Opinion

David Rohde

from The Great Debate:

Awlaki and the Arab autumn

David Rohde
Sep 30, 2011 21:33 UTC

By David Rohde
The opinions expressed are his own.

The death of Anwar al-Awlaki this morning is welcome news, but Washington policymakers should not delude themselves into thinking the drone that killed him is a supernatural antidote to militancy. Yes, drone strikes should continue, but the real playing field continues to be the aftermath of the Arab spring; namely vital elections scheduled for October in Tunisia and November in Egypt.

A series of outstanding stories by reporters from Reuters, The Washington Post, The New York Review of Books and The New York Times, have aptly laid out the stakes. Islamists are on the rise in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, but an extraordinary battle is unfolding over the nature of Islam itself.

“At the center of the debates is a new breed of politician who has risen from an Islamist milieu but accepts an essentially secular state,” Anthony Shadid and David Kirkpatrick wrote in today’s New York Times. Common values, in other words, are emerging between the West and the Islamic world. These “post-Islamist” politicians argue that individual rights, democracy and economic prosperity are elements of an “Islamic state.”

Whether these politicians represent the most potent weapon ever fielded against militant Islam or a Trojan horse will emerge in the months and years ahead. More than any other figure, the new breed’s standard-bearer is Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Pledging that conservative Islam is compatible with individual liberties, Erdogan holds the rise of his culturally conservative but economically liberal political party as a beacon for a new Middle East. Turkish critics, though, accuse Erdogan of a creeping authoritarianism masked by rapid economic growth.

For now, the “post-Islamists” should be taken at their word. The false Pax Americana of dictatorial regimes that once dominated the region is no longer viable. And the “post-Islamists” are a vast improvement over Awlaki and his ilk. For Awlaki and hard line Salafists, the only true “Islamic state” is one led by self-appointed clerics who rule by force and brutally regulate the minutia of everyday life.

from The Great Debate:

Help Pakistan rein in the ISI

David Rohde
Sep 23, 2011 22:12 UTC

By David Rohde
The opinions expressed are his own.

Admiral Mike Mullen’s blunt declaration on Thursday that a Taliban faction known as the Haqqani network acts as a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s military intelligence agency is a welcome shift in U.S. policy. After a decade of privately cajoling the Pakistani military to stop its disastrous policy of sheltering the Afghan Taliban, the United States is publicly airing the truth.

Pakistan’s top military spy agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), supported the Haqqanis as they carried out an attack on the American embassy last week, Mullen said during Congressional testimony. Last year, they arrested a Taliban leader who engaged in peace talks without their permission, according to American officials. And many Afghans suspect ISI involvement in the assassination this week of the head of Afghan peace talks that did not involve Pakistan.

The airing of the ISI’s links to the Haqqanis is long overdue. To me, the ISI is a cancer on Pakistan. It is vital, though, that American officials punish the Pakistani military--not all Pakistanis--for the ISI’s actions.

from The Great Debate:

Creating a “light, long term footprint” in Afghanistan

David Rohde
Sep 22, 2011 20:08 UTC

By David Rohde
The views expressed are his own.

This is a response to Rory Stewart's book excerpt, "My uphill battle against the Afghanistan intervention."

The most important phrase in Stewart’s essay is his statement that a “light, long-term footprint” should be adopted in Afghanistan. I agree but he paints a dark picture of all Western efforts in the country.

While Stewart is correct in many of his arguments, he presents a seductively simplistic picture of abject failure. Unquestionably, Washington has focused too much on the military effort. And Stewart is right to argue against a policy of simply pouring in more foreign troops. Yet his portrait of foreigners achieving nothing in a decade stokes a dangerous isolationism gaining credence in both liberal and conservative circles in the West.

from The Great Debate:

The 9/11 generation

David Rohde
Sep 8, 2011 16:16 UTC

By David Rohde
The opinions expressed are his own.

In a speech last week at the American Legion convention in Minneapolis, President Obama rightly hailed what he called “the 9/11 generation,” the five million Americans who served in the military over the last decade.

“They’re a generation of innovators,” he declared. “And they’ve changed the way America fights and wins at wars.”

The following day, at a ceremony marking his retirement from the military, Gen. David Petraeus affirmed Tom Brokaw’s similar praise as the two men toured Iraq in 2003.

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