Sunday, October 4, 2009

Week in Review

Steven Pressfield
Information Dissemination Logo

Michael Yon

The blogs I follow this week have been a target rich environment filled with informative, revealing and thought provoking themes. Here are a few of the best from my POV.

Leading off is the first two installments of a multi-part interview series with a Afghan tribal leader by author, Steven Pressfield of the blog, It's The Tribes Stupid!

Here is a short intro to the first installment.

SP: Chief Zazai, this summer you were elected to the paramountcy of eleven tribes in your home region in Paktia province along the border with Pakistan. Why did the tribes meet at this time? What was their agenda?

Chief Zazai: On July 17th, 2009, my 11 tribes, their Chiefs and Tribal elders gathered in the Zazi valley, where the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division is also based. The event was broadcast for three days by the TV channel “Shamasad” and was seen throughout Afghanistan. The tribes met to address the problems created by the escalation of the insurgency and of course the failure of the Karzai administration to bring a stable, uncorrupt and people-representing government to Afghanistan.

Read more: An Interview with an Afghan Tribal Chief, Part #1

Part two follows with this response when Steve asked Chief Zazai about the warlords and their relationship to the current Afghan government.

SP: Tell us a little about how today’s warlords originally came to power. They literally ruled the country in the 80s, didn’t they, after driving out the Soviets and later destroying the Afghan communist government that the Russians left behind?

Chief Zazai: During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, seven or eight freedom-fighting groups were formed by the Pakistani military, mainly by the ISI. When the last regime of the Communist party (PDPA) was thrown out, these power-hungry men started a war against each other in order to get to the throne of Kabul. They used artillery and rockets against each other and turned Kabul into rubble. These brutal men continued their animal acts for a long five years, which resulted in the loss of 60,000 innocent men, women and children in Kabul alone. These men committed atrocities, kidnapped many young boys and girls, and looted people’s livelihoods.

SP: Where are these warlords now

Chief Zazai: Where? They are running Afghanistan!
It is worse now because these same men have the muscle of the US and NATO behind them and full-fledged support when they wish to do something. These warlords are now kings and princes of Afghanistan. They can kidnap anyone for money and no one would ask them; they are in Mr. Karzai’s Cabinet, in his National Security Committee, in the Parliament; they have control in the Defense and Interior Ministries as well as the National Security Directorate, they are all over the governement and much to our surprise the International Community is treating these thugs and criminals as if they were world-class politicians.

Let me give you a straight answer here: Let’s suppose we bring guys like John Gotti and Al Capone and Scarface and make them Vice Presidents, National Security Advisors, Foreign Secretaries and members of the Congress and Senate in America. How would the American people feel about that?

Read more, and then follow the whole series: Interview with a Tribal Chief, Part 2: Warlords

Meanwhile other regional powers foretell more pressing concerns.

The revelation that Iran has a second site dedicated to developing nuclear energy, read (weapons) has caused rumblings in capitals from Riyadh to Washington. Here are two divergent views of what might happen and what should happen.

First from Galhran at Information Dissemination.

Galhran is not trained strategist, but can gin up a good geo-political analysis as the best trained PhD.

I also think all of those who are claiming that the media frenzy over Iran looks like the same kind of media frenzy that happened shortly before the war in Iraq have it right too. It has a very similar look and feel, and it is primarily because there are some very, very smart people of all political sides who are worried war is looming.

The problem is, none of what these folks are saying is actually relevant to events unfolding in regards to Iran, because they misunderstand the problem. They believe this is about UN weapon inspection results or it represents some American political problem that can be debated reasonably on information available to the public, and that this will somehow produce a right and wrong answer on the nuclear issue that suggests a course of action that can resolve the problem. They are wrong, the Presidents choices are very limited, and at this point it appears that political damage control has already begun. The only good news is that the President appears to have a clear sense of the real problem, and is on the same page with Germany, France, Great Britain, and Russia who all appear to have a good sense of the problem too. China is, as usual, difficult to take a read from based on public statements.

Galhran ends on this point.

The stakes for the President regarding Iran are very high, much higher than the political rhetoric of his domestic political opponents suggest. The consequences are too high for political games, something the Presidents opponents would do well to keep in mind, indeed, something his political supporters should keep in mind too. Iran may not have a nuclear weapon, but we may be closer to nuclear war today than many imagine possible, and the seriousness which most political analysts outside government are taking the issue is somewhat troubling to me. There are good reasons the President is holding his cards close regarding Iran, the stakes are too high for mistakes.

For the meat of his argument read more here: Misunderstanding the Problem.

Thomas Barnett offers this prospective on the limited choices in his latest War Room column.
It's the moment we've all been waiting for, and yet today's six-on-one nuclear confrontation with Iran may go down as the most botched opportunity for this kind of global resolution since Paul Wolfowitz went into Iraq and George W. Bush came out with a slice of yellow cake. Perhaps it was all the campaign rhetoric upon which now-President Obama built up these negotiations, or that a botched intelligence operation inside an enriched Middle Eastern mountainside forced him to sit down earlier than expected — alongside two great powers with their own ambitions, no less. But the "engagement track" that Washington officials say they're jumping on in Geneva this afternoon is headed straight to Sanction City. Next stop? Nowhere fast, with Beijing, Moscow, and, yes, probably a near-nuclear Iran walking away no less empowered — if not more so — than before we found that secret uranium factory. Here's why:

Read more:Continue reading this week's World War Room column at

And while these minds are fast at work thinking and discussing the real issues that confront our shared future, others at home from the highest office to the TV tabloids are preoccupied with more mundane issues.

Lead off example:

President Obama held an unannounced meeting here on Friday with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, his Afghanistan commander, to discuss a possible change in strategy and a proposed troop buildup in the eight-year-old war. General McChrystal flew here from London, where he gave a speech on Thursday affirming the need for a military buildup in Afghanistan. He joined Mr. Obama in the forward cabin of Air Force One on the tarmac of the Copenhagen airport for 25 minutes after the president finished his presentation to the International Olympic Committee on behalf of Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Games. It was the men’s first meeting in person since General McChrystal took over all American and NATO forces on the ground in June. They spoke only once after that, in a videoconference call in August, until this week, when the general joined a video conference with the president to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

Read more: Obama Meets Top Afghan Commander as He Mulls Change in War Strategy - Peter Baker, New York Times
These only deserve a link to reveal the level of naval gazing self loathing that some self appointed social gadflies have fallen too.

Hollywood on Roman Polanski's arrest for rape of a 13 year old, 35 years ago.

And David Letterman's self-revelation that he cheated on his mate of 25 years with numerous staffers.

And finally to clear the air, we turn to intrepid war corespondent Michael Yon who penned this editorial in the Washington Post.

He begins:
The coalition is weakening. While the US has gotten serious, the organism called NATO is a jellyfish for which the United States is both sea and prevailing wind. The disappointing effort from many partners is best exemplified by the partners who are pushing hardest: The British are fine examples. The British landed in Helmand province after someone apparently vouched that Helmand would be safe, and they believed it. Helmand is today the most dangerous province in Afghanistan.

Read more:
The Greatest Afghan War

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