“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"You're gonna miss me when I'm gone."

Musharraf tried to tell us, "You're gonna miss me when I'm gone."
The New York Times
June 24, 2008
Leadership Void Seen in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan is in a leaderless drift four months after elections, according to Western diplomats and military officials, Pakistani politicians and Afghan officials who are increasingly worried that no one is really in charge.

The sense of drift is the subject of almost every columnist in the English-language press in Pakistan, and anxiety over the lack of leadership and the weakness of the civilian government now infuses conversations with analysts, diplomats and Pakistani government officials.

The problem is most acute, they say, when it comes to dealing with militants in the tribal areas that have become home to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Although the political parties and the military all seek a breather from the suicide bombings and nascent insurgency that have roiled Pakistan in recent years, there are fundamental disagreements over the problem of militancy that they have not begun to address, Pakistani politicians and Western diplomats say.

The confusion is allowing the militants to consolidate their sanctuaries while spreading their tentacles all along the border area, military officials and diplomats warn. It has also complicated policy for the Bush administration, which leaned heavily on one man, President Pervez Musharraf, to streamline its antiterrorism efforts in Pakistan.

If anyone is in charge of security policy in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, Pakistani politicians and Western diplomats say, that remains the military and the country’s premier intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, which operate with little real oversight.

While the newly elected civilian government has been criticized for dealing with the militants, it is the military that is brokering cease-fires and prisoner exchanges with minimum consultation with the government, politicians from the government coalition, diplomats and analysts said.

Politicians in both the provincial and central governments complain they are excluded from the negotiations and did not even know of a secret deal struck in February, before the elections.

“You see a lack of a coordinated strategy between the federal level and provincial level, and that includes the ISI and the military, who are clear players,” said one Western diplomat with knowledge of the tribal regions, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. “You see it even on principles of negotiation and combined strategy.”

One newspaper, the weekly Friday Times, satirized the situation with a front-page cartoon showing the country’s main political players riding in a plane, all issuing different instructions.

Since coming to power in February, the fragile coalition government, run by Benazir Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has been engrossed in internal wrangling over removing President Musharraf.

The coalition is barely functioning after half its ministers left the cabinet in May in a dispute over whether to reinstate 60 high court judges dismissed by Mr. Musharraf last year.

For now it is just accepting the military’s decisions regarding the militants, said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general who is now a political analyst. He characterized the country as suffering from “institutional paralysis and a dysfunctional government, signs of which are showing already.”

The American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan K. McNeill, also described the government as “dysfunctional” just before leaving his post earlier this month.

“I have a feeling that no one is in charge and that is why the militants are taking advantage,” Mr. Masood said. “It is a very dangerous situation because what is happening is the Afghan government is getting desperate.”

The frustration is such that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan threatened this month to send troops into Pakistan to pursue Pakistani militant leaders.

That Pakistan’s government appears broken is not surprising, analysts say. Pakistan’s civilian institutions were atrophied by eight years of military rule, and the country’s major political parties were left rudderless by the absence of their leaders, who lived in exile much of that time. The assassination of Ms. Bhutto in December left her party in even deeper disarray.

The military remains the country’s strongest institution, having ruled Pakistan for about half of the country’s 61 years of independence. But it is proving to be an increasingly fickle and prickly partner for Washington. United States and NATO officials are still struggling to decipher the intentions of the army’s new chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Last fall, at the time of his appointment, American officials spoke approvingly of General Kayani, who seemed well aware of the threat the militants posed to Pakistan, and of the dangers of peace deals that have allowed the militants to tighten their grip in the tribal areas.

But despite at least $12 billion in aid to Pakistan from Washington for the fight against the militants since 2001, General Kayani has recently shown a reluctance to use the military for counterinsurgency operations, suggesting that the task be left to the much weaker tribal force, the Frontier Corps. He has encouraged the civilian government to take the lead.

Part of the confusion stems from the shift in power from military rule, after President Musharraf stepped down as head of the army in December, to the new civilian government, one Western military official said. “Kayani is being careful not to get too far out in front and is trying to determine who is in charge,” he said. “We all are.”

The uneasy balance between civilian and military authority was demonstrated this month when the finance minister, Naveed Qamar, revealed details of the defense budget to Parliament for the first time in 40 years. While Mr. Qamar called it a “historic moment,” the document was a mere two pages.

Parliament, tied up with budget negotiations until next month, has not discussed security or militancy. “We do understand this is the biggest issue, and after the budget session it will have to be addressed,” said Farah Ispahani, a Pakistan Peoples Party legislator.

Meanwhile, the military under General Kayani has quietly pursued its own policies, politicians from the government coalition, diplomats and analysts say. The military and ISI negotiated a little-known truce with the tribes and militants of North Waziristan just days before the Feb. 18 elections, a senior government official in Peshawar confirmed.

The deal was so secretive that few in the government know its contents even today. “The civilian government is in the back seat, or not even in the back seat,” said the Western diplomat, who did not want to be identified because of the critical nature of the remarks. The military also began negotiations with the most powerful of the Taliban commanders, Baitullah Mehsud, in January, just weeks after the government accused him of masterminding Ms. Bhutto’s assassination.

An official agreement with the Mehsud tribe has not been completed, but the military has already pulled back from some positions, put in place a cease-fire and exchanged prisoners with the militants.

Western officials are suspicious of the deal. Mr. Mehsud is accused of dispatching scores of suicide bombers in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the agreement initially included no prohibition on cross-border attacks.

Only after strong pressure from the United States and other allies did the military insert such a clause this month, according to a senior official close to the negotiations. In the meantime, cross-border attacks increased by 50 percent in May, NATO officials in Afghanistan say.

The provincial government in the North-West Frontier Province has also expressed its reservations about the deal. Officials from the Awami National Party, a Pashtun nationalist party that leads the government in the province and which is also part of the national coalition, complained that they have not been included in the military’s decisions.

“Our main demand is that we should be included in negotiations,” said Wajid Ali Khan, a party official. “We don’t know with whom they are talking.”

Moreover, the central government’s point man for counterterrorism, the acting interior minister, Rehman Malik, has appeared to have an uneven grasp of developments.

This month he announced in Parliament that the peace deal with militants in the Swat Valley, just outside the tribal areas, had been scrapped. But he retracted the statement the next day, after the provincial government insisted the deal was still on.

Officials of the Awami National Party have complained that his comments undermined their negotiating position. Afrasiab Khattak, a senior official of the party, and other party officials are confident they can make the peace deals in their province work. But few believe that the deals brokered by the military in the tribal regions will last more than a few months, including military officials themselves, senior government officials in Peshawar say.

More fighting and violence is almost certainly on the horizon. What the plan will be then, no one seems to know.
I am struck by how similar Pakistan and Mexico are. They both have weak police forces ill-equipped to handle well equipped thugs operating in friendly havens. The bad guys are so entrenched that they run police through a hamburger grinder. At some point, the military is required and if the bad guys are well-financed and equipped and have been unimpeded for years, the military could be overmatched.

When one side has no problem detaching hands or heads, there are no Geneva conventions which apply. The problem is that no one quite knows how to approach the situations we are seeing develop around the world. At one time, the necessary amount of brute force could be applied, the bodies buried and the rest would be history. No longer, though. With the proliferation of NGO's the days of simple solutions are over. Nowadays, COIN is the coin of the realm. For better or worse, governments and militaries better learn it. Strict written policies and Codes of Conduct must be written and strictly adhered to for practical as well as self-preservation issues lest one find him or herself hauled before a court or a government body.

Mexico has its hands full and for the most part, so far, the killing is inter-gang. Pakistan is in a vacuum, any bets as to who or what steps into that vacuum?

It may take some time for the world to figure out that it can't lawyer its way out this mess.


  1. He who owns the Paki Army, he owns the Paki nukes

    Pakistan, the major global proliferator of nuclear technologies, gets $12 billion USD

    Something wrong with that picture
    Still crazy after all these years

  2. Don't worry about it. Pakistan starts playin' up, Obama's goin' in to fix. He already said so.

  3. Insurgents once ambushed a U.S. convoy or attacked it with a roadside bomb, but seldom would approach or stop the vehicles, Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-101, told Pentagon reporters during a briefing from Afghanistan.

    "The convoy could drive right through," said Schloesser, who is also commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division.

    Now, he said, the attacks are much more complex. A roadside bomb will stop a convoy, followed by an immediate ambush, with insurgents firing from both sides of the road to pin the convoy down.

    More Complex

  4. DR: Pakistan, the major global proliferator of nuclear technologies, gets $12 billion USD

    Geopolitics. Pakistan is the only route in or out of Afghanistan, short of occupying Iran.

  5. House votes $300 billion to fix housing 'crisis'. Must be an election year all right.

    The mortgage aid plan would let the Federal Housing Administration back $300 billion in new, cheaper home loans for an estimated 400,000 distressed borrowers who otherwise would be considered too financially risky to qualify for government-insured, fixed-rate loans.

    When you've loaned money to an unqualified buyer, and he doesn't pay, the fix is to loan more money to the unqualified buyer.

  6. I don't understand how some of these gas stations are staying in business. There are two here must pump 50 or 60 per cent of the business. They are always within a penny or two of one another. The cars boats campers sometimes lined up around the store. On the other hand, I drive by the Tesoro station most every day, and the Chevron across the street, never a buyer, as they are 5 cents or so higher. Surely after a while this has got to hurt.

  7. You can drive by that Chevron station for days before seeing a car by the pumps.

  8. I just saw a tv report about two stations in Buford, Georgia. They"re having a gas war; last weekend the price was down to $3.59/gallon.

  9. And in Oz:

    Monarch Investments Group chief executive Peter Icklow believes the solution is to remove the GST on the purchase of new houses.

    Mr Icklow, whose company is developing the new Ingleburn Gardens estate, said the GST was designed to replace all existing property taxes.

    ‘‘The current housing crisis is a casualty of the greed by state, federal and local governments to levy unbearable and ever increasing taxes and charges, plus the GST on new housing,’’ he said.

    Like a Cancer

  10. "greed by state, federal and local governments to levy unbearable and ever increasing taxes and charges,"

    That must be a problem common to the Anglophile world. It certainly describes my state and local gov'ts.

  11. Why anyone would pay 5 or 6 cents more at Chevron for the same fuel out of the same pipeline is beyond me. But the fact is, most people aren't. So, how long can the local dealer hang on before he says it isn't worth it? Gas is nearing $3.90 here at the lowest. At that point, people are not going to Chevron at $3.96. Feel they're getting ripped by Chevron anyway. Chevron and Tesoro--there's just never anyone at the pumps.

  12. In other words: Business as Usual.

  13. If I had a Chevron gas station full of gas I bought for $3.90 and I didn't sell a single gallon of it because it was 5 cents higher than ARCO, I could sit tight and wait for gas to go to $4.75 like in Eureka California. Then I would sell my gas station full of Chevron gas for $4.59 and make a killing. But in reality it don't work that way. Chevron calls the gas station every morning and tells them what to set the price at. And it pisses off the locals because they know damn good and well there hain't been a gas truck there overnight.

  14. And in China:

    Li Dongtian, a taxi driver, said he is happy the government has taken immediate action, and even happier he will get a refund.

    "Though the overcharge was not too much, it was still unfair to us," Li said.

    He said he had paid about 40 yuan more during the three days.

    Refund to Customers

  15. When we voted (I voted against it, though I do go once in a while) to allow our friends the Nez Perce to open a casino, they built a gas station along with it. That's one of the two biggest stations here. At first, being reservation, they didn't have to pay the federal or state taxes, but I think that is no longer the case, a deal was worked out denying them that. But what a deal when they had it! They'd put the price a cent or so lower than the lowest in town and pocket all that tax money. Now they have a deal where on your Clearwater River Casino Club Card you earn points for gas as you play your money away. I know the traffic at the gambling casino has dropped off too, as they are having cash drawings again, to lure people out that way, one of which I happened to win the other day, $400 at 10am drawing, when hardly anyone is there! There were less than a hundred names in the bin, and she pulled out mine. They have a very nice hotel and restaurant, though the room prices are way out of line, and the rooms sit vacant most of the time. Also, a small RV Park.

  16. Referring to the Pakistan Post.

  17. Better go out and get a lotto ticket with that win, Bob.

  18. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong unveiled a 300-million-Singapore-dollar (224-million-US-dollar) baby-boosting package to encourage parenthood with longer paid maternity leaves and tax rebates.

    Part of the policy is attracting immigrants. Foreigners currently number 1 million.

    Fathers from Britain accounted for 213 births, those from Australia 162, American dads produced 109 offspring and Japanese 94.

    Babies in Singapore

  19. That's right, they do put in the morning call.


    "Chevron, here."

    "Boss, what's the price today for the inventory we won't sell?"

  20. I like the odds at the casino, Sam. Drawings only. Doesn't cost anything to play, just sign your name on a slip of paper, drop it in the barrel, make sure you have your Clearwater River Casino T-Shirt on, and have a free cup of coffee while waiting.

  21. But Democratic members of Congress said Monday they intend to tighten restrictions on pension funds, investment banks and other large investors that they blame for driving up fuel prices.

    At the pump, meanwhile, the average national price of a gallon of regular gas slipped a tenth of a cent overnight to $4.072, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Prices have changed little since reaching a record of $4.08 one week ago.

    Analysts think gas prices are unlikely to change much as long as oil prices remain stuck in their recent trading range between roughly $130 and $140 a barrel. Oil futures are unlikely to break out of that range without major news concerning supply and demand, or the dollar, analysts said.

    Saudi Pledge

  22. Bobal when you say Clearwater Casino I keep thinking of this Clearwater Casino out near the bridge to Braindamage Island. where I'm down about a hunnert bucks.

  23. Here, Lil is where the in crowd hangs out, coveralls and all. The photo of the rock outcropping on the right that looks like an elderly Indian, dead, or just resting, or, as we know, dead but not dead, is their logo. The Nez Perce are great people taken all in all, I have know them forever.

  24. The research center conducts the Florida Consumer Attitude Survey monthly. Respondents are 18 or older and live in households telephoned randomly.

    The preliminary index for June was conducted from 360 responses.

    Consumer confidence is designed to help predict buying patterns by measuring the mood of consumers toward purchasing. Although other economic indicators also predict buying patterns, consumer confidence tends to be available sooner.

    Lowest Rate in History

  25. That looks to be a nice setup, Lil, but from the looks of the traffic in the parking lot, they may have to get some give- a - ways going to attract clients. Really pretty over that way.

  26. I play blackjack here every once in awhile in Adelaide.

  27. The aussies like to gamble I've read, particularily on the horses. That last is the sign of a civilizied society, in my view. It was all over here when Longacres closed. Now we struggle along with this non sense of the electronic give me your money games. Which is all they have at the Clearwater River Casino. Just electronic push the button banditos. No even a craps table. Crap.

  28. Homer reports that on the day of the slaughter the sun is blotted from the sky, possibly a reference to an eclipse. In addition, he mentions more than once that it is the time of a new moon, which is necessary for a total eclipse, the researchers say.

    Other clues include:

    * Six days before the slaughter, Venus is visible and high in the sky.
    * Twenty-nine days before, two constellations -- the Pleiades and Bootes -- are simultaneously visible at sunset.
    * And 33 days before, Mercury is high at dawn and near the western end of its trajectory. This is the researchers' interpretation, anyway.


    And their result has Odysseus exacting his revenge on April 16, 1178 B.C.

    Homecoming Dated to 1178 B.C.

  29. That is a crap casino.

    Yep, Aussies love to gamble. It's huge here. They will bet on anything.

  30. The flags on the top of your casino, Sam, are a little different, one from the other. One must be the aussie flag. What is the other? Flag of the province, maybe?

  31. Yeah, you don't have a chance with the electronic bandito. The smart players like myself hang out for the free coffee, and the barrel drawings.

  32. Yeah, I think it must be. State of South Australia.

  33. hmmm

    I'd take that Homer stuff with a big grain of salt. I read a book just recently, and corresponded by e-mail with that author, who tried to track down the route Ody took home, a very hard task, tried many times before, as he showed in his research. He went sailing around all over the Mediterranean, and, while having a great time of it, came back with more questions that when he set out.

    He compared Ody to Pete Rose, which started our argument. That's absurd, I said. Do better, he said. I said, Tom Sawyer, for instance, and, he finally allowed, I was one up on that.

    Pete Rose = Ody


  34. I know my posts are mostly trash, but why do my posts always have that little trash can symbol below, when yours don't, at least on my screen here? Google has me figured?

    Rat's posts don't have a trash can. Lil's don't. Sam's don't. I feel rejected.

  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

  36. Ah, I get it. That's how you delete a stupid comment.

  37. How desperate are Detroit's carmakers getting? At a few recent meetings, General Motors (GM) executives have mused aloud about the prospects of a merger with rival Ford Motor (F), BusinessWeek has learned.


    A GM-Ford merger would have huge pros and cons. It would create a combined company with more than $350 billion in revenue.


    Not to mention, what would you call the company? General Ford Motors just doesn't have much of a ring to it.

    GM/Ford Combo

  38. jeez, that's unheard of, a GM/Ford get together. We used to almost have fights, and we did have some drag races, to settle this matter.

  39. Officials close to Mr Olmert said that preparations were being made for his “transition from power”. In several scenarios described by political insiders, the Government could be dealt a lethal blow by today’s Bill, or by a no-confidence vote for Monday.

    He could also announce his resignation.

    Most political analysts agree that new elections are likely to be held in September or November.

    Ceasefire Threatened

  40. In Oz:

    Attorney-General Robert McLelland says the practice is against the law.

    "There is absolutely no way that the Government will be recognising polygamist relationships," he said.

    "They are unlawful and they will remain as such."

    Polygamist Marriage

  41. Vindication

    Which is a good human word when you think of it, born out of experience, where language comes from.

  42. Damned good ruling from Down Under there, Sam.

  43. To be fair, Obama is not alone in his calculated repositioning. John McCain, the Republican presumptive nominee, has been going through a similar process, struggling to reclaim his maverick mantle after he spent much of the primaries proving his conservative credentials by flip-flopping his positions on tax cuts and immigration.

    Unlike McCain, however, no amount of careful brand positioning will stop an Obama presidency from signifying undeniable and historic change: he would be the first black President, the first Democrat in the White House since Bill Clinton, and the first President of his generation. He has already revolutionized the way people donate to, and help organize, campaigns.

    All of which means that Obama faces a unique political challenge; as he tries to maintain the fervent grassroots enthusiasm that has gotten him this far while appealing to enough independents to take him to the White House, the Illinois Senator must both disprove and prove the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Will Experience Hurt Obama?

  44. Diet sources include fortified milk, which generally contains 100 international units of vitamin D per cup, and fatty fish -- 3 ounces of canned tuna has 200 units.

    The Institute of Medicine's current vitamin D recommendations are 200 units daily for children and adults up to age 50, and 400 to 600 units for older adults. But some doctors believe these amounts are far too low and recommend taking supplements.

    The American Medical Association at its annual meeting last week agreed to urge a review of the recommendations.

    Key to Long Life?

  45. hehhe

    It never ceases to amaze me, these folks at KGO, Br. Bill excepted. Tonight, Korel, that nice queer, but lacking in any education of the law, was talking about some incident of 'road rage', where some moron shot some other people, a very bad thing, we all agree. But, Korel was talking on about how we should sue the manufacturer of the automobile that was driven by the victims, as not having the equivalent of safety belts for such an occasion, that it to say, armour plating.

    O my, some of these people think always sue somebody, always sue somebody. It's the influence of the 9th Circus Court of Appeals.

    My idea is to find the culprit, and shoot him.

    But, Korel says, we should sue the motor company for not providing us with armoured vehicles, like our military uses in Iraq.

    And yet, Korel is all for the high gas mileage, micro car.

    Go figure.


  46. Dr. Bill Wattenburg excepted...