Saturday, December 5, 2009
Each idea and strategy suggestion is different and unique, but many fall into one of two categories for the most part: 1) stay and surge, or 2) leave and cut our losses. Amongst all these ideas, a few analysis may be spot on, some suggestions as to why they think whatever will have elements of truth behind them, and even some strategies would be successful in acheiving the goals they intend to accomplish. But the one thing that all of these analysis have in common is that they are all relevent.
Each idea and analysis is a part of the entire picture, from the joey on the street to the expert ex-soldier with a master's from Havard, all will combine to create what I like to call the "Tertium Quid".
A Tertium Quid is an ancient latin term that translates as "third thing" or a conglomeration of a third something or other. This Tertium Quid is what, or who I think McChrystal is refering to in his August 30 report about "changing the underlying truths" among the American people. This is what he needs to have happen in order to do anything labeled a success in Afghanistan, including a withdrawl.
Nothing can be considered accomplished in Afghanistan without a change in the psychology of the American approach, and McChrystal understands this stating, "Many describe the conflict in Afghanistan as a war of ideas,.. However, this is a 'deeds-based' information environment where perceptions derive from actions, such as how we interact with the population and how quickly things move. The key to changing perceptions lies in changing the underlying truths."
McChrystal notes, "changing the underlying truths" requires a change in the operational culture to "interact more closely with the population, and focus on operations that bring stability, while shielding them from insurgent violence, corruption, and coercion."
What McChrystal is saying, if without knowing it, is that we need to define the American Afghanistan Tertium Quid and have fundamental changes in its key elements.
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould had a great analysis and addition to this very idea of the repurcussions of the American Afghanistan Tertium Quid noting, "whether the very nature of America's military/industrial/media/academic complex can be moved off its primary directive in order to accommodate McChrystal's request, remains highly doubtful. The decentralized nature of the opposition in Afghanistan and Pakistan defies the very culture of the Pentagon's thinking. Like Vietnam, a decentralized enemy is anathema to the rigid, high technology and high-cost Command, Control and Communications approach developed throughout the cold war to decapitate the centralized Soviet bureaucracy. But the Pentagon continues to insist on applying its expensive tools, regardless of its persistent failure to eliminate, let alone define its enemy."
I would add to this analysis a failure to define its goals and measures for success. Then I would suggest we look at the Tertium Quid and address its elements and how to change them. Either way, McChrystal has about 18 or so months to make something happen, with or without a change in the underlying truths.
It is so interesting to see how the US viewed the Middle East then versus now. Then it seemed like a pawn in a game of chess with the Soviets. Now you hear about it in the US media because of A) Israel and B) Terrorism (Anyone want to throw out a "C?").
So if you’re sick of the NY Times and not too far from a computer, check out this 5+ minute clip.
Update: I hope everyone is following this Bibi, West Bank settler showdown.
Friday, December 4, 2009
I've got a few emails from you Casbahites on Afghanistan this week. "So, Abu, what's your take?" Now that you've heard every possible pundit throw in two cents, I thought, well, I'd throw in a penny too:
Simply, I'm skeptical. We must remember that the British Empire spent a great deal of time towards the end of its power getting bogged down in the far-reaching corners of the globe. I suppose Thomas Friedman was on to something when he wrote this week that Americans want nation building at home, not in Kandahar. So be it as it may, but I want a better understanding of the following before I give my Casbah blessing for 30,000 more US soldiers:
1. How many transnational terrorists are left in Afghanistan? Is the Afghan government ever going to be in "enough control" to stop the Osama type from hiding and planning in the tall peaks of Central Asia?
2. Who are our partners in this? The Afghan government? Pakistan? Will they be able to take over in a way that gives us an exit strategy we feel good about?
3. Is Obama's setting a timetable for exit directed primarily at A) his generals, so they don't pull a McNamara and ask for more troops in six months? B) For President Karzi to get a grip on corruption, governance and everything vis-à-vis security?
4. What makes us think that we can build technocratic government in a VERY traditional Muslim society like Afghanistan? One thing we don't talk about much is that we created a generation of "Arab neo-cons" out of the whole Iraq episode. Who is to say that we aren't doing the same in Afghanistan? creating a class of sellouts who are bad for both people and country? (Like that? "Arab neo-cons" Ask As-Salibi about that one... Good story.)
5. How right is the NY Times Op-Ed page?
"Meanwhile at home, refusal to meet the American generals’ demands threatened to brand him as the man who lost the Afghan war. Thus the surge lies in the realm of politics, not warfare"?
6. And my last question on Afghanistan before I/if ever I come out with a clear answer to the troops surge: I want to know how much the American people understand that we have taken sides in an Afghan civil war that is laced in a regional power struggle? How much do Americans understand that Osama is an afterthought to this kind of escalation? This, I think, is the most under asked question.
What does this mean? Well, that most of you on the net are a bunch perverts, and that you are not actually looking for this Middle Eastern Casbah.
So in theory, by naming this post "Milf, sex, porn" the Casbah will be boomin' with random sex searches thanks to Google. (Are we really that cynical? This is a blog on the Middle East, isn't it?)
I will update this post in a few days with the results.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Though I have to admit that I’m a bit mortified by the concept of people listening to my voice in hour segments, we’ve got good reviews thus far--enough to keep editin' this guerrillas Skype rants from abroad.
As far as I know, Blogging The Casbah has a monopoly of analyzing the Middle East thorough gonzo surfing adventures beyond the Blue Line.
That'd be a good name for a book wouldn't it? "Beyond the Blue Line."
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
When I try to describe this Casbah to your average Tom, Dick or Harry, I often throw out something about poetry. Poetry is indeed a power tool that has been used throughout the ages. If not for Fedrowsi--the Persian poet who wrote the famous King of Kings--the modern Persian language might as well be Arabic. Through poetry, Fedrowsi helped preserve the world’s first great civilization by writing an Odyssey-like epic with as much Persian as he knew. So, with as much of a plug as I know how to give, here is a piece written by Elijah Aizenatat. He is a good friend of the Casbah and is currently a High School student living in Santa Barbara, California. Enjoy.
By Elijah Aizenstat
My black veils covers the upper and lower part of my vision
Sometimes I am thankful for this
I don’t have to see the atrocities of my land
The blood stained streets of Kabul.
I yearn to smell the sweet nectars of the spring,
When the orange blossoms started to explode filling the town in sweetness
The hot dry dust reminds me that this is not longer that time
The black fabric suffocates me and smells stale with agony and filth.
Seldom my mind wanders, outside the reality of my parched lips
The remains of what used to be a Kabab stand bring me back to my childhood
Now when the stale bread grips of my taste buds
My imagination can almost fantasize the smell of my childhood dinners.
The bruises on my body no longer remind me of the belt he used
They are now wounds that will become just another scare on the outside
Where the real pain in me lies is in my soul that is shattered
Allah, are you listening to the cries of my people for freedom of the land.
The screams once haunted me, but now are muffled by the daily routine.
The Taliban men raping our women
The ear-piercing gunshots barricading across the stadium as each body fall in line
The bombs fall like raindrops once did in the gardens of Eden.
My hands raw and blistered
Trying to get my bloodstains out of my husbands white shirt
Stains that imprint the memory, and will not fade
My hands touch a tear from my eyes, When will this all go away?
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
From the Syrian perspective, this is a long time coming. The initial delay served little purpose.
Who gets named could provide indication of Washington's next moves. DC insiders suggested Jeffrey Feltman when Washington first announced its intention to name an ambassador. Feltman has the perception of being tough on Syria. Damascus may view his selection as a negative sign. However, this would be a mistake. Feltman does support engagement with Syria and indeed, may push further toward loosening sanctions than his critics would assume. Whether or not Feltman is named, the peace process, and not sanctions will be the elephant in the room.
What's important to remember about the sanctions against Syria is how much they are tied to the peace process. As a result, the sanctions which truly hurt Syria will not be removed before any peace deal with Israel. Syrians should not expect much progress on sanctions unless the strategic focus shifts within the administration.
Although Mitchell's team has expended a great deal of energy reviving negotiations with Israel and the Palestinians, his staff might find more tangible results with the Syrian track. Critics argue that Asad will never sign a peace deal with Israel, since his domestic support comes from a confrontational stance with Israel. They fail to mention, however, that Damascus is widening its strategic outlook, think Turkey and Saudi Arabia. More importantly, Syria continued to privately signal to Israel an interest in negotiations even during Operation Cast Led.
Of course, if an ambassador is not named by 2010, Al-Farabi will have egg on his face.