a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Forward — to drones on their own

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 3rd October 2012

(From United States Air Force Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047, Note the
planned capabilities of the MQ-Lc, far right: “Modular, Autonomous,” “Strategic Attack,” “Global Strike.”  Similar features
are envisioned for “medium,” fighter-sized version MQ-Mc’s.


What could be better than unmanned aerial vehicles raining death on Pakistan in a ratio of three children to one terrorist leader by remote control?  Why, the same thing on autopilot, of course.  J. Michael Cole of “The Diplomat” reports:

…although the use of drones substantially increases operational effectiveness — and, in the case of targeted killings, adds to the emotional distance between perpetrator and target — they remain primarily an extension of, and are regulated by, human decisionmaking.

All that could be about to change, with reports that the U.S. military (and presumably others) have been making steady progress developing drones that operate with little, if any, human oversight. For the time being, developers in the U.S. military insist that when it comes to lethal operations, the new generation of drones will remain under human supervision. Nevertheless, unmanned vehicles will no longer be the “dumb” drones in use today; instead, they will have the ability to “reason” and will be far more autonomous, with humans acting more as supervisors than controllers.

(Via digby at “Hullabaloo”).  Sure, there are concerns and glitches, Washington Post’s Peter Finn notes:  “Some experts also worry that hostile states or terrorist organizations could hack robotic systems and redirect them. Malfunctions also are a problem: In South Africa in 2007, a semiautonomous cannon fatally shot nine friendly soldiers.” 

But the deeper concern is that a war-fighting process already on institutional and public opinion autopilot would now simply go on a computerized one.  Americans think they know what’s going on in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere, but they don’t.  As the authors of Living Under Drones: Death,Injury,and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan put it,

In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.  This narrative is false.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Legal scandals, impeachment efforts force President’s resignation

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 18th August 2008

In Pakistan. The New York Times’s Jane Perlez reports:

Under pressure over impending impeachment charges, President Pervez Musharraf announced that he would resign Monday, ending nearly nine years as one of the United States’ most important allies in the campaign against terrorism. […]

Mr. Musharraf has been under strong pressure in the past few days, as the coalition said it had completed a charge sheet to take to Parliament for his impeachment. The charges were centered on “gross violations” of the Constitution, according to the minister of information, Sherry Rehman.

Yeah , whatever; bet Pakistan doesn’t have 72 Olympic medals. U-S-A! U-S-A!

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Edwards on terrorism, Pakistan …and Iraq

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 9th September 2007

I’ve had a look now at John Edwards’ speech on terrorism from late last week — particularly the part about going into Pakistan if there was “actionable intelligence about imminent terrorist activity and the Pakistan government refuses to act.” Vishnu be praised, he didn’t even discuss nuclear weapons in that context like Barack Obama — let alone decline to rule them out, like Hillary Clinton. But frankly, Edwards’ specific scenario itself isn’t all that likely; if it’s attacks on the U.S. or Europe we’re talking about, I don’t think “actionable intelligence of an imminent attack” will be available in Karachi or Peshawar , nor will action there matter very much in the short run.

But something like this needs to be raised; Pakistan may not want the job of, say, catching OBL & Mr.Z., but some preparations need to be made in that case so that the job can be done without exchanging fire with Pakistani troops or planes.

That may be a long shot, but it’s worth bearing in mind. We’re often reminded that there’s not going to be some “surrender on the USS Missouri” moment in our current wars that proves to everyone “OK, we’re done now.” But OBL in plasticuffs might be one of the very closest analogues to that we can envision; even if it’s just one millionaire terrorist, it could finally give many Americans some room to reconsider where we are and what we want after the Bush years. Sometimes I wonder if that’s precisely why it hasn’t happened yet. Edwards:

The world stood united behind America after 9/11. But instead of leading a truly visionary campaign against global terrorism, our president led America down a garden path. He used the attacks to justify a preconceived war against a nation he now admits had no ties to Al Qaeda. He then offered belligerence and hostility to the world community, and we have been rewarded in kind.

President Bush, like the Republicans following him today and even some Democrats, was stuck in the past, and he still is. He had no grasp of the new threats we faced, so he failed to offer a vision to keep us safe in a world that had changed. Saddam Hussein was the threat he knew, so Iraq was the war he waged.

We needed new thinking and a bold vision to protect the world for our children; instead, George Bush literally gave us his father’s war—but without his father’s allies or his father’s sense of decency. What’s more and what’s worse, the so-called “war on terror” he used as his excuse for war in Iraq became his excuse for trampling our Constitution and, most perversely, for ignoring the demands of the actual struggle against terrorism. Because in George Bush’s reality, disagreement is called weak, challenge is suspect, and opposition downright unpatriotic.

There’s more; I think it’s a good speech that gives me confidence Edwards gets it about how counterproductive and, shall we say, geographically confused this administration’s “war on terror” has been.

Meanwhile, Edwards’ comment about Pakistan may remind a lot of people: “oh yeah, this guy hasn’t forgotten I still want OBL’s rear end — and that 6 years on I still haven’t got it from George Dubya “dead or alive” Bush.” With the follow-on thought, “Instead we’re stuck in g****m Iraq for reasons I’ve never been clear on, and nobody seems to really want to get us out of there.”

And that’s where Edwards diverges from Obama and Clinton, if the American people only knew it. * Edwards wants all U.S. troops all the way out of Iraq (if not necessarily the region). By contrast, last I checked both Obama and Clinton are still talking about a “residual force” of 40,000-50,000 — and they haven’t been urging the Democratic leadership to hang tough about Iraq the way Edwards has. It’s hard to improve on Edwards’ statement on Thursday about Congress possibly granting more funding for Iraq without any withdrawal timelines:

In 2006, the American people elected a Democratic Congress to change course and end this war. It’s the whole reason the American people voted for change. Yet, 10 months after the election, we still have the status quo and Congress has still failed to do the people’s will. That might be the way they do it inside the Beltway, but it’s not the American way. It’s time to stand up for the American people and against President Bush’s failed, stubborn policy. Without a firm deadline, a small withdrawal of only some of the surge troops won’t cut it—that’s not a solution, it’s an excuse. Congress must not send President Bush any funding bill without a timeline to end this war. No timeline, no funding. No excuses.

No timeline, no funding. No excuses. Nancy? Harry? — that may be your next President on the phone.

* To their credit, Bill Richardson (WaPo, 9/8, although he mischaracterizes Edwards) and Dennis Kucinich are two more Democratic presidential candidates advocating complete withdrawal from Iraq.

NOTES: “if the American people only knew” — Chris Bowers, “OpenLeft”; Edwards’ Thursday statement via Matthew Yglesias, who also links to a number of other Edwards statements on Iraq.

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US negotiating with Taliban?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 14th June 2003

And American soldiers held captive in Afghanistan? That’s what the Asia Times’ Syed Saleem Shahzad is reporting:

United States and Pakistani intelligence officials have met with Taliban leaders in an effort to devise a political solution to prevent the country from being further ripped apart.

According to a Pakistani jihadi leader who played a role in setting up the communication, the meeting took place recently between representatives of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Taliban leaders at the Pakistan Air Force base of Samungli, near Quetta. (Via Jim Henley and Jesse “Pandagon“)

Among the conditions the US is reportedly setting for “any sort of reconciliation” are that any US or allied soldiers held captive must be released. Also: Mullah Omar deposed, Pakistani and Saudi fighters out.

I remember noting a late September 2001 German language relay of an Al Jazeera report about US soldiers taken prisoner — before “Enduring Freedom” was officially underway. I didn’t ever develop much faith in Al Jazeera, and nothing seemed to come of it, so I forgot about it. Maybe I shouldn’t have.

And yes, this is terrible news, if it’s true — any of it: prisoners, negotiations, Taliban share of power, any of it.

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Would you like your partisanship steely or fabricated?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 12th March 2002

Glenn Reynolds professes disinterest, but then writes an extended article pooh-poohing the steel tariffs issue. If he doesn’t care, why bother to write one of the longer posts of the last week or two? Maybe this:

Actually, as I look at the reaction to the steel issue I’d say that a lot of people are piling on Bush extra-hard because this gives them the chance to show their independence after supporting him on the war more than they’re generally comfortable supporting a President, and perhaps especially a Republican one.

Beneath the jibe, Reynolds is right about something here. I, for one, don’t support the President per se, but the war effort and the United States of America. And I don’t go around looking for “chances to show my independence,” that’s a given.

While Nick Denton has combatively stressed the steel issue, I stressed the textile issue because it undercut the war effort by pulling the rug out from under Pakistan (so to speak), when ending textile tariffs could be justified both by elementary economics and by expedient, immediate war effort considerations. Al Qaeda reinforcements from Pakistan during the Operation Anaconda fight demonstrate that these considerations remain important.

Possibly more important, the Bush administration may have made promises to Pakistan, and then broken them. According to Foer, in the New Republic article I cited below:

…Commerce Under Secretary Grant Aldonas told Musharraf’s deputies that the Bush administration would neither push Congress to cut tariffs nor raise quotas for vital Pakistani exports like cotton trousers. Instead, the administration’s most substantive gesture was [an offer worth about] $140 million–one-tenth of the value of Musharraf’s initial request. Not surprisingly, Pakistani negotiators considered it an insult. “The [Pakistanis] said that they had nothing further to discuss. They accused Aldonas of breaking promises,” says one source familiar with the proceedings. “It got quite personal and ugly.”

Coupled with the all-but-Clintonian “depends what the meaning of arms reduction is” ploy in the ballyhooed Crawford, Texas Bush-Putin summit, it’s beginning to look like the Bush administration can’t be relied on to keep its word in foreign policy. I’d be appalled if promises made to even North Korea or Iraq were broken; it’s worse yet when it happens to foreign allies (even if they’re “just” Russia or Pakistan).

This undercuts the credibility of my nation, and that’s one more reason I object, not to reassure myself I haven’t gone all “Bushy.” It’s also a worrisome sign that Bush and his advisors may think that nothing can stop them these days, not even their own principles, not even their own word. Depending on the meaning of “their word,” or course.

The tariffs issue goes beyond the often-boring issue of tariffs themselves; it speaks to the credibility of a President who’s succeeded until now in projecting an “anti-Clinton” image of a straight-shootin’, plain-talkin’ fella. Here’s Bush in his own words not even a year ago:

…And there’s another mistake we won’t repeat — the mistake of putting artificial barriers in the way of world trade. When economy slows down, protectionist pressures tend to develop. We’ve seen this happen before, and it could happen again. So I want to say this as clearly as I can: Trade spurs innovation; trade creates jobs; trade will bring prosperity.

If our trading partners trade unfairly, they’ll hear from us. This administration will always speak for American interests. But free and open trade is in our national interest. (Applause.) The world will know this, that I strongly, and my administration strongly supports free trade. Twenty years ago, hundreds of millions of human beings were walled off from the global economy by the policies of their own governments.

And those walls are coming down. And people in Mexico and the Americas and Asia and Africa and Eastern and Central Europe are being set free to join the world, to understand the promise of market-oriented systems. It’s a big change, and change isn’t always easy. But trade lifts lives and trade furthers political freedom around the world. And it will build the wealth of our nation.

I believe this. I believe I must speak straight with the American people. …

There is a real question here of which principles govern the Bush administration as its approval ratings soar in to the stratosphere (in fact, especially when they soar in to the stratosphere). To take up my joky headline: if anyone is showing “steely” partisanship, I’d say it’s the Bush administration, its apologists on this issue, and those who “fabricate” charges of narrow partisanship against Democrats or anti-globalizers.


Sidebar: For an interesting article corroborating Foer’s article, and detailing who else Bush, Zoellick, et al are willing to sell out for textiles (pharmaceutical industry intellectual property concerns), see this New York Times article by Lael Brainard, republished on the Brookings Institute site. Apparently, Bush’s textile protectionism comes not just at the expense of far-off Pakistanis and unorganized American consumers — and really, no one’s interested in that — but also (via Doha Trade Summit choices) at the direct expense of the pharmaceutical industry, surely more of a 21st century asset than textiles are. (Full disclosure: registered Democrat, Pfizer shareholder).


Postscript: I don’t care whether this opinion is “liberal” or not; folks like Dave Bonior probably think it’s not, folks like Nick Denton think it is. I consider myself “often liberal,” but generally take a kind of “dim sum” approach to politics and issues: a little of this, a little of that. More on that some other time. I do care about writing well, so I’ll keep trying to improve.

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Steel and cotton

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 8th March 2002

The Bush administration’s decision to impose tariffs on imported steel has caused wry amusement for some, and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments by others, and studied bemusement by yet others. In a meta-analysis of the reactions, Virginia Postrel finds reactions strange, but then comes up with a strange analysis of her own:

I suspect that what’s really going on, especially in postings like Nick Denton’s (via Ken Layne), is an attempt put distance between certain bloggers and people they’re culturally uncomfortable with, namely supporters of free markets. It’s also a backhanded attempt to salvage sympathy for the anti-globalization movement, which opposes trade in general, not just trade that hurts swing-state union members. Well, bullshit.

The only thing I agree with there is the last sentence, and I don’t mean Denton’s articles. Especially the first of the two he posted (“America’s Ring of Steel”) is spot-on, as the Brits say. Find me an anti-free-market statement anywhere in that article, and I’m a monkey’s uncle:

…Pakistan, Egypt and others depend on textiles to earn hard currency. Agricultural products are the only hope for much of Africa.

So what do the US and Europe do? They tax precisely the industries that underpin development. Free trade, to western policymakers, is free trade in those industries that the West already dominates.

Fine to question the efficacy of foreign aid; fine to mock the anti-globalizers; fine to write off African countries as basket cases; fine to blame Middle Eastern governments for corruption. But realize one thing: compromise on free trade, and there is nothing left of US foreign policy but force.

By all means, check it out, make sure I didn’t hide any sudden mid-article turnabouts from you. Postrel must have just read the second one, which was a tad bitter, and jumped to her “bullshit” conclusion.

Hardball online partisanship is one thing. Hardball partisanship in Congress is another, especially when it arguably undercuts the war effort. Denton links to an excellent New Republic article by Franklin Foer (“Fabric Softener“) that details the political shenanigans — to be precise, the Republican political shenanigans — that accompanied denying Pakistan textiles relief from onerous tariffs and quotas on textiles. Foer begins:

Ever since he signed on as America’s ally in the war on terrorism, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been asking for one simple favor in return: the suspension of U.S. tariffs and quotas on Pakistani textiles. And, last Monday, Musharraf finally got a definitive response to his request: No.

Foer charges that House Republican leadership hung Pakistan out to dry for the sake of a partisan ploy: to portray Democrats as union-controlled retrogrades who would never support the TPA (Trade Promotion Authority) bill, the bill that would give “fast track” trade agreements a new lease on life. Foer:

…Compromises on child labor and the environment–the glue that held together the free-trade coalition during the Clinton years–never received very serious consideration. And so, as the vote neared, such dependable Democratic free-traders as Robert Matsui and Ellen Tauscher announced their opposition.

The problem with the GOP’s strategy was that in order to pass TPA–and avoid an embarrassing setback for the administration–the leadership needed the nearly unanimous support of their caucus. And the one dozen or so Republican congressmen from textile districts aren’t free-traders.

Long story short: Republican congressmen from the Carolinas and California (cotton producing and processing states) obtained administration promises to limit Pakistani imports, in exchange for their crucial votes on TPA. (David Broder tells much the same story of partisan hardball, not surprising given the 215-214 vote passing TPA.)

I noticed the general issue come up last fall, as I posted an item about a Peter Maass story datelined from Pakistan. Being a blogger of little sense, I chided Maass and his interviewee for blaming “globalization” for Pakistan’s woes, when I thought globalization would help, not hurt, Pakistan. I argued, “The reluctance of politicians to lower tariffs is more accurately despite globalization, not because of it.” Little did I think the politicians involved would be from the Bush administration and the House Republican leadership. It would seem there is “globalization” as it ought to be, and “globalization” as it in fact is. Those silly anti-globalization protesters are all confused: why, our economics textbooks tell us right here how the whole thing ought to work.

Just saying the word “Pakistan” in connection with this should make warbloggers sit up and take notice. Foer:

After the attacks, insurance companies began charging exorbitant premiums for shipments out of Pakistan; American textile buyers refused to venture into a potential war zone; and cold-footed manufacturers like Tommy Hilfiger, American Eagle Outfitters, and Perry Ellis reduced their orders. As a result, textile exports to the United States–about 80 percent of Pakistan’s total U.S. exports–dropped by 40 percent. By December an estimated 48,000 workers had lost their textile jobs. That’s 48,000 more Pakistanis with nothing to do but take to the streets, cheer on Osama bin Laden, and burn the American flag.


Countries with rising exports – Mexico and China, for example – may not much like the US. But their people are too busy getting by or getting on to train as terrorists.

And if you accept that connection between trade and security, there is one stark conclusion: there is a trade-off between the national security of the US on the one hand, and job security in its declining industries on the other.

To review: in order to avoid having to make child labor and environmental concessions in a fast-track-enabling bill, and to expressly avoid bipartisan compromises, the administration and its House allies sold a key ally in the war on terrorism down the river. Granted, I’ve been skeptical of Pakistan’s performance, but I never dreamed the administration would be handing them reasons to undercut the relationship.

The Bushies also displayed a lack of concern with free markets, domestic or foreign. Surely tariffs and quotas are far more destructive to free markets than insisting on a minimum of decency towards children and the environment? Sure, but so what, the Bush administration seems to argue; it’s never been about free markets in the first place. What it’s about instead isn’t completely clear, but the leading candidates are the hardball partisan games inside the Beltway and short-term profits for protected, uncompetitive industries. At any rate, it’s ironic that the Bush administration has apparently become a more effective opponent of true, two-way globalization and its benefits than any protester could ever dream of being.


Fri PM edit: to “and take notice” from a poorly chosen alternative. Sorry.

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Decent comments in Der Spiegel on Daniel Pearl

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 26th February 2002

It was nice to read Spiegel reporter Claus Christian Malzahn’s decent essay On the death of Daniel Pearl: comments by a reporter. Mr. Malzahn, who has reported from Pakistan himself, doesn’t abuse the occasion for political theories about America, but just writes as a reporter. Excerpts:

[Pearl’s] interviewees in Karachi didn’t want to make any statements, but instead wanted revenge for the lost war in Afghanistan. The American reporter was an easy victim: they didn’t even need to kidnap him, Pearl came to the appointment with a notepad and a ballpoint pen. He had asked for the conversation, because he wanted to illuminate the background of an attempted plane hijacking. He was close to a good story — too close. […]

Daniel Pearl’s very pregnant wife, who is expecting their child in May, said in a CNN interview that her husband understood his work as dialogue. He had been a very open man, his friends confirm. “If you invited him to dinner, you had to buy for ten,” remembers a London colleague. Once Pearl even brought people along to a party who he had just met at an underground station.

The killers in Karachi apparently killed a pretty nice guy. Pearl is my age. I didn’t know him, but his death has shocked me.

Not a ringing call to arms, nor is that always needed or called for. A good man in a good profession died for no good reason. It helps to know others mourn him, too, “even” in Europe.

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Saudi “humanitarian” among Al Qaeda detainees?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 25th January 2002

At the end of an otherwise dispiriting article (“Al-Qaida PoWs revolt in Pakistan”), the Guardian reports:

Fifteen detainees from Mazar-i-Sharif have been turned over to the US Marines at a new jail at the American base at Kandahar. […]

One prisoner is believed to be Abdul Aziz, a Saudi Arabian official of the Wafa humanitarian organisation, a US official said. Wafa’s assets have been frozen by President George Bush’s administration for alleged terrorist links.

Getting at the money, and understanding how it flows, is as important as rounding up Al Qaeda, so Aziz’s capture, if it indeed happened, could be a big break.

Our good friends the Pakistanis

But the rest of the Guardian story above paints a picture of a pretty leaky bucket when Al Qaeda types get to Pakistan, or within reach of Pakistan forces. The incidents described by the Guardian appear to be due to incompetence by the Pakistanis, but I have to wonder. In a similar vein, Seymour Hersh alleges in the New Yorker (“The Getaway“) that Pakistani forces got a lot of their friends out with them as the Kunduz noose tightened in November.

In interviews, however, American intelligence officials and high-ranking military officers said that Pakistanis were indeed flown to safety, in a series of nighttime airlifts that were approved by the Bush Administration. The Americans also said that what was supposed to be a limited evacuation apparently slipped out of control, and, as an unintended consequence, an unknown number of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters managed to join in the exodus. “Dirt got through the screen,” a senior intelligence official told me. Last week, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld did not respond to a request for comment. […]

Indian intelligence had concluded that eight thousand or more men were trapped inside the city in the last days of the siege, roughly half of whom were Pakistanis. (Afghans, Uzbeks, Chechens, and various Arab mercenaries accounted for the rest.) At least five flights were specifically “confirmed” by India’s informants, the RAW analyst told me, and many more were believed to have taken place.

In the Indian assessment, thirtythree hundred prisoners surrendered to a Northern Alliance tribal faction headed by General Abdul Rashid Dostum. A few hundred Taliban were also turned over to other tribal leaders. That left between four and five thousand men unaccounted for.

Hersh has published a number of “insider” stories about the true course of the war now, generally of the “it’s not going quite as well as they say it is” tenor; I don’t know what his batting average will turn out to be. But if this is even nearly true, we may have really blown it at Kunduz. Why could we not have insisted those flights head to Uzbekistan under US fighter escort? “Good guys” would have gotten a ticket to Islamabad (and some thorough debriefing and photographing for future reference), bad guys a ticket to “Club Fed” in the lovely Caribbean. What alternatives would they have had? (“No, I’ll stay in Kunduz rather than accept such humiliation.” “Fine.”) As for Musharraf, I would think in some ways he might be pleased to have corralled and controlled some of his nation’s own wild and woolly military types, under the guise of “debriefing” or whatever.

Although hindsight is always 20/20, I really don’t understand the U.S. reasoning here — again, assuming Hersh got the story more or less right. We need the Pakistanis… because? Because we want to catch Al Qaeda. Where were the Al Qaeda? …. In Kunduz. Leaving out those who wound up in Mazar-e-Sharif, we seem to have had hundreds, maybe thousands of birds in the hand, that we seem to have traded for nothing in the bush.

For some coverage at the time, see my posts of 11/24/2001, “B-52 that airport now“, and 11/21/2001, “72 virgins not enough, argue trapped Al Qaeda fighters” (to explain, that was an attempt to poke fun at would-be martyrs suddenly eager to escape). Obviously not so much for my deathless prose, but the news links still work.

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India relies on U.S. to prevent nuclear war?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 2nd January 2002

Maybe not India, but the Times of India, where writer K. Subrahmanyam argues “Indo-Pak nuclear conflict unlikely”. Somewhat reassuringly, he (or she) notes that India has pledged not to use nuclear weapons first, and points out that India, with the larger armed forces, is not likely to need to resort to nuclear weapons to prevail. The analyst is less reassuring about the Pakistan side of the equation:

If and when Pakistan takes out its weapons and starts readying them for firing, the US can never be sure that some of them may not be aimed at the US carriers, considering the enormous resentment among the Pakistani servicemen against the US.

After all, Pakistani nuclear scientists have collaborated with Osama bin Laden. In such circumstances, the US, which is keeping Pakistan under close surveillance, will destroy the Pakistani nuclear weapons through accurate non-nuclear strikes.

The Pakistanis know it, the Americans know it and the Indians also know it. Therefore, there is no risk of an Indo- Pakistani conflict with the US forces present in the Arabian Sea. It is a very different scenario from all four previous wars.

I would think it’s just a little more of a toss-up than that between withdrawing the fleet to a safe distance, and declaring war on Pakistan! Quite aside from whether Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were such a serious a threat to the U.S. forces that we’d want to destroy them, those weapons may not be all that easy to locate on short notice; remember the Scud hunts of the Gulf War? Still, the assertion is interesting: the attack on the Indian Parliament itself may have been an Islamist reaction to the U.S. fleet in the Arabian Sea and the Afghanistan war: its predictable main effect has been to draw Pakistani forces away from the Afghanistan border, and complicate the U.S. war on Al Qaeda. It would be nicely ironic if the same U.S. presence moderated the India-Pakistan crisis. But it’s also interesting, and a little disturbing, that Indians may view U.S.political and military prestige as a moderating factor that they can’t find in their own institutions.


12PM: On re-reading the last sentence, I realize I left out a step. Obviously, Subrahmanyam sees Pakistan as more in need of U.S.-supplied moderation than India is. But that seems to leave India off the hook for taking its own steps to de-escalate, or at least not escalating tensions with loose talk about taking a nuclear war in stride or boxing Pakistan and Musharraf into a corner. Quite aside from the effect on the fight on terrorism, a lot of lives in those two countries are at stake, and it’s not altogether minor that the fallout would eventually drift our way. — Also, I added the CNN link to “draw Pakistani forces away…”

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No, what’s new is that Bin Laden thought that was funny

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 10th December 2001

From the New York Times today, Tape Surfaces With Remarks by bin Laden:

Administration officials say they have read transcripts of the amateur videotape, which the White House is debating whether to make public, and that Mr. bin Laden seemed amused that many of the hijackers in the attacks apparently had not known they were on suicide missions.

“He suggests that they just thought they were involved in a conventional hijacking,” one administration official said today.

“There is a lot of laughter on the tape,” he added. “What’s new is the notion that some of the hijackers didn’t know they were going to die.”

Compare also another item in the same edition, Jihad’s Lost Battalions Mourned by Pakistani Kin:

(Syed Zaffar Saghir, disillusioned supporter of Sufi Muhammad, an Islamist Pakistani rabble-rouser now in jail): “So a lot of innocent people have died, and Sufi Muhammad and other religious leaders are responsible for this. They sent people who had no training whatsoever to war, and then they stayed back in Pakistan. They are still alive, while so many others have died.”

The second report says some 2,000 to 3,000 men from a single Pakistan valley north of Peshawar are still missing — of the at most 15,000 or so men who left for jihad in October.

Two articles confirming my impression of a latter day “children’s crusade” and its Pied Pipers. It will be as important as any “psyops” in the ground war to use news items like these to utterly discredit Islamicism in Pakistan and beyond. Maybe Israel should just leaflet the West Bank with the simple message, “They laugh every time one of you blow yourself up.”

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