Foreign Policy

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Pakistan's military has ordered its forces to open fire if U.S. troops launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border, an army spokesman said Tuesday.

The orders, which come in response to a highly unusual Sept. 3 ground attack by U.S. commandos, are certain to heighten tension between Washington and a key ally against terrorism.

Pakistan's civilian leaders have protested the raid but say the dispute should be resolved through diplomatic channels.

However, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told The Associated Press that after U.S. helicopters ferried troops into a militant stronghold in the South Waziristan tribal region, the military told field commanders to prevent any similar raids.

More here.

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  1. One of these years, the U.S. will have to face up to the fact that some foreign policy problems can’t be solved by use of military force.

    I expect there’ll be a question on this issue in a presidential debate, and I’m looking forward to seeing how McCain and Obama deal with it.

  2. With the new, pro-Western govenment coming in and the Generalissimo on his way out, it’s probably a good time to give them a little space and try to mend fences right now. It’ll pay off in the long term.

    But the Bush administration seems to be looking at things exactly the opposite. Now that “Mr. 10 Percent” has replaces “Our Son of a Bitch,” they seem less concerned about Pakistani sovereignty, even as this government seems to be more willing to fight the Talibs than the previous one.

  3. Unless they are someone who is utterly committed to non-interventionism*, anyone holding the top job of the most powerful nation ever cannot resist using that power for things they think are right. While McCain/Bush and Obama may differ on how they’d like to use that power, they still will. Albright expressed their attitude perfectly with her question about why have this military if you’re not going to use it?

    * I think even a committed non-interventionist would be sorely tempted.

  4. So, if the pakistani forces open fire and inflict casualties on american soldiers who are attacking a village, what can the imperialist do about it? Ask Vlad.

  5. One of these years, the U.S. will have to face up to the fact that some foreign policy problems can’t be solved by use of military force.

    Nah, invade first and then pick up the pieces later… we’ve been so good at that for the last 40 years, why change now?

    Wait until we start using military force to solve trade disputes again. Then you’ll see the wisdom of our approach.

  6. “joe | September 16, 2008, 9:16am | #
    With the new, pro-Western govenment coming in and the Generalissimo on his way out, it’s probably a good time to give them a little space and try to mend fences right now. It’ll pay off in the long term.

    But the Bush administration seems to be looking at things exactly the opposite. Now that “Mr. 10 Percent” has replaces “Our Son of a Bitch,” they seem less concerned about Pakistani sovereignty, even as this government seems to be more willing to fight the Talibs than the previous one.”

    One thing that this story makes clear is that the new, pro-western government doesn’t really control the Military, and therefore probably has limited control over the country. If we’re going to get involved at all in Pakistan, it should be with the intention of bolstering the democratic, civilian government, which isn’t going to be run by people sympathetic to terrorism any more than Spain’s government is going to be run by basque separatists.

  7. With the new, pro-Western govenment coming in and the Generalissimo on his way out, it’s probably a good time to give them a little space and try to mend fences right now.

    Sounds good to me, but it does raise the question of how many more Afghanis need to be killed by cross-border raids before we have given enough space, and should start engaging in “hot pursuit” again?

    I mean, if Afghanistan really is where we should be concentrating our efforts, then what’s the point if the Taliban continues to enjoy a safe haven in Pakistan?

  8. jorgen,

    That’s a good point. Once again, I’d say a more hands-off approach on the military front might help move things in the right direction.

    Episiarch,

    Albright expressed their attitude perfectly with her question about why have this military if you’re not going to use it? That’s not what Albright said. She was complaining that the Army couldn’t get equipment into the theater fast enough. It was a statement about capabilities, not about when to use force. Her words were, “What’s the point of having this splendid military if you CAN’T use it?” Not “won’t,” which would have been a statement about the philosophy of using force, but “can’t.”

    Albright’s still too hawkish for my tastes, but that quote doesn’t say what people think it says.

  9. Fair points, RC. There’s a balancing act to be done. I think passing up some opportunities now could pay off later.

    I’m thinking six months, maybe a year, and we’ll see how things go.

  10. I hate going to wikipedia for information, but…

    But, together with President Bill Clinton, she remains a largely popular figure in the rest of the region, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Croatia. According to Albright’s memoirs, she once argued with Colin Powell for the use of military force by asking, “What’s the point of you saving this superb military for, Colin, if we can’t use it?”

    I’m willing to read a corrected version, but that looks pretty damning.

  11. John-David,

    The context was a conversation she had with Colin Powell about Kosovo. In the middle of the war, the administration wanted to start using attack helicopters instead of high-altitude bombing, because the latter was too indescriminate.

    Powell told her that they couldn’t deploy the helicopters unless they deployed Abrams tanks to protect their bases, and that it would take something like four months to deploy the tanks.

    It was a statement about all the money that had been spent on the military, and they still didn’t have the capability to do the mission. It was in the middle of the war, so obviously, they’re not talking about when to go to war.

    BTW, it was this episode that led to the development of the Stryker vehicle platform, which can get tank-sized firepower on the scene a lot faster.

  12. Albright’s still too hawkish for my tastes, but that quote doesn’t say what people think it says.

    Fair enough, joe. How about if I say that what people mistake as what she meant sums up the attitude of the people in power?

  13. Read in isolation, that quote really does look like she’s saying, “We’ve got it, why not use it?” No question.

  14. So, if the pakistani forces open fire and inflict casualties on american soldiers who are attacking a village, what can the imperialist do about it?

    No idea what an “imperialist” would do about it. I seem to recall that US forces under fire by fighters in Pakistani uniforms called in air strikes and killed the hostiles a few months back, though.

    I’m thinking six months, maybe a year, and we’ll see how things go.

    That seems like a long time to give our enemies safe haven if things are as bad in Afghanistan as people are saying. I’m thinking more along the lines of giving the Pakistanis one free bite – if they don’t mount a credible response to the next significant cross-border action by the Taliban, then we reinstitute hot pursuit.

  15. That’s not what Albright said. She was complaining that the Army couldn’t get equipment into the theater fast enough. It was a statement about capabilities, not about when to use force. Her words were, “What’s the point of having this splendid military if you CAN’T use it?” Not “won’t,” which would have been a statement about the philosophy of using force, but “can’t.”

    While you’ve got the quote that Powell attributed to Albright almost correct, you are 100% wrong regarding your claim that it was simply about capability and not about philosophy. It was pretty clear to Powell that Albright’s statement was a direct challenge to the doctrine that bears his name.

    From the NY Time Magazine, Sept 22, 1996:

    In his memoir, ”My American Journey,” Powell recalls a discussion with Albright on Bosnia. ”What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” she asked him.

    ”I thought I would have an aneurysm,” wrote the originator of the Powell doctrine, the idea that the United States should intervene militarily — and with overwhelming force — only when its vital interests are threatened. ”American G.I.’s were not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global game board.” Powell had a close ally in Anthony Lake, the national security adviser, who lectured Albright that the kinds of issues the general was raising ”are exactly the ones the military never asked during Vietnam.”

  16. Dr. Ken,

    I realize Powell represented the quote in that way, but if you’ll notice, there’s no context provided there, just the statement that the discussion was “about Bosnia.”

    The two of them were talking past each other, is my take on the episode. I don’t think Powell is deliberately lying, although it does raise the question of whether he was providing misleading information about capabilities and the Army’s needs because he didn’t support the mission.

  17. How does a Stryker get tank sized firepower in faster?

  18. It’s pretty obvious, from reading about the war and the Clinton administration, that Albright was more hawkish and activist than Powell, and more willing to countenance actions that aren’t main force military battles.

    The two of them had gone at on philosophy throughout her term as Sec. of State, so it seems likely that Powell saw her challenging him on the question of getting the Apaches into the theater and thought “Here we go again.”

  19. kwais,

    Strykers are smaller and lighter, and can be moved in larger numbers in smaller cargo planes, which can land at smaller and rougher air strips.

    They also require a smaller support train than Abrams.

    I didn’t mean to jack the threat like this. Sorry.

  20. Pakistan’s military has ordered its forces to open fire

    That’s amusing, considering Pakistan cannot or will not even subdue its own outlaw tribal regions.

  21. RC,

    My thinking here is, as Jorgen pointed out, it’s not just a question of the Pakistani president pointing his finger and the military jumping. Rather, what we need to hope for is a process that allows him to consolidate his power and win them over/bring them to heel.

    It would be a huge improvement in our strategic situation if such a thing could come to pass, on that would be worth passing up some opportunities in the short term.

  22. Must be about the right time to annex Pakistan.

  23. The orders, which come in response to a highly unusual Sept. 3 ground attack by U.S. commandos, are certain to heighten tension between Washington and a key ally against terrorism.

    For shame Nick. Not you too?

    J sub D | September 11, 2008, 10:41am | #

    … The next politician or pundit who calls Pakistan “our ally in the war on terror”, should be horse whipped in the public square …

    Am I the only one who recognises the reality that the government in Islamabad has either has no ability or no desire to take contol of the tribal areas along the Ahgan border? If anybody thinks that some Pakistani offensive against these people is going to occur after the regime change, they are deluded. Maybe a promise* to cut all aid until Pakistan itself resolves the issue of safe haven for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters wiil get them moving.

    * Not a threat, a promise.

  24. It seems like Zardari already has what he needs to improve his position with the people and take control of the military: standing up to US imperial aggresions.

  25. Joe-

    Its called get out. That would help everbody’s “strategic position.” Including the value of your retirement funds.

  26. You know my heart is with you, libertymike, but not my head.

    We were pretty damn “out” for the decade preceding 9/11. Afghanistan isn’t Iraq; it’s always had a large chunk of its territory completely out of the control of the central government. Should we just let bin Laden re-establish his bases there?

    It’s a hell of a problem, no matter how you slice it.

  27. RC Dean-

    Lehman Bros., Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, AIG, Freddie and Fannie, bank after bank failing, the dollar growing ever more worthless and military keynesianism are not unrelated phenomena.

  28. Joe-

    Your head should be with me too. Military Keynesianism. It is savaging our economy. Spectacular misallocation of resources. Including Afghanistan and Pakistan. I am not worried about Bin-laden “re-establishing” camps. I am more worried about our economy going bankrupt, in no small part, on the basis of the notion that our survival hinges upon our ability to install and maintain a military presence all over the globe. Its a loser’s game.

  29. The Pakistani forces are afraid to go there to deal with the Taliban, but they are willing to go there to deal with the Americans. Well, if they go there at all, they’ll have to deal with the locals, so the only downside is if they actually manage to help the locals against a raid, but that will be a short-term negative.

  30. libertymike,

    I certainly am concerned about the cost of our military adventures and their effect on the economy, but the drawdown from Iraq is the big problem on that front.

    There are five times as many troops in Iraq as in Afghanistan. I can live with an 80% reduction in those costs.

  31. The use of spies and assasins is a far more cost effective solution to ridding the world of evil dudes in backwater countries like Afghanistan.

    Troops should be reserved for siezing territory.

  32. Should we just let bin Laden re-establish his bases there?

    Is the implication that Bin-Laden et al don’t have any camps in the region? Are they on the run?

  33. Chicago Tom,

    They are trying to re-establish areas of control within Afghanistan, in places that they had formerly been driven out of.

  34. You say “region.” Of course they have camps in the region; in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

  35. You say “region.” Of course they have camps in the region; in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

    So the implication is that Bin Laden et all have been driven completely out of Afghanistan? Or do they still have a presence there but in different areas?

    I’m not trying to be snarky, I just don’t really buy the idea that we have chased them out of Afghanistan completely.

    I really don’t think we have the ability to not let them re-establish bases there when there seem to be quite a few friendly warlords. It’s like the worlds worst game of Whack-a-mole!

  36. ChicagoTom, they had more or less been chased out of Afghanistan completely, and spent a couple years with their only presence an underground one.

    Now, there are once again areas in Afghanistan that are contested. Parts of Herat Province, for example.

  37. Whack-a-Mole vs. Watch-the-Moles. Sucks, don’t it?

  38. Pakistan’s military has ordered its forces to open fire if U.S. troops launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border

    Well, they have to HIT us, first.

    I mean, I am totally for this anti-imperialism stuff, and I think we should commit our military to preventing, oh, the retaking of Maine by Quebecois nationalists. But… when the army that lost a war to Bangla Desh — Bangla Desh!! — threatens you, I don’t think it should distract you from trying to keep the local Starbucks open.

    In fact, if our special forces could just line up in front of the Talibanistas, wait for the Pakistani army to open fire, and then DUCK really quickly….

  39. Whoops, is this mike on? Damn this newfangled technology.

  40. In fact, if our special forces could just line up in front of the Talibanistas, wait for the Pakistani army to open fire, and then DUCK really quickly….

  41. I don’t see it the latter as that uncommon on your side of the isle.

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