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And she’s off…(and other things)

July 17, 2010

Secretary Clinton leaves for her trip to South Korea, Afghanistan and Vietnam:

As concerns grow about the war in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is heading to South Asia on a mission aimed at refining the goals of the nearly 9-year-old conflict.

U.S. lawmakers are increasingly questioning the course of the war. The number of soldiers from the U.S. and other countries in the international coalition in Afghanistan is on the rise. Corruption is a deep problem in Afghanistan, and members of Congress wonder about the utility of massive aid to both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Clinton will attend an international conference in Kabul on Tuesday where the Afghan government is expected to outline plans to improve security, reintegrate militants into society and crack down on corruption. She also plans to stop in Pakistan to push greater cooperation between Islamabad and Kabul.

Clinton, who left Washington on Saturday, will meet up in the week ahead with Defense Secretary Robert Gates in South Korea, where tensions with the communist North have risen after the sinking of a South Korean warship that was blamed on the North.

She will finish her trip in Vietnam for discussions with regional leaders. Among the topics will be the upcoming elections in Myanmar.

At the Kabul conference, she will renew Washington’s commitment to support Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, but press him to follow through on reform pledges he made earlier this year.

Here’s an on-the-record briefing about her travel plans:

MR. TONER: Good morning. Welcome to the State Department. As you know, I think P.J. announced yesterday, Secretary of State Clinton will be traveling to the Republic of Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan from July 19th through the 23rd. And here to walk us through that trip as well as provide background and context for the other – for the issues she’ll address during her trip is Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell. He’ll give some brief introductory remarks and then take your questions, and if you can just remember to state your name and affiliation.


ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Hi, good morning, all of you. Thank you very much for coming this morning. I’ll talk primarily, obviously, about the East Asia component of the trip. You will have already been briefed about the portion of the trip in South Asia. We will be meeting up with Secretary Clinton in the middle of next week, on Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning, in Seoul, South Korea. She will be visiting Seoul with Secretary Gates as part of a long-planned 2+2 meeting between our secretaries of State and Defense and their ministers of foreign affairs and minister of defense. This is the first-ever 2+2 between our two countries in Korea. It is meant to signal the very real and longstanding strength of our alliance and to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.

During her time in Seoul, Secretary Clinton will do a variety of things. She will have official meetings with her interlocutors where we will discuss a range of issues, including our very strong coordination and cooperation between our two governments in the aftermath of the tragic sinking of the Cheonan. We will discuss issues associated with our economic relationship. We will work together on joint steps that we are proposing to take in the future. The Secretary will also have an event with American exporters to underscore the importance of the Korean market and work that the United States and Korea are doing together economically. Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton will also have opportunity to lay a wreath and pay tribute to those who died during the Korean War and also will be making some public appearances together.

In the evening, the two secretaries have been invited to dinner by President Lee Myung-bak and are very much looking forward to that opportunity to talk with the president about the relationship between the United States and South Korea and the important work ahead.

I think as you all know, South Korea is in the process of planning for the G-20 meeting this fall, which is the first-ever G-20 meeting in an Asian capital, in Seoul, South Korea. This is an enormous undertaking and we’re very grateful to be able to support and to encourage these developments.

After South Korea, Secretary Clinton will depart, arriving in Vietnam later that day. She has a range of events in Vietnam. Initially, her interactions with her Vietnamese hosts will be directed towards commemorating the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Fifteen years ago, the United States and Vietnam established diplomatic relations. I actually was on that trip with Secretary Christopher. There will be several events to underscore the importance of how far the United States and Vietnam have come in terms of our bilateral relationship and the prospects for closer coordination and cooperation in the future.

Thereafter, we will move into meetings as part of the annual ASEAN Regional Forum, and this will include all the key states of ASEAN plus the key members from around the region – Japan, South Korea, China, others, Australia, New Zealand. During those sessions, we anticipate a very broad and diverse discussion about North Korea, about regional security issues in Southeast Asia, about the importance of architecture in terms of the American role in the evolving architecture of Asia.

While in Vietnam, Secretary Clinton will hold a number of bilateral meetings. Those are being scheduled as we speak. There will be a bilateral meeting with Japan, with China, with India, and several others, including some key states in Southeast Asia as well. While in Vietnam, the Secretary will also host another meeting of what we call the Lower Mekong Initiative, which is a program that bridges lessons learned from the Mississippi and the Mekong, the two – two of the great rivers of the world, and we have some specific programs that we will announce that deal with issues associated with agriculture, climate change, and sustainability on the Mekong.

I’m very much looking forward to this visit. I think Secretary Clinton’s trip underscores her strong commitment to Asia and to ASEAN. And I’m happy to take any questions on any subject that you have.



QUESTION: Matt Lee with AP.


QUESTION: I’m doing well. How are you?


QUESTION: Looking forward to this.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Are you traveling with us?


ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Great. And we look forward to —

QUESTION: And I’ll see you in Seoul.


QUESTION: I have – in Vietnam, do you – first of all, do you know if the North Koreans are going to be represented? And if they are, do you envision a meeting between the Secretary and the North Korean representative? And also, the Burmese – same question. I assume that the Burmese will be there since they’re neighbors.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Both the Burmese and the North Koreans are members of the ASEAN Regional Forum. I have no information about whether they are sending a delegate to the meetings this year. In past years, both countries have normally sent representatives and there are no plans in the current climate for having the Secretary meet with representatives from either country.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?


QUESTION: Elise Labott with CNN.


QUESTION: Hi, Kurt. Do you expect both of those issues to be high on the agenda? I mean –


QUESTION: Given that the minister’s there, it’s obviously delicate, but do you expect the Cheonan, for instance –


QUESTION: — to be a big issue and —


QUESTION: And the human rights situation in Burma?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yeah. I think both issues will come up, and the Secretary will not shy away from raising either, both in the multilateral context in the larger ASEAN session but also in a bilateral context. And she will have very specific words about the tragic sinking of the Cheonan and will talk about our concerns about a variety of issues, including the upcoming steps leading up to the elections, we think, later this year in Burma.

QUESTION: Will you be looking for ASEAN to make some kind of further condemnation or statement at the ministerial about the Cheonan incident?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Let me say on both issues, last year we were very gratified that several of the key ministers spoke out encouraging greater transparency, openness, on the part of the leaders in Burma. And to take advantage of this opportunity to engage the United States, I expect that there will be further statements along those lines.

In terms of North Korea, the United States will very clearly state our strong support of South Korea. We will make clear how pleased we are at the statesmanship and the calm and the perseverance that South Korea, and particularly President Lee Myung-bak, have demonstrated in response to this outrage. And I expect that key states in Asia will speak out in support of South Korea and also be very clear at their deep resolve in standing with South Korea against this provocative action on the part of North Korea.


QUESTION: Andy Quinn from Reuters. Just to follow up on that, I presume when you talk – said she’s going to talk about this in the bilateral, that it will also come up with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang. What’s the U.S. stance now? Are we satisfied with China’s position, public or private, on the Cheonan incident? Do you expect them to make any more moves to publicly accuse North Korea of the attack?

And secondly, what is the thinking now about U.S. unilateral sanctions about North Korea? Are you still considering that perhaps now is the time to add a coercive element to the diplomacy here?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I would say that we are generally pleased with the cooperation that we’ve gotten in the P-5 and the P-5+2 associated with the statement and the actions associated with the sinking of the Cheonan. The United States is considering a variety of options associated with North Korea and we will be in deep consultations, not only Secretary Gates but Secretary Clinton, with our counterparts in terms of making sure that we are very closely aligned in our strategy moving forward.

Let me take – yes, and then I’ll come back to you. Yes, please.

QUESTION: Sam Kim from VOA. But after the UN Security Council statement, China and North Korea suggested Six-Party Talks. What is your comment on that?

And my second question is: Before this incident, China suggested three-stage approach to the resumption of the talk. Are you still interested in that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I missed – the Swiss, sir?

QUESTION: Three-stage approach to the resumption of the Six-Party Talks. That’s what China suggested earlier.


QUESTION: And are you still interested in that approach?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Let me say that the United States and South Korea have always maintained, and our position is clear, that we are prepared under the right circumstances to sit down in a dialogue with North Korea. But as President Lee Myung-bak has said on numerous occasions, we do not want to talk for talking’s sake; there has to be a clear determination that North Korea rejects its provocative ways and embraces a path towards denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

I think one of the reasons for these consultations between the United States and South Korea is to make sure that we are closely coordinated in terms of the way forward about possible paths of engagement to North Korea in the future. But at this juncture, I think our primary goal is a dialogue with South Korea.


QUESTION: Lauren McGaughy from the Asahi Shimbun. Could you let us know if Bosworth and Sung Kim are going to be part of the delegation this time?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I believe that Ambassador Sung Kim will be traveling with us. He provides a vast reservoir of experience and knowledge on all issues in Asia and particularly North Korea. Because we anticipate that North Korea will be a topic and a subject of intense discussion both in Seoul and Vietnam, we thought it would be prudent to bring him along. We are very gratified that he’s coming.


QUESTION: Lalit Jha from Press Trust of India. Would Burma be a topic of discussion when Secretary meets her Indian counterpart in Vietnam?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: We have raised Burma in our conversations with Indian interlocutors. We’ve made very clear to Indian friends that we think India’s very important role in the international community gives it a voice. And we’ve asked them to encourage interlocutors inside the country to embrace reform, to free political prisoners, and to engage more responsively with the international community. And our conversations suggest that Indian friends have taken steps over a period of years and are beginning to play perhaps a more active role in this regard. They’ve also been very clear that they have strategic interests. And we respect those, but we also want to work closely with not just India but other countries in Southeast Asia on encouraging this group of military leaders in Naypidaw to take more responsible choices.

QUESTION: And secondly, how do you plan to treat a Burmese government which comes out of these elections later this year, which you say is flawed and –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, look, we don’t know – there’s been nothing really announced. I think the steps that we’ve seen to date suggest that these will not be free and fair elections, that there are many problems associated with the domestic environment. And we’re concerned by the fact that the government has not engaged in a domestic dialogue with its critics and others. And obviously, the United States is prepared under the right circumstances to engage and to work with the government in terms of trying to improve the domestic circumstances inside the country and its international behavior going forward.

Yeah. Hi.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jay Solomon from the Wall Street Journal.


QUESTION: Two WMD-related questions. First in Myanmar, is – I mean, the issue of is Myanmar kind of pursuing some sort of nuclear WMD program, is that something you expect will be in the ASEAN Regional Forum – an issue raised?

And the second question, I know you’re not the South Asia person, but there’s real concern about China’s intentions to sell two reactors to the Pakistanis. What is the U.S. position on that? Are we formally coming and out and say we think this poses too much of a risk to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other kind of proliferation forums, or have we not kind of taken a firm position yet on whether we think that Chinese sale should go ahead?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: This is not meant in any way to be a dodge on the second question. I’m just going to have to get more information so that I can be precise in my answer.

And on the first question, I think we’ve stated very carefully and clearly on the record that we are primarily concerned in terms of Burma activities about its violation and its activities associated with UN Security Council Resolution 1874. We continue to ask for adherence to that important resolution and we are asking for the government to put in place a process which allows for greater transparency for various interactions with North Korea. To date, we have been unsuccessful in gaining this kind of transparent international set of steps that would give us greater confidence about their commercial interactions with Pyongyang.


QUESTION: Charlie Wolfson with CBS.


QUESTION: The Chinese don’t seem to be too happy about the U.S.-South Korean military exercise, as you know.


QUESTION: Is that – do you have any reaction to their reaction and –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I really wouldn’t have anything further to say beyond what Geoff Morrell said yesterday at the Pentagon. I do believe this will be a subject of our conversations, though.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yonhap News Agency, South Korea. South Korea wants North Korea to apologize for the Cheonan incident before coming back to the Six-Party Talks. So do you think the apology should be a precondition for the resumption —

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yeah. I should just say, in terms of the specifics of next steps associated with diplomacy with North Korea, the purpose of this trip is to allow our Secretary, the key players in the Blue House and the foreign ministry and the president’s office, to be able to have a very close, intimate dialogue about the way forward. And so I think we’ll have more to say about the specifics on the way ahead from Seoul in the days to come.

Yes, hi.

QUESTION: Hello. Just a follow-up about the 2+2.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Could you say who you are? Sorry. Do you remember who you are? (Laughter.) Sorry. I forget sometimes myself.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Okay, about the 2+2 –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: No, I’m sorry. I – (laughter) –

QUESTION: No, it’s not me?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: No, just you say who you are. You’re the –

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.


QUESTION: Okay, I’m (inaudible) from NHK.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Okay, hi. Sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I apologize. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, no, no, no. I was too caught up to try to ask questions. A follow-up about the 2+2.


QUESTION: Can we call it officially the first time for – in this manner, for the two parties –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yes, it’s the first time it’s ever been done in Seoul before.



QUESTION: Location-wise it’s the first time, but it’s been done –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yeah. In Korea. Yeah. I – and frankly, it’s – I’m remiss. I’m not sure if it’s ever been done elsewhere in the United – in Washington before. But I know it’s the first time in Seoul.


ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I can get more information for you on that. I should have come with that. I just wasn’t aware.

QUESTION: Oh, okay, and –


QUESTION: Additionally about the exercise, yesterday, the information didn’t come out what kind of asset would be used. But for a time — a while, the Korean administration has been referring to the aircraft carrier being used in this exercise. But is that kind of information going to come out in the 2+2, also?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, I won’t have anything on this particular subject. We’re trying to be very clear that information associated with our military activities will be briefed and explained from the Pentagon. As Geoff Morrell said yesterday, we believe that issues associated with exercises and planned military activities will be a subject of discussion in Seoul, and that we expect our ministers will have more to say about that in the time ahead.

Yes. Yes, hi.

QUESTION: My name is Homma from Yomiuri Shimbun.


QUESTION: Are you going to – in Vietnam, are you going to discuss territorial issue and the South China Sea? If so, do you prepare some kind of a statement?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think we’re going to talk about a variety of issues of regional security in Southeast Asia while we are in Vietnam, yes.


QUESTION: Hi. Sean Flax with NHK.


QUESTION: Hi. I’m just wondering, are you considering appointing a special envoy to Burma?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think, as we have stated publicly, it is a provision of the JADE Act that the U.S. Government will appoint a coordinator for Burma policy. And there are consultations ongoing now both inside government and with key stakeholders, and I expect that there will be an announcement on this in the not-too-distant future.

QUESTION: On the trip?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: No, I doubt on the trip. Not-too-distant future, that means not-too-distant future, so –

Yes, hi. Yes, you.

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Kiona with Nippon TV.


QUESTION: I’m wondering, do you think that Secretary Clinton will talk about Futenma issue when she meets the counterpart in Vietnam? And are you expecting that the Futenma dialogue will be concluded by the end of August?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, let me just say, I – one of the things that we are trying to do in our dialogue with Japanese friends is to make clear that, obviously, Okinawan issues and issues associated with U.S. forces are important. But we have a very broad agenda. So I would anticipate that more of the focus in Vietnam will be on the very important regional and global security interests confronting the United States and Japan.

So we’ll be talking about the Korean Peninsula, we’ll be talking about our close coordination in Afghanistan, our work together in the Arabian Sea and elsewhere. And in addition, Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Okada will talk about new security threats, like climate change. So I would expect a broader discussion. But I am sure that some – there will be some mention of the specifics of our bilateral relationship as well.

I can take a couple more questions. Okay.

MR. TONER: Last two.


QUESTION: My name is (inaudible), Jiji Press.


QUESTION: Yes, hi. Regarding joint exercise –


QUESTION: — China is still against joint exercise between U.S. and South Korea, between Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. Do you have any comment about that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I just – I don’t think I’m going to say anything further beyond what Mr. Morrell said yesterday. And I do believe we’ll have more to say about this – our two secretaries – when we are in Seoul in a few days.

Any other questions? Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. You just mentioned that U.S. will be able to talk to North Korea in the right circumstances. Can you elaborate a little bit more about what is the right circumstances right now?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think, and if I could just hearken back to an earlier answer, look, the road that we’ve just traveled over the course of the last three or four months was extraordinarily difficult. It has tested our alliance between the United States and South Korea. We have been up to the challenge. And South Korea has behaved and engaged both the United States and all the other countries in the most positive, responsible way imaginable. We did not anticipate these tragic developments. This is really the first time, at the highest levels, that our two governments in a sustained way will be able to talk about the way ahead.

And so I think it’s very important to give us this opportunity. One of the things that’s clear is that South Korean friends have called for this kind of consultation. We also believe that it’s critically important. It is a sign of how critically important South Korea is, and is becoming to the United States in all manner of diplomacy, not just in Northeast Asia, but globally that both of our most important senior cabinet members are going with their teams, respective teams, to South Korea.

We’re going to talk about a range of issues. And I think we will be talking about the specific questions that you raise, and we will have more to say about that on the ground in Seoul next week.

QUESTION: And can you just explain what you said, “It tested our alliance”? How exactly did it test the U.S.-South Korean alliance? I thought the U.S.-South Korean alliance was pretty strong before.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: No, but all challenges test alliances. And this unprovoked sinking, not only in terms of how we coordinate, making sure that we take the well coordinated steps – I am extremely proud and impressed in the way that the United States and South Korea have worked together to make sure that we are completely coordinated. And I think it’s a tribute to the strong resolve and the leadership that we see in Seoul more than anything else.

QUESTION: But was there any question that you wouldn’t have coordinated or that you wouldn’t have been less than —

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I don’t think there was any question. But even though you may not have any questions, you still can be deeply reassured by how you conduct yourselves. You prepare for a crisis, you prepare for challenges, but you never know how it’s going to go until it happens. And I have to say we have met and exceeded the standards of the closest possible alliance.

Thank you all very much.

MR. TONER: Thank you.

In other news, Terry in the comments left a link to this article, which I had missed. It’s about how Secretary Clinton has brought the State Department into the 21st Century. Excerpt:

…To hear Ross and Cohen tell it, even last year, in this age of rampant peer-to-peer connectivity, the State Department was still boxed into the world of communiqués, diplomatic cables and slow government-to-government negotiations, what Ross likes to call “white guys with white shirts and red ties talking to other white guys with white shirts and red ties, with flags in the background, determining the relationships.” And then Hillary Clinton arrived. “The secretary is the one who unleashed us,” Ross says. “She’s the godmother of 21st-century statecraft.”

Traditional forms of diplomacy still dominate, but 21st-century statecraft is not mere corporate rebranding — swapping tweets for broadcasts. It represents a shift in form and in strategy — a way to amplify traditional diplomatic efforts, develop tech-based policy solutions and encourage cyberactivism. Diplomacy may now include such open-ended efforts as the short-message-service (S.M.S.) social-networking program the State Department set up in Pakistan last fall. “A lot of the 21st-century dynamics are less about, Do you comport politically along traditional liberal-conservative ideological lines?” Ross says. “Today it is — at least in the spaces we engage in — Is it open or is it closed?”

Early this year, Ross and Cohen helped prop open the State Department’s doors by bringing 10 leading figures of the tech and social-media worlds to Washington for a private dinner with Clinton and her senior staff. Among the guests were Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google; Jack Dorsey, co-founder and chairman of Twitter; James Eberhard of Mobile Accord; Shervin Pishevar of the mobile-phone-game-development company SGN; Jason Liebman of Howcast; Tiffany Shlain, founder of the Webby Awards; and Andrew Rasiej of Personal Democracy Forum, an annual conference on the intersection of politics and technology. Toward the end of the evening, Clinton delighted those assembled by inviting them to use her “as an app.”

A few days later, they did. On Jan. 12, the Haiti earthquake struck, and within two hours, Eberhard, working with the State Department, set up the Text Haiti 90999 program, which raised more than $40 million for the Red Cross in $10 donations. Jan. 12 was significant for supporters of 21st-century statecraft for another reason. It was also the day Google announced that Chinese hackers tried to break into the Gmail accounts of dissidents. In response, Google said that it would no longer comply with China’s censorship laws and for a few months redirected Chinese users to its Hong Kong search engine. The dispute rose to a high-level diplomatic conflict, but it also gave added resonance to the 45-minute “Internet freedom” speech Secretary Clinton delivered a little more than a week later, in which she placed “the freedom to connect” squarely within the U.S. human rights and foreign policy agenda.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Tovah permalink
    July 17, 2010 5:01 pm

    Thanks so much for the travel info. You seem to have stuff no one else has ;). That transcript of the briefing gives tons of information that just isn’t mentioned in the press.

    I have to say that as time wears on, more and more I think Afghanistan is our Vietnam. I supported the War in Afghanistan after 9/11 because I felt it was a just war. I wasn’t so sure about Iraq as it seemed like Bush had wanted to get back at Saddam for years and 9/11 became his excuse. But now it seems like our military, through no fault of their own, have been given an impossible mission- to rebuild a country which has always fought foreign invaders powers. The government is totally corrupt and G-d knows where our money is going. Our soldiers are being asked to put their lives on the line to not only fight only about 50-100 Al Queda members but they are being told to rebuild a nation.

    This is Obama’s LBJ moment- if they really think success isn’t possible then they have a moral responsibility to leave. If they want the US to stay in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future then they need to ensure that Karzai cuts out his double-dealing and we should consider a draft. Private contractors are getting paid 10 times as much as our men and women in uniform to do the exact same thing.

    Secretary Clinton has a tough sell. I feel like Obama knows she has more credibility and is more popular than he is so he is depending on she and Secretary Gates to sell this ongoing war to the American people.

  2. July 17, 2010 5:12 pm

    Well-said Tovah and I largely agree.

    There’s a reason Afghanistan is called “the graveyard of empires.”

    I’m not convinced COIN is realistic and I don’t think, given the little I understand about it, that we are really even following true COIN doctrine. We seem to be heavy on the military aspect and much lighter on the diplomatic/civilian front although I know Secy Clinton has been trying to change that. This is why the McChrystal issue was a very valid, important one- it wasn’t just that he was talking crap about civilian leaders, he was essentially undermining the fundamental and most important aspects of COIN- the integral working relationship between the military and diplomatic/civilian corps. How ironic.

    I don’t know what “success” in Afghanistan even is. I also don’t know how COIN can work when the current leader of Afghanistan may have committed serious election fraud, is totally corrupt, possibly playing both sides and may be undermining our effort there. Keep in mind though, it was the United STates who initially anointed Karzai to lead Afghanistan- his connection to the Carlyle Group helped ensure that key oil pipelines would be able to traverse across Afghanistan. So once again we are called upon to clean up after our own short-sighted mistakes.

    I think the real problem is that the administration has had to admit that we are spending a billion dollars a month (or whatever the outrageous amount is) when as you said Tovah, only 50-100 Al Qaeda are believed to be in Afghanistan. The administration has been using Al Qaeda in Afghanistan as a major rationale for the ongoing war but that rationale is falling apart. The fact is, most of them seem to be in Pakistan and we are currently fighting a proxy war there too. The legality of the drone attacks are seriously in question (despite administration claims to the contrary) and are we really going to go to war with every single nation who is host to an extremist group like Al Qaeda? So, where to next? We know the neocons want to attack Iran, Yemen is a hotbed of extremist activity, as is Pakistan. And on and on and on.

    I don’t know, I just think the neocons got us all into a fine mess after 9/11 and now there is no easy way out of it. And to add insult to injury, the very same people who were so wrong about Iraq and who didn’t understand the situation in Afghanistan, are leading the drum beat for military action in Iran. Unbelievable.

  3. July 17, 2010 9:27 pm

    Congressman Ron Paul likes to say – “Empires don’t die because they’re defeated militarily. They die because they run out of money.” I feel like our government is analogous to the Emperor with no Clothes. Our government is many trillions of dollars in debt, and given the outflow of jobs from the US in the last 20 yrs, our disarray in the banking sector, and our lack of leadership in global Green energy solutions, there’s no solid reason to believe we have a path soon out of this debt. Yet we spend many hundreds of billions on wars and military bases, entitlement programs, and pork. Neither the Dems or GOP seem ready to make the tough political decisions. Too afraid of getting voted out. So we go on…

    I get the sense, although I am no expert, that China’s government is sitting back and waiting for us to just collapse.

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