Tag Archives: afghanistan

FP: Drugs Rampant in Iran

Great article in Foreign Policy on Iran’s drug troubles, accompanied by a photo set. It’s interesting to note that this UNODC report on drug use in Iran, which says that 2.26% of the nation is addicted to opiates, is actually by far the most optimistic picture of Iran’s drug problem that I’ve ever seen. Mainstream figures seem to be around 5%, and the most pessimistic say 10-15%. This might be the case more in Iran’s minority-dominated peripheries, where it’s said that addiction is so common that some factories give employees a break during the workday to use drugs.

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The Emerging Obama Doctrine

News broke seemingly without warning this afternoon that the U.S. is significantly increasing its military assistance to Uganda, enough that U.S. president Barack Obama felt it necessary to send a letter to Congress for War Powers purposes. The soldiers will be noncombat advisers helping regional militaries fight the Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader Joseph Kony.

The sheds some light on the “doctrine” of the Obama Administration. American administrations typically have a doctrine associated with them–the Truman doctrine, for instance, was a standing offer to assist any nation threatened by Communist agitation, while the Reagan doctrine supported rolling back and undermining Communist influence. Presidential doctrines seem to become more complex with each Administration–the (George W.) Bush doctrine, for instance, included a range of propositions about how the U.S. would prevent threats from overseas and resists straightforward definition (thus, with chagrin, I must admit that the normally oversensitive Sarah Palin was justified in claiming that an interviewer’s question about it may have been a trap intended to make her look foolish).  We are more than halfway through the Obama Administration, yet it has so far not made a clear statement of doctrine. This has drawn some praise–the post-Cold War world is complicated enough to resist those who would simplify it. However, the Uganda and Libya actions suggest that if there is not a doctrine, there is certainly a tendency. Behold, the Obama Doctrine:

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The Counterterror President

Barack Obama has had a terrible summer. A key provision of his healthcare reform was ruled unconstitutional at the circuit court level. Unemployment remains high. Republican rivals are stealing the spotlight. Solutions in Syria and Yemen are elusive. The al-Maliki government in Iraq was unable to extend the U.S. troop presence. The economy is stagnant. Afghanistan policy is paralyzed while casualties mount. The national credit rating was downgraded. The debt ceiling crisis was resolved on terms so unfavorable to the President that comedian Stephen Colbert joked that Republicans even made him give up his 50th birthday. Even his legendary skills as an orator seem to have deserted him. This is hardly the resume Obama wants to present to the American people in 2012; if he isn’t re-elected, he certainly won’t enjoy reading this chapter of the histories.

However, in one area, Barack Obama has consistently excelled. His policies are a sensible, effective, and measured responses to the problem, and he faces little serious opposition. His successes have stolen headlines–indeed, one was so big that Americans poured into the streets to celebrate. Charitable historians will remember Obama as the counterterror president.

There are three key points on which Obama’s counterterror policy has succeeded. He has taken control of Afghanistan policy despite formidable opposition, he has killed Al Qaeda’s leader, and he has maintained the drone policy in the face of much screeching on his own side of the aisle.

Obama in the Situation Room, observing the operation would kill Osama bin Laden. (Image via Middle East Post)

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Odd Sighting as Tripoli Falls

Like the rest of the Middle East-enthusiast world, I’m glued to CNN as rebel action has broken out in Tripoli. It’s a good day for free people–more than thirty students at my university were killed in the Gaddafi-backed Pan Am 103 bombing, and that pales in comparison to the horrors Gaddafi has inflicted on his own people. Gaddafi’s faux-liberal son, noted plagiarist Saif al Islam Gaddafi, is reportedly in rebel custody, and we have to wonder how long it will be before the Mad Dog himself is captured, betrayed, or kills himself. It’s good to see that Gaddafi has had the rug pulled out from under him–I was very worried that there would be massacres by Gaddafi’s falling armies (some of the Second World War’s worst massacres occurred as German troops withdrew from occupied territory).

Anyway, CNN has changed their video loop, so I can’t get a picture, but for a while they kept showing a group of rebel fighters celebrating, and I noticed one of them wearing a pakul hat, like this:

That's Ahmed Shah Massoud, of course. (Image via kayakif)

Thing is, I’ve never heard of people wearing the pakul in North Africa. It’s traditional in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, thousands of miles and a vast cultural gulf away from Tripoli. It’s a woolen cap that would be, I think, uncomfortable during a summer on the Mediterranean coast. There’s really no reason that someone would be wearing one in Tripoli, unless they had odd fashion taste. There is, however, one other possibility for our pakul-wearing man.

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Reflections on the Killing of Osama bin Laden

The US was abuzz last night as news broke–slowly, and with swarming rumors–that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been killed by American forces. Spontaneous celebrations broke out all over the country as the news was confirmed. The killing of bin Laden is a national triumph for the United States, but it is also the end of a national embarrassment, for bin Laden’s ability to avoid the intense search efforts of the US and its allies for more than a decade added to his legend in radical circles while demoralizing the American public. As many have been quick to point out, bin Laden’s death is by no means the end of al Qaeda, for it has fragmented into a number of splinter and affiliate movements. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has likely been the most dangerous al Qaeda organization for several years now, as we have seen from the many recent plots that have been tied to Yemen. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a pseudo-affiliate, is also undergoing a period of prominence, with some of its personnel reportedly serving as mid-level commanders in the anti-Gaddafi rebellion. We have hardly seen the last of al Qaeda and its subsidiaries. However, we must not be too cynical–this is indeed a major symbolic victory. Terrorism relies on symbolism and representation to make its attacks meaningful and draw in new recruits. Bin Laden provided this symbolism. His death does not silence his story, but it removes some of its mystique.

Arab Americans rejoice on the streets of Dearborn, Michigan, upon hearing news of bin Laden's death. (AP)

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