Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Military’

American big business votes for appeasement with Russia; Interview with Prime Minister Taavi Roivas of Estonia

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Outrageous Lobbying for Appeasement of Russia by American Big Business

The National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce plan to run an ad in leading newspapers on Thursday, lobbying against the imposition of tougher sanctions against Russia by the U.S. Technically, they may argue that the sanctions should not be tougher than those which may be adopted by the European Union.  But as the EU can act only by consensus of its 28 members, and never swiftly, their argument in essence is one against immediate, strong, sectorial sanctions and in favor of the pacifism and appeasement which have so far characterized the response of the West to Russian aggression in the Ukraine.

In doing so, they are acting to undermine the foreign policy of the United States, and President Obama’s threat of a month ago to impose third-stage or sectorial sanctions on Russia if Vladimir Putin did not cease his subversion and support for so-called “separatists” in the eastern Ukraine (which Putin brought into being, incidentally, after invading and annexing the Crimea). This, despite his verbal declarations designed to forestall the imposition of stronger sanctions, Putin has utterly failed to do.

In effect, big business, not content with its enormous influence over domestic legislation and the domestic implementation of laws, now wants to dictate to the president what is or is not in the national interest in the foreign policy arena.  In a word, if a policy serves the national security interests of the United States but hurts the business interests of members of the two groups placing the ads, deference should be given to the interests of big business.

Today, Peter Baker of the New York Times reported on the options under consideration by the Obama administration for adoption in response to Putin’s failure to meet the conditions laid down by the EU and the U.S. nearly a month ago. Regarding the incredibly brazen lobbying by the NAM and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, he wrote:

The drive for more sanctions comes as American businesses are growing more vocal in protesting the possibility that the United States may act on its own. While lobbying the White House and Congress quietly until now, leading business groups plan to start a wide advertising campaign voicing their concerns.

“With escalating global tensions, some U.S. policy makers are considering a course of sanctions that history shows hurts American interests,” reads an advertisement to be placed in major newspapers on Thursday. “We are concerned about actions that would harm American manufacturers and cost American jobs.”

The ad, signed by Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, and Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will be placed in The Financial Times, The Hill, The New York Times, Politico, Roll Call, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. A copy was provided on Tuesday by someone not directly affiliated with either sponsoring organization.

Linda Dempsey, the vice president for international economic affairs at the manufacturers association, would not discuss the ad campaign but said American businesses would be unduly harmed if Washington proceeded with sanctions that were not matched by Europe.

“Unilateral sanctions by the United States end up with other countries and their industries filling the void,” she said. “The harm and the real impact of those unilateral sanctions is on U.S. industries and U.S. workers. It’s not that we’re out of the market for a year or two. We could get out of the market for decades.”

See Peter Baker, “Doubting Putin, Obama Prepares to Add Pressure,” New York Times, June 24, 2014.

In Europe, big business is exercising similar pressures on the governments of François Hollande and Àngela Merkel, and others.

The pressure from two of the most important associations of large U.S. businesses is analogous to American big business placing ads in the major newspapers to leave or not leave Afghanistan, or to support or not support U.S. allies in Asia which are confronted with aggressive Chinese actions in disputed territorial waters in the East and South China Seas.

A more direct analogy would be that if China were to seize by force one or more islands currently administered by Japan, the lobbying organizations would place ads in the leading national papers urging the U.S. not to respond forcefully to the Chinese actions unless the EU were acting in lockstep with United States, because of the detrimental impact such unilateral action would have on U.S.-Chinese business interests, and the unfair advantage that would be given to European companies operating in China if the EU did not adopt the same or similar measures.

What this means, in practice, is that U.S. actions would be dictated by the weakest link in the 28-nation chain of EU member states.

How the United States could ever lead the Atlantic Alliance and other nations if it could never act on its own, independently of the actions of the EU, is a question that both defies explanation and points to the most urgent need of U.S. foreign policy at the present moment in relation to Russia and the Ukraine–to adopt strong, serious sanctions against Russia, unilaterally if necessary, and to lead the Atlantic Alliance in responding to Russian aggression.

These big business groups and their members should be forcefully reminded that they have a duty not to actively undermine the national security interests of the United States, so long as they benefit from the protection of its laws and diplomatic representations. They should not be permitted to do so without negative consequences.

Their current lobbying campaign is so disloyal and unpatriotic that every American should take careful note of the companies that are supporting actions in favor of appeasement, and modify their consumer and business decisions accordingly.

The fact of the matter is that, following the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea and in view of its continuing invasion and subversion of the eastern Ukraine, the U.S., Europe and the world face the most serious crisis of international law and institutions since 1945.

For U.S. big business to come in and presume to tell the president how the U.S. should act under these circumstances is simply unforgivable.  It should produce legislative consequences which require U.S. big business to shoulder a larger portion of the economic burden of defense and other expenses required to pay for the national security of the United States.

Interview with Prime Minister Taavi Roivas of Estonia

To get a clear-eyed view of the seriousness of the present situation with Russia as a result of its aggression against the Ukraine, read closely (using Google translator if necessary) today’s interview by Nicola Abé of Der Spiegel with Taavi Roivas, the Prime Minister of Estonia.

See Nicola Abé (Interview), “Estlands Premier Roivas: “Europa muss den Schlummermodus abschalten,” Der Spiegel, 25. Juni 2014 (19:10 Uhr)

Der estnische Ministerpräsident Taavi R  ivas fordert mehr Nato-Truppen im Baltikum. “Wir brauchen eine klare Abschreckungswirkung.”

Roivas stated forcefully that Europe must awake from its current state of slumber, and recognize the threat from Putin and Russia. Among other things, NATO should move its troops to the front-line states like the Baltic countries, where their presence might actually have a deterrent effect against any potential military action. It makes no sense to have them stationed in the middle of Europe in countries which were once front-line states, but are no more, he said.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
L’Observateur Incisif

Distracted by Iraq and the World Cup: Pacifism and Appeasement continue to dictate West’s “non-response” to blatant Russian aggression in the eastern Ukraine (revised and updated June 18, 2014)

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Last Revised and Updated June 18, 2014

Distracted by Iraq and the World Cup, the leaders of the West seem to have forgotten about the Ukraine in general, and their earnest threat of “third-stage”, sectoral sanctions against Russia, in particular.

“Nothing New in the West” remains the order of the day as the U.S., and EU and NATO member countries remain gripped by pacifism and appeasement–and pure cowardice–in failing to respond in a serious manner to the ongoing Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine.

Russia continues its policy of blatant aggression against the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of the Ukraine. The West, as was the case in Syria, fights back with words and not deeds, with empty threats that have no credibility because they are never carried out. It is always “too little, too late”, as if a man who is knifed in the gut responds to his aggressor with a slap to the cheek.

Meanwhile, the international political and legal order is falling apart, from Europe to the Middle East.

The state of Iraq is crumbling, after tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers threw down their arms and fled from battle, with Sunni regions falling to the advancing forces of ISIS, an al-Qaeda-type organization. Iraqi Kurdish Peshmurga forces have moved into Kirkuk to fill the vacuum, further threatening the dismemberment of the country into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions.

With the West’s attention distracted by both the World Cup tournament in Brazil (Angela Merkel was in Brazil for Germany’s victory on Monday) and the rapid advance of the ISIS forces in Iraq, Putin and Russia continue to play their “double game” of saying one thing and doing another. In recent days, a column of Russian armor, including three tanks, has crossed the Russian border into the Ukraine. So-called “separatists” have used a surface-to-air MANPAD missile to bring down a Ukrainian military transport, causing the deaths of 49 Ukrainian solders.

A hot war is going on in the eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin has demonstated once again his utterly perfidious character. He moves like a leopard around the Ukraine, waiting for the moment when the attention and unity of the West falters in order to attack and pounce upon his prey.

So long as Putin remains in power, the West will never be able to trust Russia again.

The United States has a clueless president, whose foreign policy currently consists almost entirely of words. His first response to any crisis is to issue a well-crafted statement. “All options are on the table,” he reflexively states, and he will consider the options that are brought to him by his national security team.

The options that are always all on the table, always seem to suffer a curious fate. After the doors are closed, a space in the floor opens up, the top of the table opens downward, and those options disappear into the void below, never to be seen again.

Without analyzing the situation, Obama announces that no American boots will be deployed on the ground in Iraq. Reluctantly, he sees himself pushed by his national security advisers to do something. The present circumstances are urgent, in view of the collapse of the Iraqi army and the advance of ISIS toward Baghdad, after taking Mosul.

Obama dithers. When he finally gets around to taking some action, it is usually too little and too late to be effective.

After Russia invaded the Crimea, the U.S. sent “non-lethal” military
aid to the Ukraine consisting of MRE rations (meals ready to eat). The first-round of targeted economic sanctions imposed on a small number of individual Russians was a bad joke.

All of the mistakes, shortcomings and failures of Obama’s foreign policy are now manifesting their consequences, like chickens coming home to roost.

Syria, Iraq and the Middle East are collapsing in front of our eyes. Russia is invading the eastern Ukraine, after invading and annexing the Crimea. Everywhere the United States is failing to lead, by not acting independently when this is urgently required–even with military force, if necessary–and by not effectively leading the Atlantic Alliance, including both NATO and the EU.

Obama’s foreign policy lies before us in a shambles, like a heap of shards of broken glass. His West Point speech of two weeks ago has already been overtaken by events.

Democrats with knowlege of foreign and defense policy are afraid to speak out publicly against the president, whether because they don’t want to hurt Democratic election prospects, hope for future posts or consulting work in government, don’t want to prejudice their positions within the organizations in which they work, or are simply apprehensive about taking strong stands against the government in the new surveillance state.

Some leading members of the foreign-policy elite seem themselves to be as clueless as Barack Obama. The president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard N. Haass, for example, suggested on the Charlie Rose program last night (June 13) that, to counter the growth and advances of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. should consider joining with Bashar al-Assad and Russia to attack the ISIS forces. Michael R. Gordon, the distinguished military affairs correspondent of the New York Times, had the presence of mind to point out that joining with a mass murderer like al-Assad would be inconsistent with American values, and not likely to engender support.

Without any discernible American strategy, and few key officials with any sense of history, foreign events appear to pop up out of nowhere and to take the Obama administration utterly by surprise.

Absent a policy anchored in enduring American and Western values, such as dedication to defending human rights and democracy and respect for international law, any policy or action seems possible, in a present which seems to have expanded almost infinitely, obliterating the past while encompassing all possibilities for present and future action.

What can be done?

1. Stage-three, sectoral sanctions should be immediately imposed by the United States against Russia, while the U.S. should lead in exercising real, intense pressure on EU countries to join in adopting similar sanctions.

This would necessarily include cancellation of France’s sale of two Mistral-class warships to be delivered to Russia in the fall. Training of Russian sailors, scheduled to begin shortly, should be canceled sine diem, and not reconsidered until after Russia disgorges the Crimea and returns it to the Ukraine.

2. NATO should announce the immediate deployment of additional ground troops to Poland, Romania and the Baltics, and move foward urgently, and loudly, in developing plans for the permanent stationing of large numbers of NATO troops in these countries.

3. Western leaders should immediately stop all telephone calls and meetings at the deputy foreign minister level or above with Russian leaders and officials. Telephone diplomacy has failed. It only enables Putin to discern differences between Western countries and devise actions that divide them, e.g., in order to defuse the threat of sectoral sanctions.

4. The U.S. and its allies should undertake military and other action in Iraq, immediately, in order both to halt the advance of ISIS forces toward Baghdad and to forestall Iranian military intervention in Iraq in the coming days.

5. While these steps are being taken, the U.S. should develop a real strategy, using all forms of American power, to both defeat ISIS and to secure a non-sectarian government in Iraq, as coalitions are formed to choose the next prime minister following the recent elections.

6. The U.S, should exercise its influence in Afghanistan as necessary to ensure that the vote count following the presidential run-off election today (June 14) is transparent, and not deprived of legitimacy by uncorrected corruption.

Indications of widespread fraud (denounced by Abdullah Abdullah) and Hamid Karzai’s control of the electoral commission raise the possibility that this last chance at gaining legitimacy may be lost. If it is, it should surprise no one if, within a few years, the Afghan army collapses just like the Iraqi army which ran from battle in Sunni areas of Iraq in recent days.

Will the president stop dithering and analyzing, and take the needed actions outlined above?

To do so would, in Secretary of State Madelaine Allbright’s memorable phrase, take some “cojones”.

That is precisely the element of U.S. foreign policy that has been missing. One can only hope that it can be found, and deployed.

The Trenchant Observer

As official Russian troops withdraw from border, Putin continues stealth invasion and occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk region by irregular forces

Friday, June 6th, 2014

News and Opinion


(1) Anton Troianovski (Berlin) and Carol E. Lee (in Bénouville, France), “Mistrust Persists in Ukraine Meetings,” Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2014(updated 8:02 p.m. ET).

(2) Lukas I. Alpert, “Ukraine’s Tenuous Grip on Russian Border Slips Further; Kiev Abandons Eight Border Posts After Sustained Attacks,” Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2014 (7:16 a.m. ET).

(3) Arthur Bright, “Despite Russian drawdown from border, fighting continues in eastern Ukraine (+video),” Cristian Science Monitor, May 30, 2014.

“Russian fighters are among the separatist forces battling Ukraine’s poorly equipped military for control of eastern provinces. A pullback of Moscow’s troops could defuse tensions with the West.”

(4) Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum (Donetsk), “Russian troop withdrawal brings no relief in eastern Ukraine,” Washington Post, May 30, 2014.


Vladimir Putin is a former KGB operative who, as Russia’s President, has embraced a new form of “stealth warfare”. In the Crimea, this invasion was launched by special operations forces bearing no official insignia (often referred to in the press as “little green men”). With impressive military precision, they seized key government buildings and police and Ukrainian army installations, handing them over to pro-Russian “separatists” whom they directed and controlled. As these events unfolded, President Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov loudly proclaimed that Russia had no intention of violating the territorial integrity of the Ukraine in the Crimea or anywhere else. Within a month, Russia had annexed the Crimea.

Subsequently, the same pattern was repeated in the eastern Ukraine, with variations which have evolved in accordance with changing circumstances. At Geveva, on April 17, Russia agreed in the statement produced by talks between the U.S., the EU, Russia, and the Ukraine, that the “separatists” who had seized government buildings with Kalishnakovs and other heavy weapons would lay down their arms and withdraw from the buildings they held. Russia made no effort to ensure that this would happen.

As the West imposed targeted sanctions against individuals and a few companies in Russia and the Ukraine, significantly also developed a realistic threat of imposing so-called “third stage” or sectoral sanctions against Russia if it invaded the eastern Ukraine or interfered with the May 25 presidential elections in the Ukraine, Putin told Angela Merkel that he was withdrawing troops from the border region, where some 40,000 to 50,000 troops were massed in combat-ready status for an invasion. Weeeks passed without this withdrawal occurring. In recent days, however, these Russian troops have finally been withdrawing.

But meanwhile, the KGB operative who is the current presient of Russia continued the invasion of the Ukraine by surrepticious means. Recent reports detail the crossing into Ukraine of truckloads and truckloads of heavily armed irregular forces. Within the last several days, highly organized military forces have taken control of the government administration building in Donetsk from the motley group of pro-Russian activists who were holding it.

The top leaders of the “separatists” are Russian citizens with no local ties, who are reliably reported to be officials of Russian military and intelligence agencies. Chechens and fighters from other parts of Russia have been sent into the eastern Ukraine to bolster the military assault on the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence of the Ukraine, now in the “Donbass” region.

It is clear that Putin”s and Russia”s invasion of the eastern Ukraine continues in an extremely vigorous manner, with determination not to allow Kiev’s Anti-Terrorist Operation aimed at restoring public order in the East to succeed.

A war is going on in the eastern Ukraine between the Russian special operations and irregular forces whuch have invaded the country and local separatists they have enlisted in their support, and the national government of the Ukraine based in Kiev.

After imposing limited targeted sanctions on a number of Russian individuals, the EU and the U.S. have now threatened Putin and Russia with sectoral sanctions if Russia does not ceadse its support for the “separatists” who are fighting Ukrainian forces attempting to restore public order, and stop the influx from Russia of irregular forces and weapons crossing the border.

At the same time, France has stated that it will proceed with the delivery to Ruusian of two Mistral-class warships, which will be based in Sevastopol in the Crimea, which under international law remains Ukrainian territory under Russian occupation.

The isolation of President Putin was broken by Francois Hollande’s invitation to Putin to attend the D-Day ceremonies in Normand on June 5-6. There was a certain logic to this invitation, as the West and the Soviet Union were allies in the war to defeat Nazi Germany.

Whether the subsequent invitation to Putin to visit Paris and David Cameron’s and Angela Merkel’s hastily scheduled private meetings with Putin, over President Barack Obama’s objections, reflected a sincere effort at persuasion, or signalled a collapse of allied unity, was far from clear, particularly in light of the French decision to deliver the warships to Russia.

One might have thought that if the West wanted to deliver a single message and threat to Vladimir Putin regarding the Ukraine, they could have found a better way to do it than in three separate private meetings. Obama refused such a meeting, although he had a 15-minute chat with Putin on the sidelines of a larger luncheon at the D-Day ceremonies on Friday.

The Trenchant Observer

Francois Hollande’s dinner diplomacy with Obama and Putin; France’s decision to proceed with the sale of warships to Russia to be based in the Crimea; NATO’s failure to increase forward-based troop deployments in the East

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Francois Hollande’s Dinner Diplomacy and France’s Undercutting of the West

For a droll account of French President Francois Hollande’s dinner plans Thursday evening in Paris, first with President Barack Obama at 7:00 p.m. in a restaurant, then with Russian President Vladimir Putin at 9:00 p.m. at the Elysee Palace, see

Stefan Simons (Paris), “Dinner-Diplomatie beim D-Day: Mit Silberzunge und Silberlöffel,” Der Spiegel, June 5, 2014 (16:40 Uhr)

The article also includes tantalizing details about luncheon plans in Normandy with the leaders attending the D-Day celebrations.

In the meantime, France has announced it will go ahead with the delivery of two Mistral naval warships to Russia in the fall, which are likely to be based in Sevastopol, in the Crimea, in Russian-occupied territory of the Ukraine.

The French President, in whom we and others placed considerable hope for a vigorous and forceful foreign policy, with the able assistance of his foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, is turning out to be something of a toad, and not one likely to be transformed into a prince.

Normally, the sex lives of politicians should not be matters of public concern. Occasionallly, however, the dalliances of our leaders can reveal traits of character that do indeed affect the public life and politics of a nation. They can demonstrate something about the qualities of loyalty and trustworthiness.

It is in this light that we should recall how President Hollande was recently caught by the press sneaking out of the Elysee Palace on the back of a motorcycle for an assignation with a girlfriend at an apartment only blocks away. This led to the departure of his official partner from the Elysee Palace, where she had been officially living as the First Lady.

What does Hollande’s affair have in common with French policy on the Ukraine? This can be summed up in one word: “betrayal”.

Now, another woman, Marine Le Pen, seems to have distracted Hollande from his original sense of purpose, with the victory of her right-wing National Front party in the European parliamentary elections on May 25.

It was Hollande who broke the West’s isolation of Putin after his invasion of the Crimea and now the eastern Ukraine, first with his invitation to Vladimir Putin to attend the D-Day ceremonies in Normandy, and then–after the victory of Le Pen’s National Front on May 25–with a second invitation for Putin to meet with Hollande in Paris.

With the announcement by France that it will proceed with the delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia in the fall, despite calls by Western leaders to block the sale, we can now understand how untrustworthy an ally Hollande has become, and also glimpse the character flaws that have led to his becoming so unpopular in France.

He appears not only to be a toad, but one on a par with Edouard Daladier, who is infamous along with Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain for signing the Munich Pact with Adolf Hitler on October 30, 1938. That agreement, which broke previous security pacts and recognized German seizure of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia (a day before Germany’s scheduled invasion), stands still today as the pinnacle of European appeasement.

Words and Deeds: The G-7 Declaration, Barack Obama’s Warsaw Speech, and NATO’s Decision Not to Deploy Forces in the East

Thursday’s G-7 declaration containing strong criticisms of Putin and threatening sectoral sanctions against Russia if it does not cease its support of so-called “separatists” (actually Russian special operations and intelligence forces and agents under their direction and control) in the eastern Ukraine, and President Obama’s strong words in his speech in Warsaw and at his meeting with newly-elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, are fine words. They are needed words.

Unfortunately, actions speak louder than words, and the perfidious and extraordinarily ill-timed announcement by France that it will proceed with the sale of the Mistral warships to Russia, utterly undercuts the intended message and threat contained in those fine words.

At the same time, earlier this week NATO decided to reject requests by Poland and other eastern European members to increase their forward-based troop deployments in the East. NATO countries thus revealed that their timid leaders and schlerotic decision processes are not up to the task of facing down Vladimir Putin and Russian aggression.

Obama, for his part, has failed to lead the West and U.S. allies in a forceful and united response, through actions, to Russian aggression in the Ukraine.

Despite the fine words in the G-7 declaration and in Obama’s speeches and comments in Poland, the policies of NATO and EU member states continue to be characterized by pacifism and appeasement.

After Hollande’s self-serving actions and undermining of the threat of sectoral sanctions, and NATO’s decision to essentially do nothing that is really meaningful in the East, Western leaders must now work extremely hard if they are to make their threats seem credible in Moscow.

On the record of their actions since late February, and not their words, Putin is likely to judge that he has little to lose by sticking to his present course in the eastern Ukraine.

The threat of further sanctions will only influence Putin after some serious sanctions have actually been imposed. Only then will the threats acquire credibility.

Further Dithering? Or Forceful U.S. Leadership and Action Now?

The G-7 position that they will wait several weeks to see if Putin halts his support for the separatists is divorced from the pace of events on the ground in the eastern Ukraine. Obama at a joint press conference with David Cameron said today that sectoral sanctions would be imposed, if Putin didn’t halt his activities in the eastern Ukraine within a month.

These deadlines reveal how hard the U.S. and the EU want to avoid imposing sectoral sanctions, and cast further doubt on whether they will ever have the political will and resolve to do so. Much will be decided in the eastern Ukraine in the next two weeks, or month.

The record of the West is one of strong words, threatened sanctions, and then a failure to back up the threats when the actions they target are taken or not taken.

Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov learned to play this game, with great success, in Syria.

The record is one of dithering, offering Putin endless chances to take an “off-ramp” from his aggression, without paying any price for what he has already done.

But the blood of the people who have died at the hands of his special forces and their agents is on his hands. The people who are being killed every day in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the eastern Ukraine are being killed as a result of the Russian invasion and support for so-called “separatists”.

Some sectoral sanctions should be imposed now, to make good on previous threats that they would be imposed if Russia interfered in the May 25 Ukrainian elections. Russia did interfere, massively, and prevented most of the people in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions from exercising their right to vote.

The Russians are focused on changing the facts on the ground in the eastern Ukraine through an ongoing invasion. To give them two weeks more, or a month, to continue their aggressive war in the East is ludicrous.

Action is needed now.

Russia should suffer immediate consequences for it actions, which include pouring truckloads of weapons and irregular forces into the eastern Ukraine, and undertaking military-style actions against Ukrainian forces and institutions in the last two weeks.

Russia has an asymmetric advantage over the West: It can act quickly and decisively, whereas the West, absent strong U.S. leadership and independent action when necessary, can only act slowly as consensus is forged among its many members.

Moreover, because of consensus decision making processes, both in NATO and the EU, Western policies are like a chain that is no stronger than its weakest link. With its decision to proceed with the sale of warships to Russia, which will be based in the Crimea, France has become a strong candidate for the title of “weakest link”. There are other candidates, however, as revealed by NATO’s decision not to deploy troops in Poland and the Baltics.

Some third-stage sanctions are needed, now. Only the U.S. is in a position to impose such sanctions quickly. It should do so immediately, and resume forceful leadership of the Atlantic Alliance.

The Trenchant Observer

The sheer mind-numbing incompetence of Obama’s White House foreign policy team; Ukraine—continuing pacifism and appeasement in the West

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014


You can’t make this stuff up.

The sheer, mind-numbing incompetence ofthe White House foreign policy team surpasses the wildest leaps of the imagination. For example,

1. The White House distributes the name of the current CIA station chief in Kabul to the press pool accompanying the President on a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

“Surprise! We’ve outed the CIA station chief!” To date, no head has rolled, though there has been an attempt to blame it on the military.

2. President Obama agrees to meet with French President Francois Hollande before the latter meets with Vladimir Putin in Paris, both on Thursday night. The dinner with Obama is at a restaurant, whereas Putin is eating at the Elysee Palace.

This is Obama’s version of managing alliance relationships. Further, Angela Merkel is meeting with Putin in Frankfurt on Friday.

Meanwhile, Putin’s agents are waging war in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the Ukraine, while Russian “volunteers” are pouring into the Ukraine, whose border forces have come under intense and coordinated attack. Coordinated by whom? Who do you think? The Albanians?

If you’ve ever wondered about that smug “I just ate the goldfish and they’re inviting me for dessert” smile on former KGB agent Vladimir Putin’s face, reread the preceding paragraphs.

Incompetence at the highest levels, by “the gang who couldn’t shoot straight”, and their leader.

Obama seems to have “attention deficit disorder”. He doesn’t seem to be able to track the moving ball with his eyes. To keep his eye on the ball. Nor does he seem to understand how his actions will be interpreted.

He travels to Eastern Europe to reassure NATO’s eastern allies, with more words, that America stands behind them, instead of acting to halt and reverse Putin’s aggression in the Ukraine by adopting serious economic sanctions, and pressuring the Europeans to do the same. Those actions, not words, would reassure our allies in Eastern Europe–and Japan and other countries neighboring China.

Hollande, whose sense of loyalty was recently displayed when he was caught by the press sneaking out of the Elysee Palace on a motorcycle to meet his girlfriend in a nearby house, leading to the departure of his official girlfriend from the Elysee Palace, has apparently been flipped by the National Front’s strong showing in the May 25 elections for the European Parliament.

What Angela Merkel’s story is can only be guessed, but the steadfastness of Germany is not beyond doubt, as suggested by former SPD Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder’s celebration of his 70th birthday with his good friend Vladimir Putin in St. Petersberg last month.

The pacifists and the appeasers in the White House and in Europe look like they have carried the day, and can’t wait to get back to “business as usual” with Russia and Putin, at the earlest opportunity.

The existing structure of international order is facing its toughest test since 1945.

So, now that it is clear that Europe is not willing to undergo any pain to uphold that international order, e.g., through the adoption of third-stage, sectoral sanctions, leaders want to meet with Putin.

“Let’s be reasonable. Let’s mediate between Putin and Ukraine’s newly-elected president, Petro Poroshenko.”

Between Russia and the country it is at this very moment raping.

What is to be mediated?

What it will take to get the rapist to desist from a rape in progress? Which of the rapist’s demands must be met, including immunity from criminal prosecution or even civil penalties? How the rapist can rebuild a relationship of trust with other members of the community, without expressing any regret?

In the international sphere, invasion and annexation of a portion of another country is a far more serious transgression than is rape in the domestic legal system, however heinous the latter crime may be.

Does anyone remember “the rape of Nanjing” in 1937-38, by the Japanese?

Without the U.N. Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of force, and serious efforts to uphold its effectiveness in cases of violation, how do the appeasers and pacifists in Washington and Europe imagine that the international order and international security will evolve?

If the present structure of international order within the framework of international law and the U.N. Charter is to be abandoned, what will take its place?

Shouldn’t the pacifists and appeasers in Washington and Europe be answering these questions? Are they?

The Trenchant Observer

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.