Tag Archives: America

Stephen Cohen on Pakistan’s Road to Disintegration, 2011 edition

A depressing read on Pakistan, including state failure, growing insecurity, govt failure and the increasing reliance on China:

“The fundamentals of the state are either failing or questionable, and this applies to both the idea of Pakistan, the ideology of the state, the purpose of the state, and also to the coherence of the state itself,” Cohen says. “I wouldn’t predict a comprehensive failure soon, but clearly that’s the direction in which Pakistan is moving.” On a recent trip, he was struck by the growing sense of insecurity in Pakistan, even within the military, and the growing importance of China.

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Playing Ostrich with the Taliban

The more I read about the western world’s adventure in Afghanistan and Pakistan, bombing villages here and there to bits and occupying a country, the more surreal it gets. The latest news is a doozy – the taliban leader the US have been negotiating with for a peace deal turns out to be a fake – an enterprising Pakistani or Afghani out to make a quick buck for himself. Full props to the guy… as to the US Army and what not, no suprise they got fooled yet again:

For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement. But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all.

This guy strung around NATO for over a year! The suprising, and very interesting thing about the US involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan is that they get every single thing wrong, over and over again.

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ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism

There have been a lot of books on the recent economic crisis, but most of them address only small parts of the systematic failures which caused the crisis, and they don’t do a good job of explaining what the financial system looks like before moving onto the crisis itself. “ECONned”:http://www.amazon.com/ECONned-Unenlightened-Undermined-Democracy-Capitalism/dp/0230620515/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1276760627&sr=8-1 is a really good overview of both the systems in place and the crisis.

The book isn’t about just the crisis, but rather the current financial system and the regulatory, personal and economic interests which shaped it. The author’s “blog is really interesting”:http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/ as well.

Other books, like Micheal Lewis’s “The Big Short”:http://www.amazon.com/Big-Short-Inside-Doomsday-Machine/dp/0393072231/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1276761002&sr=8-1 do a good job of telling a small part of the story, but completely fail to deliver on what actually happened.

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The CIA and the ISI sitting in a tree

The CIA and the ISI have a long history, but it seems they’re once again sharing the same playhouse:

The C.I.A. and its Pakistani counterpart, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, have a long and often tormented relationship. [...] Yet interviews in recent days show how they are working together on tactical operations, and how far the C.I.A. has extended its extraordinary secret war beyond the mountainous tribal belt and deep into Pakistan‘s sprawling cities.

[...] Successful missions sometimes end with American and Pakistani spies toasting one another with Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky, a gift from the C.I.A.

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Killing your own, by Poison

A common topic in urban drawing rooms around Pakistan is how far behind the country is from the developed world. Now, that will take a whole another blog post, but one interesting metric to look at is how many people the Pakistani state deliberately kills each year by poisoning them.

So the US govt. killed at least 10,000 of it’s own in a few years:

Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.

They had the good sense to stop, officially in 1933, but unofficially by 1930. Over here in Pakistan, the government continues poisoning industrial alcohol, and it doesn’t seem like they’re going to stop any time soon.

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America, Nukes and Pakistan

In an article on nuclear weapons in Pakistan, the “New Yorker explores Pakistan’s relationship with America”:http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/11/16/091116fa_fact_hersh?currentPage=all and comes to a pretty grim conclusion:

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bq. In an interview the next afternoon, an Indian official who has dealt diplomatically with Pakistan for years said, “Pakistan is in trouble, and it’s worrisome to us because an unstable Pakistan is the worst thing we can have.” But he wasn’t sure what America could do. “They like us better in Pakistan than you Americans,” he said. *”I can tell you that in a public-opinion poll we, India, will beat you.”*

That’s probably true.. the only real relationship with America is dependant on the crates of arms they send to the Army and the bribes they give people like Zardari. Some other tidbits from Musharraf:

bq. Musharraf, who was forced out of office in August, 2008, under threat of impeachment, did not spare his successor. “Asif Zardari is a criminal and a fraud,” Musharraf told me. “He’ll do anything to save himself. He’s not a patriot and he’s got no love for Pakistan. He’s a third-rater.”

It’s good that 2 years after his retirement Musharraf finally grew some balls and spoke about “the idiot savant leader of Pakistan, Zardari”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/2009/02/a_short_history_of_asif_ali_zardari.html.

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President Obama

The following “comments from Reddit”:http://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/7beo2/obama_wins_the_presidency/ sum up the world’s feelings:

bq.. Dear Rest of The World

We didn’t fuck it up

Signed,

America

p. The reply:

bq.. Dear America,

Congrats!

Regards, Rest of the World

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The gigantic house of cards, formerly known as Wall Street

Now, you’d be better off buying a copy of “Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/2008/05/nassim_nicholas_taleb_the_black_swan.html and reading that, but here is the extremely simplified version of one aspect of the giant monolith which was the American financial house of cards:

Back in the days, we had these things called banks. They took in money from people, and lent it out to other people, who did something with that money and thus were able to pay it back with interest. Now, even back than, banking wasn’t this simple, but this portion constituted a significant part of what banks did back then. Sure, they bought lots of stuff, and invested all over the place, but as JP Morgan, the most powerful banker ever, famously said, “If you can’t draw it on a napkin with a crayon, don’t buy it”.

By and large, besides funding a war here and there, bankers stuck to the basics and made money hand over fist. Till such time they lost it all, which happened periodically, like the great depression in 1939, and Black Monday in 1987.

So this is the image which people have of things to this day – that banks take in deposits, give out loans, and make money on the interest paid on loans. Now, sure, banks and the other bank like institutions still do this, but this has been a small part of their business for the last couple of decades now. This is the part which is the toughest for people to grasp – that none of the large American banks are banks in the traditional sense of the word. Here someone might ask, if not banks, than what the hell are they?

The plain answer is that no one knows.

The short answer is that the American financial system is the greatest pyramid scheme ever, a house of cards stacked so high over the entire world that it’s collapse is going to be wrecking havoc for years to come.

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The ISI, once again in the news

Kevin Drum calls “the ISI the scariest group in the world”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2008_08/014211.php:

bq. I’m not absolutely certain who my choice for scariest group in the world is, but if push came to shove it probably wouldn’t be al-Qaeda. It would be the ISI, Pakistan’s main intelligence service.

He’s probably right. The “New York Times reporting on the latest to surface about the ISI”:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/01/world/asia/01pstan.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin:

American intelligence agencies have concluded that members of Pakistan’s powerful spy service helped plan the deadly July 7 bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, according to United States government officials.

The conclusion was based on intercepted communications between Pakistani intelligence officers and militants who carried out the attack, the officials said, providing the clearest evidence to date that Pakistani intelligence officers are actively undermining American efforts to combat militants in the region.

…The government officials were guarded in describing the new evidence and would not say specifically what kind of assistance the ISI officers provided to the militants. They said that the ISI officers had not been renegades, indicating that their actions might have been authorized by superiors.

p. All this is something “Ahmed Rashid has been saying for years”:http://harpers.org/archive/2008/07/hbc-90003347, most notably in his last book, “Descent into Chaos”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/2008/07/ahmed_rashid_descent_into_chaos.html.

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Ahmed Rashid: Descent into Chaos

!http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/images/2008/rashid-chaos.jpg! A good overview of Pakistan and Afghan history and American involvement – and a very bleak assessment of where they’re headed. The gist of the book is that both Afghanistan and Pakistan are hovering somewhere on the point of no return, descending into chaos and bringing the whole region down with them. It’s very well researched, and the author really knows what he’s talking about – there is a lot more in the book -

It’s a brilliant, encyclopedic summary of the current situation in Pakistan. The book, just like his last book, is extremely timely, as region after region in Pakistan falls to the Taliban, and the government pulls back further and further.

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