Michael Crowley

An Afghanistan Poll That Should Worry Obama
October 06, 2009

I'm not familiar with Clarus Research Group, but they did poll 1,000 people and 68 percent of them said they think Afghanistan is "a conflict that will go on and on without a clear resolution." If you believe the research of political scientist and former Bush White House advisor Peter Feaver, the most important variable in determining whether the public will support an ongoing war is not how it is perceived to be going today, but whether people think victory is possible. That may help explain why just 38 percent of respondents want to increase troop levels.

Word to the Wise
October 06, 2009

If you're going to veer off course in your airplane, maybe try to avoid the airspace over Israel's Dimona nuclear facility. This guy is pretty fortunate to be alive today.

Life Imitiates BBC Comedy
October 05, 2009

This, via Alex Massie, is straight out of The Thick of It: A Ministry of Defence document giving advice on how to stop documents leaking onto the internet has been leaked onto the internet.

A Hero Dies in Afghanistan
October 05, 2009

One could now accurately write that headline more than once a day, unfortunately. But this one stands out for me, mostly because he came from roughly where I grew up, and also because he was an acquaintance of someone close to me.

Taliban v. "Camels"
October 05, 2009

Also noteworthy from that Newsweek oral history is this view, from a former Taliban deputy minister, of the trouble Arab "camels" brought to his cause: Two days before the September 11 attacks on America, we were all celebrating the death of [Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah] Masood, [who was assassinated by Qaeda agents posing as television reporters]. His forces were already on the verge of defeat, so his death all but assured us of total victory in Afghanistan. But the September 11 attacks turned our cheer into deep concern.

How Not to Wage Counterinsurgency, 2005 Edition
October 05, 2009

From Newsweek's very interesting oral history of the Taliban fight: The Americans and their Afghan allies made mistakes after mistake, killing and arresting innocent people. There was one village in Dayak district near Ghazni City where the people had communist backgrounds, from the days of the Russians, and had never supported us. But the police raided the village, beat the elders at a mosque and arrested them, accusing them of being Taliban. They were freed after heavy bribes were paid.

The Realist
October 05, 2009

Rather than risk alienating China before a summit with Hu Jintao next month, Obama won't meet with the Dalai Lama when the Tibetan visits Washington this week. I can understand if Obama has judged that Chinese cooperation on Iran, the economy and global warming are more important than the Tibetan cause.

Petraeus 2012?
October 05, 2009

I'm pretty skeptical. Earlier this year I was talking to a conservative who would love to see the man be president, but even he thought it would be too classless for a senior general to challenge a sitting president in wartime under anything but the most extreme circumstances. And while there's certainly growing civilian-military friction over Afghanistan, I don't think we're anywhere near that point. That said, today's NYT piece is sure to have a Heisenberg principle-like effect of making the White House even more suspicious of the guy now that the 2012 question has hit page one.

Al Qaeda on the Run
October 05, 2009

This WSJ article is the most convincing case yet for the idea that al Qaeda is severely degraded: Hunted by U.S. drones, beset by money problems and finding it tougher to lure young Arabs to the bleak mountains of Pakistan, al Qaeda is seeing its role shrink there and in Afghanistan, according to intelligence reports and Pakistani and U.S. officials. Conversations intercepted by the U.S. show al Qaeda fighters complaining of shortages of weapons, clothing and, in some cases, food. The number of foreign fighters in Afghanistan appears to be declining, U.S.

Gen. McChrystal: 'Troublemaker,' Monty Python Fan, Loyal Soldier
October 02, 2009

Newsweek has a long and thorough profile of Obama's man in Afghanistan: At West Point, the younger McChrystal was "a troublemaker," he recalls. He often violated the drinking ban and got caught at it, walking hundreds of hours of punishment drills, pacing up and down a stone courtyard in full-dress uniform, carrying a rifle. As a senior, McChrystal organized a mock infantry attack on a school building, using real guns and rolled-up socks as grenades, and was nearly shot by the military police guarding the building.