RE: Asia Policy I read the NY Times article that Mojo linked to in his post about U.S. Asia policy. It seems to me that this directive from Petraeus does not represent a particularly important or dire escalation in our various conflicts and activities in this region. It seems a relatively benign expansion of what they are already doing. What I do think is that it raises serious questions less about our overarching strategy in this region and more about how we as a nation state that theoretically operates under the rule of law domestically and internationally fits these sorts of operations in that legal and moral framework, if indeed we can.<br><br>I don't think the article really touches on the ROE in Afghanistan or even the tribal areas. The COIN doctrine and FM3-24 are the guidelines for our operations in those areas. And yes, toadcranking civilians at will is directly at odds with that strategy, which is why I doubt Petraeus, the architect and main advocate of COIN, is looking to send Special Forces in to do exactly what he has been advocating against. I tend to believe that the intention is what they say it is, intelligence gathering and building contacts and networks. Remember, before the NeoCons spun up their Iraq shenanigans, Special Forces was having significant success in Afghanistan doing exactly what Petreaus says he wants from then now, building relationships and contacts. Pulling them from this duty to Iraq was one of the contributing reasons the Taliban became resurgent.<br><br>The point of Donald Rumsfelds and Boykin's version of this was not to gather intelligence. It was to engage in lethal operations outside of war zones without any of the restrictions and more importantly the oversight the CIA was subject to by Congress. The fact that they could have easily convinced their GOP Stooges and scared Democrats to change existing laws and practices to make this whole thing perfectly legal under American law if not international law never seemed to trouble them. The whole idea of having Congress impose any oversight was repugnant to them. Gates pretty much quashed most of this and sent Boykin packing. I doubt that Gates is looking for another turf war with CIA. He is a former CIA geek after all and has seemed pretty sceptical of using military personnel, even special forces to engage in weird operations where Green Berets pretend to be tourists so they can whack someone based on a tip from a CIA informant. Even Mossad, whom Rummy and the rest of the NeoCons wanted CIA to become, routinely jack up those sorts of ops, and they have much more experience with them. Gates wisely and I think for purely practical reasons took DOD out of that cloak and dagger crap.<br><br>I would suggest that what they are trying to do is fill in a gap that actually does exist, which is gathering intelligence in areas with minimal existing CIA assets and where the locals have gotten very good at evading satellite surveillance. The part I'm not remotely down with is the idea of us engaging in arming or assisting "opposition"groups in Iran or elsewhere. I think Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda stand as a pretty good example of where this can lead. But sending special forces and other units into areas to find out info I think is actually a good idea. Sending them in to whack people, not so much.<br><br>My complaints would be that we have virtually no reliable handle on what exactly is going on beyond sending in Drones to kill "bad guys" and special ops guys to take pictures and make friends. There is no framework, process, and more importantly will to impose oversight, a legal structure, and real consequences for stepping beyond whatever boundaries are set. You have to go on faith that your guy in the White House is not a dupe or a semi-closeted clone of Donald Rumsfeld. You have to assume the worst in these situations, even though I have doubts about this directive in the NY Times story I've laid out above. So while I'm sympathetic to Mojo's overall complaint, I think using this article as the jumping off point gets us off track.<br><br>I think the bigger question is about Drones. Not near enough people are troubled by what we are doing with these things. Who is holding the President accountable for how he is using them? What if decides to use them on Hamas or Hezbollah leaders? Is that within the scope of his authority? He would derive considerable political upside for using this technology against Israelis enemies. Obama probably won't do this, but a George Bush style administration certainly would.<br><br>The political environment is such that any action such as drone assassinations, clandestine strikes by special forces on sovereign states the U.S. is not at war with, and most especially the torture of people in U.S. custody is supported by a frightening portion of the public. That is the part that really scares me. What action,if any, is beyond the pale now? Not much if I understand the combination of support and indifference out in the electorate. That puts us at grave risk of going completely off the rails if another 9/11 event occurs. Christ, people wet their pants about a botched SUV bombing. Its only a matter of time before Al Queda or a subsidiary manages to pull off something. I would argue the best approach is to construct some kind of legal and political framework that encompasses what we are currently doing and sets boundaries of what we will do. I don't think we will, and we will reap the whirlwind because of it.


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