Saturday, January 24, 2009

Powder kegs Obama must deal with

Obama has inherited a hornet's nest. Unfortunately, current economic volatility has pushed most foreign policy issues out of sight and out of mind for the time being. If it weren't for these foreclosures, bank bailouts, massive job cuts, and automakers begging on their knees, Obama would have to pay a bit more attention to the world around him.

By the way, major kudos to Barack for not immediately telling the military what to do. He has no clue what to do with all of it, and it's doubtful he'll be able to make any real decisions for a little while-- at least until he takes an International Relations class and learns the extent of our military capabilities. Luckily, we continue to target terrorists in Pakistan, which is absolutely imperative. The following are just a few of the international issues that Obama must deal with, and deal with soon.




Afghanistan




The Taliban has slowly but surely been making inroads in previously liberated areas of this hellhole. They're employing suicide bombers in cities like Kabul (an Arab al-Qaeda style form of attack), and are taking more and more land. They are exerting influence in the South and in Pakistan. Pretty much anywhere soldiers are not.

Obama has two choices right now. He can act swiftly and send tens of thousands of badly needed troops into this region to quell this increase of Taliban control (which sounds inevitable based conversations I've had with two people I know in the military), or he can withdraw everyone and declare it a loss. The current stalemate is not acceptable. Losing is unacceptable as well.

We are losing ground there because it is too vast a country with too many geographic obstacles. The borders mean nothing. Lines on a map are not keeping the flow of guns, opium, and terrorists from doing whatever they damn well please.

As I see it, there are three steps here:

1) Kill the Taliban (or at least drive them into Pakistan for the time being), and create security for Afghans as well as commerce.

2) Promote new sustainable farming techniques and alternatives to growing opium poppies. Encourage NGO's and relief organizations like Roots of Peace (nice plug, huh, Tuck?) to set up shop in the country until some semblance of legitimate economy blossoms. When people have opportunities, it's less likely that they will choose terrorist or dope grower as their profession. In turn, radical Islam becomes less attractive. Stop the dope, stop the Taliban's income. Stop the Taliban.

3) Utilize the international community's undying love for Obama to acquire more peackeepers for the region. Then, sustain a fledging Afghan state until it can take off the training wheels. Democracy is not going to work there but for God's sake, just keep them from killing each other or killing us.


Pakistan


Few realize that Pakistan, not Iran, is the next front in the War on Terror. Dubya might be having a Lonestar or Shiner down in Crawford right now, but these battles are going to have to be waged sooner or later.

Pakistan is especially difficult to deal with because of it's unsettled political situation. Historically, they have been a wary ally of America, but since the ouster of Pervez Musharraf, things are less rosy.

Osama is hiding there, the Taliban controls vast swaths of Pakistan's tribal areas, and fundamentalism is spreading by the day. Also compounding issues is our strengthening relationship with Pakistan's loathed enemy, India.

Of course the Pakistanis want us to stop shooting missiles into Waziristan... but what country wouldn't? Islamabad has no control over this region, and that is the main reason that we're able to get away with this.

The current situation is not sustainable though and something must be done to keep this from getting out of hand. It is a delicate balancing act for the time being.


Somalia



Somalia is not exactly a priority for most people. It is basically unimportant in every way. At least it was...

This lawless country hasn't had a real government in nearly 20 years. Islamic warlords and pirates now rule this horrible place. The UN-backed provisional government controls about 20 blocks worth of the country. Recently, Ethiopia, the only country in Africa's horn with a real military and a US ally, withdrew its troops.

Same old, same old, right?

Not with these pirates on the high seas. These guys are capturing Supertankers and actually getting paid ransom money. In turn, these ransom payments are funding the land-based militias that terrorize the population. The Gulf of Aden is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and is the lone obstacle in the way of the Middle Eastern continent.

With Islamic fundamentalists set to nurture the dysfunction, what's stopping them from hosting al-Qaeda training facilities, and acting as a go between between radicals in Yemen or Saudi Arabia? This creates an unholy triangle of geographic hell. At the very least, a coalition of international warships need to be positioned all along international shipping lanes. This should not all be footed by the US either. The Russians, Chinese, Saudis, and the EU pansies all have a stake in this. Somalia has basically been quarantined since 1991, and this needs to continue. Its population is a lost cause unfortunately, with multiple generations only knowing squalor, starvation and war as a way of life. The best the world can hope is to contain them and hope they do not destabilize the region around them.

Let's hope Obama keeps this mind as he moves forward.

Other issues: Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Darfur, Socialism in South America, Russia's bullying of former republics and Putin consolidating power

Thanks for reading, and for you old timers, remember all those blue underlined words are hyperlinks. Check them out... that's why they're there.

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