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Old 12-10-2010, 04:47 PM   #481
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Bill Clinton Holds Court in Impromptu White House News Conference By MICHAEL D. SHEAR Jim Young/Reuters

President Obama with former President Bill Clinton spoke with members of the media during a news conference at the White House on Friday. Former President Bill Clinton held a remarkable, spur-of-the-moment news conference at a White House podium on Friday to announce his backing for the tax compromise President Obama reached with Republicans this week.
Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama turned up in the White House briefing room after meeting privately together in the Oval Office. Mr. Obama introduced the 42nd president and then stood by as the one-time occupant of the White House offered his thoughts.
“I have reviewed this agreement that the president reached with the republican leaders,” Mr. Clinton told reporters who assembled quickly for the hastily called remarks. “The agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the most Americans.”
The image on the television screen – of Mr. Clinton at the White House, behind the official podium – had a time-warp quality to it.
The president stood by Mr. Clinton’s side for several minutes as Mr. Clinton held court in front of the White House logo that often hovered behind him a decade ago.
But after Mr. Clinton began taking questions, the current president excused himself, saying that his wife, Michelle, expected Mr. Obama’s presence at one of the many holiday parties that presidents host during the month of December.
“I’ve been keeping the first lady waiting,” Mr. Obama said, excusing himself.
“I don’t want to make her mad,” Mr. Clinton said. “Please go.”
And with that, Mr. Obama departed, leaving Mr. Clinton to continue his extended conversation with the media. The image on the television screen – of Mr. Clinton at the White House, behind the official podium – had a time-warp quality to it.
The decision to ask Mr. Clinton to the White House, and then to have him make a public statement, reflects the desire by the White House to counter the anger among liberal Democrats, who have accused Mr. Obama of caving too quickly on the tax deal.
For the past several days, the White House has been touting the support of numerous Democrats, from the mayor of Kokomo, Ind., to numerous governors and senators. But Mr. Clinton is clearly the biggest gun in that arsenal that Mr. Obama could deploy.
“In my opinion, this is a good bill and I hope that my fellow Democrats will support it,” Mr. Clinton said. “We all see this differently. But I really believe this will be a significant net plus for the country.”
Mr. Clinton went on for at least twenty minutes, moving at one point beyond the tax debate and offering his opinion on the administration’s new arms control treaty with Russia and the ongoing crisis in Haiti.
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Old 12-10-2010, 11:53 PM   #482
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agreed -- this is an interesting development. King Tea Bag Sen. Jim DeMint mentioned this earlier in the week on a conservative radio show, and it remains to be seen how well McConnell and Co. can slap them into line -- DeMint knows that dissatisfaction with the GOP is very high as well, and much of the GOP victories in the House (though they appeared to underperform slightly in the Senate) had more to do with anti-incumbancy than the feeling that Boehner and McConnell were great guys.

in a way, i like this. it shows that elements of the GOP feel screwed by parts of "the deal," and this could be ominous for Congress next year when the GOP takes over.
Indeed. I had a feeling this would come back to bite the GOP in the butt down the line. The Republicans had no actual platform to run on, other than attacking Obama, so now they have to live up to that "We're better than Obama" rhetoric. They can't say "No" to everything forever.

That article you shared was fascinating, too. More proof to my theory that there is a method to Obama's seeming madness.

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Old 12-11-2010, 10:17 AM   #483
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it has been quite a week, and a bad one, too. we will see what the new ratings are, but his overall approval/disapproval numbers have been improving slowly but surely (and are ahead of where Reagan and Clinton were at this time).
New ratings bolster what I've been saying:

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President Barack Obama's approval ratings have sunk to the lowest level of his presidency, so low that he'd lose the White House to Republican Mitt Romney if the election were held today, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

The biggest reason for Obama's fall: a sharp drop in approval among Democrats and liberals, apparently unhappy with his moves toward the center since he led the party to landslide losses in November's midterm elections. At the same time, he's gained nothing among independents.


The lack of gains among independents is really concerning, but I have always believed that you're not going to get independents by shamelessly catering to some imaginary centre. You are then perceived to believe in nothing except fence-sitting.

We have miles go to before the election, but any Obama supporter who doesn't find this extremely worrying and who continues to write off his base and mock them as anti-pragmatic purist kooks does it at their own peril.
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Old 12-11-2010, 04:18 PM   #484
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you had several major pundits, after some teeth gnashing, come to generally accept his tax deal as the best option possible.
It's also important that just as many major economists have either rejected his deal outright (Galbraith, Robert Reich), generally speaking (Krugman) or initially accepted but since changed their minds (Baker).

My point here has not been that Obama is horrific or should be primaried, or anything. But just that there are sound economic reasons for why this is a terrible deal in addition to there being political reasons for it being a terrible deal. It seems like there is a segment of Democrats who would rather promote pragmatism than good, solid legislative measures. And I really find there to be fundamental problems with this proposed bill, in its current form.
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Old 12-11-2010, 06:18 PM   #485
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And I really find there to be fundamental problems with this proposed bill, in its current form.
I do too, but I won't be horribly upset if it goes through.
I am and will be upset if there is not a 24/7 push to show how the Republicans don't truly care about the deficit/debt, how they do care about the ultra-rich and how tax breaks for the wealthy DON'T equate to job creation.

Obama will get past this regardless of the outcome. This stinky piece of legislation will not make or break 2012 for him.
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Old 12-14-2010, 09:15 AM   #486
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Huffington Post



Mike Huckabee recently criticized President Obama for what the former Arkansas Governor and potential GOP presidential candidate characterized as "amateurish" behavior last week in his press conference announcing the deal he had reached with Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts.

"The most bizarre part of the whole process was watching President Obama self-destruct at the podium," Huckabee told the National Journal in a recent interview. "I was just stunned -- I really couldn't believe that a man that was elected president was as amateurish as he was, and essentially launched from the podium at some of his own, taking aim and mowing down everybody in D.C. and walking away having not understood that he just lost a lot of people."

At the briefing last week, President Obama castigated both Republican "hostage takers," whom he said had been willing to place the economic interests of the wealthiest Americans above those of the middle class and unemployed, as well as "purist" Democrats, whom he said would have preferred him to make a more ideological -- and in his view unrealistic -- stand on the issue.

Huckabee's analysis of Obama's tax cut deal, which most notably would allow the wealthiest two percent of income earners in the United States to keep their current tax rates for the next two years in return for a 13-month reauthorization of unemployment benefits, reached beyond insulting the president's conduct, however.

"I was shocked it was going to be two not three [years], because it puts this whole thing in the very center, the bull's-eye of the 2012 presidential election," Huckabee said. "It doesn't have it resolved."

Which could be exactly the way Huckabee wants it if he is planning to run against Obama in 2012, a possibility that he told the National Journal he was still weighing.
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Old 12-14-2010, 09:37 AM   #487
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Washington Post-ABC News poll finds broad bipartisan support for tax package

By Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 13, 2010; 1:06 PM

About seven in 10 Americans back the tax deal negotiated last week by President Obama and congressional Republicans, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The high bipartisan support for the package masks more tepid public approval for some of the main components of the agreement that comes before a key Senate vote Monday afternoon.

A slender 11 percent of those polled back all four of the deal's primary tax provisions: an across-the-board extension of Bush-era tax cuts, additional jobless benefits, a payroll tax holiday and a $5 million threshold for inheritance taxes. Just 38 percent support even two of the components.

But put all four items together, and 69 percent of all Americans support the package. Large majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike favor the agreement, which has drawn stiff opposition from some Democrats in the House. In the poll, 69 percent of liberal Democrats support the agreement, which Obama has called a framework for legislation.

Even when primary objections to the pact are mentioned - that it would add about $900 billion to the federal budget deficit and that it extends tax breaks to the wealthy - 62 percent of all those polled support the package.

Broad public support for the agreement comes despite only modest expectations that the tax cuts will help lift the struggling national economy. About twice as many see the deal as making things better than see it hurting the economy over the next year or two (36 vs. 17 percent), but just 9 percent think the package will improve things a "great deal." Nearly half say the tax cuts won't make much of a difference or express no opinion on the question.

Overall, expectations for the deal are similar to assessments of the effect of the 2009 stimulus. But unlike public opinion on that Democratic initiative, both support for and skepticism about the new tax agreement cross party lines.

In previous polling, many Democrats, but few Republicans, said the stimulus package helped the economy. By contrast, 39 percent of Democrats, 36 percent of independents and 34 percent of Republicans say they think the tax agreement will help the nation's economy.

Broad bipartisan support for the tax deal also stands in contrast to the strong partisan disagreements that marked the battle over the health care overhaul.

In the current tax package, majorities of Democrats and Republicans support a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. Support for the tax exemption on inheritances to $5 million also tops 50 percent among Republicans (60 percent) and Democrats (52 percent).

Majorities across party lines also oppose the provision on cutting the payroll tax for Social Security by two percentage points for most workers. The reluctance to back this specific tax cut may stem in part from a general resistance to any changes to the popular social insurance safety net.

Some 54 percent of all Americans support an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for all taxpayers, including wealthy people and the middle class. It's this provision that generates the biggest partisan gap: 85 percent of Republicans say these tax cuts should be continued for all taxpayers; 38 percent of Democrats (31 percent of liberal Democrats) agree. Among independents, 49 percent back the full extension; 46 percent oppose it.

The mixed support for individual elements of the overall tax agreement adds up to somewhat soft support for package. A large majority backs the idea, but "strong support" registers at 20 percent, "somewhat support" at 49 percent.

The telephone poll was conducted Dec. 9 to 12 among 1,001 randomly selected adults. Results from the full poll have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

what the Dems need to do is trumpet the extension of unemployment benefits, without which there would be widespread devastation while at the same time blaming Republicans for being unserious about debt reduction because of their insistence upon tax cuts for the wealthy that are about as expensive as Stimulus 1. the GOP demonstrated their contempt for the middle class by threatening to cut them off in an economy with almost 10% unemployment in order to give tax cuts to billionaires. frame it that way.

now, let's DADT repealed before the break -- difficult, but not impossible -- and make progressives like me happy.
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Old 12-14-2010, 10:04 AM   #488
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I guess they added a few things to the bill to try and get more support. I know one of them involves a tuition assistance benefit that allows employers to reimburse tuition tax-free up to a certain amount.

On a selfish level, I'm hoping that helps it pass, because if that bit doesn't get extended, it's going to suck, work-wise.
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Old 12-14-2010, 10:42 AM   #489
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At the briefing last week, President Obama castigated both Republican "hostage takers," whom he said had been willing to place the economic interests of the wealthiest Americans above those of the middle class and unemployed
I know Huckabee wants to defend his Republican friends, but what exactly did Obama say that was wrong there? The Republicans DID play the part of hostage takers. They knew full well the Democrats wanted to extend unemployment, and used that to get what they wanted. And it's not exactly a secret they've been concerned about the thought of their millionaire, billionaire, whateveraire friends getting their taxes raised-you can turn on the news and hear them crying and whining about that on a weekly basis. I'm glad he called them out on their behavior, I wish he and the Democrats would do that a lot more often in a lot tougher a manner.

Irvine, as usual, hit the nail on the head:

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what the Dems need to do is trumpet the extension of unemployment benefits, without which there would be widespread devastation while at the same time blaming Republicans for being unserious about debt reduction because of their insistence upon tax cuts for the wealthy that are about as expensive as Stimulus 1. the GOP demonstrated their contempt for the middle class by threatening to cut them off in an economy with almost 10% unemployment in order to give tax cuts to billionaires. frame it that way.

now, let's DADT repealed before the break -- difficult, but not impossible -- and make progressives like me happy.
Well said . I'd be totally fine with this scenario. The question now is, will this happen?

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Old 12-16-2010, 04:10 PM   #490
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don't look now, but Obama is setting up delivery on another campaign promise, however messy and imperfect and possibly hasty and not at all total withdrawal is going to be:



Obama: U.S. 'On Track' In Afghanistan : NPR
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Old 12-16-2010, 07:45 PM   #491
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They can achieve no real progress through tactical victories in Afghanistan if their opponents can retreat unimpeded across the border. But the review offers little in the way of concrete suggestions in addressing this issue, beyond looking for "greater cooperation with Pakistan."

The review is also largely silent both on the sometimes troubled relationship between the U.S. and the Afghan government—as well as Afghanistan's underlying problems with weak central governance and corruption.
Not really much to cheer about there.
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Old 12-16-2010, 08:26 PM   #492
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Not really much to cheer about there.


but it provides the political pretext for beginning withdrawal in July of next year.
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Old 12-16-2010, 08:56 PM   #493
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I think you mean the political reality...the pretext will be that the Afghan security forces are coming along swimmingly and that Gen. Kayani Lt. Pasha Pres. Zardari is in control of the situation in Waziristan, as demonstrated by [token list of recent strikes].
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Old 12-17-2010, 12:03 AM   #494
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don't look now, but Obama is setting up delivery on another campaign promise, however messy and imperfect and possibly hasty and not at all total withdrawal is going to be:



Obama: U.S. 'On Track' In Afghanistan : NPR
Well, the campaign promises on the wars by Obama went like this: withdraw and bring the war in Iraq to an end and win the war in Afghanistan. I don't think Obama ever used the word withdrawal when discussing Afghanistan while running for President and he certainly did not make it a campaign promise.

If the President is smart, he is not going to simply withdraw troops to satisfy some domestic group back home.

In any event, there is now the possibility that US troops may be in Iraq beyond the end of 2011, so given how much worse the situation is in Afghanistan, we'll probably still be talking about US troops there 5 to 10 years from now.
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Old 12-17-2010, 07:26 AM   #495
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Well, the campaign promises on the wars by Obama went like this: withdraw and bring the war in Iraq to an end and win the war in Afghanistan. I don't think Obama ever used the word withdrawal when discussing Afghanistan while running for President and he certainly did not make it a campaign promise.

If the President is smart, he is not going to simply withdraw troops to satisfy some domestic group back home.

In any event, there is now the possibility that US troops may be in Iraq beyond the end of 2011, so given how much worse the situation is in Afghanistan, we'll probably still be talking about US troops there 5 to 10 years from now.
5 to 10 years from now, we'll be talking Pakistan. I think that is inevitable.
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Old 12-17-2010, 04:27 PM   #496
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5 to 10 years from now, we'll be talking Pakistan. I think that is inevitable.
That's what every South Asianist is afraid of. Pakistan is still wagering that by providing qualified support for the Taliban on Afghanistan (and unqualified support for Taliban allies in Kashmir), they can keep enough of its support base happy to avoid all-out war on Islamabad. If they miscalculate... And even then, there's the question of how the US would react if/when we withdraw and Afghanistan collapses back into civil war.
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Old 12-17-2010, 06:07 PM   #497
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That's what every South Asianist is afraid of. Pakistan is still wagering that by providing qualified support for the Taliban on Afghanistan (and unqualified support for Taliban allies in Kashmir), they can keep enough of its support base happy to avoid all-out war on Islamabad. If they miscalculate... And even then, there's the question of how the US would react if/when we withdraw and Afghanistan collapses back into civil war.
I wish people knew more about Pakistan, but that's asking a lot.

I think a basic rule of society should be that you can't support a war in a country unless you can find it on a map, nevermind knowing its population, main business and exports, basic history, etc.
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Old 12-17-2010, 06:49 PM   #498
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I wish people knew more about Pakistan, but that's asking a lot.

I think a basic rule of society should be that you can't support a war in a country unless you can find it on a map, nevermind knowing its population, main business and exports, basic history, etc.
I agree with this 110% .

That is indeed a scary balancing act Pakistan is doing there. I can't even imagine the tension the people living there must feel on a daily basis. How they interact with us in the midst of all that will be telling, too. That's the problem so many countries over there encounter-they're torn between their support of the leaders of those areas and their support of us, because we're just as integral to their structure as anyone else. Whether or not one sees that as a good or bad thing is debatable, of course-so far, it looks mostly like the latter to me, 'cause we're not exactly helping the situation.

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Old 12-17-2010, 09:14 PM   #499
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I should really bump the Afghanistan thread for this, but since we're already discussing the topic here...

New York Times, Dec. 17
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The Central Intelligence Agency’s top clandestine officer in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, was removed from the country on Thursday amid an escalating war of recriminations between American and Pakistani spies, with some American officials convinced that the officer’s cover was deliberately blown by Pakistan’s military intelligence agency. The American spy’s hurried departure is the latest evidence of mounting tensions between two uneasy allies, with the Obama administration’s strategy for ending the war in Afghanistan hinging on Pakistan’s cooperation in the hunt for militants in the mountains that border those two countries. The tensions could intensify in the coming months with the prospect of more American pressure on Pakistan.

As the cloak-and-dagger drama was playing out in Islamabad, 100 miles to the west the CIA was expanding its covert war using armed drones against militants. Since Thursday, CIA missile strikes have killed dozens of suspects in Khyber Agency, a part of the tribal areas in Pakistan that the spy agency had largely spared until now because of its proximity to the sprawling market city of Peshawar.

American officials said the CIA station chief had received a number of death threats since being publicly identified in a legal complaint sent to the Pakistani police this week by the family of victims of earlier drone campaigns. The American officials said they strongly suspected that operatives of Pakistan’s powerful spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, had a hand in revealing the CIA officer’s identity—possibly in retaliation for a civil lawsuit filed in Brooklyn last month implicating the ISI chief in the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, did not immediately provide details to support their suspicions.

The mistrust between the CIA and ISI, two uneasy but co-dependent allies, could hardly come at a worse time. The Obama administration’s Afghan war strategy depends on greater cooperation from Pakistan to hunt militants in the country’s western mountains, and yet if Pakistan considers Washington’s demands excessive, it could order an end to the CIA drone campaign. “We will continue to help strengthen Pakistani capacity to root out terrorists,” President Obama said Thursday in a briefing on the war strategy. “Nevertheless, progress has not come fast enough. So we will continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders must be dealt with.”

The job of the CIA station chief in Islamabad is perhaps the spy agency’s most important overseas post, one that requires helping oversee the agency’s covert war and massaging its often testy relationship with the ISI. That relationship has often frayed in recent years. American officials believe that ISI officers helped plan the deadly July 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, as well as provided support to Lashkar-e-Taiba militants who carried out the Mumbai attacks later that year.

The lawsuit filed in Brooklyn last month, brought by families of American victims of the Mumbai attacks, names the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, as being complicit in the attacks. The suit asserts that General Pasha and other ISI officers were “purposefully engaged in the direct provision of material support or resources” to the planners of the Mumbai attacks. A senior Pakistani official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the Pakistani government “believes that the suit in New York does not have a sound legal basis, and is based on conjecture...We did not need to retaliate,” he said. “As far as the government of Pakistan and the ISI are concerned, we look forward to working with the Americans in securing the world from transnational threats, especially the shared threat of terrorism.”

...The C.I.A. officer’s name was revealed last month in a news conference by Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the lawyer who filed the complaint this week. Soon afterward, the name began appearing on a number of Pakistani Web sites generally believed to have a close association with the ISI. One Web site mentioned the CIA officer on Dec. 14 and asked readers to track down pictures of him...Mr. Akbar, the lawyer who brought the case against the CIA, said it would continue despite the station chief’s absence. He is representing Kareem Khan, a resident of North Waziristan who said that his son and brother were killed in a drone strike.

A vast majority of CIA drone strikes in the tribal areas have occurred in North Waziristan. Mr. Khan is seeking $500 million in compensation, and accusing the CIA officer of running a clandestine spying operation out of the United States Embassy in Islamabad. “My brother and son were innocent,” Mr. Khan said in a recent interview. “There were no Taliban hiding in my house.”

...Discussing the conclusions of the latest review of the Afghan war strategy, Obama administration officials said this week that the United States would be more aggressive in going after militants in the tribal areas—with or without Pakistan’s help.
The public response in Pakistan to the US drone strikes--and the CIA presence everyone knows accompanies them--ought to give supporters of the "less confrontational" targeted strikes/black ops "alternative" pause. Letting the US stomp AQ associates outraged Waziris the Afghan Taliban is not in Pakistan's strategic interest, nor is letting Pakistan keep the Afghan Taliban primed for future use against India the Northern Alliance Kabul in the US's strategic interest...it's an impossible situation. You could argue that since all the above actually have to live there whereas we don't, their interests must take priority even if that means (once again) betraying part of that 'their'; but even then, that leaves the unnerving question of whether Lt. Pasha will still be able to keep his ducks lined up in light of the divided loyalties this latest round of provocations has exposed.
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I wish people knew more about Pakistan, but that's asking a lot.

I think a basic rule of society should be that you can't support a war in a country unless you can find it on a map, nevermind knowing its population, main business and exports, basic history, etc.
Haha, I agree. Though even among the relatively well-informed, there are limits to what can be foreseen (and in any case, more knowledge doesn't always mean better judgment). I know several Afghanistan and Pakistan experts who supported this war, and those who didn't aren't muttering "God, it's all so predictable" too often--I think because what's unfolded has led most all to acknowledge that s/he seriously underestimated, overestimated, or failed to grasp all the components of some aspect or another of this conflict and the parties to it. The structure and inner workings of the ISI have always been exceedingly murky, for instance--and that remains true, but I think most would say they underestimated the full extent and nature of its strategic investment in the Taliban, even though the general fact and origins of that investment were well-known.
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Old 12-18-2010, 11:04 AM   #500
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Prior to 1994, the Taliban did not exist. So its obviously incorrect that Pakistan has a strategic interest in keeping the Taliban alive. They managed just fine before they existed, plus now Pakistan has nuclear weapons to deter an invasion from India or elsewhere. The Taliban have primarily brought instability to both Pakistan and Afghanistan which is not in the long term interest of any ruling government in Pakistan. Its about time that the government and military remove any elements that continue to support this disease.
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