Archive for the ‘middle east’ tag
I’m currently reading, “Cleopatra: A Life” by Mary Schiff, and in Chapter V, she mentions a trip Florence Nightingale took to Egypt. Since she remained part of the Church of England, Nightingale apparently did not make the leap from merely observing similarities between the Jesus Christ stories in the New Testament and Osiris and many other gods of antiquity that predate Christ and most likely form the basis for our conception of him.
Here is what she has to say on a Sunday morning in an Isis temple:
I cannot describe to you the feeling at Philae. The myths of Osiris are so typical of our Saviour that it seemed to me as if I were coming to a place where He had lived — like going to Jerusalem; and when I saw a shadow in the moonlight in the temple court, I thought, “Perhaps I shall see him: now he is there.”
Of course, she was also apparently not astute enough to realize that all of them derive from sun god worship, which not surprisingly, has been recorded in most all times and locations in history, from ancient South American myths to Africa, the Middle East and even China.
The Christ myth is basically a hodgepodge of the various common themes.
Also see my previous post.
Continuing on, I concur with Myers on at least one point: his admiration for the writings of Susan Jacoby. Her book, “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism,” is a brilliant contribution to skeptic thought in this nation. In his post, he quotes the following two passages from a New York Times piece from Jacoby titled, “The Blessings of Atheism:
The atheist is free to concentrate on the fate of this world — whether that means visiting a friend in a hospital or advocating for tougher gun control laws — without trying to square things with an unseen overlord in the next. Atheists do not want to deny religious believers the comfort of their faith. We do want our fellow citizens to respect our deeply held conviction that the absence of an afterlife lends a greater, not a lesser, moral importance to our actions on earth.
Today’s atheists would do well to emulate some of the great 19th-century American freethinkers, who insisted that reason and emotion were not opposed but complementary.
to which Myers responded:
There’s the step the Dictionary Atheists don’t want to take — that once you’ve thrown off your shackles you’re now obligated to do something worthwhile with your life, because now all of our lives shine as something greater and more valuable and more important. That with freedom comes responsibility.
And other passage from Jacoby:
We must speak up as atheists in order to take responsibility for whatever it is humans are responsible for — including violence in our streets and schools. We need to demonstrate that atheism is rooted in empathy as well as intellect. And although atheism is not a religion, we need community-based outreach programs so that our activists will be as recognizable to their neighbors as the clergy.
To which Myers concluded:
But not as clergy, as privileged people set apart from others by a special paternalistic relationship. How about as a community of equals? What if every atheist, rather than some particular special subset of atheists, were to acknowledge their part in building a better society?
Maybe then this movement could change the world.
OK, that’s a lot to dig through, but first, I fully realize and acknowledge the deep history of freethought, not just in America, but in Europe and even the Middle East, and I recognize that many freethinkers, like Robert Ingersoll, have found it worthwhile to devote their lives to important social causes. But that is the key. They found it worthwhile on an individual basis. There is no corporate mandate to do anything, and this seems to be what Myers is supporting: A mandate or a strong exhortation to turn atheism into a social justice movement would could equal a slavish loss of freedom for some people. People have the freedom to be self-absorbed assholes just as much as they have the freedom to move to Africa and do the hard work of feeding children and giving shelter to the homeless. In every case, I prefer the latter and sincerely hope that more people would work toward equality and making the world a better place, but that’s not my choice to make for other people. The best we can do is discuss our thoughts on creating a better society and how we get there and hope the enthusiasm spreads.
Myers, of course, attempts to adopt Jacoby to his cause, but in doing so conveniently leaves out a key distinction that she makes and understands:
Today’s secularists must do more than mount defensive campaigns proclaiming that we can be “good without God.” Atheists must stand up instead of calling themselves freethinkers, agnostics, secular humanists or “spiritual, but not religious.” The last phrase, translated from the psychobabble, can mean just about anything — that the speaker is an atheist who fears social disapproval or a fence-sitter who wants the theoretical benefits of faith, including hope of eternal life, without the obligations of actually practicing a religion. Atheists may also be secular humanists and freethinkers — I answer to all three — but avoidance of identification with atheism confines us to a closet that encourages us to fade or be pushed into the background when tragedy strikes.
Did you catch it? She said atheists “may also be” secular humanists and freethinkers. There is a good reason why Myers, in his endless nods to Atheism Plus, didn’t mention this paragraph. Because it clearly shows that Jacoby realizes that atheism alone does not come freshly and neatly packaged with social justice and by itself it is not a movement at all. However much Myers might want to cater to to his Atheism Plus friends, he is simply wrong on this one, good intentions aside.
I also want to add a few more thoughts to another of Myers’ passages about newly minted atheists that I touched on briefly yesterday:
You lack belief in the existence of gods? That’s nice, you’ve taken your first tiny baby step. Now what does that mean for human affairs? What will you do next? When will you stride forward and do something that matters with your new freedom?
This was stunning to me because it sounds exactly — I mean exactly like — things I was told as a believer. I remember hearing sermons about how people who were infants in their faith needed time to progress to maturity in Christ (a la 1 Corinthians 3:2) and that when someone came to believe in Christ, they gained “true” freedom. Of course, once someone becomes firm in their faith, they can then go out into the world, “stride forward” and perform the Great Commission, which in the analogy I’m making would be akin to Myer’s final sentence in the above paragraph. The point I’m making is that both propositions — what I heard in church and what Myers is saying here — are both doctrinal in nature, one just happens to be about the belief in Christ, while the other is, although built on a core nonbelief in God, is still purporting as a matter of policy that atheists “do something that matters.” I see little difference in these two: the content may be different but the preachy exhortations remain. Dogma is dogma whether it comes from the pulpit, a dusty old book or an overlord of the blogosphere.
For the first 97,000-98,000 (years) of this, heaven watches with indifference. ‘Oh, there they go again. That whole civilization’s just died out. Eh, what are you gonna do? They’re raping each other again. They think that the other tribe has poisoned the wells, so they’re going to kill all their children.’ Just watch all that. Three thousand years ago it’s decided that, ‘No, we’ve got to intervene now.’
You have to believe it. You have to believe it, and revelation must be personal. It has to appear. So, we’ll pick the most backward, the most barbaric, the most illiterate, the most superstitious and the most savage people we can find in the most stony area of the world. We won’t appear to the Chinese, who can already read. … No, we’ll appear to this brutal, enslaved, hopeless, superstitious crowd, and we’ll force them to cut their way through all of their neighbors with slaughter, genocide and racism and settle on the only part of the Middle East where’s there’s no oil. And all subsequent revelations occur in the same district and without this, we wouldn’t know right from wrong.
Buried deep in the archives of America’s intelligence services are a series of memos, written during the last years of President George W. Bush’s administration, that describe how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents. According to two U.S. intelligence officials, the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting U.S. passports, posed as CIA officers in recruiting Jundallah operatives — what is commonly referred to as a “false flag” operation.
The memos, as described by the sources, one of whom has read them and another who is intimately familiar with the case, investigated and debunked reports from 2007 and 2008 accusing the CIA, at the direction of the White House, of covertly supporting Jundallah — a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist organization. Jundallah, according to the U.S. government and published reports, is responsible for assassinating Iranian government officials and killing Iranian women and children.
But while the memos show that the United States had barred even the most incidental contact with Jundallah, according to both intelligence officers, the same was not true for Israel’s Mossad. The memos also detail CIA field reports saying that Israel’s recruiting activities occurred under the nose of U.S. intelligence officers, most notably in London, the capital of one of Israel’s ostensible allies, where Mossad officers posing as CIA operatives met with Jundallah officials.
After the War in Iraq began in 2003 under the false pretenses of WMDs and then subsequently continued on claims that Al-Queda had strongholds in the nation under Suddam Hussein’s rule, the war is finally coming to an end. The U.S.’s presence in the nation has gone from 505 bases to two, and the plan is to eventually have no permanent military bases in Iraq. This is obviously good news for the troops, or at least the ones that can return home healthy and able to find steady work. Others, as we know, have suffered from PTSD and troubles getting reconditioned to civilian life. And then there are the 35,000 wounded or killed.
Here are tables outlines the casualties for the three main operations that the U.S. has been engaged in since March 2003 in the Middle East. See here for more details.
Operation Iraqi Freedom (March 2003-August 2011)
|Total Deaths||Killed In Action||Non-hostile||Wounded In Action|
|OIF U. S. Military Casualties||4,408||3,408||928||31,921|
|OIF U.S. DoD Civilian Casualties||13||9||4|
Operation New Dawn (After Sept. 1, 2010)
|Total Deaths||Killed In Action||Non-hostile||Wounded In Action|
|OND U. S. Military Casualties||66||38||28||305|
|OND U.S. DoD Civilian Casualties||0||0||0|
Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)
|OEF U.S. Military Casualties||Total Deaths||Killed In Action||Non-hostile||Wounded In Action|
|OEF U.S. DoD Civilian Casualties||3||1||2|
The question is: how will the Iraqi people, the military and the government respond now that their country is back in their hands? That’s a giant question mark, but I think pulling out will go along way in repairing the rather strained relationship the U.S. has had with some in the Middle East who have viewed us as an occupying force rather than a force for good. The success of the Iraqi government to defend its country, of course, will rely on how well the Iraqi security forces have been trained and how effective they can be in defending the nation’s borders against insurgents. This article doesn’t paint a positive picture, suggesting that even after years of training, the Iraqi forces are still ill-prepared, with about 10,000 having been killed since the force was formed, compared to the above 4,408 U.S. deaths.
U.S. Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, commander of the NATO training mission, was more upbeat about their chances for success:
They can kick a door in and knock out a network’s leadership as good as anybody I’ve seen. I would say that they have the discipline and the tenacity to fight as well as anybody I’ve ever seen.
Of course, it would be in Caslen’s best interest to say such a thing, since it makes Caslen, as the commander of the training mission, look like he performed his job effectively. Nonetheless, these will be some critical next few months for a people that have for years and years either choked by dictatorial rein, government corruption, looming terroristic threats and crumbling infrastructure.
As mentioned on today’s edition of Fareed Zakaria’s GPS, the 2002 Arab Development Report identified three key elements that were keeping the Arab League, which includes most of the Middle East and Northern Africa, from achieving increased levels of human development. The three are freedom, the empowerment of women and education. Here is the report.
The sad news is that almost 10 years later, that region isn’t much better off. According to an April 2011 report from the International Monetary Fund, the region faces serious economic challenges in recovering from high unemployment and the effects of the social unrest that has swept across the region (known as the Arab Spring):
The key policy challenges across the region are daunting. For oil importers, the main priority is to raise growth and tackle chronically high unemployment, especially among young people. For oil exporters, the focus should be to strengthen or develop ﬁ nancial systems and promote economic diversiﬁ cation. Recent increases in public spending on non-energy-related sectors should be helpful in diversifying activity toward these sectors and rebalancing regional growth. …
In most MENA economies, chronically high unemployment, especially among young people and the educated, is a long-standing challenge that now must be tackled urgently. h e fact that unemployment has remained high for so long suggests that the problem is largely structural—stemming from skill mismatches, labor market rigidities, and high reservation wages. A lasting solution to the region’s unemployment problem will require a combination of permanently higher and inclusive economic growth and reforms to improve the responsiveness of labor markets.
Also according to the IMF, the collective GDP of the Arab League is abysmally low. Estimates from 2007 show that Arab League nations had a GDP (purchasing power parity) of about $2.765 trillion, while India alone had a GDP of $2.818 trillion in that year.
As for education, a 2008 report from World Bank reveals that unemployment was averaging 14 percent in the Middle East and North Africa, which is higher than most everywhere else in the world other than sub-Saharan Africa, and the region has yet to see the positive gains in education that have been shown in parts of Latin America and in other developing regions. This part of the introduction to the report tracks the changes in education in the MENA in the last half century:
Since the early 1960s, the MENA region has registered tremendous gains in terms of more equitable access to formal education. In the 1950s, very few children, particularly girls, were attending formal schools. Now most countries in MENA register full or close to full enrollment in basic education and secondary and tertiary education rates equivalent to countries in other regions at comparable levels of development. Moreover, the region no longer has severe gender disparities in secondary and tertiary education. As a result, most MENA countries have been able to achieve a significant decline in fertility and infant mortality, as well as a rapid increase in life expectancy. The World Bank is proud of being a partner of the region over the course of this impressive evolution.
Notwithstanding these successes—and the considerable resources invested in education—reforms have not fully delivered on their promises. In particular, the relationship between education and economic growth has remained weak, the divide between education and employment has not been bridged, and the quality of education continues to be disappointing. Also, the region has not yet caught up with the rest of the world in terms of adult literacy rates and the average years of schooling in the population aged 15 and above. Despite considerable growth in the level of educational attainment, there continues to be an “education gap” with other regions, in absolute terms.
Women, of course, continue to be forced to wear burkas across the region and educational and career opportunities for half of the MENA population are even bleaker.
Zakaria didn’t mention it — probably because it would have been too controversial for his show — but one fact that is hard to ignore is the pervasiveness of religion in the region. For the faithful, education and economic advancement aren’t exactly high priorities in these regions, and that has been borne out by centuries of religious feuding, wars and general social turmoil, so much so that any kind of educational and economic advancements in the Middle East and Africa will have to take place in spite of the religious fervor that continues to dominate. History has shown that the least developed nations in the world have also been the most superstitious and religious, with the United States being the most obvious and glaring exception.
Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings. — Heinrich Heine
As ever, Hitchens brings his acid wit to bear in writing about recent violent protests in Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif and calls to burn humans in response to Pastor Terry Jones’ and Dove World Outreach Center’s decision to torch copies of the Koran:
How dispiriting to see, once again, the footage of theocratic rage in Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif. The same old dreary formula: self-righteous frenzy married to a neurotic need to take offense; the easy resort to indiscriminate violence and cruelty; the promulgation of makeshift fatwas by mullahs on the make; those writhing mustaches framing crude slogans of piety and hatred, and yelling for death as if on first-name terms with the Almighty. The spilling of blood and the spoliation of property—all for nothing, and ostensibly “provoked” by the corny, brainless antics of a devout American nonentity, notice of whose mere existence is beneath the dignity of any thinking person.
Dove World Outreach center apparently takes the name of its church very seriously, since it seems to have spread its influence, quite like a malignant tumor, from its tiny location in Gainesville, Fla., to the far reaches of the Middle East. Why Afghan President Hamid Karzai feels the need to even bother himself with such tripe coming from a congregation of about 70, one can only wonder, but bother himself he has. According to Hitchens:
Unlike some provincial mullahs, Karzai also knows perfectly well that the U.S. government is constitutionally prohibited from policing religious speech among its citizens. Yet, when faced with the doings of the aforementioned moronic cleric from Gainesville, he went out of his way to intensify mob feeling. This caps a long period where his behavior has come to seem like a conscious collusion with warlordism, organized crime, and even with elements of the Taliban. Already under constant pressure to make consistent comments about Syria and Libya, the Obama administration might want to express itself more directly about a man for whose fast-decomposing regime we are shedding our best blood.
Andrei Fedyashin provides a detailed look of the ugly situation, with the following to aptly sum up matters:
What Jones has is not a church, although it is often described as such. His congregation of 50 to 70 people qualifies it more accurately as a very small fundamentalist sect. Normal Muslims should, therefore, not take broader offense, but they, too, have their own such sects at the other end of the confessional spectrum.
I don’t write many film reviews on this site because most have limited or no real-world relevance. Some of my favorite movies, like “Agora” and “Doubt,” tend to be those that have something to say beyond the rudimentary goal of presenting an entertaining plot and compelling acting.
The 2005 film, “Syriana,” seems to have so much to say that it becomes a bit difficult to digest it all on a first viewing. The movie is a geopolitical drama that explores, through numerous subplots, the economic and political implications behind the global dependence on oil in the Middle East and the often devious risks that oil companies and governments take in securing a share of oil resources in Asia and the Middle East.
The plot generally centers around two characters, veteran CIA officer, Bob Barnes (George Clooney), and energy analyst Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon), whose paths largely take different routes through much of the movie until the final scene.
Barnes, who is known for his operations in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War in the mid-1980s, is in Tehran, Iran, at the beginning of the film attempting to thwart illegal arms trafficking by killing a pair of arms dealers. While there, he witnesses piece of weaponry being diverted to an Egyptian source. After a brief stint back in Washington, he is again sent to the Middle East with the purpose of assassinating Prince Nassir, who was believed to be behind an arms deal with Egypt. We later learn, however, that Nassir, unlike his younger brother and father, is a reform-minded leader who hopes to bring wealth to his country and the Middle East at large by selling oil to China and funneling an oil pipeline directly from the Middle East to Europe. Woodman becomes Nassir’s top economic adviser in these endeavors after advising Nassir begin thinking about such a pipeline.
Nassir’s father and brother, in contrast, toe a friendly line with the United States government, while Nassir’s goals run counter to American interests, with the implicit message that it’s in America’s interest to keep parts of the Middle East poor, uneducated and undeveloped so that the we can remain the control of oil reserves, not the other way around, thus Barnes’ initial mission to kill Nassir.
The other major plot line involves a shady merger of American oil companies Connex and a smaller organization, Killen, the latter of which surprisingly secures a major deal to drill in Kazakhstan. Bennett Holiday, an attorney with a Washington law firm, is charged with smoothing out the merger and giving the appearance of due diligence in the process. Meanwhile, Holiday is certain that a Killen officially committed bribery in securing the oil deal.
One of the main subplots follows the family life of Woodman, whose young son is killed while visiting Nassir’s family at their resort in Spain. Woodman’s son jumped into a pool of electrically charged water prior to a faulty pool light being discovered. This, along with Woodman’s globe-jumping travels, puts a strain on his relationship with his wife.
Another minor plot traces the life of a young Middle Eastern worker and his father, both of whom are laid off when Connex is outbid by a Chinese company for drilling rights in the region. Nassir, as we later learn, was behind China winning the bid, rather than Connex, and it’s here that we see the clash between American interests and Nassir’s desire to see a prosperous and developed Middle East.
Yet another plot follows Barnes and the torn relationship between his wife, who also works overseas, and his son, who calls both his father and mother “professional liars” because of the “classified” nature of their jobs.
That’s all I will divulge of the plot. Needless to say, these elements come to a dramatic conclusion in the final scene.
Superb acting carries the film, from Clooney and Damon, down through the supporting cast. Clooney was particularly at the top of his game during one torture scene in which a character named Mussawi attempts to get information from Clooney by pulling out his fingernails one-by-one. I can imagine it takes a large measure of acting acumen to make a moviegoer wince when the actor himself is likely in little if any real pain, yet fains immense suffering.
I also enjoyed the camera work. At times, the view is a touch jittery, which gives a grittier impression that the camera man is actually holding the camera, and this also puts the viewer right in the middle of the dialog and on-screen action. For instance, in an elevator scene in which Clooney was supposed to have Nassir assassinated (He is kidnapped by Mussawi’s men instead), Clooney gets on an elevator, which also holds Nassir and Damon. The camera is looking at the back of Clooney’s head and the image of his face is reflected back through the elevator door. This, of course, gives the effect that the movie viewer is actually in the elevator. I think that added a nice effect.
Finally, that the director followed closely the individual lives of the main and secondary characters so closely certainly supplies a personal element. It makes the statement that, not only does the subject matter have huge implications for the U.S., the Middle East and the world, but that real people are and will be affected by the decisions of men of power. Thus, monolithic institutions like oil companies and governments stand in sharp contrast to the individual lives they implicate.
The nature of the plot makes the movie a touch hard to fully follow on a first viewing and becomes more concrete on a second watch, but I don’t think the complicated plot is a drawback. Life is complicated, all the more the functions and duties of giant corporations and governments. This movie vividly captures the complexities and ethical implications pregnant, not just in capitalism itself, but in attempts to bring largely undeveloped nations into a more modern era whilst sometimes being left behind in the power grab for their resources.
Afghan War Diary
Here is a snippet from the introductory text of the recently released documents, followed by a table, which I created showing the type of reports released and the number of each type of report. The documents are the most extensive release of its kind while the related war is still taking place. The following text and table should be quite revealing. More to come.
The Afghan War Diary is the most significant archive about the reality of war to have ever been released during the course of a war. The deaths of tens of thousands is normally only a statistic but the archive reveals the locations and the key events behind each most of these deaths. We hope its release will lead to a comprehensive understanding of the war in Afghanistan and provide the raw ingredients necessary to change its course.
The material shows that cover-ups start on the ground. When reporting their own activities US Units are inclined to classify civilian kills as insurgent kills, downplay the number of people killed or otherwise make excuses for themselves. The reports, when made about other US Military units are more likely to be truthful, but still down play criticism. Conversely, when reporting on the actions of non-US ISAF forces the reports tend to be frank or critical and when reporting on the Taliban or other rebel groups, bad behavior is described in comprehensive detail. The behavior of the Afghan Army and Afghan authorities are also frequently described.
The reports come from US Army with the exception most Special Forces activities. The reports do not generally cover top-secret operations or European and other ISAF Forces operations. However when a combined operation involving regular Army units occurs, details of Army partners are often revealed. For example a number of bloody operations carried out by Task Force 373, a secret US Special Forces assassination unit, are exposed in the Diary — including a raid that lead to the death of seven children.
Here is the table showing how the reports break down by report type:
Afghan War Diary by type
|Unknown initiated action||12|
So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word “victory” when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge. — “The Runaway General,” Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone, June 25 edition
And now, before the above prophetic story even hits newsstands, McChrystal is no longer the man in charge. But it’s not clear that under the once-again leadership of Gen. David Patraeus, the war in Afghanistan is any more winnable.
Much has been made of McChrystal’s remarks in the above story about top senior leadership in Washington, none greater than that of the Obama administration, which today relieved the former general of his duties. Thus, the above article, while an informative and, for most part, well-reported vignette of the man once leading the United States’ counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan is irrelevant, at least as it relates to McChrystal. And again, before it even hits newsstands.
Despite all the hullabaloo about the story this week, the most interesting and meaningful portions of it aren’t about McChrystal at all but about the increasingly stalled, some would say, failed, efforts in that war-torn nation. No one knows where Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11, is hiding. Probably in a hole somewhere safe and sound in the hills of Pakistan. He is almost certainly not in Afghanistan. So, why are we?
Quite simply, as everyone surely remembers, he and his hysteric followers were there once. Just not anymore. Now, and here’s one similarity to Iraq, we are there in a nasty stew with nary an exit in sight.
“Into the breach,” as The New York Times phrased a headline today, comes Patraeus, to help reverse deteriorating circumstances once again. The key difference?
In Iraq, General Petraeus was called in to reverse a failed strategy put in place by previous commanders. In Afghanistan, General Petraeus was instrumental in developing and executing the strategy in partnership with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who carried it out on the ground. Now General Petraeus will be directly responsible for its success or failure, risking the reputation he built in Iraq.
Not very heartening. The referenced strategy is a carry-a-stick-lightly counterinsurgency that mostly prohibits using firepower in order to ensure increased protection of civilians, this, much to the chagrin of soldiers, making them almost analogous to powerless cops.
According to Hastings’ article:
One soldier shows me the list of new regulations the platoon was given. “Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force,” the laminated card reads. For a soldier who has traveled halfway around the world to fight, that’s like telling a cop he should only patrol in areas where he knows he won’t have to make arrests. “Does that make any fucking sense?” asks Pfc. Jared Pautsch. “We should just drop a fucking bomb on this place. You sit and ask yourself: What are we doing here?”
That crude Hiroshima/nuke reference notwithstanding, we can only hope that Patraeus’ other characteristics will win the day. Here, The Times attempts to lay the path:
By helping to pull Iraq back from the edge, General Petraeus won a reputation as a resourceful, unorthodox commander and has since been mentioned as a candidate for president.
But Afghanistan is a very different war in a very different country. Where Iraq is an urban, oil-rich country with an educated middle class, Afghanistan is a shattered state whose social fabric and physical infrastructure has been ruined by three decades of war. In Iraq, the insurgency was in the cities; here, it is spread across the mountains and deserts of the country’s forbidding countryside.
Indeed, to prevail in Afghanistan, General Petraeus will need all of his skills — and a dose of good fortune at least as big as the one he received in Iraq. At the moment, every aspect of the war in Afghanistan is going badly: the military’s campaign in the strategic city of Kandahar has met with widespread resistance from the Afghan public; President Hamid Karzai is proving erratic and unpredictable; and the Taliban are resisting more tenaciously than ever.
To turn the tide, General Petraeus will almost certainly continue the counterinsurgency strategy he devised with General McChrystal: protecting Afghan civilians, separating them from insurgents and winning public support. But he will also have to convince his own troops, who are increasingly angry about the restrictions on using firepower imposed to protect civilians.
And General Petraeus will probably also try to employ some of the same novel tactics that worked so well in Iraq. Most notably, he will continue to coax Taliban fighters away from the insurgency with promises of jobs and security. And he may even try to strike deals with senior leaders of the Taliban as well as with the military and intelligence services in Pakistan.
A former aide to General Petraeus in Iraq who is now in Afghanistan put it this way: “The policy is to make everyone feel safer, reconcile with those who are willing and kill the people you need to.”