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Don't Panic! offers some New Year's resolutions for 2009

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I'm tired of making New Year's resolutions I can't keep.

This year, I'm going to be realistic about personal goals.

In 2009, I plan to gain weight, watch more TV, read less, keep a messy desk, and take at least four days to return phone calls.

I plan to tally my personal progress in a journal I'll update every night before bed – until mid-January.

Sometime around Jan. 18, I'll go to sleep without updating the journal. As I'm dozing off, I'll promise myself I'll write something as soon as I wake up. I will forget my promise, however, and won't touch the journal again until Jan. 1, 2010.

I also have some column-related New Year's resolutions.

In 2009, I plan to write frequently and in-depth about the following three issues. I suspect they'll be consuming more of the United States' foreign news oxygen than they did in 2008.

Palestine and Israel: Forgive the following snippet of self-pity, but I used to write about Israel and Palestine a lot. I stopped, in part because the hate mail started to wear on me.

I enjoy disagreement, but columns about Israel and Palestine inevitably inspire nasty, nasty e-mails accusing me either of anti-Semitism or being a salaried Israeli propagandist. Such missives are especially vexing when, as happened quite often, both accusations are inspired by the same column.

I promise to man-up in '09 and start writing about the issue again. This time, the hate mail will be worth it because there might actually be positive developments to write about.

The Obama administration will certainly take a more active role than the Bush administration has in trying to broker a long-term peace settlement. That's because a) it would be impossible to actually do less than Bush did, and b) the Obama State Department will be top-heavy with Clintonites (and a Clinton!). Last time they were in office, they at least tried.

I'm not suggesting Obama will be successful. After all, if he's mimicking the Clinton approach, he's mimicking a failure. I'm just saying there will be developments worth discussing again.

India and Pakistan: As I write this, the two countries are edging in the direction of all-out war again. The proximate cause is the recent Mumbai terrorist attacks. India says Pakistan is responsible for the attacks. It has initiated a military build-up along its border with Pakistan. Pakistan has responded with its own military build-up.

The root cause is the six-decade dispute over Kashmir – a mountainous state that straddles the two countries. To help with its fight for Kashmir, Pakistan has nurtured several violent, extremist Muslim groups. Among them are the terrorists who likely carried out the Mumbai attacks, as well as the Taliban, who provided al-Qaeda with the home base in neighboring Afghanistan from which it hatched 9/11.

If, as he promises, Obama refocuses the War On Terror™ from Iraq to Afghanistan, he will need to try to foster a deal between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. When India threatens war with Pakistan, Pakistan always responds by moving its troops away from its border with Afghanistan. This allows Taliban militants freer passage to and from Afghanistan, thus making the American battle in Afghanistan that much more difficult. Kashmir is the wound from which much of South Asia's pain radiates.

Drugs: Anyone with working eyes or ears can understand the damage the American war on drugs has done inside the U.S.

Less obvious, but no less serious, is the damage it's doing to other countries. Thanks to our insane drug policies, the U.S. is simultaneously bankrolling and arming both sides of several drug wars.

Foreign Policy magazine reports the United States' multibillion dollar campaign to fund a Colombian war on drugs has coincided with a 15 percent increase in Colombian cocaine production. Meanwhile, an estimated 90 percent of Colombian cocaine ends up in the bloodstreams of American cokeheads.

A bit closer to home, U.S. demand for Mexican meth and pot is unending. Meanwhile, stepped-up U.S. interdiction and border control efforts have driven up drug dealer's profits without actually stopping the flow of drugs. The result: a war for smuggling routes that has made parts of northern Mexico as violent as Baghdad in recent months.

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