It was back in October 2006 when I first started hearing knowledgeable western analysts suggest that cutting a deal with the Taliban might be the only way to stabilize Afghanistan. Naturally, such talk was not in favor in political circles in the US, but now it looks as if Hamid Karzai himself is thinking along those lines.
Last week, Daniel Drezner and I were wondering what ever happened to the PR rollout for bombing Iran. Don Van Natta reports for The New York Times on Freedom’s Watch, who’s Iraq-related ads have already made a stir: “the nonprofit group is set apart from most advocacy groups by the immense wealth of its core group of benefactors, its intention to far outspend its rivals and its ambition to pursue a wide-ranging agenda. Its next target: Iran policy.” Sounds fun.
This, incidentally, seems to be one of the main reasons why widespread predictions of Republican disaffection with the Iraq War haven’t come true. A bit contrary to what most people thought, a significant segment of the Republican donor class seems to be composed of big-time war enthusiasts. Many of the GOP members of congress who made some gestures toward distancing themselves from the war are now facing primary challenges, and with outfits like Freedom’s Watch springing up everyone knows money could be made available for more.
Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-MA) returns from a visit to the UN and cosigns a letter with several House colleagues:
In order to achieve a comprehensive international climate regime that includes all major emitting countries after 2012, there is an urgent need to make significant progress in negotiations at the Conference of Parties to the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) being held this December in Indonesia. You have invited representatives from the world’s leading emitting countries to Washington, DC on September 27th and 28th under the auspices of advancing these negotiations.
We are concerned that in announcing the Major Emitters Meeting, and then again in the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Sydney Declaration, you have focused on reaching long-term “aspirational” goals. Given the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which provide clear evidence of global warming impacts on all continents and most of the oceans, we need actual reductions in global warming pollution, not aspirational goals.
Indeed. Full text below the fold:
I should say that I agree with the spirit of Reihan Salam’s argument that the egregious problems we’ve had with private military contractors in Iraq should serve, as such, to discredit the PMC problem. That the PMCs working in Iraq operate in a legal black hole is, in my mind, a huge problem but also an eminently solvable one.
That said, I’m not actually seeing the specific compelling argument in favor of such widespread use of PMCs. The arguments Reihan adduces sound to me like good arguments in favor of a professional military staffed by volunteers which, of course, is what we have.
I do, however, sometimes feel like there may be a decent case for something like the UN hiring PMCs do conduct certain kinds of humanitarian options. It’s pretty obvious why a standing UN military force might be a useful thing to have (could deploy quickly into a crisis as soon as the Security Council authorized it, etc.) and also pretty clear why you’re not likely to see one created. One could, however, much more easily imagine the Security Council creating a standing budget that could be used to fly a crack team of PMCs in somewhere to guard a refugee camp or impose a no-fly zone. Other times, this seems like a terrible idea: does Africa really need more mercenaries?
This is just one hilarious slide in an endlessly hilarious Navy PowerPoint presentation about how to convince the kids these days to join the military. Read Noah Schachtman and Entropic Memes for more. According to their own data, the real issue here actually has nothing to do with MySpace or emoticons and everything to do with the fact that the war in Iraq has — correctly — made military service look less appealing to people than it once did.
It’s one thing to ask people to sacrifice and risk their lives for a worthy cause, but it becomes another thing entirely when the main mission facing the military is fruitless war that appears to be continuing mostly to salve the egos of politicians.
Yesterday, the U.S. military announced that it had recently killed Abu Usama al-Tunisi, billed as “one of the most senior leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq.”
ThinkProgress noted yesterday that there was evidence to suggest al-Tunisi may have been killed a year ago. An online posted published in May 2006 by al Qaeda supporters hailed the “martyrdom” of al-Tunisi. A translation of the martyrdom message was posted online by terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann in July 2006.
Is it possible that there are two separate Abu Usama al-Tunisis serving as commanders for Al-Qaida in Iraq? Perhaps… but the likelihood of this incredible coincidence rapidly plummets when one considers that both of these men have been identically described as the commander of Al-Qaida’s Aeisha Brigade and active in the area of al-Yusifiya.
If we put aside this theory, we are left with quite limited possibilities. It would seem that either Al-Qaida supporters were engaged in a deliberate misinformation campaign on their own password-protected chat forums, or else the U.S. military has potentially been the victim of questionable intelligence.
It should be further noted that Al-Qaida has prided itself in the past on providing accurate and timely information concerning the “martyrdom” of its military commanders. When former Al-Qaida commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in mid-2006, the same Al-Hesbah Network [the network that reported al-Tunisi's death] was one of the first sources to correctly confirm the news of his death on behalf of Al-Qaida.
Given all the reasons Kohlmann suggests for doubting the military’s claims, there should have been a responsibility on the part of journalists to double-check this story before reporting it. However, today’s mentions of al-Tunisi in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Associated Press fail to resolve — much less mention — this important discrepancy.
UPDATE: After doubts were raised about the recent death of al-Tunisi, counterterrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann wrote of confirmation that Tunisi did in fact die in a raid recently.