Friday, September 22, 2006

Making friends and influencing people

Immediately after September 11th, the US had the problem of how they could wage war on Afghanistan, a landlocked country a thousand miles inland - and thus a thousand miles from the nearest US aircraft carrier. The cooperation of Pakistan was vital, both to provide overflight rights and staging posts for US special forces. But Pakistan was a Muslim country and the Taleban was its client regime. So the US threatened to bomb them:

Musharraf, in an interview with CBS news magazine show "60 Minutes" that will air Sunday, said the threat came from Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage and was given to Musharraf's intelligence director.

"The intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, 'Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age,'" Musharraf said.

"I think it was a very rude remark."

If this is how the US treats its allies, then its no wonder that that list is growing thin. But there's more:

Musharraf said some demands made by the United States were "ludicrous," including one insisting he suppress domestic expression of support for terrorism against the United States.

"If somebody's expressing views, we cannot curb the expression of views," Musharraf said.

On September 20th, 2001, Bush stood up in front of Congress and made his infamous "they hate our freedoms" speech. Among the freedoms "they" hated were

our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

And yet around the same time, he was sending one of his thugs halfway around the world in an effort to convince an unelected dictator to suppress the fredom of speech of his citizens and deny them the right to disagree with each other, or with America - a right enjoyed by every American citizen and absolutely protected by that country's constitution. The hypocrisy is simply breathtaking.


Agree. But at the same time, let's not risk suggesting Musharraf really has any qualms about suppressing his citizens' freedom of speech - if it had been domestic expression of support for democracy in Pakistan, he'd have been out their suppressing it quick as...

Posted by Psycho Milt : 9/22/2006 08:20:00 PM

Jesus, yes this is an ugly story alright..... One quibble with how you've characterized it tho' i/s - I don't think US and Pakistan were allies immediately pre-9/11 (the US had absolutely cast their lot with India in the S Asia region and generally either ignored or criticiszed Pak. for the previous ten years) . Post-9/11 the US needed to suddenly warm relations with Pakistan with full ally status etc. being the carrot. So it's a dead certainty that Armitage gave Mush. a version of the "you're either with us or with the terrorists" hard-line that was big at the time where "with us" in Pak's case means getting back the full ally status they'd had back in the 80's. So... it isn't a case of threatening an ally with destruction, it's a case of offering someone a bizarro choice of destruction or being a full ally: you're making someone an offer they can't refuse and expecting them to be your ally, which is weird.

I'm still, however, amazed to hear that it came to this; Pakistan being a nuclear armed state with more than 150 million people and all.... Holy Crap.

And, of course, the US's strangely half-assed subcontracted-out effort at rounding up Bin Laden etc. now makes even less sense.... If the story's true then the US was absolutely prepared to "pay (and inflict) any price, bear any burden" to get to Afghanistan. But then why "go cheap" once you get there? I don't get it. (World making no sense feeling... reaches for beer....)

Posted by Anonymous : 9/22/2006 08:56:00 PM

'But then why "go cheap" once you get there?'

Because Afghanistan was never the primary objective, it was merely the test-run for the assault on Iraq.

The Afghan campaign allowed for the honing of skills and the training of young soldiers who lacked experience of 'live' combat situations.

In addition it allowed the armament manufacturers to test a new generation of weapons on real human beings (who were brown-skinned and non-christian and therefore disposable).

Once the experimental results were gathered the combat manuals and weapons could be modified and re-designed as needed and Afghanistan could be put on the back burner while the main event in Iraq could commence.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/22/2006 10:49:00 PM

I think often leaders make big plans that politicaly they can't deliver on. That is where quagmires come from.
Of course that is their mistake also.

[sarcasm] if they just need some brown people to kill they have heaps of them in the USA they could just bomb themselves. [/sarcasm]
you really are paranoid.

simple rules is : Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity

Posted by Genius : 9/22/2006 11:04:00 PM

Not paranoid, Genius, just very, very angry.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/22/2006 11:30:00 PM

"simple rules is : Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity"

Sounds like a stupid rule to me.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/23/2006 07:58:00 AM

well it certainly is not a malicious one, so I rest my case!

I imagine the world must seem like a strange place with many people that you just can't understand if you attribute mallice to people all the time.
I would say hte same about those peopel who dont even try to undersand Osama's and friends thought process.

Posted by Genius : 9/23/2006 10:38:00 AM

Genius - that's maybe a useful rule for day in/day out kinds of situations, but generally naive at the level of international politics where, given the levels of cash and sophistication/education of individuals you'd expect more.

The biggest pricks of the 20th century weren't idiots and their actions weren't mistakes or foolishness - they were calculated actions with intended malice.
The Neocons may yet turn out to be a special breed of woefully inept inbreds, but the sources of their finance and power most certainly aren't.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/23/2006 12:00:00 PM

As an idea of the amount of financial impetus behind military escalation/adventurism, see:

some money quotes:
"Seven years ago," writes Paul Harris of the British Guardian, "there were nine companies with federal homeland security contracts. By 2003 it was 3,512. Now there are 33,890."

Think about that. They are there to divide a terrorism/security pie that has, since 2000, resulted in about $130 billion in contracts and now, according to USA Today, is a $59 billion a year business globally -- one based on that surefire bestseller, fear, whose single major customer is, of course, the DHS. "

"A major attack in the United States, Europe or Japan could increase the global market in 2015 to $730 billion, more than a twelvefold increase."

So I gues if you're a wealthy US politician, with shares or stock options in Halliburton et al, it's pretty hard to lose...

Posted by Anonymous : 9/23/2006 12:29:00 PM

Stephen: But then why "go cheap" once you get there? I don't get it.

Because that was Donald Rumsfeld's vision of how the US should wage war in the 21st century. Rather than hordes of troops (or simply enough to do the job), he advocated small, fast moving forces which would win through superior technology and use of airpower. This has the added advantage of reducing American casualties (because there are less of them to shoot), making war more politically acceptable to the American electorate.

In Afghanistan, this lightweight strategy led to Osama bin Laden escaping. In Iraq, it led to a total breakdown in order and the occupation basically failing from the start. The Rumsfeld Doctrine may be able to win wars, but it can't win the peace afterwards - and that is as much a job of the military as killing people is.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/23/2006 01:08:00 PM

There's nothing strange about naivety Genuis. You'll get over it one day.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/24/2006 12:18:00 AM

> where, given the levels of cash and sophistication/education of individuals you'd expect more.

Their intelligence/education might be greater but so too is the demands on them and the complexity of the decision making process.

That also places demands on them to have a world view in which they are good. take hugo or saddam or castro or osama (or bush) and ask them if they are evil / "trying to murder innocent people".

> The biggest pricks of the 20th century weren't idiots.

The point isn't that you can say the leaders are stupid overall - just that they are stupid in a certain context. I.e. they didnt think it through properly or they were blinded to somthing etc.

besides, being malicious while you have a objective IS being an idiot.

> So I gues if you're a wealthy US politician, with shares or stock options in Halliburton et al, it's pretty hard to lose...

My point is that that is like saying the terrorists want us to bomb Mecca in order to get more terrorists.

Both the share holders and the terrorists MIGHT be considered to be working in that direction but not by intent.


> There's nothing strange about naivety Genuis.

are you on my side now? backing naivety over malice?

Posted by Genius : 9/24/2006 08:37:00 AM

Mickey Kaus at has a bunch of links here which point to a pretty natural way to explain away the alleged threat to bomb Pakistan as a misunderstanding by Musharraf's representative of Armitage's description to him of what the US planned to do to Afghanistan. Even if this is correct, it's still a Dr Strangelove-level hideous moment: "Sorry, wrong -Stan....No, *not* the nuclear-armed one....Yes, well, I'm very upset too Dimitri..."

Posted by Anonymous : 9/25/2006 02:58:00 AM