Rice Could’ve Written Biden’s Speech

Jim Lobe, the Washington bureau chief for the Inter Press Service, is one of the world’s best investigative journalists and perhaps the most astute analysts of US foreign policy and the domestic interests that influence it. Here he offers sober analysis of the much ballyhooed speech by US Vice President Joe Biden.

I hate to agree with Bill Kristol, but he’s right about Vice President Joe Biden’s speech at the ongoing Munich security conference when he writes that “the administration chose not to use the occasion to say something interesting. One hopes the Obama administration is actually thinking more seriously than the Biden speech indicates.” I’m sure Kristol and I were looking for different things in the speech, but, at least from my point of view, it was hopelessly uninspired and offered no hints of any creative and new thinking that might actually lead to breakthroughs, particularly in the Middle East. Indeed, it sounded like a speech that Condoleezza Rice might have submitted in draft for White House approval before the vice president’s office and Elliott Abrams got their hands on it. Remember, this was the Obama administration’s first major foreign-policy address and thus a huge opportunity to begin charting its own path.

A few things were especially disappointing, beginning with the emphasis placed by Biden on the change of “tone” the new administration would bring to foreign policy. (This was exactly what Rice meant when she announced in her Senate confirmation hearings in 2005 that “the time for diplomacy is now.”) It’s nice to have a new “tone”, but what about some new content beyond the nominal gestures, like closing Guantanamo and forbidding torture, and the cliches about greater consultation and adherence to international law? In that respect, Biden offered little or nothing substantive.

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And the drone policy continues…

There is no single journalist who is more knowledgeable and incisive when it comes to the consequences of the so-called ‘war on terror’ on Pakistan than Rahimullah Yusufzai. Since so much nonsense has been proliferating about Pakistan courtesy of both ill-informed Western journalists, and the native informers (*), PULSE will strive to provide fuller coverage of developments in the region.  Here is Rahimullah Yusufzai on the continuing US bombing of the Pakistani tribal belt.

The issue of missile strikes by US drones in Pakistan’s territory has dominated politics and the media in recent days and weeks. The new Obama administration has made it clear the attacks will continue despite statements of disapproval on an almost daily basis by Pakistani leaders, who argue that this policy was undermining Islamabad’s efforts to counter the militancy.

Robert Gates, who has been retained as defence secretary by President Barack Obama to ensure continuity to Washington’s policy in its ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, became the first American official last week to publicly comment on the issue of drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Normally, US officials avoid commenting on the topic in public and instead unnamed sources in the Pentagon or the intelligence agencies leak information to the American media about such attacks, along with the claim that someone important in Al Qaeda had been killed. At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr Gates said the US would continue to carry out missile attacks against Al Qaeda militants in Pakistan. The US, he warned, will “go after Al Qaeda wherever Al Qaeda is.” He also said the decision had been conveyed to the government of Pakistan.

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US Liberates More Afghans

Having already wasted more than a dozen innocent Pakistani civilians, Obama draws first blood in Afghanistan. One Afghan government employee threatens to put on a suicide-vest if that is what it would take to drive out the invaders.

US air raid fuels Afghan anger

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Writers pressure Obama over Afghanistan

A ‘new beginning will not be possible as long as we continue to spill the blood of the men, women, and children of Afghanistan,’ warns this message from notable American writers which appears in The Nation and the New York Review of Books.notthistime5.

Obama’s Vietnam?

‘Friday’s airstrikes are evidence Obama will take the hard line he promised in Pakistan and Afghanistan,’ writes Juan Cole. ‘But he should remember what happened to another president who inherited a war’. Like most western commentators Cole reproduces uncritically claims about the deaths of ‘foreign fighters’ (unconfirmed, for the record). Pakistani officials are usually just as eager to conjure up foreign fighters in order to mitigate the backlash that the extrajudicial murder of innocent tribals would elicit.

On Friday, President Barack Obama ordered an Air Force drone to bomb two separate Pakistani villages, killing what Pakistani officials said were 22 individuals, including between four and seven foreign fighters. Many of Obama’s initiatives in his first few days in office — preparing to depart Iraq, ending torture and closing Guantánamo — were aimed at signaling a sharp turn away from Bush administration policies. In contrast, the headline about the strike in Waziristan could as easily have appeared in December with “President Bush” substituted for “President Obama.” Pundits are already worrying that Obama may be falling into the Lyndon Johnson Vietnam trap, of escalating a predecessor’s halfhearted war into a major quagmire. What does Obama’s first military operation tell us about his administration’s priorities?

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