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FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, September 17, 2008


WHOSE POLICIES LED TO THE CREDIT CRISIS?

By Ed Morrissey

The credit crisis and the lack of oversight over government-subsidized lenders like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac occurred on the watch of George Bush, and many blame his economic team for their lack of oversight in the collapse.  Barack Obama has made this point one of his major campaign themes, arguing that John McCain would provide more of the same failures that Bush did.  However, what many do not recall is that Bush wanted to tighten oversight with a new regulatory board for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other government recipients for the express purpose of addressing bad loan practices — and Democrats blocked it.

The New York Times reported this five years ago:

The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.

Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry.

The new agency would have the authority, which now rests with Congress, to set one of the two capital-reserve requirements for the companies. It would exercise authority over any new lines of business. And it would determine whether the two are adequately managing the risks of their ballooning portfolios.

The plan is an acknowledgment by the administration that oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — which together have issued more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding debt — is broken. A report by outside investigators in July concluded that Freddie Mac manipulated its accounting to mislead investors, and critics have said Fannie Mae does not adequately hedge against rising interest rates.

This should have been a no-brainer, right?  With hindsight, we can see that the Bush administration had accurately diagnosed the problem in the lending market and had a plan to address it.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reluctantly supported the plan.  However, Democrats objected (emphases mine):

Among the groups denouncing the proposal today were the National Association of Home Builders and Congressional Democrats who fear that tighter regulation of the companies could sharply reduce their commitment to financing low-income and affordable housing.

”These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ”The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”

Representative Melvin L. Watt, Democrat of North Carolina, agreed.

”I don’t see much other than a shell game going on here, moving something from one agency to another and in the process weakening the bargaining power of poorer families and their ability to get affordable housing,” Mr. Watt said.

Sounds a little like the Democratic denial of problems in Social Security, doesn’t it?  Nothing to see here, no crisis on the horizonEverybody just move along, now.  The Democrats had forced lenders to assume more risk at lower interest rates in the 1990s, as IBD points out today, and they didn’t want to countenance an end to their populist policies:

But it was the Clinton administration, obsessed with multiculturalism, that dictated where mortgage lenders could lend, and originally helped create the market for the high-risk subprime loans now infecting like a retrovirus the balance sheets of many of Wall Street’s most revered institutions.

Tough new regulations forced lenders into high-risk areas where they had no choice but to lower lending standards to make the loans that sound business practices had previously guarded against making. It was either that or face stiff government penalties.

The untold story in this whole national crisis is that President Clinton put on steroids the Community Redevelopment Act, a well-intended Carter-era law designed to encourage minority homeownership. And in so doing, he helped create the market for the risky subprime loans that he and Democrats now decry as not only greedy but “predatory.”

Yes, the market was fueled by greed and overleveraging in the secondary market for subprimes, vis-a-vis mortgaged-backed securities traded on Wall Street. But the seed was planted in the ’90s by Clinton and his social engineers. They were the political catalyst behind this slow-motion financial train wreck.

And it was the Clinton administration that mismanaged the quasi-governmental agencies that over the decades have come to manage the real estate market in America.

It was the Bush administration that wanted to rein in the madness in the credit markets, and the Democrats who wanted to extend the Clinton policies that created the crisis we have now.  After the fit hit the shan, as Michelle says, these same Democrats want to shift blame back to the administration that wanted to increase oversight and curtail risk in lending practices while reducing patronage at the giant GSEs.

The Bush administration isn’t blameless in letting this get out of hand, but clearly the origins of the disaster and the efforts to keep bad policies in place fall on the Democrats in this case.

Update: John Lott points me to a March column he wrote at Fox News explaining the underlying causes of the debacle.  Forcing lenders to make questionable loans and blocking tougher regulation of the government-supported entities was a recipe for collapse, and Lott explained it six months before it happened.

ALASKAN LAWMAKERS TO FILE SUIT TO STOP LEGISLATIVE PROBE RUN AMUCK

By Ed Morrissey

Claiming that their colleagues have violated the law in turning the so-called Troopergate probe into a political witch hunt, five members of the Alaskan legislature will file a lawsuit demaning a permanent injunction against the investigation.  They make several claims, most of which involve the partisan nature of the leaders of the probe (emphases mine):

Five Alaska Legislators, Rep. Wes Keller, Rep. Mike Kelly, Rep. Bob Lynn, Sen. Fred Dyson, and Sen. Tom Wagoner, will file suit in state superior court in Anchorage tomorrow morning (9/16/08) at 9:00 am (Superior courthouse 4th Avenue) against Sen. French, Sen. Kim Elton, Stephen Branchflower and the Alaska Legislative Council in order to halt the investigation of Governor Sarah Palin and others because the investigators have lost the appearance of impartiality required under the Alaska Constitution. The Legislators will ask for declaratory and injunctive relief in the investigation, stating that it is an attempt to use the Alaska Legislative Council to further partisan politics.

The Legislators cite in their lawsuit that the investigation into the firing of former Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public safety Walt Monegan, led by Sens. Hollis French and Kim Elton, with Stephen Branchflower and the Alaska Legislative Council, is being driven by partisan politics in an attempt to unlawfully smear Gov. Palin and others.

“The Partisan actions of Sen. French, Sen. Elton and the Legislative Council have tainted the investigation beyond the appearance of impartiality required under the Alaska Constitution,” said Kevin Clarkson, Esq., of the firm Brena, Bell & Clarkson, P.C., and counsel in the suit.

The investigation, which began after Monegan’s dismissal in July 2008, is being led by outspoken supporters of Barack Obama and members of the Democratic Party. Sen. Elton, the Chair of the Legislative Council donated $2,000 to the Obama campaign but has failed to disclose this to the Legislative Council and he continues to preside over the Council with respect to the investigation, refusing to convene meetings of the Council at the request of a majority of the Council’s membership. Sen. French the investigation “project manager” failed to disclose to the Legislative Council the comments he made on a radio program criticizing the Governor’s conduct regarding the termination of Monegan as “criminal” prior to being appointed as the investigation “project manager” and even prior to a vote to investigate at all. Sen. French also failed to disclose to the Legislative Council that he had a personal bone to pick with the Governor over the Monegan firing because Monegan was a friend and because he had worked closely with Monegan during the 2008 legislative session regarding attempts to include in the state budget items that Governor Palin had vetoed.

Politically, that’s a substantial bill of particulars.  Legally, though, I’m not certain whether this will fly.  The Alaska state constitution does not mention “impartiality” in any context other than jury trials and in connection to a summary of issues surrounding statehood.  The most relevant part, Section 2.20, details impeachment proceedings but does not call for “impartiality” in any explicit or implied sense:

Section 2.20 - Impeachment.

All civil officers of the State are subject to impeachment by the legislature. Impeachment shall originate in the senate and must be approved by a two-thirds vote of its members. The motion for impeachment shall list fully the basis for the proceeding. Trial on impeachment shall be conducted by the house of representatives. A supreme court justice designated by the court shall preside at the trial. Concurrence of two-thirds of the members of the house is required for a judgment of impeachment. The judgment may not extend beyond removal from office, but shall not prevent proceedings in the courts on the same or related charges.

There could be legal precedent for this request, but it doesn’t appear to come from the state constitution itself.  When the lawsuit gets filed, perhaps a better explanation will emerge.

Politically, of course, this ran off the rails after French promised an “October surprise” and the support for Barack Obama became public, even before the investigation had been completed.  French also interfered with investigator subpoenas, which casts this in an even more political light.  The tenor and direction of this probe has become so blatant that Palin announced that she would no longer cooperate with it, and given these developments, it’s not hard to understand why.

More developments continue today.  A group of citizens have now also filed suit to block the probe.  The Speaker of the Alaskan House has demanded that Elton convene the Legislative Council to review the status of the probe in light of ” public comments from individuals at boths ends of the political spectrum.”

However, it would probably still be better politically to allow the probe to run its course.  Palin’s attorney wants the probe moved to the State Personnel Board rather than legislature, where they believe partisan politics will not interfere with the investigation.  That’s hardly a stonewall, and sounds like a reasonable compromise.  If French and Elton really want a fact-finding mission, they’ll agree to let go of the probe.  If they want a political witch hunt, they can keep acting in the manner they have for the past three weeks.  Tuesday, September 16, 2008

http://hotair.com


*

GIBSON

By Henry Payne


Political Cartoons by Henry Payne

www.townhall.com/funnies  


*

SALON SMEAR OF THE DAY

By Charles Johnson

It must not have been easy with Sarah Palin’s approval rating at 72% in Alaska, but Salon found two people willing to dish out negative gossip for their latest hit piece: Sarah Palin, Wasilla, book banning.

In what may be the source of those “Palin the book-burner” rumors, retired American Baptist Rev. Howard Bess says Palin wanted to ban his book. The book apparently argues that gays are the new Jesus.

Inevitably, his work brought him into conflict with Palin and other highly politicized Christian fundamentalists in the valley. “Things got very intense around here in the ‘90s — the culture war was very hot here,” Bess said. “The evangelicals were trying to take over the valley. They took over the school board, the community hospital board, even the local electric utility. And Sarah Palin was in the direct center of all these culture battles, along with the churches she belonged to.”

Bess’ first run-in with Palin’s religious forces came when he decided to write his book, “Pastor, I Am Gay.” The book was the result of a theological journey that began in the 1970s when Bess was asked for guidance by a closeted homosexual in his Santa Barbara congregation. After deep reflection on the subject, Bess came to the conclusion that “gay people were not sick, nor they were special sinners.”

In his book, Bess suggests that gays have a divine mission. “Look back at the life of our Lord Jesus. He was misunderstood, deserted, unjustly accused, and cruelly killed. Yet we all confess that it was the will of God, for by his wounds we are healed ... Could it be that the homosexual, obedient to the will of God, might be the church’s modern day healer-messiah?”

(If you really, really want to read the book, Amazon has it for $456.00.)

The other person willing to go on the record is a moonbat “progressive” musician known for a maudlin tribute to International Solidarity Movement heroine/terror supporter Rachel Corrie, that was canceled after a public outcry. Philip Munger is the first source I’ve seen who claims that Sarah Palin tried to get creationism into Alaskan schools. (The Associated Press said she had not.)

Another valley activist, Philip Munger, says that Palin also helped push the evangelical drive to take over the Mat-Su Borough school board. “She wanted to get people who believed in creationism on the board,” said Munger, a music composer and teacher. “I bumped into her once after my band played at a graduation ceremony at the Assembly of God. I said, ‘Sarah, how can you believe in creationism — your father’s a science teacher.’ And she said, ‘We don’t have to agree on everything.’

“I pushed her on the earth’s creation, whether it was really less than 7,000 years old and whether dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time. And she said yes, she’d seen images somewhere of dinosaur fossils with human footprints in them.”

Munger also asked Palin if she truly believed in the End of Days, the doomsday scenario when the Messiah will return. “She looked in my eyes and said, ‘Yes, I think I will see Jesus come back to earth in my lifetime.’”  Tuesday, September 16, 2008

http://littlegreenfootballs.com


*

BACK TO SUBSTANCE?

By Eric Allie


Political Cartoons by Eric Allie

www.townhall.com/funnies  


*

SOME DARE CALL IT INAPPROPRIATE

By John Hinderaker

Amir Taheri lays out Barack Obama's sorry record of double-dealing on Iraq:

WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.

This is shocking, although, coming from Obama, not surprising. It's not just that he has tried, in private, to achieve the exact opposite result from the one he has advocated in public. Worse, Obama has in effect tried to conduct his own foreign policy as a President-in-waiting, thereby undermining the actual foreign policy of the United States:

Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops - and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its "state of weakness and political confusion."

For Obama to engage in this kind of politically-motivated backstabbing of the United States government is deeply dishonorable. Moreover, as Taheri notes, Obama has a conflict of interest here: the United States wants our efforts in Iraq to succeed, but Obama wants--needs--for them to fail:

Obama has given Iraqis the impression that he doesn't want Iraq to appear anything like a success, let alone a victory, for America. The reason? He fears that the perception of US victory there might revive the Bush Doctrine of "pre-emptive" war - that is, removing a threat before it strikes at America.

Despite some usual equivocations on the subject, Obama rejects pre-emption as a legitimate form of self -defense. To be credible, his foreign-policy philosophy requires Iraq to be seen as a failure, a disaster, a quagmire, a pig with lipstick or any of the other apocalyptic adjectives used by the American defeat industry in the past five years.

So, if what Taheri says is right, Obama is carrying out his own foreign policy, in opposition not only to his own stated position on Iraq, but in opposition to the foreign policy of the United States, with a view toward bringing about failure, not success, in Iraq. Nice.

UPDATE: McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann commented on this story:

At this point, it is not yet clear what official American negotiations Senator Obama tried to undermine with Iraqi leaders, but the possibility of such actions is unprecedented. It should be concerning to all that he reportedly urged that the democratically-elected Iraqi government listen to him rather than the US administration in power. If news reports are accurate, this is an egregious act of political interference by a presidential candidate seeking political advantage overseas. Senator Obama needs to reveal what he said to Iraq's Foreign Minister during their closed door meeting. The charge that he sought to delay the withdrawal of Americans from Iraq raises serious questions about Senator Obama's judgment and it demands an explanation.

Yesterday, the Obama campaign weighed in:

Obama's national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said Taheri's article bore "as much resemblance to the truth as a McCain campaign commercial."

In fact, Obama had told the Iraqis that they should not rush through a "Strategic Framework Agreement" governing the future of US forces until after President George W. Bush leaves office, she said.

Which I guess must be different from what Taheri said. Somehow.

NOW IT'S NEW JERSEY

By Scott Johnson

Today's Quinnipiac poll has Barack Obama leading John McCain by only three points. That's down from ten points just last month.

The survey was done between September 10 and 14, so, like the New York poll that showed Obama with only a five-point lead, so it doesn't fully reflect the vicious attacks that have been launched by the media over recent days. It may turn out to be a high-water mark for McCain. Still, this can't be what Obama had in mind when he talked about running a 50-state race.  Tuesday, September 16, 2008

WHEN IN TROUBLE, CHEAT

John Hinderaker

The Democrats are sinking in the polls, but, as always, they have an ace in the hole: voter fraud. Their number one perpetrator of fraud, ACORN, is at it again, this time in Michigan:

Several municipal clerks across the state are reporting fraudulent and duplicate voter registration applications, most of them from a nationwide community activist group working to help low- and moderate-income families.

The majority of the problem applications are coming from the group ACORN, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which has a large voter registration program among its many social service programs. ACORN's Michigan branch, based in Detroit, has enrolled 200,000 voters statewide in recent months, mostly with the use of paid, part-time employees.

"There appears to be a sizeable number of duplicate and fraudulent applications," said Kelly Chesney, spokeswoman for the Michigan Secretary of State's Office. "And it appears to be widespread."

The U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment on whether it is investigating voter fraud perpetrated by ACORN. What do you think the chances are that voter fraud would be prosecuted by an Obama Justice Department?

Under the current Democratic Congress, the "community organizers" at ACORN are being lavishly funded by federal dollars. Your tax money, going to support voter fraud: not exactly what the Founders had in mind.  Monday, September 15, 2008

www.powerlineblog.com


*

The Pakistani military has been given orders to "open fire" on US troops crossing the border from Afghanistan to attack Taliban and al Qaeda safe havens, the military's spokesman said. The order comes one day after Pakistani troops reportedly fired on US helicopters as they attempted to cross the border in South Waziristan.

The order to target US troops crossing the border was communicated by Major General Athar Abbas, the chief spokesman for the Pakistani military.

"The orders are clear," Abbas told The Associated Press. "In case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire."

Abbas later backtracked on his statement in an interview with the BBC. "He stressed to the BBC that no specific orders had been given to open fire if US troops crossed the border from Afghanistan," the BBC reported. Pentagon spokesman Brian Whitman told AP that Pakistan would "correct the record" on the order to fire on US forces. No subsequent statements have been made by the Pakistani military.

The order to fire on US forces is the latest measure by Pakistan to protest recent attacks by the US inside its territory. Pakistan closed the vital Torkham border crossing into Afghanistan to NATO traffic on Sept. 6 to send a message to the US, Mukhtar said. The crossing was reopened the next day. The Pakistani Air Force is said to have begun to patrol the tribal areas over the weekend.

Today's statements come one day after a reported incident along the Pakistani border in South Waziristan. Pakistani troops reportedly fired on two US helicopters as they attempted to cross the border near Angoor Adda in South Waziristan. The Pakistani military made conflicting statements on the incident, with some officers claiming "local tribesmen" opened fired and others claiming the military participated.

The US military denied any incursion occurred. "I've checked into that and find it to be a spurious report," Whitman said in a press conference on Sept. 14. "Did not happen. I've checked all the places that would know about something like that and it doesn't appear to be accurate."

But Whitman's statements amounted to a personal denial of not being able to find out about the incident. "(I) cannot find any mission that correlates to the report I saw out of Pakistan," Whitman said, according to Reuters. "I can't find any (military) report of helicopters being fired upon."

US military and intelligence sources contacted by The Long War Journal refused to comment on yesterday's incident.

The US has stepped up attack in Pakistan's tribal areas this year after the Taliban and al Qaeda consolidated control in the tribal regions and settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. There have been recorded cross-border strikes since Aug. 31. There have been 16 recorded cross-border attacks in Pakistan in 2008, compared to 10 strikes during 2006 and 2007 combined.

Three senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in the attacks. The Haqqani Network, the powerful al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked group run by Jalaluddin and Siraj Haqqani, has been heavily targeted as well.  Tuesday, September 16, 2008

www.longwarjournal.org


*

HOPE

By Richard Fernandez


Not Saddam’s Air ForceIraq is looking to buy 36 F-16s, probably “C/D Block 50/52+ models requested or bought by recent customers like Chile, Greece, Morocco, Poland, Pakistan, Romania, Turkey et. al.” according to Defense Industry Daily.   It will mark the return of the Iraqi Air Force to the regional skies.

Neither the aircraft numbers nor the new Iraqi army are large enough to constitute a threat to other countries in the Gulf, but they are enough to worry to Iran in the near future. If things continue to go well, the situation in the Gulf will have changed from one in which Iraq had to be contained to one in which it will become a major element in the containment of Iran. Compare this prospective situation not only to that obtaining in the late 1990s, when the US had to maintain a “no fly zone” and maintain a carrier force in the Gulf, but to the situation that would have occurred if Barack Obama’s strategy not to attempt the Surge had been followed, and any fair-minded person would concede that it is an improvement.  Tuesday, September 16, 2008

http://pajamasmedia.com/richardfernandez


*

SAUDI CLERICS ISSUING DEATH FATWAS FOR TV PRODUCERS

By Charles Johnson

Saudi clerics are raging and seething about the Turkish soap operas (dubbed into Arabic) that are becoming very popular in the religious apartheid kingdom, and they’re calling for people to be killed.

“If they continue airing depravity and shamelessness they should be banished from this place and others brought in their place,” senior Saudi cleric Sheikh Saleh al-Fozan said in comments published Sunday, referring to TV executives.

He suggested purveyors of horoscopes and “sorcery” should face the death penalty, and head of the Islamic sharia courts Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan said last week channel owners should be tried and face possible death for “indecency and vulgarity.”

Arab TV producers aren’t laughing.

They’re not laughing because they know these aren’t idle threats. But there’s an interesting note of hope in this story:

One TV official who did not want to be named said religious conservatives could not push back the tide in Arab entertainment television, which already pays attention to social and religious mores. “You can’t put the consumer back in the box,” he said.

Statistics compiled for MBC indicate that one episode of Turkish soap “Noor” reached an audience of 85 million, half of whom were women, in early August. There are around 300 million Arabic-speakers throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Long live the idiot box!  Tuesday, September 16, 2008

http://littlegreenfootballs.com


*

PAKISTAN - IT'S NOT IRAQ

By Richard Fernandez


When faced with a particularly hard problem it is sometimes easier to imagine a solution and work your way backwards, traveling the goal back to the starting point. Imagine that that the US wanted to mount a “Surge” in the Afghanistan/Pakistan theater, who would the Surge be built around? If walking the cat back from that solution sounds too hard; let’s try something easier. Imagine that the US expanded the war in Afghanistan to include Pakistan — who would be there to greet US troops in the same way they were greeted upon entering Baghdad — who would our allies be? Maybe the problem begins with terminology itself. Christopher Hitchens notes that “The very name Pakistan inscribes the nature of the problem. It is not a real country or nation but an acronym devised in the 1930s by a Muslim propagandist for partition named Chaudhary Rahmat Ali. It stands for Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, and Indus-Sind. The stan suffix merely means ‘land.’”

So which geopolitical Pakistan does Hitchens refer to when he argues that a forceful intervention is now inevitable?  “Sen. Barack Obama has, if anything, been the more militant of the two presidential candidates in stressing the danger here and the need to act without too much sentiment about our so-called Islamabad ally. He began using this rhetoric when it was much simpler to counterpose the ‘good’ war in Afghanistan with the ‘bad’ one in Iraq. Never mind that now; he is committed in advance to a serious projection of American power into the heartland of our deadliest enemy. And that, I think, is another reason why so many people are reluctant to employ truthful descriptions for the emerging Afghan-Pakistan confrontation: American liberals can’t quite face the fact that if their man does win in November, and if he has meant a single serious word he’s ever said, it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at that—not less.” But if forceful intervention is now in the cards, then for what purpose, and against whom?

Tx Hammes in the Small Wars Journal puts the question succinctly: what strategic framework will guide any American intervention in Pakistan? Who will  be cheering the US going in? What groups can US forces build a “surge” around in a country which Hitchens describes as a list of place names unified by a suffix for “land”? Hammes described the dangers of going in without a clear goal:

In the last month, both presidential candidates have stated they wish to send more troops to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, neither candidate has stated what he sees as the United States’ strategic interests in Afghanistan. Even more dangerous, neither candidate has expressed a strategic framework for the region. … Even worse, to date, the candidates are discussing only Afghanistan without mentioning Pakistan or India. Yet both these Southwest Asian nations are much more critical to the United States future than Afghanistan. Neither candidate has questioned the wisdom of bombing, and likely destabilizing Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of almost 170 million people, in order to help our security efforts in Afghanistan. …

And then there’s the question of opium. If there’s any place on earth where the War on Terror intersects with the War on Drugs (with the possible exception of FARC in Latin America) it is Afghanistan. Opium is one of the largest sources of income of the Taliban. Douglas Farah at the Counterterrorism Blog writes: “Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has sounded the alarm on Afghanistan, correctly pointing out that the danger of losing there is real and the hour is late. … What is striking about the published reports of Mullen and Defense Secretary Gates is the absence of any discussion of one of the driving forces of the Taliban’s mounting success: its access to tens of millions of dollars in opium and poppy money. The UN conservatively estimates the Taliban makes between $50 million and $70 million a year from the drug trade. Talk about ignoring the elephant in the room! Here is the prototype of future terrorist and insurgent movements deriving its income from non-state sources, and combating that figures into the policy at best in a marginal way.” Ever since 1979, opium has been the treasury of Afghanistan’s periphery in its revolt against central government. “Drug traffickers have a symbiotic relationship with insurgents and terrorist groups such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Instability makes opium cultivation possible; opium buys protection and pays for weapons and foot soldiers, and these in turn create an environment in which drug lords, insurgents and terrorists can operate with impunity.” The only alternative to the opium trade is the economic development of Afghanistan.  That will take decades and depends in part on normalizing relationships with Iran, which provides the only other road, besides Pakistan, to the sea.

Part of the problem with crafting a strategy in Afghanistan is envisioning what the solution looks like. Too many variables are still in play to predict what the final configuration of the region will look like. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan are on a long an uncertain road to stability with no guarantee that they will reach their destinations. For the moment both Afghanistan and Pakistan will be dominated by factions and gangs. About all America can attempt in the short run is to remain the “strongest gang”.  While cross-border operations and UAV strikes cannot bring stability in themselves they can deny the Taliban and al-Qaeda the power to establish a mini-state in the border areas.  The Daily News reports that President Bush has authorized a more aggressive campaign across the border into Pakistan.

To beat back Al Qaeda and an resurgent Taliban, the CIA has unleashed a series of missile strikes by unmanned drones  in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt. Cross-border missions by special operations forces based in Afghanistan are also increasing, officials told The News.  “There has been a big push,” said a U.S. intelligence official. “As targets become available, there’s a lot less hesitation now. When they’re in our sights, we pull the trigger.” President Bush secretly authorized the offensive.

Until Afghanistan and Pakistan settle down, winning means not losing.  But it doesn’t imply the absence of strategy. When a fluid situation can only be addressed opportunistically a clear strategic vision is at its most important.  The area has to be calmed down piece by piece guided not so much by a final plan, but by a set of principles which lead to improved solutions.  Tuesday, September 16, 2008

http://pajamasmedia.com/richardfernandez




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