Michael Crowley

A Counterinsurgency Parable: Hi-Tech Drone vs. Stoned Farmer
October 07, 2009

A pro-counterinsurgency source eagerly calls my attention to the intro of this Seattle Times story: CHAHARQULBA, Afghanistan — As the sky hinted at dawn, U.S. soldiers went hunting for Taliban in the Arghandab Valley. They had satellite-linked monocles to display the locations of platoons. They could summon an aerial drone to buzz overhead with a surveillance camera.

An "Exhilarated," "Intoxicated" al Qaeda? Maybe Not
October 07, 2009

Michael Cohen doesn't buy Bob Gates' analysis that ceding substantial territory to the Afghan Taliban would send a "hugely empowering message" to al Qaeda: [A] Guardian story from last month ... indicates al Qaeda is down to 200 core operatives. So to be as blunt as possible who really cares if our withdrawal from Afghanistan "empowers al Qaeda"? They are a shell of an organization that is being consistently hounded not just in the FATA, but in Somalia and Indonesia. What's more, their resonance in the Muslim has declined precipitously.

The AfPak Debate: Biden, Holbrooke and Rubin
October 07, 2009

Good details from the WSJ today: Administration officials in the Biden camp fear they too could close off the path to a more peaceful resolution of the conflict if 40,000 more troops are sent. They believe most of the Taliban fighters, and some of their leaders, are neither hard-core, violent Islamists nor sympathetic to al Qaeda. Some are nationalists trying to rid their country of foreigners. Some leaders are willing to flip sides depending on the deals on offer or the momentum on the ground.

Hillary on Iran's Uranium: Not So Reassuring
October 06, 2009

Also from the CNN forum, this does not inspire much confidence: AMANPOUR: Just to follow up on the low-enriched uranium, you know, one Iranian diplomat told the press that actually, no, there wasn't that agreement, and I'm asking you whether there is some miscommunication. Are they just agreeing to buy enriched -- further enriched uranium and not ship theirs out? Or do you understand that they are going to ship the bulk of theirs out? CLINTON: Well, nothing is finished until it's finished. And there's a meeting of technical experts -- I believe it's October 18th -- to see how to put into acti

Gates: Taliban Gains Would "Empower" al Qaeda
October 06, 2009

I've been watching Defense Secretary Robert Gates talking at that CNN forum with Hillary Clinton today, and this bit jumped out: GATES: I think the thing to remember about Afghanistan is that that country, and particularly the Afghan-Pakistan border, is the modern epicenter of jihad. It is where the Mujahedeen defeated the other superpower. And their view is, in my opinion, that they now have the opportunity to defeat a second superpower, which, more than anything, would empower their message and the opportunity to recruit, to fundraise and to plan operations. So I think you have to see this

If Greg Craig Is Leaving Anyway....
October 06, 2009

...over the Gitmo mess, why not also pin the Copenhagen-Olympic committee fiasco on him? No other clear fall guy (or gal) has yet emerged, after all--but the press certainly wants one. Indeed, it makes Machiavellian sense to hang as many muck-ups on Craig as possible (Van Jones comes to mind) before sacrificing him at the media altar. Just think of Craig as Wee-Bey from "The Wire"--claiming bodies for the crew on his way out.

Quote of the Day: Obama on al Qaeda
October 06, 2009

Obama spoke at the National Counterterrorism Center today: We know that al Qaeda and its extremist allies threaten us from different corners of the globe -- from Pakistan, but also from East Africa and Southeast Asia; from Europe and the Gulf. And that's why we're applying focused and relentless pressure on al Qaeda -- by sharing more intelligence, strengthening the capacity of our partners, disrupting terrorist financing, cutting off supply chains, and inflicting major losses on al Qaeda's leadership. Notes John Dickerson:  What country is missing?

Update: Congress Advances Iran Human Rights Funding
October 06, 2009

A Capitol Hill source writes in about the State Department's funding cutoff for the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center: The Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act – which McCain, Lieberman, Kaufman, Casey, and Graham introduced this summer, and attached to Defense Authorization as an amendment – sets aside $5 million to document, collect, and disseminate information about human rights in Iran, including abuses of human rights that have taken place since the June 12 election. The Defense Authorization Act is coming out of House-Senate conference now, and the $5 million survived.

Pew Shocker: 61 Percent Would Bomb Iran If Talks Fail
October 06, 2009

Woah. I find this new Pew poll very surprising, and frankly even a little hard to believe*: The public approves of direct negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, although most Americans are not hopeful the talks will succeed. And a strong majority (61%) says that it is more important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it means taking military action.

"Realism Doesn't Have to be Granite-Hearted"
October 06, 2009

Alex Massie marvels at a State Department funding cutoff for a U.S. group that has investigated human rights abuses in Iran since 2004, and has been preparing an inquiry into the post-election crackdown there. This is not some fringe group--it has received more than $3 million from State and its board includes Harvard Law School dean Martha Minow. Alex: There are excellent reasons for not being seen to fund opposition groups inside Iran since American funding can only prejudice their cause. But this seems a rather different matter.

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