Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Afghan Elections

With about 17 percent of the vote in, the electoral commission has released an unofficial tally--with Karzai leading at 45 percent (but not over the 50 percent barrier to avoid a run-off) and Abdullah at 31 percent.

Let's assume--and keeping in mind that it is a very fluid count plus there are thousands of fraud allegations--that this pattern holds.

Would voters who didn't vote for Karzai in round one cast ballots for him in the run-off, or is Abdullah the beneficiary?

If Abdullah wins, what does this do for U.S. strategy? Further stabilize the north but hinder efforts to gain support among Pashtuns against the Taliban?

Like Bosnia, Afghanistan is a country where one group forms a clear plurality but where this plurality cannot dominate the entire country. If you have a "minority" president and a northern dominated government, does this act as a shot in the arm for the Taliban revival in the guise of protecting the Pashtuns?

Just some speculation.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Claiming Success from the Weather

Piracy was out of the news for while (until the Russian timber ship was hijacked), but as my colleague J. Peter Pham notes, let's not forget that piracy is a climate-driven enterprise. Attacks resume when the weather improves.

And piracy is increasingly a global criminal enterprise, not just a bunch of rag-tag fisherman. As he notes today over at Foreign Policy:
... modern piracy is a sophisticated enterprise; pirates have proven themselves to be highly adaptable. Turkish Rear Adm. Caner Bener, commander of CTF 151, acknowledged last month, "While our ability to deter and disrupt attacks has improved over time, we are constantly adapting the way we do our business as the pirates adapt and modify their tactics."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chicken and Egg

Another part of the "sequencing" debate when it comes to democratization: get leaders in place with electoral legitimacy first (and then with that legitimacy they gain control of the monopoly of force within the state) -- or establish a clear command and control network and then concern yourself with how the commander in chief comes to power?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Russians are Coming?

With Akula subs off the coast, is it time to start re-reading The Hunt for Red October?

Some of my thoughts over at

Monday, August 10, 2009

Guadalajara Summit

One problem when every country in the world is a potential friend, ally and strategic partner of the United States is that it becomes difficult to focus resources on investing in critical countries.

In security terms, we group the United States, Canada and Mexico within the rubric of NORTHCOM--envisioning North America as a single defense community. We hear the rhetoric about cooperation on drugs, crime, immigration and the economy--but it seems that we are still quite ambivalent about pursuing closer North American integration. (On a side note, we Americans critize the Europeans for their unwillingness to expand the EU to Turkey and Ukraine--but their reasons and concerns are similar to ours regarding Mexico, it seems).

So I see statements coming from this summit but don't know to what extent the Western Hemisphere is at the top of the administration's priorities.

Monday, August 03, 2009

King Abdullah's Questions

Some things that the Saudi monarch wants to know about U.S. policy toward Iran (from the report by Roger Cohen):

What is your goal? What will you do if this does not work? What will you do if the Chinese and the Russians are not with you? How will you deal with Iran’s nuclear program if there is not a united response?

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