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May 10 2011

Osama Bin Laden Mission Agreed to in 2001

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While browsing the internet today, I found an extremely interesting article, and although I could find few corroborating articles, I still find it intriguing enough to deserve a post on the blog, as I feel it explains a lot regarding the confusion over Pakistan’s involvement with Bin Laden.

Apparently, in 2001, Musharraf and Bush made an agreement that should the United States be able to confirm the location of Osama Bin Laden within Pakistan, they would be able to raid and kill him unilaterally and Pakistan would not stop them. This agreement appears to have come into effect shortly after Bin Laden nearly escaped the United States in 2001 in Tora Bora.

Forbes analyzes this post by The Guardian and agrees that it makes sense. The United States is claiming Pakistan had no prior knowledge of the attack, and Pakistan is raising a huge fuss about how the U.S. shouldn’t have invaded their country, and are threatening that any future raids may result in full force retaliation. However, they are not actually doing anything at the moment, nor did they necessarily try aggressively to stop the United States’ mission.

Although this story does not have nearly the coverage to support the claim, and the Guardian is the only website that is publishing the story as a true fact, it does make very much sense. In this way, Pakistan would not necessarily feel obligated to disclose Bin Laden’s whereabouts, which it seems likely they knew about. It also explains their behavior- by claiming they had no prior knowledge and that they disagree with the U.S. actions, they gain support from the people by letting them think that they were harboring the criminal, who has a large fan base in the middle East, and they did not give him up. It also allowed the United States to take action when they DID locate him, without necessarily having a huge disagreement with Pakistan regarding whether or not they were allowed to attack him. The story makes sense- granted, if it is an imagined news report that someone came up with, it would obviously be doctored to fit the circumstances very well. Regardless, if the United States does not begin to crack down on Pakistan for potentially harboring this criminal among others without revealing their location to us, this agreement could explain our government’s actions.

May 10 2011

Syrian Unrest Continues to Grow

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The situation in Syria continues to spiral out of control, and the international community is growing concerned. As reports trickle out of the conflict riddled country through the regime that is cracking down hard on any kind of opposition, humanitarian groups have not been allowed access to the city of Deraa, where security forces are believed to have been especially brutal in the past few days. Deraa has not been accessible for two weeks since military forces were sent in to regain control of the city. The EU has issued an arms embargo on Syria and is severely restricting 13 high ranking members of the Syrian government, limiting their bank accounts and preventing travel.

It appears as if the Syrian government has been using soccer stadiums as makeshift prisons, as their military and security forces tear through cities arresting families en masse. The families are reportedly locked inside of soccer stadiums under extremely heavy security. Hundreds are reported to have been killed in demonstrations, which security forces are breaking up violently. The dead are not permitted to have funerals, as Syrian officials fear the funerals may turn into protests and demonstrations.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Government is releasing claims that it has gained the upper hand. Apparently the government is accepting the deaths as necessary in quelling the rebellion, and believe that opposition is beginning to falter through fear and force. A spokeswoman claims that Syria is used to adapting to crises, and is prepared to deal with the international backlash as it believes what it has done is right.

Many believe that the United States should intervene in Syria- I disagree, and I accept that my reasons for disagreeing are extremely controversial. However, regardless of how totalitarian and unjust the Syrian government is being in this situation, at least they are demonstrating control, something that is very rare in the Middle East at this point in time. Countless governments have been facing extreme criticism, and I believe part of Syria’s criticisms may be coming from people who are seeing the success in other countries and believe that they can make a positive change in Syria as well. I think that a revolution in Syria would only lead to further violence as various factions struggle to gain control of the country following any kind of revolution. Additionally, from a very greedy, American perspective, we shouldn’t be trying to get ourselves involved in any more Middle Eastern disputes. Let them work it out on their own.

May 03 2011

The Impact of Osama

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I have a terrible memory- I barely remember anything from my childhood, already. But there is one day that I still haven’t forgotten, and still remember with surprising clarity. Even though back then the impact wasn’t entirely clear to me, everyone elses’ reaction made it obvious it was an event to remember. I’m obviously talking about 9/11, like everyone else is these days, in the wake of the death of Osama Bin Laden.

How has Osama impacted our country? The numbers are easy to count- two buildings destroyed, three air planes, thousands of lives. You must also consider the heightened security he forced, the farther reaching impact of his terrorist actions- he terrified our country, forced us to give up freedoms we used to enjoy. Getting through airports is a prodigious hassle- some claim that the financial problems many airlines have had in the past decade can be blamed on Osama for making flying so scary and so inconvenient.

Osama’s impact in dozens, possibly even hundreds, aspects of our lives are evident- even if he was not directly responsible, he became our scapegoat, our subject of hate, for everything terrorists stand for. Osama himself may not even have been an especially active leader in the past few years, but Americans still hold his death in great regard.

Are we overestimating his importance? One article essentially pins him as the greatest nemesis America has ever known- very likely a true accusation. At the same time, as oil prices slowly drop, some people argue that this is a direct reaction to the death of Osama. Although most analysts try to bring some sense by pointing out that the death of Osama doesn’t actually lower the threat of terrorism, the importance we place on Osama himself is extremely interesting. Even others claim that the stock market will react to Osama’s death– that this huge reduction in threat should prod investors into riskier and more grand investment schemes.

I think it’s all ridiculous. Osama hasn’t played a serious role in our country in years. When was the last time he released a video, when was the last time he was blamed for an attempted bombing? When was the last time a news headline even regarding any progress in finding the man? My point is that there is a lot of talk about how the world will change now that Osama is dead, but I think we should just hold our horses for a little while. Getting too excited about his death, reducing security measures and throwing our money around willy-nilly in celebration of his death will surely lead to negative side effects. The last thing we want is for Osama to still be haunting America, even in death.

May 03 2011

India/Pakistan “Cricket Peace Summit”

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Since their division in 1947, India and Pakistan have historically had a very unstable relationship. The two countries have fought three wars and have been trying to establish a peaceful relationship for a very long time, but multiple roadblocks have stood in the way. The two countries have several points they disagree on, including counterterrorism, the drug trade, foreign currency, Kashmir, and Indian dams, among other things.

This marks a significant milestone as it is the first time peace talks will engage since they were interrupted in 2008 by the Mumbai terror attack that killed 160 people. The prime ministers of both countries will be meeting to watch a semi final World Cup cricket match. Cricket has been used frequently in the past as an attempt to heal relations, in 2005 as well as 1987.

Peaceful relations between these two countries is essential. They are both very large and powerful nations and another war between them could be extremely destructive. Both are nuclear capable which adds another dimension to the importance of peace. Pressuring the two countries to resolve their issues has been high in U.S. foreign policy agenda for a long time and US government frequently pressures them to talk. The countries do not expect to resolve much but the gesture is important and is the first step down a potentially very long road to peace.

The situation in Yemen continues to worsen as the U.S. tries to decide how to handle it and what outcome would be the best. Recently an ammo dump taken over by militants on Sunday exploded, killing 141, with a higher death toll expected. The dead were mostly civilians who were ransacking the dump. The situation in Yemen has worsened as more Al Qaeda and militant forces have moved against the reigning government. The president, Saleh, has been trying desperately to hold on to power through the end of his term. He has been in power since 1978 and the people are very unhappy with him, citing high unemployment and corruption within the government. Saleh has conceded to hold parliamentary reelections by the end of the year and has promised not to run in the next election. However opposition is not satisfied with these concessions and claim that he his only trying to buy time and has no intention of giving up power. Saleh has been a strong ally of the U.S. government in anti terrorist movements and a “good working partner.”

The situation has put the U.S. in a curious situation. Although Saleh is clearly not a well loved leader within Yemen, allowing the government to be overthrown may result in a power shift favoring Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and will put Yemen in a situation of turmoil for years to come as they try to establish a new government. The best course of action for the people would simply be to accept the concessions already made as it insures Saleh is on his way out the door.

Feb 21 2011

In Times of Turmoil, We Should Look Home

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We find ourselves slipping from power and having less influence worldwide. We are amid budget crisis and a weakened economy. We have many problems we are facing as a country, and yet we still try to be a major influence around the world. But we just don’t seem to be able to get anything done!

This weekend, President Obama faced some heat for a fairly offhanded remark regarding unions in Wisconsin. “Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions.” The president spoke fairly accurately and with very little conviction, yet his words started a flurry of tweets and news posts regarding his opposition of the Republican party. This simple remark was construed to be a direct assault on the governor of Wisconsin. The story here is of little import- simply politicians being politicians. But that is the very problem that I am attempting to address. How can our president, or any president to follow him, function effectively when even the slightest remark can cause such distress? How can he help Wisconsin in an era where we have such powerful tools of communication in internet news and twitter? More importantly, if such unimportant things can make people so upset, how can we expect him to implement any kind of world policy?

Our government is frozen by politics. And as important as the rapid change in the Middle East and China and everywhere else in the world is, I think we need to focus on fixing our system first before we can start meddling in world politics again. Our president and our government needs to be able to work together to solve our problems home before we can attempt to shape the world around us as we have done so effectively for the past 60 years.