Saturday, March 28, 2009

Welcome to Afghanistan (& Pakistan) : the "graveyard of empires"

Pakistani mourners upon the death of Bhutto - placed here as a symbol & real need to STOP!

There is so much under-story and layers & layers of fact, politics and assumptions here from various points of view. Suffice it for now is that some things are NOT fixed by military interventions - in fact many of the shady "deals" made & alliances become kind of musical chairs - changing of loyalties & support given then withdrawn as US expects countries in their area of concern to make these rapid switches along with them without questions or receive threats. That's all I know to say on this today.

Bhutto is NOT the subject of this article yet, here's just a little which may be somewhat relevant: Writer, scholar, Stephen Coll claims that LIKE the US, Bhutto's government provided military and financial support for the Taliban, even sending a small unit of the Pakistani army into Afghanistan. More recently, she evidently took an anti-Taliban stance, and condemned terrorist acts allegedly committed by the Taliban and their supporters.
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OBAMA Press Conference Part 2 - the "plan" laid out, in part on Afghanistan? here

MORE related items AFTER the following "nutshell" and full article...

The following Head Article here -"in a NUTSHELL":

In her classic book, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, historian Barbara Tuchman described “Wooden-headedness": "Wooden-headedness assesses a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions, while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs … acting according to the wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts.”

Tuchman pointed to 16th Century Philip II of Spain as a kind of Nobel laureate of wooden-headedness. Comparisons can be invidious, but the thing about Philip was that he drained state revenues by failed adventures overseas, leading to Spain’s decline.

It is wooden-headedness, in my view, that permeates the “comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan” that the President announced on Friday. Author Tuchman points succinctly to what flows from wooden-headedness:

“Once a policy has been adopted and implemented, all subsequent activity becomes an effort to justify it. … Adjustment is painful. For the ruler it is easier, once he has entered the policy box, to stay inside. For the lesser official it is better not to make waves, not to press evidence that the chief will find painful to accept. Psychologists call the process of screening out discordant information ‘cognitive dissonance,’ an academic disguise for ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts.’”

Barbara Tuchman’s daughter, Jessica Tuchman Mathews is the president of the Carnegie Foundation. A January 2009 Carnegie report on Afghanistan concluded, "The only meaningful way to halt the insurgency's momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban."

See following article....
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By the way, the author of the following article. Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. In the Sixties he served as an infantry/intelligence officer and then became a CIA analyst for the next 27 years. He is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
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consortiumnews dot com

Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President

By Ray McGovern
March 28, 2009

I was wrong. I had been saying that it would be naïve to take too seriously presidential candidate Barack Obama’s rhetoric regarding the need to escalate the war in Afghanistan.

I kept thinking to myself that when he got briefed on the history of Afghanistan and the oft-proven ability of Afghan “militants” to drive out foreign invaders — from Alexander the Great, to the Persians, the Mongolians, Indians, British, Russians — he would be sure to understand why they call mountainous Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires.”

And surely he would be fully briefed on the stupidity and deceit that left 58,000 U.S. troops — not to mention 2 million to 3 million Vietnamese — dead in Vietnam.

John Kennedy became President the year Obama was born. One cannot expect toddler-to-teenager Barack to remember much about the war in Vietnam, and it was probably too early for that searing, controversial experience to have found its way into the history texts as he was growing up.

But he was certainly old enough to absorb the fecklessness and brutality of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. And his instincts at that time were good enough to see through the Bush administration’s duplicity.

And, with him now in the White House, surely some of his advisers would be able to brief him on both Vietnam and Iraq, and prevent him from making similar mistakes — this time in Afghanistan. Or so I thought.

Deflecting an off-the-topic question at his March 24 press conference, Obama said, “I think that the last 64 days has been dominated by me trying to figure out how we’re going to fix the economy. … Right now the American people are judging me exactly the way I should be judged, and that is, are we taking the steps to improve liquidity in the financial markets, create jobs, get businesses to reopen, keep America safe?”

Okay, it is understandable that President Obama has been totally absorbed with the financial crisis. But surely, unlike predecessors supposedly unable to do two things at the same time, our resourceful new President certainly could find enough time to solicit advice from a wide circle, get a better grip on the huge stakes in Afghanistan, and arrive at sensible decisions. Or so I thought.

Getting Railroaded?

It proved to be a bit awkward Friday morning waiting for the President to appear…. a half-hour late for his own presentation. Was he for some reason reluctant?

Perhaps he had a sense of being railroaded by his advisers. Perhaps he paused on learning that just a few hours earlier a soldier of the Afghan army shot dead two U.S. troops and wounded a third before killing himself, and that Taliban fighters had stormed an Afghan police post and killed 10 police earlier that morning.

Should he weave that somehow into his speech?

Or maybe it was learning of the Taliban ambush of a police convoy which wounded seven other policemen; or the suicide bomber in the Afghan border area of Pakistan who demolished a mosque packed with hundreds of worshippers attending Friday prayers, killing some 50 and injuring scores more, according to preliminary reports.

Or, more simply, perhaps Obama’s instincts told him he was about to do something he will regret. Maybe that’s why he was embarrassingly late in coming to the podium.

One look at the national security advisers arrayed behind the President was enough to see wooden-headedness.

In her classic book, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, historian Barbara Tuchman described this mindset: “Wooden-headedness assesses a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions, while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs … acting according to the wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts.”

Tuchman pointed to 16th Century Philip II of Spain as a kind of Nobel laureate of wooden-headedness. Comparisons can be invidious, but the thing about Philip was that he drained state revenues by failed adventures overseas, leading to Spain’s decline.

It is wooden-headedness, in my view, that permeates the “comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan” that the President announced on Friday. Author Tuchman points succinctly to what flows from wooden-headedness:

“Once a policy has been adopted and implemented, all subsequent activity becomes an effort to justify it. … Adjustment is painful. For the ruler it is easier, once he has entered the policy box, to stay inside. For the lesser official it is better not to make waves, not to press evidence that the chief will find painful to accept. Psychologists call the process of screening out discordant information ‘cognitive dissonance,’ an academic disguise for ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts.’”

It seems only right and fitting that Barbara Tuchman’s daughter, Jessica Tuchman Mathews, president of the Carnegie Foundation, has shown herself to be inoculated against “cognitive dissonance.”

A January 2009 Carnegie report on Afghanistan concluded, "The only meaningful way to halt the insurgency's momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban."

In any case, Obama explained his decision on more robust military intervention in Afghanistan as a result of a “careful policy review” by military commanders and diplomats, the Afghani and Pakistani governments, NATO allies, and international organizations.

No Estimate? No Problem

Know why he did not mention a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessing the likely effects of this slow surge in troops and trainers? Because there is none.

Guess why. The reason is the same one accounting for the lack of a completed NIE before the “surge” in troop strength in Iraq in early 2007.

Apparently, Obama’s advisers did not wish to take the risk that honest analysts — ones who had been around a while, and maybe even knew something of Vietnam and Iraq, as well as Afghanistan — might also be immune to “cognitive dissonance,” and ask hard questions regarding the basis of the new strategy.

Indeed, they might reach the same judgment they did in the April 2006 NIE on global terrorism. The authors of that estimate had few cognitive problems and simply declared their judgment that invasions and occupations (in 2006 the target then was Iraq) do not make us safer but lead instead to an upsurge in terrorism.

The prevailing attitude this time fits the modus operandi of Gen. David Petraeus, who late last year took the lead by default with the following approach: We know best, and can run our own policy review, thank you very much.

Which he did, without requesting the formal NIE that typically precedes and informs key policy decisions. It is highly regrettable that President Obama was deprived of the chance to benefit from a formal estimate. Recent NIEs have been relatively bereft of wooden-headedess. Obama might have made a more sensible decision on how to proceed in Afghanistan.

As one might imagine, NIEs can, and should, play a key role in such circumstances, with a premium on objectivity and courage in speaking truth to power. That is precisely why Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair appointed Chas Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council, the body that prepares NIEs — and why the Likud Lobby got him ousted.

Estimates on Vietnam

As one of the intelligence analysts watching Vietnam in the Sixties and Seventies, I worked on several of the NIEs produced before and during the war.

Sensitive ones bore this unclassified title: “Probable Reactions to Various Courses of Action With Respect to North Vietnam.”

Typical of the kinds of question the President and his advisers wanted addressed were: Can we seal off the Ho Chi Minh Trail by bombing? If the U.S. were to introduce X thousand additional troops into South Vietnam, will Hanoi quit? Okay, how about XX thousand?

Our answers regularly earned us brickbats from the White House for not being “good team players.” But in those days we labored under a strong ethos dictating that we give it to policymakers straight, without fear or favor. We had career protection for doing that.

Our judgments (the unwelcome ones, anyway) were often pooh-poohed as negativism. Policymakers, of course, were in no way obliged to take them into account, and often didn’t.

The point is that they continued to be sought. Not even Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon would decide on a significant escalation without seeking our best estimate as to how U.S. adversaries would likely react to this or that escalatory step.

So, hats off, I suppose, to you, Gen. Petraeus and those who helped you elbow the substantive intelligence analysts off to the sidelines.

What might intelligence analysts have said on the key point of training the Afghan army and police? We will never know, but it is a safe bet those analysts who know something about Afghanistan (or about Vietnam) would roll their eyes and wish Petraeus luck.

As for Iraq, what remains to be seen is against whom the various sectarian factions target their weapons and put their training into practice.

The Training Mirage

In his Afghanistan policy speech on Friday, Obama mentioned training 11 times. To those of us with some gray in our hair, this was all too reminiscent of the prevailing rhetoric at the start of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

In February 1964, with John Kennedy dead and President Lyndon Johnson improvising on Vietnam, then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara prepared a major policy speech on defense, leaving out Vietnam, and sent it to the President to review. The Johnson tapes show the President finding fault:

LBJ: “I wonder if you shouldn’t find two minutes to devote to Vietnam.”

McN: “The problem is what to say about it.”

LBJ: “I would say that we have a commitment to Vietnamese freedom. … Our purpose is to train the [South Vietnamese] people, and our training’s going good.”

But our training was not going good then. And specialists who know Afghanistan, its various tribes and demographics tell me that training is not likely to go good there either. Ditto for training in Pakistan.

Obama’s alliterative rhetoric aside, it is going to be no easier to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan with more combat forces and training than it was to defeat the Viet Cong with these same tools in Vietnam.

Obama seemed to be protesting a bit too much: “Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course.” No sir.

There will be “metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable!” Yes, sir!

And he will enlist wide international support from countries like Russia, India and China that, according to President Obama, “should have a stake in the security of the region.” Right.

“The road ahead will be long,” said Obama in conclusion. He has that right. The strategy adopted virtually guarantees that.

That is why Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan publicly contradicted his boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, late last year when Gates, protesting the widespread pessimism on Afghanistan, started talking up the prospect of a “surge” of troops in Afghanistan.

McKiernan insisted publicly that no Iraqi-style “surge” of forces would end the conflict in Afghanistan. “The word I don’t use for Afghanistan is ‘surge,’” McKiernan stated, adding that what is required is a “sustained commitment” that could last many years and would ultimately require a political, not military, solution.

McKiernan has that right. But his boss Mr. Gates did not seem to get it.

Bob Gates at the Gate

Late last year, as he maneuvered to stay on as Defense Secretary in the new administration, Gates hotly disputed the notion that things were getting out of control in Afghanistan.

The argument that Gates used to support his professed optimism, however, made us veteran intelligence officers gag — at least those who remember the U.S. in Vietnam in the 1960s, the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s and other failed counterinsurgencies.

“The Taliban holds no land in Afghanistan, and loses every time it comes into contact with coalition forces,” Gates explained.

Our Secretary of Defense seemed to be insisting that U.S. troops have not lost one pitched battle with the Taliban or al-Qaeda. (Engagements like the one on July 13, 2008, in which “insurgents” attacked an outpost in Konar province, killing nine U.S. soldiers and wounding 15 others, apparently do not qualify as “contact.”)

Gates ought to read up on Vietnam, for his words evoke a similarly benighted comment by U.S. Army Col. Harry Summers after that war had been lost.

In 1974, Summers was sent to Hanoi to try to resolve the status of Americans still listed as missing. To his North Vietnamese counterpart, Col. Tu, Summers made the mistake of bragging, “You know, you never beat us on the battlefield.”

Colonel Tu responded, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

I don't fault the senior military. Cancel that, I DO fault them. They resemble all too closely the gutless general officers who never looked down at what was really happening in Vietnam. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the time have been called, not without reason, “a sewer of deceit."

The current crew is in better odor. And one may be tempted to make excuses for them, noting for example that if admirals/generals are the hammer, small wonder that to them everything looks like a nail. No, that does not excuse them.

The ones standing in back of Obama on Friday have smarts enough to have said, NO; IT’S A BAD IDEA, Mr. President. That should not be too much to expect.

Gallons of blood are likely to be poured unnecessarily in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan — probably over the next decade or longer. But not their blood.

Sound Military Advice

General officers seldom rise to the occasion. Exceptions are so few that they immediately spring to mind: French war hero Gen. Philippe LeClerc, for example, was sent to Indochina right after World War II with orders to report back on how many troops it would take to recapture Indochina. His report: "It would require 500,000 men; and even with 500,000 France could not win."

Equally relevant to Obama’s fateful decision, Gen. Douglas MacArthur told another young President in April 1961: "Anyone wanting to commit American ground forces to the mainland of Asia should have his head examined."

When JFK's top military advisers, critical of the President’s reluctance to go against that advice, virtually called him a traitor — for pursuing a negotiated solution to the fighting in Laos, for example — Kennedy would tell them to convince Gen. MacArthur first, and then come back to him. (Alas, there seems to be no comparable Gen. MacArthur today.)

Kennedy recognized Vietnam as a potential quagmire, and was determined not to get sucked in — despite the misguided, ideologically-salted advice given him by Ivy League patricians like McGeorge Bundy.

Kennedy's military adviser, Gen. Maxwell Taylor said later that MacArthur's statement made a "hell of an impression on the President."

MacArthur made another comment about the situation that President Kennedy had inherited in Indochina. This one struck the young President so much that he dictated it into a memorandum of conversation: Kennedy quoted MacArthur as saying to him, "The chickens are coming home to roost from the Eisenhower years, and you live in the chicken coop."

Well, the chickens are coming home to roost after eight years of Cheney and Bush, but there is no sign that President Obama is listening to anyone capable of fresh thinking on Afghanistan. Obama has apparently decided to stay in the chicken coop. And that can be called, well, chicken.

Can't say I actually KNEW Jack Kennedy, but it was he who got so many of us down here to Washington to explore what we might do for our country.

Kennedy resisted the kind of pressures to which President Obama has now succumbed. (There are even some, like Jim Douglass in his book "JFK and the Unspeakable," who conclude that this is what got President Kennedy killed.)

Mr. Obama, you need to find some advisers who are not still wet behind the ears and who are not brown noses — preferably some who have lived Vietnam and Iraq and have an established record of responsible, fact-based analysis.

You would also do well to read Douglass's book, and to page through the "Pentagon Papers," instead of trying to emulate the Lincoln portrayed in Team of Rivals.

I, too, am a big fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin, but Daniel Ellsberg is an author far more relevant and nourishing for this point in time. Read his Secrets, and recognize the signs of the times.

There is still time to put the brakes on this disastrous policy. One key lesson of Vietnam is that an army trained and supplied by foreign occupiers can almost always be readily outmatched and out-waited in a guerrilla war, no matter how many billions of dollars are pumped in.

Professor Martin van Creveld of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the only non-American military historian on the U.S. Army’s list of required reading for officers, has accused former President George W. Bush of “launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them.”

Please do not feel you have to compete with your predecessor for such laurels.

END article

URL: here

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Possible blurring/adaption/willingness to change emphasis of "The Afghanistan/Pakistan Plan" here Interesting site to watch on the new administration!

ACTION Suggested: All here who see the truth in this cautionary OpEd by Ray McGovern, let's each and all - every good chance we see - do our very best to help halt and prevent the following from being the hellish scenario it doesn't need to be. What shall be our best strategy? Suggestions? newlease7@yahoo.com put "Comment to Connie on oneheartforpeace" in your subject title &/or place your response in the COMMENT section below for this post. Perhaps one means of creating caution and pressure on the Obama administration concerning the movement for more warring in Afghanistan and Pakistan is to encourage two-way facilitation of international press both larger as well as smaller groups. Perhaps, considering Obama's desire to listen to and address the smaller more independent press based in the US - let's work toward the goal that he will apply this same independence to his dialogue with International newspapers and news services particularly int the middle east and including at the top Pakistan/Afghanistan reporters.

MORE references to this topic (check back for more here and/or in COMMENTS

Fierce debate over escalation in Afghanistan. Biden warns of quagmire. Does Obama instead follows military advisers including Cheney? (VLaszlo) here LOOK how skewed this online MSNBC vote is toward WAR one way or the other!!! Please DON'T vote! here

4 comments:

Connie L. Nash said...

From US Just Foreign Policy

Obama Narrows Afghan Goals - And Leaves Them Wide
Obama said "we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future" and that "we are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future." At the same time he struck out against an assumed threat of a "return to Taliban rule," and insisted al Qaeda terrorists "would accompany the core Taliban leadership," which suggests U.S. goals have not changed much, and that the U.S. is still trying to control Afghanistan and dictate its future.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/obama-narrows-afghan-goal_b_180077.html

Four Questions on Afghanistan
Will the United States support political negotiations between the Afghan government and leaders of Afghanistan's insurgencies? Is the United States prepared to discuss its long-term intentions in Afghanistan? Is the United States prepared to relax the political constraints it has previously imposed on Afghan negotiations? Is the United States prepared to address the political roots of Pakistan's relationship with the Afghan insurgencies?
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/03/27-8

Help us build for a Just Foreign Policy
Your financial contributions to Just Foreign Policy help us create opportunities for Americans to advocate for a just foreign policy.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/donate.html

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) President Obama announced a new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy that will require significantly higher levels of U.S. funding and thousands more military and civilian personnel, the Washington Post reports. The new strategy will include efforts to draw low-level Taliban fighters - but not the insurgent leadership - into reconciliation talks with the Afghan government.

2) Taliban leaders in Pakistan have closed ranks with their Afghan comrades to ready a new offensive in Afghanistan as the US prepares to send 17,000 more troops, the New York Times reports. Taliban fighters based in the border region said preparations for the anticipated influx of American troops were already being made. A number of new, younger commanders have been preparing to step up a campaign of roadside bombings and suicide attacks to greet the Americans, the fighters said.

3) Administration officials have been insisting no decision has been made to stop using the term "global war on terror" in official communications, writes Al Kamen in the Washington Post. But in a sign Kamen doubts the denial, he offers to contribute $1 to the Committee to Protect Journalists every time a senior Administration official uses the term in written Congressional testimony.

Connie L. Nash said...

This is just in from a site I follow frequently & highly respect. NOTE: Recommended ACTION(s) at bottom of this comment!

Friends Committee on National Legislation - A Quaker Lobby in the Public Interest

*Take Action: Urge Congress to Support a Diplomatic Surge in Afghanistan*

***Welcome to FCNL's Greater Middle East Diplomacy Update for March 27, 2009***

"To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East… are inextricably linked." Iraq Study Group, December 2006

*Afghanistan: President's New Strategy Likely to Increase Instability*

President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan announced today included constructive commitments to regional and international diplomacy and civilian development. But the president also committed the U.S. to aggressive new military tactics and a wider war that could easily spiral out of control and overwhelm the constructive elements of his plan.

The president's new strategy failed to reflect the most important insight on Afghanistan that he has expressed previously. Last month he said, "One of the things that I think we have to communicate in Afghanistan is that we have no interest or aspiration to be there over the long term." Although he said today, "We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future," he made no pledge to withdraw and made no mention of a timetable for withdrawal that the Afghan government has been calling on the U.S. to negotiate. He also ruled out an Afghan future that included any role for what he called "the uncompromising core of the Taliban," which he said must be defeated by force. Afghans will find little in the new strategy to convince them that the U.S. does not intend to remain in Afghanistan for the long term.

We at FCNL agree with the assessment of Afghanistan specialist and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, Gilles Dorrnosoro, who argues that "the only meaningful way to halt the insurgency's momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban." President Obama's new strategy that includes adding 4,000 troops to the 17,000 he has already ordered to Afghanistan shows no recognition of this fundamental cause of the growing insurgency.

FCNL wrote to President Obama on February 18 [http://action.fcnl.org/r/32537/58021/0] and outlined seven recommendations for shaping a new approach to the region. These included immediately ending aerial bombing and house raids, leading with diplomacy, investing in Afghan-led development and peacebuilding, and promoting security through civilian rule of law. This, rather than a strategy of military escalation, holds the best hope of stabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan. Urge Congress to press the administration to rethink and rebalance its strategy in favor of diplomacy and development. [http://action.fcnl.org/r/32538/58021/0]

*Afghanistan: Fourteen House Members Urge Obama to Reconsider Troop Increase*

A bipartisan group of fourteen members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama March 16 urging him to reconsider his decision to send 17,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan. The signers said the "military escalation may well be counterproductive" to the aim of leaving behind a stable Afghanistan capable of governing itself. They cite a 2004 taped statement by Osama bin Laden that al Qaeda's goal was to "bleed America to the point of bankruptcy" in Afghanistan.

Seventeen national organizations including FCNL endorsed the congressional letter and urged members of Congress to sign on. Read the letter and the statement by FCNL and other organizations. [http://action.fcnl.org/r/32539/58021/0]

*Afghanistan: Two House Members Warn against Reliance on Military Surge*

Reps. Michael Honda (CA) and Raúl Grijalva (AZ) are warning the administration against pursuing an Afghanistan policy overly reliant on military force. The danger, they say, is that the Afghan war will become for President Obama what the Iraq war was for President George W. Bush.

Honda and Grijalva, both members of the House Democratic Progressive Caucus, are among the very few in Congress who have expressed reservations about the administration's Afghanistan policy. In an op-ed that appeared in the Chicago Tribune March 22, Honda and Grijalva argued that while the administration was right to focus on Afghanistan, and right to seek Iran's assistance in stabilizing the country, it was wrong to rely on a troop surge as the primary means to increase security. More resources should be allocated for economic, political, and social development, they said, including road building, a crop substitution and marketing program for opium poppy farmers, and tribal-based local governance and peacekeeping mechanisms. The two expressed hope that Obama would shift Afghanistan policy to "enable traditional [Afghan] mechanisms to carry a culture of peace forward."
[http://action.fcnl.org/r/32540/58021/0]

*Israel/Palestine: Poll Shows Strong U.S. Jewish Support for Pressuring Israel for Peace, Dealing with Hamas*

The year-old "pro-Israel, pro-peace" J Street lobby released its second annual poll [http://action.fcnl.org/r/32541/58021/0] of U.S. Jewish opinion on the Israel-Palestine conflict and other Middle East issues this week. The poll showed remarkably strong support for vigorous U.S. efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, including by publicly criticizing Israeli policies and reducing military aid if Israeli actions block an agreement. Only on questions related to Gaza did the poll show strong support for Israeli military policies. Here are some of the poll's major findings.

* Seventy-six percent of respondents support a peace agreement that creates a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem and follows the outline of previous near-agreements negotiated at Camp David and Taba.

* Sixty-nine percent say the United States should work with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas to achieve a peace agreement.

* Sixty percent oppose the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank (among donors to political campaigns, 72 percent oppose settlement expansion).

* Sixty-six percent support an active U.S. role to achieve peace that includes public criticism of Israel. Sixty-four percent support U.S. pressure on Israel to compromise for peace.

* Forty-nine percent support reducing military aid for Israel if it blocks an agreement from being reached.

* Seventy-five percent approve of Israel's recent military operation in Gaza, although only 41 percent believe Israel is more secure as a result, while 18 percent believe Israel is less secure, and 41 percent believe the Gaza operation made no difference to Israeli security.

* Thirty-nine percent support direct negotiations between the United States and Iran as the best way to address Iran's nuclear program, while 39 percent view sanctions as the best approach. If Iran were on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons, 41 percent would support and 40 percent would oppose a U.S. military attack on Iran.

See the full results of the March 2009 J Street poll. [http://action.fcnl.org/r/32542/58021/0]

**Iran: Supreme Leader Rebuffing Obama Overture or Ready to Reciprocate?**

Listeners to National Public Radio and readers of the New York Times or any other U.S. newspaper are likely to believe that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected President Barack Obama's dramatic March 20 video overture to "the people and the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran" on the Iranian holiday of Nowruz.

NPR's story on Khamenei's speech at a rally in Iran the next day and newspaper headlines around the United States-all based on a single report by the Associated Press-said that Iran's supreme leader "rebuffed" the president's outreach. Readers of Le Monde or any of the scores of international outlets that ran an Agence France-Presse story [http://action.fcnl.org/r/32543/58021/0] on the speech, on the other hand, learned that "Khamenei said… the Islamic republic is ready to reciprocate if US President Barack Obama changes the American attitude towards his country." A Google search suggests that no mainstream media outlet in the United States carried the AFP story, while the AP story ran virtually everywhere.

We at FCNL think that a full reading of Khamenei's speech makes clear that AFP got it right and that the AP lead is misleading at best. We see Khamenei's speech as a conditional green light to improved ties with the United States and as a step to prepare the Iranian public for a change in relations after 30 years of hostility and recrimination. It was also an implicit admission that changes were warranted in Iranian, as well as in U.S., behavior.

Obama said in his Nowruz address [http://action.fcnl.org/r/32544/58021/0] that his "administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties. . . . The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization."

Addressing an outdoor rally in the holy city of Mashad the next day, Khamanei recited a long list of Iranian grievances against the United States, [http://action.fcnl.org/r/32545/58021/0] but he added, "We do not have any experience with the new US President and Government. We shall see and judge. You change, and we shall change as well."

Read Jim Fine's memo on the Obama-Khamenei exchange. [http://action.fcnl.org/r/32546/58021/0]

*Take Action: Urge Congress to Support a Diplomatic Surge in Afghanistan*

President Obama's Afghanistan policy announcement today sets the U.S. on a dangerous new course of military escalation that will undermine efforts to scale back the conflict and increase stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan through diplomacy and development aid. Urge Congress to press the administration to rethink and rebalance its policy in favor of a diplomatic surge. [http://action.fcnl.org/r/32547/58021/0]

Sikander Hayat said...

People who understand this region of Afghanistan Pakistan know very well how closely linked these two countries are. There is no practice border between to the two countries as same ethnic group lives on both sides of the border and does not recognise the international border. Also for ages, as Afghanistan is a land locked country, all its trade is conducted through Pakistan. Resolving Pakistan will resolve Afghanistan and vice versa so for the purposes of eliminating Al-Qaida, this region should be considered one continuous territory and Afpak is an apt name for it.

http://real-politique.blogspot.com

By Sikander Hayat

Connie L. Nash said...

Thank You for your comment, Sikander! You seem to understand a geographical situation many do not.

At the same time, might it be possible for some of us, at least, to be looking into non-military solutions for the decreasing of any terrorist activity? (Even perhaps between & within our various nations & how we might better apply human rights and consensus standards for the sake of mutual respect, even some dialogue with so-called "terrorist" representatives?)

Look at the item on the Collective Ego under Comments in the blog for today above on the commemoration of Vietnam Veterans Day...

Thanks again & may you keep coming back & post more comments!