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Scored on debaters' points, the match was close. Judged on the substantive issues, especially on which candidate has the more realistic view of the world, Obama won hands down.Read the rest of his column to find out why.
"This does not mean a renunciation of federalism. Yes, we will establish federalism. However, we must say that the central government is stronger than the federal entities and that the federal entities are not stronger than the central government, as some think, with the central government only collecting and generating revenue and distributing it. This is how some see the central government, that it should be at this level of weakness. This contradicts the basic goal of building a strong state capable of defending itself."In addition to the anti-federalism theme, he strikes the populist, veiled anti-US (or at least anti-foreign) chord throughout, particularly in his line referring to Iraq as "a targeted country in a targeted region."
Update: Conspiracy theories being what they are in this part of the world, there are rumors that the Marine Corps had some kind of operation based in the Marriott that was the real target of the attack.
Update 2: At this stage the speculation about this attack exceeds the hard facts, but nevertheless at least one Indian analyst is pointing the finger in the direction of Al Qaeda based on circumstantial evidence: The Marriott Hotel chain has been the target of AQ linked attacks in the past (in both Pakistan and Indonesia) and the ability of Pakistani terrorists to carry out attacks in highly-protected areas of Islamabad and Rawalpindi has increased sharply over the past year, which suggests some sort of assistance in planning. According to the Times of India, an unnamed U.S. intelligence official concurs with this assessment. There is also speculation that Parliament House may have been the real target, and the hotel was attacked when it proved impossible to hit the senior government officials nearby.
Update 3: Having had a chance to see the video from the carpark, it appears that there was not a first car as originally reported, and that the truck carrying the bomb couldn't get past the gate. The fact that the detonation of the bomb triggered the gas fire is likely more due to luck (from the attacker’s perspective) than planning. Troy thinks there would have had to be a relatively long lead time for the planning of this attack, therefore the fact that Zardari & co. were having dinner nearby is likely a coincidence rather than having been the “real target” as some have suggested. Troy’s favorite expert on Pakistani militants pointed out to him that since the attack was timed to take place after Iftar there would be many Pakistani elites breaking their fast at the hotel and (having stayed at the Marriot on several occasions) had the attackers actually managed to breach the security gate the short distance to the hotel would have meant that the death toll could have been substantially higher.
Update 4: According to Pakistani interior advisor Rehman Malik, the bomb used in the attack “carried 600 kilograms of RDX and TNT explosives, along with splinters, mortars, artillery rounds, mines and aluminium powder” the latter of which caused the fire in the truck that can be seen in the surveillance video. Previous attacks carried out by the Al Qaeda affiliated Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) in Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi reportedly used a similar mix of RDX and TNT.
"The reductions in violence in 2007 and 2008 have, in fact, made political accommodation more elusive, contrary to the central theory of the surge."This argument is wrong because it is ahistorical: it lacks a realistic comparison to the dire pre-surge political reality of 2006. To be sure, as the authors accurately describe, the political gridlock Iraq now faces is daunting. Without accommodation by the PTB on critical issues like provincial elections and Sahwa integration, and without peaceful resolution of Kirkuk and the disputed territories, Iraq will either descend back into chaos or, in the best case, become an authoritarian regime with a narrow social base that will depend on both internal repression and massive external support by the US and/or Iran to stay alive, all the while continuing to be a source of instability in the region. Some degree of one or both outcomes is still quite likely, whether political accommodation occurs or not. But, compared to 2006, the current political challenges are very good problems to have, seen in the context of US interests.
If you haven’t seen it already, the New York Times magazine has an excellent article by Dexter Filkins on the Taliban in Pakistan. It is a longer piece, but well worth the read.
A fair amount of it covers ground that should be familiar to anyone who has been watching South Asia for the past couple of years:
What Troy found more illuminating was the discussion of the new government’s counterinsurgency strategy, which focuses on economic development (billions will be poured into the tribal areas over the next five years to build roads, schools and health clinics) and negotiation with tribal leaders in a manner that seeks to sideline the militants. This contrasts sharply with the Musharraf-era negotiations that took place directly between the Army and the militants themselves. This strategy sounds similar in many respects to the notions proposed by Thomas Johnson and Chris Mason (previously discussed here) that strengthening and re-building the Pashtun tribal structures was key to bringing the tribal areas back from the radical brink.
The major problem with this mode of thinking, as Filkins makes clear, is that the Taliban has shredded the old social order that these strategies seek to re-establish. Not only have a significant number of Tribal Maliks been killed, but more importantly, the various Taliban factions have cultivated loyal adherents by overthrowing traditional tribal elders and/or hereditary feudal leaders and elevating lower-class people in their place. A number of prominent Taliban warlords, such as Baitullah Mehsud and Manghal Bagh were common laborers before picking up guns. While the attraction of the Taliban has often been framed in either religious or cultural terms, they are also tapping into that age old conflict between the “haves” and the “have nots.” Those who have benefitted under the new social order are unlikely to be too enthusiastic about a return to the old way of doing things.
This basis alone makes one pessimistic that the new Zardari government, which was sworn in today, could follow through on its claims to want to take meaningful action against the militants (Troy wonders if the new President is telling the Pakistani population in Urdu the same thing he is telling Western audiences.) In the absence of evidence that the new government has significant influence over the military or the ISI and with large portions of the Pakistani populace rather ambivalent about the domestic threat posed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban, in addition to the total meltdown of the economy, any government would be hard pressed to manage the challenges Pakistan faces. However, an untested government with major question marks surrounding the competence and honesty of its senior leaders will face an uphill struggle to say the least.
Go read Filkins now.
Cellphones played a key role in the recent Maoist insurgency against the Hindu monarchy, allowing protesters to quickly organize. They became so effective as a tool of the opposition, the government tried to ban texting twice. During spring elections, the Maoists sent texts to voters: "A new thinking and leadership for a new Nepal . . . Give Maoists a chance this time."It is perhaps time we got as good at the text message as our counterparts in the developing world.