Friday, January 1, 2010
Just a little New Year's day "something to think about."
Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
So you’re a Middle East guy [of course now meaning Afghanistan too] what does Afghanistan have? I mean, why did Obama send more troops to a place with what? Rugs?
While I don't profess to know "this answer," for surely Obama for himself has gave his own answer, I can point in a interesting direction: this New York Times article. For the question above assumes that Afghanistan, like Iraq, has some massive reserve of resources that we, as Americans, want for ourselves. I don't particularly buy this now popularized argument-- for example Saddam sold to anyone with cash. Yet, the idea that we invaded Iraq for oil--and oil alone--still exists within many Arabs and American liberals alike.
If we must, however, answer the question--"what Afghanistan has"--then surely it is copper. And the Chinese are developing it.
You can read the article for yourself, but this caught my eye:
“The Chinese are much wiser. When we went to talk to the local people, they wore civilian clothing, and they were very friendly,” he said recently during a long chat in his Kabul apartment. “The Americans — not as good. When they come there, they have their uniforms, their rifles and such, and they are not as friendly.”
"...Instead, China’s foreign policy is based on commerce. Its state-owned companies have been snapping up energy and mineral resources worldwide for years now, often by overwhelming competitors with lavish offers."
Call me crazy, but it sounds like the Chinese are vastly outbidding other countries and in the long run, saving both money and troops by not trying to micro-manage statecraft; they leave it to locals. In a way, the Sons of Iraq program, later called the Awakening Councils, was an American version of this idea. (America paid off former Sunni insurgents in Iraq to battle al-Qaeda and keep their own security.)
I suppose this brings us back to the heavy vs. light footprint paradigm. And to this Casbah guerrilla, it seems like the Chinese have got themselves into a situation where America and NATO are in charge of Afghan security, while they profit from the copper.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Not like I know really anything about anything at all, but I just got quoted on a blog and I'm damn well going to share it. By Us, or بنسبة لنا in Arabic, wrote an excellent post on the illusion of Lebanese sovereignty called, well, umm, The Illusion of Lebanese Sovereignty. It's quite good, as you can read, and brings up good points about the Shebaa farms issue.
In a comment to his post, I wrote:
I’m not so sure that Hezbollah has a “strong presence in the Lebanese government” as it leads a strong coalition in the Lebanese government. Though this may sound like the same thing, they are not. For example, the main Armenian party on June 7th almost went with Sa’ad and Co.
Hezbollah’s weapons are the insurance. This was shown by the West Beirut takeover.
In response, ckeeler, the blogger who wrote it, wrote in a new post, Hizbollah in Lebanon:
This is true and I did not mean to imply that the current Lebanese government has a strong Hezbollah influence, though it certainly has some, as Nasrallah is a leader of the opposition. Nasrallah & Co. holds two of the 25 ministries in the government. Not very much at all. However, it is clear that the organization is very important in Lebanon – politically, economically and socially (see here for a look a the importance of Hezbollah’s actions and alliances in Lebanon). (Click here to read the rest.)
So I have a question to the Casbah readership:
What are these forces in Lebanon that make Hezbollah the strongest show in town, just not systemically in government?I said above that it's weapons--and now I shall include its charismatic leader and regional wasta, or connections-- give it power.
What say you Casbahites?
Update: The whole "systemically in government" thing is a tribute to our dear friend and often surf report in Beirut, Qifa Nabki, who just loves to write about this kind of political sciencey stuff in Lebanon.
Monday, December 28, 2009
A quick Casbah question:
This Christmas airplane situation in Detroit has raised a lot of questions about how America is going to pursue trans-national Salafi-Jihadi terrorism. In fact, it looks like the U.S. is going to step up the pressure in Yemen as a result of this attempt to blow up an airplane.
So, what's next? Is the Obama Administration going to start tracking down terrorist all around the globe? If so, what kind of precedent shall it send? Will they go as far as cleaning out the al-Qaeda cells in the Palestinian camps of Lebanon? They are "al-Qaeda." Or perhaps just in Yemen? Will it be a heavy footprint, like Afghanistan or light[er] footprint, like Somalia?
How far should President Obama go? And what will be the best way to combat this kind of tran-national Salafi-Jihadi terrorism?
Sound off in the comments...
Extra: 'Tis Ashura and many of the Shia of the Middle East are in full swing. Allow me to outsource this one to MEI Editor's Blog, they do a great job fillin' the history and showing some great pictures of the events.
Extra Extra: Though I'm not the biggest fan of the LA Times blog, Babylon and Beyond, the most recent posting by Borzou Daragahi on Iran and Ashura is a must read.