The Debate on American Infallibility, Not Exceptionalism

The Debate on American Infallibility, Not Exceptionalism 

Posted by David Shorr


Glad to see Roger Cohen’s critique of the emerging 2012 foreign policy debate in this morning’s International Herald Tribune. As Cohen points out, the Republican candidates are all peddling the same caricature:

They’re trying to cast Barack Obama as a president who has sold America short, an impostor who has ditched the mystical belief in the unique calling of the United States that is American exceptionalism.

The real problem is the mislabeling of this debate. It’s the idea of American infallibility, not exceptionalism, that divides the president and his critics. The Republican party line is that America knows best, and the only thing our foreign policy needs is to be firmer, more resolute, uncompromising, unwavering, resolute, and insistent. More like we really mean it. To my ears, the GOP leaders all sound like they’re flattering themselves with the fantasy of being the Winston Churchills of our time — courageously resisting evil forces.

American exceptionalism is the proposition that the United States is more than just another nation among 192, that we have constructive or even crucial leadership to offer. President Obama and his challengers are on the same side of that issue. American infallibility, on the other hand, rests on a moral clarity that sweeps aside any need to solicit others’ support, understand other perspectives, or reach compromises.

As it’s so often the case, you only need Stephen Colbert’s brilliant satire to know how disconnected this is from reality. When Donald Trump withdrew from the 2012 race, Colbert fretted over the loss for foreign policy: “Who’s gonna tell OPEC the fun is over? Who’s gonna tell China to go f*** themselves?”

As I argued before Trump’s withdrawal, he was merely voicing a cruder version of the same superficial, self-righteous, out-of-touch foreign policy approach as the others. Roger Cohen quoted Bruce Jentleson in his column and so will I, the following passage from Bruce and Steve Weber’s excellent End of Arrogance book:

In a complex and rapidly changing environment it does not work well to repeatedly reinforce who we are and what we stand for. We know those things, and we know how they shape what we do, how we act, how we respond. Strategy is ultimately about how we influence what others do.

This is my test of seriousness for those who aspire to be commander in chief. And I’m still waiting to hear a candidate take the challenge of real-world effectiveness any more seriously than Donald Trump.


Maulvi Faqir resumes radio broadcasting

Maulvi Faqir resumes radio broadcasting


KHAR: A Taliban FM radio station, run by Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, is back on the air after a year-long closure, media reported July 7. The army attacked Faqir’s bastion in 2010, forcing him to escape to Afghanistan, Dawn reported. Faqir said in a recent radio broadcast from his Afghan base that the Taliban would stage a comeback and enforce Sharia Law, media added. Pakistan troops have been fighting militants in Bajaur since August 2008 and announced victory there over the Taliban and al-Qaeda in February 2009.

Pakistan’s Largest City Turns Into the Wild West–65 Dead, So Far

Pakistan Orders Troops in after 65 Killed in Karachi Violence

by Naharnet Newsdesk


Pakistan on Friday ordered 1,000 extra troops to deploy in Karachi with instructions to shoot-to-kill after another 65 people were killed in the deadliest six months of political violence since 1995.

Gunfire reverberated in several neighborhoods and thousands of people were stranded, short of food and too frightened to go out after three consecutive nights of violence in what is Pakistan’s biggest city and economic hub.

The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan voiced concern about increased instability in the city whose Arabian Sea port is used by the United States to ship supplies to the 150,000 foreign troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The killings have been blamed on loyalists of former coalition partners the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP), which represent different ethnic communities and straddle volatile political fault-lines.

Karachi essentially shut down on Friday with shops closed and the dominant local party, MQM, calling for a day of mourning, and protest rallies.

“At least 65 people have been killed in the violence since Tuesday. The number of injured is around 100,” Sharjeel Memon, the information minister in the southern province of Sindh where Karachi is the capital, told Agence France Presse.

A security official confirmed the toll.

In the worst incident, gunmen opened fire on two buses, killing 12 people, including a six-year-old girl overnight, a security official said.

Memon said the government had ordered security forces to “shoot on sight” armed men involved in the attacks.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the government would deploy an extra 1,000 troops on the streets.

“We are bringing 1,000 more paramilitary troops to control the situation in Karachi,” Malik told reporters, after Pakistan’s leading human rights commission criticized government inaction over the violence.

Malik called for “targeted action” against the killers, but said there would be no large-scale operation in the city of 16 million.

“We know which forces are behind these killings. We have satellite records of the areas where terrorists are killing innocent people,” said Malik, comparing those responsible to Taliban insurgents in the northwest.

“These militants are no lesser evil than the Taliban. They are killing people to destabilize the democratic system”.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says 490 people have been killed in targeted killings so far this year, compared to 748 in 2010 and 272 in 2009. This year is considered the worst bout of violence in Karachi since 1995.

In 1995, 1,742 people died in violence blamed on ethnic, sectarian and political tensions, says the state-funded Citizen-Police Liaison Committee.

US in Afghanistan: Leaving To Stay

US in Afghanistan: Leaving To Stay

By Maxim MINAEV (Russia)

US in Afghanistan: Leaving To StayOne of the most high-profile events in the international politics in June was theannouncement by the US president Barack Obama on the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan. Meeting his election pledges, Obama initiated the conclusion of the military operation by the United States and their allies on Afghan territory that had lasted almost 10 years.

As a matter of form, the plans of the White House are crystal clear. Launched in 2011, the process of withdrawal should be completed by 2014. But factually, the issue of the US departure from Afghanistan might be much more complicated.

The analysis of the Washington’s Afghan policy indicates that it is abided by the formula ‘leaving to stay’. Significant part of American contingent would leave the republic according to announced deadline. Thus the Democrats would demonstrate their effectiveness in resolution of complicated problems created by the administration of President George Bush Jr. But most likely there will not be complete withdrawal. The US Army will stay in the country regardless who will seize the power in Kabul.

The US ambitions to keep their presence in this country even after 2014 are revealed by intensive development of the military infrastructure there. Since 2010 a network of military facilities is being built in various provinces of Afghanistan. In addition to conceptually new objects under construction, they conduct total modernization of the existing ones including those built by Soviets in 1980s. Now Afghanistan became one of the leading importers of cement in the world. It is unlikely that the USA agreed to expand its military network in order to relinquish it to Afghan authorities afterwards. Large-scale military construction indicates that the US is going to keep its presence in the country for indefinite time.

Obviously, Washington is partly motivated by the natural resources of Afghanistan. Several American geological missions conducted researches in the country in 2004-2010. They worked under patronage of Pentagon. It was discovered that Afghanistan possesses notable reservoirs of mineral resources. Among those made public – iron, cobalt, gold, copper, columbic, molybdenum, lithium. The disclosed deposits of uranium and emerald remained off-screen. Afghan’s lithium reserves were so impressive that it was even called ‘lithium Saudi Arabia’. Preliminary assessment of the country’s natural resources varies around 900 billion USD. Definitely such assessment represents a valid motive to stay.

Nevertheless, the resources-related version of the American presence in Afghanistan cannot be considered crucial. The industrial extraction of Afghan resources is hindered both technologically and politically. The US companies would not be able to operate in Afghanistan until the end of combat operations. But even in case of compromise with Taliban, White House will not guarantee considerable improvement of the situation. It is impossible to reach quick reconciliation in the country being in war for more then 30 years. These circumstances impede any mid-term projects related to exploitation of the resource base in Afghanistan.

Much more probable that Americans in Afghanistan are seeking to make a lodgement in a strategically important region of Eurasia. This is a heartland of Greater Middle East. Military presence here allows impacting all neighboring countries, including post-Soviet Central Asian states, Pakistan, Iran, India and China. In other words, likewise Afghanistan of XIX century, this country is still a key for the Great Game.

It may seem that the paradigm of physical presence on a territory in accordance with the classic principles of geopolitics is irreparably out-of-date. There is already no need to establish military bases worldwide in order to manage political and economic processes in any region. Advanced technologies and communications allow performing it remotely. Nevertheless the United States do not neglect traditional methods of political gaming when it looks appropriate.

E.g. such approach is being successfully applied in Kosovo. There are several US military facilities on its territory including Camp Bondsteel (one of the major US bases in Europe) and Camp Film City. Kosovo does not represent any notable value as far as natural resources are concerned. But their military presence secures control over situation in the Western Balkans. Like Afghanistan, Kosovo is the heartland of its region. It will not be curious if the US presence in Afghanistan will be arranged according to Kosovo’s sample.

By the way, Afghanistan and Kosovo are correlated not only by hegemonistic US course in Eurasia. Both territories are integrated in invisible narco-trafficking scheme. Afghanistan is a global leader in heroin production (precursors are being supplied from Europe mostly via southern transport corridor through Pakistan). Kosovo is a main southern gateway for heroin export to the EU. Available data suggest that Albanian gangs outsource the stuff from American military bases deployed in Kosovo.

Maxim MINAEV is the Cand.Sc. (Politics), Senior Expert for the Centre of Political Conjuncture (Moscow). The article was published in Russian leading political analysis journal Expert.

Exclusive translation by ORIENTAL REVIEW.

Syria Claims US Ambassador’s Unauthorized Presence In Hama Proof of American Stage-Managing

Official Source at the Foreign Ministry: Presence of the US Ambassador in Hama without Prior Permission of the Foreign Ministry is Clear Evidence of US Involvement in Syria Events

DAMASCUS, (SANA)-Commenting on the statement of the US State Department spokesperson on Thursday on the US Ambassador in Damascus Robert Ford heading to Hama, an official source at the Foreign Ministry said:

”The presence of the US ambassador in Hama city without obtaining a prior permission from the Foreign Ministry as stipulated by instructions distributed repeatedly to all the embassies is clear evidence of the US involvement in the ongoing events in Syria and its bids to aggravate the situations which destabilize Syria.”

The source added ”As Syria alerts to the danger of such irresponsible behavior, it stresses, irrespective of such conduct, its resolve to continue to take all the measures needed to restore security and stability in the country.”

M. Ismael

Syrian troops roll into Hama, a symbol of antigovernment activityUS

Witnesses and activists say at least three people are killed and dozens injured as security forces sweep into the outskirts of Hama. Three days ago, the city held one of the largest protests in the 3 1/2-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s rule.

SyriaIn this image given to Reuters, demonstrators hold their national flag as they march through the streets after Friday prayers in Suqba, Syria. (Reuters / July 1, 2011)
By Borzou Daragahi and Roula Hajjar, Los Angeles TimesJuly 5, 2011

Reporting from Beirut—

Syrian tanks, troops and bulldozers on Monday swept into a city that has long been a potent symbol of the nation’s pro-democracy movement, raiding houses and hunting down activists opposed to President Bashar Assad‘s rule.

Witnesses and activists said at least three people were killed, including a 12-year-old boy, and dozens injured as security forces stormed into the outskirts of Hama. Hafez Assad, the president’s father and predecessor, brutally crushed an uprising against his rule in the restive city in 1982.

The latest sweep came three days after residents held one of the largest protests in the 3 1/2-month uprising against the regime.

“Security forces blocked the entrances around the city during the night, which made it impossible for people to leave the area,” said Omar Hamwe, a resident and member of the Syrian Local Coordination Committee, a leading protest group.

The government’s raid on Hama, which followed the firing Saturday of the provincial governor amid rumors the official had refused to allow troops to fire on protesters, lent credence to the demonstrators’ contention that Assad’s recent promises of reform were little more than window dressing.

In Hama’s protest hot spots, security forces ambushed worshipers at early-morning prayers, including the elderly, a witness said. Plainclothes and uniformed security forces took turns searching homes and detaining suspects. Armed men broke down doors, entering houses while residents were still asleep.

“Even people severely wounded weren’t spared,” Hamwe said. “The security forces still managed to drag away those who were injured by the attacks.”

Security officials in unmarked cars scoured neighborhoods, intermittently firing live rounds into the air, reported other witnesses who were reached by telephone or Skype and requested anonymity because they feared for their safety.

“The city is currently a ghost town. It is completely dead,” Hamwe said.

Residents fought back, trying to block arrests. In one district, a military sweep was stopped short of a central square by residents who took to the streets at 5 a.m., chanting “God is great” and burning tires. Many of the families threw stones at plainclothes security forces, witnesses said.

In response, the military deployed trucks full of more security personnel and dispatched bulldozers to force open the streets the residents had tried to close off, witnesses reported.

Although the regime’s attempts at crushing the uprising with brute force so far have not appeared successful, some observers worry that the government has managed to split the leadership of the two main opposition camps. The youth wing backing street demonstrations has distanced itself from the older traditional opposition members who have taken part in talks with authorities, described as dialogue efforts.

Longtime activist Michel Kilo, who has participated in the sessions, said the youth owed their elders. “We taught them these slogans,” he said in a phone interview from Damascus, the Syrian capital.

But Rami Nakhle, an opposition activist based in Beirut, criticized the traditional camp for meeting with Assad’s deputies.

“They still have red lines they must not cross,” he said. “Does anyone have the ability to question Bashar’s legitimacy, or to call to account the secret police?”

Nevertheless, he urged both sides to shelve their differences until the regime is toppled.

Others downplayed the growing differences between the two sides.

“Of course the opposition is not united,” said longtime activist Louay Hussein. “Years ago the repression in the country made it difficult for any monolithic opposition to form. The opposition was never united to be separated. It is not shameful to have more than one voice.”

Hajjar is a special correspondent. A special correspondent in Damascus contributed to this report.

Commanders among Afghan Taliban killed in Dir

Commanders among Afghan Taliban killed in Dir

By Haleem Asad

TIMERGARA, July 7: Twelve Afghan Taliban killed in an encounter with Dir Scouts on Wednesday in Upper Dir included two important Taliban commanders, according to the commander of Dir Scouts.

Col Kamran disclosed this to the journalists who were shown the bodies of the Afghan raiders in Dir Scouts Fort in Timergara on Thursday.

Two of the Afghan dead were buried the same day by Tehsil Municipal Administration on Thursday.

Col Kamran said that 150 militants from across the border had besieged some 25 villagers in a mosque on Wednesday at Nusrat Dara in Dir Upper when they were offering morning prayers.

He said that villagers and security forces responded to the attack vigorously. He said that 12 attackers, most of them Afghans, had been killed in retaliatory firing.

The FC commandant said that two important Taliban commanders were also among the dead. Two bodies were shown to media at Dir Scouts Fort Timergara. The bodies were later buried by TMA officials in a local graveyard.

Col Kamran said that a cellular phone set and a letter written in Pashto were recovered from one of the killed militant. He said that the phone set contained video clips of some Taliban commanders and important numbers.

The official said that after besieging villagers at Nusrat Dara, militants formed four groups and attacked different villages in Barawal area. However, locals repulsed the attacks, he said, adding militants wanted to attack a security checkpost at Nusrat Dara but prior information worked and location of the post was changed.

“Therefore we suffered no casualties,” he claimed, adding that five villagers were injured in the attack and one of them later succumbed to his injuries. He said that attackers torched two schools and a mosque in Nusrat Dara and destroyed another school in Soro Kallay of Barawal area. The commandant said that militants also fired five rockets and three mortar shells at a security post at Bin Shahi but there was no report of casualty.

The situation in the border area was under control as the attack was repulsed, he added. He appreciated the role of villagers.

Cross-border cooperation: Ties that bind militants persist

[SEE:  Collaboration Between Pak Army, US Army and TTP Pakistani Taliban]

Cross-border cooperation: Ties that bind militants persist

Afghan Taliban deny they host, assist or work with Pakistani counterparts. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: As reports surface confirming the presence of senior Pakistani Taliban leaders hiding in and operating from within Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban vehemently deny that they are hosting, assisting or taking any assistance from their Pakistani counterparts.

A series of interviews revealed that two senior Pakistani Taliban leaders who fled to Afghanistan after military offensives, are now using their cross-border bases to launch attacks on Pakistani border posts.

Deputy chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Maulvi Faqir Muhammad is currently operating from Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province, which borders Bajaur Agency where he fought Pakistani forces during 2008-9, an Afghan journalist Nematullah Karyab, who interviewed Faqir, told The Express Tribune.

Faqir is being hosted by Qari Zia-ur-Rahman, an infamous Afghan anti-government commander who was sheltered by Faqir in Bajaur for years, sources close to Afghan Taliban said.

Pakistani militants from  Mohmand Agency are also operating from Nari district in Kunar, Karyab added.

Meanwhile, Maulana Fazlullah, head of the Pakistani Taliban in Swat, is believed to be based in the remote and poverty-stricken Nuristan province with the local Afghan Taliban leader Sheikh Dost Muhammad.

Reports earlier surfaced that Pakistani Taliban and remnants of al Qaeda aided the Afghan Taliban when they attacked and briefly took control of Doad district in Nuristan province in May. Nuristan Governor Jamal-ud-Din Badar had claimed that he had intelligence reports that close to 500 Arabs, Chechen, Pakistani and Afghan fighters wanted to attack and take over the district.

‘No foreign assistance’

Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected as ‘enemy propaganda’ the claim that the Pakistani Taliban secured areas in Kunar and Nuristan provinces and handed them over to the Afghan Taliban.

“Pakistani Taliban have not taken part in any of our operations,” Mujahid told The Express Tribune in a telephone conversation and through emails. Dismissing reports of foreign militants fighting with them, Mujahid said it is “part of the propaganda from the Afghan administration to blame the Mujahideen for seeking foreign help.”

He denied the possibility of Pakistani Taliban setting up bases in Afghan Taliban-controlled areas saying: “We cannot host guests in the current situation … there is no safe place in our country.”

Former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef also denied assistance of Pakistani Taliban to their Afghan counterparts.

“I do not believe that Afghan Taliban need any help from Pakistani Taliban,” Zaeef said in a reply to emailed questions by The Express Tribune.

“It is the weakness of the Afghan government to quickly point fingers at Pakistan for whatever happens in Afghanistan,” Zaeef said, adding that the resistance in Afghanistan was purely local.

Meanwhile, Afghan defence experts corroborate the liaison between Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.“Jihadi elements in both countries helped each other during the 10-year resistance against the former Soviet forces and the same cooperation is continuing today,” former Afghan defence minister Shahnawaz Tanai told The Express Tribune on phone from Kabul. Tanai, who now leads the Afghanistan Peace Movement, said that Pakistani and Afghan forces cannot secure the whole border without the help of foreign forces.

He added that the Afghan government has no control in eastern parts of Kunar and that militants from both sides freely move in areas where the government has no control.

Published in The Express Tribune