Afghanistan war

And The Winner Is?

by on 2014-05-27- 5 Comments

Obviously, too soon to tell.  But with the new Obama announcement setting an enddate-ish, my nominee might just be:

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Post-Kristof Monday Links

by on 2014-02-24- 1 Comment

Good morning Ducks, here are your links from South Asia... (I am not even going to pretend I know what's going on in the Ukraine, Syria, Somalia, or Venezuela.  I'll stick to what I sort of know...).

  • Vasundhara Sirnate at The Hindu writes passionately in defence of the offensive. While Indian liberals will (rightfully) continue to be upset at Penguin India's capitulation to the so called "offended" feelings of a small and obscure group of Hindu fanatics, the liberals fail to realize that the increasing pressure to censor and protect the sentiments of various religious communities is actually just an extension of the dominant state ideology, what Manjari Chatterjee Miller labelled as "Post-Imperial Ideology" in her recent book Wronged by Empire.  Miller argues that Indian prickliness (in international relations) toward perceived slights in status and Indians' desire to consistently frame relations in terms of victimizers and victims is a major legacy of the trauma of colonialism.   So perhaps it should not surprise us that in the domestic arena, the work of a brilliant (foreign) scholar of Hinduism can be painted as little more than an attempt to humiliate and offend pious Hindus.  India will need to change more than its censorship policies (which are actually pointless in a digital age), it will need to change its hegemonic ideology -- which is of course highly unlikely.  In the meantime, the lesson for foreign scholars and foreign diplomats is clear: speaking boldly in India will result in little more than squabbles in which the foreigner is accused of deliberately seeking to humiliate the Indian state or people.

  • Arwin Rahi at the Diplomat argues that Afghanistan must recognize the Durand Line as its permanent border with Pakistan.  Rahi is at least correct that Afghanistan needs to come to terms with this boundary -- because for better or worse South Asia has inherited Westphalian definitions of statehood, but if anyone thinks that Afghan recognition of the border will end Pakistani efforts at influencing the character of the regime in Afghanistan, they are forgetting the broader strategic orientation of the Pakistani military.
  • Javid Husain at the Nation (Pakistan) calls for national reconciliation in Afghanistan to avoid a civil war. Unsurprisingly, he claims that the Afghan Constitution should be modified to meet the "reasonable" demands of the Taliban. Umm... right.  Moving on...  He also says that Karzai has displayed a "belated eagerness" to reach a deal with the Taliban, which indicates that the author was mentally on hiatus for the last decade.   Despite the howlers, the article may indicate that there is at least a faction in Pakistan that would settle for using the Taliban as a kind of veto player (as opposed to seeking outright hegemony) in post-Karzai Afghanistan.

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Monday Morning Linkage

by on 2013-03-18- 1 Comment

sitting ducksGood mornin' duck fans! Let's start the week by revisiting last week's firestorm in ...

Afghanistan

  • Hamid Karzai has become a bewildering enigma for many Americans as he launched yet another verbal tirade against the US last week.  This time he recklessly accused the US of colluding with the Taliban.  The NY Times speculates that Karzai is keen to shape his legacy given the ultimate fate of Mohammed Najibullah and many other Afghan leaders who came before him.  This is certainly plausible, but hardly the whole story.  Unfortunately, the article also condescendingly implies that the Afghan head of state simply "does not understand" that his government is totally dependent on international funding.  Karzai understands; everyone in Afghanistan knows who is paying the bills.
  • President Karzai's accusation that the Americans are currently colluding with the Taliban is extremely implausible and completely unsubstantiated.  However, me thinks some Americans doth protest too much.  Beneath all of the American outrage and bluster, it is important to remember that the US engaged and supported the Taliban regime after they took Kabul in 1996.  Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush sought to work with the Taliban.  Bush even invited the Taliban to his Texas ranch in 1997.  The US was perfectly aware of the Taliban's treatment of women and their general abuse of human rights from early 1996.  Moreover, in recent years the US has negotiated with representatives of "the" Taliban (as if the Taliban were still just one organization) without involving Karzai - although there is no evidence that the US is currently negotiating with Taliban members as Karzai claims.

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Leader Comebacks

by on 2012-12-05- Leave a reply

"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."  So spoke Winston Churchill, after the Allied victory in the Second Battle of El Alamein.  We could say much the same of his defeat in the 1945 general election.

 A core assumption underlying most of the work analyzing the impact of domestic politics on international relations is that leaders want to remain in office.  Insofar as ensuring national survival, territorial integrity, and policy autonomy might help leaders retain power, focusing on political ambition often does not tell us anything more than we might get from a state-centric approach.  But there are some important exceptions.  For one, democracies rarely if ever fight wars against one another.  The fact that different institutions create different incentives for self-interested leaders may have something to do with that.  For another, we often attribute the occurrence (or continuation) of wars to electoral motivations.  I myself argued for a long time that Obama was pursuing the same strategy in Afghanistan that Nixon pursued in Vietnam - don't lose the war until you're a lame duck.

Most of these arguments, however, assume that a leader's career ends once he or she leaves office.  Yet this is not the case.  Many leaders eventually make a comeback, returning to office after some time out of power.  The British electorate deemed Churchill less suitable for managing the postwar economic recovery than international crises, and so favored the Labour Party in 1945.  Yet they once more turned to the Churchill and the Conservatives in 1951 after the Labour Party had achieved most of what it set out to do.  If we were to limit our attention to the 1945 election, we might conclude that Churchill did not benefit electorally from victory in WWII (as I myself once did), even though Churchill's wartime record contributed to his return to power.

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Winding Down in Afghanistan?

by on 2012-11-26- 3 Comments

US "combat operations" in Afghanistan are officially scheduled to wind down in 2014.  And media attention is now turning toward speculating (i.e. relaying contending institutional preferences between the White House and the Pentagon) on the level of US troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014.  Current estimates, in case you still care, are that US troop levels will be roughly around 10,000 assisted by a couple thousand NATO troops -- assuming, of course, that President Karzai agrees to prolong the suspension of his country's full sovereignty.  For next year, however, it is likely that at least 60,000 US troops will remain through the fighting season.

The notion that "combat operations" will be wrapped up by 2014 while US forces shift toward an advisory "support role" reflects a typically deceptive use of an innocuous sounding phrase like "support role" that the public has come to accept uncritically from our military leaders and policymakers.  Regardless of what US troops actually do in their "support" capacity, it is clear that the narrative arc -- despite the salacious demise of one of the story's chief architects and protagonists -- is still oriented toward reassuring Americans that the decade long war is nearly over and that Afghanistan has been miraculously stabilized.  This noble lie may be necessary for extricating the bulk of US/NATO/ISAF forces from this war, but it is also dangerous given the way that myths about the successful use of force create their own reality over time.
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More Evidence for the Underlying Theory of the “Reset”

by on 2012-07-02- Leave a reply

The basic theory behind the Obama Administration's "Reset" policy was that US-Russian relations could be disaggregated: that it is possible for two countries to disagree
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Urination Distraction

by on 2012-01-23- Leave a reply

Over the past few weeks we’ve had to endure military brass and top government officials falling over themselves to condemn American GIs – first for
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A Reminder

by on 2011-12-15- Leave a reply

The United States is currently fighting wars in lands that, while distant to us, are not so distant to their inhabitants and US soldiers. I
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Transitioning Toward Anarchy

by on 2011-12-04- Leave a reply

The second phase of the transition of security responsibility from ISAF/NATO to Afghan Security Forces has begun (the first phase began in July 2011).  This means that
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Editing an Incident

by on 2011-12-03- Leave a reply

The chasm between Pakistani and Western reactions to last week's NATO attack on Pakistani forces seems to be growing if official actions/statements, media reports, conversations
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Armadillo

by on 2011-08-31- 1 Comment

Last night PBS' POV program aired the Danish documentary film "Armadillo" (filmed 2009; released 2010) about a Danish-British Forward Operating Base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.Although
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Realist Dreams

by on 2011-06-26- Leave a reply

 The Realist tradition in International Relations long ago won the big battle by getting the best name.  By calling itself Realism, the realist tradition makes
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Kicking the Can Down the Ring Road

by on 2011-05-20- Leave a reply

How is it that time and time again we are persuaded to hang on for another year in Afghanistan with the mantra that counterinsurgency (a.k.a.
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Of Lords and Flies

by on 2011-03-23- Leave a reply

The release of the first three of a reported 4,000 photos and videos from an American "kill team" in Afghanistan threatens to become the next "Abu
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Cause and Effect in the “War on Terror?”

by on 2011-03-03- Leave a reply

 It is impossible to know at this point whether there is any connection between these two disturbing events reported yesterday:  NATO forces’ mistaken killing of
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Wikileaks, the Daily Telegraph and the ‘Special Relationship’

by on 2011-02-09- Leave a reply

In his Introduction to the recent New York Times collection of materials on Wikileaks, Open Secrets Bill Keller comments on the way in which the newspapers involved
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Candid views from the troops.

by on 2011-01-04- 2 Comments

I just finished reading Dominic Tierney's new book How We Fight: Crusades, Quagmires and the American Way of War. As the title suggests, he presents
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Wikileaks “Document Dumps” vs. Government Secrecy Dumps

by on 2010-12-05- 1 Comment

The Wikileaks releases are political dynamite not just because of the specific issues they discuss.  Also, and more importantly, they challenge a dominant mode of
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Russia’s Return to Afghanistan

by on 2010-11-02- Leave a reply

The participation of four Russian counter-narcotics agents in a US/ISAF raid on four heroin labs in Afghanistan has left many pundits wondering whether the war
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Three Cheers for Wikileaks

by on 2010-10-26- 3 Comments

The last few days have seen a fury of debate about Wikileaks’ latest disclosures.   To my mind, Wikileaks’ release of the Iraq and earlier
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