Saturday, September 26, 2009

Another piece on Afghanistan

26 September Another piece on Afghanistan: 

Key recommendation for Afghanistan: US hang on until it can be internationalised.
President Obama has inherited two "Vietnams" ["now we're in, how do we get out with minimum damage"] from G W Bush - one in Iraq (on-going, NOT resolved) and the other in Afghanistan. Probably any US president would have invaded Afghanistan after 9/11 given the Taliban government's refusal to oust Bin Laden and co. But the invasion of Iraq - as so many of us military and diplomatic professionals foresaw in 2002 - had disastrous consequences not only in Iraq but world-wide. The first and worst being to end Afghanistan's priority for money, troops, and expertise so putting the success o the occupation at grave risk. 

That was disastrous as no occupation remains popular for more than 3 or 4 years. Having lost because of "Iraq" the astonishingly wide international support Bush had for the invasion, the swift rehabilitation of Afghanistan - essential for stabilising the country - failed. In the ensuing eight years. According to our sources there - the US and NATO have simply made themselves as unpopular as we personally saw the US was in Vietnam. NATO has lost its prestige by this out-of-area intervention and its European public sees US appeals for help as a request "to pull G W Bush's chestnuts out of the fire". 

What is to be done? A premature tail-between-the-legs withdrawal would have very grave consequences - worse than the precipitate rush from Vietnam. So sending sufficient extra troops to Afghanistan to hold the fort was pretty well inevitable.      

If Afghanistan is to be stabilised it must be internationalised by rebuilding as far as possible the consensus G W Bush threw away in Iraq. This is not impossible because virtually every major player has considerable national interest in Afghan stability and in containing international terrorism. Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Iran, Europe, the Arab world, the wider Muslim world, Israel all share this major interest. 

International cooperation will only be possible if the US shows clearly - even tacitly - that it really has renounced the Cheney/neo-conservative aim to create a uni-polar world (the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century). But Obama does seem intent on doing just that, and his whole approach is towards the resolution of the great world problems by starting on a new era of cooperation made possible by the end of the Cold War. 

So the US needs to hang on while this immense diplomatic task is gets underway.

A primer on economics!

26 September - A primer on economics! 

What is truly surprising is that neo-Keynesian economics - standard teaching of economics from the end of WWII for two or three decades - was replaced, even in leading US universities, with what is basically classical economics derived (none too accurately) from Adam Smith: slogans - "free market", "invisible hand", "self-correcting" etc. etc. In other words basically a return to pre-1929 theory. 

Neo-Keynesians had long pointed out the many quite obvious flaws in classical market theory: just one example - that many producers inevitably require years to adjust to changes in supply and demand: one example, the years it takes to increase coffee production, and the social hardship caused by the near- impossibility of avoiding glut. This occurs not only in agricultural production but in manufacturing - look at the current excess capacity for car production in Europe. There are masses of other ways in which traditional markets do not work, or work badly. 

More important, neo-Keynesian economics stresses two points a) that capitalism requires binding rules and effective enforcement or the crooks get the upper hand. But neo-classical economics, with its worship of "the market", "small government" etc., insists on de-regulation with the results we now suffer. b) neo-Keynesian economics points out that, while private enterprise does some things best, not-for-profit public organisations can do many things better. This is decried as "socialism" in today's absurdly ideological world of "left and right", "progressive and conservative", "religious and atheist". 

Then there is the "political correctness" demanded by self-appointed "neo-moralists" which has prevented genuine reformers from working together. In the US you have the "red state/blue state division" where in "red states" those against "political correctness" find themselves voting for the huge cooperations and G W Bush bellicose confrontation with its Amerika Uber Alles neo-conservativism. And in the blue states family lovers and main-line Christians find themselves voting for the whole "progressive" agenda. 

If we are to start to resolve our economic future after the disaster of deregulated capitalism brought on us not only by corporate and banking greed and their lobbyists, but by post-Keynesian neo-classical market economists, we must go
for what works, not these depasse ideologies: pragmatism must be the "non-ideology" of the future.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

President Obama, not the generals must of course be the one to decide the strategy for Afghanistan.

23 September 2009
President Obama, not the generals must of course be the one to decide the strategy for Afghanistan. Following our Sept 7 blog (below) here is a follow up on an Alternet item today: 

Yes, of course it is vital that the US President and not the generals make that key tactical decision over Afghanistan. 

No nation will for long accept military occupation by another - most particularly Afghanistan. Probably any American president would have invaded Afghanistan after "9/11" and the Taliban government's refusal to co-operate over Al Qaeda, particularly when an invasion had world-wide support or at least tacit acceptance. 

But success obviously depended on keeping that support, and instituting a crash programme to rebuild Afghanistan after crippling decades of war. A crash programme because the occupation, no matter how beneficial to the inhabitants, would lose popular support after 3 - 4 years. 

But probably only President G W Bush would have invaded Iraq in order to realise the neo-conservatives' Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The master idea was that occupying Iraq would give the US strategic control over the Middle East and thus clinch the attempt to ensure American planetary hegemony - or uni-polar world. 

For reasons we among many others warned about in 2002, Iraq imploded and became the quagmire - or "Vietnam" - it remains. 

Forced by the deadly consequences of the invasion to give Iraq total priority over Afghanistan, there was little rebuilding and growing opposition to the occupation now dragging into its 7th year. 

It is probably too late now for any American administration to pacify Afghanistan. The only hope must be to internationalise the stabilisation of Afghanistan by re-assembling so far as possible that world-wide support G W Bush enjoyed before he threw it away in Iraq. 

This is not impossible - for all countries that matter, from Russia and China to Iran, India and Pakistan - including the Arabs and Israel - have a major national interest in a stable Afghanistan and the suppression of international terrorism. 

What is needed is the political wisdom to see that the generals cannot achieve this. But they can perhaps buy some time while such international support is gathered. The signs are that President Obama is working in this direction. But he needs that limited time and a great deal of support from his allies - and (perhaps the key to wider support), from Russia. 

Sadly the US itself is so bitterly divided. Too few Americans give wholehearted support to the extraordinarily able president whom they have elected.

Monday, September 07, 2009

On the need to internationalise Afghanistan

7 September 09

From JP Diplomatic Consultancy, France,,

On the need to internationalise Afghanistan 

Re Ahmed Rashid's piece on Afghanistan in the Washington Post.

This is an excellent article on this desperately urgent and challenging subject.

Most importantly it stresses the disaster we at this consultancy and so many others predicted back in 2002 - going into Iraq would risk wrecking the occupation of Afghanistan.

No country for long accepts occupation and the occupation of Afghanistan had to show real results in rebuilding the country and restoring stability within about 3 years. 

But Bush all but destroyed his own success and was abetted in this by a great majority of politicians of left and right in both the US and UK

Because politicians - like many others - find it extremely hard to admit mistakes (especially capital errors like voting for the Iraq war without any serious discussion or research) it is all the more difficult for the political class in the US and UK to see Afghanistan clearly, They should all read this splendid piece which coincides exactly with our own research partly based on information from a well-placed source in Afghanistan. But of course they won't - they will be fed more comfortable assessments. 

One vital point Ahmed Rashid only touches on - it is vital that the situation in Afghanistan be internationalised. Merkel and Sakozy are making moves in that direction but they do not go far enough. Virtually every responsible government has a major interest in the stabilisation of Afghanistan. This of course includes Russia and China - and Iran and India.. 

None of these countries will put up troops and all of them believe that Bush went a long way to losing his Afghan "war". But none want the Taliban and Al Qaeda back. This means it IS possible for Obama and the Nato allies to rebuild the astonishing worldwide support Bush had after 9/11 for the invasion of Afghanistan. But that means eating humble pie.  And above all recognising that America's bid for a uni-polar world is over. Nothing destroyed the Bush years more than the policy of confrontation to try to realise the Project for A New American Century of the neo-conservatives. 

What is needed is a major conference meticulously prepared to focus world interest on the problem of stabilising Afghanistan.

Saturday, September 05, 2009



We at JP Diplomatic Consultancy [] from the start of this financial meltdown have urged that the way out was the therapy recommended by Paul Krugman, Stiglitz, and other top interventionist experts: 

Government buys enough shares in failing banks to get control (don't need 51% - the banks would know that once the Govt meant to get control and would go on buying until it did, even 20% of shares could suffice). 

Then sack the top echelon of the guilty, and ensure responsible lending for now vitally needed projects such as renewal of infrastructure, alternative energy and energy saving, technology for cleaning up coal, education, health care etc. etc.

Starting on a new path for the economy would quickly translate into jobs and psychologically create hope in a new positive direction for the US. And at the same time address the mortgage crisis to limit foreclosures (there are several ways to do that) so returning consumer confidence. 

Alas, Obama - whom we much admire - chose the "boost banks" policies of Geithner and Summers resulting only in a meagre trickle down to the high street and the "man in it" .

What is vital is NOT to go back to the unsustainable era of monstrous waste of the post-war years. What is so dangerous is that almost everyone is praying for just that - back to the those joyful days when everything seemed to be going so well. Dangerous - because it was not, and a return to that period would be catastrophe for humanity and the existential problems it now faces. These can only be solved by a new direction for the economy. 

Now is the time for America to recover its leadership for international cooperation after the wreckage caused by Bush's two terms of confrontation

Thursday, September 03, 2009


3 SEPTEMBER 2009 - 

As our web site points out in several places ever since september 2002 we have warned repeatedly all the politicians and media people we know that the Bush/Blair invasion of Iraq would inevitably have disastrous consequences for the occupation of Afghanistan. 

Probably the invasion of Afghanistan was politically inevitable given that it was used as a platform for Al Qaeda not only for managing 9/11 but for the preceding terrorists acts. 

But it was high risk and the invasion was only successful because it used warlords for success and so the occupation and resultant Afghan government were beholden to them. And Afghanistan's history showed it to be even more opposed to occupation than most countries. 

So Bush had only say three years to use his then immense worldwide support to get the funding and international expertise to make a real difference in rebuilding Afghanistan after the Soviet war and the civil wars(s) which followed - not to speak of the devastation caused by thew Taliban. 

But against all common sense and the dire warnings of we Cassandras - some very highly placed (like Senators Bird and Kennedy and Brent Scowcroft and our British Robin Cook) - Bush/Blair wrecked then good chances for a crash rebuiding programme in Afghanistan by invading Iraq which then had for years the top priority for troops, expertise, and funding. Perhaps worse was the loss of the wide international support for Bush from virtually every significant nation (including China and Russia and at least tacit support from Muslim countries).

Anti-Americanism soared worldwide - even in the UK. And Afghanistan remained on hold with no takers - not even Nato members - to share the financial and military burden. 

By the time Obama came to power Afghanistan was all but lost. He inherited two "Vietnams" - in Iraq and Afghanistan. The problem is to leave both countries with the least possible damage to US and Western interests, and indeed to the interests of all countries opposed to international terrorism .

OK - that's the diagnosis. What's to be done? First there has to be a holding operation - no doubt involving temporary increased troop levels. Second there must be far less "collateral damage" - Vietnam was lost more by |"collateral damage" than any other factor - the writer was there twice during the war and found the entire population was anti-American from the President to the girl in the rice field. 

Third - Bush's confrontation must be followed by a chastened US seeking international cooperation - not for fighting but for bringing about real change: a) in government, no matter who is proclaimed winner of flawed elections, b)in mounting wherever possible real effective reconstruction that will be felt by every Afghan who benefits. This would be a big incentive to others to want to better heir conditions - what does the Taliban offer? c) the mere re-asssembly of the support Bush had in the beginning in 2001 would go a long way to change the entire situation. Russia and China - and Iran - for example do not want the Taliban back giving a base to Al Qaeda. 

Think cooperation as the only means left to try to get America out of this "Vietnam" that Bush made. Think - what would you do if you were Obama? Just pack up and go? Think through the consequences. 

But for any success in getting international cooperation, Obama will have to show he really is moving America back to international cooperation and away from confrontation. And that means for starters making a real move to resolve the Israel Palestine running sore by standing up to Israel's hard line government in favour of America's and the world's real interests. Right now that means stopping settlement spread. It is still Palestine that is the recruiting serjeant for Al Qaeda and Muslim extremism. 

Maybe it is too late now after Bush .