Obama’s Speech

Read the full text here.

My immediate thoughts on the twitter feed (check the right hand column).

As much as I dig the guy, and I do, the “mush-headed” (as Will Wilkinson calls them) Obamaphiles are both creepy and annoying.  More than ever.  He gave a very good speech I thought.  Not that surprising he’s got a talent for it.  I thought he struck a decent balance, mostly focusing on the seriousness of the challenges and the difficulties ahead.  Not going all-soaring.  No matter, too many will just be entranced by the image and the giddiness and the collective vibes, etc.  The words are what matter.  What matters more actually are the actions the words he says point to.

But the key to me is the emphasis on hard work, responsibility, old fashioned values like honesty, thrift, parsimony, etc.  Not the Obama will come to save us, now I love America kinda junk.  He’s a man and will be undoubtedly a very imperfect President.

Obama will the president of another major turning point in American history.  He is while not literally/chronologically, in actual mindset, the first president of the 21st century.  Bush was on a 20th century bender in the 21st.  The country now awakes to the morning after (a new kind of morning in America, this one mostly hung over and dazed).  Obama is a liberal and a new 21st century liberalism (for better and undoubtedly for worse) is now upon us.  [Well assuming he can rangle the Democratic fools in Congress to grow up—paging House and Senate Majority Leader.  Not to mention the resident idiot hacks like Boehner and McConnell].  I wish it didn’t involve (as it will) growth of the state, but since the Republicans had control for 8 years and couldn’t meet the growing challenges via a non-state, organic, civil society process, than they have no one to blame but themselves when it is inevitable that the state fills the void.  I won’t shed a crocodile tear for them truth be told, no matter how much I’m not some reflexively pro-left sorta dude (which I’m not).  The problems of infrastructure–financial, energetic, material–have to be met.  Something has to be done with health care, energy policy, a new rule set for global capitalism, a foreign policy reboot (which I’m not sure he’s going to go as far as I wish he would).  I wish those had been in the last eight years when they could have been done without as much mass state intervention, and I would have prefered less liberal forms of solutions than the ones Obama will pass, but Bush’s AWOL presidency on that front really hurt.  And again, the conservatives had their chance to meet the days challenges and they failed them.  It is then inevitable that the state will grow as a result. They have no one to blame but themselves.

And The New New Majority as it were, when the Republicans eventually do come back to (some/partial) power, as they undoubtedly will, they will only be able to modulate what this liberal wave has set.  As has been the case in American history.   The other form of conservatism, the conservatism of skeptical mindset (but not “believed skepticism”), the conservatism that is best understood as a personal philosophy, will remain and be of enduring value.

Follow up on Proportionality in Asymmetrical War

Nagarjuna excerpts a nice line from a piece in The Economist and then comments on it (quoting a piece from my earlier post on the subject).

The Economist graf that he quotes is the following:

A country must first have exhausted all other means of defending itself. The attack should be proportionate to the objective. And it must stand a reasonable chance of achieving its goal. On all three of these tests Israel is on shakier ground than it cares to admit.

N’juna then quotes my passage relative to #2 (proportionality).  He asks this question:

I’m inclined to agree with Dierkes that we cannot reasonably apply the concept of proportionality to the situation at hand and to other instances of asymmetric warfare. So, what do we do instead? Use only tests 1 and 2. or add a new test to the mix?

I think he means should we use only tests 1 and 3 (since I’ve argued against relevance to #2).  I feel I have even badder news on this front ‘cuz I’m not sure 1 and 3 are totally relevant either.

Number 1: Country must have first exhausted all other means.

–If that principle holds, then certainly the Israelis are open to criticism given that they never accepted the Hamas election in 2006 and immediately set about trying to wrest them from power (I argued against that policy at the time, but too late for that).

–The principle (#1) assumes that a country can not live with a certain degree of violence intruding upon it.  While this is a crazy proposition, I’ll put it out there.  Maybe the best form of defense is too admit there is no ability to end all such violence and ask what the best amounts of violence are?  i.e. To create resiliency. . I realize this is insane and suicidal politically speaking.  What I mean is even having exhausted all means other means, one might still not go to war on the presumption that the violence is inevitable and will only cause more blowback than the current low-grade level of violence already intruding.  Easy to say in the abstract for Israel to be sure.  But I still think it might be right.

#2 I already covered.  I’ll only add that the proportionality is relative to the objective.  But the objective itself has to be open to some kind of normative critique.  Which are proper and which improper objectives?  This question I think directly leads to….

#3, reasonable chance of success

This one again comes up against the same question of 4th Generation War.  Asymmetry.  Irregular forces.  Proxy or Low-Intensity conflict.  Whatever term you prefer.  A reasonable chance of success typically assumes armies fighting armies.  What does a reasonable chance of success look like relative to Israel-Gaza.  Depends on what success is defined as–which even the Israelis have realized they can’t make public since they themselves have basically no clue.

The Israelis on the military side (“the war” side if you like, or first round of war anyway) have more than a reasonable chance of successs.  They have a guaranteed one.  The whole point is to bait them into a ground invasion anyway.  On the political (“peace”) side–which is the real endgame–I see no way they have any reasonable or even unreasonable (i.e. highly unlikely but still small percentage) of achieving success.  Hamas is embedded in civil society.  Either you may support the hardline factions of Hamas, end up with something worse than Hamas, or worse both simultaneously.  When the strong fight the weak, the strong are weakened.  Winning battles loses wars in this fight.

It’s a Chinese finger trap.  For the Israelis to win the peace, they have to reconnect Gaza to the outside world.  Exactly the opposite of what they have been trying to do with the blockade, shutting out bandwith (so no nasty photos of the civilians they’ve killed get out onto YouTube), cutting off escape routes into Egypt, etc.  So doing however would also empower those on the black weapons market (which is undoubtedly getting through anyway).  The Egyptians can’t stop it.  The Israelis can’t.  Nobody can.  Also, any attempt to rebuild Gaza (“win the peace”) would require the Israelis to have a political mediator on the Gaza side.  But any group the Israelis try to “putsch” through (i.e. Fatah returned to power in Gaza) will inherently be de-legitimized.  So the Israelis can’t rebuild civil society, hence they are only seen as targeting it, targeting civilians (in the eyes of Gaza and much of the Arab Street).  So they can’t (re)build the place, hence they see everything as a military problem with an attending military solution, which only furthers this downward cycle.  The more they struggle to resist, the more become entrapped in the device.

In that scenario, I’m simply don’t know if any of the classic just war principles are particularly relevant anymore.  I don’t look on that point btw as a good thing; frankly it scares the bejesus out of me.  I also struggle with Nagarjuna’s question:  If not this, then what?  Short answer: I’m not really sure.

Published in: on January 12, 2009 at 9:25 pm  Comments (1)  
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Skypecast: Foreign Policy into 2009 (Audio Content)

Scott and I discuss economics, the global political frame, and the future into 2009.  We begin by discussing a recent fairly grim post of mine (Happy New Year!!!) and then discuss potential creative ways out of the morass.

[Click the links below, pts1 & 2 for the audio.]

foreign-policy
foreign-policy2

Links:

Thomas Barnett post
My apocalyptic post
James Poulos’ Uncrackables
John Robbforeign-policy1

Scott’s post/embedding of the audio (if you have trouble on mine)

John Cole’s Law

Cole writes:

As always, every attempt to justify torture inevitably returns to the mythical ticking time-bomb scenario, and we are now to the point that we need a sort of Godwin’s Law for this, as it is inevitable that any discussion of torture will lead to ticking time bomb scenarios. In the most recent version, Reuel Marc Gerecht takes us back to September 7th, 2001, and says, basically- “What about then? Then would you torture?”

To hell with another Godwin’s Law, the answer is right there on the page.  Cole brought it up, Cole gets it. I hereby argue for (and christen?) Cole’s Law which could be stated as either:

A:”The longer any internet discussion on US torture grows the probability of reference to a hypothetical ticking-time bomb scenario approaches one.”

Or

B:”Any internets discussion of US torture–including references to ‘enhanced interrogation’, ‘torture-lite’, and so forth–inevitably ends up in debate over an imaginary ticking time-bomb scenario as well a very high percentage chance of direct reference to Jack Bauer/24/Kiefer Sutherland and/or any combination of the above.”


Update I: I am aware of all internet traditions as well as the fact that Cole’s Law said quickly sounds like, well this:

I realize others may find this a bug, but I think it a boon to the prospect of Cole’s Law.

Published in: on December 17, 2008 at 4:20 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

Tom Barnett’s New Book

Barnett’s Trilogy is now complete.  The link here provides the chapter headings for his new book (due out in Feb ’09) entitled Great Powers: America and the World After Bush. This is going to be his most ambitious work to date from the looks of it.  If one is going to have a grand strategy, this is the one it seems to me.  As I said yesterday, I’m increasingly questioning the place or I guess the viability of any grand strategy.  So it’s not that I think Barnett is wrong within the parameters of a grand strategy based on the frame of globalization, global integration, and nation-states, in fact just the opposite.  From within those parameters (social, strategic assumptions) I think he is unsurpassed.  It’s that I question those parameters themselves.

I wonder if there was a time for this strategy,  that being the Bush years.  I guess part of me (not all) questions if in the wake of the wreckage to come though whether the playing field, even the game itself will have so changed that any recommendations based on the logic of a previous game/structural rule patterning, however brilliant (and trust his is nothing if not brilliant) will be simply no longer viable.  Not wrong but simply not on the radar any longer.  Outmoded–or maybe out-timed?.

I’m not saying I’ve gone whole hog in the other direction and given up on something the vision outlined in this book.  i.e. I plan on reading the thing and if I’m wrong about the shape of things to come, then his strategy returns to de facto primary status in my book.  If not, and things do radically shift, maybe it could be re-formulated, re-formatted, elements of it metabolized and re-directed to a different overall theory/paradigm.  Who knows.

Update IThis post from Barnettt today is worth the read.  He makes the strongest case possible that the current crisis demands the kind of strategy he lays out. The crux of which relies on moving China from selling stuff to the Old Core (in his terms, i.e. US, Canada, Europe).  China can not become an overnight neo-US world consumer (nor would I want them to be even if they could which they can’t).  So there is clear agreement across the board that the way forward is not to try to revive the fake US consumer economy of the last 30 years.  Rather it’s a strategic partnership predicated on (in Barnett’s terms) a race to the bottom.  That’s alot riding on China.  Also alot riding on The so-called Beijing Consensus, mangaerial capitalism, neo-Keynesianism, Bad Samaritanism, whatever you want to call it.

Barnett links to this article in the Asian Times for background on this idea which states:

The goals of the partnership should be to:

  • Support China’s internal development by re-orienting export flows towards China and other emerging economies from the United States and other industrial countries.
  • Transfer technologies and other expertise to the emerging economies.
  • Make the emerging economies partners in the recovery of American asset prices.
  • Hang on to your hats, it’s gonna be a wild ride. There is no predicting (seems to me) what comes out on the other side.

    Some Apocalyptic Thoughts for Monday Afternoon

    Warning:  This is some very disturbing analysis.  I hope I’m 100% wrong on this one.  I’ve also thought the scenario I outline below was possible for 2009 but through the end of October/early November, I thought it still somewhat remote.  I’m less confident and increasingly pesimisstic about the potential for this scenario to be very real, very much in play (more and more likely by the day it seems as of now with no wise leadership or counter-movements to help block the momentum).  So be warned.  I’m not in the business of fear-peddling or fear-hyping, but these are dark thoughts.  There are not the only ones within my brain, but I have been appalled (even fairly cynical me) by the responses across the board to this crisis and the sense that there is no Wizard behind the curtain.

    I’m increasingly growing very disturbed by the way global events are proceeding.  A chain of potential explosions across the grid of the globe looks frighteningly more plausible by the day.  Meanwhile the US media is caught in wonderful tales of some pathetic Illinois Governor and a dude launching his foot wear. Here in Canada it’s about the potential of a coalition government.

    All of which still assume a top-down model of power, a kind of view of the stability of large scale social organization that may all be swept away.  Reading the newspapers and frankly much of the blogosphere is becoming an increasingly useless exercise for me.  Particularly when it comes to political discussion:  left, right, libertarian, progressive, blah blah.  All of those discussions are assuming the continued existence in some form or other or our social-technological cultural foundations.

    To me its increasingly as if reading the news in the ancient ziggurat/city-state culture a few months before Alexander the Great came conquering across Eurasian and installed the Hellenistic world and swept away the decaying, crumbling previous world era.  Like I said some apocalyptic thoughts.

    The economic story would go like this:  the American consumer is dead and has been flogged to the breaking point of exhaustion.  Who then is going to buy all those Asian products?  Who can they sell their wares to?  The Asian economies contract leading them to stop buying the commodities across the Global South (esp. Latin America and Africa) that have led to that bubble (see the mass decrease in the price of oil recently).  Huge deflationary movements across the global simultaneously.  Much more rapidly and the fragility (i.e. non-redundancy) of the global platform system bleeds out.

    As Niall Ferguson in his epic The War of the World, the great catacylsm and spasm of violence across the globe emanating from Europe during the 20th century (First War, Second War, Cold War) consisted of the inter-locking reality of the three “E”s:  empire, economics, and ethnicity.  Empire being the death of imperial systems.  See the decline of the US.  Also with all the talk of the coming Asian Century (rise of India/China), this could all be swept away by the economic meltdown.  The Asian Century that wasn’t in other words.  Still-born Asian Century.  The vacuum created by the implosion of economic and imperial systems, is filled by ethnic hatreds that flare up to the consternation and shock of many who assume a cosmopolitan order of peace and security (all fine when the economy and governance is roughly holding up).

    The most likely early hot spots of ethnic hatred is the band of the Middle East (Lebanon, Iraq, Kurdistan, Iran, Syria???, through obviously Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India).  Other increased zones of violence would be Gap-status countires in the Western Hempishere (on smaller scale but still bloody).  Revived narco-fueled wars across Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador, southern Mexico.  Other ranges of violence: The Horn of Africa (another Somalia implosion on the horizon) as well as violence across the middle band (Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, and potential flare ups again in Congo).

    The massive de-leveraging must continue and the question is only whether the end of the fall (which has at least 9 months, probably 12 to 24 to maybe even 36-40 to go. who the hell knows at this point) will end us worse than the build up.  Exposed, exhausted, and de-legitimized.  The space of de-legitimization to be filled by ethno-nationalistic movements across the board.

    With the breakdown of nation-state systems (orange and blue in Spiral colors), comes a mass re-reddifying both in memetic coloring and potentially in real blood, merged with increased technological capacity (global platform) plus increased cognitive flexibility and complexity however merged to earlier moral/social systems. Roving bands of pirates (e.g. Somalia), terrorists (e.g. Mumbai), criminal networks (coming here already to Vancouver in preparation for the 2010 Olympics, particularly the global sex slavery/human chattel trade) counteracted by potentially increased technocratic elites holding onto whatever power they can, as civil libertiese erode due to the inability to come up with a worldwide republican security theory, class lines harden in the post-industrial societies, the social contract of the 20th century continues to break down (ask Ford, GM, Chrysler) as the Nation-State gives way to the (increainsgly predatory?) Market State.

    Ferguson forget a fourth E:  Environment.  As in environmental degradation/destruction as a potential accelerant to the fire of the other three.  Something along the lines of Diamond’s Collapse scenario.

    The idea that an infrastructure stimulus will jump start the US economy out of this bog seems increasingly detached from reality for me.  At the pace things are moving, if the wave swells become large enough, it isn’t going to matter, as it could all be swept away by the mega-forces aligning at the moment.

    Like I said, God how I hope I’m  completely wrong on this one.

    Afghanistan Troop Number Calculations

    Meditate on this:

    [John] Nagl’s rule of thumb, the one found in the [US Army] counterinsurgency manual, calls for at least a 1-to-50 ratio of security forces to civilians in contested areas. Applied to Afghanistan, which has both a bigger population (32 million) and a larger land mass (647,500 square miles) than Iraq, that gets you to some large numbers fast. Right now, the United States and its allies have some 65,000 troops in Afghanistan, as compared to about 140,000 in Iraq. By Nagl’s ratio, Afghanistan’s population calls for more than 600,000 security forces. Even adjusting for the relative stability of large swaths of the country, the ideal number could still total around 300,000–more than a quadrupling of current troop levels. Eventually, Afghanistan’s national army could shoulder most of that burden. But, right now, those forces number a ragtag 60,000, a figure Nagl believes will need to at least double and maybe triple. Standing up a force of that size, as the example of Iraq has shown us, will take several years and consume billions of U.S. dollars.

    And that’s just the Leviathan side of Barnett’s duo–this excludes the entire other army (on top of the 600,000) of engineers, aid workers, construction project leaders, humanitarian/conflict negotatiators, reconstruction crews, etc.  I have a hard time seeing how this happens.

    Taliban(ds)

    This excellent piece by Anand Gopal in the Asian Times on the Taliban is getting some play (rightly) in the b-sphere.

    Gopal asks who are they (The Taliban):

    The movement is a melange of nationalists, Islamists, and bandits that fall uneasily into three or four main factions. The factions themselves are made up of competing commanders with differing ideologies and strategies, who nonetheless agree on one essential goal: kicking out the foreigners.

    Gopal tells us the harrowing reality that took over Afghanistan after the initial ejection of the 90s Taliban (Afghan Taliban 1.0):

    Meanwhile, the country was being carved up by warlords and criminals. On the brand-new highway connecting Kabul to Kandahar and Herat, built with millions of Washington’s dollars, well-organized groups of bandits would regularly terrorize travelers. “[Once], 30, maybe 50 criminals, some in police uniforms, stopped our bus and shot [out] our windows,” Muhammadullah, the owner of a bus company that regularly uses the route, told me. “They searched our vehicle and stole everything from everyone.” Criminal syndicates, often with government connections, organized kidnapping sprees in urban centers like the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar city. Often, those few who were caught would simply be released after the right palms were greased.

    In Spiral Dynamics terms, this was the regression of the country from blue–imperial mythic, 90s Taliban system–to red warlordism, gangs, and criminality.

    As a result, blue has to come back to keep the peace:

    Onto this landscape of violence and criminality rode the Taliban again, promising law and order. The exiled leadership, based in Quetta, Pakistan, began reactivating its networks of fighters who had blended into the country’s villages. They resurrected relationships with Pashtun tribes. (The insurgents, historically a predominantly Pashtun movement, still have very little influence among other Afghan minority ethnic groups like the Tajiks and Hezaras.) With funds from wealthy Arab donors and training from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Pakistani intelligence apparatus, they were able to bring weapons and expertise into Pashtun villages.

    In one village after another, they drove out the remaining minority of government sympathizers through intimidation and assassination. Then they won over the majority with promises of security and efficiency. The guerrillas implemented a harsh version of sharia law, cutting off the hands of thieves and shooting adulterers. They were brutal, but they were also incorruptible. Justice no longer went to the highest bidder. “There’s no crime any more, unlike before,” said Abdul Halim, who lives in a district under Taliban control.

    Gopal goes on to indicate that the increasingly Pashtun nationalist Taliban are largely out of the al-Qaeda connection as they were in the 90s. There were always Taliban factions even back then, who had no time for AQ, but Mullah Omar (their leader) was close with bin Laden. That relationship may be breaking down and some elements of the Taliban, which is increasingly de-centralized and networked, are getting on with girls in schools and realize they can not go back to the 90s version of themselves.

    That’s group #1. Group two is Hekmatyar Gulbuddin and his Hiz-i-Islami group. They are insurgents against the NATO occupation, but again not necessarily tied to AQ and really only interested in power back in Afghanistan. So 2 out of 4 at this point seem open to negotiations on a future Afghanistan that will involve them along side other parties. Though Gulbuddin is implicated in an attempt on President Karzai’s life. The Afghanistan situation, as always, is murky.

    The last two groups however appear to have no such deals and have sanctuary-providing protections for al-Qaeda. This is the real conundrum as both are based in the Pakistani NWFP. Jaluludin Haqqani in North Waziristan and Beitullah Mehsud in the South.

    With Haqqani:

    Pakistan extends support to the Haqqanis on the understanding that the network will keep its holy war within Afghanistan’s borders. Such agreements are necessary because, in recent years, Pakistan’s longstanding policy of aiding Islamic militant groups has plunged the country into a devastating war within its own borders.

    Even with Mehsud however the issue seems to be anger at the Pakistani government for attempting to take over the Frontier Provinces. In the recent Pakistani elections, the fundamentalist parties lost heavily in the NWFP regions. But it is unclear if those votes have any real influence as increasingly the Paksitani Taliban under Mehsud appear dedicated to re-installing a 90s like Afghanistan Taliban ghastly asylum state in Waziristan. Mehsud’s men publicly hang tribal chiefs of the old guard who do not accept their rule. There has been some talk of creating a Sons of Iraq like scenario with a tribal rebellion against the Pakistani Taliban, but so far that has gone to naught. The Pakistani Army is built for a war with India and not for counterinsurgency in the tribal regions. The two times they have gone up there in the last few years, they have lost and been sent packing. The blowback that has come out of those operations led to the murder of Bhutto, the recent bombing in Mumbai, the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, as well as the attack on the Marriott in Islamabad.

    I have no idea how we deal with this issue. If the Pakistanis go in there, more blowback, they will likely break with the US completely go with China and Russia (which would love the delicious irony of profiting off Pashtun resistance to Americans in Afghanistan). If we continue the airstrikes, Pakistani sovereignty (whatever is left of it) gets further quashed, more blowback, and the civilian government which probably has about zero power currently has even less so and probably a full on military coup. If nothing is done then it festers and I can definitely see an al-Qaeda attack in the West getting launched from the new sanctuary.

    For Afghanistan to recover it requires a deal with the Talban or at least the dominant factions. Gulbuddin may not go for that. Haqqani likely the same. Mehsud no dice. With the sanctuary open, insurgencies always win over time in Afghanistan (see Alexander the Great, The British, and The Soviets).

    Afghanistan also requires a regional deal that ends the countries in the neighborhood to stop using it as a pawn to be carved up in their power play:  Iran, India, Pakistan, Russia.   Can’t see any evidence of that happening soon.

    Which means we are back to where we started–how to prevent Al-Qaeda Central from launching another attack when they have sanctuary.  If the attempt to go into the sanctuary would cause regional collapse scenarios, hollowing out areas that al-Qaeda could then flee to if need be?

    The most important reason to prevent such an attack (minus the obvious defense of innocent life) is that the US is still not ready to be resilient in the face of another attack (a la India recently or Great Britain before). The insane over-reaction that would occur, like after 9/11 but only that much worse, would be so destructive, particularly now.  Particularly when a Democrat is in the White House.  The worst attack in US history happens under a right-wing administration and they spend years blaming the left and kowtowing them into obedience.  I don’t even want to think how dastardly they would be if an attack happened when a Dem was president.  Goodbye free society and civil liberties.

    Not Good: Pakistan Transport Afghan War Edition

    From NyTimes:

    More than 100 trucks loaded with supplies for American and allied forces in Afghanistan were destroyed Sunday by militants in Peshawar, a Pakistani city that serves as an important transit point for the Afghan war effort. It was the third major attack by Taliban militants on NATO supplies in Pakistan in less than a month, and served to expose the vulnerability of the route from the port of Karachi through Peshawar and over the border into Afghanistan. The United States relies on the route for an overwhelming proportion of its supplies for the war in Afghanistan.

    Here’s the even scarier piece (my italics):

    About 80 percent of supplies for the war in Afghanistan move from Karachi east through Pakistan and on to Afghanistan. Peshawar is the last staging point before the border about an hour’s journey, or 40 miles, away.

    Mumbai Attacks as India’s 9/11? (Questionable Thesis and Partial Refutation)

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    [Image courtesy Flick-er Stuti via CC]

    I have to say I find this notion that the Mumbai attacks are India’s 9/11 is somewhat very unnerving.  India has been experiencing terrorism, either by Hindutva far-right extremists as well as Kashmiri based Muslims for decades.  Decades.  They are hardly some Johnny-Come-Latelys to the terrorism game.  In fact, the situation I would argue is the complete opposite, where the US should be learning from India’s resilience in its decades long struggle to maintain democracy–the world’s largest–in the face of terrorism.  Not the India should be learning from the US in its post 9/11 guise.  See Juan Cole on that point.

    So the first link up there is from Greg Sheridan at the Australian.  It’s a rather fetid imagination piece which not only wants to link Pakistan in but also al-Qaeda to the attacks.

    Sheridan writes:

    They [Mumbai attacks] represent, too, a probably definitive merger of internal Indian conflicts with the global war on terror. They also represent a formal notice of combat to the American president-elect, Barack Obama. The implications for the US of these attacks are in fact enormous.

    First off the Global War on Terror is really at this point The Southeast/Southwestern Asian Crisis.  Pakistan, India, Afghanistan.  India’s embassy in Afghanistan was bombed most likely from groups from the NWFP of Pakistan.  So if Sheridan wants to make the link between the so-called (and badly named and theorized and fought) Global War on Terror and India, that already happened with that embassy bombing.

    It might in fact be the complete reverse, with al-Qaeda Central being subsumed into what are essentially local/regional fights:  Kashmir, the Taliban Pashtun resistance against the Indian-backed Northern Alliance in Kabul, and the rise of the Pakistani Taliban.  All of course with the inter-relation of a NATO mission in Afghanistan and US predator drones bombing targets, both civilian and terrorist in territory that is supposedly under Pakistani sovereignty but which practically is self-governed.

    The problem (as Cole notes) with all these views on whether Pakistan was behind the attacks or not is that we still think in terms of states as opposed to state-less or trans-national guerrilla networks.  Sheridan’s piece assumes al-Qaeda is a state-like entity.  Which in a certain way it is actually is which is why it has become increasingly less effective.  It’s message gets amplified and decentralized groups can pick up on those issues and run with them however they like, but that’s not the same assuming operational coordination.

    And if even there is training, these groups are fluid and individuals within the groups can bleed over into another and they can form, disform, or reform basically at the drop of a hat.  Any possible combination of connections is really possible.

    But one point I would strongly disagree with of Sheridan’s is that the attacks on Westerners is hallmark al-Qaeda.  Except that al-Qaeda’s MO has not been to take hostages.  There were no suicide bombers in this attack (al-Qaeda’s real hallmark if it has one).

    Ultimately al-Qaeda supposed political objectives have failed.  It frankly has none and is ultimately nihilistic.  It’s attempt to plant the (false) flag of al-Qaeda around the world, suck the US in, and then bleed them dry by aligning with local grievances in an attempt to globalize them has been effective through the stupidity of Bush in invading Iraq and perhaps Obama tripling down in Afghanistan.

    The problem then immediately is the state-relation to all of this.  Even if al-Qaeda was in charge of this operation or coordinated with some group in the NWFP, do we invade Pakistan?  Does India?  When the government of Pakistan clearly is not supportive of these attacks, however much some rogue elements within the government/Army and/or ISI might be in favor of them?

    How does this lead anywhere other than to what was pretty obvious from the beginning, but never done by Bush with his war metaphor/paradigm for this construct.  Namely increased nation-nation intelligence coordination and the creation of decentralized intelligence (counter-terrorism) groups by the nations affected by terrorism?

    The question from the beginning has been about creating a legal paradigm resilient and flexible yet with enough standards to protect the rule of law (civil rights, democracy, etc) in the age of terror.  Something like what apparently the PM of India is calling for today.

    This is light years more important than creating some League of Democracies or getting all the countries together into war mode who have had their own 9/11s against some worldwide united terrorist front (which doesn’t exist).

    Rather 1. Create the New Legal Paradigm and 2. Crush the Cell(s)