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Foreign Policy Cheerleading Masquerades as Analysis
The dictates of journalism can often run counter to the requirements of informed judgment, especially on some of the most nettlesome issues of our age. The declarative pronouncements of reporters and the authoritative tones of pundits can mask the reality that they are passing off speculation as truth.
Their professed neutrality is dubious as well. Their narrative is a product of their world of good guys and bad, especially in the international arena. They are prone to acting as cheerleaders for their own countries, especially when their nation’s troops are involved in foreign conflicts.
The world is far more nuanced than they make it out to be:
• A NATO summit Sunday and Monday in Chicago is to decide “the future of Afghanistan” beyond 2014, when most foreign troops would leave but NATO would retain bases until 2024 and also provide economic assistance.
This is not as orderly as it is made out to be.
The number of troops to be kept is not known and it has yet to be determined who would supply and fund them. (Expect Stephen Harper to be in the middle of that discussion.)
What would these troops do? “Defeat Al Qaeda and deny it any chance to rebuild,” says Barack Obama.
But the agreement he recently signed with Hamid Karzai stipulates that NATO troops can no longer arrest or detain Afghans. They have already handed over to Afghans control of detention centres and the much-maligned nighttime raids.
The agreement also forbids the U.S. from using Afghanistan as a base to attack other countries (read, Iran and Pakistan).
In other words, the central tenets of the American/NATO policies in Afghanistan are being swept aside. It’s time to cut and run, without saying so.
• If NATO cannot use Afghanistan to attack others, what happens to cross-border American drone attacks on Al Qaeda, Taliban and other militants in Pakistan? That’s been central to Obama’s anti-terror strategy.
The one base the U.S. had inside Pakistan has already been closed, in reprisal for American bombs inadvertently killing 24 Pakistani soldiers last November.
Pakistan called for an official apologyand the “cessation of drone strikes.” It has held up NATO supplies for landlocked Afghanistan. Pakistan boycotted a meeting on Afghanistan held in Istanbul but has been persuaded to come to Chicago.
American-Pakistani relations remain in a shambles and there’s so much division in Washington on how to fix them that the American ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, has just announced that he’s quitting.
• Benjamin Netanyahu has dramatically reshaped his Israeli coalition government. After relying on right-wing and religious parties, including one led by the venomously anti-Arab Avigdor Lieberman, the prime minister has formed a national unity government with Kadima, the largest opposition group.
This has led to speculation that the odds for a peace deal with the Palestinians have gone up and the odds for a unilateral Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear installations have gone down.
Kadima is led by Shaul Mofaz, a former army chief of staff and a former defence minister. He has long called for the immediate creation of a Palestinian state, with borders to be sorted out later. He is now deputy prime minister, with responsibility for the peace process.
Arguing against a breakthrough is Netanyahu’s own long record of stalling negotiations while strengthening illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Even President Shimon Peres and former prime minister Ehud Olmert have blamed him for the deadlock.
Mofaz has also spoken out against attacking Iran. In this he has echoed several political, military and intelligence officials, including Peres and Olmert.
Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, the army chief of staff, has suggested the Iranian nuclear threat was not quite as imminent as Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak have portrayed it.
Yuval Diskin, until last year chief of the domestic security service Shin Bet, said that Netanyahu’s and Barak’s judgment on Iran was shaped by “messianic feelings.”
While all this speaks to the deck being stacked against attacking Iran, the counter-argument is that Netanyahu is the first prime minister in a long time to lead a government that represents a wide range of Israeli public opinion. If he can persuade Mofaz to attack Iran, the action could not be portrayed as right-wing militarism.
• On the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, we were informed that Al Qaeda is dead. Or it is not and has a “global network” of “relationships,” “ties” and “loose arrangements” with “affiliates” in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and the Maghreb. These outfits of undetermined strength take direct orders from Al Qaeda or mere “inspiration” from it. Or they may have nothing to do with it at all, being “self-taught” from “radical Islamist/jihadist websites.”
In other words, these “analysts” don’t know what the hell they are talking about.