Wades Into More Imperial Outposts
let's see. The Brits have declared "Operation Snipe" (if nothing else
you have to acknowledge a certain understated Brit sense of humor there), the
latest two-week effort to round up al Qaida remnants, to be successfully completed.
From the news reports there's little evidence that the operation accomplished
much of anything, but it engaged a few troops for a while.
all the news from the Middle East, it has almost begun to escape public attention
that there are still about 7,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan – and
that they may well be in more imminent danger, of a relatively low level but constant
– than was the case when the Afghanistan incursion began.
you occasionally hear a call from some writer for the Weekly Standard or National
Review call for beefing up the U.S. presence to something more like 50,000 troops
so we can whip the place into line and set it up like a proper colony or dependency,
but to an almost surprising extent the commitment in Afghanistan has become more
background noise than front-page news. Many Americans probably think that with
the capture of Kabul the war has been won. Most of the media, who don't seem to
be able to handle more than one war at a time, are turning elsewhere.
those 7,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, however, the commitment is very tangible,
and quite possibly more stressful and dangerous than in the early stages of the
war. As we remember occasionally, Osama bin Laden is still at large and, most
experts seem to think, still alive and perhaps capable of creating future mischief.
current U.S. mission, according
to the New York Times, is to continue search-and-destroy missions against
al Qaida and Taliban forces who have dispersed into mountains along the Afghan-Pakistani
border. They'll be working both sides of the border, sometimes in cooperation
with Pakistani forces. As the Times notes, "The operation also carries considerable
risks: of suffering American casualties, of mistakenly attacking the wrong people,
of being misled by faulty intelligence and of inflaming local hostility to foreigners
on Afghan soil."
when asked, U.S. officials say the American troops will be operating along the
border at least into the fall. Although most of the U.S. troops remain in Kabul,
some are committed to the mountain-border campaign and still others are spreading
out to maintain contact with Northern Alliance commanders who have become regional
warlords. A three-star general has just replaced a two-star as commander of ground
operations in Afghanistan, which suggests that the Army is preparing for a long-term
interesting thing is how much all this activity has become simply background noise
for most Americans. The imperial troopers are in another country. So long as there
aren't a lot of body bags being heavily covered by the media, it's just part of
the global mission.
have troops in the Philippines now. Yawn. They're going after something called
Abu Sayyaf or something that might or might not have a current connection to al
Qaida. No body bags yet, so no problem.
we have fairly active operations going on in Yemen and maybe in Somalia, all in
addition to active military bases in Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Okinawa.
The global reach of the United States knows few bounds.
UP SOUTH ASIA
should probably occasion little surprise then – although one might wish that it
occasioned a moment or two of dismay – that the United States is busily involving
itself in a trio of long-running conflicts in South Asia. As Scott Baldauf reported
recently for the Christian Science Monitor, the United States is meddling
in Sri Lanka, the island formerly known as Ceylon, in the Indian states of Jammu
and Kashmir, and in Nepal.
Sri Lanka, the United States has decided to back a Norwegian-brokered cease-fire
that is now in its fourth shaky month between ethnic Tamil guerrillas and the
ruling government. However in the last few weeks there has been evidence that
the Tamil Tigers have been using the cease-fire to rearm themselves. Three weeks
or so ago the Sri Lankan Navy captured three boats packed with heavy weapons destined
for the northern Tamil stronghold. The Sri Lankan military is also beefing up
United States has sent emissaries to the Tamil regions to warn the guerrillas
that it really doesn't approve of the rebellion. If the rebellion returns to an
active military phase, however, the United States might find itself drawn ever
further into a conflict that has been going on for some 23 years.
we're the Sole Superpower and presumably we can handle it.
the Himalayan region of Kashmir, tenuously ruled by India but riven by independence
movements that may or may not be backed by Pakistan, is in a relatively quiescent
phase but could flare up again. Last October an attack by Kashmiri militants killed
40 people in the summer capital of Srinigar. In December Kashmiri guerrillas attacked
the Indian parliament in New Delhi.
incidents came rather close to bringing India and Pakistan – never the best of
neighbors and both now armed with nuclear weapons – to the brink of war. About
a million Indian and Pakistani troops are still on a virtual wartime footing along
the Indian-Pakistani cease-fire line.
to create something resembling real peace rather than a stand-off have failed
repeatedly, and the region has seen conflict off and on since 1947. But U.S. diplomats
are said to be stepping up efforts to bring about – some would say impose – a
settlement in the region. Again, if conflict flares up the United States could
be drawn in more deeply. The U.S. has decided it really wants Pakistan involved
in the putative war on terror, but the government is not exactly stable or democratic,
and things could get touchy.
the most dangerous and the most difficult-to-resolve dispute into which the United
States has decided it simply must insert itself is in Nepal, the Hindu Himalayan
kingdom where a brutal Maoist insurgency launched in 1996 has led to the deaths
of some 3,500 Nepalese, most of them civilians.
hit the news last June when the crown prince massacred King Birenda and much of
his family. After a three-month cease-fire the insurgents stepped up the violence.
The Royal Nepalese Army is something of a joke and the guerrillas seem to be better
organized than ever. The new king declared a state of emergency last November,
which gives the government (and especially the army) sweeping powers. The violence
has scared away tourists, who are an important part of the country's economy in
more normal times.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has been traveling – to Washington a week ago
and to Great Britain – and the Bush administration is ready to provide a $20 million
military aid package for the Nepalese government. The rebels may or may not have
a cease-fire. The situation is fluid – or in other words, extremely dangerous.
Kanti Bajpal, a security analyst at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi told
Christian Science Monitor Scott Baldauf, "All these conflicts have a common
feature of not being at an end. Everyone is split and in doubt; everyone is waiting
for everyone else to make the first move."
like wonderful places to demonstrate the ability of the Sole Superpower to bring
order out of chaos no matter the difficulties.
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