December 2008 Archives

I watched two movies yesterday, one on pay per view and one that my wife got me for Christmas. The pay per view movie was The Dark Knight. It was action-packed with cool special effects. The underlying theme was the question, what does it take for a good person to do bad things, even when the bad things have some good benefit to society?

The other movie was Fail-Safe. It is an old black and white movie dealing with the perpetual issue of the cold war, what happens if weapons of mass destruction are used accidentally. The special effects in this move were, well, zero.

Which do I prefer? Fail Safe of course. It seems the old black and white movies are, for the most part, better than the new movies. I realize that there are plenty of bad black and white movies, but there also seem to be more good ones. I also enjoyed watching It's A Wonderful Life over the holidays as well. In the old movies there were not stunning special effects which means the strength of the movie had to lie in its script, its theme, and its acting--especially its acting.

"Colleges, Offices Scrap Landlines," by Greg Latshaw. USA Today, Tuesday, 30 December 2008.

Colleges elsewhere may be going to cell phones, but not in Mississippi. Our legislature is afraid that there might be some "personal benefit" from having cell phones. The article does point out that there is a tax law that makes accounting for personal and business use of the phone cumbersome but that can be easily solved by the Congress.

Currently I have a landline in my office and a personal cell phone. I oftentimes use my personal cell phone rather than the landline because it is less expensive and easier. If I need to call students, even they may be just down the hall, I have to dial the number, enter my PIN for long-distance calls, and then verify each month that the calls were business related. Not only are landlines cumbersome, we do not even have decent calling plans with them.

"As if Things Weren't Bad Enough, Russian Professor Predicts End of U.S.," by Andrew Osborn. Wall Street Journal, Vol. CCLII, No. 152, Monday, 29 December 2008, p. A1.

Igor Panarin, a Russian professor predicts that the US will suffer a civil war and split into several parts in 2010. The dollar will collapse and "an economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S." The U.S. will become the California Republic, the Central North American Republic, the Atlantic America, and the Texas Republic. Alaska will go back to Russia and Hawaii will go to China or Japan.

The theory is getting some attention with the Russian press and, as the article says, it indicates the level of anti-Americanism in Russia. It also shows how little they understand about the U.S.

"Wal-Mart to Sell iPhone Near Full Price," by Mary Ellen Lloyd and Ben Charny. Wall Street Journal, Vol. CCLII, No. 151, p. B5, Saturday/Sunday 27-28 December 2008.

Wal-Mart was supposed to have started selling iPhones yesterday but I have not braved a Wal-Mart to check. The interesting thing is that they will only be discounted a few dollars: $2 off is the standard discount but the Wal-Mart price-matching policy may allow slightly greater discounts given Best Buy sells them at a $10 discount.

Given the way Wal-Mart--full speed ahead and take no prisoners, how long will it be before they want to ditch AT&T (you still have to have the 2 year contract with AT&T) and start their own cellular service?

"State Face New Imperative: Turn to Global, Entrepreneurial and Innovation-based 'New Economy' to Boost Competitiveness," PA Times, Vol 31, No. 12, p. 1, December 2008 (American Society for Public Administration)

I was disappointed, but not surprised, to find that Mississippi was ranked at the bottom of this list along with West Virginia. The 2008 State New Economy index is compiled and released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation as a measure not of how a state's economy is performing but rather how they are embracing the new economy. It focuses on a single, narrow question: "To what degree does the structure of state economies match the ideal structure of the New Economy?"

One of the key factors driving the New Economy is the information technology revolution which is measured by the index. The states at the top of the list tend to be states with "a high concentration of managers, professionals and college-educated residents working in 'knowledge jobs'--those that require at least a two-year degree." Obviously the vast majority of this state fails to meet these criteria. Other states such as North Carolina are ranked lower than expected (25th), according to the article, due their concentrations of high-tech. In a sense that is also true of Mississippi. Our high-tech areas are concentrated and, while they are as high tech as any, they represent a small percentage of the population.

The concern is not so much where Mississippi is ranked now but the fact that Mississippi led the way in states that declined in their performance from the last survey in 2007. While 36 improved, 11 declined. Mississippi fell "in twice as many indicators as it increased, while Wyoming and Indiana also fell." Given this is the "New Economy" it is not going to go away so every state should be getting better, not worse. Mississippi has, in my opinion, focused far too long on the old economy (attracting automobile fabricators and their associated support industries, rather than focusing on the high-tech, new economy. This is not true in all of the state; the area around Mississippi State for example, has seen some high-tech industries develop. But it represents a small portion of the state.

To turn things around the elected officials in Jackson are going to have to change the way they think and focus on long-term goals. That is difficult for a state in which I have repeatedly heard elected officials say they did not want to tie the hands of those to be elected in the future. That kind of backwards thinking limits how progressive a state can be when long-term strategic planning needs to be done.

Reading Habits of President Bush

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"Bush Is a Book Lover," by Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal, Friday, 26 December 2008, Vol. CCLII, No. 150, p. A11.

This is an insightful article into the reading habits of our president. What began as a New Year's resolution in 2006, to read a book a week, became a competition between Karl Rove and President Bush. Rove, like many of us, had gotten out of the habit of reading as much as he used to and decided to turn things around. President Bush joined in and it was soon a competition. Rove has won each year but that is not important, what is important is that if someone as busy as the President of the United States still finds time to read, it makes it difficult for most of us to say we do not have the time to read.

The scores: 2006 Rove 110, Bush 95; 2007 Rove 76, Bush 51; 2008 (as of today) Rove 64, Bush 40. The President has also read the Holy Bible cover to cover each year through his daily devotional. The books have ranged from history to biography and even included some fiction.

Some points I found interesting in the article are on Bush's theory of competition. Rove states:

"The reading competition reveal Mr. Bush's focus on goals. It's not about the winning. A good-natured competition helps keep him centered and makes possible a clear mind and a high level of energy."

"There is a myth perpetuated by Bush critics that he would rather burn a book than read one. Like so many caricatures of the past eight years, this one is not only wrong, but also the opposite of truth and evidence that bitterness can devour a small-minded critic. Mr. Bush loves books, learns from them, and is intellectually engaged by them."

According to Rove, the President is never without a book. He reads instead of watching television and reads on Air Force One. To read as much as he does, he obviously reads most anywhere he can. It reminds me of a story I read about William F. Buckley a few years ago that pointed out he always had a book with him. I also always have a book with me. You never know when the car might break down or you might have some time to yourself. When I know I am going somewhere that will require a wait (the doctor, the dentist, to get a haircut) I always take my own book. It is nice to have magazines in a waiting area but I prefer to take my own books.

I'm not much for New Year's resolutions but this year I may have to break my tradition.

"Military Finds an Unlikely Adviser In School-Building Humanitarian," by Yochi J. Dreazen. Wall Street Journal, Friday 26 December 2008, Vol CCLII, No. 150, p. A9.

The military is listening to Greg Mortenson a co-author of Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time. Mr. Mortenson is being courted by the military now for advice on nation building. He believes that building schools is an effective way to fight Islamic extremism. He has already visited with Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen.

"General Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, read Mr. Mortenson's book, which recounts his school-building efforts, and recommends it to his staff." Nation-building, something once abhorred by the military has now become a part of the military strategy. People like General Petraeus are, I believe, responsible for much of this. In the past he military was quick to divide fighting wars and rebuilding following the war. The military did the former, NGOs, aka civilians, did the latter, but in the new age of warfare it is more difficult to divide these two phases, especially when fighting an insurgency where winning hearts and minds is critical to winning the war.

"Education is the long-term solution to fanaticism,: says Col. Christopher Kolenda, who commanded an Army brigade in a part of eastern Afghanistan where Mr. Mortenson founded two schools. "As Greg points out so well, ignorance breeds hatred and violence."

This seems so obvious but many of us tend to miss the obvious. Not only does "ignorance breeds hatred and violence" apply to Islamic insurgents; it applies to people across the world. When you look at those who are the most racist, the most protectionist, and most violent also tend to be the most ignorant. Let's face it, when was the last time you read about a gang of Ph.D.s terrorizing a neighborhood?

Mr. Mortenson has come face-to-face with an issue that concerns me and one I have been looking into for several years--the military-NGO incompatibility. When offered to have $2.2 million secretly funneled to him to build schools, he "...realized my credibility in that part of the world depended on me not being associated with the American government, especially its military." This is a sad yet real part of the world in which we live. NGOs and the military could do great things by working together but there are serious issues which must be overcome and the most serious issue is the one of perception.

Mr. Mortenson has another book coming out in January. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Journey to Change the World... One Child at a Time, scheduled to be released on 22 January 2009 is geared for younger readers. If his first book is recommended reading by General Petraeus to his staff, surely this one will be recommended to the children of his staff.


Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

"Avoiding the Ax: Where the Jobs Are," by Sarah E. Needlemn, Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, 23 December 2008, Vol.CCLII, No. 148 p. D1.

Good news for engineering. According to the article, engineering is always in demand and now the fields of" environmental, biomedical, civil, aerospace and industrial" will be in even greater demand. The stimulus proposed by the next administration, according to the article, is also likely to increase even the further demand for engineers given the stimulus is to be focused on improving infrastructure.

Some companies are looking to not only fill vacancies but to increase the number of engineering position they have. Among those looking to expand is SRI International, a company I collaborated with on a proposal many years ago. SRI "specializes in engineering, public policy, life science and technology research."

I caution that this information should not be used to make a career choice. I am often asked what fields of engineering are most in demand and I respond the ones with the most students. Right now I would say the biomedical engineering is one of the smaller fields but if the field grows tremendously then the number of students will increase to fill the jobs. Free market principles apply to jobs and college majors just as they do to the economy.

A Really Nice Christmas

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As is now our tradition, we stayed home for Christmas and enjoyed it for the most part. I am sad in that this is the last my daughter will be with us before she gets married next year. So, we made the best of it. We opened gifts when we woke up and I had a great time--I always enjoy giving presents more than receiving them. Kathryn was tickled with her pink GPS (Garmin nuvi 250 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator (Pink)). No need to ask about technical specifications, accuracy, or availability of up-to-date maps, what is important is that it is PINK!

Sara made steak and eggs for breakfast which was really good. We ate together and talked. Nice change of pace. Later in the day, as everyone grew lazy, I started cleaning out some desk drawers--something I usually do over the holidays but missed last year. I got rid of a lot of junk and got most everything organized for the new year.

As for my gifts, Sara took a stab at my Amazon wish list and got me War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today by Max Boot, The Past as Prologue: The Importance of History to the Military Profession edited by Williamson Murray and Richard Hart Sinnreich, and two DVDs--Fail-safe (Special Edition) with Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau and A&Es Biography - Admiral William . Sara and Kathryn also "gave" me The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Standard Edition by J. K. Rowling. I say "gave" because I picked up three copies while on a trip and gave one to each of them and they "gave" one to me.

When it Rains, It Pours

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When it rains it pours--literally. My daughter was visiting her fiancé's parents over the last two days and was ready to come home today. Her car starting acting up and she didn't want to drive it home. Fortunately we have AAA Premier and they covered a tow home where we will have it looked at after Christmas. And it was raining to boot. I just picked her up and now we are heading to church.

Tom Barnett is ticked off a Chicago and I can't blame him. All the man wanted to do was take his son to a Packers game but was berated most of the time by the Bears fans. He claims he will not go back to Chicago or spend any more money there.

It reminds me of the last time I attended a game at the University of Mississippi. It was for the Egg Bowl and the University of Mississippi had won. The weather was lousy, it had rained most, if not all, of the game, and it was Thanksgiving. I was patted down by security on the way in, apparently confusing with the drunks they are used to having at their games. (By the way, what University in the nation has been told by a federal judge that they need to get their student drinking problem under control?) As I was walking back to the car where the rest of my family and friends were waiting, I saw a guy come running up behind us, jumped on a guy's back who was walking with his wife and son, and made a very crude statement. It was at that time that I decided I had attended my last function on that campus.

In my case there was no bright side. In the case of tom Barnett, his son at least said he enjoyed the time they spent together. That says a lot about the relationship they have and I have no doubt that his son will grow up to be a fine young man--who shows much more class than fans of the Chicago Bears.

The recent attacks in Mumbai have been receiving a lot of attention in the news and in the blogosphere--as they should. The analysis is of varying degrees of usefulness though. Some have focused on the number of people killed but seem to have missed that terrorism is not about killing lots of people--it is about instilling fear in lots of people. And it is not just about fear either; there are other ends in mind when groups carry out terrorism. Others have looked at it from a purely regional perspective--what do the attacks mean for India and Pakistan. Others however have been, in my opinion, more accurate and useful.

As usual, Tom Barnett has nailed the motives fairly well. The timing and location of these orchestrated attacks clearly strikes at globalization. Keeping in mind that terrorism is about fear; the choice of hotels and other places attacked is no accident. They were selected to strike fear into the minds of the Westerners who are doing business in India.

One thing I have not seen discussed much, which makes me wonder if I am off base, is the Iranian issue. India is accusing Pakistan of not doing enough to prevent these attacks, which may or may not be true, so tensions between the two countries is obviously heightened. Recent reports indicate that both nations are increasing the alert levels of their militaries. Given both of these countries have nuclear weapons; I have to wonder if the terrorists were not interested in destabilizing the region by increasing concerns over the nuclear weapons. If tensions between Pakistan and India increase, then Iran may attempt to use it as an excuse to accelerate their nuclear program. The reasoning being if two nuclear powers are about to go to war then one could win outright making the victor the sole nuclear power in the region. If Iran had nuclear weapons then they could ensure bipolar stability. Keep in mind I'm not saying it is true, merely a line of reasoning that Iran might try to use.

The other analysis I find useful in that by George Friedman of Stratfor. His report is posted below. Interestingly, he points out that these attacks may have backfired a little. Instead of getting the West out of the region what it really did was force Pakistan to ask the United States to step and be somewhat of a mediator with India to settle things down. The US of course wanted something in return and that something is to work more diligently on ridding itself of al Qaeda.

What this illustrates is that nothing is ever as simple as it appears.

Read on for the Stratfor analysis by George Friedman.


STRATEGIC MOTIVATIONS FOR THE MUMBAI ATTACK

By George Friedman, Stratfor

Last Wednesday evening, a group of Islamist operatives carried out a complex terror operation in the Indian city of Mumbai. The attack was not complex because of the weapons used or its size, but in the apparent training, multiple methods of approaching the city and excellent operational security and discipline in the final phases of the operation, when the last remaining attackers held out in the Taj Mahal hotel for several days. The operational goal of the attack clearly was to cause as many casualties as possible, particularly among Jews and well-to-do guests of five-star hotels. But attacks on various other targets, from railroad stations to hospitals, indicate that the more general purpose was to spread terror in a major Indian city.

While it is not clear precisely who carried out the Mumbai attack, two separate units apparently were involved. One group, possibly consisting of Indian Muslims, was established in Mumbai ahead of the attacks. The second group appears to have just arrived. It traveled via ship from Karachi, Pakistan, later hijacked a small Indian vessel to get past Indian coastal patrols, and ultimately landed near Mumbai.

Extensive preparations apparently had been made, including surveillance of the targets. So while the precise number of attackers remains unclear, the attack clearly was well-planned and well-executed.

Evidence and logic suggest that radical Pakistani Islamists carried out the attack. These groups have a highly complex and deliberately amorphous structure. Rather than being centrally controlled, ad hoc teams are created with links to one or more groups. Conceivably, they might have lacked links to any group, but this is hard to believe. Too much planning and training were involved in this attack for it to have been conceived by a bunch of guys in a garage. While precisely which radical Pakistani Islamist group or groups were involved is unknown, the Mumbai attack appears to have originated in Pakistan. It could have been linked to al Qaeda prime or its various franchises and/or to Kashmiri insurgents.

More important than the question of the exact group that carried out the attack, however, is the attackers' strategic end. There is a tendency to regard terror attacks as ends in themselves, carried out simply for the sake of spreading terror. In the highly politicized atmosphere of Pakistan's radical Islamist factions, however, terror frequently has a more sophisticated and strategic purpose. Whoever invested the time and took the risk in organizing this attack had a reason to do so. Let's work backward to that reason by examining the logical outcomes following this attack.

An End to New Delhi's Restraint

The most striking aspect of the Mumbai attack is the challenge it presents to the Indian government -- a challenge almost impossible for New Delhi to ignore. A December 2001 Islamist attack on the Indian parliament triggered an intense confrontation between India and Pakistan. Since then, New Delhi has not responded in a dramatic fashion to numerous Islamist attacks against India that were traceable to Pakistan. The Mumbai attack, by contrast, aimed to force a response from New Delhi by being so grievous that any Indian government showing only a muted reaction to it would fall.

India's restrained response to Islamist attacks (even those originating in Pakistan) in recent years has come about because New Delhi has understood that, for a host of reasons, Islamabad has been unable to control radical Pakistani Islamist groups. India did not want war with Pakistan; it felt it had more important issues to deal with. New Delhi therefore accepted Islamabad's assurances that Pakistan would do its best to curb terror attacks, and after suitable posturing, allowed tensions originating from Islamist attacks to pass.

This time, however, the attackers struck in such a way that New Delhi couldn't allow the incident to pass. As one might expect, public opinion in India is shifting from stunned to furious. India's Congress party-led government is politically weak and nearing the end of its life span. It lacks the political power to ignore the attack, even if it were inclined to do so. If it ignored the attack, it would fall, and a more intensely nationalist government would take its place. It is therefore very difficult to imagine circumstances under which the Indians could respond to this attack in the same manner they have to recent Islamist attacks.

What the Indians actually will do is not clear. In 2001-2002, New Delhi responded to the attack on the Indian parliament by moving forces close to the Pakistani border and the Line of Control that separates Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, engaging in artillery duels along the front, and bringing its nuclear forces to a high level of alert. The Pakistanis made a similar response. Whether India ever actually intended to attack Pakistan remains unclear, but either way, New Delhi created an intense crisis in Pakistan.

The U.S. and the Indo-Pakistani Crisis

The United States used this crisis for its own ends. Having just completed the first phase of its campaign in Afghanistan, Washington was intensely pressuring Pakistan's then-Musharraf government to expand cooperation with the United States; purge its intelligence organization, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), of radical Islamists; and crack down on al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Afghan-Pakistani border region. Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had been reluctant to cooperate with Washington, as doing so inevitably would spark a massive domestic backlash against his government.

The crisis with India produced an opening for the United States. Eager to get India to stand down from the crisis, the Pakistanis looked to the Americans to mediate. And the price for U.S. mediation was increased cooperation from Pakistan with the United States. The Indians, not eager for war, backed down from the crisis after guarantees that Islamabad would impose stronger controls on Islamist groups in Kashmir.

In 2001-2002, the Indo-Pakistani crisis played into American hands. In 2008, the new Indo-Pakistani crisis might play differently. The United States recently has demanded increased Pakistani cooperation along the Afghan border. Meanwhile, President-elect Barack Obama has stated his intention to focus on Afghanistan and pressure the Pakistanis.

Therefore, one of Islamabad's first responses to the new Indo-Pakistani crisis was to announce that if the Indians increased their forces along Pakistan's eastern border, Pakistan would be forced to withdraw 100,000 troops from its western border with Afghanistan. In other words, threats from India would cause Pakistan to dramatically reduce its cooperation with the United States in the Afghan war. The Indian foreign minister is flying to the United States to meet with Obama; obviously, this matter will be discussed among others.

We expect the United States to pressure India not to create a crisis, in order to avoid this outcome. As we have said, the problem is that it is unclear whether politically the Indians can afford restraint. At the very least, New Delhi must demand that the Pakistani government take steps to make the ISI and Pakistan's other internal security apparatus more effective. Even if the Indians concede that there was no ISI involvement in the attack, they will argue that the ISI is incapable of stopping such attacks. They will demand a purge and reform of the ISI as a sign of Pakistani commitment. Barring that, New Delhi will move troops to the Indo-Pakistani frontier to intimidate Pakistan and placate Indian public opinion.

Dilemmas for Islamabad, New Delhi and Washington

At that point, Islamabad will have a serious problem. The Pakistani government is even weaker than the Indian government. Pakistan's civilian regime does not control the Pakistani military, and therefore does not control the ISI. The civilians can't decide to transform Pakistani security, and the military is not inclined to make this transformation. (Pakistan's military has had ample opportunity to do so if it wished.)

Pakistan faces the challenge, just one among many, that its civilian and even military leadership lack the ability to reach deep into the ISI and security services to transform them. In some ways, these agencies operate under their own rules. Add to this the reality that the ISI and security forces -- even if they are acting more assertively, as Islamabad claims -- are demonstrably incapable of controlling radical Islamists in Pakistan. If they were capable, the attack on Mumbai would have been thwarted in Pakistan. The simple reality is that in Pakistan's case, the will to make this transformation does not seem to be present, and even if it were, the ability to suppress terror attacks isn't there.

The United States might well want to limit New Delhi's response. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on her way to India to discuss just this. But the politics of India's situation make it unlikely that the Indians can do anything more than listen. It is more than simply a political issue for New Delhi; the Indians have no reason to believe that the Mumbai operation was one of a kind. Further operations like the Mumbai attack might well be planned. Unless the Pakistanis shift their posture inside Pakistan, India has no way of knowing whether other such attacks can be stymied. The Indians will be sympathetic to Washington's plight in Afghanistan and the need to keep Pakistani troops at the Afghan border. But New Delhi will need something that the Americans -- and in fact the Pakistanis -- can't deliver: a guarantee that there will be no more attacks like this one.

The Indian government cannot chance inaction. It probably would fall if it did. Moreover, in the event of inactivity and another attack, Indian public opinion probably will swing to an uncontrollable extreme. If an attack takes place but India has moved toward crisis posture with Pakistan, at least no one can argue that the Indian government remained passive in the face of threats to national security. Therefore, India is likely to refuse American requests for restraint.

It is possible that New Delhi will make a radical proposal to Rice, however. Given that the Pakistani government is incapable of exercising control in its own country, and given that Pakistan now represents a threat to both U.S. and Indian national security, the Indians might suggest a joint operation with the Americans against Pakistan.

What that joint operation might entail is uncertain, but regardless, this is something that Rice would reject out of hand and that Obama would reject in January 2009. Pakistan has a huge population and nuclear weapons, and the last thing Bush or Obama wants is to practice nation-building in Pakistan. The Indians, of course, will anticipate this response. The truth is that New Delhi itself does not want to engage deep in Pakistan to strike at militant training camps and other Islamist sites. That would be a nightmare. But if Rice shows up with a request for Indian restraint and no concrete proposal -- or willingness to entertain a proposal -- for solving the Pakistani problem, India will be able to refuse on the grounds that the Americans are asking India to absorb a risk (more Mumbai-style attacks) without the United States' willingness to share in the risk.

Setting the Stage for a New Indo-Pakistani Confrontation

That will set the stage for another Indo-Pakistani confrontation. India will push forces forward all along the Indo-Pakistani frontier, move its nuclear forces to an alert level, begin shelling Pakistan, and perhaps -- given the seriousness of the situation -- attack short distances into Pakistan and even carry out airstrikes deep in Pakistan. India will demand greater transparency for New Delhi in Pakistani intelligence operations. The Indians will not want to occupy Pakistan; they will want to occupy Pakistan's security apparatus.

Naturally, the Pakistanis will refuse that. There is no way they can give India, their main adversary, insight into Pakistani intelligence operations. But without that access, India has no reason to trust Pakistan. This will leave the Indians in an odd position: They will be in a near-war posture, but will have made no demands of Pakistan that Islamabad can reasonably deliver and that would benefit India. In one sense, India will be gesturing. In another sense, India will be trapped by making a gesture on which Pakistan cannot deliver. The situation thus could get out of hand.

In the meantime, the Pakistanis certainly will withdraw forces from western Pakistan and deploy them in eastern Pakistan. That will mean that one leg of the Petraeus and Obama plans would collapse. Washington's expectation of greater Pakistani cooperation along the Afghan border will disappear along with the troops. This will free the Taliban from whatever limits the Pakistani army had placed on it. The Taliban's ability to fight would increase, while the motivation for any of the Taliban to enter talks -- as Afghan President Hamid Karzai has suggested -- would decline. U.S. forces, already stretched to the limit, would face an increasingly difficult situation, while pressure on al Qaeda in the tribal areas would decrease.

Now, step back and consider the situation the Mumbai attackers have created. First, the Indian government faces an internal political crisis driving it toward a confrontation it didn't plan on. Second, the minimum Pakistani response to a renewed Indo-Pakistani crisis will be withdrawing forces from western Pakistan, thereby strengthening the Taliban and securing al Qaeda. Third, sufficient pressure on Pakistan's civilian government could cause it to collapse, opening the door to a military-Islamist government -- or it could see Pakistan collapse into chaos, giving Islamists security in various regions and an opportunity to reshape Pakistan. Finally, the United States' situation in Afghanistan has now become enormously more complex.

By staging an attack the Indian government can't ignore, the Mumbai attackers have set in motion an existential crisis for Pakistan. The reality of Pakistan cannot be transformed, trapped as the country is between the United States and India. Almost every evolution from this point forward benefits Islamists. Strategically, the attack on Mumbai was a precise blow struck to achieve uncertain but favorable political outcomes for the Islamists.

Rice's trip to India now becomes the crucial next step. She wants Indian restraint. She does not want the western Pakistani border to collapse. But she cannot guarantee what India must have: assurance of no further terror attacks on India originating in Pakistan. Without that, India must do something. No Indian government could survive without some kind of action. So it is up to Rice, in one of her last acts as secretary of state, to come up with a miraculous solution to head off a final, catastrophic crisis for the Bush administration -- and a defining first crisis for the new Obama administration. Former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once said that the enemy gets a vote. The Islamists cast their ballot in Mumbai.

This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to www.stratfor.com.

Copyright 2008 Stratfor.

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