The Great Debate UK

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

After Holbrooke, chances of political settlement in Afghanistan fall

holbrookeReading through some of the many thousands of words written about Richard Holbrooke,  for me two stories stood out in their ability to capture what will be lost with his death:

The first was in Rajiv Chandrasekaran's obituary in the Washington Post:

"While beleaguered members of Mr. Holbrooke's traveling party sought sleep on transcontinental flights, he usually would stay up late reading. On one trip to Pakistan, he padded to the forward of the cabin in his stocking feet to point out to a reporter a passage in Margaret Bourke-White's memoirs of the time of India-Pakistan partition and independence. Bourke-White quoted Pakistani leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah telling her that Pakistan would have no problems with the Americans, because 'they will always need us more than we need them.' Mr. Holbrooke laughed, saying, 'Nothing ever changes.'"

The second was in this 2009 profile by George Packer in The New Yorker.

Talking about Washington's approach to Pakistan, Holbrooke said, “The relationship with Pakistan is so fraught with a history of disappointment on both sides... We can’t align our interests exactly, because they live in a different space, and their history is defined by their relationship with India. . . . The one thing I believe we can do with Pakistan is to try to reach a strategically symmetrical view on the danger posed by Al Qaeda and its allies. That’s the proximate strategic goal.” 

Put together, those comments cover a huge sweep of history and geography which explain why the war in Afghanistan is proving to be so intractable. While the military, and much of the media, focus on Afghanistan - since that is where western troops are deployed - Pakistan is fighting its own battle with India born out of the bloody partition of the subcontinent in 1947.  

from Reuters Investigates:

How Mendax made WikiLeaks a sensation

WIKILEAKS-ASSANGE/ARREST By Mark Hosenball

On Tuesday, Julian Assange, the controversial Australian-born founder and frontman of the WikiLeaks website is scheduled to appear in a London courtroom for the latest hearing on a request by Swedish authorities that he be extradited to Sweden for questioning in a sexual misconduct investigation.

Assange has denied any wrongdoing in Sweden, and some of his supporters have dropped dark hints that the Swedish investigation could be part of some sinister conspiracy by the CIA or other WikiLeaks enemies to shut down both Assange and the website, which has lately roiled the world of international diplomacy by disclosing a cache of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

On WikiLeaks, India, Pakistan and a partisan media

SOUTHASIA SIACHENReading through some of the WikiLeaks cables, I have been struck by how easy it might be to take the fragmentary and often outdated information contained in them and make a case to support either side of the India-Pakistan divide.  Now it turns out someone did, but without even the support of the underlying cables, according to this version of Pakistani media reports by the Pakistan blog Cafe Pyala of alleged Indian skulduggery, including in Baluchistan. 

As Cafe Pyala notes, Pakistan's The News and various other papers cited the alleged cables as proof of alleged Indian involvement in creating trouble in Baluchistan and Waziristan. These allegations were included amongst others that anyone who follows the subject closely hears being bandied about between India and Pakistan. (Reporting on those allegations is much harder, for reasons I will discuss below.)

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Wikileaks on Pakistan

iran pakistanIn the State Department cables released by Wikileaks and so far reported, the most eye-catching as far as Pakistan is concerned is a row with Washington over nuclear fuel.

According to the New York Times, the cables show:

"A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel: Since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful, to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device. In May 2009, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts because, as a Pakistani official said, “if the local media got word of the fuel removal, ‘they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,’ he argued.”

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Al Qaeda, its branches and Afghanistan

osamaSo little is known about al Qaeda that it is can be tempting to see patterns when none exist, or conversely to see only madness when there is method at work.

But with that health warning, it's interesting to see Afghanistan cropping up in recent comments from both al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

from The Great Debate:

Obama, Moses and exaggerated expectations

-Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own-

President Barack Obama is close to the half-way mark of his presidential mandate, a good time for a brief look at health care, unemployment, war, the level of the oceans, the health of the planet, and America's image. They all featured in a 2008 Obama speech whose rhetoric soared to stratospheric heights.

"If...we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I'm absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last best hope on earth."

from FaithWorld:

Criticism mounts of “anti-Muslim frenzy” in U.S., Koran burning plan under fire

koran burning 1U.S. religious leaders  have condemned an "anti-Muslim frenzy" in the United States, including plans by a Florida church to burn a Koran on September 11, an act a top general said could endanger American troops abroad. Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders denounced the "misinformation and outright bigotry" against U.S. Muslims resulting from plans to build a Muslim community center and mosque not far from the site of the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks in New York by Islamist militants. The Vatican has also condemned the Koran burning plan. (Photo: Indonesian Care for Pluralism Movement protests against Koran burning plan, Jakarta, 8 Sept 2010/Crack Palinggi)

Tensions have risen with the approach of both the September 11 anniversary on Saturday and the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival that marks the close of the fasting month of Ramadan, which is expected to end around Friday. Passions have been further inflamed by Terry Jones, the pastor of a 30-person church in Gainesville, Florida, who has announced plans to burn a Koran on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Jones says he wants to "expose Islam (as a) violent and oppressive religion."

from Afghan Journal:

Afghan election: Industrial-scale corruption, or real hope?

election2009.jpg

 

What is a worse prospect for an Afghanistan election – election fraud on an industrial scale or a quiet campaign of intimidation that keeps voters away from the polls, or forces them to vote for the most powerful candidate?
That seems to be the choice facing many Afghan voters ahead of the Sept. 18 parliamentary election, particularly those in the Pashtun tribal belt in the south and east where so much of the fraud that marred last year’s presidential ballot was committed.

Afghan voters can be excused for feeling ballot fatigue. The September vote will be their fourth in six years.
There have been some improvements but the key questions of poor governance, corruption and security remain unanswered despite the number of ballots they have cast. To turn out again will be a real test of their commitment to democracy, a right taken for granted by many in the West and grumbled about when they are asked to exercise it. It would hardly be surprising, given the risks, if many decided not to vote.

from The Great Debate:

WikiLeaks and the psychology of leaking

The following is a guest post by Kerry Sulkowicz, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who is the managing principal of Boswell Group LLC. He advises business and political leaders on the dynamics of authority and governance, leadership transitions, and psychological due diligence. The opinions expressed are his own.

With the publication last week of WikiLeaks’ trove of classified documents on the Afghanistan war, the focus has been on the devastating picture they provide of the war. But a critical piece of the puzzle is not being addressed: what are the motivations of the leakers?

“Bullet proof” Matt Croucher tells his story

Photo

MattCrouchermedal

In 2008, as a Royal Marine with 40 Commando in Afghanistan, Matt Croucher threw himself on a booby-trapped grenade to bear the brunt of its blast in an effort to save the lives of three comrades who were with him on a covert operation behind enemy lines at night.

“It’s bonkers what goes through your mind when you’re about to die,” Croucher writes in his candid autobiography Bullet Proof, newly released in paperback by Random House. “All that crap about your life flashing before you, is just that, bollocks.”

  •