pacific:
♦ The China-U.S. trade quality war Escalates again: now it is U.S. soybeans, with considerable dirt, pesticide, and weeds.  The latter conditions would allow for perhaps large changes in Chinese biomes–sort of like the kudzu vine that took over the South.  Also U.S. oil-seed.  Best-case scenario? All of this ends up increasing quality in the long term.  In the short term: heck, no.  In the meantime, the toy-and-dog-biscuit inspections in the U.S. proceed apace.
♦ The increasing importance of relations between India and Japan.  India’s maritime might, now and in the future.
♦ Australia’s military defense strategies and the debate over economic v. military security at The Strategist.
♦ In India’s Hyderabad, 34 people die because of bombing. 

Former Soviet Union:
♦ Italy’s ENI is re-negotiating in Kazakhstan over delayed extraction and environmental issues.
♦ Little beef-kiev-cake for ya.  Holy Samovar!!
♦ Mr. Saakashvili of Georgia on living next to Russia at Robert Amsterdam.  Russia denies all.
♦ Russia’s LUKoil cuts supplies to Germany by 30% over the last two months.

Latin America:
♦ Hurricane Dean in Mexico: at least 26 have died from the storm.
♦ Peru’s earthquake: at least 510 are dead, with more casualties being found.  Quisiera expresar mis condolencias al gente de las dos paises.
♦ The FEALAC symposium met this week this week in Brasilia, as reported by Boz. According to AFP, the Forum for East Asian-Latin American Cooperation includes: Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, and from Latin America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
♦ Venezuela–now cutting bus fares for the indigent in London.  Now buying 98 Ilyushin aircraft from Russia, for cargo or passengers . . . or, not.
♦ According to an extract provided from this post, Castro is in no way dead.  So there you are.
♦ Pollution from blue jeans in Mexico.

Middle East:
♦ Afghanistan:  Just three out of many from FPA Central Asia’s Afghanistan Aggregator, plus one update:
◊ Afghanistanica has a great post on Afghanistan scholars to watch, read, and study.
◊ Another article on the mystery of not-enough translators for Afghanistan, also at Afghanistanica.
◊ Mr. Foust at Registan.net on basic flaws in reconstruction aid .  A good start on the issue, with links for more.
◊ Friendly fire (what a term) from U.S. aerial bombardment kills 3 British soldiers and injures two more in Helmand Province. 
Iran:
◊ New in-the-works U.S. intelligence report is pessimistic about Iran, as reported by AP.  More nukes, no overthrow of Ahmadinejad, more weapons traffic. . .
◊ Iran plans to continue developing a 2,000 pound ‘smart bomb’.  Great.
♦ Iraq:
◊ Iraq’s elites are still leaving as fast as possible. 
◊ A Berlin study says Iraq will disintegrate soon.  The new U.S. NIE  on Iraq is not hopeful. 
◊ The Brits are leaving Basra any day now.

Iraq / U.S. Politics:  I tried to cover this in the op-ed war posts that I wrote yesterday.  Here is one post on Mr. Allawi, and here is one on a must-read editorial from staff officer veterans of Iraq.

Energy:
♦ Storm damage notwithstanding, Pemex is back in business, bringing oil to the U.S.
♦ Storm damages notwithstanding, Energy Prices a little more stable overall.  As of August 23rd: Brent crude, USD 69.58; West Texas intermediate, USD 69.68. 
♦ Rounding out the North American picture on U.S. energy imports, The Oil Drum has started a series on oil sands extraction, which does not look attractive. 

Overall, the message this week to me is two-fold: we need to plan international endeavours so carefully, in terms of both physical and energy security. 

Have a great week, everyone!

The op-ed coup d’etat between Mr. Maliki and Mr. Allawi is only part of the juxtapositioning over the September Benchmark report and the non-progress it will be required to present:

Op-ed war of words no. 2: Quality and quantity
On July 30, Kenneth Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that Iraq was “A War We just might Win“, something that every Republican Presidential candidate has found interesting for the wrong reasons: that a so-called liberal paper would hold an editorial favorable to Mr. Bush’s goals.   

Immediately afterward, a long-time Iraq correspondent, Jonathan Finer, wrote in the Washington Post that these two, and indeed all, Green Zone Investigators (which includes Congresspersons, pundits, national security advisors, Presidential candidates, etc) never get out to see anything and their epiphanies are at best, suspect.   Like so many, Mr. Finer focussed on location, (ie, the Green Zone) but he also (at last) included the element of time, calling these “snapshot tours”.  No fact-finding mission of a week will tell you what is going on in Iraq, whether surrounded by BlackHawk helicopters and handlers or not. 

I’m sure of four things: a. that trips to Iraq serve as legitimizers to all who go, even for that three-day weekend.  b. that the feeling of fear that all of these day-trippers have as they go back and forth from the Green Zone feels real enough to introduce a kind of reality to the trip.  c. that people such as Mr. O’Hanlon and Mr. Pollack get information that we don’t get, study Iraq often and with numbers. and d. I’ve also heard with my own ears Mr. Pollack talk publicly about this war as a debacle.  The editorial they cited was hedged: failure was still exceedingly possible, and despite the title of the op-ed, it did not really sound like a “win”.  And despite Mr. Finer’s characterization, it sounds as if the two Brookings trippers went past the Green Zone, to Mosul, Tal Afar, Ramadi, and the “Ghazni neighborhood of Baghdad.”  Of course, they did this in eight days, and I doubt even the complexity of the Ghazni neighborhood could be adequately assessed in that time.  But this is their view:

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high.

I have a little sympathy for Mr. Hanlon and Mr. Pollack because it’s just horribly risky to write a positive-sounding op-ed, especially when there’s so much data to the contrary.  I’ve done it myself, and if you’re not a pessimist you look like a fool.  But unfortunately, this week the NYT ran an editorial from non-GZ Trippers, i.e., staff officers that have been hip-deep in Iraqi dust and sweat and blood for 15 months with the 82nd Airborne.

Being there, and being there:

As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)  

One of these NCO’s, SSgt. Murphy, currently has a head wound, and this underscores that sympathy ultimately should not go to the optimistic op-ed writer but to the practitioner.  And these practitioners slam the ivory-tower, marble-halled view:

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Thus, according to this last op-ed, the splintering in politics is well-represented with continued splinters in security.

More, and more:
Yesterday, John Warner R-Va, came back from a four-day trip to Iraq and said it’s time to start withdrawing troops, about 5,000 this year, in the hopes of prodding Iraq’s politicians to get going. 

The new August National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, that part of it which we are privileged to see, anyway, (10 pages, give me a break) is against troop withdrawals and yet offers not too much in the way of encouragement.   It is a supplement to the National intelligence Estimate from January/February 2007.

The op-ed wars continue. . . . .  the Benchmark Report will be presented on September 11, yes, 9/11.  I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. 

War of Wards: Mr. Allawi v. Mr. al-Maliki
Who has Iraq in charge, and who wants to be there?  The last hope of reaching political consensus within Iraq’s political factions came and went two weeks ago, when the Sunni boycotted the legislative special session all the way to recess.  That has ended the most important benchmark indicators for Bush in his upcoming fight with Congress–not to mention the fact that it’s not good for Iraq to have a non-functional, over-factionalized government.  Also, the two sets of Kurdish politicians cannot decide between Iraq and Kurdistan as national entities.  And more.

Then there are more splits.  Today, Ayad Allawi’s INP party, which holds 25 of 275 seats and 5 ministerial positions, announced it would be leaving al-Maliki’s government.  On April 18, Allawi wrote an editorial in the Washington Post that stated, among other things, that:

Responsibility for the current mess in Iraq rests primarily with the Iraqi government, not with the United States. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has failed to take advantage of the Iraqi people’s desire for peaceful and productive lives and of the enormous commitment and sacrifices made by the United States and other nations.

On August 20th, Iraqslogger.com broke the story that Allawi has retained a Bush-insider’s  lobbying firm, BRG, to represent Allawi’s interests and put down al-Maliki’s pretensions to office within the White House, Congress, and staffers in both places.  It only costs USD 300,000. for six months, part of which was a mail-out of this made-for-U.S.-egos editorial.  While certainly Iraq’s politicians have a long way to go, one needs only look at the poor politics, poor planning, and massive waste on this end to realize that Mr. Allawi has concocted the perfect set of excuses for the U.S. administration: some people haven’t gotten with the plan.  The funadamental problem with this view is that there was no plan. 

According to the same IraqSlogger article, BRG also represents the Kurdistan Regional Government in Washington.

The Allawi Memos seem to have been having an effect.  Mr. Bush II distanced himself from Mr. al-Maliki just this week, prompting an angry response from the Iraqi Prime Minister.  Bush then tried to retrieve some lost ground at a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) convention the next day.

However, there are other rifts besides those manufactured by BRG.  Last November, Mr. al-Maliki snubbed Mr. Bush II over leadership issues.  In late July, the London Telegraph published an account of General Petraeus’ rocky relationship to Mr. al-Maliki, which apparently includes shouting matches with Ambassador Crocker looking on.  At the same time, an article in the NYT detailed the close coordination between the two leaders via teleconferencing and other means, which have led to limited results.

This is the more recent news than part 2, on the benefits/costs of the Surge as noted in the op-ed wars.  However, both are significant.  This particular war of words shows that political solutions are far away in Iraq, and also in the U.S. when discussing Iraq.  And that lobbying here interferes there.

That word would be corruption:

Over at FPA Central Asia, I’ve been tweaking noses concerning the way that Western media reports upon emerging country politics.  The clear, transparent, and honest standard should apply everywhere as a matter of principle, and of course it’s right to take emerging states to task over this significant barrier to safety, progress, and prosperity.  But it would be nice if “the emerged” could also own up to their problems when they start shaking their heads and pointing their fingers.   

Recent news items in the U.S. press appear to confirm that there is no monopoly on corrupt or misleading practices in emerging markets.   

A. In this story by the Washington Post, Karl Rove, soon-to-be-former White House strategist, marshalled adminstration officials, their national visits, and  government projects to aid Republican legislative incumbents, particularly in districts that did not have clear-cut Congressional races.  This would be in contrast to a system that awarded projects according to need, or ease of distribution, or economy of cost.

B.The NYT reports that Wikipedia entries concerning major corporations have been edited by those self-same corporations to either remove blemishes on their record or change the wording to something more favorable.  This link also has examples of corporate edits.  Along the same lines, Mr. Mikkelson at Reuters preceded the NYT by giving examples of edited CIA and FBI edits of Wikipedia entries.  BBC is reporting on Australian edits to Wikipedia entries on Australian issues, and Vatican edits to Wikipedia entries of Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein.

C. And in the U.S., land of the free press, the following: On July 10, Richard Carmona, former Surgeon-General of the United States, testified to Congress that he has been warned to suppress knowledge in the public interest on public health concerning mental health, stem cells, and emergency contraception.  The Federation of American Scientists notes that “political pressure on scientists is not new” but decried the scope and degree of this new pressure from the Bush II Administration.  This also fits in with a story about NOAA, the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which suppresses  study results on global warming, first in the Washington Post in February of 2006.

D. Former U.S. Senators are allowed to use their campaign chest to further legislation on behalf of their business interests.

Quite frankly, it’s C. the suppression of scientific information/information in the public domain that I consider to be the most pernicious.  Because knowledge is power, and when you can’t access it, or can’t trust what you access, it causes one to operate in a pre-determined ignorance.  I’m just so appalled by it, and by extension, the hypocrisy that determines that “the other” needs to clean house while the self-righteous self sits in the sty.

Sorry I scamped out on you last week.   I missed you all, and I hope to do bettah.

Asia-Pacific:
♦ China suffers another product recall, and the WSJ says it is at least partly a design flaw that has nothing to do with China.  I have already blogged that it is partly a management failure that has nothing to do with China.  But now it’s also baby bibs.
♦ Highly contagious swine virus in China, international community on alert.
♦ One thing I missed last week and is beautiful for covering a region we don’t know well: The Strategist keeps on with some in-depth study of Melanesia, this time resource wars.
♦ Kevin Rudd on Australia’s campaign trail.  I heard Mr. Rudd speak at Brookings Institution this past April and I wish him well. 
♦ The ADB again announces inroads against extreme poverty in Asia, but a widening income gap.
♦ Hizb-ut-Tahrir conference in Jakarta is well-attended.
♦ A large amount of my attention this week has been the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek and military games in Xinjiang & Chelyabinsk.  Check out the FPA Central Asia blog for the latest.  This is all so important, whether you are a Central-Asia watcher or not.  To wit, next entry:

Former Soviet Union:
♦ Russia’s new military budget: fat–means Russia’s new military might: formidable.  More on buzzing NATO.  More on Russia bombing Georgia.  More
♦ Kazakhstan has Parliamentary elections Saturday, August 18th.

Latin America:
♦ Peru’s earthquake has killed hundreds.
♦ Venezuela, the new Central Asia: Mr. Chavez wants to be perpetually re-elected.   Umm, can’t he find anyone in Venezuela who thinks like he does?
♦ Venezuela buys AK-47s . . . and we want to know why.
♦ Help for Argentina in procuring energy resources.
♦ Boz covers the stuffed suitcase that is getting attention everywhere better than anyone. . . in Bags o’ Cash series, 4 parts, easy read, gracious!

Middle East:
♦ Two respected foreign policy professors expand a controversial article into a soon-to-be controversial book about U.S.-Israeli relations.  This NYT article has links to the original piece and some background.  Whatever you might think of their opinion, one has to admire the courage of their convictions.  I’m glad that they have brought this to examination: everything important deserves scrutiny.
♦ FPA War Crimes reports on the verdict in the Padilla detention/terrorism case.  For more background, you can stay with that blog, because Daniel’s been covering it thoroughly.  The Conjecturer also analyzes it, by taking a look at the limits and mandates of the DIA in re: Padilla.

Afghanistan: [ edited down from FPA Central Asia ]
♦ Now that Britain is pulling out of Iraq, they plan to focus more on Afghanistan.
♦ An AP article that titularly is about Barack Obama is actually a report on civilian deaths in Afghanistan.  Though the U.S. or NATO does not keep figures on civilian deaths (either a mistruth or a mistake) AP does: 231 civilians were killed by militants; 286 by troops; and 20 in crossfire, unattributable to either party. 
♦ On August 15th, a New offensive started against the Taliban in Tora Bora. 
♦ Two S. Korean hostages released.  That means there’s 19 left.
♦ New Counternarcotics strategies sound the same as old counternarcotics strategies.  This is a must-read article by Mr. Weitz over at World Politics Review, complete with maps, and, new UNODC figures estimating another rise in opium production, this time by 15%.
♦ U.S. would certainly take out al-Q targets in Pakistan, but not in a way that would make Pakistan angry.  But Pakistan seems to be already upset at the prospect: a highly literate editorial at Pakistan Daily.
Australia’s work in Uruzgan, at My State Failure blog.

Iran:
♦ Is it semantically correct? I don’t know, but the Quds Force is going to be designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. of A.
♦ Mr. Ahmadinejad in Turkmenistan and Bishkek for SCO meetings.

Iraq:
♦ Targeting the Yazidi sect in Nineveh near Mosul.  Four hundred are dead.  Do we call this genocide?  As Iraq increasingly settles in sectarian patterns, every bombing will be a kind of genocide or sect-killing; yet Yazidis have been a deliberate target since at least April.  al-Q is blamed immediately, but the reasons haven’t been divulged.
♦ Abu Aardvark’s Marc Lynch reports that the last-ditch political rapprochement for September’s Benchmark Report and ultimately for Iraq’s political viability is dead in the dirt.  h/t: FP Passport. RFE/RL has a slightly different take, citing Mr. Talibani: “Sunni are welcome to join our coalition.” It ends up the same, however: Sunni have not joined the coalition.  In my newsletter this month, I’ve discussed the way Sunni concerns have been sidelined. . . in the oil law. . .
Iraq-Iran pipeline deal signed.
♦ Iraq Slogger special report on the Bridges of Baghdad.

U.S. Politics:
♦ Mr. Rove waltzes on out of the White House, ostensibly to avoid Congressional investigation.  No doubt he will write a book that exculpates him from all wrong decisions, minimizes his impact on poor outcomes, and maximizes his genius in those extraordinary outcomes, and dishes against all those who tried to block his progress.  uh, sure.  . . Can’t wait.  They store a lot of extra, non-partisan, all-purpose whitewash in the White House, and I’m sure he took a bucket of it with him.
♦ Candidate Romney says the way his sons support U.S. efforts in Iraq is by campaigning for Dad.  Oh, Bleah.  Vanity to the max.
♦ U.S. military suicides are running very high.  Twenty-eight soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan this year.  Such deaths denote despair, and that despair radiates outward into the military community: their close associates, who also must deal.  ♦ Related to my many comments on the U.S. Farm Bill: CARE International is finding USDA aid too much trouble, too expensive, and way counterproductive in meeting famine in poverty-stricken countries. 

Political Economy:
Selling to Islam at the Public Sector Development blog.

Energy:
♦ Oil prices: USD 69.84 for Brent crude, USD 71.76 for West Texas Intermediate, as of August 16th. 
♦ The EBRD pulls out of Sakhalin-2 investment.

My last trip to the grocery store was the last straw . . . though I’m not on a mission to arrange a boycott (although I certainly could).  This is the position of an educated-but-lazy consumer who’s finally had enough.

Dear Food Manufacturers,

Things I am no longer buying:
sugar bombs away!Boxed breakfast cereals:  Dear cereal manufacturers: the value-added, pre-vitaminafied, pre-sugared, and in some cases, pre-milk-added component of your product is not adding sufficient value to my convenience.  At USD 4 or more per box, it is never likely to do so, either.  I’m eating oatmeal, and adding my own brown sugar and milk: take that, buster.

‘Healthy’ bread: I can remember when the choice was white, pasty stuff at USD .39 per loaf, and I was willing to pay up to USD 1.99 for a loaf that actually looked and tasted like it was made of real food.    However, you commercial bakers have sweetened your recipes, refined all of the husks out of the whole wheat flour, and who knows what else.  The result: your bread tastes too much like the old 39-cent stuff.  Unfortunately, your ostensibly healthy bread is now USD 3.39 to USD 5 for a loaf.  You can kiss most of my money good-bye, because I’m buying local bakery stuff, or, failing that, cutting my consumption WAY down until you figure out what made your product better in the first place.

Supposedly healthy and/or diet cookies: Oh, I love sweets, and oh, I tried.  But you’ve added so much fake sugar to them that I can’t even taste the cookie anymore.  Not the sexiest package in the world is going to overcome a bad product.

Supposedly healthy and/or diet salad dressings: I’ve tried your offerings here too, and the fake sugar content is too much to be borne.

Boiling My OwnCanned soup: soggy noodles, limp vegetables, and so much salt my teeth hurt when I take a spoonful.  That goes for Andy Warhol’s brand and for all of the supposedly higher-end canned soups as well.

Microwave dinners:  See soup, above.

Sodapop, commercial or alternative: Once the mainstay of my liquid consumption, and now, practically nothing of my life.  Ginger ale has no ginger in it; root beer no sassafras.  Plain, uncarbonated “alternative” or “vitamin-rich” drinks taste like watered-down fruit sodas.  Sports drinks taste like glycerine mixed with water and coloring.  No, no, and again, no.

Water . . .So what am I eating?
As a lover of convenience, this presented a problem.  But here it is: I’m drinking water and tea and coffee.  Mixing my own orange juice, when I want a sweet drink that’s cold.  Buying fruit and vegetables; eating salads; making my own quick stir-fries and soups. 

You manufacturers could have done all this for me, but I just can’t stand what you make any longer.  You have newed and improved me right back to the basics.  Your loss.

Sincerely,

The Ramblin’ Gal

This is from Anthony Swofford’s memoir, Jarhead, first published in 2003 by Scribners.  Like many accounts of war, it details the problems of sleep disturbance, and how sleeping pills and extra physical activity don’t have the same effect on sleeplessness as they would away from a battle zone.

Once the air campaign begins, I never sleep through the night.  Three hours is the longest stretch of uninterrupted sleep I experience, and this occurs during a bogus patrol when Johnny says, “Let’s get some sleep,” and we take off our helmets and flaks and sleep in wet sand.  If a Scud altert doesn’t interrupt our sleep, someone screaming from a nightmare or wide-awake anger and fear will awaken the entire hootch.  Doc John Duncan passes out sleeping pills to those who want them, but I’m afraid of sleeping through a valid alert, and anyway, the guys who take the pills wake up just like those who don’t.  The synthetic chemical for drowsiness is not as strong as the naturally occurring chemical called fear. (pp. 185-186)

Mr. Swofford describes young people doing the best they know how with the situation they are given:

Another night, after we return to the hootch from a Scud alert, Dettmann starts weeping and won’t stop.  We tell him to stop, but he won’t or can’t.  Combs, near the breaking point himself, takes [him] outside and thrashes him for a good hour, but throughout the exhausting cycle of bends-and-thrusts and push-ups and bear crawls, he continues to cry.  Goerke, a bit of a humanist, joins Dettmann outside and insists that Combs thrash him as well, because even though Goerke isn’t crying, he wants to cry, and isn’t it the same thing? he asks.  (p. 186).

So, same place, different decade: longer tours, a more differentiated battle environment.  Yet military personnel in the U.S. are being asked to serve longer tours with less rest and relaxation.  And there is no really good program for PTSD treatment at the VA, nor is the existing program ramped up to meet a new demand.

Write your Congressional Representative . . .

I write a free monthly newsletter called The Pipeline, on oil and political economy, which I e-mail to interested parties.

The August issue is now complete: for those of you who are interested, drop me a line.  I’ll add your e-mail to my mailing list. 

Editorial slant:
I don’t believe in blaming oil companies for every crappy thing that happens on this planet, and especially I do not believe in a Vast World-wide Oil Conspiracy, whether on the part of OPEC, oil cartels, or anyone else.  I believe in looking at these things from the standpoint of a political economy, where states interfere (sometimes rightly, more often foolishly) in the global market transactions of this most strategic and liquid commodity.  Most people that know me call me a liberal, that’s not quite right: it usually works out that I am uneasy with whatever the received opinion is in the room.  The real truth is that I am against any self-referential, reductive point-of-view, especially when said received opinion is delivered with some unholy joy or complacent, self-satisfied attitude. 

I think that makes me a rebel or a contrarian rather than a liberal, but I don’t care: the main thing is that in this newsletter you should not expect me to pass lightly over unnecessary/gratuitous negative externalities such as a lack of environmental care. Nor will I ever approve any stupid ways to stick it to world enterprises.

So The Pipeline is my polite attempt to educate readers in navigating the tricky but fascinating shoals of public discourse in regard to energy matters.

August issue:
This month’s issue covers the U.S. Benchmarks for Iraq (which I pretty much studied and figured out right here in this blog), and goes on to talk about the Oil Law, the situation in Basra, and the situation in Kirkuk.  The Iraq Oil Law and Benchmarks Issue, 6 pages.  Usually it’s four pages long . . . usually it includes a book review . . . but not this time.

I’m fairly sure I can get your e-mail from the comments function of the blog software, so you don’t have to put it in publicly.  If you do, I’ll just note the address and then remove it from your comment for security’s sake.

On August 5-7, the beleagured President of Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai, came to visit Mr. Bush II in the United States.  I do hope Mr. Karzai was able to get a little recreation in, and enjoy the Camp David scenery.  Most of the time, however, it sounds as if there was a program of work throughout in discussing the relationship of Afghanistan with its neighbors.

It seems that Mr. Karzai and Mr. Bush differ strongly on which of two neighbor state is the problem and which neighbor state is the solution: Iran and Pakistan.   

Iran
In the U.S., we are calling the Iran difference of opinion the Major disagreement: Mr. Karzai insists that Iran is helping Afghanistan, while Mr. Bush insists they are sending weapons into the Taliban insurgency. 

Iran’s aid to Afghanistan has been consistent and major.  In 2002, Iran pledged USD 570 million to Afghanistan over the years 2002-2006; furthermore, past the pledge, they actually paid.  In 2006, they pledged another USD 100 million.  Examples of other aid besides cash aid include utility infrastructure and enterprise development in Herat. 

On June 27, 2007, the presence of significant numbers of Iranian arms in Afghanistan was confirmed by U.S., NATO, and Afghanistani officials.  However, according to Ron Synovitz at RFE/RL, it was unconfirmed that the Iranian government had anything to do with their presence within the state.  U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates seems to be looking at a larger set of possibilities, at least: though he thinks Iran “may be playing on all sides of the conflict” he also acknowledges that corruption and narcotrafficking may well be to blame for the presence of Iranian arms.  In April, when one shipment was intercepted, General Pace said the same.

Some of what has been found in Afghanistan include mortars, and weapons of increasing capability against personnel and aircraft.  There is a significant chance that Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (aka MANPADS, a very effective land to air missile device) have entered into Afghanistan.  But though the influx of weapons becomes more frequent and of higher capability, it still does not address their source.  Is Iran’s Quds force,  allegedly the source for these weapons, sending these weapons on orders from up high?  Or is there a subterranean illegal arms trade that has links to Quds officials and their suppliers?

It seems unlikely that all the weapons trade takes place beyond official Iran’s knowledge.  In Iraq, the ICG wrote in their April Report on Basra, that Iran was certainly trading in arms for oil, and “backing all comers”.  Since both states are occupied by non-regional forces of similar governments, (okay, the U.S.) it could certainly be part of Iran’s general policy.  But overall, it won’t be good for Iran either, especially Afghanistan side: because Afghanistan has its own weapons traffic–non-traditional, to be sure.

Opium
One 2005 article in the Washington Post cited the new UN World Drug Report.   Iran has the highest opium addiction rate in the world: 2.8 percent.  That’s 4 million users of an illegal substance in a country of 70 million inhabitants.  This is an illegal trade with 4 million ready customers.  Furthermore, there are few substitution products on the market.  After the 2003 Bam earthquake in Iran, the relief agencies that delivered aid also included a good supply of methadone, in order to medically stabilize Iranians who would have been cut off from their opiate intake.  Going further back, BBC in 2000 reported Iranian addiction rates as endemic, and noting that 3200 Iranian law enforcement officers died in 2001 trying to enforce drug interdiction.  The total amount of drugs intercepted was only estimated at 30%.

All in all, such a customer base would allow many opportunities to turn a profit and corrupt government, military, police, and supply chain officials to divert weapons to an illegal counter-trade for narcotics.  And it seems, from the facts above, that Eastern Iran could be viewed as a failing territory of the state.  State failure means that Iran’s government is not any more in control of its Afghanistan border than Pakistan is with its Northwest frontier.  Iran’s mass-deportations of Afghanistan refugees this past April seem to indicate a porous border and also a situation which Iran can barely control. 

Ambivalent Iranian policy:
The Taliban in their previous incarnation was no friend to the Iranian government.  In August 1998, Iranian diplomats to Afghanistan were killed in Mazar e-Sharif; the prior and resulting acrimony from that incident nearly pushed Iran and Talibani Afghanistan into war.  Furthermore, the Taliban was blamed for massacres of Shi’ites in Aghanistan’s territory.  A revival of Taliban insurgency within Afghanistan would not be in Iran’s best interest.  Nevertheless, the U.S. and Iran have been able to gain rapprochement since the 1979 change in government (also marked by hostilities toward diplomatic and consular staff).  It’s sure that Iran does not see U.S./NATO occupation of Afghanistan (or Iraq) as within their security interest: they’re surrounded.  And now, with nuclear enrichment and proliferation issues, U.S. – Iranian relations have plummeted from abysmal to nearly irretrievable.

Therefore, Iran’s conflicting set of policies has made it  perhaps unlikely that they will give the attention to its failing Afghanistan-contiguous areas of governance that make funding and supplying an insurgency possible.  Whether this is an active policy, sponsored by the Quds force, or a passive policy that exists through inattention, it gives terrible prospects to maintaining security in Afghanistan.  Mr. Bush is correct at least in part to hold Iran’s government to blame: either they have a policy, or they are failing to exercise leadership in stemming narcotrafficking and weapons trafficking.  But there is no doubt that stopping such a traffic would require manpower, and create numerous casualties among Iran’s domestic security forces.  As bad as narcotrafficking was in 2001, it is worse today: more product to move, and a more entrenched organization.

Furthermore, under Iran’s security constraints,  could also be a desire to hold those forces on the Iraq side of the country, another embattled border, that also creates constraint.

Meanwhile, back at Camp David: Pakistan.
The second area of disagreement at Camp David which the U.S. is calling the “Minor Disagreement”: Mr. Karzai is not so sure that Pakistan has been a good ally in the war against terror, and Mr. Bush is still pinning his hopes on Mr. Musharraf.  

At least in public, these two disagreements are not publicly acrimonious.  According to the Cincinnati Post, Mr. Bush said that Mr. Karzai “would know his country best”, and Mr. Karzai went home, to know it even better–only this time, with jet lag. 

The Peace Jirga:
Over the next week, a conference took place between community leaders of the two states: The Pakistan-Afghanistan Peace Jirga, which ended today.  Since it was conducted between tribal leaders, it suggested a more neighborly, or as the Boston Globe put it, “supple” policy of rapprochement.  This would be in contrast to the hard-line approach toward the Taliban already being exercised.  Underlying this initiative is a belief that not all members of the Taliban are determined to over-run the country, they just want the U.S. and NATO out.

The meeting convened on August 9th with 600-700 delegates, largely as a goodwill mission that would attempt to bring Taleban negotiators to the table with Afghanistan’s official government.  At first, Pakistan’s President Musharraf had declined to attend.  Nevertheless, his appearance became one of the most important features of the conference: he publicly admitted that the Taliban have been using Pakistan as a jumping off point.  The meeting ended with a resolution that no tribal leaders would harbor al-Qaeda members on either side of the border.  There will be a follow-up meeting, date uncertain, set up by committee.  According to a really good editorial in the Boston Globe, the results may prove to be lasting:

Left unsaid was the Pakistani belief that the Pashtun have been deprived of their proper share of power in Afghanistan ever since the Americans routed the Taliban in late 2001, with the help of the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance, which had been backed previously by India, Iran, and Russia.
For such a strategy to work, Musharraf will have to do his part. This does not mean halting all cross-border infiltration – an impossible task – but dismantling the Taliban’s command structure. This is something Pakistan’s military intelligence is capable of doing. Toward that end, Pakistan must be assured that a post-Taliban Afghanistan will not become a repository of Indian influence, will not deprive the Pashtun of their fair share of power, and will recognize the current border between the two countries.
And it would help if America and its allies generously financed reconstruction projects through the Karzai government and ceased air attacks that kill civilians.

At any rate, Afghanistan has the power to destabilize both Iran and Pakistan–and vice versa.  It is Lacks of State Power , i.e., state incapacity, that cause the most damage and strain between these neighbors. 

This week’s developments:
Mr. Ahmadinejad is visiting Kabul this week on his way to Ashgabat and Bishkek. Talk is good: especially in an environment where political will is required to stem the tide of regional, provincial, and state failure.

Further Reading:
Transcript of Press Conference with Presidents Karzai and Bush here;
U.S. Department of State on MANPADS threat reduction efforts, with definitions;
Jamestown Foundation on Iranian influence in Afghanistan, January 2007 , should present the worst-case scenario.