Tina K. Russell

September 27, 2008

Guns and buttering-up

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 3:13 am

So, some American helicopters maybe flew over the Afghanistan-Pakistan border—wherever it is—and got to exchange some friendly bullets with the locals.

Pakistani and American Troops Exchange Fire – NYTimes.com
American and NATO officials said that the two helicopters were flying about one mile inside Afghan airspace to protect an American and Afghan patrol on the ground when the aircraft were fired on by troops at a Pakistani military checkpoint near the Tanai district in Khost Province. The officials said small-caliber arms were used.

In response, the American ground troops shot short bursts of warning fire, which hit well shy of the checkpoint, and the Pakistanis fired back, said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a spokesman for the United States Central Command.

… [Pakistan disagrees, saying the helicopters had flown into Pakistani airspace]

“When our forces fired warning shots, we were a little scared of a possible retaliatory fire from the helicopters,” said one of the residents, Hajji Said Rehman Gorbaz. “But we were happy to see the helicopter flying back into Afghanistan. We were happy that our forces fired at the helicopter.”

Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, said Thursday that his nation’s military had fired only flares at the helicopters, seeming to draw a distinction with warning “shots,” which usually refers to bullets or other ordnance that could more seriously damage the helicopters.

“They are flares,” Mr. Zardari said as he sat down to meet Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the United Nations. He said the flares would alert the pilots that they had crossed the border, which he said is rugged and poorly marked.

Ms. Rice agreed that the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan was “very, very unclear.”

Wow, I wonder how this went. Sounds like the gentlest trading of small-arms fire in the world. Ratta-tatta-tat… so sorry!

Considering both US and Pakistan have the bomb, I hope this conflict doesn’t escalate into missiles with boxes of chocolates strapped to them.

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August 27, 2008

Rogue diplomacy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:17 pm

U.N. Envoy’s Ties to Pakistani Are Questioned – NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to the United Nations, is facing angry questions from other senior Bush administration officials over what they describe as unauthorized contacts with Asif Ali Zardari, a contender to succeed Pervez Musharraf as president of Pakistan.o main parties, announced in Islamabad that his party was leaving the coalition.

Mr. Khalilzad had spoken by telephone with Mr. Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, several times a week for the past month until he was confronted about the unauthorized contacts, a senior United States official said. Other officials said Mr. Khalilzad had planned to meet with Mr. Zardari privately next Tuesday while on vacation in Dubai, in a session that was canceled only after Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, learned from Mr. Zardari himself that the ambassador was providing “advice and help.”

“Can I ask what sort of ‘advice and help’ you are providing?” Mr. Boucher wrote in an angry e-mail message to Mr. Khalilzad. “What sort of channel is this? Governmental, private, personnel?” Copies of the message were sent to others at the highest levels of the State Department; the message was provided to The New York Times by an administration official who had received a copy.

Da haa haa haaa! Doesn’t Mr. Khalilzad know that the #1 rule of the Bush administration’s dealings with Pakistan is never to talk to anyone who actually has power?

It really does sound like Khalilzad crossed a line and needs to be reined in. Pakistan’s political scene is volatile enough without more reasons for Pakistan’s people to accuse us (part rightly, part not) of being “meddlers.” It’s just funny that he’s basically tested the US policy of hanging on to weak, unpopular leaders to the very end by going against it, and now, he could lose his career.

March 21, 2008

On the lack of a way to peace, and what peace is

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 3:01 pm

Pakistan to Try New Approach to Militants – New York Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Faced with a sharp escalation of suicide bombing in urban areas, the leaders of Pakistan’s new coalition government say they will negotiate with the militants believed to be orchestrating the attacks, and would use the military only as a last resort.

“We are dealing with our own people,” said Mr. [governing coalition co-leader Nawaz] Sharif, who was twice Prime Minister of Pakistan in the 1990s. “We will deal with them very sensibly. And when you have a problem in your own family, you don’t kill your own family.

“You sit and talk,” he added. “After all, Britain also got the solution of the problem of Ireland. So what’s the harm in conducting negotiations.”

I was a little skeptical of this, at first. After all, extremists are crazy, you can’t negotiate with them! But, I know we have a parallel in the United States: the drug war, where we tried to fight the problem guns blazing and didn’t realize that every dealer and every user was someone’s brother or sister, someone’s son or daughter, someone’s best friend, and when you target too many people (and assume too many are beyond reason) you turn the entire community against you. This is seen in the unfortunate “Stop Snitching” saga, a cancer that is preventing police from doing their jobs.

(more…)

March 15, 2008

There’s a New Sharif in Town

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 5:23 pm

Leaving Musharraf Behind – New York Times

It’s nice to be able to breathe a sigh of relief and know that Pakistan is getting back to “normal” again. But, there’s a big problem, here; though it’s nice to see Pakistan returning to quaint notions like the Constitution and rule of law after years of a leader who considered them mere inconveniences and obstacles to power, we’re settling into a situation where we’re now talking to a government that is pretty skeptical of the United States, and a populace that is similarly so. Though Benazir Bhutto boldly wrote of “reconciliation” (the name of her last book, finished days before she died) between the world of Pakistan and the world of the West, too much of Pakistan associates us deeply with the (soon-to-be-) departing President. This is pretty much squarely our fault, since we failed to hedge our bets and develop good relations with each of Pakistan’s factions, and instead considered Musharraf–a weak leader barely holding on to public support before blowing it entirely–to be the go-to guy for all things Pakistan. Now, though, we have to deal with the hand Bush dealt.

The sad thing is that when you’re carrying out sensitive anti-terrorist operations, gaining the people’s support is paramount. The US can do the most finely-honed terrorist strikes and still have casualties, which becomes a PR nightmare for NATO and a potential recruiting factor for militants… not even counting the fear and panic such strikes (from Western forces and Middle Eastern terrorists alike) cause, moving the country closer to the brink of chaos.

What I mean to say is, though such relations are a “PR” task, they’re extremely important, and Pakistan seeing us as Musharraf’s Best Buddy has put us at a serious disadvantage in this area. Let’s hope the next President of the United States, whomever he or she is, sees nuance in the issue of Pakistan, the thread by which the fate of the world currently hangs. (You do know they have nuclear weapons there, don’t you?)

February 29, 2008

Pervez-ive Developmental Disorder

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:38 pm

U.S. Embrace of Musharraf Irks Pakistanis – New York Times

This bugs me: we never hedged our bets in our dealings with Pakistan. We placed all our chips on Musharraf, and now we’re desperately trying to buy back in. Now, the new Pakistani government doesn’t even want to play with us. We have no leverage in dealing with them because we assumed, unpleasant as he may be, Musharraf would cling to power forever and he was our best bet. Now that we know that’s not true, we’re screwed; but what bugs me is that we never even prepared for a situation where it might not be true. Now Pakistan associates America with Musharraf, and we’ve lost all our influence in one of the world’s most important conflict hotspots. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and al-Qaida has its HQ on the border, and everybody hates the US government.

Hey, maybe we ought to elect the one candidate in the presidential race whose foreign policy does not hinge on proving how tough he or she is. Hmmm, I wonder who that might be. …Any takers?

Maybe the one who doesn’t want to bomb Iran! Argh! Anyway…

The whole Pakistan thing makes me sad ’cause I’ve gotten really interested in Pakistan over the past year. I might want to visit there, sometime. It seems like a really modern, really developed country, but al-Qaida in encroaching upon their borders, smashing record shops and demanding that women cover themselves. When you’re somebody like me who doesn’t fit in, that makes you… sad… I guess. When I hear of terrorists attacking massage parlors and accusing the women of being whores, it makes me sad ’cause I think I could be one of those women, even if I can’t massage worth a damn. Benazir Bhutto seemed like a really modern woman… even if she didn’t do enough to fight extremism when she was prime minister, in her last days (she was so young! aaaagh!) her whole shtick was resisting extremism from Musharraf, resisting extremism from al-Qaida, and bringing Pakistan into the developed world, where women can wear or not wear headscarves as they damn well please.

Obviously… al-Qaida hurts everybody. They want to bring the world back into the Stone Age with them. It wouldn’t seem like a viable option for angry youngsters in the Middle East if the United States hadn’t made such an unbroken string of global PR mistakes. We never should have declared a “war on terror…” that legitimized the terrorists as soldiers rather than condemning them as criminals. We never really even realized that al-Qaida is hardly a centralized organization; it’s more like a movement, a really scary one that wants to kill all of us because, yes, we love freedom. They want all of us to give up our beliefs and our lifestyles because they think ours are inferior to theirs. It underscores why we must be careful not to make the same mistakes, and not judge people by how they look or what they believe. But, I’ve gotten off the subject.

We should have been more hands-off with Pakistan, spreading good will towards the US around the country… instead, we threw in entirely with Musharraf, and cemented our image over there as international meddlers rather than the persistent do-gooders we aspire to be. Perception matters… Abraham Lincoln knew that when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation and instantly turned the Confederacy
from plucky rebels being picked on into obstinate enemies of freedom. Lets meet a bad ideology with a good one… and let the best one win. (…Which is ours, and Pakistan’s.)

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