“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."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Trudy Rubin: U.S. role in Afghanistan produces many positives

Trudy Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer

Soon after the Taliban’s fall, the State Department sent one of its most intrepid diplomats, Ryan Crocker, to reopen the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
He had already served as ambassador to Kuwait, Lebanon and Syria; he went on to serve in Pakistan and in Iraq during the “surge.” He then retired and was enjoying a deanship at Texas A&M University. But President Barack Obama asked him to return to Kabul a year ago, and Crocker thought he could not refuse.
This month, the 63-year-old Crocker will retire again, this time for health reasons, leaving Kabul in a crucial period of transition as the United States prepares to withdraw most of its troops by the end of 2014. I spoke to him about what he has achieved and Afghanistan’s future.
“There is every chance” that some U.S. troops will remain as advisers after 2014, he told me. He stressed that continued U.S. economic and military aid will be essential to keep Afghanistan stable after our troop drawdown. He also said there will not be “some kind of grand bargain with (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar” to stop the Afghan fighting, but that the Afghan government can win over individual Taliban leaders.
But first, the ambassador wanted to talk about the invaluable work that U.S. civilians have done on the war front.
Crocker presided over a surge of U.S. civilian personnel aimed at helping Afghan officials deliver better governance. He bristles at claims (mine included) that diplomats and aid workers are cut off from their Afghan counterparts or have failed to make a difference.
“When I first got here in January 2002,” Crocker says, “9 percent of Afghans had access to health care. There were 20,000 mobile phones. Now there are 16 million mobile subscribers, and more than 60 percent of Afghans live within an hour’s walk of health care.
“The number of students is up to 8 million in a decade. We increased life expectancy by a dec- ade in the last nine years. This is not nothing.”
Of course, many observers question whether economically pinched Western governments will continue aiding a corrupt Afghan government after 2014. Crocker warns what would happen after an aid cutoff: “Afghanistan collapsed after the Soviet withdrawal (in 1989) when the money stopped. No one wants to see history repeat itself. If we have to ante up a little more than intended, it is still pretty cheap insurance.”
The ambassador had just returned from Tokyo, where an international donors conference pledged $16 billion for Afghan economic development over the next four years. “Read the Tokyo document,” Crocker advised. It requires the Afghan government to reduce corruption before receiving all of the money. He insists that “there is a chance for improvement on corruption,” but it’s a long-term project.
Crocker also believes it is essential for NATO countries to continue financing Afghanistan’s security forces. Will those forces hold together after U.S. troops leave? They will fight, Crocker says, “as long as they feel they are fighting for something and as long as they are getting paid.”
One of Crocker’s major achievements was a strategic partnership agreement that opens the door for a limited number of U.S. forces after 2014 — details to be negotiated. “I think there is every chance that post-2014 we will continue to have a presence here,” Crocker says, “certainly to advise and assist.”
He thinks the Afghans will agree because they “know they face a real threat” from Taliban forces harbored by Pakistan. “We can’t assume that situation will change,” he added. He also stressed the need to resume a “high-level strategic dialogue” with Pakistan.
Crocker is skeptical about the prospects for a broad peace agreement with the Taliban, despite U.S. efforts to engage them over the past year. He doubts that the Pakistan-based Haqqani faction of the Taliban, which is fighting U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan, will ever reconcile.
He is more hopeful about getting “some significant number of (other) Taliban leaders willing to reconcile,” as well as getting foot soldiers to change sides.
Crocker stressed the importance of a recent encounter at a peace forum in Kyoto, Japan, between a high-ranking Taliban and a senior adviser to Karzai. He says the Taliban will eventually have to bargain with Kabul, not with the Americans.
“We haven’t talked to the Taliban in months,” he noted. “It has to be an Afghan deal.”
But Crocker won’t be around to help facilitate any deal. He is heading back to Washington, and then to Texas and academia. Unless he gets another desperate White House call for help.


First the video


A person wearing an Afghan national security force uniform turned his weapon Sunday against civilian contractors with the U.S.-led military coalition, killing three.
In other incidents, five NATO service members were killed in roadside bombings over the past two days.
NATO said the attack on the civilian coalition workers occurred in western Afghanistan but disclosed few other details.
The gunman was killed during the incident, which is still being investigated. No further information about the civilians who died was released.
Afghan security forces or militants dressed in their uniforms have been killing a rising number of coalition forces, but they have not been specifically targeting contractors working for the coalition. So far this year, 26 foreign troops have been killed in this type of attacks.
In other violence, a spokesman for the governor of eastern Wardak province said insurgents had kidnapped five Afghan men working a base jointly operated by Afghan and NATO forces and killed them. Spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said their bodies were discovered early Sunday.
Also Sunday, Afghan officials reported that four civilians died when hundreds of shells and rockets were fired from neighboring Pakistan.
The artillery shells hit homes along frontier areas from which insurgents have in the past staged cross-border attacks.
There is little or no Afghan or NATO military presence in the area and large swaths of the region are controlled by insurgent groups. The information could not be independently verified because the area is largely off-limits to reporters.
The Afghan government has not openly blamed the Pakistani military for the artillery barrage, which reportedly hit districts in the eastern provinces of Nuristan and Kunar. Both are considered insurgent hotbeds, and militants allied with both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban regularly cross the mountainous border in both directions.
President Hamid Karzai discussed artillery fire coming from Pakistan at a weekly meeting of his national security council, a statement said. It added that Karzai ordered an in-depth investigation into the attacks.
The cross-border attacks were discussed in Kabul last week during an official visit by Pakistan's new Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Cameron, Ashraf and Karzai jointly called for a common stand against insurgents operating in the lawless border areas. Ashraf complained at a news conference about attacks against Pakistan originating in Kunar.
Kabul's Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai said, "The rocket attacks in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan are not acceptable to us, and we are strongly condemning these attacks. We believe that the continuation of such rocket attacks will have a negative impact on the friendly relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan."
All five of the NATO service members were killed in roadside bomb attacks - one Saturday in the east, and on Sunday, two in the east and two in the south. NATO provided no further details on the incidents or the nationalities of the troops.
The deaths bring the number of foreign forces killed in July to 32, and a total of 247 so far this year.
NATO also said that it killed a number of insurgents with an airstrike in the Mohammad Agha district of eastern Logar province. It did not provide further details.
Fighting in eastern Afghanistan has been raging since spring as NATO tries to clear the area of insurgents.

Read more here:


  1. The afghanis are getting healthcare. But, we can't afford it for poor Americans. What a load of horseshit.

  2. "The afghanis are getting healthcare.........What a load of horseshit."

    You are right there, that is horseshit, and I've come to be able to recognize horseshit when I see it.

    Why, I read just the other day, the Mayo Clinic, and The Swedish Hospital in Seattle are opening branch offices in


    even as we speak.

    If I'd had the choice I'd have flown to Mazar-i-Sharif for my new hip. But I had to settle for my local emergency room and my Blue Cross policy, which finally once paid off for me.

    Give me a break Rufus. You want Afghan medical care, move there.

    Teaching Staff:

    Most of the teaching staff retired, were deceased or took refuge elsewhere.
    The remaining teachers were frozen in time with regard to medical knowledge.
    Some of the medical staff were not paid for months. They worked as venders in the streets to feed their families in addition to teaching.
    In most schools, the number of teachers was inadequate or non existent.


    The number of students increased from less then 1000 to more then 10,000.
    Many of the students were veterans who spent years in school without graduating.
    > 2800 student were studying in KMI .
    Some students had not even graduated from high school. They were enrolled by those in power.

    It's the brothers and fathers and uncles of the girls that do the clitorectomies, with rusty knives, saving a little money there.


    1. Most of the teaching staff retired, were deceased or took refuge elsewhere.

      I've read some of the very best medical professors in Afghanistan are the cadavers, which, thankfully, are not in short supply.

    2. And, by the way, any 'poor' person here who was delivered to the emergency room in the same shape as I would have received the very same treatment, only lacking an insurance policy, taxpayers would end up footing the bill.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Homonization

    Hello, o hello happy hands
    I am so happy to think
    I could suck in joy
    My opposable thumb
    I’ve begun to rise
    My eyes
    Above the great grasses
    I see the moon wax and wane
    And the unchanging sun
    From this I see
    Things always to come
    Wind whispers the leaves
    My bird spirit flies skies
    I remember water
    And handle a spear
    Spirit gives game
    To my certain aim
    My brothers and I
    Hunt the beasts
    To which we gave name
    Eaten at night
    Eaten from flame
    Which we made tame
    Shared with our women
    And our growing ones
    We are true man
    Made a sacred circle
    Before the sacred killing began
    Before the coming of guile
    Homonization began with a smile

  5. Washington Times

    The Army ordered the destruction of a report that praised the performance of an off-the-shelf software program that finds buried explosives in Afghanistan and replaced it with a revised, less-favorable assessment, according to internal Pentagon documents.

    The unusual action came amid a battle inside the Army. It pits those who want the service to send more of the software platform, called Palantir, to the Afghanistan War against those who favor the Army’s own developed intelligence network, the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS).

    Internal emails reveal an intelligence officer in Afghanistan who was frustrated by Army bureaucrats who blocked his request to buy Palantir in the winter.

    “We are trying to solve some very hard problems that pose life or death issues for the soldiers,” the officer emailed to the Pentagon.

    The documents obtained by The Washington Times show that Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Army chief of staff, in February ordered the Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) to judge the performance of Palantir.

    ATEC published internally its official report in April, but the report was rescinded and ordered destroyed. The less-favorable assessment of Palantir was issued in its place in May.

    The Times first reported last week that commanders in Afghanistan asked higher-ups for permission to buy Palantir, as they raved about its ability to pinpoint a major killer of American troops — buried homemade bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

    The Times reported how officers had to go over bureaucratic hurdles to acquire Palantir, which is not in the annual Army budget and would have to be purchased with special funds.

    How much better to spend money on Gay Recognition Month

  6. Perhaps a poem for “homoization” to rock the month would be in order. Better to celebrate inclusion and diversity than undo worry over getting blown to hell by the enemy.

    You thought I was joking about closing down the Pentagon. The Pentagon does for defense and war what the Department of Education does for teaching.

  7. I'm a bit perplexed how you Americans can be so patriotic, extol your political system, fight endless wars for your govt., and strive to export your political system to foreign countries, but at the same time feel a need to arm yourselves to the teeth against your govt., while you hardly trust them an inch.
    Interesting thought processes going on here.

    1. .

      Good point. But then, we are a strange and wonderful people.



    2. Strange, wonderful, armed to the teeth.

    3. What failing Euro nanny state did you wander in from, Fredo? Sit on down here and have one of our prized imported Heinekens, might help your balance of trade, or try a 'Rufus Special' aka around here as swill.

      'An armed bar is a polite bar' is our motto.

      Each out for himself is our way of life.


    4. Based on what I read here, we are not alone. The US is a well armed, failing, heavily indebted bog of a nanny state with some very lovely national parks which our mutual ancestors stole from their rightful owners.Do I have that right?

    5. .

      Well, sure, if you want to put it that way.

      Although, that doesn't sound a kool as 'The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.' Of course, it's still better than any place else.


  8. .

    ...For Vallejo, a working-class community of 116,000 in the sun-splashed hills 30 miles northeast of San Francisco, the move toward bankruptcy was a slow downward spiral beginning with the closure of Mare Island Naval Shipyard in 1996. The local economy never really recovered, but a booming housing market helped paper over the loss of the city's economic engine.

    City councils continued approving raises and benefits for workers, ignoring warnings from citizen oversight commissions. Police and fire officials could retire at 50 with 90% of their final year's salary. After one year of service, public employees could get health care coverage for life, and so could their families. Starting in 2005, the city began spending $3 million to $4 million a year more than it was taking in, draining its reserve fund.

    When the housing bubble burst, property tax revenue fell by 30 percent and sales tax receipts dropped 20 percent.

    By 2008, the city was facing a $16 million deficit. Local leaders held 11 mediation sessions with public employees, whose salaries and benefits accounted for about 75 percent of the $80 million general fund budget, but were unable to reach an agreement on givebacks....

    From The Detroit News:

    The Good and the Bad of Bankruptcy


  9. .


    Big boys and institutions walk with a slap on the wrist as traders take it in the ass.

    American prosecutors and European regulators are close to arresting individual traders over the Libor scandal and charging them with colluding to manipulate global benchmark interest rates, according to sources familiar with the investigation...

    Barclays, which signed a non-prosecution agreement with US prosecutors, is the first major bank to reach a settlement in the investigation, which also is looking at the activities of employees at HSBC, Deutsche Bank and other major banks.

    The Barclays settlement sparked outrage and a series of public hearings in Britain, after which Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond announced his resignation...

    Alongside the investigation into how traders allegedly sought to influence the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, and other global rates there in an effort by regulators to punish major banks with fines...

    Anyone See a Pattern?


  10. .

    “Across much of the developing world,” Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported, “state capitalism -- in which the state either owns companies or plays a major role in supporting or directing them -- is replacing the free market.” From 2004 through 2009, the article points out, “120 state-owned companies made their debut on the Forbes list of the world’s largest corporations, while 250 private companies fell off it.”

    What explains this stunning reversal for Anglo-American neoliberalism? Or is it that we have just emerged, blinking, from a long period of ideological delusion in which we were unable to see the world as it actually is?

    Is American-Style Capitalism Dead (or Dying)?


  11. .

    Was Obama right? Did the government invent the internet?

    A telling moment in the presidential race came recently when Barack Obama said: "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." He justified elevating bureaucrats over entrepreneurs by referring to bridges and roads, adding: "The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all companies could make money off the Internet."

    Or was it a Couple of Smart Guys and Xerox?


  12. Latest Paolo 'Paolito' Gabriele news -

    (you had forgotten his plight, hadn't you?)

    Out of gaol to house arrest.

    Three Investigated for Leaked Vatican Documents, Repubblica Says
    By Lorenzo Totaro - Jul 22, 2012 11:07 PM PT

    Vatican prosecutors are investigating three people including a housekeeper of Pope Benedict XVI and two prelates as part of a probe on confidential documents leaked to an Italian journalist, la Repubblica reported, without saying where it got the information.

    The three may be accomplices of the pontiff’s butler Paolo Gabriele who was arrested on May 26 on suspicion of “aggravated theft,” the Rome-based newspaper said.

    Gabriele was last week released from custody and placed under house arrest pending a decision on whether he will stand trial, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a July 21 statement.

    A lawyer for Gabriele said he hadn’t been paid by anyone to remove documents from the Vatican, Ansa news agency reported.

    1. .

      The butler did it.

      ...The three may be accomplices of the pontiff’s butler Paolo Gabriele...

      Looks like he was the ringleader. Add conspiracy to the charges.


    2. He should be given a medal, and a Cardinalship, or made Pope himself for letting a little light in on the snake-pit!

  13. Those Fedayeen in the video looked like Arabs (Saudis?)

  14. Or possibly Iranians.

  15. Both the Baluch and Pashtuns are on both sides of the border with Iran. None of them like a foreign invader any better than the Texans liked the Mexicans. Anyone who is willing to die for his religion is a puzzlement to me or as our friend Fredo says, “an Interesting thought process.

  16. But Texans are Mexicans and visa-versa!?

    1. Visa-versal
      Yes indeed
      It is universal
      The oneness need
      For Visa-Versal
      Worldwide credit card


      Visa-Versal Vision Universal

      View from ISS of earth and stars, and big city lights!

    3. Linko mistako

      Try it here -

      Kinda neat.


      It's the pot, Ash, it'd destroyed your brain. You knew, did you not, that the shooter was a life long pot head?

      Ban pot, not guns!

  17. Oh man, ya got me - vice-versa. I hang my head in shame.

  18. Rasmussen Tracking 7/20 - 7/22 1500 LV 3.0 43 46 Romney +3

    I'm beginning to worry Romney may be peaking too soon. The folk may take pity on poor flailing Obama, as some are said to have done with Truman.

  19. Best sporting event you never heard of -

    University of Washington crew beat the Germanic Supermen, 1936, as Hitler, Goring, Goebbels, and related nazi scum look on.

  20. Here Ash, sit back, fire up a little of Canadian cannabis, let your mind wander, and read this -

    including all 143 comments.



  21. shipley130

    A lot of lifeless bodies seem to piling up around Obama.


    Today 04:34 AM


    Go to Nachumlist dead pool and see just how many, prepare to vomit.


    Today 06:27 AM
    in reply to shipley130


    Wondering, has the Obama list surpassed the Clinton list, yet?


    Today 11:44 AM
    in reply to shipley130


    This would be a great question at a white house briefing. Jay Carney would soil his pampers.

    Read more:


  22. Sally Ride Dies at 61

    Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, died Monday after a battle with pancreatic cancer, her family confirmed. She was 61. “Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy and love,” her family said in a statement on Ride’s website. Ride already had a degree in astrophysics in 1977 when she joined NASA, whose astronauts had all been male military test pilots. Ride made history on June 18, 1983, when she launched into space abroad the Challenger. “The thing I remember most about that flight was that it was fun,” Ride said. “In fact, I think I’m sure it was the most fun I’ll ever have in my life.” Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaugnessy, as well as her other family and her staff of 40 at the Sally Ride Center.

  23. "Somebody just back of you while you are fishing is as bad as someone looking over your shoulder while you write a letter to your girl."

    "Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."

    Ernest Hemingway

    The first is so experientially true but most people today don't know it. The second is also true and in our mobile times most people know it.

    Hemingway quotes:


    Not an expression of sympathy for the commies in the whole bunch.

    February 26th, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Keep in mind Hemingways support of the revolution was because Batista was becoming unbearable and to this point Castro had stated he was NOT communist. Many people like to infer Hemingway supported communism and nothing could be further from the truth, even in Spain, the choice was relatively benign communism or brutal fascism, which would you have supported? Hemingway met Castro a grand total of ONE time at the fishing tournament and Castro has overstated this relationship ever since. Modern scholars who travel to the Finca pay Castro lip service and show his ‘magnanimity’ because you basically have to in order to get anything done in Cuba as an American.

    This man has it right. And it would be an odd thing for a commie sympathizer to high tail it out of Cuba when the revolution was won to the sanity and rationality of Idaho. I don't think he ever returned.