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Perspectives on the ME:
Demography, Socionomics, Governance and Outlook
The Middle East has always been important to the US and the rest of the developed world, mostly for its
oil, but has never received the attention and resources it deserved or required. With 911 (and 311, the
Madrid Bombings,, the invasion of Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq that’s changed but not
necessarily in ways we’d like. Whatever you may think about those actions the fact of the matter is that
the world economy and the stability and prosperity of our respective societies is utterly dependent on
peace, stability and progress in the Middle East. With the current inventory of on-going crisis that makes
finding a workable path forward toward a more stable and prosperous ME becomes an urgent and
important problem for the US and for the World. This series of blog postings lays out the issues,
provides several frameworks for understanding the players and their linkages and how they impact and
are impacted by the issues, suggests key factors like cultural and social structure to consider and
provides strategic recommendations for coping with these important, dangerous and difficult challenges.
If nothing else we hope it provides both food for thought and constructive strawmen for moving
forward, however slightly.
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Table of Contents
1. Some Different Perspectives 2
2. Diversity, Complexity & Confusions 4
3. Progress, Reform, Stability, Devolution 5
4. ME Faultlines(Readings): Values, Culture & Conflict
5. SoW IV(the Ugly): Israel, the ME and Good vs. Bad Government 8
6. The Iran Dilemma: They Like Us, Not; We Like Them, Not...usw. 9
7. Gaza and the ME: Flames for the Fuses 11
8. The Next Decade's Crisis: ME, Bubbling Cauldrons & Fracture Lines 15
9. Witches Brew Recipes: ME Details (Iraq to Iran) 18
10. ME Update: Exemplar, Laboratory and Conundrums 21
11. Middle East Challenges: Game-changes, ME, Iran, Iraq & Afghanistan 25
12. Boots On The Ground: Realities, Strategies, Policy & Politics 29
13. More of the Afghan Debates: Searching for Legitimacy 32
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Some Different Perspectives
March 1, 2008

Next up is some variant readings from around the world on the
outlook and status for the ME. Interestingly but hopefully not
surprisingly they care as much or more about our elections
than we do. In fact, just as a sidebar, an online poll at the
Singapore Straits Times found 55%+ of the respondents were
more concerned with the US elections than the ones across the
Strait in Malaysia. Unfortunately the reverse, or obverse ain't
true. That is we don't pay much attention to what they think
about things. I started out to put some context around the
readings after the break - to wit, why we really....really should
care about the ME - but ended up with so much that they'll
become separate posts.

Briefly though

1) the ME is the major source of oil for the world economy and
will be more important in the future,

2) the ME has been under growing socio-demographic
pressures from rising populations and a lack of development
which is escalating exponentially, and

3) US policy continues to be self-interested, quasi-benign neglect but uninformed, un-sophisticated and too short-
term to serve our own interests. Put that all together and you have the ingredients for a major implosion which
could be catastrophic if not addressed. Which makes resolving these challenges favorably is probably THE major
short- to intermediate-term US foreign policy requirement.

It always amuses me that toward the end of their last terms US Presidents seem to want to leave a legacy of
resolving the ME into some nice, neat, stable and peaceful package. So they try and slam dunk something. That's
been going on since Jimmy the Peanut with Clinton and Bush II taking big passese at. This is too intractable,
severe and complex a problem for amateur hour however, which is what we keep insisting on its' being. Think
worst American Idol moments only this time it's American Idiots. The catch is that it isn't just a peace and stability
problem it's also a major national security problem, which is closely coupled to the need for a rational, forward-
looking and innovative strategic energy policy AND a major economic problem.
That's true because we keep importing oil and exporting depreciating declining
dollars, which are not independent trends, and re-cycling those dollars into
sovereign wealth fund investments is also becoming a painful challenge.

Aside from amusement our bumbling around needs to be fixed and soon. My
favorite take which captures a lot of the confusion, self-deception, political
narrow-mindedness, lack of grasp of reality and inability to face the world as it
is is captured in Syriana. Which IMHO was a great movie though not for the
usual reasons. If you actually pay attention what you see is America pursuing
an "Oil at Any Cost" policy, struggling to keep the lid on the status quo, and
lacking a willingness to find alternatives, i.e. a coherent national energy policy.
In other words you and me folks ! You also see where political correctness,
misrepresentation of who's doing what to whom and plain old wishful thinking
get us into trouble.

For example the mythology about the Iranian moderates moving the country to
a more progressive outlook. Or the willingness to sacrifice key personnel to
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political expediency while also failing to build, develop and maintain an adequate and competent intelligence
capability. If you click thru the picture you'll get Wikipedia's excellent summary. The underlying realities are even
more tellingly depicted in Robert Baer's book on which the movie was loosely based:See No Evil

One final point while we're evaluating candidates - while these problems accumulated over decades the
book and the movie are essentially examinations of the exponential increase in those deficiencies during
the '90s. Guess who's watch that was ! So to help start a little correction the readings below tap into a lot
of foreign sources and present some very different perspectives on Arab development, their views on the
US elections, the recent Turkish incursion - which was driven more by a continuation of decades long
PKK terrorism inside Turkey with continuing support from the Kurds in Iraq than our MSM is willing to
face, and some real progress in Iran in the face of all difficulties.

Diversity, Complexity & Confusions
March 21, 2008

ME policy and events continue to be challenging for
us all. Just because Iraq, and by extension, the ME
have come off the front-page doesn't mean any of
those challenges have gone away or been lessened.
They continue as bad as ever and will be the #1
foreign policy challenge facing a new president. Not
just because they are important but because they are
also urgent. There are, of course, many other
important problems who's long-term implications are
even more profound. Primarily finding a way to
involve the BRICs as contributing and supporting
stakeholders in the new world structure that must
emerge to provide a stable int'l framework. But before
we get to that point, on which we a) aren't doing badly
but b) which will have major up/downs and crisis, we
have to pass thru the bottleneck of the ME. The
graphic at right is borrowed from an earlier posting on
Iraq's strategic consequence and context but will
serve here to illustrate the complexities, puzzles and
conundrums facing us.

Because the ME controls the available supply of
swing oil reserves and production capacity the
economies of the rest of the world cannot get by
without secure and stable access to it. Anybody who thinks we can just walk away is dreaming. Aside from the
minor detail of requiring a national energy policy that would be an effort on a par with the Space program in its'
heyday, or perhaps the Manhattan project (& concievabley as important) there's the other DLS (dirty little secret).
Changing from where we're at to where we should be, whatever that is, will take decades and $T's of investment.
Our last real chance at this was in the '70s and early '80s but when the price of oil dropped people let it slide. So
we're trapped in this box for the lifetime of your children.
How will we cope?
Any answer must NOT be in isolation but also recognize the importance of local initiatives. We've tried the "End
of History" thingee and imposing culturally insensitive solutions but have re-learned painfully that culture matters.
As our previous Iraq assessments show. Put that another way - your future well-being and moreso that of your
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children is critically dependent on the countries and societies of the ME finding workable paths forward to more
stable, just and prosperous societies. NOT necessarily democracy, though that should and may come in time,
after they've earned it.

As you skim over the excerpts below these are the filters we suggest you sue to interpret them. And look
carefully at the graphic. The fact that Iran is ruled by competing and corrupt factions of a kleptocracy
who run the country for their own benefit and are running it into the ground is actually more important
to you than the PCness of NAFTA, based on populist nostrums that are demonstrably wrong-headed.

Progress, Reform, Stability, Devolution
April 8, 2008

In the last couple of weeks there's been a bunch of ME news, much of it as "blood leads" variety. We try and put a
context around those sorts of stories as well as find ones that try and dig deeper so you can get a sense of the
currents that drive things. In an earlier post (WRFest 16Mar08(Middle East):Diversity, Complexity & Confusions)
where we reviewed the situation we also argued that overall ME policy, strategy, tactics and execution was going
to be the #1 foreign policy challenge for the next president. And we didn't just mean Iraq by any means. Given the
fundamental importance of ME oil to our own daily existence either we figure out how to cope or face serious

We're not going to be able to cope on our own of course but only in cooperation with the local countries and the
folks in charge. And we can't cope if we continue to view the ME as another late term opportunity for headlines, as
all recent Presidents seem to have done. Nor can we continue to do business as usual, ala Syrianna, which we've
used as our bad example of short-sighted, self-interested and blind policy many times before. Just to put a point
on it the movie, IOHO, perfectly captures the "just handle it" thrust of most Americans concerns. For example the
ones driving large SUVs to soccer practice and then stopping off at the local church for another anti-war rally. You
don't get steaks without killing the cow and you don't get our lifestyles without...well you get the drift. Human
nature being what it is we'd all prefer to continue pretending that nice steaks just show up neatly wrapped at the
meat counter of course.

BtW - before we go down that path did you know that beef cattle are a) about as efficient a use of bad land where
farming is both uneconomic, hasn't enough water and environmentally disruptive. And b) that meat protein is the
best source of essential dietary elements. At the end of the day you make the best choices you can and pay the
piper accordingly.

By way of encouraging you to keep reading here's the money quote from the lead excerpt on Shariah as it was/is
really intended to be:

"At its core, Shariah represents the idea that all human beings — and all human governments —
are subject to justice under the law. For many Muslims today, living in corrupt autocracies, the
call for Shariah is not a call for sexism, obscurantism or savage punishment but for an Islamic
version of what the West considers its most prized principle of political justice: the rule of law."

We're going to be similarly locked into ME oil for the next three decades even if we start a "Manhattan Project" to
develop alternatives and make the massive investments required. The Yang to that Yin is the the ME has been
under growing threat of violent disruption for some time because of demographics and population growth.
Combine that with unstable, corrupt and ineffective governments and you have a recipe for freezing in the dark. In
other words it is in your own immediate best interests, those of your friends, family and children and the country
as a whole that we do whatever we can manage to encourage the development of stable, civil and prosperous
societies in the ME. Our chances for doing that are problematical of course. Robin Wright of the WashPo recently
appeared on the Rose program and gave the best 20 min summary and overview of all this we've heard in a long
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time, without the normal media pundit posturing, ideologies or distortions (explains why she doesn't work for the

Below you'll find various readings on current status and outlook for the ME. One on the recent Iranian elections
and the continuing decline in that particular theoractic kleptocracy was discouraging. Two on reformist efforts in
Islam and Islamic countries were very encouraging. The first is on Shariah and the second is on reform efforts by
Saudia Arabai's king.

Now a word of warning or three - we shared the first article with several friends who essentially dismissed the
core of its' arguments out of hand because, obviously, Muslims are violent, uncivilized and their legal codes are
without merit in this day and age. Which we'd think makes reform all the more important of course. It was
particularly ironic that one of their main objections was the Archbishop of Canterbury's preliminary suggestion to
allow Shariah courts to handle family legal matters was obviously anathema. Despite its' being couple to a
simultaneous proposal to allow Orthodox Jewish courts to do likewise. They were even more surprised to find out
that many so-called civilized countries let religious courts handle family law. Italy and most of the Latin countries
for example.

The other major objection was that Muslims are too violent. We'll pick that up some more later, but let's consider
the last 40 years of Civil Rights in this country. Remember, or know about, the riots and destruction in Watts,
Detroit or Newark ? How about the assassination of Martin Luther King ? It would seem that we haven't always
been as non-violent, civilized and law-abiding in recent memory as to justify rejecting Shariah, and it's reform, out
of hand without looking at it on the basis of evidence, data and merit. So when you read the article bear in mind
that a) we'd ask you to judge it on the merits, not on the emotions, b) remember that the re-stabilization of the ME
is a critical factor in your own future and c) if we don't get stuff like this what're our alternatives?

None good that we're aware of. How 'bout you?

Either we manage to encourage and support governments who put the best interests of their countries ahead of
their own personal advantages or we face a major disruption. Take your choice.

ME Faultlines: Values, Culture & Conflict

May 2, 2008

Let's weave a couple or three things together. We've argued that the ME is potentially the most serious and
challenging foreign policy issue that will face the next President, over and above Iraq. Largely for two fundamental
reasons - one without ME oil the world economy collapses. And two without a stable set of ME regimes they're
likely to collapse - if nothing else from internal socio-economic and demographic pressures. That's one braid.
The other is values - last post we took a deep dive on values, or at least from the perspective of the evolution of
religion over the last several millenia and the common challenges we've faced collectively and individually
wrestling with inescapable challenges. Where those two braids come together is in culture - which too many
dismiss too lightly though we've all been getting some rough lessons in the last several years. Primarily in the ME.

"Customs tell a person who they are, where they belong, what they must do. Better
illogical customs than none; men cannot live together without them. From an
anthropologist’s view, "justice" is a search for workable customs."
Dr. Margaret Mader, Citizen of the Galaxy

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If you think that's all gobble-de-gook consider last
week's news that Syria was working with North
Korea to build a nuclear reactor who's only
purpose was breeding materials for nuclear
bombs. Which explains the mystery of the Israeli
attack last Fall that everyone was puzzling over.
Prior to the announcement StratFor, the private
int'l intelligence provider put out a very scary little
report about growing escalating war pressures
thruout the ME. Stop and think about that for
minute. Who knows exactly what was going on,
I'm suspect there was a lot of underwear-
changing going on in certain buildings and
agencies. And there should have been !
Fortunately some folks are beginning to re-
discover the importance of culture.

Probably one of the most critical applications is
understanding tribal culture in the ME. Before we
dive into that though let's refer you to some
interesting work on modeling culture - which
comes from the work of Prof. Richard Lewis and put a little more formally than Dr. Mader puts it:
• Cultural behavior is the end product of collected wisdom, filtered and passed down through
hundreds of generations as shared core beliefs, values, assumptions, notions, and persistent
action patterns.
• Culture is a collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from
One of the best short on-line explanations of culture is on the site of the firm he started to work with businesses
for understanding culture and you'll find some more links below. But before going on we strongly urge you to
spend a very few minutes looking at this short demo. We found it eye-opening - not just for pointing out that most
of people's reactions are based on subconscious responses programmed into them and representing inheritances
from thousands of years. But also for making very clear the vast differences in the deepest attitudes between the
major politco-economic cultures, e.g. the US, Europe, China, much different are those attitudes
than those of tribal societies where the old biblical, "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth" are not only business as
usual but make sense in context.

Below you'll find readings and excerpts, in addition to the introduction to WWIV in the ME, on specific countries
including Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and Israel. All of whom are serious candidates for cultural analysis and many
of whom need to be understood with an awareness of tribal culture, its' violence and conflict and the role it plays
in these societies. But the real recommendation is to the several readings on tribalism, culture, values and
conflict, particularly Jared Diamond's long Edge essay on tribal vengeance in New Guinea. Even more important
is the long review of Salzman's new book on Culture and Conflict in the ME which points out we've been thinking
that much of the violence is religious when in fact it is tribal and an artifact of thousands of years of behavioral
patterns that we've been completely ignoring up until now. If you'd like to understand one of the major drivers in
the ME these two are particularly worth reading.

But we'll give Dr. Mader the last word here:

"Human customs that help people live together are almost never planned. But they are
useful or they don't survive".

In other words cultural values make sense in their context because they help a society survive and prosper; they
are fundamentally essential to social cohesion. Without them society devolves and dissolves. IF you want to work
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with a particular society you have to understand their value systems, the forces that brought them into existence
and how they make their decisions. You may not agree but you MUST work with them, or not deal with them at
all. As we're learning around the world, every day, in every way.

Israel, the ME and Good vs Bad Government
May 21, 2008

And herein let the lessons continue...this
time by looking at Israel and the rest of the
ME. At least some key hot spots, which are
truly getting hot. Let's start by taking a look
at the chart to the right which shows the
available data on Israel and some select
Arab/ME countries since approx. 1960. The
circle size indicates population while the
horizontal axis shows income/person vs. life
expectancy on the vertical.

As you can see there have been some
notable improvements in the latter thruout
the region...a tribute to the wider availability
of more modern healthcare. And among the
Arab countries there have even been some
relatively significant improvements in
income. Nonetheless Israel has enormously
outdistanced them all. That's not just a
tribute to Israel per se, as it crosses the 60th anniversary of its' founding, but a tribute to what an educated, hard-
working populace can do when provided with decent, if not great government.

On the other hand you have things like the retrograde motion of Saudi Arabia as oil revenues dropped in the '90s.
Didn't know that ? Well prior to the recent burst of oil price increases the Saudi's and other oil rich nations were
beginning to face severe problems with rapidly growing populations, growing disaffection among the unemployed
and unemployable young (who are an increasing portion) and rapidly growing risks of severe instability leading to
implosion. With all the attendant dangers that leads to. Yet at the same time one has to give credit where credit is
due. The Arab countries have made great strides from where they started. The question is can they find it within
themselves to bridge the next big chasm in development ?

That gap is largely built on the same cultural barriers that led to prior surges in oil revenues not resulting in the
development of native infrastructure, changes in attitudes and a severe lack of organic capabilities. Now this new
surge of oil revenues offers a bridge over which they, and we, may be able to walk. If the lid isn't blown off in the
meantime. Judging from other news, e.g. continuing CNBC coverage, there are a lot of bright, competent and
knowledgeable rulers in some of the key countries who get it. Again it's the runway vs. the airspeed problem - can
they get going fast enough with the plane they've got before running out of room. For all these reasons we
reiterate our earlier argument - the ME will be the riskiest and most severe foreign policy problem facing the next
administration. For decades we've largely taken the ME for granted and done whatever was necessary to keep
the oil flowing (the Spice MUST flow!).

Well we're at a cusp point where the Spice won't flow if better government doesn't beginning to take hold on a
widespread basis. And judging from some of the readings below on Lebanon, Hizbollah and Pakistan the old
troubles are metastasizing yet again. In fact today's news about a new "truce" in Lebanon that effectively give the
Hizzies control without saying so could be the beginnings of really serious trouble. With which our dear friends in
Iran are being anything but helpful. Oddly in a way given their own escalating problems. But as a deeply divided
oligarchic kleptocracy facing wide divisions inside the country there remains an uncontrollable part of the power
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structure which sees their own salvation in continuing to export turbulence. With all this in mind you might pay
particular attention to the last reading on a very non-PC assessment of tribalism and Arab cultural barriers to
change (ME Faultlines(Readings): Values, Culture & Conflict).

Welcome to the real world. By the way try looking up the Battle of Megiddo in Wikipedia. You may be surprised to
learn that another ancient name for that critical juncture on the early ME trade routes was Armageddon. Hint,

The Iran Dilemma: They Like Us, Not; We Like Them, Not...usw.

June 10, 2008

Iran may be the fulcrul point of ME stability over the next decade, much as Iraq was in the last. I had a fascinating
range of exchange last week prompted by this column by an Iranian ex-pat reporter: "On a recent afternoon, while
riding a rickety bus down Teheran's main thoroughfare, I overheard two women discussing the grim state of
Iranian politics. One of them had reached a rather desperate conclusion. "Let the Americans come," she said
loudly. "Let them sort things out for us." The full article is excerpted more after the break along with a couple of
others - including a superb David Brooks editorial that says what I've been trying to say much better, more
pointedly and more clearly. Of course it's his job and gets paid a bit for it :). Anyway a friend of mine who's spent
time in Iran had this to say in response:

"I had a woman beg me to take her back with me. Those people know their
government is screwed up and feel almost like they are being held
hostage. But it’s not our place to liberate them even though we have a
deep history with Iran going all the way back to 54. It’s their job to
save themselves this time no more Olie North or contra crap. But if you
went to Iran and saw those people the thought of killing them and ruing
their lives would totally escape your brain no matter what the hyped up
false threat is. The only way to give them a democracy is to broker a
deal between the reformers (mostly youth) and the regime to allow total
government restructuring to take place without any American agenda
(which will be impossible) because those are the allies we want in that
region those are the people you lean on in that region because we can’t
trust the Saudis or anyone else in that region. We are setting
ourselves up for failure if we ruin that relationship and I hope the
republicans understand that. I hope an accomplished scholar says the
same thing soon so people can start viewing Iran as the potential great
American resource it can be. We didn't have to attack Iraq to have a
powerful base in that region all we had to do was help the people of
Iran. I kid you not Tehran is like Manhattan."

Not sure I agree entirely with all his arguments but all of them make sense. And he raises an interesting and
constructive potential - what could happen in Iran, in the ME and for the world in general if we could get Iran
constructively engaged in its' own welfare. Rather than having a minority continue to export terror and develop
nuclear weapons to support their own grip on power. Here's what I had to say in reply:

All that you say makes enormous sense and is consistent with my own views and understandings.
In fact my first basic principle of US foreign policy is to constructively engage with the world to
promote as good a government as possible locally because it is in our own long-term best

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There is a great divide, as in many times in history, between the people, what's best for the
people and good governance and the power structure. In Iran that power structure is fractious,
factioned, malfeasant, kleptocratic and pursuing multiple foreign policy initiatives that make it a
threat to the peace and stability of the world. In the last week the UN agency responsible has
issued a very harsh report on Iran's pursuit of nucs, which is something we cannot allow. And the
Iranian extremists in pursuit of their domestic advantages, not I believe, as a concerted national
policy, have been exporting terrorism via Hamas, Hezbollah and the Shiite militias in Iraq for
years. At the end of the day there is no logical reason or advantage to doing that which means
something escapes me. I think their reasons are the use of the rhetoric of the Islamist revolution
to keep and maintain power. Whether consciously or not. They're certainly not serving the
interests of their country or people.

And there you have our great dilemma with regard to Iran in a nutshell. Our best strategic
alternative is to contain them while trying to slowly wean the government and the polity into a
more progressive stance. Hopefully encouraging them on the path toward a self-sustaining
virtuous cycle of improvement. But power-seeking factions inside the government are pursuing
policies that are truly disruptive and dangerous and may require more massive intervention to
prevent from reaching a dangerous point - or crossing a threshold into nuclear weapons.
It will take a clever, insightful, courageous and practically skilled foreign policy to bridge
this deep dilemma. We have people who have proven capable of such, including some in
the government today (Zoellick, Hill, Whether we can raise it to the level of policy
is another question. But as you say if some scholar will start the ball rolling then it might
slowly accumulate. And this article was a first of many small steps - being as it came
from the editorial pages of the Christian Science Monitor that's not a bad starting pulpit.
And there you have it, IOHO, in a nutshell. If we could find a way to contain and constrain Iran while
constructively engaging with them and supporting the emergence of more progressive elements we'd all be better
off. Especially them with their collapsing economy and increasingly frayed society. Yet in our own and others
interests we may be reluctantly forced to measures that are acceptable only because they are less terrible than
the consequences of a theocratic kleptocracy with nuclear weapons, a collapsing society and a posture of
exporting terror in the name of an extremist religious belief that most of them no longer truly believe in. Sound like
anybody else you know? Like Russia post Stalin?

A final and key observation - if this is really serious then it's time for the kind of narrow, self-serving posturing we
discussed in yesterday's post to be put aside in the national interest. If it's not serious by all means carry the
posturing into office, whomever wins, and let the games begin. As Brooks points out once you're in the seat Mr.
President the campaign rhetoric must deal with realities on the ground. And we will talk to Iran however we can.
And we won't be soft or forgiving either because we've, despite the public image, done a lot of talking over the

But make no mistake - this is not an easy, simple nor straight-forward problem. No matter what you're told or
would like to believe.
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Gaza and the ME: Flames for the Fuses
February 6, 2009

Well we've been focused on the elections, the transition and
policy issues for quite a while now - and we'll come back to
them since those crisii will be with us for the foreseeable
future. But while we've been wrapped up with our own
problems (stocking up on food, ammo and water are we ?) the
rest of the world hasn't gone away. In fact having listened to
many of the Davos sessions anything but. The economies of
the rest of the world are headed South farther and faster than
the US's, their institutions are more fragile and the risks of
backlash and increased dissent leading to socio-political
disruption are some of the more serious risks we all face. And
the consequences in this more closely-coupled world are
immense (State of the World: Crisis Metastasis, Strains and
Fault Line). All we need is one more good crisis that breaks
the camel's backs. Oh, wait, we have a bunch. Not least of which is Gaze and the whole ME.

A friend of mine used to talk about foreign problems and compare them to driving a large (old-style anyway)
American car when you hit a deer: it happened far away and you never noticed. This time we'll notice. The
cartoons capture the variety of responses which are beefed up in the readings. From Hamas intransigent
dedication to violence at any price to the MAD aspects to the fundamental geo-political dilemma that faces Israel
to the complexities. NO where of course has anybody expressed any sympathy for Israel. Just for the record 1)
the IDF performed very well and took risks to minimize civilian casualties, 2) btw Hezbollah didn't act up because
even at a C-level the IDF put a serious hurt on them in '06, 3) of the guestimated 1300 Palestinian casualties ~
600-800 were Hamas and 4) Israel was entirely compliant with the Laws of War. In fact according to the Geneva
conventions they were free to level Gaza, which
they didn't do, in pursuit of Hamas.
Complexities and Consequences
Unfortunately while their incursion was a tactical
and operational success it may not have been a
strategic, policy or political one given the
impacts on world opinion (though btw the Arab
street and governments were an enormous
amount less harsh this time and put a lot of the
onus on Hamas). Nonetheless Israel, which
does public diplomacy as badly as anyone, did
create a problem for itself. Here's one terrible
strategic tradeoff that wasn't on the table
because of their own anger, righteous and
justified as it was: the attacks appeared

What about accepting the truly ugly tradeoffs between domestic casualties (which are serious, especially if it's
personal) and the very bad impact on their stature in the world? We could discuss that for a long time but even
more unfortunately that would require a clear path toward some sort of sustainable resolution, which isn't making
an appearance. Why?
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Well consider the complexities, "simply" illustrated in the accompany graphic. We've all seen the headlines, if
we're at all interested, but it wasn't until (at least for us) we realized what a convoluted rat maze this was, how
inter-related everything is and how difficult because there is no single magic thread to unravel. Nor any Gordian
knot to sever. What we've tried to do is show some of the links, each of which breaks down into several sub-
components, and something of the relative influence of the various players. Each of them deserves to be
addressed separately and in a sustained, serious and committed (=resources) way. We'll come back to that.

At the same time it's not just the pieces - it's all the pieces taken all together as a moving system. Which means
there needs to be a framework that ties each of the pieces into a coherent and cohesive whole. One small piece
of good news is that one of the fallouts from Iraq is that we're now deeply involved in the ME. If you think back to
prior US efforts they've never risen to the level of sustained national policy, which they need to this time and for a
long time. One of the other things that jumped out at us was the influence of Iran. Back in the old days of the Cold
War we've now discovered that Russian meddling was a major source of support that kept the "old" troubles
boiling over. Now Iran has taken over that role. Something we need to figure out to degrade if not stop altogether.
And We Care Because
This is all just the exact opposite of altruism
though. It is in our vital and fundamental
national interest for a lot of reasons. Many of
which are encapsulated in the accompanying
chart. Take a look at this chart very carefully
because in one "simple" picture it tells us
many of the converging geo-political issues.
The circles are sized by how much oil
everyone's got (proven reserves) and the
graph shows consumption vs. production.
Notice that the US has been conserving but
reserves aren't increasing. On the other hand
Russia's been pumping but reserves aren't
increasing - largely because they've
emasculated themselves with regard to
investment in energy development and are
mining their existing fields to exhaustion. The
big kahunas are Saudia Arabia and some of
the other Gulf States, along with Kazahkstan. BtW if you wonder why Central Asia is the center point of the world
and Russia's trying to cause troubles their you go. Let's put this real pointedly - without ME oil the world economy
collapses. (Oil Industry II(Analysis): LT Supply-Demand, Outlook and Disruptions, New (Old ?) Frontiers in the Oil Markets:
the Return of Geo-Politics)
The Other Shoe: the Coming Demographic
The other set of problems is that the populations
of the Arab countries and Iran [ Rhetoric and Reality:
The View from Iran] are skewed badly toward the
young, populations are increasing extremely
rapidly, the economies are in terrible shape (it's
not unlikely that Iran's is on the verge of collapse,
never mind demographics) and the level of unrest
is either rising or likely to. [ ME Faultlines(Readings):
Values, Culture & Conflict] This is all compounded by
the fact that many of the governments are NOT
effective and ARE unjust - which indicts their
legitimacies and threatens their stabilities. [ Peace,
Page 13 of 35
Stability and Prosperity: the Nature of Good Government] Put that another way - this problem isn't going away, it's getting
worse rapidly and in the foreseeable future (say 10-15 years ?) the risks of a major breakdown without economic
progress and better governance are very high. And as the earlier graphic shows the major world players from the
US to Europe to China, India and Russia are linked to all this. We either solve this or it will solve us...and
alternative energy sources, which'll take two to three decades to develop, won't come online fast enough to offset
these huge fault lines. Much of this is represented in the graphic which shows various key players (population is
the circle size) graphed by income/per person vs life expectancy. There's been serious progress on the latter,
which worsens the demographics, and some but no where near enough on economic development.
What the Future May Hold: Negotiation vs Worst Alternatives
There were several sessions at Davos on the ME and Gaza
which were interesting, informative and perhaps productive...if
a little pollyannish. The one you heard about in the headlines
was the session where the President of Turkey stormed out.
What the headlines didn't tell you is that it was at the very end
of the sessions, after he'd had his say and after Peres had
had his and he asked for extra time to make more comments.
In which he was a) repeating himself, b) insulting and c) very

As he and the other speakers were. In fact this whole thing is
well worth listening to understand how much the lizard-brains
are dominating this whole discussion, to the exclusion of
almost everything else. The first three "statements" (=
speeches) were nothing but attacks on Israel with no searching for alternatives. Benjanmin Zander (Crisis,
Leadership, Leaders and Values) in his great presentation on "The Possible" had, in passing, asked what would
happen if Jews and Arabs focused more on what was possible instead of hating each other. Just think about it -
with Israeli technical and economic skills, that excess and growing population and oil money that whole region
could be turned into one of the most prosperous in the world. Quickly and straight-forwardly judging by Israel's
historical experiences.

Even Shimon Peres spent more time attacking the other speakers, though with more hard information and
"righteously" than their attacks. What would have been truly statesmanlike on his part was to accept as best as
possible the assaults and insults and ask then what ? How do you proposed to move forward ? What are you
going to do to cut off weapons supplies to Hamas and others ? Who's going to maintain security ? Who's going to
help do the necessary nation-building ? Certainly Europe for all it's piousities has chosen to give lip instead of
service to the goals it claims to support, despite the fact that it's even more dependent on ME oil than anybody.
It's time for people to get serious.

Over the years the Harvard Negotiation Project has worked out certain "Principles of Negotiation" (PON) based
on decades of hard....hard experience and helped manage some of the most perilous and difficult negotiations in
the world, from the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan to food relief in Somalia. If you listen to the video clip
and compare the actions and positions of the speakers to the PONs for establishing an effective negotiation you'll
likely agree that they were all violated, and by most of the participants.

In fact comparing the vidclip the checklist what you hear/see is what should be described as infantile and puerile
behavior driven by emotion and not INTERESTS ! Now it's entirely possible that this was posturing for the home
street audience and behind the scenes more adult conversations were occurring, but is it likely ? What appears to
be needed is ADULT SUPERVISION and PARTICIPATION...something that's lacking, is in our vital interests and
we haven't attempted to provide on a sustained basis. A state of affairs we can no longer afford!!!

Accordingly here's my strawman proposal...a stab at the "Possible":

Page 14 of 35
COIN + Nation Building + Marshall Plan = Strawman (or Scarecrow ?)
1. Put the Lid Back On - put a real international
security force into Gaza to provide border
security, prevent weapons but allow the
importation of food and supplies. Extend it to
allow Palestinians to go back to the jobs they've
lost in the last decade in Israel.
2. Tamp Down the Violence - insist that Hamas
stop all attacks and enforce that decisions, using
international resources AND accepting
responsibility instead of substituting pious
mouthings. Ask Israel to accept the tradeoffs for
holding off attacks, even when their "objective"
position justifies retaliations. Make sure that the Public Diplomacy of all parties tells the truth
and publicize it.
3. Defuse the Immediate Touch Points - beyond those start restoring services and governance,
encourage economic development, make sure security gets implemented (any time this sounds
like an adaptation of Kilcullen's framework from Iraq stop me [ Iraq Resartus (Readings): Stability, Progress
and Will]).
4. Hold, Stabilize and Sustain - keep on doing this for years, because it'll be necessary. Ask for
funding from more than the's in the interests of Europe and the oil-rich countries to kick
in as well.
5. Maintain and Sustain - encourage foreign investment, start joint ventures, invest in roads,
power lines and other infrastructure, put in at least minimal healthcare and education.
6. Keep On - doing the above and be prepared to sustain it for at least a decade.
7. Cut Off Iran - however you can.
No magic answers but a damn lot of hard work. But cheap at the prices we're otherwise facing. And now
or never is getting sooner than not. All we've done in the past is #1 - put the lid back on and #2 - tamp
down the violence. When it falls off to acceptable levels everybody walks away. Time to pony up, OR
be served at the French restaurant that offers horsemeat...if it's still open and has power.
Page 15 of 35

The Next Decade's Crisis: ME, Bubbling Cauldrons & Fracture
March 18, 2009

Let's continue our foreign affairs survey with a look at the overall situation
in the ME. In fact we're going to split it in two, or counting the earlier post
on the Gaza situation, three. As this week's news from Pakistan, which we
rollup in the ME, tells us the fragility and risk factors are high even though
Iraq has made enormous progress. The general ME, and Iraq in particular
are not new topics and we've poked at them enough that they have their
own separate archives in fact. We're going to make a flat prediction - just
as 911 and Iraq were the foreign policy challenge of this decade ME
stability and progress will be the critical challenge for the next

We've managed to sashay on by and treat the region with minimal
involvement, benign neglect and looking the other way for decades. None
of which can continue, as we've discussed multiple time, for two primary
reasons. First, the escalating demographic explosion is more and more
likely to create a socionomic implosion. And second, ME oils supplies are
the sine qua non of the world economy and will be for at least the next
three to four decades. (Gaza and the ME: Flames for the Fuses) Period,
end-of-story. We can either continue to roll the dice and hope the Laws of
Averages let us keep sliding by, or we can figure out how to get more constructively engaged. There is no
muddle thru middle road left to anybody, even though that's probably not visible to the man in the street yet.
By the time it is it'll be to late. Fortunately the ME is drawing increased attention from US policy-makers and our
involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan commits us there for this next decade. (Oil and Other System
Shocks: Beyond Iraq & Georgia)
Complicated Context
On the other hand you can hardly blame
anybody for not wanting to get involved
deeply and permanently in the region.
Ugly and messy doesn't begin to cover it.
Worse yet each country and sub-area is
it's own enormously complicated problem
and they all inter-act. Back when we first
started poking at Iraq here it quickly
became clear that the Iraq problem
wasn't confined within it's borders. The
graphic is one we first came up with in
2007 to try and frame the problem and
get some handle on how all the pieces fit

The reason for building such a picture of
the inter-woven relationships is that it tells
you what you have to deal with tactically,
strategically and on a policy level. By
under-taking the most startling self-
Page 16 of 35
transformation in military history while under fire the US Military not only put the lid back on a situation looking to
spin out of control it's actually laid the foundations for future progress.

Which is NOT being Pollyannish IOHO....there's still a long way to go but the prerequisite was establishing
security and local control. That transformation led to tackling most of the internal problems, many of the external
ones and really left only Iran hanging out there as a continuously disruptive factor. Strangely enough though the
Iraqis themselves reduced Iranian influence by mounting Operation Knight's Charge to suppress and control the
Iranian sponsored Shi'ite militias in Basra and Baghdad. An operation which cut down Iranian influence (The Iran
Dilemma: They Like Us, Not; We Like Them, Not...usw.), removed a major domestic source of instability,
proved the level of progress made in re-vitalizing Iraqi security forces, established the credibility of the central
government and received almost no attention the US. But we wouldn't be where we are without it !
Context Part II: the Perennial Sore
Since the technique of relationship
charting worked well enough we re-
applied it to the Gaza situation in the
context of the broader ME. Iraq and the
related instabilities (Afghan., Pakistan)
are quasi-recent events but the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict has been a running
sore for decades, even by some
countings a century or more. Again, IF
we can find the lever, the fulcrums and
the weights we can probably deal with
each of the separate situations
illustrated here (consider this graphic
the zoom-in expansion of the I/P/L
triangle in ME context from the previous
map) but it'll be more challenging. And
much more important now.

As we put this chart together it again became clear that reducing, moderating or controlling Iran's influence in the
region was vital however. In fact each of the "small" stand-alone problems is even more intricately connected to
the larger picture so that any long-term solutions must start locally and evolve regionally. For example one by one
the major Arab powers have struck their own separate deals with Israel after loosing a conflict but always without
addressing the Palestinian dilemmas. And often using the conflict as a "bloody shirt" to distract their local
populations from bad governance and failing socionomic systems that aren't keeping up with growing populations
and declining well-being.

Hmmm...have we just suggested that encouraging the evolution of good governance, more inclusive
regimes and investing in socionomic development are essential to prevent a blow up. We believe so. One
final observation about Realpolitik vs Ground-truth. Much as we might dislike the situation and the players Hamas
and Hizzbollah have established their rights to a seat at the table; unless somebody is prepared to eliminate them
entirely thru force. And who can and would bell those cats?
Page 17 of 35
Readings Guide
The readings cover four topics: history
of the region (in a limited way),
attempts at reform, the realities on the
ground and the policy and political
realities. A friend has organized a
current affairs reading club and is
trying to stretch their interest to include
deeper books instead of current lite-
weight best-sellers and had a
challenging time.

A major source of pushback is lack of
background in what drives the
symptoms being treated as conceptual
candy in those. Put another way we've
always found that analysts don't do
history while historians don't do
analysis yet one can NOT understand
a current situation without understanding the historical roots, currents and constraints. The problem is culture
persists and persists and drives history AND current events. Some roots of Arab culture go back thousands of
years while Islamic extremism is rooted in the failed reforms of the Wahabist movements of the 17thC and the
institutional responses of the Ottomon Empire ! (ME Faultlines(Readings): Values, Culture & Conflict)

The history section starts with two C-Span Booknotes interviews from a Jewish scholar of current affairs who's
also an experienced soldier. The insights and new information he provides are just stunning IOHO. For example
for those of us who could never figure out why Russia supported Israel's independence....guess what ? It split the
the British Empire at it's most vulnerable point. The second interview is with the religious scholar Karen Armstrong
who, in a very broad-ranging interview, provides a superb introduction to the roots of Islam. Which was, at it's
founding, one of the world's more progressive and liberal religions which tried to suppress much of the violence
and abuses endemic to the existing tribal cultures. What Islam is at it's core and best is something we'd all like to
see restored, or perhaps reformed. And let's judge fairly by comparing similar historical stages - the bloodiest
civilization in human history over a sustained period of time was Western Europe and a major source of that
violence was religious wars under-taken in the name of God and Reform. Those arguments rippled right down to
three modern world wars. And as recent news shows Arabs and Muslims are well aware of their challenges.
Arabs Are People Too: Good and Bad
Let me put that another way - Arabs are people too with
all our faults and defects, they have a unique culture with
strengths and weakeness but they are in fact trying. And
truth to tell have actually made enormous progress
judged fairly. If you doubt that just look at the Gapminder
chart on life expectency vs per capita income; they
haven't done as well as Israel but they had and have a
bigger problem, not so many advantages and growing
challenges. And if you doubt that they are human or that
they are trying give a listen to Queen Rania of Jorden's
YouTube broadcast. At the end of the day history matters,
cultures persist and govern behavior for centuries and
changing them is the hardest thing in the world. Be glad
these folks are giving it a darn good shot.
Page 18 of 35

Better yet let's figure out how to support them and help them - in our own enlightened self-interest if for no
other reasons !!!

Witches Brew Recipes: ME Details (Iraq to Iran)
March 21, 2009

The last foreign affairs post was a broad
overview of the ME situation, the
challenges and the context (The Next
Decade's Crisis: ME, Bubbling Cauldrons
& Fracture Lines) and built on an earlier
one focused on the Gaza situation (Gaza
and the ME: Flames for the Fuses").

Here we'd like to take a deeper dive on
specific countries, including Iraq,
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel and Iran.
Interestingly enough two of the four are
wrestling with important national elections
(Israel, Iran) - one wrapping up but not
resolved and the other underway while
another (Iraq) finished one that testified to
how much progress has been in re-building
a badly damaged society.

In our last post, and yet again, we ended up arguing that the most important strategic factor to support in
the ME was the evolution of good governance.(SoW IV(the Ugly): Israel, the ME and Good vs Bad
Government) Let's start by reinforcing that point and then consider the consequences. The graphic
shows the different histories and timepaths of four major European powers and the consequences of
their different strategies. Spain opted for rigid central authority and had taxes that favored certain
interest groups that were easy to collect from. They have yet to recover to this day. France followed a
similar but more flexible path yet in the last two centuries has had a very turbulent history as
governments came and went.

Tiny little Holland fought the Spanish to a standstill over almost a century of continuous warfare with a
market-based economy and representative government while England learned from it's own multi-
decade war with Holland and it's own experiences and created modern capital markets and was the
progenitor of the Industrial Revolution. The case for flexible, inclusive and adaptive government with
security, the rule of law and forward-looking policy seems pretty clear and has shaped history. The
question then becomes what's feasible in the ME in what timeframe?
Page 19 of 35
Current Situation
The boys at Brookings just updated their regular status report on
Iraq and included Afghanistan this time. Lo and behold Iraq has
made enormous strides at improving governance, as we've been
noting for some time now. (Iraq Resartus (Readings): Stability,
Progress and Will) The keys of which were the restoration of
security after the sectarian breakdowns, the inclusion of the
various factions, the slow re-development of the Iraqi security
forces and the gradual development of more civic-minded
government that was strong enough to supress the Iranian-
sponsored Shiite militias. The end result was a safe, secure and
inclusive national election.

Yet not too long ago nobody thought any of that could happen and
wanted to withdraw as precipitously as could be unreasonably
managed (the Iraq Study Group recommendations come to mind).
Now we're embarked on the same journey in Afghanistan but this
time instead of either waiting for difficulties or understanding how
these things work out over time the pundits are already calling it a
lost cause. As you go thru the readings on each of the other
countries this'll be something to keep in mind. Each is unique and
local adaptations are required. But each would benefit from good government and subsequent economic
development. Furthermore the evidence indiates that it's more than possible.

Cultures, Policy and Programs

In the Iraq status review linked
above we dove into the structure
and strategy of COIN operations
and cultural awareness as well as
discussing it in an earlier survey
of ME culture and history and
their bearing on current challenges
(ME Faultlines(Readings):
Values, Culture & Conflict. Not to
make it too much of an eye test,
nonetheless consider this graphic.

The reason we've left it as
cluttered as it is to make the point
that this isn't easy and must
include a bunch of factors. Which
all link and inter-act with one
another. (Putting the Pieces
Page 20 of 35
Together: Framing, Crisis & Linkages".)

The argument here is that all these complications must be accounted for. The second argument though is
that they can be and by doing so productive and workable policies can be evolved. Now the other
countries in the readings lists are sovereign nations so we don't have to "option" to take kinetically-based
policies, as the military puts it. But we can learn to focus on and understand local cultures, history,
politics, values and institutions and the socionomic context of each ! And craft our policies accordingly.

COIN + Nation Building + Marshall Plan = Strawman (or Scarecrow ?)
Let's re-visit a checklist we trial ballooned for the Gaza situation that outlines a set of policy steps that span the
immediate, short-term and long-term.
1. Put the Lid Back On - put a real international security force into Gaza to provide border
security, prevent weapons but allow the importation of food and supplies. Extend it to allow
Palestinians to go back to the jobs they've lost in the last decade in Israel.
2. Tamp Down the Violence - insist that Hamas stop all attacks and enforce that decisions, using
international resources AND accepting responsibility instead of substituting pious mouthings.
Ask Israel to accept the tradeoffs for holding off attacks, even when their "objective" position
justifies retaliations. Make sure that the Public Diplomacy of all parties tells the truth and
publicize it.
3. Defuse the Immediate Touch Points - beyond those start restoring services and governance,
encourage economic development, make sure security gets implemented (any time this sounds
like an adaptation of Kilcullen's framework from Iraq stop me [ Iraq Resartus (Readings): Stability,
Progress and Will]).
4. Hold, Stabilize and Sustain - keep on doing this for years, because it'll be necessary. Ask for
funding from more than the's in the interests of Europe and the oil-rich countries to kick
in as well.
5. Maintain and Sustain - encourage foreign investment, start joint ventures, invest in roads,
power lines and other infrastructure, put in at least minimal healthcare and education.
6. Keep On - doing the above and be prepared to sustain it for at least a decade.
7. Cut Off Iran - however you can.
Policy-crafting Principles
Steps 1-3 are essentially what we've been doing in our not-so-benign neglect of the ME and it's country
components for decades. The next steps are what we were forced by both a mis-reading of the situation,
having the wrong capabilities and a profound lack of having the right "checklist" in hand to do the hard
way in Iraq. And are now starting in Afghanistan, or re-starting more fairly.
If we would like a stable and prosperous ME we will need to develop, implement and INVEST in
similar multi-step, multi-year (even multi-decade) and multi-factor policies with and for each country.

Entirely accidentally we're timing this post with video messages from the Presidents of Israel and the US
directly to the people of Iran (linked in the readings) in which they wish them the best for the new year
Page 21 of 35
(Nawruz) and telling them that we are willing to reach out a hand and welcome them to the international
community. Needless to say the Iranian leadership is very cautious in their responses. As Bob Gates puts
it he's been on a search for the elusive Iranian moderate for twenty years. But nonetheless they have
several points. If you keep skimming the readings you'll see some excerpts on how we might talk to the

The tone of the one by a native reminds me of similar statements from the Russians: chock full of
wounded pride, insecurity and doubt and looking for some evidence of respect. In other words a really
critical factor here might be the lack of self-confidence of the leadership and peoples. Perhaps, at least to
some extent. At the same time another factor will be that the leadership is running a theocratic
kleptocracy who's power and positions depends on maintaining a hostile stance. We promised this was
hard and complicated. As we try and craft new, sustainable and workable policies we need to understand
the other players on their own terms...NOT ON OURS!

As the accompanying graphic, built from the
negotiation principles of the Harvard Project on
Negotiation illustrate. And this isn't all about
mis-representations either. We're the ones who
overthrew a nascent Iranian democracy in the
'50s, supported a repressive regime under the
Shah in the '70s, forced him out and setup up
the theoracy, then turned around and supported
Iraq in a war of aggression that led to a million
casualties, and finally have been in low-level
conflict with the current regime ever since (can
you spell Iran-Contra ?). If the Iranians are
distrustful they might have a few reasons.

We'll leave you with a final thought, drawn
from Benjamin Zander's Davos talk on possibility: what would the world look like if we could in fact
establish a constructive relationship with each of these players ? Much better, we think, than it will look
like if we continue to just keep putting the lid back on the pressure-cooker.

ME Update: Exemplar, Laboratory and Conundrums
April 12, 2009

If we learned anything from 911 a critical insight is that we can no
longer safely ignore what goes on in the rest of the world - our
oceanic barrier walls are that no longer. Which means, geo-political
and economic issues and threats aside - it's important to us on a
personal level. A derivative lesson is that we can no longer treat the
rest of the world with semi-benign neglect but must be willing to be
involved, all tradeoffs considered, appropriately in each area of
concern. But as we've learned in Iraq appropriate is based on local
conditions, details and idiosyncrasies. That, taken all together,
Page 22 of 35
makes the current multiple series of crisis of in the ME important and a laboratory for US foreign policy in general.
Here we want to provide another update of the status of each country involved and suggest that we need to treat
them 1) for their own sakes, 2) as part of a great ME whole (a systematic, systemic and holistic approach is called
for) and 3) take what we've learned and are learning there as lessons for elsewhere. Suitably adapted and
customized of course.
The Multi-Factor ME
One of those key learnings, which we've
discussed before (The Next Decade's Crisis:
ME, Bubbling Cauldrons & Fracture Lines) so
we'll just briefly review, is that it's one damm
thing after the other. Put differently each country
and sub-region must be evaluated on it's own
terms but also with regard to it's linkages to
other countries and players. Here's out previous
attempt at mapping out some of these
complexities with some, certainly not all, of the
linkages involved being shown. Now experts in
the area have usually always had this sort of
perspective, at least in their heads if not
explicitly mapped out.
But the really good news is that the current
administration seems to be shaping a holistic policy of balancing a focus on local problems with integration into
the broader context. For example we now have senior level special envoys of the highest caliber dedicated to the
Israeli/Palestinian and Afghanistan/Pakistan problem. And they clearly understand that things are linked. They
also clearly understand that US policy must be built on a deep local understanding of the cultural, political and
institutional characteristics of the different players. Something that is new to the US at this level and with this sort
of focus. Judging by recent Presidential speeches this inclusive and balanced approach where tactics and
strategy are balanced and attempt to integrate local with broader concerns is now central to our approach to
foreign policy. That's the really good news - we're making as concerted a good effort as we've ever made. The
bad news is that the challenges may still exceed the capabilities and resources - in which case there's not much
of an available fallback except to bend over and kiss it goodbye.
The Devil's Details: a Checklist for the ME
In another previous post (Witches Brew Recipes:
ME Details (Iraq to Iran) {Updates}) we suggested
a series of steps that the US should undertake in
dealing with the Israeli/Palestinian dilemmas and
alluded to the possibility that it was a more
general checklist of actions and strategies for
shaping a constructive foreign policy. Historically
we and others have simply attempted to contain
the dysfunctions of the various ME countries
within their own boundaries, interpreted local
events within our own context (seeing everything
for forty years for example strictly within the
framework of the Cold War; which led us to
abandon Afghanistan, encourage Pakistan's ISI
to support the Taliban and alienated most of the
Arab countries by ignoring their concerns and
interfered in legitimate Iranian local politics strictly
in our own interests).

Page 23 of 35
We'll see if we've moved on at all but the penalty for not trying is pretty severe. We've made no pretense of
populating the checklist for each of the local situations, instead leaving that to the experts for now. BUT...we will
suggest that the historical assessment would be that we've simply focused on the first few steps and now we
MUST evolve policies that lead to effectiveness on all of them.

In the readings below you'll find current selected news on each of the key countries:

1. In Iraq where we've learned that force must be coupled with civil development which has resulted in enormous
strides. Iraq became an independent country 87 years after it's founding. The same timeframe in US history was
the day after Gettysburg. Judged by appropriate standards a lot of progress has been made in a very short time
with a long road ahead. A road that there are increased indications that the Iraqis are willing and able to walk.

2. The Administration has announced a bold "new" strategy for Afghanistan that builds on these lessons and has
garnered widespread applause from knowledgeable pundits of widespread political persuasions. This will be,
again, a long, hard road in very different and more difficult circumstances that nonetheless holds great promise.

3. The key to Afghanistan lies in Pakistan, which is a sovereign country in which "kinetic intervention" is not an
option. Yet the lessons still apply suitably morphed. Our primary national interest is in preventing an unstable and
fragile country that is nuclear-armed from breaking down into chaos. Whatever it takes.

4. If we segue over to the Mediterranean coast we now have very clear evidence that the Syrian site bombed last
year was in fact a nuclear weapons development center with heavy North Korean and Iranian involvement. Can
you imagine the world with Hezbollah having access to nuclear weapons ? The lessons for being locally informed,
constructively involved and controlling adversarial interference from outside powers seem pretty clear; and ones
that pass all possible cost/benefit tests.

5. The Israeli/Palestinian conundrum continues to be just that yet it's one of the great running sores in the ME that
we cannot NOT afford to be constructively engaged in. (Gaza and the ME: Flames for the Fuses) Unfortunately
local attitudes appear to have both hardened up and deteriorated. A great irony is that both Israelis and
Palestinian populations would prefer peaceful solutions yet don't know that about each other. A critical key will be
to move on from past hatreds, not forgetting or even forgiving but at least tolerating in mutual self-interest.

6. So far the spoiler in the ME appears to continue to be Iran which in the name of it's own Revolution continues
to support violence and develop WMD at the expense of the health of it's own society and economy. President
Obama is beginning to reach out so we'll have to see. What people are missing in their commentaries is that this
is a brilliant strategy AND tactical maneuver - if the Iranians fail to respond constructively and sincerely they will
simply isolate themselves more and strengthen the case for more restrictive sanctions and concerted worldwide
efforts to contain. And cooperation would be in their self-interest. The real dilemma is it in the interest of the
power-holders who control the fruits of the country for their own benefit? Aye, there's the rub.

7. During his visit to Turkey the President not only reached out to the Turks in ways that were extremely well
received but also to the rest of the Muslim world. As the example of Indonesia shows not all Muslims are
dedicated to religious extremes. They are choosing instead to pursue an increased religiosity balanced with more
open and secular governments. The lesson and hope would be that similar stances could be evoked and evolved
from other players. Possible? Yes. Likely? Perhaps. Easy? NO. Quick ? Definitely NOT. Alternatives ? None
good. Either disciplined, constructive and patient engagement or worldwide economic disruption that will make the
current crisis look like a walk in the park. We have little to loose in spite of the armchair quarterbacking.
Page 24 of 35
The Confluence of Self-interest: Lessons Learned?
Looking back at the lessons of 911, the Cold War or farther
some other key lessons come to mind.

1. It is in the clear self-interest of the US to promote stable,
progressive regimes thruout the ME.

2. We must be constructively engaged.

3. It is in the interests of each of the individual countries as

4. The primary opponents of moving forward seem to be self-
serving power holders in various countries who put their
immediate advantage over the long-term welfare of their

5. Those populations have been so inculcated with emotional
shibboleths that it will take time and effort to de-tox them. And
ask of them some hard, hard, hard choices to give up their
hatreds which are counter-productive but immediately
emotionally satisfying for possible long-term benefits.
Surrendering immediate emotional gratification for long-term
abstract benefits is not something humans do well. Just ask
yourself how your last diet or anti-smoking efforts went.

6. A critical challenge to all the parties is to give up the "bloody shirt" of revenge for a civil society. Or more
importantly we must figure out how to engage and sell the long-term benefits to the street...not just he power-
911 Lessons: Pointing Fingers vs Potential Futures
And before we point to many fingers at supposed local
irrationalities let's ask how well public spirited policy has
faired in this country as opposed to partisan posturing and
the pursuit of self-interest. (Back in the US: Economic
Realities vs Partisan Posturings) Flawed, narrow and
destructive self-interest as opposed to the enlightened
variety ? The basic tradefoffs are between creating and
supporting a virtuous vs a vicious cycle of self-destruction
vs one of mutual gain, between a zero-sum and a non-zero
sum set of public policies.
We've added three stories related to Iran that sketch the complications and convolutions of dealing with that
theocratic kleptocracy in the context of the ME maelstrom. Egypt's arrest of Hizbollah operatives, apparently
plotting an attack against Syrian tourists, the suppression of press freedom thru intimidation of foreign journalists
and a sudden peace overture by Pres. Ahmadinejad. Taken all together it's hard to reach a summary conclusion
but we take it as continued evidence of the multiple influences straining that country as power protection by the
clerics bumps against the realities of needing to rejoin the world. Will they or won't they? On that MUCH hinges.

Page 25 of 35
October 2, 2009

Middle East Challenges: Game-changes, ME, Iran, Iraq &

We've been meaning to get back to foreign policy
for a while now but this last week's news gives it a
certain sense of urgency, though HC Reform
continues to be a (if not THE) major domestic
agenda item. Specifically the recent news out of
Afghanistan and Iran is going to cause us to shift
gears and focus on the ME in general and the hot
spots in particular. As to why we should care, since
it seems to be off the table yet again, let's reiterate
something we've said before: a stable and
progressive ME is the most urgent, and perhaps
the most important, foreign policy problem we have
for the next decade.

Aside from the obvious that we don't want any
more 911s the chart, without a lot of further
explanation, pretty well sums it up. Without a
stable ME that becomes a reliable energy supplier
in the face of mounting demographic and
socionomic challenges the world economy would
be in danger. When you add in the number of
major flashpoints, particularly a nuclear armed Pakistan that's fragile and unstable, benign neglect is no longer
Let's Start With Iran
We've talked about Iran before and
suggested that a policy of constructive
engagement combined with containment is
our best bet. Unfortunately that's not when
the typical voter or talking head wants. They
want something dramatic, quick, effective,
that suits our prejudices and they can then
forget about. The problems with that are
manifold - it won't work, there aren't simple,
short, quick or cheap answers. On top of
which each of these countries and regions
are their own things.

All the alternatives among the chattering
classes are, sadly, being frame that way and will cause more trouble than they'd fix. Take the case of Iran - the
alternatives as presented are either get more stringent sanctions or mount a military attack. That was preceded of
course by what appear to be fraudulent elections and protests and continued civil opposition. Of course the
talking heads immediately wanted the President to come out decisively in support of the opposition, speak
forcefully for democracy and de-legitimize the regime.
Page 26 of 35
There are several problems with that. On the one hand sanctions won't work - they are too porous, won't have the
support of key world powers (particularly Russia and China). China is especially and legitimately sensitive, btw.
They just celebrated the 60th anniversary of their Revolution (remember about eighty years after ours we were
fighting the Civil War) and started with a historical play that traced their history from the Boxer Rebellion to now.
The Chinese have very fresh memories of foreign powers interfering in their domestic affairs and aren't about to
support any such thing. On top of which they need Iranian energy resources to keep the wheels on their wagon.

The other side of that coin is that a military strike is not likely to work either - their sites and resources are too
dispersed, too well protected and they could cause too much trouble. Since neither extreme approach is workable
we're left with something hard, long and challenging. Figure out how to work with what we've got - which means
establishing working relations, sustaining them over a long period of time while keeping the pressure for good
behavior on, evolving some measure of trust by finding those things we can work on (Iranian support for the Shia
in Iraq, terrorists in Afghanistan to start and maybe working up to Hizbollah and Hamas in Palestine). Step by step
is our only feasible alternative. Our biggest problem though is ourselves - we've got to stop seeing these countries
strictly on the basis of what they can do for us by sacrificing their own interests and beginning to work with them
on the basis of what mutual advantages can be established. The only discussion we've seen that attempts to take
such a balanced view is a recent Kennedy
School forum on Iran: War or Peace.

But we're actually in a good position and it's not
an accident for several reasons. First off, the
Iranian economy is coming apart about the
seams, largely because the skills of its people
and its vast resources are being squandered by
a corrupt, ineffective theocratic kleptocracy
that's turning itself into a police state. The recent
protests and continued opposition would have
led one to suspect that but the careful approach
the US has been taking, culminating the Cairo
speech, goes a long way toward changing the
climate of discussion.

Top that off with a major change in our
European missile defense that makes it easier
for Russia to work with us while at the same
time mounting a better defense against Iranian
weapons and voila'. The final straw is that for
the Iranians to get nuclear weapons they have
to process the uranium, design and build a
bomb, create a reliable weapon and then get
delivery systems. We have about ten years to arrest them on that path which is likely to be enough time to pursue
a containment policy.
Page 27 of 35

Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan
We're going to look back at an old diagnostic
for Iraq to make several key points. First off
this dates from Dec07 but the first version
was published in Apr07, long before the
Surge got rolling or it was even clear what the
new doctrine and strategies would be. In the
intervening time we'd have to change all the
rankings considerably, as we all probably
know by now.

In fact the last row, which is the one we'd
really like to be talking about (long-term
strategic development issues) is the critical one. As of right now it's not going well there but all things are relative -
in other words it's probably a straight C across the board. The real point is the implied framework. If our strategic
goal in each of these three places is to promote stability, durability and effectiveness then we have to talk about
security, governance, socionomic development and long-term direction setting in each of the component parts.
The current set of alternatives being debated with regard to Afghanistan are either withdraw, go all in on a full-
bore counter-insurgency or minimize commitments and use kinetic forces for a counter-terror operation. The last
is unworkable and would simply boil the cauldron. Withdrawl would be even worse and would shortly see
Afghanistan de-stabilize followed not too long afterward by Pakistan.

Which means we're really debating the only workable alternative we have left, counter-insurgency. With all due
respect to Gen. McChrystal however it's not entirely clear that his is the best alternative - though what you read in
the headlines and what he actually said and means are two different things. We highly recommend you watch his
recent interview on Sixty Minutes to get a blunt, straight-ahead and honest assessment. In that interview he's very
candid about several key and important things that didn't get enough attention: the US military is still wedded to a
force on force approach because that's its cultural DNA. Command and control coordination among all the parties,
i.e. the other NATO forces, is abysmal and discombobulated. The recent elections were not satisfactory and indict
the legitimacy of the Karzai government. That said, all things are indeed relative, and the improvements in
governance are not too bad. However, the real key is economic and socio-political development.

Which means what we really need in Afghanistan is something like the Iraq framework broken down to the
provincial and locality levels, staffing economic development with the right kind of skills and resources - which we
definitely haven't done by any stretch of the imagination, putting an integrate operating plan in place and
executing it and making up our minds whether we want to consider romantically pursuing some Jeffersonian ideal
or do something practical. If the latter then we need to add two key strategies to our portfolio. One is to work with
the local authorities to build what governance we can that is appropriate to the locale AND to create a modern
clone of the old Macedonian local efforts by dividing out the "Taliban" we can work with and reconcile from the
die-hard irreconcilables.

Again this is a situation where we need to re-think our strategies, devise new ones, adequately resource them
(which we haven't done) and take our time and do it right. The thing everybody is forgetting is that we're where
we're at because the Administration intended to get here. Everybody expected the March decision to be magic
answers but what Gen. McChrystal was tasked with was taking a prototype strategy over and evaluating it against
conditions on the ground. The President is doing exactly what one would hope a good and capable leader would
do - listening to all the parties, working thru to a committed resolution and then proceeding to establish and
sustain a total operating plan. Which will then have to be sold to the American people, our allies and the regional
Page 28 of 35
Pakistan, the ME and Beyond
Pakistan is incredibly central to these
efforts but has its own challenges; in
fact it almost came apart about the
seems earlier this year. While it's a
more stable and centralized state in this
case that's not actually saying much.
We need to apply the same framework
that we've been discussing with regard
to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan to
Pakistan. And add the other major
component - we have to negotiate from
understanding their positions and
interests. Which we haven't been doing.

Pakistan can be incredibly helpful to us,
not just critically important, if we respect
their interests and find a way to work
with them. But if they are convinced we
aren't long for that part of the world
and/or will make the situation worse
they'll pursue the rational course for
their own self-interest of lukewarm lip service while hedging their bets.

We are either committed to the ME or we are not; and if we are not then Katie bar the door because all hexx will
break loose. In each and very instance we need to have an integrated framework that's adapted to the local
circumstances and then supported. A quik sketch of such a framework is illustrated - to be populated as a take-
home test with the stakes we've already highlighted!

Are we up to it? One wonders. On the other hand we're as well positioned as we've been in decades and it's not
by accident. Meanwhile if you'd like to see all our previous writings that go into more detail on the background for
the ME as a whole and use Iraq as exemplar and test case may we recommend the following (we've loaded the
complete essay/posting collections on Scribd).
• Iraq: Looking Back to Look Forward Iraq: Looking Back to Look Forward Iraq: Looking Back to Look Forward Iraq: Looking Back to Look Forward ( ( ( ( -- -
Lessons Lessons Lessons Lessons- -- -Looking Looking Looking Looking- -- -Back Back Back Back- -- -to to to to- -- -Look Look Look Look- -- -Forward Forward Forward Forward ) )) )
• Midd|e East So|utions: Issues, Re|ationships Midd|e East So|utions: Issues, Re|ationships Midd|e East So|utions: Issues, Re|ationships Midd|e East So|utions: Issues, Re|ationships, Frameworks and Approaches , Frameworks and Approaches , Frameworks and Approaches , Frameworks and Approaches
( (( (|e|e|e|e- -- -East East East East- -- -So|utions So|utions So|utions So|utions- -- -Issues Issues Issues Issues- -- -Re|ationships Re|ationships Re|ationships Re|ationships- -- -
Frameworks Frameworks Frameworks Frameworks- -- -and and and and- -- -Approaches Approaches Approaches Approaches ) )) )
Both of which are built around and from the following framework:
Good Government for a Stab|e Wor|d Good Government for a Stab|e Wor|d Good Government for a Stab|e Wor|d Good Government for a Stab|e Wor|d ( (( ( -- -
Government Government Government Government- -- -for for for for- -- -a aa a- -- -Stab|e Stab|e Stab|e Stab|e- -- -Wor|d Wor|d Wor|d Wor|d ) )) )
Page 29 of 35
October 11, 2009
Boots On The Ground: Realities, Strategies, Policy & Politics

With the Afghan debate heating up to a talk show pitch, as
well as the seriousness of the real issues, we're going to
take a more focused dive, building on the last post's
broader overview of key ME touchpoints. There's both
good news and bad news but on balance we'd judge it
good. The bad news is that most of the talking head
discussions aren't looking at the real issues (surprise), are
mis-representing and mis-emphasizing the key ones while
sensationalizing the debates and not helping much.

The good news is twofold. Several of the discussions are
more balanced, informed and useful than anything we've
heard in months. And the really good news is that the
Administration is going back to a zero level reset and
asking really tough questions, being inclusive of the
different opinions and involving them all in the process and
working, carefully, thru the right sequence of questions. PBS Special:

We'll refer you to a videoclip from Meet the Press where Bob Woodward is discussing how different this is (NB: in
all its history we never did this for Vietnam nor did we do it in '03 on our way into Iraq). But just to flavor things
we'll also refer you to an earlier post on adventures in Afghanistan during "Charlie Wilson's War". We wish we had
the right clip but go watch that movie - the most heartbreaking moment is toward the end when Congress decides
to walk away, with results we know.
Some Ground Truths: What McChrystal Really Said
The press and blogosphere has postured McChrystal's initial assessment as a "must have more troops"
statement and mis-represented what he actually said.

The gist of it is that:

a) we've been under-resourcing the war from the beginning and fighting a penny-wise counter-terrorism campaign
on the cheap. Then

b) the operationally we've been very ineffective because we've been fighting with a force-heavy doctrine focused
on killing the enemy and not protecting the population, the recommended strategy of some of the debate
participants (NOTE: in other words the failed strategy of the last eight years is being re-urged....gee wonder if
that'll work?). Next we need to

c) change our doctrine, beef up the Afghan security forces, work with the Afghan government to improve
governance and the rule-of-law and make sure we staff that adequately. Finally,

d) we need to fix the poor coordination among the forces and resources of the NATO alliance and make sure that
everybody's marching to the same drummer.

The readings after the break start with a heart-rending WaPo series on the battle of Wanat and the Waygal Valley
where eight Americans lost their lives, for excatly these reasons. But let's let Gen. McChrystal speak for himself
(downloadable PDF is here while the WaPo's text version of his report is here).
Page 30 of 35
As formidable as the threat may be, we make the problem harder. ISAF is a conventional force
that is poorly configured for COIN, inexperienced in local languages and culture, and struggling
with challenges inherent to coalition warfare. These intrinsic disadvantages are exacerbated by
our current operational culture and how we operate. Pre-occupied with protection of our own
forces, we have operated in a manner that distances us -- physically and psychologically -- from
the people we seek to protect. In addition, we run the risk of strategic defeat by pursuing tactical
wins that cause civilian casualties or unnecessary collateral damage. The insurgents cannot
defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves. Accomplishing the mission demands a renewed
emphasis on the basics through a dramatic change in how we operate, with specific focus in two
principle areas: Change the operational culture to connect with the people. I believe we must
interact more closely with the population and focus on operations that bring stability, while
shielding them from insurgent violence, corruption, and coercion. Improve unity of effort and
command. We must significantly modify organizational structures to achieve better unity of
effort. We will continue to realign relationships to improve coordination within ISAF and the
international community.

This assessment prescribes two fundamental changes. First, ISAF must improve execution
and the understanding of the basics of COIN -- those essential elements common to any
counterinsurgency strategy. Second, ISAF requires a new strategy to counter a growing
threat. Both of these reforms are required to reverse the negative trends in Afghanistan and
achieve success. ISAF is not adequately executing the basics of counterinsurgency warfare. In
particular, there are two fundamental elements where ISAF must improve: change the
operational culture of ISAF to focus on protecting the Afghan people, understanding their
environment, and building relationships with them, and; transform ISAF processes to be more
operationally efficient and effective. creating more coherent unity of command within ISAF, and
fostering stronger unity of effort across the international community. Simultaneous to improving
on these basic principles, ISAF must also adopt a profoundly new strategy with four
fundamental pillars: develop a significantly more effective and larger ANSF with radically
expanded coalition force partnering at every echelon; prioritize responsive and accountable
governance -- that the Afghan people find acceptable -- to be on par with, and integral to,
delivering security; gain the initiative and reverse the insurgency's momentum as the first
imperative in a series of temporal stages, and; prioritize available resources to those critical
areas where the population is most threatened.

Page 31 of 35
The Big Picture and the Decision-making Process
Now let's, breifly, try and frame that in the decision-making process and refer you to
the second set of readings on the wider strategic context, particularly the issues
related to Pakistan. Rather than the un-considered approach to Nam or IraqII the
process that should be followed is decide on the Policy, develop a Strategy, align
Doctrine with strategy, plan Operations against detailed objectives that are built from
the strategy, make sure that the appropriate amount and kind of resources are
available to Execute the operations, manage the Politics (inside Afghanistan, in the US
and among key stakeholders, e.g. Pakistan, Russia, China, Iran, and establish a
process for managing the key Players in those various arenas. This would appear,
according to Woodward, to be the process being followed.

1. Policy - defines the outcomes that we require to protect our national interest. In this
case we want a situation where Afghanistan doe not become a safe-haven for
extremists and where a wider de-stabilization of the ME, especially a nuclear armed
Pakistan. Sadly this means that a technowar ala Rumsfield will not be effective and we
must figure out how to support the emergence of a stable government.

2. Strategy - are those major goals, objectives, initiatives and methods that are the
major components of translating policy into programs. The spectrum ranges from walk
away to tech-based counter-terror to counter-insurgency to nation-building to
occupation. The latter is unsupportable the first two are demonstratably unworkable,
as we've proven over the last thirty years, which leaves us with some form of COIN+.
Our initial strawman is that we need to pursue a combination of COIN plus nation-
building lite. Strategically it is almost as important to define and pursue a parallel
strategy with regards to Pakistan (where we're making more progress in the last few
months than at any time in the last eight years).

3. Operations are the activities that are implemented to Execute the Strategy and
must include Security, Development (infrastructure), Economic Development,
Governance (rule-of-law, de-corruption, etc.) and encouraging the evolution of an
Afghan Civitas, based on Afghan culture, institutions and attitudes. For each of many provinces and
regions/localities we need to decide on the appropriate Troop manning levels, the levels of other resources, e.g.
agricultural specialists or governance advisers, economic investment resources and civil affairs resources.

4. Planning and Control - it's not possible to establish quantitative metrics to manage the execution of something
this complex and fuzzy but we can establish programmatic and judgmental goals, track the resources and status
and use informed judgment to evaluate the status against those goals.

5. Politics and Players - at the end of the day we must recognize the key stakeholders, their roles and interests
and accommodate them. One strand of that effort has to be to communicate, clearly and convincingly to the
American people why we are involved and what the importance is to them. Another is to work with the
government of Pakistan to get their whole-hearted commitment to cutting off Taliban support, which in turn means
convincing them that we are both serious & committed as well as being willing to work collaboratively with them.
Finally there are other stakeholders involved here, e.g. China has a serious interest.

Page 32 of 35
At the end of the day we'd make four recommendations:

1. Pursue COIN+.
2. The strategic goal is NOT necessarily a democratic government but a
reasonable effective and honest one that is stable and evolving.
3. A corollary strategic goal is getting the involvement of the Afghani's
themselves, including negotiating with those portions of the Taliban who
are detachable from hardcore extremism.
4. Put the right kinds of resources in place for supporting governance and
economic development. None of those are in place, we're having enormous
difficulty in finding them and without them a COIN+ strategy fails.

The alternative is withdrawal, however gracefully or not, and being prepared to face up to the consequences. The
graphic is based on three recent Rose interviews with Lara Logan, the Pakistani Ambassador and David Ignatious
- consider them appropriate background listening for our suggestions as well as assessments of whether we're
smoking good stuff or are on a bad trip! And consider two previous posts (Middle East Challenges: Game-
changes, ME, Iran, Iraq & Afghanistan,Having Fun, Doing Good, Making Sausage: Goodtime Charlie's War).
Finally, this is not the first time we've wrestled with some of these issues so at the end of the readings you'll find
the URL's for our collections of prior essays.

October 20, 2009
More of the Afghan Debates: Searching for Legitimacy

We were going to pass on from Afghanistan to other things but the news keeps on coming in, fast and furious. As
a somewhat mechanical alternative instead of "infinitely" adding to our list of updates from the prior post we're
moving all the update to this post (in the section after the break btw) and instead focusing on a couple of the key
new findings that highlight some of the key, real issues that are finally beginning to surface. Starting with this
excerpt from a Jim Hoagland piece in the WaPo that's one of the best assessments we've run across:

Obama's Afghan Squeeze Play Obama is orchestrating a drawn-out review that is actually a
policy instrument itself. That reality is (happily for Obama) obscured by the miasma of leaks,
counter-leaks and guesswork that has settled over official Washington. But three things are
absolutely clear: First, Hamid Karzai cannot be accepted as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan on
the basis of August's election. He should either accept an immediate runoff ballot or agree to
become Afghanistan's ceremonial president and appoint a national unity government to run the
country. Only then can the United States and its allies move forward to significantly expand
military and civilian aid to Kabul. Second, NATO's European members must greatly increase their
involvement (and spending) in civilian reconstruction projects and provide some more manpower.
Little noticed in Washington's overheated debate about troop numbers, a new U.S.-European
bargain on counterinsurgency is an essential feature of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's bestseller of a
secret report to the president.Third, the Obama administration must not slip back into letting
Pakistan present itself as an aggrieved party whose delicate national sensibilities are unjustly
offended by suggestions that its army and intelligence services might be ripping off U.S. aid and
covertly encouraging terrorism.They are doing just that. And they must continue to be told directly
that Washington is keeping score. Congress gently did that in passing a $7.5 billion, five-year aid
bill that requires assurances that the money will not be stolen -- provoking nationalist outcries in
Page 33 of 35
His colleague, Anne Applebaum, points out one of the other elephants in the room, to wit the lack of real support
from our supposed allies who have given lip service to their NATO obligations but failed to provide actual
resource, support or useful contributions on the whole.

What Afghan alliance? Only very rarely do the casualties of one country make it into the media,
the political debates or the prime ministerial speeches of another country. There has been an
international coalition operating in Afghanistan since 2001. NATO has been in charge of that
coalition since 2003. Yet to read the British press, one would think the British are there almost
alone, fighting a war in which they have no national interest. The same is true in France and in
the Netherlands. American media outlets hardly note the participation of other countries, even
though some -- Britain and Canada -- have endured casualties at a higher rate than that of the
U.S. military, relative to the size of their contingents. There is almost no sense anywhere that the
war in Afghanistan is an international operation, or that the stakes and goals are international, or
that the soldiers on the ground represent anything other than their own national flags and national
armed forces: Most of the war's European critics want to know why their boys are fighting "for the
Americans," not for NATO. Most of the American critics dismiss the European contribution as
useless or ignore it altogether. As Jackson Diehl pointed out Monday, the central debate about
future Afghanistan policy is taking place in Washington without any obvious contributions from
anybody else. I'm not going to blame the U.S. administration alone for this: It's not as if Europe
has put forward a different plan -- and there was certainly a moment, back at the beginning of this
administration, when that would have been very welcome.The fact is that the idea of "the West"
has been fading for a long time on both sides of the Atlantic, as countless "whither-the-Alliance"
seminars have been ritually observing for the past decade. But the consequences are now with
us: NATO, though fighting its first war since its foundation, inspires nobody. The members of
NATO feel no allegiance to the alliance, or to one another.

Both of these problems were discussed in the previous post, and in prior posts for that matter, and are central to
McChrystal's "Initial Assessment" report. The bottom line here is that if we're going to be effective, not we're
saying effective not necessarily successful, is that it's going to be more important to fight smarter rather than
harder. Because so far we've been fighting just plain 'ol dumb. The really good news about the Administration's
careful approach is that serious debates about ends, means and realities is happening for the first time and,
finally, deep, informed and accurate debate is beginning to happen. On those lines btw a few other little tidbits:
• U.S. Prods Karzai to Yield on Fraud Senior Obama administration officials, in the midst of
reviewing U.S. war strategy in Afghanistan, turned up the pressure on Afghan President Hamid
Karzai to accept an audit released Monday that disqualified enough votes to deprive him of an
electoral majority.
o Afghan Leader Said to Accept Runoff After Election Audit
• Goodbye Baghdad, Hello Kabul As the Obama administration debates whether to send more
troops to Afghanistan, a squadron of journalists has already arrived. Many of them are
transplants from America’s other overseas war, in Iraq.
• Emanuel: Gov't in Kabul Must Be Credible President Obama's chief advisor denied that the lack
of stability in Afghanistan's government, owing to the disputed election, would mean a delay in
the president's decision over whether to send more U.S. troops there. But White House Chief of
Staff Rahm Emanuel, appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation" today, agreed with an assessment
made by Sen. John Kerry that stability in Afghan is vital to the success of the United States'
mission there."It's not a matter of delay; the review will continue," Rahm Emanuel said on CBS'
"Face the Nation" today. "The review will continue the next week and the following week.
Watch the Video
Page 34 of 35
Whatever else happens, and no matter whether or not you agree with the final decision, two things to start
keeping in mind. It will not be ill-considered or ill-informed, in contrast to prior ones. And second, no matter what
that decision, there will be serious consequences and it will not be easy to deal with them.

A final critical point - if, as we anticipate, we add more troops, dramatically shift strategy, and put more
pressure on our allies and on the Kabul and Islamabad governments to hold up their ends of the bargains
there will still be a major doctrinal hole.

We haven't figured out how to build good governments and that is the sine qua non, that without
which there is no other, for long-run success. (Good Government for a Stable World) Yet strangely
enough something was managed, over time, with encouraging that emergence and evolution of
appropriate governments in Germany, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea!
Previous Update Emendations:
UPDATE: We've just added another excerpt from the NYT on the status of the civilian re-construction and re-
development efforts, particularly on civil institution building, that largely confirms our assessment of the situation:
Civilian Goals Largely Unmet in Afghanistan. A longer excerpt is in the readings.

UPDATE2: There was a slew of recent Charlie Rose discussions but the one of particular interest was with David
Kilcullen and Brian Glynn Williams, both boots on the grounds, experience experts. Kilcullen discusses the
operational challenges for troops, strategic changes and the pressing need for governance reform. Williams,
deeply informed on the Taliban and alQ, blows away the assertion that they are seperable or that, if successful,
they can be contained. Between the two of them ALL of the talking head punditry dies and you end up roughly in
line with our assessment. Which is probably why we highly recommend spending the 20min to watch. Given
technical changes you'll have to go to the site and select the proper epidsode from a sidebar howwever. Simply
click on the highlighted word. PLEASE do so and then give what we have to say here another thought or three.

UPDATE3: If you haven't yet go read Dexter Filkins' long profile of McChrystal and the challenges in Afghanistan
and Pakistan and watch this brief interview on the Rachel Maddox Show. While Dexter doesn't provide a lot of
analysis per se he paints an entirely accurate portrait IOHO that's consistent with our take. The interview is
fascinating because Rachel, while a die-hard liberal and pushing hard toward her position, is also a fairly honest
interviewer and Dexter's take about the complexities wasn't quite what she was looking for.

UPDATE4: Not surprisingly Afghanistan is still generating lots of news coverage, which fortunately is improving in
depth. One of the most interesting is this PBS interview with Bruce Riedel. We point toward it since what he says
is deeply informed, lines up somewhat withour observations, but most importantly, he's been a central player in
formulating administration policy. On the whole we take this as indicating that, whatever the decision, it will not be
uninformed or ideologically driven. Here's a brief description of his background by way of encouraging and

Terrorism Expert Riedel Weighs Obama's Options in Afghanistan When President Obama
unveiled his first strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan last March, Bruce Riedel was there. He
chaired the high-level review that recommended a broad counterinsurgency campaign in the
region against al-Qaida.Riedel spent a lifetime studying that terrorist group and its roots through
three decades at the CIA, with postings to top jobs at the Pentagon and the National Security
Council. Last year, he released a book, "The Search for Al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology and

One of the shibboleths he demolishes en passant is that Alexander and the Brits got badly beaten there. In fact
Alexander conquered the area and his successors ruled it for generations while the British established a fairly
long-lasting protectorate. In other words it's NOT different this time as a brief skim of these sources will show:
Page 35 of 35
• European influence in Afghanistan
( )
• History of Afghanistan ( )

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