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THE INDEX — October 21, 2009

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Charles Cogan: Former Congo prime minister ousted, not outed, by CIA

On August 12, after a day of visiting rape victims in lovely, lush Kivu Province, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a town meeting of sorts with Congolese students far, far away in the capital, Kinshasa. When one of the students asked her what Mr. Clinton thought, she blew it. It was understandable; she was tired and he is no longer her hierarchical supervisor. Actually, the exchanges had been friendly enough at the beginning but got a little edgy, according to Jeffrey Gettleman of The New York Times, “when several students pushed her on why Congo, whose first prime minister was ousted with the help of the CIA, should now trust the United States. She then became a little prickly.” Mr. Gettleman chose his words wisely. Others have not been so prudent. Prime Minister Lumumba was probably ousted with at least the encouragement of the CIA, but he was not outed. What would you do in the summer of 1960, as Lumumba was bringing in 1,000 Soviets into the country and acting so weird as to persuade Washington officialdom that he was on drugs? What would you do if you were the CIA Chief in the Congo — the late Larry Devlin, a swashbuckling veteran of World War II in Italy, formerly based in Brussels, where he had taken the measure of Lumumba at a conference the year before? What would you do to advise the rival Binza Group, headed by Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, whose life Devlin had saved that summer in warning him of impending attacks. You probably would have encouraged him to oust Lumumba, which the Binza Group did in September 1960.

Jonathan Power: How About a "Re-Entry Strategy" for Afghanistan?

“We must have an exit strategy [for Afghanistan],” said President Barack Obama on 60 Minutes this past Sunday night. But after seven years of steadily losing the war in Afghanistan isn't a "re-entry strategy" more appropriate? In a month's time, Obama will descend on NATO at its Brussels headquarters and insist that the Europeans help out. Well before then, Obama will have on his desk the interagency policy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan that he has requested. We should be able to guess its bias, if not every detail of its contents. The review committee is being chaired by Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and a senior advisor to three U.S. presidents on Middle East and South Asian issues. His views are easily accessible on the Brookings Institution website. My first reaction upon reading them is why on earth didn't Obama give the job to his old mentor Zbigniew Brzezinski or to Brent Scowcroft, the wise owl of previous Republican administrations (but not the last one). Why choose some lower level official who is used to being bossed around and told what to do? Both Brzezinski and Scowcroft have experience in standing close to a president and also, when necessary, standing up to him. The answer, I fear, is that the two most practiced men on foreign policy (excepting perhaps Henry Kissinger, who has already made clear his doubts on Washington's Afghanistan policy) wouldn't tow the White House party line. Obama made the decision to raise the stakes in Afghanistan and Pakistan way back in his presidential campaign. Was it to counterbalance his Iraq withdrawal position to show that he wasn't soft on the use of military power abroad? Bill Clinton used this gambit, calling for the expansion of NATO to win crucial votes in the American midwest from Poles and other Eastern Europeans in the diaspora, even though hardly anyone in the U.S. or European foreign affairs community was calling for it? Riedel, to his credit, does say some sensible things: “The war in Afghanistan is going badly, the southern half of the country is in chaos...and in Pakistan, the jihadist Frankenstein monster that was created by the Pakistani army and Pakistani intelligence service is now increasingly turning on its creators.” He goes on to say that the missile attacks inside Pakistan “have a counterproductive element in them...the American brand image has been badly eroded.” Nevertheless, says Riedel, the momentum of the Taliban “has to be broken.” But we know all that. So what does he advocate as a solution?



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