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The 'Af-Pak' problem

Obama recognizes that Afghanistan and Pakistan represent two fronts in the same war.

February 16, 2009

Just in case he had any doubts about the challenges ahead, U.S. envoy Richard C. Holbrooke was welcomed to South Asia last week with a bomb in the Pakistani border city of Peshawar and coordinated attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul that left 26 dead. Afghanistan's intelligence chief said there may have been contacts between the assailants in Kabul and militants in Pakistan, underscoring that the neighboring countries represent two fronts in one war. The Obama administration has recognized this with Holbrooke's portfolio, which is now being called "Af-Pak."

Holbrooke is there to review U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan; findings will be delivered to a NATO summit in April, when allies undoubtedly will be asked to contribute more troops and aid for the fumbled war effort. The full extent of that failure has become clearer with new assessments of Taliban gains in the last two years through guerrilla hit-and-run strikes, roadside bombs and suicide attacks. Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair said last week that support for the Taliban has grown in response to the corruption and ineffectiveness of the U.S.-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Where do we go from here? Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has asked for an Iraq-style "surge" of about 30,000 troops in Afghanistan to beat back Taliban gains and step up training of the Afghan army and police. President Obama rightly asked him to define the mission and endgame before authorizing the full deployment. Exactly what are the military objectives? Are we there for years or decades? Are we trying to stabilize the country or build democracy?

As with most wars, there is no purely military solution to this one. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the architect of the surge in Iraq, argues that troops must be accompanied by economic and reconstruction aid to help strengthen the central government. That would be true if the Afghan government were competent and the international community held it accountable for the aid it receives.
# by masa_the_man | 2009-02-16 23:28 | ニュース | Comments(1)


Hillary's Japan Opportunity

A key trans-Pacific alliance needs freshening up. Here's how to do it.

By MICHAEL J. GREEN | From today's Wall Street Journal Asia.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Tokyo this week, she seems to be finding just the right pitch on Japan. In her Senate confirmation hearings in January she embraced the United States-Japan alliance as the "cornerstone" of America's Asia strategy. She struck another chord when she said she would meet with the families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, reportedly overruling careerists in the State Department who fretted about Pyongyang's possible response.

These are positive steps, but the biggest challenge for Secretary Clinton will be navigating the unraveling political situation in Tokyo. Taro Aso is the third prime minister in as many years, and his rapidly waning support in the polls points to a likely victory by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in elections later this year. However, the DPJ is deeply divided, and many analysts expect that government to also collapse in short order. It could take months, or even years, for stability to return.


So it is important to launch an agenda now that builds on our shared interests and values and that will endure regardless of political developments in Japan.

First, the U.S. and Japan should forge a new partnership on climate change.


Second, the U.S. should be more willing to cooperate with Japan on defense and space programs.


Third, the two countries should revitalize the subcabinet-level economic dialogue begun in 2001 to encourage Japan to take action on regulatory reform, disposal of nonperforming loans and deflation.


Finally, the U.S. should pick up on one of Mr. Aso's better ideas: the promotion of an "arc of freedom and prosperity" across Asia.


# by masa_the_man | 2009-02-16 15:36 | ニュース | Comments(2)

Dispatch February 13, 2009

Hillary's Road Trip

The itinerary for Clinton's first overseas trip as Secretary of State signals that Asia is the strategic focal point of this century

by Robert D. Kaplan

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has chosen Asia as the destination for her first overseas trip. Starting this Sunday, she’ll be on a week-long trip to Japan, South Korea, China, and Indonesia. This has significance for several reasons.

Asian economies have been dramatically expanding since the 1970s – no surprise there. But what is less widely recognized is their equally dramatic military expansion, which has transformed them from low-tech land forces to high-tech, civilian-military, air and sea post-industrial complexes. Asia is bristling with nationalism and weaponry, even as Europe drifts into functional pacifism (despite its contribution to NATO forces in Afghanistan). It is this joining of economic might with military might that makes Asia the strategic focal point of the new century.

The Bush Administration understood this reality, but could not address it because it was preoccupied with Iraq and Afghanistan. The new Obama Administration is also preoccupied with Iraq and Afghanistan. But whereas former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was running all over the world on her own, the Obama White House has reorganized the top levels of the State Department so that certain issues, like the Greater Middle East, can be delegated to special envoys, allowing Clinton to give Asia the attention it deserves.

The Bush strategy was to leverage Japan and India militarily and diplomatically against a rising China, even as it sought good relations with Beijing. President Obama will do the same – for there really is no other choice. The difference will be in the energy applied to the task. Half of life is showing up, as the cliché goes, and Secretary Clinton has signaled with her first trip that she plans to show up often in Asia.

A measure of the new administration’s realization of the importance and nuances of Asia is demonstrated by Clinton’s decision to add Indonesia to the itinerary. Indonesia is crucial for many more reasons than the fact that President Obama went to school there for a few years as a child. It is the largest Muslim country in the world and the fourth most populous one. It commands the narrow Strait of Malacca, which is the world’s energy highway, where supertankers transport Middle Eastern oil to the burgeoning middle class fleshpots of the Pacific Rim. Thailand – Southeast Asia’s former political linchpin – is polarized and increasingly unstable, and Malaysia and Singapore are facing their own difficult political transitions, but Indonesia seems to be on its way to becoming an authentically stable Muslim democracy.


# by masa_the_man | 2009-02-16 15:22 | ニュース | Comments(1)




# by masa_the_man | 2009-02-14 12:31 | 日記 | Comments(6)




The Road to Kabul Runs Through Beijing (and Tehran)

By Parag Khanna

Posted February 2009

The new Great Game on the Silk Road is already underway. Has Team Obama gotten the memo yet?


We all know that Pakistan is a vital piece of the puzzle, but consider for a moment the consequences of a strategy that lacks a regional element. If the additional 30,000 U.S. troops being deployed in southern and eastern Afghanistan succeed at pushing Taliban fighters intro retreat over the border into Pakistan, they could massively destabilize that country's already volatile Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), which is itself almost as populous as Iraq. U.S. troops would be squeezing a balloon on one end only to inflate it on the other.

On the Pakistan side, newly armed (with Chinese AK-47s) tribal lashkars (militias) would be unable to cope with the Taliban influx. Meanwhile, fewer armored carrots from a pro-democracy Obama administration have diminished the Pakistani military's willingness to support American priorities, evidenced by a sudden increase in attacks on NATO convoys in Peshawar and the Khyber Pass. Centcom is scrambling for new logistics routes through Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. As was the case under the Musharraf regime, the Army is more interested in American planes than policies.

But China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are also becoming increasingly important -- not as neighbors of the chaos, like Pakistan, but meddlers in it. The United States is already failing to grasp not only the details of other powers' maneuverings in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the extent to which these dealings could eclipse even the most brilliant U.S. shuttle diplomacy by Holbrooke.

China's long-term strategy is clear: It has become the largest investor in Afghanistan, developing highways to connect Iran and the giant Aynak copper mine south of Kabul. The Chinese have likewise financed the deep-water port at Gwadar on Pakistan's Arabian Sea coast.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is widely thought to be funnelling unquantified sums to Wahabbi mosques and the Taliban, and the country's leadership is brokering the latter's negotiations with the Karzai regime.

For its part, Iran is building electricity plants to meet Pakistan's growing shortfall. More importantly, the country is renewing efforts to construct an Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, which both Pakistan and India badly need. Power outages in Pakistan today are on the rise, and they no longer even follow the predictable hourly rhythm of the past.

Yes, cooperation will have its price. The Obama administration may face greater pressure from both Pakistan and India to lift U.S. opposition to the IPI pipeline, to start. So too might the U.S. need to appeal to Iran to allow access to Afghanistan through the Iranian port of Chabahar and the Indian-built Zaranj-Delaram highway in western Afghanistan that connects the country's ring road to Kandahar and Kabul. (Some NATO allies are already rumored to be in dialogue with Iran about this option for access.) Building roads and controlling their usage has for centuries been the foundation of spreading Silk Road influence, as well as the key to success in the 19th-century Great Game. Today's struggle for control follows similar rules.

Clearly, the United States cannot resolve the "Af-Pak" problem alone. One way to align Afghanistan's and Pakistan's regional partners would be to follow a regional security model, much like those already adopted in Europe, East Asia, South America and even Africa. Such a self-sustaining mechanism in South-Central Asia must begin with a joint Afghan-Pak force empowered to conduct operations on both sides of the border, as recently proposed by Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak. At the same time, the United States will have to accept Afghan and Pakistani negotiations with Taliban commanders. If ever these groups were glorified fringe phenomena of the frontier, today they are rooted in a deep Punjabi and Pashtun social base that cannot be eradicated anytime soon


Here again, a strategy that reflects the region's changing dynamics is paramount. The original PRTs in Afghanistan need a sizable boost, and this should come in the form of Arab, Turkish and especially Chinese participation, under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional security mechanism that may well soon expand to include Iran, and later, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Not only would this participation unlock thousands more stabilization- and reconstruction-oriented soldiers and civilians, but it would bind NATO's chief rivals for influence in the region into a common project. These are just some of the tradeoffs necessary to encourage a thaw with Iran, monitor China, stabilize Afghanistan, encourage political reform in Pakistan, and placate insecure India. If the U.S. cannot negotiate a modus vivendi among the nations and rivals of South-Central Asia, then perhaps China will.



# by masa_the_man | 2009-02-13 12:55 | ニュース | Comments(3)



Canada has no choice but to go global


From Thursday's Globe and Mail


While the American economy will rebound (it always rebounds) from this stretch of penury, it won't be like the old days. With the encroachment of Asian powers, such as China and India, the global courtyard will no longer be a Yankee esplanade. The American century is over, and for this country the ramifications will accrue. We will be forced, whether we like it nor not, to find other pastures.

That will come as good news to many. We'll make progress in getting out from under the American shadow – as beneficial as that shadow has often been – and become more of a global player. As British power began to wane a century ago, we moved off the British dependency. As American power wanes now, we move, though to a lesser extent, off the American dependency. Goodbye, colonial trappings.

The notion of this country, Canada, as a global nation has always been a bit of a joke. When more than 80 per cent of your trade is limited to one neighbouring country – not to mention a cultural engulfment of similar proportions – you're parochial, not global. But those trade numbers dropped to the low-70s percentage range in the past couple of years and are now tumbling further.


# by masa_the_man | 2009-02-13 12:25 | ニュース | Comments(1)





Overall evaluations for Japan remain largely positive, although negative views have increased slightly on average and positive views have dropped in several countries. Among the countries polled in both 2008 and 2009, Japan continues to receive majority positive views on average (57%), while one in five (20%) view Japan's influence as negative. Sixteen countries give Japan's influence a predominantly positive rating, only two give a negative rating (China and Turkey), and two more are evenly divided (Germany and Mexico). In the previous year, 17 countries had positive views of Japan, while only China was predominantly negative.

Positive attitudes about Japan have grown substantially. The largest increases in positive views of Japan can be seen in Ghana (67%, up from 48%), India (44%, up from 26%), Central America (63% up from 53%), Canada (70%, up from 61%), and Egypt (52%, up from 45%). Positive attitudes have also increased in China (40%, up from 30%), though overall more still see Japan's influence as negative (50%, down from 55%). Indonesia has a large majority viewing Japan's influence positively (70%), as do Chile (67%) and the United States (67%).

However, in Turkey and Germany views of Japan's influence have worsened substantially. Positive views of Japan have deteriorated most significantly in Turkey, where more now say Japan's influence is mostly negative (47%, up from 29%) than positive (30%, down from 56%). Germans' attitudes about Japan have also worsened, with positive views dropping 14 points (38%, down from 52%) and negative views increasing (38%, up from 30%) making opinion divided overall. Mexicans also have a divided view of Japan's influence in the world (27% positive, 27% negative).

Other countries have seen downward shifts in attitudes about Japan, but overall views remain favourable. Decreases in positive views have occurred in Russia (49%, down from 59%), and the United Kingdom (60%, down from 70%), although the most common view in both countries is that Japan's influence is still positive. Negative views have increased considerably in France (37%, up from 22%) as well, though 49 per cent view Japan positively.

# by masa_the_man | 2009-02-13 01:06 | ニュース | Comments(16)



Prepare for the Robot Wars: Six questions for P.W. Singer, author of Wired for War

By Scott Horton

P. W. Singer of the Brookings Institution labors at the intersection of the military, defense contractors, and the world of high tech. In his latest work, Wired for War, Singer confesses his passion for science fiction as he introduces us to a glimpse of things to come–the new technologies that will shape wars of the future. His new book addresses some ominous and little-discussed questions about the military, technology, and machinery. (Subscribers may also be interested to read “The Coming Robot Army,” by Steve Featherstone from the February 2007 issue.)

1. The received wisdom is that developments in military technology allow the fortunate nations that control them to fight more effectively and with reduced risk to their own career military. Is that putting too rosy a perspective on things?

These systems are being bought in such great numbers (5,300 in the air already, another 12,000 on the ground) not only because they save lives, but also because they offer an amazing array of military capabilities. But we also have to remember that there is no permanent “first mover” advantage in either technology or war. The Turks and Chinese discovered this with gunpowder, the French with tanks, and, in turn, I doubt you still use your Wang computer. Forty-three other nations have military robots programs, including states like Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and China. But, importantly, robotic warfare will also be “open source” warfare. The systems are also available to non-state actors, made all the easier by the fact that so much of the technology is off-the-shelf or do-it-yourself. For a thousand dollars, you can now build a drone that has essentially the same capabilities as the Raven drones our soldiers used in Iraq just a few years ago. The book features a group of college students who raised money to do something about the genocide in Darfur, upon which a private military company offered to rent them an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of their own.

A particular area of concern is the use of such systems by terrorists. During its conflict with Israel, Hezbollah operated at least four drones of their own. A militant website already has offered as a prize the chance to remote detonate an IED in Iraq via your home computer, while one of our bomb-squad robots in Iraq was even captured and then turned back into a mobile IED. So we may also see new sparks of terrorism. One of the people I interviewed was Richard Clarke, the government official who warned about 9/11, but was unfortunately not heeded. He talked about how our new technologies raise such fundamental questions in ethics and law that we’ll see the rise of “neo Ludditism”–people who will resort to violence to stop it. The next wave of terrorism may therefore be a mix of Al Qaeda 2.0 and the Unabomber.


# by masa_the_man | 2009-02-13 00:49 | ニュース | Comments(3)



Trading Day : January 7, 2009 : Trouble in Bondland [01-07-09 1:45PM]

Money manager Peter Schiff warned of the housing bubble years ago and has made money playing the downside. A look at other contrarian opportunities in 2009. BNN speaks to Peter Schiff, president, Euro Pacific Capital.



# by masa_the_man | 2009-02-12 02:10 | ニュース | Comments(3)





Was Ike right about the "military-industrial complex"?
by Stephen M. Walt


Here's why it won't happen any time soon. As Cindy Williams, former director of the National Security division of the Congressional Budget Office and now a senior research scientist at MIT, points out in an as-yet unpublished paper for the Tobin Project, DOD is insulated from serious cuts by an array of impressive political advantages.

First, its budget is more than 50 percent of all federal discretionary spending, and its sheer size gives it a lot of bureaucratic clout.

Second, the Pentagon has a large domestic constituency: there are 1.4 million men and women in uniform, 850,000 paid members of the National Guard and Reserve, and 650,000 civilian employees. Forget GM, Ford and Chrysler: the Department of Defense is the largest single employer in the whole country. Now add the companies that provide goods and services for the military. Their employees amount to about 5.2 million jobs, which is a pretty impressive domestic constituency. And don’t forget those 25 million veterans, who are hardly shrinking violets when defense spending is concerned.

Finally, a well-financed group of Beltway bandits and Washington think tanks stand ready to question the patriotism of any politician (and especially any Democrat) who tries to put the Pentagon on a diet.

So don't expect the military to take a serious budget hit anytime soon.



# by masa_the_man | 2009-02-12 00:30 | ニュース | Comments(31)