“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."

Monday, August 03, 2009

Finger pointing in the wake of a bad month

Six Phases of a Project

1. Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Panic
4. A Search for the Guilty
5. The Punishment of the Innocent
6. Praise and Honor for the Non-Participants

Afghan mission falls short of expectations: Lawmakers

The international military mission in Afghanistan has delivered "much less than it promised" due to the lack of a realistic strategy, an influential committee of lawmakers said Sunday.

In a report, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said without a clear strategy stabilising Afghanistan had become "considerably more difficult than might otherwise have been the case."

Lawmakers criticised US policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan and warned the "considerable cultural insensitivity" of some coalition troops had caused serious damage to Afghans' perceptions that will be "difficult to undo".

"We conclude that the international effort in Afghanistan since 2001 has delivered much less than it promised and that its impact has been significantly diluted by the absence of a unified vision and strategy grounded in the realities of Afghanistan's history, culture and politics," the report said.

"Although Afghanistan's current situation is not solely the legacy of the West's failures since 2001, avoidable mistakes, including knee-jerk responses, policy fragmentation and overlap, now make the task of stabilising the country considerably more difficult than might otherwise have been the case."

As for Britain's roughly 9,000 troops in Afghanistan -- who in July suffered their worst month since the 2001 invasion with 22 deaths -- the members of parliament (MPs) said their role has seen "significant mission creep".

They were initially sent to counter international terrorism and are now working on areas like fighting the drugs trade and counter-insurgency, it said, adding the military had not been given "clear direction".

"We conclude that the UK's mission in Afghanistan has taken on a significantly different and considerably expanded character since the first British troops were deployed there in 2001," the report said.

"The UK deployment to Helmand (province) was undermined by unrealistic planning at senior levels, poor coordination between Whitehall (government) departments and crucially, a failure to provide the military with clear direction."

Britain's role as lead international partner on counter-narcotics was "a poisoned chalice", the report said, adding there was "little evidence" to suggest that cuts in poppy cultivation were down to deliberate strategy.

It called for British troops to focus on security alone.

The "Global Security: Afghanistan and Pakistan" report also looked at problems caused by the use of air power, particularly by the United States.

Drone attacks by US forces in Pakistan have "damaged the US's reputation" while some of the blame for problems in the international mission in Afghanistan must be put on the Bush administration's early focus on military goals, it said.

The report also warned that the reputation of NATO -- in command of international troops in Afghanistan since 2003 -- could be "seriously damaged" without fairer burden-sharing between member states to ease the strain.

Britain has long called for other NATO countries to contribute more to the military effort.

The conditions of prisoners and detainees being held by the Afghan authorities were "a matter of considerable concern", it added, while also saying there had been "no tangible progress" on tackling corruption.

Responding to the report, the Foreign Office said it would study its conclusions and submit an official response in the coming months.


  1. The Russians have recently made it easier for the US and NATO to get men and material into Afghanistan, by allowing Russian overflights.

    Obama thought he got a concession.

    Putin probably laughed himself to tears with that deal.

    The indians have decided that they are expanding their navy by another 100 ships. They know the neighborhood.

    Afghanistan is land locked, cocked and stocked with narco criminals and warring tribal religious fanatics that make the Hatfields and McCoys look like a meeting of the Junior League.

    Get out of Dodge.

  2. (CNN) -- They are four American friends and seasoned travelers... {four dumb shits might be more apt} who were hiking through Iraq's Kurdistan region before three of them crossed the unmarked border with Iran, where they were detained by Iranian authorities.

    Ahmed Awa, on the border of Iraq and Iran, is where police saw and warned the American hikers Friday.

    Kurdish officials identified the detained hikers as Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal, CNN confirmed Sunday. The fourth hiker, Shon Meckfessel, stayed behind in Iraq.

  3. JERUSALEM, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday he would quit if Israel's attorney-general adopted a police recommendation to indict him on corruption charges.

  4. Obama eyes moving Guantanamo prisoners to lockup in Michigan
    by Helen Kennedy
    Daily News Staff Writer

  5. Krugman, at the NYTimes, is the center moving?
    Is Obama going to be change, or rhetoric?

    whit's link yesterday, more of the same, but being codified into law.

    to be clear: financial speculation can serve a useful purpose. It’s good, for example, that futures markets provide an incentive to stockpile heating oil before the weather gets cold and stockpile gasoline ahead of the summer driving season.

    But speculation based on information not available to the public at large is a very different matter. As the U.C.L.A. economist Jack Hirshleifer showed back in 1971, such speculation often combines “private profitability” with “social uselessness.”

    It’s hard to imagine a better illustration than high-frequency trading. The stock market is supposed to allocate capital to its most productive uses, for example by helping companies with good ideas raise money. But it’s hard to see how traders who place their orders one-thirtieth of a second faster than anyone else do anything to improve that social function.

    What about Mr. Hall? The Times report suggests that he makes money mainly by outsmarting other investors, rather than by directing resources to where they’re needed. Again, it’s hard to see the social value of what he does.

    And there’s a good case that such activities are actually harmful. For example, high-frequency trading probably degrades the stock market’s function, because it’s a kind of tax on investors who lack access to those superfast computers — which means that the money Goldman spends on those computers has a negative effect on national wealth. As the great Stanford economist Kenneth Arrow put it in 1973, speculation based on private information imposes a “double social loss”: it uses up resources and undermines markets

  6. We're outta there.

  7. "physician aid in dying"

    SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Barbara Wagner has one wish - for more time.

    "I'm not ready, I'm not ready to die," the Springfield woman said. "I've got things I'd still like to do."

    Her doctor offered hope in the new chemotherapy drug Tarceva, but the Oregon Health Plan sent her a letter telling her the cancer treatment was not approved.

    Instead, the letter said, the plan would pay for comfort care, including "physician aid in dying," better known as assisted suicide.

    "I told them, I said, 'Who do you guys think you are?' You know, to say that you'll pay for my dying, but you won't pay to help me possibly live longer?' " Wagner said.

  8. 50% of Healthcare costs are already paid by the Govt, Rufus:
    That and Lawyers are the major factors driving costs higher, as hospitals bill to to cover both.

    ...and virtually ALL of our non-functional, violence ridden large cities have been BLUE for decades:
    DC, Detroit, and LA are the spawn of those utopian dreams.

  9. Well, that Oregon story sounds bad, Doug; but, I'd like to see a few more particulars.

    What did the treatment cost? What was the chance for "survival?"

    Is there another comparable drug for less money?

    What is the "mission statement" of the "Oregon Plan?" Is it a "supplemental" coverage? Is it "Medicaid?"

    Too many "unknowns."

  10. Let's look at it this way, Doug. 50% of health care costs are paid by the Government because your private insurers wouldn't cover those old, poor, sick people.

    It's going to cost you some money, Doug. Me, also. But, probably not as much as the hair-on-fire, arm-wavers are yelling about.

    It'll be worth it.

  11. The size of the Canadian contingent in Afghanistan is about 2500 soldiers. The number killed is about 130. The Canadian Government is committed to stay until 2011.

    Canadians are a quiet people as I am learning more and more every day. But I notice an increased grumbling about the Afghan mission.

    People say quietly, almost as an aside, "What are we doing there? What are we trying to accomplish?" I have not heard one person attempt to justify the mission.

    Escorting my wife to various functions has brought me into contact with some politicians at the federal level. None of them thought that the Afghan mission would be extended.

    We are trying to beat out a prairie grass fire with a broom. There are times when you have to realize that some fires cannot be beaten out. Sometimes you just have to let a fire run its course.

    I have a posted an article about the historian and diplomat Geo. F. Kennan written in 1951.

    The operative word is "containment"

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