Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Military’

Obama’s foreign policy juggernaut, including Tom Donilon, and the risks of hubris (updated)

Friday, January 27th, 2012

jug[ger[naut  n.  (altered < Hindi Jagannath < Sans Jagannatha, lord of the world < jagat, world + natha, lord)
1 an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, whose idol, it was formerly supposed, so excited his worshipers when it was hauled along on a large car during religious rites that they threw themselves under the wheels and were crushed
2 (sually j-) anything that exacts blind devotion or terrible sacrifice
3 (usually j-) any relentless, destructive, irresistible force

–Webster’s New World Dictionary

Jug·ger·naut   /ˈdʒʌgərˌnɔt, -ˌnɒt/ Show Spelled (juhg-er-nawt, -not) noun
1. ( often lowercase ) any large, overpowering, destructive force or object, as war, a giant battleship, or a powerful football team.
2. ( often lowercase ) anything requiring blind devotion or cruel sacrifice.
3. Also called Jagannath. an idol of Krishna, at Puri in Orissa, India, annually drawn on an enormous cart under whose wheels devotees are said to have thrown themselves to be crushed.

Origin:  1630–40; < Hindi Jagannāth < Sanskrit Jagannātha lord of the world (i.e., the god Vishnu or Krishna), equivalent to jagat world + nātha lord


Tom Donilon appeared on the Charlie Rose television program for an hour on January 27, during which he expounded on the outstanding successes of President Obama’s foreign policy decisions and the process (led by Donilon) for reaching important foreign policy decisions.

Donilon was brilliant, and was it was not hard to see why President Obama chose him to be National Security Advisor after Gen. James Jones left in October, 2010, given his intellectual brilliance and highly articulate presentation of his views. Undoubtedly, Donilon is the kind of person Obama likes to be briefed by, someone with the intellectual brilliance to engage the president.

Still, the Oberver was left with a strange, intuitive feeling after watching the interview.

Absent from Donilon’s interview was any expression of self-doubt, any suggestion that the policy decisions made by Obama could be problematical in some ways, and could even potentially produce catastrophic results.

Areas where the foreign policy of the United States is open to serious questions, as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, were quickly addressed in an intellectually authoritative manner.

There was no doubt that Donilon thought Obama was doing a brilliant job on foreign policy, was an unusually effective “executive”, and that Donilon himself, by the way, was doing an outstanding job for his boss.

After mulling these intuitive and inchoate misgivings over for a day, it all came together and “clicked”.

Here, on full display, was the enormous hubris of Obama and the foreign policy juggernaut he has created.

For his part, Charlie Rose failed to raise and insist on real responses to probing questions about the foreign policy of the United States. This is not an unusual role for Rose to assume, but last night–given the opportunity–it was particularly disappointing.

That’s it: hubris.

“The smartest guys in the room,” like at Enron. The overweening confidence of a foreign policy team that believes they are smarter, faster, and know better than all of their critics combined.

In view of these perceptions, it is useful to reconsider some earlier comments about Donilon, to see whether the characteristics they evoke appeared also to come through in the interview.

For a critical take on Tom Donilon, citing criticisms by Robert Gates and former National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, see Marcus Baram, “Tom Donilon Would Be A ‘Disaster’ As National Security Adviser, Robert Gates Reportedly Said,” The Huffington Post, October 8, 2010, updated May 25, 2011.

Baram quotes Bob Woodward who, in his book Obama’s Wars, reported the following regarding Donilon:

Donilon, who previously worked as a vice president for floundering mortgage giant Fannie Mae … was known for his strong views and opinions, once offending Defense Secretary Robert Gates so much during a meeting that the Pentagon chief almost walked out, according to Woodward.

He also reports that Woodward’s book quotes Gates as asserting that Donilon would be a “disaster” as National Security Advisor.

According to Woodward, in a meeting in his office in 2010, Jones had told Donilon he had three major shortcomings:

First, he had never gone to Afghanistan or Iraq, or really left the office for a serious field trip. As a result, he said, you have no direct understanding of these places. “You have no credibility with the military.” You should go overseas. The White House, Situation Room, interagency byplay, as important as they are, are not everything.

Second, Jones continued, you frequently pop off with absolute declarations about places you’ve never been, leaders you’ve never met, or colleagues you work with. Gates had mentioned this to Jones, saying that Donilon’s sound-offs and strong spur-of-the-moment opinions, especially about one general, had offended him so much at an Oval Office meeting that he nearly walked out.

The third criticism was that Donilon was insensitive with his dealings with his staff at the National Security Council.

So, there you have it. Donilon, the gatekeeper for Obama, full of the same hubris that the president himself exhibits.

To be fair to Donilon, perhaps he is only reflecting–to some extent, at least–the hubris of his boss. Also, all things being equal, we are fortunate to have a brilliant and highly articulate national security adviser.

Having said that, if Donilon still has shortcomings such as those suggested by his critics, procedures need to be put in place to ensure that Obama hears cogent dissenting views.

Though it would not be easy, perhaps President Obama urgently needs to establish an independent channel through which he can hear and discuss the views of outside critics and observers on a regular and recurrent basis, and even those from within the government whose views have not prevailed. A kind of team B could be set up, independent of Donilon, so that the preseident would be certain to hear the dissenting views on the most critical issues.

The difficulty the president might have in hearing this suggestion, and giving it serious consideration, points to the underlying problem.

Perhaps it is time for President Obama to reread, once again, David Halberstam’s brilliant book on John F. Kennedy and the decisionmakers he surrounded himself with, The Best and the Brightest. Obama is believed to have read the book before he became president or during his first days in office.

Other books that the Observer would suggest he reread again now, include the following:

The Guns of August

The March of Folly


Essence of Decision (2nd edition)

Good movies to watch, once again, include:

Blackhawk Down

The Quiet American

The Candidate

Midnight Cowboy



Among the subjects not discussed in any significant way last night on the Charlie Rose program were those indicated by the following questions:

(1) It was notable in President Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptace speech in Oslo on December 10, 2009 that he studiously avoided the words “international law”, and did not articulate a coherent vision of the role that international law and institutions can and should play in the nation’s strategy for achieving peace.

What should that role be, and what should be the strategy of the United States not only for reacting to threats and using its military force, but also for creating a world at peace?

(2) Do you believe that the incredible weapons and capabilities the United States has developed, combining real-time intelligence with drone strikes and special forces operations, will never be developed by other major powers such as Russia, China, India Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other technologically advanced countries?

(3) Do you believe that in the long term the security of the U.S. can be assured by developing and using high-tech weapons, without the development and observance of international law frameworks and norms to govern their use?

(4) How do you view the impact of recent developments in national security doctrines, laws and policies on the safeguarding of fundamental rights protected by the Constitution and by International Human Rights treaties and conventions?

(5) What should be the role of the United States in developing and observing the international law governing the use of force? Is it performing that role now? What needs to be done to improve its performance?

The fundamental shortcoming in President Obama’s foreign policy and foreign policy decision making clearly appears to be hubris.

For example, the United States government asserts the right to unilaterally place an individual who is in a foreign country on a special targets list, and to proceed to execute him or her, whether by drone strikes or special operations forces.  It asserts further that this policy may apply to U.S. citizens, notwithstanding the 5th amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

On the other hand, the U.S. has been adroit in its multilateral diplomacy, both at the U.N. Security Council and in forging consensus among its alliance and coalition partners. The Security Council resolution authorizing the protection of civilians in Libya “by all necessary measures” is one example. Its success in forging consensus on sanctions against Iran, both in the Security Council and among other states, represents another.

Significantly, in the case of the Security Council, Ambassador Susan Rice has been unusually effective. Rice was Obama’s chief foreign policy advisor during the 2008 campaign.

To be sure, in the case of Iran, policy makers also need to bear in mind as we go forward the unpredictable impact of oil sanctions that pose an existential threat, such as those against Japan which were an important factor in the runup to Pearl Harbor.

Even with these qualifications, key foreign policy decisions appear to be made by an inner circle which reflects the supreme self-confidence of the President. The entire defense strategy and budget presented to the Congress is based on the assumption that drone strikes, targeted killings, and special operations can deal with military challenges in the Middle East, and elsewhere. This should perhaps not come as a surprise, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was reported to have personally authorized each drone strike for a very long time when he was at the CIA. It represents the grand triumph of Vice-President Joseph Biden’s anti-terrorism approach in the Afghanistan policy review in 2009. It amounts to betting the farm on a policy whose effects on the ground have not yet been proven. What if the theory is wrong? The foreign policy team is very short on members in the inner circle who have experienced “the fog of war”.

There certainly appears to be a lot of hubris at the White House and on Obama’s foreign policy team.

It is a juggernaut, not attentive to outside views, and tending to crush its opponents. True to its etymology, “the American juggernaut” appears to see itself as “Lord of the World”.

The Trenchant Observer

Assassination of Syed Saleem Shahzad: Pakistan is the problem

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan Bureau Chief for Asia Times Online, was assassinated in Pakistan at the time of or shortly after his disappearance on May 29, reportedly on the orders of top-level officials of the Pakistan intelligence agency.

See Editorial, “A Pakistani Journalist’s Murder,” The New York Times, July 7, 2011

Jane Perlez and Eric Schmitt, “Pakistan’s Spies Tied to Slaying of a Journalist,” New York Times, July 4, 2011

“Pakistan ‘sanctioned’ killing of journalist, says US commander: Islamabad hits back at claim by Admiral Mike Mullen over murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, The Guardian, July 8, 2011

The Observer has previously referred to Shahzad’s reports on alleged behind-the-scenes deals between the Obama administration and the Pakistan military. The first was for the U.S. to withdraw its support of Abdullah Abdullah in negotiations for a unity government or at least the holding of a second-round election, in the stand-off that resulted from the massive fraud in the Afghanistan presidential elections held on August 20, 2009. The U.S. basically cast Abdullah aside, and backed Karzai as the legitimate winner in the elections, reportedly in exchange for Pakistani support in facilitating negotiations with the Taliban.

The second and related move by Hamid Karzai, believed to be at the insistence of Pakistan, was to fire the intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, and the interior minister, Hanif Atmar, who were viewed as too close to India and therefore hostile to Pakistan. Both were fomer members of the Northern Alliance, the force which with the United States toppled the Taliban government in 2001.

See The Trenchant Observer, “Intelligence Matters: In Afghanistan, Karzai Ousts Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and Intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh,” June 6, 2010

Now, perhaps partly as an unintended consequence of the humiliation of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies by President Obama, who loudly touted the fact that the United States took out Bin Laden without the foreknowledge or participation of Pakistani officials, a leading reporter on the inner workings of the Pakistan military and intelligence agencies has been murdered. According to American officials, the assassination was approved at very high levels of the Pakistan military and security agencies.

The Observer must observe, in passing, that Obama’s public humiliation of Pakistani military and intelligence officials was utterly unnecessary, and represented a novice’s mistake for a practitioner of foreign policy. In international affairs, it is important to allow your enemies, as well as your (questionable) allies and friends, to save face, and not to push them too hard into a corner. Doing so subjects them to intense internal political and other pressures and sharply limits their freedom of action in adopting policies that you may want them to follow.

Obama, in effect, stressed that the operation against Bin Laden violated the sovereignty of Pakistan, when he might easily have left that issue shrouded in ambiguity. His mistake was to publicly declaim that the Bin Laden operation was carried out without Pakistani knowldge. That wasn’t necessary. On the other hand, it was entirely appropriate to raise the issue of how Bin Laden had lived near Islamabad in Abbottabad, the very same town where the Pakistani “West Point” is located, without being detected. These were legitimate questions. The public humiliation was a grave mistake.

Since the Bin Laden killing, U.S.-Pakistan military and intelligence relations have taken a sharp turn for the worse.

We are left with a situation where we are faced with a nuclear-weapons state, which continues to support Taliban and other insurgent forces operating in Afghanistan, while our own ability to conduct anti-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations from within and against targets in Pakistan territory has been greatly curtailed.

The assassination of Shazad closed one of the few windows open to the world to follow and understand the machinations underway within Pakistani military and intelligence circles.

It also serves as a useful reminder that the United States has gained very little from its apparent deal with Pakistan by withdrawing its support for Abdullah in 2009, and acquiescing in the firing of Saleh and Atmar.

The much-touted negotiations with the Taliban have come to nothing, and hold very little promoise of ever producing tangible results. We are no further along in this regard, in fact, than we were two years ago. The illusions fed by the flawed assumption of the possibility of a political settlement with the Taliban remain as far from the reality on the ground and the realm of real-world possibilities as they were then. The difference is that now President Obama, with his recent speech on the the path forward in Afghanistan, has adopted a posture of publicly relying on those illusions.

The consequences in Afghanistan are likely to be harsh. Moreover, we now face a much larger problem in Pakistan than even that faced in Afghanistan itself, which we have yet to devise a successful strategy to address.

The effects of the loss of Special Ambassador to Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador, Richard Holbrooke, who died suddenly in December, 2010, have been devastating.

On July 9, 2011, the United States faces a one-time ally in Pakistan which looks much more like a hostile state that 1) will block a peaceful resolution of the war in Afghanistan on terms acceptable to the West and the international community; 2) itself has become a great center of Islamic radicalism and the spawning of terrorist behavior; and 3) poses an ultiimate risk to the United States and other nations due to its possession of nuclear weapons.

If a country like Pakistan can decide, at the highest military and intelligence levels, to assassinate a journalist whose reports reveal messy facts they would prefer to remain hidden, how can the United States continue to proceed as if it were an ally?

The Trenchant Observer


Links to some of the Observer’s articles dealing with Syed Saleem Shahzad and the issues he raised, and excerpts from these articles, are reporduced below.

NEWS TO NOTE: Pakistani sources report progress in back-channel talks with Taliban, September 18, 2010

See Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Taliban soften as talks gain speed,” Asia Times On-Line (, September 15, 2010.

“Pakistan Desire to “Mediate” with Taliban Consistent with Earlier Reports of Deal to Support Karzai in Election Settlement,”
February 10th, 2010

NEWS TO NOTE Deal by U.S. with Pakistan Military to Undercut Abdullah in Final Discussions?
November 11th, 2009

REPRISE: Consorting with the Devil? The Debate over the Efficacy of Torture

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Given the renewed debate in the U.S over the efficacy of torture in the wake of Bin Laden’s death, the article republished below, written on April 24, 2009 and first published here on October 1, 2009, puts current arguments in perspective.



April 24, 2009–The current debate over whether the use of torture by the Bush administration produced valuable information throws into sharp relief the moral depths to which the United States has sunk–from leading politicians and policymakers to large portions of the press and millions of average citizens. One cannot but wonder whether the rampant corruption in the mortgage market, in stock analysts’ recommendations, and in financial behavior which has brought this country to a new nadir, might not be related to a general lack of ethical and spiritual moorings in broad swathes of the population.

Painfully few religious, business or other leaders have taken continued, strong public stands against our use of torture. With notable exceptions, journalists even today shrink from describing so-called “harsh interrogation techniques” including water boarding as “torture”. Fear of litigation should not completely muzzle the press. The lack of awareness of history reflected in news reports and analyses and debates among officials is astounding, and suggests that the education of even many of our most educated public servants and journalists has a glaring gap at its moral core. That is, even with the best educations at the best universities, this ethical gap and lack of a moral core has not been remedied.

The principle of due obedience, rejected at Nuremberg and accepted but only for a while in Argentina, is quietly accepted without reference to either of those precedents. Or to the facts and considerations that led to the adoption and ratification of the torture convention.

To a nation which cheered episodes of “24” depicting torture by U.S. agents, the correct principle seems to be: “If torture works, we should use it to protect ourselves.”

It is a matter of immense sorrow to note that our leading pundits make scant reference to the fact that the sons and daughters of the Enlightenment, including the drafters of our own Constitution, rejected torture on moral, not utilitarian, grounds.

Let us then, for the sake of argument, postulate that torture in some cases produces useful information. Assuming, arguendo, that this is the case, the question for debate is simply this: “Is the use of torture, if effective, state behavior that is morally justified?

In other words, let’s skip the efficacy debate, which debases all who defend torture on utilitarian grounds. Let us debate the central moral issue: “Is torture, even if effective, morally acceptable, and why or why not?”

In this debate, it is worth bearing in mind that the entire edifice of international human rights rests on the inviolability of the physical integrity of the human person. This core principle is deeply rooted in the religious belief that in each human being there resides a part of the divine. It is a stunning testimony to the depths to which our nation has sunk to listen to the debate over the efficacy of torture as if effectiveness were the essential question. Instead of spymasters and doctors and psychologists who have consorted with the devil, it is time for us to listen to others, to our religious and moral leaders, and to politicians and other leading figures who believe there is a moral framework within which our actions—both as individuals and as a nation–are to be judged. It is time for these leaders to stand up and to speak out loudly and clearly on the morality of torture. It is time for them to take an unequivocal position on the torture our government has adopted as a policy and executed in the bowels of hell. It is time for them to demand the full truth and details of what our government has done, acting in our name.

There is no more fundamental human right than the right to the physical integrity of the human person. This right was recognized at Nuremberg, and enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, in 1948. It was specifically protected in the Geneva conventions on the law of war (humanitarian law), in 1949. The right is the cornerstone of numerous human rights treaties to which the U.S. is a party including the U.N. Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The right is also fully protected in the European Convention on Human Rights, which establishes the constitutional norms and fundamental law on the subject in the nations of Europe.

So let’s hear the debate on whether the underpinnings of these human rights conventions are to be ripped out by allowing torture, and on the ultimate issue of the morality of the use of torture by the state against the individual. In engaging in this discussion, let us also avoid any semblance of the sophomoric debates that took place in our government, in which the question of torture was addressed as if it were a tabula rasa, in blithe ignorance of the history, religious positions, and legal developments that had taken place in the past.

The Trenchant Observer

See also

The Trenchant Observer, “Bin Laden and the Debate Over Torture–Revived, May 7, 2011 ;

Mark Benjamin, “The torture debate is back, but what about the criminal probe?” TIME, May 4, 2011;

The Trenchant Observer, “The Clock is Ticking: U.S. Application of the Torture Convention,” February 20, 2010; and

The Trenchant Observer, “Craig’s Departure, the Ban on Publication of Any Torture Photograph, and Reaffirmation of the Prohibition Against Torture,” November 25, 2009

NEWS TO NOTE: Pakistani sources report progress in back-channel talks with Taliban

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan Bureau Chief for Asia Times Online, reports that back-channel conversations with the Taliban during Ramadan, orchestrated by the Pakistani military, have led to a softening of the Taliban’s positions. Shahzad writes,

Asia Times Online has learned that the backchannel talks have to date resulted in the Taliban agreeing to issue a policy statement on their relationship with al-Qaeda. They will clarify that they provided protection to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in line with Afghan traditions of being hospitable.

It was the presence of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan that led the US to invade the country in late 2001 in retaliation for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.
The Taliban will spell out their position of decrying international terrorism and of not supporting violence in Muslim countries. Above all, they will clearly state that the Taliban are an indigenous movement struggling against foreign occupation forces with no agenda outside Afghan boundaries.

“This is the first time the situation has reached this level and this is the result of several months of unannounced but untiring efforts by the Pakistan army, with the consent of US military leaders who have very patiently and diligently allowed the Pakistan army to create this environment in which the Taliban feel comfortable, and they are now showing flexibility in their attitude,” a senior Pakistani security official familiar with the talks told Asia Times Online.

See Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Taliban soften as talks gain speed,” Asia Times On-Line (, September 15, 2010.

Shazad has provided reports on Pakistani military efforts to mediate with the Taliban and other parties to the conflict in Afghanistan. See, e.g., the following articles by The Observer:

“Pakistan Desire to “Mediate” with Taliban Consistent with Earlier Reports of Deal to Support Karzai in Election Settlement,”
February 10th, 2010

NEWS TO NOTE Deal by U.S. with Pakistan Military to Undercut Abdullah in Final Discussions?
November 11th, 2009

Interestingly, he reports in the current article, “Neither the Afghan government nor the Pakistani government is officially aware of the backchannel initiative with the Taliban.”

The Trenchant Observer

Comments are invited.

Wikileaks’ Leaked Documents on Afghanistan: Massive U.S. Intelligence System Failure

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Much of the attention in the press following the release by Wikileaks of over 90,000 classified documents from U.S. military operations and intelligence in Afghanistan has been off the mark.

The big issue here is not how the disclosures are going to affect the debate in Washington and the U.S. over the future course of the war, but rather which institutions and individuals in the U.S. military and above are going to be held accountable for what may be one of the greatest leaks of classified operational intelligence in U.S. history.

The leaks reveal a pervasive failure in intelligence methods and document handling.

On the nature of this intelligence fiasco, see

Jill R. Aitoro, Security Controls at Their Worst? Cyber-Secuirty Report,, July 27, 2010

“WikiLeaks Files’ ‘Potential Threat’ Continues to Rattle Washington,” PBS New Hour, July 27, 2010

Why was nothing done by the U.S. or the U.K. to prevent the publication of these detailed documents revealing U.S. intellignce sources and methods?

What is going to be done, and how soon, to fix the systems and procedures that made these leaks possible?

Who is going to be held accountable?

These are the key questions that need to be immediately addressed.

Of course, now that the documents are public, much will be learned from detailed analyses of their content over the coming months, and years. That is all highly interesting, but should not distract us from the nature of the intelligence failure that has occurred, and the urgent need to fix at once the defects in the system that allowed these massive leaks to happen.

The Trenchant Observer

Comments are invited. Please add to the discussion and tell the Observer why he is wrong. Or right. Or some of one and some of the other.

The New York Times’ Bob Herbert on dire Afghanistan situation and “the courage to leave”

Friday, June 11th, 2010

In a must-read article, Bob Herbert in a op-ed column to be published Saturday in the New York Times describes the current situation in Afghanistan, as follows:

There is no good news coming out of the depressing and endless war in Afghanistan. There once was merit to our incursion there, but that was long ago. Now we’re just going through the tragic motions, flailing at this and that, with no real strategy or decent end in sight.

Regarding the much-touted surge in Marja and the long-announced offensive in Kandahar, “Forget about it,” he concludes. Now the talk is no longer of an “offensive” but rather of a “civilian surge” in Kandahar. The government of Hamid Karzai is “breathtakingly corrupt and incompetent — and widely unpopular to boot,” he writes.


There is no overall game plan, no real strategy or coherent goals, to guide the fighting of U.S. forces. It’s just a mind-numbing, soul-chilling, body-destroying slog, month after month, year after pointless year.

Americans, he says, “have zoned out of this war,” and, “They don’t even want to think about it.”

Why in the world should the small percentage of the population that has volunteered for military service shoulder the entire burden of this hapless, endless effort? The truth is that top American officials do not believe the war can be won but do not know how to end it. So we get gibberish about empowering the unempowerable Afghan forces and rebuilding a hopelessly corrupt and incompetent civil society.

Hebert concludes,

If we don’t have the courage as a people to fight and share in the sacrifices when our nation is at war, if we’re unwilling to seriously think about the war and hold our leaders accountable for the way it is conducted, if we’re not even willing to pay for it, then we should at least have the courage to pull our valiant forces out of it.

–Bob Hebert, “The Courage to Leave,” The New York Times, June 12, 2010 (print edition)

See also,

Dexter Filkins, “Karzai Is Said to Doubt West Can Defeat Taliban,” The New York Tiimes, June 11, 2010.

Sadly, as The Observer noted on October 6, 2009,

The failure in Afghanistan has been a diplomatic and political failure, not just a military failure. Military strategy will falter if diplomatic and political strategy does not keep pace. We cannot succeed in Afghanistan by proceeding on the naive belief that we can “stand up” a legitimate government born of fraud, or that we can “stand up” an Afghan army both capable of defeating the Taliban and loyal to a government lacking in legitimacy and losing public support. Legitimacy is the key to developing both a more effective government and a more capable army and police. Without legitimacy, both possibilities appear to be but chimeras in the desert sand.

Bob Herbert’s article should be mandatory reading for every American, and every citizen of every coalition country fighting in Afghanistan. The job of the journalist, at the highest levels, is “to speak truth to power.”

Now, as in Vietnam, we wait to see how long it will take “power” to hear, and act upon, that truth.

The Trenchant Observer