Some Foreign Policy Links & Michael Totten At World Affairs Journal-‘Moscow On The Tigris: Russia Joins The Terror Nexus’

Full piece here.


‘Look at a map again. Iran is a powerful state in the middle of the same Eurasia where Putin is building his union. An alliance of some sort with Iran isn’t strictly required, but it’s certainly helpful. At the very least, Putin wants good relations with the Iranians. And he wants America and American-friendly regimes away from his underbelly for the same reason he wants them off his western flank in Europe, where he fears the West and its economic and military alliances might encroach.

There’s no better way to win favor in Tehran than by co-sponsoring Iran’s own Middle Eastern proxies, Assad and Hezbollah. And there’s no better way to keep the West from breathing up his pant legs in the Middle East than by making himself the new power broker in a region long influenced by the United States, which he clearly sees as his biggest geopolitical foe.’

Without American involvement in stabilizing competing interests in many parts of the world, those interests which have their own reasons for defending and extending their own spheres of influence…will generally do so (from Russia in Syria, Ukraine & The Baltics…to China in the South and East China Seas).

Robert Kaplan doesn’t assert that geography explains everything, but rather that it can provide deeper contextual understanding as to what’s going on in the world today.

Look for increased nationalism and potential for conflict over shipping lanes and naval power in East Asia, for which America can provide much in the way of stability and the promotion of our interests, as well as that of a global liberal order (which can and will be challenged):


Short and long-term consequences to the Iran deal?  Podcast from the at the American Interest here.

A nuclear-armed Iran with the deal in place seems quite likely. It’s certainly risky business.

ISIS thrives in the lawless places:


Some Russian links…as previously posted:

More on the Nemtsov killing: Don’t speak out.

Julia Ioffe at her site: ‘The Bizarre End To Vladimir Putin’s Bizarre Marriage:

‘An odd moment in the announcement came when Putin mentioned his confirmed children, two adult daughters whom we’ve never really seen, though there were reports in 2010 that one of them was marrying the son of a South Korean admiral.’

A reader passed along a video of Bill Browder, who made a billion, lost much of it, and got a look at Russian politics, money, and power up close.  The way he describes it:  Corruption all the way to the top.


What goes around, comes around-An oldie but a goodie-George Kennan: ‘The Sources Of Soviet Conduct

60 Minutes had an interview with ‘Jack Barsky,‘ an East-German Soviet spy who ended up living in America.  To hell with it!

From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’,,,Eric Postner back in 2008: The Bear Is Back

Modi & The Middle-East-Some Saturday Links

Adam Garfinkle-‘Our Storyteller In Chief

Garfinkle offers consistently good analysis of conditions on the ground in the Middle-East.  Really worth a read.

Also, he offers an hypothesis for the current administration’s approach:

Rhodes is the main one, I believe, who either convinced or strongly reinforced the President’s intuition that the United States is vastly overinvested in the Middle East, that we need to pivot to Asia at the expense of our investments in the Middle East and Europe, that in the absence of traditional American “Cold War-era” leadership benign regional balances will form to keep the peace, and that the world is deep in normative liberalism and well beyond the grubby power politics of earlier eras.

All of this is very trendy and sounds “progressive” and smart, but, of course, it is mostly wrong.

A lot of words and a lot of speechifying.  How much of that they actually believe, evidence to the contrary, still is worth asking.

From Political Baba: ‘The Tamasha Of Exit Polls

The old Gandhi political dynasty gets trounced at the polls, and a center-right Narendra Modi, with connections to Hindu nationalism which kept Obama’s State Department at bay for a while, will become the next Indian Prime Minister.

Let’s hope he can stay ahead of corruption and lead many sectors of the Indian economy towards sustained growth. I’m hoping he is pragmatic enough to go with what works and also has enough character and political ability to develop broader trust across swathes of Indian society, strengthening institutions for the long haul.

Relations with neighbors, especially elements in Pakistan and Beijing will be worth keeping an eye on.

Exit polls at the link.

Stephen Biddle At Foreign Affairs: ‘Ending The War In Afghanistan’

Full piece here.

Biddle pushes for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban:

‘The international coalition fighting in Afghanistan has long planned on handing over responsibility for security there to local Afghan forces. But the original idea was that before doing so, a troop surge would clear the Taliban from strategically critical terrain and weaken the insurgency so much that the war would be close to a finish by the time the Afghans took over. That never happened. The surge made important progress, but the tight deadlines for a U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban’s resilience have left insurgents in control of enough territory to remain militarily viable well after 2014. Afghan government forces will thus inherit a more demanding job than expected.’

There’s much reluctance at home, from bitterly bipartisan politics and deficit spending battles to isolationism and war exhaustion, as to why we should still be in Afghanistan (and addressing the AfPak issue, really).  Much of the fighting there has been pretty nasty for our troops with the enemy either dug-in or easily melting away across the border into Pakistan.

The primary objective was clearly getting bin-Laden and breaking up his network.  We wanted to inflict a real cost on them.  To do that it was decided that the Taliban, with roots in the mujahideen against the Soviets in 1979, as factions of Islamically purist warlords, needed to be removed from power without making war with Afghans nor other Muslims necessarily.  The Taliban have been cleared away for awhile, and coalition forces have gotten rid of bin-Laden, and while I’ve heard the Al Qaeda network still has presence over the border in the FATA region of Pakistan, basic conditions on the ground haven’t changed that much:  The Taliban are pretty much expected to fill right back in, and groups sympathetic to bin-Laden enough to fight alongside, shelter and harbor him are still likely going be active throughout the region.

How do we prevent this region from remaining a haven for terrorist activity?

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.  Any thoughts and comments are welcome:

Canadian documentarian Louie Palu covered the Kandahar region of southwest Afghanistan, where much of the fiercest fighting has occurred, and where the British, Soviets and coalition forces have fought.


And again here’s Zbigniew Brzezinski on a brief visit with the Taliban in 1979, in a rather ‘conspiratorial’ video.  You do what  you’ve gotta do, sometimes:


Related On This SiteFrom March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanStephen Biddle At Foreign Affairs: ‘Running Out Of Time For Afghan Governance Reform’

Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Monday Quotations-Henry KissingerTom Ricks Via Foreign Policy: ‘American General Dies In Afghanistan; An American Lt. Col. Goes Off The Reservation

From Michael Totten’s Blog: ‘Two Hours’

Post here.

The administration may have known within two hours into the Benghazi attack that Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility:

‘Reuters claims to be in possession of three emails that, if authentic, should put to rest once and for all how long it took for the White House and State Department to learn that the terrorist attack in the Libyan city of Benghazi last month was, in fact, a terrorist attack.’

Still unfolding.   What’s the grand strategy here?

Addition:  How is the President’s strategy in Libya working out?  How is the War On Terror going?  What are the threats facing the U.S?  Why Libya and not Syria?  What kinds of people are we getting into bed with in Syria, Libya, Egypt and is the Muslim Brotherhood really the group to leverage to peel away from the radicals and terrorists?

Another addition:  Were we running guns out of Benghazi, destination Syrian opposition, many of which were falling into the wrong hands?

This would mean Stevens and his crew were in Benghazi on the sly.  In the bigger picture, this would back the Turks against Assad in Syria and also work against Iran who sees Assad as their best ally.

Another Addition:  Via Eli Lake, Benghazi suspect held in Tunisia.

Another:  Per The Atlantic, there is no story:

It sounds very plausible. There’s only one problem with that view: No evidence has surfaced so far to support the idea that the Obama Administration deceived the public deliberately.

Then it just appears incompetent, or not so good at handling the conflicting intelligence, of which there is a lot.  It would be nice to have some clarification from the President.  There’s quite a rift in our politics right now and we are sending a message to those who would harm and kill us.

Why push the video as the cause of the attacks?  And if it’s just incompetence and slow reaction…is the Middle East any more stable?  How’s the war on terror?

Another Addition:  White House declines comment.

Related On This Site:   From Eli Lake At The Daily Beast: ‘Exclusive: Libya Cable Detailed Threats’

Eli Lake At The Daily Beast: ‘U.S. Officials Knew Libya Attacks Were Work of Al Qaeda Affiliates’ From The BBC Via Michael Totten: ‘Libya: Islamist Militia Bases Stormed In Benghazi’

Via Reuters: ‘U.S. Ambassador To Libya Killed In Benghazi Attack’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’From The WSJ: “Allies Rally To Stop Gadhafi”From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanFrom The New Yorker: ‘How Qaddafi Lost Libya’

Add to Technorati Favorites

Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘Want To Be The Next Apple? Lose The Bafflegab’

Full post here.

‘A strategy is not a goal like maximizing shareholder value or keeping America safe from terrorism. It’s not even a plan. It is a design — a coherent approach to defining and solving a particular problem, in which the different elements have to work together.’

And on Postrel’s analysis of Apple, that’s what it’s doing well.

‘So if you really want to be like Apple, drop the fluff- filled vision statements and magical wishes. Pretend your company’s existence is at stake, coldly evaluate the environment, and make choices. Stop thinking of strategy as meaningless verbiage or financial goals and treat it as a serious design challenge.’

Here are two quotations from Henry Kissinger:

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to devise a standard operating procedure which can cope effectively with most problems.  A bureaucracy is efficient if the matters which it handles routinely are, in fact, the most frequent and if its procedures are relevant to their solution.  If those criteria are met, the energies of the top leadership are freed to deal creatively with the unexpected occurrence or with the need for innovation.  Bureaucracy becomes an obstacle when what it defines as routine does not address the most significant range of issues or when its prescribed mode of action proves irrelevant to the problem.”


“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at.  Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”

Book here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

From Foreign Affairs: ‘A Substitute For Victory: Adopting A New Counterinsurgency Strategy In Afghanistan’

Full article here.

Don’t go for COIN, but rather:

“By systematically attacking insurgents’ strongholds, an army can erode insurgent combat power, overturn the narrative that the insurgency is winning, and ultimately compel the insurgents to compromise. Military force in this case becomes instrumental.”

in order to arrive at a conclusion thus:

“For the first time since the United States intervened in Afghanistan in 2001, it is possible to outline a coherent political-military plan that would yield, if not a clear-cut victory, at least an outcome that enhances U.S. security.”

An exit?  A long-term plan to protect our security interests?

Recently On This Site:  From The CSM: ‘U.S. Consulate In Peshawar Attacked By Pakistan Taliban’

Add to Technorati Favorites