“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, December 26, 2011

Afghanistan Reconstruction - Can the US Government Do Anything Right?

America’s foreign fiascos

Pioneer INDIA

The haste shown by the US in winding up its operations in Iraq and the prospect of a similar exit plan from unstable Af-Pak reveals the hollowness of America’s strategic vision
America’s Iraq mission seems futile from both the Iraqi as well as its own long-term perspective. The exit of the US troops after imposing a nine-year long war which claimed the lives of 4,500 of its own soldiers and cost $1 trillion, was disgracefully hurried. Despite the decade-long association with locals, the departing soldiers were not even given time to say their goodbyes. They not only kept the details of their final trip secret but also convinced local tribal leaders and government officials that nothing was going to change.
The stated goal of the 2003 Iraq invasion was to remove a regime that allegedly developed and used weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Saddam Hussein was accused of human rights abuses and the America-led powers pulled out all the stops to manipulate the will of the United Nations.
However, if George W Bush’s stated goals of 2003 are subjected to scrutiny today, it all turns out a waste. Saddam is gone, but there was no evidence of WMD. Iraqi society is completely torn between the Shia majority and the Sunni minority. In the absence of American forces, the fragile attempts to get the two warring sides to work together could collapse.
Signs of chaos are already descending on Iraq. The Sunni-backed political block is boycotting Parliament to protest the so-called dictatorship of Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Tension further escalated with the Maliki Government calling on the Kurdish region to hand over
Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, another prominent Sunni figure in the Allawi-led “Iraqiya” block, on terror charges.
In terms of US interests, there are three major counts of failure. 
  • First, the US has been unable to set up a stable democratic Government which can work to America’s advantage. Instead, the shaky Government has given ample opportunity for Iran to interfere in its internal affairs and work against US interests.
  • Second, due to the high cost of war — $ 1 trillion — the US administration has lost Americans’ support for future military adventures in any other country.
  • Third, the US has been accused of inventing the whole WMD scare and demonising Saddam only for securing control of Iraq’s oil reserves. The Americans had hoped the reconstruction of Iraq would be paid for by the Iraqis with payment in the form of oil at pre-fixed prices. But this didn’t work out. Therefore, the commercial rationale of going to war against Saddam Hussein and effecting regime change came to a grand zero.

Following the Cold War, America perceived a major challenge to the new world order from rogue states which allegedly posed serious danger to regional stability in many corners of the globe. It is here that the US assumed special responsibility for developing a strategy to engage, neutralise and contain “Backless States” to transform them into constructive members of the international community and work in the US’ favour.
Additionally, under George HW Bush and Bill Clinton, domestic political and commercial interests also played a significant role in determining and shaping this containment and engagement policy. Though the so-called “rogue” countries constituted a distinct group of nations, the concept did not translate into a singular American policy. Rather it generated debates on whether to go for containment or engagement with those States.
For example, with Syria and Pakistan, the US went for engagement, while for Iraq and Afghanistan, it chose containment. Depending on the target country, the objective of the US engagement or containment policy has been to precipitate either regime change or transform their political outlook. The latter was put on display in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The banality of ethnic war theorist John Mueller once argued that public support for the American wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq can be explained with “a simple association”. As casualties mount, support decreases, says this theory. In this context, it’s not hard to understand why the support for the Iraq war among Americans dropped so fast. So, keeping in mind the public preference of the same outcome — victory — at lower cost or war — casualties — the US recently changed tack and resorted to use of drones for surgical operations.
The drone policy was successful in eliminating America’s greatest enemies — Osama bin Laden and others — but the image of the world’s only superpower took a beating. President Barack Obama was accused of cowardice after Iran blatantly refused to hand over the wreckage of the drone it had shot down. It has already threatened to bomb Turkey if the US or Israel tries to destroy its nuclear installations. General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the aerospace division of the powerful Revolutionary Guard, threatened to target Nato’s missile defence shield in Turkey, installed to prevent Iranian missile attacks on Israel. Even the US-EU threat to block Iran’s oil exports is not feasible as this would more than double crude prices, with devastating consequences on a fragile global economy.
The Iraq experience of the US could become a model for withdrawal of its military from Afghanistan. But the 2014 target is set to open a can of worms in the Af-Pak region. According to a World Bank estimate, 97 per cent of Afghanistan’s economy is tied to international military and donor spending. With the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warning of severe economic depression in Afghanistan after 2014, it is not only the nation building that is at stake but the certainty of revival of terror networks in whose pursuit the US invaded Afghanistan.
US-Pakistan relations are at their lowest. As if the covert operation to take out Osama bin Laden was not enough, the United States military had to take a confrontationist attitude towards the Pakistani military. The “friendly fire” which led to the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers was followed by a diplomatic row which saw Washington maintain a rigid stance against the Pakistanis’ protests. This was quite unbecoming of a world power.
While Pakistan is heavily dependent on US defence and economic aid, the presence of the Haqqani network in Islambad suggests that Pakistan is actively aiding the enemies of America. The great American tragedy is that Washington knows full well that the ISI and Pakistani Army are working with the Haqqani network, but it is impotent when it comes to responding in a manner which leads to a resolution.
The officially stated goals of US foreign policy, as mentioned in its Foreign Policy Agenda, are to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community. But going by the experience on ground, it seems America has failed woefully.
--The writer is Joint News Editor, The Pioneer


  1. We did one thing "right" in Iraq; We left.

    Something to "build on."

    I'll vote for a dirty, mangey, yellow dog if it promises to get us out of that hellhole.

  2. And, I'll sneak around the back door, and vote for him twice if he promises to end ALL "aid" to ALL Middleeastern, N. African, Southern Asia countries while he's at it.

  3. We got out of the wrong place. Should have gotten out of Afghanistan and stayed around Iraq for awhile.

    The Strategist

  4. However, at least some of his support is ostensibly Republican and/or non-insane Independent. What would it take at this point to convince these people that they’re just embarrassing themselves by holding fast to this flawed vessel? Compromising pictures of Paul with a male goat? Video footage of Paul suggesting that the Government wants to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep United States citizens from fleeing to Mexico? What?

    Don't Fence Me In


  5. Just How Stupid Are We?

    China gets approval for Afghanistan oil exploration bid

    China's rapid economic expansion has resulted in a surge in demand for oil in the country

    China has gained potential access to millions of barrels of oil after it won approval for oil exploration and extraction in Afghanistan.

    The country's cabinet approved a deal to allow China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to develop oil blocks in the Amu Darya Basin.

    The basin is estimated to hold around 87 million barrels of oil.

    The deal comes as China is looking to expand its oil resources in wake of a growing domestic demand.

    "The Afghan cabinet has ordered mines minister Wahidullah Shahrani to sign an oil exploration contract for Amu Darya with China National Petroleum Corporation," Afghanistan president's office said in a statement.


  6. I wouldn't care if the male goat was on top, or bottom. As long as he signed the didimow papers, first.

  7. If there's oil maybe we should stay in Afghanistan, long as it goes to us.

    We seem to be to nice for that sort of thing though.


  8. The oil in Afpakistan is not worth the cost in blood and treasure.

    To even suggest that it could be, beyond disingenuous. It is duplicitous.

    The failures in Iraq, those were forecast in 2004. The stated political goals beyond the military capabilities of the United States.

    The political goals of the adventure in Afpakistan, never well defined, and even more difficult to achieve. Again, impossible to gain, militarily, using the doctrine employed by the US.

    The answer to the question:
    "Afghanistan Reconstruction - Can the US Government Do Anything Right?"

    Is a resounding "No".

    A country, like a man, in the words of "Dirty Harry" Callahan...

    "Needs to know his limitations"


  9. While boobie misses the mark, entirely.

    It is not the number of doctors that belong to the Guild that is important. It is the Guild's power in sanctioning the medical schools, that is absolute.

    That is the "governing" factor in the number of doctors entering the market, not the management of the Federal subsidy payments to those doctors.

    Each of the 134 medical schools, is operating at capacity.

    From the LA Times:
    October 25, 2011
    For those concerned about the shortage of doctors in the U.S. healthcare system, here is a bit of good news: The number of students enrolling in medical schools has reached its highest level in a decade.

    More than 19,200 people entered their first year of medical school in 2011, a 3% increase over 2010, according to new data from the nonprofit Assn. of American Medical Colleges.

  10. Where there is a challenge, caused by the Federals, it is not one caused by ObamaCare, which has yet to be implemented.

    It was caused in 1997 and continued through the Bush tenure of total GOP control and excess spending. Where not one piece of GOP sponsored legislation was vetoed.

    There is a shortage of medical resident positions. The residency is the minimum three-year period when medical-school graduates train in hospitals and clinics.

    There are about 110,000 resident positions in the U.S., according to the AAMC. Teaching hospitals rely heavily on Medicare funding to pay for these slots. In 1997, Congress imposed a cap on funding for medical residencies, which hospitals say has increasingly hurt their ability to expand the number of positions.

  11. While the licensing process, for doctors, in the US, is different from most of the other countries in the whirled.

    Part of the process developed by the Guild.

    Unlike the situation in many other countries, medical school graduates in the United States must successfully complete graduate medical education as one of the requirements for obtaining an unrestricted license to practice medicine in the United States. IMGs, regardless of citizenship, must be certified by the ECFMG to be eligible to enter accredited graduate medical education programs in the United States. U.S. residency programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

    Of course the various doctor guilds control this ACGME.

    The ACGME's member organizations are the American Board of Medical Specialties, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Council of Medical Specialty Societies. Member organizations each nominate four members to the Board of Directors, which also includes two resident members—the chair of the Council of Review Committee Residents and a resident member appointed by the Resident and Fellow Section of the AMA—three public directors, the chair of the Council of Review Committees, one to four at-large directors, and a non-voting federal representative.

  12. Another interesting tidbit, which confirms the lack of available student openings or the high cost of US schools, no telling which ...

    Currently, approximately 25% of all residents and 25% of practicing physicians in the United States obtained their medical degrees outside the United States or Canada.

    So one would assume that these folks are foreigners, but for reality peeking it nose into the room.

    In the 2010 class of residents, some 13% of slots are filled by non-U.S. citizens who completed medical school outside the U.S.

    So, some half of those gaining the medical degrees overseas, that then come to work in the US, are US citizens.

    That the Guild has been using Medicare funds to pay te residents, a private management decision, by the Guild members.

    The answer to increasing the number of residents, not to increase Medicare spending.

    But to change the licensing requirements. Which would require the Guilds approval, or at least acquiescence.

  13. .

    That the Guild has been using Medicare funds to pay te residents, a private management decision, by the Guild members.

    The private management decisions are likely made by the hospitals rather than the guilds, it is they who recieve the Medicare money for the residents.

    Where as your statment may have been true in the past, I suspect those decisions are today made primarily by MBA's, resource specialists, and pencil-pushers.


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