Monday, November 02, 2009
DTN News: Russian Bear ~ Trashing The MiG-29 *Source: Strategy Page (NSI News Source Info) KOTTAKKAL, Kerala, India - November 3, 2009: Malaysia admitted that it is getting rid of its MiG-29 fighters because the aircraft are too expensive to maintain. It costs about $5 million a year, per aircraft, to keep them in flying condition. Three years ago, Malaysia bought two more MiG-29s, in addition to the 18 it got in the 1990s. Two of those were lost due to accidents. Malaysia has since ordered 18 Su-30 fighters, and will apparently order more to replace the MiG-29s. Malaysia also bought eight F-18Ds in the 1990s, and is getting rid of those as well. Russia has offered better prices on maintenance contracts for new Su-30s, in addition to bargain (compared to U.S. planes) prices. BAGAN DATOH, June 1 (Bernama) -- The MIG-29N fighter jets of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) will be replaced with other interceptor jets to strengthen the force. Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the matter had been discussed with RMAF chief General Tan Sri Azizan Ariffin and the aircraft would be replaced soon. "I have decided that from next month, the aircraft be phased out and we should find a way to sell them to certain companies or countries approved by the United Nations," he told reporters after visiting the victims of a storm in Rungkup, here, Monday. On the Sukhoi fighter jets received recently, he said the preparedness of the squadron stationed at the RMAF base in Gong Kedak, Kelantan had been proven as the members had received sufficient simulator training and other forms of training continuously. Most of the MiG-29s provided satisfactory service. Malaysia was long a users of U.S. aircraft, so they have been able to compare Russian and American warplanes. The Russian aircraft cost less than half as much as their American counterparts. The Malaysians find that an acceptable situation, even though they face better trained pilots flying F-16s in neighboring Singapore. The MiG-29 entered Russian service in 1983, as the answer to the American F-16. Some 1,600 MiG-29s have been produced so far, with about 900 of them exported. The 22 ton aircraft is roughly comparable to the F-16, but it depends a lot on which version of either aircraft you are talking about. Russia is making a lot of money upgrading MiG-29s. Not just adding new electronics, but also making the airframe more robust. The MiG-29 was originally rated at 2,500 total flight hours. At that time (early 80s), Russia expected MiG-29s to fly about a hundred or so hours a year. India, for example, flew them at nearly twice that rate, as did Malaysia. So now Russia is offering to spiff up the airframe so that the aircraft can fly up to 4,000 hours, with more life extension upgrades promised. This won't be easy, as the MiG-29 has a history of unreliability and premature breakdowns (both mechanical and electronic). Recently, Russia grounded all of its MiG-29s in order to check for structural flaws. Compared to Western aircraft, like the F-16, the MiG-29 is available for action about two thirds as much. While extending the life of the MiG-29 into the 2030s is theoretically possible, actually doing so will be real breakthrough in Russian aircraft capabilities. The Indians are going to take up the Russians on their upgrade offer. But the Malaysians are going to go with the more highly regarded Su-30. Malaysia expects to have all its MiG-29s out of service in about a year. If they can't be sold, they will simply be scrapped. Algeria, and several other nations, have turned down the MiG-29, which has acquired the reputation of being second rate and a loser. Disclaimer statement Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information supplied herein, DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Unless otherwise indicated, opinions expressed herein are those of the author of the page and do not necessarily represent the corporate views of DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News.
DTN News: Pentagon Eventually To Replace Armored Humvee With Oshkosh M-ATV In Afghanistan *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) ARLINGTON, VA - November 3, 2009: M-ATV Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) All TerrainVehicle is displayed outside the Pentagon November 2, 2009 in Arlington, Virginia. The vehicle is designed to replace the up-armored Humvee in Afghanistan and about 40 of them have been deployed. Oshkosh Defense is committed to providing the best protection and mobility to our Warfighters – through the most threatening terrain, in the most treacherous of circumstances. They get that with the Oshkosh® M-ATV. Because it’s engineered specifically for their difficult missions – to move them in and get them out as safely as possible. The Oshkosh M-ATV incorporates rugged, durable, patented components and systems for maximum Warfighter mobility and survivability. Derived from the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) platform, the M-ATV incorporates the proprietary TAK-4® independent suspension system with battle-tested technology. It has the wheel travel, payload capacity, side slope stability, vehicle durability, extreme mobility and necessary Warfighter protection for today’s fight. In today’s most challenging battle zones, the M-ATV is the combat-tested, mobile, survivable, durable solution – the solution to getting Warfighters to the fight and back again M-ATV Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) All TerrainVehicle is displayed outside the Pentagon November 2, 2009 in Arlington, Virginia. The vehicle is designed to replace the up-armored Humvee in Afghanistan and about 40 of them have been deployed.
DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY November 3, 2009 ~ US President Barack Obama Urges 'New Afghan Chapter' *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) LONDON, UK / KABUL, Afghanistan - November 3, 2009: US President Barack Obama has urged Afghan leader Hamid Hamid Karzai to "write a new chapter" in governing Afghanistan, after its disputed presidential poll. Mr Obama said that in a phone call, he had also asked Mr Karzai to intensify efforts to eradicate corruption. Afghans watch as a helicopter picks up extra election material on November 2, 2009, in Takhar, Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai has been confirmed as President of Afghanistan for a second term today when the election run-off was cancelled after his sole rival Abdullah Abdullah withdrew from the race on Sunday. ~ Afghan police and Afghan National Army Air Corps help to carry election material from a helicopter on November 2, 2009, in Takhar, Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai has been confirmed as President of Afghanistan for a second term today when the election run-off was cancelled after his sole rival Abdullah Abdullah withdrew from the race on Sunday. He was speaking after the Afghan president had been declared winner of August's fraud-marred election. Earlier, poll officials scrapped a planned run-off following the withdrawal of Mr Karzai's challenger. 'Legitimate leader' Mr Obama said he had congratulated Mr Karzai on his re-election. He described the poll as "messy", but stressed that the final outcome was "in accordance with Afghan law". Mr Obama said Mr Karzai "assured me that he understood the importance of this moment. But as I indicated to him, the proof is not going to be in words, it's going to be in deeds". Mr Karzai was declared winner a day after sole challenger Abdullah Abdullah pulled out saying the run-off could not have been free or fair. Mr Abdullah had demanded the removal of key poll officials after the first round, which had been marred by fraud. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters: "President Karzai has been declared the winner of the Afghan election... So obviously he's the legitimate leader of the country." Earlier on Monday a spokesman for Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC), Azizullah Lodin, declared that President Karzai, "the only candidate for the second round", had been "elected president of Afghanistan". He said the second round, scheduled for 7 November, was being scrapped to save money and for security reasons. The Taliban, which carried out attacks across the country during the first round, had vowed to disrupt the polls again next Saturday. Congratulations President Karzai - who was first elected Afghan president in 2004 - had been the favourite to win another five-year term in the run-off. One of the reasons for holding a deciding vote had been to try to restore some legitimacy to the process, after the discredited first round on 20 August. UN chief Ban Ki-moon was among the dignitaries who congratulated Mr Karzai A number of international figures, including US Senator John Kerry, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, had been involved in persuading Mr Karzai to accept a run-off. However, Mr Brown on Monday said he welcomed the commission's decision. A spokesman said the PM had "spoken to President Karzai to congratulate him on his re-election" and the two men had "discussed the importance of the president moving quickly to set out a unifying programme for the future of Afghanistan". UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is in Kabul, also congratulated Mr Karzai. He said Afghanistan's troubled election had been among "the most difficult the United Nations has ever supported". The BBC's Lyse Doucet in Kabul says there had been intense discussion in recent days as to whether scrapping the second round would be constitutionally legal. Some observers are saying Mr Karzai's legitimacy is also in question, and ask whether his government can be effective, adds our correspondent. This would be a particular concern to President Obama as he considers whether to send up to 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of votes were discounted from August's first round, including almost a third of ballots cast for Mr Karzai. The incumbent's share of the vote was cut to just under the crucial 50% plus one ballot threshold needed for outright victory, following an investigation by the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission. Mr Abdullah had demanded key officials be removed from the IEC, which is widely regarded as pro-Karzai, ahead of any run-off vote.
A Tajik-Pashtun former eye surgeon and ex-foreign minister, Mr Abdullah was judged in the end to have won nearly a third of valid votes cast. ANALYSIS Paul Reynolds, world affairs correspondent, BBC News website The US and British governments let it be known that they regarded the result as legitimate and constitutional and that it reflected the will of the people. Suddenly there was talk that the Afghans did not really want another vote, that they saw it as foreign meddling... However, the praise stopped there. There are conditions attached. The first is that the Afghan government has to start taking a lead in security operations... The international forces have to be seen as acting in support of the Afghan government and not the other way round. *Karzai in favour, conditionally BBC
DTN News: U.S. Tightlipped On Sri Lanka Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON, US - November 3, 2009: The United States was tightlipped Monday about Sri Lanka's visiting top military commander, after the island said US authorities planned to grill him over alleged war crimes. Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama speaks during a media briefing in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Nov. 2, 2009. Sri Lanka demanded Monday that U.S. officials cease efforts to question the country's top general on alleged human rights abuses committed by the government during the final months of the civil war here.
Sri Lanka summoned the US ambassador to demand the Department of Homeland Security drop what the island's government said were plans to question General Sarath Fonseka over the campaign that crushed Tamil Tiger rebels. "The Department of Homeland Security cannot confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation," department spokesman Matt Chandler said. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said separately that he was not familiar with the case. Fonseka, Sri Lanka's chief of defense staff, holds US permanent residency and arrived in the United States last week to see his daughters in the central state of Oklahoma. Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said the Department of Homeland Security, which handles US immigration, had requested that Fonseka make himself available for questioning on Wednesday. The minister said US authorities were trying to force Fonseka to testify "as a possible source" against Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse over allegations of human rights violations. The defense secretary, who holds US citizenship, is the younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapakse. Sri Lankan troops in May killed the top leader of the Tamil Tigers, ending one of Asia's longest-running and bloodiest insurgencies that aimed at creating a separate homeland for the island's Tamil minority. A State Department report presented to Congress last month charged that both the government and Tamil Tigers committed serious human rights violations in the finale of the conflict. An advocacy group from the Tamil diaspora said it would welcome questioning of Fonseka. "As US citizens, we are encouraged by our government's important first step towards bringing justice to Sri Lanka," said Anjali Manivannan, representative of Washington-based People for Equality and Relief in Sri Lanka. "We were gravely disappointed by America's inaction as the death toll of Tamil civilians climbed into the thousands earlier this year, and we hope to see the US now take stronger leadership in promoting a political solution that respects Tamils' fundamental rights," she said. The UN reported that more than 7,000 civilians may have perished in the fighting during this year. The Sri Lankan government contends that not a single civilian was killed by its own troops.
DTN News: North Korea Presses U.S. For Talks On Nuclear Stand-Off *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) SEOUL, South Korea - November 3, 2009: North Korea on Monday pressed the United States to hold direct talks on ending their nuclear stand-off and vowed to "go its own way" if Washington refuses to do so. Repeating an earlier offer, the foreign ministry in the hardline communist state said successful bilateral talks could lead to a resumption of stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament negotiations.North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visits the Eunheung collective farm in North Pyongan province in North Korea, in this undated picture released on November 2, 2009 by North Korea's official news agency KCNA. KCNA did not state expressly the date when the picture was taken. The North did not elaborate on the threat to "go its own way". But after quitting the six-party forum in April, it vowed to restart plants at Yongbyon which can produce weapons-grade plutonium. In May it staged a second atomic weapons test, the second since 2006. "North Korea is now telling the US that it will further bolster its nuclear deterrent unless Washington comes out early for bilateral talks," Professor Koh Yu-Hwan, of South Korea's Dongguk University, told AFP. Seoul officials quoted by Yonhap news agency said the North has apparently reopened the plant which reprocesses plutonium from spent fuel rods at its main nuclear complex. "The reprocessing factory appears to have been restored to its earlier condition," the agency quoted a senior defence official as saying on condition of anonymity, citing satellite photos. Pyongyang's comments came as its deputy nuclear negotiator, Ri Gun, wrapped up a US visit during which he held rare talks with Sung Kim, special US envoy to the six-party forum. After months of bellicose moves including a series of missile tests, the North has lately been making peace overtures and has invited the US special envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, to visit Pyongyang. In early October leader Kim Jong-Il told Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao his country was ready to return to six-party negotiations, but only after it has talked directly to the United States to improve "hostile relations". "As the DPRK (North Korea) was magnanimous enough to clarify the stand that it is possible to hold multilateral talks including the six-party talks depending on the talks with the US, now is the US turn," a foreign ministry spokesman told Pyongyang's official news agency. "If the US is not ready to sit at a negotiating table with the DPRK, it will go its own way." The North has long sought direct high-level talks with the United States, and is unenthusiastic about the multilateral framework which also involves South Korea, China, Russia and Japan. Washington says it is open to bilateral talks but these would be limited to bringing Pyongyang back to the six-party framework. It says it has made no decision on any visit by Bosworth. The North's spokesman played down Ri Gun's meeting in New York, saying it was not a preliminary to bilateral talks. He reiterated the country's stance that it was forced to develop a nuclear deterrent to counter US hostility. "If the hostile relations between the DPRK and the US are settled and confidence is built between them, there will be meaningful progress in realising the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula." The North complained it had suffered a "huge economic loss" from nuclear disarmament deals, firstly with the United States in 1994 and then in 2005 and 2007 with all other members of the six-party talks. It said it never received the two light-water reactors promised in 1994 in return for shutting down Yongbyon. That deal collapsed in 2002 when the United States accused the North of operating a secret bomb-making programme based on enriched uranium, and the light-water reactors were never completed. The North's spokesman also complained that his country had received little economic reward in return for the latest shutdown of Yongbyon in 2007 under a six-party deal. The North received 745,000 tons of heavy oil worth around 310 million dollars before the deal stalled, according to a South Korean report in October.
DTN News: Obama And The U.S. Strategy Of Buying Time *Source: By George Friedman STRATFOR (NSI News Source Info) KOTTAKKAL, Kerala, India - November 3, 2009: Making sense of U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy at this moment is difficult. Not only is it a work in progress, but the pending decisions he has to make -- on Iran, Afghanistan and Russia -- tend to obscure underlying strategy. It is easy to confuse inaction with a lack of strategy. Of course, there may well be a lack of strategic thinking, but that does not mean there is a lack of strategy. Strategy, as we have argued, is less a matter of choice than a matter of reality imposing itself on presidents. Former U.S. President George W. Bush, for example, rarely had a chance to make strategy. He was caught in a whirlwind after only nine months in office and spent the rest of his presidency responding to events, making choices from a menu of very bad options. Similarly, Obama came into office with a preset menu of limited choices. He seems to be fighting to create new choices, not liking what is on the menu. He may succeed. But it is important to understand the overwhelming forces that shape his choices and to understand the degree to which whatever he chooses is embedded in U.S. grand strategy, a strategy imposed by geopolitical reality. Empires and Grand Strategy American grand strategy, as we have argued, is essentially that of the British Empire, save at a global rather than a regional level. The British sought to protect their national security by encouraging Continental powers to engage in land-based conflict, thereby reducing resources available for building a navy. That guaranteed that Britain's core interest, the security of the homeland and sea-lane control, remained intact. Achieving this made the United Kingdom an economic power in the 19th century by sparing it the destruction of war and allowing it to control the patterns of international maritime trade. On occasion, when the balance of power in Europe tilted toward one side or another, Britain intervened on the Continent with political influence where possible, direct aid when necessary or -- when all else failed -- the smallest possible direct military intervention. The United Kingdom's preferred strategy consisted of imposing a blockade -- e.g., economic sanctions -- allowing it to cause pain without incurring costs. At the same time that it pursued this European policy, London was building a global empire. Here again, the British employed a balance-of-power strategy. In looking at the history of India or Africa during the 19th century, there is a consistent pattern of the United Kingdom forming alliances with factions, whether religious or ethnic groups, to create opportunities for domination. In the end, this was not substantially different from ancient Rome's grand strategy. Rome also ruled indirectly through much of its empire, controlling Mediterranean sea-lanes, but allying with local forces to govern; observing Roman strategy in Egypt is quite instructive in this regard. Empires are not created by someone deciding one day to build one, or more precisely, lasting empires are not. They emerge over time through a series of decisions having nothing to do with empire building, and frequently at the hands of people far more concerned with domestic issues than foreign policy. Paradoxically, leaders who consciously set out to build empires usually fail. Hitler is a prime example. His failure was that rather than ally with forces in the Soviet Union, he wished to govern directly, something that flowed from his ambitions for direct rule. Particularly at the beginning, the Roman and British empires were far less ambitious and far less conscious of where they were headed. They were primarily taking care of domestic affairs. They became involved in foreign policy as needed, following a strategy of controlling the seas while maintaining substantial ground forces able to prevail anywhere -- but not everywhere at once -- and a powerful alliance system based on supporting the ambitions of local powers against other local powers. On the whole, the United States has no interest in empire, and indeed is averse to imperial adventures. Those who might have had explicit inclinations in this direction are mostly out of government, crushed by experience in Iraq. Iraq came in two parts. In the first part, from 2003 to 2007, the U.S. vision was one of direct rule relying on American sea-lane control and overwhelming Iraq with well-supplied American troops. The results were unsatisfactory. The United States found itself arrayed against all Iraqi factions and wound up in a multipart war in which its forces were merely one faction arrayed against others. The Petraeus strategy to escape this trap was less an innovation in counterinsurgency than a classic British-Roman approach. Rather than attempting direct control of Iraq, Petraeus sought to manipulate the internal balance of power, aligning with Sunni forces against Shiite forces, i.e., allying with the weaker party at that moment against the stronger. The strategy did not yield the outcome that some Bush strategists dreamed of, but it might (with an emphasis on might) yield a useful outcome: a precariously balanced Iraq dependent on the United States to preserve its internal balance of power and national sovereignty against Iran. Many Americans, perhaps even most, regret the U.S. intervention in Iraq. And there are many, again perhaps most, who view broader U.S. entanglement in the world as harmful to American interests. Similar views were expressed by Roman republicans and English nationalists who felt that protecting the homeland by controlling the sea was the best policy, while letting the rest of the world go its own way. But the Romans and the British lost that option when they achieved the key to their own national security: enough power to protect the homeland. Outsiders inevitably came to see that power as offensive, even though originally its possessors intended it as defensive. Indeed, intent aside, the capability for offensive power was there. So frequently, Rome and Britain threatened the interests of foreign powers simply by being there. Inevitably, both Rome and Britain became the targets of Hannibals and Napoleons, and they were both drawn into the world regardless of their original desires. In short, enough power to be secure is enough power to threaten others. Therefore, that perfect moment of national security always turns offensive, as the power to protect the homeland threatens the security of other countries. A Question of Size There are Obama supporters and opponents who also dream of the perfect balance: security for the United States achieved by not interfering in the affairs of others. They see foreign entanglements not as providing homeland security, but as generating threats to it. They do not understand that what they want, American prosperity without international risks, is by definition impossible. The U.S. economy is roughly 25 percent of the world's economy. The American military controls the seas, not all at the same time, but anywhere it wishes at any given time. The United States also controls outer space. It is impossible for the United States not to intrude on the affairs of most countries in the world simply by virtue of its daily operations. The United States is an elephant that affects the world simply by being in the same room with it. The only way to not be an elephant is to shrink in size, and whether the United States would ever want this aside, decreasing power is harder to do than it might appear -- and much more painful. Obama's challenge is managing U.S. power without decreasing its size and without imposing undue costs on it. This sounds like an attractive idea, but it ultimately won't work: The United States cannot be what it is without attracting hostile attention. For some of Obama's supporters, it is American behavior that generates hostility. Actually, it is America's presence -- its very size -- that intrudes on the world and generates hostility. On the domestic front, the isolationist-internationalist divide in the United States has always been specious. Isolationists before World War II simply wanted to let the European balance of power manage itself. They wanted to buy time, but had no problem with intervening in China against Japan. The internationalists simply wanted to move from the first to the second stage, arguing that the first stage had failed. There was thus no argument in principle between them; there was simply a debate over how much time to give the process to see if it worked out. Both sides had the same strategy, but simply a different read of the moment. In retrospect, Franklin Roosevelt was right, but only because France collapsed in the face of the Nazi onslaught in a matter of weeks. That aside, the isolationist argument was quite rational. Like that of Britain or Rome, U.S. grand strategy is driven by the sheer size of the national enterprise, a size achieved less through planning than by geography and history. Having arrived where it has, the United States has three layers to its strategy. First, the United States must maintain the balance of power in various regions in the world. It does this by supporting a range of powers, usually the weaker against the stronger. Ideally, this balance of power maintains itself without American effort and yields relative stability. But stability is secondary to keeping local powers focused on each other rather than on the United States: Stability is a rhetorical device, not a goal. The real U.S. interest lies in weakening and undermining emergent powers so they don't ultimately rise to challenge American power. This is a strategy of nipping things in the bud. Second, where emergent powers cannot be maintained through the regional balance of power, the United States has an interest in sharing the burden of containing it with other major powers. The United States will seek to use such coalitions either to intimidate the emerging power via economic power or, in extremis, via military power. Third, where it is impossible to build a coalition to coerce emerging powers, the United States must decide either to live with the emerging power, forge an alliance with it, or attack it unilaterally. Obama, as with any president, will first pursue the first layer of the strategy, using as little American power as possible and waiting as long as possible to see whether this works. The key here lies in not taking premature action that could prove more dangerous or costly than necessary. If that fails, his strategy is to create a coalition of powers to share the cost and risk. And only when that fails -- which is a function of time and politics -- will Obama turn to the third layer, which can range from simply living with the emerging power and making a suitable deal or crushing it militarily. When al Qaeda attacked what it saw as the leading Christian power on Sept. 11, Bush found himself thrown into the third stage very rapidly. The second phase was illusory; sympathy aside, the quantity of military force allies could and would bring to bear was minimal. Even active allies like Britain and Australia couldn't bring decisive force to bear. Bush was forced into unilateralism not so much by the lack of will among allies as by their lack of power. His choice lay in creating chaos in the Islamic world and then forming alliances out of the debris, or trying to impose a direct solution through military force. He began with the second and shifted to the first. Obama's Choices Obama has more room to maneuver than Bush had. In the case of Iran, no regional solution is possible. Israel can only barely reach into the region, and while its air force might suffice to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, and air attacks might be sufficient to destroy them, Israel could not deal with the Iranian response of mining the Strait of Hormuz and/or destabilizing Iraq. The United States must absorb these blows. Therefore, Obama has tried to build an anti-Iranian coalition to intimidate Tehran. Given the Russian and Chinese positions, this seems to have failed, and Iran has not been intimidated. That leaves Obama with two possible paths. One is the path followed by Nixon in China: ally with Iran against Russian influence, accepting it as a nuclear power and dealing with it through a combination of political alignment and deterrence. The second option is dealing with Iran militarily. His choice thus lies between entente or war. He is bluffing war in hopes of getting what he wants, in the meantime hoping that internal events in Iran may evolve in a way suitable to U.S. interests or that Russian economic hardship evolves into increased Russian dependence on the United States such that Washington can extract Russian concessions on Iran. Given the state of Iran's nuclear development, which is still not near a weapon, Obama is using time to try to head off the third stage. In Afghanistan, where Obama is already in the third stage and where he is being urged to go deeper in, he is searching for a way to return to the first stage, wherein an indigenous coalition emerges that neutralizes Afghanistan through its own internal dynamic. Hence, Washington is negotiating with the Taliban, trying to strengthen various factions in Afghanistan and not quite committing to more force. Winter is coming in Afghanistan, and that is the quiet time in that conflict. Obama is clearly buying time. In that sense, Obama's foreign policy is neither as alien as his critics would argue nor as original as his supporters argue. He is adhering to the basic logic of American grand strategy, minimizing risks over time while seeking ways to impose low-cost solutions. It differs from Bush's policies primarily in that Bush had events forced on him and spent his presidency trying to regain the initiative. The interesting point from where we sit is not only how deeply embedded Obama is in U.S. grand strategy, but how deeply drawn he is into the unintended imperial enterprise that has dominated American foreign policy since the 1930s -- an enterprise neither welcomed nor acknowledged by most Americans. Empires aren't planned, at least not successful empires, as Hitler and Napoleon learned to their regret. Empires happen as the result of the sheer reality of power. The elephant in the room cannot stop being an elephant, nor can the smaller animals ignore him. No matter how courteous the elephant, it is his power -- his capabilities -- not his intentions that matter. Obama is now the elephant in the room. He has bought as much time as possible to make decisions, and he is being as amiable as possible to try to build as large a coalition as possible. But the coalition has neither the power nor appetite for the risks involved, so Obama will have to decide whether to live with Iran, form an alliance with Iran or go to war with Iran. In Afghanistan, he must decide whether he can recreate the balance of power by staying longer and whether this will be more effective by sending more troops, or whether it is time to begin withdrawal. In both cases, he can use the art of the bluff to shape the behavior of others, maybe. He came into the presidency promising to be more amiable than Bush, something not difficult given the circumstances. He is now trying to convert amiability into a coalition, a much harder thing to do. In the end, he will have to make hard decisions. In American foreign policy, however, the ideal strategy is always to buy time so as to let the bribes, bluffs and threats do their work. Obama himself probably doesn't know what he will do; that will depend on circumstances. Letting events flow until they can no longer be tolerated is the essence of American grand strategy, a path Obama is following faithfully. It should always be remembered that this long-standing American policy has frequently culminated in war, as with Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson and Bush. It was Clinton's watchful waiting to see how things played out, after all, that allowed al Qaeda the time to build and strike. But this is not a criticism of Clinton -- U.S. strategy is to trade time for risk. Over time, the risk might lead to war anyway, but then again, it might not. If war does come, American power is still decisive, if not in creating peace, then certainly in wreaking havoc upon rising powers. And that is the foundation of empire. 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DTN News: BREAKING NEWS Pakistan TODAY November 2, 2009 ~ Blast In Pakistan's Rawalpindi Kills 24 *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) RAWALPINDI, Pakistan - November 2, 2009: A suspected Taliban suicide bomb killed at least 24 people in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi on Monday, officials said, as the government announced a reward for the capture, dead or alive, of the group's leader.A Pakistani rescue worker stands at the site of bomb explosion outside a bank in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2009. An explosion occurred near Pakistan's capital Monday, the latest in a wave of attacks by militants since the army launched a new offensive against them last month. Pakistan Taliban militants are being squeezed out of their remote strongholds on the Afghan border by a massive army offensive, and have retaliated by stepping up bomb attacks and commando-style raids on urban targets. The army offensive is being closely watched by the U.S. and other powers embroiled in neighboring Afghanistan, as the border area has become a sanctuary for insurgent groups from both countries as well as foreign al Qaeda militants. "It was a suicide attack. So far, 24 people have been killed," Imdadullah Bosal, Rawalpindi's administration chief, told Reuters. The blast came as the Pakistan government announced rewards of up to $5 million for information leading to the capture, dead or alive, of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud and more than a dozen other leaders. With the army involved in the offensive against Hakimullah and his followers in their South Waziristan strongholds, the militants have retaliated by stepping up a bombing campaign against urban targets across the country.Pakistani rescue workers prepare to remove a body from the site of bomb explosion outside a bank in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2009. An explosion occurred near Pakistan's capital Monday, the latest in a wave of attacks by militants since the army launched a new offensive against them last month.
The attack in Rawalpindi, a large sprawling city that twins the smaller, administrative capital, Islamabad, took place in an area that is home to the army headquarters as well as some hotels. "It was a huge blast. Smoke is rising from the scene," Nasir Naqvi, who runs a travel agency near the site of the blast, told Reuters. Officials said many of the victims were elderly people who had gathered at a bank to withdraw their pensions. TV stations showed ambulances and police vehicles racing through the streets, sirens wailing. WANTED, DEAD OR ALIVE The announcement of the bounty on Hakimullah's head was made through newspaper advertisements as security forces zeroed in on his Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan) strongholds in South Waziristan. "These people are definitely killers of humanity and deserve exemplary punishment," read the front-page advertisement, with photographs of Hakimullah and seven senior lieutenants in The News. "Help the government of Pakistan so that these people meet their nemesis." A reward of over $600,000 each was announced for Hakimullah, his top aide Wali-ur-Rehman, and his cousin, Qari Hussain Mehsud, who is known as "the mentor of suicide bombers." The trio spoke last month to a group of journalists in Sararogha, a major Taliban base in South Waziristan, but have not been sighted since. Security forces have captured Kotkai, the birthplace of Hakimullah and hometown of Hussain, in the Waziristan offensive, and on Sunday the military said it was on the outskirts of Sararogha and Makeen, also strongholds of Hakimullah. In the deadliest militant attack in more than two years, more than 100 people were killed and scores more wounded on Wednesday when a car bomb detonated in a crowded market in the northwest frontier city of Peshawar. In a related development, the United Nations on Tuesday announced it had raised a security alert for the Northwest Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas -- which include Waziristan -- ordering all non-essential international staff to leave.