It's Science Friday and I've got little to show today, although I did write about early millet farming in China yesterday and there's a neat story on ScienceNOW today about termite queens (links to these stories are free for 4 weeks from publication.)
But it doesn't take an Einstein to see that U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan is heading for disaster. Just today, the New York Times' excellent reporter Carlotta Gall writes that the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are putting aside their differences and uniting to get ready for the "surge" of U.S. troops that President Barack Obama has ordered. Meanwhile, the Times also reports, Obama is setting "benchmarks" for the progress the Afghans and Pakistanis are expected to make in order to earn this timely American help in their struggles against the Taliban and Al Qaeda:
In imposing conditions on the Afghans and Pakistanis, Mr. Obama is replicating a strategy used in Iraq two years ago both to justify a deeper American commitment and prod governments in the region to take more responsibility for quelling the insurgency and building lasting political institutions.“The era of the blank check is over,” Mr. Obama told Congressional leaders at the White House, according to an account of the meeting provided on the condition of anonymity because it was a private session.
Like I said, it doesn't take an Einstein to see the flaw in this strategy, especially since, as Gall indicates, Pakistan is part of the problem and not the solution:
At the same time, American officials told The New York Times this week that Pakistan’s military intelligence agency continued to offer money, supplies and guidance to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan as a proxy to help shape a friendly government there once American forces leave.
Believe me, I would take no satisfaction in seeing Obama's presidency wrecked over Afghanistan--that kind of attitude is more suitable for the Republican Party--but that is where we are headed. Obama is relying on the most conventional minds available (eg, military guys) to formulate his Afghanistan strategy, just as he relies on Lawrence Summers rather than Paul Krugman for his advice on fixing the economy. I still have hope, and I still think, yes we can, but only if we shift course quickly.
Iran to the rescue? There is overlap between Iranian and American interests in Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reports, because of Iranian alarm about instability, violence, and drug dealing in the area:
The Islamic Republic announced Thursday that it will join the United States in dispatching official delegations to two international conferences on Afghanistan. The Obama administration has welcomed Tehran's intended participation at one in the Netherlands.
Perhaps an indication that Obama at least wants to hedge his bets in the region. His mother (and grandmother) raised no fools.
Military guys said up stakes in Afghanistan, VP Joe urged caution. So reports the New York Times on Saturday.
Immunity for Radovan Karadzic? I don't know how many of you have been following the flap over Karadzic's claim that U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke promised him immunity from prosecution for war crimes back in the 1990s if he stepped down as leader of the Bosnian Serbs. Holbrooke has denied it, despite anonymous sources who insist it is true, and I am happy to believe either version of events. Why? Because it doesn't matter in the end. Holbrooke had no authority to give Karadzic immunity from charges before the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, which Karadzic no doubt knew even if he is raising it now to try to embarrass the Americans and turn his trial into a political show (pretty much the same strategy that the dear departed war criminal Slobodan Milošević used at his trial.) And if Karadzic did believe it? Well, all I have to say is: Sucker!
Torture update: From Glenn Greenwald. The truth is coming, thanks to British respect for the rule of law, Glenn says.