Odds and ends

by Ted on January 28, 2004

I’ve been heavily involved in work production related activities, but I should point to Daniel Drezner, who is blogging about a potentially huge story.

The Bush administration, deeply concerned about recent assassination attempts against Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and a resurgence of Taliban forces in neighboring Afghanistan, is preparing a U.S. military offensive that would reach inside Pakistan with the goal of destroying Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network, military sources said.

U.S. Central Command is assembling a team of military intelligence officers that would be posted in Pakistan ahead of the operation, according to sources familiar with details of the plan and internal military communications. The sources spoke on the condition they not be identified.

Drezner says,

I’d offer some cogent analysis at this point, but I’m torn between two diametrically opposed viewpoints:

1) It’s about friggin’ time. If the biggest cluster of high-level Al Qaeda operatives are in the mountains of Pakistan, that’s where U.S. forces hands-down should be.

2) Musharraf clearly feels more secure in his domestic situation than the Western media.

I agree with Drezner’s read, I think. It’s surely one to watch. This story came from the Chicago Tribune. The NY Times and Washington Post have a much-discussed tendency to bury stories on which other papers scoop them. Let’s hope that this isn’t the case here.

* I disagree with Glenn Reynolds a lot of the time, but his post about the documentary Spellbound is right-on. Spellbound was, without a doubt, the best movie that I saw in 2003.

* I’d also like to say “hear hear” to Gary Farber. Gary encapsulates why I think that most blogging is less like a revolutionary new paradigm in journalism, and more like high school without the sexual tension.



marky 01.29.04 at 12:55 am

Well, going after Al Qaeda in Pakistan sounds good, but I sure hope that Musharraf has full control of the nukes. Also, many of the Al Qaeda people are living openly in the big cities of Pakistan, which makes me wonder how much control Musharraf actually has.


roger 01.29.04 at 1:24 am

Bush, in this election year, has only one more piece of good news to squeeze out re foreign policy. That is the capture or death of Osama. Iraq looks like a country into which 200 billion dollars was invested in order to create a moderate version of Iran — not exactly an advertisement for the war on terrorism. As for that vaunted war, so far, the pattern looks pretty much like the pattern after the attempt on the WTC the first time — there’s a response, there’s a gestation period, and there are renewed attacks. The idea, which has seeped into the American media, that we have crushed the Islamicist terrorist network, is contradicted by the ease with which attacks have been launched all around the Meditteranean.

If the economy really does remain in the doldrums after the various speedballs of government money Bush has been pumping into its veins, then what else is there?

Any idiot — and especially Rove — would look at the poll figures right after Saddam H. was captured and think, wow, if we could do that in October…

Bush’s own October surprise.


Conrad barwa 01.29.04 at 1:25 am

Very good analysis of the assasination attempt on Musharraf and the stability of the current military regime in Pakistan here by Zack Ajmal:



fyreflye 01.29.04 at 1:26 am

Spellbound was an excellent feel-good documentary but Capturing the Friedmans was the Americam Rashomon.


nnyhav 01.29.04 at 3:14 am

So why haven’t you replaced rittenhouse with wonkette in the lumber room?


Gary Farber 01.29.04 at 4:12 am

“Bush, in this election year, has only one more piece of good news to squeeze out re foreign policy.”

So you’re saying it would be news if, say, Bashar Assad and the Israeli government were able to achieve a peace treaty and Syria gave up all support for Hezbollah and Palestinian terror or pulled out of Lebannon? Or if the reformers in Iran were able to achieve a power flip over the Guardian Council and come into real power? Or a successful deal were made with North Korea for a permanent inspection regime and dismantling of their nuclear program? Or if Kim Jong Il had a sudden heart attack and the North Korean government collapsed and the country opened up? Or if France and Russia agreed to send significant military force to Iraq? Or if other Muslim countries were to agree with the same thing, while a successful Iraqi federal government were formed, the fighting drew down to insignificance, and the country clearly emerged as on its way to propsperity and democracy? Or if Pakistan and India reached a full settlement over Kashmir and agreed to mutual nuclear disarmament, with US negotatiors key? Or if Arafat died and Israel and the new Palestinian government agreed on a peace settlement? Or if…?

Y’know, I don’t expect a single one of those scenarios to happen. They’re each extremely unlikely. Finding a live bin Laden isn’t the highest probability scenario in the world, either.

But none is outright impossible, and I rather think they’re just a few of the possible triumphs that, hypothetically, could happen. Which makes your statement, um, non-operative.


Gary Farber 01.29.04 at 4:16 am


“So you’re saying it would be news….”

That makes more sense if you read my original: “So you’re saying it would be bad news….”

That’s the version before the Evil ASCII-Thief Demons came in and stole my word!

I hate those demons! Hate’m!

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


roger 01.29.04 at 6:36 am

Gary, operative word is “squeeze.” There is always a chance that Syria and Israel will make peace (and that pigs will fly). However, I doubt that any of the scenarios you are talking about will shine off W. Libya’s surrender of its WMD capacity has made about zip difference in the polls. Saddam’s death, on the other hand, made about a 10 point difference. That doesn’t mean that W. might operate with unexpected genius, getting N.Korea to the negotiating table — but that would be very unexpected unexpected genius.

Out of the list that you mentioned, the cheapest and most do-able, and the one with the biggest resonance nationally, would be hunting down Osama. You can test this by going into a bar and mentioning that Osama has been killed by a U.S. Special commando team. Then mention that Kim Jong-il has been killed by a special commando team. Count the number of people who ask you what a special commando team is doing shooting at Li’l Kim, the number who want to know what the owner of a Chinese restaurant did to piss off the special forces, and the number who say, who the hell is Kimmy Jung? Compare to number who recognize Osama. Apply said differential to possible poll bump.


Gary Farber 01.29.04 at 6:10 pm

“However, I doubt that any of the scenarios you are talking about will shine off W.”

Of course, they would not, unless the US were indeed intrinsically responsible, somehow, such as being the key figure in negotatiating any of those hypothetical peaces or settlements or whatever. And, as I said, all are extraordinarily unlike.

But while I agree that the most visceral jump for Bush would come with Osama captured or provably killed at our hands — no doubt about it — I don’t agree that Bush wouldn’t get some electoral benefit if, hypothetically, Colin Powell somehow suddenly, miraculously, negotiated a treaty between Israel and Palestine which, dramatically, suddenly saw the disarming of Hamas and the cessation of terror as the new Palestinian state were declared. Just to pick one example.

I stress again: this is pretty much impossible in the time remaining before the election. I’m just quibbling hypothetically. I’m afraid I do that. :-)

Trivial note is that in reality, the greater long-term benefit to our lives, I suspect, would come from an Israeli-Palestinian true settlement, or a true Pakistan-Indian nuclear disarmament, or a collapse of the North Korean regime and establishment of a sane one, than getting the (hypothetically still alive) bin Laden.

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