Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Waziristan: "a long haul"

As a part of the Pakistani army prepares to launch what may -- or may not -- be an imminent assault on Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud's forces in South Waziristan, and as a separate Taliban faction in North Waziristan announces its withdrawal from a 2007 peace deal, Pamela Constable reports in yesterday's Wash Post ("Pakistan Treads Warily as New Fight Looms," WP, 6/29, p.A8) that some observers are beginning to raise questions about the operation.

A retired Pakistani government official named Roedad Khan, writing in The News International paper, "recalled [a] 1930s operation in which 40,000 British and Indian forces failed to crush Mirza Ali Khan, known as the Fakir of Ipi, a religious and tribal leader in North Waziristan... [Roedad Khan] warned that by attacking next-door South Waziristan, the army could open a 'massive, self-inflicted wound.'"

Interviewed by Constable, a Pakistani army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, brushed aside such concerns, insisting that Mehsud is no longer seen "as a Robin Hood figure" by the public and that the terrain in S. Waziristan is more hospitable for an anti-militant campaign than the terrain in Swat, where the Pakistani army recently completed an operation against the Taliban and re-took the city of Mingora, albeit at the cost of creating some two million internally displaced people.

But the army spokesman conceded that problems will remain even if Mehsud is defeated. "'The tribal areas have been neglected for 50 years,' [Abbas] said. 'We will do our part, but there has to be follow-up by the civilian administration, better governance, more development. This is going to be a long haul.'"

That much seems pretty certain.

P.S. The continuing U.S. reliance on drone strikes in the border regions continues to raise controversy. More on this later.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Beat it, I'm watching 'Thriller'

Not really, but why throw away a good post title? (And no, I didn't copy it from anyone, though someone has probably used it already unbeknowst to me.)

Everyone was saying on TV yesterday that he watched Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, etc. I don't know much about dancing (virtually nothing, in fact), but to me Michael Jackson's moves didn't resemble theirs much at all. But he could dance all right, no question about that.

Extra credit question: Which noted IR scholar has published a book about Fred Astaire? If you think you know, give the answer in the comments. The honor system is in place, so don't cheat by looking it up first!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Smuggling by children on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border

A depressing story on this subject last night on the NewsHour. Check out their website if you missed it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Waltz symposium

In my e-mail inbox today is the table of contents for the June issue of International Relations (published by Sage), which carries the first part of a symposium titled "The King of Thought: Theory, the Subject, and Waltz," with a well-known cast of contributors. Thought I'd mention it in case someone is stopping by here who is interested but may not get the table-of-contents alert. (As to whether I'm going to read the articles themselves -- very unlikely, but I did look quickly at a few of the abstracts. At least a couple of the pieces will probably be of interest to those with theoretical preoccupations.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pakistan border update

As strikes by U.S. drone aircraft in the border regions continue, resulting in a number of deaths, a breakaway Taliban figure in northwest Pakistan who criticized Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud has been killed. The death of Qari Zainuddin "is being seen as a setback for the government in its efforts to isolate Mehsud ahead of the security forces' next phase of their anti-Taliban offensive in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, says the BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Islamabad."

However, as noted here, the bigger obstacle to the next phase may be the apparently insufficient number of soldiers the Pakistani army is committing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yes and no

Yes, I am aware of the events in Iran; no, I have nothing especially original to add at the moment to the abundant commentary in the traditional media (e.g., I just heard an interesting edition of the public radio program On Point on the subject, with Shaul Bakhash and others) and in the blogosphere.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Earth to Netanyahu

I said I'm taking a break unless something demands comment. Netanyahu's speech today does. His condition that a Palestinian state have "no army [and] no control of its air space" (to quote the BBC report) is absurd. The possession of an army of some kind has become a symbolic marker of modern sovereign statehood. Costa Rica and a few other states have no army, but they are very much the exception. The condition that any Palestinian state be demilitarized is a complete non-starter, as Netanyahu must know.

: As one commentator wrote in Ha'aretz (quoted here), "It is unlikely that a single responsible Palestinian worthy of the name will accept this junk." (This is someone's translation from Hebrew to French and then my translation from French to English, but it gets the gist of it.)

Monday, June 1, 2009


Barring an event that absolutely demands to be commented upon, I will be taking a break from posting for all of June.