Saturday, March 28, 2009
The most recent pro-solution activism to make its way into the news has been from a peace movement in Europe called Peace Cycle. Their mission, simply put, is to convince the EU to cut trade ties with Israel by getting its followers to participate in a bike ride from The Hague to Brussels.
The groups said in an interview with Al Arabiya: "We believe that we have witnessed extreme violations of human rights in the occupied territories and we are going to the European Parliament to tell MEPs what we have witnessed and to ask them to suspend the association agreement..."
So again, the same paradox. Many Israeli supporters would label such a group as being "anti-Israeli." Yet, as I'm typing this post, I can think of a good half-dozen Arabs who would say that cutting trade ties is worthless.
Perhaps it's just how my one time professor and ex UN big wig, John Stoessinger once said, “I know I’m being objective when I’m getting it from both sides.”
Friday, March 27, 2009
But com'on, do we really think this new--and very expensive--system can stop the rockets from Gaza? Or, perhaps more to the point, how much more is it going to cost Israel to shoot down a homemade Qassam than for a Palestinian in Gaza to make it?
Oh, readership... I beg for your wisdom.
Update: ABC News has just reported that Israel has conducted 3 air strikes inside of the Sudan since January.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Click Here For the Video
Iran is most likely not far removed.
Aparently, despite recent reports in most media outlets, the U.S. Military is reporting that Kunar Province has actually improved significantly. So what is the deal with this province? Well...
During both the Soviet occupation, and the more recent conflicts involving U.S., Afghan and NATO forces, Kunar has been a favoured spot of insurgent groups. Its impenetrable terrain, extensive cave networks and border with the semi-autonomous Pakistani NorthWest Frontier PRovince provides several advantages for militant groups. The province is informally known as "Enemy Central" by American troops.
Like many of the mountainous eastern provinces of Afghanistan, the groups involved in armed conflict vary greatly in strength and purpose. Native Taliban forces mingle with foreign AL-Qaeda (al-Qaida) fighters, while mujahadeen militias, such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, continue to operate as they did in the chaotic post-Soviet years. Another strong militia in the region is the Hezbi Islami faction of the late Mulavi Younas Khalis, who had his headquarters in neighbouring Nurestan Province.
Compounding the problems of the province is an extensive criminal trade in smuggled lumber and other natural resources. This criminal activity is often organized along tribal lines, and has led to intense deforestation in some areas.
Yes, it is true that the Province is experiencing an increase in projects and services by the U.S. military, and yes, the numbers of casualties are much less than the ones experienced under Soviet rule, but is this a good comparison? It's still poor, still dangerous, still infiltrated by insurgents. Hey, this is Afghanistan remember...we tend to leave before the mission is complete. Thinks we will follow our pattern?
Here we are, some 30 years after supporting the Taliban, fighting a war in Afghanistan and along the border of Pakistan, trying to make progress in a region that has a long history of resistance. So, the reason for the post is to simply outline the three main areas that need attention if we plan on making any progress in this conflict. Here they are:
1) Quetta. This is the U.S.'s and Pakistans biggest problem city. It's poor, it's dangerous, it's filled with Taliban, Al-Qaida, and tons of other criminals alike. But it is also home to millions of others whom we cannot distinguish from each other. Go get em cowboys.
2)Teeming Refugee Camps: After the Soviet Afghan War, Pakistan was left to deal with Afghani Refugee Camps filled with people who fled the counrty to escape the violence. Over the last 30 years, these camps have become home for many. Children have grown up there, adults have made it home, and Taliban have infiltrated these camps like butter on a hot biscuit. Many of the camps are only a few miles from the border, and easy safe haven for fleeing Taliban and Al-Qaida .
3)Wide Open Border: I'm not even sure this needs explanation. The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is worse than swiss cheese, at least the cheese tastes good on bread. Neither side is doing even a decent job at policing the few border checkpoints that do exist. Fix this first and foremost.
So that's the quick and dirty on Pakistan Border regions.
Think 17,000 troops will solve the problem? I don't. But I guess it's a start.
UPDATE: Obama administration has ordered 4000 additional support elements to deploy to Afghanistan. Many are billitted to train the Afghan Army and police force.
I still think it will take more than just an additional 21,000.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
This is a draft of a little something I am working on. Enjoy!
Two years ago, bouncing in a taxicab just outside of the war-torn city of Beirut, I noticed something that many travelers overlook—the shackin’ sandbar barrels of the Lebanese shore. Perhaps it was fate that detoured me to the makeshift road after an airstrike took out the northern bridge. It was at this moment I knew I would be back to surf this slice of the Mediterranean.
I am a 24-year-old surfer and writer who grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. My youth was filled with flyin’ down the highway to catch the evening glass at Rincon. Driving the California coast is as natural to me as setting up for a frothy winter barrel. But I’m not just a surf adventurist. I am the editor of the cutting-edge Middle Eastern blog www.bloggingthecasbah.com, and have published many articles ranging from the Santa Barbara Independent to the Ma’an News Agency, the largest Palestinian news outlet.
This June I’m taking advantage of my nominal Jewishness by going on a subsidized trip to Israel, where I plan to write a travel piece about surfing the biblical coastline that has been hastily divided into Israel and Lebanon. The looming irony to this travel is that the distance between these two surf breaks is no farther than what I am used to driving in California. Yet, in the Middle East, I am going to have to go through a number of countries to get there.
Keep in mind that the border between Israel and Lebanon is closed, as is the border between Israel and Syria. So, I will surf the Israeli coast as my starting point. Then I will move eastward, through the occupied West Bank, over the King Hussein Bridge into Jordan. I will then go to the Jordanian airport to obtain an entry visa that will make my second American passport look like I entered the Middle East via Jordan. Why the second passport, you may ask? Because those humorless Syrian border guards slam the gate on every Tom, Dick and Harry with an Israeli stamp or suspicious gap in their passport. Oh, the politics!
When I get to the Syrian border, I will have to wait all day in the wax-melting Arabian sun for a transit visa to Lebanon, where I will then depend on local hospitality to carry me to the salty shores of the Lebanese Mediterranean. What is just a simple coastal drive in California is a detour of absurd proportions in the Middle East.
Yet the allure of this trip is not just the crazed concept of surfing the Eastern Mediterranean, it is a modern-day odyssey through an ancient land that has truly been slandered by dry political pundits and divided by warring factions. Armed with the charm of a California surfer, I will present the readers with a fusion of revealing banter, political passport shuffling, ancient-to-modern culture and a healthy dose of satire and smartassery.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Most important of all is the common-sense practicality Gates has displayed in discussing the defense-spending choices America must make. Obvious as it may sound to the average taxpayer, Gates is piercing an elaborate marketing mythology each time he observes that the government should not buy high-tech weapons that are useless in the actual counterinsurgency conflicts Americans are fighting - and are likely to be fighting in the future.
Gates was uncommonly candid in congressional testimony last month about one of the most expensive items in the Pentagon budget, the F-22 Raptor fighter plane. "The reality is we are fighting two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said, "and the F-22 has not performed a single mission in either theater." This is not what mavens of the military-industrial complex want lawmakers to hear from a secretary of defense. The Air Force has thus far bought nearly 200 F-22s for more than $62 billion. Yet this is a state-of-the art flying machine built to match up against fighter planes that only the United States possesses.